6 Things To Know About Kwanzaa

by Lindsay Shapka in , ,

1. Maulana Karenga created Kwanzaa in 1966 as the first African-American holiday. It is observed throughout the USA, Canada, and in parts of Brazil. 

2. It is a week-long celebration that runs from December 26 – January 1.

3. Kwanzaa does not replace other seasonal holidays, and many celebrate it alongside Christmas and New Years.

4. The point of the holiday is to celebrate African history, culture, and unity which is done through lighting candles, decorating the home with traditional art, wearing traditional clothing, performance, and feasting with family and friends.

5. There are 7 Principles of African Heritage that are meditated on during the week. They include; unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith.

6. People commonly greet each other with "Joyous Kwanzaa!"

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The Difference Between Complete and Finished

by Lindsay Shapka in ,

No dictionary has been able to adequately explain the difference between the words complete and finished. However, at a linguistic conference attended by some of the best linguists in the world, a single man changed that.

The director of the conference issued this challenge: "Some say there is no difference between the words complete and finished. Please explain the difference between complete and finished in a way that is easy to understand."

This was the man's astute answer: "When you marry the right woman, you are COMPLETE. But, when you marry the wrong woman, you are FINISHED. And when the right one catches you with the wrong one, you are COMPLETELY FINISHED!"

His answer was received with a standing ovation lasting over five minutes!

This story — taken from an e-mail that I received from a colleague — makes a very important point: Sometimes language can not be defined, explained or translated in a way that makes academic sense. Sometimes you understand the meaning only by the context of a word or the way that it is said.

Some of the most beautiful poems lose their beauty when translated, and texts translated from a different tongue to English lose their meaning.

Language transmits culture as much as a dance, music, or art does. And like these other mediums, trying to define, or understand often causes meaning to be lost. Or, the general public has moved on to a new word, painting, or instrument leaving what scholars were trying to define obsolete.

6 Things To Know About Life In Frozen Climates

by Lindsay Shapka in , ,

1. You will have to plug your car in... like a toaster

Yup, it’s true! It gets SO cold that if you do not plug your block heater into an electrical source so that it keeps your anti-freeze warm, your engine will not start. Most outdoor parking lots have electrical outlets. 

2. People who live in cities that are located far to the north (or south depending on the time of year) get SAD

Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD is a medically diagnosed condition for the 'winter blues' that many people get because of how short the days become. The lack of exposure to sunlight can result in a deep depression. Don't worry though! There are solar lights that you can buy to sit under that are sure to cheer you up! 

3. You will need to learn how to layer!

Just because it’s cold doesn't mean that people stay inside. It just means that you will have to wear long underwear, sweaters, snow pants, a neck-warmer, toque, mittens, wool socks, a jacket, winter boots... you get the idea.

4. If you are going to be walking around outside, leave your expensive, stylish, or trendy shoes at home

Because of ice, the sidewalks get covered in sand and salt so that pedestrians don't slip. This can seriously damage leather or suede shoes. Need another reason? It's freaking cold! You need socks and good grip on the bottom of your shoes to keep safe and warm! 

5. Wind-chill plays a HUGE part in how cold it feels like outside

It may be –25 degrees Celsius (–13 degrees Fahrenheit), but with the wind-chill it could feel like –40 (–40 degrees Fahrenheit). When the temperature is forecasted, meteorologists will usually tell you how long it will take for exposed skin to get frostbitten so you know how covered you need to be to walk safely outside.

TIP: If you are doing any sport or activities in this chilly weather, cover exposed skin — like cheeks or your forehead — with Vaseline to keep a protective barrier between it and the wind. 

6. We don't all live in igloos

Though ice is celebrated through ice sculpture competitions and festivals, nobody actually makes an igloo their permanent home anymore. Houses are extremely well insulated, however, and have to be built a certain way to ensure that any pipe with water running through it will not freeze, burst, and cause flooding. 

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What you need to know about life in frozen climates

6 Things To Know About The Amish

by Lindsay Shapka in , ,

1. There are about 8 subgroups of Amish who are themselves a subgroup of the Mennonite Christian faith.

2. The most traditional descendants speak Pennsylvania German (also known as Pennsylvania Dutch).

3. They live by a strict set of rules that include limiting the use of electricity and telephones, not driving automobiles, wearing plain (homemade) clothing, and never accepting help from government programs like Social Security.

4. Children only attend school until grade eight.

5. Rumspringa, or “running around” (recently made into an overdramatized TLC series called Breaking Amish) begins around the ages of 14-16, and is a time when young adults can break all of the rules and see what life outside their communities is like. During this time, those on rumspringa can wear “English” — aka modern — clothing, drink, use technology, and live in urban cities with NO penalty. This gives these young adults a chance to make an informed decision about whether they want to commit themselves to the church or not.

6. Baptism does not occur until around the ages of 16 and 25 (after rumspringa) which joins the individual with the church and community for life. Marriage can not occur until baptism does, and the Amish may ONLY marry individuals that are a part of their congregation. 

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Reads For The Road: Starbucked by Taylor Clark

by Lindsay Shapka in , ,

Written by Taylor Clark — a guy who has NOTHING to do with the company itself — Starbucked tells the tale of how Starbucks began.

If you are a supporter of the mom-and-pop, unique cafe around the corner, and make it your life’s goal to avoid the seven Starbucks store that exist in one city block, you might be surprised that Starbucks was started by a few guys who were doing the same thing.

These guys were living in an era before major coffee chains, and when “American Coffee” would have taken paint off the wall. Not only that, the idea of the “cafe” where you could read, study, or visit with friends didn’t even exist. 

Fascinated by a specialty coffee shop that popped up where they were living, they started asking questions, doing some research and developing (what was at the time) a very ambitious business.

Combining his own investigations with witty observation, Clark tells the story of how the coffeehouse culture changed everyday life in North America and — as much as we hate to admit it — Starbucks led the way.

Give it a read, you might look at the green mermaid a bit differently if you do! 

Do Auras Exist? Exploring the concept of the human aura

by Lindsay Shapka in ,

Have you ever felt like your personal space has been invaded? Or, have you felt uncomfortable when a stranger stands too close? Was there ever a time when you told someone they were "glowing"? Have you been able to tell that something or someone was coming up behind you without even turning around? Can you sense that your friend is happy before they tell you? Do you ever feel connected to someone in a way that you can't explain?

These are just a few examples that can stand as evidence that a human aura exists.

Defining the human aura

The existence of an aura has long been a controversial subject due to the fact that like most ‘magical’ concepts, its existence cannot be scientifically proven or defined. 

Anyone that you talk to — expert or layperson — will define and describe the aura in different ways.

It is “the interaction of patterns of energy, vibrating at interwoven frequencies and intensities” (Harrower). A luminous atmosphere that surrounds all living things. A link between our inner self and the outside world. Or, a reflection of the spirit that resides inside our bodies.

Some scholars believe that it is a characteristic of the human spirit (energy), which remains whole even if the body doesn’t. This can explain why, when an individual has a missing limb, the outline of the arm will still be present in that person’s aura and they may feel like their limb is still there.

Who can see auras?

According to my research, anyone has the potential to see auras, but unless you are a child or an animal (think about how intuitive they seem to be) it is something that you will actively have to practice, study and — most importantly — believe in.  

Though there is scientific technology that can measure the electromagnetic field around the human body, what causes a lot of skepticism is that no two people who claim that they can see auras ‘read’ them or ‘see’ them the same way.

Some claim (think fortune tellers) that they can read a person’s education, background, potential, and future in their auras, while others may say that they can predict a physical injury or illness by seeing a ‘dent’ in the aura. There are those that believe that an aura’s colour will give a viewer information by the feelings that emerge from looking at the colour. 

The concept of the aura in history

The concept of a human aura is present in many different cultures throughout human history.

Traditional Chinese Medicine uses the idea of a human energy system as a basis of its healing practices, Ayurvedic medicine found in India teaches how to balance energy in order to achieve optimum health and well-being, and the Hindu concept of Chakras claims that energy is taken from the environment through one of the seven of them to help revitalize the body and spirit. 

A more ‘western’ concept is the practice of Therapeutic or Healing Touch, a medical practice that uses the power of the aura for practical purposes. It is defined by professionals as a practice that helps restore proper energy flow and entails the use of a ‘sixth sense’ and strong compassion that together aid in the re-balancing of energy. 

So, does the human aura exist?

There is evidence to support both sides.

Though there is a strong case for the skeptics, it's hard to deny the fact that there is some kind of energy surrounding our bodies.

But can anyone actually see this energy?

At this point, with nothing ‘proven’ in a conventional way, it seems that the only person who can answer this question is you! 

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Do auras exist?

Don't Touch The Monks in Southeast Asia!

by Lindsay Shapka in , ,

In Thailand approximately 95% of the population is Buddhist, which means that the country is chock-full of breathtaking temples (wat in Thai), elaborately carved statues of the Buddha, and saffron-coloured-robe clad monks (approx. 460,000 of them!). 

It is an expectation across the country that EVERY Thai male will become a monk for at least a short period in their life.

This practice, much like compulsory military service in countries like South Korea, usually occurs between the completion of school and the beginning of a career or marriage. It is not unusual however for males under the age of 20 to ‘take robe and bowl’ as novices, because a family earns great merit when a son becomes a monk. 

The time spent in a wat is traditionally supposed to last for three months and take place during the Buddhist version of lent that begins in July and coincides with the monsoon season.

Nowadays. however. most men spend as little as a week in the temple in order to accrue merit as a monk. 

As is the case in most organized religions, women do not have the same status as men, and are not permitted to become monks. Outnumbered by them almost 50 to 1 — I never actually saw one when I was in Thailand — these female devotees to Buddha shave their heads, wear white robes, and are called nuns. 

It is an expectation across the country that EVERY Thai male will become a monk for at least a short period in their life

The lower status of women in Buddhist practice was even more obvious to me when I learned that one of the 250 rules that monks follow is that they are not allowed to touch or be touched by women.

If you are female and want to give them alms or food, you must set the offering nearby or on their receiving cloth.

If you so much as brush against a monk on the crowded streets or water taxis of Thailand, they will have to return to the temple and perform rituals (think Silas from The DaVinci Code but less extreme) to cleanse themselves of your touch.

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