Welcome to the second issue of the year, and I have some great picks for you. Starting with a map and explanation on why most of the world uses two words for tea, Reddit as a sanctuary for civil conversations, a new nature series from the BBC, and a grassroots project from the U.K. to combat plastic water bottle use. Our podcast recommendation is the story of CLIF Bar, worth a listen if you’re a fan or not, and a long read on the growing popularity of astrology amongst millennials. Plus five things I’ve been digging lately, including art in many forms and a Spanish language album. We wrap it up with my theme word for the year. Enjoy!
◦ selected words
In both Mandarin and Cantonese, the word for tea is “cha”. As the first explorers of Asia, the Portuguese brought back the word “chá”, or “chay” as used in much of Indian, Russia, Persia, and Turkey. But the “tea” pronunciations of the word also came from China, although the character is the same. How could this be? The Spanish and Italians say “té”, while Germans and Afrikaans say “Tee”. A short history lesson and an effective map telling the story of global trade and the influence of Asian culture via land and sea routes on language over the past 400 years. (Fun fact: when you order a chai tea latte, you’re actually saying “tea” twice).
Quartz (3min read)
Do you hold a controversial view or opinion? Maybe it’s something you might be keeping to yourself, and you may even feel guilty to think it, but logically it makes sense to you. You’re open to changing your mind, but where can you share these thoughts without judgment and internet shaming? Since 2013, the “Change My View” reddit provides a space for exactly this — a moderated forum with unique mechanisms built-in to keep conversations civil and rewarding those who can contribute sound arguments. In this Wired article, the author shares his controversial position on Reddit, the 4th most popular site in the U.S.
Wired Magazine (15min read)
The BBC and David Attenborough keep hitting it out of the park. With the huge popularity of Blue Planet II which finished last month, the British network and producers of Planet Earth have given the green light to four new series. Ready? First, a six-part series on the legacy of Charles Darwin. Next is “Dynasty”, where animal groups are filmed for two years. Then BBC talks environment in the series The Truth About What You Wear, focusing on the textile industry. The fourth new series is Drowning in Plastic, a documentary on the ongoing damage to the oceans. Like we need more things to watch, but there are worse things.
The Guardian (5min read)
In an effort to reduce the number of plastic water bottles used in the U.K. (38.5 million every day), a grassroots project called The Refill Initiative was created. Their vision is simple — participating cafes and bars put a bright blue sticker on the window with the words “free tap water”, and passerby’s can top up their refillable bottles. In the first two months of the program, 200 businesses in Bristol signed up, and there are now over 1,600 in the U.K.
Fast Company (3min read)
◦ listen in
On day one of a 175-mile (280km) cycling trip, Gary Erickson packed a half dozen Power Bars, back when that was the only bar on the market, and began riding. Halfway through the day, after his fifth bar and needing fuel, he was hungry but couldn’t stomach a sixth — he’d rather struggle through than taste the chalky bars. That’s when it clicked — there has to be a way to make a better tasting, nutrient-rich bar to sustain energy. Gary, himself a baker, turned to the best baker he knew — his mom — and experimented with recipes with the goal of making a bar that tasted like a cookie, but with no oil, butter or added sugar. I don’t normally eat them, with their slightly odd “made with 70% organic ingredients” on the box, but I bought a bulk box to fuel me through a teacher training and it’s done its job. Listen to the story of the former baker and mountain guide who worked on the recipe with his mom for two years, named the company after his father, would almost lose the company, then gave 20% of it back to his employees.
How I Built This by NPR (33min podcast)
◦ eat well
Chia’s a regular in my pantry, but I’m definitely a bit late to the chia pudding party. Best done the night before for a quick and healthy breakfast. Try putting some pudding instead of yogurt in the middle of your papaya boat (recipe in the last issue of Align Center).
◦ read slow
“In a stressful, data-driven era, many young people find comfort and insight in the zodiac—even if they don’t exactly believe in it.”
In the last five years, traffic for horoscope sites has grown exponentially, with some astrologers having follower counts in the hundreds of thousands. Search social media for “mercury retrograde” and you’ll get a glimpse at its newfound popularity. People are increasingly turning to astrology during times of stress as a coping mechanism, even if they don’t fully believe in it. And in our most stressed generation, with the endless availability of information and penchant for digestible snippets, astrology fits right in.
The Atlantic (17min read)
◦ current read
Sometimes, certain books keep showing up in your life. You see a quote in an article, or a friend recommends it, or maybe you see it on the shelf at a dinner party. This was one of them for me, and it’s taken me years to get to it. First published in 1999, Non-Violent Communication (abbreviated NVC, also called Compassionate Communication or Collaborative Communication), is an approach to life based on the idea that all humans have the capacity for compassion, and only resort to harmful behavior when they feel exhausted of all other methods. Generally accepted by the scientific community, the book presents a model on using consciousness and vocabulary to improve the quality of your relationships, prevent conflicts, heal pain, and create more peace in your life.
Non-Violent Communication by Marshall B. Rosenberg, Ph.D. (220p book)
◦ dig this
What I’m digging lately:
- Evolution of the Desk – An art project simulating the impact of technology over the past 35 years (or view the sped up GIF version).
- Matching Your Face to Artwork – Tired of adding bunny ears and dog faces to your selfies? Try the experimental feature in Google’s Arts & Culture app “Search for your Selfie” (works for me in Vancouver). Strictly for fun. 🙂
- Adobe Create Magazine – A site devoted to illustrators, learn the techniques and creative process of both prominent and up-and-coming artists (with an Adobe bias).
- Black Mirror: Season 4 – The techno-paranoia series is back for six episodes and it’s maintained its quality and shock value. (Rotten Tomatoes link or watch on Netflix)
- Perotá Chingó – Aguas – I first heard this band in 2013 in a hostel in Arequipa, Lima, from the hostel owner’s Argentinian niece. She played Rie Chinito for me, and I loved it so much she wrote the lyrics by hand as they weren’t on the Internet yet. Their latest album somehow snuck past my radar last August. (YouTube link, also on Spotify.
◦ humble thought
“The difference between the novice and the master is that the master has failed more times than the novice has tried.” – Unknown
The human body is an incredible machine — it’s self-healing, adaptable and most of the time it has a singular goal: to keep on living. However, we are by no means perfect — we have many design “flaws”, most due to our relatively quick evolution from four-legged to two-legged creatures. For instance, the narrow birth canal which makes childbirth the leading cause of death for women in their child-bearing years. Then there’s our weak knees and lower backs, and an over-complicated foot with 26 bones (you can thank our monkey ancestors and their need to grab onto branches for that one). There are also several vestigial traits like the appendix, male nipples, wisdom teeth, and the unfortunate fact that we have a single set of teeth for our entire adult lives (note to younger self — that extra bit of lobster is not worth all the dentist bills). And I’m not even going to get into the infections caused by putting the playground next to the sewer system.
And that’s just the physical. There’s also the plethora of traits social scientists are interested in like our tendencies to create out-groups, and the 166 cognitive biases that have been categorized so far.
The human body is extremely efficient in another way as well — it’s the old saying, “if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it”. Why waste precious resources on something that’s not needed? This goes for the physical body as much as it does for cognitive processes, though the latter are harder to diagnose. As I pause to notice myself moving from the water to land in a less evolutionary and more intentional way, back from my travels and landing in Vancouver, I’ve decided my word for this year is MOVEMENT.
I am currently in the middle of a teacher training and having spent the majority of my days sitting in front of a screen, I have a newfound awareness and appreciation for the human body. I joke that I will be the most inflexible yoga teacher around, so spending twenty minutes holding long stretches was never part of my routine. In just one week I’ve seen positive changes, and I have a week to go.
Looking back at the first week, the biggest challenge hasn’t been the physical — though it’s the most intense prolonged workout I’ve ever done — it’s actually the teaching part. Stepping into a room and taking space, commanding an audience, and leading a bunch of new faces into the unknown for 90 minutes scares the bejeezuz out of me. The first day I totally bombed. The second day was a little better. By the fourth day, I held the anxiety but was starting to look forward to the challenge. Like anything, with practice and experience, it gets better. The comfort zone grows, and with proper preparation, each interaction is a chance to learn, grow and connect. And by sharing these vulnerabilities with this beautiful group of twenty from all walks of life including Alaska, Germany, LA, Calgary, China and Singapore, led by three masterful teachers, I’m starting to see what can happen when you mix discipline, collaboration, and deep connection with a group of people eager to share, learn, and open themselves up to possibility. Let’s move together.