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Making Suburbia Durable

Walmart in Tysons, VA by Jenifer Joy Madden

With a little imagination, there’s hope for the burned out strip malls and acres of asphalt formerly known as “suburbia.” They can be turned into active, usable, livable places.

That’s the word from Ellen Dunham-Jones, an award-winning architect, Georgia Tech professor and author of “Retrofitting Suburbia”. I caught up with Ellen at the International Making Cities Livable conference in Portland, Oregon, a town I’ve written fondly about because it helps people to be weird.

According to Ellen, “Underperforming properties present tremendous opportunities.” In some cases, Big Box buildings can be re-purposed. In others, a stream underneath a parking lot could be returned to its former splendor.

Here, she summarizes her TED talk in three minutes: Continue reading

3 Reasons To Use an Alarm Clock Instead of Your Phone

Retro Alarm Clock compress

Lots of us are in the habit of using our phone as an alarm clock. It’s likely we also jump directly down the rabbit hole of reading whatever arrived during the night. By doing that, we can actually prime ourselves to feel rushed for the rest of the day. Switching to a good old-fashioned alarm clock can help to:

Carpe Diem Just like at any other time, when you look at your phone in the morning, you’re flooded with status updates, email, and pleas from destitute princes. Once out of bed, outside forces—whether the kids, the dog, or the boss—begin to determine the course of your day. If you don’t grab your phone right off, you can take a few minutes to think through a plan of action. You can seize the day, rather than letting the day seize you.

Dwell in the Positive As human animals, we are attuned to potential danger. That’s why we worry more about predatory co-workers than about getting sun at lunchtime. But if we dwell on a positive feeling or thought for at least 10 seconds, we can train our brains to have a more upbeat outlook, says Rick Hanson, PhD, author of Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm and Confidence. That’s why it pays to spend a little time basking in that cozy, warm wake-up feeling before you do anything else.

Love the One You’re With For couples, one of the biggest beefs is that mates Continue reading

Report from Wisdom 2.0: Time Well Spent

meditator crop compress

Wisdom 2.0 is an unlikely conference. Its goal: to help people “not only live connected to one another through technology, but to do so in ways that are beneficial to our own well-being, effective in our work, and useful to the world.”

There, tech titans such as LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner mix with masters of mindfulness, including Jon Kabat-ZinnHaving experienced that breadth of perspectives, each attendee leaves with a different takeaway. This is mine.

The 6th-ever Wisdom 2.0 felt less wide-eyed and more mature. Soren Gordhamer, founder of the W2.0 movement, set the tone: “At the end of our lives, what’s gonna be important?” Adding, “What is it like to live like any one moment isn’t more important than another moment?”

The conference covered compassion in business, wisdom in leadership, and mindfulness in everything. But the overall theme was Time—and the battles being waged over how we spend it.

The term “peak attention” emerged. Like peak oil, or “the point of maximum [oil] production,” peak attention suggests we humans are maxed out mentally. We’ve reached the point that every moment of our time can be filled with Continue reading

Cubicle Dwellers: This Design’s For You

Stand Steady in box points

Since word got out a few years ago that sitting too much isn’t healthy, products have become available that help people on the job, but some seem more fitting for a CEO. It took one of the many who work in cubicles to come up with a solution that works for them. This is her story.

Day Martin used to be a data analyst, a “knowledge worker,” as she likes to call people who make money using their minds, almost always while they’re sitting down. “They sit there all day, every day,” as she says. “They have to. It’s their job.”

That’s what she was doing at her job in suburban Washington, D.C. until one day, she had a car accident. When she recovered, she noticed something about her back: “I just had pain when I went to work.”

When she checked online, the Internet suggested she try a standing desk. But there was a problem: nothing on the market allowed her to stand comfortably inside her cubicle. “I thought it was obvious, but it wasn’t available.”

So Day decided to make one herself. At first, she hacked together some cardboard. That helped, but didn’t fit the office aesthetic. “People said stuff like, ‘How long are those boxes going to be sitting on your desk for?’”

Then, with assistance from her father-in-law the home builder, she made some sturdier prototypes. “My colleagues loved them. I was shocked at how many people have their back pain stories – I had no idea.”

To build her final design, she sourced parts from within the U.S. “What I love about American manufacturing is that it’s so much easier. I could get things in the mail in a couple of days.” In practically no time, the Stand Steady desk was born, as Day proudly reports Continue reading

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