Tag Archives | ideas

10 Fun Things to do During a Power Outage

Photo courtesy of D’Amico Rodrigo

Hopefully it’s not something you find yourself faced with very often, but when dealing with a power outage, brainstorming fun and interesting things to do is important if you want to come away from it with your sanity. If you happen to be without power right now and like many people, have never thought this through, you’re in luck, because I have just recently been in your shoes.

This week, Hurricane Sandy has caused power outages for thousands of households in between Jamaica and Eastern Canada. As she made her way toward my town, along with buying the appropriate survival supplies, I started compiling a mental list of activities that would keep us adequately entertained, should we find ourselves without electricity:

  • Make a tent world. All this requires is candles (or flashlights) and blankets. Especially when you have children, hours can be whiled away creating interesting “rooms” and telling stories inside your gigantic room-sized tent. For added fun, bring pillows, books, and snacks in with you!
  • Sleep. Taking advantage of the lack of power to catch up on your sleep may not sound like fun, exactly, but it sure feels good, and is good for you.
  • Tell stories. Make them up as you go, having each person in your family add to the story as you tell it outloud, or read a good book!
  • Have a pig out. Raid your freezer since everything in there will be the first to melt or go bad, and reach for the ice cream first. Make the most of it and have a “Make Your Own Sundae” party with your family and/or neighbors.
  • Draw or paint. Take advantage of this time to get in touch with your creative side again.
  • Trade back rubs.  Take turns paying special attention to your significant other’s back (or feet, or….you get the idea). And then make sure the favor gets returned. Another fun idea is to “draw” words on your kids’ backs and have them try to guess what you “wrote.” They’ll love it (and it feels great!)
  • Have a candlelit dinner. Even if the food is sandwiches and fuit – eating dinner by candle light isn’t something you probably get to do very often.  With all of your electronic distractors turned off, you might end up having the best conversation you’ve had in a long time.
  • Meditate. The best place to practice meditation is in a quiet, dimly lit room.  Light a few aromatherapy candles, get comfortable, and get in touch with yourself.
  • Have a fashion show. While this might seem like something that would need light, you’d be surprised how much you can see with some of today’s powerful flashlights.  Set up a few battery powered lanterns and try out some new clothing combinations, or engage your kiddos in a game of dress-up.
  • Sing. Perhaps you’ve forgotten, but playing ”Name that Tune” is actually really fun. If the power is out for an extra long time, you might have to resort to ”99 Bottles.”

As always, be sure to stay mindful during whatever crisis may be causing you to be without power.  Although it may be scary at times if you’re in the throngs of an intense storm, follow the mindfulness principles, find your center, and try to make the best of it.

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Are You Using the Best Tools to Develop Your Ideas?

Brain cloud
Photo courtesy of Thomas Lieser

A powerful tool that is often neglected when it comes to developing new ideas is mind maps.

For those not in know, mind maps are diagrams of interconnected words, symbols, tasks and ideas, that flow from a central idea in a series of paths. That may sound a little confusing, but mind maps are actually incredibly intuitive when you get down to them. There are no set rules regarding how you’re supposed to lay out your ideas (like, say, with a pie chart); you simply make connections between different elements much in the same way that the human brain does when it makes associations between similar items.

Whenever I need to lay out ideas for a new project I’m working on, I’ll begin by writing the central idea on a blank sheet of paper. Then I’ll gradually fill the page with headings, subheadings and concepts, all stemming out from the central idea. I find that the act of simply writing these elements down in this way helps me recall them a lot better later, and it can also be a great time saver when you need to organize your thoughts quickly.

Mind maps can be used to develop pretty much any concept you can think of, from planning a birthday party to planning the next forty years of your life. Although there are several good mind mapping software packages available online, I would recommend using the less costly pencil and paper method instead, for better retention of the facts.

How do you organize your ideas? Do you use mind maps, make lists, or find that brainstorming with other people helps make better sense of your ideas?

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How Building Upon Existing Ideas Can Lead You to Greatness

Photo courtesy of Ramunas Geciauskas

Most of us are familiar with those boxes of jumbled text on web forms – officially called reCAPTCHAs – that are used to tell humans apart from spam bots. They’re a necessary (albeit slightly annoying) level of protection on sites such as Ticketmaster, where a computer could attempt to hack in and order thousands of pairs of tickets in a row. But the other day I came across a video that revealed the full functionality of reCAPTCHA, and how it built upon its predecessor to make something far more useful. Which then got me to thinking – how easy is it to build upon existing ideas?

As Luis von Ahn, creator of CAPTCHA, put it in his recent TED presentation, there’s a load of potential energy and brainpower that can be harnessed out there. While discussing how he and his team repurposed CAPTCHA to help in the digitization of books, von Ahn pressed upon a really interesting topic for me – how do you make people do a job for free without even realizing they’re being productive?

That was the spark that led to the formation of reCAPTCHA – a security system that uses human-typed responses to help digitize books. Each time you fill out one of those text boxes on a web form, you’re actually identifying a word from a scanned image that has been taken from an existing print book. Humans have a far greater ability to decipher words from images that are slightly askew than, say, a computer dictionary, (the very reason for reCAPTCHA’s effectiveness as a spam bot detector) so it takes a human set of eyes to translate some older books from cover to cover.

According to von Ahn, people were collectively spending 500,000 hours a day filling out CAPTCHA boxes, and he saw the potential for something more useful. reCAPTCHA is currently digitizing the archives of The New York Times as well as books from Google Books, and utilizing the input of over 100 million CAPTCHAs every day.

In the digital age, we are surrounded by opportunities to improve upon systems that are already set in place. Some have argued that Facebook, for instance, simply built upon the idea of online journaling; and Netflix, then, is offering the same media rental service that Blockbuster was a few years ago, only in a way that is more appropriate and convenient for the current times. Sometimes we just need to look at ideas that are right in front of us to see the potential for greatness.

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