No, not the term for a breed of super-small dog. I’m looking at the thing I drink stewed, er, that is, the extract of tea leaves from. It’s an odd teacup, but I’ve grown rather fond of the thing.

RedQuarters has, like most places, more coffee mugs than you can shake a stick at. I am firmly convinced that coffee mugs, like wire coat-hangers and single socks, multiply of their own volition. For a long time I used a Doctor Who mug, until the glaze finally started wearing through. Then it was an archaeology association mug (because human sacrifice is just what you want to see when you reach for your morning caffeine, yes?) Then I came home from Poland with a rather oddly-shaped cup.

The best way to describe it is a hybrid between a Russian tea cup and a mug.

The Russian version. Creative Commons Fair Use. Original Source:https://www.therussianstore.com/russian-podstakannik-set.html

That’s the original. Mine is made of pottery and is all one piece, but has a similar shape. It is slightly wider at the rim, then curves down, before flaring out with a small pottery foot. The little base is separate from the main part of the cup, and doesn’t hold tea. The handle attaches to the side of the glass. The cup has a repeating floral pattern in green on cream all over it.

It fits my hand, it keeps the tea warm, and it’s stable. It’s not better at any of those things than a regular coffee cup, aside from the “fits my hand” part. The handle is somewhat longer than a regular coffee cup, so I get a more secure grip.

Every so often you come across something, be it a tool, a cup, or some other thing that just fits. I have very fond memories of a depleted uranium bucking bar that I used when working on airplanes. The bucking bar is the dense chunk of metal one person holds against the tail of the rivet. The other person uses a pneumatic gun (hammer) to pound the head of the rivet. The combination makes the rivet spread out, locking two other pieces of metal into place. Anyway, this bucking bar was smaller than most, so it fit my hands. It also fit into the nooks and crannies inside the airplanes I worked on, an even bigger benefit. Because it was made of depleted uranium, it had the density of, oh, a chunk of lead that had just gone to an all-you-can-eat buffet. The mass far exceeded what you’d expect from such a small piece of metal. It was the absolute perfect tool for me and for the job. And the owner watched it like a hawk, darn it. 😦 No, he didn’t leave it to me in his will, even though I asked nicely.

This teacup is like that. I’ve come across a few tools and things that just make life so much easier. They are not wonder gadgets, or the latest and greatest, but they fit. And you know when you get your hands on one of these things that they are the perfect version of [thing] for you and for the job. There’s a beauty in them. I’m not sure that someone who hasn’t worked with their hands can understand the affection you can feel for a tool, even a simple piece of solid metal. But you can.


17 thoughts on “Teacup

  1. It’s not illegal to own depleted uranium, but it’s *very* hard to actually buy any if you’re not in the munitions or aviation industries.

    I wound up having to make do with tungsten, which turned out to be way harder to get than it should have been. There are entire industries whose business plan seems to involve *not* selling what they make or have in inventory…

    [yes, even plain old U-235 is pretty nasty stuff – it’s poisonous, work-hardening, *and* pyrophoric, but those weren’t problems for industry in the 1930s, where it was used in glassware and as an element in alloy steels, used more or less like vanadium and tungsten are today]

    • I’m not sure if the bucking bar came from a military supplier or the airlines. The owner had been a mechanic in both, so the odds are 50/50.

    • A pottery book from the ’90s mentions uranium oxide as a yellow glaze. It’s been pretty much outlawed for a long time.

      I hope you meant U-238; 235 is pretty hard to get outside of a few weapons factories. 🙂

      • “Depleted” uranium is what’s left over after the special weapons factories have pulled out all the U-235. It’s virtually pure U-238. Still in demand, in other weapons factories, for making things designed to punch through armor. At high enough impact velocities, kinetic energy exceeds chemical bond energy. Armor strength ceases to matter, and density wins. Nice aftereffects, too: powdered uranium is pyrophoric, and ingesting it causes heavy metal poisoning.

        • vicki, do you have a reference for this, or a name for the effect that I could look up?

  2. I’ve grown attatched to mechanical pencils and eraser holders that I’ve had for many years. For good or ill, the loss of one of them feels like the loss of an old friend.

    I can feel the same about a screwdriver but, oddly enough, not about a soldering pencil. Not yet, anyway. But when the great lead (Pb) purge occurred, I said goodbye to the remaining 11 ounces or so of my roll of Kester Eutectic Multicore. It hurt, but not quite in the same way.

    • (Nudges stash of 60-40 solder under the table.) My old soldering station got too cranky, so I splurged on a Hakko. Nice tool. The dial-a-temp feature makes it worth it.

    • Ah. I’ve got a Rotring mechanical pencil that’s a wicked black and red beauty.
      Touch it, and I might be tempted to stab you with it.
      (The Bauhaus aesthetic should never be applied to buildings or furniture. But with pointy tools, it can work really well.)

  3. If I understand what you are describing for the teacup, you might be able to track down equivalents through local potters (if for any reason, Ghu forbid, you have an issue develop with the current one….)
    Possible SME, and 20 years ago potential source, might be Lee Martindale [last I knew she was associated with the SFWA medical relief fund].

    • I actually got two of them. The other one is a very Polish floral pattern. If something does happen to this one, I’d probably pester the art teacher at school for names. She’s a potter, but doesn’t do “things with sticky-outy stuff” as she phrased it.

    • I wonder if horse semen is different, somehow– this has been used in dairy cattle for a long time, now. (as in, “I can’t remember if decade is plural and most financial shakeout already happened” long time, not “before I was born.”)

      In cows, it’s the same technique as for getting honey from bee hives.

      • There’s a historical reluctance to mess with equine breeding, because there’s historically been a lot of human cheating. If you stand there and watch Stallion A go at it with Mare B, and then you guard Mare B the whole time until you can be assured that she’s pregnant, you can be sure you didn’t waste your stud fees and really get Mare B impregnated by Stallion Z.

        So there are some breeds where any artificial breeding makes the offspring not registerable to the breed, and a lot of reluctance to mess with nature. OTOH, the huge profit source you have in stud fees makes a lot of stuff happen.

        • I was told by someone in the industry that Standardbreds are artificially inseminated as a matter of course.

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