Today I thought we could talk about robots. Robots were certainly a theme at TED. We saw the famous Baxter who has been designed to work with humans in physical labour locations (aka factories). And the cool new personal robot, the Romotive, was also demoed (I so want one of these!).
But I wanted to talk about some old-fashioned robots. Old-fashioned robots who used to deliver flowers. Botanical Delivery Bots from Wrylon Robotical - a company started by Rhoderick R. Wrylon, that created and dominated the flower delivering robot market. He opened the doors of the first Wrylon Robotical delivery storefront in 1906 and the company thrived until 1913, when it mysteriously shuttered its doors.
I recently acquired the Illustrated Catalog of these robots and it is incredible. Barry McWilliams (Twitter) is the talented illustrator behind the Wrylon Catalog. The little book is truly a marvel. Aside from the actual catalog full of illustrations and ads, McWilliams also included some delightful ephemera .. delivery orders, a letter that mentions rumours of robots gone missing, a newspaper article about the closing of the factory. I really hope this all points to a larger project that McWilliams has in mind, because what a fun adventure that would be!!
Now, the Illustrated Catalog was available through a Kickstarter project. (Side note .. I'm a little obsessed with Kickstarter. But more on that in a later post.) And is not currently available. Sad face. BUT! McWilliams has started a second Wrylon-related project on Kickstarter and there are still 7 days (ends March 13) to get in on that project. It's a collection of Wrylon Robotical Field Guides … designed for engineers and "Bot Spotters". Three of them will be filled with sketches, tips for spotting, etc. The fourth (a stretch goal) is a blank grid-ruled notebook for our own sketches, but still in the Wrylon Field Guide style.
I've signed up for this Kickstarter too (don't tell Rosemary). And if you are as charmed by these robots as I am, I'd encourage you to sign up as well. You get a 3-pack (plus the blank notebook) for only $15 (that includes shipping outside the US; in the US it's only $12). This project has already been funded, so it will go ahead. But I really want McWilliams to receive as much support as possible because I love these little bots and I want to know more about their adventures and why the heck the factory shut down. This is the kind of storytelling and creativity that we need more of (not Cougar Town and Fifty Shades of Grey (IMNSHO)). So, check out the video below and then hop on over to the Kickstarter and pledge your $15 to the project. I know you won't regret it!
Well, this week was the 2013 TED Conference. I've been attending TED either in-person or virtually since 2005. This year we streamed it (as TEDLive members). And even though we're attending "virtually", we do set aside the week to attend all the sessions. Overall, this year was better than the last couple. In the past, I've found a higher ratio of either poorly prepared presenters (C'mon, you're presenting at TED! This is not the time for your famous "off the cuff" lecture style) or presenters who sell from the stage (not always overt, but there have been a few who are all "well in my book, I say". Blerg.)
To me, there was only one truly awful one (not mentioned below). And one where I was prepared to LOVE the content but the presenter took us down a wendy windy wandering academic garden path that made no sense and a lot of their points got lost along the way. And there were a couple of "audience talks" that were pretty cringe-worthy.
However, there were truly some outstanding presentations - for various reasons. Most of them good.
These are my TED 2013 presentation highlights. In all cases I've linked to the official TED Blog post about them where if they haven't posted the video yet, hopefully they will. The blog posts also have all the links to the presenters' bios, websites, etc.:
Most informative on a new-to-me topic
Saki Mafundikwa founded the Zimbabwe Institute of Vigital Arts, ZIVA, a Bauhaus-style school focused on African heritage. Mafundikwa's talk was about the story of writing in Africa - likely where the written form began rather than in Mesopotamia. The true message of his talk was that African designers have a lot of inspiration in their own heritage and history - and they shouldn't look to the outside for inspiration, but from within their own culture. Mafundikwa showed a few slides both of historical African design as well as work from the students at ZIVA. It was incredible - I've ordered his book about Afrikan Alphabets to learn more.
Most inspired me to take local action
Since we bought a place with a yard, we've been gardening. Now, we don't have enough acreage to grow ALL our own food, but I find that our small plots are good practice from a food security point of view, to prepare for the day when the oil runs out and if we don't grow our own we don't eat. Hopefully that day is still a few years away, but I think it is important to continue honing my gardening skills. So does Ron Finley. He's a guerilla gardener in South Central LA who wants everyone to garden - even more than Michelle Obama does. He wants his community to own their health and own their food supply. Finley is a fantastic storyteller. He preaches and adds a little humour: "Gardening is the most therapeutic and defiant act you can do, especially in the inner city. Plus, you get strawberries." He holds "dig ins" to teach people in his community how to garden. He is inspiring and has gotten me excited about another growing season and the real potential for creating change in a local community.
Update March 6: Ron's Talk has been posted!
Made my Canadian heart glow the warmest
Canadians had some pretty good representation at TED this year, folks from Vancouver, in particular (does that have anything to do with the fact that TED is coming to Vancouver for 2 years?). My favourite Canadian moment was when Shane Koyczan took the stage. You likely remember Shane from his phenomenal spoken-word performance at the Vancouver 2010 Games. Shane has continued his wonderful lyrical work since 2010 and closed the Thursday night session of TED with his wonderful storytelling … a powerful intro and then the recitation of his latest work "To This Day". They haven't posted the video of Shane at TED yet, but you can hear his words set to the combined animations of 80 illustrators.
WARNING: There is swearing in the following. And I know it sounds like I'm a crusty old man screaming "You kids get off my lawn." Whatever. Skip to the next one if you don't want to read that :)
Every year there is at least one TED presentation that makes me furious - not because it was poorly presented but because to me the topic is so incredibly self-evident that I can't believe TED wasted 18 minutes on it. This year, Meg Jay earned my wrath. Her talk was about how we need to make sure that we tell people in their 20's that they need to start behaving like they are adults. That "30 is not the new 20" and they can't blow off their 20's, fuck around at pointless jobs, and be in bad relationships because they are just fucking around waiting for their real life to start at 30.
And she wrote a book about it.
Are you shitting me? I already find millennials infuriating because HR people spend so much time telling us that they have special needs in the workplace and need to be treated differently. They need challenges and autonomy. Now the ones who aren't demanding special treatment in the workplace still need to be coddled?
Bullshit. Millennials, 20-somethings, whatever need a swift kick in the pants. I graduated from university when I was 21 (because I applied myself and finished a term early) smack dab in the middle of a recession. There were no jobs. I didn't move home with my parents and work part time in a Payless Shoe Store (Starbucks didn't exist at the time). I marched down to Kelly Services and became a Kelly Girl until I found the right position that would advance my career - it took me a while, but I did it. And nobody had to tell me not to waste time - I figured it out. Because I wanted to eat and pay rent. Also in my twenties, I was in two relationships, but they weren't goofing around relationships - I thought they were the real thing. Turns out, they weren't. But if I hadn't had them, I couldn't be in the awesome relationship I have now.
I can't believe that people in their twenties need to be told the things Dr. Jay says we need to make sure we tell them. These people are TWENTY not TWELVE. Sure .. let's support them, mentor them - but to tell them "hey, don't waste your twenties" … well no fucking kidding. Ugh.
Lisa Bu is a staffer at TED - apparently they occasionally give their own TED talks within the office - and she was invited to share her talk with the larger TED audience. Bu talked about how her love of reading helped her get past her unrealised dream of becoming an opera singer. What I love, though (aside from Bu's charm and genuineness) is how she reads comparatively. She'll read the same book in two different languages at the same time - to try to understand the nuances of each. Or two banned books. Or other interesting pairings. It's a great idea for people trying to inject an additional level of meaning into their reading habit.
Best talk given by a geek girl
What if you were reading the newspaper - the dead-tree kind of newspaper - and you wanted to share an article from it. So you touched the "Like" button that was at the top of the article and that posted it to your Facebook page. Yes, the "Like" button was on the paper edition of the newspaper and pressing it triggers a digital event. That's what charming uber geek Kate Stone is working on - interactive paper. She's designed menus where you can order by touching them and has created a paper (paper!) DJ mixing board that connects to an iPad app where she can mix music. This is some seriously cool Harry Potteresque stuff!!
Thing I'm not really sure is a great idea
Ever since I read the first Thursday Next novel from Jaspar Fforde, I have wanted a pet dodo. This year at TED, Stewart Brand (of Whole Earth Catalog fame) gave a talk on "de-extinction" - the possibility (reality!) of bringing back extinct species. Now, as much as I would LOVE a pet dodo, I don't know that this is a great idea. Not because of some Jurassic Parkesque fear, but I worry that we, as the dominant species on the planet, will trivialise the impact we have on the environment. WE HAVE WIPED OUT SPECIES BECAUSE OF OUR GREED. Now, if we can bring them back, will we ever feel the immorality of what we have done in the first place? There's going to be a whole TEDxDeExtinction event on March 15 - and they are live-streaming it for free. I'm planning on watching.
My TED Book list
Most of the folks who spoke at TED also wrote a book, or two. I've added a TED 2013 shelf over on my Goodreads with the ones I'm planning on reading. The TED blog actually had a more complete list a month or so ago - books to read to get you ready for TED.
One of the reasons that I prefer livestreaming TED rather than attending (aside from the overall cost savings) is that I can share TED with Rosemary as well as a few close friends. Rosemary's done her roundup of this year's TED - a different take than mine - she highlights some great talks as well!
And that's it! A few of the talks from this year have been posted and more will continue to go up. So if you haven't subscribed to TED's weekly newsletter, make sure you do so! One of my goals this year is to watch a new TED talk once a week - we'll see if that happens now that I've had a full four days of TED.
So, it's now late February - I figured it was time to update my Shoebox for the month (if you're just joining us, this is the original post).
I was hoping to find some winter outer gear (hat, gloves, scarf, etc) on sale, but didn't locate anything. So, I went with a "spa" idea instead (who doesn't dream about going to the spa in dreary February - or maybe I'm projecting?). So - a nice mani-pedi kit in a re-sealable sleeve with nail brush, foot file, emery board, etc. On sale for $5.99.
I also received a bonus item this month - my friend, Elisa, received one of those cool, fold-away reusable totes from LUG in a conference swag bag. She has others, so she gave this one to me. Since it is unused and even still has the tags on, I'm adding it to my box. These fold-away totes are so handy - Rosemary and I each carry one (a different brand) in our purse or backpack - nice to have when you stop by a store or shop unexpectedly and don't want to carry home a couple of pounds of salmon in your hands :)
Remember, I'm tracking each month's shoebox item and cost. If you're following along and building a box, send me a pic and/or your ideas!
I have hoarder tendencies. If there were a Kinsey Scale of clutter (from zen minimalist to star of A&E's Extreme Hoarders), I would be just right of centre. Not quite all the way to crazy cat lady, but certainly someone who has to work to keep her table top clean and whose bookshelf could use a good thinning.
I like to collect things. Not ALL things, but specific categories of things. Because the end game to the collecting is sorting. (So, I actually like to SORT things.) And to sort, you have to have things .. hence the collecting. I blame Herman Hesse for my collecting. Hesse wrote The Glass Bead Game which I read as a young person. Well, tried to read - I checked it out of the library and got a few dozen pages into it. It was largely beyond my ability at the time and I missed most of the point of the book, but it didn't stop me from fantasizing about what the titular game would look and play like … a synthesis of human learning along different themes, drawing from examples of art, music, literature, philosophical thought, science theories, etc.
All represented by beads.
I imagined a complex, multi-dimensional abacus of filaments and beads. I even convinced my father to help me build such a device. It ended up being much less complex than my imagination (more like a multi-string, 2 dimensional abacus rather than a multi-dimensional one), but still a device that I delighted in stringing and restringing with various patterns of beads. I wish I had pictures of this device and its various incarnations. But, alas, I grew up in a time when we didn't document every waking moment. But my bead collection was prodigious.
Though the years, these hoarder inclinations have taken various forms. The worst was when I filled up a basement with old computer parts I was going to turn into art. Absolute nightmare. Currently, I have way too many envelopes of chiyogami paper. I find some of these papers so beautiful, it almost makes me ache to look at them. I've been actively trying to resist hoarding these papers, trying to find projects in which to use them. I used a few on the Christmas cards I made this year.
When I get in this hoarding mode, I remind myself of something I read in Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project. In her chapter on money and its relation to happiness, Rubin discusses about the idea of "spending out" …
A few years ago, my sister gave me a box of beautiful stationery for my birthday. I loved it, but I'd never used it. When I was mailing some photos to the grandparents, I hesitated to use the new stationery because I was "saving" it; but to what better use could it be put? Of course I should use those notes. Spend out.
Rubin further expands "spending out" to our generosity with time and ideas. And in all things "trusting abundance". (This whole chapter on happiness and money is excellent - I really love the entire book, but she really crystallizes some ideas for me around money and material things). I try to remember to spend out .. with my chiyogami paper and other ways … by remembering to use the good china, drink the good wine, eat the gourmet chocolate, write with the good pen. Rubin quotes one of her blog readers who commented on a post about spending out "Life is too short to save your good china or your good lingerie or your good ANYTHING for later because truly, later may never come."
I've been thinking even more about spending out because I am reading Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century: 32 Families Open Their Doors - a fascinating book that documents the key findings of a social science research project by researchers at the Center on Everyday Lives of Families (CELF): tracking the daily lives (through interviews, photographs, videos, and other ethnographic methods) of 32 families in Southern California. All of the families in this book have a clutter problem .. in varying degrees. But it seems 95% of North Americans have a clutter problem. Too much stuff. We see this in the rise of personal organizers and decluttering experts (my personal favourite, Peter Walsh from the old TLC Clean Sweep show - he's still helping people get organized - he did a FANTASTIC declutter project called #31days2getorganized on social media in January). And in the abundance of aspirational magazines like Real Simple.
Below is an episode about clutter in Americans' lives, made by the researchers from the CELF project. An observation made by one of the researchers, Anthony P. Graesch - Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Connecticut College and an ethnoarchaeologist …
We have many mechanisms by which we accumulate possessions in our home, but we have few rituals or mechanisms or processes for unloading these objects, for getting rid of them.
As a former ritual theory major, I find this comment quite telling (it's at about 3:20 in the video - the whole 6:30 are fascinating and worth watching - actually ALL the videos in this series (3) are worth watching). One of the participants in the study appears in the video right after Graesch and describes how things come in: birthdays, holidays, relatives, school and found "treasures". But Graesch's point is well made .. we don't have well-defined occasions or processes for letting go and getting rid of things. On Clean Sweep, fully half (if not more) of Walsh's time was spent as therapist - helping people understand that objects were not the same as people - and as priest - giving people ritual (sometimes a brutal process and sometimes a game) that helped people sort and purge. The #31days2getorganized challenge I mentioned above is a further testament to his ability as ritual tender.
Another welcome entry into this area is the new holiday of Discardia - created by Dinah Sanders 10 years ago as a reminder to let go of what (stuff, habits, ideas) wasn't making her life awesome. Sanders also wrote Discardia: More Life, Less Stuff which contains three key principles and numerous practical tips to celebrate this new holiday and address specific issues, carve away the nonsense of physical objects, habits, or emotional baggage, and uncover what brings you joy. Discardia happens four times a year; Sanders keeps celebrants on track via Facebook and Twitter. Sanders' ebook version of Discardia is only $2.99 - totally worth it!
Aside from my spending out struggles, I do try to find my own ways to declutter. Both Rosemary and I try to do a bi-annual (winter and summer) clothes review. We've held two book swaps over the last year and plan to do another one in the spring (maybe not 100% oriented towards clutter reduction, but at least clutter rotation :). And I'm hoping to create a Little Free Library this spring as well which may help a bit more with book sharing as well.
I don't know whether it's because we've been watching a lot of Star Trek: The Next Generation these days or because the first issue of the Scientific American subscription that Rosemary gave me for Christmas FINALLY arrived, but I am feeling a lot of warm, fuzzy vibes towards science lately. (Oh, and let's not forget that my two main Internet crushes are scientists: Neil deGrasse Tyson and Maggie Koerth-Baker. Oh, and my Internet boyfriend, Nate Silver, is an awesome statistician).
I often wish I had chosen "science" as a career … but I decided to be a "liberal arts" major. But these days, particularly with the advent of the Internet, I can be a Citizen Scientist. Back before "crowd-sourcing" meant "begging for money on Indiegogo", I participated in SETI@Home - a Citizen Science project where you could offer your computer's spare cycles for crunching radio telescope data and searching for patterns in the noise.
Though apparently projects like SETI@Home aren't considered TRUE Citizen Science anymore; they now bear the moniker Passive Citizen Science or simply "distributed computing". I don't know that I agree with that - so many of these projects (this is a list of some that use the BOINC software in addition to SETI@Home - projects ranging astronomy to biology to mathematics to humanitarian research) are an easy first step to getting excited about observing, collecting, recording and analyzing data about the world around us.
Citizen Science as a phenomenon didn't begin with the Internet. Starting in the Renaissance, independent scientists (aka gentleman scientists .. argh!!) appeared here and there .. often hanging about the Royal Society of London and making interesting discoveries outside of academic institutions. Charles Darwin and Ben Franklin are good examples of early citizen scientists; Craig Venter and Susan Blackmore are good modern-day examples.
One of the Citizen Science projects I participate in has its origins in an event that occurred over a century ago. Apparently, a cool thing to do back in the 19th century was go out and kill as many birds as you could on Christmas Day. Ahh .. those crazy kids. But then Frank Chapman, an officer in the newly formed Audubon Society thought "Hmm .. maybe there is a better way to celebrate the Baby Jesus than by killing a bunch of birds". So Chapman proposed that people just count and record the birds. And in 1900, the first Christmas Bird Count was held.
The Christmas Bird Count (Canadian link) continues to this day all across North America. The 113th count closed on January 5, 2013 - all the results have not been compiled yet but last year there were 2,248 counts (Canada: 410; US: 1739; Latin America & Caribbean: 99) with 63,227 citizen scientists participating. A related project that do is Project Feeder Watch: a winter long survey of birds that visit feeders in backyards and community areas across North America. It's operated by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Bird Studies Canada. I used to participate it in when I lived in Toronto and had a back yard. Now that we're in a place with a yard in Vancouver, I set up a couple of feeders and have started to count again. The above picture is of one of my visitors last spring, a house finch.
But if bird watching isn't your gig, there's Citizen Science options for everyone. One I recently discovered: RinkWatch - where backyard skating meets environmental science. Following a report from scientists in Montreal that there will be fewer outdoor skating days in the future, a group of geographers from Wilfrid Laurier University created RinkWatch to track changes in the climate. From the website …
We want outdoor rink lovers across North America and anywhere else in the world to tell us about their rinks. We want you to pin the location of your rink on our map, and then each winter record every day that you are able to skate on it. Think of it as your rink diary. We will gather up all the information from all the backyard rinks and use it to track the changes in our climate.
You may not think of it as science, but that’s exactly what you will be doing – making regular, systematic observations about environmental change in your own back yard. You will be joining a growing league of citizen-scientists from across North America. Is the backyard skating rink an endangered species? The first step in finding out for sure is to gather the statistics. If we want skate outside in the future, we have to find what’s going on today. So please, join RinkWatch, and help prevent backyard rinklessness.
If you (and your kids!) want to participate in a Citizen Science project, Scientific American maintains a portal of projects - from identifying animals on the Serengeti snapped by dozens of field cameras to being a Bat Detective. And if you want to get out and about in your community and do Citizen Science on the move, mobile apps are a rapidly growing area of Citizen Science. OpenScientist.org has a list of mobile projects.
One of my favourite is ProjectNoah - actually not a citizen science project in and of itself, but a tool for citizen scientists to store information on any animals they spot and make that data available to researchers regardless of the project. On the ProjectNoah site there are several "missions" that are taking place based on the ongoing database of information that is coming in. I also like ProjectNoah because they award badges for completing missions. And I loves me some gamification :)
So, what do you think? Ready to don your lab coat?
Back in November I posted about The Shoebox Project for Shelters - a cross-Canada initiative to assemble and distribute shoeboxes that contain small luxuries to gift to women in shelters over the holidays. I was so pleased to be part of the Vancouver team. We collected and distributed 261 boxes to the Vancouver Rape Relief Centre, Ray Cam Community Centre and the Downtown Eastside Women's Centre in Vancouver, part of the 2700 that were collected and distributed across the country.
It was a truly inspiring project to be a part of. Aside from being able to brighten the holiday season for 261 women, I also got to meet some generous, kind-hearted people. Some of the folks who delivered boxes to our door:
These are just the few that stuck out. Everyone who dropped off a box was excited about the project and happy to be participating. Most people found out about us through the article that appeared in Vancouver 24 hours. So thank you, Cam!!
And thank you to my friends and colleagues who supported this project. Whether you assembled and gifted a box or spent an afternoon with us assembling and wrapping boxes (a lot of folks brought the contents sans shoebox), I appreciate all of you!! And a HUGE thank you to my wife, Rosemary. She went through every single box that we collected (over 100 at our location) and checked each item. She sorted and discarded items like used makeup brushes, 1/2 empty bottles of lotion and expired Cups of Soup (a few people used this as a "clean out under my bathroom sink opportunity"). But thanks to her, no woman in a shelter received a bag of partially used, schmutz-coated hotel shampoo samples.
Assembling a Shoebox for 2013
One of the comments that both I and another of the drop-off locations heard was that there is already a lot of time and money pressure on people during the holidays - so would it be possible to do this at a different time of year? I think this is a great point and here is my idea: let's build a shoebox over the course of the year. That way, the $50 outlay isn't all at once and hopefully you can incorporate purchasing that month's item into your regular shopping.
So, I'm going to do that. Over 2013, I'll assemble a shoebox .. taking into account that there are some things we don't want to buy too early (makeup, chocolate) because of potential expiry. I've started a summary page that includes what is going into my box as well as some alternative ideas for that month. Then each month, I'll post the new item that's going into my shoebox and link it on the summary page. Sound good?
Shoebox Item for January
Well, the first thing on the list was "get a shoebox" :) Trickier than you might think. But, now done. This month, the theme is dental care (start off the new year right - plus, toothpaste generally has a 2 year shelf life - the expiry date on this one is end of 2014). In the box this month: toothpaste, toothbrush and floss. Regular price would have been $13.50, but all these were on sale and came to only $6.00.
I don't know if you know this or not - but apparently, just buying a book and putting it on your shelf (real or virtual) isn't the same as actually reading it.
"What?!? No!" you're saying.
Trust me - I feel your incredulity. Even though I have tried quite assiduously over the last few years to pare down my book collection, I still have at least 1 or 2 shelves of "to read". And these are not the "to read" flights of fantasy like when I purchased several books about Past Life Regression because of a short-lived obsession (ok, maybe my vintage cocktail books fall into that category - but they are REFERENCE books, I tell you.) My "to read" shelves contain a variety of fiction (25%) and non-fiction (75%) across several topics, all of which continue to hold quite a bit of interest for me.
I even try to curb my book buying using a "1-in, 1-out" principle. The holidays, of course, put a real damper on that plan (and I will NEVER discourage books as a gift). And lovely publishers who send me review copies (thank you, Dan!!).
Ebook purchasing makes this principle (rule? well, more of a guideline really) even more difficult to follow: In bed, bored with my current book … hmm, I wonder if they have this one I just read about on Goodreads. They do? Fantastic. Click. Downloading. (I really try not to do this too often. Inevitably when I do it is the most expensive ebook. Ebook prices continue to infuriate me. And the lack of share-ability or re-gift-ability.)
In an attempt to actually read more and not just have books that I stare at wistfully, I've really pushed myself with my 2013 Goodreads Reading Challenge. 35 books this year. That doesn't seem like a lot to some people. If I look at my friends on Goodreads who have set a reading challenge, I see 24 books, 36, 100, 30, 100, 12, 25, 42, 75, 35 and 75. Alright - people who have put down 75 - 100 - they are just showboating. People who put 36 are taunting me. And the person who put 42 .. well that's my 2014 goal :) I've done a Goodreads challenge for the last 2 years (26 and 30 books, respectively). I actually read 31 books in each of the last 2 years - so exceeded the challenge (yay). I do like having the goal set and tracked by Goodreads' tool - like any goal, it's helpful to see progress.
Serendipitously, when thinking about how to improve my reading quantity, I came across this post on Lifehacker.com - "Can I Learn to Read Faster and Get Through My Backlog of Books"? I really can't do the audiobook thing. I actually use audiobooks to fall asleep (it's like being a kid again and having someone read to you to get you to fall asleep; this habit is particularly unfortunate on roadtrips) so that tip wouldn't help me. I did find a bit of encouragement from Jeff Ryan's "366 Days, 366 Books" piece on Slate. He talks about reading several books at once - this is definitely something I do and I actually think it makes the process go a little faster. I don't know if I get behind Ryan's definitely of a book "something printed that cost about $20" … this definition let him consider comics as books. OK, I suppose if I were trying to do a book a DAY, I could support that. But for me .. no. Not that I'm slagging graphic novels - I have one of Pride and Prejudice that I adore and would consider a "book". It's just that I don't think the latest edition of a Spiderman comic counts. Now, for some, my second book of 2013, The Panem Companion, might fall into this category, but I don't think it does.
So, what do I have on tap for reading right now?
Plutocrats - I'm really enjoying this book, but it makes me kind of angry, so I'm not allowed to read it at night. Aside: do any of you have restrictions placed on your bedtime reading? I'm no longer allowed to read any political or economic books at night because they make me a little angry and maybe even a little weepy. This all started with Stealth of Nations which made me want to throw things across the room because people and governments are stupid. But it is a great book.
When America First Met China - I love books about China, Japan and other East Asian cultures and history. This is one of many on my Asian Fascination shelf over at Goodreads.
Everybody's Jane: Austen in the Popular Imagination - Yeah, I love reading about Jane Austen. See my Austenmania shelf.
Stormdancer - the sole fiction currently on the go (oh, wait, that's not true. I actually just started Up and Down, but that's about a PR firm and since I work in communications I see it as more "creative non-fiction". This was one of those late night, in bed purchases because I read the first chapter in a free Best Fall Fiction Sampler over at Kobo) Anyhoo .. super excited about this one: Japanese Steampunk is all you need to know.
The stacks of books behind these four is a little daunting. I just got Nate Silver's The Signal and the Noise. I'm a little scared of it. Math isn't my favourite. Also David Deutsch's The Beginning of Infinity. And on the fiction front Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. That one should be lots of fun. My Goodreads' buddy, David, says ..
Cline may not be a great writer and frankly Ready Player One plays out like a screenplay that foreshadows the inevitable movie. Still, that's not to say this isn't a hella fun read.
We're talking competitive bouts of Pac-Man,Tempest and a memorable head-to-head against a Lich King playing Joust. It's walking the marbled halls of the Tyrell Corporation, flying the Serenity with Max Headroom as your personal AI or racing your own DeLorean. Throw in some School House Rocks, Family Ties, Ghostbusters and mix well. It's guilty pleasure in the form of geek lore. I blazed through this in a weekend.
Plus my brother really liked it and one of my D&D buddies from high school (yeah) reco'd it to me. So total geek stamps of approval.
Oh, speaking of reading, I'm thinking about starting a book club. I've been in one book club in my life. It did not go well. But hey, live and learn and get back up on the horse. This time, though, I'm thinking about a virtual book club - maybe using Google Hangouts. I posted about this on Facebook and had a couple of people say they are interested. I'm looking for say .. 8 people. Meet once a quarter? And here's the real question .. same or mixed gender? I would say 99% of the book clubs that friends are in are same gender. Thoughts on this? Interested in participating? Someone asked how we'd pick books. I'm strangely drawn to this Reading Bingo Challenge that was posted over on Random House Canada's blog. Gimmicky? Maybe. But I like that.
Any thoughts or strategies for your 2013 reading life are appreciated. And let me know if you're interested in the virtual book club.
I am living a blessed life. I am warm and cozy at night in a place I can call my own. I have an amazing wife and extended family. I do not experience the fear or reality of domestic violence. And I have a job that pays well and lets me afford little luxuries.
This was not always the case. I remember a time when I was thrilled to find an extra dime at the bottom of my purse which meant that I could afford bus fare. Or when I found $5 in a puddle next to the curb which meant that I could buy the jar of peanut butter I'd been craving. It was a time of survival, not one of luxury. And it was a mean existence. But I was lucky - I had friends and colleagues who made that time seem less dark and helped me through.
It's important that we have hope in our lives. And to know that someone, even a stranger, cares. Which is why I am so pleased to be a part of The Shoebox Project for Shelters' Vancouver launch (official letter).
The Shoebox Project for Shelters is a non-for-profit initiative that collects small gifts that are packaged in shoeboxes, and distributes them to women in shelters just before the holidays. These shelters provide emergency and transitional shelter and services to women who are homeless because they flee abuse or difficult living situations, they are poor or afflicted with mental illness or they are new Canadians who require assistance.
These shoeboxes brighten the holiday season and let the women know they are special and not forgotten. They are filled with items that a woman would enjoy but would not splurge on for herself in times of difficulty.
This is the second official year of The Shoebox Project in Montreal and Toronto. This year, it is launching in Halifax, London and Vancouver. In Vancouver, we are collecting shoeboxes for the Vancouver Rape Relief Centre and the Downtown Eastside Women's Centre.
OK, here's my ask …
The holidays are approaching and they bring with them a lot of pressures. Including the pressure to give to charitable organizations. I know that it's a tough economic time for people and budgets are tight. But please read this comment from the Program Supervisor at Street Haven Shelter in Toronto …
The women loved the boxes and all of the items in them, a few of the women were ecstatic as they had never received or owned a bottle of perfume, they loved the make-up, chocolates and body care products. For a few of the women it was the first time they were celebrating the holidays and they were so emotional about how wonderful everything was and how grateful they are to organizations like yours.
Ladies ... imagine never having received a bottle of perfume. Or always having to choose peanut butter or other staples over hand lotion or lip balm. Or a little box of Lindor chocolates.
I would like to invite you … either alone or as part of a group (maybe your book club or your play date group or your yoga class - or even an activity with your kids) … to make a shoebox (or heck, more than one shoebox!). Our goal is 100 shoeboxes in Vancouver. I would like to think that my network alone could create those 100 shoeboxes. Is that expecting too much?
What should go in the box (approximately $50 in value):
For more information:
Oh, and if you don't have a shoebox, don't worry. Just bring the items by in a bag .. we'll pack them into one or more shoeboxes for you.
Thank you for reading this and for your consideration. And on your next trip to Shopper's Drug Mart or London Drugs, maybe add a few more things to your basket. You'll be bringing a few moments of joy to a woman who may not be anticipating finding this time of year particularly joyful.
Oh .. one more thing for my friends in PR. If you represent a company who could donate items to a few boxes (not all 100 - even 1/2 a dozen would be great), could you ask them? Small retailers or franchise owners? I'll gladly pick items up. Thanks!
It's 2012 and email is still an imperfect system - and the interoperability between Mac and PC is still inconsistent. We can put a Rover on Mars, but we can't make email seamless. I have a client who is on a PC and when she emails me attachments, I often (but not always which is even more maddening) receive them as the dreaded winmail.dat file.
What is a winmail.dat file, you ask?
The file is a rich text (or MAPI) message that is sent from Outlook to Exchange. When Exchange sends the message to an outside server it writes the MAPI message as a MIME attachment. The unfortunate side effect of this plan is that if the Outlook user has someone in their address book as a person who can receive "Rich Text" then the user will receive the TNEF (Transport Neutral Encapsulation Format) file whether the user uses Outlook or not.
The files are usually received by SMTP based e-mail programs from Microsoft Exchange and Microsoft Outlook users. The SMTP based e-mail program will usually either receive a MIME attachment named "winmail.dat" or a MIME attachment with the type "application/ms-tnef."
It was KILLING me. I'd have to ask her to resend. Or we tried using various file-sharing services. But it was a hassle for her.
Then, I found TNEF's Enough by Josh Jacob.
It is the sweetest little Mac program - it extracts the original attachment from the Microsoft TNEF stream that comes along with the win.dat attachment. Powerpoint files. Images. Word docs. Any attachment that she sends me and has been converted to a winmail.dat, TNEF Enough can open. Oh, and the explanation of a winmail.dat file is from his FAQ.
Below is a screenshot of TNEF's Enough. When I open the offending winmail.dat file in TNEF's Enough, it shows me the original email message as well as all the attachments. I can then choose one or more of them and "Export" from the menu.