Many years ago, when I was still living with my dad, I remember him mentioning a book that he was reading about random acts of kindness. I don't recall the name of the book, although a search on Amazon.com turns up quite a few on the subject. Like many of us, I find myself doing the occasional nice deed, and every time I've gone a bit out of my way for someone, it inevitably makes me feel really good too. So, as the holidays were approaching this year, I thought it'd be fun to make a practice of it.
To make the process one that can easily recur, I thought I'd print up some "business cards" to hand out when I did a good deed. This way, the recipient wouldn't be completely confused, and they'd be able to "pay it forward" to someone else. I can't take credit for this card idea...I'm sure I've heard about it somewhere else. Regardless, after a few internet searches, I wasn't able to find much.
Most of what I did find came from The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation. They provide some good resources for starting clubs, community groups, and integrating the concepts into a classroom. Their Free Graphics section provides some ideas, and I used them as inspiration for the cards that I ended up designing. There's a link to download them at the end of this post.
So far, I've used one card on a Victoria Clipper trip my wife and I took to Victoria, BC this past weekend (to purchase the next person's dinner). Yesterday, I used one in the Taco Time drive-thru in Sammamish, Washington. Drive-thrus make it easy...just pay for the person behind you and instruct the employee to hand the card to them. Today, I used one at Starbuck's. These are all monetary examples, but there are many other possibilities. It's refreshing to condition your mind to think primarily in terms of what other people get out of the experience.
Anyway, if you want to make other people happy and bring yourself some personal joy, I highly recommend downloading and printing your own Random Act of Kindness cards (84KB PDF). Happy holidays!
The December CTP of WinFX has been released this morning along with some other related downloads. In addition to the WinFX Runtime Components and the Windows SDK (which has subsumed the WinFX SDK that used to be available separately), you can also download the—hold your breath while you read this one—Visual Studio Code Name "Orcas" CTP WinFX Development Tools...whew! The most exciting part of this last download is the inclusion of "Cider," the Windows Presentation Foundation designer for Visual Studio; how appropriate for the team to deliver Cider for the holiday season!
These bits are compatible with Windows XP SP2, Windows 2003 Server SP1, and the Windows Vista December CTP that was also released today to MSDN Univeral Subscribers and beta testers. You can find more information in the release notes. Tom Archer's post on the subject also points to a Get the Beta page that includes installation instructions and a link to the handy WinFX Runtime Components Uninstall Tool.
And if you're wondering, I will be releasing an updated version of my Adobe Illustrator to XAML Export Plug-In that's compatible with the WinFX December CTP. I'll post a new blog entry when that happens.
Microsoft Research has released a freely-downloadable version of their Social Network and Relationship Finder, more affectionately known as SNARF. I've been running an internal build for the past week or so, and I've found it to be very useful, especially if you send and receive a lot of e-mail (see Slaves to E-Mail?). As described by Rob Knies, SNARF "simply counts e-mails, sorts them by sender, and draws conclusions about their relative importance from the intensity of the correspondence relationship." A few views are displayed by default, my favorite being the view that shows recently received e-mail where I am on the To: or CC: line sorted by the inferred social significance of my relationship with the sender. It's a very quick way to see if you have unread messages from people you tend to communicate with frequently. It's already improved the efficiency of my e-mail triage process. Check out the SNARF Guide for some screenshots (the Thread View is handy).