I’m delighted to present today Watson’s Big Bump - my latest contribution to the sock monkey literary canon. It recounts the misadventures of Watson the sock monkey (named after Watson of Watson & Crick, of course, because my house is nerd-intensive). In this tome, Watson enjoys jumping on the awesome flowered chair until… there’s a big bump.
If anyone buys the book (attractively priced at $.99) and enjoys it, I encourage you to review it on Amazon – especially if we don’t share a last name. If you don’t like it, I encourage you to keep that to yourself. But really, feel very free to review honestly – I am grateful for any and all feedback and would love to learn how to do this better.
Of note: I agonize over making my books work well on the Kindle app for the iPhone. I believe one of the best features of this book (aside from the fact that sock monkeys are awesome) is that it is perfect for distracting and/or amusing children in lines and waiting rooms.
Yvette – for dropping off her own sock monkey unbidden to play the doctor. It was just the kick in the butt I needed to actually do something.
Doctors Shearin and Roche – who graciously answered some very silly questions such as “what are the chances that you’d send a kid for an x-ray and their arm wouldn’t actually be broken?” Because I really wanted to do a sock monkey x-ray, but wanted to cop out on his arm being broken (it’s your lucky day, Watson!). Apparently, they tend to be pretty sure there’s a break before subjecting kids to radiology, so Watson gets a cast in the end.
Manda – For providing enough doubt in my own standard of sock monkey care that I consulted with the pediatricians. You kept me from making even more of an ass of myself. As usual.
The rest of you – For being too kind to make fun of me to my face. Please allow me to thank you in advance.
Exciting intellectual property issues that only I would notice
The first book – Watson on the Move – is currently free for Amazon Prime members. It also suffered from my photography (read the original post here). I got confused when I tried to figure out if I was violating anyone’s intellectual property by using photos of a sock monkey manufactured by someone else. Sock monkeys in general are in the public domain – they have been a feature of the American landscape for a good, long time, and are ubiquitous enough that no one can claim to own the concept.
However! The pattern that comes with the usual sock monkey socks is patented.
And furthermore! The monkey produced by a particular toy company may or may not have characteristics that sufficiently set it apart, so that I could conceivably be in some kind of violation.
And so I turned to illustrating my own sock monkey book. Just one problem…
I am crap at illustrating
But how, you’re probably wondering, can someone with no artistic talent or skill illustrate their own children’s book? Interestingly, when I posed that question to my friends on Facebook, everyone I know in Los Angeles said “no problem! You have style!” Take from that what you will.
Here’s what I did:
- Making my own damn sock monkey.
- Staging photos with it. I even made scrubs for Dr. Cal.
- Projecting those photos onto a piece of paper.
- Coloring in.
And here we are – it’s not great art, but I think it’s passable, and maybe even a little cute. Thanks for reading this far. And I hope you like Watson. Coming up next: Watson’s Day at the Beach.
After a year of tremendous growth – thanks to my rockstar clients – Nutgraf HQ is on the move! Our original location, conveniently based on my kitchen counter, offered proximity to snacks and laundry facilities, but was no longer able to accommodate our workload and storage needs.
After a rigorous exploration process, we decided to engage the window nook in the guest room/Spouse’s home office area. This (comparatively) spacious, top-floor suite includes a big South-facing window and is absolutely flooded with natural light and fitted out with the latest designs from a little neighborhood boutique called Ikea – you may have heard of it. It is also painted a becoming shade of blue.
Our new perch includes an unobstructed view of the highway out front and the condo building across the street – a great improvement over our former view of the sink and snack cabinet. Unlike our previous workspace, we are delighted to note that this one features drawers.
Have a great weekend, everyone!
“Let’s talk about non-communicable diseases,” I might say to you.
“Omigod, I am sick to death of talking about NCDs,” you totally would not say. “If I hear one more world leader outlining a clear plan to address them, I’m simply going to scream,” you would never add.
The acronym may be new to you. And you may not have heard of them grouped this way, but NCDs are diseases like cancer, diabetes, respiratory and cardiovascular illness. The kind of sick you get for a long time. That didn’t come from a mosquito, or a bad drink of water, or physical contact with someone infected. The kind of sick that… wait for it… causes two out of every three deaths worldwide.
Let me repeat that last bit:
NCDs cause two out of every three deaths worldwide.
At this point, let me issue a prominent and exciting Disclaimer:
I’m a consultant and one of my primary clients is Arogya World – a small nonprofit dedicated to fighting NCDs. They pay me to work on their website and social media stuff, but no one at Arogya asked me to write this post, and they did not review it. I did not receive any special compensation for this essay, though I’m pretty confident that they’re not unhappy about it.
But back to the issue at hand…
The problem is that NCDs are like furniture.
NCDs are a group of everyday diseases that impact everyone around the world. They’re everywhere. They attack the rich and the poor alike. You know people who have or had cancer. Heart disease is ubiquitous. Stroke threatens us all. Diabetes is on the rise.
These diseases are largely preventable and treatable, and we’re still dying from them by the millions. In fact, more of us are dying from them each year.
And global health professionals have made it boring.
They keep talking to one another – going on about “engaging with stakeholders,” “outreaching to civil society.” It’s my job and it puts me to sleep. What do you or I care about their stakeholders, or policy elites?
The World Health Organization (WHO) did an awesome little video on NCDs that started off strong:
- NCDs kill 36 million people every year.
- Nine million of those before the age of 60, when they should be working and taking care of their families.
And the kicker:
- These diseases are largely preventable.
They totally blow it at the 47 second mark, though. There, they talk about engaging government, private sector and civil society. Snore.
You can see the video here:
Unite in the fight against NCDs
18 million women die from NCDs each year.
Arogya World and a bunch of other partners started a petition that they will bring to the UN Summit on NCDs later this month. Their goal is to gather 10,000 women’s signatures demanding real, tangible commitments to helping people live longer, healthier lives. Commitments like educating people on healthy living and disease prevention, promoting sports and physical activity, taxing tobacco and alcohol products and reducing the marketing of junk food to children.
This is only the second time the UN has had this kind of meeting on a health topic, and the other one was HIV/AIDS, another acronym that didn’t used to mean a lot to people. This says to me that NCDs are at least this much of a crisis.
If you care about things like cancer, diabetes, and heart and lung disease, please consider signing on and sharing the petition with your friends.
Why do I care?
Here, I’ve been blogging about what a rat-bastard cancer is for a couple of years now (but less politely). I want my daughter to be at a lower risk of getting cancer than I am. I want her not to linger, suffer and die from the lymphoma that took my grandfather, or the lung cancer that took my grandmother – six weeks before she could have met her first great grandchild. I don’t want my kid to have to shave my head, like I shaved my mother’s when she was being treated for breast cancer. I don’t want my daughter to want because I got sick and can’t work. I want her heart to be healthy and her lungs strong so she can kick butt and take names. I want her to live for a million years, and to rock all of them.
We have the tools to live longer and healthier lives. We just have to make it happen. That’s why I signed.
Here’s that link again.
This post has been cross-published in a couple of places.
The Internets can be fickle. Social media is so in that it’s now a big yawn. The shark has been jumped, Twitter has been twa… er… tweeted, and nothing against all of you foursquare fans, but I know nothing about foursquare and still cannot stand it. I’m not even interested in where I am most of the time.
My pocketbook is smarter than me
But as we all stare ever more raptly into the tiny screens we carry around, I’ve been thinking about how isolating it all really is. We don’t talk to people on the metro (though honestly, that’s kind of a blessing), we don’t ask for directions, we can get book recommendations at the tap of a finger, find out how much that house cost, compare prices around the world with the flick of a thumb, and tighten our tether to e-mail and work all in the name of convenience. What I haven’t seen, though, is a really good implementation that combines social media, the Internets and the big, bad, real world.
The other week I was invited to try out the goSmithsonian Trek scavenger hunt across the Smithsonian Institution museums and – to be honest – I thought “Ugh. Trying to navigate the real world with new technology. How annoying is this going to be?” I was wrong. It was actually pretty fun, even going it alone.
Basically, you download the SCVNGR app to your iPhone or Droid (because you are a nerd) and it takes you on kind of a guided tour of several of the museums. You are invited to answer a series of questions or “challenges,” featuring trivia from the exhibits, and earn points for correct answers. It’s kind of addictive, and I found myself plowing through school groups and dashing up stairways to find the answers.
Dodging tourists and photographing elephant butts
One of the things you’re encouraged to do in each museum is snap a photo to share. Here’s mine from Natural History. I’m also not entirely proud of the way I behaved in the Wright Brothers exhibit at the National Air and Space Museum, where I tried to move quickly through lolly gagging families to efficiently complete one challenge before moving on to the next.
I think the Trek has great applications. As a DC native, I’ve long seen school groups going on pen-and-paper scavenger hunts in the museums. This takes it digital and really makes it work with the technology that’s already in your pocket. I could totally picture going on this Trek with a bunch of kids (assuming a bunch of kids each have iPhones or Droids or whatever) and setting them loose to conduct the challenge. Or maybe as a group activity. DC is riddled with bright-eyed young things who love organized fun. And curmudgeons (such as myself) can also learn a thing or two. Even those (also such as myself) who used to work at Smithsonian Enterprises.
To fulfill the challenges, I actually looked around the Smithsonian Castle for the first time in years, saw the crypt where are kept the remains of James Smithson, the man who donated the bags of gold (literally) to found an “Establishment for the increase & diffusion of knowledge” in a country he never visited during his life. This is just one of the amazing things to know about this amazing place.
Focus on experience, not interface.
As I said, I was pretty reluctant to try this thing out. I’m no luddite, but am congenitally cranky. It would be the easiest thing in the world to make the interface either too complicated or the activity dangerously dull. They’ve managed to make a really simple-to-use tool to guide users through what is at heart a much more complex activity. And keep the focus on the content, and the experience rather than on navigating the freaking phone. Strong work, guys.
But don’t take my word for it – feel free to download the free SCVNGR app yourself and head to the national mall. And don’t forget to drink plenty of water, it’s appalling out.
Plans for the future
I just spoke to the charming Beth Py-Lieberman, the editor of goSmithsonian who managed this whole shebang. She said that they’d love to take it further after this one-month trial is up. Maybe monthly treks, since the exhibits (particularly in the art museums) change so frequently.
“One of the takeaway lessons for me,” said Beth, “is that some of the visitors are going to have to be challenged more. We’re going to have to make them work hard for the answers, and get them into the back corners of the Smithsonian where the great stuff is.” I somehow failed to mention that I just couldn’t get one of the answers from the Hall of Oceans, so I may be in big trouble if they smart it up too much.
But it takes a lot of work to put one of these together. The one that’s live now? Beth says they started development during the DeathSnow and launched it during the heat wave, and that is something of a time commitment. It went through a lot of rounds of edits, a couple because the exhibits changed and threw the trek out of whack with reality, and one round Beth called “riddle-fying,” which is where they made lots of the questions rhyming and/or funny, which is pretty cute. No one asked me, but this all seems rather perfectly in line with the Institution’s stated goal of taking the whole of the Smithsonian digital, a project that is so exciting and of such appalling scope I can’t even get my brain around it. Maybe my pocketbook can.
Disclosure: I used to be an employee of Smithsonian Enterprises. I have not been paid, compensated, bribed, cajoled or threatened to try this trek or write this post.
Read more about the goSmithsonian Trek from these fine bloggers: