Sunday, August 31, 2014

Roxborough State Park

My younger son and I took a short hike today at Roxborough State Park. 

I was expecting the park to be a collection of meadows among a few outcroppings of the red stone from the Fountain Formation, the geological layer associated with the famed Red Rocks amphitheater west of Denver.  What I found were outcroppings that looked like gigantic mounds of Play-Doh.  

There were also immense cliffs of the Fountain Formation rock.  The cliffs started as Play-Doh and then transitioned to jagged slabs.

Originally, the Fountain Formation layer was below the Lyons Formation layer.  Tectonic forces tilted both layers up so that they run side by side in Roxborough park.  In the photo below, the reddish Fountain outcropping is in front of the lighter Lyons Formation cliff. 

The Lyons Formation generally looks like dirty sand with occasional black streaks.

I didn't ask my younger son to pose for the camera, but here he is on the trail in front of me (in the blue shirt).  He was pulling a water bottle from his pack at the moment.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Counting My Botanical Blessings

One of the reasons I bought my townhouse was the beauty of the nearby park.  But now I often find myself taking the park for granted.  And so, to combat this dullness of perception, I decided to give the scenery my full attention during my afternoon walk.

This year curved concrete borders were placed around the flower beds, giving a dressy look.

Most of the park is a narrow band of greenery below street level.  Thick trees and bushes border the north end of the creek running through the center of the park. The different shades of green beggar description (pure green, dark green, light green, gray-green, green with a touch of yellow).
From the right vantage point, one can see an imposing office building rise above the foliage like a distant fairy-tale castle.  (Some imagination is required.)

Ashley Sterne Plumbing for Pleasure complete

This comic article by Ashley Sterne was published in The Royal Magazine (1921), Volume 45, p. 308.  I had assembled most of the article from snippets for a previous blog entry, but now the article is available whole from the Hathi Trust.

Plumbing for Pleasure

Now that the long winter evenings are once more close upon us we are confronted with the ever-perplexing problem of how to employ them.  Father, with his three Masonic Lodges and two Worshipful City Companies, is happily catered for, as for him the winter months are pleasantly punctuated with a succession of indigestible banquets, the eating of which and recovering from the same serve to pass the time congenially enough.

Mother, too, will work as strenuously as ever in a laudable endeavour to get at least one of her daughters off before the fox-trot goes out of fashion, while the girls themselves will all be perpetually making jumpers.

There remain only the young men of the family to consider, and to them I offer the humble suggestion that plumbing as a winter pastime provides allurement both useful and amusing.  To be able to mend a burst water-pipe or a leaking gas-tube is an accomplishment which few people outside the plumbing profession possess or care to cultivate; hence the plumber is regarded with a kind of superstitious reverence, as if he were endowed with some superhuman gift or virtue which it is beyond the power of the ordinary person to attain.

But this is sheer fallacy; for, after all, plumbing is only stopping up a hole, than which there is nothing easier once the hole has been located.  This truism grasped, all that is needed for the veriest tyro to become an expert and highly-respected plumber is a little common-sense, a plumb-line, a few pounds of putty, and possibly a dog specially trained to scent out leaks – just as there are dogs specially trained to scent out truffles.  Then the services of the professional plumber can be dispensed with, with much saving of time, temper and money.

Everybody has experienced the farce of sending for the plumber.  The hot-water cistern, let us say, has been burst by the frost, and is rapidly disgorging its contents all over the floor.  Little drops of water and little grains of zinc are percolating through, and falling into the best bedroom.  The crisis is getting very critical when the plumber, who has been urgently summoned an hour ago, puts in a belated appearance.  He at once takes in the situation, goes back for his tools and that mysterious individual known as a "plumber's mate," and meanwhile the water has dissolved the best bedroom and is falling through the floor in a monotonous cascade on to the grand piano in the drawing-room.

After another hour the plumber returns with tools and mate, the latter urging that his 'ere's a job requiring the services not only of his own tools (which he hasn't brought, of course) but also of a plumber's mate's mate; and by the time all these individuals have eventually assembled you find that the hours is 1 p.m., and the day is Wednesday, which means that the job cannot be taken in hand that day because the Amalgamated Union of Plumbers, Plumbers' Mates, and Plumber's Mates' Mates decree that no plumbing work shall be done after 1 p.m. on Wednesdays. 

And so, of course, your house is ultimately washed away, forcing you either to emigrate or enter the workhouse.

Yet all this bother could be avoided if some member of the family adopted plumbing as a hobby.

Then, no sooner is the hot-water cistern reported burst than Reggie promptly gets out Our Boys' Box of Tools and some putty, and repairs to the scene of the disaster.

Carefully gauging the extent of the burst with his plumb-line, he selects a piece of putty large enough to cover the orifice and take up the back-lash, slaps it in place, and affixes it with a few tintacks, or a little solder, or – failing these – a strip or two of stamp-paper.  The whole job is thus over and done with almost before the first drops of water from the leak have had time to comply with the law of gravity and fall to the floor.

Gas-escapes, too, may be similarly treated, though care must naturally be taken that in searching for the leak the amateur plumber does not meet a stuffy end through asphyxiation.  A simple precaution which I earnestly recommend is to carry a few white mice in the pocket, as these charming little rodentia possess the peculiar and amusing property of fainting or developing slight hysteria when in the presence of raw gas.  The proximity of the leak can hence be readily ascertained, and after stopping up the hole in the manner already described it only remains to revive the white mice by loosening their clothing and administering artificial respiration.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

My Day of Extreme Popularity

Today I was invited to three separate social gatherings.  The first was a family picnic at noon organized by one of the programs I support as a functional manager.  We went to the Aurora Reservoir and feasted on pulled pork and many other fine things.  The reservoir was full of waders, kayakers, and paddleboaters.

At three o'clock I joined four friends from work at a local beer tasting emporium.  I defected from the ranks and chose a beet-sugar concoction called Colorado Cola.  It was satisfactory.

Finally, I had dinner this evening with church friends.  It was a fine conclusion to a wonderful day, a day that contained as much social activity as I usually enjoy during an entire month.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Ashley Sterne Feathering Our Nest

This evening I was delighted to find another of Ashley Sterne's stories featuring Gladys Paggs.


Furniture Buying with Miss Paggs.

By Ashley Sterne, in Pearsons' Weekly. 
(reprinted 25 May 1920 in Lake Wakatip Mail)

Things are moving apace. Gladys Paggs and that base hound of the Baskervilles, Archie, her brother, who has now satisfactorily disposed of the melon-faced girl, seem to be running my wedding on their own account. In a few weeks the banns are going up, and I have practically received orders to collect my kit and prepare to report for duty.

This positively indecent haste has been caused by the action of Gladys's uncle Silas. He has apparently overlooked my cutting the cloth of his billiard.table, and has actually given Gladys a small house as a wedding present. Naturally she wants to live in it, though, personally, I should like to exchange it for a case of whisky or a few cigars.

The result is that we are now in the throes of buying furniture. My banking account has been co-opted, as it were, and my share in the matter is to be lugged round Tottenham Court Road and draw cheques by numbers on the word of command.

Gladys's taste rather runs towards the antique, and the other day I nearly found myself paying £5 for a cuckoo-clock that was alleged to have cuckooed half-past three to Mary Queen of Scots.


Then, again, I was within an ace of giving £20 for a Jacbean umbrella-stand that had once been used either by Oliver Cromwell or Little Tich —I forget which —and a fabulous sum for a canopy bed which, I was assured, was the only canopied bed in England which Queen Elizabeth had never slept in.

I tell you, buying antique furniture is no mere bagatelle. The game it chiefly resembles is "Shell out."

However, we have managed by degrees to collect a lot of furniture which will give our house the appearance midway between the Throne Room in Buckingham Palace and the dock in the New Bailey. A little homely touch has been contributed by a case of stuffed parakeets and a standard lamp fashioned to resemble a flamingo—my own selections.

But our trouble with the furniture was as nothing to the trouble we had in choosing an afternoon tea service. Gladys wanted one trimmed with blue-and-gold bands at fifteen guineas. I wanted one decorated with roses of Picardy—or they may have been sea anemones or whelks —at twenty-five shillings. Gladys objected, and said it looked so mean to expect anybody to drink tea out of a teacup which only cost sixpence. I argued that if one were really thirsty one would willingly drink tea out of a watering-can that cost twopence. We had quite a long discussion about it, and the salesman who patiently sat out the first half-hour of it eventually said he'd go and have his dinner while we made up our minds.


While he was away we went into another department and bought a lot more things over which there could not possibly be any contention things for the kitchen and scullery. I even bought one or two things entirely without assistance from Gladys, among them a most ingenious patent mouse-trap, which not only slew the mouse on the spot but rebaited itself and reset itself automatically. Apparently the only thing: the trap couldn't do was to run round to the grocer's and buy some more cheese when the supply of bait was exhausted.

I also bought two very handsome rolling-pins, a heavy one for making heavy pastry and a light one for making light pastry. I was so pleased with them that I took them over to Gladys who was standing knee-deep in pudding-basins. Unfortunately, she herself had already bought two rolling-pins. And then there were four, as the old song says. I was. however, able to induce my salesman to exchange them for a mincing-machine with a three-speed gear.

I then rejoined Gladys at her counter, where I was annoyed to find that she had just bought the ingenious patent mouse-trap. Gladys is so thoughtless. She never thinks of consulting me on these shopping excursions. I had half a mind to tell her so. but I reflected that our house would probably contain enough mice to share between the two traps, and I remained silent.

We then went back to the china department where the salesman had just returned from his dinner. In a wave of magnanimity I told Gladys I would reconsider the question of the blue-and-gold tea service, and she and the man set it all out on a big tray so that she could admire it in company formation.

Now. if she hadn't asked me to examine the beauties of the slop-basin the accident would not have happened; but the fact remains that in bending forward to do as requested I leaned on the edge of the tray which protruded over the edge of the counter, with the result that the complete tea.set was jerked violently into the air. I remember noticing the magnificence of the slop basin as it went skywards.

As only one tea-cup emerged scathless from the accident I had, of course, to pay for the complete outfit, and Gladys had to content herself with a compromise between the broken set and my roses of Picardy selection. The pattern is crimson butterflies on a background of pea soup.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Hiking in South Valley Park

I took a pleasant hike in the South Valley Park today. 

It was a perfect place for ambling along and photographing the geology.  The Lyons Formation, a long cliff of white sandstone (the remains of ancient sand dunes), provided a background to the east. 

Jagged outcrops of the Fountain Formation punctuated the foreground.  The Fountain Formation layer is rich in pink feldspar, which gives the outcrops their reddish color.

Around the outcrops are thick stands of scrub oak, the shrubby black sheep of the proud oak family.

Some of the outcrops are home to cliff swallows, who build their mud nests in sheltered crannies on the rocky sides.