Wednesday, February 23, 2011

United Kingdom, Great Britain and England explained on YouTube

A friend referred this video to me, finally explaining the differences between these different names and more in a Venn diagram. I recommend it to all, especially those curious about the status of Canada.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Inspirations from TED

I watched a number of TED videos on my flight home from New York on Friday. I am grateful for is that TED has moved from just videos of inventors and people with causes to connecting with some of the most basic human values. It's probably no accident that many of them came from the TED Women conference, but they came from others as well. I'd like to share a few and their key messages. This is a lot for one blog, but I feel that there is more power in delivering all the messages at once. Pick and chose from my summaries, but I do suggest that you follow TED for items that may be meaningful to you.

Naomi Klein: Addicted to risk. Naomi surprised me with this one. You'd think that it is about the oil spill in the gulf from the way that it starts. But it goes on to describe how this same risky behavior extends over much of our culture. Her talk is more of a warning than offering a solution and a bit over the top, but she does clearly call for a different style of greater sustainability. The oilsands pictures were the most frightening to me. But hubris applies to many things in life, not just oil, finance and the environment.
If there is one thing that BP's watery improv act made clear, it is that, as a culture, we have become far too willing to gamble with things that are precious and irreplaceable-- and to do so without a backup plan, without an exit strategy. And BP was hardly our first experience of this in recent years. ... Our financial wizards routinely fall victim to similar overconfidence, convincing themselves that the latest bubble is a new kind of market-- the kind that never goes down.

Krista Tippett: Reconnecting with compassion. The talk starts sounding like a normal talk on kindness and compassion. But, starting at 8:20, it turns a bit more religious and suggests that we can all learn from our weaknesses and struggles. The message is a bit more diffuse and mystic than other talks, but still very worthwhile as a generally uplifting talk.

Elizabeth Lesser: Take "the Other" to lunch. Elizabeth suggests that we have been objectifying the Other in our lives and that we need to reach out. But it turns out that this is not only a issue for political chasms but also between silos and groups in companies, where people can be a floor apart, not know each other and objectify the other group as less than they are. A lunch together and personal contact can break down these walls and lead to a more satisfactory situation for both. In other words, she suggests some true personal action.
I'm deeply disturbed by the ways in which all of our cultures are demonizing the Other by the voice we're giving to the most divisive among us... This is why I am launching a new initiative. And it's to help all of us, myself included, to counteract the tendency to otherize. And I realize that we're all busy people, so don't worry, you can do this on a lunch break. I'm calling my initiative "Take the Other to lunch."

Christopher McDougall: Are we born to run? I don't run, but I bicycle, commonly at 100 mile distances. Chris tells a great motivational story of two women runners, but weaves into it the story of the endurance of our species and teamwork; it does end with a bit about running barefoot (which was not relevant to me as I am not a runner). The best part to me is at 7:49.
If you start running the marathon at age 19, you will get progressively faster, year by year, until you reach your peak at age 27. And then after that, you succumb to the rigors of time. And you'll get slower and slower, until eventually you are back running the same speed you were at age 19. You would think that it might take eight years to get back to the same speed... -- no, it's 45 years. 60 year-old men and women are running as fast as they were at age 19.

Shimon Schocken: Rides of hope. Shimon tells of biking and his outreach to troubled youth. But his elegy to biking and his feelings of elation and empowerment spoke to me. The quote below is from the start of his talk, but I recommend it all.
Mountain biking in Israel is something that I do with great passion and commitment. And when I'm on my bike, I feel that I connect with the profound beauty of Israel... And also, for me, biking is a matter of empowerment. When I reach the summit of a steep mountain in the middle of nowhere, I feel young, invincible, eternal. It's as it I'm connecting with some legacy or with some energy far greater than myself.

Thomas Goetz: It's time to redesign medical data. Thomas, in a slightly technical medical data talk, expands on how the outcome depends more on one's feeling of empowerment and ability to influence than it does on fear. His words come out better in audio than the do in a quote. The most important part beings at about 4:30, but you should watch it all.
The notion of efficacy boils down to one that, if somebody believes that they have the capacity to change their behavior. In health care terms, you could characterize this as whether or not somebody feels that they see a path towards better health, that they can actually see their way towards getting better health.