My Two Dads

Reminiscent of the late 1980’s U.S. sitcom, I have been blessed with “My Two Dads”.  My relationships with each are as different as they are.  For the many reasons that makes them each unique, I wholeheartedly love them both, and am thankful to have them in my life.

Many things that I love about my dad can be categorized by his zest for life.  He likes things bright, bold, and a little zany.  Here’s what I mean — his favorite color is orange, and I don’t mean some muted burnt sienna orange, or a light pastel orange, I’m talkin’ neon, calling your attention, bright orange!  He drives what we call “The Blue Bomb” — it is one of the easiest cars to find in the parking lot and one of the easiest to follow on the freeway — it truly striking in its hue.  From all the places my dad visits — near or far, there are two items he must have to commemorate his travels — a shot glass, and a bumper sticker.  He loves all foods spicy, flavorful, and always followed by chocolate.

A graphic word cloud created by "Wordle" using  dad-related words
A graphic word cloud created by “Wordle” using dad-related words

To make my dad’s Father’s Day card I employed the use of Wordle, one of my favorite free Internet tools for creating graphic word clouds.  I basically did a free word association with all things “dad” – and for those words that I wanted to appear larger, I repeated them.

The result was a word cloud graphically represented in my choice of colors, font, layout preferences, etc.  I printed the image on dark green card stock, punched out several squares and then used a glue stick to arrange them over a textured wheat-colored card stock.  I punched out two gift tags, stamped “No. 1 Dad” and attached the tags with an orange eyelet, and stuck them on with a double-sided 3D foam adhesive.  Inside I used an Autumn Leaves “You are Amazing” stamp.  The result – a masculine and personalized card acknowledging the truly amazing dad that I have.

Number One Dad Father's Day card

Handmade Father's Day Card using Wordle

When I think of my Papi, I think of his love and fascination with all things scientific, historical, and indigenous.  As he is himself a mix of French and Incan, the interest in native people from his native Perú (and all over the world) totally makes sense.  The Nazca Lines have always intrigued him — how did they get there?  what do they represent?  what can we learn from them?  — all curious questions.  In addition to his insatiable appetite for knowledge and learning, my Papi also likes to stay below the radar.  This can be chalked up to humility, or simply attributed to his desire for a simple contented life.  When I hear my Papi’s voice in my head, his rant and rave will forever be “hay que preservar el castellano” — he never referred to us speaking Spanish, it was always “el castellano”, which can be literally translated to Castilian (but refers to Spanish) — but this has always been his way to remind us that we didn’t merely speak Spanish, but “castellano” — big difference!

In honor of Papi, I chose a bright pattern, highlighting geometric lines often associated with Native cultures, made sure to choose stamps bearing good news in “castellano”, and kept is simple and below the radar with a small, but honest, “Happy Father’s Day” message.

Handmade Father's Day card for my Papi

Papi's Father's Day card

To both of my dads, I love you, I am grateful for you, and wish you a Happy Father’s Day.

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Look Ma, I’m cable-free!

I have to confess — when the conditions are right (i.e. gloomy weather, slow day, some additional time on my hands, etc.) I enjoy a good movie in the middle of the day.  Whether it’s watching Barbra Streisand drive Yves Montand crazy in On a Clear Day You Can See Forever or take a trip to Hertfordshire to witness the blossoming relationship between Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice, it can be comforting to have some additional voices, characters, and an engaging story added to my day.  Today was one of those days.

Most recently in the land of homemade cards I have been playing with dimensions, using cut shapes, and adding fasteners.  As I was working on some cards for upcoming events (will post pics and more details later) I pulled out my hubby’s laptop to stream a classic from Netflix.  Midway through watching Audrey Hepburn and Peter O’Toole figure out How to Steal a Million the mail came, and along with it a new cool tool.  My husband recently saw an email from Netflix, informing him that a new option is being delivered, allowing viewers to take advantage of “Watch Instantly” streaming options via the Nintendo Wii platform.  He liked the idea and signed us up.  So today in the mail, a special disc (looks no different than your typical CD, DVD, or Wii game disc) arrives, that upon being loaded into the Wii console and then activated, allows us to stream our viewing choice — no cables.  Being the curious, ever-experimenting, always learning individual that I am, I decided to watch the second half of my movie via the Wii.  What a treat!

Set up was incredibly easy.  Just load the disc (seriously more complicated to figure out which mode my TV has to be in to access the Wii), follow the instructions to activate the disc via the laptop, and then browse through viewing options.  Netflix has set up a very Wii-like menu interface, that allowed me to use the controls on the Wii remote to navigate through genres, titles, queued listings, and descriptions to make my choice.  Since How to Steal a Million was already in my queue it was easy to find.  So, while Hepburn and O’Toole talked about precious art and forgeries in the background, I happily made some art of my own.  The viewing quality was great, the convenience well-appreciated, and I was able to pause from across the room using the Wii remote.  Thanks Netflix and Wii.  And thank you, to my husband for signing us up.

Not Just For Directions

For nearly four weeks now I’ve not only been stretching my legs through my neighborhood streets, but also Googling my way through various twists and turns trying to find the best routes.  The best route can include anything from pretty houses to downward slopes to pedestrian-

friendly sidewalks.  With the aid of Google Maps I was charting my path and mapping out my distances.  The “map-by-walking” feature was nice to give me an estimated time, however, the one drawback was the fact that my feet did not always take the same path as the wheels on the cars around me.  Minor, and totally livable, but a drawback when every step, every minute, and every tenth of a mile count.  I don’t know how I found it, but the other day when searching for local 5K and the like in my area, I came across the Gmaps Pedometer.  This is a cool tool.

Here's what the Gmaps Pedometer interface looks like

Using the Gmaps Pedometer one can map out a running/walking or cycling route, can follow paved streets, or add in those cuts through the park, measure distance, measure calories burned, and for those with the inclination — even measure via the metric system. You can even view an analysis of the elevation, but truthfully, when I clicked that option the results meant very little to me, other than viewing a small graph with hills and valleys.

Here’s a quick run-down of how it works.  It is pretty intuitive, free, and even produces a URL for saved routes that one can bookmark or save to favorites for future reference.  NOTE: I accessed this tool using Firefox on my Mac; it might vary slightly across other browsers, and even possibly, other platforms.  When you first visit http://www.gmap-pedometer.com/ you’ll likely see a screen with the main interface (pictured here), and a map with a box for entering your starting point.

The Gmaps Pedometer map

If starting your route from home, you can just enter the address and click go.  There is the additional option of customizing the zoom level before clicking “go”, or just enter go and adjust the zoom on the map itself.  When you’re ready to start adding points to route, click the “start recording” button.  You can now either enter addresses, or use the cursor to drag the map to your desired direction, then double click to enter a new point on the map.  As you continue adding points, you’ll see the distance begin to add up.  By default, the pedometer will be set to automatically draw the route for runners or cyclists, but if you like to take those non-wheel-friendly cuts in the path, you can switch to the “manually” (straight lines) option, make that cut through the park, and then go back to automatically — finally a way to go off the beaten path.  If needed, you can “undo the last point” or even “clear all points and start over”.  If you choose to do so, you can even enter your weight and receive a “calories burned” number.  When finished, you can click “save” and the program will produce a URL for you, that you can use to “save to favorites” or “bookmark”, you can print, and for those who need it, there is also an option to export to GPX.  Like I said, very cool.

Here's what my route most likely looked like in college...

In addition to creating a really nifty tool, the good folks at Google, have also been kind enough to put together some basic usage directions.  Of course, I saw these after playing with it and finding my way around, but like I said, it’s quite intuitive.

For those of you interested in a review of the Gmaps Pedometer alongside some other route-mapping tools, check out this article from Anick Jesdanun in The Berkshire Eagle.

Happy mapping!

Innovate. Create. Collaborate.

I am convinced that as challenging as these economic times are, the rewards for striving to be good stewards of our resources and creatively working to do more with less are many.  During a family visit weekend in college I remember my mother commenting on the resourcefulness that my fellow hallmates demonstrated in decorating and personalizing our dorms on the budgets of poor college students.  She said something to the effect of, “Creativity is the mother of resourcefulness” — or something like that.

As individuals find themselves laid off, higher education institutions find their funding and endowments shrinking, and departmental budgets are cut we all have to find ways to stretch our resources to accomplish our goals.  I have listened to feature after feature, comparing the current economic crunch to that of the depression — although all conditions are not the same, the factors that motivate folks and families across the nation to be creative with what they have are.  In conversations with friends, also feeling the shortages in their checking and savings accounts, we muse on the fact that — yes, times are tough, however, we are also thankful for the ways in which we find ourselves truly blessed, and in the challenges we face to do more with less.  For those willing to see the glass  half full, and willing to step up to the challenge before us — this time can be seen as a modern day Renaissance.

As we are examining our budgets, both personal and organizational, we have the opportunity to cut away with the unnecessary, reexamine our priorities, and discover those elements that are most valuable and essential.  Unfortunately, in many cases, this has also meant the loss of dearly beloved programs, the doing without cherished luxuries, and even unbid farewells to highly regarded individuals.  I have spoken with so many, who in finding traditional avenues closed off, have pursued interests or loves that they never dared explore previously.  In a sense the restrictions of tighter financial circumstances have brought about a new kind of forced freedom.  Rather than have ideas or ventures turned down or ventures, people have remarkably found other alternatives to nourish new ideas, new businesses, and new innovations.  One such example comes from a unique and very strategic partnership between Emory University and Georgia Institute of Technology.

Emory University has a bike-sharing program that allows students and staff to rent bikes from designated areas on campus, use them as they need, and then return them to any designated bike-holding area elsewhere on campus.  To enhance the convenience and usability, the folks at Emory were looking into ways to move away from the manual bike checkout system.  Unfortunately, such options were too exorbitant for current budgets, however, skilled and capable engineering students in need of practical application opportunities were readily available at the nearby Georgia Institute of Technology.  Thus began a wonderful partnership.  The Georgia Institute of Technology students developed a system in which individuals could send a text message to unlock the bike, use it, then upon returning it, send another text to lock it.  Ingenious.  Check out this article from The Chronicle of Higher Ed Wired Campus for more details.

In these challenging times, may we all follow from the example of these two institutions, and in our personal lives and journeys find ways to innovatively use our creative resources to further stretch our financial resources.