• Art Fair Visitor Breaks Jeff Koons Balloon Dog Sculpture

    Mr. Boero said that in the aftermath of the fall, while he was speaking with fair organizers, one of his colleagues spoke to the woman who knocked over the sculpture. “She said, ‘I’m very, very sorry,’ and she just wanted to disappear,” he said.

    The shards of the sculpture are now stored in a box, waiting for an insurance company to review them, said Mr. Boero, who had a diplomatic outlook on the incident.

    He noted, with a laugh, that the number of these blue balloon dog sculptures had now shrunk to 798, from 799, increasing their rarity and therefore value. “That’s a good thing for the collectors,” he said.

    Art Fair Visitor Breaks Jeff Koons Balloon Dog Sculpture – The New York Times

    Don’t touch the art, people!

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  • The times, they are changing

    This is one of those pictures where what isn’t in it is more important than what is.

    On that spot is where our changing pad for the boys has been since before they were even living in that room (they didn’t come home right away, and when they did they slept in our room in tiny little bassinets. So cute!). And today, Marisa removed it.

    Why? Because we no longer need it! We have two little humans who are pretty good at using the bathroom. If you aren’t a parent you’ll have no idea how much of your time to spend dealing with, talking about, and speculating about your children’s bodily waste. This is yet another step in the long journey of me not having much (if any) responsibility around it.

    This is very exciting.

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  • When you’re here, you’re family. Until you’re fired.

    I find it super annoying when companies tell their staff that they are like a “big family.” It is meaningless and downright insulting.

    Salesforce has really embraced the whole family thing. Which makes laying off a bunch of people a little odd:

    Last month, Salesforce said it would lay off 10 percent of its staff, a decision that seemed to go against Mr. Benioff’s repeated declarations that the company was one big family.


    Marc Benioff goes on to say that Salesforce has laid people off before, and some times families can be tough.

    True, though I’ve never been laid off from my family.

    At least Marc seems to not be one of those billionaires in a bubble caused by tremendous wealth and power. Let’s keep reading the article:

    It was a rough month at Salesforce. Mr. Benioff went to one of his favorite places, French Polynesia, for a 10-day digital detox.

    I’m sure he probably took his family with him. And none of the laid off employees. Because they aren’t his family.

    Now, I should say that Benioff has done lots of good with his money, and I applaud him for that. I just find the whole “we are a family!” Until profits dip slightly to be gross. Just be real: your employees are paid to do a job. They get compensated for that. You want the company to be a nice place to work, but it is really all about profits at the end of the day.

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  • Get those kids into the meat freezers… for the economy.

    As local economies grapple with a tightening labor market, some state legislatures are looking to relax child labor protections to help employers meet hiring needs.

    It’s part of a persistent trend in labor economics, experts say. When employers struggle to find talent, many prefer to hire younger, cheaper workers rather than increase pay and benefits to attract adults.

    “Because of the high demand for workers, where there are holes in the system, unfortunately child laborers can get caught up in staffing some of those holes,” said David Weil, a professor of social policy and management at Brandeis University, and a former wage and hour administrator at the Department of Labor.

    Legislators in Iowa and Minnesota introduced bills in January to loosen child labor law regulations around age and workplace safety protections in some of the country’s most dangerous workplaces. Minnesota’s bill would permit 16- and 17-year-olds to work construction jobs. The Iowa measure would allow 14- and 15-year-olds to work certain jobs in meatpacking plants.

    In a tight labor market, some states look to another type of worker: Children

    Here I thought that we, as a society, agreed that children shouldn’t work in dangerous places, like meat packing plants.

    I forgot that we shouldn’t want those dear little companies to have to do something like pay competitive rates in order to attract workers. That wouldn’t be good for the economy because… of reasons.

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  • Apple Watch Ultra on my not so Ultra wrist

    Yesterday I had to go to the Apple Store to get my 5-day-old Beat Flex headphones fixed (that’s for another blog post, but I assumed they would just give me a new set, but they had to send them out for repair since I bought them from Target).

    While I was there I thought I’d see if the Apple Watch Ultra looked silly on my wrist. If I thought it looked ok I was thinking about buying one since I’m an extreme athlete (ok, I just like orange). The Apple person helping me said she bought a Series 8 because she thought the Ultra was too big and ugly. Until she saw one in person (she was wearing one).

    Long story short – I ended up spending a lot of money getting my $50 headphones fixed.

    Though I do like that orange band, so it was all worth it. And it makes my wrists look so slender!

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  • That’s about right, Sammy.

    Can I tell you a secret?


    *whispers* I love you.

    Can I tell you a secret?


    *whispers* I love Big City Engine.

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  • 1440 ad, ya got me!

    I took a screenshot of this ad that showed up in one of my ebook deal daily newsletters because I thought it was so odd. But it did get to me to check out 1440, and then I even signed up for it!

    I guess women with fake(?) eyepatches get me to do things. Who knew?

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  • Can’t add Wordle words

    With the current version of Wordle, we can’t add words — we can only remove and reorder the words John Wardle had programmed. We remove words if they’re too obscure or have a derogatory secondary meaning.

    I’m the New York Times Editor Who Edits Wordle. I Love My Job.

    I don’t know why I find it funny that the New York Times can’t add any words to Wordle the way it is currently configured, but I do.

    The editor sounds like a very nice person though, and I’m a very happy, if not good, Wordle player.

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  • I don’t know what I meant by that…

    Despite all appearances, I do put some thought into what I post on this blog. I have a list of potential blog posts in Dynalist, and the Amazon air quality monitor idea was on that list.

    When an idea hits me I pop it on the list. Sometimes I will put ideas about the post under the title, and that’s what happened here. I do remember thinking of this phrase and thinking it was perfect. But for the life of me I can no longer remember why I thought it was so clever.

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    Amazon Smart Air Quality Monitor

    Did you know that Amazon makes an air quality monitor? I didn’t!

    Then I saw an ad for one on Amazon’s front page, and I thought I’d plunk down the $70 to see if it was worth it. And is the Amazon Smart Air Quality Monitor really all that smart? Did it live up to my rather modest investment? Do I actually need an air quality monitor? Read on!

    I should note that the Amazon Smart Air Quality Monitor isn’t a stand-alone device. You have to either use an Echo device of some sort or the Alexa app on your phone to set up/use this device.

    Yes, that means if you don’t want to have Amazon “listening devices” in your home, you won’t be able to use this device. Thems the breaks! There are many other, much more expensive, air quality monitors out there for you!

    Now, the reason I even thought about getting an air quality monitor is that I’m a modern parent living through a pandemic. The air is out to get everyone! Plus, we had wondered if the air was alright in the boys’ room.

    We do have these air purifiers in most of the rooms in our apartment, so I didn’t really think that there was a problem, but if I can get a relatively cheap gadget to monitor a problem that I don’t have, you know, I’m going to do it!

    Before I saw the ad on Amazon.com, I had no idea I wanted an air quality monitor at all, to be honest. Once I realized I could get one on the cheap, I was mostly looking for reassurance that the air in my children’s room wasn’t killing them. I’m not an air quality expert, so I can’t assess this product on how accurate it is, but I can tell you if it is easy to set up (yes), easy to use (yes), and if I’d recommend it.

    The Amazon Air Quality Monitor samples the air and measures the temperature (handy), humidity, Particulate Matter (little bits of floating crap), CO, and Volatile Organic Compounds (little bits of organic crap). It takes all of this information and generates an Indoor Air Quality score (higher is better) to give you a sense of how worried you should be. If you have more than one of these tiny sensors (they are really small!), you get an overall score that’s an average and then individual scores for each room.

    Set up

    The AQM (as I will now call it) is surprisingly small, which makes sense since I suppose it just needs a little fan to suck in air and some sensors to analyze said air. The box includes a power adaptor and a micro USB cable which is pretty long (I assume you can also probably power it via a power USB hub if you wanted to, but I just plugged it into the wall).

    This is a “Certified for Humans” device, which is an Amazon program promising that this device won’t be complicated to set up. I assumed this was just marketing BS, but I was wrong.

    When you first buy the AQM, you can associate the AQM with your Amazon account out of the box by checking a box as you add it to your Amazon cart. I opted for that because I’m all about vertical Amazon integration in my life, and if you buy one of these for yourself, I suggest you keep that box checked.

    Why? Thanks to that little checkbox, I opened up the box, placed the AQM where I wanted it, and it magically just set itself up with my Echos. The AQM showed up in my Alexa app; I didn’t have to do a darned thing!

    Spoiler alert: I ended up buying another one, and there was some lag when it was setting itself up, so I thought I had to do it manually. The manual process involves opening the Alexa app on your phone and scanning a QR code included with the device. As I was doing that for the second AQM, I got an alert that it had set itself up. Magic delayed is still magic!

    Once set up is complete, it calibrates itself for a couple of minutes, and then you’re ready to obsess over your air quality.

    At this point, I’d suggest you pop into the AQM’s settings (I’ll take about more of these later) and change the name to something meaningful to you. I’m boring, so I just name my after the room that they are in, which makes it easy for me to quickly see what’s what, but you do you.


    This Air Quality Monitor is all about keeping things simple, so it has three categories that the various things it measures can fall into:

    • Good (represented by the color green, as you would suspect).
    • Moderate (yellow)
    • Bad (red)

    Depending on how you get the air quality (see the methods below), you’ll either see the color and the actual score or get a qualitative description of the score. It is pretty darned simple, even if my description isn’t.

    You can access the air quality readings in a few ways:

    • Ask Alexa what the indoor air quality is, and she’ll tell you. You do have to specify “indoor,” or she’ll just give you the general air quality for your area.
    • Via the Alexa app.
    • Via an Echo with a screen.
    • Lights on the device itself.

    I’ve mostly used the Alexa app, but I’ll discuss all four ways.

    Asking Alexa

    Certainly, the most straightforward way to get your Air Quality score is to just say, “Alexa, what’s the indoor air quality?” She’ll let you know the score. And that’s it!

    If you have more than one Air Quality Monitor, which I do, she will only tell you the score from one of them (in my experience, it has been the one with the better score). You can’t access anything beyond the overall score with an Alexa voice query.

    Alexa App

    Clearly, the fine folks at Amazon want you to use the Alexa app to see your Air Quality information since this is how you get the most data.

    Once you add an AQM to your home, a new “Air Quality” icon appears under “Devices.” Tap it to access the Air Quality dashboard.

    Here you’ll see all the AQMs you have and their color-coded scores. Tap on one to dive into the particulars.

    You’re taken to a screen that shows your current air quality score and lists all the current color-coded readings of what the device measures. Scroll down, and you can see a trend graph by the hour, Day, or Week.

    You can either tap on the reading you want more detail about (like temperature) or select it from the scrollable list at the top. Each detail screen gives you some information about the reading and the same trend graphs with the same detail options.

    It is nice to see these trends because I know it is time to open the windows!

    Echo with a screen

    You can see the Air Quality Dashboard on your Echo with a Screen if you like, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

    The interface is just like what you’ll see in the Alexa app, but it isn’t as snappy, and swiping on an Echo device is just annoying. Stick with the app.


    Not everyone in your life will have access to your Alexa app or know how to use an Echo (I recall trying to explain to my mother-in-law how to turn off the lights using Alexa. She slept with the lights on the first night she was here, to give you an idea of how that went). That’s why the LED light on the device itself is so useful.

    It’ll glow three different colors to indicate the air quality level around it:

    • Green means good (and will generally be on most of the time).
    • Yellow means the air quality is moderate.
    • Red is poor air quality. Open that window! Or maybe close it…


    These things wouldn’t be of much use if they monitored the air quality but didn’t report the findings to anyone, right? Luckily, you can set notifications per monitor.

    In the settings, there’s a whole Notifications section that allows you to tell the device how you’d like it to notify you.

    It’ll announce any changes on your Echo devices (you get to pick which Echo devices it uses, which is nice since I wouldn’t want the Echo Dot in my boys’ room to announce to them at 2am that the air quality had changed).

    You can also have a push notification come through the Alexa app, which is nice.

    Since I have two monitors, I have the one in the livingroom set to notify us via the Echo in the living room with an audible alert and push a notification to my Alexa app (so I can know what’s up whilst I’m not in the living room or the apartment for that matter).

    LED of Doom

    By default, the monitor’s little LED light on its face will glow blue to let you know everything is fine. I, for one, find that sort of feedback annoying. I don’t need to see a light that tells me everything is fine when everything is fine most of the time.

    Luckily, you can turn this LED off (Settings > About > Enable LED Indicator). The really nice thing, though, is even with this set to off, it’ll turn red when the air quality is poor. This allows everyone to know something is up, even if the folks in the room don’t have access to the Alexa app or notifications are off.

    Sense something, do something

    As you might expect from something calling itself a “smart” air quality monitor, this little thing can be told to trigger routines when certain conditions are met.

    I’ll be honest; I haven’t set any of these up because I can’t really think of anything that I would have it do. The obvious thing would be to have an air purifier turn on when certain thresholds are met, but I don’t have smart purifiers.

    You can also do things like have to email you when the temperature reaches a certain point or flash the lights when humidity reaches 85% (nice and steamy!). Also, probably more interesting and useful things.

    Routines are very powerful, and I think they will make this a very compelling device for some people. For me? I don’t need them now, but I’m glad they exist.


    The obvious downside to the Amazon Air Quality Monitor is right in the name. It is entirely dependent on Amazon’s ecosystem. If you don’t have an Echo device or don’t want to use the Alexa app, this thing just won’t work for you!

    And it is reachable outside of your home network since it hooks up to your Amazon account via your Alexa. I find this to be a plus since I can check in on the air while I’m at work, but I know others would probably rather that sort of data not leave their home.

    I’d also like to be able to see the data from the monitors somewhere other than on an Echo or in the Alexa app. I’d really like it if I could see it on a website or if Amazon offered an iOS widget that displayed the current Air Quality Score. That’d be neat! But at the moment, it takes a lot of tapping to get that information.

    Final Verdict

    Very shortly after I set up the first Amazon Air Quality Monitor in my house, I bought a second one, so you can probably guess if I’d recommend it. It is a breeze to set up, pretty easy to get information out of, and very unobtrusive. And for the price, I don’t think you can find a better air quality monitor (or any air quality monitors!). It would be nice to be able to access the information a little more easily, and perhaps in some non-Amazon apps and devices but that’s a minor complaint.

    Amazon does go to great lengths to point out that this thing doesn’t detect Radon or CO2, so it doesn’t replace those detectors. Nor is it meant to replace a carbon monoxide alarm. But if you just want to know the quality of your air and you have some Echos, I don’t think you’ll regret the $70.

    You may regret having the knowledge, though, since now I worry even more than I did before about the air since I know so much about it.

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    Buying Kindle books with points

    I have been known, on occasion, to buy a Kindle book or two. I also just so happen to have an Amazon Visa card I use to make all my Amazon purchases so I can accrue reward points.

    I mostly use these points to buy Kindle books because I have a problem (don’t worry, I also buy way too many books from indie bookstores). If I wanted to use my points to buy a Kindle book, I used to have to buy myself an Amazon Gift card with points and then use the gift card balance. Not a great system, but it worked!

    Today when I went to buy a book and saw that you can now use your Amazon Reward points without jumping through any hoops. Hurrah for improvements!

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  • But mammoth is my favorite color

    I’m still loving my Kindle Scribe, but I thought maybe I could get a different case. I was glad to see this case is offered in most people’s top three colors.

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    Treacle Walker by Alan Garner ****


    My journey of reading all the Booker (2022) nominated books continues, lest you thought I gave up.

    “Treacle Walker” by Alan Garner is super short, super impressive, and super strange. It is a metafictional fable about a boy (?) who lives in house, likes comic books, and meets a rag and bone man, the titular Treacle Walker, and then very strange things start to happen.

    Does anyone else live in the house? I don’t know! What does Joe (the boy) look like? Not sure, but I know he has a lazy eye (which becomes much less lazy as the book progresses).

    I don’t want to say much more about the plot because it is both straightforward and bonkers at the same time.

    Considering how short this book is, I’d recommend it to folks who like fairy tales, experimental writing, and marbles.

    Very few places have it in stock, so I’m only including an Amazon link. But do support your Indie bookstores!

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  • The Yoga and Yoda house

    I like to look at real estate listings in Philadelphia. I’m not in the market for a house, but sometimes you come across interesting things. Sometimes those interesting things are in the pictures of the listing and not the listing itself.

    Take, for example, the “Yoga and Yoda” house.

    The first picture is innocent enough. A nice, airy, and bright living room with some particular wall art.

    It starts simply enough. You think, “Is that a tiny Yoda on the TV console?”

    Note to nerds: Yes, I know most, if not all, of the examples here, feature Grogu but “Yoga and Grogu” isn’t a thing.

    People like baby Yoda, so that’s not too strange. Oh, look! A little yoga setup. That’s nice… and are those two more Yodas? Yes, yes they are.

    Let’s check out the kitchen, and there he is!

    Let’s head upstairs. This would be a nice office, though I think I’d like a closet door instead of a giant baby Yoda.

    Oh, let’s be quiet. Don’t want to wake the baby!

    Oh, having outdoor space is nice. As is a ledge for statuary.

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  • Are we still in a COVID-19 emergency?

    Given this, I agree that we are not in an emergency phase in the U.S. An emergency declaration was appropriate when we had rational hope that transmission could be interrupted on a population level and when we needed extreme measures to prevent collapse of healthcare systems. We are past this. Continuing the emergency would not be constructive given public sentiment and lack of funding anyway. As one epidemiologist told me, “If it’s always an emergency, nothing’s an emergency.”

    Are we still in a COVID-19 emergency?

    I’m not smart enough to have an informed opinion about the end of the COVID emergency in the US, but Katelyn Jetelina is… and she thinks it is appropriate. That makes me feel better, though the rest of her newsletter makes me feel worse about society’s reaction to this sort of emergency.

    Anyway, you should subscribe to her “Your Local Epidemiologist” newsletter.

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  • I read what the Locusts tell me to – 2022 Locus Online Recommended Reading List –

    Ok, so I don’t read them all because it is a large list, but I’m always excited when the Locus Online Recommended Reading List gets published.

    If you’re unfamiliar, I’ll let them explain:

    We are so pleased to share this list of excellent fiction! Published in Locus magazine’s February 2023 issue, the list is assembled by Locus editors, columnists, outside reviewers, and other professionals and well-known critics of genre fiction and non-fiction. We looked at 982 titles from 2022 in short fiction and long fiction. The final recommendations, trimmed down to a somewhat reasonable-length list, are our best recommendations for your consideration.

    Lots of books on that list, and I’ve even read a handful.

    Here are the ones I’ve already read:

    • The Spare Man, Mary Robinette Kowal: I read this book and then I watched “The Thin Man,” which partly inspired the novel. The movie was very good!
    • Eversion, Alastair Reynolds: This book is great. So great that I suggested people gift it for Christmas.
    • The Kaiju Preservation Society, John Scalzi: A fun popcorn read. Won’t take you long, and you won’t have to think much.
    • The Grief of Stones, Katherine Addison: I love this series so much and would like more right now.
    • Babel, R.F. Kuang: We’re going to talk about this on an Incomparable podcast (reading tomorrow as I write this). I really enjoyed this book, and it does make you think (subtle it is not).
    • The Cartographers, Peng Shepherd: As I said in my review, I enjoyed this book though the mystery is laughable.
    • Legends & Lattes, Travis Baldree: I just finished reading this the other day! It is very cozy and very sweet.
    • The Genesis of Misery, Neon Yang: I had no idea where this book was going, but I enjoyed the ride.
    • Goliath, Tochi Onyebuchi: This was well written and depressingly plausible.
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