Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Do you enjoy satire? The genre of humorous criticism has its place in literature, drama, and the media. The Onion is one such venue described as America's 'finest news source.'
Here is a sample from a recent article.
"A new report from the Food and Drug Administration has found that breakfast, once considered the most important meal of the day, has now slipped to sixth place, below brunch and just above midnight snack. "Significant gains by lunch and dessert badly damaged breakfast's standing in the late 1990s," culinary analyst Myron Jeffries said. "Add to that the blockbuster debut of second-breakfast in 2007 and a renewed interest in leftover-pizza pre-lunch, and breakfast is in a downward spiral it may never recover from. Especially considering the popularity of super-brunch." The makers of Eggo frozen waffles reportedly expressed no concern at the news, as waffle-dinner is still holding strong at #3."
It's time to rethink the exalted place breakfast has enjoyed all these years. I personally value the green tea and cucumber post lunch, or the mixed nut post dinner and rate them above the leftover-pizza pre-lunch.
Of course, we all have our preferences.
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
These two blogs are an enjoyable ongoing daily project. At 365 Quote Quest I list a quote and ask several rhetorical questions for reflection- a quoteflection.
For example, from April 27 the quotation is:
Not knowing when the dawn will come, I open every door. ~ Emily Dickinson
- Serendipity is to be open to the small gifts around us. When was the last time you experienced it?
- Think of the different sources of serendipity.
- Dawn also may suggest a rebirth, rejuvenation, a revelation, or epiphany. Expand upon how you can become more open to the dawn.
At 365 Word Quest I am going through the dictionary and finding words which are interesting in their origin and meaning. One such word from February 21 is:
amulet- a trinket or piece of jewellery worn as a protection against evil, a charm
- C17 from Latin amuletum
To love is the great amulet that makes this world a garden. ~ Robert Louis Stevenson
I invite you to take a look at these blogs. Are there any words or quotes which jump out at you?
Glen Barry, head of Ecological Internet, says we are "very,very concerned about the state of the planet. It is my analysis that we have passed the carrying capacity of the Earth, that in several matters we have crossed different ecosystem tipping points or are near doing so."
In an interview with Mongabay, a rainforest conservation site, Barry continues, "It's very likely that the global ecological system is going to collapse. It's not even very likely: it's certain. If we cross thresholds, including the loss of intact terrestrial ecosystems which include primary rainforest and other forests, we are going to face an ecological collapse..."
Barry describes his approach as global grassroots advocacy. It's taking local environmental issues and internationalizing them, sometimes called the 'boomerang effect.' "This can really help those local people to have a larger voice." They currently have a network of over 100,000 people.
Ecological Internet has also become known in environmental circles for harshly criticizing larger conservation groups which have allowed primary deforestation. As the Papua New Guinea World Bank rainforest specialist for four years, Barry saw the continued carnage.
“I just reached a point personally where if I was going to work on this for any longer, I was going to work to end this desecration of 60-million-year-old rainforests for, in some cases, toilet paper and lawn furniture.”
The article encourages one to reflect on the continued loss of the world's precious biodiversity which is present within these ancient and beautiful forests.
Monday, June 28, 2010
"Oh, I like the colour. You requested this sapphire blue? It'll never be confused with my pink flamingo adventure I use twice a day."
"And the hygienist asked me what flavour fluoride I wanted: grape, berry, bubblegum,... You'd think she'd know by now just plain or mint."
"Oh, live a little; when's the last time you cracked a Dubble Bubble?"
"And the worst part of it, this gem of a tooth brush has soft bristles. I said I wanted hard, the stiffer the better. But she said that research shows that soft is better for your teeth and gums."
"But softer edges become you, George."
"I know where I'll keep this brush. The same place where I put the last few- in the garbage."
"Oh, no you don't. Not this time. Have you forgotten that a grandchild is on the way? Your grandson will have this when he sleeps over in a few years and forgets to bring one; our blue sapphire."
"On second thought...this one's mine; my amber friend can now help clean the crevices in my Oxfords. Got to keep my pearlies healthy for the time when I tell him about my first visit to the dentist..."
(Hey, a little creative writing is fun and I like to play at Magpie Tales. You may want to join too.)
Daily Tao.org provides a quote to counter this assumption.
Do you want to improve the world?
I don't think it can be done.
The world is sacred.
It can't be improved.
If you tamper with it, you'll ruin it.
If you treat it like an object, you'll lose it.
There is a time for being ahead,
a time for being behind;
a time for being in motion,
a time for being at rest; a time for being vigorous,
a time for being exhausted;
a time for being safe,
a time for being in danger.
The Master sees things as they are,
without trying to control them.
She lets them go their own way,
and resides at the center of the circle.
-To what extent should one seek detachment from social problems?
-Is there a middle ground between acceptance of life's anxieties and challenges and a commitment to help to alleviate some of the needs which exist?
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Saturday, June 26, 2010
Nicholas Carr asked two years ago in an article for The Atlantic Monthly if Google is making us stupid. In it he suggested that the Internet has changed the way we read text and actually is reshaping our neural circuitry and how we process information.
Now Carr has come out with a new book based on that Atlantic article, The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains.
According to an excellent essay in the Globe he "puts his finger on the dark irony of the tech age: In the search for unlimited information and connectivity, we have also provided ourselves with an infinite scope for distraction. Or as Carr puts it: 'When carried into the realm of the intellect, the industrial ideal of efficiency poses a potentially mortal threat to the pastoral ideal of contemplative thought.'"
In other words "Carr isn't saying technology is evil – he's saying that sometimes, in order to think properly, we need to cut ourselves off. In other words, a well-rounded mind requires a delicate balance of speed and deliberation."
It's interesting to think about if we are achieving a proper balance in our lifestyle in acquiring and processing quality information and finding meaning.
Thursday, June 24, 2010
Today I'm helping with the final touches for my wife's retirement party after 34 years of teaching. We are having a garden reception in our backyard after school. She will now join me one year after my departure from teaching.
It's hard to describe what a career in education has meant for us. We began together in 1976; she in junior elementary, I in high school. For both of us teaching was in our blood; we were dedicated to it and it may be a surprise to read but it was always near the top of our life priority list. We both dreamt up viable lessons, tried to reach all of our students regardless of their ability, ignited the passion for learning, evaluated fairly and strategically, and worked far more than 'teachers' hours' because we loved our profession.
I drove to the school to get an easel and projector screen yesterday morning. I could feel the anticipation there as her staff and friends have planned quite a roast and tribute for her this evening. She has been given accolades several times already at school functions attended by parents. We have taught several generations of students and then their own children.
An example of my wife's passion for teaching came this morning. She needed to bring our spade to bury the treasure. Her Grade 2's have been studying pirates and today they're going on a treasure hunt including crossing an alligator swamp, traversing a dry desert, and confronting hidden dangers in the rain forest.
For some of you new to quoteflections I include links to several posts I gave at my own retirement in June 2008 before becoming a part time consultant. Teacher Retirement: The Top Ten Reasons,and Teacher Retirement: Top Ten Artifacts.
Many thoughts and feelings arise at this pivotal time in one's life...
Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire. ~William Butler Yeats
I still have fond memories of the family clothesline. My mother would choose a sunny, breezy day to flap dry those cottons without a wrinkle. Now clotheslines are about as rare as ruffled peacocks because of city codes which call them unsightly. As well, the modern family has no time to air dry when a super powered appliance wins in the convenience department.
Thanks to Levi Strauss &Co. the clothesline may about to experience a renaissance. It is sponsoring the Care to Air Design Challenge which "seeks the world's most innovative, covetable, and sustainable air-drying solution for clothing."
"Your favorite pair of jeans consumes energy throughout its life cycle, giving this fashion staple a carbon footprint. On average, almost 60% of the climate impact comes during the consumer phase. Nearly 80% of that is due to the energy intensive method consumers choose for drying." Levi Strauss is doing its part to reduce its carbon footprint, and now it wants the consumer to get involved.
The $10,000 prize should stimulate some creative designs which are due by July 31.
It's interesting that the contest uses the word 'covetable.' Will more people be enticed one way or the other to dry their wash through innovative, green products?
Labels: environment, conservation, proactive, design
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
I respect Roger Ebert's movie reviews. He's a sage with all that seasoned perspective. Consider his thoughts about the latest romantic action comedy, Knight and Day, starring Cameron Diaz and Tom Cruise.
Ebert gives it a 3 stars out of 4 but has some reservations:
- "Have summer audiences been so hammered down by special effects that they require noise and fragmented visuals to hold their interest? Is it still possible to delight in a story unfolding with charm and wit?
- The wonder is that Cruise and Diaz are effective enough in their roles that they're not overwhelmed by all the commotion surrounding them.
- They never seriously discuss their situation. They spend half the movie in dire danger. Thousands of bullets miss them. By motorcycle, car, train, airplane and parachute, they survive anything.
- So I applaud the movie, and I observe that Diaz has one of the most winning grins in the movies. Basically, what I wanted was more of it. Some of that Cary Grant dialogue. More flirtation. More of a feeling the characters, not the production, were the foreground. More of the stars because movie stars really do make a difference. I insist on it."
Ebert's review encourages one to think about the great movies one has seen where the characters are at the forefront with wonderful scripts. And, we may lament that too many modern movies confuse special effects and frenetic editing with movie magic.
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
We still have our clunky old power meter. However, by the end of the year we will join everyone in Ontario with a shining new Smart Meter as seen in the photo.
These monitors are very efficient in communicating via wireless technology when and how much energy is being used. There is an incentive to use more discretionary energy during off peak hours with the reward of lower rates.
However, the Ontario Information and Privacy Commissioner is concerned about all this vigilance when eventually the Smart Grid will enable power companies to map one's entire energy and water use of all appliances.
"All of this information, if compiled, forms a library of personal data relating to your usage patterns inside the household. In the past, this information was sacrosanct." Her office has produced guidelines entitled Privacy by Design, written with input by the energy companies.
The Smart Meter is just one more way that people may leave a digital footprint. Your computer use, the emails, the places you browse, social media, the information you leave on websites, your telephone records, the location of your home, the places you visit with your car, your energy record is a vast umbrella of information.
It encourages one to think about if we are happy with all this information in the hands of others and what kinds of restrictions need to exist.
Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty; power is ever stealing from the many to the few. ~ Wendell Phillips
Monday, June 21, 2010
In the cold of the shortest day at noon
he scratched a notch in the weathered barn board
where the peak of the bird feeder cast its shadow.
As days and weeks passed, he stopped to see
the progress of the sun as it threaded its way higher in the sky
and cast a lower shadow at the peak of day.
On June 21 he took out the knife again
and etched once more-
this time for the summer solstice.
High and low, low and high-
The interplay of shadow and sigh;
Filled with daily notches of struggles and joys,
jealousies and cares,
loneliness and companionship,
defeats and victories.
As the sun etches a trail on its journey of light,
How much radiance do we?
This is a submission to Magpie Tales #19, writing around the theme of the above illustration.
Labels: Summer, Winter Solstice, poetry, reflection,
Sunday, June 20, 2010
Besides the Great Wall, China has a far more ubiquitous 'Great Firewall of China' which blocks information coming into the country which is deemed offensive. For those vigilant regulators, it's not called censorship but the "guidance of public opinion."
Chinese Internet users often say that a website has been "harmonized," a euphemistic way to say that content has been shaped to adhere to the Communist Party's goal of building a "harmonious society."
An article lists some of the words which are blocked in searches: brainwash, censorship, civil movement, Cultural Revolution, Dalai Lama, dissident, exile, revolution, scripture, state security, Taiwan/Tibet independence, truth, Falun Gong...
"The scariest thing is that Chinese censorship does not have a list of dirty words which leaves journalists and web personnel nervous about how far they can go."
One scholar writes, "There are no explicit bad words, but the system really works by instilling fear."
Chinese filters and censorship encourages one to think about to what extent there are biases and subtle influences in the media for us all.
Saturday, June 19, 2010
I made a love seat out of the trunk of a fifty year old oak tree. The patriarch had blown down when a tornado swept through the area several weeks ago. I retrieved several pieces after helping a friend clean up his yard one evening. It occurred to me that this feature in a shady section of my garden is a fitting memorial to a beautiful tree and also to my father who passed away 10 years ago.
He was an oak tree steadfast in his love, playful amidst the tedium of the day, protective in the face of insecurities, diligent in his financial support for the family, determined to pursue an integral life, and generous with the freedom to grow.
It occurred to me that good fathers live out their vital connection with the family daily. It's a matter of actions and will, the authentic pursuit of a life worth emulating.
Labels: Father's Day, 2010, quotes, quotation,
Technology inevitably makes products obsolete in a short period of time. Some ideas hang on for a little while past their expiry date. Consider telephone books, the yellow pages, mail order catalogues...books?
For example, the Yellow Pages industry is a $14 billion dollar business, 97% of which comes from the print editions.
Some will make good arguments that the paper options are still needed, but it makes one wonder whether this coffee table is a good metaphor for our times.
As well as recycling, perhaps the most sensible strategy in reducing paper use is taking proactive steps of source reduction.
Images: 1 and 2.
Friday, June 18, 2010
There's a funny video of two guys playing a Monopoly game in 40 seconds. It's an exhilerating option to the marathons that may take 4 hours.
Life is like that. There are some days when all the answers come bing/bing and our lives are on cruise control. Other days, however, there is a nagging problem or dilemma which cannot easily be resolved. Or an unexpected event changes one's plans for the day or for the forseeable future.
The oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico is a disaster of horrific proportions. Millions of barrels of oil are sitting at the surface or congealing in vast globs beneath waiting for currents and storms to unleash an ugly assault.
It's not a quick fix.
Dan at Mindful Heart writes about this mortal 'hemorrhage' and includes a link to an address by Chief Arvol Looking Horse. June 21st is a day to meditate on this disaster.
"...We ask for prayers that the oil spill, this bleeding, will stop. That the winds stay calm to assist in the work. Pray for the people to be guided in repairing this mistake, and that we may also seek to live in harmony, as we make the choice to change the destructive path we are on...."
When will we help to preserve, more than damage, our fragile environment on so many fronts?
Thursday, June 17, 2010
The Daily Mail went under cover to write an incisive article about the 'Chinese suicide sweatshops' which make Apple's iPod and iPad. Two sprawling factories in Shenzhen work around the clock seven days a week with 15 hour shifts to keep up with the demand.
Foxconn employs 420,000 workers and houses them in sprawling prison like dorms with triple decked bunk beds and single bamboo mats.
One worker said, "There are just three points to your life: going to work, coming home from work, and sleeping...There's no entertainment, no TV, with 12 workers in my dorm."
The day begins with the Chinese national anthem over loudspeakers. "Arise, arise, arise millions of hearts with one mind."
"As part of this Orwellian control, the public address system relays propaganda such as how many products have been made, how a new basketball court has been built for the workers, and why workers should 'value efficiency every minute every second.'"
Ironically Apple is enjoying exponential growth while these working conditions exist for so many. And yet this is just one company of many who have exploited cheap overseas labour to provide westerners with our glamorous and cutting edge products. Also these impoverished workers have largely been relegated as migrant workers who leave their families and communities to earn a little money at considerable sacrifice.
This article encourages one to think about the true human cost involved.
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Vulnerability is usually not considered a virtue these days. But William Shatner, who is known more for his machismo and bravado, admits that being vulnerable has been an important life lesson.
He received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Banff World Television Festival yesterday and his address was quite introspective.
"My life was a series of pools of loneliness [from] which every so often I was able to emerge with some companionship, and subdue that dreadful feeling that had dogged me for much of my life. And frequently even with the kudos I was receiving, I was not happy with the private part of my existence. But slowly I changed. The drill that life puts you through can make you or break you and fortunately I became more comfortable with relationships and slowly evolved in reaching out to friends and family.”
Shatner suggested that he is doing well now, but that life has been a struggle. “My lifetime achievement award in my opinion is really the slow acquisition of the ability to be vulnerable and needy and to be able to accept love as well as give.”
William Shatner is best known for his role as Captain James Kirk on Star Trek and more recently in The Practice and Boston Legal.
Another post on vulnerability looks at several other meaningful quotes including one by Leo Buscaglia,
"The most human thing we have to do in life is to learn to speak our honest convictions and feelings and live with the consequences. This is the first requirement of love, and it makes us vulnerable to other people who may ridicule us. But our vulnerability is the only thing we can give to other people."
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
I can recall several essays in the 60's predicting that society in the future will have much more leisure time with 32 hour work weeks and more opportunities to pursue enriching activities.
However, a report released this week suggests that Canadians are caught in a time crunch and the dream of a leisure society is disappearing.
Families are caught between caring for children and elderly parents, and stressed by jobs that require weekend and evening work; the average person is more likely to turn to the television or the computer for entertainment than to take a walk in the woods or play pick-up hockey or volunteer in community initiatives.
"In short, the hours that Canadians spend refreshing their minds and their bodies through leisure and cultural activities – and moments shared with family – are being condensed and it’s affecting their well-being."
The report by the Canadian Index of Wellbeing is called 'Caught in the Time Crunch: Time Use, Leisure and Culture in Canada.'
In a Globe and Mail article one mother said,“If the house burns down, bring the calendar." Most of us would probably express similar dependence.
The report offers a number of recommendations. Among other things, it suggests a need for more family-friendly work policies such as flex hours and more vacation time, better supports for people caring for children and parents, more walkable neighbourhoods, and increased engagement of volunteers.
These findings encourages one to think about how well we are handling this time crunch and whether or not we are finding a proper balance.
Monday, June 14, 2010
Is there any surprise that grass fed cows produce much healthier milk?
Studies have shown that cows on a diet of fresh grass produce milk with five times as much of an unsaturated fat called conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) than cows fed processed grains.
Now a paper focused on the grass fed cows in Costa Rica, one of the last places where they are grazed extensively. It found of 4000 people that those with the highest concentrations of CLAs - the top fifth among all participants - had a 36% lower risk of heart attack compared to those with the lowest concentrations.
"Whole-fat milk and dairy products have gotten such a bad reputation in recent years due to their saturated fat and cholesterol contents, and now we find that CLA may be incredibly health-promoting," says Michelle McGuire, spokesperson for the journal's publication the American Society for Nutrition.
This report seems to confirm a wide range of studies which suggest that factory farms, where animals are penned and fed processed grains and antibiotics, compromise the quality of the product for consumers.
As an anecdote my family can attest to the tasty chicken dinners we enjoyed on the farm. They were raised in our chicken coop but had the occasional roost out in the pasture. Nothing comes close to that flavour today and perhaps the health benefits.
But those old days on the farm will not be coming back?
Sunday, June 13, 2010
In late spring I usually see a painted turtle or two come from the stream onto our yard. It's always a notable event with their glossy etched shell and undersides painted in the most vibrant colours.
Yesterday morning I opened our basement door to ascend the six steps to our garage. But I was stopped in my tracks. There was a painted turtle at the door. What motivated him to come to this spot and stumble down six steps about 60 meters from the stream?
This time of year the females seek a sunny, sandy spot to lay their eggs. Did she get sidetracked and take a wrong turn to end up here? I picked her up and returned her to the water to resume her journeys. I was moved by this chance encounter and overcome with the respect and mystery for this beautiful painted turtle.
How strange that Nature does not knock, and yet does not intrude! ~Emily Dickinson
I believe that there is a subtle magnetism in Nature, which, if we unconsciously yield to it, will direct us aright. ~Henry David Thoreau
Saturday, June 12, 2010
Ernest Henley wrote the poem 'Invictus' in 1875 while he lay in the hospital after his leg was amputated below the knee because of tuberculosis of the bone.
The poem looks at depression, resiliency, and hope. Despite difficult circumstances we can be master of our fate...
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
The movie was based on the book Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game that Made a Nation by John Carlin.
Friday, June 11, 2010
That Christmas one of our gifts was a 500 piece puzzle set with a commemorative tin of the royal couple, deemed a fairy tale wedding.
Today the tin still has a valued place on one of our bookshelves. A couple with youth, expectancy, vibrancy, and hope....
Juxtapose this photo of Charles and Diana with the commemorative cup of May, 1937 when King George VI took the throne at Westminster Abbey. After a tumultuous year, he replaced his older brother Edward VIII who abdicated to marry twice divorced American socialite Wallis Simpson.
Vital lives, even those of royalty, can be threatened by calamity.
This is a submission to Magpie #18, a site devoted to a weekly writing cue. In this case it's the picture of a piece of regal memorabilia dated May 1937. Thanks, Willow.
The world would be a boring place if we all acted and thought in the same way. It's interesting to look at several personality models to distinguish between the way people think and act.
First there is DISC, a four quadrant behavioural model which distinguishes between different styles and preferences. Jo at Majority of Two provides an interesting overview and reflection of the four styles:
-Dominance – relating to control, power and assertiveness. People who score high in the intensity of the "D" styles factor are very active in dealing with problems and challenges.
-Influence – relating to social situations and communication. People with high "I" scores influence others through talking and activity and tend to be emotional. They are described as convincing, magnetic, political, enthusiastic, persuasive, warm, demonstrative, trusting, and optimistic.
-Steadiness – relating to patience, persistence, and thoughtfulness. People with high "S" styles scores want a steady pace, security, and do not like sudden change. High "S" individuals are calm, relaxed, patient, possessive, predictable, deliberate, stable, consistent, and tend to be unemotional and poker faced.
-Conscientiousness – relating to structure and organization.People with high "C" styles adhere to rules, regulations, and structure. They like to do quality work and do it right the first time. High "C" people are careful, cautious, exacting, neat, systematic, diplomatic, accurate, and tactful.
Then there is the colors system developed by Don Lowry. In simplified form:
- Green- a thinker, always analyzing
- Blue- inspiring people and building their self esteem
- Gold- always on time and keeping everyone else on time
- Orange- thrives on entertaining and persuading people
Several more conceptual models are Keirsey, and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator which explores the rational thinking and feeling versus the irrational sensing and intuition as well as attributes which distinguish between introversion and extroversion.
These workshops and books can sometimes be tedious, but they certainly can help in providing perspective on:
- one's own temperament, personality, and interests
- a perspective on what engages and motivates other people
- an understanding of the diverse learning and communication styles
- a foundation for improved interaction with others
- a vehicle for personal affirmation and completion
Thursday, June 10, 2010
Bonnie at Original Art Studio is a psychotherapist who writes a thoughtful post about Erik Erikson who developed a progressive theory about the tasks required of a human being in the various stages of life. Erikson was a developmental psychologist and psychoanalyst.
As a parent, retired teacher, and expectant grandfather (new exciting revelation), the post really got me thinking about the key developmental stages of life and how a person progresses through them. Of course, parents, teachers, and the village are crucial for children and teens as they develop.
As a high school teacher did I help adolescents see themselves as unique and help them to become vital citizens in the community? Certainly I saw my share of teenage angst which is a natural part of maturing.
For adults, their three stages are also meaningful. For example, in middle age one weighs the qualities of generativity and self-absorption, a concern for family and society in general versus a concern only for one's own well being and prosperity.
For each of the stages it is important for the individual to weigh both sides before reaching an outcome. Effective parents and teachers should help the child reach the desired outcomes.
Erikson also sees life stage virtues arising out of each of the 8 levels: hope, will, purpose, competence, fidelity, love, caring, and wisdom.
Bonnie writes, "It can be an informative exercise to ponder the years of your life in light of Erikson's stages to get an idea of whether or not you were able to favorably master the psycho/social competencies of each stage of life."
I personally find this perspective useful as I consider my own development and I think it provides a useful window for all parents, teachers, and care givers.
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
We've read about teaching children about financial planning. How about giving?
Now the two concepts can be integrated with dual piggy banks. One "introduces the notion of charity and directs attention toward others less fortunate." The other larger bank is for a child's personal savings. The two nestled together are a reminder that generosity and wealth can be integrated in a person's life.
Of course, there are more ways to teach a child about giving. A child sponsorship, for example, is an excellent nodding presence, or simply a parent's involvement in community projects communicates a lot. Indeed, actions speak louder than words.
I still remember the thrill of filling several piggy banks. Often the money came from regular chores around the farm. Then the excitement of emptying the edifice and going to the store brought a sense of satisfaction and reward.
'My year of giving' is an enlightening blog of one mother's efforts to provide a clear example for her children.
How were you taught, or how do you teach philanthropy to your children?
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
I shake my head when I read about using grain as fuel. Or see a new SUV using 'Flexfuel' , an ethanol based gasoline. Ethanol is far from a 'green' product.
A comprehensive study by Michigan State University concludes, "Using productive farmland to grow crops for food instead of fuel is more energy efficient."
"It's 36 percent more efficient to grow grain for food than for fuel," said Ilya Gelfand, an MSU postdoctoral researcher and lead author of the study. "The ideal is to grow corn for food, then leave half the leftover stalks and leaves on the field for soil conservation and produce cellulosic ethanol with the other half."
The U.S. Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 calls for biofuels to comprise 22 percent of the nation's transportation fuels by 2022.
One area of potential is the biofuel made from biomass from both "climate mitigation and economic perspectives. But the promise could come up short if we don't pay attention to details such as the land on which they are grown." The report stresses that good farmland should grow food, and more marginal farmland be used for biomass production.
Another article is also skeptical of using grain as fuel. "From an agricultural vantage point, the world's appetite for crop-based fuels is insatiable. The grain required to fill an SUV's 25-gallon tank with ethanol just once will feed one person for a whole year. If the entire U.S. grain harvest were to be converted to ethanol, it would satisfy at most 18 percent of U.S. automotive fuel needs."
Ultimately "The choice is between a future of rising world food prices, spreading hunger, and growing political instability and one of more stable food prices, sharply reduced dependence on oil, and much lower carbon emissions."
Monday, June 7, 2010
At 3 a.m. on Sunday a tornado swept through my home town of Leamington causing millions in damage. We walked through the carnage along the lake front that afternoon. At Seacliff Park and along the lake 100 year old oak trees lay in a splintered mass, and homes and cars were bashed in by the heavy trunks.
Eight hours before, we picnicked under the shelter of a treed canopy at the marina;now all the trees in that very spot have toppled over.
Farms in the nearby countryside lost barns and greenhouses to the F1 tornado which packed winds up to 175 kilometers an hour. Fortunately there was no loss of life and few injuries. Some had heard the sound of an 'approaching freight train' and scrambled for the basement while it passed overhead.
Events like this encourages one to think about the natural disasters which affect us all. These events may occur quite sporadically and rarely, but they are remembered for years to come.
It's also during tumultuous times that a quote such as this is meaningful:
Most human beings have an almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted. ~Aldous Huxley
Sunday, June 6, 2010
A startling new vista
The revelation from a friend
A surprise announcement in the family
Caught in the melody of an inspiring lyric
Receiving a distinguished award
A movie giving more than you expected
Reading a book with a vivid image
Like whispering pines beside a street vendor
Your pet jumping on your lap for a warm cuddle
A boss commending you for a job well done
Or teacher enlightening your quest
Or finding a path of your own
A clean bill of health
A surprise embrace from a loved one
An unexpected blossom in the garden
And glorious sunrise/sunset day
A random act of kindness for you
And you paying it forward for someone else
A moment of discovery, where a skill is unlocked
A free weekend to pursue your dreams
Finding serendipity in the midst of a melancholy day...
A look of wonder belongs to all,
Something to be nurtured and cultivated
Preserved and spread...
A special right for children
Parents, teachers, and community the nurturers.
Where lies the wonder for you?
This is my submission to Magpie Tales #17. Thanks Willow for prodding the creative spirit.
Saturday, June 5, 2010
An excellent infographic by Gapminder.org provides a look at all the countries in the world and how they measure up in wealth and average life expectancy. On the horizontal axis you have the wealth of all the world's countries in GDP. On the vertical axis you have the life expectancy in those countries. And it's pretty clear: Richer countries tend to have higher life expectancies on average.
The graph encourages one to think about the disparities in the world, the poverty, the violence, the inequities of social, educational, and health programs, and what steps need to be taken to advance basic human rights around the world. Also, what can people do on an individual basis to address needs in your own community?
Friday, June 4, 2010
There is no elevator to success; you have to take the stairs.
Never look backwards or you'll fall down the stairs. ~ Rudyard Kipling
When you sweep the stairs you start at the top. ~ German proverb
Vision is not enough; it must be combined with venture. It is not enough to stare up to the top; we must step up the stairs. ~ Vaclav Havel
Stairs offer a rich metaphor for life. They encourage one to reflect on the ascending and descending steps in our lives, the experiences and opportunities, the past, present, and future, the changing vistas and perspectives.
Techeblog has some stunning new functional designs for stairs such as the above to enlighten your way?
Thursday, June 3, 2010
The country has made a significant investment in facilities and infrastructure to host the world. Five of the ten stadiums are brand new, and the other five have been brought up to date.
The main venue is Cape Town's sleek new Green Point stadium. "This stunning white apparition rises like a porcelain bowl from a podium set in restored parkland, between the breakers of the Atlantic and the commanding backdrop of Lion's Rock, Devil's Peak and Table Mountain. Is there a stadium anywhere in the world with a more sublime setting?
It is fifteen storeys high with curving walls and sheathed in a translucent fabric mesh, made from woven fibreglass coated with Teflon.
Green Point is certainly an emotional touchstone. It used to be home to an 18,000-seat stadium dating from the 1940s, hosting acts such as Michael Jackson, Paul Simon and U2; this historic, if modest, building was demolished in 2007 to make way for the new."
North Americans in particular may have mixed feelings about soccer, but the pendulum seems to be swinging toward more interest. Elsewhere, soccer is the #1 sport and billions pay homage to the players, their team, and the drama on the pitch.
The article in the Guardian gets one thinking about the favourite stadiums and sporting events one has enjoyed.
I train. I add more fuel. At just the right moment I light the match. ~ Mia Hamm, female American soccer player
We lost because we didn't win. ~Ronaldo, Brazilian player
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
Mr. Lee kept the car in a specially-built room in his house, and has never driven it.
A specialist involved with the sale said, "This isn't a car. It's a cultural icon. There's nothing else like it."
Preparing the car for sale focused on some key areas. "Mechanics at RM’s restoration facility in Blenheim, Ont. overhauled the brakes and exhaust system, but refrained from repainting the car, or, God forbid, replacing the leather seats..."
The engine and transmission were working fine. (Although the car is 46 years old, it has only 31,000 miles on its odometer.) The RM technicians also checked and cleaned the DB5’s famous armaments and defensive systems, which are well known to Bond aficionados. Among them: a pair of machine guns that pop out from behind the turn signals, and an ejection seat that could launch villains through the roof (the actuator switch is hidden in the shift lever.)"
Of course, this brings to mind several other top movie cars of all time:
- 2003 Mini Cooper S from "The Italian Job"
- 1959 Cadillac ambulance from "Ghostbusters"
- 1974 Dodge Monaco, from "The Blue Brothers"
- 1932 Ford coupe from "American Graffiti"
- 1961 Ferrari 250 GT from "Ferris Bueller's Day Off"
But my all time favourite has to be the 1968 Ford Mustang GT 390 from "Bullitt." The 7 minute car chase scene from the 1968 movie is still riveting. That, and the 'magic maker' car, Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang.
Any other favourite vehicles with great memories, in fantasy or reality?
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Getting those first jobs are momentous for teenagers. There is so much skill building going on which lasts a lifetime.
According to a NYT article 2010 is shaping up to be even worse than last year for the millions of high school and college students looking for summer jobs.
"State and local governments, traditionally among the biggest seasonal employers, are knee-deep in budget woes, and the stimulus money that helped cushion some government job programs last summer is running out. Private employers are also reluctant to hire until the economy shows more solid signs of recovery.
For generations, government data shows, at least half of all teenagers were in the labor force in June, July and August. Starting this decade, though, the number of employed teenagers began to drop, and by 2009, less than a third of teenagers had jobs. This year, the number could fall below 30 percent."
Imagine teens without a summer job. What fills up their time? I can think of some of the alternatives. But how about some other productive activities in the community or within the entrepreneurial area? What options may be available to them to fill up those long summer days?
It also encourages one to think about one's own summer employment as teens, the positive and possibly negative memories. As a farm boy, I participated in the harvest of tomatoes, potatoes, and peppers on our fifty acre farm. It was dirty and sweaty but a cannonball dive in the pond in the evening vanquished all fatigue.