Installing and using Arke Karina alternating tread stairs: a review
June 27, 2011, 12:00 pm by bottleman. Filed under: design, diy, tiny houses.

As a fan of alternating tread stairs, and the owner of a rare city-permitted custom made set of them in the granny cottage I built, I’ve always been curious about one staircase option I did not use: the Arke Karina stair kit.

My own alternating tread device, like most I see around on the internet, was custom made out of wood by a carpenter, and is straight.  However the Arke kit uses a modular metal unit as its spine, giving it a lighter appearance, and giving it the ability to curve.  The Arke kit isn’t cheap ($1600 minimum, plus >$200 extra if you want a second handrail), though custom carpentry isn’t either.   Neither a custom made wood alternating tread stair, nor the Arke kit, meets most residential codes in the US so it’s a wash in that respect.  What’s the better choice for someone building or modding a small house?

I finally got a chance to see an Arke Karina kit in action, …more



Don’t think, feel (review of The Barefoot Running Book by Jason Robillard)
June 8, 2010, 1:48 pm by bottleman. Filed under: reviews, simple living.

One of the biggest hills to climb for any human being is actually noticing what is happening around you.

photo by flickr user paperskye, used under creative commons, see http://www.flickr.com/photos/paperkim/4209542881/

It’s not an easy task.  People are deeply, instinctively attracted to theories and legends and plans.  They want to be part of a story that makes their existence meaningful. And no matter how deep or shallow that identity is–from being part of a 5000-year old religion to following the latest, greatest version of the grapefruit diet– the ideology tends to occlude as much as it explains.  It makes us ignore the experience of our senses.  And occasionally it makes us insufferable new converts, robotically parroting the party line, immune to any new input, whether we’re born again Christians or diehard Apple or Linux users.  (Is anyone a diehard Microsoft user?)

That’s why I was so pleased with a new book about the hot-button topic of the day: barefoot running.   Barefoot running has been lighting up flame wars on fitness blogs and the Runner’s World forums for the last year (where I admit I’ve been spending way too much time).   The main topic of contention is ostensibly which form of running (barefoot or “shod”) is more natural or suited to our existence today, and less likely …more



Certified backyard wildlife habitat
June 2, 2010, 5:20 pm by bottleman. Filed under: gardening, making a difference.

I got my yard inspected as backyard habitat as part of a program run by the Portland Audobon Society and Three Rivers Land Conservancy.  I already knew it was working because in recent years we’ve been visited by a whole cocktail party of birds, insects (including dragonflies) and the occasional bat.  But it was nice to receive the “Gold” certification anyway, because  I  got an all-important SIGN to put on my fence.

Fireweed (native), penstemon (native), and day lilies (not) under an Oregon white oak.

Black locust “Frisia” (“naturalized” in Oregon but not native)

Clockwise from bottom left: cultured variety of ninebark (a native), strawberry bush (similar to madrone, a native), hops on gate arbor, day lilies and Oregon white oak (native), low tech “rain garden” (read: glorified bucket surrounded by rocks and native rushes) and streamside lupin (native)

my certified backyard habitat sign

The sign

This sign was the answer to a bourgeois little quandary I’ve had: how to explain to the neighbors what I am doing (or not doing) with our “garden”?  Without lecturing anyone, that is.  …more



A low-power HTPC running Boxee on linux 64 bit (and XP, sigh, brickbats to Netflix)
March 9, 2010, 1:22 pm by bottleman. Filed under: diy, reviews, software.

Last month I finally got sick of cleaning peanut butter off DVD’s. Between me and the 4.5 year old, there probably was a whole jar of the stuff inside the dvd player, and a corresponding amount of skipping. We’d turned to online streaming services like Hulu, which sat on remote servers and were invulnerable to the mess, but they tied up my laptop every time the kid wanted to watch Finding Nemo, or Super Structures.  Also, I didn’t enjoy the vibe that was building up, where there was no separation between the machine I use for work and the one I use for vegging out.

It was finally time to realize a scheme I’d been mulling for a while: making a tiny little home theater PC (HTPC) that would allow my household to go diskless.  Here’s how I did it and how it’s working — which is great, even if some providers of content and software seem determined to keep users stuck in the past.

I got a little Acer Aspire Revo R1600 computer.  …more



Beyond the kitchen triangle: saving work in the kitchen with some simple hacks
December 10, 2009, 3:28 pm by bottleman. Filed under: design, diy, simple living.

Lately I’ve been obsessed with kitchen efficiency.  Not green efficiency, but efficiency in terms of work. I would prefer to spend my time enjoying food, not preparing it or cleaning up.  Why does my mother-in-law’s kitchen seem like such a breeze to work in while my own kitchen felt so awkward?  And how can I save work without spending $20K-$100K on a major renovation?

I embarked on my own amateur analysis of kitchen flow and modded my kitchen to match.  My work began with this kitchen work flow diagram:

I’m not much of a graphic artist, but it succinctly shows why it can be so hard to do work efficiently in the kitchen: …more



The Real Oregon
September 4, 2009, 8:18 pm by bottleman. Filed under: photography.

Photo by egazelle of a volunteer at the recent Hood To Coast event.  You’ve got a lot that’s good about Oregon in this picture: someone who is not being paid, and yet is completely at ease standing in a burned over clearcut, in the mist, by a cone, with a backpack and a bullhorn — which they are not afraid to use.  :)



You must hear this
August 6, 2009, 9:42 am by bottleman. Filed under: films, inspiration, off-topic.

Ulrich Schnauss is my new hero.  And he goes really well with “spirited away”.  Just listen.



Most unlikely Justice League ever?
August 3, 2009, 8:45 pm by bottleman. Filed under: invasive species, kids, off-topic.

The Goat Justice League advocates and educates on behalf of urban goats, who can be pets and milk producers (or wanderers).  In contrast, the goat above was actually more of a professional, part of a weeding crew cleaning out a construction site in Seattle, according to the photog.  Thanks Courtney!



1000 miles on the Xtracycle
July 30, 2009, 11:49 am by bottleman. Filed under: simple living, transportation.

My family got its Xtracycle about a year ago, and I figure we’ve gone at least a thousand miles on it by now (the bike computer fritzed around mile 500, in December).  Everything I wrote about it in my review last year seems more true than ever: the cargo bike is simply the most meaningful single piece of “green” technology I’ve used.

We don’t need a private car anymore (we still use carsharing a few days a month to go out of town and on special errands), so we don’t have the impulse to do stupid life-sucking errands like you do when you own a car (my personal weaknesses:  going to the hardware store to buy 1 bolt, or to Burgerville for a monster snack). It’s so much more relaxing when you don’t do that stuff.

But still, we need to carry stuff, right? Here are a few things we’ve carried:

  • an army’s worth of groceries
  • a frat party’s worth of beer
  • a case of wine from TJ’s
  • a kid and his TWO bikes, while talking easily the whole way
  • adults as passengers — this is surprisingly romantic and hilarious
  • two 60-pound bags of concrete
  • and oodles more, as other riders can tell you.

Some days we’re competing for the bike; we almost need two.  This bike has actually made our life better.  Wow!



A new project: counting all the species in my yard
July 21, 2009, 4:40 pm by bottleman. Filed under: love those goofy b*st*rds.

Yup, I’m going to find and identify and write about them all, great AND small. The first one is a willowy beauty:

Read all about it at myspecies.wordpress.com .



I love those goofy b*st*rds: Ed Wood and Bela Legosi
June 18, 2009, 10:12 am by bottleman. Filed under: alien zoology, love those goofy b*st*rds.

You rarely see top-bottom split screens used in movies, but this scene makes me wonder why not.  Bela Legosi lords over a stock shot of city streets, in the classic transvestite liberation film, Glen or Glenda.  The world-weariness could apply to Solomon himself — if he had a morphine problem, anyway.



There are two kinds of music…
June 17, 2009, 8:11 am by bottleman. Filed under: alien zoology, explosions.

“… good and bad. I like both.” — Duke Ellington, apocryphal