Shed in progress 3

After a delay for a summer session of statistics (say it thrice) I’ve made soem progress on the shed. I built a wall and then dismantled it, reusing the wood on the other wall. Changes:

• Door moved from the north wall to the front wall. Many advantages: north wall has 1° slope, required double doors, and has a huge drop-off, requiring a deck. Now a single 3′ door can open into a space next to the stairwell, out of the way.

• Two windows, 10″ x 30″.

• 20′ wall is now two 10′ walls — way too awkward to work around and move as one big wall.

North side showing two windows
South side, door and sloping wall
The south wall, 7° at bottom, 5° at top. Diagonal needed to hold its shape while I worked on it on the flat floor.

Shed in progress 2

Much progress since the last post. The shed is now 9′ x 20′. The roof will be metal panels attached to the underside of the deck, and then I will build the shed up to it.

3-foot door on left, 2′ square window.
T1-11 siding and 1×4 trim on two sides
Simplified deck and rear of house. The actual slopes are not shown.
The space as it looks today. A lot of stuff was disappeared.

Shed in progress

Here are three CAD views of the shed so far.

Shed is 8′ x 18′ x 6’10”. On the right, the side wall rests on a low foundation wall.
The roof is three 8′ x 6′ panels, with 36″-wide low-profile metal roofing panels.
This shows the deck overhead. Because the flagstone patio slopes a bit, it will increase the angle of the roof slightly more than shown.
Panels on and doors in. The top of the door is 5’10”, so I’ll still be ducking to get in.

A seam across the sky

We were in San Simeon yesterday, staying at a hotel next to the ocean, when I saw this in the sky. I think it should be an album cover.

What’s happening is that the sun is out of frame in the upper left. It’s perfectly aligned with the jet contrail, creating a parallel shadow. The jet is just entering the clouds in the lower right and the shadow stretches put before it all the way to the horizon.

jet contrail and shadow in the blue sky


Doryphoros is Greek for “spear-bearer.”

A well-preserved Roman period copy of the Doryphoros of Polykleitos in the Naples National Archaeological Museum

The Doryphoros is a Greek statue of a soldier, much prized and copied by the Romans (one of the best examples was found in Pompeii). Sculpted by Polykleitos as part of his “canon,” it was a study in the ideal proportions of a man and is considered as a perfection of the form.

One American folk term for the Colorado potato beetle was the “ten-striped spearman.” The beetle made its way to Europe, where it was a huge pest after World War I, almost wiping out the French potato crop. (The US was accused by several countries of having purposely introducing the pest purposefully.) The French called it a doryphore, because it was once in the genus doryphora decemlineata (“ten lines”; its name is different now).  

In World War II, doryphore became a French slang epithet for German soldiers, who similarly landed like a plague and ate all the potatoes. Schoolchildren were recruited to help carry out a campaign to wipe out the beetle, and carried signs saying MORT AUX DORYPHORES! which amused the French greatly.

Doryphore was also the name a a prototype combat biplane made by LACAB for the Belgian Air Force in 1934. Here’s a postcard from 1935 mentioning “Le doryphore de la pomme de terre menace l’agriculture et l’horticulture.” Clearly, the word had currency in Europe.

(Interestingly, in Russia and the Ukraine the beetle was called kolorady, and in Ukraine that name became “a derogatory term to describe pro-Russian separatists [due to the] black and orange stripes on so-called St. George’s ribbons worn by many of the separatists.”)

The English writer and diplomant Harold Nicolson (husband of Vita Sackville-West) coined the term “doryphore” in 1949:

These Colorado beetles will spent hours searching for a misprint in the Oxford English Dictionary… Although these doryphores may achieve the short delight of proving that an author has made a mistake on page 479, they will never know the slow, long pleasure of writing a large book with continuous application.

Nicolson has the first four cites in the OED, but others used it, including Herb Caen and the editors of the New Yorker (in 1950).

Anyway, after all that fun I can’t find a definitive reason someone called the beetle a spearman, or why Nicolson used the word figuratively. Were copyediting pedants really such a plague that they deserved to be compared to potato bugs or German soldiers?

A bit of shade

A weekend project, if you redefine a weekend as Friday to Wednesday.

I spend a lot of time on our deck. If the weather is at all tolerable, I set up my computer workstation and spend the day there, looking out to the Golden Gate Bridge and watching the array of birds and critters in the back yard. The deck has a pergola that creates some shade, but we’ve always had an umbrella to make it tolerable under the bright sun directly overhead. I’ve been thinking for a while that a deck-wide shade would be much nicer than the umbrella, so I decided to buy some parts and make what’s variously called a Roman or wave shade that can slide open or closed as needed.

Of course, last-minute design modifications and unforeseen constraints changed things a bit, but I’m still happy with the result. Here’s the pergola before:

The above image before I installed the shades but after I’d “cleared” both bays: the lights in the center were moved from either side of the beam, and the lights on the right beam moved on the outside. I also cleared 30 years of nails and hooks.

Here’s my parts list (sharp viewers will note I bought more materials than I used):

  • 3x Coolaroo 15′ x 8′ sun shade
  • 100′ 1/8″ 7×7 stainless cable
  • 12x lag hooks (to hold cable; better than eye lags: no threading)
  • 2x turnbuckles
  • 4x cable crimps
  • 16x 3/4″ x 1/2″ primed moulding boards (for shade ribs; 8 per shade)
  • 34x small eye screws (for shade ribs)
  • 1x plastic-covered hook screw (for shade pole)
  • 144 zip-ties (9 per rib)

First I installed the hooks in the corners and made a square of cable. The result is about 49 1/2″ wide by 20′ long. Here’s a detail:

Next I created the shades. I didn’t take a photo of the construction, but it took three of the four rolls I bought to make two 23-foot x 4-foot shades with ribs every three feet. I used zip ties to attach the ribs to the cloth, 9 on each rib — much easier than sewing.

Top is daytime, bottom is dusk. It’s not as completely protected as the umbrella provided, but I like the lack of umbrella in this space.

House remodel #1

Here are a number of CAD drawings showing the basic plans.

Front of existing house, showing upper floor from street level
The view from the back yard showing lower half-floor
Same view after 15′ extension on left and 10′ extension to deck

This is a small house from 1948 with a single bathroom and two bedrooms in the upper floor. The lower floor has a laundry room and an office.

The extension will allow us to put another bathroom upstairs and expand the master bedroom. Downstairs will have a new guest/work room. We can’t put a bathroom downstairs because it is below street level, so the plumbing would get expensive.

The deck will get a half-width 10′ extension, so we don’t lose our sunset views. It can’t be full width because of the steps and a large eucalyptus tree.

Plan view of upper floor
Plan view of lower floor
Site view

Jerome the Egg Seller

UPDATE: Nov 7, see below


This is Jerome, bought by my recently departed mother-in-law in 1968 in New York, nicknamed by my late father-in-law. Jerome is a little over two feet high, and about a foot wide at his base. He’s selling eggs, and he’s from what used to be called Yugoslavia.

Google identifies this writing as Croatian, but “a cup of raija bicanic eggs” isn’t a good translation.

Further study needed.


UPDATE: An online friend, Dominik Fabulic, provided a translation and some context:

Letters are

ODKUPLJUJE JAJA – buys (purchases) eggs. RA. BICANIC J. – RA. may be RAD or RADIO – work (by) or worked (on by), BICANIC is a last name, J is the initial.

ODKUPLJUJE is a word you’d use when someone is buying something in large quantities to resell it, so the sculpture represents an egg merchant buying eggs from farmers to resell it, not someone just buying eggs for themselves. But he is definitely buying eggs, not selling them. 

Google tells us there was a sculptor Josip Bićanića, from Cernik, born in 1927, died in 2002 (Google translate):

“Josip Bićanića was born on 19 March 1928 in a large family in the village of Sadilovac in Lika. That same year, he moved to Slavonia, near Vrbov near Nova Gradiska. He has been working with wood since an early age and has been doing sculpture since 1968. He started working life as a skilled craftsman, and evolved from craft to art. Behind him are numerous exhibitions at home and abroad. With twenty independent works, his works have taken the attention of more than 350 group exhibitions. He worked a lot in numerous art colonies. Since 1972 he has been a member of the Society of naive artists of Croatia. Among the many awards he was awarded was his sculpture opus and Croatian pleter.”

Suzuki Beane

The other night. while visiting my mother-in-law, my wife mentioned that her favorite book growing up in New York was Suzuki Beane. After a little poking around the bookcases, I found it and read the whole thing out loud!

Suzuki Beane is the story of a little beatnik girl who lives in Greenwich Village, circa 1961. Her father is a poet, her mother a sculptor, and she’s never been above 14th Street — until she meets Henry, a little rich boy from the Upper East Side, who lives in a house with a maid. Suzuki and Henry have adventures, read poetry, and learn a little from each other. And, like, it’s all written in hipster slang and man it’s a gas.

Written by Sandra Scoppettone, who also wrote “one of the earliest young-adult books to depict a lesbian relationship” as well as a number of mystery novels, and illustrated by Louise Fitzhugh, who went on to write and illustrate Harriet the Spy. 

I put up the first nine pages here, plus a two-page spread in which Suzuki shows Henry’s dance class her own form of dancing. You will dig it the most.


I read a lot, and things always remind me of other things, so here are some recent readings and the memories of other things they triggered.

Jean Lafitte, LaIn the New York Times, John Schwartz and Kevin Sack provide an in-depth look at how Jean Lafitte, a small fishing village in Louisiana, is threatened by the rising, shifting tides of the Mississippi Delta, as politics, engineering, commerce, and conservation intermingle to create both problems and solutions. This article was given its own separate section in the Sunday paper, with large double-page layouts, but it is even better online. Pair this with an article from 1987: “The Mississippi River, with its sand and silt, has created most of Louisiana, and it could not have done so by remaining in one channel.” That sentence is from John McPhee’s classic New Yorker article about that other channel, “Atchafalaya,” which is also collected in his excellent book, “The Control of Nature.” The Atchafalaya is Cajun country, where my uncle and cousins lived, so I know how it’s pronounced, uh-CHAFF-uh-Lie-uh.

This recent article by Joshua Rothman goes deep into copiers: “Why Paper Jams Persist” looks at the journey of the sheets of paper in modern copiers, as they are rolled, flown, blown, sucked, charged, heated, and stacked at speeds up to 150 pages per minute. Pair this with another classic, David Owen’s 2004 book “Copies in Seconds,” the story of Chester Carlson and the birth of Xerox. But why do we copy so much? Weren’t computers going to provide us with the paperless office? Consider reading Edward Tenner’s great book, “Why Things Bite Back: Technology and the Revenge of Unintended Consequences.”

Minizaitunya Ibyatullina, 102As we approach the centennial of the Russian Revolution, another recent NY Times article sent Karl Ove Knausgaard on “A Literary Road Trip Into the Heart of Russia,” in which he explores a rural area almost untouched for the last century. This amazing photo is by Lynsey Addario, showing a 102-year-old woman holding a photo of her husband, who died in the war in 1943. Pair this with the always wonderful Ian Frazier, who has visited Russia many times and wonders “What Ever Happened to the Russian Revolution?” in the Smithsonian. Frazier wrote a book about his earlier journeys exploring the Eastern wilds in a van, “Travels in Siberia,” which reminds me of my two other posts on this subject: the most exciting nonfiction book I’ve ever read, John Vaillant’s “The Tiger,” and another about the story of the Siberian woodsman Dersu Uzala.