Category Archives: Organization

Pretxel Fish Is Born

What is Pretxel Fish? Arkansas’ newest LLC. Due to the craziness of my name, Arkansas had trouble understanding that my first name is just X. I used the ongoing bureaucratic melee as a reason to replace the ‘z’ in ‘pretzel’ with an X. If ‘xylophone’ can be pronounced with an X, anything can. (One of my favorite words is ‘xanthous,’ which has acquired new meaning lately.) What is Pretzel Fish, the name from which I derived my company name? A reminder to be grateful and to experience whatever is at your feet. Not the potential of what could be or what you’d like to be. You can make moves to change your life incrementally or you can adapt and find lemon moments where you are. It’s up to you and me. I’m not sure what I will do with this new business. And that lights me up a little with both humor and expectations.

Love, X

Washington Regional Rebranding Idea

Infrequently, I try to use my endless ideas to create something ‘serious.’ I hate that word, as it needlessly demarcates life into impossible categories. I’m both ridiculous and contemplative – as most people are.

For years I’ve thought that Washington Regional Medical System needed both a new logo and a new name, one that reflects simplicity, recognizability, and appropriateness. The hospital system is flung across multiple counties, with dozens of clinics. As it has grown, the “Washington” part increasingly becomes a misnomer, especially as it encroaches on other systems in the area.

The name I invented is pronounced “Regional Plus.” The logo is just the word “Regional” with a symbol that uses the essential foundation of the complicated logo it utilized for years. It’s simple, recognizable, and has a plethora of built-in marketing potential. I’d rather have the word “Regional” be purple, too, but I used a nondescript gray to keep the suits and ties happier. Additionally, my proposed rebrand fits on t-shirts, badges, and marketing materials – something the longer current one does not. It will save a LOT of space on signs, too.

“At Regional +, we’re not just a hospital, we’re a hospital plus.”

It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to extrapolate dozens of such marketing phrases. Naturally, I have several funny ones, too, but I’ll leave them for later.

I shared it with marketing and a few other people and didn’t get a response. Crickets.

The weird thing? Without evidence, I see this logo becoming the new one for the hospital.

Tell me that mine isn’t better and I will shut up.



The First Saturday

I couldn’t bring myself to occupy either of the two bedrooms in my apartment. Being both weird and practical, I put the bedroom furniture in the living room. It says “living” right in the name of the room, right? “I might regret this later,” I thought, but simultaneously realized that such a thought might well be universally applied to anyone’s entire life. For anyone who doesn’t know, I sleep with a comforter – no sheet. And even though it causes consternation in the heads of my uptight ( 🙂 ) friends, I will not be ‘making’ my bed daily. Part of the reason for that is that my comforter is for a long twin bed rather than for my pillow-top queen, so even if I wanted to ‘make’ the bed, the comforter won’t cover more than 50% of it anyway. Note: another advantage of using smaller or narrower comforters is that they are much easier to keep clean and don’t overload the washing machine.

You can see my new backward clock in the upper right of the picture, marking its time contrarily and much too quickly. The two young movers who helped me yesterday were tickled by the backward clock, as well as some of my crazy art – and especially my hybrid Jesus/Zach Galifianakis picture.

My apartment has a great view of the busy street about fifty yards away. Beyond that, the traffic light and the railroad tracks. The building I’m in is a large “L,” and I’m in the inside upper corner of the nexus. I put my desk right in front of the large window. It’s too much sun but the view connects me to the world – and I need that right now.

Gregg is a busy street. Though I love the sound of a train, I will have to give the railroad a grace period, one in which I grow accustomed to the blare of the horn as it traverses this side of Fayetteville. The excursion trains run through on their assigned schedule. If I’m outside or walking, I can’t resist waving to the passengers. Truth be told, I’m gregarious with the neighbors, too, and for many of them, they are not accustomed to someone being so friendly.

I already put a hanging crystal outside, as well as a solar lantern I had painted. But no matter how I decorate this new place, I promised myself that I would stop thinking about my environment so critically. I’ve always lived inside my head in a way that others don’t seem to. Minimalists are supposed to appreciate the opportunity to acknowledge how transient all ‘this’ is and live accordingly. This is an older apartment building and it shows. The same can be said for me, even though I managed to rejuvenate my life and health a bit over the last year.

Starting over with very little has once again put my head into that space where I’d like to be aware of everything I add back into my life. Every single thing occupies space, requires care and cleaning, and makes our lives less portable.

I’m sitting in the office chair now, looking out the windows, listening to both birds and traffic. I am humbled that I made it to this point.

Love, X

Get To Know Me

I still buy an entirely new set of socks each time I need them. For me, they are like new tires. Buying a few is tomfoolery. As comedian Steven Wright does, I wear and sort my socks based on thickness rather than color. Colorblind people everywhere are in my corner.

If that joke doesn’t work for you, try this one by Steve Martin: “I like a woman with a head on her shoulders. I hate necks.”

Since you’re already a fan of mine as evidenced by the fact that you still somehow find the nerve to read what I write, you also know that I do not fold socks. It’s not that the mechanics of it escape me. It’s the folly of the days of one’s life spent doing it. Before you attack me, NO, I do not know what I’ve otherwise done with this amazing bunch of time I’ve saved by not folding socks.

Often, I of course use the old laundered socks as packaging material. Years ago, I accumulated them and packed them into my mom’s surprise packages I sent her. I sometimes wear the socks the last time when I’m on a trip and discard them once worn. There have been times I’m certain that housekeeping wonders what kind of lunatic discards his socks.

Not that y’all care to know, but I do the same with my underwear – except I don’t use those in my mailings, unless you ask me to. People tend to react unexpectedly upon opening a surprise box and discover underwear in various stages of decomposition. The idea of having underwear with different birthdays amuses me.

Before you mock me, I’ll admit that I CAN intermittently replace my socks and underwear without a total replenishment. But what else would I do with this obvious wealth I’ve accumulated in life? If one cannot splurge and buy a new set of underwear in its entirety, that is when life gets truly oppressive. You won’t find that written anywhere unless you inherited the diary of a madman.

For all the above reasons, perhaps you can now see why I am a liberal.

A Trashy Post


Early last year, I wrote about our waste management company.  Previous post…

I discovered that many people didn’t know the precise rules about their curbside pickup. For example, they didn’t know the trash company must pick up all the extra bags you pile on the bin – or around it if necessary. My ignorance was compounded by observing neighbors furtively sneak around and put their overflow into other people’s bins.

The people at Waste Management were among those people who weren’t sure how it worked.

After writing to the City of Springdale and following up, the trash company realized that they offer an additional bin for residential use for just $7.50 a month.

They revised their CSR scripts and information to include the new details I had inquired about.

While you might be proud to own a shiny new luxury car, I can think of no greater luxury than having an additional trash bin at the house. Some weeks, there’s not much. Other weeks, you’d swear thirteen people live at the house, people dedicated to depleting all the earth’s resources.

We already get a large bin for weekly trash and a recycle for pickup every two weeks. I’d call it ‘bi-weekly,’ but a lot of people don’t understand if that means twice a week or every other week. I don’t blame them; English is a tortuous language absent much continuity.

To my credit, one recycle bin for us is not enough. It annoys me to need to put recycling in the regular trash bin. It annoys me worse than needing to repeat myself, especially when I’m the idiot that made it necessary.

Just to find out if the reality of having two trash bins matches my fantasy, I called and requested a second bin a couple of weeks ago.

Yes, jealous friends – you read correctly. I now have two trash bins to use.

I’ll be the envy of the neighborhood. Some of my neighbors already act like they don’t understand that the trash goes i-n-s-i-d-e the bin. They’ll pass out in shock when they see me displaying two trash bins and a recycle bin by the curb. No doubt the people working to pick up the bins weekly will not be as happy. My house will not be double the fun.

Now that I’ve done it, I’m wondering what it would be like to have two recycling bins.

A Sign Your Boss or Job Sucks


Do you want to know a sure sign you work somewhere where either the organization is terrible – or the boss is?

If they want to limit discussion to only your reaction, rather than the actions, words, or circumstances which triggered you, it’s a poor organization. Even people accused of murder have the opportunity to detail the timeline of events that preceded the alleged crime.

People are complex. Most people rarely flame out or over-react.

If your boss fails to listen, regardless of how ‘busy’ he or she is, it is likely the job or boss sucks. If it becomes a pattern, it is a certainty.

If your boss vocalizes the idea or emails any insinuation that your concerns are trivial, you work for a poor boss.

If someone uncharacteristically lashes out, you need to stop and examine what happened – as if human beings are involved. Forget the check-boxes and paint-by-the-numbers nonsense that HR insists that you use. Good HR representatives are compassionate, but it’s vital to remember that their primary responsibility is toward the company, which by definition is impersonal.

Good people don’t lash out or lose their sh#t unless they’ve been ignored.

In the last few years, most of us have witnessed the role of HR diminish from watchdog to whitewash. As organizations silo their areas, poor managers tend to become worse managers – and without anyone properly keeping an eye on them.

So many of us tolerate stress, mismanagement, misbehavior, or other cumulative craziness without a comment. Without warning, the valve blows and we react.

The boss rarely understands that we might be around a toxic employee or drama llama, or that employees are expected to do too much or tolerate behavior that would never be forgiven outside of work. Because businesses are running leaner or management is less well-trained than previously, the issues tend to flame out with greater consequence.

I see this becoming a worse problem as managers focus on metrics and impersonal considerations ahead of our humanity. As we emerge into a postcovid workforce, I predict that there’s going to be a great deal of backlash with this, even though many workers will continue to work from home.

When managers shift to priority management, especially during a crisis, people have fewer ways to vent their grievances. Despite the fact that most bosses grow to despise this part of their job, it’s actually more important than ever that they grin and bear it as they listen to their subordinates. Even if they don’t appreciate the alleged severity of the issues, failing to provide a release valve will hurt everyone. Pressure always leaks out of the organization. Whether it leaks out harmfully depends on the individual who is being ignored.

While it is simply my opinion, I think organizations need to stop leaning toward efficiency. Most people do their jobs well without micromanagement. The human component, the part needing attention, is suffering now more than ever. I see it in real-time.

I know the agony bosses suffer when they listen to a lot of complaining. It works precisely like a marriage, though. If you stop listening, you’re going to find your stuff piled in a flaming heap in the driveway.

Besides, in my experience, the terrible bosses who do this sort of thing are the worst when someone does the same to them. They will destroy the entire business if necessary if they are judged in a vacuum and without being afforded the opportunity to explain why they lost their sh#t.


Feng Shui, Tableclothcovercloths, and Kondo-Kookiness


One of the hacks I often see is a fitted sheet over a table to replace a tablecloth.

Note: a ‘hack’ is an ill-advised method to self-delude oneself into believing that you’ve saved yourself time. We’re all going to live to be 117, stuffed inside houses brimming with goofy and astounding assortments of knick-knacks and paddywhacks. First, though, we’ll need to watch 76 shows dedicated to the pursuit of efficient households, followed by 256 hours of Etsy and internet browsing.

Can I point out that a tablecloth itself is a waste? As are placemats – and the herpes of household annoyances, the drink coaster. If we build things to be used ‘as is’ and make them interesting to begin with, we wouldn’t need additional nonsense. I know what you’re thinking; not having them would dramatically reduce our available choices for holiday gifts. Aunt Bernice needs more redundant layers of protection in order to live a normal, mundane existence.

“I wish I had some more tablecloths and coasters” is not something a rational person ever needs to say, along the same lines as, “These wooden slippers are perfect,” or, if you live in Arkansas, “I think I’ll vote for a Democrat.”

I’m still considering inventing the tableclothcovercloth, which of course is a clothcover for the tablecloth, in order to prevent the first tablecloth from being soiled. Look for it soon at Target and Hoarder’s Paradise.

Instead of putting a fitted sheet over a table, use it to capture and bag the ‘lifestyle hacker’ who wants to put it on a perfectly good table. Drive to the nearest peak and toss him/her from the precipice.

Yell, “Use the tablecloth as a parachute!” as they plummet.

It’s important to be helpful.

Skip The Picture Hoarding

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I can understand your reluctance to share pictures of yourself. You might have put on weight, you might not have the Travolta hair from your youth, or you might look like Marty Feldman after a hard night of drinking tequila. Trust me, your friends and family who love you don’t care about any of that. Those pictures portray you as they remember you. Not sharing pictures because of your concern for your looks is a valid reason to hesitate, but one which shouldn’t overshadow the fundamental nature of life: moments are meant to be lived, words are meant to be heard, and pictures are nothing short of visual memories that stir us to honor and remember people and things that we’ve shared.

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The picture above captures the fun and happiness of life. It’s easy sometimes to focus too much on our potential embarrassment years later. We should ignore those issues and celebrate the “fun” of the picture – and resist the negative feelings that sometimes bubble up from strange places.


Case in point: this is a mug I had made for a friend of mine. Years ago, he dressed up as Britney Spears. He laughs about it now. He gave me the picture (on purpose!) so that I could scan it and make him a fun gift with the picture. Most people would never let such a picture out into the wild. But it’s fun and will always be a great memory for us both.


My dad, Bobby Dean Terry. I have seen almost no pictures of him as a kid. This one encapsulates perfectly his outlook on the world. Look at the quantity of laundry on the line! (Clues to how he was living…) There are many pictures of him in closets, albums, and dusty boxes – ones that I will never see or experience.

I’ve written 15 different ways about the need to share pictures at every opportunity. Not a week passes when someone doesn’t lose a phone, a camera, or have their house flooded or burned to the foundation, taking all the contained precious photos. (Or a family passes away and someone decides to restrict access to everything, effectively locking away precious memories from being shared.)
As much as possible, I’m a minimalist. The only things I hold to be meaningful are the sentimental ones, pictures foremost among them. All my pictures are backed up online. I can share them with anyone, and they are accessible from any device which connects to the internet.

I read a blog earlier in the year wherein someone had done years of family ancestry and picture gathering. Family members had asked the person to share as they went along the process. The person gathering the memories didn’t want to share them before it was “perfect” and also didn’t want some pictures to be shared, as they were of people or situations that didn’t cast the family in the best possible light. (Divorce, children out of wedlock- the usual secretive nonsense that EVERYONE already knows and gossips about anyway…) The house burned to cinders, taking a couple of thousand pictures, newspaper clippings and stories- mostly originals, to the grave. No digital archives were uploaded anywhere. The agony.

There is no perfection nor perfect moment in time – share pictures now and as often as possible, when they can be most appreciated. Even if they don’t cast us in the best possible light, they at least capture a moment of our lives. In time, some of these photo memories will become as precious as our last breath.

(One of the most fulfilling things in the word is watching people discover “new” photos of friends, family, and acquaintances. It is rare for me to look at captured memories and not feel a spark of curiosity and interest.)

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John Austin Cook and Betty Ruth Cook, the grandparents of my grandfather Willie Cook. To look back and “see” the people I share with everyone else in my family is one of the best experiences in life for me.

grandpa his mom melvin cheryl barryThis picture was recently and graciously shared with me by a family member. My grandfather Willie is on left, his mom on the right. Over 400 people shared this picture in the first 3 months it was on ancestry. Several commented on how few pictures of my great-grandmother (Nanny Malone) were in existence and how valuable it was to them and their families. I can’t imagine that it will ever disappear now, even as time erases our emotional connection to the people in it.

Several weeks ago, I was talking to an acquaintance and he commented that two or three years of the lives of his kids were on his phone. No backup, of course. I immediately told him to hook the phone to a computer at his earliest convenience and make a copy to another device, or to go to his phone store and ask how to set it up for automatic upload. He still hasn’t done so, a testament to our mistaken belief that we will always have time to do what we should be doing.

I’ve written over and over about how dead simple some of the backup services are. Once you set up an account, you don’t have to do anything- technology assumes control and quietly backs up all your pictures, videos, contacts, and anything else you might want to another location. Why do people not see their friends and family in agony over the loss of their pictures and use it to motivate themselves to immediately take action to prevent the same loss?

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Pictures such as those above: they capture a moment of frivolous family fun, capturing both the essence of holidays and childhood memories. The gentleman on the left in the first picture is probably watching TV or playing an ancient video game. He didn’t know he was being captured in a moment of history, one which I would add to a blog 30 years later, after his brother, the goof holding the belt, had passed away, leaving his most important footprint of shared times together. We leave our friends and family, but pictures bridge us back in time to moments. A picture is as powerful as a song to play our heartstrings. When people we cherish pass and leave us, pictures are the most bittersweet song imaginable.

I don’t understand the reluctance to share pictures. Unless you have a hoard of pictures that are intended just for you and you alone, they should be available to everyone who might have an interest in seeing them. It is a rare person who doesn’t enjoy and relish the chance to see pictures of people they know or love.


When new people see pictures for the first time, it is very likely that it will spark memories that you never knew or had forgotten. They are portals to moments in time. If they are unshared, the memories might as well be written in a leather-bound journal and then incinerated without further reflection.

aaa  uncle buck scanned (77)Me as a teenager, after I lost a lot of weight. The weight found me again later, but I was optimistic that year, even though circumstances in life were not joyous during that time.

Yet, there is probably an album in your hall closet or in a plastic bin in your attic. It probably contains memories that you alone have copies of. Or under the coffee table, rarely looked at.  Or on a camera card or flash drive in the desk. Your intention might be to give them to a family member later in life or upon your death, but life has a way of bypassing your good intentions and taking things away from you, independent of your schedule. You might tell yourself every so often “I’ll finish that project at some point.” Those memories? Lost. If you aren’t even infrequently taking the pictures out and going back in time to remember, you are doing a disservice to both the photos and memories by not giving them to someone who can appreciate them.

julia and billy jack dicksonThis picture survived several calamities and certain destruction. But what a great picture it is!  It’s a picture of Julie Easley Adair and Billy Jack Dickson. I spent hours and hours rescuing and cleaning hundreds of pictures just as valuable to the family members. Many of them turned out to be very valuable to a local genealogist who downloaded all of them from my archive so that she could not only inventory who was in the pictures, but to preserve them for local history clues. These pictures ended up touching many lives – once they were rescued from their molding family albums and boxes where they were slowly dying.

I often say that I love pictures, but hate photography. So much personal photography becomes a distraction for the moment rather than a shared reminder. The process sometimes overpowers the moment in life being captured. And I still prefer spontaneous pictures to posed, people instead of places. While most people dread the hours of scanning, labeling and storing, I like it. There is a satisfaction of discovering new memories and the process isn’t tedious to me. But because most people aren’t like-minded, there are pictures everywhere that I will never see, pictures that might as well be lost today instead of waiting for some future calamity to take them. Pictures of my grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, co-workers, classmates, even me.

I have tried to share every new memory captured in photos. It is almost a compulsion to remind myself that a picture isn’t real unless other people see it and can have it. The digital age has reduced everyone’s argument about the complexity of making their pictures available. Even if you personally aren’t able, there is someone in your family who would gladly do this for you.

(Sidenote: My wife and I dated when we were very young. I can remember 2 or 3 times when our picture was taken together. Where those pictures went is uncertain. They were probably lost with so many other things. What I wouldn’t give to see one of those pictures again! If only we treated pictures as invaluable memories.)

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My cousin Jimmy and his son. I made a Spongebob pillowcase for his son, one which he treasured like nothing else in the world. Jimmy accidentally burned it in the microwave one night, as his cancer medication had fuzzied his brain. I tell that story because it’s a great story which highlights the craziness of life and the importance of pictures.

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Fun, pure and simple. My wife in one of her rare moments of letting me capture her goofiness. She claims it is always me being the weird one, but sometimes she hits one out of the park.

If you’ve taken the time to take a picture or to obtain one for safekeeping, please, for the love of god, share it with someone else whose dedication to preservation will ensure that it is shared before being lost. Not with someone whose intention is to cherish and share the pictures, but with someone who has both the time and inclination to be the guardian of the pictures. Sharing them doesn’t take them away from the original owner – nothing is lost. I might have a couple of original pictures in the house. Literally only a couple. All the rest are reprints from digital. Nothing is left to foreseeable chance. If calamity does strike despite all my effort, then I know that my loss was not something I should shoot myself over.
I know many people who talk about how valuable their pictures are to them, yet they never look at them, back them up, or share them with people. If someone like me asks to borrow the pictures and guarantee their preservation, I sometimes get a shocked reaction, as if I am accusing them of witchcraft. Pictures are like love: the more you share, the more there is.

As I age, I find myself getting frustrated with people who aren’t sharing their pictures. Not sharing is the first step in the unwritten recipe for loss. If someone has a picture of you or that you find meaningful, ask them directly if you can borrow it to copy it or if they can make you a copy, scanned or reprinted, in a given amount of time. If they say “no,” I’d be surprised. There’s no good reason for someone to say “no” to such a polite request. (It’s their right to say no, of course!) Moments in time are meant to be shared. Share them or otherwise you’ve done nothing that will extend the joy of that moment past your own life.

When someone dies, the first thing I think of is of the pictures surrounding this person’s life. When my Aunt Ardith died and then her son Jimmy died soon after, it bothered me to see how the most valuable asset among them – pictures – were mistreated and hoarded. Many were lost forever, including countless hours of videos. I would have stepped up and copied all of it for my cousin’s family and his surviving son, and archived them all online for preservation. Literally anyone and everyone would have been able to enjoy the vestiges of his life through pictures. Instead, many pictures were hoarded and lost forever. Luckily, there were a couple of great people who shared what was available, without reservation. My cousin had many friends who had pictures who didn’t share them. In a fair world, those would have been gladly handed to me. I would have scanned them and then reshared them with the world, making everyone a beneficiary of all the known pictures. Everyone wins. Instead, there are pockets of invaluable pictures in little corners of the world, slowly being forgotten, relegated to hall closets, attics, and boxes underneath beds. With time, people will forget who these pictures represent.

Jimmy Terry Portrait no sealMy cousin, Jimmy Terry. Everyone loves this picture. It was cropped and made using a picture I snapped of him when he wasn’t ready, outside a now-defunct restaurant. A local photographer did his magic and this picture was not only Jimmy’s obituary picture, but also made into a mantle photo. You never know when a picture is going to be valuable or provide great memories.

As an example, the picture below looks strange, but you never know who might find it valuable in the future. There’s a lot of information in it, if you have a hint or clue where to start. It captures perfectly a period in someone’s life. In a given context, it might not be valuable to me, but for the person in the picture or his friends and family, it might be. You never know and that’s why you should share all the pictures you can – while you can.

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If it sounds as if I’m lecturing, yes, I guess I am. Pictures are probably the most valuable thing on the planet to me. You can put me in a cramped apartment and make me eat a bland diet, but a life without pictures and memories is a life not worth remembering. Amen.

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How Good Does a Broom Need to Be?

How good does a broom need to be?
I saw this phrase somewhere recently. It resonated with me. Does your broom easily get at dirt? Is the handle long enough?

We spend a LOT of time, energy and money needlessly. If you need a computer to surf the internet, why does it need a dvd burner and 8 gigs of RAM? Shouldn’t you focus on whether you need a larger monitor to see better or built-in wi-fi to lessen the cable clutter in your house?

If you honestly feel like you need another 1000 square feet for your house, then go ahead and try to have it. But don’t pay for all that space (and heat/cool it) if you don’t want it, much less need it.

Years ago, in another life, when I was teaching a “Quality” course, part of my job was to beat into people’s heads that quality = conformance to requirements. Nothing more. Using that formula, the USER or consumer determines whether a device is “higher quality” or not – not the manufacturer, salespeople or advertiser
Yet, look at many of our interactions with our choices and you will certainly see “feature creep” or “quality blindness.” Just because BMW bills itself as unbeatable quality doesn’t make it true, even if we do pay an extra $30,000 for the logo. Is it great? Sure it is, but not when I can buy 3 reliable cars with all my desired features for the same price.

If appearance is a critical factor in your decision to buy one piece of furniture over another, by all means, lean toward the purchase of the prettier furniture – but only if appearance outweighs cost, sturdiness, size, etc. Is it really a quality choice if it doesn’t fit well into your room or if it breaks under normal usage? And buying a chair or recliner because it’s a known brand or made of genuine Gazelle leather is a terrible buying decision.

If you’ve got plenty of money, focus on what you want. If you have less money, focus on the best balance of usability versus cost. If you are broke, buy plastic chairs from Dollar General and go on with your life.

Besides, you can always deliberately pick the ugliest item and then hang really weird art in your house. You’ll be okay and considered to be ‘artistic.’