Thursday, March 26, 2009

I am Dreaming of a Real Kitchen - A Pure Kitchen

The worst thing about being a renter locked out of the housing market in San Francisco was that I had no control over my own "home". I couldn't garden, I couldn't have pets, and I certainly couldn't remodel a kitchen. Now, I'm able to have all of this in BaltiMORE.

Studioroom just launched a new version of Pure It's like porn for people like me.

Brooklyn, NY based Pure Kitchen specializes in modern, eco friendly kitchens. Unlike traditional construction, Pure Kitchen products use NO formaldehyde or other harmful agents. Did you know that you can get cabinet panels made entirely out of wheat? They utilize local fabricators, so if your in the North East that means your helping the local economy simply by remodeling your home.

When I finally buy my place, and am able to create the kitchen I've always been dreaming of, it will be a Pure Kitchen.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Salad Lover's Dilema (1 calorie = 57 petro-calories)

What's not to love about a good, fresh salad? I love eating my veggies in all forms, but there's nothing like a crunchy, tangy, sweetly dressed salad - which must occupy my lunch and dinner table on a regular basis. Until last week, I used to love the spring mix salad so conveniently available at every super market, until I read Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma. I was amazed to learn that for every one calorie in spring mix lettuce, it takes fifty seven calories worth of "energy" to get it to my plate. That's right, for every ONE calorie of lettuce you eat, it took FIFTY SEVEN petro-calories just to get it in your front door. A typical spring mix salad serving has about 250 calories, but costs a whopping 14,250 calories of fuel (in gas, transportation, refrigeration, and automation).

This is exactly the problem that Veggie Trader (my newest site) is trying to address, sustainability.

It seems like a no-brainer to me, a foodie. Lettuce is lettuce and all I need to do is source some local leaf. Or, better yet, all I need to do is grow my own salads (and while I'm at it, I might as well grow a lot and trade with my neighbors who are growing tomatoes, flowers, & other stuff).

But I am a gardening virgin. I'm an eater, not a grower. So I've taken my first tentative steps into the mystical world of gardening the easiest way I know how - by following a recipe. I trotted into my local garden center, Valley View Farms, in Hunt Valley, MD. I simply purchased a Jiffy Greenhouse and some lettuce seeds. The Jiffy Greenhouse is a little kit for germinating seeds in convenient little peat pellets. It comes with instructions and a special tray. So far, so good, I've got some happy sprouts eager for more sun, soon to be replanted!

Check out my photo album, The Salad Chronicles, which I'll be adding photos to over the coming weeks. (it will automagically update here in this blog). Please, if you live in the Mid-Atlantic region and want to share your lettuce growing experiences, feel free to leave a comment below. Also, let's make the Veggie Trader blog a resource for foodies and gardeners alike.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Dear Sellers - A House is a HOME (Not just an investment)

I am the elusive first time home buyer. I have perfect credit and a cash downpayment, and I am NOT buying...

There are a lot of lovely properties offered for sale all over Baltimore. Yesterday I went to a couple open houses in north Baltimore's Lake Walker neighborhood. I wish I could buy one right now, but they are all too expensive. The agent I spoke to at one house on Highwood street spoke about the new 1st time home buyer tax credit, $8,000.00. It would seem that sellers all of a sudden think their house went UP in value by $8k!!!

The problem with all real estate is that people are expecting a lot of something for nothing, just like the stock market. Too many people are treating homes as if they are equities, something which is just going to be traded around, profiting mainly on the transaction.

As far as I can tell, about %98 of the homes you go and look at need at least, AT LEAST, $20,000 worth of maintenance and repair work. I've also seen properties that need over $200,000 or maintenence and upgrades. It looks like none of this obvious disrepair is factored into the prices of these homes. Why?

FYI people! A house is a home! and I'm not spending money to go live in slum-like building. I don't care if you bought your money trap back in 2007. Why should us first time buyers have to pay for your bad timing?

I want to LIVE in a house, it's NOT just an investment for me. Open your eyes, look at your property before you list it. If if needs work, new systems, new roof, new windows, then acknowlege these facts in your price.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Usability - Do You Believe in the Users?

Human beings are at the very core of User Experience Design. In my line of work (designing websites and software) there is an almost constant conflict between engineers & designers. The tech industry is constantly trying to streamline the way it operates, trading programming efficiency directly for User Experience.

I think everybody in tech is already aware of this imbalance and I was amused to see Google offering some user centered design lectures at their upcoming developer's conference. Here's a funny description of one session;

Do You Believe in the Users?
Too many programmers have forgotten about the lost art of customer service. All software has users, though most developers have forgotten how to respect them, trust them, or “sell” their software to them in an exciting (but honest!) manner. This talk will focus on anecdotes and strategies for keeping software design uncomplicated, making software fast, and putting usability above programming convenience. We’ll also focus on the importance of keeping a healthy illusion of simplicity, while allowing abstractions to deliberately leak for power-users.

Wow. Things must be really bad if Google has to start lecturing a bunch of programmers about usability. I'm almost tempted to attend the conference just so I can see how many people show up for these sessions!

I'm not sure that targeting developers is the most effective way to send this message. The tech industry doesn't need Google to remind them of the obvious. Business leaders in tech simply need to be strategic and invest in design. HIRE A DESIGNER. Work with them. Foster some collaboration. I'm calling for a culture shift in how software is made. Let's end the unhappy marriage of programing and design.