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)
So last weekend, [livejournal.com 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 [livejournal.com profile] annikusrex and enjoy some primo baby-viewing
-Haul the rest of my belongings and a couple of [livejournal.com 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: [livejournal.com 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, [livejournal.com 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: (bikegirl)
One of the things that [livejournal.com 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.

Covetable

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.

Foot-wear

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 [livejournal.com 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:

Choices

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)

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 [livejournal.com 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. [livejournal.com 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: (bikegirl)
1. Funny how the place I'm moving to has an Office of Postdoctoral Studies. The current institution, not so much.

2. When I moved out of the Villa Maria house, I gave the washer and dryer to the guys overseeing the flood-prevention efforts at the house (I suspect that didn't help in last Thursday's deluge, but it's no longer my immediate problem in any case). I don't know if the cause was wear-and-tear on the bearings, or poor manufacturing quality, but the washer would come unbalanced almost every single time unless a full load was washed, and the load didn't contain any towels. The heating element in the dryer didn't work and I never used it (and apparently my roommate didn't understand the concept of cleaning out the lint trap, so it soon ceased to "work" entirely). But hey, the set only cost me $75 used from a grad student, so it was worth it for the time. Who knows what will happen in the next place where I live, so I'm tempted to get a WonderWash and hook it up to a bicycle somehow (or the rowing machine) and call it good enough.

3. Related to my recent post, I found at least one website with ideas regarding those piles of old photos. It's written by someone selling photo restoration services, but there are some useful points there. As a related point - I use blogging mostly as a tool to organize my thoughts, but I've been at it for over 10 years by now and the project of reading through the entire blog would take someone way longer than is justified. Despite that, there are stories sprinkled throughout that have significance, so I need to make sure those stories in particular are kept curated. I've only done a half-assed job with tags. Two or three generations from now, what will anyone wish to know of my life story?
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
I have strong opinions on the subject of bulk shopping. I generally dislike the style that involves going to Costco and buying a pound of cinnamon. Unless a person makes cinnamon rolls every single day, I have a hard time imagining a scenario where a person would be able to use up a pound of cinnamon before it loses its wonderful flavor. Plus, you're still left with an empty plastic container at the end, and now you have to get rid of it somehow. Downcycling isn't quite the same as recycling either.

Shampoo and conditioner have been a slightly different story. I know I've written about that before, specifically because I know [livejournal.com profile] annikusrex made a good conditioner recommendation to me, but Goog seems incapable of pulling up the old entry, sigh. Lame. Regardless! I can now tell you that it takes me ~3 years to use up a one-gallon jug of shampoo, and the shampoo remains perfectly good up until the end. And so, today, I had the joy of ordering a fresh one-gallon jug of shampoo, along with a one-gallon jug of conditioner. Here's to the next three years of hair-washing!

This reminds me of two other things I've pondered recently. Have you heard about the trend of coloring armpit hair? I think it's hilariously fun. Why not? It celebrates the fact that women have armpit hair.

I still shave my armpit hair. By this point, it just feels better to me. But I go through periods where I stop shaving my leg hairs because it's an annoying costly chore and my skin doesn't like it. That got me to thinking about what it would be like to live in a culture/place where people don't have strange notions about body hair modifications (think about threading as another instance). What "manufactured needs" do we accept, and where do we draw the line for personal/aesthetic/financial reasons?
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
About a month ago, a friend of mine posted a link to a brief PBS story about "Handsome" clothing for women and transgender individuals. I've just finally watched it, several weeks after reading and pondering a piece for women on dressing for academia. I can't get over one point in the Dressing for Academia article, the point about wearing makeup. On one level, I can understand what drmellivora is saying about make-up making a woman seem more competent. I understand and appreciate the role of professional dress in the academic workplace.

But on a personal level, ...I just can't. I can get myself to put on lip gloss occasionally, but my skin crawls at the thought of being covered up by anything beyond that. Even light moisturizers make my skin crawl. My skin demands to be kept bare. And with wearing glasses, I have zero interest in shoving anything in the direction of my eyeballs. It just sounds like a recipe for smearing goop on my glasses.

I used to wear more skirts, but there are points where those feel emasculating, too, particularly because I am not comfortable sitting in chairs like a normal human being. Skirts were fine for grad school they're splendid for bicycling, but they make me feel a bit like a gangly heron in the lab, and they aren't exactly lab-safe anyway. I'd like to feel competent without also feeling gendered. So the idea of being able to look professional without feeling gendered is more appealing to me than trying to look professional in fluffy blouses. Part of it for me also comes from being relatively tall and strong. I want to dress to project confidence, and I don't want to dress in a way that makes people focus on my gender.

I can find long-sleeve cotton dress shirts that feel comfortable and appropriate, but I haven't found much that's short-sleeved that appeals, and I'm still working on jackets. Polo shirts make me feel too sporty-mc-sport-a-lot. I've acquired a couple pairs of trousers that work, so long as I don't try bike commuting in them and ruin them prematurely, but things could still be better in that department (ugh thigh-squeezers). Some high-quality stuff that's still appropriate for warm weather would be nice, too (e.g. linen pants). A lot is confounded by climate.

Anyway. I don't think there's a one-size-fits-all approach for how to portray ourselves in professional settings, but it's at least comforting to hear the stories of other people who've felt similarly left out when clothes-shopping.

Bookend

Sep. 18th, 2014 08:05 am
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
So now I'm reading Man's Search for Meaning, by Viktor Frankl. What that means is that I just finished a book about the lead-up to World War II, and now I'm reading a book that was a direct result of that war. The idea to read the book came from Rowdy Kittens a while back (although I seem to recall a specific post with more detailed discussion), stemming from the thought that perhaps there are other ways to think about life beyond hedonism or the pursuit of happiness. Which is a trifle amusing, because the author of Rowdy Kittens often writes under the guise of "happiness," even though I don't think her goal is strictly happiness per se. Anyway, tangent.

It's hard to set down a book about the Holocaust. It's hard to read any story about genocide, especially one so painfully and eloquently recounted by those who survived. It's clear that Frankl's every word has been carefully and painfully chosen as he seeks to recount the experiences in Auschwitz in a way that will allow him and others to derive something out of so much suffering and loss. I picked up the 1992 edition from the library, and found it especially interesting to read Frankl's introductory commentary about how he hadn't expected the book to be so popular, but how its popularity speaks to a shared deep and driving need to understand our existence here on this planet hurtling through space. So despite the difficulty of the subject matter, clearly many of us feel compelled to seek it out and learn from it.

I'm not sure what I'm going to read after this book.

I've gained a greater appreciation for history as I've gotten older. I think I just didn't understand it especially well back in high school. I wish we'd had more occasions where teachers had handed us a collection of primary documents and asked us to reconstruct a history around them. At the same time, I know that many of my history teachers did a perfectly wonderful job of exposing us to as many different facets of history as they could, under all the constraints at hand.
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
I had stuck a spare combination lock (in an unopened package) in the toolbox, too, I'm remembering. Probably won't replace it.

The telescoping pen that lived on my keychain fell off, at some point.

I have no idea where I stuck my grapefruit spoon, which I generally use every single day to eat yogurt at lunch. Must replace, pronto!

Between that, and the toolbox, I am going to have to go shopping. Deep, melodramatic sigh.

Now, if I could simply go over to Hardwick's, I would be a happy camper. But this is middle America, where Mall-Wart and bLowe's and the Home Despot and Target have driven the moms and pops completely out of business. I could order things on the internet, but that invariably means excess packaging. So instead, I will whine to you about it all, and hope that some day I will live somewhere that hasn't been gutted by corporate America.

Oh tools

Jul. 30th, 2014 09:28 am
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
I went back over to the Villa Maria house last night to finish up cleaning and small repairs. When I got there, I observed that my roommates had, indeed, removed all of their things. I also observed that a small stack of useless canning jar lids had gotten scattered around, and things had been pulled out of a pile of stuff I'd planned on bringing to Goodwill. Two wastebaskets from my bedroom were also missing.

So was my toolbox, from where I had left it on the kitchen counter the evening before, after pulling out the stud-finder. The roommates said they hadn't seen it and didn't have it. The landlady called the guy in charge of the dining room/kitchen tile project, who also said negatory on that front.

It's one of those cases where most of the stuff in the toolbox is fairly easily replaced, but the main sense it gives me is a feeling of emasculation. Tools are empowerment; theft, plus theft of tools in particular, makes me lose faith in humanity. Right now, there are workmen running in and out of all of the college student houses one block up, and the house is in a high-traffic area, so there's no telling what really happened.

Oh, and a stack of useless CDs was also taken. None of them contain any personal information, and most of them are genuinely useless. So that's the second time someone has stolen useless things from me. I hope that person wastes a lot of time looking through them.

So much for my plans to do a few last small repairs.

And now my brain just wants to keep on inventorying the toolbox contents. Let's see what I can remember, for the sake of putting together a replacement.

-Hardware for the Ikea Poang chair plus several other miscellaneous screws recently pulled out of the walls (e.g. screws for the coffee grinder) - although most of those got packed separately.
-Curtain rod hanging hardware for one curtain
-Letters and numbers punch set (I don't think I will replace this because I really didn't wind up using it)
-Some usual items: adjustable wrench, hammer, small cro-bar, flat-head and Phillips-head screwdrivers, small Phillips-head screwdriver, small torx-wrench set, several larger drill bits (spade bits plus 1-inch hole-boring bit), pliers
-One-inch chisel that has suffered some serious abuse (I know better now)
-Screen spline tool
-Small drywall patch kit tube of stuff, recently purchased
-1.5-inch angled paintbrush, recently purchased
-Carpenter pencil
-Old, rusty, falling apart bike multitool (newer one lives on the bike)

And if I remember anything else, I'll add it.
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
Today, I took my sewing machine out of its cabinet to start figuring out how to replace the motor belt. After a bit of hunting around, I determined that it was a Kenmore 158.445. Then I called a sew-vac place in CS to see if they could tell me whether or not they had the belt in stock if I just gave them the machine product number. Nope, the guy on the line said, I'd need to haul it down there.

So I loaded it up in the bike trailer, took a detour to the lab to care for crickets, and then rode over to the grocery store and sew-vac place. It isn't an arduous distance, just about six miles from home, but that isn't trivial, either, particularly in the middle of a warm day (but it's only 104 degrees, so who's really counting?). I haul the machine into the shop, and find out that nope, they don't have the right belt size for it. From what I observed, it looked like the guy took the machine, looked at the product number, and looked it up on a computer. He suggested I go visit their other shop in Bryan, but he said they weren't open today, and are only open weekdays from 8:30 to 5:30.

Sigh. They're a chain store anyway, so it's not even like I'd be supporting a small business. I guess I'll just be ordering it online after all. The icing on the cake was discovering that the machine had punched through some of the flooring fabric on the big bike trailer, edging it closer to its eventual demise.

Yesterday, I read a New York Times article about spending habits, which noted that people are generally happier with their purchases when there's some anticipation involved in the acquisition of the item. I suppose that explains Amazon's raging success. I think the conclusion I'm going to draw from the present experience is that I'm unlikely to find what I'm looking for in a store in this town whenever I have to search for a part to repair something.

And on that note, it's time to spend a bit of time contemplating my List of Things to Acquire, my List of Things to Make (and give), and the general state of the rest of my possessions.

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