ForsythiaNairobi, Kenya, is not far from the equator. We lived there for five years. Since the elevation is close to a mile high, the climate is ideal – about 70 degrees (21c) year-around. But since the climate allows for many people to live in very easily-built and relatively inexpensive homes (mud walls and a tin roof), lots of people live there. Too many, in my humble opinion. The city’s infrastructure was built for about 300,000 – and roughly 4 million live there now.

Living further north or south necessitates having solid insulated homes.

Back to seasons – I love four seasons. Spring is now fully here. The warm weather is such a relief after a long cold winter.

Change is a good thing.


Local Food and Local Music

The Bell JarI know some people that are really into local food. And the reasons to eat food grown locally are good:

– You’re saving a ton of fossil fuels, since the food has not been flown from South America or Africa.

– It’s probably fresher.

– You’re supporting local farmers.

Why not apply the same principles to local music? By asking the bands you see to drive all over the country, they are using a lot more fuel than local musicians do in bringing their art to you.

Obviously, this analogy breaks down.If you restrict your diet to only local food, in many parts of the world, you’ll never taste a mango or a papaya. And with music, if you’re an American, you’ll never hear the rich sounds of many British bands.

I do want you to come out to support your local musicians. (The band is The Bell Jar. Local to my town. And good.)


Save your kids the effort

Crap at My Parents' HouseI love Urban Outfitters. My sister introduced me to the store when she lived in Chicago. They have a collection of eclectic clothes and weird stuff that I occasionally spend money on.

So this book on their shelves caught my eye. My wife Heather spent the better part of six months dealing with this very issue at her parents’ house. They were pretty much too old to deal with getting rid of a house full of stuff before they moved into a much smaller home, so that joy fell to Heather. I helped some, but she did the vast majority of filling the shelves at the local charity shop.

My dad was a huge collector. After he died, it took my mom more than six years to clear out all the stuff that he collected, before she was able to move into a 1-bedroom apartment. (She didn’t want to buy a condo, as she felt like it would be a burden on her kids to have to sell the place!)

So I guess my only point is that if you don’t buy that junky thing that catches your eye, your kids won’t have to give it away later.


1. Special thanks to my friend James Taylor (not the musician), who inspired this post.

2. Here are some related posts I wrote: Not going to buy it, Let it goRecapturing that lost childhood and That collector gene.

3. I did not buy the book. And I was amused to see that as of this writing, it was selling for just $1.48, used. Apparently several people decided they didn’t want their kids to have to give it away, much later.


Excess vs. Reality

Aston Martin DBS Volante Carbon Edition interior, courtesy of Elite ChoiceAston Martin spends 25 hours polishing the paint of their new DBS Volante Carbon Edition. And more than 70 hours of stitching the leather interior. That’s part of why the car costs $302,000.

I would never be able to own such a car. Even if I could afford it, my conscience would prevent me from sinking that much money into a car that gets me to the grocery store as well as our Toyota Corolla. Or maybe the Corolla would do it better, since it will hold more bags of groceries. (My guess is that most Volante owners have someone else do their grocery shopping, so that’s probably not an issue.)

But somehow it comforts me to know that this car exists. It’s not superlative in any category, but it is a work of art. An article in Autoweek magazine told the story of some kids in a minivan seeing the car across two lanes of traffic. They were so wowed by the car that they shouted out to the driver, “Rev the engine! Rev the engine!” This car definitely has a powerful presence.

I’m torn. I know that anyone who spends $302,000 on a car could spend that money feeding starving people. Maybe they haven’t ever lived in Africa, like I have. While we were there, we had friends who didn’t know where their next meal was coming from. And just $10 might feed their family for several days. That reality that makes me pause before I make any extravagant purchase. Can I really justify it?

Photo courtesy of Elite Choice.


The Instagram Effect

Instagram has totally changed how people take and enjoy photos. It has changed how people share their world with others.

Photo comparison - left is standard and right is via photo app

Instagram is a photo app for the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. You take a photo, run it through a filter and then share it with others via Twitter, Facebook or email.

After the filter (right) is normally way more appealing than before. Think of adding salt to your meal.

Before Instagram – and the amazing quality of the camera that’s in the iPhone 4S – a pro would have to summon all their Photoshop skills to improve a picture that Instagram does with just one click.

The knockout combination of the iPhone 4S and Instagram means that normal people can produce amazing photos without having to carry around a phone and a camera.

Give it a shot.

Footnote: Camera Awesome and Dynamic Light are apps that are similar to Instagram. They provide sometimes better effects than Instagram but have weaker sharing features. This photo of our bedroom ceiling was taken with Camera Awesome. So far, Dynamic Light is my favorite of the trio. It’s the only one that’s not free – but it’s only 99c.