Phil Rambles

Phil Rambles, Phil Price blog.

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    Sun, 04 May 2003

    The cats are walkin' the walk
    A year and a half ago, I built a "cat recreation area": a big outdoor cage where our cats can hang out on our upstairs deck, without being able to escape. (We've previously had outdoor cats, but to save our bird population, keep our cats safer, and remove those stressful situations when one of the cats goes missing for a few days, we now keep our cats indoors). Anyway, they love the cat recreation area, and go out into it for several hours every day, but they still go stir crazy every now and then. So we decided to eventually tie our house in to the house next door, which conveniently belongs to Juliet's sister, so that our cats and hers can have the run of both houses.

    Today, I finally installed phase 1 of that plan: an elevated catwalk from our upstairs deck to the roof of the porch next door. It's about a 14-foot span. Working a few hours per weekend for several weeks, I built a triangular truss out of PVC pipes (complete with diagonal bracing), glued the joints, painted the whole thing brown, put a wood floor on it, and wrapped it in deer fence. Today we hoisted it into place and tied it into the existing "recreation area." As expected, it's already a huge hit with Chester: he immediately walked it from end to end several times, then spent ten minutes probing for weaknesses, and then sprawled out in the middle of it, basking in the sun twelve feet off the ground. Predictably, Nimitz is being much more cautious: he edged his way slowly out to the middle, then turned around and edged his way back, and hasn't been out since. He sits and watches Chester pacing back and forth in it, but he's not yet convinced that it's for him. The next phase will be tying it into the house next door, which we'll probably do by installing a cat door somewhere (perhaps on the second floor).

    Considering Chester's enthusiasm, the project looks like a big hit already.

    [/House] permanent link

    Nonfiction: Salt, by Mark Kurlansky
    One of my favorite genres is sometimes called "nano-history" or "micro-history"; books in this genre take an apparently small or insignificant invention, event, or phenomenon, and by telling its story they touch on much broader aspects of history. One example is "Longitude", by Dava Sobel; another is Mark Kurlansky's excellent book "Cod." "Salt" is a worthy addition to the growing library of books of this type. Although not as good as "Cod," "Salt" is nonetheless chock full of interesting facts.

    For almost the entire history of mankind, until about 150 years ago, salting and pickling--which is preservation in brine---were almost the only ways of preserving food for a long period (except for smoking, which worked for some meats; and a very few foods, like potatoes, could keep for a long time without special measures). Salt was therefore critically important, to a degree that is almost impossible to imagine today: lack of salt could make it impossible to preserve enough food for winter, and could prevent armies from stocking sufficient rations.

    In this book, Kurlansky outlines the political, military, social, and economic importance of salt, and gives many examples of cases in which the need for salt affected the course of history. The book is also full of interesting trivia. For instance, the old English word for a salt-works was "wich", and every "wich" town in England is the site of a former salt-works: Greenwich, Norwich, and so on.

    The book is very readable and very interesting...put it on your list.

    [/Books/Nonfiction] permanent link