While TED is on a two-week vacation, I am curating playlists, one for each day, comprised of older or forgotten TEDTalks. After watching hundreds of talks, these are some really great ones.

Monday: Life Stories (click the link to be taken to the full playlist)

My personal favorite from Monday, Stefan Sagmeister, on what he has learned.

Tuesday: Living, Breathing Architecture

My favorite off of this playlist, and this is an absolute must-watch, is Bjarke Ingels.

Wednesday: Childish Thinking

Also a must-watch, Rick Smolan tells the story of a girl.

Look out for tomorrow’s playlist about the intersection of art and biology on the TEDBlog!


A Few Favorites

New York wasn’t exactly my cup of tea. (It was always too hot for a cup of tea anyway.)

I felt slightly spirit-less amid the buildings and the cement and the hustle and bustle. I missed the mountains, and the sun, and the fresh air off the ocean.

That’s not to say that I didn’t love anything there.

So, here are a few of my favorite things from NYC:

1) TED

(Photo Credit Robert Leslie / TED)

  • I literally get to watch TEDTalks all day. Pretty awesome.
  • I love my boss. She is adorable. She brought me chocolates in a pink, heart-shaped box when I left New York. She calls me Miss Rachel. She uses “noodle” as a verb. She’s pretty much the best boss ever.
  • I got to go to TEDxOilSpill in D.C., which was incredibly eye-opening, depressing, and inspiring all at the same time.

  • This was my desk:

How cool is that.

2) Mr. Softee

There are Mr. Softee trucks on virtually every corner. It’s a glorious sight.

I’d like some ice cream with my rainbow sprinkles, please.

3) Pizza at 2AM

One night I got off my waitressing job at around 2 and was starved…yes, starved for pizza. Of course, it wasn’t difficult to find. And as disgusting as it is, I was thrilled beyond measure to find pizza for sale in the middle of the night.

4) The Trump Soho Hotel

I spotted it outside the window while on the phone in a back corner of my office. I had never noticed it before, not even walking to work. But it struck me as an incredible piece of architecture…almost as if it was a three-dimensional cutout of the scenery!

5) Green Thumb Community Gardens

This garden was right outside of my apartment. When it wasn’t too muggy, it was a lovely place to read, practice photography, or just sit. Even sitting right next to the street, you could almost simulate the feeling of a real park. This was a Green Thumb community garden, which I would find all over the city, in converted alleyways and other unused spaces.

6) My Friends (Slash Lifesavers)

Will and Anjali always let me tag along. We made frozen bananas, explored Central Park, and of course, played Bananagrams.

Lily, Anj, and I cleaning up after our summer dinner party, complete with chicken, mango salsa and caprese salad!

I must, of course, consider both banagrams and wine close companions.

Benny and I on the front steps of the Met. If it wasn’t for Benny’s visit, I don’t know what I would have done.

7) The Leather Man at the corner of Crosby and Spring

I love my new journal. If only I could afford one of his amazing leather shoulder bags.

8 ) The Churrasco at Cafe Cortadito

Chimicurri tacos are me and Benny’s go-to meal. So you can imagine my delight at finding an almost-as-delicious chimichurri and steak meal in NYC at the most charming little Cuban place called Cafe Cortadito. I ate there three times in one week; that’s how good it was.

9) The Little Lebowski Store

That’s right. Everything Lebowski. In one store. Fabulous. My new shirt reads, “The Dude is my Boyfriend.”

9) High Line Park

High Line Park was my favorite place in the city. It was the only place I really felt at home and the only place I could think. It was built on top of the outdoor train tracks in the Meat Packing District. It was designed with creativity, attention to detail, and an understanding of nature. There are these wonderful benches that feel like pool chaises. I would lie on those and close my eyes or draw in my pretty leather journal.

Volcano You Say? Let’s TED

TED, [ ted ], noun, TED; verb, to TED, TEDding; adjective, TED, TEDalicious


1. acronym for Technology, Entertainment, and Design

2. a non-profit foundation which features conferences comprised of lectures and performances by the world’s best and brightest thinkers and innovators in less than 18 minutes


3. To utilize creativity and innovation and enable the spread of ideas around the world : We were stuck in London, so we TEDded.

– adjective

4. To demonstrate the motivation and creativity necessary to change the world and share your greatest ideas with peers: You are so TED.

What do you do when a volcano spews a giant cloud of ash into the atmosphere, casting a big, black shadow over hearts and minds?

Do you try to find a portkey in your airline-issued sleeping bag that can zap you to your chosen destination? After all, it worked for Harry Potter.

Or do you inquire about the hopes and dreams of the sleeping baggers around you?

Do you sit in the airport, buzzing in the ear of customer service, trying to find any possible way out.

Or do you take advantage of your extra few days to explore a foreign land, or perhaps the place you call home.

Do you spike up the room rates of the hotel you own to take advantage trapped passengers, as in the case of Dubai hotels?

Or do you work together to make sure everyone has a just-right place to sit, a just-right place to sleep, and a just-right bowl of porridge?

Rather than wallowing in the ash-free corners of London while they waited for the chance to get home, organizers and attendees of the Skoll World Forum

{Skoll Center for Social Entrepreneurship: sponsors research, education and collaboration for the advancement in the field of social entrepreneurship.}

{Skoll Foundation: funds social entrepreneurs around the globe.}

{Social Entrepreneurship: innovative solutions to global environmental and humanitarian problems through the application of high-impact business models revenue strategies.}

decided to take advantage of some extra time with some incredible individuals.

So they created TEDxVolcano in 24 hours: found a great venue, great food, and even greater speakers.

These included:

Jeff Skoll         [ Chairman of the Skoll Foundation ]

Larry Brilliant       [ Former Director of Google.org ]

Nathaniel Whittenmore     [ Founder of Assetmap ]

Matthew Bishop     [ New York Bureau Chief for The Economist ]

Cara Mertes      [ Head of Documentaries for Sundance ]

Peter Greenber     [ CBS Correspondent ]

Susheela Raman       [ Musician ]

And the list goes on.

I’ve had so many conversations with people about how unfortunate this volcano situation has been. Apart from the airlines losing hundreds of millions of dollars and the stranded people with


to get back to, the Iceland V had a negative impact on so many others. Restaurants who didn’t have fresh food coming in. Food suppliers who had to throw away tons and tons of food that went bad after a week waiting to get on a plane. The lungs of those across Europe who are breathing in pieces of glass and tearing their lungs to pieces. Sports competitions that had to be pushed forward for months. Honeymooners who had to cancel their trips. And so on.

A whole lot of Negative Nancy. [Did anyone else have the thought bubble that the name for the volcano Eyjafjallajökull itself looks like it could be an excellent cuss word? Like if you found out you were stranded in the Heathrow airport, this is the spray of letters you would slam on the keyboard in an suppressed outburst of profanity?]

But what I like about TEDxVolcano is how they took a very negative situation, realized there was nothing they could do, so found a positive and skipped away. Instead of complaining to friends and family back home, working in their hotel rooms alone, or finding solace in sleep, the TEDx-goers said, “Not so much.”

Click here to watch TEDxVolcano.

Published in: on April 22, 2010 at 10:14 pm  Leave a Comment  
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So I think you are all aware of my love affair with TED.

TED is my comfort food: my gummy bears, my frozen bananas with sprinkles.

TED is my professor: my education, my mentor, my fountain of knowledge.

TED is my friend: my jogging partner, my advice, my road trip buddy.

TED is my lover: my inspiration, my great big hug, my challenger.

If TED was a house, I would live in it. If TED was a tomato, I would chop it up, make caprese salad, and stuff myself with it.

So you must understand when the second annual TED was announced, my elation knew no bounds.

I submitted my application within seconds of getting the email, and now I am here, joined by more than 1200 fellow students, professors, and other members of my community, waiting for the mind-molding to begin.

Here’s how TEDx works (and if you don’t go watch a video at TED.com immediately after watching this, you are hereby banned from my blog):

  • USC, inspired buy the TED revolution, wanted to create their own TED event, drawing upon the immense talent of individuals on campus and in the USC community.
  • So they asked the most compelling individuals, challenging them to give the “talk of their lives” in 18 minutes or less.

If you had 18 minutes or less, what would you say?

The real beauty of TEDx: you and me and he and she can put on a TEDx event anytime. TED is a democracy and everyone can play.

It allows schools, companies, even groups of friends to provide a platform for unique ideas and inspiration. What began in this Southern California university has now spread across cities, states, and countries. There are now TEDx events everywhere from Memphis to Stockholm to Rio de Janeiro.

So it is with great pleasure that I welcome you to TEDxUSC:

To warm up your brain, let’s play a game. I’ll give you this roman numeral


Add one line to make the number value 12…

And you get:


Now take this roman numeral, and add one line to make the numeral value  6…



Still scratching your head?

Here’s the answer:


A little bit of expertise gets in the way of a clever solution, now doesn’t it?

With that, I would like to introduce the great speakers I got to listen to at TEDxUSC.

These speakers hailed from many different fields: from robotics to social work, linguistics to neurology, adventure seeking to astronomy, and even one individual who had no field to speak of.

Even more compelling than their fields of interest or their individual projects was the fact that these speakers, as do just about all of the TED speakers

{ D E F Y     F E A R}

They take the ideas and thoughts that we fear the most and they turn them into productivity, creativity. Most importantly, they use that power, that power one gets from telling fear to





to harness an energy that can create change on a massive scale throughout the world.

To begin, we will take the most obvious fear:

{D E A T H}

T H E   H U M A N    B I R D

If you didn’t watch this video, Jeb is a base jumper. But in this video, we see something a little different than typical base jumping. Using a squirrel suit, Jeb scrapes over the cliff faces of massive empires of mountains, brushing hairs with death at every moment.

He is flying.

Like a bird.

Jeb says he goes into it expecting death.

But it feels so damn good.

Maybe we’re not all built to jump out of airplanes. But Jeb’s words of wisdom are golden, especially coming from someone who, after watching his video, you can only assume to be completely out of his mind.

“The lead up to it is usually the most intimidating part. And standing on the edge of the helicopter, that’s when the real fear sets in.

Once you leave and you START TO FLY, all you’re thinking about is


When Jeb jumps off a building, or out of an airplane, or in one case through the center of the Eiffel Tower after doing a double-reverse flip

He doesn’t think it’s going to work

He knows it’s going to work.

Jeb says he has the same kind of fear as everybody else. He is no stronger, no stupider, no braver. The only difference between Jeb Corliss and you (assuming you’re not mildly insane) or me is that he has learned how to control his fears.

You can either let fear control you, or you can learn to control it.

Jeb’s newest endeavor?

Jumping out of an aircraft and landing on the ground without deploying a parachute.

But don’t worry Mrs. Corliss, he’s got NASA engineers working on it, so it’ll be all good.

{R E J E C T I O N}

5 0 J O B S. 5 0 S T A T E S. 5 0 W E E K S.

After being rejected more than 5000 times, Daniel Seddiqui no longer fears rejection.

His biggest fear?

Filing taxes in all 50 states.

With only one more semester left at USC and still no internship prospects for my last and most important (work experience-wise) summer of college, hearing Daniel talk about graduating from USC with an Economics degree and having no money, no jobs, and no prospects of a job was slightly disheartening. If Daniel couldn’t get a job with an Econ degree, then I definitely won’t get a job with an International Relations degree!

So, in the face of seemingly zero opportunities, Daniel asked,

Where are all the opportunities in this great country?

And he set out to get

50 JOBS in

50 STATES in


And he did.

He chose very stereotypical jobs in each and every state. For example:

Colorado    |     Hydrologist

South Dakota   |     Radio Announcer

Nevada     |     Officiated Weddings

Oregon    |    Logger

Kansas    |    Meatpacker

New Orleans    |    Bartender

Kentucky    |     Horse Farm

Vermont    |     Tapped Maple Syrup

Florida    |    Egyptian Stilt Walker

West Virgina    |     Coal Miner

Pennsylvania    |    Furniture-maker for the Amish

California    |     Worked in a Winery

Maine    |     Lobster Fisherman

Hawaii    |     Surfing Instructor

Living in a different city each week, sometimes with cowboys or the Amish or Cheeseheads, sometimes in pueblos or resorts or trailer parks, Daniel had to learn how to adapt to different situations, cultures, and even languages.

All in his own country.

His biggest lessons?

Be Persistent.

Take Risks.

Have Endurance.

Network (like there’s no tomorrow)

The more people he met, the more opportunities he created.

He created.

The job search isn’t about letting people give you a job. It’s about getting a job.

I was complaining the other day about how I have so much to offer, but have not been given the chances to succeed. Sorry me, but that’s BS. Plain and simple.

We create our own success. If we want something, we better go and get it.

Daniel had more jobs than most USC graduates will ever have. Given, they were mostly menial labor jobs, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t acquire skills and experiences that will help him succeed in the future.

His voyage wreaked of uncertainty. But he used that to his advantage.

“It’s all up to you,” says Daniel. “You choose your own destiny. It’s all about self-drive and self-motivation. When I ran cross-country at USC, the coach gave me all the advice and instruction that I needed. But when that gun when off

it was all up to me.”

{ C H A N G E }


Space is far away.

I mean really far away.

And I rarely think about it.

But for Nick Patrick, space feels like home.

He just recently returned from the International Space Station, where he was installing the final piece of the station, a bay window for the spacecraft which provides a panoramic view of….

The Earth, The Moon, The Stars.

And you thought your beachfront oceanview timeshare in Cabo was a sweet deal.

Nick spoke of the value of the scientific motives behind space exploration. But more than that, he says, the value of going into outer space is about

Learning how to live there.

It’s about changing your perspectives, and everything you know and are comfortable with, to live in a different environment.

Space, for Nick, is about the unique perspective that comes from both the view and the challenges.

Nick tells us about the behavior he had to change in order to adapt to life in space:

You have to learn how to hold on. Gravity has taken a leave of absence.

You have to learn how not to hold on. Float gracefully, and you won’t get lost in space.

You have to re-learn how to eat. Your spoon of Space Yogurt must carefully make the journey from the packet to your mouth.

Real estate is limited, so you make do. Nick has discovered the perfect piece of wasted real estate to sleep on: the ceiling.

Things drop up. If you drop a pen, it won’t be down on the floor, where you look for it.

Think globally. Literally.

Nick has experienced change in norms and lifestyle to an extent that many of us can only imagine.

But he says, that change is relative; and space is the perfect place to think about change.

Innovation is a force which changes the world.

It should also be a force for not letting the world change.”

{ T H E   U N K N O W N }

T H E    R E A L   A V A T A R

Paul Frommer is a professor at USC.

He created Na’vi, the language spoken in Avatar.

He jumps on stage, disappointingly flesh-colored and tail-less. But his tongue clicks and foreign sounds convinced me of his Avatar status.

You can learn some Na’vi too:

Kaltxií _____ Hello

(Make a t-sound without breathing out and quickly add a vowel)

Oel ngati kameie ______ I see you

(prounounced well nati kamaye)

Ngaru lu fpom srak? ______ How are you?

(srak implies question)

Nga za’u fitseng pxim srak? ­­______ Do you come here often?

Ngeyä ____ lor lu nitxan ­­_______ Your __ is/are very beautiful

Menarí ______ Eyes

Meseyrí ______ Lips

Key ______ Face

Kxetse ______ Tail

Lrrtok ______ Smile

Nga yawne lu oer _______ I love you.

(prounounced Nya yawnee lu where)

Eywa ngahu _______ Eywa be with you.

{ D I F F E R E N T }

T H I N K S    L I K E   A    C O W

Unfortunately, we didn’t get the live version of Temple Grandin, but we did get to watch her TED Talk, and so can you:

Temple Grandin has been instrumental in making slaughtering methods more humane in the United States.


Because she thinks like an animal.

“My mind works like Google Images,” she says.

She is severely autistic. But she loves the fact that she’s different, and she’s not afraid to show it.

In fact, she says:

The world needs different kinds of minds to work together.

Watch the trailer for the new HBO Temple Grandin movie starring Claire Danes:

{ L O S S }


Johanna Blakely, the Deputy Director of the Norman Lear Center gets on stage, looking cute as a button.

She tells a story of Mario Prada, who is shopping at a vintage store in Paris, and finds a jacket that he absolutely loves. He begins to examine it very closely. His friend suggests that he buy it. Prada responds, “I’m not just going to buy it. I’m going to

replicate it.”

Despite what you might think (and what I assumed), Prada’s plan is perfectly legal.

The fashion industry has no copyright protection and no patent protection. Trademark protection is the only way to preserve you property via your logo, which results in the Louis Vuitton logo plastered all over every product.

Blakely explains that apparel design is considered too utilitarian to qualify for copyright protection?

Can you imagine if Armani had patented the shirt collar?

We usually assume that without ownership, there is no incentive to innovate. But actually,

Industries that operate without copyright laws have significantly higher sales revenue than industries that operate with copyright laws.

What else can’t be copyrighted?

–      Hairdos

–      Magic Tricks

–      Tattoo Artists

–      Open source technology

–      Recipes

–      Firework displays

–      Cars

–      Perfume fragrances

–      Databases

The lack of ownership in the fashion industry, and other industries, has actually created a more OPEN CREATIVE PROCESS.

After all, who owns a look? Who owns a trend?

Without ownership, designers have to up their game, search for individuality, and keep creating new looks that are more innovative and unique than their competition.

Fun fact: Jazz musician Charlie Parker once said that the reason he created bebop was because he thought it would be too difficult for white musicians to copy.

He wanted to be unique. So he upped the ante.

So, Johanna asks, what is the kind of ownership model in this age that’s going to lead to the most innovation?

Is loss of ownership really that much of a loss in the long term?

Read more about Johanna’s project at www.readytoshare.org.

{ L O N E L I N E S S }

A    R O B O T ‘ S    P L A Y D A T E

To introduce Maya, Bandit the robot wheels on stage, donning his red and gold USC sweatshirt, ready to take charge.

Bandit is a social robot and a result of the work of Maja and her colleagues at the USC Interaction Lab.

Maja and Bandit believe that social robots can be used to vastly improve human health and the quality of life.

Today in the United States, people suffer from:

800,000 strokes / year

16 million cases of Alzheimer’s Disease

1 in 100 children diagnosed with Autism

Perhaps Bandit can’t give you a huge when you’re feeling down, but there are a lot of things he can do without any physical contact.

Monitoring: robots are capable of early detection of conditions, and can dramatically reduce the risk of injury

Coaching: they can help stroke patients, for example, regain and retain function

Motivation: they push you to stick to your therapy, motivate you to maintain a healthy lifestyle

Companionship: can be effective for combating isolation and depression

Bandit and his robot friends have already been applied to real-life situations.

They have helped stroke patients with their therapy, resulting in patients performing longer when exercising.

They have provided monitoring for the elderly as well as companionship.

They have coached autistic children to help detect social cues and help the child relate in a peer-to-peer like fashion.

Not convinced?

I watched Bandit direct Maja to do certain physical exercises and monitored her performance.

And don’t worry, Bandit even tells jokes.

Read more about the Interaction Lab’s work:


{ C H A O S }

P L A Y S    W I T H  M A R B L E S

If you have ever seen an OK Go music video, then you know that they are incredibly fun and creative.

For their newest single, “This Too Shall Pass,” they approached Adam Sadowski at Synn Labs.

They wanted him to build a machine.

But not just any machine.

The machine.

This machine had to do a number of things, Adam’s so-called “10 Commandments” of the machine:

1)    No “magic.” This had to clearly be real.

2)   Band integration

3)   Machine action should follow the feeling of the song

4)   Must make use of the space (a giant warehouse)

5)   Had to be MESSY

6)   The machine must start the music

7)   It must be synched to the rhythm and hit specific beats of the song

8)   Must end precisely on time

9)   Should play part of the song.

And the kicker…

10)                  Had to be done in ONE SHOT!

So, the machine featured in the video has:

–      Has 89 machine interactions

–      Took 85 takes

–      Only 3 successful runs

–      Destroyed 2 pianos and 10 tvs

–      Required over 100 trips to Home Depot

–      Claimed the high heel shoe of a creator

Talk about fear of chaos. You’ll see.

And so, on behalf of Adam Sadowski, I give you the machine:

I wish I had time to show you all of the speakers; better yet, I wish I could give you the pleasure of seeing all these talks in real life!

But these are some GREAT HIGHLIGHTS! Of course I couldn’t forget about Skip Rizzo, who designed new virtual technologies to help psychiatrists and social workers, or Peter Erskine’s fabulous drumming from the USC Drum Lab, or Leslie Saxon’s internal defibrillator, the iPad of defibrillators, or any of the other great speakers.

But I thought I’d share how others, as Jeb put it,

Control their fears.

I hope you’ve been inspired by these ideas worth sharing.

Visit TED.com to watch more TED Talks. Please!

Published in: on April 15, 2010 at 11:55 pm  Comments (1)  
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Holi and the Woodpecker

The other day, I was pulling into my driveway and finishing a very interesting audio TED Talk. Instead of jumping out of the car and heading into the house, as usual, I sat in my car, listening to the end of the talk. Suddenly, I happened to look up, and straight in front of my car, perhaps 4 or 5 feet from my bumper, was a little tree and a little friend.

I had never seen a woodpecker before, even though I had heard them rattling the telephone poles for years and years as a child. They are beautiful little birds, with bright red heads (just like the cartoon!), sweetly chipping away at tree trunks with their long, pointed beaks.

Had I not taken the time to sit quietly and listen the Gospel of TED, I would never have seen my little woodpecker friend, but would have scared him off as soon as I opened the car door.

So Thank You and Amen to TED.

When I told my mom about the woodpecker, she said that it must be spring, since woodpeckers are a sure sign of the the wonderful season of Spring.

And, since it is 80 degrees in March this week, I think she might have been right.

So, in honor of Mr. Woodpecker and the heat wave, I would like to tell you a story, and share how others around the world celebrate the onset of Spring.

(Photo Credit: Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)

Once upon a time, in a land we know today as India, lived a young god-boy named Krishna. Krishna was, like all boys his age, a playful prankster, curious and full of questions about the world and its mysteries. Krishna was also wildly in love with a young girl named Radha, whose complexion was as fair as the snow, and whose love was as deep as the sea.

One day, Krishna asked his mother why Radha was so fair and he so dark. His mother, Yashoda, grinned slyly at her young son. She suggested that he might smear some color on Radha’s face, and make it any color he so desired.

And so he did.

(Photo Credit: Babu / Reuters)

(Photo Credit: K.K. Arora / Reuters)

During the Indian festival of Holi, which celebrates the beginning of Spring through the celebration of colors, lovers and friends smear each other with colorful paint to symbolize the love affair of their sacred gods and the color and beauty we call Spring.

(Photo Credit: Anupam Nath / AP)

(Photo Credit: Noah Seelam / AFP – Getty Images)

Published in: on March 18, 2010 at 6:20 pm  Leave a Comment  
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