Saturday, November 29, 2008

What to Give?

So we enter the giving phase.

Around here, we are kind of stuck.
We don't want to go to one of these
dangerous big stores. Designed to extract bucks from our wallets. But we want to gift our loved ones.
What to do?
Keeping a sharp eye out and about.....

Boing Boing has a list of groovy giftings, thanks Cory.
Add Madcap Logic to the list, but really.....good to go.

Big new thaing...Etsy.
People make. People get.
So cool to support real people making real things selling in real time. No creepy oversized shopping carts wielded down enormous long halls of stuff. Real is real.
People create. People buy.

We here haven't done cards in years. Old school. The Internets eliminates the need for stamps, street addresses, etc. You can design your own. Cool sites:
Green is good. We are always looking for interesting newspaper throughout the year, says color/happy. Get your hands on foreign press, stock market, comics, any broadsheet or tabloid-size pages.
Wrap with visuals/color. Match with ribbons/bows.
Don't buy. Dig through existing collections.
You know you have a box somewhere with stuff.....bows, flowers, ribbons, pictures. Dig it out right about now. K?
Let's check in this week.
I want to hear ideas. Tips. Solutions.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Turkey Trot

Hi all, you have yourselves a nice family spell.
Thanksgiving has really evolved into a school holiday/chance to spend time with family, elders (before they pass) take family photos, connect the cousins, eat lots of food-kind of time. That's cool.
Most of us know that it is a sanctioned pig-out, we don't always do this to our systems.
We indulge, we eat, we burp. Maybe walk around the block to work it off. Maybe hit the gym a little harder afterwards. All cool.
Lotsa food.
Just thought I would explore the origins of "the bird".
Our photo here indicates a bunch of these ground-living birds, looking astute and colorful.
We all like to think that our holiday centerpiece, the bird, resembles those of our ancestors, the Pilgrims.
However, the bird has a history older than we realize.
And the menu.... forget about it.
Kathleen Curtin, Food Historian at Plymouth Plantation shares this info.
"Surprisingly, the following foods, all considered staples of the modern Thanksgiving meal, didn't appear on the Pilgrims's first feast table:
Ham: There is no evidence that the colonists had butchered a pig by this time, though they had brought pigs with them from England.
Sweet Potatoes/Potatoes: These were not common.
Corn on the Cob: Corn was kept dried out at this time of year.
Cranberry Sauce: The colonists had cranberries but no sugar at this time.
Pumpkin Pie: It's not a recipe that exists at this point, though the pilgrims had recipes for stewed pumpkin.
Chicken/Eggs: We know that the colonists brought hens with them from England, but it's unknown how many they had left at this point or whether the hens were still laying.
Milk: No cows had been aboard the Mayflower, though it's possible that the colonists used goat milk to make cheese."
Who knew?
And for the bird, I share a photo of a large, unassuming warehouse in Longmont, CO, that bears the sign, Butterball. It has come to that.
Bon appetite.

Friday, November 21, 2008

A Note To Product Designers

This is something that has been on people's minds lately.
It has to do with font size, and designing products for usability, function.....not just cool n groovy.
Today, in the shower, I reached for shampoo, and since I normally wear glasses.....But not in the shower......I grabbed what is suspect was conditioner.
There are tons of bottles collecting in our showers, I don't know every product, I bought some, others have bought some, and I don't really even care a whole lot. I just want a clean scalp, step 1, then I want to condition my hair, step 2.
So today I think, and again, not sure because I couldn't read the label, I started with something goopy, and not frothy, and that was probably conditioner. I followed with something frothy, and not goopy, so I am pretty sure I reversed the order of business.
But another way I know, is because my hair looks awful. And stiff. And dry.

So why do fonts have to be read with an electron microscope? According to Lighthouse International, approximately 19 million persons age 18 and over report having trouble seeing, and wear glasses.
So when all these people are not wearing their glasses, they can't read labels, unless the font is large and clear.
  • Like when they are showering. They can't read grooming product labels.
  • Like when they finish swimming. Sunblock.
  • Like when they just wake up. Prescription medication.
Actually, Deborah Adler did redesign prescription labels, for this very purpose. As her master's thesis at the School for Visual Arts, she changed how this important information is shown. The doctor's name is no longer at the top. Now the name of the medication, and the dosage is large, bold, at the top.
Design saves lives. Now what about my hair?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Calculate the Calories

Finally, an online tool to help calculate the calories burned (burnt?) by various activities.
Health Status, an online health assessment site that uses algorithms from the Healthier People project of the Carter Center of Emory University, gives us numbers.
Lots of numbers.
I put in my weight and calculated the number of calories I would burn by spending a half hour of chopping wood (161), dancing ballet (157), raking leaves (105), and running at 8mph (358).
Pretty cool, I like that the activity options include talking on the telephone (28), driving (56), sex (112) and playing croquet (67).
A very handy tool as we enter the food season. Good to know where to get a good workout, or not. As if we hadn't a clue.

Big thanks to Josh McCulloch for a great shot, via Flickr.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Organic Food, Where To Spend, Or Not

We are all getting the message that organic food is a good choice. But we also know that organic food costs more, sometimes lots more. So now that we are all watching our pennies, lets review where to spend on organic, and where it doesn't matter as much.

It Matters
Apples, bell peppers, celery, cherries, imported grapes, nectarines, peaches, pears, potatoes, red raspberries, spinach, and strawberries.
The USDA's own lab testing showed that even after washing, some foods carry much higher levels of pesticide residue than others. According to Consumer Reports, the "dirty dozen", as these fruits and veggies are known as, should be organic. Their conventional counterparts are high in pesticides. Worth the roughly 50 percent more you will pay in grocery stores, but as always, look for the source. Find your farmers.
Meat, poultry, eggs and dairy.
Just don't want those hormones and antibiotics in your systems.
Baby Food, always protect the little people, their developing systems are vulnerable.

It Matters Less
Although organic bananas taste better, the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a D.C.-based research and advocacy organization, finds little residue on the conventional versions. Ditto, avocados, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, sweet corn, kiwi, mango, onions, papaya, pinapples and sweet peas. These can be much cheaper in conventional form, one way to save bucks if you don't have serious health issues.
Bread, oils, potato chips, pasta, cereals and other packaged foods.
Limited health value in organic form, processing washes away nutrients.

Don't Bother
Seafood, wild or farmed can be labeled organic despite the presence of contaminants like mercury and PCBs. Look to the valuable Seafood Watch that the Monterey Bay Aquarium puts out for advice on specific choices.
Cosmetics. Unless the product is primarily agricultural, like aloe vera gel, it's not worth the extra cost. Also, the USDA lets shampoos and body lotions to carry an organic label even when the main ingrediant is water. Check the EWG safety ratings for these products.

Thanks to Veri kleiner Winkel for a great photo.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Michael's complicated.

On complexity theory.... applies on many levels, in many fields.

"If you have a teenager, or if you invest in the stock market, you know very well that a complex system cannot be controlled, it can only be managed. Because responses cannot be predicted, the system can only be observed and responded to. The system may resist attempts to change its state. It may show resiliency. Or fragility. Or both.

An important feature of complex systems is that we don’t know how they work. We don’t understand them except in a general way; we simply interact with them. Whenever we think we understand them, we learn we don’t. Sometimes spectacularly."

Michael Crichton

Monday, November 10, 2008

More Good News

Don't you love good news? I do, and last week was one of the best weeks in many people's lives.
Hope. Change. Possibility.

One enormous reason to be happy, renewed support for art and the arts, which means many things but it is all good.

Wikipedia tells us:

The arts is a broad subdivision of culture, composed of many expressive disciplines. In modern usage, it is a term broader than "art", which usually means the visual arts, (comprising fine art, decorative art, and crafts). The arts encompasses visual arts, performing arts, language arts, and the culinary arts. Many artistic disciplines involve aspects of the various arts, so the definitions of these terms overlap to some degree though comparing the articles art school and Columbia University School of the Arts may prove instructive for those struggling with the distinction.
There you have it, the arts, many things to many people. Many happy people this week. According to the Americans for the Arts Action Fund, the results of a historic Nov. 4 - namely the election of Barack Obama and appointment of key members of Congress - will usher in an era of greater support for the arts in America.
Finally an administration that sees the arts as, not that fussy stuff you dress up and go to, but an essential part of a society.

A statement issued last week, by AAAF, President and CEO
Robert L. Lynch:
"Yesterday’s election results also expanded the base of support for the arts in Congress, which will help move arts and arts education initiatives through the legislative process. Initiatives that will fuel innovation and creativity are key to our economic recovery and global competitiveness. A new report issued last month by The Conference Board, ‘Ready to Innovate,’ touts the importance of arts education in building the 21st century workforce. The arts are good for business, good for the economy, and good for the spirit."
My spirit soars already.
Apologies for the Wiki-centric post, its all I had.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Motivation....Get Moving

Unhappy Woman on Couch, Gemini Photo Does it seem a little harder to keep our fitness routine these days? Seasons shift. Schedules shift. Commitments compete for our time. And now, cooler temperatures and fewer sunlit hours send us inward, cocooning, hovering near the soup pot (or the leftover Halloween candy). What happened to our fitness vows and how can we rekindle them? Here are some answers from the pros.

Do it for You: the Energy - Relaxation Loop

Studies have shown that the best reason to exercise is to feel good. According Dr William Stone, Chair and Professor of Exercise & Wellness at Arizona State University, the long-term exerciser’s strategies and rationale for exercising are non-existent; they’re on autopilot. The “faithful” maintain a fit lifestyle, not for weight management or appearance, but because they simply like to feel and be well.

“The number one reason to stick to a fit lifestyle is fitness itself,” says Stone. “For the feeling of wellness that comes part and parcel with getting to the mat, or gym, or hiking or whatever.”

What are some of these feelings?

A general sense of well being, more pep and energy, greater alertness, yet simultaneously, a more relaxed state and better sleep quality. Exercise triggers this loop. “You have to continue to be physically active in order to achieve these feelings,” says Stone. “If you are an exerciser, you know that that feeling can go away if you stop.” So fitness can almost be addictive. Indeed, some people do carry it too far, until it interferes with their job, their family, their life. But a healthy approach is to make your fitness routine a priority, automatic—kind of like exercising to live and not the reverse.

Keep that Feeling

You can ensure that you maintain your program, whether it's yoga, weights, Pilates, dance, anything:

• Dress For Success

Get some clothes that you really like. Have them cleaned, packed and keep them either by the door, or in the car. Have your water bottle filled, iPod charged.

• Mix it Up

According to Julie Emmerman, Psy.D., a Boulder-based psychotherapist specializing in athletes and also a former pro mountain biker, same is lame.

“If we do anything for too long without change, we will get bored.” Everyone has options. “I combine solitary aerobic activity with gym workouts that are more social,” she says. Also, try to adapt to shifting situations. “I accept that weather and schedules will require more flexibility. I try to structure workouts with people in the darker months because I know that will keep me going.”

• Find a Friend

For fun, for support. If you know someone with a similar schedule, similar interests, similar aerobic level, keep it social. Call or email the night before.

“Even if I don’t work out with someone,” says Emmerman, “just having a rapport with others at the gym who are half expecting to see me will encourage me to get there.”

• Avoid Work-Out Saboteurs

Stone warns against hooking up with saboteurs. “There are people that might say, “let’s go eat instead.” Steer clear.

• Don’t Catastrophise

Big word, bigger idea. You missed a session; it’s not the end of the world. According to Stone, “the long term adherent might say, ‘ok, I’ve sprained my ankle, and I need to take ten days off, but based on past experience, I know I am an active person, and I will get back when this is resolved.'" Injuries, illness, visiting relatives, business trips; stuff comes up. Just jump back into your routine as soon as possible.

• Grade School Approach

A simple way to set and keep fitness goals is the SMART system. Dr. Charlie Brown, Ph.D., sports psychologist, fps-Performance director and an American College of Sports Medicine expert, reminds us how it works: “Lots of sports psychologists know that setting smart (SMART) goals is critical for success and confidence,” says Brown. “Your confidence comes from how well you have achieved your goals.”

S – Set specific goals for yourself.

M – Make sure they are Measurable.

A – Be Action oriented, in terms of what you are and aren’t going to do.

R – Ensure goals are Reasonable, yet still challenging.

T – Implement Time oriented goals. “Say for the next two weeks, I am going to do that,” s ays Brown. “Then re-evaluate.”

Another big element is part of your SMART planning: Think It, Ink It. “Put it down,” says Brown. “Research shows us that if you commit to a goal, and actually write it down, your probability of completing that goal is much greater.” It also makes life planning easier when your fitness time is blocked out in your calendar or Blackberry.

“Goals affect your energy and the choices you make,” says Brown. “We know that if you are really close to achieving your specific goals, you actually tend to dig a little deeper to make sure you get there.”

Keeping fit is its own reward, inside and out. “I tally up all the reasons I want to exercise,” says Emmerman. “What it does for me internally is more important than what it does for me physically.”

Because it‘s There

Enjoy your workouts, simply because you can. “I remind myself that it is a privilege to have a body that works,” says Emmerman. “I want to do what I can to keep enjoying it.”

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Did Everyone See the Puppies?

Throughout one of the craziest weeks in memory, someone had the kindness to post this PuppyCam.