Never say never


Mathematical symbol for infinity, which is probably not how long you will love your boyfriend

It has been brought to my attention—as usual, by my own husband—that I have an anomalous social behavior.

Who could’ve seen that coming?

The current habit, seemingly made popular by pregnant teens on the Montel Williams Show in the past millennium, of declaring one’s certainty with mathematically impossible percentages, is causing me a daily struggle to be understood.

“Montel, I’m 120% sure I’m not the father!”

My husband asserts that my insistence upon using mathematics only in accordance with the standards and rules taught to me in school is leading to confusion when I explain my opinions to normal people.

If I think it is extremely likely that I will do something, I will give it a 99% probability. After all, nothing is ever really certain in life. I could have a car accident on my way to deliver the school bake sale items, or I could drop dead from an aneurysm while waiting to make the deposit at the bank. If I tell you I am 99% certain I’ll do something, you should feel pretty confident that it is going to happen. Any failure to act will be due to an act of God or some sort of wildly improbable scenario.

“Well, Montel, I’m 1000% sure he is the father! No, 2000%”

So when a situation comes up where I know some aspect of my schedule or my calendar is likely to impede forward progress on a task I undertake, I will give a more realistic assessment of my likelihood to get things done.

“Can I help with the class phone tree? I have to arrange for childcare, so I’m 75% sure I can help out.”

When you decrease your stated probability of participating to a mathematically feasible range, you will likely find people react with confusion, or they feel insulted, because, like grade inflation, most people think they are “certain” when they really are not. One comes across as noncommittal or disinterested when using language more carefully than is the norm.

I’ll admit to occasional bursts of enthusiastic declarations of certainty, but I very often reel them back mere moments later and amend my statement to something more accurate.

The point may fairly be argued that, by refusing to conform to the cultural norm, I am, in fact, the one who is failing to communicate. So be it. I’m 90% certain that I don’t care.
box-style Clipart math button

Originally published Sunday, May 22, 2011 on iWeb

A quest for the ultimate iPad2-compatible bag

I’m not a fancy purse girl. I love nice things, but I look first to functionality for an item I’m going to use constantly. I will happily pay more for high quality materials and even tactile pleasure, but only if the function is there. Also remember that I’m dragging a pair of little boys around with me day in and day out, so my reality involves dirt, peanut butter, and other things I’d prefer not to dwell on getting smeared all over my stuff.

I want a bag that can hold my essentials (wallet, cell phone, iPod touch, lip balm, comb, re-usable shopping bag), “mommy” essentials (hand sanitizer, wet wipes, one diaper, a granola bar), my survivalist paranoia gear (first aid kit, mini pry bar, pocket knife, flashlight, and the amazing Adventure Medical Kits Pocket Survival Pack), plus my new iPad2 with its Smart Cover, the largest item in the bag at about 7 1/2 by 9 1/2 inches.

When the iPad2 finally arrived, I first tried it in my classic Coach leather Station Bag. I’ve had this bag since college. It is by far my highest quality purse, and I know it will never go out of style. While the iPad2 fits inside the perfectly placed slip pocket in the Station Bag, and the exterior flap covers all the bag’s openings, the hasp can’t reach the fastener with such a tall object in the bag. The flap is about one inch too short! I added a Coach Willis Bag to my wish list since it is similarly styled but about an inch larger in each dimension. I think a Willis Bag would work if it shares that large internal slip pocket, but I’m not really looking for a career or special occasion bag at this stage where my lifestyle is very casual and often downright messy.

The Eagle Creek Bohemian handbag that I’ve been carrying for the past nine months almost makes the cut. I can actually squeeze the iPad2 into the Bohemian, even with my full complement of stuff already on board. It isn’t trivial to get the iPad2 in the bag, however, which makes it fairly impractical. With one small design change, Eagle Creek could make this bag perfect for my needs. There are full-length exterior zippered pockets on both sides of the Bohemian. Up until now, I’ve used the shorter, deeper, gusseted pocket for just my wallet and any receipts I save throughout the day. The flat, somewhat taller zip pocket on the other side typically holds one diaper/pull-up and a pocket-sized packet of wipes.

If the flat pocket only zipped at the top (next to the main compartment zipper) instead of 80% up the side of the bag, this would be my ideal–a quick-grab exterior flat iPad pocket with some means of securing the device inside. Instead, while I can slide the iPad2 into the pocket, it is impossible to wiggle it all the way in such that the pocket could be zipped unless the rest of the bag is virtually empty. I would gladly stop carrying the pull-up in my purse to make a dedicated iPad pocket a reality. Maybe Eagle Creek will re-work this product in the future to better meet the needs of the emerging tablet market. We don’t all want something that looks like luggage or a messenger bag!

I’ve been coveting Red Oxx products since I read about the Sky Train suitcase at the carry-on traveler’s mecca, Since I have a cheap carry-on that serves the same purpose and is still functional, I’m holding off on the pricey Sky Train, but I did jump right to Red Oxx when I ordered my new iPad2 and knew I’d need to up-size my current everyday handbag.


Red Oxx Rock Hopper sling bag

I wanted so desperately for the Red Oxx Rock Hopper to be the bag I was looking for! While not exactly my aesthetic cup of tea, mainly because of the black webbing and prominent (2 inch) logo,  I could overlook style issues for a bag that works. I love the presence of a flat, contrasting color slip pocket in each main compartment, and the fact that there are two big sections. I love the bright red interior to make finding what’s inside a little easier. The workmanship is everything I expected—tight, without visible flaws, and every element feels sturdy as heck.

But here are the downsides, which, unfortunately, outweigh the good for my purposes.

Fundamentally, this bag is just too big for me! This alone would warrant my return of the Rock Hopper. Frankly, it is as big as my backpack, and, if I’m carrying something that size, I’d rather have two straps to spread the weight out a little more. (The little side strap does do an amazing job at stabilizing the Rock Hopper, but it doesn’t shift any weight off the wearer’s shoulder.)

I am a short woman (5’ 3”) with a short torso for my size, and the narrow top portion of the Rock Hopper feels uncomfortably high on my neck when I wear it. Aside from the fit issue, my current Eagle Creek Bohemian holds all of 325 cubic inches, so the 1000 cu. in. capacity of the Rock Hopper is probably just more space than I need every day. With size comes weight, all borne by one shoulder in this case. If Red Oxx produces a smaller version of the Rock Hopper as they did with their rucksacks (check out their C Ruck and Mini Ruck), I will likely try one on for size.

My other complaints are more nit-picky, and I would’ve worked around them if the bag fit me correctly. I think I would prefer one of the two large compartments to be shallower than the other, though this ties in to my overall feeling about the Rock Hopper’s size. Also, I would enjoy seeing more interior pockets, possibly a small one with a zipper in the kind of useless, narrow, upper part above the slip pocket where only the end of a yoga mat is ever likely to go. Pen slots or even a strip of webbing or a D-ring to which I could attach my own mini pouches or tools on carabiners would also use that space well.

My biggest daily gripe would likely be the one big zip pocket on the bag’s exterior front. Ugh! I hate a pocket that opens in the middle leaving wasted interior space above the zipper–why, that’s exactly my complaint about the Bohemian I have now! Make the front with a more sensible pair of flat pockets, perhaps a side opening small one at the upper, narrow end of the kidney shape, and keep the larger one below the current zipper position. That way, I can grab my cell or iPod out of one pocket without risking dumping my wallet at the same time.


Potential every day carry bags for iPad2, side by side

I haven’t decided whether to exchange the Rock Hopper and try a Chica, where the aesthetics feel more offensive since it looks like an ugly purse instead of a unisex utilitarian electronics bag, or just return this poor fit and keep dreaming of the day I can justify the Sky Train I know I will own and love someday.

Originally posted via iWeb Saturday, May 21, 2011

For the love of living history

My husband claims that I want to live in the past, but I don’t think that is the reason for my passionate love of all sorts of living history experiences. I am the first to admit that I require a hot shower every day to be truly happy, and my physical laziness alone marks me as a modern person.

OSV mill

Water powered mill at Old Sturbridge Village, Sturbridge, MA

It is fair to say I tend toward escapist fantasies, so it could be that simple.

Of course, I think it is more complicated than that.

I think my yearning for the past expresses a real understanding on my part that human beings need to experience tangible human creation on a regular basis to maintain a spiritual connection to our aggregate humanity. Quite simply, we are starving for the unique in our mechanized modern world, not because novelty is titillating, but because humankind’s creative efforts are what feed our souls.

Every teenager recognizes his need to be “different” (i.e., special, unique), and we write it off as a selfish phase. We age into our suburban sameness as our energy dissipates and all of our passions disperse into more moderate pursuits. But take a moment to reflect upon nature, where every snowflake, every tree, every blade of grass is different from its fellows. This is the clay from which we are made, and we, too, are unique in form and in spirit.OSV 2 yellow flowers

I believe that what I yearn for is a lifestyle in which a preponderance of what I experience bears some stamp of a human maker. Let the mass-produced, soulless object be the curiosity. We may find, then, that our ennui is eased. Slowing production of many things to a human scale would certainly ease resource burdens on our little planet, though some will rail against the reduction of consumption as an economic killer.

Whether this reflects God’s creation or nature’s design, I suspect there is power in it. I’ve started with small steps by creating wearable art in my hand-dyed silks, and by sewing a few small items of clothing for my children. I dream of acquiring the skill to turn silk that I dye into gowns to drape the human form in loveliness and comfort.

SCA medieval lady

Medieval SCA garb, hand-sewn but crude

I think this is why I love living history. It isn’t about what really was, but about a life where routine acts are creative, in the most literal sense of crafting that which will be consumed.

I thank God every day for running water, central heating, and always having more than enough food for my growing children, but being grateful for what I have doesn’t stop me from working toward what I hope can be an even more abundant future. Perhaps that abundance will be spiritual, and, in fact, reflect a lower level of consumption.

Originally posted May 8, 2011 via iWeb