Saturday, September 15, 2012


The latest in this.

People often confuse cheap with inexpensive.  Or use it to describe someone who tries to hold on too tightly to money.  But cheap, as I mean it here, speaks to something that's of poor quality.   Something made by someone who doesn't give a, well, you know.  A mass-produced object designed (not really, design implies intentionality) to simply break the minute you get it some.  A flimsy, rough, unpleasant thing that makes you feel sad just to be near.

A steering wheel that's too small or too thin.  Panels that don't match, things that flex where they shouldn't.  Sharp edges, hard corners, modeled plastic with little burrs.  It's a poorly written book, a website with error messages that at best insult you and at worst do nothing to help you resolve an issue.

Not everything must be expensive, but I try to avoid too many things where no attention is paid to detail, where stuff is good enough (far below what should count as good enough) or where the sole purpose is to get you to part with your money with no effort made to hoping for future purchases or an ongoing relationship with a brand.

Show me you care.  Help me understand why I should care as well.  Don't just bid something out to China hoping I'll buy it and forget about you before it breaks. (You'd think with all their nationalist pride, China would be wary of these tactics, but just shows you how much they're following the money when they're perfectly happy to be the source of the world's shoddy garbage.)

Sunday, September 09, 2012

If you give a mouse a cookie...

Mom and dad stayed overnight at our house with the children last weekend while Lori and I snuck away to L.A. for a very brief getaway.  Upon our return, I asked my parents "If this were your house, what's the first thing you'd work on?"  They pointed to the moss on the back deck.  I hadn't really noticed it, but they said that, untreated, it would destroy the deck.

Today I cleared everything off the deck and then ran a screwdriver between each board to loosen the moss. Of course, it also loosened some paint.  And there were plenty of places where the paint was already coming up.  I suppose I shouldn't be surprised - it has been at least six years since the deck was painted and while they did a really nice job flipping the house inside, I'm not sure they were as well versed in what to do outside, judging by some of the other places where the house needs repainting and by some of the shrubs that were planted inappropriately close the edge of the sidewalk and grew to intrude.  (Some we've removed, some are still waiting for us to remove them, but I trim them back regularly, but that makes them look bad.)

So, scraped loose paint, used a push broom, even my favorite tool, the leaf-blower - that was really great at blowing away paint that wasn't adhering to the deck at all.

Of course, then that meant getting out a hammer and nailing the deck boards back in.

Next will probably be sanding, and then repainting.

Oh, and the rainy season is supposed to start tomorrow at 11 am.  I suspect at some point we'll tarp it off and then I'll take a day off from work and Lori and I can paint.

Saturday, September 08, 2012


Attempting to work on this series some more after another long break.

Ugly actually takes some work.  Often, you're faced with bland or soulless, but ugly takes work.  Of course, in the physical world, it's hard to move beyond suggestive.  The first thing that comes to mind are cars.  I can name a few cars on the road today that I find ugly, but there are people driving them and it's not simply because they were the cheapest.  Well, maybe the Ford Pinto and the Pontiac Aztek.  Those two seemed to be universally reviled.  

So I've struggled with how to write this one.  I've actually written quite a bit and then already erased it.

If I say "What is ugly?" it's not just enough to say "Well, it's things that aren't beautiful" because that's not helpful.

Ugly is...

- a lack of attention to detail

- ugly is not caring

- ugly is harsh, clashing, overwhelming and complicated.

- ugly is stupidity and ignorance.

- ugly is neglect.

- clutter is ugly.

So I aspire not to be ugly.  I aspire to not to open my mouth and let ugly things come out.  I aspire not to be surrounded by ugliness.  Unfortunately, my work is in a cubicle with gray walls.  I have a few pieces of art made by my daughter on the wall but I make sure when I leave each night any papers on my desk are stacked in a single pile.   I have blandness as well as ugliness in piles of dirt or scary pokey weeds at my house, but that's more of a lack of time and money than anything.  Over time, we are working on the most egregious areas to make them more pleasing, to eliminate the pockets of neglect and blandness.

Clutter is also something we're fighting, especially at home.  We've made some great strides.  It'll be years (decades?) before we're clutter-free, but we have children, so a little clutter, a little chaos, a little overwhelming will have to be excused.  But I won't let myself get an ugly attitude about it.

Monday, September 03, 2012

So Worth It

Two bright shiny new cars in the garage.  Looks so good.  Ok, fine, a 13-year-old sedan and an 8-year-old small SUV.  But I spent $8 each to get them washed this afternoon.  In California, we very regularly paid to have the cars washed.  Now, granted, the cars were newer, there were lots of car washes, and they also vacuumed the insides and washed the inside windows and wiped down all of the interior surfaces, but it was something we indulged in.

And then we moved to Washington and for whatever reasons we stopped getting regular car washes... life was busier, we no longer had two incomes, it rains more here, whatever.  We stopped.  But it wasn't like we started washing the cars by hand.  The hose in the front yard is not conveniently located and it's just a big hassle to go out and wash the cars, dry the cars, etc.  So it didn't even become a case of the value of my time or the value of money, let's just call it what it was: neglect.

I've grown tired of my beautiful car looking less than beautiful.  It's 13-years-old and there is still some remnants from the paint can issue (story here, pictures here) but I still think it looks really good.  I've taken care of it and it's gotten very few door dings and most of the other damage has been replaced with new parts over the years, but it does not look like my idea of a 13-year-old car.

So today I took them both and had them washed.  I am really impressed at how good a job the automated car wash did, even on the rims.

I guess it's going to be up to me to clean the insides of the cars, but I'll probably be more motivated to do that when the outsides are clean.