Marking time in March 2002
Around here a lot of hotel bars are turning Irish. It seems you can pull in more drinkers by calling your bar Molly O'Somebody's Irish Pub and laying on draught Guinness and fake timber beams. This piece from Dublin makes me curious; what does a themed bar look like when it's in Ireland?:
Returning from the city centre, I was walking down Capel Street. The former furniture shop Forsye & Forsye is applying for planning permission for a bar. It definitely has the grand facade for a Dublin bar, but will we end up with another massive theme Bar like Zanzibar? I believe that the rear of the building is listed — inside the store, you could see iron columns holding up the upper floors of what seems to be have been an old grain store. On the same street, the recently refurbished Slattery's has the most incongruous little glass dome over its entrance — looks like one of those see-through umbrellas from the 1970s.
The BBC’s E-cyclopedia: the words behind the headlines explains a new British use of pebbledash as a term indicating suburbia. Pebbledash people is spin doctor's shorthand for a social group.
Thought to be Tories' paradigm target voter, numbering 2.5 million in 178 target seats. Derives from “pebbledash subtopia”, one of 52 postcode categories employed by market research specialists Experian. Average household income: £25,000; likely to read Daily Mail; not very neighbourly; keen on DIY.
Pebble dash, so widely seen (and sneered at) in English suburbs, is An external plaster which has been surfaced with clean pebbles or chips thrown on to the second coat of plaster while plastic. [Penguin dictionary of building]. It can be compared with (the more respectable) rough cast, called harling in Scotland:
Originally (Tudor times) consisted of a rendering of course stuff, rendered a second time and roughened. The rough cast, that is fine shingle mixed with hot hydraulic lime, was then thrown on. Nowadays the course stuff has a different composition, usually having some cement, and often including colouring matter (red iron oxide, yellow ochre, crimson lake) but always with pebbles or chips.
I am on a mailing list devoted to old Canon SLR cameras. A while ago someone asked an off-topic question — how to use an old Gossen Lunasix light meter. I responded by publishing the instruction manual here.
Thanks to Google and the other search engines, there are hundreds of hits on my Lunasix page every month. Dozens of people have written to thank me — mostly from Canada, the USA, Australia or the UK. It warms my heart. From Venezuela, Leopoldo Diaz Rodriguez wrote:
last sunday I was in yahoo looking for a manual for my lunasix 3 and surprise I found your page…. and the manual, perfect you almost save my life…… and surprise too, you are architect,… well also I am architect. I live in Caracas, Venezuela. I studied here and in montreal, McGill University…. Peter, if you need something from Caracas, just say it. If you want info about architecture here, I will be glad to help you…. Thanks again for the Lunasix manual and congratulations for your beautiful daughter.
Engaging self obsession
Michael Barrish writes: Google changed my life. This says something about my life. I find this blogger’s self obsession engaging. He carries a bag everywhere, he says. He describes its contents in forensic detail:
In contrast with my girlfriend, who only carries what she thinks she will need on a given excursion, I always carry the exact same items, all of which pass a certain informal test for combined usefulness and compactness.
Musee Mechanique reprieved
James Surowiecki has written a history lesson about technological standardisation for Wired. He claims that standards have had large economic and technological effects. OK, I agree. But he gives too much credit to just one man, William Sellers, who he calls a legend and the finest tool builder of his time.
Surowiecki makes out that Sellers’s proposal for a new screw thread standard was a revolutionary advance on the established Whitworth design, but I am not convinced. And was the introduction of yet more incompatible standards such a triumph? Still, I enjoyed reading this ripping yarn — here’s a quote from the introduction:
William Sellers knew that the end of the hand-tooled machine age was nigh. So he grabbed the manufacturing elite by the nuts and bolts and dragged them into the mass production era. A case study in the power of standards…
The mortar and pestle
Janet Fletcher has written in the San Francisco Chronicle praising the mortar. It’s a well written piece, with delightful photographs of a selection of mortars. According to SauteWednesday it won a 2002 James Beard Foundation journalism award:
Although the mortar has disappeared from most American kitchens, pushed off the counter by the electric mixer, toaster, coffee maker and can opener, many good cooks say they wouldn’t be without one. Some turn to it daily for little jobs like smacking garlic cloves before peeling them, cracking peppercorns, pounding chiles or crushing stale bread for breadcrumbs. For others, it is essential to reproducing the authentic texture and taste of finished dishes - the guacamole and salsas of Mexico, the green papaya salad of Thailand or the kibbe of the Middle East.
Country log caskets
Another thing you didn’t know you needed — a coffin made in the form of a log cabin. Choose the Pioneer (US$3,995, with saddle-notch corners and full leather lining), the Rancher, the Trails End, or the Countryside ($2,295).
Something you didn’t know you needed. A supplier of Japanese socks glue. Explanation:
Japanese high school girls wear outrageously oversized socks called ‘loose socks.’ How do they keep their socks from falling down? You guessed it — they use ‘socks glue.’ Here’s some authentic socks glue for you, straight from Japan.
Digital Domesday Book fails
It was meant to be a showcase for Britain’s electronic prowess—a computer-based, multimedia version of the Domesday Book. But 16 years after it was created, the £2.5 million BBC Domesday Project has achieved an unexpected and unwelcome status: it is now unreadable. From an article in The Observer.
A trug is a tough wooden basket, handy for fetching produce from the garden or carrying the firewood.
English country folk (and town folk with rustic tastes) still like trugs — enough to support a cottage industry of chaps cleaving and shaving chestnut strips and thin willow boards and nailing them together. Peter Marden demonstrates the steps in the process. If you can’t get to him, or to a trug shop, you can buy a trug through the web.
Musee Mechanique to close
Read about community upset over closure of San Francisco’s Musee Mechanique. The National Park Service plans to refurbish the historic building where the collection is housed.
This is one of the largest privately owned collections of Antique coin-operated automatic mechanical musical instruments in the world. There are over 160 machines consisting of Grand-Ma Fortune Tellers, lovetellers, strength testers, photo booths and several games of chance and skill dating back from the 1880’s thru the present. All of the “Penny Arcade” machines are in their original working condition so the public can play and enjoy them as they were originally intended. Admission is always free but all machines are coin operated. [quote from Musee Mechanique website].
Imagining large numbers
One thousand, eight hundred and six Americans of Japanese ancestry from Placer County, California were interned during the Second World War. To remember them ceramics teacher Anthony Gill laid out 1,806 hand made tea cups in an outdoor cage, about the size of an internment camp barracks. I thought we needed to find a way to visually show what the number of citizens from this tiny county looked like, Gill said.
At the end of the display period each of the cups was given away, with obligations attached. Before you take a teacup, we take away your citizenship, Gill said. You sign a card that says your status has changed from loyal citizen to enemy alien and we make you sign it as a pledge. It’s your promise to stand guard over civil rights and the teacup is a reminder of your promise. The people who participated were deeply affected—there is a story in a local newspaper.
Here we see the one in the context of the many, and see the human scale of what happened. As with the 58,226 names on the US Vietnam veterans memorial, or the 120,000 named hands in the Sea of hands.
A new Leica
The Leica company has just announced a new M-series camera. The M7 is a descendent of the M3 of 1954, the first Leica rangefinder camera with a bayonet lens mount. Details are on the Leica website, or see this review by Irwin Puts.
The rangefinder Leica has long been associated with the photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson:
Ever since 1932 he has used a Leica camera. Currently an M3 is his constant companion. He has covered its beautiful brushed chrome with black tape, to make it less conspicuous. He carries it without a case, the lens protected with a lens cap on a string. He holds the camera in his hand, or nested in the crook of his arm, ready for instant action. It would be too inaccessible, he says, slung around his neck, or dangling from his shoulder—and too conspicuous, too. Once, lunching with friends at a restaurant, he suddenly pushed back his chair, put his camera to his eye, snapped the shutter, and sat down—without even interrupting the table conversation. He had seen, while talking, a famous painter. Days later, we saw the photograph he had taken. It seemed, in its direct simplicity and in its penetration, the product of a formal portrait sitting. Like so many photographers he will compare shooting with a camera and with a gun. He will point out that when a flock of partridges flies within range, a good hunter will select one bird and bring it down intact. So with camera shooting, except that the photographer does not kill. ‘The picture is good or not’, he says, ‘from the moment it was caught in the camera. Cropping will not save a bad picture, because a picture is done by situating oneself in time and space. A mistake made then is irreparable. The whole relation in a frame changes if you bend slightly forward, backward, to the right, to the left—la petite difference.’ [Beaumont Newhall, ‘A velvet hand, a hawk’s eye: Cartier-Bresson at work’, introductory essay in Photographs by Cartier-Bresson (London, Jonathan Cape, 1964)].
Leicas have been displaced by motor-driven auto-focus auto-exposure single-lens-reflex 35mm cameras as the standard tools of photo-journalists, and digital cameras are displacing them. But fresh work is still done on film with the Leica — see Andrew Nemeth’s everyday life. Meanwhile, Tina Manley carries on the black and white social documentary tradition.
Synchronous lateral excitation
This is a sequel to my piece no longer wobbly about the Millennium Bridge in London. The design engineers have produced this website to explain their diagnosis of the problem—synchronous lateral excitation, a sideways sway caused by walkers’ footfalls. Dampers to stop the bridge getting excited were the solution.
The website is neatly written, with excellent pictures and video footage. I’d be game to walk across the bridge.
I have rearranged this page, to test some ideas for reworking the whole site. In the new scheme every page has a right hand column, under the logo, containing navigation links (with a breadcrumb trail) and a search form. Yes please, some feedback would be useful.
New word: NARU
I have spotted this new word on websites and news groups. It appears as NARU, but I predict it will shift to the lower case naru as it slides from acronym to ordinary word.
NARU comes from Not A Registered User, the mark of an ebay user who has been struck off for bad behaviour. Naru is mostly used as a verb, meaning to disqualify.
I’ll quote a sentence from a post on rec.collecting.coins: One interesting part of all this is how quickly eBay NARU’ed her.
This one’s from a website: Many a NARU of a scam auction seller is a result of eBay being quickly alerted by a concerned chat board member.
And, on alt.marketing.online.ebay, I found a thread on the meaning of NARU.
Making a birch sled
Tucked away in a story about the 2002 Iditarod trail sled dog race is this description of a traditional Alaskan dog sled:
Making a birch sled is almost a lost art. First, the craftsman must go to a stand of birch and select a straight-grained tree. Usually this is done by “testing” a potential birch by stripping a fiber from the outer tree and noticing the straightness. Some birch, in some locations, are better than others. For sure, knots and twists in the wood are not acceptable.
Once a tree is selected, the birch is felled and quartered. With a hand-plane the sled-builder molds the quarters into runners and slats for the sled. The grain for the runners must run parallel to the outside of the tree. Just cutting boards with a saw is not acceptable because the runners would split and break.
Finally, the selected runner boards are placed on a bender and clamped. Some of the benders I have seen are generations old and made from the trunk and curved root of a dry spruce tree. The curve is very important to performance. The bender is usually wired to the ceiling and runners are cured with the heat from the stove.
In the last stages of construction, the parts are fitted and lashed together. Bolts and screws invariably break or work loose, and are not used. A good sled is a work of art and will last for many years.
Origamist Joseph Wu writes about modelling the last white rhinoceros of Kilimanjaro with folded paper.
Post a comment?
Thanks to Hossein Sharifi of rateyourmusic.com you can now leave comments here. It’s one of the terrific free web services I use for this site.
Update: Since changing over to Movable type (which has comments built-in) I have stopped using the YACCS commenting system.
Another update: I have removed the comment forms.
Australian word map
Word Map is an interactive website mapping Australian regionalisms—words, phrases or expressions used by particular language groups. Add your regionalism or search to see what others have contributed.
The right tool for the job
If you ever need to escape from a car with disabled electric windows, you’d better have an automatic centre punch with you. Get one now for the glove box.
Welcome back REMO
…and thanks, Remo, for making me a featured customer. Nobody else ever did that for me.
Museum of Jurassic technology
♦ At soundportraits.org, hear a radio documentary feature about the museum (23 minutes, RealAudio).
♦ The MacArthur Foundation has awarded a MacArthur Fellowship to David Wilson, founder of the museum. The award was mentioned on the National Public Radio program all things considered.
♦ The facade of the building housing the museum has been the subject of multiple design proposals by architects Robert Mangurian and Mary-Ann Ray, which have been published in the book Wrapper, 40 possible city surfaces for the Museum of Jurassic technology.
♦ Read mondo museo in which John McMurtrie describes a visit.
♦ See this entry for the MJT in the Wikipedia. See also the entry for false document.
♦ The LA Weekly carried a review of an exhibition at the MJT about the 17th-century polymath Athanasius Kircher: Many curators might feel daunted by the sheer eclecticism of Kircher’s oeuvre, but in the cascading polyphony of this Renaissance mind the MJT’s David Wilson seems to have found his soul mate.
♦ Ralf Rugoff reviewed the MJT for eyestorm.com: LA’s deeply enigmatic institution proves that even the most high-tech and learned museum displays needn’t lack poetic sensibility..
♦ It’s not on the web, but I must mention Lawrence Weschler’s book Mr Wilson’s cabinet of wonder. The MJT website includes this blurb: Lawrence Weschler’s widely acclaimed account of his attempts to unravel the mysteries and meaning of the Museum of Jurassic Technology, followed by an exegesis on the history and significance of Natural History Museums, and extensive footnotes. Finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction and the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction..