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.

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Lessons from the Pavement, Part II: What a Tangled Web We Weave

I have never claimed to be Ginger Rogers, my mother did not give me the middle name “Grace”, and it is not uncommon for me to stub my toes on the corners of the bed or the sofa.  HOWEVER, I do have the coordination skills necessary to ride a bike, walk and chew gum at the same time, AND jog.  Yet on my walk and jog days of my 8-week plan, I find that that the iPod headphone wires take on a life of their own and either threaten to ensnare my arm, unplug from the Nano and run away, or choke me — the nerve!

I don’t go to the gym a lot, but I know I see lots of mp3 listening gadgets and lots of headphone cords.  I got to wondering – how do people do it?  How do they jog, lift weights, or do the ellipticals without those silly cords getting in the way?  I know I’m not the most graceful, but like I said, I’m not wholly without coordination either.

I tried shifting my headphones to come around from the back, tried wrapping the cords a little bit, tried giving myself more slack — nothing was working.  I started thinking about wireless headphones (don’t even know if they exist, but imagine they must), but really didn’t want to go down that road — “there HAS to be a fix”!

Perhaps this is the image I saw and just imagined how the cords run -- as I look now it seems as though cords run behind her back, but who knows -- I was inspired! -iSkin Duoband

Honestly can’t remember what I was looking at or where I saw it — magazine article, something online, a scene somewhere — but I came across an image of a woman in her sporty clothes, with her mp3 player on her arm (much like mine with my iSkin duoband), and her headphone cords tucked into her shirt sleeve!  So, I tried it.  Today, I did everything as normal, but with one change; I plugged in my Nano, fed the cords up through my arm sleeve, brought the earpieces out through the neck hole, and tucked most of the cord back into my shirt.  The solution isn’t perfect — at times when I turn my head or run, I still feel a little tug, but nothing like before — there is definitely a lot more freedom in running, and I feel like some semblance of grace and dignity has been restored.

To all the experienced fast-moving athletes out there — if you have other ideas or suggestions, please share them!  To fellow novice sportspersons out there, if your cords are giving you trouble, show them who’s boss, and try this out — let me know how it works for you.

Slip me some Skin!

My car bumper is naked, my laptop is sans stickers, the only décor on my iPod Nano is a removable silicone cover, and my cell phone has only the case with which it came — I am not, however, a Plain Jane.

I love color, swirls, paisley, flowery vines, and intricately detailed designs — just not anything in permanent form.  This is probably why I will never get a tattoo.  Not only am I not crazy about the whole ink and needle thing in my skin, but more than that, to have to choose a design that will forever be on my body (not to mention that with Father Time and Mother Nature at work that design is sure to stretch it out from its original form) is too much pressure – my design/style tastes are way too fluid!  All this being said, when I have the opportunity to temporarily (i.e. can undo, revert, replace, substitute, change) dress things up — I’m all for it.

So when I saw the words “Choose Your Persona” after my latest Firefox browser update, I was intrigued.  I clicked the link to the Persona Gallery and was treated to more than 30,000 custom-made themes to dress up my browser’s main window.  Anything from flowery vines to Animé to Disney/Pixar to sports stars to nature to the latest movie themes.  It is easy to preview most personas just by hovering over for a moment, and allowing the settings to update and temporarily display in your browser window.  I spent a good 5-10 minutes looking for one that jumped out at me aesthetically, and also provided the functionality of legible tabs (I’m not too keen on the shadow-blocked fonts), and eye-soothing color schemes.  For now I have chosen “Glitter 1”, designed by Guilherme Takahashi.  [For the Mac users out there, once you have installed a persona or theme you can easily find its name, designer, and even uninstall it by going to your Firefox preferences, choosing the “General” tab, clicking “Manage Add-Ons” and selecting “Themes”.]

Although the silicone cover on my Nano can be removed, said silicone cover is adorned with a flowery vine and butterfly, and though my laptop is sans stickers, it has a lovely removable green acrylic case, AND while my browser incredibly functional, it now has a sassy, decorative, and glittery skin!

I’m a NOOB!

Another blessing of unemployment: before the holiday season was in full swing I was able to spend days on end hanging out and crafting with one of my cousins – the very talented, creative, Graphic Designing, videogame-conquering Jackie.  Not only did I get to learn about her passions for NASA, Art, cool fonts, The Muse, Paramore, reptiles, and all things Japanese — I also got to add a few new words to my vocabulary — one of them is “noob”.

As I understand it, “noob” refers to those who are new to the videogaming world (read “newbie), or who have yet to prove their gaming prowess.  As might be indicative by my posting dates, I am new to this whole blogging thing, and new to WordPress.  I have looked to the “Moxie girls” and their “IT Girl’s Guide to Blogging” (see the full title under “What She’s Reading”) for some guidance, as well as following Columbus’ method of getting lost in discovery.  By clicking this link and that, seeing what happens, restoring, updating, etc. I am setting up my binary home – bit by bit.  And it has been fun!  Admittedly, I do get impatient at times – the temptation to search for the technology that will allow me to download all the blogging knowledge I need into my brain Matrix-style is quite strong, however, I hold back and try to put my time to better use — like researching other blogs, looking through WordPress tutorials, Googling like mad, and continuing to explore.  I am confident that I will continue to enjoy the journey – and for now I am still tickled pink — truly, I am — at the sight of my site — each time I login and see my space, I feel “Zenfully” at home.

So until I find the answers I want/need – I will continue walking through each day, spontaneously composing blogs in my mind and rattling some of the following questions in my brain: how do I set up an RSS subscription link on my blog?  how can I make that widget in my footer stretch out?  what if I want my photo gallery to contain only a few select pics from the post?  how can I customize each page and change the widgets to match the content?  how can I code more flexibility into my pages for photos?  how can I change my “what she’s reading” links to images with links?  how can I link or tag one post to a previously related post?  how can I get Google or Yahoo to find my blog?  how can I add a photo gallery that will scroll select images as a widget?  how can I create a personalized Amazon page with favorite books to link to from within the blog?  what if I want to change the font color of my “unemployed. full of hope. doing what she loves.”?  how can I add one of those cute encircled WordPress W’s as a widget in my footer?  how can I upload the posts in my brain to my blog?

So many questions, so many questions.  Undoubtedly, I’m a WordPress, blogging NOOB!