An Art and Technology Cocktail

What happens when you mix together Artists, Engineers and Scientists? A recent course at Purdue undertook this experiment and produced results that can be seen in the show “Images of Nature” which opened last Friday night and runs through April 29.

With installations as varied as dance routines with motion tracking that explore the effects of prosthetics and disabilities on movement, to a Greenhouse constructed of recycled windows, there is something in the show for everyone.

One of the interesting things about this show is that the blog from the class is public, so you can get insight into the influences and progress of the projects during conception and construction.

If you are in the Lafayette area over lunch or right before dinner in the next 10 days, be sure to stop by the Frontier building at 7th and Main and see what mixing together technology and art can produce. It is a result both sweet and intoxicating.

For more information on the class, see the overview video.  For more of the sights and sounds, you can click through on the slideshow to see my photo album.

Medicine Madness

I am not a person who lives a structured life well. I work at odd hours ( for way too many each day), take breaks at odd hours and used this to balance having a career and being a mom. I ave been blessed to have jobs that are extremely flexible and have carved a way of life that supports this. 
Now my Biology has decided I need to work to a different drummer. Trying to balance this, stick to the routine that my body wants and not go crazy is my newest challenge. 

I have been taking 2-3 pills per day for my Hashimoto’s for some time.  It sounds awful, but I have a great, balanced routine going. I do 5mcg Cytomel first thing ( 5-6am), get my day started,  stop eating at 9am, take Synthroid at 11am, eat any time after noon again. If the day is long or very active, sometime in the afternoon I take another Cytomel. Most days I do well without it.

Now add in this latest challenge, and taking Mestinon around the clock.  For about a week, the Dr. has had me on 60mg every 4 hours around the clock… and it needs to be taken with food.  I have been managing OK by setting multiple alarms on my cell pone and taking mestinon at 12/4/8/12/4/8.   In the last day or so, I ave started having some sideffects from the Mestinon- muscle twitching, cramps in foot/calves and forearms. Nothing killer, but enough to want to play with med schedules and see if I can back off without losing functionality from where I am. If this is MG, incidents can come and go with varying intensity. I would prefer to be at minimum drug needed and have ability to increase if needed. It is very true that I am nowhere close to “normal” functioning for me,  but I am at the max dose that the neuro doc is comfortable with. Further advancements are going to have to come either from time, or some other med/treatment combinations to be decided when the diagnosis is finalized and we move forward.  Luckily, I got permission from him to mess with my med schedules, as long as I do not do anything closer than every 4 hours.  If I can get the same level of functionality from fewer pills for now, I will mark this as a success.

Since there are so many pills  involved, I would prefer to have something regular and easy to remember– but I would also like to have something that gives me the flexibility of a slot where I can “add in” on really active days– like that reserve second cytomel.  I am really grateful for Evernote– where I have started a notebook just to track symptoms and will be able to look at patterns and find the best timing to stay strong. Sometimes I wonder why House does not use an electronic whiteboard, where he could pull up patient charts, data graphs side by side with hand written notes he makes.  Maybe it is time to have House go hi-tech. Should we write in a suggestion to the show for a diagnostic differential dashboard??

Green until death

Marketplace has an article about Resomation-a new treatment for corpses that is being pitched as the green alternative to cremation. By dissolving the body, they are really only accelerating the natural decomposition process, but this is not always the way that people want to think about what happens when they die. It seems that there are some who are also opposed to this alkaline body dissolving solution because they are worried what will happen to the post treatment liquids. We have entered a time when death is so removed from life that even thinking about having to interact with something that has been part of death is frightening.

If we are really worried about the carbon emissions of cremation, perhaps it is time to return to the old tradition of the dead being laid out on a pyre to be consumed by birds. This does get a bit messy( and the smell is not good) so perhaps the use of dermestid beatles would be a cleaner, most clinical way to dispose of cadavers without the use of any energy at all. The resulting clean bones could be ground into bone meal and returned to fertilize the soil.

No matter what path we choose for disposing of our dead loved ones, we would all be better to remember that we are part of the cycle… and there is no life, without death.

location, location, location…. NOT

With the glamour of new technology approaching seeming magic, we are being drawn into location applications “just because we can”. Foursquare and GoWalla are battling it out in the location tracker app service, but they are just the first big players to the plate… the hoards are following, but more like lemmings than with any sense of value. I contend that the value for end users is not in location, but in action or intent.

Undeniably, the ability to tag into GPS( or other location data) and place yourself on the map is cool. The apps are fun to play for a while. But the value add for the users ends quickly as the newness wears off. I was one of the first on both services in my small town and had fun making marks and then watching as other users came along and found them. And then that got pretty boring. Do I really care who has been to other places? Not really. What I care about, what draws me in– is what they are doing there.

Certain that there is some use case for a location based social networking app, I have pondered this inside out, but I am stumped. Consider the following:

1) Using it to connect with people at a conference or event. Yeah, not so much. Someone I know checks into a talk or an event? OK. but I want to know what the event is, or WHY they are there before I decide to go. If they are a good enough friend that their mere presence draws me there, we are already text msg, twitter or god forbid calling each other to coordinate.

2) Using it to build an ego presence as a regular at a location and get cool discounts? OK, maybe– but really- if you are a regular, the store will know. Loyalty cards, etc.. give the same benefits.

3) Using it to find other people who like to go to the same places you do. Nice idea, but doesn’t really work that way. Yes, I can check into a location and see who else has… but really have no mechanism for connecting with those people in any meaningful way. Even given that.. is the fact that we shop at the same grocery store going to be a friendship building point– or the fact that we both love to get the same brand of sauce for our BBQ?

Am I missing something? What really cool use have you fallen in love with a location based social networking application for?

There is a point and a usefulness to location apps- I love being able to log in in a new location and seeing what is nearby. But there are tons of services and applications that allow me to do this ( still waiting for the best of breed to emerge, honestly…) and this does not in any way build a social network. James Burke entranced us all with the fact that the things we do impact others– and build connections. Connections 1 (5 – Disc Set) While there is amusement and entertainment in the “George Washington slept here” impact, it is short lived. George Washington Slept Here [VHS]
Map overlay does not have lasting human impact.

The one application that I think could come close to this, but has not yet is @getglue. They recently released an iPhone app, but I am waiting for the android version for my Evo. If I could take a picture of the cool new gadget in BestBuy ( or scan the bar code) and see an overlay of reviews from people who bought it/used it ( regardless of location)- that provides real value. And if I buy it and love it, I can choose to connect with other people who loved it as well. Will we become friends? maybe, maybe not- but there is more of a reason to believe that a network of people with shared interests will last. Will you really care who else stood in the same spot as you on some other day 6 months from now?

Apple’s Parenting Habits Breed Incompetent Kids

There is nothing more frustrating than having some pretty good brains in a room beating around an interesting idea and then stopping a hair short of the truth and leaving it hanging in either conspiracy theory or coincidence.

It was so frustrating this morning that I found myself yelling at my radio as the podcast played ( good thing 26 was quiet and nearly empty this morning). I was listening to the most recent “Cranky Geeks” episode, and they were discussing Rob Enderle’s article ( Rob was on the show, btw) about how it seemed an odd almost conspiracy that ex-Apple employees were causing the ruin of many Apple competitors. He calls it Apple’s Fifth Column with a bit of tongue in cheek. He does end the column with the observation that this is most likely not true, but just a case of companies needing someone in charge to keep them from doing stupid things. In the show discussion, Rik Myslewski points out that this is generally the CEO.Although Adam Curry is pushing for conspiracy theories ( of course— and I say that lovingly, I enjoy NoAgenda, btw) The discussion ends in chuckles and they move on before they get to the important analysis.

The truth is, in most really large companies, smart, proficient CEOs surround themselves with executives and charge those executives to fill top management positions with people who are good at making decisions. In most large companies, there are too many ( and perhaps too disparate or too complex) decisions that need to be made for a single person to have control of all of them. You need bright, independently thinking, creative, insightful execs who are good at business- even if it is a tech company- to stay at the front of the pack once you hit a certain size.

Apple does not do this. Steve surrounds himself with technically great people who will do what he tells them too without too much argument, and does not care if they understand why. It always feels ( from the outside) like he runs the company like a helicopter parent. The people following his directions are smart and from the outside appear brilliant, get hired by other companies hungry for Apple brilliance- and they fail– often spectacularly, as Rob points out in his article- as they try to repeat some of the things they saw Steve doing, but never really understood.

A good company, like a good parent, helps its employees “grow-up” to the best of their capabilities. This sometimes means giving people the chance to make mistakes, the chance to fail and putting more energy into it than if you had just done it yourself– much like teaching your kid how to do laundry. Companies who just do the laundry for their employees because it is easier and safer that way end up with employees like those college kids who ruin entire wardrobes their first week at college because they have no clue what they are doing.

John? Next time– push discussions like this all the way to their natural end— the conclusions are much more interesting than conspiracy or Occam’s Razor.

HTC Evo Photo comparison

I have been playing around with the back camera ( 8 Megapixel, dual flash) on my Evo. So far, I have been pretty impressed with what it can do, considering it is a cell phone camera. Low light is a challenge, but the flash does well for objects not too far away. Shade gives a little focal issue,

From Drop Box

but it is so much better than the camera on my BB ( which got used a LOT) that I am stunned and more than pleased. Our household camera is a Kodak Z950, which is a good little all purpose point and shoot for us. the other night, we were goofing around on the deck, waiting for a storm to roll in and so I decided to do some side by side shoots for comparison. All of the pictures are untouched.

This is the shot from the Kodak, no flash at all from across the deck toward the fireplace under construction. You can see it was pretty dark out.

From DeckStormPics

The Evo with Flash manages to light up the area pretty well, but the flash causes some pretty bad washout.

From EvoDeckStormPics

Flash on the Kodak caused less washout.

From DeckStormPics

Rearranging the lantern the boys had inside the fireplace gave better clarity with the Evo,

From EvoDeckStormPics

and even gave pretty good results when zoomed all the way in as far as the Evo could:

From EvoDeckStormPics


The Zoom on the Evo still can not touch that of the Kodak ( no surprise), so it will not be completely replacing our family camera.

From DeckStormPics

I was pleasantly surprised that the Evo did not give me a complete blur when I shot the boys climbing out of the fireplace from across the deck with only the flash:

From EvoDeckStormPics

All in all, don’t be surprised to see me whip out my cell phone and grab a quick pic.

@foursquare (or @gowalla ??) meet @gencon

Gencon is August 5- 8 in Indianapolis. For those of you who do not know, Gencon Indy is a huge ( tens of thousands) gaming convention that runs for 4 days. There are thousands of events, and hundreds of vendors and companies there. Almost everyone there is a geek.

It would seem to be the perfect opportunity to really test out some very cool locations features in Foursquare and/or GoWalla (sorry GoWalla until you actually have a BB application and not just a mobile website, Foursquare will be my preference)- or even for some very smart, ambitious startup to make a mark.

Here are some of my top ideas on cool, useful things could be done at an event like Gencon:

1. Check in to vendor booth in the great hall. Allow vendors to set such that visitor #x ( 100, 200, 300, etc) each day gets a coupon or a special free giveaway

2. Check in to actual events/rooms for gaming sessions so your friends know how to find you. Let vendors running events see who came and send out coupons later to those who checked in.

3. Check in to actual events/rooms for gaming sessions and receive instant freebies of some sort of point/weapon/bonus for your character to use during that session.

4. Check in to actual events/rooms for gaming sessions and receive special promo material at the end of the event from the vendor running it.

5. Check in @ parties and general open events ( costume contest, after hours, etc..) to help promote them ( think SXSW style checkins) and/or receive special badges.

6. Check in #true Dungeon to get special extra tokens

7. Check in @ local restaurants ,hotels, etc.. as a Gencon attendee for special deals.

For any location based service, there are 10s of thousand of geeky gamers decending on Indianapolis in a few months– how will you leverage this event and offer great services beyond new badges for the users??

Data Collaboration: a Google Wave Vision

Instead of working in isolation out on the Google Wave Sandbox, I finally got an invite to the public preview, where all the cool kids are getting their feet wet. It has led me to ponder if all technology/software innovations are a case of the chicken or the egg.

The first obvious Wave application is chat.. and so chat happens. and happens and happens. ( even when it doesn’t make sense). People start speculating about what this technology will replace, what will “die” as a result.

Someone “saw” that waves would be interesting for an RPG, made a dicebot and the word got out. Now there are all imaginable forms of RPG gathering in the waves… many still to just discuss and make character sheets, rather than ongoing campaigns.

Someone made a sudoko gadget and there are a multitude of waves where people are collaboratively or competitively playoing sudoku.

The Google Wave infrastructure is truly a case of “build it and they will come”. What is missing is a groundswell of the public asking for functionality. It is all experimental and folks are still building toward Ah Ha moments, so perhaps there will be more of this in the weeks to come. Here is the the thing I wish more people got: Google Wave is not just about real time collaboration. Google Wave is the first functional separation of data from application.

Data exists. I can create it in a Wave, embed it in a blog, share it on twitter, entangle it with a word doc, a presentation or a spreadsheet. It does not matter which application you use to view or interact with the data, you will see the same data, the same updates and the same edits. Because the data is separate from any one application, it is very easy to pass the data to other applications, transform it, visualize it or sync it to other data streams.

This is the truly mind blowing fact that seems to be slipping through the cracks because the functional demonstration of it is not quite finished. What will you do with your data when you can have it any (and every) where?

Email: The Nail in the Coffin

I have been musing for a while now about the seemingly imminent death of email, but last night I became convinced that personal email is already dead, we are just hammering the nails in the coffin.

Yes, there is no doubt that business email is still alive ( and broken and annoying)- but that is another post. Let’s focus on Personal email.

I was on a phone call with my mom when the ringing of the hammer sounded clearly.

“We decided to talk to Verizon and get off of AOL and just use our Verizon email.”

Excellent news! AOL ( stop cringing) was the right choice for my parents back in 1990, when the web was new and there were not many user friendly email interfaces. Now, it just inevitably led them to clicking on links in ways that launch that horrid AOL browser and things were broken. Plus, it is spending money on a service they really don’t need. Times are tight and money is not free.

“Your Dad was reluctant and is concerned about how the email will look, but I told him it really did not matter, hardly anyone we know uses email any more. When I look at my email, it is almost all junk or ads or things people forwarded me. We don’t have many people who send us stuff any more- you all moved to Facebook”.

Wow. Astute for a basically computer challenged person who strongly resists change of any kind. She was not happy about the shift, mind you- ( I did not even want to boggle her with the plethora of social networks where I have a home… we will just leave it as Facebook for now).

“I am going to have to get on Facebook if I want to keep in touch, and just when I learn it, you will all probably move someplace else. But there is no doubt that email is just dead.”

This from a 64 year old woman who is far from a computer analyst and does not know Facebook at all, apart from her grandaughters talking about it and the little bit we showed her over the Easter Holiday.

If she is not on Facebook soon, I have no doubt she will be on by the end of my daughters’ week-long visit with them the first week of June. Honestly, I think she will like it better than AOL email.. but for my sanity and hers, I hope someone solves the interoperability/open authetication/platform communication before they leave and migrate to the next great social networking platform and leave her behind on Facebook wthout a linkage.

The Future of Email is Bleak

I am battling to not fall into a generation communication/media gap. I have noticed for some time now that email use is declining, especially amongst teenagers. I honestly wanted to write this off as one of the follys of youth- “they can play around with their social network messaging now, but once they grow up and enter the real world, they will have to adjust to email”. It was a comforting thought to help me through the annoyance of logging into multiple social networking sites to check messages. I can not fathom my future spent in such an annoying way ( and I do still believe that the way that social networks interact will have to change for them to survive) .

Having my parents here over the past weekend and spending more than one discussion/argument over the shift from paper communication to digital/email has really made me accept that the shift to social network messaging is not just a folly of youth, but the next evolutionary shift in digital communications. It does not mean that email is dead. The generations of people and businesses heavily invested in email are not going to disappear overnight. But the change is coming and if you have a business or an interest in being able to continue to communicate to the next generation of adults, you had better be prepared. Just as my generation sends paper communications less and less, my childrens’ generation uses email less and less. This does not mean that I think that social network messaging is better than email, just that the current shift is rapidly moving away from it. For my part, it means that I am going to stop haranguing my children to check their email and trying to convince them that email is important to their future.

How do you communicate with the teenagers in your life? How is your business adapting to accomodate the shift in communication?