Saturday, February 23, 2008

Thought you should know.

The top picture is of a waterless urinal. The diagram is how it works. Thought you should know. Just one of these saves about 40,000 gallons a year in most buildings. A moderately sized office with 25 of these installed would save a million gallons of water a year.

In Utah these things are required. In Kentucky you can't get them permitted. Thought you should know that too.

Revolution Revisited

A few days ago Fidel Castro announced he was stepping aside as the military head of Cuba. The Cuban revolution has fascinated me for a very long time. Not only because it is a remarkable story of how a handful of passionate people changed the political course of events on an island but also because the Cuban revolution tracks along with my personal history. In May of 1958 (I was baking inside of mama.) a brutal dictator propped up by US policy sent an army of 10,000 soldiers into the Sierra Maestra mountains to capture Fidel, Che Guevara and a ragtag band of guerrilla soldiers. By most historical accounts the size of Fidel's band numbered around 300. By early January of 1959 (I am a little over 3 months old.) Fidel and his revolutionary soldiers are marching into Havana and Batista has fled the island. Now I am nearing 50 and Fidel is voluntarily stepping aside. Still alive. Still ranting against US imperialism. Still a player on the stage of world politics. He was the only world leader mentioned in the most recent debate between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

Regardless of how you feel about Fidels politics there is an important lesson in the Cuban revolution. For me it is this: Passion wins. No political system is without debit because no political system is free from human weakness. We are not perfect creatures. Collectively we are not a perfect community. But a compelling message beats bullets every time if you know how to hide within the environment.

Fidel continues to rant. Most recently he said something along the lines of... All the U.S. presidential candidates are calling for change, change, change. I agree. The U.S. must change. It sounds like we are all on the same page. Now lets start hammering out the details. With passion please.
(This photograph is by Jack Manning of the New York Times.)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Nine Ways to Look at a Crow

(With apologies to Wallace Stevens)

In a lidded can, all paint is the same color.

Crows like edges. In the heart of the wood the red-eyed vireo is king.

Spanish moss is neither Spanish nor moss.

I see the bidding of wind but not it's soul or home.

A card laid is a card played. I shall never run for public office.

A Mayan fisherman once told me that if I started watching a frigate bird I should continue watching until it beat its wings. To look away was rude and would invite illness.

The carpenter that laid out the rafters and joists in my family home numbered them with roman numerals. The number sequence was wrong but consistent. The house is 200 years old. Consistency has its merits.

Milk moves different when the pail is cold.

Pregnant women know more than they are letting on. We should grant them that mystery willingly.

Sunday is for Gloating

I don't like rubbing this in peoples faces but I live in Kentucky. I couldn't imagine living in a better spot, if the truth be told, and I have seen other places. Plenty of them. There is an honesty about this region that wraps around you like a wool sweater. That the sweater might have the occasional hole only speaks to the authenticity beneath that honesty. This past Sunday I read a letter to the editor penned by Wendell Berry that simultaneously spanked the Courier Journal for not asking critical questions that should be the bedrock of good journalism and placed the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) program championed by University of Kentucky's president Lee Todd under a much needed critical eye. Berry's primary point being that complex public policy invariably has both merit and debit and that we should give no career politician a free pass at the creation of policy without fair and considered public debate. No offense to Todd, but if he can not reasonably answer the questions put to him by Berry in his letter then we should not embrace the policies Todd champions. It was good to see good writing in the newspaper even if it was "Special to the Courier Journal."

So there I was, sitting at home thinking about my Kentucky roots and the talented people that live here when I remembered that a LAVA House benefit was about to begin at Lisa's Oak Street Lounge. I moseyed over to listen to some tunes and was treated to another dose of honesty and guts. John Haywood, from Eastern Kentucky, started off the evening playing banjo and singing songs about good ole hobos and ballads of love ending in blood. You might see something like this in another state but it wouldn't be the same. I do not claim to know exactly what it is about steep terrain and coal dust and poverty that breeds haunting lyric but I am sure it exists. You can not fake some things and Haywood was happy not to try. The banjo came to us from Africa where it was originally mostly drum and only secondarily melody. John's banjo work is the clack of train wheels and his singing is whistle through fog. I could have stood more of it. Then Joe Manning took the stage and added another sip of whiskey to the evening.

It all got me to thinking. Could I stand to live out my days in a lesser place? I am sure I could not.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Commercial Design Gone South

Jessica Woolards "AND HOW" blog "I hate you baby corn" got me thinking about canned goods. You know, those things you gather up at Christmas time to box up for some needy family. It's hard not to hate canned goods these days. The food inside isn't likely to be all that good and it's almost certain to have come from thousands of miles away. But worse still, it isn't even packaged very pleasingly. What happened to our canned food design ethic? From looking around in junk stores over the better part of my life I have come to realize that our marketing people could learn a few things from the label designers of the mid 1900s. I would buy a can of something if it looked good.

And to that end I have a recommendation for you. Down at the Cressman Center (100 E. Main Street, Louisville) the show that's up for a short time longer (I think it comes down on Feb. 16th) includes a collection of vintage dog food cans. And get this, they still have dog food in them. In essence they are time-capsules of genetic information about horses, cows, pigs, ducks, bunnies, and such.

Here's a tip from a fellow that has navigated most of my valentine days successfully. Take your gal on a romantic gallery hop for two to see the dog food cans. But follow it up with a nice dinner at Proof or something like that.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

A Theory About Shotguns

In the world of shotgun houses New Orleans and Louisville reign supreme. I have a theory why but no empirical or historical smoking gun to prove it. Louisville and New Orleans are connected by a stretch of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers that was navigable without interruption when both towns were in their early development. No dams, locks, waterfalls or other obstructions kept a flatboat built in Louisville and launched from Portland Kentucky from making it's way down to New Orleans. My theory goes like this...

Rough and rowdy river men would load a flat boat barge full of corn, whiskey, agricultural products or some other cargo in Portland Kentucky and raft it down river to New Orleans, one of the largest shipping ports in the Americas, where the goods were sold and shipped to other places in the world. These flatboats were built of poplar, oak, maple and the other abundant hardwoods of the Ohio River Valley by men handy with saws and planes and hammers. Once the cargo was sold and the barge men paid for their effort the flat boats were disassembled by these same men and sold as lumber for a bit of extra profit before making their return journey north by coach and horseback and foot. Some of these men, in hopes of making even more profit, would sign on as carpenters with building crews in New Orleans that were building shotgun homes out of the old flatboat lumber. These men, armed with the knowledge and experience of building shotgun homes in New Orleans, eventually made their way back to Kentucky bringing the architectural styles of New Orleans with them.

Having lived in both towns I find them amazingly similar in many other respects as well. But all in all, I would rather be a Kaintock than a flatlander.

Super Bowl Sunday

I consider this to be a super bowl. And I am willing to back that up with reasons. It is of good size. It is of good weight. It holds fruits and vegetables and popcorn with equal ease. The glaze is old and therefore has that kind of crackley finish that gives it character. It was rescued from a yard sale. The ribbing on the outside makes it easy to hold onto when it is wet and you are trying to dry it. The color is pleasing. I own it outright with no leans, mortgages or shares with other partners save my wife. It fits neatly under the flour sifter in the cabinet. It looks good.

This is me watching my super bowl on this first Sunday in February of 2008. Go bowl!

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Liquor In the Coop

I read an article recently about a hen that was famous in her day for her egg laying capabilities. I think the story mentioned that she laid more than 290 eggs one year. I intended to save the article but I wrapped a dead mouse in it by mistake. Apparently this hen was so famous that there were front page news articles about her and at one point more than 300 people came to see her. What struck me as the most interesting thing about the entire article is the fact that someone would know how many eggs their hen produced. The whole story is dependent on someone counting and keeping records. I don't count my eggs. That's because none have ever hatched and I have been warned against counting them until that happens.

We do however watch our chickens. I can even recommend it. And I promise you that it is more entertaining than most of what other things you may watch. Especially if TV is among them. We have set up chairs around our coop so that the chicken watching is easy and comfortable. We have a liquor cabinet in the coop and several glasses in the event that someone joins us. It is nice to be able to say, "Can I pour you a shot of bourbon?" if someone joins you while you are chicken sittin.

It is cold now but warmer days are coming. Plan on stopping by one evening to watch our chickens with us. It's quite a show.