Monday, June 28, 2010
"The stomach is the teacher of the arts and the dispenser of invention." ~ Aulus Persius Flaccus ~
Have you ever gone to a party or picnic and brought a bottle of wine only to discover that there is no corkscrew?
Other than trying to pry the cork out with a penknife and your teeth, you can switch to a can of beer and use the pull-tab, or you can open the wine bottle with your shoe.
And, I’m not talking about beating the bottle to death with the heel of your shoe; I’m suggesting you use the inside of the shoe. Not convinced – take a look below.
The following embedded video, from tvvn.org’s YouTube channel is entirely in French. It is nonetheless quite understandable because of the excellent accompanying demonstration.
This is guaranteed to be a conversation starter.
Now, will somebody please pass the cheese and crackers?
Saturday, June 26, 2010
“Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see.” ~ C.S. Lewis ~
On Wednesday, June 30, 2010, at 2245 BST, the British Broadcasting channel 1 will air the documentary, BIONIC VET, which chronicles an amazing medical advancement that has become a news story buzzing around wire services worldwide.
The documentary concerns a 2-1/2 year old cat named "Oscar" and his successfully implanted prosthetic back paws; a true veterinary medical miracle that has technically produced the world’s first bionic kitty.
Oscar’s story began in November, 2009 when he was catching an afternoon catnap in a cornfield in Jersey, a British Crown Dependency island off the coast of France.
As Oscar slept, a harvester combine sliced off his back paws.
Oscar’s owners, Mike Nolan and Kate Allan rushed the cat to the local veterinarian.
Nolan said in an interview with the BBC that it was, "complete panic” and “very traumatic;” Oscar was “covered in blood, bits of flesh, it was very gruesome.”
Nolan was “convinced” that they “were going to have to put him down.”
Local veterinarian, Peter Haworth at the New Era Veterinary Hospital was able to stabilize the cat with painkillers, and then cleaned and dressed his wounds.
Over the next two weeks, Haworth and his owners were in constant contact with Noel Fitzpatrick, a recommended neuro-orthopaedic surgeon in Surrey, England who had been doing pioneering work on prosthetics.
After extensive consultations, x-rays and tests, it was determined that Oscar would be an ideal candidate for this (first of its kind) prosthetics transplant procedure.
Even though there were no total guarantees, Nolan says, "We would never have gone through with it if there was doubt about his quality of life going forward.”
At this point, Oscar is learning to navigate using his bio-engineered custom implants with ankle- to-foot prosthetic paws.
Nolan and Allan know that their cat is receiving the finest most compassionate care during his rehab period and they look forward to his return home to Jersey. Ms. Allan says, "Without this surgery he wouldn't be here, it's as simple as that."
The embedded video below highlights this miracle story.
Oh, and by they way, Oscar still has his eight other lives intact.
Thursday, June 24, 2010
“The biggest obstacle to professional writing is the necessity for changing a typewriter ribbon. ” ~Robert Benchley ~
Here’s a post you can archive under the heading of “Gizmos, Gadgets and Stuff.”
Does anyone out in cyberspace remember what it’s like to type on a real typewriter? No, I’m not talking about a word processor, or an IBM Selectric. I’m referring to the old fashioned, click-click-clack sounding typewriter that gave your fingers a true aerobic workout.
The third job I ever held, (before I came to the stark realization that I was not cut out to work nine-to-five in an office setting) was as a secretary for a real estate management company. The office I worked in was unique to say the least; it was like traveling back in time to the turn of the 20th century. Everything in the office was antique, including the owners of the company. This was a firm where I gained mastery over a key, lamp, and cord switchboard, and a real typewriter.
If you’ve never experienced either of these dinosaur office machines, you’re not missing much as far as the switchboard is concerned; they’re rather complicated until you get the knack of handling multiple calls and remembering who is connected on each line.
As far as a typewriter, that’s different. They were actually fun, and if you were having a bad day you could always pound hard on the keys to get your frustration out – plus they made lots of productive-sounding noise.
The only problems with a real typewriter, other than changing their inky ribbon, was when you made a mistake – you either had to use a chalky image blotting tape known as “Lift-off” or drown out your error (along with the carbon copied onionskin paper) with “Whiteout.” No matter how fast you were able to type; ribbons and errors really slowed the whole process down.
Well, guess what? Now you can have your nostalgia cake and eat it too; faster than you can say “Warp drive,” you can retro your PC, Mac or iPad so it functions like a real typewriter, but without the typical drawbacks.
Etsy artist Jack Zylkin has come up with an ingenious idea – a genuine typewriter that connects to your computer via USB port. The product is called a USB Typewriter.™
On Zylkin’s web site, he offers not only the typewriter for sale, but a retro kit for do-it-yourselfers, and if you consider yourself technically challenged or have your own typewriter to convert, just send it to him and he’ll customize your order.
Take a look at the video below. Rather nifty nostalgia I must say.
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
“Free the child's potential, and you will transform him into the world” ~ Maria Montessori ~
"Amazing Grace" is one of the most recognizable hymns ever written. Widely sung by many denominations worldwide, it has been recorded countless times by numerous artists.
The text of “Amazing Grace” was written by John Newton, an English Anglican clergyman and poet, and was originally created to be part of a New Year’s Day sermon in 1773.
It wasn’t until 1835 however, that “Amazing Grace” was paired with a tune named “New Britain,” and the rest became history.
This afternoon I discovered, what I believe to be, an extraordinary performance of the hymn by a 7-year old motherless child. I was not only astounded by her prodigious talent and her own amazing grace, but upon hearing her life story, I was taken by her courage and continuing generosity of spirit.
Her singing is a way to remember and honor the mother she lost from ovarian cancer in 2008.
Recently, she was featured on the Maury Povich Show in a segment titled, "Most Talented Kids 2010."
The video below is part of her YouTube channel.
The child’s name is Rhema Marvanne, and at age seven she is already transforming the world.
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
“The dog has got more fun out of Man than Man has got out of the dog, for the clearly demonstrable reason that Man is the more laughable of the two animals.” ~ James Thurber ~
On October 16, 2009, when Warner Brothers released the film, WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE, based on Maurice Sendack’s classic award-winning picture book, it was reported that the total production budget for the movie was $100 million.
Although one might gulp at that figure, it is actually on the moderate side by Hollywood production standards.
Films such as Disney’s A CHRISTMAS CAROL, released a few weeks after WILD THINGS, was reported to have a total budget of $190 million and that reflected a running time of 100 minutes, which was the exact same length as WILD THINGS.
What drives film production costs? Many things. Budgets vary based on anything from special effects to actors’ salaries and sometimes, simply, just not getting the perfect shot in one or two takes.
In breaking down the budget for WILD THINGS, one can easily extrapolate that each finished minute of the film cost $1 million dollars to produce.
According to The Numbers, an online box office database, as of today’s date, WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE has generated a worldwide gross of $99,123,656 and US DVD sales of $27,180,878 – so it is showing some signs of recouping production dollars.
The video that is embedded below will give you a small idea of why movie production costs escalate. It’s a behind-the-scenes look at a bit of animal wrangling that took place on the set of WILD THINGS – it’s titled “The Absurd Difficulty Of Filming A Dog,” and is part of Road Show Film’s YouTube channel.
The clip was shot on location on Edenhurst Avenue in Atwater Village and includes: first assistant director Thomas Patrick Smith; producer Vincent Landay; director of photography Lance Acord, and young actor Max Records.
Pay close attention to the man in the white shirt and tie in this short – it’s the film’s director Spike Jonze.
At the very end of the video, you can calculate for yourself the cost of the few brief seconds of screen time that translate into dog wrangling. Amazing, isn’t it?
Monday, June 21, 2010
“To see the Summer Sky
Is Poetry, though never in a Book it lie—
True Poems flee—“
~ Emily Dickinson ~ 1879
Today is the summer solstice. Two writers and an artist connect on this the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere.
Although centuries separate them and their creations, all three of their works are bound in lyrical and thoughtful beauty – a true synchronistic find.
Emily Dickinson, whose short poem opens this post, renders a timeless and appropriate nod backwards to Sijo poet, Kim Ch'ŏn-taek from Korea's classical period.
Ch'ŏn-taek’s poetry is tied together by contemporary artist, Jiyeon Song and her work of art, the “One Day Poem Pavilion, which was actually Song’s master’s thesis project in 2008 for the Media Design Program, Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California.
The “Pavilion” is a simple shell-like architectural structure that utilizes sunlight along with carefully placed perforations that cast shadow-poems according to the solar calendar.
Each poem that is created from light and shadow moves slowly throughout the day and delivers a different message depending on the time of year.
Song says, “These slow messages offer the audience time to meditate. We cannot force it to go fast. We should wait. We live under the laws of nature. Slowness affords us time to rethink our lives which are finite and valuable. While the poem is revealed slowly, the meaning will resonate with the audience.”
See how it all works in the video below - it's truly brilliant!
Saturday, June 19, 2010
"It's only when you grow up, and step back from him, or leave him for your own career and your own home—it's only then that you can measure his greatness and fully appreciate it. Pride reinforces love." ~ Margaret Truman ~
One hundred years ago, on June 19, 1910, Father’s Day was celebrated in the United States for the very first time.
As Mother’s Day honors those who have been the maternal figure in our lives, Father’s Day was created to equally pay tribute to our paternal bonds.
The establishment of Father’s Day is attributed to Sonora Smart Dodd of Spokane, Washington. She deeply loved and admired her father, William Jackson Smart, who had devotedly raised six children after his wife’s passing during childbirth.
Dodd, with the assistance of her pastor, Reverend Dr. Conrad Bluhm at Old Centenary Presbyterian Church, along with members of the Spokane Ministerial Alliance and local YMCA, set aside the third Sunday in June to pay homage to all fathers.
On that first Father’s Day, a symbol of celebration and remembrance was chosen by the youth of the community; each wore a single rose to church that Sunday morning – red to hail living fathers and white to honor those who had passed away.
Although annually celebrated, it took many years until Father’s Day was actually recognized as an official holiday. In 1966, President Lyndon Baines Johnson issued a presidential proclamation actually designating the day be celebrated on the third Sunday in June, but it wasn’t until 1972 when President Richard M. Nixon officially signed the holiday into permanent national law.
Today, Father’s Day is a worldwide celebration that occurs at various times during the year. However, on June 19th, 55 other countries around the globe will join the United States in honoring fathers and father figures.
The following video, produced by ESPN and aired in 2006, firmly establishes the enormous importance of a father’s unfailing love.
Monday, June 14, 2010
This post is dedicated to all my fellow bloggers, journalists, manual writers, ghostwriters, copywriters, aggregators and anyone else who ekes out a day-to-day living working as a freelancer.
We now have our very own “Freelance National Anthem,” courtesy of one very clever fellow, Bill Dysell and his CinemaSolo Channel.
The embedded video below just tickled my funny bone.
Dysell wrote lyrics to fit a very recognizable music theme from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. This is a guaranteed “ear worm.” There’s even an MP3 that’s available.
Saturday, June 12, 2010
"The happiest moments of my life have been the few which I have passed at home in the bosom of my family." ~Thomas Jefferson ~
This photo, taken by U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Mark Fayola, provided by the U.S. Department of Defense is titled “Back to Base.”
The picture captures a frozen moment in time that was snapped on May 30, 2010 as United States Marines, assigned to Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, depart a checkpoint and patrol, returning back to Forward Operating Base Geronimo in Afghanistan.
One can only wonder if thoughts of home were on the minds of those men as they strode into the setting sun that early evening.
How many wish for home but will never return, or never return the same?
CNN’s “Home and Away” online site reports that as of Saturday, June 12, 2010 coalition casualties in Afghanistan are 1,812 deaths and 6,232 wounded. The figures for Iraq are even more disturbing – 4,725 deaths and 31,844 wounded.
Each one of those casualties represent families and loved ones who waited for their return home, but now only bear the scars of loss.
This morning I received and email, which included the videos that are embedded below; they were forwarded on from a dear friend. The subject line simply read “FW: The happiest e-mail I've received this year.” The note attached simply said, “Definitely a good one to pass around.”
A second note, from the original sender added, “Get ready for a good cry...love this.”
I have to agree with both assessments.
The videos, from the TheBobjohnson1984 YouTube channel are lovingly prepared compilations honoring soldiers who have made it home and into arms of their loved ones.
Before you watch, be sure to get your out your box of Kleenex , and then pass this on.
Soldiers Surprising Their Loved Ones: PART ONE
Soldiers Surprising Their Loved Ones: PART TWO
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
"Publicity is a great purifier because it sets in action the forces of public opinion, and in this country, public opinion controls the courses of the nation." -Charles Evans Hughes-
Never forget: A good and honest publicist is worth their weight in gold.
British Petroleum isn’t the only name in the last 18 months that has gotten tons of bad press, there have been some brilliant examples of PR FAILS that BP might learn from, take for instance the “Balloon Boy” fiasco orchestrated by the publicity grubbing "Wife Swap" Heene parents, who claimed their six year-old son Falcon was soaring with eagles high above Colorado in a run-away Mylar balloon. Can you say, “Jail sentence, community service and restitution to the tune of $36,000,” for pulling off a hoax that simply showed how stupid this kid’s parents were? Lesson One: Honesty is always the best policy.
There is also something learned from Michaele and Tareq Salahi, the wanna-be but never invited White House guests to President Obama’s first State Dinner – no matter how important you think you are - gate crashing is not permitted by the Secret Service. Lesson Two: Never muck with the President of these United States.
What about our own Defense Department’s “photo op” that went awry when a back-up Presidential 747 Air Force One was accompanied by two F-16 fighters and proceeded to buzz over Manhattan scaring the bejangers out of New Yorkers. Someone should have told Mayor Bloomberg that all they wanted were publicity photos. Lesson Three: Keep everyone informed.
Then there are cases such as the brilliant tongue-in-cheek hoax about the 140-year old hot dog with bun plus dinner receipt that was thought to be an archaeological find, discovered encased in ice underneath the demolished ruins of Coney Island’s historic eatery, Feltman’s Kitchen. The story was so convincing that CNN actually broadcast it -oops – it was merely a well-devised promotion for the Coney Island History Project. Lesson Four: Too much hype makes everyone look stupid.
What about the recent faux pas by (now retired) press corps diva Helen Thomas when she dispensed advice to Israel telling them to “Get the Hell out of Palestine” during the Jewish Heritage celebration on May 27, 2010 -she did apologize a few days later. Lesson Five: Never, ever wait to apologize if you are wrong.
On the other side of the coin, there are some outstanding examples that have fostered immense public support and positive press:
Who can forget the 16-foot, 1.5-ton foam sculpture of a Polar bear and cub on an iceberg that was launched in the Thames River to draw awareness to the plight of climate change and Sir David Attenborough’s Fragile Earth series on the Eden natural history television channel? Lesson Six: Any life lost on our precious planet is subject to the butterfly effect.
And, last but not least, one of the all-time greats that drew attention to a talent search – seen on video by over 17 million people – the performance of 200 dancers who had only two rehearsals and performed "Do Re Mi" from The Sound of Music to an astonished crowd of commuters at the Central Station of Antwerp. Lesson Seven: Buying all the AdWords in the world will not alter opinions - never underestimate the power of ordinary people to influence and bring about change.
Monday, June 7, 2010
Nature is filled with numerous curiosities– take for example Dionaea
muscipula - the Venus Flytrap. This is a green plant that has almost “pet-like” qualities.
The Flytrap is one of 530 carnivorous species distributed worldwide. A horticultural oddity that was improperly classified around 1743; the flytrap was first discovered growing wild in the savanna plains of North and
Linnaeus was credited with giving the Venus Flytrap its common name, but it took Charles Darwin's fascination with this meat-eating plant to foster its popularity with the public, and eventually lead to its proper identification.
The Venus Flytrap is characterized by its shiny green stalk that ends with what looks like a "taco with teeth.” These little taco-shapes appear green when in the shade and red when exposed to full sun. The “tacos” are actually insect traps that emit a sweet nectar-like substance that lures insects to their capture, death and ultimate digestion as a food source for the plant.
Over the years, the Flytrap has become a sought after houseplant, not only as a helpful way to deal with unwanted bugs, but as a novelty because of their “pet-like” response to stimulation.
As a houseplant, the Venus Flytrap is quite easy to maintain when planted in live sphagnum moss that is kept in a consistently moist state through spring, summer and autumn. Watering is accomplished in much the same manner as that of an African violet - by placing the Flytrap’s pot in a shallow container filled with distilled water or collected rainwater.
The plant bears lovely white star-shaped flowers in May and June, and during winter, the plant goes into its "resting" stage – that’s when watering is cut back to a slightly damp basis and any dying-off black-colored traps are removed.
If you decide you do not want to keep your plant visible during this slightly ugly stage, just carefully remove the plant from its pot, place it in a plastic bag and pop it in the refrigerator. The Venus Flytrap can withstand winter time temperatures of between 34 and 54 degrees Fahrenheit.
About the only major pest problem for the plant are Aphids, and there is no need to supplement the Flytrap’s diet with commercial fertilizers as that, along with feeding it hamburger (a popular misconception) could cause it to die.
During the Flytrap’s “taco-producing stage,” a steady diet of everything from cockroaches to common houseflies will keep it happy and satiated. However, please realize, after four successive feedings per taco shaped trap, that particular trap will die off.
When feeding your Venus Flytrap use a pair of tweezers and gently place a live insect critter into the center of an open trap. Depending upon the amount of sun light available the trap should close within 1/30th of a second and re-open only after the insect has been fully digested, which is a thoughtful thing to do.
As the trap becomes older or as the ambient room temperature lowers, the trap's closure response speed diminishes.
Since there are about four to eight traps per plant, feeding is best-spaced one insect per week, per trap, which also allows you to enjoy these phenomena for the better part of a growing season.
What happens if you tease your Venus Flytrap just to see it close? The trap closes but does reopen within twenty-four hours. The closure is due to a so-called "double trigger mechanism" (located on the inside of the “taco shell”) where touching or stimulating one inner hair twice or two inner hairs once will trigger the trap's closure.
The Venus Flytrap is the perfect plant "pet" for those with curiosity as well as the "stomach" for the unusual.
Friday, June 4, 2010
With this week’s focus on the televised drama that accompanies the Scripps National Spelling Bee, children might just get bitten by the spelling bug, as oftentimes, positive peer examples offer the best motivation.
What are the tools that you can offer your child to help them become friends with spelling and literacy?
It's no secret that Webster’s Third New International Dictionary Unabridged is a definitive resource and can be used when a child gets older and deeply into the process of being a wordsmith, but before that time there are ways that will spark interest in learning new words and provide great entertainment as well.
First and foremost in promoting a love of language, is reading. When books are read to a child, they not only serve as an educational and entertaining process, but they foster quality one-on-one time, and it doesn’t matter if it’s an actual cover-to-cover book or something you share off your iPad.
In addition to books, there are television programs that are ideal for introducing children to reading such as PBS KIDS Super Why! , which is perfect for the preschool set.
Online sites, such as Reading Rockets is also an excellent resource as it offers adult strategies along with activities and even lessons to help children with spelling and reading.
Products such as, Spelling Bee: Thinkmap’s Visual Thesaurus is ideal and fun for older children, plus you might discover that the whole family will enjoy using this interesting approach to finding words.
Last, but certainly not least, one of the most unique and primarily word-of-mouth promoted games, Bananagrams has taken the country by storm, and now it’s gone global with international editions.
As a word formation game, it is slightly similar to Scrabble but it is fast-paced, portable and almost addictive as you can play in groups or solo. The game has simple rules and is very affordable.
The video embedded at the end of this post, provided by Mastermind Toys gives you a good idea how much fun the game is to play.
Bannagrams was invented by the Nathanson family: Sandy, Rena, Aaron, Abe, and Ava, and at barely three years since creation, it has been honored by the Toy Industry Association as the 2009 Game of the Year – Best Game.
Don’t forget to tune in tonight for the live broadcast of the Championship Rounds of the Scripps National Spelling Bee at 8:00 p.m. ET/ 7:00 p.m. CT on the ABC Television Network.
Thursday, June 3, 2010
This week marked the arrival of 273 of the world’s best spellers, all under the age of 16, for the annual Scripps National Spelling Bee held at the Grand Hyatt International Hotel in Washington, D.C.
The origins of the term “spelling bee” predate the year 1825, and began with the use of Noah Webster’s spelling books in the classroom.
In 1925, the very first ‘National’ bee was organized by the Courier Journal in Louisville, Kentucky and brought together nine local spellers to compete. In 1941, the Scripps Howard News Service acquired sponsorship rights for the program, and today’s bee offers children from all 50 states, American protectorates and international countries, the opportunity to compete for over $40,000 worth of cash and prizes.
These 273 finalists all began their spelling journey months ago in their classrooms - from public, private, parochial, charter and home schools – an estimated 10 million competitors worldwide.
Each of those classroom winners then advanced to school-wide contests, followed by regional competitions, which then winnowed numbers down to the 273 national finalists, who yesterday competed in a computer generated written round and oral rounds two and three earlier today.
The competition, which provides high drama in the advancing stages, will be broadcast by ESPN from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on Friday, June 4, 2010. The last spellers remaining will then compete at 8:00 p.m. ET and be broadcast live by the ABC television network.
Over the years, this mega contest of words has provided great learning opportunities for children and has fostered excellent entertainment as found in the 2002 Academy Award nominated documentary, SPELLBOUND, and the 2006 feature film, AKEELAH AND THE BEE.
The Bee has also been put to song in the much-honored touring musical, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and explored further in written works such as the five-star tome of essays, Red: The Next Generation of American Writers – Teenage Girls – On What Fires Up Their Lives Today, edited by Amy Goldwasser.
Included in Red is a humorous, first-person account, “Apiarian Days,” by violinist, Samantha Gillogly, who at the actual 2001 National Bee was ousted in the 6th round on a musical term. The essay captures much of what these children face during this week of nail-biting competition.
IMHO’s thanks to the vaughanski’s YouTube Channel for the marvelous piece of video footage from the 2008 Scripps National Spelling Bee that concludes this post.
Be sure to come back tomorrow for “Spelling bee fun: Ideas for playtime and literacy development.”
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
If it’s Tuesday, it’s a good day for an unmitigated rant. Frustration mounts as we watch another attempt by British Petroleum to fix the “Big Spill” in the Gulf of Mexico.
Attempts to plug the leak, now in day 42 and spewing out mega gallons of gooey oil into the ocean, have been unsuccessful, even after flushing the pipeline with mud and ramming it with junk shot.
Okay, let’s try something new. No guarantees yet, but some action is better than no action at all. Frankly, (IMHO) I don’t think they know what they are doing at this juncture – time will tell, I guess.
In the midst of the failed attempt and resulting public disappointment, BP CEO Tony Hayward let loose with yet another gaffe.
Already famous for these gems, which were published in the May 14, 2010 edition of The Guardian:
In reference to the size of the leak: “relatively tiny."
In reference to BP safety performance: "In the last four or five years we have made major improvements in safety performance. It has made the company much better … Four years ago it could have been very different."
In reference to early attempts to fix the leak: "It was a bit bumpy to get it going. We made a few little mistakes early on.”
Then this one from Sky News on 5/18/10:
In reference to the environmental impact of the Deepwater Horizon Spill: “I think the environmental impact of this disaster is likely to be very, very modest."
Now the crowning statement is captured by the Today Show and first surfacing on Think Progress: “There’s no one who wants this over more than I do. I would like my life back.”
In response Mr. Hayward, I ask you these questions:
“What of the 11 men who died in the drilling platform explosion; do you think they would like to have their lives back?”
“What of the families of the 11 men who died in the drilling platform explosion, do you think they would like to have their loved ones back?”
“What of the entire fishing industry on the Gulf coast, do you think the fisherman would like to have their lives return to normal and their livelihoods back?”
“What about all the mammals, birds, turtles, dolphins and fish, do you think they would like to have their habitat and their lives back?”
I say, “Suck it up Mr. Hayward, and JUST FIX THE LEAK!" And, while you're at it, get yourself a good PR spokesperson. On your salary of $4.5 million per year, I would expect both issues are doable.
Granted, Hayward does apologize for the “massive disruption,” but before you turn livid upon actually hearing how the massive disruption has disrupted his life in the video below, see my previous post, which includes the live video feed of the newest attempt to fix the leak.