Saturday, December 18, 2010
The article kindles thoughts for me of this majestic bird whose wing span can reach up to 11 feet. They have a very efficient glide ratio, soar in high altitudes among prevailing wind currents, and cover immense distances. There are 21 species, 19 threatened with extinction.
Of course, its main allusion in literature is in 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner' by Samuel Taylor Coleridge written in 1798. A wedding guest is stopped by an old man who wants to tell him a story. At first the man is annoyed but eventually mesmerized by the sailor's tale. It's about a global sea voyage that turns disastrous when the mariner kills an albatross and suffers the consequences.
As a former English teacher, I enjoyed taking my students through this narrative poem 30 years ago. It may seem more dated now and rarely read. If you have some time and want to read this poem aloud to yourself, you may find your mind providing a graphic visual of events to fill you with wonder.
Ah ! well a-day ! what evil looks
Had I from old and young !
Instead of the cross, the Albatross
About my neck was hung.
Photo: Statue in Somerset
Friday, December 17, 2010
Now a research team studying a melting glacier near Canada's northernmost point of land has discovered a "mummified" forest that's at least two million years old, with "perfectly preserved" tree trunks, branches and leaves."
"The present-day thaw at the north end of Ellesmere Island -- another sign of the widespread warming now taking hold of Canada's polar frontier -- has served up intact spruce and birch trees believed to have been buried in a landslide during the Neogene period of Earth history between two million and eight million years ago."
The same scientists also say that the latest warming trend will only intensify global warming with all the pent-up carbon released from such sites.Today, Ellesmere Island is mainly a home for muskoxen and is one of the world's most inhospitable places, but melting glaciers are changing all that.
Most have heard about the story of Allied and German troops who laid down their arms on December 25, 1914, sung carols, played football, and exchanged gifts. (Friko has documented the event very well in her Advent series.)
Now a Canadian soldier's letter written at Vimy Ridge has been uncovered which describes a similar event in 1916.
"Here we are again as the song says," the young soldier wrote. "I had quite a good Xmas considering I was in the front line. Xmas eve was pretty stiff, sentry-go up to the hips in mud of course. ... We had a truce on Xmas Day and our German friends were quite friendly. They came over to see us and we traded bully beef for cigars."
The passage ends with Pte. MacKinnon noting that, "Xmas was 'tray bon,' which means very good."
Scholars have hailed the letter as a "fantastic find." The letter takes on added poignancy since the young soldier was killed on the infamous ridge in April, 1917."The letter clearly demonstrates that there was an attempt to downplay these small-scale Christmas truces when they happened," said Prof. Weber, noting that official military records make little or no mention of such events — largely because they could be interpreted by army commanders as a failure to maintain discipline and a fighting frame of mind among front-line soldiers."
This is the season to reflect and cherish stories like these which provide some inspiration for greater harmony and good will.
Thursday, December 16, 2010
Are you eating enough fish to reap the benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids? Studies have shown that the nutrient helps to reduce the risk of heart disease, fight depression, and keep one young.
Linda Beck writes all three articles above for The Globe and Mail, "There are no official recommendations regarding how much omega-3 fat one should consume each day, but most experts agree that a daily intake of 500 milligrams of DHA and EPA (combined) helps to reduce the risk of developing heart disease. If you eat six ounces of salmon each week, you’re getting 500 milligrams of omega-3 fats.
If you have been diagnosed with heart disease, the American Heart Association recommends you consume 1,000 milligrams of omega-3 fats a day. If you don’t like fish, fish-oil supplements are a good alternative. Fish-oil supplements are made from salmon, anchovies, sardines, herring and mackerel. If you opt for supplements, read labels before you buy. Fish-oil capsules vary in the amount of DHA and EPA they contain. Most capsules provide 300, 500 or 600 milligrams..."
I take a fish oil tablet daily with 900 milligrams of DHA and EPA. I also eat several cans of sardines a week and bake salmon several times a month. I don't have heart disease (fingers crossed) but the research suggests that for someone my age, who is soon to hit 60, it certainly can't hurt to focus on those fish oils.
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
at the local fast food haven,
and threw up the hood of her light vinyl jacket;
the sidewalk was slippery with freshly fallen snow.
Too bad she didn't bring a scarf she thought
as the north wind assaulted her vulnerable neck.
It was the best job she could get-
A couple of $20's for five hours of work;
now 10 o'clock her kids would be fast asleep-
valuable family opportunities missed
like the warmth of a fireplace
they never enjoyed.
Her sitter, tied to her cellphone,
probably talked the evening away with her friends;
she hoped her boyfriend was not with her
keeping her "company."
Why did her husband leave her penniless and alone?
Swept her off her feet right out of high school
Promised to love and cherish...
The flakes seemed to get larger now
and the wind subsided;
the lights took on a warmer glow.
Ahead was the stone edifice of a vaulted church;
a choir was inside practicing for the big day.
Illuminated was the stained glass window with a child and adoring mother....
I wish I could feel as fresh and new she gasped
as her home came into view.
This is my submission to Magpie Tales with a weekly photo prompt.
It happens every year at this time. I lie in bed and reflect on the past year and look forward to the next. Blame it on the long nights near the winter solstice and the meager UV rays. My mind turns with possibilities like a van Gogh starry night.
My post yesterday about #reverb10, a site which encourages one to reflect back and look ahead, stirred the star dust. It seems to me the first 15 excellent questions carry several themes:
Eliminating: What distracts you and causes you to become somewhat disjointed and frazzled? How can you eliminate them?
Enjoying: What can you do to cultivate life's riches? What is it that makes you feel alive?
Assessing: What are your strengths and passions and how can they be nurtured in your pursuits?
Creating: How can you channel more of your creative energies, experience the wonder, and avoid the tedium?
Focusing:What can you do to direct or channel your interests into something productive and meaningful?
Many readers know that I have directed quite a few energies into this blog over the last three years. It is a reflection of my interests, skills, and perspectives. It gives me great enjoyment and enrichment on most days. But I am open to some refinement in this pursuit. I also realize that life is multi layered; a balance is needed to accommodate those different dynamics. One idea I am playing with is Less is more....
How do the themes above resonate for you?
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
#reverb10 is a site which encourages one to use the month of December to 'reflect on this year and manifest what's next.'
Every day a different writer poses a question to prompt reflection. Today I get up to speed on their questions through some journalling. You may want to benefit from all the introspection as well.
December 1: Gwen Bell- Encapsulate the year 2010 in one word. Explain why you’re choosing that word. Now, imagine it’s one year from today, what would you like the word to be that captures 2011 for you?
2: Leo Babauta- What do you do each day that doesn’t contribute to your writing — and can you eliminate it?
3: Ali Edwards- Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors).
4: Jeffrey Davis- How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year?
5: Alice Bradley- What (or whom) did you let go of this year? Why?
6: Gretchen Rubin- What was the last thing you made? What materials did you use? Is there something you want to make, but you need to clear some time for it?
7: Caligater- Where have you discovered community, online or otherwise, in 2010? What community would you like to join, create or more deeply connect with in 2011?
8:Karen Walrond- Think about what makes you different and what you do that lights people up. Reflect on all the things that make you different – you’ll find they’re what make you beautiful.
9: Shauna Reid- What social gathering rocked your socks off in 2010? Describe the people, music, food, drink, clothes, shenanigans.
10: Susannah Conway- What was the wisest decision you made this year, and how did it play out?
11: Sam Davidson- What are 11 things your life doesn’t need in 2011? How will you go about eliminating them? How will getting rid of these 11 things change your life?
12: Patrick Reynolds- This year, when did you feel the most integrated with your body? Did you have a moment where there wasn’t mind and body, but simply a cohesive YOU, alive and present?
13: Scott Belsky- When it comes to aspirations, its not about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen. What’s your next step?
I will be following this site for the rest of the month and following the hashtag #reverb10 on Twitter. I am sure to meet some interesting new perspectives.
Thanks to Ariwriter for the link.
Monday, December 13, 2010
Dr. Nate Kornell in Psychology Today argues "the psychological differences may be just as important.""If you plop down on the couch and fire up your Kindle (or NOOK, etc), you have to make one decision: What should I read? You might choose a novel, a magazine, a newspaper, a textbook, a scholarly article, or what have you."
"If you plop down on the couch and fire up your iPad (or Galaxy Tab, etc.), you face a very different decision: Should I read? With the Kindle, you'll probably be reading within seconds. With the iPad you could be reading within seconds, but you could also jump on Angry Birds or Netflix. Or Hulu, Zappos, YouTube, Twitter, Farmville, or Gmail, ad infinitum."
"As a computer, the Kindle can't compete with the iPad. But from a psychological perspective, the Kindle makes actual reading much easier. Not because of the screen or the technology. Because reading's your only choice. We usually think of choice as good. But choice can be a problem when you're struggling with self control."
In our online world filled with infinite, diverse choices, isn't it comforting to know that one device focuses your options in a very specific direction?
Thirty years ago my first impression of the Canadian Rockies and places like Banff National Park, Alberta and Vancouver Island, British Columbia was awe. Pristine greenish blue lakes, snow capped mountains, invigorating hikes to alpine meadows, the roaring surf of the Pacific coastline left indelible impressions. At the time I remember many Asian travelers including the affluent Japanese who swept into these destinations in luxurious buses and stayed in the five star hotels.
Now the middle class of China's 1.3 billion citizens are poised to travel. Earlier this year China granted approved destination status to Canada and travel agencies are paving the way with group tours. On one of the first tours a Beijing student said, "Everything is so beautiful and fresh. I love it here." One travel company is expecting a 30 per cent annual jump, year after year, in Chinese travel here.
Canada's ambassador to China said, "With a growing middle class, a booming economy, and an increased outbound travel potential, the China market presents huge opportunities for the Canadian economy."
The United States is also becoming an increasingly popular destination for Chinese travelers. The two countries signed a memorandum of understanding several years ago. "In 2007, China ranked as the 16th largest international market for the United States, with 397,405 Chinese visitors to the U.S. Chinese visitors spent a record $2.56 billion in the U.S. in 2007, with average expenditure of over $6,000 per person." There are expectations of dramatic growth.
In a country with crowded and frenetic cities and challenged environmental standards, one can imagine how their tourists will be entranced by the beautiful destinations of the world.
Sunday, December 12, 2010
Canadian born James Naismith, who invented the sport of basketball, had his original notes on the rules of the game auctioned off this last week for $4.4 million. That sale makes it the most expensive piece of sports memorabilia ever.
Naismith typed up the rules on two pages and used it at the Y.M.C.A. Training School in Springfield, Mass. in the winter of 1891. It was to be a gentlemanly game without “shouldering, holding, pushing or striking,” where the ball “may be batted in any direction” (but not with a fist), and a “player cannot run with the ball” but “must throw it from the spot on which he catches it.”
Rob Rains, the co-author with Hellen Carpenter of “James Naismith: The Man Who Invented Basketball,” said that if the Naismith document was the original version of the rules, “it’s one of the most valuable pieces of sports memorabilia ever sold at auction.” An extensive search into its provenance revealed it as undoubtedly original.
What were the other most expensive auctioned sport items?
- Mark McGwire's 70th home run ball- $3 million
- T206 Honus Wagner tobacco card $2.35 million
- Babe Ruth's bat used to hit the first home run at Yankee Stadium $1.26 million
As a Canadian, I find it interesting that this world class game was invented by a Canadian, as was the sport of hockey by the indigenous people of our far north. Of course, for both sports the rules of the game have evolved into quite intricate tomes.
Saturday, December 11, 2010
-How does this quote contrast with dominant social values?
-To what extent do you pamper yourself and buy extravagant or peripheral items?
-How can you resolve to live with less? Think about several specific ways.
-How might more simplicity and minimalism enrich your life?
(As I near 365 posts at 365 Quote Quest, I am beginning to compile my top 5o favourite quotes for 2010. This quote may be one.)
If you have a favourite quote for 2010, I would love to read it as a comment. Better yet, if you blog about one, and link back to quoteflections I will link back to you in a future post. (Please e mail me or leave a comment if you have a post.)
Friday, December 10, 2010
I am nearing my third anniversary as a blogger with over 1,100 posts. An infographic provides a look at some of the statistics about the blogging phenomenon:
-Bloggers worldwide: U. S. 33%, Canada, Mexico 5%, South America 2%, European Union 19%, Asia Pacific 8%....Africa?; that leaves about 30% unaccounted for...
-79% of bloggers have college degrees or higher.
-Interesting that in 2009 9% of bloggers were self employed; in 2010 it is 21%, a growing segment.
-Professional bloggers are "more sophisticated" in the use of Facebook and Twitter to drive readers.
-34% say that Twitter is a more effective driver than a year ago.
-51% say they receive a salary for their blogging.
Annual revenue generated from advertising on blogs:
All bloggers $42,000
Self employed $122,000
Conclusions: Most of the bloggers I read make little or nothing from blogging. There are a lot of bloggers out there who simply want to interact with like minded people and share perspectives.
The chart encourages one to think about why you blog, what is your long term plan for your blog, how important is Facebook and Twitter in your general strategy, do you intend to gain some revenue eventually? Finally do you see blogging as a fading genre or growing in 2011?
Enhanced chart at Holy Kaw. Via Grasshopper Group, 'Empowering Entrepeneurs'
Thursday, December 9, 2010
100 centimeters of snow,
over one meter in two days,
three days of school closures-
mountains of snow
too deep even for sledding;
too bad there's no groomed ski hill close by.
Shovel that driveway
clear the sidewalk
what happened to our terrier?
From the north the winds came,
swirling counter clockwise currents
from a giant storm in the distant Maritimes,
picking up moisture over Lake Huron and Georgian Bay and
creating giant, pillow cases of snowflakes-
A record snowfall,
two weeks earlier than the usual beginning
of snow kingdoms
paralyzing traffic on Highway #401 for hours
and liberating childhood fantasies.
(Early this last week London, Ontario was buried as described in the poem.)
This is a Magpie Tale around a weekly photo prompt.
"Cooking your vegetables can actually boost their antioxidant content. Heating vegetables releases antioxidants by breaking down cell walls. Studies have found that eating cooked spinach and carrots – versus raw – results in much higher blood levels of beta-carotene, an antioxidant thought to guard against heart disease and lung cancer. You’ll also get more lutein, a phytochemical that helps prevent cataract and macular degeneration, if you eat your spinach cooked instead of raw."
"And when it comes to certain minerals, you’re also better off eating your spinach cooked. Green vegetables such as spinach, beet greens and Swiss chard are high in calcium, but their high levels of a compound called oxalic acid binds calcium and reduce its absorption. Cooking releases some of the calcium that’s bound to oxalic acid. Three cups of raw spinach, for example, have 90 milligrams of calcium, whereas one cup of cooked has nearly triple the amount (259 milligrams). Cooking vegetables also increases the amount of magnesium and iron that’s available to the body."
Moreover, some vegetables are healthier when eaten raw or lightly steamed. "Cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy and kale contain glucosinolates that are converted to anti-cancer compounds called isothiocyanates when they are chopped or chewed." Light steaming keeps many of the nutrients in tact.
I am reminded of Popeye, the sailor man who had the foresight of eating cases of cooked spinach!
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Here are several well positioned niche products. In the midst of the winter cold, Twittens are gloves which can allow you to expose those fingertips for handy texting. They are "gloves for the text generation." The name is a cross between Twitter and mittens, and you can follow them there and on Facebook. Who can be without a pair?
Talli Roland, whose blog I have followed for over a year, has marketed her young adult fiction very well. Her latest novel The Hating Game is on some bestseller lists as an e book, along with sales of a hard copy.
Or how about a microbrewery using all natural milled ingredients in your very own home with minimum fuss? The Brewer's Market offers several inexpensive kits with different flavours to enjoy. I have tasted The Crossroads Amber Ale and enjoyed its distinctive appeal very much. (Disclosure: one of the partners is a most likable and talented son in law.) They also are on Twitter and Facebook.
Do you know of any other well positioned products and appreciate their marketing or appeal?
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
What's the next big thing for teenagers on the Internet who like to read and write? According to a NYT's article Figment.com may be it.
I really went into it and thought, ‘We’ll be the social network for young-adult fiction,’ ” said Mr. Lewis, a former managing editor of The New Yorker. “But it became clear early on that people didn’t want a new Facebook.”
The young people on the site weren’t much interested in “friending” one another. What they did want, he said, “was to read and write and discover new content, but around the content itself.”
Figment was unveiled on Monday as an experiment in online literature, a free platform for young people to read and write fiction, both on their computers and on their cellphones. Users are invited to write novels, short stories and poems, collaborate with other writers and give and receive feedback on the work posted on the site.
“We wanted people to be able to write whatever they wanted in whatever form they wanted,” Mr. Lewis said. “We give them a piece of paper and say, ‘Go.’ ” He added that so far contributions had included fantasy, science fiction, biographical work and long serial novels. “There’s a very earnest and exacting quality to what they’re doing.”
Moreover, the site may be a convenient place for publishers to scout for talented young writers. One publisher said, “The teen culture is a constantly moving target. We’re looking for partners who are deeply embedded in the way teens interact.”
As a retired high school English teacher, I can appreciate what motivates teens to read and write. If they are like many adults, they may find a catalyst at sites like this. What figments of their imagination may be shared?
What motivates people to give? An editorial in the Globe and Mail reveals that Canadians are donating less. "According to Statistics Canada "just 23.1 per cent claimed a donation on their tax returns last year, a thirty year low. In 1990, 30 % of Canadians claimed a donation.
The editorial explores possible reasons for the decline including the recession, a stagnation in incomes, people being turned off by one too many fund raising phone calls, or being alienated by high administrative costs, etc.
I wonder also if there might be a gradual shift in societal values.
One suggestion the editor provides is that the government should provide more incentives to give. "A larger tax credit could go to donors who donate more in a given year than the previous year."
It's interesting to think about how one creates a culture of giving. One article referred to the popularity of the Polar Bear Dip for the Downtown Mission in Windsor, Ontario. 100 daring bathers braved the freezing temperatures to wade into the Detroit River. One raised $67. "It's for a good cause. You've got to do it."
Sunday, December 5, 2010
An interesting experience is leafing through "Canada's first interactive digital magazine." You click through the pages just like a real magazine, stop and peruse an article of interest, or admire some of the stylish images. As a bonus, readers can click the headlines on the cover, or listings in the table of contents, to go directly to the article they are seeking.
Real Style founder and president Elen Steinberg said, "You can recreate the experience of a print magazine, but it's so much more enhanced. You've got video, everything is linkable."
An advantage for advertisers is to find out what consumers like to read, what links they pursue, and what they purchase. One cannot do that with the traditional format.
Ironically my wife and I were purging piles of magazines from several bins in the basement this last weekend. Do we need to continue subscribing to good hard copy magazines or be happy with the online versions? For example, it's difficult for me to be without the monthly National Geographic.
Here is the link to the new digital magazine. (Click on the middle of the magazine to begin and press Escape when you want to leave.)
Saturday, December 4, 2010
Ninety percent of the world's woe comes from people not knowing themselves, their abilities, their frailties, and even their real virtues. ~ Sydney J. Harris
- To what extent do you really know yourself?
- What are your abilities?
- What are your frailties?
- What are your virtues?
- How can you use this knowledge to enhance the quality of your life?
Tags: quotations, reflections, life lessons
Friday, December 3, 2010
We spend time carefully thinking about the dynamics of our blog:
header, sidebar, name, caption, images, style, voice, friends...
Like the entrance to a stone manor with pristine snowfall,
We welcome with ideas, thoughts, musings...
People walk up the sidewalk from near and far
Should I knock and stay awhile?
It looks like a friendly place;
I think I smell cinnamon buns and rooibos tea.
The scenery out the windows can be pastoral or urban
Frenetic or relaxed
Youthful or silvered
Enchanting or pensive-
A parade of holiday floats.
Our computer screens play out the greetings
As we dance to the music of our fingertips.
Submitted to Magpie Tales which has a weekly photo prompt.
(Welcome to a recent phenomenon, social media, and how it is helping to shape many people's lives.)
What life forms exist beyond earth? Increasingly scientific research has extended the possibilities in an expanding universe. This week the discovery of a bacteria in an isolated California lake in Yosemite National Park that can use arsenic instead of phosphorus to grow created quite a sensation.
The report published in Science and at the NASA website, which funded the research, concluded that it will impact the quest for extra terrestrial life.
Astrobiologist Lewis Dartnell writes in the Guardian, "While not delivering the groundbreaking revelations that many had been anticipating, these arsenic-employing bugs are still interesting. They reveal the astounding ability of biochemistry to utilise whatever raw materials are available, and they provide hints as to how alien cells might be constructed..."
"Astrobiology is a young science, and we're only just now developing the technological capability to properly survey worlds beyond our own for signs of life. There is the expectation that we are right on the brink of discovering the first true twin of Earth orbiting another sun in the galaxy, and a succession of new robotic probes are being planned for places like Mars and Europa that could host alien life."
Dartnell believes we are just around the corner for some awe inspiring discoveries.
Thursday, December 2, 2010
Why not consider some alternative gift giving this holiday season? It could be a socially responsible way to balance the more traditional consumer gifts, and inspire younger family members to think beyond themselves.
Here are several links with gift catalogues from charitable organizations:
-Mercycorps.org: 'Be the change'- goat $70; camel $150; outfit a classroom $150; plant an acre of rice $29; educate an AIDS orphan $100...
- Kiva.org: 'What gift do you give to someone who has it all? Here's a chance to help someone who doesn't'....loans that change lives.
-World Vision.org: Gifts that make a difference...(We sponsor a child from Zimbabwe through this organization.) (Click on your country and go directly to the gift catalogue.)
- Ten Thousand Villages: 'To create opportunities for artisans in developing countries to earn income by bringing their products and stories to our markets through long-term fair trading relationships.'
Of course, there are numerous other organizations which offer opportunities to provide hope to the less fortunate.
Giving opens the way for receiving.
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
- Turkey and China last month touted "a new cooperation paradigm." Beijing's inroads with the Islamist government includes an agreement to transform the ancient Silk Road into a Silk Railway linking China and Turkey.
- China gets more than a quarter of its oil imports from the Persian Gulf and has billions invested in Iran's oil sector.
- China filled a void in Syria left by a decaying Soviet Union, providing the terrorist state with a variety of missiles and modernizing Syria's antiquated energy sector.
- China is the leading oil and gas investor in Iraq, and it is paying millions to protect its investment there. ( Iraq has the world's largest known oil reserves.) China has also forgiven billions of Iraqi debt.
- In the large scheme of things, "Although China holds a significant portion of U.S. debt, and trade relations are strong, at the end of the day the two nations are competitors, both strategic and economic- with profoundly different world views. It may be that this great game will end with Washington and Beijing as allies. More likely, though, a modus vivendi (agree to disagree) will emerge between the two powers."
- Increasingly, countries in the Middle East see China as a useful counterbalance against the West, amid a "growing regional perception that the United States is withdrawing from the Middle East."
From an article by David Schenker and Christina Lin, Los Angeles Times