Flashback: Africa


It was nearly four years ago when we started living in Nairobi, Kenya, Africa.

This treehouse was in our backyard. Our neighbor, Roger Van Otterloo, built this with and for his son. He was a real missionary, in the traditional sense. He and his family built a life for themselves in the heart of the jungle, so to speak — in the heart of Africa — Zaire (now Congo again). They left for the big city of Nairobi when civil war broke out — when they had to leave.

You would never know from the photo that we were about two miles from the city center. The tree, by the way, is an acacia — the quintessential African tree.

If you want to read more about our life in Africa, kindly visit My Part of Nairobi.


Why no solar


As you know, I’m into saving energy and recycling. Heather is too.

We explored the possibility of getting solar panels for our home. Denver gets a massive amount of sun — it’s an ideal place for solar power.

There are incredible rebates and tax credits available now — knocking off nearly 2/3 of the costs! But it still would take more than ten years to pay for the investment. We just can’t guarantee that we’ll be in this house for that long.


(Image credit)


Dell Adamo vs. MacBook Air


From the Latin, meaning ‘to fall in love’” vs. from the English, meaning very lightweight.

So, Dell came out with a new laptop.

The designer discusses his inspirations in a YouTube video “…the use of kindling material…” And the background music on the video is so ten years ago.

Adamo was created to elicit desire…” I wouldn’t call that a worthy goal in producing a product. (Hello? Function?)

1.2 ghz for $2000?! Compare that to the 1.6 ghz Air for $1800. Well, there is no comparison. (Admittedly, the Dell has a flash hard drive, which would bring the Air up to $2300.)

And yes, Dell followed Apple a mere 14 months later. (Remember, in computer time, that’s 27 years.)


Toyota iQ


Toyota has a great car that you can buy in Europe right now (if you can afford a new car). It’s the iQ.

It’s just 10 inches longer than the Smart Car*, but it has a rear seat! (Admittedly, anyone over 5 years old would only be able to survive a 2-mile journey back there. But it’s probably bigger than the back seat of my buddy’s Porsche 928.) *In the picture, the iQ is on the left, and Smart is on the right.

I know you are thinking, “What a quick way to die!” Not true. It earned a 5-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash tests.

Toyota could have been more original with the name — “iQ” and “Smart” — notice any similarity?

So yes, since I’m a lover of small cars, I want one.

(Apologies for the poor quality of the photos; I shot these from a magazine sitting in my lap, as part of the bookstore findings series.)


What was once valuable…


A few Saturdays ago, I enjoyed some time at a car junkyard. (The visor on our old Mitsubishi died. It would no longer stay up. So $2.50 later and the time spent finding the right donor car meant a working visor.)

On my way to find the donor Mitsubishi, I saw this Cadillac hubcap center laying forlornly in the dirt. I remembered how much the car it came from was worth at the height of its glory — a lot more than it is worth now!

Takeaway: as you think about buying that shiny new whatever, just remember that it won’t be shiny forever.


Death of the Rocky


February 27th was the day Denver’s second newspaper, The Rocky Mountain News, was put to rest. In my book, it was not a big deal, as the Denver Post was owned by the same company — so they were essentially the same voice. I am sad, though, for those who lost jobs in the shuffle.

We bought the final newspaper. Above is a spread featuring every masthead design from Day One until Day Final. I thought that was cool. It’s a nice tracking of how visual design reflects changes in culture. Naturally, I didn’t save the newspaper, but I do have a full-size image of the mastheads spread available. If you want to see it, leave a comment, and I’ll email it to you.


Throw it away


So I got this lip balm for free.

It was schwag from a concert I went to, almost two years ago. In dry Colorado, everyone needs lip balm, so I grabbed it.

Well, I used it a few times before I realized it stung when I applied it. But I kept it because I appreciate the company that gave it away. Finally, it sunk in — why am I keeping this is if doesn’t work right?

Takeaway: what do you need to throw away today?


iPod Shuffle 2009 Review


Yes, Apple just came out with a new iPod Shuffle. As always, it’s cool. As always, if you’re into tech stuff, you want one.

+ Very cool size — smaller than ever.
+ Voice Over feature, where you can hear what songs you are listening to. This is by far the biggest innovation. Funny enough, if you have a Windows computer, it speaks to you in a female voice and male if you have a Mac. (An “alpha” thing?)
+ 4 gb capacity (2 gb was the previous high).

— 10 hour battery life. (The current Nano has 24 — and the $29 Shuffle I’ll mention in a minute has 12.)
— You can only use the Apple-provided headphones, which don’t fit every set of ears. (They don’t fit mine!)

Suggestion: Buy a 1 gb Shuffle from the Apple Refurb store for $29 or $39, depending on availability. Get a great set of headphones and sing all the way to the bank. (Update: Now there are 2 gb models for $39, if you keep checking back.)

Big users’ tip: always leave the headphones plugged in. If you take them out, this puppy is so small you’ll lose it within minutes.