Friday, April 30, 2010
The grand show is eternal.
It is always sunrise somewhere;
the dew is never dried all at once;
a shower is forever falling;
vapor is ever rising.
Eternal sunrise, eternal dawn, and gloaming,
on sea and continents and islands,
each in its turn,
as the round earth rolls. ~ John Muir
While we see the beauty all around in a morning dew, a spectacular sunrise or sunset, a hazy full moon, a pristine, green park... it is sad to see that the world's biodiversity is declining, and that some man made disasters threaten the beauty of our world.
What are your thoughts about the beauty and fragility of our world?
Noupe has 50 stunning examples of dew photography such as the above.
Thursday, April 29, 2010
They told me to take a street-car named Desire, and transfer to one called Cemeteries, and ride six blocks and get off at—Elysian Fields! A Streetcar Named Desire, Tennessee Williams
Anyone who has taken a streetcar recently may have mixed feelings about the experience. Its charm may seem a little faded as funds were allocated for more rapid transportation.
However, thanks to the Obama Administration, streetcars may soon be reintroduced into many US cities that haven’t had them for more than 50 years. In a reversal of policy, the US Department of Transportation and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has now allocated funds for a new generation of street car transportation and 22 cities are on board for development in the next two years.
While it may not be faster, " a streetcar makes movement within a city more convenient, and helps build up relatively dense, walkable, mixed use corridors. It also reduces dependence on automobiles."
Take, for example, the city of Portland, Oregon. In the last ten years private development along their new streetcar corridor has been valued at $3.5 billion.
What is your opinion of streetcars, either sentimental or practical?
Article and Image Source: New Urban News
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
I must admit I am partial to mind maps, graphic organizers, and well presented PowerPoint. I respect people who can conceptualize, evaluate, and organize thoughts into a logical thesis. Indeed, it's an important skill for anyone preparing to write or present.
An article in the New York Times recounts a meeting when the leader of American and NATO forces in Afghanistan was shown a PowerPoint slide in Kabul last summer that was meant to portray the complexity of American military strategy, but looked more like a bowl of spaghetti.
“When we understand that slide, we’ll have won the war,” the general dryly remarked as the room erupted in laughter.
The article goes on to analyze the extensive use of Power Point and one staffer commented that it's not going away any time soon.
Of course, with a brilliant conceptualization comes delivery and balancing the rhetorical with the emotional. Often an effective presentation needs to be storyboarded with a judicious use of image, pacing, and anecdote. And then there is the KISS strategy... (Keep it simple, s.....)
I heard Seth Godin speak recently and his 70 minute presentation seemed like it was 20 minutes. He knows the art of presentation.
Are you a fan of mind mapping? What are your thoughts about the death or vitality of PowerPoint? Were you ever impressed by an effective presentation?
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
More than 7,000 people tackled the 1,776 steps of the CN Tower in Toronto several weeks ago, as part of the 20th annual fundraiser for the World Wildlife Federation. Another thousand took on the 802-step Calgary Tower on behalf of the Alberta Wilderness Association. No doubt, they all burned a few hundred calories, and exercised a series of important muscle groups.
But you don’t have to work in a skyscraper to get the benefits of a stair workout. Researchers in Ireland have been studying the benefits of dashing up the stairs periodically over the course of a workday, and they’ve observed surprising fitness gains.
“I think the key thing here,” says Colin Boreham, a professor at the University College Dublin Institute for Sport and Health, “is that stair-climbing is one of the few everyday activities at a moderate to high intensity that one can do surreptitiously without having to change, use special equipment or look foolish.”
Charity stair-climbs are an emerging phenomenon. The motto of Towerrunning is “Take the stairs and not the elevator" and it lists over 100 events around the world.
It's interesting to think about the ascending/descending steps in our life: the tedious, the scenic, the educational, the adventurous, and the hopeful.
Any thoughts about the steps in your life?
Monday, April 26, 2010
The wonderful tale of Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Mermaid is about to be revived for millions. The iconic bronze nude statue of the little mermaid has been moved for the first time in 96 years from the Copenhagen harbour to Shanghai, China for the World Expo beginning on May 1.
The Danes want to extend a significant gesture to the Chinese and the mayor of Shanghai said, She "will be one of the shining stars of the whole Expo Park."
Some back home stirred up some controversy, "Why not send a copy?"
One young woman in China said at the unveiling, "Every child in China knows Andersen's story of the mermaid."
Certainly theatrical performances and film have also complemented and enriched the story of the little mermaid which was first published in 1837. The young mermaid falls in love with a handsome prince, saves him from drowning, and longs to give up her life in the sea to gain a human soul, and the love of a human prince.
Andersen's 168 stories are compiled in a wonderful anthology here.
What childhood fairy tale, or story lingers in your memory?
Sunday, April 25, 2010
Following a good weekend of self indulgence, perhaps after firing up the grill with some tasty burgers, shish kabob, or chicken, would you consider a Meatless Monday?
Meatless Monday is a non profit initiative whose "goal is to reduce meat consumption by 15% in order to improve personal health and the health of our planet."
As we know, eating a lot of meat has been linked to a serious list of health concerns. Aside from the connection between overeating and obesity, studies have tied excessive meat consumption to increased risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and forms of cancer.
The site also provides healthy menu suggestions. How about Chili Con Lentils for dinner? "Who says chili needs meat when this one comes chock full of cinnamon spiced lentils, paprika seasoned peppers, roasted tomatoes and corn? With all those aromatic spices, this chili’s rich smoky flavor will fill your house as it stews."
Have you tried to reduce your consumption of meat, for yourself and for the planet? Would you consider a once a week meat fast?
Saturday, April 24, 2010
I have always striven to raise the voice of hope for a world where hate gives way to respect and oppression to liberation. ~ Theodore Bikel
Let's think about some more liberating thoughts:
Above we read:
-where hate gives way to respect
-where oppression gives way to liberation
Several of mine:
-where hoarding gives way to sharing
-where insensitivity to the environment gives way to being nature's protector
-where cynicism gives way to constructive action
Add your wishes, desires...
Image Credit: Hugh MacLeod at Gaping Void
Friday, April 23, 2010
Yes, who would think that the lowly tissue which performs such a vital service could be such a culprit. In fact, an article in Worldwatch Magazine entitled 'Flushing Forests' says that the average person in North America uses about 23 kilograms of toilet paper a year. The world average is 3.8. Toilet paper use is multiplying around the world particularly in burgeoning countries like China, and ever more trees are being pulped to keep up with the demand.
- Improved sanitation throughout the world is a good thing especially to address the high child mortality rate.
- However, toilet paper contributes up to 15% of the 13 million hectares of global forests lost annually.
- More can be done to use recycled paper. What's driving market demand is quality and comfort.
- "Education of consumers, improvements in quality, pricing, and marketing of recycled products must be pursued to meet the demands of a growing global population."
Perhaps we need to rethink our enthusiasm for buying the softest TP and pride ourselves in finding it at 'bargain' bulk prices. In the end it may not be such a bargain in environmental terms.
Is it possible to cultivate a more spartan, utilitarian mindset for a host of personal care products?
Thursday, April 22, 2010
Several days ago I hired my 16 year old next door neighbour to help me shred some branches from recent pruning. We were busy for two hours after school feeding the spruce branches into the mouth of a cantankerous tree shredder. The hungry, noisy beast devoured large branches through its gaping maw. In the end we were left with a shredded pile of rich mulch and ground cover.
As we wiped the sweat from our brows, the lad felt in his sweatshirt pocket for his iPod; it was gone. He must have dropped it in the bustle of feeding me the branches. We looked for a time in the midst of the carnage but there was no trace. The next day I looked again as I did a final cleanup. You see the boy lives in a rented house next door. His family struggles to keep afloat. That night my wife and I realized what we needed to do. We would provide him with the money to buy another iPod.
All of us have a shredded pile of failures and disappointments. But out of that pile comes compost for future growth. Are we stronger as we face the future? Are we sensitive to those who might need a little help?
-I am a deeply superficial person.
-I never think that people die. They just go to department stores.
-I'm afraid that if you look at a thing long enough, it loses all of its meaning. ~Andy Warhol
Andy Warhol would have a twinkle in his eye on his deadpan face if he saw the giant 20 ft. pinata made of him for the Brooklyn Ball this week. Guests will be invited to take wacks at his face in a quest for undisclosed goodies inside.
Warhol (1928-1987) was an American painter, print maker, and film maker who was a leading figure in the visual art movement. He is best known for his paintings of iconic American products such as Campbell's Soup Cans and Coca-Cola bottles, as well as celebrities Marilyn Monroe, Muhammad Ali, Elizabeth Taylor, and Elvis Presley.
Indeed, several of Warhol's paintings sold for astronomical amounts. His '200 One Dollar Bills' sold for $43 million while his 1963 portrait of 'Eight Elvises' went for $100 million.
Readers, you know that I have two images of Andy Warhol on my sidebar. His statements seem to capture for me several important perspectives about life. I also saw an exhibit of his work in Toronto and one is left with visceral feelings about pop culture.
Who is one of your heroes, pop or otherwise? How do they embody several key perspectives for you?
Photo Credit: Neatorama
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Human society sustains itself by transforming nature into garbage. ~ Mason Cooley
I passed two large piles of garbage early this morning. Spring cleaning is in full swing. There were mattresses, rickety shelving, large toy castoffs, and the ubiquitous bulging garbage bags. Today the 'sanitary' trucks will pick up our extravagant waste and dutifully transport them to distant landfill sites. Is there another option?
A New York Times article profiles the new age of garbage incineration taking place in Denmark. "Far cleaner than conventional incinerators, this new type of plant converts local trash into heat and electricity. Dozens of filters catch pollutants, from mercury to dioxin, that would have emerged from its smokestack only a decade ago."
The plants run so cleanly that many times more dioxin is now released from home fireplaces and backyard barbecues than from incineration.
"With all these innovations, Denmark now regards garbage as a clean alternative fuel rather than a smelly, unsightly problem. And the incinerators, known as waste-to-energy plants, have acquired considerable cachet."Denmark now has 29 such plants, serving 98 municipalities in a country of 5.5 million people, and 10 more are planned or under construction. Across Europe, there are about 400 plants, with Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands leading the pack in expanding them and building new ones.
On the other hand, New York City alone sends 10,500 tons of residential waste each day to landfills in places like Ohio and South Carolina. And that scenario plays out in a similar ways in other cities worldwide.
What are your thoughts about our garbage footprint? How we can tread more lightly? One encouraging sign that I see is that people are using more reusable, recycled, eco-friendly bags and cutting down on the scourge of plastic.
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Yet another research study has come out, this time published in the Archives of Neurology, which point to certain foods promoting mental health. People who had higher intakes of salad dressing, nuts, fish, chicken, tomatoes, fruit, cruciferous vegetables, leafy greens and lower intakes of high-fat dairy, red meat, organ meats and butter were 38-per-cent less likely to develop Alzheimer’s, compared to those who adhered the least to this dietary pattern.
Leslie Beck, a leading nutritionist, writes, "There are a number of ways this combination of foods may reduce Alzheimer’s risk. Vitamin E, found in vegetable oils, almonds, peanuts, soybeans, wheat germ, avocado and green leafy vegetables, is a powerful antioxidant that helps shield brain cells from free radical damage."
For Beck this study indicates, "It’s the big picture that counts. Eating a variety of healthy, nutrient-rich foods and, at the same time, minimizing your intake of foods that may harm the brain is what seems to matter most when it comes to reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. In other words, the whole – or combined effect – is greater than the sum of its separate effects."
Secondly, "these findings add to a growing body of evidence that suggests what you eat to protect yourself from heart disease are the same foods that can keep your brain healthy. A healthy diet can prevent Type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol and hypertension, risk factors that damage blood vessels that have also been linked to a greater risk of Alzheimer’s disease."
Any tips for a healthy diet?
Monday, April 19, 2010
The power of euphemism and connotative language is seen in the new line of men's 'compression clothing or fit wear.' Equmen carries a line of undershirts and underwear "engineered with seamless athletic technology and physiotherapist techniques for ergonomic results."
The underwear is much more than streamlining the body. The clothing can "improve posture stability, reduce back pain or improve performance in any sporting activity."
And their slogan pretty well covers it: " Equmen is for every man, every day, every wear."
For the ladies Spanx offers a complete line of women's shapewear.
Certainly our lifestyles, work regimens, and exposure to enhanced media images have contributed to the growth in fit wear.
Sunday, April 18, 2010
Maclean's, Canada's weekly national news magazine, has a unique last page entitled 'The End.' I go to this page first because it's so engaging. It features a chronicle of a person's life, and then in the last paragraph the writer explains how this person met his/her end, usually far too early.
One notices a dominant theme for all of these lives. They lived with vitality and enthusiasm. Consider the chronicle about Holly:
- Holly was blind by the age of 13 and began attending a school for the blind where she applied herself, won awards, and began horse back riding and rock climbing.
- She progressed through several universities and into a Master's degree and worked for the government.
- She developed diabetes but still always tried something new.
- Her friend mentioned that he was learning sky diving. She asked "Can I go?"
- Finally she was at a party with friends and was later dropped off at her home by a cab. She became disorientated and fell off an embankment. Holly was 31.
One is encouraged to think about one's own life while reading these chronicles. To what extent am I living a life of vitality and meaning?
Saturday, April 17, 2010
Imagine if all those vintage Shakespearean characters had a chance to come back as super heroes. Two artists/writers Conor McCreery and Anthony Del Col have launched a new fantasy adventure comic book series entitled Kill Shakespeare. The series will feature a mash up of heroes and villains from a dozen plays in a new supernatural adventure.
"In the first number, Hamlet is waylaid on his journey into exile after killing Polonius, then drawn magically into the dark realm of King Richard III, where he is greeted by the witches from Macbeth and enjoined to obtain the writing quill of “the wizard-god Shakespeare” in the company of a bodacious Juliet."
The creators believe that this series will have enduring appeal. “These characters have existed for the last 400 years. More people are taught Shakespeare than Tolkien, and Shakespeare for me is easier to get into.”
Also, "We think Shakespeare would look at what we're doing and think it was kind of cool."
Other possible scenarios for the host of Shakespearean characters? Juliet as girl warrior with dragon tattoo? Lady Macbeth as evil seductress,..again? King Lear gets a handle on his madness? ....
Any thoughts about your favourite comic books as you grew up? The ascendance of graphic novels today?
Friday, April 16, 2010
Consider some graffiti statements:
- Only the truth is revolutionary
- I used to be indecisive; now I'm not so sure.
- Society gets the vandalism it deserves.
- Anarchy is against the law.
- I'm an atheist. I don't believe in Zeus.
Some artists have been empowered to create urban art which complements its surroundings. Unurth.com features an interesting assortment such as the above. (Take a look and come back.)
Canadians know the vibrant, colourful graffiti which serves as a backdrop on Rick Mercer's Rant. His two minute critique on CBC's Rick Mercer Report is done while he walks through a Toronto alley way vibrant with colourful graffiti. In this selection Mercer reflects upon President Obama's visit to Canada.
Your thoughts on graffiti the good, and the ugly?
Thursday, April 15, 2010
What a clever idea: a two minute video of every painting on display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. (Hold your finger over the pause button to stop the action at a pivotal painting.)
I took the tour and noticed a number of iconic paintings. One is Andrew Wyeth's (1917-2009) 'Christina's World.' (Can you imagine painting all those blades of grass?) Wyeth was inspired to create the painting when through a window from within the house he saw her crawling across a field. Wyeth had a summer home in the Maine area and was on friendly terms with Olson, and used her as a subject of his paintings, from 1940 to 1968.
About 'Christina's World,' Morgan Bell writes, "Wyeth used muted colours to convey the serenity of being limited to a country setting. The light between the house and the barn is the brightest point of the painting and Christina directs her head upwards towards it. Christina appears mesmerised by her rural setting, a hint of breeze caressing her loose strands of hair as she gazes towards her home, completely captivated. The brightest part of the sky seems to beckon Christina like a heavenly white light.
A lone figure in vast farmlands, Christina is quite vulnerable to the rugged environment, but braves it anyway to enjoy the beauty of the scene and her freedom. The landscape is largely dry and barren but has a softness to it which is strangely inviting. An otherwise daunting scene radiates a sense of safety to the viewer. The inclusion of a "crippled" young girl transforms the setting to something accommodating and approachable.
Christina's World is about familiarity trumping fear. Wyeth has captured the feeling of home and the wonder of youth. The figure of Christina is physically limited but also in the enviable position of appreciating the things she does have."
What art has inspired you? Do you have a favourite painter, art gallery, artistic movement ? My wife and I returned recently from a trip to Florence, Italy (Uffizi) and the year before Paris. (The Louvre.) However, local places offer riches also.
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
My local newspaper, The Windsor Star, is rated Canada's most read paper. 54% of area residents say they read the Star on the previous day according to NADbank, the Newspaper Audience Databank. This compares to 48% in Ottawa, 44 percent in Toronto, and 41% in London.
Several months ago I paid the almost $300 to receive the paper for a year. I still need to have a paper in my hands, to peruse each page and select what interests me, and then pause and read at my leisure. I debated the online option but I need balance in my life as I spend enough time online. Besides, reading a newspaper or magazine online has its drawbacks with all the pointing and clicking. As well, I often buy The Globe and Mail which offers a comprehensive glimpse of national and international news.
In another survey, for the first time ever, the weekly Internet usage of online Canadians has moved ahead of the number of hours spent watching television. Overall, online Canadians are now spending more than 18 hours a week online, compared to 16.9 hours watching television. Internet usage is up from 14.9 hours last year. This figure seems like a watershed mark as one considers more and more options available online.
Where do you get the news? Is the print news media dying? To what extent has the Internet affected your lifestyle? Are you watching less television? What emerging media is taking up your time? It's interesting to think about how changing technologies are affecting our lives.
Again, the comments have been truly phenomenal the last couple of weeks. Here's hoping it will continue.
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
The car has become an article of dress without which we feel uncertain, unclad, and incomplete... it's our carapace, the protective and aggressive shell, of urban and suburban man. ~ Marshall McLuhan
OK, I was three years old when this baby blue 1954 Chevy Bel Air took to the streets. Actually my father had a '52 Pontiac of the same colour which he proudly washed and buffed every Saturday afternoon.
The Bel Air as seen above is now 56 years old with 23,000 miles. Its third owner takes good care of it, and doesn't let it out in the winter or on rainy days. He says it's pleasant and easy to drive, stable, and cruises comfortably at 55-60 mph.
The Bel Air was sold in the United States from 1950-75 and in Canada until 1981. Chevrolet was created in 1911 by GM founder William Durant and Swiss-born immigrant, car racer, mechanic and designer Louis Chevrolet.
All of us probably have at least one car which conjures up pleasant memories. Mine happens to be a bronze coloured '72 Mustang.
I welcome new or regular readers to comment, including those who have never commented before. You may simply click on NAME and give your name or pseudonym and post if you wish. We are enjoying some really great dialogue over the last couple of weeks. And, ladies, maybe you can convince your husbands to post a comment if you don't beat them to it.
Monday, April 12, 2010
Quite a controversy has developed on the southern tip of Canada where I live in Leamington, Ontario overlooking Lake Erie. We're actually south of Detroit and on the 42nd parallel, the same as northern California.
At the Margaret Atwood website, internationally renowned author and owner of a cottage on Pelee Island, Ms. Atwood provides an overview of the problem.
"This is a radar image of birds (see below) massing on the south shore of Erie and flying over the lake where the islands are and where Point Pelee is. You will not see many flying across the wider part of the lake. The part where the birds are flying is exactly where they want to put 700 windmills. So the birds are one problem.
The others are: What’s on the lake bottom (ie. heavy metals from decades of industrial and domestic pollution) and how much of it would be stirred up by drilling 700 windmills and putting the huge concrete platform for the wind towers into the lake bottom? The sediment would go into the water intake for a dozen communities along the shore. Put another way: Would you want your baby or child eating the bottom of Lake Erie? Leamington is where the big Heinz plant is — and a huge number of greenhouses that use a lot of water.How endangered would they all be?"
Would you like a wind farm in your neighbourhood? Does it matter whether it is on land or over your water way vistas? Should one support 'green' initiatives like this wholeheartedly?
Sunday, April 11, 2010
The cat came back is exemplified in an incredible 2,000-kilometre journey of a tuft-eared lynx.
The resilient male was captured as a young adult in British Columbia in 2003 and transported to Colorado for a landmark lynx-reintroduction program. There it sired at least six offspring before being fatally trapped this winter in Alberta north of Banff.
Despite the animal's unfortunate end, its epic trek over such a vast expanse of North America, across countless highways, numerous mountain ranges and probably a stretch of northwest Colorado desert, is being hailed as an inspiring sign of nature's resilience after generations of severe habitat loss and depleted wildlife populations.
"The fact that he made his way back so far, and fairly close to his original location in B.C. -- that's not too shabby for not having a GPS," said Gabby Yates, a University of Alberta lynx researcher. "It's just amazing."
When Yates heard that the neck collar read PLEASE RETURN TO COLORADO FISH & WILDLIFE she just started screaming. "Colorado! It's so far. We know that these cats travel, but the long-distance records we have are about 1,000 kilometres -- and those are few and far between. This really blows all of the other records out of the water."
The story certainly adds credibility to the argument for environmentalists to continue to lobby for expanded reserve areas like the Yellowstone to Yukon initiative. Wild animals show a breadth and sixth sense that we can barely understand.
Care to share an incredible animal story, domestic or wild?
Saturday, April 10, 2010
“He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead; his eyes are closed.” -Albert Einstein
Einstein's quote serves as a banner at Raptitude and the mantra is 'getting better at being human.'
David Cain writes, "It's just so hard to be human. We’re plagued with incessant needs, worries and nasty feelings, and nobody is necessarily going to teach us how to deal with them. Even the kindest among us still get angry, jealous, lonely, and resentful. Our newspapers and history books are filled with war, addiction, desperation and suffering — all the result of people dealing very poorly with the conundrum of being human."
Cain continues, "I see being human as a skillset — something you can get better at if you take it upon yourself to do so. You can learn to temper rotten moods, shed your insecurities, shore up your weak points and sharpen your strong ones...
And such glittering prizes await! Consistently agreeable moods. Unshakable gratitude. Strengthened relationships. Abundant days and sleepful nights. Capabilities you never imagined were in you. Relief from boredom, envy, frustration and complacency."
One of Cain's posts at his excellent site is entitled "88 Important Truths I Have Learned about Life."
-Children are remarkably honest creatures until we teach them not to be.
-Yelling always makes things worse.
-There are not enough women in positions of power. The world has suffered from this deficit for a long time.
-Anyone can be calmed in an instant by looking at the ocean or the stars.
-When you’re sick of your own life, that’s a good time to pick up a book.
It's an interesting exercise to consider writing some statements of truth.
But, a word of caution?
Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you mad. ~Aldous Huxley
Thanks to Holy Kaw for the link.
Friday, April 9, 2010
The bicycle is a curious vehicle. Its passenger is its engine. ~John Howard
Melancholy is incompatible with bicycling. ~James E. Starrs
Perhaps there is no more enjoyable pursuit than bicycling on a scenic trail. It provides an opportunity to get some exercise, get away from a gas guzzling vehicle, and enjoy the fresh air and scenery particularly in glorious spring (or fall in the southern hemisphere.)
My wife and I enjoy nearby Point Pelee National Park. It offers five kilometers of exhilerating biking through a lush Carolinian forest and sweeping beach views of Lake Erie. (These days one can also talk with the many birders who are converging on the Point for the annual migration.)
Another favourite spot is a 42 kilometer trail which was purchased by the Essex County Region Conservation Authority in 1995. The abandoned railway corridor now offers multi-use recreational possibilities. Over the last fifteen years lush vegetation has provided a home to red winged blackbirds, rabbits, and a canopy of shade in places as a counterpoint to the expanse of fertile farmland.
Even cities provide cycling opportunities. Bicycling magazine has ranked the top cities in the U.S. with the finest bike lanes. They include Minneapolis, Portland, Boulder, Seattle, San Francisco, Chicago, Tuscon...
Last summer we enjoyed biking along Chicago's spectacular water front taking in the skyline, parkland, and waterways.
How endearing is biking for you?
Thursday, April 8, 2010
I bought some long stemmed strawberries yesterday.
Enticing jewels with firm flesh
and GM (genetically modified) seeds poised with fresh vitality.
The price was reasonable too, I thought,....
Until I tallied the entire cost.
Just shipped in from Mexico
Perhaps from a hydroponic greenhouse
With horticultural feeding accuracy.
Perfect in presentation
They lay in a clear plastic container,
But, surprisingly, when I opened it and took one out
There was bubble wrap beneath
Taking up one third of the volume.
Ten berries in perfect harmony
Coddled, and prim
No imperfection to spoil
Our coddled expectations
And insensitivity to footprints
And other environmental costs
Of perfection -
From exotic global origins
In all four seasons
Of the year.
Tags: poetry, environment, food, green, global agriculture, buy local
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Eventually all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. ~ Norman Maclean
The river is often used by writers as a powerful metaphor. A river is life and movement, certain in its destination, and always flowing with vibrant energy. But what if this life giving water is polluted, or diverted, or reduced to a trickle?
The latest special issue of National Geographic is entitled Water: Our Thirsty World. (Yes, I still get a delightful hard copy of the magazine with a lot of glossy paper. Is that environmentally friendly?) It provides an interesting perspective on the limited fresh water available to us.
"We live on a planet covered by water, but more than 97% of our water is salty, and nearly 2% is locked up in snow and ice. That leaves 1% to grow our crops, cool our power plants, and supply drinking and bathing water."
The large fold out map is entitled the 'World of Rivers: a new mapping of every river system.' It provides a detailed look at the watersheds of the world with lots of interesting information such as the world's longest rivers and the sustenance they provide for billions of people.
The editor Chris Johns writes, "By 2025, 1.8 billion people will live where water is scarce."
How do you view the rivers and streams near where you live?
Photo from NGM.
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
How often do you see a spectacular site and your digital picture just can't take in the grand scope of the scene?
Consider the picture of this 1,500 year old 300-foot titan in California's Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park which has the most complex crown scientists have mapped. This photo, taken by Michael Nichols, is a mosaic composed of 84 images.
National Geographic is known for its iconic yellow portrait cover published since 1888. However, its website now contains a rich repository of past and current articles and images.
For example, click here to view a spectacular photo of the image at left. (Do you see the man the size of a red bug standing in front of the tree?) Also you can complete a 300 piece virtual jigsaw puzzle of the tree, view a photo gallery of redwoods, and read archived articles about redwoods.
"To the outer ears these trees are silent, yet their songs never cease. Every hidden cell is throbbing with music and life, every fiber thrilling like harp strings." ~ John Muir
Sunday, April 4, 2010
While researching early 19th century Haiti for her doctoral dissertation, Duke University graduate student Julia Gaffield from Canada, found the only known printed copy of Haiti’s Declaration of Independence.
“To bring this document to light in Haiti’s darkest hour may be seen as a symbol of renewal and rejuvenation, helping Haiti rebuild its national spirit following the recent earthquake,” says Ian Wilson, president of the International Council on Archives.
What make the document so interesting is that it is the only known printed copy of the Declaration. Scholars have been looking for decades for such a copy in Haiti and elsewhere. Gaffield, who made the discovery in February at the British National Archives in London, said, " It was a document that I recognized immediately because in big, bold letters across the top it says, 'Liberte ou la mort.'"
Haiti at the time boldly declared their independence from British colonial rule.
"It does come at a point where a reminder of the country's very strong and powerful past might help the spirit of Haiti," Gaffield said.
Having spent some time personally in similar archival spaces, this discovery is very exciting. It's like finding a sliver of light in the fading parchments.
Have you ever found something special while rummaging through things?
'I had a day where I went out and simply found people in need and gave. I set a budget and just looked to touch these people. A foreigner with blue eyes and a smile. When I came home I wept. Not because I couldn't help all of them, no, but because I realized something far more profound. How our fear keeps us from giving...
'If we touched one life a day, within a year, you would have touched 365/6 people. A simple observation that made me look at it in an achievable way. I thought, don't even think about pay it forward. This is the kind of giving that is anything in a natural authentic way based on love extended to a total stranger to be free. That is real freedom....'
We have all had the feeling of meeting people who are in need. What is our reaction? To what extent do we reach out in some way? Marilyn provides a vital thought and connection on the issue.
Friday, April 2, 2010
A hobby a day keeps the doldrums away. ~ Phyllis McGinley
Wired writes about a man who spent twenty five years creating a 9 foot tall, 20 pound universe of San Francisco with 100,000 toothpicks. Scott Weaver began in 1977 replicating the Golden Gate Bridge but that was only the beginning. He wanted also to include other landmarks of the city including his own neighbourhood.
A feature of his microcosmic city includes winding paths to allow ping pong balls to travel across the bridge and through the city. He said he has spent 3,000 hours on the project and has refused to sell it to Ripley's Believe It or Not for $40,000.
“Other than my wife and my son, this is the most important thing in my life,” he says. “I just regret that my mother wasn’t able to see it while she was alive.”
Scott's story encourages us to think about our own hobbies which help to energize our free time. Of course, most of us have more that one hobby, and we can flit from one to the other like a ball in a pinball machine. Then there are the people whose hobby is making money which affords greater possibilities when the time comes, if ever. Indeed, hobbies can be expensive or cost next to nothing. The main requirement is that it provides a welcome engagement.
A hobby can:
- test your emotional or physical limits
- engage your mind
- empower creativity, problem solving
- enable you to socialize with others
- find personal peace
- help others
- expand your knowledge and skills
- work toward a goal
One of my hobbies the last couple of years is blogging. I consider it my online journal and I value those who follow my humble observations and who comment on occasion. I value the global acquaintances I have gained. My online journal certainly fulfills a number of the requirements as listed above.
Care to reflect on the role hobbies play in your life?
Thursday, April 1, 2010
Having been tenant long to a rich Lord,
Not thriving, I resolved to be bold,
And make a suit unto him, to afford
A new small-rented lease, and cancell th’ old.
In heaven at his manour I him sought:
They told me there, that he was lately gone
About some land, which he had dearly bought
Long since on earth, to take possession.
I straight return’d, and knowing his great birth,
Sought him accordingly in great resorts;
In cities, theatres, gardens, parks, and courts:
At length I heard a ragged noise and mirth
Of theeves and murderers: there I him espied,
Who straight, Your suit is granted, said, and died. "
George Herbert (1593-1633)
Apparently American teens are reading too much fiction and not enough nonfiction. Harry Potter, Twilight, and the like are engaging young minds but at the detriment of developing a significant knowledge base which can be gained by reading newspapers, biographies, etc.
A cognitive psychologist believes that may be one reason why reading proficiency scores have plateaued over the last few years. Nikhil Swaminathan for Good.is provides an overview and a link to Dana Goldstein at The Daily Beast for the study.
I personally have gravitated between the two genres over the years but more recently am reading much more nonfiction. For example, my 27 year old daughter has given me three picks which I have enjoyed immensely.
- Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky is "the human story of salt, a mineral that has created fortunes, inspired revolutions, provoked wars, and enlivened our recipes."
- Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China by Leslie T. Chang is an account of the 130 million migrant workers nearly all of them under 30 who work the assembly lines in southern China.
- The Know-It-All: One Man's Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World by A. J. Jacobs is a very funny and enlightening book about the seemingly impossible quest to read the Encyclopedia Britannica from A to Z.
What do you prefer reading? Are you getting a balanced diet?