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Tech (58 posts)
There's this woman who I think is living my shadow life, or else I'm living hers: we see each other everywhere. I literally see her every day, and not at the same places either -- one day it was the library, the next day the coffee shop, the day after it was on the street in completely different neighborhood than where we usually see one another. But it took a Boom Boom! card suggesting the act of kindness to get me to introduce myself.
If you would like to become acquainted with someone in a very awkward way, I suggest interrupting her nice coffee break and then asking to take a photograph of her with some card in front on her face. That said, shouldn't we all just do this? Introduce ourselves, like normal human beings, instead of shuffling around not making eye contact with people, or spending years greeting familiar faces, "Hey! Hello...you...!"
About the Boom Boom cards. Each deck contains suggestions for kindness, which in my deck (Original Flavor) amounted to basic politeness I probably should employ every day but don't. Hold open a door. Call someone you haven't spoken with in a while. Apologize. Pick up some litter.
To this card, I say: If picking up dog poop is a revolutionary, call me Che Guevara. I guess it doesn't count as much if it's your own dog though.
Next! I think anyone who has ever worked in customer service can appreciate this one:
This one feels good, it really does. I wish every day, everywhere, I could tip extravagantly and often. I would burn through my budget real fast though, so I think on most days a really earnest smile and thank you will have to suffice. Still, it's one of the only kinds of spending money that actually feels nice. Well, that and:
The cutest aspect of these rather cute cards is how they turn kindness into a game. You register your deck (or individual card) online, and track your kindnesses, writing a little story (and including a photo or video if you like) about each card. What's coolest about this is reading other people's additions. I bought coffee for someone and felt kind of nervous the whole time; she was a little confused, but then again, this is New York City and it probably seemed like a weird scam. Then there's Denise in Jacksonville, Illinois, for example, who also bought someone coffee and reports that the recipient thanked her profusely and vowed to pay it forward. Kindness is catching, and the game-like aspect of these cards makes the small good deeds (and I appreciate how imminently do-able they are) feel even more fun. I found myself wanting to give the cards to people, too, because it struck me that the most fun part was the weird, warming act of buying a stranger coffee, picking up some litter -- it was the feeling of putting good energy into the air that I wanted most to share. Which I guess is the whole point.
Find out more about Boom Boom! Cards and read about people's kind acts here.
Play Oprah's Kindness Game!
Stories of Modern Kindness
Rick Bayless Mexican Essentials ($2.99) is an iPhone app with 35 recipes from south-of-the-border expert Rick Bayless for starters, "light meals" like tacos and tamales, dinners, "basics" (beans, rice, tortillas) and desserts. An alphabetized ingredient list explains items from achiote seasoning paste to vanilla (the Mexican variety, naturally), with audio pronunciations. The app's best feature, though is its 40 instructional videos, in which Bayless gives demonstrations of the stuff that great Mexican dinners are made of, like knowing where to press on an avocado to figure out if it's ripe, or how to know when to flip a tortilla to cook on the other side.
A very sage man I know (just kidding, it's my husband!) said something to me the other day that kind of blew my mind. Without compromising his online security, I will share that he changes his passwords all the time, like everyone says to, much to the detriment of the memory-impaired like myself. Only instead of endless combinations of names and addresses and all that other stuff you're not supposed to use but do anyway, he uses affirming phrases. This way, he has to type something like "Y0UcanD0it!" twenty million times a day as he logs in to various things.
Good idea, right? Reading an affirming phrase is helpful, but actually having to type it over and over ingrains the message into your muscle memory. Since you need numerous passwords in today's world, and since everyone can always use an extra dose of positivity, why not affirmize (ok, I made that word up) your own? Just remember to include numbers and special characters, and not to write down your passwords anywhere, and all of that good safety stuff. G0on!Y0UcanD0it!
A Twitter Virus Inspires an Epiphany
How to Stay Safe Online
Who hasn't watched a bird soar through the sky and wished humans would hurry up and learn to fly already? After all, air travel may be kind of magical in an abstract way, but the actual experience ends up being akin to a long bus ride and unless you really love single-serve booze it hardly stirs the soul. Enter Human Birdwings. Apparently, Dutch engineer Jarno Smeets has created wings that allow a man to fly. You have to see this video:
A post on Science, Space, and Robots raises the possibility of the Human Birdwings video being a hoax. The blogger wonders whether the wings are long enough to support a grown man, and evinces a general sense of skepticism, which after all is what scientists are supposed to do. Personally, I'm less interested in whether or not the flight is real, and more simply blown away by the footage. Every time I watch this, I realize I've got a huge, goofy grin on my face. The flier's excitement is so childlike and palpable and complete. That moment when he lifts from the ground and flaps off into the sky! Imagine it! In the video, Smeets breathlessly describes running and then seeing the ground moving away, and his "really intense feeling of freedom...a truly magical feeling."
I hope the flight is real, I do. But even if it's not, I appreciate the vision behind it -- the fact that a man exists who has devoted himself to realizing an impossible dream, who is working hard to make it possible.
Impossible Dreams to Never Give Up On
Live Life Like It's An Adventure
Unless it's just Instagram. Could it be? Instagram, for the uninitiated, is a free iPhone app that lets you choose filters and frames to lend your humble phone-cam-pic the feel of a vintage photo. Mashable recently posted their top Instagram photographers, and I instantly recognized the ridiculous gorgeousness of my friend's photographic style. Yes, these photographers have good eyes, and (some of them) some really remarkable subject matter. (When was the last time you took a phone-pic of an elephant's eye?) I'm sure these snappers could take great photographs no matter what. But for the rest of us, the neat-o features on Instagram can transform a slightly blurry pic of a day in the park into a heart-stoppingly beautiful memento to share with the world.
And you know what the best thing about an awesomely addictive photo app like this is? The way you start to look at the world. That's beautiful, you start to think about every crocus sprout and parked car and pile of garbage you see. Or at least, it could be.
Photography that inspires the imagination
Capturing joy on camera
This 1972 video of astronauts joking around on the moon has been making the rounds lately, and I don't know about you but I've watched it approximately 800 times. Hard to believe, but this was the last time Americans walked on the moon (and does it blow anyone else's mind that we could send people to the moon before there were even, like, iPhones?!). Anyway, here they are, Harrison 'Jack' Schmitt and Eugene Cernan, hard at work:
Listen to that sheer joy. Look at that light-footed skipping around! When was the last time you saw grown men singing and dancing and bopping like that? At work, no less? I know we're not all walking on the moon, but we can all embody a little bit of this playfulness. Go on, skip to the copier: "In the merry, merry month of...February!"
Rethink Your Career
The causes are small-scale stories. To me this is exactly what makes HopeMob so compelling. When I think about big, abstract issues like hunger or deforestation my mind starts to blank out. But a 13-year-old boy with one tattered pair of shoes, who needs help getting more suitable footwear—that I can understand. A mother of four whose car has died. A little girl in Haiti who needs to get to the US for life-saving surgery.
HopeMob may not be as hilarious as, say, a 20,000-person flash mob dancing to the Black-Eyed Peas, but provides that same swell of "That is the coolest thing ever!" feeling, that sense of being a part of something special. Learn more about HopeMob and how to get involved here,
How to Choose a Health-Related Charity
Make a Difference in People's Lives
Turns out, the same is true of our just-slightly-less-smart relatives, the great apes. In a story very unsettling to those of us who have seen The Rise of the Planet of the Apes, the BBC reports that captive primates get bored, and show signs of frustration and stress as a result. Fay Clark from the Royal Veterinary College's Center for Animal Welfare told the BBC, "If an ape does not receive enough cognitive challenge in life, this can lead to abnormal behaviours or a lack of interest in the environment." Just like me and my coworkers!
One thing that keeps the primates entertained is—wait for it—video games. The BBC story is full of great anecdotes: The orangutans at Zoo Atlanta get small pellets of food for performing matching tasks on a screen hidden in a tree (incidentally, I want one of those), but they will keep playing for fun even after their pellet rewards run out. And the lucky orangutans at Toronto Zoo get to play with iPads. Super-smart chimp Ai loves playing memory games on a screen. (Visit the BBC site for an amazing picture of an orangutan with his iPad, and other fascinating photos of these clever creatures.) While these tasks are certainly artificial, at least one researcher suggests that computer games enrich the primates' lives: "In a sense, I think, the tasks are their 'Sudoku',"says Professor John David Smith, who teaches macaque monkeys to play joystick games.
It makes me think about the relationship all of us have with our many screen-y amusements, from iPads to laptops, Kindles to smart phones. In a way, we're all providing ourselves with little moments of fun throughout the day—a round of Words With Friends during an afternoon coffee break; some blood-pressure-lowering imagery after a stressful meeting. All things in moderation, of course, but if a screen can help you relieve some of the stress of, ah, living in captivity as it were, then by all means, scroll on!
Finding fun as an adult.
Do you need more fun in your life?
She hasn't even started college yet, but 16-year-old Erin King is already making her future MIT classmates look like slackers. According to this awesome post at boing boing, MIT acceptance letters are sent in cardboard tubes (as if you didn't know that!), and this year all the accepted students were asked to somehow hack their tubes. The results—all creative, funny, smart—are collected here at the official Hack the Tubes site. Erin, however, took her hacking very seriously, and sent her tube to outer space. You must see this video, which shows how Erin and her friends prepared the tube for its interstellar journey, and includes astounding video from the point of view of the adventurous tube. How cool is that?
I can't help myself, here it comes...REACH FOR THE STARS, ERIN!
Wonder what this kid will come up with next?
Power Shot: Nothing dampens a day like realizing your phone is completely out of juice. The Innergie PocketCell is a sleek rechargeable battery that can quickly power up your portables, giving you another 15 hours on your cell phone or 4.5 hours on your iPad. Toss it in your purse and you can finally stop hunting for outlets while you’re out and about. ($80)
Health Boost: In this month’s O mag, Dr. Oz discusses the health benefits of walking 10,000 steps a day, and mentions that the Fitbit pedometer is particularly good for people who like to dig into their data. The company’s new Aria Wi-Fi Smart Scale takes tracking even further, letting users record their weight, body mass index, and fat percentage over a period of time. It even syncs wirelessly with users’ online accounts, so comparing steps taken with pounds lost is super-easy. ($130)
Sneaky Peek: Have I ever wasted time at work daydreaming about what kind of frolicking antics my cats must be up to, at home alone all day? No comment. But let’s just say that the DropCam is all kinds of intriguing for people who want to spy on their own homes: The tiny camera is a snap to set up, it has night vision and recording capabilities, and you can watch the video in real time on your iPhone, Android, or Kindle Fire. Watch out for the two-way audio, though—my cooing scared the cats. ($150)
Game On: My five-year-old niece adores the iPad, but watching that pricey piece of machinery dangle from her diminutive hands is enough to make my own palms sweat. Enter the GameChanger. This clever docking station turns the iPad into a stationary board game, with two fold-out sides that are touch sensitive. Different “game skins” make it easy to switch between the two available games, Scholastic’s Magic School Bus and Animal Mania, with more skins in the works. ($60)