Raising Boys to Be HuMans

DSC_2039A few weeks ago, my 7 year old and I had the big talk. No, there were no birds chirping or bees buzzing, this was a different talk. A more important talk. As we were lying in bed reading a book, his little brother was making funny faces and dancing around. He looked at his brother and said, “God, you are such a girl” It was meant to be an cawing insult, it was meant to sting like a bee.  I calmly set the book down and asked him why he said that and he replied. “Because Girls are the s-word (his way of saying stupid without really saying it) and he is acting ridiculous, Mom”  I then asked him if he thought all girls were stupid and sadly he replied  “Yes, well not stupid, but they are not as smart as boys and they are not as good at sports as boys.”

Obviously this knocked me back. Since the day my boys were born, I thought I was teaching them to celebrate boys and girls equally. I have tried to lead by example and show them a women can be a smart active mother and have a career. I have spent countless hours teaching them just as many “girl” things as “boy” things. I have had them go on as many playdates with girls as with boys. I have shown them how I cook, how I craft, how I do art and on the flip side I have kicked the ball in the backyard, played Minecraft, named every character in Star Wars, dug in the dirt and made mud pies, collected bugs, took them on big hikes and taught them to setup their first tent and campfire. Mind you, I don’t think any of the things mentioned above are exclusively boy or girl things, but I know society sometimes does and I knew that they would be bombarded with boy versus girl messaging everyday so I tried to put up my best defenders against that.  I was sad that none of my attempts to reverse engineer the negative messaging seemed to make a dent.

As I lay there with my little boy, I thought of all the innocence he has clearly already lost with that statement. I felt responsible for letting it happen. As a mother of three boys I want to teach them to grow up with not just a sense of respect for women, but an admiration for how strong, equal and sometimes superior they can be. We may not be rolling in cash, but by all accounts these boys are growing up privileged. They live in a nice house in a nice neighborhood, they go to a great school, and they have two parents who are together and love them. These are all things they could someday take for serious granted if we don’t steer the ship in the right direction. Selfishly, I also don’t want to be that mother who gets to find out from a viral YouTube video that I thought I had this great kid, but somehow managed to raise a misogynist or racist jerk.  The feeling of getting this parenting thing right feels all the more urgent to me in our violence obsessed society that seems to lack awareness or compassion towards mental health. I don’t want to fail to protect my boys by not teaching them to protect others who are not as privileged as they are.

I realized in that moment that I need to to figure out how to send my boys into the world as change agents. I need them to be they boys who hire girls because they are the right person, not just because they need a token female on their staff. Better yet, I want them to be boys who will get hired by a women because they show a deep respect for doing good work with a diverse groups of humans. I want them to be the boys who do not feel shame when they show compassion. Diversity is an undeniable and necessary avalanche brewing in the workforce that is bound to envelope those not on board and I want to make sure my boys are on the right side of the blasting that day on the mountain.

I don’t know exactly how I am going to raise them to be good HuMans. I am learning every day, but for that night I talked with my boys about how women are equally beautiful and smart and how our bodies are so cool, strong and special and we talked about me carrying them as babies as an example of that. I shared examples of powerful women with them and at the end my 7 year old just hugged me tight but didn’t say anything. A few weeks later, thanks to the encouragement of some pretty powerful women in my own life, us “girls” surfed for the first time ever, and in the cold Pacific Ocean no less. I came home and showed the boys the pictures, my 7 year old looked at them with little interest and said “cool” then went back to Minecraft. However, the next day at school when I dropped him off and he ran up to his group of friends, I heard him say “OMG, my mom surfed in the ocean and she didn’t even get eaten by a shark, my dad can’t even do that! So, I built her the BIGGEST house in Minecraft.” So maybe, just maybe, I am getting through after all.

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I’ll Take an Ounce of Bliss Please.

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Image Bogarted From Elite Daily

Two years! It has been two years since I’ve posted one damn thing on this blog!  A lot has changed….for starters Google Glass is so not cool anymore. HoloLens is all the overpriced-rage now and Google Cardboard is the more economical DIY dalliance into a wearable virtual reality candy land. Speaking of candy land, weed is legal in Oregon, like walk into an Apple-type store and pick one ounce of your favorite strain, like its just a flavor of gum, legal. I didn’t see that one coming so fast.

Yet, sadly, so much hasn’t changed. People are still killing each other with guns for no good reason, women haven’t achieved equal pay, racists still race bait, terrorists still terrorize and droves of people are still seeking refuge from all the displacing violence and poverty. I could go on and on but I am getting depressed.

But one really good thing has happened this year guys…this little kick in the pants decided to get born.

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He is very disruptive, like the first ever smart phone disruptive. He rightfully has been taking up a decent amount of my time, so to my readers, all 2-4 of you at this point, please give me a break, I am outnumbered.  Plus, lets be honest you have probably kept yourselves plenty busy watching internet famous people Vlog their way into trouble on YouTube. People living ridiculous lives and self destructing in real time is like crack to watch…I get it, no judgement here.

So why now, why start writing again? Simple answer, someone asked me to update an old post and when I opened up the dashboard I got this rush and suddenly I wanted to take real pictures again and string words together in a non-sensical fashion. It felt like an old friend calling me home, so like those of you happily toking away on your legal blunts I am chasing my own dragon and following my bliss.

 

 

 

Posted in Family, Featured, Mobile Apps, Oregon, Politicking, Social Conscience | Comments closed

One Glassy Gal

This past week in NYC, I had the unexpected chance to try out Google Glass.  Google just recently started rolling out devices to a lucky few who are either influencers in the space or signed up at Google IO last year to be some of the first developers to try them out. I am not one of the chosen ones, but I did get to spend a little bit of time calibrating myself to the new technology.

I have to say it was more fascinating then I expected. I was surprised at the short amount of time it took for me to become accustomed to wearing them. What was even more interesting to me, is that I have analog glasses and I absolutely hate wearing them. In fact I hate even wearing sunglasses on a sunny day. I am just not one of those people who likes something on my face, but I found these glass to be quite comfortable, lightweight and surprisingly unobtrusive. They also didn’t look as bad or dorky as I had been led to believe by the naysayers.  You may disagree but I don’t think I look that bad in Glass.

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They were far better an accessory than those ridiculously large first cellphones. Remember those? Even Zack Morris couldn’t pull one of those off.

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Oh wait…maybe he could.

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Regardless, people needn’t worry themselves about the look of these early prototypes, Google is no fool and I am sure mass customization is in the future roadmap. The ease of the user experience of Glass is far more important to me than the looks anyway. In just a few moments of getting used to the commands, I almost forgot I had them on. I took a few pictures, looked up some directions, snagged a video clip and faster than you can say the command “okay glass” I felt like they were already an extension of me. I could take a pictures while my friends around me barely noticed.

Is your mind going to that place where all the creepy people live and are taking unsolicited photos and video of you?  Where car accidents are perpetrated by Google Glass wearing geeks? There are many people who have already put Google Glass in that box and are gearing up for a legality and privacy fight.  People love a good fight when they smell money, but I would argue unsolicited photos and video happen already en masse? Just ask the stars of Andria Richard’s PyCon photo. Just ask anyone who walks through a crowded space full of flash bulbs or facial recognition cameras like Times Square, the Olympics, or a concert. We are all being photograped and video taped on a daily basis and most often not to our knowledge.

Google Glass doesn’t change that. I would maybe argue that for now the fact that you are wearing a less prolific device and have to say a verbal command to take a picture makes it more obvious than a silent click of one of the ubiquitous smartphones found in a crowd. There is of course already a Glass app that purports to let you take a photo with just a wink. Although, I suck at winking that app could have proven really useful to me when I tried to capture a free pic of a grown man wearing a Transformer suit in Times Square for my little boy.  You see, I didn’t know I was supposed to pay and for that I got a well deserved authentic NYC response, “Hey, Go Fuck Yo-self”

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As a friend pointed out this weekend, when the camera phones first came out people worried that the interent would explode with  naked photos taking from locker rooms and sought to ban them. That didn’t stop phones from becoming smarter and more plentiful. Although there has been plenty a nudie or nude selfie throughout the years as well as Jesse Thomas’s unfortunate and recent lesson learned from social sharing of ones exploits, the instances of grave misuse pale in comparison to positive uses of  mobile technology .

With all new technologies there is the possibility and almost certainty of just plain bad users.  Despite bans, people still talk and text on cell phones every day while driving, sneak cameras into concerts, take pictures of sexual assaults and more mundanely use devices on planes long after the flight attendants have issued their stern warnings. Laws won’t change that. Responsible people and educated users will change it. Education can’t eradicate all misuse,  but over time we as a collective population will get used to the fact that the technology of connected devices is here to stay and we will adapt and do our best to self police, we always do.

Take for instance the young cab driver who found my brand new iPhone left behind in his car this week. Instead of pocketing it and selling it, he called the lost mode number I had enacted from iCloud and personally walked my phone back to me across Manhattan after his shift. Honestly until the moment he walked up to me with my phone,  I never thought I would see my phone again even though he had contacted me. He was greeted with one big stranger-hug. The news always exploits the bad, so we have a tendency to think the world is out to get us, but we have to remember the majority of the world and it’s people are at the core good human beings.

I have to admit I am a technology advocate , it is what I do for a living, so my excitement for wearable technology and possibilities is probably a bit more intense than the average person. When I tried on Google Glass, I didn’t think of the creepers of the world, or ease of social sharing,  I thought about how this represents an advancement in technology that can pave the way for more profound life saving devices. Imagine a doctor performing an operation in a third world country while wearing Google Glass? They could one day transmit eye-level surgical challenges to more trained doctors around the world who could guide them through procedures in real-time to save more lives.  They can be used to photograph skin conditions or tumors, compare them in seconds to data bases of diseases and allow for more speedy and accurate remote or rural diagnosis. They could capture accidents as they happen so that the films can be studied to improve car safety or helmet safety for sports.  They could transmit video of where people are trapped in the rubble of hurricanes, avalanches, or collapsed garment factories to allow for better and safer extraction outcomes.  The life saving possibilities are endless.

These possibilities to me are what outweigh the rising tide of  backlash around security, safety and privacy misuses. Google is is putting itself out there by being the guinea pig for this next generation of technology and I applaude them for that.  I just hope that others can see the positive future possibilities of this technology and allow Glass to survive beyond the internet memes.  Your’s Truly, A Glassy Gal.

Posted in Appsurdity, Big Data, Featured, Mobile, Mobile Apps, Mobile Culture, Photography, Social Media, Software Development, UX | Tagged , , , | Comments closed

Quantified From Birth

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Image Courtesy of FlowingData.com

There has been a lot of buzz in the mobile industry about quantifying oneself. There is copious amounts of data you can collect about where you have been, how you felt when you were there, what things you saw, what route you took to get there, how fast you got there and who you were with while at your destination. Each day we choose to participate with tools and applications that have become an extension of our minds and body so that we can track our digital footprints as we trapse through the real world. People feel they need to know this data, many are not sure what they will do with it, yet they trapper keep it with plans to one day analyze or use it. For some that day will come in the form of health care analysis, sports training or memory lane perusing, for others it will just remain bits of data suspended in the cloud like raindrops waiting to fall, but never quite do.

When I started this blog much of the idea was born out of motherhood and the facination I felt watching my babies grow up as not only digital natives, but mobile natives. I was intrigued by the ability that they had from birth, or really me as their parent had, to track their interaction and history with the world from anywhere anytime in a way I was never able to do as a child.  My parents didn’t even have a video camera when I was growing up so there is no known video footage of me until I turned at least 18. I am sure somewhere out there someone caught a glimpse of me at a birthday party, sporting event or a wedding but I have never seen any footage nor am I sure any exists. I didn’t want that for my kids. I wanted them to read about how they grew up, see and hear their own laughs in video format, and  have pictures of their growth not just pencil marks on a door frame. I wanted them to have their documentation papers and their digital DNA in a sense mapped forever in time so they could look back on it and decipher it when they were ready to understand it, as if it was their own modern day scroll.

Just think about that story for a second. I have NO known video of myself before 18! Yes 18! There are only a few places remaining on the globe where this is still conceivable. Even third world countries are adopting mobile devices and smartphones at an alarming rate. In fact this year the number of activated devices has been widely predicted to outweigh the worlds population.

Like most parents, the day my first little boy was born, I video taped him as he opened his eyes and took in the world around him for the first time and there that moment remains time-data stamped and stored in the cloud for life. By the time my second son came around, he was video taped and photographed straight into the Facebook and Twitter matrix for all my 600 closest friends to see and as this blog or my Instagram feed demonstrates, I have not slowed down with the digital documentation of their lives.

Lately I have been pondering the quantified self a lot and whether or not people will start to experience data fatigue and yearn to go back to a simpler time. There is something to be said for not having that first 18 years of my life documented forever. I, like most kids, made some mistakes or said some stupid things in my teen years, but because it wasn’t documented I don’t have to live with them permanently on my social record. Those immature experiences were able to disappear with my childhood, but this new mobile native world won’t be so kind to my kids.

As a parent I have been fascinated with quantifying my kids since birth, but what if they look back when they are older and wish I hadn’t? It is not like I am asking their permission and even if I did, they wouldn’t even understand the request I was making. What if something I document about them as a toddler is held against them by a character assasin later in life? Will their be a time where everyone’s inevitable mistakes are so widely documented that your social profile and quantified self slate is just voided or wiped clean? Only the future knows the rules, I just hope I am not breaking them for my kids before they are able to make their own self quantifying decisions.

Posted in Family, Featured, Mobile, Mobile Apps, Mobile Culture, Social Conscience, Social Media, Social Media DNA, The Cloud | Tagged | Comments closed

An Idea a Day: #5 Good Bones

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Image Courtesy of http://christianmidtgaard.dk/

Ok, so I slacked off on Friday and didn’t post my idea. It was for good reason. I had some decision making to do that was occupying all my mind power.  More on that next week, but for now here is the last post in my Idea a Day series. It has been a fun week to to tap the creative recesses of my brain, thanks to those of you who have been reading and encouraging me along.

Good Bones

This idea came to me this week when I was talking to a friend about how my next door neighbor had lived in her house from the time she was 20 until she turned 95 and had to enter assisted living. Her name was Sylvia and just like an old vintage bungalow she had really good bones. She fell more times than I can remember and each time the ambulance came we worried it would be her last trip. Yet each time she bounced back and would be found planting flowers in her front yard, or changing the lightbulb on her porch by climbing a ladder mere days later. I would shudder each time I saw her doing that, but she refused any help. She would say if God is going to keep me here any longer I may as well keep working.

Her wits were always completely with her, she remembered every conversation we ever had and when she asked about my kids she would recall that they were both born on a hot June day. It was amazing. She would tell us stories about our neighborhood in such vivid detail that we could almost visualize the grand maples in front of our house that perished in a rare Portland ice storm. She knew all the names of the people who lived in our house before us, which ones had dogs, when they converted our full porch to a half porch and extended the living room and that the rose bushes on the side of our home were more than 75 years old. Each conversation with Sylvia brought us closer to the memories of our home. These were details and facts that we would never have known about without using her mind as our house history book.

Sometimes Sylvia would complain that she had already lived a long and happy life and was just ready to go because her body just couldn’t keep up with her mind anymore. It was those moments that I felt really sad for her. I couldn’t imagine having her sharpness and drive to do things but not having the strength in my bones to move. When she finally had to go into assisted living it was because she started to show signs of dementia. It was really horrible to watch. Her hallucinations were not the harmless type. She was tormented by thinking she heard a ten year old boy screaming in pain because he was being beaten. She started wandering from her home to bang on neighbor’s doors to try to rescue the boy she swore was hidden in their houses.

There of course was no ten year old boy and soon it became apparent that it was time for her to need daily assistance. I can’t imagine the torture she was going through inside her mind. To think you heard a child being abused each day and not being able to save them or have anyone believe you would be terrifying and as a mother of five children herself, it must have been awful for her. I often wondered if this was just a trick her mind was playing on her or if she had witnessed something like this in her past and the memory was only now coming out as a hallucination as her aged mind began to fail her.

Her descent into dementia also reminded me of the finality of life and how so many objects live on beyond us. We all put so much time into things like our homes and when we are gone, they are sold off and as our belongings depart and a new family moves in, the personal touches and the history that we put on a home often disappear too. I was always so grateful to have Sylvia to fill in those gaps for me. I was able to learn so much about my house from her but I wished I could see the pictures of it before some of the changes took place. Sylvia was my window to the past and when she was gone, I didn’t have anyone else to ask.

Ever since I was a little girl I had been fascinated by a homes history. I lived in the same house from the time I was born until the time I was 18 and went to college. My favorite story about my parents house was that it had actually been moved to it’s current spot from the other side of town. Apparently the house on our lot had burned down and so my Dad’s aunt had purchased a home and had it raised and moved to the location it still stands today. From the outside you would never know this, but if you went down into the basement you could tell that the foundation came from another home and had been adjusted to accomodate the new house’s footprint.

The other part I loved about our house is that we had a coal bin. It was essentially a unfinished dirt floor crawl space with outside access so that coal could be dropped off and stored until it was scooped into a stove to heat the house. By the time I was growing up in that house, there was no longer a coal stove. The coal bin had become a wood bin housing the kindling my dad would use to fuel a little wood stove he would light during the winter months so that he could stay warm while working on his hobby of refinishing wood golf clubs. I loved to crawl onto that wood pile and pretend their were hidden treasures buried by the previous owners beneath the dirt floor.

Every house has a history or a story to tell, and often, unless you have a neighbor like Sylvia, the stories of your home remain secrets trapped in those good old bones of a home. I think it would be amazing for people to have a collective place to easily be able to tell the stories about the homes they lived in, learn about a house they are living in now or not have to wonder what the new owners have done to a place they once called home. The demand is there, you always here stories of people going to their childhood home to take pictures, but I would love to see an app or service that could facilitate this and make it less daunting to discover the past or present.

Home owners, past residents or neighbors could claim addresses, submit stories, upload old photos and share how the homes have transitioned and changed over time. You could see what your yard looked like, the layout your kitchen had before its remodel or just learn if kids grew up your house. It would also be great for set designers and interior decorators to see period stylings or those looking to renovate a home back to it original form.

Of course all houses are not old, but they will be one day so starting to document it now would be a fascinating way to provide a time capsule to future owners. Documenting a home has never been easier through camera phones. In fact many people are unknowingly already documenting their homes history through Instagram, Facebook, Vine and geolocation apps, it is just a matter of providing an interface that can bridge the past and the present and connect them to the owners of a property.

The app would rely heavily on user generated content to be successful, and there will be some gaps where photos were destroyed or past owners are gone, but there are always decedents or neighbors who may have a picture or two. They are also some security risks, obviously you wouldn’t want to document your house in a way that lays out a “how to rob road map” to a cat burgler or exposes your children to an unseemly character, but I think if done right the fascination people have with vintage era and increasingly voyeuristic curiosity people have been fulfilling through social media would eventually outweigh the fear. It would be an interesting study to watch this type of community grow and change just like a real neighborhood.

For those interested in how Sylvia is doing, she is still alive, arguing with the nurses and doctors who are trying to do “her work” for her and probably trying to change a lightbulb as I write this. She is going on 97 this month and still asks her son about how her house is doing and how my kids are growing up when he visits her. I am comforted knowing that in a mind as rich as hers, my children have been able to carve out their spot in her history.

Posted in Education, Family, Featured, Mind Body Soul, Mobile Apps, Mobile Culture, Social Conscience, Social Media, Social Media DNA, Web Apps | Tagged | Comments closed

An Idea A Day: #4 Camp Lean

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We are huge campers, we always have been. It is one of the reasons we decided to move from Florida to Oregon. The prevalence of poisonous snakes, centipedes, scorpions and heat, not to mention alligators made camping just a little less carefree than it should be. In Florida your odds of seeing one if not all of those creatures on a weekend camping trip is pretty high. In Oregon not so much.

We started out as pretty hard core campers, sleeping under the stars or in a backcountry tent built for two and by two I mean one. Sometimes we slept on the ground in just a sleeping bag, other times, if we felt like carrying them, we would at least bring sleeping pads. We ate beans out of can, filtered our water from the nearby stream and ate beef jerky. Simple. Blissful. Relaxing.

I remember the first time we went camping with friends in Oregon. It was a car camping site, but to us camping was camping. We put up our little tent, which by the way by now housed two adults and one 80 pound dog, and threw down our sleeping pads and bags and were ready to join our friends by the fire pit to have a beer within 10 minutes. Wait what? We didn’t have to dig a fire pit? Luxury.

As we opened our first beers we realized our friends hadn’t even finished unloading their car. They were still too busy setting up their three room tent for two people. Yes a three room tent FOR TWO PEOPLE! It looked like an old army M.A.S.H tent. Next came the sound of an air mattress pump, then the rustling of a down comforter and the sound of two coleman sleeping bags zipping together to make one giant couples bag..how cute. When they finally joined us by the fire for a beer it was just in time for nightfall. We of course made complete fun of them while hung by the fire that night. The next morning we weren’t in such a laughing mood as we gnawed on beef jerky and breakfast bars that had been dampened by the now melted ice in our cooler while they enjoyed fresh cooked eggs and veggie sausage courtesy of their camp stove. So that was car camping…we finally understood.

After that trip we began to ease a bit into car campdom. We still kept it lean for back country trips, but if we were parked within a mile of the site, we started to up our ante when it came to supplies.  We got a slightly bigger and heavier tent and each brought a pillow and extra blanket. Then we added the camp chairs, and the camp stove then started bringing a bigger cooler. Then the babies came which destroyed all possibility of packing light. We graduated to that three room tent we had made so much fun of. It was the only way to house the pack and play, the toys, the diapers, the wipes,the extra changes of clothes, 2 adults, 2 kids and that 80 pound dog. We even gave in and bought that air mattress. Lean camping as we knew it was officially over. Backcountry? Long forgotten. I cannot even fathom what it would be like to try to lug a 2 year old and a 4 year old on a backcountry trip.

In recent years not only has our supply list grown but what used to be a few couples getting together to spontaneously drive up to the mountain and find a site or two has turned into a full fledge group camping experience. We book in advance and we arrive equipped with toddlers ready to run around hyped up on the fresh mountain air alongside a pack of domesticated dogs. Our setup takes forever because we are so busy trying to unpack ten loads from each of our cars, while we are simultaneously setting up a tent or scanning the area for our kids who are likely trying to fall into the fire, throw rocks at each other or poke their eyes out with sticks. When we do finally get settled in we always realize that between all the couples we have overpacked or in some cases gravely under packed. We end up with six loaves of bread, four jars of peanut butter but no jam and crying kids because PB&J is NOT PB&J without the damn J.

When we do finally get through dinner and sit down to have that first beer we realize we have actually forgotten the beer or the bottle opener. It seems like the more we pack each year the more we forget. We share what we can, but inevitably someone is always taking home a soggy cooler of uneaten goods or someone is running into town to forage for the missing ingredient for dinner.

We have tried fruitlessly to coordinate before we hit the road over Facebook, text or through email to plan meals but having so many different communication channels is a nightmare.  We end up having long chain emails and individual unlinked Facebook posts where things are often missed. There has got to be a better way.  There has to be an app for that right? Not one I can find. What I would love to see is a cross platform, perhaps mobile web app, where we can login and plan and coordinate camping with a group.

These are the things I would include in the app:

  1. The ability to add a trip to the app – This includes a map link to the location, a description of the facilities such as does it have a bathroom, showers, water, boat ramp, hiking trails? Is their cell reception?
  2. A place to add and share common tips, like turn right at the split tree or remember to get gas on the way up the mountain.   This is especially helpful for those in your group who are first timers. 
  3. Ability to share and create a list of common supplies needed. For instance toilet paper, firewood, camp stoves, ice, water, batteries, cooking oil,  flashlights…etc and allow people to state that they are bringing with them and how many of each item. This could prevent dupes or key forgotten items. I would also like this list to be editable by the user so they can add things they are bringing. 
  4. A way to suggest and agree on the major meals and then allow people to sign up for ingredients. This cuts down not only on the costs but the supplies you have to lug in and out and the number of camp dishes you have to do each night, leaving more time to just relax. 
  5. An activity suggester. We go to Lost Lake each year. They have boat rentals and fishing plus a ton of hiking, but every year we forgot something like life jackets, fishing poles. tackel etc…if we a shared place where we could coordinate what activity supplies we needed to bring it would certainly cut down on forgotten items. 
  6. A way to save your trip year to year, or copy your trip and edit it for your next locale. 

I could see this app being useful for not only camping, but trips to the beach, or meeting up at outdoor events and concerts or tailgating.  I especially like that it cuts down on waste and having what you need when you arrive at camp already organized leaves so much more time to enjoy time in the great outdoors versus stressing out over packing or forgotten items. I want to start the camp lean movement, who is with me?

Posted in Family, Featured, Mobile, Mobile Apps, Mobile Culture, Oregon, Web Apps | Tagged , | Comments closed

An Idea a Day: #3 Pacific Midwest Antlers

Well, you can take a girl out of Michigan and put her in the Northwest, but she will never lose her Michigan roots.

This past summer I went home to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan where I grew up. While we were there we rented a cabin at on a lake in the  middle of nowhere. The entire cabin was filled with mounted game. We are talking Deer, Elk, Bear, Fish, Bobcats and even a wolf (or maybe it was a coyote). The owner and his wife were both avid hunters.  To me it was a familiar site. I grew up in a place where it wasn’t an uncommon site to go to the local restaurant or bar and be greeted freshly killed deer carcasses hanging the entrances. Hunters would often stop on their way home from the hunt for beer and would hang their kill on display. I think there was some scientific reason, like blood not pooling incorrectly, or it was just to show off, who knows, but it was a norm for me growing up. I also had a a brother-in-law who had/has no shortage of game adorning his house, I am not sure how my sister handles a million fake glass eyes looking at her everyday, but she somehow does.

Even though this was the norm for me growing up, it took my kids a few days to get used to it. Eventually, my boys absolutely loved that house. They called it the dear deer house and asked me every day if they could take antlers home. One of the deer on the wall wasn’t the full head mount, it was just the antlers with the skull convered by white leather looking cloth. My four year old kept asking me why the deer had underwear on it’s head and we thought it was hilarious. He wanted to take it home, and to get him to stop asking we promised him we would get him a set of antlers when we got back to Portland. I never thought of mounts as decorating pieces that I would put in my home, but I figured my four year old would just forget about it by the time we got back to Portland. No such luck.

When we got back to Portland he continued to talk about the dear house and asking when we could go back to Michigan, but top on his mind was always when he could get his hands on some antlers. I realized he was not going to forget about that set of antlers. I also knew that antlers were a big trend in Portland and that to buy Jack a set for his room would be crazy expensive. I also found out that in some states it is illegal to sell or buy mounted antlers. In Oregon for instance you can sell antlers as part of art, naturally shed antlers or those intended for art but you have to have a license. It surprised me because I am pretty sure every mom and pop vintage store and flea market event in Portland that is selling mounted deer or loose antlers probably does not have this license.  Even Esty sells them everywhere on their site, but there is no way to know if a purchase is legal or not since each state has it’s own statutes. So, I decided to come up with an alternate idea within the confines of my budget, the laws and to continue the Upper Peninsula tradition of recycling or using every part of an animal that has been hunted. Waste not and all…

I reached out to family members back in the midwest to see if could get some legally obtained “gift” antlers. Lucky for me someone had a set and shipped them my way. But I didn’t want to have them mounted in the traditional way by a taxidermist because for one it is extremely expensive and for two, it just felt weird to me to have the furry skull cap of the deer mounted on my wall. So, I decided I was going to figure out how to mount my antlers myself and add a little modern Pacific North West flair to the Mid West style I grew up with to make them feel more like our decorating style. I wasn’t sure where to start but once I got going  it wasn’t hard at all to figure out. It took me a few weeks of running to a few different stores and one ebay auction to get the supplies I needed and just this morning I put it all together in a few hours.

antlers

Backwards Mounted Antlers…fixed post photo…oops!

Here are the easy steps to take

  1. Legally obtain deer antlers still attached to the skull.
  2. Buy a mounting kit. These can be found in any outdoor store for around $20-30, but I bid on mine on ebay and won it for $.99 plus shipping…not bad. 
  3. Paint the wall mount.  I wanted a cleaner look for my wall mount so I roughed up the faux wood on the mounting plaque in the kit withe some sandpaper, primed it and spray painted it white.
  4. Buy fabric from any store. I used fabric from the Pendelton Outlet to give it that Pacific Northwest flair. 
  5. Cover the styrofoam head form that comes with the mounting kit in your favorite fabric. I used upholstery tacks to fasten the fabric to the back as glue just proved too messy.
  6. Attach the antlers to the wall mount with the mounting kit hardware.
  7. Attach the head form to the antlers – it just pops in place. 
  8. Voila…you are done. Pacific Midwest Antlers! 

antlers2

 

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An Idea a Day: #2 Me Go Topo

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/genista/112733992/

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/genista/112733992/

Me Go Topo

Ok, what was I thinking when I challenged my self to have ideas? Coming up with an idea is hard enough when you have a specific problem to solve, a target audience has been identified and you have metrics and KPI goals to meet, but an idea out of thin air? Way tougher! This is going to be a challenging week, but a fun week. Nothing like creating problems for yourself. This next idea has been floating around in my mental coffer for a while, well at least since I went to San Fransciso last spring for the Intel Tizen Conference, so it kinda feels like cheating…but it still keeps popping back into my mind so I may as well get it out there.

The Tizen conference trip was my first extended trip away from my kids since SXSW 2012 and since I wasn’t going to be hung over like I was everyday at SXSW, my goal each day was to get up early and and go for a morning run. I would pick a spot or landmark in San Francisco that I wanted to see and I would map my route from my Hotel to the spot using Google Maps on my iPhone. This was pre-Apple Maps, thank god or I may have never found my way back to the conference.

I would start off on my journey at a steady pace, but as San Francisco is known for, I would quickly run into an ass kicker of a hill.  This of course didn’t surprise me, but from running in Florida which is relatively flat and and around Portland which I am far more familiar with and has significantly less hills, I failed to calculate exactly how much time the hilly terrain would add to my run. The first day I got to my destination and realized I didn’t have enough time to make it back to the conference for the day’s start. I had gravely misjudged the time the round trip would take me.  When I had routed the walking distance on Google Maps, I had converted it to my total running time by calculating my per mile average against the distance data.  I quickly realized the big component missing to my calculation was the terrain and the average elevation gain throughout my route.

I tried to find a better app that would help me out, but as I searched through the app store, I realized  there was no good app that allows you calculate all these factors just simply by choosing your route and adding your personalized data. Google maps attempts to estimate your walking time, but it is only gives you a general average and there is no way to put in your own personal average speed to get a more accurate estimate. There are all sorts of GPS apps or accessories on the market that can track your route from point A to point B and give you great stats like distance, average speed, calories burned and number of strides while enroute. There are even altitude finder apps which can use GPS and ASTER to pinpoint your elevation for a specific spot. Yet, as far as I know there isn’t an app where you can measure the distance between two points in an urban or rural area, put in your known per mile average and combine that with the overall elevation change from point A to B to get a better estimate of time or difficulty before you even take a step or turn a pedal.

I thought about all the people that go on business trips or vacations and go for runs or bike rides in unfamiliar locales. There are running and biking apps that can give you suggested routes and people use those often, but what if you prefer to take a new route? What if you get lost and need to calculate the truly fastest way back? It also is not just runners or walkers that can benefit from this type of technology. What about people pushing strollers, riding bikes or those that require ADA compliant routes?  Think of how amazing it would be for an individual in a wheel chair to go to San Francisco and be able to map an urban route to a location  by basing it not only on their average wheeling capability, but also by finding a route that meets the ADA grade compliance.

It seems like with all the technology floating out their for altitude evaluation, GIS, satellite mapping, accelerometers and GPS  in devices there has to be some way to combine all this technology to make this type of app or service a reality. The problem with a lot of the tools that do exist is that they are made for one specific use or for data mapping geeks and fail to offer a comprehensive feature set in an easy to use interface which would be key to making this app work for the average individual. I can geek out on some map data, but not everyone cares to do the same so the success depends on making it feel simple to the end user even if there is tremendous complexity behind the app.

Initially an app or service like this could start with urban cities that already have the majority of their data mapped, but could easily expand to more rural or rugged terrain with a user generated component for those who go off the beaten path and choose to record and share their routes, elevation gains and average speed over the route.

Obviously an app like this is pretty complex, would require a great deal of funding, perhaps government backing and a whole lot of time to create it but I think it could prove really useful to several audiences.

Posted in Big Data, Featured, Mind Body Soul, Mobile, Mobile Apps, Mobile Culture, Software Development, Web Apps | Tagged , , , | Comments closed

An Idea A Day: #1 Smart Hair Ties

Remember last week when I said I was going to pull the covers off my own creative doubt and share an idea a day, warts and all, for one whole week? When I set the start day for today, I didn’t realize how quickly it would creep up on me. But, I set a goal and made a promise to myself so here goes.

hairties

Smart Hair Ties

There has been a lot of companies dipping their toes into the water of wearable technology from the Nike Fuel Band, to Frog Design to adidas’s miCoach compatible sports bras.  Brands and companies are racing to put chips into shoes, sports bra’s and bracelets and to tie them up in a neat little app bow. That is all well and good but I, like most individuals, happen to be brand agnostic when it comes to my workout gear. I often mix adidas with Nike and top it off with a Lululemon jacket. I wear Saucony running shoes, not because they are pretty, but because they are the shoes that the Portland Running Co. said were best for my feet and my stride.  The best sports bras for me are not any special brand either, they are some cheap knockoff from Target, and they certainly don’t support a gadget or an app.

Sure brands would love to believe that individuals pick a technology and then loyally wear the associated brand head to toe, but it is just not realistic.  Look around at any gym and you will see exactly what I mean. In isolated cases you might see a girl or guy decked out as an exclusive brand ambassador, but it is rare. Women like choices, personal choices that make them feel comfortable, especially when they are working out. Tying an app or technology to an accessory to something as intimate as a bra, simply might not be the best long term solution for wearable technology for woman.

I have recently been using the Moves App and sang it’s praises initially because it didn’t require a second accessory tucked into my shoe or unmentionables to make it work. Or did it?  On the surface it seemed so convenient to not have to interact with an app and just have my phone snug in my back pocket simply tracking data as I walked around town. However, as soon as I took it to the gym, I realized it wouldn’t always track my strides so effortlessly when I had to set it on the edge of the treadmill because my yoga pants lacked a back pocket. Sure I could get an arm band to hold my phone, but I hate those things. No matter how tight I adjust them the sweat on my arm eventually makes them slide up and down while I run…and it defeated the purpose of not having another unobtrusive accessory. Just like that, the miracle technology I thought I had discovered evaporated for me because of the context I was in. Looking down at my Saucony’s I knew that Nike + and miCoach were both out too. That left one of the smart wrist band options for tracking my workout, but I am not a fan of wearing anything on my wrist when I workout either…back to square one.

I started thinking about other solutions for women. As I glanced around the room trying to identify a common denominator in clothing, I reached up to adjust my pony tail and there it was, the idea…Hair Ties. More that two thirds of the women in the gym that day had some form elastic band holding their hair back  to keep it from sticking to their sweaty face or the back of their neck. The remaining third either had hair too short to have a need or had an elastic band awaiting on their wrist for that moment when they needed to pull their hair back. It dawned on me that this common accessory is one of those less intimate accessories that women wear and the majority don’t care what brand of elastic hair tie it is. Most women with hair longer than shoulder length hair never leave home without one tucked in a purse, gym bag, on a wrist or in their hair. It is a functional accessory that is near forgotten the moment you put them into your hair. They ride along with you on your workout like a silent partner so why not put them to work during that ride?

If someone can figure out a way to make a chip small enough to be embedded into a wearable elastic hair tie that is able to track and transmit your movements to your mobile device it would be the ultimate unobtrusive wearable technology for women. It could even double as a bracelet or wristband for those women with short hair who don’t mind wearing a wristband to work out.  In an ideal world that hair band would be most helpful to an end user if it was cross compatible with multiple brand technologies. Imagine being able to choose which app you want your data to transmit to? This of course would require brands to fully open up the API’s to their technology, which in the short term is unlikely given the tough competition between sportwear brands and their need to make a profit from their own accessories, but a girl can dream.

There are other obstacles with this idea not limited to the cost per hair tie. Hair ties today are cheap and I know I tend to lose at least one or more a week often due to my dog eating them, so the technology would have to be pretty inexpensive to manufacture and or replace..you know minor details. The point is there has to be other ways, short of implanting chips in our bodies, to wear our technology without it infringing on our needs to be an individual and express fashion, even if it is workout fashion, in our own way.

I would pay big money for a Smart Hair Tie. I hope it gets made.

Posted in Fashion, Mobile, Mobile Apps, Mobile Culture | Comments closed

Are We Selling Career Porn to Women?

ROSIETHERIVETER

Is Time’s recent Sheryl Sandberg cover selling career porn to women?

I have always had a lot of respect for Sheryl Sandberg, not just because we share a name and she actually spells it right, but because of what she represents to me as a women in the tech industry. To me her trajectory to the top of one of the world’s tech giants represents a key step to change perception of women in the work force to strong, powerful leaders who can make great decisions and lead technical teams and companies to success.

This afternoon I read an article by Penelope Trunk, an ex-tech exec herself who was questioning the message of Sheryl’s new book Lean In. Penelope raised concerns about the price women have to pay to play at Sheryl’s level and the sacrifices to their children and families and whether or not it is irresponsible or even realistic to be telling young girls and women that they can achieve Sheryl’s success.

As a mother in the tech industry my first reaction was to relate to Penelope’s points. I ran a development team and three SasS products with a 1 year old baby and my second child growing fast in my belly.  To say it wasn’t exhausting would be a lie. To say I wasn’t jealous of the men I worked with who had stay-at-home wives, didn’t have to drop off and pick up a child before and after work  and could go to networking  events or happy hours with nary a concern, would also be a lie. To say I was on the top of my game during that time would just be plain silly. I began to doubt that I could have it all so much that it became true…painfully true.

It was the doubt in myself that found a way to creep into my mind somewhere between the countless sleepless nights and the constant swishes of a breast pump that ultimately led me to take an extended maternity leave. Just like that I handed the career I had fought hard to build over a five year period and the keys to my office overlooking Mt. Hood to a person we had just hired to three months earlier.  I just didn’t believe I could handle two children and run a core practice of a business responsibly. I also thought it was what good mothers were supposed to do, they take care of their babies at home, right?  I mean why did I have kids only to pay someone else to spend time with them?

It was less than three months later that I began to regret my decision, that I felt something missing in me and that once again I began to doubt my own judgement. Why had I had been so quick to dismiss my own strength and resilience? Why couldn’t I have done both? This time the doubt crept in between more sleepless nights, a near-miss dance with death through infant meningitis and again that damn swishing of the breast pump.

Don’t get me wrong,  I am forever grateful that I was able to stay home for that year and a half with my babies. The memories of that time will not soon be replaced by any amount of happy hours or networking, but what I learned in that time, is that innovation and socialization are a part of me and core that I  need to learn and do with technology, they are what drive me and what make me sane and ultimately make me a better more balanced mother.

I, unlike some amazing women I know, was not cut out to be at home all day with my babies. By 10 am we would have already gone to a park, done 50 puzzels, 20 art projects, read 10 books and I was already out of ideas to keep them happy for the rest of the day. Between morning and afternoon naps and the Portland rain trapping me inside, I felt completely overwhelmed and isolated. By the time my husband came home I was so frazzled and tired and sad that I wanted to cry.  I am not a crier. This frazzling was unlike any work-related stress I had ever felt. Work stress challenges me and drives me to find solutions. This stress made me want to retreat.  Never did I feel so inadequate in a role. I was mis-cast as a stay-at-home mom and because of that I began to think I was mis-cast as a mother altogether.

Of course this wasn’t true, I was a good mom, but it took me another 15 months to realize that being a stay-at-home mom or a working mom does not define you as a good mother. For me going back to work was the best thing I have ever done for my kids. Having work in my life is the balance that allows me to cherish all the crazy moments with my boys and makes it so that I don’t feel frazzled when I am with them and instead feel the joy and appreciation I am supposed to feel.

The point in this article about sacrifice and never seeing your kids raises real issues for women at the top. In no world would I want to be that someone who only see my kids on weekends like Jacqueline Reses who Penelope also mentions in her article, but I do know that I can stand to miss my kids and they me here and there for business trips or conferences without them thinking I don’t love them. The bottom line is each women’s recipe for work family balance is their own, and finding the intersection of what makes you happy is yours to decide. You may not always agree with women like Sheryl, Jacqueline Reses and Marissa Meyer but they are at least trying to make a difference by setting an example of women in the work force, not just standing on the sidelines yelling “It is not fair.”

Despite Sheryl’s setup and sacrifices not being for all women, I believe women in powerful positions in the tech industry today serve an important role of which the impact won’t likely see for another 15 to 20 years.  This is not a short game. Right now, Sheryl Sandberg is the minority in tech industry but she will be a key player in tech history.  She is one of many women that have begun the sea change to shift the perception of women in business sectors normally dominated by men.  Sheryl will no doubt influence young girls into seeking technical degrees and roles at companies they may not have otherwise shot for. So what if it is unrealistic right now for them to be her tomorrow? The more girls that flood the industry the better chance there is  to one day have true gender balance in the industry.  In twenty years we could be looking back on her rise to the top as one of key factors that shifted norms about women in the technology field and the sacrifices and choices for women may not have to be so great anymore.

Sheryl is not only changing the way women and girls perceive their career choices, but she is also influencing a generation of young men who will grow up seeing a women in a top office at a company. She will hopefully instill in them that smart women at the top should be a norm in business and this will hopefully lead to a greater respect between genders as they grow into the workforce. This respect between the genders themselves, could prove to be the most powerful way to get companies to finally “Lean In” as well.   So go ahead and keep selling us that career porn Sheryl, I am buying it and women that understand the long game hopefully will be too.

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