Thursday, November 26, 2009

Earth Rings

Have you ever wondered what the sky would look like if the Earth had rings like certain other planets?

Watch this video and wonder no longer.

I find this very interesting for two reasons.
  1. Science fiction shows/movies often show other worlds with rings or multiple moons, but I've never really thought about it applied to our own planet.
  2. It's like a rainbow in the sky that never goes away!
(Via Presurfer)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Worst Finder Ever

One of my favorite blogs that I read is the Scott Adams Blog. Scott Adams as you may know is the creator of Dilbert and the Dilbert cartoons.

The Scott Adams Blog is full of wonderful thought exercises and brilliant ideas that may or may not be feasible, but the man has a creative brain that comes up with many thought provoking posts.

This recent post is more of a story than some of his other posts, but it is written very well and has a lot of humor.

Check it out, and I would strongly suggest subscribing to his blog.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Cell Phone Design

Check out these creative design prototypes of cell phones.

What would you like to see in the perfect cell phone?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Google Wave

I was lucky enough to get a Google Wave invite from my Dad a few weeks ago. If you haven't used Google Wave yet or even heard of it it's basically a new approach to communication and collaboration. You can read a little more about it here.

So far, I've mostly used it for short conversations with people that could more easily have taken place via email or facebook, but its a new toy so I want to play with it. I have used it a couple of times as a collaboration tool (very minimally so) and again, the type of collaboration may have just as easily been done on email. I think it will become more useful when utilized for larger, web-based collaborative efforts with multiple people. I think right now it is a little difficult to fully utilize it because not a lot of people are using it. Of course, I should also mention that its not even in beta yet, as it is still in "preview" mode. (I'm wondering if that is kind of like alpha...)

I did catch a glimpse of their maintenance page though today, which you can see here. It is a pretty cool maintenance landing page, with the text saying "Surf's out, dude. Google Wave is down for maintenance. Time to chillax."

If you have used Google Wave already, what is your opinion? What have you used it for?

Monday, November 09, 2009

Working Toward a Goal

While recently pondering my career and experience in retail I came up with this theory about working toward a goal in retail. One of the things that makes retail exciting and frustrating at times is the constant swimming upstream when trying to accomplish your goals. While I have found most other experiences in life to be a combination of heading in the right direction toward a goal and the occasional setback, retail seems to have much more fluctuation between getting closer to reaching your goal and getting further away.

I put together these charts to illustrate this point.

My experiences show that retail has many more factors that are working against you and something you accomplish can be completely undone just as easily and quickly. For example, if your goal is to increase the cleanliness and organization of your retail establishment you put together a plan to make this happen and carry it out. But, once you have a few customers in your store that decide your merchandise is better situated on the floor, the work you accomplished is all but canceled out. What compounds this problem is it's a daily occurrence. I said many times while working in retail that it would be a great job/industry/etc. if it wasn't for all those darn customers.

This theory of course does not apply to all retail situations. There are things that can be accomplished without major setbacks but they aren't necessarily the most noticeable. For example, human resource/staffing, customer service, and sales goals are situations that have a much more consistent line of progress.

In contrast, when you are working on a project in most other facets of life and business, when you complete a part or section of whatever you working on you have something to show for it that can't easily be taken away from you. Whether it is doing background research, working on a copy of a report, or making a presentation, most of the things you accomplish are done and won't need to be done over again except in isolated circumstances.

I think the biggest reason for this is that while in other areas of business and life the things you work towards and accomplish have obvious benefits to those involved (the client, the customer, etc.). In these situations you and the client or customer are usually both trying to accomplish the same thing and it is often not mutually beneficial to make someone redo the work they've just completed for you. In retail, customers might notice some of the things you do for them, but if they walk out of the store with the shirt/toy/tool they want it really doesn't matter to them what else is going on and if they made a mess of the work you have done.

In the same token, this uphill battle shouldn't be a reason not to try and reach your goals and become great. These goals (like the example above of keeping your store clean and organized) may have an important part to play in your brand and marketing efforts.

What do you think? How would you combat these issues both in retail or other areas where you find this same problem?

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Images Become Patterns

I came across this new tool called repper tonight. You basically upload a photo that you have, choose a section of that photo, and the app turns it into a eye-catching and unique design by repeating the image. The images make great backgrounds for desktops or websites. Plus, its free to use and the designs are created with Creative Commons license for non-commercial use!

Visit the site and try your hand at creating a design!

Viper Duck

I decided to post this because my favorite car is and has been for many years the Dodge Viper.

See what happens when you turn the Viper logo upside down?

You get Daffy Duck!

(Via Presurfer)

Thursday, November 05, 2009

CAHSR Business Plan

I am a little late in posting this, but if you want to learn the basics about the California High Speed Rail project, take a look at this video.

One of the best things about this video is the time line of completion of different aspects of the project, including when the first trains will start transporting passengers throughout the state. Since most people don't know a lot about the project and aren't following it closely, I hear a lot of misinformation circulating about when the project will be finished, etc. This is a good video for clearing up a lot of that.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Car Free Cities

I am often saddened by our reliance on cars (and trucks, vans, SUVs, etc.) in our society today. I strongly dislike having to drive most places if I want to do anything, and I cringe every time I drive/walk/bike by businesses and especially strip malls that are mostly parking lot (and at most times during a 24 hour period, empty parking lots). (Photo from Flickr by jgrimm / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

I enjoyed reading this blog post from WorldChanging about car-free cities. Check it out.

I thoroughly enjoy traveling to a place that is much less reliant on vehicles than my city of Fresno, such as San Francisco, the East Coast of the US, Europe, etc. I love the ability to get anywhere and everywhere without having to rely on a car. In fact, it's a lot less stress to not have to worry about a car, parking, maintenance, gas, and cleaning among others. But, the big question is. Is this really possible in our society, especially highly developed western cities that were built around cars? Not too mention the stress and possible waste of time driving (as opposed to taking public transportation, where you can focus on activities other than driving). It will likely be a fairly involved change, but it does not have to be difficult, it just requires a paradigm shift. Here are my ideas for making a less car dependent society.
  • More mass transit - You've read about my love of high speed rail on this blog, and this concept fits in very well with that. Clean, fast, and modern transportation, such as high speed rail can easily connect distances of 400 miles or less. High speed rail can also easily replace a lot of air travel, such as in Spain where the newest route of high speed rail between Madrid and Barcelona has already replaced half of air travel on the busiest air route in the world (in only a years time). One of the great features of High Speed Rail is the placement of stations in the center of cities, as opposed to large airports that are often on the outskirts of cities or farther, and require extra transportation to get there. In Europe the fastest way to get from downtown London to downtown Paris is high speed rail (and Britain is an island!).
  • More public transit - Once you get into a city using mass transit like high speed rail you should have the ability or option to walk to your destination, but often time or distance might be a factor. Without a good public transit system you give people few other options to driving. Misconceptions are also a problem with public transit in places where cars are king. Here in Fresno, CA the buses have a bad reputation, which is unwarranted and unfortunate because it is usually the people that don't use the bus that feel this way. I would love to commute to work without having to worry about rush hour traffic, other crazy drivers, and finding a good parking spot. The way to make this more attractive to people who like the freedom of cars is to have more buses (or other public transit) and more routes.
  • More urban infill - Suburbanization which has been a trend for a long time is starting to show its major detractions. People getting more and more spread out leads to more vehicular use, longer commute times, longer commute distances, loss of agriculture/farm land, and strong relationship between cost of commute and gas prices, among others. The higher density of people living in an area, the closer amenities will be to serve these people. That means you won't be forced to drive two miles to the closest grocery store. Urban infill also helps make public transit more effective by concentrating the areas that are covered by routes. This can be accomplished two major ways. First, unoccupied buildings can be repurposed to include higher density housing. For example, in Fresno there are many high-rise buildings that are sitting empty that would make great housing buildings, in fact "In the past, the city council [of Fresno] requested that the vacant downtown buildings be inventoried and the results were the size of the two lost World Trade Center Towers" (Via Fresno Fusion). Second, places (especially business/strip malls) that have in the past included a lot of wasted parking space can repurpose that land to include higher density living, etc. Another big factor in urban infill is focusing on building up rather than out.
There are a lot more factors to reduce our dependence on cars and oil in our cities, but I believe these are important first steps. I think Fresno is taking its first few baby steps to accomplish some of these things with its most recent efforts for downtown revitalization. This along with California's plans for high speed rail throughout the state (with a station in downtown Fresno) will also assist greatly with this.

What do you think is important for our cities?

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Timely Communication

I received an email from Microsoft this morning from their Windows Phone department. Today is November 3rd, three days after Halloween and two days after the end of daylight savings time.

Of the six section headers in the email, there are two that I would consider untimely.
  1. "Is your phone ready for Daylight Saving Time?"
  2. "Spoooooky (and free!) ringtones - Turn your phone into a Halloween factory..."
I would have loved these topics 1-2 weeks ago, but they just seem a little bit useless now. Is it at all worthwhile to send out this communication after the fact, or does it do more harm than good? What do you think?

Monday, November 02, 2009

No Shave November

I would like to take this opportunity to remind everyone (both men and women) that as we are now in the month of November, it is time to put away your razors and grow some facial hair or leg hair. It is now No Shave November!

As you may know I have been participating in this tradition for almost 10 years, as well as trying to recruit new participants everywhere I go by spreading the good news.

Follow along as I explore growing hair and facial hair on my No Shave November blog.