How to vastly improve your experience with maps and keep your head from getting lost in the map on your smartphone.
By Brad Beckstrom
Cartography – The study and practice of making maps.
Remember paper maps? I’m talking about the big unfolding kind they used to give you at tourism offices, AAA or full-service gas stations. How about the slick plastic coated ones that you could access with one hand on the steering wheel trying to navigate in a city like Rome or Washington, DC? Or the jumbo 50 page city or county map books they used to sell at office supply and convenience stores for about 18 bucks, still popular with some realtors and salespeople who work in remote areas or haven’t jumped on the smartphone bandwagon yet. Or the mother of them all, The Rand McNally Road Atlas hundreds of pages just waiting to be explored. I always had a thing for maps. I was always up for exploring out-of-the-way places, and maps helped me get there.
When my boys were younger, we used to play a game called “spin the globe”, wherever you land, you have to go there. I remember once my oldest son spun the globe and landed on Yakutsk, Russia generally considered to be the coldest inhabited city on earth with average temperatures of -58°F. He immediately added the city to the weather app on his phone and kept an eye on the place, occasionally sharing the sometimes ridiculous low temperatures. I don’t think I’ll ever see Yakutsk but I have a feeling he might.
Once GPS came along I knew I was hooked. (Finally an answer for my lack of direction in life.) I played around with some of the earliest handheld GPS units, the kind where you had to load a CD onto your computer then somehow transfer maps to the GPS unit. These early units were popular with boaters because it’s very important to know where you’re going on the water. You also need to know about a third dimension, the depth of the water so you don’t end up on a sand barge, as I occasionally did. At least I can blame the fricking GPS unit versus my lack of preparation with paper navigation charts. Read more…
By Brad Beckstrom
Ahh coffee, the fuel of empires. There is something about that hot, head-clearing beverage as it hits the back of your throat. I like to have two cups in the morning to get me going, any more than that I start shaking and develop twitches. I think of coffee as a do-it-yourself beverage, preferring to brew it at home rather than frequent coffee shop lines or convenience store baristas. You might think it’s odd that I have a Keurig machine, the hugely popular coffee system that unfortunately is filling our landfills with plastic K-cups. K cups are certainly not frugal compared to buying a bag of good coffee at Costco or grinding your own beans.
It turns out that the Keurig Classic is one hell of a coffee maker without the K cups. Part of the reason for the machines success is the ability to get the maximum amount of flavor out of the minimum amount of coffee. The problem is is that the K cups often don’t have enough coffee in them especially if you use the 8 or 10 ounce setting, you’re just adding more water.
A while back I purchased a Keurig Classic that was on sale due to the fact that a newer version Keurig 2.0 was coming out with an enhanced digital display. (Hint avoid appliances with digital displays, especially unnecessary ones). I had talked myself out of this purchase until I noticed the display of reusable K-Cups next to the coffee maker. I took the leap, calling it an experiment with the intention of returning the machine unless I absolutely loved the coffee. The results were fantastic, not only could I use my favorite coffee, I only needed half as much to get the same taste versus my old plastic drip coffeemaker.
The Hack Read more…
By Brad Beckstrom
Images are the language of a generation. Regardless of our race, language, our education, our views on the world, we can all be moved by a great photograph. If you’re creating a blog, presentation, new website, or just want a fresh look on your boring computer desktop, a great image can communicate a lot. Most modern websites feature a single image or video across the entire top third of the page.
Just one image
The best presenters use one large image per slide and just a few words to communicate their ideas. Watch any Ted talk and you’ll see very few people presenting slides full of words, charts, and bullet points. Less is more. Some of the best blogs have a consistent look and feel using images to accentuate quality content. Even tweets and Facebook posts with images get far more attention than a string of text with a link.
If you work for a large company, you may have access to a stock photo account or archive. I’ve found that even some of the largest stock photo sites lack some of that creative edge I’m looking for. I can often spot traditional stock photos instantly. You’ve seen them, people with coffee and laptops usually perfectly dressed for a business meeting in 1996, pointing at things and smiling, maybe even a high five.
Know the rules
What can you create that people will be talking about in 100 years?
By Brad Beckstrom
If you were asked to create a time capsule that would be opened in 100 years what would you put in? I recently spent some time with my sister and cousin Dave looking through some old family photos and letters that were found in my grandmother’s attic. A few of the photos were tintypes most likely created in the 1870s or 1880s. Many more were from the 1920s – 1960s.
Looking through several hundred of these, I learned quite a bit about my family. Like the furniture company in Baltimore that my great great grandfather owned in the 1880s. My grandfather’s brothers and family who were lost or left behind after wars or immigration. The search my grandfather made for some of his brothers who were living as far away as Texas and California in the 30s and 40s. Or his mother, sister and youngest brother who stayed behind in Finland when their father and older sons emigrated to the United States. When they caught up again, so many years had passed that my grandfather and his brother who were left behind no longer spoke the same language and the letters needed to be translated on both sides. I had a great uncle in Finland named Thor. No doubt descended from Vikings!
The letters were helpful in putting dates and addresses on things, but so many of the photos didn’t have names, dates, or places. The cars, the clothing, even the type of photograph were like time seeds helpful in piecing some things together. After looking through a lot of these, I realized a lot of the old photos I’ve taken don’t include dates, names, or places either.
100 Years from now.
I thought about how it’s important to leave some kind of record. Read more…
The 10 best tools for finding truly great books.
By Brad Beckstrom
Recently Tim Ferriss (Writer and 4 Hour Workweek guru) was interviewing Kevin Kelly Founding Editor, Senior Maverick of Wired Magazine and an expert on all kinds of cool stuff. Kelly has a crazy two letter domain name kk.org where he shares everything from his extensive list of documentary film recommendations, books, photography and all kinds of cool tools he’s come across. The interview was so fascinating that Tim Ferriss extended it to a second podcast and eventually a third. I highly recommend having a listen.
In the interview Kevin Kelly said one thing that really stuck with me. “ read one book (any book) a month and it will change your life”. I’ve always enjoyed reading, but over the years but I’d gotten more reliant on magazines, blog feeds, apps (like feedly and flipboard) and podcasts. Taking the time to find and read really good books had gotten pushed aside. I was doing quite a bit of reading but the problem with books is that it takes some time to find good ones. I’d often start a book and then not finish it. I might even have two or three books I’ve started on my Kindle app at one time, but after the first few chapters they just sort of trail off.
A lot of the books I’ve read, especially nonfiction, business, and finance books start out like gangbusters then end up trailing off and repeat themselves for the second half of the book. The Kindle app lets you download a sample to your device, but I found the samples are rarely enough to really get a good feel for the quality of the book as they wrap up pretty quickly.
Here’s a quick tip, if a book doesn’t hold your attention at least to the middle chapters dump it. You wouldn’t go around telling people you’re in the middle of a bad book. If you’re going to commit the time to finishing a book a month it should really be one that you enjoy, that you can’t wait to get back to. There are a lot of bad books out there but there are still many many good ones you just need some cool tools to find them. Read more…