Jack’s Walk

Early morning at the park ©voyager, all rights reserved

Our virtual vacation is over and Jack and I are ready to get back into our usual routines… sort of. My mother is approaching the end of her life and I’ve been spending my days at her nursing home which doesn’t leave me much time to take Jack out to his favourite trails. We’ve been managing by taking shorter walks around the neighbourhood in the early morning and late evening and Jack is just so happy to spend time with me that he hasn’t even complained. Poor Bubba is used to hanging out with me all day and he is not happy about me being gone so much. When I’m home he sticks to me like a lollipop on a cat, afraid that I’ll sneak out when his isn’t looking. This morning I made a point of taking some extra time to take him to our local park and it was such a joy to watch him splash and frolic that I’m going to try to do that every day. It’s good for both of us to have a small bit of normal in the form of fresh air and exercise. The blog is a good bit of normal for me, too.

There’s no wifi in my mom’s care home so that’s a bit of a challenge, but we’ll try to be here every day as usual.

Holidays: Park Güell

I think we had some of it already last year, and I noticed I didn’t take too many pics this year, but it’s still lovely, every single time. If you ever visit Barcelona and need some “Gateway Gaudí”, this is where you go. It#s reasonably priced, since this years there’s a shuttle bus from the underground station and you get all the quirky loveliness that characterises Catalan “Modernisme”.

©Giliell, all rights reserved   You get the best panoramic view of the city

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Part of it is under restauration, so you can see it without all the other people visiting.

 

Behind the Iron Curtain part 32 – Money Lenders

These are my recollections of a life behind the iron curtain. I do not aim to give a perfect and objective evaluation of anything but to share my personal experiences and memories. It will explain why I just cannot get misty-eyed over some ideas on the political left and why I loathe many ideas on the right.


Lending money was a very tightly controlled activity behind the Iron Curtain. The regime had a de-facto monopoly on big lending and strictly regulated the activity. It was only possible to get a loan from a bank, and many young people did so when they started a family, just as they do today – to buy or build a house, an apartment, furnishings, etc.

My sister got a loan too when she got married. So did my parents.

I never heard of anybody having trouble with payments. The law regulated what rates can be given, what securities can be required and what payments can be requested, so for people getting into financial trouble this way was not common. Loan sharks existed – on those another time – because organized crime existed. But it was that – a crime. If it was possible for anyone getting into insolvency or personal bankruptcy because they could not keep up with their legal payments, It was rare and I never heard of it.

That has changed rapidly after the Iron Curtain fell. The bad thing about that was that our first finance minister and late president Václav Klaus is Randian libertarian, and he governed the state finances with the assumption that “the invisible hand of the free market” is a panacea for all problems. One of the legacies of that time was the abandonment of many regulatory laws, including those that defined and outlawed loan-sharking. Suddenly it became legal to loan money at thousands of percent interests, with short payments, exorbitant fees, etc. etc. A few thousands worth of debt could, and still can, balloon into thousandfold and suddenly you pay more in monthly fees than the original debt was worth. Speculations with debts became rife and a whole money-sharking industry emerged from the free market quite naturally.

Only it is not a solution, but a cancerous growth. Today roughly 8% of our little country’s population got caught in these financial traps. Some people even very obviously through no fault of their own – they were indebted by their careless or clueless parents or inherited a debt without knowing it.

And thus the free market provided a new class of people – the working poor, the debt-slaves and the homeless. I think this too was one of those few things the regime did actually handle properly, or at least better than the current one which still did not catch up with this entirely unnecessary crisis and still did not put the money lenders on a short leash.

My first Commission – Part 7 – Sharp!

Hell isn’t forever after all. Today I have finished both blades and for the second one, I opted for a satin finish. Not because it is easier – it is not – but because I wanted to see the difference and decide what I like more for the future. Well, I am still undecided, but I can see the difference. And so can you, although it was not easy to think of a way to photograph this.

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

The satin finish was made by me not going to the finest buffing compound. Instead of that, I went for a fine abrasive pad right after the medium buffing compound and I dragged it along the blade a few (hundred) times. And I probably will do some more.

After the blades were finished, I have decided to sharpen them. I probably will sharpen blades before assembly for several reasons. Firstly I like making apple seed (convex) edges, that give the blade look as if it does not have a secondary bevel at all. For that, I might need to re-buff the blade a bit, and that can only be done before the handle gets in the way. Secondly, should I scratch the blade by accident during the sharpening, it is easier to re-polish it before assembly. So whilst I do not necessarily sharpen the knives to shaving sharp at this stage, I do sharpen them to some 90%.

This steel (N690) should not be sharpened at an angle steeper than 15°, steeper than that and the fine edge allegedly tends to break off. I have no reason to doubt this since the blades are hard as hell. This time I have a way to get a really nice and consistent angle – I could use my magnetic jig. So I did. The N690 is steel with so-called “secondary hardening”, so it is basically nearly impossible to overheat and destroy the edge during sharpening. Nevertheless, I took care to take my time and not overheat it, it does not pay to get into bad habits.

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

You may see that there is no platen behind the belt, so I am using a slack-belt setup here. That means the secondary bevel will be concave and the cutting edge itself will be sharpened in fact at an angle a bit higher than 15°, which is ideal for a hunting/camping knife of this type.  Convex grinds are very durable – the knife that I have made for my mother needs sharpening only about two-three times a year despite being used and abused daily.

Speaking of that, when I was at it I also sharpened all her kitchen knives. Those took just one-two very quick passes on the slackbelt and then a few passes on my stropping wheel (made according to Walter Sorrell’s video)

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

Your eyes do not deceive you, that grinder with the stropping wheel is back-to-front.  For stropping, the wheel must rotate in the direction of the edge, not against it, because it is softer than the blade and if you try stropping against the edge, the blade will bite into the fast-spinning wheel and dire consequences will follow. Having the grinder backward allows me to work on the upper side of the wheel, so should it grab the knife and throw it, it will hit the wall and not my leg or the concrete ground. I find it also a lot easier to strop the blades that way.

The stropping wheel gets the knives to scary-sharp in mere seconds. I am using the coarse stropping compound, in my opinion, it makes a better edge than the fine ones.

Now the blades are polished, nearly completely sharp and wrapped in masking tape. It took me three times more time than I think it should and about 30% more than I thought it will. But now the most time-consuming and nerve-wracking part is hopefully behind me and next steps will be free of trials and tribulations. Or at least with significantly shorter ones.

The Art of Book Design: Winnie The Pooh

A.A. Milne. Winnie The Pooh. Illustrations by Ernest A. Shepherd. New York, E.P. Dutton, 1961.

A.A. Milne. Winnie The Pooh. Illustrations by Ernest A. Shepherd. New York, E.P. Dutton, 1961.

A.A. Milne. Winnie The Pooh. Illustrations by Ernest A. Shepherd. New York, E.P. Dutton, 1961.

It isn’t exactly a fairy tale, but I’m feeling nostalgic and this is one of my favourite books from childhood. My mother read to me every night until long after I could read for myself and this was the book that I most often asked for. I loved the gentle ways of Pooh and his friends and my mom had different voices for each of the characters that brought the book to life. The edition above is from 1961 and it’s the one that we had in our little library. I wish I could say that I still had it, but when my parents divorced it went missing along with a lot of other books that were likely passed down to another child in our neighbourhood. [Read more…]

Holidays: Friday Feathers

Two marvellous birds from the Zoo

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

 

 

And as an unrelated bonus:

A video I stumbled across indulging in my love for Peter, Paul and Mary: Puff, the Magic Dragon.

What I love about the performance isn’t so much the artists, but the audience who is singing along, or at least mouthing the words, from the toddler to the grandpa.