Thursday, July 31st, 2003
It is LanguageHat's first birthday, and I wish him a good one; seeing that prompted me to check how old I am now. I see my first post was made on April 25th, a couple of days more than 3 months ago; and that the current post number is 96. So I am averaging right about a post per day which seems like a good rate of output.
(Of course many of those posts are little throw-away ones like this; the number of serious, meaningful posts is probably more like 40. Still a respectable figure.)
I did some more work on the window seat tonight, finishing off the rear half of the frame. The mortise and tenon joints came out very nice, and without too much effort.
I see from my referral log that a lot of people are coming here looking for window seat plans; while I don't have any plans to offer I can tell you it's pretty straightforward design, all you need is a simple frame with two flat pieces of wood on it -- see my first post for the design process and some rough drawings. And if you have questions about it, send me an e-mail -- I'd be glad to help if I can.
I was happy to see in the Voice this morning, that a movie of "American Splendor" is coming out, opening in 2 weeks. Looking forward to it!
Tuesday, July 29th, 2003
I have gotten further into Nuns and Soldiers and am enjoying it. The plot is pretty easy to follow thus far, as long as you keep track of where the flashbacks begin and end, and interesting. I like the prominence of Tim Reede in the section I'm reading now as I find it easy to identify with his character, moreso than most of the others. One annoying thing is Murdoch's tendency to break into the middle of a dialog with a long expository couple of paragraphs -- this is ok in moderation but she makes use of it way too often. Her descriptions are vivid and even moving; but when she is narrating a scene I often get a pretty clear picture of where she is going with it way before she gets there.
It's back! Scott McCloud has restarted his daily Morning Improv session. Check out his first completed improv, The Junk Bar -- it is an amazing piece of work, sort of American Splendor meets A Clockwork Orange. [Well whatever -- the A Clockwork Orange comparison doesn't really work.]
Monday, July 28th, 2003
More work on the window seat tonight, cutting out pieces for the rear half of the frame. I got a little worried when I was cutting the verticals, whether my planned seat height of 16" was adequate. Someone from WoodCentral thought it should be higher; and Bill from CJWA advised me to make the seat level with the window sill -- at 16" it is several inches below the window sill.
I went back upstairs and looked at the space again, and decided to stay with the planned height. Two free-standing chairs that are in the bay window now are 16" high, and it is very comfortable to sit on them. It also simplifies things a great deal not to have to worry about the window sill.
Before dinner, Sylvia was helping me in the wood shop. When I started sawing wood, I offered her to sit on a stool by the bench and watch, but she was not into it. "Can I have a little saw?" caught me a bit off guard -- I generally give her a small, non-dangerous copy of whatever tool I am using; but up till now that has not included tools with sharp edges. Looked around for a bit and then I realized, a mill file is exactly right: it has serrations, makes a rasping noise when you draw it across wood, and is not going to draw blood if you hold it wrong. So I gave it to Sylvia, and she had a good time sawing wood with it until we went up for supper.
Sunday, July 27th, 2003
Finally began work (in at least a nominal sense) on my window seat. I measured and cut two story sticks tonight, one for the front of the frame (about 95", square ends) and one for the back (about 48", mitered ends), and marked the alignment between them. I think in the end, using story sticks is actually aiming for a higher degree of precision than is needed in this project; and certainly higher than I am going to attain. There are all kinds of things to deal with along the lines of, the floor is not level, the walls are not square; so it would probably make more sense to just work direct from the tape measure. OTOH story sticks is a really useful technique, one that I am not yet totally familiar with; and I build few enough projects that it is good to practice techniques that I want to develop, even if they do not fit exactly to the current project
A "story stick" is just a scrap piece of wood cut to a particular dimension of your project; you use this stick to mark the dimension on the relevant pieces rather than measuring it out on each of them. This helps ensure that pieces which are meant to be sized alike really are, and generally guards against error. In addition, you can mark key points on the story stick, such as mortise locations, to be transfered to the work pieces.
The reason the sizes I give above are approximate, is that I marked and cut the sticks from the actual size of the bay window where the seat will be located, rather than with a tape measure.
Saturday, July 26th, 2003
Here is an inventory of home improvement projects I want to work on:
- Window seat: which I have, ridiculously, still not begun working on; but today I bought some lumber for it and cleaned up my shop, so I have no excuses left...
- Paths in the front yard: I have the slate, I have the tools to cut it; I am hoping to do these paths in the third week of August, when I will be on vacation.
- Path next to the house: Really the same project as the above, I just don't think I have enough slate right now to do it. I want to see how the first path goes before I schedule the others.
- Backyard patio: Again, waiting to see how difficult this slate laying stuff really is.
- Stone at base of side porch: This is going to be pretty complex and I have not really planned yet how it should look.
- New steps for side porch
- Breakfast nook
- Bookcases for Ellen's office: Ellen is breathing down my neck on this so they may come before the breakfast nook.
- Bookcases for living room: I've had an idea for this since we moved here...
- Dining room table: Again, I've had a very clear picture of this kicking around my head for about nine months now.
Wednesday, July 23rd, 2003
In regards to the LanguageHat post on translating Wittgenstein -- I posted in his comments a translation of a line of Rilke that I think is pretty good, and maybe better than the previous translations that have been made of that line -- it was not hard, I used what seems like a pretty obvious device that seems, however, not to have occurred to J.B. Leishman, A.J. Poulin, Steven Cohn, or William Gass. And also I had some interesting ideas about the line of Wittgenstein that is quoted. So this is where I get things out of order and say, "Hey, maybe I've finally found my calling! -- I will translate German literature!"
But wait... what I translated was a single line, or half a line, out of the rather large Duino Elegies -- a work which I have not yet been able to make my way through. Perhaps though, some future exists for me as a translator of epigrams.
I have had some fun over the years translating German stories and other stuff, with varying degrees of success. I would like to reproduce here my best effort thus far, coincidentally also a poem by Rilke:
Kalter Herbst vermag den Tag zu knebeln,
seine tausend Jubelstimmen schweigen;
hoch vom Domturm wimmern gar so eigen
Sterbeglocken in Novembernebeln.
Auf den nassen Daechern liegt verschlafen
weisses Dunstlicht; und mit kalten Haenden
greift der Sturm in des Kamines Waenden
eines Totenkarmens Schlussoktaven.
The November Day
Cold autumn can muzzle the day,
silence its thousand jubilating voices;
from the high cathedral tower whimper, so peculiar,
from the steeple whimper, so peculiar,
death bells in November's mist.
On the wet rooftops lies sleeping
a white fog; and with cold hands
the storm inside the chimney's walls strikes
a death-karma's closing octaves.
It loses meter and rhyme which are, yes, rather important in the original -- but I think it communicates Rilke's image and feeling quite well. And I'm happy about preserving much of the word order and separation by line of images. By the way: is anyone else reminded very strongly of the end of Prufrock? -- I refer to the catlike fog which curled around the roof and fell asleep, I think is how it goes.
Update: I changed "high cathedral tower" to "steeple" in response to an accurate observation by LanguageHat that the former was too long. The rhythm is a lot better now. Also I took out a "the" in the following line and replaced it with an "'s". LH does not like the inversion in "lies sleeping/ a white fog", but I do, it's staying in there.
Update 2:I realize a potential major problem with this translation is, I have no clear idea what "a death-karma's closing octaves" means. If you have any thoughts in this regard, please let me know.
This morning I picked up Nuns and Soldiers by Iris Murdoch to read on the train. When I opened it, the first word on page 1 is "Wittgenstein" -- this after LanguageHat had linked yesterday to an essay on translating Wittgenstein by Marjorie Perloff, and quoted a statement (from Culture and Value) that I found most intriguing: "Ich glaube meine Stellung zur Philosophie dadurch zusammengefa√?t zu haben, indem ich sagte: Philosophie d√ľrfte man eigentlich nur dichten." Hmm...
So what do I think of the book? This funny coincidence aside, it does not seem particularly promising at this early point, 15 or so pages in. I'll stick with it a few more days though to see if it picks up. What I read today reminded me a bit of Caleb Carr -- overly mannered, self-consciously cerebral -- but without the action.
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