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Amy Shearn (558 posts)
The site Spontaneous Smiley offers an online trove of unabashedly happy mugs in the least expected places. I defy you to look at the smiley gallery without cracking a smile yourself. In fact, I believe such a feat is physically impossible. Within a few moments you'll figure out that even cookies and car bumpers smile, even houses and haystacks. It's like the secular version of the Virgin Mary potato chip phenomenon. Before you know it, even the most mundane of everyday objects seems animated, friendly, imbued with a mysterious, goofy, affable life. Go ahead, join the hunt and upload your own found face, because here's the best news of all: for every photo uploaded to the gallery, the site donates a dollar to Operation Smile, which provides operations for children with facial deformities. By spotting a smile, you help make a new one. Pretty sweet.
Collecting Every Smile in the World
The Invention of the Smiley Emoticon
How Smiling Makes You Feel Better
The voice of NASA administrator Charles Bolden was radioed to the rover, to the surface of Mars, and back to Earth again, which is the first instance of the recorded human voice traveling to space and back again. Somehow he resisted the urge to just recite the opening lines of "Star Trek," and instead congratulated all those who had a part of making Curiosity a reality. Hear the message (and see the maybe-bored, maybe-subtly-inspired faces of listening NASA employees!) here.
Dave Lavery, NASA Curiosity program executive explained on CNN that, "We hope these words will be an inspiration to someone alive today who will become the first to stand upon the surface of Mars. And like the great Neil Armstrong, they will speak aloud of that next giant leap in human exploration."
While considering the deeply strange idea that a human voice is proclaiming the greatness of the United States to an uninhabited (probably) crater on Mars, let's also celebrate the fact that the human voice selected didn't belong to a reality-show star or Hollywood actress or even a political powerhouse, but a hard-working, intelligent employee. Go Charles!
Dare Mighty Things: Celebrating Curiosity
Real Life Visitors from Outer Space
-52-year-old Ex-Marine Angela Madsen, who became paraplegic, homeless, and now, a Paralympian.
"I started taking responsibility ... and started making the changes and decisions to move positively forward in my life. I didn't row across my first ocean until I was 47. I have six Guinness World Records for rowing oceans. I've circumnavigated Great Britain ... I've been places on this planet that no human being has ever been before. A thousand miles from land in any direction ... it's been a pretty amazing life."
This is because Cassandra found herself suffering a debilitating asthma attack that quickly escalated to something more, a mystery illness that caused her to feel faint, have difficulty breathing and then controlling her muscles, and finally to lose consciousness. But in a completely "wow"-inducing sequence (which she has pieced together from what others have told her), a man carried her off the train and then proceeded to, along with a cast of other good Samaritans, transport her to the hospital. Read the article for the responses Cassandra has gotten from her poster—though she still has not found the man who carried her to safety.
9 Day-Brightening Stories of Generosity
Doing a Good Deed Every Day
Photographer Tanveer Badal spent 101 days traveling Asia and Africa, and in so doing created one of those blogs that sears your eyeballs with its ridiculous beauty. It's a good place for a quick dose of vicarious travel, or many lost moments bathing your brain with images of pretty places. World feeling small? Not hardly! Look!
So anyway, Badal recently posted about the unexpected highlight of his extensive travel in Southeast Asia: Laos, AKA, "'that thing' between Thailand and Vietnam." He explains how Laos took him by surprise with its beauty, ruggedness, the friendliness of the natives, and above all, that mysterious sense of enchantment that accompanies all indescribably great experiences. He describes their first day in Laos: "...some of us went on a long hike to explore caves at a nearby national park while others napped. (And that’s what I like the most about SEA and extended travel in general. You can either go on an adventure or you can nap. And it’s totally cool either way.)"
It seems like a kind of travel Rorschach Test -- Answer quickly, without thinking: adventure or nap? I'm no psychiatrist, or even a travel agent, but I'm going to go ahead and say you should probably, for optimum health, think both. Adventure and naps are the yin and yang of life, the alpha and omega of recreation, the peanut butter and jelly of leisure. True for any of us enjoying a free moment, whether we're cooling our heels in a Laotian bungalow or kitty-cat-curling-up on a sunny couch, whether by adventure we mean long hike in caves or an afternoon making sand castles at the beach. And it's totally cool either way.
For more on Badal's photogenic adventures (and naps), visit his site.
The 8 Secrets of Budget Travelers
10 Places to Visit Before They're Gone
The 23-Year-Long Road Trip
Luckily, or maybe unluckily, I don't know many pirates (over the age of three, anyway). But we all have these everyday ethics conundrums. If we learn of a wrong done in the past, do we have the responsibility to report it (pirate-related or not)? Is it possible to be too tolerant of other peoples' religious practices? How much privacy do we allow people in the age of the Internet? Randy Cohen, The Ethicist of the long-running New York Times column, addressed these issues and more when he was on NPR over the weekend to discuss his new book, Be Good: How to Navigate the Ethics of Everything. What struck me most was his claim that, despite our quickly changing world of social media and altered interpersonal communications, ethics themselves have not changed much over time. Etiquette changes; social mores shift. But whether you're a Googler or a gladiator, the basic line stays the same: When in doubt about how to act, be good. We all know (pretty much) what that means.
Listen to the whole interview to learn more about the book, "The Ethicist" column, and to find out which ethics question has provoked the most controversy in Cohen's career.
As an animal lover, I like to tell my dog about the interesting pet-related stories I come across on the Internet. "Look at this hard-working, life-saving, diabetes-sniffing Golden Retriever," I'll tell the snoring mound on the floor. Or else, "Wow, check out Faith, the amazing two-legged dog who learned to walk upright!" as my mutt diligently licks leftover applesauce off the baby's high chair. I just think she might be interested to know that dogs have amazing potential, and not just as farting foot-warmers. (Although I will say she excels at that.) But Lemon Pie is one dog I couldn't even tell my own under-acheiving pup about without getting choked up.
Lemon Pie lost his front paws in a uniquely horrifying way -- according to the BBC, they were chopped off by a Mexican gang as (brace yourself) practice. But thanks to some kind souls, Lemon Pie was rescued by an animal shelter and fitted with, amazingly, two prosthetic legs. You just have to watch the video, and see Lemon Pie galloping along on his new legs, to believe it. This dog is the picture of a survivor, and the people who rescued him, who saw fit to raise the $8000 for his artificial paws, portraits of what is right with the world.
Helping Victims of Domestic Abuse By Saving Their Pets
Saying Goodbye to a Furry Best Friend
Amazing Animal Updates
It's one of the most humbling experiences a city-dweller can have: gardening. I'd volunteered to work in the community garden, so there I was on a Sunday morning, crouched in the dirt, hopping up every few minutes to find someone to ask, "Sorry, this is so embarrassing, but is this a weed? Is this a plant? Or a weed? Looks kind of planty? Wait, I mean weedy?" By the end of my two-hour-long shift, though, I was already seeing things differently: noticing a spriggy vine of weediness from across the garden patch; a rustling in the purple bushes I realized was a steady stream of visiting butterflies.
These are the moments we need, when you look at a thing long enough to see what it really is. As in these otherworldly shots of migrating butterflies on Environmental Graffiti: seeming at first to be a tree branch, or a smattering of leaves, the swarms of color reveal themselves to be instead bouquets of butterflies, masses of monarchs, and reason enough to look closely.
Visit Environmental Graffiti for more amazing images of these surreal butterfly swarms. Suggested listening while viewing:Muriel Rukeyser reading her poem "The Speaking Tree": "The trunk of the speaking tree looks like a tree-trunk / Until you look again...It calls your name." What else is calling our names, if only we would listen? What else could we see if we looked, looked again?
Instant Inspiration: Photographs of Trees
Breathing Space: Favorite Places on Earth
The Gazette reports that Michelle Rodenburg and Tonya Dusold agreed to spend a day "plugging expired meters, handing out gift cards, leaving quarters in candy machines and buying ice cream for strangers."
The longtime friends shared how their attempts to distribute quarters at a laundromat ran afoul when people started eyeing them suspiciously -- so they tossed a bag of quarters into a basket and ran away, laughing hysterically. Rodenburg said, “It’s just so simple. When I first told my husband about it, he said it was a great idea, but that we should be doing something like this all the time. It really makes a difference. You have no idea what kind of impact a kind gesture will have.”
We should be doing it all the time, odd looks in the laundromat be darned! Because let me tell you, just reading this story on the newspaper's website I encountered another news story so breathtakingly sad and awful I felt like I'd been socked in the stomach. Then I remembered what I was supposed to be doing and came back to these generous-hearted women and their fun day sharing ice cream and coins and kindness, and my gut unclenched and I remembered, Oh yeah. Things aren't that bad. Look at that! You have no idea what kind of impact you'll have. How true, how ridiculously, senselessly, eternally true.
Read the whole article for the "Pay it Forward" twist to the 30th-birthday-kindness spectacular, and for more ideas on how to spread the joy yourself.
A Dying Wish: Leave an Awesome Tip
Day-Brightening Acts of Generosity
Even the, hm, less-globally-powerful among us can learn from these eminent figures, from Hilary Clinton to Beyonce. Forbes has helpfully culled some highlights:
It occurs to me that these are actually all part of the same thing, basically three ways of saying: Don't put up mental blocks in your way. It holds true in so many ways, in so many different corners of our lives. Even if we don't actually want to be the most powerful women in the world. Even if our wildest aspirations are actually to be the most powerful woman within a significantly smaller sphere of influence, even if -- maybe especially if -- the people we wish to lead and inspire are just the kids snoozing in the bedrooms down the hall.