Dixie Darr

Archive for February, 2011|Monthly archive page

Go With the Simple Solution

In creativity, Home, Learning on February 14, 2011 at 7:18 am

The lamp on my desk wouldn’t come on when I turned the switch. Normally, that wouldn’t be a problem. I’d just change the light bulb and move on. This, however, was one of those energy-saving curlicue bulbs which are supposed to last five years, so that couldn’t be the problem.

I checked to make sure it was plugged in. Because I live in an ancient house with too few outlets, the lamp plug was piggybacked on the plug for my digital phone modem. (I swear I’m getting rid of the damn land line and going cellular. I might as well get some use out of the cell phone that I pay for and never use. But I digress.) The phone was working, and I deduced that the outlet wasn’t the problem.

Hmmm. Could be the switch. I bought the lamp at Target less than a year ago. Maybe I could exchange it for a new one.

After getting by for two days with just the overhead lamp, which threw my shadow onto anything I tried to read at my desk, I decided I had to quit overthinking this and do something. I replaced the light bulb with a new curlicue and it lit right up.

Maybe the fact that my desk lamp is on roughly 12 hours a day used up it’s life in less that the promised five years. Whatever. This was a reminder of Occam’s Razor: the simplest solution is usually the best. At least it’s the best place to start.

So, the next time you find yourself overcomplicating things, remember Occam’s Razor and try the simplest solution first.


Summer Camp for Build-it-Yourselfers

In Home, Learning, small houses on February 11, 2011 at 5:40 pm

I’ve had a fantasy all my life of building my own house. Over the years, I’ve read several books written by people who have actually done that. To make that fantasy come true, these people/organizations offer design/build workshops, which would be an excellent way to spend a summer vacation:

Those who want to seriously downsize can learn to build a tiny house at one of the workshops offered around the country by Tumbleweed Tiny Houses. Check out the schedule here.

Learn to build a yurt at a Vermont workshop.

If your taste runs to alternative building materials, you can learn about building an earthbag, cob, or straw bale house here.

Finally, one of the original design/build schools is Yestermorrow in Warren, Vermont, which offers over 150 hands-on courses per year in design, construction, woodworking, and architectural craft including a variety of courses concentrating in sustainable design and green building. Yestermorrow teaches both design and construction skills in 1-day to 3-week hands-on courses are taught by top architects, builders, and craftspeople from across the country.

Happy building.

Top Five Reasons You Don’t Need a Degree to Start a Business

In creativity, Learning, self-employment, work on February 3, 2011 at 9:24 am
  1. Bill Gates

Although no longer the world’s richest man, Gates is still among the list of the world’s wealthiest people. He entered Harvard in 1973 and dropped out two years later to found Microsoft with his friend Paul Allen. In 2007, he received an honorary doctorate from his alma mater, and at commencement, Gates said, “I’m a bad influence. That’s why I was invited to speak at your graduation. If I had spoken at your orientation, fewer of you might be here today.”

2.  Steve Jobs

The founder of Apple and Pixar had to drop out of Reed College after just six months. In a 2005 commencement speech he gave at Stanford University, Jobs credited a calligraphy class he took at Reed College with forming the basis for the typography used in the first Macintosh computer.

3.   Sir Richard Branson

Branson’s first successful business was publishing a magazine called Student, which is ironic since he left school when he was only 16. Today, Branson’s brand Virgin includes Virgin Records, Virgin Atlantic Airways, and more than 300 other companies. When he was just 24, Sir Branson bought his own 79-acre Caribbean island. He was knighted in 1999.

4.   Mark Zuckerberg

Another famous Harvard dropout, Mark Zuckerberg developed Facebook in his school dorm. As Facebook’s became one of the world’s most popular social networking sites, Zuckerberg chose to leave school and relocate his company to California. Forbes named Zuckerberg the youngest billionaire in the world, with a 2010 net worth of 4 billion U.S. dollars. He recently donated $100 million to the Newark, NJ public schools.

5. Michael Dell

Dell Computers is another company founded in a college dorm room. Among top ten wealthiest Americans, Dell dropped out of the University of Texas at Austin to run the company. In 2006, Dell and his wife gave a $50 million grant to the University which he attended but never graduated from.

Find more famous college dropouts at the College Dropouts Hall of Fame.

I Need a Place to Hang Out

In creativity, Denver, work on February 2, 2011 at 9:25 am

Pasquini’s Pizzeria is a homegrown Italian restaurant in a turn of the century building featuring exposed brick walls, antique brass chandeliers, mismatched plates, and to-die-for breadsticks and grilled sandwiches. When I walk in, the waitstaff calls me by name and remembers my usual order. They don’t mind when I stay for a couple of hours reading and writing or working at my computer.

It’s what sociologists call my “third place,” a place separate from home (the first place) and work (the second place) where people congregate for social and creative interaction. I always looked forward to going there, until suddenly I couldn’t anymore.

When I got sick last fall and was diagnosed with diabetes, I had to quit going to Pasquini’s because I could no longer eat their food. I miss it and have been looking for another hangout ever since. The local coffee shop discourages people from hanging around taking up their limited table space. A nearby bakery, like Pasquini’s, has nothing made with whole wheat or whole grain bread. Other places in walking distance specialize in burgers, fries, Mexican food, and the like—all off limits to me.

So I continue to search for a place I can walk to, eat the food, and hang around. If you’d like to open such a place, I know a couple of empty storefronts that are available.