November 21, 2014

Elizabeth Holmes, America's youngest billionaire

America's Youngest Female Billionaire Explains Where Her Transformative Idea Came From

She spent a lot of time with her uncle when she was a kid.  But one day he was diagnosed with skin cancer, and doctors soon realized the cancer had already spread.  That illness "all of a sudden was brain cancer and in his bones," she said. "He didn't live to see his son grow up and I never got to say goodbye."

Elizabeth Holmes uses what happened to her uncle as a way of explaining why she started Theranos, a company valued at $9 billion that's transforming medicine by re-inventing the blood test.

 Elizabeth- Holmes
Holmes says she wants to offer individuals an easier, faster, cheaper way of getting access to their own health information, allowing them to transform their own behavior or to get treatment for serious health conditions earlier, giving them more time to get help.
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"I believe the individual is the answer to the challenges of healthcare but we can't engage the individual in changing outcomes unless the individual has access to the information they need to do so,"
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Theranos has partnered with Walgreens, so that anyone who needs (or just wants) a blood test can walk into a drug store — and not just during working hours. After submitting to a painless fingerprick, Theranos can run over 70 tests on a tiny sample of blood, checking for anything from blood sugar abnormalities to sexually transmitted infections, all for 50-90% cheaper than Medicare reimbursement rates.

You can watch her TEDMED talk at the link.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:03 AM | Permalink

November 5, 2014

"Today is epic. I got my life back. I can hear nearly normally for the first time in decades" "

If you know of anyone with profound hearing loss, this is a must-read piece.

Anthony Watts at Watts Up With That in a very personal and moving note writes How I got my life back – my hearing has been restored to near-normal

[H]earing loss is a terrible social isolation. People that are blind actually do better socially than people with severe hearing loss.  And many people who have severe hearing loss such as myself get symptoms that further exacerbates the social isolation. Much of my life over the past 40 years has been a great deal of social isolation. But it has gotten worse lately as my hearing deteriorated further in 2008 and it was about that time that I discovered that blogging opened a whole new world for me and allowed me to form friendships with people around the world something I’ve never experienced before. Even though I was no longer on television, blogging became my social outlet while my hearing suffered further.
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I credit my wife for giving me the “giant kick in the ass” that led to the transformation that I experienced a week ago in Minneapolis Minnesota at a company called Starkey laboratories and their hearing foundation which serves people worldwide. Without her, I would have given up on myself.

He credits the Center of Excellence at the Starkey Laboratories "where miracles are performed every day by a staff of caring and talented people that exist nowhere else in the world."

The walls are lined with photographs, autographs, and letters from heads of state, celebrities, astronauts, the Pope, and even a letter from Mother Teresa thanking the man that formed this company and the miracle that it produces for restoring their hearing. That  man’s name is Bill Austin….There are also dozens of photographs, no make that hundreds, of children around the world that have been helped by this man and the foundation he has started to spread goodness and the American initiative throughout the world.

Bill wasn’t in that day, he was off in Afghanistan fitting children who had their hearing damaged by the ravages of war with new hearing aids to help them in their own social isolations.

In very short order and with customization right on the spot, his hearing approached the normal level.  He was able to converse with a bartender, listen to a waiter explain the specials, carry on a conversation on an airplane and on his cellphone.   

So he posted on Facebook, "Today is epic.  I got my life back.  I can hear nearly normally for the first time in decades"

And to my amazement dozens and then hundreds of accolades and comment started pouring in while I was sitting there at the bar. I began to cry and tears were streaming down my face. I was so happy and I couldn’t stop it because the weight and pain of the last 40 years were suddenly lifted from me. It truly was epic.

There were two people sitting at the end corner of the bar who looked at me and asked with concern, “Sir, are you okay?”  I proceeded to tell them what happened and I had a glorious conversation with two people who I had never met and I understood every word. They were thrilled for me.

And so am I.    And my hat goes off to Bill Austin, the man that made the company that "spread goodness and the American initiative throughout the world."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:11 PM | Permalink

September 28, 2014

“The wife has a bad snore on her"

An Irish plumber dug a tunnel from under his bed to the local pub and used it every night for 5 years leaving at 11 pm and returning at 1 in the morning without ever being detected by his sleeping wife.

Patsy Kerr from Omagh explained why

"“The wife has a bad snore on her and after watching the Shawshank Redemption on RTE one night in 1994, I decided to do something about it so I waited til she was in a deep sleep and then set about digging a hole under the bed in the direction of the pub. I used all manner of tools from spoons to a heavy duty tunnel boring machine I managed to sneak down there when she was at the shops. It wasn’t until 2009 that I hit the jackpot and came up through the women’s toilet mop and bucket room.”

He was caught only when a collapsed sewage pipe from a neighboring house turned out to be caused by a pipe Kerr had accidentally hit  causing sewage to leak into the tunnel.   

Patsy Kerr, summoned to the Omagh County Court explained why he was glad to be caught.

"“To be honest I was sort of glad I was caught. She was always smelling drink off me in the morning and I was explaining it away as a natural odor. But recently I was finding myself singing rebel songs and stuff coming back up the tunnel and it was only a matter of time before I was caught anyhow. The landlord was also wondering how I was just appearing out of nowhere at the same time every night and disappearing from the women’s toilets.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:14 AM | Permalink

September 2, 2014

Yay Jadav Payeng

Since the 1970s a Man Has Been Planting a Forest Larger than Central Park, One Tree at a Time

Nestled in Northeast India next to the Brahmaputra River sits Majuli Island, a giant sandbar that happens to be the largest river island on Earth, home to some 150,000 people. It is also the location of the 1,360 acre Molai Forest, one of the most unusual woodlands in the world for the incredible fact that it was planted by a single man. Since 1979, forestry worker Jadav Payeng has dedicated his life to planting trees on the island, creating a forest that has surpassed the scale of New York’s Central Park.

While home to such a large population, rapidly increasing erosion over the last 100 years has reduced the land mass of Majuli Island to less than half. Spurred by the dire situation, Payeng transformed himself into a modern day Johnny Appleseed and singlehandedly planted thousands upon thousands of plants, including 300 hectares of bamboo.

Payeng’s work has been credited with significantly fortifying the island, while providing a habitat for several endangered animals which have returned to the area; a herd of nearly 100 elephants (which has now given birth to an additional ten), Bengal tigers, and a species of vulture that hasn’t been seen on the island in over 40 years. Gives you more than a little hope for the world, doesn’t it?

Colossal has a sixteen minute documentary about Jadav Payeng titled Forest Man by filmmaker William Douglas McMaster which has won several awards

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:20 PM | Permalink

August 26, 2014

Yay Mark Bustos

Mark Bustos is a 30-year-old hairstylist in Manhattan who goes around on Sunday offering haircuts to the homeless and to people who can't afford them.

 Mark Bustos

Every weekend, he wonders the city's streets to find people who look as though they could do with a haircut and who might otherwise not be able to afford it. 
Mr Bustons experience in hair-styling goes back to when he was a teenager. At the age of 14 he was styling out of his parent's garage.
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His motto is simple: 'Be awesome to somebody'
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His haircuts for the homeless was inspired after taking a trip in May 2012, to his native country of The Philippines where he snipped away on underprivileged kids.  He said the trip gave him the idea and momentum to continue the good deeds back in the States.  'The feeling was so rewarding, I decided to bring the positive energy back to New York City.'
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The transformations seen after a simple haircut and shave are incredible. Bustos says that people are treated better when their hair is styled neatly.

 Homeless-Client-1

Many more transformations were captured by photographer Devin Masga and can be seen at the link.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:42 PM | Permalink

August 25, 2014

Yay, Lillian

Every Day, This 99 Year Old Woman Sews a Dress for a Needy Child

 Lillian Weber 99 Dress-A-Day 
This is Lillian Weber of Scott County, Illinois. She's 99 years old but still very active. Every day, she sews a dress for Little Dresses for Africa, a charity that sends clothing to impoverished children in Africa. She gets up in the morning, starts to work on a dress, takes a break, then finishes in the afternoon. For the past 2 years, she repeated this routine daily, producing 840 dresses. Ms. Weber plans to make 150 more by next May when she will turn 100 years old.

 Weber-Dresses

Ms. Weber works from a standard pattern, but she personalizes each dress by combining different fabrics and trims. A child who wears one of her dresses isn't getting a copy of a mass-produced dress, but an original.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:57 AM | Permalink

June 13, 2014

The Sinking of the Lancastria

I had never heard of the sinking of Lancastria on June 17, 1940 which sent at least 4000 people to their deaths and possibly many more.

From Wikipedia:

It is the greatest ever loss of life in the sinking of a single British ship, claiming more lives than the combined losses of the RMS Titanic (1,523 passengers and crew) and RMS Lusitania (1,200 passengers). It had also the highest death toll for UK forces in a single engagement in the whole of World War II.

She was sunk off the French port of St. Nazaire while taking part in Operation Ariel, the evacuation of British nationals and troops from France, two weeks after the Dunkirk evacuation….

By the mid-afternoon of 17 June, she had embarked an unknown number (estimates range from 4,000 up to 9,000[, of civilian refugees (including embassy staff, employees of Fairey Aviation of Belgium), line-of-communication troops (such as Pioneer and RASC soldiers) and RAF personnel. The ship's official capacity was 2,200 including the 375 man crew. Captain Sharp had been instructed by the Royal Navy to "load as many men as possible without regard to the limits set down under international law".
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There were 2,477 survivors, of whom about 100 were still alive in 2011. Many families of the dead knew only that they died with the British Expeditionary Force (BEF); the death toll accounted for roughly a third of the total losses of the BEF in France
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David Niven told this story about the disaster and the sacrifice of a priest

"David Niven told the engrossing story (I had never heard it) of a single episode in the chaotic flight from France after Dunkirk in 1940.
One motley assembly, ‘Royal Air Force ground personnel who were trapped, Red Cross workers, women, ambulance drivers and, finally, the embassy staff from Paris with their children — by the time they got to St. Nazaire at the mouth of the Loire, there were over three thousand of them and the British government sent an old liner called the Lancastria to come and take them away, with three destroyers to guard her. They were just pulling up the anchor when three dive bombers came.

The destroyers did what they could, but one bomb hit, went down the funnel and blew a huge hole in the side, and she quickly took on a terrible list. In the hold there were several hundred soldiers. Now there was no way they could ever get out because of the list, and she was sinking. And along came my own favorite Good Samaritan, a Roman Catholic priest, a young man in Royal Air Force uniform. He got a rope and lowered himself into the hold to give encouragement and help to those hundreds of men in their last fateful hour.’

‘Knowing he couldn’t get out?’ ‘Knowing he could never get out, nor could they. The ship sank and all in that hold died. The remainder were picked up by the destroyers and came back to England to the regiment I was in, and we had to look after them, and many of them told me that they were giving up even then, in the oil and struggle, and the one thing that kept them going was the sound of the soldiers in the hold singing hymns.’”

Winston Churchill hid the news of the deaths of possibly more than 7,000 men from the public as it might have damaged morale.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:09 PM | Permalink

January 24, 2014

A Lake of Beer for God

Beers brewed by Trappist monks are regularly on lists of the world's, yet, there are only 10 official Trappist breweries in the world.  The only one outside Europe is, thank God, at St Joseph's Abbey in Spencer, Mass, which will begin to sell its beer this week, but only in Massachusetts.

According to the official website of the brewery, “Our recipe was inspired by the traditional refectory ales known as patersbier (“fathers’ beer” in Flemish). These seasonable beers are brewed by the monks for their dinner table and are typically only available at the monastery. Spencer is a full-bodied, golden-hued ale with fruity accents, a dry finish and light hop bitterness. The beer is unfiltered and unpasteurized, preserving live yeast that naturally carbonates the beer in the bottle and keg, and contributes to the beer flavor and aroma.” The beer will sit at 6.5% Alc.10


 Spencer Trappist-Ale-Label

NPR in American Beer Fans, Praise the Heavens tells the backstory.

For more than 60 years, the monks at St. Joseph's have supported themselves by making religious garments and preserves, including jams and jellies.  Still, that wasn't enough, so several years ago, they started looking into brewing.

But there was a problem: The monks knew nothing about brewing — or even drinking — beer. So, one of the monks called up Martha Paquette, the co-founder of Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project in Sommerville, Mass., for help.

"They'd maybe drunk some Budweiser," Paquette says. "So, we had a lot of fun with the monks introducing them to hops, dark beers, richer, stronger beers."

Learning to drink beer was the easy part. To learn to brew it, the abbey sent two of its monks to train at Belgian monasteries and hired a professional Belgian brewer.  The monastery also received some major financing — the monks wouldn't say how much — for a sleek, state-of-the-art brew house. Now, the 36,000-square-foot, stainless steel building sits behind the stone abbey and is mostly automated…..

The brew has already passed one major taste test: To get the official "Authentic product label," Spencer Trappist Ale's first had to win approval from the International Trappist Association.

"We tasted the beer the day we gave the approval," says ITA spokesman Francois de Harenne, and it was considered a good product — deserving to bear the logo."

 Brother Isaac Keeley Brother Isaac Keeley is director of the Trappists’ brewery in Spencer.  At the Spencer Brewery website, you can learn about the beer, the monks and even watch a beautiful video of a day in the life of a Trappist monk in Spencer.

I have been on retreat several times to the Abbey and can attest to the beauty and the peace that can be found there.  Now with beer, it will be heavenly. 

In the tenth century, Saint Brigid wrote a prayer that begins

I'd like to give a lake of beer to God. I'd love the heavenly Host to be tippling there For all eternity.

And ends

I'd sit with the men, the women and God There by the lake of beer. We'd be drinking good health forever And every drop would be a prayer.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:04 PM | Permalink

January 22, 2014

"He lived inside the cave of his breath"

The remarkable story of "Peter Freuchen, six foot seven, lived inside the cave of his breath. "

 Peter-Freuchen
"That's Peter Freuchen and his wife Dagmar Freuchen-Gale, in a photo taken by Irving Penn. Freuchen is a top candidate for the Most Interesting Man in the World.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:11 PM | Permalink

December 26, 2013

Arthur Jones, the littlest shepherd

It's the sweetest story of the day.

Britain's littlest shepherd, aged two, a lamb called Twinkle - and a bond between boy and sheep that will melt your heart

 Arthur Jones

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:33 PM | Permalink

December 19, 2013

Why people wait 5 years for a dinner at this restaurant

Meet The Restaurant With The Five-Year Waiting List 

It's not Spago, nor Per Se. It isn't located on Rodeo Drive or in Columbus Circle. The restaurant with the longest waiting list, five-years to be precise, is a small, nondescript, 12-table basement located in Earlton, N.Y., named simply enough Damon Baehrel after its owner and chef.  Its guests come from 48 countries and include such celebrities as Jerry Seinfeld, Martha Stewart and Barack Obama himself.  However what makes Baehrel's restaurant the most exclusive restaurant in the world is not the decor, nor the patrons, some who fly overnight from Manhattan to pay $255 for dinner (before wine and tip), nor the hype (although all the advertising is through word-of-mouth), but the food, which is all cultivated, grown, prepared, cooked and served from and on the property, and where Baehrel is literally the only employee. "I’m the chef, the waiter, the grower, the forager, the gardener, the cheesemaker, the cured-meat maker, and, as I will explain, everything comes from this 12-acre property."
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He has no staff, unless you count his wife and a tech-savvy friend, who help him manage the reservation e-mail address posted on his website. He spends no money on marketing and doesn’t have a business manager cultivating endorsement deals.  There have been no profiles of him in major food magazines nor write-ups of his restaurant in any newspapers.  In spite of this, or possibly because of it, the wait time just keeps getting longer.
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This hyperlocal, hyperunderground strategy is paying off. Baehrel won’t provide exact numbers but says he serves a few thousand guests each year and generates annual revenue of at least $750,000.  By contrast, a successful restaurant in Manhattan’s crowded West Village might break the $1 million mark, though the business model is much different. Baehrel’s expenses are less predictable each season; they can include one-off big-ticket items such as a $5,000 trailer or a $10,000 hauling cart.  But with no payroll or mortgage, and no food vendors except for his wine, seafood, and meat, which is from a local farm stand, he can stay both small and successful. “The biggest risk,” he says, “is that it’s just me there.”
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Perhaps that’s why the mainstream food world has finally started to take notice. Earlier this year, Damon Baehrel earned one of the country’s highest Zagat ratings: 29 for food and 28 for service, out of a possible 30. Baehrel also won his first James Beard nomination, as best chef in the Northeast in 2013. As it stands, the wait list for dinner stretches well into the back half of this decade. As the once-secret restaurant becomes less so, a new puzzle emerges: How does one score a table before Baehrel retires?
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Baehrel's example shows that one can lead a self-contained life of near gastronomical perfection with zero needs for 99 cent meals, and merely a few acres in which to grow and raise one's food. All it takes, of course, is a lot of work...
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:17 AM | Permalink

December 9, 2013

"'None of us needs to live the saddest part of our lives 24/7"

The forgiveness of the Amish was an amazing story in 2006 and it continues today with the example of the mother of the mass murderer

Mother of Amish schoolhouse shooter shares her story of forgiveness

Once a week, Terri Roberts spends time with a 13-year-old Amish girl named Rosanna who sits in a wheelchair and eats through a tube. Roberts bathes her, sings to her, reads her stories. She can only guess what's going on inside Rosanna's mind because the girl can't talk.

Roberts' son did this to her.    Seven years ago, Charles Carl Roberts IV barricaded himself inside an Amish schoolhouse near Lancaster, tied up 10 girls and opened fire, killing five and injuring five others before committing suicide as police closed in.
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The Amish responded by offering immediate forgiveness to the killer - even attending his funeral - and embracing his family.

    Terri Roberts Amish Grieving
Terri Roberts forgave, too, and now she is sharing her experience with others, saying the world needs more stories about the power of forgiveness and the importance of seeking joy through adversity.

'I realized if I didn't forgive him, I would have the same hole in my heart that he had. And a root of bitterness never brings peace to anyone,' Roberts said. 'We are called to forgive.'
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One of her sons is making a documentary - called Hope - about her remarkable journey from heartbroken mother to inspirational speaker.  Zachary Roberts originally conceived the film to help his mother. But it's also proving to be cathartic for him.

'It was like a step toward getting this off my shoulders and being able to speak about it,' said Roberts, 35, who lives in Sweden.'I have a kid now, and I don't want this to be one of those dark family secrets that nobody talks about. I want to be OK with it, and I want my daughter to be OK with it.'

Roberts appears in the trailer and doesn't mince words about the challenge that faced his mother after his 32-year-old brother's rampage: 'How does the mother of a mass murderer move forward in life?'

Terri Roberts' path toward healing and reconciliation began, surprisingly enough, that very first afternoon.  Her husband, Chuck, had wiped away so many tears that he'd rubbed his skin raw. The retired police officer hung his head, inconsolable.

'I will never face my Amish friends again,' he said, over and over.

An Amish neighbor named Henry told him otherwise. 'Roberts, we love you. We don't hold anything against you or your son,' Terri Roberts recalled Henry saying as he massaged Roberts' slumped shoulders. 'We're a forgiving people.'

It was an extraordinary gesture, one that gave Terri Roberts her first glimmer of hope. She calls Henry her 'angel in black'. That same day, a counselor helped her realize that 'we do not need to live in our sorrow'.

'I can't tell you what that did for me. That was just so helpful for me, and I feel now that it's helped many other people,' Roberts said.
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Rosanna wasn't expected to survive after being shot in the head. She laughs, cries and responds to stimuli, and King said she is mentally alert. But she requires constant care.

Terri Roberts' weekly visits with Rosanna force her to confront the damage her son caused. But Roberts also finds peace as she spends time with Rosanna and provides some relief to the teen's family, if only for a few hours.

'Beautiful young woman, but life is not as it should've been for this little girl. So my mind will never forget the hardship that day has caused in many people's lives,' Roberts said.

'And yet,' she said, 'none of us needs to live in the saddest part of our lives 24/7.'
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:04 PM | Permalink

November 19, 2013

Gettysburg Address UPDATED

Inexplicably, the President who made a big deal of his identification with Lincoln, even using Lincoln's bible to take his oath of office, is not going to Gettysburg today for the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg address.

Rex Murphy describes A perfect miracle of public utterance

Its beginning phrase, "four score and seven years ago," has become so well known that it's almost risen to the level of folklore.  These six words are a key to what Lincoln is doing with the remaining 272:  He deliberately sets a formal, deliberate tone, while avoiding the obvious or colloquial ("87 years ago"), and choosing to echo a biblical phrasing (Psalms:  "The days of our years are threescore years and ten").  The deliberate archaizing of the phrase also amounts to a call to attention.

Lincoln follows this with a brilliant, condensed précis of the American idea:  "Conceived in Liberty … all men are created equal."

The second sentence leaps from the distant founding of America to its then-terrible present moment and place.  He declares the Civil War (which was to continue for another year and a half ) as the "test" of whether a nation founded on such ideals "can survive."

The Gettysburg Address is a perfect miracle of public utterance…

But Lincoln goes beyond framing the war as a test of national ideals.  The language of the address, and its stately and solemn unfolding, set the Civil War as an interposition of a kind of Fate, or Providence, sent to test America — to settle the question of whether "any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure."  It is a brilliant turn of thought.

Then he turns to eulogy proper, and the subtle reversing of the normal eulogic energies: It is not the living who gather to honour the dead; rather, the dead consecrate the living.

It ends on a pledge to the warriors of Gettysburg field, to God himself — that they resolve to save the nation.  This part contains one of the plainest passages of the entire address — its whole charge riding on a triplet of prepositions: "by," "of" and "for."  The aphorism "of the people, by the people, for the people" captures in nine words the government all of us know (or should know).

Finally, he reverts to the solemn Biblical echoes of his beginning:  "perish from the earth."  The phrase brings the whole fiercely compressed but irresistibly persuasive address to what Eliot called a "dying close."

The Gettysburg Address is a perfect miracle of public utterance, of great weight and dignity — virtues not as present as we would like in these latter days.

UPDATE.  Obama edits the Gettysburg address, leaves out 'under God'  in a video shot for Ken Burns for Learn the Address which gathers recordings of Americans reciting the famous speech.

Lincoln made four previous drafts, the fifth and final draft which Lincoln signed and dated included the words "Under God" as did contemporaneous reports from the AP, the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Chicago Tribune.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:25 AM | Permalink

November 12, 2013

A palace made of pebbles and a garden underground

I've always been drawn to eccentrics whose passion and purpose leads them to do such amazing things

The subterranean garden and home created in California over 10 acres by a Sicilian immigrant in his spare time

 Forestiere's Subterranean Garden

Baldasare Forestiere (1879-1946) was a bit of a rebel. Sicilian-born to a wealthy father, by the age of 20, he’d had it with his controlling old man and upped sticks to America in 1901 to pursue his own future. He took jobs digging subway tunnels in New York and Boston to make ends meet until he decided to try his luck on the West Coast. Eventually settling in Fresno, California, Baldasare purchased 80 acres of land to make a life for himself as a farmer. The only problem was, the land wasn’t fit to be cultivated– at least not on the surface.

Forestiere built nearly 100 rooms, passageways and courtyards with circular holes above to allow a variety of plants and fruit-bearing trees to take root in large planters and protrude through the openings at ground level. Over a period of 40 years, he excavated oasis spans over 10 acres (all in his spare time).

The Postman who built a Palace made of Pebbles

 Postmanpalace

A French postman who spent thirty years of his life building his dream home– a palace made of pebbles and stones he found along his postal route…

Ferdinand Cheval allegedly first began building his “Palais Ideale” in 1879 when he tripped over an unusual stone. Inspired by its shape, he began collecting more small stones each day. At first he would carry home the pebbles he found on his mail rounds in his pockets, but as he began collecting more, he started carrying them home in baskets, and eventually a wheelbarrow.

Ferdinand Cheval spent the first 20 years building the outer walls of the palace near his home in Drôme, France, using cement, lime and mortar to bound the stones he found together. He worked alone, after his work shift at night with just an oil lamp.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:32 PM | Permalink

October 17, 2013

Saluting Heroes Swensen, Hargis and Cousy

Capt. William Swenson who was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Obama.

-Capt-William-Swenson

Andrew Malcolm at IBD reports.

Last month, the United States Army released a remarkable piece of video. It’s from the combat helmet cameras of a Medevac helicopter crew in Afghanistan. And it’s shaky and it’s grainy, but it takes us to the frontlines that our troops face every single day, and it’s useful to remember that there is still a whole lot of our troops in Afghanistan in harm’s way. In that video, as the helicopter touches down by a remote village, you see, out of a cloud of dust, an American soldier. He’s without his helmet, standing in the open, exposing himself to enemy fire, standing watch over a severely wounded soldier.
He helps carry that wounded soldier to the helicopter and places him inside. And then, amidst the whipping wind and the deafening roar of the helicopter blades, he does something unexpected. He leans in and kisses the wounded soldier on the head -- a simple act of compassion and loyalty to a brother in arms. And as the door closes and the helicopter takes off, he turns and goes back the way he came, back into the battle.
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As one of his fellow soldiers later said, Will “did things that nobody else would ever do, and he did it for his guys and for everybody on the ground, to get them out.”

Corporal Josh Hargis  and the salute seen round the world

 Cpl Josh Hargis Salute Seen Round The World
The photo shows Cpl. Josh Hargis lying on a hospital bed in Afghanistan with his eyes shut and tubes sticking out all over his body.
But the most telling thing it shows is this Ranger struggling to raise his hand to ­salute his commander, when everyone in the room thought him unconscious.
Cpl. Hargis was wounded this month during a Ranger operation aimed at catching a high-value terrorist target in Afghanistan. When the troops arrived at a home, a man came out and lifted his shirt to show the Rangers he wasn’t wearing a suicide vest. When several Rangers came forward, a woman with a suicide vest exited the house and blew herself up. Thirteen other improvised devices exploded, killing four of our people and injuring more.

Bob Cousy

 Bob Cousy

NBA great Bob Cousy has opened up about his beloved wife Missie's heart-breaking dementia and how he went to enormous lengths to allow the woman he called 'my bride' to believe she was healthy until the end.

Cousy, 85, who led the Celtics to six World Championships, said he never felt defeated by the challenge of caring for his high school sweetheart without seeking help, services or sympathy as she slowly succumbed to the ravaging disease.

And a week after her death, though bereft and inconsolable, he has described his bounding love for the woman who bristled at the suggestion she was suffering dementia, and the tear-jerking 'game plan' he followed - from shipping her car to their vacation home and doing all the household chores - that allowed her to believe, in her own mind, she wasn't sick.
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He spent his wedding night playing point guard for the Celtics, which set the scene for how the early part of their marriage would unfold.

'I was busy playing a child's game,' Cousy said. 'I thought putting a ball in a hole was important. Looking back, I should have participated more in the lives of my family. But my girls were in the best possible loving hands.'

However, tearing up, he described how the couple's romance flourished as they grew older.

'Our marriage was somewhat contrary to tradition,' he said. 'Most couples have the most intensity in the beginning. But I was always working. So we had the best and most romantic part of our marriage at the end. We literally held hands for the last 20 years.'
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He had her station wagon shipped to their place in Florida in the winter because she thought she could still drive. He planted artificial flowers in the garden and did all the chores, telling her she'd done them herself.

When her condition worsened, the couple stopped socializing and apart from the occasional 'night out with the boys' or game of golf, he spent all his time alone with his sweetheart, patiently answering her questions and ensuring she had everything she needed.

'It drew us closer together,' he told the newspaper. 'It was never a chore, because I knew she would have done the same for me. You just have to go with the flow. Every three months, I'd scream out something just for release.'
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Each morning, Cousy would wake first and arrange Missie's pills, the newspaper, a fiber bar and a banana on the kitchen table before rousing her.

She would take two or three hours to get through the paper, he said, because she liked to underline every line with a black pen. He explained how, after a while, he found comfort in reading between the lines because it was something they shared.

'She was leading a happy life,' he said. 'It was part of the game plan.'
The routine continued for years.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:21 AM | Permalink

October 9, 2013

What They Left and What They Kept

From the Art of Manliness:  What an Antarctic Expedition Can Teach You About What’s Truly Valuable

Shackleton knew their efforts were not enough to save the ship; the next day he ordered the Endurance abandoned. “She’s going boys,” he said. “I think it’s time to get off.”….

Gathering his men around him, he told them of the new plan: they would begin a march across the ice towards Paulet Island, some 346 miles to the west. As they hoped to hit open water along the way, the men would have to drag two, one-ton lifeboats along with them, hauling them across a vast wasteland of ice and over ridges that could rise two stories high. …..

Given the arduous nature of the task ahead, Shackleton solemnly informed his men that “nothing but the bare necessities are to be taken on the march, for we can not afford to cumber ourselves with unnecessary weight.”….

Shackleton had come to believe that traveling light was absolutely paramount, as “those that burdened themselves with equipment for every contingency had fared much worse than those that had sacrificed total preparedness for speed.”

Each member of the team was allowed the clothes on his back, plus two pairs of mittens, six pairs of socks, two pairs of boots, and a sleeping bag. Beyond these basic provisions, Shackleton ordered that each man only bring a maximum of two pounds of personal possessions…

Shackleton placed the torn pages inside his jacket and laid the Bible in the snow. He then reached into his pocket and withdrew a gold watch, gold cigarette case, and a handful of gold sovereigns. He gave the items one last look before tossing them into the snow as well.

It was a dramatic gesture, but Shackleton was determined to impress upon his men the absolute necessity of each man stripping himself of every ounce of superfluous weight. “No article has any value when measured against our survival,” Shackleton intoned. “Everything is replaceable except your lives.”

What They Left Behind

Money/Jewelry/Gold. …Clothes. ….Scientific instruments…..Books……Suitcases.

What They Took

Toothbrush….Religious items…..Photographs ……Medical supplies and instruments…..One banjo (Shackleton insisted it be lashed underneath one of the lifeboats and brought along. “It’s vital mental medicine,” he said, “and we shall need it.”)…..diaries.
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The most important question then becomes: are you putting your time and money where your mouth is? Are you investing the resources of your life into what you truly value, or are you wasting them on things, that, if push came to shove, you would ultimately leave behind in an icy grave?
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:23 PM | Permalink

October 7, 2013

The meanings of life

From Aeon. The meanings of life

Happiness is not the same as a sense of meaning. How do we go about finding a meaningful life, not just a happy one?

Parents often say: ‘I just want my children to be happy.’ It is unusual to hear: ‘I just want my children’s lives to be meaningful,’ yet that’s what most of us seem to want for ourselves. We fear meaninglessness. We fret about the ‘nihilism’ of this or that aspect of our culture. When we lose a sense of meaning, we get depressed. What is this thing we call meaning, and why might we need it so badly?
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The difference between meaningfulness and happiness was the focus of an investigation I worked on with my fellow social psychologists Kathleen Vohs, Jennifer Aaker and Emily Garbinsky, published in the Journal of Positive Psychology this August…..we found five sets of major differences between happiness and meaningfulness, five areas where different versions of the good life parted company.
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The satisfaction of desires was a reliable source of happiness. But it had nothing — maybe even less than nothing ­— to add to a sense of meaning. People are happier to the extent that they find their lives easy rather than difficult….The frequency of good and bad feelings turns out to be irrelevant to meaning, which can flourish even in very forbidding conditions.
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The second set of differences involved time frame.  Meaning and happiness are apparently experienced quite differently in time. Happiness is about the present; meaning is about the future, or, more precisely, about linking past, present and future….people experience happiness as something that is felt here and now, and that cannot be counted on to last. By contrast, meaning is seen as lasting, and so people might think they can establish a basis for a more lasting kind of happiness by cultivating meaning.
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Social life was the locus of our third set of differences. As you might expect, connections to other people turned out to be important both for meaning and for happiness….Simply put, meaningfulness comes from contributing to other people, whereas happiness comes from what they contribute to you.
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A fourth category of differences had to do with struggles, problems, stresses and the like….all these are notably low or absent from the lives of purely happy people, but they seem to be part and parcel of a highly meaningful life.
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The final category of differences had to do with the self and personal identity. Activities that express the self are an important source of meaning but are mostly irrelevant to happiness. ….If happiness is about getting what you want, it appears that meaningfulness is about doing things that express yourself.
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Marriage is a good example of how meaning pins down the world and increases stability.
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The meaningful life, then, has four properties. It has purposes that guide actions from present and past into the future, lending it direction. It has values that enable us to judge what is good and bad; and, in particular, that allow us to justify our actions and strivings as good. It is marked by efficacy, in which our actions make a positive contribution towards realizing our goals and values. And it provides a basis for regarding ourselves in a positive light, as good and worthy people.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:03 AM | Permalink

September 9, 2013

Some good advice for college students

Walter Russell Mead gives some good advice for those college students heading Back to School

1.  The real world does not work like school.
Life in school is life in bureaucracy.  You follow the rules, do what you are told, and rewards follow.
….  You have to fight the tendency of the educational system to turn you into a timeserving baby bureaucrat, following the rules and waiting for the inevitable promotion.  As you go through college, think about ways you can fight the pressures of institutionalization.  Work or volunteer — not just for money, but to keep your hand in the real world.  Live off campus.  Start a business.  Shake things up.

2.  Most of your elders know very little about the world into which you are headed.
  In the old days, you got the right degree from the right school, got a job with a good employer and rose steadily through the ranks through a long and increasingly distinguished career.  At the end you had a safe pension.
Almost certainly, this is not going to happen to you.  At times, your career is going to feel like Eliza’s run for freedom across the half-frozen Ohio river — jumping from ice floe to ice floe with the hounds of hell behind you.  It won’t be all bad; there are rewards to this kind of life as well as risks, but you are going to need a different outlook on life and a different set of skills to cope.

3.  You are going to have to work much, much harder than you probably expect.
I’m sorry to bring you bad news, but your generation faces the toughest competition any American generation has ever known.
Your competition isn’t sitting in the next library carrel.  Your competition is in China and India – and your competition isn’t hanging out at frat parties or sitting around watching sitcoms with dorm-mates.  It isn’t getting stoned and it isn’t putting its energy into chasing the opposite (or apposite) sex.  Your competition isn’t taking lots of courses on gender studies; it isn’t majoring in ethnic studies, or (unless it is planning to go into movie making) the history of film.
Your competition is working hard, damned hard, and is deadly serious about learning.  There’s nothing written in the stars that guarantees Americans a higher standard of living than other people.  Those of you who spend your college years goofing off in the traditional American way are going to pay a much higher price for this than you think….

4. Choosing the right courses is more important than choosing the right college.
Your generation is going to have to scramble and you need every edge you can get.  Your generation can’t afford to throw these four years away; choose your courses carefully and seriously. Everybody has different needs; aspiring movie makers and aspiring physicists aren’t going to take all that many classes together, but there are some basic concepts that make sense….

5.  Get a traditional liberal education; it is the only thing that will do you any good.
In times of rapid change, it is paradoxically more useful to immerse yourself in the basics and the classics than to try to keep up with the latest developments and hottest trends.  You can be almost 100% sure that the hot theories making waves in academia today will be forgotten or superseded in twenty years — but fifty years from now people will still be reading and thinking about the classic texts that have shaped our world.  Use your college years to ground yourself in the basic great books and key ideas and values that will last.

For the same reason, don’t worry too much about getting specific skills at this stage.  You are going to keep learning new skills all your life and you are going to find many of your skills obsolete as time goes on (when I was a kid I was very good at operating something called a mimeograph machine).  What you want to do now is to develop your ability to learn…..First, getting a liberal education means you have to achieve literacy in math and at least in one science – and come to grips with the scientific method.  ……Second, study the basic ideas, debates, books, people and events of the western world – with special attention to the Anglo-American subset of the western tradition.  You can’t understand other people’s cultures and traditions until you understand the one that surrounds you.  Art, literature and music are part of this.  Don’t neglect them.
Third, study the United States: its history, regions, culture, politics, literature and economy.  You would be surprised how many highly educated people have never seriously studied (or traveled much in) their own country.  Don’t make that mistake – and study the parts of the US you don’t know.

Fourth, study at least one language and at least one culture that is alien to you.  Pick a language that opens the door to a big world: Mandarin, Hindi, Arabic, German, the Romance languages (if you get really good in one of these last you will have a surprisingly easy time dealing with others).  …

Fifth, learn to write well.  This paradoxically is going to be more important than ever for the next generation.  I can’t tell you how many editors at how many famous magazines have told me over the years that most professors and academics simply cannot write, and bemoan the immense amount of time they must devote to impose some kind of intellectual structure and comprehensible prose on the crabbed drafts they get from, often, fairly well known people.

Finally, unless you are following up on an interest that is already a deep and passionate one, try to take courses taught by great teachers.  The main purpose of an undergraduate education isn’t to polish up your knowledge and finish your learning.  It is to launch you on a lifetime quest for wisdom and understanding.  You want professors who can help you fall in love with new subjects, new ideas, new ways of investigating the world.  The courses that end up mattering the most to you will be the ones that start you on a lifetime of reading and reflection.

6.  Character counts; so do good habits.
One of the weaknesses in contemporary college education is that many teachers and administrators don’t think enough about the need that students have for moral education: reflection on right and wrong, the development of good habits that make good decisions easier to make and easier to stick with, a healthy spiritual grounding that can see you through the storms of life, and the kind of self knowledge that can only come from a life of serious moral engagement and thoughtful reflection.

Character and spiritual grounding are going to count much more in the tumultuous, uncertain environment that is approaching than in the more stable and bureaucratic world of the past.  ……There may be chaplains at your school who can help you with this side of life.  There may be courses on personal ethics; there may be faculty who you feel have something to teach as mentors and role models.  There are other students who have qualities that you wish you had — and there are student groups who read, pray, meditate and act together to help their members grow.  Seek out the people, the communities, the experiences that can help you grow.  College should be a time of spiritual as well as intellectual and career development and growth and you will be missing an essential element of your education if you do not engage with the world of faith and religion during your college years.

7.  Relax.
If you take this advice, you may still come out of school with too much debt — and the fields that interest you may be hard to break into, and the financial rewards less than you may have expected.  But you will be able to cope: you will have the education, the habits and the character traits that will enable to you find new opportunities and new careers even as old ones fade away.  And whatever happens to your bank account, your journey through life will be a rich and rewarding one if you come out of college with a good liberal education and a lifelong love of learning.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:12 AM | Permalink

August 10, 2013

"Meaning is Healthier than Happiness"

In the Atlantic, Meaning Is Healthier Than Happiness by Emily Esfahani Smith

People who are happy but have little-to-no sense of meaning in their lives have the same gene expression patterns as people who are enduring chronic adversity.

A few months ago, I wrote a piece called “There’s More to Life Than Being Happy” about a psychology study that dug into what happiness really means to people. It specifically explored the difference between a meaningful life and a happy life.

It seems strange that there would be a difference at all. But the researchers, who looked at a large sample of people over a month-long period, found that happiness is associated with selfish “taking” behavior and that having a sense of meaning in life is associated with selfless “giving” behavior.

"Happiness without meaning characterizes a relatively shallow, self-absorbed or even selfish life, in which things go well, needs and desire are easily satisfied, and difficult or taxing entanglements are avoided," the authors of the study wrote. "If anything, pure happiness is linked to not helping others in need.” While being happy is about feeling good, meaning is derived from contributing to others or to society in a bigger way. As Roy Baumeister, one of the researchers, told me, "Partly what we do as human beings is to take care of others and contribute to others. This makes life meaningful but it does not necessarily make us happy.”

 Meaning Of Life Google

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:49 AM | Permalink

July 11, 2013

Oliver Sachs turns 80

Oliver Sachs on The Joy of Old Age. (No Kidding.)

LAST night I dreamed about mercury — huge, shining globules of quicksilver rising and falling. Mercury is element number 80, and my dream is a reminder that on Tuesday, I will be 80 myself.
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Eighty! I can hardly believe it. I often feel that life is about to begin, only to realize it is almost over. My mother was the 16th of 18 children; I was the youngest of her four sons, and almost the youngest of the vast cousinhood on her side of the family. I was always the youngest boy in my class at high school. I have retained this feeling of being the youngest, even though now I am almost the oldest person I know.
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At 80, the specter of dementia or stroke looms. A third of one’s contemporaries are dead, and many more, with profound mental or physical damage, are trapped in a tragic and minimal existence. At 80 the marks of decay are all too visible. One’s reactions are a little slower, names more frequently elude one, and one’s energies must be husbanded, but even so, one may often feel full of energy and life and not at all “old.” Perhaps, with luck, I will make it, more or less intact, for another few years and be granted the liberty to continue to love and work, the two most important things, Freud insisted, in life.
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When my time comes, I hope I can die in harness, as Francis Crick did. When he was told that his colon cancer had returned, at first he said nothing; he simply looked into the distance for a minute and then resumed his previous train of thought. When pressed about his diagnosis a few weeks later, he said, “Whatever has a beginning must have an ending.” When he died, at 88, he was still fully engaged in his most creative work.

My father, who lived to 94, often said that the 80s had been one of the most enjoyable decades of his life. He felt, as I begin to feel, not a shrinking but an enlargement of mental life and perspective. One has had a long experience of life, not only one’s own life, but others’, too. One has seen triumphs and tragedies, booms and busts, revolutions and wars, great achievements and deep ambiguities, too. One has seen grand theories rise, only to be toppled by stubborn facts. One is more conscious of transience and, perhaps, of beauty. At 80, one can take a long view and have a vivid, lived sense of history not possible at an earlier age. I can imagine, feel in my bones, what a century is like, which I could not do when I was 40 or 60. I do not think of old age as an ever grimmer time that one must somehow endure and make the best of, but as a time of leisure and freedom, freed from the factitious urgencies of earlier days, free to explore whatever I wish, and to bind the thoughts and feelings of a lifetime together.

I am looking forward to being 80.

He's had a most interesting life as you can read at Wikipedia

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:34 PM | Permalink

July 6, 2013

"The Greatest Runner of All Time"

A  most impressive man you never heard of who some think is responsible for "the most phenomenal moment in Olympics history".  A what-is question posed by Quora.

A lone figure comes into view, barreling down the home stretch. Gasping with effort.

The crowd stands. And roars with encouragement. Every. Single. Person. From every nation. They drown out the cheers of his fellow countrymen. Like Seabiscuit some two decades earlier, this under dog had become something more.

 Emil Zatopek

He crossed the finish line in clear first. He had also broken the world record. His team mates tried to push through the crowd to congratulate him. But by the time they reach the finish line, he's no longer there. The Jamaican team had hoisted him onto their shoulders and were parading around the infield. To the sound of ecstatic applause.

Who was this man who had captured the hearts and imaginations of millions? Who was so beloved that even his rivals delighted at his accomplishments?

His name was Emil Zatopek.

He was, quite simply, the most passionate runner the world had ever seen and one of the most exemplary human beings I have ever heard of.
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So perhaps it comes with no surprise that he was self coached. And he became quite famous for his brutal training regiments.

He was also well known for his awkward form. The Guardian has this to say about his form. "Watching him run, one commentator said, "He looks like a man wrestling with an octopus on a conveyor belt."…..And so he managed to break the Czech record for the 2000, 3000, and 5000 meter runs at twenty two. He won the 10km in the 1948 Olympics.

But the real magic though would come in 1952….
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He was named The Greatest Runner of All Time by Runner's World Magazine in 2013
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:19 AM | Permalink

June 12, 2013

"I am only a public clown," Pablo Picasso

‘What happens to art in a society when belief in God has withered away?’

Pablo Picasso who had, however, his moment of honesty when he wrote to Giovanni Papini as long ago as 1952: “In art people no longer seek consolation and exaltation…they seek after whatever is new, odd, original, extravagant or scandalous. And since cubism and what followed, it is masters and critics such as these that I have sought to please with whatever bizarre extravagances entered my head, and the less they understood, the more they admired me. By dint of amusing myself with such fun and games and meaningless head-splitting riddles, I became a celebrity in no time. And fame for a painter means sales, gains, riches, a fortune. Today, as you know, I am both famous and rich.

“But when I am alone, alone with myself, I haven’t the courage to consider myself an artist in the former grand sense of the term. Giotto, Titian, Rembrandt, Goya, these were great painters. I am only a public clown who has understood his period and has exploited as best he could the imbecility, the vanity and the cupidity of his contemporaries.”

An elderly writer on Catholic subjects once told me “Art should elevate us.” In that he would have included the “consolation and exaltation” that Picasso mentioned: the inner journey towards truth, glimpsed through beauty, which is especially significant for those who have not (yet) encountered the God who is beauty himself. What happens to art in a society when belief in God has withered away? Or when you have prodigious gifts of draughtsmanship but no inner vision? I suppose Picasso is the answer. The story of Western art -including the great Gothic cathedrals of Europe – and its magnificent flourishing in the Christian centuries has been told by the late Lord Clark in the celebrated 1960s TV series “Civilization.” Significantly, the series ended with the 20th century – just when Picasso stepped into the circus ring.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:29 AM | Permalink

May 27, 2013

Memorial Day

“The soldier is not respected because he is doomed to death, but because he is ready for death; and even ready for defeat.” G. K. Chesterton.

 Flags Boston Common Memday

Boston Common is a sea of flags placed by the Massachusetts Military Heroes Fund in memory of every fallen Massachusetts service member from the Civil War to the present.

A Tradition of Sacrifice, From Yorktown to Ramadi

Memorial Day is deeply personal—to me, as it is to any veteran, to any military family. It is a time of mixed emotion: solemn reflection and mourning, honor and admiration for those who made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of their country.
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Let's remember on Memorial Day—and every other day, for that matter—that America did not become a nation without a fight…..It was not the Declaration of Independence that gave us freedom but the Continental Army. America was born from conflict, delivered by soldiers willing to pay with their blood the tremendous cost of freedom.

The dead did not wish to be martyred. They no doubt longed to return to their homes and families. But they believed in the "glorious cause," something far greater than themselves. Despite knowing the dangers before them, they followed Gen. Washington into the fray even when victory seemed hopeless and the cause all but lost.

Why do we honor those who have sacrificed their lives?

Not because they have secured our ability to seek our individual good, but because they have given their lives in pursuit of a common, intrinsic, and greater good.

-Kelly Mixon Widow Afghan Ied
The sacrifice is felt most deeply by the women and families left behind.  Amy Mixon kneels before grave of her husband Kelly who was killed by an IED in 2010 while serving in Afghanistan.

The fighting Irish. The Irish have won the Congressional Medal of Honor far more than any other ethnic group. 

The Battle Hymn of the Republic, Henry Steele Commager called it "the one great song to come out of the Civil War, the one great song ever written in America". writes Mark Steyn

Whether or not that's true, most of us understand it has a depth and a power beyond most formal national songs. When John F Kennedy was assassinated, Judy Garland insisted on singing it on her TV show – the producers weren't happy about it, and one sneered that nobody would give a damn about Kennedy in a month's time. But it's an extraordinary performance. Little more than a year later, it was played at the state funeral of Winston Churchill at St Paul's Cathedral. Among those singing it was the Queen. She sang it again in public, again at St Paul's, for the second time in her life at the service of remembrance in London three days after September 11th 2001. That day, she also broke with precedent and for the first time sang another country's national anthem – "The Star-Spangled Banner". But it was Julia Ward Howe's words that echoed most powerfully that morning as they have done since she wrote them in her bedroom in Washington 140 years earlier:

As He died to make men holy
Let us die to make men free
While God is marching on.


The US Army Chorus sings at the White House in 2008 before President Bush and Pope Benedict on his visit to the U.S.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:24 AM | Permalink

April 9, 2013

"Let my fiancee go"

In Faith, Fear and the Holocaust, Get Religion says  “READ THIS!!!” in the Louisville Courier-Journal.    I did and they were right.

Louisville couple recalls harrowing escape during Holocaust

As a Jew living in neutral Switzerland in October 1942, John Rothschild took the extraordinary risk of walking into an internment camp in Nazi-dominated France — unnerved but undeterred by the ominous closing of the gate behind him.

He arranged to speak to the French camp commander, part of the right-wing puppet government of France that was shipping Jews by the trainload north to death camps such as Auschwitz.

Rothschild recalls placing a package of Swiss cigars on the commander’s desk, along with the business card of a helpful local lawyer whom the commander owed a favor. As Rothschild introduced himself, the commander said, “Oh, for the Swiss I would take the moon down from the sky.”

“I told him, ‘You don’t have to do that much. Let my fiancée go,’ ” Rothschild recalled.
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The couple fell in love at 19 and are now 93 — with two children, four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren — and they are active congregation members.

“They are probably the oldest Talmud students in the world,” Adath Jeshurun Rabbi Robert Slosberg said of the couple, regular attendees of his weekly classes on the classic Jewish commentary. “They're just an amazing blessing. They never became jaded by the terrible experience they went through.”
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The Rothschilds say they still remember the relief of their first night of freedom in Geneva, when, disheveled, they drew stares as they entered a hotel lobby — and were given its best suite when the clerk learned of their ordeal.

As they closed the door to their room, Renee said, “I thanked God to be alive.”

John Rothschild said the couple owes their lives to a combination of faith, hope, luck and initiative.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:46 PM | Permalink

April 4, 2013

Wisdom, Prudence and Human Flourishing

The English writers  Orwell and Huxley describe two types of enslavement, external and internal  In U.S. we are more Brave New World than 1984 though we have elements of both.

Hunger Games and Dystopia

George Orwell and Aldous Huxley, as has often been pointed out, imagined two very different dystopias. In 1984, written just after the Second World War, Orwell depicts the forces that held people captive as fundamentally external: coercion, espionage, laws, constraints, threats, lies, the state.  By contrast, Huxley’s Brave New World, published just after the Wall Street crash had turned the excess of the twenties into the Great Depression of the thirties, portrays a future in which people are enslaved to forces within themselves: desire, inanity, hedonism, egotism, fatuity. For all the similarities between the two books, it is this difference that is the most striking.
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The greatest threat to human flourishing is the lack of wisdom, phronesis, or virtue. Whereas moderns understand freedom in terms of unconstrained individual choices, many ancients regarded the forces underlying individual choices—passions and desires which might in turn be foolish, selfish, or carnal, much like those depicted in Brave New World—as something from which people needed to be freed.
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The essence of eleutheria, in the vision of writers from Aristotle to St. Paul, was being free to become what one was originally designed to be, rather than simply being free to make decisions (decisions which, of course, might stunt one’s progress towards ultimate fulfillment). Thus humans could be enslaved, not just to the other, but to the self. One needs redemption from the flesh as much as from the powers. Under such a vision of liberty, modern Westerners might not be as free as we would like to think.

Eleutheria is the Greek term for liberty. Eunoia, in addition to being the shortest English word containing all five vowels, comes from Greek meaning "well mind" or "beautiful thinking" and is a rarely used medical term referring to a state of normal mental health.

Phronesis is the Greek word is most often translated as "practical wisdom" or prudence.  Sophia is the other Greek word for wisdom sometimes translated as "theoretical wisdom".  Young people can acquire sophia in their respective fields, but, as Aristotle pointed out, maturation is required for  phronesia or prudence.  Young people do not as yet as have the life experience of sufficient particular experiences that's necessary for prudence.    This was clearly evident to Cicero who said:

"Rashness belongs to youth; prudence to old age," 
"Prudence is the knowledge of things to be sought, and those to be shunned."
"Precaution is better than cure"

One of the seven virtues, prudence is often misunderstood by young people as Kathryn Britton points out In Praise of Prudence from Positive Psychology News.

Generally speaking, adolescents understood them quite well, but I remember they had a tendency to confuse Humility with humiliation and Prudence with prudes. According the authors, “It seems that for most students, caution/prudence is a stuffy trait associated with timidity and lack of adventurousness.”

No wonder that "“The least prevalent character strengths in human beings are prudence, modesty, and self-regulation.”

Britton continues:

Psychologist Vincent Jeffries defines prudence as, “the use of reason to correctly discern that which helps and that which hinders realizing the good.” Think about all that entails: being able to project today’s actions into the future, to imagine the possible outcomes, and to form judgments about alternatives. I expect a person with the character strength prudence must have a high tolerance for ambiguity, needing to deal with incomplete and often conflicting information in order to make judgments.

As the expert contributor to the Prudence chapter in Character Strengths and Virtues, Nick Haslam identifies the following qualities of prudence:
A foresighted stance toward the future, holding long-term goals and aspirations

Ability to resist self-defeating impulses and to persist in beneficial activities, even if they lack immediate appeal (Grit anyone?)

• Reflective, deliberate, and practical thinking about life choices

• Ability to harmonize multiple goals into a “stable, coherent, and un-conflicted form of life.

• Ability to seek personal good without being collectively destructive.

In positive psychology, flourishing is “to live within an optimal range of human functioning, one that connotes goodness, generativity, growth, and resilience.”
Flourishing is the opposite of both pathology and languishing, which are described as living a life that feels both hollow and empty.
Flourishing is a positive psychology concept which is a measure of overall life well-being and is viewed as important to the idea of happiness

A pioneer in positive psychology, Corey Keyes describes flourishing thusly:

flourishing is the epitome of mentally healthy adults having high levels of emotional well-being; they are happy and satisfied; they tend to see their lives as having a purpose; they feel some degree of mastery and accept all parts of themselves; they have a sense of personal growth in the sense that they are always growing, evolving, and changing; finally, they have a sense of autonomy and an internal locus of control, they chose their fate in life instead of being victims of fate.

Keyes reports that only 18.1% of Americans are actually flourishing. The majority of Americans can be classified as mentally unhealthy (depressed) or not mentally unhealthy or flourishing (moderately mentally healthy/languishing).

He is quoted as saying,

"We are living longer — on average 30 years longer than at the start of the 20th century — yet we are not living healthier. The question is: Are we just living dependent and sick, or are we living healthy and able to contribute?"

"I think we set up an impossible task, because our hedonistic version of happiness is impossible to sustain. But it is quite possible to feel fulfilled and content and that the world is meaningful by aligning yourself with some ideals, something that is bigger and better than you, and trying to live up to it."

For a flourishing life, one that is well-lived, we do well to cultivate the virtue of prudence.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:02 PM | Permalink

December 18, 2012

People do wonderful things

I needed this.  Sometimes you need a reminder that people can do wonderful things.

26 Moments That Restored Our Faith In Humanity This Year

 We Have Power

And surveillance cameras catch some of it.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:49 PM | Permalink

December 8, 2012

The Real-life Dr. House

For Second Opinion, Consult a Computer?

Professionals in every field revere their superstars, and in medicine the best diagnosticians are held in particularly high esteem. Dr. Gurpreet Dhaliwal, 39, a self-effacing associate professor of clinical medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, is considered one of the most skillful clinical diagnosticians in practice today.


 Real Life Dr. House

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To observe him at work is like watching Steven Spielberg tackle a script or Rory McIlroy a golf course. He was given new information bit by bit — lab, imaging and biopsy results. Over the course of the session, he drew on an encyclopedic familiarity with thousands of syndromes. He deftly dismissed red herrings while picking up on clues that others might ignore, gradually homing in on the accurate diagnosis.

Just how special is Dr. Dhaliwal’s talent? More to the point, what can he do that a computer cannot? Will a computer ever successfully stand in for a skill that is based not simply on a vast fund of knowledge but also on more intangible factors like intuition?
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When working on a difficult case in front of an audience, Dr. Dhaliwal puts his entire thought process on display, with the goal of “elevating the stature of thinking,” he said. He believes this is becoming more important because physicians are being assessed on whether they gave the right medicine to a patient, or remembered to order a certain test.

Without such emphasis, physicians and training programs might forget the importance of having smart, thoughtful doctors. “Because in medicine,” Dr. Dhaliwal said, “thinking is our most important procedure.”
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An expert clinical diagnostician like Dr. Dhaliwal might make a decision without being able to explain exactly what is going on in the back of his mind, as his subconscious continuously sifts the wheat from the chaff.
--

Isabel, the diagnostic program that Dr. Dhaliwal sometimes uses, was created by Jason Maude, a former money manager in London, who named it for his daughter. At age 3, Isabel came down with chickenpox and doctors failed to spot a far more dangerous complication — necrotizing fasciitis, a flesh-eating infection. By the time the disease was identified, Isabel had lost so much flesh that at age 17 she is still having plastic surgery.
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He added that Isabel was aimed not so much at the Dr. Dhaliwals of the world, but at more typical physicians.

Dr. David J. Brailer, chief executive of Health Evolution Partners, which invests in health care companies, agreed. “If everyone was a diagnostic genius, we wouldn’t need these decision support tools,” he said.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:56 PM | Permalink

December 6, 2012

" I seek in every way to show with my face a good humanity "

 Fr. Michel-Marie  Fr. Michel-Marie, a Cassock in Deep Marseille

The life, works, and miracles of a priest in a city of France. Who has made the faith blossom again where it had withered

A pastor whose Masses are crowded with people. Who hears confessions every evening until late at night. Who has baptized many converts. Who always wears the cassock so that everyone may recognize him as a priest even from far away.

Michel-Marie Zanotti-Sorkine was born in 1959 in Nice, to a family a bit Russian and a bit Corsican. As a young man he sang in the nightclubs in Paris, but then over the years there emerged the vocation to the priesthood he had had since his childhood.
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From the feature by Marina Corradi

But in reality the story is even more complicated: Michel-Marie Zanotti-Sorkine, 53, is descended from a Russian Jewish grandfather who immigrated into France and had his daughters baptized before the war. One of these daughters, who escaped from the Holocaust, brought into the world Fr. Michel-Marie, who on his father's side is half Corsican and half Italian. (What a bizarre mix, you think: and you look with amazement at his face, trying to understand what a man is like who has such a tangle of roots behind him). But if one Sunday you enter his packed church and listen to how he speaks of Christ with simple everyday words, and if you observe the religious slowness of the elevation of the host, in an absolute silence, you ask yourself who this priest is, and what it is in him that draws people, bringing back those who are far away.
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Why the cassock? "For me" – he smiles – "It is a work uniform. It is intended to be a sign for those who meet me, and above all for those who do not believe. In this way I am recognizable as a priest, always. In this way on the streets I take advantage of every opportunity to make friends. Father, someone asks me, where is the post office? Come on, I'll go with you, I reply, and meanwhile we talk, and I discover that the children of that man are not baptized. Bring them to me, I say in the end; and I often baptize them later. I seek in every way to show with my face a good humanity. Just the other day" – he laughs – "in a cafe an old man asked me which horses he should bet on. I gave him the horses. I asked the Blessed Mother for forgiveness: but you know, I said to her, it is to befriend this man. As a priest who was one of my teachers used to tell those who asked him how to convert the Marxists: 'One has to become their friend,' he would reply."
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And the new evangelization? "Look," he says as we say goodbye in his rectory, "the older I get, the more I understand what Benedict XVI says: everything truly starts afresh from Christ. We can only return to the source."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:20 PM | Permalink

December 3, 2012

The Specialists

Thorkil Sonne began to see a business opportunity in the special skills of some autists (people with autism) like intense focus and careful execution and it began with his son.

In the New York Times, The Autism Advantage  by Gareth Cook

To his father, Lars seemed less defined by deficits than by his unusual skills. And those skills, like intense focus and careful execution, were exactly the ones that Sonne, who was the technical director at a spinoff of TDC, Denmark’s largest telecommunications company, often looked for in his own employees. Sonne did not consider himself an entrepreneurial type, but watching Lars — and hearing similar stories from parents he met volunteering with an autism organization — he slowly conceived a business plan: many companies struggle to find workers who can perform specific, often tedious tasks, like data entry or software testing; some autistic people would be exceptionally good at those tasks. So in 2003, Sonne quit his job, mortgaged the family’s home, took a two-day accounting course and started a company called Specialisterne, Danish for “the specialists,” on the theory that, given the right environment, an autistic adult could not just hold down a job but also be the best person for it.
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TDC, Thorkil Sonne’s former employer, is Specialisterne’s oldest customer. When I visited its headquarters in Copenhagen in June, it was obvious why the company finds it useful to engage autistic consultants. Whenever cellphone makers introduce a new product, there are countless opportunities for glitches. The only way TDC can be sure of catching them is to load the software onto a phone and punch the phone keys over and over again, following a lengthy script of at least 200 instructions. The work is tedious, the information age equivalent of the assembly line, but also important and beyond the capacity of most people to perform well. “You will get bored, and then you will take shortcuts, and then it is worthless,” explained Johnni Jensen, a system technician at TDC.
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Steen Iversen, a Specialsterne consultant in bluejeans and a bright red polo shirt, showed me how he tackles the task…But his real advantage is mental: he is exhaustive and relentless. When a script called for sending a “long text message,” Iverson keyed in every character the phone was capable of; it crashed. Another time, he found a flaw that could have disabled a phone’s emergency dialing capability, a problem all previous testers had missed. I asked Iversen how he feels at moments like that, and he gently pumped both fists in the air with a shy smile. “I feel victorious,” he say
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:16 PM | Permalink

October 23, 2012

"Tumbleweed" ball detonates land mines in its path

The brainchild of a designer who fled war-torn Afghanistan when he was 14, the "tumbleweed" is designed to be blown around in the wind detonating land mines in its path.

 Tumbleweed,-Landmine-Detonator

Can this giant ball which gets blown around in the wind rid the world of land mines?

Made simply of bamboo, iron and plastic, each one is relatively cheap to produce and can clear up to four bombs before being destroyed themselves. 

Each device, called Mine Kafon, will have a GPS tracking device linked to a website to show which areas have been cleared. 

They are the brainchild of Massoud Hassani, who at the age of 14 fled war-torn Afghanistan, where there are more land mines than people.  He travelled with smugglers to Pakistan and Russian before settling down in Holland to study at the Design Academy Eindhoven.

Mr Hassani said he had the idea for his invention after making miniature models during his childhood.  He and his brother would make their own toys, small wind-powered cylinders which would often get blown into a minefield, where they could not get them back.

He said: 'Me and my brother Mahmud, we played every day on the fields surrounded with the highest mountains in our neighborhood.  There was always a strong wind waving towards the mountains. While we were racing against each other, our small miniatures rolled way to fast and too far. Mostly they landed in areas where we were not allowed to step a foot on. Those areas were very dangerous because of the land mines. It was full of them. I still remember those friends that we have lost and saw them getting injured.'

He said: 'I thought "I am going to make these objects 20 times bigger and heavier. There are 30 million land mines in Afghanistan and 26 million people, so that’s more mines than people.'

Mr Hassani has teamed up with the Dutch Explosive Disposal Ordnance Unit to test it in the Moroccan desert, but in its present form they say it is not suitable for military purposes.  Undeterred, Mr Hassani is now looking for a solution. 'I hope they can help me build these things,' he said.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:34 PM | Permalink

Bits and pieces: Texas postman and Hermes, Noc the whale, Republicans more knowledgeable, writing that works, a humble politician

How a Texas Postman Became an Hermes Designer

Oliver is 70 years old. He wears his mustache trim and neat. And though he's one of the most important living African-American painters, he just doesn't understand what the fuss is about. Never mind that he's the only American artist ever to design a scarf for Hermès — which he's done 16 times.
Again, he's also an employee of the U.S. Postal Service.

"He doesn't believe he can make a living as a painter," Sheeler says. "He doesn't even believe that he's that good — those are his words. He just likes to paint.    He works overnight at the post office, comes home, paints a little bit, takes a nap and then does it all over again. He survives on two to three hours of sleep. Eats a sandwich on his break at the post office. He gets a 30-minute break, and then he goes back to sorting mail."

Pew Research: Republicans More Knowledgeable Than Democrats
In a scientific survey of 1,168 adults conducted during September and October of last year, respondents were asked not only multiple-choice questions, but also queries using maps, photographs and symbols.  Among other subjects, participants identified international leaders, cabinet members, Supreme Court justices, nations on a world map, the current unemployment and poverty rates and war casualty totals.

In a 2010 Pew survey, Republicans outperformed Democrats on 10 of 12 questions, with one tie and Democrats outperforming Republicans on just 1 of the 12.  In the latest survey, however, Republicans outperformed Democrats on every single one of 19 questions.

On YouTube, Marriage=Biology (Not Bigotry).  The best argument I've ever heard for the traditional definition of marriage.  Don't miss it.

Noc the whale who imitated a human voice

The male named Noc had a distinctly human-like voice, much to the surprise of scientists who previously thought whales typically produce sounds in a manner that is wholly different from humans.  Noc died five years ago after 30 years of living amongst dolphins and other white whales and being in contact with humans at the National Marine Mammal Foundation based in San Diego in California. the incredible recordings of the whale were revealed for the first time as the team published their findings.

However, the incredible recordings of the whale were revealed for the first time as the team published their findings. Sam Ridgway, who led the study, said: 'Our observations suggest that the whale had to modify its vocal mechanics in order to make the speech-like sounds. 'Such obvious effort suggests motivation for contact.'
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The study 'Spontaneous human speech mimicry by a cetacean' are published in the latest issue of Current Biology.

In the Atlantic, The Writing Revolution

For years, nothing seemed capable of turning around New Dorp High School’s dismal performance—not firing bad teachers, not flashy education technology, not after-school programs. So, faced with closure, the school’s principal went all-in on a very specific curriculum reform, placing an overwhelming focus on teaching the basics of analytic writing, every day, in virtually every class. What followed was an extraordinary blossoming of student potential, across nearly every subject—one that has made New Dorp a model for educational reform.
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A lightbulb, says Simmons, went on in her head. These 14- and 15-year-olds didn’t know how to use some basic parts of speech. With such grammatical gaps, it was a wonder they learned as much as they did. “Yes, they could read simple sentences,” but works like the Gettysburg Address were beyond them—not because they were too lazy to look up words they didn’t know, but because “they were missing a crucial understanding of how language works. They didn’t understand that the key information in a sentence doesn’t always come at the beginning of that sentence.”
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The Hochman Program, as it is sometimes called, would not be un­familiar to nuns who taught in Catholic schools circa 1950. Children do not have to “catch” a single thing. They are explicitly taught how to turn ideas into simple sentences, and how to construct complex sentences from simple ones by supplying the answer to three prompts—but, because, and so. They are instructed on how to use appositive clauses to vary the way their sentences begin. Later on, they are taught how to recognize sentence fragments, how to pull the main idea from a paragraph, and how to form a main idea on their own. It is, at least initially, a rigid, unswerving formula. “I prefer recipe,” Hochman says, “but formula? Yes! Okay!”

5 Life Advantages You Acquire from Experiencing Poverty

1) Once things have been really bad, you’re not as frightened of tough times and risks.
5) Being poor makes you work hard not to be destitute again.

The Anchoress on George McGovern on Realities of Market Economy and Sweeping Legislation

unlike the pols of today, he wasn’t afraid to say there was something he didn’t know, an answer he didn’t have and even something he may have gotten wrong. Such humility is unthinkable in 21st century politicking.
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In retrospect, I wish I had known more about the hazards and difficulties of such a business, especially during a recession of the kind that hit New England just as I was acquiring the inn’s 43-year leasehold. I also wish that during the years I was in public office, I had had this firsthand experience about the difficulties business people face every day. That knowledge would have made me a better U.S. senator and a more understanding presidential contender.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:25 PM | Permalink

October 12, 2012

Freedom to Succeed

He grew up in communist Hungary, emigrated to the United States and became a billionaire.  Thomas Peterffy is Rich, worried and buying ad time.

He's not running for office. He's not part of a super PAC. He's not lobbying for or against any ballot measures.  But billionaire Thomas Peterffy is spending millions on television ads this election season with one cautionary message: Avoid socialism.

"I grew up in a socialist country and I have seen what that does to people. There is no hope, no freedom, no pride in achievement," he says with a soft Hungarian accent in the ad. "The nation became poorer and poorer, and that's what I see happening here."

Peterffy told CNN he expects to spend $5-$10 million on the ad buy, depending on its effectiveness. The spot will run on CNN, CNBC, Bloomberg, and test markets in Ohio, Wisconsin, and possibly Florida.
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Peterffy left his country and moved to New York in 1965, where-without knowing English–he got a computer programming job on Wall Street. He later purchased his own seat on the American Stock Exchange in 1977 and, fast forward a few years, found himself the creator of Interactive Brokers, one of the first electronic trading firms.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:51 PM | Permalink

October 10, 2012

Life is more precious than you know

New York Woman Wins Right to Die Lawsuit, Then Changes Mind

A terminally ill patient, Grace Sung Eun Lee, 28, was awarded the right to chose to die by a New York court this month, but has now changed her mind and wants to live.  Miss Lee, once a financial manager, was felled by terminal brain cancer that left her paralyzed from the neck down and being fed through feeding tubes.  Lee was determined competent to make her own decisions and won the right to choose to turn off the machines keeping her alive over objections from her devoutly religious parents.  But now Lee reports that she has changed her mind about choosing death.

Lee's court appointed lawyer affirmed her decision. “What Grace said to me when I asked her, she said she was doing it to make peace with her parents and to make peace with God,” attorney David Smith told Brennan.

Heartwarming tale of the deaf quadriplegic who writes on Twitter at four words a minute

He is 24 and confined to a constant existence in a wheelchair.  But thanks to Twitter, David Rose not only has thousands of friends, but he's finding more all the time, all of them drawn to his witty comments and positive attitude as he blogs and tweets about his life.  David is a profoundly deaf quadriplegic, his disabilities caused by cerebral palsy, and he sends each message out at a pace of four words a minute, using a specialized computer which translates his eye movements.


 Davidrose Tweet


Since his family helped set up 'David's Twitter Machine', to go along with his own blog, his world has got much bigger thanks to virtual friends which stand in admiration for his ethics, philosophies and good humor.  David, or Dave, as he likes to be called, lives in a residential home for disabled people in Orange County, California, near his mother and his sister.    He communicates with a Tobii eye-gaze computer that tracks his eye-movement and posts on Facebook and Twitter, and on his blog he says he likes puppies, girls, funny movies, good stories and jokes, and 'yummy food'.
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A few nights ago i lay on my back in bed late at night and choke on something.

'The aide on duty hear me and run in turn me over and clear it. If he not do that i might be gone because cannot turn over myself.

'Because of this and because i might not be here tomorrow then why hate? Why argue and fight? Why be mean and nasty? If someone that way to me I just feel sorry for them.

'They the person who have the worst disability! they not able to love despite bad things and see the good in everything.

I try best to get along good with everyone. I want make people laugh. I want tell people life worth living even when is hard.

'This is why i am how i am. I could leave very soon and not ever come back so I want to leave you, Travis, and everyone else with a smile on you face and nice memory of me.

'And i want you make something of yourself! Do the same and make the whole world better! Too much nasty right now, so lets make some funny and make people laugh before is too late!

'If you all do that because of what i say then i can live on for many years lol. yes in a way it selfish, but i think is better this kind of selfish than someone wanting new car and best house.

'People say i am inspirational. I think i am not, i am just me. i just hope it the best me i can be because i might have to leave soon and there is no second chance. this is it.

'So stop crying stop complaining stop arguing and start laughing. now! does not matter what other people do. it only matter what you do.'
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:51 AM | Permalink

September 23, 2012

Three of the most persistent men in the world

My favorites from Quora's question Who is the most persistent person who ever lived?

Dashrath Majhi

Dashrath Majhi's wife died without any treatment, because the nearest town with a Doctor was 70 km away from their village in Bihar, India. Well that could have been a far shorter distance, if not for a hill in between the village and the town.

Dashrath did not want anyone else to suffer the same fate as his wife.  So he did the unthinkable:

From Wikipedia:

Dashrath Manjhi's claim to fame has been the herculean task of single-handedly carving a 360-foot-long (110 m), 25-foot-high (7.6 m) and 30-foot-wide (9.1 m) road by cutting a mountain of Gehlour hills with a hammer, chisel and nails working day and night for 22 years from 1960 to 1982. This passage reduced the distance between Atri and Wazirganj blocks of Gaya district from 70 km to just 7 km.

Jadav "Molai" Payeng has spent about 30 years singlehandedly planting a 1,360 acre forest.

It all started way back in 1979 when floods washed a large number of snakes ashore on the sandbar. One day, after the waters had receded, Payeng , only 16 then, found the place dotted with the dead reptiles. That was the turning point of his life.

"The snakes died in the heat, without any tree cover. I sat down and wept over their lifeless forms. It was carnage. I alerted the forest department and asked them if they could grow trees there. They said nothing would grow there.

The rest of the story at Treehugger

Augustin in Honduras who, ravaged by polio, set out to overcome his poverty and disease by building a helicopter out of discarded bits of trash.  It took him 50 years, but he persisted even though every one thought he was crazy.  Tyler Bastian made a short film to tell his story in Everything is Incredible on Vimeo

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:51 PM | Permalink

August 9, 2012

Magic Washing Machines

In 2010, Hans Rosling spoke to TED about the  Magic Washing Machine.

Pedal-powered washer could make a big difference in developing nations

Design students Alex Cabunoc and Ji A You of the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles visited the the slums of Cerro Verde, Peru. There they saw women spending days on end hauling water and washing clothes by hand and they came up with a solution. They created the GiraDora, a foot-pedal washing machine that’s inexpensive and portable.
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 Giradora-Pedal-Powered-Washing-Machine

GiraDora is a plastic tub tall enough to sit on. In fact, it’s designed to be operated while sitting on it to keep it stable. Inside, there’s a second tub like that in a conventional washer mounted on a center post. The post is connected to a pedal on the base of the tub. The machine is filled with clothes, water and soap and the lid put back. The operator then sits on the tub and repeatedly presses down on the pedal with her foot. This works the mechanism that agitates, cleans and rinses the clothes. When the clothes are clean, a stopcock in the base is opened and the pedal worked again. Now the washer becomes a spin drier and the clothes can be hung up to complete drying in a reasonable time. The cost of the machine is about US$40.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:03 AM | Permalink

August 1, 2012

"'Those people, they think they did a bad thing to me, but they brought me closer to God"

There are wonderful people in the world who live out their Christian faith in a way that is remarkable.  Case in point, Lee and Gloria Ervin, a couple in the seventies who took her a horrifically burned woman from another country, Julie Aftab.

She was a 16-year-old Pakistani girl, a Christian who wore a small crucifix on a chain around her neck, when was brutally attacked in her office with battery acid that was thrown on her face by one man and down her throat by another while they shouted she would go to hell for shunning Islam.    A woman heard her cries for help and poured water over her head before taking her to the hospital.  The hospital refused to treat her because she was Christian.  Eventually a hospital was found to treat but they could do little.

Aftab could not speak or move her arms and the acid had burned through her skin to leave bone-deep wounds.  As a result of the attack, Julie lost most of her esophagus, one of her eyes and both of her eyelids.  What remained of her teeth could be seen through a gaping hole where her cheek had been.  She was labelled a pariah in her neighborhood, her family was persecuted and their home was burnt down.

But arrangements were made for her to be treated in Houston and to live with a local couple in their seventies, Lee and Gloria Ervin, whom she now calls Uncle Lee and Auntie Gloria.

Supported by her host parents, Aftab has said that the attack has made her faith stronger, adding: 'Those people, they think they did a bad thing to me, but they brought me closer to God. They helped me fulfill my dreams.'

She spoke no English when she arrived in Houston in 2004 but was granted asylum in 2007.  She graduated from high school, and then from San Jacinto College, before enrolling at the University of Houston-Clear Lake - where she is an accounting major.

She says that the acceptance and the outpouring of love she receives from Texans is overwhelming. She came to the U.S. for treatment at Shriners Hospital for Children. Each one of her operations have been paid for or donated by medical staff and hospitals in Houston.  Her immigration case was overseen by Catholic Charities of Galveston-Houston, which found a prominent Houston law firm, Baker Botts LLP, to take on her asylum case without charge. 

Yesterday, she took the oath of citizenship and became an American citizen.  She said afterwards "'This day means so much to me… I never thought I would be the person I am today, and it is all because of God and his people.'

 Julie Aftab

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:31 PM | Permalink

A Remarkable Chinese Woman

The truly inspiring story of the Chinese rubbish collector who saved and raised THIRTY babies abandoned at the roadside

A woman has been hailed a hero after details of her astonishing work with abandoned children has emerged.

 Lou Xiaoying

Lou Xiaoying, now 88 and suffering from kidney failure, found and raised more than 30 abandoned Chinese babies from the streets of Jinhua, in the eastern Zhejiang province where she managed to make a living by recycling rubbish.  She and her late husband Li Zin, who died 17 years ago, kept four of the children and passed the others onto friends and family to start new lives.

Her youngest son Zhang Qilin - now aged just seven - was found in a dustbin by Lou when she was 82.

'Even though I was already getting old I could not simply ignore the baby and leave him to die in the trash. He looked so sweet and so needy. I had to take him home with me,' she said.

'I took him back to our home, which is a very small modest house in the countryside and nursed him to health. He is now a thriving little boy, who is happy and healthy.

'My older children all help look after Zhang Qilin, he is very special to all of us. I named him after the Chinese word for rare and precious.

'The whole thing started when I found the first baby, a little girl back in 1972 when I was out collecting rubbish. She was just lying amongst the junk on the street, abandoned. She would have died had we not rescued her and taken her in.

'Watching her grow and become stronger gave us such happiness and I realized I had a real love of caring for children.
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One fan explained: 'She is shaming to governments, schools and people who stand by and do nothing. She has no money or power but she saved children from death or worse.'
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:08 AM | Permalink

July 30, 2012

We need more cowboys

A combination of causes has led to " a perfect storm of events that have shred the veneer of sophisticated civilization": the destruction of the California rural middle class, illegal immigration, terrible governance and a coarsening of the popular culture.

Victor Davis Hanson says in California: The Road Warrior is Here

Like Road Warrior, again, what frightens is this mishmash of violence with foppish culture, of official platitudes and real-life chaos: the illiterate and supposedly impoverished nonetheless fishing through the discounted video game barrel at Wal-Mart; the much-heralded free public transit bus zooming around on electrical or natural gas power absolutely empty of riders, as the impoverished prefer their Camrys and Civics; ads encouraging new food stamp users as local fast-food franchises have lines of cars blocking traffic on the days when government cards are electronically recharged; the politician assuring us that California is preeminent as he hurries home to his Bay Area cocoon.

Meanwhile Peach growers in California say their crops are rotting because they can't find enough workers to pick them despite unemployment figures breaking nearly 19 per cent in parts.

Both Mr Gill and his nephew Gurpreet, a business specialist who helps his uncle on his days off, say it's not that there aren't people available; it's that they would rather work idle hours at a fast food restaurant despite less pay.

In Philadelphia, urban cowboys tackle gang violence and drugs in The Wire meets the Wild West

Describing themselves as 'ghetto fabulous', the 'black cowboys' of Fletcher Street take great pride in their status as they fight to ensure that the next generation of young men and boys in the neighborhood do not fall into a life of crime.

One of the last remaining urban riding clubs in the city, the Fletcher Street cowboys are encouraged to care for their horse like it is a family member.
...With names such as Red Pony, Champ, Power, White Chick, One Eye and Easy Like Sunday Morning, the horses are the explicit responsibility of each cowboy. Each steed is 'rescued' from a livestock auction in New Holland in Pennsylvania, which the owners of the club like to think mirrors the second chance that a lot of the cowboys of Fletcher Street have taken.
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'We have a business license. We keep our horses looking good. We may not have the best facility, but we give them the best food money can buy and we love them,' said Lee Cannady, a Philadelphia police officer and lifelong patron of the riding club.
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The urban cowboys of Fletcher Street count discipline, responsibility and accountability as necessary for joining their ranks. 'Once a kid comes around here, it's hard for them to detach themselves,' said White. 'They look at this as another part of the world. You don't have anyone cursing, doing drugs, shouting. 'The kids must bring their report cards. If they get bad grades, they can't ride until they bring their grades up.'

'There's not one murder, not one drug dealer, not one knifing or other crime here,' said White.  'A couple of blocks away, that's not the case.

'When they see us riding around the neighborhood, they follow us. 'We encourage them to come around and see what it's like.'

For some young riders, membership of the club confuses their friends. 'When I first told them they thought it was kind of weird,' said one young cowboy.

'I got one girlfriend. She thinks its adorable.  'On a horse you got people looking at you rather than you looking a people.

'It's ghetto fabulous." 'On the horse we are black cowboys.'
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:34 AM | Permalink

June 9, 2012

Congratulations to the Queen on her 60 years

I missed the whole of the Queen's Jubilee, so I caught up over the weekend with a few articles from the London papers.    She is a paragon of duty and responsibility, old-fashioned qualities that have become even more valued as they are lost in the greater society.

What the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson said

When you looked at the crowds on the banks of the Thames yesterday, you saw that they get the point the republicans miss. They know why she is so valuable, and that it is nothing to do with her politics or her lifestyle or the many houses or racehorses she owns.

She not only incarnates the history of the country in her DNA. She provides a focus for their own love of their country: and in that sense the monarchy fulfills a function that Left-wingers should fervently support. She collectivizes the nation. In a selfish and atomized age, she gives people a way of thinking not so much about themselves, but about everyone; not me, but us. She has done it brilliantly for 60 years, and that is why they cheered for such hours; because no one in history has fulfilled that role so skillfully and so successfully.

And some fine photographs of the Queen's reign chosen by the Royal Historian  from the TV coronation to the first walkabout including this splendid portrait by Pietro Annigoni which is now in the National Portrait Gallery.

 Queenii.Nationalportraitgallery

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:06 PM | Permalink

May 22, 2012

'I'm not gonna let somebody kill me while I'm on my knees'

Don't miss this story

Incredible bravery of police woman shot FIVE times as she tackled gunmen who killed boyfriend's aunt during home invasion

A former police woman has relived the terrifying night she was shot five times at point blank range as she tackled a pair of psychopathic gunmen who were holding her boyfriend's family hostage.

Petite Isabella Lovadina, 29, fought off the two thugs who had forced their way at gunpoint into the home of boyfriend Nick Koenig's grandmother, where Isabella had just enjoyed a relaxed family dinner.

Four generations of Nick's family were staying at the St. Louis house during the terrifying raid in 2009 in which his cousin Gina, a single mother of two, was shot dead.

But the outcome could have been far worse had it not been for Isabella, who, despite being unarmed herself and having a gun at her head, threw herself at her attackers in a blind fury.
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With tears streaming down her face Gina begged Isabella to do something.

Isabella knelt on the floor with a gun trained at her head, certain that if she didn't act everyone was going to die. As the anger welled up inside her she decided she would go out fighting.

'I thought, "I'm not gonna let this happen. I'm not gonna let somebody kill me while I'm on my knees with my head on the ground. I'm not going out that way."

'I looked down the barrel of the gun… and with everything that I had in me, I lunged towards the guy with the black hoodie and -- and just began to fight.'

-Isabella Lovadina

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:57 PM | Permalink

Strong Families, Happy Parents and No to Facebook

Nothing beats a two-parent family for raising happy and successful children.

Strong families make successful children, not the nanny state, says study

The welfare state has little or no bearing on how children turn out, an international research project has found.  Strong families are the key to producing well adjusted and successful youngsters, it adds.  In fact, say the researchers, the children of married parents are likely to do better than those from broken or single-parent families – no matter how much state support the family is given.

The study singled out the British welfare state as an example of the failure of state support to make a difference to the lives and success of children.  The findings, published in the US in the Journal of Health and Social Behaviour, come in the wake of David Cameron’s announcement of free parenting classes and relationship support  sessions, and a £3.4million website which will give tips on every aspect of child rearing.
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Boys were more likely to have difficulties than girls, health problems led to other difficulties for children, and children of divorced parents faced a greater likelihood of trouble.

Yes, it can seem a struggle… but parents are actually happier people, study says  Fathers and older parents the happiest of all.

The findings are among a new wave of research that suggests that parenthood comes with relatively more positives, despite the added responsibilities.  The study, which contradicts the prevailing view that parents are less happy overall, also dovetails with emerging evolutionary perspectives that suggest parenting is a fundamental human need.
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Sonja Lyubomirsky, professor of psychology at UC Riverside and a leading scholar in positive psychology, said: 'We are not saying that parenting makes people happy, but that parenthood is associated with happiness and meaning.

'Contrary to repeated scholarly and media pronouncements, people may find solace that parenthood and child care may actually be linked to feelings of happiness and meaning in life.'
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However, their findings came with important caveats. Professor Lyubomirsky explained: 'Our findings suggest that if you are older (and presumably more mature) and if you are married (and presumably have more social and financial support), then you're likely to be happier if you have children than your childless peers.

'This is not true, however, for single parents or very young parents.'

One ti for staying together is staying away from Facebook, the social network that lawyers say contributes to an increasing number of break-ups.

More than a third of divorce filings last year contained the word Facebook, according to a U.K. survey by Divorce Online, a  legal services firm. And over 80% of U.S. divorce attorneys say they’ve seen a rise in the number of cases using social networking, according to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. “I see Facebook issues breaking up marriages all the time,” says Gary Traystman, a divorce attorney in New London, Conn. Of the 15 cases he handles per year where computer history, texts and emails are admitted as evidence, 60% exclusively involve Facebook.

“Affairs happen with a lightning speed on Facebook,” says K. Jason Krafsky, who authored the book “Facebook and Your Marriage” with his wife Kelli. In the real world, he says, office romances and out-of-town trysts can take months or even years to develop. “On Facebook,” he says, “they happen in just a few clicks.” The social network is different from most social networks or dating sites in that it both re-connects old flames and allows people to “friend” someone they may only met once in passing. “It puts temptation in the path of people who would never in a million years risk having an affair,” he says.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:42 PM | Permalink

Diagnostic breakthrough by a 15-year-old

Only 15 years old, Jack Andraka developed a new method to detect pancreatic cancer using a simple dip-stick sensor. 

His study resulted in over 90 percent accuracy and showed his patent-pending sensor to be 28 times faster, 28 times less expensive and over 100 times more sensitive than current tests.

Teen's Pancreatic Cancer Diagnostic Wins $75,000 Intel Prize

The Washington Post adds that a patent is pending for the test. Andraka's test is a true diagnostic breakthrough since there are currently no non-invasive tests for detecting pancreatic cancer. Early detection of this cancer would be a boon to patients since the five-year survival rate for localized pancreatic cancer is 23 percent. While that doesn't sound great, it's a hell of a lot better than the 5 percent overall five-year survival rate for patients diagnosed with the disease.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:21 PM | Permalink

May 18, 2012

Bucket List

 Bucket-List

In the American Scholar, Toys and Joys by William Deresiewicz

In Nothing to Be Frightened Of, his book-length meditation on death, Julian Barnes, quoting Richard Dawkins, produces a similar list: “music, poetry, sex, love (and science).” Again the emphasis is on the pleasures, high and low. Look at lists of “100 Things to Do Before You Die,” and you’ll find them dominated by exotic sensations of one kind or another (“Skydive”; “Shower in a waterfall”; “Eat jellied eels from a stall in London”).

Really? This is the best we can do? This is what it’s all about? These are the things that make our lives worth living? When I think about what really makes me happy, what I really crave, I come up with a very different list: concentrated, purposeful work, especially creative work; being with people I love; feeling like I’m part of something larger. Meaning, connectedness, doing strenuously what you do well: not sights, not thrills, and not even pleasures, as welcome as they are. Not passivity, not letting the world come in and tickle you, but creativity, curiosity, altruism, engagement, craft. Raising children, or teaching students, or hanging out with friends. Playing music, not listening to it. Making things, or making them happen. Thinking hard and feeling deeply.

None of which involve spending money, except in an ancillary way. None of which, in other words, are consumer experiences.
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Our idea of the self becomes a consumerist one, which means a passive and diminished one. I’m all for jellied eels, but the pleasures of the body are as nothing to the joys of the soul.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:57 PM | Permalink

May 11, 2012

FDR's Introduction to Supply-side Economics by a 'Great American'.

We all know that it took WWII to bring America out of the Great Depression, but I didn't know about the man who did it, FDR's arch nemesis General Motors President William Knudsen.

The FDR Lesson Obama Should Follow.

FDR—architect of the New Deal and outspoken opponent of Big Business—was forced by the collapse of Europe's democracies under Hitler's blitzkrieg to turn to the corporate sector to prepare America for war.
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Yet Knudsen's answer to the appeal from FDR was immediate. He quit GM and moved to Washington to mobilize his friends in the private sector to get America ready for war. He joined with U.S. Steel's Edward Stettinius, Sears, Roebuck's Don Nelson and other corporate executives and engineers who left their jobs to accept a federal salary of $1 a year. Together, they made Roosevelt a promise.

If the president gave them 18 months, they would persuade enough of American industry to convert their plants to making planes, tanks, ships and munitions without throwing the rest of the economy into a tail spin. The result, they pledged, would be the most massive outpouring of weaponry the world had ever seen.

Roosevelt was under intense pressure from his own administration—and from his wife Eleanor—not to agree. They believed it was impossible to convert to a wartime footing without a comprehensive, centrally directed plan for total mobilization and a single commanding figure in charge—in short, a war-production czar.
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This proposal was in effect Roosevelt's first introduction to supply-side economics. To arm the nation for war, Roosevelt not only had to agree to set aside his own ideological misgivings but almost a decade of his own failed economic policies. "Dr. New Deal," Roosevelt told the press, was going to have to make way for "Dr. Win the War."

The results, as Knudsen had promised, were staggering. Barely a year later—by the time Japanese bombs fell on Pearl Harbor in December of 1941—the scale of American war production was fast approaching that of Nazi Germany.
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Many feared that with the end of government wartime spending—almost $300 billion worth, or $3 trillion in today's dollars—unemployment would boomerang, wages (which wartime work had driven up by an average of 70%) would fall and hopes for prosperity would be extinguished. Instead, private investment came roaring back, triggering steady economic growth that pushed the U.S. into a new era, as the most prosperous society in history.

"You are the great American," Undersecretary of War Robert Patterson told Knudsen at the war's end.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:35 PM | Permalink

May 6, 2012

Radio detective, "To have the chief of the hen house stealing chickens, it is just disappointing,”

Former chief of the National Archives' audio-visual holdings, Leslie Waffen pleaded guilty last Fall to theft of U.S. government property, admitting that he stole 955 items from the Archives although prosecutors alleged he stole 2117 other recordings discovered in his house and sold more than 1000 of them.

The Washington Post tells a wonderful story, In National Archives thefts, a radio detective gets his man.

J. David Goldin, an eccentric 69-year-old with a handlebar mustache and an obsession with radio, was trolling eBay one evening in September 2010, looking for old radios and recordings, when he spotted an item that piqued his interest: the master copy of a broadcast radio interview with baseball legend Babe Ruth as he hunted for quail and pheasants on a crisp morning in 1937.

For a moment, Goldin contemplated bidding. It was the kind of historic recording that would fit perfectly in his collection of more than 100,000 radio broadcasts, all meticulously enhanced and preserved on tapes stored in thin white boxes on a maze of shelves in his humidity- and temperature-controlled basement “vault.” Then he leaned closer to his computer, adjusted his thick glasses and studied the record’s photograph and description.

What happened next would set in motion a federal investigation with a twist worthy of a classic radio drama.
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At first, Goldin thought the Archives had decided to unload his recordings and that they had found their way to a dealer. He dashed off an irritated letter demanding that the government return anything it planned to sell; it was that missive that launched the criminal probe by the inspector general.
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From the seller’s eBay profile, Goldin thought the dealer was a woman (the screen name was “hi-fi_gal”). Hoping to be helpful, Goldin purchased a recording from “hi-fi_gal,” though not one of his donations. When it arrived in the mail, Goldin ran the return address — Saddle Ridge Lane in Rockville — through a reverse directory. It came back to Leslie Waffen, who had retired the previous June as chief of the Archives’ audiovisual holdings.

Goldin was hurt. “To have the chief of the hen house stealing chickens, it is just disappointing,” Goldin said.

Over the next 18 months, Goldin helped authorities build their case, reviewing documents, submitting his original receipts from Waffen and offering up experts to help sort and appraise the cache of 6,153 recordings seized from the retired archivist’s home.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:32 PM | Permalink

April 10, 2012

The "Digital-Age Leonardo da Vinci"

Astonishing visualization from Alexander Tsiaras at TED, Conception to Birth

Here is his profile

Another beautiful image of the heart glowing in an open chest cavity at JAMA, Art from the Heart

 Alexander Tsiaras Heart

His mission: "We want to change how people think about health, think about their bodies. The way to do that is by telling stories--beautiful, compelling, visual stories that show what an amazing thing the body is."

His company is Anatomical Travelogue is "a pioneer in illustrating the intricate details of the human body in images that are at once high-tech, anatomically faithful and artistically striking—the ultimate "insider art," he jokes."

From a feature article at Business Innovation Factory

Tsiaras isn't a doctor; he's a photographer, technologist and visionary with an expert knowledge of anatomy and a passion for the human form. The books he has produced—including From Conception to Birth: A Life Unfolds, The Architecture and Design of Man and Woman: The Marvel of the Human Body, Revealed, The InVision Guide to a Healthy Heart and The InVision Guide to Sexual Health — have spawned educational videos and exhibits at the National Museum of Health and Medicine.

The images are 'visualizations' that Tsiaras and his team create using full-body scans, ultra-powerful microscopes and molecular modeling tools that allow him to illustrate the body in vivid detail, for both 3-D pictures and animations. He has described his work as "'Fantastic Voyage' meets the TIME-LIFE book series."

Some see Tsiaras as a digital-age Leonardo da Vinci, whose anatomical renderings set the standard for centuries. But Tsiaras describes himself in more prosaic terms.

"Most of this is just about information," he says. "I look at myself as a storyteller who works with artists and technologists."
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Anatomical Travelogue is growing rapidly—it's now at 60 employees and has amassed what Tsiaras says is the largest library of high-resolution volume data on the body in the world—and Tsiaras believes its future is limitless.

One project from the Anatomical Travelogue is The Visual MD.  Anyone who is at risk for a heart attack should watch the video on Understanding Heart Attacks.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:35 PM | Permalink

April 4, 2012

Loving the Rapist's Child

A remarkable story, Loving the Rapist's Child

Today, we celebrate nine wonderful years with Rachael, our only daughter. It seems like a bad dream now that we ever considered living without this amazing little girl. She is a constant reminder to us, not of rape but of the startling beauty one can find hidden in tragedy.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:58 AM | Permalink

"I couldn't read or nothing"

Imagine the courage of finally learning how to read at age 90!  And then going on to write a book!

Book written by 98-year-old lobster boat captain who only learned to read at age 90

James Arruda Henry had plenty to be proud of as a lobster boat captain who managed to build his own house and raise a family.

But he kept a secret into his 90s - one that forced him to bluff his way through life by day and brought tears at night.

Mr Henry was illiterate. He couldn't even read restaurant menus; he'd wait for someone else to place an order and get the same food. Sometimes he'd go hungry rather than ask for help. Most of his family was none the wiser.

Now he's 98, and his self-published collection of autobiographical essays is being read in elementary schools. In A Fisherman's Language details his barefoot beginnings in Portugal, life in a tenement in Rhode Island, boxing as a young man and his adventures at sea.
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'I couldn't read or nothing. I tell you, it makes me a very, very happy man to have people call me and write me letters and stuff like that.'
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A granddaughter, Alicia Smith, had the idea of sending the book on a cross-country journey as a literary chain letter of sorts. A copy started its trip at an elementary school in Connecticut and is heading off Friday to one in Berkeley, California.
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 In A Fisherman's Language

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:04 AM | Permalink

March 21, 2012

Escape from a North Korean prison camp

A breath-taking story.  It is unimaginable that people survive in such a hellhole.

How one man escaped from a North Korean prison camp in The Guardian

There was torture, starvation, betrayals and executions, but to Shin In Geun, Camp 14 – a prison for the political enemies of North Korea – was home. Then one day came the chance to flee…

His first memory is an execution.....

 Shin-In-Geun

Shallow and frozen, the river here was about a hundred yards wide. He began to walk. Halfway across, he broke through and icy water soaked his shoes. He crawled the rest of the way to China.

Within two years, he was in South Korea. Within four, he was living in southern California, an ambassador for Liberty in North Korea (LiNK), an American human rights group.

His name is now Shin Dong-hyuk. His overall physical health is excellent. His body, though, is a roadmap of the hardships of growing up in a labour camp that the North Korean government insists does not exist. Stunted by malnutrition, he is short and slight – 5ft 6in and about 120lb (8.5 stone). His arms are bowed from childhood labour. His lower back and buttocks are covered with scars. His ankles are disfigured by shackles. His right middle finger is missing. His shins are mutilated by burns from the fence that failed to keep him inside Camp 14.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:57 PM | Permalink

March 20, 2012

He built his own wings and last weekend flew like a bird. UPDATED

He built his own wings and last weekend flew like a bird.

Dutch engineer Jarno Smeets said "It was the best feeling I ever felt in my life"

via Business Insider

Learn how he did it at HumanBirdwings.net

UPDATE:  'No one knows" wing suit inventor - and experts question if flight video can be real

UPDATE 2:  Now he admits it.  His name is Floris Kaayk and he fessed up to creating "media art project" which is other words is a hoax and a fraud.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:16 PM | Permalink

March 14, 2012

Get what you can while you can. The hell with what's best for the client

Get what you can while you can, the hell with what's best for the client  seems to be the moral of Goldman Sachs says Greg Smith, Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs.

I believe I have worked here long enough to understand the trajectory of its culture, its people and its identity. And I can honestly say that the environment now is as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it.
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How did we get here? The firm changed the way it thought about leadership. Leadership used to be about ideas, setting an example and doing the right thing. Today, if you make enough money for the firm (and are not currently an ax murderer) you will be promoted into a position of influence.
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It makes me ill how callously people talk about ripping their clients off.
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No humility? I mean, come on. Integrity? It is eroding. I don’t know of any illegal behavior, but will people push the envelope and pitch lucrative and complicated products to clients even if they are not the simplest investments or the ones most directly aligned with the client’s goals? Absolutely. Every day, in fact.

It astounds me how little senior management gets a basic truth: If clients don’t trust you they will eventually stop doing business with you. It doesn’t matter how smart you are.

Trust is the most important thing.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:17 AM | Permalink

"Generation Why Bother"

Young Americans have become more risk-averse and sedentary in what is described as a "most startling behavioral change"  as they believe luck counts more than effort.

The Go-Nowhere Generation

AMERICANS are supposed to be mobile and even pushy....

But sometime in the past 30 years, someone has hit the brakes and Americans — particularly young Americans — have become risk-averse and sedentary. The timing is terrible. With an 8.3 percent unemployment rate and a foreclosure rate that would grab the attention of the Joads, young Americans are less inclined to pack up and move to sunnier economic climes.

The likelihood of 20-somethings moving to another state has dropped well over 40 percent since the 1980s, according to calculations based on Census Bureau data. The stuck-at-home mentality hits college-educated Americans as well as those without high school degrees.
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For about $200, young Nevadans who face a statewide 13 percent jobless rate can hop a Greyhound bus to North Dakota, where they’ll find a welcome sign and a 3.3 percent rate. Why are young people not crossing borders?
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In the most startling behavioral change among young people since James Dean and Marlon Brando started mumbling, an increasing number of teenagers are not even bothering to get their driver’s licenses. Back in the early 1980s, 80 percent of 18-year-olds proudly strutted out of the D.M.V. with newly minted licenses, according to a study by researchers at the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute. By 2008 — even before the Great Recession — that number had dropped to 65 percent.
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Generation Y has become Generation Why Bother. The Great Recession and the still weak economy make the trend toward risk aversion worse.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:42 AM | Permalink

February 28, 2012

‘I guess we don’t have to tell you why we’re here.’

The Thinking Man's Detective

If there is one subtext to all of Morris’ subsequent films and writings, it is the private eye’s creed, the anti-postmodernist belief that “the truth is out there.” Truth may be elusive, it may even be unknowable, but that doesn’t mean, as postmodernists aver, that reality is just a matter of subjective perspectives, that one way of seeing things is just as good as another.

“I’m amazed,” Morris said when we spoke recently, “that you still see this nonsense all over the place, that truth is relative, that truth is subjective. People still cling to it.” He calls these ideas “repulsive, repugnant. And what’s the other word? False.”

The private eye trick is pure genius.

But I digress (something impossible to avoid in writing about Errol Morris). I wanted to tell you about his private-eye trick, which he learned from a hard-bitten partner.

It wasn’t a blackjack-, brass knuckles-type thing. “It went like this,” Morris explained. “He’d knock on a door, sometimes of someone not even connected to the case they were investigating. He’d flip open his wallet, show his badge and say, ‘I guess we don’t have to tell you why we’re here.’

“And more often than not the guy starts bawling like an infant, ‘How did you find out?’” And then disgorges some shameful criminal secret no one would ever have known about otherwise.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:29 PM | Permalink

January 31, 2012

'That's the whole reason why I do this job, to help people, it makes me feel awesome.'

'Right place, right time: Policeman rescues two women trapped in sinking car after he spots brake lights while driving past lake

Deputy Keven Rowan was on patrol in Dallas, Texas, in the early hours of Saturday morning when he noticed a pair of car brake lights sticking out of Lake Ray Hubbard.

The 28-year-old officer drove down to the reservoir and pointed his patrol car's headlights across the water.  What he saw shocked him - a vehicle with two young women trapped inside was rapidly sinking.

Video footage of the incident captured by the police dashboard camera shows Deputy Rowan standing at the waterside yelling 'Can you get out of the car?'

He quickly realises that the women are likely to drown, so takes off his utility belt - including his gun - and wades into the water.

While another officer arrives and watches from the shore, Deputy Rowan swims to the car and uses a window-breaking device to shatter the glass.

The patrolman then escorts both women - cousins Ngac Do, 20, and Nhi Tran, 21, neither of whom can swim - to shore.

Just moments after the rescue the car has disappeared from view beneath the water.

Deputy Rowan said: 'I saw the two females in the back seat. They were screaming "Help me, help me." And they were telling me at the same time "I can't swim".'

He added: 'That's the whole reason why I do this job, to help people, it makes me feel awesome.'

Video of the rescue here

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:21 PM | Permalink

January 30, 2012

Her "lack of ego would become the paradoxical secret of her greatness"

The "distinguished royal writer" Robert Lacey describes how the down-to-earth childhood of Queen Elizabeth prepared her for 60 glorious years on the throne.

How a singular lack of ego became the secret of her greatness

The future Elizabeth II was brought up in the deepest of Britain’s many 20th century recessions, and it was thanks to Bobo that she retained some contact with the frugal habits of working and middle-class families as they struggled to survive in the Thirties. She learned how to recycle paper, almost as if she, too, had been born the daughter of an Inverness railwayman.

To this day, the Queen keeps her breakfast cereal in Tupperware boxes, and is eagle-eyed in switching off unnecessary lights in Buckingham Palace.  She was not born in the main line of succession to the throne. For the first ten years of her life, her position in the Royal Family was the same as Princess Beatrice’s today — a daughter of a younger son, destined to flutter on the royal fringes.

Brought up with an almost religious respect for the Crown, there seemed no prospect of her inheriting it. Her young head was never turned by the prospect of grandeur — which is why she would prove so good at her job. Elizabeth II’s lack of ego would become the paradoxical secret of her greatness. 

 Young Princess Elizabeth

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:31 AM | Permalink

December 22, 2011

Beautiful Christmas tree from tiny plankton

Wonderful. wonderful.

'Single cells, single cells, plankton all the way'... Christmas card made from tiny sea creatures
 

A marine scientist has produced this incredible Christmas card made from his own pictures of plankton.  Dr Richard Kirby has created a festive scene including a decorated Christmas tree, bells, angels and even the Star of Bethlehem.

 Christmas Cells

'Starting with the phytoplankton, plant-like cells mostly smaller than the diameter of a human hair, and the tiny animals that eat them called the zooplankton, these creatures underpin the whole marine food chain.

'Without the plankton food web there would be no fish in the sea or seabirds in the skies above.  'The largest mammals on earth, the baleen whales, even rely upon these smallest of sea creatures for their food.  Most people are unaware of their presence, but if you have been swimming in the sea you will have almost certainly have swallowed them.

'It is also the plankton that give the sea its distinctive smell referred to as the 'sea air' because certain phytoplankton give off aromatic chemicals when they die.

'And they are even responsible for forming clouds because the same chemicals when in the atmosphere cause water droplets to form around them.

'Your car is also fuelled by their remains and over millions of years they created some of the most enigmatic features of our coastline.When you turn on the oven to cook the Christmas turkey, the gas comes from plankton that sank to the seafloor over hundreds of millions of years of earth's history.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:00 AM | Permalink

November 9, 2011

Vigilante Gardner

Too much depressing news, let's look at vigilantes and renegades I like.

Via Orwell's Picnic

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:19 PM | Permalink

Why are atheist feminists attracted to Mormon mommy blogs?

Emily Matchar says she can't stop reading Mormon housewife blogs

Their lives are nothing like mine — I’m your standard-issue late-20-something childless overeducated atheist feminist — yet I’m completely obsessed with their blogs. On an average day, I’ll skim through a half-dozen Mormon blogs, looking at Polaroids of dogs in raincoats or kids in bow ties, reading gratitude lists, admiring sewing projects.

I’m not alone, either. Two of my closest friends — both chronically overworked Ph.D. candidates — procrastinate for hours poring over Nat the Fat Rat or C. Jane Enjoy It. A recent discussion of Mormonism on the blog Jezebel unleashed a waterfall of confessions in the comments section from other young non-religious women similarly riveted by the shiny, happy domestic lives of their Latter-day Saint sisters.
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Well, to use a word that makes me cringe, these blogs are weirdly “uplifting.” -- I do think women of my generation are looking to the past in an effort to create fulfilling, happy domestic lives, since the modern world doesn’t offer much of a road map.

 Mom-With-Baby-And-Computer

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... the basic messages expressed in these blogs — family is wonderful, life is meant to be enjoyed, celebrate the small things — are still lovely. And if they help women like me envision a life in which marriage and motherhood could potentially be something other than a miserable, soul-destroying trap, I say, “Right on. I won’t be inviting the missionaries inside for hot cocoa now or ever, but I don’t plan on stopping my blog habit any time soon.

Jennifer Fulweiler, a former atheist who became a Catholic, mother of 5 and prolific blogger herself writes about the Secret that Makes Housewife Blogs So Irresistible.

One of the great surprises of the human life is that complete autonomy makes you miserable, and it’s only when you give yourself fully in the service of others that you’ll find lasting happiness. It is a counter-intuitive truth that taps directly into our spiritual selves, which is why people of faith typically understand it best.
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Back in my career days, I thought that living life to the fullest meant racking up impressive credentials and being as self-sufficient as possible. But the universal truth that I stumbled across in my own life, that bursts from the pages of countless mommy blogs by women of faith, is that the meaning of life is to give, to share, and to open yourself to the point that your life becomes inextricably entwined with the lives of others.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:11 PM | Permalink

October 19, 2011

Too grand to care

I have occasion to visit a local hospital every other week or so to see patients for 2 or 3 hours.  Most of the time, the nurses are sitting in front of computers.  Although I ask the patients if they are being well cared for, they never complain but say they are treated well.  It may be that I visit at a time when the nurses are catching up with paperwork which is no longer on paper but on the computer.  I've never heard stories like the ones Melanie Phillips writes about, but then, in England, it's government-run health care.  Though I have no doubt, there are horror stories in American nursing homes as well which is why no one ever wants to be in one.    When I visit my sister who has been in an extremely well-run nursing home for the past 20 years because of her multiple sclerosis and loss of short-term memory as a result of a bout of encephalitis 25 years ago, she is happy and well cared for by Haitian aides who far outnumber the nurses.  They carry bedpans, wash the patients, put on their clothing, life them into their wheelchairs.  If a patient can't feed himself, an aide will sit next to him and feed them. 

Still, I post this piece because caring for the old and the sick and the disabled is so little valued when, in truth, it's the highest form of service.    Very hard to do for any length of time if you are not religious.

Melanie Phillips asks Did Feminism Kill Nursing by Making Nurses "Too Grand" To Care?

Last week, a devastating report detailing what can only be described as the widespread collapse of the ethic of nursing was produced by the Care Quality Commission.

This revealed that more than half of all hospitals in England do not meet standards for the dignity and nutrition of elderly people. One in five hospitals were found to be failing the elderly so badly that they were breaking the law.
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These horrifying revelations do not signify merely incompetence nor — that perennial excuse — the effect of ‘the cuts’.  No, they illustrate instead something infinitely grimmer: the replacement of altruism by indifference, and compassion by cruelty.
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We’re looking here at nothing less than the crumbling of a sense of common humanity. And that is because nursing has been all but engulfed by a fundamental moral crisis.

Nursing is not a job but a vocation. That means it is governed by a sense of duty to the patient, rather than any self-interest.  Of course, it must be said there are still many dedicated nurses caring magnificently for their patients. But, in general, the presumption of care has been systematically eroded — by modern feminism.
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Nursing was effectively created by that 19th-century feminist pioneer, Florence Nightingale. To her, nursing was in essence a moral act. In her book Notes On Nursing, published in 1860, she wrote that ‘the greater part of nursing consists in preserving cleanliness’.  That wasn’t just because hygiene was essential for recovery and health. It was because keeping both hospital and patients clean meant the nurse needed to be motivated by the most high-minded concern for the care and dignity of the patient.

Accordingly, lowly functions such as washing, dressing and administering bedpans were functions that were invested with the highest possible significance. If a nurse declined to perform them because she was concerned about her own status, then nursing was not her calling, wrote Nightingale. That great soul must now be turning in her grave.

...during the Eighties, nursing underwent a revolution. Under the influence of feminist thinking, its leaders decided that ‘caring’ was demeaning because it meant that nurses — who were overwhelmingly women — were treated like skivvies by doctors, who were mostly men.

To achieve equality, therefore, nursing had to gain the same status as medicine.
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Student nurses now studied sociology, politics, psychology, microbiology and management, and were assessed for their communication, management and analytical skills. ‘Specific clinical nursing skills were not mentioned,’  In short, nursing ditched its core vocation to care. Bedbaths and feeding those who are helpless are tasks vital to the care of patients — but are now considered beneath the dignity of too many nurses.
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Dame Joan was much nearer the mark when she observed that the decline in kindness and sympathy was linked to the decline in religious observance. In other words, the crisis in nursing is part of a far broader and deeper spiritual malaise.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:02 PM | Permalink

October 6, 2011

Steve Jobs the Genius

 Smsteve-Jobs-Apple-Products

Wired

From at least the time he was a teenager, Jobs had a freakish chutzpah. At age 13, he called up the head of HP and cajoled him into giving Jobs free computer chips. It was part of a lifelong pattern of setting and fulfilling astronomical standards.

People who can claim credit for game-changing products — iconic inventions that become embedded in the culture and answers to Jeopardy questions decades later — are few and far between. But Jobs has had not one, not two, but six of these breakthroughs, any one of which would have made for a magnificent career. In order: the Apple II, the Macintosh, the movie studio Pixar, the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad. (This doesn’t even include the consistent, brilliant improvements to the Macintosh operating system, or the Apple retail store juggernaut.)

The turmoil in those sixties was also part of his make-up. “We wanted to more richly experience why were we were alive,” he said of his generation,

--every so often he’d drop a clue to what made him tick. Once he recalled for me some of the long summers of his youth. I’m a big believer in boredom,” he told me. Boredom allows one to indulge in curiosity, he explained, and “out of curiosity comes everything.”

his dad, Paul — a machinist who had never completed high school — had set aside a section of his workbench for Steve, and taught him how to build things, disassemble them, and put them together.
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I asked Jobs for an explanation on why he sometimes gave harsh, even rude assessments of his employee’s work...My best contribution is not settling for anything but really good stuff, in all the details. That’s my job — to make sure everything is great.”
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the iPOd ...Because it combines Apple’s incredible technology base with Apple’s legendary ease of use with Apple’s awesome design… it’s like, this is what we do. So if anybody was ever wondering why is Apple on the earth, I would hold this up as a good example.”
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Jobs was a proud, proud father of four children, three from his marriage to Laurene Powell. He was protective of them — whenever he shared a story about one of his children in an interview, he cautioned that the remark was to be off the record.

Kevin Williamson

The late Mr. Jobs stood for something considerably better than politics. He stood for the model of the world that works.

Mr. Jobs’s contribution to the world is Apple and its products, along with Pixar and his other enterprises, his 338 patented inventions — his work — not some Steve Jobs Memorial Foundation for Giving Stuff to Poor People in Exotic Lands and Making Me Feel Good About Myself. Because he already did that: He gave them better computers, better telephones, better music players, etc. In a lot of cases, he gave them better jobs, too. Did he do it because he was a nice guy, or because he was greedy, or because he was a maniacally single-minded competitor who got up every morning possessed by an unspeakable rage to strangle his rivals? The beauty of capitalism — the beauty of the iPhone world as opposed to the world of politics — is that that question does not matter one little bit. Whatever drove Jobs, it drove him to create superior products, better stuff at better prices. ...t markets are very democratic — everybody gets to decide for himself what he values.

How did he do it?

What was it about Steve Jobs that meant he managed to transform four industries? The personal computer (Mac), music (iPod), mobile phones (iPhone) and computing as lifestyle (iPad) will never be the same again – and that's before we mention his creation of another $7bn company in Pixar, which has won more than 20 Academy Awards. If he’d achieved just one of those feats, he would be one of the greatest business people of this era. To have achieved all of them is more than just talent and luck – it’s doing things differently.
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Steve Jobs didn’t delegate. He had the vision in his head and got other people to execute it for him. He cared about the details. He cared about the typeface, the iconography. He had a belligerent commitment to things being simple to use.

Because he had a holistic vision, and he made sure everything was done the way he wanted it, everything worked with everything else. iTunes works with your iPod.  Addresses synched between the Mail on your Mac and your iPhone. You plug a camera into your MacBook at iPhoto automatically launches and sucks in the photos. These weren’t five products in Steve’s mind, they were one product. That only happened because there was one man with a vision of the whole, who got people to do it his way.

Steve Jobs has left this world a better place. He has created businesses that employ tens of thousands of people. He has made frustrating, unintelligible tasks simple. He has given us new services that we enjoy and which bring us closer together. And he has entertained us.

 Apple-Steve-Jobs-Different

Joe Nocera

Steve Jobs  knew what consumers would want before the consumers themselves did.

Why he didn't allow flash on his iPhone

Jobs said it was to make the downloading of pornography next to impossible, indicating that nothing can destroy a family and marriage faster than a husband addicted to porn.

Peter Robinson who knew Jobs personally

You can almost grasp how became as important as Edison or Carnegie or Stanford or Rockefeller or Ford.....Yet one characteristic distinguished Steve Jobs from the others.  ...Only Steve insisted on beauty.

 Stevejobs Ipad

Bill Walsh

Jobs has always struck me as a Renaissance man, not in the conversational sense of the word, but in a more literal understanding of what the geniuses of the Italian Renaissance were about. They were about exploring the world as a view into the mind of God and illuminating it with beauty. Jobs was no sort of Christian, I don't think, but something in his Zen æsthetic saw something of the ideal, the Platonic, behind the world's veil, and I think in this he realized something of the humanitas that the Renaissance geniuses were about: helping people lead better lives. Jobs's view wasn't directly moral, as theirs was, but in his relentless, monomaniacal quest to make technology beautiful—to make it human, the opposite of say, Italian interwar Futurism—and to force it to absent itself from the space between thought and action, I think he was on the same page as the geniuses who perfected perspective to make the wall and paint irrelevant to the viewer’s reception of the image.

Rob Long

I am one of those irritating Apple fanatics..the machines are better designed, better made, with better software and easier to use.  The MacBook Pro has revolutionized all media.  The iPad is saving the newspaper business.  The iPhone has liberated the world.
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The story of Steve Jobs, from his hardscrabble upbringing to his second and third acts in American business, is a classic American story, one we should celebrate and teach in schools: a person with vision and drive and creative passion and an unwillingness to accept anything less than amazing, astonishing, and near-perfect

Walt Mossberg on The Steve Jobs I Knew

Sometimes, not always, he’d invite me in to see certain big products before he unveiled them to the world. He may have done the same with other journalists. We’d meet in a giant boardroom, with just a few of his aides present, and he’d insist — even in private — on covering the new gadgets with cloths and then uncovering them like the showman he was, a gleam in his eye and passion in his voice. We’d then often sit down for a long, long discussion of the present, the future, and general industry gossip.

I still remember the day he showed me the first iPod. I was amazed that a computer company would branch off into music players, but he explained, without giving any specifics away, that he saw Apple as a digital products company, not a computer company. It was the same with the iPhone, the iTunes music store, and later the iPad, which he asked me to his home to see, because he was too ill at the time to go to the office.
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In my many conversations with him, the dominant tone he struck was optimism and certainty, both for Apple and for the digital revolution as a whole. Even when he was telling me about his struggles to get the music industry to let him sell digital songs, or griping about competitors, at least in my presence, his tone was always marked by patience and a long-term view...it was striking.

Holman Jenkins on The Amazing Steve Jobs Story

His story isn't just the story of a person, but the combination of time, place and person, spawning a career in industrial design of awesome proportions. Mr. Jobs founded two pivotal companies in American history. Both happened to be named Apple. One was the Apple of the Macintosh, the other was the Apple of the iPhone.

From the beginning, he saw the human possibility in the extraordinarily complex hardware and software engineering of digital devices. The Macintosh should work in a way that's intuitive, that doesn't require an owner's manual. And today you only need to survey the blogosphere or friends with toddlers to hear stories of 3-year-olds picking up an iPad and quickly sussing out what it's for.

But let's also acknowledge that coupled with vision and the pursuit of excellence was hard-headed business strategizing. The triumph of iTunes, the App Store and the incipient Apple Cloud ushered in the era at Apple of network-esque complexity as well as the possibility of network-esque revenues. It made Mr. Jobs, despite himself, an empire builder.
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Mr. Jobs's determination to make superb products was, one likes to think, an expression of love for the world, life and possibility.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:40 PM | Permalink

September 27, 2011

What one entrepreneur can do

We need more people like Dr. Paul Polak, more little projects and fewer big ones.

An Entrepreneur Creating Chances for a Better Life

For 30 years Dr. Polak, a 78-year-old former psychiatrist, has focused on creating devices that will improve the lives of 2.6 billion people living on less than $2 a day. But, he insists, they must be so cheap and effective that the poor will actually buy them, since charity disappears when donors find new causes.
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Inventing a new device is only the beginning, he says; the harder part is finding dependable manufacturers and creating profitable distributorships. The “appropriate technology” field, he argues, is “dominated by tinkerers and short of entrepreneurs.”

His greatest success has been a treadle pump that lets farmers raise groundwater in the dry season, when crops fetch more money. He has sold more than two million, he said.
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Q. What’s the biggest mistake aid agencies make?

A. As we were developing our pump, the World Bank was subsidizing deep-well diesel pumps that could cover 40 acres. The theory was that you’d get a macroeconomic benefit, but it was also very destructive to social justice. The big pumps were handed out by government agents; the government agent was bribeable. The pump would go to the biggest landholder, and he’d become a waterlord.
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Q. What are your principles for success?

A. In 1981, I said, “I’m going to interview 100 $1-a-day families every year, come rain or shine, and learn from them first.”

Over 28 years, I’ve interviewed over 3,000 families. I spend about six hours with each one — walking with them through their fields, asking what they had for breakfast, how far their kids walk to school, what they feed their dog, what all their sources of income are. This is not rocket science. Any businessman knows this: You’ve got to talk to your customers.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:00 PM | Permalink

July 10, 2011

"The Real Saints are Hidden

 Church In The Clouds

                                                                                                  Janez Tolar

Looking for the Little Ones

Stop and consider that the real saints are hidden. They follow the little way. If you were to tell them they were a saint they would laugh and tell you to keep searching. If you even had the sense and discernment to see the saint next to you--the ordinary person who perseveres--the little person who serves others--the plain Jane who takes life easily and simply loves people, then you would learn again what true holiness really is. If we only had eyes to see the simplicity of the saints, the extraordinary ordinariness of holiness, the practical good humor and humility of the truly grace filled ones.

The little way is the one Therese de Liseux found in her Carmelite monastery.  A pampered, middle-class girl in provincial France, she entered the convent at 15 and died of tuberculosis when she was 24.    She lived a hidden life, yet her spiritual autobiography, The Story of a Soul, published after her death became a modern spiritual classic, read by millions around the world and translated into dozens of languages.  She was beatified in 1923, canonized in 1925 and declared a Doctor of the Church in 1997.

 Therese

She wrote

" I have always wanted to become a saint. Unfortunately when I have compared myself with the saints, I have always found that there is the same difference between the saints and me as there is between a mountain whose summit is lost in the clouds and a humble grain of sand trodden underfoot by passers-by. Instead of being discouraged, I told myself: God would not make me wish for something impossible and so, in spite of my littleness, I can aim at being a saint. It is impossible for me to grow bigger, so I put up with myself as I am, with all my countless faults. But I will look for some means of going to heaven by a little way which is very short and very straight, a little way that is quite new"
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:32 AM | Permalink

July 2, 2011

What is Man?

[T]he essential question of our time is the anthropological question, the question of man.

What is man? What is his nature, his meaning, his duty, his destiny?

Scripture tells us that man is a being mysteriously, almost paradoxically, endowed with a double nature: one physical, and so transient, doomed to the vicissitudes of change and then to pass away; and one spiritual, immortal, destined for eternity.

But the modern world has, for the most part, denied this definition or understanding of man.

The modern world has, for the most part, embraced a reductionist view of man, viewing man as a physical being only, moved by chemical reactions and hormonal drives, condemned by the haphazardness of an essentially meaningless universe to create himself and his own meaning according to his own desires, without any transcendent reference of any type, not to mention the reality signified by the word "God," which only arouses polite snickers in elite circles.

Pope Benedict has often made this point -- that our age suffers from the absence of God.

Robert Moynihan, The Shadow Over Europe 

Because, oddly, it is of the essence of being a man, of being human, that man transcend himself. Unless man transcends himself, he is not man. This is the paradox at the heart of our being, the strangeness of our humanity.

Without God, without the transcendent, without the holy, man is bereft of what is of its essence beyond man, of the divine, of the "above," of the sacred, of that which surpasses the purely digital, the purely numerical....

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:40 PM | Permalink

June 16, 2011

Different paths to leadership

In Businessweek,  God's MBAs:  Why Mormon Missions Produce Leaders

Before setting out in orderly pairs to spread their gospel door-to-door, nearly all U.S. Mormon missionaries pass through the Provo Missionary Training Center. Inside the sprawling brown-brick complex, thousands of 19- and 20-year-old men in oversized black suits work alongside women in below-the-knee skirts and brightly colored tops. All of them wear name tags.
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The Provo Missionary Training Center (MTC) and its curriculum are designed to render all trainees equal servants of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS), yet
many of the men who prepared for their missions here, or at the center's earlier incarnations, have gone on to become among the most distinguished and recognizable faces in American business and civic life.
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Reflecting on his own mission to the mid-Atlantic states, Cornia adds, "When I left, the son of a relatively poor mother and a father who died when I was young, I frankly didn't know if I could do anything. I came back with the confidence that I can accomplish most hard things. I may not have had that otherwise."

Read more  to see how their proverbial work ethic, self improvement and self reliance is formed at a young age in what is, in effect, a 2 year  boot camp for leaders.

After the financial crisis, others, too few of them, are re-examining just what their corporate lives are doing to them.

Behind corporate walls, the masters of the universe weep by Stefan Stern via The Browser.

So it was heartening, in a way, when I recently started picking up examples of things being discussed rather differently, in private, behind closed corporate doors. It was only encouraging in part because the stories I have been told are of secret grief and hidden angst, bursting out in an extraordinary way.

These kinds of stories are as yet completely under-reported and under-analysed.

On three separate occasions in the past few months I have been told about startling moments of truth within the walls of some mighty global corporations. At last the silence has been broken, and the unsayable has been said.
These episodes have one thing in common (and it is almost a leitmotif): the tears and misery of senior managers.

At an elite management consultancy an informal discussion about career goals degenerated into the sort of group confession masters of the universe are simply not supposed to make. Work was ridiculously intense, yet meaningless, they said. The financial rewards were considerable, but many wanted out.

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Umair Haque, director of the Havas Media Lab, has just published a radical new book called The New Capitalist Manifesto ...Haque let rip on some of the absurdities of contemporary business and economic life. “Just ask yourself,” he wrote, “if you were to walk into any corporation, would you find faces brimming over with deep fulfillment and authentic delight – or stonily asking themselves, ‘If it wasn’t for the accursed paycheck, would I really imprison myself in this dungeon of the human soul?’ ”

We are trapped, Haque argues, in
a futile “pursuit of opulence”. “The pursuit of opulence,” he says, “isn’t just failing to make most of us better off in human terms — more troublingly, it’s also failing to ignite the spark of enduring wealth creation today.

It does not have to be like this. If we could make a series of shifts our individual and collective prospects could be brighter. The first shift involves moving from being a “shallow generalist” to being a “serial master” – genuinely knowing what we are talking about. The second shift requires us to give up being an “isolated competitor”, instead becoming what Prof Gratton calls an “innovative connector” – in plain terms, working far more collaboratively. The third shift involves giving up being a voracious consumer and instead becoming an “impassioned producer”, doing
(and consuming) less, perhaps, but doing it better.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:37 PM | Permalink

June 8, 2011

Strangest wedding photo -UPDATED

 Marriage-Piercedwoman

World's most pierced woman gets married to balding civil servant

Elaine Davidson, who has almost 7000 piercings covering her body, married Douglas Watson, at a low-key wedding reception in Edinburgh.

Brazilian-born Miss Davidson, 46, made a bizarre sight in a flowing white wedding gown and floral tiara with only her face visible, which was painted green and covered in 192 piercings.

It contrasted markedly from her older husband, who is aged in his 60s, who was more conservatively-dressed in a simple navy suit, a sky-blue shirt and Marks and Spencer tie. The two bridesmaids were dressed in pink.
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When first accredited by a Guinness World Record official in 2000, Miss Davidson had 462 piercings, with 192 in her face alone.

The former nurse now has 6,925 including more than 1,500 that are "internal" that are said to weigh almost seven pounds.

Love is indeed blind.

UPDATED:

Miss Davidson has previously said she never removes the rings and studs, which she estimates weigh a total of around three kilos.
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She said in February 2009, when she had 6,005 piercings including
1,500 that are 'internal': 'I don't enjoy getting pierced, but to break the record you have to get to a high level.  'I wanted to break the record.
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On her own website,
Miss Davidson, who also sleeps on a bed of nails and has walked on fire and glass, says she enjoys extreme sports and theatre, but does not drink or smoke.

-Pierced-Woman-Wedding

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:06 PM | Permalink

March 29, 2011

“It’s very painful to write these things down....”

One dogged mother seeking justice for her son who was brutally beaten with a fracture at the base of his skull is exposing the lackadaisical police investigation who didn't bother to examine witnesses or analyze key physical evidence, to conclude the boy, a known addict, died of an overdose.

She wants the couple who provided the methadone to her son tried for murder. 

In Tennessee in 2007, there were 750 accidental deaths due to drug overdoses.  Why not get the pushersoff the street?

A Mommy Blogger Seeks Justice for Her Son

If there’s anyone whose bad side you don’t want to be on, it’s a grieving mother devastated by the death of her son, furious that justice isn’t being served, and in possession of an extremely popular blog.

Katie Granju is that woman. The Knoxville, Tennesee-based author of the mommy blog Mamapundit, as well as the bestselling book Attachment Parenting, she was also, for years, secretly the mother of a drug-abusing teenager. Her son Henry had spent several years in and out of rehab, struggling with an addiction that, on April 27, landed him in the ICU, and a little more than a month later, ended his short life at the tender age of 18.

“Before I saw it happen to my own son, I thought an overdose death meant you drifted off to sleep,” Granju told The Daily Beast. “It was the most horrible, painful death that went on and on and on. He spent [a month] in the hospital slowly coming to the realization that his brain damage was killing him.”

Granju mourned publicly on her blog as her hundreds of thousands of readers hung on her every word. Now, nearly a year later, her grief has turned to anger as those who were allegedly party to her son’s death are still walking free. Tennessee law and federal statute deem deaths resulting from the distribution of illegal drugs as homicide. Granju wants the dealers her son was involved with prosecuted under those laws—and she’s rallying her enormous audience of moms behind her cause.
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“They think she’s a real pain in the ass,” says Betty Bean, a reporter who’s been covering the Knoxville political and criminal investigation scene for more than two decades. “The DA and Sheriff's Office like their victims to be grateful and she’s not.”

Katie says

“I know what their best efforts look like. “That discrepancy is what makes it all the more painful to me. My son’s death is not worth it to them. That hurts.”

The family has since lawyered up and plans to file a wrongful death suit against the couple that allegedly provided the drugs to Henry. They’re also looking into filing suit against Knox County authorities for violating Henry's civil rights by failing to conduct a thorough and competent criminal investigation.

“It’s very painful to write these things down,” Granju says. “I’m not a detective. I’m not an advocate. I’m just a heartbroken parent. As a taxpayer and mother, I should be protected from having to talk about this. There was no other option left to us.”

Follow her progress at Justice for Henry.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:24 PM | Permalink

March 25, 2011

Week-end round-up: Logos, the lobster underground and auroras

When you have time, a few articles too good to pass up.

The Secret Messages in 12 Logos

You'll never looks at Fed Ex and Tostidos in the same away again.

A House Discovered From the Time of Christ provides scientific evidence that Nazareth was a thriving community when Christ was alive and not a made-up Christian invention.

The Great Conversation Betrayed by Higher Ed

We felt and spoke as if we had rediscovered some long-forgotten treasure abandoned by the generation before

10 years in the making. Cross-stitch of the Sistine Chapel    Design time: 718  hours. Time to choose colors (all 1206 of them): 68 hours.  Time to stitch: 2872 hours.

Fran Lebowitz is Always Right

What is it that allows her to be a person rather than a persona in public? Perhaps being devoid of the desperate desire to be liked. Not caring what we think, she is able to be so truthful—which is a grand way of saying that she speaks what is obvious. She says things that are obvious but true, but that no one says, or not enough, or that no one hears. Things like: the emperor has no clothes…the media is the only institution left…the standards have gotten dangerously low…Americans are getting dumber…art today sucks.

I missed Martin Scorsese's  Public Speaking when it premiered on HBO last November, described as

a beautifully shot and edited monologue. This is Scorsese's deft, elegant portrait of Lebowitz in her own words. It's her version of who she is.

How One Man Wages War Against Gravity.  He was a rich, powerful American businessman, founder of Babson College, a financial forecaster who predicted the 1929 stock market crash and the depression that followed, an author of 47 books,  a life-long friend of Thomas Edison and a crackpot who believed that gravity was public enemy number one. 

Babson liked setting words into stone. During the depression, he created a public works project in the spirit of the New Deal, in which he hired stone cutters to engrave inspiring messages into boulders in a park in Gloucester, Mass. Stones advocating traits such as "KINDNESS" and instructing viewers to "HELP MOTHER" can still be seen there today.

 Keepoutofdebt

I used to live in Gloucester and never saw these probably because I never hiked through Dogtown but I will this summer just to see for myself the Babson Boulders.

The Lobster Underground.  First in NYC, now in DC, Captain Claw, the "lobstah pushah "

devised a system that would be the envy of even the most enterprising drug dealers on The Wire. Claw’s customers first had to friend him on Facebook. Then, if they checked out, Claw would provide the potential customer with a phone number, exchange texts when the roll was ready, and hand off the goods in a plain brown bag.
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He perfected his act with an Ali G-style costume that mixed lobster- and Boston-sports-themed attire and a thick, gold-spray-painted chain holding up a large lobster claw (also spray-painted gold).

 Drclaw

“You do the cash/crustacean handoff in literally three seconds, and then you’re on your way,” says John Hendrickson, a longtime Greenpoint resident and frequent Dr. Claw customer. “And the rolls were sublime—hot grilled bun, at least half a pound of warm fresh lobster, copious melted butter, and nothing else.”

I love auroras and Terje Sorgjerd captures their beauty in this  time-lapse video

The Aurora from Terje Sorgjerd on Vimeo.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:54 AM | Permalink

March 23, 2011

A Real Hero in Japan

A remarkable man is Hideaki Akaiwa and his rescue of his wife and mother will go down in the annals of history as an example of remarkable courage and determination.

For one quake survivor,  self help in the face of seeming helplessness

Hideaki Akaiwa, in Miyagi prefecture, has decided not to wait for rescue workers. With a scuba suit on, he waded through flooded streets to rescue his wife, and later his mother. He continues to look for more survivors.

Most of the dozens of tsunami-battered towns along Japan's northeastern coast remain mired in mud, but the situation in Ishinomaki is a bit different. Nearly a week after the massive earthquake and tsunami hit the city of 162,000, large portions remain underwater, an instant lake clearly visible on NASA satellite photographs.

Amid the aqueous landscape looms Hideaki Akaiwa, 43, in full battle gear.

-Hideaki Akaiwa

The best account that I've read is at Badass of the Week (warning strong language)

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:50 PM | Permalink

March 14, 2011

The bravest sermon I have ever read in my entire life

In Von Galen Contra Gestapo,  Donald McClarey tells us about Blessed Clemens August Graf von Galen, a remarkable German bishop who stood up to the Third Reich with the sermons he preached in 1941 which made him famous around the world.

At this point, when his Nazi foes were their strongest, on July 13, 1941, Bishop von Galen threw down his episcopal gauntlet to the Gestapo, the secret police of the Nazis, who brutally terrorized Germany and occupied Europe:

What follows is an excerpt from the bravest sermon I have ever read in my entire life.

None of us is safe — and may he know that he is the most loyal and conscientious of citizens and may he be conscious of his complete innocence — he cannot be sure that he will not some day be deported from his home, deprived of his freedom and locked up in the cellars and concentration camps of the Gestapo. I am aware of the fact: This can happen also to me, today or some other day. And because then I shall not be able to speak in public any longer, I will speak publicly today, publicly I will warn against the continuance in a course which I am firmly convinced will bring down God’s judgment on men and must lead to disaster and ruin for our people and our country.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:36 AM | Permalink

March 4, 2011

Kaleidoscope in the sky

 Startrail Mteverest Jankovy

This stunning photograph of a swirling star trail above Mt. Everest to months of waiting and persistence to make.

For the Kaleidoscope in the sky,  congratulations to 23-year-old Anton Jankovoy

'Then four years ago, after saving for a year-and-a-half, I made my first trip to the Himalayas.

'I visited Mount Everest and it was like a revelation to me, a different world, a different way of life, almost a different universe to what I had known in the Ukraine.

'It had a profound effect on me and seriously changed my life. I fell in love with Nepal, the people and the amazing scenery.

'When I came home I realised I couldn't go back to my old way of life and so for the last three years I've lived in Nepal for six months of the year.

'It has taken a lot of dedication and patience but the result has been worth it.'

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:07 AM | Permalink

February 16, 2011

"Next time maybe it could be somebody smaller than me"

Eagles over wolves in a rout

A 13-year-old boy named Nadin Khoury told about how he'd been attacked by seven bigger schoolmates, kicked, beaten, dragged through the snow, stuffed into a tree, and hung on a 7-foot spiked fence, all while adults watched.

The boy was only 5-foot-2, but he'd made up his mind to stand tall no matter how much of his pride bled out. As the brutal video played on a screen behind him, his collar stayed buttoned, his spine straight, but his bottom lip quivered.

"Next time maybe it could be somebody smaller than me," he said, loud and clear, like the Marine he wants to be someday. "Maybe next time, somebody could really get hurt."

      -Nadin Khoury

That's when host Elisabeth Hasselbeck said, "There are some guys here who want to tell you just how brave you are."

Khoury seemed at once shocked, overwhelmed and redeemed. Where once his chin stuck out as best it could, it now fell open in wonder.

From behind the curtain came three Philadelphia Eagles -- All-World receiver DeSean Jackson, center Jamaal Jackson and guard Todd Herremans.

Khoury seemed at once shocked, overwhelmed and redeemed. Where once his chin stuck out as best it could, it now fell open in wonder. He looked like a kid who'd forgotten it was Christmas morning. He wept without wiping his tears. Jackson sat as close to him as possible, as if to make the two one. He praised the boy for his bravery and added, "Anytime ever you need us, I got two linemen right here."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:09 PM | Permalink

February 8, 2011

When Steve Jobs dropped out of college

Steve Jobs says one of the best decisions of his life was dropping out of college. He just followed his curiosity and stumbled into a calligraphy class.

Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn't have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can't capture, and I found it fascinating.

None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But 10 years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, its likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do.

From Notable and Quotable.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:30 AM | Permalink

February 4, 2011

The Skin Cell Gun

How many horribly suffering burn victims will find healing almost instantly because of this fabulous achievement.


Kudos to Jorg Gerlach of the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine and his team who have been working on this for a long time.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:26 PM | Permalink

January 17, 2011

Provocative Non-Violence

Clips from Martin Luther King's speeches using Autotune


Father Robert Barron The Third Way in Responding to Violence and Aggression
An ardent student of both the Sermon on the Mount and the campaigns of Gandhi, Dr. King saw that there was a third way, beyond both fighting back and giving in, namely, the path of provocative non-violence, “turning the other cheek.” The one who turns the other cheek, he saw, is not passively surrendering to violence; rather, he is courageously standing his ground and refusing to cooperate with the assumptions and behavior patterns of his aggressor. He is actively interrupting the cycle of aggression and is, at the same time, providing a mirror in which the attacker sees his own violence and is, ideally, moved to repentance. Armed with this New Testament strategy, King encouraged his followers to march on Selma, to sit down at segregated lunch counters, to endure taunts, attack dogs, water cannons, imprisonment, and even death. The courageous non-violence of the civil rights generation gummed up the works of a morally flawed, dysfunctional system and exposed its wickedness to the world.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:58 PM | Permalink

January 6, 2011

"Goodness is the only investment that never fails"

The Boston Globe lights up with the Top 10 Inspiring stories of 2010.

From Rudy Favard, co-captain of the Malden Catholic football team, whose Simple act elevates all

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to the love of a sister who brought back her beloved big brother from the brooding soldier who returned home from Iraq suffering from PTSD, One step at a time.


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to Brian Christopher, a homeless Navy vet who really could have used the money to buy presents for his children, a man in need finds wallet and moral compass, proving beyond a doubt there is one honest man in Boston.

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Stories like these are important because they show us - and we all have to be reminded - how many people are doing great good, unnoticed, all around us.

"Goodness is the only investment that never fails," Henry David Thoreau.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:31 AM | Permalink

December 13, 2010

Boston Dawna

A 59-year-old woman of passion and purpose, she is an "outlandish but celebrated crime stopper" - Boston Dawna.

Truth, justice, and Boston Dawna’s way

She inhales cigarettes and exhales F-bombs. She keeps her smokes and her cellphone in her bra, so she can get to them quickly. There was a time when she carried real handcuffs, but she has busted so many bad guys — and lost so many handcuffs — that she started buying novelty ones in bulk from a sex-toy store. The criminals never noticed.

“That’s because,’’ she likes to say, “criminals are [expletive] dumb.’’

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:42 AM | Permalink

December 9, 2010

Live with the end in mind

Zen Habits on The Key to Dying Happy

To die happy, you must live life with that end in mind. Live a life of purpose.

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Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:22 AM | Permalink

December 7, 2010

"He brought a sense of tranquility and faith back to the people"

Rev David Beaumont, a Franciscan priest from Hempstead, N.Y. is the American missionary who brings solace to a drug-torn Mexican region.

When Beaumont arrived here 20 years ago as a young missionary, the roads were unpaved, there was no electricity, and there was little to eat besides beans and tortillas. He'd been sent to serve dirt-poor Pima Indians, some of whom were still living in caves, but they ran and hid whenever he arrived in their villages.

"Sometimes I think it was easier back then," said Beaumont, 50, laughing at that memory as he rumbled along a dirt road in a pickup truck and the tattered brown friar's habit he wears over bluejeans. With his long beard and hair, and 6-foot-3 frame, he is an emissary for peace, humility and love in one of the largest and most dangerous drug-growing areas in the world.

Today, Beaumont speaks four local indigenous languages, and English so seldom that his pronunciation has taken on a Mexican lilt. "David has dedicated his life to this place," said Cesar Lozano, an apprentice friar on a one-year assignment to help Beaumont. "He embraces the people wherever he goes, and he does not judge them. He is completely devoted to Christ."

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Beaumont has also lived in the Sierra Madre long enough that he does not mention the cartels by name, nor speak out against growing marijuana and opium poppies. The friar's habit is not a bulletproof vest.

"I know the first person who planted marijuana here," Beaumont said, laughing again. "He still comes to Mass sometimes."

After a particularly vicious killing of a 73-year-old man, the people were terrorized.

Three weeks later, Beaumont organized a religious procession along the highway. A thousand people came, marching with icons of Saint Francis and the Virgin of Guadalupe. "The message we wanted to send was: We live here, we have the right to live here, and we will continue to live here," Beaumont said. The Pimas returned to their homes.

"He brought a sense of tranquility and faith back to the people," said Isaul Holguin, a town official in Yecora. "They feel he protects them." The military also put a new checkpoint along the highway. The armed men from Chihuahua have not come back.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:22 AM | Permalink

October 12, 2010

Stupendous medical achievement

What a stupendous achievement this is.

Boy Born Without Ears Receives Gift of Sound

Diego Neumaier Ortiz, a 12-year-old boy from Puebla, Mexico, was born with a condition called microtia, which left his ears almost completely undeveloped. Even with a hearing aid, sound was almost completely muffled for the young boy.

So Diego threw himself into a sport where he didn’t need to be conscious of his teammates’ calls: gymnastics. He learned to master the arts of vaulting, balance bars, and backflips. Recently, he became the junior gymnastics champion in all of Mexico. A visiting American doctor was watching from the bleachers, amazed by the child’s skill. He also noticed that Diego was deaf—and thought that something could be done to fix that.

The doctor contacted a well-known specialist in ear reconstruction, Dr. John Reinisch. He offered to take Diego’s complicated case for no charge.

In the operation, Dr. Reinisch and another surgeon, Dr. Joseph Roberson, created an outer ear for cosmetic purposes, then drilled a hole to access the inner ear and build an ear canal. The operation took nine hours, and the ear would require two weeks to heal.

When the doctors finally pulled back the gauze on Diego’s new ear, his mother praised the good work they had done. That was the first time Diego had heard her voice.

In return for the gift of hearing, Diego presented the doctors with a present of his own: his championship medals for his gymnastics wins.

“I don’t have anything to give them, but this is so valuable to me,” Diego told CBS. “I want to give them to Dr. Reinisch, because he is giving me something greater: two ears.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:19 PM | Permalink

October 8, 2010

Trauma Surgeon

It's astonishing to contemplate how much we depend on people we do not know.  Trauma surgeons  are a good example.    Imagine working 100 hours a week for 20 years in the midst of "blood, guts, death and chaos" with such responsibility for the lives of so many people.

A night in a Detroit trauma ward

My old friend from journalism school Charlie LeDuff, who writes for the Detroit News, spent the night hanging around one of the city hospital's trauma wards. His host was chief surgeon Dr. Pat Patton, 46. Among patients with stab and gunshot wounds, Charlie gains some insight into the consequences of a crap economy, health insurance, and a routine evening for a surgeon who has regularly worked 100 hours per week in the ward... for the last twenty years.

From the
Detroit News
The trauma surgeon — perhaps the most knowledgeable about the workings of the entire human body — is considered something of a butcher among the cutting class: a brute who is the jack of all trades, the master of none. A general surgeon like Patton may not understand the intricacies of neurosurgery, but he is able to cobble together the shattered pieces of a gunshot victim in a late-night marathon of surgery.

Patton’s most important tool appears to be his right index finger. That digit acts as his probe, his periscope, his divining rod, his cork. He can remember on more than one occasion saving the life of a gunshot victim who arrived at the hospital in the back of a sedan. He simply plugged the hole with his finger.

Hats off for Dr. Patton. 

 Dr. Patton Traumasurgeon

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:59 PM | Permalink

October 7, 2010

The most fundamental question of the modern age

James Schall reflects on Pope Benedict's visit to Britain and the question he left us all to ponder, "The Ultimate Meaning of Our Human Existence."

On reflecting on this visit, no Briton, I think, whatever be the fame of English practicality, can help but wonder, if he has not before, "What is the ultimate meaning of our existence?" He did not have this question addressed to him in the Times or the Guardian but in the reflections of Benedict XVI, the Successor to Peter. It is still the most fundamental question of the modern age.

More rippling effects of Benedict's visit come from the venerable Bede,  English, atheist and blogger, who subjects Richard Dawkins to a serious intellectual flogging for his speech at the Protest the Pope Rally in London which Bede calls a "miserable performance".

One other thing announces itself with curious clarity in Dawkins's diatribe, and that's his resentment at Ratzinger being acclaimed as an important intellectual.

The only way to dispute Ratzinger's stature as a major intellect is to refuse to listen to anything he has to say; the only way to deny that his view of modern society's ills is cogent and valid is to deny his central thesis, and cling to the 'everything is wonderful in our secular paradise' mantra that Dawkins and all the rest so shamefully endorse.

Ratzinger is a bigger thinker, a better thinker, because he starts from the premise that there is something deeply wrong: the grown-up's premise.

To merely accept this as a starting base takes courage, but without doing so nothing can be achieved. A world view - still more one that assumes entitlement to authority - that does not begin from this base is dangerous, cowardly and irrelevant.

If, like me, you don't like some of Ratzinger's answers then great - let the civilised adult debate begin. But if you'd rather attach condoms to an umbrella and parade through London with a bunch of dipsticks you rule yourself out of all serious consideration. Ratzinger is asking for a debate on some big subjects, and the best these supposed intellectual heavyweights can do is call him names, ignore the questions, and congratulate each other as the waters rise around their ugly necks.

He would trust the Pope before Dawkins.

But compare Ratzinger's rigorous analysis of the "loss of an awareness of intangible moral values" in a culture that "sees in its own history only what is blameworthy and destructive [and] is no longer capable of perceiving what is great and pure" with the ghastly fluffy-bunny 'consciousness raising' of Dawkins's recent sermons and decide for yourself in whose hands your future would be safer.

Britain Gobsmacked by Pope Benedict

At a conference in Rome this evening, barrister and president of Britain’s Catholic Union, Jamie Bogle, told me, “The secular atheist liberals and their friends in the media are going to take a long time to get over this visit. Because they thought they were on a winner. They thought they were going to, if not arrest the pope, at least seriously embarrass him.

“And this little guy in white just flattened them. His gentle, calm, soft-spoken approach just won everybody over. And the demonstrations faded away.”

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The pope’s addresses, delivered barely above a whisper, made his detractors look “ridiculous, like children throwing their toys out of the pram because they couldn’t have their own way.” And today the pope’s opponents are left with little to say. “They’re nonplussed and confused” Fr. Allan said, “astonished.” “They didn’t expect people to respond as they have done.”

“They don’t understand why the British people listened to him. Why they wanted to see him. Everything the pope said is outside their mindset.”

The pope’s messages, that Christianity has a foundational place in the building of a just society, one that cannot be suppressed without destroying the foundations of freedom, were delivered fearlessly but gently, in a tone that one had to strain to hear and with an accent one had to concentrate to understand.

“He was just stating the truth,” Fr. Allan said. “It’s really swept people off their feet.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:23 PM | Permalink

September 28, 2010

"First she cried. Then she found out about the money and nearly fainted"

Jesse Little Doe Baird  won a "Genius grant" of $500,000 for her work in reviving the American Indian language Wampanoag.

The Boston Globe tells the story of this woman, imbued with the passion of restoring a language that had been spoken for 10,000 years

When the foundation notified Baird, 46, a Mashpee linguist and the program director of the Wôpanâak Language Reclamation Project, two weeks ago of the fellowship, the honor brought her to tears. As far as she knows, her 6-year-old daughter is the only child since the 19th century raised from birth to speak Wampanoag (or, in that language, Wôpanâak).
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Baird, one of the principal authors of a developing 10,000-word Wampanoag-English dictionary, does not view her personal role in reviving the language as critical. Instead, she talks about the benefits of being able to speak the language of her ancestors. “The opportunity to hear what my fifth great-grandfather had to say, even though he’s gone, because he wrote it down, really is a powerful motivation,’’ she said.

She hopes to spend some of the money to hire an artist to illustrate some of the children’s books she has written in Wampanoag.

It began in 1993 when she had a series of dreams in which people spoke to her in a language she could not understand.

In 1996, determined to acquire some training in order to work on the dictionary, Baird left her job at the Community Action Committee of Hyannis to begin a one-year research fellowship at MIT. She did not have an undergraduate degree, but she did have a lifelong fascination with patterns, which, she said, are what linguistics is all about.
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She applied to MIT’s graduate program in linguistics, using her fellowship research as part of her application, and was admitted. She studied there with the late scholar Kenneth Hale, collaborated with him on the dictionary, and received her master’s degree in 2000.
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Born and raised in Mashpee, Baird views it as “every Wampanoag person’s birthright to have their language of heritage,’’ a language that she said has “been spoken here for at least 10,000 years.’’

According to Baird, her ancestors were “the first American Indian people to use an alphabetic writing system,’’ and the first Bible published on this continent — a key document in her research — was printed in 1663 in Wampanoag.

After English missionaries arrived on this continent, the Wampanoag people were quick to realize the power of the written word, Baird said, especially to resolve land disputes with the Europeans. “And so Wampanoag people started to record land transfers, wills, personal letters,’’ she said. The result is what she called “the largest collection of native written documents on the continent.’’
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:09 PM | Permalink

September 27, 2010

Applauding the citizen activists who uncover massive vote fraud and Christopher Coates

Sometimes, you can't depend on government but must band together in grassroots fashions like the local Tea Party group that may have uncovered massive vote fraud in Texas

Two weeks ago the Harris County voter registrar took their work and the findings of his own investigation and handed them over to both the Texas secretary of state’s office and the Harris County district attorney.

Most of the findings focused on a group called Houston Votes, a voter registration group headed by Steve Caddle, who also works for the Service Employees International Union. Among the findings were that only 1,793 of the 25,000 registrations the group submitted appeared to be valid. The other registrations included one of a woman who registered six times in the same day; registrations of non-citizens; so many applications from one Houston Voters collector in one day that it was deemed to be beyond human capability; and 1,597 registrations that named the same person multiple times, often with different signatures.

This is citizen activism everyone can applaud. 

Let us applaud too, the courage of Christopher Coates, the  former Voting Section chief of the Department of Justice who testified before the U.S. Civil Rights Commission last week that Obama appointees are opposed to enforcing civil rights laws in a racially neutral fashion. 

If you, like me, were puzzled as to why the case of the three members of the New Black Panther Party, caught on video tape  intimidating voters outside a Philadelphia polling place was dismissed after the DOJ had already won the case, this is what Coates said

[There is a] deep-seated opposition to the race-neutral enforcement of the Voting Rights Act against racial minorities and for the protection of whites who have been discriminated against.

In some cases, Justice Department attorneys and staff flatly refused to work on cases where the wrong-doer was black.

Coates also said that he was testifying because the Department has made misrepresentations to Congress, to the Civil Rights Commission, and to the public, sometimes under oath.

Coates described the significance of these misrepresentations. He testified:

If incorrect representations are going to successfully thwart an inquiry into the systemic problems regarding race-neutral enforcement of the Voting Rights Act by the Civil Rights Division, problems that were manifested in the disposition of the NBPP case, that end is not going to be furthered or accomplished by my sitting silently by at the direction of my supervisors while incorrect information is provided. I do not believe that I am professionally, ethically, legally, much less, morally bound to allow such a result to occur.

J. Christian Adams calls Coates an American hero.

Yet Americans have a new hero today. The extraordinary courage it took for Coates to risk his job, his career, even his safety to come forward and testify is extraordinary. Aspiring lawyers looking for a role model can find in Coates a noble reason to enter the profession.

We no longer must consult history for a lawyer-hero willing to take personal risk for sacred principles such as the rule of law and racial equality. Our age can claim Christopher Coates. My profession has not seen a hero like Coates since the giants of the civil rights movement convinced the courts to eradicate legal racial discrimination. Coates has dedicated a lifetime to following in their footsteps, to ensuring free access to the ballot.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:43 PM | Permalink

September 25, 2010

Maine Family Robinson

My wife and I noticed the utter breakdown of enormous parts of the lives of average Americans, the destruction or subversion of many formerly useful institutions, and a general retreat to barbarism masquerading as progress. We decided to change our lives a while ago, and not unlike the Swiss Family, the last three or four years took even the last lifeboat we found ourselves in and smashed it on the rocks. We have reinvented ourselves, and we'll tell you how we're doing it, if you're interested.

Greg Sullivan who  "hurls essays at the Internet like gigantic curses"  at Sippican Cottage, now "happily stranded" in  Western Maine is telling his story of Maine Family Robinson  and I'm not going to miss a chapter of it.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:59 PM | Permalink

September 22, 2010

Upcoming: The Black Tulip

From the New York Times, A Director's Many Battles to Make Her Movie

 Sonia Nassery Cole

Sonia Nassery Cole knew that shooting a movie on location in Afghanistan could get her killed. The most vivid reminder came a few weeks before filming, she said, when militants located her leading actress and cut off both of her feet.

But Ms. Cole, an Afghan expatriate with a flair for the dramatic and a history of not taking no for an answer, had her mind made up. Unable to find another actress to take the part — the film is overtly critical of the Taliban — Ms. Cole, 45, decided to play the role herself.

“Come hell, come shine, I was going to make this movie,” said Ms. Cole, a novice filmmaker whose primary job is running the Afghanistan World Foundation, a charity focused on refugees and women’s rights.
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Before the film wrapped production last fall in Kabul, Ms. Cole survived a bomb blast that shattered the windows of her hotel, machine gun fire and grim telephone threats warning her to go home.

Three senior crew members — her cinematographer, a producer and a set designer — did just that, abandoning Ms. Cole in the middle of production.

“I know I broke her heart,” said Keith Smith, the cinematographer who left. “But I could feel death. I didn’t sign up for that.”

The movie she made is The Black Tulip, a tragic love story that will premier in Kabul this Thursday before it's off to the Sundance Film Festival.

The Times has a slideshow with some scenes from a movie I'm not going to miss.  Courage like hers must be supported.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:34 PM | Permalink

August 31, 2010

Gerotranscendence

Lars Tornstam coined the word "gerotransendence" to describe a state in later life.


Simply put, gerotranscendence is a shift in meta perspective, from a materialistic and rational view of the world to a more cosmic and transcendent one, normally accompanied by an increase in life satisfaction.

Gerotranscendence is regarded as t
he final stage in a possible natural progression towards maturation and wisdom. According to the empirically based theory, the individual moving towards gerotranscendence may experience a series of gerotranscendental changes or developments. These typically include a redefinition of the Self and of relationships to others and a new understanding of fundamental existential questions. The individual becomes, for example, less self occupied and at the same time more selective in the choice of social and other activities. There is an increased feeling of affinity with past generations and a decreased interest in superfluous social interaction. The individual might also experience a decreased interest in material things and a greater need for solitary "meditation". Positive solitude becomes more important. There is also often a feeling of cosmic communion with the spirit of the universe, and a redefinition of time, space, life and death

I wouldn't have known about gerotranscendence, although I've experienced some of it, it were it not for Paula Span. Nor would I know that this is so contrary to what people expect about old age, that many children and caretakers often label this behavior as "pathological."

Take for example the fact that some elderly people confuse past and present. Are they improperly oriented in time and place? Or are they experiencing a transcendence of the borders of time? Dr Tornstam argues

old people who experience these changes (including greater spontaneity and playfulness, less self-absorption, and feelings of “cosmic transcendence”) take greater satisfaction in their lives.

Her post on Aging's Misunderstood Virtues in in the New York Times includes an interview with Lars Tornstam.

But perhaps there’s nothing wrong, said Dr. Tornstam, who has been investigating aging for more than 25 years. Our values and interests don’t usually remain static from the time we’re 20 years old until the time we’re 45, so why do we expect that sort of consistency in later decades?
“We develop and change; we mature,” he told me in a phone interview from his home in Uppsala, Sweden. “It’s a process that goes on all our lives, and it doesn’t ever end. The mistake we make in middle age is thinking that good aging means continuing to be the way we were at 50. Maybe it’s not.”

An increased need for solitude, and for the company of only a few intimates, is one of the traits Dr. Tornstam attributes to this continuing maturation. So that elderly mother isn’t deteriorating, necessarily — she’s evolving. “People tell us they are different people at 80,” Dr. Tornstam explained. “They have new interests, and they have left some things behind.”
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When he began publishing his work in the mid 1980s, it made a bit of a splash. “It was so unusual,” recalled Merril Silverstein, a social gerontologist at the University of Southern California, who teaches about Dr. Tornstam’s theory, though he remains somewhat skeptical about it. “It turns on its head the current ideas about ‘successful aging’ — avoiding disease, remaining productive, forming social relationships. This advocates the opposite, a retreat into your own consciousness.”.

If you're interested in learning more about Gerotranscendence, you can download Tornstam's 2 page pamphlet here.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:22 PM | Permalink

July 19, 2010

Business School Lessons Applied to Real Life

The innovative and highly respected author of The Innovator's Dilemma, Clayton Christensen asked his graduating students at the Harvard Business School three questions.

First, how can I be sure that I’ll be happy in my career? Second, how can I be sure that my relationships with my spouse and my family become an enduring source of happiness? Third, how can I be sure I’ll stay out of jail?

Then he used his own life as a case study so that his students could see how he applied his own theories to guide his life decisions. 

Here are some snippets from How Will You Measure Your Life?

More and more MBA students come to school thinking that a career in business means buying, selling, and investing in companies. That’s unfortunate. Doing deals doesn’t yield the deep rewards that come from building up people.
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The choice and successful pursuit of a profession is but one tool for achieving your purpose. But without a purpose, life can become hollow.
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If you study the root causes of business disasters, over and over you’ll find this predisposition toward endeavors that offer immediate gratification. If you look at personal lives through that lens, you’ll see the same stunning and sobering pattern: people allocating fewer and fewer resources to the things they would have once said mattered most.
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Like employees, children build self-esteem by doing things that are hard and learning what works.
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The lesson I learned from this is that it’s easier to hold to your principles 100% of the time than it is to hold to them 98% of the time. If you give in to “just this once,” based on a marginal cost analysis, as some of my former classmates have done, you’ll regret where you end up. You’ve got to define for yourself what you stand for and draw the line in a safe place.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:44 AM | Permalink

June 29, 2010

Aging through a physician's lens

The doctor found passion, meaning and purpose a few blocks away.

Dr. Jeffrey M. Levine was studying geriatrics at the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in Manhattan when he began taking classes at the International Center for Photography a few blocks away.
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Twenty-five years later, Dr. Levine’s moving portraits of older Americans have appeared on 30 covers of The Gerontologist, among other medical journals. “Aging Through a Physician’s Lens,” an exhibit of his work, was shown at the New York Academy of Medicine earlier this year and traveled to universities across the South
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“It’s been a great struggle and a big financial concession,” Dr. Levine said of his dual lives as a geriatrician and photographer.

 Dr. Jeffrey Levine Photographer

In part, he hopes to persuade medical students — whose documented reluctance to specialize in geriatrics may have unhappy consequences for this aging nation — that treating old people is a satisfying mission.

He hopes to help the public, too, see older people in a different light. “Google ‘pictures of aging’ and you’ll find I.V.’s, condescending stereotypes, caricatures,” he said. “I like to show pictures that are uplifting, that show the inner spirit that helped an individual reach that age.”

“I don’t mean 90-year-old bungee jumpers,” he added, “just people who on a daily basis live contented, happy, healthy, productive lives. Who participate in life. Who contribute to the world.”

The Elderly Through the Eyes of a Geriatrician  by Paula Span

His reaction to the piece on his blog, Aging and Invisibility

I was touched by some of the comments that readers wrote in response to the blog post, particularly one by Elisabeth, a 78 year old woman from Oklahoma who complained of becoming invisible with old age.  “We are invisible,” she said, and even though no one is rude, they “for the most part do not see us as real people.” This perception is one that I have frequently heard articulated when discussing the aging process with my patients.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:00 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

June 14, 2010

Reason 237, 452 to be grateful

6 People You've Never Heard of Who Probably Saved Your Life.  How many names do you even recognize?

# 6 Vasili Alexandrovich Arkhipov

#5 James Harrison

#4 Viktor Zhdanov & Donald Harrison

# 3 Henrietta Lacks

# 2 Henri Dunant

At the very top, # 1, is  Norman Borlaug  who is officially recognized for saving "over a billion people" from starvation over the world.

It is humbling to think how much of the comfort of our lives is due to the work of others, alive and dead.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:42 PM | Permalink

June 2, 2010

57% of children who lost a parent in childhood would trade a year of their lives for a day with their parents

Too little attention is paid to the psychological and emotional toll on  children who lose one or both of their parents at a young age, so kudos to the Jack & Jill Late Stage Cancer Foundation who are helping terminal parents and their children build memories on a last vacation.

Families With a Missing Piece by Jeffrey Zaslow
A New Look at How a Parent's Early Death Can Reverberate Decades Later

When polled, 57% of adults who lost parents during childhood shared Mr. Herman's yearnings, saying they, too, would trade a year of their lives. Their responses, part of a wide-ranging new survey, indicate that bereavement rooted in childhood often leaves emotional scars for decades, and that our society doesn't fully understand the ramifications—or offer appropriate resources. The complete survey of more than 1,000 respondents, set for release later this month, was funded by the New York Life Foundation on behalf of Comfort Zone Camp, a nonprofit provider of childhood bereavement camps.

Among the findings: 73% believe their lives would be "much better" if their parents hadn't died young; 66% said that after their loss "they felt they weren't a kid anymore."
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In the 2009 memoir "The Kids Are All Right," four siblings from Bedford, N.Y., orphaned in the 1980s, described the risks in harrowing detail. They wrote of
"growing up as lost souls," and turning to drugs and other troubling behaviors as coping mechanisms.

It's a common story. Gary Jahnke, 31, of Hastings, Minn., was 13 when his mother died of cancer. "I gave up on my good grades and dropped out of high school," he says. "I didn't do anything except drink, do drugs and be depressed. I was confused and angry, and adults didn't know how to help me. I had a good relationship with my dad, but he was also grieving."
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Donica Salley, a 50-year-old cosmetics sales director in Richmond, Va., understands well the ramifications of losing a parent. When she was 13, her 44-year-old father drowned while on vacation in the Bahamas. "That was the onset of my depression," she says. "My mom tried to fill the void and the hurt by buying me things."

Two years ago, Ms. Salley's husband died after falling off the roof of their house while cleaning the gutters. He was also 44. Their 17-year-old son has since attended a Comfort Zone camp. "It's a safe haven for him," Ms. Salley says. "There's something about being with people who've been through it. When my father died, I didn't know anyone who'd lost a parent. I was alone."
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Some activists say it's vital to start helping young people even before their parents die. To that end, the Georgia-based Jack & Jill Late Stage Cancer Foundation provides free vacations to families in which one parent is terminally ill. The organization was founded by Jon and Jill Albert, shortly before Jill's 2006 death to cancer at age 45. Their children were then 11 and 13.

"When Jill passed away, people who lost parents when they were young told me it would be a 30-year impact for the kids," says Mr. Albert, 48. His organization, with the help of corporate sponsors, has sent 300 families on vacations.

"These trips allow families to build memories, and to take a lot of pictures and videos together," says Mr. Albert.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:51 PM | Permalink

March 27, 2010

The Man with the Golden Arm

'Man with the golden arm' saves 2million babies in half a century of donating rare type of blood

An Australian man who has been donating his extremely rare kind of blood for 56 years has saved the lives of more than two million babies.

James Harrison, 74, has an antibody in his plasma that stops babies dying from Rhesus disease, a form of severe anaemia.

He has enabled countless mothers to give birth to healthy babies, including his own daughter, Tracey, who had a healthy son thanks to her father's blood.

Mr Harrison has been giving blood every few weeks since he was 18 years old and has now racked up a total of 984 donations.

When he started donating, his blood was deemed so special his life was insured for one million Australian dollars.

He was also nicknamed the 'man with the golden arm' or the 'man in two million'.

 Man-With-A-Golden-Arm

He said: 'I've never thought about stopping. Never.' He made a pledge to be a donor aged 14 after undergoing major chest surgery in which he needed 13 litres of blood.

'I was in hospital for three months,' he said. 'The blood I received saved my life so I made a pledge to give blood when I was 18.'

Just after he started donating he was found to have the rare and life-saving antibody in his blood.

At the time, thousands of babies in Australia were dying each year of Rhesus disease. Other newborns suffered permanent brain damage because of the condition.

The disease creates an incompatibility between the mother's blood and her unborn baby's blood. It stems from one having Rh-positive blood and the other Rh-negative.

After his blood type was discovered, Mr Harrison volunteered to undergo a series of tests to help develop the Anti-D vaccine.

'They insured me for a million dollars so I knew my wife Barbara would be taken care of,' he said.

'I wasn't scared. I was glad to help. I had to sign every form going and basically sign my life away.'

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:16 PM | Permalink

March 19, 2010

Talk Deep, not Small

Deep conversations made people happier than small talk, one study found.  Not stop-the-presses news, but a good reminder.

Talk Deeply, Be Happy?

Would you be happier if you spent more time discussing the state of the world and the meaning of life — and less time talking about the weather?

It may sound counterintuitive, but people who spend more of their day having deep discussions and less time engaging in small talk seem to be happier, said Matthias Mehl, a psychologist at the University of Arizona who published a study on the subject.
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But, he proposed, substantive conversation seemed to hold the key to happiness for two main reasons: both because human beings are driven to find and create meaning in their lives, and because we are social animals who want and need to connect with other people.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:12 AM | Permalink

March 2, 2010

He broke into Auschwitz

The British POW who broke into Auschwitz and survived, Dennis Avey.

In 1939 he volunteered for the Army — because he was too impatient to wait a week for the RAF. “I ended up in the 7th Armoured Division, the original Desert Rats,” he says. “We operated behind enemy lines in Egypt. In 1942 we were ambushed. I was wounded and taken prisoner by the Germans.”

Avey was a troublesome prisoner. In the summer of 1943 he was deported to Auschwitz, in Poland, and interned in a small PoW camp on the periphery of the IG Farben factory. The main Jewish camps were several miles to the west. “I’d lost my liberty, but none of my spirit,” he says. “I was still determined to give as good as I got.”

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“Despite the danger, I knew I had to bear witness,” Avey says. “As Albert Einstein said: the world can be an evil place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing. I’ve never been one to do nothing.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:21 AM | Permalink

February 22, 2010

Temple Grandin

This month HBO released a film about Temple Grandin starring Claire Danes in a remarkable performance about  the  woman who is described as an "innovator, author, activist and autistic".    I loved it and found the film quite amazing in the way it told the story and gave us glimpses of how Temple's mind works.

 

This is a must movie for parents, relatives and friends of anyone who is autistic because Temple is so articulate on what it is like being autistic and hypersensitive.  After being diagnosed as autistic at the age of two, doctors recommended institutionalization but her parents refused and instead sent her to schools with structure and supportive teachers who directed her fixations in fruitful directions.   

So  for an autistic person what is life like amidst the normals?  In the WSJ weekend interview, Temple calls it  Life Among the 'Yakkity Yaks'

'Who do you think made the first stone spear?" asks Temple Grandin. "That wasn't the yakkity yaks sitting around the campfire. It was some Aspberger sitting in the back of a cave figuring out how to chip rocks into spearheads. Without some autistic traits you wouldn't even have a recording device to record this conversation on."
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Nevertheless, with aggressive early intervention and tremendous discipline many people with autism can lead productive, even remarkable, lives. And Ms. Grandin—doctor of animal science, ground-breaking cattle expert, easily the most famous autistic woman in the world—is one of them.
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Ms. Grandin lives in a simple apartment in Fort Collins, Colo., and has used the profits from her books to put students through school. "Four PhDs I've already done, I'm working on my fifth right now. I have graduate students at Colorado State—some of them I let in the back door, like me: older, nontraditional students. And I've gotten them good jobs."

"You know what working at the slaughterhouses does to you? It makes you look at your own mortality."

"When I was younger I was looking for this magic meaning of life. It's very simple now," she says. Making the lives of others better, doing "something of lasting value, that's the meaning of life, it's that simple."

How about meaning, I ask. What's the picture for that word? "Ok, now I'm seeing a mother saying your book helped my kid go to college—that's meaning. Or my kid got a job because of one of your lectures—that's meaning. Or a rancher comes up and says that piece of equipment works really well—that's meaning. Concrete, real stuff. On. The. Ground."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:54 PM | Permalink

The Remarkable Character of George Washington

What made George Washington, born 278 years ago today, so great?  His character.  In the end, the intangible quality of character is how our families and friends will remember us. 

The Character of George Washington

What made George Washington the most remarkable man of an extraordinary generation? He was not an intellectual giant like Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, or James Madison. Compared with most other founders, he was not well educated (he attended school for only about five years), and, unlike many of them, he disliked abstract philosophical discussions. Washington was intelligent, well informed, and astute, buthe was neither a polished writer nor a spellbinding speaker. Moreover, he was not particularly affectionate, said little in public meetings, and lacked the charisma of many of his successors. Defeating the British with his ragtag army was an impressive feat, but he was not a traditional military hero. He won no spectacular victories during the Revolutionary War. Although he is widely admired as an outstanding president, few of his policies were stupendous successes.

While praising his military and political record, many scholars contend that Washington’s genius lies principally in his character. The only other American president who has been so highly extolled for his character is Abraham Lincoln. Since Washington, all presidents have been ultimately measured not by the size of their electoral victories or the success of their legislative programs, but by their moral character. His character helped sustain his troops throughout the travails of the Revolutionary War, convince delegates to the Constitutional Convention to assign significant powers to the presidency, secure the ratification of the Constitution, and enable the new republic to survive in a hostile world.
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Many admirers considered Washington’s self-control the key facet of his character. He could master events because he had mastered himself. Despite being surrounded by fear, despair, indecisiveness, treason, and the threat of mutiny, he remained confident and steadfast. Eulogists also heralded his self-sacrifice, devotion to the common good, compassion, generosity, and benevolence.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:06 PM | Permalink

January 2, 2010

Aging brains are set up for the next developmental stage

The New York Times advises us in How to train an aging brain

Recently, researchers have found even more positive news. The brain, as it traverses middle age, gets better at recognizing the central idea, the big picture. If kept in good shape, the brain can continue to build pathways that help its owner recognize patterns and, as a consequence, see significance and even solutions much faster than a young person can.

The trick is finding ways to keep brain connections in good condition and to grow more of them.

“The brain is plastic and continues to change, not in getting bigger but allowing for greater complexity and deeper understanding,” says Kathleen Taylor, a professor at St. Mary’s College of California, who has studied ways to teach adults effectively. “As adults we may not always learn quite as fast, but we are set up for this next developmental step.”

Alexej Von Assaulenko Aging Brain
                    the painter Alexej von Assaulenko

Jack Mezirow, a professor emeritus at Columbia Teachers College, has proposed that adults learn best if presented with what he calls a “disorienting dilemma,” or something that “helps you critically reflect on the assumptions you’ve acquired.”

Dr. Mezirow developed this concept 30 years ago after he studied women who had gone back to school. The women took this bold step only after having many conversations that helped them “challenge their own ingrained perceptions of that time when women could not do what men could do.”

Such new discovery, Dr. Mezirow says, is the “essential thing in adult learning.”

Could it be the good news is that aging boomers will be better off if they critically examine their ingrained perceptions of the world as being all about them?

YES.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:10 PM | Permalink

December 11, 2009

Father Emil Kapaun a possible saint UPDATED

The older I get, the less I find evil interesting and the more I find goodness interesting.  In movies, television and books  we see so much debased sex, horror, cruelty and violence, I've become inured and bored with it all.

It's great goodness that mesmerizes me.  Like the rivetting story of Father Emil Kapaun, written by Roy Wenzel and appearing in six parts in the The Wichita Eagle.    Kapaun was a Roman Catholic priest and U.S. military chaplain who died in the Korean War.

Part 1.  In Korea, Kapaun saves dozens during Chinese attack
Part 2.  Through Death March, Father Kapaun perseveres and inspires
Part 3.  In icy POW camps, Kapaun shares faith, provisions
Part 4.  As hundreds die, Kapaun rallies the POWs.
Part 5.  Lead camp prisoners in quiet acts of defiance
Part 6.  Father Emil Kapaun forgives guards, welcomes death

Considered a saint by the soldiers he served, their stories about him began to circulate in the wider world when the Korean prisoner-of-war camps were liberated in 1953.  Reading the series online, you can hear the stories by some of the men who were imprisoned along with Father Kapaun

**Capt Emil Kapaun

Emil Kapaun is now being considered for  canonization as a Catholic saint.  A miracle must be proved before anyone can be declared a saint.  An investigator from the Vatican visited two families in the Wichita area who believe the survival of their children from nearly lethal medical crises should qualify as miracles

Afterward, the Vatican investigator said that in years of investigating miracles, he had never seen doctors who made such a compelling case for miracles occurring," Hotze said.

UPDATE:
Part 7.  Father Emil Kapaun: POWs call him 'a hero and a saint.'
Part 8.  Former POWs say his miracle was providing them hope. 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:44 PM | Permalink

December 6, 2009

Thanksgiving in Zimbabwe

Shumuley Boteach travels to Zimbabwe with Dennis Prager and about seven Christian volunteers. 

No Holds Barred
Indeed, of the hundreds who came to our feast, only a few were young mothers and fathers; the vast majority had already been lost to AIDS. We saw scores of young children strapped to their grandmothers' backs in the African way. An entire generation has been wiped out by this killer disease, which is still met by denial in Africa. Most of the people we spoke to who lost relatives to AIDS told us that "they got sicker and thinner." They knew exactly what caused the ailment but would never pronounce it. Strict moral codes govern life in southern Africa, so a sexually-transmitted disease is rarely acknowledged.

BUT AMID these serious challenges, the people exhibit unbelievable warmth. Are they happier than we in the West? I can't say. I have never believed in the supposedly ennobling effect of poverty, and I will not glamorize a life with so little. But what is undeniable is that they seemed far more satisfied, grateful and content than us. We in the West who are fortunate to be able to translate so much of our potential into something professionally and personally fulfilling are more often than not plagued by insatiable material hunger, rarely finding the inner peace which they seemed to possess.
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Most memorable were the children, who were wondrous in every way. Gorgeous, extremely polite and exceptionally well-behaved. They exhibited none of wildness that is becoming common among Western kids. Hundreds of them sat in perfect rows on the floor, grateful to have a hot meal. They too sang and danced for us, and we danced with them.

The most moving part of the day was when we distributed the corn seed. The chief called out the names and as the families came forward, they were glowing. Many of them kissed the bags as they collected them. A few bags broke open and their recipients searched for, and found, every last seed as if it were a diamond.

It should be mandatory to take Western kids to Africa for at least one humanitarian mission. It would help wean them from the corrosive materialism that is suffocating us all, and it would lead them to appreciate their blessings and share more with others.

One woman volunteer particularly impressed him.

...she is not a household name and she will never be as famous as Britney Spears. But to me she was a small reminder that the suffocating selfishness of Western material culture can indeed be transcended.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:12 AM | Permalink

November 30, 2009

A breakthrough in MS?

Researcher's labour of love leads to MS breakthrough

What he learned in his medical detective work, scouring dusty old books and using ultra-modern imaging techniques, could well turn what we know about MS on its head: Dr. Zamboni's research suggests that MS is not, as widely believed, an autoimmune condition, but a vascular disease.
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More radical still, the experimental surgery he performed on his wife offers hope that MS, which afflicts 2.5 million people worldwide, can be cured and even largely prevented.
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For the Italian professor, however, the quest was both personal and professional and the results were stunning.

Fighting for his wife's health, Dr. Zamboni looked for answers in the medical literature. He found repeated references, dating back a century, to excess iron as a possible cause of MS. The heavy metal can cause inflammation and cell death, hallmarks of the disease. The vascular surgeon was intrigued – coincidentally, he had been researching how iron buildup damages blood vessels in the legs, and wondered if there could be a similar problem in the blood vessels of the brain.

Using ultrasound to examine the vessels leading in and out of the brain, Dr. Zamboni made a startling find: In more than 90 per cent of people with multiple sclerosis, including his spouse, the veins draining blood from the brain were malformed or blocked. In people without MS, they were not.

He hypothesized that iron was damaging the blood vessels and allowing the heavy metal, along with other unwelcome cells, to cross the crucial brain-blood barrier. (The barrier keeps blood and cerebrospinal fluid separate. In MS, immune cells cross the blood-brain barrier, where they destroy myelin, a crucial sheathing on nerves.)

More striking still was that, when Dr. Zamboni performed a simple operation to unclog veins and get blood flowing normally again, many of the symptoms of MS disappeared.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:53 PM | Permalink

October 20, 2009

"Frankly, I wanted to die. But then heard Ollie"

Mrs Morrisroe-Clutton, a librarian, fell ill at the end of July after eating a vegetarian burger from a fish and chip shop in her home town of Wrexham.

She was admitted to intensive care at the town's Maelor Hospital where doctors diagnosed she had contracted E.coli.

They put her into a medically induced coma and placed her on a dialysis machine to try to control her seizures and kidney failure.

She had given birth a few weeks earlier.  Her husband made and then played  tapes of their new-born son Oliver to her in the hospital.

Coma mother wakes after hearing gurgles from her 11 week-old son

'I knew that I was dying,' she said. 'I confess that at one stage I gave up. 'I confess that at one stage I gave up. Frankly, I wanted to die.

'But then I heard Ollie. I remember lying there thinking that I wanted to hold him, to see his face and to stroke his little hands.

'I knew that I had to live and that he needed his mother.'

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:44 PM | Permalink

October 15, 2009

"Arctic Renaissance man", Matthew Henson, an unknown hero

I had never heard of Matthew Henson before he was featured in Lessons in Manliness.  I also didn't know what a miserable man Robert Peary was. 

Robert Peary’s hunger for the Pole, and for fame, was insatiable. He made 7 grueling Arctic expeditions between 1886 and 1909. The only man who accompanied him on each of those expeditions was Matthew Henson. Together they faced the harshest of Arctic challenges and together they planted the American flag at the Pole.
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But Peary, who author Fergus Fleming called “the most unpleasant man in the annals of polar exploration,” had no interest in sharing the glory of the accomplishment with any other man, especially a black man. Years before his quest for the Pole commenced, Peary had written to his mother, “I must be the peer or superior of those about me to be comfortable.”
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Crestfallen that he had to share the glory of the moment with 4 Eskimos and a black man, Peary immediately ceased to speak to Henson, the man who had saved his life on a previous expedition and had remained absolutely loyal to him for 22 years when every other member of the expeditions had left because of Peary’s insufferable personality and demands. Unwilling to share the resulting fame, Peary forbade Henson to write, lecture, or grant interviews about the expedition. Henson had used his own camera to take 100 pictures on the trip and used his own money to develop them. Peary asked to borrow these pictures and then never gave them back.

 Matthew Henson Explorer

Booker T. Washington, a Henson admirer, summed it up well:

“During the twenty-three years in which he was the companion of the explorer he not only had time and opportunity to perfect himself in his knowledge of the books, but he acquired a good practical knowledge of everything that was a necessary part of the daily life in the ice-bound wilderness of polar exploration. He was at times a blacksmith, a carpenter, and a cook. He was thoroughly acquainted with the life, customs, and the language of the Esquimos. He himself built the sledges with which the journey to the Pole was successfully completed. He could not merely drive a dog-team or skin a musk-ox with the skill of a native, but he was something of a navigator as well. In this way Mr. Henson made himself not only the most trusted but the most useful member of the expedition.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:50 AM | Permalink

October 13, 2009

Unspeakable tragedy and a remarkable woman

Too often we don't see the lives of heroic virtue around us.

Maria Dickerson raised three children and was beginning to step out with a new boyfriend when an unspeakable tragedy happened to three young children she knew well whose mother was strangled, her throat slit  and left for dead in their kitchen where they found her in the morning.

After an unspeakable tragedy, a new life

In the days after the murder, a social worker told family friend Maria Dickerson that no relatives had come forward to claim Melissa’s children, and they would probably be placed in separate foster homes.

“Stop right there,’’ Maria said. She had known all of these children since they were babies. Her daughter was a godmother to Nathan and Skyla. Maria was baby Kiara’s godmother.

Maria had already raised two daughters, and it was just her son, Jordan, at home now. She had recently started seeing a tall, soft-spoken sales rep named Kevin Mason, and she liked him a lot.

And yet she didn’t have a second’s hesitation.

“These kids must be kept together,’’ she said. “Give them to me.’’

She quit her well-paid insurance job. She bought bunk beds and baby dolls. She cleared space for four more.

“Anybody would have done it,’’ she said.

No. Most people would think about doing it. Only someone truly remarkable would go through with it.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:05 PM | Permalink

October 6, 2009

A Man of Faith

I never heard of Jack Rushton who, some 20 years ago while body surfing with his son was picked up by a wave and thrown onto a rock breaking his neck and injuring his spinal cord. 

"I learned within days after my accident that any quality of life I would have from that point on would be centered in the mind and the spirit," he said.

Rushton compared it to leaving mortality and entering the spirit world -- having to, in essence, leave his functioning physical body behind.

"Yet my mind was consumed by cherished truths I think maybe I had taken for granted for much of my life," he said. "They brought great peace of mind to me and helped me to deal with a future that looked black and almost impossible to comprehend."

But when I saw his YouTube video, I couldn't believe how funny he was and how inspiring. 

He writes the blog Observations to leave behind for his 6 children and 17 grandchildren.  Here he writes about the enormous effect of receiving loving kindness from others.

There was an African American nurse that worked the night shift from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. about three nights each week. She radiated a spirit of love and light that penetrated my dark world every time she was with me. Every morning before she would leave to go home, knowing that with the shift change I would probably not see another nurse for at least an hour, she would get a basin full of hot water and with a washcloth she would wash and massage my face in a most loving and caring way. It was not doctor's orders and no other nurse ever thought to do it... but she did, and she did it every morning she was there. No one can know how good that felt, especially when you can't feel anything in your entire body except your face and the top of your head. But as good as it felt physically it even felt better emotionally to have someone, really a stranger, show that kind of love and concern.

Another flash of light that always brought hope and made the worst of times a good time was the care given to me by an African-American nurse's aide. He was a big man, muscular, an Afro hairdo, ear rings, various tattoos, and a loud voice. You wouldn't want to meet him in a dark alley late at night. Poor Jo Anne was afraid to leave the hospital that first night that he was to be a participant in my care. How true it is that looks can be deceiving. I was never treated with such respect, kindness, and tenderness by anyone at Rancho than by him. He couldn't do enough for me. I always rejoiced when I realized he was to be my helper during a 12 hour period. It was obvious to me that what he was doing was not being done out of a sense of duty but out of love and deep concern for me and the other young men in our spinal cord injury unit. He had a great sense of humor and made me feel good in spite of myself and the trauma I was going through.

The power of faith is quite extraordinary.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:48 PM | Permalink

October 2, 2009

A vision come true

A remarkable story of a man with determined persistence to make his vision come true. 

Homeless man becomes a millionaire after writing hit symphony ...with no musical training

A self-trained musician who slept rough on the streets for a decade has been hailed a genius after writing a symphony.
Stuart Sharp, 67, saw a vision of the musical masterpiece in his mind after his baby son Ben died 35 years ago.

He could not read or write music but the tunes were so vivid he was determined to turn the 'imaginary' sounds into a symphony in memory of his lost child.

Stuart's Angeli Symphony has been described as a work of 'genius' by music experts and is to be played in the Royal Albert Hall.

 Stuart Sharp



Stuart said: 'My son Ben died after medical complications at birth and my wife was very ill in hospital. I was in so much trauma you can not imagine.

'Then on the night of Ben's funeral I had a vision of soothing, beautiful music and it gave me great comfort.

'I could see the whole orchestra playing and as I watched I could see all the individual notes being played on the different instruments.

'After that I would often hear the music and I could remember it all very vividly. 'The tunes were always very real, very beautiful, sometimes as if the angels were really playing to me.

'I did not know what the notes were and at times I doubted my sanity, especially as I am an atheist. But I came to understand that it was music for my son and I could see it on stage one day.' 
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'I think after Ben died I died and became a different person.'

A documentary is now being made about his life story and his Angel symphony will be the soundtrack.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:36 AM | Permalink

September 19, 2009

Get out of Jail Free

I love the sheer inventiveness and daring do of the British in WWII.  This is a terrific story of how they smuggled in compasses and maps to help British POWs escape from German war camps.

Silk Escape Maps Concealed in Monopoly games helped WWII prisoners escape

"It was ingenious," said Philip Orbanes, author of several books on Monopoly, including "The World's Most Famous Game and How it Got That Way." "The Monopoly box was big enough to not only hold the game but hide everything else they needed to get to POWs."  British historians say it was effective enough to help thousands of captured soldiers escape.  So how did a simple board game end up in a position to help out one of the most powerful military forces on the planet? Silk and serendipity.

 Monopoly London Game

From Kilroy was here

As he gently spread the layers of cardboard of the package, he found two slivers of metal which screwed together to form a file. He broke the little wooden red hotel to find a tiny silk map of his region folded very tightly. Under the packaged Monopoly money was real German Reich marks ready to spend and, finally, inside the Scotty dog was a tiny compass. Here was what he needed to be among the estimated 35,000 Allied POWs who escaped from German and Italian camps during WWII. The contraband in the Monopoly games is credited with at least one third of them

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:53 AM | Permalink

September 16, 2009

"Arguably the greatest American of the 20th century" and "Most Americans don't even know his name"

Gregg Easterbrook on The Man Who Defused the 'Population Bomb'

Norman Borlaug—arguably the greatest American of the 20th century—died late Saturday after 95 richly accomplished years. The very personification of human goodness, Borlaug saved more lives than anyone who has ever lived. He was America's Albert Schweitzer: a brilliant man who forsook privilege and riches in order to help the dispossessed of distant lands. That this great man and benefactor to humanity died little-known in his own country speaks volumes about the superficiality of modern American culture.

Born in 1914 in rural Cresco, Iowa, where he was educated in a one-room schoolhouse, Borlaug won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for his work ending the India-Pakistan food shortage of the mid-1960s. He spent most of his life in impoverished nations, patiently teaching poor farmers in India, Mexico, South America, Africa and elsewhere the Green Revolution agricultural techniques that have prevented the global famines widely predicted when the world population began to skyrocket following World War II.

In 1999, the Atlantic Monthly estimated that Borlaug's efforts—combined with those of the many developing-world agriculture-extension agents he trained and the crop-research facilities he founded in poor nations—saved the lives of one billion human beings.
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 Ap Norman Borlaug

Often it is said America lacks heroes who can provide constructive examples to the young. Here was such a hero. Yet though streets and buildings are named for Norman Borlaug throughout the developing world, most Americans don't even know his name.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:01 AM | Permalink

September 3, 2009

I bet you know people like this

A couple of weeks ago George Will quoted Saul Bellow to reveal the mindset of statists.

Even more than the New Deal and the Great Society, Obama's agenda expresses the mentality of a class that was nascent in the 1930s but burgeoned in the 1960s and 1970s. The spirit of that class is described in Saul Bellow's 1975 novel "Humboldt's Gift." In it Bellow wrote that the modern age began when a particular class of people decided, excitedly, that life had "lost the ability to arrange itself":

"It had to be arranged. Intellectuals took this as their job. ... This arranging has been the one great gorgeous tantalizing misleading disastrous project. A man like Humboldt, inspired, shrewd, nutty, was brimming over with the discovery that the human enterprise, so grand and infinitely varied, had now to be managed by exceptional persons. He was an exceptional person, therefore he was an eligible candidate for power."

 Intellectual Elite Voltair1

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:12 AM | Permalink

August 4, 2009

Bubbleologist

 Real Bubble Man

I never knew there was such a thing as a bubbleologist, but Samsom Bubbleman blows the world's largest free-floating bubble using a top-secret mixture he has developed. 

More amazing photos of Sam Heath - his real name - at the link.  Amazing he makes a living doing what he does best.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:48 AM | Permalink

August 2, 2009

"Grit, it turns out, is an essential (and often overlooked) component of success"

Jonah Lehrer tells us The Truth about Grit in today's Boston Globe

In recent years, psychologists have come up with a term to describe this mental trait: grit. Although the idea itself isn’t new - “Genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration,” Thomas Edison famously remarked - the researchers are quick to point out that grit isn’t simply about the willingness to work hard. Instead, it’s about setting a specific long-term goal and doing whatever it takes until the goal has been reached. It’s always much easier to give up, but people with grit can keep going.
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Grit, it turns out, is an essential (and often overlooked) component of success.
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The new focus on grit is part of a larger scientific attempt to study the personality traits that best predict achievement in the real world. While researchers have long focused on measurements of intelligence, such as the IQ test, as the crucial marker of future success, these scientists point out that most of the variation in individual achievement - what makes one person successful, while another might struggle - has nothing to do with being smart. Instead, it largely depends on personality traits such as grit and conscientiousness. It’s not that intelligence isn’t really important - Newton was clearly a genius - but that having a high IQ is not nearly enough.

Grit meaning "pluck"  and "spirit" in addition to perseverance is an American word describing a certain American type we don't see much of anymore,

 True Grit

What happened?

Lewis Terman, the inventor of the Stanford-Binet IQ test, ...spent decades following a large sample of “gifted” students, searching for evidence that his measurement of intelligence was linked to real world success. ... Terman also found that other traits, such as “perseverance,” were much more pertinent.  Terman concluded that one of the most fundamental tasks of modern psychology was to figure out why intelligence is not a more important part of achievement: “Why this is so, and what circumstances affect the fruition of human talent, are questions of such transcendent importance that they should be investigated by every method that promises the slightest reduction of our present ignorance.”
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Unfortunately, in the decades following Terman’s declaration, little progress was made on the subject. Because intelligence was so easy to measure - the IQ test could be given to schoolchildren, and often took less than an hour - it continued to dominate research on individual achievement.

The end result, says James J. Heckman, a Nobel Prize-winning economist at the University of Chicago, is that “there was a generation of social scientists who focused almost exclusively on trying to raise IQ and academic test scores. The assumption was that intelligence is what mattered and what could be measured, and so everything else, all these non-cognitive traits like grit and self-control, shouldn’t be bothered with.”

Angela Duckworth, a psychologist at UPenn is a pioneer in the study of grit says

“I’d bet that there isn’t a single highly successful person who hasn’t depended on grit.  Nobody is talented enough to not have to work hard, and that’s what grit allows you to do.”

But grit isn’t just about stubborn perseverance - it’s also about finding a goal that can sustain our interest for years at a time. Consider two children learning to play the piano, each with the same level of raw talent and each expending the same effort toward musical training. However, while one child focuses on the piano, the other child experiments with the saxophone and cello. “The kid who sticks with one instrument is demonstrating grit,” Duckworth says. “Maybe it’s more fun to try something new, but high levels of achievement require a certain single-mindedness.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:14 PM | Permalink

July 24, 2009

Hats off to Robert Lappin

Robert Lappin, 87, donated $5 million to restore the retirement savings of about 60 employees of various family enterprises that had been wiped out when the Ponzi scheme run by Bernard Madoff collapsed.

One man's imperative to give

“I am absolutely thrilled,’’ said Amy Powell, a former publicist for the foundation and one of the employees whose savings were restored. “I really knew in my heart, all my heart, that Mr. Lappin would do all he could do for his employees.’’ 

Lappin had invested so heavily with Madoff that it cost him much of his personal fortune. The foundation lost $8 million when Madoff’s assets were frozen last December, and for a time was forced to shut its doors. Lappin said that now, after Madoff and the payment to employees, his personal net worth is less than $5 million, about a tenth of what it was before the scandal broke. 

Yet giving his own money to the employees was simply the right thing to do, he said. “At least from the feedback, they feel very grateful and happy, which makes me feel very happy,’’ said Lappin. “So far no kisses, but I have had some hugs.’’

Family and friends said Lappin feels an imperative to give. Over the years, that led him to sponsor 17 education, interfaith outreach, and family development programs under the umbrella of his namesake foundation. He has given more than $30 million to Jewish causes on the North Shore. After the Madoff scandal, he raised $450,000 to restore the foundation’s Youth To Israel travel program. It sent 82 Jewish teens on pilgrimages to Israel just last Sunday.

“He’s among moral giants,’’ said Rabbi Yossi Lipsker of Swampscott, director and founder of Chabad-Lubavitch of the North Shore, which runs Hebrew schools and other programs. Lappin, who helped the rabbi fund his center, “embodies the highest ideals of our traditions,’’ said Lipsker. “He’s a lover of his people. He’s a lover of the land of Israel.’’

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:05 PM | Permalink

July 15, 2009

Finding the Meaning of Life in the Face of Mortality

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York has begun a new program "to help cancer patients find a sense of meaning, peace and purpose, even as the end approaches.

Helping Cancer Patients Find the Meaning of Life

“For many cancer patients, the biggest challenge is, ‘How do I live in the space between my diagnosis and my eventual death?’” says William Breitbart, a Memorial Sloan-Kettering psychiatrist who developed the program, known as meaning-centered psychotherapy, and has tested it with more than 300 patients since 2000.

Dr. Breitbart based his program in part on the writings of Viktor Frankl, the Austrian psychiatrist who survived Auschwitz with the conviction that people can endure any suffering if they know their life has meaning. The eight-week program helps patients with Stage 3 or 4 cancer reconnect with the many sources of meaning in life—love, work, history, family relationships—and teaches them that when cancer produces an obstacle in one, they can find meaning in another.

 Dr Breitbart


“We help cancer patients understand that they are not dead yet,” says Dr. Breitbart.
“The months or years of life that remain can be times of extraordinary growth.”
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Session five focuses on encountering life’s limitations, and Frankl’s message that even when everything else has been stripped away, people can still choose their attitude toward a situation and the meaning they take from it. Discussion questions include: what would be a meaningful death?
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“We tread lightly here; this is not supposed to be a scary session,” says Shannon Poppito, clinical psychologist who led many of the sessions. She says that what troubles many cancer patients most is not the fear of death, but unresolved issues from the past. It’s never too late to resolve them, says Dr. Breitbart, who notes that in Tolstoy’s “The Death of Ivan Ilyich,” the main character becomes the person he wants to be in the last five minutes of his life.
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And
simply experiencing life can be meaningful. For session seven, patients are asked to list things they love or find beautiful. Ms. Wilker talked about her husband and her 28 nieces and nephews and 62 grandnieces and grandnephews. She also talked about the view from her apartment that she was enjoying again and the Greek statue of Winged Victory that she had seen in her 20s in the Louvre.

“I realized that I didn’t have to work so hard to find the meaning of life,” she says. “It was being handed to me everywhere I looked.”

In the final session, group members present a “legacy project” that symbolizes the meaning they’ve found and want to pass on.
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It’s paradoxical,” says Dr. Poppito, who is now in private practice, using meaning-centered therapy to help patients face a variety of life transitions. “You’d think that once people have found this new meaning in life, they wouldn’t want to let it go. But knowing their life has meaning and that it will continue beyond them seems to lessen that white-knuckle grip on life and give them a sense of peace.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:39 PM | Permalink

May 26, 2009

"You can't hammer a nail over the internet."

Before I read The Case for Working with Your Hands, I quickly jotted down what first came to my mind.

1. You see what you have accomplished.
2. Your job can't be outsourced.
3. You have time to contemplate all the mysteries of life and death

Matthew Crawford is more eloquent.

[C]onfrontations with material reality have become exotically unfamiliar. Many of us do work that feels more surreal than real. Working in an office, you often find it difficult to see any tangible result from your efforts.
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The imperative of the last 20 years to round up every warm body and send it to college, then to the cubicle, was tied to a vision of the future in which we somehow take leave of material reality and glide about in a pure information economy. This has not come to pass. To begin with, such work often feels more enervating than gliding. More fundamentally, now as ever, somebody has to actually do things: fix our cars, unclog our toilets, build our houses.
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The Princeton economist Alan Blinder argues that the crucial distinction in the emerging labor market is not between those with more or less education, but between those whose services can be delivered over a wire and those who must do their work in person or on site. The latter will find their livelihoods more secure against outsourcing to distant countries. As Blinder puts it, “You can’t hammer a nail over the Internet.”
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There is a pervasive anxiety among parents that there is only one track to success for their children. It runs through a series of gates controlled by prestigious institutions. Further, there is wide use of drugs to medicate boys, especially, against their natural tendency toward action, the better to “keep things on track.
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The trades suffer from low prestige, and I believe this is based on a simple mistake. Because the work is dirty, many people assume it is also stupid. This is not my experience

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:49 AM | Permalink

May 19, 2009

"My wife and I grew up hating Pius XII"

The mitzvah of Gary Krupp, a Jew who was knighted by Pope John Paul, his wife and their Pave the Way Foundation in rehabilitating the reputation of Pope Pius XII,  unfairly called "Hitler's Pope" who, in truth,  saved the lives of up to 850,000 Jews, more than all the international agencies put together.

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My wife and I grew up hating Pius XII

He is in London because a British television firm is making a documentary about his work on Pius. He is an interesting enough figure to warrant such attention. He is proudly Jewish, a Zionist who, after a successful career fitting hospital suites with new imaging technologies, is spending his retirement battling to restore the reputation of a pontiff maligned as a Nazi sympathiser. Correcting this revision of history is a "Jewish issue", argues Krupp, because Pius was a man who "in just one day hid 7,000 Jews from the Nazis" - nearly six times more than Oscar Schindler saved during the entire war.
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He believes that Pius will eventually be exonerated. All most people know about him is that he was "Hitler's Pope", says Krupp: "But if you go to an average person with the information that we have found they can only come to one conclusion - that this guy was the greatest hero of World War Two. We can prove it. We have something on our side - documented proof - where the revisionists haven't a scrap of paper to support their theories."

 Pius Xii

To find such proof the foundation has commissioned the German historian Michael Hesemann to search the Vatican archives opened two years ago by Pope Benedict XVI. These cover the period from 1922 to 1939, the years when Eugenio Pacelli served as nuncio to Bavaria and then as Pope Pius XI's "Jew-loving" Secretary of State, as he was referred to by the Nazis.
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One piece, discovered in the diary of a Rome convent, revealed that Pius directly ordered the religious houses of Rome to hide the city's Jews on October 16 1943, the same day his protest at their deportation was ignored.
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Since the Sixties most of the evidence in defence of Pius has been unearthed by Jewish historians, most notably by Pinchas Lapide who used Yad Vashem's records to show that the Church under Pius saved up to 850,000 lives - more than all the international agencies put together.

In a piece published in the NY Daily News, Krupp called on Jews to Stop persecuting Pius - WWII pontiff is branded "Hitler's Pope," but he did much to save the Jews

I, along with several researchers, have discovered many documents detailing little-known activities of Pacelli. In 1917, for example, he intervened to protect Jews in Palestine from the Ottoman Turks. In 1925 he helped the head of the World Zionist Organization meet with Vatican officials to promote a Jewish homeland in Palestine. We found a confidential U.S. Foreign Service document reporting the Pope's hatred of Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler, and a letter signed by Pacelli moving to overturn a proposed Polish law against kosher slaughtering. We located a nun's diary entry stating that her community received orders from the Pope to protect the Jews.
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More evidence shows Pius secretly moved Jews out of Europe. We conducted dozens of video interviews, among them a witness account of a priest who revealed a secret "underground railroad," directly ordered by the Pope, sending more than 10,000 Jews to the U.S. via the Dominican Republic. Many countries would not accept "Jews," so they were given false baptismal papers to travel as Catholics. Pius successfully stopped the deportation of tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews when he appealed to the Regent of Hungary. Similarly, he desperately tried to impact the deportation policies of many other countries to, in his words, "save this vibrant community."


With German rifles posted beneath his windows

Aware of Hitler's plan to kidnap him and seize the Vatican, Pius formed a government in exile and still managed to directly stop the arrest of Roman Jews on Oct. 16, 1943. In literally one day, the Vatican managed to hide, feed and support more than 7,000 Jews in Catholic institutions and private homes - all with German rifles posted 200 yards beneath Pius'  windows.
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Prominent Jewish and Israeli leaders like Albert Einstein, Golda Meir and Joseph Lichten, as well as the Italian Jewish community, praised Pius after the war. Upon Pius' death in 1958, Israeli historian and diplomat Pinchas Lapide reported that many had suggested a forest of 860,000 trees be planted in the Judean hills to represent the Jews Pius had helped to save.
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"The most successful character assassination in the 20th century."

The public controversy began in 1963 with a negative portrayal of Pius in a fictitious play called "The Deputy." The highest ranking KGB agent to ever defect recently wrote an article detailing how the KGB planned, financed and edited this play in an operation called "SEAT TWELVE." This illicit KGB effort to discredit the church has been the most successful character assassination of the 20th century.


How the KGB Slandered a Dead Pope

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:10 AM | Permalink

May 13, 2009

Life is on your side

Most people think life is against them, trying to piss them off, that they are unlucky, that things don't work out for them. Einstein said that "the most important decision we will ever make in our lives is whether we believe we live in a friendly or an unfriendly universe." If you want to get good at change, you must believe life is your partner, on your side, conspiring for greater good coming into your life -- despite the apparent immediate loss it might appear to be. Change isn't there to hurt, anger or annoy you. It's there to bring new things, people, jobs, opportunities. Always.

Ariane de Bonvoisin in Principles of Change

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:14 PM | Permalink

May 7, 2009

Dirty Jobs

Americans became wealthy and strong through unique self-reliance, common sense, and delayed gratification. And we — or our children — will soon become poor precisely because we hold on to the romance that producing food and fuel and saving money are icky tasks to be ignored or left to others.

Until we change that attitude, we’ll keep borrowing and spending on ourselves what we have not yet earned — all the way to bankruptcy.

Victor Davis Hanson writes  in Americans Want It Both Ways

It's time to reprise one of the very best videos from TED.  Mike Rowe, the host of "Dirty Jobs" on the Discovery Channel, travels to Idaho to discover what's really involved in sheep herding and the personal realization of how much he got wrong.  One of the most powerful  tributes to hard labor I've ever heard.  The business of doing the work and getting it done comes first.

He says we as a society have declared a war on work and the collective effect has been the marginalization of too many jobs.  He concludes with a paeon to work, manual and skilled labor and their forgotten benefits. 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:17 PM | Permalink

April 25, 2009

"It wasn’t all over when I saw the body. It was just beginning.”

From the London Times comes the terrific story of Susan Galbreath.

How one ordinary woman solved a murder : the story about an ordinary woman's persistence led to justice for the victim of a brutal murder.

At the age of 40 Susan Galbreath’s life had spiralled into a dull purposelessness, with no fixed ambitions, targets or goals. By the year 2000, she had two failed marriages behind her, one son, and had moved south from Chicago to Mayfield, Kentucky. Her third husband was an alcoholic and the marriage was in atrophy. She had not worked since an illness in 1998 and anyway had a background without any fixed skills or training. It was a dead end-life in a near dead-end town.

On the morning of August 1 she was having coffee in the local café and the waitress mentioned that a body had been found in the school playing fields nearby. It was a discovery that would change her life irrevocably.

“I believe nothing happens by chance. I’ve often ignored instinct and regretted it,” she says. “This time I let instinct lead me.” Her instinct – “I can’t tell you why” – was to go to see the body for herself.

What she saw defied reasonable description. A female black corpse, naked, horribly burnt and bloated, the face unrecognisable.

Susan Galbreath still does not comprehend what happened to her at that moment, but she experienced an epiphany. “Nothing prepares you for a sight like that. I started to cry. I should have been repelled and walked away but something led me there. It wasn’t all over when I saw the body. It was just beginning.”

I only wonder which middle-aged actress or producer in Hollywood will jump to buy the option to write a screenplay.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:48 PM | Permalink

April 17, 2009

Spengler Unveiled

Spengler, one of my favorite writers on the web, unveils himself, And Spengler Is

The 300 or so essays that I have published in this space since 1999 all proceeded from the theme formulated by Rosenzweig: the mortality of nations and its causes, Western secularism, Asian anomie, and unadaptable Islam.

Why raise these issues under a pseudonym? There is a simple answer, and a less simple one. To inform a culture that it is going to die does not necessarily win friends, and what I needed to say would be hurtful to many readers. I needed to tell the Europeans that their post-national, secular dystopia was a death-trap whence no-one would get out alive.
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I have been an equal-opportunity offender, with no natural constituency. My academic training, strewn over two doctoral programs, was in music theory and German, as well as economics. I have have published a number of peer-reviewed papers on philosophy, music and mathematics in the Renaissance.
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I owe much to several mentors, starting with Dr Norman A. Bailey, special assistant to President Reagan and director of plans at the National Security Council from 1981-1984...Another mentor was Professor Robert Mundell, the creator of supply-side economics, among his other contributions.
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I had left economics for music, and left music for finance, eventually working in senior research positions at Bear Stearns, Credit Suisse and Bank of America. At Bank of America, I created from scratch a highly rated fixed income research department between 2002 to 2005, with 120 professionals and mid-nine-figure compensation budget. By 2005, it was no longer clear how the financial industry would play a helpful role in fostering prosperity, and philosophical differences prompted me to take my leave.
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Exile among the fleshpots of Wall Street had its benefits, but I had other ambitions. My commitment to Judaism came relatively late in life, in my mid-thirties, but was all the more passionate for its tardiness.
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As a returning religious Jew, I had less and less to discuss with the secular Zionists who shared my passion and partisanship for Israel, but could not see a divine dimension in Jewish nationhood. So-called cultural Judaism repelled me; most of what passes for Jewish culture comes down to the mud that stuck to our boots as we fled one country after another. The Hebrew Bible and its commentaries over the centuries are the core of Jewish culture,
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Europe's high culture and its capacity to train universal minds had deteriorated beyond repair; one of the last truly universal European minds belongs to the octogenarian Pope Benedict XVI.
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Both as classical musician and as a Germanist, I had better insight than most Jews into the lofty character of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, now Benedict XVI.
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To write for First Things was an unanticipated honor. I came to know the magazine's editor Joseph Bottum, as well as such regular contributors as George Weigel, Russell Hittinger and R R Reno.

On January 8, 2009, the magazine's founder Richard John Neuhaus died. A few weeks later Jody Bottum asked me to join the staff of First Things as an editor and writer. It seems only heartbeats ago that I was in dark seas, looking up at this beacon; now it is my turn to help keep the lighthouse.

A lighthouse keeper indeed

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:35 AM | Permalink

March 18, 2009

Amortality or a well-lived life

Amortality: Time magazine calls it number 5 on 10 ideas changing the world right now. 

Catherine Mayer coined the term which she described thusly

It's about more than just the ripple effect of baby boomers' resisting the onset of age. Amortality is a stranger, stronger alchemy, created by the intersection of that trend with a massive increase in life expectancy and a deep decline in the influence of organized religion — all viewed through the blue haze of Viagra.
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The defining characteristic of amortality is to live in the same way, at the same pitch, doing and consuming much the same things, from late teens right up until death.
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They prop up the tottering music industry, are lifelong consumers of gadgets and gizmos, keep gyms busy and colorists in demand. From their youth, when they behave as badly as adults, to their dotage, when they behave as badly as youngsters, amortals hate to be pigeonholed by age. They're a highly sexed bunch. Viagra and its cousins help give elderly amortals a pleasurable alternative to aqua aerobics while blotting out those pesky intimations of mortality.Amortals don't just dread extinction. They deny it.

I think it was Alice Longworth Roosevelt who said, "The secret of eternal youth is arrested development."

There's a whole lot of talk by Glenn Reynolds, Ray Kurzweil, and Aubrey De Grey at about speeding up research to increase life spans indefinitely.  I look to Dr. Bob for more meaningful thoughts in A Life Not Long who recalls the death of a friend who died too young.

These questions, in some way, cut to the very heart of what it means to be human. Is our humanity enriched simply by living longer? Does longer life automatically imply more happiness–or are we simply adding years of pain, disability, unhappiness, burden? The breathlessness with which authors often speak of greater longevity, or the cure or solution to these intractable health problems, seems to imply a naive optimism, both from the standpoint of likely outcomes, and from the assumption that a vastly longer life will be a vastly better life. Ignored in such rosy projections are key elements of the human condition — those of moral fiber and spiritual health, those of character and spirit. For we who live longer in such an idyllic world may not live better: we may indeed live far worse. Should we somehow master these illnesses which cripple us in our old age, and thereby live beyond our years, will we then encounter new, even more frightening illnesses and disabilities? And what of the spirit? Will a man who lives longer thereby have a longer opportunity to do good, or rather to do evil? Will longevity increase our wisdom, or augment our depravity? Will we, like Dorian Gray, awake to find our ageless beauty but a shell for our monstrous souls?
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In Matt’s short life he brought more good into the world, touched more people, changed more lives, than I could ever hope to do were I to live a century more. It boils down to purpose: mere years are no substitute for a life lived with passion, striving for some goal greater than self, with transcendent purpose multiplying and compounding each waking moment. This is a life well-lived, whether long or short, whether weakened or well.

Like all, I trust, I hope to live life long, and seek a journey lived in good health and sound mind. But even more — far more indeed — do I desire that those days yet remaining — be they long or short — be rich in purpose, wise in time spent, and graced by love.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:48 PM | Permalink

March 12, 2009

Calling for a New Awakening

Charles Murray in the 2009 Irving Kristol Lecture says important things about The Happiness of the People about the nature of a well-lived life, why the European model stifles human flourishing and American exceptionalism.

And since happiness is a word that gets thrown around too casually, the phrase I'll use from now on is "deep satisfactions." I'm talking about the kinds of things that we look back upon when we reach old age and let us decide that we can be proud of who we have been and what we have done. Or not.

To become a source of deep satisfaction, a human activity has to meet some stringent requirements. It has to have been important (we don't get deep satisfaction from trivial things). You have to have put a lot of effort into it (hence the cliché "nothing worth having comes easily"). And you have to have been responsible for the consequences.

There aren't many activities in life that can satisfy those three requirements. Having been a good parent. That qualifies. A good marriage. That qualifies. Having been a good neighbor and good friend to those whose lives intersected with yours. That qualifies. And having been really good at something--good at something that drew the most from your abilities. That qualifies. Let me put it formally: If we ask what are the institutions through which human beings achieve deep satisfactions in life, the answer is that there are just four: family, community, vocation, and faith. Two clarifications: "Community" can embrace people who are scattered geographically. "Vocation" can include avocations or causes.

The stuff of life--the elemental events surrounding birth, death, raising children, fulfilling one's personal potential, dealing with adversity, intimate relationships--coping with life as it exists around us in all its richness--occurs within those four institutions.

Seen in this light, the goal of social policy is to ensure that those institutions are robust and vital. And that's what's wrong with the European model. It doesn't do that. It enfeebles every single one of them.
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I'm not talking about all Europeans, by any means. That mentality goes something like this: Human beings are a collection of chemicals that activate and, after a period of time, deactivate. The purpose of life is to while away the intervening time as pleasantly as possible.

If that's the purpose of life, then work is not a vocation, but something that interferes with the higher good of leisure. If that's the purpose of life, why have a child, when children are so much trouble--and, after all, what good are they, really? If that's the purpose of life, why spend it worrying about neighbors? If that's the purpose of life, what could possibly be the attraction of a religion that says otherwise?

Age-old human wisdom has understood that a life well-lived requires engagement with those around us. That is reality, not idealism. It is appropriate to think that a political Great Awakening among the elites can arise in part from the renewed understanding that it can be pleasant to lead a glossy life, but it is ultimately more fun to lead a textured life, and to be in the midst of others who are leading textured lives. Perhaps events will help us out here--remember what Irving Kristol has been saying for years: "There's nothing wrong with this country that couldn't be cured by a long, hard depression."
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The drift toward the European model can be slowed by piecemeal victories on specific items of legislation, but only slowed. It is going to be stopped only when we are all talking again about why America is exceptional, and why it is so important that America remain exceptional. That requires once again seeing the American project for what it is: a different way for people to live together, unique among the nations of the earth, and immeasurably precious.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:39 PM | Permalink

March 1, 2009

The remarkable story of the lost book of Charles Dickens

There is a lost book by Dickens, one that recorded some of the most remarkable encounters of his life. Within it, he catalogued the stories told him by the women – prostitutes, confidence tricksters, thieves and attempted suicides – whom he interviewed before they were admitted to Urania Cottage, the refuge for fallen women he established in Shepherd’s Bush in the 1840s and effectively directed for a decade or more. The money – substantial sums, for this was “high-end philanthropy” – came from the immensely wealthy Angela Burdett-Coutts, but the initial scheme and much of its everyday direction was Dickens’s alone, his most important and most characteristic charitable venture.
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He was the greatest novelist of the age, Burdett-Coutts its richest heiress, and they were determined to offer a chance to people who had none, or only bad ones. They could only help a tiny proportion of the great tide of vulnerable young women who washed up in the prisons and workhouses of mid-Victorian England, but they did so with determination, energy and imagination.

Dickens's Refuge for Fallen Women

But overall, it is striking how clear-minded the Urania project was and how realistic and thorough in execution. Dickens and Burdett-Coutts were simply unwilling to be indifferent to the suffering that surrounded them, and unfailingly energetic in pursuing the chances of change for the better. Urania gave those who entered its doors decent food and clothing, some education, a library, a garden and even music lessons from Dickens’s old friend John Hullah, Professor at King’s College London.

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"Charles Dickens and the House of Fallen Women" (Jenny Hartley)

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:27 PM | Permalink

February 12, 2009

La Dolce Video

A lovely story about La Dolce Video or how a Korean immigrant's collection of videos that became a local institution in the East Village is now on its way to Salemi, an ancient town in western Sicily run by artists.

Plans under way include what is described as a Never-ending Festival — a 24-hour projection of up to 10 films at once for the foreseeable future.
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“It’s not the East Village,” Ms. Pauli said. “We can’t try to make a replica of that. But it’s a new door we can open. And we would like to involve Kim’s Video members and all the community of film lovers in New York, and in America, and anywhere.”

The collector Yongman Kim

lamented the end of the business that he loved, a business that once allowed him to carve out his own contribution in America. And he mourns more than the loss of his movies.

“My passion was the introduction to my new community in U.S. of my film love,” he said. “This kind of passion is no longer welcome, due to the new technology of the Internet.”

He looked off into the distance. “The future of the video rental business is really dying and declining so fast, so fast,” he added. “I realized this thing so late.”

But he also knows that for his collection, bright days may lie ahead 3,000 miles away.

Of the group from Salemi, which he described as “very serious and sincere,” he said, “I don’t have any doubt that they will have a great program with my collection.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:44 AM | Permalink

February 9, 2009

"People are given gifts. They squander them, mostly"

Everyone gets gifts, just not all so obvious and noteworthy. What are you doing with your gifts? They go stale after a while, whether you use them or not. Use them, now, and wisely. Regret is a terrible thing.

Sippican

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:28 AM | Permalink

January 28, 2009

Damage from Concussions

Maybe they don't pay professional athletes enough.  Take a look at the photo below to see the effect that repeated concussions have on a formerly healthy brain.

 Healthy + Damaged Brain

Until recently, the best medical definition for concussion was a jarring blow to the head that temporarily stunned the senses, occasionally leading to unconsciousness. It has been considered an invisible injury, impossible to test -- no MRI, no CT scan can detect it.

But today, using tissue from retired NFL athletes culled posthumously, the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy (CSTE), at the Boston University School of Medicine, is shedding light on what concussions look like in the brain. The findings are stunning. Far from innocuous, invisible injuries, concussions confer tremendous brain damage. That damage has a name: chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

Dead athlete's brains show damage from concussions.

CTE has thus far been found in the brains of six out of six former NFL players.

"What's been surprising is that it's so extensive," said McKee. "It's throughout the brain, not just on the superficial aspects of the brain, but it's deep inside."

CSTE studies reveal brown tangles flecked throughout the brain tissue of former NFL players who died young -- some as early as their 30s or 40s.

McKee, who also studies Alzheimer's disease, says the tangles closely resemble what might be found in the brain of an 80-year-old with dementia.

"I knew what traumatic brain disease looked like in the very end stages, in the most severe cases," said McKee. "To see the kind of changes we're seeing in 45-year-olds is basically unheard of."

The damage affects the parts of the brain that control emotion, rage, hypersexuality, even breathing, and recent studies find that CTE is a progressive disease that eventually kills brain cells.

One man Chris Nowinski, once a Harvard football star, is responsible for starting these studies in the first place.

"I realized when I was visiting a lot of doctors, they weren't giving me very good answers about what was wrong with my head," said Nowinski. "I read [every study I could find] and I realized there was a ton of evidence showing concussions lead to depression, and multiple concussion can lead to Alzheimer's."

Nowinski decided further study was needed, so he founded the Sports Legacy Institute along with Dr. Robert Cantu, a neurosurgeon and the co-director of the CSTE. The project solicits for study the brains of ex-athletes who suffered multiple concussions.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:04 PM | Permalink

January 16, 2009

Hero of the Miracle on the Hudson

 Plane-Hudson People On Wings

The 155 passengers and crew who were rescued safely after the crash landing of  the U.S. Airways plane on the Hudson River can thank God and their lucky stars that Chesley Sullenberger was their pilot.

Thank too the ad hoc flotilla of commuter ferries and water taxies that came within minutes to pluck them from the icy waters of the Hudson.  That Quick Rescue Kept Death Toll at Zero


For a moment after the water landing, it was a picture of eerie calm, the airplane floating on its belly in the center of the river near West 48th Street under a bright sky. A witness in a penthouse apartment called it a perfect landing, as if on cement.

But very soon the water was churned by an ad hoc flotilla of boats and ferries flying the flags of almost every city, state and federal agency that works the waters around New York City. They sped toward the slowly sinking jet, a rescue operation complicated by river currents that kept dragging the plane south, as its passengers climbed aboard the wings to await help
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The operation was not without improvisation: Four New York police officers commandeered a Circle Line boat picking up tourists and commuters at 42nd Street and hurried to the jet. Two officers stayed on the ferry and tied themselves to two detectives, John McKenna and James Coll, who stepped onto the wing and helped people onto rescue boats, the police said.

The big hero was Sully the pilot who showed he had more than enough of the right stuff.  He was trained, experienced, prepared and knew what to do.

 Chesleysullenberger

Airliners are not meant to glide, although occasionally they have to. The pilot of this one, Capt. Chesley B. Sullenberger III, is certified as a glider pilot, according to Federal Aviation Administration records.

Captain Sullenberger, known as Sully, flew the F-4 for the United States Air Force for seven years in the 1970s after graduating from the United States Air Force Academy. He joined USAir, as it was called at the time, in 1980 and became a “check airman,” training and evaluating new pilots or those changing to new aircraft or moving up to captain. He also was an accident investigator for the union, the Air Line Pilots Association.

When all were out,
the pilot walked up and down the aisle twice to make sure the plane was empty, officials said.

"It would appear that the pilot did a masterful job of landing the plane in the river and then making sure everybody got out," New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said of the veteran pilot and Air Force Academy graduate.

UPDATE: In the London Times, Giles Whittell writes Heroism: one great decision and no panic.

He made one blindingly good decision, and didn't panic. That was the heroism. All the rest was training, quick thinking by the people on the commuter ferries beneath him, and a wonderfully sturdy aircraft.
--

Sully Sullenberger kept his nerve, and his eyes open. Such is heroism - fleeting and priceless.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:56 AM | Permalink

November 13, 2008

Adversity really can make you stronger

I'm catching up on articles I've set aside to read,  so I am probably late to the party with  The Uses of Adversity

Malcolm Gladwell finds that underprivileged outsiders may well have an advantage.

Sidney Weinberg from Brooklyn, the founder of Goldman Sachs, is his best example.

The man who created what we know as Goldman Sachs was a poor, uneducated member of a despised minority—and his story is so remarkable that perhaps only Andrew Carnegie could make sense of it.
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Weinberg wasn’t Yale. He was P.S. 13. Nor did he try to pretend that he was an insider. He did the opposite. “You’ll have to make that plainer,” he would say. “I’m just a dumb, uneducated kid from Brooklyn.” He bought a modest house in Scarsdale in the nineteen-twenties, and lived there the rest of his life. He took the subway...

His savvy was such that Roosevelt wanted to make him Ambassador to the Soviet Union, and his grasp of the intricacies of Wall Street was so shrewd that his phone never stopped ringing. But as often as he could he reminded his peers that he was from the other side of the tracks....

The immigrant’s best strategy, in the famous adage, is to think Yiddish and dress British.
Weinberg thought British and dressed Yiddish.

Why did that strategy work? This is the great mystery of Weinberg’s career, and it’s hard to escape the conclusion that Carnegie was on to something: there are times when being an outsider is precisely what makes you a good insider. ..

t’s one thing to argue that being an outsider can be strategically useful. But Andrew Carnegie went farther. He believed that poverty provided a better preparation for success than wealth did; that, at root,
compensating for disadvantage was more useful, developmentally, than capitalizing on advantage.

Who knew that 35% of small-business owners were dyslexic?

That is a remarkable statistic. Dyslexia affects the very skills that lie at the center of an individual’s ability to manage the modern world. Yet Schwab and Orfalea and Chambers and Branson seem to have made up for their disabilities, in the same way that the poor, in Carnegie’s view, can make up for their poverty. Because of their difficulties with reading and writing, they were forced to develop superior oral-communication and problem-solving skills. Because they had to rely on others to help them navigate the written word, they became adept at delegating authority.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:11 AM | Permalink

October 27, 2008

The Man with the Biblioburro

Acclaimed Columbian Institution has 4800 books and 10 legs.

He began as a schoolteacher who believed in the transformative power of reading and who ventured on his donkey into the hills of Columbia with a few reading textbooks and novels from his personal library.

 Biblioburro

“I started out with 70 books, and now I have a collection of more than 4,800,” said Mr. Soriano, 36, a primary school teacher who lives in a small house here with his wife and three children, with books piled to the ceilings.

“This began as a necessity; then it became an obligation; and after that a custom,” he explained, squinting at the hills undulating into the horizon. “Now,” he said, “it is an institution.”

A whimsical riff on the bookmobile, Mr. Soriano’s Biblioburro is a small institution: one man and two donkeys. He created it out of the simple belief that the act of taking books to people who do not have them can somehow improve this impoverished region, and perhaps Colombia.
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His project has won acclaim from the nation’s literacy specialists and is the subject of a new documentary by a Colombian filmmaker.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:01 AM | Permalink

October 18, 2008

Late Bloomers

Malcolm Gladwell on Late Bloomers.  Why do we equate genius with precocity?

The freshness, exuberance, and energy of youth did little for Cézanne. He was a late bloomer—and for some reason in our accounting of genius and creativity we have forgotten to make sense of the Cézannes of the world.
--
Late bloomers, Galenson says, tend to work the other way around. Their approach is experimental. “Their goals are imprecise, so their procedure is tentative and incremental.
--
Mark Twain was the same way. Galenson quotes the literary critic Franklin Rogers on Twain’s trial-and-error method: “His routine procedure seems to have been to start a novel with some structural plan which ordinarily soon proved defective, whereupon he would cast about for a new plot which would overcome the difficulty, rewrite what he had already written, and then push on until some new defect forced him to repeat the process once again.” Twain fiddled and despaired and revised and gave up on “Huckleberry Finn” so many times that the book took him nearly a decade to complete. The Cézannes of the world bloom late not as a result of some defect in character, or distraction, or lack of ambition, but because the kind of creativity that proceeds through trial and error necessarily takes a long time to come to fruition.
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On the road to great achievement, the late bloomer will resemble a failure: while the late bloomer is revising and despairing and changing course and slashing canvases to ribbons after months or years, what he or she produces will look like the kind of thing produced by the artist who will never bloom at all. Prodigies are easy. They advertise their genius from the get-go. Late bloomers are hard. They require forbearance and blind faith.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:44 AM | Permalink

September 10, 2008

Good Man, Goodfriend

How can you forget a guy by the name of Goodfriend? 

Via John Podhoretz who was in the 8th grade with Sidney Goodfriend comes this story in the Washington Post about Goodfriend who, after  25 years on Wall Street, found new purpose and meaning in a noble endeavor.

"It's not whether or not anyone is for or against the war, but it's for the troops," Pace said in an interview. "It is certainly something that is very, very helpful to our vets. When it comes time to leave the military, they don't have any connections outside."

Program Aids Veterans Entering Corporate World

Ed Pulido joined the Army at 18 and spent 19 years in uniform. He lost his left leg four years after being wounded by a roadside bomb in Baqubah, Iraq. And when he was discharged in 2005, with a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart, he decided to the devote the rest of his life to work with a foundation helping the families of veterans who have been wounded or killed.

But he had one problem, he said: "How to initiate the contacts with corporate leaders, to be able to fundraise and to network."

That's where Sidney E. Goodfriend came in.

Goodfriend spent 25 years as a banker on Wall Street, mostly at Merrill Lynch. But, he said, he had made enough money, he was looking for a career change, and he wanted to make a contribution through public service.

With his own money, and using his Wall Street connections, Goodfriend, 48, founded a group called American Corporate Partners, which pairs returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan with mentors from the corporate world. He has enlisted six companies -- Campbell's, PepsiCo, Home Depot, Verizon, General Electric and investment bank Morgan Stanley -- that have each promised to offer returning vets 50 mentors, in eight cities.
--

And what drives him? "It's a lot more meaningful than being a banker," he said. "I'm probably too old to enlist, so this is my way of making a contribution."

He added, "If you said 10 years ago I'd be doing this, I would have been astonished."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:52 AM | Permalink

August 19, 2008

A Well Worn Apron

Jennifer's goal in life is to have a well-worn apron

I realized that if I ever have an apron hanging from the pantry door that is threadbare and covered in stains, I have probably lived a pretty good life. Because having a well-worn apron means:

You have food to eat
You have someone to cook for
You have someone to sit down at the table with you to share in the fruits of your efforts
You have the resources and the physical ability to make homemade meals
You have the energy and the money to wear clothes that are nice enough to be worth protecting
You care enough to do all of the above.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:56 AM | Permalink

What Now?

Some 40% of Olympians have serious problems post Olympics as they transition to a new chapter of their lives.

After Glory of a Lifetime, Asking 'What Now?'

“You’re talking about people who have trained for years, almost every day, and made huge sacrifices,” in their relationships, career, all of it, said Charlie Brown, a sports psychologist at FPS Performance in Charlotte, N.C., whose clients include Olympic kayakers, swimmers and runners. “And for some of them, once they have this huge, intense experience, it’s a very fragile situation afterwards.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:39 AM | Permalink

August 13, 2008

" You must not die/because you have been chosen/ to be a part of the day."

A quite extraordinary letter written by Sister Lucy Vertrusc, a young nun, to her mother superior, after being raped by Serbian soldiers.

Unspeakable evil overcome by heroic goodness.

A vocation in response to evil

A must-read.

I remember the time when I used to attend the university at Rome in order to get my masters in Literature, an ancient Slavic woman, the professor of Literature, used to recite to me these verses from the poet Alexej Mislovic: You must not die/because you have been chosen/ to be a part of the day.

That night, in which I was terrorized by the Serbs for hours and hours, I repeated to myself these verses, which I felt as balm for my soul, nearly mad with despair.

And now, with everything having passed and looking back, I get the impression of having been made to swallow a terrible pill.
--
I will go with my child. I do not know where, but God, who broke all of a sudden my greatest joy, will indicate the path I must tread in order to do His will.

I will be poor again, I will return to the old aprons and the wooden shoes that the women in the country use for working, and I will accompany my mother into the forest to collect the resin from the slits in the trees.

Someone has to begin to break the chain of hatred that has always destroyed our countries. And so, I will teach my child only one thing: love. This child, born of violence, will be a witness along with me that the only greatness that gives honor to a human being is forgiveness.

Through the Kingdom of Christ for the Glory of God."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:12 PM | Permalink

July 31, 2008

Jigsaw Flow

You've heard about flow - "the mental state of operation in which the person is fully immersed in what he or she is doing, characterized by a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity."

John Derbyshire's most reliable portal to flow is a jigsaw puzzle.  Being neither a child nor retired, he allows himself only one a year at Christmas time.

It would be satisfying to make some large case for the jigsaw puzzle, as an aid to mental improvement, or as a metaphor for life or the management of worldly affairs. Not much comes to mind. Certainly there are things worth nurturing here: forward planning, the division of tasks into sub-tasks, persistence and careful observation, faith in the possibility of bringing order out of chaos, flow. There is, though, an underlying futility to the business of spending many hours assembling something with which there is then nothing to be done but to disassemble it and return it to its box. Underlying futility? No, there is no large life lesson here, none at all, absolutely none...

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:29 PM | Permalink

July 28, 2008

The Yo-Yo Renaissance.

Deli clerk by day, by night the Yo-yo man astounds as you can see. 

Says Gary Wright

"The appeal is physical manipulation," he says.

"You're controlling something, and being in control is what everyone wants," he says.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:36 AM | Permalink

Real self-giving

Would you give your kidney to a perfect stranger? 

Anthony DeGuilo, a 36-year-old securities trader did, but not before overcoming obstacles, including a psychological evaluation. 

In the end, using cross-donations, Anthony's kidney made it possible to do four simultaneous transplants.

In Anthony's view, donors already get paid far more richly than they might in any marketplace. "It's a selfish act for me," he says. "The satisfaction is so profound. This is all for me."

The Kindness of Strangers.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:28 AM | Permalink

July 20, 2008

He draws 9 hours a day - at 112

He stopped school in the third grade, has lived in mental health centers since 1952 when he was diagnosed with schizophrenia and didn't begin drawing until his 80s.

Bent over or sitting at a table, gripping a ballpoint pen, marker or crayon, Frank Calloway spends his days turning visions from his youth into lively murals _ and at 112 years old, the images of his childhood are a window to another time.

Drawn on sheets of butcher paper and sometimes stretching to more than 30 feet long, the works mostly show rural agricultural scenes, with buildings, trains and vehicles straight out of the early 20th century. And his colorful creations are gaining more attention in the art world.

The works by a man who has lived about half his life in state mental health centers will be part of an exhibit this fall at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore. His caretakers have suspended sales of his artwork until after the show after finding out some of his drawings could sell for thousands of dollars.
-
"Most people see his age. You know, what I see is his ability, the beauty that he actually puts on paper, that comes out of him and his mind," she said.

Calloway's circle of admirers extends outside Alabama.

"There's a presence with him, I'm telling you, that feels angelic," said Rebecca Hoffberger, founder and director of the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, which will borrow 18 scrolls from Calloway for an exhibit in October called "The Marriage of Art, Science and Philosophy."
--

Plans are for Calloway to attend the opening of the Baltimore show. It will be his first trip on an airplane and likely the first time he's left Alabama. Hutto said she looks forward to sharing his work with a wider audience.

"His art overcomes boundaries," she said. "People may say, 'Well, he's a folk artist. I don't like folk art.' But if you ever meet him, there is such life in what he creates, and you can't look at one of his paintings without seeing that smile, without seeing that gentle man."

Alabama man turns 112, still spends days drawing.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:58 PM | Permalink

July 16, 2008

The Importance of Earthworms

I loved this article and was entranced with the descriptions of good, labor-saving design.

My Grandfather's Earthworm Farm

It is important to get a picture of the layout of the farm, in order to understand its efficient operation without waste of time and energy. It was divided into four tracts of forty acres each. The homestead, with orchard, garden and park occupied one forty. Near the centre of the 160 acres was located the great barnyard of about two acres, with broad swinging gates in each of the four sides, opening into lanes which led into each of the forty-acre tracts. Thus the stock could be herded into any part of the farm, simply by opening the proper gate and driving them through the lane into the particular section that was to be pastured.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:15 PM | Permalink

June 28, 2008

The Best and the Brightest?

I went to an elite college and much as I am grateful for the fine, indeed excellent, educational experience I had, it's taken me decades to strip away the disadvantages William Deresiewicz writes about in  The Disadvantages of an Elite Education  in The American Scholar.  A brilliant essay.

The first disadvantage of an elite education, as I learned in my kitchen that day, is that it makes you incapable of talking to people who aren’t like you.
--
because these schools tend to cultivate liberal attitudes, they leave their students in the paradoxical position of wanting to advocate on behalf of the working class while being unable to hold a simple conversation with anyone in it.
--
But it isn’t just a matter of class. My education taught me to believe that people who didn’t go to an Ivy League or equivalent school weren’t worth talking to, regardless of their class. I was given the unmistakable message that such people were beneath me. We were “the best and the brightest,” as these places love to say, and everyone else was, well, something else: less good, less bright.

.. elite universities ... select for and develop one form of intelligence: the analytic. While this is broadly true of all universities, elite schools,... But social intelligence and emotional intelligence and creative ability, to name just three other forms, are not distributed preferentially among the educational elite. The “best” are the brightest only in one narrow sense. One needs to wander away from the educational elite to begin to discover this.

The second disadvantage, implicit in what I’ve been saying, is that an elite education inculcates a false sense of self-worth
-
If one of the disadvantages of an elite education is the temptation it offers to mediocrity, another is the temptation it offers to security.
--
if you’re afraid to fail, you’re afraid to take risks, which begins to explain the final and most damning disadvantage of an elite education: that it is profoundly anti-intellectual. This will seem counterintuitive....The system forgot ... that the true purpose of education is to make minds, not careers.
--
So when students get to college, they hear a couple of speeches telling them to ask the big questions, and when they graduate, they hear a couple more speeches telling them to ask the big questions. And in between, they spend four years taking courses that train them to ask the little questions—specialized courses, taught by specialized professors, aimed at specialized students.
--
The disadvantage of an elite education is that it’s given us the elite we have, and the elite we’re going to have.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:49 AM | Permalink

June 18, 2008

Lionheart

Ana Julie Tores runs an animal shelter in Cali, Columbia and nursed an African lion back to health after it was found abused and emaciated in a traveling circus.

Jupiter the lion hasn't forgotten her kindness in an amazing display of affection,

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:05 AM | Permalink

June 15, 2008

More Fathers Please

To all fathers who are raising children in the most important job a man can do, my appreciation and a Happy Father's Day. 

Juan Williams tells us just how important in The Tragedy of America's Disappearing Fathers.

As we celebrate Father's Day tomorrow, we should reflect upon a sad fact: It is now common to meet young people in our big city schools, foster-care homes and juvenile centers who do not know their dads. Most of those children have come face-to-face with their father at some point; but most have little regular contact with the man, or have any faith that he loves or cares about them.

When fatherless young people are encouraged to write about their lives, they tell heartbreaking stories about feeling like "throwaway people." In the privacy of the written page, their hard, emotional shells crack open to reveal the uncertainty that comes from not knowing if their father has any interest in them. The stories are like letters to unknown dads – some filled with imaginary scenes about what it might be like to have a dad who comes home and puts his arm around you or plays with you.

They feel like they've been thrown away, Mr. Myers says, because "they don't have a father to push them, discipline them, and they give up trying to succeed . . . they don't see themselves as wanted." A regular theme of their stories is that they feel safer in a foster care home or juvenile detention center than on the outside, because they have no father to hold together the family. There is no one at home

Those who had a father around remember the lessons learned from our fathers.
collected by The Art of Manliness which should be mandatory reading for those lost boys with absent or unknown fathers who must imagine what being a man is about and father themselves.

The truest happiness is in self sacrifice in love like this father, Dick Hoyt, in Team Hoyt    Absolutely amazing love story between father and son.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:26 PM | Permalink

June 12, 2008

Eighty Years in the Making

Each week with my film club we see a movie and then go out for dinner at a nearby restaurant or pub to talk about it and everything else.

Last night we saw Young at Heart, a funny, feel-good movie like no other.  I was a bit apprehensive at first wondering if the audience would be laughing at the old folks.; I was touched to see how moved and delighted the young audiences were.

They've toured Europe and the States and played in prisons.  Their joy in being together and singing is infectious.  Their dedication and hard work is inspiring.

HIghly recommended.

Here's one of their music videos, Staying Alive by the Bee Gees.

There's so much fun and life there, it's pure delight.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:54 AM | Permalink

Law school dean becomes priest and prison chaplain

They call him 'Doc' at the prison for his four doctoral degrees. 

For decades he was dean of two law schools including Notre Dame. 

Now at 71, a widower and father of five, David Link will be ordained a Catholic priest this Sunday.

When his wife died in 2003 from ovarian cancer, Link said
"I certainly got a call from the Holy Spirit.  It wasn't on a cell phone, but it was a pretty clear call. When the Holy Spirit calls, he doesn't ask how old you are. He just has another job for you."

Urged by his wife, he became a volunteer at the Indiana State Prison where he will continue as full time chaplain after his ordination.

When he began sending the men birthday cards, one inmate, "this big, tough-looking dude," came to his office crying with thanks. No one had ever sent him a birthday card before.

"If you had said to me 10 years ago when I was dean of the law school that I'd first of all go to the seminary, and second that I'd be here working with maximum security prisoners, I would have said you had a bad mental problem," he said.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:15 AM | Permalink

June 2, 2008

"They come from heaven to work in hell"

A retired Air Force Colonel Stephan Walker arrived in Iraq for a short trip.

He left in his wake improved sight for many Iraqis and priceless training for Nasiriyah General Hospital physicians in Nasiriyah, Iraq.

Visionary doctor helps hundreds of Iraqis

Khalid Abid Alshaheed is a doctor's assistant who works almost every day in the general hospital in Nasiriyah, which is about 11 miles from here with an estimated population of more than 560,000. He comes to Camp Mittica whenever a Western doctor does so that he can learn from them. A few months prior to helping with the eye surgeries, he was here helping with cleft surgeries.

"The patients are very happy to receive this help, this has a very positive effect," he said through a translator. "What we are doing here is so helpful and it's completely free. For the eyes, here now, it's very useful for the people, and the doctors are doing their job in a very perfect way."

As for what he learns from the doctors, he said that 40 percent of his medical knowledge has come from the training he's received at Camp Mittica.
--

The list of supplies the doctor brought and the skills he used in the operating room are the result of his 31 years as an Air Force ophthalmologist. During that time, he helped people in Korea, Thailand and the rural Philippines. He was also a member of the first portable eye surgery team from Wilford Hall to go to Latin America. During that time, and the four years since his retirement, he has gone on more than 20 of the 50-plus missions the team has gone on in the past 15 years.

But regardless of whether the doctor or the Wilford Hall team is busy performing wonders around the world, the Iraqis still hope to see them again. "I just want to ask the coalition forces doctors and the foreign doctors to come here because this is a great job done by them to come to such country like Iraq and to help the poor people ... because for me they come from the heaven to work in the hell," Mr. Tahir said.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:05 PM | Permalink

May 23, 2008

Living Walls, Art of Green by Blanc

Patrick Blanc, an unusual combination of artist and scientist, pioneered the art of living walls, or vertical gardens in Paris.

"He’s a curious character because he is the symbiosis of a scientist, an artist and a communicator,” said Stéphane Martin, the director of the Quai Branly Museum. “He has created a personality with his green hair, a look and an image.”

 Patrick Blanc Photograph Nyt

Fascinated by plants that flourish without soil, he traveled to Malaysia and Thailand to observe how plants managed to grow on rocks and so began his career in botany as a researcher with the National Center for Scientific Research in Paris for 25 years.

He found a way of growing plants without soil, using a durable frame of metal, PVC and nonbiodegradable felt.  Without the weight of soil, vertical gardens can be installed on any wall in any climate. 

While he created dozens of these living walls around the world since 1988, he came to serious international attention with his 2001 mur vegetale in the courtyard of the Pershing Hall Hotel in Paris, commissioned by Andree Putman, the French interior decorator and designer.

Ms. Putman called his plant walls revolutionary. “It’s like a magic trick,” she said. “There is no soil in this operation, and yet the plants seem to grow faster. It creates a rather miraculous atmosphere.”

 Pershing Hall Hotel Paris

The New York Times featured him in All His Rooms Are Living Rooms by Kristin Hohenadel.

I like to reintegrate nature where one least expects it,” Mr. Blanc said as he sat at a table in his overgrown back garden, smoking a Vogue Menthol and drinking chilled white Jurançon.

“We live in an era where human activity is overwhelming,” he continued. “I think we can reconcile nature and man to a much greater degree. People become much more sensitive to nature when they suddenly see a plant wall in the Métro” — where he has not yet built a plant wall, but hopes to. “It calls out to them much more than plants in a garden.”
--
“Humanity is living more and more in cities, and at odds with nature,” he said. “The plant wall has a real future for the well-being of people living in cities. The horizontal is finished — it’s for us. But the vertical is still free."

But note, he copyrights his walls like works of art.  Now,  imitators are springing up.

In human society, as soon as there’s something new that seems to work, it’s normal that everyone wants to do it,” Mr. Blanc said. “It’s like what people said about Édith Piaf — around her, even the hobos wanted to be singers. If I’m imitated, it’s good.”

Environmental Graffiti tells the story of 15 Living Walls, Vertical Gardens & Sky Farms around the world.

         Patrick Blanc Living Wall

What a wonderful way to create living art and beauty as well environmental benefits in cities everywhere.  Glorious. More please.

Patrick Blanc's website, absolutely gorgeous though it takes a while to load.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:17 PM | Permalink

May 21, 2008

The Homeless Billionaire

Nicolas Berggruen is a most interesting investor who sold all his homes to live in hotels who eats only two meals a day, one of them chocolate.

He is about to sell his only car. Because he doesn't have children and is unmarried, he is planning to leave his fortune to a personal foundation and an art museum.

"Living in a grand environment to show myself and others that I have wealth has zero appeal," he says in an interview, standing in a hotel room in New York's Upper East Side. "Whatever I own is temporary, since we're only here for a short period of time. It's what we do and produce, it's our actions, that will last forever. That's real value."
--

"Historically, I've made my money in financials," says Mr. Berggruen, 46 years old, whose net worth is estimated at more than $3 billion. "Now, I'm investing in the real world. I'm investing in the ground, in things that will last for generations and improve people's lives."

Putting His Money Where His Values Are.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:38 PM | Permalink

May 4, 2008

"Why can't people just see the best in things?"

A wonderful story about a 18 year-old boy, struck with a terminal cancer,  who is wise beyond his years. 

John Challis.

Teen is running out of innings, but the game still isn't over.

After the walk, John addressed the crowd.

"He spoke from his heart," Mr. Wetzel, the coach, said. "He said, 'I've got two options. I know I'm going to die, so I can either sit at home and feel sorry, or I could spread my message to everybody to live life to the fullest and help those in need.' After hearing that, I don't know if there were many people not crying."

Later in an interview he was asked where he gained his wisdom.

Through cancer.

"They say it takes a special person to realize this kind of stuff," he said. "I don't know if I'm special, but it wasn't hard for me. It's just my mind-set. A situation is what you make of it. Not what it makes of you."
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"I guess I can see why people see me as an inspiration," he said. "But why do people think it's so hard to see things the way I do? All I'm doing is making the best of a situation."

John then raises his voice.

"Why can't people just see the best in things? It gets you so much further in life. It's always negative this and negative that. That's all you see and hear."
--

Through his own thoughts and through his deep Catholic beliefs, John believes he has "figured it out." He answers questions with maturity, courage and dignity, traits that have become his trademarks.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:49 PM | Permalink

May 2, 2008

Lessons in Manliness

There's a fine, new-to-me blog on  The Art of Manliness where lessons in manliness are next to practical tips like Nine ways to start a fire without matches.   

When all else fails, a coke can and bar of  chocolate will do

Some like John McCain need no lessons but can teach some.  Of course, he'll never do it and so it rests on others to tell. 

Mr. Day relayed to me one of the stories Americans should hear. It involves what happened to him after escaping from a North Vietnamese prison during the war. When he was recaptured, a Vietnamese captor broke his arm and said, "I told you I would make you a cripple."

The break was designed to shatter Mr. Day's will. He had survived in prison on the hope that one day he would return to the United States and be able to fly again. To kill that hope, the Vietnamese left part of a bone sticking out of his arm, and put him in a misshapen cast. This was done so that the arm would heal at "a goofy angle," as Mr. Day explained. Had it done so, he never would have flown again.

But it didn't heal that way because of John McCain. Risking severe punishment, Messrs. McCain and Day collected pieces of bamboo in the prison courtyard to use as a splint. Mr. McCain put Mr. Day on the floor of their cell and, using his foot, jerked the broken bone into place. Then, using strips from the bandage on his own wounded leg and the bamboo, he put Mr. Day's splint in place.

Years later, Air Force surgeons examined Mr. Day and complimented the treatment he'd gotten from his captors. Mr. Day corrected them. It was Dr. McCain who deserved the credit. Mr. Day went on to fly again.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:50 AM | Permalink

April 12, 2008

Noel Coward was a spy for Britain

Fascinating historical tidbits from this essay by Stephen Koch in the New York Times

The Playboy was a Spy

“Celebrity was wonderful cover,” Noël Coward said near the end of his life. “My disguise would be my own reputation as a bit of an idiot ... a merry playboy.”
--
Perhaps a lifetime of concealing his own private life gave him a knack for the clandestine. In any case, he said, “I wanted to prove my integrity to myself.”

So he played the fool. “I was the perfect silly ass,” he said. “Nobody ... considered I had a sensible thought in my head, and they would say all kinds of things that I’d pass along.”

 Noel Coward

I love this

When war came, Coward was sent to Paris as a figurehead in a propaganda office, where he made it part of his cover to mock intelligence work as childish games carried out by inept duffers. When someone proposed leafleting the enemy with speeches from Chamberlain and Lord Halifax, he recalled, “I wrote in a memorandum that if the policy of His Majesty’s Government was to bore the Germans to death I didn’t think we had enough time.”

I never knew the Duke and Duchess were so pro-Nazi, a fact over looked in the breathless media coverage of the love story of the king who could not continue as king "without the help and support of the woman I love."

By 1940, the Windsors had graduated from mediocrity into real menace. One factor in the abdication had been that the prime minister had been told, reliably, that the woman inflaming the king’s already fascistic sentiments was a friend of Ribbentrop and the next thing to a Nazi agent. After the abdication, the Windsors were married in the residence of a Nazi collaborator. As the Battle of Britain approached, British intelligence believed — correctly — that Hitler, assisted by Ribbentrop, planned to restore the duke to the throne as a quisling monarch. Worst of all, intelligence suspected that the couple may have been complicit in this treachery.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:48 PM | Permalink

A Man of Virtue and Intellect, a Pope of Hope

If you suddenly hear  church bells ringing out next Tuesday around 4 pm, they ring to mark the arrival of Pope Benedict XVI to the United States for a six day visit, the schedule for which tire out anyone much less an 81-year-old man.

Catholics around the country are eagerly awaiting the touchdown at Andrews Air Force Base where he will be welcomed by the President and First Lady, the welcoming ceremony on the White House lawn, his meeting with the bishops, vespers at the National Shrine, the Mass in Nationals Park, his meeting with leaders from other faiths,  his visit to the Park East Synagogue,  his speech before the General Assembly of the United Nations, his meeting with young people with special needs and seminarians at St. Joseph's Seminary in Yonkers, his trip to Ground Zero and his celebration of the Mass at Yankee Stadium. 

Of course, the Catholic media is pulling out all the stops with EWTN carrying live full coverage of every moment.  Peter Steinfels wrote in the New York Times to expect a cliched coverage by the mainstream media as they discover once again that the Pope is indeed Catholic.

Yes, he disagrees with Richard Dawkins that atheism is necessary for salvation. Yes, he believes that Jesus of Nazareth is the son of God and the center of human history. Yes, he thinks that Catholic Christianity is truer than Islam or Buddhism or Hinduism or even Protestant Christianity. Astounding. What next?

To its credit the New York Times has set up a blog magisterially entitled A Papal Discussion with noteworthy and informed contributors to assess the Pope's visit.  Still I expect a lot of silly discussion about how the Pope has 'changed', has 'grown', is 'cracking down' all while wearing red Prada shoes.  But since nothing can approach the splendor of the 2000 year old Catholic Church, there will be much fascination with Catholic liturgy and vestments.  What I'm most interested is how they experience and report on a man of such virtue, intellect and moral authority.    How will they report on Pope who writes such extraordinary letters such as Deus caritas est God Is Love and Spe Salvi Saved by Hope.

In Something Beautiful Has Begun, Peggy Noonan remembers asking people who had met John Paul II what they thought or said,

they'd be startled and say, "I don't know, I was crying."

John Paul made you burst into tears. Benedict makes you think. It is more pleasurable to weep, but at the moment, perhaps it is more important to think.

I always liked Pope John Paul II, but it was Cardinal Ratizger who riveted me with his homily to the College of Cardinals as they gathered to elect a new Pope when he spoke of the
dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one's own ego and desires.

The antidote he said was the development of
a mature adult faith is deeply rooted in friendship with Christ. It is this friendship that opens us up to all that is good and gives us a criterion by which to distinguish the true from the false, and deceit from truth. We must develop this adult faith; we must guide the flock of Christ to this faith. And it is this faith - only faith - that creates unity and is fulfilled in love.

His call to develop a mature adult faith and his powerful intellect and ability to make the vast deposit of the magisterium clear and fresh has made me a fan and deepened my faith.

A lot of other people are getting Pope Fever like Miss Kelly who has snagged a ticket to the Mass in Yankee Stadium.  The Anchoress, who to no one's  surprise, loves Benedict and other Catholic things finds Benedict
warm, pastoral, approachable, quite paternal, and as easy to glean as a dear old uncle sharing fellowship over a cup of tea.
Sissy, a self-confessed agnostic, is getting A glimpse of the clearing and will be ringing her bells that that for many long years, they have never been heard.

With the theme of the Pope's visit "Christ Our Hope",  I expect he will bring us good news and remind us that Christian hope is transformative because it offers assurance that "life will not end in emptiness".

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:27 PM | Permalink

April 9, 2008

The Advantages of Closing a Few Doors

You might have missed this when John Tierney posted it in February, but even if you did see it, it's worth being reminded that keeping all your options open is not the best advice.

Advantages of Closing a Few Doors

We forget that the point of a decision (from the Latin decidere to cut off) is to cut off options so one can go forward.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:41 PM | Permalink

March 17, 2008

St. Patrick in his own words

St. Patrick in his own words.  From his confessions.

St. Patrick, born in Britain, captured and made a slave for 6 years until he had a vision and found the courage to escape and eventually return to his family.  A few years later, another vision appeared to him

I saw a man coming, as it were from Ireland. His name was Victoricus, and he carried many letters, and he gave me one of them. I read the heading: "The Voice of the Irish". As I began the letter, I imagined in that moment that I heard the voice of those very people who were near the wood of Foclut, which is beside the western sea—and they cried out, as with one voice: "We appeal to you, holy servant boy, to come and walk among us.[12]

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:41 PM | Permalink

February 26, 2008

One Man's Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time

When the world seems its most discouraging, I search out stories of ordinary people whose lives can inspire me.

Greg Mortenson is such a man.  A former US Army medic, he's made it his mission to build girls' schools in an area known as Baltistan, "Little Tibet" in the far north of Pakistan.

Here rural schools are rare, girls' schools even rarer, as the education of girls is condemned by religious extremists as un-Islamic. The Jafarabad school, along with 63 others in equally poor areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan, exists thanks to the efforts of a brave foreigner the locals call 'Dr Greg', who has been described as 'a real-life Indiana Jones' and spoken of as a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize.
--
His key allies include clerics, warlords, military officers, foreign mountaineers and several former members of the Taliban - one of whom is now a teacher at one of his schools in Kashmir - and an army of ordinary villagers desperate for their children to receive an education. 'What I'm good at is putting together a team, finding the right people,' he says. He has no pretentions to any other ability except willpower. 'I'm just an average guy. I had to work really hard in school. Learning never came easy to me, but I've got those Midwestern ethics that force you to persevere.'
--

      Greg Mortenson-Girls

A trauma nurse and former mountain climber, he was climbing Mt Everest when a buddy came down with altitude sickness and Greg stayed with him, probably far too long because he became sick himself.  On his way back, he became separated from his group and wandered sick into a tiny village where they nursed him to health.  Only when he recovered did he realize how generous they had been and how poor they were.  He promised to come back and build a school and he did, with no great plan, winging it all the way.

He's set up more than 60 schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan. 
In May 2005 riots broke out in Baharak, the gateway to Afghanistan's Wakhan province, after Newsweek magazine erroneously reported that a Koran had been flushed down a lavatory at Guantanamo Bay. Every building with any connection to foreigners was burned by furious mobs, including the offices of the UN. But Mortenson's CAI school was left untouched - protected by village elders who saw it as their own.

His book has now sold over 850,000 copies. 


"Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time" (Greg Mortenson, David Oliver Relin)

You can read more of this most inspiring story at Free to Learn.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:19 PM | Permalink

February 18, 2008

George Washington

Lest we forget the greatness of George Washington, Richard Brookheiser reminds us in First in Politics   wherein we learn how Washington learned how to back out of a bad situation and how to flip an enemy.

And Gleaves Whitney reminds us how often Washington put service above self.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:17 PM | Permalink

January 28, 2008

The Buzzer Beater

Jason, an autistic boy and the manager of his school's basketball team with responsibilities to hand out water  and lead the cheers, was tapped by the team's coach to suit up for the last game and then to play for the last few minutes. 

"If I weren't there, I wouldn't have believed it," said the coach.

\

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:44 PM | Permalink

January 4, 2008

A Surge of Hope

Bill Whittle has posted another fabulous essay, Forty Second Boyd and the Big Picture. 

Part 1 Pope John and the Supersonic Monastery

John Boyd – Pope John, The High Priest of the Fighter Mafia, the Mad Major, the Ghetto Colonel – Forty Second Boyd not only wrote the revolutionary tactics manuals that gave American pilots the keys to air-to-air victory… and with it the essential and undisputed control of the battlespace. Nor was his achievement limited to the design of the phenomenally successful F-15 and F-16 fighters. Nor was it merely the codifying of physics and thermodynamics to make a science out of an art form. That John Boyd saw all of these things for the first time would have made him a legend. But this was quite the lesser of his two great achievements. For Boyd not only saw how to perfect the sword. He saw too how to perfect the swordsman.

And for that, Forty Second Boyd may turn out to be one of the most important men of the Twenty-First Century. And he has lain at rest in Arlington National Cemetery since 1997
.

Part 2  The Big Picture

A New Agility based on the theories of John Boyd and
Swordlessness using nothing but the enemy's sword against him.

General Petraeus – just perhaps – is in the process of winning such a victory in Iraq. By brilliant diplomacy, deep understanding of the culture and the judicious use of gunpowder and money, it appears he has severed most of the Sunni tribes from al Qaeda and used them as “Awakening” peacekeeping militias against their former allies. General Petraeus is not fighting the last war; he is fighting the next one. He did not arrive there and just hope for the best. He observed. He oriented. He decided. And he acted. And then he observed again to see what effect he had. And again. And again.

This is not firepower. This is not attrition. This is, rather, an intelligent, delicate, sophisticated, maneuver-based strategy. A light, but sometimes deadly touch. Fingertip control. Water flowing downhill, into the cracks which our enemy cannot fill.
----

If this continues, Gen. Petraeus will have walked into the camp of the enemy and used his own sword against him. That is a
profound species of victory.

You can not put a value on the power an idea such as the one that drives Gen. Petraeus’ “Awakening” strategy. A man’s ultimate motivation is to provide for his family. A man, when all is said and done, is powered by nothing more or less then the desire to make his family safe and proud of him.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:11 AM | Permalink

December 27, 2007

Out Stealing Horses

He was 18 when he knew he wanted to write, but he couldn't finish anything.
So he trained as a librarian, worked in a printing plant and then a bookstore.  Not until mid life when a friend said to him, "If you don't really take this seriously, you're going to die before you get a book out.", did he get going.

Per Petterson is Norwegian and not that many Norwegian books are translated into English.
If you're a Norwegian writer, you are not visible in the world," he says. "The door of the English language is very hard to open for a Norwegian writer."

Still Out Stealing Horses sneaks up on people.  "It snuck up on the world."

"Out Stealing Horses: A Novel" (Per Petterson)

It's appeared on several best of the year lists including the Time magazine, the National Book Critics Circle,  the New York Times and  won the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award in June.

Northern Light is the review that made me want to read the book.

Per Petterson is a writer who has accepted the hand fate dealt and embraced the lifelong project it implies.

"All I ever think about," he says, "is families."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:51 PM | Permalink

December 18, 2007

"Do You Hear What I Hear?"

You know the Christmas song,  "Do You Hear What I Hear?"

Said the little lamb to the shepherd boy,
“Do you hear what I hear?
Ringing through the sky, shepherd boy,
Do you hear what I hear?
A song, a song, high above the tree
With a voice as big as the sea.”

What you don't know is that the song was written during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 by Noel Regney as he walked down the streets of New York City where despair hung thick in the air when he came upon two babies in strollers looking at each other and smiling.

The Story Behind the Song.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:08 AM | Permalink

December 13, 2007

What Retired CEOs Are Proudest Of

Curt Rosengran had Thoughts about life on my 40th birthday

Who do I want to be?" The "meaning" element especially reflects a voice in me that has been getting more and more insistent.
I always say, only half-jokingly, "I want to change the world, I just don't want to do all the work.

He interviewed Marshall Goldsmith (or a future podcast.
In the interview Marshall, who coaches people who are or could be CEO's of multi-billion dollar corporations, said something that stuck in my head. "Ask any CEO who is retired - and I've interviewed many - 'What are you proud of?' None of them ever talked about how big their office was. All they ever talked about was the people they helped."

And that's what I want out of my next 40 years. If I can look back at age 80 and see a legacy of energized, meaningful, thriving lives that made a positive impact on the world around them, I will be a happy, happy man.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:54 PM | Permalink

December 11, 2007

Killer Blonde

Let's join in the applause for Jeanne Assam, the killer blonde, who probably saved 100 lives at the New Life Church in Colorado Springs.

She "did not think for a minute to run away" when a gun entered the church and started shooting.

"I wasn't going to wait for him to do further damage," she said before a crowd of reporters and TV cameras who applauded her.

Security Guard

"I saw him coming through the doors" and took cover, Assam said. "I came out of cover and identified myself and engaged him and took him down."

"God was with me," Assam said. "I didn't think for a minute to run away."

Assam said she believes God gave her the strength to confront Murray, keeping her calm and focused even though he appeared to be twice her size and was more heavily armed.

Larry Bourbannais, a Vietnam veteran who saw combat was one of those shot, saw Assam walk toward the gunman and yelling "Surrender!"

He said it was the bravest thing he's ever seen.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:10 AM | Permalink

November 29, 2007

Walker Headlights

Why didn't someone think of this before? Lights on walkers may cut falls

Forget driving in the dark — sometimes it's dangerous just walking in the dark.

As the population ages, medical teams are responding to more calls from people who have fallen in the night. Many are from older adults who toppled over their walkers while reaching for a light switch on the way to the kitchen or
bathroom.

Credit Ron Olshwanger, director of the Creve Coeur Fire Protection District, whose own experience with his own mother ultimately led to his inspiration.

The lights (which are a lot like bicycle lights) cost $34 at Medical West, a medical supply firm that can install them on new or existing walkers.

Olshwanger emphasizes that he and the fire department won't make any profit off the headlights. His inspiration is his mother, Bernice Bormaster, who died five years ago. After breaking her hip, she called her son three times in the middle of the night for help getting back to bed.

"It's a perfect example of what can happen. A lot of these people, their minds are fine, their bodies are just a little weak." Olshwanger said. "These people want to live a normal life, and I think this will help."

HT bookofjoe

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:41 PM | Permalink

November 18, 2007

Beautiful Theory of Everything

  Meaning Of The Universe

Garrett Lisi, 39, has a doctorate, but doesn't teach because he spends most of his time in Hawaii surfing and in the winter snowboarding near Lake Tahoe.    He is also a physicist who has spent some time working out the complexities of the intricate, elegant shape pictured above.  It's called an E8, a complex, eight-dimensional mathematical pattern with 248 points.

Surfer dude stuns physicists with theory of everything

Lisi's breakthrough came when he noticed that some of the equations describing E8's structure matched his own. "My brain exploded with the implications and the beauty of the thing," he tells New Scientist. "I thought: 'Holy crap, that's it!'"

Unlike the Standard Model of everything that can weave together only three of the four fundamental forces of nature, Lisi's E8 theory can accommodate all four.  I know very little about physics, but the shape is very beautiful and looks like a mandala.  In Oriental Art, a mandala represent the cosmos.

Lisi believes that our universe is this beautiful shape.

"Some incredibly beautiful stuff falls out of Lisi's theory," adds David Ritz Finkelstein at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta. "This must be more than coincidence and he really is touching on something profound."

I believe what John Keats wrote long ago, "Beauty is truth, truth beauty."  So I'm placing my bet on E8 instead of a spaghetti universe of superstrings.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:00 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

November 7, 2007

"What do you give a man who gave you your sight?"

Blind since he was six with only partial sight before that, James Elleyby  met his wife at a school for the blind, has two young children both blind but never gave up on trying to regain his sight.

Six corneal transplants had failed when he and a sighted friend googled for doctors and came up with the name of Dr. Claes Dohlman, a doctor at Massachusetts Eye and Ear who developed a technique to use artificial corneas.

Man with restored sight has no time for tears.
James reached out and Dohlman reached back.

Last January, after surgery, Dohlman ripped the patch off and James instinctively covered his face with his hands. Then he blinked and pulled his hands away and realized he could see his fingers. He looked around the room and saw colors, the names of which he hadn't a clue.

He took the bus back to New York and found that Ivory and his little girls were more beautiful than he had imagined.
----
He got a job - telemarketing, working with computers. He wants to go to law school. He wants to do everything. He believes he can do anything.

Invited back to Boston for a dinner organized for his doctor, James asked

"I don't have any money," James said. "What do you give a man who gave you your sight?"


A few weeks ago, James stepped outside his home in the Bronx. He looked up into the sky and saw something twinkling. He didn't know what it was and asked a neighbor. The neighbor thought James was kidding.

"It's a star, James," the man said. "It's a star."

As he gazed upon a star for the first time, James decided that the best way to show his gratitude was to rent a car and drive 200 miles to Boston, because he could.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:22 AM | Permalink

November 4, 2007

"Twinseperable"

A wonderful story about the twin who desire for life was so great, he survived several attempts on his life while still in the womb.

We're twinseparable! Happy with his brother, the boy who refused to die.

 Twins Brother Refused To Die

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:47 AM | Permalink

Radio waves targeting cancer

They diagnosed him with leukemia and told him he had nine months to live.  John Kanzlus, weakened by his chemotherapy treatments, drew on his lifetime of working with radio waves to devise a machine that targets cancer cells.

The miracle: It works.

Kanzlus got his hands on come nanoparticles from another cancer patient, Nobel Prize winning chemist Richard Smalley.

"John asked, 'Is this what you expected?' For the first time in my life, I realized that a smile starts behind the eyes before it starts at the mouth, for Steve responded, 'This is much more than I expected.' I watched his smile engulf his entire face."

Marianne finally realized: "Could what John's working on be real?" Curley phoned Smalley to tell him the news.

He remembered Smalley's response: "Holy God."
----

At 63, Kanzius is still receiving treatment for his cancer, which has recurred. He knows the process he developed may not be ready in time to save his life, but the project was never about him. "I want to see the treatment work," he said. "That would be my thanks."

Sending his cancer a signal

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:40 AM | Permalink

October 24, 2007

The Experience Movement and the Purpose Prize

Civic Ventures, a think tank founded in the late 1990s is "reframing the
debate about aging in America and redefining the second half of life as a source of social and individual renewal"

It's about "helping society achieve the greatest return on experience."

They begun a number of programs including the Experience Corps, a national service program for Americans over 55, the Next Chapter working in local communities to help people in the second half of life connect with peers and find pathways to significant service.

The Purpose Prize provides 5 awards of $100,000 each to people over  60 who are taking on society's biggest challenges.

Here are some of the winners about whom Mark Freedman, founder and President of Civic Ventures said,

"These men and women - some national figures, some local heroes - disprove the notion that innovation is the province of the young and show us the essence of what's possible in an aging society."

Nominations for the 2008 Purpose Prize are open November 15 through March 1.

The foundation also publishes a number of booklets available for download including The Boomers' Guide to Good Work

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:52 AM | Permalink

October 5, 2007

Where are the Heroes?

The maxim "Bad money drives out good money", otherwise known as Gresham's Law, stands for the concept that when spending money, if both good money (higher in silver or gold content) and bad money (lesser in intrinsic value) are exchanged at the same price,  people will hand over the 'bad' coins rather than the 'good' ones, keeping the 'good' ones for themselves. 

The same thing is happening in our mainstream media where the 'bad' is driving out the 'good'.  Stories about celebrities - Lindsay, Britney, Angelina - drive out stories about real heroes.  When have you ever read about a story of a Congressional Medal of Honor winner?  The consequence is that people have fewer guides about how to lead a meaningful life, one of purpose, one that transcends ego and by so doing finds a place of belonging in society a and a way of making a difference in the world. 

Too many of us can't see the upside of growing older, the development of maturity through the unexpected trials of life, and the great satisfaction of  a life of meaning.  Too many try too long to be young and hip  and cool,  stuck in a perpetual adolescent mire.  They don't see a way out.

In the early days of the women's movement, there was much talk about the need for new role models so that young women could pattern their thinking and the behavior after older women who had struggled and succeeded in a man's world.  The Catholic Church employs the lives of the saints as role models for the faithful to show how different people in different times struggle to achieve  good and holy lives. 

Joseph Campbell found in the stories of heroes across all cultures, the archetypal myth which he called monomyth consisting of several stages.  Often called the hero's journey, the fundamental structure includes

  1. A call to adventure, which the hero has to accept or decline
  2. A road of trials, regarding which the hero succeeds or fails
  3. Achieving the goal or "boon," which often results in important self-knowledge
  4. A return to the ordinary world, again as to which the hero can succeed or fail
  5. Applying the boon, in which what the hero has gained can be used to improve the world

Robert Kaplan examines why the media is reluctant to understand Modern Heroes , preferring instead to see them as victims and feeling sorry for them.

Every journalist has a different network of military contacts. Mine come at me with the following theme: We want to be admired for our technical proficiency--for what we do, not for what we suffer. We are not victims. We are privileged.
--
An army at war and a nation at the mall do not encounter each other except through the refractive medium of news and entertainment.

That medium is refractive because while the U.S. still has a national military, it no longer has a national media to quite the same extent. The media is increasingly representative of an international society, whose loyalty to a particular territory is more and more diluted. That international society has ideas to defend--ideas of universal justice--but little actual ground. And without ground to defend, it has little need of heroes. Thus, future news cycles will also be dominated by victims.


Barbara Nicolosi, a scriptwriter in Hollywood, has posted notes of her talk on heroes in storytelling and in society.  Heroes in Storytelling

She asks what does a kid (and by extension,  a society) look like who has heroes.  Idealistic, hopeful, imitative, open, eager to please, reverent, grateful

And what does a kid look like without heroes.  Cynical, haughty, suspicious, jaded, irreverent, entitled, self-absorbed.

To a child, she writes, a hero provides a teaching example of a life worth living.

To an adult, heroes

should engage us in a holy rivalry; to shame us into being more generous and tireless in doing good. Mother Teresa shamed me into facing what a schlep I am. In some ways, because she could pick a maggot ridden poor person out of a gutter, I was able to be kinder to the annoying guy in the next office.

To boomers she says

Try and make the last years of your lives heroic. Just heard the other day from one of my students how her 53 year old father just walked out on the family – two teens at home and an eight year old – and moved in with his 26 year old receptionist. He told his daughter he was bored and feeling unfulfilled. Enough of this nonsense! We don’t want to hear about your need to be having fun anymore! We need you to be brave as you face your elderly years – you will be wrinkled and sickly and forgetful – and your heroism will be to be uncomplaining, and wise and solicitous and serene for the rest of us!

There's much more including this  wonderful quote,  One must think like a hero to behave like a merely decent human being." May Sarton

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:17 PM | Permalink

September 27, 2007

The Last Lecture is his Legacy

Professor Randy Pausch's last lecture struck a chord among millions of  people.  The Wall St. Journal reports on What It Meant for Readers.

After he spoke, his only plans were to quietly spend whatever time he has left with his wife and three young children. He never imagined the whirlwind that would envelop him. As video clips of his speech spread across the Internet, thousands of people contacted him to say he had made a profound impact on their lives. Many were moved to tears by his words -- and moved to action. Parents everywhere vowed to let their kids do what they'd like on their bedroom walls.
---

Dr. Pausch feels overwhelmed and moved that what started in a lecture hall with 400 people has now been experienced by millions. Still, he has retained his sense of humor. "There's a limit to how many times you can read how great you are and what an inspiration you are," he says, "but I'm not there yet."
--

Dr. Pausch has asked Carnegie Mellon not to copyright his last lecture, and instead to leave it in the public domain. It will remain his legacy, and his footbridge, to the world.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:54 PM | Permalink

September 18, 2007

The Present and Presence of Music

With a sister whose brain has been damaged by encephalitis leaving her without a short term memory, I was especially interested in this piece by Oliver Sachs in The New Yorker, A Neurologist's Notebook: The Abyss

Clive Wearing, an eminent British musicologist, struck with encephalitis, loses his ability to preserve new memories as well as the loss of his entire past - the most devastating case of amnesia ever recorded.

From the start, he has been loved by his wife Deborah and he's retained his musical powers and memory.

Clive’s performance self seems, to those who know him, just as vivid and complete as it was before his illness. This mode of being, this self, is seemingly untouched by his amnesia, even though his autobiographical self, the self that depends on explicit, episodic memories, is virtually lost. The rope that is let down from Heaven for Clive comes not with recalling the past, as for Proust, but with performance—and it holds only as long as the performance lasts. Without performance, the thread is broken, and he is thrown back once again into the abyss
--
It may be that Clive, incapable of remembering or anticipating events because of his amnesia, is able to sing and play and conduct music because remembering music is not, in the usual sense, remembering at all. Remembering music, listening to it, or playing it, is wholly in the present
--
As Deborah recently wrote to me, “Clive’s at-homeness in music and in his love for me are where he transcends amnesia and finds continuum—not the linear fusion of moment after moment, nor based on any framework of autobiographical information, but where Clive, and any of us, are finally, where we are who we are.” ♦

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:29 PM | Permalink

July 18, 2007

He saved more lives than anyone else who has ever lived

Gregg Easterbrook calls him  the Greatest Living American.    A recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, he was just awarded the Congressional Gold  Medal.    According to the Wall St Journal, he may have saved one billion lives.

Do you know who he is?

A plant breeder, Norman Borlaug developed high-yield wheat strains and took his science of the Green Revolution to impoverished farmers in Mexico, India, Pakistan, the Philippines, China, Indonesia and South America.  His life has been spent serving the poor.

Every nation his green thumb touched has known dramatic food production increases plus falling fertility rates (as the transition from subsistence to high-tech farm production makes knowledge more important than brawn), higher girls' education rates (as girls and young women become seen as carriers of knowledge rather than water) and rising living standards for average people. Last fall, Borlaug crowned his magnificent career by persuading the Ford, Rockefeller and Bill & Melinda Gates foundations to begin a major push for high-yield farming in Africa, the one place the Green Revolution has not reached.

Now 93, he writes in the Wall St Journal today about Continuing the Green Revolution with the Gene Revolution or biotechnology.  His examples

• Since 1996, the planting of genetically modified crops developed through biotechnology has spread to about 250 million acres from about five million acres around the world, with half of that area in Latin America and Asia. This has increased global farm income by $27 billion annually.

• Ag biotechnology has reduced pesticide applications by nearly 500 million pounds since 1996. In each of the last six years, biotech cotton saved U.S. farmers from using 93 million gallons of water in water-scarce areas, 2.4 million gallons of fuel, and 41,000 person-days to apply the pesticides they formerly used.

• Herbicide-tolerant corn and soybeans have enabled greater adoption of minimum-tillage practices. No-till farming has increased 35% in the U.S. since 1996, saving millions of gallons of fuel, perhaps one billion tons of soil each year from running into waterways, and significantly improving moisture conservation as well.

• Improvements in crop yields and processing through biotechnology can accelerate the availability of biofuels. While the current emphasis is on using corn and soybeans to produce ethanol, the long-term solution will be cellulosic ethanol made from forest industry by-products and products.

It's a disgrace that none of the major TV stations carried anything about Borlaug yesterday which is one reason why this great man is so little known.  Easterbrook again

Borlaug's story is ignored because his is a story of righteousness -- shunning wealth and comfort, this magnificent man lived nearly all his life in impoverished nations. If he'd blown something up, lied under oath or been caught offering money for fun, ABC, CBS and NBC would have crowded the Capitol Rotunda today with cameras, hoping to record an embarrassing gaffe. Because instead Borlaug devoted his life to serving the poor, he is considered Not News.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:42 AM | Permalink

July 12, 2007

What did you do in the war Mommy?

She lived in a small town in Montana, a mother of three and a municipal court judge.    Shannen Rossmiller, shaken by the terrorist attacks on 9/11,  wanted to learn more about the kind of people who would commit such an act.  She read, she surfed and learned Arabic so she could read and post messages on jihadi sites and in time pass herself off as a jihadist sympathizer.

Soon, she was passing information to the FBI, information that stopped several terrorist attacks.  A mom from Montana.

My cyber counter-jihad  via Maggie's Farm

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:54 PM | Permalink

May 15, 2007

Tony Snow to Graduates: "Live boldly. Live a whole life"

The best Commencement Address of the year so far; - Tony Snow speaking on  Reason, Faith, Vocation at Catholic University.

First, live boldly. Live a whole life.  I have five tips for pulling this off and - let me warn you - they've all been road tested. I learned the old-fashioned way, through trial and error.

Number one, think.
---
Heed the counsel of your elders, including your parents. I guarantee you, they have made some howling mistakes if, like me, they were in college in the '70s and '80s. They probably haven't owned up to them, but they might now, because they want to protect you. You see, they know that you are leaving the nest. And now that you're leaving the nest, predators soon will begin to circle. Some are going to try to take your money, but the really clever ones are going to tempt you to throw your life away. They'll appeal to your pride and vanity - or worse, to your moral ambition. After all, there's nothing more subversive than the offer to become a saint. So think things through. Be patient. If somebody tries to give you a hard sell, you know they're peddling snake oil; don't buy it. If something's not worth pondering, it is certainly not worth doing. And if your gut tells you something's fishy, trust your gut.
--
Second recommendation: Go off-road.
--
Third: Commit.

Tolstoy once said all happy marriages are happy in the same way and here's what he meant. When both people commit, when they say, "You and I are bound together, forever, period, no questions, no codicils, no pre-nups, no escape clauses," then all of a sudden, the temptations become irrelevant, and the glories become possible.

There is nothing like the pleasure of being a parent. Waking up the next morning to somebody whose breath has become the echo of your heartbeat. Trust me on this, it does not get any better. Commit.
--
Next, get out.

I've been informed by my teenage daughter that there's a new trend in high school now: dating. Only it's a peculiar kind of dating because the "datees" do not actually spend time in each other's presence. Instead they conduct their courtship online. Now technology invites us to build communities out of electrons rather than blood and flesh and I'm just encouraging you, please understand the difference between a closed parenthesis followed by a colon, and a smile. Ladies and gentlemen, you cannot kiss a cursor.

Finally, love
How trite is that? But it's everything. It separates happiness from misery. It separates the full life from the empty life. To love is to acknowledge that life is not about you. I want you to remember that: It's not about you. It's a hard lesson. A lot of people go through life and never learn it. It's to submit willingly, heart and soul, to things that matter. Love is not melodrama. You don't purchase it, you don't manufacture it. You build it.

Every time I buy something gaudy for my wife she says, "Oh that's nice," and then it goes away someplace. The love letters she keeps; I don't know where the jewelry is.
--
Think not only of what it means to love but what it means to be loved. I have a lot of experience with that. Since the news that I have cancer again, I have heard from thousands and thousands of people and I have been the subject of untold prayers. I'm telling you right now: You're young [and you feel] bullet-proof and invincible. [But] never underestimate the power of other people's love and prayer. They have incredible power. It's as if I've been carried on the shoulders of an entire army. And they had made me weightless. The soldiers in the army just wanted to do a nice thing for somebody. As I mentioned, a lot of people - everybody out here - wants to do that same thing.
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March 17, 2007

The Great Hunger and Nine Famous Irishmen

I wrote this post last year for Third Age, and thought why not repost it this year because so few people know about the Great Hunger.  The Irish who fled the famine emigrated around the world and were such successful immigrants, so completely integrating into the mainstream culture  wherever they landed, they lost touch with their own history. 

Some say the potato first arrived in Ireland when they washed up on shore following the shipwreck of the 130 ships of the Spanish Armada in 1588 in a violent storm.  It didn’t take long for the potato to become popular as a healthy and reliable source of food and soon the mainstay of the Irish peasantry.  Grown underground, it was plentiful even during times of war, surviving when other crops and livestock were destroyed.  The population of Ireland soared with more than two thirds living on the land, dependent on a potato harvest that, unlike grain, could not be stored.

When the potato blight appeared in 1845 and spread in 1846,  people were left with nothing to eat, with no way to make money to support themselves.  By the end of the worst years of the potato famine, 1847-1849, more than one million Irishmen women and children died of starvation in "The Great Hunger."  Another 1.5 million emigrated.

About a half million were evicted by their landlords, many sent away in overcrowded "coffin ships" to Canada with little food, almost no water and no doctors.  Already weak and sick, often more than half died.  It was said that sharks could be seen following the ships because so many bodies were thrown overboard.

Remember now, Ireland was part of Great Britain and in this time of greatest need, the English government washed their hands of the "Irish problem" by dumping the entire cost and responsibility of famine relief upon the Irish property owners.  They closed down the public works programs and soup kitchens which were a "temporary solution" for the first crop failure.

With the passage of the Poor Law, anyone seeking relief who owned more than a quarter acre in land had to forfeit their land.

Men could only get relief if they went as destitute paupers to workhouses already overfull with widows, children and the elderly.  People were turned away in droves. They wandered the countryside, living in holes and under bridges, eating grass and dying in ditches.

In Donegal Union, ten thousand persons were found living "in a state of degradation and filth which it is difficult to believe the most barbarous nations ever exceeded," according to the Quaker, William Forster. His organization, the Society of Friends, had refused to work in cooperation with the new Poor Law.

Still, it was not enough as the British Government called for maximum pressure to collect taxes and tax collectors seized livestock, furniture, clothes and tools from homeless paupers.  As a matter of policy they would not supply food to the starving people who were considered feckless and reckless for depending on the potato.  In 1861 in The Last Conquest of Ireland, John Mitchel wrote: "The Almighty indeed sent the potato blight but the English created the famine."

  Irish Famine

Little wonder that intense hatred grew against the British.  Unrest by a group of Irish nationalists known as ‘Young Ireland’ caused the British government to send in troops to quell any sort of popular uprising.  Habeas corpus was suspended and the Treason Felony Act was passed that made speaking against the Crown or the Parliament punishable by deportation to Australia for life.

Ireland was forced to pay for its own relief.  Landlords tore down houses so they wouldn’t have to pay taxes, evicting tenants in the winter with nowhere to go.  Men and women who had never committed any crimes deliberately committed crimes so they could be deported.  The horrors of the Great Hunger are unimaginable to us today and deeply shameful to those who survived it.

Michael Shaughnessy, a barrister in Ireland, described children he encountered while traveling on his circuit as "almost naked, hair standing on end, eyes sunken, lips pallid, protruding bones of little joints visible." In another district, there was a report of a woman who had gone insane from hunger and eaten the flesh of her own dead children. In other places, people killed and ate dogs which themselves had been feeding off dead bodies.

So shameful is the memory of the famine that those who survived rarely spoke of it.  Those of Irish descent now living in the U.S or Canada or Australia are only beginning to learn about the Great Hunger, through contemporary Irish bands like Black 47, recent books like the National Book Award winner, Ship Fever by Andrea Barrett and the PBS series on the Irish in America.

What’s most often told is the glory of a new life in a new land.  The most famous of which is the story of "Nine Famous Irishmen’ reprinted on countless restaurant placemats.

In the Young Irish disorders, in Ireland in 1848 the following nine men were captured, tried, and convicted of treason against Her Majesty, the Queen, and were sentenced to death: John Mitchell, Morris Lyene, Pat Donahue, Thomas McGee, Charles Duffy, Thomas Meagher, Richard O’Gorman, Terrence McManus, Michael Ireland.

Before passing sentence, the judge asked if there was anything that anyone wished to say. Meagher, speaking for all, said, "My lord, this is our first offense but not our last. If you will be easy with us this once, we promise, on our word as gentlemen, to try to do better next time. And next time - sure we won’t be fools to get caught."

Thereupon the indignant judge sentenced them all to be hanged by the neck until dead and drawn and quartered.  Passionate protest from all the world forced Queen Victoria to commute the sentence to transportation for life to far wild Australia.

In 1874, word reached the astounded Queen Victoria that the Sir Charles Duffy who had been elected Prime Minister of Australia was the same Charles Duffy who had been transported 25 years before.  On the Queen’s demand, the records of the rest of the transported men were revealed and this is what was uncovered:

    THOMAS FRANCIS MEAGHER, Governor of Montana

    TERRENCE MCMANUS, Brigadier General, United States Army

    PATRICK DONAHUE, Brigadier General, United States Army

    RICHARD O’GORMAN, Governor General of Newfoundland

    MORRIS LYENE, Attorney General of Australia, in which office
    MICHAEL IRELAND succeeded him

    THOMAS D’ARCY MCGEE, Member of Parliament, Montreal, Minister of
    Agriculture and President of Council Dominion of Canada

    JOHN MITCHELL, prominent New York politician. This man was the father of John
    Purroy Mitchell, Mayor of New York, at the outbreak of World War I.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:17 PM | Permalink

March 9, 2007

Why You Never Heard of James Tooley

This surprised me and I think it will surprise you especially if you are interested in education, aid to the poor or development of the Third World.

Cheap private schools are educating poor children across the developing world despite the handicaps states put upon them and without much encouragement from the international aid establishment.

James Tooley did research in India, parts of China, Ghana, Kenya and Nigeria.
In every case, private education is a principal lifeline for the abjectly poor
--
On the whole, dime-a-day for-profit schools are doing a better job of teaching the poorest children than the far more expensive state schools. In many localities, private schools operate alongside a free, government-run alternative. Many parents, poor as they may be, have chosen to reject it and to pay perhaps a tenth of their meager incomes to educate their children privately. They would hardly do that unless they expected better results.

The Ten-Cent Solution (link fixed)

You've never heard of James Tooley...The reason you haven’t heard of James Tooley is that his work is something of an embarrassment to the official aid and development industry. He has demonstrated something that many development professionals would rather not know—and would prefer that you not know, either.

Hat tip to Amy Wellborn.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:49 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

February 28, 2007

Patient Advocates - Your Attorneys in the Court of Medicine

Dr. Jonathan Fine is organizing some of his retired colleagues in a new venture called Bedside Advocates to provide one-on-one support and comfort to people in hospitals, an educated ombudsman as it were.

From retired caregivers, a spoonful of compassion.
The volunteers with Bedside Advocates will not practice medicine. Instead, they aim to provide comfort and compassion while helping fragile and elderly patients navigate the increasingly complex medical system by accompanying them to the doctor's office, the hospital, and the nursing home. They hope to help patients get better care by empowering them to ask questions, follow their medication regimes, and get prompt attention to problems.

And most of all, they plan to be there when no one else is, providing relief for tired caregivers and support for patients without families, according to Dr. Jonathan Fine, who is leading the effort.
--

Fine, 75, of Cambridge, envisions a cadre of retired doctors, nurses, physician's assistants, and trained lay people who would provide one-on-one support to thousands of patients, seeking to humanize healthcare while reducing medical errors, complications, and hospitalizations. He has already recruited about 20 doctors and secured some start-up funding from the Legislature, and he plans to launch the program in a pilot phase this spring. The organization expects to find needy patients through practicing doctors, senior centers, and people who call asking for help.

Said one man whom Dr. Fine helped deal with a "litany of specialists".

It's like having your own attorney in the court of medicine. A man like Jonathan, the US needs millions like him."

If it works, it could be a national model.  It's how I envision solving the health care crisis of  boomers getting older  - boomers helping each other.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:52 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

February 26, 2007

The Tin Noses Shop

Amid the horrors of World War I, a corps of artists brought hope to soldiers disfigured in the trenches.

Faces of War

Wounded tommies facetiously called it "The Tin Noses Shop." Located within the 3rd London General Hospital, its proper name was the "Masks for Facial Disfigurement Department"; either way, it represented one of the many acts of desperate improvisation borne of the Great War, which had overwhelmed all conventional strategies for dealing with trauma to body, mind and soul.

Trained as an artist, Francis Derwent Wood was 44 when he enlisted in the war and too old to fight in combat, he became an orderly in a London hospital where he  found meaning and purpose in creating masks for those for whom plastic surgery was not enough.

His new metallic masks, lightweight and more permanent than the rubber prosthetics previously issued, were custom designed to bear the prewar portrait of each wearer. Within the surgical and convalescent wards, it was grimly accepted that facial disfigurement was the most traumatic of the multitude of horrific damages the war inflicted. "Always look a man straight in the face," one resolute nun told her nurses. "Remember he's watching your face to see how you're going to react."

In Sidcup, England, the town that was home to Gillies' special facial hospital, some park benches were painted blue; a code that warned townspeople that any man sitting on one would be distressful to view. A more upsetting encounter, however, was often between the disfigured man and his own image. Mirrors were banned in most wards, and men who somehow managed an illicit peek had been known to collapse in shock. "The psychological effect on a man who must go through life, an object of horror to himself as well as to others, is beyond description," wrote Dr. Albee. "...It is a fairly common experience for the maladjusted person to feel like a stranger to his world. It must be unmitigated hell to feel like a stranger to yourself."

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February 12, 2007

Thoughts on Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln is one of my great heroes.  Today on his birthday, I pleased to share new things I learned about him this year.

  Young Lincoln -1

When Albert Kaplan bought this daguerreotype, Portrait of a Young Man in 1977, it reminded him of Lincoln somehow.    Years later, he appears to have proved that it is a portrait of a young Lincoln with authentication both scholarly and authoritative available at Lincolnportrait.com

As a young man, Lincoln was not particularly religious.  He never joined a church, was never baptized and never made any profession of belief.    Yet, something happened to change his mind.  In President Lincoln's Secret, Professor Allen Guelzo writes

Lincoln’s election to the presidency, just in time to see the country fall into civil war, presented him with a different set of challenges to his meager stock of religious belief. Lincoln expected a quick and direct restoration of the Union. But in battle after battle, the Union armies were handed humiliating defeats. The president could make no logical sense of this apparent contradiction of progress. After a year-and-a-half of seemingly fruitless bloodshed, he concluded that God had taken a direct hand in events to stymie the war’s progress so long as it was waged for purely political purposes, and to force Lincoln to recognize that the war must be turned in a moral direction that spoke directly to the crime of slavery.


This insight is what eventually drove Lincoln to depart from the policy direction with which he had begun the war, and to issue the Emancipation Proclamation. To the astonishment of his Cabinet, Lincoln explained that his decision to issue the Proclamation was a “vow” he had made “to myself, and...to my Maker.”

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December 12, 2006

Troubled Children

At least six million American children have serious mental disorders, according to government surveys, a number that has tripled since the early 1990s writes Zach Lynch in Brain Waves who has many links to articles describing some  the difficulties families have in sorting through conflicting advice and diagnoses.

Such a tragedy for both the children and the parents. 

I wonder how much is exacerbated by the frenetic pace of the modern world, the pressure to compete and succeed, fragmented families and an increasingly depraved mass culture. 

It's hard for anyone to find a foothold, a sure place on which to grow.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:36 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

December 7, 2006

"Heroism by Silence"

The Afghan keyholders who put love of art and country above all else and hid the country's national treasures from the Russians, the Taliban, warlords, drug lords and Islamic fundamentalists, pledged never to tell where they were hidden.

One keyholder was tortured, international art officials say. Another survived by selling potatoes in the Kabul market. Through it all, they kept their secret.
----
On Wednesday, the fruits of their silence went on display at the Guimet Museum in Paris.  It began exhibiting more than 220 artifacts from the Afghan National Museum, including masterpieces of gold and ivory that have never been seen in public and that a few years ago were believed lost forever.

In fact, the pieces had been delicately wrapped in toilet paper and newspaper and stashed in such places as a bombproof vault in the basement of Afghanistan's presidential palace, where keyholders finally revealed them to Afghan President Hamid Karzai about three years ago.

"It was heroism by silence. It was the Afghan curators and keyholders themselves who preserved these things and . . . made sure no one got into the storerooms," said Fredrik Hiebert, an archaeologist at the National Geographic Society who inventoried the artifacts at the request of the Afghan government. "They were safeguarding these treasures even when people couldn't eat, and when people said they would kill them if they didn't give them up. But they didn't."

On Display, The Fruits of Afghan Altruism.

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November 20, 2006

Young, rich and miserable

MTV Survey of 5400 young people in 14 countries

Young people in developing nations are at least twice as likely to feel happy about their lives than their richer counterparts, a survey says.

Indians are the happiest overall and Japanese the most miserable.

Only 8% in Japan said they were happy, fewer than 30% in the US and  Britain while 75% in Argentine and South Africa were happy.

Lets see,  In developed countries, young people have little optimism, are concerned about jobs and globalization and feel the pressure to succeed.

In underdeveloped countries, young people are more religious and expected their lives to be better in the future.

Too easy a life, too much stuff, and rich, young people lose a sense of meaning, passion and purpose.

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November 19, 2006

Secret Santa Has Cancer

For more than 26 years, Larry Stewart was the Secret Santa who gave away millions of dollars and no one knew who he was.

Now that he has cancer,

he wants to inspire others to do the same. He said he thinks that people should know that he was born poor, was briefly homeless, dropped out of college, has been fired from jobs, and once even considered robbery.

But he said every time he hit a low point in his life, someone gave him money, food and hope, and that's why he has devoted his life to returning the favors.

Returning the kindness of strangers.

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October 31, 2006

Lending the Poor out of Poverty

I often write drafts of posts and save them to finish later.  One such saved and forgotten start was about the Nobel Prize for Economics being awarded to Muhammad Yunus whose micro-lending ventures gave a path out of poverty to millions of the world's poor.

Better than anything I could write are two posts.

From Gates of Vienna:  From Rags to a Roof Over Your Head

From 37 days: Help someone buy a cow.  Patti met him years ago when she interviewed him for a book.

But this one, this Nobel Peace Prize, I agree with completely. And so, in honor of Mr. Yunus, here is the chapter I wrote some six years ago about his quiet, small revolution. Well done, Mr Yunus, well done:

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September 15, 2006

Rao's Rules

Long before Harvard began teaching Happiness, soon to become the most popular introductory class there, Columbia was offering a course in the Meaning of Life.

"Creativity and Personal Mastery by Srikumar Rao aims at nothing less than to help each student "discover your unique purpose for existence".    The "perennially oversubscribed" course is demanding, requiring extensive reading and time-consuming exercises.  Now, he has a book covering much of the same material.


"Are You Ready to Succeed? Unconventional Strategies to Achieving Personal Mastery in Business and Life" (Srikumar S. Rao)

It's the Ivy League version of Rick Warren's A Purpose-Driven Life, a book that has sold an astonishing 20 million copies,    People have an huge hunger for meaning and purpose in their lives.  I've read Rao's book and I think it's quite good.  If you want to get full value, be prepared to do the exercises.

Said Professor Rao who is considered a "life-long resource" for his students.

"At business schools, the vast majority of students don't have a clue what they really want to do."

"They're in business school for a number of reasons -- the most important one is economic security, they want to go out and make a ton of money, they want to be in a prestigious company."

However, many are also wary of the long hours and intensely competitive environment typical of post-MBA employers such as investment banks, he notes.

"My basic thesis is that work hours are getting longer and longer and more grueling. But if you don't get up in the morning with your blood singing at the thought of what you do, if you're not really into your life, then you're wasting your life. And life is short."

This can come as a shock to the traditional MBA student, many of whom have progressed seamlessly -- and successfully -- through school, university and the start of their business career.

"Just the thought that someone comes out and puts it so boldly is like getting hit in the face with a wet fish," Rao says. "They off and think about it, and they say: 'By golly, he's right!'"

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:33 AM | Permalink

August 27, 2006

Loud and Proud for Clouds.

Cloudspotting
I was trying with the book to get people to look at something that was so familiar, but to just try and think about it in a slightly different way," says Pretor-Pinney. "And that's a kind of shift that I think can happen. They look up and these clouds have been there the whole time, but they look up and go, 'Wait a minute, they are incredibly beautiful and I never really stopped to think about it.

A 38-year-old Englishman, Gavin Pretor-Phinney, started the Cloud Appreciation Society on a lark that you can join for about $6.  After finding no book on clouds despite the fact we all have been watching clouds since childhood,  he wrote The Cloudspotter's Guide, a surprise hit in Britain and I imagine soon here.

The Manifesto

WE BELIEVE that clouds are unjustly maligned
and that life would be immeasurably poorer without them.

We think that they are Nature’s poetry,
and the most egalitarian of her displays, since
everyone can have a fantastic view of them.

We pledge to fight ‘blue-sky thinking’ wherever we find it.
Life would be dull if we had to look up at
cloudless monotony day after day.

We seek to remind people that clouds are expressions of the
atmosphere’s moods, and can be read like those of
a person’s countenance.

Clouds are so commonplace that their beauty is often overlooked.
They are for dreamers and their contemplation benefits the soul.
Indeed, all who consider the shapes they see in them will save
on psychoanalysis bills.

And so we say to all who'll listen:
Look up, marvel at the ephemeral beauty, and live life with your head in the clouds!

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August 22, 2006

Fleeing from Rwanda, "I never gave up hope"

When the Hutu militias came to his front door in Kigali, Rwanda, Damascene held them off so his pregnant wife could escape out the back door with his young three-year old son Derrick.

As Jeanne fled she saw her husband being beaten and she didn't know if he had been killed.  All she could do was save the children.
Two weeks later, she was in Brussels and a week after that she gave birth.

Damascene lost all 11 brothers and sisters, his parents and 140 others from his extended family.  He thought he lost his wife too.

Damascene fled through Africa to Indonesia, than to East Timor, then to Darwin, Australia where he told immigration officials his passport was forged.  They locked him up; he was safe. 

He reached Darwin in 2001, was released from Villawood as a temporary resident in 2002 and granted permanent Australian residency last year. He had not given up hope and sought Red Cross help to find his family.

They finally found her in Brussels. He flew to her in February. "Thank God, you're safe," he said. And: "Why didn't you find someone else?"

"Because I never gave up hope. And I could see you in your son's face." He replied: "Thank you. Thank God."

Once were lost, but family finally found.

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August 16, 2006

Maybe you're rotting on the vine

Exhausted are you? 

You know that the antidote to exhaustion is not necessarily rest?"

"The antidote to exhaustion is not necessarily rest," I repeated woodenly, as if I might exhaust myself completely before I reached the end of the sentence. "What is it, then?"

"The antidote to exhaustion is wholeheartedness."

It's David Whyte on meeting Brother David. A remarkable essay

You have ripened already, and you are waiting to be brought in. Your exhaustion is a form of inner fermentation. You are beginning, ever so slowly to rot on the vine.

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August 9, 2006

Learning to Die, Learning to Live

Learning to Die is quite a remarkable essay by Brother David Steindl-Rast.

on awareness of death
In the rule of St. Benedict, the momento mori has always been important, because one of what St. Benedict calls “the tools of good works” – meaning the basic approaches to the daily life of the monastery – is to have death at all times before one’s eyes....it is a seeing of every moment of life against the horizon of death, and a challenge to incorporate that awareness of dying into every moment so as to become more fully alive.

on purpose and meaning
With purposes, we must be active and in control. We must, as we say, “take the reins,” “take things in hand,” “keep matters under control,” and utilize circumstances like tools that serve our aims....But matters are different when we deal with meaning. Here it is not a matter of using, but of savoring the world around us. In the idioms we use that relate to meaning, we depict ourselves as more passive than active: “It did something to me”; “it touched me deeply”; “it moved me.”

on life.

Life, if it isn’t a give and take, is not life at all. The taking corresponds to the active phase, to our “purpose” when we do something; while the giving of ourselves to whatever it is that we experience is the gesture by which meaning flows into our lives. It must be stressed that this is not an either/or; life is not a give or take, but a give and take; if we only take or only give, we are not alive. If we only take breath in we suffocate, and if we only breathe out we also suffocate. The heart pumps the blood in and pumps it out; and it is in the rhythm of give and take that we live.

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July 31, 2006

Is Longer Better?

Another wonderful post from the Doctor Is In wherein he ruminates on the endless pursuit of a longer life.

For we who live longer in such an idyllic world may not live better: we may indeed live far worse. Should we somehow master these illnesses which cripple us in our old age, and thereby live beyond our years, will we then encounter new, even more frightening illnesses and disabilities? And what of the spirit? Will a man who lives longer thereby have a longer opportunity to do good, or rather to do evil? Will longevity increase our wisdom, or augment our depravity? Will we, like Dorian Gray, awake to find our ageless beauty but a shell for our monstrous souls?
------
Like all, I trust, I hope to live life long, and seek a journey lived in good health and sound mind. But even more–far more indeed–do I desire that those days yet remaining–be they long or short–be rich in purpose, wise in time spent, and graced by love.

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July 15, 2006

Colossal Achievement and Born American

Gutzon Borglum was 60 years old when he began to carve Mount Rushmore. 

Fourteen years later he died and his son completed the finishing touches on his 'colossal achievement'  - four Presidential portraits of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt carved in granite.  Another

A lot of people shrink from Mt. Rushmore.  They say it's too big, too schmaltzy.  It's not politically or environmentally correct. 

They don't experience the "little frisson of excitement and uncomplicated patriotism" that Judith Dobryznski  did and writes about  in A Monumental Achievement  (Wall St Journal, subscribers only)

Borglum consented only to do something bigger. He wanted to create a monument to the American philosophy, a celebration of the American spirit. That, he said, could be done only by portraying the nation's greatest presidents, picked by him.
--

Granite is a blunt medium, not given to nuance. Yet these portraits do seem to capture the essence of each man.

Less than a year before he died, Borglum talked of the pleasure he experienced at Rushmore. "This is the work I love most, this intimate contact with the four men," he told the New York Times in August 1940. "As I became engrossed in the features and personalities of each man, I felt myself growing in stature, just as they did when their characters grew and developed."

Borglum believed in the bigness of America -- in growth, dreams, abilities.

Peter Schramm, an Hungarian immigrant who now teaches American history to Americans at Ashland University, describes something similar to Borglum's intimacy with these men as he encounters the real words  and meaning of the founding fathers.   

Why had I put all of this effort into studying so much of European history and politics? There was nothing wrong with it, in itself. But these most important questions - What is freedom? What is justice? What is equality?  -these were not answered in the history books I had been devouring. These were questions tackled by men like Jefferson, Madison, Washington and Lincoln and contemplated before by men like Plato, Aristotle, Locke, and many others. This is where I could get a true education. So I started anew.
---
It was here that I began to see what it meant to try to establish a Novus Ordo Seclorum. I began to see that all governments previous to ours had been established on accident and force, and now these American Founders insisted on establishing one on universal principles applicable to all men at all times, one established on reflection and choice. In America, human beings could prove to the world that they had the capacity to govern themselves. The Founders, according to Lincoln, proclaimed equality and freedom to "the whole world of men." It was here that I came to understand what Lincoln meant by the Declaration of Independence being the "electric cord" that linked all of us together, as though we were "blood of the blood, and flesh of the flesh, of the men who wrote that Declaration." This is what it meant to be an American, and it wasn't all that far from being a man.

His piece  Born American, but in the Wrong Place is a stellar piece of writing and a view of America you have not heard before.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:00 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

July 12, 2006

Happiness Roundup

A fine and exhaustive piece on the positive psychology movement can be found in this week's New York magazine. Some Dark Thoughts on Happiness or do New Yorkers want to be happy.

Writer Jennifer Senior interviews a number of psychologists and researchers including Martin Seligman who kicked the whole positive psychology movement.

   Smiley Art

She reports on the number of colleges now offering courses in positive psychology after the immense appeal of the course offered at an instructor at Harvard, Tal Ben-Shahar. Naturally, when Harvard Teaches Happiness, a lot of people pay attention.

While I read Stumbling on Happiness by Harvard professor Daniel Gilbert, I never got around to posting anything on it. What follows in a nutshell is all you need to know about it, thanks to Jennifer Senior. Me, I preferred by far Jonathan Haidt's book, The Happiness Hypothesis.

And no matter where they live, human beings are terrible predictors of what will make them happy. If Stumbling on Happiness tells us anything, it’s this. “Imagination,” says Gilbert, “is the poor man’s wormhole.” Our imagination has an odd knack for Photoshopping things in and airbrushing things out, which is why we think that getting back together with our exes is a good idea; it also tends to mistake our present feelings for future ones, which is why, when we decide to marry the right person, we find it unthinkable we’ll ever be tempted to sleep with anyone else.


At the same time, we forget that our imagination has a miraculous ability to rationalize its way out of grim situations—which is why we’re more likely to take a positive view of things we did than things we didn’t (so go ahead and ask that woman to marry you), more comfortable with decisions we can’t reverse than ones we can, and more apt to make the best of a terrible situation than a merely annoying one.


Because our imaginations are limited, we can be disappointed by the things we covet most. But it also means—and this is the gorgeous part—that we’re much more likely to cope well with situations we never thought we’d be able to survive. Perhaps the most profound study Gilbert cites is about the disabled, showing that those who are permanently injured say they’d be willing to pay far less to undo their injuries than able-bodied people say they’d pay to prevent them. It’s possible, as Gilbert notes, that they may even find some silver lining in their experiences, as when the late Christopher Reeve memorably said, “I didn’t appreciate others nearly as much as I do now.”

I've posted a lot about The Science of Happiness because I believe we have a Moral Obligation to be Happy to make the world a better place.

Forget the Market for Zombies. We know that Angry/negative people are bad for your brain. We don't want to be Soul Less.

So Who's Happy? People who are Hungry for Meaning. People who want to swim in a River of Joy, choose the Uphill Climb, sing at the Church of the Divine Road Trip, and Go Straight to the Good in Everything. They want to Look to the Good Things, and Find What We Love.

Even if they're just An Ordinary Guy, they learn Lessons from a Billionaire and look at their Wealth in 3-D. They know When Just Enough Is All Your Need and what their First Business is and they look at Investing in their Net Worth as Human Beings.

They don't need a Quaker Powerpoint to know What Really Matters , that Meaning not gadgets brings happiness, so does embracing the Five Things We Cannot Change. They Love More, Have Less.

They can transform an horrific act by Teaching Kindness. They believe in Paying It Forward. They hope some day to experience a luminous Moment of Grace Above all, they know it's Empathy and the Golden Rule.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:11 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

July 10, 2006

Angels of Life

On the troubled continent of Africa, the good news that AIDS drugs can give people their lives back - with help

Hospice `angels of death' become partners in survival, Outlasting AIDS in Africa

Hospice care, here as around the world, has long meant helping the desperately ill manage their pain and find a good death. But, increasingly, hospice workers in places like Mamelodi have become escorts back into life

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:41 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

July 5, 2006

The Gift That Increases

The Glorious Fourth every year opens up the opportunity to ponder the Legacy in which each and every American partakes.

At the very beginning of The American Soul, Jacob Needleman tells the story of

"You don't know what you have here," said the old man to the students who had gathered to meet him in the summer of 1974, who spoke with contempt of the Vietnam War, the destruction of the environment by rapacious corporations, and the media's complicity in spreading the toxic American consumerism worldwide.

"You simply don't know what you have," repeated the self-proclaimed last American who was in fact British.


"The American Soul : Rediscovering the Wisdom of the Founders" (Jacob Needleman)

Focusing on the wrongs perpetrated in the name of the United States, some see little of value. Others take it for granted. Only those who truly see its value, its ability for self correction and the last, best hope can live lives worthy of the legacy they have received.

Unless we fully accept the glorious gift we have received from the farmers who died a painful death for the idea of a United States, from the founding fathers, from the families who suffered as fathers, brothers and sons fell in the Civil War to preserve the Union and end slavery, from the countless, innumerable others before us who gave us an increased Legacy, we can not preserve and increase the gift itself to those that follow.

UPDATE.

Via Hang Right on Tony Blair's speech to Congress in 2003 on what it is to be an American.

We are fighting for the inalienable right of humankind–black or white, Christian or not, left, right or a million different–to be free, free to raise a family in love and hope, free to earn a living and be rewarded by your efforts, free not to bend your knee to any man in fear, free to be you so long as being you does not impair the freedom of others.

That’s what we’re fighting for. And it’s a battle worth fighting.

And I know it’s hard on America, and in some small corner of this vast country, out in Nevada or Idaho or these places I’ve never been to, but always wanted to go…

I know out there there’s a guy getting on with his life, perfectly happily, minding his own business, saying to you, the political leaders of this country, “Why me? And why us? And why America?”

And the only answer is, “Because destiny put you in this place in history, in this moment in time, and the task is yours to do.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:20 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

June 28, 2006

Lazy Advice to Graduates

If you are entering the so-called “real” world or if you are extending your stay in the “unreal," here is my advice:

Fall in love.

Not necessarily with another person, although that is nice, but fall in love with some area of knowledge. Don’t study a subject or take some job just because you think you can make a lot of money at it. Pursue a direction because it inspires you, because it feeds your soul, because it challenges you and causes you to grow as a person, because it advances the human condition.

Read more at Fred Gratzon's blog the Lazy Way to Success, where doing less accomplishes more.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:58 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

June 26, 2006

A Wedding to Die For

  Hugh O'brian Wyatt Earp 2

Hugh O'Brian who some of us remember as Wyatt Earp married for the first time at age 81 to his girlfriend of 18 years, Virginia Barber, 54.

The ceremony, dubbed a Wedding to Die For, took place at a cemetery, Forest Lawn Memorial Park.

O'Brian, who won honors in high school and in the Marine Corps almost became a lawyer until he went to L.A. determined to earn money for tuition. He not only became an actor, he became a humanitarian and a visionary after meeting Dr. Albert Schweitzer in Africa.

He continued to win awards for his screen and stage work, but none probably meant as much to him as the honors he won for his work for over 50 years in youth leadership, called HOBY, empowering youth to achieve their highest potential.

But until June 25, he never had the honor of being a husband. In lieu of gifts at his wedding, he asked for donations to HOBY.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:23 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

June 17, 2006

Sick blogs

Sick blogs help afflicted share news and seek comfort.

Last week, two Web sites, carepages .com and caringbridge.org, which host more formal "patient pages" through hospitals, reported a combined increase from 46,000 personal sites to 95,000 in the past year.
---

In the late 1990s, just as the Internet reached mainstream usage, sociologist Frank was one of the first to predict that a "new patient" would emerge from the era, one who researched his or her ailments in the comfort of home, then challenged a doctor with the newly acquired knowledge. Sick blogs and patient pages are evidence that that moment has arrived, Frank said, a sign that the new patient has gained an unprecedented sense of empowerment from his online community. In turn, he said, it also has created a new tension between patients and physicians.

"What doctor likes being confronted by a patient who's been up all night canvassing the Internet?" Frank asked.
--

"You could call it a new grief ritual," said Victoria Pitts, an assistant sociology professor at City University of New York, who authored a 2004 study about breast cancer patients inspired to start personal Web sites. "These people have created a new personal narrative to their illness, which goes beyond the health protocols they might have found on
WebMD. ... But whether it's helping their recovery is still speculative. It's certainly transformed it."

That transformation is being experienced by bloggers such as Jeannette Vagnozzi, a 41-year-old resident of La Verne (Los Angeles County), who writes about her breast cancer on
2hands.blogspot .com.

Transcending time and space, the internet connects people who want to be connected and puts up a little flag at each sick blog inviting people in.

For anyone newly diagnosed with an illness, sick blogs are the way to learn what they can expect as they go forward and leave a record for others.

Harvard professor Daniel Gilbert confirms in his new book Stumbling on Happinessthat the best way to imagine the future is to look to other people who are going through or been through what we now are contemplating.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:02 PM | Permalink

June 16, 2006

Hungry for Meaning


"Menace in Europe : Why the Continent's Crisis Is America's, Too" (Claire Berlinski)

As I was reading Berlinski's chilling and urgent book, I was struck by a passage about a British psychotherapist who specialized in psychosomatic illness. Apparently, he's treating many, especially women, who are on restrictive vegetarian diets and who suffer from depression anxiety and too many colds.

He believes that at the heart of the food fixation is religion. His patients, having rejected theism and Christianity, are embarking on a desperate quest to conquer the unacceptable prospect of disease, aging and personal extinction.

For ten years he was a Freudian until his own explorations into psychology, philosophy and literature convinced him that love, integrity, compassion and courage - values common to all religions - were more important than he realized.

The focus of his practice now is to impart these common religious values that, he believes, give life meaning. His clients don't even have a vocabulary for these ideas which he calls the true deliverers of the Good Life.

He has his clients to try them out for a week. Without fail, they come back and say, yes, being more honest with the spouses, children and parents did yield meaningful results. They felt more deeply anchored in themselves.

His patients don't come to him in a search for meaning, they come for anxiety or depression. When that's cleared up, he asks them,
"What do you want your life to stand for, what do you think you're here for?"

Almost without exception, they get fascinated by that and do another year with him.

"I love that stage of work."

Berlinski comments that given a choice between the British vegetarianism and high colonics, is it any wonder that so many disaffected are turning to Islam for meaning/

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:07 PM | Permalink

Republican marrow

When chemotherapy did not work for her leukemia, she had to wait for a bone marrow transplant to save her life. She joked what if the bone marrow was from a Republican!

Well, it was as Mary Traver from Peter Paul and Mary learned when she called the donor to thank her.

We are more alike than we are different.

Peter, Paul & Mary Still Have a Song to Sing All Over This Land.

These days Ms. Travers's thoughts turn to much more than music. In conversation, she mused on mortality and the trio's long relationship.

"I think I scared the boys," Ms. Travers said of her ordeal, referring to Mr. Yarrow and Mr. Stookey, who are both 68. "I think of them as my brothers." She was sitting in Mr. Yarrow's apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, where her husband, Ethan Robbins ("I call him St. Ethan"), often stayed while she was being treated at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.


Said Mr. Yarrow said of the cancer scare, "In our case, every little bit of nonsense between us disappeared."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:06 AM | Permalink

June 5, 2006

Tip's Tunnel

I know it's been the most expensive public works project in history, I can only trust that they will fill all the leaks, but today the Big Dig will become Tip's Tunnel.

Tunnel is Tip O'Neill's triumphant legacy.

THIS WEEK we will make official what many of us have known all along: The Big Dig is a monument to Tip O'Neill. More than that, though, it is a monument to a time when great politicians used their political muscle to do great things for ordinary people.

Tomorrow the tunnel from Chinatown to the Lenny Zakim Bridge will be dedicated the Thomas P. ``Tip" O'Neill Jr. Tunnel. It was O'Neill who won the funds that began the project and kept it alive even over Ronald Reagan's veto. Reagan knew what he was talking about when he called it ``Tip's Tunnel."
--
The construction of this engineering miracle is a monument to political civility that has all but disappeared, to a time before big money, partisanship, and a pervasive negativity ruled government. It was a time when politicians were able to do important things -- to build for the future -- working across party lines
--
With all the talk of cost overruns and delays and leaks we are losing sight of what has been accomplished. A city that was choking to death in traffic has a new face. The central artery wasn't just an eyesore but a divider of neighborhoods.
The Big Dig has thrown open the city to the sunlight, reconnected Boston to its harbor, and created the potential for one of the world's great urban green spaces.

The City of Boston is immensely better off and more beautiful.

Building for the future works.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:49 AM | Permalink

June 4, 2006

When ordinary moments become holy

When faced with a diagnosis of terminal cancer, ordinary moments become holy.

So Harry Lehotsky writes in the Winnepeg Sun

Being told you only have a short time to live has a way of sharpening your senses and adjusting your priorities and perspectives on life.

Many of the most ordinary events and encounters in life are infused with fresh meaning and significance.

A sunny day. The smell of lilacs. A good day at work. Greetings, hugs, goodbyes. We take too many people and things for granted.

Time simultaneously speeds up and slows down. It's hard to explain. It's like you're aware of how quickly hours and days speed by. But you're more determined than ever to juice the most out of every minute.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:05 PM | Permalink

May 22, 2006

Middlescence

American researchers have coined a new term. Middlescents are those workers between 35 and 54 who have burned themselves out.

Work Stressful? You may be a middlescent

The middlescent is frustrated, confused and exasperated, finding themselves leaving work feeling "burned out, bottlenecked and bored".
--

"It is a critical time for people and they have to rethink their whole life. Should they be less ambitious? Should they spend more time with their family?

"The critical time for that used to be well into your 50s, now it's getting younger.

It's what used to be called a mid-life crisis, but it seems to be happening earlier now. I think highly educated people who live in this world of abundance we enjoy today have more opportunities for identity crises throughout their lives. That's a good thing because it's usually a crisis that forces you to assess your life and find new meaning and passion.

I came across this quote today from Peter Drucker and it's such a good question that it's worth asking repeatedly over time.

"What can you and only you do, that if done well, can make a real difference."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:19 PM | Permalink

Magic Realism

Wonderful images by Rob Gonsalves at Seamless Pictures. Nothing is quite what it seems.


  Seamless Ron Gonzales

You can buy prints at the Saper Gallery

  Seamless 2 Rob Gonsalves

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:18 PM | Permalink

May 17, 2006

10 extra years

Everyone's getting into blogs. Take a look at John Bogle, founder and former CEO of the Vanguard Group, who's now writing the Bogle Blog.
You can even boogy with Bogle and "Ask Jack."

I liked a linked piece of his called Some meanings of life from a second chance. Turns out he had a heart transplant 10 years ago, a miracle at any time.

What did he get from the extra 10 years? Delight, gratitude and the opportunity to help build a better world.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:58 AM | Permalink

May 12, 2006

9/11 widows in Afghanistan

Two 9/11 widows from Massachusetts decided to use the financial support they received to help war widows in Afghanistan.

Quigley and Retik were both pregnant when hijacked jets carrying their husbands crashed into the World Trade Center in 2001, and met after the attacks. Retik saw an Oprah Winfrey show on Afghan women soon after the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001, and the two widows decided to help Afghan women.
---

''The way that I see it mostly is that she and Susan get so much support from their family and their community, and they saw that other women weren't getting the same thing," .....

The women made what they characterize as a ''substantial" donation of seed money for the Afghan programs from the financial support they received after the attacks -- money from strangers, their husbands' companies, and from insurance.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:31 AM | Permalink

April 21, 2006

Injustice Put Right for Heroine of Resistance


"Charlotte Gray

The real Charlotte Gray finally gets her wings, 61 years late.

SHE was handed her CBE insignia personally by the Queen, she is a heroine in her adopted France, and her wartime exploits in the French Resistance are the basis for an acclaimed novel. But for 63 years a little bit of sex discrimination has rankled with Pearl Cornioley.

Amends were made yesterday when two British officers travelled to her retirement home at Châteauvieux in southwest France to present the 91-year-old widow with her parachute wings.

Mme Cornioley, born in Paris to British expatriate parents, was one of the real-life models for Charlotte Gray, the Sebastian Faulks novel that became a film. She was so adept at blowing up railway lines that the occupying Nazis put a price on her head of a million francs.

----
She is modest about her war. “It was a complete accident that I ended up leading 1,500 Resistance fighters. I was not a military person — I was supposed to be a courier — but I ended up having to use whatever sense I had. But I certainly didn’t do this on my own.” Her valour was recognised and she was cited for the Military Cross. But the rules did not allow it; the MC was not for civilian women.

Hat tip to Rebecca Blood

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:37 PM | Permalink

April 7, 2006

Seeing Clearly a New Purpose

Dr. Fleishman was the chief of ophthalmology at Caritas Good Samaritan Medical Center in Brockton, MA, when he began to have trouble with his own eyes.

After a growth on his right eyelid damaged his cornea, he was forced to begin wearing corrective lenses. Then came treatment for a partially detached retina and severe carpal-tunnel syndrome. That condition left the eye surgeon with trembling hands and, in 2001, he was forced to retire. "My life just collapsed," Dr. Fleishman says.

What to do with the void in his life?

Finally, a family friend advised him to take another look at what he had left behind. "If you are going to focus on something, focus on optics," Cindy Port recalls telling him. "That is your love."

So that's just what he did.

Dr. Fleishman originally set out to publish a paper on spectacle history in a professional journal. But as he grew more captivated by what he discovered, he decided to launch a Web site instead to cover it all. Gathering pictures of spectacles that had belonged to everyone from Beethoven to Mark Twain, he was struck by how much the invention had changed the course of history.

"I saw myself putting together this puzzle and it just got bigger and bigger and bigger," he says. "Eyeglasses are taken for granted and yet they have had a profound impact on mankind. We are trying to show that they are important and deserve more recognition."

He's found new meaning and purpose.

Curators and collectors say that Dr. Fleishman's Web site has been an important contribution because it has connected spectacle enthusiasts around the world and offers instant access to images and information once available only from obscure publications and dusty archives.

Even better, he's made sure his project survives by revising his will to leave money to keep it going.

Hats off to Dr. Fleishman.

More at Eyeglass Buff Makes Historical Finds of a Spectacular Sort by Robert Tomsho in the Wall St Journal

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:59 PM | Permalink

April 2, 2006

Ready to Set Sail

Far from his home and family in the Dominican Republic, M'ximo Cid Ortiz has been in Washington, an outpatient at the NIH and is now dying of a bone marrow disease with only weeks to live, in his words, "ready to set sail."

He couldn't go home so his family came to him and his eldest daughter, a 14 year old pianist, performed a special concert to a packed hall, including a piece she composed in honor of her father, "Mi Alma" (My Soul). All because one friend Grace Rivera-Owen said, "That's something I could do." It was Music to a Father's Ears.


At night's end, friends and strangers approached Cid Ortiz. Many didn't know what to say.

"I can't describe the amount of gratitude I have," he said again and again.

His wife wiped drops of blood that dripped from his nose, tucking the stained tissues into a plastic wine cup as Cid Ortiz made his way out of the hall.

Cid Ortiz donned his surgical mask, stepped outside and boarded a waiting car. He returned to the hospital with Castillo and the girls, who have decided to stay by his side until he's ready to set sail.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:53 PM | Permalink

March 27, 2006

Their Fathers' Country

As boomers grow older, many find it imperative to learn more about their biological families in a search to find a greater sense of identity that might prove a clue to the question we all ask ourselves, "Why are we here?"

With the World War II generation passing over, the search has become more pressing.

Germany's War Children Scramble to Find Their GI Fathers.

"My earliest memory is of wondering, 'Who is my father?' " said Herbert Hack, 53, son of a young rural woman who fell hard for a good-looking GI. "I would beg my mother for answers, and she'd just say, 'Ssssh,' Until finally, when I turned 15, she told me: 'There was an American soldier. His name was Charles. One night we went dancing . . .' "
--
"I want so much to finally put a face to this mystery figure who has loomed over my family without ever being there," said Simone Mandl, 35, granddaughter of a GI and a married German woman. "He was an American soldier who had an affair with my grandmother while her husband was away at war. Their romance was tragic. Yet I believe she never stopped loving her American."

But some occupation offspring want more from their missing forebear - formal recognition of paternity, information about genetic disease, even a new identity in their father's image.
---
Best estimates are that 66,000 illegitimate children of GIs and German women were born in American-occupied zones from 1946 to 1956, according to historian Johannes Kleinschmidt, author of a book about US-German "fraternization" issues.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:19 PM | Permalink

March 15, 2006

Righteous Arabs and one Brave Woman

Neo-neocon has two remarkable posts exploring people who help others at great risk to themselves because their humanity demands it.

She calls it When Light Pierces the Darkness. They are the people you instinctively trust.

Moslem rescuers during the Holocaust

Another changed mind. Dr. Wafa Sultan

The following is the statement of hers that led me to believe that she shares the motivation of those Holocaust rescuers who declared that they simply could not do other than what they've done, whatever the personal consequences. Her decision was made some time ago, and now it's more important for that she speak out than to protect her life or even the lives of her relatives:

"I have no fear," she said. "I believe in my message. It is like a million-mile journey, and I believe I have walked the first and hardest 10 miles."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:12 PM | Permalink

March 10, 2006

Harvard Teaches Happiness

The most popular course at Harvard this semester, attracting 855 students, more than introductory Economics, is Positive Psychology, a course teaching happiness, how to have a fulfilling and flourishing life.

Said one junior
From what I've seen and experienced at Harvard, I think we could all use a little self-help like this."
----

The courses can change how you see yourself and your life, Lopez says. ''A lot of people are just not accustomed to asking, 'What do I have going for me?' and 'What did I do right today?' "

Marty Seligman, the University of Pennsylvania professor who is considered the father of positive psychology for his scholarship and efforts to promote it, said he saw a similar groundswell when he offered a course in 2003. He sees the student enthusiasm as reflecting the tremendous appeal of the positive psychology movement in society at large.

I wrote about Seligman earlier in The Science of Happiness and A River of Joy. It occurs to me as I read about this Harvard class that positive psychology is meeting a deep need that in earlier times was met by philosophy classes or mandatory daily chapel.

We used to take for granted that the goal of a liberal arts education was to learn how to live a deeper, fuller, more meaningful life. Today, philosophy and religion has become so encrusted and encumbered with political and cultural battles that few incoming students can penetrate their vital centers where both religion and philosophy contemplate how best to live one's life.

Positive Psychology, around less than 10 years, is still fresh and new though the lessons are age old.

Gratitude
Simplicity
Meaning
Attitude
Acceptance
Sound body, sound mind

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:01 PM | Permalink

February 17, 2006

Everything included

Thanks to Troy Worman, I clicked on Come Gather Round and found this terrific question

For what has my life been preparing me?


People who find a deep sense of purpose in their lives are almost always able to look back at their previous experience and see that nothing was wasted. Experiences such as the work that had gone before (even if unpleasant), a tragedy, seemingly random events and turning points, even childhood delights and traumas, were all preparation to fulfill the purpose.


So, if you are puzzling about the purpose that will guide you, the key to the puzzle may lie in the question,

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:20 AM | Permalink

February 16, 2006

Church of the Divine Road Trip

Three "existentially challenged Pepperdine University grads" traveled the country in a 1985 neon-green Fleetwood RV and interviewed 86 successful leaders in a variety of professions.

Every one essentially gave them the same career advice.

Block out the noise and
really pave your own road
guided by what lights you up
.

What's so surprising as they talked to twenty something college students, is that no one else, neither parents nor teachers, ever told them the gospel truth to follow your heart and lines of desire.

Countless emails arrive daily. "I sometimes [wonder] what would have become of my life had I never found your book that day in Target," reads one note from a recent grad who ditched her indifferent plans for law school and moved overseas. "Thank you . . . for writing about an experience in our lives most young people are too frightened to acknowledge."

Read Inspiration Junkies at Fast Company.

Seems like there's a big market in simple truths

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:35 AM | Permalink

Woman Interrupted

Why Donna Trussell is a writer and not a cancer survivor.

On the anniversary of my diagnosis, I followed the lead of another group member—I sent my oncologist a gift with a card that read, "Do you remember what you were doing three years ago today? I do. You were saving my life."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:11 AM | Permalink

February 13, 2006

They challenged slavery 200 years ago

William Wilberforce and Thomas Clarkson, the reformers who revolutionized public opinion and forced the Royal Navy to enforce the legislation passed by Parliament in 1807.

Elected to Parliament at the young age of 20, Wilberforce converted to Evangelical Christianity and presented the first bill to abolish the slave trade and made passionate speeches until the Abolition of the Slave Trade was abolished

Thomas Clarkson never thought about slavery until he entered an essay competition at Cambridge University in 1785 and won first prize. He later described a spiritual experience in which he was directed to devote his life to abolishing the slave trade.

In collecting information for his book A Summary View of the Slave Trade and the Probable Consequences of Its Abolition, he interviewed some 20,000 sailors. A brilliant writer, he won over Jane Austen who declared herself " in love with its author."

You would be surprised then to learn that the Church of England says nothing about this great jump in human consciousness by their own, not praising its merit, but instead beating its breast and declaring itself complicit in the slave trade.

The London Telegraph calls them sanctimonious.

Still, one has come to expect little better from a body that combines hypocrisy in handling its own internal contradictions with faulty judgment on more distant matters, be it the past or foreign policy.

Update: I found this at Sisu's place and found her excerpts from an interview of Oriana Fallaci a propos.

The scant hopes that she has for the West rest on his successor. As a cardinal, Pope Benedict XVI wrote frequently on the European (and the Western) condition. Last year, he wrote an essay titled "If Europe Hates Itself," from which Ms. Fallaci reads this to me: "The West reveals . . . a hatred of itself, which is strange and can only be considered pathological; the West . . . no longer loves itself; in its own history, it now sees only what is deplorable and destructive, while it is no longer able to perceive what is great and pure.

Oriana, an athiest, at 75 is dying of cancer. In 2004, she did her final interview with herself and said, "The West, Europe, Italy, is sicker than I am."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:01 PM | Permalink

February 6, 2006

Give What You Want to Keep

Hearty congratulations to 37 days which has just won the most inspirational blog award from The Best of Blogs. and deservedly so.

To see why, read her latest post Open your hand.

“To receive everything, one must open one's hands and give.” –Taisen Deshimaru

----
There are people in life who hold their hand open, and there are those whose hands are shut. Which am I, I wonder? Which are you? What does it take to have a generous nature, to hold your hand open, to live a life in which you give when you don’t have, when you give rather than hold? What is a sacrifice and a true gift—when you have the money or time to give, or when you don’t?

With each post, she challenges us to Do it Now

Give the Buddha
, where the Buddha is not only what you have, but what you are.
Carve the chop. Extend yourself for someone else. Give what you want to keep.
[Don’t rely too much on words.]
Open your hand.

I've talked in the past about the importance of making life lessons open source. Patricia Digh has done that with the stories from her life, sharing with us what she's learned, what she's thought and challenging us to aim higher and live deeper. in prose that makes me flat out jealous, Patti invites us all to live today as if we only had 37 days left of our "wild and precious life".

Why 37 days?

UPDATE: Seems to me we spend a good deal of the first part of our lives getting. What makes the second half of our lives successful is how much we give. That, of course, is our legacy

"What we do for ourselves dies with us. What we do for others and for the world remains and is immortal"

Albert Pine, English author who died in 1851

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:35 PM | Permalink

January 28, 2006

When Gambling May Save Your Life

The safest place to have a heart attack is inside a Las Vegas casino reports the Wall St Journal. Beating the Odds (subscription only)

Medical research shows that casino visitors whose hearts suddenly stop survive at higher rates even than people who happen to go into cardiac arrest while visiting a hospital. "The safest place in America to suffer sudden cardiac arrest is a casino," says Bryan Bledsoe, a George Washington University emergency-medicine doctor and co-author of textbooks for paramedics.

The large casinos have automatic external defibrillators and well trained security officers who have restored the heartbeats of about 1800 gamblers and employees in the past nine years.

About 53% of people suffering a sudden cardiac arrest in a casino survive. Elsewhere the survival rate is under 10%.

Everyone who survived can thank one paramedic Richard Hardman who, upset at coming in too late to save people, worked hard to get defibrillators inside casinos and security officers trained in their use.

Mr. Hardman, still a fire-department paramedic, also now does some consulting for casino industry, which he says earns him less than $10,000 a year. He says he no longer feels haunted by his failure to become a doctor. He was listed as an author on the New England Journal of Medicine study, and doubts that as a physician he could have been involved in anything more important. "To be thanked by people who say you saved their lives -- that's extremely gratifying," he says.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:48 PM | Permalink

January 25, 2006

Out of a Job and an Identity

What happens when a boomer takes a buy out and discovers his passion and creates a legacy. It comes with your fifties.

For the first time, I was experiencing a reward that wasn't supposed to be hung on a wall or placed into my bank account. And it felt good.
----

Not long ago, when someone would ask what I did for a living, I'd say, "I teach, but I once worked in the corporate world." It was as if I was saying, "I used to be somebody, but I'm not anymore." Now, when asked that same question, I simply say, "I am a teacher." That's it. No caveats, no qualifiers, no need to say more.

I Was Out of a Job - And an Identity

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:49 PM | Permalink

January 5, 2006

Beheaded for teaching girls

Let's not forget that in many places of the world, the Business of Life can be deadly. Abdul Habib, a high school teacher in Afghanistan was beheaded by the Taliban because he was teaching - --- girls.

May he rest in peace and his killers found.

High School Teacher Beheaded in Afghanistan

The education director of Zabul, Nabi Khushal, blamed the Taliban for the beheading, saying the insurgents had occasionally put up posters around Qalat demanding that schools for girls be closed and threatening to kill teachers, The Associated Press reported. "Only the Taliban are against girls being educated," he said.
The Taliban government was ousted in late 2001, but insurgents associated with the group continue to be active in southern Afghanistan.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:10 PM | Permalink

November 10, 2005

It's Never Too Late

Jean Marotta never could forget the dream she had of being a nurse and she learned it's never too late

In 1998 my daughter had a baby. She invited me to be in the delivery room with her. Her nurse was a wonderful woman my age who gave me tiny tasks to do while my daughter was in labor. She asked if I was a nurse. When I answered no, she asked, "Do you work in the health-care field?" Again, I answered no. She told me, "You're a natural," and I admitted, "I've always dreamed of being a nurse."

"It's never too late," she said. "Go to school now."

The very next day I went to Maria College in Albany, New York, to talk with an admissions officer.
---
That was the beginning of a three-year odyssey that ended in my graduation as a registered nurse from Maria College in May 2002. At the graduation ceremony, I won an award for the highest average in my class (3.9). Walking across the stage I wanted to shout, "If I can do this, anyone can!" It was the most satisfying, wonderful, ecstatic experience of my life.


Now she knows the power of meaning and purpose and how it can create not just your future but your legacy.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:37 AM | Permalink

November 1, 2005

Recipes for Life and Changing the World

Nancy Glaser, a Stanford MBA, left her career in venture capital

to help Third World women become apparel-industry entrepreneurs. She was in Russia after the Berlin Wall fell, working to build St. Petersburg into a fashion center. For the past three years, she's been visiting bombed-out villages in Afghanistan, helping poor women turn their native handicrafts into Fifth Avenue must-haves.

Glaser talks about giving up the dream job to take real risks in her life in this interview by Patty Fisher, Desire to live right life can change the world.

`The women in Afghanistan make beautiful hand-embroidered tablecloths and napkins, but the fabric is terrible quality, the thread breaks, the colors run,'' she said. ``They don't match anything you have in your home. The workmanship is beautiful, but it's the wrong color, the wrong design.''

She has enlisted designers from New York and Europe to showcase the women's work, and she's trying to raise money for better materials. It's been hard because the country is so devastated, and so much of the aid money goes for security. But she's determined to succeed.

``Once people have a livelihood and can support their family,'' she said, ``they put down their guns.''

via Evelyn Rodriguez who will be writing more about her own vision of artisan journalism and offers us this bonus:

Nancy Glaser says, "Even with all the devastation, there was so much hope. Turning aid containers into shops, people had already set up a bazaar on a dry riverbed.” She described women swathed in burqas and speaking perfect English (learned in refugee camps in Pakistan). Eager to be working, they presented her with resumes. She also saw school classes meeting under trees that included girls for the first time in six years.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:00 PM | Permalink

October 25, 2005

Paris designer, mother of 92

For some people, being a top fashion designer in Paris is the epitome of success.

Cecile Pelous designed for Yves St. Laurent, Christian Dior and Nina Ricci, but her life purpose wasn't revealed until she went to Calcutta and was overwhelmed by the poverty she saw.

She began working with orphans, first in India, then in Nepal. Many of the 92 orphans she has adopted she found at the top of trees after a huge flood. Their parents threw them in the trees to save them and were never seen again.

Cecile is now in the United States raising funds for her orphanage. Called the Mother Theresa of France, she has

found support around the world because she has been able to help children who have no identities under Nepal's caste system mature into self-aware, educated adults.
   "I am very happy because they don't have sad eyes," she said. "This is a gift of God for me

Her website where you can learn more is nepalfirsthope.org

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:59 PM | Permalink