Friday, August 18, 2017

Ideas, Actions, and Inspiration for a Better Tomorrow - August 18 Edition

Women, Voting Rights

Today in history:

Image from the National Archives website

Passed by Congress June 4, 1919, and ratified on August 18, 1920, the 19th amendment guarantees all American women the right to vote. Achieving this milestone required a lengthy and difficult struggle; victory took decades of agitation and protest. Beginning in the mid-19th century, several generations of woman suffrage supporters lectured, wrote, marched, lobbied, and practiced civil disobedience to achieve what many Americans considered a radical change of the Constitution. Few early supporters lived to see final victory in 1920.

NFL, LGBTQ, Employee Program

The NFL today internally announced the launch of an LGBTQ employee affinity group, called NFL Pride. The new organization, which will officially launch Aug. 16, will be used to support LGBTQ employees and advise NFL executives on best practices for engaging on diversity issues.

The internal league memo, written by the NFL Diversity Council, was sent to all NFL staffers, including people at the league office and the NFL Network.

“Through networking events, speakers, community outreach and employee education, NFL Pride will serve LGBTQ employees and their allies as they support a culture of inclusion,” the memo read. “All employees are invited and encouraged to join and participate in planning and/or attending events.”

The group will be led by executive sponsors Julie Haddon (senior vice-president of marketing), Dawn Hudson (chief marketing officer) and Troy Vincent (vice-president of football operations).

The NFL started employee affinity groups around 2010, with current groups focusing on women and black employees. According to NFL Executive Vice President & Chief Human Resources Officer Robert Gulliver, NFL Pride is launching now because the NFL has received what he called a “critical mass” to ensure the group thrives.

NFL Pride kickoff event at the League office in New York City on August 16. From left to right: Moderator and author of the article above,  Cyd Zeigler; Ryan O'Callaghan (former NFL offensive tackle who came out publicly in June); Jason Collins (the NBA's first openly gay player, 13 seasons at the NBA, now retired); Billy Bean (MLB Ambassador for Inclusion and former professional baseball player. It was a wonderful event and made me proud to be a part of the NFL family. This is a new program for LGBTQ employees and their allies that will make a difference, as have other diversity and support initiatives implemented over the years for NFL employees.  

Solar Eclipse, DIY, Pop Culture

“Hundreds of years before solar viewing glasses were readily available, scientists and casual spectators could still enjoy these rare celestial events without frying their eyeballs. They'd use a combination of pinholes and mirrors to redirect the sun's rays onto a screen.

It took a while to figure out how to build the so-called camera obscura. Ancient Chinese and Greek scholars puzzled over pinholes for centuries before an Arab mathematician and scientist came up with a design.

You can rig up your own version with simple household items. It's easy. Skunk Bear's latest video shows you how.

And remember, never look directly at the sun without appropriate eye protection.”

And for some fun, one of my fave songs from the '80s will be sung during the total solar eclipse:

A universal pop song and the universe are about to align.

Guests aboard the Royal Caribbean's Total Eclipse Cruise have an extra surprise in store for their once-in-a-lifetime viewing experience: Bonnie Tyler, the Welsh songstress of "Total Eclipse of the Heart" fame, will be on board to perform her 1983 hit just as the moon sails across the sun. (The cruise ship will be positioned in the path of totality for this critical moment. “Bonnie Tyler was a natural choice for this once-in-a-lifetime moment," said the president and CEO of Royal Caribbean International, Michael Bayley.)

Tyler's song launched her to stardom and remains a classic today, especially as a karaoke favorite. But this is the first time she'll be performing it during this highly anticipated astronomical event.

"It’s going to be so exciting," Tyler told TIME, speaking from a brief stopover in Wales. "It doesn't happen very often, does it?"

Mental Health, Social Media, Activism

“For people looking to protect their own mental health and not get so overwhelmed that they disengage from the issues they care about, Woodruff advises “differentiating worry and anxiety from positive action, and separating productive worry from unproductive worry.”

Ultimately, your personal anxiety has no effect on the world around you. Worry is not action, and knowledge, while important, is not action either. Randall cautions against getting caught up in following every minute detail of an issue.

“Whatever the issue is, once you’ve found out about it, stop,” she says. “That’s enough. You know about it. Then you need to decide what you’re going to do.” As an activist she interviewed once told her, she said, “‘Action is the antidote to despair.’””

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Ideas, Actions, and Inspiration for a Better Tomorrow - August 17 Edition

Leadership, Education

“What started as simply stargazing with her Girl Scouts troop as a 7-year-old in New Mexico has since turned into a career at NASA, IBM, Apple and Dell for Sylvia Acevedo.

Most recently, in May, she was named the CEO of the Girl Scouts of the USA, the organization she belonged to growing up. Her mission: to ensure STEM learning is a part of every young woman's life.

"I had an 'aha' moment when I was a young girl and my troop leader saw me looking at the stars," Acevedo tells CNBC Make It.

"Later on, when we were choosing our badges, she encouraged me to get my science badge," she recalls. And the rest is history.

Solar Eclipse, Science

“On Monday, as you might have heard, the first total solar eclipse in more than a century will be visible in North America. Across a wide swath of the country, the moon will block out the sun, creating an awe-inspiring, near-three minutes of darkness and incredible views. A certain segment of the population, eclipse enthusiasts known as “umbraphiles,” have been planning for months: stocking up on special solar-eclipse glasses, planning themed festivals, and purchasing tickets to fly into what is usually flyover country for the event. The short burst of ecotourism is going to be huge: U.S News and World Report wrote that a 1,600-population town in Idaho is expecting 100,000 visitors for the event. Hotels, Airbnbs, and even campsites have been booked for months.

So what if you forgot to schedule—or simply did not want to invest in—an eclipse getaway? We understand. It’s been a rough year.

If you don’t have a personal plane, it’s probably too late to get somewhere that’s in the “path of totality,” the 70-mile-wide path across the U.S where the sun will be completely blocked by the moon. (Fourteen states are inside the path of totality, and the biggest city in the path is Nashville.) Being in the path will be pretty cool—once the moon covers that last 1 percent of the sun, it gets about 10,000 times darker. But even if you can’t get out there, thanks to the wonders of technology, you can still virtually watch the spectacle: NASA is live-streaming the view of it from 11 spaceships, at least three aircraft, and more than 50 balloons. You can also indulge your FOMO with the #eclipse and #eclipse2017 hashtags, where you can be sure the people who made it will share their experiences.”

Science, Happiness

“It’s a question central to daily life: Do you spend money to save time or spend time to save money? Well, if happiness is the goal, you might consider opening that wallet.

That’s the takeaway of a study, published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, whose findings suggest that spending money to save time may reduce stress about the limited time in the day, thereby improving happiness.

“People who spent money to buy themselves time, such as by outsourcing disliked tasks, reported greater overall life satisfaction,” said Ashley Whillans, an assistant professor at the Harvard Business School and lead author of the study, which was based on a series of surveys from several countries. Researchers did not see the same effect when people used money for material goods.”

Health, Diet

“Attention, males of the world: if you’re looking to attract a female partner, try changing your diet first.

A study from Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia says women are most attracted to the sweaty scent of men who eat fruits and veggies. The study also claims that fat, meat, egg and tofu intake were tied to pleasant-smelling sweat and a carb-rich diet was linked to a more intense, less-pleasant sweat smell. 

“We’ve known for a while that odor is an important component of attractiveness, especially for women,” Ian Stephen, who helped conduct the small study, said in a recent interview with NPR. “Women basically found that men who ate more vegetables smelled nicer.””

Data, Regulations

“A NEW commodity spawns a lucrative, fast-growing industry, prompting antitrust regulators to step in to restrain those who control its flow. A century ago, the resource in question was oil. Now similar concerns are being raised by the giants that deal in data, the oil of the digital era. These titans—Alphabet (Google’s parent company), Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft—look unstoppable. They are the five most valuable listed firms in the world. Their profits are surging: they collectively racked up over $25bn in net profit in the first quarter of 2017. Amazon captures half of all dollars spent online in America. Google and Facebook accounted for almost all the revenue growth in digital advertising in America last year.

Such dominance has prompted calls for the tech giants to be broken up, as Standard Oil was in the early 20th century. This newspaper has argued against such drastic action in the past. Size alone is not a crime. The giants’ success has benefited consumers. Few want to live without Google’s search engine, Amazon’s one-day delivery or Facebook’s newsfeed. Nor do these firms raise the alarm when standard antitrust tests are applied. Far from gouging consumers, many of their services are free (users pay, in effect, by handing over yet more data). Take account of offline rivals, and their market shares look less worrying. And the emergence of upstarts like Snapchat suggests that new entrants can still make waves.

But there is cause for concern. Internet companies’ control of data gives them enormous power. Old ways of thinking about competition, devised in the era of oil, look outdated in what has come to be called the “data economy” (see Briefing). A new approach is needed.”

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Ideas, Actions, and Inspiration for a Better Tomorrow - August 16 Edition

Solar Eclipse, Science

Editor’s note: A total solar eclipse will be visible across the U.S. on Monday, August 21. Shannon Schmoll, director of the Abrams Planetarium at Michigan State University, explains why and how it happens, and what we can learn from an eclipse.

"How do we know when an eclipse is going to happen? How do we know in advance where it will be visible?

Solar eclipses happen when our view of the sun is blocked by the moon. When the moon lines up between the sun and Earth, the moon will cast a shadow onto Earth. This is what we on the ground observe as a solar eclipse.

We know when they’ll happen because over centuries astronomers have measured very precisely the motions of the Earth, moon and sun, including their orbital shapes, how the orbits precess and other parameters. With those data about the moon – and similar information about the Earth’s orbit around the sun – we can make mathematical models of their movements in relation to each other. Using those equations, we can calculate tables of data that can predict what we will see on Earth, depending on location, during an eclipse as well as when they will happen and how long they last. (The next major solar eclipses over the U.S. will be in 2023 and 2024.)"

Tech, Women, Afghanistan

Small Towns, Infrastructure

"Successful implementation of Complete Streets requires much more than a one-size-fits-all approach. Rural and small towns often face distinct challenges from urban areas when it comes to improving the conditions for people walking and bicycling. The National Complete Streets Coalition recently spoke with Andrea Clinkscales, Senior Planner at Alta, to learn about some of the obstacles smaller communities may face, along with potential solutions to implementing Complete Streets."

Alta Planning + Design is a partner of the National Complete Streets Coalition and promotes active transportation by making streets more comfortable and attractive for all ages and abilities.

Education, Nature

HARI SREENIVASAN: But first: A movement to get kids out of classrooms with walls and into the great outdoors is picking up steam. Across the U.S., nature preschools are seeing a surge.
Jeffrey Brown traveled to Midland, Michigan, to find out why for our weekly education segment, Making the Grade.

STUDENT: There’s a spider in my net.

JEFFREY BROWN: Hunting for bugs, jumping off logs, dipping for frogs, it’s what kids do, right? In fact, no, many don’t, certainly not as part of their education.
But in the age of testing, screens, and, some would say, excessively coddled children, a new movement of nature preschools is growing and pushing kids outdoors.

Jenn Kirts, a biologist by training, oversees educational programs at the nonprofit Chippewa Nature Center in Midland, Michigan, 1,200 acres of woodlands, wetlands, ponds and meadows.

JENN KIRTS, Director of Programs, Chippewa Nature Center: In a classroom, a lot of the things that you have are static and were designed to be played with in one particular way. The natural environment changes every single day. The weather changes, the humidity. There’s scat left behind. There’s new footprints. There’s leaves that are chewed today that weren’t chewed yesterday.

And so there’s just a natural curiosity that happens there. And it’s something that people have spent time in for generations and generations. All of our existence, kids have grown up outdoors. That has changed in these current generations.

Careers, Advancement

"Want to boost your performance at work?

Pick out a colleague who is really good in an area where you want to improve—and move your desk next to him or her.

Proximity to high achievers can lift people’s performance in various jobs, via inspiration, peer pressure or new learning, a growing body of research shows. The findings offer a silver lining to anyone annoyed at the current fad of flexible office-seating arrangements; employees can use them to their advantage.

Simply sitting next to a high achiever can improve someone’s performance by 3% to 16%, according to a two-year Northwestern University study of 2,452 help-desk and other client-service workers at a technology company."

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Ideas, Actions, and Inspiration for a Better Tomorrow - August 15 Edition

Writing, Creativity

"For more than 25 years, I have faithfully written Morning Pages—three pages of longhand stream of consciousness that serves to unlock my creativity, guiding me a page at a time into my future. The pages, I often say, are like lanterns—illuminating the path ahead. I write them daily, aware that skipping them leads back to blocks. The faithful practice of pages leads to freedom. They bring ease and inspiration to my life.

1. The first thing I've learned is that persistence pays off.

Doing the pages day in and day out, even when they seem dull, boring, or difficult, eventually leads to breakthroughs. Because they can be about anything, pages are like taking a whisk broom to the corners of our consciousness."

To read 2 – 10, click here.

Grief, Kindness

"MORRIS, Minn. – Peace and quiet seem like a good thing, until you’ve had too much. Keith Davison got his fill in the months that followed the death of his wife Evy.

“You just can’t imagine what it's like,” says Davison, who lost his wife to cancer in 2016 after a marriage of 66 years. “You cry a lot. That's just the way it is, because she's not here.”

But it’s not quiet at Davison’s house anymore.  Late this spring the 94-year-old retired judge installed in his backyard an in-ground pool – then filled it with the neighborhood kids."

Education, Soft Skills

"More and more, people in education agree on the importance of schools' paying attention to stuff other than academics.

But still, no one agrees on what to call that "stuff."

I originally published a story on this topic two years ago.

As I reported back then, there were a bunch of overlapping terms in play, from "character" to "grit" to "noncognitive skills."

This bagginess bugged me, as a member of the education media. It bugged researchers and policymakers too. It still does.

If anything, the case for nonacademics has gotten even stronger since then. In fact, it has been enshrined in federal law. The Every Student Succeeds Act mandates that states measure at least one nonacademic indicator of school success.

There is also new research indicating that school-based interventions to promote social and emotional skills have large, and long-term, positive impacts: an average of $11 for every dollar invested, according to an analysis by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (which is a supporter of NPR).

But despite all the hoopla there is still — still! — no consensus on how to define these indicators, or even on what to call them."

Communication, Social Justice

(This article is from 2016 but definitely worth a read.)

"This is a follow-up to my previous piece entitled Ten Counterproductive Behaviors of Social Justice Educators. The latter was written for folks who consider equity work as their core life purpose. I wrote Ten Counterproductive Behaviors of Well-Intentioned People for the folks who consider themselves good people invested in social justice and conversations around equity, but who may show up in the ally role most often. Well-intentioned people make mistakes, lots of them. Mistakes must be expected and being held accountable has to be expected as well. The points below outline some of the common behaviors that show up often in social justice conversations.

I want to be clear that we all participate in some of the following counterproductive acts. We are not all privileged or all oppressed. We are complex people with complex identities that intersect in complex ways. Therefore, we all show up in problematic ways with our privilege. I own that my background is from the higher education setting, but I think the points below can be useful for all folks interested in creating dynamic change in the communities around them. Moreover, this piece was written in the midst of the Michael Brown and Eric Garner non-indictments (many more people could be listed), so some of it may feel specific to race. However, these rules apply beyond the identity of race; in fact, these rules only exist in the dynamic of intersections. Below are ten counterproductive behaviors that people who want to do “good” commit and must actively work to correct: Click here."

Single, Childless, Work-Life Balance

"So, what should single workers do if they feel they’re being singled out because of their personal life choices or situation, yet don’t want to jeopardise their careers and reputations?
“Don’t bitch and moan about your particular circumstances,” is the first advice dished out by UK-based business mentor David Carter.

He argues that “the answer is in the crowd.” Single colleagues should consider clubbing together, he says, to identify and propose changes to company practices that might benefit the organisation more widely, while at the same time demonstrating their own problem-solving skills.

That may be easier to do than ever, as unprecedented numbers of us are settling down later in life or not at all. A 2014 Pew Report study estimated that one in four young adults in the US will have never married by the time they turn 50, while the most common type of household in the European Union in 2016 was that of a single person, according to the EU’s number-crunching agency Eurostat."

Monday, August 14, 2017

Ideas, Actions, and Inspiration for a Better Tomorrow - August 14 Edition

Flint, Water Crisis

"When Bruno Mars announced at a Michigan concert on Saturday that he’d donated proceeds from the sold-out show to support the victims of the Flint water crisis, the cheers and applause from the crowd were deafening.

“You guys showed me this much love and support tonight, I want to do something special,” the singer said, interrupting a performance of his hit song “Just the Way You Are.” “Tonight I’m going to donate $1 million to our brothers and sisters in Flint, Michigan.”

According to Rolling Stone, Mars donated the funds to the Community Foundation of Greater Flint, an organization that continues to assist victims and community members as Flint’s water crisis, which began in 2014, drags on. Flint Mayor Karen Weaver said in March that it could be years before the water in the city is safe to drink again."

Rural America, Healthcare

"The problems of insuring rural Americans were exacerbated by the Great Recession, the sequester that affected Medicare in 2013, the declining and aging population of rural areas, and the decision of some Republican-led states not to expand Medicaid.  The challenges of offering affordable health insurance to rural residents were not caused by the ACA, but they made its implementation more difficult. It’s also important to note that the rural challenge is not limited to ACA exchanges: Medicare Advantage, often cited as an example of a robust insurance market, has 148 “bare” counties without any insurer, nearly eight times the number of counties that may not have a marketplace plan in 2018.

There are a variety of potential solutions to the ACA’s rural issue which would maintain the free market approach of the law without sacrificing its consumer protections.  One obvious one would be expanding Medicaid in the 19 holdout states, many of which are predominantly rural. Doing so would cause an influx of funds for rural health care providers. This increased funding could incentivize more health providers to enter rural markets, or at least keep rural hospitals and doctors from leaving rural counties, as has been the trend of late. As discussed above, increased provider participation allows for better competition among insurers. Moreover, while expanded Medicaid would reduce the potential market size of rural counties, it would also provide coverage for lower income individuals who are typically more expensive, making marketplace pools healthier and lowering costs for insurers. A recent HHS study estimated that expanding Medicaid lowered marketplace premiums by about 7 percent."

Inspiration, Science, Technology

"The inspiration for this arrangement came from a school project. Thomassen and his classmates were required to research a real-world problem of their choosing, and he chose e-waste. After conducting interviews and reading countless articles, Thomassen realized just how big of a problem e-waste is and was compelled to find a creative way to repurpose technology.

When he shared his idea to refurbish used laptops to give to underserved teens, his teacher suggested he reach out to CASA about working with teens in foster care.

Refurbishing the laptops proved to be no problem for Thomassen. He had been helping his friends update software on their computers for years, reading online forums, googling questions and watching YouTube videos whenever he hit a roadblock. Thomassen said part of his motivation to teach himself these skills stemmed from curiosity, but most of it was fueled by frustration.

"I just got annoyed that stuff didn't work, so I figured out how to fix it," he said."

Engineering, Infrastructure

"We are moving rapidly down the road toward the age of self-driving cars. But as the cars change, the roads will have to change with them, and it will likely mean some adjustments, such as different signage and narrower lanes.

Five years ago, when Governor Jerry Brown appointed Malcolm Dougherty to head Caltrans, autonomous cars seemed a lot farther off than they do now. With ridesharing and even car rental companies getting into the game — and more than a dozen regulatory bills before Congress — things are accelerating. As the car technology races toward him, Dougherty is keeping his eyes on the road KQED Science Editor Craig Miller spoke with the top man at Caltrans about the future of California’s highways."

Read the interview.

Well-being, Stress, Kids

"Man’s best friend can also help a kid out in trying times. A study published in Social Development found that kids coped with stressful situations better when they had their pet dogs with them.

Researchers from the University of Florida recruited about 100 dog-owning families with kids between the ages of 7 and 12 years old to come to their lab. The kids were put through public speaking and math tasks (situations known to stress out any kid — or adult for that matter) with either their parent or dog present or no social support at all. The researchers asked the kids about their stress levels before and after the task and took pre- and post-task saliva samples to measure the their cortisol levels.

“Children who had their pet dog with them reported feeling less stressed compared to having a parent for social support or having no social support,” lead study author Darlene Kertes, PhD, an assistant professor of psychology at UF, said in a press release about the findings."

Read more about the findings here.