rebeccmeister: (cricket)
Busy day. I gave a talk at lab meeting at noon, so I spent the morning scrambling to pull together data and analyses from multiple ongoing projects. We had an extended lab meeting so that a visiting scientist could also tell us about her work studying lipid biosynthesis in parasitoids. Parasitoids are insects that lay their eggs inside of other insects, eventually killing their hosts. Apparently there are multiple cases where different parasitoid species have completely shut off the biochemical pathways for lipid biosynthesis. This is pretty crazy if you consider that the pathways for lipid biosynthesis are broadly conserved across animals. Investigations as to why and how are ongoing.

After that, Monday cricket care duties, with help from a new undergrad, which basically means everything takes the same amount of time or slightly longer while I explain everything.

I have a late-night timepoint tonight, and then I'll sleep on the lab couch so I can remove food from more crickets tomorrow morning at 8 am, for the 11 am timepoint tomorrow.

At least I got the full 5 long-winged crickets with pink flight muscle, unlike on Friday when only 3 out of 14 crickets still had pink flight muscle.

So anyway, that's why I'm on eBay, doing a search for "vintage Tupperware." Apparently one of the containers that I have is actually an "ice cream keeper." We've been using it for various cheeses, but I don't like doing that because the plastic sides aren't completely smooth, so cheese gets smeared in the cracks and the whole thing gets moldy quickly. Maybe it's for people who still buy ice cream in those box cartons, so the leftover ice cream doesn't get horribly freezer-burned?

It does sound like the Tupperware cheese-keepers will hold a full 2-pound block of Tillamook, but then we would want something else for the other miscellaneous cheeses. Fridge space is at a premium in this house.

And maybe I should consider getting more of the 16-ounce square containers for freezer storage. [personal profile] scrottie and I both hate it when sacks of food slip out and fall onto the floor.

And on the third hand, too.much.stuff.
rebeccmeister: (1x)
Do you ever have one of those holidays where you have ten minutes of quiet time at home after doing a bunch of boring chores at home, and then you open up social media and see the inundation of photos of people doing all sorts of cool, interesting things, and start to wonder what you're doing with your life?

I still don't entirely understand some of these human tendencies. I mean, I share them, too: [personal profile] scrottie and I had a fun mini-adventure on Sunday morning, and I took a whole bunch of photos (okay, 35 total), and I want to blog about the adventure and share my photos with you. I suppose it's just some level of classic FOMO ("Fear of Missing Out"), and the general remedy is to close social media and go outside into the garden.

And I was utterly delighted not too long ago when my father shared a couple of photos on Facebook, which is something he rarely does. [But that was because he created his own version of the Project Worm Bin photos to demonstrate that his freshly constructed worm bin was adequate for the job, and his photo was equally hilarious].

So maybe it also has to do with the balance between one's own personal narrative and listening to the narratives of others.


So. Sunday morning, [personal profile] scrottie and I got up early so we could try and make it over to Cal Sailing and off the dock in time for a special event, Breakfast on the Shoal. By way of background story: before the Bayside Freeway was constructed (I-580), the whole south sailing basin was much larger, and Berkeley Aquatic Park didn't exist. The substrate in that portion of the Bay is all silty, mucky mud, as one would expect at the end of a river outflow. Mud isn't a very stable foundation for building freeways, so according to the story one of the sailors told us, the freeway construction crew built a large pipeline to cart sand over from Treasure Island and fill in the land for the freeway. Apparently, at some point they discovered that they were putting a lot more sand into the pipe than they were getting out at the other end because there was a big leak in the pipe. And thus the Shoal was born.

It's only exposed during very low low tide, so the Breakfast on the Shoal was carefully timed to coincide with a morning low tide. During those same low low tides, the area near the launching docks for Cal Sailing is very shallow and muddy, so there's an added challenge of getting the timing right in order to get the sailboats out without having them get stuck in the mud.

Prior to the Breakfast, [personal profile] scrottie fretted a bit about the boating logistics: we would need to arrive early if we wanted to get out in a sailboat. Otherwise, in theory there are a couple of kayaks at Cal Sailing, but reservations and priorities hadn't been declared.

Fortunately, we managed to get up early enough to get our own dinghy launched in time, and managed to scoot out of the shallow mud with the centerboard up and the rudder barely in the water. From there, it was a bit of a slog out to the shoal because we were up against a headwind, but we managed to be the first to land.

The rest of the story is best told through the photo album.


In other weekend news, on Saturday [personal profile] slydevil and [personal profile] sytharin acquired two new chickens, Matilda and Bianca. They formerly belonged to a bike shop mechanic who accidentally wound up with too many backyard chickens (~30). From the looks of things, it's going to take a little while for all of the chickens to get adjusted to the new arrangement, but that's to be expected with chickens. Matilda and Carlotta are working on establishing a new pecking order, and meanwhile Bianca is trying to show up Patricia with respect to chicken Houdini skills. Yesterday morning, Bianca managed to get up onto the workshop roof, and then flew over into the neighbor's yard. Fortunately, the neighbor's dogs weren't out. After Bianca pulled a second escape maneuver, I helped L clip her primary flight feathers on one wing. It will be nice to be back to four birds.

I also finished a second bike spat, so now all I need is a rainstorm to test out my handiwork. If I wind up revisiting the design, I think I am going to model the shape more closely after the shape of the 'quarter' on laced shoes. In the meantime, the next sewing projects in the hopper are a new lunchbox, and pants.

In the garden: it's going to be a good year for rhubarb, which makes it even sadder that the rats are eating ALL the strawberries. Jerks. I did finally find strawberries at Monterey Market that are good, thankfully. They aren't cheap but they're worth the price. I appreciate that Monterey Market seeks out some smaller-scale farm operations to bring in really good and fresh produce for the masses.

I think I am now finished, for the time being, with acquiring new plants. The other day, [personal profile] coinneachf blogged about that familiar experience where one gets a Thing (in his case, motorcycle), gets it all fitted out and nice, and then is suddenly back in the realm of looking at more, shiny, newer Thing. It's a familiar sensation: bicyclists call it the "n plus one" problem, and for a little while there I was smugly thinking I'd managed to manage that impulse. Silly me. But yesterday, I found myself back at the twee, expensive plant shop (Flowerland), staring at ferns and plant pots, and realized I'd just transferred over to a different category of Thing. Ha!

But now for ornamentals I have four types of ferns and a spider plant, and a string of pearls succulent to go with the other succulents I've been accumulating in the lab. It's all more than enough to make up for all of the houseplants that froze to death when I moved from Texas to Nebraska. So it is time to say Enough and focus on cultivating what I have.
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
Friday morning, I rented a 10-foot box truck from Doherty's, the only vehicle rental place I've ever actively liked. Then [ profile] scrottie and I made the drive out to Stockton.

When we got there, right around 10 am, there was a sign on the door of the storage facility office saying the office was closed but would reopen at 11 am.

At 11 am, the office manager returned, and we went over to my unit. There was a moment where she seemed very surprised and confused and said, "This isn't the right unit."

"But it's my unit, I'm positive."

"Well, that isn't our lock."

So I tried my key, and it was my original lock, and everything was still inside, untouched. As best as the manager could figure, the person who observed the unit missing its lock must have written down the incorrect unit number when they called me. She said it wasn't uncommon for people to just leave their units unlocked at that facility, and also said they hadn't had any break-ins in the time since she'd started working there, or in the 8 years prior when another person had overseen the facility.

The irritation at a false alarm is trivial compared to the emotional upheaval of dealing with a break-in and theft.

Given that we were out there with a 10-foot truck, I decided to go ahead and close out the unit anyway. S and I then spent the rest of the day visiting his storage units and consolidating stuff.

After his unit was broken into in Albany, he got a separate unit in Richmond, which cost the same as the Albany unit but is larger, climate-controlled, and seems more secure (though it's impossible to know, really). My stuff easily fit in with his. It was good to revisit it all, too, for the sake of remembering that I like my stuff and want to keep it so as to have furnishings for whatever my next living arrangement is. None of it is fancy, but it's all made of real, solid wood, and it's enough to furnish a small apartment.

And now I never have to drive out to Stockton again.
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
So last weekend, [ profile] scrottie and I took the train up to Seattle. Our visit had two three main goals ("fear, surprise, and a ruthless efficiency!...and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope!"):

-Go skiing
-Visit [ profile] annikusrex and enjoy some primo baby-viewing
-Haul the rest of my belongings and a couple of [ profile] sytharin's things back to California

Oh, also visiting my parents. I keep getting confused about the proper terminology for this, but during our visit my dad was at the low point following his second 5-FU infusion during this set of chemotherapy treatments for his now-chronic liver cancer. Even though he was tired, he managed to share a story with us about a childhood experience with the Madison River ice gorge, and even managed to finish his Saturday chore routine (albeit on Sunday). A short but sweet chance to check in with him and my mom.

Anyway, skiing was successful, to judge by S's grin here:
The look of a happy skier

And also I did not die and I might even consider going downhill skiing again sometime in the future.

Baby-viewing was also successful, and especially satisfying given that F just now fits into the chicken hat that had arrived when I visited last October, 2 days before he got ejected from the womb.
The chicken hat now fits
(of course, my smart-o-phone photography still leaves much to be desired. sigh)

Stuff-hauling was mostly* successful. I only had around 6-7 boxes of things left at my parents' house, which isn't a huge amount, and yet on our last visit it was clear that my parents would appreciate the extra free space and peace of mind. My mom has been one of the ringleaders for clearing out stuff from both my great-grandma's house and my grandpa's house and barn, so she's no stranger to dealing with other people's stuff. But to me that also suggests that she's extra appreciative when other people take the initiative to tackle stuff management.

Some items went straight to the Goodwill pile, after a brief farewell:
Childhood relics
I don't know if anyone really wants ratty old stuffed animals or the velvety shawl, but at least Goodwill knows what to do with them?

Including three t-shirts kept for purely sentimental reasons:
Original rowing kit
Size XXL from my Freshman year of high school, yeesh

Oscar Romero t-shirt from El Salvador, 1994
A favorite shirt from my trip to El Salvador in high school

FMLN t-shirt from El Salvador, 1994
Shirt for the main political party leading the resistance to the Salvadoran government during the Salvadoran Civil War - Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front

I dispatched some old, bad art from college as well. This painting was the least-worst item:
College painting class

...And then we loaded the rest into the back of a rental car and drove it back to California.

So, now what? I think that, for the next phase of things, Project-Land will have two fronts. One front will involve continuing to go through those six or so boxes and deciding what to keep and what to move along. I suspect that, for instance, I will get rid of the Girl Scout manuals, because I didn't quite like Girl Scouts anyway and mostly kept the manuals as evidence for why. I also discovered that the worst object out of the lot, a neon light shaped like an abstract rowing shell, has burned out, and so now I'm free to dispose of it according to local disposal guidelines. Hallelujah and whew. I am still scratching my head over what I will do with the fine china from my grandma that was rarely/never used. We will potentially take it out for an Extreme Picnic.

The second front for Project-Land is the acquisition and creation of new objects. At the moment, I have slightly too many ideas and ambitions, but really that's my default mode. I need to read and learn more about quilting options other than hand-quilting. I'm also getting ready to start knitting something again (a hat, specifically). And there are a half-dozen things I want to make/sew. It has been helpful to look back on all of the older objects, while thinking about future ones, for the sake of deciding to put time and care into planning for the future items.

*Unsuccessful part: [ profile] sytharin had asked us to bring down two of her sculptures, plus her scythe. I remembered the scythe, but didn't remember the sculptures until we had already driven all the way to Portland. Sigh.
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
If you ever go to the Nordic Heritage Museum in Ballard, you'll find that a good portion of the main floor is devoted to helping you understand the Scandinavian immigrant's experience, from leaving Europe to arriving in the US and finding a new livelihood.

I was struck by the size of the small trunk that could be carried on those trans-oceanic voyages. Packing one's valuables for both everyday living and for the sake of remembering one's heritage was probably challenging in many cases, resulting in a lot of cherished things left behind.

On my Mom's side of the family, it was the great-grandparents that emigrated to the U.S. My Grandpa and Grandma, then, grew up as Americans, as part of the generation that experienced the Great Depression during a pivotal part of their lives. I think this deeply affected their relationships with material goods, in a way that has continued to impact subsequent generations.

It isn't just a simple hoarding tendency. Instead, I think my grandparents just didn't really know how to manage the whole process of inputs, care for possessions, and letting go. This was visible in the number of broken implements and tools that accumulated in my grandpa's barn.

My Mom, in contrast, has had much less space to work with, and so she's done a better job of figuring out the whole life-long project of stuff management. When I was a kid, the scheme was fairly simple because she was generally overwhelmed by life: if we didn't want something anymore, we added it to a big pile in the basement. Periodically, the basement pile would be dealt with: things that could be donated were donated, other things were sorted and gradually moved along.

I think about these things a lot during the holiday season. I want to be a conscientious gift-giver and not add to other peoples' stuff-management chores.

Last year, [ profile] scrottie and I shipped out a whole bunch of packages very shortly before Christmas, only a couple of weeks after I'd moved to Berkeley. It was a real scramble to pull together enough boxes and packing material for the project, and I remember receiving packages and then turning right back around and repacking the boxes to send things out. I also found that there's also one thing that's worse than dealing with a whole bunch of packaging, and that's reaching a stage where one has to go out and actually PAY MONEY for packing material.

This year, thankfully, we managed to stockpile enough supplies (but not too much!) to make the whole box-packing stage more straightforward and less overwhelming. I had also accumulated just about the right amount of tissue paper, and it was satisfying to send it back out into the world again. I'm a big proponent of reusable gift-wrap.

I still wound up paying money for some small boxes, at one stage, because I just don't have the time to make my own. Ah well.
rebeccmeister: (1x)
General miscellanea:

I am making progress on the leafcutter manuscript. I go through these terrible emotional cycles, where one day I am ready to just quit in disgust, but the next day I revisit what I was working on and think, "Ehh, there's some good material here" and manage to keep moving forward.

Of course, there are two other looming agenda items this week, so we'll see how far I can item is job applications. For some context, I've applied for four jobs so far. I have 14 more job ads that I need to look through and decide on. That doesn't include another 10 ads where I have already decided not to apply for various reasons. This *is* a full-time job.

The other item is the circadian experiment is starting to pick back up again, although this week is slow because cricket-rearing logistics got away from me towards the end of August. I grasped the reigns firmly after that incident because we cannot afford to have these kinds of gaps.

Regardless, I got to spend most of the weekend doing productive stuff, which felt so, so good. M and I went rowing on Saturday morning, and had a good row. When we got off the water, S was there and we got caught up on various boat happenings and logistics. The blue Hudson is out of commission while a hole gets repaired, but that's good in the long run.

Then I went home and made more salsa fresca, and got a couple items packaged up and ready to ship. On Sunday, I swept all the floors, glued a chair back together, and got to catch up with my friend and Scrabble buddy, SK. Oh, and got most of the supplies I need to re-pot the vanilla bean orchid.

Things I still want to get to:

1. My pants situation is getting dire. Socks, too.
2. Update my finances.
3. Find a dentist and make a dentist appointment.
4. Try to go back to a more professional hairstyle.
5. Re-pot the orchid.
6. Make some biscotti.
7. Assemble and send another package to another person.
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
One of the things that [ profile] scrottie and I didn't quite get to was updating our projects, chores, and fun activities lists.

We keep a lot of lists. But it seems to work pretty well to do so.

I think I'm actually due for a trip to slouch in a coffeeshop for this very reason - such thinkspaces tend to be the best places for me to think through who I am, where I am, and what I want to be doing.

Top of the lists:
-Travel. We need to make travel plans for RAGBRAI at the end of July, and also think about getting in more long bike rides to get ready. I also need to figure out how to work in visits with my parents and Riverside sibling over the remainder of the year. In the very least I should go up to a Seattle-area head race sometime around the end of October / beginning of November, methinks.

-Pants. Two pairs are on the mending pile, three pairs are about to meet their maker (including one on the mending pile), one pair is really only good for mucking around, and the other day I discovered that the last pair looks like it also has some sulfuric acid holes in it.

-Art: I want to finish the cat quilt but I don't seem to sit down for long enough while at home.

-Also art: I want to work on some insect art projects - mostly drawings.

-Plants: I bought a tiny fern at Berkeley Horticulture yesterday. I need to repot it and also some succulent babies from the yard so I have more pretty houseplants around.

-Furniture: I should work on refinishing the sewing machine table so as to help keep space clear in the workshop.

-Rowing: I have a big pile of miscellaneous rowing-related resources sitting on the desk, which need to get organized and put into binders. I should also put together a more defined training program.

-Gopher. There's a gopher in the backyard. It likes to gnaw on the roots of the artichoke plant, and it has pulled multiple tomato plants underground. S spent Saturday digging around to figure out its tunnel network and apply gopher repellant while RAC constructed root cages for some replacement tomato plants.
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
(I have got to get a better song stuck in my head!)

[ profile] scrottie has returned! As he has put it, this is the third time that Princess TinyCar has gotten a ride in the back of a moving truck. He managed to avoid outbound traffic in Phoenix, and inbound traffic in the Bay Area, by driving in the middle of the night, but not traffic around Los Angeles. Also, what is up with the terrible freeway pavement quality in the Bay Area, anyway?

Regardless, now that he's here, it's time for another round of Fitting Too Much Stuff Into Small Spaces, wahoo! Most of his belongings are headed for a nearby storage unit, but of course a person needs some room for day-to-day personal possessions, too. So I am going to pull the sewing machine out of its cabinet and will stick it on my desk while I refinish the cabinet. I don't know where it will live after that.

Under certain conditions, I would embrace the mantra of "adding more storage space will just encourage the accumulation of more junk." However, under the present circumstances, I think we're justified in adding just a bit more storage space in order to try and make the existing space more functional. Once I've had a chance to save up some more funds, I'm eyeing a futon bed frame that has space underneath for a couple of drawers, kind of like the bed/trundle bed combo that my brother and sister used as kids. What we need is the ability to access and use stuff, which in the long run will actually contribute to ensuring we have a good "stuff" ratio going.

Meanwhile, I bit the bullet and got two more folding-stackable bookcases to upgrade the Gorm to something that will do a better job of holding books and related items.

I'm going to have to keep working on management of the stuff in the closet, too. Those boxes of academic papers in particular still need to be dealt with. That's probably going to call for a good scanner.

My stuff, it owns me.
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
It seems fitting, after my prior post, to blog about stuff in a more concrete form. In particular, I've been puzzling over something for the past month or two. When I moved from Lincoln, I got rid of my twin-size bed, which was over 10 years old and starting that gradual decline that spring mattresses experience. Instead, I've been sleeping on a queen-size roll-up futon. The futon doesn't provide quite enough cushion, so I have stuck a foam camp pad underneath it, but I would kind of like something more substantial than that that would promote better airflow. I've actually been vaguely wanting to upgrade to a queen-size bed for several years now. I think I could make things work pretty well if I continue down the futon route, by adding in a pair of tatmi mats and a bedframe. Two advantages of a bedframe would include a headboard and better organization around/under the bed.

But bedframes and tatmi mats aren't especially cheap. For the last couple of months, I've been keeping an eye on how much money I have left over at the end of the month, figuring that if the amount is sufficient, I'll just go for it. For some reason, it has taken me a ridiculously long time to have an alternative epiphany, which is that instead I should save up for these things using the same strategy I've used to save up for other purchases at this order of magnitude. Namely, use my savings account for it. It used to be that any money I put in savings was divided in quarters, one-quarter going towards Sallie Mae student loans, one-quarter to loans from my parents, one-quarter for long-term savings, and one-quarter towards things like the erg or shiny bicycles. I've also used this pool of money to cover moving expenses and big, fancy trips. Now that student loans are all paid off, things are weighted more heavily towards long-term savings, but overall the system still stands as a nice way to incrementally gather funds for larger purchases. Plus, I won't feel so guilty about immediate spending if I am simultaneously saving money.

So, back at it.


This week I have been doing some exploring of the hills in this area. On Wednesday, I biked over to the El Cerrito recycling center to drop off some books and three pairs of blown-out jeans. There are two ways to get to the recycling center. The easy route follows the Ohlone Greenway, then gradually climbs up Schmidt Lane to the lovely little spot where the recycling center is nestled in among the Hillside Natural Area. The other route involved riding towards the El Cerrito pool and then up Moeser Lane (steep) and onto Navelier St (steepish). Those who put in the work are rewarded with a nice view:


The hill of El Cerrito is on the left, and you can barely make it out in the photo (large size), but the Golden Gate Bridge is off in the distance on the right.

I continued my hill-climbing explorations yesterday evening on my way home from work. In the morning, I made it in to campus in time for a 6 am task, but then I couldn't motivate myself to go from campus to the boathouse, because apparently trying to motivate for TWO things early in the morning is too much. So instead it was time to check out Spruce Street, as recommended by [ profile] sytharin, as a good commuting-workout route home.

She wasn't wrong - that was a good hill climb! The climbing takes a good 20 minutes or so and I was glad to have good gearing on the Jolly Roger. The descent was where things got more interesting. The top of the climb is basically at Summit Reservoir, which is also near the entrance to Tilden Park and some other fun-looking roads for longer rides. From there, I had to pull out my smart-o-phone a couple of times to sort out her suggestions for how to wind my way back over towards the Sunset View Cemetary and home.

I was heading down Beloit Ave, having missed a right turn on Purdue, when I decided I should pull over and check again. As I went to turn right on Trinity Ave, I crossed a tiny trickle of water in a ditch, lost control, and felt the bike skid out from under me. Ka-WHAM I landed on my side. Fortunately I wasn't going too fast, so I just have some gross road rash to show for it all.


It stings, but it scabbed over well and didn't ooze in the way I was worried it would.

And so I was able to get back on the Jolly Roger this morning for our usual weekly expedition to a coffeeshop, this time to Algorithm Coffee in Berkeley:

Algorithm Coffee

Exceedingly hipster-esque, and no official bike parking, but the best latte I've had so far in this area, and delicious pastries to boot.


Mar. 31st, 2016 09:38 am
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
A couple of nights ago, I reached a chapter in Thinking, Fast and Slow where Kahneman talks a bit about his involvement in the beginnings of the field of behavioral economics, which involved some work with Richard Thaler in addition to his ongoing collaboration with Amos Tversky. As Kahneman put it, Thaler had been collecting examples of instances where people's economic behavior was irrational, as a study of where neo-classical economic ideas failed.

The example listed in the book was about an economics professor in Thaler's department who collected nice bottles of wine. This professor would never pay more than $35 for a bottle, and then at the same time he would be extremely reluctant to part with a bottle for anything less than $100. What could explain this huge gap between his buying and selling prices? Long story short, after a series of experiments to try and puzzle out what's going on, this phenomenon got labeled the endowment effect. In short, humans tend to assign more value to objects when they own them.

So then, yesterday, I squandered spent a bunch of time reading articles from a special issue of the journal Nature about The Circular Economy. This is something that I tend to think about often, in an abstract sense, in relation to how I exist as a human being on this planet, because I find it more aesthetically pleasing to perceive myself as a participant in a series of cycles rather than as a consumption machine.

[I will point out that this is an idealized perspective, however, because there are a number of large-scale biological/biogeochemical/astronomical processes that we humans can't experience as cycles. The one that sticks out for me is phosphorus, which becomes available through weathering or mining, and gradually travels out to the oceans, where it eventually sinks to levels where it's basically inaccessible to living things. That said, there are many places where there are untapped opportunities to slow the rate of linear processes, and we humans need to keep working on them.]

One of the articles, in the Books and Arts section, talks about the history of the circular economy concept and recent revivals in things like the cradle-to-cradle design movement. Frankly, I've always found this notion a little too high-level and abstract. The historical piece also points out some problems with this perspective. Here's the paragraph of interest:

There are problems, too, with the circular model itself. Martin Charter, director of the Centre for Sustainable Design at the University for the Creative Arts in Farnham, UK, notes a “lack of overall clarity over the concept. Perhaps just 100 companies worldwide have adopted a true circularity mindset as a core strategy.” As for the circular mantra of switching to the digital, data centres waste an average of 90% of the energy that they consume (30 billion watts, equivalent to the output of 30 nuclear power plants) and account for 17% of technology's carbon footprint. Although the circular 'business case' looks remarkable (global management consultants McKinsey and Company estimate that it could add US$2.6 trillion to the European economy by 2030), the fact that business remains central to the vision is a vulnerability. The growth economy impedes sustainability. In 2014, for instance, Chevron and a number of other big oil companies retreated from investments in renewables because of poor returns. Business competitiveness and 'disruption' can hinder the collaboration that is central to eco-design. UK design engineer Chris Wise has noted that the practice of using 'least materials' is at odds with the construction industry's prime aim of selling more materials (C. Wise et al. Nature 494, 172–175; 2013). The 'rebound effect', in which designed efficiency leads to greater use or consumption, is a related conundrum.

Another article, however, takes a different angle on things. Entitled "Make recycled goods covetable," it comes back to some key points about ownership and materialism, and the aspects of human psychology that humans have to grapple with if we are to do a better job of managing the rate and nature of flow of material goods. It begins, "Humans are unique in the animal kingdom in their capacity for materialism. We make, use and trade objects for their symbolic value as much as their functionality," and carries on from there. The crux of the argument is that human biases towards valuing exclusivity and authenticity undermine principles of recycling and reuse. I think you can probably see how this whole line of reasoning might also be related to the endowment effect, described at the beginning.

But for me, these lines of thinking caused a big flashback to the Alien She exhibit at the Portland Museum of Contemporary Craft, in particular to the display of handbags from the Counterfeit Crochet Project. The Nature feature also includes a piece on a related phenomenon, the growing popularity of Repair Cafes.

I bring these things up because I have to wonder about how humans value and relate to handmade items compared to designed/manufactured goods. Contemporary life calls for a mixture of the two types, but I have this feeling that general aesthetic satisfaction would be higher and waste production would be lower if peoples' priorities shifted towards the handmade. This is one way of achieving the "exclusivity and authenticity" outlined in the article on making recycled goods covetable.

The other way is hinted at in the Japanese art of Kintsugi, a thing which keeps popping up for me as an "Oh, that's clever!" thing on social media. The act of working to repair an object, whether the repair involves gold dust or otherwise, changes one's relationship with that object.

I have this sense that I might be wired to respond more strongly to these things than many people, just based on my creative impulses (and most definitely my upbringing! Especially my mother's wonderful influence). But I also think these are aesthetic qualities that can be drawn out of other people, too, under the right circumstances. There is great satisfaction to be derived from creation and repair, as well as from ownership of well-made and unique items.

Interestingly, the article on reuse notes that the endowment effect appears to be stronger in individualistic societies where there are more rather than fewer possessions, suggesting that possessiveness may be driven by gaps between those who have and those who have-not. Thus the endowment effect is enhanced when there's hightened awareness of inequality in individualistic societies. The author thus suggests that, for economic harmony, ignorance and/or greater equality are important factors to consider.

While I find some of the extremes of minimalism to be unrealistic and silly (Guy Who Owns Five Things!!), I do find reasons for hope in the movement, as in the DIY movement in the US and the raging popularity of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. They are signs of cultural changes in how people relate to their stuff and what's important in this whole experience of life.


Jan. 27th, 2016 12:14 pm
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
I took my Doc Martens in to a shoe repair shop this morning because the elastic on the second shoe has broken and needs to be replaced. Some of the first sites that came up in a web search for shoe repair shops were links to Yelp reviews, so I figured, what the heck, I'll get an opinion or two. The first prospective shop was located near the stationery store, but reviews were pretty consistently negative, about things done to shoes that weren't in line with what was requested. The second place had a mixture of positive and negative reviews, but most of the negativity referred to the eccentricities of the owner and not the quality of the work. So, okay, that sounds interesting enough, and I want the job done correctly.

It turns out that the gentleman running the shop is British. I guess maybe many people don't realize that the delivery of insults can be a cultural and stylistic thing. I found the guy suitably entertaining and informative, and willing to work on my poor old Doc Martens. Those shoes are probably around 20 years old by now.

He tells me my best bet for cycling is to just get some cheap, throwaway tennis shoes, and then change my footwear when I arrive at work. He also said to look for shoes that have a metal shank, if I really want something that will work well and last a long time.
rebeccmeister: (1x)
Saturday morning, I got up, had breakfast, and, just as the rain started to lift, rode over to the boathouse to meet up with another rower and go for a row. He showed up just to let me know that he'd come down with a chest cold that week, but didn't have my phone number to cancel. I've been swapping phone numbers with other rowers left and right.

That was fine, though. I just took out the Maas 1x instead and had fun trying to work on the same technique items from Thursday, only this time on my own, in a crosswind. My ability to stay focused in the single is terrible, and so is my form. But I got out there and got in three laps (9 km). I think I will benefit from more strength training, which will be my focus for Monday morning.

I got off the water with enough time to ride home, shower, and then take the BART over to the Berkeley farmer's market to meet up with a couple of friends from Arizona that I haven't seen in 6 years. It was *so good* to see them - our visit brought back many, many fond memories. For instance, L helped me come up with a reason to start visiting Bike Saviours: we refurbished a Jazz Voltage together that she and A kept as a spare bike, back in the days when Bike Saviours was in someone's backyard and it was dark, hot, and full of mosquitoes. We also have a history of making delicious things together, like chocolates:

L frosts some sandwich cookies

...or that one time we made a "fungus cake" based off of a leafcutter ant colony (can't find any photos at the moment, arg!). We've hatched a plan to continue with our ridiculous cake-baking soon. *evil cackles*

Then I spent some quality time with the Jolly Roger, trying to figure out why shifting has been dodgy. Replacing the shifter cable helped (note to self: need to get more shifter cables, again), but things still aren't quite right, even after playing around with limit screws. Then I bopped over to Monterey Market for a few groceries just as they were closing up for the evening, and the rest of Saturday evening was pretty quiet.

This morning, I enjoyed a few luxurious moments of just lying in bed, thinking, not in a rush to be up and at 'em. After some breakfast and coffee, though, it was time. Full Helga mode. I did a bunch of reorganizing in the workshop, largely to get my stuff as out of the way as possible, then swept the whole house and back porch. Then I finally finished the project of installing bike hooks in the bike garage*. With that complete, I baked muffins for the week, and then cooked both some peanut-topped greens and an underwhelming pasta dish with leeks and cauliflower.

I feel like I still have a ways to go in terms of getting things how I want them in my room. On Friday I ordered a folding bookshelf, which I am hoping will provide the right sort of space so I can finally unbox the boxes of books stacked on the Gorm (they will need either bookends or real bookshelf space). CDs still need to be organized, too. I am concluding that I just don't like the aesthetics of an all-digital music organizing system.

*I think we are all feeling lukewarm about the outcome of this project. Five bikes is just too many bikes for the space, and Syth had said as much from the get-go. She's probably right about hanging one from the ceiling in the workshop, but that's going to take a bit more time and planning.
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
Yesterday afternoon after an existential moment I went on an expedition to Target. I could swear that I have seen my favorite pens, the "Pilot V-Ball Extra Fine," somewhere around here, so the trip was partly motivated by the hunt. Plus there are a half-dozen other things that it seemed like I should be able to find at Target.

Target didn't have the pens. Also, it smells weird and bad in there (to me), probably due to the mixture of cleaning products and perfumed items they sell. Or is it formaldehyde and VOC's from the furniture? I dunno. By the time I finished having a look around for a couple of the other things I'd hoped to find there, I was so annoyed with the experience that I put back the roll of packing tape and my shopping basket and just walked out.

About a block away from Target, there's an Ace Hardware and a big Goodwill. The last time I visited that Goodwill with [ profile] scrottie, it also smelled bad. Horrible, actually. Some sort of crazy perfume explosion had happened in the middle of the store. That time I just held my breath and pinched my nose and dove in to extract out a turkey roasting pan while S sat out front (for roasting cat litter - works great!).

Fortunately, by this trip the perfume stench had dissipated. On top of that, I magically found not one, but two of one of the things I'd been looking for, a storage box for sewing notions:


Sure, they're very plastic and a bit worn, but also super cheap and perfect for my purposes. I bought the green one for $2, and now all my sewing stuff is organized, consolidated, and easily accessible (but also easily put away). It was amusing to have to choose. Then I walked over to the Ace Hardware and bought some packing tape, and went home.

Teh internets suggests that Menards might carry the pens I seek. It might be appropriate to make an expedition there as a Midwestern cultural experience anyway.
rebeccmeister: (Acromyrmex)
I am finally facing down the boxes of academic papers. This is going to be an iterative project. The thing is, it's hard to visit those tactile memories and make decisions about them. I'd like to believe I can at least recall all of the journal articles I've read, but honestly, I can't. Far from it. In these early stages, I am simply getting rid of articles where I know I'll have a good chance of tracking them down again if they become relevant again, or where I just don't think they're going to be relevant again. This is taking care of about three-quarters of the papers, which should mean I can go from four boxes to approximately two, because at least two of the boxes consist of papers organized in stacks according to relevant subject matter. I am also keeping almost all papers that aren't easily digitally accessible. Eventually I hope to track down a fast pdf scanner to convert them. Academic libraries often have them. Also, in case you have ever wondered, don't get coroplast file boxes. They might seem better than cardboard, but they're terrible - flimsy and fall apart.

In the non-academic department, I need to think about how I want to handle financial paperwork, too. I still have every pay stub from graduate school, every credit card statement and bank statement and cell phone bill, all filed in file folders. I have a storage box (sweater-size) full of every single receipt for every single thing I've purchased over the last 5-6 years. Who is ever going to look at these things? An anthropologist, someday? I guess they're kind of like the story I heard on This American Life about a book some psychologist wrote that documented every single move made by a ten-year-old boy over the course of a week. A monumental wasted effort. The critical files all fit into one of those plastic file totes, so maybe the rest of the financial paperwork will go into a storage box and eventually get tossed when I tire of schlepping it from place to place.

A dream last night helped me partly understand why my mood has been pretty foul since last Friday. I dreamed I was attempting to walk a brevet. You know, because cycling one isn't a big enough challenge. The dream didn't end well because somehow it transformed into the recurring car-driving dream where the vehicle is really hard to control (usually my parents' old poo-brown Dodge Caravan). I think this means that I need to do a better job of consistently getting exercise. This morning is the last morning that I had to get to work by 7 am, so hopefully I can take advantage of this 5 am wake-up schedule in the name of exercise. This always feels like a "spirit's willing, flesh is weak" situation. I will report back to you tomorrow.
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
Let's see. When I was packing things up for the move out of the Villa Maria house, in the early stages I industriously went through my jewelry box and whittled it down, as part of the first stage of moving (full list of stages of moving at the end of this post, ha ha ha).

This time, I am working on pantry management. I enjoy a well-stocked kitchen, but on the other hand it makes me really sad when stuff sits around for 5 years and gets stale and gnawed on by bean beetles (I'm looking at you, erstwhile chickpea flour. Also you, masa harina.). As such, I have too much: cumin seeds, turmeric, black mustard seeds, and fenugreek seeds. Would anyone like an Indian spices collection? These are all in quantities that would be useful if you've run out - I just happen to have double of what I will realistically use.

I also have a variety of delicious Taiwan green tea, and some mild and tasty Bai Mu Dan (Chinese White Peony tea). Trouble is, I will never manage to drink them because coffee is my go-to caffeine source and I'm too caffeine sensitive to consume more than one caffeinated beverage a day.

I will happily send these things to you - just message me your address.

It will get more interesting when I am ready to dispose of this heavy duty three-drawer filing cabinet, eh? I suspect I won't be shipping it to anyone.
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
When you read this you will be able to tell immediately that the severe insanity of the week has passed, and now we're back to just normal levels of insanity. THANK GOODNESS. That sucked, but it was necessary.

Fall has announced its arrival. Nighttime temperatures got down to 33 degrees last night, and the radio is forecasting 30 degrees for tonight, so I took some time this morning to do some rearranging and bring most of the plants inside other than the tomato plant (sorry, tomato) and the kale, which likes a little frost. Emma is pleased with this development - more things for her to chew on.

Most of the plants are out of her reach on the newly relocated Gorm, though (wood IKEA shelf). In doing the rearranging I am also starting to think about what's going to be involved in moving to California. Time to do even more downsizing, going from a 2-bedroom apartment to just a bedroom. Hmm, reminds me of my friend AP's recent move. This time I know that in the very least I am going to get rid of two sets of terrible particle board shelves, a terrible and cheap IKEA coffee table, and the twin bed (in favor of the twin-size and queen-size roll-up futons). Farewell to the adequate but not great furniture. The cool furniture and housewares will mostly get put into storage somewhere, but I don't know just where, yet. Somewhere cheap and marginally accessible from Berkeley, hopefully.


I bought a pair of sugar pie pumpkins last weekend because I will admit to enjoying some of the fall pumpkin mania. I've had a sufficient amount of pumpkin beer, so now it's time for other pumpkin things.

So, this morning, pumpkin scones (recipe listed in my recipe directory). But now I still have about 1.5 cups of pumpkin puree left, and am undecided on how I want to proceed. Maybe something savory?

The plant-rearranging and scone-making this morning came at the expense of working on the caterpillar drawing. BUT cricket work is WAY less insane today, so assuming that I gave myself enough of a break last night to avoid general crash-and-burnout, I should have more time and energy for these sorts of things.
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
So, for a goodly bit of time, I've been noticing some problems with this Samsung Galaxy S4 that I acquired towards the end of January - not just the problem of diddling around on the device excessively, either. Often, when I would plug it into my computer, it wouldn't register with the Android File Transfer software, or was flaky and required lots of plugging and unplugging, and eventually this devolved into a situation where the phone would tell me all kinds of interesting tales about being plugged into a dock whenever I tried to plug it into a charger to charge. Kind of problematic. Also, it wouldn't charge properly. For a little while, I could fool it into charging by turning it off, but last night when I tried to charge it, it appears I drained the battery instead, despite the appearance of the little charging icon.

Brief googling around the internet suggested that many of these phones have hardware problems with the USB connection failing, so as a preventative measure I ordered a used replacement USB board off of iFixit (they didn't have any brand-new ones available). While things might be a bit on the expensive side on that website, I see good reasons to help keep the site alive. I did not grow up taking apart computer bits and reassembling them, so their step-by-step guides are a huge comfort, and they've allowed me to do a whole bunch of basic computer repairs in recent times (thinking back to the previous laptop, where I had to replace the wifi card, for instance).

With the replacement USB board in place, things are looking better now, but I'm not holding my breath because it's a used USB board.

It sucks that any "convenience" associated with lumping various computing functionalities together (phone, GPS device, camera) is so easily offset by device failure. I wonder if there's a Panasonic Toughbook analogue in the smartphone universe.
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
The other day, a friend posted a link to a LifeHacker guide on how to let go of sentimental stuff, which is one of the layers of stuff I need to deal with. Well, that, and all of the academic papers.

I'm going to tell you a story about academic papers, and then come back to the stuff-matter.

When I started as a workstudy student in the Psychology Department at Tufts, I had two main jobs. One job was to keep the secretary company. The second job was to enter journal articles into a computer database for one of the professors in the department (my future undergrad advisor, as it turned out). After I or another student finished entering in a stack of journal articles, we would trudge down Boston Avenue to Bacon Hall to file away the articles in this professor's filing cabinets. That part of the project was a nightmare. The bank of 8 3-drawer filing cabinets was so full that it was almost physically impossible to shove more paper in the drawers. My fingertips would hurt after afternoons of trying to squeeze in more papers. We used to joke that one day, we'd come in to Bacon and we'd just see an explosion of papers coming forth from K's office.

Also, many of the articles we set out to enter into the database were duplicates anyway. But it was a job that paid money, so I did the job.

Anyway, back to the layers of stuff, including my own collection of journal articles. I think I've said this before, but it seems to me that a lot of the websites focused on helping people downsize help with a lot of the mechanics of downsizing, but without necessarily addressing all of the whys of downsizing. Probably because the whys are multifaceted. For me, the downsizing continues to come from a desire to be intentional. In the kitchen, I want to be able to cook and eat food, without getting too caught up in dealing with food waste or the mental overhead of dealing with the remainders of that collection of exotic ingredients (used the last of the rosewater today). With respect to projects, I want to be channeled and focused on creative projects so that I bring things to completion that I am happy with. I also want to give myself time to read books, and write letters, and think.

I might not wind up having a whole lot of time for a whole lot of the above in the upcoming months, because of two other large priorities: preparing myself to ride in the Paris-Brest-Paris again (going to be very hard both physically and emotionally), and my work life. It actually feels good to have research feel this all-consuming, a sensation that was rare in Texas. It's probably because of the rate at which I am learning new things here. I still also need to keep working on the more difficult aspects of work, however, such as the next leafcutter manuscript (which I think will be good and impactful work), analyzing and writing about the cricket research, and thinking ahead to the upcoming projects for my next postdoc adventure (details on that still forthcoming).
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
The moving pod that I packed over six months ago with the majority of my possessions got delivered this morning.

I had about an hour immediately after delivery to start unpacking it. I think I got it maybe 20% unpacked? Some of the boxes look a bit rough around the edges, but that's not particularly surprising, given how full I'd packed the pod.

Lordy lordy, why do I own so much crap?
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)

I keep pondering the best way to work in some commentary/discussion about the most recent Root Simple decluttering posts, which are about decluttering one's diy supplies and garden, but I haven't arrived at a satisfactory method just yet. I do appreciate their perspective on how nature will eventually reclaim things for itself. I've certainly had that happen with my yarn stash. Vegetables, too. And paints.

I am thinking, though, that the best response is really just a reflection on my current living situation and how I got here. The majority, if not all of you, know that I packed most of my belongings into a moving pod six months ago, and sent the pod ahead to Lincoln while I wrapped up my time in Bryan. Thanks to J, K, and B, I was not wanting for any creature comforts while in Bryan; I was especially amused that J has the same blender/food processor that I had. We did an extravagant amount of cooking, as [ profile] scrottie had predicted.

Now that I'm here, I have the dilemma of whether or not to call up and have the pod delivered. On the one hand, it would mean the return of things like the KitchenAid mixer and toaster oven, convenience items. On the other hand, it would mean having to figure out where to cram all the gardening supplies and dealing with the filing cabinet full of notes and papers.

I do miss things like my spice collection.

The Root Simple authors suggest that a lot of the psychological baggage that is attached to diy-supplies comes from a "just in case" mindset, and I suspect they're right. I've already had a number of "come to Jesus" moments about crafting supplies, which is why I only kept a couple balls of the crochet thread from my grandma and donated the rest to the thrift store. During this interim period, I intentionally kept a couple of projects out of the storage pod, but it has been interesting to track how other projects have come and gone over this period. For instance, I made two sisal cat scratchers, one for Emma and one for Creature.  The only remnants are a bit of wood glue and two clamps, which have come in handy for other things.  I frogged most of a sweater vest that I'd started, purchased two additional skeins of yarn for it (the first of which wound up being a bad color judgment), and paused to knit arm warmers for my dad instead. I had to buy duplicate knitting needles for the arm warmers, so now I have to figure out what to do with the extras. First world problems, as they say.

The vest and the quilting project are now sitting here in the living room, front and center, but I've been finding other things to do lately.  Hopefully I can get myself into a routine soon that includes time for crafts in addition to time for books, time for cooking, time for exercise, time for the leafcutter manuscript, and social time (like volunteering at the bike co-op). Actually, cooking is significantly simpler by myself.  I made a pasta bake yesterday that will last for four meals, and a soba seaweed salad today that will last two meals. I really only need to cook twice a week when it's just for me.

One thing amazes me-despite my pared-down possessions, getting things organized still ate up a bunch of time today. On the other hand, I now feel much better organized than I've felt in ages, which will hopefully help me focus on work tasks. Work here promises to be much more demanding than in Texas, but I'm glad for that.

I also checked out the Lincoln Bike Kitchen this afternoon. [ profile] randomdreams should be pleased to hear that I was FINALLY able to get the fender bracket bent to the correct angle today, although I lost some other hardware (foreheadslap) so no installation photos just yet. The Bike Kitchen was both comfortingly familiar and hilariously different from Bike Saviours. Lots of apologetic greasy handshakes, but absolute CHAOS in the parts organization department. So I spent two hours trying to sort things on a benchtop until I could at least see the benchtop again, and in the process started to learn my way around the shop. I think my next self-assigned project will be to revamp their tube patching station, which currently only consists of tire levers, sandpaper, and tire boots, ha. You might recognize that sime key ingredients are missing. They also badly need fresh shop rags. If any of you have ideas for free sources, I'm all ears. Seriously, the shop is kinda like they just set loose a horde of teenage boys in the place...which actually probably isn't all that far from the truth.

Bur really, I've mostly just been procrastinating on the bleaching project. Perhaps tomorrow I'll get back at it, so I can be DONE.


rebeccmeister: (Default)

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