David Graeber’s Bullshit Jobs

Have you ever been in a job you thought was useless? Have you said to yourself, I could finish my work in half the time and go home but here I am? Have you stared into the abyss wondering how in the hell this could have happened?

David Graeber wrote Bullshit Jobs A Theory as an answer to these questions and more. You can find a copy at many online retailers and book resale stores. There are even multiple interviews and videos featuring the author on YouTube.

I can’t guarantee this book will make you feel better. I was nearly enraged at some points. But I can tell you it will engage you and you will likely end feeling more informed and equipped to identify and live with this phenomena. Or better yet, maybe you are in a position to help change it.

Christmas shopping stress: practical tips to help

It’s that time of year for many of us.

I’ve got my list (mostly). I’ve determined my budget (I think). And I’ve made plans to go out this weekend and hopefully finish my Christmas shopping. I want to be excited about the gifts I will give but something is holding me back. It’s the stress of finding the right thing with limited knowledge. The stress of how much will come out of my wallet while I don’t have work or income for 10+ days. It’s also the stress of trying to stay mindful of the environmental impact of the materials I buy. At some point, I experience an information overload. We can only deal with so much at one time. So, I’ve made a small list to help simplify my shopping process while staying true to my values. I’ve written this list as a how-to. It’s not exhaustive but if you experience some of what I have described you may find it helpful:

  • Reach out and ask the people who you are buying for what they want. Yes, it sounds obvious but it doesn’t always happen. This can help alleviate so much stress when done in time.
  • Create your list with what you know people want and some ideas of your own. This list is meant to be updated and changed. It’s also okay if it stays exactly the way you first wrote it.
  • When you are ready to shop, group your list by the stores/websites you want to visit. If you can knock out part of your list at one location it can save you extra trips, time, and stress.
  • Search for second-hand items when appropriate. Some gifts (like undergarments if you buy those) shouldn’t be second-hand. This also depends on the person for whom you are shopping. Some people love vintage items. Some prefer new. The advantages of second-hand shopping are that you are giving those items another chance, keeping them out of landfills, and likely saving money.
  • If you have the materials make Christmas cards at home instead of buying them. I have a large quantity of scrap booking paper given to me by a friend. With some $2 glue, a little creativity, and some trimming and pasting, I can make all my cards at home. It’s also a bonus that they are so personal.
  • Brown craft paper is recyclable and fairly cheap. If you are concerned with making it more festive stamp it with Christmas scenes or add a bow.
  • Remember, Christmas isn’t a contest. You don’t have to have the most decorated house or apartment on the block. You don’t have to buy the most expensive gifts of anyone in your family. Think about how you want to experience Christmas and explore your reasoning about this. In the end, make sure that you take care of yourself over the holidays.
My 4 foot Christmas tree, up and away from grabby little rabbit paws.

Houseplant Master Resource Guide

This guide was assembled by Let’s Grow Plant Club of Lexington, KY. All information is the intellectual property of its owner. This guide is strictly for educational purposes. You will find some links that promote products or services. Let’s Grow is not associated with any of these companies nor do we give any endorsement of sales by linking to them in this educational guide.

If you would like to submit a page to feature in this guide please contact Brittany at letsgrowlex@gmail.com

General care and interest

University of Vermont extension: steps to success

Missouri Botanical Gardens

BBC Houseplant basic techniques

The Farmer’s Almanac

Gardenista house plants care guide

Improvenet pet safe plants

Cleaning indoor air

WikiHow care for indoor plants

Planterina: 18 Houseplant myths solved on YouTube

A-Z thematic houseplant resources

Air plants

Gardenista on air plants

Royal Horticultural Society: air plants on YouTube

WikiHow: Caring for air plants

Garden Answer: Air plants on YouTube

Artificial Light

Exotic Tropical Houseplants: Best artificial light on YouTube

WikiHow: Growing plants with grow lights

University of Vermont extension: indoor lighting

Humidity

House Plants Expert: humidity guide

Hunker: what is a good humidity level in your house?

Plants and Lucia: 6 tips for creating humidity on YouTube

Maintenance

Gardening know how pruning guide

WikiHow: How to overwinter indoor plants

Garden Up: How to properly clean indoor plants on YouTube

Garden Guides: How to maintain indoor plants

Nutrients

WikiHow: Feeding plants

Fertilizing plants complete guide by Summer Rayne Oakes on YouTube

WikiHow: Reviving an over-fertilized plant

Our House Plants: Feeding

Orchids

Gardenista on orchids

The Spruce: Basic indoor orchid care

Top 10 most popular orchids

Brad’s Greenhouse & Gardening: Phalaenopsis orchid care on YouTube

Searching common plants

Houseplant 411

Flowering house plants

Common house plants

Good office plants

House plants Encyclopedia A-Z

USDA PLANTS database

Plant ID resources

How to shop for plants by Summer Rayne Oakes on YouTube

Crazy Plant Guy: Easy houseplants for beginners on YouTube

Soil

This is a Plant: How to re-pot on YouTube

This is a Plant: Choosing your potting soil on YouTube

Potting soil or media

Growing medium, compose, and soil

Succulents

Mountain Crest Gardens: Succulent care

The Sill on succulents

Meadowview succulent care sheet

Sunlight

The Spruce: Understanding natural light

The Spruce: Determining natural light

Plantopedia: Best plants for low light

Garden Up: Best low light indoor plants on YouTube

Garden Up: How much sun a plant needs on YouTube

Terrariums

SerpaDesign: Collecting & identifying moss on YouTube

Plant one on me: Crafting a terrarium on YouTube

University of Vermont extension on terrariums

Garden Up: How to make a terrarium for free on YouTube

Troubleshooting

Gardening know how: when your plant is dropping leaves

Guttation in plants (water dropping from leaves)

Fixing common houseplant problems

Houseplant pests and diseases

Getting rid of mold on houseplants

Plant one on me: Common Houseplant Problems on YouTube

Watering

Floragrubb’s watering resource

Colorado State University on watering plants

Houselogic: How to water plants while you’re away

Crazy Plant Guy: When and how much water on YouTube

Reflections on death: A letter about compassion

This is a letter I wrote that I intended to send out to local funeral homes essentially as a cold contact cover letter but I doubted my decision and I’m sitting on it. The letter is edited slightly and does not include the introduction which is specific to the funeral home. It is a short reflection on death and compassion through selected stories I wanted to share. I want to help start a discussion we all need to have but might feel uncomfortable to face. My hope is that we, as a culture, can change our attitudes about death. Instead of considering it a morbid, edgy, or depressive subject I want to shape a discussion that is honest, thoughtful, and considerate to the needs and desires of us future decedents. If you want to learn more about the good death, check out The Order of the Good Death.

Growing up, my mother and I would visit the Lexington Cemetery as other families might stroll around Veterans Park or the Arboretum. Sometimes we would visit family there but many times we simply came to enjoy the peace and sit by the side of the pond gazing at ducks bobbing for fish. I would spend hours reading the names off headstones and wondering about each person and their life.

One year I went alone after Valentine’s Day with some roses for my great aunt’s grave. I ended up not finding my way to the plot but I was determined that someone would get nice flowers. Wondering around I noticed some rather old markers broken down by the elements over the years. I could barely read them. No one seemed to be tending to them. How long have they laid, unnoticed? I divided my roses and set them upon a small row of these markers.

As an undergraduate, I was privileged to join one of my peers in a tour of Bellarmine University’s anatomy lab. Well, “tour” is not the right word. It was a guided visit to where the university housed the donated cadavers participating in human anatomy courses. Before we entered the facility, our group sat through a thorough presentation and discussion of what we prepared to see. At that point, my only experience with decedents had been open casket funerals. They fascinated me but I kept my space. What would it be like to see someone who wasn’t prepared for viewing in the careful, ritualistic, and sterile type of setting I knew? I was nervous. There was a distinct air of solemnity as we held our breath going in. Not because we had some fear of contaminants but because we had approached the unknown. It was the chance of a life time. We put on our gloves and masks as the professors directed us. Most of what they said I do not remember. What I do remember is how I felt. I was in awe of the human body and humbled by the gift the decedents had given us. To see and learn and feel life and death. I will never forget how special that day was.

As an adult, death is never far. The day after I visited the anatomy lab I drove back to Lexington to attend by uncle’s funeral. He was 38. I have held my grandmother through her sobbing at her twin’s funeral. More recently, I had a coworker pass away suddenly this year. I miss him a lot. Sometimes when I drive to my mother-in-law’s house there is a car parked on a nearby street that looks just like his spotless old red Jaguar. Moments like this make it feel like grief never left but went into hiding and decided one day, enough was enough, and it popped out to surprise me.

This is my experience with death. It is always the living who have to deal with the consequences, of course. But I also believe in a deep spiritual need to take care of the dead. I believe that most of us could heal better after the death of a loved one if we can participate directly in funeral rituals and preparation. Some people have such an aversion or traumatic past experiences that they cannot do this and that is okay too. It would be an honor for me to be able to be that person who could step in to take care of your loved one in your time of need. To this end, I have written to you today to ask you to consider me for future openings that you find appropriate.

…And the letter is more or less finished. What do you think? Would this be completely weird to send out? Or is it a letter a funeral director would be delighted to read? I can’t make up my mind.

Lexington, KY plant swap

This event is hosted by Let’s Grow, Lexington’s Houseplant Club. Contact Brittany at letsgrowlex@gmail.com with questions or to join the club. Membership is not necessary to participate. Everyone is welcome!

The Plant Swap is Saturday, Sept 28, 2019 from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm at Woodland Park, 601 E High St, Lexington, KY 40502. Set up will be on the Clay Avenue side of the park at the picnic tables.

In the event of rain, we will move to the central shelter located by the playground.

What to bring: Any healthy and pest-free small plant, cutting, or propagation to trade. Plants may be potted. A small plant would be one that could fit in a shoebox, not including its container.

Great Reads Pt. I of 2019

These are a few of the notable books I spent this Spring and Summer reading that I encourage you to check out. I have provided the title, author, year of first publication, a brief introduction, and some detail on why I enjoyed the book. They are listed by title in alphabetical order.

Eileen Gray. François Baudot (1998). This book is part biography and part exhibition of this artist’s work. Eileen Gray was born in Ireland in 1878 and came to spend her time in Paris and New York. Her expertise was lacquered furniture and her pieces were far ahead of their time. This book includes 52 illustrations.

Eileen Gray side table, couch, and screen. Photo sourced from LZF Lamps Blog.

New Spaces, Old World Charm The Art of Elegant Interiors. Ann Sample (2004). This is another book on design. With 250 full color photos you can look through this as a picture book but there are a great many homes featured that inspired me so much I had to know how they came to be.

Designer Carl D’Aquino. Image by Architectural Digest.

Flora: Inside the Secret World of Plants. Kathy Willis for The Smithsonian (2018). An astonishingly detailed study of plant botany with vivid photos and illustrations. This book will teach you everything you ever wanted to know about how plants work. It held me reading and scribbling notes for countless hours because I had to share what I found.

Image by Summerfield Books.

How to Make a Plant Love You, Cultivate Green Space in Your Home and Heart. Summer Rayne Oakes (2019). This book came out in April this year and I was thrilled to get my hands on it in August. This is not one of those guides that proposes to list the watering schedule and “secrets” of dozens of house plant varieties. Summer invites you to take a far more holistic approach to plant care. She shows you how to reconnect with nature and bring it into your life. How to appreciate, nourish, and cultivate your senses to the needs of life around you.

A detail of the Cook Forest in Pennsylvania, the state where Summer grew up.

Packing and shipping

Whether you’re moving or sending a package it’s important to know how to pack a box properly.

When you mail a package you want to consider–

  • Cost
  • Who packs it and how
  • Ability to find supplies (if applicable)
  • Time in transit
  • Service guarantees
  • Insurance for high price items

Shipping a package at a shipping store

My personal preferences from experience on shippers

In my part of the country USPS, FedEx, and UPS are the big three for both domestic and international shipping. I think all of them offer great services but each has its advantages and disadvantages relative to the others.

  • USPS tends to be far cheaper than the other two as far as I can tell but it usually takes longer for the packages in transit. You can opt for a type of First Class Mail where you don’t get a tracking number and it’s cheaper than Priority Mail. To be honest, I think USPS is the most complex of the three big shippers and it seems to offer more services than the other two. I still get confused on how their system works sometimes.
  • UPS and FedEx are pretty much equivalent to me. You should get a tracking number on every package you send regardless of the service level you choose. In other words, even if you pick the cheapest thing they offer you can still track it. I like that.
  • Ease of contact and when things go wrong: Here’s something a lot of people don’t know when they want to track a package or reschedule it- calling your local UPS or FedEx won’t really help unless you shipped it from that location specifically. The best way to get help is to call 1(800) 463-3339 for FedEx and 1(800) 742-5877 for UPS. As for the US Postal Service, I’ve found their website to be the easiest method for contact.

How to pack items yourself

Recommended packing materials

  • Air-filled bubble rolls
  • Newspaper
  • Cardboard inserts (like wine boxes)

Materials to consider depending on your needs

  • Packing peanuts are going out of style. Several big box stores have discontinued them for environmental reasons. They are still a solid method to protect fragile items.
  • Foam boards are excellent for especially fragile packing needs.
  • Plastic totes and bins are great for moving but beware if you try to ship them on their own. Many companies consider them irregular if they are not inside a cardboard box and cost extra to send.
  • Fragile tape If it’s a reminder to you use it absolutely. If you expect companies to handle your packages with fragile tape any better or differently it’s not going to happen.

Materials to stay away from for fragile packs

  • Plastic grocery bags This one really hurts my brain. I know it’s tempting, they are freely available and cheap, but what exactly are you accomplishing here?
  • Be careful with tea towels and washcloths; they generally do not offer enough protection for fragile items in transit.

Packing a box

  1. Choose the right box for the packing weight. If you are packing a heavy item be sure to check the box manufacturer’s seal found on the bottom of the box. A quality box will tell you its edge crush strength and gross weight limit. Do not exceed the weight limit on a box. Seal the bottom of the box making an “H” with your tape: The inner seam and the two outer seams. For heavier boxes, reinforce with another strap or two across the box.
  2. (for non-vulnerable items skip to step 3) Start by laying down a layer of packing material on the bottom of the box. This could be crumbled newspaper, reused Airpack bubbles, or foam peanuts. Layer your item with its own cushioning material. Be sure to cover edges carefully so your item does not suffer broken tips or scratched edges. Layer packing materials up the side of the box for side protection.
  3. Load your box so that the weight is evenly distributed. You may have to rearrange a few times to get the right fit. An uneven box is more likely to tip and fall over, damaging the contents.
  4. Stuff empty spaces with packing materials. Make it snug but not so tight that it strains the contents or you have to pull really hard to yank an item out. Shake your box lightly. You will be able to tell by the shifting where you need more material. (for non-vulnerable items skip to step 6)
  5. Top off your box with a small layer of your packing materials. You should have materials protecting the bottom, sides, and in between the items. You can take out some material if you end up with too much. Do not stuff your box so full of material that it is hard to close. This makes a weak spot on your box.
  6. Finish your box by sealing the top in an “H” like you did the bottom. Never simply fold the sides in and ship it that way. The sides are likely to collapse when weight is set on them and they are moved around.
  7. Congratulate yourself on a professionally packed box. 👍

Bonus: Classifying packs

Here are some common items you might need to ship and how you might pack them yourself. Note that sometimes you might want to ship both fragile and non-vulnerable items together. When in doubt, especially for irreplaceable or valuable items, ship your fragile item by itself so that your other items don’t have the chance to destroy it when packed together.

Non-vulnerable items generally don’t require any packing materials and are pretty hardy. You may still want to corral them into smaller bags or boxes so they don’t arrive in a mess. These items include books, shoes, curtains, office supplies, pillows, fabric baskets, papers, etc. Note that heavier non-vulnerable items can become projectiles in a box with vulnerable or fragile items.

Vulnerable items will require at least a minimum of wrapping the item so they can’t be scratched, dented, or crushed. Things like reading glasses, jewelry, figurines, etc. Any type of liquid like shampoo or lotion should be placed within a sealed bag to prevent leaks.

Fragile items require the maximum of packing including wrapping the item, providing packing material under, over, and between items, as well as cardboard or foam inserts where necessary. Glass frames (this really extends to about all glassware), porcelain items, fine china, etc.

The take-away

The only thing that will protect your items is how well you pack them and the box(es) you use. Not any sticker, tape, or message written on them. A package is only as strong as its weakest spot. Package your items well and they can survive almost any conditions they will encounter. I hope you found this guide helpful. Please let me know if you have any questions or suggestions to improve it.