Parks or Profit?

This battle wages in many countries.  Last summer the unrest in Turkey started with an act to protect Gezi Park in the middle of bustling Istanbul.  Similar conflicts are erupting everywhere.  In the nearby country of Georgia, Guerrilla Gardeners are trying to preserve Vake Park, which they consider their version of Central Park from New York City.

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Central Park, New York City

As a person who needs access to nature to rejuvinate my energy, the desire to protect the parks is high.  When I’m having a stressful moment, or something emotional is bothering me, a walk along the river near work, away from the noisy road, helps calm my emotions to get through the rest of the day.

Given that parks generally contribute to budget shortfalls instead of profits, what is the incentive to cities to protect these public spaces?  How can we fight the drive for profits?

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Steps toward a Happier Life

Here are a few take away’s from my informal happiness research, I plan to focus on one of these each day to improve my level of happiness and links to a related TED Talk video:

1. Accept that everyone struggles with being happy because of the natural human behavior effects, discussed below.  It’s not just me.OK happy face_full

2. Our memories directly effect our happiness, and focusing on happy memories or the positive aspects of an event will impact my emotions now and in the future.  Anything I can do to have an event end on a positive note will improve my emotion of that event, and taking time to reflect on the positive aspects of the event will improve the status of my memory of the event.  Dan Kahneman

3. Too much choice causes stress: choice of where to live, what job to have, who to marry and when, should we have kids and when, what to achieve…  Keep it simple.  Barry Schwartz

4. Happiness is based on comparing our current situation to some expectation.  Consider if the expectation is reasonable, and separately consider to what degree the expectation is helpful to have.  Even better is when we can tell ourselves that the things we have give us happiness.  Dan Gilbert

5. Keep a calm mind, to calm my mind I need to slow down and focus on one thing at a time.

6. Do something nice for someone.  Buy them a coffee, tell them a joke, give a sincere compliment.  Michael Norton

7. Love what I do by focusing on the good it provides.  Everyone contributes to society in some way, performing a task that we don’t have time or knowledge to perform.   Skilled labor is just as valuable as CEO’s.  Mike Rowe

8. Remind myself of my priorities, and try to avoid taking on too much.  I am too easily distracted by many different interests.

9.  Being Thankful.  Thank people for all the ways they contribute to my life and experience.  Science of Happiness webpage, this article by  Mike Robbins, or see tips and ideas about creating a gratitude journalDavid Standl-Rast, or check out the The Gratitude Experiment video.

10.  Make believe is a wonderful thing.  Play is a wonderful thing.

Un-Photoshopped Photos

Yay!!!!!!  Verily magazine has promised not to retouch photos before printing.  Some celebs out there have expressed outrage when their images are modified to show an unrealistic portrayal of the bodies and features (scroll down this article to see the extent that Photoshopping changes how the clothes fit on women).  Men are also changed, and scroll that page down to see the before and after of a photo ad of Britney Spears.  This collection gives are non-modified images of some celebrities.  Check out the step by step process of making a model in this video.

Two photos of Kelly Clarkson taken about the same time frame, yes, that's Kelly.

Two photos of Kelly Clarkson taken about the same time frame, yes, that’s Kelly.

This view of people, men and women, has an effect on our self perception and how we define the level of normal to which we compares ourselves, and may increase violence against women.  Even the most conscientious person can be affected by viewing so many unrealistic pictures.

Sure, make-up and lighting can still do a lot.  But look at the extent of Photoshopping in this documentary video, and how easy it is to change the image with the click of a button.  “How does it feel to try to keep up with the impossible?”  It makes us feel out of control…

One girl has convinced Seventeen Magazine to stop doctoring photos for their magazine.  Next they’re petitioning Teen Vogue, click here to sign the petition.

How much is 2,000 calories?

Wow, I’m not surprised by the info, but I am shocked by the visual representations of how little it takes to get to 2,000 calories.

Life Is Too Short

If you have ever counted calories, it’s amazing to see how many can be packed into a small tasty treat.  This video 2000 Caloriesshows us how many Big Macs, or bananas, etc. it takes to eat 2,000 calories.  For some foods, it’s hardly considered a day’s worth of meals.  Of course, serving sizes are out of control, and yes they have a video about that too.

They also remind us to beware of sugar amounts.  I recently heard that low fat foods are made tastier by adding sugar, confirmed by this short video.

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Do you believe in God? Yes, No, or Maybe?

If you believe in God, then maybe it was god speaking to me as I woke up this morning with these thoughts in my head.  If you do not, then it’s my brain assembling the teachings from recent TED Talks in my head.  For you maybes out there, does it matter which is true?

Things in my Head

Our first human instinct is survival. We learn to adapt and persevere in the most desperate of situations.  Three young women in Cleveland, held hostage, near the place they call home, eventually found help to get rescued.

Yet we also hear news about suicides over something as trite as teasing on Facebook. It does not involve physical assaults, and some of these people do have people around them who love them.  How can someone be treated so poorly, that they lose all hope for a better life?

If our instinct to survive is so basic as human nature, how can we continue a lifestyle that threatens and exterminates the worlds biodiversity?  It feels morally wrong to cause, intentionally or by accident, a species to cease to exist on this world.

Humane Connection Blog

Humane Connection Blog

Nature Knows Best- A recent TED Talk I listened to uses sound recordings to show human impact on wild nature. You can imagine the devastating results.  We need to approach our choices and practices with scientific analysis.  And the scientists are learning how each our actions affects nature and its biodiversity.  Another TED Talk describes how the imbalance when a predictor is removed from an ecosystem, such as reduced whale populations in the southern oceans, actually breaks the circle of life and kills off smaller species of that system.  Google images of the “plastic gyre” and you’ll see the island of plastic packaging and containers floating in the ocean.

It’s not just plants and animals that are suffering.  The impact on our water sources, the loss of pollinating bees in agricultural locations, the loss of our protective ozone layer, it affects our Health, our Food Production, and our Bottom Line (dollars).

There are things we can do to help.  No matter your education level or economic status, we all can improve. We all can learn and support the science to a better understanding.

You can do as little as planting flowers in your garden, or buy some organic foods, encourage others to reduce and recycle waste, TEACH children/adults about nature and our effects on nature, stop spraying chemical indoors kills those spiders with a shoe or paper towel, enjoy nature as it has been shown to have a restoring effect on us.  Whether you make little changes in your daily life, or you go back to school to become a Humane Educator, we all have the power to help the world and everything living on it.

What I learned Today …

This lessons spans a few days.  A couple weeks ago I heard this story about the rise of urban bee keepers.   This increase is a good thing for bees and agriculture, but the uncoordinated effort of keeping bees in urban areas where there may not be enough food for them is also problematic.  So before you decide to get your own colony, you want to find out how many other colonies are in the area.

thIf you have been completely sheltered around 2006 or so, then it could be possible that you don’t know about the decline of bees.  Researchers still aren’t completely sure on what is going on, but there does seem to be a link with pesticide use, and pollution.

Then today, I heard a TED Talk about the importance of bees and the cause of their recent decline.  I knew bees were important, but I didn’t know that 1/3 of food in the U.S. is grown with the help of bee pollinators.   This talk gives a simple way to help bees.  Plant more flowers!  This will give more food for the colonies to thrive and bee keepers can keep their colonies.  And it will make our neighborhoods more attractive too.  Who wants to mow the grass, and

Almonds rely solely on bees to product their nuts, many other fruits and vegetables.  Maybe you can live without brussels spouts, but personally I don’t want to give up my watermelon, avocados, or kiwifruit.  Oh yeah, don’t forget about delicious honey!  It’s an essential ingredient in your favorite breakfast cereal, Honey Nut Cheerios.  It’s not just our food that relies on bees.  Next time you’re eating meat or dairy, that hay or alfalfa to feed the animal was grown with bee pollinators.  Now we listen to Noah Wilson’s TED Talk and he explains his research on how to make bees healthier.

You know what else helps our crops grow?  I can’t even bring myself to write the name of this byproduct of natural decomposition.  Let me just say, the millions of gallons of this byproduct was shipped from NYC to Colorado because it was so helpful on the farm.  But now, it’s cheaper to add it to a landfill.  I think it’s safe to say, you make a little everyday yourself.  It’s the same idea as this description of how whales complete the circle of life and produce the nutrient that their own food needs to thrive.

Hearing Voices in Your Head?

Hear the first hand account of Eleanor Longden in her TED Talk, discussing her experience of hearing voices, and the long process of getting cured.  At times she was diagnosed with Schizophrenia until the real cause for the voices was determined, unresolved abuse, which finally led to the cure.  The acts she performed on herself at the direction of the voices are astounding, yet her composed and positive recount of this experience is reassuring that the cure is complete.

How many others are experiencing similar voices, and not getting the appropriate help.   Let’s Help them find the Intervoice Community for support, and learn the true meaning behind the voices.

New Federal law on Sunscreen

This article summarizes the science behind the new law, here are some highlights:

  • zinc-oxide-on-nose_thumbSunscreen marketing cannot say waterproof or sweat-proof – I wonder why they could say that before if it wasn’t true.
  • “Broad Spectrum” is allowed for products shown to prevent sunburn (from UVA rays) and skin cancer/aging (UVB rays).
  • If it’s not effective against both kinds of rays, the label must say that it only prevents against sunburn and it does not protect against skin cancer/aging.

There are a lot of questions about sunscreens.  Which ingredients are more harmful than helpful?  Are the best products available in the US?  Are spray on sunscreens okay to use?  I don’t know these answers, and I don’t know the best source for information on these either.   The Environmental Working Group, rated 4 star on Charity Navigator, has some tips on these topics.

You might also check your favorite sunscreen product rating on Good Guide to see how environmentally friendly it is.

Save Money … Live Better

I’m jealous of Walmart for capitalizing on this phrase so profitable.  If only it were true, but I’ll spare you my personal views of the company.  Instead, lets talk about ways we can actually save money, and actually live better.

I recently started using Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) for my skin and hair.  I use it on my hair in the shower, after I wash, rinse, and condition I then pour a mixture of water and ACV on my hair and rinse it out after about 1 minute.  It has really cut down the frizziness in my hair in the summer heat.

On my skin, I use it as a toner for my face.  The smell is awful, I’m not a fan of vinegar, but it rinses away nicely and does not leave a smell.  ACV can also be used to treat athletes foot.  Dilute the ACV with water and wipe onto your skin, then rinse off.

obamacare-save-money-health-careMaybe you already have a product for this purpose.  I’m not telling you ACV is better, how would I know.  It seems that things work differently for everyone.  But here is what I do now.  I try the new option for 1 week, then go back to using my old stuff until the container is gone.  When I go to the store to buy a refill, I can decide if it’s worth the cost, or if the cheaper alternative worked well enough.

We have been tricked into using many products, just to make money for other people.  Some of these products are harmful to the environment, to other animals, or to ourselves.   We don’t know the full effects of these products.  I have used eye cream that makes my eyes water, I guess that’s how it reduces puffy eyes.

I heard a report about testing of medications.  The testing is not required to measure effectiveness compared to similar products, the testing is performed and compared to a “Do Nothing” option.  Well it’s pretty easy to show an improvement compared to “Do Nothing.”  Then the sales teams use those studies to sell the products.  And few people are testing different alternatives compared to each other, wouldn’t it be nice to have a group that is incentivised to take this information and evaluate everything together, running comparison experiments if feasible.

Imagine how many products we trust, when testing has been evaluated in this same way?  What if there are better products, or better items that we already have at home.

Vinegar is also great for cleaning stainless steel.  I cleaned a lot of rust from my trash can using vinegar alone.

What are your tricks for saving  money and living better?