Monday, February 28, 2011

A Voice for Youth

Michael Moore has never been afraid to speak his mind. His controversial documentaries Bowling for Columbine, Fahrenheit 9/11, Sicko, Capitalism: A Love Story have criticized everything from assault weapon ownership, large corporations, to the American health care system.

Now he is inviting high school students/journalists to present their vital perspectives on his blog in a special section devoted to a virtual student newspaper. Moore has been inspired by students everywhere from Egypt to Wisconsin "taking to the streets, organizing, protesting, and refusing to move until your voices are heard." He's looking for youth contributors, and, unlike traditional high school newspapers, there's no censorship, not even from him. The page will be edited for the first six months by Moore's 17-year-old niece, Molly.

Moore writes, "In high schools all across America, students have great ideas to make things better or to question what is going on—and often these thoughts and opinions are ignored or silenced. How often in school is the will of the student body ignored? How many students today will try to speak out, to stand up for something important, to simply try to right a wrong—and will be swiftly shut down by those in authority, or by other students themselves?"

As a former teacher adviser to a high school newspaper, I can recall the excitement that can be produced by teams of students planning and writing articles. Vital youthful perspectives should always be encouraged.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

'For Poetry Makes Things Happen'

W. H. Auden in his poem 'In Memory of W. B. Yeats' (1939) pays homage to the courage of Yeats and poetry. He also praises the ability of poets to give expression to the darkness and in finding glimmers of light.

'...Follow, poet, follow right
To the bottom of the night,
With your unconstraining voice
Still persuade us to rejoice;

With the farming of a verse
Make a vineyard of the curse,
Sing of human unsuccess
In a rapture of distress;

In the deserts of the heart
Let the healing fountain start,
In the prison of his days
Teach the free man how to praise.'

It's interesting to think about the depths of frustration we can sometimes find ourselves, and discover therein the seeds of rejuvenation.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Do What you Can

Do what you can, with what you have, where you are. ~ Theodore Roosevelt

- How likely are you to respond when you perceive need around you?
- What personal resources (gifts) do you have?
- How can this quote inspire you to be of service?

This is one of the quotes for reflection from 365 Quote Quest this past week.

Friday, February 25, 2011

A GM Hypodermic Syringe

Each year there are about 225 million cases of malaria which kill around 780,000 people. A majority of them are children in sub Saharan Africa. The distribution of mosquito nets and other proactive measures have made progress, but now scientists have come up with a new approach to try to control the disease.

Instead of killing the mosquito that transmits the malaria parasite, the researchers have found a way to let the mosquito live, while killing the parasite inside it.

The trick was to engineer a fungus so that it "produces a protein which is anti-malarial, anti the parasite itself."

..."The fungus acts like a little hypodermic syringe, and when it's in the blood of the insect, the fungus then produces the anti-malarial protein, and within a couple of days it basically cures the mosquito of malaria." These findings appear in the latest issue of the journal Science.

"One of the great things about this paper is it does raise the scientific interest a lot in the fungi as injection systems into the mosquito." Certainly many hurdles remain before this treatment can be tested outside the lab but it's an approach that carries considerable promise.

The whole field of genetic modification has created many exciting challenges and possibilities which hopefully go beyond the gloom of an over engineered brave new world?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Learn to be Present

In the midst of the winter doldrums for many it's interesting to think about what people can do to dig themselves out of the well of hopelessness.

Dave Pollard at How to Save the World provides 'ten things to do when you are feeling hopeless.' Several perceptive strategies include:

Give up hope: That’s right, get off the hope/despair roller coaster and realize once and for all: It’s hopeless! You should have known when a U.S. presidential candidate won an election on a platform of mere hope that it was time to give it up. Embrace hopelessness! It’s OK! It makes sense. But we can, should, and must still be intentional, responsible, and joyful....

Be good to yourself: ...So ease off. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Give yourself a break. Pamper yourself. Celebrate the fact that you’re smart enough, informed enough, strong enough, sensitive enough to feel utterly hopeless.

Avoid unactionable news and self help books: ... And while you’re dispensing with hopeless reading, throw out all those so-called “self-help” books with their glib prescriptions for how you should live. They don’t work! You are the way you are for a reason. It’s absurd to hope that some stupid book is going to change it....

Of course, many other vibrant options exist which include going for a brisk walk at a nearby park (preferably with a loved one or a pet), visiting someone who needs more hope than you, enjoying some tea while watching your favourite LOL TV show....

Via Utne Reader: Celebrate the best of the alternative press.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Nonviolent Discipline

The largely nonviolent resistance that's played out in the Arab world so far is taking the lead from such pivotal past leaders as Gandhi and M.L. King. As well, the defining scholarly work of Gene Sharp, who wrote The Politics of Nonviolent Action, is providing valuable perspective.

According to Sharp what are its lessons?

First, successful nonviolent resistance is based on overcoming fear and obedience. "Despotic regimes, rather than ruling through absolute violence, typically rely on a noxious mixture of propaganda, patronage, apathy, political legitimacy, and a calibrated use of public and covert violence to generate a blanket of fear."

Secondly "Power always depends for its strength and existence upon a replenishment of its sources by the cooperation of numerous institutions and people -- cooperation that does not have to continue. Nonviolent resistance can leverage immense economic and political pressure because a regime relies on its citizens for labor and expertise. Targeted noncooperation can be devastating."

Third, nonviolent discipline can be one of the most critical strategies in the protester's plan. If the state is seen as violent and repressive, then the state's cause is discredited.

One hopes that the resistance sweeping many countries leads to vital, democratic voices for its peoples.

From essays in The Atlantic and the NYT.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

You are what you Eat

You are what you read, you are what you watch, you are what you do for exercise, you are what you eat?

An informative article in The Independent provides an overview of the benefits of diet. You can 'eat to beat' depression, brittle bones, high blood pressure, cancer, and low energy.

- Depression: Cutting processed foods and eating more fresh fruits and vegetables, beans, nuts, whole grains, and fish have proven a benefit.

- Brittle bones: Vitamin D,the sunshine vitamin, which can also be found in foods such as oily fish, milk, fortified margarines and breakfast cereals, is essential in enabling your body to absorb calcium. "Vitamin K, found in foods such as broccoli, plays a role in moving the calcium we ingest from the arteries to the bones. Magnesium, found in chickpeas, nuts, lentils and potatoes, and protein are also essential for building bone tissue."

- High blood pressure: Reduce salt intake and get more potassium and magnesium found in spinach, bananas, wholegrain cereal and nuts to reduce blood pressure.

- Cancer: "Foods we should eat more of, according to researchers, are tomatoes, beans, onions and garlic, cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts), berries, dark green leafy vegetables and wholegrains."

- Low energy: The best breakfasts are high in fibre and contain protein because they "promote satiety and helps with appetite control. Think wholegrain breakfast cereal, muesli or porridge with milk or a poached egg." A light lunch is also suggested with a healthy afternoon snack.

One wonders how many maladies and pharmaceutical drugs could be avoided if more people focused on their diet and lifestyle.

What do Trees actually do for Us?

My hometown has seen its share of large trees cut down for highway and sidewalk widening. Instantly the canopy is gone, the shade, the cooling effect, the beauty...

An excellent essay analyzes what a tree is worth within a cityscape and provides an overview of initiatives which have encouraged their planting. It's been a difficult battle convincing many decision makers about their value.

References are made to President Theodore Roosevelt, an ardent birder and conservationist, who delighted in creating or enlarging 150 national forests in the early 1900's.

City arborists had a tougher battle but several key initiatives like The Chicago Urban Forest Climate Project in 1994 and the Million Trees projects encouraged by the mayors in LA and NYC in 1998 added momentum to the importance of trees in a cityscape.

"As we humans wrestle with how to repair the damage we have wrought on nature, and how to slow climate change, urban trees offer an obvious low-tech solution. Every city should have a “maximally functional” canopy. We should shoot for a performance standard, like how many megawatt hours of air conditioning we can save, or how many pounds of nitrogen dioxide we can absorb, reducing ozone and smog. Trees can play a role in cooling cities while making them more beautiful, healthier, and friendlier to humans. And at a time when everyone seems to want to go “green,” urban forestry science offers meaningful ways to think about how to do that."

A scientist emeritus with the U.S. Forest Service, estimates, “We are only 50 percent of the way to knowing what trees really do for us.”

Essay in The Wilson Quarterly


Monday, February 21, 2011

Life's Daily Jigsaw

Ethereal is a beautiful adjective with many contextual possibilities: extremely delicate or refined, exquisite, almost as light as air, impalpable, celestial or spiritual.

It was coined in the sixteenth century from the Latin aethereus, from Greek aitherios, from aither ether.

-In the midst of the change of seasons how can one still experience ethereal feelings?
-Where does one still see the beauty in nature and in the people around us?
-How can one experience the vitality and spirit of each new day?

Sometimes life is a daily jigsaw of ho hum pieces which can still fit together in ethereal beauty.

See more at Magpie Tales #54.

Students with Vital Voices

An excellent photo essay takes one inside South Los Angeles Manual Arts High which has experienced a learning renaissance. Its art department has tapped the creative energies of students by using street art to express their social and political voices.

In the past three years, the campus has become home to museum quality work by dozens of street artists, some internationally famous, who also work with students on projects.

"The school's 3,400 students can't take art until their sophomore year. Because most have never had an art class before, Ayala says it’s a mistake to start them off with an analysis of traditional fine art. “They’re not going to get Monet’s “Haystacks” right off the bat, but you can take interesting street art and graffiti and create a bridge into fine art.”

For example, there is a "spiritual" hallway at the school with a tree and iPod-style silhouettes at its base. This mural is a focal point around which students have created more perspectives around the theme.

Education is what is left after you've forgotten everything you've learned. - Albert Einstein

At Manual High, chances are students will never forget their work around these visceral projects collaborating with creative teachers and artists in the community.

Enjoy the full photo essay at Good here.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Rush of Endorphins

Endorphins are a "morphine-like substance originating from within the body" to produce a feeling of exhilaration and well being. Scientists have tried to identify what may cause this natural rush. Pain, a runner's high, spicy food, love making, and music are some sources.

Neurological research company Mindlab International is in the field of neuromarketing and analyzes human responses to sensory stimuli. They measured the bodily responses of listeners to find the music which causes the greatest rush of endorphins.

Out of 30 songs Take That’s ‘Greatest Day’ came out on top, followed by ‘Stairway To Heaven’ by Led Zeppelin and Abba’s ‘Dancing Queen’.

The lyrics of Greatest Day begins:

Today this could be the greatest day of our lives
Before it all ends, before we run out of time
Stay close to me, stay close to me
Watch the world come alive tonight, stay close to me.

Their music video is here.

It's interesting to think about what music gets the endorphins rushing within us. It may depend upon our mood at the time. One of mine is this song from some years back. It usually brings on a tear or two too.


Saturday, February 19, 2011

Like It's Heaven on Earth

You've gotta dance like there's nobody watching,
Love like you'll never be hurt,
Sing like there's nobody listening,
And live like it's heaven on earth.
~ William W. Purkey

- How free are you with your love and emotions?
- How can you cultivate more joy in your life?
- How can you experience more contentment?

This is one of the quotes for reflection from 365 Quote Quest this past week.

Best in Resume Design

How does one stand out in the crowd with a resume submission? How about someone applying for a position of graphic designer? An interesting selection of attention-grabbing, creative designs, with students thinking outside the box are featured at Noupe, 'curiosity for finding what's new and better.' It's highly recommended to click on the link to see the wonderful diversity including an epic cartoon.

Friday, February 18, 2011

E-news over Paper?

The online news experience is gaining momentum. People are subscribing to less newspaper and reading more news over the internet. Consequently the look and feel of that experience is engaging more and more publishing talent. There is a fine line for publishers who want to continue to make money, but who do not want to annoy readers with too many distractions.

As I peruse a number of newspapers and magazines regularly, I am struck by the subtle diversity of the experience.

Here are several newspapers. What are your 'blink', most favourable experiences?

Some of the criteria affecting one's decision include:

- quickness of display and navigation to articles
- balance of advertisement to copy
- layout and design
- use of images
- organization and retrieval of information
- timeliness
- editorial content
- other?

Of course, the gold standard is intelligent, well researched, thorough, and balanced journalism.

New York Times

The Globe and Mail

The Australian

Los Angeles Times

The Guardian

The Washington Post


World News

The Huffington Post

And, there are many other great news websites...


Shifting Consumer Patterns

The paradigm (pattern, model, exemplar) of a book store is changing, of course. Now most experiences occur online with targeted searches and convenient delivery. Like the movie rental business, the consumer is now delighted by the display on the video screen rather than in a bricks and mortar store.

The bankruptcy protection of Borders, the second largest bookstore chain in the U.S., is an indication of this shift. They are liquidating 200 stores or 30% of them to raise money to bring $175 million to creditors.

"Borders, whose market value shrank by more than $3 billion since 1998, racked up losses by failing to adapt to shifts in how consumers shop.

Its first e-commerce site debuted in 2008, more than a decade after revolutionized publishing with online sales. The world's largest online retailer beat it again by moving into digital books with the Kindle e-reader in 2007, a market Borders entered in July."

It's interesting to peruse the websites of the largest retailer Barnes and Noble, Borders, and the Canadian site, Chapters,indigo.

Let's hope the bricks and mortar stores don't disappear altogether. Maybe it's time for the return of the small, independent book store?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

No Substitute for Saving

The generation who endured The Great Depression knew about the importance of saving. My father tried to ground it into us kids as we grew up.

In Canada the average family debt is now $100,000, one and a half times family income, despite the fact that a significant number of families "struggle economically."

Several business writers warn that we should be wary of retirement planners who figure 8-10% annual returns on people's investment portfolios.

"Wall Street would love us to believe that the magic of compound interest gives us a free lunch; that a small amount of savings, if compounded at a high enough rate, can set us up for life. That might be true mathematically, but saving doesn't work that way in the real world. Interest rates are low, now, and wages are growing sluggishly.

The three big drivers of big retirement accounts -- sharply rising salaries, sharply rising house prices and a sharply rising stock market -- are all looking very uncertain these days. So let's not perpetuate this pipe dream that if only we can get an 8% return on our funds, everything will be fine. Because chances are we won't."

To be comfortable in retirement, one needs to save a lot more and spend less.

"Look at the income your (grand) parents lived on. How did they do it? Not because those were halcyon days when incomes were better and working men lived like kings. No, if you really think about it, you'll realize that they consumed less stuff than you. Of course, this was easier to do, because other people were also consuming less stuff."

Unfortunately today living on less than you make, when everyone else is leveraged to the hilt, makes you feel poor?

Essay from The Atlantic.

Dream for Two

Solo per Due or "Just for Two" is the smallest restaurant in the world and probably the most charming. "There are no queues, no turns, and no waiting; all our attention is dedicated to the two people who have booked."

The building which houses the intimate restaurant dates from the nineteenth century and is situated within the remains of an ancient Roman villa. Here the Latin poet HORACE resided for a time. The villa has beautiful mosaic floors and nearby is the Bandusia Fountain which Horace immortalized in a poem.

The restaurant is also surrounded by a garden of exotic palms and native flowering shrubs.

"When you are ready for your meal, the lights go down, the atmosphere takes on a magical quality, and you can summon the waiter whenever you like with a silver bell."

The Italian cuisine includes fresh ingredients from the area including "gastronomic specialities such as extra virgin olive oil, sheep's cheese, a wide variety of wild mushrooms, wild fruits, homemade pasta and bread, exquisite meat, and local sweets and cakes accompanied by wines from only the best cellars."

Perusing the Solo per Due website is an enchantment.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

How can we Legalize It?

The third biggest music website in the world is MetroLyrics and it was founded in 2000 by a 15 year old boy. Milun Tesovic arrived in Canada from Bosnia in 1995 and he could barely speak English.

Tesovic "created a website that would help boost the lyrics literacy of young music fans everywhere, and the legitimacy of the online lyrics business by embracing an above-board, licensed model."

The founder, now 25, mused with his partner that some day they could own a million dollar company. Today they run MetroLeap Media in Burnaby, B.C. with a value much higher than their original figure.

"Song lyrics are widely sought online. Bing – Microsoft’s search engine – released data last year that showed 78 per cent of people it surveyed use Internet searches to find lyrics. There’s a good chance – especially if it’s a newer song – that MetroLyrics will pop up at or near the top of the results for such a search. It’s ranked 26th for overall Google search results, just behind MapQuest, CNN and TripAdvisor."

MetroLeap makes most of its money through advertising including fast-food restaurants, banks and iTunes. Ringtone downloads provide another “substantial” revenue stream, but it’s advertising that pays the bills.

"Song publishers are paid through an aggregator, the Sony subsidiary Gracenote. MetroLyrics posts authorized, “official” lyrics when they can, rather than user-generated ones."

“From day one the core discussion was how can we legalize it?"

It's interesting to peruse MetroLyrics to see how they organize the top tunes and provide readily available official lyrics. Celebrity news, videos, music charts, mobile apps are part of their growing business model.

What are the lyrics to our favourite songs anyway?

Via: Globe and Mail

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Embodied Spirit

The finest diamond ever found in Canada is a "breathtaking" 78 carat rock from the Ekati mine site near Yellowknife. It's been named the Ekati Spirit which represents the people of the North who live in the area.

"It's internally flawless and completely colourless, which is pretty rare for diamonds to begin with, but especially that size," says a BHP Billiton spokesperson. The stone is the size of the top joint of an adult thumb.

Diamonds, of course, come from deep within the earth from ancient volcanoes called kimberlite pipes. Over the last 13 years, 45 million carats have been mined at the Ekati mine.

Mine owner BHP Billiton auctioned off the rare gem at the company's diamond centre in Belgium on Valentine's Day for $2.8 million.

One wonders what the owner will do with the Ekati Spirit, how will it be cut, what piece of jewelery might be created?

Wouldn't it be wonderful if the transformation embodies its name and inspires more than a solitary wealthy owner?

See more submissions at Magpie Tales #53.

Negotiating Meaning

Barbie and Ken are officially together again after a 7 year break up. A video at documented the event on Valentine's Day.

Ken is on a comeback trail after riding high from his role in Toy Story 3, one of this year's 10 Oscar nominees for best picture. And now, in honor of his 50th anniversary — Ken met Barbie at a commercial shoot in March 1961, two years after her own debut — Mattel has been spotlighting Ken with new products and promotions.

For example, Ken had New York's famed Magnolia Bakery customize a cupcake (image) for his lost love. He's even taken out billboards in Manhattan and Los Angeles to proclaim his ardor, making heartfelt declarations like "Barbie, we may be plastic, but our love is real."

Mattel values Barbie as a $3 billion brand with an 8% increase in revenue in 2010 largely due to products aimed at slightly older girls. In a competitive doll market Barbie has competed for shelf space with Liv, Bratz, Disney Princess, Moxie Girlz, BFC Ink and iCarly...

It's interesting to think about the values which Barbie (and Ken) have reflected for generations of girls, the adjustments made in marketing, and the perennial decisions parents must make about them.

Monday, February 14, 2011

No putting out this Fire

Montreal based Arcade Fire has been catapulted into the stratosphere with their Grammy win last night for Album of the Year. "The Suburbs" beat out entries from Eminem, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, and Lady Antebellum.

Indeed, the city of Montreal is so happy that their home page proclaims in all caps "BRAVO ARCADE FIRE FOR ITS ALBUM OF THE YEAR GRAMMY!"

The tribute came one day after members of the Montreal group thanked their home city while receiving the music industry's most prestigious award.

Last year, Arcade Fire held a concert in a Montreal-area parking lot to launch their now-Grammy-winning album.

The indie rock group's website is here, a music video of The Suburbs here.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

More Valued than Gold

One takes for granted that luxurious chocolate for such events as Valentine's Day is plentiful. It's not and there's a looming shortage.

One chocolate maker said, "There was a time in chocolate history, when chocolate was revered as a luxury item. I think there was a lot more respect for it at that time."

"The Mayans in Central America and Southern Mexico pioneered cocoa into its earliest edible form, a frothy, drinkable blend of cocoa, spices and water. The laborious process – beans had to be harvested, soaked, dried, hand-ground and mixed into an elixir that was aerated by hand – gave the drink specialty status. Cocoa beans were more valued than gold; humans were sacrificed ahead of annual harvests for good luck. Even then, cocoa was a form of money growing on trees."

With the growing affluence of a rising middle class in China and India the demand for chocolate has grown about 2% a year globally.

Today about one half of cocoa bean production comes from West Africa which is facing growing pressures of depleted soils and challenged social conditions where small farmers are frustrated by the laborious process. "Unlike most global commodities, cocoa is grown entirely by smallholders on plots of three acres or less. Plots are small because producers tend to be subsistence farmers without the discretionary income to expand."

The executive director of the Nature Conservation Research Centre says, a concerted effort must be made to cultivate the right conditions for cocoa production in these west African countries.

"Old trees would be replaced with young hybrids bred to grow in Ghanaian conditions; fertilizers would be used to restore balance and longevity to the soil; crop-extension agents would train farmers to become stewards of their land while coaxing maximum yields from the cocoa. Fallow lands would be restored to forests or other growth that is environmentally and economically beneficial."

It encourages one to think about to what extent one values the cocoa bean elixir, and why it's responsible to support the right physical and social conditions for its production.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Little Book of Meditation Nuggets

Dear readers,

I am happy and a little anxious to announce a 112 page book entitled 365 Quote Quest. It is a compilation of my first 365 posts from 2010 where I offer a daily quotation and about three questions for reflection.

I consider them meditation nuggets.

For example, from January 1, 2010:

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. ~ Annie Dillard

- What generalizations can you make about your daily activities, attitudes, interests, and lifestyle?
- How happy are you with your daily regimen?
- What small steps can you make to enrich your days?

From December 31, 2010:

It is better to have loafed and lost than to have never loafed at all. ~ James Thurber

- Besides 'it's better to have loved and lost...' how much loafing do you do?
- Why is some loafing a good thing?
- How can you resolve for the new year to create a healthy balance between work and play?

I am also giving a free copy to the first 5 people who request one through an email. paulhco(at)gmail(dot)com

As a footnote, some of you may want to know how I self published my book. I used Create Space, a division of Amazon, and went through their easy step by step process. I created a cover, and submitted a desk top published PDF file. All of this is done for FREE.

I kept the price of the book low at $5.95 a little above cost. My intention is not to make money but to provide a convenient little reference book for anyone interested.

Any positive endorsement is much appreciated.

365 Quote Quest is available at Amazon.

A Daunting Challenge

I love argument, I love debate. I don't expect anyone just to sit there and agree with me, that's not their job.

I'm extraordinarily patient provided I get my own way in the end.

Being prime minister is a lonely job... you cannot lead from the crowd.
~ Margaret Thatcher (1925-)

I had to do a double take when I first saw the picture, that's Meryl Streep.....appearing as... The Iron Lady who lead the Conservative government in Britain from 1979-1990 at the ages of 54-65?

"The prospect of exploring the swath cut through history by this remarkable woman is a daunting and exciting challenge," Streep, 61, said in a statement. The movie is due for release later in the year.


Friday, February 11, 2011

For the Love of Words

I am enjoying going through the dictionary from A-Z and providing a word a day at 365 Word Quest. I am at #407 and only in the e's. It's interesting to see the etymology of many of these vital words. Here are some recent favourites:

-eclectic (hey it's in my slogan)- selecting what seems best from various styles, doctrines, ideas, methods; composed of elements drawn from a variety of sources, styles; a person who favours an eclectic approach especially in art or philosophy
-C17 from Greek eklektikos, to select, from legein to gather
-The art dealer took an eclectic approach in his selection of artifacts.

-ego- the self of an individual person; the conscious subject; psychoanalysis the conscious mind, based on perception of the environment from birth onwards
- C19 from Latin I
-egocentric, egocentrism, ego ideal, egoist, egomania, egotism, egotist
-His ego is as hardened as his arteries and hearing.

-elan- a combination of style and vigour
-C19 from French, elancer to throw forth, ultimately from Latin lancea lance
-The maestro directed the concerto with elan. (How interesting that elan is like throwing a lance...ultra cool?)

-emaciate- to become or cause to become abnormally thin
-C17 from Latin emaciare to make lean, from macer thin
-emaciated, emaciation
-Run way models often look emaciated to satisfy designer visions?

-emancipate- to free from restriction or restraint, especially social or legal restraint; to free from inhibitions; to liberate
-C17 from Latin emancipare to give independence
-The new technological devices did not so much emancipate users but evict them. (Are the Egyptians now emancipated from their former leader?)

-embellish- to improve or beautify by adding detail or ornament; adorn; to make a story more interesting by adding detail
-C14 from Old French embelir, from bel beautiful, from Latin bellus
-The different musical styles can not only co-exist, but punctuate and underscore and embellish one another.

- the power of understanding and imaginatively entering into another person's feelings
-C20 from Greek empatheia affection, passion, intended as a rendering of German Einfuhlung, a feeling in
-Empathy involves much more emotional involvement than sympathy.

The End of Pop?

Not only can diet pop increase one's risk of heart attack and stroke, but soda generally has no nutritional value according to a doctor in epidemiology who studies health patterns.

A new study, presented this week at an international stroke conference in Los Angeles, found a link between diet drinks and cardiovascular disease. The same association was not seen in people who consumed regular soda.

The findings are based on 2,564 New York adults with an average age of 69. At the outset of the study, the volunteers were asked to complete a questionnaire about their eating habits, including their pop consumption.

The researchers then monitored the health of the participants for about nine years.

The results revealed that people who drank at least one diet pop a day had a 48 per cent higher risk of having a heart attack, stoke or fatal cardiac event than those who reported no soda consumption.

"Until more research is done, the doctor said, it’s too soon to urge people to shun diet soda. “In the meantime, if consumers want to be conservative, it’s important to keep in mind that there is no nutritional value in diet or regular sodas. And certainly the health consequences of regular soda – sugar-sweetened beverages – have been well documented. So cutting either out of your diet is not going to leave you with nutritional or vitamin holes,” she added. Perhaps variety is the answer; people do have lots of choice when it comes to beverages. Of course, nothing beats just plain water."

And then there's always delightful green tea....

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Largeness of our Lives

The tiny house movement is gaining momentum.

An excellent article analyzes the context of the decline in the interest of large homes in the U.S. The median size home has now shrunk from 2,300 square feet in 2007 to 2,100 today. And that's only the beginning.

A chief economist at the American Institute of Architects said, “We continue to move away from the McMansion chapter of residential design, with more demand for practicality throughout the home... That includes getting away from the myriad “bonus” rooms and focusing more on great rooms — large family rooms that can accommodate different uses and bring family together in communal spaces."

"All this is good news for the environment and for community, too. A focus on smaller homes in pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods means people are more likely to hang out in public spaces or at local businesses. Smaller houses have also meant smaller yards, which can result in more people visiting local parks or participating in community garden spaces. One couple who have more time to travel, visit with family and volunteer."

"There is a more enlightened idea of how much is enough and a more holistic view of wealth — one that does not merely reflect the size of our homes, but instead the largeness of our lives."

E.F. Schumacher of Small Is Beautiful fame wrote: “The less toil there is, the more time and strength is left for artistic creativity.”

Image: Tinyhouseblog

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Mark which must be Mine

Afternoon on a Hill

I will be the gladdest thing
Under the sun!
I will touch a hundred flowers
And not pick one.

I will look at cliffs and clouds
With quiet eyes,
Watch the wind bow down the grass,
And the grass rise.

And when lights begin to show
Up from the town,
I will mark which must be mine,
And then start down!

~Edna St. Vincent Millay (1887-1985)

-In what kind of house would the Pulitzer Prize winning poet (1923) live?
-How would she decorate it, inside and out?
-Where would she sit to muse and write her beloved poetry?
-How would she interact with her neighbours?

Finally Millay in the above poem writes that on the top of the hill in the midst of her joyous experience, "I will mark which must be mine." That, I believe, is not just where she lives, but what she holds closest to her heart.

What do you mark as yours?

This is my submission to Magpie Tales this week. Congratulations to Tess Kinkaid and the one year anniversary of this very successful writers' forum.

The End of Trends?

The internet has encouraged people to become fascinated with trends. There is Google Trends, Trend Hunter, Trendland, Sportrends, what is trending on Twitter, trends in the economy...

Linton Weeks for NPR writes an excellent essay about their proliferation. "The Trend — its spotting, its tracking, its examination — has become omnipresent in contemporary culture. And if there is one thing that watching trends has taught us, it's that at precisely the point at which something becomes ubiquitous, that something is no longer a trend."

Weeks distinguishes between a trend which is something gaining momentum, and a fad which is a short term interest or way of being.

He suggests that society has changed and become more diversified, "The Internet has so fractured us globally that we no longer are looking for mass-culture experiences. So major trends have become splintered mini-trends — which are not really trends at all."

Consequently "with the decline in trends comes a decline in the notion of there being such a thing as pop culture. Marketing companies can no longer take advantage of trends. So maybe the last trend we will see is a trend toward a Trendless World — full of surprise and originality."

Sounds like an endorsement and celebration of individuality and creativity over a society less brainwashed by the mass media?


Walk to Remember

With my 60th birthday in a few days, a NYT article caught my attention about the hippocampus, a part of the brain important to the formation of memories. A new study has shown that a brisk walk three times a week can slow the atrophy of the hippocampus which normally begins in healthy adults around 55 or 60.

Indeed, the study by psychologists has shown that the hippocampus can even be modestly expanded and memory improved.

Researchers randomly assigned 120 healthy but sedentary men and women (average age mid-60s) to one of two routines.

One group walked around a track three times a week, building up to 40 minutes at a stretch; the other did a variety of less aerobic exercises, including yoga and training with bands.

'After a year, brain scans showed that among the walkers, the hippocampus had increased in volume by about 2 percent on average; in the others, it had declined by about 1.4 percent. Since such a decline is normal in older adults, “a 2 percent increase is fairly significant."'

It appears a good pair of walking shoes, a scenic place, a partner, and some fresh air can work wonders for physical and mental well being?


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Email declines among Teens

How do you interact in social media... email, Facebook, Twitter, texting, blogs? It's interesting to note that among teens, email use dropped "59 percent as well as 8 percent overall. Users between 18-54 are also using email less, though among those 55 and older, email actually saw an upswing."

"Young people are turning to social networks to communicate instead--the activity accounts for 14 percent of time spent online in the U.S.. That growth is fueled largely by Facebook, which has only continued to expand its reach in the past year--it accounts for 10 percent of page views in the U.S. and saw 38 percent growth in American users to 153.9 million. Total time spent on the site went up 79 percent to 49.4 billion minutes."

Another growing social site is LinkedIn which grew by 30 percent, Twitter by 18 percent, and Tumblr saw 168 percent growth in the U.S.

I am on Twitter and Facebook but must admit that most of my interaction and growth comes through my Google email address, blogging, and the connections which Google Friend Connect has provided.

Do teens provide a window to trends in future social media growth? Facebook seems to be a growing contender with their messaging and connecting possibilities.

Image: Fotalia

Bee Atrophy

I thought of Yeats' poem 'The Lake Isle of Innisfree' and the description of his garden with the 'bee loud glade' while reading an article about the global honey bee collapse.

The story of "colony collapse disorder" is already well-known around the world and its varied causes include parasites, a virus, or use of pesticides that play havoc with the nervous system of young bees.

"The bee crisis has been treated as a niche concern until now, but as the UN's index of food prices hits an all time high in real terms and grain shortages trigger revolutions in the Middle East, it is becoming urgent to know whether the plight of the honey bee risks further exhausting our already thin margin of food global security."

A reference is made to Albert Einstein who said that "if the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live."

Such "apocalyptic scenarios" are overblown however since the staples of corn, wheat, and rice are all pollinated by wind.

However, bee pollination is essential for nuts, melons, and berries."This is the fastest growing and most valuable part of the global farm economy. Between 80 per cent and 90 per cent of pollination comes from domesticated honey bees."

"Pollinated crop output has quadrupled since 1961, yet bee colonies have halved. The bee-per-hectare count has fallen nearly 90 per cent."

The British Beekeepers' Association has called for an "urgent review" of pesticides while scientists are working hard to isolate causes.

"Apian (bee) atrophy is a more immediate threat than global warming, and can be solved, yet has barely risen onto the policy radar screen."


Monday, February 7, 2011

A Young Death in Microcosm

My heart sank while viewing the photo of a young lady on the front page of the local newspaper. She had been killed in a snowmobile accident the day before during a community club competition two weeks before her twentieth birthday. She struck a tree that had fallen across the frozen river.

The picture is in the midst of an apple orchard where she is picking some tree ripened fruit. A picture perfect moment. The family provided the photo in the midst of the devastating loss.

Friends and family members spoke of her vibrant personality. "She had the most courage I have ever encountered in my life and she would do anything for anyone... If you ever felt down, she would be there in a heartbeat to cheer you up and she was such a gentle, kind person."

So many questions go through one's mind. So many tumultuous feelings.... It happens anywhere, anytime, with such great shock and torment for the family, friends, and community...

One is speechless.

Huffington Post Merger: 1+1=11

One marvels how The Huffington Post, which was launched in 2005 with a modest $1 million investment, has now been purchased by AOL for $315 million.

The growth of this online paper in the last five years says a lot about how the platforms for journalism have changed, and this deal charts a course for interesting future developments.

This acquisition puts founder Arianna Huffington in a position overseeing all of AOL's editorial content with the title of president and editor-in-chief of a newly established Huffington Post Media Group.

The online paper has grown to one of the most trafficked websites in the U.S. with 25 million visitors each month. One of The Post’s strengths has been creating an online community of readers with tens of millions of people. Their ability to leave comments on Huffington Post news articles and blog posts and to share them on Twitter and Facebook is an engaging feature.

On her blog Ms. Huffington writes,

"When Kenny Lerer and I co-founded The Huffington Post in May 2005, we had high hopes. But even we would have been hard put to predict that less than six years later we would be able to announce a deal that now makes it possible for us to execute our vision at light speed. AOL is an online pioneer that engenders great trust among its 250 million global users. HuffPost is on the cutting edge of creating news that is social and brings with it a distinctive voice and a highly engaged audience. In this case, 1 + 1 = 11. Far from changing our editorial approach, our culture, or our mission, this moment will be, for HuffPost, like stepping off a fast-moving train and onto a supersonic jet. We're still traveling toward the same destination, with the same people at the wheel, and with the same goals, but we're now going to get there much, much faster."

"By combining HuffPost with AOL's network of sites, thriving video initiative, local focus and international reach, we know we'll be creating a company that can have an enormous impact, reaching a global audience on every imaginable platform," Huffington said.

One area for improvement, however, is to add depth to its content which is often aggregated from other news sources.

In our world of fast jolts, quick sound bites, and pithy news the absolute gold standard remains unchanged: well researched, perceptive, and intelligent journalism.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

One Magical Moment per Day

Elizabeth G. celebrated a wondrous achievement several days ago. She wrote 365 daily blog posts about finding one magical moment per day. I discovered her blog several months ago and was impressed with her resolve, sensitivity, and passion for life.

She writes, 'I will choose one moment a day of beauty, joy, humor, and emotion to write about. I am making a conscious choice to focus on these kinds of moments throughout the day as opposed to moments of self pity and anger.'

Aren't we all prone to times of vulnerability, sadness, anxiety about our lives? In the midst of these feelings, however, there may be that glimmer of light within every day to motivate and fill us with gratitude and hope.

I thank Elizabeth for giving me approval to write this post highlighting her blog. She provides a wonderful perspective and touches an essential element in each of us to carry on amidst challenges with optimism and vitality.

Image: from #362 'nearly lost piano treasures.'

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Ingredients of Success

Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it. ~ Maya Angelou

- How well do you like yourself?
- How much do you like what you do?
- How would you describe how you do things?
- How can you refine (if necessary) your conception of yourself, what you do, and how you do them to enhance your life?

The above is one of the quotations this past week at 365 Quote Quest, quotes for reflection and renewal.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Be a Rainbow in Someone's Cloud

I have encountered Maya Angelou (1928-) and her inspiring work as poet and writer a number of times. She has been awarded 30 honorary degrees and nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. She was the first poet to recite a poem 'On the Pulse of Morning' at President Bill Clinton's inauguration in 1993 since Robert Frost recited at J.F. Kennedy's inauguration in 1961.

Several memorable quotes attributed to her include:

-Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.

-I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

-If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude. Don't complain.

-I've learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way (s)he handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.

-Be a rainbow in someone else's cloud.

-We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.

-Be present in all things and thankful for all things.

-I've learned that making a 'living' is not the same thing as 'making a life'.

With quotations like the above, one can understand why Angelou is a pivotal writer.

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Embrace Ambiguity, Paradox

In only four hours Frank Chimero raised $27,000 at Kickstarter to fund his book The Shape of Design. With 26 more days to go, Chimero is actually about to double his goal.

How did he do it? His two years of blogging and tweeting helped him to build up a loyal following. Chimero is also offering gifts for various levels of donation. An engaging video has also solidified interest.

Chimero has spent several years writing and speaking on design and "thinking about the topics that orbit the practice: storytelling, concept, craft, and improvisation. I want to take all of the ideas I've had and connected these past few months and capture them in a book format."

He's also been teaching for the past 5 years, and wants to provide an overview of "the mental state of a successful designer while they go through their creative process.... A cornerstone of communication is storytelling, and yet you'd be hard-pressed to find any discussion of how to tell stories with design in any design book."

"There are new challenges in the world that need to be discussed, and I think design is a prime lens to consider these topics. As our world moves faster and as things become less stable, it becomes more important for individuals to embrace ambiguity, understand paradox, and realize that two things can conflict and still somehow both be true. We must realize that logic doesn't always work, and that sometimes nonsense is the best answer. These are the topics I intend to address in the book."

After perusing some of his work I can understand why his message is so engaging. His book is already destined to be a bestseller.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Pivotal Moment in Arab World

The American Revolution 1776, The French Revolution 1789....The Egyptian Revolution (?) 2011....

Self determination has been a shaping factor in world history and is now a central dynamic in the Arab speaking world. Many countries have lived under autocratic regimes with western sanction for quite some time partly because of the fears of advancing democratic interests.

An excellent editorial comment in The Guardian provides historical context and a review of events in the region over the last few weeks. Then there is the assertion,

"But more profoundly, the upheaval now spreading across the Arab world is at heart a movement for self-determination: a demand by the peoples of the region to run their own affairs, free of the dead hand of largely foreign-backed tyrannies. It's not a coincidence, or the product of some defect in Arab culture, that the Middle East has the largest collection of autocratic states in the world.

Most survive on a western lifeline, and the result across the region has been social and economic stagnation. There is a real sense in which, despite the powerful challenge of Arab nationalism in the 50s and 60s, the Arab world has never been fully decolonised....

Whatever now happens, the forces that have been unleashed, in Egypt and beyond, cannot be turned back."

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Once you label me

'Sticks and stones (and bricks) may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.'

'This children's taunt was first listed in 'Folk Phrases of Four Counties' by G.F. Northall in 1894, and is first attested in the United States in 'Miss Lindsey' by S.G. Gibbons.'

I never really liked this adage. Of course, words and slurs and teases and taunts can hurt... especially for children and teens and.... even adults.

Soren Kierkegaard said, "Once you label me you negate me."

This is my submission to Magpie Tales this week around a photo prompt.

Nuclear Reluctance

About a year ago President Obama offered $55 billion to encourage the construction of a new generation of nuclear energy reactors. A year later, little progress has been made.

"One of the big problems with nuclear power is the enormous upfront cost. These reactors are extremely expensive to build. While the returns may be very great, they're also very slow. It can sometimes take decades to recoup initial costs. Since many investors have a short attention span, they don't like to wait that long for their investment to pay off.

The costs are also sometimes volatile. So you've got a situation where investors finally agree to endure a project with a long time-horizon for break-even, and then the costs go up. It's pretty easy to see why they would be unhappy.

But that's not all: at this time, other forms of energy are relatively cheap. Natural gas is plentiful and inexpensive. So it's hard for energy companies to sell a future source of nuclear energy when present sources are doing the trick for cheap."

But what happens when the price of fossil fuels continues to go up? Expensive wind and solar projects also need to be part of an energy plan.

It's interesting that nuclear energy is more environmentally friendly than burning the fossil fuels of coal, oil, and gas. But a new nuclear reactor hasn't been built in the U.S. since 1974 and the accident at Three Mile Island in 1979 discouraged their consideration ever since. It appears that a nuclear renaissance in power generation in the U.S. is still in the distant horizon.

From reports by The Atlantic and NYT.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

$3 million for 30 seconds

For some people, watching the ads at Super Bowl 2011 will be as much fun as watching the game. How interesting to deconstruct them and the companies' campaigns.

GM will air five Chevrolet commercials during the Feb. 6 game along with two ads in the pregame show and one in the post-game show, which it also is sponsoring.

It's a multimillion-dollar investment for a company that has sat out the game for two years as it reorganized and emerged from bankruptcy.

"GM last advertised during the Super Bowl in 2008, before the auto industry was brought to its knees by the recession. It emerged from a government-led bankruptcy reorganization in 2009 and returned to being a publicly traded company at the end of last year in a $23.1-billion initial public offering, the biggest in U.S. history.

General Motors historically had been one of the heaviest advertisers in the game. Between 2001 and 2010 it was the fourth largest advertiser, spending $61.1-million."

Nine auto makers are airing commercials during the Super Bowl this year, with Ford Motor Co. being the most notable absence.

A Kia ad will show an alien driving a Kia; Volkswagen features an animated Beetle speeding through a forest.

The mesmerizing ads make it hard for Super Bowl viewers to decide when to go to the washroom.

A good advertisement is one which sells the product without drawing attention to itself. ~ David Ogilvy

Visual, not Sensual

Virtual tours of the world's great museums with clickable enlargements is nothing new, but Google has now partnered with 17 of the world's finest art museums to make it "more seamless and elegant than ever before."

The company's cameras dutifully recorded 360 degree tours of the Smithsonian, London's National Gallery, the Met, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), Uffizi, and other pivotal art museums. Over a thousand high-resolution paintings allow viewers to zoom in to see the brush strokes and minute details of a painting.

Indeed, the virtual tours are igniting interest in classic paintings.

Glenn Lowry, the director at MoMA said, '“The online engagement is absolutely driving people to the museum." The wild proliferation of images on the Web has led to ultra-sophisticated viewers who are definitely aware of the difference between the virtual and the real and are more eager than ever to seek out reality. He cites the near doubling of MoMA attendance over the last decade, and the 40 percent of visitors who launched their visit at MoMA’s own website.'

See the interesting video of Google's Art Project here.

For anyone who enjoys art museums, I can't imagine the virtual tour surpassing the physical, sensory experience of actually being there.