Renewable energy production has been on my mind lately. Maybe it’s because our little town is divided on wind power. Some think plunking down a huge windmill at the edge of town is a little spooky.

This infographic points to the pros and cons of alternative energy generation. I was startled to find that wind power eats up habitats too. Those poor bats (see the box to the right of the water buffalo). Now I’m uncertain whether a wind mill is such a good idea…what do you think?

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A recent Workplace Survey conducted in eleven countries by the global executive staffing firm, Robert Half International, found that your  boss can be a source of great stress. Duh? Not surprising, but the reason can often be attributed to a lack of management skills, not just to the fact that he or she may be a jerk.

Other stressors in the modern workplace include:

  • increased workload
  • too few people to handle the job
  • unpleasant work environment (colleagues and office gossip)
  • inappropriate pressure from the boss
It sounds to me as if the modern workplace could use a huge dose of slow.
First, it is no wonder that more and more people are stressed out, given the bare bones staff with which many industries are forced to operate. Then, consider placing someone ill-equipped in a position of power. Add too few resources such as time, money and personnel, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for disaster.
Management skills are something everyone can learn. Just take a look at this beautiful performance leadership matrix, developed by Dan McCarthy,  Director of Executive Development Programs (EDP) at the Whittemore School of Business and Economics at the University of New Hampshire.

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According to Dan’s nifty model, if you’re forcing people to take action, but it has no impact on performance, that’s just plain nagging (note to self: remember the next time you insist that your kids brush their teeth RIGHT NOW, that maybe it could wait a minute). If you’re asking for action and it does impact performance, that’s managing (if, say, it’s been a while since they brushed). No action, no impact ~ you’re on vacation. No action, BIG IMPACT ~ you’re an osterich leader.
Some may have more inherent leadership talent than others, but giving people the tools to do their job will place everyone in a better position. I’m a big fan of guided training; that is, offer up pre-assessment, the training itself, then follow up with a post-training assessment. Life’s in the details. That goes for work too. For all you HR folks listening out there: follow up is everything to ensure your return on investment (ROI) hit the mark. Would you throw money at something just to say you did it? Of course not! The same goes for training. It’s worth seeing what stuck and what didn’t.
Imagine being led by someone who knows less than you? Perhaps you are a technical wizard, while your supervisor made a move across industries to land the job above you.
Now imagine how you might become an invaluable resource to that person because you know your stuff. Your boss will come to you in a pinch. Being a go-to person places you in your own position of power. You are indispensible. Chances are he or she won’t toss you under the bus (or the boss?), as long as you’re performing.
And that’s the clincher. Performance depends a great deal on your office environment. If you can’t stand the people you work with, you are more likely to experience low levels of motivation. That’s when it’s time for an assessment of your own. What are you willing to live with? What not?

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Groundhog Punxatawney Phil* saw his shadow yesterday. According to folklore, that’s six more weeks of winter for us. Catching a glimpse of a TV segment about the poor groundhog that those celebratory folks in that Western Pennsylvanian town unceremoniously extrapolated from his faux burrow (I mean let’s be honest. What self-respecting groundhog would live in a fake tree stump with his name on it?), I don’t think the poor guy saw much of anything yesterday. He looked bleary-eyed and a tad subdued in the gloved grip of the MC. They robbed him of his sleep, for pete’s sake. He was hi-ber-nat-ing. That’s what a lot of us do in the winter time.

And that brings me to the heart of my message today. With subzero temperatures seizing Europe this week, I am reminded of the natural rhythm of things. Winter  is a season of reflection, rest and a particular set of slow we don’t need in the summer. Our diet changes (for those of us who eat according to the seasons), our pace slows and our need for sleep increases. Being as light-sensitive as I am, I felt the need to crawl into bed at 8 p.m. whilst in Stockholm recently, because it had been dark for four hours.

Our bodies speak to us. But how often do we listen?

The cross-eyed ‘hog knew it wasn’t time to get up yet. So what if we have six more weeks of winter? It’s a good reminder that life’s pace needn’t hasten just because the clock strikes a certain hour. Time is a construct, people. Remember?

Editor’s note: For a super concise history of Groundhog Day, see TurfMutt.

Are you looking for a nice, slow read to fill your evenings this February? Well, do I have a treasure for you.

We tend to skim-read through stuff without the lingering pleasure of allowing a well-constructed sentence, filled with juicy elements, to land on our skin and shimmy up our spines. Not all writing is meant for deep reading. I admit to retweeting links to articles I’ve not read in depth. But writers such as Bill Bryson deserve our attention head-on. His brilliant lyricism and command of the English language made me want his latest book, At Home: A Short History of Private Life, simply not to end.

Using each room in his own home, once a rectory built in 1851, as a point of reference, he takes his readers on a journey into the past. Sometimes with an architectural focus, sometimes with a societal one, Bryson never loses sight of how technological innovation has impacted us to this day. From the pre-Civil War in America to Victoria England to today, we get to tramp alongside the author as he unearths historical facts that would make Wikipedia green with envy.

Consider his description of the German schoolteacher Johann Philipp Reis whose prototype telephone came fifteen years before Alexander Graham Bell filed his patent. The phone never worked and here’s why:

[I]t was later discovered that when the contact points on Reis’s device became fouled with dust or dirt, they were able to transmit speech with starling fidelity. Unfortunately, Reis, with Teutonic punctiliousness, had always kept his equipment impeccably shiny and clean, and so went to his grave never knowing how close he had come to producing a working instrument.

His description of bathroom habits, a relatively new discovery for mankind, is a real hoot, not to mention how the role of the hallway has changed from gathering space to a cheerless, empty one on your way to somewhere else.

As my dad, who kindly gave me the book, so rightly said: “It’s a book so full of information, you have to put it down after fifteen pages to simply digest it all.” So true. But you’ll want to pick it right back up again the next day to explore the next cavern of human existence and the house that has turned into our home.

What good reads would you suggest?

Superbowl Eats the Slow Way

February 1, 2012

When I heard about Tosca Reno’s new book, Just the Rules for Eating Clean, I got curious. Given the Super Bowl is coming up on February 5, 2012, I thought it would be a good thing to provide some of her recipes as a healthier option to the empty, salt-ridden snacks we tend to fall prey to. She offers several rules for “eating clean”, a term I had never heard before. But it makes sense. We often pollute our bodies with things they can’t handle well. The result is sluggishness and an overall sense of puff.

Here are some of the rules she outlines for the best Super Bowl party ever:

Super Bowl Party Rule #8 – Color Up: Super Bowl junk is often a sea of fatty beige foods. Colorful foods are filled with more nutrients and flavor than bland, monotonous, processed foods. Opt for a rainbow of colors on your plate, which offers numerous health benefits.

Rule #12 – Smaller Portions, Smaller Pants (remember my Why We’re So Fat post? Portion size means everything!): A festive atmosphere can often create an eating frenzy, which leaves you feeling blah. It’s okay to enjoy an array of foods, just eat smaller portions. Remember one serving of lean protein is the size of your palm; one serving of complex carbohydrates from whole grain is the size of your cupped hand; and one serving of complex carbs from fruit and vegetables is two hands cupped together.

My power of slow favorite is this one:

Rule #13 – Fletcherize and Swallow: Do you ever fill your plate, only for the food to disappear moments later? Gobbling food is a common disorder in our fast-paced society. Remind yourself to sloooooooow down: eating is not a race. Eating slowly will not only allow you to enjoy your food, but will help you determine when you’re full and help aid in digestion.

Rule #23 – Good Carbs, Bad Carbs: Carbs can be confusing, and are often given a bad rap! Stay away from ‘bad’ grocery store, processed carbs and stick to ‘good’ carbs like fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grain.

Consider Baba Ghanoush (click the title for your copy of the recipe). Doesn’t this look savory?

Photo Courtesy of Donna Griffith

Or how about BBQ Chicken Pizza? You thought I was going all holistic, holy-than-thou on you, didn’t you? Well, you can still have food fun and eat well. Look at this image. I’m getting hungry as I type.

Photo Courtesy of Donna Griffith

A Super Bowl Party wouldn’t be complete without Vegetarian Chili — warming, filling and de-light-ful!

Photo Courtesy of Donna Griffith

If none of these convinces you, Tosca has generously provided many more eat clean recipes on her Web site. Eating clean is not a diet. It’s a way of life.

What recipes would you like to share?