Thursday, March 31, 2011

On Wrist Watches and Magazines

Is the print media dying? Steven Lagerfeld, an editor for the Wilson Quarterly, worries about how his magazine "will fare in a world of ubiquitous WiFi and e-readers." He spoke recently at a convention of the Association of Writers and Writer’s Programs.

He opened with the observation that these days everyone has a cell phone to show the time. Who needs a watch?

Lagerfeld continues, "So let me introduce myself. I am a wristwatch. Or, more accurately, a wristwatch maker. Okay, so I’m really the editor of a print magazine—the media world’s equivalent of a wristwatch.

Now, if you’re a wristwatch-maker and cell phones come along, you have some choices to make. You could go into the cell phone business. But that doesn’t seem like a very good idea. Or you could drastically reduce the quality and price of your watches—dumb them down—in order to sell more of them. Also not a good idea. Actually, it looks like it’s really not such a bad thing to be a Rolex in a cell phone world. A fancy watch isn’t just a device for telling time. But I don’t think I’d want to be a mass-market watch, like Timex.

So it appears that the only logical thing to do is to go on making Rolexes or Patek-Philippes or whatever while trying to adapt to the new era. Maybe you even make your watches more luxurious and expensive to distinguish them from cell phones, even as you do other things to cope with the cell phone challenge.

Since the WQ has been pretty successful in the past, my first reaction to the digital age is to keep doing what we’ve been doing at least as well as we’ve done it in the past, and maybe even better—making the magazine more intellectually and aesthetically luxurious."

How sad if quality magazines like the Wilson were to discontinue for lack of funds. What should be our response if we truly care about good journalism? How willing are we to show the money and buy a subscription, be it in print or in digital format?

The magazine, founded in 1976, is published by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C. and "is noted for its nonpartisan, nonideological approach to current issues, with articles written from various perspectives. Designed to make the research and debates of scholars and intellectuals accessible to a general audience, it covers a wide range of topics, from science policy and literature to foreign affairs."

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Desire for Dignity and Democracy

Max Fisher, associate editor of The Atlantic, writes a poignant assessment of the current uprisings in the Arab world.

He refers to an interview with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad two months ago in which Assad was confident that his country was different from the others. Their stability was due in part because they placed anti-American and anti-Israeli causes at the center of Syria's foreign policy.

And yet, two months later, Syria has been overtaken by anti-government protests that look very similar to those that occupied Cairo's Tahrir Square for two straight weeks. "Demonstrators are marching by the thousands, resisting police crack-downs, calling for political reforms, and torching such symbols of state oppression and corruption..."

"While Assad is right that his foreign policy 'ideology' is the near polar opposite of Mubarak's, which centered on close alliances with the U.S. and Israel, the two governments' despotic, oppressive domestic political systems were about as similar as they could be: single-party republics with life-long "presidents," tightly controlled state economies, rank corruption, arbitrary police rule, and pervasive restrictions on speech."

Fisher concludes, "Now that Arabs are taking to the streets...their desires, it turns out, look an awful lot like those held by the rest of the world's people. Freedom from oppression and arbitrary rule, economic opportunity for self-sufficiency and advancement, and the chance for real political participation. Anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism remain real social forces in the region, as anyone who's spent time there can tell you, as do nationalism, legitimate concerns over the plight of Palestinians, and the angry legacy of anti-colonialism. But none of those appeared to be at all driving the popular, massive uprisings so forceful they could oust some of the world's most entrenched regimes. That took the more universal, more human, and apparently much more potent desire for dignity and democracy."

If only the march to a vital democracy, responsive to social needs with a fair justice system, was an easier process.

Offensive Satire

German television has placed a moratorium on meltdowns in The Simpsons.

Reacting to the real-life nuclear disaster unfolding in Japan, Pro7, the channel that airs The Simpsons in Germany, will be screening current and future episodes of the show and remove or replace any that feature a disaster at Mr. Burns' nuclear power plant. The networks in Austria and Switzerland have followed suit.

"Austria's ORF has already pulled two episodes set to broadcast: Episode 66, Marge Gets a Job, which features scientists Marie Curie and Pierre Curie dying of radiation poisoning; and Episode 346, On a Clear Day I Can't See My Sister, in which characters joke about a nuclear meltdown. Tagesspeigel says ORF has held back eight Simpsons episodes until the end of April, when it will review its Springfield disaster policy."

The danger of nuclear power is a core theme on the long-running cartoon. The Simpson's opening sequence features Homer tossing a radioactive fuel rod out of his car on the way home.

The show, beginning in 1987, was created by Matt Groening, and is a satirical parody of a working class American lifestyle.

The popular satire is a jarring juxtaposition to what is happening in Japan where the latest news reveals growing radiation threats. It also raises the question when is satire inappropriate?


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Emergent Systems as Networks strives "To arrive at the edge of the world's knowledge, seek out the most complex and sophisticated minds, put them in a room together, and have them ask each other the questions they are asking themselves."

A few months ago, a professor of Harvard asked a good question: What scientific concept would improve everybody's cognitive toolkit?

A symposium was organized and 164 thinkers contributed suggestions such as:

- Path dependence: This refers to the notion that often “something that seems normal or inevitable today began with a choice that made sense at a particular time in the past, but survived despite the eclipse of the justification for that choice.”

-The Einstellung Effect, "the idea that we often try to solve problems by using solutions that worked in the past instead of looking at each situation on its own terms."

-The Focusing Illusion, which holds that “nothing in life is as important as you think it is while you are thinking about it.”

- The Fundamental Attribution Error: "Don’t try to explain by character traits behavior that is better explained by context."

-Finally a number of thinkers argued that public life would be vastly improved if people relied more on the concept of emergence.

-"Emergent systems are bottom-up and top-down simultaneously. They have to be studied differently, as wholes and as nested networks of relationships. We still try to address problems like poverty and Islamic extremism by trying to tease out individual causes. We might make more headway if we thought emergently."

These concepts encourage one to think about how they could help sort through some of the difficult personal and social issues we often face.

Image: sponsors an annual book such as:
- What is your dangerous idea? 2007
- What are you optimistic about? 2008
- What have you changed your mind about? 2009.

Lululemon: A Way of Life

Lululemon Athletica is hotter than perennial favourite Nike right now amidst a 2 for 1 stock split and the doubling of its value over the last year.

The company is a self described, yoga inspired athletic apparel company founded by Dennis Wilson in 1998 (and went public in 2007) "in response to increased female participation in sports and in accordance with his belief in yoga as the optimal way to maintain athletic excellence into an advanced age."

One analyst said about the company, "Though most retail apparel stocks are cyclical and people tend to buy less of such goods when the economy slows down, Lululemon is different. It’s what I call a high-octane secular growth story.”

It's interesting to peruse the company's website. One of their slogans is, "Creativity is maximized when you are living in the moment."

They also display a manifesto of positive values and thought-provoking maxims:

- A daily hit of athletic-induced endorphins gives you the power to make better decisions, helps you be at peace with yourself, and offsets stress.
- Do one thing a day that scares you.
- The pursuit of happiness is the source of all unhappiness.
- Success is determined by how you handle setbacks.
- Listen, listen, listen, then ask strategic questions...

Lululemon is a lifestyle.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Unsustainable Path?

Solar power is the exciting growing power source on the horizon. Its wondrous appeal is that it harnesses energy that's out there in abundance. is 'One Block Off the Grid' and dedicated to helping the homeowner install solar power through group purchasing and discounts. Their business plan is to take the anxiety out of the process and allow communities to grow in environmentally friendly ways through a prudent investment of capital.

The site provides an interesting infographic about rising energy needs. Since 1950, U.S. energy consumption has quadrupuled. Is the world on an unsustainable path when it comes to energy consumption?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Circle of Fire

Andrew Solomon writes an incisive essay in The New Yorker entitled 'The Circle of Fire' about Libyan politics and society under the leadership of Colonel Muammar Qaddafi. He begins with a story prevalent in Libya:

"Three contestants are in a race to run five hundred metres carrying a bag of rats. The first sets off at a good pace, but after a hundred metres the rats have chewed through the bag and spill onto the course. The second contestant gets to a hundred and fifty metres, and the same thing happens. The third contestant shakes the bag so vigorously as he runs that the rats are constantly tumbling and cannot chew on anything, and he takes the prize. That third contestant is Libya’s leader, Colonel Muammar Qaddafi, the permanent revolutionary."

The essay makes it clear that Libya is a land of incongruities. For example, it is about "the size of Germany, France, Italy, and Spain, combined, but its population, just under six million, is roughly the same as Denmark’s. Oil revenues make Libya, per capita, one of the wealthiest countries in Africa, and yet malnutrition and anemia are among its most prevalent health problems."

Regarding the title of the essay, Solomon quotes one Libyan intellectual, "We call the world close to the Leader, the Circle of Fire. Get close and it warms you up; get too close and you go down in flames. The Circle of Fire includes both reformers and hard-liners; Qaddafi likes the chaos that creates."

This excellent essay enlightens the reader about this very enigmatic country over the course of the last few decades....

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Giving of One's Self

Light gives of itself freely, filling all available space. It does not seek anything in return; it asks not whether you are friend or foe. It gives of itself and is not thereby diminished. ~ Michael Strassfeld

- What are the qualities of light as described here?
- How much light do you provide in your daily life?
- How can you resolve to increase the wattage of your light? To whom?

This is one of the quotes for reflection and enrichment this past week at 365 Quote Quest.

Friday, March 25, 2011

A Wish Simply to Live

Sometimes symbols may be potent purveyors of hope. An ancient Japanese legend promises that the wish of anyone who folds a thousand origami cranes will come true.

The legend was brought to life through Eleanor Coerr's non fiction children's book Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes. The book tells the story of Sadako Sasaki ((1943-1955) who lived one mile from the Hiroshima blast on August 6, 1945. As she lay in a hospital bed with leukemia a few years later, a friend visited and cut a golden piece of paper into a crane which began the quest.

Now, amidst the devastation in Japan from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, reports bring news of heightened radiation dangers. A grassroots fundraising effort One Million Cranes initiated by Pacific Grove Elementary school in Northern California, hopes to enlist 1,000 other schools across the nation in folding 1,000 cranes each. They're hoping the public will donate $1 for each crane, thus raising $1 million for Japan.

Parent Stacy Jacobs says she "decided on March 14 that I no longer wanted to be just a passive observer. Our three children were watching and waiting, too, and I was struggling to help them understand the unbelievable tragedy we were seeing and hearing about. We all understood one thing very clearly, however: the people of Japan needed help."

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Design as Game of Chess

How much space does one need to live?

Gary Chang, architect, provides a paradigm shift on the issue. He transformed a small tenement apartment in Hong Kong into a technological marvel with his eco friendly design. The 330 square foot home now has 24 transformer like combinations of rooms that he accomplished through a sliding wall system. He also utilized the window space to bring in generous light features into the home. Other innovative aspects include disappearing beds, and a generous screening room.

Chang reflects, "Psychologically, one should 'maintain' an open mind on how to use the space and avoid, as much as possible, the pre-conceptions on what a 'home' should function and look like."

From an interview, "His design mentality counters a good game of chess. Yes, you know what the King can and cannot do. Still the artistry, the imagination is in mastering combinations your opponent can’t defend against. For Chang, his opponents remain the preconceived notions of what a space can embody, and just as in chess, there are always more than twenty-four moves, whatever the rules."

See the interesting video of the transformation and interview about his ingenious design at Design Milk.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Our Most Precious Resource

Imagine all the water you use in a day: showering, washing, flushing the toilet, gardening... How responsible are we in using this most precious resource?

In a World Water Day report by The Council of Canadians there is a focus on the Great Lakes watershed which holds more than 20 per cent of the world's fresh water. Increasingly there are pressures to use up this valuable resource. "About 850 billion gallons of water are pumped out each day... It is not a closed hydrological cycle like we were taught."

"Scientists say that the Great Lakes could be bone dry in 80 years." Reference is made to the Aral Sea in Russia which was once the fourth largest lake. Now it is only 10% of its former size due to diversion projects in the last 25 years.

The Council recommends that the United States and Canada declare the Great Lakes as a public trust and take greater steps to clean up and protect.

World Water Day encourages one to think about how precious water is for us all and the social justice issues arising out of its use.

Image and article about Aral Sea

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Stair Climbing Euphoria

If you live in a home with lots of stairs, count your blessings.

Brian Kuritzky took 13.37 minutes to ascend the 102 story Empire State Building with 1,576 stairs. It's a new competition that's attracting interest, the vertical marathon.

He also competed in The Iron Man triathlon with a time of 16 hours, but he finds stair climbing equally challenging. He trained for the stair ascent just as hard. "A skyscraper run is an enticing thing to see how far you can push yourself."

Stair climbing is a great workout for the lower extremity and the cardio-respiratory system, and perfect preparation for sports like soccer and rugby.

Kuritzky is looking forward to other competitions like a run up the 163 story Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest skyscraper. Also there have been competitions at Chicago's John Hancock Building, and the CN tower in Toronto allows people to take the stairs for a good workout.

Three cheers for stairs! For many with a rather sedentary lifestyle, stairs may offer a timely workout.

Monday, March 21, 2011

'Just Looking for Bodies and Tombs'

Machu Picchu, one of the most coveted archaeological sites and tourist destinations today, is celebrating its 100th anniversary of rediscovery in July. Sadly many of Peru's ancient sites of the Moche culture 1,500 years ago are being ransacked by looters.

For archaeologists, the horror is in documenting "the hundreds of thousands of trenches scarring the landscape: a warren of man-made pillage. Gangs of looters, known as huaqueros, are ransacking Peru's heritage to illegally sell artefacts to collectors and tourists."

"They come at night to explore the ruins and dig the holes. They don't know the history, they're just looking for bodies and for tombs. They're just looking for things to sell," said a shopkeeper from a farming village.

A looting epidemic in Peru and other Latin American countries, has caused alarm about the region's vanishing heritage.

The Global Heritage Fund has identified nearly 200 "at risk" sites in developing nations, with South and Central America prominent.

The article encourages one to think about the valued sites throughout the world. For example, there is The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) with its 911 "world heritage sites" of historical, cultural, and natural value. How fortunate that we have a chronicle and fragile preservation of these cherished places.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Use without Abuse

What would we do without our national, state, provincial, district parks and forests? On our latest trip we enjoyed several of Florida's state parks and national preserves where nature is largely left alone to flourish. (Last fall my wife and I visited 16 of the western national parks in the U.S.)

This year Canada, with its extensive parks infrastructure, is celebrating its national parks centennial . A survey has placed national parks alongside health care, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and our flag as the top four symbols of Canadian identity.

“Parks Canada oversees one of the most extensive, best managed, and highly respected park systems in the world,” said the former president of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society and co-founder of the Yellowstone to Yukon conservation project. “It should be a fantastic source of pride for all Canadians.”

The parks initiative in Canada started in 1885, when John A. Macdonald, Canada's first Prime Minister, set aside 26 square kilometres near Banff Hot Springs to protect the area from “sale, settlement or squatting,” no one had a clear idea of what a national park was, or how one should be managed.

The first administrator for the national parks, J.B. Harkin, was a visionary. "His deeply held faith that wilderness could rejuvenate the human spirit changed the face of parks worldwide." His term 'Use without abuse' has become a mantra.

Bruce Kirby writes of several national parks including one in Canada's far north:

"A rink-size slab of limestone gently slopes into the waves of Sluice Box Rapids, atop Virginia Falls in the Northwest Territories. If you scramble down nearby gravel cliffs, following a faint trail through scrappy stands of black spruce and soapberry, you can tiptoe out to its slippery edge and trail your fingers in the surging froth. At your feet, the entire Nahanni River plunges into the abyss of First Canyon. Quickly drenched by monsoon-like mists, it is not the chill that leaves one trembling. It is the proximity to nature, raw and elemental."

Most of us probably have at least one park which has left indelible memories.


Saturday, March 19, 2011

Kind Words

Kind words do not cost much. They never blister the tongue or lips. They make other people good-natured. They also produce their own image on men's souls, and a beautiful image it is. ~ Blaise Pascal

- How ready are you with kind words?
- When did someone (more an acquaintance than a friend) give you a sincere compliment, thanks, encouragement, or friendly greeting?
- How can you resolve to use more kind words in your every day life?

This is one of the quotes for reflection and enrichment this past week at 365 Quote Quest.

Friday, March 18, 2011

'Try for Something that's never been Done'

Everything about him was old except his eyes and they were the same color as the sea and were cheerful and undefeated. ~ describing Santiago, the Cuban fisherman in The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway, 1952

Who has not read this allegorical novel and wondered about the protagonist's ordeal and vision? After visiting Hemingway's home in Key West recently, the writer's life is brought back into focus for me.

Hemingway was born in 1899 in Oak Park, Illinois. After leaving high school, he worked briefly as a reporter before leaving for the Italian front in World War 1 to become an ambulance driver. There he was seriously wounded and returned home where he wrote A Farewell to Arms.

In 1922 he married the first of his four wives, and lived in Paris as a foreign correspondent where he was influenced by the 1920's group of modernist writers and artists known as the 'Lost Generation.' In the mid 30's Hemingway covered the Spanish Civil War as well which produced the novel For Whom the Bell Tolls.

Upon completion of The Old Man and the Sea in 1952, he went on a safari to Africa where he was almost killed in a plane crash that left him in pain or ill health for the rest of his life.

Hemingway had homes in Key West, Florida, and Cuba and enjoyed fishing. The photo is of Hemingway, Pauline, and their two sons in 1935 in the Bahamas. (Today, this photo almost looks obscene amidst the concern for preservation.)

Hemingway's banquet speech for the Nobel Prize in 1954 is enlightening about the writer's task:

'...Writing, at its best, is a lonely life. Organizations for writers palliate the writer's loneliness but I doubt if they improve his writing. He grows in public stature as he sheds his loneliness and often his work deteriorates. For he does his work alone and if he is a good enough writer he must face eternity, or the lack of it, each day.

For a true writer each book should be a new beginning where he tries again for something that is beyond attainment. He should always try for something that has never been done or that others have tried and failed. Then sometimes, with great luck, he will succeed...'

Key West is an absolutely thrilling and charming destination. The drive there was filled with bright blue vistas and green mangrove forests with an impressive infrastructure of bridges. It was a delight to see many egrets and herons enjoying this sanctuary. The city itself has several days worth of delightful destinations and the setting is tropical since it's only 90 miles north of Cuba.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

For Pragmatic Idealists

OK, I am a fan of Aside from its rather generic title there is some great work going on here in terms of gathering a growing following through engaging content and participation.

For example, it asks a relevant weekly question on Twitter and Facebook. This week's was, 'Is racism increasing or decreasing?'

Some of the responses were:

- It's increasingly covert.
- Student papers always remind me that I should've given the "how-to-not-write-like-you-might-be-racist" lecture.
- Racism is unfortunately still here. It's just hiding in the a coward.
- Decreasing due to a more educated population.
- It sure as hell isn't decreasing as it should...

What is there to dislike about GOOD? Maybe you could subscribe to the site in a Reader, or follow on Twitter (it has 534,00 followers), or like on Facebook (with over 88,000 others)?

Their bio at Twitter reads: 'GOOD is the association of pragmatic idealists making our world work. We make a website, magazine, and videos for people who give a damn.'

GOOD also has a host of strategic contributors.

My recommendation encourages one to think about other great sites worth endorsing.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Large Reactors not the only Option

While the world waits in anticipation for a non catastrophic resolution of the nuclear reactor crises in Japan after the earthquake, many are wondering about future options for the industry.

The nuclear-power industry has been increasingly looking at new approaches. Rather than relying on huge, traditional reactors costing billions, it is turning to small, inexpensive ones, many of which are based on proven designs from nuclear submarines or warships.

A global race is under way to develop small-reactor designs, says a spokesman of the Nuclear Energy Institute. He estimates that more than 20 countries have expressed serious interest in buying mini-reactors.

"TerraPower, an American firm backed by Bill Gates, thinks it has the solution. It is working with Toshiba to design a small reactor based on a “travelling wave” design. Once kick-started with a tiny amount of enriched uranium, it would run for decades on non-enriched, depleted uranium, a widely available material. This will be possible because the nuclear reaction, eating its way through the core at the rate of about one centimetre a year, would gradually convert the depleted uranium into fissionable plutonium—in effect “breeding” high-grade fuel and then consuming it.

Mr Gates points out that nuclear power has historically been dogged by five worries: safety, proliferation, waste, cost and fuel availability. “This thing is a miracle that solves all five,” he says. John Gilleland, TerraPower’s boss, says that a single enrichment plant would then suffice to produce all the enriched uranium needed to spark up the world’s mini-reactors."

Mini-reactors still depend on a combination of technical, commercial, and regulatory factors. Wouldn't it be idyllic if a new generation of smaller, less obtrusive and dangerous power plants could be designed and built to provide future energy needs?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Solar System Scintillates

Now that's patience. Six years after it was launched from Earth, NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft is set to begin orbiting Mercury in several days, the first close rendezvous with the rocky little planet since 1975.

Astronomers are interested in Mercury, the closest planet to the Sun, because it is a terrestrial like Earth, not gassy like Jupiter. There are many such rocky surfaces around stars outside our solar system.

“Now that so many new planets are being discovered around stars in other solar systems, we need to know the effects of space weathering on rocky surfaces so we can accurately interpret telescopic and other remote sensing data we obtain from other rocky or dusty worlds," said one of the scientists working on the project.

MESSENGER is an acronym for MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry and Ranging and has been journeying toward the planet since August 3, 2004, “dancing” around Earth, the Moon and Mercury itself, mostly to keep it from being drawn in by the Sun’s gravitational pull.

Reading this article brings back memories of those solar system maps and charts from my elementary school days. Except now, technology has enabled our study of the solar system and the universe to be extended in infinite ways.

How many Earths like ours await discovery?


Monday, March 14, 2011

Ideas Realized

99% is a site devoted to "demystifying the creative process. To show you the real inner-workings of how ideas are made to happen by sharing the thought processes and creative practices of great achievers. Here, with the help of our readers, we've rounded up some of the best videos on idea execution from artists, writers, designers, storytellers, researchers, and chocolatiers."

An excellent post provides a list of 10 "awesome videos on idea execution and the creative process."

There is William Kentridge, "It's always been in between the things I thought I was doing that the real work has happened."

Ira Glass, "The most important thing you can do is a lot of work."

J.K. Rowling, "It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all."

Daniel Pink, "Three factors lead to better performance and personal satisfaction: autonomy, mastery, and purpose."

The post provides a wealth of information for anyone wishing to explore the realm of idea generation and bringing them to fruition.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The little penguin that could

A brief video of a penguin making a giant leap may be an allegory for us all.

- Survey the situation.
- Assess the factors in making the leap.
- Psych yourself up.
- Jump!
- You will win some and lose some, but always keep trying your best.

I can see this tiny act of courage apply to a host of circumstances in our daily lives: career, family, education, relationships, investments, personal enrichment...

Link to video from The Daily What.


Sickening Hits must Stop

Andrew Cohen writes an incisive criticism of the National Hockey League and its tolerance for hard hits on the ice. Many severe concussions have resulted including the recent injury given to Pittsburgh Penguins' captain Sidney Crosby which has sidelined him for months.

This past week another major body check almost led to a fatality or paralysis:

"A life long Canadiens' fan, I saw the whole thing live on television. A huge, hulking, skilled defenseman for the Boston Bruins, a 6'9," 260-pound ball of fury named Zdeno Chara, nearly killed Montreal Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty during the second period of the game. As Pacioretty tried to scoot past the lumbering Chara, the defenseman lunged at him and violently pasted Pacioretty's head into a stanchion separating the glassed portion of the rink with its non-glassed portion. I have been watching hockey faithfully for nearly 40 years and I cannot remember a more devastating hit."

(You may see the sickening hit in the first part of the video here.)

Cohen believes that the NHL is suffering from all the negative publicity. Even major sponsors are withdrawing.

"If Chara's hit is, indeed, just "a part of the game," then the game had better change—now, today —before it alienates more fans and sponsors and injures more players. That means the rules of engagement on the ice must change. This is not your grandfather's hockey. The players are bigger, stronger and faster. Their skates are better. So is the ice..."

Some fans like the hard hitting in hockey and football. It's part of the excitement and thrill of the game they say. However, more and more are sickened by it and want major changes.

How tragic for talented athletes to have their careers ended in a devastating hit.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Stop worrying

Happy the person who has broken the chains which hurt the mind, and who has given up worrying, once and for all. ~ Ovid

- What are the chains which hurt the mind?
- What things do you worry about?
- How can you resolve to worry less?

This quotation was one for consideration this past week at 365 Quote Quest.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Little Habits can Enrich

According to Leo Babauta of Zen Habits the little habits can mean a lot. He suggests shaping your day around a series of manageable little routines which can enhance and enrich your life. For example, several of his include a ritual when he gets in the door, putting his clothes away, washing the dishes by hand, clearing distractions, taking a walk and reflecting....

He also prepares many of his meals in advance:

'Cooking your own meals is the healthiest (and most frugal) choice, but if you have to cook three to six times a day, it’ll get too cumbersome and you’re likely to give up. So I prepare my food in bulk (for 3-6 days in advance), and eat the same meals all week. It’s no harder than cooking smaller meals. I only make food that I adore, so I don’t get bored. It’s super easy to stay on a meal plan this way.'

One of his guiding quotes is "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. ~ Aristotle

One is encouraged to think about the little refinements we can make to our day which can reduce stress and increase our well being.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

For the Love of Garlic

Most people have a love/hate attitude to garlic. There is much evidence of its health benefits, its delectable herbal contribution to cooking, but there is also the fear of its odorous social implications.

Here are several informative articles about the praised and maligned herb:

- What is the history of garlic?
- How do you grow garlic?
- What are the health benefits of eating garlic?
- What are some excellent recipes for garlic?
- Why eat garlic?
- What are some great quotes about garlic?

'Tomatoes and oregano make it Italian; wine and tarragon make it French. Sour cream makes it Russian; lemon and cinnamon make it Greek. Soy sauce makes it Chinese; garlic makes it good.' - Alice May Brock

Submitted to Magpie Tales # 56.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A New Humanism

Do you put more faith in your reasoning or emotions when making decisions? I can recall several investment advisers telling me to use the former.

David Brooks, a senior editor for the NYT, thinks a "new humanism" is emerging where "the emotional and rational are entwined."

He reflects on several policy failures over the last several decades which were partly due to an over reliance on the rational. "We have a prevailing view in our society — not only in the policy world, but in many spheres — that we are divided creatures. Reason, which is trustworthy, is separate from the emotions, which are suspect. Society progresses to the extent that reason can suppress the passions."

As a result "we emphasize things that are rational and conscious and are inarticulate about the processes down below. We are really good at talking about material things but bad at talking about emotion."

Recently, however, "a richer and deeper view" is being "brought to us by researchers across an array of diverse fields: neuroscience, psychology, sociology, behavioral economics and so on."

For example, he elaborates on the concept of limerence: "the conscious mind hungers for money and success, but the unconscious mind hungers for those moments of transcendence when the skull line falls away and we are lost in love for another, the challenge of a task or the love of God. Some people seem to experience this drive more powerfully than others."

Ultimately Brooks suspects "their work will have a giant effect on the culture. It’ll change how we see ourselves. Who knows, it may even someday transform the way our policy makers see the world."

This excellent essay encourages us to think about our many decisions and the balance we could try to use when making them.


Tribute to Third World Women

I received the Kiva newsletter which announced the 100th International Women's Day. Of course, Kiva has celebrated the economic, political, and social achievements of women past, present, and future since its formation in 2005.

"Over 80% of Kiva's borrowers are women: women who are feeding their families and communities, starting businesses and providing jobs. Women who are mothers, sisters, daughters, and grandmothers. Women whom we are proud to support.

Since the beginning, Kiva has worked hard to help women improve their lives in places where any advocacy for women is rare.

Women perform 66% of the world’s work, produce 50% of the food, but earn just 10% of the income and own 1% of the property. At Kiva we celebrate them."

In honour of the day Kiva's website features three women; there's Merlys who fled rebels in Colombia and started her own bakery, Francoise who became the family breadwinner after a Kiva loan enabled her to buy a cow, or Lun who supports three children selling mangos and meatballs (what a combination!).

Click on their revamped website to see how you can make a $25 donation to one of the many hopeful third world entrepreneurs.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Reaching Just Above

'One should not pursue goals that are easily achieved. One must develop an instinct for what one can just barely achieve through one's greatest efforts.' —Albert Einstein

Einstein was onto something when he posited that we should always strive to learn new concepts with persistent effort. A guest blog for Scientific American by a behavioral therapist provides an excellent framework of five strategies for improving one's fluid intelligence.

Several excerpts:

1. Seek Novelty
'...When you seek novelty, several things are going on. First of all, you are creating new synaptic connections with every new activity you engage in. These connections build on each other, increasing your neural activity, creating more connections to build on other connections—learning is taking place...'

2. Challenge Yourself
'...Once you master one of those cognitive activities in the brain-training game , you need to move on to the next challenging activity. Figure out how to play Sudoku? Great! Now move along to the next type of challenging game. There is research that supports this logic...'

3. Think Creatively
'...Creative cognition involves divergent thinking (a wide range of topics/subjects), making remote associations between ideas, switching back and forth between conventional and unconventional thinking (cognitive flexibility), and generating original, novel ideas that are also appropriate to the activity you are doing. In order to do this well, you need both right and left hemispheres working in conjunction with each other...'

4. Do Things The Hard Way
'...Technology does a lot to make things in life easier, faster, more efficient (such as GPS), but sometimes our cognitive skills can suffer as a result of these shortcuts, and hurt us in the long run...'

5. Network
'...By exposing yourself to new people, ideas, and environments, you are opening yourself up to new opportunities for cognitive growth. Being in the presence of other people who may be outside of your immediate field gives you opportunities to see problems from a new perspective, or offer insight in ways that you had never thought of before...'

The essay encourages one to think about how one can keep those synapses firing for potential growth.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Seeking a Peaceful Resolution

Global Voices Online is an "international community of bloggers who report on blogs and citizen media from around the world."

I enjoy visiting this site on occasion because it provides a perspective on what is happening in obscure places around the world, far from the media spotlight. These are vital voices who struggle to have a say in a mass media world dominated with select perspectives.

For example, there are two Palestinian young women who are attending university and who express their frustrations about their ancestors who have yet to achieve a homeland of their own. Needless to say, the convoluted global politics of the middle eastern morass enters into their struggle.

It was about a year ago, back in February 2010. Remi Kanazi, the Palestinian-American poet, came to Ramallah to give the first part of a spoken word poetry workshop for the Palestine Writing Workshop.

"He articulated so many fundamental points of Palestinian identity, the Israeli occupation, and imperialism so eloquently and angrily that there was no question of not being inspired, particularly since it echoed our very own sentiments and frustrations, inadequately expressed. We decided that we had to have a commodious outlet, or Freudian theory would have dictated that our frustrations would then be channeled in dangerous ways such as participating in normalizing dialogue with our Jewish Israeli cousins or becoming suicide bombers. A blog was decided."

Many of my readers know about how the blogging format can inspire the expression of vital perspectives. These two young ladies are trying to create a constructive, peaceful dialogue about finding a homeland for their Palestinian community.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Do we Own Nature?

How happy are you with the human story and its relationship with the environment?

Carl Safina’s new book The View From Lazy Point contains a fountain of environmental wisdom on the natural world and all that affects it, including human behavior, economics, religion, and science. An ecologist who wrote the sea conservation classic Song for the Blue Ocean, Safina has been named by the Audubon Society as one of the leading conservationists of the era, and profiled by Bill Moyers and The New York Times.

A promo of the book reads, 'Beginning in his kayak in his home waters of eastern Long Island, Carl Safina's The View from Lazy Point takes us through the four seasons to the four points of the compass, from the high Arctic south to Antarctica, across the warm belly of the tropics from the Caribbean to the west Pacific, then home again.'

On the “property rights” movement Safina writes,

'One can fully own a manufactured thing—a toaster, say, or a pair of shoes. But in what reasonable sense can one fully “own” and have “rights” to do what ever we want to land, water, air, and forests that are among the most valuable assets in humanity’s basic endowments? To say, in the march of eons, that we own these things into which we suddenly, fleetingly appear and from which we will soon vanish is like a newborn laying claim to the maternity ward, or a candle asserting ownership of the cake; we might as well declare that, having been handed a ticket to ride, we’ve bought the train...'

It's too bad that nature has been relegated to the peripheral areas of our existence like a display window in the local shopping mall. Many want it to look perfect and suitable to our discriminating tastes and values.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

It's all about Human Potential

Hugh MacLeod (with artwork) reflects on a nugget of wisdom he received twenty years ago from the CEO of a small toy company which has done well globally.

'Hmmm… These Playmobil toys of yours… they do amazingly well, all over the world. So what’s their secret? What do they do that’s so interesting?'

'It’s not what the toy does that’s interesting. It’s what the child does with the toy that’s interesting.'

'BOOM! A moment of clarity. One that sticks with me decades later.'

'I know I like to yack on endlessly about “It’s all about human potential.” I know its cliche, but then again, I’m not wrong, either. This is why we exist. To find out.'

It occurs to me that this marketing lesson also applies to our daily lives. How wonderful if we can find ways to enrich our days by staying engaged with life in vital ways.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Knowing Oneself

Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom. ~ Aristotle

- How well do you know yourself?
- What are your strengths, weaknesses?
- What brings you joy, sadness?
- Where do you find hope, meaning?
- How can you enrich your understanding of yourself?

This quotation was one for consideration this past week at 365 Quote Quest.

Thinner, Lighter, More Powerful

Remember when cell phones were the size of large submarine sandwiches, computer monitors weighed in over 50 pounds, decent computers needed a filing cabinet hard drive?

It's interesting to read about the upgraded iPad2 which is thinner and lighter and twice as powerful with graphics performance nine times faster.

It also comes with more and more application potential. It is introducing The Garage Band app which looks to be huge with musicians. "I cannot tell you how many hours teenagers will spend making music," Steve Jobs said in his surprise appearance at the news conference.

Jobs also announced that Apple has sold over 100 million iPhones to date and notched up over 200 million credit card accounts with customers of iTunes and iBooks.

The iPad looks to be in the sweet spot for growth. There are 65,000 apps that are made especially for the iPad's display and 350,000 apps overall when you include the iPone apps that work on the machine.

One analyst said, "For now, Apple still defines the tablet market, with a product consumers will desire at a price that's hard to beat."

The sweeping revolution that's going on in digital technology and communications is absolutely stunning.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Pomegranate Power

There was carnage in the kitchen and the pomegranate was to blame. Alex read some articles about the antioxidant rich food and brought home a plump specimen to enjoy. The trouble is Alex had never opened a pomegranate before when he sliced it open with his large paring knife.

Immediately juice squirted everywhere in their new kitchen with a bold white theme. Even the white granite counter top now had juice seeping into the pores. When Alex saw that this first slice was just the beginning of his troubles, he took out a fork to pick out the jeweled seeds, only to create a machine gun splattering of juice pellets everywhere.

The cabinets took the line of fire this time. They looked like fruit flavoured angel food cake. But there were so many more kernels of goodness to dig out so he stabbed the flesh again and again covering himself, the floor, the ceiling, and the new white kitchen with the volatile juice.

Now Alex worried that his wife was coming home soon and it was time to hide the evidence of his foray in the kitchen. Maybe this lemon would help in the clean up.

But before he got started, his wife walked in the door....or so the police surmised when they surveyed the scene.

Read more submissions at Magpie Tales #55.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Digital Convenience

My wife and I enjoyed Toy Story 3 last night which we rented from a digital kiosk by Red Box for $1. Talk about undercutting the competition and pulling the economic magic carpet from under the feet of others in the business.

EcoATM is another digital kiosk which has developed the world's first fully automated machine for buying back old electronics. The company says that 500 million cellphones are made each year and the average life of the gadget is 13 months. It will pay, for example, up to $300 for a used iPhone4. Another positive spin-off is that the company's initiative will help to save the environment from needless grief.

We are seeing more of the slick, interactive digital machines with touchscreens in conveniently located places. They are unobtrusive, convenient, and effective money makers which are increasingly part of many companies' business plans.

And, if you don't know how to use them, just ask a younger person who is very comfortable with the process.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Easy Gig to be Donated

In a 140 character Twitter post Nelly Furtado writes, 'In 2007, I received 1million$ from the Qaddafi clan to perform a 45 min. Show for guests at a hotel in Italy. I am going to donate the $'

In other words Canadian singer Nelly Furtado said she is going to give away the $1-million she received for performing for the family of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi in 2007.

Other performers, including singers Beyonce and Usher have fallen under criticism after recent reports that the Gadhafi family has paid large sums for artists to perform at various private functions over the years.

"The criticism has increased in the wake of the international condemnation that the Libyan government is facing for the deaths and violent suppression of anti-government protesters."

Furtado's gesture sends the right signals under the circumstances, and reveals the murky underside of a despotic regime.

Furtado has sold 20 million albums worldwide and 18 million singles.