Archive for February, 2016

Vegetable/Black Pepper

Thursday, February 25th, 2016

Alice and I spent a very nice several days in Chicago for our winter get-away. We’ve been trying to do this every year since retirement. We board the dog, hope the furnace keeps working so the pipes don’t freeze, lock the door and drive away.

We stayed in a recently renovated hotel on Michigan Ave, just a few blocks from the Chicago Art Institute. Based on what we saw online when we were searching for a place to stay, we felt like customer service would be important to these folks. We were right. They had very personable people that took charge of our car when we arrived, the front desk was helpful and courteous, and our room was “cozy” but very nice. The desk clerk told us it would be cozy when she was trying to get us to upgrade to a larger room. We politely declined.

I did get a kick out of the bathroom amenities. The soap was nicely wrapped, and labelled as “vegetable soap.” The shampoo was “black pepper.” Really? Did they mean vegetable as in no neural activity? Or that they added grated carrots to the soap vat at the factory? Did the shampoo vat have a liberal shake from the pepper box prior to bottling? I guess the idea was to make us feel that the soap other people would use for things like washing their hands was just not good enough for us… that people on the street would notice a hint of carrot juice mingled with the soap smell, and realize that someone special was sharing the walkway with them.

I was reminded of this during a phone call between myself and Steve the other day. Steve and John are the new owners of a home near Morgantown, WV. The house needed some sprucing up, so Steve and John entered the needy rooms armed with paint color swatches. The irony of all this was not lost on either one of us, because one trait Steve and I share is neither of us can pass the color test when we get our eyes examined. Steve told me the names of some of the choices they were confronted with. They had settled on some sort of brown for the rooms, but were having trouble deciding among several choices… colors like Brass Patina, Brevity Brown, Bronze Eucalyptus, Brown Bread, Cashmere Glow, Cavern Clay, Copper Mountain and Distant Thunder.

Perhaps if I had better color sight these things would make more sense to me. I can imagine the following conversation among paint choosing couples…

“I agree that Brass Patina would go better with the curtains, but wouldn’t a more Brown Bread sort of color catch the hues of an orange sunrise better?”

If I understand the science (which I probably don’t,) a paint color can be described by the percentages of red, green, and blue, with hue and saturation values added. And when we are talking about moving from Brass Patina to Brown Bread, aren’t we really talking about changing these values? How about this for a name for the wall color under discussion?

90% 17% 31% 348° 78% 53% 81% 90%

(according to the Wiki article on color names, this one describes Amaranth.)

Instead of carrying color swatches into a room, you’d carry a laptop with dials to change the 8 parameters, adjust those dials until just the right compromise was reached between sunrise and curtains, and order the paint. The paint would not have a catchy name. When guests arrived, they might say,

“I love the color of your walls. What color is it?”

You could sniff just a just little tiny bit of superiority and say,

“90% 17% 31% 348° 78% 53% 81% 90%”

It Worked!

Sunday, February 7th, 2016

When Alice and I moved to this area in the 1970s, we noticed that a commonality existed with many of the old homes. Many, including ours, had steep metal roofs. One of our first winters in the house, we were awakened in the middle of the night by what we called a house quake. When the snow piles up on the roof, it patiently waits for the January thaw, and then comes thundering off the roof, shaking the house. Little did I know then what a friend these steep metal roofs would become.

We’ve had many neighbors build homes in the 40 years we’ve been here, and most go with the conventional 4/12 pitch roof and shingles. This shallow roof is great for walking on, but it does not shed snow. Shingles hang onto snow like snow tires are supposed to. So my neighbors spend time each winter shoveling snow off their roofs. It is not unusual on heavy snow winters to see garages, pole buildings, and even homes whose roofs have collapsed due to the snow load. So we get out our shovels and remove the snow from the roof when it gets too deep.

We’ve put two additions onto our house. One correctly followed the old roof line, and one at right angles to it. Both have metal roofs with 9/12 pitches. Both shed snow, but the one perpendicular to the old house roofline is the worst. The east side does pretty well, but the west side has a dormer where the entry door is, and the snow gets wedged up there and stubbornly refuses to come down. Today I hauled the ladder and shovel out there and tried an experiment.

I shoveled two parallel lines in the roof, one next to the old part of the house, and one by the entry way dormer. Then I climbed down and put my things away. The temperature got up to 35 degrees today, which I hoped would be enough to cause the snow to slide off between the lines.

When we came back from an outing this afternoon, I noticed that some more of the roof peak was showing than before, and, sure enough, there was a lovely curling overhang of snow. “Please please slide off,” I thought to myself. The weather forecast calls for single digits for the next several days, so it would be today or never.

While I was eating supper tonight, I heard the sweet sound of a house quake, and sure enough my plan worked. The roof was clean, and the ground below had a 4′ snowdrift. When something works as planned, I frequently think to myself, “Now don’t get cocky.” It seldom works.