Feeds:
Posts
Comments

gettyimages-946840760_wide-e44073efd0e58eae89dd7a6f848e057591f2c7ad-s600-c85

Photo: Stefan Sauer/AFP/Getty Images
Amateur archaeologist Rene Schoen (left) and 13-year-old student Luca Malaschnichenko looking for treasures in Schaprode, Germany. The boy made a startling discovery in January, then participated in a professional dig that uncovered a larger trove.

In this National Public Radio story, a young boy working with an amateur archaeologist gets to experience the thrill of a significant find, one that underscores the historical connection between Germany and Denmark.

It wasn’t aluminum trash he found. It was a silver coin.

Camila Domonoske reports at NPR, “An amateur archaeologist and a 13-year-old student have uncovered a stash of thousand-year-old coins, rings and pearls on an island in the Baltic Sea in northern Germany, including items that might be tied to Harald Bluetooth, the famous king who united Denmark.

“René Schön and student Luca Malaschnitschenko were searching northern Rügen island with metal detectors when they found something they thought was aluminum but turned out to be silver, Agence France-Presse reports. …

“The two alerted professional archaeologists, and then helped recover of the rest of the trove — more than 600 silver objects dating from the late 10th century. …

“About 100 of the coins are from the reign of King Harald Bluetooth of Denmark: the largest find of such coins in the southern Baltic region, the [archaeology office of Mecklenburg-West Pomerania] office says.

“Harald I — his nickname is believed to come from a dead tooth that may have looked blueish — was a Viking king who united Denmark, conquered Norway and converted to Christianity.

“And based on the date of the stash, the state archaeology office says, it’s possible that the hoard wasn’t just from Bluetooth’s reign, but that it was directly tied to the king himself. …

“In case you were wondering: Yes, King Harald Bluetooth is the namesake for Bluetooth wireless technology. An Intel engineer who worked on the technology, Jim Kardach, was reading about Vikings as the project developed.

“In his words, King Bluetooth ‘was famous for uniting Scandinavia just as we intended to unite the PC and cellular industries with a short-range wireless link.’ The Bluetooth symbol is a runic representation of his initials.”

More here.

Photo: John Walker
Melvin Smith, who completed the Transition from Jail to Community (TJC) program at Fresno County Jail, is now clean and running his family’s well-drilling business.

Here’s another example of a program that has been helping ex-offenders reintegrate into society.

Brianna Calix reports at the Fresno Bee, “The last time Melvin Smith was arrested, he was so hungry and tired that he prayed to God the authorities would keep him in Fresno County Jail instead of releasing him.

“Smith was arrested 14 times in 2013 for drug use, auto theft and vandalism. In Fresno County, law enforcement arrested him 41 times since 1999. ‘I was wild,’ he said. In jail, his ‘celly’ asked him where he saw himself in five years. Smith’s goal was to reunite with his family.

“He’s been out of jail for four years, sober for five years and his probation ends in June. He runs his grandfather’s well and pump company, goes to church with Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer and is about to buy a home with a pool for his family. For birthdays, he takes his family on trips to places such as Universal Studios, Magic Mountain and Disneyland.

“During that last stint in jail, Smith went through the Transition from Jail to Community program. It helps inmates who are more likely to re-offend prepare for life after incarceration.

“The TJC program, as it’s known, was started in 2013. The men who complete the program have a dramatically lower recidivism rate than the rest of the jail population, in part due to the support system the program builds for them.

“ ‘We’ve had programs for many years in the jail,’ Sheriff Margaret Mims said. ‘This one was very different.’ …

“Inmates have to opt into the program voluntarily, and not just any inmate can qualify. Forty or fewer people participate in the program at a time. The jail houses between 2,600 and 2,900 inmates.

“Jail staff evaluate each inmate based on how many times they’ve been arrested in Fresno County, their age and how old they were when they first were arrested. Based on that score, staff evaluate the inmate’s risk to re-offend. Only medium-to-high-risk inmates qualify.

“If the inmate agrees to participate in the program, he signs a contract pledging to participate, follow the rules and stay engaged with supervision upon release.

“In a typical housing unit, the inmates tend to group by race, said Michelle LeFors, Fresno County Jail’s inmate services director.

“ ‘Not in the TJC,’ she said. ‘You’ll see mixed races sitting together, sharing a meal with each other. … They work with each other as opposed to against each other. If you ask the inmates, they’ll tell you they leave their politics at the door.’ …

“As a gang dropout in jail, [inmate Clinton S. ] constantly worried about his safety. But that’s not the case in the TJC program. …

” ‘Everyone in here is pretty much in here for the same reason. There is perks that they come over here for, but everyone obviously wants to change because being in jail is not cool. It gets old. You grow up quick.’

“The program has helped transform his mindset and taught him to persevere and that his consequences have actions.

“So far, his biggest takeaway in the program is to ‘not give up.’ ”

More here. See also the recent post on my cousin’s work to rehabilitate 18- to 24-year-old prisoners. So encouraging.

Photo: blvckimvges
Santiago, Chili, turned a congested area into a walkable, artistic delight for $550,000 raised from sponsors. But will the pilot program last?

Where there’s a will, there’s a way. In the congested capital of Chile, people who value walkable cities took matters into their own hands to pilot a livability initiative. The only question now: will it last?

As Martín Echenique reported at CityLab, “It was all done in record time. In just 30 days, more than 120 people — led by 32-year-old Chilean visual artist Dasic Fernández — transformed one of the most congested and iconic streets in the center of the Chilean capital.

“Today, Bandera Street, next to the government palace and the city’s main square, is a colorful promenade, thanks to an urban intervention that’s unprecedented in Latin America. …

“Fernández, who lives in New York City, joined forces with architect Juan Carlos López, and in three days they developed a proposal to sway the mayor: The idea was to transform Bandera into an example of tactical urbanism that fused art and architecture, and that would set a precedent for how both disciplines can successfully intervene in urban spaces. …

“ ‘The idea was to pedestrianize the street, to put a little green area, some color and furniture. There was nothing like an elaborate request from the municipality,’ said Fernández. …

“The Municipality of Santiago did not have to take any money out of its pocket. The entire project was financed, basically, through payments made by various brands to make their logos visible on the Paseo, where tens of thousands walk through each day. … According to the artist, the total cost of the project did not exceed $550,000. …

“ ‘We made a team of 20 local and Latin American muralists, who painted each block in eight or 10 hours. There was a whole coordination. It was a true visual choreography,’ said Fernández. …

“At the end of this year, the Chilean capital will have to make a decision: either reopen the Paseo to cars and public transport, or keep it pedestrianized, permanently. …

“The decision is not in the hands of the municipality, but with the Chilean Ministry of Transport, which has already indicated that the street must be reopened to public transport. However, the mayor of Santiago, Felipe Alessandri, is advocating for Bandera to remain an exclusively pedestrian route and cultural space. …

“Although Fernández says that he is accustomed to his work being temporary or reversible, he hopes that the Paseo Bandera can remain as a pedestrian street, not only because it sets a precedent in the region, but because he believes such spaces create a sense of citizenship.”

Read about the ancient and modern themes of the mural and also about previous Santiago design innovations at CityLab, here.

Photo: Kol Peterson
Los Angeles will pay homeowners who are willing to house pre-screened homeless families by creating “granny flats,” like this accessory dwelling unit over a garage in Portland, Oregon.

I like stories on creative ways cities are trying to tackle homelessness. These initiatives may seem like a drop in the bucket, but some may actually work well over time and help alleviate the effects of our extreme inequality. You have to start somewhere. After all, the homeless population includes working families unable to make ends meet on their wages.

As Vanessa Romo wrote at National Public Radio last month, “In an attempt to alleviate the soaring homelessness problem in Los Angeles County, officials want to pay homeowners to house people by building new living units or bringing existing dwellings up to code if they are in violation.

“It’s part of a $550,000 pilot program launched by the LA Community Development Commission to explore new ways to safely and at a relatively low cost, provide housing options for handful of the county’s nearly 60,000 homeless residents.

“The county Board of Supervisors has narrowed down the pool of applicants from 500 to 27 and is in the final stages of selecting a group of six property owners who are ready and willing to start construction in the fall, according to the LA Times. The county is also leading a design competition for model secondary dwelling units.

“Officials will consider whether to expand the program after 18 months. …

” ‘People are looking at what they can do to make our neighborhoods more affordable and help more Angelenos find stable places to live,’ LA Mayor Eric Garcetti told the Times.

“Garcetti has been urging property owners to build secondary units, or ‘granny flats’ as they’re often called, in their backyards for years. He estimated it could create 50,000 more units if only 10 percent of homeowners would take on the challenge. …

“The Times also reported ‘the loan principal will be reduced each year the unit is occupied by a formerly homeless person and forgiven after 10 years, at which point the homeowners can do as they wish with the housing.’ …

“Los Angeles is only the latest county trying to take on the nation’s homelessness crisis by inducing property owners to provide affordable housing.

“Multnomah County in Oregon started a similar project last summer where four homeowners agreed to have a small unit built on their lot and pledged to provide housing for pre-screened homeless candidates for at least five years.”

More.

Photo: Aeromate
An urban farm flourishes on a rooftop in the heart of Paris.

I never can resist a story about urban rooftop gardens, which not only bring fresh produce to city dwellers but also make use of empty space and help reduce carbon in the atmosphere.

I have blogged about them a lot. There was the post about a rooftop garden in Montreal, here. Another about Higher Ground in South Boston, here. Suzanne and Erik’s former church in San Francisco, Glide Memorial, made its rooftop garden a community-building activity for Tenderloin residents. And this was an article about a Whole Foods that aimed to harvest 10,000 pounds of food a year from its rooftop in Lynnfield, Mass.

Today’s story comes from Paris.

Freelance blogger Aimee Lutkin writes at the World Economic Forum blog, “The mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, was elected in 2014 with the intention to improve the city’s green spaces as a part of her platform. …

“In 2016, her administration launched Parisculteurs, a campaign that is working to cover 247 acres of rooftops and walls in Paris with greenery by 2020.

“One third of that greenery will specifically be set aside for urban farming. To date, 74 organizations have signed a charter to work with the city on planning this enormous enterprise. The city has already approved 75 projects for development, which are estimated to produce more than 500 tons of vegetation.

“The deputy mayor of Paris, Penelope Komites, [told CNN] … ‘Citizens want new ways to get involved in the city’s invention and be the gardeners.’ …

” ‘Three years ago, people laughed at my plan. Today, citizens are producing [food] on roofs and in basements. We are also asked by numerous cities around the world to present the Parisian approach,’ she said.

“And they already have their success stories. … La Chambeaudie started shortly after Parisculteurs was announced in 2016, but now grows over 40 varieties of plants and herbs using a hydroponic system …

” ‘We’ve seen a real craze among Parisians to participate in making the city more green,’ said Komites. ‘Urban agriculture is a real opportunity for Paris. It contributes to the biodiversity and to the fight against climate change.’

“And it also means jobs. According to Komites, Parisculteurs has created 120 full-time jobs.”

More at World Economic Forum blog, here.

Photo: Jonathan Wiggs /Globe Staff
Lauren Mayhew was my Essentrics teacher for a year. Here she is leading a class at the Steinberg Wellness Center for Mind and Body. Despite the photo, Essentrics doesn’t have students hold positions.

I was never one for doing exercise for exercise’s sake, but a couple decades ago, my doctor friend Anna insisted I take up something. I’m so glad she did.

I knew that in order to do any exercise regularly, it would have to be something I really enjoyed, so I started walking every day. I don’t walk fast, but I keep the joints moving, and I learned that any sort of walking fulfills that Holy Grail called “weight-bearing activity.” I also love the time to think, and I like taking pictures on my walk.

In addition to walking, I take two exercise classes. I’ve been taking tai chi chuan at Zhen Ren Chuan for more than six years. I like taking tai chi chuan at a martial arts studio because the moves are more clear and understandable than at another place I tried. They are clear because the martial arts people like to tell you the self-defense origins of the moves.

Tai chi chuan is great for balance and moving your body in a seamless way so you don’t stress the joints as you might do when holding a yoga position.

Moving in a seamless way is also the goal of a class I’ve been taking for two years called Essentrics. Essentrics was developed by a former ballerina and aims to strengthen and stretch all the muscles in every session, with beneficial attention to often neglected hands and feet.

Although the tai chi class includes many young people who are also studying martial arts, my midday Essentrics class has mostly retired people, many of whom have had injuries of one kind or another.

What do you do for exercise? Do you take any classes? As a child I took a lot of ballet classes, and ever since then, I’ve had the idea that you make friends in classes. Do you find it works that way with grown-ups? Since starting exercise lessons again as an adult, I find that most grownups keep their heads down and avoid eye contact. I can’t figure out why that is.

Here’s a Boston Globe article that explains how Essentrics helps improve posture. Lauren Mayhew, one of my teachers, is featured in the story.

Photo: Zhen Ren Chuan
The Zhen Ren Chuan website highlights its community garden: “Our families learn horticulture as well as Martial Arts.” Students and teachers keep the school’s corner of the business district neat as a pin.

3-sm

Photo: Drew Fellman
Ben Kilham, of the Kilham Bear Center in New Hampshire, seen with a giant panda at Panda Valley in Dujiangyan, China, in the  IMAX film Pandas. Oh, to be that guy at that moment!

I loved the picture above and thought I’d like to have that kind of connection to a Giant Panda. But as Cristela Guerra reports at the Boston Globe, if you work with pandas, you learn that they have a strong bite for chomping bamboo and you should expect to get bitten.

Guerra starts with the backstory of a promising new research effort. “In New Hampshire, Ben Kilham’s work with black bears has earned him a couple of nicknames, including ‘the bear whisperer’ or simply ‘Papa Bear.’

“In Chengdu, China, Hou Rong’s research into giant pandas has earned her a nickname as well: ‘Panda Mom.’

“Their cross-cultural collaboration is the focus of a new documentary called ‘Pandas,’ [which opened] at the New England Aquarium on April 6. …

” ‘Pandas’ presents breathtaking, panoramic views of China around the mountains of Sichuan where the nonprofit Chengdu Research Base for Giant Panda Breeding is located. There, a group of scientists raise endangered giant pandas in captivity with the hope that one day they’ll be able to introduce them into the wild.”

Kilham’s techniques, honed with black bears in New Hampshire, “involve taking captive-born bear cubs for walks through the woods, where they follow Kilham like a mother bear. …

” ‘That’s what the mother bear does; she is their protecting force,’ Kilham said of the training method. ‘For pandas, it works the same way.’ …

” ‘I had trouble learning in school,’ Kilham says in the documentary. ‘But I could read nature the way other people read books. I don’t teach bears how to be bears. The knowledge is already inside them.’ …

“Inspired by Kilham’s techniques, the scientists at the Panda Base begin to test the abilities of captive-born panda cubs to see if one has what it takes for a journey into the wild. This means a whole lot of footage of adorable, roly poly baby pandas being bottle-fed, pushed down a wooden slide, and wrestling with researchers. …

“ ‘For bringing a captive-born animal whose mom is also captive-born, whose grandparents are also captive-born into the wild, my biggest consideration is [the panda’s] vigilance.” said [wildlife conservation biologist Jake] Owens. ‘How alert they are, how aware they are about potential dangers.’ …

“ ‘All young animals need to have is some sort of mother figure,’ Kilham said. ‘What you’re giving the cubs is an opportunity to learn. If you just put them out there by themselves, they’re unable to go anywhere.’ ”

More here. And check out the movie trailer here.