Creative Time

At MPOW, we have a mandate from our CIO to spend 2 hours as week in “creative time.” Based in the idea of Google’s 20% time,  everyone in Library & Technology Services is required to spend 2 hours a week doing something outside of our normal day-to-day work. (Technically, I think it’s 5.7% time, not 20%. Still. It’s something.)

doge meme

There are a bunch of things about this idea that I find really awesome:

  1. Nothing is out of bounds, which lets people try all manner of things they might not ever consider in the course of the regular workweek.
  2. It creates a culture of risk-taking. Because we don’t have to actually PRODUCE anything from our 2 hours a week, other than learning, we can bite off more than we can chew, so to speak.
  3. It creates a sense of self-determination. No one is going to tell me what to do with my creative time. I get to decide what it should be, and if after doing it for a while I think my thing is dumb or useless, I can change it. And I don’t have to check with anyone that doing so is okay.

In previous years, I

  • learned a ton about altmetrics (which led to co-authoring a short article and blog post with LTS colleagues and a chemistry faculty member, as well as being on a panel at a local conference)
  • tried to root a Nook Color (that project failed pretty spectacularly; as it turns out, I bit off a bit more than I could chew, although I do want to go back and try it again this year)
  • went to a local library conference on working with large touch-screen computers (think the old-school Microsoft Surface tables)
  • plus a bunch of other smaller things….

This year I’m trying to focus my creative time efforts on exploring different methods of learning. To that end, I

  • took and passed a MOOC (Visualizing Japan 1850s-1930s: Westernization, Protest, Modernity) (online, asynchronous but time-bound learning)
  • re-acquainted myself with this blog, including resetting all my passwords, updating the backend software, downloading and configuring new plugins, etc. (online, self-directed learning)
  • plan on signing up for an (archived) online doodling course with Lisa Congdon through CreativeBug (online, asynchronous, not-time-bound learning with significant offline work)
  • create an object to print on our Makerbot (online and in-person learning, both synchronous and asynchronous learning)
  • plus whatever else strikes my fancy

If you had 2 hours a week to do “creative things” at work, what would you try? If you could determine a theme for your creative time, what might it be?

For Fun: My Favorite Games

So I’m one of those people who’s never really gotten into video games. First person shooters? Too much action. Old school games like Asteroids or Pac-Man? SO STRESSFUL. Console games like Wii or PS3 or whatnot? So expensive.

But I do like to play games on my iPhone, and after Rachel posted last week about awesome flash-based games, I got inspired to share my favorite, boring, non-stressful, non-action, inexpensive iOS games.

What characteristics are in games I like?

  • puzzle/strategy
  • repetitive/quick

My hands-down favorite game right now is Sudoku. I love playing it on my iPhone because it’s just the right size, and it also only take 5-10 minutes per game. Marple is one of my other go-to logic and deduction games.  It’s a much faster game than Sudoku (I average just about 2 minutes a game)

I just downloaded Two Dots last week, but I’m not very good at it so I’m constantly losing my lives, and you either need to wait for your lives to regenerate OR pay $1 to get more lives. See above about me not liking to pay much for games, and you’ll understand why I play this until I’ve blown my 5 lives, then I head on to another game. (Aside: I can’t have Dots on my phone because I play it obsessively. If Two Dots didn’t have the paywall in there, I’d be the same way with it. Thanks for curbing my obsessive tendencies, game devs!)

There are a couple of other games I enjoy that aren’t quick puzzles – Ticket to Ride Pocket and Ticket to Ride Europe Pocket are both nice adaptations of the board game. And while I don’t like turn-based games that require other people to play them (on my phone anyway) I had fun with Words with Friends and Draw Something for a while.

What about you? What kinds of digital games do you like to play? Any suggestions for me based on what I like?

The Eris Update

erisAs promised, I’ve used my new Eris for a couple of weeks now and want to report on the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The good

See my post called Eris to the Rescue. Seriously – the location-aware stuff is supremely useful. I can’t wait until the Eris gets updated to Android 2.0 so I can download Google Navigator!

A bunch of apps, including:

  • Apps Organizer – organize my apps into folders (the mornings, talk talk, locations, google, tools, and camera icons on the main screen on the right are all folders created in Apps Organizer)
  • Seesmic – best Twitter client out there for the Android OS, as far as I’m concerned
  • FxCamera – mess around with your photos, apply fun effects
  • Google Maps – where are you? where do you want to go?
  • Google Sky Map – what stars are in the sky tonight?
  • GeoBeagle – integrates with, haven’t used it yet but looks very promising
  • Places Directory – fire it up and it finds banks, bars, coffeeshops, gas stations, parking, restaurants, shops, and more near your location
  • wpToGo – lets me easily update my WordPress-based blog from my phone

The Android Forums. Pretty much every question I’ve had about the phone I’ve Googled and the Android Forums always comes up at the top of the search results. So I just created an account on the forums and have been poking around there to find out more about the phone.

Phone call quality is as good as it was on my non-smartphone. Not as good as my landline, but no cellphones have ever been that good.

The bad

The camera quality isn’t great, most noticeably in low-light settings. It’s much better in brighter, natural light. This means I’m still tied to bringing a camera with me when I go someplace where I want to take photos. Fortunately, though, I don’t need to do that on a day-to-day basis, which means my bag now weighs about .3 pounds less.

The battery doesn’t last quite as long as I’d like. I’m hoping that a few more cycles of charge-discharge all the way-charge will do the trick. If that doesn’t work, there are a million threads in the forums on how to increase battery life (one of which may be: bring my USB cable with me to work and plug the darn thing in during the day).

The ugly

I have a really, really hard time with the touch-screen keyboard after having used the more sensitive and accurate iPod touch keyboard for over a year. Does anyone who is an Eris/Droid/etc. user have a recommendation for a better on-screen keyboard, preferably free? Do I need to get rid of the screen protector?

So many notifications! I should probably uninstall a bunch of apps (hello 4 Facebook and 3 Twitter apps anyone?), which would definitely help in that regard. But I’m still trying to figure out which apps I want notifications for, and which I’d prefer to not know about. I also think the notifications are probably feeding into the afore-mentioned battery issues… So it’s mostly my own fault, but still. No centralized place where I can manage ALL my notifications is causing me some frustration and confusion.

Overall assessment

I’m happy with the Eris. Apparently there is going to be some big update on December 11 (rumors are about an upgrade to the  Android 2.0 operating system), but in the meantime I’m quite pleased with this phone on a whole lot of levels. If you’re new to smartphones, this is a good entry-level machine. If you don’t want to go to AT&T/iPhone, this is a nice choice. For those of you who have used the iPhone and/or Blackberry, I’d recommend going to someplace that sells the Eris and the Droid and comparing them and selecting the one you like best.

Eris to the Rescue

Two weeks in and I’m in pretty deep like with my Droid Eris.

Unlike on my iPod Touch, I haven’t downloaded any games yet. But unlike my iPod Touch, I’ve got all-the-time internet access plus GPS capabilities, and oh what a difference that makes!

Case in point: today we had to take 2 cars in to the city (6 adults do not fit in either a CR-V or an Outback, so 2 cars it was). First we needed driving directions. Google Maps – there’s an app for that, and it plots your location on the map while you drive. As soon as the Eris operating system gets upgraded past Android 1.5, we should be able to get turn-by-turn driving directions as well. Then we ended up getting out of the orchestra earlier than we thought we would, so we got updated driving directions to my folks’ hotel and sent Amy and her folks to our restaurant. While my folks were checking in to their hotel, Amy called and asked me to find them a bar by the restaurant that was open. I opened up the Places Directory and found a bunch of things, all of which appeared to be closed. Alas. Fortunately, they found a place. Phew! Then I needed to text Amy to let her know that her car had a dead battery and that we were waiting for AAA. When she called me back, she told me the magical secret to de-deading the dead battery. Yay Amy! If she were an app, she’d be number one on the popularity list, I’m sure of it! Then we got good driving directions to the restaurant, were able to get Amy and her mom headed home in the right direction, and were able to send me and my father-in-law back home incredibly efficiently.

Yeah, yeah, I know this is all pretty standard fare for your average smartphone (or GPS, for that matter), and probably not all that exciting to most folks who have one. If a couple of my favorite iPod Touch apps would get ported over to Android (I’m looking at you, LoseIt, Sportacular, iBird Explorer, Dropbox, and Stanza) and if I ever took the time to figure out how to get music onto the Eric, I’d be off the iPod Touch for good. But yeah, I’m pretty happy thus far.

I got a new phone!

After four years of owning the same cellphone – the lovely little Samsung SCH-A950 – I finally gave in to smartphone envy. No, I didn’t jump ship from Verizon to AT&T for the iPhone. I’ve been tempted, but have heard way too much about AT&T’s annoying coverage gaps all over the country to feel comfortable doing that. Instead, I opted for a Droid Eris.


It’s about the same size as an iPhone, which I like. It’s got a camera, great connection to all the Google apps, and apparently is a pretty good phone. Since I just got it less than an hour ago, I haven’t had much time to play with it too much, but I’m really excited! I’ll be sure to report back in a few days once I’ve had a chance to get used to it.