Friday, July 31, 2009
The August theme for GPS writers is Website Gold. Very simply recommend a website that you find enriching. It could be a news, magazine, game, social media, or blog site. Perhaps it has been a longstanding favourite or a newer discovery. Provide a link and explain briefly why you like it.
I will be posting on this theme in August and hope that you can take part. Earlier I had posted about my enjoyment of The Saturday Evening Post.
Email me or leave a comment at this post if you wish to take part. I don't want to miss anybody. New GPS (Green Pen Society) members are welcome. I would love to include you on my sidebar.
I thank everyone who has taken part so far. The July theme was 'Nurture in Nature.'
Photo Credit: 897 ounces of gold
Tags: best websites, blogs, criteria, how to, techniques, writing tips, education, skills, analysis
President Barack Obama exemplified commendable conflict resolution skills with his 'beer summit' on Thursday. Beer was on the table but it could have been a glass of wine or even something non alcoholic like an exotic green tea or bottled mineral water. The result would have been the same. The important part is that the President showed a desire to communicate with all the parties involved and engage in a face to face exchange of thoughts and feelings.
They sat in the beauty of the Rose Garden patio under the shade of a magnolia tree. After the 40 minute chat Obama said, "I have always believed that what brings us together is stronger than what pulls us apart. I am confident that has happened here tonight and I am hopeful that all of us here are able to draw this positive lesson from this episode."
With President Obama and the Vice President was Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Cambridge Mass. police sergeant James Crowley. On July 16 a case of mistaken identity resulted in the arrest of Gates at this home in a supposed break and enter. The issue of racial profiling came up as an aspect of the conflict. Gates is a good friend of the president and Obama's comment that the sergeant "acted stupidly" in the incident unleashed a firestorm of opinions.
The whole issue reveals the dynamics of conflicts which may quickly harden and alienate opposing factions. Obama provided an intuitive wise response. In this case a brouhaha was settled with a brew-haha.
Photo Credit: White House Rose Garden
Thursday, July 30, 2009
It's hard to imagine that Jerry Yang, co-founder and former CEO of Yahoo, turned down 44 billion for the company last year from Microsoft. Now, in a recent announcement Yahoo is abandoning its search technology and tying its fortunes with Microsoft's two month old Bing.
In return Yahoo will handle the advertising network for both companies and receive 88% of the ad revenue generated through the combined searches for five years. Microsoft gets an exclusive 10 year licence to Yahoo's core search technologies. The new CEO of Yahoo Carol Bartz said the new deal comes with "boatloads of revenue and value." Yahoo will save millions of dollars in servers, storage, bandwidth, and search engineers.
Some see the agreement, however, as a strategic mistake for Yahoo and its shares plunged 12% the next day.
Google, is the undisputed leader with 70% of the search market and pulls in twice as much ad revenue as Microsoft and Yahoo combined.
A report in Wired says, "In its search for a second act Yahoo has decided it is no longer a technology company." Yahoo has become the new AOL largely marginalized as "an entertainment portal." Once a leader in cool web technologies in snapping up Flickr, Zimba, and Delicious etc. it has narrowed its growth component.
Microsoft, which has lost millions trying to monetize its search components, may certainly be the most to benefit. With the advent of its newly branded Bing Yahoo search technology will be the booster cables.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Lead singer Bono, guitarist, the Edge, drummer Larry Mullin Jr., and bassist Adam Clayton need 120 trucks and a small army to cart the giant 360 stage from city to city. It's the largest set ever built.
Mark Reed at 'the final word' provides an excellent review of the first concert in Barcelona complete with images to give one an idea of stage and special effects. It's 'magnificent.'
What are your favourite U2 lyrics? One site suggests Beautiful Day, With or Without You, City of Blinding Lights, Walk On, and Where the Streets Have No Name.
The lyrics seem to range from poetic, to philosophical, to absurd but their music and delivery sends perennial shock waves.
I can't change the world
But I can change the world in me. ~ 'Rejoice'
Life should be fragrant
Rooftop to the basement. ~ 'Kite'
The days run away like horses over the hills. ~ 'Dirty Day'
I believe in the powers that be
But they won't overpower me. ~ 'A Celebration'
For a complete listing of U2 songs go here.
What was the best concert you ever attended? I have fond memories of Paul Simon's Graceland concert complete with singers from Africa. It was a wonderful celebration of their culture and music.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Last November in the midst of the financial meltdown a local Ford dealer offered buyers 100 shares of Ford stock. It was a gutsy move at the time when everyone wondered if the company might go bankrupt with the other two of the Big Three. The shares were worth $1.80. Now they're worth around $7 - a $500 profit! How's that for a vote of confidence in the company.
The Ford story is a fascinating one. The company was incorporated in 1903 after two failed starts. Henry Ford initiated the large scale manufacturing of cars with an efficient organization of an industrial work force. Today it is the fourth largest automaker behind Toyota, GM, and Volkswagen and the second largest automaker in Europe. It owns Volvo of Sweden.
Ford is committed to producing electric cars in the future as it continues to adapt to the changing economic environment.
When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it. ~ Henry Ford
Photo Credit: 1950 Logo
Monday, July 27, 2009
Simple and to the point is always the best way to get your point across. ~ Guy Kawasaki
In keeping with the above quote, Kawasaki, business marketing guru, has outlined his 10 Commandments for Entrepreneurs. He spoke at a technology conference as the University of Pennsylvania recently. His ten concepts are fresh and perceptive with vivid marketing illustrations:
- Make Meaning, not Money: Entrepreneurs should focus on making their products mean something more than the sum of their components, and the money will follow. Nike's aerobic sneakers, for example, have been sold to women as standing for efficacy, power, and liberation.
- Make a Mantra, Not a Mission Statement: Bland, generic mission statements such as "delivering superior quality products for our customers and communities through leadership innovation and partnerships" serve no one but the consultant brought in to develop them. Instead, keep it short and define yourself. Nike stands for "authentic athletic performance," while FedEx is about "peace of mind."
- Leap Ahead: Find a way to leap ahead of your competitors...
- Roll the DICEE in product design. It's an acronym for D - deep thinking about features that go beyond the norm, I - intelligence, C - complete for not just a product, but including support and service, E - elegance, since beauty matters, E - emotive, since great products like Harley Davidson generate strong feelings.
- Be Crappy: Your innovation doesn't have to be perfect like Twitter...
- Polarize People: Try to be all things to all people and you often deliver mediocrity. The boxy Toyota Scion xB looks ugly to some people but very cool to others.
- Let 100 Flowers Bloom: You never knows from where your innovations will flower, so let as many blossom as possible.
- Churn, Churn, Churn: Listen to feedback from customers, and continually improve your product.
- Niche Yourself: The best products or services are unique and offer value.
- Follow the 10-20-30 Rule: When pitching to venture capitalists, use no more that 10 PowerPoint slides, keep the pitch to 20 minutes, and employ a 30-point font size in the presentation to keep it simple as well as readable.
It occurs to me that Guy's ten commandments could also apply to education, management, or public relations. A good dose of intelligence, creativity, positive emotion, and enthusiasm make successful teachers/leaders and motivate people.
Photo Credit: Nike Girls
Sunday, July 26, 2009
What self help books have you read? Ones that stand out for me include The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey, Peace Is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh, and Don't Sweat the Small Stuff by Richard Carlson. And, who doesn't have at least one Chicken Soup for the Soul book out of the over 100 themed editions?
According to a recent study self help ideas don't work for some people. They may only help the people who need them least, such as those with high self esteem, and can be destructive for those who really need help.
During the study researchers asked participants to repeat the self help phrase, "I am a lovable person." The individuals with low self esteem reported feeling worse after repeating the positive statement. Positive statements may remind people that they are not measuring up to important standards.
Little wonder then that there is a proliferation of life coaches.
On a similar vein a New York Times article by Pico Iyer profiles the Dalai Lama. Iyer, a travelling journalist who has published extensively over the years, has interviewed the Tibetan exile a number of times.
In Iyer's words, the Dalai Lama encourages people to 'Dream Nothing.' 'We can't change the world except insofar as we change the way we look at the world, and, in fact, any one of us can make that change, in any direction, at any moment. The point of life is happiness and that lies within our grasp, our untapped potential, with every breath...True happiness doesn't mean trying to acquire things, but in letting go of our illusions and attachments."
To what extent can we help ourselves and find happiness? Is self help an oxymoron or contradiction?
Saturday, July 25, 2009
The Saturday Evening Post has been published in one form or another since 1728 in the days of Benjamin Franklin. Most noted for its iconic pictures of illustrator Norman Rockwell, it features a combination of art, fiction, and folksy commentary.
Now the publishers have initiated a redesign in its July/August issue. It hopes to consolidate its core strengths with more general interest articles and design changes for people who are tired of special interest magazines crammed with an overload of information.
The magazine's circulation peaked at six million in 1960. Now it has 350,000 readers, mainly women over 45. That's low compared with the general interest, health and lifestyle magazines with which it competes such as Prevention at 3.3 million and Guideposts at 2 million.
Post officials hope that the subtle format changes will boost circulation to 500,000 in the next several years.
Perusing the website does seem like a breath of fresh air when compared to some of the other magazine sites which are full of frenetic frenzy.
Friday, July 24, 2009
Larry Cornies, college professor and former editor of The London Free Press and section editor of The Globe and Mail, attended a summer conference at the Poynter Institute, Florida. He writes that college instruction in journalism is undergoing a change in perspective. College instructors need to be 'platform agnostic' which basically means the end of streaming into print, broadcast, or online specialities. Journalism is one comprehensive, multimedia package.
The new journalism is being able to write and tell the stories across the platform. Cornies also shares that he learned a lot about new applications and software programs including Audacity, Sound Slides, Utterli, Final Cut Pro, and Videocue. Students will need the latest Apple iPhone as a complement to these cutting edge programs. See his post for convenient links and more analysis.
By the way, I commend my journalist cousin friend for his extensive journalistic experience, and for his fast developing and incisive journalistic blog. And yes Paul 'C' is Cornies.
Photo Credit: Poynter Institute Art Exhibit
Thursday, July 23, 2009
A cliche today was once a clever saying. Consider: tipping point, Web 2.0, synergy, paradigm shift, let's be proactive, thinking outside the box...
The problem is people like these expressions so much that they became common household words : firing on all cylinders, 24/7, genie out of the bottle, under the radar, drop the ball, blue sky thinking...
Cliches are an English teacher's pet peeve, and a writer's sinister shadow. For young people and ESL students it is a rather hard concept to explain. For them, the common cliche is still clever, even creative. Why should we not use these expressions?
Wired suggests 'Five Atrocious Science Cliches to Throw Down a Black Hole.' They include Holy Grail, silver bullet, shedding light, missing link, and paradigm shift.
Squidoo has an excellent list of 360 cliches entitled the 'Encyclopedia of Business Cliches' including: win-win situation, seamless integration, scalable, 800 pound gorilla, team player, under the radar...
Garden Digest has an extensive list of 'A Crop of Cliches from the Garden:' against the grain, an axe to grind, ants in his pants...
Newsvine suggests President Obama, master orator, may have begun three cliches: change, hope, unity. I, on the other hand, think these are empowering words, never to be relegated to buzzword status.
Can the New York Magazine's buzzwords of 2009 become the cliches of 2010: post-apocalyptic, whimsy, enlightened, and pandemic?
Lake Superior State University devised a clever annual banished list of cliches. They invite readers to nominate expressions and explain why. Here is a list of some suggestions for 2009: green, carbon footprint, maverick, bailout, icon, staycation...
Am I making a mountain out of a molehill?
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Ironically snakes strike terror within most people and yet many are concerned about their depleting numbers. Consider the Ojibway Nature Reserve in west Windsor. It covers an area of 550 acres with natural areas of tallgrass prairie and black oaks. It is situated like a bulls eye in the middle of sweeping commercial and residential development. Snakes and plants carry on a fragile existence here. As well, a slated new border crossing across the Detroit River comes perilously close to the reserve.
On Pelee Island in Lake Erie the blue racer is threatened as well. The sleek, nimble snake can get up to 6 feet long. Some land has been designated as a reserve for this species at risk.
Living out in the country I have noticed the decline of the common garter snake. I have memories of seeing them often in the summer in the garden or along grassy paths. Of course, their natural habitats of ponds, streams, grassy areas have disappeared over the years due to commercial development and large scale farming practices.
D. H. Lawrence's poem on the snake probes our fears and conflicting feelings.
A snake came to my water-trough
On a hot, hot day, and I in pyjamas for the heat,
To drink there.
In the deep, strange-scented shade of the great dark carob-tree
I came down the steps with my pitcher
And must wait, must stand and wait, for there he was at the trough before
He reached down from a fissure in the earth-wall in the gloom
And trailed his yellow-brown slackness soft-bellied down, over the edge of
the stone trough
And rested his throat upon the stone bottom,
And where the water had dripped from the tap, in a small clearness,
He sipped with his straight mouth,
Softly drank through his straight gums, into his slack long body,
Someone was before me at my water-trough,
And I, like a second comer, waiting.
He lifted his head from his drinking, as cattle do,
And looked at me vaguely, as drinking cattle do,
And flickered his two-forked tongue from his lips, and mused a moment,
And stooped and drank a little more,
Being earth-brown, earth-golden from the burning bowels of the earth
On the day of Sicilian July, with Etna smoking.
The voice of my education said to me
He must be killed,
For in Sicily the black, black snakes are innocent, the gold are venomous.
And voices in me said, If you were a man
You would take a stick and break him now, and finish him off.
But must I confess how I liked him,
How glad I was he had come like a guest in quiet, to drink at my water-trough
And depart peaceful, pacified, and thankless,
Into the burning bowels of this earth?
Was it cowardice, that I dared not kill him? Was it perversity, that I longed to talk to him? Was it humility, to feel so honoured?
I felt so honoured.
And yet those voices:
If you were not afraid, you would kill him!
And truly I was afraid, I was most afraid, But even so, honoured still more
That he should seek my hospitality
From out the dark door of the secret earth.
He drank enough
And lifted his head, dreamily, as one who has drunken,
And flickered his tongue like a forked night on the air, so black,
Seeming to lick his lips,
And looked around like a god, unseeing, into the air,
And slowly turned his head,
And slowly, very slowly, as if thrice adream,
Proceeded to draw his slow length curving round
And climb again the broken bank of my wall-face.
And as he put his head into that dreadful hole,
And as he slowly drew up, snake-easing his shoulders, and entered farther,
A sort of horror, a sort of protest against his withdrawing into that horrid black hole,
Deliberately going into the blackness, and slowly drawing himself after,
Overcame me now his back was turned.
I looked round, I put down my pitcher,
I picked up a clumsy log
And threw it at the water-trough with a clatter.
I think it did not hit him,
But suddenly that part of him that was left behind convulsed in undignified haste.
Writhed like lightning, and was gone
Into the black hole, the earth-lipped fissure in the wall-front,
At which, in the intense still noon, I stared with fascination.
And immediately I regretted it.
I thought how paltry, how vulgar, what a mean act!
I despised myself and the voices of my accursed human education.
And I thought of the albatross
And I wished he would come back, my snake.
For he seemed to me again like a king,
Like a king in exile, uncrowned in the underworld,
Now due to be crowned again.
And so, I missed my chance with one of the lords
And I have something to expiate:
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
-Ellen McGirt at Fast Company provides an interesting profile of Mark Zuckerberg, 25 year old CEO of Facebook who had no car, no house, and no job. Now he's turning down multi billion dollar deals...
-Ron Callari of Inventor Spot argues that with 250 million users, it's not your son's Facebook anymore. There is five fold growth among those over 55 and 16.5 percent fewer high school and 22 percent fewer college students...
- Stan Schroeder at Mashable writes about Facebook's international growth. "Facebook is turning out to be the Google of social networking..."
- Ravit Lichtenberg at ReadWriteWeb writes about 10 ways social media will change in 2009.
- Erick Schonfeld at Tech Crunch lists top social media sites at end of 2008. Blogger 222 million, Facebook 200 million (now 250 million), My Space 126 million, ...Flickr 64 million...
- Sam Gold at Mashable: Facebook Hammers My Space on Almost All Key Features.
- Michelle Magnan at Canwest writes about people who have No Time for Facebook.
- Rick Munarriz at The Motley Fool: 250 Million Reasons for Facebook to Go Public.
- Vanessa Grigoriadis at New York Magazine: Do You Own Facebook? Or Does Facebook own you?
- Ivana Cheong at College News: Study shows college students who use Facebook have lower grades.
And two more:
- Ray Williams at Financial Post: Facebook your Business?
- Ari Herzog at AriWriter has great quotes on new marketing and social media.
Are you a happy Facebook user? Which is more potent to complement marketing: Facebook, Twitter or Blog? What are your thoughts about social media sites and their impact upon society?
Monday, July 20, 2009
Today I go out on a limb and say that just about anyone can start a blog and eventually find blogs to follow and manage in an efficient RSS feed. It can be the beginning of an empowering new hobby.
RSS means Really Simple Syndication and I will keep this very simple because, you see, I am not exactly a computer techie myself. Several of my friends will chuckle if they read this. They have asked how did you all of a sudden get so proficient with the computer and blogging? Well, it all began with a conference at which Will Richardson spoke in November of 2007. Doug Peterson can attest to this, because he was the moderator. People like Doug Johnson have spoken there too, and I value his association. I also value Sue Waters' tips. It's been a phenomenal learning experience since then.
I call quoteflections my online journal, and you can have one too.
Yesterday, I posted about blogging and how to get started. It's a vehicle for expressing your thoughts and emotions and finding likeminded people who share your interests and perspective. If you have not already begun your own blog, I recommend setting up a Google account which provides a vast umbrella of services. You can be assured that Google has their act together and they will provide the most efficient and powerful service. Get a Gmail address. This will be a hub for all your other applications.
Before you begin a blog, set up your Google Reader. This is a treasure chest of RSS organization and management. Here you may begin to collect blogs you like. You simply copy and paste the URL of a blog in the upper left corner of Reader. Then after you have found at least 10-20, you can manage your subscriptions by putting them in folders: education, business, general interest, hobby, etc. Then you may go periodically to your Reader regularly to see who has posted. Once you have read them, you can indicate so and start with a clean slate.
Get Google Reader; it's the best filling station on the internet super highway.
Another helpful organizer is to collect all your bookmarks in a Delicious or Diigo account. These sites enable you to collect a vast number of desirable links of professional or personal interest.
Finally consider the value of Google Blog Search. It provides a list of current popular topics. Currently there are 252 blogs which posted about the 40th anniversary of the moon walk, 137 blogs posted about Frank McCourt's death, author of Angela's Ashes, 96 blogs posted about the latest developments on the Tour de France. Can Lance Armstrong catch up especially after his disappointing showing on Sunday? In using Google Blog Search for topics which interest you, you may eventually find blogs to follow in your Reader.
Speaking of getting started and developing your own blog. I want to direct you to Sandy K's site A Place in the Sun and the newest member of the Green Pen Society. She has written an endearing post about an important park bench for her family. The theme for July is 'Nurture in Nature.' See more information along the sidebar. I welcome more posts on the theme before the month comes to a close.
So, get your Google Account started and Google Reader, and I'd be so tickled if you added quoteflections to your RSS feed. Happy navigating and thanks for stopping by.
Photo Credit: Filling Station
Tags: blogging how to, tips, managing subscriptions, getting started, easy steps
Sunday, July 19, 2009
Ask most bloggers and they will say that the genre has empowered their writing. Blogging is thunder, lightning, and rainbow.
First, there is a sense of exhileration in setting up an account, designing the blog, learning the mechanics of incorporating images, embedding video, linking to other sites, and finding bloggers who share similar interests.
Then reality sets in when bloggers realize that their writing is now under public scrutiny. This is no private journal; it's almost like publishing in the traditional sense. It's got to be right.
I have seen students make comments on a blog and they become very critical about their writing. There is a sense of introspection and self evaluation which is key to vital learning. For teachers, this is an ideal teachable moment.
There are a number of blogs which address the writing process and the distinctive aspects of the genre. Some helpful sites include:
Copyblogger by Brian Clark
Editor Unleashed, by Maria Schneider
Confident Writing by Johanna Young,
The Urban Muse by Susan Johnston
Write to Done by Leo Babauta
Writing Journey by Bob Younce
Men with Pens by James Chartrand and Harry McLeod
Problogger by Darren Rowse
The most original thing a writer can do is write like himself. It is also his most difficult task. ~ Robertson Davies
What suggestions do you have for effective writing/ blogging?
Tomorrow I write a post on managing all the blogs you want to follow as you develop your own thunderstorm of emotions and thoughts called a blog.
Photo Credit: Jan van Goyen, The Thunderstorm, 1641
Tags: blogging writing tips, how to, top blogs on writing,
Friday, July 17, 2009
I built a composter yesterday. Nothing wimpy or small. It's big enough to accommodate all of the waste of our daily vegetable and fruit consumption: watermelon, sweet corn, pineapple, and zucchini... and when I make vegetable soup, the potato and carrot peelings, onions, cabbage, and celery...will find a handy repository. And some of our yard waste like grass clippings and leaves will find their way inside.
I have gathered the first catalyst for my composter. Rich organic ingredients and hauled it with my vintage aluminum wheel barrow. This garden friend holds fertile memories like compost.
You see, that wheelbarrow was willed to me by my former neighbour, a good natured Ukranian who lived to be in his early 90's. He tilled his acre of rich black soil and grew carrots and dill and pickles. He was a peddlar who collected the bounty of our surrounding farming community and took them to the market in the city.
One day he said, "Paul, you are a gardener at heart, that is plain to see. When I need to move from this place I am leaving you my wheelbarrow. I think you will take care of it and appreciate it."
I thought of Louis today as I filled my composter with rich black soil and organic material. I thought of my trusty wheelbarrow at least 50 years old. I thought of rich memories of a neighbour who always had a smile, a joke, and a positive inclination amidst the difficulties and challenges of his life.
What moments do you cherish?
Thursday, July 16, 2009
So goes the TED's (Technology, Entertainment, Design) mission statement. TED has been hosting conferences for eight years in California. Now they are going global with the TED Global Conference at Oxford, England from July 21-24. The theme is 'The Substance of Things Not Seen.' 60 speakers of diverse disciplines and ground breaking perspectives are featured. They have 20 minutes each to deliver their vision.
10 of the 60 Speakers at TED Global
James Balog, ice photographer, captures the twisty, soaring forms of threatened wild ice.
Daniel Birnbaum, curator, explores the way art and philosophy underline one another.
Rory Bremner, comedian, explores the lunacies of modern politics with clever political satire.
Steven Cowley, physicist, leads fusion research in the UK.
Cary Fowler, biodiversity archivist, want to save the world from agricultural collapse one see at a time.
Andrea Ghez, astronomer, tracks the visible and invisible forces lurking in the vastness of interstellar space.
Imogen Heap, diva. Her aching voice and spectral electronics infuse countless films and Ipods with bone chilling atmospherics.
Emmanual Jal, hip-hop artist. His hypnotic voice rises from hellish origins as a beacon of hope for those caught in seemingly endless cycles of war and despair.
John Lloyd, producer, helps make some of the cleverest television in the UK.
Evgeny Morozov, Internet scientist, explores how the Internet has changed the conduct of global affairs.
There have been over 400 TED talks so far and all of the speeches are available online.
Is this your idea of a dream conference including enjoying a university campus with a rich heritage? It was formed in 1167. On the last afternoon participants will meet at the bank of the River Cherwell where they will picnic and go punting on the river.
Pictured above is the Oxford Playhouse where the speeches will be delivered.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
There was our nut jar open and empty before us. The black squirrel and four chipmunks were gorging themselves and filling their cheeks with the delightful treasures. You see, we had made sure to close the twist lid on the jar. How did they open it? On closer inspection we saw tooth marks on the lid. Presumably Mr. or Mrs. Squirrel had enough smarts to turn the lid several revolutions to open it. Maybe the squirrel was a pro from previous forays around the camp site.
Tania shares a You Tube video about a smart tool making crow. Similar resourcefulness. When I commented about our jar story, interestingly, she said that there are no squirrels or chipmunks in Australia.
How about cats? A study has shown that cats can get what they want with a special purr that blends their normal, soft purr with that of a high-pitched tone. Researchers call it a "solicitation" purr.
Finally I have a cat story of my own. I took our female cat in to have neutered when my daughters were small. The trouble is the veterinary office opened late and I had to get to school. So I left our cat at their back door step.
When I phoned later in the morning, the receptionist said that she was very sorry but the cage at the back door was open. There was no cat in the cage. I knew I was in big trouble now. Would my family ever forgive me?
Three days later we were in our back yard and there appeared our cat, totally exhausted. When she reached our grass, she lay down flat and sprawled her legs out wide. We live about three kilometers from the veterinary clinic. How did she find her way back? Maybe cats have evolved a far more sophisticated GPS than our own.
Care to relate an animal tale?
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
President Barack Obama is still busy visiting nations and continents and making inspiring speeches. After his visit to Russia and the G8 Conference last week in Italy, Obama and his family went to Africa, his birth place. In Accra, Ghana he delivered on July 11 a sweeping address about his vision for the struggling continent.
Excerpts of Obama's Speech
-The 21st century will be shaped by what happens not just in Rome or Moscow or Washington, but by what happens in Accra, as well.
-We must start from the simple premise that Africa's future is up to Africans.
-My father grew up herding goats in a tiny village, an impossible distance away from the American universities where he would come to get an education. He came of age at a moment of extraordinary promise for Africa.
-In my father's life, it was partly tribalism and patronage and nepotism in an independent Kenya that for a long stretch derailed his career, and we know that this kind of corruption is still a daily fact of life for far too many.
-Development depends on good governance. That is the ingredient which has been missing in far too many places, for far too long.
-First, we must support strong and sustainable democratic governments.
-In the 21st century, capable, reliable and transparent institutions are the key to success — strong parliaments; honest police forces; independent judges ... an independent press; a vibrant private sector; a civil society. Those are the things that give life to democracy, because that is what matters in people's everyday lives.
-As I said in Cairo, each nation gives life to democracy in its own way, and in line with its own traditions. But history offers a clear verdict: Governments that respect the will of their own people, that govern by consent and not coercion, are more prosperous, they are more stable and more successful than governments that do not.
-Now, this leads directly to our second area of partnership: supporting development that provides opportunity for more people.
-From South Korea to Singapore, history shows that countries thrive when they invest in their people and in their infrastructure ... when they promote multiple export industries, develop a skilled work force and create space for small and medium-sized businesses that create jobs.
-It's about the dignity of work; it's about the opportunity that must exist for Africans in the 21st century.
-Just as governance is vital to opportunity, it's also critical to the third area I want to talk about: strengthening public health.
-And that's why my administration has committed $63 billion to meet these challenges — $63 billion. Building on the strong efforts of President Bush, we will carry forward the fight against HIV/AIDS. We will pursue the goal of ending deaths from malaria and tuberculosis, and we will work to eradicate polio. We will fight — we will fight neglected tropical disease. And we won't confront illnesses in isolation — we will invest in public health systems that promote wellness and focus on the health of mothers and children.
-The final area that I will address is conflict.
-Let me be clear: Africa is not the crude caricature of a continent at perpetual war. But if we are honest, for far too many Africans, conflict is a part of life, as constant as the sun. There are wars over land and wars over resources. And it is still far too easy for those without conscience to manipulate whole communities into fighting among faiths and tribes.-These conflicts are a millstone around Africa's neck.
-You know, 52 years ago, the eyes of the world were on Ghana. And a young preacher named Martin Luther King traveled here, to Accra, to watch the Union Jack come down and the Ghanaian flag go up. This was before the march on Washington or the success of the civil rights movement in my country. Dr. King was asked how he felt while watching the birth of a nation. And he said: "It renews my conviction in the ultimate triumph of justice."
-Ghana, freedom is your inheritance. Now, it is your responsibility to build upon freedom's foundation. And if you do, we will look back years from now to places like Accra and say this was the time when the promise was realized; this was the moment when prosperity was forged, when pain was overcome, and a new era of progress began.
Obama's complete speech may be read at Up Station Mountain Club.
A review of Obama's Cairo speech on June 4, which addressed the relationship with Muslim states, provides an interesting comparison.
Global Voices provides an overview of some impressions made by African bloggers about the speech.
What do you find interesting or sad about Africa?
Monday, July 13, 2009
During the National Educational Computing Conference (NECC) in Washington D.C. in early July Dr. Joyce Valenza at Never Ending Search and a lunch group including Doug Johnson at Blue Skunk Blog formulated a meme asking bloggers to pick several of their best posts around the four R's. I thank Doug for the invitation to respond.
1. Scan your posts for your own personal favorites.
2. Choose one post in any/each of the four categories:
3. In a blog post, list those posts and very briefly describe
- why it was important,
- why it had lasting value or impact,
- how you would update it for today.
5. Tag all of your post with #postsofthepast '
I have selected four of my posts tagged education:
Rant - Regent Park: Teen Dropout Solution - I generally do not rant as my regular readers know. This post involves the rant or concern by many in society that too many students fall through the cracks and do not complete their high school education. An innovative, community centered program in downtown Toronto has dramatically decreased the dropout rate. My daughter is a volunteer in the program and provides a perspective on its success through a link.
Resources - Jeffrey Wilhelm: Igniting Student Learning - Dr. Wilhelm has written a series of books which unlock the education code for energized learning. One technique is to design units and lessons around essential questions and use the inquiry based approach to motivate student interest and engagement.
Reflection - Think Alouds Empower Struggling Readers - As a retired high school English teacher I have come to appreciate the power of the Think Aloud to help provide struggling readers with the ability and enjoyment to read. It is an empowering teaching technique that involves the enthusiastic and engaging delivery by the teacher. No new technology is needed to begin this transformation within students. A common technique in elementary school, it also has its place in cross curricular high school classrooms.
Revelation - 2005-2009 TED Prizes: Wishes to Transform the World - TED holds an annual conference in February featuring fifty speakers with cutting edge ideas. The three most popular each win $100,000 along with the opportunity to state a wish. This post celebrates the wishes over the last few years. They provide a textured mosaic of the possibilities for global advancements.
-Ken Allan, Blogger in Middle Earth
- Tsheko at Brave New World
-Doug P at Off the Record
- Sue Waters at TAFE
- Rodd Lucier at The Clever Sheep
Sunday, July 12, 2009
Blogging has turned into a rewarding hobby for many and will probably grow exponentially over the next few years. One group of bloggers could be called the 365 club. They have set the goal to post a daily image and reflection for a year.
Susan, for example, has just begun a trip to Newfoundland at 365 Stories in 2009. Other examples include 365 who is on a trip to Germany, Learning via Daily Images and Martha's 365 Challenge.
What an enriching hobby. The added benefit is finding like minded people who have set a similar goal or share the same interests.
Coincidentally my daughter and son-in-law are in Newfoundland hiking in Gros Morne National Park where they spotted several moose which passed in front of them on the trail. The wonders of Internet communications!
Speaking of like minded pursuits, there is the invitation of the Green Pen Society (GPS) to write a post around a common monthly theme. July's theme is 'Nurture in Nature.' Ken has written an excellent post about Taupo, a mystical and magical place in New Zealand, home to the largest volcanic crater. You are invited to join. Please leave me an email and I will add you to the list on my sidebar.
Never underestimate that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. ~ Margaret Mead
Saturday, July 11, 2009
We may have different religions, different languages, different coloured skin, but we all belong to one human race. ~ Kofi Annan
Tolerance implies no lack of commitment to one's own beliefs. Rather, it condemns the oppression or persecution of others. ~ John F. Kennedy
With an MA in history and a focus on the sweep of intellectual thought, I have read a few of the texts of the leading thinkers. It seems I am drawn to ideas more than the actions of history, to different perspectives which have affected seas of change.
About fifteen years ago I read the One Year Bible. Every day I read a selection of the Old and New Testaments, Proverbs, and Psalms. It was a very enriching experience and I still have the annotated text pictured here. Another time I read the Koran. There was a handy Penguin edition which did not make it too intimidating. I also read a boxed set of the world's religions and their key perspectives.
With the difficulties facing different believers in understanding each other on a global scale since 9/11, pertinent information about each others' faith and dialogue are important.
Listverse has an interesting and informative post about the 'Top Ten Misconceptions about Islam."
Religious Tolerance.org has a detailed chart comparing Christian and Muslim beliefs.
Betterworld.net has excellent contemporary quotations about the importance of interfaith tolerance, compassion, and dialogue. Feel free to share a quote from this site which you find particularly meaningful or any other observations.
Friday, July 10, 2009
Great people talk about ideas, average people talk about things, and small people talk about wine. ~ Fran Lebowitz
As a small person, then, let me reflect a little about wine. My wife was cleaning out the kitchen cupboards yesterday when she discovered a dusty bottle of Italian Chianti, vintage 1996. Can a 13 year old cheaper wine still be good? With the pop of the cork I thought this may be a good sign. I sipped some of the dry red and realized that it was very pleasant to the palate: balanced and clean. (For a list of over 100 wine descriptors go here.)
Speaking of wine, Robert Scoble at Scobleizer interviewed Gary Vaynerchuk, the world's social media sommelier, about his growing wine business. Gary's father came to the U.S. with nothing and built up the Wine Library that sells $50 million a year in a large store in New Jersey.
Gary has bumped the business up a few notches through his brilliant Internet presence on Twitter, (680,000 followers) and on his Wine Library, TV video blog. Here he has delivered over 700 wine tasting shows. One of his latest is a look at three Tuscan wines and cheeses. If you have never seen one of his twenty minute videos, I recommend it. He definitely grows on you with his wit and mannerisms. His viewership on his video blog is about 80,000 a day. Gary also has signed a book deal with Harper Studio in the seven figures.
Robert Scoble is on the cutting edge of what's happening with the 2010 web. Building 43 is a site dedicated to helping businesses keep abreast of all the new tools and applications on the Internet to help them grow. You can follow Scoble on Twitter here.
Do you have any wine recommendations or interesting experiences tasting wines? How can businesses best use the Internet to help their enterprises grow?
Thursday, July 9, 2009
Would you pay $1,404,000 for this Tom Thomson painting, a small 8.5 by 10.5 inch sketch entitled Birches and Cedar? Perhaps you would after you know a bit of its history.
Tom Thomson was a member of the Canadian Group of Seven who redefined Canadian landscape painting. The group met informally just before World War 1 and officially pursued their impressionist/expressionist zeal after the war by travelling through the northern regions of Ontario to capture the beautiful landscape.
The trouble is Thompson died far too young, in July, 1917 when he was 39. His body was found in Canoe Lake, Algonquin Park eight days after he was reported missing. Was it an accidental drowning, a result of depression, or foul play? The mystery continues to this day.
The painting, which was sold several days ago, was originally given to a girl friend with several others. At the time Thompson was happy to get $10 or $15.
Thomson has been called one of those rare people, like James Dean Marilyn Monroe, or maybe Michael Jackson. He took art into new directions.
By the way, an Emily Carr painting (1939) entitled Wind in the Tree Tops, sold for $2,164,500 at the same auction. She was another rare person.
Life beats down and crushes the soul and art reminds you that you have one. ~Stella Adler
Could you describe someone who was a pioneer with a bold new vision? Someone who shifted paradigms and perspectives?
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
What do you really care about? How would you express this care? What would you do if you had a very public hour to convey what is on your heart and mind?
My last post was about Anthony Gormley's invitation to take part in a one hour expression at Trafalgar Square, London. What are some issues I care about?
Seven of My Cares
- I love to bike. You see my nondescipt model modified to accommodate my long legs with tall handle bars so that I may ride comfortably. If I were on Trafalgar Square for one hour for the world to see, I would bring my bike and a detailed map to display all the interesting bike trails of the world. I would hold a placard saying, "Lobby for more local bike trails."
- In the background of the picture you see the resident guardian angel in our yard. He is sitting rather pensively reflecting upon the conditions of the world. I believe in symbolic angels, in pursuing what is right. Go to the church of your choice, formal or informal, pursue what promotes truth, justice for all, and peace in your heart. Seek out a community which will offer you support and nurture. Find a place where you can find expression for philanthropic interests. I would bring my pensive guardian angel and set him on a pedestal as a symbol.
- I would promote a worthy charity or two. Where does one begin? MCC (Mennonite Central Committee) is a charity with active programs with a global reach. Can 10% of your net income go to charitable initiatives? Think of the bottom billions and compare their status with your own. Then there is World Vision and a thousand more...
- I would endorse community reading programs. Children need to learn from young the excitement and wonder of reading. If only parents could see the value of this activity. It could pave the way for successful and empowering education.
- I would go green. Green to promote preservation, the sanctity and integrity of the environment. I would lobby for more green spaces, more extensive urban, regional, and national planning to allow for more public access to the environment.
- I would promote gardening and farmers' markets. Provide farmers with the opportunity to grow rich produce loaded with nutrition that may be purchased regularly at community markets.
- I would promote fair trade and microlending opportunities for the Third World such as through Ten Thousand Villages and Kiva. Too often poverty stricken people with no power are the last to receive opportunities.
What do you really care about? What statement would you make on Trafalgar Square?
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Anthony Gormley, British sculptor, has come up with an ingenious idea: express what you really care about by appearing for one hour on the fourth plinth at Trafalgar Square, London. The public square is noted for its sculptures of generals and kings. But what if the common person had a chance to convey his/her vital thoughts?
Gormley has the support of the mayor of London and the London Arts Council to invite 2,400 people to take part in the 24 hour art project for 100 days which lasts until October 14. London mayor Boris Johnson said, "This is high art meeting Big Brother." The first person on the plinth was Rachel Wardell, a 35 year old mother of two who wore a T shirt showing a gagged child, and a large lollipop shaped placard advertising the help line for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. "It's a really peaceful experience. It's about representing society as it is now: I wanted ordinary mums and housewives to have a chance to be involved."
What do you really care about? How would you express that? What would you do if you had this very public hour to convey what's on your heart and mind?
View the informative video about Gormley's project here.
Monday, July 6, 2009
Edith Hamilton, who wrote definitive histories of ancient Greek culture, said the Greeks believed that, "All things are to be examined and called into question. There are no limits set on thought."
With that in mind consider the following ten ancient Greek philosophers and a pertinent quote for each:
Homer: 8th century BC, best known for epic poems The Iliad and The Odyssey -
A small rock holds back a great wave. ~ Homer
Sophocles: 496-406 BC, wrote 123 plays, only seven survived in tact such as Antigone, Oedipus the King -
No man loves life like him that's growing old. ~ Sophocles
Herodotus: 484-424 BC, father of history in western culture -
The destiny of man is in his own soul. ~ Herodotus
Euripides: 480-406 BC, wrote 95 tragedies, 18 survived including Medea
The good and the wise lead quiet lives. ~ Euripedes
Hippocrates: 460-370 BC, a physician and father of medicine, the Hippocratic oath is about doctoral ethics
Natural forces within us are the true healers of disease. ~ Hippocrates
Aristophanes: 446-386 BC, wrote comedies, 11 have survived
Let each man exercise the art he knows. ~ Aristophanes
Plato: 424-348 BC, student of Socrates, regarded as one of the fathers of western philosophy, wrote the Republic
Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. ~ Plato
Aristotle: 384-322, student of Plato, tutor of Alexander the Great, large influence on St. Thomas Aquinus and Catholic education and theology
All virtue is summed up in dealing justly. ~ Aristotle
Euclid: (around 300 BC), mathematician and father of geometry
The laws of nature are but the mathematical thoughts of God. ~ Euclid
Archimedes: 287-212 BC, mathematician, engineer, inventor, physicist, astronomer
Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world. ~ Archimedes
Listverse has a great post providing a primer on the ten philosophers.
Which of the above quotations resonates for you?
Sunday, July 5, 2009
I just finished reading In Defense of Food, Michael Pollen's look at how North Americans have been ironically duped into poorer eating habits thanks to the nutrition industry. We need to get back to our roots, farm roots that is, and eat a variety of fresh produce and meats and stay away from the middle aisles of the supermarkets with all the processed foods.
His central mantra: 'Eat Food. Not Too Much. Mostly Plants.'
Some highlights of his book:
- A preoccupation with terms like cholesterol, fiber, and saturated fat changed the perspective on how we eat. With the advent of Food Science consumers lost their focus on the common staple of foods. "It's a whole lot easier to slap a health claim on a box of sugary cereal than on a raw potato or a carrot...'
- Our preoccupation with fats blurred our vision of healthy eating and ironically made a lot of people fatter.
- The North American shift from leaves to seeds resulted in a flood of refined carbohydrates, the loss of many micro nutrients, and a spike in total calories.
- To escape from the western diet one should eat real, unrefined food ( avoid food products containing unfamiliar and unpronounceable ingredients), go to farmers' markets, eat mainly rich leafy plants and tree ripened fruit. Regard nontraditional foods with skepticism. Eat slowly. Prepare a meal from plants and animals at the shortest end of the food chains.
- Think about where the vegetables and meats come from. Do they come from rich soil? From range fed or factory farms ? Do the food products come from local places whenever possible?
- Get in the kitchen and enjoy making recipes which celebrate the goodness of real food which is your best road to good health.
Reading this book is a confirmation of what I have always suspected about food. Eat a wide variety of the staples rich with colour and nutrients, minimize meat consumption, and get up from the table when you are 80% full. (The last criteria is an elusive goal especially when the dishes one prepares are so tasty!)
Saturday, July 4, 2009
I have discovered the most exciting, the most arduous literary form of all, the most difficult to master, the most pregnant in curious possibilities. I mean the advertisement...It is far easier to write 10 passably effective sonnets, good enough to take in the not too inquiring critic, than one effective advertisement that will take in a few thousand of the uncritical buying public. ~ Aldous Huxley
I read somewhere that many of the contemporary Michelangelos go into the advertising business. That is where the money is, up until about a year ago... We see thousands of advertisements and many seem thoroughly forgettable, even annoying, but perhaps in our subconscious they play on our emotions and intellect to ultimately convince us to buy the product.
Currently CBC is playing this ad for the Shaw festival, a professional theatre at Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada. It suggests that people should buy tickets to see a Noel Coward play because it will transform their lives. Watch the ad and see if artistry is at work here. I must admit that I enjoy the ad more with every viewing.
What ads have made you stop and think, to gasp, to say how clever and effective!
Consider the Top 100 Advertising Campaigns.
Tags: best advertisements ever, of all time, quotations
Friday, July 3, 2009
The PBS Antique Roadshow website features some of the treasures featured over the last few years. One can complete a search, for example, of artists or types of items. There are also interesting groupings entitled Trash to Treasure, Fame and Fortune, Jackpot...
Would you believe the Mickey Mouse circus train pictured above is worth over $10,000? A stone ware jug, $80,000?
Of course, it's a tantalyzing thought that your grandmother's broach which she inherited from her grandmother may be worth the price of a new car. But then again who would want to sell something with so much sentimental value.
The first wealth is health. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
It is better to live rich than to die rich. ~Samuel Johnson
Thursday, July 2, 2009
What are the reasons to celebrate July 4, 2009 from the perspective of a Canadian? After all, our destinies are inextricably linked with that of our kind neighbours to the south.
The U. S. has elected a dynamic, inspiring president with a vision. Lawrence Martin writes there are a number of aspects of his vision which complement our own:
- With his centre-left philosophical tilt, Barack Obama, who knows little about Canada, is ironically closer to the Canadian mainstream than the American one.
- He is a moderate who favours conciliation over confrontation.
- He is also a multilateralist and a multiculturalist.
- He pursues nuclear disarmament and a health care system like ours.
- He stands up against climate change deniers.
- He is not blinded by any sense of American superiority or muscle-flexing Manifest Destiny or bloated conceit that he is carrying our the will of God.
- He rises above all American prejudices.
- Being a politician with an independent mind and an international perspective, his leadership is based on broad global interests more so than narrow domestic biases.
- He is a great leader who understands the inherent stupidity of the we're better than you school of nationalism, that can only lead to conflict.
- Unlike some advisors who want to see another Cold War , this one with the Islamic world, Obama's approach is to reach out, not drive wedges.
- Canadians love the fact that Obama is not exaggerating foreign threats.
- Obama sees a larger world out there which he approaches from a new and enlightened perspective.
Canadians rightfully salute these positive attributes of the Obama administration. Happy Fourth of July, America.
By the way, here is Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Canada Day speech on July 1.
Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek. ~ Barack Obama
Tags: Independence Day, quotations, celebration, commentary, Obama quotes
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
My goal in life is to give to the world what I was lucky to receive...the ecstasy of divine union through my music and dance.
I wanted to have a place that I could create everything that I never had as a child. So you see rides. You see animals. There's a movie theater. I was always on tour, travelling.
Just because it's in print doesn't mean it's the gospel. People write negative things, cause they feel that's what sells. Good news to them, it doesn't sell. ~ Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson (1958-2009) will be noted for his fame and controversy. The seventh child of the Jackson family, his debut in 1968 when he was 10 as a member of the Jackson 5, was an endearing moment for the world. He began his solo career in 1971 and was soon given the title King of Pop. His 1982 album, Thriller, remains the best selling album of all time. Other albums include Off the Wall, 1979, Bad, 1987, Dangerous, 91, HIStory, 1995. His videos like Black and White and Scream made him an enduring presence on MTV in the 90's.
He received many accolades. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice. He earned multiple Guiness world records including 'most successful entertainer of all time.' He won 13 Grammy awards, 13 number one singles, and sold 750 million records worldwide. At the time of his death he was preparing for This Is It, a series of 50 concerts beginning in London on July 13, 2009.
Amidst endless speculation of child sexual abuse and Jackson's health concerns, I would like to think that here was an individual wanting to be accepted and loved. From "Will You Be There."
Like the River Jordan
And I will then say to thee
You are my friend.
Like you are my brother
Love me like a mother
Will you be there?
Tell me will you hold me
When wrong, will you scold me
When lost, will you find me...?