Archive for March 2012
Very enlightening read on the USA Secretary of State Hillary Clinton…..
” “WHY extremists always focus on women is a mystery to me. But they all seem to. It doesn’t matter what country they’re in. They want to control women. They want to control how we dress, they want to control how we act, they want to control everything about us.” So said Hillary Clinton last month to a young Arab woman who had asked her at a public meeting about wearing the hijab. This encounter was in Tunis, where Mrs Clinton had just taken part in an international summit on Syria. She had come straight from London, where she attended a meeting on Somalia, and went on to Algeria and Morocco before making the nine-hour hop back to Washington, DC.
If Barack Obama is re-elected in November, one big thing is going to be different in his second term. He will no longer have his relentlessly globe-trotting former presidential rival at his side. As the frazzled aides and reporters who travel regularly in the back of her converted Boeing 757 attest, the job is punishing, especially the way she has chosen to do it.
Since taking office, Mrs Clinton has visited 95 countries (see map) and logged some 730,000 miles, sometimes cramming more than a dozen meetings into a single day. This marathon came hard after the titanic Democratic presidential campaign of 2008. “I’ve had an extraordinary 20 years. I’ve been really at the highest levels of American political life,” she told The Economist in a recent interview, “I need a little time to reflect, step off the fast track I’ve been on.”
Evaluating her record is a complicated business. The job of a secretary of state has at least three parts: implementing foreign policy, acting as America’s global ambassador and running the behemoth that is the State Department. “
via American diplomacy: What Hillary did next | The Economist.
“Hand dominance (whether left or right) is related to brain asymmetry. And that, Dr. Francks said, “is not at all understood; we’re really at the very beginning of understanding what makes the brain asymmetrical.”
Though brain asymmetries exist in our closest primate relatives, there seems to be general consensus that the human brain is more profoundly asymmetric, and that understanding that asymmetry will show us much about who we are and how our brains work.
Brain lateralization, the distribution of function into right and left hemispheres, is crucial for understanding language, thought memory and perhaps even creativity. For many years, handedness has been seen as a possible proxy, an external clue to the balance in the brain between left and right.
For right-handed people, language activity is predominantly on the left side. Many left-handers also have left-side language dominance, but a significant number have language either more evenly distributed in both hemispheres or else predominantly on the right side of the brain.
via Left-Handedness Loses Its Stigma but Retains Its Mystery – NYTimes.com.
“In an interview with DW, the head of an effort to reform the way the UN deals with environmental problems outlines his suggestions for how the world could move from countless talk shops to action.
Frank Biermann is the chair of the Earth System Governance Project and a professor at Amsterdam’s Free University. He is leading an effort to radically overhaul international institutions like the UN, to make them more effective in their response to global environmental problems like climate change, species loss and pollution.
DW spoke to him at this week’s Planet under Pressure conference in London, where he presented his team’s proposals to be considered at the Rio Earth Summit later this year.
DW: ……. ” ( click the link
for the interview)
via Interview: it’s time to drop consensus | Environment | DW.DE | 27.03.2012.
“Since the invention and development of steel and concrete, the combination of which would spawn the birth of the skyscraper, wood as a building material has been marginalized as simple construction ephemera, used to form concrete or to structure building frames advanced with the expressed purpose of producing single family homes or large estates and to furnishing their plush interiors.
Wood fell out of vogue in a large part because of its vulnerability to fire, probably the single greatest factor in restricting use of the material to smaller structures. But change is coming, writes CNN, as wood has become transformed by a handful of dedicated engineers and architects – Shigeru Ban most notable among them – and put to use in the service of large-scale structures like Michael Green‘s proposed “Tallwood” skyscraper in Vancouver. “
The plans for the 30-story tower are among a small group of “woodscrapers” being proposed throughout the world, which all had to overcome stringent building codes. Explaining the motivation behind his design, Green says that wood construction at such scales is decidedly cheaper than standard-industry methods and, more importantly, much more energy efficient, given the large amounts of CO2 expended in the manufacturing of steel and concrete and the extent of their large carbon footprints. Conversely, wood traps carbon dioxide throughout a building’s life cycle, and, if sustainably harvested from controlled and well-managed forests, can prove to be a renewable resource.
For Tallwood, Green has created a system of laminated strand lumber beams which are load-bearing and fire-resistant. Where the structural capacity of steel rapidly degrades when exposed to flames, the large beams, which are comprised of strips of wood fibers glued together, develop an exterior layer of char that insulates the wood’s structural core. Innovative designs such as Tallwood, when coupled with may propel wood at the forefront of future construction advancements.
As Green says, “Really we’re at the stage where we’re able to start to show what’s possible, a bit like that Eiffel Tower moment. That was built when no one was used or understood tall structures, but it showed what could be done and just as importantly stretched the imagination.”
via The Case for Skyscrapers Made of Wood – Design – The Atlantic Cities.
” The Google Doodle for March 14, 2012, honored Akira Yoshizawa, the father of modern origami, on his 101st birthday. The Doodle featured the Google logo, folded from origami (each letter folded from a single uncut sheet), decorated with origami butterflies folded from one of Yoshizawa’s most famous and iconic designs. In the week or so prior to its appearance, I helped Google put this together, by designing the logo, folding the butterflies, and a few other bits and pieces of assistance. This article tells the story: of the man, and the Doodle! “
via Google’s Doodle: Akira Yoshizawa.
“In 2000, when the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory wanted to design a telescope whose football-field sized lens could be folded into a small rocket, they approached an expert in a discipline not traditionally associated with aerospace and engineering: origami.
To be sure, Robert Lang, who has published 13 books on origami, also has degrees in engineering and physics and an extensive background in optics, but it was his expertise in folding paper that inspired the Eyeglass Telescope, whose thin plastic lens, designed to be forty times larger than that of the Hubble Space Telescope, would open like an umbrella in space.
Funding for the Eyeglass Telescope was discontinued before a full-scale version could be built, but the prototypes worked as predicted, showing that the Japanese art of paper folding has applications that go well beyond making paper cranes.
RELATED: Are you scientifically literate? Take our quiz!
As noted on Google’s home page, Wednesday marks the 101st birthday of Akira Yoshizawa, who is widely considered the grandfather of origami. He did not invent the practice – origami emerged as a pastime during Japan’s Heian period (794-1185). But in his lifetime, Yoshizawa did more than anyone else to elevate it into an art form. Equally important, Yoshizawa created a wordless notation consisting of lines, dashes, arrows, and diagrams that allowed people all over the world, regardless of their native language, to learn origami.
And in doing so, he inspired generations of scientists and engineers to use origami principles for everything from noodle containers to domed stadium roofs. Look into the folds and creases of objects all around you and you’ll see origami everywhere……“
via Akira Yoshizawa: Why origami matters – CSMonitor.com.
“KORTRIJK, BELGIUM – Rich Chinese pigeon fanciers are offering tens of thousands of euros to buy Belgian champions, to the despair of local pigeon-lovers unable to compete in such sky-high auction bids.Pigeon-breeding is an old Chinese passion, even though long-distance pigeon-racing has never caught on the way it has in northern Europe.In Belgium, the Netherlands, northern France, and Britain pigeon-racing can take place over distances of over 1,000 kilometres 660 miles with birds vying to return as quickly as possible to their home roost, their homing instinct allowing them to find the way.Champion racing pigeons can win large sums in prize money for their owners.In Belgium, pigeon-fancying had been on the decline in recent years, but the arrival of Chinese aficionados has changed the markets dynamic.Pigeon racing in China goes back to the Ming dynasty, when they were used as carrier pigeons. Banned during the Cultural Revolution, it made a comeback in the 1970s.According to Chinese state media, there are about 300,000 people in the country involved in the sport.In late January, a rich Chinese industrialist Hun Zhen Yu came to Europe and paid 250,000 euros S$328,000 for “Special Blue”, a world record for a champion.The birds former owner, Pieter Veenstra from Holland, has sold 245 pigeons over the past few years for more than two million euros, according to the specialised Pigeon Paradise PIPA website which claims that half its customers are from China.Rich Chinese fanciers will pay very large amounts “if the pigeon has won several prizes and is of good lineage,” said Nikolaas Gyselbrecht, the head of PIPA, speaking on the sidelines of the second world pigeon fair in Kortrijk, Belgium.”I think Belgium is the kingdom of homing pigeons,” said one of the fairs visitors, Johnson Kiang from Taiwan.But not everyone is pleased with the Chinese invasion.”
via Chinas rich hit by racing pigeon craze.
An facinating human interest story with thought provoking questions of some of the assumptions we have about life….
“In the first year of the 21st century, a man standing by a highway in the middle of America pulled from his pocket his life savings – $30 – laid it inside a phone booth, and walked away. He was 39 years old, came from a good family, and had been to college. He was not mentally ill, nor an addict. His decision appears to have been an act of free will by a competent adult…..
“I know it is possible to live with zero money,” Suelo declares.
I had met Suelo long before he gave up money, in Moab, Utah, a haven for seekers and dropouts. We ran in the same circle, worked a stint together as cooks, and squatted on public lands. But over the years, we drifted our separate ways, geographically and otherwise.
I had heard of Daniel’s attempt to live without money, and I’d assumed he had simply lost his mind. For my part, I was no longer an itinerant river guide, but a professional writer. I had acquired a second car and a second house, contributed to a retirement account, and filed 53 pages of tax returns.
Then came 2008. Twenty trillion dollars in world assets were incinerated by bad mortgages and speculation. The real-estate bubble splattered into foreclosure and bankruptcy, taking down with it the pensions and savings and jobs of millions of people.
My paltry retirement account became paltrier.
Suddenly that big monthly payment on my home didn’t seem like money well spent. No number of trips to Home Depot would make the house worth what I had paid for it. Those naysayers who forecast that my generation, born in the 1960s and 1970s, would be the first in America’s history to be worse off than their parents: Maybe they had a point.
Suelo meanwhile had gained a little notoriety, thanks to stories in Details magazine and the Denver Post, and an interview with the BBC. His blog and website got tens of thousands of hits. As I pored over the writings he had compiled, from Thomas Jefferson and Socrates, I began to think about the choices he had made. Here was someone who had said all along what the rest of us were being forced to contemplate for the first time, now that our bubble of prosperity had burst: money was an illusion.
“I simply got tired of acknowledging as real this most common worldwide belief called money,” cried this voice in the desert. “I simply got tired of being unreal.” …..
Daniel had opted out entirely, rejected what I had pursued. What was I missing out on?
Finally I decided to find out.
via Meet the man who quit money – The Globe and Mail.
“Back in 2001 when tech weary investors first started noticing the allure of the emerging markets, Goldman Sachs analyst Jim O’Neill coined the acronym “BRIC” to collectively refer to Brazil, Russia, India and China, then considered the top tier of the emerging economies. The BRIC countries became a symbol of the shift in economic power from the G7 countries to the developing world. For much of the first decade of the 21st Century, the BRICs lived up to their billing. They largely led the world in GDP growth and delivered rock solid returns to those wise enough to invest early. See our current analysis of Latin American rail in our latest Global Investor Newsletter
Over the years, with investors continuously seeking the next wave in emerging markets, other clever acronyms came and went, but none caught on quite like the BRIC. In the investment world nothing is static, and at Euro Pacific Capital we feel it’s time for a change. But the BRICs don’t need to be abandoned, just expanded. In particular, it needs another “I” as in Indonesia. In other words, we think the “BRIC” bloc should now be the “BRIIC” bloc. For a variety of reasons, Indonesia has earned the right to be considered as a premiere destination for emerging market investment.
Most investors don’t realize that Indonesia is the 4th most populous country in the world, with more people than Brazil or Russia, two other charter nations in the BRIC club. They also may be unfamiliar with Indonesia’s enormous under developed natural resources, including oil/gas, coal, tin, gold, wood and rubber. Indonesia’s economy is well-balanced, with a large consumption component and limited reliance on exports to the developed world. Impressively, retail sales in Indonesia doubled from 2009 to 2012 (yes, doubled in three years) which we attribute to an improving labor market, favorable demographics, strong growth in wages and high consumer confidence. Meanwhile, developed markets struggle with high unemployment, an aging workforce, stagnant wages, and low consumer confidence. It’s no wonder retail sales in the US and Europe, struggling to grow 1% per year, create a stark contrast to Indonesia.
While Indonesia’s economy is still small relative to the other BRICs (roughly half the size of Brazil and Russia), it does have an economic growth rate that puts it well into the mix. According to the IMF, for the 17 year period between 1990 and 2007, Indonesia grew at an annual rate of 7.54%. While this is less than China (13.3%) and India (7.6%), it is more than Brazil (6.1%) or Russia (4.92%). The country is the largest economy in Southeast Asia and is a member of the G-20 group of the world’s major economies. “
via BRIIC is a better BRIC | MINING.com.
” “Why storytelling?”
“Simple: nothing else works.”
That was the rudimentary answer that I gave to cynical left-brained managers back in the 1990s and early 2000s when I was introducing them to the power of leadership storytelling. Slides leave listeners dazed. Prose remains unread. Reasons don’t change behavior. When it comes to inspiring people to embrace some strange new change in behavior, storytelling isn’t just better than the other tools. It’s the only thing that works.
A more scientific answer can be found in Brian Boyd’s wonderful book, On the Origin of Stories: Evolution, Cognition, and Fiction, (Harvard University Press, 2009)
This elegantly written book assembles a mass of scientific evidence, drawing on evolutionary theory, ethology, linguistics, artificial intelligence, game theory, anthropology, economics, neurophysiology, analytic and experimental philosophy, epistemology and psychology, and shows–scientifically–why storytelling is so important.
The eclipse of storytelling in the 20th Century
Anthropologists always knew that storytelling is a universal feature of every country and every culture, even if, for most of the 20th Century, storytelling got very little respect. As so-called scientific approaches to life became dominant, mechanistic, machine-like thinking was everywhere triumphant. Analysis was king. Narrative was seen as either infantile or trivial.
The phenomenon didn’t just affect storytelling. In retrospect, the 20th Century can be seen as a giant experiment by the human race to find out what could be accomplished if organizations treated people as things and communicated to them in abstractions, numbers and analysis, rather than through people-friendly communications such as stories.
Employees became “human resources” to be mined, rather than people to be minded. Customers became “demand”, or “consumers” or “eyeballs”, to be manipulated, rather than living, feeling human beings to be delighted. Storytelling was only one of many elements that suffered “collateral damage.”
The whole experiment can be seen as a success to the extent that the material standard of living of a proportion of the world’s population for a time improved. But the experiment was an abysmal failure in most other respects. It made human beings people miserable. And organizations steadily became less and less productive, as the need for innovation grew.
In any event, the effort to suppress storytelling was unsuccessful: storytelling, though despised, lived on in the cracks and crevices of society—in the cafeterias, the corridors, around water-coolers, in bars and restaurants, living rooms and bedrooms. Throughout the 20th Century, storytelling got little respect, but it could not be suppressed. It turned out to be central characteristic of being human.
It also turned out that storytelling was a central component of leadership. Want to understand why Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, Bill Clinton or Barack Obama became national leaders? A big part of it lay in their ability to tell effective leadership stories.
Now, the ongoing reinvention of management to transform workplaces from the boring, sterile, dispiriting cubicles of the 20th Century into the lively centers of inspiration and creativity that are needed for the Creative Economy of the 21st Century has storytelling at its core.
Why stories are so powerful
Boyd explains what is it about the apparently frivolous activity of storytelling that makes it so powerful. He helps us see why storytelling is central to innovation, the critical performance dimension of 21st Century organizations: stories are a kind of cognitive play, a stimulus and training for a lively mind.”
via The Science Of Storytelling – Forbes.