Too Busy to Post Much but The Frog is Back

We’re moved back into my house in Nanaimo, which has been like  time warping back nine years.  Amazingly enough, everything in the crawl space has survived with little damage.  This includes Jack Darcus’s painting, which still looks good except for a couple of scratches the kids gave it years ago when it was in our hallway.

Picture: A Jack Darcus original egg tempra still in good shape after 9 years in the crawl space.Jack wants a digital picture of this painting for his website and resume, and has offered to touch up the scratches.  So I’ll take it in to Vancouver at the first opportunity.  For now it’s on my wall again.

My last tenants were not into yard work, so the blackberries had pretty much taken over.  I couldn’t find the fish pond, and when I slashed back the foliage it was dry with  a dead weed eater lying in it.  It’s now full of water again and home to three small koi.  We’re hoping they will grow.

The New Frog

Our house is strangely proportioned.  I have no idea why it is as tall as it is, because the ceilings are normal height.

Picture: Our house in Nanaimo circa 2003.It needed something to balance it, so before I went to China I built a frog to emerge from the front wall.

Picture:  The house with the original frog.



Picture:  Frog number one low angle.  This one croaked while I was in China.That frog was made of plaster.  I had hoped sealing it with fibreglass resin would preserve it, but it slowly soaked up the water and the frog (ahem) croaked while I was in China.

I wasted no time getting started on a new frog as soon as we moved back into the house. This time it’s nothing but wire and fibreglass, so it should last forever.

Picture:  our house with its new frog.Picture:  the new frog emerging from our front wall.I don’t think the new frog has quite the personality of the old one, but one thing I’m very happy about is the new frog eye.  Much more frog eye croppedThe Digital Microscope Hack

I’ve wanted a digital microscope for some time now.  There’s always something I want a closer look at.  For example, I left a couple of alder sapling walking staffs in the crawl space for the nine years I was in China.  I was expecting them to be well seasoned and very strong by now.  But while no other wood in the crawl space has been touched, something has eaten the alder.  Completely.    It didn’t have the strength to hold up its own weight.  This is so strange, because the two by four studs I also left in the crawl space look like I purchased them yesterday.  Thanks be for that.

Here’s what the alder Staff looked like to the naked eye.

Picture:  A piece of alder destroyed by bugs.

Recently, PZ Myers blogged on Pharyngula about a hack that turns a smart phone camera into a digital microphone, using only about twenty bucks worth of materials.  Naturally I had to build one.

Picture:  digital microphone hack assembled.I found the materials estimate to be spot on.  The lens from a cheap laser pointer at the Dollar Store, nuts, washers, bolts, plexiglass, wood from Home Depot, and the total bill was about $21.  Unfortunately that isn’t counting the table saw and drill press I felt were necessary to complete the project.  Sure, I could have done it with my hand electric drill and my circular saw, but.. this kind of precise scientific equipment requires precision.  Or so I told myself.  I also told myself that it’s probably still cheaper than the digital microscope I could buy on line.

And it works.  Here are a few of the pictures I took – a close up of a quarter and some shots of desiccated bug fragments I found in the wood.

Picture:  macro of a Canadian quarter taken with the digital microscope hack.Picture: A fagment of the bug that ate the alder.Picture:  Fragment of the bug that at the alder, with something that looks like a leg.Picture:  Bug fragment with a very carapace look.  I think we're talking beetle here.I’ve always found microscopes to be frustrating instruments.  This one no more than the others I’ve used.  There are a few problems.  One is that the camera has an auto-exposure function, so using the LED back light shots the exposure down to black.  The auto focus is also a problem when I’m trying to get a specific level in focus.  But all in all, it’s a great hack and lots of fun.  I’m looking forward to using it more.

Reintegrating Into My Old Life

Ruth and I have taken possession of my house in Nanaimo.  I packed everything into the crawl space nine years ago when I ran away to China.  Now I’m unpacking, and drowning in nostalgia.  Kids pictures.  Film awards in frames.  Daytimers with entries of appointments to names I’ve all but forgotten. I haven’t needed any of this for nine years.  I’m tempted to just get a dumpster in front of the house and throw it all away.  That’s what any sensible banker would do if she were taking possession of this place.

It’s amazing how much of my stuff survived, and in pretty good shape.  I really expected the mattress to be full of mouse nests, the sheets and pillows to be shredded, the books to be rotten.  But no.  Everything is pretty much as I left it.  There are exceptions.  I had cut a couple of alder saplings as walking sticks, and left them at the back of the crawl space.  They have turned to powder.  Some tiny insect has drilled holes the size of this period . in them and they lack the strength to support their own weight.  But only the alder.  None of the other wood seems to have been touched, and three two by four studs look like I purchased them yesterday.

Anything stored in a plastic bag has emerged in perfect condition, including the tapestry my father gave me when I was about eight years old.  I have mixed feelings about that tapestry.  It depicts men on a troika shooting at wolves that are pursuing them across the frozen Siberian wasteland.

A lie, but a romantic lie for my father's generation.For my father, it resonated with a story he had read as a child – the father shooting wolves until he runs out of bullets, then leaping off the sleigh to be killed by the wolves but saving his wife and children.  That story, for my father, was the very definition of manhood, even though his own experience in the wilderness told him it was a lie and complete nonsense.  He several times told me of walking from his cabin in northern Saskatchewan to the train station to get a rifle that was being sent up to him, and of how the wolves seemed to be closing in on him while he walked.  But once he had the rifle, the wolves were not around for his walk back to the cabin.  Wolves don’t attack people.  Especially people with guns.  Anyway, I’m glad that tapestry survived, lie though it might be.

One shock is how little of the technology I had in storage has any value today.  For fifty dollars we just bought a printer-scanner combination, making the scanner in storage redundant.  I don’t have much use for a cassette recorder, or an answering machine.

I’ve started putting my books back up in the glass fronted book shelf.  They say you can tell a lot about a person by the books on their shelf, and if this is true I’m not ashamed of the impression my books would give people of me.  The collection is very eclectic, with everything from The Book of Mormon to practical books on subjects like flight training (and of course film directing) to pop science books and pure pot boiler fiction.  I do wonder why I keep books now.  It’s very unlikely that I will read any of them again.