Monday, April 22, 2013

What wants to live forever?

A friend of mine on facebook asked if I knew of a company perfect for mailing away her products that contained mercury like CFL bulbs.  I didn't have an answer and threw out the first thing I remembered about mercury from a visit my wife and I made to Barcelona.

We were soaking in the splendor of Spain.  We basking in Gaudi's striking architecture seen in the Segrada Familia and random homes and apartments.  We lamented that the chocolate museum was closed due to a local holiday.  The one museum we made a point to see was the Miro Foundation gallery on the hill of Montjuic.

We entered and saw Miro's signature awkward, colorful, and visually challenging paintings and sculptures.  These all weren't that large, but the carpet dangling from the ceiling appeared to be 40 or 50 feet long.
Mercury fountain at the Miro Foundation in Barcelona, Spain
There was also the egg sculpture or I should say the negative egg sculpture, because there was an egg shaped hole perfect for a tourist to take a photo.

The most memorable and most scary exhibit was the preserved mercury fountain.  The minute you see what appears to be liquid metal constantly flowing with the consistency of water, it seems like magic.  And it is magic for all intensive purposes because the fountain has been flowing for nearly 80 years behind sealed glass.  Normally it takes thousands of degrees to make any metal move like fluid.  It would never retain it's original color, but be  glowing orange and white.  But this fountain was naturally doing what seemed impossible.

My childlike excitement wore off recently when I read that mercury can act as a neurotoxin.  To recap, this mercury fountain hasn't evaporated in over 80 years and is a neurotoxin.  Humans engage in the deadliest pastimes!!  And they still do.  I have several "energy efficient bulbs" and one thermostat with mercury which again stays around for a long time.

Yesterday I took my son and daughter out for a walk on our local rail trail.  My son asked if the Rail Trail was a good guy or a bad guy.  He also asked if the Woods were a good guy or bad guy.  He gets this polarization from the latest cartoons he fancies like Batman (Bold and Brave) and Dino Squad.  I told him neither were bad or good.  It was up to the person passing through to know what was bad for them.  If they know what poison ivy looks like, they will be wise to avoid it to save their skin.  If they don't know, they will learn the hard way.

When it comes to mercury, I don't want any of us to learn the hard way.  Please do your homework and avoid buying products with mercury.  Take appropriate steps to remove those items from your home as well.  When I say remove, I don't mean trash the stuff, but see if the company taking your trash will accept your CFL bulbs, batteries, and mercury laden thermostats.  I use Waste Management for trash removal, and they have a mail in program.

On this fine Earth Day, try to make decisions that don't let toxic problems linger for those young ones to come.  For me, relearning and a breaking of habits to make wise decisions can be cumbersome, but it's still worth while exercise.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Wild Wild West

During breakfast this morning I got the motivation to hang up my son's latest art pieces.  The titles "Snake Shooting Pine Cones" and "Dog Going To The Weights" give a hint of his creations.  The paintings themselves kind of hit at the titles.  But when the titles are combined with the images it is a sign of his genius.

Now I have a right to be biased -- I am his Dad after all -- but I don't want him to ever stop creating.  To ever stop thinking out of the box, in the box, or making new boxes.  When he asked me about the wild wild west this morning I was very careful with my words.  Mind you, I did no research to craft my answer, and most of the historical info (if any) is wrong.  But I spoke more out of observation and experience.

I explained how people eventually got bored with the East Coast... with the rules, structures, and tired of being starved of opportunity.  Eventually they set out to the West for gold or just for a new start.  They were walking on Indian ground to get to the West and needed to be careful, because the land wasn't theirs.  Some of these people were mean to Indians and some Indians retaliated.  Whoever survived eventually made it to the West Coast and are the forefathers of the cities and towns there today.

I paused for a minute to gather my thoughts then regrouped with this "moral of the story" close.  I said, "Sometimes you have a desire to do something different than everyone else.  You'll have to deal with friendly and hostile people, who have been hurt in the past.  The goal is to fulfill your desire in a peaceful way".

We are all children, really, when we see how as adults our knowledge is dwarfed as more knowledge is acquired.  Those who are close minded whether in their living room or board room, will be surpassed by those who are bold and open minded.  But in the end everyone under the sun will be inspired to do something and try something new in a big or small way.  It could be moving to a different country, or changing your style of clothes.  The goal for us all is to never be afraid to step out and fulfill our inner desires.  This challenge and burden of new desires should always be satisfied.  It is the only way we will grow.  Our mirrors should reveal different a different "us" every month, every season, and every year.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

My product idea is being discussed live tonight.

I've been a part of for about 3 years and this will be the first time one of my ideas has made it to the final evaluation.  Quirky is a community driven consumer product development company.  Every aspect of the product from the name, to design, tagline, and price is voted on by the community.  

The first step though is to get into a live evaluation and my idea for a expanding cookware hanger was selected.

These evaluations are broadcast live at and there's a running chat along side the video where the community discusses the current idea.

I encourage you to check it out.  It starts at 6pm tonight and it's a great way to see a new method of how products go from an idea to a shelf and eventually into a home.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

My obsession with seltzer

I was a huge sugar addict when I was a kid.  Passing around sugar packets at school, and drinking tons of juice, soda, and powdered sugary drinks were quite normal.

I continued this behavior through school and once I got to college it caught up to me.  Cavities and weight gain acted like bouncers to a sugar club.  I soon started having acid reflux issues after college and I knew I needed to cut back.

My wife got me into Poland springs seltzer and as an adult I loved it.  I specifically loved the taste of the water used from the Maine based seltzer company compared to say Polar seltzer.  I visited the old facilities during a trip to Maine a few years ago to pay my respects.

Unfortunately, Poland Spring is now owned by Nestle.  I associate Nestle with chocolate and chocolate water sounds wrong on several levels.  Not to mention the fact that a huge corporation "sitting on the mountain" of what I used to enjoy.

A few years ago, we wanted to reduce the amount of plastic we were recycling and we bought a Soda Stream.  It has been a wonderful experience reusing the same container I had when I first bought the machine making seltzer on demand.

Last year I made a major effort to remove sugar from my diet while adhering to the Tim Ferriss Slow Carb diet.  That meant half Trader Joes mango juice half seltzer drinks got the kibosh, but Tim recommended squeezing the juice from a lemon slice into a glass of water before each meal.  I squeezed my lemons into seltzer and fell in love.

It was the natural taste of lemons in a refreshing carbonated drink that really won me over.  The most natural soda a guy can get.  As this week has warmed up and I've seltzerfied myself, I can say I'm ready for the warm weather.

Here's a new series graphics inspired by my history with seltzer.  These are all available now via

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Sketchup Tutorial: Making A Rounded Square in 6 Steps

Google Sketchup is a free program that is quite limited, but it has a very intuitive UI so getting a product draft done in minutes becomes very feasible.

I'm going to post a short tutorial on making a rounded square, which I used as a starting point to make this render image.

Design submission to's butter twister design phase.


1.  Start by making a square.  You can click on the square tool and drag out your square or click the square tool and type in the dimensions i.e. Typing "300,300" and pressing Enter gives you a 300 by 300 square with the metrics you've set for the project.

2. Use the ruler tool to mark out the dimensions of the rounded corner.  I wanted the rounded edge or fillet to be on the last 40mm of the square.  So I click on one corner and lead the ruler on the green axis and type "40" and Enter.  I repeat this on the same corner along the red axis.  I then move to the opposite corner and mark 40 mm along the green and red axis.

3) I then use the pencil tool to make a line from one side of the square to the opposite site starting at the ruler marks I made in step 2.

4) I repeat step 3 on the opposite corner and magically all 4 corners are marked off!  :)

5) I use the arc tool to create an arc that starts and ends on the ruler marks/line ends I've made.  

6) Delete the lines around the arcs you've created.  I've left one behind in this image on the bottom right.  At this point you are all set.  Delete those inner lines and dance a jig!  You have a nice rounded square.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Be you.

Be true to the original and unique you and help others do the same.

Do this and you'll get to appreciate the unfading joy and  freedom in being yourself.


I have managed to not identify with most meme's going around from last year, but this angry cat one got me.

It's like the cat is staring at me saying, "This is what you look like right now".  I have been told I have a very natural frown.  This is never said as a compliment, and is often followed by people telling me I should smile more, which always makes me frown more.

To see it on an animal's face though isn't the same.  This cat is still cute.  And I'm sure, the more it frowns the more cute it will get.  Angry Cat, I hope you enjoy your new found success.  Please offer some online courses on how to frown with style.

In honor of today... which I will call Frown Friday, I'll accompany this frown with other frowns.  The set should remove several frowns and help you make it safely to your weekend with a smile.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The first and last day I spent with my grandfather

There are no books to help guide one through the murky waters of divorce.  All that remains are fragments of relationships and  -- Lord willing -- enough of a relationship between family members where the next generation that's detached from the gory details of the marital split can still connect with the adults 1 or 2 generations before them.

From stories, I knew the grandmother on my mother's side had 3 husbands.  I remember the 2nd to last or the last one with her as a young child.  Most of my time with my grandmother I knew her to be single.  Picture a Dominican women in a bad neighborhood wielding a machete to prune her bushes.  The showy use of the machete was intentional and she saw it to be necessary given the crime rates of Lawrence, MA 1980-1990s.

One summer, in a surprising turn of events, my mother arranged a trip for me, my siblings, and her mother to visit my grandmother's first husband.  He was a very successful architect in Hoboken, NJ in his 60s.  The apartment he had housed his 2nd wife and his daughter who I had never met before.

As time passes, memories compress tightly to obtain new information and new experiences.  So goes my memory which compressed 1 day with my grandfather into two specific events.

The walk

My grandfather had never met me before, but he seemed very proud to introduce me to his neighborhood friends.  He waved and greeted several people he passed or saw across the street.  I remember a conversation or two, but the prominent memory I have is him pointing out the buildings he designed.

Here I was just a 5 to 6 foot high school student and seeing the fruits of his mind cast 100 foot shadows across blocks and parks while simultaneously reflecting the sky and sunlight.  There were several buildings he pointed to and would proudly say, "I made that".

The generational hand off

One of the last stops on our walk he entered a very unpolished bodega.  The moment I stepped in, I knew where I was without even seeing the business sign.  There was a bodega in my former town in Lawrence, MA and it was almost identical to the one in stepped into in New Jersey. It was a place to grab produce, manufactured goods, and candy.  Candy like swedish fish, other junk food, American and Carribean Sodas, Malta, and frozen treats.  Back before I was 10 I could purchase a piece of swedish fish for a penny.  A dollar would get me a small paper bag full of the juicy fish shaped sweets.

These bodegas also dueled as a cultural meeting place.  To continue in the traditions of the Caribbean Islands,  these bodegas provided the foods islanders were familiar with:  Yuca, Platanos, and a variety of other foods.  And on American soil, they could keep their culture in their mouths and hearts too with this small business which served as a bridge between where they were from and their present abode in America.

We both walk into the store and, of course, my grandfather knew the store owner very well.  The owner tried speaking to me in Spanish, but my grandfather told him I didn't speak any Spanish.  The owner said, "La rapidez con que se va".  Loosely translated he was lamenting how even as his bodega helped keep the Hispanic language, cuisine, and traditions of conversation alive, this culture somehow hadn't been passed down to me.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

What's in a name?

I've tried to make a habit of spending more time in public spaces, and less time retreating into the forest for a change.  I will still have my forest time, but being around others must balance out my times of solitude.

In the previous two visits at my coffee shop, the barista had trouble remembering my first name. She got the first letter right, but I always had to help with the rest. Today, she remembered my name.

It got me thinking...
   - How many interactions does it take a person with an average memory to remember someone's name?
   - Is it easier or more difficult if the stranger has the same name as a current friend?
   - How long do you have to know someone before you give them a nickname?
   - What has to happen to forget someones name?

With all that happens in life... births, deaths, new beginnings, and abrupt endings, in all this musing and making we often get to meet another soul with countless stories to widen our world. What is necessary for people to be memorable?