Friday, February 6, 2015

A Small And Useful Surprise


Photo Florentine leather courtesy Flickr user fi_chince
The dull weeks of January are a good time to scout the Great Big Hiking Co-op for promising innovations. I make many mistakes but the winners really pay off. 

Sorting the contents of a drawer last week, I ran across a high-tech ziplock storage bag that has turned out to be an efficient and featherweight substitute for a wallet. The thing has a lovely hand and is just the size to hold the smallest high-tech ballpoint from the Co-op, a few membership cards, and some folding money. The texture and transparency makes it easy to find what I’m fishing for in the murky depths of my bag, and I can see what I'm looking for in a flash. Using the ziplock is only slightly more elegant than pulling money out of my sock, but I hope other accessories signal good judgement.

The Co-op has a wall of cases designed to protect electronics in the field. I buy things that are often just wrong for what I had planned but just right for other uses. Sometimes it takes a few months to figure out what I’m doing, and not seldom I discard something that I end up replacing. The long run makes it worthwhile.

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More after the jump.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Table Beats Desk


Photo courtesy Flickr user Pathfinder Photo
Hands down. Store supplies in bins or dairy crates on a wheeled high-tech shelving unit. Park your side bag by your ankles. Set magical sliding castors under the feet of the table and use it for anything, anywhere.

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More after the jump.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Make And Mend


Photo courtesy Flickr user gorbould
Cruising through the house tweaking arrangements, I often generate projects that will improve circumstances for a small investment of time and a couple of dollar’s worth of hardware. A monthly or bi-monthly stop at the hardware store on my way home from the gym makes it easy to set up. The place never rearranges its shelves, so I can whip in the door and be out in a couple of minutes. I buy parts just in time.

I stage a project on a cafeteria tray in the pantry. If the job is front and center, I’ll get to it sooner rather than later and later. The low-energy hours of afternoon are a good time to putter. When tea water is boiling or I can turn my back on the cooker, I can listen to broadcast news and transform a couple of minutes and a few cents worth of scrap into quite a few dollars of convenience. A bold marker and sticky note define each stage of production, so I don’t have to put on my reading glasses or rethink what I’m supposed to do every time I see the tray.

Now and then I dedicate a full day to the process. Video is a key part of production: I find the reassuring natter of an acceptable sound track keeps me focussed on matters at hand.

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More after the jump.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Paring Ounces Off The Handicap


Photo courtesy Flickr user sparrowood1
Travel outfitters sell nickel-sized plastic pots with flexible silicone lids. Blending several face creams into a single one-handed fast-opening pot has shaved nearly a minute off getting dressed. I don’t begrudge the time nearly as much as I do the attention it takes to cope with detail.

Tiny ziplock pill pouches hold a smear each of the cosmetics I use during the day. Every gram and cc counts.

Network reporter Rita Braver said that she was waiting at a DC stoplight with her outsize tote bag, and a homeless woman kindly offered her a tip on where to stay the night. Ultra-light hiking coach Mike Clellan is an indie-housekeeping guru of the first water. He recommends weighing inventory. I spent an hour fiddling with a four-ounce postal scale and subtracted nearly a pound from my side bag.

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More after the jump.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Unfinished Business


Photo courtesy Flickr user TANAKA Juuyoh
A long-established north end furniture dealer maintains that friends don’t let friends buy chipboard. It’s tempting to agree and irresistible to admire the wit of the stolen line.

Some designers refer to chipboard/laminate design as tissue box furniture. I dislike the apparent waste inherent in fragile case goods that don’t recycle. Once the problem begins to perturb the local solid waste authority, practice undoubtedly will change.

Much tissue box design is lifted straight from traditional Japanese small space carpentry. In its way, it’s a minor miracle of sensible production and is enough generations into its evolution to have resolved the various dumb-nesses characteristic of any prototype.

For my purposes, black nylon packcloth shoe bags, zippered storage cubes, and garment envelopes have replaced most of the case goods that once cluttered the interior of the house. I use foot lockers and traditional wooden chests as multi-purpose storage units that also seat guests or act as coffee tables. Secure the heavy lids-they’re a child hazard and a menace to older wrists as well.

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More after the jump.