Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Tiny Trees and Big Wishes

Living in a tiny house is fun. Sometimes the constraints of being in a small space make for creative solutions... like our Tiny House Christmas Tree. In the past we've had ornaments on a mobile hanging from the livingroom ceiling and lights strung all around.

Up here in Seattle it's getting colder (and we even have a bit of snow in the forecast), but we're toasty and comfortable in our tiny space.

Below is a link to an animation. It is in response to the question:

What would happen if everybody posted or tweeted a single word on a single day?

Could it raise awareness? Would it help folks stop, for one minute, even one second, and consider how the world could be different?

Of course, there are a billion reasons why we might not all post / tweet the same word on the same day.

But what if?

Wishing all of you Happy Holidays and a happy, healthy and peacefilled New Year.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Living large in a tiny house

Part of the point of building a tiny house has been for us to have affordable housing while I have been a PhD student at the University of Washington. But there have been unexpected perks. One of which is focus. A by product of down-sizing is that I have less stuff to distract me, which has meant that I have more focus that I can apply to things that are important to me. One of which has been my education. So what do I study? Networks.

A post I did on this blog a while ago provided a very brief network analysis of the tiny house blog network. More recently I have been working in the SOcial MEdia Lab at the University of Washington's iSchool to visualize Twitter retweet networks. Retweet networks are networks that arise out of the data traces that are left when one person retweets another person. By visualizing these networks researchers can better understand human communication on these new social platforms - like Twitter.

If you have ever taken a basic statistics class you can imagine how this might work. Statisticians have long encouraged students to make plots of their data as a tool for helping them make sense out of their data. The very process of making a visualization requires interacting with the data in ways that can help students better understand what is in the data. Of course, without understanding histograms and distributions the plot to the left isn't going to make much sense, but that is part of the learning process. And it is exactly what I have been doing for the last few years: learning about networks.

I wrote a blog post recently about whether or not network graphs were art or useful data visualization. In that post I briefly talk about some of the things that can be gleaned from inspecting a network plot. I also just wrote a post about some of the challenges of interpreting network visualizations. But I know that I am also drawn to the aesthetic appeal of these graphics. My most recent effort has been to animate a retweet network over time to show the dynamic nature of these types of networks. I have embedded it here just for fun.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Here is a more detailed follow up post...

Yes, we both still live happily together in the house. It's been almost 3 years and things are still going well.

People have asked about us about the lack of space and if it causes us to get on each others nerves. We really enjoy each others company so the answer is no. We're at work/school as much as anyone else and we also meet with friends and go places. Our joke when someone asks about privacy: When we need privacy, we simply turn around so that we don't see the other person. I think that you need a sense of adventure and humor to live in a place this small after having always lived in larger places. We are also aware that most of the world's population lives smaller than Americans do. Some people would think our place is big for only 2 people!

What we've changed:
Our 2 person sized antique settee (it fit through the door!) was donated to a thrift store and we now have sectional seating. This seating also serves as a guest bed for the occasional out of town visitor. We've had 3 overnight visitors so far, obviously not on the same weekend.

We haven't invited many people over for dinner since we've lived in this house though, and we kind of miss that, so we're thinking of who and when. We have added a few kitchen appliances since we moved in. We started out with a refrigerator, stove top, juicer, dehydrator and a microwave. I've added a blender and a slow cooker. We're ready for anything now.

Last years garden was great and this year's is shaping up too! Funny thing what some fertilizer can do!! We're growing beets, carrots, chard, kale, spinach, corn (I didn't know that many ears grow on each stalk), peas, green beans, zucchini, cherry tomatoes, pumpkins, cucumbers, onions, potatoes and wild flowers. Recently we were out there weeding, hand tilling in the compost we've made from our kitchen scraps and yard cuttings and planting seeds. It's looking great!

We've painted the house interior to off-white so that it's brighter inside during Seattle's (many, many) gloomy, grey months. I'm so glad that we originally installed the operable skylight. In the winter it adds lots of light and in the summer it keep the place cool inside with the aid of opening the sleeping loft window.

This past summer we also painted the house exterior a light brown. The redwood exterior didn't stand up well to the Seattle elements and needed to be better protected. We gave up on the clear coating that we've redone 2 years in a row. We'll add a window trim color this summer.

Last weekend we changed our desk setup. We had thought that we'd both need desk space so along one wall of the 'living room' we had a desktop and two chairs. I never used the desk and Jeff has found that a standing desk works better for him. We took out the desktop and nearby kitchen counter, cut the long desktop at a 45 degree angle and installed it as the kitchen counter replacement. Jeff loves it and now we have room for an arm chair to sit and read in between the front door and heater which makes me happier.

It snowed a couple of times in Seattle last winter but inside our house it was a 65-70 degrees though outside was as low as 28 degrees. We used the Dickenson wall mounted boat heater in the evenings if we needed more heat, but used a wall mounted, low energy usage, Envi convection heater convection heater at other times. It's safe to leave on while we're gone so the interior never got chilly.

We've talked about replacing the outside vent on the front of the house with a stained glass window that opens. We either need to find the right size or one of us needs to take a class and make one. We currently have a fan connected to that vent that goes from inside to outside intended to remove the warm air in summer time. We've used it only once since the skylight seems to do a better job and the fan is noisier than we'd like.

We'll try to post more frequently!

Jeff & Arlene

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Quick Update on a Warm Seattle Day

Well, we haven't posted anything in quite a while. Busy life up here, but people often ask for an update. We get questions like, "are you still living in the tiny house?", and sometimes from skeptics, "so, uh, how is it, living in there?"Well, we still love it. We built it and it means something to us in addition to being a good place to live.

Perhaps this isn't the best picture for summer, but when the snow piled up in January, we stayed cozy inside and spent about $50 for heating and hot water all winter. Our life is simpler and we see things differently than we did before started this journey in 2009. No, we probably won't live in it forever, but certainly for a few more years.