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Life is a canvas

>> 24 April 2010

I am participating in the Art House Co-op Canvas Project with the goal to create a visual encyclopedia and have received my three little canvases.

My randomly chosen words are:

  • ready
  • chart
  • curvacious
While I was sitting on the terrace, sipping my tea and watching my boys play and fight in their sandbox, I started painting them all red. Nothing better to get you going on a project then to take a first step, or in this case, lay on a first coat of paint.

I have to submit by 1st September and then these little pieces of art will be exhibited at The Brooklyn Art Library and a book will be created entitled "The Canvas Project Encyclopedia VOL. 3".

So here is my first attempt at the word chart...

To be continued...


How a 4 year old solves the Iceland ash cloud problem

>> 19 April 2010

Triggered by Seth Godin's suggestion that one should teach our children to solve complicated problems, I recently wrote an article about how my 4 year old son solved the Greek debt crisis.

As I found that he did pretty well in the exercise, I started thinking about presenting him with a complicated issue on a regular basis.

As we surely all know someone who is stuck someplace due to the eruption of Iceland's Eyjafjallajökull volcano, I thought it a good problem to be solved by my 4 year old.

I first had to explain to my son what a volcano is and where Iceland is (and no, I did not even attempt to pronounce the name of Eyjafjallajökull, but you can listen to that here).

Then I made a little drawing to explain the workings of an eruption and showed him pictures and explained that due to the big ash cloud, planes were not able to fly and thus people all over the world were stuck and couldn't get home.

My main question to him was

"How can we find a solution for the people to get home?"

His answers are below in order to appearance:
3  blog.dcemu.co.uk

1. Make the planes fly higher, over the cloud

I found I could neither accept nor refute that proposal as I had no clue as to how high a plane can fly. So I went and searched for the answer:
Generally, standard-flight commercial jets fly approximately 28,000 to 35,000 feet above mean sea level. Travelling at higher altitudes and speed levels limits oxygen supply. There is not a sufficient amount of oxygen in the air to accommodate the jet fuel required to burn to remain in the air. However, the Concorde commercial jet was designed to fly at an even higher height, reaching to about 45,000 feet. Many jets, however, can fly at even higher heights, but they are typically specialized and provided with a broad safety margin. (source)

So I guess we should just revive the Concorde flights and people would not only get home safely but also very quickly.

And why don't they fly around the cloud? As simple as that when you're 4.

2. People should take a boat.

Well, why not?
It's not like we are still in the steamboat era where such a journey would take forever.

Nowadays Southampton- New York takes only seven days. Saves a lot of stress, hassle and you have time to read a few good books.

3. People should stay where they are and take a vacation.

This seems to be a recurring answer and shows that this little man loves being on holidays.
I suppose people who have just spent 2 weeks worth of off days and all their money on a holiday location would not consider this a valid nor funny answer...

4. We should redirect the wind to blow the cloud away.

It seems that the weather is changing at the end of the week which should send the disruptive ash cloud away (from Britain at least).
Or else we just have to invent giant fans. Maybe we could put the London Eye on its fastest setting to blow at the cloud?!

Alas, no magic solution this time.
I find the best time to ask him complicated questions is in the car when I have his undivided attention.
I promise to save the next question for a car ride to yield better results.


Why are we the way we are?

>> 16 April 2010

Are we really so much smarter than people in the Middle Ages because we think that the Earth turns around the Sun?

You see what your knowledge tells you you're seeing.

What you think the Universe is and how you react to that in everything you do depends on what you know. And when that knowledge changes, for you, the Universe changes.

We all are what we all know today.

A very interesting series of historic events and what changes the Universe.


How to become a guest blogger without planning to

>> 7 April 2010

Today I would like to send you over to another blog, Expatica.lu where I have been asked to write a guest post about Life in Luxembourg.

Prior to that, I had been asked whether I was willing to share a few of my earlier posts on their site (Is haggling worth the effort? and Quarrels would not last long if the fault were only on one side) - to which I gleefully agreed.

When they asked me whether I felt like writing a story about Life in Luxembourg, I was like 'huh? what would I write about ?'.

Then again, I am living it every day and you are usually an expert at something you do every day, right?

So... I felt inspired and started writing...and writing...and writing.

And when I had the required number of words down, I had only reached the end of my childhood years. Not that I was planning on writing my life story mind you...

So I just sent them the article and asked them if they wanted it to be a 'to be continued' story and they said yes.

Oh oh...now the pressure's on and I have to start writing...

It's funny, but the words were just flying off my keyboard for the first article. But with some deadline and the accompanying pressure, I am experiencing a little bit of a writer's block.

I like it :-)))))

Picture: VW van (1977) by Ben30 (Flickr.com)


How a 4 year old solves the Greek debt crisis

>> 5 April 2010

After writing about attending Seth Godin's speech in an earlier post, where he suggested that parents should teach their children to solve complicated problems and volunteered the idea of asking them to solve the debt crisis in Greece..., I owe you the answers of my almost 4 year old son.

Firstly, we were in the car, which is a great place to have deep, meaningful discussions with your kids because they are usually bored and can't go anywhere else as they're strapped to their seats).

Secondly, my son is not yet 4, so I had to explain to him what Greece is and what debt is. So far so good, but I felt him looking at me kind of funny probably thinking 'what the hell is she on about?'.

After giving him a little run down of the problem, his first answer to the question what is Greece to do, was:

1. Steal from Dad

Now, before we burst out laughing and cast it aside as a child's silly idea, let's analyze that for a minute here.

My husband hates coins. So he puts them on the table in the hallway when he gets home. I like coins - it's money and I have a purse and a handbag, so I have a place to put them.

My son has seen me reap in these coins and has started doing just that from time to time to put them in his piggy bank. So for him, that is the first and most logic place to get money. And if he can, why shouldn't Greece be able to. Pretty logic.

If we take this idea further though, we need to ask ourselves who Greece's Dad is.


  • was the father of the Greek Gods and the greatest God of Ancient Greece.
  • was a weather God, protector of law and was honored every four years with the Olympic Games.
  • had mountains named after him and he is believed to have grown up in Crete.
  • had many children, is the father of the 9 muses and sole parent of Athena.
To translate that into our time and day, we could say Greece could:
  • pray to God for money.
  • claim royalties on the Olympic Games
  • sell Crete (or any other paradisaical island they have - but Crete is quite nice)
  • sell the temple of Zeus
  • sell some of the zillion archeological findings
Not bad for a first answer, I say.

The second answer actually came from my two year old son, who was also in the car and of course listens to everything we say (and we always think he only understand half of what we say - that proves us wrong!):

2. Call a "toota" (his name for anything from an ambulance, over a police car to a fireman truck and that goes toota toota too)

In itself, that idea is not so bad.
And it's kind of exactly what Greece did by calling the European Union for help.

Along the lines of the above idea and since most ancient wisdom somehow came from Greece, they could:
  • claim royalties on the invention of medicine, because the first known Greek medical school opened in Cnidus in 700 BC after all. The Egyptians might fight them on this invention but I guess Hippocrates wins on being the Father of Modern Medicine.
  • organize a huge fundraiser and ask every European to donate 1 euro or 2. Europe has a population of a little over 800 million people. You do the math. It won't solve their debt entirely, but it would get them off to a good start.
  • sell their hospitals - though I guess that is not working as the owe 7 billion euros to drug and device manufacturers themselves the FT reports
The third answer (from my 4 year old again) was:

3. take it out of the garbage bin

Don't ask me how he came up with that. Because we do not keep our money in the bin (though I think it would actually be a good hiding place - better than under the mattress anyway).

Let's spin this a bit further then. They could:
  • sell their consultancy on island waste management: almost 15% of the Greek population lives on the islands which is a lot more than other countries, so they must know something about that...
  • sell their garbage. Oh and why not? What they consider throwing away might be worth a lot of money elsewhere (if I look at some of the crap that's sold on e-bay, then I am sure Greece can fill a whole bay on e).
The 4th answer was:

4. ask for money from St. Nicholas

For those who don't know Saint Nicholas, he is our version of Santa Claus and brings gifts to children on 6 December.

Funnily enough, when reading up on him to find the appropriate link for you, I read to my astonishment that he is actually of Greek extraction. Who knew! We Dutch kids always thought he came on a boat from Spain...

  • I was going to propose that they sell his bones or something, but then it seems that the Turks and Italians are already fighting about those,
  • but since he was born there, maybe they can claim some royalties?...
My son was all worried about Greece now and kept asking for the solution. Because usually when I ask him a question, I provide him with the correct answer afterward...

So it was his first experience in solving complex problems and in the realization that 'Mom doesn't know every thing'.

And this is when we arrived at home and the Greek problem was left to be pondered over by the rest of the world.

However, they always say that creativity needs an incubation time. So in the evening, when I put my son to bed, we did our usual 'what was the best part of your day today?' ritual and I told him mine was when we were trying to solve the problem of Greece.

And that is when he came up with what I think is the best solution so far:

5. we should all go on holiday there and give them our money.

So there you have it. Greek debt crisis solves by a 4 year old.


Seth Godin on why we should all be artists

>> 2 April 2010

Yesterday I went to a speech by author, entrepreneur, agent of change, inventor of words Seth Godin in Antwerp (Belgium).

I have read a few of his books and follow his pondering via his blog and I like his train of thought.

Yesterday he said that there is no scarcity of choice, that we have over-branded ourselves (read my earlier blog post on Choices are luxuries, or are they?).

Today it is much harder to stand out because there are already so many other products/services out there to choose from.

His mantra is: ideas that spread, win. That if you want to be successful, you need not just create a product or service, you need to create a culture, a tribe.

You need to take people some place they want to go. People don't follow boring.

How do I do that, you may ask. It's actually pretty simple. It begins with taking a first small step in that direction: Make a difference by choosing to make a difference.

You are the expert; everyone's an expert, at something.

You have to become a GENIUS.

And that doesn't mean you have to be someone with lots or no hair.

You're a genius when you are solving a problem in a way no one has ever done before.

Find the work that matters, do Great Work.

Because people are interchangeable, we live in a world of overproduction and everyone has a degree. Competence is no longer a scarce commodity.

Seth says 'If you can write it down, I can find it cheaper'.
If your job description overlaps with the possibility to automate your work, you are doomed.

So you need to stand out. You need to be original, better, unwritedownable. You need to be or create a Purple Cow.

At the Ogori Cafe in Japan and every customer gets what the customer before him ordered. Now there's an original concept!

One thing you SHOULD NOT do is bowl. Because at bowling, everyone is more or less good. Don't choose something where the best is perfect, where everyone does or is able to do well. Do not choose an activity where the best possible score is perfect.

Seth is no fan of current education and Sir Ken Robinson joins him in that in saying that Schools kill Creativity. We have learned to be obedient, to follow the rules.

For Seth, obedience belongs in the dog training school.

The HOW you do this is not important. What's important is that you do it. That you SHIP.

You cannot blame the system anymore because in our day and age, you have all the possibilities in your hands. If you have a laptop, you can do it.

What stops us from doing it? What stops us from shipping?

As Seth puts it: "You don’t need to be more creative. All of you are actually too creative. What you need is a quieter lizard brain.”

We have inherited this primal fear from our ancestors. Back when we were animals, we needed to be afraid because it meant survival. Nowadays, the most afraid will be punished the most.

So where do you put the fear?

“The genius part is getting the lizard brain to shut up long enough to overcome the resistance.”

Watch this video on shipping, the lizard brain and the resistance.

Seth ended his speech by giving some interesting advice for parents and the 2 thing they need to teach their children.

  1. Teach them to solve interesting problems (he suggested asking them how they would solve the debt crisis of Greece)
  2. Teach them to lead.

Soon to be continued with 'How my almost 4 year old son solves the debt of Greece...'


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