November 23, 2007

Computing three-and-three-quarters

Filed under: Parenting, Software Blog — marcstober @ 1:03 pm

My daughter Hannah is three-and-three-quarters years old–don’t call her three! There’s something new at this age of three-going-on four where she’s finally competent with the basic skills of kid life: “Do you want to play?”, “I have to go to the bathroom really bad!“, “More macaroni, please!”, and so on.

As part of that she has started to use the computer. She can log herself in, use the trackpad, and do everything except type in the URL (I supposed I should set up a shortcut she can click) to find the Flash games she likes. I’ve even seen her intuit, without reading, where the “Print” or “Next” button is going to be in the bottom right corner of a window. (Isn’t there something inherently validating in seeing your work printed?) She gets frustrated and wants help, which I don’t mind in theory because playing together is better than just letting her watch TV (though not so useful when you need to get housework done) and because, eventually, I’m sure I’ll be concerned about what she’s doing on the Internet on her own.

When Hannah was born we knew she was being born into a different world than we were as far as computers go (we joked about her needing her own e-mail address as a baby), but, I don’t think Hannah’s experience is going to be so different than our own. I first used a computer in kindergarten when I was 5, and was instantly hooked. Maybe there is a certain (young) age at which kids are ready to use computers, and we didn’t miss that much. Of course, what she can do with a computer is going to be different (that kindergarten computer, a Commodore PET, was the single one on a cart that rotated among all the elementary schools in my town).

November 14, 2007

Picture hanging for the hardware-obsessed owner of an old house

Filed under: House Blog — marcstober @ 11:04 pm

One thing I like about our old house is the picture rail incorporated into the crown molding. Picture rails are an anachronism; they’re a way to hang pictures without making a hole in the wall, but with today’s materials it’s easy to patch a small hole–even in old textured plaster walls–that only places like art galleries and office buildings that constantly rotate art need a hanging system.

I wanted to use the picture rails but it took a while to find hardware I liked. Molding hooks are easy to find at a local hardware store or in vintage designs through reproduction catalogs, but they require a wire to be looped around a hook, creating more visual noise on the wall than I wanted.

Eventually, I found a system that worked. At the top was a specially designed hook holding a cable with a finished end that hangs straight down. The cable is not picture hanging wire that you can twist and tie but wire rope or “aircraft cable” that is stronger and more flexible (and probably easier to hang straight without kinking). The effect is very clean and “architectural.”

The fun part is the cable grippers with an integrated hook, that attach to the art instead of a regular picture hanger and can be moved up and down without tools. You cannot get anything like this at a local store.

I bought the whole system from a company called Hang Ups. They have a website but are clearly more of a business-to-business operation; it’s not like ordering from Pottery Barn.