Friday, July 13, 2018

Equatorial Affliction

I bet he's got 'em

If you've read much English lit, you're probably aware of 'chilblains,' a cold-weather ailment of the extremities (ears, toes, etc.) with symptoms such as redness and itching.

Long ago at a sister's wedding, I spoke to her new English mother-in-law, who had attended boarding school in the foothills of the Indian Himalayas, where it was always cold. Sherpas would meet the girls at the train, and take them up to the school. Anyway, she said it was so cold all the time in the virtually unheated buildings that everyone had these bad rashes....she couldn't remember how they were called. I said, 'chilblains?' and she perked right up, yes indeed they were chilblains!

It's winter here in Cuenca, and our unheated house gets to about 64F during the day. Lately my second toes have been red and itchy with chilblains just like folks get in Charles Dickens novels, or Jane Eyre: "Our clothing was insufficient to protect us from the severe cold: we had no boots, the snow got into our shoes and melted there: our ungloved hands became numbed and covered with chilblains, as were our feet: I remember well the distracting irritation I endured from this cause every evening, when my feet inflamed; and the torture of thrusting the swelled, raw, and stiff toes into my shoes in the morning." I don't have chilblains that bad, but will be more attentive to keeping my feet warm. I've been in the habit of getting up, putting on boxer shorts and heading to the kitchen for coffee, not getting dressed for at least an hour or so. I hope that adding thick socks to that morning outfit will make for happier toes.

Monday, June 11, 2018


Recently I was in a discussion on workarounds, i.e. how to say what you mean in Spanish if you don't know the right words. For example, if I couldn't think of a Spanish counterpart to "fast," I'd say "velocidadamente," "no despacio", stuff like that. But part of my problem was thinking "fast." It's from the Germanic side of English, which doesn't have much in common with any Spanish words. On the other hand, ever since the Norman Conquest in 1066, English has had thousands of French words that often have a sibling or cousin in Spanish.
So for "fast," I should look for related French-English that might suggest a Spanish word. Quick? No. Speedy? No. Swift? No, all pre-French. Rapid? Rapido sounds good, yes, that works. This approach doesn't work every time, but it gets close often enough for me to stick with it.
Some examples that have worked for me, some spot on, others close enough on the fly:
height> altitude> altitud
wind> breeze> brisa
strength> force> fuerza
might> potency> potencia
smell, scent> aroma> aroma
easy> facile> facil
hard> difficult> dificil
hard> durable> durable, or duradero.
fear, fright> terror> terror
get> obtain> obtener
horse> cavalry> cavalo? Close, caballo.
likely> probably> probablemente
unbelievable> incredible> increible
friendly> amiable> amable
winner> victor> victor? Well, no. But the person I spoke to understood, and suggested ganador or vencedor.
sturdy> stable> stable? Close, estable.
stiff> rigid> rigido
sky> celestial> celesta? Close: celeste and celestial are adjectives. Cielo's the noun.
speed> velocity> velocidad
skill> ability> abilidad? Close, habilidad.
tired, weary> fatigued> fatigado.
weak> debilitated> debil.

Monday, June 4, 2018


My Neighbor the Tailor is roofing his house. I don't say re-roofing because this will be the first time the house will have tiles. Like our house, It's about 40 years old. Instead of a tiled roof, it has had corrugated fiber-cement boards that come painted in a terracotta color. They have about a 30-year lifespan if they are exposed to the weather. Here's a similar roof across the street:

Eventually they will leak and need to be covered or replaced. The direct sun and thin air is tough on them. It's very common here to build a nice house, and postpone the rooftile expense until the deck is so worn it needs protection. On my neighbor's a house I'd say they replaced 25% of the deck as it was too beat-up by the elements to serve as a reliable substrate. I can hear the workers cutting out old deck right now.

Here's some of the new roof:

Viewed fullsize you can see each tile is an s-tile, i.e. each tile curves like an s in section. Its makes for a very clean appearance.

This is a roof on our house, built with traditional tiles. There are drain tiles and cover tiles, they don't install as easily as the more modern s-tiles, but I like the irregular presentation and glazing variations. Plus the draintiles aren't glazed, which adds some interest.

Tremors have caused some of the tiles to shift (most of them are friction-fit); those I can safely reach I've pushed back in place and sometimes applied some silicone to keep them there.

Here's the underside of our roof, semi-modern with small fiber-cement boards and rough lumber. A lot of light leaks in through the roof, but water doesn't. A full-on trad roof has no decking and a lot more wood, very labor-intensive. Plenty of older buildings have that, along with wattle-and-daub walls. Oddly enough, there's one a couple of doors down from me, it's the oldest structure in what's a relatively-new neighborhood. The wattle shows in places, but it's not bad enough yet to fix.

Even today this kind of semi-dimensional lumber is readily available along with bamboo. About a mile away there's a lumberyard that sells both.

The nicest trad roofs are heavy timber construction with cathedral ceilings. They tend to be small-span with no bottom chords. One of the additions to our house is like that:

Ours is the only heavy-timber roof I've seen with skylights. BTW, these aren't factory-made units, but panes of tempered glass built into the roof. Yep: no leaks.

BTW: τέκτων, tekton, Greek. A builder, especially a carpenter. Tectum, roof, Latin. Tetto, Italian. Toit, French. Techo, Spanish.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Allusions, etc.

Long ago I first saw the movie "Aguirre, Wrath of God," about a Spanish conquistador going nuts amid a disastrous Peruvian expedition.  Here's a memorable image from that film:


It's Aguirre regarding the wreck of a sailing vessel in a tree. Why is it there? How did it get into a tree? What can I say, it's a peculiar movie. Even so, the ship is a very odd element that makes no contribution to the plot beyond weirdness. Of course everyone remembers the ship years after having watched the movie.


Today Google's doodle visually remembered the author Gabriel Garcia Marquez: 

 91.º aniversario del nacimiento de Gabriel García Márquez

Right away the tilted ship that seems perched on the letter "l" reminded me of Aguirre's wreck. Given that the movie and Garcia's stories take place in South America, are the two ships related? An article about the doodle linked the ship to Garcia's best-known novel, "One Hundred Years of Solitude." Checking online, I found this relevant bit from the book:

"Always following his compass, he kept on guiding his men toward the invisible north so that they would be able to get out of that enchanted region. It was a thick night, starless, but the darkness was becoming impregnated with a fresh and clear air. Exhausted by the long crossing, they hung up their hammocks and slept deeply for the first time in two weeks. When they woke up, with the sun already high in the sky, they were speechless with fascination. Before them, surrounded by ferns and palm trees, white and powdery in the silent morning light, was an enormous Spanish galleon. Tilted slightly to the starboard, it had hanging from its intact masts the dirty rags of its sails in the midst of its rigging, which was adorned with orchids. The hull, covered with an armor of petrified barnacles and soft moss, was firmly fastened into a surface of stones. The whole structure seemed to occupy its own space, one of solitude and oblivion, protected from the vices of time and the habits of the birds. Inside, where the expeditionaries explored with careful intent, there was nothing but a thick forest of flowers. The discovery of the galleon, an indication of the proximity of the sea, broke Jos Arcadio Buenda's drive. He considered it a trick of his whimsical fate to have searched for the sea without finding it, at the cost of countless sacrifices and suffering, and to have found it all of a sudden without looking for it, as if it lay across his path like an insurmountable object. Many years later Colonel Aureliano Buenda crossed the region again, when it was already a regular mail route, and the only part of the ship he found was its burned-out frame in the midst of a field of poppies. Only then, convinced that the story had not been some product of his father's imagination, did he wonder how the galleon had been able to get inland to that spot. But Jos Arcadio Buenda did not concern himself with that when he found the sea after another four days' journey from the galleon. His dreams ended as he faced that ashen, foamy, dirty sea, which had not merited the risks and sacrifices of the adventure."

Which is very much like the mood of the movie. So I wonder:

1. In general, did this passage have any influence on the movie?
2. In particular, did this passage prompt the inclusion of the ship in the tree?
3. Did the doodle artist regard his ship as an allusion to the ship in the tree?

I like to answer yes to all three.