Best Christmas Gifts for 2016: Creativity & Science Overcome the Technology Wasteland


Best Christmas Gifts for 2016:
Creativity & Science Overcome the Technology Wasteland

by Amy Lignor  

Yes, do not be afraid, there will be LED TV’s on the market this year that are so big you’ll have to sit across the street on the neighbors’ yard just to bring that humongous screen into focus. There will be media and computer products that rival things you’ve only seen in futuristic movies. And, yes, the robots are coming to invade your home. However, when it came to discovering what will be the real “hits” for the younger crowd this Christmas, the categories of creativity and science won the kid’s choice awards for the “best of the best.”   Lists are already coming out from the most reliable magazines and websites offering information on new toys that have been tested for everything from safety to quality. Then, the world’s toughest critics – the children out there – were able to play with them all so that the “fun factor” was added in when the scores were given. Parents will be extremely happy to learn that while they worry about the next LED TV, their children want to be creative and learn everything they can about the world of science.  

The words “Electro Dough” will be heard a great deal in 2016. The “Technology Will Save Us DIY Electro Dough Kit” offers more than a dozen kid-safe projects that teach them all about electricity. Hands-on and a whole lot of fun, each of the projects utilizes conductive dough, which is easy to make using normal household ingredients, such as flour and salt. For only $2, ages 4+ will absolutely love it! In fact, there may just be another Ben Franklin among them. The “Amazing Toys Frozen Science” is also for ages 4 and up. Only $20, these kits let kids go absolutely bazaka over creating everything from tiny snowmen to forts and more that exist in the world of ice.   For those who want a career in the design sector, “Craftivity Kits” will be available this holiday season for kids 12 and older. For only $20 these design projects are incredible for the next generation of artists. Oversize flowers, room decorations, string lanterns, macramé projects – these kits have everything to stimulate the mind and get those artistic hands working.  

Even more artistic ventures were loved by the kid testers 7 and older, when it came to “Creativity for Kids Light-Up Doodle Art.” Many of us older people remember that Lite-Bright we got for Christmas one year and could not put down for hours. Well this product is your regular etching paper BUT with so much more. Masterpieces can be made and placed in a frame where background lights make the picture come alive. This is one for all the artists out there and will most likely stick around just as long as that good, old Lite-Brite has! The “3Doodler Start” is a bit tricky, but only a little practice is necessary to become a pro. By placing a colored plastic stick into the back of the doodler pen, artists 8 and older can create 3-D “drawings” of all kinds of objects. Kids were stuck like glue to this toy for hours.   From “Props in a Box” – little chests that come filled with felt costume pieces so kids can dress up like dinosaurs or pirates; to a service called “Crayola Imaginables,” where a parent can send in their child’s animal drawing and then receive a personalized stuffed animal creation that looks just like it – the gifts for 2016 youngsters will bring out those artistic and scientific skills like never before.   Another reason to put them under your tree? Well…someone will buy Dad that intentionally ugly holiday NFL sweater that is Officially Licensed by the NFL. And someone will buy Mom that bottle of ONEHOPE California Glitter Edition Brut Sparkling Wine, because she’ll have to stare at that ugly sweater Dad is wearing for many football seasons to come. So why not let the kids have extreme fun by expanding their minds…and stepping away from that LED TV that now takes up the entire living room.

Source:  Baret News

Avoiding a Greek Tragedy


Avoiding a Greek Tragedy

by Amy Lignor


For those who love history, or just extremely good movies, you have already set your eyes on the Skyrian horse. Sometimes referred to as the Skyros pony, these semi-wild creatures are legendary. Since well before what many believe to be the beginning of creation, this elite horse was responsible for carrying Man into battle – from simple men to the gods, themselves. In fact, the Skyrian horse was supposedly responsible for pulling Achilles’ own incredible chariot. Seeing their plight in 2016, however, it would be safe to say that all the gods on their mount want nothing more than to send thunder and lightning down on us mortals for the simple fact that the stunning horse is on the verge of becoming extinct.

Skyrian horse, legendary creatures, Greek island of Skyros, Skyros Island Horse Trust, Endangered Species list, Skyros pony, Greece


These creatures have lived on the Greek island of Skyros for two thousand years, and now one organization – the Skyros Island Horse Trust – has made it their mission to save this extremely rare animal. From the overgrazing of sheep to interbreeding with donkeys to the one problem that is plaguing all species around the world – disappearing habitats – there are only 200 Skyrian horses left on Earth.


The Skyros Island Horse Trust is trying to not only save but also bring back the species ten-fold. Through welfare, conservation and education initiatives, this nonprofit is striving to make sure that one of the few creatures carved on ancient friezes, do not perish.


As with all of the creatures sitting on the Endangered Species list, the Skyrian horse needs to have their quality of life improved. And the Trust is also working overtime to create the widest genetic pool of the equines on the island while staying true to the Skyrian type. The Skyros pony has an extremely friendly demeanor, making them perfect for equine-assisted therapy as well as teaching children how to horseback ride, yet another “hobby/sport” that has declined.


A compelling animal, the Skyros pony is thought to be featured on the actual Parthenon in Athens, as well, which makes them very much a living, breathing facet of history. To see them go extinct would be a horror.


When speaking with scientists, it is stated that the Skyros pony descends from equines brought to Greece as far back as the fifth century B.C. Once the isles were filled with them, yet the animals grew smaller in number as well as in size, evolving to island life. Solid in color, the Skyrian horse has a thick, plush mane. Standing 3.5 feet at the shoulder, they are classified as a pony because of their stature, yet have similar proportions to full-size horses with small, strong hooves.


It is more than time to turn our gazes toward these loving animals and try to find a way to all come together in order to bring back conservation in Mediterranean countries, which is difficult because of all the daily problems they are facing. With the country of Greece stuck in a very difficult economic situation at the moment, the Skyrian horse is even worse off than other animals’ trying to be saved globally. Even though this particular horse has status and is a truly rare breed, Greece has no government resources or funding to help save them.


In the end, the people are the ones that must stand up and fight for the animal’s survival. Even though in politicians’ eyes the complete extinction of the Skyros pony falls far down on their list of things that must be done, sitting back and doing nothing will most definitely lead to another Greek tragedy. One that is most definitely not fiction, and one we can definitely stop from happening.


Source:  Baret News

Birds Are People Too

Birds Are People Too

by Amy Lignor


More and more data is being collected in regards to the coexistence of humans and wildlife, yet it’s important to keep in mind that the wildlife above also need to be cared for in order to make sure that the variety of species do not disappear.


coexistence, birds of prey, owls, awareness, humans and wildlife, baby birds, tips, what you can doThere are many ways to discover how best to help a baby bird, whether it’s fallen from the nest or is wandering the windowsill. But always remember that old saying about “mom knowing best.” In other words, even if you may not see one of the parents, they are probably near. And if you creep too close to either the baby or its nest, the parents will come back from foraging and not come anywhere near their child. In other words, wait and watch from a distance for at least one hour before taking action! You can then gently place the bird on a low tree branch, or in a small nearby bush for protection and make that call to your local refuge so the bird can be picked up and taken care of by absolute professionals.


But when it comes to coexistence and not the actual saving of an animal or bird, issues can crop up; like how best to protect the backyard fruit trees, garden or vegetables. It’s true that a great many species of birds eat the unwanted insects but they can also destroy fruit and vegetable crops, so by placing things like plastic owls, aluminum foil flags, or even wind chimes nearby, the birds will be scared away.


If you’re worried about a nest being built in the house, placing wire over the top of the chimney in the wintertime stops that springtime nesting of your new neighbor. And if the sun’s glare on windows have the birds hitting the panes, you have to understand that they are not trying to cause you or the house harm. The sun’s reflection simply has them being birds, protecting their territory by attacking the “mirror” image they see. Closing curtains, placing bird silhouettes, statues or even decals on your windows will prevent this issue immediately.


When it comes to the “birds of prey,” humans must also educate themselves on the species in order to coexistence, birds of prey, owls, awareness, humans and wildlife, baby birds, tips, what you can dobest protect the house, windows, etc. These particular birds are hunters at heart. From the hawks to the eagles to the falcons, and so on, they soar with grace, one is even a symbol of the U.S. of A. and should definitely not be harmed.


Birds and people are a great deal alike, considering we are both sight-oriented creatures. The dominant sense organs are the eyes, and most birds have binocular vision in order to be able to successfully hunt down their dinner.


These bird species are under a great deal of threat. Ingestion of poison and insecticides through their prey have greatly and negatively affected the breeding success of many varieties. In addition, the encroachment on their habitat has also reduced territories and changed the environment from one where they thrived to many that are highly polluted.


Another bird to look at closely and try to save is the owl. From myths to legends, this is one bird that’s portrayed as wise – a wizard of sorts that knows all. It was Harry Potter actually that brought back the talk of owls as being fascinating creatures that carried scrolls in their talons to deliver to a legendary castle.


But while the owl makes a perfect mythical pet, they are not so easy in everyday life. Although the creature may be looked at as adorable, the owl is actually extremely dangerous. Being birds of prey, they rely on their freedom, so even attempting to keep an owl as a pet is a bad idea. Food resources are limited and the odds for the owl’s survival become slim to none.


Eighteen species of owls are found in North America, with life spans of 15-30 years. Barn owls are found near humans in farms, stadiums and other open structures. The Burrowing Owl, which weighs only ¼ pound, is one species at risk of disappearing from the South Bay. Their large yellow eyes are watching the land they live in going from open flatland with short grass to development projects every few feet.


In order to make homes for these neighbors, owls require nesting sites and protection due to the constant building. Setting up nesting boxes, whether homemade or purchased, can be found on a variety of websites, and should be placed in locations similar to the owls’ natural habitat. With drainage holes and sawdust in the bottom, owl lovers will be thrilled to save as many as they can.


Planting gardens with nectar-rich flowers, shrubs, and trees can help replace lost habitats for many other bird varieties, such as the hummingbird. But when all is said and done, there are those out there volunteering and working diligently to help rehabilitate and release birds with the help of highly-trained individuals.


So while humans build that coexistence with the natural world, let us just make sure to remember that birds are “people” too!

Source:  Baret News

Marriage & Family Therapist Holli Kenley Launches ‘Another Way Wednesday’ Podcast for Parents and Teens


Recovery expert, family therapist, and author Holli Kenley, M.A. MFT is co-hosting a dynamic weekly podcast entitled “Another Way Wednesday Series”!we choose respect yellow horizontal 2048 - 1536

The podcast series expands on Kenley’s 2015 educational novel Another Way which empowers teens with concrete strategies for making choices based on their worth and their unique levels of readiness. With an inclusive, compassionate, and accountable approach, “Another Way” invites readers into the lives of three teenagers – Chloe, Amanda, and Tyrell – whose stories of love, heart-ache, friendship, and pressure to fit in illustrate the power of self-worth in its relationship to healthy decision- making.

Jed Doherty, aka Jedlie, considered one of the most exciting school show performers in America, shares Kenley’s spirit of educating and motivating youngsters toward healthy life choices. His blog podcasts reflect this spirit under the slogan “We Choose Respect!”

In each Wednesday podcast of the series, Kenley and Jedlie guide the audience through the chapters and the lessons in the “Another Way Curriculum Guide”. Parents and guardians, teens, as well as youth leaders or counselors are the primary target audiences of the podcast series. As Jedlie’s blog puts it, “This series offers parents a great tool to build those strong relationships, to have those important, ongoing, conversations about potentially life-changing choices.”

Visit now to listen to “Another Way Wednesday”. Join our community on Facebook – AnotherWay4You!


Neo-Realism of Lost Childhoods

Neo-Realism of Lost Childhoods

~ Dinesh Sharma  


Child labor is a serious problem in India.  A country that is home to over 60 million child laborers, according to some NGO estimates, hopes to be a superpower.

Is it possible for India to rise while almost 14% of its children are working in the streets and factories?

Or, is India caught in a futile demographic death-trap, where it must routinely sacrifice a percentage of the young population to fuel its growth and the need for cheap labor?

“Siddharth” by Richie Mehta tells the story of a father’s futile search for his son.  Mehta, born and raised in Mississauga, Ontario, said he loves making films in India.

Movies from Bollywood have tended to romanticize India’s stark childhood realities, as a staple of Dickensian portraits have been presented for more than 65 years of India’s independence.

Recent films like “Salaam Bombay” to “Slumdog Millionaire” — mostly made for Western audiences by Hollywood production houses, with a mix of sardonic social criticism — have attempted to portray the gritty realities of street life while trying to entertain (“Jai Ho,” to that).

However, for most Indians in India, poverty is not a laughing matter.  Many Indians, while grudgingly acknowledging the hard facts, are turned off by the horrific images of children begging and working in the streets presented in Hollywood productions.

Arousing shame and disquiet, Indians often look askance, mostly defensively and with disgust about their deep-rooted social problems.  ‘But look how far India has come’ they will often implore you?

Unlike the majority of films made in India in the Bollywood masala tradition which attempt to distract, distort and titillate, neo-realism deals with Indian social realities with a clear eyed unflinching lens.  In the tradition of Satyajit Ray and Shyam Benegal, neo-realism has been somewhat resurgent in India post-liberalization with different guises and shades.

The input of Non-Resident Indian (NRIs) has been critical to this new wave cinema both in terms of production and consumption trends.  Indian cinema is now increasingly global in distribution, while many British-Indian, American-Indian and Canadian-Indians have found it easy to make films about their home country with Indian cast and crew, on Indian budgets.

Richie Mehta’s “Siddharth” falls into this genre of film-making, which in an almost documentary-like fashion tells the story of a father’s search (superbly acted by Rajesh Tailang) for his lost son, who has travelled to a nearby town to work to support the family income.  After months of working away from home the boy who is around  12 years of age fails to return home on the agreed upon occasion of the Diwali festival.

At this point the mother gets concerned (touchingly portrayed by Tannishtha Chatterjee), but the father is not overly bothered by his son’s tardiness, till of course he realizes some foul play may be involved.   The father learns his son may have been taken by child-traffickers. With little resources and no connections, he travels across India in pursuit, with the hope that whatever force arbitrarily took his child away will return him unharmed.

The film shows how the family and friends deal with the disappearance of a young child by first denying it, then gradually coming around to accepting that something horrible may have happened, and finally admitting their failure and fate that the boy may be forever lost in the sea of nameless, faceless, and countless other children who will grow up without the protection of a family.

The most poignant moments in the film show the father searching for a current photograph of the boy to hand over to the police authorities, but can’t seem to find one anywhere in the house or even in a cell phone.  In the age of instant photo sharing and social media, we realize the chasm in social conditions among the haves and have-nots.

At several points, we are also painfully reminded that the individualism of the middle class Western educated Indians does not trickle down to the urban and rural poor.

In a chilling moment, when the father speaks to his own father by phone, telling him he may have lost his son forever, we face the inter-generational reality of many fathers, living at the edge of urban landscape, in slum colonies around the world.

The father sadly admits, “I can’t seem to recall what he looks like now…. His image is fading in my mind ….” The matter of fact simplicity of the conversation between the grand-father and father hits the viewers like cold icy water.

In an interview, Richie Mehta said he got the idea of making the film when a rickshaw driver in Delhi asked him for help in locating his son.

“In 2010, I met a man on the streets of Delhi, who asked me for help in finding a place called “Dongri.” I asked him what it was, he told me he thought it was where his lost son was (!)…. Knowing that this man didn’t have the ability, nor the means, to even properly inquire about his son is an unfathomable tragedy. He barely understood why this kind of thing happens, much less how.”

The director said he was struck by the sheer helplessness of the rickshaw driver, who seemed utterly lost or clueless or almost numb to the pain of losing a child.

The film is very well acted, well-directed and shot on the real streets of India.  Having already collected several international honors, this film will be a valuable addition to the growing body of neo-realists films about India’s lost childhoods.

Dinesh Sharma is associate research professor at Binghamton University’s Institute for Global Cultural Studies in Binghamton, NY. He is the editor of the new book The Global Obama: Crossroads of Leadership in the 21st Century, published by Routledge Press. His previous book, Barack Obama in Hawaii and Indonesia: The Making of a Global President, was rated as a Top Ten Black History Book for 2012.