laundry

Posted by Ellen

Suspendu, says the caption. In Napoli.

Posted by Ellen

In 1960, British photographer John Gay (who was actually born Hans Göhler, in Karlsruhe, Germany) shot these clotheslines in front of the chimneyline of Islington, London.

A confession: I miss clotheslines. Don't miss lugging baskets of soggy clothes up the basement steps and out across the yard. Don't miss slapping at mosquitoes with a mouthful of clothespins. Don't miss convincing myself it won't rain when of course it will, and it does. Don't miss how stiff the clothes are when they're finally back inside.

I just miss seeing clotheslines when I walk the streets and alleys of my neighborhood, or any neighborhood. Nowadays, backyards look lifeless and uninteresting. Doubtless, this is a small price to pay for progress, and this nostalgia of mine is a small and silly thing, but still.

So now and for a while to come, Monday will be laundry day on Hole in the Clouds.

Posted by Ellen

At a hotel, every day is wash day.

Posted by Ellen

A sample of lint from the trap in our clothes dryer yielded this strand of something: a hair, maybe, or some kind of fiber that is fixing to fail.

We examined the lint with a scanning electron microscope, which magnified it about 927 times by shooting electrons at it and noting how they bounced back. If we'd had a regular old optical microscope, we might have been able to reach this same level of magnification, though we'd be approaching the upper limits of that technology.

Electron microscopes can detect details hundreds of times smaller than optical scopes because electrons travel in more or less straight paths while visible light undulates in waves. The downside is that electrons can't see in color and can't travel much beneath the surface of things, no matter how transparent or translucent that surface might be.

All in all, however, if lint is what you're wanting to look at, then a scanning electron microscope might be just the tool for the job. 

With its help, we calculated the width of this strand of whatever it is at about 20 microns–about one fiftieth of a millimeter. The hairs on our heads are usually more like 50 microns in diameter, so this probably isn't that.

This strand of whatever it is has obviously been through the wringer, even though our current washing machine doesn't have a wringer. The strand has been stressed, and were it not for a couple of microns of badly fraying inner strength at its core, it would have snapped completely.

Which does lead to speculation that what we're looking at here is My Last Nerve. . . .

But there are some other possibilities. Such as dog hair: dog hairs average about 25 microns in diameter, more or less in the same ballpark as this strand. Dog hairs often show a scaly pattern on their outer cuticles that looks kinda like the faint pattern we can sorta make out on what's left of the outer surface of this thing. And of course, finding a dog hair in the lint trap at our house, or pretty much anywhere else in our house, isn't completely freakish.

But really: could a dog hair get this mangled and shredded just from normal laundry processes? We want to beg off from a definitive answer; although we've worn many different hats over the years, we have never, ever presented ourselves as expert in the forensic analysis of dog hairs.

We've not yet, however, run out of options. Couldn't this thing be a fabric fiber from some item of clothing?

That electron microscope sure did come in handy.

Posted by Ellen

 

Today is the last day of Milan's second annual LED Festival, a celebration of outdoor lighting in the city that a hundred years ago became the first in Europe to electrify its street lights and street cars. This year's festival featured sixty installations totaling more than 600,000 LED bulbs.

On Via della Spiga, artist Fabrio Novembre hung out laundry in lights, alluding to a Sophia Loren movie, Iori, Oggi, Domani--Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow. 

It just doesn't seem fair, somehow, that when they dole out the cinematic icons, Milan gets Sophia Loren while here in Philadelphia we have to make do with Sylvester Stallone....

Posted by Ellen

Obviously, this picture was taken on a Monday. The scene is the tenement backyard at Park Avenue and 107th Street in New York, probably in the year 1900.

Setting up these clotheslines was not a trivial task, especially on the higher floors. A man would come around calling out "I climb poles!" and for about 25 cents he'd climb up and run the rope out over the pulleys. He also sold rope and pulleys, but if you'd planned ahead and bought them from the hardware store, you could save a few cents.

Notice the train track at the bottom of the photo--I'm guessing the whites were whiter at the far end of the block. Just on the other side of the tracks is the building where baseball player Lou Gehrig grew up, a few years after this picture was taken.

I suggest viewing this image as large as possible, so you can peep into the windows.