Have you smiled today?


From LucraMotives

Smiling is infectious,
you catch it like the flu.
When someone smiled at
me today, I started smiling too.

I passed around the corner,
and someone saw my grin –
When he smiled I realized,
I’d passed it on to him.

I thought about that smile,
then I realized its worth,
A single smile, just like mine,
could travel round the earth.

So, if you feel a smile begin,
don’t leave it undetected.
Let’s start an epidemic quick
and get the world infected.

From World Smile Day

Have you smiled today?


You are a Genius!

From QuotesWave

According to a 1968 study by George Land and Beth Jarman, published in their book Breakpoint and Beyond, preschoolers are geniuses in divergent thinking. Land and Jarman administered a divergent thinking test to 1600 people; divergent thinking being the capacity for creativity, the ability to determine multiple solutions to a problem. This is the type of test administered by NASA to select innovative engineers and scientists. The results in the sample group were astounding – 98% of the participants scored at the genius level for divergent thinking. The sample group? Five-year-olds.

In this longitudinal study, only 32% of 10-year-olds, and 12% of 15-year-olds reached the same level of creative thinking. Of 280 000 adults tested, only 2% reached genius level. Robinson used an example of divergent thinking in his video provided below: that divergent thinkers would be able to come up with 200 uses for a paper clip, whereas most of us could only come up with 10-15. A divergent thinker would think outside the box. Does the paper clip have to be in the form we know it? If there are no limitations, why not a 200-foot paper clip made of foam?

We are all genius in our own unique way, no matter how deep our genius got buried over the years. Rediscover your genius and fill up your life with laughter and joy. You are amazing!


Imaginary Friends, Creativity, Innovation and a few Giggles

From Who is Your Imaginary Friend?

You’ve got these friends,
That we can’t see,
Is that normal
When you’re three?
I only ask,
Because, you see,
If you weren’t three,
I’m sure that we
Would worry
For your mental health,
And take you off
With measured stealth,
To shrinks,
And folk who nod and smile,
Jotting notes and making files,
Deciding what to label you,
Whilst we would worry
…What to do?
But you are three,
And so I think,
That we can live
Without a shrink,
Without a label and concern,
But at what age
Do these friends turn
From playmates into
Mental woes,
When is it that,
Friends become foes?
I ask because I’m puzzled, see,
Why is it okay when you’re three,
But never okay later on,
Why prescribe drugs ‘til friends are gone?

By PookyH


A few months ago an Ask Reddit thread invited users to share tales about their children’s imaginary friends. They got thousands of responses. Below is one of my favourite:

“When I was little my “imaginary” friend was named Bobby, I distinctly remember him existing and being real. On day when I was 5 or 6 I was going somewhere with my aunt and cousins and I was talking to Bobby. My cousin got pissed that I was talking to someone she couldn’t fathom was there (we are same age) .
She unbuckled Bobby’s seatbelt and threw him out of the van. I screamed bloody murder at the top of my lungs and wouldn’t stop, so my Aunt went back for him. She had to turn around twice on the highway and drive really slow because I was the only one who could see him and pick him up. While she was crawling at a snails pace on the highway, she got pulled over by a cop. I was still screaming in the back seat and told the cop that my cousin killed Bobby and she needed to go to jail!

Needless to say my aunt had a hard time trying to explain to the cop that he was my imaginary friend. But while we were pulled over Bobby came up to the car and said he was fine, claimed in through the window. I told my aunt it was ok Bobby was back now. When the officer came back. I told him that Bobby wasn’t dead just hurt.

The officer then proceeded to talk to my aunt for a second and then asked my 6 year old cousin to get out of the car. He told her she was going to jail for trying to kill an imaginary friend and put her in the back of his car for 5 minutes. My cousin never messed with Bobby or me again.”

Loved that policeman’s sense of humour and ingenious response to situation 🙂 . However it does make me wonder, what his response would have been, if the main character of this story was not a young child, but an adult. ;-)

ImaginationsFrom Laughing at Everyday Life

Did you have an imaginary friend as a child?  Perhaps it’s time to reunite!

According to Antonio Damasio, a neuroscientist and director of the Brain and Creativity Institute at the University of Southern California, imagination is the cornerstone of creativity.  “It’s pretty hard to conceive that anyone could be creative without a rich imagination,” he says.

Today, it’s all about doing things differently and doing different things.  Did you know Google runs 50 to 200 search experiments at any given time?  Innovation and creativity is the lifeblood of growth – organizations who think differently and act quickly as the ones who will break from the pack.  And projects drive the change needed in any organization to survive.

Regrettably, most of us give up on imagination (and leave our pretend friends behind) around grades three to five, when we naturally become more interested in rules. The trick to keeping creativity going, according to Shelley Carson, a researcher and lecturer in pyschology and Harvard University and author of Your Creative Brain, is helping us see that rules and imagination are not at odds.

To keep the creative juices flowing, give yourself time every day to daydream and turn off the critical thinking and eliminate distractions – turn off electronic devices.  And get enough sleep: studies show that creativity declines with lack of sleep.  Who know’s, you just might meet with your long-lost imaginary friend in your dreams. Good night 🙂

ImaginationFrom Imagination

Treasure your imaginary friends 🙂



You are to me a very special sun…


 Photo by  Dmitry Popov 

You are to me a very special sun
That shines upon a world few ever see,
A world I’m shy to show to everyone,
That hides its urgent truth from even me.

Without your light it is a world of darkness;
Its heaven and its hell lie fast asleep.
With you as sole and sympathetic witness,
The words come forth from out my vasty deep.

And so I cannot be myself without you;
No one is whole without some loving friend.
There is a quiet joy in me about you
That lets me say what I need not defend.

Long may we serve each other to give light
To all the loveliness that haunts the night.

 (from http://www.poemsforfree.com )


Hidden scars


When did it become so hard,
To tell the truth,
And show our scars?
When did we decide that we,
Must hide our hurt,
Our pain,
And flee,
To distant lands,
Within our heads,
Emotions hidden,
Dulled and dead,
Never to be shared aloud,
Instead we’re silent,
Proud of juggling life so well,
Proud we manage not to tell,
Proud our lives look good to all,
But pride’s what comes before a fall.
And so we hide hurt rather well,
But deep inside it starts to swell,
Until we’re taken with the tide,
Of all the things we tried to hide,
And then our secrets are no more,
Our problems spill upon the floor,
Seeping, sliding making mess,
Whilst others sidestep,
We confess,
We couldn’t manage any more.
We hid our scars but they’re still raw.

By PookyH

Sorrows Coldness
From Beware the Barrenness of a busy Life


How to end poverty?


I was always wondering about the most effective way to help move billions of people from the rut of poverty to prosperity. More philanthropy from the wealthy nations of the West? As J.W. Smith points it, with the record of corruption within impoverished countries, people will question giving them money as such ‘donations’ rarely ‘reach the target’. Building industries instead? While that approach seems to provide better results (see few examples described by Ray Avery in his book ‘Rabel with a cause‘), it still did not provide a silver bullet solution, as it does not address the roots of poverty and prosperity.

From Christian Bowe

In their book ‘Why nations fail?‘, that examines the origin of poverty and prosperity, Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson conclusively show that it is man-made political and economic institutions that underlie economic success (or the lack of it). Therefore only the development of inclusive political and economical institutions can provide a long-term sustainable solution to poverty. Based on fifteen years of original research, Acemoglu and Robinson marshal extraordinary historical evidence from the Roman Empire, the Mayan city-states, medieval Venice, the Soviet Union, Latin America, England, Europe, the United States, and Africa to demonstrate that nation’s prosperity and poverty are determined by the incentives created by economic and political institutions.

From BornRich

First-world countries became rich because their citizens overthrew the elites who controlled power and created a society with more inclusive political institutions, where political rights were much more broadly distributed, where the government was accountable and therefore more responsive to citizens, with certain constraints and checks placed on politicians. As the result, more inclusive economic institutions developed in those countries with secure property rights, unbiased system of law, public services, access to education, open to relatively free entry of new businesses, where the great mass of people could take advantage of economic opportunities. Inclusive economic institutions provided a level playing field in which people can exchange and contract, choose their careers. They created incentives for education and innovation, essential for the sustainable economic growth which is almost always accompanied by technological improvements that enable people, land and existing capital to become more productive.


Unfortunately, in most societies throughout history and today political institutions concentrate power in the hands of a few, without constraints, checks and balances or “rule of law”. Economic institutions in those societies are then often structured by this elite to extract resources from the rest of the society and are therefore called ‘extractive’. When existing elites are challenged under extractive political institutions and the newcomers break through, the newcomers are likewise subject to only a few constraints. They thus have incentives to maintain exclusive political institutions and create a similar set of extractive economic institutions.

Poor RichFrom actnowpng.org

As an example, while industrialisation was booming in the Western Europe, in the Russian Empire it was blocked by the absolutist monarchs with unlimited power due to their fear of losing power. Opposing the changes in society necessary for promoting economic prosperity, Nicholas I aimed at strengthening the traditional pillars of the regime (particularly the landed aristocracy) and keeping the society rural and agrarian. No loans were available for the industry. The State Loan Bank was lending money to large landowners only with serfs used as ‘security’. Serfdom was hardly efficient as treated like slaves, serfs had little incentive to improve the land and increase productivity. However, it was politically effective. Several industrial exhibitions, showcasing new technology and facilitating technology adoption, were banned. Sever limits have been placed on the number of factories that could be built in Moscow to stop any further concentration of potentially rebellious workers in the city. Opposition to railways accompanied opposition to industry. As the result, the economy of Russia stalled in the 19th century.

SerfsRussian Serfs at Work – the real face of slavery

The absolute monarchy in Russia was replaced by communism in the 20th century. Contrary to Marx’s vision of a communism as a system that would generate prosperity under more humane conditions and without inequality, the practice turned into a bloody affair with no humane aspect to it. Equality was not part of the equation either, since the first thing Lenin and his entourage did was to create a new elite, themselves at the head of the Bolshevik Party. In doing so, they purged and murdered not only non-communist elements, but also other communists who could have threatened their power. That was followed by Stalin’s collectivisation and his all-too-frequent purges that have killed tens of millions people. As in Cambodia in the 1970s under the Khmer Rouge, in China and in North Korea, communism in Russia brought vicious dictatorship and widespread human rights violations. The economic institutions, created under these regimes, were designed to extract resources from the people, and by entirely abhorring property rights, they often created poverty instead of prosperity.

StalinFrom YesterYear Once More

Nations fail economically because of extractive institutions. These institutions keep poor countries poor and prevent them from embarking on a path to economic growth. This is true today in Africa, in South America, in Asia, in the Middle East and in some ex-Soviet Union nations. While having very different histories, languages and cultures, poor countries in these regions have similar extractive institutions designed by their elites for enriching themselves and perpetuating their power at the expense of the vast majority of the people on those societies. No meaningful change can be expected in those places until the exclusive extractive institutions, causing the problems in the first place, will become more inclusive.

What about countries which enjoyed the inclusive institutions in the last century? Are they moving from a virtuous circle in which efforts by elites to aggrandize power are resisted to a vicious one that enriches and empowers a small minority?

(Based on ‘Why Nations Fail’ by 
Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson.
Lecture notes based on this book are
available on the MIT Economics site )

From 12 Nelson Mandela Quotes to Remember Him By


What is love?

WhatFrom What is Love?

Probably, I’m the most unromantic purpose on Earth, as neither roses, nor romantic dinners with the candlelight, sweet words and kisses appeal to my heart. Too good to be true and often too fake, like the online dating TV show The Bachelor with all its fake romance. I do not trust romantic sweetness – like sugar, it quickly dissolves and vanishes in the turbulent waters of life.

As life shows, the true measures of love are often bitter, such as poverty, hunger, sickness, pain, separation and death. True measures that apply across all times, cultures and generations…

For this Valentine’s Day I would like to share a story and a song. They came from different cultures and times, but have one thing in common – they do reflect the meaning of true love.

* * *

A Wedding

Qingdao, 1946

A bride wears a basket in lieu of a veil to obscure her face before her wedding.

On the day of her marriage, eighteen-year-old Reiqing sits alone in her village home… She hears happy music approaching her house, but she is nervous. The wedding has been arranged by marriage introducers, as is the custom. Today the bride will meet her groom for the first time. She worries that her future husband will not be kind-hearted and will not like her….

The groom is twenty-one. He leaves home before sunrise. Strong men a hired to carry two sedan chairs from his village to the bride’s. There are trumpets, cymbals, gongs and bamboo flutes…

The bride is almost in panic by the time her groom arrives… The bride cannot stop shaking. Tears stream from her eyes. Soon she will become a wife and another family’s daughter-in-law.

‘You silly girl,’ her mother says to her. ‘Don’t cry! You’re going to a family with enough food. Do you want to be poor for the rest of your life?’ She gently wipes her daughter’s tears and hugs her…

All day the bride has longed to remove her veil. Now she is afraid. Her husband may not like her appearance. Nervously she lifts her veil. For the first time in their lives they look at each other. The bride sees that her husband is handsome. There is something honest and humble about him too; he immediately captures her heart.

The groom, who is called Li Tingfan, is stunned by the bride’s beauty. They sit there until their ‘widen your heart’ noodles arrive, that symbolise acceptance of each other’s fortunes and faults… Reiqing knows her mother is right… Her name and place are changed for ever. Her destiny lies ahead…

So it was for this bride and groom, my mother and father, in Qingdao in 1946…

My mother and father lived with my father’s six brothers, their wives, his two sisters and their children – over twenty people crammed into a six-room house. As the youngest daughter-in-law, my mother’s status in the Li family was the lowest. She worked hard to prove her worth.

Often she would not see my father until late in the evenings, because he worked at two jobs, either away in the fields or carting building materials, all day long…

Their first son was born about a year after their marriage, their second just over two years later… My mother eventually came to be known as ‘that lucky woman with seven sons.’…

Mealtimes in my family were always sad for my niang [mother]. There was often nothing for her to cook. We would look at what little food there was on the wooden tray and out of respect for our elders, always wait for our dia [father] to start. One day, when my niang served dinner, it was clear there was not enough food for everyone.

‘I don’t feel hungry,’ our dia said. ‘I had a good lunch’…

Our niang gave our dia an annoyed look and made ‘zhi, zhi, zhi’ sounds with her tongue. ‘Don’t you dare not eat! Your health is our entire family’s security. We will all only drink water if you starve yourself to death!’

‘I’m not hungry,’ our dia protested.

Our niang picked up some food with her chopsticks and put it in our dia’s bowl. We started to eat only after he took the first bite. Our parents always ate slowly to allow us more food. On many occasions our niang told us to leave the best food for our dia because he was our breadwinner. But our dia told us we should give the best food to our niang: if it were not for her we would all have only ‘north-west wind’ for dinner…”

(From Li Cunxin autobiography ‘Mao’s Last Dancer’ )

Mao's Last Dancer - Joan Chen and Wang Shuangbao
Niang (Joan Chen) and Dia (Shuangbao Wang)

From the movie “Mao’s Last Dancer”

* * * 

Old Russian Folk Song

“Steppe, endless steppe”

( Drawing by B. Dexterev )

Steppe, endless steppe,
the way lies far before us,
and in that dense steppe
a coachman lay dying.

He summoned up all his strength,
as he felt death approaching,
and he gave an order
to his comrade:

“My dear friend,
do not think of the bad times,
but bury me here
in this dense steppe.

Give to my wife
a word of farewell;
and give back to her
this wedding ring.

And tell her as well
Not to be too sad,
To find another soulmate
And to get wed.

And tell her that I died here,
in the freezing steppe,
and that I have taken her love
away with me.”


( Photo by Vapi )

I was asked a few times why the dying coachman in this song asks his wife to find another soulmate to get wed. Very good question. For generations, that have never experienced hunger and starvation, it is hard to understand the hardships experienced by people in poor countries or  in the past in the currently prosperous parts of the world.

A few months ago I visited the historic 1880’s Denniston coal mine in New Zealand. It was a truly fascinating experience to go deep underground emerging yourself in the tough life of coal miners. Their work was very dangerous and a number were injured or died as a result of accidents in the mine or riding the infamous Denniston incline.

‘Do you know how long could a coalminer’s family survive after his death in those days?,’ asked a lady, who was visiting that mine with me. ‘I’ve heard that in those days the coalminer’s widow needed to re-marry in 1-2 weeks after her husbands death to ensure the survival of their children,’ she said.

I can easily believe that, especially as families in those days used to have a lot of children to feed…

coalminersFrom the Denniston Mine History