Take a Break to Open and Relax the Mind

September 28, 2006

How often do we all get so focused on daily work and achieving endless tasks in the 24 x7 information age that we fail to see and/or experience the “little” things in life that uplift our spirits and connect us to one another?   Unfortunately (if you are reading this blog) you can definitely identify with this question as you are probably multi-tasking in between doing other things. 

Today when reading the Presentation Zen blog, I was pleasantly surprised and uploifted by the entry: “Life as art practice (A glimpse of urban life in Kyoto)”.  The author references a friend and Kyoto-based Swiss designer and artist Markuz Saito who is implementing a project “based on the idea of slowing down, taking time, and being in the moment”. 

Markuz’s seven “meaningful encounters and fresh discoveries” were simple yet profound and definitely inspired me to daydream for a few minutes before I launched into my work day. 

Take a break to read this blog and to look at the links.  We all need regular sanity breaks to replenish our energy and to stir our creative juices!


Learning Conference and Blended Learning: Recommendation

September 27, 2006

Elliot Masie, founder of the Masie Center is a renowned guru and thought leader in the world of learning.  I have been reading his weekly Trends ezine for years and have also attended a number of international conferences he has held in Florida.

In early November, I will participate in Masie’s Learning 2006 Conference and will subsequently write a number of blogs about my experiences.

The conference promises to be a very rewarding and enriching blended learning experience.  This year’s theme is:  Learning in a Flatter World – Faster, Flexible, Global, Informal, Compliance, Impact

If you have not heard about Elliot Masie or have not attended one of his conferences, I recommend you take a look at the conference site.

More Learning about China: IPv6 for the 2008 Olympics

September 26, 2006

Yesterday on CIO Magazine I read an article titled: China Builds a Better Internet which focuses on background issues and concerns as China’s Next Generation Internet (CGNI) project works to showcase a faster, more secure and more mobile internet at the 2008 Summer Olympics.  Read the full article here.  According to the article, the current internet standard is Internet Protocol network layer protocol version 4 (IPv4) “doesn’t have enough unique addresses for every would-be user in the world to connect tot the internet.”  On the other hand, IPv6 solves this problem. 

Initially I got the impression from the article that CGNI invented IPv6 (although the article did not specifically state this).  In order to satisfy my curiosity and to clarify any misunderstandings on my behalf, I researched  IPV6 on various sites including Wikipedia and Computer Weekly magazine in the UK.   I learned that IPv6 was invented at Xerox PARC in the USA and adopted by the Internet Engineering Task Force (which develops and promotes internet standards) in 1994. Some US Government agencies, including the Department of Defense, have set a deadline of 2008 for moving to IPv6 while China, Japan and Korea are all committed to it.   

IPv6 will reduce the cost of internet-enabling a vast number if internet devices.  So why then are many countries not jumping on the bandwagon to showcase IPv6?  Apparently the bottom line is that IPv6 will reduce the incremental revenue yield per customer and this will translates into smaller profits for internet providers.  What a dichotomy!  Let’s hope that China’s showcasing of IPV6 at the 2008 Olymoics will create such a groundswell of world-wide opinion that internet providers around the world will be “forced” to implement IPv6 networks that will definitely make applications such as virtual private networks, voice over IP, and peer-to-peer networking more powerful and manageable for consumers (the ones paying the bills!).

Learning at National Geographic: Multi-media Experience

September 20, 2006

The October 2006 issue of National Geographic magazine highlights National parks around the world and examines the stresses these environments are experiencing from human intervention and the passages of time. 

Visit the interactive edition web site to not only be enlightened by the stories and the fabulous photography but also to experience live footage from WildCam: Africa and Kakadu Cam (Australia).  This is really cool and adds a unique dimension to the learning experience with visual and aural stimuli! 

Visual Literacy: Learning Through Comics

September 19, 2006

I have recently started to read the Presentation Zen blog written by Garr Reynolds.  The post on September 13 was titled: Learning from the art of comics. 

Even before reading any of the text I thought: What can a simplistic comic book teach anyone about design and content of presentations (aka PowerPoint presentations)?  This showed my bias towards the value of comics but the truth of the matter is actually 180 degrees in the opposite direction. 

In conjunction with the 10/20/30 rule of PowerPoint from Guy Kawasaki’s blog, this article is definitely an eye opener and will challenge any preconceived notions you may have had about learning anything of value from comics. 

Reynolds references the book written by Scott McCloud titled: Understanding Comics: The invisible Art which is reviewed on amazon.com.  Reynolds states: “Believe it or not, many of the principles and ideas discussed in this wonderful and highly visual book parallel the art of presentation. Now, comics are not the same as a presentation enhanced by slideware, but if you read McCloud’s book with an eye toward presentations or any other form of storytelling and graphic design, you will find many fundamental concepts and techniques that will surely help you think differently about the power of visual communication and the art of combining words and images. This book is not just for fans of comics — not by a long shot.” 

It’s always refreshing and invigorating to learn something of value from what could initially be considered a highly unlikely source.  The humble comic has been redeemed! 

Visit Scott McCloud’s web site here and read more about Scott on Wikipedia.

Atmospheric Learning: Commercial Spaceports

September 13, 2006

The September 18, 2006 edition of Newsweek magazine has a short article titled: “The New Space Race”. Read it online here.

The article explores the burgeoning industry of spaceports around the world dedicated to commercial space travel for tourists who have beaucoup bucks to spend. Both Richard Branson of Virgin fame and Microsoft’s Paul Allen are partnering with governments and other investors to build these facilities.

One can only imagine the potential learning opportunities that will evolve as the price of as rocket-bound tourism comes within the reach of non-millionaire citizens. Sub-space flight has become so routine that we forget the early learning thrills that travelers experienced when the commercial flight industry made domestic and international air travel possible (and affordable).

Rocket fever is definitely expanding as many adventurous souls yearn to break the pull of gravity in order to view our earth-bound home from a different perspective (and perhaps learning more about ourselves and the fragility of our planet).

Identity Theft Learning: Vishing

September 11, 2006

Late last week I was introduced to a new term in relation to identity theft: vishing.  Wikipedia defines vishing as: the practice of leveraging Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology to trick private personal and financial information from the public for the purpose of financial reward. The term is a combination of “voice” and phishing.” 

Recently USA Today and Internet News both wrote informative articles about vishing.  How many more identity theft scams with we be subjected to?  Why is it that the bad guys always seem to be one step ahead of the public in their learning about ways to cause havoc and ruin people’s lives? 

The more you can learn about both phishing and vishing, the more you will be aware of ways to protect yourself for online commerce and communications.  Once again, the old adage “buyer beware” takes on new meaning and significance as we become more connected in the Participation Age.

Tethered to Technology: Help or Hindrance?

September 7, 2006

I subscribe to numerous online magazines, many of which I only occasionally skim.  As I work in the high-technology field, I occasionally review the CIO ezine.  One article, titled: “Flag Your Waiter Wirelessly” on innovative uses for wireless technology caught my eye today. 

The Fatz Café restaurant chain based in South Carolina: “is deploying wireless technology to let patrons electronically communicate with their servers.”  The bottom line from a managerial perspective is that the technology benefits both patrons and restaurant staff so that workflow is optimized.  Patrons are squarely placed in the driving seat and apparently the servers have accepting the equipments as it has help them quickly recall the patrons and the time each order was placed. 

This looks like and easy win-win situation.  However, another way this view this situation may be yet another corporate initiative to squeeze every possible moment out of an employee’s work time in order to fast-track service and increase throughput, thereby maximizing profits.  I do not have anything against companies that provide outstanding customer service and optimize their bottom lines.  However, I do become somewhat skeptical when humans become further tethered to every piece of wireless or mobile technology that is available, ostensibly to make life easier, more enriching, and to enhance connectivity.  

I can definitely see potential abuses where patrons who are used to the fast food mentality of “you will have your meal in 10 minutes or its free” may bug the heck out of their server and create more pressure on restaurant staff.  In my opinion, eating in a restaurant is supposed to be an enjoyable and relaxing event.  Hopefully sanity will prevail and technology will remain the enabler and will not become the focus of our dining experiences.

Pre- and Post-Experience (Post-Service) Interaction: Learning from online reviews

September 6, 2006

Today Guy’ Kawasaki’s blog reported on an article written by Ilana DeBare of the the San Francisco Chronicle titled: “Amateur reviews changing approach of small businesses.” 

Guy highlights the fact that anyone can be a critic online and he references a number of sites where people can rate businesses.  Once again, the power of the internet in the Participation Age is being leveraged in ways that are only limited by our imagination. 

The article itself is well worth the read.  However, I wish to extend the discussion by reflecting on how this online participation can be applied to the broader area of learning. 

I extensively use sites such as Expedia.com to read reviews on hotels before I book a trip.  The individual entries from travelers and the overall reviewer rating is far more important to me that the star rating (read price) provided by the hotel.  In this situation my pre-travel learning has been worth the effort as I have always been pleased with the hotels I chose.  To date I have not completed my post-travel learning by actually writing and submitting a review on the hotels.  Thank goodness other travelers have taken the time to record their views and recommendations. 

Online reviews are extensively used for restaurants, hairdressers, and a wide range of consumer products.  However, I wonder if this trend will continue to gain momentum into other service areas such as buying cars, taking online courses, etc.  Pre- and post-experience (or post-service) interactions will continue to enrich our lives, providing we take the time to participate.

Afghanistan: Learning by repetition gone haywire

September 5, 2006

Today the new Your Times published an interesting article titled: “An Afghan Symbol for Change, the Failure”, written by David Rohde.

Richard A. Boucher, the assistant secretary of state for South Asia is referenced as stating: “Despite an active insurgency, 1.6 million Afghan girls are attending school, 730 miles of roads and 1,000 schools, clinics and government buildings have been reconstructed, and the country has its first democratically elected president and Parliament.”

On the other hand, United Nations officials said Saturday: “Led by a 160 percent increase in Helmand’s opium crop this year, Afghanistan’s overall production grew by 50 percent to a record 6,100 metric tons,. Afghanistan now produces 92 percent of the world’s supply of opium poppy, the basis for heroin.”

These two viewpoints once again raise the question whether repeating the lessons of the past has actually benefited or hindered the Afghan people. And so the story continues but have we as a broader global society learned anything that can prevent wars and the predictable side effects?