Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

Learning to ski

Monday, March 17th, 2008

I spent the weekend on the slopes at Snow Summit learning how to ski. I’ve been wanting to do this for the longest time but finally took the plunge along with a friend. We stayed at a Big Bear Hostel mainly to save money, but it’s always an interesting experience when staying at hostel. This time proved no different. The owner turns out to have gone to high school in the town adjacent to my hometown. As if that wasn’t coincidental enough, I asked him where I could buy a beanie since I forgot mine and it turns out he has a side business of importing Nepalese handmade goods. I picked out a hat from his online catalog and he went to find the yak wool beanie from the school bus that was apparently his store room.

Since we arrived on a Friday night, the other guests were already buzzed/drunk. They decided to have a group birthday celebration for anyone who had a winter b-day. Since mine was in Feb they asked what kind of cake I liked. I said German chocolate and thought that would be the end of it. Apparently they went out to Vons after that and bought a carrot cake, a German chocolate cake, Angel food cake, ice cream, and candles. Since they bought the cake, I felt obligated to partake in this alcohol induced bday celebration in all of its randomness. Add to this the stoned Brazilians who had come this winter to work at the ski resort and lived at the hostel in exchange for cleaning and the experience was complete.

The other cool part of the trip was just partaking and observing ski/snowboarding culture. Probably 90% of the people were snowboarding since its the cool thing to do this decade. All the skiers were older. All the people aside from my friend and me were female in the ski classes. I don’t know what all of this means but I have a feeling that skiing is very uncool these days. I chose to ski since it seems to be the more practical of the two. I figure I’d do the snowboarding thing next year. In general people were quite respectful despite the crowded slopes and lodges. It seemed very ritualistic like everybody knew exactly what to do. Everybody changing by their cars in the parking lot in the morning, lift lines with three lines merging without issue, and people un/gracefully weaving around each other on their way down the slope. It was a world away from the intense daily life of LA where you have to fight for every yard on the road yet it was only a few hours drive away. I think I’m hooked.

Method Shower Cleaner Spray

Sunday, January 27th, 2008

Method Shower SprayI use Method cleaning products from Target for my day to day maintenance cleaning since it’s supposed to be non-toxic and better for the environment. I applaud the guys who started the company for their success in bringing green cleaning products at affordable prices to the masses. They even encourage less waste by selling bulk refills for their spray bottle products. Since I’ve used their stuff for a couple of years, I know they’ve also experimented a lot with their packaging design. (That’s gotta be pricey when it comes to experimenting with different bottles.) That’s why I was a little surprised that this two bottle system wasn’t designed better.

The goal is to decant liquid from the larger bottle into the spray bottle. The problem is that you either need a funnel or a steady hand to carefully pour from the wide spout into the narrow one on the spray bottle. Inevitably, some of the liquid will probably spill if you opt for the latter method (no pun intended). In all cases, the bottleneck (man they just keep coming) is the smaller of the two.

One idea is to stick something like a dish soap spout on top of the larger bottle. This would probably be the cheapest option since it’s not a custom spout. The downside would be the rate at which it would dispense the replacement liquid. Another idea would be to use a bottle with a spout that is just slightly narrower than that of the spray bottle. My third idea would be some sort of retractable pouring/funneling mechanism built into the cap of the larger bottle. Something like those pour cups built into the caps of liquid detergent except it would flip over and screw on reversibly and allow liquid to pass through.

Maybe this is over-complicating the matter and everybody else has a clean funnel even though I don’t.

Visa’s Financial Football

Monday, January 21st, 2008

I was listening to NPR and there was a story about the NFL and Visa teaming up to create this game called Financial Football. Apparently some schools have started using it teach high-schoolers about personal finances. It’s a Flash based game with simple multiple choice interactions that can be confusing at times. However, I have to commend the effort and idea of using a brand like the NFL to get kids interested. They even have difficulty levels for college students.

At the risk of inciting class warfare, I think personal finances is one of the biggest things lacking in today’s education system (along with health/nutrition knowledge leading to obesity). The point of general education should be to churn out reasonably responsible and productive citizens. Money is one of those things that everybody uses but only an elite slice of the population understands. The knowledge of how to manage money is the key to everybody’s financial health. Yet nobody ever really teaches personal finance. The rich may teach their kids. But for most, it’s a matter of learning it on your own and most people just don’t have the drive to seek this stuff out since it’s not their passion. If it wasn’t for the internet, it would have been a lot harder for me to learn about all these different investment vehicles and how money works. It’s good to see some change now that the country is feeling the pain of irresponsible lending and spending.

P.S. I realize that this thing is sponsored by a credit card company. Though I’m usually skeptical of most PR, I’m willing to believe them this time when they say that educated, responsible spenders make better long term clients.

High-tech fabrics and materials blow my mind

Thursday, January 17th, 2008

Back in high school I briefly flirted with the idea of being a biotechnologist since I find biology interesting. Then I found out that I sucked at chemistry. I didn’t get it because I couldn’t visualize interactions at the atomic level. And so that answered any question of me ever being a scientist or electrical engineer. But all of that only increased my appreciation for scientific advancements and fine engineering because it seems so magical.

That’s why I’ve been so impressed by the fabric and materials technologies that I’ve noticed creeping into products over the past couple of years. Some of my favorites are those used in sports and performance clothing. From the spandex woven into t-shirts and jeans to give it stretch, to running fleeces that are impossibly warm for their weight, to jackets that block wind, repel water like it’s coated with oil, and still breathes at the same time. These all seem to impress me because of their seemingly magical properties.

I think my favorite material has to be bamboo. I remember having backyard fencing matches with my brother Asian style with bamboo stalks. The stuff is supposedly renewable and fast-growing like some miracle weed. None of this really matters if the performance sucks but I’ve found it exceeds cotton and wood in some cases. The NY Times had an article saying bamboo is overdone and bashing bamboo sheets. Apparently the author has never slept in the ridiculously soft bamboo sheets from The Company Store. The bamboo towels they have are also the softest towels I have ever encountered. This stuff is far better than Egyptian cotton. I also tried bamboo towels from CB2 but they came nowhere near.

Bamboo is also useful for things like salad bowls and platters. I like its earthiness, cleanliness, and durability. Case in point for bamboo is the company Bambu. Although I’m wary of bamboo cutting boards since Alton Brown mentioned in his knife episode of Good Eats on the Food Network that bamboo is harder than wood so it dulls knives more quickly than hardwoods. Eh. This stuff is still the best thing since…bent plywood.