Remember "The Future"? When our environment was supposed to have become so technologically advanced that machines would do virtually everything for us, leaving us with many hours of free time to pursue various leisure activities? It turns out that the exact opposite happened, and so we’re left with less time for accomplishing the basic tasks of maintaining our lives, let alone for leisure.
Paradoxically, those with free time often use it to cram more work into their lives, inspired by the growing Do-It-Yourself (DIY) movement. (Granted, it’s work that’s taken on by choice — as opposed to the DIY work we’ll supposedly be doing after the post-peak oil crash — but still work nevertheless.)
Today’s Your Call radio program, "The New DIY", focused on this phenomenon, interviewing the editors of Make (purchase here) and ReadyMade (purchase here) magazines (both said to overlap techie and crafty interests, although Make focuses a bit more on the techie side) and addressing the practical questions of avid DIYers, which the program host referred to as a "growing community of punks, greens, anticonsumerists and Martha Stewart wannabes." The show addressed everything from the ubiquitous home improvement television shows and networks to crafts (especially knitting, which has developed an inexplicable "cool" factor among young women) to modifying high-tech electronic and mechanical devices.
The host of the show, who admitted to being less than technically savvy, successfully made the Go-Torch soda can stove. The show’s producer attempted to make "Mousey the Junkbot" — and found that while the results weren’t successful, he enjoyed focusing on the journey, not the destination, and developed a better understanding of how electronic things work.
I happen to have copies of both Make and ReadyMade on my desk, and I have to admit that I find myself a bit more fascinated with Make — not that I would actually consider making a cigar box guitar or a LEGO PC myself. But the editor’s description of Make‘s mission to help readers "liberate devices and bring functionality that was deliberately left out by the manufacturer" — or transform landfill-bound electronic appliances in novel ways, like turning a VCR into to an automatic cat feeder — seems almost revolutionary to me. Of course, some projects from the magazine and the Make Blog, like the pliers food chain or the AOL CD dodecahedron, seem ridiculous and remind me of the giant replica of the Golden Gate Bridge that some Silicon Valley programmers had constructed from empty soda cans and paper clips during the absurd excesses of the late ’90s dot-com boom.
Having said that, however, I am amused by the surprisingly numerous iPod-and-mint-case projects, which transform candy containers into a digital audio players, and vice versa. For a few examples (in order from easy to challenging), you can make an iPod Shuffle case from a Tic Tac box, an Altoids case made from old iPod Shuffle or an MP3 player out of an Altoids tin.
If this stuff intrigues you, here are some resources mentioned on the program and that I’ve found as well:
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Posted March 21, 2006 by Mariva in arts, crafts, education, fun, gadgets, innovations, resources, social
A couple of years ago, I co-founded a major book club in my city. Because I was the facilitator, I felt it was my duty to read not only the chosen books but the study guides as well. It was like taking a literature class, without the term papers and oppressive overhead lighting.
Ah, those were the days. Now I’m in the middle of seven different books and can’t seem to finish any of them. Seriously. (I hope at least to finish Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix — yes, that’s Book 5, not even Book 6! — before the movie is released.)
If you’re an avid reader — even a lapsed one, like myself — you might be inspired by the myriad book clubs and resources available online:
- Adobe eBook Mall: Compendium of online bookstores and retailers selling reading material in PDF format.
- AmazonConnect: Amazon.com’s service that enables readers to receive messages directly from their favorite authors.
- Barnes & Noble Book Club Center: Free online reading groups with authors and other readers.
- Book Club Resource: Comprehensive guide to discount book clubs and reading groups.
- BookCrossing: Free, serendipitous exchange of books “in the wild.” (BookCrossing is related to other forms of “Internet-Guided Offline Recreation” — a phrase coined by yours truly — like Geocaching and Database Rituals.)
- Booksfree.com: Online library of paperbacks and audiobooks delivered to your door.
- BooksOnline.com: Clearinghouse of book clubs, including specialty interest and niche clubs.
- Dear Reader: Serial portions of books delivered via email — an innovative yet simple way for busy people to get started on good books.
- Google Reading Groups: Large compendium of reading groups and literature lovers. (A great place to start.)
- Great Novels Wikispaces community: Anyone can participate in this wiki (collaborative online resource) for readers.
- Internet Public Library: Handy reference site put together by librarians. It includes a reading room of free books and other materials.
- Library of Congress: An important national reference site that should be on everyone’s list of bookmarks.
- MSNBC Today’s Book Club: Big-media resource for books that includes feature stories, book excerpts, interviews and individual sections for different genres.
- National Education Association’s Read Across America: National tour to inspire kids to read and — laudably — to bring books back to Gulf Coast public schools.
- NetLibrary: Partnered with many public library systems to provide library card holders with access to free digital books.
- Oprah Winfrey is credited with inspiring millions of adults to read good books in the age of information overload and media exhaustion. You can view her list of cited books and join the famous Oprah Book Club. If you’re feeling crafty, check out the nifty free Bookmark Maker.
- Page By Page Books: Free repository of public domain books in easy-to-read page format.
- Playaway: Pre-loaded, self-playing digital audio books.
- Project Gutenberg: Free repository of public domain books in plain-text format.
- Reader’s Circle: Online directory of face-to-face book clubs and reading groups, including readers’ circles (free-form groups in which people attend with whatever they’re reading, which can include books, articles, magazines and other print materials).
- Readerville: An organizational resource for readers interested in participating in lively, lofty discussions of chosen books on a schedule.
- Spaghetti Book Club: Book reviews by kids for kids.
- SparkNotes: Free study guides for literature and other academic subjects.
- Target‘s "Ready, Sit, Read!" book club for kids. (You can use this $2-off book coupon until September 8, 2006.) Target also offers Bookmarked, a book club for grownups.
If this got you thinking about books and literary resources, you can listen to an imaginative discussion on libraries of the future. (Will they be bookless community centers chock-full of digital information, accessible from anywhere?)
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Posted March 17, 2006 by Mariva in books, community, education, innovations, resources, social
Sometimes the perfect thing to say has already been said by someone else. Lunch Mail has encapsulated this concept in an attractive product designed to uplift and inspire. Each Lunch Mail pack contains a set of thirty colorful business-card-size "surprise" messages. (Think fortune cookies or Cracker Jack prizes without the calories.) Created by the National Education Association, Lunch Mail was conceived as a special treat to include with children’s lunches, but I’ve seen them used for various grownup purposes, such as ice-breakers for cocktail parties, classes and business networking mixers.
Another creative company that showcases pearls of wisdom is quotable, which produces notecards, magnets, journals and other stationery products that feature memorable quotes. Especially notable by quotable (ha!) is the Truth Be Told card pack, which contains "48 calling cards to give to your friends or enemies." Personally, I could imagine handing someone "nice to meet you" or "you rock" more than, say, "enough already" or "you need a mint" — but that’s just me.
As they say, though, words are cheap, so if you’re feeling crafty, you can create your own cards and gifts from the sayings of various wordsmiths. One of my favorite inspirational quotes, featured in the movie Rushmore, is:
When one man, for whatever reason, has the opportunity to lead an extraordinary life, he has no right to keep it to himself.
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Posted March 15, 2006 by Mariva in arts, books, crafts, education, fun, gifts, innovations, social
- "Building Beijing": Construction within this Chinese city — the site of the 2008 Olympic Games — is happening at such a mind-boggling rate that a new map is issued every three months.
- "Memory": How does memory work, and how does it fail?
- "All in a Day’s Work": Exploring the ways in which people around the world earn their living. Profiles include domestic workers, soldiers, judges and clerics.
I couldn’t stop listening to the documentary about cell phones, which Europeans call "mobile phones." The program explores the history behind, uses of and cultural phenomena surrounding the over two billion mobile phones in use around the planet. How is the mobile phone changing the lives of the poor? Are mobile phone conversations secure? What is considered acceptable behavior of mobile phone use in various countries?
If this got you thinking about your own cell phone use, you may want to bookmark these guides to cell phone etiquette:
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Posted February 23, 2006 by Mariva in education, gadgets, innovations, news, resources, social
Sometimes what strangers say and write, taken out of context — especially when taken out of context — is fascinating. Overheard in New York publishes transcripts of random conversations overheard in the Big Apple. FOUND Magazine is a repository of personal ephemera — such as love letters, school notes, birthday cards, kids’ homework, to-do lists, ticket stubs, poetry on napkins, business plans, telephone bills, doodles and so on — that are lost by some and found by others.
Posted February 17, 2006 by Mariva in arts, community, fun, innovations, social
Some people love February 14, in all its pink-blouse-and-red-sweater glory; others resent its existence and wish it would just disappear from the calendar. For those not celebrating romantic love today, I offer some alternatives:
Posted February 14, 2006 by Mariva in community, edibles, holidays, music, resources, social
On Sunday, as I was walking up Telegraph Hill toward Coit Tower — admiring the colony of fluttering, squawking wild parrots in the treetops — I saw a group of work glove-clad hipsters with rakes and bags in hand, clearing twigs, leaves and other debris around the area. Who were they? They seemed too clean-cut to be performing punitive community service. But they looked too hip to be associated with a squeaky-clean church group. Was I about to have my stereotypes challenged?
Turns out they’re volunteering with One Brick, which coordinates volunteer efforts with various community organizations — and, for volunteers, provides a unique environment for social interaction and professional networking. Through One Brick’s "commitment-free volunteering" framework, you can choose when, where and with what projects to volunteer, so that you don’t have to commit to an ongoing schedule. The three or four hours of volunteer time is followed by dinner or drinks at a restaurant or cafe. Sounds perfect for busy, socially conscious folks. One Brick volunteer opportunities are currently available in San Francisco, New York and Chicago.
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Posted January 31, 2006 by Mariva in community, social
Just counting the legitimate, non-spam stuff, are you overwhelmed by email? You’re not alone. Email overload is a problem facing everyone from students and teachers to high-level executives to Congress. Too much email consumes your time, stresses you out and even impairs your mental acuity.
What to do? Organizing guru Julie Morgenstern says it all in the title of her new time-management book: Never Check E-Mail in the Morning. And Merlin Mann, proprietor of 43 Folders (no relation to 43 Things), seems particularly fascinated with email management and personal productivity. For those facing information overload, Mann advises canceling something and getting a fresh start with email, among other email management tips.
In addition, business columnist Penelope Trunk suggests getting control over your email by separating your email from your "to-do" list; responding to email within 24 hours even if it means composing short, non-"amazing" messages; and sorting by sender to find out if you can compile a single response to the few people who have been sending you the most messages.
(Update: Farai Chideya defines a "happy inbox.")
You can help others manage their own overload by avoiding common email pet peeves — and whatever you do, do not email and text message while intoxicated!
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Posted January 20, 2006 by Mariva in business, career, resources, social
Friday movie collection
Friday Night Lights movie
NPR’s Talk of the Nation: Science Friday (program site)
Bike Friday: folding travel bicycles
Photo Friday: weekly photo challenge
Illustration Friday: submit your artwork based on a weekly topic
Friday Feast: a five-"course" series of questions designed to make you ponder
Friday Harbor: a town in San Juan Island in Washington state (web directory, island cam, port)
Fine Friday: traditional Scottish music
Friday Night Live Partnership: a teen safety and mentoring project
Finney’s Friday Free Stuff: free offers for various useful products and services, served up every Friday by consumer reporter Michael Finney
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Posted January 6, 2006 by Mariva in community, entertainment, fun, innovations, movies, news, resources, social, travel