Filed under: projects, the salt mines, work

It's been a quiet month here on the blog, but it's been far from quiet otherwise. Yesterday, January and I opened up two new businesses in our neighborhood, so we've been running around like crazy getting last minute renovations and details ready for our grand opening last night. Now that I finally have a minute to catch my breath, I wanted to write a little bit about the business that I'll be most directly involved with: The Salt Mines Coworking Space.

When we bought our house back in 2007, two bedrooms seemed great. Four years later, we lost that second bedroom office to our little Lucy, and my office turned into whatever chair I happened to sit in around the house. By the time she learned to walk, she started to get confused about why Papa couldn't play with her during the day. So we started to look for some space outside of the house where I could go during the day to get work done.

So when we saw a storefront office space available less than half a mile from our house, we were definitely interested. The space was pretty perfect, but the rent was a little higher than we could justify on our own. We wondered to ourselves if there were other people in our neighborhood in similar situations, who just needed some space outside the house where they could focus on work during the day. So we took the leap, did some minor renovations on the space, and opened it up as The Salt Mines, Clintonville's newest coworking space.

If you're unfamiliar with the concept, coworking spaces are offices where individuals -- usually the self employed, telecommuters, or small business owners -- can rent some office space with other individuals to work. Typical office setups are highly collaborative, without cubicles or walls, so people can work on their own or bounce ideas off each other as the need arises. Our space is fairly small, but we have room for a dozen or so people to come in, set up their laptop, drink some coffee, and get some work done.

If you're interested in coworking, you can read more about The Salt Mines web site. I'm excited to have a new office space to go to every day, and I can't wait to see who joins me over the coming weeks and months!

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Filed under: 52 books, books, reviews

I've been reading a lot of fiction this year. An awful lot of fiction. Of the 35 books I've read since January, a scant 5 of them are nonfiction. In an effort to tip the ratio away from such a fiction-heavy rotation, I decided that September would be "nonfiction month." I have many more fiction books that I'm eager to check out, but it seemed like a good idea to take a month out from the world of the made-up and invest a little time what actually is and has been.

Salt: A World History

My best-friend-in-law Tasci recommended this book a few months ago, so I was willing to take a chance on this seemingly bland topic. Get it? Salt? Bland? Nevermind. Salt is something we don't think much about these days, but for thousands of years it helped shape the course of history. Up until a hundred years or so ago, salt was a relatively rare substance and those who controlled the salt controlled the power of commerce. The book was really interesting, but a bit dry at points. I really enjoyed the parts discussing the scientific makeup of salt, as well as the role salt played in early US history. If you're a history buff, it's worth checking out, but be prepared for a few slow parts.

Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlanski - 3 stars

 

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking

I'm an introvert. I know this may surprise a lot of people reading this, but it's true. It's not easy being an introvert in an extrovert's world, but that's the situation I've found myself in for the past 34 years. This book does a really nice job detailing the differences between introversion and extroversion, and makes the case for a better understanding between people of each persuasion. Really, though, I mostly recommend this book for people who have important people in their lives who are introverts, whom they want to understand better, especially extrovert spouses and parents of introverts. It will give you a good introduction into better understanding how we work.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain - 4 stars

 

Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word

Boom. There it is. "The N-Word." In the history of the spoken word, perhaps no other word has had as much power to anger, infuriate, subjugate, or at the very least make people uncomfortable. This book covers the history of the word, the history of its acceptance and use in the popular culture, and the way in which it has been dealt with in recent history since becoming widely recognized as taboo. It was definitely an uncomfortable read, but sometimes uncomfortable subjects need to be addressed. I'm not certain I agree with the author's conclusions about the words appropriateness or the way it should be handled, but I think it's a subject should perhaps be tackled head-on instead in hushed whispers behind closed doors.

Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word by Randall Kennedy - 4 stars

 

Then Everything Changed: Stunning Alternate Histories of American Politics: JFK, RFK, Carter, Ford, Reagan

After reading Stephen King's 11/22/63, I was really interested in the idea of how American history -- and world history -- has hinged on a series of small events, and how radically things might have been different had things gone another way. Then Everything Changed explored this very question in a handful of specific events: The near-assassination of JFK in 1960, JFK's assassination in 1968, and a critical gaffe in during the 1976 Presidential debates. After getting into this book, I'm not sure that it's accurately categorized as "nonfiction," as the assumptions the author makes about these "alternate histories" take a few liberties that could be construed as far-fetched. Obviously, we have no way to know what actually would have been, but Greenfield makes an entertaining guess. Definitely recommended for history buffs who want to debate the author's story, but also very much recommended for people of my generation, born just after these events took place, who don't know a lot about the twenty critical years in US history before the 1980's.

Then Everything Changed: Stunning Alternate Histories of American Politics: JFK, RFK, Carter, Ford, Reagan by Jeff Greenfield - 3 stars

 

 

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Filed under: prague 2011, travel

About this series: One year ago, January and I took our eight-month-old daughter, packed up a few bags, and headed overseas to attend the wedding of her best friend in Prague. Although the trip was very well photographed and tweeted, the trip left us without enough energy to actually blog about it afterwards. On this, the one year anniversary of our trip, I'm going to finally write about our journey. Enjoy!

Prague. We're finally here. We started our journey at Columbus International Airport and a mere two flights and sixteen hours later, we're halfway around the world and ready for two weeks of sightseeing, relaxing, and celebrating as Tasci and Honza get married. Overall the trip went prett well, but it wasn't without it's stressful points. We tried to do a pretty job thinking things through and planning the best ways to make international travel with an infant as easy as possible, but we did learn a few lessons along the way.

I'm notoriously nervous about airports. I'm pretty sure that I'm the only person in the world who actually shows up a full two hours before flights, as the TSA recommends. The first leg of our trip wasn't even international, but we still showed up way, way in advance of our 11:50am departure. This wouldn't have been a big deal, except that this flight ended up being delayed. The time between flights wasn't a big deal -- we had about five hours to kill once we got to JFK -- but Lucy did get a little figety just hanging out in the airport for that long. Fortunately, we had charging cables for our iPhones to keep January and me entertained, and a nice collapsable stroller to keep Lucy happy.

But we did make it to JFK, and with plenty of time to spare to catch the second leg of our flight directly into Prague. The one big piece of advice we received -- from numerous people -- was that if we were traveling with an infant we had to make sure we got the bulkhead bassinet seats. If you're unfamiliar with this, I'll explain; Most large airplanes, as you probably do know if you've flown cross-country or internationally, are kind of divided in half with a restrooms in the middle of the plane. Directly behind where the restrooms are is a row of seats with considerably more legroom. There are also bolts and straps on the wall that these seats face where you can mount a small cradle large enough for a baby to sleep in. "That would be amazing!" we thought. "We'll book a flight that takes off in the evening, put Lucy down to sleep, and by the time we land in Prague she'll be awake and happy and ready to go!" What they don't tell you about the bulkhead seats, though, is that throughout the entire flight you will have people waiting to use the restroom leaning up against that wall, waking your kid up after they have been asleep for maybe -- maybe -- fifteen minutes.

Lucy wasn't very happy about this, so January and I ended up taking turns with her strapped our chests, standing in the back of the plane. While I wasn't able to enjoy any of the in-flight entertainment, I did basically see every scene from Bridesmaids playing on one screen or another. I pieced the order of the scenes together in my mind and, let me tell you, that is one confusing movie.

After eight hours of this, we touched down at Airport Prague Ruzyne where our vacation could finally begin. Lucy really was a trooper throughout the whole trip, and while it ultimately took her a day or two to get onto European time, we couldn't have asked for a better experience travelling with her. A couple of things I would have done differently, however:

  • Don't try to leave late in the day, hoping your baby will sleep the whole flight. Just leave as early in the morning as you can.
  • Don't even bother bringing a book or magazines to read. That's just not going to happen.
  • Did I mention that the bulkhead bassinet was total crap? It was, but that doesn't mean the seats weren't awesome. Tons of legroom. So definitley request the bulkhead seats -- which they specifically reserve for parents traveling with infants -- but don't expect that your kid is actually going to sleep in that thing.

Some things we did do right, and I absolutely recommend:

  • If you have an iPad or iPhone, throw some videos on there. I don't care if you're an adamant "my kid will never watch TV" parent, just do it.
  • If your infant is of teething age, grab one of these teething necklaces for you. Yes, you. Mom, Dad, I don't care. Both of you should wear one. With all that change in air pressure, your infant is going to want to chew on things to soothe the ear popping.
  • Speaking of ear popping, we did get these EarPlane earplugs for Lucy to wear during takeoff and landing. I'm not totally certain how well they worked, but they're cheap, so why not do whatever you can to make the flight as painless as possible?
  • Formula: If your infant is taking formula, and you aren't tied to a particular brand for some reason, we had a good experience with these single-serve packets of Enfamil. The TSA, for understandable reasons, won't let you take opened containers of powder on a plane, so if you don't have individual packets like this you do stand to waste a lot of formula when you have to leave it behind on the return trip.
  • Gate check a good stroller, especially if you're going to have a layover. You may be able to get a nap in between flights, which will help a lot. We couldn't be happier with our collapsable, travel friendly Citi Mini Single, for what it's worth.
  • On a related note, get a gate-check stroller bag. I'm about as cheap as they come, and I was a little hesitant about spending the $15, but I'm really glad January talked me into it because if we hadn't, ours probably would have come out of the flight from JFK to PRG in pieces. $15 very well spent.

Next up, getting onto a European sleep schedule and seeing the sites!

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Filed under: apple, ipad, iphone, tech

A little more than three months ago, something awful happened: My beloved iPhone became irretrievably lost. 

lostphone

We were on vacation in Ocean Isle Beach, NC with my family. This was Lucy's first beach vacation, and we were excited to document it all, so we invested in a Lifeproof waterproof iPhone case so we could get some good photos and videos. And we did. The case worked great, and if that's something you're in the market for, I recommend it with one small caveat: If you're going to invest $50-80 in a waterproof case for your iPhone so you can take photos and videos out in the ocean, you might want to splurge and spend the extra cash and invest in the floating case that goes with it. Because let me tell you something: That ocean can be a bastard. All it took was one particularly nasty wave and it's the last you'll see of that multi-hundred dollar piece of electronics. In memoriam, here is the last photo ever taken by that phone, of Lucy going for a ride with cousins Emma and Will.

lucyandcousins

Needless to say, I was pretty upset about this loss. When I had purchased it only six months prior, I was pretty certain that was going to be my phone for the next 2-3 years. I have typically upgraded each year, but I felt that the iPhone 4s was finally at the point where I would be content with its features longterm. So when it went into the drink, there was absolutely a mourning period. Despite offers, I couldn't bring myself to use the older model iPhones that some friends kindly offered, instead opting for an old-school, circia 2007 non-smartphone to tide me over the three long months until the next iPhone model would surely be announced. I also justified it by recognizing that the $30 I would save each month on the iPhone data plan would put me that much closer to saving the amount necessary to buy the soon-to-be brand new model.

A funny thing happened over the course of the past three months, though. I've kind of enjoyed not being as connected as I once was. Don't get me wrong, there are lots of features that I still absolutely love about the iPhone -- especially when travelling -- like the maps, Facetime video chat, and having my music collection on hand at all times. But I've equally enjoyed not getting notified immediately whenever I get a new email or feeling the need to document my meal on Instagram. In fact, the date nights that January and I have been out on since losing the iPhone have been some of the most enjoyable in years, partly due to the fact that I wasn't nose-deep in technology half of the evening.

That said, I'm pretty conficted about today's Apple event, presumably announcing the new iPhone. The rumored features don't really excite me all that much, but that's never really stopped me from upgrading in the past. With the absence of my iPhone, my first-generation iPad has taken on a new level of importance as my portable connection to the Internet.  I think I'm going to take a "wait and see" approach to see if the rumors about a smaller "iPad mini" being announced next month pan out. In a perfect world, Apple would release an updated iPod touch with a decent camera (at least 720p video, please) and at least 3G data capabilities. I don't really need the phone part of the iPhone, but the data connection and camera are a must if I'm going to spend that money.

Until then, I'll be carrying around my dumb-phone, texting T9 style, and rocking my circa 2004 iPod Photo for my music needs. I'm just old school, I guess.

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