Saturday, February 23, 2013

Relax With Outstanding Visual and Musical Artistry: International Wildlife Film Festival Winner and Kenny G.

Weekend relaxation is at its best when we can enjoy both visual and musical artistry at its best.  Relax with a cup of tea, a glass of wine, beer and chips or whatever you connect with the end of the week.

We all recognize and can appreciate the sax artistry of Kenny G.  His music provides the background for the "Best of Show" video at the International Wildlife Film Festival.

"Video by Scott McKinley Productions, Produced for Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation for Ad campaign. Licensed music by Kenny G.. This short video won Grand Prize - Best of Show at International Wildlife Film Festival in Missoula Montana! The majority was shot on location in Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park and The National Elk Refuge in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. "


International Wildlife Film Festival « THE ANIMAL SPIRITS
 and relax. The week's stress might just melt away.
(Thanks to Ken A. for forwarding this to us.)

Take Time to Smile This Weekend: From a Mother's Lips to Our Life Lessons

 Some of us may remember our own mothers teaching us these life lessons.  Have we said any of these to our own children, our grandchildren, or nieces and nephews? 

Why I Owe My Mother

1. My mother taught me TO APPRECIATE A JOB WELL DONE…

      "If you're going to kill each other, do it outside. I just finished

2. My mother taught me RELIGION…

    "You better pray that will come out of the carpet."

3. My mother taught me about TIME TRAVEL…

    "If you don't straighten up, I'm going to knock you into the middle of next week!"

4. My mother taught me LOGIC …

    "Because I said so, that's why."
5. My mother taught me MORE LOGIC…

    "If you fall out of that swing and break your neck, you're not going to the store with me."

6. My mother taught me FORESIGHT…

    "Make sure you wear clean underwear, in case you're in an accident."

7. My mother taught me IRONY…

    "Keep crying, and I'll give you something to cry about."

8. My mother taught me about the science of OSMOSIS…

    "Shut your mouth and eat your supper."

9. My mother taught me about CONTORTION-ISM…

    "Will you look at that dirt on the back of your neck!"

10. My mother taught me about STAMINA ...

     "You'll sit there until all that spinach is gone."

11. My mother taught me about WEATHER…

     "This room of yours looks as if a tornado went through it."

12. My mother taught me about HYPOCRISY…

     "If I told you once, I've told you a million times. Don't exaggerate!"
13. My mother taught me the CIRCLE OF LIFE…

     "I brought you into this world, and I can take you out.."

14. My mother taught me about BEHAVIOR MODIFICATION…

      "Stop acting like your father!"

15. My mother taught me about ENVY…

     "There are millions of less fortunate children in this world who don't have wonderful parents like you do."

16. My mother taught me about ANTICIPATION…

     "Just wait until we get home."

17. My mother taught me about RECEIVING …

     "You are going to get it when you get home!"

18. My mother taught me MEDICAL SCIENCE…

     "If you don't stop crossing your eyes, they are going to get stuck that way."

19. My mother taught me ESP…

     "Put your sweater on; don't you think I know when you are cold?"

20. My mother taught me HUMOR…

     "When that lawn mower cuts off your toes, don't come running to me."

21. My mother taught me HOW TO BECOME AN ADULT…

     "If you don't eat your vegetables, you'll never grow up."

22. My mother taught me GENETICS…

     "You're just like your father."

23. My mother taught me about my ROOTS…

     "Shut that door behind you. Do you think you were born in a barn?"

24. My mother taught me WISDOM…

     "When you get to be my age, you'll understand."

And my favorite:

25. My mother taught me about JUSTICE…

     "One day you'll have kids, and I hope they turn out just like you!"

But, there is one missing from this list~~My personal all time


My mother taught me about CHOICE…

     "Do you want me to stop this car?"

(Our thanks to Tom Z. for sharing this with us. As with so many web items, no author has been found-but knowing the originator would be much appreciated. The web source, however, seems to be

Sunday, February 17, 2013

What Is Happening to Cursive Writing? Should We Care?

The lefties among us recall our cursive writing instruction as a pain. While those right-handed classmates were seeing gold stars on their lines of ovals, we were seeing “Try harder” or “Work on this!” We thought ovals were the goal, but maybe they were just a small part of the whole cursive writing picture.

Clips OnLine
The Issue:  So is the slide away from cursive writing instruction, even in the lower grades, a good idea or a bad thing? The requirements of No Child Left Behind have limited the time a teacher can spend on those subjects not tested, and the rise of computer accessibility would seem to indicate that cursive writing is a dead subject.

In fact,Valerie Baurerlien comments that,” The common core state standards, a set of math and English goals agreed upon by 45 states and now being implemented, sends cursive the way of the quill pen, while requiring instead that students be proficient in keyboarding by fourth grade.” (The New Script for Teaching Handwriting Is No Script At All, WSJ,

In Baurerlien’s words, what was mandatory when we went to school has become "optional and, so far, few schools have opted for it.” (A version of this article appeared January 31, 2013, on page A1 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: The New Script for Teaching Handwriting Is No Script at All.)

However, Julia Layton, writing for HowStuffWorks says, “ Is cursive obsolete? ...Some students will continue with cursive if they prefer the format.”

“Most, however, don't. As a widespread writing style, cursive may indeed have passed its prime: As of 2007, 85 percent of high school students printed their SAT essays” [source: Breen].( Layton, Julia. "Is cursive writing obsolete?" 23 February 2010. 16 February 2013.)

Why Do We Care?  So, why should we want our children to become proficient in cursive if they will then revert to printing later in their academic careers. Although the new Secretary of the Treasury, Jack Lew, has one of the most illegible series of loopy squiggles as  his signature,we can’t really point to having to read the Treasury Secretary’s name on US currency as the reason.

What’s the upside of children in elementary schools becoming acquainted with, being able to read -even becoming proficient in cursive writing? After all, they might abandon it as a form of communication when older-some of us have to admit to moving completely away from the flowing script.

The Benefits:  Wendy Bounds, (How Handwriting Trains Your Brain and Everything Else. The Wall Street Journal, Business, October 5, 2010) points out benefits of cursive instruction that new research has reinforced.

What research?  How was the research conducted? The magic of those MRI’s that we take for granted in the diagnosis of medical issues is invaluable for watching brain activity.   Bounds points out that, “using advanced tools such as magnetic resonance imaging, researchers are finding that writing by hand shows it can benefit children's motor skills and their ability to compose ideas and achieve goals throughout life.”

And she further states that, “Recent research illustrates how writing by hand engages the brain in learning. During one study at Indiana University published this year, researchers invited children to man a "spaceship," actually an MRI machine using a specialized scan called "functional" MRI that spots neural activity in the brain. The kids were shown letters before and after receiving different letter-learning instruction. In children who had practiced printing by hand, the neural activity was far more enhanced and "adult-like" than in those who had simply looked at letters.

Lead Researcher, Karin Harman James  assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience is quoted as reflecting, " 'It seems there is something really important about manually manipulating and drawing out two-dimensional things we see all the time.'"

Bounds cites Virginia Berninger, a professor of educational psychology at the University of Washington, who says, "'Handwriting differs from typing because it requires executing sequential strokes to form a letter, whereas keyboarding involves selecting a whole letter by touching a key.' “

Berninger observed that "'pictures of the brain have illustrated that sequential finger movements activated massive regions involved in thinking, language and working memory—the system for temporarily storing and managing information.'”

Bounds describes another of Berninger’s studies that “ demonstrated that in grades two, four and six, children wrote more words, faster, and expressed more ideas when writing essays by hand versus with a keyboard..”(Bounds, WSJ, October 5, 2010).

Another Important Upside: Those of us with elementary- level children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews recognize a significant cultural value: we have seen firsthand the excitement that children demonstrate when first introduced to cursive writing. It’s a watershed moment.

Layton observes“When kids start learning cursive, which is typically around third grade, it's kind of a big deal. First graders print. Second graders print. Third graders write. The fluid, fancy letters and words are a sign of growing up. Of course, these days, it may not be how mommy writes. But the "rite of passage" aspect of learning cursive remains a fairly strong force in the 9-year-old crowd. It holds value as a longstanding component of the curriculum.”

Layton refers to Raina Kelley’s previous account of cursive as “The focus on cursive in and around third grade reflects the developmental connection between writing and thinking. The two don't become truly separated until later. Children who excel in handwriting skills tend also to excel in other academic pursuits.”(Kelley, Raina. "The Writing On The Wall." Newsweek. Nov. 12, 2007.
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The Positive Impact of Technology:  If that’s not enough to convince you that cursive writing matters, consider Layton’s list of iPhones, iPads and other tablets, apps and emerging technology …"all contributing to successful cursive writing.

Some high-tech allies also are giving the practice an unexpected boost through hand-held gadgets like smartphones and tablets. Dan Feather, a graphic designer and computer consultant in Nashville, Tenn., says he's ‘never adapted well to the keypads on little devices.. Instead, he uses a $3.99 application called "WritePad" on his iPhone. It accepts handwriting input with a finger or stylus, then converts it to text for email, documents or Twitter updates.”

Preschoolers are also using apps. Bounds recounts a 4-year-old's refusal to practice his letters before being introduced to his mothe’s iphone app. “Apps are helping Zane Pike-The Cabot, Ark. boy won't put down his mom's iPhone, where she's downloaded a $1.99 app called "abc PocketPhonics." The program instructs Zane to draw letters with his finger or a stylus; correct movements earn him cheering pencils.”  Not surprising-Zane loves it!

In spite of the obvious decline of cursive writing instruction in many schools, we might keep our children in mind and  remember Layton’s sobering comment, “ To abandon handwriting lessons is potentially to interfere with the learning process as a whole.”

(Our thanks to Barbara R. for forwarding Baurerlien's article in the WSJ to us.)

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Bob Hope: A Man Who Made a Difference

Ken has sent us the memorable and funny words of Bob Hope, one of the most outstanding comedians of our time.

For those of you too young to remember Bob Hope, ask your grandparents..And thanks for the memories.

A tribute to a man who DID make a difference.

'I still chase women, but only

'That's the time of your life when even your birthday suit needs pressing.'

'You know you're getting old when the candles cost more than the cake.'

'I don't feel old. In fact, I don't feel
anything until noon. Then it's time for my nap.'

'I ruined my hands in the ring. The referee kept stepping on them.'

'Welcome to the Academy Awards or, as it's called at my home, 'Passover'.

'Golf is my profession. Show business is just to pay the green fees.'

'I have performed for 12 presidents and entertained only six.'

'When I was born, the doctor said to my mother,
Congratulations, you have an eight pound ham..'

'I feel very humble, but I think I have the strength of character to fight it.'

'Four of us slept in the one bed. When it got cold, mother threw on another brother.'

'That's how I learned to dance. Waiting for the bathroom.'

'I would not have had anything to eat if it wasn't for the
stuff the audience threw at me.'

'I've done benefits for ALL religions. I'd hate to blow the hereafter on a technicality.'

Give me a sense of humor; Lord, give me the grace to see a joke, to get some humor out of life.  And to the person receiving this, the grace to pass it on to others.

(Thanks to Ken for forwarding Hope's words to us.) 

Things We Need to Know About the Technology We Use Every Day

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A.  Using your iPhone, iPad, Kindle Fire, Nook, and other devices:  We all know a little about technology.  Some of us know a lot.  But what about the new devices we're using?  Did you know that your iPhone, iPad, Kindle Fire, and other handheld devices can be used to access this blog? 

Yes, of course, you did;  but to see the full website instead of the article titles with arrows, scroll down to the bottom.  It says "home" and under "home" you'll see "visit web version".  Clicking on this will take you to the full website-much easier to read and scroll through.

B.  Apps you might want: Some new apps might help you through the winter.  For $.99, you can load sNOw School. Using "Live weather forcasts and historic data" This app tells the reader which public and private schools as well as universities are predicted to be closed.  Twelve states are covered.

Or a really useful app could help you in a winter emergency:  The free app., Weather Survival Kit "uses your location to call for help."  Also the app can tell you the length of time youi can keep the vehicle running "without a risk of carbon monoxide poisoning." (App information is from USA Weekend, Feb. 8-10, 2013, 17).

C.  10 Dumbest Mistakes That People Make with Their Smartphones.  This article was written by Adam Levin,at and reprinted in ABC News(February 3, 2013). Levin cautions us that the smartphone is more than a phone;  it's a 'very powerful mini-computer that happens to make phone calls."  Not understanding that can cause us more trouble than we ever imagined.

Levin points out that all the info we put onto the smartphone is immense:  "Direct access "to all bank accounts. : It may store our passwords to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, even our email accounts. The phone numbers and email addresses of all our friends and colleagues are easy to find in our contacts directory. "

What if you leave your smartphone in a restaurant or a cab or even at a conference?  (By the way, Apple has an app called "Find My iPhone" that you might want to consider.  It's free.)
What happens if you browse your smartphone from a coffee shop or other public-access site.  It could be hacked.  Levin points out that we need to protect ourselves by understanding the "dumbest things that people do(or fail to do) with their smartphones."

What are Levin's "dumbest things that " we do?

1) No password protection. It's a pain, we know, to enter a password each time we access our smartphones.  But it might make the thief look elsewhere for an easier phone to hack.

2) Shopping online with an Internet browser instead of a shopping app.

3) Remaining logged into banking, PayPal, eBay, and other sensitive apps.(including your bank account and credit card account) and asking that the site remember your password.  No!  No!  No!

4) Automatically connecting to any available WiFi connections.

5) Leaving Bluetooth connections open. "Bluejacking, Bluesnarfing, Bluebugging. These are all words that describe a hacker exploiting the open Bluetooth connection on your phone. While this type of hack requires the intruder to be relatively close to you (less than 30 feet away), the intrusion can occur undetected in a busy airport, hotel lobby, restaurant, or at a conference."

6) Failing to properly purge data from old smartphones. Purge data before giving an old smartphone away, selling it or "taking it out of service."  Levin provides a link that contains a 'how-to guide" for purging data.

7) Downloading "free" apps that aren't actually free. Some are just disguised 'data-thief' sites.  Make sure to "Read reviews first, and make sure the apps you download come from reputable sources."

8) Storing sensitive data on phones. Don't store your critical numbers such as social security, passwords, or credit card numbers!

9) Failing to clear browser history. "By retracing your steps, a phone thief can use your history to hijack your accounts, steal your money and wreck havoc." Levin provides a link to a site that will instruct us on clearing browsed history.

10) No remote wiping software. "Tech-savvy hackers may be able to disengage these applications, but it's just one more layer of protection you can use to reduce your risks if you ever lose your phone. For more information on how to disable your phone remotely, read this story."

Levin's closing observation is powerful. "The ultimate guardian of the consumer is the consumer herself. Your identity is your asset. It is up to you to vigorously defend and protect it."

To delve into Levin's complete article, follow

Technology is so amazing, and we benefit from the numerous applications at our fingertips.  But we also need to be so very aware of mistakes that can cause us untold grief.  When we pick up our smartphone or other devices,we need to  remember how vulnerable we might be.

Flowers, Gardens, and Sunshine

Joan H.'s Double White Amaryllis-Even winter has its flowering beauty
Whether you're enjoying balmy weather or looking out the window as you wait for warmer weather, your thoughts turn to the beautiful flowers of your spring, summer, and fall gardens. 

Barbara R. "found this at Selby Gardens in Sarasota this past week, thought those who enjoy gardens of any type, size, would love reading the words of Kunitz."  Enjoy!

(Our thanks to Barbara for Kunitz's beautiful poem and to Joan for sharing her double white amaryllis, two winter gifts-both make us anticipate more flowers, sunshine, and garden projects.)

Looking Forward to Our Gardens

Barbara R.'s visit to Selby Gardens in Sarasota and Joan's white amaryllis are reminders of what we can all look forward to this spring, summer, and fall.

SPRING IN NW PA                                          daffodil
Late Summer-Early Fall
                                                    giant rose mallow
                                         white hydrangea turning pink with frost

(Thanks, Dick, Peggy and Eric for these shots.)

Friday, February 1, 2013

For Adults and Children Who Love Animals: Part I

OK, no children in the house to lick the cupcake batter from the bowl?  Are you sure about that?

Our favorite pet lover wanted us to enjoy this demonstration.


      How sweet this is. The owner grabbed a camera instead of chasing the puppy away.


"Until one has loved an animal, part of their soul remains unawakened."(Anatole France)

Thanks to Elsie for this post.  Attribution hasn't been established for the photographs.  If you know this pet-loving photographer, please tell us, too.)

For Adults and Children Who Love Animals: Part II

"Friendship isn't about who you have known the longest.

It's about those who came and

never left your side ......."

May you always have love to share,

health to spare, and friends that care! (Anon.)

Our thanks again to Elsie.

By the WayElsie and her sister have established a sanctuary for older pets.  Right now they're caring for at least 40 aging cats and more than 30 older dogs.  Any contributions to the sanctuary are VERY welcome (as well as tax deductible).  If you wish to donate, send that gift to 

Safe at Last Sanctuary
PO Box 149
Waverly, WV  26184

Be sure to include your address so that an acknowledgment letter can be sent to you, indicating your contribution.

(Any information on the identity of the photographer will be appreciated. These pictures occur on multiple websites.)

The Words of Aristotle: So True!

Animals may not be familiar with the great philosopher's words, but they understand the concept!

"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it," Aristotle.

Two Of The Greatest Qualities In Life Are:



Thanks, Bob A. , and also to Dick for forwarding this for the blog.

(A hunt for the photographer was unsuccessful. The picture appears on several websites.)