What Price Would You Pay for Freedom and Opportunity?

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott called it “a heartbreaking tragedy.”

At least nine people are dead after a phone call from a Walmart employee led to the discovery of dozens of undocumented immigrants severely injured in the back of a tractor-trailer in San Antonio Texas early Sunday, according to federal authorities. The back of the truck apparently had no air conditioning, and the temperature inside reached close to 150 degrees.

ICE Acting Director Thomas Homan deplored the discovery as the latest major case of human smuggling in the United States.

US Rep. Lloyd Doggett, a Democrat who represents parts of San Antonio, called for reform. “Horrific scene overnight in San Antonio where a human smuggling attempt turned deadly. Prosecute smugglers, pray for survivors and the victims’ families, stop the hysteria, reform our broken immigration system.”

My thoughts echo those of Rep. Doggett.

I can’t imagine how desperate a person must become before he or she finally decides that their best, and perhaps only, hope for a better life for themselves and their family involves being smuggled across the border. I am sure these individuals knew what they were doing was illegal, and they knew that there were risks associated with such an attempt.

Most, if not all of us, take our freedom for granted in the U.S. We also take for granted the amazing opportunities that are available to us. Both are part of what makes America great. Most of us did not have to do anything to take advantage of such freedom and opportunity, except to be born here – the proverbial luck of birth.

As I’ve written about before, it all just seems grossly unfair; why am I lucky enough to be sitting here writing about this tragic event? With a simple twist of fate, it could have been me or my family in that truck. Or maybe I decided to stay in my country, watching my family live in subhuman conditions. How long can a person be expected to do that, before he or she does something out of pure desperation? How important is freedom and opportunity to you – would you be willing to take the risks that these immigrants took?

We need to fix our immigration system; we need to be willing to offer to anyone, from anywhere, the same hope and opportunity that we were simply born into.

If the tables were reversed, I know I would hope that people in the U.S. would be willing to share their blessings with me.

My thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected by this tragic event.

You Don’t Need Soap for This Kind of Bathing

Forest bathing—basically just being in the presence of trees—became part of a national public health program in Japan in 1982. The practice of forest bathing or orshinrin-yoku, is proven to lower heart rate and blood pressure, reduce stress hormone production, boost the immune system, and improve overall feelings of wellbeing.

The proper way to forest bathe is to relax rather try to than accomplish anything. Just be with trees. No hiking, no trail running. You can simply sit or just wander around.

In a 2009 study, Qing Li, a professor at Nippon Medical School in Tokyo, measured the activity of human natural killer (NK) cells in the immune system before and after exposure to the woods. These cells are associated with immune system health and cancer prevention. Li’s subjects showed significant increases in NK cell activity in the week after a forest visit, and positive effects lasted a month following each weekend in the woods.

This is due to various essential oils, generally called phytoncide, found in wood, plants, and some fruit and vegetables, which trees emit to protect themselves from germs and insects. Forest air doesn’t just feel fresher and better—inhaling phytoncide seems to actually improve immune system function.

Another Japanese study found that forest environments promote lower concentrations of cortisol (the stress hormone), lower pulse rate, lower blood pressure, greater parasympathetic nerve activity, and lower sympathetic nerve activity than do city environments.

A third study found that forest bathers showed significantly reduced hostility and depression scores, coupled with increased liveliness, after exposure to trees.

As evidenced by all of these studies, it appears that the Japanese take their forest bathing quite seriously.

City dwellers can benefit from the effects of trees with just a visit to the park. Brief exposure to greenery in urban environments can relieve stress levels, and experts have recommended doses of nature as part of treatment of attention disorders in children. This evidence suggests we don’t seem to need a lot of exposure to gain from nature.

When I first heard the term “forest bathing” I was imagining stripping down to your birthday suit and rolling around in the dirt and leaves in the middle of a forest. So I thought it was something that appealed to just a small part of our population.

nakedforestbathing

But now that I’ve heard what it really is, I’ll have to try and make forest bathing a regular habit.

I’m not sure I’m ready to start hugging any trees though.

treehug

And maybe after I do my forest bathing, I can take a Scottish Shower.

Note: much of the info for this blog came from an article on Quartz: The Japanese practice of ‘forest bathing’ is scientifically proven to improve your health

A Look at Some Classic Onion Headlines

The Onion is the funniest site on the Internet, and I don’t check it nearly often enough.

But a couple of headlines that recently popped up in my Facebook feed prompted me to spend some time scrolling through some stories that the site has posted, and I thought I’d share a few of them. Note that these are just headlines I’ve come across in the past couple of days.

As I went through these, I realized what made some of the stories so funny was how close to the truth the stories were..

So here we go…

  • Local Oaf Not Sure What Part Of Counter You Order At – “Do I stand here or do I have to go down there?” the thickheaded clod asked, taking a single hesitant step toward one end of the counter before pausing and thinking again.”

oafatcounter

That thickheaded clod could be me; I’ve often felt confused in similar environments.

  • Woman Stalked Across 8 Websites By Obsessed Shoe Advertisement – “I thought it was over when I started reading an article on Google News, but then it just popped right up out of nowhere and startled me.”

shoeads

I’m sure we’ve all experienced this; it’s both a marvel of technology as well as kind of creepy…

  • Poll Finds Americans’ Greatest Fear Is Waitress Forgetting About Them -“For millions of Americans, the fear that they might find themselves stuck at a table or booth as their waitress disappears into the kitchen forever, can lead to debilitating feelings of helplessness and negative changes in mood.”

waitress

Again, been there, having the same thoughts…

Home Depot Releases New Bluetooth Cordless Hose – for this one, a picture says it all. Who wouldn’t want something like this – seems like a good April Fools’ Day headline…

bluetoothhose

Disgusted Researchers Can’t Even Bring Themselves To Find Out How Much Mayo The Average American Consumes Yearly – “After reviewing preliminary figures on the annual rate of mayonnaise consumption in the U.S., we couldn’t stop gagging and decided there was absolutely no way we could pursue this topic any further.”

mayo

I feel the same way as these researchers…

Vegan Unaware Pineapple He’s Eating Once Used To Beat Cow To Death

pineapple

Maybe what us vegans need to protect us from such possibilities is better labeling that would disclose such events.

Mom Spends Beach Vacation Assuming All Household Duties In Closer Proximity To Ocean – “I just love that I can be scrubbing the bathroom, look out the window, and see the tide coming in. We should do this every year!”

mombeach

This story brings back lots of memories…

Please note that all headlines and photos are copyright of The Onion…

A Real World Example of Math Concepts at Work

Obviously, I’m not going for a lot of views with this one.

My teacher said something the other day in passing that struck me as a perfect example of how math can help explain the world.

He said something along the lines that “three points define a plane – that’s why three-legged stools don’t wobble.”

Fortunately he made this statement near the end of class, because that’s all I thought about the rest of class – envisioning a stool and the fact that with a three-legged stool, each leg will always have to be touching the floor. This is not the case with a four legged-stool/chair, as I am sure we’ve all experienced at a restaurant while sitting on a wobbly chair or at a wobbly table.

The math behind this has to do with planes; here’s a great video that explains the concepts of a point, a line, and a plane in an easy to understand manner.

in the case of the three-legged stool, the plane would be the floor. When you place a three-legged stool on the floor (the three legs are like three points), all three legs will be touching the floor. In other words, all three points will be on the plane. Here’s a mathematical explanation for those of you who are still reading.

With a four-legged stool, it is possible that one of the other legs lies on a different plane, thus creating the wobbly situation.

This is one of the reasons why a tripod has three legs; no matter how uneven the floor is, you can always set up the tripod so that all three legs are on the floor, hopefully providing a more stable foundation for a camera that my be resting on it. Here’s some math behind the whole tripod thing.

Now I should point out that just because a three-legged stool doesn’t wobble, that does not necessarily mean it is more stable from a practical perspective. A three legged stool is more likely to tip over if one leans forward to far compared to a four-legged stool. If you are interested in the math behind this, here is a link. By the way, Frank Lloyd Wright once famously designed a three-legged chair, but gave up on it after tumbling out of it.

FLW_desk_chair

So there you have it; who knew math could help explain such real world phenomena.

Now the next time you are sitting at a restaurant, and you are sitting on a wobbly chair, you will immediately know that it is not a three legged chair. And if you read any of the links above, you will also know that if you rotate the wobbly 4-legged chair up to 90 degrees in any direction, you will have eliminated the wobble.

The problem is that your chair may now be facing away from the table. But if you’re actually trying this stuff at a restaurant, it may actually be better for all involved that you’re no longer part of the table conversation…

The Fearless Girl of Wall Street Emerges as Big Winner, and a Little Christmas in July

Each year, the Cannes Lion International Festival of Creativity brings together thousands of people from nearly 100 countries working in creative communications, entertainment, design and tech to find out where the industry is heading and celebrate the power of creativity as a force for business, for change and for good.

As part of the Festival, winners are chosen in a variety of advertising and public relations categories. The big winner this year was a commercial for State Street Global Advisers featuring Fearless Girl. 

The ad was created by McCann New York and produced by Craft Worldwide New York, Stuart Weissman Productions New York, and Copilot Strategic Music + Sound New York.

The commercial won four Cannes Grand Prix awards, the highest honor given at the Festival.

You may be familiar with Fearless Girl, but like me perhaps did not know that she had a name.

Here is the award-winning commercial:

It’s also the first time I’ve seen the commercial, and it is not only artistically beautiful, but carries an important message as well; a perfect combo.

As you might imagine, there were several other good commercials and ads at Cannes Lion. Here is the complete list of the Grand Prix winners in each category:

One thing I noticed is that I did not see any Christmas or Super Bowl commercials in the list of award winners. I’m not sure if that is by design, or just that the judges were not impressed with the most recent batch of those commercials.

As you may know, I’m a big fan of Christmas commercials, and none of the 2016 commercials really resonated with me like the classic Monty the Penguin did from 2014:

I’m already looking forward to what John Lewis and adam&eveDDB will do this year…

From Prison to 60,000 Online Followers

The Philadelphia Inquirer had a great story in today’s paper about Wallace Peeples, better known as Wallo267 on social media.

Peeples has been out of jail for about 150 days, where he had been serving a 20 year sentence for multiple armed robberies.

Peeples made the news three years ago when state troopers were conducting an investigation into contraband at Graterford prison and arrested the 34 year-old inmate and charged him with possession of contraband and weapons or implements of escape (I didn’t know you could be arrested while in prison…). Peeples was in possession of three cell phones, five chargers, five headsets, an iPod and a wireless hot spot!

Apparently he was putting all of that contraband to good use, building up his Instagram profile

Today, he has over 60,000 Instagram followers, and the key to his success seems to be his authenticity.

He brands himself as a motivator, entrepreneur (he’s started a clothing company), and life coach.

I’m convinced that people want to do the right thing and are capable of learning how to do so, when given the right opportunity.

As long as Peeples was not engaged in any criminal activity using his cell phones, iPod and wireless hot spot, I didn’t see the harm in his having that “contraband” while in jail, but I do see the benefit.

Peeples is trying to change his life around, and is a good role model for others who want to do the same. The Internet has provided him, like so many others, an outlet for doing so, and I think such behavior should be encouraged in prisoners.

Here’s an example of one of the videos Peeples posted where he implores viewers “Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late”. The video has been viewed nearly 400,000 times on Instagram.

He’s a perfect example of some of the themes I’ve written about before, that people can change, and the importance of hope, opportunity, and redemption in helping with that change. (I’ve also written a bit about the need for prison reform and some unique approaches to doing so.)

The Inquirer story closes with this quote from Wallo:

I don’t care how down you are.  You can bounce back. I don’t care what nobody says. We’re extraordinary people. And there’s nothing we can’t do. Remember that.

We could all learn something from Wallo’s optimistic atitude, and I wish him the best.

Who Will Be the World’s First Trillionaire?

It’s going to happen. At some point, somebody in the world is going to be worth over $1 trillion. That’s the number 1 followed by 12 zeros.

Forbes just released its annual list of the world’s wealthiest individuals, and here are the top six individuals:

  1. Bill Gates (Microsoft), $90 billion
  2. Jeff Bezos (Amazon), $86 billion
  3. Amancio Ortega (Zara Brands), $84 billion
  4. Warren Buffett (Berkshire Hathaway), $73 billion
  5. Carlos Slim Helu (American Movil, a Latin American telecom), $68 billion
  6. Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), $67 billion

Fun fact: Mark Zuckerberg is the youngest person on the above list by 20 years, and the youngest person in the top 100 by 10 years.

Fun fact two: there are three Walton family members in the top 20. If Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart, were alive today he would be worth more than $114 trillion.

It’s an impressive list to say the least. But it got me thinking, how long until one of these people becomes a trillionaire?

So I opened up Excel and did some basic calculations. The key assumption that had to be made was what to use for the annual increase in wealth. I decided on a fairly conservative 8% compound annual growth rate, and from there I used Excel to calculate how long it would take each of these people to reach $1 trillion.

Based on the calculations, Bill Gates will reach the $1 trillion mark in a little over 31 years, at which point he will be 92 years old. Mark Zuckerberg will reach that mark in 35 years, when he will be 68 years old.

If I were to change the compound annual growth rate to 10%, then Gates would be a trillionaire when he is 86 years old, and Zuckerberg will be a trillionaire by the age of 61.

I’ll make an educated guess that Bill Gates will be alive to witness such an event, and I’m almost certain that Zuckerberg will also.

So that means that for many of you reading this blog, you will be alive to witness the world’s first trillionaire.

And Dr. Evil is going to have to up his ransom…

Side Effects of Reading This Blog

We’ve all seen them. TV commercials for prescription drugs that last about 90 seconds, with 75 seconds of the commercial devoted to describing the potential side effects.

Here’s a clip of a Jeff Foxworthy routine where he captures the over-the-top nature of these commercials.

But as I was watching one of these commercials on TV today, I thought why should such warnings be limited to prescription drugs. Perhaps all products and services should come with such warnings regarding potential side effects.

And then I thought I need to practice what I preach, so I’ve come up with a list of potential side effects associated with reading my blog on a daily basis:

  • depressing thoughts such as “I’ll never get those five minutes back” or “my time would have been better spent trying to stick a six-inch replica of the Empire State Building up my nose”
  • a desire to throw your computer, iPad, or smartphone across the room so that you never have to read another Borden’s Blog post again
  • rage-filled outbursts cursing your kindergarten teacher for having taught you how to read
  • a desire to file an injunction to prevent me from ever blogging again
  • falling asleep in the middle of reading Borden’s Blog
  • a desire to do physical harm to people such as Tim Berners-Lee and Mark Zuckerberg for having made the Internet so user friendly, thus making it too easy for people to share  their thoughts and opinions
  • a potential 10-point drop in your IQ after having read Borden’s Blog, much like the feeling this guy had after listening to Billy Madison give an answer

So there you have it; you’ve been properly warned.

I hope this will serve as the motivation for other goods and services to do the same.

It’s Vuja De All Over Again

In a previous post, I wrote about a new term I had read about in Adam Grant’s best selling book Originals.

The term was vuja de, the opposite of deja vu. As Grant explains it, “Deja vu occurs when we encounter something new, but if feels as if we’ve seen it all before. Vuja de is the reverse – we face something familiar, but we see it with a fresh perspective that enables us to gain insights into old problems.”

Well I had a vuja de moment today.

I was doing my calculus homework, and I came to the problem you see at the top of this post. It immediately brought back memories of my college days.

It was my sophomore year, and I was a math major. I was in my dorm room doing my Calculus 3 homework when I came across almost the exact same problem pictured above.

Back then, I had no idea how to do the problem, but perhaps more importantly, I had little interest in figuring out how to do such a problem. And it was just a few days later that I made the decision to change majors to phys ed. I’ve always remembered that moment, sometimes with regret. And it was all because of a projectile.

Well my attitude today when I came across the problem was much different. Grant’s definition of vuja de fit almost perfectly: we face something familiar, but we see it with a fresh perspective that enables us to gain insights into old problems.”

I was highly motivated to solve the problem today, not because of any inherent interest in working with projectiles someday, but because of the challenge/fun of seeing how to apply calculus to a real world problem.

The problem still took me a bit longer than it probably should have, but I eventually figured it out, and I’ll admit there was a nice sense of accomplishment when I completed the problem.

I’ll also admit I’ve been waiting for this type of problem to crop up since I began taking Calculus classes last year. As I said, when I first came across such a problem 40 years ago, it became one of those moments that I’ll always remember. I was curious how I would respond when I saw it now, 40 years later. I’m happy to report a much better outcome this time around.

It reminds me of the George Bernard Shaw quote that “youth is wasted on the young.”

Perhaps education is as well…

P.S. By the way, this sort of calculus problem was in the news just last week. When North Korea fired a missile last week, it made a claim that it could reach the United States.

Here’s an excerpt from an NPR interview with David Wright, co-director of the Global Security Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

A ballistic missile is only accelerated and powered for a couple minutes early on. And then at that point, it basically just travels through space under the effects of gravity. So it’s very much like throwing a baseball. It’s powered when it’s in your hand. And the speed and the direction that it’s going when you let go of it determines where it goes to. And so by making it go faster and faster, just like when you’re throwing a ball, you can make it go farther and farther.

They launched this missile essentially straight up. It came down, landed in the Sea of Japan. That has the advantage that it doesn’t overfly Japan, which has caused problems in the past. So by doing a computer model that asks what it would take for a missile to follow the flown trajectory, I can then use that same model to say OK, if I now flatten out the trajectory, how far could it go?.

And according to Wright’s calculation, the missile would cover Alaska, but it would still be a few thousand miles short of reaching the lower 48 and the West Coast.

Let’s hope that calculus has also figured out a way to intercept such a missile while in flight. Maybe that will be in the next chapter, the one I never got to 40 years ago…

P.S.S. In case you are interested, the projectile traveled about 3,535 meters, the maximum height reached was 1,531 meters, and the speed at impact was 200 meters/second.

Why Don’t Houses Have Escalators?

Maybe I’m a little claustrophobic.

Or maybe I find the idea of being stuck in an elevator at my house with nobody around kind of frightening.

Or maybe I just like the idea of having an escalator in my house.

An escalator seems so much more flexible than an elevator:

  • if the power goes out you can still use an escalator
  • an escalator is better for your health, it could even be part of your workout routine; you can use the escalator for an interval workout – walk up the escalator with the power off, then ride it back down to recover; repeat 10-15 times. You could use it like a stairmaster – stand at the bottom of the escalator and turn the escalator on in the reverse direction, and just walk “up” the steps at a steady pace; perhaps you could even adjust the speed of the escalator.
  • an escalator would not take up additional space; you can just replace your stairway with an escalator
  • your pet could still move between the upper and lower levels of your house without your intervention; teaching them to use an elevator could prove difficult
  • it’s easier to make a grand entrance on an escalator, for when you want to do things like announce that you are running for President or to simply say aloha

patescalator

I could go on and on here, but clearly escalators are the way to go.

So why don’t we see escalators in houses?

I don’t have the answer, I’m just throwing out the idea.

In the meantime, a group of mechanical engineers, biomedical engineers, and computer scientists at Georgia Tech and Emory University is working on a sort of pre-cursor to home escalators. The team is developing “energy-recycling stairs“,  spring-loaded stairs that compress when stepped on, absorbing impact and saving 26 percent of a person’s energy. This energy is then stored to provide a boost of 37 percent when stepped on going upwards.

The system can be installed on existing staircases on a temporary or permanent basis, and the researchers hope that, if developed further, it could replace stairlifts and even elevators.

So why not go all the way, and just turn a staircase into a moving staircase, i.e., an escalator.

I’d seriously consider starting a company that manufactured and sold residential escalators, but it seems like the type of business that would have more than its fair share of ups and downs…