Archive for November, 2008

Fun with water

Posted in Home improvement, Journal at 17:21

Beneath shower, November

This is a new style of postmodern deconstructivism, which I’m sure will be all the rage soon. It’s my walk-in shower, which was put in by the previous owners. When I visited the apartment in February, just before signing, there was no sign of water damage in the bathroom. I asked about the shower, though, since it looked “homemade”. I was told that it had been built correctly and waterproofed.

When I moved in at the start of June, my bathroom wall was covered in mold, and the walls in the WC were soaked. I called my insurance agent. After much going in circles (the syndic, building management, had to be notified as well), no clear cause could be found. The plumber decided to check beneath the shower, just in case, and last week the plumber finally got the OK from everyone involved to partially demolish the walls.

There’s no waterproof membrane beneath the shower floor. What happened is that the grout began to break down, and water seeped onto the floor and into the walls. As for the visible damage, there are two possibilities: it was so new in February that no mold had grown to visible proportions, or the previous owners had painted over existing mold so it wasn’t visible. To make a long story short, I took on a real estate lawyer and met with her last week. Appropriate action has been taken and we’ll see how things go. In any case, I’m happy to have found a great plumber, and hopefully will soon have “after” photos of a new shower installation to post here.

With the water damage cause finally determined, this weekend I had fun with some small DIY projects, making my WC a bit more civilized. I put in a corner shelf and, finally, a toilet roll holder. Kanoko again performed quality control, checking the shelf frame. This photo shows my full WC once finished. In France it’s quite common to have a separate toilet room, and they’re usually small. A closer (and cleaner-looking) view of the shelves. They sit on fittings and are held to them with socket screws, so they’re easy to take off and put back on, which means it will be a snap to repaint my WC walls as soon as all the water damage is repaired.

700 years of ancestry mapped

Posted in Biographical at 23:05

Inspired by a great modern Swedish/Finnish folk music group (Hedningarna) while fiddling with online maps, I had the idea to map the Norwegian side of my ancestry. The result is great! I gave each point its town/city name, and in some cases listed people from certain locations. The two points in Latvia are odd ones out, corresponding to just two people. All the others form a very clear line into Norway, namely the Lofoten Islands and Lenvik, in Troms. All towns/cities without a stated country are in Norway, while the others have a country name tagged on. Holding your mouse over a point in the left-hand list will also highlight it on the map.

The family tree is here, and records go back to 1308, with the deaths of Eindrid Hvit and his wife Birgit Bårdsdatter. It was fascinating to map these: their history came to life in a way. One of the main lines descended from a Swedish knight named Karl Pedersson Schanke, born in 1360, whose family largely remained in Häckås, part of Jämtland County, which was then part of Norway (now in Sweden). Then there are several people from the Rist family, who seem to have moved around Germany a lot. They and others who weren’t already in Lenvik or Flakstad eventually congregated in Trondheim, for the most part. The family from Flakstad seem to have been rather active in Flakstad church, and ancestors on my great-grandfather’s side included a few priests, in Denmark (St. Petri, a German church in Copenhagen) and Norway (Astafjord). In addition to working the land (which many owned) and sailing the seas, others included two sheriffs, a watchmaker, a legal scribe, and a diocese scribe. I suppose that makes me an internet scribe, these 700 years and 23 generations after Eindrid and Birgit passed away.

I made the map using VirtualEarth — I had to create an MSN account, but then I could create a “Collection” and save points to it along with notes for them.

Freezing white stuff on the French Riviera

Posted in Journal, La France, Nice at 21:26


This is a video I shot today — mediocre quality and really short because I used my mobile phone camera. It’s just long enough to give a good idea of what was wreaked by the surprise hailstorm that hit Antibes last night! There were no accidents, though as you can see, some people left their cars on the side of the road, due to the icy driving conditions. The male voice you hear? Good grief. It’s a man behind me, who is often behind me, and who often talks very loudly — he’s quieter than usual in these 15 seconds.

A couple more photos, since it’s so rare here (it doesn’t even happen once a year — the last hailstorm this large happened more than ten years ago). I put both on the map on Flickr so anyone curious can see where they were taken:
o Antibes tollgate, first sign of hail resembling snow
o First stop in Sophia, showing lots more

Walkabout, Mont Boron, Nice

Posted in La France, Nice at 21:12

Notre Dame du Perpétuel Secours

A translator friend invited me for lunch today, in part to celebrate the recent US elections. His apartment is in the Mont Boron area of Nice, and so in addition to enjoying wonderful food and wine, I was able to shoot some beautiful photos! The one shown here is now among my all-time favorites; the orange sunset accentuated this church’s colors and of course the azur Mediterranean sky. There are 24 photos in all, in my flickr photostream.

I started on Boulevard Carnot, near the cape, and went towards the port/harbor:
o Villa, Mont Boron, also showing the deep blue sky
o Quirky cabin or shack to the left of previous villa
o Villa on an overhang
o Nice harbor from Boulevard Carnot
o Home guarded by griffons
o Citroën 2CV in a small street

Then at my friend’s place:
o His beautiful 1950’s parquet floor
o Unidentified flower (anyone know what this is? It has woody stems)
o One of the views from his place

Afterwards he took me for a walk back to the harbor/port — he knows all the secret paths!
o Rounded building
o Notre Dame du Perpétuel Secours, full shot
o Notre Dame du Perpétuel Secours, closer view (with the shot shown here being the closest)
o Veranda facing the sunset
o Villa facing the sunset
o Modern architectural lines
o Sunset colors on the rocks
o Waves on rocks against the setting sun
o Nice harbor, twilight
o Stairs to the sea
o White spiral staircase against the twilight, another favorite of mine
o Sunset over Nice
o Plongeoir (diving platform) at sunset

“To dye for”

Posted in Journal at 12:49

One of the loveliest articles on kimono I’ve seen in a while, on a kimono artist I’ve admired for years: The San Diego Union-Tribune — To dye for:

Itchiku Kubota’s works reach back to a mythic golden age of Japanese textiles.

In 1937, a promising 20-year-old Japanese artist, Itchiku Kubota, paid a visit to the Tokyo National Museum. He saw a fragment of a 17th-century textile with imagery so vivid he stared at it for hours. The technique used to make it, tsujigahana, was lost to history. But Kubota vowed to recreate it in his own work.

“This find seemed like a revelation from God,” he would recall, “and I vowed then to devote the rest of my life to bring its beauty alive again.”

An exhibition catalogue of Kubota’s, and Kimono as Art: The Landscapes of Itchiku Kubota are both available on Amazon for very reasonable prices. A few more online photos of the exhibit can also be found here, where clicking on the thumbnails will open a “super-sized” view that gives a much better idea of the kimono in three dimensions. The Itchiku Kubota Art Museum has its own website, in Japanese of course.

Up close, Kubota’s work is awe-inspiring. Keep in mind he saw that tsujigahana fragment in 1937: “Kubota didn’t have an exhibition until 1977 simply because he wasn’t satisfied with his method until then.” Forty years later. I was able to find a video about tsujigahana dyeing, also in Japanese, that shows more common tsujigahana designs on kimono.

Tsujigahana is a type of shibori, which is among my favorite techniques. Kanoko was named in part after kanoko shibori, for which there’s a video too! (I do believe I’m going to spend several hours watching all of the related dyeing videos!)

Update: I found two videos on shibori that are in English, done by the Nagoya City Public Relations Section (focusing on Arimatsu / Narumi shibori), and which describe the process from start to finish really nicely:
Shibori: Traditional Craft, part 1
Shibori: Traditional Craft, part 2
(Note to fellow kimono lovers: the poster of all these videos, narablog, has dozens of gorgeous videos on all sorts of techniques, including bingata, Okinawa weaving, Edo komon, kurume and san-in kasuri, tsumugi and more.)

French telephony DIY

Posted in Home improvement, La France at 18:50

Connecting the wires

The previous owners of my apartment had set up the phone line oddly, putting it in a cupboard near the window onto the terrace. I had put my PC in the corner against the wall by the cupboard until today, when I cut the phone cable to reinstall the phone jack near the sofa nook. (Those photos are from April, before I moved in, since it’s easier to see. The rest of the photos are from today.) I don’t have a television (purposefully), but I do like to watch DVDs, and plan to set up my sofa nook so that I can both surf the ‘net and watch movies from it.

After cutting the wire, I took apart the phone jack, noting which wires had been connected. As I suspected, they were rather loose; a couple even fell out — I’ve had intermittent problems with my ADSL connection. Here are what the connectors on a French phone jack look like. I had found this wiring diagram to use for reference, and set about rewiring the jack in its new location.

Sure enough, the phone cable in my place wasn’t standard, and different colors had to be wired. Once that was figured out and done, it worked! On Wednesday the furniture I plan to use for the PC setup in the nook will arrive, and then I’ll show what it looks like — right now it’s somewhat unsightly, although functional.

Hidden… treasure

Posted in Cats, Home improvement, Journal at 14:08

More hidden potatoes

Questions you may be asking about this photo:
– Are those potatoes?
– What’s that black thing behind them?
– How did they get there?
– Did you cut that hole yourself?

Answers: Yes, those are potatoes. Ever since Kanoko arrived, I’ve been mysteriously losing potatoes. Since it was only one or two at a time, I figured that I was just miscounting them and had forgotten how many I’d actually eaten. But then, a few days ago, five went missing all at once, and I noticed a rank stench coming from the corner in my kitchen where I’d kept the potatoes. The familiar smell of… rotting potatoes. Looking behind the kitchen, which had been set up amateurishly by the previous owners (the main reason I got my apartment for such a low price), I noticed two things:
1. There is a space behind the lower cupboards that’s just big enough for a kitten to get through from the open area beneath them.
2. There is also a space beneath the particle-board bottoms, just high enough for kitten paws and… potatoes.
The two spaces were not big enough for me to be able to fish around with a pole for the potatoes.

Since the kitchen is indeed mediocre, and I plan to replace it eventually, I started to attempt ripping out the particle board bottom. True to inexperienced builder form, however, it had been put together so chaotically that there was no way I could pull it out cleanly and easily. And so I started to saw. I stopped after an hour, realizing it was going to take more than a couple cuts, and decided to wait until this weekend.

Today I finally managed to hack my way through the particle board and create a hand-sized hole, having to make several cuts due to the nearly-impracticable angle in the small space available. The first potato was visible as soon as I finished ripping out the last chunk of particle board. Ten more potatoes — for a total of eleven in all — were nearby. That black thing behind them? A rotting wooden spatula, shown here in a larger view of the area beneath the cupboards, so you can see what I was dealing with.