Call me a curmudgeon, but I hate it when consumer products are designed to fail.
For me there is a certain quiet pleasure in having well-made things in my everyday life. You know, things that work well for their purpose, feel right in my hands, and are worthy and capable of being repaired, rather than just cast into the landfill. And so when I encounter things that don’t have those qualities–are badly made, badly designed for their purpose, and incapable of being repaired, I start to sputter with anger. Is it right that I feel personally insulted by poorly done products?
Probably not; my condition probably has a code in the DSM V. In any case it flared up this year when confronted with the subject of lunchboxes. Before my kid went to school I had no idea how revolting lunchboxes could be. I had visions of him traipsing along with one of those classy stackable things like in Eat Drink Man Woman (go to 1:55 in the video below).
Of course that wasn’t going to happen. Little kids want pictures, colors, logos, characters. So last year (kindergarten) we tried two kinds of lunch boxes that ended up raising my hackles. …more
The Goat Justice League advocates and educates on behalf of urban goats, who can be pets and milk producers (or wanderers). In contrast, the goat above was actually more of a professional, part of a weeding crew cleaning out a construction site in Seattle, according to the photog. Thanks Courtney!
I refit this end of the attic in my 1922 house as a play area for my son. I wanted this attic to continue to feel like an attic, even though I was finishing it off. So I did the walls and ceiling in tongue & groove beadboard, a material which was also used when the house was built. It has new fireproofing and insulation underneath. Other features inlcude: marmoleum sheet scraps for flooring, with soft padding underneath; an antique star-mullioned window to suggest a sunset; a Velux roof window for emergency egress; low-temperature LED light fixtures; a verdant-brand thermostat with an occupancy sensor, controlling a “hydronic” baseboard heater; and a tent-sized nap bay.
Resources used by housing and transportation dwarf those associated by other parts of our “lifestyle.” (Click here for geeky background data.) If you want to be green in deed as well as attitude, you’ve got to take on the way you get around, and the energy used by your house.
In the house, technology can obviate the impulse to nobly suffer to save energy (remember President Carter in his sweater?). Probably the first thing I installed in my family’s house when I moved in was a programmable thermostat. It saves energy by lowering the thermostat when I’m not likely to be home or wanting heat, and raise it when I know I want it to come on. No more running across a freezing floor at 5:30 AM to turn the heat on.
Now comes a thermostat that takes this idea one step further …more
There’s been a little trendbrewing in the world of kids’ bikes: skipping the training wheels and getting the kid to ride a “balance bike” or “runbike” instead. It’s a pedal- and chain-free kids bike with a low seat so the feet can comfortably touch the ground. Here are pictures of two: a fancy one for $315, and a functionally similar one I made recently for $5.
Here’s why I made the second balance bike, and how: …more