Florence became the owner of a whole new home today, 8 acres of beautiful birch and pine forested land with a babbling brook.
More to follow… stay tuned!
Florence became the owner of a whole new home today, 8 acres of beautiful birch and pine forested land with a babbling brook.
More to follow… stay tuned!
In my quest to buy less stuff, recycle the stuff I have, and rekindle the abilities that seem to have been lost to the generations, I decided (following a small flood) that I was going to try to weave a rug. Sure, I could definitely run out to some store and buy a replacement, or (the old me) would have bought one on Amazon. Instead, I decided to put to use a giant piece of wool that I bought (for no particular reason other than that I liked the colour) in Sweden. I’ve been vaguely using it as a decorative blanket for years, so it was time to give it a new life.
I can say, honestly, that the rug looks a lot better in real life than it does in the images, it’s a little wonky and definitely has a hand-made feel, which I love. It’s super thick and warm and is like having a sweater for the floor.
I started by building a loom out of a 1×3″, which I drilled 2 5/8″ holes into and pounded nails every inch. I inserted two 5′ dowels and pulled old acrylic yarn (yellow) between the nails. Boom, I had a loom. I did a test weave using 1″ strips of wool and the result was more like flower petals than the chunky knit-like weave that I wanted. So after some experimentation, I decided to start again and this time used 1/2″ strips which rolled and worked much better. Much more cushion-ey, and more of what I wanted.
After weaving until I ran out of wool, I removed the entire thing from the loom, tied off the ends, and then used a lighter colour wool to weave the end loops together along the long end and bind off the short end. I used some amazing red yarn that I bought at Labour and Wait in London (and has been taking up space for ages), to blanket stitch the binding at the end (and hide a multitude of yellow yarn.) Overall, not bad for an experiment and one I will definitely re-visit again.
Over the past 10 months, I have carefully examined the role of technology and social media in my life. On the balance, I have determined that most social media—Facebook, blogging, commenting on news stories, Snapchat and legions of others—is way too much work and actually denigrates an overall quality of life. I took a long hiatus from writing this blog, because doing so makes me feel vulnerable to crazy and pathetic people that “live” through their existence on the internet, rather than actually existing in “real” life.
About a year ago, my father gave me a stack of coupons for Harbor Freight. I had never heard of the store, but apparently, their schtick is giving away merchandise. Each week, the store publishes about a dozen coupons that entice potential customers to come in to the store and grab freebies. Curiously, I took the bait. Standing in a line of about 20 customers, all with the same free merchandise in hand (a multimeter, a small Philips screwdriver set, a package of 2mil drop cloths and a package of zip ties), bored out of my mind, I began to study the fellow standing in line in front of me. He had on a hat from a local school that had his first name embroidered across the side of it.
√ First name
√ University student or grad, and university name
√ Approximate hight and weight
He waited patiently, free products in hand, and wallet in the other. His wallet was open, so I could see both his license and Visa debit card.
√ Last name
√ Middle name
√ Home address
√ Bank (and if he had a Visa debit, that meant that his account is likely a checking account at that bank.)
√ Visa card number
√ License Number (and NYS License restriction B, which means that he is a contact lens wearer, because he wasn’t wearing glasses at the time.)
√ Date of Birth
He approached the counter, and the kindly older cashier (who was clearly having some difficulty with the archaic computer) asked him to type his phone number into the keypad on the credit card terminal.
√ Phone Number
That didn’t work, so the cashier asked him his e-mail address.
√ e-mail address
After the cashier entered all of his merchandise, the fellow removed the Visa debit card from his wallet, and swiped it. He chose to pay as debit (as opposed to credit) and I watched him put in his PIN number. I also noticed the work ID card that was in his wallet underneath his Visa debit card.
√ PIN for his debit card, and likely the same number used for withdrawing cash at the ATM.
That’s a huge amount of information to garner by a casual observation over the course of about 7 minutes. I didn’t look him up online, but a cursory search online will reveal more information like the names of family members, partners, ex-partners, and neighbors, and their ages. Facebook usernames (which are plainly evident in the web address for each and every Facebook profile), and scads of other data are available through a quick Google search (a company that also captures information about what I’m searching for, how frequently, and draws conclusions about me based on my activity… I’ve switched to Duck Duck Go who pledges not to track you). It’s a scary proposition to know that that information is not only bought and sold by companies like Facebook and other “data aggregators” to compile a comprehensive profile of our consumer behaviors, our propensity to make charitable donations, and our personal habits. I’ve said many times on this blog that we are not the users of social media, we are the commodity product that is used by giant corporations to make more and more money at the expense of our privacy. These same corporations have eviscerated our economy, our communities, and are changing the social fabric of our country and the world. Yes, social media provides a means to stay connected, and that’s a great thing… but at what cost? What good is staying connected if the means of doing so makes us lazy, disassociated consumers of the lives of our family and friends rather than active participants in the vivid tapestry of life that surrounds us. Our reliance on social media is translating into a twisted trope: helicopter parenting our own social lives, insulating ourselves from dissent, debate, and dimension, padding ourselves with simplicity, similarity, and safety. Meanwhile, we’re being stalked and used by corporations collecting data about us as they use our behaviors to manipulate us, destroy the commercial fabric of our cities and towns, and fleece us into believing our lives are “easier” as a result.
After some significant reflection, none of this is something that I want to contribute to.
Life is difficult, disorderly, messy, and complex. Simplicity, convenience, and leisure come at a cost. It’s time for me to stop blindly participating, and start actively engaging.
So, moving forward, you’ll notice a few changes to this blog:
Facebook has been iced. No more commenting through Facebook, no more publishing posts to Facebook. If you’re too lazy to check this blog from time to time, then you probably don’t deserve to read what I write.
Amazon links are no more. As Amazon continues to rot our consumer economy from the inside out, I have taken a 6-month hiatus from Amazon, and I’ve never been happier (look for a separate post about this soon.)
Privacy is key. Feel free to comment. Remember that what you post in comments is available to the world… all the people that like you, and all the people that you don’t. Moving forward, commenting on this blog requires you to sign up for a WordPress account. I find WordPress and Automattic to be a reasonably responsible company.
So, if you’re in, you’re in, welcome back. Bookmark this site and check back periodically. You can also subscribe by adding your e-mail address to the little “subscribe” box on the left. We won’t use your e-mail (or even look at it) for anything except to send you a copy of the newest post to this blog. You’ll find some thought-provoking writing, and less bullshit, and if that’s too much work, then it’s been nice having you as a reader.
It’s difficult to believe that I forgot to wish Florence a happy 4th birthday, because she and I share one! So, a happy belated birthday to Florence! The best home away from home anyone could know. It’s also tough to believe that Florence has been in our lives for four years, it seems like an eternity, and buying her seems like yesterday at the same time.
Florence is going to have some new adventures in the upcoming months, so despite the near radio silence on this blog, be sure to stay tuned to find out more about what she will be up to.
My mom tells me that tomorrow is a super blue blood moon—that means that it’s the second full moon in a month, AND a full lunar eclipse. It has happened only once in the last 152 years! The moon looks plenty full tonight, and on such a chilly night, Florence is looking very warm and toasty, thanks to her newly repaired Dyson Heat + Cool Link.
These are my favorite holiday cookies, but are hard to come by in North America. Dominosteine are a staple in the advent and Christmas season across Germany. This is a great recipe for the gluten free version. I make mine without marzipan.
Today, I was driving to work and there was this big spider 🕷 that had crawled out of my side mirror and as I was driving down the 400 at 70mph, this little spider was getting really tossed around but was hanging in for dear life. He was getting thrown so violently, I initially thought there was no possible way he could be alive.
I pulled over, rolled down my window and stuck out my finger to help. He immediately crawled on to my finger and stopped. I brought him into the car and put him on my knee for a moment and let him catch his breath and get his wits about him.
After a few minutes, he started spinning a little web on my knee. We talked about it and decided that my knee probably wasn’t the best place for that, and I suggested he explore my passenger seat instead. He crawled around and found a very nice spot between the center console and the seatbelt clicker thing.
After 20 minutes or so of sitting at the side of the road, we continued driving. I commented how surprised I was that he a survival instinct and how difficult it must have been to hold on despite the wind. He made a good point that the wind for him, would be relative to me being in 800mph winds. I told him how impressed I was that he was able to hang on and he explained that the tensile strength of the silk he is able to spin helped him to hold on. Regardless, I found his will and ability to survive impressive.
We chatted for the rest of the ride and decided that it might make better sense to live inside the car. So for the time being, my car is +1 spider.
The bed in Florence is a peculiar size. It’s just smaller than a full and is in fact a “three quarters” size. The peculiar size was once a common bed size in America until the old bedding size system was standardized after WWII. The mattress is also rounded at two corners to accommodate the rounded sides of the Airstream frame. This makes finding bedding difficult and more complicated.
When I purchased Florence, I made a mental note to buy a new mattress. Three years have passed and I never found the time to do it. After purchasing a Casper mattress for my home, I wrote to Casper asking if they could make a custom size one for the Airstream. They never wrote back.
So for a few years I slept on a sturdy cot-like mattress. It wasn’t uncomfortable but it wasn’t luxurious either. I began shopping around for a mattress and was surprised to find that the cost was not insignificant. Ballpark was about $800-1200 for a custom mattress.
Which, as always, is when my very favorite store in the world came through for me. This past week, ALDI featured memory foam mattresses for $219. That was the lowest price I could find anywhere and just like the Casper mattress, the ALDI version came with a 10 year warranty.
So, I bought one. I used my mom and dad’s electric turkey carving knife to slice the foam and replaced the cot-like mattress. Amazingly, it was easy and is tremendously comfortable. Honestly, it’s as comfy as the Casper, of which, I am a huge fan.
Also, for those interested, I have found that European-size bedding including square pillows and “single” comforters fit the Airstream perfectly. You can find great bedding at Hema in The Netherlands and Central Europe or Hemtex in Estonia and across Northern Europe.
Shame, shame, shame. There is enough to go around in Buffalo.
Just over two years ago, Maksym Sugorovskiy was killed in a tragic accident in Delaware Park in Buffalo. His mother and sister were also injured. The story broke my heart, and each and every day when I run through Delaware Park, I say a silent prayer for little Maksym and his family.
The tragedy led to immediate—and unprecedented—political action by Governor Andrew Cuomo who downgraded the 198 expressway to a parkway and overnight changed the speed limit from 50 to 30. Neighbourhood proponents still stunned by the tragedy were pleased with the action. Later that summer, the newly qualified “parkway” was re-stripped, and crash barricades were installed along the park-side of the corridor. The New York State Department of Transportation promised to review the parkway and has since put forth a number of lacklustre plans that have been met with public disgust.
The problem is complex and it’s growing.
The first round of shame goes to Gov. Cuomo who scored political points for the immediate downgrade of the 198 and then never made another peep about it.
The second round of shame goes to the grossly disinterested, disrespectful, and disengaged DOT.
The third round of shame goes to the City and the Olmsted Parks Conservancy.
Governor Cuomo mistakenly handed off the redesign of the 198 to the state DOT, which is both woefully under qualified and grossly negligent in its street design ability. Their significant failures litter the Western New York landscape and—frankly—make the streets of Western New York less and less safe. NYS DOT seems unable to plan, in any comprehensive manner. They approach planning as a street-by-street approach, which has compounded the problems surrounding the park. I could name a thousand examples across the region (and specifically around Delaware Park) but the dangerous concrete medians installed along neighbouring Main Street in the Parkside district are one example. These medians were installed with the intent of slowing traffic on Main Street. Instead, they have slowed traffic and provided an unsafe obstacle for motorists on icy and poorly lit roads to hit time and time again. The result is that rather than tool along Main Street at 30mph in stop-and-go traffic, frustrated motorists hemorrhage from Main Street to residential side streets to zoom by (and through stop signs) at 50mph in search of a “short cut” to their destination.
This problem was compounded when much needed traffic calming measures were implemented to Parkside Avenue, adjacent to Delaware Park. Yes, the bump-outs and narrowed lanes have slowed traffic. Parkside (for a two block stretch) is undoubtedly safer as a result. The problem is that the parallel streets have become high-speed thoroughfares for speed-demon drivers in the neighbourhood. Likewise, since the traffic calming measures have been implemented on Parkside, the 198, and Main Street, speedy motorists have taken to using the Delaware Park ring road itself as a high speed shortcut from Agassiz Circle to Colvin through Delaware Park. Perhaps most disturbing is that this shortcut seems to be favoured by Olmsted Conservancy, Police and Fire vehicles zooming through the park to avoid traffic as well as private speeders alike. So, while we seemingly have endless press about ridiculous proposals to build a golf course in Delaware Park, the real issues of pedestrian and park patron safety goes completely unaddressed and unmentioned.
The re-design of the 198 has been mired in controversy and has been more than adequately covered in other fora, but I will add my disgust, disappointment, and disdain to the ever-growing chorus of Buffalonians when I say that the most recent public hearing for the 198 redesign hosted at the Olmsted School by the DOT was disgusting. The event was poorly planned, with three DOT officials sitting at a long table on stage while the regional director talked at the audience. The three adjunct DOT officials said nothing, as they played games and laughed at funny social media posts on their smart phones. Safety is no laughing matter and their behaviour was grossly disrespectful to local residents and to the memory Maksym who lost his young life due in part to their inaction and inattentiveness. If Governor Cuomo truly cares about Western New York, beyond a quick political score following an unspeakable tragedy, these three men would (and should) immediately find themselves unemployed in light of their callous and brazen breech of public trust.
Like so many building, design, zoning, and planning issues in New York State, the problem is a decentralized decision making structure which aims for granular approval but misses the big picture. Why not take a neighbourhood approach to traffic calming and safety planning? More likely than not because the streets in question are a combination of State, City, and Park streets. (County streets it seems, in Erie County are, for the most part and in sharp constraint, impeccably serviced, always striped, resurfaced regularly, and are in decent repair.) When the State DOT implemented traffic calming measures on the Parkside stretch of Main Street, the 198, and Parkside, the City should have stepped in and added traffic calming—speed bumps, bump-outs, enhanced striping, rumble strips, or some combination—to the neighbouring residential side streets. They didn’t. The City and the Olmsted Conservancy should have taken the time and money to add basic safety measures such as speed bumps and stripes the ring road in Delaware Park. They didn’t.
It seems that most every other city in the world has recognized that painting stripes is a cheap and easy way at calming traffic as well as enhancing safety for bicyclists and other motorists. Despite this basic tenet of road design, the City of Buffalo remains asleep at the switch with more road surface than not suffering from faded lines, poorly discernible striping, and worse—roads with no stripping at all. I mean, seriously, how much can a can of paint and some time cost? I remember observing a work crew in St. Louis—prison work release folks—repainting stripes and arrows on the roadways. Why can’t New York State enact a similar measure? Are the citizens of New York not worthy of safe roads?
At the very least, the Olmsted Conservancy should be unabashedly ashamed of their lack of action. Despite several grants to improve road and path conditions in the park, absolutely no improvements have been made over the past two years. Again, seriously, how much could it take to stripe the 2.5km ring road around Delaware Park? Unlike sister Olmsted Conservancies like Central Park in New York City, or the Emerald Neckless in Boston, the Buffalo Olmsted Conservancy has opted for the path of least resistance and inaction.
The resultant negligence opens the city and the conservancy to significant liability when the next eminently preventible tragedy happens and is patently inexcusable.
Call upon your elected officials—state, city, and local—to make your voice heard on this important issue. You wouldn’t settle for a uncooked pizza if it were delivered to your house… why would you settle for unsafe roads in your neighbourhood?