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Thursday, March 28, 2019

The Mysteries of Dinosaur Extinction: What Really Happened? Dragon's Heir.

Part of the mesmerizing pull of science fiction and fantasy is the opportunity to travel in the mind to a new universe and to experience what Mikhail Bakhtin referred to as “bestrangement” – that vertiginous experience of being off-balance and aware that language and languages are only loosely anchored in a correlative “other,” and that we rely perhaps more than we should on our own experience and what we have socially learned is “real” or “true.”

In a text, the space within the words where there is little or no comprehension of the denotation, much less the cultural meaning(s), gives a reader a feeling of extreme vulnerability due to the inability to “read” the discourse and anticipate behaviors of others.  At the same time, “bestrangement” imbues a sense of invulnerability and a sheltering psychological distance from the workaday reality that the reader may live in. It’s escape in its purest form.

The novel by medical specialist Glenn Parris, The Dragon’s Heir: The Archeologist’s Tale, begins comfortably enough in coastal Maine in a tavern. But, the conversation quickly becomes bestranging, as we become aware that Earth has had some sort of transformation and we’re either in the distant past or in the future, where there has been an Exodus Corridor, a Jing Pen, and Efilu, Nelky, and more. There are no explanations of what the terms mean, and in Chapter 1, the special vocabulary and language of the different world, continue to be developed. The narrative does not pause to explain the terms (although there is an Abridged Jing Pen Translator at the end of the book.

So, it’s a bit of work to make one’s way through the world and follow the dialogue and plot. But, as one reads, and continues to float along in a sense of being transported to another world and another time, it becomes clear that what has happened is that we’re seeing a world that is the result of a mass extinction event – the Cretaceous-Tertiary (K/T) boundary event 65 million years ago that marked the extinction of the dinosaurs, and the subsequent rise of the mammals.

Instead of being single-mindedly predatory (the gaudy, feathered raptors), the dinosaurs were highly evolved creatures with technologies that allowed them to escape the terrible conditions on Earth. In their absence, the mammals rose to power.

Now, as in the way of all diasporas, there is a desire to return to the original home. In this case, it’s also a time to find out what happened to the ancient beliefs, the culture’s leaders, and to understand the traditions. So, they launch a space ship with archeologists, soldiers, and scientists.  Vit Na, the head archeologist, is in charge.

What she finds is a culture of vile mammals who rose, as Vit Na observes, without the pressure of a predator class.  And, they have been able to run amok, undisciplined, and to develop divided, sneaky minds as they foul their own nests.

The book begins to shift tone and to be about survival and hope, and also about levels of communication and alienation in experiences of beings that have powers unfathomable by those who do not share the same ones.

In a certain way, Dragon’s Heir evokes James Joyce’s Ulysses, with a sense of wandering and extreme attention to detail. The narrative refuses to attach to a single plot or sub-plot, and the only reality that one can be sure of is the reality of the body itself. In the heroic acts (or villainous), there is a building sense of philosophy of beingness and reality. What does it take to reinvent our way of understanding the world so we have a chance of survival? Where are the ancient beliefs? What good is a mystic? What good is magic (or technology)?

As in Ulysses, the main issue is that of time travel – in other words, of memory, experience, and the uncovered beliefs and institutions of the past. What have we lost?  In the case of Dragon’s Heir, what has been lost is reborn in the heart of a reinvented heroism: Vit Na’s careful listening to all of those around her, and an awareness that learning the language and beliefs of those around her will require her to decide on her own reality, and to live in a constrained world. The “rage for order” in Ulysses is a return to Dublin, and an affirmation of the power of love, and in the case of Dragon’s Heir, an enlightened self.
Parris, Glenn. (2019) The Dragon’s Heir: The Archeologist’s Tale.   X-Libris. 978-1-9845-4151-2.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Brexit Supply Chain Collapse: What Should Sarah Do?

Sarah Carruthers was fit to be tied. She watched with horror the way that the members of the British government argued and debated with each other, but were unable to come up with a plan to harmonize with the European Union. That mean that all imports and exports from the European Union would hit a wall of red tape, not only tariffs but of documentation, which could amount to, in some cases, upwards of a hundred documents required for a single export into the European Union.

"Don't worry! We're going to replace the European Union market with our old standby, the Commonwealth!" crowed a 20-something Brexit-er on his YouTube channel.

Sarah watched him with mounting animus. "I hope you get deplatformed!" she glowered to herself.

She thought of her own business. She had a small restaurant in the cathedral town of Bury St. Edmunds and she catered to Londoners who liked to go to farmer's markets on the weekends, and also to walk through some of Britain's most historic reaches, where assiduous treasure hunters had found hoards of Roman silver, Anglo-Saxon cloisonne and intricate braid-patterned knife hilts, hidden Catholic abbey chalices during Henry VIII's rampages, and then Georgian and Victorian knick-knacks. There were walking and biking paths, and it was altogether a historical gold mine.

"I should expand into a boutique hotel," she told herself. But with the impending Brexit shock, Londoners were scared. They were not in a mood to explore history, charming walks in nature, and fascinating churchyards immortalized by novelists and poets.

Sarah went into survival mode.

1.  She looked at what it would take to keep up her sales to Germany and France of English Shortbread and Peter Rabbit Chocolates. Most of her sales were around Easter and Christmas. Perhaps she could work with a broker.  At least she understood the anatomy of the demand.

2.  She looked at how complicated it would be to import the packaging, and other elements she used to create her hand-crafted shortbread cookies and chocolate rabbits.

Then, Phase II. She looked at how she could replace lost sales to the Commonwealth. Here were her first thoughts.  The biggest markets in the Commonwealth were India, Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and South Africa.

1.  Peter Rabbit chocolates for Easter.  Sarah had to smile (albeit through tears) at this one. Easter?  in India? Pakistan? Peter Rabbit may seem exotic, but it's not going to capture the Hindi, Muslim, or Buddhist populations.

2.  Christmas shortbread. Same problem as Peter Rabbit in South Asia.

3.  There's always Australia, South Africa, and New Zealand, right??  Sarah's heart sank. They celebrated Easter and Christmas, but the seasons were opposite, and she did not know how chocolates and shortcake were viewed.  Plus, there was the distance, and the costs of transportation.

Also, there were complications with logistics: transportation, warehousing..

And, there was the pesky issue of brand recognition and marketing -- Sarah's products were well-known in France and Germany, and, thanks to quirky and cute advertising, their jingles were a part of the culture at large.  With the Commonwealth, they'd be starting from ZERO.

Challenge: You've been hired to give Sarah advice. What should she do to keep her sales high and profitable?

Monday, March 18, 2019

Creativity and Psychological Well-Being: A Detailed Look

I came across a very interesting article that provides details about the ways in which getting involved in creative activities will help your psychological well-being. It also discusses the development of creativity and how to make yourself more resilient, particularly when going through difficult times.

Link to the podcast:

Friedman, M. B. (2014). Creativity and Psychological Well-Being. Contemporary Readings in Law and; Social Justice6(2), 39–58.

Purpose of the article:  
Look at how creativity contributes to mental health and where it can be most effective.  

Useful findings:  
Instead of holding to the stereotypical connection between madness and creativity, this article points out that creativity actually helps maintain mental health. 

Applicability of the article: 

  • Creativity involves cultivating a skill, which increases engagement and leads to a sense of accomplishment.  It satisfies needs for accomplishment, recognition, and affiliation. 
  • Artistic activities affirm and validate one’s unique identity and sense of self (and self-worth).
  • There are four dimensions of the experience of art that can help one’s mental health
  • Cultivating skill:  builds self-efficacy and confidence
  • Immersion in activity:  generates the joy and happiness; the process is almost meditative; if done with others, it meets the need for affiliation
  • Accomplishment: satisfies the need for recognition, builds sense of identity and self-efficacy
  • Connection and celebration: Makes validating and emotions-sharing connections with other people
  • Useful strategies for healing for those with anxiety, depression, and more.

Monday, March 11, 2019

What to Do when the Robot Comes for Your Job

It's not a matter of "if" but "when."  An excellent article published in Mother Jones breaks it down and provides a timeline of the kinds of jobs that will be replaced between now and 2040.  The article examples many of the arguments that have been used to make the predictions less apocalyptic.

Mother Jones breaks them all down. It's apocalyptic, indeed, but at least with warning, you can develop a plan.

Link to podcast: (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

Drum, K., and; D, A. D. (2017). You Will Lose Your Job to a RobotMother Jones42(6), 38–69  Purpose of the article:  To address the questions about when and how AI-powered machines replace jobs, and to point out that the owners of the AI-powered machines and the businesses are the ones who will benefit most.
  Useful findings:  Machines powered by artificial intelligence will become better than humans in many different tasks. The article provides a useful timeline.
  Applicability of the article:
*Routine physical tasks will be the first to be replaced, which includes packing boxes, driving trucks, etc.
*Routine cognitive tasks will be next to be replaced (teller, phone sales)
*Non-routine cognitive will be the last to be  replaced. 
 Here is a chart with a timeline showing the robot take-over.  It's not "if" but "when."



Tuesday, March 05, 2019

When To Use Visuals in Your Report, Presentation, or Informational Social Media

What’s the quickest way to “Death By PowerPoint”?  Put together a presentation that consists only of bullet points.  Conversely, a presentation or report that consists only of visuals may seem superficial and confusing.  So, when should you use visuals? How should they be placed for maximum impact and effectiveness?

Lime or Bird? You decide.... Mexico City 2019 (photo credit: Susan Nash)
 What Is a Visual?

Generally speaking, a visual is anything that is pictoral, graphic, or semiotic.  A visual can be composed of text (a sign, etc.).  Generally speaking, visuals are graphics that may include diagrams, drawings, photographs, charts, graphs, figures, and more.

According to Patrick Cavenaugh, visual elements within a report or presentation are highly effective because they both capture the viewer’s attention and then direct or guide it. The visual architecture creates a process that then continues to arouse interest and direct attention from visual stimulus to visual stimulus (Cavanaugh, 2011).

 Video on using visuals:

When to Use a Visual

Think of your overall goal or objective in writing your report or creating your presentation.  Then, consider your audience.  What will they relate to? What will they expect?  What will resonate with their values and beliefs?

Keep in mind the following purposes of visuals:

* Instruct or persuade
* Draw attention to something immediately important
* Provide information quickly
* Engage the audience
* Keep the audience focused
* Provide accurate information concisely

Then, as you organize the content, think of the sequencing and space out the visual elements in order to maintain an optimized pace and to keep attention focused.

Roses before the storm in Mexico City. Photo credit: Susan Nash
 Audience Perspective

As you prepare your visuals, and determine where to place them, it is useful to keep in mind the following questions that your audience will have as they approach the material.

*Why is the visual here?
*What does it tell me?
* Which aspect of the visual is most important?
* Where, exactly, should I focus?
* What do these numbers or statistics mean?
* What should I be thinking or doing?
* Where does the graphic begin? Where does the information end?

How Visuals Work

Make the abstract concrete.  Your audience can more easily relate the content to their own experience.

Analyze relationships.  If the visuals appear on the same page, or next to each other, it is fairly easy to discuss how they relate to each other.  The relationships can be grasped at a glance with skillful use of design, color, pattern, and placement.

Facilitate comparisons. With visuals, it is easy to discuss to things, particularly when you locate them side by side.

Emphasize key points.  You can make key points clear using visuals.

Transcend language barriers.  It is possible to create visuals that can be communicated across language and cultural differences.

A memorial for a man who drowned in the Arkansas River, Tulsa, Oklahoma (photo credit: Susan Nash)
 What Types of Visuals to Consider

Tables.  Tables display data (as number or words) in rows and columns for comparison. 

Photographs.  Photographs can help document a place, person, or thing, and they can help emphasize the application of a concept in real life. Be sure to give proper attribution to the graphics you use, and to obtain permission.  If you use graphics that have a Creative Commons license, be sure to give it the correct attribution.

Graphs.  Graphs translate numbers into shapes, shades, and patterns by plotting two or more data sets on a coordinate system.

Maps.  Maps or grids are very helpful when discussing locations, demographics, and even the results of data mining (for example, for marketing).

Charts.  Charts depict relationships without the use of a coordinate system by using circles, rectangles, arrows, connecting lines, and other design elements.

Graphs.  Graphic illustrations are pictorial devices for helping readers visualize what something looks like, how it's done, how it happens, or where it's located. 

Maintaining Effectiveness With Visuals
After you’ve analyzed your goals and objectives, and have determined where and when to use visuals, be sure to let another person take a look at your presentation or report.  Peer review can be quite helpful – they can help you gain insight into how diverse learning styles and preferences can be accommodated by using visuals. You can also get an idea if your visuals are of the appropriate complexity.


Cavanaugh, P. (2011) Visual cognition. Vision Research. 51 (13): 1538-51. 

Sunday, March 03, 2019

Entrepreneurial Passion: Taking It to the Next Level

I found a very interesting article that explains how and why people with hobbies who are entrepreneurial will take their passion to the next level and turn it into an actual job. They take the passion, transform it into entrepreneurial intent, and then they start making concrete steps to achieve their dreams. 

But.. watch out for the robots! The second part of the video discusses another article that explains how not to lose your marketing job to a robot.

 Link to a presentation / podcast:

Biraglia, A., and; Kadile, V. (2017). The Role of Entrepreneurial Passion and Creativity in Developing Entrepreneurial Intentions: Insights from American Homebrewers. Journal of Small Business Management55(1), 170–188. 
  Purpose of the article:  How can we use creativity and entrepreneurship to adjust ourselves in difficult times?
  Useful findings:  We can apply Bandura’s Social Cognitive Theory (SCT) to understanding how and why people are entrepreneurs, and how and when they succeed.
  Learning, Motivational and Behavioral processes are the result of reciprocal and bidirectional interactions
  Environmental Inputs
  Personal Factors
  Behavioral Outcomes

Applicability of the article
Entrepreneurial passion is often a characteristic of people who are able to turn hobbies into businesses, and they relate to a thorough knowledge of the topic and also skills and practice.
Creativity helps a person solve problems, and thus build a sense of self-efficacy and confidence.
Entrepreneurial self-efficacy and entrepreneurial intentions are very much influenced by feedback from the environment (awards, collaborations, and presumably financial rewards).
To assure success in an entrepreneurial endeavor, it is important to build reinforcing feedback loops that strengthen cognitive, behavioral, and environmental factors. 


Cramer, T. (2017). How Not to Lose Your Marketing Job to a Machine. EContent40(5), 4–8.

  Purpose of the article:  To discuss how artificial intelligence is replacing some jobs in marketing, but creating others.

  Useful findings:  Machine learning and artificial intelligence are highly effective at conducting market research and selling, but for each task for AI, there is a need to manage it.
  Applicability of the article:
-Each AI function also needs a person who can design and manage it.
-With the proliferation of websites, it is often necessary to have a human who determines if a site is fraudulent.
-Creativity is still uniquely human. To develop strategies to grow markets, and also to tell stories still requires human beings.

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