For The Troubled, Or, Saturday Morning at 8:22am

It’s been a tough couple of weeks for the world. So, with apologies to Twitter pals, who’ve seen these before, I thought I’d post links to two surprisingly nice pieces.

The first is on Medium, written by a software engineer, of all people. It’s about politeness. Authentic politeness, the kind more closely related to graciousness than protocol. (On a side note, I found it via The Browser, which a reader recommended to me following this post, and I now pass on to you. A site that curates links to thought pieces from around the web – I use the word “curates” advisedly.)

The second I found via Refinery29, of all places. They posted a link to a video at Stylelikeu’s What’s Underneath Project in which Tallulah Willis was interviewed about her eating disorder. As she strips down to her underwear. But I really loved another interview I found there, with Jacky O’Shaughnessy, a model in her 60s. Who also strips down to her underwear. It’s quite moving.

I wish a good weekend to everyone, especially the troubled of any kind.

When It All Begins – Back To School In Teen And Pre-Teen Style

At what point in our lives do we first consider style? Parents dress their babes, grandparents unearth treasures for grandchildren, but big kids start to develop their own tastes as they approach the teen years.

Some, of course, are late bloomers. Hands up. We spent my 6th grade year in London, and I wore a uniform to school, every day. Somehow that got me paying attention as never before. Occasionally we were allowed to wear our own clothes. I remember even now a dress Mom bought me that spring. Imagine London in 1968, cream and orange Liberty flowered cotton, almost canvas, belted low and wide in the same fabric. Brass grommets on the belt holes.

But back at school in California the following year, all the kids wore jeans and tees. My plaid wool pants and Beatle turtlenecks? Over the top. I retreated, cautiously, and spent the next two years in white cords, jeans, and one of two shirts. Better safe than sorry.

Going back to school is always a cauldron for teenage style; we do well to moderate the heat. It’s one of the tricky and important parts of parenting, balancing kids’ need to integrate into a peer group against our longer view of societal norms. I may have said to my pre-teen daughter, at one point, “No dressing like a teenaged prostitute!” I’m a fan of lively dialogue.

What, we might wonder, are teens and pre-teens wearing back to school today? This is a highly localized study, regionally and culturally specific. I had to ask the experts, AKA my youngest sister and two of her kids, for the Los Angeles Teen And Middle School Style Preview. It turns out that binders and pens are the moral equivalent of our scarves and earrings. It’s all in the details.

(Hover/click each cell of the display to see the details. Our UI experiments continue apace.)

 Back-To-School For An L.A. Middle School Girl

Surely we are happy about Dr. Martens returning? And we wonder, will pleated plaid minis be far behind?

Off-To-High School For An L.A. Teenage Boy

Style for most boys may be less complex. But it’s no less rigorous.

And in the rest of the USA? Do teenaged boys wear skater brands like Hurley and Quiksilver? Do pre-teen girls flock the sidewalks in Dr. Martens and their softer and still-ubiquitous cousins, powder blue Uggs? Are our conversations with our children about style as important as the food we feed them? Probably not to that last one. But I’m going to say, in software terms, it’s non-trivial.

Wishing everyone a good school year, with a good right balance of style and substance.


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Planting Under An Oak Tree, Or, California Natives In A Suburban Wasteland

I’ve shown you my California Mediterranean Cottage Garden, out front, and the Wish I Were A Woodland, out back. But, as we used to say, there’s moooooore. Behold The Blasted Wasteland.



Here’s a story. Although somewhat specific to Northern California, I suspect that the plot elements, i.e. a need for privacy, a particular climate, and a forced shift in perspective revealing new choices, might be common to house-owners and gardeners everywhere.

See that neighboring house? It used to be 1-storey, hidden by their hedge. But they remodeled, as people will in the Land-Of-Ever-Soaring-Real-Estate-Prices. Then they cut down the plantings so as to have more lawn. I’ve been grumbling about it ever since.

Because I could now see their windows, and they could by inference see me cavorting round my back yard, I let a volunteering Coast Live Oak grow tall, as a screen. It did a good job. At first. But as it grew taller, I found myself the none-too-happy owner of a nicely framed view of someone else’s bedroom and a “Heritage Tree” that prevented anything I’d previously planted from growing in its shade.

Goodbye small magnolia, take a hike shrub rose.

I vowed to cut down the oak and plant something else. Something nicer. Something greener and tidier. But “Heritage Tree” in my community means applying to the city for permission to remove, or even prune more than 25%. It’s a good thing too. Given that enforced pause, that moment to settle myself and my annoyance, I stayed my hand. Good choice, but some problems in implementation.

On the one hand, the oak is happy, tall, and beautifully shaped. It also loves dry summers, and we’re in a deep drought.  On the other hand, it’s a very demanding piece of vegetation. You can’t water underneath during the summer, you can’t dig around the roots, you can’t plant anything that doesn’t tolerate shade and an acid soil. Oh, and you have to welcome prickly oak leaves on the ground or you’ll lose your mind. So. What to do?

  1. Acknowledge your semi-arid climate
  2. Find yourself a knowledgeable resource
  3. Look up some California natives that do well in the actual ecosystem

Enter Las Pilitas Nursery. An incredible online resource for California native gardening. Really fun tongue-in-cheek plant writing too. I imagine you have a similar nursery for your region, somewhere that specializes in prairie grasses, or swamp-happy trees, or desert wildflowers that bloom once a century.

Here’s what I’m thinking. First, screen out the neighbors with a coffeeberry. It can grow up to 10 feet. Let’s hope.



Then plant a low-growing manzanita variety as ground cover. I don’t want color beyond green, fall-reddening foliage, the occasional dark berry, and pale tinges of pink flowers.



Finally, to rescue the magnolia from its oak-induced suffering, move it to the already-watered-regularly Woodland part of the yard. It may not survive the transplant, but it’s surely not going to make it through the Age Of The Oak. Replace with a Flowering Current. Ribes Indecorum indeed. Deciduous, but it’ll be under a tall and shrubby plum tree, and I think I’ll enjoy the branches emerging come winter.


Gardening presents all sorts of challenges. But the hardest part for me is envisioning a design. I’m sure there are tools, but I can’t find them. So I’m improvising.

Using Photoshop Elements in a rankly amateurish fashion, I pasted some images  from the Las Pilitas site over my photo at top. Go coffeeberry go. I will have to be very careful in the planting, as this will be situated “under the dripline,” as I am learning to say. I’ll to have some conversations with Las Pilitas to see if this will work.


The surprise? Constraints, as often in creative endeavors, reveal new beauties. Hiding a bedraggled fence reveals the beauty of a stark little landscape. In this picture, the pattern of the fallen oak leaves on bare ground become part of the design. Sort of like negative space on a page layout. Intentional and enjoyed.

Besides, if I keep the oak, I keep this view. Do you all like to look up under the canopies of trees? I read somewhere that the random geometries of nature soothe our souls and I believe it.


It looks like a good plan from the rescued tree’s perspective too, looking back at the house. Listen to your plants, says the oak, we may know what we are doing.



And to Robin Williams’ family, we are so sorry for your loss.

The 10 Things I Really Learned In Business School And The 1 Thing I Didn’t, Or, Saturday Morning at 8:44am

I graduated from Columbia Graduate School of Business in 1983. Ever since, the decision’s been a bit of an outlier in my life. After all, in those days and maybe even now, those who aimed high went to Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, or Chicago. Yale, maybe, for non-profit and the arts.

I always aimed high.

But I was young, and without useful mentors, and I made up ideas about my future out of whole cloth. Whole cloth and constructs, that is. What do I mean? I had always wanted to write, but all I knew was that  it couldn’t be fiction. On the other hand, I had once been tempted by conversations of corporate power and finance, overheard during a vacation cocktail hour.

So I darned the two threads together, clumsily, with knots, and decided I wanted to write about business. Made conceptual but not actual sense. The only schools with joint business and journalism degrees were Northwestern and Columbia. I applied to both, and flew off to India for three months. As one does, faced with large life changes.

On my return, I found out I’d been accepted to Northwestern, in full, and Columbia, but only at the business school. The man I had met recently and hoped to marry (who became my first husband), would be attending his graduate program on the East Coast. And so I chose to stay close, as one does, when faced with large life changes and no guidance.

Bye bye journalism.

This decision, so casually made, oh, I have a boyfriend and I want to marry that boyfriend, and therefore I’d better not move too far away, has profoundly affected the course of my life. In ways I could never have foreseen. Do I regret it? No. No, I don’t. Even though I’ve realized that my temperament does not align terribly well with corporate structures, I benefited from that fire, a little charred but still breathing.

And I did learn a few things in business school. And, as in any case when one lands on a far planet, sometimes stuff I didn’t expect. As requested:

The 10 Things I Really Learned In Business School

  1. From Finance. There is a curve called Risk and Return. On average, for a higher return you’re going to have to take a higher risk. Get ready.
  2. From Management of Organizations. Any group of more than 25 people will develop factions. You are going to have to posit a super-ordinate goal, something that everyone cares about and can work towards together.
  3. Value propositions, from Marketing.  Never go too far into new product development without understanding who is going to want it and why. Figure out how to articulate that, early on. (Business school didn’t teach us how easily people forget they have customers. That we learn later.)
  4. People in power sometimes reward attitude over performance. Off-curriculum. I took a strategy class that I ate for breakfast, conceptually. The professor gave me a B and when I asked him why he said, “You always acted as though you already knew the ideas and were bored.” He had a point.
  5. If you’re on a team and the team fails you can’t succeed by doing your part quietly. I took a course in Managing Innovation. The professor liked my work enough that he nominated me as a fellow in the National Something Or Other and sent me to a bigwig conference. I found the agenda the other day, in a box. But come time for the small group final project, my team members dropped the proverbial ball. I did my bit and no more. Again, a B. I didn’t like Bs. I should at least have gone to the professor and told him what was happening.
  6. Accounting is not English and it’s not math, which makes it easy for those who understand it to fool the rest of us. In other words, large-scale financial chicanery is a given as long as humans are greedy. Expect it. Forever, I think.
  7. Make your ideas known. That’s how talented people find you. For example, I talked a lot in Management of Organizations. It was about people, after all. At the start of a subsequent class on Competitive Strategy, one of the best in the school, 3 guys I didn’t know approached me and said, “Be on our team. We like how you thought in MO.” But I lacked the necessary course background. Those 3 guys, familiar with the professor, got him to waive the requirements. Best day ever.
  8. The concept of heuristic solutions. Operations Research revealed that even those good with numbers often guess, and iterating towards an imperfect but improving solution is a legitimate approach. Although data science has advanced since 1983, the lesson that it’s OK to guess at numbers, as long as you detail your assumptions, made all sorts of things possible.
  9. From Statistics. Numbers draw pictures, and can therefore be understood. Oh the joys of a probability curve.
  10. All economic systems are made up of very large numbers and very complex interactions. We weren’t close, then, to predicting the stock market or the global economy. I don’t know if we are even now.

What’s the one important thing I didn’t learn in business school?

  1. You have to learn to fight without bleeding all over the place.

When you first start, all high performance and belief in authority, you’ll do great. You’ll get promoted, fast. Lots of praise and bonuses. But one day you’ll rise high enough in the organization to become a target for someone. Might be an insecure boss, might be an ambitious and unscrupulous subordinate, might be a raging bully of a coworker. But it’s going to happen. They’re coming.

If you bow down and take it, you lose. If you wheedle and placate, you lose. If you speak out too passionately against the injustice, you lose. Learn to fight without spilling blood. At least your own.

It’s a funny thing, really, a thin-skinned ragingly analytical aesthete with an MBA. But oxymorons are us, we humans, and I have found that invention happens at the margins of what you know and what you don’t. Not everyone needs to go so far as to attend graduate school and a forge entire career in alien territory, but I don’t know that sticking firmly in the familiar is better, in the end.

Have a wonderful weekend. No fight required.


Introducing Abe’s Market – Living Lightly On The Earth

If we’re talking values and virtue, as occasionally we seem to do, I have to talk about living lightly on the planet. In my house we compost, we recycle. That’s easy, our county offers the services and we comply. I also try to buy green. That can be trickier.

The commercial world took a turn without looking, I think. In the interests of feeding and housing large numbers of people, we invented mass production. Good news, bad news. Material suppliers focused on supplying more features at less cost across multiple supply chains. Unfortunately, they began to incorporate practices and ingredients that, as it turns out, harm the world.

And thus, us.

This is elementary stuff, news to none of you. But it’s not always elementary to make the decisions that let our economic weight effect change. I’ve often wished there were a phone app I could ask, “Plastic or paper?” “Made in Indonesia or in Poland?” “Do I really need to unplug the toaster when I leave the house?” But in the absence of EcoAnswers®, we might take a look at Abe’s Market.

Started by two friends with backgrounds in online retail, technology, and marketing, Abe’s Market wants to be “the online marketplace for great natural products.” They source environmentally-sensitive goods from small businesses, and remarket them online. They’ve done a bang-up job with the site’s user experience. The interface is quick to the touch, images well-presented. Search could use a little work, but there’s always Google.

I do love well-designed software.

Above you’ll see a few of the kind of beauty and house products I like and would use myself. Some of these are on sale, shipping is free for any order totaling over $25.

  1. Lavender shaving gel. Say no more. High WASP men make a religion out of shaving, High WASP women just whisper the hair away. Right?
  2. A duvet cover constructed of organic cotton and vegetable dyes.
  3. Glass water bottle. Perfect to leave in the car. Apparently sun’s heat can leach chemicals into some plastic bottles, and we all know about the waste from the disposable sort.
  4. Mascara. I use Dr. Hauschka at the moment but it’s expensive. This is only $9.50.
  5. Organic Darjeeling tea. I cannot live without tea.
  6. Dish soap, in bergamot. I don’t like sweet smells when I’m washing dishes, so let’s give a warm welcome to bergamot’s astringency.

I shop a lot at Whole Foods. However, although their success has been good for the entire industry of organic foods, and sustainable sourcing, I think by now we know that letting one big corporation own a market serves no one in the long run. Also known as, markets fail in monopolies. So I would like to support another national branded source for environmentally sensitive goods. Thoughts?



Affiliate links may provide commissions. I should note that I am also experimenting with affiliate platforms and interfaces, because you can take the girl out of  software but you can’t take software out of the girl. Thank you.

LPC Is At Corporette Today

Never rains but it pours, with guest posting. Today I’m over at Corporette talking about retirement planning. And it’s not the sort you might expect. Although I have to remember, it’s hard to surprise you guys. See you over there, if you’ve got a minute.

LPC Is At “How I Wear My…”

Today I, with a host of other bloggers, am over at Adrienne’s blog, Rich Life On A Budget. It’s time for the monthly feature she hosts, along with Jill at Everything Just So, in which you can see multiple outfits on one theme. These month it’s “How I Wear My White.”  I’m in the white tee and shorts you saw in the Bottega Veneta Hobo review, with a little more explanation of the outfit and motivation. Others are wearing everything from white jeans to white button-fronts to wispy white dresses. Take a look here, or here for more, and consider dressing in white. I wouldn’t have gone beyond t-shirts, a few years ago, but it feels quite right for 2014.

7 Interior Shots I Could Actually Live In

You all have been so great talking to me about my house design project. I felt a little bad that my response has often been, “Great idea, but probably not my taste.” Then, almost like the iconic slap upside the head, I realized I hadn’t ever made my taste clear. At least not in houses. Tsk, tsk, Sturdy Gal.

In part, as we’ve discussed, that’s because my house aesthetic is even more freighted with cultural and class references than my wardrobe. I can articulate the High WASP Style Archetypes because they have developed in response to an audience, a social context. Houses? Well, as I’ve said, houses are private. Words hard to come by, in description.

So we move on to photos. Fortunately, in 2014, not hard to find. But there are so many pretty pictures, and so few in which I would want to live. Is it common to find photos that you want to move into? It was possible in fashion. Or perhaps after so many years of scanning fashion mags I’d learned to see the real outfit behind the style photos.

In any case, behold 7 interior shots I could actually inhabit. Most culled from my Pinterest feed, so not new to all of you. However, let us run the images through our fingers like wheat and see what remains. Sometimes the chaff is what you want.

White paint, worn leather, a little sprawl of fabric, some blue.
Wood floors, “Oriental” carpets, light and white, a box resting casually under the chair as though it might be needed for something important in just a minute.
Irregular stone tile floors, natural materials rug, a color I think of as Old Town Stockholm Ochre, and family portraits. India Hick’s house in England, where I imagine one needs wall color in the absence of a California sky.
Surfaces that could sustain clutter if they had to, a rich texture of colors. Serene, almost minimal, but in no way cold. More blue. That one’s by Boy Darling, IRL the exceptionally talented Bruce Shostak.
Heart Of Light Workspace

Practical. Objects of work presented as they are. White surfaces, simple wall shelving, subtle mid-century chairs, industrial light fixture, and yet more natural fibers on the floor. From Heart of Light, a blogger who writes about food, design, life, and who really lives in that photo.


A place in the country, the nook an homage to breakfasts. Here, I’d have to change out that lampshade unless it came from Aunt Priscilla in which case it’s staying forever.


And then of course the Platonic ideal, Mom’s living room in Santa Barbara. Or Dad’s dining room, for that matter.

Not that I really want swords, I don’t. They come with the territory. So, yes, I cheated and chose 8, but we’ll combine the parental spaces into one ür-home of the heart, shall we?

What over-arching principles to infer? I find these.

  • A love of natural materials.
  • Surfaces that can sustain the stuff of living, and much of that stuff already in view, but ordered.
  • No “named” style, but not quite what they call “eclectic” these days. A mix of the modern and the classic, but a touch rustic.
  • Serene but warm.
  • Colors but layered in tones, rather than contrast and “pops.”
  • Histories of many decades.
  • Little pretense, not affected, not formal, not twee.
  • Many references to the houses of my family, even now.

You who are so much more deeply educated in this process, you may deconstruct those photos and find yet more principles and guidance. Tell me how to describe my taste. I am so curious.

Photo credits:

Traditional Basement by Barrie Interior Designers & Decorators Staples Design Group via Houzz
Joan & Jim’s Lovely, Artful Home (Santa Barbara) via Apartment Therapy
India Hicks and “The Grove” via Domino
Home Office by Bruce Shostak via Shostak & Company
Workspace via Heart of Light
Origin unknown via Pinterest and Fagin’s Daughter Tumblr

Getting My Body Back In My Fifties, Or, Saturday Morning at 9:19am

All The Freeds And One Pair Of Block

When I look back to my resolutions earlier this year, a few things hit me smack in the face. To you, my board of directors, a progress report. Not quite mid-year, but what’s a month between friends?

The first slide, in bullet points, reads:


I have not yet donated the $1K to Dress For Success.  I am trying to give appreciated securities and the administrative details have been tricky. I’m going to try again and I will succeed. After all, I promised. Nor have I started volunteering, in this case because I’ve occupied those planned time slots with working on a possible new company. (Details to follow once we know the outcome, no matter whether it’s a yay or a nay, I’ll report.)

As I plan to also tell you what I’ve done well, and give you some advice, that may be useful to know thatI’m better at taking care of myself and those near to me than taking care of the wide world.

Minor Progress

Where have I made a little progress? I figured out how to sell on eBay, theoretically, thanks to Alicia, and I’m halfway through photographing all 10 pairs of my daughter’s unused ballet shoes. (With time outs for creative fancy, as you can see above.) However, I’ve also figured out that to really succeed on eBay you have to establish trust. That’s a lot of work. So I may sell any notable clothes here on the blog, where I’ve staked my real claim to trustworthiness, and donate non-notable but good clothes to charity.

Back to the resolutions. I realized I didn’t want to write a book unless someone begged me. I would love to have written a book, and to be basking in the certain glory of wide readership (insert sarcasm icon), but I am too impatient for the long form and there we have it. Still to try, articles for print.

Major Progress

I’ve made lots of progress in terms of organization and house tasks. So much that I decided to redo our interiors, as you know, and blog about it. Which has helped me to keep writing, another resolution. In the interest of a complete my status report, I can confirm that I am taking care of my still-new husband.

The second slide, perhaps with visuals, reads,

Goal Achieved!

This is why we’re really here today, in the imaginary board room, lights dimmed and projector blaring. I did sign up for a personal trainer, and I did keep walking. I want to urge you all, if you don’t do it already, to start strength and flexibility training, and maybe spend some time in flat shoes.

I haven’t lost any weight, I don’t look much different in clothes, this isn’t about style. It’s about preparing to get older. From what I can see, old age in health has its joys. Old age in illness is very hard. I once wrote a post about laying the foundation for your 50s when you’re 20 or 30. As I’ve said, now I want to lay the foundation for my 80s, should I be so fortunate as to live that long.

I know that the last thing you need is another exhortation to exercise. So let me try to be specific. I spend 1 hour twice a week at the trainer’s. That’s it. After 6 months I’m stronger, more flexible, and far more happy in my body. My shoulder injury is pretty much rehabilitated, and old pains in my foot, ankle, and hip are lessening. I am far less stiff than I was.

No miracles. I’m still nigh-on 58. I should still work my heart rate harder. One can always do better. But boy do I feel good. And that was my over-arching goal. My thought is to learn this program so well, and become so habituated, that by the end of the year I can take it home. Or to a yoga studio, where I will no longer struggle in the poses.

What would you need, if you wanted to do this at home now? The time. A little space. And I think the following equipment would be enough. We could probably manage with nothing, but I find the props helpful for focus and even entertainment. I look really funny crab-walking with big rubber bands at my ankles.

  • Some hand weights (3lb, 5lb, and maybe a 10lb would probably be right for most of us)
  • A foam roller (amazing for loosening tight spots before a workout)
  • A mat (unless you don’t mind lying on the floor/rug)
  • BOSU ball (for balance exercises)
  • Bands

And then you’d need guidance, of course, as I’ve needed the trainer. But there must be reputable books out there, or good YouTube videos. Maybe a reader has recommendations? If it would be helpful to hear about my sessions, feel free to email me or tell me in the comments and I’ll go into detail another day.

Getting my body back has been the single best thing about not working. And I could have done it previously if I’d only focused. Ah well, at least there’s now. There’s always now, until there isn’t any more.

Have a wonderful weekend.

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Reviewing A Classic, The Bottega Veneta “Veneta” Large Hobo In Blue

Do you all remember when I was looking for a blue handbag? To go with both brown and black shoes? Maybe orange ones? As it turned out, in an act of extreme originality, I stuck with Bottega Veneta. Below, the brand’s Large Hobo, AKA the “Veneta.” The name suggests Volkswagen might name one of their cars “Wagen,” but why not?

As one might expect from a Sturdy Gal, the joys of luxurious materials and craftmanship are almost outweighed by sheer practicality. Look how it takes to suburban life.  Say hi to the Rav4, Ms. Veneta, and wave to the white-flowered oleander.


The name of this dusty, grayed, a-little-mauve-in-some-lights hue? “Blue.” Not Electric, not Navy, just Blue. In fact it’s the color of denim, and registers very Southern Hemisphere to me. Think Florida, Texas. Were I buying now for fall I’d probably choose Aubergine. But I’ll carry my little bit of Imaginary Miami right through our rainy season. We have umbrellas in the suburbs, we have cars, we go in and out of buildings.


While I wanted no logo, I’m OK with the characteristic woven “intrecciato” leather as an identifying design element.  And the shape works perfectly on the shoulder. So comfortable. Wear it behind you, on a slant. I’d tell you to be sure and zip it closed, but you all are smart.


The bag sits in comfort if not glamor on the passenger side of the Rav4.


Even a relatively short person like me can hold it in hand without the dreaded bag drag.

Finally, should you be headed to the airport, as I was recently, you can pack in an iPad, a book, and all modern cons. The bag’s interior is one large space (with a small virtually useless “phone flap” and a very useful zippered pocket for storing your keys as you travel far from home.)

The saleswoman at Neiman Marcus told me her customers reordered this year after year, because it is so comfortable. I have no doubt that’s true, probably in different colors every time.


If you like this Southern blue, I find it online now only in the medium Veneta. However, Neiman Marcus carries all sorts of colors, even Fuchsia, and you can occasionally find the brand on MyHabit, if you are registered there.

Other stuff: Sunglasses | Costco, T-shirt | Banana Republic (they make a great tee on sale for $10), Shorts | UNIQLO (sold out online), Shoes | Rieker (similar at Zappos), Earrings | 20 years old from De Novo (not disssimilar), Wood watch | JORD,  Jacket | UNIQLO de la Fressange (sold out online) Car | Toyota Rav4, profanely memorialized as the dorkiest car in the universe here, by Kanye West. Affiliate links may generate commissions, although not for Kanye, sorry dude.