North Shore, Early Spring

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Lake Superior, Tofte Minnesota
Lake Superior, Tofte Minnesota
The Cauldron on Temperance River
The ‘Cauldron’ on Temperance River
Temperance River rapids
Temperance River rapids
Approach to Carlton Peak
Approach to Carlton Peak
Mossy cliff face on approach to Carlton Peak
Mossy cliff face on approach to Carlton Peak
Close-up of mossy cliff face
Close-up of mossy cliff face
Waves crashing near mouth of the Temperance river
Waves crashing near mouth of the Temperance river
Cove near the mouth of the Temperance river
Cove near the mouth of the Temperance river

Re: What Poetry Does

I loved this thought from Helen Macdonald during her conversation with Kerri Miller on MPR this morning (this bit starts at 31:00 in the audio):

I tend to write poems very fast, and I tend to not revise them very much. The thing about writing a poem compared to writing a book — I mean obviously, it’s not as long as a book — is that there’s a moment where the poem is finished, and it’s really addictive moment: the poem suddenly snaps shut like a locket and you can’t do any more to it, because it has its own internal workings, like a watch, and it stops letting you do anything to it — it becomes this object on its own, and it’s really exciting when that happens. So I’d write the poem and then start to tinker around with it until it starts to work by itself, and then I just let it go.

This feels exactly right, not only for the few times I’ve written a poem, but for the experience of reading or hearing poetry. When a poem gives that clicking-shut sensation every time you read it, you’ve found a very good one.

The above is a note added to an earlier post…

Distributism Is Not That Hard

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Proponents of distributism in our time have a hard time talking about it clearly to people who aren’t already on board with their ideas. If you have muddled through the writing of any prominent modern distributist you know what I mean.

But it doesn’t have to be this hard to talk about. The path to a distributist economy is plain. It’s hard — maybe even ultimately indefensible — but come on! it’s at least straight-forward.

The Goal is that everyone have private ownership of some property that allows them to make their own living — and that everyone actually make their own living from their own property and labour. So how do you get there?

  1. Ban public ownership of corporate stock.
  2. Abolish inheritance and estate taxes.
  3. Force all businesses of more than, say, ten or twenty employees to convert to worker-owned cooperatives.
  4. Break up big farms into smaller worker-owned farms.
  5. Break up big banks into local credit unions.
  6. Abolish government enforcement of interest-rate contracts.
  7. Abolish social security and welfare at the federal and state levels.
  8. Heavily tax the ownership of non-homesteaded residential property (punish the rent-seekers) and heavily subsidize the purchase of small homesteaded residential property (make renters into owner-occupiers).

I’m just spitballing here. There’s probably more you could do. But if you want to convert a capitalist economy to a distributist one, this is how you start. I’m not going to defend each of these moves in this post — I don’t even personally support them as a set — except to say that any self-described distributist ought to be able to defend any one of them as a means of getting us to The Distributist Goal.

But this also makes clear why present-day distributists have a hard time writing clearly about how to implement their pet framework. It’s not just because it’s hard to get people to understand the idea of a third way between Capitalism and Communism (although it is very hard). It’s also because Distributism involves moves that most modern distributists, for various reasons, cannot stomach. It’s much safer and more comfortable to talk about Chesterton and Pope Leo XIII and the precedents of medieval economies than it is to propose anything that would begin, in 2016, to actually accomplish what you say you want.

Re: Text Cursors

The “Blinking Text Cursor for CRT Display” was first patented in 1967 by Sperry Rand Corp:

The present invention solves the problem by detecting the simultaneous occurrence of the cursor and a character at the same location and then accentuating that location by alternately tracing the cursor symbol and the character symbol. Thus, both the character symbol and the normal character over which it appears are displayed at normal intensity only one-half the time. The alternate appearance of the two symbols causes the position to assume a blinking appearance.

Sperry Rand Corp, 1967 patent for blinking text cursor
Sperry Rand Corp, 1967 patent for blinking text cursor
(hat tip: Track Changes newsletter)

The above is a note added to an earlier post…

Broadlight

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Finally, the wind on Sunday was not an ice wind. In the afternoon, I placed myself in a lawn chair and found I could sit still, and read, without at all shivering. There were no cars on the road either, not by my yard, not on the nearby freeway. I could imagine we lived in a small town, and that I was not poor or rich. The air had the tang of smoke and soft dirt. The sun was so much in my eyes that being really upset with anyone was out of the question.

Re: Basement Finishing

Well, we definitely did not finish by Christmas. We had a baby in November, which pretty much derailed every other aspect of life. I thought that maybe since this was our second I’d be more practiced at balancing dad duties with other duties, but I failed to account for the possibility that the crying and sleeping schedules of my two children might end up completely out of phase.

Rough framing: view from the rec room
Rough framing: view from the rec room towards the bedroom, hallway and bathroom

We did make some progress since the first post, though. My goal was to be done with the framing by 2016, and I made the goal with about nine hours to spare.

Framing a basement is tedious business, especially when working alone. In general, first I had to build soffits around all the ducts in the ceiling, then I could build my walls around the soffits. But sometimes I’d have to build a particular wall before I could build a nearby soffit, and vice versa. It’s like building a three-dimensional puzzle — one in which all the pieces start out invisible.

The thing I dislike the most about framing in basements is the problem of fastening the bottom plate of each wall to the concrete floor. I’m convinced the universe notices when you’re attempting to do this and makes sure no single method will continue to work longer than an hour or two. I have a Ramset gun that fires fasteners into the concrete with .22 caliber gunpowder charges. This worked well for the first four walls, until the fasteners began bending and blowing out patches of concrete. Finally I bought some 2.5″ Tapcon screws and a set of concrete bits, and stole—er, borrowed my Dad’s hammer drill, and from then on I had to pre-drill the concrete in every place where I’d need to fasten a wall plate.

Some of the more complicated soffit framing
Some of the more complicated soffit framing

There are a lot of little blocks and cross-pieces that need to be installed, and most of them had to be pre-drilled and fastened with screws to avoid splitting the ends.

Rough framing: view from the bedroom
Rough framing: view from the bedroom

This was the year I finally bothered to learn the proper way to frame the corner on an angled wall. I wish I’d known this when I framed the rest of the house — the second floor in particular has several of these corners.

Bathroom rough-in plumbing
Bathroom rough-in plumbing

On the recommendation of neighbors, I hired Huber Plumbing to do the rough plumbing in the 3/4 bath, the ducting for the exhaust fan, and the forced-air supplies/returns for the rec room and bedroom. The drainage piping for this bathroom had already been laid back before we poured the foundation in 2008, otherwise I doubt I’d even be attempting to put a bathroom in down here. These guys finished up in a day and a half, scheduled and passed their inspections.

All the waste from the project to this point
All the waste from the project to this point

This photo shows just about all the waste from the project so far (except for a couple gallons of sawdust I’d already vacuumed up). You will typically hear that you should add 10% to a materials order to account for waste, but on a framing project this small I thought I ought to be able to get closer than that. So I just tried to estimate the actual material needed. It wouldn’t get me LEED-certified or anything, but for I thought I did pretty well. The remaining long pieces are very crooked and bowed (typical Menards; you get what you pay for). I highly recommend the use of a leaf bag for tossing small waste as you go: it stands up on its own and takes up less space than a garbage bin.

Next steps will be to do the electrical work and inspection, the rough framing inspection, sound-proofing, and drywall.

The above is a note added to an earlier post…

Re: The New Orthography: Handwriting, Calligraphy and Shorthand

From John Overholt, curator at Houghton Library of Harvard (source):

18C commonplace book from Glasgow, containing ribald poetry and a book inventory, written in code.
18C commonplace book from Glasgow, containing ribald poetry and a book inventory, written in code.
A substitution cipher with a key kindly provided by the bookseller
Substitution cipher key kindly provided by the bookseller

The above is a note added to an earlier post…

The Banksy of Poetry

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Some days the social internet makes up for all its corrosive effects by gifting you something inspiring…that turns into something wonderful.

Just this afternoon thanks to a Robinson Meyer tweet I was introduced to the poem Janus: Sonnet by one John M. Ford. Sonnets by themselves are hard to do well, but this is one of those poems that turns the genius level up to eleven. Not only does Ford weave some subtle and vivid truth into the standard sonnet form (an intricate job by itself), but he builds in an additional device that, when you see it, will astonish you.

If you understand what “Janus” refers to, you should be able to teach yourself how to read the sonnet. When you find Ford’s trick, you will understand the poem.

But it gets more interesting. Because Graham Sleight responded with another example of Ford’s genius: another smashing sonnet that he left as a comment on someone’s blog — !?! A later commenter notes, “This is, after all, the man who won a World Fantasy Award for a poem he wrote for his own self-published Christmas card.” (He has one several such awards, though I haven’t been able to figure out which one was being referenced here.)

Here, then, it seems we have a kind of Banksy of poetry, leaving little threads and tuns of treasure everywhere, not just in print but all throughout these quiet old places on the web that have just been sitting there for ten or fifteen or twenty years now.

Basement Finishing

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We were just approved for a building permit to finish off our basement. When done, we’ll have a rec room, another bathroom and another (rather large) bedroom down there, which will be useful for guests.

Here it is in its current, unfinished state:

The unfinished basement
The unfinished basement

This is some poor photography but it allows you to see a few of the project’s distinguishing features.

  • The ducts for the forced air heating/cooling system had to run underneath the first floor system. This means I’ll need to build soffits around them, lowering the ceiling under those ducts. In addition, though, a couple of my walls are located under those ducts, which means I won’t be able to fasten the tops of those walls to the joists. I’ll have to find some other way to brace those walls so that they don’t wobble at the top, which might be tricky because they’re also the shortest walls and they don’t have much to grab onto to begin with.
  • You can see that I had put a plastic vapour barrier behind the outside wall framing, but I won’t be doing that for the rest of the outside walls, because there’s no legal requirement (and really no need) for it. The foundation walls are 8″ poured concrete, with a moisture barrier on the outside. If the foundation walls had been cement block, which is hollow and quite porous, I’d have been required to put plastic between the foundation and the wood walls to protect them from any water that might weep through from the outside.
  • I’m also not planning to put any insulation on the outside walls. This tends to raise some eyebrows. The foundation walls also have a small amount of insulation (R–5) on the outside, which, combined with the R–40+ insulation in the attic, gives me all the insulation I need (again both legally and practically). Furthermore, if I were to add insulation to the inside, I’d be effectively preventing the house’s warmth from penetrating the concrete wall, making the wall itself colder.

We’re hoping to have most of this project (except for the bathroom) complete by Christmas time so visiting kin can make use of it. That might be tough with the baby due in a month but we have a shot at it.

Continue reading…

Re: Future-Proofing

Adrienne LaFrance, writing for The Atlantic:

The web, as it appears at any one moment, is a phantasmagoria. It’s not a place in any reliable sense of the word. It is not a repository. It is not a library. It is a constantly changing patchwork of perpetual nowness.

You can’t count on the web, okay? It’s unstable. You have to know this.

…If a sprawling Pulitzer Prize-nominated feature in one of the nation’s oldest newspapers can disappear from the web, anything can. “There are now no passive means of preserving digital information,” said Abby Rumsey, a writer and digital historian. In other words if you want to save something online, you have to decide to save it. Ephemerality is built into the very architecture of the web, which was intended to be a messaging system, not a library.

I can envision only one sort-of-practical way the web can be “preserved” in any meaningful sense of the word: a giant microfiche archive with a card index. Yes, it would be inconvenient to use. It’s also the only option likely to be useable at all in 100 years.

The above is a note added to an earlier post…