Archive for July, 2008
I’m in the final stages of negotiation with a builder for the exterior of my gothic cottage. I’ve determined that I just can’t afford a metal roof and that I must fall back to a conventional 30-year asphalt shingle roof. That also means that I must pick a color. One can make an argument for roof colors like brown or gray. But I’m intrigued by the idea of something a bit bolder than that. There are many roofing colors, but window colors are much more limited. My siding will be white pine, which is a yellow at first, then a kind of warm gold, and then, eventually, weathered gray.
Here are quick-and-dirty sketches that I put together in Gimp (an open source program that does what Photoshop does). I would be delighted and honored if anyone has comments on these two color schemes or if anyone has suggestions for other color schemes. I need to make a decision soon, because I may be only a couple of weeks away from starting construction.
Some extra blur may help to stimulate the imagination:
For weeks I’ve waited for my tomatoes to ripen. Then finally, of course, everything starts happening at once. Here’s my first real picking of tomatoes, July 29. I’ve had cherry tomatoes, actually, for two or three weeks. I’ve used quite a few green tomatoes in curries, or to make fried green tomatoes. I would have had tomatoes earlier except that the deer wiped out all my green tomatoes about a month ago, and I had to wait for the second round of growth.
The Danbury farmer’s market is a small farmer’s market, but they have a strict rule that if you sell it, you have to grow it. Today there were about eight vendors. Danbury, by the way, is the county seat of Stokes County, North Carolina. It’s a tiny little town.
There’s a nice column in the Wall Street Journal today about light pollution and the night sky. Light pollution isn’t just a cause for anti-suburban types like me. Light pollution actually may impair the body’s production of melatonin, raising our risks of getting cancer. Also, light pollution really screws up wildlife.
We know that the recent rumors about popping corn with cell phones were a hoax. But today there are fresh stories in the media about health risks from cell phone radiation (1, 2). It would be useless for me to rant about how most people talk too much on their cell phones. But as a Steampunk, I am going to rant about cell phone design.
It amazes me how quickly our telephone culture moved from the beautiful, classic design of an old Bell System telephone handset — which actually fit the human hand, mouth, and ear — to the absurd design of today’s cell phones. I guess this is because people want something small that they can carry in their pocket and whip out in an instant for a good hour of useless conversation anytime, anywhere. But these phones don’t fit the hand, or the mouth, or the ear. Even worse, the antenna is right against the skull. So it is certainly true that even though cell phones deliver a small amount of radio frequency energy, this energy is concentrated in one of the worst possible places — right up against the ear and skull. The only place that could be worse would be the eye.
There are alternatives, but there’s not much market for them except from communication nerds like me who demand good design. Also I don’t spend half my day talking on the thing. I’ve posted previously about this phone from the perspective of a ham radio operator who demands a good transmitter, a good receiver, and a good antenna — even on his cell phone.
Here are two photos of my Motorola M900 digital bag phone. Note that the antenna is completely separate from the rest of the phone. There’s also a warning sticker near the antenna telling the user to keep at least 10 inches from the antenna. This cell phone has a separate handset which contains only the earpiece and mouthpiece. The handset fits the hand, the ear, and the mouth pretty well:
Also note that I can easily attach an external antenna to this phone, giving a much better signal in rural areas like the area I live in. I can also use the external antenna when the phone is in the car. Here’s the external antenna perched on top of my travel trailer:
I’m guessing, though, that Americans will rethink their insane cell phone designs around the same time they rethink their insane freeways.
I’ve mentioned before how difficult it is to photograph the sky. Conditions have to be just right, and better equipment than I have really helps. But the color of the light at yesterday’s sunset was so unusual that I at least had to try to capture it. There had been storms all around before sunset, though unfortunately most of the rain missed me.
NOAA: For most of the country, August precipitation should be normal
The National Weather Service released a 30-day forecast yesterday. Water temperatures in the equatorial Pacific have returned to normal, so La Niña is officially ended. For most of North Carolina, the 30-day forecast for August is for normal temperatures and normal rainfall. Farther south, into South Carolina and Georgia, temperatures are expected to be above normal.
It’s nice to hear that La Niña is gone, but we need rain badly. The rivers are low. The water in my little stream has stopped flowing.