Diversions

While I’m waiting for the white/black fabric I ordered from Newfoundland to arrive so I can finish the Delft #2 quilt top (should arrive sometime this week), I’ve caught up on a couple of other things: I made a new iPhone carry case and I recovered my ironing board.

I’ll start with the ironing board.

I don’t recall how I stumbled across an ad for a wool ironing board pressing mat but it was advertised for half-price. I’d never have paid full price, I’d have used batting leftovers under a new cover but the price was reasonable so I ordered one. It arrived promptly, I trimmed the 18″ x 54″ wool felt piece to fit my board (had to use some trimmings to lengthen the pad, I fused the pieces together using fusible tape for joining batting pieces), then recovered the board with an unbleached twill. A nice clean ironing surface with that terrific wool pressing mat underneath it. It works very well – glad I bought it.

It took about an hour to recover the board – I had the piece of unbleached twill tucked away from the last recovering – I serged the edges of the twill, and used my heavy-duty staple gun to attach it to the bottom of the plank (I left two previous coverings beneath the wool pressing mat – that extra padding can’t hurt).

My Ancient Ironing Board

My ironing board has history. I bought somewhere around 1964 from the Salvation Army Store in downtown Toronto for $1.50. Even then it was a relic – I’m guessing at least 50-70 years old but still solid and serviceable. The board itself was a shaped plank covered with several layers of flannel underneath a cotton covering nailed in place. At the time, I left that original covering in place and recovered the board with fresh fabric. I have recovered it many times since – at some point I removed all previous coverings and started new. The time before this recovering was when I moved into the apartment in 2016 – five years ago. The accumulation of Best Press (a pressing starch) had scorched the twill and I felt it was time to recover the board.

I’ve tried metal ironing boards but they don’t compare with my antique. This board is a comfortable height, slightly wider, and close to a foot longer than a standard metal ironing board. Now that my board has a fresh twill cover with the wool pressing mat beneath I’m in business for at least another five years.

The ironing board itself is an heirloom – it should be passed down in the family; for sure, I should itemize the wool pressing mat in my will – it’ll last generations. However, I don’t imagine anybody will realize the value of this treasure and it will be taken to the dump when I’m finished with it. Sad.

Second diversion – I made a new iPhone carry case yesterday.

I wanted the case a small amount wider than the one I was using. I’ve stopped carrying a purse of any kind – I’ve consolidated what I carry with me so that it all fits into this small zippered pouch. In its original iteration the case had a single side pocket. I’ve added two more zippered pockets to the last couple I’ve made.

The previous version was a good size for my iPhone with cough candy and gum in the side pocket but when I decided to carry my essential ID – drivers’ license, car permit and insurance certificate, health card, a credit card, as well as a small amount of cash, I needed to add a couple of pockets. However, as I stuffed in those new additions the whole thing was just a bit too small to easily get the ID and other cards in and out. It was time to make a new case.

I had enough leftover kid leather from a skin I bought in New York at a leather warehouse in 2012 to cut a 5 1/4″ x 15″ rectangle. I cut two narrow strips from one end so I could insert zippers for two shallow pockets. It took less than an hour to assemble the pockets, and complete the pouch, but it turned out just a bit too wide, so I opened the lining bottom, and trimmed about 3/8″ from the seam side. Should have been a shade less than 1/4″ – the credit cards and other ID fit in the pockets better, but there’s no comfortable spot for my chapstick! The phone catches on it when I slip it in. Looks like I have two choices – make another just that slightly wider, or leave the chapstick behind!

It’s a lovely day today – another of those bright sunny hint of fall days we get in late August/early September (Alistair MacLeod refers to it as “The Closing Down Of Summer”). Taking a ride with a friend to the Parrsboro shore to pick up farm fresh eggs. Looking forward to the day.

Let’s Go Fly A Kite

Saturday, a lovely day in town, my friend Deb and I decided to head to Martinique Beach to fly kites. An hour away Martinique is a great location, usually with steady wind for flying large kites. I’d packed kites and reels and gloves and we set off only to encounter dense fog as we approached the beach and the beach road clogged with vehicles belonging to the throngs on the beach. We managed to find a spot to leave our car for a few minutes to take the boardwalk over the dune to the ocean but you couldn’t see much – dense fog and hordes of people. We stood for a few minutes then headed toward home.

Yesterday, I decided to fly closer to home. I drove to the Bedford waterfront and walked down the pier – another good flying spot with wind from a wide range of directions and open space to fly over the basin.

I have no pictures from yesterday because I was flying on my own. I had no trouble getting the kite up – but was the wind ever tricky – coming from different directions depending on altitude so the kite behaved erratically. I was glad I wasn’t trying to help a beginner keep their kite aloft. I flew for perhaps a half hour, controlling the kite was relatively easy as long as I was letting out line but although I reached 250′ in altitude I wasn’t finding steady air so I decided to reel the kite in – that’s when it decided it wanted to dive – let the line out a bit, steady the kite, then slowly pull in some slack. Took me a good 20 minutes to bring the kite back in – with more than 250′ of line now laid out all over the pier. It took another 15 minutes to wind up my line, roll up the kite, before I was ready to return to the car.

The last time I flew was on July 29 2019 with Mattie, my grandnephew at the Bedford waterfront. The day Mattie and I were flying we had a steady 20kph wind coming from the land behind us and Mattie had an easy time controlling the kite.

Mattie Flying

One time before that I was again flying at the Bedford waterfront with my large snowflake – don’t remember who took the picture.

Why heavy gloves you ask? Because if the line goes through your fingers at any speed – it burns! And there are times you just need to let the kite have control.

I must get out again soon. I understand why people love to go fishing – kite flying is very much the same – it takes some close attention but is very relaxing – can’t be thinking of much else when you’re flying a kite.

The Japanese Monpei

The Japanese monpei are working pants constructed in such a way that there is no waste fabric – you cut triangles from the waist area which you use for the crotch. It works – with a few caveats!

This gives you an idea how the pants are constructed. Click here for a link to the original set of instructions. (I’ve added notes and some numbers to the instructions – click here for my additions.)

Here’s what they look like finished.

The Front
The Back

This is actually my second try – I followed the instructions for the first try – cutting triangles from the “top” of the rectangle panels (3 1/2″ for the back crotch gusset; 1 1/2″ for the front crotch gusset). Because the panels use your hip measurement to calculate the width the waist on my first try was WAAAAY too small.

Fortunately, I had enough fabric left that I was able to start over – this time working with the complete rectangle (because my waist is almost the same as my hips) and cutting a single gusset for each leg (constructed by making the front and back gusset pieces into a single gusset piece). However, I didn’t have quite enough fabric for the legs – I cut 12″ from the bottom of the first try and added them to the bottom of the legs on this second try to give me enough leg length. I was going to do some decorative stitching to make the seam appear to be intentional but in fact you don’t notice the leg lengthening seam so I’ve left well enough alone.

I used rayon fabric I bought in Bali in 2014 (where do the years go!). It’s a lovely weight and drapes nicely. I’d say the monpei turned out rather well. I have to look at some of the other rayon in my stash and see if there’s enough of another piece for a second pair of pants.

I didn’t quite follow the instructions – I didn’t cut fronts and backs of legs separately, I cut single panels for the front/back leg – no side seam. A next pair will have a side seam because I want to add front pockets and they’ll work best if they side of the pocket is incorporated into a side seam.

Purple Poppies

This is the current state of my wall art piece. The purple poppies are pale. I could remove this fused appliqué, print new poppies, darken them with permanent markers, or work with the current appliqué and see whether I can intensify the colour by thread painting. I don’t know which to do yet, which is why I have done nothing, so far. Stopped. Dead.

Immobilized, I spent two days this past week reading “Prediction: A Pandemic Story” by Michael Lewis. While about our current pandemic, he grounds his narrative (as he always does) in presenting the stories of people who were reading the tea leaves based on what they were able to deduce about what happened in the 1918 flu outbreak, the asian flu I experienced in 1957, the impact of SARS in 2003, the swine flu epidemic that didn’t quite happen in 2009, which predisposed them to know another uncontrollable pandemic was inevitable and the steps they began taking to mitigate the anticipated disaster.

I read the book in two days – on my phone (I prefer reading on my iPhone rather than holding a book in my hands). I had a headache from so much reading, but I couldn’t stop.

Having lived through the past 18 months we know about the US government ineptitude but the reality as seen through the experiences of his central “characters” is compelling. “If only…” I kept saying to myself; so many people could have avoided becoming seriously ill, the numbers of deaths could have been so much lower, the impact on the economy would have been so much smaller.

In some ways, it’s too soon to write the book – we have not come to any end point in the pandemic, and Lewis’ “resolution” at the end is weak – of necessity because the pandemic is NOT over. Who knows when the disease will finally die down globally because until it does the virus will continue spreading and mutating.

Here’s another review of the book from the Irish times. But I recommend you read the book – I found it gripping.

I have also begun an online course offered by The World Bank: The Hidden Side of Energy Access: Understanding Clean Cooking. Who knew that 4 billion (yup, billion) people lack access to modern clean cooking options that allow them to cook conveniently, reliably, safely, and affordably. The problem is using non-clean energy sources impacts health, gender, climate, and environment. The costs of pollution from cooking with wood and charcoal, in other words, using unclean cooking sources, are enormous.

Not something I’ve ever thought about. I pull some stuff from my refrigerator, prepare it, cook it, without giving it a second thought. So I decided I’d learn something useful from the course. Well, I am, but oh, is it frustrating. This has got to be the most poorly designed learning experience I’ve ever tried. A number of years ago I participated in a World Bank course on climate change which was very engaging. Interesting reading, video, discussion. I gave the course quite a bit of time and learned some useful things. Here, each module consists of a collection of powerpoint slides with a gazillion acronyms (which I can’t remember – even MECS – modern energy cooking services – is stretching my brain. Then there’s MTF – the multi-tier framework for cooking – a tool for assessing the affordability, safety, convenience and availability for cooking). The course is all about memorizing stuff. Even the “discussion” forums are about regurgitating the dense content from the slides. The navigation is completely unintuitive, I’m forever fighting to find my way from one part of a module to the next.

Fortunately, there is a report on which the course is based. Here is a link to Access To Modern Energy Cooking Services. In our current climate crisis it’s probably useful to know something about this particular global factor which in some ways affects us, too.

I may quickly work through the remaining three modules, foregoing the exercises, quizzes and “discussion” to get an idea of the arguments. But I think I will take time to read the report – I have little patience for watching powerpoint slides – I’m a reader – I make sense through reading.

There are just not enough hours in a day to keep up with everything – the political news, learn new stuff, be creative….

I have to decide what to do with the Purple Poppies and then just get on with it!

The “Hum”

The Fairview Cove Container Terminal – Halifax NS

This story goes back at least 45 years! When I lived on Braeside Lane in the late 70s I found myself experiencing a definitely audible “hum”, particularly in the middle of the night, which drove me crazy. It sounded like a very large diesel truck idling just outside my building.

A low frequency hum, almost a vibration, just on the threshold of human hearing. It’s not particularly loud. In fact, you might not have even noticed it yet – but once you do, you can’t stop hearing it. It sounds like a truck, idling on the street in front your house. Or the atmospheric din of an airplane flying overhead, that never gets further away. You can hear it when you’re outside, but it seems louder indoors, and particularly at night, when you’re lying in bed. Maybe it keeps you awake.

If you do hear it, you’re among the roughly 4% of the world’s population affected by “the Hum”, a frequently reported but little understood global phenomenon.

[From The Guardian – July 7 2021]

I struggled with the “hum” for a couple of years before finally I had the brilliant idea to call the acoustic engineers at TUNS (Dal) to see if they were aware of the “hum” and what they knew about it. Not much, it turned out, but they were interested.

Two guys came to my house with some fancy recording equipment for me to use after, say, 2:00am to see if I could capture the noise that for me was so audible and irritating. I recorded the “hum” for a week, after which they came back, collected the microphone and recorder, and analyzed the recordings.

Then they reported back to me. They could definitely detect a low pitch noise (somewhere around 40Hz – they were actually more specific but it’s been so long ago I can’t actually remember the precise number) around 5-10 decibels – loud enough for some people to hear even at that low pitch. They had no idea what the source of the sound was but they assured me it was real.

My Braeside Lane townhouse was constructed on bedrock – a continuation of the Halifax bedrock on which the Fairview Cove Container Terminal was built – so it was not inconceivable that the vibration made by the large cranes or the idling container ships docked at the port, particularly at night, might be transmitting a sound through the bedrock and reaching my house.

No way to prove that theory but I took comfort in knowing the “hum” was a real sound.

I was fortunate, in that I discovered a “node” of that vibration that happened to occur at the foot of my bed, about the diameter of a 15″ platter. Well, that helped a lot – a silent spot in the middle of the thrumming low pitch vibration was a godsend – I was able to sleep comfortably with my head at the foot of my bed and be oblivious to the “hum.” (Although it took some time to feel comfortable/safe sleeping with my head in the middle of the room!)

When I moved to Winnipeg a number of years later, and was looking for a place to live, the first thing on my list of things to watch out for was any “hum”! The realtor and I would visit a place during the day. I’d ask for silence as I walked through the house or apartment trying to listen for any “hum” particularly in the bedrooms. I wasn’t surprised to encounter a variety of “hums” – refrigerators, air conditioners, traffic, railway lines – a city is full of “hums”. I was trying to listen for that unidentified low pitch “hum” I wanted to avoid. I drove the realtor crazy asking to return to a location late in the evening so I could listen to the ambient sound before I’d consider purchasing. I finally found a condo on the Assiniboine River that fit the bill – I was never bothered by the “hum” during the four years I lived there.

When I returned to Halifax in 1997, same thing. House hunting, making sure I wasn’t also buying a “hum” to go along with the house. Again I was lucky. My Chelsea Lane townhouse, although built on the same bedrock as Braeside Lane was further from the container terminal, and “hum” free. I wasn’t bothered by any “hum” for the 20 or so years I lived in it (there was a large CBC radio antenna not far from my place, but I never encountered a “hum” emanating from it).

In August 2016 I moved into an apartment building, 6th floor (top floor), checked for “hums” – thought I’d managed to escape once again. However, on Oct 19, two and a half months later, as I was returning to bed from a trip to the bathroom at 3 in the morning, I was assaulted by a very pronounced “hum” – it persisted for the rest of the night and into the next day. I could hear it – I could feel it thrumming in my head. I could block it out if I turned on the radio, which I did. It wasn’t the highway traffic on the other side of the building – that was intermittent, and besides I really didn’t hear the vehicles, even when standing on my balcony. It might have been the air circulating fans on the roof close to my apartment – but then why hadn’t I heard them when I checked before moving in?

The “hum” was everywhere in the apartment, I could not find a silent node anywhere. I tried identifying the pitch of the “hum” using the keyboard on my iPad. It seemed to blend as a harmonic with F/F#/G two octaves below middle C – I’d lose the “hum” when I played those notes, although I couldn’t pin it down precisely (C1 – three octaves below middle C has a frequency of 32.70 Hz – which is close to the acoustic range mentioned in the Guardian article; it’s also a harmonic with F so it’s possible the base pitch of the “hum” is somewhere around C1 with harmonics further up the scale).

The “hum” never quite subsided, but I discovered an App for my iPad – White Noise – which produced a range of backgrounds to block offending noises. The sound which worked best for me, believe it or not, was the ambient sound of the International Space Station! That, combined with “grey noise” which I was able to pitch closer to F2/F#2/G2 worked to mask the “hum” – so just before turning out the light, I’d turn on White Noise and run it for the night. It allowed me to fall asleep. I used the App nightly for a couple of years and then the “hum” seemed to disappear. I stopped turning on White Noise before getting into bed.

The “hum” returned last evening! At 9:40pm – there it was again – that loud low pitched thrumming – I actually went outside to see if I could see a large diesel truck idling nearby – nope, no vehicles anywhere near the front of the building. Even turning up the volume on the TV couldn’t block the “hum”. I was getting ready to turn on White Noise when around midnight the “hum” subsided. I went to bed and was able to fall asleep.

However, this morning, it was present still, although at a lower level. I can ignore the “hum” during the day – I keep the radio on, listening to CBC or some podcast or other. It generally doesn’t bother me too much in the evening, either, the volume of the TV (to which I knit) generally masks it. And I have discovered that the programs delivered by Brian Cox (professor of particle physics in the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Manchester) put me to sleep quite quickly! As does David Attenborough. I’ve recorded a collection of programs by both men, which I set to play for a half hour, to mask any disturbing “hums” which might interfere with me falling asleep.

I’m waiting to see if the “hum” is present again this evening! It was very loud and irritating last night. I have found ways to mask it, making living with it bearable.

I just wish the “hum” would simply go away!

Memories Of Australia

A friend of mine is turning 80 and his daughter, planning a collective gift, asked me to share a memory of Gerry. I’ve known him since 1976 – 45 years, not yesterday. I thought about my early days at Dalhousie’s Department of Education where we shared office space and often argued on the same side in department political skirmishes.

Then I remembered one of my trips to Australia – I was on sabbatical, in the country for close to three months. Gerry and his family were then living outside Melbourne where he was headmaster of a private school. It was early in the trip when I visited them. Terrific hosts, I was taken to various significant locations you must see when in that part of the country.

One of our stops was in Mornington – at a gallery which showcased contemporary Australian artists. The art was interesting. One particular piece – a large 21″ ceramic plate called out to me:

Bryan Trueman - Ceramic - Gum Trees

Bryan Trueman – Ceramic – Gum Trees

I’d have bought it instantly if I could have figured out either how to ship it back to Halifax so it would arrive intact or how to package it so I could carry it as carry-on luggage for the remainder of my travels.

That was Friday afternoon – I left the gallery without the ceramic. However, I wanted to see it again, so late Saturday morning the whole family and I returned to the gallery and I stood in front of the plate and still couldn’t make the purchase. Once more, I left without it.

That evening, Gerry and his wife and I were at a dinner gathering of friends of theirs and everybody at the party knew the plate. There was a lot of conversation about it and encouragement for me to buy the damn thing and then figure out how to travel with it.

So once again, Sunday morning, Gerry took me back to Mornington where I finally bought the plate. The gallery packed it for me in a huge wooden crate – definitely not carry-on baggage.

I took the crate with me the next day when I returned to Melbourne – by car. I was staying with an acquaintance and we discussed alternative ways I might pack the plate so I could travel with it. Finally decided on bubble wrap and a typically Australian woven plastic zippered shopping bag large enough to hold the bubble-wrapped plate.

Next day I ended up at the post office to purchase bubble wrap. Standing in line I starting kibitzing with the woman in front of me. When she learned what I was looking for she invited me to accompany her home – she’d just had a large parcel arrive from England and had a lot of bubble wrap she could give me.

I went with her, had a nice cup of tea, returned to where I was staying, unpacked the crate, rewrapped the plate, put all my lecture notes and study materials in my checked bag (praying my luggage would arrive with me) and headed to the airport. I kept the plate with me as carry-on when I boarded the small plane to Wagga Wagga. I carried the plate with me on each subsequent flight, and I did finally get it back home in one piece.

The Bryan Trueman ceramic hangs in a prominent place in my apartment, and I think of Gerry and that visit to Melbourne each time I glance at it.

I Guess It’s Spring…

Coltsfoot 2021

People have been sending me photos of coltsfoot they’ve come across – it’s really the first native spring flower here in NS. Until today, March 31, I hadn’t seen any myself.

These two flowers were lurking in the wooded patch beside my building. I went looking because that location becomes covered with their happy yellow faces. it’s an interesting plant – the leaves don’t appear until after the flowers have bloomed. 

So I guess it’s now officially spring here. Last year I saw coltsfoot on May 1. The earliest I’ve previously seen any was on April 14 in 2017. March 31 (actually my friend Marlene spotted some last week in her son’s back yard) is VERY early. 

The question now is how soon will we see Forsythia? In the past the first Forsythia has been close to the first of May.  It will certainly be earlier than that this year!

More iPhone Photography

It was actually a lovely snowy day today – snowing quite steadily but almost no wind. A perfect occasion to wear my Manitoba winter gear (which I’ve not parted with) and to take photos.

Our building superintendent was stoically shovelling (and reshovelling) the sidewalk in front of our building for much of the day. I just love his stylish snow-shovelling gear! I walked around him until I was able to see both feet not hidden by the shovel – I tried editing a bit, but in the end all I did was crop the image a little.

The Epitome Of Snow Shovelling Fashion

On the way back home I had my eye on hydrants as I passed them. This one seemed more sad than the others so I stopped to take it’s picture. Kind of reminds me of a toy soldier with his helmet pulled down around his ears.

Resolute But Sad

Several months ago I noticed this shelter built from fallen branches in the underbrush. I didn’t think a whole lot about it until today – it certainly wouldn’t afford a homeless person much protection! I wonder what the story is beind this construction….

An Untold Story

BTW – It annoys me to hear people complain about the weather – I learned many years ago in Manitoba that if I dressed appropriately for the day I could enjoy every day – rain, shine, snow. When I say I donned my Manitoba gear I mean it:

Wearing My Manitoba Winterwear (taken 2019)

A warm down parka faced with fur, a good scarf and warm boots and mitts – I’m ready for anything. In fact, I was too warmly dressed today so I unzipped the front of my coat a bit. I was snug at -30° C in Winnipeg mid-winter with this coat.

iPhone Photography

I’ve been sidetracked! A couple of weeks ago I signed up for an online iPhone photography course. To do the course justice, I have to be taking photos. The folks enrolled in the course around the world are taking terrific photos with their iPhones. I haven’t been out and about much for the last few weeks so I’m kind of limited to what I have here in the apartment.

I’ve been trying close-ups of the orchids and the amaryllis which is blooming again. I’m limited because my iPhone XR has a single camera (I don’t want to use the zoom, for technical reasons) unlike the latest iPhones which have either two or three cameras – one of which magnifies 2X. So I’m limited by how close I can get to my subject and still have the camera focus.

In this photo I was trying to keep the dots in the throat of the flower reasonably sharp. Then I edited the image trying to blur the background a bit and strengthen the veins in the petals and sepals.


I tried the same thing in this photo – not quite as sharp – I’ll have to try again on a brighter day. I was aiming to get the petals to be almost translucent

I was quite happy with this close-up of my amaryllis – I wanted to retain the pale green at the centre; I was also aiming to position the camera so the stamens were in focus. Here, your eye zooms in on the floral centre but then follows the stamens and the lines in the petals outward.
I’ve also tried a couple of portraits – using that mode it’s possible to blur the background in an interesting way. I need to take many more images before I’d say I can control of that function of the camera!

I now can intentionally take bursts of photos, use the “Live” function. On to the next module to learn more about what the iPhone camera will do.

And I have to get back to “At Five Islands” later today!