Thursday, November 5, 2015

Chain-reaction lemonade

Throughout this time that I haven't been working, I have focused on enjoying being present and occasionally meandering through a day to see what I discover. By slowing down to mindfully observe my world, I have been finding cool new places and people. Some days are one big chain reaction, where one experiment leads to another and another. My other goal has been to make lemonade out of lemons wherever and whenever I can.

After a semi-frustrating experience trying to get our car serviced this morning, I pulled out my metaphorical lemonade sippy cup and decided to find a good salad for lunch. I remembered reading about a place across Highway 280 from us and decided to try it. After a yummy lunch at iJava Cafe (site of the now-closed Lou's Living Donut Museum for the old-time San Jose residents), I walked out to the car and tipped my head up to see my world. Right next door is a place called School of Visual Philosophy. Classes in painting, welding, blacksmithing, sculpture, lithography, and more. A foundry! Where have you been all my life? I immediately thought of two amazing people, Bill for his plans to build two tables out of reclaimed wood, and the amazing Zai Divecha and her beautiful creations. As we near the time when we will receive a final sign-off from the city on our little hobby, we think a lot about what to build for the interiors, and this place might be able to help us form our ideas.

A wonderfully friendly artist gave me a quick tour and I practiced mindfulness by not snapping photos during our conversation. So, you will need to visit physically or virtually. Get your art on, friends. :-D

Perhaps a class here is in our future!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Somebody moved in before us!

This morning, Bill discovered that someone had moved into the house before us. Well, not exactly in the house. More like on the house. A bird had built a nest on top of the highest external beam using asparagus fern from the garden, straw, and bits of fabric. Just yesterday, I chatted with a friend about how nests really need to be safely removed lest their, ahem, output create real damage to wood surfaces and more.

Bill was able to put a cell phone on a long monopod (the closest we'll get to a selfie stick) and capture a video of the nest to be sure that it was unoccupied. No sign of active life, so we removed the little birdie condo. Just another day in our little project.

Nice little nest we are building! For humans.

The top side of the nest, using bits of old carpet that we use to keep dust down.

The bottom side of the nest, showing asparagus ferns from our garden.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Sunday morning in the Boneyard

Fireclay Tile in San Jose held a big sale in their Boneyard this morning, their name for their piles of tile remnants. All are locally made and priced to move. Each box was just $10, with proceeds going to Habitat for Humanity. I arrived about 45 minutes before they were scheduled to open and saw that they were already selling. This allowed me to not only find the last parking space on their block, but also start searching for treasures before the crowds arrived.

Since my mother was in the brick, block, and stone business for a long time (including tile), you would think that I would remember the thick dust that spreads over the outdoor storage area, plus the heavy weight of the tile boxes. Nope! I stopped when my back started aching and the sun came out, creating a too-warm environment to keep going. I brought home two boxes that I hope we can use in our guest bath and the garden. (There's something about this purchase that reminds me of Lucille Ball, but I haven't figured out what just yet. Maybe it's her bringing home an "idea" to Ricky. Or the chocolate factory. mmmm, chocolate.)

Fireclay's Boneyard is closing since they have found a way to recycle all remnant tiles and the effort to store and sell remnants is no longer worth it for them. They are open until 3:00 if you want to run by. After that, all leftover tile will be donated to Habitat.

A selection of glass tiles

A small portion of the decorative tiles offered

Beautiful -and- inexpensive

You never quite know what you will find...

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Being neighborly

In the many years that we have lived in San Jose, Bill and I have volunteered quite a bit for causes we love. One of those causes is the quality of life in our neighborhood. We happily invest time and energy in neighborhood improvement projects, disaster preparation, and local communication channels. One thing we help with annually is our block party, which we call Spencer Fest. Because, well, we live on Spencer Avenue. :-)

Today, I shared with our neighborhood some notes about how we pull together the event every year, and thought that I would share it here, too. After all, part of building a home is helping to build a community.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Ring in the user experience issues!

Yesterday, we bought a Ring video doorbell ( We were interested in being able to answer the doorbell from anywhere via an app and speak to the guest, so that we could remotely see who is on the porch, even if they don't ring the bell. It also has optional cloud storage so that you can go back six months to review footage and share with neighbors or law enforcement. The doorbell comes with a free 30-day trial of the cloud service, and then it's $30 annually. Not a bad price. Plus, it comes with proprietary screws that hopefully thwarts thieves who want to take it. But, if they do take it, the company will replace it free of charge. I was planning to defer starting the 30-day trial until our construction fence is down.

All great features. This blog post reads like an advertisement, right? Almost.

I opened the package and easily connected the doorbell to the app, including entering a password into the app. Lo and behold, I get an email that tells me that the 30-day trial has started. And, when I log into my account, it does not accept my password. I looked up customer support options and saw a chat option. Hallelujah! Oh, wait, it's just text, no link. I am beginning to have my doubts about this company.

I sent an email to their customer service team, and (happy happy joy joy) they write me back within minutes. They tell me that the 30-day trial starts as soon as you activate the doorbell, and the chat link is on the site. :-|

I understand that not everyone (in fact, almost no one!) will take their time with a remodel as we are. And, the annual fee is low. But, I still wanted to opt in. I still wanted to make that choice. Plus, Shay at Ring Doorbell, I looked and looked and looked for the chat link before asking you about it, so it's frustrating to be told that the link is there when I really can't find it. Oh, wait. I found it. It's a right-side, vertical tab that flies out to link to support options. Head slap.

So, what's all this mean, other than it's time to put my Perspective Girl hat back on and realize yet again that this is a small thing in a big world? It means that the work that I do, that many amazing colleagues do, to fully analyze and understand product user experiences so that they can be improved is important work that can help tremendously. The speed with which I went from being excited about this product to feeling a bit shaky about them and their systems tells me yet again the value of empathy in product design and the huge ("HUUUUGE!") importance of product design research.

Product demo video on YouTube

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Splish, splash, I was takin' a bath...

...long about no time soon, but eventually. When the drought is over. But, we have found that shopping for the right bathtub takes a lot of time. The angle of the back slope is important, especially when the homeowners met in a chiropractic office. We hear different things at each place that we shop, so we will be doing some independent investigations to narrow down our choices. This is proving to be one of the more challenging choices during our little project. But, we are grateful to be able to have the choice in front of us.


"You've got to be a submariner to run that shower," said Bill. I would not know where to begin.


Tubz in Fremont claims to be the world's largest bathtub showroom.

Soooo, I called out, "Bill!" to get his attention. He turned around and could not find me...

...he had to zoom in a little and look down.

You must try out each tub to see if they are comfortable.

Every time that Bill says that we need to go to RV Cloud, I think of recreational vehicles and become confused. Then, I think about clouds, and I am even more confused. Perhaps our visit will stop that. Here's hoping!

Why, yes, that -is- a $6,000 toilet!

Awwww, this silliness never gets old. -snicker-

The piece on top controls the flow, which comes out of the ceramic spout.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Plenum, plinth, or purlin?

Even after all these years with a carpenter, I am still learning new words in the course of our little project. Bill said today, "We have a new plenum!" and I thought of a plinth. Whoops. Turns out, there's something called a purlin, too. Thank goodness for Google.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Rub a dub dub...

...only three gallons in the tub, at least until California's severe drought is over. We went shopping for tubs today, and learned some important information. At our first stop, we saw acrylic tubs and cast iron tubs. The worker guy recommended against putting a cast iron tub upstairs, since they weigh over 300 pounds, water weighs 8 pounds per gallon, plus human weight = too much weight to bear on the house's structure. Since we didn't think we wanted an acrylic tub, we were left a little flummoxed about our choices. But! On our second stop, we learned about porcelain over stainless steel which weighs 3.5 times less than cast iron.

It's amazing what happens when you ask more questions to inquire a bit further than you originally thought you would, but in my business, you think that I would know that. ;-D

The shopping experience for tubs is really lame. You stand on the ground looking up so much at tubs that your neck starts to hurt. And, you can't test them out. Harumph.

The angle of tub slopes is very important, but the weight is more important.

A myriad of tub traps

Shall we ask The Swedish Chef about Schluter-KERDI?
(We have no idea what a "shower in a box" is...)

Friday, July 31, 2015

Friday night lights

Today and tonight, Bill is preparing the framing for the shower pan. So, this blog entry was going to be something about cooking in the shower, but, alas, the project continues into the evening, so it shall be called Friday Night Lights. Some young-ens might think that this is a boring Friday night, but we feel so fortunate to be able to work towards our goals, so we wouldn't want to be anywhere else.

The shower pan is the waterproof surface that makes a shower drain properly. Yeah, I didn't know that, either.

The shower pan must angle down towards the drain.

Bill works his way around the master shower drain.

The very last time that the dogs will be in the shower willingly.

The shower pan framing continues into the evening.

Light stands  enable Bill to keep working after the sun goes down.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Fire up the decision-making

Today, we visited Fireclay Tile, just two miles from home. They make a variety of tiles from glass, white clay, and recycled materials. We were on an exploratory mission to look at ideas and talk about how their design assistance works.

This tile is a bit spendy, so we have not made a final decision, but it's definitely fun to think about design possibilities.

Lots of choices

This design uses three different sizes of tile, all in the same color.
Not the best photo, but a cool design.

Three sizes, two colors

The colors that spoke to us for our master shower. If we go with this look, the tangerine
will be used sparingly for little pops of color.

The tile design that we liked for our shower, neutral subway tile with thin bands of color about four feet from the ground.

MiMi's Remodeling Service

As much as we truly love our little canine beauty queen, Kyro, she is intermittently frustrating to unheard-of levels. Her nickname is MiMi, as in "Is that food for me?", "Why aren't you petting me?", and "What have you done for me lately?" One day awhile back, she was sunning herself in the front yard as she does nearly every day (getting, as we call it, sun drunk) when she wanted to come in the front door. Instead of walking around to the back where a door was open, she chose to claw and scratch at the newly completed front door. Now, this is the very same door that took a very long time to finish, after we were sold two products that when used together caused bubbling and a horrible result. So, Bill dutifully sanded off the bubbly stuff and re-applied the proper finishes and hung the beautiful door. That's when little Mimi decided to knock at the door in her own special way. Little did Kyro know that our first dog growing up was, ahem, returned when he couldn't stop scratching the custom doors. We aren't ditching her, but sure wish that she would stop sckritching doors.

"Very bad doggie. Very bad. V-e-e-e-r-y BAD."

"What? You talkin' to me?" She does not seem to care about the amazingly repaired door. Her loss.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

(Extra)-Ordinary Wednesday

After more than 20 years of marriage and, ahem, several years of a large-scale remodel, I find myself still amazed by some of what I see around the job site. I find tools that I have never seen before, building products I don't recognize, little bits of beauty in the most ordinary of items, and fun reminders of Bill's extensive skill set. All of these things in the span of just a few minutes. I hope that we can always approach our lives as a child does, appreciating much of what we see with amazement and wonder, seeing cool stuff just about no matter where you look. It makes an ordinary Wednesday into something extraordinary, and we like that.

Where has this little cutie Dottie been? We were just introduced this afternoon.

Is it just me, or is this blue tape fun to look at? Don't answer that.

It's not until I see him doing stuff like this that I remember how much he really knows. I just work in an office.

It's all in the numbers

We often get asked, "How much of the old house are you keeping?" And, the answer is, "Just the address." Ba dum bum. We're here all week.

Seriously, we are really, truly only keeping the old back lit address marker from the old house. Half of the original walls are in the original locations (as required to still be considered a remodel) but they were completely re-built after the inspector saw that they were rotting. So, everything is new, except for the address. Bill is refurbishing the metal case, including repainting and rewiring (not that it needed it...). We think that this is original to the 1940s when the house was built, and probably cost $3.75 back then. What was old becomes new again. 
Beautifully repainted

A bit of the leftover wiring

Perhaps an original price of $3.75.
Notches were cut to make room for the newly refurbished address marker.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Tar-getting our intelligence

Our third stop in SF was a display of smart home technologies by Target. Yes, that Target. The displays were well done, showing a variety of products including Nest thermostats, Sonos autdio systems, Hue lighbulbs, August smartlocks, and the Ring video doorbell.

It is always easier to imagine using a new product after seeing it in its context of use, so it was helpful for both of us to see how these Internet of Things things might fit into our plans. Not all of them fit the way we want to live, but the most interesting are the video doorbell and the smartlocks.

Each room had a digital story that could be told about its products.

We have no idea what story is being told here in the baby's crib.

Don't need this product. Nope.

The one and only purpose of adding an acrylic Harley-Davidson
to the display was to communicate that you are in the garage.

While we do not want to use an app to unlock our front door, if we could have a fob in our pocket
that would unlock the door, that would be helpful.

My dream is to have a doorbell that plays a recording of fierce dogs when we are not home. Hmmm...