Saturday, 17 March 2018

Saturday Photo: March Sun..

Spring doesn't come until the end of next week, but the sun is already quite high in the sky.

We're back in the deep freeze for a few days, with fresh snow on the ground, but the spring light is blinding.

Of course, if you look at the progress of the sun  through the year, it currently is at the point it is near the end of September, which frequently is still summer-like. 

So for the moment, it's blue skies, nothing but blue skies.

Saturday, 10 March 2018

Saturday Photo: Drowning in Concrete

There are days when I feel like I'm trapped in concrete.  This book about the marvelous material is taking up more and more of my head space...

Goal: get a draft done by the end of April.  Probability?  Well, I've never missed a deadline yet.

Deformation professional, I guess.

Saturday, 3 March 2018

Saturday Photo: Borderline Behaviour, Why Places That Should Be Alike Aren't.

It looks like we've got a title for my book about pairs of places that have much in common, but diverge in significant ways: Borderline Behaviour, Why Places That Should Be Alike Aren't.  The University of Regina Press will be bringing it out in the run-up to the 2020 US presidential elections, since one of the ten pairs of places I compare is the US and Canada.

Originally I had called it Unidentical Twins: Why Places That Should Alike Aren't Alike, but Bruce Walsh, the wizard who runs the shop, said that bookstores would shelve it with parenting books, and that's not at all what it was about.  I toyed with Different: Why Places That Should Alike Aren't Alike, but this week Sean Prpick, who does acquisitions, came up with this new one.

A winner, I think.

The other pairs of places I'll be looking at are: the (formerly) two Vietnams; Tunisia and Algeria;  the Indian states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu; Brazil and Spanish-speaking South America; Haiti and the Dominican Republic; Burundi and Rwanda;  Scotland and Ireland; Vermont and New Hampshire; and Alberta and Saskatchewan. The photo is a Wikipedia shot of Hai Van Pass which is the natural divide between north and south Vietnam, and near where the country was split after the French colonial war.

Saturday, 24 February 2018

Saturday Photo: Pot Hole Season...

Actually the ones this year are worse.  The photo was taken a couple of years ago after some of the pot holes were filled.  This year, though, we've had rock 'n' roll weather, with days of hard freeze followed by thaws followed by more hard freezes.

This means that water enters into every crack in pavement and then expands when it turns to ice.  Yesterday afternoon I found myself driving much below the speed limit on main streets in order not to break an axle.  What a mess!

When I was at World of Concrete in January there was some talk about what concrete works best when there's much freeze-and-thaw.  But I don't think anybody had a prescription for countering our cycles, which are much more frequent than elsewhere.

Saturday, 17 February 2018

Saturday Photo: Good Luck in Bad Luck or It Wasn't Raindrops Falling on My Head

Report from an optimist.

Last Saturday evening I was sitting in the living room when I began to hear drip! drip! drip!  A little investigation found water dripping from the ceiling in the dining room which was bulging downward. 

Quick work by my husband led piercing the sagging plaster, catching about two gallons of water in a big bucket, and, subsequently, pulling down a lot of wet lath and plaster. This is what things looked like on Monday morning.

What a mess, you might say.  One of the joys of home ownership, you might add.  We discovered a leak in the pipe leading from the reservoir of the toilet upstairs to the pipe leading to the sewer, which in turn led to an expensive visit from plumbers who replaced the pipe and the toilet, and discovered another leak in the bath tub drain.  All that is fixed now, only the holes remain.

The good thing about this is that it occurred when it did.  The night before we had a dinner party and at the same time the leak sprang forth on Saturday, on Friday we were just about to begin the cheese course.  The wine and the conversation  were flowing, we were having a lovely time.  So glad we didn't have to hustle everyone out so that water-rescue could begin!

Also since we were home and awake when the leak began, there was little if any collateral damage.  I shudder to think what would have happened to our books, hardwood floors (replaced seven years ago after our fire,) book and artwork if the water had flowed for a significant amount of time. 

Is there a lesson here? Maybe its that being optimistic doesn't stop life's glitches from happening, but it makes facing them a bit easier to deal with.

Saturday, 10 February 2018

Saturday Photo: Oranges Inside, and Out

At some point I acquired an ornamental orange tree.  It was probably 20  or more years ago, and each year I put it outside for the summer and brought it in October, where it might--or might not--bear one tiny orange.

This year I must have done something right, because it had a lot of blossoms when I brought it in, which have transformed into perhaps three dozen oranges.  Quite wonderful, I think.  Later on when they start to fall, I'll get the grandkids to plant some of their seeds so they can have their own little tree.

This comes just after I read a very interesting social history of California, Trees in Paradise by Jared Farmer.  The book  tells the stories of four sorts of trees in the Golden State, the Sequoia, Eucalyptus, orange and palm. Farmer uses these as points of departure for a detailed, pretty rigorous account of California since 1850, and for reflections on how people have remade the landscape, for good (a bit) or for ill (mostly.)

I found the method particularly interesting because I'm currently struggling to organize the vast amount of material I've been collecting about concrete for my next book Rock of Ages: How Concrete Built the World as We Know It.    Right now I'm wondering: Why not use the four elements the Ancients recognized--earth, fire, water and air--to tell this story? 

To be continued...

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Saturday Photo: Beauty, Fading But Beautiful

Looking for photos to illustrate a presentation I'm giving about concrete, I came across this one I took in Lisbon several years ago.  The stucco on these buildings with the elegant iron work is peeling, but the flowers are lovely and the open windows are inviting.

Beauty can be found in a lot of places, não é?