Oh no, It’s one of THOSE things!

Wire file folder desktop rack.

Wire file folder desktop rack.

I’m cleaning off one of my desks. At the back of the desk, I found two wire racks.

“What is it?” I wondered. And then it hit me: this is one of those racks that supposed to hold file folders upright, at the back of your desk, so you can see them all.

Death on a stick. Look carefully: there’s another one of these racks, in smoke plastic, right behind the wire rack.

I bring these home, from the swap shed, from the thrift shop, & I think somehow, if I can see all the files I’m working on, I’ll be more on top of things.

Instead, what happens is that the racks get pushed to the back of the desk, or they get full of file folders that I never look at, and maybe they get dumped. They don’t serve their intended purpose, certainly, not in my house; not on my desk.

“Hi Ho, Hi Ho, to the metal bin we shall go,” just as soon as my local dump opens again after the ice storm shut down. That’s why I’m cleaning out today anyway–the ice storm. Can’t go anywhere else; might as well create some more space for myself.

One day, I will come to terms with my organizing style, and quit bringing these things home. That may or may not be now. Don’t make promises about what’s going to happen tomorrow, when I find the perfect matching set of desk accessories. For today this will go.



Shopify Traffic

I opened my Shopify store, Karen Tiede Studio, in March. I was pleasantly surprised to log in yesterday and see this message on my dashboard:

Shopify Traffic Message

Shopify Traffic Message

I need to do more research to see if I can find a few more anchor points. I know that half of all the stores that are started, are published (which means that half never make it out of the gate). Shopify tells me today that there are 230,185 stores using the platform.

Stay tuned. There’s an 80/20 analysis waiting to happen around here somewhere.

Knitters Do Math

I had my hula hoops in the infield at the 2016 Clyde Fest, Bynum ballpark, on Saturday. When you’re in a 10 x 10 tent at an event like this, lots of your friends will stop by and talk to you.

I got on the topic of 8020 with one of my friends. He was familiar with rule. He knew how to apply it in politics. I explained how we taught it in the social media class at NC State, using the Pareto principle to evaluate the most productive part of the marketing budget. I talked through the example we use in class, doing the math in my head. I suspect he was about to have an interesting Sunday as he thought about applying the 8020 rule to parts of his business he hadn’t thought about that way before.

He had stories of his own, where he had been able to do some ballpark estimation, and save enormous amounts of door-to-door work.

We joked about how few people are able to do math, and how complicated they make it.

(You may never have considered that hula hooping is an example of physics: it’s all about angular momentum.

L = m * v * r, and bigger radius, bigger mass, means you can have less velocity and still keep the going. In short bigger is easier.)

Then today, I sat down to look at ring 9 of the that I’m knitting as a fundraiser for the Pulse shooting in Orlando Florida. I’m not thrilled with the way the designer has laid out the final round. I’m in ring 7 now, so I have a couple of days to think about what I want to do.

The shawl is designed to incorporate 49 heart motifs, one for every person who died at the club that night. So far I’m working on 42, 6 in the 1st 12 in the 2nd and 24 and the 3rd ring. I need to knit 7 more. At 24 stitches per heart, and 576 stitches per ring, that leaves a lot of space in ring 9.

The designer selected intarsia with blocks of one color for the hearts and one color for honeycomb in between them. Intarsia requires knitting back and forth and I don’t like doing that; I like to knit forward all the time which you can do on circular needles.

I thought there must be a lacy heart pattern somewhere in my collection of books about knitting. I went through them today, and I didn’t find exactly what I was looking for. Marian Kinzel, in Modern Lace Knitting, has two heart patterns but they are too big for what I want.

Working out the details for a section of 53 smaller hearts.

Working out the details for a section of 53 smaller hearts.

I started sketching and counting and doing math and subtracting 24 stitches per heart for 7 hearts. I wanted 53 additional hearts, one for each person who was injured at the club. It came out to roughly 8 stitches a heart. If I knit them side-by-side, that wasn’t going to work to all, but I’m a designer. I played and I figured out a way to do it. I need to check the details and I need to test a swatch to make sure to work the way I think it will.

I took a picture of my work and posted it to the work in progress blog posts I’m creating for the shawl on Karen Tiede Studio. And then I realized why it was so easy for me to talk math on Saturday. I do this stuff all the time. Knitters, and textile artist in general, do math every day of the week, when recalculating warp and weft, when we’re figuring out whether we have enough to finish the round, when we need to know we need to make changes in a pattern to fit us or because we don’t like the way it’s going.

Teach your children to knit. You can sneak some math and at the same time and they’ll hardly notice.

Working on Ring 7, with 24 hearts, in gold mohair.

Working on Ring 7, with 24 hearts, in gold mohair.

80/20 on Tech

I needed to install a new monitor so I could test it and write a review.  Using a stand-alone monitor meant I needed a separate keyboard; couldn’t use the one on my laptop.  Bought the keyboard.  Tested it.  Fine.

Opened the monitor box; carefully slid the Styrofoam packing out of the cardboard and onto the bed.  Heart sank.  Parts.  Cables.  Cords.  I understand that comparatively speaking, this is plug-and-play, but still, my heart sank, for a moment.

ViewSonic Monitor and parts in the box.

ViewSonic Monitor and parts in the box.

I’m an artist who worked for a tech giant for 20 years and now teaches social media. I’m not incapable, but you hire me for my art and writing and ability to explain, not for being able to connect things that have to be connected correctly.

My partner, on the other hand, does this stuff for a living. His job involves keeping a serious number of PCs and Very. Big. Monitors. connected and working smoothly, running complicated programs.

“Oh, John!,” I said. “I need some help here!”

Sure, I could have done it. But it would have taken me more than twice as long and left me with a headache. He does this in his sleep, will get to laugh about it at work on Monday, and feels good for being able to play to his long suit.

ViewSonic monitor, installed.

ViewSonic monitor, installed.

80/20 on using talents; problem solved. Here’s the review.

80/20 and the Dog Washing Machine

The 80/20 rule says that 80% of the water distributed during a dog washing exercise will be distributed by 20% of the dogs. Wooster stepped up to be the water distributor extraordinaire. I was dry until his turn. (He’s a dog who shakes while he is being sprayed.)

Heading for the door after his bath.

Heading for the door after his bath.

Pound for pound, he’s closer to 26% of the collective dog mass. The dog-weight distribution is 75/75/72/60/9.

80/20 shows up in the strangest places.

80/20 Curtains in the Guest Bedroom

(This is a bit off my normal topics on this blog, but hang with me.  The drapery lesson works for productivity readers, too.)

I’ve been studying how the 80/20 rule can be applied to productivity, and to participation on social media platforms, and in other parts of life, for a while now.  Today, a Saturday in July, an example of 80/20 on effort and payoff jumped in front of me.

New sheers in the guest bedroom.

New sheers in the guest bedroom.

The guest bedroom has needed new curtains for a long time.  The existing sheers were sun-damaged and falling apart.  Found the fabric at a thrift shop in Cary before Christmas (it’s after the 4th of July now).  Draped the new fabric over the old curtains as a test, and then never got around to making the time to measure and hem and trim and actually do the work of turning yardage into curtains.

Today is a Saturday; lots of desk-work to be done but a good chance I could get stuck inside with rain on Sunday.  However, Goldsboro is a town that closes on Sunday and if you want to buy anything from a specialty store, you need to shop on Saturday.  I looked at the project to make a list.

The fabric came from a thrift shop, approximately 14 yards in two pieces.  One piece was nearly exactly the right length for one panel.  What if I cut the larger piece into equal lengths? There’s an extra piece about 2 yards long.

Cut fabric to length and let it hang. No hem (yet.)

Cut fabric to length and let it hang. No hem (yet.)

It was easier to cut the old curtains off the rod by slicing the rod pocket than it was to take the rod down, take it apart, and slip the curtains off.  There is no re-use value in this fabric; all the sheers that were here when we moved in have gone into the trash.

Draped the new fabric over the old rod.  Adjusted the length.

Drape yardage over existing curtain rod avoids rod-pocket measuring, pinning, sewing, pressing.

Drape yardage over existing curtain rod avoids rod-pocket measuring, pinning, sewing, pressing.


Effort saved:  measure, cut, press, pin, stitch, unpin, press, hang.

One of these days, I may heat-seal the cut edge of the fabric to prevent fraying.  It doesn’t get much stress, so that can wait a bit.

Even more eventually, I’d love to buy and apply the beaded fringe from the Cloth Barn discount store.  The 4.5 yards of trim this window needs would cost about $45; it would take several hours to apply.  You can see a test swatch of the beading in the picture of the full window, in the far window at the sill.

It can wait.

For the time being, the guest bedroom has new sheers that match the color scheme, for an outlay of $10 (the fabric) and 20 minutes.

The “complete” project would have cost $55 (with beaded trim) and HOURS.

This is what the curtains look like in the early morning sun, the next day:

New sheers in the early morning sun, showing pink & gold chameleon effect.

New sheers in the early morning sun, showing pink & gold chameleon effect.

You decide.  Financially, it’s 80/20 exactly.  Effort-wise, it’s at least 96/4 (second iteration).  Not bad for a hot Saturday morning in July.

Notes on Optimizing

From Bob Lewis, IS Survivor: July 9, 2012

Posted here because I can never remember all six of the “good, fast and cheap” real life dimensions, and they matter.  Just like change comes in project change and application change, and defects come in project defects and application defects, and they are all very different things.

Understand, I’m a theory-of-constraints guy.

Theory of Constraints says that for every business function, right after ranking the six dimensions of optimization (fixed costs, incremental costs, cycle time, throughput, quality, and excellence) in order of importance, the next step is identifying the most serious barrier to improving the top-ranked dimension, doing what’s necessary to remove it or reduce it until it’s no longer the most serious barrier. If that means customizing the supporting software, so be it.

Repeat ad infinitum.

It’s straightforward. It works.

Even better, you won’t need to renegotiate terms after the thrill of an outsourcing deal is gone.