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Friday, August 31, 2012

What a beautiful world we have... but look quickly, because we sure seem to be better at destroying it than preserving it.

These were some of the 2012 winners in the National Geographic Photo Contest

More than 2,000 Buddhist temples and pagodas fill the plains of Bagan. Once the capital of the Pagan Empire, farmers now raise their livestock within the centuries old complex. The best way to see Bagan, apart from a ride on a hot air balloon, is by bicycle. It's easy to get off the beaten path and live out your wildest Indiana Jones fantasy. (Photo and caption by Peter DeMarco/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest)

A lonely cabin is illuminated under the Northern Lights in Finmmark, Norway. (Photo and caption by Michelle Schantz/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest)

This is the great Japanese maple tree in the Portland Japanese Gardens. I tried to bring a different perspective of this frequently photographed tree. (Photo and caption by Fred An/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

And, a blue moon. In fact, "blue moon" refers not to color, but to rarity. Blue moons are defined as either the fourth full moon in a season, or, more recently, as the second full moon in a month. It's the second definition that covers August's blue moon; the month's first full moon was on Aug. 1.

Makes you wonder why our news always has to feature something much less than the splendor and beauty existing around many of us. I suppose that is because there is so much of the other.

I remember how beautiful Bosnia looked in the early 1990's... then came the Bosnian War of Independence... and newsreels showed the first shelling of a magnificent countryside. It was enough to break your heart.

We have to admit one thing though... as a civilization we may not have a handle on peace but we sure know how to make war. I went to because I was curious about how many wars we 'civilized' human beings have had.

No easy answer, it said. "However, estimates suggest that for 362 days of the year, there is a conflict going on somewhere in the world. This excludes internal (or civil) wars. Estimates also suggest that there have only been 250 years of peace in over 3400 years of documented history. (Some people suggest there have only been 26 days of peace).

"There are currently over 40 wars ongoing, in which over 1000 people die per year (those which result in fewer deaths are excluded from UN statistics), occurring world wide. There have been hundreds since the end of the Second World War."

If we are going to be good at something, why does it have to be this?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Raise your hand if you know about TED...

No, not Ted Turner or Ted Kennedy or Ted Nugent or Ted Danson, but TED. I thought so... you may "Sort of know" or "Have heard of it before" or "Huh?"

Well, it is really worth knowing. TED is a nonprofit devoted to ideas worth spreading. Started in 1984 as  a conference bringing together people from three worlds, Technology/Entertainment/Design (TED... get it?) and its mission is to spread ideas to change attitudes, lives and ultimately, the world.

At two annual TED conferences, in Long Beach/Palm Springs and Edinburgh, Scotland, TED brings together the world's most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes or less). Presently there are over 1300 TED talks to see that will stir your curiosity. Browse by subject, length, popularity or rating (inspiring, jaw-dropping, funny…) by so many notables that naming a few names wouldn't even begin to tell you. But this link will give you everything.

Like technology? Check out Sherry Turkle's talk, Connected but alone. Entertainment? David Blaine will tell you how he held his breath for 17 minutes. Design? See Frank Warren's Half a million secrets. Business? Margaret Heffernan's Dare to disagree. Science? Hannah Fry's: Is life really that complex? Global Issues? Scilla Elworthy's Fighting with non-violence... all there so many more by so many smart people... all bite-size and excellently presented.

It's really fascinating to watch these short talks... and addictive. See for yourself.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

It's "Do you know... " time.

Do you know that 24 percent (pretend one-in-four) of Wall Street executives say illegal or unethical conduct may be necessary to be successful in finance... and, I add, become very rich at others' expense. We admire success.

A corollary to that might be 99 percent (pretend all) of those living below the poverty line say it may be necessary to beg, borrow or steal to survive. We should put those thieving paupers in jail just like Jean ValJean in Les Miserable.

Do you know that if you work in a high rise office building... or anywhere higher than the first floor, you live longer... GUARANTEED! A recent study, using the most accurate atomic clocks on earth, has confirmed Albert Einstein's theory that time runs faster the higher off the ground you are.  Says the study: for every floor above the ground, you gain in age about 90 billionths of a second over a lifetime.

That means, if you have spent... say 30 years in total hours working or living on the second floor, you will actually add about 50 billionths of a second to your life (assuming average rate of mortality, of course) over those poor land-hugging saps below. They could be merely 60 but you would be 60 PLUS 50 billionths of a second more. Ha ha to them!

So if that is you, what do you plan to do with all of your extra time?

Do you know that an Idaho man, still at large, tried to pass a counterfeit $1 bill?  If they catch him and the punishment fits the crime, he will do 20 minutes hard time in the Big House.

Do you know that there are 10 billion stars in the universe for every human being who has ever walked the earth, says Caleb Scharf, author of Gravity's Engines?
Amazingly, most cosmologists agree that number may be modest.

Do you know we (the taxpayers) own 14,000 vacant or unused buildings that cost us about $200 million a year in maintenance alone? It's my guess that when this real estate market turns around, we will make a killing!

So, what do you think of the title of my blog now?  It's Nuts out There!!! (with exclamation points!!!)