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