Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Flip Flops Flop

Flip-flops are good to wear in the health club locker room or at the community pool, because they can protect your feet against fungi and wart-causing viruses that can be acquired by walking around barefoot.   Flip-flops can also provide protection for your feet against the beach's hot sand, which might otherwise cause skin to burn and blister on your walk to the water.

But other than those scenarios, health-wise, flip-flops have limited use, this according to a special CNN report by Marina Csomor, in which she cites the National Foot Health Assessment 2012 released in June, indicating that 78% of adults 21 and older have experienced one or more foot problems in their lives. And one common culprit, especially during the summer, is the flip-flop.

She also mentions Bob Thompson, executive director for the Institute for Preventive Foot Health, who doesn't own a single pair of flip-flops and claims that despite the popularity, there are many risks involved with wearing flip-flops . "There's no heel support and structural support ... on that little slab of rubber," he said.

Although feet were designed to walk barefoot on Earth's natural surfaces (grass, sand or gravel), they were not prepared to endure the concrete, asphalt and steel that covers so many landscapes today, Thompson said. These unmovable surfaces are harsh on bare feet, and the thin rubber sole of many flip-flops does little to adequately absorb the shock they produce.

Whether you are standing still or in motion, your feet are your first point of contact with the ground. The way your feet are positioned provides the foundation for the body's skeletal alignment. A flat shoe provides little arch or lateral support and even slight shifts in stance over time could lead to misalignment, causing pain in the knees, hips and back.

With nothing to keep a wearer's foot in place, flip-flops can also lead to tumbles, twisted ankles and even broken bones.

"Everything in your body starts with how you strike your heel to the ground," Mr.Thompson said.  He also recommends padded, acrylic-blend socks, which wick moisture away from the foot, under properly fitted shoes that have plenty of toe room and support. 

In her CNN special report, Ms. Csomor also mentions Noreen Oswell, a podiatrist at The Foot Center at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Towers in Los Angeles who claims, “Wearing flip-flops can be seriously detrimental for people whose feet are already at risk: For people with diabetes, who often have poor circulation and feeling in their feet, wearing flip-flops can expose them not only to injury but to infection. Those with balance issues may find it hard to feel secure when wearing rubbery flip-flops. And for those suffering from obesity, sporting the unstructured shoe can add strain to feet that are already stressed with carrying extra weight.”

The real problem is that people are wearing flip-flops while doing everything from skateboarding to gardening to running errands, Dr. Oswell said. "It's not that they wear them," claims Dr. Oswell. "They overwear them."

Crocs, which have some structure, cushion and breathability, can be an easy alternative to flip-flops, while sandals with a substantial foot bed and softer and broader straps are also a better option, Dr. Oswell said.

Read the complete CNN special report by Marina Csomor here.

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Monday, July 30, 2012

The Philippine helmet law

Thousands of motorcycle riders in the Philippines have been scrambling over to the offices of the Department of Trade and Industry to have DTI personnel paste an ICC sticker on their helmets, which certifies their protective worthiness.

These motorcyclists are obtaining the ICC sticker before the end of this month; otherwise, DTI will charge them P300 for the inspection and sticker. And beginning on the first of January, 2013, if stopped and found not wearing ICC-approved helmets, they will be fined.

According to an Opinion article by Randy David (Philippine Daily Inquirer), “ICC means ‘Import Commodity Clearance.’  It’s a document normally issued by the DTI’s Bureau of Product Standards to manufacturers and importers certifying that their products meet the standard specifications and tests for quality and safety."  This gives consumers the confidence to buy electrical appliances, Christmas lights, children’s toys, etc.

Imposed mainly on producers, importers and distributors, this  ICC requirement usually spares the consumers any such responsibility. However, Republic Act 10054, or the Motorcycle Helmet Act, signed on March 23, 2010, takes the further step of placing the responsibility for securing an ICC for protective helmets equally on the consumer.

Section 7 of the law says: “(a) Any person caught not wearing the standard protective motorcycle helmet in violation of this Act shall be punished with a fine of P1,500 for the first offense; P3,000 for the second offense; P5,000 for the third offense; and P10,000 plus confiscation of the driver’s license for the fourth and succeeding offenses.”

Mr. David argues, “The penalty for noncompliance -- to be imposed not just on riders without helmets but, as severely, on users of non-ICC compliant helmets -- is akin to punishing consumers who buy healing concoctions from Chinatown that have not been approved by the FDA. But, to be fair, the rest of the helmet law is good. Its principal objective is to make the wearing of protective helmets mandatory for all motorcycle riders. The problem is in the implementation. What kind of helmet will satisfy the law?”

“If the end goal is to reduce the number of motorcycle injuries and deaths on our streets,” says Mr. David, “the Land Transportation Office can do a lot to achieve this by making the issuance of motorcycle driving licenses much tougher than it is today. Practical and theoretical tests of driving skills and knowledge need to be strictly conducted. Possession of a mere driver’s license for 4-wheeled vehicles should not be taken as a sufficient qualification for motorcycle driving. Motor bikers who habitually carry more than one back rider on their bikes, particularly unprotected children, must be stopped and prevented from proceeding.”

“A helmet ultimately will not protect a rider as much as responsible riding does,” asserts Mr. David.

Read Mr. David's entire Opinion article here.

Five ways to cheat death on a motorcycle:

If you're looking to stay riding (and alive) for a long time, here are five tips to help you cheat death on a motorcycle.

Using information gleaned from a study which reported that motorcycle fatalities were essentially unchanged between 2010 and 2011, the Governors Highway Safety Association found that when these five specific issues are addressed, your survival odds can be increased dramatically.

TIP #1 - Wear a helmet

The GHSA study has found that helmets are 37 percent effective at preventing fatal injuries to motorcycle operators, and 41 percent effective for passengers.
According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, lids were responsible for saving the lives of 1,829 riders in 2008.

NHTSA has also found that 822 of unhelmeted riders who died that year would have survived if they had been wearing helmets.

TIP # 2 - Lay off the booze

If you get a thrill from riding buzzed, or even worse, think you're a better rider after a few drinks, think again. Alcohol has an immediate and detrimental effect on your reflexes, which can make the crucial difference between taking a nasty spill and keeping the shiny side up.

According to the GHSA, a whopping 29 percent of fatally injured motorcycle riders in 2010 had a blood alcohol level at or above the legal limit of .08. Armed with that information, it's worth considering whether the enjoyment of a drink or two is worth the potentially deadly downside.

TIP #3 - Slow down, speedy!

If you enjoy the tingly sensation of speed, it's easy to fall in love with motorcycles; that rush is a big part of why so many are drawn to riding, and the thrill of going fast on an affordable bike is hard to beat on any machine, even high-priced exotic sports cars.

The bad news, according to the GHSA, is that 35 percent of riders involved in fatal accidents were speeding. Even worse?

More than half of those wrecks didn't even involve another vehicle. Exercise a bit of moderation when you're on two wheels, and you'll stand a far better chance of living long enough to enjoy many more miles.

TIP #4 - Get re-trained

If you think you know everything there is to know about riding, think again. Never mind the obvious beginner mistakes; here's no shortage of blind spots when it comes to motorcycling techniques no matter how advanced your skill level, and the best way to advance your abilities is to learn from a pro.

The Motorcycle Safety Foundation offers a wide variety of courses aimed at everyone from total newbies to re-entry riders looking to get back in the saddle. From urban settings to offroad surroundings and track situations, there's probably a course out there that will make you a better, not to mention safer, rider.

TIP # 5 - Share the road

This point is actually aimed at drivers not riders, but getting inside the minds of four-wheeled motorists will go a long way towards enhancing your chances of survival on two wheels.
NHTSA says that when many motorcycles collide with other vehicles, the rider's right of way is usually being violated. Considering that trend, it pays to be hyper aware of your surroundings when you're on a motorcycle, and follow these 10 tips to maximize your visibility when you're in traffic.

It goes without saying, but people in cars have far less to lose than motorcyclists. Imagine you're invisible and assume they're out to get you, and you'll boost your survival odds exponentially-- and it doesn't hurt when states participate in "share the road" campaigns, as seen in the photo above.

By Basem Wasef, About.com Guide

Please share, you may save a brother's life!

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Sunday, July 29, 2012

Daniel’s lucid predilection

From the king's table
In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. And the Lord delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the articles from the temple of God. These he carried off to the temple of his god in Babylonia and put in the treasure house of his god.

Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring into the king’s service some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility — 4 young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians. The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king’s service.

Among those who were chosen were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego.

But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. Now God had caused the official to show favor and compassion to Daniel, but the official told Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would then have my head because of you.”

Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.”  So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days.

At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead.

To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.

At the end of the time set by the king to bring them into his service, the chief official presented them to Nebuchadnezzar. The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king’s service. In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom.

And Daniel remained there until the first year of King Cyrus.

                                                                                                        Daniel 1:1 – 21
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Saturday, July 28, 2012

Free range, yes. Free speech,no?

These are free range native chickens being grown 100 percent the natural way – no vaccines to boost their growth and no chemicals in their feeds.  Thus, unlike chickens raised in conventional manner, these native chickens are not as plump and tender.  Even their eggs are much smaller compared to those produced by regular laying chickens.  In short, these native chickens won’t pass the grade for fast food chains such as Chick-fil-A's chicken sandwiches.

Speaking of which, regrettably, Chick-fil-A's Vice President of Public Relations Don Perry died"suddenly" Friday morning, the company confirmed.   Mr. Perry was based in the Atlanta area and worked in Chick-fil-A's corporate communications department.

His death comes amid controversy over comments that Chick-fil-A's CEO Dan Cathy made against gay marriage. Cathy told the Baptist Press that he was "guilty as charged" for supporting "the biblical definition of the family unit."

And such statement attracted the ire of America’s gay community.  The mayor of Boston and Chicago also jumped into the fray – admonishing Mr. Cathy’s comment and promising to hinder any further expansion by Chick-fil-A in their cities.

Through such uproar, comes a recent public announcement by Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy, who's also the son of the company's founder S. Truett Cathy: Chick-fil-A is never going to talk about the gay marriage issue again.

Chick-fil-A is a family-owned and family-led company serving the communities in which it operates. From the day Truett Cathy started the company, he began applying biblically-based principles to managing his business. For example, the company believes that closing on Sundays, operating debt-free and devoting a percentage of their profits back to the communities are what make the company a stronger company and Chick-fil-A family.

Henceforth, Chick-fil-A  promises to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena.

Regardless of my political views and spiritual beliefs, I think it’s rather unfair for Chick-fil-A to generate such irrational rage.  First, I don’t think Chick-fil-A is a hate group. In a statement released the other day, company leaders made their commitment to equal service clear, "The Chick-fil-A culture and service tradition in our restaurants is to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect -- regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender."

I’ve never eaten at this restaurant while in the States, but I’ve never heard of or read about Chick-fil-A getting embroiled in such discriminatory acts towards certain customers.

Denny’s, however, after months of being targeted by claims of racial bias.  The outrage hung over its restaurant operation and the chain's employees like a dark, ominous cloud.  Flagstar Companies had no choice but to face up to the controversy.  

Denny's defense came in the form of an unprecedented 60-second TV spot in which Flagstar's chairman and CEO, Jerome (Jerry) Richardson, and a representative sample of his 46,000 employees were shown endorsing a solemn promise that all customers will, from this point on, "be treated with respect, dignity, and fairness." The spot became known simply as "The Pledge."

On the other hand, Chick-fil-A donates millions of dollars each year to charitable causes -- and not just to "pro-family" groups. It funds a large foster care program, several schools of a higher learning, and a children's camp. It has provided thousands of scholarships for Chick-fil-A employees to attend college and grow past the service sector where they got their workplace start. It even provided free meals for Aurora, Colorado, policemen.

Although this is purely an American quagmire, it’s best we all take heed and learn something from all this.

Homemade fried chicken

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Supporting our local farmers' markets

Jeff D. Leach is a science and archaeology writer and in his New York Times article he suggests,  “as we move deeper into a ‘postmodern’ era of squeaky-clean food and hand sanitizers at every turn, we should probably hug our local farmers’ markets a little tighter, because they may represent our only connection with some ‘old friends’ we cannot afford to ignore.”

The old friends he refers to here are the microorganisms that once covered our food and us.  And as nature’s blanket, Mr. Leach goes on to argue, “The potentially pathogenic and benign microorganisms associated with the dirt that once covered every aspect of our preindustrial day guaranteed a time-honored co-evolutionary process that established ‘normal’ background levels and kept our bodies from overreacting to foreign bodies. This research suggests that reintroducing some of the organisms from the mud and water of our natural world would help avoid an overreaction of an otherwise healthy immune response that results in such chronic diseases as Type 1 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, multiple sclerosis and a host of allergic disorders.”

The community farmers’ markets in America are now over 7,000 strong and growing.  Mr Leach claims, “These are being heralded as a panacea for what ails our sick nation. The smell of fresh, earthy goodness is the reason environmentalists approve of them, locavores can’t live without them, and the first lady has hitched her vegetable cart crusade to them. As health-giving as those bundles of mouthwatering leafy greens and crates of plump tomatoes are, the greatest social contribution of the farmers’ market may be its role as a delivery vehicle for putting dirt back into the American diet and in the process, reacquainting the human immune system with some old friends.”

Read the entire article here.

Meanwhile in Seattle, Matthew Ryan Williams says in his NYT article, “The movement toward local food is creating a vibrant new economic laboratory for American agriculture. The result, with its growing army of small-scale local farmers, is as much about dollars as dinner: a reworking of old models about how food gets sold and farms get financed, and who gets dirt under their fingernails doing the work.”

The article goes on to cite Narenda Varma, a former manager at Microsoft who invested $2 million of his own money last year in a 58-acre project of small plots and new-farmer training near Portland, Oregon.  And according to Mr. Varma, “The future is local.”

Thus, more predictable revenue streams, especially at a time when so many investments feel risky, are creating a firmer economic argument for local farming that, in years past, was more of a political or lifestyle choice.

Read complete article here.

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Friday, July 27, 2012


Egg salad sandwich with dill pickle and mandarins on the side
Go to any gathering here in Bohol and observe how the locals fill their plates with rice -- wide and high – as if the rice is all they intend to eat.  Seeing mine with only a couple of spoonsful, they would ask if I were on a diet.  Little do they know I go for a second helping or two if needed.  By the way, most Pinoys are more into rice than the viands.   I, on the other hand, tend to eat more of the served dishes than the rice.

Be that as it may, I once told a Boholano friend that I could go on for years without rice as long as I have sandwiches, which I had done while in New York City.  And my favorite sandwich filling is egg salad simply because they are so tasty and easy to make.

Indeed, hard-boiled eggs make inexpensive egg-salad sandwiches and smart, simple high-protein snacks; they add protein to green salads and make delicious appetizers like deviled eggs. 

Pastrami, ham and tuna, as well as bacon-lettuce-tomato (BLT) are the other sandwiches I love the most.  Bagel and wheat are my usual choices for bread.

Historically, the first written usage of the English word sandwich appeared in Edward Gibbon's journal, in longhand, referring to "bits of cold meat" in between two pieces of bread. It was named after John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich, an 18th-century English aristocrat, although he was neither the inventor nor sustainer of the food.

According to Wikipedia, Montagu ordered his valet to bring him meat tucked between two pieces of bread, and because he also happened to be the Fourth Earl of Sandwich, others began to order "the same as Sandwich!"

Lord Sandwich was fond of this form of food because it allowed him to continue playing cards, particularly cribbage, while eating without getting his cards greasy from eating meat with his bare hands.

Before being known as sandwiches, the food seems to simply have been known as "bread and meat" or "bread and cheese."

In New York, Subway became my favorite eatery whenever I had to fulfill a craving for tasty sandwiches.  It is an American restaurant franchise that primarily sells submarine sandwiches (subs) and salads.  Sandwiches are usually served in soft hero bread (baguettes).  Subway is one of the fastest growing franchises in the world with 37,000 restaurants in 100 countries as of June 27, 2012.  They have branches in Metro Manila.

These days, however, there are many sandwich specialty restaurants that have sprung up in the States and are supposedly doing exceptionally well.  Check out this slideshow.
Spanish omelette and bacon on mini baguette sandwich


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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Sports Drinks: Buying academia for market success

Last April, Coca-cola announced it had acquired a majority share of Zico, the number two brand in the estimated $350 million coconut water industry.

However, CNBC’s Darren Rovell argues that while some have called Coke's further investment in Zico the next step to making it the next great beverage, others say coconut water, which has been heavily marketed as nature's sports drink, might be at its peak today.

Rovell further points out, “The two sides of the story can be seen through the eyes of Coke's competitor, Pepsi, which led the charge in 2009 by acquiring Amacoco, Brazil's largest coconut water company. A year later, the company bought a greater piece of O.N.E., the third largest US brand after Vita Coco and Zico.”

However, acquisitions have not always been so auspicious for Pepsi.  It eventually dissolved its partnership with GNC to produce a coconut water brand called Phenom, and GNC has been unloading its inventory and getting out of the market after a 12-month test run. It seems GNC lacked the solid confidence to gain enough market share to make Phenom a profitable venture.

Nonetheless, GNC's retreat has not discouraged other beverage companies from delving into the coconut water business, including Pepsi, which just added three coconut water flavors to its SoBe line. Another beverage company, Rockstar, has unveiled an energy drink with coconut water in it, while Bigelow Tea now produces three tea mixes with coconut water.

According to John Craven, founder and CEO of BevNet, a beverage publisher, forays into the the coco water realm is not slowing down. Craven says roughly 3 in 10 new beverages coming to market today have coconut water as a component.  He believes coconut water is the next big thing.

"It's like in 2002 if you didn't have some sort of energy drink in your stable, you were an idiot," said Craven. "I think people think the same way about coconut water today."

Despite robust growth in the last two years in the US -- sales more than doubled for Vita Coco and grew five-fold for Zico -- Craven says the space still has so much upside.

Craven says that the sports science angle is definitely pushing sales and that Coke's further investment in Zico will do two things: Make it more prominent where it is sold and perhaps lower the price to under $2 (a 14-ounce bottle currently retails for $2.79) due to supply chain efficiencies.

Now, let’s take a look into that sports science angle.

Recently, The British Medical Journal published a scathing investigation into the influence of the sports drink industry over academia, in the interest of marketing the science of hydration.

The lengthy piece by Deborah Cohen documents how, over the past several decades, mandates regarding the necessity of hydrating during exercise entered the public consciousness to the point that they're now thought of as common sense.

For instance Deborah Cohen asks, “So how did the importance of hydration gain traction?”

The first New York marathon, in 1970, inspired a new interest in running. At the time, little scientific attention was given to the role of hydration in runners' performance.  In fact, throughout the 1970s, marathon runners were discouraged from drinking fluids for fear that it would slow them down.

However, an investigation by the BMJ reveals that companies have sponsored scientists, who have gone on to develop a whole area of science dedicated to hydration.

These same scientists advise influential sports medicine organizations, which have developed guidelines that have filtered down to everyday health advice.

These guidelines have influenced the European Food Safety Authority, the EU agency that provides independent advice on the evidence underpinning health claims relating to food and drink. And they have spread fear about the dangers of dehydration.

Hence, the rapid rise in consumption of these sports drinks is hardly surprising, because sports drinks have the marketing and distribution power of multinationals behind them.

PepsiCo bought Gatorade in 2001 and both Coca-Cola and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) have their own sports drinks -- Powerade and Lucozade respectively. The companies are a partner and service provider, respectively, to the London 2012 Olympics.

Cohen further claims that one of the greatest accomplishments of the Gatorade Sports Science Institute, established in 1985, was to convince the public that thirst is an unreliable indicator of dehydration.

There is ample evidence of ways in which the experts who propagated this information were funded or "supported" by sports drinks companies, and while this in itself isn't necessarily wrong, she argues that researchers who have conflicts of interest are not objective enough to be writing guidelines, as is the case here.

There is no good evidence to support the ideas, for example, that "Without realizing, you may not be drinking enough to restore your fluid balance after working out" (Powerade), or that urine color is a reliable indicator of the body's hydration levels.

Cohen concludes with an argument that dehydration has been overblown into the "dreaded disease of exercise," in yet another example of fear mongering for the sake of corporate interest.

Read Deborah Cohen's entire investigative report here.

As for the popularity of the coconut water as a sports drink -- pitched as a better alternative to Gatorade and particularly strong in potassium, which prevents cramping -- has led to some questioning the credibility of its claims.

A consumer group called ConsumerLab.com revealed that Vita Coco and O.N.E. had electrolyte levels on its labeling that didn't match the reality. Vita Coco didn't admit any wrongdoing, but did agree earlier this year to pay $10 million to settle the lawsuit brought by the group.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

As A Man Thinketh

What makes life difficult for man throughout history is that he was born without a manual; all alone to fend for himself, it seems.

And as he strives to follow his bliss to fulfill his inner longings -- that will consequently shape his life -- he finds himself struggling at every crossroad; that is, whether or not to transcend his comfort zone and leave his family and culture that once nurtured him. Thus, begins what Joseph Campbell would refer to as the “hero’s journey.”

From teenage angst to mid-life reevaluations, we cope with personal issues.  And for the most part, on our own. Regardless of our basic support system that may be comprised of family and friends; despite of their well-meaning intentions, suggestions and recommendations, we often base our decisions on the set of thoughts and core beliefs that we alone ascertain for ourselves.

As a Man Thinketh tells us that although we are powerless to change any condition that comes our way, we do, however, have the power to provide its meaning, as well as how and to what extent we will allow this particular condition to affect us. 

But then again, this book argues, most people and conditions that we attract into our life are equivalent experiences of the thoughts we harbor in our mind.

Long before the publication of this book, many had already attested to the power of thoughts to manifest themselves; that our every uttered word and every action taken was preceded by our having thought about it first. Henceforth, everything around us – from our cellphones to the cars we drive — all came from thought.

Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, Emperor of Rome, A.D. 161-180, said, “The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts, therefore guard accordingly; and take care that you entertain no notions unsuitable to virtue, and reasonable nature.”

James Allen, in this book, also underscores our innate power to fill our minds with thoughts of what we want to experience in our life, as well as our power to filter out those we do not wish to experience.

He asserts, “Of all the beautiful truths pertaining to the soul which have been restored and brought to light in this age, none is more gladdening or fruitful of divine promise and confidence than this – that man is the master of thought, the moulder of character, and the maker and shaper of condition, environment, and destiny.”

In essence, we actively participate in creating our destiny through the thoughts we often find ourselves thinking a lot about.

This is a wonderful book that reminds us about a simple truth: We are what we think.

As A Man Thinketh
By James Allen
free downloadable ebook


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Tuesday, July 24, 2012


Humans don't rise to the occasion.
Instead, we fall to our level of training
and experience.

                                                                   Archilochus, a Greek soldier–poet,

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Monday, July 23, 2012

Magical Mind

The following address was delivered by Margarita Ventenilla-Hamada, Founder/Directress, Harvent Schools, Dagupan City & Lingayen, Pangasinan, on the occasion of their 
Achievers' Day, April 3 & 5, 2008:


       Let me start my talk with an analogy that I picked up from my readings: I am like a pencil maker, and you, my dear graduates, are the pencils, ready to do what I have designed you to do. Unbeknownst to many, I have a formula that made you into magic pencils, not ordinary ones. Now, before I send you off into the world outside Harvent School, I have to remind you of three important things:

       First- Because you are like pencils, everything you do will always leave a mark, but fortunately, you have a built-in eraser. You can always correct your mistakes and learn from them. This is easy. You've been doing this since Day One in Harvent. This is why you are not afraid to make mistakes. This is also the reason why you do not laugh at people who make mistakes because you know that mistakes are your stepping-stones to mastering important skills- in school, and in life.

       Second- What is important is what is inside you. All pencils have lead inside them, but since you are magic pencils, the stuff inside you is not a noun that rhymes with the word, 'dead' but a verb -lead. It rhymes with the word, 'succeed'. Having instilled in you the habit of reading and learning for the sheer joy it brings and not for any shallow, childish reason-- like besting your classmates, I have high expectations that you will use this stuff inside you to the max, and become indeed leaders and problem-solvers.

       Third- You will have to sharpen yourselves constantly to retain your magic. By sharpening, I mean un-learning. Now don't get me wrong. I don't mean for you to unlearn the skills you mastered, for skills like reading, communicating and reckoning are permanent or indelible. They cannot be unlearned, especially if you are lucky enough to enroll in a high school that will fine- tune these skills. But I have to tell you that most high schools and universities teach information and myths and inflict these on you as being the truth and nothing but! Or, just as bad, the stories they call myths may be true and tell you they’re fairy tales...and persecute you if you happen to be sharp enough to see through them and denounce them for what they really are. Well, just pretend to absorb them so you can get that diploma and that degree. Memorize those information if you must, and pretend to accept those shallow insights so you will pass those exams. But keep sharpening your minds so you can puncture those myths, even those you had swallowed accidentally along the way. This means, never hesitate to challenge major accepted opinions--in private. But when very necessary, for the good of society, publish your insights, the noise it may cause notwithstanding.

       Ordinary people cling to accepted mind-sets, and never bother to wonder if they happen to be wrong. This is because ordinary people marvel at the unusual, not at the usual, at the abnormal, not at the normal. But people with magical minds do the opposite. They marvel at the ordinary, not at the extraordinary. Out of the magical minds of these people came forth wonderful ideas that have enlightened us about the workings of the universe and our place and role in it.

       An apple fell on Isaac Newton one afternoon, as he napped under that tree. A falling apple is such an ordinary sight, that people did not stop to look and ponder about it. But Newton did just that. He stopped to ponder why it fell and wondered what mysterious force had made it fall. He dared to ask what nobody cared to ask before- Could this mysterious force that made this apple fall be the same force that keeps the moon, the sun and the stars stay in their places in the sky so they do not fly off to space? His question led to the discovery of gravity and to our better understanding of force and motion.

       Albert Einstein was yet another person who invested time wondering why ordinary things are the way they are. People took for granted that water, when heated, turns to vapor or gas, and when cooled, turns to ice. They also took for granted that electric power, or energy can turn into heat, light and sound. But not Einstein. Like Newton, he had a magical mind, so his interest lay in observing the ordinary, not the extraordinary. and so he asked this question about a very ordinary thing- water: If matter, like water, can change forms from gas to liquid to solid, and energy can change forms from heat to light to sound, could matter and energy be one and the same thing in two forms? That question, which was just as devastatingly simple as Newton's, led to the discovery of atomic and thence, nuclear energy, which, depending on how it is harnessed, can give us a taste of heaven or hell at the flick of a switch.

       I may sound immodest when I say that I think I have some of that magic in me. But I'll say it anyway. I think I have. That magic enabled me to look hard at a usual practice in our society and to marvel at it. I saw how parents tutor their children at home and asked myself why they have to do so when the school they pay is supposed to do this job. It never occurs to these parents to ask this question and challenge this long-accepted practice that worked against common sense and their well-being. But it occurred to ME. It was I who asked the question that gave birth to Harvent School- the school that produces magic pencils like you, year after year without your parents' intervention.

       So, my dear pupils, remember to sharpen the lead inside you so you won't ever lose your magic. You can do this by getting into the habit of looking hard at generally accepted opinions and ways of doing things and asking yourselves why they are so. If you do, your thoughts will run deep and produce life-transforming miracles for yourselves and society. You may or may not be hailed as great (I know you wouldn't mind that because I made sure you never fell into the habit of doing things in pursuit of applause.) In fact, you may even be persecuted, like some magical-minded men we know- Galileo, Jose Rizal and Mahatma Gandhi. BUT this is what I can assure you: you will not suffer the terrible fears of the weak- the ignorant and the ordinary. Unlike them, you will not endanger and/or impoverish yourselves running after foolish dreams and cheap values, and you will not die from their illnesses and their peristent sense of worthlessness. Then you will make a second great discovery. Already, you have made your first great discovery in Harvent School- that learning is so much fun. But even more fun than learning, you will soon discover, if you heed my advice, is unlearning. If you master this skill, you would live the life of the empowered, the truly blessed among us.

       My dear pupils and their parents, distinguished guests, members of my staff, my dear friends- always remember that each of us is a pencil purposely made to leave a mark in its path. Let us inspire one another to make that mark that of a magic pencil--a question mark- simple, innocent and profound. Let us keep on leaving question marks in our journey through life, so the world, suffused with the magic of our minds, will rise above all perils that confront it.

       Congratulations and God bless us all! Thank you very much

(Harvent School is a non-graded, competition-free school that delivers mastery of the 3 Rs via its personalized system of instruction, without homework & the harmful effects of reward and punishment. Its 2 campuses offer Pre-school & Grade school courses in fully air-conditioned classrooms.)    
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