I spotted Indexed, another blog-turned-book success story, in the Chronicle Books store the other day. Indexed represents two great ideas: first, it’s a novel use for index cards (other than, say, Getting Things Done with a Hipster PDA or other office applications), and it’s also an inspired concept for a blog. ThisIsIndexed.com is one of those brilliant ideas, like the Million Dollar Homepage — simple, clever, and enviably unique (which translates into lucrative).
Every weekday, author Jessica Hagy — copywriter, doodler, and philosophical statistician — publishes a diagram or an equation that succinctly captures an insight into modern life. The index card doodles range from the trivial to the thought-provoking, most often amusing and challenging in terms of how fast you can "get it." Hagy covers topics as diverse as shelter-versus-purebred canines, drifter cuisine, the boggling math of emotion, and undergoing water torture (both voluntary and involuntary). Hagy includes larger, more complex figures in the 5×7 section.
Kindred spirit Hugh MacLeod, author of gapingvoid, also admires Indexed. Chronicle Books published a couple of companion products, the Indexed book of postcards — (because, go figure, index cards are the perfect size for postcards!) — as well as the Indexed notebook.
Posted August 13, 2009 by Mariva in arts, blog-turned-book, books, business, entertainment, fun, gifts, humor, innovations, media
In San Francisco during February 9-13, 2010? Attend the Macworld Expo for free! (The Expo pass is a $25 value. Offer expires August 30, 2009.)
2010 will be the first year in which Apple, Inc. itself is not officially a part of Macworld Conference and Expo. This comes after a noticeable slowdown after last year’s Macworld, during which Steve Jobs was conspicuously absent due to serious illness, and Apple marketer Phil Schiller adequately — but unglamorously — filled in as keynote presenter. It’s up to David Pogue, tech pundit and pianist beloved and admired by much of the Apple community, to step in for next year’s keynote — (Pogue calls it the "The Anti-Keynote") — which, if nothing else, will probably be entertaining for geeks and music lovers.
At the Macworld Town Hall meeting last year, IDG World Expo vice president and general manager Paul Kent asked attendees what we’d ideally like to see in an Apple-free conference. I suggested making the event a little "scrappier" and more community oriented — following, at least in part, the "unconference" or BarCamp model of self-organizing with regard to user panels and discussions. Kent smiled and said he liked the word "scrappy," so hopefully I will have had a tiny bit of influence on Macworld 2010.
There’s been much conjecture among Macworld attendees and tech industry pundits as to whether Macworld is sustainable without Apple’s involvement. The fact is, it all depends on how well the event is organized and how much interest there is among Mac enthusiasts and sponsors — which no one will know until the event itself. At a small group gathering at last year’s Macworld, Ilene Hoffman opined that the Mac user group population is aging, simply because young people are no longer inclined to join user groups. A computer has become like a phone or TV or stereo; almost everyone in the industrialized world knows how to use one.
So, if the historical driving forces behind Macworld are absent on the one hand (Apple, and perhaps some key exhibitors or sponsors) and increasingly irrelevant on the other (user groups), what’s the draw?
What I’ve liked about Macworld has been only peripherally about Apple; the gathering is a focused industry conference that showcases technology for all kinds of purposes, many of which center around some type of creativity: music, video, photography, visual art, design, writing, programming, recreation, small business, travel, and education. If this aspect of the event — the general creativity — is enhanced, it’s possible that Macworld could be even more enjoyable for attendees. Kent himself remains optimistic, and I’m looking forward to seeing the results of his adept management.
I’ll see you at Moscone Center in February 2010.
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Posted August 12, 2009 by Mariva in business, city, community, innovations, social, technology, travel
Got vision? Ready to inspire others to do something big? If you’ve got an idea, what you need to do next is build a powerful network of like-minded enthusiasts to achieve a common goal. Yeah, you could create yet another Facebook group or Twitter hash tag — or you could try The Point, which has developed software technology that allows organizers to leverage tipping points. Specifically, you can use The Point to start a campaign to raise money (minus five percent for The Point — if the campaign successfully reaches a minimum threshold that you decide) or to enlist volunteers for a cause, such as eliminating high fructose corn syrup from soda or developing wind farms. Once you’ve launched your campaign, you can embed a widget on your site to publicize it.
Current campaigns are organized into channels, like Education, Music, Politics, Technology, and so on. The "Social Experiments" channel hosts some interesting and amusing campaigns, and compelling public dares and calls to action are filed under "Challenges". You’ll find the best organized campaigns in the "Popular" section, along with many Groupon deals (because Groupon, a successful commercial project, is The Point’s biggest and most successful "campaign").
Posted August 11, 2009 by Mariva in community, deals, innovations, media, resources, shopping, social, technology
Groupon is a refreshingly unique concept in deal-seeking, utilizing the power of collective interest. (Groupon is a successful commercial project of The Point, which has developed software technology to leverage tipping points.) The way it works is, every day Groupon offers a new deal on something you might want to purchase locally — entertainment, dining, recreation, fashion, products, health and beauty services, and other services — and if enough people commit to buying it at the discounted rate, then everyone in that lucky group gets the same discount. There are three catches: you have a 24-hour window in which to make the commitment, the offer could sell out, and if the number of interested consumers fails to meet the minimum threshold, the deal is off. So you must decide quickly, and it helps to get your local friends and associates interested in the same bargain you’re going for.
You can view deals at the Groupon web site or sign up for daily emails. Some of the discounted services featured at Groupon are intriguing, such as pedicures at cleverly named spas, cafes I’ve wanted to try, a whale watching trip, a Segway tour, a speed reading class, and a culinary tour of a historically Italian urban neighborhood. I’m still kicking myself for missing a one-month membership to the upscale Club One Fitness gym for only $25.
Small businesses looking for an interesting marketing opportunity may want to consider Groupon. The Groupon for Businesses section promises to deliver "motivated consumers" without risk of an up-front investment. Groupon acts as a broker in the transaction; it collects payments from customers, takes a cut of the profit, and cuts a check to the business — but only if the threshold of minimum commitment was met and the deal was realized. (Groupon claims that the "average check size is 60% greater than the Groupon’s value"; if this is true, it seems like a win-win-win for the business, customers, and Groupon itself.) Groupon also offers a free monthly newsletter on business promotion tips and tricks.
Groupon currently offers deals in seventeen major markets in the U.S.: Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Tampa, and Washington, D.C.
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Posted August 10, 2009 by Mariva in business, city, deals, innovations, shopping, technology
You may not get a hankering for peanut brittle often, but when you do, the yen can be inexorable. Making it yourself can be more trouble than it’s worth, and it’s not easy to find high quality peanut brittle in most stores, even in candy shops. (A quick search for "peanut brittle" yields mostly recipes, not readymade shopping sources.)
Enter Anette’s Chocolates by Brent, maker of arguably the best commercially produced peanut brittle in the world. Anette’s is based in Napa, the heart of Northern California’s Wine Country. Napa Valley and surrounding areas are known for their world-class vineyards as well as top-notch microbreweries, artisanal cheese, and gourmet food products. Thus, it makes sense that one of Anette’s most popular products is its Beer Brittle with Spanish Peanuts.
Honestly, mixing beer into peanut brittle didn’t sound especially appealing to me, but I gave it a chance. I was floored by how good it was, the blend of dark roasted Spanish peanuts, amber ale, butter, sugar, and a little sea salt. If it sounds weird, give it a try — that is, if a good, satisfying peanut brittle is what you really want.
The Beer Brittle is Anette’s signature peanut brittle, but more adventurous brittles include Buttery Chardonnay Wine Brittle, Firey Beer Brittle with Spanish Peanuts, and Triple Nut Bourbon Brittle with Pistachios, Almonds and Pecans. The Chardonnay Brittle is also excellent, but I found that the taste of white wine isn’t as perfectly suited to peanut brittle as beer is. (In the context of peanut brittle, chardonnay is surprisingly tame compared to the pungency of brewed hops.) The "firey" brittle, laced with chili peppers, is so spicy and hot that it’s hard to eat more than a mouthful or two at a time (which is probably a good thing). It’s therefore wise to reserve the firey brittle as an unusual treat, perhaps consuming it alongside Anette’s standard beer brittle. (I haven’t yet tried the Tripe Nut Bourbon Brittle, which sounds sumptuous.)
Because Anette’s is so close to an abundance of superlative wineries, it blends wine and liqueurs into other confections as well, notably chocolate truffles and sauces. The Tall Chocolate Wine and Liqueur Sauces set, for example, includes Chocolate Cabernet, Chocolate Port, Belgian Chocolate Brandy, Chocolate Raspberry Liqueur, Chocolate Amaretto, and Caramel-Butterscotch Scotch sauces. Other notable sweets include nuts, chews, and toffee, as well as what I’m eagerly looking forward to trying next: the S’mores Kit with Madagascan Vanilla Marshmallow, Rich Chocolate and Graham Cracker.
Anette’s Chocolates ships throughout the U.S. and Canada.
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Posted August 4, 2009 by Mariva in edibles, entertaining