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Archive for October, 2007

2007 » October

Great Literature and the Passing of the Seasons

October 31, 2007 by  

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Like this time of year in New England (and also when I lived in London and Amsterdam, although I never had a back porch in Europe), you become aware that fall is passing and winter is around the corner. I can see it in the back-lit corners of my heavenly Buddhist haven which I created behind the house – small but serene, covered with plants and herbs. The color of the morning sky changes and you can smell it in the air. The turning of seasons. While I absolutely love the heat, fall is probably my favorite time of year, particularly when you hit an Indian summer day and are surrounded by bright orange, yellow and red leaves and children whizzing past you on their bikes. This year, I pressed a batch of New England picked leaves between wax paper, just like a ten year old child. It was a precious two hours. There’s something else I notice with the change of seasons, other than the evident coolness of the wind. It’s the moment when I close off my back porch (even in San Francisco), which noticeably warms up the rest of the house. Right before and during this time,…

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Top Speakers at PopTech

October 26, 2007 by  

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It’s time to comment on my favorite speakers at PopTech last week. Iraqi-born Zainab Salbi was a true standout. For years, she lived in the shadows of Saddam Hussein, where she captured those days in her memoir, Between Two Worlds: Escape from Tyranny: Growing Up in the Shadow of Saddam. After escaping from Iraq, she started helping other women whose lives had been torn apart by war. Zainab has so much genuine passion, you want to jump on stage — any stage — and join her in her mission. “What I saw of war is two sides of the coin,” says Zainab. “One is the front-line discussion, such as the soldiers, the guns, the fighting, the bloodshed and ultimately signing a peace agreement. War is also the backline discussion, meaning ‘how do we keep life going?’ The backline issues are all about life. How do keep the schools going when war is going on? Should we all sleep in the same rooms so we all die together as a family or sleep separately and take a risk.” “She adds, “we need to compete not by fighting with weapons, but by feeding people. War is about the…

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A Thousand Splendid Suns Breaks Your Heart

October 25, 2007 by  

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We all love storytellers. Good storytellers. When I find one buried inside a book, whether its the character or the author, I marvel in the same way I did as a child listening to one new one after another from a family member or friend. Is it a lost art or does one merely have to return to the villages and small towns where they are more readily found? Do people not honor and cherish storytellers the way they did a hundred years ago? Khaled Hosseini is one of those storytellers. He kept us present and begging for more in the Kite Runner and he did the same thing in A Thousand Splendid Suns. The only difference is that you could ‘bear’ the Kite Runner, whereas in the latter, the story is so heart wrenching that at times, you find it hard to breathe. At least I did. The behavior of civilian men and the Taliban towards Afghan women were so brutally depicted in this book, I couldn’t put it down, but I also couldn’t stop crying and asking out loud over and over again, “can this be real?” Of…

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An Islam Dialogue

October 20, 2007 by  

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Johnespositojpg_1Professor of International Affairs and Islamic Studies at Georgetown University John Esposito comes onto the PopTech stage to lead a panel and dialogue about Islam. He is also the director of Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal center for Muslim-Christian understanding at Georgetown. He gives us a taste of just how much Islam has grown by giving us some stats to think about……there are 2.3 billion Christians, 12-18 million Jews and while there are 56 countries where Muslims are a minority, it is now the second or third largest religion in the world. Jokes Esposito, "when I announced I was going to study Islam in the late sixties and early seventies, people told me I’d never get a job. And I didn’t. Then along came the Iranian revolution and I was suddenly employable and people were interested in what I had to say." He continues, "for many of us in this room, certainly most in my generation, christianity was identified with Europe, Islam was invisible on our cognative maps. Schools barely covered Islam and the media didn’t…

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Why Global Warming Isn’t a Major Concern for Americans

October 19, 2007 by  

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“Global warming doesn’t affect our visceral emotions,” says Harvard professor Daniel Gilbert in a session on happiness. And that’s why, he acclaims that we as a society are not taking it seriously. It doesn’t make us feel disgraced, dishonored or ill in the same way killing animals might or ‘okaying’ sex in public. Says Gilbert, “if climate change were caused by gay sex or eating puppies, Americans might just insist that we do something about it.”
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A very small part of our brain is responsible for thinking about the future and a very large part of our brain thinks about now, so it’s not difficult to see why our brains are not concerned with the future. He notes that food and the impurity of our air has changed dramatically in our lifetime and the only reason we tolerate it is because these changes have happened one day at a time.
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He’s right. We tend to only respond to threats that are painful and immediate, i.e., evil people who immediately threaten our well being. Terrorism is so much closer to home so it pushes our buttons. Global warming is a threat, but what makes it a deadly


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Daniel Pink: Right Brain Must Win

October 18, 2007 by  

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DanielpinkjpgDaniel Pink was on the PopTech stage this afternoon talking to us about ‘empathy.’ I met him last night at the opening reception on the waterfront where we talked about his background to-date, largely writing business books and political speech writing. I learned that he recently finished a book called A Whole New Mind, which he summarized for the small handful of us circled around him, an idea he expanded upon in detail in today’s talk. Says Pink, "there are three things about every great speech: "brevity, levity and repetition." He adds humor to his talk early on, in the middle and at the end although he doesn’t note that. He says he finds the saying "an image is worth a thousand words" very annoying. "Perhaps correct," he says, "but annoying." Danielpinkjpg_4 He goes on, "sometimes," he says, "a metaphor is worth a thousand pictures. My job is to be the connected issue between science and understanding the way our minds function." His research and notion is this: the abilities that dominated came out of the left hemisphere in the…

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Looking at the Female Brain

October 18, 2007 by  

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While we’re on cognition, Dr. Louann Brizendine gives us a peak into the female brain, addressing an audience that comprises more than 600 men and women. Her book with the same title – The Female Brain, has apparently been translated into 21 languages. She is also the founder of the Women’s Mood and Hormone Clinic. Louannbrizendinejpg th Brizendine lives and works in my hood – northern California, where she teaches courses at the University of Calfiornia on the brain effects of hormones, mood disorders, anxiety problems and sexual interest changes due to hormonal shifts. Her key interests and expertise revolve around how hormones influence mood, irritability, anxiety, depresion, self-esteem, thinking, sleep, memory, and energy. Louannbrizendinejpg_3  She reminds us that 50% of the smartest brains on the planet are female. For the first time in history, women have complete control of their fertility. We are now living for 40-50 years beyond menopause. "There is no unisex brain," says Brizendine. Her dream for the future is that biology will not be…

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Chris Jordan Shows Impact of Mass Consumption, Waste with Photos

October 18, 2007 by  

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Img_9900 Chris Jordan is the first speaker on the PopTech stage this morning. He is one of the more inspiring speakers I have heard in awhile. So much emotion, so much passion, so much inspiration — all to motivate us as viewers of his photographic work to think dramatically different about consumerism. When it comes to consumerism and waste, it’s often difficult to comprehend scale. Through images, Chris Jordan gives us a taste of how far we have taken mass consumerism in this country. For example, he has used nine million alphabet blocks to represent the number of uninsured American children. These images represent the amount of quantities we actually consume on a regular basis. He shows us a photo of 426,000 cell phones, which is the number of cell phones that we discard in the U.S. every day. (click on any of the below images for a larger view). If this isn’t painful yet, read on. Cell_phones His goal with this image and others, is to depict an actual statistic visually. He began to apply this same technique to other statistics…

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