Book reviewer, cat photographer, fanzine editor, map blogger, snake whisperer.

Month: September 2020

How the Pandemic Defeated IKEA

Fast Company has the story of how IKEA’s online store basically shat the bed during the pandemic. With physical stores closed, the only way to buy things from IKEA was to order online, which completely overwhelmed their inventory management, delivery and customer service infrastructure. Based on the horror stories from the r/IKEA subreddit (which also informed the FC article), and our own experience (we made a small order early in March that took nearly two months to get here: we got off easy), it seems clear that IKEA’s supply lines were mostly aimed at their stores; they treated online and home delivery as an under-resourced afterthought. That didn’t turn out well.

‘You Have Eaten the PLUMS.’

Gotta Eat the Plums! “You are seminal American modernist poet WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS. It is late at night and you are HUNGRY. Investigate the KITCHEN for something to EAT.”

MEC Sold to Private Investment Firm

I am substantially bummed by the news that Mountain Equipment Co-op is under credit protection and has agreed to be acquired by a U.S.-based private investment firm. The firm has agreed to keep at least 17 of MEC’s 22 stores open, but MEC as we know it will be no more: it will be a privately held company, not a cooperative—another retail institution to disappear into the maw of private equity. I’ve been a member for decades and have had a lot of affection for the joint, even if I haven’t been buying as many things there lately as I have in the past. (Which might be the problem, if I’m not alone in that.)

Late Summer Mushrooms

We’re adjacent to a living forest, so finding mushrooms on our property is a fairly common occurrence. Less so in dry years, and until late in the summer this was a dry year, to the point that I was making note of the fungi’s conspicuous absence in correspondence. Once the skies opened up, though, it was only a matter of time before the various fungal fruiting bodies made an appearance, as you can see in the gallery above.

I really need to get a field guide: the only mushrooms I can identify are the shaggy manes. Anyone able to ID any of these?

Looking for Carbon Dioxide Sensors

I’ve been looking for smart carbon dioxide sensors, particularly sensors compatible with Apple’s HomeKit, but they seem to be fairly scarce on the ground (at least compared to carbon monoxide sensors). So far what I’ve been able to find is bundled with a lot of other sensors. Netatmo’s Weather Station has an outdoor module and up to three indoor modules: the indoor module includes a CO2 sensor. The Airthings Wave Plus includes CO2 as one of a half-dozen things it detects (it’s primarily a radon detector: the rest are kind of thrown in). It’s only HomeKit-compatible via a Homebridge plugin, but that’s a viable option: I’ve got a Raspberry Pi I can install Homebridge on. Problem is, neither is particularly cheap, nor remotely as cheap as a standalone sensor would have been.

Snake by Erica Wright

Snake (cover)

There are something like ninety books about reptiles and amphibians on my shelves, which I’ve accumulated over the past two decades. Almost all of them put the author’s expertise on the subject front and centre: these are books by hobbyists who have raised generations of reptiles in captivity, field naturalists with decades of experience finding them in the wild, or herpetologists with deep CVs and institutional authority. Credentials, in this field, matter. What, then, to make of Erica Wright’s Snake, out today from Bloomsbury, a slim volume from someone with no experience with them whatsoever?

Wright writes crime novels and poetry, edits a literary journal and teaches writing: not the profile of someone who writes a book of short essays on snakes. But she has gone and done that very thing. Snake, part of the Object Lessons series of short books “about the hidden lives of ordinary things,” is possibly the most different of all the books about snakes I have ever read, simply because she does not fit that profile. Snake is by someone who was wary if not afraid of them as a child, but came to them as an adult.

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