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Tech (58 posts)
An insidious new Twitter virus (don't worry, that link won't give it to you) targets this sore spot in people's psyches. Let me explain how an annoying hacker urged me to take a good look at myself: So, the other night, I was shuttling around my kitchen, very tired and distracted, and I saw a tweet light up on my iPad which was charging at a nearby outlet. I had literally just been wondering whether anyone ever read my blog posts and what they thought of them. So I peered at the iPad and saw the message: "Seen what this person is saying about you? Terrible things." With a link.
I know. I know. I know. What am I, a space alien new to this whole Internet thing? Obviously this is spammy, hackery, virus crap. How can I explain? The temptation was just too great! And also, I would like to add in my defense that I was really tired and out of it and not thinking at all. Also, covered in macaroni bits. I did it. I clicked.
My father is the one who schooled me in the Way of the List, a gift passed down through the generations, from one indecisive Libra to another. His teachings essentially boil down to this basic tenant: any knotty decision, any kind of life-slump, can be combated with side-by-side lists of pros and cons. My old-fashioned father creates these lists on something called “paper,” but if he had an iPad I’m sure he would convert to the Unstuck App.
I approached this app with some cynicism. I believe
an app can balance my checkbook, plan my vacations, and teach my child to read,
but something as important and complex as make a decision? Please. In the
end, Unstuck delivers an organized way to pinpoint your problem, visualize it, and discover a solution. It's essentially a very cute (without being cutesy),
well-designed, portable therapist.
What I found most revealing about my Unstuck
experience, as in any good therapy session, was the questions the app asked. As I tried
to define what what was making me feel stuck, sorted out my “feelings cards,” and wrote
myself memos about my goals, I started to realize that what I thought was bothering me – my family’s current soul-sucking problem with clutter
and mess – was really just a symptom of larger issues (feeling overwhelmed and anxious about an upcoming change).
What's more, I realized I didn't even actually have a decision to make. The app informed me that in fact I was stuck because I didn't know where to start, and that I (an inveterate planner) didn't have a plan. Revelatory! It became a question of breaking down what I needed to do to dig out of the clutter. Best of all, Unstuck offers several different “tools,” or ways to unstick yourself from whatever your problem may be. It works for all the big decisions – jobs, relationships, outfits for holiday parties. And it’s free.
If only my father could use it to figure out whether or not
he should buy an iPad.
Artists can find beauty in the most unexpected places. A piece of steel. A length of rope. An online mapping service. Yes, Mashable has highlighted five artists who use imagery found on Google Maps to create unique and in some cases uniquely moving works of art. Want a mini-vacation? Click through Aaron Hobson's Beautiful Images of Remote Locations. Then there's "Address is Approximate," the sweet stop-animation film about an adventurous desk toy who drives off into the sunset, courtesy of, what else, Google Maps. There's a darker side to the Google Map world, too -- compilations of sneaky views into impoverished areas of America or screengrabs of prostitutes in rural Italy. The images possess a strange, blurry beauty. Technology can be such a drag, the computer screen such a drain, but here's a reminder that even the most mundane tools can create art.
More art in unexpected places:
Lunch bag art
An artist with multiple personalities
That's right. For here is a little present for anyone who ever stuck a comic book inside a science textbook and now regrets missing the lesson: astrobiology graphic novels, brought to you by NASA. Issue #2 of Astrobiology has just been released (you can download the PDF or get the mobile app), and its focus is the history of our exploration of Mars.
It looks pretty, is full of slick illustrations, and contains a lot of good information, so that even I can now say things in casual conversations that will make me seem smart, such as, "Well, you know it was the images returned from NASA’s Mariner 4 mission in 1965 that finally put to rest speculations about the famous 'irrigation canals' on Mars so popular in the 1800s," and, "Of course, NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory, launching in late 2011 will bring us closer to determining if there was ever life on Mars," at which point I can perhaps sing a bit of David Bowie's "Life on Mars." Or maybe not that last part. I don't know, I'm feeling awfully inspired.
Download the graphic novel here, and keep checking the Astrobiology blog for Issue #3.
More scientific fun:
Want to be an astronaut?
Meet 3 science rock stars.
Brilliant teens' science fair projects.
As an old married lady, I'd find myself saying things like, "Well, you know, if you really like each other, you probably won't care that he likes Hall & Oates, or it he's short." After all, I've been surprised to learn that my soul mate/life partner enjoys football, hates garlic, and thinks cats are demonic. I never would have programmed those parameters into my perfect mate profile. And yet...
"Impossible!" Email deleted. Sorry, guy. Well, in case my discerning former coworker is still on the prowl, she might want to try the newest trend in online dating—genome dating. Lone Frank writes in the Huffington Post that a Swiss company called GenePartner "has taken the search for a mate to a new level by developing a biological matching system using your human leukocyte antigen, or HLA, genes to find your perfect match." You take a q-tip swab to your inner cheek and that of your potential mate, stick it in the mail, and then the love scientists (ok, that's my term, not theirs) offer an analysis of your results.
I’ve lost track of how many completely amazing and world-changing ideas for inventions I’ve had over the years. Probably because I’ve never actually made a single one. But isn’t there something appealing about having the cartoon, lightbulb-over-your-head idea, and then going ahead and actually making it happen? Sadly, due to my lack of engineering expertise, the world will probably never know my game-changing Umbrella Stroller That Doesn’t Tip Over design. And my so-ingenious-I-can’t-believe-I’m-revealing-it concept of Pneumatic Pet Tubes (you know, for when you only want to walk them one way and then send them home), still a pipe dream.
But shoes for the visually impaired? Good thing this wasn’t
my idea, but that of Anirudh Sharma, an Information Technology Engineer from Rajasthan
According to this post on Pixelonomics, Sharma’s shoe system (called “Le Chal”)
could replace the white cane and seeing-eye-dog as the best option for the
visually impaired. Mild vibrations alert the walker when it’s time to turn and
what direction; the vibrations grow stronger near the end of a journey. A
built-in sensor lets the walker know of obstacles. Tests have gone well, and
Sharma is planning to start producing and selling the shoes (for more updates, check out his fascinating blog). This design could no doubt change
people’s lives--and it's almost as cool as a Pneumatic Pet Tube.
In the era of instant nostalgia—looking at a photo the moment it’s taken and then losing it just as quickly in crowded digital archives—there’s something particularly wonderful about a film like Jeff Altman’s dazzling "Las Vegas 1962". The saturated colors are Mad Men-gorgeous; the film a reminder of how Vegas used to be—all excitement and fun and Rat-Pack-esque glamor. What was it with the 60s? Was everyone constantly hamming it up, smooching for the camera?
But what really gets me about this
film is the human element: these
people, beautiful and young, destined to be someone’s grandparents. In
footage they are smiling and waving and having a fabulous time, the stars of the movie of their lives. It reminds me of visiting my grandmother’s humid Skokie, IL,
apartment and staring at snapshots of a chic, raven-haired lady who I
simply did not believe could be my little Nani. Waving from
convertibles? Posing with girlfriends on the beach? Seeing her this way
made everything feel different. Surprise—she hadn't always been old.
Then, last week, as reported by the LA Times blog, NASA announced it would soon start accepting applications for its next class of astronaut candidates, some of whom will be selected from the civilian world. Bad economy got you down? Here's one job application that's worth rustling up some references for! Duane Ross, manager for astronaut candidate and training selection for NASA, told the LA Times that applicants don't have to be in perfect shape: "Once they get here, we'll torture them and make them fit." Fun! He also said that while NASA wasn't sure how many students would be accepted, "The only guarantee I can give you is that, if you don't apply, you won't get in."
The second-grader in me is screaming "Do it! Apply! Include a diorama to impress them!" Okay, so I don't quite make the cut physically. (They require you to be at least 5"2 and have 20-20 vision.) Also, apparently they are looking for people with a BA in engineering, science, or math, and, um, extensive experience flying high-performance jet aircraft. But the point is that (almost) anyone can apply and that some of these people are going to become astronauts. In an economic climate stormy with "no"s, it's refreshing to remember that your dream job could be out there, waiting for you. Who knows, someone might be out there looking for a new ballerina-firefighter-doctor-kitty. And there's only one thing we know for sure: if you don't apply, you're not going to get it.
Get closer to your dream job:
How to get on a more fulfilling career path.
Practical steps toward living your passion.
4 job/life makeovers.
A day in the life of Oprah.
Men! What are they thinking? We can't always answer that, but we'll be posting our favorite glimpses into their world in this space every Thursday.
* Over at The Man's Guide to Love, Glass the Tramp has some hilarious and true dating advice. (The Man's Guide to Love)
* Need a gift for the brainy sports fan in your life? This collaboration between McSweeney's and Grantland not only contains essays about Hoosiers, the World Series of Poker, and fathers, but the cover looks and feels like a basketball. (McSweeney's)
* Surprising scientific discovery of the day: Women make men eat more. (NPR)
* "I spent the majority of my life in daycare, after school programs, summer school programs. Having gone through what I had gone through as a child...there were no real male role models in any of these places. There were never any dudes."—Jon Hamm, on why he used to work at a daycare center (because you needed another reason to like him). (E Online)
It is a strange side effect of today’s constant streams of texts, tweets, and G-chats that we are now survived by our daily conversations. It’s a phenomena Rebecca Armendariz understands all too well: as she wrote about in Good, she often searches her own Gmail account to reread her chats with Clark, her former boyfriend.
This young couple hadn’t even been together a year when Clark was diagnosed with metastatic melanoma and given a bleak prognosis of 4-14 months to live. About a year later, he was dead at 33. As Armendariz writes, “My Gmail is a priceless hoard of us making plans, telling inside jokes... This is a history of our relationship that we didn’t intend to write, one that runs parallel to the one authored by his uncontainable illness.” (If you're not already misty, the last line of the essay is a total heart-breaker. )
It’s not the eloquence of the exchanges that makes them so poignant. These are not exactly the love letters between John Keats and Fanny Price. Actually, what's so moving about these exchanges is precisely this, that they aren’t love letters. The chats reveal two young people arguing, making up, teasing, flirting, bantering about the mundane, calling each other pet names, dealing with Clark’s illness, and above all, living. Seeing the words through the filter of loss serves as a reminder treasure these tossed-off exchanges, the casual back-and-forth that creates the fabric of each day. After all, these are the archives of our lives here on Earth.
More about dealing with loss:
How to handle losing a mate
Searching for meaning in the mysteries of death
Heal your grief