Archive for May, 2011

When asked “Do I have to draw you a picture?” say, yes please.
May 23, 2011

The new word for “draw me a picture” is data visualization – the latest and greatest craze to hit the designer’s world of buzz words. It’s making big roads in journalism too as we attempt to find easier ways of relaying more and more data to an information addicted public. It’s starts with twitter maps and where it ends is anyone’s guess. But it’s exciting to see the modest graphs from economic textbooks flower into a new art form where information meets esthetics and delivers knowledge in a memorable way. Be still my beating heart.

Certainly most won’t share my enthusiasm for the metier (I am an economics grad who loves art who works in design and publishing for a living, so you’ll forgive me my zest for this), but we can certainly share in this public embrace of simplifying complex data through graphic visualization. And anyone’s who’s ever had to read an excel spreadsheet can surely appreciate that.

The grand daddy of data visualization artists of this generation is undoubtedly Edward Tufte

A new star on the horizon is this young turk from California, Aaron Koblin. Check out his data visualization of aircraft traffic in North America from his recent TED talk. Mind blowing stuff.

Of course, drawing pictures is nothing new. In fact, we learn to draw before we learn to read, write and count. It doesn’t depend on language – just ask anyone’s whose had to draw a picture to find the nearest hotel or coffee shop in a country where they don’t speak the language.

From cave drawings to frescoes to gawd awful road signs (most of which are terribly noisy visual distractions, if you ask me). We use drawings to share messages, views and news.

A visit to our office where we use design as powerful problem solving (or challenge meeting if you’re a glass half full type) usually starts with a blank piece of paper and some colouring pencils. Lines and shapes and colours help us map our way to improvement through design.

So next time someone insinuates you don’t understand their words by asking if they need to draw you a picture – say yes, please – and see where the journey takes you. And if you need pencil and paper, swing by our office some time. We’ll be the ones colouring outside the lines.

PS – just found this online. another great example – plus, it answers the age old question, what’s my degree worth anyway?

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now hear this
May 18, 2011

News today that the City of Salmon Arm is embracing the use of the Mosquito device, a high pitched frequency device used to keep teens from loitering in public spaces.

Now I know that vandalism is a serious problem. And Salmon Arm, sadly, has its share of disenfranchised youth but is this really the best we can come up with?

Let’s talk about the under 25 crowd (the ones with hearing good enough to hear the high pitch). They are our babysitters, our popcorn servers at the movies, our fast food burger makers, our newspaper delivery people, our produce aisle purveyors at Askews, our computer fixers, among other mundane but totally necessary contributors to society. They are also our future. And this is how we treat them?

I’m disgusted at this warfare tactic. As mild as it is, it’s still a warfare tactic. How creepy. I’ve written as much to our local council to ask if there’s nothing better we can do. Nothing back as of yet. Maybe they’re deaf to my high pitched plea. We’ll see what they have to say. I’ll be all ears.

stuck in the eighties
May 11, 2011

I was riveted while watching Freedom Riders on PBS this week about the Civil Rights movement in the sixties. As I watched the footage of the white segregationist pronouncing on “how the world should be”, I was overwhelmed with the sheer stun of how anyone anywhere could have ever thought such a thing. And then it occurred to me, in 50 years from now, when people watch footage (if indeed there will be such a thing) of us pronouncing on how our economy must grow and our taxes must be low before we can really try to restore our environment (like it has to be one or the other…), will they too think that we were certifiably insane? I’m afraid so. 

But then I kept thinking. Every decade represents something. The sixties was about civil rights and peace. The seventies was about women’s lib. Then we get to the decade when I was in university. The eighties. What did we overcome? Not a whole lot. We had overdone hair and awfully bright clothes. We did have great music, but every decade thinks that. Were we shallow and without purpose? Valley girls, Madonna, BMWs and preppies, the brat pack and MTV? Ah, come on (eileen). We were shallow and without purpose. Gnarly dude! (at least we gave you that – thanks Spicoli). 

Oh sure, we got perestroika and glasnost – but we just snuck those under the wire. I might have worn a  Solidarity button in university – but I really didn’t know why. It was a fashion statement. See, I told you we were shallow. 

In the nineties, after watching innocent people die of aids, we got real. There’s no place for anyone in any closet, ever. And to some extent, freedom of civil union has come from it (in many – but not enough – places). 

I think the first decade of the millenium was hijacked by 9-11 and any social movement was pre-empted by the war on terror. 

But 2011 brings us the Arab spring. Are they related? We’ll have to wait for 2020 to be sure, me thinks. 

Back to the eighties for a moment. I do have a vague recollection of something called the Green movement. I had a recyclable shopping bag from Loblaws and a GO GREEN t-shirt made of organic cotton. But for some reason, which is unknown to me, it stalled. And off we went into our BMW driving, pop music listening, valley girl talking decade. I think we got stuck. 

So why am I stuck on this now, three entire decades later? Because I’m going to my high school reunion in June. We won’t have any protests rallies to recall or any songs of freedom to sing. Ironically, we benefitted so much from the two decades that preceded our own call to action. We had more freedom and more choice. Which we used, for the most part, to enjoy life a whole lot more. I think we were the first generation to marry and start families later. We’re a bit indulgent, if you ask me. Manicures, massages, facials, gym memberships, time shares. Luxury might just be our thing. If the sixties and the seventies were people, they’d be conspiring to find a way to kick our sorry selfish butts into action. And I can’t say that I’d blame them. 

But back to this green thing. Maybe we were meant to be the green decade which was interrupted by God knows what (apparently we were easily distracted). We’re getting a second chance. And I don’t know about you, but I think we should take it. 

So if you see me at the farmer’s market buying greens while I listen to Synchronicity on my i-pod, you’ll forgive me for being stuck in the eighties, again. 

on mothers’ and their days
May 7, 2011

I have to admit, the whole idea of Mother’s Day is a bit much for me. Come mid May, with Spring in full swing and kids on the go, the last thing I want for my Sunday is a busy overpriced brunch at a local hotel that I couldn’t afford to stay in never mind eat at. And while a random act of floral gratitude is always nice, it’s not the same if it’s a pre-set premium-priced obligation.

The truth is, I didn’t really understand the depth and meaning of motherhood until I myself joined the club. Maybe it was the weeks of sleep deprivation that indoctrinated me or maybe it was just the overwhelming joy of realizing my life’s purpose was, after all the fussing and postering and positioning of young(ish) adulthood, life itself.

I love my mom. But I truly didn’t understand her until I held my own baby. And to some extent, I think she understood that too. That’s what happens when you come from a long line of mothers (thanks to my dad for that bit of wisdom).

The thing that just doesn’t work for me about Mother’s Day is this. We don’t parent out of a need for recognition or appreciation. And God help us if we did.  We’d be sorry. I think we parent for ourselves. A need we wish and hope to fill. If we are so lucky to do so, any sacrifice we might make is largely imperceptible and minute compared to the unconditional love of a child.  And even if we are called upon to make incredible sacrifice, love trumps that too.

I got to spend my first mother’s day with my mom. Sort of. She was here to see the baby and help me settle into my new life. The Saturday morning before Mother’s Day, she headed home. But not before visiting a few yard sales. A fun hobby of ours when we are together. On Sunday morning, I found the “Mom” coffee cup she’d picked up on her latest outing. I use it everyday and indeed, my cup runneth over still.

post #elxn41 epiphany
May 5, 2011

After weeks of blogging for the CBC your take election coverage, I admit that I am tired. I stayed up way past my bedtime most nights on twitter and facebook researching and writing for the “blog” . I met people I never would have met otherwise. I had a ball. But the ball is over. My feet, my head and to some extent, my heart, hurt.

The morning after the election, when Ignatieff resigned, I actually shed a tear. I know. Ridiculous. But his great moment of humility in a sea of arrogance was so refreshing. I could do nothing less. I think he’ll be the Robert Stanfield of our generation. The best prime minister we never had.

Nothing a few days of real life can’t fix. I’m back in the swing of things again. Laundry almost done. Soccer practice attended. Work schedule back on track. Homework schedule re-instated. Food in the fridge. The kids even got to use the computer again. They’d missed that.

But here I am again, back at the computer musing about #elxn41 (the twitter hash tag for coverage of election 41). Three days later (is that a metaphor too), I feel refreshed and ready to think again.

Quebec astounded me. Talk about Orange Crush. The rest of us seemed to go for the Blue Slurpee. And by Slurpee I mean the icy cold, brain freeze that seemed like a refreshing idea at the time.

So, what does it all mean? Who knows. But I do know this. In English Canada we vote people in. In Quebec, we vote people out. And indeed Quebec has always been slightly ahead of our time. In Quebec, politics is like hockey, it’s talked about all the time. As I mused on Aim High Salmon Arm, Quebec kicked the liberals out in 84, the tories out in 93, the liberals again in 2004 and the bloc in 2011. They’re always thinking about the next election. And, if nothing else, I think we should be thinking about that too.

Once upon a time, Deborah Grey was the only reform MP. Now her former assistant is the Prime Minister of a majority government. And three days ago, we elected the first Green Party MP. Four years from now, I hold out hope that we’ll see some more Green on Parliament Hill.

The Ball might be over, but a girl can still green, oops, I meant, dream.