Some readers may know that I have a little tick when it comes to peppermills. A tick is too mild. Most peppermills fill me with rage. They are clumsy and carelessly designed, messily delivering a precious ingredient to our most precious rituals of cooking and eating. I even toyed with devoting my master’s thesis to the subject. Suffice it to say for now that the peppermill stands at a crossroads out there on my horizon, a crossroads from which neither of us will walk away the same. Pictured above is a basic look at the peppermill market today. And below is a close up on that little sign in the middle. (Photo taken at Whisk in Brooklyn.)
But these are all of one brand you’re saying. Sure, sure, as the inset says, these are all Peugeot peppermills, but Peugeot is the market leader and at least from a formal perspective (excluding the Peppermate) represents the dominant trend in peppermill design– a turned piece of wood cut into two parts and bored out to hold peppercorns and the grinder mechanism which threads through both and holds them together via a little closed nut on top. And it’s been this way for, what does it say? 150 years? Ok, I’m the first to admit that some tools really shouldn’t be toyed with and any effort to improve them is vain, wasteful and destined for embarrassment. But I am going to step out of my little box and say this: Peppermills everywhere– watch your back. I’m coming after you.
Hi, I’m Sinclair Smith. You may recognize me from my home improvement show, This Olde Haus. Today’s home improvement tip may seem counter-intuitive, but if your roof is leaking and you have a dripping ceiling, your inclination might be to do anything to stop that water from coming down into your space, but in fact you want to do just the opposite– bring it on. Until the roof leak is fixed, water is going to come in no matter what and the best thing you can do to minimize ongoing damage to your home, the scope of the inevitable repair to your ceiling and the mess that repair will make is to get that water right in front of you where you can see and control it. Here’s something to bear in mind: dripping water usually indicates standing water that needs somewhere to go. And standing water is hard to dry out and potentially very damaging. So put a bucket and some towels down under the drip. Get up on a ladder with a drill and get ready. You’re gonna drill a weep hole in the ceiling right at the drip, and when you do that drip is probably going to turn into a little faucet. Soon enough, the water will slow and the amount entering your bucket will be a direct reflection of the amount penetrating the roof membrane. And that will tell you a lot about the scope of the necessary repair. In the meantime, you will be minimizing the area of your ceiling cavity that is susceptible to water damage and mold. Drilling a hole in the ceiling may seem like adding insult to injury, but I promise that when the repair bill comes around, you’ll be glad you did. (Sounds of beer bottles being opened and manly good cheer.)
It is a growing concern of mine that publications from the product design community continuously tend to focus on innovations in form, style and lifestyle influence, attributes of products that are central to their perceived value by us users, but that are really only a small part of the story of their measurable impact as tools. The sustainability movement has raised critical awareness and has increased the chic value of the conservative utility of new products, but what remains of concern is that we are still talking about innovations and new products, i.e. more stuff. So one thing I’d like to do more of here is celebrate quotidien, existing and (from my perspective) unsung heroes in products and product design. Probably that will mean just the products themselves as most of them will not be glamourous enough to have afforded their innovators any notoriety, but so what, it is better to do good than to be thanked. So with that said, let’s begin…. And let’s give thanks along the way.
Over the past year and a half, my two and a half year old son and I have been bathing every evening before his bedtime, and as he grows taller, we let the water level get higher. But as the water level rises, so does the amount of water lost to the overflow drain toward the top of the tub. For months of filling and refilling I stared at the overflow and listened to the sound of wasted water, remembering my own father’s lament at the same. I remembered what he brought back as a solution and decided it was time to hunt one down myself:
The bathtub overflow stopper is a remarkably simple, single part device that uses suction cups to surround and seal the tub overflow and restrict drainage through a hole that can be positioned anywhere around the drain’s perimeter.
To date I have not measured the amount of water I save each bath but I would guess that it measures in the tens of gallons, equal at least in displaced volume to me and my son combined. The packaging says it will allow 60% more water into the tub, or save you 60% of your water use without it, but my tub is quite old and unusually deep and long, so that number is going to be smaller. I have a 150 gallon hot water heater and know that without the overflow stopper, over the course of a typical 30 minute bath in our big old tub, after refilling a few times to keep from freezing our shoulders we started to lose peak hot water and I could feel the dilution of cold into the hot water tank coming through the line. So I can guess that we were approaching the 100 gallon mark per bath. Insane. Over the course of a week, that nearly reaches the basic water rate in Brooklyn set by the DEP which is “$2.61 per Hundred Cubic Feet (HCF which is equivalent to 748 gallons of water.” With the overflow stopper, I don’t lose water to the overflow and I don’t refill the tub anymore. I am guessing I use half as much water per bath. That’s only a buck and a quarter per week, but it’s enough water to fill two Hipporoller water carriers– per day! If I could divert that water to the needy I would. For now, I am grateful for a simple solution to a huge waste of water.
And bathing with family is fun.
Couldn’t resist. (So modest.)
Ok ok, so two Apple posts in a row– but this is cool! Besides, when in soho…. These guys are outside the Prince St Apple store with a small core driller, going down 70′ taking soil samples. For the EPA I ask? Nope, he shakes his head and nods to the building next to him. For Apple? What? Are they gonna dig down from the cellar and need to test soil and rock content? Something like that he says, looking down at a box of little jars of wet dirt marked with different depths and dates. Cool huh? More storage for Apple TVs?
If someone hadn’t gone and painted this for the set of the Lion King I would have taken it like the pack rat I am.
J.Crew has been getting it right a lot lately, particularly for men. Their own products are not always of very good quality and can be over priced. But their decisions on what products to sell from outside brands has been excellent. So with that said, if anyone feels inspired, please buy me this.
I’ve been out here in Bushwick or East Williamsburg for eleven years and one of the things I love most about neighborhoods like this is the blurred lines between clean intention and decayed happenstance. Yummus Hummus is a little place around the corner and they use this old bike, chained to a sign post as an ad board– look closely. It’s perfectly targeted marketing. No one but some freak like me, totally in love with post-industrial rust and dust is gonna pay any attention to that heap of junk.