Sunday, February 3, 2008

some winter beauty, warm legs, good reading

Although I complain about the cold weather lately, and the ice and snow makes it hard to hike up the hill to work, when the sun comes out and shines on the snow-capped Coast Mountains to the east of us, I have to admit the winter does offer up some beautiful scenes.

And with that groundhog showing us the way to six more weeks of winter (I never get that -- since Groundhog Day is February 2nd, aren't there always six more weeks 'til Spring Equinox anyway? or is that the point?), I'd better be looking for winter's beauties 'cause the cold's not going away in a hurry. I'm really tempted to keep these legwarmers, made for my daughter Megan, who's away in the deep cold of the Chilcotin where she's cooking at a Heliskiing Lodge. I guess she needs them more than I do, but really, sorely tempted here -- they're so cozy, made in Twilley's Freedom Wool -- a lovely, soft, lofty 100% wool. I'm even more reluctant to gift them since the wool is often advertised as being "great for felting." Keeping in mind what Puttermeister says about knitting for muggles, I'm hoping these can stay away from overly warm water, but suspicious that they may get dumped in the laundry and end up in the -- horrors! -- dryer at some point. My cold is still with me but I'm feeling a bit better, almost ready to tackle the small stack of papers I brought home to mark.

And I did manage to finish Story House. The antagonistic relationship between the brothers (and the triangle with their father, before that) was interesting as were their parallel relationships with their wives. As well, the plot became quite gripping at several points, particularly with a very tense engineering/construction endeavour near the end (trying to avoid spoilers here). Taylor's obviously done his homework, and his references to architecture, engineering, and boxing seem very credible to me, supporting the plot without interfering. What I was perhaps most interested in, though, was the opposition he sets up (and then muddies) between the real and the authentic, the natural and the built, the urban and the wild. I was struck by the light he shone on the world of counterfeit luxury goods, anticipating Dana Thomas's How Luxury Lost Its Luster. One of the brothers, for example, makes a living selling counterfeit goods from antique rugs to expensive watches, and his mentor in criminality explains the economics of retail counterfeiting to him: First, he explains "the luxury retail rule of eights." One-eighth is the cost of the goods sold, the COGS. Another eighth each for shipping and for marketing, so that "The five-eighths remaining are retail markup and every last dollar of that is captured here [Rico points to the logo of the sunglasses he's holding]. And anything where over half the value is captured in a nickel-alloy-stamped thingamajig the size of a booger isn't illegal to copy, it's a moral fucking imperative to copy. This thing is insulting you. It's check raising. It's doping the off-pace horse. It's leading right" (188-189).
Keep in mind that this is a criminal character speaking, not the author who is surely aware that designers, like writers and artists and musicians, deserve to be paid for their ideas. Still, I suspect that the sentiment is shared by many who have no qualms at all about buying copies whenever possible. (I'm not one of them -- hey! I still buy CD's rather than download). What always fascinates me is that those same people who are indignant about the value captured in a mark "the size of a booger" don't boycott that value but instead try to own it deceitfully.

So I've pulled on some legwarmers, settled down with a good book, and I'm looking out at sun shining on snow-capped mountains. How are you managing the groundhog's newnews? Any winter delights? Or at least decent coping strategies? Please share in the comments below.


  1. Well, we haven't had much of a winter to speak of. There were a couple of snow storms over Christmas and in January, but not enough for me to regret leaving the snow shovel in Canada! However, the hoar frost stayed on the trees for a long time and made for some very pretty views. Ice on the roads was not fun though, especially since here many roads are narrow and very very steep - think of a rollercoaster! Luckily we live at the bottom of the hill, but I often observed cars trying to get past our house but failing miserably.
    I was just thinking today that, although it is cool nowadays(maybe 6C during the day), it just doesn't feel like winter. Mind you, I am not complaining - we moved here from Ottawa and I can do without shovelling the driveway only for the snow plough to throw the snow back in my face, metaphorically if not literally! Patricia in Budapest

  2. Good to hear you're managing the Budapest winter comfortably. I think Ottawa's in the middle of the real thing this week!

  3. 1. Whisky tasting class led by Master Distiller Mike Nicholson.

    2. Oaties, baked by moi.

    3. Hugs.

  4. That picture is wicked! I love all the different colours of blue. The mountains look so awesome, great visibility.

  5. Thomas: Envious of the whisky classes -- I'll have to make do with my Lagavulin here. Oaties -- biscuits favoured by Scots, no? Hugs, I'm with you there!
    Zach: Isn't it great? Never grow tired of this view -- hope you guys'll be by to share it one of these days. Did you notice that I figured out how to resize the photos so that they don't take over your livingroom? (Bronwen helped)

  6. By an amazing coincidence, Mike is the former master distiller of Lagavulin. We had a Lagavulin 16 year last week. This week he told us not to drive.

    I'm excited.

  7. The photo is gorgeous and the legwarmers are terrific! How can you give those up - well, okay, to your daughter - I know what that's like! My daughter phoned tonight from Georgia to ask me where her polling place was to vote. As you do, rather than look in the local phone directory. Her excuse was she just moved into a new apartment and didn't have a phone book, or her computer hooked up. :)

  8. Whiskey-tasting definitely tops the list as a winter delight. Mine included a 32 year old Banff Whiskey.

  9. Thomas and Anonymous: I'm envious. What more can I say?
    Tara: as I said in my e-mail, my daughters also seem to think I'm the font of all practical knowledge (I do hope protestations to the contrary don't immediately appear in this space!)

  10. yeeeehawwwww
    I love those little guys! I can't wait to parade around in them up at the lodge!!!!!
    thanks in advance

  11. Just don't shrink/felt them (heat and water=bad combination!). And make sure I get a picture of you wearing them and grinning ;-)


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