Thursday, October 28, 2010

Managing the message of sacrifice and economic austerity

What do we need to spur us on when asked to sacrifice and tighten our belts for the greater good?   A good slogan, of course.  Cultural voyeur Dr. Meg Harper, now of Limerick, Ireland, and Limerick University, offers this:

"I'm seriously committed to informing you all about the culture here, as you know. I've recently found a way to encapsulate Irish attitudes towards the current economic and political troubles. In England (and Northern Ireland), there's a resurgence of (commercially inspired) interest in a slogan and poster that was printed and put up all over Britain in 1939. On a red background, simple white letters read "Keep Calm and Carry On." 

She goes on to say, "I recently saw an Irish equivalent, which I'm enclosing for your edification."

Thanks Meg!  This speaks volumes, and just as the Irish equivalent might confuse or scandalize Americans I suppose we need a uniquely American version.   Let me leap into the fray and offer two (tongue in cheek) American options. 

Or perhaps this...with a nod to our French comrades:


If you have a alternative or perhaps a suggestion for a more positive message, please speak up.   I would love to hear your suggestions.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Laughing about bad medical journalism could lower your blood pressure-- or not

Check out this link from the excellent blog by Gary Schwitzer called "health news reviews".  In one page he reviews the article titled ....
"Eating watermelon could lower your blood pressure" from the Orlando sentinel this month.
article "watermelon and blood pressure"
Then he provides and demonstrates a set of clear and useful criteria to use while reading about medical studies to see if they,  .....pass the laugh test.  

You don't have to be a health journalist to find this list useful.  Special note, Ano Lobb and Sam Wertheimer... this one is dedicated to you and, thanks to Nancy Jamieson at the Alaska State health department who keeps her eye out for such tools and tricks for the public.

Since it is clear that one can make medical stories up wholesale I offer my own learned conclusion-- eating fun food, such as watermelon, lowers your blood pressure, most likely. So does laughing.

You want more animals laughing... here is a start
Show me animals to make ms smile!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Robins in crabapples a gorgeous sight in New England

Fecund --Abundant ---Fruit--Food

Robins Feast on profusions of crabapples
We have not had robins in New England at the feeders this time of year. Maybe they are stopping by on their way further south when once they just passed us by. Less in a hurry because its just not as cold as before. Our crabapple trees are overflowing with fruit. The robin, once common to my Midwestern eyes, now seems enormous and confounded us at first-- "what is that?"  Now they are like 747's among the juncos, finches, chickadees, and nuthatches.  
What bird doesn't look better in red berries?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Big HUGE Amazing Pumpkins at the Pumpkin festival in Damariscotta Maine

Whatever you have been doing with pumpkins I would bet it doesn't begin to compare with the town of Damariscotta Maine.  Last weekend we took a fall New England walk-about and stumbled upon the greatest pumpkin festival ever.  

Now only are they big-- This year three pumpkins were state record breakers, all over 1400 pounds-- but, the citizens seem to take the whole thing with a hearty dose of whimsy and good humor.

The history of the pumpkin festival in Damariscotta is not long, 3 years, but it has caught on with admirable enthusiasm and now there is an ever rising bar to explore and improve all things pumpkin including the pumpkin regatta -- yes a pumpkin boat race, costumes, carved and painted pumpkins by talented artists, decorations, and even pumpkin shooting or launching plus, pumpkin edibles of all sorts.  If you like pumpkin art definitely consider a visit.

Check out pictures of the 2010 Great Pumpkin Festival in Damariscotta Maine.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

China & a view of overpriced appliances that do what the sun does anyway

 Wash and Fly.... no need to dry: 
A demonstration of energy efficiency by 
the American field sparrow

This from author Sharon Astyks's science blog called  Casaubon's Book is a vignette I shall call-- Dryers and China

 "As increasingly affluent Chinese embrace all the accouterments of the modern, middle-class Western lifestyle -- big-screen televisions, automobiles, washing machines, double-door refrigerators with automatic icemakers -- one glaring exception stands out: the clothes dryer.
For reasons practical as well as cultural, most Chinese consumers simply don't like clothes dryers. Don't want them. Don't trust them. Won't buy them. And, even when they have them around, won't use them.

 According to a spokesman for the appliance store Best Buy, the Chinese market for dryers -- or even washer-dryer combinations -- "is by no means fully developed.'' In the chain's stores, dryers and washing machines with dryer functions make up just 10 percent of all washing machine sales.
Other businesses report similar experiences. Zhao Na, a saleswoman for Haier washing machines, a domestic brand, said, "Our factory stopped producing dryers since last year because they don't sell.'
It certainly isn't true that a couple of billion non-dryer users "can't" be wrong, but in this case, there's a real likelihood that they aren't".

 You may not agree with this choice in your life but it is always useful to consider the query:  
Are my time-saving appliances and methods (e.g., hair dryers and even clothes dryers) actually, or possibly, enslaving me?

 There follows a remarkably entertaining and civil discussion about dryers, line drying, the role of women and how to keep your clothes from getting stiff sans electric dryer (versus solar passive or "line" drying).   I just couldn't help adding the illustration of 'fly and dry' by the Field sparrow (Spizella Passerina). Enjoy!

Must see movie-- Queen of the Sun-- bees abuzz

In 1923, Rudolf Steiner predicted that imposing an ill-fitting industrial culture on bee cultivation would end up destroying the bees' own successful, adaptive culture. As one reviewer in Seattle said "there's a deeply, embarrassingly human truth to his criticism of our attempt to modernize bees for productivity, when they are still our leading models for density, sustainability, and allocation of resources."  Directors Taggart Siegel and Jon Betz have made a poignant film about relationships.  It is a love story if you will, between bees and the world.
Thus, rather than bees as agricultural product or tools for humans, Queen of the Sun offers a counter narrative, bees as teachers, and with much to show us.
The story is often told from the bees-eye-view including zoooming through fields at bee-height, your eye attracted by vibrant colors. And bees in close-up or en masse appear with the human "supporting characters," as Taggart Siegel calls them. They are beekeepers (commercial, backyard, and rooftop), farmers, philosophers, scientists, celebrities (Michael Pollan, Vandana Shiva), artists, and educators.
The movie is getting enthusiastic reviews-- quirky, fun, funny, visually beautiful, interesting, and important. It is in Vermont this next week and with such great reviews it will be popping up in more and more places. You can watch for it online at 

Field of wild mustard waiting for bees

Bee boxes arrive 
A bee look-alike the Snowberry Clearwing Moth, nemaris diffinis, another great pollinator