Born in a Walmart parking lot… The Urban Yoke

Behold... The Urban Yoke (and delightful shadow angel - who watches over those of us foolish enough to buy more than we can carry)It’s been 10 years of blogging!! Here’s a vintage SavingCymbria post to celebrate this month’s milestone…

SavingCymbria

Ever notice how a shopping cart is almost exactly the size of a car’s trunk? Both can comfortably fit a body and/or the spoils of a Sunday morning mission to Walmart. This revelation came too late for yours truly, who recently found herself stranded in the middle of a snowy Walmart parking lot with a cart’s worth pile of loot heaped at her feet, but no car, no trunk, and no options – and stubbornness can only take a girl so far.

Just then, a small sedan pulled up out of nowhere. The driver opened his door and leaned out. “Are you ok? Do you need a hand there?”

Now, I’m a great believer in chivalry; I take an opened door with all due grace and appreciation. But I draw the line at accepting rides – however fortuitous – from strange men in Walmart parking lots, men who quite possibly…

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Breaking up with celebrity gossip

imageCelebrity gossip is to women what sports are to men. We live the hunt vicariously, for love, for the revenge body, for the perfect shoe/bag combo… and just for the record I was on “Team Jen.” There’s no shame here; I delight in relational dramz as much as the next gal. It’s just how our brains are wired. Those silly boys tease us while they’re out there literally losing sleep over whether some other dude gets a ball in a hole – way to go buddy, way to go. Continue reading

How to start taking action on your naked ideas

imageWhat is an idea? It’s a burst, a sparkle of new connectivity. It’s a delicious brain buzz humming with the unfettered thrill of happily ever after. A little Disney orgasm if you will – cue crescendo and bluebirds. But without action, let’s face it, any idea is purely a personal pleasure. When you take new micro neural connections and expand then into the social system as macro reflections in real-time… woah, then you’ve got an orgy on your hands! Continue reading

Releasing your energy eddies

imageLifted and swept into the current, we offer ourselves up to 2017. The sun sparkles on the ripples like a thousand tiny fireworks as we ride the flow past familiar bends and banks into the thrill of uncharted waters. I float in perfect harmony with the pull of the river, enjoying the gentle play of light on my eyelids and a body’s confidence in direction that only happens when you let nature set the course. Continue reading

How to take a psychologically safe selfie

perfect selfieOur lovers are beautiful, uniquely so, and in the throws of first passions their imperfections glow with that secret light of possession. He is mine. He is exquisite. He is love. But in this low age of the selfie we trap our most precious lover with reflections, refractions, into two dimensional pixel grids that tempt our brains’ unconscious mechanisms to betray us into ugliness. Continue reading

Boost creativity by interweaving action sequences

Do you have a porous thalamus? Skewed dopamine receptor ratios? Thinner than average grey matter, and white matter of questionable integrity? If so, congratulations, you were born with a creative brain. Sounds glamorous, doesn’t it? But why let the genetic freaks have all the fun? The loosened associative neural processes that produce the novel connections and useful insights we define as creativity can be artificially induced. Interweaving your action sequences lets your body send sensory information through the thalamus in a pattern that mimics the structural pathways of an innately creative brain, allowing anyone to engineer their own eureka breakthroughs.

process diagram sketchBy physically interweaving your daily action sequences (e.g. combining three chores into one), you can imitate the porous information filtration of a creative brain’s thalamus, as well as its rather non-committal white connective circuitry. Comparatively disjointed associations will be simultaneously activated by the interwoven feed of sensory information as it bounces between loosely connected attentions/tasks. Novel connections will appear through this jumble and can be vetted as to their potential to contribute to a useful solution to a final related, or sometimes surprisingly unrelated, goal.

Ok, let’s get to work. Follow along with the (rather roughly) sketched process diagram (above) to get an idea of how to incorporate this creativity boosting exercise into your own life.golf equipment storage design In this example, doing all three tasks concurrently brings a new relationship to light. The end goal of organizing the golf equipment strewn around the living room (don’t ask!) is, by comparison, quite similar to putting away the groceries and laundry. Both latter tasks have a dedicated, compartmentalized storage unit and involve the process of ‘grouping and condensing’. Aha!! How about designing a hall closet golf caddy to fulfill the same role for errant golf equipment! Now if only injection molding and marketing were so simple!

After practicing this exercise, your brain will become accustomed to jumping between attentions while maintaining an underlying focus map of multiple concurrent tasks. Which is to say, seeing the dishtowels in a pile of clean laundry may soon prompt the thought cascade of kitchen, grocery bags, golf equipment… This underlying multiple focus is itself a neural model of how an extended metaphor/theme weaves its way into a creative person’s work. The layered themes of Shakespeare’s Hamlet are a perfect example. And I know I’m risking the wrath of dendrite action potential purists here, but the best way to describe this phenomenon is that, once activated, these associative areas may stay quietly ‘lit’ and be more easily accessed during (near) future conscious and unconscious musings. Ah yes, the sweet beauty of brain priming.

Save major time and money with this grocery list template and bonus online flyer trick

Time saving grocery list templateOverwhelmed by choice, the modern hunter/gatherer can easily fall prey to the psychological manipulation of 21st century grocery stores. Arm yourself! In a retail environment specifically designed to seduce you into following its lead, this grocery list template will let you get in and out without succumbing to temptation or be paralyzed in the produce aisle. I’ve been there, bag of carrots in hand, caught in a moment of near existential angst – “where do I go from here!?”

Click Here To Download Grocery List Template

Stress, existential or otherwise, causes us to think with our limbic/emotional reactive brain. Use this structured list to guide your rational brain gently through the aisles. The vegetable section is given the largest space on the template to give a direct visual cue to load up on soil born succulence and minimize less healthy items. Yes, there are some cravings that demand satisfaction, but you can’t seriously tell me you woke up dreaming about that jumbo bag of novelty gummies on the endcap of aisle #3.

*BONUS* I saved $45 at the checkout the first time I used this trick! Most grocery store chains now post their weekly specials flyer online. Write these sale items into your grocery list template before you fill in the rest. With the sale items on the page in front of you, you can then build the remainder of your grocery list and Meal Map (details in an upcoming post) around these foods.

Follow these links to your find grocery store’s weekly specials:
Sobeys * Loeb * Safeway * Loblaws

Don’t see yours? Links to other Canadian grocery stores can be found at Smartflyercanada.com. And if you’re looking for links to American stores Click Here.

The design process applied to office sanctioned crafting

design processCreative problem solving isn’t about sitting by yourself in a little corner hashing out some rigid step by step plan of action. It’s about responding to your materials, interacting with your environment, and fearlessly risking your time and ego by challenging your ideation at every step of the process.

When my boss asked me to design paper gauges for our two giant printers, I was thrilled; especially considering that despite my background, I’ve deliberately chosen a job that strictly confines me to rolling said paper when it comes out the other side of said behemoth printers (but that’s another story).

“Ooooo yes please!” I said, always eager to engage in any office sanctioned crafting. And really, is there any better kind?

I quizzed him on the design criteria: show amount of available paper (two sizes) without having to open the machines. And set to work, scouring our office for any potentially useful materials. A key exercise in creativity – feel free to try this at home – is to look at objects in terms of their inherent physical properties, not just by their associations (click here for classic candle/box experiment). For example, an elastic’s basic properties can allow it to become be a shock absorber, a vice, a sound generator, a friction enhancer, a weapon, a hinge, a sex toy… etc.

First attempt: I cut out the center of two paper plates (using small ceramic plate template), used Sharpie coloured wood coffee stirrers as indicators around a central pivot made of a paper clip (by first creating holes with thumbtacks and securing potential wood splitting with packing tape), then partook in label making to obscene excess. Brilliant!!

Except… for the fact that the resulting gauge looked exactly like two paper plates with coffee stirrers sandwiched in between, and carried the ugly evidence of someone with an obsessive fetish for label makers. And then there was the embarrassing discovery that moving one indicator influenced the rotation of the other. Sigh… not so brilliant after all.

Solution: Back to the drawing board. Always a sharp physical pain, but part of the creative process that must never smell your fear. There can be no mourning period. Huzza! Onwards and Upwards! I extended my foraging area to include resources available within walking distance on my lunchbreak.gauge design Brass spread-leg fasteners obtained! Cardstock… cardstock? After waiting for an eternity at the counter of a print shop, I’d almost given up hope. Then low and behold, a miracle! A dashing, ever so gallant, white knight of customer service came to my rescue with a stack of backroom off-of-stock-list sheets of two different weights. Huzza!

Sometimes, when you go out into the world with excitement, openness, and a clear mission, that world gets excited along with you and gives you what you so desperately need without asking anything in return. The gift of those few sheets were more than enough motivation to re-energize my demand for perfection from this project. No more compromises! This gauge was going to be perfect down to the mm… who are we kidding… the 1/2 mm!

Final design: So what if the heavier cardstock jammed the printer. I simply laminated the lighter version with packing tape and got on with X-acto-ing and blending my pencil crayons to a professional blur with strips of Kleenex. Brilliant! Perfection achieved! Perfectly proportioned, eminently easy to read, two super pro looking paper gauges = Mission accomplished?

“What do you think?” I asked my boss, proudly showing off my brand new twins.

“Hmmm,” he said, “I was thinking of something maybe a bit smaller.”

…oh for the lova’ pete.