Frank Lloyd Wright tour in Oak Park, Illinois


If you enjoy the works of master architect Frank Lloyd Wright, you should visit Oak Park, Illinois, the suburb of Chicago where he spent the first twenty years of what would become a glorious career.

My wife and I took a walking tour of this neighbourhood and were astounded by how well Wright's early home designs are standing up, more than 100 years after they were built.

There must be something about Oak Park that stirs the creative imagination. Just a few streets down from Wright's home and studio, sits the home where the great American writer Ernest Hemingway grew up.

Wright, who many consider one of the best architects of the 20th Century, the designer of the Guggenheim Museum in New York City and many other grand public buildings, got his start designing homes in this area.

We took a good look at some of the homes in a walking tour organized by the Chicago Architecture Foundation. Guided by the gracious Dorothy V. Foote (left), we learned how Wright evolved his ideas into the famous "Prairie style," (low, broad roof lines and lots of interior space, long "ribbon" style windows) that is still admired today.

Wright and his team designed about 125 buildings in the Oak Park studio between 1889 and 1909. They each have a unique character; none more evocative, in my opinion, than the Arthur B. Heurtley House at 318 Forest Avenue (below), which was completed in 1902. His designs were unquestionably years ahead of their time.

If you're in the Chicago area, be sure to look up the Architecture Foundation. The Foundation offers dozens of memorable tours, each conducted by a qualified docent, or instructor. We became members and we don't even live there!

We'll be back.

Other links:



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Quotes for life's highways

My wife and I are driving all day today.

I pulled out some concepts to meditate on during those long highway stretches.

(There's no connection to the themes of our conversations, by the way.)

"We fear things in proportion to our ignorance of them."
- Livy

"You can discover what your enemy fears most by observing the means he uses to frighten you."
- Eric Hoffer

"Where fear is present, wisdom cannot be."
- Lactantius

Lactantius sounds a lot like Yoda, doesn't he? Well, chronologically I guess it would be the other way around...but you can see the similarity :)

The quotes were from my friends at 602 Communications.

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Amazing dinosaurs tracks

How would you like to go back in time millions of years?

One place in the world offers an amazing spectacle: it's Cal Orko, Sucre, Bolivia.  A huge limestone wall there is proving to be a treasure trove for paleontologists.   It preserved on its rock face thousands of large tracks from a remarkable variety of dinosaurs.

The wall used to be a shallow lake bed, but when the Andes Mountains were formed, the lake bed became a vertical feature. The now climbing tracks are quite amazing.  They date back to the Late Cretaceous period, almost 70 million years ago, and include some astounding tracks made by a baby Tyrannosaurus Rex.


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How to foster creativity

Let's take a minute to explore creativity.

If you feel like you're in a rut and can't "think out of the box," then go some place you've never been before.

New evidence suggests that creativity flourishes most when we place ourselves in situations we've never experienced. New faces, new places, new thinking.

Why is this? Researchers say the brain's natural tendency is to be somewhat lazy. The mind prefers to take shortcuts and rely on established images and ways of seeing things. To jolt the brain into creative mode, it apparently helps to jump into something you have absolutely no experience with. Take away the "safety net," break your historical mental connections and see what happens.

In an article entitled "Neuroscience Sheds New Light on Creativity," FastCompany.com reveals that when it comes to seeing things differently, Mark Twain may have been right when he said, "Education consists mainly in what I have unlearned." When the brain confronts different situations, it reorganizes perception. It pays more attention to all of the senses. It lives in the moment. The more radical the experience, the greater the chances of acquiring new perception.

If scientists are right, then what a wonderful supporting argument this makes for the benefits of travel and for changing the scenery once in a while.

Just remember to bring a pen and paper with you. You may find solutions to your problems when you least expect them -- on the top of a pyramid, learning to ski or on a hike in the woods.

Willlam James:

"Genius means little more than the faculty of perceiving in an unhabitual way."

Albert Einstein:

"You can never solve a problem on the level on which it was created."

....and my favourite....

Buckminster Fuller:

"There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it's going to be a butterfly."

Yes, indeed.

Other links:

Ten Steps for Boosting Your Creativity

The Astounding Power of the Brain

Take a 5-minute test to compare your Right Brain vs Left Brain Creativity (from the Art Institute of Vancouver).

Photo credit: Thanks to Robert Russell for his shot of a Florida sunrise.

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Scenes of the season


For as long as I can remember, September in Toronto has been one of the best months of the year.  Along the waterfront, people enjoy the sunny days and slightly fresher air. It seems cleaner, too; less pollution and less humidity. Gone are the crowds of August. The charter boats on Lake Ontario still do a brisk business before the colder winds of October blow in.

In September and into early October the wealthy make their last rounds on the Great Lakes before the yachts and power boats are either dry-docked or sent on their way with crews to winter havens in the tropical seas of Florida or the Caribbean.

The end of the month signals the beginning of fall foliage displays in the country. Life always seems to move at a different pace in the wide-open spaces of rural central Ontario. When the forecast signals good weather for the weekend, this is the best time of the year for a drive in the country. Animals seem to welcome urban visitors.  A few more weeks and apple picking will be at its peak and, before we know it, it will be time to celebrate Halloween.
Thanks to Duilio Zane for these great photographs.

Locations:  Toronto Harbour and a ranch just north of Bowmanville.
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Walking, anyone?


My friend Ben Viccari, commentator and champion of Canadian multiculturalism, sent me the following perspectives on walking. He credits these points to Dr. Donald Meeks, who was an instrumental leader at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto until his retirement.

Dr. Meeks obviously has a sense of humour.
Here goes:

1. Walking can add minutes to your life. This enables you at 85 years of age to spend an additional 5 months in a nursing home at $7,000 per month.
2. My grandpa started walking five miles a day when he was 60. Now he's 97 years old and we don't know where the hell he is.
3. I like long walks, especially when they are taken by people who annoy me.
4. The only reason I would take up walking is so that I could hear heavy breathing again.
5. I have to walk early in the morning, before my brain figures outwhat I'm doing.
6. I joined a health club last year, spent about 400 bucks. Haven't lost a pound. Apparently you have to go there.
7. Every time I hear the dirty word 'exercise', I wash my mouth out with chocolate.
8. I do have flabby thighs, but fortunately, my stomach covers them.
9. The advantage of exercising every day is so when you die, they'll say, 'Well, he looks good doesn't he?'
10. If you are going to try cross-country skiing, start with a small country.
11. I know I got a lot of exercise the last few years, just getting over the hill.
12. You could run this over to your friends but why not just e-mail it?
13. We all get heavier as we get older, because there's a lot more information in our heads.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it, AND, every time I start thinking too much about how I look, I just find a Happy Hour and by the time I leave, I look just fine.

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Car Free Day

Did you leave your car at home today?

Today was World Car Free Day, and people in many countries walked, cycled or took public transportation to and from work. Many cities closed off some streets to encourage people to have fun without cars on the road.  In Montreal, that's just what happened, as Quebecers celebrated In Town Without My Car Day. It was a great success, as these events almost always are in a fun-loving city like Montreal.

Closer to Toronto, Mississauga mayor Hazel McCallion, aged 87, rode her bicycle to work at City Hall, a distance of about 10 kilometres.  She's an inspiration for many.

I rode my bike and took the train today, and it felt good to reduce my pollution footprint for a day. 

In other parts of the world, people are coming to terms with the culture of the automobile. Craig and Marc Kielburger, well-known children's rights activists, recently wrote an illuminating column about the impact of cars in various countries.  You can read it here.
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Weekend travel: Silver Springs and the photography of Bruce Mozert

While most visitors to central Florida visit Disney World and the theme parks in and around Orlando, a quieter but equally interesting destination is found near the city of Ocala, in Marion County.

Silver Springs is one of America's natural wonders thanks to one of the largest artesian spring formations in the world. It produces more than 500 million gallons of crystal-clear water every day.

Since the mid 1800s, people have visited the natural beauty of this area. In the the 1920s a theme park was built near the head waters of the spring. Today the Silver Spring Nature Theme Park features animal exhibits and tours of the water world in glass-bottomed boats.

When Disney World was built, it drew many out-of-state visitors away, but Silver Springs remains famous for amazing photographs of the water. Credit for this goes to an unusual and talented photographer. Bruce Mozert arrived in 1938 and produced some unique photographic artwork.

The story goes that Mozert was passing through central Florida that year and decided to stop in Silver Springs to see swimmer-turned-actor Johnny Weissmuller filming one of the early Tarzan movies there. Mozert liked the place so much he decided to stay.

He went on to develop some of the first underwater cameras and began shooting photographs of models underwater posing for promotional campaigns. The photographs are really interesting and stand out for their clarity. They give you a good idea just how clean the water is in these parts.

You must take a look: some samples are available in this slide show at Smithsonian.com.

Mozert still lives in nearby Ocala and, now in his 90s, continues to work in a photographic studio.

Links:

Brief history of Silver Springs, from Wikipedia.

The Life Aquatic with Bruce Mozert, in Smithsonian.com (full article).

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Functional public art and a troubled experiment

Today we have a follow-up to two recent posts. They come courtesy of my friend Sandy, who let me know about these items. Thanks, Sandy!

First, are you in a New York state of mind? You may recall we wrote recently about the unique bike racks designed by artist David Byrne in Manhattan. The idea was to give everyday public objects a different look. Byrne's designs are directly related to the neighbourhood in which they're located.

Now an avenue in Queens is experimenting with designer subway grates (link below). These are special grates because they have a dual role: they are aesthetically pleasing, but are also barriers against flooding. They allow air circulation, but are raised to prevent water from flowing into them. Prevent water? Yes, this is required because the subway system screeches to a halt when drains cannot handle excessive rainfall and the water seeps into the tunnels. Hillside Avenue in Queens seems to be the most vulnerable spot and so became the focus of the design project.

The grates by Rogers Marvel Architects are designed to prevent flooding but also be artistic and functional. You can see an example in the New York Times article here.

Rain water collecting in the subway system is no minor matter, based on the information collected after the last major shutdown in the summer of 2007. In another New York Times post, we get a chilling description of the problem:

"As water seeps onto subway tracks, it is electrified by the 600 volts running through the third rail, causing the water to boil and setting floating debris on fire. The water also short-circuits the
electrical signals and switches, making it impossible for train operators to know when it is safe to stop or go."

I hope we don't face the same problems in the Toronto subway system.

Secondly, an update on the Large Hadron Collider, that massive underground ring in Switzerland designed for smashing sub-atomic particles into each other in the hope of understanding a lot of weird and wonderful things about the universe.

It looks like the world's most expensive experiment will cost more and will be shut down for at least two months because of mechanical failures. First a 30-ton transformer broke down and then a gigantic magnet failed on Friday. The repairs will take a long time and could jeopardize the schedule of experiments for the rest of the year.

You can read the details here.
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Tommy John surgery

For someone like me who's not all that familiar with baseball, I was curious today when I heard that Toronto Blue Jays' pitcher Shaun Marcum will be out for the rest of the season and will require Tommy John surgery.

While I've heard it mentioned before, I wondered about it a little more today -- just what exactly is "Tommy John" surgery? (For those of you who are avid baseball fans, you may wish to skip this item.)

Marcum was devastated to learn he will be out of commission for about 18 months as a result of his injury. He's torn a key ligament in his elbow, something that occurs unfortunately with some regularity to baseball pitchers. In years gone by, a tear to the ulnar collateral ligament would have ended a player's career. Now, pitchers like Marcum have a chance to return to action through the Tommy John.

Named after the first athlete to undergo the surgery in 1974 (John was a pitcher with the Los Angeles Dodgers), the procedure involves the replacement of the damaged ligament with a tendon from elsewhere in the body (most often from the forearm, hamstring, knee or foot). In this regard, it's not unlike the surgery used to repair that other dreaded season-ending athletic injury: a knee ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) tear.

While recovery is long, pitchers who are diligent with their physiotherapy often return to throw again in the big leagues, and even come back with more power in their throwing arm.

For an illustrated slide show on how Tommy John surgery works, see this. (It's a Flash presentation; click on the arrows after each page loads.)

More info:


MLB: "Marcum needs Tommy John surgery."

Official site of Tommy John: his biography page

The photo of a game at sunset is courtesy of Joshua Davis, via the stock.xchng. His blog is here.
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Surrounded by data, will we embrace virtual reality computing?

If you saw the 2002 Steven Spielberg film "Minority Report," you may have been impressed by the science fiction representation of computing.

The main character, played by Tom Cruise, navigates impressively through a complex database by moving information around in a holographic image in the air in front of him.

Well, that science fiction may soon be science fact, as the design group "NAU" is developing a domed computing system called "Cocoon" that would allow users to view images in a full 360-degree range and work with files in a holographic environment. It will be intuitive and tactile at the same time. It's better seen than described. ButteryBlend, a web site about new concepts, provides a good representation. Click on the link you just passed.

The digital revolution is taking us to places that previously we could only image, and doing so quicker than many anticipated.

Here's another example of where the technology is heading in a fascinating video demonstration of a new type of graphic user interface by Perceptive Pixel.

The future seems to be "now."

Links:
If you didn't see the movie, check out the "Minority Report" movie trailer.
More on the designer and the concept behind NAU in this story.

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A plane for the tired plane spotter

If you've driven by your local airport during peak traffic times, and especially on weekends, you may have noticed all those cars stopped near the runway fences.  That's because people are engaged in the hobby commonly known as "plane spotting."

What is plane spotting?  It's the observation and logging of aircraft types, their registration numbers and unique features. Also, it can be a thrilling experience for the young and old alike.

Now, a novelty... 

For the avid plane spotter and curious traveller, a hostel owner in Sweden may have just invented the consummate experience: sleeping in a converted 747 jumbo jet near the busy Stockholm-Arlanda airport. The seats have been removed and are being replaced by 25 guest rooms.  It's a daring idea.  See the details here.

If you're interested in learning more about plane spotting, a Toronto blog reveals all in its post entitled "Plane Spotting at Pearson Airport 101," which includes some dramatic photographs of a day spent under the big metal birds.

If you like aircraft and airlines in general, a stirring site to visit is Airliners. net for another exceptional collection of photos.

Related in Zanepost:

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Cartoon notes

I've just returned from a work-related trip to Alberta.
Nice to write from home again.

Two cartoons I enjoyed today:

First, on the crisis in the U.S. financial sector... I think artist Mike Luckovich is right on target (link below). It's hard for me to accept, really hard to accept, how very smart people permitted ill-advised mortgage-backed securities and a competitive herd mentality to lead companies down the path of financial ruin. So now, we're seeing this.

On a completely different topic, I like this slice of life ... a current view of parents and children by Brian Bassett. It's a sign of the times.

Image courtesy of PHOTOCROMO

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Landmark series on the Taliban wins prestigious award

Congratulations to the Globe and Mail newspaper for winning a prestigious  online journalism award from the Online News Association for it's unique series "Talking to the Taliban."

The award, given out in Washington over the weekend, recognizes the Globe's landmark work in recording interviews with 42 Taliban soldiers who were asked identical questions.  The interviews were the basis for an in-depth series in the newspaper.  The soldiers were also videotaped and the interviews were made available with an English translation on the web.

 It was a dangerous assignment for correspondent Graeme Smith.  However, Smith and the Globe team produced a series of stories that represents an important piece of journalism because it provides key insights into the mindset and motivation of the men who oppose moderate government and Western forces in Afghanistan.

You can see the Globe's special project by clicking here.

Back in March, I wrote my own summary: An inflexible, limited view of the world, life and death.


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An odd prediction: global cooling

With all the talk about global warming lately, how do you feel about an organization that predicts that global cooling may be in our future instead?

Last year, this organization did very well with it's North American forecast, predicting above-normal snowfalls in the Northeast and drier weather elsewhere. As you will recall, Toronto and other cities broke snowfall records.

We're talking about the Old Farmer's Almanac, which has just published its latest edition. Founded in 1792, The Almanac is the oldest continuously published periodical in North America. It uses a complex formula for it's forecasts, based on sunspot cycles and other factors. The publication says that solar activity and marine temperatures indicate that, contrary to public opinion,  a cold climate may be in our future for maybe the next half-century.

If they're right again, we will need to stock up on oil and gas for more heating.  Is it possible that we'll have record demands on energy, while global temperatures go down instead of up?

It's an intriguing question. 

You can read more in the articles listed below.


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Thanks for visiting this page. I am travelling for a few days and will post again as soon as I get the opportunity.

Best wishes,
-Renato

100 or bust

What's the secret of centenarians? What do they have that others don't, what thing allows them to live beyond the legendary age of 100?

Here's an example: this is a photo of my own grandmother at 102. This was last year, as she posed outside her home in Italy. This year she had an accident. She broke her hip in a fall, and... recovered, a very unusual thing at any age over 80. By all accounts, she enjoyed her summer, even though her mobility is somewhat restricted.

In Japan, the number of people who have reached the age of 100 has reached record levels this year. The British Broadcasting Corporation reports that there are now 36,276 centenarians in the country, an increase of 4,000 over last year.

Most are women, according to the Health and Welfare Ministry. Many of the oldest people in the country live in the south of the country or on the island of Okinawa. No one knows for sure why the Japanese are living longer, but some of the contributing factors may be healthy diets, an active community lifestyle and good health care.

Another important aspect of longevity is related to brain function, apparently. Some of the oldest people in the world keep their minds vibrant by maintaining a regular routine of mental stimulation. Scientists say that doing puzzles or having a hobby that encourages concentration may be helpful in old age.

I think I'd better get started on some of those exercises.

Links:
The story of the astounding Japanese statistics is in the BBC web site here.
Want to learn more about brain fitness? See this.
Related story in Zanepost:
"Unlocking the mystery behind long lifespans in three special places."

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Sicilian mayor makes an offer that's hard to refuse: a home for next to nothing...and just a small catch.

If you're having trouble affording a home in your area, a mayor in Italy has a great deal for you. How would you like an authentic stone villa for the price of 1 Euro? That's right, one Euro. That equals about $1.50 in Canadian dollars.

Creative, flamboyant, former Italian culture minister and now mayor Vittorio Sgarbi is offering homes in the Sicilian hilltop town of Salemi for that price.

Why? He's come up with a scheme to rejuvenate the town, which was damaged during an earthquake in 1968. Since then, many homes have remained unoccupied and abandoned. Sgarbi proposes to give you a villa for one Euro, provided you renovate it and return it to reasonable condition and employ local people to do it.

It's a creative approach that is attracting much attention abroad. Sgarbi is an eccentric figure who has been a wild politician at the national level and popular art critic on Italian TV. He has an uncanny ability to flip easily from highbrow activities to very argumentative public debating and all types of baser pursuits.

You can read all about it in National Geographic's Intelligent Traveler, and in other publications. Just follow the links.

A Sgarbi primer is here.

The photograph in the corner is the picturesque town of Taormina in Sicily. It's a beautiful place on the coast. It's courtesy of Rinske Bok who made it available on the stock.xchng.

Related stories in Zanepost:
Islands in the Sun

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Here's how scientists are preparing that super high-speed collision to unlock the secrets of the universe


Thanks to the site Neatorama, I’ve found a great link that explains the workings of the huge particle accelerator that today made headline news.

You can check out the video here, but first a little background, because it needs some explaining.

Physicists are excited about these upcoming experiments. They say they could unlock some of the secrets of space and time. The experiments are linked to today’s successful test run of the world’s largest particle accelerator, known as the Large Hadron Collider.

Built by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), the gigantic ring structure lies underground between France and Switzerland. Its circumference is 27 kilometres and it contains thousands of powerful magnets needed to accelerate beams of sub-atomic particles to near light-speed (almost 300,000 kilometres per second).

On September 10th, scientists succeeded in sending hydrogen protons, the positively charged nuclei of hydrogen atoms, all the way around the outer ring. They proved the complex machine works as designed.

Physicists believe that by colliding supercharged protons and recording their destruction, they will learn more about the history of time, the laws of the universe (do other dimensions of space really exist?) and what actually makes up the “empty space” in...space.

The collisions are said to replicate the instant immediately after the Bing Bang created our universe. Scientists want to find the so-called “Higgs boson,” a theoretical sub-atomic particle that could help explain what “fills up” the universe, because this is still a mystery after all these years.

Opponents of these super-high-speed collisions are scared. They say the experiment could actually destroy our planet. They say scientists run the risk of creating super densities like Black Holes that would squeeze the entire planet into them. It sounds weird, but they’re serious.

These experiments could keep us with baited breath and hold us enthralled.

The first high-speed particle collisions will be recorded in a few months. Stay tuned.

For more on the news of the successful first test, see these links:

Globe and Mail

New York Times

Related in Zanepost:

Are parallel universe real?

The changing view of space


The photo, top left, is of the CERN particle collider.

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Skimming waves near the heart of the city


This looks like a scene from some lonely outpost in the north, but it was actually shot in Toronto harbour with the City Centre airport in the background. The plane is a Bombardier Q400 in service with Porter Airlines.

Porter flies to Montreal, Ottawa, Newark and Halifax, primarily for the convenience of business travelers who work in the downtown area. Local residents don't like it much, saying the daily turboprop flights create congestion in the area and are too noisy. When Porter was first licenced, residents also feared that private jet traffic would soon follow in and out of the downtown airport. So far, that hasn't happened.

For aviation enthusiasts, meanwhile, the sleek planes are an interesting attraction along the waterfront.

Here's one on final approach:


The photographs are from my dad, Duilio.
Grazie mille!

For more info:
>A video introduction to Porter service is located here.
>Bombardier Q400
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Star Trek anniversary

On this day in 1966, the original "Star Trek" premiered on American television.

The brainchild of Gene Roddenberry, the series captured the imagination with its introductory premise:

"Space... the Final Frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before."

The cast, starring William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley and James Doohan, to name just a few, would all become famous, but mainly when the series was already out of production and into repeats.

The original series only had a three-year, 80-episode run.

Still, it was enough to usher in a new era in television science fiction. Altogether, "Star Trek" spawned another four related series and more than six full theatrical releases.

The successful follow-up series were:

"Next Generation," 178 episodes

"Deep Space Nine," 176 episodes

"Voyageur," 172 episopdes

and "Enterprise," 98 episodes.

...It all began on this day in 1966.

Scottish oddities

Gylen Castle
Two animal-related stories from Scotland this week:

Did you hear about Oscar, the black labrador in Dunfermline, Fife? He and his owner, Chris Morrison, enjoy walking around a golf course. The other day Morrison heard a disturbing rattling sound coming from the dog. He took him to the veterinarian. Going into the stomach, the vet expected to find one or two golf balls but was stunned to keep finding more and more. Before he was done, 13 balls were removed.

Morrison says Oscar has a habit of bringing golf balls home. "He hunts them down like truffles." But Morrison didn't realize he was also swallowing them.

The dog is now doing fine, only for a some time he'll be wearing a muzzle on his walks. (You can see Oscar here.)

Earlier in the week my friend Sandy, a bird lover, sent me a link to an interesting travel story: on the Isle of Kerrera, off Scotland's west coast, a woman leap-frogged a 30-year waiting list for permission to live on the peaceful island by offering to set up a parrot sanctuary. Moving in to a lobster fisherman's cottage, the woman and her parrots have become a big attraction to photographers who come ashore from the local ferry.

Known as the home of Gylen Castle, built in 1582 by the chief of the MacDougall clan, Kerrera is also an idyllic place for nature lovers. Few cars are on the island, as it's population "soars" to no more than 30 residents. The views from the island are said to be spectacular. And the parrots are, too.

The Toronto Star published an article earlier this week. You can read it here.

Thanks to Ove Topfer for another great photo. You can find his pictures at www.sxc.hu.
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Make your daydreams useful

This morning my wife said to me, “I swear, the house could be falling down around you and you wouldn’t even know it.” She was referring to my tendency to be distracted by personal interests other than the things that need to get done around the house. I admit I’m guilty of daydreaming at times.

What I’m going to say does not replace an apology, but this tendency of the mind to wander is something that is actually quite useful. It’s an important tool for creativity. (One must be careful to not abuse the practice.)

Scientists these days are studying how daydreaming may be the “default mechanism” for the mind.

Jonah Lehrer, an editor-at-large for Seed magazine, a science and culture publication, has looked at recent research into daydreaming. Lehrer explores how the mind starts to focus inward when it decides not to respond to the outside world. This tends to happen, as you know, when we are engaged in very routine things, like driving along an empty freeway or painting a wall. Lehrer points out that “instead of responding to the outside world, the brain starts to contemplate its internal landscape. This is when new and creative connections are made between seemingly unrelated ideas.”

This is something we’ve all experienced, but how often do we turn it into something useful? As an example, he tells the story of how Arthur Fry, sitting in a church, came to invent Post-it notes. And we’ve all heard about the great creative minds of history (Shakespeare, DaVinci, Edison, Einstein, etc.) doing similar things.

Research indicates that letting the mind wander aimlessly is not enough to foster creativity. The key seems to be – ironically – to find a way to pay attention to the dreams and perceive the moment when a daydream can be useful.

To learn more, read Lehrer’s article “Daydream Achiever”, published in the Boston Globe.

Also, for some practical creativity tools, see this.

Now back to those dishes in the sink….


Photo courtesy of Ove Tøpfer.
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Pisa no longer leans the most, Dutch say

A Dutch church tower built in the 12th century may now have a more pronounced lean than the famous Tower of Pisa. The structure in the town of Bedum, near Groningen, leans more than 8 feet to one side, and some locals believe it should now receive official recognition.

The Italian tower was leaning further until a few years ago. But beginning in the 1990s Italian engineers intervened to shore it up, fearing Pisa's growing tilt would lead to the tower's collapse. As they strengthened the foundations, the workers pulled it a few centimetres back towards the vertical position.

You can see the Bedum tower in a video and text report on the U.K.'s Telegraph website here. (The media player needs a few seconds to load.)

For more on Pisa's tower, see "Still standing" in Zanepost from December .

Photo courtesy: Cristian Popescu
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Summer in the city

Since I was talking about Seattle Sketcher the other day, I thought I should not let the summer end without posting one of my own urban sketches.

I drew this in August while waiting for a pizza (? - random detail, sorry). The view is of a condominium building with shops and services on the ground floor.

"The Summit," as it's known, is in the King Street - Bathurst area, which is a beehive of activity due to its central location. See this.

"Pure and Simple" offers skin care and spa treatments. To the left of this drawing is a grocery store. To the right, a Mexican restaurant.

Above the pizza place on this side of the street is a wide office tower that hosts a television network devoted to business issues (BNN), dental offices and other commercial interests.

Words


As we listen to speeches by politicians in Canada and the United States in this pre-electoral season,  some of the words we hear come across as platitudes (to my ear, at least).

If you're in a reflective mood,  these quotes from Mahatma Gandhi and Warren Buffet seem more relevant for some reason....or am I just dreaming in Technicolor?


"There are seven things that will destroy us: Wealth without work; Pleasure without conscience; Knowledge without character; Religion without sacrifice;  Politics without principle; Science without humanity; Business without ethics." 


"In looking for people to hire, you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy.  And if they don't have the first, the other two will kill you." 

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Cities in blogs


Blogs offer interesting perspectives on people and places in an infinite variety of ways.  

People live and see the character of cities in unique frames of reference.  I've enjoyed, for example, reading Seattle Sketcher, a blog by Seattle Times illustrator Gabi Campanario.  As the name suggests, he sketches scenes of the Seattle area, where he lives.  He provides an original viewpoint on the city which I find very refreshing.

Here in Toronto, photographer Sam Javanrouh, originally from Tehran, does the same thing with photographs.  His blog, Daily Dose of Imagery, is a great way to experience the city.  Browsing through his photographs is a bit like watching a movie. It's a creative, awakening experience that is open to interpretation, and so becomes a dialogue between artist, subject and viewer.

Thanks to Duilio Zane for his photo of BCE Place in Toronto.
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Weekend Travel: "Via Ferrata" in the Dolomites

There are many times when history and tourism make a good parternship. For those so inclined, travelling somewhere to visit important historical sites can be a rewarding experience.

In Europe, for example, people often explore former battle sites from the First and Second World Wars.

One destination that is not talked about often is the summit zone of the Dolomite Mountains on the border between Italy and Austria, the scene of fierce fighting during the First World War. Writer Ernest Hemingway was wounded in this area while serving as an ambulance driver during that period. Erwin Rommel, who later rose to the rank of field marshal with the German army in WWII, was a decorated infantryman in these mountains during the first world conflict.

The Italian army and the Austrian army both built supply lines to the troops holding positions high in the peaks. They created fixed climbing routes with iron cables and ropes to lift gear up the mountains. These routes became known as the "Via Ferrata" or "Iron Way." Today, climbers can use these cables to explore the summits and visit the high-altitude battle sites and fortifications.

Smithsonian Magazine offers an up-close look that will appeal to history buffs. Writer Matt Mossman explored the tunnels and peaks in the mountains above Cortina D'Ampezzo to see what it was like. Joe Wilcox also offers a photographic slide show.

Photo of the Dolomites (above) is courtesy of Klaus Sandrini. Many thanks.

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