NPR’s Planet Money: ‘Stuff’ has a story

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory

Despite the rain, cold and touch of snow that have set up shop in my community of Eugene, Oregon over the past month, I still enjoy a good bike ride. It was on one of these recent treks, zipping along a trail that shadows the snow-fed waters of the Willamette River, that I heard an fascinating story on National Public Radio’s Planet Money.

Planet Money, T-Shirt, NPR, Houstory

Now, I’m the first to admit that the show’s major topic — the economy — is not typically something I’m interested in. Investments, taxes, mortgages…these are all a great big “yuck” in my book. However, the program has turned these seemingly mundane subjects into ear candy by revealing the hidden stories within the stories. In a lot of ways, I think of it like Freakonomics for your ears.

And like any good storyteller, they put a digestible (human) spin on complex issues. The program segment that recently grabbed my attention was a piece about the manufacturing of a T-shirt. Interestingly, the story protagonist was the T-Shirt itself: Planet Money ordered two sets of the shirt adorned with the show’s logo, and followed the garment’s creation from start (cotton fields in the southern United States) to production (factories in Columbia and Bangladesh) to finish (the customer). One shirt was made for men, the other for women.

Preserve, conserve, #nomorestuff

 

The story is laden with on-the-scene anecdotes, and peppered with astonishing facts, including:

* 13,000 bales of cotton is the equivalent of 9.4 million T-shirts.

* There are 6 miles of yarn in a single Planet Money T-shirt

* The workers who made the Planet Money T-shirt in Bangladesh were making about $80 a month

* 32 people make about 80 shirts per hour in Bangladesh. One sewing line in Colombia had eight people and made about 140 T-shirts per hour.

These facts, coupled with personal, insightful interviews with folks who work the production lines, provided a reminder that essentially everything we own has a creation story that includes actual human beings. I don’t know about you, but for me it’s way too easy to forget that.

What does this have to do with Houstory, The Home History Book archival journal and The Heirloom Registry? Well, nothing and everything.

The nothing is pretty obvious, so we’ll skip that.

Now, onto the everything. This month, as part of its  “No More Stuff/Preserve. Conserve” campaign, Houstory is asking you to slow down, and truly consider what you buy during this season of consumption and giving because not all products are created — or valued — equally.

As this story suggests, product manufacturing is a complicated business. Good (job creation, increased economic opportunities) combines with bad (environmental degradation, unsafe working conditions) more often than not.

I am not proposing that all consumption is bad, or that consumers should dump all that modern life offers and live in a Hobbit Hole. What I’m saying is that this complicated relationship should, at the very least, make us pause before we simply make a purchase online or at the store.

Well, enough about Hobbit Holes and T-shirts. Check out the Planet Money show, and let us know what you think!

Buying ‘stuff’? Try an alternative this season

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory Marketing Director

When I was younger — particularly in college — I used to think the greatest thing in the world was the dollar store. After all, where else could you buy a grocery cart full of household supplies and groceries on a budget?

Need bathroom cleaner?

Check.

Peanut butter and jelly?

Check.

Cheap plastic gadget I thought was so cool and so essential that I had to buy it, but was forgotten about by the time I got home and was either given away or tossed in the garbage (and eventually the landfill) within a year?

Check.

This isn’t a post to bash dollar stores. On the contrary, discount stores are an essential component for many people looking to save a buck on vital household items.

Rather, this is a request to stop and consider what we choose to consume because ultimately it does matter. Regardless of your position on global warming, the environment or everything in between, I think we can all agree that waste is never a good thing.

no more stuff, #nomorestuff

Last year, we ran a holiday campaign that encouraged people to re-think the relationship they have with the objects and things that surround them before they head out shopping for things they may not really need or even truly want.

The campaign’s name: “No More Stuff/Preserve. Conserve.

Preserve, conserve, #nomorestuff

We’ve gained a lot more followers since that initial campaign, so instead of repeating what I said, I’ll simply direct you to my words from last December. I would encourage you to take a look.

Then, let us know what you think.

Do you agree? Is too much stuff a problem? Do you believe that we are over-hyping this? Let’s have a conversation.

Houstory Deals of the Week: Nov. 25

Just in time for the holidays, this is our first installment of the Houstory “Deals of the Week.” Make sure to check back weekly for more deals. Simply click on the image below to be taken to our storefront. From there, enter the discount code in the image to take advantage of these special savings.

112513THR-DOTW

 

112513HHB-DOTW

 

 

It’s not often a story about a piece of furniture waters the eyes

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory

A few weeks ago, True Value Hardware released a video story on YouTube, simply entitled, “Table.” I didn’t really know what to expect when I watched it — aside from knowing it was at least loosely related to family heirlooms. Upon hearing the narrator’s first sentence about his grandfather going hungry around “this table” during the depression, I knew I was in for something special. I urge you to take 1:30 seconds to watch this beautiful, moving video.

Okay, I didn’t cry. But, under the right circumstances…

Then I encourage you to think about the “tables” in your own life — the things that matter to your family history — and to save them properly (stories and all). By the way, if you have another couple of minutes, take a look at a video The Heirloom Registry produced about a table. Notice any similarities?

 

 

What are the things that matter in your life? Do you have an old table or another piece of furniture with a story? 

Pay for permanence? Applying Dick Eastman’s logic to The Heirloom Registry

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory Marketing Director

A couple of months  ago, influential genealogical product reviewer Dick Eastman (whom I’ve had the pleasure of  meeting on a couple of occasions) wrote about a company selling “long-lasting display plates containing QR codes.” These plates are affixed to gravestones, which users can then scan to reveal information about the deceased with data provided by the family that purchased the code. From there, they are taken to a dedicated Web page on the company’s server, where information is displayed.

Dick Eastman, Dan Hiestand, Houstory

Dan with Mr. Eastman at FGS 2012 in Birmingham, Ala.

Sound familiar? If you understand the goal of Houstory’s Heirloom Registry, it should.

I’m not going to get into much of his product review, but I would like to highlight a key point Dick made that I believe may resonate with the Houstory audience and customer base.

 “At first, this sounds like a good idea; but, then I wondered, ‘What happens if the company goes out of business and their web site goes offline?’ I assume the answer is that the customer has wasted the money he or she spent,” wrote Dick. “While I hope this company remains in business for a long, long time, I still don’t like the idea of depending upon any one corporation’s future success.”

This sentiment — or a variation of it — is something Houstory founder Mike Hiestand and I have heard on many occasions about our Heirloom Registry service.

And guess what? We completely agree, especially when a company is selling permanence, which is what we are doing. If the future cannot access the information you’ve taken time, energy and — most importantly — money to compile, what’s the point of the effort? There is good news, though: Mike and I have worked hard to solve this problem, and we believe we have.

No. 1: You are in charge of the information you save on The Heirloom Registry. While your family heirloom records are uploaded, edited and saved on our site, ultimately you can save them to your own hard drive, upload them to a Web site or print them out as a hard copy registry certificate PDF. This ability to save the record on your own is an important distinction. How you decide to make that record accessible is really up to you. Our job is to put that data in a format that is easily readable, logical and probably more attractive than anything you’ll take the time to make.

Registration Certificate from The Heirloom Registry

Hard copy of the Registration Certificate from The Heirloom Registry

 

No.2: Additionally, to ensure longevity, a portion of each registration number fee is deposited in a dedicated fund that will be used to pay for future operation of The Heirloom Registry. Of course, given our ever-changing technology, it’s difficult to predict exactly what form The Heirloom Registry will take in 10 years, let alone 50 or 100, but we are fully committed to our mission and promise to do our level best to ensure that whether “surfing the Internet” or “transbeaming the MetaCosmos,” the purpose and essential function of the Registry as a lasting and accessible source of historical information remains intact.

Screen shot 2013-08-17 at 9.22.41 AM

No. 3: Here are some hard facts: 1) We can’t guarantee The Heirloom Registry will exist in 100 years. That’s not a promise any company can honestly make.  2) No one else is doing what The Heirloom Registry is doing. 3) Our Certificate of Registration is a way for you to instantly create a physical, lasting record of your heirloom, impervious to changing technology. 4) We have taken concrete steps to protect the integrity of the Registry and the company’s longevity. To be honest, now that all our rather extensive research, site development and upfront costs have been paid, operating the site form day to day is pretty inexpensive. We are proud to say the company is paid for and is wholly family-owned and operated.  5) Your chances of passing on the stories behind your grandma’s handmade quilt, your uncle’s trumpet or your dad’s Brooklyn Dodger’s Louisville Slugger bat are significantly lower if the items are not marked or tagged with identifying information.

 

 

Are you worried about online services and businesses ceasing operation? Do you have any stories of this happening? Let us know what you think!

Instant heirloom: A heartfelt Mother’s Day gift

Mother's Day 2013. Jessica, Gerri and Ally Hiestand.

Mother’s Day 2013.

By Mike Hiestand, Houstory Founder 

One of the things we hear from folks when we tell them about The Heirloom Registry is, “But, I don’t have any heirlooms.”

It’s unfortunate that we had to attach a name to our registration service, but we did. And “The Heirloom Registry” just sounded catchier than “The Special Things in My Life Registry.”

But either would work. It’s not the age of an item that makes it an heirloom. It’s the story behind it.

The Heirloom Registry is simply a place to record the stories about the special things in your life. Those things can be old — or brand new. The key is that they have a story that gives them meaning. The Heirloom Registry simply ensures that story will always be easily accessible.

For Mother’s Day, my daughters created and gave their grandma a hand-painted hanging mobile. Of course, my mom absolutely loved it. An instant heirloom! By affixing a small tag and registering it, I was able to briefly tell its story and attach a couple photos (there is room for up to six) of my daughter painting it and presenting it to my mom on Sunday. It took 10 minutes. But now, if my mom would like to show it off to her friends tomorrow — or if my daughter inherits it 50 years from when she’s the grandma who “fills the world with joy”  — the story of how it came to be and the memories of a very special day are as close as the nearest computer.

It is an official, irreplaceable part of Hiestand Family History

An example of the Certificate of Registration — which users can view or print for free after registering an item on The Heirloom Registry — is below.

 

Registration Certificate from The Heirloom Registry

Registration Certificate from The Heirloom Registry

 

Legacy through the stomach: Family cookbooks and family recipes as family heirlooms

This post originally ran Aug. 1, 2012. It details the importance that family cookbooks play as family heirlooms — and in turn as vital parts of family history.

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory Publishing Marketing Director

For the better part of two decades, my grandparents lived in paradise. To find this “Eden,” pull out a map of the contiguous United States, and let your fingers inch up, up, north to the Canadian border; then left, left, west to the Pacific.

You’ll know you’re in the right place when you reach the part of Washington state that isn’t there. Or rather, only bits of land are visible  — tiny dots amid the cold, salty waters of the Puget Sound. It was on one of these specks, among the San Juan Islands on a place called Lopez Island, that I spent some of my most memorable childhood days.

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Gommy in the garden on Lopez Island.

Lopez is a little less than 30 square miles in area, and is a biker’s paradise because of its relatively flat landscape. During the ’70s and ’80s, when my grandparents Tom and Gerri Walsh lived there, it was still a relatively unknown place compared to the vacation home-laden landscape of today — a retirees’ paradise where everyone (quite literally) waved to everyone they might pass on the road.

For me, what defined paradise as a kid was simple: spending summer days skipping glacier-flattened rocks on Fisherman’s Bay; upturning boulders to search for scurrying rock crabs; sailing to town for warm french fries and cold cokes with my brothers; hot dogs by the fire on the beach…you get the picture.  

Food, of course, was a centerpiece of my memories. I suppose that’s what having fresh Northwest berries with nearly every breakfast (picked straight out of my grandparent’s garden), or dining on crab caught just an hour earlier will do.

I still remember, very clearly, Gommy (“grandma,” for our audience) baking bread in the kitchen, and Gompy (grandpa) picking long, fresh green beans for the night’s dinner.

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What brought all this up for me was a video I recently watched over at the Genealogy Gems YouTube channel. In the piece, genealogist Lisa Louise Cooke interviewed Gena Philibert-Ortega, who authors the blog “Food.Family.Ephemera,”which looks at how food history and family history intertwine. You can hear the full interview at the Genealogy Gem’s podcast page (episode 137).

As Gena and Lisa discussed, knowing what past generations incorporated into their meals brings a family’s history alive in a way other bits of data (such as census records and obituaries) simply cannot. The “Rhubarb Torte” recipe that Gommy submitted to The Lopez Island Cookbook — a 189-page community effort flowered with the dishes of the island’s citizens — is now my “Rhubarb Torte.” Anytime I want to take my taste buds back to the driftwood-lined beaches of Fisherman’s Bay, I’m but a few ingredients away.

Through her palate and her cookbook, a vital part of my grandma’s legacy is alive. Now, it’s up to me to make sure my heirs receive this message.

It’s been more than 20 years since Gommy and Gompy sold their house on the island, and the Lopez of today has a much different feel than the one I grew up with. I think it simply doesn’t feel quite as small as it once did.  I’m glad I have my grandmother’s cookbook to remember it the way I want to.

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The back page of my Lopez Island Cookbook.

For Gommy’s “Lopez Island Cookbook” Rhubarb Torte recipe, as well as some more photos, please visit our Facebook page. Do you have any family cookbooks that have been passed down, or you plan on passing down to your heirs? How about any family recipes? Please share it with our readers, and let us know what you think of our blog. Thanks!

RootsTech event stresses importance of documenting family stories that matter NOW, before it’s too late

Mike and I were thrilled to attend RootsTech in Salt Lake City. By the end of the weekend, we were both exhausted and energized. You can see why by reading this account by Dick Eastman, who writes the popular, “Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter:

“Sponsored by Family Search, the RootsTech Conference was held for three days at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, Utah. More than 6,700 people from 49 U.S. States (why was no one there from Delaware?) and 17 countries were in the Salt Palace Convention Center for the opening day of the RootsTech Conference on March 21. I never heard the final attendance numbers, but I saw a long line of people on the opening day waiting to purchase tickets at the door. Obviously, the final number was higher than 6,700.”

To say it was big is an understatement. And apparently, it’s only going to get bigger. Much bigger.

We saw and met lots of new friends at the conference; took in sounds of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir (an event sponsored by RootsTech), mingled with genealogy’s bigwigs and heard an interesting presentation about the growing interest in genealogy of youth at the invitation-only VIP Breakfast sponsored by FamilySearch,  and simply enjoyed hearing tons of great stories behind family heirlooms and houses that attendees  shared with us.

The concept of preserving stories NOW before it’s too late was also a prevalent theme at the conference — and obviously something that resonated deeply with us. Below is a snapshot of some of the highlights. For more photos and info on the event, check out our Facebook page.