Friday, June 13, 2014

Flooring update...

Flooring update...  Well, after two days of work, the flooring crew has the hickory flooring down on most of my office and a bit of the adjacent rooms.  The black strapping you see in the photo is part of a clamp that's keeping all the boards tightly pulled together while the glue dries.  The boxes piled up are weights to keep the boards all pressed to the floor.  There are several clamps and lots of these boxes scattered about to keep the whole assembly in place.

For the curious, this is an engineered hardwood flooring product, 5/8" thick.  Essentially that means it's high quality plywood with a fairly thick veneer of hickory on the side that shows.  The flooring folks recommended this for the basement, because the floor is being installed directly to the concrete floor.  Because concrete is permeable to water, there will likely be some moisture that gets to the wood.  Solid hardwood (the traditional style) is likely to warp in such a circumstance, whereas engineered wood, because the plies are oriented crosswise, will be much less likely to warp.  

Hickory naturally has a lot of color variation and a lot of visible grain.  The product I selected includes some small knots, which adds some additional variation.  The photo at left shows a closeup view of one small section of the floor, to give you an idea what this looks like.  I love all this variation, but I'm told that most people – and all right-thinking people – prefer more consistent patterns and gentler variations.  To them I say “Fine.  Let me have the good stuff!”


Iraq...  Several readers asked for my thoughts on the apparent collapse of Iraq.  This piece in this morning's Wall Street Journal echoes my own thoughts quite nicely: given the Obama administration's amateur-hour approach to the Middle East mess and the complex mess the Middle East has turned into (especially in the last 100 years), something of this sort was all but inevitable.  I couldn't have predicted that it would take precisely this form, but predicting that the Shia Maliki government in Iraq would be threatened by al Qaeda inspired fundamentalist Sunnis is a complete no-brainer.

Some random related thoughts:
  • How on earth did the combined intelligence apparatus of the U.S., Iraq, and their allies managed to be taken completely by surprise?  Nobody seems to have known that ISIS had acquired the depth and material that allowed them to run over Mosul about like the U.S. led forces overran Kuwait in Gulf War I.
  • Early reports are that the Iraqi army commanders all evacuated before the attack on Mosul and other points.  The army regulars were left without leadership and without command communications to Baghdad.  In such a circumstance, it's no wonder that the ISIS forces prevailed.  It's a perfect illustration of the depth of corruption in the Maliki government – which is not substantially different than the depth of corruption anywhere else in the Middle East, with the exception of Israel and (to a lesser extent) Turkey.  I don't know any solutions to this corruption culture other than leveling the whole Middle East and starting over.
  • The events of the past few years in Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Iran, and Libya abundantly demonstrate (to me, at least) the need for a “world policeman” – and, unfortunately, there's only one effective candidate for that role: the United States.  The rest of the world is unwilling to pay the price in either blood or treasure, and increasingly (at the moment) so is the U.S.  That may change when the rest of the world deteriorates enough to present a direct threat to us – which is the pattern for the past 150 years or so as we (the U.S.) oscillate between isolationism and activism on the world front.
  • Establishing a democratic government is not the same as establishing the rule of law.  Iraq and Afghanistan are painful object lessons in this.  History's lesson here is particularly distasteful to most Americans (myself most definitely included): the only successful establishments of non-corrupt democracies that have ever occurred happened after countries were utterly conquered and new institutions were established – with transitional governments run by the conquerors.  The two most recent examples are Germany and Japan after they were defeated in WWII.  The Allies were much less involved with Italy's post-war government, and the result is notably less successful.

I don't see any color at all...

I don't see any color at all ... do you?  This optical illusion is called Benham's Disk (after the discoverer, an English toymaker).  Most people see some pale colors when the focus on different parts of the disk – but the perceived color varies from person to person.  Some people (including me) see no colors at all.  Nobody seems to understand where the colors come from (as the disk is just black and white), why different people see different colors, and especially why some people see no colors at all...