Time Lost and Found

Scrounging around my grandparent's hall closet in search of something usable as a salt cellar, I was overwhelmed by the dust and pet fur that had worked its way into every nook and cranny. I pulled everything out, running a rag over each item, and vacuumed the shelves. The difficulty came in putting everything back, as the "stuff" somehow expanded as it sat in the hall, even after throwing away odd bits and pieces. However, I did rediscover two art deco clocks I cycled back into usage.
This Telechron 4H55 desk clock, c. 1930s - 40s, was one of several my grandmother kept on her desk. It now has pride of place on top of one of the bookshelves in my office, which used to be her office.
The Seth Thomas Romance E868-000 was my grandfather's alarm clock. It now sits on a chest of drawers in my bedroom.

I have a newfound appreciation for these objects, their simple, clean lines, their mass, the materials and workmanship that went into them, even the mechanical sound of the gears. Things just aren't made that well anymore, a drawback of progress. Plastics and mass production may have enabled people from all socioeconomic backgrounds to fill their homes with more items, but they also created a disposable society. Our possessions are no longer meaningful and are thrown away and replaced with alarming frequency.

And so it is in other aspects of our lives. Like mass production, television and social networking have cheapened our relationships. We no longer engage in meaningful discourse that encourages us to think, we broadcast short, evocative blurbs that arouse strong emotions and hinder our ability to form cogent thoughts. Everything flows smoothly enough until someone disagrees, then all civility disappears in the barrage of blazing generalities. We feel extremely entitled and forcefully assert our liberties. But we have forgotten that with freedom comes responsibility: assuring you do not impinge on someone else's freedom; taking the time to truly listen to others respectfully, as you wish others would listen to you; basing an opinion on more than just a cursory look...

Courtesy isn't the only interpersonal casualty of the times, loyalty is as well. The ability to easily collect 1,568 friends has made them just as disposable as that one dollar colander. The trivial comments of a friend made today soon meld into the sea of inanity and she or he is soon forgotten.

It makes me more than a little sad that we have forsaken quality for quantity in so many aspects of our lives, particularly since the limited time each of us has to accomplish what we were meant to do in our lifetimes is so precious.

And for those who made it all the way through this post without falling asleep and are wondering about the salt holder, I found a small, lidded condiment dish that should do the trick!


After Dark Explorations

I may be out of paid employment, but I'm keeping busy volunteering in non-profit development, writing grants and organizing fundraising events for the Homeless Cat Network, an all-volunteer cat rescue group. But even unemployed volunteers need an occasional break. Last week's entertainment was an evening at the Exploratorium, a hands-on science museum. 

The Explo organizes After Dark, a monthly adult-oriented after-hours program. The series is well-planned and executed, with themed exhibits, films, lectures and artwork interspersed between the regular exhibits. And yes, there are two or three cash bars brought in specifically for the events. This month's theme was Alternative Energy Exploration, and featured alternatives in transportation, agriculture, and energy generation.

The SOHH Project, a "pedal-powered vehicle with motor assist," was conceived of by an 8th grader (and his father). The batteries can be charged via a solar panel on a sunny day or standard household 110v current on less-sunny days.
My photo does not do the cycle justice, so please visit the project website for the full story and more photos. I also visited the Flying Pig, which had been built on a Super Beetle chassis, and two modified Miatas, which were near and dear to my heart because I own a Miata (unmodifed, though). I will grant that plug-in sustainability is ultimately affected by the fuel source of the power plant, but hope in the long-run the utilities will move to more sustainable options and we will become more judicious in our consumption.

Going off the grid, I stopped by the Bamboo Bike Studio exhibit. They sell kits and help you build your own bamboo-framed push bike. The bamboo does look very nice (sorry, I didn't get a photo). It's a bit out of my budget right now, though. Plus, I tend to leave my bike out in the rain, something that my chromaly frame handles very well.

On the agricultural side, Kijiji Grows is an aquaponics consultancy based in Oakland, California. Aquaponics differs from hydroponics in that it is nearly a permaculture system. It includes an aquacultural element that requires you to feed the fish, so the loop is not entirely closed. After running by the plant roots, the water cycles into a fish pond, and then through a filtration system containing bacteria which convert the fish waste into usable components for the plants.
Halfway through the event I queued up to sample sweetwater oysters from Hog Island oyster farm. I'm not normally a huge oyster fan. I don't dislike them, but I don't go out of my way to eat them. The sweetwaters are relatively small, with a mild, almost sweet, taste and silky texture. I found myself wanting a nice, crisp Sauvignon Blanc or Sémillon with them, and I'm not typically a white wine drinker, either.

The night's speakers included lectures on Hydrogen and Wind energy, as well as a hands-on presentation of solar, wind, and hydro electricity generation. Unfortunately, I cannot recall what this man is demonstrating. I had to order my drink early on so I could drive home later and I hit this lecture at my high point. My apologies!
The only disappointment was an issue beyond the museum's control. Solar Sunflowers, designed by Poetic Kinetics and managed by Black Rock Solar, were inoperative. The designers and/or project managers couldn't deliver a working product on schedule, and could barely manage to assemble the defective colossi they brought. They were still nice to look at as static sculptures but didn't really fit into the evening's theme that way.

All in all, it was a nice 4 hour diversion while I took a break from fundraiser preparations. As I headed home to resume my work, I saw several people strolling the path across from the Palace of Fine Arts, which is beautifully lit at night, enjoying the relatively balmy autumn evening. I only wish I could have taken more time to take a better photo of it...


Looking Back

Piglet and Steven head south
 Le cerveau est contrariant. Il oublie bien trop vite ce qu'on a besoin de se souvenir et ne se souvient que trop bien ce qu'on a besoin d'oublier.

The brain is a contrarian. It forgets all too quickly what we need to remember and remembers all too well what we need to forget.

I began blogging 5 years ago to work my way through my midlife crisis and attempt to find myself. I can now honestly say I am still lost! But I learned a little about myself.

Nasturtium in my garden
September 2010
My midlife crisis has been backward. Just as everyone in my peer group is becoming unsettled and breaking from obligations, I long for something or someone to call home. Many of my peers, recently divorced and/or with children old enough to spread their own wings, are reasserting their independence. I, who have been fiercely independent my whole life, never married, no kids, now yearn for a solid anchor point. Unfortunately, I still make the same mistakes: I fall hardest for the unattainable, and I think that will always be the case. The heart wants what it wants and mine always seems to want the impossible.

I've always been an oddball, though, so it should be no surprise that my midlife crisis is also atypical. Not that I didn't have fun. Even I did Burning Man in the late 1980s. But it was different then, smaller, full of creative flow, special. Now it's a professionally managed event, a spectacle for the masses that throng to it now. Too many people for me.
Japanese Iris in my garden
September 2010
So now I seek stability, but it eludes, even with regard to simple things. I will soon lose my faithful, ever-vigilant companion. My housemate is moving to Southern California, so of course, Piglet will join him sometime in the coming months. I will miss them both, but mostly I'll miss my quadripedal companion who accompanies me everywhere within walking distance.

I dread finding a new housemate. My previous housemate told me after he moved in that he couldn't pay rent, then stayed 3 years on the vague promise that he would pay his debt in full when he found work. I also worked my last job for free for a year on the vague promise my pay would be backfilled if/when the company received funding. As my financial situation descends into desperation, I hope to break free of being a sucker. But even more, I don't want to take advantage of others' kindness and fail to pay obligations I may accrue. I fear becoming my ex roommate more than I fear remaining a pushover.

As I type this in the wee hours of a sleepless night, the first winds of autumn are rattling my windows and shaking my trees and they sound fairly strong. They remind me that my neighbor's walnut tree, which is slowly dying, is leaning precariously over my garage. Maybe this is a good week to prune it back...