A pro-gun Leftist?

I encountered Vaush on YouTube through his pro-LGBTQ+ videos and it was I guess just a matter of time before I stumble upon these as well:

I am torn on this issue. I have argued in the past on this blog that overzealous weapons regulations and indiscriminate bans are nonsense (-click--click-). For example, there is no practical purpose to be served by banning the sale and/or possession of some knives. I have also argued that liking firearms for their aesthetics or technology or enjoying exercising the skills needed for their use is not, in itself, a sign of a pathological personality (-click-). But I am also a proponent of proportionate regulation of weapons – the more dangerous a weapon, the more difficult it should be to obtain it for private use, and the barriers should not be financial ones or at least not purely financial ones. There should be some basic proficiency and background check for guns, as well as mandatory psychological exams and licensing for them. I do consider my home country (Czech Republic) to have a good and sensible legislature in this regard.

On the other hand, I do recognize that in the USA there are two strong barriers against the implementation of such laws and Vaush mentions them both.

  1. Guns in the USA are so ubiquitous that any ban or legislature will have negligible practical effect. They might stop impulse-buying a gun just before a mass shooting, but not much else. Anyone wishing to get their hands on a gun and ammo will probably be able to do so for a looooooong time in the good’ole USA. I do not have a response to this argument. The USA might well really be beyond the tipping point when the issue can be reasonably addressed.
  2. The problem in the USA is not the availability of guns alone, but mostly the culture surrounding them.  I wrote about this too in the past (-click-). The USA is in dire need of a culture shift. The current fetishization of guns and violence and of gun violence is harmful and it can only get worse if nothing is done about it. I do not know what to do about it though, the gun culture in the USA is extremely pervasive and strong.

So it is not simply possible to look around the world at what works there and implement it in the USA. The issue is, unfortunately, much more complicated than that.

If Vaush likes guns and wants to shoot them at the range or enjoy them aesthetically or both, I have no issue with it. Those are perfectly valid reasons to own guns in my book, and I think mentally healthy people should have lawful options to indulge in.

I also agree that some amount of packing heat on the left is reasonable, otherwise, there is nothing to stop the American right to have their version of Nacht des langen Messer and eventually Kristallnacht in the near future, it’s not as if parallels to these did not happen in the American history ample times in the past. And the armed right needs to be counterbalanced with something and flowers simply won’t do. Although I do fervently hope that it never comes to actual shootouts between neonazis and leftists in the USA. If the situation deteriorates that much, there probably won’t be a way to stop the civil war and the odds are that the police, army, and judiciary would side with the nazis – there are recent precedents for that too.

I do completely disagree, however, with one of his stated reasons – that having a gun might be useful in the case of a widespread societal collapse. In my opinion, in case of a widespread societal collapse in the USA or EU, not having a gun would be the least of the problems for most people. The topmost will be keeping yourself fed and warm, and guns can only help very little with that. Our current society is heavily dependent on infrastructure, logistics, and division of labor. In case of societal collapse, no electricity, no food and medication distribution, and no clean water will probably kill most people. Having a gun in such a scenario might marginally increase one’s short-term chances of survival, but without farming the land and distributing the food, any modern country will quickly starve. There is not enough wildlife left for those with guns to get sustenance by hunting. And stealing from others by force will be only of very short-term benefit. Bushcraft is a nice hobby but it can’t keep alive dense populations of hundreds of people per square km. Not to mention that I won’t live long without prescription medication and no amount of gun-waving will give it to me if pharmaceutical companies stop producing it. And in the case of Vaush personally, as well as millions of others – if he breaks or loses his glasses and there is no infrastructure to get him a replacement, his guns won’t help him with that either.

Other than this one thing I find his videos, especially on LGBTQ+ issues, reasonable.

Froot Seezun Continues

Last week I finished with strawberries. I spent two-three hours working on them for a day for nearly two weeks and in the end, I harvested over 30 kg. 22 kg I managed to dry, and the rest converted my mom into marmalade (-> cellar), pies (->freezer) and puddings  (->immediate consumption). And just as soon as the strawberry season has ended, the raspberry season has started.

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

There is a huge patch of wild raspberries just outside my garden. My neighbor cannot mow the meadow this close to the fence, so they thrive on a strip of land approx 1 m wide. And the law in CZ is that wild fruit on publically accessible land can be picked by anyone, so I can use it – I just need to go out of my garden and walk all the way around, about 100 m. Last year we did not have any because I took a chainsaw to the whole growth to rejuvenate it – which it did.

Since these are wild raspberries that grew there from seeds some decades ago, the fruits are relatively small. They are even smaller due to seven consecutive drought years, but they are still tasty and I managed to pick over 600 g yesterday in just half an hour. I will pick a few kg over the next few days, try to dry some, and make others into jam since we run out of raspberry jam some years ago.

And to post something pleasing to the eye after a long while, the first sunflower of the year has blossomed.

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It is not particularly big sunflower, in part due to the drought and in part because I did not buy F1 seeds this year and I simply planted some of the surplus seeds that I fed to the birds during the winter. But it is pretty and the sunflower patch looks promising.

Intersection of DnD and Social Justice

Today I was etching blades and listening to the YouTube channel LegalKimchi and I must recommend it so far. I especially liked his last video:

But his other videos that I managed to see today were good too. I haven’t yet seen everything and I am unlikely to see everything he has made, but so far he seems to be on the side of social justice, especially with regard to people of color.

Sharpenatrix upgrade

My Sharpenatrix was working well enough but having to tighten the screws holding the blade each time was a bit annoying. So I bought some stainless-steel non-magnetic screws and a bunch of neodymium magnets to play with. And some of those magnets were small cylindrical magnets with a screw, and those were ideal for a quick upgrade of the Sharpenatrix.

Here is a composite picture of the upgraded thingy.

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I screwed three magnets into the end of a 5 mm strip of aluminum, glued on it another strip to make a continuous plane with the magnetic side of the magnets and I used the non-magnetic screw to make an end-stop to lean the back of the blade against. Spanning the blade is now a matter of seconds and whilst the magnets do not hold it extremely strongly, they do hold it strong enough to keep the constant angle during sharpening. And they allow me to adjust the blade position slightly and quickly, giving me greater versatility.

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

The screw can be adjusted to the thickness of the blade but its purpose is not to hold the blade firmly – that is done solely by the magnets – but to avoid levering/twisting the blade off the magnets when I lean it against the belt. The side with the screw is now significantly thinner than the side with the magnets, which allows me to sharpen at a constant angle blades that were too narrow for the previous version.

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

I have not actually tested it yet, I do not have any knives that need sharpening right now but I see no reason why it should not work.

I have also bought 500 5x5x5 neodymium magnets for making more sophistimacated magnetic chucks in due course.

Strawberry Chips

It is the Time of Strawberries again and I am spending several hours daily picking, sorting, and processing strawberries.

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However, since we still did not eat half! of the various strawberry, figs, and other jams and marmalades that we made last year, I have decided to try and use the fruit dehumidifier on them.

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I was worried a bit they will lose aroma and/or color, but neither happened. They are still bright red (that might still change over time) and very aromatic. Enclosed in jars they should hold for years in our cool dark cellar. And unlike marmalade – which is way too sweet for me to eat regularly – I can add them to my breakfast yogurt together with other dried fruits from our garden (prunes and apples) almost daily without adverse effects, so they should disappear over time hopefully quicker than the marmalade (which we cannot manage to give away, let alone eat). Even running 24/7 at 60°C, the dehumidifier cannot manage to dry all strawberries that I gather daily and the smaller and unseemly fruits still have to go into marmalade, which thus will continue to accumulate. Next year I will plow over some of the strawberry patches, this is simply too much.

Blast it. I wish that more useful and edible foodstuffs grew here as well as strawberries and walnuts. I had no luck with sweet corn or red beets this year, most seeds did not even germinate. With garlic and onions, I had zero luck for several years too. And this year’s pole beans were partially destroyed by voles and partly by the too-harsh sun (although I still have enough plants to hope for a reasonable harvest), and my only apple tree appears to be dying from water vole damage. And those little fuckers ate all of my tulips as well, so I did not even have pretty flowers in the spring. I still had no luck in finding a remedy that works on these pests.

Rediscovering Pen and Paper RPGs

Picture of several colourful dice

By Diacritica – Wikimedia Commons

In my 20s and 30s, I loved playing pen and paper. We had a really great group of friends, and even after the kids were born, we simply kept playing at my place, putting the kids to be in between looting and adventuring. Somehow life got in the way, two members of the group had a fall out, our group kinda died in the middle of the campaign. I’m not sure if my kids remember those gaming session or simply grew up with a steady tale of them, but they’ve been bothering me for a long time, asking to play some adventures.

In the end I recruited my two other friends and last week we had our first gaming session. Oh boy, that was fun. Since none of them ever played any pen and paper, I dmed, not my favourite thing, but since they’re also completely newbies in the world of The Dark Eye (Germans don’t play DnD, we play DSA), I also created a character to go with them, thus “giving birth” to “Salida de Emergencia*”, a priestess of the goddess of wisdom and magic, to give them some background information and also to get the roleplay going. If it comes to the last, she can also always disperse a bit DM wisdom, but that’s something I’d like to avoid.

I really had forgotten how much fun it can be, especially with completely green characters being played by completely green players. For one, the group is badly balanced. Neither of them carries an actual sword or has decent fighting skills. One of them, our nimble elf, carries a smallsword, which she kept losing by rolling 20s (in that system, 20 means failure). In the end, she resorted to wrestling with the Rodents of Unusual Size in a lot of bat shit. The archer kept missing, of course, because when you’re a starter character you have a 50/50 chance. Now the rest of them is suspicious of her because they barely survived the final fight while she was unharmed. Oh, and the mage didn’t learn the spells, so magic was not used at all. Playing by the rules, we would all start the next session by making new characters because these would be dead.

However, the good thing about playing together is that you can say “fuck the rules”. The combat rules are too complicated anyway. There may be people who do keep track on whether somebody is wounded, exhausted, their exact distance from the opponent. I have enough trouble keeping track of which bandit is dead and which is alive and killing which hero. I firmly believe that the rules should serve the game, not vice versa, so I’ll apply bonus and malus with some common sense. If the players also developed some of it, we might actually make it. ;)

*That character has been waiting in the back of my mind for a long time, ever since my beloved saw a sign saying “Salida” (exit) in Spain and remarked that it would be a nice girl’s name.

A New Knife Blogge

I got a small commission and I have decided to make a series of blog posts about it. It will repeat a lot of the same things that were already said in my series Making Kitchen Knives and subsequent projects, streamlined and with as little technical jargon as possible. That is why I have decided to not publish it on FtB and I have started a blog on my website specifically for this series and it will be published there both in CZ and EN. If you are interested in reading it anyway, come over there, my website could use some traffic at least. I have not figured out how to add comments yet, I might need to use Disqus for that and I haven’t used Disqus for several years now and I forgot how to implement it. The service provider only offers implementation of Facebook comments and I ain’t got Facebook and I ain’t planning on getting it. I do, however, have a Twitter account and I will tweet my articles there. So if you are interested in being notified about them, follow me on Twitter.

I will continue to post my art projects, including knife-making projects, on Affinity too, but I think I do not need to repeat myself about the manufacturing process so I will only post here genuinely new things.

Creative Fun: Painting Ceramics

This is the little one’s fault (yeah, the little one. Almost as tall as me). She saw something like this on the net and asked if there was a place near where you can paint your own ceramics. I found one and invited the kids for Easter. While I dislike making huge presents for Easter, you can basically always get me to spend money on making memories. If there’s a place like that near you and you have kids ages 5 to 99 who enjoy creative stuff, I can only recommend. The nice thing is that since it’s professionally fired in a kiln, you get lasting designs, not like with other paint on techniques.

So, here’s what we did:

Various ceramic items, see individual desription with the other pics.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

A small jug with dotted flowers.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

A green, white and brown tile with a kitty face

©Giliell, all rights reserved

A small ceramic owl figure

©Giliell, all rights reserved

The little one’s haul: lots of dots there. And a kitty, because she loves cats.

A rectangular tray with a sakura tree

©Giliell, all rights reserved

#1 worked painstakingly on her Sakura blossom tree. The picture doesn’t do it justice, since it doesn’t show the many layers.

Well, and what did I do?

Big mug in green and blue with the character Totoro

©Giliell, all rights reserved

View into the mug: a studio Ghibli dustbunny

©Giliell, all rights reserved

My new favourite mug. I love, love, love Totoro. It’s such a wonderful movie and I identify with Totoro: We’re both fat, grey haired and love naps, children and gardening.

I also did a plate which turned out completely different than planned.

A plate in deep blues and greens with a white geometric whale pattern

©Giliell, all rights reserved

The place offers you a lot of materials, like stencils, and also an introduction: you can always paint dark on light colours, but not vice versa. When fired in the kiln, they turn transparent and the dark colour underneath comes through. What I wanted to do was to use a mandala stencil to add a geometric pattern in black and then paint the spaces in between with vibrant colours. Buuuuut, well, with the curve of the plate and the clumsiness of the artist the black colour ran and smudged. If you look closely above the whale, you can see it shine through. I needed to save it and painted layers upon layers, smudging the black, drawing it out, creating a deep sea and the scratching out the whale with the help of another stencil. It turned out nice and I’ll try to create the other plate another time.

The Gardening: Almost Done!

We finished putting up the greenhouse and started to fill it:

Front view of a small greenhouse

©Giliell, all rights reserved

3/4 view of a small greenhouse

©Giliell, all rights reserved

As you can see, the foundations we found were a mixed blessing: The walls we had to put on top are huge. That’s 2 tons of concrete, they’re about 25-30 cm wide when 15-20 would have sufficed. People who know how to do that shit may be able to actually do that, we didn’t and we’re quite proud, considering that neither of us ever did anything like this. Putting up the house itself was pretty easy, all in all. Now it needs to be filled. I put down old concrete blocks in the middle to form a path, now I need to fill about 30 cm of ground. Because I want to plant tomatoes, and since tomatoes will suck the ground free of nutrients, I organised a load of horse dung from a colleague. Sorry that my tomatoes are no longer hardcore vegan. I already put in the first 5 cm or so on Sunday. I can tell you, shovelling horse dung into a greenhouse in 27°C  is not for people who enjoy breathing. Hopefully I’ll get the rest filled next weekend, so my poor tomatoes can finally move in, as well as the nice fig tree that I bought.

But do you know what the absolute best thing is about this whole project: I absolutely enjoy doing these things with my husband. Shovelling shit and pouring concrete may not be romantic, but working hand in hand on something for weeks and liking it, that’s compatibility.

Some Knives Again – Part 3

This is the second three-piece set from the second overabladeance that I have finished. It is what you might call “vegan” set, because there are no animal parts involved in this one, it is made purely from plant material – black locust and coconut shell.

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

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

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

It is more or less a direct, slightly simplified, follow-up of the experimental knife set. This time the surfaces are not oiled but sealed with epoxy and buffed, just like with the jatoba&bone set from yesterday.

I hope to be able to put all three sets on the shoppe tomorrow. More pictures are, again, on Instagram.

Some Knives Again – Part 2

In the second overabladeance were three tree-knives sets, two of which are finished now.

The first one is from jatoba and cow bone.

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

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

As is usual, the cow bone has had some pores that accrued the reddish dust from the jatoba during work despite my best efforts to seal the surface of the bone with epoxy before sanding and polishing the handles. At least that way it is clear that it is a real bone and not some synthetic substitute, I guess? The number etching on the chef knife is a bit smudged. I still do not know why it behaves wonky from time to time – on one and the same piece of steel it can happen that I etch one part crisply without problems and a few cm besides that it suddenly does not work properly.

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Fitting the rounded bone pieces to the extremely hard jatoba wood was not exactly easy but I managed a reasonably good fit in all nine instances. On this set, I have infused the surfaces with resin, smoothed them with 600-grit paper, and then coated them with resin again. Only after that did I buff it. Thus the whole set has extremely hard surfaces and it is a bit shiny.

I do know that this whole set is suitable for like 99% of all imaginable kitchen works because it is based on an experimental knife set I wrote about previously which has been very thoroughly tested by now. I have used it to cut both veggies and meat, gut fish, and de-bone chicken and there was a knife in this set for all the tasks that I could think of. This set is slightly modified – the blades are pointer and they do not have round-heeled ricasso. I like rounded tips and round-heeled ricasso but I did not convince many people about the advantages of round tips on knives and blades without ricasso are easier to make.

Again, the set will be for sale in the shoppe sometime towards the end of the week and there are more pictures on Instagram.

Some Knives Again – Part 1

I finally got time to work on knives again and finished some of the second overabladeance blades and two of the first one.

First a set made from an apple branch fork. I have left some of the woodborer’s lacework visible, most of which was just below the bark. Deeper holes and cracks were filled with brown-dyed epoxy.

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The stand and the handles are made from one piece of wood and the grain on the handles is a continuation (plus-minus a few mm) of the grain in the bloc. I added some solder weight to the bottom of the bloc so it is heavier and more stable because I did not want o disturb the shape by adding legs. I aimed for a more flowing and organic look and two straight metal legs would distract from that. I also have tacked on a few anti-friction pads.

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

It was not easy to make the slits for the blades so they are a bit rough around the edges but that is OK and in line with the design. When I was deciding how to close the back of the slits, the nearly invisible seamless gluing of flat boards that I do for straight bloc designs was not an option so instead of trying to hide it, I opted for a bold contrast. I glued in a black-locust strip and I have left enough space for a dark-brown epoxy strip around the edges too.

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

The bigger knife has some chatoyancy in the handle, something that I did not expect. But I did not make the wood too shiny – I only sealed it with one epoxy dip and I did not seal it for a second time like I do for shinier surfaces – I have just buffed and waxed the set. Thus all the wood has a somewhat satin look to it and the handles are nicely grippy.

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

The bigger blade has a minor etching defect near the handle that I thought would be hidden under the scale but It is not, unfortunately, because I made a slight mistake in the glue-up. Also, the blade is slightly thicker and heavier than is typical for this type of my knives, it has a somewhat “choppy” feel to it. All in all, it is a mixed bag as usual, I am not proud of the work I did, but I do not hate it either.

Sometime during this week, the set will be available in the shoppe. There also are slightly more pictures on Instagram.

Bonsai for Beginners – Part 10 – Money Tree

Previous post.

You have seen my money tree Crassula ovata before. It is probably my oldest bonsai tree, now somewhere near 60 years old and it is still healthy and it still grows strong. This is how it looked this spring before pruning.

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Money tree is probably the best tree for anyone who wants to begin growing bonsai or having just a few of them without spending a lot of time with care. It is extremely easy to propagate – virtually any cutting of any size, including a single leaf, can take root and grow into a new plant. It grows reasonably fast, but not extremely fast – a few cm to a dm a year – and it makes nice, thick trunks in just a few years. It is not very flexible regarding shapes and it cannot be formed by the use of a wire but it can be formed by simple pruning into interesting informal shapes nevertheless.

Money trees are extremely low-maintenance. They survive severe neglect, not being watered for weeks on end. They can survive both in direct sun and in half-shade (although shade makes them spindly and unseemly). Aphids and other common pests leave them alone, and birds and rodents too. They are not choosy about substrate either and they need not be re-planted for years without suffering. Probably the only thing that can reliably kill money trees is a combination of wet and cold – but they can survive a dry cold of around 10°C without a problem.

Here is my tree after pruning.

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The tree was cut back a lot and thus it looks a bit unseemly right now but that will be rectified in a month or so. When cutting money trees the cuts do not need to be treated in any way – another plus – because the cut piece will dry and fall off at the closest pair of leaves/buds on its own, leaving a clean and closed surface behind it.

And here is a bucket of pruned offcuts.

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Each of the offcuts could be grown into a new tree if I desired to do so. Indeed I have in the past used some of these off-cuts to grow new plants and one of them I gave to one of my friends. That is how I learned its only weakness – his mother was watering the plant too zealously when he was away and it succumbed to root rot. But I have kept some of the pieces that I have cut off in the past and I composed them into a nice little bonsai forest, about 10 years old now.

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This demonstrates another specific need for money trees- deeper pots. They do not make strong structural roots like true trees so they need a bit of depth to anchor them properly.

The best routine for money trees: in the summer put outdoors in full sun, out of the wind and rain, and water regularly when the weather is warm. Do not water when the weather is cold and rainy. When temperatures drop to ~10°C at night, move indoors, into a light but cool-ish place, and do not water at all or at the most once-twice a month a bit of splash. In the spring cut back strongly to promote new growth. If kept indoors all year round, the best would be a south-facing window and the plant needs to be turned twice a week at about 90° to prevent it from bending towards the window. Use substrate for succulents and deeper pots with big enough drainage holes. With just a bit of care, you can have a plant that will look well for decades and won’t die on you if you need to go on a business trip and leave it alone for a few days.