Nimble Careers

Nimble Careers

By / Par Genevieve Paiement

The fast company has begotten the fast employee. “Staying in one place is a career hindrance. Within a few years, you appear to be a liability,” says Alan Kearns, head coach of Canadian career coaching company CareerJoy. “The people who are getting ahead are the ones who have experience across different industries, who have portability.”

Buzz terms like job surfing, job hopping and job hopscotch reflect the fast employee’s tendency to pick up skills at different jobs and move on. Kearns calls it the “Starbucks effect”: the proliferation of coffee choices as a metaphor for the changing career landscape. “It used to be caffeinated or decaf. Now the consumer expects a wide variety of choice.”

The idea that our dads stayed in one career for life is more cliché than truth. (The 1970s average was six jobs per lifetime; now it’s 10.) But it is true that today’s trimmer companies give workers less room for mobility. Which means that if you want new challenges, you may have to switch companies to get them. So go ahead – caffeinate that career.

Quick Communities

By Craille Maguire Gillies

The concierge has moved from the front desk to the bar. Or so it appears on a wintry Saturday night at Storied Places in Mont-Tremblant, as a toddler navigates a wineglass-laden coffee table and young parents mingle. Once strangers, these vacation homeowners meet for weekly cocktail hour – like speed dating for families.

Call it the accelerated neighbourhood. Now that catching up with old friends is hard and making new ones even harder, resort communities are reinventing the idea of the neighbourhood in as little time as it takes to check in.

Instant communities provide what the time-crunched modern nomad craves: social capital with facilities and people that mirror your interests, like the equestrian-themed resorts of High Point in Langley, B.C., and Turquesa Equestrian Estates in Arizona or Playa Grande, a “creative utopia” conceived by architect Richard Meier for the Dominican Republic. It’s an idea the Danes call bofællesskaber, or living communities, only on a luxurious scale that caters to travellers. Social capital through real estate is a value you can literally bank on.

Instant Art

By / Par Christine Murray

If Warhol was inspired by the soup can, then today’s avant-garde artists are inspired by in­stant noodles, creating bite-size doses of quick art for the masses. As Malcolm Gladwell writes in Blink, sometimes two seconds is enough.

Last summer, a drive-thru window at the Contemporary Art Gallery in Vancouver ex­hibited video art to motorists via an interactive touch screen, infusing a bit of culture into the commute. Don’t drive? L.A. artist Ruben Ochoa’s mobile gallery delivers culture to you in a van, while Toronto’s Vendart project brings art to the street with its regularly relocated hot pink art fridge.

American artist Clark Whittington pioneered the idea of using dispensers to disseminate art when he created the Art-o-mat in 1997. Taking his cue, the Distroboto project in Montreal uses a converted cigarette machine to sell objets d’art for a toonie, while mixed-media artist Rhonda Simmons of Vancouver has refurbished feminine hygiene vending machines to dispense pocket-size priceless works for $4 a piece.

The other thing we love about quickie art: It takes the snobbery out of staring at a canvas for hours debating whether or not you like Yves Klein blue.

Fast-forward Entertainment

By / Par Chris Johns

Taking cues from Doctor Who, television is playing with time in fresh ways. A mysterious crime or tragic misunderstanding used to give rise to a clever investigation, a montage or two and, precisely 42 minutes later, it was case closed.

In the future, interactive video will let us view short clips multiple ways – the multisequential story, interactive TV researcher Janet H. Murray calls it. She’s working on a prototype with Boston’s WGBH, where any part of any episode could be viewed at whim. (Similarly, Canadians created Meanwhile, a non-linear, interactive film: habitatstudio.ca/~cmendis/meanwhile.)

“Writers are writing television that can be viewed more than once, so that story arcs are more coherent and more complex,” Murray explains. Shows like 24 unfold in real time over the whole season; How I Met Your Mother is set in the future and told in flashbacks; Day Break is a Groundhog Day-type retelling of the same day.

In Lost, subjective and compressed timelines alternate with flashbacks and flash-forwards. “The context of time is something you can’t take for granted,” executive producer Carlton Cuse said – to Time.

Souped-up Hybrids

By Mark Hacking

The world’s best auto engineers are shifting into carbon neutral. Alternative-fuel cars may soon trade the limited appeal of their alt-image for a sexy new sports car’s body. Formula 1 has announced it will add green racing technology to the sport by 2009, and just like the anti-lock braking, power steering and safety cage construction that came before it, eco-speed is sure to trickle down to everyday drivers.

The technology is already on track. Gas-electric hybrids like the Lexus GS 450h and RX 400h and Honda Accord have more outright pace than their fossil-fuel consuming twins. In Europe, a hydrogen engine from BMW and a multifuel engine from Volvo are in the works, both of which have set speed records for alt-fuel vehicles.

Seems the recent film Who Killed the Electric Car? is about to prove a shade premature. Available this year, the Tesla Roadster, the world’s first high-performance production electric car, boasts the equivalent of less than two litres per 100 kilometres and goes from 0 to 100 kilometres an hour in about four seconds. That’s a comeback worthy of Lazarus.

Pronto Gourmet

By Christine Murray

Fast food is no longer crappy food. The key ingredients of the new quick-serve gourmet concepts are rapid, friendly service and freshly prepared foods that cater to time-strapped gourmands.

At Flaming Nora in London, England, your chicken shish with chunky chips and salad is prepared and assembled before your eyes. No precooking here (most meats are marinated, safely reducing cooking times), and only the best ingredients are used (100 percent Aberdeen Angus beef and fresh yellowfin tuna). At Toronto’s Veda, the $6 takeout curry combos keep things quick and easy in the kitchen. “Our chefs have developed a proprietary cooking process that requires no oil in most dishes,” explains Veda’s ghee whiz, Jared Ross.

While we may be stuck in thinking of fast-food regulars as taste-poor peasants, a new study by U.K. researchers GfK NOP shows that burger-joint regulars are more likely to be adventurous and independently minded (surprise, surprise) than the rest of the foodie chain.

The new fast food might not be so hard to swallow after all.

Accelerated Exercise

By / Par Craille Maguire Gillies

Forget those painfully long workouts. Turns out, feeling the burn is all about speed. As Kanye West swaggers out of his West Hollywood private gym, trainer Harley Pasternak refutes the recent “slow motion” fitness fad. “There was no evidence supporting those slow-mo workouts. It was just that you feel the intensity more when you go slow,” says the former military exercise scientist. He’s not telling you to avoid intensity. In fact, new studies suggest that intense, fast-track workouts – the dream of exercise nuts and gym haters alike – are the best kind.

In fitness speak, high-intensity interval training – say, bursts of sprinting followed by a rest – may help prevent type 2 diabetes. In fact, a lei­surely bike ride could
put someone with type 1 diabetes at a higher risk for complications than if they took a quick spin around the block. And quickie workouts might lower triglyceride levels more than moderate exercise.

“Sixty minutes of cardio is better than 30, but it’s not twice as good,” Pasternak says. Now that’s a concept that won’t leave you breathless.

Rapid Hubs

By / Par Christine Murray

Going from the airport door to your window seat will soon be effortless, and that’s not just blue-sky thinking. Architects, engineers and consultants are teaming up to model people flow through transportation hubs.

“Crowds do not fill space evenly,” explains Dr. G. Keith Still, CEO of U.K.-based Crowd Dynamics Ltd. “They cluster, exploit shortcuts, try to get in or out of their environment by the most efficient ‘least effort’ route.”

Adhering to that rule, the new terminal at Madrid Barajas International Airport in Spain unfolds in a purely linear fashion over three floors, leaving no room for shortcuts, bottlenecks – or getting lost. The building has doubled the airport’s people capacity. Japan’s stunning Yokohama Ferry Terminal, with a vast column-free interior, lets passengers move freely without obstacles. And architect Meinhard von Gerkan shaved up to 40 minutes off train trips with his innovative two-tunnel design for Berlin Central Station, which meant the trains didn’t need to turn around. Lucky Berliners also got a perfectly engineered sound system – commuting made, for perhaps the first time in history, crystal clear.