blarg?

Today, I asked the lazyweb: Where do you go for kitchen design ideas?

Good answers include:

  • The Kitchn’s, um, kitchen section. This is a niche in the Apartment Therapy ecosystem as far as I can tell, and it’s kind of neat but you quickly get a sense that their real audience is people who want to escape from suburbia to an apartment, rather than people who want to refinish the one they’re in; if you’re looking for radically rethought anything you’ll need to shop around. Some interesting stuff, I guess, but when I see an article on “small cool kitchens” and almost all of them are twice the size of ours, it’s hard to think that I live in the same country as their target market.
  • Via Adam Mcnamara, Design-Milk, Freshome and Home-Designing.com. Lots of excellent eye candy here, but like most of Adam’s tastes seem to lean heavily towards the BISUNK demographic: Billionaire International Supervillain, No Kids. Very pretty to look at, but largely no.
  • From a few people, Houzz. I’m exploring their iPad app as well; early signs there point to interesting, enough so that it’s the first advertising I’ve clicked on on purpose that I can remember. There’s just too much of it, though – I’ll keep looking, but I really want a better way to drill down into it. Sorting by square footage or rough layout or something would help a ton.
  • Finally, and likewise via a few people, the gold here seems to be a search for “kitchen reno” on Pinterest. This is actually the most interesting and useful of the bunch, just because it’s so uneven. There’s a ton of price, color and layout variety in there that just doesn’t exist in any of previous options. It’s actually nice to get a look at stuff that works on a limited space or dollar budget, or even just doesn’t work at all, when so many kitchen design sites amount to “look at what you can do with kitchen half again the size of your house and a budget of infinity”.

I should really do this sort of summary-of-Lazyweb-answers more often. It seems like a useful way to give back.

I own two French presses, I have a reasonably competent electric grinder and by and large that makes my morning coffee a pretty pleasant thing. I usually brew my coffee in the smaller of the two; as much as I love coffee I don’t have the time or inclination to drink an entire pot in one sitting, so that one stays on the shelf most of the time.

But when summer rolls around, it’s a different story; the larger bodum – similar to this dingus from Ikea, though I picked mine up at a yard sale for $2 – starts to get a lot of attention, because cold-brewed iced coffee is a great summer-morning drink.

It’s about as easy to make as anything could be. If you’ve got a decent grinder dial it down to a coarse grind, and in about a five to one ratio of cold water to coffee, mix it in the french press. Then put it, unpressed, in the fridge the night before you want to drink it. Throw it in while you’re making dinner, it should have a good 10-12 hours.

My fridge doesn’t have the vertical space to leave the unpressed plunger in, so that part stays on the counter; I’ve tried covering it with saran wrap or not, it doesn’t seem to make a difference that I can detect. Regardless, you push the plunger down in the morning, and you’re left with an uncomplicated, crisp cup of cold coffee with lots of flavor and very little of the bitterness and acidity that can ruin a mishandled bean.

There’s no accounting for taste, so some people still want to put milk and sugar into this, but I urge you to give it a try neat before you do; you’re not going to need to mask the bitterness of industrial-coffee here, or rush to drink it before it becomes unbearable. Be advised, though: that same lack of acidity makes it very easy to drink, and iced coffee is at least, and maybe more, caffeinated than standard drip coffee or espresso. So it’s very easy to get the jitters, if you’re not careful. Just pour it over some ice cubes and off you go.

It’s so easy, and so good.

At the November 24th, 2011 TTC Town Hall meeting, it was noted that:

The TTC has attempted to make incremental improvements as we provide new entrances / exits or elevators for step-free access. One of the recommendations made by the Customer Service Advisory Panel in 2010 focuses on improving signs and other customer information. We are working on a plan to do this but re-signing a station is an expensive proposition both in terms of the planning required, the material cost and implementation. We need better understanding of what priority customers give to improved way finding when balanced against things like an increase in service levels.

Having said that, we must get much better at not degrading the look and feel of our stations and trains with visual clutter such as handwritten signs. Such improvements should have little cost impact but can be difficult to ensure consistency. We are experimenting with a new “wrap” on the Davisville collector booth that we hope will balance our operational and customer needs and control some of the clutter on and in our booths.

Line Up

I took this a few weeks ago at Spadina Station during rush hour. It’s classic TTC signage: hastily assembled by TTC employees using all the resources they have at their disposal, which is usually the side of a cardboard box and a sharpie.

Noted accessibility author Joe Clark has written extensively on the subject, though as of early 2008 he has understandably abandoned that project. When an organization doesn’t even want to admit there’s a problem, what do you do?

A sign

I’ve said this a lot recently. When something is a priority for an organization, it has three things: a budget, a calendar and exactly one person responsible for it. Missing any one of those is a guarantee that whatever that organization says, its real priorities are elsewhere. So whatever the TTC’s management says about wayfinding and signage the budget they’ve actually allocated for all that is a pizza box, a broom handle and a sharpie. The person responsible for it is whoever happens to be there that day.

All the evidence suggests that there’s nobody at the TTC that anyone, inside or out, can call to say that signs are broken or missing or need to be printed. There’s no budget, no standards and nobody to ask about any of that and if there is, then boy howdy they’re not answering the phone.

That town hall comment above, as misguided as it is in many respects does get one thing exactly right: it can be inexpensive, but has to be consistent.

It’s impossible for me to blame the boots-on-the-ground TTC employees for this. Hand-scribbled signs like that are adorable; they make it look like the third-busiest transit system in North America is managed by some kids the TTC headhunted away from a lemonade stand, an image I love. And I’m not sure what else to expect, given that we’re looking at the best effort from well-meaning people without expertise, management support, goals, oversight or any guidelines at all, and a time and money budget of zero.

Bloor Station

Sufficiently advanced fashion is indistinguishable from cosplay.

The obvious corollary to that is: fashion that is easily distinguished from cosplay is insufficiently advanced.

I mentioned this to somebody in passing the other day; today, my goodness, the Internet Provides:

If you wear a white coat that you believe belongs to a doctor, your ability to pay attention increases sharply. But if you wear the same white coat believing it belongs to a painter, you will show no such improvement.

So scientists report after studying a phenomenon they call enclothed cognition: the effects of clothing on cognitive processes.

It is not enough to see a doctor’s coat hanging in your doorway, said Adam D. Galinsky, a professor at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, who led the study. The effect occurs only if you actually wear the coat and know its symbolic meaning — that physicians tend to be careful, rigorous and good at paying attention.

The findings, on the Web site of The Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, are a twist on a growing scientific field called embodied cognition. We think not just with our brains but with our bodies, Dr. Galinsky said, and our thought processes are based on physical experiences that set off associated abstract concepts. Now it appears that those experiences include the clothes we wear.

See also, of course:

“It is a well known psychological fact that people’s behavior is strongly affected by the way they dress.”

But here, I’m going to do you one better: Have you heard of Endosymbiotic theory? It’s the idea that the internal structures in bacterium – and not just the bacteria in your gut, but the cells that make up a You – have evolved partly by absorbing other organisms and hosting their processes internally, a symbiosis that eventually makes them functionally indistinguishable from a single organism. Sort of the way you, looking through your eyes at this screen, feel like you’re functionally a single organism.

But you’re not. You’re colonies of symbiotic colonies all the way down. The consciousness you think of as you is an emergent pattern on the outside edge of fractal stack of organic Matryoshka dolls. A consciousness you can arbitrarily game with cosplay, letting you temporarily absorb the psychological practices of a different stack of Matryoshka colonies symbiotically into your own.

There’s no you. You don’t exist. It’s cosplay all the way up and colonies all the way down.

Dress up a little.

So remember a while ago when I mentioned that publishers wanted to collude to make ebooks really expensive?

Mr. Young lays it flat out: that laws prohibiting anticompetitive collusion and price-fixing are having a “chilling effect” on major publishers’ attempts to collude, fix prices and thwart competition.

Funny story: The law be damned, they went ahead and tried anyway. And the U.S. Government, rightly contending that price fixing is illegal, appears to have a solid case. Three of the seven publishers being sued by the U.S. Department of Justice for said collusion have reportedly settled already. Including the Hachette Book Group where the aforementioned Mr. Young may still be CEO in a month, or may not.

Like all those named in the suit the Hachette Book Group publishes quite a bit of crime fiction, stories you’d think would give them some insight into why your savvier white-collar criminals don’t preannounce their intention to engage in illegal business practices in the business section of the New York Times. And yet here we are.

So if you’d like a good look at what naked greed, fear and stupidity looks like, there you are.

Zooming

It’s an old joke, with that wonderful undercurrent of bigoted misogyny that so many old jokes have: some creepy old dude propositions young woman by asking if she’d sleep with him for a million dollars, which she concedes she would. He follows that up asking if she’d sleep with him for a nickel; she replies, of course not, what kind of person do you think I am?

“We’ve established that”, he replies. “Now we’re just haggling about the price.”

The sort of horrid old joke told by horrid old people, to be sure, but there’s a tiny kernel of capital-T Truth in there: we should be honest with ourselves, at the very least, about when we’re talking about matters of principle or when we’re dickering over the price tag, and what that means about us.

Exhibit 1: George Lucas testifying before Congress in 1998 about copyright and the importance of artistic integrity.

“The destruction of our film heritage, which is the focus of concern today, is only the tip of the iceberg. American law does not protect our painters, sculptors, recording artists, authors, or filmmakers from having their lifework distorted, and their reputation ruined. If something is not done now to clearly state the moral rights of artists, current and future technologies will alter, mutilate, and destroy for future generations the subtle human truths and highest human feeling that talented individuals within our society have created.”

“[...] People who alter or destroy works of art and our cultural heritage for profit or as an exercise of power are barbarians, and if the laws of the United States continue to condone this behavior, history will surely classify us as a barbaric society. The preservation of our cultural heritage may not seem to be as politically sensitive an issue as “when life begins” or “when it should be appropriately terminated,” but it is important because it goes to the heart of what sets mankind apart. Creative expression is at the core of our humanness. Art is a distinctly human endeavor. We must have respect for it if we are to have any respect for the human race.”

“These current defacements are just the beginning. Today, engineers with their computers can add color to black-and-white movies, change the soundtrack, speed up the pace, and add or subtract material to the philosophical tastes of the copyright holder. Tomorrow, more advanced technology will be able to replace actors with “fresher faces,” or alter dialogue and change the movement of the actor’s lips to match. It will soon be possible to create a new “original” negative with whatever changes or alterations the copyright holder of the moment desires. The copyright holders, so far, have not been completely diligent in preserving the original negatives of films they control. In order to reconstruct old negatives, many archivists have had to go to Eastern bloc countries where American films have been better preserved.”

“In the future it will become even easier for old negatives to become lost and be “replaced” by new altered negatives. This would be a great loss to our society. Our cultural history must not be allowed to be rewritten.”

Exhibit 2: Dancing to “I’m Han Solo”, in the Kinect Star Wars video game, a rewritten version of Jason Derulo’s “Ridin’ Solo”

I’m feeling like a star,
You can’t stop my shine.
I’m lovin’ Cloud City,
My head’s in the sky.

I’m solo, I’m Han Solo.
I’m Han Solo.
I’m Han Solo, Solo.

Yeah, I’m feelin’ good tonight,
Finally feelin’ free and it feels so right, oh.
Time to do the things I like,
Gonna see a Princess, everything’s all right, oh.
No Jabba to answer to,
Ain’t a fixture in the palace zoo, no.
And since that carbonite’s off me,
I’m livin’ life now that I’m free, yeah.

Told me to get myself together,
Now I got myself together, yeah.
Now I made it through the weather,
Better days are gonna get better.
I’m so happy the carbonite is gone,
I’m movin’ on.
I’m so happy that it’s over now,
The pain is gone.

I’m puttin’ on my shades
to cover up my eyes.
I’m jumpin’ in my ride,
I’m heading out tonight

I’m solo, I’m Han Solo.
I’m Han Solo.
I’m Han Solo, Solo.

I’m pickin’ up my blaster,
Put it on my side,
I’m jumpin’ in my Falcon,
Wookie at my side.

I’m solo, I’m Han Solo.
I’m Han Solo.
I’m Han Solo, Solo.

Possibly the worst part being that this is actually an inoffensive, blandly-rehashed second-order derivative of a parody MC Chris did better.