Monday, April 16, 2012

When is the last time...

you had a great conversation? One that wasn't just two intersecting monologues. One in which you overheard yourself saying things you didn't know you knew? One where you felt yourself receiving from somebody words that absolutely found places within you that you thought you had lost. With a sense of an event that brought the two of you onto a different plane. A conversation that continued to sing in your mind for weeks afterward?

[John O'Donoghue in an interview by Krista Tippett on "On Being" NPR]

Sent from my iPhone...'bout to cross the Pecos River...file under "Posts at 80mph"...


There is so much beauty in the world, yet we seem only able to destroy it...

Sent from my iPhone

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Sublime Door

cierra la puerta

I was just searching old emails and bookmarks looking for a link I sent myself many months ago - a special bronze valve that I found that appeared to be a good fit for building prototype shower and possibly lavatory fittings for the remodel. I haven't found it, and am now faced with starting my search over from scratch.

But I did find this. It appears that I wrote it to a friend, probably of the facebook variety, in response to her query about "a door opening when love stands in front it" or something or other. I can't recall who I wrote it for/to.

I had to read and re-read it a few times, where it lay there in my email "sent" box, sent to myself over a year ago, to figure out if it was something I actually wrote or if it was attribute-able to someone else. It was that unfamiliar to me. I was thinking to myself, "Self, did you write this?" It somehow seemed too good for lil' 'ol me to have written. But maybe not. Who knows?

Anyway, I thought it interesting enough to dredge it up and copy and paste it and tack it up here.

Now that I think about it, I think it's actually less about actual doors, and more about men. A well-built door, a well-hung door - as a metaphor of a man. It's starting to come back to me. I think I remember who I wrote this for, and I think there's a new door in her life.

There are closed doors that blow open in a breeze, sliding doors that open with a gesture (if they're not off-track); those stupid bi-fold doors that open easily but never seem to work right; dummy knobs with catches that open with a gentle pull; passage sets with no locking function - just turn the knob; privacy sets with a simple push button lock that you can unlock with a paper clip; entry latchsets that do require a key to open; the single cylinder deadbolt - key outside, simple turn knob inside; and the double cylinder deadbolt requiring a key to unlock both inside and out. We mustn't forget the padlock and hasp, iron bars, and additional security measures folks elect to employ on their doors.

All that said, a door that doesn't open automatically when love stands in front of it (like at Target), is usually broken.

It's nice when a beautiful door works perfectly - plumb, level, square, reveals aligned, no sagging jambs, weatherstripping in order, no cracks or gaps or dings, properly mortised strike for a tight fit, raised panels properly constructed and sound, newly coated with an environmentally sustainable natural oil finish, heavy cast bronze hardware that feels good in your hand, hinges that glide smoothly and don't squeak, and finally, that opens effortlessly, and closes with a solid sounding "klunck".

But it takes a rare and talented carpenter to build and set a perfect door. Those doors are rare in my experience. Most doors are imperfect, selected without due diligence for the intended use, hastily installed so that the foundations for continued trouble-free operation for the lifetime of the door have not been laid, and usually not well maintained over the years. These doors can always be repaired, if the end-user and the carpenter have the desire to do so, and the stamina to stick with it until the task is completed. At which time the door will operate like a charm for many years to come.

Keep in mind that there are very inexpensive, paint-grade, thin-walled, hollow core masonite doors, sometimes with a corrugated cardboard torsion box inside. These are common at Home Depot - for about $50 bucks. These doors usually need to be replaced after a very short time of service.

There are solid core doors with particle board or solid lumber cores and a veneered exterior. Pretty, solid feeling and sounding when you knock, but only a veneer of wood - and if the particle board gets wet, the veneer will begin to peel away and the door will begin to fall apart. Again, nice while it lasted, but these types will need replacing eventually.

The most sublime door is 1-3/4" thick, 3'-0" wide, and 8'-0" tall. It is made by hand of solid wood with no veneers. Alder, cherry, mahogany - ideally locally sourced from a storm-fallen hardwood in someone's backyard. Mesquite is a nice wood species with a local Texas flavor, and is very durable. The individual pieces of wood to make the door should be kiln dried to a proper moisture content - 12-15%. They should be hand/eye selected for soundness and straightness, free from warp, bow, wane, knots, and other defects. Unless you want a door with a rustic character - then knots are desirable. Sound, tight knots that aren't loose and threatening to crumble and fall out and become peep holes. This door is built with impeccable joinery, and the highest quality exterior glue. Mortise & tenon, with a thick raised panel, and a full bolection mould if that is the end user's desire. The door should have 5/4" jambs, and bronze spring weather stripping. The casing should be wide, and thick. 5/4" by 6". A natural pigment stain, and natural oil will suffice - with periodic maintenance. Four hinges, not three. Forged and machined hinges not stamped. Ball bearing hinges - at least 5", perhaps 6". Sand-cast bronze, full-mortise latchset. All hand forged and machined if possible. This hardware will feel like none other when it is in your grasp. Solid. Precise. Peerless. Without fail. Every time.

Hand crafted with loving care is my motto. That love and care is imbued into the wood, the door, the jambs, the casing, the construction, the installation, the glue and nails that bind it all together. And most importantly, the day-to-day operation of the door. These doors return that imbued love with every passing person, every grasp and turn of the handle. Imagine a door that loves back.

This door is your opening to the world, and the portal to your inner being. This door is your protector. It protects you from the elements and the cold winds, wild bears, small mice and the occasional interloper or intruder. It is built soundly, and will last a lifetime, albeit with proper maintenance and care. It opens freely, gliding smoothly, yet closes with a thunk and locks solidly when needed. The warm tone of the wood is welcoming all who stand before it. Those who do can't help but touch. The smooth wood, possibly with natural distressing gained by many years of use, begs to be caressed. A door should say "come in", "you are welcome in my house", "mi casa es su casa". The world that these doors exist in remain unlocked - almost always.

These doors are rare, but they do exist out there in the world.

[ carried away with a little creative writing very early in the morning...but you get my drift...I hope...for future doors in your life...not that you needed any of my carpenter/door wisdom...hope you're okay...beso...a]

Globular Cluster M53 :: For the Directionally Challenged

Thanks go to Stephen for the find. This clarifies something I've been wondering about since 1968 - "Where would you end up in space if you take off in a spaceship from the north pole and go straight "up" out into space?"

I feel much better now, knowing how I'm oriented within the Milky Way Galaxy.

James Brown Boogaloo Tango

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Fable of the Century, by Robert Reich

By Robert Reich, Thursday, April 5, 2012...

Imagine a country in which the very richest people get all the economic gains. They eventually accumulate so much of the nation’s total income and wealth that the middle class no longer has the purchasing power to keep the economy going full speed. Most of the middle class’s wages keep falling and their major asset – their home – keeps shrinking in value.

Imagine that the richest people in this country use some of their vast wealth to routinely bribe politicians. They get the politicians to cut their taxes so low there’s no money to finance important public investments that the middle class depends on – such as schools and roads, or safety nets such as health care for the elderly and poor.

Imagine further that among the richest of these rich are financiers. These financiers have so much power over the rest of the economy they get average taxpayers to bail them out when their bets in the casino called the stock market go bad. They have so much power they even shred regulations intended to limit their power.

These financiers have so much power they force businesses to lay off millions of workers and to reduce the wages and benefits of millions of others, in order to maximize profits and raise share prices – all of which make the financiers even richer, because they own so many of shares of stock and run the casino.

Now, imagine that among the richest of these financiers are people called private-equity managers who buy up companies in order to squeeze even more money out of them by loading them up with debt and firing even more of their employees, and then selling the companies for a fat profit.

Although these private-equity managers don’t even risk their own money – they round up investors to buy the target companies – they nonetheless pocket 20 percent of those fat profits.

And because of a loophole in the tax laws, which they created with their political bribes, these private equity managers are allowed to treat their whopping earnings as capital gains, taxed at only 15 percent – even though they themselves made no investment and didn’t risk a dime.

Finally, imagine there is a presidential election. One party, called the Republican Party, nominates as its candidate a private-equity manager who has raked in more than $20 million a year and paid only 13.9 percent in taxes – a lower tax rate than many in the middle class.

Yes, I know it sounds far-fetched. But bear with me because the fable gets even wilder. Imagine this candidate and his party come up with a plan to cut the taxes of the rich even more – so millionaires save another $150,000 a year. And their plan cuts everything else the middle class and the poor depend on – Medicare, Medicaid, education, job-training, food stamps, Pell grants, child nutrition, even law enforcement.

What happens next?

There are two endings to this fable. You have to decide which it’s to be.

In one ending the private-equity manager candidate gets all his friends and everyone in the Wall Street casino and everyone in every executive suite of big corporations to contribute the largest wad of campaign money ever assembled – beyond your imagination.

The candidate uses the money to run continuous advertisements telling the same big lies over and over, such as “don’t tax the wealthy because they create the jobs” and “don’t tax corporations or they’ll go abroad” and “government is your enemy” and “the other party wants to turn America into a socialist state.”

And because big lies told repeatedly start sounding like the truth, the citizens of the country begin to believe them, and they elect the private equity manager president. Then he and his friends turn the country into a plutocracy (which it was starting to become anyway).

But there’s another ending. In this one, the candidacy of the private equity manager (and all the money he and his friends use to try to sell their lies) has the opposite effect. It awakens the citizens of the country to what is happening to their economy and their democracy. It ignites a movement among the citizens to take it all back.

The citizens repudiate the private equity manager and everything he stands for, and the party that nominated him. And they begin to recreate an economy that works for everyone and a democracy that’s responsive to everyone.

Just a fable, of course. But the ending is up to you.