HCaldwell:On . . .


What is there to say? I'm not very interesting. I'm not a good writer. I don't even dress well. If you insist on knowing something about me just wander through the archives. It's all there.

Saturday, April 30, 2005

On a drawer in my kitchen

In the kitchen, there is a drawer filled to the top with plastic and metal cooking gadgets. Among the many objects, I found an orange plastic spout that you can stick into a fresh orange and after squishing the orange around for a while, you can pour out orange juice. I have a serrated metal ring device with a handle that is supposed to remove the kernels from an ear of fresh corn. There is a screw on pumper cap to preserve the bubbles in a two-liter bottle of soda. The melon baller is the deluxe variety that can create two different sizes of melon balls. I have a wheeled tool that makes scalloped edges on piecrusts. My yellow plastic egg yolk separator is exactly the same color as my ear of corn shaped nylon vegetable cleaning brush. I have not one, but two sets of little tiny pickle forks and, at least, three sets of tiny jelly spreaders. I have a beautifully crafted stainless steel cherry pitter that makes me think of medieval tortures. There is an oblong screw type cutter that is supposed to make it possible to create long spiral slices of potato. For removing the strings from celery, I have a wicked looking “cheese grater looking thing married to pair of pliers” tool.

It doesn’t bother me that much that I have this drawerful of junk. I am not overly bothered by the fact that I don't think I've ever used a single one of these items. What bothers me the most is that I have no recollection of every acquiring any of them. Have I been the victim of intermittent kitchen thingee amnesia? I am fairly certain that I never entered a store, purchased the yellow plastic egg yolk separator, drove it home and lovingly placed it in that drawer. I have no memory of ever unwrapping a gift from under the Christmas tree and finding my corncob kernel stripper. Where did they come from? Did some well-intentioned, but oddly unbalanced intruder place them in that drawer? Did they just appear there drawn to my kitchen drawer from some parallel universe by forces beyond my understanding? Will they someday disappear and return to that other dimension taken up in a sort of kitchen gadget rapture?

The older I get the more I wonder about these kinds of things. My children are worried.

On landscaping

It is fairly easy to tell when you see landscaping, either the DIY variety or designed by professionals, that was done in one shot. The yard was planned out and all of the plant material was purchased in one big crash of the credit card. The yard is planted, watered, and mulched.

For the first year or so, it looks spotty and underdeveloped. In the next few years, if maintained, it improves to where it looks “really good”. After a few more seasons, it starts to look a bit overgrown, a bit stale, and a bit tired. It is time to pull out the plastic and redo the yard. The cycle is repeated. I am generally unimpressed.

I prefer to see landscaping that is never finished. After all, landscaping is a living, breathing, constantly changing piece of design. Like growing a bonsai, it is a piece of art that is never frozen in time. It can remain beautiful, inspiring, and unfinished for centuries.

I like to work on a yard or a garden in slow increments. Start with a corner, perhaps. A few plants. A few rocks. See what develops. Leave the rest of it “as is”. Or just plant grass until you feel inspired. As the seasons go by, the landscaping can grows out from these inspired corners. It is never finished, but it is not incomplete.

Friday, April 29, 2005

On interesting words

There are some words that just fascinate me. Most of them are what are sometimes called SAT words. We hardly ever get a chance to use them. I like the way many of them sound when you say them aloud. The word propinquity is a great word usually defined as nearness. Just say it out loud "propinquity". I have struggled to find ways to use pernicious and verisimilitude in casual conversation. A high school teacher once accused me of being supercilious. Disquisition was one of my favorite words to slip into writing assignments when I was in college. I did not write mere research papers. I wrote disquisitions. Ha!

I would like to see the word harbinger used in a business correspondence or hear the word tintinnabulation spoken on the evening news. I want to see a car advertised as being both sexy and reticular. We should all use truly descriptive terms like vacuous, slumberous, and querulous more often to describe our closest friends and relatives.

Serendipity is a good one. My wife named her cat, Serendipity. For many years, we had a cat named, Dreadful. Dreadful is a word that makes you feel Victorian when you say it aloud. It's the kind of word that only Mrs. Howell could have used while on Gilligan's Island.

I think the word sputum and its baby brother, spit are amazing examples of words that can almost make you produce the definition while saying the word. While on the subject, phlegm is a word that is always catching my attention when I see it in writing. At some point in history some person decided that that substance should have that name and it should be spelled that way. It is hard for me to imagine the thought process that led to their decision.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

On starting a blog

There was a well-known designer who was asked by an interviewer how he did his best work. His answer, "with an eraser", is one of my favorite quotes.