January 07th, 2014

My husband’s pal Ian started a fun game on Twitter. I joined in. Hilarity ensued, at least as far as the three of us were concerned. I thought you might also find it amusing.

And then we all went to bed, I guess.

December 31st, 2013

Wow, I haven’t written anything here since my last Medium post. I sense a new trend!

Not really. I almost wrote a thing about One Star App Review Gate (kill me for saying that; I mean the stupid -gate suffix ironically, in case it wasn’t clear). But then I didn’t. So here’s my latest Medium post, about New Year’s Resolutions! A phrase which I’m not sure should be title case like that! Oh well! Happy new year! Or, if you prefer, Happy New Year!

When I empty the Roomba, I will finally remember to disassemble it over the counter instead of the trash can, even though I know that will make an annoying mess on the counter, because that one tiny fucking piece always falls out and then I have to root through the trash with my bare fucking hands like an animal. Or maybe I’ll just by a new Roomba, because WHO DESIGNED THAT PIECE.

A Roomba.

My other resolution is to start using unironic header images for my Medium posts.

October 25th, 2013

Check it out; I finally wrote my first piece for Medium! It’s about how I hate default text and crappy auto-tweets and generally bad non-human-like behavior on social media.

What should the next one be?

October 19th, 2013

I just got this as a single spam comment on one of my less-used sites. My jaw kinda dropped. I thought someone out there might find it as interesting, disturbing, amusing, and/or useful—perhaps if you develop anti-spam products, you’ve just been handed a useful template to add to your filtering system. Anyway, enjoy! <3 VA

 

{
{I have|I’ve} been {surfing|browsing} online more
than {three|3|2|4} hours today, yet I never found any interesting article like yours.
{It’s|It is} pretty worth enough for me. {In my opinion|Personally|In my view},
all {webmasters|site owners|website owners|web owners} and bloggers made good content as you did, the
{internet|net|web} will be {much more|a lot more} useful than ever before.|
I {couldn’t|could not} {resist|refrain from} commenting.
{Very well|Perfectly|Well|Exceptionally well} written!|
{I will|I’ll} {right away|immediately} {take hold of|grab|clutch|grasp|seize|snatch} your {rss|rss feed}
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{Please|Kindly} {allow|permit|let} me {realize|recognize|understand|recognise|know} {so that|in
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{It is|It’s} {appropriate|perfect|the best} time to make some plans for
the future and {it is|it’s} time to be happy. {I have|I’ve}
read this post and if I could I {want to|wish to|desire to} suggest you {few|some}
interesting things or {advice|suggestions|tips}.
{Perhaps|Maybe} you {could|can} write next articles referring to this article.

I {want to|wish to|desire to} read {more|even more}
things about it!|
{It is|It’s} {appropriate|perfect|the best} time to make {a
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{these days|nowadays|today|lately|as of late}, {yet|but}
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{It’s|It is} {lovely|pretty|beautiful} {worth|value|price} {enough|sufficient} for me.

{In my opinion|Personally|In my view}, if all {webmasters|site owners|website owners|web owners} and bloggers made {just right|good|excellent} {content|content material} as {you did|you probably did}, the {internet|net|web} {will be|shall be|might be|will probably
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{now|at this time} me also commenting {here|at this place}.|
I am sure this {article|post|piece of writing|paragraph} has touched all the internet {users|people|viewers|visitors}, its really really {nice|pleasant|good|fastidious} {article|post|piece of writing|paragraph} on building up new {blog|weblog|webpage|website|web site}.|
Wow, this {article|post|piece of writing|paragraph}
is {nice|pleasant|good|fastidious}, my {sister|younger sister} is analyzing {such|these|these kinds of} things, {so|thus|therefore} I am going to {tell|inform|let
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{Saved as a favorite|bookmarked!!}, {I really like|I like|I
love} {your blog|your site|your web site|your website}!|
Way cool! Some {very|extremely} valid points!
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the} rest of the {site is|website is} {also very|extremely|very|also really|really} good.|
Hi, {I do believe|I do think} {this is an excellent|this is
a great} {blog|website|web site|site}. I stumbledupon it ;) {I will|I am going to|I’m going to|I may} {come back|return|revisit} {once again|yet again} {since I|since i
have} {bookmarked|book marked|book-marked|saved as a favorite} it.
Money and freedom {is the best|is the greatest} way to change,
may you be rich and continue to {help|guide} {other people|others}.|
Woah! I’m really {loving|enjoying|digging} the template/theme of this {site|website|blog}.
It’s simple, yet effective. A lot of times it’s {very
hard|very difficult|challenging|tough|difficult|hard} to get that “perfect balance”
between {superb usability|user friendliness|usability} and {visual appearance|visual appeal|appearance}.
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job with this. {In addition|Additionally|Also}, the
blog loads {very|extremely|super} {fast|quick} for me on
{Safari|Internet explorer|Chrome|Opera|Firefox}.
{Superb|Exceptional|Outstanding|Excellent} Blog!|
These are {really|actually|in fact|truly|genuinely}
{great|enormous|impressive|wonderful|fantastic} ideas in {regarding|concerning|about|on the topic of} blogging.
You have touched some {nice|pleasant|good|fastidious} {points|factors|things} here.
Any way keep up wrinting.|
{I love|I really like|I enjoy|I like|Everyone loves} what
you guys {are|are usually|tend to be} up too. {This sort
of|This type of|Such|This kind of} clever work and {exposure|coverage|reporting}!

Keep up the {superb|terrific|very good|great|good|awesome|fantastic|excellent|amazing|wonderful} works guys I’ve {incorporated||added|included} you guys to {|my|our||my personal|my
own} blogroll.|
{Howdy|Hi there|Hey there|Hi|Hello|Hey}! Someone in my {Myspace|Facebook} group shared this {site|website}
with us so I came to {give it a look|look it over|take a
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I’m {book-marking|bookmarking} and will be tweeting this to my followers!
{Terrific|Wonderful|Great|Fantastic|Outstanding|Exceptional|Superb|Excellent} blog and {wonderful|terrific|brilliant|amazing|great|excellent|fantastic|outstanding|superb} {style and design|design and style|design}.|
{I love|I really like|I enjoy|I like|Everyone loves} what you
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Keep up the {superb|terrific|very good|great|good|awesome|fantastic|excellent|amazing|wonderful} works guys I’ve
{incorporated|added|included} you guys to {|my|our|my personal|my own} blogroll.|
{Howdy|Hi there|Hey there|Hi|Hello|Hey} would
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own blog {in the near future|soon} but I’m having a {tough|difficult|hard} time
{making a decision|selecting|choosing|deciding} between BlogEngine/Wordpress/B2evolution and Drupal.
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blogs and I’m looking for something {completely unique|unique}.
P.S {My apologies|Apologies|Sorry} for {getting|being} off-topic
but I had to ask!|
{Howdy|Hi there|Hi|Hey there|Hello|Hey} would you
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a {honest|reasonable|fair} price? {Thanks a lot|Kudos|Cheers|Thank you|Many thanks|Thanks}, I appreciate it!|
{I love|I really like|I like|Everyone loves} it {when people|when individuals|when folks|whenever people} {come together|get together} and share {opinions|thoughts|views|ideas}.
Great {blog|website|site}, {keep it up|continue the good work|stick with it}!|
Thank you for the {auspicious|good} writeup. It in fact was a amusement account it.

Look advanced to {far|more} added agreeable from you!

{By the way|However}, how {can|could} we communicate?|
{Howdy|Hi there|Hey there|Hello|Hey} just wanted to give you a quick heads up.
The {text|words} in your {content|post|article} seem to be running off the screen in {Ie|Internet explorer|Chrome|Firefox|Safari|Opera}.
I’m not sure if this is a {format|formatting} issue or something to do with {web browser|internet browser|browser}
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The {style and design|design and style|layout|design}
look great though! Hope you get the {problem|issue} {solved|resolved|fixed} soon.
{Kudos|Cheers|Many thanks|Thanks}|
This is a topic {that is|that’s|which is} {close to|near to} my heart…
{Cheers|Many thanks|Best wishes|Take care|Thank you}! {Where|Exactly where} are your contact details
though?|
It’s very {easy|simple|trouble-free|straightforward|effortless} to find out any {topic|matter} on {net|web} as compared to
{books|textbooks}, as I found this {article|post|piece
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I’ve got some {creative ideas|recommendations|suggestions|ideas} for your blog you might
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{Hola|Hey there|Hi|Hello|Greetings}! I’ve been {following|reading}
your {site|web site|website|weblog|blog} for {a long time|a while|some time} now
and finally got the {bravery|courage} to go ahead and give you a shout out from
{New Caney|Kingwood|Huffman|Porter|Houston|Dallas|Austin|Lubbock|Humble|Atascocita} {Tx|Texas}!
Just wanted to {tell you|mention|say} keep up the {fantastic|excellent|great|good} {job|work}!|
Greetings from {Idaho|Carolina|Ohio|Colorado|Florida|Los angeles|California}!

I’m {bored to tears|bored to death|bored} at work so I decided to {check out|browse} your {site|website|blog} on my iphone during lunch break.
I {enjoy|really like|love} the {knowledge|info|information} you {present|provide} here and can’t wait
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your blog loaded on my {mobile|cell phone|phone}
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Its {like you|such as you} {read|learn} my {mind|thoughts}!
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{I think|I feel|I believe} {that you|that you simply|that you just} {could|can} do with
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{A great|An excellent|A fantastic} read. {I’ll|I will} {definitely|certainly} be
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I visited {multiple|many|several|various} {websites|sites|web sites|web pages|blogs} {but|except|however} the audio {quality|feature}
for audio songs {current|present|existing} at
this {website|web site|site|web page} is {really|actually|in fact|truly|genuinely} {marvelous|wonderful|excellent|fabulous|superb}.|
{Howdy|Hi there|Hi|Hello}, i read your blog {occasionally|from time to time} and i own a similar
one and i was just {wondering|curious} if you get a
lot of spam {comments|responses|feedback|remarks}?
If so how do you {prevent|reduce|stop|protect against} it, any plugin
or anything you can {advise|suggest|recommend}? I
get so much lately it’s driving me {mad|insane|crazy} so any {assistance|help|support} is very much appreciated.|
Greetings! {Very helpful|Very useful} advice {within
this|in this particular} {article|post}! {It is the|It’s
the} little changes {that make|which will make|that produce|that
will make} {the biggest|the largest|the greatest|the most important|the most significant}
changes. {Thanks a lot|Thanks|Many thanks} for sharing!|
{I really|I truly|I seriously|I absolutely} love {your blog|your site|your website}..
{Very nice|Excellent|Pleasant|Great} colors
&amp; theme. Did you {create|develop|make|build} {this website|this site|this web site|this
amazing site} yourself? Please reply back as I’m {looking to|trying to|planning
to|wanting to|hoping to|attempting to} create {my own|my very own|my own personal}
{blog|website|site} and {would like to|want to|would love to} {know|learn|find out} where you got this from or {what the|exactly what the|just what the} theme {is called|is named}.
{Thanks|Many thanks|Thank you|Cheers|Appreciate it|Kudos}!|
{Hi there|Hello there|Howdy}! This {post|article|blog
post} {couldn’t|could not} be written {any better|much better}!
{Reading through|Looking at|Going through|Looking through} this {post|article} reminds me
of my previous roommate! He {always|constantly|continually}
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{Pretty sure|Fairly certain} {he will|he’ll|he’s going to} {have
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{Wow|Whoa|Incredible|Amazing}! This blog looks {exactly|just} like
my old one! It’s on a {completely|entirely|totally} different {topic|subject} but it has pretty much the same {layout|page layout} and design.
{Excellent|Wonderful|Great|Outstanding|Superb} choice of colors!|
{There is|There’s} {definately|certainly} {a lot to|a great deal to} {know about|learn about|find out about} this {subject|topic|issue}.
{I like|I love|I really like} {all the|all of the} points
{you made|you’ve made|you have made}.|
{You made|You’ve made|You have made} some {decent|good|really
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the net} {for more info|for more information|to find out more|to
learn more|for additional information} about the issue and found {most individuals|most people} will go along with your views on {this
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{Hi|Hello|Hi there|What’s up}, I {log on to|check|read} your
{new stuff|blogs|blog} {regularly|like every week|daily|on a regular basis}.
Your {story-telling|writing|humoristic} style is {awesome|witty},
keep {doing what you’re doing|up the good work|it up}!|
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{site|web site|website} {prior to|before} suggesting that
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{I wanted|I needed|I want to|I need to} to thank you
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I {definitely|certainly|absolutely} {enjoyed|loved}
every {little bit of|bit of} it. {I have|I’ve got|I have got} you {bookmarked|book
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new {stuff you|things you} post…|
{Hi|Hello|Hi there|What’s up}, just wanted to {mention|say|tell you}, I {enjoyed|liked|loved} this {article|post|blog post}.
It was {inspiring|funny|practical|helpful}.

Keep on posting!|
I {{leave|drop|{write|create}} a {comment|leave a response}|drop a {comment|leave a response}|{comment|leave a response}}
{each time|when|whenever} I {appreciate|like|especially enjoy} a {post|article} on a {site|{blog|website}|site|website} or {I have|if I have} something to {add|contribute|valuable to contribute} {to the discussion|to the conversation}.
{It is|Usually it is|Usually it’s|It’s} {a result of|triggered by|caused by} the
{passion|fire|sincerness} {communicated|displayed} in the {post|article} I {read|looked
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Seattle. I {{was|was actually} moved|{was|was actually} excited} enough to {drop|{leave|drop|{write|create}}|post} a
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or linkedin profile}?|
{Hi there|Hello}, I enjoy reading {all of|through} your {article|post|article
post}. I {like|wanted} to write a little comment to support you.|
I {always|constantly|every time} spent my half an hour to read this {blog|weblog|webpage|website|web site}’s {articles|posts|articles or reviews|content} {everyday|daily|every day|all the time} along
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I {always|for all time|all the time|constantly|every time} emailed this {blog|weblog|webpage|website|web site}
post page to all my {friends|associates|contacts}, {because|since|as|for
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my {friends|links|contacts} will too.|
My {coder|programmer|developer} is trying to {persuade|convince} me to move to .net from PHP.
I have always disliked the idea because of the {expenses|costs}.
But he’s tryiong none the less. I’ve been using {Movable-type|WordPress} on {a number of|a variety of|numerous|several|various} websites for about a year
and am {nervous|anxious|worried|concerned} about switching to another platform.
I have heard {fantastic|very good|excellent|great|good} things about [url redacted by Virginia]

Is there a way I can {transfer|import} all my wordpress {content|posts} into it?
{Any kind of|Any} help would be {really|greatly} appreciated!|
{Hello|Hi|Hello there|Hi there|Howdy|Good day}!
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{Terrific|Great|Wonderful} {article|work}!

{This is|That is} {the type of|the kind of} {information|info} {that are
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for {now not|not|no longer} positioning this {post|submit|publish|put up} {upper|higher}!
Come on over and {talk over with|discuss with|seek advice from|visit|consult with} my {site|web
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I hope to give something back and {help|aid} others
like you {helped|aided} me.|
{Hi|Hello|Hi there|Hello there|Howdy|Greetings}, {I think|I believe|I do
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{I just|I simply|I merely} wanted to {give you a|provide you with a} quick heads up!
{Other than that|Apart from that|Besides that|Aside from that}, {fantastic|wonderful|great|excellent} {blog|website|site}!|
{A person|Someone|Somebody} {necessarily|essentially} {lend a hand|help|assist} to make {seriously|critically|significantly|severely} {articles|posts} {I would|I might|I’d} state.
{This is|That is} the {first|very first} time I frequented your {web page|website page} and
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Heya {i’m|i am} for {the primary|the first} time here.
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{like you|such as you} {helped|aided} me.|
{Hello|Hi|Hello there|Hi there|Howdy|Good day|Hey there}!
{I just|I simply} {would like to|want to|wish to} {give you a|offer you a}
{huge|big} thumbs up {for the|for your} {great|excellent} {info|information} {you
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{I will be|I’ll be|I am} {coming back to|returning to}
{your blog|your site|your website|your web site} for
more soon.|
I {always|all the time|every time} used to {read|study} {article|post|piece of writing|paragraph} in news papers but now as
I am a user of {internet|web|net} {so|thus|therefore}
from now I am using net for {articles|posts|articles or reviews|content},
thanks to web.|
Your {way|method|means|mode} of {describing|explaining|telling} {everything|all|the whole thing} in this {article|post|piece of writing|paragraph} is
{really|actually|in fact|truly|genuinely} {nice|pleasant|good|fastidious}, {all|every one}
{can|be able to|be capable of} {easily|without difficulty|effortlessly|simply}
{understand|know|be aware of} it, Thanks a lot.|
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October 18th, 2013

This is a whale tale. It’s a father-daughter story. It’s also a lesson about a design job gone wrong. It was inspired by a recent blog post from Seth Godin, soliciting a narwhal logo for the Krypton College project he started. (You can see the logo they ended up with here.)

When I was in second grade, my class studied whales. We each got to pick a specific whale to specialize in, but we also studied whales in general. We took some really cool field trips to areas where we were supposed to see orca whale pods that never actually materialized—but we had loads of fun, and we played with jellyfish and tidepool crabs and generally managed to still learn a lot. Much of which I still remember, if you feel like quizzing me!

My whale was the coveted narwhal—coveted of course because of its similarity to a unicorn. In case you were wondering, most second-grade girls LOVE unicorns. (Heck, the boys probably liked ‘em too, but I was the big Unicorn Whale Winner that year.) I was SO STOKED! I think I liked narwhals EVEN BETTER than unicorns!

On one of our educational field trips, we went into a whale-watching museum gift shop. There was this cool little toy of a curvy orca impaled with a dowel, who could be spun along this track of two pieces of wood. You’d spin the dowel and the little orca would somersault in flip after flip; it was delightful, kind of like a Pacific Northwest executive toy for a desk, you know? (I’ve tried and tried to find an example to show you, but it’s elusive.)

I of course wanted one, but in a narwhal instead of an orca, duh. I wanted this badly, despite my not considering the factors a) that the narwhal was much longer proportionally, especially when you included its horn; and b) that in fact the cool toy-rendered spinny motion was not a natural behavior for either species of whale. No matter; I wanted a spinny narwhal toy, and my father was a hobbyist woodworker who was delighted to potentially grant his daughter’s wish. So Dad and I set about making our own narwhal version of this toy.

Well, first of all, I failed to articulate that the orca toy had been painted, so all of its black and white detail showed. The narwhal isn’t nearly as high contrast or recognizable in its markings as the orca is, but I still probably envisioned a dappled gray end result with a stained ivory tusk. Instead we did the whole thing in some sort of soft wood, with a walnut stain effect. It turned out lovely, but eight-year-old me was probably confused as to why it didn’t look more like the toy I had remembered and (to my mind) faithfully described.

Second of all, there was no internet. This was in the late 80s, and we couldn’t just Google up a narwhal’s dimensions. So I think we either winged it, or *maybe* dug around trying to find a relevant National Geographic before winging it. Some sort of Encyclopedia Britannica or Commodore 64 action may have been involved as well. In the end, the narwhal we produced had a tusk that was much shorter than a faithfully realistic narwhal model’s would have to be. I don’t think I even noticed this as a kid, but I can’t help noticing it now, haha.

Lastly, I thought I had described the orca toy’s spinning and flipping and catapulting well—in hindsight, its motions were actually more like that of a seal than of any whale family member I’ve seen in action. But anyway, it spun. Like, all the way around, somersault style. Multiple times from one push. It spun from either the rightmost point on the tracks all the way to the left, or vice versa if you flipped the toy around, and it completed MANY revolutions in that distance with minimal user effort; this was greatly satisfying. We, ah, we may have miscalculated that part. (I’m guessing I didn’t fully articulate the spinning nature, nor did I pipe up authoritatively during the manufacturing process when I realized that there was no way this non-curved narwhal with its lengthy tusk was going to be able to spin around on its own competently.)

Our end product was a gorgeous walnut-stained narwhal with a short tusk, straight body, and tracks that could accommodate only a faint rocking back and forth motion. Furthermore, we failed to take into account the balance of the whole narwhal’s body, so its head leans forward significantly when at rest. (The orca is pointless to compare to here since its shape was totally different, but I believe my young self would want the balance to be even or slightly favoring the head, if she had to give up on the spinny action. Just a hunch. Because, you see, the head comes up for air. I was weirdly kid-logical even at eight.)

Interestingly, Dad actually added in a few improvements. That textured detailing on the horn was pretty painstaking, I’m betting. That’s true to form and outside the scope of my original vision/request. And see how he used a router to round out the edges of all but the tail and fin spots? That gives the whole thing more depth and dimension than I had envisioned; the orca I was modeling my request after was more 2-D. It was flat on both sides and maybe a centimeter and half thick in the middle. None of the edges were rounded like this; any dimension on the orca came from paint rather than actual texture or form.

My little narwhal
I absolutely treasure my adorable little narwhal model now, and I’ve had it on display in every home I’ve lived in as an adult. It (he, I think) gets lots of compliments. But I still think it’s an amusing window into how the design process can go very wrong. (Note that I’m not a designer at all, and neither is my dad; I’m just amused to ponder this as a Pretend Case Study.) I want to make clear that I don’t intend to take away from the awesome work of my wonderful father, whose generosity and joy in creating cool woodworking items lives on. But let’s put on our Design Hats break down where we went wrong if this had been an official modern adult design transaction.

1) I failed to articulate my needs. I wanted some very specific elements to be included, like paint and functional motion, but I didn’t specify them, and my dad as a non-designer didn’t know how to ask questions that would draw out a complete spec. He worked with the vague picture I painted and he created a mental picture from scratch based on my youthful ramblings.

2) We failed to adequately research. Between the two of us, we probably could have come up with some data point indicating that the narwhal’s tusk would have to be n percentage of its body length; we then could have figured out how much space it needed to clear in order to turn an orca-like revolution.

3) I didn’t speak up or halt the presses when I saw things going wrong. This is assuming I even saw things going wrong or had any ability whatsoever to compute this; really, I have no recollection. I was eight. But I think I could tell that it was shaping up differently than my mind’s eye when I saw Dad at work. (I would watch and learn as he created things.)

4) We both allowed design assumptions to be made, without checking in. Dad actually did something much more elegant than the orca; he rounded the edges of all but the tail on our narwhal. This is way more sophisticated and realistic-looking than the more 2-D orca toy which inspired the project. But he also assumed stain was fine, he assumed the dowel placement didn’t matter, and he assumed the piece was more for display than for toy-like use (I think). I assumed he could read my mind.

These are all interesting problems that I imagine actual design professionals face. I myself am learning to define my intentions, articulate them better, and check in more regularly when I hire creative vendors for my online dating coaching company. What say you, Actual Design Professionals? Have you run into anything like this with a grown-up client?

Leave a comment
October 01st, 2013

A blogger I love, Andrew Kim, recently reviewed a couple mobile phones. Andrew is a very different person than I am. I’m design-picky, for sure, but I’m far more obsessed with pragmatism, ergonomics, and comfort than with aesthetics, minimalism, and polish. We have different careers and backstories that inform our different values, and I’m WAY less savvy about photography than he is. I’ve been reading his blog (thanks to Grant) for a couple years, and I find his tech reviews the most fascinating of all his content, because I’ve never read anyone whose love of design tips the scales so heavily. I respect it even if I don’t get it.

Image sourceAndrew recently reviewed the Nokia Lumia 1020, and he praised it highly. VERY highly. Especially the photography. So I was very eager to check out one of these devices. 1 A few weeks ago, when some strangers at a nighttime event asked me to take a pic of them using their Nokia Lumia 1020, I was stoked to check it out.

My impression of that phone was colored by Andrew’s glowing review, and I was immediately disappointed. I was surprised by how heavy yet cheap the chassis felt. That camera bump was AWFUL. The gal who owned the phone kept explaining to me that you touch anywhere on the screen to take a pic, which I understood but I guess I seemed like I didn’t get it as I spent too long analyzing her phone, because I was inspecting the device and I think she was like ‘WTF is wrong with this chick,’ haha. So: press anywhere. Nice feature! 2

But the pics SUCKED; or rather, the ones I could see sucked. The phone took forever to actually shoot after my press, and it kept jumping around in regards to focus and lighting and color while it was trying to shoot. After this awkward jumpy delay cycle, the shots it ended on each time were distinctly green-tinged and didn’t look all that high res at all. Maybe the Nokia’s screen just isn’t as amazing as Apple’s retina screen, because the exported Nokia pics Andrew posts in his 5s review definitely look higher-res and crisper. This was not at all apparent on the device’s screen. They were grainy, greenish, barely-in-focus shots that took several seconds for the phone to render. It felt incredibly backwards and laggy and shoddy given that Andrew set my expectations sky-high. Granted, this is one low-light, biased encounter. But still.

Yet when I see the output from Andrew’s shooting, the Nokia fares indisputably better when it comes to graininess (definitely) and focus (I think). In his iPhone 5s review, Andrew shows a number of side by sides, which I’m not posting here outright because I feel like he’s the kind of blogger who would strongly prefer that I not do so, even if I linked back to him. You’ll just have to go read his full post. He does point out that, while the iPhone 5s seems to incorrectly over-warm shots when the flash is used, the Lumia 1020 seems to over-cool them so neither choice is perfect. But I’ll be damned if nearly every Lumia shot doesn’t look better the way he presents them (his captions indicate the settings).

I wish I could follow up with those Night Market stranger girls and ask to see the output of those photos, you know, the enormous high-res versions that I’m pretty sure you have to use a cable to transfer off your phone. That would be, pardon the pun, ilLUMI(a)nating. (I’m so sorry. Please feel free to remove me from your RSS reader.) But I can’t; all I can say is that for much more casual photographers like myself, the 5s felt like a more natural photography experience.

I’d love to toy around with a Nokia Lumia 1020 more. Heck, I’d love to have a shoot-off with Andrew himself, though I’m sure he has many more interesting social and press-ish requests. As a lazy photographer consumer, I’ve been obsessed with having a great camera on my phone for many years now, because it drastically affects the number and the quality of photos I take. (I was one of those people who came home from a vacation with nothing to show until about the 3GS.) I’ve never had a natural talent or affinity for photography, but I sure feel more competent with a powerful cell phone in my purse or pocket. I can totally see gravitating to whatever hardware has the best camera in a decade, when all operating systems are totally different than the current weirdly forked Apple/Android/Windows marketplace. That’s what it feels like Andrew was doing, but prematurely, since the market in my eyes is still so much more favorable to Apple customers.

Andrew makes a very good point about how emotional we get in relation to our phones:

Phones are fascinating. They live closer to our body than any other device other than the watch. And if your job doesn’t involve working on a PC, you probably use it more than any other “computer”. Because of our intimate relationship to these glowing bricks, we seem to become very emotional about what device we chose. I don’t think I’ve gotten more dramatic responses than when I praised Windows Phone or bought an iPhone 5S.

I’m not declaring war between platforms or saying that one approach is superior to the other. Android, iOS, and Windows Phone all have their strengths and weaknesses. We seem to get carried away trying to pick a singular winner. To be honest, it really doesn’t matter what you – or I – use at the end of the day. It’s just a window into services or information you’re looking for.

He’s so right. I wouldn’t be moved to write this long-ass post or deeply examine a stranger’s device if these things weren’t increasingly important in our lives, you know? There are fewer more vitriolic debates amongst the tech geeks these days. It’s no longer “I’m a Mac; I’m a PC;” it’s all about the respective choices in our pockets (or, in the case of Glass or that watch, worn on our bodies).

In parting, I’ll point out that Andrew is annoyed by a few aspects of the iPhone 5s leather case, but he doesn’t seem bothered by any of the same frustrations that bother me. As I said before; very different perspectives. I agree that the 5s battery life is surprisingly meh, but I use the CRAP out of that thing so I’m hardly surprised.

 

  1. I had briefly played with some hTC Windows phone when a sidewalk spammer approached me to demo one. (That’s what I call them. They’re probably called Foot Traffic Ambassadors or something.) This sidewalker (?) showed me a demo last year when the operating system first came out. I was really interested in many of the features, such as Local Scout, but I was frustrated that whatever she showed me was unsurprisingly a demo and not really on par with the operating system in the wild. This poor girl was super duper helpful; I told her straight out that I was wildly hostile to most sidewalk marketing people, that I was a die-hard iPhoner, and that I was a picky as hell software tester about to ask her a bunch of frustrating questions. She was totally game.
  2. It’s worth mentioning that it wasn’t in any way likely that I’d accidentally take the shot; something about the Nokia’s bezel prevented this.
September 30th, 2013

I got my iPhone 5s, and I LOVE it. (Space Gray, 32 GB, ordered via AT&T because the Apple Store hated me at preorder o’clock.) 1AT&T did a good job with all this; surprisingly, much better than Apple. 2 I was debating getting a larger hard drive, because I love having a massive music library on there and never having to think about space management when I shoot HD video or what have you. But after some research we decided to stick with AT&T as our carrier, and as such, we’re grandfathered into an unlimited data plan. So I decided I can rely more on streaming services. 3

As soon as I knew I had a phone en route, I went ahead ordered the yellow leather case and an extra two-meter Lightning cable from Apple. 4 I forgot to pay for fancy shipping (as I usually do when a slower but free option is available), so I just recently got this package. I’m glad I have them, but I have seriously mixed feelings about this case.

Just as I feared, the headphone jack takes you back to iPhone 1 days when nothing fits in because the hole is too deep. (Har har; go make the That’s What She Said joke and come back when you’re done.) I do still have some headphoney accessories designed to work with my original iPhone, but the vast majority are now defunct because they’re much more cheaply manufactured than Apple’s cables. 5

The headphone stuff is annoying on its own, but gets worse when coupled with Lightning cable aperture issues. Because that hole is also too small. I’m mostly OK with only buying Lightning cables that have a smallish aperture from now on. But how, HOW could apple design their Lightning adapter at 30-pin width, and then make a case that doesn’t accommodate said adapter? Argh! Because the leather case is incredibly difficult to remove (and who wants to constantly have to remove a case anyway), this is very irritating to me given our plethora of 30-pin items. I’m going to have to find some janky-ass third-party Lightning adaptor with a small enough girth (shut up) to work with them, or suck it up and spend a lot on new Lightning cables. 6 And as my Internet Pal Keith pointed out, the opening is too small for even non-30-pin choices. I’ve long thought Amazon Basics cables were WAY too bulky, but this still sucks:


Anyway, aperture frustrations aside, here are some not particularly well sorted hardware and accessory musings:

  • I hate how the bottom headphone holes are asymmetrical to make room for the headphone jack. Yes, I realize I’m insane. But it’s ugly, you know? And that much more obvious with the leather case.
  • The whole jack on the bottom thing takes a while to get used to, coming from a 4S! I don’t have strong feelings about this, but I certainly haven’t adjusted yet.
  • So does the TouchID sensor. I mostly remember to use it now, but gosh do I wish it worked from a sleep state.
  • I keep running into circumstances that still require me to enter my full AppleID password. Bummer! I thought I’d be freer of that. It feels like I still have to enter my AppleID password like 50% of the time. I need a less-mobile-keyboard-annoying password, I guess.
  • I’m sad to report that I don’t see a huge difference in the allegedly warm amber flash. I need to try it out on more humans instead of just cats, though.
  • Burst mode is FANTASTIC. But don’t you dare import into iPhoto before you remembered to clear a burst! I wish there were an iPhoto prompt about this. Maybe in Mavericks, but I doubt it.
  • Again, I know I’m insane, but it irks me that the inside of the camera aperture is black plastic, whereas the Lightning and headphone jack openings are just that crappy same-color yellow plasticky sealant. It’s inconsistent looking and less cleanly applied and yes I already said I know I’m insane. Look, you knew what you were getting into reading this. It doesn’t look “Apple,” OK?
  • The yellow leather case is a much greener yellow than anticipated. It looks positively chartreuse compared to my more goldenrod-colored lamps in my office. Looks greener than the yellow 5c too, though I haven’t compared in person.
  • The leather feels lovely and seems to hold up well to dirt/scuffing despite not being all that shiny or glossy a finish.
  • The top button is *significantly* harder to depress, but I’m hoping this softens up over time. The volume buttons are fine. The NY Times Symphony Scandal switch still feels easy enough for me to access, though Grant was annoyed by it being harder for him to get at. I’m not bothered.
  • I really, really like how the entire face is completely naked in this case.
  • I tried a Titan screen protector and I want to set it on fire.
  • Apparently Apple didn’t really plan ahead with the 5s dock. Read the comments about how it obscures the Home Button and how the jack doesn’t work for calls.
  • Despite all this kvetching, I really do like the leather case and plan to keep it. I just wish it felt better planned.

 

 

  1.  I went to bed, forgetting it was preorder night, and woke up with a start and scared my pal Jean who was kind enough to host me while I was in Portland pretending to be at XOXOfest. Jean sympathised and calmed me down after Apple said it hated me, and she helped me figure out what were reasonable choices to make (i.e. don’t go get in a line in the cold, dummy; just order it online via AT&T and wait a COUPLE days. You’ll hardly be the only one. Jean is so smart. And it’s amazingly helpful to have  a buddy in that frenzied moment!)

    So that’s how that all went. Let’s see how this works, embedding tweets in footnotes.

  2. The order went through, their site functioned as intended at midnight (unlike Apple’s confusingly punitive error, heh) and the phone got to me WAY sooner than their original estimate of mid-October. (I received it the Monday after the preorder.) Of COURSE I only articulate this thought after I receive the damn thing, but I must say, we should really be thankful of all the logistics-level workers who pitch in every time around, from China right on through to US warehouses and delivery services. It must be such an absolute pain in the ass clusterf*ck every damn year. I hope people get overtime pay AND a free iPhone for their hustle.
  3. Especially since I spent that extra hundred bucks on AppleCare(+?) this time around instead, as it now covers accidental shatterings. I considered getting gold, but it mattered more to me that my phone get here sooner, especially since I always planned to slap a case on it anyhow. (I’m a menace so the AppleCare and the case are just non-negotiables for me.) And I’ve missed having a black screen surround.
  4. I like the extra length for awkward coffee shop outlets; very glad you can get that first-party now. Was this also available for Apple brand 30-pin cables and I just never noticed?
  5. Apple brand cables always last me a good couple years, even if they look like this at the end. Seriously, part of why I’m so whiny about all this noise is that the multiple ten-dollar solutions I’m going to buy to make this new case work are going to crap out after about a month of light-to-medium usage. Happens every time. And I haven’t found a single “high-end” third-party provider to solve this. Yet I keep thinking it’s worthwhile to order cheap-ass Hong Kongian cables on Amazon; go figure.
  6. In browsing Amazon options, I see many comments noting that third-party Lightning cables don’t work with iOS 7 which seems bonkers but what do I know. So shop carefully.
September 17th, 2013

Last week was the Apple announcement about iPhones, as we all know. I lazily covered the coverage with a couple Internet pals here and here, in case you feel like watching a lot of awkward banter and dead air. :) One week after the Apple shebang, here’s where I’m at:

-I don’t give a crap about the 5c. I get that the strategy is theoretically interesting to many, but I just don’t care how it affects Apple’s business. I take a pretty narrow view on Apple stuff; I care about how it affects me directly. I want the newest fastest thing whenever it’s upgrade time, and my 4S has been frightfully slow lately so there’s no way I’d go up only one processor tier when I have the option of going up two tiers.

Edited: I had originally posited here that the 5c was potentially pricier than it seemed because the back couldn’t be swapped out easily like its predecessors, so you had to factor in the cost of going through Apple’s expensive repair path if you scratched up the camera lense as I am prone to doing. However, Friendly Internet Helpers have since pointed out that this easy back panel swap-out actually hasn’t been around since the 4S. My bad. (It IS possible with a 5; it’s just a pain in the ass.)

-I will be getting a 5s the second I can hop online and pre-order one. After much deliberation, House Roberts is sticking with overpriced AT&T as our carrier, but we will drop text messaging from our plan after the comp period I wheedled them into is over. I looked into switching to T-Mobile but I’m just not convinced the coverage is sufficient. 1 I’m still debating 32GB or 64GB, because I love having a massive music and podcast library and I mistrust streaming and cloud services, but realistically I haven’t been all that pinched for space on my 32GB 4S (or its 32GB 3GS predecessor), and on the one hand what’s a hundred bucks for two years of hard drive freedom but on the other hand why not save it. I’m also deliberating gold or black, because I dig the gold in theory (and amusement), but I can’t ignore the dings on my white 4S nor John Siracusa’s sage point that a white surround means the screen white will never be as brilliant seeming as when it’s next to a black surround. (Feel free to weigh in on either of these minor remaining decisions if you think you can sway me; Decision Time looms!) It’s a little bit of a bummer that the pre-order time is during the XOXOfest party. I’m not invited, but I still plan to be in Portland networking and hanging out with friends, so I hope everyone considers it socially acceptable for an entire bar/room full of people to stop mid-sentence and fire up the Apple Store app, haha.

-I only really care about the new camera. I mean, I’m pleased by the fingerprint stuff, and 64-bit seems just snappy to me for development down the road, but I don’t really care about that stuff. No, what I’m stoked about is the camera. The warmer flash color, the burst mode, and the increased stabilization are all going to be AMAZING for my business, in which I often take random shots of clients for their online dating profiles. I do work with a professional photographer sometimes, but some clients are too cheap or busy to schedule a photography add-on with her, and besides I snap pics of friend-clients all the time for free. (I’m no pro, but I know what you need to look great in an online dating context. Subscribe to my newsletter if you wish to also have this knowledge.) I also just snap casual vanity pics of myself, my husband, my cat, and whatever I find pretty (or ugly) for social media purposes, especially with the advent of The Cover Image. 2 (Oh, but I don’t care about slow-motion video, although go nuts if that’s your thing.)

-I’m quite frustrated the 4S is still on the market. Wanna know why? Because I want more STUFF. I’m a huge fan of third-party accessories—car chargers, pretty docks, speakers, etc. I love when we stay in hotels that have little clock radios that we can plug our iPhones into. And for MANY years now, the 30-pin connection has been standard. When I bought my 2006 Scion xA brand new, you could get an iPod connectivity option that worked with the iPhone and as far as I know still does. I was too cheap for that, but I’d do it now… except the marketplace is not adapting to the Lightning, er, adaptor. I still see so much crap out there that’s 30-pin-only. And as long as the 4S remains the free with contract option, I don’t think designers and manufacturers are sufficiently motivated by market pressure to update. There are still people who will buy that crap, especially if it’s discounted. But I LOVE accessories, and I look forward to when the new Lightning standard is fully adopted and we can all get on board with a more diverse marketplace of compatible accessories. (They still need to kill off the iPad 2, and I expect them to do that in October so I’m annoyed that the 4S is still a little old-tech thorn in my digital side.) Maybe I’m wrong; maybe lots of awesomesauce Lightning accessories are finally going to flood the market. But I don’t think so. I think the 4S has to die its death (presumably next year) before we see a real accessory Renaissance, and well, that annoys me.

The iPhone 5c with a case.-I mistrust first-party cases. The 5c-designed case seems pretty, but I really hate the stupid ill-designed peekaboo holes placement. Irksome. The leather 5s case looks lovely, and I might pick one up, but I’m concerned that an Apple-designed case will not have a sizable enough headphone aperture for non-Apple headphones, which will be an Original iPhone type problem. (Every model since then has done away with the recessed headphone jack, but I found that, with a case on, my 3GS and 4S often couldn’t accommodate non-apple headphones. And the overpriced recessed adapters available at the time were, predictably, utter crap.) Because of the headphone aperture issue, I mistrust these cases, until I can get my actual hands on one and try it out with headphone cables that I probably will never have on hand when I’m out shopping. (I will be in Portland on Preorder Day so maybe I’ll pick one up tax free if the lines aren’t too insane and just return it if it sucks, sigh.) That one Apple iPad case with the back on it was such an overwhelming failure that I am skeptical about Apple suiting up their own equipment properly. (Don’t get me started on how there’s no first-party car charger or screen protector.) I also hated those iPhone 4 bumpers. I dunno. I don’t think cases are their strong suit.

-I’m stoked to be in the club. I’ve been an iPhone owner from the first gen, and Grant and I have traded models ever since. (I had first, I bought him 3G, I got 3GS, he got 4, I got 4S, he got 5.) Despite my long iPhone user history, I’ve never actually had the shiny new thing on the same day as everyone else. I’m pretty stoked! I’m much more of an Apple nerd and tech nerd in general than I ever was before, so it’ll be fantastic to be on the same wavelength as all the other overly picky entitled tech whiners. Wooooo!

-I’m not done whining. Now that we’ve gotten the phone we all wanted, I am desperate for a retina iPad Mini and an updated Thunderbolt display in the skinny new iMac chassis. Hurry up, Apple! 

-One final whine: 5c and 5s? Not 5C and 5S? REALLY? Steve Jobs would never I mean just

It’s not just me. Maybe hire someone to whip up a goddamn style guide. Heck, I’ll do it for free.

  1. I like GSM better than CDMA for dull I won’t go into here, so I was never considering other technologies. Ask me if you really wanna know why.
  2. Sigh. I hate cover images. I already feel stressed out by the prospect of having to come up with multiple different avatars and, you know, content. I can never come up with anything polished and cute and unique enough for multiple cover images across all the many different profiles I have, both personal and business. A sexier camera does make this task easier. Yay!
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September 09th, 2013

Ever since flat screen TVs took over the old cathode ray tube models, people have been mounting them on the wall, causing the earth’s interior design community to have a collective cow. Wall-mounting is so practical, though! It saves valuable floor and furniture space since TVs no longer have to rest atop a bulky media cabinet, eating up precious living room real estate. 1 When we toured a zillion homes before settling on this one, we saw living rooms with no TV or a wall-mounted TV, often above the fireplace, and an increasing number of finished basement dens with the “big” non-wall-mounted TV. People are changing the way they use their homes and view their TVs, and I think interior design is foolish to resist this shift. 2

We subsisted mainly on the projector in our finished den for two years, but then we sucked it up and bought a living room TV, mainly for parties and entertaining. We’re SO GLAD we did; we spend way more time on the main floor of our house now, enjoying natural light and sunsets and open windows while still being able to consume the media we love. I kind of can’t believe we waited this long; having a TV upstairs has really made us happier homeowners, and everything about our upstairs living room feels friendlier and more welcoming now. A TV also helps us figure out better furniture placement, and it just generally dictates how the room is used. And we spend more Couple Time there, since now we can play co-op games in the same space without me feeling like I have to slink down to the basement-cave. 3

After researching the right tech, size, price point, and features, we got our TV at Best Buy and paid them to mount it above our (functional, brick, wood-burning) fireplace.4 I know hanging a TV above a fireplace is a design sin to many, but it really is the only space that makes sense in our living room. I styled it in with a bunch of little knick-nacks that help hide all the cords and that blend it in a bit. We eventually hope to get hard-wired sconces flanking it, but given how pricey the rewiring and drywall is, for now we’re happy to just suck it up and use these lamps I got at a consignment shop. 5

This may sound insane, but aside from thinking ahead about how many HDMI ports we would actually need (answer: more than two, eventually) here’s my only TV purchasing regret: I actually am constantly bothered by the uneven bezel width around our LG model, and I wish we’d paid the several hundred dollars more for a similar Samsung choice that had a thin but even bezel all the way around. I realize that’s not a logically sound way to spend money, and that no one but me and Grant will ever notice or care about this, but it bugs me and next time around I think I’ll lobby him for the better industrial design aesthetic. 6

A larger shot of our TV and surrounding elements.

You can see my TV and fireplace here as they relate to the rest of the room—our front door is to the left, with only the storm door closed right now, and then a big blah but functional table/shelving unit house our DVR and consoles to the right. Beyond that is a corner window obscured by an enormous cat tree I promised not to move until Trumpy kicks the kitty bucket someday. I hate that black cabinet, but we needed something for the DVR and XBox 360, and this was $20 at our local thrift store. It’s solid, it already had a hole in the back for cords, and I don’t care if humidity or moisture from my plants screws up the already crappy finish.

Since we don’t really have a proper foyer/entry area, the spot just past the front door is where we put the mirror that used to be above the mantel. This works really well to have a sort of “check yourself” area before leaving the house. And while the TV above the fireplace isn’t perfect, I think/hope I worked it in OK. You don’t see it at all when you first walk in, because it’s behind you. Many clients don’t even notice that we have a TV until they leave, if at all.

A picture of my TV, styled in with antiques and other decorative objects.

The other day when I was rearranging the knick-nacks to add in some new antiques, I realized we are like the opposite of the Islamic design principle of aniconism. We have SO MUCH flora and fauna! Let’s see, there’s a brass owl, a ceramic rabbit, a steel larch tree, a glass hedgehog, a porcelain cow, a crochet cat, a jade dragon, a brass apple bell, and a ceramic foo dog. And that’s just the ones I can obviously identify in this photo. Plus there are subtler things like the floral pattern on one of my Voluspa candles, a ceramic vase that looks like a weird seed pod, and a viney pattern to the photo frame. And behind the Kinect upon which the kitty rests, there are some glass birds and some floral cream and sugar porcelains just to make it not look weird and bare back there. We are veritably obsessed with nature at House Roberts.

I also keep thinking maybe I should blend the TV in better by painting the fireplace bricks a dark gray or black. Ever since we bought the place I’ve been uncertain what to do with the fireplace. Redoing anything with actual stone/masonry seems insanely expensive and pointless since trends cycle back around and we may end up hating something new and wanting to go back to this original 1947 brick and wood look, ya know? Plus, while I dislike the terra cotta floor tiles, they do blend in pretty subtly and I don’t mind the actual brick or the wood mantel now. I maintain Pinterest boards for both TV disguises and fireplaces, and I keep thinking about what I could do to snazz this up, but I haven’t been inspired to inject change into this particular area of our home. I think I’ll wait and see how things look once we get our lovely gray Farrow & Ball paint up on the walls before we go too crazy! My dream fireplace would be in a marble like Carrara, but not too mod and not too traditional, and probably something with a little tan or gold veining in it too to tie in with all our warm wood floors and trim. I just don’t see it being worth the expenditure when this one feels fine enough to me, and we have loads of more functional and urgent updates like windows and a deck.

Anyway, the whole reason I bothered putting these ramblings into a blog post was because Jenny of Little Green Notebook posted about how she’s putting her TV above her fireplace. The woman is a professional interior designer, with a massive blog following, so clearly she’s got hecka great taste. If she can do it, so can we! :)

  1. This presents new challenges, though, since most of the “smart” TVs out there aren’t all that smart yet, so we still have to connect one or more bulky devices to our TVs with annoying unsightly cables. At least devices like the Apple TV are small enough to be worked into a typical mantel; not so with consoles like an XBox or with most physical disk readers. I expect this to change over the next five to ten years, removing the need for any media cabinet at all eventually. But it’s a slow process and it’s expensive to adopt all the new tech.
  2. I also think a TV hung up high is subtler than one shoved in a corner looming at you. And we don’t find the viewing angle at all troublesome, ergonomically; if anything, I think it encourages better posture/neck angles, and is easier to view when lying down on a couch.
  3. I get so sick of the misguided “Kill Your TV” mantra I received as a kid; TV is so much smarter and sharper and higher quality than it ever has been. After all, we’re watching incredibly creative projects like LOST and Breaking Bad and Orphan Black and Archer, not Hoarders Who Horde or The Real Housewives of Shut Up Already. (And lest ye feel judged, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with watching that stuff, it just doesn’t speak to me at all. And I don’t really get TV as a zoning out mechanism for the most part, because I prefer to zone out in other ways. But whatever works, man! Quit whining about killing TV and go find some super high quality program that captures YOUR interests!)

    Also, we can entertain our friends better. Whether you admit it or not, cartoons and games are GREAT for calming a fussy kid, and now that we have a TV with a couple gaming consoles hooked up in our living room, we can capture the attention of babies on up to five year olds who would otherwise find it boring when we tried to interact with their parents. I assume our TV will come in handy when we have kids of our own, too. ;)

  4. This was a complicated, stupid, expensive process, fraught with insanely ineffective bureaucracy BS and numerous hidden fees. I managed to get them to knock off a couple hundred bucks for being such incredible nitwits about the whole thing, but I urge you to not do what I did. I’m not very handy or confident when it comes to big structurally dependent projects like this, but I would absolutely DIY this process if I had to do it over again. If you DO hire it out, save every single receipt and get written quotes with names and employee numbers for every single aspect of the process if you have a big box retailer do it, and tell them you want the wood-only installment but you want the team to bring masonry tools just in case, and that you’ll pay for the masonry upcharge at that time if and only if it’s truly necessary. Also, insist on waiving any kind of consultation appointments. It’s a totally unnecessary upcharge, like gold-plated USB cables.
  5. I paid more than those lamps were worth to get modern drum shades put on them at my local lamp shop, because I can just never find ready-made lamp shades that look anywhere near as nice as the hand-made ones do. I consider this expense totally worth it. If you have a lamp whose shade is irking you, I urge you to visit your local lamp store and look into this. They tried on multiple harps until they found the right one, and they adjusted everything perfectly so everything sits at just the right height, lighting up the room but not blinding anyone with an inadvertent glimpse of exposed bulb.
  6. I literally still haven’t bought a single humidifier because none of them look like this.
September 07th, 2013

A lovely lady named Madeline recently tweeted at me to learn more about my Karlstad leather sofa collection research, and she found my lengthy email reply helpful. I’ve been eyeing this sofa collection from Ikea for a couple years now, I have a special Pinterest board devoted just to this couch and its many stylings, and I think we’re finally almost ready to bite the bullet and buy us some Karlstad soon. (We have yet to actually purchase the thing, as I have to find a good day to drag my husband to Ikea to check it out in person and sign off on all this white leather.) I figured the rest of you might find my obsessive Internet sofa research useful, so here’s what I sent her (edited to add more links, images, formatting, and information for y’all).

Oh, and my Internet Pal Paul pointed out that I utterly failed to include any pricing info. I guess I’m not used to doing retail-minded posts, haha. So I’ve gone in and stuck USD prices here. All are for the birch leg option; models that for some reason offer chrome versions ready-made are $20 more. But really, price-wise, you’re better off getting the birch version with separate chrome legs since it’s the same cost and now you have a choice, ya know?

Ikea Karlstad leather sofa: $899
Ikea Karlstad leather loveseat: $879
Ikea Karlstad leather chaise add-on: $600
Ikea Karlstad leather loveseat plus chaise combo: $1,479
Ikea Karlstad leather footstool: $249
Ikea Karlstad leather armchair: $549

The Karlstad leather sofa in Grann White, with birch legs.

COLOR AND FINISH

• I could NOT find clear reviews of how the leather version of the Ikea Karlstad sofa holds up, so I tracked down every Pinterester or blogger who had a white leather Karlstad sofa, and I commented, tweeted, and emailed them ALL for feedback, haha. This included a handful of moms and pet-moms who’ve had the thing for a while. All of them said it holds up really well to family and furry abuse; no scratches and it wipes clean pretty easily. I was really skeptical about this, but everyone seems quite pleased with how it’s lasted over time. (I was specifically asking after the Grann white leather finish, but it stands to reason that the darker ones handle even better, since the leather is dyed-through. I verified this in person and thoroughly inspected models of all colors. Dyed through means that scratches on dark models shouldn’t show a light color underneath like they would with most vinyl or cheap leather, because the dye permeates the entire thickness of the hide. Ew/yay.)

The striped Stockholm rug from Ikea.• Color-wise, the Grann white is much more of a creamy white than the site shows, which is nice IMO. I have a few of those cheap Ikea Rens sheepskins and I don’t think they’d look out of place draped on an armrest (for the cat) even though they’re a bit creamier; it’s the same family. The Grann white leather finish matches Ikea’s black and off white graphic Stockholm cushion and their black and white offset stripey Stockholm rug pretty well, in case that helps. (This image is of that rug with an even creamier Stockholm leather sofa, though, which is apparently no longer available in that color.)

• Ikea Fans has a couple different posts questioning/suggesting that using the Absorb leather care that Ikea sells will darken the color an unknown amount. This isn’t a HUGE concern to me; my main concern is “What happens when my tipsy friend and/or self spills red wine mixed with Diet Coke on my new white leather couch?” because that is bound to happen at some point. Time will tell. There’s a reason we’re purchasing leather stuff as we transition away from rowdy Rock Band parties with drink spill adventures into more diaper blowout type adventures. I honestly think the latter will make for easier cleanup; time will tell on that frontier too I guess.

DIMENSIONS AND COMFORT

• Everyone online concurs that the Karlstad leather collection’s seating/cushioning remains firm and comfy, and from what I gather the leather one gets much less compressed/lame over time than the fabric model. It felt pleasantly soft for tufted leather, but much more substantial than the fabric Karlstads I’ve sat on both at friends’ houses and in the store. ALL of the complaints I saw online about Ikea couch cushioning getting compressed and wonky were about fabric sofas.

• I sat on several models at Ikea and was pleasantly surprised by the comfort and durability, so I thought. It’s not as hard as it looks like it’ll be in the actual seat area, but in a good way. However, if you plan to sit with your back against an armrest instead of the back, DEFINITELY get a few thick and tall throw pillows as a buffer, and be OK with a couch that requires throw pillows in order to lean against the arm part. (Our current monstrosity-couch has these enormous padded armrests that are the same height and thickness as the back, which is lame for aesthetics IMO but awesome for comfort.) I wish they made a leather version of this Karlstad cushion to stick there, but they don’t seem to.

• Other commenters/bloggers noted that it’s a very low couch, and therefore they had to adjust to lower end tables and lamps accordingly. (I find it the right height and I’m OK with end tables that hit the exact height of an armrest; maybe I’m the weirdo.) Also, when I sat on the floor models I noted that the whole Karlstad leather collection is quite deep, too. You may want to use throw pillows behind your back both for cushioning and to adjust to a more normal couch depth for sitting. We like a deep couch, though. But…

• The dimensions are a little surprising to me, so you may want to measure your floor space and really make sure it’ll fit well. It has a smaller feel because of the narrower and up-on-legs scale of everything, but that depth really eats up quite a lot of floor space, I found, so it’s just bigger than it looks when I go by the actual numbers. I taped out profiles on my LR floor to make sure I could accommodate what I wanted (two full couches facing each other) and found that I definitely couldn’t, so we’re going with a different configuration…

• The interior seating area of the Karlstad loveseat is longer/wider than many loveseats, while still having a dainty look overall, so you can sit on one side with your back against the armrest and fully extend your legs if you’re tall like me. :) However, the interior of the full Karlstad sofa is not long enough for a tall person to fully lie down. In order for a tall person to recline comfortably (I’m 5’11″ and my husband is 6’3″) you need the Karlstad loveseat plus chaise combination.

• The combo of the leather Karlstad loveseat plus chaise is cuter and comfier than I anticipated, and for what it’s worth the spacing of the seats exactly matches the loveseat, you know? Like it makes it a three-seater instead of a generous two-seater, seam-wise. We now plan to buy two loveseats with one chaise add-on for one of them. However, I was disappointed to realize that…

• There’s no leather option for the Karlstad corner sofa. I don’t know how that slipped me by! It’s a bummer because I personally think the sofa-plus-chaise look is a bit dated and not nearly as comfortable or accessible to guests as a full-on corner sectional, but I guess we will have to make do, and this *will* probably fit our space better. I actually think I’ll be more OK with it than I was with our last be-chaised sofa; that one sucked because the chaise was created by swapping in an ottoman and a longer cushion, so it never really fit well or stayed put. The Karlstad chaise add-on unit feels more like a part of the couch is acting as a second ottoman, if that makes sense. I awkwardly pretended to be my own guest at Ikea, sitting and flopping and lying all over all areas of the loveseat plus chaise combo, and I deemed it acceptable.

• The Karlstad leather footstool (or ottoman, as I like to call it) is nicer and more useful looking in person, so I think we will end up getting one and sticking a tray on top of it as an auxiliary coffee table unless we need additional seating. (I never really thought about turning ottomans into tables via trays until Emily Henderson schooled me.) The price discrepancy between a small ottoman and a large sofa isn’t that great, I know, but I think it’s like an initial dollar amount for them to produce ANYTHING Karlstad and leather, and nominal amounts past that to make things bigger, ya know? What do I know. Anyway, the ottoman seems very stable as seating, a table, or a footrest. We’ll put this in the empty space in front of our fireplace. That space is sort of wasted in our gas-heated rooms, but it looks weird to completely block a fireplace with something more substantial, so a low dainty footstool which will probably mainly be a cat-bed is just perfect.

• We prefer sofas/loveseats over chairs for our setup, but I sat in a Karlstad leather armchair and it was perfectly comfortable and nice.

MODIFICATIONS AND ACCESSORIES

Legs!

Like many design snobs, I think Ikea’s standard birch block legs are ugly. I’m determined to change them even though they actually match some old Husar unfinished pine hutches we have in our dining room. Our seating area is far enough away from those that I don’t think it’ll be clear we were matching them; we’ll just look like we were cool with leaving the ugly blocky pale SO UNSTYLISH original legs on. :) So we plan on buying others (because the shape bugs me too, not just the color).

• If you want to downplay the legs while saving money, you could just paint them, or do like Young House Love and get all crazy with an oil-rubbed bronze finish. Like many unfinished-looking Ikea things, they actually have just enough clear lacquer on them to make it annoying to change them. But that’s your cheapest and probably simplest option, especially if you’re on a tight budget or you have a lot of legs to tackle. I do think that you’ll barely notice the blocky shape once they’re a darker color, if that helps make your decision.

Hahahaha I'm sorry but I couldn't help myself. This image at the end of every Ikea instruction manual always cracks me up.• For an extra $20 per set of four I think, you can get Ikea’s chrome legs. The problem is that those are uglier than they should be. If you look at this old Jezebel article recommending the prior Karlstad fabric model, you can see that the cool sleeker chrome frame extended along the entire bottom of the couch. But since we no longer have that option, we have to go with the weird chrome awkward angle-tapered ones that to me look like shelf brackets. Oddly enough, these I would like better if they WERE blocky, like the ones shown on Jezebel. Alas, if you’re determined, I’m sure you could find legs somewhere that are the right metal look, or you could even check out the rest of Ikea’s legs that are sometimes not even meant to go with couches. I’m sure their customer service can help you figure out which ones would hold up actual furniture.

• If you buy third-party legs, be careful to make sure they fit the holes (insert juvenile joke here; go ahead, I’ll wait). Ikea’s legs apparently are threaded with a metric bolt or some such, so make sure the vendor of sexy legs has a bolt that will work with that. I forget where I read about these woes but I think a lot of hackers ran into a lot of grief over this and had to jigger special solutions to make their new legs work, so either be handy or buy from a more trusted source that specifically fits Karlstad.

The folks from Our Mid Century did their own legs for cheap from Ace Hardware. Seems annoying to me and I prefer a stain-free choice for no scratches or dings showing through. But you can copy them if you like!

Alternate sofa legs from Uncle Bob's Workshop.• The legs by Uncle Bob’s Workshop are the best I’ve seen, after careful (OK, compulsive) review. The reason I like these the best is because I prefer ordering stuff that’s a solid wood that doesn’t need to be stained, since that way it doesn’t show scratches. Most other vendors only offer stained or painted legs. Also, I’m lazy and skeptical that I’ll do a great job if I DIY, and I want something totally stable and solid and gorgeous. These are made especially for the Karlstad, but you can also get a conversion option for some other Ikea models which you can select at purchase.

This Etsy store Thirteen Colonies also sells legs. They make a couple different heights, so hey, if you’re bothered by the lowness of the Karlstad maybe this is a solution.

• If you’re into upping the funk factor, you could look into legs from Pretty Pegs, or probably DIY one of their designs yourself. Personally, I think this all starts to get too busy given the texture of the tufting already present on this otherwise clean and streamlined collection. But I suppose it all depends on your room’s vibe.

• If you want a less Mid-Century Modern look, you can get more transitional legs like these. Poke around. Just bear all that Karlstad-specific stuff in mind, and also keep in mind how much buying legs adds up to your total price point! If I get all the fourteen dollar solid teak legs I need plus shipping and tax for two loveseats, a chaise, and an ottoman, I’m looking at over two hundred bucks. That’s manageable, but it adds up so that may factor into your ultimate leg choice!

I will continue pinning any cool new leg ideas I see on my Karlstad sofa Pinterest board. Gosh, I’m almost thinking you could, like, DIY gold leaf them or something. Gah. Save me from myself!

Clothing!

A sofa with the Bemz Loose Fit Urban Slipcover.Slipcovers: Most slipcovers are designed for fabric Karlstads and not leather ones. However, even though Bemz claims their Loose Urban Fit slipcover isn’t meant to fit the leather model, I actually think it would fit, if you ever wanted to switch it up, protect it, or change the color and look down the line. This is what Bemz said back to me when I pressed them about whether I could sneak a Loose Fit Urban onto a leather Karlstad:

Our slipcovers are custom made to fit the IKEA Karlstad model with the removable fabric slipcovers. Like you say, our regular fit covers are tight fitting and do not fit over the leather version.

But with the Loose Fit Urban covers there is the concern that the slipcovers may be very slippery and not sit properly on the sofa if there is leather underneath. This will cause extra wear and tear on the seams. As we do not recommend putting our slipcovers on leather sofas our 3-year guarantee does not cover that sort of wear and tear.

So that’s actually not such a big deal, if you know what you’re getting into in terms of warranty and wear-and-tear. If I were to buy one of these, I would get the seams reinforced by a tailor, or possibly just get the whole thing in a heavier fabric like canvas. Either way, it seems to me that since the actual dimensions of the couch are only 1/4″ different between the fabric and the leather, you just might be able to get away with some slipcover wizardry. PLEASE let me know if you try it; I’m curious to know if I can slipcover over white leather if awful stains do happen to me down the road!

For what it’s worth, I ordered some Bemz swatches just in case. I was pleasantly surprised by their quality and texture as well as free-ness, mildly surprised by some of the colors as compared to the website, and mildly disappointed that it took a very very long time for them to arrive. Duh, international bulk mail is not speedy. Plan ahead if you’re pondering a slipcover and need it in a specific time frame!

I also reached out to the Australian slipcover company Comfort Works, but they never got back to me. :( And their whole site seems to have the models and names confused, which immediately concerns me.

I peeked at Knesting too but frankly theirs look cheaper for a similarly high price point, and they don’t cover nearly as many models. Boo.

Pillows: I already talked about throw pillows you can get from Ikea above, and really, I’ll let you enjoy exploring those on your own. But for what it’s worth, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the very affordable pillows I snagged from H&M’s new online storefront. I’ve taken the liberty of creating an overwhelming custom H&M throw pillow search URL for you here. Go nuts! (I bought a pair of these in black and white stripes, which are actually soft black and off-white; a pair of these in charcoal; a pair of these in medium gray (violet undertones) and in peacock (lovely); and now I am forbidden from bringing new pillows into our home. None of them are AMAZING quality, but they’re all decent, and they were so dang cheap! I do recommend sucking it up and buying the H&M brand fillers since the sizes are a bit odd. But those inserts are also pretty cheap, and decent quality.

Blankets: The Karlstad leather sofa’s clean lines are kind of begging for a great throw blanket or two, maybe stacked on the nearby footstool when not in use. I’ve never been particularly thoughtful about throws before; I always used whatever weird ugly thing we had on hand just for warmth. But reading a bunch of design blogs makes me realize what a great design impact the right throw has, so I have been on the lookout for something both boldly stylish and functional. I was SURE I’d be snagging the Ikea Eivor throw based on this Emily Henderson post, but in person the thing is super duper cheap and lame looking. Obviously acrylic, ugly black stitching that looks weird on the cream parts, and just generally not nice up close. I can totally see how it makes for an amazing graphic pop in styled photographs, but I have no interest in snuggling under this thing during a movie marathon. So then I ordered this faux leopard blanket, but it got lost in shipping so they refunded it and I’m kind of glad since I was worried it is maybe a little too RAWR COUGAR for this 30-something household. :) Still searching.

SOME NOTES ON LEATHER COUCHES IN GENERAL

I’m a bit of a leather snob, and also a cheapskate. The Ikea Karlstad leather sofa is THE leather couch whose quality and price point are acceptable to me. You can learn more about leather types here if you like, but I dug up some relevant info for you because I want you to love your couch as much as I hope to love mine.

Here is what Ikea says:

Dyed through grain leather from cattle, with an embossed and pigmented surface. Soft, hardwearing and easy care leather ages gracefully. A slight treatment allows the leather to breathe well and keep its natural structural variations.

And here is what Wikipedia says about what I can glean is the type of leather Ikea is using in this series:

Corrected-grain leather is any leather that has had an artificial grain applied to its surface. The hides used to create corrected leather do not meet the standards for use in creating vegetable-tanned or aniline leather. The imperfections are corrected or sanded off, and an artificial grain impressed into the surface and dressed with stain or dyes. Most corrected-grain leather is used to make pigmented leather as the solid pigment helps hide the corrections or imperfections. Corrected grain leathers can mainly be bought as two finish types: semi-aniline and pigmented.

What I can tell you is that the leather I touched on this particular Ikea collection felt higher quality than the leathers I’ve seen at places like Kasala, Dania, and Crate & Barrel. I was very pleasantly surprised. Also, I’ve spent like a year trying to follow Emily Henderson’s leather sofa tips, but I don’t think we’ll ever find anything that’s better than the Karlstad pricing-wise and I’ve never seen anything in Seattle that was, like, an amazing vintage leather sofa steal. Never. Nor have I seen things affordably priced enough at our Restoration Hardware outlet to justify pulling the trigger (although it’s true that if you want non-white, their stuff is way sexier than any other new leather I’ve ever seen. I particularly love their “Glove” color.)

I can also say that I now believe you should never, ever buy any furniture in vinyl. I know fancy bloggers like Little Green Notebook and good old Emily Henderson will tell you otherwise, but I just think it smells and sounds weird and is all sweaty and sucks and when a mark or stain happens it RUINS the thing, whereas with leather that’s a decent enough caliber a scratch or scuff just “adds character,” you know?

Anyway, when it comes to leather it pays to be picky, but I really think this Karlstad leather (and that of Ikea’s Stockholm sofa) is shockingly good value and quality.

So, folks, I think it’s officially time to stop writing about sofas now. I hope you find this helpful! Refer me clients if you do! ;)

Some final programming notes

• Please forgive the many linked names to the Karlstad leather series or to its individual pieces. My Karlstad Pinterest board is my most-followed social media thing except maybe my ergonomics board, and I get the feeling this post might kinda blow up with people considering a Karlstad sofa so I’m SEOing the crap out of it even though that might be a tiny bit annoying for readers. Please love me anyway; I’m only human, and I only really want everything I do on the web to hopefully have the side effect of reaching people who could use my help as an online dating coach if I can!

• If I seem to allude to your blog but I failed to actually link to you, please let me know and I will do so. I’ve done SO much deep diving on this couch that a lot of the info I’ve included is more like little memory fragments than specific references, which is why you’re not seeing the link you desire. But I will gladly link it up if you help refresh my memory, and I would totally appreciate you returning the favor! Isn’t that how this blogging thing works? (Serious question; I clearly have no idea what I’m doing here.) So far I got helpful input from Visual Jill, Ella Pretty, Denise, and Brandi.

• If you love my writing and my level of detail, and you’re single or you know someone who is, please check out my online dating coaching site at The Heartographer. Thanks! <3

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