Friday, April 28, 2006

How to disgust three roommates in 60 seconds

We caught our downstairs roommate moments after he poured milk on the cereal that was going to be his dinner. Our error was suggesting at this moment that he join us in eating out tonight.

Now, picture, if you will, a bowl of store brand sugary cocoa nuggets with artificially colored so-called marshmallows sprinkled throughout, and milk freshly poured over the top. It is unquestionably less appetizing than any decent restaurant, and we have many worthwhile eateries nearby. He liked the idea so much, apparently, that he sprang for the entire dinner.

Here's the hard part: plan A is still in our refrigerator, cocoa and marshmallows dissolving into a dreadful cocoa marshmallow mush. If it is still there in 24 hours, I'm tossing it, if I have to buy him a new box of cereal.

Thursday, April 20, 2006


I found this screen while changing some software settings today, but I don’t quite know what it does.

I think I’ll leave it at the default setting, at least until

Saturday, April 15, 2006


Luxury is a relative thing, and it needn't be costly. A bathtub full of hot water and a favorite magazine* can offer every bit as much enjoyment as expensive trips or acquisitions. Luxury can also be quite personal. Here are a couple of such personal indulgences.

My grandmother, who grew up in rural Vermont, wanted nothing more, in her youth, than to someday have an entire can of olives all to herself. She was one of ten siblings, and such a rarity, if it were afforded, had to be split ten ways.

Her son, my uncle, has had a successful career and could doubtless afford far more than olives (though I'm sure he bought her some, at some point). He confided that he indulges in a luxury all his own. I think he buys them in bulk, and as such, it's probably cheaper than most peoples' daily coffee or even newspaper. You see, he finds he likes the feel of brand new socks between his toes, so he wears a new pair almost every day.

Anything I read in the tub invariably ends up wet, so I tend to choose things that don't matter if they get wet.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Going with the flow

The university I attended tried everything to keep people from walking diagonally across its main quad. They put up signs and ropes and fences, and planted hedges, but the shortcutting continued unabated.

The one thing they didn't try was giving in. In place of a muddy swath of trampled turf, they could simply have made it official, paved a footpath, and quit worrying about it. The students weren't out to destroy the lawn, just to take fewer steps between a few of the major buildings.

Design, in my opinion, would often benefit by following the natural flow of traffic more closely. I worked in a building where the wheelchair ramp ran away from most of the parking lot. A couple of stairs would have saved the rest of us a leap through the bushes, spared the janitorial staff a good many muddy footprints, and generally made more sense.

The idea not limited to physical paths of travel, either. If my shoes naturally wind up beside the bed at night, why not put a basket there and declare that the shoes belong there? If the junk mail consistently accumulates on the nearest horizontal surface to the door, perhaps that's where the recycle bin and the sorting trays should go.

By extension, when arranging tools in a workspace, buttons on a screen, or utensils in a kitchen, place objects near where they will be needed, and make frequently-used objects the most accessible. The knife block should go near the cutting board and the pot-holders near the oven. The large, infrequently-used roasting pan can go on a high shelf, out of the way.

In short, go with the flow.