Reading about ‘flatus’ on a Saturday night

Well, I can’t believe the last time I wrote on this thing was February 4th, 2015. A lot has happened since then that has caused advanced aging (mainly the result of a big career shift), but also taken me away from things I once loved – like making stuff and writing.

Since we’re nearing the time of ramped up consumerism (Black Friday just passed, Cyber Monday approaches, and Christmas is on the horizon), followed by the making of resolutions, I figured it’s time to get back into putting thoughts on pixels. I don’t really have anything in particular to say right now, but I’ve always taken comfort in the well-written words of others. So to kick off what I hope will be more time spent writing, I give you an excerpt from, What the Nose Knows: The Science of Scent in Everyday Life, a book I’m reading as part of my self-directed sensory research project.

If you’re reading this you’re probably just one of my friends, so you’ll not be scandalized by a discussion of farts. But, if you’re of a more delicate constitution, and prone to pop your monocle, you’ve been warned:

May I present, Avery Gilbert, author and sensory psychologist, on the composition of flatus:

“For years, medical students were taught that the main ingredients of fecal odor were skatole and indole, nasty-smelling molecules created by the breakdown of meat protein during digestion. This claim persisted in textbooks despite never having been confirmed by direct chemical analysis. The shit finally hit the gas chromatograph in 1984 when researchers in Salt Lake City ran some poop through a GC and sniffed the results. Skatole and indole, although present in the sample, contributed relatively little to the typical fecal odor. The key actors turned out to be sulfur-containing compounds such as methyl mercaptan, dimethyl disulfide, and dimethyl trisulfide.

Despite this dramatic reversal of conventional medical wisdom, the gastroenterological community remained unmoved. Finally, in 1998, investigators at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Minneapolis took the next step and performed an exacting chemical and olfactory analysis of farts. Their experimental methods were straightforward: ‘To ensure flatus output, the diet of the subjects was usually supplemented with 200 g pinto beans on the night before and the morning of the study.’ Gas capture was simplicity itself, through the details are squirm-inducing: ‘Flatus was collected via a rectal tube…connected to a gas impermeable bag.’ When the bags of ass-gas were analyzed, the main contributors were once again sulfur-containing molecules: hydrogen sulfide, methyl mercaptan, and dimethyl sulfide.”

I’ll close by thanking SCIENCE for helping to provide much needed clarity on matters of importance. In today’s mad, mad, and allegedly post-truth world, it’s comforting that there are still some things that can verifiably be known — like the true cause of smelly farts.


Bikes and MOOCs On My Mind

Alright, Sunday heralds the end of another productive weekend. I (mostly) got over a flu, exacerbated my illness by cycling in -14 weather, then recovered by the power of sleep and whiskey.

I also attended the Toronto International Bicycle Show. This is exciting because it means the start of another cycling season (get thee behind me devil/TTC!). Spring is neigh people – there, I said it.

Seat I covet.

Seat I covet.

Bikes I covet.

Bikes I covet.

The other thing on my mind is the Coursera MOOC course on the Foundations of Business Strategy that is live NOW. I’ve taken distance learning courses in the past, but never a “massive” one. Things I’ll be looking out for as a learner include: content delivery mechanisms, how the social aspects of learning are integrated, quality of content in a massive learning environment/context (ie., differentials in previous knowledge, language barriers etc.), and generally reviewing the “worthwhileness” of the course (ie., would I recommend it or take another course).

I’ll also try to critically examine my own position as an educated North American and full-time working professional. How does my specific context impact learning outcomes and my expectations? In principle, I’m 100% for free and open online learning and I’m hyped about this experience. More to come.

Convalescence, the Internet and MOOCs

So, in between fever dreams over these past few flu-ravaged days I managed to miss work and my second Negotiations class with Misha Glouberman. Super choked as it was supposed to be a really excellent one where we would role-play a negotiations scenario and test our strategies. Alas, life and microbes had other plans for me.

However, thanks to the power of the internet I did manage to sign up for some awesome courses on Coursera, one of the key players in the MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) movement. In a few days I’ll be starting my remote online course on, Foundations of Business Strategy taught by Michael J. Lennox, Samuel L. Slover Professor of Business, University of Virginia.

One of the benefits of being sick is that, in addition to feeling like hell, you have a lot of time to think. So what have I come up with? Well, gentle reader, I’ve decided (decisively!) that more is more – hence the MOOC courses (and whatever the hell else will end up on this blog). Who knows where this open education movement will take us. It’s exciting to be a part of this ongoing global experiment. My friend Vesna once said to me that, and I’m paraphrasing, there’s so much media to consume, but so little time. This is true of media and of life, but I wanna see and do it all so let’s get to it!

Harry Potter said it best, “We’ll take the lot!”…yes Harry, we WILL take the lot! LOL.

Adhocracy NOW!

In the course of my morning routine of moping around until I find the perfect Songza playlist (today is Sunshine Indie Pop) I came across a new (at least for me) word – Adhocracy. Not only does it sound awesome, but there’s actually substance to its meaning. Once you read the wiki page for adhocracy, you’ll probably recognize a lot of its principles repeated in countless HR blogs and stuff you’d read about management and innovation on a daily basis on LinkedIn.

While the word is often used in theories of organizational management, I came across it because it was also the name of an exhibition for Istanbul Design Week (October 13 – December 12, 2012) that was showing at Galata Greek Primary School.

Exhibition view, Adhocracy. photo: flickr_Fablab Torino

Exhibition view, Adhocracy. photo: flickr_Fablab Torino

The spirit of adhocracy really resonates with me because it’s also what compelled me to start this blog and to revisit my creative practice. It’s process-driven, self reflexive, against bureaucracy and rigid structure, craft-based (as in artisanal, quality, opposition to mass produced), fluid and open. It’s an approach to work, and in the case of the exhibition – design, that while not altogether new is worth naming.

As Joseph Grima, co-curator of the Biennial notes, “Design is an act of observing, internalising, questioning and rethinking the prescribed responses to these queries, and thereby giving form to everyday life and collective space.”

So yes, adhocracy will be on my mind for the rest of the day…and hopefully something the Directors Collective will think on as we build something together.

Swoon from afar…

I’ve been monitoring Random International’s Rain Room at the Barbican Centre since it’s launch, secretly hoping that work, or personal life, would somehow contrive to send me to London. Alas, with 12 days left and counting it seems I’ll not be able to experience it for myself. Still, it’s one of the most innovative experiences I’ve seen in recent memory and trust me, I spend a LOT of time scanning the web for trends in visitor experiences.

I’ll sum up quickly what I think is most effective about Rain Room in three words: primordial, visceral, poetic. Random International takes something that we are all familiar with (rain) and makes it unexpected (ie – inside the Barbican Centre, and a rain that doesn’t make us wet). Conceptually simple, technically flawless. Perfection.

The Art of Talk

The day has just begun and already I’m mourning the end of this long weekend. But, it’s OK because tomorrow night is the first meeting of Misha Glouberman’s negotiation and communications course entitled, “How to Talk to People About Things”.

As an artist there’s nothing more comforting than taking a time-out from the constant banter of the world and locking yourself up in the studio. As a consultant, sometimes I have to talk whether I feel like it or not. I’m not often at a loss for words, but I’m def. looking forward to meeting some new people and learning some new ways of taking the art of conversation (and negotiation) to the next level.

The Globe and Mail recently interviewed Misha about the upcoming course. Check it out here.