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September 17, 2011

Hierarchy of Digital Distractions


Created in 2009 by David McCandless who wrote:

I notice these days that I can spend hours at my computer, in a cloud. A swampy blur of digital activity, smeared across various activities and media and software.

Emailing, writing, tweeting, designing, browsing, taking calls, Skyping, Facebooking, RSS Feeding — all blurred into a single technological trance.

I seem to switch randomly from one to the other. But actually is there a subtle hierarchy in this cloud? Do I prefer some distractions over others? I think so.

In this diagram, each level in this hierarchy trumps the next.

So, if you get a new msg on Facebook, but your landline rings, you'll take the landline call. You might have a spasmodic moment of "uh? wadd I do". But, usually, you'll take the call.

Similarly, if you get a new SMS whilst opening a new online dating message, you'll be hard pressed not to read that SMS. It'll take a great force of will. You may attempt to do both simultaneously. But if you really observe yourself closely, one will take priority — even if it’s only by milliseconds. The SMS will win your attention.

And so on up the chart....

(I understand this post reveals much about my pitiful life. There's no need to say that in the comments, thanks.)

The image was selected by Paola Antonelli for inclusion in the Museum of Modern Art's current show, "Talk to Me."

Should you need yet another distraction, you can buy a handmade risograph print of the image.


September 17, 2011 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Baby Fortune Cookie Slippers


From the website:


Handmade from extra-plush fleece with floor-gripping soles, each slipper curls into a delectable cookie shape when not in use.

Fortunes read: "From small beginnings come great things" on one bootie and "An amazing adventure awaits you" on the other.

• Machine wash and machine dry

• Handmade in the USA.

• Fits 6-12 months

• Sole: 4.5"L


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September 17, 2011 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

"Decoding the Wide Variations in House Appraisals"



A subject of never-ending interest to those who own, want to own and especially those trying to sell.

I have long been fascinated by the concepts of value, price and worth, and how we come to a specific number.

I have always believed that something is worth precisely what another person will pay for it.

Yet that simplistic distillation ignores so many concurrent differences in a property's value that depend on whose ox is gored, so to speak, by the result.

Rather than continue in this philosophical vein, how about instead I offer excerpts from Paul Sullivan's "Wealth Matters" column in today's New York Times Business section about the mysterious process of pricing a home?

Decoding the Wide Variations in House Appraisals

I got the renewal letter for the homeowner's insurance on our house in Connecticut and was shocked to see that it was being insured for a value 14 percent higher than we paid in 2008. I know homeowner's insurance is meant to cover the cost of replacing the house, but the price we paid for our home in 2008 was not just for the house but included the yard, the street where we live, the property taxes, the schools and other intangibles. And the price I could get for the house now is less than I paid back then. So why the high appraisal? 

Selling and Buying

One component of selling a home has always been gauging the emotion of a prospective buyer. But several brokers told me that buyers and sellers who need financing for a home should be concentrating instead on the temperament of the bank lending the money.

"Over the past two years, houses are not worth what the owners want or what the buyers will pay for them," said Peggy Bates, a broker with William Pitt Sotheby's International Realty in Stamford, Conn. "A house is worth what the appraiser says it is."

She says she makes prospective clients have their house appraised before she will list it. If they insist on determining their own value, she said, she makes them sign an agreement to drop the price in four weeks if the house does not sell.

But don't assume that the appraiser will return with a value for your house that you agree with. First, banks are increasingly bringing in appraisers from other towns, if not other states. While this is done to comply with provisions in the Dodd-Frank act aimed at establishing objectivity and preventing agents and mortgage brokers from influencing the outcome, it often produces results that fail to fully account for the central tenet of real estate: location.

Joseph C. Magdziarz, president of the Appraisal Institute and an appraiser outside of Chicago, defended his industry's work but said many appraisers were now pressed to write their reports more quickly and for less money. In cities like Chicago, he said, local knowledge is crucial because prices can vary from block to block and also floor to floor in high-rises.


Stan Humphries, chief economist at Zillow, the Web site known for its real estate estimates, said people should not be shocked by wide ranges. The company's "zestimates," which are reached through a proprietary algorithm, currently have a range of accuracy of plus or minus 8.5 percent when compared with actual sale prices.

Mr. Humphries said he experienced this firsthand when he refinanced his home in Seattle last year. The Zillow value was $530,000, which a broker said he could get if he waited up to six months. If he wanted to sell it immediately, she told him to price it at $500,000. The appraisals for the refinancing were $570,000 and $581,000.

"It was interesting to see it arrayed against my own home," he said. "It made sense to me. Appraisals generally come in a little bit higher than zestimates because an appraiser is trying to think of longer-term value."

Such a wide range also shows just how important it is to educate appraisers when they come to your home. Owners, the experts said, should provide comparable listings, walk appraisers through the house, and point out improvements and unique features.


The appraisal for insurance purposes is perhaps the most enigmatic. While a mortgage for buying a home or refinancing is based on some combination of market pricing and a lender’s stomach for risk, the insurance appraisal is based on the cost of rebuilding the home from scratch.

In some cases, this number is pure fiction. Mr. Peters's house was built in 1796, so how do you value materials you can no longer buy? Add to this that the insurance appraisal is likely to be higher than a home's market value.

"There’s a lot of confusion about this issue," said Stephen R. Bitterman, vice president in the private client group at Chartis, an insurance firm. "We are appraising the house for rebuilding cost. Our promise is we’re going to put you back exactly the way you are."

But what irked me with our house was that the initial coverage was for the exact amount we paid for it, and it has only gone up. Yet none of the insurers I spoke with would explain how that worked. When asked to address the discrepancy between rising insurance prices and falling home values, they attributed it to increasing costs for raw materials.

In our case, the insurance company actually raised the replacement cost of our home even more after the appraisal. To add insult to injury, the appraiser noted in his report the market value of our house: 31 percent less than the replacement cost.

September 17, 2011 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Wear your beach


From the website:


Carry a favorite piece of sun, sand and surf wherever you go with Holly Christensen's beachy pendants, handmade from sand gathered from over 300 shorelines around the world.

She sets textured mounds of sand in sterling silver bezels sealed with resin.

To see a complete list of available beaches please click here.

As a result of many requests, we are happy to offer the option sending in your own sand. Should you choose to send in your own sand, you will be sent a mailer with instructions.

• Sterling silver, resin, sand

• Circle pendant: 0.75"Ø with 18" chain

• Sand bar: 1.75"L x 0.25"W with 18" chain




September 17, 2011 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Uncovered: Secret crossword puzzles by Stephen Sondheim


I use the word "secret" here in rather a narrow context, to mean that the crossword puzzles the celebrated composer created for New York magazine in the late 1960s as a favor to Gloria Steinem, his friend and New York contributor were later compiled in a book that has long been out of print.

The collection is listed (but unavailable) on Amazon and eBay.

In a story by Patrick Healy in today's New York Times, Sondheim confirmed that the puzzles — scans of 19 of which appeared this week online on a site whose creator remains, for now, unknown — are the real deal.


Fair warning: there goes the weekend.

September 17, 2011 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Transformer Plug — What took so long?


Wrote Anna Bates on iconeye, "The Royal College of Art's graduate show has opened and this year the showstopper was a plug. Min-Kyu Choi impressed every passerby with his neat, apparently market-ready plug that folds down to the width of an Apple MacBook Air. 'The MacBook Air is the world's thinnest laptop. However, here in the UK, we still use the world's biggest three-pin plug,' said Choi."


"Choi's plug is just 10mm thick when folded. To unfold it, the two live pins swivel 90 degrees and the plastic surround folds back around the pins so the face of the plug looks the same as a standard UK plug."


"It's so plausible and so obvious a product that it should produce a few red faces; how many more years were we going to attach our palm-sized mobiles and wafer-thin laptops to an object that's barely been touched since its first design in 1946?"




[via R.]

September 17, 2011 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Museum of Obsolete Objects

Screen Shot 2011-09-15 at 12.15.04 PM

There goes the day.

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[via Richard Kashdan]

September 17, 2011 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Digital Kitchen Scale


You don't even need a kitchen to admire this tool.

That it actually does something is lagniappe.


September 17, 2011 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

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