Thursday, February 28, 2019

Storytime With Beth: The HydraPipe

In the locker room at the gym there are these freestanding steel shower units.
They look basically like this, but since I didn't want to risk building a reputation as someone who takes photos in the locker room I opted to utilize this one from a random furniture/fixtures review blog instead of snapping my own.
Each has three showerheads and they're made by a company called HydaPipe... because, well, they hide all the pipes and valves and such for the shower.  It is a fine and descriptive name for such a product.

But, I have a better one.  Or at least I think it is better.

HydraPipes.

See, for probably the first year that I was going to the gym I thought that was their name.  I didn't read the affixed metal label closely enough, I guess.  Since they have multiple heads and a similar looking name my brain went ahead and made it HydraPipes.  You know, like the mythical hydra?  Isn't that a cooler name?!

(Excuse me while I agree with/crack myself up over here.)

It was at least a year before I noticed the lack of "r' in HydaPipe.  At least.  To this day I still call them HydraPipes in my head while I am using the showers after hitting yoga or the pool.  I sort hope that homage was at least partly the founder's intent, but maybe it is just me.
I made this quick sketch of what I see in my mind's eye when I say "HydraPipe."
Apparently that mythology class I took in high school made quite an impression after all.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Family Photos and the Personalization of Home

I read a pretty dang fascinating work of non-fiction earlier this year and it keeps resurfacing in my thoughts.  It is one of those books that has made me look at my world in a whole new manner, through a different lens.  I love books like that.
As a result of my reading I was prompted to pad around the main floor of our house, with Matt in tow, counting how many photos of friends and family we had on display. 
The book reported that in the homes they surveyed the minimum number was ten (astonishing!) and the maximum was more than 200 (even more astonishing!).  The average per household was 85 photographs, ranging from formal and often well-framed wedding or school photos to informal, everyday moments that might not even be framed at all and just tacked on the fridge with a magnet.  Being a bit of a photo nut (and a curious person with a penchant for personal stats) I was immediately intrigued by these figures and wanted to see how our house compared.
We’re below average at 33 photos on display.  This both surprises me and doesn’t surprise me at the same time.  I am a very social and family-oriented person.  I love taking photographs and am rarely without a camera handy.  However, I do strive for a balance between experiencing the moments and capturing them. We don't sit for formal portraits (aside from our wedding).  I also don’t have kids and suspect that would drive up the number significantly.  I, despite what one might imagine, do not have a single photograph of my cats on display.  I mean, I DO have them in a locket, but not framed on the wall over my bed or anything.  Though in realizing this I feel I must remedy it, too.  Having framed cat photos, that is.  They don't need to be over my bed.
The photographs were mentioned in the final chapter of the book “My Space, Your Space, Our Space: The Personalization of Home.”  Also mentioned was the tendency to affiliate the household with a particular culture, nationality, sports team and/or religion.  Matt and I toured the house scoping that out, too.  We have a lefse turning stick balanced on the backsplash of our kitchen counter.  We have a piece of art prominently hung over the kitchen table that is an American flag comprised of imagery from the Grateful Dead.  In fact, we had to say all the Grateful Dead iconography was a major such marker of group affiliation for us.
The personalization chapter was probably the exception to the rule in this book in that it was fabulously interesting without being a downer whatsoever.  The surveyed families seemed proud of the ways they had put their unique stamp on their home environment—walls of honor for family photographs, souvenirs from great vacations, trophies from sports accomplishments.  These material goods mostly served to make people happy rather than stressed.  As such, the chapter wasn’t built on a foundation of wanton consumption coupled with a sense of dread and defeat at being buried by material goods.  That was the underlying gist of basically all the other chapter:  We have too much stuff.  As our finances /space expand so does the sheer volume of belongings.  It is making many, many people less happy and fulfilled…especially mothers who bear the brunt of shopping, cleaning, and maintaining said belongings.
Three quarters of the households in the LA study do not use the garage for parking a vehicle, but instead as a storage unit for excess stuff.  While I won’t assert a percentage I can attest that many of the folks who live along my commute are doing the exact same.  I gaze, flabbergasted, at the boxes and piles and overflowing shelves of stuff that fill these garages when the garage door is open as I pedal past.  And it isn’t just tiny single garages either. Or garages that have been converted into wood working shops so there isn’t room for a car.  It is double garages filled to the ceiling with…stuff.  Just stuff.
The book left me with a powerful sense of gratitude that Matt and I have relatively distanced our household from the hyperconsumerism encouraged by all the coupons, monthly subscriptions, lines of credit, and an endless bombardment of advertisements that abound in this world.  As it is I am always finding things to send to Goodwill or the trash…things I didn't buy and don't want and yet...appear.  ...something I picked up for free or that was given to me, etc.  Imagine how bad it would be if I actually embraced the idea of “retail therapy” or if I didn’t take it as a sort of point of pride to wear something out to the brink of disintegration.  Some of the photos in the book made my head spin just looking at them.  The chaos and clutter was basically unbelievable in some cases--home offices and garages especially.  I can only imagine how living surrounded by that disorder would make me feel inside.  Heck, the pictures almost stressed me out.  I was floored.
If you’re interested, the book is called Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century and is the work of anthropologists from UCLA’s Center on Everyday Lives of Families which looks at modern life through an anthropological lens.  They closely documented and analyzed the built environments (homes) of 32 self-described middle, class dual income families all of whom had at least one child between the ages of seven and 12 years old.  I obtained my copy through the library.

A Weasley-ish Wallet + A Sewing Tip

I was working on a sewing project for my friend, Hannah, and  in the process realized I have a handy and surprising sewing tip which I've never mentioned here.  It requires no fancy equipment or expensive supplies and, in fact, involves a really humble product which might already be in your house.
Here it is:  Elmer's Glue can be used instead of pins to temporarily hold fabric layers together while you sew.

I picked up this tip from Jenny, one of the Sewing Retreat gals.  She said it is especially handy for putting the edge binding on quilts.  With the glue trick there is no need to worry about little dimples where the pins pierce the fabric... nor the bother of pinning period.  So, I've used glue instead of pins with increasing regularity these last few years.

Squeeze on a little dab, adjust fabric until it is placed as desired, apply heat with an iron which almost instantly dries the glue, and then proceed to the sewing step.  The glue washes out when the finished product gets washed.  It really is great for quilt bindings, but for plenty of other things, too.
I was making Hannah a new (and Harry Potter themed) quilted wallet, as promised.  The pattern calls for spray adhesive at two points.  Though I've made six (I think) of these wallets I've never actually used spray adhesive for two reasons.  One, I try to work with (and buy/own) a rather minimal, basic level of craft supplies and, two,  I typically don't purchase products which come in an aerosol can.  It turns out though that Elmer's Glue is a very acceptable alternate to spray adhesive for a temporary hold.  And cheap!

For binding the wallet I sew one edge of the binding to the wallet body, flip it over and glue the other side of the binding into place.  Then I stitch the binding as normal for a secure finish.  I find I am more happy with the end result, typically, than when I was using pins.  The binding is more even and smooth, especially around corners.
Of course, that isn't the case in this instance.  The binding on Hannah's wallet actually looks like garbage, in my opinion.  I had a mental lapse while squaring up the block and accidentally made it half an inch too narrow...which meant that when I bound the wallet I actually bound the dollar bill pocket closed, too.  So, I had to rip it out and basically wrestle the thing into my sewing machine to work around that.  But Hannah is, I suspect, among the most forgiving audience for my sewing endeavors that I could ask for.
The embroidered quote--Don't Let the Muggles get you Down--turned out pretty well.  Very functional if not all that decorative.  I don't really embroider much.  It is not one of my craft interests.  ...But Harry Potter is a force in my life, as I've mentioned, so I was properly incentivized to give embroidery another go.
The fact that the Harry Potter wallet turned out a little janky and weird seems almost fitting, in a way.  It reminded me of when the wizards try to dress up and pass as muggles, but don't get it quite right and stick out like a sore thumb.  Alternately, it feels a little Weasely-ish to me.  Fun and happy, but a little rough around the edges.

I intend to make myself a Harry Potter wallet now, too.  And maybe, just maybe, this seventh one will turn out as well as my very, very first wallet did.  It really has been my best work so far.  It occurs to me that I was probably paying the closest attention that first time--since it was new and utterly unfamiliar.  Perhaps I can remember that next time and curb my overconfidence.  Or maybe I'll end up with a Weasley-ish wallet of my own.  Either way.  😄

Sunday, February 10, 2019

More Phoneputer Friendly

In an effort to make the blog more mobile friendly I've given it a bit of a face lift.  That is probably obvious to any regular readers.  I may continue to fine tune things here over the next week or so.  This is something I've contemplated before--as more and more traffic comes from phoneputers than from real computers.  For example, last month my posts were viewed 109 times via Facebook mobile and just 30 times from Facebook.
I lacked the motivation to make the changes until recently though.  The revamp is largely driven by my own frustration when trying to seek out particular information from my blog via a mobile device.  I didn't realize how drastically different the mobile and web version of my blog operated.  The sidebar was complete gone...or I'll be darned if I could find it!  That's all fixed in the new format.  The experience of a mobile site versus a website will always be different, but they're more aligned now.
While we're on the subject I shall give a little a report on life in the 21st century of phoneputing (i.e. owning a smartphone).

The short version is:  I like it.

The long version is:  There are pros and cons to everything.
Before I go on any further though I think it is worth noting that by getting a smartphone we got the internet.  Matt and I have never had home internet since we've been together.  We opted for a cellphone with an unlimited data plan so that we could enjoy the benefits of having the internet as well as having a mobile phone.  We share the phone rather than each having our own.
I like that it is a multipurpose object.  In general I enjoy a material good that can perform more than one role.  It is more efficient in many, many ways.  The phoneputer is an mp3 player, a GPS, a phone, a camera, a level, a guitar tuner and more all rolled into one tiny package.  That means we don't need all those other things and so it streamlines the amount of technology we own and use.  Of course, that also mean that one single object has greater importance and if it were to break we'd not only be out a phone but also our guitar tuner and camera, say.
I like accessing recipes online.  This includes recipes that I've posted, but cannot track down in my recipe card box as well as new ideas gleaned from my blog friends and websites I follow.  I no longer print off recipes I want to try, but instead save them to my Drive so I can access them digitally.  This appeals to me on several levels.
We LOVE streaming music online.  This was one of Matt's primary motivations  for getting a smartphone actually.  I love all the musical options.  We stream NPR, Spotify, the Internet Archive, Youtube, and Freegal.  We balk at paying for a monthly subscription though and so we are subjected to advertisements in our home in a way that is new--and unloved.  The Internet Archive and Freegal are ad-free though and that's swell.  Matt would basically always choose Archive and listen to an entire concert recording so the ads thing is really more of a bummer on my end.  I've gotten pretty fast at turning the volume down during the commercial breaks though.  Maybe I'll ask my family to pitch in on a Spotify subscription for my birthday or Christmas or something though.  That would be a gift that keeps on giving all the year long.  Speaking of Christmas, I had a jolly good time streaming non-stop Christmas music for the month of December.  It was a much wider range of Christmas tunes than I usually jam on the record player.
I like the camera.  It takes perfectly acceptable photographs for my purposes nearly all of the time.  The exception is for relatively small objects at a distance such as when we're out birdwatching or that time there was the 5x5 mule deer buck in the neighbor's yard.  The photos in instances like that are only okay.  Rather, they might look great on a 5 inch screen, but less so on a larger scale like my 17 inch computer monitor.  At that scale it becomes clear that they're lackluster compared with those from my pocket-sized Canon.  The convenience factor might outweigh that though.  I sure like being able to share pictures with my friends and family in just a couple clicks or swipes.  I also am rather taken with the ease of creating panoramic pictures.  Matt is quite taken with creating slow-motion videos.  I still don't love selfies, but am glad to be able to more easily take pictures of Matt and me together...otherwise it is basically photos of Matt and one just has to assume I was there.
I don't like notifications.  The little red icons make me feel like I need to check them and nine times out of ten they were not at all important to me.   I do not need Youtube telling me there is a new video I might enjoy watching or Redbox telling me about a deal for rentals over the weekend. So I turned them off with just two exceptions and am very happy with that.
I don't like that people assume I am always reachable now.  I almost immediately noticed a difference there.  Back when we had just a home phone and no internet people knew they just had to wait until we got back to them.  They didn't expect a lightning fast response.  Now they do--at least some of them.  I've had a couple people tell me they were worried because I didn't reply the same day...which just strikes me as silly.  I don't carry the phone every day and I don't run to it every five minutes.  It is a useful tool, but I don't desire hyperconnectivity.  I loved every minute we were in Death Valley were there was essentially no cell service.  I like being disconnected just as much as I like being connected.  Like all things, it is all about balance, I think.
I don't like that way it can short-circuit my brain.  Example:  I pick up the phone to check my Fitbit steps for the day and then Matt asks me a question and so I decide to just Google it real quick and then I see that I have a message from Hannah... and then I have to stop and scratch my head about what it was that made me pick up the phone in the first place.  "Oh, right!  It was the Fitbit."  This would be a con to having such a multipurpose device.
I like having a GPS to help guide me through unfamiliar towns.  It was incredibly useful when we went to Arizona in October and California in January.  We still had actual maps along though, too, as a backup.
I like being able to look things up and to satisfy my curiosity immediately.  I was always looking things up, of course, because I am a curious person and a life-long learner.  Previously though I had to make notes to myself to remember to do it on my break at work or when we visited Matt's family.  These things can range from "What year did the last Harry Potter come out?" to "Does my boss have tomorrow off?" or "What time does the concert start on Friday?" to "Are there any vegan ice cream shops in Phoenix?" It is grand not to have to wait, more so for the planning items than the points of curiosity.  That said, I find research much more challenging on a tiny screen with mobile versions of the websites I am oh so familiar with in the standard web version.  Sometimes I still have to wait to get to a real computer to accomplish my goals.
I like getting random silly texts from my Dad.  I knew he texted my sisters periodically, but I didn't realize all I was missing out on!  From the Real Deal Santa sightings at Christmas to home improvement projects he's embarking on I interact more with my dad now that we can text.  We live hours apart.  Neither of us are much for long phone conversations.  He's not a tremendously active Facebooker.  But he texts and I am glad to be on the receiving end now, too.
I still don't appreciate the Just-Call-When-You-Get-Here philosophy so common in the cellphone era.  I prefer to coordinate plans and get directions and such in advance.  This is probably in large part because I am not attached to our phoneputer at the hip and don't want to be.  I'd rather just have all the info and go about my day than try to coordinate things on the fly.   That said I could easily put this in the other category because I like being able to work within the framework of my rather spontaneous (occasionally bordering on flaky) peer group.  We get more invites to have an impromptu game night or to meet up at the brewery, say.  I like seeing my friends more, even if I do prefer to arrange thing in advance.  I can adapt to this MO.
I don't like the phone interrupting my Matt-and-Beth time.  That was more a pattern of use which we had to establish than anything else, like not having it on the dinner table or in the room after work when we're catching up about our day.  Getting rid of notifications helped considerably.  We don't get loads of actual phone calls (hence my calling it the Phoneputer) so it was more pings and bing-bongs from app notifications and texts, etc.  We've learned to ignore the phone if need be though.  The texts, emails, messages...they can wait.  I am the boss.  It is the tool...but in the first week or two I could easily see how the roles could reverse if unchecked.
Photos from a super fabulous Luau Brunch at Kelly's last month.  Kelly had fun with the decorations and props (hello, sea shells and coconut bras!) and Matt had fun with all the tropical fruit (hello, dragon fruit and kumquats!).  The rest of us just had fun eating and dancing and doing coconut shell bikini chest bumps.  Ha!  Good times!
I could probably go on, but yeah, more likes than dislikes.  Hopefully that is how I feel about this new blog format, too.  It is quite different, but with any luck will have more pros than cons once I've settled into it.  If you, as you're reading this, have any strong opinions on the new layout please chime in.