Saturday, December 11, 2010

Good News: At Edwards Funeral, Love Protestors Outnumber Hate Protestors

Christian Science Monitor reports:
"Members of the controversial Westboro Baptist Church picketed the funeral of Elizabeth Edwards in Raleigh, N.C. Saturday. But they were vastly outnumbered by a “human buffer” of people who quietly stood in the rain singing Christmas carols and carrying signs reading “God loves Elizabeth Edwards” or simply “Grace” and “Hope.” ..."
Once again, doing something constructive works!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Christmas Traditions in Scandanavia, as Explained by Humon

First the comic, then the explanation:

"Christmas Traditions" from humoncomics


Humon runs several comics on her site Scandanavia and the World. The one shown above is from the epynomous comic, in which the Spirits of countries interact. She explains:
"The boys are here dressed as a horrifying mix of various Scandinavian Christmas traditions.

The goat costumes are from the Christmas billy-goat. It’s the oldest Christmas tradition in Scandinavia, and most likely predates Christianity, and is therefore a heathen tradition that was simply absorbed by the new religion in these parts of the world. Usually it’s made of straw [link] but in some families people even dress up as it.

The candles are from Santa Lucia procession [link] A Swedish tradition that has spread to the rest of Scandinavia, though it remains most popular in Sweden where girls from all over the country compete to become the Lucia of the year.

And finally the flags as decoration on the tree is a Danish tradition that started during the Nazi’s time in Denmark where the Danes weren’t allowed to use their flag, and therefore used it as a Christmas decoration. This later spread to the rest of Scandinavia."
Interestingly, Humon publishes 3 different comics on her site, so if Scandanavia doesn't interest you, perhaps you'll enjoy Love and Tentacles; learn more here. Happy holidays!

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Bus 125 and the Ordinary Thing That Happened

bus stop sign
The Route 125 bus was packed, with riders standing the length of the aisle on a sloppy December Monday in Seattle. The driver opened the door at the next stop, and the first person getting in said, "You've got a wheelchair coming on."
Immediately my wife and the two others sitting in the fold-a-way seat stood up. They turned to puzzle out how to flip up the seat to clear the space for the wheelchair rider. One found the red lever to pull, but it was too stiff for her, so Kris yoinked on it strongly until it gave way.
As the driver operated the lift, it became obvious that the bus was really too full to take on another passenger.
"Back door!" someone called. "I'll get the next one."
The driver operated the switch that opened the back door, and about six people got out. This left plenty of room for the new rider, and soon all were on their way, except of course for the half dozen who'd gotten off to wait for the next bus.
Think about it.
The whole bus knew what to do, and didn't really need to discuss it; they just did the right things. Those in the moveable bench jumped up to surrender their seat. When it became clear the wheelchair rider couldn't get on unless some got off, more than enough promptly got off. And they didn't do it for a reward; those that got off didn't know and wouldn't meet the stranger that they'd helped.
This is not really an unusual story; while tales of awefulness naturally get more attention, these more typical stories of every-day humanity are too ordinary to be news. The idea that humanity is strictly a profit-seeking animal is wrong.
People are kind, and that is just not news!

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Bulk Buying at Farmers' Markets

A mix of apples and pears
25% off because we bought in bulk!
We love our Farmers' Markets; as consumers, we find the price and quality generally excellent, and as citizens we like they way they improve our community and environment.
We found another way to save even more money: offer to do a bulk buy of produce. For example, this Sunday we got 25% off by buying a whole box. They let us pick from a selection of fruit so it's not like we'd be stuck chewing the same thing all month!
This is a great deal for us; with 3 adults in the house, we go through fruit at a good clip, especially since I am boosting my fruit consumption to try to bring down my weight and therefore blood pressure. And it's probably a good deal for the farmer, who turned over a lot of product in a short time!
Another Farmers' Market buying tip is to look for the "seconds" or "Number 2s". These are fruits and veggies that are perfectly healthy, but ugly. If you're going to be cooking with them anyway, what do you care that they are shaped like a horror movie? Save the money and give perfectly good food a perfectly good home!
We picked up the box of organic lovelies in the photo this Sunday at the West Seattle Farmer's Market, conveniently located around the block from a pet store, several books stores and even more pubs. Any fruit that survive the week will be made into pies or sauce next Sunday. Then, we'll take the box back to the Farmers' Market for a refill! Saving money can taste great too!

Monday, December 06, 2010

Bottling Wine at Jim and Charlotte's

Wine for immediate consumption
in mason jars
 My friend Charlotte, who taught me everything I know about stocking books at the Mercer Island Thrift Shop, said she needed help bottling wine, so last Saturday Kris and I stopped by to see what we could do.
It seems that Charlotte and her husband Jim used to make wine as part of the Boeing Wine Club decades. They kept this up for a while after Jim retired, but for the past decade had been busy doing other things (Jim was the electronics guy at MITS for years, and put in a huge amount of time tinkering on donated gadgets to get them into sellable condition.) Recently while clearing out a basement room, they came across three carboys that had been put to bed 10 or 15 years ago - surely it was time to bottle them!
Kris, Jim and Charlotte
This was a heck of a lot of fun. We'd bottled wine before at Gallagher's Where-U-Brew, and enjoyed it a lot, but doing it in someone's basement was a whole new experience. The biggest issue is that Gallagher's is heavily optimized for getting it all done quickly; they're all set up with spaces and sinks and gadgetry, whereas this home operation was a lot more casual. Also, at Gallagher's we make the wine from juice and it therefore need not be filtered; at Jim & Charlotte's it had been started from fruit, so we had to run it through a filter (...or else the wine would be chewy. I dunno, that might have been o.k.)
We tinkered with the best arrangement for going from the carboy to the pump to the filter to the bottle and eventually worked out an arrangement involving the counter, a table and a chair. Corking was a challenge; whereas Gallagher's has a neat corking machine and pre-softened corks, we had to soak the corks to make them compressible, carve them to fit, and then hammer into place. It all worked but it was a long series of interesting puzzles to solve. Luckily we all like to have a good time.
There were three carboys: pear, blackberry and plum. The last bits of each we poured into mason jars, on the theory that we were going to drink them right away anyway.
Jim & Charlotte insisted that we take half the bottles. We felt that was a bit much since they'd supplied everything, but on the other hand, we didn't want to argue. We'll make sure it all gets put to good us (already we gave one as a holiday gift as our friend Claudia happened by.)
 They gave us one of the carboys as well - a very generous gift and one we will put to use as soon as the blackberries are in season. The best way to honor the gift of winemaking equipment must surely be to make more wine!
Thanks Jim! Thanks Charlotte!

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Rebinding Mom's Bible

Mom's Bible needed rebinding.

It is probably older than I am, and in a lot worse shape.
Mom and her rebound Bible
Although it was not often read, over the course of more than fifty years, both its covers and the spine had come off, although the pieces had been kept together. Around last Christmas, Dave got the great idea of having it rebound, and I agreed to take care of it (...I guess the theory being that once I was in the book business so I must know about this sort of thing.)
Unfortunately I am a bit literal sometimes, and I didn't get the sense that mom was in a hurry to have the binding completed. This was the Christmas when we were moving to a new house, in preparation for buying another house, so what with a couple of moves and everything else, I got nothing done on this project except identify a skilled binder in Pioneer Square who kept very particular hours. I resolved to get this done, but kept putting it off.
Then came the sad time when Uncle Louis passed away. He was a great guy, always full of good humore and fine intelligence, but he frankly got old and the end came. Mom wished to record his death in her family bible, same as she had for other family members, and who was still in possession of it? me.
I had to move fast!
Inside Phil's Custom Bindery
Bookbinding tools
Using the google machine I found Phil's Custom Bindery located, not in Pioneer Square, but just a couple of miles from here in a small industrial park. Phil is a real character; he talked about books and about other stuff for at least half an hour before I finally had to leave to get other work done. His shop was fun to look at, including several old bookbinding gadgets, plus some modern printing machinery in the back, on which he was producing something with the curiously named "Perfect Binding".

Phil Shows His Work
Mom was very pleased with the result, and the price was not bad. I had to talk another half hour with Phil but that was fun too! I'll definitely come back the next time I have another project like this!