Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

#1,428 – Living Art Parade

Art wasn’t meant to be static.  It was meant to be interpreted, re-imagined in new ways, brought to life.  Murals, stain glass windows, canvases and tapestries adorning entire museum walls are great.  Performance art even better.  Which is why I love the Japanese.

For the last twenty two years Japan has been hosting an annual Art History Parade for Halloween, where people dress up as famous paintings and then walk around the city carrying a picture frame around them to complete the look, making it seem as though the portraits have come to life.

According to Hyperallergic human paintings this past year included:

“A self-portrait of Vincent van Gogh, Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘Mona Lisa,’ Edvard Munch’s ‘The Scream,’ and Johannes Vermeer’s ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring.'”

If you want to view a portion of the parade you can check it out below:

Is a Living Art Parade the Greatest Idea Ever?

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I’ve always suspected that the future of architecture and design will be unimaginably different from today’s techniques.  Figuring that it was only a matter of time before we 3D printed entire buildings or used breakthroughs in materials science to develop entirely new ways of constructing homes and businesses.  And as time has gone on we’ve seen several examples of how this evolution in construction may play out.  There’s been super wood, thirsty concrete, and even the implementation of living houses made of biological materials thanks to DARPA.  But this latest innovation takes the cake.

As Futurism reports, “Forget scarves and mittens. Soon, we might be able to knit entire buildings.  A team from the Swiss university ETH Zurich has developed a technique that allows them to knit textiles that can then form the scaffolds for large concrete structures. As a proof of concept, they created a 13-foot-tall architectural structure that’s now on display in Mexico City.”

As the technique improves and technology advances it will be interesting to see just how far we can take this architectural approach.  Is there a limit to how tall the structures get?  Could we use it produce buildings with complex designs ranging from flying buttresses to elegant domes?  Or would it only work for mass producing cookie cutter structures of a limited size?  Perhaps making it ideal for mass-producing low-income housing projects.

I’m not sure.  But either way it may be time to stop making fun of those ugly sweaters that your grandmother knitted for you for Christmas.  For the time may have finally come to give knitting its proper due.  Crochet it isn’t so.

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Is knitting buildings the Greatest Idea Ever?

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It sounds like the plot of a Black Mirror episode come to life.  News that China is actually moving forward with a dystopian plan to track and judge every single citizen based on their actions.  With the program getting kicked off in Beijing over the next few years.

As Bloomberg explains, “The capital city will pool data from several departments to reward and punish some 22 million citizens based on their actions and reputations by the end of 2020, according to a plan posted on the Beijing municipal government’s website on Monday. Those with better so-called social credit will get ‘green channel’ benefits while those who violate laws will find life more difficult.”

How so?  Well, travel benefits might be one such way a person’s social credit score is put to use.  Imagine, for instance, that you need a certain score in order to purchase a first class ticket.  Or that you may not even be allowed to purchase a ticket at all if your score is too low.  In this way social credit scores become a form of wealth, with high scores and the perks that come along with them becoming the new status symbols.

Personally I love this plan as it harkens back to my old idea for the Game of Life.  Brush your teeth and earn points.  Visit the doctor and earn points.  Donate to charity and earn a bucket load of points.  Rinse.  Wash.  Reap.  The benefits that is.  As the world becomes a better place around you.  Think about it.

With rewards in place for cleaning and recycling there would be less pollution.  With rewards for going to the doctor there would be less illness.  With rewards in place for studying we’d all be more educated.  There’d even be less crime, since committing even a petty crime, would devastate not just your own social status, but your entire families as well.

Of course we’d prefer that people just did these things out of the kindness of their heart.  Prefer it if their motivations were coming from a moral high ground or that they were at the very least just motivated to follow the law.  But it would be naïve of us to think that morality and lawfulness work 100% of the time.  Clearly they do not.  Perhaps gamification could fill in the missing pieces.  Address those citizens that slip through the cracks of the current system.  Considering how glued we already are to our cell phones and how intrinsic gaming culture already is in our lives, it’s fair to wonder if such a plan could actually work.

However, the concept is not without risk.  First of all, there’s no way of knowing the social impacts that this system will have.  Will people with low scores, even if no fault of their own, be ostracized from society?  With it further drive a wedge between the haves and the have nots.  Furthermore, could the government unfairly reward or deduct points to certain groups of people that it favors?  Could the system be hacked or gamed to the advantage of certain people?  And how would a foreign tourist without an existing social credit score even be able to navigate through the city?

These are all good questions.  Ones that I don’t have the answer to.  Hopefully China does.  Or we may all be in for a plot twist that we never saw coming.

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Is a social credit system the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#1,399 – Barter Travel

Thanks to AirBnB I just had a wonderful experience staying in an impressively-designed retired architect’s condo filled with antiques from all around the world. But you know what would have made the stay even better?  If it would have been free. And thanks to a new travel website specializing in bartering that may soon be the case.  Assuming that is, that you have something to trade.

As Travel and Leisure explains, “Desired offers include playful exchanges like providing a comic book collection or tango lesson to taking photos, teaching English, or helping out feeding farm animals.”

Now while I wouldn’t want to spend my vacation doing chores or milking cows I might be willing to teach English or trade tangible items in exchange for staying somewhere for free.  Especially if the listings correspond with places I wanted to go to anyway.

The article adds that, “ Currently, there are close to 500 properties located across some 60 countries, ranging from European stops like Greece and Belgium to stops in South America, the U.S., Asia, and more.  While bed and breakfasts are one type of accommodation found through the program, travelers can also find stays in hotels, vacation homes, hostels, nature lodges, and even 17th-century farmhouses.”

Sounds good to me! Which begs the question: what would you be willing to barter?!?

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Is barter travel the Greatest Idea Ever?

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I’m usually not that paranoid.  I don’t think that the NSA is listening to my calls and I never feel as though as I’m being followed.  But even if I have to admit that I have thought about the possibility of there being hidden cameras in the hotel or Airbnb I’m staying in.

The same goes for public places.  Gym locker rooms.  Mall changing rooms.  There’s a million and one different places to hide a camera.  And not just in a perverted way.  Undercover cops, investigative reporters, even enterprising citizens with a cell phone camera that’s within range of a celebrity – everywhere you look there could be a concealed camera watching your every move.  Your laptop’s very own webcam could even be spying on you at this very moment while you read this.

Conditions surrounding your lack of privacy aren’t likely to improve anytime soon either.  As technology gets smaller and smaller and tiny sensors become more and more ubiquitous it’s just going to get easier and easier for people to plant detection and monitoring devices without being noticed.

Thankfully there will soon be something you can do about it.  A new technology that’s capable of finally giving you peace of mind.

According to Mental Floss, “Spy Associates, a maker of surveillance and privacy protection products, has designed a product that will help put worried travelers’ minds at ease. The company’s SpyFinderPro Hidden Camera Detector uses LED strobe lights to ferret out the reflective surfaces of various kinds of cameras. The company says the gadget works even when cameras are undetectable to the human eye, and even when they’re turned off or non-functioning.”

Such a technology, if it really does work as advertised, would be a total game-changer.  Allowing people to be free from the prying eyes of peeping Toms everywhere once and for all.

Image result for spyfinder pro hidden camera finder

Is a hidden camera detector the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#1,375 – Furternity Leave

Expecting a new addition to your family?  Then you can likely expect to get some time off from work.  Two to three months for new mothers.  A few weeks for new fathers.  But what if your new bundle of joy is a fur baby and not a baby baby?  What then?  How much time could you expect to get off?  In all likelihood, none.  Zip.  Zilch.  Nada.  A big fat zero.  But that’s not right.  New puppies need just as much time to adjust to their new surroundings and new parents as a newborn baby would.

To some, furternity leave may sound like a ridiculous perk to offer employees but in today’s hyper-competitive landscape it makes sense.  After all, if you want to attract and keep top talent you may need to go beyond just offering competitive pay and standard benefits.  All things being equal, the company that has a foosball table in the lobby, keeps the office stocked with free snacks, and offers furternity leave may be the company that wins out.  And the trend appears to be catching on.

According to the New York Times, “[a] few companies appear to have gone far beyond Take Your Dog to Work Day. An Italian company allowed a woman last year to take paid time off when her dog became sick. And employees at mParticle, a data company in New York, are offered ‘paw-ternity leave’— two weeks of paid time off for those who adopt a rescue dog…”

Furternity leave provides other logistical benefits as well aside from merely just providing time off for people to bond with their new pets.  Such as giving people time to train their dogs, take them to the vet to get their shots, and ensure that they are getting along with any other pets that may already reside in the home.  After all, the last thing that any new pet owner wants is a Turner and Hooch like situation where you come home to a house that looks like a war zone, couches chewed up, shoes destroyed, family heirlooms strewn about the floor.  If furternity leave can prevent such scenarios from unfolding then we should be all for it.

In fact, maybe we should even take it a step further and allow pet owners more time off, period.  Early dismissals so that they can get home at a reasonable time and walk their poor dogs who have been holding it in since early in the morning.  The ability to work from home several days a week.  Extra vacation days to accommodate all of their normal vacation plans plus a few extra dog-centric staycation days.

A little bit extreme?  Maybe?  But just think about how many more orphaned dogs would get adopted if there were real tangible workplace benefits to doing so.  Just think about how much happier people would be and therefore by extension how much better of an employee they would be if they had a pet in their lives.  Viewed through that lens furternity leave wouldn’t just benefit new pet owners or their dogs.  It would benefit everyone.  And that’s a good thing.

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Is Furternity leave the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#1,369 – Burning Man Safari

The other night I got my first taste of Burning Man as my return flight from Reno to Phoenix was almost entirely made up of hippies, drifters, vagabonds, and other assorted party animals making their way back to civilization after a week of reveling in the Nevada desert.  So covered in dirt and filth were these free spirits that the airline made them wrap their luggage in plastic bags before being placed in the overhead bins.  If the flights attendants had bigger bags they probably would have tried to wrap up the people as well.  On the bright side, at least the plane didn’t smell all that bad, no small feat considering that most of its occupants hadn’t showered in ten days.  Or maybe it did.  It was hard to tell the difference with everything smelling like reefer.

On the one hand you could say that I’ve had my fill of Burning Man just from this Close Encounter of the Weird Kind.  Sitting next to a guy who looks like the Mad Hatter will do that to you.  But on the other hand I was left wanting more.  Perhaps some of their drugs were rubbing off on me.  Or maybe I was just flashing back to earlier in my childhood when I wanted to run away and join a traveling circus, but either way, the longer the flight went on, the more I wanted to join this rag-tag band of misfits in their annual artistic pilgrimage to the land of campfires, bonfires, and crotch fires.

Here’s the rub though: I don’t actually want to go.  I wouldn’t want to take off a week of work and spend thousands of dollars just for the right to live in a mobile meth lab in the middle of the Mojave desert while the biggest party of the year rages around me.  I’m the kind of guy who stays in on a Saturday night to watch the Matrix, not the kind of guy who attends the rave in Zion.  My ear plugs and white noise machine wouldn’t stand a chance against the Steam Punk Army that would undoubtedly assemble during this modern day homage to Woodstock.

Instead I’d like to propose that we create a Burning Man Safari.  An opportunity for regular folk, like you and me, who have always wanted to see what all the fuss is about, to pass through this make love not war zone in a safe and pleasant way.  An opportunity for people to soak up the culture, to listen to the various musical stylings, to check out all of the larger than life art installations, to take it all in, without having to subject themselves to LSD, STDs, or any other acronyms ending in d.

In order to keep up appearances the jeeps that we would use for this safari could even be decked out to make them look like post-apocalyptic vehicles from Mad Max.  The drivers/tour guides could even be Burning Man attendees, looking to make a quick buck to finance their excursions there.  Assuming, of course, that anyone is even sober enough to operate a vehicle.

On the surface cramming ten days into one, completely streamlining the process of attending Burning Man, making it so that everyone can attend, seems like a great idea.  But perhaps it wouldn’t be.  Maybe some of the attendees would be opposed to this invasion of city slickers to their sacred desert land.  Thinking that it would somehow pervert the sanctity of this beloved anything goes festival that puts the wild in the Wild West.  That it would somehow cheapen the allure of a place that is beloved for its mystique.  Charming precisely because it is anything but.  However, any doubts I have are quickly erased when I realize that any opposition would likely fade away as soon as the first batch of mushrooms kicks in.  After all, it’s kind of hard to hold a grudge when you’re trapped on an existential plane, busily unlocking the secrets of the Universe.

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Is a Burning Man Safari the Greatest Idea Ever?

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