Teens Using Ringtone only Teens Can Hear

“They can receive calls and texts during lessons without teachers having the faintest idea what is going on”
Creative thinking! “Teen geeks have retro-fitted a sound called the Mosquito alarm — normally only heard by people under the age of 20 and developed as an irritant to drive teens away from hangout spots at malls — and made it a ringtone. Now all the kids in class can hear cell phones, which have been banned in most classrooms, but the teachers can’t. The ring tone is called Teen Buzz, and it’s spreading like wildfire via SMS and Bluetooth.” Via Rawfeed.

Interactive Videos are Best

I have a confession to make – today my daughter and I are going to watch allot of tv. I’ve temporarily moved my “office” into the tv room and she is watching a series of Pooh Bear movies while I prepare for some upcoming meetings. I always feel a sense of guilt over resorting to TV to entertain her when I get busy like this – her mom is out all day as well. It happens very rarely but one time is too many.
New research indicates that parents should choose videos with high interactive content if they want their children to be educated as well as entertained by their time in front of the tube.
“By age 2, children have figured out that other people are a primary source of information about the world, and they use social cues such as facial expression and where a person looks or points to gather that information. As a result, they are more likely to learn from a person on video whom they perceive as a conversational partner,” psychologist Georgene Troseth of Vanderbilt University says. “In our study, if a video was not interactive, children were much more likely to dismiss the information being conveyed.”
“There is good evidence from other research that watching shows such as Dora the Explorer and Blue’s Clues in which characters speak directly into the camera and wait for responses can positively impact children’s mental and language development,” Troseth said. “Our new findings have implications for educational television aimed at toddlers, as well as for the use of video images in research with this age group.”
One side effect of her occaisional movie watching is that it fuels her imagination. She will be a Tiger all week I think.

Keep your childs BandAid on all day

I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of this. This is a Japanese video on YouTube demonstrating how to put on a BandAid so that it stays on all day long. It’s in Japanese but the visuals are pretty easy to follow so you should be able to get the gist of it. The video clip included, after the jump.

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Plant-Me Pets

Now that the weather is warm, my daughter and I have been doing some planting in our garden. It’s not a real garden as this is Asia and space is limited but it’s what we have. I’ve been wanting to instill a bit of fun into the whole process now that the initial wonderment has worn off. I mentioned finding Nyokki plant pots a while back and they seem fun. It’s a bit hard to get them shipped here so we make our own. Plant-Me Pets are another great idea. They’re quirky creature sculptures made of natural latex rubber. The “eyes” are actual seeds (melon, tomato, and pumpkin seeds), and their “skin” is soft and pliable. You can squeeze their bodies and they’ll squeak. Likely I can’t import these here but they do look like allot of fun even if they weren’t originally meant for kids (they look a little “evil”). $20.00US at Branch.

An Interview with Jesse James Garrett

It’s unfortunate but not unexpected that the interview is viewable only in Windows Media (DevSource is basically a Microsoft mouthpiece), so if you are using a Mac don’t expect too much in terms of quality. It took me a few tries to get it to play and a few more to get through it. It’s still worth it.
“Jesse James Garrett is the “notorious” father of AJAX. You may not also realize that he’s also a writer, interface developer and designer, information architect, and experience strategist. He co-founded Adaptive Path in 2001, where he is now Director of User Experience Strategy. Garrett is the author of the popular book, The Elements of User Experience, and other groundbreaking works, and co-founder of the Information Architecture Institute.”
An Interview with Jesse James Garrett, the “father of ajax”

What is a Splog?

A splog, the illegitimate lovechild of spam and blogs, is a website made to look like a blog by streaming fake posts. Instead of musings about politics and technology, splogs are filled with computer-generated gibberish meant to entice search engines to link to them and get people to click on the ads. Utne.

Canus Fruit Fragrance Goat’s Milk Soap

If I bought these colorful, goat’s milk soaps would I be spending bath time answering over and over why they don’t actually write like the crayons downstairs? Shaped like crayons, they come in five juicy scents: cherry, orange, lemon, grape and apple. They should be gentle on your young child’s skin but you should test any new soap on a small area first. A package of 5 soaps, four oz each, is $15.00US from giggle.

Retro Racing Car

I really love this car. If you add a pair of goggles and a helmut you have a true play racer. The look brings back memories of when I was a kid and we all had these cool racing toys. Quality toys that you could hand down to others. It has a shiny all-steel body, working steering wheel, honking horn, steel wheels and real rubber tires. I think my daughter would love to take this out to the track behind our house and play race car driver. The only problem I see are the fits that might erupt when my son is old enough and wants to ride it too. $89.00US at Land of Nod.

Kellogg’s Tony the Tiger Breakfast Set

Though it has the look of something you might give to the kids (the coffee mug gives away the fact it’s not) this Tony the Tiger Breakfast set is really meant for me. Their was a time that Frosted Flakes were my favourite start and/or end to my day. This looks like a great way to remember those careful high metabolism days of my youth. This retro styled set features a small plate, cereal bowl, and mug. All in earthenware and decorated with the original Frosted Flakes cereal box design. $29.00US. Via Uncrate.

Olivia the Pig Doll

Catriona loves these books so much that I just have to go out and buy this doll for her. Olivia, is the star of Ian Falconer’s popular books, OLIVIA which we were introduced to by a friend. They are wonderfully illustrated stories that our daughter immediately was drawn to. I thought at first that the illustrations were a bit sullen but perhaps they are a good counterpoint to all the bright rainbow colors of other books. This doll is 10 inches tall and is fabricated from acrylic plush material. Available from Amazon.

You think your job is bad

I just came back a short time ago from the local General Hospital where I had gone for the biennial “full medical” check-up so that I can once again renew my visa. Most of the check-up is done with the level of scrutiny you would expect from public doctors who see a thousand patients a day. Mine listened to my lungs through my jacket, asked if I could hear sounds in either side of my head (good hearing is essential for survival on the streets of Taiwan), and proceeded to check-off the document stating that I was healthy. The most uncomfortable part is the obligatory “samples” that you must submit – uncomfortable for me but imagine the lab technicians who sole job is analyze stool and urine samples all day long. I sat there and watched them check sample after sample after sample. Now that’s an exciting job! Nothing like putting yourself through grad school only to find yourself deep in the same stuff a pig farmer is and likely for less pay. So the next time I start complaining about the monotony of my work I’ll just think of those lab technicians at the hospital and be thankful.

Italia Font

I’ve been using Italia as the display and logotype for a weblog cum magazine that I have been working on recently. I like the shape of the letters at large sizes but the capital T is a bit wonky or perhaps simply unique. At small sizes the T has a cliché Asian look about it which actually fits in with the theme that is being used. I like unique square typefaces like this. Here is what font.com and linotype have to say about the typeface.
“Italia font is the work of Colin Brignall, a refreshingly different serif typeface. At first glance, Italia might seem comparable to any other square serif typeface, but it has a distinctive pattern all its own. Italia font can be used as either a display or text font and will give any text a unique look.” (Linotype)
“The Italia font family was designed for Letraset in 1974 and licenced to ITC in 1977. Italia was based on the Jenson Old Style of American Type Founders, cut circa 1893. This in turn had been based on the fifteenth century letters of Nicolas Jenson. With little contrast between thick and thin strokes, Italia is a fairly heavy face, best suited to display and advertising work.” (Fonts.com)
Italia™ Font Family

Jonathan Taylor Photography

Jonathan Taylor is an English photographer who has been based in Bangkok since the early 90’s. I have been wanting to share his work since I came across it on flickr a week ago.
“Well known for his gritty, black-and-white images of cops, hit men, drug addicts and crime scenes, eyevine photographer Jonathan Taylor has traveled all over Asia to report on everything from Agent Orange victims in Vietnam to a special police unit in Bangkok that helps pregnant women, stuck in traffic, give birth.”
His work is very powerful and illustrates the lives of people we might never see in Asia. His series on the effects of Agent Orange should forever change your mind about the validity of political wars.
His photos on Flickr
The Agent Orange series
The Jonathan Taylor Website

24hr Baby TV

I want my Baby TV. Maybe it’s where we live and how we have arranged our house, or maybe we have latched on to at least one good value. But our children seldom watch TV and I never want to see that change. Not everyone agrees or people agree but make no effort to change.
In fact, BabyFirstTV, the first 24-hour channel with programming catering exclusively to children ages 6 months to 3 years old, premiered recently through DirectTV. Obviously there is a market for this kind of product – to those who have little time for this whole parenting thing – either by choice or by consequence.
TV is the great parenting replacer. The one time a week our daughter watches one of her favourite tapes she is all but unreachable. You could be talking to her, jumping up and down, or singing at the top of your lungs. She doesn’t know you exist. Maybe that is what people are looking for.
“”Using videos and television in this age range is basically an uncontrolled experiment on youngsters,” said Dr. Donald Shifrin, the organization’s spokesman.”
“For many harried parents, though, keeping the TV turned off is all but impossible.”
It’s for every parent to decide. From ABC News.

Recycled Crayons

Martha Stewart has a great method of recycling old crayons thereby helping save the environment and creating a unique tool for making fun art. I’ve wanted to do something similar with soap for ages but the process for recycling soap is no where as easy and as satisfying as this. All it involves is chopping up the crayons, arranging them creatively in a cookie tin, baking them until they melt, and take them out of the tin when they cool. Fun. Check it out in greater detail on Martha Stewarts site.

Razor Pocket Mod Bistro Scooter

My daughter is absolutely dying to ride on a scooter. Since so many parents here let their children ride with them through some of the worst traffic on earth without a helmet we have begun slowly educating her to the dangers they provide. But she is only 2.5 so it isn’t that hard. When she gets a little older (like 16) and we are living in a country with some safe areas to ride, this Razor Scooter might be a fun way for her to pass some time. Or me if I was lighter. This cool electric scooter gets over 10 miles of travel time on a single charge and speeds up to 15 mph. See more at Razor or purchase on Amazon.

AllyZabba Blanket

Blankets seem to be one of those items you never have to buy – at least we haven’t. They have been a popular and appreciated gift for both our children. If you can you will want to convince, wink, nudge, your family and friends to purchase this one for you. This blanket looks it might be the softest blanket you will ever receive. Perhaps get two – one for you and your baby to share. Why shoudl babies have all the fun? The AllyZabba baby blanket is silky polyester satin on one side, microfiber plush on the other. It comes in Coral, Kiwi, or Aqua, and each blanket has the same retro-dot pattern on the back. Machine washable. $59.95US from AllyZabba. Enter code “special10” during checkout and you can receive 10% off your entire order. Expires the end of May.

10 Tips for Making Time-outs Work

Parenting Ideas has an excellent article detailing some tips for making time-outs work. It’s a technique we use with some success. I wrote about this in “Time-outs: How to make them work” back in March when I found a few articles supporting different points of view. It’s surprisingly controversial.
In the off-chance you are unfamiliar, the wikipedia describes Time-outs as the following: “A time-out is an educational (mainly parenting) technique recommended by many pediatrists and developmental psychologists as an alternative to spanking and other traditional forms of discipline. In brief, the idea is to keep the child isolated for a limited period of time, intended to allow it to calm down, learn coping skills and discourage inappropriate behavior. It is also a time for parents to separate feelings of anger toward the child for their behavior and develop a plan for discipline”
10 Tips for Making Time-outs Work – Parenting Ideas

No Good News

I had an insane idea Sunday. Why not start a site dedicated to reporting only good news. A web site with content similar to what you find in those “Chicken Soup for the Soul” books but injected with a bit more humor. Their are seemingly endless web logs and general news sites dedicated to nothing but sarcasm and negativity. Surely there must be some demand, an audience, people who want some balance in the stories they read. I was sure there was.
So I designed it.
But as I was working on it I was also “sourcing sources” for content. It was hard. Very hard. I didn’t intend for this to be a full time research project and it shouldn’t be. It’s probably pretty telling about the current state of our media and society when someone has to actually work hard at finding something positive and enlightening to read. Is the world that dark a place or is just not profitable to write something that is positive or enlightening?
Here are a couple sites that have managed to find something positive to say: Good News Network and Good News Blog

Parenting guru says best gift is kids who eat and sleep well

sleepbook.jpg“Roses and breakfast in bed may be a classic Mother’s Day gift, but parenting guru Ann Douglas says what moms really want is children who eat and sleep well.
Douglas says her new books – Sleep Solutions for your Baby, Toddler and Preschooler, and Mealtime Solutions for your Baby, Toddler and Preschooler – came about after interviews with “a gazillion” frustrated parents. One stressed-out woman asked Douglas to “please not write another book that is going to make parents feel guilty.”
Eating and sleeping – those basic tenets of life that we parents always fret over. It always amazes me just how many children in Taiwan live on so little sleep. I can be out late at night and still see families out with their children. It seems that literally Taiwan is full of people who refuse (or cannot) to get a good nights sleep. The result in parents is what you might expect but the effect on children is more profound. You have a nation of children sleeping their time away in classrooms, short attention spans, and aggressive behaviour. I’m generalizing but it’s not far from the truth.
Read the Rest of the article.
Purchase Sleep Solutions for Your Baby, Toddler and Preschooler at Amazon

Schools are an Oasis

Catriona is out doing laps at the all girls high school behind our house. I think in the near future I should join her as my girth continues to grow day by day.
I’m very thankful that schools here allow the public to come inside the grounds after classes and on the weekends. They are usually very large enclosed spaces which function as a kind of oasis, isolating you from the chaos of urban Taiwan. Not surprisingly they are never crowded on the weekends as the locals seem to love to gather in what were once quiet and serene parks, but are now not much different than the streets they are designed to isolate us from. They even pipe in Muzak!

Usability: it ain’t easy

“With more advanced services rolling out across the planet, ease-of-use is becoming crucial to their success, but today’s user interfaces aren’t quite cutting it. Solving that will be a complex task, but the place to start is the users – not just by asking them what they want in future, but what they’re doing with their handsets now
As the mobile industry moves toward more advanced non-voice services, from MMS and instant messaging to mobile TV and video calls, the underlying mantra for manufacturers, operators and apps developers alike has been a strikingly contradictory one: offer simple, easy-to-use services using mind-bogglingly complex technology. That means shielding the user from all that state-of-the-art wizardry behind the scenes, and making any new service appear as though it’s so simple even your Luddite great-uncle could figure it out – ideally without once having to consult a manual.”
Read: Usability: it ain’t easy – Telecom Asia. Via Putting People First

Children’s Bench and Toy Box

While most of the things we purchase are locally made I do like some of what IKEA produces, including this Children’s bench cum storage box. The colour in this photo doesn’t inspire but I have seen them in some green neon inspired greens and yellows. We store all our toys in these containers without worries of mold and mildew build-up. Something which is common here with wooden pieces. Approx. $10.00US from IKEA.

Baby Plane Spoon

I used to treat mealtime as a chance to play and learn; something which lately we have been trying to de-emphasize in an effort to get our daughter to focus. Maybe it’s just the age but mealtime has become a struggle in getting our daughter to finish her food within a reasonable amount of time. Sometimes I think she would sit there all day if we gave her the chance. Perhaps we are being too “dry” and objects like this might just breathe some life (and speed) back into dinner. Comes in the typical boys and girls colours. $18.00US from Target. Via Babygadget.

Aesthetic Issues of sound art.

“A sound artist, then, is an artist whose materials include physical media, sound, and environments. A sound artist creates all of these, not taking any of them for granted. To a sound artist, the gallery in which her work is shown is part of her subject; the instrument used to create the sounds heard in a concert hall is her subject-including its sound, including its appearance, and including the actions required to make the instrument sound. Sound artists tend to be poorly represented by the modes of discourse that seem satisfactory for “pure” musical or visual art; they are poorly represented by the forms of presentation available (i.e. concert halls and galleries). ”
Read the rest

Mini Me Bowls

I love the IKEA bowls we have. They are durable, microwave and dishwasher safe, and are colorful. I think these Mini Me’s are better not just because of them being organic but because they look and feel better. Available in 8 colors, these bowls are coiled by hand, shaped and given a durable food-safe waterproof finish. Suitable for both hot and cold foods, they clean easily with warm soapy water or a damp cloth. They are not recommended for use in a microwave. $12.00US each.

Lana Organic Dragon Doll

If we aren’t pretending we are beauty and the beast, Snow white, Cinderella, or Tea Cup we spend our time pretending to be tigers and dragons. This kind of imaginative play is quite fun and with a little help from our friend the Dragon I can take a break from having little tiger jump on my back. This cuddly animal is made from 100% organic cotton and filled with pure wool. Importantly he is quite washable – that way all the bits of playdoh, paint, and cookies won’t make her, the Dragon, all yucky. $49.95US from bright october.

Project Management Tips

“One thing that derails projects is the lack of a discrete beginning or end. Projects either meet with dissatisfaction from their sponsors, or they amble on past deadlines as scope creep locks you, the project manager, into a lengthy and morphing situation of countless follow-up tasks. Here’s a trick. Use this measurement up front: From what to what by when?
My favourite project de-railer is when the features and goals of a project constantly shift like quicksand. You spend all your time building and managing a part of a project only to find out 3 months later that a sponsor has changed their mind and don’t want it anymore.
Read the full article.