Showing posts with label digital. Show all posts
Showing posts with label digital. Show all posts

You've Been Schooled


I am in love with The School of One. A girl from Cleveland, who graduated from university in 2001, has decided that in the face of a shitty economy and lack of inspiring prospects, she will spend her time learning about all the things she never had a chance to during her formal education. As a way of formalizing the process and sticking to her plan, she's created a syllabus, the above schedule and a blog to document her experiences and help her keep on track.

I think it's a beautiful idea and it makes me realize that maybe I should try to formalize some of the little projects and interests I'm cultivating during this year of travel. For so many people, the response to joblessness is to go back to school and spend a crap load more money. But it seems to me that the success of the endeavor really depends on what you're trying to get out of it. If the intention is to follow your interests and explore the world with curiosity, you don't need a professor or a piece of paper at the end; a library card, an Internet connection and a comfortable pair of shoes can be enough. The concept is totally non-elitist and it elevates a personal investment in learning into something tangible and meaningful. Creating and scheduling time for something makes it a priority, not just another hobby.

Formal education can be a wonderful thing if you are able to afford it, and it can provide the basis for a great community of people who are interested in similar subjects. But unless you have a specific vocation in mind that requires a certificate to prove your knowledge, I wonder if the bureaucracy of 'School' really feeds the desire to know and learn or whether it just stifles and tricks us into thinking that there's only one right way to understand the world, one 'valued' way of accumulating knowledge.

There's no one-size-fits-all answer. But I am already working on my own syllabus. :)

Image Credit: The School of One

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New Project - A Tramp Abroad


I've been toying with the idea of launching a travel website for awhile now; there are so many things that I learn every day, so many moments that remind me how far from home I am in both good and bad ways. There are a lot of travel websites out there, but most of them are either quite commercial or very personal. I am really excited for the new site,  A Tramp Abroad, to focus on helpful, quirky tips but also feature really outstanding longer form travel writing. Oh, and our tag line is 'Inspiring wanderlust." Perfect, no?

I'll still be writing here - this will always be the place I feel like I can unload about all the more personal experiences and feelings that are niggling at me and on occasion I'll post links to any longer form pieces I write on the other website.

We've got some shorter news pieces up already along with a few bits of original content that I hope you'll check out -

It's still very much a work in progress but feedback is very much welcome. Also, we're looking for guest bloggers so if you have any ideas, please let me know.
x

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Draw Stuff and Share it with Penolo

My industrious other half Dan has created a nifty new creativity app called Penolo that allows people to draw and share their sketches on Twitter or by embedding them onto your blog or website.

It's still in beta, so there are some kinks to iron out, but it is a pretty great little tool. One of my favourite things about it is that it enables collaboration by allowing users to create hybrid sketches by adapting what others have created (the original also stays in tact).

You don't need an account and it's free to use - so give it a go!

Here are some of my favourite sketches from the last few weeks:
(for those of you viewing this on a reader - I'm sorry but you'll need to click through to the actual post to see the images... as I said, still working out some glitches.)


By studiobrazley


By bkcl


By bkcl


By Caro Wallis1


By Mearso


By Sianz


By Handy Bite Size


By Rich_R


By Speak Criptic


By Mark Turner

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Beautiful Sketches of Productivity

I can't completely articulate why I like this but I think it's related to the part of me that enjoys lists - especially the part where I get to see things crossed off at the end of the day.

IOGraphica is free to download. You turn it on in the morning, minimise the little window and forget about it. While you're working, it tracks your mouse movements, showing larger spotches when your mouse has stayed over one place for a prolonged period of time. If you are especially pedantic, you can pause the program when you leave your desk or during lunch breaks - but I tend to let it run. At the end of the day, you have a record of your mouse movements - a beautiful imprint of your productivity.

As Dan says, I'm sure I'll get tired of looking at these, but for now I think they're lovely. Click on any of the images below to enlarge them.

Day 1 - 3.5 Hours

Day 2 - 6.5 Hours

Day 3 - 7.7 Hours

Day 4 - 7.9 Hours


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The Etymology of Nerd and Geek ... And A Bit of Love

There are a lovely group of people in London who occasionally organise fun networking events around town. Networking can be scary. It can be difficult to feel OK approaching and making conversation with strangers, so instead of just arranging more boring meet-ups, they take it a step further and arrange activity-based get togethers. Recently, Dan and I went to the Geek Foosball meet-up at Bar Kick in Shoreditch.



Some people don't like the terms 'geek' and 'nerd' and I suppose many of those feelings of discomfort probably hearken back to when they were used like barbs by meanies in school. Until about a year and a half ago, I worked in the Canadian arts sector and have always been arty and into things like writing, photography, going to museums ... I was even in choir in high school. Think Rachel from Glee without the fantastic voice. Even so, I don't remember people using those words - geek or nerd - to cause me pain in school. Maybe they did, but if it was preceded by the word 'art' or 'choir' (as in "art nerd" or "choir geek") I don't think it would have bothered me, or at least not enough to remember.


The etymology of the words nerd and geek are indisputably negative. According to the book Word Origins: The Hidden Histories of English Words from A to Z by John Ayto, nerd "is a term for a dull, socially inept or otherwise obnoxious person." It was actually invented by the popular children's author Dr. Seuss in his book If I Ran to the Zoo (1950):
And then, just to show them
I'll sail to Ka-Troo
And bring back an It-Kutch,
A Preep and a Proo,
A Nerkle, a Nerd, and a Seersucker too!
Geek, which is not covered in Word Origins, is much older. According to Answer Bag, "it is a variant of geck, a term of German/Dutch origin that dates in English to 1511. It means fool, simpleton, or dupe." Later on, the word was assigned to mean "a carnival performer who does disgusting acts" and eventually just was used generically to describe and "eccentric, oddball or someone with an unusual or odd personality."

I find it interesting that when these words were most socially damaging was in the 1950s in America, a time after the war when the country was clamoring to rebuild the 'big dream'. Homogeneity was important - everyone was expected to fall in line and fulfill their roles in the same way. People who were different were a threat and words were used as a nasty way to identify non-conformists. The strange oppression of 1950s America ushered in the 1960s, where everything changed and being odd and different was ok, even encouraged. Angry words that had been used to punish difference became somewhat less potent.



All this is a very long introduction to where we are now - 2010 in London, at a very hip bar in Shoreditch, surrounded by a genuinely diverse and friendly group of people, none of whom were carnival freaks or simpletons. Everyone I met was a young(ish) professional - some of them worked in technology companies (developers, techies and such tend to be most closely associated with the terms geek and nerd these days), some worked in film studios, some were photographers and one is even a popular food blogger. Nobody fit into a stereotype.

I like the reclamation of words like 'geek' and 'nerd' by people who are proud to be a little bit obsessive, a little bit manic and completely, unabashedly passionate about what they do. I guess that's how I would separate the nerds and geeks from everyone else - for the most part, they are enthusiastic and head-over-heels in love with something - technology, food, film, photography, even choir ... and they are not afraid to wear their excitement on their sleeve.

Everyone should be so lucky.


To see more pictures from Geek Foosball, click here.

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Don't Pity Roger Ebert

Esquire recently posted a brilliant profile piece on film critic and writer Roger Ebert. I used to love watching Siskel and Ebert's televised film reviews on At the Movies but never really developed much of a sense of who either of them were as human beings. They had amazing chemistry and were fun to watch, but they didn't really exist outside of the most obvious character traits that were so predominant in their show. The one exception was when Ebert spoke of Gene Siskel's death on the first episode after it happened. In that moment it was obvious that the two men were more than two people simply doing a job and acting up for the camera.

Ebert has had a difficult decade. He developed various forms of cancer that affected his jaw, eventually resulting in its full removal. He can no longer talk, eat or drink and has suffered through a series of horrifying surgeries. But he is writing more than ever, much of it on his brilliant blog. He also has one of the most interesting feeds on Twitter. Like anything, technology can be misused and warped by malicious people. I love this story, this example of how it can enable wonderful things. It is inspiring, and if nothing else, it's an example of how significant social media can be and how important access is.

Ebert doesn't believe in God and he doesn't seem to want to be turned into a self-help guru. Nevertheless, he's learned a few things:
I believe that if, at the end of it all, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn't always know this, and am happy I lived long enough to find it out.
Ebert wrote the note at the top of this post during his Esquire interview. He's turned the act of making lemonade into an art. I'm going to try to keep this in mind as I head into Monday morning.

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Yo Canadians!


Maybe things have changed, but when I was in Canada I had never heard of Spotify. We were all still downloading things on iTunes or, more often, illegally on Limewire. Everyone in the UK listens to music on Spotify.

You simply create a free account and download a bit of software, which allows you to search and then listen to full tracks of music on your computer. It's super fast, there's tonnes of music on there (even indie stuff), no risk of viruses and it is completely legal and supported by the occasional advertisement. Unlike Last FM, you can listen to tracks you like over and over again and even create play lists. It can also function as a radio station if you want your music selected for you based on some parameters about what you want to hear. Otherwise you are free to choose from their huge library of music and listen to whatever you want.

The only downside is that the music doesn't belong to you, so you can't download it or make Cd's for your friends (though you can share play lists) and you can't load it onto your iPod. You also need the internet to run it.

Go and set up your account and let me know so we can share music. Now!

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