Category Archives: home

Digital Sludge

Anyone who might have hibernated for the last 100 years and just woken up would no doubt be dumbfounded by how life works in 2017.  In no other hundred-year period in history would that be true to the same degree as the last 100.

Seeing how we jet around the world, live in 50-story high-rises, and carry closely guarded hand-held communication devices would be jaw dropping.  This modern Rip Van Winkle may also be perplexed by how data is transmitted through the air to the multitude of devices we use to communicate.

We would need to explain to Rip that our computers, tablets, and in particular our handheld devices can do almost anything, from ordering groceries, to taxis, taking photos, making movies, bank transactions, listening to music of any kind, to instantly accessing the information of virtually all the libraries in the world.  And much more.  He would readily see that all this information, data and media, moves invisibly through the air.  That would sound farfetched, but Van Winkle would eventually believe by experiencing, just as we do.router-1

We are all dependent on WiFi today.  In fact, we are demanding it everywhere. Whether on a mountain top or a subway, when it’s not available, we’re lost.  If not lost, perhaps feeling a little empty.  It’s perplexing enough to think of data moving through wires.  For that same data to be converted and coded, and transmit itself through the unseen airwaves, then recoded back to intelligible media is downright flabbergasting, at least for the less-than-genius of us.  How could sophisticated data be so quickly and magically transformed, ride on non-ionized radio waves in the form of “1’s” and “0’s” and arrive recognizable almost instantly?

In our current reality, most of us don’t give much thought to the process. It just happens.  Many times not fast enough.  However, any pipe or pathway carrying stuff accumulates contamination over time.  Drano to the rescue for many of our home pipes.  We are becoming careful about what we eat so as not to clog up our internal ducts.  But what about the digital pathways?  Yep, they also become clogged.  These electromagnetic signals get jostled and misplaced. Sometimes an errant 1 or 0 get digitally hung up.  When the hangups build up, things get sludgy.

We are fairly certain that the frequency of radio waves don't harm us

We are fairly certain that the frequency of radio waves don’t harm us

The solution? The simple act of unplugging our WiFi router (the coder/decoder) once in a while has the affect of a good cleaning. As we know, purging is an activity better done on a routine basis.  You can let it go, but like the bathroom, the environment gets nastier over time.

Some even suggest a daily router cleaning.  But a weekly WiFi router recycling habit is a smart practice for keeping digital sludge to a minimum.

tidying up

Such a small word, tidy.  And for me not one I’d normally use.  I’ve always been neat and organized, or so I thought, but Marie Kondo, in her book the life-changing magic of tidying up, (the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing), has given much more weight to that little word.

Her writing style didn’t speak to me as much as the essence of what she said.  Never again will I have (even neat) piles of clothing, like tee shirts or jeans.  Clothes need to breathe, she says, which they can’t do if they are on the bottom of a pile.  My button-down shirts are no longer hung, rather folded and stacked side by side (a different kind of breathing).

The premise of what she advocates is to live only with those things that give you joy, and get rid of the rest.  Her philosophy, developed from a life-long study of tidying, from clothes, documents, photos, mementos, electronic wires, to kitchenware, while even occasionally speaking to your home and the things you own, are cause for serious reflection.

It’s tough for a guy to look at clothes and think of joy, nevertheless, the idea of shedding and re-grouping, coupled with the different style of folding and storing makes this book worth the quick read.

one child, or two

The vast majority of Chinese (in China), those in their 20’s and 30’s, have no siblings, which is why it’s coincidental that I know two young women, Ms S and Ms B, who have one sibling.  Ms S’s grandfather was a government official so their family received a special exemption for the second child.  Ms B’s family chose to move to western China to a province where the fine for the second child was a lesser hardship.

Even though China’s overall population has been increasing, the jury’s been out for a while, the one-child policy has had the desired effect of significantly reducing the birth rate and controlling population growth.  Fortunately for some, the policy has been somewhat relaxed recently so that if either the man or the woman in the marriage is an only child, they are allowed a second, penalty free.

This unique policy in the world’s largest populated country has not only helped take tens of millions out of poverty, but it also has created a sort of “me” culture.  Most young adults have no siblings, two parents, and four grandparents — called the 4-2-1 ratio.  It’s a ratio automatically setup for lots of doting.

Ms S related that that even though her parents had to split their resources to support two children, she was happy to have had less than her friends in school because the richness of having a sibling was (and is) greater than the value of extra allotment.

I work with another Chinese woman, Ms C, who has a three-year old daughter.  She very much wants another child but her husband is adamantly against a second, even though they could without penalty.  Her husband wants the resources, including, he says, all his love, to be dedicated to one child only, not split to two.

On the flip side, I met a guy visiting on business this past week from Romania who is one of 15 children.  He has seven children himself and said that the average among his other sibling’s children is five per, and they are far from finished.  Large families tend to breed large families, at least until common sense prevails.  My mother was one of eight children and she had seven.  Several of her children continued the breeding spree and ended up with large families.

It’s not a scientific notion that a smaller family size raises overall quality of life for those involved.  In large part, successful efforts at reducing family size is the reason that millions in several South East Asia countries have risen out of poverty over the past few decades.

Melinda Gates, a practicing Catholic, makes a case here that the need to discuss family planning and the use contraceptives is not about religion.  Hans Rosling, a data visionary speaking at a TED conference in Qatar to an Arab audience makes a similar compelling case here, in a different way.

In large parts the world, including the USA, family size has come down dramatically over the last few decades, as the baby boomer generation makes its way to retirement.  In Thailand, with grassroots efforts, population rates have decreased from an average of seven children per family a few decades ago to an average of two today.

As I was discussing the one-child policy with Ms B last week, she said she was against it because she felt so lucky to have a sister.  She experienced first-hand the sense of entitlement her friends in school have had.  She said her schoolmates were “amazed” at the way she shared, as they didn’t have the same sharing impulse.  As she was telling me her encounters with entitlement, I couldn’t help but think that having siblings, however rich an experience, doesn’t preclude that some will not harness that sense, (as I recently found out).

Nevertheless, the nostalgia of a large family is not reason enough to continue unabated reproduction.  There are broader implications, for the individuals, the family, the society, and the planet.

Although still growing, the UN tells us that the world population, with additional successful coaxing of family size moderation, will level off somewhere around 10 billion.

Even with an abundance of wealth, the planet simply would not sustain continued liberal reproduction.  A one-child policy may be extreme, but a family size mindset of less is more has proven more beneficial on both a micro and macro level.

We all march off the cliff leaving (an average of) one behind.  That’s fair, reasonable, and logical.  More than that and we would not doing ourselves, or those we leave behind, any favors.

everything but the kitchen sink

It’s been a while now.  There has always something going on (excuse).  It didn’t seem worth investing the energy.  But now it’s high time.  I’ve been focusing on everything but the kitchen sink. But the kitchen sink is finally going to get its due.  The rust along the front edge is an eye-sore and getting worse.  So this weekend, the kitchen sink is receiving some attention.

We all know the saying “everything but the kitchen sink.” I knew of one circumstance where it was most appropriate.  I was a young dad, early 20’s.  The mother of our two young kids wanted to go camping with them.  I agreed to the plan, after all, I like to camp.  But I never camped with her, nor with babies.  If she could have taken the kitchen sink along on our camping trip, she would have.  It took longer to pack and unpack, and again pack and unpack on the return, than it did to camp.  I remember thinking that the sink could have doubled as the cradle.

That’s about the extent of my sink memories.  But that’s going to change because it’s time to create a new and exciting sink experience.  Sink shopping?  It may be more exciting to shop for just about anything but. (no offense sink). The good news is, the kitchen sink department at the local Home Depot isn’t exactly overcrowded.

As it happens, over the years we’ve been slowly turning the kitchen appliances from white to stainless. Seven years ago it was the refrigerator. A few years later the dishwasher.  It only makes sense to replace the now rusting white ceramic sink with something that won’t rust. It will flow with the motif slowly making its way across the panorama.  The only thing left will be the stove.

It should be so easy to buy a basic stainless sink.  Oh, but then the faucets won’t match.  And then there is the question about the number of predrilled holes.  How about the integrated hose, soap dispensers, or ability to add a water-filter? What about the gauge of the stainless? The shape and depth? Is there a brand difference?  More decisions than I bargained for.  The possible combinations and styles are seemingly endless. Search for kitchen sink on Amazon and 134,815 results show up.

There is so much data and studying to do, that it looks like it will take me well beyond this weekend. In fact, the more I dig, the more there is to know.  Looks like I’m in for a self-taught sink course.  And I can’t forget about the re-plumbing implications.  This is all proper payment for ignoring the kitchen sink for so long.

Nevertheless, the kitchen sink can’t continue being spurned.  Long ignored and left behind, I’m not going to let that happen any more. It plays such a key role in the home and our lives, helping to funnel away that which we don’t want, while being the all-important clean facilitator.  No more everything but the kitchen sink.  The sink’s status is being elevated.  From now on it will be, first, the kitchen sink, then, everything else.