Polished Concrete Fire Pit Table

This is a very cool idea for a concrete table with a fire pit embedded in the middle. Imagine a small pinon wood fire to keep off the mosquitoes or roasting a few marshmallows at the table. Very hippy.

A Bit Different

A polished concrete fire pit table made with Oak, sea shells, marbles, crushed glass, crushed slate, a white cement and aggregate mix with glass fibre strands and Nylon mesh for strength and phenolic insulation to make it more lightweight

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The littlest parks could make the biggest civic changes

Maybe it’s time for the parklet to take root in Houston, and help cool off the heat island effect.

Grist

Eight years after the first “parklet” occupied a parking space in San Francisco as an act of protest, these mini-parks have become a favorite “placemaking” tool of urbanists across the country. A little wood platform, some sod, tables and chairs, and boom, you’ve got a new urban park — so long as you keep feeding the meter.

In San Francisco, parklets have graduated from do-it-yourself novelties to government-sanctioned parts and parcels of the urban landscape, with a little influence from New York City plazas and European open-streets movements. “We took this Park(ing) Day model, which is really an act of civil disobedience, and we sort of codified it, institutionalized it, and made it like a legal thing to do,” says Paul Chasan, the parklet program manager in the San Francisco Planning Department.

Yes, San Francisco has a parklet program. It’s called “Pavement to Parks.” And with 40 parklets on…

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Looking at Invisible Things Differently

A former boss once talked to me about “scotomas”. He described them as things you see everyday, but don’t notice or just look past them. They are mental blind spots. I love it when someone takes one of those scotomas and holds it up for investigation and improvement. Parking lots are a great example of something we use everyday, but rarely think about their design or utility. Here’s a great article from “The Dirt” which was mentioned this morning on Grist.org. It’s an awesome look at what parking lots could be, and a study of how they came to be what they are.

Flexibility is Key

Here’s a great NY Times article on why employers should really consider flexible work hours as a key component of recruiting and retention efforts. We just started trying to be more flexible this spring and it took several months of hand wringing before we could at least partially implement flexible hours. Teleworking has been in place at our work site for a long time, but is only used by a few.  We now do Flex Fridays which encourages everyone to get their 80 hours in nine days and take every other Friday off. It works great when you throw in a Thursday July 4th Holiday. What a great, long weekend. A great employee benefit in my opinion.

Top Five Ways to Almost Work on Vacation

First, there is no such thing as a working vacation. You are either immersed in your leisure time, or you are pretending to be while you try to work out those nagging issues in your head. The latter tends to irritate your spouse or children as they would like to see you enjoying the vacation as much as they are. Ducking away to answer emails, make conference calls etc. only detracts from your primary purpose, relaxation and enjoyment.

I’ve found it almost impossible to totally disconnect the two (work and leisure) but I have discovered a few ways to limit or minimize the distraction of work while on vacation. Keeping in touch with work, at least minimally, helps me to relax and enjoy my vacation in some ways as it reassures me that things aren’t imploding in my absence. They never implode in reality, but I’m a worrier by nature and can’t keep that fear from nagging at me while I’m away.

So here are five things that I do to help myself relax on vacation, while maintaining cognizance of what’s happening back at the salt mines.

1. Go light. I don’t carry a big laptop, lots of files, or anything heavy with me on vacation. Heavy laptop equals heavy workload. I usually only carry my work phone (iPhone) and a mini iPad. That ensures that I don’t get involved in developing huge spreadsheets of data because it’s just too inconvenient. I can look at the data you sent and comment, but I can’t do the heavy lifting myself. It also contributes to the “I can check in, but nothing more” mindset.

2. Set aside specific time late in the evening or very early in the morning to process emails or actions. Ideally this is before everyone else gets up or has gone to bed. This is inconvenient for me, but convenient for everyone else. If I feel a need to do a little work it shouldn’t interfere with anyone’s play time. Be flexible also. If an unexpected fun activity breaks out in the evening, don’t excuse yourself to go work. Just figure that you’ll be up a little earlier catching up in the morning.

3. Delegate well. This actually helps to eliminate a lot of the clutter that normally takes up your time. A great deputy or stand-in back at the office can deal with the large majority (if not all) of the daily tasks that consume your time. This allows you to focus on the few things that might really need your input or that your stand-in doesn’t feel comfortable doing on their own. Resist the urge to jump in a conversation that your deputy is handling, that’s what they are there for. You can read it so that you feel informed, but just don’t try to work it for them. Your primary purpose is vacation after all.

4. Glance at emails when you can. This helps you delete, delete, delete all of the email clutter you get so you aren’t faced with a huge pile of reading at some point. Clear the crap during the day in short bursts and that will reduce the “special time” you need in the evening to stay on top of things. Step away from the group to do this. No one wants to see you fiddling with your phone when you should be enjoying their company.

5. Misspell a lot. That lets folks know you are on vacation and typing on a little phone and subconsciously reduces the number of times they bother you with stuff they should have taken care of anyway.

Vacation entails a loss of control over your work environment and this can be a difficult detachment. It’s especially hard if you are a control freak. I try to think of it as a different kind of work opportunity. A way to clear myself of the minutia of the daily grind to focus on the big picture items. A time to let my mind wander around with different stimuli and discover the solutions that never would have appeared in my normal course of business. Relaxation also helps me to rededicate myself to do a better job when I return. Vacation is good, I highly recommend it.