Balance, Design, Technology
February 11, 2011
Where we’ve been this week…
1. Eye Magazine’s blog for its graphics – but then you’d hope a blog devoted to graphic design would look good – and also for their recent interview with our favorite numbers guru Nicholas Felton.
2. Artist Mark Giglio’s blog where he covers everything from a visit to an architect’s house in Hawaii to his design for a cool paper cube calendar that you download for free.
3. The Noun Project for its wonderful idea of forming the largest collection of symbols to create a universal language and Kickstarter for making it happen.
4. The Content Farm for its hilarious take on how-to posts. With AOL buying Huffington Post and Demand Media going public last week there’s a lot in the news about web content. This tumblr blog injects a bit of humour into the story.
5. Chez Larsson for the cool home office.
6. There Is A Lot To Say, Of This We Are Sure for its unwieldy title and the post about music to work to.
7. Daily Drop Cap because this blogger, Jessica Hische, shares my love of fonts. I also admire the fact that she’s taken a simple idea – posting a drop cap every day – and then actually done it. And done it well.
8. Business Insider because, if like me, you are working from home on your own this smart and sometimes funny site makes you feel more connected to what’s going on in the world.
9. Petite Invention for its glimpse into what is possible in the world of product design. This is where freelance designer Mac Funamizu’s posts his dream products. He also designs really cool free desktop wallpaper (love the calendar design).
10. Obsessilicious for its gorgeous interiors. Check out the today’s Friday’s Feast.
February 10, 2011
John Kim, our Better World marketing manager (got to love that title!) sent me over this link today. It’s a piece on work habits by Mark McGuinness (via 99%). I’ve pulled a few points I thought might interest Lifework readers. For the whole piece click here.
1. Get an armchair for your office. Or have a breakout space or café close at hand, and give yourself permission to use it.
2. Pay attention to your energy levels throughout the day. When they start to dip, it’s time to take a break — or switch chairs. A change is as good as a rest, remember!
3. Notice how you feel after sitting in your armchair. If you feel bored or sluggish, you’re spending too much time there (more couch potato than armchair creative!). But if you feel fresh enthusiasm, it shows the armchair is doing a good job of recharging your creative batteries.
4. Switch tools. If you normally type on a laptop, get a pad and paper. If you normally use a pen and paper, use a different pen and paper! (I’m serious — your nervous system will register different associations with different tools. Try it.)
5. Ignore sludge. “Sludge” is the name Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson (creators of the Results Only Work Environment approach to corporate culture) give to the sarcastic comments co-workers make about behavior that doesn’t conform to their idea of productivity. E.g. “I wish I had time to loaf around in the middle of the day.”
6. Look back on your week on Friday afternoon. Where did your best ideas come from? Where did you do your most productive thinking? Where did you add most value? (Just make sure you do this review from the comfort of your armchair!)
February 10, 2011
Since more and more devices are wireless these days, it’s advisable to plan for the best wi-fi network as possible (or try to beef up the one you already have). We rely on a great wi-fi network at home, where the only cable snaking its way out of our iMac is the power one. That’s it, the less cords and cables, the better! In order to take advantage of this great technology, try any of these steps to make, a great experience, a better one.
1. Choose the fastest wireless standard
If you plan to do a lot of online video gaming or stream huge video files, try to invest in the latest WiFi standard as 802.11n. Pick all the components of the network to be compatible “n”. Not only your network will be more reliable but will also be faster. Also, make sure you are on the 5GHz channel to avoid further interference.
2. Pick the right antenna
Make sure the antenna router and WAP are designed to direct signals inward toward the rooms of your house and they are not aiming to the outside or backyard.
3. Single and strong is better than two
Installing more than one wireless access point (WAP) can do more harm than good, since you can have channels overlapping each other, creating roaming issues and other problems, like interference, for example. That will end on slower connection rates; and that’s what you don’t want.
If you can’t afford to move to the newest, fastest standard (802.11n), try to keep all the elements of your network (router, computers, game consoles, media streaming boxes) under the same one. They will work better. Choose from 802.11b, 802.11g or if you can, 802.11n.
5. Stay away from the basement
We know that basements are the best place to hide all that junk that we don’t want to deal with; but in WiFi world, The attic is the king: fewer obstructions, AC ducts or heavy plumbing and not that many concrete structures. All the signal is free to flow down to where you actually need it.
By Joel Pirela
This story appears in partnership with Unplggd, a site for people who embrace technology and design in their home.
February 10, 2011
For Jillian Armenante and Alice Dodd their 1923 Mediterranean home in Hollywood is a perfect place for their full lives. Armenante, easily recognized for her role as Donna Kozlowski on Judging Amy, and Dodd also co-produced, co-directed and co-wrote Laura Comstock’s Bag-Punching Dog which won the Theatre L.A. Ovation Award for “Best New Musical” and “Best Musical Production”. In this interview they share their home – a place where their creativity is focused by the nuances and particulars of the unique space and helps them to work collaboratively.
Back in 2000, almost by accident, we bought a 1923 Mediterranean in the middle of Hollywood. We happened by an open house, instantly fell in love with it and without ever looking at another house, offered to buy it. Maybe it was the grapefruit tree, or the easy walk to the Larchmont Farmers Market, or the legacy of the Hollywood sign looming in the distance-we just had to have it. We knew it would be the perfect place to start building a family. Well, almost perfect, after we made a few additions here and there. We now have two beautiful girls ages 2 and 6 to mess it all up.
We are both actors, but work as a team on our numerous writing projects. Being able to work out of one’s house is both a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing in that you can write or memorize dialogue for hours without ever having to find your pants. However, when one needs to concentrate with two kids running around, it can be a bit of a curse. It is difficult for us to think in clutter…chaos. Our home is decorated in 18th and 19th century furnishings and the juxtaposition of the inevitable brightly-colored plastic toys can be a bit maddening. We do our best work when we can find that one area of the house that has been untainted by the detritus of the kids’ day.
For instance, the only official “office” space is a small detached room in the corner of the backyard. We don’t want to say “converted garage” because, like a lot of structures behind Hollywood homes, the transition from garage to office was not a city-permitted venture. It’s where we house our library and is where we tend to do most of our research and organized thinking.
The antique partners desk enables us to face each other as we bounce ideas back and forth, the baby monitor hissing gently in the background. The oversized windows and a glass door allow us to see the backyard in it’s entirety, as the girls play on the swing, in the sandbox or up the apricot tree.
But the real heart of the house is the kitchen. As actors, we work together to memorize lines in preparation for an audition or a shoot. These rehearsals most often end up at the kitchen table in spare moments snatched from the day’s schedule. The deep red tones, Regency chairs, the giant rooster staring down at us are lit by the ever-present California sun. And at nightfall, the kitchen is where the post-dinner dance happens, usually to a Rosemary Clooney song or the likes, as the family, en masse, blows off a little steam. After the girls are asleep, the kitchen table is where the brainstorming begins. A legal pad… a bottle of wine… invariably leads to the evening’s furious scribble-fest.
To generate new material we often link up two keyboards and connect them to the television in the living room so both of us can have control over the same document. At night the uncluttered space, low light and more formal setting makes it a place free from the physical and psychological happenings of the day. It’s the room where we can light a fire, swirl a medium-bodied red and dig in.
When reading through and evaluating drafts, we often treat ourselves to an outdoor session: sitting on Adirondack chairs, we project the computer onto a ten-foot screen and sit under the stars ruminating our literary efforts. When school projects and various arts and crafts have consumed our surfaces, we resort to alternative venues: our bedroom window-seat, the front porch, or even the bathroom, with one of us in the tub as the other quizzes from the throne of the toilet seat.
This is how we imagine the first inhabitants of this house, the actors and actresses of the 1920’s, working on their lines. Houses are like handbags. We will always manage to fill the space we have to maximum capacity. If we only had more storage…
All photo: Gary Judson Smoot.
Balance, Products, Technology
February 9, 2011
Not only are Carrie Strine and Tim Lahan artists with amazing taste (see Carrie’s textile and photography work here, Tim’s Trademark™ studio here, and his comic blog here), but they’re also the creators of a new Playlist containing both a tune by The Tallest Man on Earth and a song called “The World’s Strongest Man.” Does it get much better than that?
What do you listen to while you work? C: I listen to Morning Edition every morning in the studio, because I find that music is too much for me in the morning. Once I’m rolling I usually listen to the KEXP’s John in the Morning because I have serious issues DJ-ing for myself. I’d much rather trust someone else who gets my music taste to take up that job, or it might take 30 minutes from my work fiddling around with iTunes. I hate to get distracted while I’m working. When Tim’s in the studio, DJ-ing is his full responsibility. It’s something I love about sharing our workspace, and I know he’ll put on something that really improves the mood.
T: When Carrie’s not around, I go into guilty-pleasure mode and play some really loud metal stuff or old punk tunes I used to listen to in high school.
How do you listen? C: I hate headphones, and that defeats the purpose of sharing our workspace. We just use the built-in speakers on our computers.
Do you have any favorite music websites/providers? C: I listen to KEXP with their online stream in the morning every day, but other than that iTunes. T: I just borrow music.
Does music influence your work? C: The most recent Sun Kil Moon album, “Admiral Fell Promises,” made an impression on me while working on my Half to Whole Quilt. Musicians like Mark Kozelek that are reinterpreting folk music in a modern way often align with my work. Tim is the biggest influence on my musical taste, and recommends most things I listen to. I’m lucky—I’m pretty sure he seeks out new music for me sometimes. T: I think a lot of what I listen to plays a part in the way I make things. Often just the energy or intensity of a song I might be listening to may push my work in a certain direction, or enable me to sit down and finish something I’ve been working on for a while but have put on the back burner. As far as where I find music, I scour a lot of blogs to check out new stuff, and if I’m not feeling what’s new, I just go back to listening to my old stuff like Thin Lizzy or New Order.
If your work was a song or a musician, what or who would it be? C: I think I’m a little more rough around the edges and quirky than Sun Kil Moon, so I’d like to think my work is a little more like Tallest Man on Earth. T: For me, it’s a hodge-podge of different stuff depending on what I’m making. Anything from Descendents to Marvin Gaye.
CARRIE & TIM’S PLAYLIST
Love Man, Otis Redding
Castles in the Snow, Twin Shadow
Third and Seneca, Sun Kil Moon
Thousand Ways, The Tallest Man on Earth
If You Think You’re Lonely Now, Bobby Womack
The World’s Strongest Man, Scott Walker
Fight or Fall, Thin Lizzy
This Must Be the Place, Talking Heads
Feel It All Around, Washed Out
You, Gold Panda
Images: Carrie Strine and Tim Lahan
February 8, 2011
Whatever your feelings on Rupert Murdoch, you have to admit he keeps his finger on the pulse. Last week, he released the first issue of The Daily, a subscription-based news magazine exclusive to tablets. Here’s why you should check it out…and also why it might be another not so ready “next great thing”.
The app purports to offer “over 100 pages of original content every single day of the year”, but its biggest selling point turns out to be its slick design. Most of the story navigation and gallery browsing is done with a horizontal flick of the finger. Overall there’s a good balance of bonuses like 360 degree panoramas, embedded news videos and exclusive interviews. Make no mistake, this is an entirely new way to present daily news, and in that it is very successful.
Some galleries and additional features are accessed by turning the iPad vertical — a nice way to add in extras without adding bulk. This is sometimes utilized to present a full-screen image, with the story as the vertical-accessible part; this design feature neatly establishes the daily as more “magazine” than “news”.
On the downside, the news that is being presented is sometimes lacking. Reviews on iTunes are fairly evenly divided between 1 and 5 stars, with reviewers lamenting the lack of substance of stories, citing gossip columns, articles with only a general sketch of world events and a lack of a technology section. There’s also no table of contents or indication, while reading, of what section you’re in; if you click away from something, you have to re-scroll through content to return to your place.
It’s also interesting to note that there are no outside links embedded within articles, and there’s often no way to share news content contained in the app. While on one hand it’s a good thing that The Daily isn’t just a direct copy of a print newspaper’s content, it’s also not yet trying to play nice with the way most people use and interact with the rest of the web.
Subscriptions are .99 cents for a week or $39.99 a year, and the first two weeks are free to test it out.
So is it worth it? The low cost for a single week’s worth of content and the ease of use makes this a very appealing app, and we recommend at least giving it a shot. If you’re looking for hard-hitting journalism or longreads on your tablet, you’re better off sticking with the Wall Street Journal or Financial Times apps.
There are still some kinks to be worked out behind the scenes regarding Apple’s policy toward newspaper subscriptions and taking a cut of app fees. But now that The Daily has demonstrated such a news distribution setup is not only possible (as long as you have $30 million) but desirable and appealing, it’s only natural that other news organizations will want to get a piece of the action.
By Laura E. Hall
This story appears in partnership with Unplggd, a site for people who embrace technology and design in their home.
February 8, 2011
Happy February! This is the month of love (thanks to Valentine’s Day)! Everywhere you’ll find hearts, cupids and other symbols of love. When I see hearts this time of year, I use them to remind me to take a deep breath and to feel my own heart. It is a sweet time – with reminders to feel love and gratitude everywhere.
And, although this is a month of love, there may still be times when disagreements pop with your partner. For Lifework readers think of those business relationships in your life. A boss. A co-worker.
You know those irksome topics in those relationships that just keep popping up over and over (and over) again? Those topics that you just can’t seem to resolve or see eye-to-eye on? These topics are like the moles in that Whack-a-Mole arcade game. You know that game where the moles keep popping up and no matter how hard you try – even if you think you’ve knocked ‘em down for good – they just pop right back up.
When tricky moles rear their head in your work life it can feel impossible to get rid of them. They may very well bring with them arguments and tension. There will always be things that you disagree with people on. The good news is that you can move from conflict to calm in those relationships by putting the 4 steps below to work.
4 Steps to Move from Conflict to Calm
Time Out: When that mole pops up instead of holding on tightly to your position and talking it to death, take some space to be silent and reflect. Take 30 minutes or even a day to not talk about the issue while getting clear on your perspective, as well as the other person’s.
Trust Yourself & Your Partner: Instead of assuming that one of you is wrong trust in the goodness each of you brings to the table. Try to see their point of view as just that – a point of view. Trust that each of you is wise in your own way and has a valid and important view to share.
Be Clear and Open: Create a space for the two of you to come back together (don’t forget to breathe). Share point of view clearly and openly. It is okay for you to both to have different points of view. Share your understanding of the other person’s position, too. Be open to change, compromise or even agreeing to disagree.
Design What’s Next Together: Literally say, “Now we must figure out how we are going to come together on this issue even though we disagree.” From there, talk about what each of you wants and what the common, middle ground would look like and feel like. Get creative here and find a solution that you both can live with, for now. Try it out and then redesign down the road if your first design didn’t work.
So rather than playing a game of “Whack-a-Mole” when the tough topics pop up, use these 4 steps to help you move from repeat conversations into a calm and collaborative space together.
February 7, 2011
Photographer Todd Selby‘s painterly eye, penchant for natural light and anti-styling approach to shooting people homes has given us some of the very best interior shoots of the last few years. Here are some of my favourite workspaces from his recent shoots.
Ben Ospital at home in San Francisco is co-owner of Modern Appeal Clothing.
At home with designers Kate and Andy Spade.
George Lois in his New York home.
Carpet designer Malene Barnett’s home in Brooklyn.
February 4, 2011
Make Noise Especially now, you need to make yourself heard. Hound editors, badger sources, broadcast your bright ideas and latest bylines to your networked minions. Gaze-averting humility is no longer an option.
Be Boring If you’re the most interesting one at the party, something’s definitely wrong. Strive instead to feel outclassed, outsmarted, depressingly dull. It means you’re in superlative company. Ask questions, take notes, skulk home with genius-grant-worthy story ideas.
Other People’s Money Pretend it doesn’t exist. Fixating on the fortunes of others — whether higher or lower — ultimately only has one effect: making you feel like a small-minded wretch. Writing what you love is a richer reward.
Write for the Apocalypse What if the ridiculous blog entry or Kardashian charticle you’re writing today ends up being the only surviving fragment of human culture? It could happen. Edit, sharpen, write like eternity depends on it.
Stay Calm In Thai culture, mai pen rai – “it’s nothing” — is more than an attitude. It’s a way of life. No worries, no dramas, let’s move on. No wonder the Thai economy is booming while the rest of the planet kvetches.
Form a Council Here’s an idea: Every other Monday evening, bring together the ten wisest people you know. Sit in a circle. Dim the lights. Pick a conversation prompt. Respect the person with the talking piece. Watch the transformation unfold. To learn more about the 30-year-old council movement, see www.ojaifoundation.org.
Shower Not only will you smell better than most freelancers, you’ll generate fresher ideas. The New York Times recently reported on the neurologic benefits of zoning out — like when you’re showering — for making the nonlinear connections essential for true creativity.
Spend to Earn I just returned from a month in Thailand. Now I have no choice. I have to write about the experience to pay for it. Make your Visa statement your writing coach.
Be Brief Some radical honesty: People care less than you think about your random musings on the college road trip you took to Florida. Take a hatchet to your draft before pressing send.
February 4, 2011
Where we’ve been this week…
1. Chairs and Buildings because you may have missed our interview with Annie Coggan, the author of this design blog, yesterday. Take a look. It’s well worth your time.
2. The Jealous Curator for its humor and dose of stunning visuals.
3. A Cup of Joe for writer Joanna Goddard’s coverage of fashion and design.
4. Rue magazine for its round up of inspiring work spaces.
5. Andrew Long for an intriguing view into the life of a professor at the University of Otago in the South Pacific.
6. The Off Switch for its tips on taming technology.
7. Desire to Inspire for the work they’ve done trawling through Flickr for cool work spaces. Thank you!
8. Emma’s Design Blog for Emma Fexeus’ excellent take on the beautiful city of Stockholm. Great interiors.
9. Etsy Stalkers for a hilarious, obsessive take on everyone’s favorite online design market from copy writer Julie Spano.
10. The Beholder for anyone looking for art to brighten up their home office.