Sunday, February 16, 2014

Tip #70: Believe in the future

Thanks to the Swell app, as I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I discovered the TED Radio Hour program. Recently they had a very interesting show called Predicting the future. As always, the program has several parts, but there was one in particular that caught my attention, "How personalized will medicine get." They interview the engineer Nina Tandon about her TED talk (embedded below) on tissue engineering. She has also just published the Kindle book Super Cells: Building with Biology. She mentions the potential of something called induced pluripotent stem cells, which was just discovered in 2006 by Shinya Yamanaka and Sir John Gurdon and which garnered a Nobel Prize of medicine for them in 2012. What she mentions in her talk, and I have seen first hand unfortunately, is how each disease is different in each person and how a medicine or treatment that I may take or do will have completely different results in somebody else. But this kind of stem cells are induced in the lab from our own cells (so they also don't carry the ethical problems that embryonic stem cells have) and thus, we can try medicines in the organs created with them with the benefit that we will know for sure how our own organs will be affected. Her talk is only seven minutes, so I encourage to watch it, as it gives us much needed hope.

It also gives me immense hope that, although the talk is from 2012, I myself just heard it about three weeks ago, but since then, even more exciting news have come out in relation to this line of research:
  • They have just discovered a process that is even faster and cheaper to get stem cells. (NYT article)
  • Induced pluripotent stem cells will be tested in people with age-related blindness ( article). This is very important because in her talk she mentions that, treating a disease this way with people will be the first step to using this method for everything. So, this was just a hypothesis in 2012 and now it is a reality. 
  • Creating platelets through induced pluripotent stem cells may also be a possibility. (Science Mag. article)
These news make more tangible the idea that we can create personalized medicine for each one of us. I believe we live in an age of miracles, and this looks like another one to me.

What do you think?

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Tip #69: Do a photo challenge

(Let me just warn you that there will be some shameless self promotion at the end of the post. I just want you to be aware of it from the beginning)
"The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera."
                                                Dorothea Lange

When the first cell phones which took pictures came out I remember thinking that that was the stupidest idea I had heard. Who, in their right mind, would use a phone to take a picture? Well, I'm glad I don't work as a consultant for a phone company, for I was clearly completely wrong. Now, we use our phones to take pictures so often that many of us (me included) have forgotten when was the last time we actually used a real camera.

One great advantage of this is, of course, that we carry a camera in our pocket almost constantly. And people, particularly the younger generations, are taking advantage of it and snatching images at a frenetic pace. Not only many more people are taking more pictures, but we are sharing them publicly in social media sites built exclusively around these images, like Instagram or Snapchat. I, myself, am a devoted user of Instagram. I started like one does these things, just getting my little toes wet with a picture or two and following a couple of friends, but it then grew to a very nice group of friends, family and admired people and/or photographers. My Instagram feed has become a daily source of inspiration.

I noticed one day that people on Instagram were doing these challenges, which consisted of taking a picture a day for a period of time, following a specific prompt. You would also add a special hashtag (the # symbol) and when you would click on it, you could see all the other pictures which had been posted following that same prompt. When I decided to do one, I observed that strangers were liking my pictures, but actually these were other people who were doing the challenge and had also seen my picture when they clicked on their hashtags. I then followed their lead, and every time I posted a picture for a challenge, I would also "like" several other pictures from strangers that I enjoyed. I have tried doing at least three of those monthly challenges and although I never really finished the whole month, it was still fun to participate and be part of a community.

So, today, I'm suggesting here that you do a challenge too, because they just may make you happy. These are the reasons why I like them:

  • They make you look at things from a different perspective.
  • They force you to stop what you are doing, pause, and consider the beauty around you. 
  • They make you more appreciative of what's around you.
  • You feel connected to other people and to humanity in general.
  • At the end of the challenge, you have a very nice set of pictures to show of.
Here are some possible challenges for your consideration, included one a friend and I created:
  • #fmsphotoaday: The ones I participated in before, created by a designer in Australia, Chantelle. I like the prompts she suggests, because sometimes, they really make you think and look for beauty in simple things.
  • #100happydays: This one does not have prompts. Instead, you have to take a picture of something that makes you happy every day for 100 days. I like the premise of this one and I think I would do it if I was not already doing one. I learned about it from my friend Deanna.
  • #365project: As the name indicates, you take a picture every day for a year, to document your life.
  • #InstagramELE: This is the one my friend Adelaida, who also teaches Spanish, and I created for our students, or anyone who wants to practice Spanish, so they can practice by taking daily pictures after prompts and, if they want, also commenting and enjoying other pictures from others trying the same. (Here is the total shameless self promotion I mentioned at the beginning)
The truth is, even if you decide to do a challenge, you actually don't need to share your pictures with anyone. You can save them in a folder on your computer or your phone. I do like the added social aspect, but I know many of you are shy and that's fine. In any case, you will have those beautiful moments saved, which otherwise may have just disappeared.

Well, as always, I would love to hear your thoughts. 

Have a great week!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Tip #68: Listen up

Today, I would like to share a great app for the iPhone that I recently discovered. It's called Swell and it is described as "the Pandora for news radio." You can tell the app what kind of programs you like or not and it will find recent tracks that match your taste. If something comes up, and you don't like it, you can swipe it and a new track will start playing. They also intersperse top of the hour news bulletins from your favorite news media. In other words, absolutely heaven to my ears.
Here are some of the programs I have discovered thanks to the app and some episodes I heard lately and liked:

  • Freakonomics Radio: I had heard of the book and some of their controversies, but this podcast is quite surprising and entertaining. I enjoyed this episode about the new Pope and his recent comments about the free market (40 minutes). 
  • NPR's Planet Money: Again, surprised that I could like economics so much. Loved the latest one I heard, perfect for February, Dear Economist: I need a date (21 minutes).
  • Five Minute Dharma: Just as the name indicates, these are short Buddhist lessons about practical issues.
  • 99% Invisible: It is described as "A tiny radio show about design." I liked this one about Bubble houses
  • NPR's TED Radio Hour: I saw this program in the NPR line up and thought to myself that I did NOT need any more TED talks in my life. Well, I was wrong. This program is wonderful, as it will select a topic, then choose two or three related TED talks, show some snippets from them but also interview the speakers, giving the listeners a more current version or commenting on the other talks. I really enjoyed this one, and probably will write a post about it soon, Predicting the Future (about an hour, but it is divided in segments).
There are other radio shows and podcasts that I already knew and this year I am making more of an effort to hear them, so I put their feeds in my Podcast app. Here they are:
  • On Being: This show is a conversation by its creator, Krista Tippett, and very interesting guests, covering all kinds of human endeavors. I have not heard one I did not enjoy or learned something new in. I'm leaving you with an older episode, because what was said about business could be so well applied to teaching and other aspects of our lives: Seth Godin on the Art of Noticing and then Creating (about 1 hour).
  • Sounds True Producer's Pick: These are short (about 10 or 12 minutes) podcasts, which represent selections from larger shows. If you need quick inspiration, these are phenomenal. Here's one I heard last week and enjoyed: "What is Interpersonal Neurobiology?" with Daniel Siegel (iTunes link). 
  • Sounds True Insights at the Edge: These are longer conversations (one hour or slightly more) and maybe they are also a bit challenging, but I feel I learn so much from any of them. 
  • Dan Pink's Office Hours: This show is described as the "Car Talk for the human engine." Many different and interesting topics, often about education, but also about business or life. I liked this interview of Tom Rath about his latest book, Eat, Move, Sleep. An eye opener.
I also have old favorites, like This American Life, On the Media or Radio Lab, which I still listen to, although not as often.

So, how do I have time to listen to all these? I don't, but, by using my phone as a radio, I am able to sneak in parts of these shows when I'm doing things like laundry, sometimes walking and definitely in the car on my commute to work. I also like to snooze for my naps to the sound of the radio, so I technically do not hear everything, but, that's one more thing I like about Swell, that I can go back and check on what I missed. I definitely am watching less TV these days as well, but the shows my family likes are a bit too violent or scary for me, so I'm glad I have a radio near by. I feel that by listening to these shows I continue my learning and am entertained at the same time and I decided to write this long list because I'm hoping someone else may like these shows and see their value as well.

What do you listen to? (¡Y perdonen por el rollo tan largo mis lectoras de EspaƱa!)

Lots of love to everyone.

photo credit: bricolage.108 via photopin cc