Fire Cloud...
An irregular marking on the exterior of Native American pottery: usually resulting from burning fuel coming in direct contact with the vessel during firing

Sunday, 28 February 2010

Travel by Train and Other Musings

Wake Forest, North Carolina

Ok. So I'm eight days into this house addition painting project. It'a about 1000 square feet with lots of trim (including crown molding), and six rooms. That doesn't count four days and two 15 hour Amtrak trips on the Silver Meteor to go back and say hello to Mrs. Phred while waiting for the other trades to do their thing.

Grandchild number seven is due in eight days and the pressure is on to get a certificate of occupancy and get momma and the baby into the new space. It's down to the wire. She's amazing: still homeschooling six and running to soccer, drama and piano lessons while coordinating the trade people. I think maybe I had that energy at my peak...maybe not.

Here I am cleaning my humble paint pail in the neighborhood drainage ditch.

New construction is so different than the rehabs I'm used to. You have to prime all the drywall and new trim, patch all the nailholes with putty. caulk all the seams. sand the trim. repair blemishes, countersink nails the carpenters missed, fix drywall goofs, paint the trim, ceiling and walls different colors (several coats), clean the windows with razor blades and try to avoid tracking paint on anything important (since half the house is occupied).

The various crews call me "the painter" and several have asked if I do this kind of work in Florida. Painting is not without rewards, but its always been strictly weekend and evening stuff for me after a day at the office. I like working under halogen lighting with some loud rock and my friend Johnny Walker standing by.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Locked and Loaded

Sarasota, Florida

The ten year old Ford cargo van is ready to roll at 4AM tomorrow. It has new tires and a new battery for the trip. The bed in the back is made up with warm blankets, my lawn chairs are packed and my tools and ladders are loaded. I'll wake up at 3:30, make black coffee, pack turkey sandwiches, take a shot of cocaine (just kidding) and away I'll run.

My son and daughter-in-law are finishing a house addition before the seventh grandchild arrives the first week in March and they are flattering the old man by inviting him up to put on the finishing touches (paint and whatever). It's an 800 mile run. I should arrive before dark.

We went to see Casey Key yesterday. It's a thin barrier island that runs about 15 miles between Sarasota and Venice. Houses on both side of the winding road are waterfront and the homes are landscaped and lovely (assuming you want to be firmly planted like a vegetable as a homesteader).

The weather here has been blue skies and 70 degrees F. It feels warm in the sunshine. 70 is about my favorite air temp. 84 is my favorite water temp.

"Who the hell is Sam Keen?", you may be asking yourself. He seems to be a modern American philosopher who make so much sense that he probably has an extensive FBI file (and is almost certainly a vegetarian). Personally, I'll stick with crazy old Santayana for my philosophy fix, thank you very much. Here are a few of his hundred year old observations:

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

"Fanaticism consists in redoubling your effort when you have forgotten your aim."

"[The psyche] begins to ask itself what it is living for. The answer is not, as an unspiritual philosophy would have it: In order to live on. The true answer is: In order to understand, in order to see the Ideas."

"So I believe, compulsorily and satirically, in the existence of this absurd world; but as to the existence of a better world, or of hidden reason in this one, I am incredulous, or rather, I am critically sceptical; because it is not difficult to see the familiar motives that lead men to invent such myths."

"Familiarity breeds contempt only when it breeds inattention."

"Love makes us poets, and the approach of death should make us philosophers."

"Fun is a good thing, but only when it spoils nothing better."

"Sanity is a madness put to good uses; waking life is a dream controlled."

"... in the end every philosopher has to walk alone."

"I am worse than an arm-chair philosopher: I am a poet in slippers."

"Life is a succession of second bests."

"The mediocrity of everything in the great world of today is simply appalling. We live in intellectual slums."

"It would be so awkward in heaven, after all one had discovered, to have to put on a perfect innocence."

"I suppose people aren't ashamed of doing or feeling anything, no matter what, if only they can do it together. And sometimes two people are enough."

"If pain could have cured us we should long ago have been saved."

"A man's hatred of his own condition no more helps to improve it than hatred of other people tends to improve them."

"That life is worth living is the most necessary of assumptions and, were it not assumed, the most impossible of conclusions."

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

"... in love the heart surrenders itself entirely to the one being that has known how to touch it. That being is not selected; it is recognised and obeyed."

"It is war that wastes a nation's wealth, chokes its industries, kills its flower, narrows its sympathies, condemns it to be governed by adventurers, and leaves the puny, deformed, and unmanly to breed the next generation."

"Culture is on the horns of this dilemma: if profound and noble it must remain rare, if common it must become mean."

"... when men and women agree, it is only in their conclusions; their reasons are always different."

"Intoxication is a sad business, at least for a philosopher; for you must either drown yourself altogether, or else when sober again you will feel somewhat fooled by yesterday's joys and somewhat lost in to-day's vacancy. "

"What establishes superstitions is haste to understand, rash confidence in the moral intelligibility of things."

"That fear first created the gods is perhaps as true as anything so brief could be on so great a subject."

"Faith in the supernatural is a desperate wager made by man at the lowest ebb of his fortunes."

"... religion too often debauches the morality it comes to sanction, and impedes the science it ought to fulfil."

"... it is easier to make a saint out of a libertine than out of a prig. "

"History is always written wrong, and so always needs to be rewritten."

"The love of life is not something rational, or founded on experience of life. It is something antecedent and spontaneous."

"I have no axe to grind; only my thoughts to burnish."

"America is all one prairie, swept by a universal tornado. Although it has always thought itself in an eminent sense the land of freedom, even when it was covered with slaves, there is no country in which people live under more overpowering compulsions."

"Wealth is dismal and poverty cruel unless both are festive. There" is no cure for birth and death save to enjoy the interval."

"But since, as a matter of fact, birth and death, actually occur, and our brief career is surrounded by vacancy, it is far better to live in the light of the tragic fact, rather than to forget or deny it, and build everything on a fundamental lie. "

"... only the dead have seen the end of war."

"It is not politics that can bring true liberty to the soul; that must be achieved, if at all, by philosophy ..."

"Scepticism is the chastity of the intellect, and it is shameful to surrender it too soon or to the first comer: there is nobility in preserving it coolly and proudly through a long youth, until at last, in the ripeness of instinct and discretion, it can be safely exchanged for fidelity and happiness."

"... if you bravely make the best of a crazy world, eternity is full of champions that will defend you."

"We must welcome the future, remembering that soon it will be the past; and we must respect the past; remembering that once it was all that was humanly possible.:

"Poetry is not to be spread on things like butter, but must shine on them like dew."

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Dr. Strangelove

Sarasota, Florida

The Fruitville library is just outside the gates of our wintertime home. They are open seven days a week and have a nice collection of movie DVDs. The RV park was just awarded the 2010 Best Megapark. They received the same award in 2008. The big "Hippo" water slide should be inflated for the weekend.

I never tire of watching Peter Sellers in the 1964 "Dr. Stangelove". He plays at least three parts in the Movie by Kubrick: Group Captain Lionel Mandrake, the American President and the German Dr. Strangelove himself with the irrepressible artificial arm. "Mien Fuhrer, I can walk!" is his last line of dialog just before the ending song, "We'll Meet Again" by Vera Lynn and the nuclear explosions.

You can watch the movie online here. It was selected by the Library of Congress in 1989 as "culturally significant", ranked as number three.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

What's a Conch Fritter?

Sarasota, Florida

Conch (kŏngk, kŏnch, kôngk), common name for certain marine gastropod mollusks having a heavy, spiral shell, the whorls of which overlap each other. A conch fritter is a fritter made from a conch. You can cook a conch (after removing the shell) by leaving it in lemon juice or in lime juice overnight. can make it into fritters. Removing a conch from it's shell is beyond the scope of this article.

You can find lots of conchs in 10 to 15 feet of saltwater grass flats where the ocean is clear, blue and warm. The Cayman Islands are my recommendation for conch hunting.

Conch Fritter Preparation:
2 cups freshly bruised conch, cleaned and diced
3 teaspoons tomato paste
1-1/2 Tablespoons flour
2 onions, diced
1 Bahamian sweet pepper, diced
2 stalks of celery, chopped
3 Tablespoons baking powder
3-4 cups vegetable oil
Hot Peppers and salt to taste

Combine all ingredients (except oil) in a large bowl. Blend well.
Heat oil in deep frying pan or pot until water dropped into oil sizzles.
Drop batter by the Tablespoonful into hot oil. Fry until brown.
Drain on paper towels and serve. Makes 40 fritters.

Like oysters, You can get very sick from eating raw conch. "Scorching" conch in lemon juice may not remove excessive bacteria.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Sunshine Days

Siesta Key, Florida

I've read that "key" is Spanish for Island. "Siesta" of course is what the lazy Europeans do in the afternoon (Germans, Spanish. etc.). They say that the beach at Siesta Key is the 2nd best beach in the world. I don't know who it is that says that. It would be very tiring to travel to every beach and do a rating. Personally, I prefer the less crowded beach just North of here at Fort Desoto.

After the beach, we had alligator nuggets, fried okra and Key lime pie. We also visited the outside of a Real Estate office and looked at pictures of Sarasota homes and condos. Prices seemed quite reasonable, but we're not in the market.

Mrs. Phred is having new flooring installed in the RV today. She doesn't like the carpet that came with the RV. It gets too dirty when we are at a muddy campground, spill coffee or track in dog poo. She's picked out a linoleum product that looks a lot like oak planks.

We resolve to go to the beach more often, but to remember hats and sunscreen.