Quetzalcoatl, Venus, and 2012

While reading the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Reads book Seeing in the dark : how amateur astronomers are discovering the wonders of the universe by Timothy Ferris, I ran into a familiar character, Quetzalcoatl, a god associated with Venus. I first learned of Quetzalcoatl in Daniel Pinchbeck's 2012 : the return of Quetzalcoatl and Legends of the plumed serpent : biography of a Mexican god by Neil Baldwin.

Quetzalcoatl is described as a plumed serpent god of the Toltecs and Aztecs who is supposed to return with the planet Venus in 2012. In the 1500's the Mayans watched the skies and noted a relationship between the orbits of Earth and Venus as Mr. Ferris sums up: "once in every 52 years these two cycles synchronize with each other, whereupon Venus appears in the same spot in the sky, on the same date, that it did 52 years earlier". (page 90)

God is a pretty heavy topic but on the lighter side Quetzalcoatl catches the imagination...a god in the form of a snake with feathers...how cool is that? No offense Quetzalcoatl fans but I think Quetzalcoatl would make a great graphic novel character.

If you are interested in this type of thing you might enjoy reading about the expected galactic alignment in 2012. Check out John Major Jenkins "Galactic Alignment: The Transformation of Consciousness According to Mayan, Egyptian, and Vedic Traditions".

Youth interested in Quetzalcoatl may like:
Quetzal : sacred bird of the Cloud Forest by Dorothy Hinshaw Patent.

The Power of Community

When the world reaches peak oil, it will be an entirely new experience for us all with the exception of one small country. Cuba has already had a “peak oil” experience imposed on them, with the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early '80s. All their supplies of oil were cut off and they were thrust into a national emergency of food and energy shortages.

How they survived that period in their history and actually created new systems of efficient, sustainable energy and food production is the subject of The Power of Community. Forced to rediscover the bicycle for transportation; oxen and horses for farming; smaller-scale, organic farms and urban micro-farms for raising food; and neighborly cooperation for solving their crisis locally they have paved the way for thriving in the new era of oil scarcity and $4 dollar gallons of gas. A very inspiring and beautifully told story.

For a kick-start along the path of a less oil-dependent model for agriculture read about Community Supported Agriculture and urban gardening.

More than just a millionaire

Slumdog MillionaireSlumdog Millionaire

British director Danny Boyle, best known for the movies Trainspotting, Millions, & 28 Days Later has a new movie at theaters called Slumdog Millionaire. With a screenplay by Simon Beaufoy and adapted from the book, Q & A by Vikas Swarup, Slumdog is a big departure from Boyle's last movie, the sci-fi adventure, Sunshine. Slumdog Millionaire follows Jamal Malik, an orphan living on the streets of Mumbai, who becomes a contestant on the Hindi version of 'Who Wants to be a Millionaire'. He is one question away from winning it all, when police arrest him for suspected cheating. They question how a street beggar could know so much. Jamal then proceeds to tell his amazing life story which in turn reveals how he knows the answers. This movie has been nominated for a best picture award at the Golden Globes and Oscar buzz has been brewing as well!

The Blue Zone: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who've Lived the Longest

Researcher and explorer Dan Buettner follows the trail of isolated communites where there is an unusually high incidence of centenarians. Those are the lucky few who live to see their hundredth birthday and beyond. Not so lucky, perhaps, if they are lonely and unhealthy, but in The Blue Zone these folks still live with their families, socialize with friends, prepare their own meals, work, garden, and sometimes walk many miles a day. And there lies a piece of the answer.

The four "zones" Buettner examines include communities and villages in Sardinia, Okinawa, Costa Rica and Loma Linda, California. It is truly impressive to read descriptions of the purposeful, vibrant, happy and disease-free lives these elders live. He combines extensive interviews with dozens of these "blue zoners" and contemporary research from numerous longevity experts and finds common ground in each zone.

And what are some of the secrets? Well, you can imagine. The prescription is not an easy one for modern Americans: slow down; move naturally; eat good food at home, some of which you have grown or prepared yourself; put family first. Buettner presents all of the lessons learned from the elders with a plan for how to work them into your life. And, for a long and healthy journey to a satisfying and healthy end, choosing at least some of these habits seems worth it. L'chaim.

Death of a musical legend Miriam Makeba

World lost one of Africa's greatest singer and true fighter against human rights. Haven gained another messenger of peace and an ambassadress of jazz music.
The legendary South African singer Miriam Makeba died early Monday 11/09/08 of a heart attack, after collapsing on stage Sunday night in Italy. She was 76 years old and well known as “mama Africa”. Her music inspired a powerful sense of hope in all South Africans during the time of apartheid. In her amazingly impressive career and glorious achievement, "Makeba performed with musical legends from around the world — jazz maestros Nina Simone and Dizzy Gillespie, Harry Belafonte, Paul Simon — and sang for world leaders such as John F. Kennedy and Nelson Mandela". Her sudden death “plunged South Africa into shock and mourning”. Here is Makeba's Biography, Discography and additional References God bless her soul, rest in peace!

Plants In The News

Pulp Tree

So when you bring the green indoors this winter the plants may say "thank you".

Maybe you heard about Midori the blogging houseplant. Midori lives in Donburi Cafe in Kamakura Japan.

Just as plants are finding a voice in Japan the government of Switzerland has placed a ban on the humiliation of plants.

Read about the botanical interface that makes plant blogging possible and check out a product that will help you listen to your own plant.

Interested in this topic, check out these books: Plantwatching: how plants remember, tell time, form partnerships, and more / Malcolm Wilkins and Natural affairs: a botanist looks at the attachments between plants and people / Peter Bernhardt

1,000 Ultimate Travel Experiences

Whether you are a well-seasoned traveller with a mangled passport, or someone who rarely leaves your spot on the couch, it's likely you will find inspiration in A Rough guide to the world : Make the most of your time on earth. This hefty book is crammed full of amazing travel experiences grouped according to global areas, starting with Britain & Ireland, and finishing with The Polar Regions (you didn't think they'd forget the North and South Pole, did you?). Seeking a natural miracle? Visit Iguazu Falls in Argentina - more than two hundred cascades thundering over an eighty meter cliff, all surrounded by lush tropical forest. Seeking an event to remember? Try April 30th/Queen's Day in Amsterdam (police are forbidden to interfere with any activity, no matter how outrageous). Seeking a wonder of the ancient world? Try the unparalleled Roman archaeological site of Baalbek in Lebanon. (In the words of Robert Byron, it "dwarfs New York into a home of ants".) Seeking a journey closer to home? Grab your bike and ride the Slickrock in Moab, Utah. Personally, I am inspired to plan a visit to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Lalibela in Ethiopia. I'll share my injera with you if you'll pay for my plane ticket!

August 11th - Happy Birthday Alex Haley!

Alex Haley, AuthorAlex Haley, Author

Alexander Murray Palmer Haley was born on August 11, 1921 in Ithaca, New York. As a young boy, Alex Haley learned of his African ancestor, Kunta Kinte, by listening to the family stories of his maternal grandparents while spending his summers in Henning, Tennessee. According to family history, Kunta Kinte landed with other Gambian Africans in "Naplis" (Annapolis, Maryland) where he was sold into slavery. Alex Haley's quest to learn more about his family history resulted in his writing the Pulitzer Prize winning book Roots. The book has been published in 37 languages, and was made into the first week-long television mini-series, viewed by an estimated 130 million people. Roots also generated widespread interest in genealogy and eventually helped spawn the Kunta Kinte-Alex Haley Foundation.
Other Haley publications include many well received Playboy interviews (including Martin Luther King, Jr.), his first major book, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, A Different Kind of Christmas, a 1990 book about the underground railroad, and Queen, the story of Haley's paternal ancestors. Perhaps one of Alex Haley's greatest gifts was in speaking. He was a fascinating teller of tales. In great demand as a lecturer, both nationally and internationally, he was on a lecture tour in Seattle, Washington when he suffered a heart attack and died in February 1992.

Australian folk rock and family history


My favorite song by the Waifs at their show during the Ann Arbor Summer Festival was The Bridal Train, which Wikipedia says made the Australian Top 50 list when it came out as a single. This amazing and moving song was written by Waif Vikki Thorn about her grandmother joining other young Australian girls after WWII, to eventually hook up with their American husbands.

One Good Movie

Check out the Story of One. I loved the fact that I learned stuff while being entertained with silly animation. A few stories cover Arabic Numerals, the mathematician Fibonacci, and how binary code works (the last illustrated using hard boiled eggs...huh?). The movie is full diversions like a story about the greek mathematician Pythagoras and a skit with Roman Numerals and the Abacus competing against Arabic/Indian Numbers to see who can calculate compound interest the fastest...and the most correct. Another diversion was a visit to the British computer named "Colossus" which used binary code to break German code in WWII. What a cool movie.

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