Smart Coffee Table

You’ve probably read at least one article about the smart tables that look like tablets on steroids, on stilts; which is an admirable first stab at everyware.  Most people seem to think that the natural evolution of furniture will be to have some sort of computer in it, in order to track you and provide better service for you.  However, I’m a firm believer that less is more.  Why does a smart table have to do EVERYTHING?  What if my living room decor isn’t inspired by StarTrek TNG?  A good friend of mine had a much simpler idea of what a smart coffee table should be.

The other day, he found himself engrossed in an interesting coffee table book at a friends apartment.  While he enjoyed flipping through it, the idea of having a physical book sit around for other’s enjoyment is still repulsive to him.  (A little bit of background, he lives in a 12×12 hole-in-the-wall, and is an aspiring Zen master.  He’s currently in the process of ridding himself of all books, starting with ones that have been digitized.)  The perfect scenario for him would be to have a coffee table that he could download books into.  A library of sorts, where he, as well as friends and visitors could read books he had in his library.

To play devil’s advocate for a second–I would be remiss if I did not point out that the book he was enjoying at his buddy’s place was a large book full of beautiful pictures.  Not something that transfers well to a kindle or phone.  Tablet would be the best choice of three evils.  Though still not ideal for the true art lover.  Maybe this is where the StarTrek table comes in?

I immediately thought of the dentists office.  You check in, and have about a ten minute wait before you’re called.  Nowadays most people busy themselves with their smartphone.  Otherwise you’d have your choice of a handful of old National Geographic’s and couple other outdated magazines don’t pertain to you in any way, shape or form.  Imagine instead, an attractive table with only a dock you could touch your phone/tablet/kindle to and temporarily upload the local newspaper… or the latest edition of whatever magazine… or several articles about the importance of gum health.  After 30 mins, whatever you downloaded disappears.  (Hopefully you’re called by then.)

I imagine this product is redundant for those people who have a tablet for every room, carry a mini on their person at all times with several subscriptions to various publications on it.  I don’t own a tablet because–let’s face it–I’m a woman and don’t spend 20 minutes on the pot.  I don’t subscribe to magazines because the only time I really read them is when I’m in a waiting room or at the salon.

I appreciate good design and aesthetically pleasing furniture.  You could not get me to buy an ugly table no matter how smart it is.  I would appreciate a pleasant waiting room and an up-to-date, relevant article I could read on my phone or kindle to pass the time.  I would also appreciate a table that acted as a library I could store all of my books on.  I would become a Zen master as well, and download digital copies of all if not most of my books.  I could be rid of those heavy shelves that house heavy books!  A table, that looks like a table, yet still improves my life not by doing everything, but by doing one thing well.

Ride-share Insurance

A friend forward me this article yesterday.  Full disclosure: I drive for Uber and Sidecar.  (Sorry Lyft, I just can’t get over the fuzzy pink mustache… and ornery sign up process.)  I have normal insurance, and I’m pretty sure I said that my job was a “driver,” however, I didn’t specifically mention that I drove for any ride-share companies.  This may come back to bite me in the hiney, but I’m a gambling woman.

Aside from being a reminder that I should drive as safely as possible, it also seemed like a huge business opportunity.  Someone needs to step up and create an insurance company specifically for ride-share drivers!

There’s a huge need for it, think of how many drivers there are for Lyft, Uber and Sidecar in the bay area alone, much less in the cities they’re expanding too.  Plus, isn’t insurance is the ultimate pyramid scheme?  Okay, maybe that’s not quite right, but people will give you money every month regardless of whether or not they get into an accident.

I’m willing to bet that ride-share drivers are a better gamble to insure again for a number of reasons: they have a perfect stranger in their car, they’re comfortable enough with knowing their way around that they want to drive perfect strangers there, and they’ll only become more experienced the more they drive!

Could someone please jump on this fast?  While I am a gambling woman, it’s always nice to hedge my bets.  All I need is a (heavily monied) forward thinking person to jump on this and make it happen.  Only then will all of the huge, hulking insurance companies realize that they’re missing out on an opportunity for screwing us out of our hard earned money.

Smart Doggie Door

A good friend of mine has a dog, Lola, and lives in a building with four other condos.  Three of the four other tenants also have dogs–so there are a lot of doggies running around at any one time.  In case you’re unfamiliar with the size of a condo in San Francisco, it’s not very big; in fact I believe my friend has the smallest place–in the entire city.  A long with the other tenants, he’ll let his dog out into the back yard to run around.  Which is less the backyard of my childhood in small-town California than an enclosed paved area with a couple planters.  And by running around, I mean in circles about ten feet in diameter.

Trouble started brewing when the neighbor who had lived there the longest started stirring up dust because my friend would leave Lola outside all day to run laps while he was at work.  I guess she would bore of this after a while and would walk up the stairs and pay this neighbor a visit, which freaked her out.  Apparently closing her door is not an option, because then her dogs can’t go outside.

What these people need, are doggy doors.  But not just any doggy door, because then all the doggies would figure out they still had access to all of the apartments.  The doggy doors need to to open only for that dog.  Lola would wear a special collar, or fob-tag that would be activated when she stands next to her door.  The door would recognize the tag and let her in.  If she stands next to a neighbors door, it would recognize that she is not wearing the right tag and remain closed.  If Lola leaves the house, the door would lock, not permitting other dogs (or unwanted animals) in.

Sure enough, this idea is too good to not have been invented already.  After searching online, I found this, which is pretty much exactly what I described.  However, I think there’s room for improvement.  What if you already have a dog door installed and just want to make it smart?  Someone could create the electronic component that could be added to any dog door similar to this, which could be used a number of places (scroll down for helpful instructional DIY video).  Just replace the button with the fob-tag, unless your pet has opposable thumbs.

I also wanted to reference this, just has an awesome site.  Of course, something called “hi-tec” woulc still look like it was designed fifteen years ago…

Anyway, my friends problem is solved!  All I need to do now is convince him and all of his neighbors to install one.  And pick up after their dogs.

Saddle Bag Backpack

Like most hip, young residents of the bay area, I ride my bike everywhere.  There are many advantages to doing so: it’s the easiest way to get around town, you’re not dependant on public transportation or tied to the expense of a car.  Not to mention it’s great exercise, my buns have never looked better!  And most importantly, it’s low cost: with all that money we have to shell out for rent you have to cut back anywhere you can.

I could write a whole essay on bike advocacy, but that’s not what this post is about.  It’s about how to function adequately when your sole source of transportation is on two wheels.  That means you have to haul a reasonable portion of your life on your back.  The hip thing to do is to shell out $200+ for a locally, handman, vegan, waterproof, indestructible messenger bag.  Or if you hate animals, you can go the fair trade, organic, free range, humanely harvested, hand-stitched leather satchel.   The point I’m really getting at is both of these options only have one strap.  Which is okay while you’re leaning over your bike, but when you’re walking around with it, (loaded up with your laptop, water bottle, gym clothes, and at least one other layer you need at all times because the weather regularly spans a twenty degree difference in any given hour), your shoulder will start to give out pretty quickly.

A backpack would be the more comfortable, ergonomic, if not slightly less fashionable way to go.  The problem I have with backpacks is, whenever I ride my bike with them my entire back gets all sweaty.  It’s way gross.  It’s bad enough I get slightly sweaty no matter where I go,  (contrary to how this sounds it is, in fact, NOT an argument against biking everywhere.  Being slightly sweaty means that you always have a great complexion!  Besides, everyone else is slightly sweaty too, so you fit in.  As Beyoncé put it: a little sweat never hurt nobody!), but I draw the line when I take off my backpack and the entire back of my shirt is wet.  Ew.  Don’t ask me why this same phenomenon doesn’t happen with a messenger bag.  Perhaps it’s because the whole of my back isn’t covered, or messenger bags are designed to direct airflow over my back, or maybe just because they look cooler.  Anyhow, it doesn’t happen.

What’s a girl to do?  My heart wants to be cute and fashionable, but my head wants me not to be in pain!  Since living in SF, it’s not taken me long to realize that residents tend to swing towards comfort over fashion.  Hence the uniform, and hipsters embracing flats like oxfords and Keds over stylish four inch pumps.  Even Danielle Steele moved away from San Francisco because she thought we were too dumpy.

I decided to compromise.  What about all those cool bike panniers I see?  That would be the BEST way to carry all my crap on a bike.  The only problem is I absolutely detest having to take all of my things out of one purse to put them in other.  I know, girls do it all the time.  I’m supposed to have, like, five bags to choose from to match my mood or different outfit, but I don’t.  I hate it.  Everything I carry on me–and it’s a lot–is very important to my daily existence and if I leave even one little thing behind my whole day is shot.  Something will happen where I need the ONE thing I forgot, and I will be miserable.  So changing bags is not an option.

Why can’t a pannier pop off the bike and become a backpack?!  How awesome would that be?  It would be the best of both worlds: easy, no sweat–literally–way of carrying crap on bike, AND still be comfy carrying crap on foot!  It seemed too obvious to not be invented already, so I an online search and found some products that were basically what I described, but were for the serious outdoorsman.  Which is great when I’m bike camping, but not so great when I’m riding around town wanting to look cute.

Recently, my friend Melissa at BikePretty wrote an article featured in Momentum Mag about Po Campo, which makes a versatile (and cute) pannier-to-bag option in Loop:

Which is SO close to what I want!  Po Campo: please make a pannier-to-backpack option!  You have your first customer right here!

Farm Raised Shrimp

I just read this article about how fishing for shrimp is basically the worst thing you could possibly do to the ocean.

Sobering, right?  Neither farmed or wild caught shrimp are a good option.  I looked in the Oregon Pink Shrimp option referenced at the bottom of the article, it seems like they created a fancy net to reduce bycatch.  Which is good, but not great.

My least favorite phrase is “that is not an option.”  Especially if you’re telling me never again to eat those scrumptious little sea bugs.  Of course, after reading what they dump into the “farms” I don’t think I will anything for the rest of the day.

Which brings up the question, WHY are people farming shrimp this way?  This seems completely backward on a number a levels.  Shrimp are bottom feeders, their job is to eat poop!  You buy them to put in your fancy-pants saltwater aquarium to keep it clean.  Why on earth would you pump diesel into your shrimp pond?!  More importantly, why are will still farming like we don’t know anything about the world ecology?

Someone please start a sustainable shrimp farm.  Don’t clear the seafloor to build it, put it next to the ocean, and have sea water pumped in and out.  (If the Monterey Bay aquarium can do it, so can you.)  Using ocean water will ensure a natural habitat that the shrimpies can thrive in, which can then be drained for easy harvesting with zero bycatch.

Even better, build a shrimp AND a fish farm together!  Raise fish that have a plankton based diet (sardines, anchovies mackerel–all high in Omega fatty acids!) which live in an environment with live seawater pumped through.  The seawater the fish live in get pumped through to the shrimpy-shrimp, which now has lots of poo for them to feast on.  Two sustainable, healthy food sources!

Of course, I’m armed with all the knowledge I’ve accumulated by reading plaques at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.  You should work with an actual ocean ecologist.

And for those of you would like to eat conscientiously, the MBA has made a Seafood Watch website where you can look up different types of seafood!  Enter in what you’re looking to buy and it will tell you what to avoid, good alternatives and best choices!  I typed in “shrimp” to play devil’s advocate, and they reference a couple other alternatives that the pink shrimp in Oregon.  Although, I have no idea how I’m supposed to tell which farms are verified in South East Asia.

You can keep up on issues such as ocean ecology, overfishing and what you can do to help!