Sunday, February 5 2006
It was a second day spent alone with the critters. The first order of business was returning Buster to the vegan friend who had brought him in the first place; hopefully she can find him a more appropriate home, perhaps a life among thick-skinned human-crocodile hybrids forged in a laboratory in defiance of Bush's State of the Union speech.
I took advantage of Gretchen's absence and finally opened a big tin of sardines I'd bought some weeks ago at a Hispanic grocery store on Broadway in Kingston. The sardines came in a mild tomato sauce and was more appealing than I'd imagined it would be. Gretchen had known about the sardines and even allowed them in the cabinet, though they'd been grating on her vegetarian mores and she'd been encouraging me to throw a sardine party once she was safely down in Maryland.
All the usual fanciers of cat wet food were enthusiastic to try some: Sally, Eleanor, Julius, and Clarence. The girl cats, though, had no interest whatsoever. The only things they will willingly eat are hard and completely dehydrated. This makes even less sense than you think; Sylvia is missing a bunch of teeth at the front of her mouth and this is why her tongue frequently sticks out a quarter inch or more. (Evidently cats are like monkeys in that their incisors play an important role in keeping their tongues inside their mouths.)
Using some quarter inch bolts and pieces of that perforated structural iron I bought at P&T surplus the other day, I rapidly built a frame to hold up a five gallon plastic bucket, the antifreeze reservoir for my hydronic antifreeze resupply system. I want to hang it from a spring so I can create a scale to measure how much of the fluid (as manifest in its weight) I have remaining in the unpressurized reservoir. But when I placed the new framework in the basement, I quickly determined it was too large for the available space. But assembling the structure and putting it there wasn't a complete waste of effort; it permitted me to visualize an alternative solution to the problem of hanging the bucket. Right-brain visualization plays an enormous role in the "planning" that goes into my projects. I don't concern myself with steps that don't proceed visualizably from things that are already in place. You couldn't call me a dreamer because I don't concern myself with too many strategic steps into the future.
A perfect example of this phenomenon was the deck building that happened outside the laboratory. The laboratory deck itself was easy; it lies atop an unusually shallow-sloped patch of roof just outside a window. But I needed that deck to be able to visualize one on top of the the laboratory roof. Without the laboratory deck that high, steep rooftop was far too inaccessible to consider one way or the other. But now not only is there a 100 square foot deck and a 60 square foot solar panel up there, but I can use the solar deck to gain access to the entire rooftop of the house. Instead of, for example, being powerless to correct leaks in the chimney flashing, I can visualize scootching down the roof ridge and fixing them. Or I can visualize building a catwalk all the way to the house's southern end. (I can visualize it, but I'm not crazy enough to actually build it.)
The importance of visualization never occurred to me until I read the book How Buildings Learn, in which Stewart Brand brilliantly demonstrated the common process by which porches gradually get screened in and are eventually converted into additional bedrooms. Without a porch providing the stick-and-ball model, the possibility of a room exisiting in its place would elude most people.
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