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Toon: Chumps at the Pump

Toon: a good reason not to withhold contraception coverage....

Chinese Hachiko Waits Outside for His Master from 9 to 5

By Sumitra on March 1st, 2012

A while back, we did this story on OC about a dog that wouldn’t leave his master’s grave. So I wasn’t exactly surprised when I heard about Wang Cai, but the faithful dog certainly deserves a mention. After all, he has waited for his master outside a local bank, from 9 am to 5 pm, every single day for the past 4 years.

Wang Cai was a homeless dog found wandering on the streets of Chongqing, China, four years ago, when a kind soul decided to adopt him. Ever since, he has been accompanying his new owner to work every morning and waited outside patiently for the next 8 hours, only to return home in the evening. According to the dog’s master, the behavior perplexed him at first, since he didn’t really train Wang Cai to do anything of the sort. The owner suspects that the dog might be waiting for his previous master, but he has no issues with the strange behavior.

The locals, however, are fascinated with Wang Cai’s unwavering loyalty. He’s being hailed as the Chinese version of Hachiko, the world-famous Japanese dog that waited for his deceased owner for 13 long years outside the Shibuya Train Station, Tokyo. Although Hachiko died in 1935, his faithfulness is still remembered by many. A dog’s loyalty is truly an incredible thing.


Viganella – The Italian Village that Built Its Own Sun

By Sumitra on March 2nd, 2012

Viganella is a small village in Italy located right at the bottom of a deep valley, and surrounded by high mountains on all sides. This means that naturally, every year from mid-November to early February, the region has absolutely no sunlight. The return of the sun’s rays on the 2nd of February was celebrated with joy every single year for several centuries. That is, until December of 2006, when the problem was fixed forever.

Thanks to the brilliance of Giacomo Bonzani, an architect and sundial designer, there now resides on the slopes of a mountainside above Viganella, a giant mirror that reflects sunlight into the town square. A place that had not seen the sun’s rays during the winter since the beginning of time, was now suddenly bathed in its glorious light and warmth. The mirror is 40 square meters in size, 8 meters wide by 5 meters high and is located about 870 meters above the village. What’s more, it is actually controlled by a computer software that tracks the sun and tilts and turns the panels of the mirror so that the rays are always reflected downwards. It has actually become a tourist attraction of sorts, since its installation over 5 years ago.

According to Bonzani, who first came up with the idea of reflecting sunlight on to the square, no one believed it was possible at first. “But I was certain. I have faith in physics,” he says. The actual designing of the mirror was done by Emilio Barlocco, an engineer. According to the Mayor of the village, Pierfranco Midali, it wasn’t easy getting the mirror ready. “We had to find the proper material, learn about the technology and especially find the money.” The entire project cost about 100,000 Euros. I think it’s truly wonderful when technology is used in such innovative ways to make people’s lives better.


Danziger on Rush

Toon- Advice for Romney

Toles Toon: Ultrasound

Toon: The Star

Are We Being Creative Yet?

by Julia Kirby

“One of the advantages of being disorderly is that one is constantly making exciting discoveries,” A.A. Milne, of Winnie-the-Pooh fame, once noted. It’s a quotation that is included in all kinds of books, from Meditations for New Parents to The Girls’ Guide to AD/HD, because it provides such solace to the chaotically inclined. But it’s small consolation to anyone responsible for producing creative ideas on a reliable basis. Wouldn’t it be better if exciting discoveries emerged at the end of an orderly process—in other words, one more susceptible to management?

Instead, we are stuck with mystery and serendipity, a process so vague that serious students of product development call it the “fuzzy front end” of innovation. That is a growing source of anxiety because, to borrow terms made famous by James G. March, firms that used to be organized overwhelmingly for exploitation and only a little for exploration are now finding they need to reverse that ratio. Cutting-edge offerings obsolesce rapidly in today’s markets, and life’s basic needs are thoroughly commoditized. Having spent a century refining the processes, technologies, and performance measures of exploitation, organizations are trying to switch gears and make their explorations—the creative thinking that yields new advantages to exploit—more predictable and productive.

Jonah Lehrer, author of Imagine: How Creativity Works, helps us appreciate how tricky it will be to apply more discipline to imagination. Drawing on neuroscience and cognitive psychology, he explains, for example, why amphetamines have helped writers such as W.H. Auden and mathematicians such as Paul Erdös crank out such inspired work. It seems the drugs act on a neuronal feedback loop by which pleasurable stimuli spark the brain’s ability to focus. Speed makes the close-in work of perfecting a poem or a theorem much more captivating. As for the more expansive process of generating conceptual breakthroughs, Lehrer shares proof from research using EEG monitors that it comes down to alpha waves emanating from the right hemisphere, which allow connections to be made between formerly remote realms of thought. As in the old ad where peanut butter collides with chocolate, great innovation comes from combinations no one quite intended. In fact, only a mind that lacks intention, that has lapsed into an unfocused state, generates those alpha waves.


Happiness Makes Your Brain Work Better

Work Better
A Harvard psychology researcher explains that rather than thinking of success as the source of happiness, we should think of happiness as a source of success--and one that's more under our control than we imagine.

Entrepreneurs, in general, are strivers. We set targets, battle to meet them, and believe that getting to that point, whatever it is, will bring us increased satisfaction. But according to one positive psychology researcher out of Harvard, as commonsensical as this tendency to chase achievement in order to attain greater happiness may sound, it's actually got the equation reversed.

In a fascinating (and funny) TEDxBloomington talk, Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage, argues that while we may think success will bring us happiness, the lab-validated truth is that happiness brings us more success. And understanding this is particularly valuable for entrepreneurs, Achor said in an interview. Business owners, he said, need to,

Reverse the happiness and success formula. We think if we work harder and achieve some entrepreneurial goal, then we'll be happier. But the research is clear that every time you have a success, your brain changes what success means. So for you and for your team, if happiness is on the opposite side of success, you'll never get there. But if you increase your levels of happiness in the midst of a challenge—in the midst of searching for investment, in the midst of a down economy—what we find is that all of your success rates rise dramatically – every business outcomes improves.

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