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Tech (58 posts)
Fast Company has curated this lovely collection of 8 Examples of Good Defeating Evil on the Internet. Example Number One is the amazing Indie-Go-Go campaign that a kind-hearted soul started in order to give a lady named Karen a nice vacation. You probably heard the story: a senior citizen works as a bus monitor, and one day the middle-schoolers on her bus decided to record their verbal harassment of her and put in online, because it's just so hilarious to taunt a sweet older woman into tears. One man decided that Karen the bus monitor needed a break, and started the campaign in order to raise $5,000 for her. Thousands of views, tweets, likes, and donations later, Karen's campaign has raised over $679,000.
Read on for more stories that will make you feel better about the world, the Internet, and your hours spent trolling its mysterious depths.
The Ripple Effect of Oprah's Act of Kindness
Pick a Card, Do Good, Share Online
Technology + Charity = Hope Mob
Turns out seeing a wide spectrum of color can help more than just coordinating outfits or recognizing hungry barracuda: it can also help you to identify emotions, or even disease. Evolutionary neurobiologist Dr. Mark Changizi has researched color vision and developed glasses that will help people to better see hue changes on others' skin, which can signal changes in feeling or health. According to Good, the target market for the eyewear would be medical professionals who could "use the filters in examinations to pick up on cues about patients unavailable to the naked eye." Veins and trauma would be easier to see; diseased blood would show up in a different color. But creator Dr. Changizi thinks these tinted glasses could also have applications in poker, sports, dating, and security; as he puts it, "one sees other people better by keeping them on." So we can all be a bit more shrimp-like. You know, in a good way.
The Invention of the Smile (Emoticon)
Trying Out the Latest Beauty Innovations
In Boardman, Ohio, Val Haller brought upbeat tunes by the '60s pop band the Hollies to her raucous high school cheerleading practices. When she drove off to college in 1975, Haller tossed a box of records and eight-track tapes--Joni Mitchell, Stevie Wonder, Carole King--onto the passenger seat of her Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme. These days, when she goes to friends' dinner parties in the Chicago suburbs, Haller brings an iPod filled with songs by bands like the Portland indie rockers Blind Pilot. "Life feels flat unless there's music in the background,"she says.
When a pal complained about her teenager's thumping Top 40 songs, Haller, a stay-at-home mother of four, was inspired to launch the Web site Valslist, which helps fellow baby boomers--not to mention busy working moms and anyone else who hasn't followed music since before the days of MTV--find tunes of their own to play at top volume.
Valslist is now stocked with purchasable playlists, including both new and "vintage" music, to suit any mood, from "all dressed up and looking good" to "pensive tunes for a pensive day." Most songs are by bands with names like Rubblebucket and Communist Daughter that Haller delights in discovering on arcane music blogs and Web sites. But she also sprinkles in tracks by better-known artists like Adele and Jackson Browne. A "sounds like" page helps readers find new songs that channel their old favorites. (Love the Dave Matthews Band? Try singer-songwriter Pat McKillen. Former Deadhead? Queue up the band Moe.)
Haller's offbeat, adventurous taste has already won her fans of all ages: Her site has readers in 33 countries, and this summer she'll release an iPhone app. Meanwhile, her college-age twins--who once teased her for starting a Web site when she could barely navigate her cell phone--admit that she's often the first to discover artists who become popular on their campuses. "Sometimes when my kids call me with a band they're excited about," says Haller, "I pretend I haven't heard of it, just so I don't embarrass them."
In 2010 Julia Silverman and Jessica Matthews traveled halfway around the world, hoping to light up some of the more impoverished villages of South Africa and Nigeria by testing some soccer balls there. But not just any soccer balls: Their Socckets, as they call them, house gyroscopic mechanisms that harness energy from the ball's motion. After being kicked around for 30 minutes, the balls can power a small LED lamp for three hours--long enough for a child whose home lacks electricity to do homework or read a book. Since most communities in Africa are crazy about soccer, the ball was a hit. "The kids thought it was magic," Silverman says, "but I could also see the wheels turning in their heads. One boy came back with a drawing of a ball with windmills sticking out of it. They wanted to be inventors, too."
The idea for the Soccket dates to an undergraduate engineering class at Harvard. There, Silverman and Matthews, working with two other students, drew on their experiences abroad--Matthews's family is from Nigeria, and Silverman had worked in sub-Saharan Africa--to devise a technically simple idea that could make a huge difference to the 1.4 billion people in the world living without electricity. The group knew that kerosene lamps emit dangerous fumes. While brainstorming alternatives, they thought of so-called shake flashlights, which are powered by motion, not batteries. Soon they'd put one inside a hamster ball to demonstrate how the global mania for soccer might help bring light to the places that don't have it. After the term ended, Matthews and Silverman worked with a design firm to create a more realistic prototype, a dead ringer for an actual soccer ball, except for the small plug on the outside.
In 2011 the duo quit their jobs at the World Bank (Silverman) and a social media start-up (Matthews) to focus on the Soccket. With sponsorship from corporations like Western Union, they've now produced more than 6,000 balls and accompanying LED lamps for distribution throughout countries including Mexico, El Salvador, and the Gambia. "We're also thinking of how everything from basketballs to volleyballs can be useful," Matthews says. "We want people to realize that making a difference doesn't have to be serious and boring. It can be as simple and fun as playing soccer."
Good new: all of us smile-hungry humans have been invited to be part of a worldwide interactive art work: just upload this app and smile and, well, the whole world will smile with you. Pretty much, anyway. Yoko Ono (yes, that Yoko Ono) has been thinking about this project since 1967, when she said, "My ultimate goal in film-making is to make a film which includes a smiling face snap of every single human being in the world.” She just had to wait a few decades for the world of social media to catch up. Now she's launching this #smilesfilm app, with the ambitious, crazy, and awesome goal of collecting every smile in the world. Happily, the smilesfilm website shows everyone who's uploaded a smile (and you can see where they're from on the interactive world map). It's like a trip around the world and an instant pick-me-up all in one. Convenient. Smile.
The Smile That Can't Be Stolen
6 Reasons to Smile Right Now
What do you do when people ask you what to do when visiting your town? Do you provide an itinerary of favorite views? A list of the best places to eat? Suggestions based on smell? ("Here's where the chocolate factory is, but stay away from the fish market!") Does it ever occur to you to send them to the places that sound the best? I admit, I'd never thought of this until I saw Nicola Hume's great concept Listen Here. Check it out:
a concept like Nicola Hume's to get people to think this way about their hometowns at all.
(via Laughing Squid)
Time-Capsule Vacation in Your Own Hometown
The Allure of Traveling Solo
Which is why I was happy to stumble upon the Snack Database, which launched in April and now has close to 200 entries. In an interview with Bon Appetit, the site's creator, Beau Johnson, says he would like the tool to be "ever-growing, documenting all snacks and perhaps aiding in the development of new ones." Clicking through the foods, from apples to banana pudding, is inspiring, though not because the photos are necessarily drool-worthy (they're simple graphic images) or the descriptions and tasting notes are enticing (though they're funny; about a peach, for instance, Johnson writes, "It has a very light orange colored interior and a seed in the center that resembles what the core of earth would look like if it were sliced in half.").
Johnson describes the database as "contemporary art, except with a grain of craft and usefulness." Or, as I prefer to think of it, a lookbook for snacks.
4 crunchy treats to go with a cup of tea or a glass of wine
Keep a few of these goodies in your purse at all times
The most ridiculously easy (and delicious) snack ever
A few years ago, I bought myself a sleek little desk lamp with a solar panel built into its base. I thrilled at the thought of harnessing the sun to power late nights at my desk—both lowering my electricity bill and lessening my drain on the planet. But my eco-honeymoon was short-lived: My desk isn’t positioned near the slim window in my home office, meaning to fully charge that little lamp I had to move it back and forth between the desk and windowsill each morning and night. It’s no surprise that my green dream had been abandoned within the week, that lamp left to gather dust (and induce guilt) on the desk.
So when I first heard about the Solar Monkey Adventure, I had my doubts: After thirty-plus years of plugging in, could I train myself to sometimes rely on the sun? And could solar ever feel more convenient than electricity?
It took one long weekend at the beach to convince me that the answer is yes. The Solar Monkey Adventure is two slim solar panels that charge mobile devices like cell phones and iPads. The brilliance of the new gadget isn’t that setting it on your windowsill lets you charge your phone at home—though you can do that—it’s that tucking the lightweight device into your suitcase guarantees you can get a charge on the go, whether you’re hiking mountains (a Velcro strap securely attaches it to backpacks) or, like me, lounging near the water’s edge, fully charged cell phone happily in hand.
Okay, maybe it's not actually true that the right tools can make a person more creative, but I know I'm not the only one who suspects that the perfect combination of things will make any project easier, and maybe even make working a bit more fun. Which is what makes this site The Set Up so very appealing. Creative types from all different fields share the tools of their trades: SNL writer Paula Pell swears by Apple products, sharp No. 2 pencils, and Hersheys bars with almonds; music producer Chris Zane favors high-tech gadgets with mystical sounding names like "The Nocturne;" illustrator Amy Jean Porter is addicted to gouache; vegan cook Isa Chandra Moskowitz loves Canon cameras, her Nintendo DS, and Le Creuset cookware. It is fascinating to scroll through the diverse list of interviews, and everyone from the techie to the luddite can find some inspiration here. What do you use to do your work? How could your own set up be working better? How could YOU be working better?
Apes Love iPads Too
Your Internet Passwords, Daily Affirmations?
During the month of May—Military Appreciation Month— the Hashtags4Heroes application uses your unused Twitter characters to help spread awareness about the Wounded Warriors Project. The Wounded Warriors Project has a lovely and very reasonable sounding mission statement: "To foster the most successful, well-adjusted generation of wounded service members in our nation's history." The organization provides programs to help service members find aid and support for themselves and each other, and their website is stocked with wrenching stories from soldiers about surviving injuries both physical and emotional. “I want to be always serving," says one soldier who lost his leg as result of a suicide bombing in Iraq and suffers from PTSD and traumatic brain injury. " I try to make that my life goal – 24/7."
Giving up some unused virtual imaginary space to help people who have given a whole lot more than that? Seems like a pretty painless way to do a little bit of good today.
A Restless Heart Leads to Afghanistan
The Bravest Families in America
Why Are So Many Female Veterans Homeless?