Monday, November 30, 2009
-21 Ways to Write Posts that are Guaranteed to Grow a Blog
- Blog Tips for Bloggers who have been around for a while
- How to Build your Personal Brand through your blog
- How Do I Build Credibility and Presence Online?
- How to Write a Blog Post that stickier than Velcro (guest post)
Rowse has also written 31 Days to Build a Better Blog.
Moreover, he has diversified his reach in the popular Digital Photography School, TwiTip - 'Getting more out of Twitter', and is cofounder of b5 media blog network. Rowse has 83,000 followers on Twitter.
Could you name a blog which you enjoy and also post at Ariwriter?
Saturday, November 28, 2009
For example, Gavin Sword in Stories from the Field writes from Rwanda:
'There is a TV show that profiles treacherous jobs around the world, the episode I recall was one about Alaskan King Crab Fishermen. These brave men (typically) work night and day in stormy seas on slippery decks in frigid waters. The ships are rocking violently with waves crashing over the decks – death just a misstep away.
Here in Rwanda on my drive to work each day, I see women who are employed as Street Sweepers doing a job that rivals the dangers faced by the men on these Alaskan ships. Working from dawn til dusk, these intrepid souls stand ON THE HIGHWAY with cars zooming past at 50+ miles per hour, sweeping the debris and dust from the road with meticulous care. There are no pylons or barriers, no “Caution” signs, no “Slow Down – Sweepers at Work” signs.'
Kiva's slogan: loans that change lives.
Fine art is that in which the hand, the head, and the heart go together. ~John Ruskin
An auction of several Group of Seven artworks at Heffel auctions in Toronto confirms that prices for pivotal works are still rising. Lawren Harris' Houses, St. Patrick St. went for $2.8 million.The Old Stump, Lake Superior went for $3.5 million.
A small 8x10 painting by Tom Thomson entitled Early Spring, Canoe Lake, 1917 went for $2.7 million. (Thomson died in 1917 near Canoe Lake in mysterious circumstances at only 39 years old.)
The Group of Seven was strongly influenced by European Impressionism and translated the movement into powerful art perspectives in Canada in the early twentieth century.
The McMichael Art Gallery in Kleinburg, Ontario houses an extensive Group of Seven art collection.
Friday, November 27, 2009
Taiwanese actress and singer Barbie Hsu, better known as 'Big S', will appear in fashion magazines and websites in China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong to promote the benefits of giving up meat. The campaign was unveiled by the animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
Vegetarianism is not widely popular in China and now with increasing economic prosperity more are eating meat. PETA promotes vegetarianism not only for its health benefits, but as a way of improving the lot of farmyard animals, that it says are often brutally treated by factory farms. "My health has improved a lot since I became a vegetarian," Hsu said.
In a related article a study in the medical journal The Lancet concludes that eating 30% less meat is good for one's health and the planet. With less livestock production there would be substantial health benefits and it would cut emissions. One doctor from the study said, "We're not saying go vegetarian but reduce how much livestock produce you consume."
This latter perspective, which promotes a moderate consumption of meat, seems like a more realistic goal for many, and still provides an incentive to look forward to the dinner table.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
I spent an hour yesterday in our public library going through their extensive children's section and signed out 18 books which I hope to use over the next three weeks. I tease them, slip one in here and there, as we carry on with our diverse lessons.
For example, I read Liz Murphy's ABC Doctor last evening. Ms. Murphy goes through the alphabet with applicable doctor terms: appointment, bandage, checkup, doctor, examination, fever, germs, hand hygiene,... and provides beautiful, friendly illustrations which stimulate the senses.
Her descriptions are direct, perfect for children and ESL learners: 'Nurse - A nurse helps the doctor during your examination by taking your height, weight, temperature, and blood pressure. Sometimes it's the nurse who gives you a shot.'
Also good children's books illustrate the beauty of language. In If I Were the Moon Sheree Fitch writes, 'If I were the moon, I'd shine down my light right into your bedroom to warm up the night. If I were a flower, I'd grow just for you; I'd dance in the wind when you wanted me to.'
Student engagement is essential for learning. Children's books provide that rocket boost to their wonder and imagination as you steer them into language skill development.
With the upcoming holiday gift giving season would you rather purchase a children's DVD or an illustrated book? That question always got interesting responses when I asked my high school students.
The New York Times and Publishers Weekly recently announced their list of best children's books for 2009. School Library Journal has a best 100 list.
What children's book made an impression on you, your children, or your students?
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
India, the world's largest democracy, was recognized as a key player in strategically pivotal South Asia, in the first official state dinner of U.S. President Barack Obama. The black-tie event was held under a tent of the South Lawn with green and sustainable elements.
The symbolism of the special evening recognizes the administration's priorities and the way it wants to be seen in the world.
"Tonight, under the stars, we celebrate the spirit that will sustain our partnership, the bond of friendship between our two people." Obama credited a "movement led by giants like Gandhi and M. L. King, which are the reason both of us can stand here tonight."
Indian PM Manmohan Singh said, "You are an inspiration to all those who cherish the values of democracy, diversity, and equal opportunity."
India with 1.1 billion people plays second fiddle to economic power house China, 1.3 billion, in a number of ways including its lack of a seat at the UN Security Council. Because of a higher birth rate, India may overtake China as the most populous nation by 2030. Indeed, India's economic growth has been stellar over the last several years at about 9% a year.
As a footnote, much attention was given to Michelle Obama's beautiful hand crafted gown designed by Naeem Khan and made in India.
Labels: politics, foreign policy, international relations, economic development
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
The world population counter at the International Rice Research Institute based in the Philippines sends an urgent message. Half of the world's 6,800,000,000 people depend upon rice for survival. However, arable land is declining, and of all the grains, rice is under the most pressure because of the buildup of salt in soil and water.
Dr. Herbert Kronzucker, a plant biologist, experienced a revelation while he was up to his knees in a swampy Philippine rice field a decade ago:
I will never forget that morning, the sun rising over these rice paddies, and I realized for the first time, 'These oceans of green...that's where the world's food comes from.'
Ever since, he has dedicated his energy in pursuing the holy grail of rice: the breeding of super grains designed to resist death by salt, which ravages crop yield.
Moreover, Kronzucker is committed to working with the nonprofit International Rice Institute to ensure that their genetically modified improved seeds go to the farmers in a responsible way.
"Food is as fundamental as health to human rights. This work will be available to all of the world's farmers."
But still the feeling lingers for many that GM foods should be avoided over authentic sources of vital seeds.
Photo: Benaue Rice Terraces
Monday, November 23, 2009
I visited the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto on the weekend and its exhibition of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Discovered between 1947 and 1956 by Bedouin goat-herders in a series of caves off the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea, the Scrolls were authored between 200 BCE and 68 CE. Over 900 separate documents were unearthed, pieced together from over 100,000 scroll fragments.
Among these ancient manuscripts are the oldest-known copies of the Hebrew Bible, hymns, prayers and other important writings. They are a link to the ancient Middle East and to the birth of Judaism and Christianity. Over 200 biblical manuscripts are more than a thousand years older than any previously known copies of the Hebrew Bible. The Dead Sea Scrolls have enabled scholars to understand the textual history of the Bible and have provided new information on theological debates at the dawn of Judaism and Christianity.
It was interesting to see some of the original fragments and their translation. One document captures well the theme of thanksgiving:
May God most high bless you, may he show you his face and may he open for you his good treasures which is in the heavens, to cause to fall down on your earth showers of blessing, dew and rain, early and late rains in their season and to give you fruit the harvest of wheat, of wine and of oil in plenty. And for you the land will yield delicious fruits. And you shall eat them and be replete.
Certainly all should strive to cultivate thankfulness, to count one's blessings, and to develop a spirit of selfless giving, but the problem with 'God's blessings' is why should some people get more than others? I have known some people with 'faith' who were afflicted with a lot of heartache and depravity. Others with little 'faith' were showered with many; this includes both inner and material blessings.
Then there is the consideration of the abundance and depravity of blessings within a global context, of whole nations, cultures, groups...
Sunday, November 22, 2009
One of my favourite writing assignments as an English teacher was the travelling narrative. Four students write one story in installments.
- The first student writes the beginning by introducing setting, character, circumstance, and conflict...
- The second builds rising action, develops mood, character, and complications...
- The third focuses on the climax leaving the reader riveted in his/her seat.
- The final student composes the concluding sequence in which there is an unraveling of the plot and provides some universal appeal.
For example, consider these story starters:
- Half way to school Becky was doing what she promised not to - texting while driving.
- Ben was a loner in Grade 9; that is until the incident one day after school.
- Could Lynne get out the door without telling her parents what she was doing?
- How silly for teens to be tethered to their iPods thought Will.
It's always fascinating for the first student to receive his/her story back after three other students wrote their installments. There are often surprising developments.
Then students are told to take ownership of their travelling narrative and make necessary revisions for homework.
Anyone care to choose one of the story starters above and write the first installment of the story as a comment?
Perhaps within a few days we will have four people produce a riveting narrative. I will write one installment if others don't beat me to it.
Friday, November 20, 2009
Think of some of the great coffees you've enjoyed. Has it included instant?
After 20 years of R&D Starbucks has rolled out VIA with the biggest product launch ever for the company. It includes national TV ads, highly visible in store marketing, and guerilla marketing tactics.
Consider the connotative language:
- Full Starbucks flavour in an instant
- Never be without great coffee
- Starbucks VIA can change your life
- It's made with the highest quality ethically sources 100% arabica beans
-The magic is in a proprietary process that we spent years perfecting. We microgrind the beans in a way that preserves all of their essential oils and flavors. No other coffee company takes this step, and it makes all the difference.
Of course, Nestle cannot ignore this full frontal assault on the $21 billion instant coffee market in which it has the leading Taster's Choice line. Marketers are out roaming the streets of selected cities like San Francisco handing out samples. On the back of the envelope: 'A lot of hype or a lot of flavour. Taste for yourself.'
At the same time in southern Ontario McDonald's is currently handing out FREE cups of its Premium Roast from November 16-29. ('Free' automatically transforms the taste.)
Then there's Tim Horton's which has an iron vice grip over the hearts of java drinkers in Canada. (Many take life or death oaths for their morning caffeine fix from Timmy's.)
Care to share a coffee passion?
Thursday, November 19, 2009
I have been a little tentative on the Internet, not sure how much of myself to reveal. And, yet, my regular readers know quite a bit about my personality, interests, and perspectives.
Many of you know I retired from teaching last year, am currently teaching ESL and spending time with a newly arrived refugee family from the Middle East with landed immigrant status. The topics close to my heart include education, the environment, media, social justice, current events, values, and the general swirl of ideas. Learning and sharing are still vital personal goals.
I have admired my blogging acquaintances like Doug Johnson, Doug Peterson, Ken Allan, Diane Cordell, Sue Waters, Fred Schlegel, Noah Fleming, Carol Ross, David Warlick, Joanna Young, Ari Herzog, Daniel H. Pink, Maria Schneider, Cathy Nelson , Will Richardson and a host of others who have been direct about their names as bloggers. Indeed, it's highly recommended by website strategists to use your name authentically as you develop your brand. Thus, after building a tenuous foundation for myself, here I am.
Yesterday, I updated my Google Profile and provided many more details about my background and interests. (I will probably refine this inventory moving forward.) In the all knowing world of Google I can now find people who share some of my interests:
- Leamington - 135 other bloggers
- Canada - 2,500,000 bloggers
- retired - 1,520,000
- biking interest - 85,700
- cats - 670,000
- folk music - 116,000
- Groundhog Day movie - 54,000
- The Razor's Edge movie - 437
- Transformers movie - 962,000
- Who Has Seen the Wind? novel - 81
- The Lorax - 2,100
- I also performed a Google Search and discovered to my amazement that I am on a 14 second You Tube video. It was filmed two years ago when Dr. David Suzuki, Canadian environmentalist, toured the country speaking and asking people, what would you do for the environment if you were prime minister? (Another vivid example that what you reveal online can easily be retrieved by a Search.)
Coincidentally John Spencer wrote a kind tribute to my site today. He said, 'Bottom line: he's a thinker without getting condescending, a bit of a poet without making it inaccessible and a geek in all the best ways possible.' Thanks John.
Finally, so much about myself. (I normally try to avoid the spot light.) I recognize that the most important consideration in a blog is You, the reader. I will continue to try hard to keep my readers in my mind as I write posts around 'a regular eclectic mind fix.'
I'm always open to your suggestions and input.
The Pontiac Silverdome in Michigan was an icon of its time. It was built in 1975 for $55 million and sold this week to Canadian investors for $583,000, 1% of its initial value.
The Silverdome hosted a rich legacy:
- the Detroit Lions of the NFL from 75-2001
- the Detroit Pistons of the NBA from 1978-88
- first round games of the 1994 FIFA World Cup soccer
- 1979 NBA All Star Game
- Super Bowl XVI on Jan. 24, 1982 when the San Francisco 49ers defeated the Cincinnati Bengals 26-21 before a crowd of 81,270
- Wrestle Mania III in 1987 with an attendance record of 93,000
- 1994 the English rock band Pink Floyd performed their classic album The Dark Side of the Moon
The sale is a reflection of the dire economic conditions in the area 30 minutes from Detroit. With the collapse of the manufacturing base and real estate prices, the city of Pontiac struggles to relieve itself of debt. The emergency financial manager said, "You could say Pontiac is in a depression, not just a recession."
Of course, the new owners will face the annual maintenance costs of well over a million dollars, but they plan to host a number of sporting events like major league soccer.
In 2009 dollars a stadium of this size would cost $220 million. The New York Giants and the New York Jets will play next year in a new stadium estimated to cost $1.6 billion.
The sale epitomizes the boom and bust cycles which can devastate businesses and communities.
I have vivid memories of visiting the sports shrine several times.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
The report, The Carbon the World Forgot, says, "Future climate change protocols must be better suited to motivate stewardship of the massive quantity of carbon stored in forest and peatland ecosystems."
Interestingly, North America's boreal forests, contain nearly twice as much carbon per hectare as tropical forests. The carbon has been "vastly underestimated" in the past, in part because most of it is not in trees, shrubs and plants but below ground in often metres-deep soils and peats, some thousands of years old.
While federal, provincial and aboriginal leaders are moving to protect the boreal many leading scientists are saying that much more can be done.
One wonders with the final frontiers of the world being developed, if governments are doing enough. One area, for example, is the Athabasca Oil Sands currently being developed in northern Alberta which contains about 170 billion barrels of oil spread over 140,000 square kilometers. This extensive razing of boreal biome is staggering in its scope.
Photo Credit and related Nature Canada Blog.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Sex-ed in 160 characters? Several text messaging initiatives are reaching out to inquiring teens.
Scarleteen recently began a text message service for its roughly 10,000 American visitors a day and will soon expand to Canada.
"With teenagers, texting is just huge," said Scarleteen founder, Heather Corinna, who's a former kindergarten teacher. Scarleteen is run by 15 trained volunteers, many of whom are studying in a health related field. They answer text messages through the use of a computer program.
A similiar initiative is The Birds and Bees Text Line, opened out of the Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Campaign of North Carolina.
Most teens traditionally get their sex education from each other which is rife with inaccuracies.
"We want to give them a tool that they can use that's effective with reliable information."
However, some argue that texting should never replace less abbreviated forms of sexual education from health professionals.
Indeed, parents would like to be there to help with sex issues but teens know that simply asking parents might automatically get them in trouble for wondering.
Monday, November 16, 2009
The three day forum brings together 1000 renowned educational experts and decision makers from all sectors of society to shape education models for the 21st century.
'By offering an ideal platform for debate and actions, WISE will focus on finding both new ways of addressing major educational challenges and solid ways of implementing sustainable solutions, tools, and practices.'
It's interesting that the conference gathers academics, governments, private sector, grassroots movements, scientists and artists.
The list of speakers is impressive and provides links to their background and perspective.
Follow the conference on Twitter.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
In these days of H1N1 precautions, of sanitizing and protecting yourself from harbouring bacteria, the following sites may turn some a bit squeamish:
- Blarney Stone, Blarney Ireland: Legend says those who kiss the Blarney Stone, are rewarded with eloquent speech. Up to 400,000 mouths each year meet the stone while bending over backwards.
- Wall of Gum, Seattle Washington: A bizarre tradition at Market Theatre has turned into a giant wall of gum while waiting in line.
- Oscar Wilde's Tomb, Paris: His tomb in Pere-Lachaise cemetery is famously covered in lipstick prints of countless female literary admirers.
- St. Mark's Square in Venice, Italy is famed for its historic beauty and its thousands of hungry pigeons which tourists love to touch and even hold if possible.
- Grauman's Chinese Theatre, Hollywood: This landmark features hand and footprints of some of the biggest media stars. Does one think about bringing gloves and sanitizer before comparing your own paws to those of the greats?
Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else's opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation. ~Oscar Wilde, De Profundis, 1905
Saturday, November 14, 2009
When my daughters were about ten (close to twenty years ago) they and their two cousins spent several summer days decorating their club atop our garden shed with vivid animals and nature scenes. Their cause was 'Save the Earth' and my wife and I made sure they had the water colour paints, brushes, and plywood to create their paintings. To this day, their art works decorate the four walls of the second storey playroom.
Those days were special because their creative energies were let loose. They talked and planned and painted and they were self actualized. It was wonderful.
Creativity is a wonderful state of mind to encourage in children, students, adults, employees, spouses, siblings, senior citizens... Caregivers, employers, teachers need to cultivate it whenever possible. I can think of five important dynamics:
- encouragement. Provide the mindset that all are capable.
- environment. Surround them with the right conditions of support and nurture.
- materials. Make sure they have the materials necessary to work their magic.
- collaboration. Creativity invites discussion and sharing.
- recognition. Provide a positive reinforcement of the product.
I believe in the imagination. What I cannot see is infinitely more important than what I can see. ~Duane Michals, Real Dreams
When patterns are broken, new worlds emerge. ~Tuli Kupferberg
What creative projects do you vividly remember?
Friday, November 13, 2009
I wheeled with the stars; my heart broke loose on the wind. ~ Pablo Neruda
The Green Pen Society (It's our GPS) is about empowered writing around a monthly theme.
The November theme is writing about a wall you would like to see come down.
We saw the vivid spectacle of the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Of course, there are many walls: physical, political, educational, economic, generational, religious, social, ...
Rami Khouri, Editor of the Beirut-based Daily Star, writes an article 'One day, the wall will fall in the Arab world.' Some highlights:
- 'For many reasons, the Arab world collectively is the sole exception to the global wave of liberalization and democratization. It is difficult to predict how and when our region will change. The spark that sets off a chain reaction for freedom could happen in one country, then spread to others - just as Poland's Solidarity movement ultimately echoed throughout the Soviet bloc and resulted in its transformation.
- The greatest victim of the Arab world's lack of democratic freedoms is the current generation of Arab youth. They enjoy all the other dimensions of modernity - education, travel, electronic interconnectedness, urbanism, exposure to other cultures - that should give them a productive and satisfying life, yet they are politically and economically constrained.
- Do not be surprised to see young people lead the movement for change in the Arab world, when the moment comes for that movement to wash away the legacy of authoritarian power structures that have reached the end of their useful days in our region.'
One hopes that with crumbling walls will come more peace, security, and opportunity for all.
Thanks to Ken Allan and Tania Sheko for past GPS leadership.
Thanks, in advance, to those who want to identify with GPS and write a post this month.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Teachers Catherine Kong and Lorenzo Rossi were looking for a way that Grade 8 students could fit in a computer science course amidst a very busy arts school focus. The teachers developed a series of podcast video lectures and submitted a proposal to Microsoft which donated 70 Zunes to the project.
The positive outcome of the project resulted in the recognition of the two teachers at Microsoft's 2009 Innovative Teachers Forum and they are invited to the 2010 forum in Singapore.
In his 24 years as a teacher Mr. Rossi had never seen more favourable results. The computer class's average was 93 per cent.
"This is the You Tube generation, they like watching things on small gadgets, they like being mobile. So if we meet them where they're at, they're much more likely to plug in and be engaged," said Sidney Matrix, a professor at Queen's who makes her lectures available to students online as video podcasts.
Both teachers, however, cautioned that podcasts shouldn't replace the important role of the classroom teacher in cultivating and monitoring progress.
Image: Microsoft's Partners in Learning
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Occasionally one runs across a site which opens horizons in perspective and style. Lucille from the United Kingdom at Useful and Beautiful engages and enthralls.
'Poppies' is a moving post for Remembrance Day. Follow it through to the link.
"It looks like the kind of boat Batman would drive," quips Paul Watson, the Canadian environmental activist who founded the society.
It stretches 24 metres with a space age, carbon fiber tri-hull design. It's lightning quick, holding the world powerboat record for circumnavigating the globe. This new ship is a game changer and will be able to chase down and harass the smaller harpoon boats which are released by the large factory ship. The boat has been modified with a layer of Kevlar armour to limit damage by Antarctic ice or even bullets.
"Our objective is to literally sink the Japanese fleet economically...They haven't made a profit in three years," Watson said.
Indeed, the primary weapon of the expedition is the digital film footage which exposes the secretive industry and provides a glimpse at conserving this precious resource.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
The buzz in movie circles these days is the rise of the toy. Film successes such as Toy Story, Transformers, and GI Joe, are now paving the way for possible movie plots around Risk, Battleship, and Etch A Sketch.
This past summer action figures such as G.I. Joe and Transformers ruled the box office while films with Will Ferrell and Adam Sandler failed to draw crowds.
The craze for toy driven feature films has given rise to a new term 'toyetic', meaning whether a movie's concept can lend itself to a toy.
Will Smith, who currently commands one of the biggest pay cheques in the industry, has signed on to produce a movie based on the board game Risk.
The Ohio Art Company, which owns Etch A Sketch, has even received numerous calls from producers interesting in acquiring the rights for a movie.
Some in the industry think it's just a matter of time before games like Monopoly, Battleship, and Mr. Potato Head get their own cinematic spotlight.
As an enthusiastic player of Risk, I can see how a movie of the game could provide some international intrigue and excitement. Maybe even the game Operation can turn into a movie some day. Who will hold the scalpel?
Monday, November 9, 2009
The Berlin Wall separated East and West Berlin for 28 years from 1961-1989. Today marks the twentieth anniversary of its collapse and the reunification of Germany. The wall vividly symbolized the Cold War between Communist Russia and the eastern Bloc countries and western democracies.
Some pertinent quotes:
- "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall." U.S. President Ronald Reagan at the Brandenburg Gate, Berlin, June 12, 1987
- "The Soviet Union has no moral or political right to interfere in the affairs of its East European neighbour. They have the right to decide their own fate." Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, Oct. 1989
- "We are witnessing sad things in other socialist countries, very sad things." ~ Cuban President Fidel Castro, Nov. 9, 1989
- "I've just arrived from Berlin. It's like witnessing an enormous fair." ~ West German
chancellor Helmut Kohl, Nov. 10, 1989
- "What belongs together is now growing together." ~ former West German Chancellor Willy Brandt, Nov. 10, 1989
- "The first breach in the Wall came in August 1980 when a great wave of strikes broke out all across Poland." ~ Polish dissident Adam Michnik, Nov. 1999
- I never regretted my decision. Mikhail Gorbachev, November, 1999
- "Our history did not end the night the wall came down. It began anew. We cannot accept that freedom does not belong to all people. We cannot allow oppression defined and justified by religion or tribe to replace that of (communist) ideology." ~ U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton
Looking at the map of the Communist Eastern Bloc countries during the Cold War, one realizes how much the world has changed since 1989.
One wonders what other 'walls' remain to be taken down.
See also Huffington Post article on 20th Anniversary celebration.
Sunday, November 8, 2009
My regular followers know that I have been involved with a newly arrived refugee family from the Middle East. Over the last few weeks I have been piecing together their story. Generally a young Jordanian woman marries an Iraqi citizen. After the wedding they begin their home in Baghdad where they raise four children until the beginning of the Iraq war in 2003.
With the unrest there they decide to move back to Jordan. However, the father cannot work in Jordan as an Iraqi citizen and he decides to go back to Iraq to sell his electrical business and coffee shop to support his family. Moreover, the Jordanian border guards refuse his reentry into Jordan. What ensues is four years of separation from his family. They are eventually reunited in a Syrian refugee camp four years later.
Fortunately Canadian immigration officials hear their story in the midst of their depravity and powerlessness, and allow them entry into Canada if a sponsor could be found which turns out to be the church that I attend.
The family arrived at the end of September and in just over 5 weeks so much has been accomplished. The five children are happily adjusting to school, and the parents are enrolled in ESL classes. As well, a team of volunteers are spending time with the family four evenings a week with conversational English. These sessions are interspersed with good Arabic coffee and socializing.
We have come to know a wonderful family and realize that there is much we can share with each other.
Last week the oldest eighteen year old daughter said the falling leaves are like our problems falling from us.
Today we took the family to a park where we enjoyed the play sets, the lake, and an informal game of soccer among the leaves.
Saturday, November 7, 2009
My burning pile out in the country has now been turned into a composting pile; I am trying to be a better environmental steward.
My mind turns to the following poem as I go about my clean up. I love this poem for its sensory appeal, contrast, and metaphorical dimensions... It's time to strip "the spirit bare."
This poem has always left me coming back for more. There is a line here and there which gains new meaning every time I read it. Any thoughts?
The Burning of the Leaves
Now is the time for the burning of the leaves.
They go to the fire; the nostril pricks with smoke
Wandering slowly into the weeping mist.
Brittle and blotched, ragged and rotten sheaves!
A flame seizes the smouldering ruin, and bites
On the stubborn stalks that crackle as they resist.
All the spices of June are a bitter reek,
All the extravagant riches spent and mean.
All burns! the reddest rose is a ghost.
Sparks whirl up, to expire in the mist:
the wild Fingers of fire are making corruption clean.
Now is the time for stripping the spirit bare,
Time for the burning of days ended and done,
Idle solace of things that have gone before,
Rootless hope and fruitless desire are there:
Let them go to the fire with never a look behind.
The world that was ours is a world that is ours no more.
They will come again, the leaf and the flower, to arise
From squalor of rottenness into the old splendour,
And magical scents to a wandering memory bring;
The same glory, to shine upon different eyes.
Earth cares for her own ruins, naught for ours.
Nothing is certain, only the certain spring.
by Laurence Binyon 1869 -1943
Friday, November 6, 2009
'Marathon: a musing in metaphor' is a short video which explores the perspective of education in film, books, Oprah... There is the suggestion that education involves quick fixes, heroic achievements, easy formulas...
But what if education is more a marathon than a sprint? Does the video go far enough?
See my answer at John Spencer's blog.
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Are wall calendars becoming as obsolete as the wrist watch? With the prevalence of the cell phone, home computers, and digital calendar clocks, the traditional wall accessory has become somewhat of an artifact. Google Calendar and iPhone Calendar may be all you need in this hyper digital world.
However, as I type, a Monet calendar displays November with gorgeous brush strokes of a pastoral scene. Another calendar in our home entitled 'Simplicity: Inspiration for a simpler life' has a scene of a virginal forest with a quote by John Muir.
Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.
As a boy we received free calendars from local businesses: car dealers, banks, insurance reps, and the farmers' cooperative. And on visits to the mechanic there was the inevitable 'tool' calendar celebrating the female form. (Sales of these calendars, too, are dwindling for politically correct reasons.)
What calendar do you cherish in an aesthetic or expedient way?
For those who don't want to give up on the media relic just yet, consider the following sites with some diverse offerings: Wall Calendars 2010, 30 Unique 2009 Calendars, and best of calendar design.
Photo: Shredding the Days Gone By Calendar
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
One shopper, one year, 500 bags. It's not hard to imagine this scenario. In the U.S. alone this translates to over 100 billion plastic bags which find their way to landfill sites.
Then there are plastic water bottles, many of which do not get recycled and find a similar nondestructable home for hundreds of years.
Imagine if there was a paradigm shift in society and everyone carried ecofriendly reusable bags made from plastic water bottles.
ChicoBags provide the answer. They also chronicle in a newsletter the travels of the Bag Monster who wonders why all the fuss?
Does the bag monster have you in his grip?
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
One of the master illustrators, Don Punchatz, passed away at 73 recently who created hyperrealist art, mixing the fantastic and absurd.
He produced images for the works of Isaac Asimov, Harlan Ellison, Ray Bradbury and worked for the paperback publishers Ace, Dell, Avon, Warner, and New American Library.
In 1970 he opened Sketch Pad Studio where his apprentices learned the trade and helped complete the prolific works of the artist. One artist called it a Renaissance workshop.
In the 90's his studio worked on accounts for Exxon, Anheuser-Busch, and Pepsi, as well as magazine illustration. One of his paintings of B.F. Skinner is in the permanent collection of the National Portrait Gallery. He taught illustration for 35 years at Texas Christian University.
In the early days of video games he was hired to create the packaging for a new game, and when offered a flat fee or a percentage of the game's profits, he opted for the fee.
"So how was I to know," he said, "this thing called Doom would make a jillion smackers?"
See an overview of his life and work at spectrum fantastic art and Ray-Mel Cornelius.
Monday, November 2, 2009
Does the novelty of the world's biggest cruise ship conjure up Romantic thoughts? The 20 storey Oasis of the Seas left a Danish harbour two days ago bound to reach Port Everglades, Florida on November 20, its home port.
Everything about the ship is grand in scale. It's 5 times larger than the Titanic and can carry over 6,300 passengers and 2,100 crew. It has seven neighbourhoods, a 750 seat outdoor amphitheater, numerous pools, a park with over 12,000 plants on board, recreational areas, a handcrafted carousel. The owners, Royal Caribbean, also wanted an environmentally friendly ship, reusing water and discharging no water at sea.
There is something about a ship, large or small, which ignites the adventurous spirit; it's an aquatic home for a precious few days; there is the spectacular sunrise or sunset, the caress of invigorating, fresh breezes, the excitement of arriving at exotic ports, the leisure options...
However, many will probably dismiss the ship as being too large and cumbersome, as a symbol of a more extravagant time.
The ideal ship for some may be more along the lines of John Masefield's vision:
I must go down to the sea again, to the lonely sea and the sky, and all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by.
A Mail Online article provides an overview of the features of the ship with detailed images.
Sunday, November 1, 2009
The records of Captain William Hope includes logs of his 1791-92 voyage to Canada and more than a dozen painted images of the coast of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Quebec, a rare treasure chest of vintage Canadiana.
"There had been a lot of interest in the log in the run up to the sale, especially in the attractive and unusual watercolour Canadian views," said Sotheby's manuscripts specialist.
Another highlight of the event was the sale of a collection of letters written by British poet, Lord Byron, which fetched about $500,000, nearly doubling the pre-sale estimate.
In this age of digital hyper communication one can marvel at how publishing has changed. Those private journals, diaries, and etchings have been replaced with a digital footprint which may not survive nearly as long as these centuries old records.
An auction like this encourages one to think about those precious papers we all have tucked away somewhere: private journals, family artifacts, important clippings...
Letter writing is the only device for combining solitude with good company. ~ Lord Byron, 1788-1824, an English poet and leading figure in Romanticism
Photo Credit: Sotheby's