Voting at the Point of a Gun

Imagine that your neighbor takes a gun, starts shooting at your house, and moves the fence between your gardens onto your land, eventually taking your children in the treehouse hostage. Then he points the gun at your children and tells them “You want to live with me now, don’t you?” and after one of them says yes, fearful for their lives, he declares that they all said yes and their wishes have to be respected and thus they, together with the piece of the garden he fenced off, are now properly his.

No analogy is perfect of course but this is roughly what Vladimir Putin has done with regard to Zaporozhnia, Donetsk, Luhansk, and Kherson oblasts. There were no true referenda, there was just a publicity stunt theater with maybe some people saying “yes” on their own, some were (or felt to be, which is effectively the same) coerced and some said nothing but were recorded as saying “yes” anyway. The only surprising thing about the results is how predictably absurd they are.

I do not for a minute think that Putin or his toadies like Lavrov actually believe what they are saying. They do not believe that the referenda were fair and representative or that they are not waging a genocidal war of conquest against Ukraine but merely an intervention against Nazis. They just lie through their teeth and want to use force to make everyone else behave as if the lies were true. And that sums up the whole of Russian foreign policy over the last hundred years or so, and it only got worse under Putin.

I expect some of the local FtB tankies still think that “the West” and Ukraine should negotiate peace with Putin. For the life of me, I cannot wrap my head around that stance. Putin has lied so many times over the time of his reign with regard to Ukraine that he is on record saying mutually exclusive things (the same goes for Lavrov). Anything he says today, any promises he makes, any guarantees he gives, any oaths he swears, none of that can be believed. And how on earth is one supposed to negotiate in good faith with someone who gives them absolutely no reason to have any good faith whatsoever? How are we supposed to believe the promises he gives today when he broke literally every promise he gave in the past?

I do not like war. I am a pacifist at heart. I do not like to hurt living beings of any kind, especially not humans. But I am also a realist. I destroy weeds and kill pests in my garden. And I also know that I am capable of hurting others in self-defense. I know that it is not possible to negotiate with someone who does not respect any moral rules and laws except their own power. In the analogy that has started this article, it would be the police who would be tasked with restraining your violent neighbor. Without the existence of the police, it would be up to you to get your kids and garden back and teach him a lesson to not try and hurt you again, perhaps with the help of your other, sensible, neighbors.

Putin has put the whole world in danger and he will keep doing it until he is stopped. If we give him 15% of Ukraine today, he will demand more tomorrow, killing or deposing millions of Ukrainians in the process anyway. There are clear historical precedents for how these things go, WW2 being the most obvious one. Dictators of this type have never enough.

As much as I do not like war, giving Ukrainians the arms to defend themselves and push the invasion force back into Russia is the only way to stop their genocide. The only way that does not direct military intervention that is. Doing nothing is not a pacifist stance. Doing nothing is allowing the genocide to take place unopposed, thus effectively supporting it. If you do not oppose Putin, you support genocide.

Showing off My Wood – Part 4

My mother continues to get better. I have harvested over 50 kg of plums and about 10 kg of apples this year and she has been removing the pits and making marmalade, compotes, and prunes for over a week. The freezer is full of de-pitted and halved plums, we have 2 kg of prunes in the cellar and a huge amount of canned fruit product, thus we are set up for years. This is good because a harvest like this is exceptional.

My father seems to be well after the reduction of antipsychotics. He is able to move and do something again whilst not getting any psychotic fits for a few weeks by now. Today we were at the psychiatrist for a check-up and his long-term memory is apparently in good shape for his age, but he has a short-term memory problem for which he was recommended to exercise a bit with games and puzzles. Alzheimer’s or any other type of severe dementia is, for now, not an issue. If he continues to do well, the antipsychotics may be reduced again at the next check-up at the beginning of next year. At least he genuinely enjoys cracking nuts with the Nutkraken and is positively eager to do it.

I have so much work in the garden and around the house right now that I have barely time for anything else. However I still have some pretty woods to write about, so lets go to it.

Tamarisk (Tamarix)

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My favorite aunt used to have a big tamarisk tree in her garden but they felled it a few years ago. When I was visiting, she gave me some of the bigger pieces in case I can make something pretty out of them.

The wood has developed a lot of cracks during the drying, it will need a lot of filling with epoxy. But it has interesting color and texture – the sapwood is bright yellow and the heartwood is reddish-pink with orange-yellow streaks like flames. I think that if I will the cracks with red or orange resin, maybe with glitter, I could get genuinely interesting-looking pieces out of it.

It is one of the few kinds of wood that I can smell when I work it and it is not pleasant. It stinks to the high heavens, to be frank.

Thuja (Thuja sp.)

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I only got two pieces of Thuja put aside. I could put aside more from a tree that was uprooted this spring in my neighbor’s garden, but I do not think I will. It is a plain-looking softwood. I will possibly use it for contrast pieces and spacers for darker woods of similar hardness if I ever work with one but I do not think it is worth using on its own.

Yew (Taxus baccata)

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

Interesting-looking and reasonably hard softwood. Heartwood is reddish-brown, and Sapwood is creamy-white. It is similar to juniper wood that I have shown you previously. I think it might be interesting for both kitchen and bushcraft knives, but since it is poisonous, I will have to be very careful whenever working with it, especially when sanding or filing it. A respirator is a must, people can get – and did get – poisoned from inhaling its sawdust. I have several pieces big enough to make knife bloc, especially if I economize them and use them as veneers. I did not have a piece big enough to make a longbow. Pity.

That’s it for now, but I still have some nice woods to brag about, so stay tuned.

The Nutkraken

It is the season when the walnut tree is shedding its bounty. We still haven’t eatet yet all the nuts from last year and it will probably take some time to eat them, possibly a whole another year. And this year’s harvest promises to be even bigger than last year’s. Thus I have some nefarious plans with the nuts this year.

Howevah, all plans include cracking the nuts first. We do have a small hand-held nutcracker, but that is good only if you want to crack a few nuts for a snack, not when you need to go through a bucketful every day. I have tried to make a small lever nutcracker from an old drill press. It worked, but not great. So this year we brainstormed some ideas with my father about how to proceed and this is what I came up with later in the workshope when looking for suitable materials to materialize our idea – behold the mighty Nutkraken:

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

I made it in about 5 minutes from a piece of board, two armrests salvaged from my father’s old armchair, a 10 cm piece of 4 mm fencing wire, and a bottle cork.

The armrests are connected on one end with the fencing wire. That end not only had pre-drilled holes. The armrests have an S – curve that has a nice short curve on the connected end and a long one on the other, making a nice indentation for the walnut and more than enough space for fingers. The lower arm has attached a perpendicular piece of board to it to stabilize it and to allow for it to be fixed to the table via clamps. After some testing I have added the bottle cork so the nuts do not get totally obliterated, making it easier to separate the shells from the meal. With a bit of additional work it could even be made to look pretty, but I probably won’t bother with that. I usually don’t with tools.

My father enjoys his new toy greatly and he cracked and shelled a bucket of nuts yesterday in no time. Those were low-quality nuts, and I intend to test some things with them first either today or tomorrow before I proceed to mangle the good-quality nuts that start falling next week. I will let you know the results of my sciency experimoments promptly.

The Nutkraken works magnificently. No sprain on wrists and fingers, no over- or under-crushed nuts, no problems whatsoevah.

My Shortest Chess Game

Sorry for the radio silence. Things aren’t going all that well with my father. The antipsychotics work, but he is extremely weak physically now, either as a side effect or due to some other cause. We have reduced the antipsychotics (after consultation with the psychiatrist) and now we are on allert if he again starts to have the paranoid delusions so we can eventually increase the dosage to find one that does not cripple him physically yet still works. If his weakness is a side effect of the antipsychotics, which is not entirely sure.

I am constantly on alert and I cannot find the motivation to write. I have managed to do some work in the garden nd the workshoppe, but when I sit at the computer, the only thing that I am capable of is playing a few chess games. For some reason, chess helps me to relax.

So in the meantime, here is the shortest chess game that I have ever played as black. I was really surprised at my opponent’s moves. One does not need a computer for analysis.

Not a Masterpiece Sheathed

I have realized that I did not show this on Affinity, only on Instagram. With all that is going on, I haven’t done any actual work in my workshop for weeks now, but this one was finished months ago. In the end, I have decided to make a simple, unadorned sheath for my Not a Masterpiece knife. I decided to do that because I felt in the end that an overly decorated sheath would needlessly distract from the beautiful woodgrain in the handle. The striker and ferrocerium rod have simple stainless steel handles. The bronze caught patina, which was to be expected. It does require some maintenance to remain shiny.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

The full set is for sale in the Knife Shoppe.

“Incoherent Scream Into The Void

Argle bargle gaahgh!

For several weeks, maybe even over a month now, Firefox has been problematic. Sometimes it did not load Google or YouTube, although all other websites worked OK. Sometimes it did not open links or search links, sometimes it did. I had to try to download reader submissions several times before the link finally worked and did not just open a new empty tab. I thought the issue would be resolved with the new version, but it only worsened. Both YouTube and Google worked only sporadically.

I thought initially that the issue might be something else, but nope, it was Firefox. First I tried the usual – clear the cookies, cache, etc. It did not help. Then I tried a clean installation and the problems persisted. I have tried other browsers and those were OK.

So I have to transfer everything to Chrome now, which I hate. It makes my eyes hurt for some reason, the proportions and colors are just not what I am used to seeing.


Greening the Balcony – Part 3

Avalus continues his balcony gardening adventures and he has shared some more thoughts and pictures. This is from somewhere mid-summer, I only got now to actually publishing it.

The Blooming Buzzing Balcony
Things are establishing, the tomato plants are continually exploding and I get a bowl of salad every day, although with late June, it gets so hot that the salads are racing to bloom. And they are not alone. So today we look at colorful hot plant sexy bits.
First, a quick overview of what changed in the meantime.

© avalus, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

Yes, more green, tomatoes racing up, and the added board gets really bent by all the pots. Time for a support beam. A yes, parts of an old alu camping bed will be perfect!

© avalus, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

On the other side, my usual chaos, more greens, a rescued kumquat bush hiding behind the table, on the table more plants waiting to be potted. The tomatoes on this side take their time. In previous years, these would grow much faster. Both pots got fresh earth so it is probably down to the variety.

© avalus, all rights reserved. Click for full size.


© avalus, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

Nasturtium. The camera really struggles with their red shine. I really like putting these in salads or on just bread with cheese and butter. Yum-yum!

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Sweet potato with an extra earth bee. Sadly the other won’t bloom and all the flowers fall off. I really would have been interested in growing them from my own seeds next year.

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Ornamental Pea. I have them in a wide variety of colors but they grew down the outside of the balcony and I can’t get a good image (I am very afraid of dropping my camera).

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A very prickly aubergine, I think I will need to cut most of them off, as the plant is still pretty tiny and I don’t think it could support the many flowers it produces.

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Fiery red climbing bean, green leaves, blue sky. Contrast!

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Tomatoes. I can’t wait for tomato season, my sister is already drowning in fruits.

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Cucumber. They had a slow start and are not as sprawling as the years before. Maybe it is because of old seeds.

© avalus, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

Mystery capsicums, probably sweet peppers. This one I bought but the tag had fallen off.

© avalus, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

Tagetes, bumble bees really love them.

© avalus, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

Strawberries, a monthly variety that steadily produces new fruit and is nearly as expansive with its shoots as the non-blooming sweet potato.

© avalus, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

Stalked celery. Somehow, the wasps really love these flowers.

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Sage, this is a very small steppe variety. I bought this to attract more pollinators to the balcony. I think it worked and the smell is fantastic.

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Red cloves or small onions, leftover from last year.

© avalus, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

And more Beans to close it off.
Soon there will be more. The Echinacea paradoxa is still growing, as are the sunflowers and the calendula. Then there is the thyme and one of the salads I left standing.
Overall, I notice a distinct lack of honey bees on the balcony (and in general) this year, the bumble and earth bees are also few and far between. On the other hand, I get several types of wasps that crawl all over my balcony (and occasionally me, which is a bit unnerving). The climbing beans have had dozens of flowers but so far only three have started to fruit, all the others just fell off, which is disappointing. The tomatoes fared better, but a number were stung by stinking bugs and developed a rot. But these are acceptable losses, one should never expect to have 100% success while gardening.

Next time, I think I will take a closer look at my “exotics” – tropical and half-tropical plants and my experiences. Because I really just can’t throw out avocado and mango pits, or pass by sprouting ginger in a shop … .

Showing off My Wood – Part 3

My mother is slowly regaining the sensitivity and mobility in the knee of her leg, so she is recovering from some of the negative side effects of the hip replacement surgery and she seems to be on the right track. She has no pains and is much more mobile and cheerful than before the surgery. Had it not been for my father’s rapid turn down, things would be swell.

My father has slept well for several nights in a row now, his anti-coagulant medication was adjusted after blood tests and he also finally got his prescription meds from a urologist again. He stopped complaining and takes the antipsychotics regularly. He will probably be never fully OK again, but he seems stable, for now. He was also finally able to do something other than moping, so his obsessive persistent thoughts might be going away and we might be on the right track there as well.

Thus at least for now, I have some piece of mind and I would like to present to you some more of my crafting material collection.

Apricot (Prunus armeniaca)

I am not 100% sure about this wood. Some of it was given to me as apricot wood, and some of it I think is apricot wood based on its characteristics. Its looks are certainly consistent with the genus Prunus.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

It is very twisted wood, with reddish-brown heartwood and yellow-orange sapwood. It looks very interesting, but like many woods of the Prunus genus, it tends to develop deep cracks that are often invisible on the outside and become apparent only after one cuts the wood to size. So it is certain that it will require the filling of those cracks with epoxy. I do have enough of it to make some splendid-looking knife sets.

I suspect that trying to treat it with ammonia would turn it brown, just as it does with ordinary cherry.

Lilac (Syringa vulgaris)

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This one picture is only the tip of the iceberg. I have several large boxes and a few bundles of longer pieces. I will have to use it as a veneer for knife blocks though, mainly because of its peculiar properties.

Lilac wood has very nice colors – creamy white sapwood, and light brown heartwood with lilac-colored streaks. It is very hard and dense wood, probably the densest in my collection, although not the hardest. However, it has so small pores that it never really dries properly. When cut and formed to size, it tends to develop cracks (checking) on the end grain even when it was drying in the attic for years prior to that. That is an unfortunate property of many kinds of hardwood with small pores. Lilac is really not suitable for some big works because of this. Even big pieces – which are rare – have to be cut down significantly and the wood tends to crack, warp and twist for a looooooong time.

Ammonia turns the sapwood to brown and the heartwood to even darker brown. I do not think it is worth it, this wood is more beautiful in its original form. I will probably need to use some UV-stabilized finishes for it to preserve its color.

Staghorn sumach (Rhus typhina)

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Not native species. Originally it was sparingly planted in parks and gardens as a decorative plant. It started to propagate beyond that and I am afraid it might become an invasive species soon.

I got a piece of this wood from my cousin about twenty years ago and I had some hopes for it. But now I am only including it here for the sake of completeness, I might just use it as firewood. The wood had a pleasant light-green tint when it was fresh, but not only did it develop an unholy amount of cracks during drying, the greenish ting has almost disappeared and the wood has now a dull greyish-yellow color. I certainly do not have high hopes for this small bundle and I am in no hurry to use it.

Plum (Prunus domestica)

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

Absolutely stunning wood, one of my all-time favorites. All woods of the Prunus genus are beautiful, but this is special to me. Not for any particular reason, I just really like how it looks.

The sapwood is yellowish and not very interesting, but the heartwood has a gorgeous reddish color. It is hard with small pores and barely visible growth rings. It works well. I do not have a lot and not very many big pieces. I might have enough to make a few blocks with a veneer but not many. I will have to combine it with other woods if I decide to use it for that.

It is a very beautiful wood and I do have big plans for some of the pieces. I really, really do hope those plans will go well. I already have one finished blade that I think is deserving of it. If only I had the time and strength to work on knives.

Eye ain’t done yet. There will be at least one more post of this. Possibly more.