Sabtu, 28 Februari 2009

0 Seastead Design Competition

[Image: The basic platform; design your seastead atop this and win $1000].

The Seasteading Institute is sponsoring a design competition to see who can most interestingly visualize a permanent, microsovereign architectural state at sea.
"A seastead," they write in the competition brief, "is a floating platform that allows people to permanently settle the ocean as they do land. Professional naval engineers have already designed a bare platform – a structure about 400x400 feet, roughly the size of a city block. What you build on the platform is up to you. It may be a hospital, a casino, a residential community, a cricket stadium, or something entirely different."

[Image: The sample design].

There are some basic engineering constraints that participants will have to heed, as explained both in the call-for-entries and in this forum, and a sample design has been supplied (see images above and below).
But I think it'd be absolutely fascinating to annualize this, and launch a kind of eVolo competition for offshore platform design. The skyscraper designs that come out of eVolo might gravitate a bit too strongly toward the biomorphic/diagrid/arbitrary fractal tiling end of contemporary architectural design, but each year's results are always worth checking out.
So if architects were asked to rethink the spatial design of offshore libertarian self-rule, and to do so as part of a high-profile annual competition, what sorts of structures might we see?

[Image: An illustrated variation of the sample design, from Wired magazine].

For a little more background, Wired's Chris Baker covered the Seasteading Institute last month. Baker wrote that the Institute "doesn't just want to create huge floating platforms that people can live on," they are "also hoping to create a platform in the sense that Linux is a platform: a base upon which people can build their own innovative forms of governance. The ultimate goal is to create standards and blueprints that can be easily adapted, allowing small communities to rapidly incubate and test new models of self-rule with the same ease that a programmer in his garage can whip up a Facebook app."
Here, architectural design would actually help to catalyze new forms of political sovereignty.
The cultural possibilities for these offshore spaces are effectively without limit – and they would be self-policed, falling outside the bounds of international law. This opens up a number of legal (not to mention moral) quandaries.
Baker reports that Patri Friedman, the Institute's co-founder and executive director, speaking at a Bay Area conference held last fall, "notes that some enterprises – like euthanasia clinics – would incense local authorities, but almost all the ideas attendees [at that conference] come up with would capitalize on activities that skirt existing laws and regulations: Fish farming and aquaculture. Prisons. Med schools. Gold warehouses. Brothels. Cryonics intakes. Gene therapy, cloning, augmentation, and organ sales. Baby farms. Deafeningly loud concerts. Rehab/detox clinics. Zen retreats. Abortion clinics. Ultimate ultimate fighting tournaments."
So what might these platforms look like? Submissions are due by May 1.

Selasa, 24 Februari 2009

0 Make Sure Your Facebook Profile Doesn't Lose You A Job

Do you use Facebook? I do too -- and so do a heck of a lot of other people. Including my mom, and my former boss.

Employers are increasingly using Facebook (and other social networking sites) to check up on potential and current employees. People have been disciplined at work, have missed out on job positions, or have even been dismissed due to comments they've left on Facebook and similar sites.

In the credit crunch times, you can't afford to have anything working against you. Here's how to make sure your Facebook profile isn't visible to your boss - and how to clean it up if necessary...

Step 1: Check Your Privacy Settings
Do you know who might be reading your Facebook profile? Are you really certain that it's only limited to those people who you've accepted a Friend request from? Log into your account, click the "Settings" button on the top left: then look at the "Networks" tab:
Like me, you might well be in two or more networks - probably a school one(mine's Cambridge University) and a regional one (mine's London - so pretty huge). Have a quick glance at the numbers of people in those networks: 44 thousand at Cambridge and three MILLION in London.

Now click on the "Settings" tab, and on the "manage" link next to "Privacy Controls"

Then click "Profile". This is what mine looks like:

Hang on a minute ... "My Networks and Friends"? Well, I've got three hundred or so friends on Facebook -- but my networks cover three and a half million people: all of whom are either graduates of the same university (so high on my list of potential networking contacts), or people who live in London (where, if I was looking for another full-time job, I'd be seeking employment).

As you can imagine, giving potential bosses (and your past professors - people who might write you a reference) access to your entire profile could be a no-no. I don't actually use Facebook a lot and the few obligatory drunken photos of me aren't particularly risque, so I'm not too bothered who can see my information. But if you pack your profile with rude quotes, if your status update regularly includes how drunk/stoned/lazy you are, and if the photos of you are ones you'd never want to be posted on the office noticeboard ... you might want to limit all of the information in your profile to friends only.

Why Should I Bother?

When an employer decides to check you out on Facebook prior to interviewing you, they won't be able to see your profile, photos of you, and so on. The first impression they get of you will be a professional one from the interview. Leaving your Facebook profile open to them is a bit like inviting them to come and nose around your home (when it's at its most untidy, with your stack of dodgy magazines left lying around...)

And if you doubt that employers do make these checks, here's food for thought from an article on "Facebook Can Ruin Your Life" from the Independent (a UK newspaper) - emphasis mine:

At Cambridge, at least one don has admitted "discreetly" scanning applicants' pages – a practice now widespread in job recruitment. A survey released by Viadeo said that 62 per cent of British employers now check the Facebook, MySpace or Bebo pages of some applicants, and that a quarter had rejected candidates as a result. Reasons given by employers included concerns about "excess alcohol abuse", ethics and job "disrespect".

Do you want to risk missing out on your dream job because of your Facebook profile?

Step 2: Cleaning Up Your Profile

You might not want to limit access to your profile to only your friends, if you use Facebook for a lot of networking. Or, you might have a lot of "friends" who've added you because they read your blog, or because they knew you in kindergarten: you never know when one of these friends might be a useful ally, a potential employer or mentor.

And although your profile might not contain anything too dreadful (such as admissions of just how you ended up leaving your previous job), things which seem perfectly innocuous could still cause employers to decide to pass on you. The recruitment site www.onrec.com offers ten top turn-offs for employers who are performing discreet background checks using Facebook and similar sites:

Top ten turn-offs for employers on social networking websites

1. References to drug abuse
2. Extremist / intolerant views, including racism, sexism
3. Criminal activity
4. Evidence of excessive alcohol consumption
5. Inappropriate pictures, including nudity
6. Foul language
7. Links to unsuitable websites
8. Lewd jokes
9. Silly email addresses
10. Membership of pointless / silly groups

And from the New Zealand Herald:

Interestingly, employers were not just concerned about alcohol or drug use, or inappropriate photos. They also used the information posted to identify those with poor communication skills, and inaccurately stated qualifications. Bad mouthing of former employers and colleagues was also identified as a concern in a large number of cases.

So it's worth cleaning up your profile to get rid of anything that's not contributing to the impression you want to give to employers, business colleagues and other contacts - anything which undermines or contradicts your personal brand.

I'm going to focus on two key areas that could be letting you down: "Your Info" and "Your Photos".

Your Info

Click on "Profile" in the top bar, then on "Info":

Have a good read through what's listed there. You might want to update old information (I'm awful at doing this...) You may need to self-censor some of your "favorite music" or "favorite movies", if you have somewhat extreme tastes in either. Think about who might read your profile here: if you're going for a job with a right-wing political or charity body, a long list of slasher/horror movies and death metal music might not go down too well, but it could be just the thing if you're trying to land a job with a design agency that prides itself on "alternative" styles and creating shocking, engaging concepts.

Some quick tips that might help you are:
  • Get rid of any silly, profane or potentially bigoted (racist/sexist/etc) group memberships

  • Try to list some favorite books, not just films and music. Employers will be impressed if you look well-read.

  • Make your Quotations ones which are funny/profound, not all lewd jokes that your friends made after a few drinks..

  • Check for typos and spelling mistakes: these might seem unimportant to you, but they could be sending a negative impression to potential employers
Your Photos

Click onto the "Photos" tab. This will show everything which someone's tagged with your name. It's worth going through every single one, and untagging it if it's not something you want to be associated with! Again, use your own judgement here: an unflattering shot might be a disaster if you're trying to become a supermodel, but could be an actual asset if you're aiming for a career in stand-up comedy...

Click on the thumbnail to view a photo full-size, and click the "Remove tag" link next to your name (at the bottom, under the photo) to remove the tag - meaning snoopers can't find that photo of you:

For most of us, photos to look out for are:
  • Photos where you look drunk/stoned/comatose (even if you were "just caught at a bad angle, honest")

  • Photos containing a number of "unsuitable" looking friends

  • Photos where someone's put a really dodgy caption about you (sadly, employers may decide against you based not only on your profile, but on what your friends seem to be like).

  • Any photos containing evidence of illegal or semi-illegal activity - especially if your employer or school could penalise you for it
Why Should I Bother?

Current employers (or your university/school) may check up on your Facebook profile. The Independent article mentioned the unfortunate case of:

Kevin Colvin, an intern at Anglo Irish Bank, who told his employers he had a family emergency, but whose Facebook page revealed he had, in reality, been cavorting in drag at a Hallowe'en party.

Photographic evidence can also be used to catch student culprits:

Oxford University proctors disciplined students after pictures of them dousing each other in shaving foam, flour and silly string in post-exam revelry were found on their Facebook pages.

Step 3: Keeping Your Profile Clean
Once you've limited access to your profile and cleaned it up, you need to keep it safe for work. In my last full time job, my boss was "friends" with a number of my co-workers: this calls for considerable caution! If you have parents who are paying your tuition fees, you might want to make sure your Facebook account gives the impression that you're making the most of their money (rather than partying constantly...)

Some good points to pause for thought are:
  • When setting your status. Do you really want to declare that "John thinks work SUCKS" or that "Jane is thinking of throwing a sickie?" Even something a bit less obvious, like moaning about a difficult client, could rebound badly on you.

  • When uploading photos. Is it really something you want your office colleagues to see? Or your mum?

  • When commenting on other people's photos, wall, etc. Think about what your words might convey to someone who wasn't in on the joke or the conversation. Would you look bigoted, illiterate or plain nasty?
It's also unwise to use Facebook while at work - your actions are time-stamped, so if your boss sees that you've been updating your account at 11am when you should've been hard at work, s/he's unlikely to be impressed.

Why Should I Bother?

Thoughtless use of Facebook has led to people losing their jobs in the past (though this is usually due to admission of some serious wrong-doing, such as theft from the company). Even if you don't get sacked, you might have to face up to consequences.

I'll leave you with the cautionary tale of Kyle Doyle, a call center worker who pulled a sickie ... and bragged about it on Facebook:

Kyle Doyle, a 21-year-old resolutions expert for telecommunications firm AAPT, bragged about his day off on the social networking site while telling his employer he was away for "medical reasons".

But he was found out when his boss spotted this Facebook profile update on the day in question, August 21: "Kyle Doyle is not going to work, f*** it I'm still trashed. SICKIE WOO!"

So ... head on over to Facebook, and check out the employer-friendliness of your profile. Let us know what you decide to change (or whether you look squeaky-clean already) -- but don't say anything too incriminating in the comments. Remember, bosses read Dumb Little Man too...

Written on 2/24/2009 by Ali Hale. Ali runs Alpha Student, a blog packed with academic, financial and practical tips to help students get the most out of their time at university.Photo Credit: facebook

0 Should work be fun? Not if you want to be successful

Look, I agree that if you are not feeling jazzed much of the time then yes, you are probably not in the right place at the right time for your talents. But what I am talking about here is a more nuanced look at the situation; which is that you have to have some “un-fun” in the mix to make special accomplishments.

Let me repeat. If you want to be at the top of your game, and reap the quality of life benefits that come with that, then I would argue that all of your work should NOT be fun.

It’s these grueling, “not fun” tasks that are key to success. There is a huge discipline difference – with major quality of life ramifications – between doing “hard, smart work” and this plus doing the real grueling tasks that your peers are unwilling to do because it is too far out of their comfort zones.

What differentiates the A players from the B players is a willingness to do the work that is not fun at all.

Lets use an example. There’s a brilliant economist with tenure at one of the world’s most prestigious universities. He works incredibly hard and smart within his discipline; in a way that few people in his field can. However, in the tasks he least enjoys -- networking and marketing himself – he is unwilling to do the hard work.

Let's look at the other economist with a best selling book and with invitations to speak at beautiful sites around the world. She can also work incredibly smart and hard within her comfort zone, but is also willing to do the grueling networking and marketing work that she hates doing. She does the work that is not fun. Poring over the agenda of a conference she is speaking at the following week, identifying those who may be useful to meet, researching their backgrounds, sending introduction emails prior to the conference to lay a better foundation for networking at the event, sending the emails at night as that is simply the only time to do so, getting in the extroverted mindset at the conference to make the most of it, etc. [Again, this is stuff she hates doing but does it anyway.]

And guess what. The one who does the most of this grueling, un-fun work, becomes one of the most accomplished and admired economists because of the greater exposure to inspiring experiences and supporting people along the way. [And subsequently is best positioned for a life well lived due to the confidence and financial stability dividends that come from a successful career.]

Other examples:
  • The middle manager who HATES to do performance reviews but plows through them so that she can best develop her team and as a result best reach her goals.

  • The entrepreneurs who hates to do cold calls but swallows his pride because he knows it is the only way to grow his business. Realizing that a little bit of “artist” suffering is a necessary ingredient in the overall game.
We have this misconception that if you have self awareness and are in the best place to actualize yourself, that all your work should be fun. This is false. It should be fun most of the time but you have to take on the grueling, “un-fun” stuff to ultimately self actualize.

Doing the tough, unglamourous tasks is not fun. It can be a nasty slog. But know that it’s a key part of the mix.

Written on 2/24/2009 by Kit Cooper. Kit serves as executive director for Best Life Practices Foundation. The website shares quality of life best practices discovered from in-person interviews with well known types like Richard Branson and Tom Skerritt to lesser known but equally interesting individuals.
Photo Credit: Phillie Casablanca

Senin, 23 Februari 2009

0 The Continuous Enclave: Strategies in Bypass Urbanism

For his final student project presented last month at Rice University, Viktor Ramos produced The Continuous Enclave: Strategies in Bypass Urbanism.

[Image: From The Continuous Enclave: Strategies in Bypass Urbanism by Viktor Ramos; view larger].

The project explores how new forms of habitable infrastructure might be extrapolated from a geopolitical agreement – in this case, materializing architectural form from the legal interstices of the Oslo Accords.
The result is a fantastic example of architectural speculation: genuinely massive – and impossibly cantilevered – bridges used as transport links, aerial housing, and skyborne agricultural complexes, all in one.

[Image: From The Continuous Enclave: Strategies in Bypass Urbanism by Viktor Ramos].

While clearly defying security protocols, as the "continuous enclave" and its network of bridges cross through sovereign Israeli airspace, these structures would link the dispersed islands of infrastructurally underserved territory now under Palestinian control.
From Ramos's own project description:
    This thesis takes a formal approach to understanding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by studying mechanisms of control within the West Bank. The occupation of the West Bank has had tremendous effects on the urban fabric of the region because it operates spatially. Through the conflict, new ways of imagining territory have been needed to multiply a single sovereign territory into many. It is only through the overlapping of two separate political geographies that they are able to inhabit the same landscape.
One might say that these bridges present us with the staple as geopolitical form.

[Image: From The Continuous Enclave: Strategies in Bypass Urbanism by Viktor Ramos; view poster-sized].

"The Oslo Accords," Ramos continues, "have been integral to this process of division."
    By defining various control regimes, the Accords have created a fragmented landscape of isolated Palestinian enclaves and Israeli settlements. The intertwined nature of these fragments makes it impossible to divide the two states easily. By connecting the fragments through a series of under- and overpasses, the border between the two states has shifted vertically.
In the following cross-section, you can see the internal stacking of the space – an inhabited borderzone that weaves through the lower atmosphere.

[Image: From The Continuous Enclave: Strategies in Bypass Urbanism by Viktor Ramos; view larger].

To my mind, the project avoids the most obvious and expected pitfall of such an approach – which would be to suggest, naively, that architecture can, in and of itself, lead to a more thorough and lasting peace in the region, as if the entirety of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would be eradicated if only they had better architecture.
Ramos instead uses the Oslo Accords as a kind of spatial source-code from which unanticipated structural forms might be extracted.
For those of you who have read Delirious New York, it's as if the Oslo Accords have been turned into a geopolitically active 1916 Zoning Law. That law, of course, established spatial guidelines – for instance, enforcing setbacks for buildings, leading to an era in which skyscrapers rose up like ever-narrowing ziggurats – from which the buildings of Manhattan would then be shaped.
As Koolhaas himself writes, in the wake of the Zoning Law architects would "have to carve the final Manhattan archetype from the invisible rock of its zoning envelope in a campaign of specification."
In Ramos's project, that "invisible rock" consists of disputed territorial claims hovering virtually over the geography of the West Bank. The distinct new form of spatiality "carved" from that rock is the bypass.

[Image: From The Continuous Enclave: Strategies in Bypass Urbanism by Viktor Ramos; definitely view larger].

Again, from the project description:
    One feature of the Oslo Accords is the bypass road which links Israeli settlements to Israel, bypassing Palestinian areas in the process. These are essential to the freedom of movement for the settlers within the Occupied Territories. Extrapolating on the bypass, this thesis explores the ramifications of a continuous infrastructural network linking the fragmented landscape of Palestinian enclaves. In the process, a continuous form of urbanization has been developed to allow for the growth and expansion of the Palestinian state. Ultimately, this thesis questions the potential absurdity of partition strategies within the West Bank and Gaza Strip by attempting to realize them.
Thus creating what Ramos calls bypass urbanism, or a self-connected maze of new territories in the sky.

[Image: From The Continuous Enclave: Strategies in Bypass Urbanism by Viktor Ramos; view much larger: top, bottom].

There are any number of other directions such a project could go, but I'm particularly excited by the idea of applying this same sort of analysis to other conflict zones, elsewhere, all over the world.
Of course, the precedents for this are many. After all, what is the Berlin Wall but a piece of architecture pulled from the dreamscape of international legal infrastructure?
In fact, I'm reminded here of Rupert Thomson's under-appreciated recent novel Divided Kingdom – especially because the basic premise of that book was at least partially inspired by Rem Koolhaas's own student thesis project, Exodus, or The Voluntary Prisoners of Architecture. As Koolhaas wrote:
    Once, a city was divided in two parts. One part became the Good Half, the other part the Bad Half. The inhabitants of the Bad Half began to flock to the good part of the divided city, rapidly swelling into an urban exodus. If this situation had been allowed to continue forever, the population of the Good Half would have doubled, while the Bad Half would have turned into a ghost town. After all attempts to interrupt this undesirable migration had failed, the authorities of the bad part made desperate and savage use of architecture: they built a wall around the good part of the city, making it completely inaccessible to their subjects.

    The Wall was a masterpiece.
The U.S.–Mexico border would seem an obvious place for any investigation of "bypass urbanism" to begin; just today, the New York Times looked at the decaying after-effects of the Dayton Accords and their spatio-sovereign impact on the future of Bosnia; and Lebbeus Woods has long explored the architectural effects of political separation, from Paris and Berlin to Israel and Sarajevo, seeking out those fissures wherein geopolitics exhibits its own peculiar form of spatial tectonics.
But what new kinds of space might we yet extract from territorial agreements between, say, India and Pakistan over Kashmir, or Turkey and Greece over Nicosia – or, for that matter, what strange infrastructures might we build in Baarle-Hertog, what pavilions inspired by the Akwizgran Discrepancy, and how might most interestingly extract architecture from the international date line?

[Image: From The Continuous Enclave: Strategies in Bypass Urbanism by Viktor Ramos].

Even with so many precedents, it would seem, such studies have still barely begun.
You can see much, much larger versions of all of these images in this Flickr set: The Continuous Enclave: Strategies in Bypass Urbanism. They are incredibly detailed and well worth exploring in full!

(Viktor Ramos's Continuous Enclave was produced at Rice University. It was advised by Troy Schaum under the direction of Fares el-Dahdah and Eva Franch, with additional input from John Casbarian and Albert Pope).

0 Listing Listward

BLDGBLOG has unexpectedly popped up on a list of The 100 Best Blogs, according to the Times.
I'm there alongside some very distinguished company, I have to say, including Owen Hatherley's sit down man, you're a bloody tragedy, and many of the blogosphere's usual suspects, from Boing Boing, TreeHugger, and TechCrunch, to David Byrne, The Sartorialist, and so on. Alex Ross's excellent The Rest Is Noise also made the list (don't miss Ross's book).
Of course, there are some very notable absences on the list, not least of which come from the vibrant architecture, cities, and landscape blogging scenes, of which I've always been excited to be a part.
The complete roster of 100 blogs is divided up into parts one and two – so check it out if you're looking for new sites to read.
And thanks, by the way, for continuing to read BLDGBLOG! It's frightening to say it, but the site's fifth birthday is approaching this summer.

(Thanks to Clare Dudman for pointing it out!)

0 Accomplish More Each Day: Four Steps to Easy Delegation

You could spend two hours every evening reading tips on efficient working. You could then implement every last one of them so that you’re working as efficiently as possible, every minute of your working day.

And, all too often, you’d find that you’ve become very good at Getting Things Done. But the “things” you’re doing could be done by pretty much anyone and you’ve not made yourself any more effective. You’ll be racing through work, but, like Alice, you’ll be running hard and going nowhere.

Once you’re past the most junior level in your company, you can vastly improve your effectiveness by being willing to delegate. Even if you’re a freelancer working solely for yourself, there are tasks you can pass on to someone else (what about using a Virtual Assistant?)

So why do so many bosses end up trying to micromanage? Why do so many managers waste their time on work that a kid fresh out of high school could do? It’s often because they’re not willing to delegate – or not confident enough about it.

Delegating typically brings up some tricky issues that you might rather not face, like:
  • Needing to clarify a hodge-podge procedure before attempting to teach it to someone else

  • Spending time teaching someone else to carry out the work (when you could just’ve done it yourself)

  • Accepting that you’re not the only person who can do a good job of this task – forgetting the silly proverb that “If you want a job doing, do it yourself”

  • Needing to spend your time on real work, which only you can do. You may find you’ve been bogged down in trivia because it’s easier than tackling hard, creative tasks.
Here are some of my tips on getting through these problem patches.
  • Clarifying Procedures
    Whether or not you plan to delegate work, you should have a written procedure for any regular task that you carry out. (Keep it as simple and step-by-step as possible.)

    For example, if your job involves hosting websites for a number of clients, there are probably some simple steps you go through for each one:
    • Buying the domain name

    • Setting up hosting

    • Setting nameservers and other technical details

    • Creating email accounts...
    ..and so on. Do you really want to spend ten minutes figuring out what you did last time, in what order (and looking for account names and passwords) every single time? If you’ve got a straightforward document which lists, step by step, what you need to do, you can run through it without room for error and without much need for thought.

    Most of us have a number of routine tasks that we “bodge” our way through; things which we do on a semi-regular basis but can’t be bothered to sit down and work out a system for. When you next come across one of these in your own work, create a simple set of instructions there and then. It’ll take you a few minutes now, but it’ll save you time from now on. (Think of it like insulating your home: you pay up-front, but then you save on heating and air conditioning bills for years to come.)

  • Training Others
    When I worked in tech support, one of the reasons I often avoided delegating work was because of the need to train someone else how to do it. When you’ve got a lot on your to-do list, it often seems more sensible to spend 30 minutes getting a routine task done, rather than spending an hour teaching somebody else how to do it.

    Of course, this is a poor way to approach things. A one-off expenditure of an hour today could save you thirty minutes every week for the next five years.

    When you pass on a routine task to a colleague, make sure that:
    • You allow sufficient time to show them what to do – don’t rush this, and remember that a task that seems completely straightforward to you (because it’s so familiar) might be confusing to someone else.

    • You check their work the first time they carry out that task, and give corrections and feedback if necessary.

    • You make them fully responsible for the task: avoid having any blocks on them completing it. For example, if a client emails every few weeks asking for particular information to be compiled, ask that client to email your colleague in future – not you.
    In some cases, you’ll be passing on a one-off task. The best way to do this is to give clear written instructions (probably in an email) and to ensure that you’re available to answer questions if necessary. Don’t just dump work on someone and tell them to “figure it out”: you’ll cause them stress, and you’ll probably be unsatisfied with the results.

  • Other People Can Do A Good Job
    If you’ve got a straightforward procedure, and you’ve trained your colleague to follow it, there’s absolutely no reason why they can’t do as good a job as you.

    Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you’re the only person who’ll check things properly, or that you’ve got a good eye for detail whereas others haven’t. If you find that work isn’t being completed to a satisfactory standard, it’s probably because either the procedure isn’t clear, or you haven’t clearly explained what needs doing.

    For some people, this is particularly important in their personal life. Don’t get hung up on being the only person in your household who can do laundry, clean the bathroom or iron clothes “properly”. If you take the time to teach a partner or child how to carry out simple household chores, you might find that you’ve freed up a lot of time for yourself. You might also consider hiring someone to clean once or twice a week – or even paying someone else to cook your meals. (It could be far cheaper than you’d think.)

  • Avoiding Busy Work
    “Busy work” is stuff that you get involved with because it’s easy, because it makes you feel productive and efficient. Typically, busy work:
    • Doesn’t make any real difference

    • Could be done by anyone

    • Makes you look or feel productive
    The biggest challenge with delegating is to accept that a lot of the work you’re doing isn’t really work – it’s just “stuff” that clogs up your day and your mind. There can be challenges involved in stepping back from the daily busyness and looking at the big picture. You might need to think strategically about the direction of your business, or your career. You might need to tackle a major project that you’ve been putting off for a long time (that very overdue re-envisioning of your company website perhaps? – This seems to be a favourite “I don’t have time...” project of many company owners, in my experience!)

    While you’re at work tomorrow, keep a list of all the tasks you carry out, from when you get into the office until when you leave. How many of them absolutely need to be done by you? Which could you delegate to someone else? If necessary, schedule half a day next week to work out simple procedures and train others to carry out your busy work.
If you’ve had experience of delegating work to others, whether in a professional or personal context, what tips do you have for our readers?

Written on 2/23/2009 by Ali Hale. Ali runs Alpha Student, a blog packed with academic, financial and practical tips to help students get the most out of their time at university.Photo Credit: Or Hiltch

Minggu, 22 Februari 2009

0 Mathscape

[Image: The finished "math playground" in Uganda, by Project H Design].

Project H Design recently completed the installation of a "math playground," or Learning Landscape, at the Kutamba School for orphans of AIDS in rural Uganda.
Part outdoor classroom, part spatially immersive lesson in arithmetic, the project gives students a place to study in at least two senses of the phrase. On the one hand, it's simply a forum for learning; on the other, it is literally a place to study: the space itself, if I've understood this correctly, serves as a model for play-based education.

[Images: The "math playground," by Project H Design].

That is, within the numbered arrangement of tires and benches is a spatial pedagogy: using the landscape itself, any number of spatialized games, such as "Around The World" and "Match Me," can be used to teach elementary mathematics.

[Images: One the finished benches, via Project H Design].

The didactic landscape was, at one point, simply a kind of mathematical test-landscape in a U.S. gymnasium before being tried out by the students on site in Uganda, before reaching its final installation.

[Images: Testing out the landscape, via Project H Design].

Check out the whole research, design, and installation process through their Flickr sets.

[Images: Via Project H Design].

I absolutely love the idea, though, that it might be possible to derive mathematical lessons from the built environment surrounding us. That, somewhere in the walls, roads, and buildings we find ourselves alive within, are equations waiting to be deduced, geometries to be studied, forces that we can isolate, graph, and understand. Whether through games or lectures, it is the spatial world itself that we study.

[Images: A handbook to spatial learning, via Project H Design].

Of course, this is one of the most basic things you do when you first study engineering: you look at a bridge, tower, or other structure and you try to figure out how it stands or works. Or you stand behind Notre-Dame in Paris, staring at those stone cobwebs of intersecting buttressed supports, and you try to understand how it is that cathedrals gravitationally function.
But how incredible would it be to realize that, say, your entire city had actually been organized by urban planners two hundred years ago as a kind of inhabitable lesson in mathematics or logical reasoning, like something from the early theories of Friedrich Froebel?
Who?
In an unbelievably interesting exhibition held two years ago in Pasadena, the Institute For Figuring explored the educational system of a now relatively under-known man named Friedrich Froebel and his influence on what we now call kindergarten. To quote from their online exhibition at length:
    Most of us today experienced kindergarten as a loose assortment of playful activities – a kind of preparatory ground for school proper. But in its original incarnation kindergarten was a formalized system that drew its inspiration from the science of crystallography. During its early years in the nineteenth century, kindergarten was based around a system of abstract exercises that aimed to instill in young children an understanding of the mathematically generated logic underlying the ebb and flow of creation. This revolutionary system was developed by the German scientist Friedrich Froebel whose vision of childhood education changed the course of our culture laying the grounds for modernist art, architecture and design. Le Corbusier, Frank Lloyd Wright and Buckminster Fuller are all documented attendees of kindergarten. Other “form-givers” of the modern era – including Piet Mondrian, Wassily Kandinsky and Georges Braque – were educated in an environment permeated with Frobelian influence.
I don't mean to imply here that Project H's "math playground" in Uganda is an example of Froebelian education – because, as far as I'm aware, it is not – but I do mean to say that it would be amazingly cool if the spatial environments of modern life were organized more along educational lines.

[Images: A Froebelian garden for kids – that is, a kindergarten – brings spatial education to Los Angeles in this archival image, courtesy of the The Institute For Figuring].

Your every commute to work becomes part of a spatial curriculum, carving out education through space.
One of the questions here would be: could you reverse-engineer mathematical lessons from the environment that already surrounds you? Or do you need to purpose-build pedagogic spatiality?
In any case, read more about Froebelian education through the fascinating Institute for Figuring, and stop by Project H Design to find out how you can support the philanthropic construction of future Learning Landscapes elsewhere.

0 I know I should be blogging...

But I'm just so lazy!!

Anyway I'm still photoshopping the trillions of photos I have uploaded, so soon I'll update!

Meanwhile, here's someone who doesn't need photoshopping...

Pumpkin! Who now has hair long enough to be tied up into a top knot! Tying top knots are not only pretty, but actually good for the dogs, as the hair falling into their eyes often irritate them.

Juicy couture ribbon!















And one more of me in the cab going to meet Ringo...



Love ya all!


p/s: Ok you people need to stop harping on the flash thing. I've googled it, and there is no concrete proof that a camera's flash will hurt a dog's eyes anymore than it would hurt a human's.

0 Landscape Anthropology

An exhibition called In Search of the Miraculous opened up last night at the Camera Club of New York. It runs till March 28th.

[Image: Two Structures, Death Valley, California, 2007, by Ian Bugaskas, from his series Sweet Water; courtesy of the Jen Bekman Gallery].

While the above image, by photographer Ian Bugaskas, one of the artists represented in the show, is not actually on display there, Baguskas will instead be exhibiting a series called Sansaram (Mountain People), which visually surveys a very particular landscape microculture in South Korea.
According to the Camera Club:
    Ian Baguskas's portraits made in South Korea of local mountain hikers depict the intersection of recreation and spiritual communion with nature. His project Sansaram from 2005, meaning "people of the mountain," combines landscape views with documentary portraits of native visitors to the Sobaek mountains, encountered on hiking trails. The popularity of this activity can be attributed to the indigenous religion, which is centered on the worship of nature and mountain spirits, and has come to be fused with Buddhism.
The series, visible on Baguskas's website (caution: resizes your browser and requires Flash), is a fascinating look at the intersection of geology and anthropology – in other words, how massive landforms can be appropriated by and incorporated into cultural movements and religious traditions.
The human experience of the earth's surface here takes on the form of small picnics, ice cream carts parked on paved platforms, lone hikers gazing out over urban developments below, and families standing quietly in the sun. But behind all of that lies bedrock, a huge intrusion of solid, crystalline form that has pushed up from below into detectability and self-exposure.
This reminds me, though, that if I could start a university – or, for that matter, simply teach at one – I would love to form a new department, studio, or program called Landscape Anthropology, a specifically and enthusiastically spatialized look at human culture. From the layouts of medieval villages to the floorplans of corporate bank towers, from national parks and monuments to the strange geotechnical rearrangements we force upon rock, digging tunnels, excavating mines, and installing towns and cities, how do human beings experience the earth? This would seem to be one of the largest and most important questions we could possibly ask.
In any case, if you're in New York City between now and March 28, consider stopping by the Camera Club for a glimpse of In Search of the Miraculous.

Sabtu, 21 Februari 2009

0 13 Things You Must Balance in Your Life!

It’s not easy to stay balanced. In fact, we live in a very cluttered and unbalanced world and I'd contend that many of us can't even identify the areas of our life that need attention (let alone balance them!).

Admittedly, it's very easy to get into this state. A typical person goes through a very similar routine every day: wake up, eat, work, eat, sleep...do over. If you don't work in a little time to at least think about the varying aspects of your life, it's incredibly simple to lose balance.

Give these 13 points a little consideration. When was the last time you made a conscious effort to improve in these areas?

  • Your Spending
    Spending too much? Most Americans do. Take a good look at your monthly outflow of cash and trim where you can. But, don’t be so cheap that you're cutting out birthday gifts or being rude at occasions. Remember, we are not taking our money with us!

  • Your Time
    This is not always easy and even the best of us work too much and don’t stop and smell the roses. Unfortunately your time is a limited resource. Seek balance!

  • Your Diet
    No breakfast and a big dinner - that’s the way a lot of people eat and the opposite is usually a lot better for you! Big Breakfast and small dinner is a better balance for most of us.

  • Your Checkbook
    Little deliberate actions really add up (pardon the pun) when it comes to mastering your personal finances. Does your checkbook match what the bank says?

  • Your Children
    Making certain that your children are balanced people and that they give and take, study and enjoy, watch TV and read.

  • Your Meals
    Too many carbs and not enough healthy fats, or too much fat and not enough carbs. There is really nothing wrong with a little junk food once in a while, but there is definitely something wrong with junk food all the time.

  • Your Net Worth
    This is a balance sheet: Your assets – Liabilities = Net Worth
    The formula always balances out, but it should be calculated from time to time. Ideally, you'd see an increase in your net worth each year.

  • Your Relationships
    Do your friends drain you? Do you drain them? Good friendships are balanced, thought provoking, informative, enjoyable and a little challenging.

  • The Tires on your Car!
    Too many people miss this one! It can save you thousands in gasoline over the course of your life and make you a little safer too.

  • Your Goals
    They shouldn’t be too hard and impossible, but yet challenging enough to excite and stretch you.

  • Education and Action
    Too much action without education can lead to major mistakes and pitfalls. Not enough action on things we learn can be lost education. You either use it, or lose it, when it comes to education.

  • Positives and Negatives
    Too much positive feedback can kill us, we need some negative feedback too (constructive analysis/criticism). If you are not getting negative feedback, ask more people to critique your work.

  • Your Portfolio
    A balance between stocks and bonds, and then rebalancing as you age is a must to meeting your life long financial goals.
As a veteran financial planner, reader and someone who cares about people very deeply. I have noticed the real value of balance over and over again, especially when it comes to your finances and investing. In the world of investing, there are complicated formulas that prove being balanced is the way to go, and yet you go through this list and you realize that it is really just common sense.

Written on 2/21/2009 by Bob O'Brien. Bob has been a financial advisor for 14 years and is a Sr. Instructor at Mywealth.com. Photo Credit: NCinDC

Jumat, 20 Februari 2009

0 Bering Bridge

If you could design a bridge across the Bering Strait, connecting the U.S. to Russia, what would it look like? Come up with something good and you could win as much as $80,000 ($20,000, if you're a student).
From the competition website:
    This project is a dream project attempting to connect two continents. In a wide sense, it includes building a tunnel or a bridge at both ends of the strait, extending [the] existing railways of the United States and Russia, and laying a world highway around the coasts of the world, which require a massive amount of construction.
Your only two requirements are to design "a peace park with a bridging structure using the two islands, Big Diomede and Little Diomede at the Bering Strait," and a "proposal of how to connect two continents."
Of course, Russian engineers have already been considering digging a tunnel between the two continents, and the Discovery Channel has chimed in about how a bridge might actually be built across that "iceberg-swirled ocean near the Arctic Circle."
But neither of those plans came with a total of $200,000 in prize money...
There's a confusing clock ticking away on the competition website, but you appear to have until March 24, 2009, to register.

0 Don't Keep Personal Data on Work Computers


Anyone working in a professional environment knows that standard 9-5 jobs are a thing of the past. More and more, our jobs are seeping into the time that we'd spend running errands, shopping, or keeping in touch with family. Because the borders or work and play are blurring, many people are now not only bringing work home, but bringing some of home to work in the form of keeping personal files on their work computers.

It starts innocently enough. One day you're checking personal email on a work PC and before long, your workstation becomes a storage system for personal to-do lists, photos and music. If you are in the office enough (and way too many of us are) you might start to pay bills online and save the confirmation pages to your computer for your records.

In all honestly, most companies do not mind this type of thing as long as you are doing it on your time (breaks, lunch, before work, etc.) and as long as the stuff you are saving is not harmful to the company (like viruses in email attachments). Being able to do this kind of stuff from work keeps you happy, keeps you in the office longer (which usually means more productivity in the long run) and just makes life less stressful. So, we're all happy, right?

Well, for now. But, what happens when you leave the company? I work as a Computer Tech in a corporate environment and that means, that sometimes, I know a person is being let go before they do. We are asked to disable that users account as they are being called into a meeting and given the news. This is not done to be mean to the person, but to protect company assets. So how does that employee now get their data back and how much of it is read by others?

I know what many of you are thinking. It is their data and they should be able to log in and get it. Unfortunately, you are wrong. If the data is on a company computer, it is the company's data, and if the employee is let go, they no longer have a right to access it. So what can you do if this happens to you?

Prevention, Prevention, Prevention...

Like just about everything else, your best bet is to prevent this from happening. Pick up a USB flashdrive at your local electronics store. If you feel that you have to do personal business at work, use that to store all your data (if external drives are allowed). This will allow you the comfort of being able to save files while at work, and at the same time, the data stays yours. Take it home with you at night to keep it safe.

Ok, great. But, what if you have data on your computer and are let go tomorrow after reading this. (lets hope this is not the case)

Here is what you do:
  1. Let your now former boss know that you have some personal data saved on the computer that you would like to get off before leaving.

  2. Explain that none of it is company related and that he (or someone else) is welcome to sit with you to verify this while you copy the data to DVD/CD or External hard drive.
At this point, most people would say go ahead. At my old job, we usually would allow this unless we had a really good reason not to. So let's say they have a really good reason not to.
  1. Ask if they can have IT get the data off for you

  2. Be prepared with a list of the files you need and the location of them, and have an external Drive ready for them is possible.
When we had a reason to keep the person off the computer, we would get the data for them. I cannot remember a single instance where we refused a person their personal data after being let go, there is just no reason to do it. So be nice, and chances are all will end well for you.

What NOT to do:
  1. Do not make threats. The data is on their computer, it is now theirs, you have no claim to it, so be nice.

  2. Do not try to hold company data hostage in exchange for yours.
    • In another post which inspired this one, one commenter mentioned that he had configured his computer to only allow a login with his fingerprint and if they tried to block access to the computer from him, he would never let them back on. Several IT personnel quickly pointed out that as long as they have the computer, there is little the person could do to keep them out, and this is very true. The only thing this does is anger the people you want something from.

    • If you have company data at home and make this kind of threat, be prepared to be charged with theft. The data belongs to the company. You withholding it from them is theft.
  3. Do not be unreasonable. Do not expect them to let you take projects you worked on, documents/articles, etc. that you authored. If you did it for work, it is now theirs, that's the end of it.

  4. If they let you get your data, do not try to steal company data. This is illegal and a quick way for you to not only lose what you want from the company (your personal files) but also get in a lot more trouble.

  5. If they let you get your data, do not try to delete anything that isn't yours from the computer. This is just stupid and can be considered destruction of private property. You will get in trouble for this, and most companies will have backups of the data anyway, so it is useless.
Written on 2/20/2009 by Jordan Silva. Jordan Silva is a Systems Administrator living in Honolulu, Hawaii and author of Think Smarter, a blog created to share tips, tricks, and hacks to get technology working for you. Photo Credit: TedsBlog

Kamis, 19 Februari 2009

0 Designing the Post-Terrestrial @ the SVA

[Image: The "worldwide satellite triangulation camera station network," courtesy of NOAA's Geodesy Collection].

I'll be lecturing in New York City at the School of Visual Arts, as part of their fantastic new Design Criticism program, on Tuesday, April 14, in case any of you are in New York that night. I'm on a roster with some really fantastic people, in fact, so definitely check out the rest of the lecture schedule.
I'm particularly excited about this talk, at the very least because it's a huge honor to be speaking at the SVA. But I'm also looking forward to discussing post-terrestriality, or the point at which the built environment supersedes the foundation it's based on to become planetary in both scale and implication. From genetically modified crops and artificial wetlands to wholesale plate-tectonic engineering – by way of on-demand weather, constructed reefs, and even ruined buildings mistaken for hills – there is a point at which design infiltrates so thoroughly into the workings of the planet that the Earth's unnaturality, so to speak, becomes impossible to detect.
The talk starts at 6pm, is free and open to the public, and will take place at 136 West 21st Street on the 2nd Floor. Here's a map.

(You can read more about the Design Criticism course here).

Rabu, 18 Februari 2009

0 The Program Is Not on the Floor

Benjamin Bratton of The Culture Industry is lecturing tonight at SCI-Arc in Los Angeles, presenting his talk The Program Is Not on the Floor: Stories about Projection, Planning, and Partition. According to SCI-Arc, Bratton's "research, writing, and practical interests include contemporary social theory, the perils and potentials of pervasive computing, architectural theory and provocation, inverse brand theory, software studies, systems design and development, and the spatial rhetorics of exceptional violence." If you go, tell him BLDGBLOG says hello...

0 How To Use the Bad Economy To Get In Shape

Let's face it: the economy stinks right now. We're all a little tight on money and the last thing on most of our minds is fitness. However, if you look at this economic downturn as an opportunity rather than a hopeless disaster, you may just be able to use your lack of spending money as the motivation behind some healthy lifestyle changes.

While our finances are headed down the drain, working on improving other areas of our lives can be a positive alternative to counting how much of our savings we have lost. Here's a few tips to help both your budget and waistline.
  • Order Water With a Meal
    By ordering a water with your meal at a restaurant instead of a soft drink or beer, you are not only saving at least $2 to $3, but you are also cutting several hundred calories from your diet. If you made this choice everyday, for example, you could save yourself almost $100 and 3,000 calories in a month's time.

  • Eat Smaller Portions
    Do you really need to "Supersize-It"? No, of course you don't. When getting a quick bite at a fast food restaurant, resist the urge to upscale your order. The difference between a small order of fries and a large one is about 250 calories and sometimes as much as a $1 or $2.

  • Eat Fewer Snacks
    I often imagine the inventor of modern day vending machines in the form of a villainous cartoon character. We buy his high calorie snacks at ridiculous markups while he twirls his waxed mustache and emits a maniacal laugh.

    At my office, a 12oz can of cola is 150 calories and $0.75, while the water fountain next to it is 0 calories and free. Skip the afternoon snacks and have a glass of water instead. Another healthy alternative would be to bring some fruits or veggies from home. These are always going to be cheaper than the prepackaged items bought on a whim.

  • Eat More Meals at Home
    Regardless of how healthy and cheap you try to be when eating out, you are almost guaranteed a cheaper and lower calorie meal by fixing it yourself in your own home. When you control what goes into your meal, you can sum up the exact amount of calories you are eating without paying the restaurant markups. Most people drastically underestimate the amount of calories contained in average restaurant meals.

  • Bring Your Lunch to Work
    Similar to the point above, if you can manage a little forethought, bringing your lunch with you is a great way to cut both unnecessary calories and expenditures. By packing a healthy lunch at home you are totally removing the temptation to buy overpriced and over sized portions of food from restaurants or fast food establishments.

  • Walk or Bike Instead of Using a Car
    If at all possible, walking or biking to places you usually would drive is an excellent way to add more exercise into your day and save on the cost of your commute. Any time you make a choice to be more active, you are literally doing your body a favor. Plus, using less gasoline is better for your wallet and the environment.

  • Create a Food Log
    A food log is just a detailed list of everything that you eat throughout the day. Be meticulous. Write out exactly what you had for each meal and any snacks you had in between. The purpose of this is to keep track of all you actually eat in a day and to help you monitor your total intake of calories. However, if you also applied this same method to the monetary price of food as well, you will have a detailed summary of exactly how much you spend on your meals and snacks. Once you see exactly how much your diet is costing you, you may be a little alarmed. Personally, I had no idea I was blowing through so much money a week simply on lunch until I started doing this. This is a great format for you to budget for the total cost of your diet, both in calories and dollars.

  • Look For Cheap Activities Outside As Weekend Entertainment
    Instead of going to a fancy dinner and an expensive movie on the weekends, look for cheap or free alternatives that are based on physical activity. Go to a public park or take a hike in the local woods. These types of activities are usually free, incorporate some exercise into a usually sedentary time of the week, and provide a great opportunity to spend time with the people that are important to you. For bonus points, try cutting your cable or selling your TV. Anything that tethers you to the couch when you could be elsewhere is an activity that deserves to be reevaluated.
Written on 12/19/2008 by Brandon Morgado. Brandon is a self-professed fitness geek and blogs regularly at FitHacks.com when he isn't running, playing Ultimate Frisbee or wasting his life away on Twitter.Photo Credit: Bludgeoner86
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