Thursday, February 25, 2010

A Happy Birthday

It was a happy birthday although the outlook wasn't promising. I have made a point over the years of trying to do something different than my normal routine on my birthday. Nothing particularly special but something to make me sit up and notice the passing of time, the path of a lifetime.

So I arranged for the day off and was making some tentative plans. Ah the best laid plans ... derailed by a game of racquetball the evening before and a seized up back that had me limping home v e r y  c a r e f u l l y.

So the day was spent mostly on the couch downing Advil at prescribed intervals. Well, come to think of it, that is a little different than normal.

It was day 20819 in the life. Of course there is an online calculator. Putting one's age in days makes it a little like watching the odometer in your car. At day 18,262 you want to pull over by the side of the road and take pictures. By day 23,741 you are starting to show some wear. Only two of the power windows work, some of the dash knobs are missing and you have to add more oil when you fill 'er up. If you hit day 29,219 you are beyond the average and you got your money's worth for sure. No one else dares drive it at this point. You don't want to admit it but you're gonna have to take it to the yard pretty soon.

But this day was happy because I received so many well wishes from friends. I got cards from my father-in-law, my brother and his wife, my sister and my friend Linda with whom I share this birth date. I got phone calls from another brother and my sister and my daughter. I chattted online with my son who is in Africa which is now just a ho-hum miracle.

And I received flowers, a nice bottle of wine and a lovely dinner from Margy.

I felt loved. Now there is a priceless gift.

Thanks to all of you.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Ghost Bikes

I have driven past this roadside memorial many times only vaguely remembering its story. On this day I stopped to take the picture, drawn to the white bike in white snow and long shadows. Once home I searched for the back story.

On March 22, 2006 Bohdan Kulakowski, 63, a well respected Penn State Professor, was struck by a van and killed while riding his bike.  Thomas Fry, the 51 year old driver was not speeding or DUI. He had been diagnosed with degenerative eye disease but had not been told he should not drive. He told police he may have taken his eyes off the road for a second and never saw the bicyclist. Kulakowski was wearing a helmet and had reflectors on his bike. It was a tragic accident. Kulakowski was an avid biker who rode to work most days. Fry was charged with vehicular homicide but was only sentenced to 5 years probation.

What I discovered in this search is that what I thought was an impromptu memorial to a friend is part of a larger project called "ghost bikes". It is an effort to raise awareness of these all too common accidents and the need for better accommodations for bikers on our roads. The project is coordinated by The website gives methods for creating the all white bike and instructions for installation. A map shows locations of over a hundred such memorials.
These are from a web search:

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Still Spinning

Here is a recent effort in my growing collection of wooden vessels. The concept behind this work is that there would be two vessels. The one that one sees when the piece is still: a narrow cylinder with large top and fins. A spiny blow fish, an artful anemometer, a turbine vessel. The other one is when it is spinning: a virtual one captured only in the mind or with a slow shutter speed. The blur that blends into a smooth solid larger container.
I'm always a little uncertain about work that is more complicated. Simple is usually better, more universally accessible. For this piece I had some nicely figured cherry that I used for the fins. I like the base -  a crotch piece of walnut shaped like a river stone.  There was a lot more engineering for this piece than most I do and that part was fun - reason enough to do it. It spins nicely though a little off center despite considerable effort to get it right on.
Still                                        Spinning

For the technically inclined here is some detail. I ripped the central core as accurately as I could to give me a piece 4 x 4 x 12, marked the centers, then ripped off the corners to give me a long octagon. On the lathe turned the piece but left 1/2' of the octagon at each end. Using the 1/2" as bearing surfaces I ripped the eight slots for the fins on the table saw and then drilled the holes at either end on a horizontal boring setup. The top hole is counterbored and the top turned with a tenon to fit.

The fins are a thin sandwich - 1/8' matched veneers with a 1/16" strip of lead embedded at the edge between pieces. I just had a feeling that I needed weight to overcome the wind resistance of the fins for the piece to spin for any length of time. I thought the weight should be placed at the edge but I don't know why. My physics question is: could I have placed this weight at the core for the same effect?

See the diagram for the method of mounting the piece to spin. Thanks to my friend Jerry for advice. It is basically the way he mounted a weather vane. The main problem I had is that it is difficult to drill a large hole into end grain and the bit drifted off center. So in the end the piece rotates a little off center instead of the dead on Swiss watch perfect I would have liked. I said it was fun I didn't say I did it that well. I'm letting go of this.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Comfort Food

Driving home from work, it's February, it's cold, it's been snowing like the old days, and I'm thinking about supper and something warm and cozy: comfort food. Risotto comes to mind and I think up this dish as I follow the path home.

1 box frozen spinach (of course you could use fresh)
1 medium onion
3 cloves garlic(more or less depending on how you feel about it)
1/2 pound sliced mushrooms
some sun dried tomatoes(they're pretty, throw in a couple more)
2 T olive oil
1 C. arborio rice
2  1/2 C. vegetable broth(or beef broth if you like it and know the beast was free to wander open pasture. That's OK now I think.)

Cook the spinach separately, keep the water.
Saute the vegies in oil in heavy skillet. (I used cast iron)
Heat the broth to simmering in separate pan.

I followed directions on the box for cooking the rice since they were the same as a risotto recipe I looked at. When veggies are done add spinach with water. Add rice and 1 cup of broth. Start stirring. 

This is the only problem with this recipe. No guy cooking here, you can't turn it on high and leave. (400 degrees for 10 minutes is the same as 200 for 20, right? Well it should be.) Nope, just keep stirring adding more broth as it thickens.  About 20 minutes all together. You might need a little more water or broth near the end.  Try some - should be nice and soft.

Serve with grated parmesan and nice bread, glass of red and your favorite person.

I'd guess that comfort food is different for each of us. Surely it can be connected to past experience. Mom made it when you were sick. Grandma made it when she visited on the holidays. Did your Dad ever make it? I don't think hot and spicy qualifies. Mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, hot oatmeal, tuna casserole, creamy soups, cream of mushroom, corn chowder, toast and tea.

What is comfort food for you?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Super Sunday

The heart of winter, a beautiful weekend winter snowfall, 10" of white fluffy stuff. Shoveling paths to the shop, the doghouse, the back door. 3 below at waking this morning, both stoves are stoked to keep us warm. We cook and putter about the house with our projects. Birds are all over the feeders, a food source that isn't buried. The days do get noticeably longer.

Super Bowl Sunday: I watch with the world with beer and chili and a bit of dismay. Can't quite get comfortable with the excess, shades of the Roman Empire's decline. Go Saints!!

A few recent photographs: link to web album.