Saturday, February 28, 2009

Clean Coal: This Is So (Not) Funny

Did I say that we are researching how we can put a solar electric system on the house? I wish I could say we are keen on this just out of the goodness of our green hearts, but the fact that our electric bills match the average annual incomes of many 3rd world countries actually gives our going solar inspiration the big kick in the butt.

If you have every lived where people burn coal in the fireplace to heat their homes, this commercial doesn't seem very outlandish.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Getting All Figgy On It

After some headaches brought on by hopelessly twisty-turny shapes, the fig window has taken off. I'm hoping to get it wrapped up next week. And installed!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Old Bill

I've been thinking a lot about my dad lately. February 10th was his birthday; he would have been 89. We weren't exactly close -- at least for the 35 years or so before his death, which tends to make a parent-child death experience tricky, to say the least. He was a difficult man. It's cliche to say he did the best he could as a parent, but that's true in his case. You don't learn a lot about parenting when your father abandons you during the Depression, your mother dies of cancer, your sister marries a drunk, and you are supporting your family working in the steel mill at 15. That he stuck with us, his own family, despite the melancholy distance he wore around him like a cloak and his inflexible ability to hold a grudge -- was nothing short of amazing. He was imperfect, and not in an endearing way. And he loved us. It wasn't an easy combination.

As I get further away from his death three years ago, I find myself remembering the "good stuff" more and more. It's especially those years when I was a little girl, a time when his spirit seemed a little lighter and his heart hadn't started to go out -- in more ways than one -- that come back to me in little snippets. Here's my dad on a wintry Sunday, smoking his pipe while he flips a steak on the old refrigerator grate he'd set up in our living room fireplace. There he is in the car, letting out a high-pitched shriek at the lady stopped in the car next to us at a stoplight. She'd made the fatal blunder of going out in in public in her hair curlers. He detested curlers, and would shriek at the sight of them, as if a snake had slithered across his narrow Irish feet. My best friend and I, who often caught a ride with him to school, thought this was the most hilarious thing in the world.

This morning I remembered him as he was on a spring day like this one. I am riding with him across rural Virginia. We pass a shack that's covered with dozens of hubcats, gathered, no doubt, from the sharp curve up ahead in the road -- a notorious spot for accidents. My dad starts making up a song about them. I chime in. We change a few things, try them out, and there it is -- our driving song. We sang it for years, much to the dismay of my mother and brother. I remembered it today and sang it again exactly as we had back then, off-key and twangy. And I remembered probably the best thing that my dad gave me -- the give and take of making something up a with a child. A story or a song. He was aces at that, an art form only given to a few of us, and he passed it on to me. I'll always be grateful for that.

Driving Song

When it's pothole time in Pennsylvania,
That's when I'll come back to you.
I was driving along, singing a song
When suddenly my bottom fell through.
In a hospital loft, in cotton so soft,
They put me together with glue.
That's why...
When it's pothole time in Pennsylvania,
That's when I'll come back to yooooooouuuuu.

Monday, February 9, 2009

For The Love Of Michael

Hey, I don't know about you, but I credit Michael Phelps with breathing more life into the sport of swimming than, well, just about anybody else. Watching him win all those gold medals was thrilling -- especially for us moms of kids who are a little different from the cookie cutter, yuppie, perfect demographic variety.

I was irked to death when, last week, Phelps was getting dinged in the press for smoking pot -- and, as a result, lost a lucrative endorsement contract with Kellogg. Of course, I would bet Kellogg has featured more than a few steroid-lubricated baseball stars on their boxes. Okay, I'm bitter, but it looks like some other folks have a few things to say about the Phelps situation. Hey, Kellogg execs: How about you try swimming five miles a day for months on end -- without a little "relief."

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Forewarned, But (Sadly) Not Forearmed

Years ago, a financial advisor friend warned me that the most dangerous economic thing to happen in years had just happened - the repeal of the Glass- Stegall Act. Huh? That's the act that was passed during the Depression to keep banks from becoming speculative entities -- a practice that got us in a bit of hot economic water way back then. (Remember last century? Those guys taking swan dives out their office windows, because all their investments had just gone down the drain? Soup lines?). At the time of the repeal, I hardly paid attention -- even though my Depression Era dad was bemoaning this repeal as loudly as my friend was. I was too busy being excited at the rate our IRAs and other investments were growing.

The GS Act was repealed in 1999, allowing a ball to start rolling that we are seeing the results of today. Banks take your money, bet it on companies who cooked their books, and voila! worldwide economic failure. Okay, so this is simplistic. But other, wiser minds thought it was dangerous to allow banks to speculate. One of them was John Dingell (D-Michigan). Here's what he said about why it was a bad idea to give banks enough rope to hang themselves with -- and why he didn't vote for the repeal:

“[W]hat we are creating now is a group of institutions which are too big to fail. Not only are they going to be big banks, but they are going to be big everything, because they are going to be in securities and insurance, in issuance of stocks and bonds and underwriting, and they are also going to be in banks. And under this legislation, the whole of the regulatory structure is so obfuscated and so confused that liability in one area is going to fall over into liability in the next. Taxpayers are going to be called upon to cure the failures we are creating tonight, and it is going to cost a lot of money, and it is coming. Just be prepared for those events.”

Talk about calling it. Maybe "someone" might listen this time?

Monday, February 2, 2009

Cut Ups

Took 13 hours, but I got all the pieces for the Fig Window cut and arranged. There are going to be the odd engineering challenges with this one kind of wavy-gravy clear glass that I chose to use . (It's really thick and irregular.) This is inevitable, as I have never made a window without one outlier, frustrating kind of glass. I'd had this wavy stuff in the studio for years, so one way or another, it was time to go. And it IS beautiful.

I can be proud of my new and improved glass-sorting system. I think I could probably stop buying new glass and just work with scraps for, um, years, but what would be the fun there?