Tuesday, June 29, 2010

TED Tuesday - A Case for Skepticism

Can I admit that I swing back and forth between skepticism and blind faith? I know, I know... if Carl Sagan were alive today, he'd probably have something to say about it. So does my handsome mandude, and on a regular basis, too, whenever I toss salt over my shoulder, hesitate before opening an umbrella indoors, or (yes! I admit it!) talk to him about my favourite rocks and crystals. Placebo effect or not, I love my quartz.

Using video and music, skeptic Michael Shermer explains why people see the Virgin Mary on a cheese sandwich or hear demonic lyrics in "Stairway to Heaven" and shows how we convince ourselves to believe -- and overlook the facts.

Though I can identify with what Mr. Shermer says - all of it rings true - I still get creeped out when using the Ouija Board. Whether you are a skeptic or not, anybody with style and smarts will appreciate any of the following completely awesome pieces:

An Altered Antique Plate by BeatUpCreations on Etsy

 A seriously rock n' roll  Led Zeppelin Album Cover Bag by Aproduction Ink on Etsy

A ridiculously awesome, ridiculously tiny book of Carl Sagan quotes by IDoubtIt on Etsy

Enjoy your new found truth!
Farren Square

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

TED Tuesday - Let's raise kids to be entrepreneurs by Cameron Herold

When I was a child we used to run a lemonade stand in front of our house in the summer time. We would make lemonade and charge 25 cents a cup and close neighbours would come, pat us on the head and buy a glass. When we realized we had tapped out our market, we offered lemonade AND iced tea. After that fizzled out and most of our nearby friends and neighbours had a taste of each, we realized we needed more business. We set up signs and sent little sisters and brothers out on their bikes to holler our address at people to get them to come. Then we realized that my cousin lived just two blocks away but directly in front of a playground, and the walking traffic there was ten fold what we were seeing. Soon, the lemonade stand was moved and we were on our way to riches as far as an 8 year old can see!

Our lemonade stand would have never gotten off the ground if we didn't get the help from our parents. A float to make change, cups and materials offered for free, and emotional support when business became slow - they constantly asked us what more we could do to sell lemonade to people who wanted some.

Maybe they simply thought it was cute, but I'm sure they knew that even though we didn't rake in big money - enough to buy a ton of candy, I'm sure! - we were learning valuable life lessons with every quarter we earned.

This TED talk was filmed at my local TED gathering and Cameron Herold is a home-grown Canadian boy who speaks of a school system that tried to fit his square peg into a round hole - and how he and his father cultivated certain skills which allowed him to succeed despite the odds.

Here is where I disagree with what he has to say:

  • Cheating to get to the top is never okay. If it isn't working for you, find another path. But don't cheat those who work hard out of what they have earned.
  • If you are going to be an entrepreneur, offer fair trades. Better your own situation by bettering the situation of those around you at the same time. Everybody wins when people are paid what they are worth.
  • Not all schools and teachers are out to crush your kids into a mold.

Here is where I agree with what he has to say:

  • Kids do need to be taught to negotiate, to think critically about the service they receive, to be creative, to handle failure and still move forward, and to be comfortable speaking in front of a crowd.
  • Entrepreneur does not have to be a dirty word.
  • Our life mistakes should lead us to where we are, not bring us down. Did Mr. Herold partake in a few activities that would be considered unethical? Yes. But ultimately he learned from those mistakes to create his own success.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Adam Sadowsky and OKGo's Rube Goldberg Machine of Awesome

How can one gigantic Rube Goldberg Machine and a 3 minute 45 second music video teach us about the intricacies of life?

-The small stuff may stink, but it is absolutely essential.

-While planning is important, so is flexibility.

A Rube Goldberg Machine

-Life can be messy. And difficult. But the ending is always worth it.

-This, too, shall pass.

Why am I posting this TED video that is basically a glorified music video? Not only because I believe that there is much to be learned from their experience, but also because I have never seen such an intricate music video in my life (If you have, please post a link in the comments!), and I do believe that video art is still art. This OKGo video is indeed art to me. Plus, not only can I watch this video over and over without catching each intricacy - I also get a little emotional at the end when I realize that the team needed 85 takes to get the job done. They must have been so elated and relieved!

Adam Sadowsky engineers an OKGo music video:

Looking forward to hearing what you think!


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

TED Tuesday - Why to believe in others with Viktor Frankl

I'm going to preface this by saying that I have been, at many times in my life, a pedestrian, a cyclist, and a motorist.

I know what it is like to be cycling on a busy road, to feel intimidated by other vehicles around you. And I know what it is like to be hit by a truck while cycling! I'll just say, none of it is fun. I go out of my way to be non-aggressive when I am passing a cyclist, to leave the appropriate amount of space (half a lane), and to stay calm behind a biker even when I have somewhere I really need to be right. now. But it really really really irks me when cyclists don't take the time to follow the rules of the road themselves. Most of those rules are there to protect themselves! And many of them are there to uphold a standard which helps motorists know to respect cyclists as a vehicle.

What is this all about, you might be asking, why is Farren ranting about cyclists today? Did a cyclist kill her entire family?!

No, no... This post is actually about Expectations. It is popular these days, and especially in my circle of friends, to expect very little from those around us. We are all people with our own predisposed ideas and we will all make our own decisions, and they may seem random at times, so don't expect anything from anyone, and the world is your oyster, correct? While I do agree in some cases and situations, I also wholeheartedly disagree. I do have certain expectations. I expect you not to spit in my food, I expect you to be honest when speaking, and I expect you to respect all living things. These are common expectations, no?

So the other day, I am driving down a long and winding road and there is a cyclist in front of me. Since I am about to turn right onto a one-way street, I decide to slow and wait for the cyclist instead of passing and immediately turning in front of them. To my surprise we turn the corner together, and he immediately darts to the left directly in front of my car - out of his designated bike lane - and takes the first left without signaling to me at any point! I had to slam on my brakes to avoid him. My first instinct? My window was already down, so I called after him - "PLEASE SIGNAL!"

Rude? Maybe. It embarrassed the manfriend something awful. He argued that yelling out a car window probably won't influence anyone and instead they might defiantly ignore my request... my request to look after his own safety. I considered his point for a long time, I really did. After all, you do attract more bees with honey (or flowers, really!!), than vinegar.


But ultimately, I have decided that it is not only appropriate for me to register my expectation that he communicate with me properly while putting his life at risk - it is necessary. Maybe he had never even considered signaling before. And whether or not my request influenced his decision, I can only control my output and not the reactions of others - but I do feel that it is absolutely VITAL that, as a society, we communicate our expectations to the others who share our communities. This is how we build vibrant and respectful places to work and live! If it happened again, I would do the same thing. Cyclists need to signal if they want to be successful and alive at the end of their journeys, and I'm willing to be that jerk who tells them. Besides, I said "please."

By being idealists about the intentions and the power of humankind, we are pushing ourselves to attain those goals, says Viktor Frankl, legendary psychiatrist and Holocaust-survivor, as he delivers a powerful four and a half minute long message on why it is important to believe in others. This TED Talk was actually filmed in 1976 and has been declared by TED to be "best of the web" and definitely worth seeing. Please spare the 4:21 to listen to this funny man tell you about the human search for meaning -- and the most important gift we can give others.

In many ways, we do create our own reality, and in general, the people around us will rise or fall to our expectations. Do you think it was wrong of me to request this cyclist signal?