Sunday, August 7, 2011

Kokeshi Bento Boxes

Kokeshi Bento Box Bowls Geisha

One thing I enjoy doing is changing the lyrics to songs. I wouldn't call what I do filk, as my feeble skills would be insulting to the fine and talented people who do filk. I'd call what I do silliness.

Recently my brother was in the hospital for an extended period of time (more on that in a future post), and I had lots of time while visiting him to come up with lots of silly things. One day alternate lyrics to the Beatles' classic Hey Jude popped into my head:

Hey food,
Don't make it bland.
Take a good meal,
And make it bento.
Remember to cut it into fun shapes.
Then you begin
To make it bento!

I shared this with Jon yesterday and we had a good laugh. And then today I find these adorable bento boxes and am smitten. Talk about geek kismet.

A New Home

After careful consideration, I have moved this blog to its third and hopefully last home. I started this blog as a project in 2006 on the now-defunct blogging site Vox. When Vox closed up shop, they offered me a free and easy transfer to TypePad. While I can't say I was unsatisfied with TypePad, it never excited me either. That lack of excitement coupled with some things going on in my personal life kept me from doing with it what I set out to do upon creation. 

So today I brought over the posts I enjoyed the most and backed the others up for my own personal use, though I doubt they'll ever be published again. All the posts below this one were originally on either TypePad or Vox (or both) at one point. I have marked the posts at the bottom with the original publication date. You'll also notice that some of them have weird white blocks behind the text. I don't know how that happened, and after hours of trying I couldn't fix it. I'm up for suggestions if anyone knows why that happened. 

Thank you all for your support over the years. I look forward to sharing many more interesting things with you.

Quite an Achievement

Here is a fantastic bit of geek love I found on the internet today.

What I Want From Google+

If you've spent any time on the internet lately, and if you're reading this you have, you know about Google's new social network Google+. As of now, G+ is in beta testing and you need to be invited by another beta user to give it a try. My curiosity for G+ was piqued by XKCD
Upon seeing that I could have Not Facebook with all the things I like about Facebook, I was hitting up all my geek friends for a code and had one the same day (thanks Callie!). On the whole I really like G+. It's clean, sleek, easy to use, and until today, easy to read. I'll get to that last one in a moment. For now, I want to share a wish list with you all that I have also shared with the good folks at Google. 
The first social networking site that I participated in outside of e-mail groups was LiveJournal. LJ is a great blogging community that in this day and age of Facebook is sadly overlooked. I still have my original LJ, which is nearly 9 years old, and I update it frequently. I also use their Droid app and encourage my friends to continue to use it as well. My attempts at the latter are rather futile, sadly. LJ's inability to keep up in the era of the smart phone, as well as its inability to protect itself from denial of service attacks has caused most of my LJ friends to abandon the site all together. This is sad for me, but I understand. I have even backed my LJ up recently on another blog site as well as through another archiving source. 
Despite all this, Google could take a lesson from LJ, as well as its own blog community Blogger, and offer G+ users with archiving tools. For example, I knew I had posted this XKCD comic on G+ but I couldn't go right to the day I posted it to find it. I had to go to my profile and keep loading page after page of old entries until I found it. And that sucks. This is something Facebook does too, and something I have long hated about Facebook. Having a daily archive would be fantastic. I would love to be able to click a day on a calender and see all the posts I made that day. I'd also like to be able to go to a friend's profile and do the same thing. 
Threaded Discussions
This is something else that comes from blogging communities that I'd like to see implemented on G+. There are times that a post generates conversations within the comments that go off on tangents or spawn all new ideas. Having threaded comments would make the comment section of a post much more manageable and usable. 
Better Labeling
The crown jewel of G+ is the circles. Circles make the sharing experience much more enjoyable, much more private, and much easier to manage. With that in mind, I'd love to have a user-defined tag at the top of posts that indicate which audience they're going to. For example, if I create a group for organizing my mother's surprise birthday party, I'd like for the people in the group to know that a post was made just for them. That way they know who else is in on the surprise and don't risk blowing it. The tag at the top should be user-defined, as I said, and not necessarily the name of the circle. To keep with the party example, let's say I named the circle Keep From Mom. But I don't want that to show up on my posts, so I'd name the tag "Mom's Surprise Birthday Party." 
But this is good not only for the poster, but for the reader as well. I don't want to run the risk of sharing personal information with people who may not be in on a post, as things do tend to come up in casual conversation. 
Me: "Oh I hear that Sally is having her appendix out on Monday."
Over-reactive friend that Sally purposely kept the news from: "WHAT?!?! OMG SHE'S GOING TO DIE!"
Me: "Uh, so how's your soup?"  
Keep the Stream Chronological
Some time last night Google made the awful decision to bump posts with new comments on it up to the top of the stream. This is incredibly annoying and whoever at Google decided to do this needs to be sent to bed without dinner. This makes the stream cluttered, confusing, and is making me miss posts that I haven't seen yet by pushing them to the bottom of the list or off the page completely. If you follow famous or popular people, it is even worse because their posts get lots and lots of comments, and they therefore dominate your stream. You can read by circle, yes, but you get the same thing - posts with recent comments at the top (despite how old they are) over top of more recent posts. Annoying as hell and needs to go. And it also ties into....
Hiding or Collapsing Comments
As I stated before, I follow some famous and popular people who get a LOT of comments on their posts. So not only are their posts always at the top of my stream, the comments are eating up my screen. Either collapse the comments automatically or allow me to collapse them so I have more than just the comments of one popular post on my screen. 
More Posting Options
There are some people, myself included, who would like to use G+ for everything. Right now I can use it for everything put blogging. Sure G+ gives you room to type lengthy entries, but it doesn't give you the flexibility to post multiple links, multiple pictures (or even a link and a picture together), or anything of the sort. Being able to create multimedia, blog-type posts would be great. 
Widescreen Options
I have a wide screen monitor, and right now the way G+ is set up, I have a considerable amount of white space on the sides. Considering the rise in popularity of wide screen monitors, I'm surprised there isn't an option to view G+ in a wider format. Please look into adding this option. 
Better Functionality on the Mobile App
I have been testing G+'s app for the Droid, and I really like it. I love the push notifications, especially how fast they are. I like how I can filter my mobile stream reading by circle, and I like that I have the ability to filter my own posts by circle. However, there are three glaring omissions on the mobile app. One, you can not share someone else's post on mobile. Two, you can not +1 an individual comment on mobile. Three, you can not tag someone in a picture on mobile, but you can tag them in a post. These are all things I'd really like to see happen on the mobile app.

UPDATE - Since this writing, Google has updated the mobile app to allow for mobile sharing! 
Take Good Care of a Good Thing
Please don't let G+ become so bogged down with advertisements and games that it makes it unenjoyable to use. In other words, please don't become Facebook. People dislike Facebook for a reason, for many of them actually, and you'd do well to learn from their mistakes and not repeat them. Fix your name policy, and come to terms with the fact that not everyone will make the switch from Facebook to G+. That's seriously ok. Social networking in general, and G+ in particular, are not everyone's cup of tea. Right now people are having actual, real conversations on G+. People are connecting and sharing, and our feeds aren't overrun with click spam, viruses, and status messages full of ~*~*~*~*floatsam*~*~*~*~ (and for the love of Dog don't forget the hearts! <3 <3 <3). And we like it that way. 
In Conclusion
I really like Google+ and I think it has the potential to be the biggest thing to hit the internet in a long time. I enjoy the privacy of it the most, as well as the ability to so easily read and share with my different circles. I like how clean and simple it is and I really hope Google keeps it that way. I'm really excited to see how G+ changes during the duration of the closed testing. 

The Privilege of Playing Poor

If there is one female stereotype I fall into, it is this - I love Love. I love romance. I love engagements and weddings and public displays of affection. I love the small acts of love people share on a daily basis - holding hands, leaving sweet notes for a mate to find, gentle touches, exchanging smiles. You get the idea. I'm a big sappy romantic, and I'm damn proud of it. I am also currently helping my youngest brother and his long time girlfriend plan their Breakfast at Tiffany's themed wedding for next year, in which my sister and I have the honor of creating cupcakes for the reception, so I'm up to my ears in wedding talk all the time (and I love it!). 
Because of this, one of my daily internet routines is to read about expressions of love, particularly geek love, and sigh a contented sigh when I have had my fill of it. Over the past year, there have been some amazing geek proposals and weddings shared on the internet, and I have loved them all. The world is full of creative geeks who love Love enough to put energy and effort into celebrating said love, and the world is a better place for it! 
But when I first found the Etsy blog post about a hobo themed wedding, I approached it with some trepidation. It didn't take long, however, for me to be downright disgusted. 
Fellow geeks may know the groom, Brian "Box" Brown as the cartoonist behind the web comic Everything Dies (a comic I'm aware of but am not particularly a fan of). The Browns were inspired to create their hobo themed wedding based on Sarah's love of the era and a story Brian's grandmother told them:
Though some of the details fell into place quickly, the “Depression-era hobo” theme of our wedding didn’t come to us right away. In fact, it was my obsession with the 1930s, the “great recession,” our own limited budget and, finally, a suggestion from Brian’s grandma, Rose, that planted the tiny seed of the idea into our heads. Rose told us about her own wedding reception in the 1940s. They called it a “football party” because, instead of a fancy catered dinner, the guests were served piles of wrapped sandwiches in the center of each table and they tossed them from table to table like footballs. Something about the spirit of that back-to-basics kind of reception got to us (and made our bellies rumble for sandwiches). We wanted to create an event that was unfussy, honest, beautiful, fun and, most importantly, from the heart. Just like Rose’s sandwiches!
Now, before I go any farther, let me just state a few things. I am all for nontraditional weddings. I am all for being creative and making your special day something that means something to you. And I happen to be a big fan of vintage, as it reminds me of my own childhood growing up with grandparents and great-grandparents who lived through this time. In fact, the pictures of the Browns' wedding remind me a bit of Summers at my maternal great-grandmother's house. She lived in a hollar in Southeast Ohio in a tin roofed home surrounded by woods, fields, and the old family cemetery. Grandma Gertie didn't even have running water until the mid 1980s, and even then she only had a sink installed; she still walked out to the outhouse in the yard. 
Had the Browns decided to call their theme "vintage farm life," or simply "rural 1930s" and didn't include the hobo imagery, I'm sure no one would have batted an eyelash. In fact, if all I had to go on were the pictures of the wedding, sans the shots of the cut up vintage quilts and the hobos, I would have liked it quite a bit. But sadly, the whole story is out there, and it's infuriating in its audacity, cluelessness, and class privilege. 
By the groom's own admission via his Twitter feed, the couple spent $15,000.00 on this "handmade wedding," which I'm assuming includes the "round trip airfare and lodging" they spent to fly in a photographer from Kansas to the wedding venue in Pennsylvania (I can only assume by this that there are no wedding photographers left in PA, which is seriously a bummer). The thought of spending that much money on a wedding makes me a bit panicky, or as one Etsy commenter put it - "The one and only time my husband and I spent $15, 000.00 on anything, our son was handed a college degree at the end of it." I'm also at a complete loss as to how a wedding with a free venue (they got married in the bride's mother's home, which she spent "months redecorating" to prepare for the wedding) can cost so much. Oh wait, I think I see:
Once the theme was decided, we got to work researching the Depression era and hobo culture. As we prepared to make everything for our wedding, we collected feed sack dresses and old work boots, antique hand-stitched quilts and jug band instruments. After reading that the word “hobo” may be a syllabic abbreviation of “homeward bound,” we fell in love with the notion. Brian was in charge of illustrating and designing our save-the-date postcards, creating custom labels for our party favors (mini-flasks of “moonshine”) and our wedding invitations, and writing the ceremony from scratch. I was in charge of creating the atmosphere of the event: putting together our hobo-chic outfits, the outfits for our wedding party, the wedding d├ęcor, flower arrangements,bindle bouquets and boutonnieres.
Again, let me stop right there. I grew up on stories of The Depression from my maternal grandparents - Nannie and Pawpaw. Nannie told me stories of her and her sisters making feedsack dresses and trying their hardest to make them not look like feedsack dresses because they were embarrassed that they couldn't afford cloth. They rarely got Christmas presents, and when they did, they were simple. Not 15K-to-look-poor simple, but actually simple. She said the first Christmas gift she can remember came when she was a teenager and it was a ribbon for her hair. Her mother had somehow earned 15 cents and she bought a length of ribbon which she then cut into three pieces and gave a piece each to her three oldest daughters. She told me stories of how the older children used to beg their mother to nurse them when she nursed the baby so they could actually eat. She told me how she'd wake up in the middle of the night and see her father sitting at the kitchen table with his head in his hands, crying because he didn't know how they were going to survive. How they asked a local orchard owner if they could pick the apples that had fallen to the ground up and buy them at a discount because they were half full of worms. How my great-grandmother would offer lodging and care to actual hobos when they came knocking, even though they could barely take care of their own children because, in her words, "The hobos had it worse than we did. At least we had a home and a family." 
Never in my life did I hear those stories and think "That would be a charming theme for a wedding!" 
And yet, here are the Browns with their "hobo-chic" outfits and their invitations that claim the dress code is "hobo casual," romanticizing one of the greatest social tragedies in American history at a time whenthe poverty rate is at a 15 year high and many families have a yearly income that's less than what they spent on their wedding. When challenged by other blogs and commenters on Etsy, Mr. Brown insisted via Twitter that they are not mocking the poor, as they are poor themselves. I'm sorry Mr. Brown, but you are not poor. What you and your wife are is clueless. You are clueless and insensitive. I would also venture to say that you are also oblivious to your class privilege, because only the upper middle class would be so casual in their insensitivity. No one who is actually struggling financially would look at this and think it is cute or kitschy or romantic. No one with compassion or empathy would look to The Great Depression and see only how quaint it all was and how it would make great wedding photos. And only someone living in their own bubble of economic privilege would read The Grapes of Wrath as if it were Martha Stewart Weddings
But the Browns' love of so-called "hobo culture" doesn't stop at their wedding. Sarah has a blog dedicated to hobo weddings in which she links to an Etsy store selling feedsack dresses that she claims are "affordably priced" at $98.00. It's crap like that that makes me thankful Nannie doesn't venture onto the internet. 
Sarah is also getting flack in the blogosphere for cutting up vintage quilts for her decorations. In her words:
I also found perfectly worn quilts that I cut for table runners and buntings
This upset many on the Etsy blog, and my feelings about it are summed up best by this user:
Did you re-upcycle the vintage, handmade quilts that you cut and ripped apart toupcycle into raggedy decorations? My heart about broke when I read that. How can could you destroy vintage. Its the ESSENCE of Etsy. Other than resellers, I mean.
I had the same feeling of heart break upon reading that. Handmade quilts, especially of that era, were not made just for the hell of it. They were made to keep oneself and one's loved ones warm and comfortable. And due to limited resources, they were not turned out quickly. Nannie told me stories of how they'd have to save fabric scraps for sometimes up to a year to have enough to make a quilt. Quilts are also living history which people take strides to preserve for future generations. And now Sarah announces that she cut some up to make wedding decor and wonders why people think that's wrong.
The Browns have a few supporters, however. I was very sad to see that Jess Fink, the creator of the erotic steam punk comic Chester 5000 XYV, was one of them. She also took to her Twitter feed to defend the Browns:
it seems so impossible for people to see someone else's point of view. I wish they could see it just a little bit.
I have felt so sick about it all night! I don't understand this pastime of being cruel on the internet. I don't understand cruelty
I just get really upset when I see ppl on the internet hating people they don't know. Especially when I know those people.
I am a big fan of Jess' work, but I think she's being a hypocrite here. She had no moral issue what-so-ever when people on Regretsy helped defend her against someone who infringed on her copyright, but takes issue when those very same people now question her friends' glamorization of poverty for the sake of a kitschy wedding
I understand that the Browns are upset about the criticism they are receiving, as it is obvious from the pictures that they had a very special day and love each other very much. I sincerely hope they have a good life together in which they grow old together and have lots of adventures. Putting this out there on the internet, however, opens you up to criticism. Their lack of forethought has made this situation entirely self-wrought. I would feel some compassion to them if they showed one ounce of clarity after having been presented with very logical and historical reasons about why this is entirely inappropriate. Perhaps they think doing so would ruin their memories of their special day, or perhaps they just don't care. Whatever the reason, my other sincere hope for them is that in time they come to understand why this is offensive.  
In the meantime, I will be encouraging my brother and his fiance to keep their Breakfast at Tiffany's theme in lieu of an Irish Potato Famine theme.
Originally posted 3 August 2011