Senin, 31 Agustus 2009

0 How to Stop The Raging War Inside Yourself

So much of our life is spent battling against ourself that we begin to forget who we really are. We think we need to look like Brad Pitt, Sandra Bullock or many of the other 'perfect' celebrities that grace our world.

'If I could look like her/him my life would be perfect'
'If I had their money, I wouldn't have any worries'
'If I could buy the most fashionable clothes I would feel great about myself'
'If only I change my personality I would find the perfect partner'

Our ideal self and perceived self
When we go searching for our ideal self we are expending energy on a needless war; the war between our perceived self (the way we see ourselves) and our ideal self (the way we would like to be)

Maybe you're a chunky cheeseburger muncher who feels guilty every time that cheeseburger crosses your lips. You want to be thin but you also want that feeling of satisfaction when you take that first bite and savor the taste of cheese, onions, bread and the burger (of course you have already thrown away the two pieces of gherkin. Does anybody ever eat the gherkins?).

So what do you really want when you eat the cheeseburger? It's a sense of controlling your hunger which leads to satisfaction which leads to a sense of inner calmness.

What do you really want when you want to be thin? It's a sense of controlling your hunger (to be loved this time) which leads to satisfaction which leads to a sense of inner calmness. So the war you have created within yourself is coming from two, seemingly, opposite ideals; the desire to be thin and the desire to have a cheeseburger. However, when you look close enough these two ideals have the same goal; a sense of inner calmness. So what do you do? eat the cheeseburger and then get your chunky butt down to the gym.

Two sides of the same coin
Your perceived self is the self that needs most loving yet a lot of people disregard themselves every day, instead choosing to love their ideal self.

Imagine if you have two children, one of them is hard work and you seem to be constantly on at them for one reason or another the other is nearly perfect and you never have to tell them off for any reason. Would you love the 'hard work' child any less than the 'perfect child'? of course you wouldn't, it just means you have to find a way to work better with the 'hard work' child and gently coax them and encourage them.

So it is with your perceived self. You should look for ways to work better with your perceived self and accept yourself for who are are at the moment, knowing that change will come through gentle coaxing and encouragement and not forever declaring war with yourself.

5 Steps to accepting your perceived self
  1. Acknowledge it
    If there's something you don't like about yourself, acknowledge it. For example, I acknowledge the fact my stomach is slightly protruding.

  2. Accept it
    You don't have to like it but accept the fact, for the moment, that you have something you dislike about yourself.

  3. Thank yourself
    To acknowledge and accept something about yourself which you are not happy with takes guts and honesty. Thank yourself for that.

  4. Know why you want change
    If you want change to happen know exactly why you want the change. Get right down to the core of 'why'. For example I want to change my protruding stomach so my wife still finds me attractive -Why? So I can be accepted by my wife - Why? So I can have a deep relationship - Why? So I can feel content - Why?, You get the picture, just get deep down to the root of why you want to change.

  5. Gentle change as opposed to drastic change
    Gently coaxing yourself to change helps you to feel less stressed. If you want to lose weight keep eating the cheeseburgers for now but coax yourself to go to the gym or go for a walk after it or before it. You will find by doing this change will happen more naturally and the momentum will build up into the change you want.
The cycle of change
All change has a cycle to it whatever it is, from drug addiction to learning to read. The model from Prochaska and DiClemente states there are 5 stages to change:
  1. Pre-contemplative
    You're happy munching the cheeseburgers and don't really care about your weight. and are not thinking about doing anything to change

  2. Contemplative
    You think maybe you are eating too many cheeseburgers and maybe need to do something about your weight.

  3. Action
    When you have actually managed to join the gym and start attending whilst cutting down on the cheeseburgers.

  4. Maintenance
    This is when you maintain your momentum and you keep going to the gym and are beginning to see change happening.

  5. Relapse
    The stage where you have not been to the gym for a few weeks and munch on a few more cheeseburgers than you did at the action/eminence stage.
All of the stages serve their purpose and all of the stages will happen throughout the cycle of any change. So just because you relapse doesn't mean to say you are never going to change, it just means you need to learn some more and the relapse will help with this.

The way others see you
It's important to say that your perceived self is not necessarily the way others see you, however the way others see you is not going to help you in your war between your perceived self and your ideal self. No matter how many times someone tells you that you are good at something if you believe you are not good at it nothing anybody says will change you. You are the only person to be able to change you.

Sometimes drastic intervention is required by other people when you might have an overly distorted self image, such as people with anorexia. This is a mental health issue and should be treated professionally. However for the most part we all have a pretty accurate self image.

Don't be too hard on yourself
Most people want to change something about themselves even Brad Pitt and Sandra Bullock, we are all in the same boat. You want what they have and they want what you have. Accept yourself for who are but acknowledge that you want to change, if you really do, and gently coax yourself. Then there will be peace between the perceived self and the ideal self.

Written on 8/19/2009 by Steven Aitchison. Steven is the Author of Change Your Thoughts and works as an alcohol and drugs counselor. He has a BSc in Psychology and has a passion for studying belief formation, thought processes and values and principles. His blog focuses on personal development through changing your thoughts but covers the whole personal development field.Photo Credit: Jayel Aheram

0 Digital Architecture London

The second upcoming event that I want to announce is Digital Architecture London, organized by Ruairi Glynn. That will take place on Monday, September 21st, at the Building Centre here in London. "Introducing the latest developments in digital design practice," we read, "the conference will explore new spaces, social interactions, design and fabrication processes, and speculate on architecture’s post-digital futures."

A related book – Digital Architecture: Passages Through Hinterlands – edited by Glynn and documenting the parallel exhibition, will be released the same day.

The program sounds amazing, and I'm really looking forward to this. The day's complete list of panelists looks like this: Rachel Armstrong, Tony Dunne, Marcos Cruz, and Rachel Wingfield will be discussing "Digital Architecture & Bio-Technology"; Usman Haque, Matt Webb, Tobi Schneidler, and Stephen Gage will look at "Digital Architecture & Interaction"; Brett Steele, Patrik Schumacher, Marjan Colletti, Alvin Huang, and Daniel Bosia will analyze "Digital Architecture & Form"; and Bob Sheil, Hanif Kara, Charles Walker, and Michael Stacey will discuss "Digital Architecture & Fabrication." I will be speaking on a panel featuring Alan Penn, Neil Spiller, and Murray Fraser, and our topic will be "Digital Architecture & Space."

[Images: Two projects from the Hinterlands exhibition: (left) MatArc by Patrick Usborne, (right) Crackology by Mayhem].

Information about venue, timing, tickets, and more can all be found on the conference website.

0 Optioning Architecture

This weekend in Lund, Sweden, Sir Peter Cook and Abelardo Gonzalez will be hosting the 2009 ASAE conference, the theme of which is Communicating Architecture.
    ASAE is an annual symposium at the School of Architecture, Lund University, Sweden. It celebrates the beginning of the academic year. This year's ASAE will be a two-day event with lectures, seminar, critique, exhibition and more.
I'm still pretty stunned to find myself listed as a speaker, alongside people like Thom Mayne, Odile Decq, and Hernan Diaz Alonso; but I'm also excited by the opportunity to bring blogs again into this sort of organized discussion.

Unfortunately, I'll be speaking first thing Saturday morning! But I'll be giving a talk called "Optioning Architecture." There will be at least two major themes to be developed:
    1) What are the options available to architects when it comes to communicating spatial ideas? Are renderings, plans, and diagrams still the most communicationally effective media to use (from the perspective of the interested public) or simply the most industrially useful (from the perspective of fellow architects and contractors)? What happens when, say, Bernard Tschumi's next building is not announced to the public via well-rendered images and a press release but in the form of a novel? There is also much to discuss here by inverting this scenario and asking: what happens when novelists, screenwriters, poets, and so on begin creating buildings to communicate their literary and narrative ideas, instead of producing texts? While this obviously risks repeating the textualist arguments of an earlier decade, it still seems worth asking what might have happened if James Joyce, for instance, had been a junior architect at KieranTimberlake: what effect might his literary urges have had upon that firm's built output? Put another, slightly cheesy, way: if Mervyn Peake had been a successful architect, what strange and sprawling manor houses might now exist somewhere in the English countryside? In any case, what, in the end, are the communicational options available to architects?
    2) What possibilities exist for "optioning architecture," in the sense that a book, short story, or screenplay can be "optioned" by Hollywood for production in another media? That is, what might happen to the world of architectural design if your final graduate thesis project was to be optioned by Steven Spielberg or David Fincher? Would this be similar, in some ways, to the relationship between Rem Koolhaas's co-authored graduate thesis project, "Exodus, or the Voluntary Prisoners of Architecture," and Rupert Thomson's under-appreciated novel Divided Kingdom? To what extent is the latter a novelization of the former? Finally, would it be possible for someone from DreamWorks to come along, see a new museum under construction in Chicago or Baltimore, and then option it, the way he or she might option a promising novel? Could you literally translate the spatial dynamism and implied narrative logics of a building – could you option them – into an act of mainstream cinema? How might such a process work – and is there a reason why this hasn't yet occurred (i.e. it would be a totally ridiculous thing to do)?
Of course, there are other types of architectural options that we could discuss here – but I'll be focusing on the two ideas described above.

The complete conference line-up includes Florencia Pita, David Garcia, Drura Parrish, Megumi Matsubara, and Daniel Golling. Read more on the conference blog.

Jumat, 28 Agustus 2009

0 Procedural Destruction and the Algorithmic Fiction of the City

[Image: From Procedural Modeling of Cities by Yoav Parish and Pascal Müller].

Note: This is a guest post by Jim Rossignol.

In 2001 Yoav Parish and Pascal Müller spoke at the SIGGRAPH conference in Los Angeles, California, to present a mathematical city. Their presentation contained an algorithmic approach for modeling city-like topologies. The results were remarkably realistic, and were one among a host of city-like generative systems to appear at the start of the decade.

Another, Jared Tarbell's Substrate (pictured) remains a fantastic example of how a mathematical approach to generating apparently urban patterns can also be artful.

[Image: From Jared Tarbell's Substrate].

But it was looking at the work of Parish and Müller that inspired game designer Chris Delay to develop his most recent project: the cryptic (and as-yet-unexplained) Subversion, of which little is known, other than it relies on large, procedurally generated cities for the backbone of its game world.

Having already been burned by the problems of creating content "by hand," Delay set out to let algorithms do the work of building buildings in his new game. Not only that, but he was determined to create an artistically interesting experience without artists.

[Images: From Chris Delay's Subversion].

Of course, videogames have long been the home of procedurally generated landscapes where numbers and mathematical equations played the role of the visual designer. Early paranoid classic The Sentinel made use of these techniques to create an astonishingly atmospheric 10,000 levels in simple vector graphics, from just a few kilobytes of data. Other games have used similar techniques as a shortcut to creating solar systems and vast fractal landscapes.

But when it came to cities, well, it took a long time for anyone to take up the challenge.

[Image: From The Sentinel by Geoff Crammond].

Rather than opt for procedural techniques, game designers usually elect to build their cities by hand, often with startling results. The re-imagined contemporary New York that features in last year's Grand Theft Auto 4 required a small army of well-paid artists and designers to hand-craft the entire world. Their accomplishment is unmatched, but the cost to the company behind the project is in the tens—and perhaps hundreds—of millions of dollars. To build up a living city from blank polygons is one of the most expensive possible projects in game design.

Delay, whose project is being undertaken with a tiny budget and by just a handful of staff based in Cambridge, UK, does not have the luxury of vast content teams. His vector-drawn city is far less realistic than Rockstar's textured, heaving metropolis, but there's nevertheless a beauty to it. It's a kind of mathematical map of the essential urban environment: there are roads, sidewalks, and a no-man's land of corporate moats around great skyscrapers...

Identify the key equation that define urban patterns, and you, too, can summon a city into existence.

Delay has begun to show off how his cities emerge from the ground up in a series of videos, and he spoke to me about the process.

"I started out with road layouts, and then began to modify the parameters," he explained. "Sometimes you'll get lovely radial, spiral patterns, or you can tell it to create a really rigid Manhattan-style grid." One set of numbers delivers the block logic of American cities, another is rather more like the spirals of Medieval European sprawls. The two merge to create something even more believable. "Every subsequent layer builds on the previous layer," Delay points out, "so the very next layer looks for the spaces between layers, and makes judgments about 'is this likely to be a skyscraper, or to be a house?' Then you zoom in, and carry on. You do another procedural generation process for each layer of detail, filling in that world."

[Image: From Chris Delay's Subversion].

A few weeks after speaking with Delay I attended Thrilling Wonder Stories—a seminar at the Architectural Association in London, curated by Liam Young and BLDGBLOG—where I watched conceptual designer Viktor Antonov explain how he had created a science-fictionalized Paris (for a now-cancelled videogame called The Crossing).

Antonov approached the problem by altering just a few parameters in the standard architectural model. For instance, Antonov had noticed a few fundamental details about how the mid-nineteenth century neo-classical core of Paris had been constructed: big street-level floors, smaller attic spaces, complex chimney stacks. By increasing the emphasis on the lower floors, and stretching them out—and by emphasizing the height and complexity of the chimneys—Antonov was able to create a thematically consistent science fiction Paris.

Simply by altering a few basic architectural parameters, he said, you were able to fictionalize the city, whilst at the same time retaining its fundamental identity. His designs were still recognizably—even mathematically—Parisian, in other words, but they were also otherworldly.

[Image: By Viktor Antonov].

This idea instantly connected back to Delay's project: what parameters would we need in order both to understand and create a science fiction Edinburgh, or Sao Paulo, or Vancouver? Identify the necessary fantasy logic within a procedural city-building system and you could recreate cities with their alternate identity in an instant. An accelerated future Moscow, or a retropunk Venice, instantly sprawling out of the monitor.

And perhaps this is not such an outlandish thing to aim for—especially when you consider the speed at which procedural city projects have been appearing across the tech landscape. Could one of these cities potentially be refitted to allow for this type of radical tweak?

Projects like Shamus Young's impressive PixelCity, or Marco Corbetta's Structure seem ripe for such strange fictions. Corbetta's system is particularly impressive in its verisimilitude: he aims to create a basic engine for rapidly generating the kinds of cities that games like Grand Theft Auto 4 require, and consequently doing so for much cheaper.

Could Corbetta's engine come with a Paris or a Barcelona preload, which could then be put through Photoshop-style filters for alternate reality logic in its architecture? A stronger skyline, weirder street furniture.

[Image: From Marco Corbetta's Structure].

More exciting, at least for the thrill-seeking gamer in me, is the fact that Corbetta is aiming one notch higher than any of his peers: he's aiming to make these cities procedurally destructible. His site contains a demonstration video of neatly arrange office interiors and a domestic library being blown to pieces with a machine-gun. What good is an imaginary city if you can't go inside the buildings? What good is a virtual downtown if you can't go crazy with a bazooka? Corbetta's work preempts these questions.

Further, it conjures visions of massive demolition exercises in parallel worlds—entering an Antonov-algorithm for neo-Rome, where gladiatorial escapades see us going through the walls of the coliseum and into the randomly generated plazas beyond.

That, perhaps, is the greatest promise of procedural cities: that soon they'll be real enough that their destruction will seem like tragedy.

[Jim Rossignol is a games critic for Offworld, an editor at Rock, Paper, Shotgun, and the author of the fantastic This Gaming Life: Travels in Three Cities. A full-length interview with Rossignol appeared on BLDGBLOG in May, and he has written a previous guest post, Evil Lair: On the Architecture of the Enemy in Videogame Worlds].

0 City Laid Out Like Lizard

[Image: View larger].

Last week, Josh Williams, formerly of Curbed LA, emailed with an amazing link to an article, reportedly published back in 1934 by the L.A. Times, about a race of "lizard people" who once lived beneath the city.

"Did strange people live under site of Los Angeles 5000 years ago?" the article asks, supplying a bizarre treasure map through the city's undersides in the process.

[Image: View larger].

Although you can read the article in full through these links, I wanted to give you a taste of the story's strange mix of gonzo archaeology, Poltergeist-like pre-Columbian cultural anxiety, and start-up geophysical investigation squad:
    So firmly does [a "geophysical mining engineer" named G. Warren Shufelt] believe that a maze of catacombs and priceless golden tablets are to be found beneath downtown Los Angeles that the engineer and his aides have already driven a shaft 250 feet into the ground, the mouth of the shaft behind on the the old Banning property on North Hill Street overlooking Sunset Boulevard, Spring Street and North Broadway.

    And so convinced is the engineer of the infallibility of a radio X-ray perfected by him for detecting the presence of minerals and tunnels below the surface of the ground, an apparatus with which he says he has traced a pattern of catacombs and vaults forming the lost city, that he plans to continue sending his shaft downward until he has reached a depth of 1000 feet before discontinuing operations.
The article goes on to suggest that this ancient subterranean city was "laid out like [a] lizard"; we visit a Hopi "medicine lodge," wherein geophysical secrets are told; there are lost gold hoards; and, all along, the engineer's "radio X-ray" apparatus continues to detect inhabitable voids beneath the metropolis.

"I knew I was over a pattern of tunnels," Shufelt is quoted, "and I had mapped out the course of the tunnels, the position of large rooms scattered along the tunnel route, as well as the position of the deposits of gold, but I couldn't understand the meaning of it."

Perhaps this is what we'd get if Steven Spielberg hired Mike Mignola to write the next installment of Indiana Jones.

(Thanks to Josh Williams, and to vokoban, who originally uploaded the scan. Vaguely related: The Hollow Hills and Mysterious Chinese Tunnels).

Kamis, 27 Agustus 2009

0 11 Brilliant Web Based Event & Meeting Planners

meetupPlanning and organizing meetups and events is no longer the cumbersome task which required you to contact people individually and make sure they don't miss the event. The web 2.0 era has spawned upon some cool and easy to use tools which help you plan an event quickly and effectively.

Now, before you go ahead and check the tools, keep in mind that these tools are just there to help you make the planning process more effective. You would still have to manually do a lot of things. This list only includes some of the most simple, comprehensible and free web based event/meeting planning tools which I came across.

Presdo is a nifty web based collaborative event scheduler which helps you plan an event via a single box. You can type in a sentence like "Meet john this Sunday for lunch at 2 PM" and it will quickly create an event. You can then enter the event details, place to meet and send the invitations.

Hence Presdo could actually be the fastest way to schedule meetings online (as they claim). It offers other cool features like ability to suggest time and dates, Google Maps integration and calendar export to almost all the calendars, both desktop and web based.

Socializr is like a social network event organizer. Add friends and create event invites which can contain photos, videos, music and more. Also choose from various designs to design your invitation .

A special feature of Socializr is the Event Connect which helps you integrate your event invitations into the various social networks you are part of. Mashable describes it here.

Eventbrite is a powerful online events planner which can help you plan and organize events, send invites and promote and sell tickets. It has a set of free tools which could be used to promote the event and increase attendance.

Creating and publishing an event on Eventbrite is free, however if it's a paid event and you sell tickets through them then they take a small percentage of the sales.

Which Date Works
Which Date Works is an innovative tool which helps you decide the best date for the event you are planning. You create an event invite for a range of dates, enter the email addresses of people you wish to invite and email them the invite. They could then click the link in the email and select the date which works best for them. And then you can decide which date wins based on the votes. Nice, simple and easy.

I think all the social networks have an in-built event planner but since Facebook is the fastest growing and soon-to-be the largest social network, I thought it's event planner deserves a mention here. And Facebook had done a pretty good job with it.

You can quickly create events, enter descriptions and send it out to your Facebook friends. It recently made some changes and simplified the event planning process, which makes it more useful.

From one hot social tool to another. Who doesn't use Twitter these days ? And who hasn't gone to a tweetup. Tweetups are a rage all over the world and it's a great way to meet and interact with people.

Twtvite, as the name suggests, helps you organize local tweetups. Twitter users can log in using their twitter usernames and quickly accept or reject the invite. Creating tweetups are easy too.

PurpleTrail is a superb event planner which provides a comprehensive dashboard from where you can create events, send invites, track responses, upload photos, edit event details, send reminders and much more.

It also helps you create some cool looking e-card invites which you could send out using email, SMS, or Facebook.

Phonevite is for those who love doing everything from their cellphones. With this tool you can record your message and send it as voicemail to a bunch of friends simultaneously. Your friends can respond and phonevite will help you track the responses. The good thing is that your friends won't be charged for the responses they send.

This tool offers a lot of other features like the ability to import contacts from your email, sending reminders, organizing contacts into groups and the ability to record messages on a PC. Quite useful.

Pingg is another multi-purpose event organizer which does pretty much everything you need to do while sending invites. That includes creating creative invitations, importing guest list from email contacts, sending them email invites, creating an event page and complete tracking/reporting of the invites.

It also offers some fancy invite covers which further add value to your invitation.

Anyvite offers a single step event invite creation which can help create invites quickly and in bulk. It offers customization options including pictures and videos and allows you to create guest groups. A nice feature is that it allows you track event updates via RSS feed.

Doodle is innovative tool which offers a simple and fast way to schedule meetings. It helps you create a poll with proposed meeting times and send it out to your friends who can vote for the day and time which suits them. It doesn't require you to sign-up to create a poll.


Written on 8/27/2009 by Abhijeet Mukherjee. Abhijeet is an internet entrepreneur who loves writing about tech, productivity, blogging & making money online. Catch him at Jeet Blog and also subscribe to his weekly newsletter.Photo Credit: Found Gallery

Rabu, 26 Agustus 2009

0 How to Be a Great Boss

great bossIf you’re in charge of a company or team, small or large, you’ll want to do your best to keep everyone keen, engaged and productive. Being a great boss involves walking a fine line between friendship and leadership – but the rewards are immense: high employee loyalty, improved results, fewer wasted resources and the ability to go on vacation without worrying that everything will fall apart without you.

The top factor in determining workplace satisfaction is the immediate manager. In a study of 60,000 exit interviews, 80% of the employees who quit their jobs did so because of their boss. (from Blame it on ‘The Boss’, BtoB Magazine)

Here are seven ways to build a great relationship with your team and to make sure that your employees stick around.
  • Listen to Concerns and Grumbles
    Make sure that colleagues feel you’re approachable if they have concerns. Pay attention if someone raises a perceived problem – even if your first thought is to disagree. Sometimes, the new guy or a junior employee may spot inefficiencies that you and other old hands are blind to.

    Pay attention to the general office atmosphere, too. Do your employees seem dejected, unenthusiastic or stressed? Give them a chance to talk about what’s on their mind. Make changes where you can: sometimes, very small things can make a big difference in how people perceive you and their job.

  • Be Accessible – Sometimes
    As a boss, you want to be accessible to your team. You want people to feel that they can ask your advice or admit to a mistake or a problem. The alternative is living in blissful ignorance until all hell breaks loose around you...

    However, you don’t want to be too accessible, or your own work will suffer. Have a clear signal that indicates you’re not available unless it’s an emergency; closing your office door is a common and simple method.

  • Delegate – Then Stay Hands Off
    From the employee’s point of view, there’s nothing worse than being given a task – then having constant interruptions and “suggestions” from the boss on how to accomplish it.

    Learn to delegate properly – then forget about the task. Let your employee complete it in their way, without you breathing down their neck. This will considerably lighten the stress for both of you! It also helps to train people to use their initiative and work without micromanagement.

  • Access to Training
    Try to ensure that every employee has access to training. People enjoy learning new things and feeling a sense of progression – plus, highly-trained, confident employees produce great results.

    Create a corporate culture where everyone, even the most junior members, knows that they can work their way up. Don’t neglect training in a rush for quick results: it can cause problems down the line if your more experienced members of staff leave.

  • Update Everyone on Progress
    Send out a company-wide email, or hold a short meeting, every once in a while to update everyone on the progress that’s been made recently. You’re the boss, so you have a very good picture of how all the cogs are working together to deliver significant results – but employees often only see the small part of the business that they’re involved in.

    Encouraging everyone to feel part of a team effort that’s producing something worthwhile can create more satisfaction than simple monetary incentives, like pay rises.

  • Bring Food and Arrange Treats!
    One of the most well-received things you can do as a boss is to offer “treats”. This doesn’t need to cost much – a few boxes of chocolates or packets of great cookies can be a lovely surprise treat, perhaps on a Friday afternoon.

    If your team has just completed a big project or hit a significant milestone, consider arranging some sort of celebratory event – perhaps a lunch out, or an afternoon of activities. This does cost money (and person-hours) ... but it’s another big way to create the sense of being a group of friends, not just colleagues.

  • Say “Thank You”
    This last point is a very simple one ... but it can mean so much. In the rush of day-to-day business, it’s easy to forget to acknowledge people’s hard work. But people are often much more motivated and encouraged by a few words of thanks and praise than by any other reward.

    Make sure that you do thank and praise people for a job well done. Just a few words from the boss like “Joe, I heard your presentation went down really well with the clients – great work!” can make someone’s day, and it hardly costs you any time at all.
Whether you are a boss yourself, or whether you have a great (or not so great!) boss, I’m sure you’ve got lots of ideas of how bosses can make the workplace experience great for everyone. Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments!

Written on 8/26/2009 by Ali Hale. Ali is a professional writer and blogger, and a part-time postgraduate student of creative writing. If you need a hand with any sort of written project, drop her a line (ali) or check out her website at Aliventures.Photo Credit: Kumar Appaiah

0 Increase Your Happiness With These Six Scientifically Proven Strategies

happinessIn recent years there has been an explosion of research on happiness, optimism, positive emotions and healthy character traits. While psychology has traditionally concerned itself with what ails the human mind--such as anxiety, depression, neurosis, obsessions, paranoia, and delusions--, a new branch of psychology, aptly named “positive psychology”, asks the question: "What are the enabling conditions that make human beings flourish?" That is, the goal of positive psychology is to study what actively makes people feel fulfilled, engaged, and happy.

In addition, neuroscientists are studying how the brain can be rewired in such a way that makes happiness more likely. Below you’ll find six strategies from the fields of positive psychology and neuroscience that will help you increase your current level of happiness.
  • Set the Intent to be Happier
    Robert Holden, Ph.D., Director of the Happiness Project in the United Kingdom, argues in his book, “Happiness Now! Timeless Wisdom for Feeling Good Fast” that having the intent and making a commitment to be happier is key. He explains that “intention” is another word for “focus”, and whatever we focus on will become more apparent and will grow. If we focus on happiness, instead of focusing on all the things that are going wrong, then that's what we will become more aware of.

  • Count Your Blessings
    Robert Emmons, Ph.D., is a pioneer in the scientific study of how gratitude affects people’s health and happiness levels. He has scientific proof—which he discusses in his book “Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier”--that shows that when people regularly engage in the systematic cultivation of gratitude, they experience a variety of measurable psychological, physical, and interpersonal benefits. In fact, he explains that people who regularly practice grateful thinking can increase their set point of happiness by as much as twenty five percent. He adds that keeping a gratitude journal for as little as three weeks can result in better sleep and more energy. (Highlights from Research Project).

  • Practice Happiness Boosters
    Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar taught Harvard University's most popular course in the Spring of 2006: “PSY 1504 – Positive Psychology”. In his book “Happier: Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment”, he explains that we need to incorporate happiness boosters into our everyday life.

    Happiness boosters are simple things which we enjoy doing, and can include things such as: having lunch with a good friend, reading a gripping novel, savoring a cup of freshly roasted coffee out on the balcony, filling out the newspaper’s crossword puzzle, taking a warm bath, and so on. Dr. Ben-Shahar explains that we should each have a list of happiness boosters that we personally enjoy, and we need to make sure that we practice at least one item on our list every day.

  • Be Kind to Others
    Stephen G. Post, Ph.D., has the following to say about helping others:“All the great spiritual traditions and the field of positive psychology are emphatic on this point — that the best way to get rid of bitterness, anger, rage, jealousy [and so on] is to do unto others in a positive way.” He adds that there are studies that show that when people act with generosity and compassion, there’s a positive effect on their health and well-being. Sonja Lyubomirsky, author of “The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want”, recommends that we choose one day of the week during which we perform five acts of kindness for others. (Kindness and the Case for Altruism).

  • Meditate
    Richard Davidson, a prominent neuroscience professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has studied the brains of Buddhist monks who have meditated for many years. When tested against a group of non-meditators, larger areas of the meditators' brains were active, particularly in the left prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for positive emotions. Dr. Davidson’s data claims that if people sit quietly for just half an hour a day thinking about kindness and compassion, their brains will show noticeable changes in just two weeks. (Source).

  • Focus on Your Strengths
    Dr. William Kent Larkin is a Yale and Harvard educated researcher specializing in applied neuroscience integrating positive psychology and quantum physics. In his book “Growing the Positive Mind”, he argues that instead of focusing on fixing our weaknesses, as our society often encourages us to do, we can sustain an up spiral of positivity by concentrating on growing our unique personal strengths. He adds that personal strengths have infinite malleability, they can grow enormously, and when they do, they undo and heal weaknesses. We can create an up spiral of positive emotions by setting goals based on our strengths.
Psychologists have discovered that we each have a set point of happiness that we tend to return to throughout our lives. Roughly 50 percent of this happiness set point is determined by our genes, 10 percent by life circumstances—our marital status, our jobs, where we live, and so on--, and the remaining 40 percent by what we do and how we think. That is, 40% of our happiness is determined by our intentional activities and strategies. By applying the six strategies presented above, as well as many other strategies--including practicing forgiveness, nurturing relationships, enjoying the journey instead of focusing only on the achievement of goals, and so on--, we can start increasing our happiness right away.

Written on 8/26/2009 by Marelisa Fábrega. Marelisa blogs about creativity, productivity, and simplifying your life over at Abundance Blog at Marelisa Online. Marelisa is the author of the ebook "How to Be More Creative - A Handbook for Alchemists".Photo Credit: Sweet&Sadistic

Selasa, 25 Agustus 2009

0 Bleah

I'm lying in bed now, having just woken up.

My poor blog looks so stupid with no updates I've decided to tell you all about my mediocre day yesterday.

First I woke up at 11am and the sun was blazing hot. Then I called my friend and yelled at him, "Omg let's go tanning!!!!"

My friend said ok, but he needs to go to the gym first. I said I'd meet him at his place at 1.30pm then.

Boiled potatoes to make mashed potatoes. Talked to shuyin on msn. Burnt potatoes. Whole house smelt like burnt potatoes. Hahahaha! I'm so descriptive. Ok fine, it smelt rancid.

Cut off the burnt parts. Mashed potatoes with some water (no milk at home), chunks of butter and a dollop of mayo. It's fab. I make fab mashed potatoes.

Mike came home for lunch.

Pumpkin pooped on the shoe rack. Got walloped and time-out-ed in her toilet. (Till later)

Packed potatoes in microwaveable rectangular plastic box and left for friend's place. Took a cab. Had the cleverness to call him before I reached to find out he is still ta pao-ing food at cineleisure.

I stopped the cab there (he stays in orchard, has own swimming pool!!), and he went to buy LJS while I bought the fake jap food from cine's basement.

Meanwhile, went to do do club (just beside food place) with the intentions to buy fake eyelashes, if they got nice ones.

I picked 4.

The price was $19.80!

I jumped and said, "Why so expensive??"

Woman said coz one packet is $4.95.

I said, "Oh you all increased the price, used to be $3.80."

Stupid woman said, "No, it has always been this price."

Retard to the max! I clearly remember it was $3.80 coz I must have bought at least 40 pairs of lashes from there! Always been $4.95 my ass!! Always been that price since she's been working there maybe!!

So I said, "I don't want it anymore."

The semi-evolved human said, "Huh, all of them?"

I answered in the affirmative.

She yelled, "But I already keyed them in!!" And acted like I have to do her a favour and pay up $19.80 just coz she already keyed my lashes in!!! Wtf??

It's not my problem that she keyed it in and I told her as much. Ridiculous.

Walked away. Nobody stopped me, although I'm sure they would be cursing me for the rest of the day.

With food, went to my friend's place, took off clothes (with bikini left of course) and AHHHHhhhhhh! Sun!! We had a decadent time eating at the pool.

Tanned till 5pm. I was a bit burnt.

Wongsie and mike then came over (asked Mike to release Pumpkin from Time-Out) and all 4 of us went to Jumbo seafood to eat.

We had drunken prawns, scallops wrapped in yam, mee goreng, spinach and mushroom tofu, and kang kong! It was not bad.

Then we adjoined to The Daily Scoop for ice cream, which was closed. Went to Udders instead. I had Strawberry Fields and Cempedak icecream!!

And then mike sent everyone home and we went home too.

I started reading My Sister's Keeper. It's promising. Finished to page 15.

Fell asleep till now.

And this is the first blog post written on my berry!!

0 5 Copywriting Tips For Any Sized Business

Copywriting, according to Wikipedia is described as "getting across the perfect message, with the perfect words." When we talk about copywriting it is usually in conjunction with a promotional message; we want to promote a new idea, a person, a business or an opinion. The greatest copywriters understand that people are entirely driven by emotions. We are driven by emotions when we buy products, often triggered by the copy we read.

I'm sure that you have often felt a surge of anger, happiness, or confusion about something you've read in the past, whether it was in a newspaper, or on a web page. Good copy is riveting; it ties us emotionally to the material we read. When we read good copy we hardly realize that we are being cleverly manipulated by the words. Often we buy stuff without further thought and after out initial excitement has passed, we find ourselves with yet another possession we never wanted in the first place.

Therefore it is no surprise that the Internet marketing industry rakes in thousands of dollars for many info-marketers. By employing copywriters to write strong sales pages, many marketers make an absolute killing within 24-hours of a new product launch.

If you have a business and want to sell products or services, you need decent copywriting skills. It will make all the difference to your bottom line - your profits. The following tips will help you to become a better copywriter.
  1. Identify Your Target Audience
    Before you can even think about your copy, you need to establish your audience first. Who are you marketing to? Is it kids, teenagers, work from home moms, or pensioners. Does your audience have a specific need that drives them to your product or service? Do they have pains, problems, etc?

    The more you understand about your target audience, the better your copy will ultimately reflect their needs, therefore helping to establish the conversation between you.

  2. Get Level By Speaking The Same Language
    Your audience needs to feel as if you are their friend. By speaking their language, you establish a connection; your own conversation. Unless your reader is able to make this connection, chances are he or she will never buy from you.

  3. Apply The KISS Rule
    The KISS rule stands for 'Keep It Short and Simple.' As a foundation of good copywriting, KISS translates to short and simple sentences. It also means to stay on topic while keeping the information presented in a bite-size length.

  4. Avoid Jargon
    In order to directly impact on as many people as possible it is a good idea to leave jargon (difficult to comprehend words) entirely out of your copy. If you end up confusing your readers they will only get discouraged from buying.

  5. Stay True To Facts
    If you lie about product and service facts in your copy, your business image will become tarnished in the industry. Always stay true to facts, never make up claims you can't meet or satisfy. Your customers will appreciate your professionalism and happily refer you to their friends or business partners in return.
These 5 copywriting tips are the basic guidelines you should follow when considering your next sales letter or product launch. The topic is so exhaustive that a lot can be and has been written about it.

For one final tip: If you can put yourself into the shoes of your prospective client or customer, you are already halfway there in making more sales than ever before.

Written on 8/25/2009 by Monika Mundell. Monika is a passionate freelance writer and pro-blogger. Her blog Freelance Writing helps new freelance writers to get started in this exciting industry. If you like to work with Monika, feel free to visit her Portfolio site.Photo Credit: kham

0 Landscapes of Quarantine: Call for Applications

[Image: President Nixon addresses quarantined astronauts from the Apollo program; via NASA].

I'm incredibly excited to announce not only that BLDGBLOG will be living in New York City this fall, but that my wife and I will be hosting a design studio there called Landscapes of Quarantine – the results of which will be the subject of a public exhibition at Storefront for Art and Architecture in early 2010.

Meeting one evening a week this autumn in Manhattan, from October 6 to December 5, 2009, up to 14 studio participants will discuss the spatial implications of quarantine, each developing an individual design project in response to the studio theme.

Quarantine is both an ancient spatial practice and a state of monitored isolation, dating back at least to the Black Death – if not to Christ's 40 days in the desert – yet it has re-emerged today as an issue of urgent biological, political, and even architectural importance in an era of global tourism and flu pandemics.

[Image: "Fear of Flu" by Mike Licht].

Quarantine touches on serious constitutional issues associated with involuntary medical isolation, as well as on questions of governmental authority, regional jurisdiction, and the limits of inter-state cooperation. Quarantine is as much a matter of national security, public safety, and agricultural biodiversity as it is an entry point into discussions of race, purity, and unacknowledged discrimination.

Quarantine is also a plot device increasingly seen in novels and films – from the aptly named Quarantine and Albert Camus's The Plague to I Am Legend and The Last Town on Earth – even as it has become a source of arcane technical debate within plans for Martian exploration and Antarctic drilling rights.

The design implications of quarantine stretch from the ballast water of ships to the way we shape our cities, from the clothes in travelers' suitcases to stray seeds stuck in the boot treads of hikers. Quarantine affects the pets we keep, the programs we download, and the machines we use in food-processing warehouses, worldwide.

Quarantine is about managing perimeters, controlling influence, and stopping contamination.

[Image: Cages for the laboratory testing of rats and mice by Innovive].

So how do we treat quarantine as a design problem?

Whether we design something to demonstrate that the very notion of quarantine might not be possible; whether we produce actionable plans for quarantine units, ready for implementation by the World Health Organization in hot zones around the world; whether we create quarantine-themed graphic novels, barrier-based urban games, or a series of ironic public health posters to be mounted around the city, how can we design for quarantine?

Quarantine also offers fertile territory for investigation through cartography and cultural documentation. After all, if we mapped the contents and locations of quarantine facilities worldwide, designed infographics to analyze the spread of invasive species, or recorded the oral histories of the quarantined, what sorts of issues might we uncover?

Bringing these very different techniques, media, and approaches together in the confines of a dedicated design studio will give participants an exciting opportunity to explore the overlooked spatial implications of quarantine.

[Image: A poster for Quarantine, directed by John Erick Dowdle].

We have already confirmed a fantastic list of participants, whose backgrounds include architecture, photography, illustration, games design, sound, landscape, food, and more; we are now opening the studio to a general call for interested participants.

The brief – which you can download here as a PDF or that you read as a JPG on Flickr – explains more; but potential applicants will be working with a truly stellar group as they meet once a week this fall and produce work eligible for inclusion in the "Landscapes of Quarantine" exhibition to be held at Storefront for Art and Architecture in early 2010.

If you are interested, please download the brief – which includes all necessary application info – and contact us at futureplural @ gmail by September 19, 2009.

[Image: Australian quarantine signage].

For ease of reference, I have decided to include the studio brief in full below:
    Landscapes of Quarantine is an independent, multi-disciplinary design studio, based in New York City, consisting of eight Tuesday evening workshops, from October 6 to December 5, 2009, in which up to 14 participants will gather to discuss the spatial implications of quarantine. Quarantine is an ancient spatial practice characterized by a state of enforced immobility, decontamination, and sequestration; yet it is increasingly relevant—and difficult to monitor—in an era of global trade, bio-engineering, and mass tourism.

    Studio participants will explore a wide variety of spatial and historical examples, including airport quarantine facilities, Level 5 biohazard wards, invasive species, agricultural regulations, swine-flu infected tourists confined to their hotel rooms, lawsuits over citizens' rights to resist involuntary quarantine, horror films, World Health Organization plans for controlling the spread of pandemics, lunar soil samples, and more.

    During the studio, participants will develop individual design projects in response to the problem of quarantine, with guidance and inspiration provided by readings, screenings, group discussions, and an evolving line-up of guest speakers and critics. These projects will then be eligible for inclusion in "Landscapes of Quarantine,” an exhibition hosted by the internationally renowned Storefront for Art and Architecture in early 2010.

    By the end of the studio, each participant will have produced a complete design project. This could range from the speculative (plug-in biosecurity rooms for the American suburbs) to the documentary (recording the items and animals detained for quarantine on the U.S./Mexico border), and from the fantastical (plans for extra-planetary quarantine facilities) to the instructional (a field guide to invasive species control).

    Landscapes of Quarantine is looking for applicants who are intrigued by the spatial possibilities and contingencies of quarantine, and who already possess the technical skills necessary to produce an exhibition-quality final design project or installation in their chosen medium. We hope to hear from people at all stages of their careers—from graduate school to retirees—and from a wide variety of design backgrounds. We are particularly excited to announce that we have already confirmed a select group of talented participants from fields as diverse as architecture, illustration, gaming, photography, and sound design.

    The studio is both unaffiliated and independent (there is no college credit), and it is also free (though applicants will be responsible for all costs associated with producing their final project). We will be reviewing applications on a rolling basis until Friday, September 18, 2009, or until all studio positions have been filled. To learn more, and to submit an application, please email futureplural @ gmail with the information listed below.

      1) Name
      2) Email address
      3) Telephone number(s)
      Please indicate the best time to reach you
      4) Mailing address
      5) Education
      • University/college name and country
      • Dates attended
      • Degree
      6) Current affiliations and/or employment
      7) 50-word (maximum) bio
      8) Publications and/or personal blog
      9) Portfolio
      Attach a PDF of no more than 8 pages, or supply a link to online work
      10) 300-word (maximum) statement of interest in the topic of quarantine
      11) Candidate’s declaration
      By submitting your application, you declare the following:
      • I certify that the work submitted is entirely my own and/or my role is clearly stated
      • I declare that all the statements I have provided are correct
      • I agree that, if accepted into the studio, I will participate fully, attend all studio meetings unless previously discussed with the studio directors, and produce a finished final design project
      12) Email addresses for two references

    Landscapes of Quarantine is produced and organized by Future Plural, a project-based, independent design lab launching in October 2009 from a temporary base in New York City. Future Plural is Geoff Manaugh (BLDGBLOG) and Nicola Twilley (Edible Geography).
Finally, a major motivation behind starting Future Plural and hosting the Landscapes of Quarantine studio is to found a new institution without permanent location, dependence on grants, or academic affiliation. After all, as bloggers, why can't we create our own groups, faculties, cultural spaces, and more? By bringing people together, on a project-by-project basis, to explore ideas and issues in a cross-disciplinary environment, we hope to demonstrate that, even in a time of recession, there is a broadly shared enthusiasm for creating something new.

0 Top 10 Tips for Maintaining a Positive Attitude

be positiveHaving and maintaining a positive attitude is vital for success in life and business. Zig Ziglar gets it right when he says, "It is your attitude, not your aptitude, that determines your altitude." Sure you need skills, but you can learn skills - in fact a positive attitude will make it much more likely that you will learn the skills necessary to succeed. If you take two people with an equal skill set the person with the better attitude will win.

Unfortunately it is not always easy to stay positive and keep a good attitude. As things go wrong throughout your day, it is easy to let negative thoughts start to take over. Thankfully there are many things that you can do to help maintain a positive attitude. These are things that you can do on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis to make sure you keep your positive focus.
  1. Read Positive and Inspiring Books
    One of the best ways to maintain a positive attitude is by reading positive books. These books serve to encourage you, inspire you, and teach you. Reading requires that you sit still and focus, and by focusing on something positive it helps you to keep a positive mindset throughout the day. (My favorite books can be found here.)

  2. Listen to Podcasts/CDS
    The advantage of listening to podcasts or compact disks is that you can listen on the go. You can listen to motivating podcasts while you clean your house, exercise, or on a flight. In your car, you can play encouraging compact disks that help you make better use of your commute. Listening to recordings from people like Zig Ziglar, Tony Robbins, or John Maxwell can both teach and inspire you. (My favorite podcasts can be found here.)

  3. Wake up Early
    One of the best ways to help you maintain a positive attitude is to create the habit of waking up early. Waking up early allows you to get a head start on the day. You can prepare for work and start your day without feeling rushed. You can get a head start on important projects before the rest of the world is awake to interrupt you. You can spend time reading or in prayer or meditation. I start each day by listening to a 10 minute motivational podcast. (Bonus Article: Simple Ways to Burst Out of Bed.)

  4. Exercise
    Very few things in life leverage your time as much as exercise. Obviously it makes a difference for your physical health, but it also has significant benefits to your mental health. Exercise is useful to combat depression and to improve overall positive mood. Further, if you exercise early in the morning you can go through your day knowing that you have already completed the most valuable activity you had to do! (Bonus article: How to Develop the Habit of Daily Exercise.)

  5. Plan Your Week and Day
    Having a clear plan to your day and to your week can go a long way to helping you maintain a positive attitude. By knowing what you want to accomplish you will be able to focus on your important life priorities. A weekly plan allows you to match your long-term goals to your weekly accomplishments. Your daily plan allows you complete the activities you need to do so that you meet your weekly goals. (My weekly planning process can be found here.)

  6. Understand that Things Won't Always Go as Planned
    If you plan and expect everything in life will go as you planned, you will be quickly disappointed. One of the keys to maintaining a positive attitude is to understand that things will go wrong. If you expect things to go wrong, you won't be phased when they do. So have a plan, but understand that things won't follow the plan. The plan allows you to adapt to what went wrong and move back towards what is important. (Bonus article: A Beautiful Method to Find Peace of Mind)

  7. St. John's Wort and Griffonia Seed
    These two herbal supplements can have an important role to play in helping you maintain a positive attitude. Many people know about St. John's Wort as a natural supplement to help prevent or treat depression. St. John's Wort is really a mood stabilizer. Griffonia seed works to elevate positive mood. Together they are helpful in maintaining a positive mental attitude.

  8. Get Spiritually Connected
    Naturally this one will look different for everyone, and this is simply an option to consider. If you are spiritually connected, you will have a positive outlook on life. This might mean prayer, meditation or reading Scripture. Set aside time each day to be connected spiritually.

  9. Be Thankful
    Take some time and be thankful. Be thankful about what you have, who you are, and what your life is like. Think through all of the things that you can be thankful for. Even if you are in a tough time in life there are many things you have that you can be thankful for. You need to look for them and recognize them. The very act of focusing on what you are thankful for will help you maintain your positive attitude.(Bonus article: The Principle of Thankfulness)

  10. Surround Yourself with Positive People
    The people around you have a big impact on you. They impact who you are, how much money you will make, and what you value. They also impact how you think. If you surround yourself with negative people you will be negative as well. You can't help it. Hearing negativity all day leads you to negativity. The opposite is also true. Surround yourself with positive people and you will be more positive.

Written on 8/25/2009 by Danny Gamanche. Danny is a business professor at a private college where he equips students for careers in business and success in all areas of life. You can catch him at his blog, Success Professor. Photo Credit: wadem

Senin, 24 Agustus 2009

0 Stick to your Workout Schedule with these Five Steps

work outHave you ever started on an exercise regimen, hoping to get fit, lose weight, or tone up? How long did it last? We've probably all had the experience of starting off keenly, going to the gym three or four times a week. That is until life gets busy, enthusiasm wanes, and we end up skipping just one or two workouts. Before we know it, those few missed workouts have become a month of no exercise.

So how can you help yourself stick to an exercise routine? Well, it's not just a matter of will power: don't tell yourself that you're just not disciplined or determined enough. Rather than beating yourself up for being lazy, think about how you can create a structure that supports your exercise routine.

Here are five easy steps to doing that:
  1. Work Out With Others
    Either go to a regular gym class (most run on a weekly basis) or pick a set day each week to meet up with a friend to do something energetic. There are two big motivational benefits to this approach:

    • Having a set time to work out means you can't do that "Oh, I'll go later on..." thing. (Where "later on" ends up becoming "tomorrow", then "next week".)

    • Having a friend or a group of friends to work out with makes it much harder to flake out. None of us want to look bad in front of others, and none of us want to let people down.

  2. Keep An Exercise Log
    Get hold of a little notebook or diary that you can jot down details of your exercising in. This doesn't need to be an obsessively detailed training log - just write down what you did, and for how long.

    It's motivating to look back on all the successful days in your log, and writing it down can be enough motivation to get off the sofa and go for a jog: you don't want to skip a planned session.

    Another approach to this is to tick off or mark the days on a calendar when you've met your exercise target: again, you'll find that you're motivated by not wanting to break a good run.

  3. Get Enough Sleep
    If you're struggling to prop your eyes open all day at work, you're unlikely to feel very keen to hit the treadmill afterward. Plus, your performance will be under par if you're tired. It's much easier - both physically and psychologically - to stick to an exercise routine when you're well-rested.

    Even if you are tired, try not to use it as an excuse to skip a planned session. Go a bit easier if you have to, but you'll probably find that the exercise is a great way to wake up and get some energy back.

  4. Eat Healthily (And Enough)
    When you're exercising regularly, it's particularly important to eat healthily and sensibly. That means making sure you're not trying to work out straight after a heavy meal - or on an empty stomach. It also means getting enough protein (for muscle growth) and carbohydrates (for energy).

    Unless you're training intensely, you don't need energy gels, bars or shakes - just eat a snack an hour or so before working out. Good snacks are a banana, oatcakes with peanut butter, a small sandwich, or plain popcorn. A Mars bar might give you an initial sugar rush, but it won't provide the lasting energy you need to see you through a work out.

    When you're exercising for weight loss, make sure that you are eating enough. Your body can't perform without fuel, and you could risk injuring yourself. Cutting your calorie intake too low has health risks.

  5. Get Your Kit Ready The Night Before
    This is such a simple tip, but it can make all the difference in your chances of success. Pack your gym kit, and any equipment you need, the night before. This means you won't be scrambling around in the morning rush before work, trying to get everything together.

    If you exercise first thing in the morning, lay out your running kit and your trainers (or your yoga mat, or your exercise DVD) - then you can jump straight out of bed and get going, rather than wasting time (and talking yourself out of it) while looking for things.
Do you have an exercise routine? How do you help yourself stick to it?

Written on 8/24/2009 by Ali Hale.Ali is a professional writer and blogger, and a part-time postgraduate student of creative writing. If you need a hand with any sort of written project, drop her a line (ali) or check out her website at Aliventures.Photo Credit: TexasDarkHorse

0 The Edge

Amongst the huge stacks of reading material that I always seem to accumulate, even while traveling, I have just picked up a copy of Philip Parker's new book The Empire Stops Here. In a nutshell, the book documents Parker's epic tour around the former edge of the Roman empire, "visiting all its astonishing sites, from Hadrian's Wall in the north of Britain to the desert cities of Palmyra and Leptis Magna," the book jacket explains. We're reminded that "the Empire guarded and maintained a frontier that stretched for 10,000 kilometres, from Carlisle to Cologne, from Augsburg to Antioch, and from Aswan to the Atlantic." So why not explore the whole thing?

[Image: Hadrian's Wall].

On page one Parker writes that "I have concentrated deliberately on the edge of the Roman world, on the lands that promised victory, booty and glory and yet so often left the bitter taste of compromise or defeat instead. Here, unique societies developed, distinct from that of the mother-city" – frontier micro-cultures amidst border country that, even today, remains populated with architectural and anthropological evidence of these long-ago evaporated Roman outposts. Outpost tourism, perhaps. Edge-traveling.

It would be a curious project, indeed, to try something similar for a nation-state today, when borders are often fluid and even exportable. In fact, I'm reminded of a plan to "take the UK border overseas," as the Times reported last year, dematerializing the actual national border and replacing it with a series of offices and points of entry maintained far away in the country of origin. Right when you think you've found the perimeter of Britain, it's relocated yet further away, pushed to an airfield or embassy two thousand miles in the distance.

How interesting would it be to set out to explore the edge of a country – only to be unable to find it? China Miéville meets Tlön by way of the UK Border Agency.

For now, Parker's book only seems to be available in the UK – but I've got high hopes for it and plan to report back as I read further. You can listen to a brief interview with the author here.

0 Setting And Achieving Goals The SMART Way

Whether you’re trying to advance your career or achieve something significant in your personal life, at some stage you will need to set yourself some goals and work towards achieving them. But, just being able to set a goal is not enough. Promising yourself that you’ll do something is easy, actually doing it can be a lot harder.

Most of us tend to have many goals at any one time, we want to be happy and rich, we want to lose weight, we want to drink less and quit smoking. While those are all great things to work towards, they are not really very well defined, they are more of an ambition, a statement of intent rather than a concrete objective.

How will you measure your level of happiness? How rich do you actually want to be? Do actually NEED to lose weight? How much less do you want to drink and by what stage do you want to be cigarette free? How will you even begin to do any of this?
Goals need focus and context, and this is where many people struggle and so their ambitions remain forever out of reach.

The SMART System

When I first learned about the SMART system, I was very excited. It crystallized something in my mind, something I believe I always knew, but could never put my finger on. Having learned about it I was almost immediately able to pinpoint where I went wrong (or right) with some of my recent personal successes and failures. Let me share with you what SMART is all about.

SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-Boxed. You apply the SMART criteria to any goal you wish to achieve and if it does not meet any of the five characteristics you clarify and adjust it until it does.
  • Specific
    You jeopardize your chances of success from the very start when you make a goal too general. There is no point just saying you want to run faster. You need to make it more concrete, i.e. “I want to be able to improve my average time for a 5 mile run by 1 minute”, is much better and is something that you can really work towards.

  • Measurable
    You need a way to be able to tell that you have achieved what you set out to achieve. Making a goal measurable is directly related to making it specific. The more specific your objective is the easier it becomes to measure it and gauge your progress. If you can’t find a way to measure your progress towards your goal, then you most likely need to make it more specific.

    One of the best things about having a measurable objective is having the ability to set yourself milestones. It is much easier to achieve a tough objective when you can break the journey up into smaller increments. It’s a psychological thing, by giving yourself a series of successes along the way, through meeting a set of milestones, you give yourself positive reinforcement and working towards your goal becomes a much more pleasurable experience.

  • Achievable
    It is one of the most frustrating things in the world when something you’re really passionate about is simply beyond your power or control. Don’t put yourself in that situation. You may really want to make 1 billion dollars by tomorrow or solve world hunger by the end of the month, but realistically you have no chance of achieving either of those. You need to be realistic about your goal-setting. Some things may simply be beyond your influence, like becoming a Formula 1 driver in your 40s or being close personal friends with the Queen of England.

    Be reasonable and make sure your goals are something you can actually accomplish. Don’t get me wrong, it is fine to have ‘stretch goals’ (forgive the management terminology), but when it is physically impossible for you to stretch that far, you need to set your sights a little lower.

  • Relevant
    If you don’t believe in something, when you’re not passionate about what you’re doing, it is not only extremely difficult to keep doing it, but you also get very little personal satisfaction from achieving milestones or even attaining the final objective itself. Don’t waste your time; make sure your goal is something that really matters to you. This one is perhaps the most difficult of the five as it can require a bit of soul searching to figure out what is really important to you. Do invest the time, zero-in on the things that are truly important to you, don’t set goals arbitrarily.

  • Time-Boxed
    We tend to work best when we are working towards a deadline. If we know that we need to achieve our objectives by a certain date we tend to have more focus and prioritize. Without a concrete deadline our goals are at best fuzzy and will tend to always be superseded by ‘more pressing’ concerns. Time-box your goals , more than that, time-box the milestones on the way to your goal it will give you extra motivation and encourage you to push on towards the next milestone on the way to your objective.
Finally remember that you can never set your goals in isolation. Your objectives must make sense in the context of your environment. You may want to backpack around Europe for 6 months, but if you have a wife and 3 young children, is that goal really achievable or even relevant in the grand scheme of things? And even if you did push on with achieving this goal would you be prepared to pay the price (alienating or losing your family)?

As for me, I first learned about SMART from a great book I read earlier this year – “Pragmatic Thinking and Learning: Refactor Your Wetware” by Andy Hunt - which by the way is an excellent read if you want to learn more about how your brain works and tap the potential of your mind more fully.

What really got my attention was the fact that Andy mentions that using SMART objectives is “an old favorite from the consultant’s bag of tricks”. I had never heard of it in almost 4 years of doing software consulting, so my curiosity was piqued. Since learning about SMART I have tried to apply it not only in my personal life but also in my work and it has made a noticeable difference. Not only am I more productive, but I am also happier since I am a lot better able to achieve the objectives I set for myself (primarily because I set my goals in such a way as to meet all the SMART characteristics). It just feels like I am getting a lot more done these days possibly because I tend to focus on bite-sized goals that are most important and relevant to me (which is what SMART is all about). Try it yourself, you’re bound to notice the difference.

Written on 8/24/2009 by Alan Skorkin. Alan shares his thoughts about software development, people and teamwork on his blog Credit: TFDuesing
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