Want Smart Kids? It’s In the Books

Saturday, 22 May 2010, 9:26 | Category : education
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Access to books has a direct impact on a childs education.

One thing my friends can tell you is that I horde books. Entire walls are covered in them. My floors (or ceilings, depending on where you stand) dent from them. They are on shelves (that are designed to hold half as many), stacked in piles and spilling over in corners and on the floor.

I have everything from worn and likely long-outdated university texts (even my older brother’s), to Sir Seuss’ finest works, to review editions lugged home from work. I am a firm believer that the return-on-investment with books is measured in perspectives gained, not dollars paid.

But simply being surrounded by them changes the way you think about them. If they are around, you’re more likely to pick one up – simple as that.

Well, turns out that’s a good thing. Because my propensity for said book-hording will have a positive effect on my child’s education, say researchers. This too is a good thing, because there is a well-established link between the level of education obtained and the level of income a person earns…and I argue, quality of life too.

A 20-year study, lead by Mariah Evans, associate professor of sociology and resource economics at the University of Nevada, found that parents who have books in the home increase the level of education their children will attain.

For years, educators have thought that the strongest predictor of your education was your mum’s or dad’s; the more educated they were, the more educated you’re likely to be too. Well, strikingly, this massive study found that being raised in a home with a 500-book library has as great an effect on the level of education a child will attain, as your parents’ education.

Dear Child of Mine, I got you covered.

Turns out, both factors – an extensive library or having university-educated parents – can propel a child 3.2 years further in education, on average.

This trend translated abroad too (though the impact was greater in countries such as China). Also interestingly, the study found children of lesser-educated parents benefit most from having books at home.

So what does this mean? Our public libraries need to be well-stocked and accessible, with flexible hours of operation. Oh, and friendly, knowledgeable staff too.

Here are some additional points the study found:

- Even having a few books can go a long way. The more books you add, the greater the benefit.

- Having books in the home is twice as important as the father’s education level.

- Having books in the home impacted the level of education a child attained more than whether the child was reared in China or in the United States.

OK Go’s Rube Goldberg Contraption

Monday, 8 March 2010, 20:49 | Category : Musings, web
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From the boys who brought you the viral Treadmill Video, comes their latest. This launched last week, and it’s already gotten 6+ million views.  Aptly titled “This Too Shall Pass” this video is a single, near-four minute shot of pure Goldbergian marvel. Imagine being the one working the camera…talk about pressure.

As for who’s behind the contraption, OK Go turned to LA-based Syyn Labs. With a motto like “High Voltage Debauchery” you know you can safely set your expectations high. And the team doesn’t disappoint.

Syyn Labs is a creative collective that meshes art with technology, often with amusing and enlightening results. The team shows off their engineering and creative prowess monthly at an event called Mindshare (though this itself warrants a separate entry).

Dear Canada, this Valentine’s, here’s why I love you…

Tuesday, 9 February 2010, 22:58 | Category : Environment, Musings, Uncategorized
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Without a doubt, Canada is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Okay, so I’m a little biased. But with such range and vast, stretches of wilderness, can you blame me? Anyway, I caught this ad last week, and I made a point to seek it out and watch it again (which really means two things: The ad is effective, or I really need to get back to analyzing those stats)…I recall hearing that part of the reason Newfoundland & Labrador was the most popular province for vacationers within Canada (at a time when fewer people were travelling in general) is because of its successful advertising campaigns. I can see why. This is straight Tolkien.

Alright, but it seems the other provinces are catching on:

2009 in Review

Saturday, 2 January 2010, 13:08 | Category : Musings, web
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Strange swirl over sky in Norway

Sunday, 13 December 2009, 15:09 | Category : Musings, Physics
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Unpack your bags, it’s not a wormhole. It’s a Russian Navy missile test gone awry. Check out Jay’s interview with Harvard astronomer Jonathan McDowell in a recent Daily Planet.

William and His Windmill

Came across this story a few days ago and it made me think of what Stewart Brand‘s been saying for a while now…. “given access to the information we need – humanity can make the world a better place.” In “Whole Earth Discipline” he also makes a counterintuitive case for why booming slums and squatter cities around Mumbai, Nairobi, and Rio de Janeiro breed innovation a la below.

Using scraps from a local junkyard in Malawi, William Kamkwamba created something that harnessed the wind – and changed his life.

NFB’s WaterLife Interactive

Waterlife InteractiveI am so impressed with the folk at the National Film Board (of Canada). They just keep pumping out top-notch content. First their amazing free iPhone / iPod Touch app (that allows you to screen entire films), and now WaterLife.

Their latest initiative is an interactive site centred on the idea that our Great Lakes (and waterways in general) are changing – not for the better. The idea of water as a limited resource, is of course, nothing new. Potable water all the more so. Here in Canada we don’t think about it much, because we’re under the impression there’s plenty of it. Wrong. We just happen to have more of it than most other nations, but by no means enough to be dismissive in its use. Just talk to an Aussie. They think us blazingly wasteful. A couple of years ago, I co-produced a segment for DiscoveryChannel.ca that highlighted this difference.

I spent the first decade of my life by a major river, and my summers by the sea. I’m fortunate enough to live in a place that’s surrounded not only by the Great Lakes, but numerous smaller ones. Whenever near water, I’m keenly attuned to its rhythms. It transforms me. It teems with life. In fact, there’s likely more life underwater on Earth than on land. And if you think about it, Planet Earth is kind of a misnomer.  All the more reason our very existence depends on the health of our water systems. This is perhaps why I feel so passionately that amidst all the “Green” initiatives, we don’t leave out the Blue. They are one and the same.

If you’re curious to find out more, CBC’s The Current ran a great radio series last year called “Watershed”. I also recommend reading Alana Mitchell’s “Sea Sick”.

WaterLife was brought to my attention by ad girl Lava Nosenkis.

A Parisian Love Story, according to Google

Wednesday, 2 December 2009, 19:44 | Category : Musings, Uncategorized, web
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Poetic. And sweet. Who could have predicted 10 years ago that we’d be telling stories via searches…

For more in this brilliant series, head here.

Time’s Best Inventions of ’09

Tuesday, 1 December 2009, 19:37 | Category : Future, Musings, Technology
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The remainder of the list is here.

And now, for some kitesurfing porn…

Tuesday, 1 December 2009, 19:30 | Category : Musings, Sport, Technology, web
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Shot on the camera I’ve yet to play with, a sport I’ve yet to try:

Making of BAGUS MOVIE – Indonesia from Ne3ko on Vimeo.

One of the neat things I came across while traversing the web this aft…This was shot on the increasingly popular Red One. The shots are stunning. Kitesurfing goes on my must-try list…