Apr 5 2011

function over form [day 313]

When you own a lot of stuff, especially anything with electronic parts, you’re going to have some maintenance to do.  Some will be planned, some will not.  Here’s a few things I’ve been thinking about buying if I could.

Car fuses.

I blew a fuse in my car.  It’s the fuse to the interior dome lights, but worse than that, it’s also the fuse to my garage door opener.  I don’t have any extra fuses so I’m living without these things.  It’s not so bad, as it’s teaching me to appreciate the small things in life.  I’ve never appreciated that machine that opens my garage door.  Now I use the back door instead of the garage door.  It’s less electricity, and the only time it’s a real hassle is if it’s raining or we’re bringing home groceries.

A water filter.

I would buy a water filter for my Softub.  Although yesterday, I moved the tub into its new location on the patio and now the GFCI plug isn’t working.  Gor $75 I can buy a new one, however the Softub tech isn’t even sure that’s the problem.  I’m going to take it apart and see for myself, but then what are the chances of finding a used part like that?  I’m guessing slim to none.  Not sure what I’m going to do if I can’t get it working.  I definitely will not be selling it, as I use it a lot.

A grill.

Yes, I finally got tired of fighting with my temperamental Brinkmann grill and I sold it on craigslist.  What?  You want to know what I got for it?  $60 cash.  It retailed new for $1,100, I paid $69.99 approximately 2 years ago.  In that time, the burners were replaced and the gas valve with tubing was replaced.  Even with the replacement parts, it was always a mystery as why it would work some of the time, but not all of the time.  I just got tired of fighting with it.  And yes, I sold it “as is” with a full disclosure of the issues I had with it.

As I was researching new grills (planing to buy one used), I came across this really cool looking grill.  It’s a Fuego Element, it’s designer a previous Apple product designer.  After some research, it seems as though this sexy looking grill is just not the easiest to use.  The top gets hot and it’s not attached so you have to place the hot lid somewhere when cooking.  The cast iron grates need care to prevent them from rusting.  In my efforts to downsize, this grill is super-appealing in its size.  But do I want the maintenance?

I looked at many other grills, I’ve read consumer reports on them, but I’m still unsure of my next grill purchase.  I used my old one a lot and got my money’s worth, but I want something smaller and simple.  I’m also looking at a Minden grill.  This is unique, as you can add features to it later like a side burner and ice chest.  The reviews are good, but it’s so new, there aren’t any used ones available.

I’m still deciding what to do about all of these situations.  The no shopping is making it a hassle for the small things, like the fuses, but it’s provoking some creativity in finding solutions for the big things.  I’ll keep you posted on the outcome of these situations.  I’m prioritizing function over form, but that’s easier said than done sometimes.


Mar 27 2011

macbook [minimalist challenge item #38]

[item] Black MacBook (broken)

[purchase info] Purchased on craigslist used

[time in my possession] Approximately 4 years

[last used] Almost 3 years ago

[difficulty level in getting rid of it] Easy

[destination] Craigslist

[info] This was a gift to my kids for Christmas, I paid for part of it and their dad paid for part of it.  It quit working after several months, and I’m pretty sure I just bought a bad laptop.  It’s better to buy used electronics from someone you know and trust.  Lesson learned.  Expensive lesson learned.


Mar 14 2011

the new sharing economy [day 291]

Do you share your stuff?  If you need a drill, do you go out and buy one or do you try to borrow one?  I mean, you just need a hole, right?  I own a drill.  My dad gave me a new DeWalt drill about 10 years ago, but that one got lost on a mission trip.  I never found it, although another older drill with a chuck key showed up unclaimed.  I took it, so that’s why I have a drill now.  I don’t really need one though.

So why don’t I need one?  Doesn’t everyone have a drill in their garage?  Let’s look at the logic.  I need a few holes, so I use the drill for approximately 4-8 minutes in a years time.  Maybe a little bit more if I have some home projects.  I could borrow one from a friend.  I could rent one when I’m doing projects.  I could share a drill.  Yes, I said share.  I could co-own a drill with some friends or I could use a sharing service.  This is really a great and upward trending process.

First, there’s itizen.com.  You can print QR codes for all of your things in order to tell stories about them, to share them and to track the life of them.  Here’s a blurb from itizen’s site:

Why we do what we do.
We want to celebrate the cool things around us — period. We are inspired by the artists, makers, and retailers who provide us with these wonderful things, and we are fascinated by how storytelling can give these things meaning and purpose. Most important, we are passionate about supporting a culture of giving and sharing that allows others to benefit from these things and share in the joy.

If you don’t have a QR code reader, there’s lots of free apps out there that can be downloaded.  You can scan it and it will bring up the info right away.  The code to the left is a legitimate code for something I’m getting rid of.  Take a look and see if you want the item.  😉

I’m really liking this concept of sharing and swapping.  I’m still researching this whole thing, but I see so many benefits.

Cost savings: Not only does it save you money buying things, but also saves money on the maintenance and storage of these things.

Environmentally friendly: Reducing consumption means less production and fewer resources used.

Manufacturer behavior change: Manufacturers will start to make products based on consumer demand.  If we want to share quality products, but we’re buying less of them, manufacturers will start making more quality items and with the needed features we desire.

Less clutter: Less stuff is less stress and less to clean.  It’s also easier to find the things you do have.

Builds community: Sharing with friends, and even people you don’t know yet if you choose to do that, is a great way to build community, especially among neighbors.  In this day and age, at least where I live, knowing your neighbors is not the norm.  My neighbors let me borrow stuff all the time, and if they need something, they ask.

Helps eliminate poverty: This process can help eliminate poverty by lowering the cost of living.  If I don’t need to buy as much and I can share with others, I can live on less.

Job shifts: Jobs become more service oriented.  This is due to a shift from consuming stuff to being consumers of services.

We are on the front end of a wonderful trend that will change the way the world functions, utilizing technology to change our distribution systems, creating a community of sharing that will better our lives.  I’m still doing a lot of homework on this, but I will be posting more on it soon.  Sharing is an old concept, but it’s finding a new life through social media.

I just bought a used iPad from a friend of mine who’s upgrading.  I’ve decided to share my iPad.  I will be using a service such as snapgoods.com or I might do a co-ownership of it.  If this intrigues you in any way, let me know your thoughts.

Would you share something you paid a lot of money for, but something that sits unused for large periods of time?


Mar 8 2011

apple slicer [minimalist challenge item #19]

[item] Apple /pear slicer

[purchase info] Given to me by a friend that had 2 of them

[time in my possession] Approximately 5 years

[last used] 6 months ago

[difficulty level in getting rid of it] Easy

[destination] Thrift store

[info] I rarely use this and I can do the same job with a knife.  Not needed in my new world of minimalism.


Mar 7 2011

like new computer backpack bag [minimalist challenge item #18]

[item] Case Logic backpack 17″ computer bag

[purchase info] Purchased about a year ago for around $35 online

[time in my possession] Approximately a year

[last used] Almost a year ago

[difficulty level in getting rid of it] Medium

[destination] Craigslist (this is still for sale, please comment if interested)

[info] This is like new, it was only used once.  I bought two, one for my computer and one for my kids.  They don’t need one, as I don’t allow them to take the laptop anywhere, it’s set up as a desktop.


Mar 6 2011

17″ macbook shoulder bag [minimalist challenge item #17]

[item] InCase 17″ MacBook padded shoulder bag

[purchase info] I got this as a gift for my birthday

[time in my possession] A little over 2 years

[last used] About a year ago

[difficulty level in getting rid of it] Medium

[destination] Craigslist (It’s still for sale, comment if you’re interested)

[info] I got this as a gift, so it’s a little bit difficult to get rid of it.  I have a backpack bag now, but I used this one for 1.5 years and it’s still in great condition.


Jan 15 2011

build it and they will come… [day 232]

Yesterday I had to shop for work again.  I’m designing an interactive wall that unfortunately need some new supplies.  I was mentioning the fact that I had to go to the store in front of someone that just heard about my no retail challenge.  He asked, “So, if you shop for work, isn’t that against your challenge?  Doesn’t that give you the getting-new-stuff satisfaction?”  Okay, so I’m not sure if those were his exact words, but you get the point.  Here’s the answer to that question.

Let me start by saying that shopping is extremely frustrating and a root canal might have been a better way to spend my time.  Here’s why.

Ikea. This store is a giant maze.  I only needed one thing from there, a couple sets of Dioder multi colored lights.  I go in the exit there because I can look in the “as is” section first, and it’s the quickest way to the spot where the lights should be.  After making my way through the cold warehouse part into the marketplace, I find the display.  Sold out.  After asking about the next shipment, I find out these lights are discontinued and they’ll be replaced with a new design.  The problem?  The new sets are not available yet.  I start looking for my bread crumbs and make my way back to civilization.

Walmart. Not much to report here, just another giant superstore that takes forever to get into.  They didn’t have what I needed, which was inexpensive, decent quality, modern digital photo frames.  I needed 5 that look exactly alike.  They had some cheap, low quality ones, so on to the next store.

Lowe’s. Now, I’m all about a hardware store, if I have to shop.  I decided to take a look for LED lights, similar to Ikea’s.  Low and behold, they had them, and for the same price.  These are actually a little better, as one controller will hold more daisy chained lights.  They had just gotten these in a week prior.  Continue reading


Dec 14 2010

name brand god [photograph]

This photograph was light painted for a gallery collection called “Excessable”, showing how we worship stuff, particularly name brand stuff.


Dec 10 2010

Oprah's favorite things or advertising by the big O? [day 197]

Oprah always has her list of favorite things at Christmas time and gives them away to her viewers or audience.  A lot of this feels like advertising, although she has a few things to say about each of these and why she likes them.  Unfortunately that doesn’t rules out paid advertising.  If Oprah mentions you or your product, you’re an instant success.  When I worked for Barnes and Noble 15 years ago, we would have to order 100+ of any title she mentioned on her show.  She has a lot of power to make a difference.

I pulled up her list several weeks ago for my blog, but decided to pull it up this morning while I write this post.  Surprise!  Oprah has added over 10 new items to her favorite things.  Among the new items?  An iPad, Scrabble for the iPad, glittery Uggs and Coach bags.  I had every intention of believing she actual uses these things, likes them and then features them on her show.  Clearly this is not the case, this is yet another creative, and very expensive, advertising vehicle.  Why do I think that?  The answer is in the iPad…

Apple iPad. Read the blurb under the photo.  She says, “Words cannot describe what I feel for this magnificent device.  I really think it’s the best invention of the century so far.”  She continues on with, “Thanks to my iPad, I now read about four newspapers a day.  I write my column for O magazine way before the deadline because I love writing on it so much.”  Really Oprah?  If that’s true, why is it late making your list of favorite things?  Could it be that Apple contacted you to market this magnificent device?  If they did and you accepted it, good for you and good for Apple.  It’s a win-win for Applrah.  What I have a problem with is lying.  If Oprah really uses this and it’s one of her favorite things, then why is it late on the list?  This is advertising, plain and simple.  She writes on it way before her deadlines, yet this is a recent favorite things addition?  It doesn’t add up Oprah.  Maybe you should stop playing Scrabble on your treadmill and find a truth-in-advertising app.  It’s okay to advertise, it’s okay to say you like stuff you don’t use often, but don’t act like you can’t live without it and that you do things with it you clearly don’t do.

Now, let me take the direction I planned with this post.  I had planned to talk about a few of her items, then my next post will be Jody’s favorite things.  So I think I’ll go to the Apple store and see if they’ll sponsor me?  In the mean time, take a look at a few other Oprah 2010 items.

kiva.org. I started with Kiva because this is a great thing to do for Christmas gifts.  For $25 you can help someone from anywhere in the world fund their small business.  This is a great gift for many reasons.  It helps people in need, it allows you to help them, the person receiving the gift doesn’t collect a bunch of stuff they don’t need and you can see who you’re helping.  Once that money has helped someone, you can choose for that money to go out again to help another project or person.  Groupon.com is doing a matching program too!  This will be on Jody’s favorite things as well.

Hope by Philosophy. Oprah has been using this moisturizer for over 10 years.  Again, this was a late addition, so i took 10 years and 2 months for her to decide to make it a favorite?  Nope, I think it was a late addition, because it features a picture of a “certain little girl from Mississippi.”  I wonder who that could be?  Good thing she decided they’re a favorite or this company would be investing in some 3M stickers with some other not-so-certain kid from Montana.  If Hope really costs $38 for 2 ounces, it’s no wonder there’s a lack of hope in our culture.  My philosophy?  I can’t afford hope, although this topical type hope might be easier than the psychological hope.

Nikon D3100 SLR camera. I’ve been using Nikon cameras since the early 80’s.  My first Nikon was an 8008 film camera.  I have to admit, I’m more into electronics than clothing or girly stuff.  Whether you’re buying a camera, a tv, a sweater or a necklace, just make sure is something that will be liked and used, not something to add to the pile of stuff you or your loved one doesn’t use.

Baker’s edge baking pans. Here’s something Oprah really does like, as it was on the original list and she’s always talking about dieting.  First of all, this pan would be a diet for me, as I like the inside pieces of lasagna and cakes, not the crusty outside stuff.  It comes with Ghirardelli brownie mix too, which is a little funny since she’s also featuring a book, A Course in Weight Loss by Marianne Williamson.  A contradiction?  Yes Oprah, it is.

My point in featuring Oprah is that she’s sold out to the money making.  Anything will be on her favorites list if the company supports her.  What are your favorites and why?  Don’t sell out to culture or anything else people are selling unless you believe in it.


Nov 27 2010

BLACK FRIDAY: the video [day 185]

Any other day of the year, no retailer would allow you to walk around their store with a camera around your neck, they would stop you and make you put it away.  On black friday, that’s not the case.  With the busyness and chaos of the thousands of shoppers, extremely long lines and merchandise everywhere, nobody stopped me.  Here’s the black friday 2010 video to the tune of AC/DC’s Back in Black.

A few black friday observations:

  • It’s controlled chaos. The retailers are creating it and they’re prepared for it.
  • There’s a size relationship. The bigger the person, the bigger the packages.  Oh, how some psycho therapist needs to analyze this.
  • People like to get a deal. I’m not sure if they really want or need this stuff, but there seems to be an accomplishment once they’ve gotten a deal.  If they researched a possible purchase during the year, they could probably find a similar savings.  Is it really a deal if it’s cheap and not needed?
  • Loss leaders. There are some deals that can’t be found throughout the year, but these loss leaders are only available to the first 3-5 people according to the ads.  Not a bad deal, but I would do the cost analysis, time and effort versus cost savings.
  • Warranties. Many of the big ticket loss leaders have very limited warranties.  Before buying, you better make sure it works before you put it under the tree.  Many items have 15 days warranties.  They might as well just skip that altogether.
  • 2 types of men. The ones that like electronics with a willingness to get up early and fight for it and the “my wife made me do this and I better get sex tonight” male drag-a-longs.  I might start a line of t-shirts before next year.
  • Sporting event. I’m pretty sure most women see this as some sort of sporting event.  It’s a race for the best deals and to get all the shopping done at one time.  Most of them are getting lots of practice time during the year, so it should be a good game.

There’s much more, but that’s the big stuff.  Now, what to get my kids for Christmas without going shopping?