- Being in the Cast of Listen To Your Mother
- Helping your Child Walk or Bike to School
- Cycling Success Stories Mainly About Women
- Introducing the Durable Human Manifesto
- Meet the DC Cast of Listen To Your Mother
- Replant Native Trees that Turbocharge Nature
- A Prospective Author’s Perspective 2013
- How Free Content Can Boost Book Sales
- Tips for Effective Email Marketing
- Give Some Guidance with that Gadget
Connect With Me on Twitter
A good way for kids to be durable in the long run is by learning how to get themselves around. Riding the bus certainly helps them to become more self-reliant, but if they walk or bike they also get a good workout, fresh air and a healthy dose of freedom.
Unlike how it was when you were growing up, only 1 in 10 kids today walk or bike to school. To improve those odds, the national Safe Routes to School program sponsors International Bike to School Day in the spring (this year on May 8) and Walk to School Day in October.
More and more, school systems in the U.S. and around the world are endorsing the Days, as we have recently here in Fairfax County, Virginia. Some of our schools have expanded to Bike and Walk Week and are even challenging each other to friendly competitions. Others schools encourage students to walk or bike on a particular day each week.
If you want your child give it a try, more »
With the arrival of spring, more people are in the mood to give cycling a try. May is packed with bike activities including International Bike to School Day, this year on the 8th. The Safe Routes to School program has a great how-to site for parents who want their kids to be more active, independent and durable in the long run. To that end, I popped some get-started walking and cycling tips over to Activity Rocket, a site which helps parents in the Washington, D.C. area find fun and productive things for their kids to do.
My own love for cycling propelled me to trek to the heart of the city for another May event sponsored by the “Capital Spokeswomen” and the Washington Area Bicyclist Association‘s Women and Bicycles program. “Open Mic Women and Bicycling Night” was described as “your chance to take the stage to share 4 minutes of bike love.” Since cycling is part of my newly-minted Durable Human Manifesto, it was an offer I couldn’t refuse. more »
If you’re tired of trying to do it all in this busy digital world and feel distant from what you used to hold dear, this little book helps you to be closer to your loved ones and more in control of your time.
Although The Durable Human Manifesto does contain the word “revolution” (thanks to Foo Fighter Dave Grohl), it comes in peace as a declaration of human awesomeness and sensory celebration of our supremely unique selves.
When buying a bunch of flowers, I’m always happy when – peeking out – are the pinky green buds of an oriental lily. Over the next few days, I love to watch each unfold its sinuous leaves and relish their heavenly fragrance. I thought of lilies as I found myself planted in a cozy suburban living room with this year’s Washington, DC cast of Listen to Your Mother. We had been invited by Stephanie Stearns Dulli and Kate Coveny Hood, director and producer respectively of the yearly, live celebration of the grit, gripes and glories of moms in particular and parenting in general.
After enjoying a spread of cheese and artisan pizza artfully prepared by cast member and host, Lara DiPaola, we sat down to read our essays. One by one, we bared our souls, each offering her or his contribution to a diverse bouquet of stories: many were funny, some surprising, and a few could break your heart. Through the evening of tears, tissues and hugs, we created something beautiful together, born of our durable human traits of curiosity, creativity and compassion.
You can print one out for free courtesy of the Family Online Safety Institute’s Platform for Good. PfG calls it an “online safety card,” but there’s more to it than that. You can spell out how much time your child can be online, which sites are okay to visit, and how much money (if any) your child can spend on apps, but you also promise to be supportive of your child’s use of the new item and not over-react if he or she stumbles on something you deem offensive. more »
Can one dad who cares about getting kids to ride their bikes to school convince a million kids to do it? Well, Jeff Anderson has had that chance – and why I’m featuring his story on Blog Action Day, whose theme this year is “The Power of We.”
Jeff’s goal is simple. He loved the independence and fun of riding to school and wants today’s kids to be able to do the same. At first, he rode only with his own three kids to their elementary school in a traffic-clogged suburb of Washington, D.C. But soon neighbors began to join in, so Jeff formed a “bike train” of kids, described on The Durable Human two years ago. more »
As some readers of this blog may know, I am also writing a book called The Durable Human. It’s not easy to explain what it means to be “durable.” So I was thunderstruck when I heard Garrison Keillor on The Writer’s Almanac read this love poem by Sharon Dunn: more »
For their children to be durable, it isn’t enough anymore for parents to merely teach them crucial stuff like manners and how to hammer a nail. Add to the list everything to do with Technology. Yet, many view the vast Internet Ocean with fear and trepidation–especially if their kids have already jumped in. This concerns digital instigators such as Facebook, Google and Microsoft who want everyone to feel comfortable and safe in the water. And that’s why they’ve teamed up with the Family Online Safety Institute to teach swimming lessons on a new website called A Platform for Good. more »
Thinking back on high school, no one wanted to be embarrassed in front of their friends. So why would we want to bring that on our children? more »
Just as they do face to face, kids love to socialize online. Four out of five online teens hang out on social networks. Some of them may like to tweet or dabble in MySpace, but practically all have a profile on Facebook. “No one had any idea how quickly and or how widely this would spread,” says Stephen Balkam, director of the Family Online Safety Institute which sponsored the new report by the Pew Research Center. more »
Because he likes to cook, 16 year old Daniel Martinez has been appointed “executive chef” at the Farm at Walker Jones. Whenever he volunteers, he whips up dishes in the farm stand with whatever is picked that day. “It’s really neat to see plants and herbs I’d never heard of before like swiss chard – in the middle of D.C.” Daniel walks to the farm from a nearby private high school where he is a sophomore.
The half-acre plot primarily serves students, families and neighbors of a D.C. Public School called the Walker Jones Education Campus. Last year, even though groundbreaking wasn’t until early summer, the farm managed to raise 3,000 pounds of food which went to residents, a retirement community and a kitchen which serves the homeless.
Young hearts and minds are tended just as carefully. As the website says, “It is an outdoor classroom where experiential learning integrated into the school curriculum happens side by side with the social and emotional education required to train the leaders of tomorrow.”
Just like other kids who visit, Daniel has learned a lot. Before he became a volunteer, he “wasn’t big into picking fresh ingredients.” But now he says he appreciates “when one second they’re in the ground and the next second they’re a delicious appetizer.”
Daniel was delighted when a woman from the neighborhood tried one of his signature recipes and gushed, “I don’t usually like zucchini, but I sure like this!”
Anyone is welcome to volunteer at the farm on Tuesday, Thursday or Sunday afternoons. You will receive a selection of the day’s produce, so don’t forget to bring a bag.
This post is brought to you by Blog Action Day 2011. The subject this year is FOOD.
If you ever hear or see anything about William Shatner’s Shatner Rules, do not attempt to avoid it. You will be powerless to resist the book’s black-hole-like magnetism and relentless cross-promotion.
Shatner Rules caught me with something called a “Klout Perk”. As someone who spends too much time on Twitter, I received a peppy little email asking if I’d like a free book about the “Shatnerverse.” I bit on the bait, it arrived in the mail, and I was hooked from the first page.
First of all, it’s funny. The Shatnerisms made me laugh out loud, like when he said “Few are worthy enough to call me an egomaniac!” and described his kidney stone as “an onyx of agony.”
Then there’s the Wow Factor. Did you know Bill Shatner is 80? If you did the math, you could figure that out. But you have to be a pretty huge fan to know he has recorded three albums in his lifetime. On his new release, Searching for Major Tom, Bill belts out Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man” accompanied by renowned heavy metal guitarist Zakk Wylde.
Since Shatner’s been in show business for 75 years, the book is also about acting. If you thought Captain Kirk was his only real role, prepare to be amazed. He’s appeared in productions from major motion picture Judgment at Nuremberg to the 1960s TV series, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Right now, he has not one, but two talk shows including Aftermath where he interviews such notables as Daniel Ellsburg, Bernard Goetz and Lee Boyd Malvo.
Oh, and by the way, Shatner Rules also offers Bill’s heartfelt, upbeat philosophy of life.
All this is wrapped up in a compact 50,000-word hardcover. I wondered why Penguin USA, a foremost publisher of cutting-edge digital products, would send me a little print book. Well, this no-tech tome is a true marvel of multi-platform marketing. Shatner effectively pushes his Facebook page, commercials and shows on YouTube, music on iTunes, and Twitter feed. He and co-writer, former The Daily Show with Jon Stewart comedy scribe Chris Regan, even have a sneaky trick to get you to www.WilliamShatner.com.
Shatner Rules reminded me why print books still work. In this case, the format controls the game through a clever layout which delivers laughs with maximum impact. Punch lines are often perfectly timed with page turns.
For the mere price of one copy plus postage, Dutton Publicity managed not only to get me to read and write about their book, but also to buy more. The sweet thing about paper books is that they are great keepsakes and gifts. As opposed to my somewhat dour gift choice for last Christmas, this year my loved ones will receive Shatner Rules.
All kidding aside, Bill’s an awesome example of how to wring the most out of life, even when you’re 80.
Shatner Rules: Your Guide to Understanding the Shatnerverse and the World at Large. On sale everywhere October 4.
Could it be that it’s easier to forget your child in the car than realize your cellphone is missing? A tragic number is telling.
At last count, 513 American kids have died inside hot, closed cars since record-keeping began in 1998. About half were forgotten by a parent or caregiver.
Because the death toll continues to climb, authorities met in Washington, D.C. this week to propose immediate action. “It’s so urgent that we find effective sets of countermeasures that we all can take right now,” said David Strickland of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, as quoted in the Washington Post.
And what do experts suggest as a top countermeasure? Put your cellphone in the back seat with your child.
The advocacy group Kids and Cars.org has a there-but-for-the-grace-of-God perspective. Says founder Janette Fennel: “People think these people must be terrible parents, they must be monsters, because if we think that, we can’t relate to them. Nothing could be further from the truth.”
The truth is that any of us can fall prey to a single act of absent-mindedness which could have horrific results. To avoid that, parents and caregivers must be mindful and informed.
Some life-saving advice from KidsandCars:
- Your child gets hot faster than you do – up to five times faster.
- A closed car can reach a broiling 125 degrees in only minutes.
- Cracking the windows does not slow the heating.
Practice safe habits:
- Don’t leave your child alone in a car, even for a minute.
- Look before you lock. Open the back door and check inside before you walk away.
- Instruct your babysitter or childcare center to call you if your child doesn’t show up when he or she is expected.
And, yes – lest you forget: when you buckle up your child, put your go-to things in the back seat, too – which will surely include a cellphone.
Larry Knighten is dean of students at Joyce Kilmer Middle School, which is located within walking distance of traffic-choked Tysons Corner, Virginia. Recently, Larry noticed a problem. Every day, the single bike rack outside the school was filled to overflowing. Bikes were locked haphazardly to fences and trees.
It all started when the county transportation department built a little bridge over a nearby creek to create a direct connection to the many neighborhoods on the other side. What resulted is that many kids who had never been able to walk and bike to school before decided to give it a go.
But, rather than getting mad at the bicycle mishmash, Larry got creative with a few school system dollars. Not only did he buy more bike racks, he built a beautiful concrete pad to go underneath so the kids and the ground wouldn’t get muddy.
The school is so excited, they held a ribbon-cutting – and even a U.S. congressman dropped in to celebrate.
A couple of student onlookers commented on how they roll.
“I ride to school because it’s faster than walking and, you know, it’s just fun because you get a little bit of exercise in the morning,” said one young man.
Another sees the practical advantages: “The bus is a lot earlier than I’d like to leave and if I leave on my bike I can leave later and it’s not that far. It’s really nice and I just think it’s a good experience to ride your bike to school.”
Sleep. Exercise. Autonomy. Just what pre-teens (and the rest of us) need to be healthy and happy.
Below, Larry talks about the benefits of biking to school, and Virginia Representative Gerry Connolly explains how strategic, small government investments like the Kilmer bridge can lead to less car traffic and a more livable community. .
In pre-digital times, parents were the ones who craved time off to recharge their batteries. But in today’s switched-on world, entire families are in need of unplugged rest and relaxation. A spot within easy driving distance from Washington helps everyone get back on a healthier beat.
“Non-ado” is a sweet term I learned from Martin Ogle, longtime Chief Naturalist at Potomac Overlook Regional Park in Arlington, Virginia. He was invited recently to speak to the outdoor education advocacy group, NoVA Outside. Martin says nature proceeds at its own unrushed, regular rhythm. Non-ado, and the Taoist concept of Wu-wei, refer to one’s ability to exist in harmony with that age-old cadence.
Martin joins spiritualist Thomas Merton and author Walter Kerr, who contend that our hyper-busy, high-tech society is out of sync with the rhythm of nature, causing us maladies ranging from anxiety to depression. In other words, we are suffering because we no longer go with Nature’s flow. Spending time outside helps rectify new-age angst. Or, in Martin’s words, “there are a lot of questions that being outdoors helps answer.”
Recently, our family went in search of spring break tranquility. It might have been the rustle of spanish moss on the massive live oaks – or the hammocks beckoning beneath - but it was easy to slip into a state of non-ado at Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort.
Comfy porch rockers invite you to chill out at this warm South Carolina hideaway only six hours from the Nation’s Capital.
But Walt Disney would never be content with only DIY amusement. Helpful employees called “cast members” assist with all kinds of activities which have an emphasis on nature.
Working with paintbrush and paper at large wooden tables, kids have plenty of elbow room for gyotaku, the ancient Japanese art of fish rubbing. Teens head out with the cast to play mini-golf or games on the beach. When they want to be together, families can don rubber boots for outings such as exploring the marsh at low tide with a naturalist.
The resort’s flat, white sand beach is located about a mile across the island, but there’s no reason to get in the car. Take the free shuttle or ride the flat, protected bike trails instead. Try to BYOB (bring your own bikes) because rentals are pricey.
Each unit has at least a cook top and fridge, if not a full kitchen. Remember to pick up provisions on the way because the gift shop carries only the basics. If you want to splurge for dinner, many restaurants are just a short stroll past the gleaming yachts docked in Shelter Cove.
While it’s true that price can put a Disney resort out of reach, there’s no harm in borrowing Walt’s ideas. Creating Wu-wei in your own back yard or nearby park doesn’t take much - just some creativity and the will to put the gadgets aside and let Nature set the tempo.
It was reassuring to be at the second-ever Digital Book World Conference, if only to see so many others hurtling forward in the same general direction. We were all a little breathless in the brief time-out from our unexpected digital journeys.
Mine began four years ago, when I had an idea for a book. Ironically, it’s a strategy parents can use to introduce their kids thoughtfully to the online world. I started down the publishing road like everyone else back then: researching the topic, writing a manuscript, sending out proposals. I found out pretty quickly that no one wanted to print tech-related non-fiction – especially by an unknown author.
Then the ground began to shift.
I was at an American Independent Writers conference, cheerless from some face-to-face rejections, when I wandered into a session called “The Online Platform.” We were told that if a writer is going to be successful, she had better have a blog, website and Twitter account. Agents won’t even talk to you, the speaker insisted, unless you come with a posse. Sensing I had no choice (and no posse), I set out to create my digital lasso.
While I was still sorting out the hashtags from the plug-ins, my husband gave me a Kindle and I saw how Amazon was squeezing book-selling like a python. Shortly after that, I stumbled upon the Digital Book World Roundtable.
Each week I would lurk, listening in on Guy Gonzales and his merry band of e-pub pioneers. After a few months, they convinced me the writing on the wall was electronic, so I studded my manuscript with links. Then, last summer – driving between West Palm Beach and Jacksonville – I wrote a script in my head for a companion video. A few months later, as luck would have it, I was able to attend the DBW conference in exchange for doing some interviews and shooting cover footage.
The formal sessions were captivating, as was the time in between. From executives to entrepreneurs – all were happy to share their thoughts. DBW Innovation award-winner, Hillel Cooperman, showed me how his kids and his parents can read books together on the iPad, even when they’re on opposite coasts. And, author and Wired scribe Frank Rose divulged that he too is “groping” toward understanding this strange, new medium (though his book is published).
I returned home grateful for sipping the nectar of a blossoming industry – and encouraged as I grope my way.
I’ve been skeptical about reports that body contact with cell phones can cause problems, but a strange sensation and a new book have changed my attitude.
I first noticed the whooshing sound in my right ear after I spent a few days in October visiting my parents. I’d talked a half hour or so each night with my husband, the phone nestled between my ear and a pillow. I took a decongestant to see if it was a sinus problem, but the strange sound has continued since I’ve been home: when it’s quiet, I can hear the blood pulsing on the right side of my head.
Then, a few weeks ago, I came across a review in the Washington Post. A new book claims there is definitive proof that radiation from cell phones, cordless phones and even blue tooth devices can be harmful over time. In Disconnect, author and epidemiologist Devra Davis reviews four decades of research, explaining complicated technical concepts in clear and simple language. She concludes there are enough disturbing findings and unanswered questions that we should actually pay attention to the warnings manufacturers stuff into the box with their wireless products – not to press them directly onto the body.
Davis cites compelling evidence that microwaves created when phones send and receive signals can painlessly interfere with the brain’s natural defense mechanisms. Other studies indicate it’s not a good idea to hold a phone in the front pants pocket – as most males do. Children apparently are at special risk. In some European countries, cell phone use is banned for children younger than 16.
My son’s time studying at Rochester Institute of Technology has taught me that a group of motivated designers can solve almost any problem. So I’m fully confident cell phones in the future will be much safer. But for now, people may not be getting enough protection.
Thus, I have depleted the stock in two Radio Shacks of the PointMobl Stereo Earbud Headset with Mic. The relatively low-tech device lets you talk on the phone where it’s supposed to be – away from your head. I like the design because the wires don’t tangle, it has a universal phone plug and an adapter for an iPod – plus the writing on the packaging is very clever. I passed along Davis’s advice to my boy relatives not to carry a phone in the front pocket – but if they do, to face the keyboard inward because the antenna is embedded in the back.
This explains why holiday gifts this year to my loved ones are merely practical. But I must say that whooshing noise has gotten quieter since I’ve been texting more and using a wire or speakerphone to talk.
If you live near the Nation’s Capital and don’t care whether the Potomac River runs dry, prepare to get very thirsty. That’s because the water for every person, business and industry in the area comes from that single source.
Every day, a small number of intake dams near northern Virginia’s Great Falls National Park suck 400 million cubic gallons of water from the river. But, if we aren’t careful, the thundering falls could go silent.
According to Dr. E-an Zen, world authority on Potomac River geology, if the local population continues to grow and water usage is not managed wisely, demand will exceed supply and the Potomac could become “a series of semi-stagnant pools connected by trickles of water.”
There have been ominous signs of that trajectory. During the drought of 1999, for instance, water flow dropped dramatically, the river temperature increased and a large number of fish and other wildlife died. If local governments had asked people to use a little less water, the fish kill might have been averted. But, only Maryland issued an appeal for water conservation, while the state of Virginia refused.
At least three fairly severe droughts have occured locally in the past five years. According to Dr. Zen, “A couple of times we had droughts, the governors refused to declare emergencies because it’s not politically wise.” He contends that states should at least “show some concern. Don’t say ‘We have plenty. Don’t worry’.”
The typical Washingtonian uses about 150 gallons of water every day. Dr. Zen tracked his own usage and found he consumes one-third of that amount and could easily cut back more. Measuring water usage is a good way for everyone to become more water-aware, especially kids, Dr. Zen told The Durable Human in this video.
Keith Tomlinson, a fellow of the National Academy of Sciences and manager of northern Virginia’s Meadowlark Botanical Gardens, recently organized a walk and talk with Dr. Zen through Great Falls Park. Keith pointed out that the April 2010 issue of National Geographic Magazine is entirely devoted to worldwide water issues. Blog Action Day focused on the topic this year and has many useful links.
At the end of the sojourn, Dr. Zen was asked how long it will take for Washington to be in a full-blown water crisis. He answered with only this question: “How fast do you think humans will change behavior?”
Bike share programs are springing up all over the world. For an idea of how they work, a system in the bustling, northern Italian city of Milan provides a good example.
There’s no confusing a colorful bike share bike, which is clearly marked with municipality and conspicuous I.D. number (an effective theft-deterrent).
Bike stations are conveniently located around the city.
Kiosks contain a screen and keypad where you enter a password created when booking online. Sliding your credit card, your bike space number appears on the screen.
Automatically unlocked, the bike easily lifts off the rack.
Bikes are tough and sturdy, yet easy to steer. The ride is remarkably comfortable, even over bumps. Having only three to choose from takes the guesswork out of shifting gears.
No need for special cycling clothes. People in this fashion capital wear just about anything when they ride, including business suits and high heels. You can’t exert yourself too much or go too fast amid the traffic lights and other forms of transportation. Helmets don’t come with the rental and aren’t typically worn.
Best of all – the cost is only a few euros for a two-hour period – and the first half hour is free!
I give the Milan system an A-, due to some very minor quibbles. The heavy bikes develop so much momentum they’re somewhat tough to brake. While having a bungee is helpful, the metal bike basket is slippery and heavy objects are hard to secure. My husband’s new SLR camera slipped out and broke at our first sight-seeing stop. We’ll stow our stuff in a bag next time. Booking the bike was somewhat cumbersome because the system did not allow multiple bookings at one time, nor did it retain information from prior bookings.
But, all in all, bike share is a cheap and enjoyable alternative to taxis, a good bridge between different types of transport, and a great way to burn off the fantastic pasta and frequent gelato stops.
The humble flip phone may revolutionize the way we experience theme parks. It’s all happening at Disney World’s Epcot, courtesy of a girl named Kim.
“The Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure simply gives guests something that they want. People want to be active, physically and mentally,” Jonathan Ackley – who directs Walt Disney Imagineering’s Interactive Division – told The Durable Human.
My 8-year-old cousin, Tess – like many girls of a certain age – loves Kim Possible. Kim stars in her own Disney Channel animated series as a high school cheerleader who turns secret agent. On our recent trip to Disney World, Tess heard on the bus from the airport that there was Something Kim at Epcot and I knew I wouldn’t hear the end of it until we found her.
With a little effort we tracked down one of the low-profile Kim Possible Recruitment Centers scattered throughout the park. Pressing a button on the self-serve display, out popped a ticket with our Adventure appointment. A half hour later, we reported to a kiosk outside the Norway Pavilion in Epcot’s World Showcase. A smartly-uniformed Kim Team member asked Tess if she was ready for the mission. After a deep and serious nod, Tess was handed a “Kimmunicator”—the retooled ‘06-era cell phone which would serve as our guide.
When Tess pressed the OK button, Kim’s brainy cartoon side-kick, Wade, appeared on the phone’s tiny screen and instructed us to go straight to Mexico. Inside that pavilion, Tess again activated the Kimmunicator and we were startled to see our first clue: an Aztec blaze briefly appeared on the back wall of a nearby artifact display case. We continued to range through the building, solving puzzles and discovering clues for our eyes only. Here, a pinata near the ceiling momentarily flashed a code number. There, a guitar strummed out a clue. I don’t wish to disclose all the details, but suffice it to say that by the time we were done we managed to save the world.
Our exploits were exhilarating. We actually felt like secret agents, sliding unnoticed through the crowds, surrounded by people totally unaware of our stealthy business.
Ackley, former Lego designer and creator of the Kim experience, says people love the free-range approach. “Visitors have really been enjoying the attraction, some playing for hours on end. That’s high praise considering all the other fantastic things at Disney World. Kids love being secret agents, triggering high-tech gadgets and uncovering mysteries. Parents love the humor, and most importantly the time spent playing with their families.”
But kids aren’t the only takers, says Ackley. “I’ve also seen retired couples enjoying the attraction without any children in tow. And I’ve seen teens and twenty/thirty/forty-somethings enjoying the experience as well.”
Although Ackley says the Kim Adventure incorporates play patterns “as old as human history,” Tess and I felt like cutting edge, active controllers of our own amusement, which he says is by design.
“Today, people can play fantastic video games sitting at home in front of their TV sets. But when they come to the park, they get immersed in ways they can’t at home. You can play a super-hero at home. But at Disney, you really are a super hero, and super-heroes have to do some leg-work now and then.”
Could free-range adventures ever replace typical theme park fare? “I don’t believe that this kind of attraction will replace dark rides or roller coasters,” claims Ackley. “But it’s a new color on the palette.”
There is one other similar adventure elsewhere in the world – at Tokyo’s DisneySea park. As in Kim Possible, guests are the main characters of the story, but in “Leonardo Challenge”, a magic map leads them through an enchanted Renaissance fortress to unravel clues left by Leonardo Da Vinci.