collection and curation

Although I have a degree in Library Science, what really interests me is not the controlled curation of objects (although it has its place) but the individual decisions made on a day to day basis that result in how and why people keep and display objects. For any purpose – home decoration, store display, knick knack collections, what people keep in their gloveboxes. What drives those decisions? First to acquire, and then to display?

I ran across this display the other day in Seattle and it struck me as decidedly un-Seattle (at least the Amazon-Seattle I moved to) and more Midwestern in feel:


Sorry for the reflection, but I think you get the point.

This was the sole display window at a small lumber shop. I was struck by how intentional this display is – and how it is in no way intended to sell lumber. Nothing in it is without meaning or purpose. Everything is color-coordinated and carefully placed. It is a celebration of an idealized United States of America, as protected by our war heroes.

It’s easy to gloss over this as just being full of flags and shabby chic antiques, but when you really look you realize just how meticulous this display is. In trying to analyze this I wrote a detailed description of the entire image. I will spare you the whole thing, but here’s a description of the doll visible through the leftmost pane of glass:

To the right of the pole is a small, shabby-looking square white stool. Atop the stool stands a female doll about 2 feet tall, wearing a star-spangled cap with white lace trim and red bows. Her blouse is white and ruffly, with a high lace neck that is lined on the inside with more of the blue-and-white star fabric, and a red ribbon tied at the throat. The sleeves of the blouse are blue and white starred, with red ribbons at the wrists. One of the streamers is loosely draped across her arms. The right hand holds an American flag. Her dress has a bodice with straps made from a fabric that boasts tiny flags with four red stripes, three white stripes, and five stars on a blue background. The skirt of the dress is vertical red stripes, with the blue and white star fabric forming a large hem, finished with red piping. The doll is barefoot.

This doll wasn’t just dressed meticulously – if I had to guess, the outfit was made for the doll, and clearly made with great care and attention to every last detail.

For me this display really exemplifies the difference between collection and curation, which often overlap but aren’t the same. Any attic in Indiana (or apparently, Washington) might have some of these objects in it, but it is the careful and purposeful placement of these objects, with the stars – the portraits of the man and woman in uniform – in the center, surrounded by carefully chosen images and objects of Traditional America.

How do we make these curatorial choices? Whether it’s a museum display, a lumber store’s independence day display, or the photos and knick-knacks you keep on your desk, what drives those decisions? Which objects do you bring, where do you place them, and why and when do you move or rotate them?

This seems worth thinking about, too, with respect to the ongoing interest in “collecting games” like Neko Atsume or of course, Pokemon GO.  But that is a topic for another day.




moving to Seattle and emoji classification 2: the new batch

Preparing for a cross-country move, it turns out, is extremely time-consuming, even when 1) you’re unemployed and 2) someone else is handling a lot of the logistics. Kudos to those of you who have done it without assistance. I feel like I spend hours every day on the phone with various people, making appointments, cleaning closets, tying up loose ends, doing research. This cross-country move also marks the first time my boyfriend and I will be living together, and merging our respective cat households. We each have 2 cats. Moving 4 cats makes the process infinitely more complicated but we are just not willing to give up any of the cats so: here we go, into crazy cat people-dom.

But in my spare time I still find moments here and there to think about the new emoji classification system. I did not mention in my previous post that I’m specifically looking at the iPhone here – I can’t speak to any other device, this is purely my own observation from spending way too much time making emoji rebuses.

The new classification system tries harder to be more “organized” but I’m not sure it succeeds. First, another summary before I get into any actual comparison.

Icons across the bottom, and emoji order generally: The order of these is more or less the same with a few changes. Begins with the clock or “frequently used”, goes into faces and human features, followed by nature, food, celebration, activity, travel & places, and objects & symbols. The icon images have changed a little – a smiley face stands for People, an evergreen tree for Nature, a burger and drink for Food & Drink, a party horn blowing confetti for Celebration, a stick figure running for Activity, a car in front of a building for Travel & Places, and a collage of four symbols (a musical note, an ampersand, a percent sign, and another symbol that I actually have no idea what it is – help? Seems like it could be either a mathematical symbol or an electrical symbol) which stands for Objects & Symbols.

As with the previous system, the reasoning seems to be more or less the same. “General” human activities and emotions are first shown as yellow smilies, and then we get into families and careers (sorta?) as denoted by headgear. These people are yellow but in cases where there’s a single person shown, you can hold down your finger on the image and have your choice of skin tone.

Now with diversity
Now with diversity

With the multi-person images (like the families), yellow is the only option for skin color. Note that the only career headgear options for women, as in the world of Barbie, are Royalty (crown) and Bride (veil) while male characters get a strange melange of both careers and hat/hair choices: Random Crewcut Dude, Police Officer, Turban Guy (famously known before as the Only Brown-Skinned Emoji), etc. Also, now you can have two males or two females kissing or having a little heart between them (before I think there were same-sex couples holding hands, though I can’t be positive since I can’t find an image of the last version before the most recent update — although in the old version shown in the previous post, there’s definitely only an opposite-sex couple holding hands).

For some reason I feel like Objects and Symbols now is way more confusing than it used to be, and I’m not positive there’s a real reason for that because it seems to be about as much of a dumping ground now as it was before, but in my next post I’ll get into actual comparison between the two.

To jog my memory for next time I want to make sure to talk about Confusing Symbols or, symbols I’ve seen used to mean two different things; trouble finding emojis in the new system; overlapping classification; and masters of emoji art. I know you can’t wait!!!

emoji keyboard classification

There have been a lot of internet goings-on about the new emoji keyboard, ranging from praising its more racially-inclusive icon options to those who apparently can’t handle change. As a library nerd naturally I’m thinking about the new classification system. This is going to take a few posts probably but I want to start exploring it here.

Here’s an image I found of the old keyboard. It is actually extremely difficult to find the 2014 complete keyboard, this one is older meaning it lacks the cats, the family icons, and probably a few others too, but I think it still works well enough for this purpose. Image found here. Also if you can send me screenshots of the most recent emoji keyboard prior to the switch – would you?

The old emoji keyboard.
The old emoji keyboard.

The old classification system used a simple picture band to separate the icons into 5 main categories:

The old selection bar.
The old selection bar.

The clock stands for “recently used” – that still exists in the new version. The first deliberate category is the Smiley Face, standing in for “generic” human activities and faces. (I say “generic” here to mean sort of basic human emotions and actions that don’t require specialized equipment or knowledge — not to imply that it is all-inclusive, which it is not). This includes non-gendered, non-race specific yellow expression faces; symbols that stand for emotions (hearts) or human functions (snoring, farting); hands making symbolic gestures (non-gendered, white skin toned); several gendered, mostly white people-icons doing a variety of “basic” human activities (holding hands, kissing, being old; and finally some individual features such as disembodied eyes and lips.

The second grouping is symbolized by the Flower which stands in for weather, living animals and non-edible plants.

The third grouping is the Bell, the meaning of which is a little more obscure but based on the icons seems to imply celebration and activity. These are more “outside-the-house” people than the first set of human icons. Here we have holiday-themed icons, technology, office & school supplies, medical equipment, sports equipment, people involved in sports activities, playing cards, arts, literature and music themed images, clothing and makeup, jewelry, drinks, food, desserts and finally fruits.

The fourth set, symbolized by a Car, includes buildings, vehicles, signage, and a small selection of national flags.

The final set, denoted by a rectangle containing some punctuation symbols, contains numbers, words, some Japanese characters, symbols of a seemingly random nature (a stylized iPhone, some signage-type symbols resembling bathroom signs, etc), and analog clock images.

Next time I’ll summarize the new classification system, right now I think I need to step away from emojis and clean my room, because I’m moving to Seattle soon (maybe talk about that in another post) and my work is neverending.

more random reviews

Like a sign from the gods, or at least Mark Zuckerberg, I am locked out of my facebook account now that I tried to start it up again. That seems like a great excuse to do another round of Totally Random Reviews.

1. Eating an entire bag of cheese balls for dinner

Do recommend. It feels almost like eating actual food, but requires no preparation save for opening the bag. Goes well with beer and doesn’t leave a gross taste in your mouth that elicits feelings of guilt and regret (like, for example, cool ranch doritos. Not that I would know.) PLEASE NOTE: the bag has a misprint. Says it serves 4 but actually this bag is exactly the size of dinner for one.

Also I would like to point out that the bag of cheese balls I may have just eaten was the “Just the Basics” brand from CVS and there’s something both highly amusing and disturbing to think that cheese balls are considered to be some sort of U.S. food staple or something.

Then again, I did just eat them for dinner.


2. Revlon color stay eyeliner

revlon colorstay eyeliner

I realize eyeliner isn’t for everyone but I firmly believe everyone should try it once. And if you’re only going to wear eyeliner one time, make it this one. Because it’s relatively affordable and it is pretty amazing. I have had this eyeliner stay on through a massage while my face was squished into one of those massage pillow thingies, crying, sex, sleeping, and pretty much any other activity you can imagine where your head might possibly get squished into a pillow. This eyeliner can take it. All other eye makeup gives me Raccoon Eye but this stuff is magical, and, like “Just the Basics” cheese balls, is available at CVS.


3. This Weird Cookie from Big Shoulders Coffee

I’m a pretty big fan of Big Shoulders Coffee, reasons including: the location, the lighting inside, the nice people that work there, and these cookies.


I am obsessed with this cookie. I just researched it and it appears it is called an alfajore and the link also takes you to the site of the people who make it. The website claims that “any time is the right time to indulge in one” and I can say with confidence that is 100% true. The main thing to know about this cookie is that, like the completely unrelated song says, you can’t take it with you. It will crumble all over the place. You have to get it “for here.” The cookies are like crumbly buttery lemony shortbread in flavor but the texture is much lighter, and then there’s about a quarter to a half inch of caramel-y dulce de leche just sitting in the middle, waiting to give you a cavity. The whole thing is rolled in coconut. It goes beautifully with an espresso and that feeling of confusion and annoyance that comes of not really knowing if you’ll have a job in a couple of weeks, or not.





oh, hello!


I took an internet break. And I’m actually not totally ready to come back, but I know that people get worried about other people when they disappear.

Sometime in June, I deactivated my facebook account. I hadn’t really been planning to — it just sort of happened. I was getting ready to move and feeling unreasonably stressed. I found that I was checking my phone obsessively, and since facebook is the thing most likely to have seen any change within just minutes, I found myself checking it all the time. And found my anxiety level mounting.

I don’t blame facebook for making me anxious — that’s all me. But it certainly wasn’t helping matters. So one day I just deactivated it. Figuring that within a couple of days, I would find myself missing it. I predicted that soon, I I wouldn’t be able to contact a person that I really wanted to contact. I would feel like I was missing out, not receiving important invites to events.

But what’s funny is … that never happened. People who I’d thought must have lost my number, sent me text messages. I received nice emails from folks who noticed I was gone and wanted to make sure they could contact me. I discovered that actually, I did know how to contact everyone I wanted to contact. Or if I didn’t, I could easily get the information from someone else. And I didn’t particularly miss anyone else.

I actually still don’t miss it, but I’m thinking about reactivating just for the ease of it. I think what I’ve discovered is most important to me about facebook is it keeps me accountable to people. It’s less easy to hide, less easy to be avoidant when you’ve got facebook. And I suppose that’s part of what’s annoying about it, but it’s good too. It’s been a valuable lesson, too, discovering that I don’t really NEED it. I look at my phone less; I feel like the time I spend on the internet now is more productive, or at the very least I stop doing wasteful things more quickly than I would have before, because it is clearer, sooner, that I’m not using my time wisely.

I will almost certainly do a serious friend-culling, if and when I reactivate my account. If I haven’t missed or thought about contacting a person during this time, it seems like a good opportunity to take a long hard look at whether that person is really my friend or just someone I added randomly. And not that that is a total waste of time — I have definitely had casual friendships become better friendships via facebook. But it can be good to examine your behavior sometimes and take stock of where you’re making your life better, and where you’re really just being lazy.

Another year, another apartment.

When I moved to Chicago in a hurry last July, I took one of the first apartments I saw — in part because I didn’t have the time to look more thoroughly, and in part because it was a really nice apartment in a REALLY SUPER AWESOME location. It was a little high for my budget, but manageable if I was careful.

I just got the paperwork for my lease renewal and I suppose I should have seen it coming — up-and-coming (read: gentrifying) neighborhood, apartment mere steps from the train — of course there’s a rent increase.

Yesterday, as I walked down Fullerton Avenue on my way to an apartment showing, carrying a bottle of Perrier, it was not lost on me that a white woman drinking sparkling water and walking westward along Fullerton pretty much summarized exactly why my rent had increased in the first place. I am part of my own problem, and of the problem plaguing my neighbors that have lived here longer and make less money.

I’ve moved a lot in my 35 years, and while I’ve never liked it, it’s never been particularly traumatic for me. I adapt easily to new places and tend to get along with people I meet, so while the actual mechanics of moving are never fun or pleasant, I’ve never felt so attached to a building or a location that I was really distraught at the prospect of leaving it.

When I first got the news about the rent increase, I felt a little excited — the part of me that enjoys exploring Chicago thought it might be cool to experience another neighborhood. But my excitement quickly turned to dismay and real sadness. I find that I am actually quite attached to my apartment in the short time I’ve lived here, and the thought of leaving it makes me feel weepy and hopeless.

Maybe it’s because it’s the first home I’ve known in this city, and I’ve been so happy here (happier than I’ve ever been in my life) that I’m worried a change of location would directly impact my happiness. I know that doesn’t make any sense, though, and I’m a pretty logical/practical person. This place isn’t even that amazing. Aside from the location, it’s got some serious flaws — my kitchen floor is so uneven I could easily turn it into an indoor water feature, and some of the windows are so drafty that multiple layers of plastic and fabric had to be used to keep out the winds of the polar vortex. So why am I so sad?

Perhaps it’s because it’s not my choice, because I’m not breaking up with the apartment — it’s breaking up with me. Whatever the reason, I’m really trying to look at all the bright sides, of which there are definitely a few. For one, the rent here has always been a little high for me. Moving somewhere else will allow me more disposable income, which would be nice. I still feel excited about getting to know another part of the neighborhood or the city, and I would like a floor that meets the walls at an angle that more closely approximates 90 degrees.

I’ll probably shed more than a few tears about it though, and I guess maybe it’s good to know that I can feel so attached to a location, that putting down roots somewhere is more than just a practical or logical move — it can be something I feel passionately about and have real feelings for. It also tells me that I’ve really come to call Chicago home very quickly and that’s a good feeling, too. Luckily, I’m only leaving the apartment and not the city, so I suppose wherever I end up, I’ll still be home.


Logic puzzles are my job.

I’m very late on this post for no real good reason. I wish I could tell you I had been on some swashbuckling adventures or, at the very least, was filling my time with fulfilling, inspirational projects that just caused me to forget all about the internet.

Sadly, this has not been the case. Actually, I discovered this terrible (wonderful) phone game called Parks.

I don’t typically have an addictive personality. I’ve never had problems with substance abuse or gambling or anything like that. But logic games? Give me a good logic puzzle and you might not see me for a long time. Give me a series of them, combined with the fact that I’m still a little zonked on painkillers, and … we’re lucky it was nearly 70 degrees in Chicago over the weekend or I might still be wearing the same clothes I was Friday night, my overheated phone clutched in my cold dead hand.

Parks is sort of like Sudoku, in principle .. the idea is that there is a gridded board with differently-shaped areas marked out as “parks”. Your task is to put a tree into each park such that every park has a tree, but no two trees occupy the same column, row, or stand adjacent to any other tree diagonally. The more you play, the larger the grid gets and the more complex the game becomes.

Parks - simple level
Parks – simple level

I will probably, as I typically do when I discover a game I love, play it to death and then lament the lost hours spent playing it. I will then delete said game, live a normal life for a little while, and eventually find a new one.

The good thing about liking logic games, besides the fact that they are probably a healthier addiction than say, meth, is that it occurred to me that my job is also kind of like one big game of Parks.

I can never explain what I do to people. People always ask me to explain my job to them and I usually respond with something like “uh, I fix the internet” or quote my company’s LinkedIn page — “I work in product data solutions.” For about 2% of people, that one works, but usually I get a blank look. My title is the even more unhelpful and vague “Analyst” which, let’s face it, could actually be just about anything. You may as well call me “Thing-Doer,” which is probably actually the name of a person in an Icelandic saga.

The thing that I actually do is figure out how to organize big jumbles of stuff in various states of disarray — currently the jumble is fasteners and the various tools used to fasten them. So, I have about 40,000 unique products including things like screwdrivers, screws, drills, drill bits, nails, hammers, hooks, hooks that have screws on the ends of them, hooks that have nails on the ends of them, etc.

My job is to put each of those products in their own place such that each has one and only one home, with like products being near each other but not confused for one another (a screw and a hook with a screw end are not the same thing, though they are related), and such that a person searching for any of those on the Internet could find them with ease. Minus the internet search part, it’s not that unlike trying to figure out where to place the trees in Parks. Except I get paid for it!

Gotta get back to my game, I’m on level 51 right now and jonesing for a fix.