Room design

I change the set up of my house quite frequently. It’s not something I thought I would become interested in, but interior design can impact your health, your mood, your daily movement.

The latest casualty is our bedroom. There is a small flight of stairs leading into the room. It used to be that as soon as you walked down the three or four stairs, our bedside table got in your way, then our bed got in your way. You had to make a hard left turn to get anywhere else in the room.

Now the bed and table are the other side of the room, freeing up the entry. The “Flow” of the room (ha! I’m writing about “room flow”) is so much better now that you can walk down the stairs and just keep on going. If you like you can keep going all the way through the room, unimpeded to the garden. It’s amazing how much difference this one change has made.

I also rigged up a sweet Hifi system in the bedroom using an old amp with Denon speakers and a chromecast. Check out the photos on the @chimpwithcans Instagram page if you like.

I can just feel the different vibe in the room. There is a “flow” as you arrive, and the music makes you want to stay.

Happy work environment

A big, broad work desk. In a quiet and comfortable office. My ideal workspace is clear of clutter and has access to the net and electricity for the laptop. There’s light enough to see. It smells nice. I have art on the wall.

Setting up my office and desk multiplies out over months and years. Over time, being comfortable at work adds up to a career and my own personal health. In many corporates we are not given the option to customize our workspace, which is a shame. I’m very lucky to have an office at home which I can adjust.

Like anything, a work space is subject to atrophy and creeping chaos over time. Clutter builds up in the most annoying way. If the size of the desk is wrong, or the seating is bad, or the connectivity options are not there it can have a huge impact on what I can achieve on any given day. The balance needs to be maintained or else it will fall apart. Next time you sit down to work, have a run through your senses. What does it feel like, smell like, what can you hear? What can you see around you? (lets assume you eat somewhere else and leave taste for now!).

At one point, I had a bad work chair hurting my back, there was not enough light to see properly, and dead rats in my office roof were stinking the place out. I was one step away from a human rights violation in my own home!

A new roof, some lighting and an ergonomic chair means my big, broad work desk is far more inviting. I have art on the wall. I have music. I have electricity. I have the internet. Most satisfying.

Pixies

The pixies as a band passed me by. I was a little too young and a little too stuck in east Africa for their first few albums to make any impact on my life. However, the beauty of music streaming services now is that I can dig into all the rich history.

I sometimes wonder why as a society we make all this new music when there is so much to discover in the back catalogues. Maybe they should put a moratorium on new releases until everyone has caught up with listening to everything ever released to date?

Just an idea.

https://music.apple.com/za/album/doolittle/7060469

Retail, reviews, Hifi and schools

The other morning there was a big Takealot and Superbalist promotion on the radio. They had sales on their websites based on user ratings, reviews, and wishlists. This was interesting and curious to me.

Then I learned that the concept is not so new. Amazon already has physical “4 star stores” in the USA which are packed with goods rated 4 stars or more.

Hifi of course is a market dominated by reviews. Stars and ratings offer a convenient way to compare one product to another, but are they really what you should be measuring and what you should decide your purchase on? What have you bought lately because of user reviews? What about based on some other measurement such as decibels or resolution? What about subjectively trying the product out before you buy? Personally I have always bought something without even trying it. Maybe that should change with something so subjective as art appreciation (listening to music).

How about another market – choosing a school for your child. Should this be done based on a simple rating/5 star model? To me, the fact that individual personalities are so different means that more care needs to be taken to find a place. But of course socio economic, geographic and other factors come into play. Can you access the school? Can you afford it? Can your child get in with their grades?

I think that the way Amazon and online mass retail has developed means we are perhaps more and more likely to look for the simple star rating, even if this is not a true indicator of what we need.

Getting bored and having energy

Is getting bored a good thing?

In the age of Facebook, Netflix, Spotify and Fortnite it’s easy to let the system take control. If you allow them, these streaming, entertaining, dopamine tripping platforms will keep you glued to your seats all day. They won’t let you get bored.

This thing is, getting bored serves a function. As far as I can tell, the whole purpose and spiritual breakthrough of Yoga is to cope with boredom and through this to reflect on life. No time for that in a video game.

Some other activities where boredom is there to be overcome:

Taking a walk with no phone in hand. Just walk.

Listening to an album from start to finish. Just listen

Running for 30 minutes straight. Just run.

When were you last bored?

Is Hifi dying?

The music industry is dying. Hifi is dying.

If it is dying, it doesn’t have to die for you.

Buy an amp, get some nice speakers or headphones, listen to the music.

Hifi as recovery

I like nothing better than to lay some toys on the ground for the kids and put in a good record. After a long day hacking around chasing children, it refills the cup.

Hifi as a Sanctuary

Life is not easy. To paint a bit of a bleak picture – even if you have all the money in the world, friends, family and health – the slow ticking of time in the background tells you It’s a losing battle. None of us will get out of here alive.

So what to do? Well among countless other mindfulness and health exercises, we should engage in activities which take time out of the equation. I mean those activities that engage us so fully, we can’t hear the ticking and the tocking. Time seems to stand still.

This is a sanctuary of sorts. This is music, audio and hifi for me.

Hifi and science

On an anecdotal level, hifi music often overwhelms everything else I am doing. When I hear a song that I like, on equipment that i like, nothing else really matters. I am happy and absorbed, and ensconced in the sound.

On an evolutionary level, why do we humans enjoy music? Why do we dance? What is it about certain sounds that makes me feel like i do? What is the evolutionary function of music? Are these feelings and effects all just neural impulses? If so, to what end?

Luckily I am not the first person to think about these things. I have just come across a book that I hope will help me answer some of these questions, or at least explore some of these ideas.

Hifi and WW2

Cognitive dissonance is tricky to deal with.

In Germany after the war, Allied forces found a new recording technology – magnetic tape. This provided a huge leap in audio fidelity ahead of disc recordings and rapidly became the dominant mastering medium for sound. The Nazi’s had used it for a while already for broadcasting. It later enabled multi-track recording and led to the first hifi systems being created.

Fast forward 74 years and here we are, the audio equivalent of the autobahn. A Nazi legacy item that audiophiles and musicians couldn’t really do without. Magnetic tape enables those timbres, tones and spacious melodies.

Of course it would have been infinitely better without the war, and with Nazis never having existed.

But here we are.