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Both my kids are entrepreneurs. They got their start in business with a lemonade stand, as my grandson is doing in the photo.

His customers don’t know how lucky they are. Lemon peels in the trash may be protecting them from bubonic plague. Doubt me? Well, have you heard of anyone getting plague in an area of New England where lemonade is sold?

Well, there you go.

Consider a recent article by Tom Nealon in the Boston Globe.

He writes, “I’d like to tell a story of what lemonade was doing in Paris 349 summers ago. Lemons have been used for making drinks since before the Ancient Egyptians, are often used to detoxify, and to soothe a sore throat, but that year, the fate of Paris may have hinged on one of its lesser known properties.

“In 1668, the bubonic plague, dormant for a decade, returned to France and was threatening Paris. It had been reported in Normandy and Picardy, in Soissons, Amiens, and then, terrifyingly, just downstream of the capital along the Seine, in Rouen. … Panic-stricken Parisian public health officials imposed quarantines and embargoes in the hope of mitigating inevitable disaster — but the dreaded pestilence never struck.

“The plague that loomed over Paris was the midpoint of a 17th-century European epidemic that would go on to decimate Vienna (80,000 dead in 1679), Prague (80,000 dead in 1681) and Malta (11,000 dead in 1675). The body count in Amiens would end up topping 30,000, and almost no city in France was spared – except for Paris, which, miraculously, survived almost completely unscathed.”

By chance, lemonade was extremely popular that year.

“The limonene contained in lemons (and other citrus fruits) is a natural insecticide and insect repellent. The most effective part of the lemon is the limonene-rich peel. Indeed, after centuries of discovery of chemical insect repellents, the US Environmental Protection Agency still lists 15 insecticides in which limonene is the chief active ingredient, including both general bug sprays and products for pet flea and tick control. The French were piling lemon peels in the best possible place to disrupt the flea-rat-human-rat chain [that caused the spread of plague]: the trash. …

“Paris emerged alive — and refreshed.” More here.

I don’t really think we should count on lemonade to protect us from plague. But lemonade in a backpack isn’t a bad idea for a lemonade-stand spinoff. Time tested. You could take it to the beach.

Image: Staeske Rebers
Limonadiers were French vendors who sold lemonade from tanks on their backs.

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Photo: Rajanish Kakade/AP
Amiruddin Shah, the son of a welder from a Mumbai slum, won a spot at the American Ballet Theatre’s Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School in New York.

Even though I know the culture shock can’t be easy for poor but talented kids given opportunities that lift them from slums, I do enjoy these hopeful stories.

Manish Mehta writes for the Associated Press, “The son of a welder from [Mumbai’s] slums had a dream few Indians dared to dream — to dance with the New York City Ballet.

“In a few months, that dream may be a little bit closer as 15-year-old Amiruddin Shah begins four years of training at the prestigious American Ballet Theatre’s Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School. …

“Shah began studying ballet less than three years ago when Israeli-American instructor Yehuda Maor was invited by the Danceworx Academy to teach in India — a country with no special ballet academies.

“Maor happened to catch Shah doing cartwheels and backflips as part of the Danceworx jazz and contemporary dance program for underprivileged students.

“ ‘I had no idea about ballet,’ Shah recalled. He had been dancing freestyle whenever he got the chance — sometimes he was invited to weddings to perform, sometimes he just goofed around with friends. …

“Within 2 ½ years, Shah had nailed his pointe, pirouette and arabesque, ‘which is unheard of,’ Maor said. …

“Maor bought Shah ballet shoes and dance clothes and helped him and another young dancer, 21-year-old Manish Chauhan, win scholarships in June to New York’s Joffrey Ballet School. But they could not secure U.S. visas in time. …

“Now, Shah is trying to raise funds for four years of travel and tuition with the American Ballet Theatre in New York. They have enough for his first year, beginning in August, but have set up a website to accept donations for three more years in the U.S. …

“ ‘I am so excited, but slightly scared, too,’ said Shah, who speaks basic English but used Hindi in an interview with The Associated Press. ‘How would I interact with people? New York is very crowded.’

“One day, he hopes to be a principal dancer in the New York Ballet. And eventually, he said, ‘I want to teach other children who cannot afford to pay for dance.’ ” More here.

Photo: Omar Torres/AFP/Getty
Las Palmitas in Mexico, a giant example of a town painting itself.

In Gallup’s Global Emotions Report, the countries that come out best are completely different from those that top the UN’s better known Happiness Report, which gives more weight to metrics such as GDP. A design organization has taken note.

Christopher Turner provides background at the Guardian.

“The 2017 Global Emotions Report [is] an ambitious survey of the global mood. To compile it, Gallup conducted in-depth interviews with nearly 150,000 people in 142 countries.

“The report seeks to measure positive and negative daily experiences by asking people to rate their previous day. ‘Did you feel well rested yesterday? Were you treated with respect all day? Did you smile or laugh a lot? Did you experience enjoyment? Did you learn or do something interesting?’ … Conversely, interviewers asked them if they felt pain, anger, worry or stress. …

“In 2012 the UN launched its first World Happiness Report, using data also collected by Gallup, and called on member states to place more emphasis on happiness as a measure of social progress and to guide public policy.

“In the UN’s report, interviewees are asked about their perceptions of social support, personal freedom and corruption, rating their lives on a ladder from zero to 10. The results correlate closely with a list of the world’s wealthiest nations. Norway is currently the happiest country, followed closely by Denmark and Switzerland. … at the other end of the spectrum, people from Syria, Burundi, Tanzania and the Central African Republic rate life satisfaction at about three.

“In contrast, the Global Emotions Report poll of positive experiences is led by Paraguay (only 70th in the Happiness Report, and one of the poorer countries in terms of GDP), then Costa Rica.

“Indeed, Latin American countries traditionally come out top in the index, a fact attributed to the presence of strong social and family networks. …

“In the face of such statistics, what lessons can architects, designers, citizens and community activists learn from these polls? The theme of the second London Design Biennale, announced [in June], is ‘Emotional States.’ It aims to inspire a diverse, global commentary on our turbulent times, interrogating the ways in which design affects every aspect of our lives, and influences our feelings and experiences. …

“The biennale will feature an installation by Norway, in which the government is backing a decade-long initiative devoted to a people-centred approach to design. Engaging citizens in the process, it’s part of an ambitious action plan to make Norway inclusively’ designed by 2025. The government is also taking a proactive approach to the environment, and recently pledged that all cars on the roads will be electric within a decade. The exhibition includes examples of technology and innovation that employ design as a strategy for a better future.

“Guatemala, which ties for sixth place in the Global Emotions Report, will show an installation about the community action taking place in Santa Catarina Palopó. This town on the volcanic shores of Lake Atitlán is reinventing itself as a kind of conceptual art, using the paintbrush to boost civic pride and tourism. Its residents have become involved in a two-year scheme in which they are painting their houses in bold Mayan patterns, with a strict but vibrant palette of five colours sourced from local textiles.” More at the Guardian, here.

Photo: GraphicaArtis/Getty
“Now just 10 years away … a 1950s illustration of a family playing a board game while their electric car does the driving.” Ten years?

Liz Maw is the CEO of Net Impact, which has 300 chapters worldwide guiding students and professionals who aim to align their worklife with their values and make positive change.

A high school classmate of mine posted an article about her daughter’s nonprofit on Facebook recently, and since I’m interested in this sort of thing, I looked it up.

Net Impact is an organization of 100,000 members in 300 global chapters that “take on social challenges, protect the environment and orient businesses and products toward the greater good.” It provides students and professionals with guidance to align their jobs with their values.

From the website: “Liz Maw joined Net Impact as CEO in 2004. During her tenure, Net Impact has tripled its chapter network to more than 300, formed partnerships with over 50 global corporations, and developed multiple new programs that engage students and professionals in sustainability. …

“In 2011, Liz was named one of the 100 most influential people in business ethics by Ethisphere. Liz is also a Board Member of the World Environment Center.

“Prior to leading Net Impact, Liz’s professional experience included strategic consulting to nonprofits with the Bridgespan Group, as well as fundraising and direct marketing for nonprofit organizations.”

I liked this explanation of what the nonprofit is all about. Sounds good to me. “Net Impact mobilizes new generations to use their skills and careers to drive transformational social and environmental change.

“Many people want to make a difference, but turning good intentions into tangible impact can be hard.

“Net Impact is an accelerator. Our programs — delivered from our headquarters, as well as globally through our student and professional chapters — give our members the skills, experiences and connections that will allow them to have the greatest impact. …

“Our emerging leaders take on social challenges, protect the environment, invent new products and orient business toward the greater good. In short, we help our members turn their passions into a lifetime of world-changing action. …

“We believe that the business sector is a critical part of driving social and environmental change, and thus engage with a variety of big and small companies on our events and programs.”

Net Imapct’s next Path to Purpose conference is October 26-28 in Atlanta. More on that here.


Image: Ancient Sumerian bas-relief portrait
The world’s first poet, a woman, is revered by ancient alien conspiracy theorists, but few others know of her, writes this professor of Mesopotamian studies.

I saw this story at Arts Journal recently and decided to take it seriously, even though the last link I followed to learn about the “first poet” led me down some crazy paths. I’m prepared to believe in Prof. Charles Halton at LitHub, but see what you think.*

“Though hardly anyone knows it,” Halton writes, “the first person ever to attach their name to a poetic composition is not a mystery. Enheduanna was born more than 4,200 years ago and became the high priestess of a temple in what we now call southern Iraq. She wrote poems, edited hymnals, and may have taught other women at the temple how to write. …

“If you have heard of Enheduanna, it was likely in one of two contexts. She made a one minute appearance in Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Cosmos reboot which depicted her as a hybrid creature, part Walt-Disneyfied Native American and part Solomonic princess. After Tyson narrates a quasi-factual mini-bio, a shaman-like voiceover recites a line from one of her poems as a laser cuts the words into the night sky. The vibe is dusty Mesopotamia meets Blade Runner.

“The other place you may have learned of Enheduanna is from one of Betty Meador’s books. Meador is a retired Jungian analyst who has tirelessly worked to get Enheduanna into mainstream conversation. Meador began this crusade after she, I kid you not, had a dream in which she dug a grave for two male Jungians. … Other than these two instances, however, people largely don’t talk about the world’s first author.

“But why?

“One of the reasons has to be the people who study the culture from which she comes. Have you met a professor of Mesopotamian studies? … We have an almost divine-like ability to take ultra-fascinating ideas and make them slightly less exciting than a traffic ticket. …

“When historians have given scant attention to aesthetic and humanistic endeavors, they have tended to focus on the achievements of males, particularly those from Europe. This is partly why Don Quixote is identified as the first novel more often than the Tale of Genji. …

“Enheduanna … was the king’s daughter, which gave her an immense amount of privilege. She used this privilege to carry her father’s water as he brutally expanded his colonial empire.

“Enheduanna employed her poetic skills to produce a collection of religious hymns. These short poems celebrated the various temples of her father’s nascent empire, and the purpose of her collection was to project the myth that all of the people shared the same religion. …

“Nothing lends a person more rhetorical power than asserting that God is on their side. Nonetheless, it’s important that we add the first poet to our ready list of world-first inventors, even if she isn’t a pristine example. If we interpret her charitably, she produced the most beautiful things she could within the demands and strictures of her environment.”

Read more here.

* Prof. Halton says in a footnote, “Enheduanna is sort of a cult-hero and quasi-religious figure. Trust me on this. Don’t go digging around the web to find out more about it unless you’re ready to encounter something really bizarre.”

Photo: Goodman-Paxton Photographic Collection/Kentucky Digital Library
A Pack Horse Librarian returning over the mountainside for a new supply of books.

Here’s another story about dedicated book people making sure that books get to people in remote places. This one is from the 1930s Depression in the United States.

Eliza McGraw writes at Smithsonian, “Their horses splashed through iced-over creeks. Librarians rode up into the Kentucky mountains, their saddlebags stuffed with books, doling out reading material to isolated rural people. …

“The Pack Horse Library initiative, which sent librarians deep into Appalachia, was one of the New Deal’s most unique plans. The project, as implemented by the Works Progress Administration (WPA), distributed reading material to the people who lived in the craggy, 10,000-square-mile portion of eastern Kentucky. …

“In 1930, up to 31 percent of people in eastern Kentucky couldn’t read. Residents wanted to learn, notes historian Donald C. Boyd. Coal and railroads, poised to industrialize eastern Kentucky, loomed large in the minds of many Appalachians who were ready to take part in the hoped prosperity that would bring. ‘Workers viewed the sudden economic changes as a threat to their survival and literacy as a means of escape from a vicious economic trap,’ writes Boyd. …

“There had been previous attempts to get books into the remote region. In 1913, a Kentuckian named May Stafford solicited money to take books to rural people on horseback, but her project only lasted one year. …

“Unlike many New Deal projects, the packhorse plan required help from locals. ‘Libraries’ were housed any in facility that would step up, from churches to post offices. Librarians manned these outposts, giving books to carriers who then climbed aboard their mules or horses, panniers loaded with books, and headed into the hills. …

“Carriers rode out at least twice a month, with each route covering 100 to 120 miles a week. …

“The books and magazines they carried usually came from outside donations. [Lena Nofcier, who chaired library services for the Kentucky Congress of Parents and Teachers at the time] requested them through the local parent-teacher association. She traveled around the state, asking people in more affluent and accessible regions to help their fellow Kentuckians in Appalachia. …

” ‘ “Bring me a book to read,” is the cry of every child as he runs to meet the librarian with whom he has become acquainted,’ wrote one Pack Horse Library supervisor. ‘Not a certain book, but any kind of book. The child has read none of them.’ …

“Some mountain families initially resisted the librarians, suspicious of outsiders riding in with unknown materials. In a bid to earn their trust, carriers would read Bible passages aloud. Many had only heard them through oral tradition, and the idea that the packhorse librarians could offer access to the Bible cast a positive light on their other materials.”

More here.

The ancient city of Palmyra has been virtually destroyed during the war in Syria, along with other historic sites. Refugees will be trained to be part of the rebuilding.

If this works out, it certainly would be poetic justice. The idea is for Syrian refugees to be given the opportunity to help rebuild a world historic site destroyed by Isil [ISIS].

Here’s what Anny Shaw reported at the Art Newspaper. “The World Monuments Fund (WMF) is launching a £500,000 scheme to train Syrian refugees living in and around the Zaatari camp on the Jordanian border in traditional stone masonry. The aim is to develop skills so that cultural heritage sites that have been caught in crossfire or destroyed by Isil can be rebuilt once peace is restored to Syria.

“Organisers of the training course, which is due to launch in the border town of Mafraq in Jordan in August, are also hoping to recruit Jordanian students in a bid to alleviate some of the pressures put on the local community by the volume of people fleeing war-torn Syria. The project is being developed with Petra National Trust, a Jordanian not-for-profit organisation whose mission is to promote the protection and conservation of the Unesco World Heritage site of Petra.

“ ‘There has been enormous destruction in Palmyra, Nimrud and Aleppo,’ says John Darlington, the executive director of the World Monuments Fund Britain, which is working with the New York-based WMF on the scheme. ‘When the dust settles, one of the things that will stop restoration is that we will see money going into places like Palmyra but the skills on the ground won’t be there. Because so many people have left, there’s a huge skills deficit.’ …

“The blueprint for the Syrian project came from a similar scheme begun by the WMF in Zanzibar two years ago. While the Anglican Christ Church Cathedral was being repaired, an intensive programme of skills development was also launched. There is now a pool of local trained stone masons to help with future repairs.

“ ‘We are looking for stone masons who are already living in the local community or in the refugee community. It’s a long-held tradition in that part of the world,’ Darlington says. ‘We don’t want to parachute in a load of experts and then leave. The idea is to train people who will become trainers themselves, so it will cascade.’ ”

More at the Art Newspaper, here. Hat Tip: ArtsJournal.