Monday, March 23, 2009


It is still cold. Saturday morning, as I make coffee, it is -23C, just inches away through the kitchen window. In January this would be skiing weather. By late March however my tolerance for cold has grown smaller as the days accelerate their lengthening. I enjoy my coffee and wait for the sun to stir up the molecules along the trail.

Still dry

It's been two weeks since the tub moved into the bath. Work continued around, under and on the approach to the tub, but it still just sat there in a room a few degrees above freezing, looking forlorn.

Last week the crawl space was insulated and a heat duct is now pouring heat into the soil around the house apparently - the air temperature remains stubbornly attached to the outside ambient chill. Water lines are in, though still without water. The light chocolate coloured tiles of the surround and the gleam of tap and spout now grace the tub. It is easier to imagine the relaxing of bones and the cleansing of soul.

Tomorrow the plumber returns. The burble of flowing water will course through the lines, engorge the hotwater tank and whet my imagination. He will turn on the tub tapes to blow out the air, he will fill the tub. I will see my reflection in the (cold) water. Then its back to preparing for the carpenter's return.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Computer spiraling down trailing thick black smoke with sound of screaming cats

I believe there has been a suitably long period of time since I dumped coffee into my wife's laptop keyboard so we can safely say "I didn't do it!"

Yesterday afternoon, when I awoke the upstairs laptop from its slumbers, it erupted with hideous screaming and rattling sounds from under my right palm - presumably the location of the hard drive. My first action was to grab a memory stick and copy off anything I thought might be unique to the hard drive. I then finished the e-mail I'd started before the caterwauling began. Although frequently interrupted by more episodes of screeching I was able, due to my infinite patience, to complete my note and send it off. At this point the keyboard and mouse no longer had any effect and I was left staring at the catatonic freeze of the hotmail screen. I turned off the computer and figured I'd let my wife find out about this in her own good time.

When the moment came I was tempted to say it was fine last time I used it. However I instead bragged how at least I'd been able to create much loud and unpleasant noise while she was only able raise a black screen with an ominous little box with cryptic signs and a single option - OK? Clearly the answer was NOT OK, but we pushed it anyway - and nothing very interesting happened - clearly we were not in Wonderland. Another reboot and a DOS error message, with a very small number (no doubt signifying a core, base level, probably fatal, fault), came up. Another NOT OK, for sure. This time we shut it off supposing we have entered the market for a new computer. Unless we get some helpful advice about possible repairs to a five year old laptop computer that has had a cup of coffee poured into it, but that was, like, a year ago. And I did do a pretty good job of pouring it out again quickly.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

A Boreal Interruption

This bird whacked into our new bath window yesterday afternoon. I heard a flump (sound of bird hitting window) and noticed it on the rail of our deck. It rested up for about a half hour, collected its wits and moved on. It is the elusive and shy Boreal Owl.

My daughter, now studying in New Zealand, sent me a note about a special paint that only birds can see - to the human light spectrum it is invisible, birds apparently see a brick wall. Always something new to think about.

Work Begins

At our first meeting I was surprised to find the plumber, the carpenter and the tiler considered me as the general contractor. True, I'd purchased the plumbing fittings, we'd found a suitable soaking tub manufactured in Vancouver and it was sitting on the deck under a couple of feet snow. The tiler coached me through the purchase of tiles for floor and walls. The world of cut stone and burned clay, as ancient as human ingenuity, is incredibly varied. This was especially difficult for this Yukon shopper who is used to purchase decisions like "what do have, I'll buy it." My wife was also a great help in this process.

The carpentry crew astounded me. I had detailed plans printed on a very small piece of paper. The lead hand looked it over, asked me what I wanted while we looked over the space, and in three days the bulk of it appeared just as I imagined. Their familiarity with their tools, material, and stick frame construction was terrific to watch in action. The work proceeded smoothly, almost without effort, and produced nice work. Very impressive. Perhaps we are over terrified by Holmes on Homes who manages to find a bunco job to destroy once a week. There are good people out there doing great work. They were at my house.

Different Bathing Practices

The sauna was originally built as an unheated addition to the house. Although there was an outside door to the sauna, the main access was through a portal cut through the log walls above the bathtub. In winter sitting in the tub was often a refreshing event with a cold wind drawing steam from the pitiful 8" of water in the tub. Only after the Japanese bath experience did I begin to query the modern western tradition of sitting in an expensive dirty puddle. Japanese people were astounded that we would even consider such a bizarre practice. And a morning shower? It left the soul uncleansed and made our Japanese hosts discretely curious over the state of our beds.

The Japanese Bath

A couple of years ago my son and I traveled Japan together for five weeks. We enjoyed friends hospitality, hiked through outstanding mountain landscapes, frequented Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples, but the outstanding experience for me was the Japanese bath. From remote alpine streams, steaming from incoming springs to congenial ancient public baths made of huge squared timbers and even modern onsen with multiple baths, each with its particular mineral water mix, the practice of spiritual rejuvenation through hot water soaking made its way into my heart. When we returned home I was determined to have a Japanese bath.

While the elements of the Japanese bath are relatively straightforward - shower and wash station to thoroughly cleanse the body of the day's dirt and the deep, at least covering the shoulders, tub of hot mineralized water - the availability of the necessaries to make one in North America is limited. Internet research helped and the strong positive memories of the bath's powers kept me looking. Even my wife got caught up in my enthusiasm and, despite some initial qualms about sharing a bath and squatting on a stool to wash, she came around as we began to pick floor tiles and plumbing fittings.

Our home had a sauna, an addition made by the previous Swedish owner. The space was about right for the bath and the laborious conversion began. Once down to the bare walls, we began to draw possible floor plans. Over the course of a year options multiplied and were weeded down to what would fit and what was practical. Then we began to look for contractors - "Sounds interesting but I'm kind 'a busy." "I'm not convinced you know what you want." "What don't your try so and so."