Beautiful Things Created By Animals … #AnimalArt

“Our task must be to free ourselves by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” –

Albert Einstein

(The following is excerpted from the post “10 Beautiful Things Created By Animals” that originally appeared in its entirety on buzzfeed.com, September 2012.)

Very small creatures are sometimes responsible for works of great beauty …

Puffer Fish Circle

Seasoned underwater photographer Yoji Ookata recently discovered something strange 80 feet below sea level off the coast of Japan: a geometric pattern roughly six and a half feet in diameter. No, aliens aren’t landing underwater. Ookata discovered a tiny puffer fish laboring day and night to make the darn thing. Why? To attract females, who apparently have a thing for wandering giant, gorgeous sand labyrinths before mating. Conveniently, the structure also protects any eggs laid.

Caddisfly Jewelry

Typical caddisfly larvae build themselves protective pouches of silk adorned with river sediment: pebbles, twigs, and sand. Hubert Duprat’s caddisfly larvae have more lavish tastes. Duprat provides them with gold flakes and jewels, including pearls, turquoise, rubies, and sapphires. When the larvae become full-fledged caddisflies, Duprat turns their abandoned tubes into wearable art.

Gossamer Trees

In 2010, flooding in Pakinstan forced millions of spiders and silk-producing insects to seek refuge in trees, yielding the web-laden branches pictured above. A similar phenomenon was observed in Wagga Wagga, Australia in 2012.

Bowerbird Nest

Bowerbirds build elaborate structures (called bowers, unsurprisingly) to attract mates. The bower depicted above was created by an avenue-type bowerbird. It consists of upright sticks that create the “avenue,” and is surrounded by brightly-colored objects. Lady bowerbirds apparently like guys with a sense of design.

Do Your Hands Say What You Mean?

Your Hand Gestures Are Speaking For You

Do you know what your hand gestures are communicating as you talk or present?
Published on September 26, 2012, by Susan Weinschenk, Ph.D. in Brain Wise, on psychology today.com.
Everyone “talks” with their hands at least sometimes. Some people’s hand-talking or gesturing matches their message well. Other people have a tendency to make overly large gestures that can be distracting. And still others don’t use their hands much at all. No matter which camp you fall into, it’s important to pay attention to your hand gestures while you are communicating or making a presentation. You may be unconsciously communicating in ways you don’t realize. Many gestures are universal across cultures and geographies. Here are some examples:
Using no hand gestures — If you don’t use your hands at all that may be perceived as indifference. Your audience may feel that you don’t care about what you are talking about.

Hands hidden — If your audience can’t see your hands, it will be hard for them to trust you.

Hands open and your palms at a 45-degree angle — Communicates that you are being honest and open.

Hands open with palms down — Communicates that you are certain about what you are talking about.

Palms facing each other with your fingers together — Communicates that you have expertise about what you are talking about.

Hands grasped in front of you — Communicates that you are nervous or tentative, as does touching your face, hair, or neck.

Hand gestures that are larger than the outlines of your body — Communicates a large idea or concept. But if all your hand gestures are large, you will communicate that you are chaotic or out of control. (See the photo at the top of the post).

Hand gestures can have cultural meanings: A few years ago I was a speaker at a conference in Lisbon, Portugal. It was my first time in Portugal, and I became instantly enamored of the special custard pastries that Lisbon and Portugal are known for. One morning I went into a bakery and ordered two of the pastries. I did so by holding up two fingers, similar to the “victory” or “peace” gesture in the United States. The person behind the counter proceeded to put three pastries in a box. I later learned that the gesture for two would have been to raise my thumb and index finger. Even though my thumb wasn’t showing, the person behind the counter thought I was signaling for three. 

I was lucky that I didn’t get into more trouble than an extra pastry. Many hand gestures are not universal. Before speaking in a country or to a culture that you are not familiar with, do some research to find out which gestures in your presentation might be misunderstood, not understood at all, or offensive. What do you think? Have you experimented with using hand gestures to communicating confidence and expertise?

Hand gestures that are larger than the outlines of your body — Communicates a large idea or concept. But if all your hand gestures are large you will communicate that you are chaotic or out of control. (See the photo at the top of the post).

Hand gestures can have cultural meanings: A few years ago I was a speaker at a conference in Lisbon, Portugal. It was my first time in Portugal, and I became instantly enamored of the special custard pastries that Lisbon and Portugal are known for. One morning I went into a bakery and ordered two of the pastries. I did so by holding up two fingers, similar to the “victory” or “peace” gesture in the United States. The person behind the counter proceeded to put three pastries in a box. I later learned that the gesture for two would have been to raise my thumb and index finger. Even though my thumb wasn’t showing, the person behind the counter thought I was signaling for three. 

I was lucky that I didn’t get into more trouble than an extra pastry. Many hand gestures are not universal. Before speaking in a country or to a culture that you are not familiar with, do some research to find out which gestures in your presentation might be misunderstood, not understood at all, or offensive. What do you think? Have you experimented with using hand gestures to communicating confidence and expertise?

Here’s my favorite book on body language:

The Silent Language of Leaders: How Body Language Can Help—or Hurt—How You Lead by Carol Kinsey Goman (2011).

U.S. Election 2012 … The Impossible Dream

 

Perhaps the greatest disappointment of our upcoming 2012 election is America’s seeming loss of hope in a better future. In the midst of national and international crises, Americans appear to be in need of an idealistic vision and noble leadership, neither of which are likely to appear within the next month.

The more the world changes, the more it remains the same. This year’s election issues bring to mind connections between our country’s current dilemmas and messages from Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote, the quest for the impossible dream.

Enjoy some comparisons between 2012 and 1605 …

On our  presidential and vice-presidential candidates:

Cervantes: “Time ripens all things; no man is born wise.”

On our two-party system:

Cervantes: “Tell me thy company, and I’ll tell thee what thou art.”

On the 1% and the 99%:

Cervantes: “There are only two families in the world, my old grandmother used to say, the Haves and the Have-nots.”

On taxes:

Cervantes: “When the severity of the law is to be softened, let pity, not bribes, be the motive.”

On the Middle East crisis:

Cervantes: “Liberty, as well as honor, man ought to preserve at the hazard of his life, for without it life is insupportable.”

On women’s rights:

Cervantes: “Woman is the soul of man, the radiance that lights his way.”

On the American voter:

Cervantes: “Too much sanity may be madness and the maddest of all, to see life as it is and not as it should be.”