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Building a better Kindle (or, Why Buttons Matter)

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Kindle Interface

Do you ever read something that feels like it was written just for you? That’s how I feel whenever Craig Mod writes about digital reading. His latest essay, “Reconsidering the Hardware Kindle Interface,” doesn’t have a title that pops unless you 1) love reading; 2) know that Craig is really good at making design talk exciting and accessible.

The big, simple, so obvious that it seems trite to point it out statement here is that hardware buttons on e-readers are good and important. When your primary mode of interaction is to do one or two things over and over again, hardware buttons are really smart and valuable. I’ll let Craig explain why:

Hardware buttons inextricably tie you to a specific interaction model. So for the iPhone to be a flexible container into which anything can be poured it makes most sense to have (almost) no hardware controls.

But the hardware Kindle? Oh, what a wonderful gift for Amazon designers. The Kindle is predictable! We know what we’re getting on almost every page. And the actions of the user are so strictly defined — turn page, highlight, go back to library — that you can build in hardware buttons to do a lot of heavy lifting. And yet! Amazon seems to ignore (to lesser and greater degrees depending on the device) how predictable a hardware Kindle is.

Specifically, dedicated hardware buttons mean that you can remove the amount of unpredictability that happens when you touch the screen. Touching the screen now means “I’m going to interact with the content.”

What benefit comes of making the content of the book a first class object? It removes the brittleness of the current interaction model. Currently —when you tap — you might invoke a menu, a page turn, a bookmark, or a highlight. Meta actions are on a layer above content interactions. A Kindle is just a content container. And so this feels upside down.

Touchscreens work best when they allow direct and explicit engagement with the objects on the screen.

If the content of the book was the only screen object, a tap on a word would instantly bring up the dictionary. A drag would highlight. A single tap on an image would zoom in. Suddenly the text is alive and present. Your interaction with it? Thoughtless. Confident. No false taps. No accidental page turns. No accidental bookmarks. This further simplifies the logic of the touch engine watching for taps in the background, making these interactions faster, programmatic logic simpler.

Doesn’t it just sound like a goddamn delight?

Tags: Amazon   books   Craig Mod   Kindle
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lizamu
3 days ago
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Love this. I don’t have a kindle but when I play with my sister’s, this is my complaint. I also love anyone being thoughtful about whether hardware or software are the best solution, not just for efficiency but for the brain and body.
New York, New York
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The Data: 2018 Echoing Green Fellowship Applicants

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Introduction

In a world often defined by gaps in access to opportunity, funding, and networks, finding ways to get the right tools in the right hands can make all the difference in breathing life into an innovative, impactful idea. Every year, Echoing Green hosts an open call to find transformational leaders urgently committed to creating a more equitable and sustainable world. These are people who inhabit the issues, seeing promise and opportunity where others see unsolvable problems. They apply to our Fellowship with their ideas, looking to gain financial support and a community invested in their leadership and success.

Our application is designed to showcase the leadership potential of passionate, innovative people who are committed to tackling the issue over the course of their lifetime. Part of supporting early-stage entrepreneurs requires that we also understand what’s happening in the field. Each cycle we review our Fellowship application data to identify learnings, which help us understand the composition, motivation, and needs of our applicants. This annual analysis often reveals lessons we use to guide our efforts to promote equity in the social entrepreneurship field. By looking at our applicants’ responses in aggregate, we are often able to observe alignment between our applicants’ proposals and trends in philanthropy, regional needs, or surging social and political issues.

Read on for some observations from the 2018 applicant pool.

The Big Picture

Echoing Green received 2,419 applications proposing work in 155 countries from every continent except Antarctica. Applicants for the 2018 Fellowships can apply individually or as a two-person partnership; this year, a total of 2,847 individuals are represented in this dataset.

The proposed organizations use diverse methods–such as developing innovative technologies or community organizing–to address a variety of needs, including improving clean energy storage, ending police brutality, and transforming educational outcomes.

Click images to view larger.

 

We ask applicants to identify who the intended beneficiaries of their proposed work will be. This year, the top five populations identified are economically disadvantaged (31%), general population (26%), youth (18%), women & girls (10%) and racial and/or ethnic minorities (8%), which largely mirrors population trends in previous years.

There has been a five-year upward trend in the number of organizations whose proposed work intends to reach Racial and/or Ethnic minorities. This shift is seen most predominantly in the United States with 17% of all U.S.-based applications reporting this population emphasis–up from 14% in 2017. In the overall pool, 8% of all applications’ work intends to reach racial and/or ethnic minorities, up from 7% last year.

Organization Stage

Common hurdles to establishing a social impact-first organization include challenges accessing capital, achieving visibility, and even public understanding of the problem the organization seeks to address. Understanding the needs of early-stage leaders alongside the challenges their organizations face, such as hiring and fundraising, is critical to our work. Echoing Green’s Fellowship application asks questions designed to reveal key markers of progress and organizational development to aid our assessment of their organizations’ operating stage and the overarching support an applicant may need.

We examine several criteria to assess an organization’s stage, such as funds raised, time operating, and benchmarks of progress such as whether the organization has achieved proof of concept. Over the last several years, the proportion of applications with later-stage organizations has increased. While this is not a conclusive finding, it is worth exploring whether this shift reflects changing interest in the Echoing Green Fellowship or a broader trend in the growth and professionalization of the social entrepreneurship field. Considering stage, 37% of applications report having proof of concept for their organizations–meaning they are confident in the feasibility of their product or programs–compared to 17% of applications reporting being at the idea stage (regardless of operating time). We also notice a consistent increase in organizations operating for longer than two years; applications reporting more than two years of operating time has reached its highest point with 20.1% of applications.

We observe a diverse array of organizational milestones in this year's applicant pool.  A majority–62%–of our applicants have short-term operating plans, making it the most common achievement among our applicants. Other milestones achieved by the pool include having a written theory of change (43%), written a fundraising plan (37%), formed a board of directors (31%), and hired full-time staff (26%).

Sources of Funding

Having a strong idea is just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to making change; impact is also dependent on the fundraising ecosystem surrounding the entrepreneur and the field. To enhance our support to the field and increase the flow of capital between grantors and entrepreneurs, we seek to gain a more nuanced understanding of how early-stage organizations are currently funded.

We ask applicants to share their organization structure–from for-profit, nonprofit, hybrid, or undecided–to help us broadly gauge how they intend to fund their work. Given that for-profit organizations operate with earned revenue approaches and nonprofits tend to operate wwith philanthropic approaches, organization structure can be a useful signal of the type of capital an applicant intends to pursue, but our data reveals that the reality is more complicated.

Nonprofit structures comprise 39% of this year’s pool, while 29% have proposed for-profit structures, and 18% have proposed a hybrid structure, with the remaining 14% reporting uncertainty or a different structure.

Structure is not the sole indicator of the type of funds pursued or needed. The chart above illuminates the diversity of funding approaches pursued by this year’s applicant pool: 38% are pursuing funds from foundations, 37% are pursuing earned revenue, and 32% are pursuing investment.

This year’s applicant pool has already raised a total of $136m. Approximately $57m of these funds come from Grants, while Donations and Equity each represent just under $20m of the total funds raised. The remaining funds are split between earned revenue and convertible debt, both of which are approximately $10m, and self-funding, in-kind donations and loans each at or below $7.5m.

These data show that applicants pursue funds across the spectrum of possible sources regardless of corporate form. This underscores the importance of funders’ and investors’ work to design fair, inclusive processes as they determine who and what to fund–especially as the field works to expand funding opportunities at the early end of the startup continuum. In recent years, Echoing Green has hosted conversations with entrepreneurs and funders alike to discuss what needs to be done to meet promising entrepreneurs where they are while also evolving our shared understanding of what’s working–and what isn’t–in the funding landscape. As entrepreneurs explore the full spectrum of organizational structures, we see a concurrent opportunity for dialogue and collaboration among these leaders to understand funding options beyond the list included in the chart above. As we have reported before, funding and time to iterate can make or break an early-stage organization; the field benefits when grantors and entrepreneurs can clearly communicate and understand each other's needs from the same table.

Disparities in Funding

Well-designed, innovative, impactful ideas can come from anywhere, but early-stage leaders often face barriers to funding based on factors such as where they work, if their model is disruptive to existing industries, as well as gender, racial, and ethnic biases.

Across all organizations regardless of stage, region, or leadership teams, we observe that 53% of applicant organizations have not raised any funds for their work. This includes those who are at the idea stage and those who have been in operations for more than 6 months. The remaining 47% of the pool has, on average, raised approximately $179,000. This average is heavily skewed by a concentration of funds at the highest end of the spectrum with 10% of the applicant pool responsible for 85% of all funds raised.

All currency reported in USD.

 

The differences in funds raised also varies by region. Among the full pool, applications received from South America and Asia are most likely to have raised funds (54% and 53%, respectively). Organizations proposing work in Africa were least likely to have reported receiving financial support, with 41% reporting having raised funds.

As we have mentioned in previous years, we also note differences in funds raised based on applicants’ reported racial and ethnic identity.

The data points to disparities in the likelihood of receiving funds along race, ethnicity, and region. Disparities in funds raised are also evident when we review the average amount of funds raised within each ethnicity.

Over the last five years, we have observed an increase in the average funds raised by female applicants to our Fellowship. In 2018, individual female applicants reported raising $104,000 on average compared to an average of $94,000 raised by individual male applicants–the first time female applicants reported higher average funds raised than male applicants over the last five years. (Since 2012, individual female applicants have raised $72,000 compared to $77,000 raised by individual males.)

The clearest picture of fundraising disparities emerges when we consider region, race and ethnicity, and gender together. We compared self-reported fundraising data of applicants working in the U.S. considering gender and racial and ethnic identity to illustrate how these disparities operate in tandem. For U.S. applicants who have raised funds: self-identified black women report an average of $79,000 raised compared to $119,000 by black men and $171,000 raised by white women compared to $117,000 raised by white men.

Gender Gap in Organization Leadership

As a seed funder in the social entrepreneurship field, our decisions around who to fund must be made in the context of the world our applicants operate in. While the data in social entrepreneurship gender representation is better than other male-dominated industries, there is still some ways to go to improve. As a seed-stage funder and one on-ramp into the social entrepreneurship space, we are cautiously optimistic by recent trends in our data.

Similar to observing for funding disparities, we also consider the composition of our applicant’s leadership teams with an emphasis on observing levels of female leadership in the pool.

This year we notice a trend towards parity between female and male applicants to our Fellowship. This trend is consistent across all of our Fellowships, but we observe less progress in the applicant pools for our Black Male Achievement and Climate Fellowships specifically. This year’s pool has the highest proportion of applications with one or more leaders who identify as female we’ve seen since 2012.

Taking into account individual applicants and partnerships, 49% of applications report at least one female leader. This is highest in our Global Fellowship, where 51% of applicants report female leadership, while the Climate and Black Male Achievement Fellowships each have 43% female leadership.

What's Next

With observations like these and others in the field in hand, Echoing Green will continue our efforts to promote equity in the social entrepreneurship field, particularly promoting our applicants' and Fellows' good work and collaborating with our partners in the field to increase the funding options available to early-stage leaders.

We are excited to continue the dialogue about what we're learning from our applicants and the global social entrepreneurship community. We look forward to sharing more insights informed in part by this data in the coming months. If you have questions or comments about our observations or their possible implications for the field or your work, leave them below!

 

This post was edited on 4/11/2018.

Knowledge
Entrepreneurship

Do you know anyone who is interested in applying for an Echoing Green Fellowship, or do you want to apply? Sign up for alerts and resources on our upcoming Fellowship application cycle!

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lizamu
6 days ago
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My team’s work!
New York, New York
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Evangelism

9 Comments and 13 Shares
The wars between the "OTHER PRIMATES OPEN THEM FROM THE SMALL END" faction versus the "BUT THE LITTLE BIT OF BANANA AT THE SMALL END IS GROSS" faction consumed Europe for generations.
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lizamu
6 days ago
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Yes yes yes.
New York, New York
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7 public comments
jprodgers
4 days ago
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I... Uh, wow, so I'm the 3 right most ones. Maybe I am intense...
Somerville, MA
Covarr
7 days ago
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People who insist the eagles could have taken the ring to Mordor are pretty far to the right on this scale. They place badly on the "actually read The Lord of the Rings books" chart, though.
Moses Lake, WA
DaftDoki
8 days ago
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I identify with the rightmost two.
Seattle
Ferret
8 days ago
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Bananas from the other end is the clearly superior method!
alt_text_at_your_service
8 days ago
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The wars between the "OTHER PRIMATES OPEN THEM FROM THE SMALL END" faction versus the "BUT THE LITTLE BIT OF BANANA AT THE SMALL END IS GROSS" faction consumed Europe for generations.
steanne
7 days ago
one of these was useful, but why is there now a second bot doing the same thing?
wmorrell
7 days ago
Because the first bot was offline for some stretches of time. When the second bot arrived, the technical difficulties of the original were also resolved, and now there are two. For some reason, that makes a few people twitchy every third or so comic posting.
cosmotic
6 days ago
Just add a check if another bot commented. How do both bots not properly decode the html entities? As a software engineer, this situation of redundant bots that both malfunction and both being run by complicit lazy admins that don't care about users drives me nuts.
spongbeaux
6 days ago
Why not write your own, and fix the problems that the... ohhhh. https://xkcd.com/927/
cosmotic
6 days ago
;) Also, someone would need to kill the other bots.
WorldMaker
4 days ago
Or you know, don't have any bots at all? It's easy enough to open the page, add the 'm.' to the web address (m.xkcd.com) and get the officially built means to get the alt text in an accessible manner, and give Randall some well deserved ad eyeball traffic in the process. I liked it when people only posted the Alt Text if they had something to add to it. A bot just posting the alt text doesn't add anything interesting to the discussion.
wmorrell
4 days ago
Many people find the bot(s) useful. Just see the, “yay, it’s back!” replies from the previous times they broke. I am glad you have something that works for you. But it’s a mistake to confuse, “I do not find this interesting,” with, “no one finds this interesting,” or even, “no one should find this interesting.”
WorldMaker
3 days ago
I do not confuse any such thing. Perhaps you mistake my starting my opinion with "or" to offer an option for something other than an opinion? I'm happy to agree that mine might be the minority opinion, but that does not make my opinion invalid.
endlessmike
3 days ago
MORE BOTS FOR THE BOT GOD
wmorrell
3 days ago
ALT-TEXT FOR THE ALT-TEXT THRONE
Cthulhux
8 days ago
reply
Also, Emacs.
Fledermausland
Brstrk
8 days ago
I think you misspelled Vim. It's ok. We forgive you this time.
Cthulhux
8 days ago
You only need ten keys to master Vim: [Esc] [:] [q] [!] [e] [m] [a] [c] [s] [Enter]
firetech
8 days ago
You only need this command to master emacs: `alias emacs='vim'`
taddevries
8 days ago
Meanwhile nano users are in the corner eating glue
c_dave
7 days ago
Tasty tasty glue
tingham
7 days ago
Wow has it been 15 seconds in this conversation already? :)
sfrazer
7 days ago
I know just enough vi so that I can get networking working then I install nano because I've got better things to do with my day :-)
gglockner
5 days ago
About a month after starting to date the woman who became my wife, I asked her a religious question: emacs or vi. Needless to say, we have a mixed marriage.
alt_text_bot
8 days ago
reply
The wars between the "OTHER PRIMATES OPEN THEM FROM THE SMALL END" faction versus the "BUT THE LITTLE BIT OF BANANA AT THE SMALL END IS GROSS" faction consumed Europe for generations.

A Milestone Anniversary for Community-Word Project

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A key ingredient for lasting change is to ensure that ideas are launched into the world with sustainability and impact in mind.  This year, 1998 Echoing Green Fellow Michele Kotler's organization, Community-Word Project (CWP), is celebrating their 20th anniversary. The New York City-based organization–which is committed to inspiring children in underserved communities to read, interpret, and respond to their world and to become active citizens–uses collaborative arts residencies and teacher training programs to bring out the richness, creativity, and vision held in our communities. What was sparked by a community poem 20 years ago is today “a thriving arts education organization that has served over 22,000 students, over 4,000 educators who’ve gone on to serve 250,000 students worldwide, and numerous classroom teachers, paraprofessionals, partner organizations, and communities across the country.”

"Michele was able to reimagine Community-Word Project and how the organization’s voice could be a powerful force in the arts education community. Community-Word Project went from 750 students served in 2012 to over 3,000 in 2018."

Michele’s leadership at the helm of the organization has led to significant local and global impact – and though they are celebrating this milestone anniversary, it’s clear that CWP remains a significant force for change. Echoing Green is proud to be honored by Michele and CWP during their annual benefit. We cannot wait to celebrate this milestone achievement in New York at their one-of-a-kind celebration! 

 To learn more about their story, check out the three-part series on their blog.

Leadership
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lizamu
6 days ago
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New York, New York
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supercategory axis labels in Excel

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I have a super quick tip to share today for those reading who work in Excel. I see graphs regularly that look similar to the following:

Supercategories in Excel 1.png  

Note the x-axis. It isn't awful. But it also isn't ideal. The years are repeated. It looks a little sloppy. "Lack of attention to detail here? What does that mean for all the steps behind the scenes that I can't see?" your audience may be wondering. Also, studies have shown that diagonal text is about 50% slower to read than horizontal text. So if efficiency of information transfer is one of your goals when communicating with data—which I would argue it should be—aim for horizontal text whenever possible.

In Excel, there is a quick trick to fix this. I get asked how to do this regularly, so figured it warrants a quick "how to" post. I'll focus on the x-axis using the above example—you could follow a similar process to create supercategory axis labels on the y-axis when that makes sense, too. Also, this example uses quarterly data but you could follow the same process with monthly data.

In the Excel spreadsheet, the data graphed above looks like this:

Supercategories in Excel 2.png  

The current x-axis labels (DATE) are in the column on the left and the y-axis values (SALES) are in the column on the right. Start by highlighting these and creating your graph. It will look similar to the graph at the beginning of this post.

Next, we need to add a couple more columns of data to split out the year and quarter (the process would look very similar if you have monthly data). I typically add two columns to the left of my original data to do this (new columns highlighted in blue):

Supercategories in Excel 3.png  

Once you've done that, right-click on your graph and go to "Select Data."

Supercategories in Excel 4.png  

In the menu that comes up, "Category (X) axis labels" (highlighted in blue at right, below) will be pointed at the original DATE column (mine, as you see below, was in Column D):

Supercategories in Excel 5.png  

Click on this and use your mouse to highlight the range of both of the new columns you've added (my YEAR and QUARTER data was in columns B and C, respectively).

Supercategories in Excel 6.png  

Hit OK, and your graph will look something like this:

Supercategories in Excel 7.png  

Voila! A beautifully formatted x-axis. If it would be helpful, you can download the Excel file.

Would it be helpful to see more Excel "how to" posts like this? Let me know if there are specific topics or questions of interest that we can answer here by leaving a comment. Do you have any quick tool tips you'd like to share (Excel or otherwise)? Leave a comment to enlighten us all!

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lizamu
14 days ago
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Clever clever. Want to remember this
New York, New York
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MINE: Bowls n’ Scales

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You know what used to be fun? Telling the internet about random stuff I bought. I like stuff. I like the internet. I buy stuff all the time. I’m on the internet all the time. It’s really a natural pairing. Why aren’t we doing this more?

This past weekend I went down to D.C. to visit my parents for Passover. Passover is what Jews were up to while y’all looked for colorful eggs left by a grown adult in a rabbit’s costume to celebrate that time 2,000 years ago when God’s human son was brutally murdered and then reemerged zombie-style a few days later, or something along those lines. I’m fuzzy on the details. Human beings are so bonkers.

SPEAKING OF BONKERS (swerving back into my lane now, forgive me the religion lesson), I drove out to Fredericksburg, Virginia to watch my older, fitter brother play in an Ultimate Frisbee tournament, which was awesome? My tolerance for sports is probably best described as sub-zero, but Ultimate Frisbee somehow makes a lot of sense to me. If I had any athletic ability whatsoever, I’d totally want to join the ranks. Most of the players rock this elusive combo of having the chiseled body of an athlete but the goofy attitude of a stoner hippie, and I feel like you just don’t find that in baseball. Five stars.

On the way home, I stopped at an antique store. Why? Because I passed it on the road. NEED I ANY MORE JUSTIFICATION? GOOD. DIDN’T THINK SO.

I have a bowl problem. I know I have a bowl problem. Once I was with someone who wanted to put a moratorium on bowl purchases, and it might be telling that I’m no longer with that person but still have an impressive surplus of bowls. I JUST LOVE BOWLS. LOVING ME MEANS LOVING ALL OF ME MY BOWLS.

For several years now I have been accumulating antique yellowware bowls. I do not have a reason other than that I think they’re beautiful! Someday, hopefully in the not-too-distant future, I’ll have an actual place to display this collection. For now I just hoard them. It’s totally healthy and fine.

As I’ve matured into the stable adult with good judgment you see before you today, I’ve learned that collections of all kinds can get totally out of hand unless you impose some real boundaries and criteria. One of the easiest rules for me to follow is simply to not hunt for it—I don’t search specifically for it and never look online. Either I come across it while out and about or I don’t. I try to keep it fairly limited to white or blue striping (very often you see brown stripes which I’m not as into), and it has to be legit old, not vintage reproduction. I also impose a price limit of $30, because pricing is ALL over the map. I think yellowware got really popular in the 90s and early 2000s, maybe due to Queen Martha’s famous affinity for it. Now it seems to have fallen sufficiently out of fashion, so consequently sometimes it’s priced as though the trend never died and sometimes it’s super cheap.

With vintage/antique ceramics, you want to be smart because the glazes can contain lead, so you probably don’t want to…I don’t know, serve soup in something like this. Honestly you should just give it to me. I’ll take that hazard right off your hands. It’s safer for everyone that way.

Anyway. $25 antique yellowware bowl, hello welcome home. Go join your friends and I’ll call you when there’s a kitchen.

OH WHOOPS I BOUGHT ANOTHER BOWL DARN IT! Bowls, bowls, all day long—bowls! But this is a special bowl!!!

(They’re all special bowls.)

THIS bowl is enameled steel, and it’s Finnish, and it’s from the 1960s, and it has mushrooms all over it! I’ve long adored this particular pattern, which was designed by Esteri Tomula. The bowl itself (and the whole coordinating line of dishware that might have joined it at one time) was designed by Kaj Franck and produced by Finel. They’re highly collectable and I can’t remember ever seeing one just hanging out in the wild! It was $40, which YES is a tad steep for a bowl I do not need but merely want desperately, but a quick online search confirmed that these typically go for 2-3 times that, so it’s a Good Investment. For what, I do not know. That’s not important.

You know what else is not important? That these little scales ever serve a function in my life, other than looking cool. I bet they did at one time for somebody. Now they’re just so cute and dangly and patina’d and look very homemade and for $10…I mean…

I’m a Libra. That’s the scales, right? How’s that? It’s astrology’s fault.

Also, there’s a good enough chance that they’ll look s’cute in my kitchen or pantry that I just did it.

Also I lack a lot of self-control.

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lizamu
21 days ago
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This blog post is so weird but for some reason I love it and want to be their friend.
New York, New York
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