I Have (Not Really) Started Going Through the KonMari Method, Part 2

As I said at the beginning of Part 1, one of the early obstacles to doing the KonMari method was figuring out which clothes in my room belonged to me, and which clothes belonged to my mother.

I had vast piles of clothing in my room (writing this sentence in past tense feels very good). 95% of this clothing was clothing I never asked for, never wanted, and if a fairy had come along at any point in my life and offered to make those clothes magically disappear, I would have enthusiastically accepted the offer.
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I Have (Not Really) Started Going Through the KonMari Method, Part 1

Though I haven’t seen Marie Kondo’s Netflix show (I don’t have Netflix), the buzz around the show caused me to read her first book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and I am now in the process of going through the clothing-

YOU REALLY HAVE JOINED MARIE KONDO’S CULT! NOOOOOOOO!

Maybe I have joined, so what?

But it’s a popular hot trend of the type you usually ignore! Especially since it’s from TV!

I think it is cool that I’ve fallen in sync with a hot TV trend for once, albeit almost by accident.

But everybody is overwhelming the thrift stores at once!

The picture is more complicated that than in San Francisco (and I am saddened by the disappearance of the thrift stores in the Mission / SoMa). I do sincerely wish I had discovered the book a month earlier (or possibly years earlier).

But you’re an atheist!

I do not plan to do the part of the KonMari method where I set up a little shrine in my home.

But you’re going to be thanking objects! Inanimate objects!

Ummmm, I was doing that even before I heard of Marie Kondo or any of her work.

Fair point. But before you mostly kept that practice to yourself and told only a few people about it. Now you’re not just going to quietly thank inanimate objects, you’re going to try to push other people in the KonMari cult!

I promise that I will not try to push other people into the KonMari cult. I may talk about the benefits (as well as the negative effects) of the KonMari method, and I may counter criticism when I feel like it, but when people say ‘I don’t want to do the Konmari thing’ I will say ‘cool, then don’t do it.’ Continue reading

Hiking the Ohlone Trail in June, Day 3: Journey to Livermore

Sunrise the morning I left Boyd Camp

At Boyd Camp, I only had a few miles left of the official Ohlone Trail, and they were all downhill! After the work my legs did the previous day, this seemed pretty great.

On the left you can see Mount Diablo, and on the right you can see Del Valle Reservoir.

It turned out that it was a viciously steep downhill on a road. I suppose it was still easier than trying to go up than hill, but getting down still required an effort. And in contrast to the previous day when I practically saw no people, this morning I ran into a few people who were doing early morning exercise things. Continue reading

Hiking the Ohlone Trail in June, Day Two: Though I’m in the Bay Area, There Are No People

In Part One, I embarked on my hike of the Ohlone Trail in Alameda County, and reached Sunol Backpacking Camp. In this part, I describe my hike from there to Boyd Camp.

When I woke up at camp, I got to see a lot of fog in the Sunol Valley.

I was surprised when I looked out at the Sunol Valley in the morning. Fog! And the forest below the camp looked almost lush. Continue reading

Hiking the Ohlone Trail in June, Day One: Into the Wilderness of the East Bay Hills

Under a blue sky, rolling hills are covered by yello dry grass with some patches of green oak trees.

This is what the East Bay (that is, the eastern side of the San Francisco Bay) looks like in summer. Even though Alameda county has a population of 1.6 million people, a lot of it is still like this.

This June, I hiked the entire length of the Ohlone Trail. I had several goals: 1) I did not distinctly remember staying overnight in Alameda County even though I know I’ve spent many nights there 2) I had just finished sewing my net-tent and I wanted to test it out before hiking a few hundred miles with it and 3) I wanted to prepare myself physically for hiking a few hundred miles.
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My Latest Sewing Project: Comforter / Mattress??? (Part 2)

My functionally complete comforter, partially pulled out of the linen cover.

In Part 1, I described how I made my new comforter. Now, I’m going to describe how it’s working out for me.

I had never worked with kapok before, so I was not sure how to stuff it. The first few chambers I stuffed relatively lightly, but then I decided to increase the stuffing to make sure they were sufficiently full. The result is that, aside from the first few chambers, they are all very full and firm. This means they are not so pliable that I can comfortably drape them close around my body, especially when I am lying on my side (I am mostly a side-sleeper).

Furthermore, because I used so much kapok, and I used baffle boxes, the insulation power is great. A little too great, in fact. If I lie on my cotton futon, wear my ordinary sleepwear, and drape it over me so there is not much exposure to outside air, it’s a little too warm. ‘Too warm’ is much better than ‘too cold’, since I can drape it in a way which exposes me more to the cold air.

As I’ve been using the comforter, I’ve learned how to drape it better. It really helps that I oversized the linen cover. I can excess linen drapes over me where the comforter does not, which adds flexibility. It’s colder than the comforter, but warmer than being naked, and because the comforter is too warm, it actually helps. (And linen feels so nice).

In fact, this comforter is so warm that in the first week I didn’t use my cotton mattress at all. I lay down just on the goza mats (which are just above my hardwood floor), and just as the comforter is heating me up, the floor (via the thin goza mats) drains the heat away. It felt strangely comfortable. I’m fairly tolerant of sleeping on hard surfaces (I once slept on a concrete floor with just a very thin mat and a layer of polyester fabric as my ‘bed’) – the hardwood floor itself would probably be too hard for me, but the goza mats provide just enough cushioning. The main reason I need a mattress at all is for insulation, and when my comforter is so warm, the mattress is less necessary. I find the cotton futon more comfortable than lying directly on the goza mat, but temperature is more important.

Not needing to use my cotton futon every night is a good thing, because the less I use it, the longer it will last. Furthermore, the less frequently I use it, the less moisture it will build up, which means it will be less likely to get moldy.

After the first week, the weather got colder, which meant that the floor/goza mats were draining too much heat from me. Thus, I rolled out my cotton futon again for insulation. The comforter continues to be very warm, but in this weather it’s not ~too~ warm.

You know how I said that my new comforter is really firm? It turns out, if I lay it down on the goza mats, and lie down on it, it feels … really comfortable. It feels more comfortable than my cotton futon. And it provides all of the insulation I would ever need from the floor. And it only has about a third of the weight of my cotton futon, which is already light for a mattress. And since kapok repels water, it is a lot less likely to get moldy than cotton. In other words, while making a comforter, I unintentionally made a good mattress, a mattress which in some ways is better than my cotton futon.

(And as a mattress, it would probably be illegal to sell in the United States because a) kapok is very flammable and b) I used no flame retardants whatsoever. But making such a mattress for personal use is completely legal).

The one problem with using my comforter/mattress as a mattress right now is I need a comforter to keep myself warm at night. I already gave away my old comforter to my dad, who did not like it any more than I did so he gave it to my mother (I’m still waiting to see whether my mother will keep it / use it long term). However, when the nights are warm enough than a simple blanket will do, I expect that this will become my mattress, or at least I will switch it off with my cotton futon on alternating nights. This increases the value to me because I have a great use for it on warm nights too!

I also recently discovered that someone is selling a kit to make a ‘throw blanket’ out of kapok & cotton with a linen cover. Of anything available for sale, this is probably the item most similar to my new comforter/mattress. Based on the design, I’m guessing it requires less labor to make, yet less durable. It’s probably also more pliable. And my comforter is a lot longer than 40 inches (otherwise it wouldn’t cover my body or be big enough to use as a mattress). I probably did spend about 150 USD on the materials of my comforter, but that is mainly because organic linen is expensive. (If I had chosen to make the cover out of organic cotton instead of linen, I would have spent much less money on materials). (But linen feels so good that, over years of use, it’s worth the extra money). (And I notice that website is not claiming that their linen case is made from ~organic~ linen).

It feels great to sleep in something which I designed and made myself, whether it’s in a campsite or at home. And these projects are addictive – I’m already working on another project which I intend to use long-term in my bedroom. I was talking to some people last week about what we did

Reflections on Affluent White ‘Progressive’ Parents who Keep Their Kids in Affluent White Bubbles, Part 2

Yes, I think the parents described in the editorial are hypocrites, at least in a general way. I would probably have a more nuanced view if I got to know them.

I have some relatives who could be described as affluent white progressive parents, and I think, for the most part, they are not hypocrites with regards to social justice. But they do not behave like the parents described in the editorial. They do send their kids to race-and-class diverse public schools, some of them used to live with their kids in a neighborhood with plenty of non-affluent African-American neighbors (which, um, gentrification, but that’s different from the issues raised in the editorial) and I’ve seen that their kids’ peer groups is also diverse, and based on listening to their kids talk about social justice issues, I think they’ve done as much to pass on social justice values as is possible for affluent white people.

I believe the parents described in the editorial are sincerely in favor of progressive changes which do not threaten their privilege, but when their is a conflict between preserve their privilege and pursuing social justice, they clearly choose to preserve their privilege. If they actually cared about racial and class diversity, they would send their children to public schools and get involved in school politics to improve those school. As a public school parent, my mother was able to make a few very small improvements to San Francisco’s public school system. If she had been a private school parent she would have been too far outside the public school system to do anything meaningful.

And I do not think that social justice values is the only way they are hypocrites. They claim that they want their children to have the best education possible. Yet, based on what I read between the lines in that editorial, that’s not what they are doing. They are trying to improve their children’s social standing, not their intellectual or personal development.

First of all, I think there is an educational benefit to being around students of diverse backgrounds. That includes, but is not limited to race and class diversity. As a teenager, I attended a summer boarding school which had an admission policy of having student body which represented all of the regions of California, with a slight tilt in favor of students from rural regions which offered fewer summer education options. It was the first time in my life I got spend a lot of time with peers who weren’t from San Francisco. Exposure to that geographical diversity expanded my horizons.

I think the greater benefit of diverse schools is not the passing on social justice values, but the fact that people from different backgrounds tend to have different points of view, and being exposed to many points of view is good for developing independent thinking skills. By not sending their children to diverse schools or putting them in diverse environments, they are denying their children that benefit.

Beyond that, it seems that these parents are choosing their private schools for prestige and exclusivity, not because they have verified that these private schools actually offer better education. It is very difficult to compare the education quality at public and private schools, but the studies with the largest sample sizes find that, when you control for socio-economic background, private schools do not offer better educational outcomes than public schools.

That is not to say that all private schools are primarily for entrenching/advancing elite privilege. There are many kinds of private schools. Yes, I think there are situations where attending a private school may be the better choice for intellectual/personal development, as well as situations where, even if the private school does not provide a better education than public schools, it has some other advantage which justifies the cost.

Though if it is one of those high schools which charge $40,000/yr for tuition – and San Francisco has some of those – I cannot imagine any advantage which justifies that cost; even if it were the best high school in the world AND the only high school in all of San Francisco AND I had that money on hand, at that price I would choose homeschooling, and if I were so wealthy that $40,000/yr was pocket change, I would rather hire a bunch of really good tutors than send my kid to high school. Okay, I can imagine ONE situation where paying more than $40,000/yr for high school tuition would be worth it; my child has special needs due to disability which I absolutely cannot meet with homeschooling and that super-expensive high school is the only way to meet those needs.

However, the real tell for me is this line from the editorial: “One boy said proudly, ‘My school is not for everyone’ — a statement that reflected how thoroughly he’d absorbed his position in the world in relation to others.” Okay, yes, it is impossible for a school to be right for absolutely everyone, therefore no school is for everyone, but clearly that was not the boy’s point. It’s seems that these parents are choosing schools for their exclusivity, to signal that heir children have the means to enter schools which less privileged kids cannot. I cannot find the essay, but I recall reading a piece by Alfie Kohn which argued that, if a private school really wants to prove that they offer superior education, they need to do admissions by lottery, and then produce better education outcomes than other schools. If a private school gets to cherry-pick students, it’s not proving that it provides a better education, it is just proving that it knows how to choose better students.

I think for some private school parents – including the ones described in the editorial, the point is not to actually provide a better education, but to have those schools mark their child as being ‘superior’ by admitting them while rejecting ‘lesser’ children. It is also why some people prefer to attend colleges with lower admission rates – admission rate does not say much about educational quality, but being able to say ‘nyah nyah, I was one of the 5% who was able to get into this famous exclusive college where most of the lower division classes are taught by underpaid graduate students with little teaching experience’ is a much more prestigious social marker than ‘I got into this college with wonderful experienced teachers which has a 100% admission rate’.

(And obviously, private schools select heavily for income/wealth, especially the ones which charge higher tuition and/or offer less financial aid).

You remember that summer boarding school I mentioned? Not only did my parents not help me get in, they were opposed to me attending it, it was harder to convince them to let me go than in was to get admitted to that school, and I had to pay for the tuition myself (as a 15-year-old, when I was not eligible for financial aid because of my family’s income). But in the end, I’m glad that summer school experience was something that I made happen rather than something that my parents handed to me on a platter. My parents almost did me a favor by being an obstacle (though that is not how I interpreted the situation at the time).

If the parents described in the editorial really are doing things like arranging ‘coveted summer internships’ for their children, than means that their children are not learning how to go out on their own and seek their own opportunities. And that disturbs me for than their social justice hypocrisy.