Saturday, October 31, 2009
The Olympics 2010 Torch Relay began in Victoria, British Columbia on October 30. The torch will travel 45,000 kilometers across Canada over the next 106 days before its dramatic entrance into the B.C. Place Stadium on February 12. More than 12,000 Canadians will run with it using more that 100 modes of transportation including dog sled and canoe. The basic length of carry is 300 meters which should take about 3 minutes.
The torch literally touches the four extremities of Canada as you can see on the map. The most westerly point is Old Crow, Yukon. The most northern is Alert, Nunavut. The farthest east will be Cape Spear National Historic Site, Nfld. The most southern point is a visit to Point Pelee National Park, close to where I live.
A torch is an honour to carry. It represents a noble cause. All of us have carried personal, social, educational, political, environmental, ethical, spiritual torches. They represent a hope and an affirmation that the world is a wonderful place and can be nurtured and improved.
We cannot hold a torch to light another's path without brightening our own. ~Ben Sweetland
See an interactive map of the Olympic Torch Relay here.
Friday, October 30, 2009
One way to grow your site may be to write for a news or community website. Examiner.com provides an 'inside source for everything local." The U. S. site has attracted 16 million unique views and in August Nielsen Online named it the fastest-growing website. Examiner recently expanded into Canada and has international plans.
Examiner.com relies on local writers to provide content relevant to their communities. "Our Examiners are local insiders and influencers who provide reliable intelligence and resources on local and category-specific topics." CEO Rick Blair said the company boasts 21,000 contributors and are encouraged to post three or four times a week.
Writers are paid a nominal amount for their articles which are tied to the number of page views. However, most writers say the money is insignificant. Instead they value the exposure and credibility gained from being published.
On a similar vein I value my presence at W.E.Speak (Windsor Essex) which describes itself as "an alternative voice for the people of Windsor and Essex County" and lists about 100 blogging sites for the area.
Photo Credit: Lilia Efimova
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Some parents may scoff at the decision made by the Canadian Paediatric Society to promote a ban of TV viewing for children under two.
One pediatrician said, "In the first years, think of how many things you have to learn. You have to learn to sit, you have to learn to walk, you have to learn to climb, you have to learn to talk - all of these things in your normal development. All of these things are better when you have a live person smiling at the child and interacting with the child."
Earlier this year, a review of 78 published international studies suggested infant TV viewing can be associated with delayed language, a shortened attention span and delayed cognitive development.
In the midst of this news comes the announcement that Disney will pay a refund for their Baby Einstein DVD's. Launched in 1997 it quickly became a marketing sensation. It advised parents that it could "foster the development of your child's speech and language skills." Many academics have taken an opposing view.
Nothing can beat the undivided attention a parent or care giver can provide a baby or toddler. Unfortunately it's human nature to cut corners on quality time and place young ones in front of TV screens with jolts of colour, movement, and spectacle.
Placing young children in front of TV or computer screens for long periods of time without monitoring is child neglect. And that includes exposure of the video screen to children over 2.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault deep in Norway's permafrost preserves precious seeds lost to the crumbling world's agricultural biological diversity. Now scientists want to protect disappearing coral.
Robin McKie, science editor of The Observer, reports that scientists worry that the world's coral reefs are under imminent danger. "Unless something very remarkable happens during December's climate talks, the world's reefs will be reduced to slime-covered rubble by 2050," said Dr. Alex Rogers of the Institute of Zoology, London. Plans have been developed for a prototype Coral Ark at the London Zoo. It would cryogenically store coral from the Caribbean, which has some of the worst devastation.
Some researchers consider there is little chance that "coral reefs, which are built by living creatures, and support up to a third of the world's marine biodiversity will survive the next 50 years."
As I read this article, I am reminded of a generous piece of coral we bought about 25 years ago in a store which obviously had a supplier who was tearing up beautiful specimans from some precious sea beds. I feel badly about it now. The acquisition is a symbol of human nature where many like to own a piece of everything around including the defenceless, the beautiful, and unique.
Either directly or indirectly our actions in the name of economic progress, materialism, and status have resulted in the destruction of the environment on an ongoing basis.
What losses do you lament?
Consider 10 Wonders of the Vanishing World we can no longer take for granted.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
A ban on hand-held devices in motor vehicles begins this week in Ontario. The new law, which will have a three month grace period, makes it illegal to use any communication or entertainment devices including cellphones and GPS devices. Drivers will be hit with fines of up to $500 if they e-mail, dial, or text. As a result some are embracing the Bluetooth option which is acceptable because it's hands free.
As a classroom teacher students knew me for a favourite word: focus. Focus on the passage, focus on the video, focus on choosing the right word, focus in a group collaboration... Within that encouragement is the assumption that the action is sustained for a reasonable length of time.
My blogging hobby requires 100% concentration when I'm writing. I could never take my lap top to the living room and type out a blog post in the midst of Jeopardy or Survivor. Similarly I can't imagine texting someone else when I am driving or reprogramming a GPS. I guess I have weak multitasking skills.
Driving should take 100% of your focus despite the fact that vehicles have become so much more technologically advanced. Split second decisions may have to be made as you watch out for the other guy.
But then there are so many other distractions which the ban doesn't cover: changing CDs, enjoying your breakfast, sight seeing out the window, telling a joke to your partner. It just takes a moment's inattention...
Monday, October 26, 2009
I am a little slow on the uptake sometimes. For example, it just occurred to me that the giant business box office store Staples sells more than staples. Indeed, they sell all the staples necessary to run a business, go to school, or outfit your study. Pretty clever name with a double meaning.
Our town of 20,000 welcomed a Staples about a year ago, and a Walmart four years before that. They located close to each other on the fringes of the downtown quite distant from the 'four corners', the traditional hub of activity. A Loblaws Superstore was also built outside of town on a large twenty acre lot. There is loads of parking and an opportunity to get everything you need while you are there.
Last week a stationery store closed which was a two generation business. They provided a lot of personalized, friendly service. Several clothing stores closed before that, similar victims of big box shopping.
Small town coffee shops are endangered as well. Everyone goes instead to one of the three Tim Horton's in town where thousands get their daily java and donut/muffin fix.
Some cities do reclaim their downtowns decimated by bigger is better. They designate market and pedestrian friendly areas to stop, mingle, and shop as a community. They plan downtown parks with features to attract.
Where do you buy your staples? Do you care about the trend bigger is better, the loss of community areas?
Sunday, October 25, 2009
I will always remember Saturdays as a child when my mother cooked white beans all morning for a bean and fried ham feast at lunch. In the afternoon it was the scent of those wonderful cinnamon buns we enjoyed for supper.
It appears that cinnamon has become one of those miracle spices which are not only decadently delicious in apple pie but good for you. Medical tests have shown that cinnamon, or that active ingredient within, methylhydroxychalcone polymer (MHCP), lowers blood sugar levels, and reduces the amount of triglycerides and bad cholesterol in the blood.
I found some cinnamon sticks in our spice counter and decided to experiment with another known medical elixir - green tea. I threw in several pieces in the teapot and minutes later enjoyed a naturally sweetened aromatic tea.
I think I have just started a new habit just in time for the cold weather! Delightful on several levels. And it appears several other sites endorse the green tea/cinnamon combination.
Saturday, October 24, 2009
I sometimes visit Go Daddy with a possible brilliant name for a website, but find it is already taken. Of course, what's far more important is the business plan one has to develop a brand and a following.
Consider kijiji.com. Who would ever think that this name could be the hub for a popular site visited by millions around the globe? Ebay, the owner of the site, had a definite plan in March 2005. Develop a free classified ads site and make it a centralized network of online urban communities for placing local classified ads. Kijiji, by the way, is Swahili for village.
Their chief competition is Craigslist, also a centralized network of online communities featuring free online classified ads.
I have several cords of fireword that I wish to give away before the onslaught of the polar winds. A friend suggested kijiji. "Place your ad there and you are bound to get a couple of emails," he said. Within hours I got four.
Is it coincidence that many newspaper companies are reporting at least a 30% decline in revenue year over year? The Internet: a place where people are increasingly getting quality information and service for free.
Friday, October 23, 2009
Do boys and girls learn differently? Should some be placed in autonomous schools to accelerate their achievement? Is separate gender education the way of the future?
Some have argued that boys are more active learners than girls who can sit still and work, boys thrive on team competition while girls would rather collaborate, girls can wait a day or two for feedback while boys need more immediate encouragement, girls see a beginning, middle, and end to work, while boys just want to get started... Or is this unnecessary stereotyping?
Questions like these have been raised with the announcement that the Toronto District School Board wants to initiate the first all boy school in Canada's elementary public school system. The boys' leadership academy would be optional and start at kindergarten to Grade 3, adding grades each successive year. The new director of the school board, Dr. Chris Spence, has written the 2008 book The Joys of Teaching Boys.
I personally have been involved in helping a newly arrived refugee family with their enrollment in school. The two high school aged children each attended a gender specific school in the Middle East. As well as overcoming a language hurdle, they now face an adjustment with a mixed student population.
Education, it seems to me, is a process of accommodating, adapting, and synthesizing. Within that socialization process valuable skills are learned. Similarly good teachers in an integrated classroom learn how to reach the heart and mind of most, if not all, of their students through the same process.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
The Ontario Ministry of Education has paid $180,000 for a license to use the cartooning software Bitstrips for its schools this year. Many educators think that this is money well spent to energize learning especially for boys.
In provincial test results girls perform better in reading and writing, a 'gender gap' that has shown up for five years straight. Grade 6 boys lagged female counterparts in writing by 27 per cent last year.
Comics help to pique boys' interest in school says Jennifer Rowsell, an education professor at Rutgers University who studies comics and literacy. "If you stick with the beloved five paragraph essay, you're not going to speak to boys."
There is already evidence that the program is working. Students log onto the site at school and each have a password. Students can see each other's work and talk to their teacher, but are invisible to the rest of the Net.
Founders of the site, Toronto based Jacob Blackstock and Jesse Brown, are excited about the "explosion of creativity" which is occurring. Students now make about 2,500 comics a day. Teachers are saying, "I don't have to convince the students to do their work."
Bitstrips can be part of dynamic balanced learning where students are involved in researching, note-taking, and communicating information.
Doug P. is an enthusiastic supporter of the initiative. Globe and Mail's Susan Krashinsky writes an informative article.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Tania Carnegie, KPMG's national director of community leadership, said a trip to Kenya helped her refine her vision before landing the position.
'In 2007 my husband and I travelled to rural Kenya for two weeks with Free the Children's Craig and Marc Kielburger. My husband and I had been involved with Free the Children for some time, and we wanted to travel there to understand the need more fully. It was during this time that I really realized the positive impact that each one of us can have if we connect with the community. The people that we met were so responsible and generous and wise, and they have the most intense sense of community and hope."
When Carnegie returned, she discussed her enthusiasm for such a position at the huge global accounting firm. Her bosses were so impressed that she is now responsible for the firm's corporate social responsibility strategy in Canada. She develops and implements programs to support employee volunteerism, identifies strategic philanthropic initiatives, and finds ways to reduce the firm's environmental footprint.
CSR or corporate social responsibility is an important concept for most healthy businesses today. It honours a triple bottom line: people, planet, and profit. Responsible business is good business.
It's encouraging to see that a strong values educational foundation can lead to good ethics in the workplace.
See KPMG's Social Responsibility Report 2008, and Responsible Citizens and Strong Communities.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
The world is moving toward guilt free chocolate at least in one way: socially responsible growing methods. It's long been a labour intensive industry nurturing the sensitive cocoa plant, harvesting the delicate pods, and digging out its precious beans. Child labour, meager returns for farmers, and environmentally insensitive growing practices have been a part of the burgeoning sector.
Demand for "certified" or fair trade agricultural products have already swept the coffee industry with heavy weights like Starbucks selling conscience-light beans. Now it's taking root in the cocoa sector.
Edouard Millard at Rainforest Alliance says, "Our role is to teach good production practices and insist on respect for the requirement not to employ children in the production of cocoa and to preserve the ecosystem...The producers preserve their forests through sustainable practices and they get a premium as well."
The Gates Foundation has pledged $23 million to address social conditions around the growing of cocoa and selected the World Cocoa Foundation to administer these funds in West Africa. A hand full of other companies promote fair trade as well.
The World Cocoa Foundation provides an interesting history and overview of the chocolate industry. The name for the fruit of the cocoa tree is from the Latin 'theobroma cacao' meaning 'food of the gods.' The Mayans created a ritual beverage and used the bean as an ancient currency. A horse could be purchased for ten beans. Happy Living magazine provides an interesting article about how cocoa is grown and harvested.
Today 3 million tons of cocoa beans are produced annually, 70% coming from West Africa and the Ivory Coast area.
Chocolate is a multibillion dollar industry where companies like Hershey's strive to create rich experiences with the 'divine' bean.
Monday, October 19, 2009
"She started to peel it, but more than peel it. She was tearing at it. She was tearing it apart because you could see how hungry she was in her eyes." But the girl stopped when she noticed several other kids watching her, also hungry. She then broke the orange into tiny pieces and divided it among the other children, leaving just a tiny sliver for herself.
"In that simple moment, that young street girl, no more than eight or nine years old, taught me more about compassion and sharing and lessons of life than I've ever learned."
"Like that young street girl holding that orange in her hand...will you open your eyes and will you open your heart? Will you share the gift that you have received? We ask you to think, when holding that diploma in your hand, not only what it can do for you but what you can do with it for others."
Kielburger's address was met with tears from graduates and a standing ovation from the crowd.
Another honorary doctorate was awarded to Derek Burney with a distinguished record of achievement as member of the Canadian Foreign Service, Canada's ambassador to the U.S., and chairman of several corporations.
"Do not accept the status quo as the ideal. Do not go along in order to get along. Be confident, be assertive, and never stop learning, because when you stop learning, you stop living. Think big."
"Never assume that what you have done is the best that you can do. Apply what you have learned to do better. And whatever you choose to do, do it not just for you, but for those who are depending on you to make a positive contribution to your community and your country."
Image: from Free the Children
Sunday, October 18, 2009
The average North American adult eats 3,600 in calories. Adults are considered undernourished if they consume fewer than 2,000 calories.
With a world population of 6.791 billion an article by David Blair reports that the UN estimates the total number of starving has risen by 100 million in the last year alone to a total of 1 billion.
Other pertinent details:
- The gains of the 1980's and early 90's where there were steady gains in nutrition have now been falling.
- Five years ago, about 15 percent of people in the developing world were undernourished. Today the figure approaches 20 per cent.
- This is not primarily because of poor harvests or bad weather, although drought has brought immense suffering to Kenya, Ethiopia, and Somalia this year.
- Instead, the main factor is the increase in global food prices since 2007, together with cuts in aid from wealthy countries and the loss of jobs as a result of the world's recession.
- "As usual, it is the poorest countries - and the poorest people - that are suffering the most," said Jacques Diouf, the head of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and Josette Sheeran, the head of the World Food Program (WFP), in their joint introduction to the annual study.
- Rich countries have steadily reduced the share of their aid budgets devoted to agriculture, from 20 per cent in 1979 to about five per cent today.
- The overall picture, however, is less gloomy than in the past. Four decades ago, one in three people in poor countries were undernourished - today that figure is one in five.
To what extent do we in secure, privileged countries care about the plight of the hungry? Where lie the solutions to a growing population and world hunger?
Saturday, October 17, 2009
The DASH diet is the most commonsensical way to health. DASH is an acronym for 'dietary approaches to stop hypertension.'
It generally allows a person to eat from a broad spectrum of foods with a focus upon a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low fat dairy products, nuts, limited red meats, servings of fish, and low doses of sodium. Combined with a little daily exercise, one can expect your blood pressure to drop.
DASH gets the seal of approval from the Heart and Stroke Foundation and the medical community. It also mirrors Canada's Food Guide for sensible eating. It even allows one to indulge in a drink or two.
The DASH diet may be most difficult for people who eat a lot of prepared foods high in sodium and sugar, lead a sedentary lifestyle, and who generally avoid the fresh market section of the grocery store.
DASH to health involves making wise choices, taking some time to prepare nutritious diverse meals, and making sure to enjoy them in small portions with minimum salt. And just maybe there might be some longevity attached.
Friday, October 16, 2009
Vivid memories crash through the jungle with mention of Where the Wild Things Are, the 1963 children's classic by Maurice Sendak. No adult or child can read this book without remembering its tumultuous and emotional journey into fantasy. Now it's a critically acclaimed movie adapted by Spike Jonze and Dave Eggers.
The book contains only nine sentences and begins:
'The night Max wore his wool suit and made mischief of the one kind and another, his mother called him wild thing and Max said, "I'll eat you up." So he was sent to bed without eating anything. That very night in Max's room a forest grew and grew and grew until his ceiling hung with vines and the walls became the world all around and an ocean tumbled by with a private boat for Max and he sailed off over the night and day and in and out of weeks and almost over a year to where the wild things are. And when he came to the place where the wild things are they roared their terrible roars and gnashed their terrible teeth...'
Of course, with the engaging script of the book comes looming artwork of frightful creatures who are subdued by their own frightful boy king.
The enduring outcome of the book is endearing with the boy's own return to supper. Max has made a decision that he will not let his own anger separate him from the love of his mother.
Is the movie as wonderful as the book? David Denby provides an insightful, mixed review of the $80 million movie in The New Yorker.
A trailer for the movie may be seen here. 'Inside all of us is hope,..fear,..adventure,..a wild thing.'
Thursday, October 15, 2009
'The pollutants we pump into our atmosphere are changing its composition and preventing heat from escaping the earth’s surface. Today's atmosphere contains 32 per cent more carbon dioxide, one of the main greenhouse gases, than at the start of the industrial era.' ~ David Suzuki Foundation
One of the most proactive sites regarding climate change and global warming is the David Suzuki Foundation formed in 1990, many years before Al Gore and his 2006 documentary An Inconvenient Truth.
Dr. Suzuki is well known in Canada as a science broadcaster and environmental activist. His CBC television science magazine The Nature of Things is seen in syndication in over forty countries.
The David Suzuki Foundation site provides pertinent perspectives on projects, the science of climate change, the impacts, and alternatives. It invites people to get involved ahead of the UN Climate Summit to be held in Copenhagen in December.
On this Blog Action Day '09 on Climate Change I can think of no better way to address the issue than to endorse David Suzuki and his tireless efforts over the last two decades.
I can still vividly recall his visit to our local high school about ten years ago when he helped students to see the importance of making responsible personal choices about the preservation of the environment and reducing our carbon footprint.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
The fingerprint, believed to be of Leonardo's middle or index finger, was found in the upper right corner of the portrait, and was matched to a print from a painting of St. Jerome in the Vatican.
Martin Kemp, emeritus professor of art history at Oxford and Leonardo specialist, contacted Peter Paul Biro in Montreal and sent him “a small image of a blurry print that looked like a fingerprint, asking me if it compared to anything in my database of Leonardo fingerprints.”
The da Vinci painting was purchased by Peter Silverman in 2007 for $19,000. The estimated value is now $150 million.
This discovery reminds me of the Sanders portrait of William Shakespeare. The painting was discovered in Eastern Canada in 2001. John Sanders is believed to have been a scene painter in Shakespeare's theatre company.
Scientific tests indicate that the frame, paint, and style is consistent with 17th century paintings. The inscription on the back of the painting: 'Shakespere born April 23, 1564, died April 23 1616 aged 52, this likeness taken 1603, age at that time 39 years.' The painting has received extensive analysis and widespread interest, but a conclusive authentication has not been made.
In the high stakes art world expert authentication results in astronomical evaluations.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
In the midst of seasonal thoughts in the northern hemisphere of cornucopias, corn stalks, and pumpkins, I received the World Vision Gift Catalogue for the holiday season.
This catalogue tugs at your heart strings with photos of children in needy countries posing with tangible items of hope: goats, pigs, chickens, sheep, and alpacas, soccer balls, mosquito nets, warm clothes, and school supplies.
There are also opportunities to help a community with seeds, water, immunizations, and small business loans.
'World Vision is a Christian relief, development and advocacy organization dedicated to working with children, families, and communities to overcome poverty.'
In 2008 World Vision Canada spent 82% on programs, 12% on fundraising, and 6% on administration. $360 million was raised with 245,000 items purchased from the gift guide.
The catalogue provides a wonderful opportunity for a family to discuss how they may take part. Children can receive a vivid education about the importance of balancing gifts for self and gifts for the needy. The many tangible options vary in price from $40 for a piglet to $500 for furnishing a classroom.
As well there is the opportunity to sponsor a child for $35 a month.
Several years ago I happily volunteered to take a resounding pie in the face to help raise $3200 for 32 goats. (See photo on sidebar.)
I invite you to spend a few minutes perusing the site and thinking about vital charitable options this upcoming holiday season for your family.
Monday, October 12, 2009
One of the most exotic and remote places on earth is Easter Island, 3,700 kilometers west of Chile in the middle of the South Pacific. It has 887 monumental statues called moai created by the early Rapanui people.
Much of the island is protected as a UNESCO world heritage site and protected within Rapa Nui National Park. This fragile island experienced a massive collapse of its ecosystem which helped to obliterate the rich culture which lived there.
The island has an area of 163 square kilometers made up of several extinct volcanoes. It got its name from a Dutch explorer who arrived there on Easter in 1722.
A recent article in the Economist argues that a surge in tourism is threatening the island once again.
Nova presents some pertinent details about the enigmatic moai statues.
Jared Diamond has written about the criteria around which some societies collapse and is featured in a TED video.
Sunday, October 11, 2009
Celebrated children's author Robert Munsch, 64, has sold 40 million copies of his books. Love you Forever is his most popular and perhaps enduring. Munsch recently disclosed that at age 50 he received treatment for his bipolar disorder and it was a lifeline to renewed creative vitality. "Taking antidepressants didn't interfere with my creativity, the depression interfered with my creativity."
Munsch received his Masters Degree in Anthropology in 1971 and then his Masters of Education in Child Studies. He worked in the Department of Family Studies at the University of Guelph, Ontario as an assistant professor where he began his string of memorable publications including 50 Below Zero, A Promise is a Promise, Alligator Baby...
His latest book Purple, Green and Yellow is Munsch's take on depression. A girl named Brigid draws on her entire body with "super-indelible-never-come-off till-you're-dead-and-maybe-even-later colouring markers" and when she washes, is rendered invisible, much to her mother's horror.
"Don't worry," said Brigid, and she coloured herself all over till she looked perfect. Even better than before," Munsch writes.
It's encouraging to read that a valley of invisibility can lead to leaps of creativity, productivity, and hope.
Saturday, October 10, 2009
People the world over were surprised on Friday morning when they learned that President Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize. Here are some links to the heralded and controversial event:
- The Nobel Prize committee speech:
"The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009 is to be awarded to President Barack Obama for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples. The Committee has attached special importance to Obama's vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons.
"Obama has as President created a new climate in international politics. Multilateral diplomacy has regained a central position, with emphasis on the role that the United Nations and other international institutions can play. Dialogue and negotiations are preferred as instruments for resolving even the most difficult international conflicts. The vision of a world free from nuclear arms has powerfully stimulated disarmament and arms control negotiations. Thanks to Obama's initiative, the USA is now playing a more constructive role in meeting the great climatic challenges the world is confronting. Democracy and human rights are to be strengthened.
"Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future. His diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world's population.
"For 108 years, the Norwegian Nobel Committee has sought to stimulate precisely that international policy and those attitudes for which Obama is now the world's leading spokesman. The Committee endorses Obama's appeal that "Now is the time for all of us to take our share of responsibility for a global response to global challenges."- “I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who have been honored by this prize, men and women who’ve inspired me and inspired the entire world through their courageous pursuit of peace.” However, President Obama said he would “accept this award as a call to action, a call for all nations to confront the challenges of the 21st century.” Mr. Obama plans to travel to Oslo to accept the award on Dec. 10. He will donate the prize money of $1.4 million to charity, the White House said. ~NYT article
- Will the award help his peace efforts or be an albatross around his neck? Guardian
- Obama deserves the Nobel ~ Globe and Mail
-Who cares who wins the Nobel Peace Prize? ~ Slate
- A better choice: Neda Agha-Soltan of Iran? ~ The Washington Post
This award seems to have created a lot of controversy. I am on the positive side. Obama has made so many inspired speeches already in his first nine months on back to school and education, health reform, his Cairo speech to the Muslim world, his Ghana speech to the African continent, Europe and his Berlin speech... His key note addresses so far are a road map for a more just and compassionate world. I wish him well.
Friday, October 9, 2009
What would your ideal school look like? Design the school of the future – but do it now!
Tania Sheko, a school librarian in Victoria, Australia, provides a marvellous post in answer to this question at Brave New World. She is host to the GPS (Green Pen Society) this month.
Her theme is applicable not only to impassioned teachers, concerned parents, and eager students, but to anyone who cares about vital learning. All of us have memories of our classroom experiences and the great and not so great teachers we had. Teachers aside, Tania asks us to focus on the physical building and think about ideal aspects for learning.
I have taught in a traditional high school building for over thirty years and toured several newer structures. Here are my ideal considerations:
- Aesthetics: The facade of the building and features throughout the school reflect some creativity of colour, design, and style.
- Light: The school should bring in natural light features into the foyer, cafeteria, library, classrooms... It can save energy and provide an antitode to flourescent light sterility.
- Space: Areas should be designed which provide freedom of movement and efficient use of space.
- Furniture: The desks, tables, chairs, counters are ergonomically comfortable and conducive to some flexibility for learning applications.
-Green: The building incorporates environmental and energy efficient technologies.
- Community Friendly: The school is a welcome place for incorporation of community activities in the evening and weekends. Dave Eggers, 826 Valencia TED talk
- Multiuse: Gymnasiums and cafeterias provide diversity of use for theatre, exhibits, activities.
- Web 2.0 Friendly: The libraries and classrooms provide welcome areas to utilize the full scale of Internet applications for learning.
Generally the ambiance of an ideal school reflects learning as vital, interactive, and empowering.
Now head on over to Brave New World and read Tania's post. It's insightful and enlightening!
Also you are most welcome to reflect on her topic and join the discussion. Leave a comment to express your interest.
Image: Drawing of Dr. David Suzuki School under construction
Thursday, October 8, 2009
With so much attention on The Biggest Loser on TV these days, there is the suggestion that many people do not have a regular exercise regimen of any kind. Indeed, we have to be careful in creating stereotypes, but generally there are many people, large and small, young and old, who could benefit from a regular work out.
Interesting that 80% of fitness equipment that people buy becomes a clothes horse after three weeks.
Fit in 15 was developed by the Canadian Chiropractic Association to encourage those chronic couch potatoes to get something going or moving. It offers stretches, and strengthening exercises of different muscle groups. It's not the 5BX plan of the Royal Canadian Air Force but it's a start.
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Young Canadians need to "think twice" about how much personal information they post on the Internet and take responsibility for how they live their online lives. Jennifer Stoddart, Canada's privacy commissioner, delivered her blunt message when she tabled her annual report to Parliament on October 6.
"Many young people are choosing to open their lives in ways their parents would have thought impossible and their grandparents unthinkable."
"Their lives play out on a public stage of their own design as they strive for visibility, connectedness and knowledge."
But, "putting so much of their personal information out into the open can also...leave an enduring trail of embarrassing moments that could haunt them in the future."
Stoddart singles out two emerging issues of concern: behavioural advertising (monitoring people's online behaviour), and deep packet inspection (an Internet traffic management tool).
Youth researchers commend Stoddart and the government commission in speaking to young people in a direct, respectful way."
"This is not a message that government can be heavy-handed about. It has to be respectful of the fact that this is the standard of communication that young people are going to grow up with."
The annual report also singles out the commissioner's high profile investigation involving Facebook. In addressing the commission's concerns about how private information is shared to third parties, Facebook agreed in August to make changes in compliance with Canada's privacy laws.
The website of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada also has an interactive link for young people entitled My Privacy/My Choice/My Life.
It's a lesson for all: think before you click.
Photo: Jennifer Stoddart
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Perhaps what's happening at St. Clair College in Windsor, Ontario is an example of a worldwide trend. College enrollment is up 19% this year in the midst of the economic downturn.
Especially if there are few good job opportunities, there is no better investment than to upgrade one's skills and perspectives for improved chances of landing that ideal job in the future.
Of course, students want to position themselves in the right niche program that will promise bountiful opportunities when they graduate.
One program attracting attention at St. Clair is the accelerated paralegal program. Recent Ontario regulations require a specific license; also paralegals can now work on small claims cases up to $25,000 compared to $10,000 thus providing the potential for more work.
Certainly one can't go wrong in choosing focused programs in the areas of computers, health care, science, and technology. Also many Baby Boomers are retiring over the next few years leaving a chasm of job opportunities.
One wonders: what are the special niche college programs today which engage students and which ensure bright job opportunities for the future?
Finally along with the expedient considerations about college education how about the Top Ten Bizarre College Courses?
Monday, October 5, 2009
Tai chi has its roots in the 11th century within both Taoism and Confucianism. It strives for the balance of the opposing forces of yin and yang, of finding one's true center.
The 'soft' martial art concentrates on relieving the physical effects of stress on body and mind through a series of focused exercises. Research has shown that the discipline can improve balance, flexibility, and cardiovascular fitness. Stroke patients can show quick improvement through the discipline. It may also hold a key to longevity.
Tai chi is the fastest growing exercise in North America along with yoga.
The local chapter of the Taoist Tai Chi Society celebrated its 20th anniversary recently. One member said, "It doesn't look like much when you see it, but it's a very thorough and disciplined form of exercise."
'Most importantly, tai chi gives us the ability to realise a greater human potential in ourselves and to have genuine compassion for others. Tai chi, with its gentle strength, moves us closer to feeling more truly alive. ' ~ Bruce Frantzis
Sunday, October 4, 2009
I marvel at some architects who can create dramatic, memorable statements with their creations.
Indeed, there is the combination of left and right brain attributes (the analytical and creative) to formulate their masterpieces.
Increasingly educational, scientific, mathematical, and business thinkers are saying that it is good to stimulate both sides of the brain. Within that exciting interaction is a catalyst for energized, dynamic thinking.
Fred H. Schlegel makes a good case for left/right brain interaction in a business model: 'When right brain and left brain argue interesting things develop."
Or using left brain and right brain/means whole brain.
Or the importance of divergent and convergent thinking.
Think about the diverse areas where left/right brain thinking provides exciting possibilities and products!
Photo Image: Frank Lloyd Wright's Falling Water
Saturday, October 3, 2009
How does one create a culture of giving?
Canadian businessman and philanthropist Seymour Schulich has just given $20 million to Dalhousie law school; that puts his life time charitable giving to about $250 million, largely to Canadian campuses.
Schulich caused some stir recently when he suggested that some rich Canadians are not pulling their weight. It raises questions about the nature of philanthropy in Canada and the giving habits of not only the super rich but middle class as well.
Toronto philanthropist Jim Fleck said the habit of giving is something Canadians need to cultivate. "Some think they are going to be able to take it with them."
According to statistics the top 10% of donors account for more than half of all giving.
Schulich says, "Giving is a method where wealthy people can create a legacy, and they can divert their money to things they think are important and reduce their tax bill doing it."
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation comes to mind as a multibillion dollar philanthropy.
Boulder County, Colorado has established The Community Foundation and is building a 'culture of giving.'
Let me suggest 10 conditions/criteria necessary to create a culture of giving:
- Example: the most powerful motivation can come from seeing others give
- Humility: often the most meaningful gifts are conveyed without spotlights
- Interpersonal: the gift has a direct application to people
- Education: children, teens, adults see the needs and the options
- Community: if people can rally around a common cause the money and actions will flow
- Compassion: religious, moral, values training
- Communication: getting the word out
- Egalitarian: philanthropy can be practised by everyone, rich or poor
- Incentives: social recognition, tax benefit...
- Sincerity: philanthropy comes from the heart
What have I missed? How important is giving to you?
Personally, the refugees which just arrived in our community last week is moving testament to giving selflessly.
Image from Gates Foundation.
(Good seeds; better lives for poor.)
Friday, October 2, 2009
Several notable events have intersected in my life this past week. One is our church sponsored refugees have arrived. The other is I am teaching ESL (English as a Second Language) several evenings a week through a joint sponsored federal and provincial program.
The Palestinian family of seven, including children with ages of 5,6,12, 17, and 18, arrived from Syria last Wednesday where they spent 5 years in a refugee camp in the desert. The father had worked in Iraq where he was separated from this family for several years. The children have some schooling. The oldest graduated from high school there and hopes to go to college some day. I am involved in getting the whole family enrolled at school. First they receive a TB test before they can be registered and their immunization records are reviewed.
The church is financially obligated to support the family for the first year. They moved into a comfortable 3 bedroom two story townhouse complex. Groups of volunteers have furnished the house and provided them with all the necessities including bikes and toys for the children. Plans are moving ahead for telephone and cable service. Regular shopping trips with transportation is coordinated along with appointments with a doctor, setting up their own bank account, etc.
Their immediate response to their arrival was pleasant and enthusiastic. They are looking forward to school and learning English and are grateful for their comfortable home and care. The eldest sent an email to friends and family in Syria expressing their safe and happy arrival.
The Mennonite Central Committee refugee assistance program works in step with Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
Secondly I meet with my class of 10-12 ESL students several evenings a week. The parents of our refugee family will be attending the same facility in the mornings where I teach. As a retired high school English teacher this assignment is shifting gears in perspective somewhat, but there is still the goal of energized learning. I hope I can provide meaningful connections. These new immigrants see English proficiency as a key to opportunities within their new country.
I will post occasionally about the family's progress. (The two teddy bears are gifts given to the children upon arrival.)
Thursday, October 1, 2009
Ken Burns' 12 hour, six part film The National Parks: America's Best Idea, televised on PBS this week, is enthralling television. It chronicles the birth of the national park idea in the mid 1800's and follows its evolution for 150 years. Also the film includes archival photographs, first person accounts, and over 40 interviews.
It's apparent that for Burns this series became an all-consuming passion, particularly coming after his gruelling emotional odyssey of his sweeping Second World War documentary, The War. Burns found a restorative in going back to nature. He spent six years visiting many of the pivotal parks like Yosemite, Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, and the Everglades and capturing some wonderful footage.
In the first installment entitled the 'Scripture of Nature':
"People rich and poor, famous and unknown, soldiers and scientists, natives and newcomers, idealists, artists and entrepreneurs, people willing to devote themselves to saving some precious portion of the land they loved, and in doing so, reminded their fellow citizens of the full meaning of democracy."
Jarring for me was to see images of the sweep of 'civilization' to tame the land and harvest its precious resources including virgin growth sequoia. Profit was (is?) more sacred than nature for many.
Also the pivotal role of John Muir and President Theodore Roosevelt at the end of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries is very well documented.
The DVD, book, and other assorted materials such as lesson plans can be purchased here.
The national parks website provides an introduction to America's 58 parks. The 'find a park' feature is very convenient by clicking on states on the map. Also you may go to national parks.org.
Image: Soldiers guarding Yosemite National Park, 1899