The 1920s Roared After a Pandemic, and the 2020s Will Try

A year ago I was faced with an incredibly difficult decision. Do we close the gyms because of the pandemic or do we fight to remain open. Yesterday I wrote an e-mail to my staff and posted it on the Atlantic Gymnastics Blog. Just to help them keep things in perspective. Not on what we have lost- but on how far we have come.

Today I was reading Bloomberg Business Week and I came upon an article from a couple weeks ago. 2020s Will Try To Roar Like The 1920s by Peter Coy. It gave me a lot to think about.

The 1920s Roared After a Pandemic, and the 2020s Will Try

The day was cold and windy. Standing outside the Capitol, the just-sworn-in president called for “a new unity of spirit and purpose” to bind together a nation that had been wracked by a pandemic and high unemployment. His predecessor wasn’t on stage. The inauguration of Warren G. Harding on March 4, 1921, marked the inauspicious, unofficial start of an historic decade. The somber mood gave no hint that America was about to go on a tear.

The Roaring Twenties saw widespread adoption of the assembly line, the automobile, radio, motion pictures, indoor plumbing, and labor-saving electric appliances. Consumerism and mass culture took shape. It was the decade of art deco and jazz, Coco Chanel and Walt Disney, The Great Gatsby and the Harlem Renaissance. It was “the first truly modern decade,” says retired Marquette University economic historian Gene Smiley.

As the U.S. suffers through another pandemic, it’s tempting to ask whether history will repeat itself. Once the virus passes, will the 2020s roar the way the 1920s did?

It’s not impossible. The past year demonstrates that the economy and society can change shape quickly. We’ve seen multiple Covid-19 vaccines developed in record time and an almost-overnight transition to remote work. Tesla Inc. delivered just shy of a half-million electric vehicles in 2020 despite the pandemic. A London-based unit of Alphabet Inc. solved a half-century-old scientific puzzle, using artificial intelligence to predict accurately how proteins fold, which could revolutionize drug discovery.

In all probability, though, the U.S. will continue to wrestle with “secular stagnation,” an economic plague of developed nations. Preconditions include an aging population, slow labor force growth, and weak demand for credit, which is why the disease is resistant to traditional monetary remedies. The latest evidence that investors aren’t holding out much hope the coming decade will break out of that mold: The yield on inflation-protected 10-year Treasury notes is around negative 1%, down from 4% during the ’90s tech boom.

Despite the differences, by copying what was done right in the Roaring Twenties and avoiding what went wrong, Americans can make the 2020s a success—by today’s standards, anyway.

The world of 2021 is “a muddled mix of the Twenties in a lot of ways,” says Rutgers University economist Eugene White. Stock prices are high in relation to corporate profits, as then. Today’s suspicion of international institutions such as the United Nations and World Health Organization would be familiar to a traveler from the 1920s. Race relations are once again strained, though Black Americans are in a far better position than they were a century ago. Tariffs rose under President Donald Trump, as they did in the 1920s. Americans continue to complain about overbearing government, as they did during Prohibition. The 1920s was the first decade in which the rural population was smaller than the urban one; in the 2020s, rural White America is feeling disenfranchised after having gone strong for Trump’s failed reelection.

“There is no chance of sustained decade-long growth that matches the achievement of the 1920s”

The 1920s didn’t get off to a good start. The Spanish flu pandemic, which killed about 675,000 Americans out of a population of 100 million, was over, but the U.S. was deep into an 18-month downturn marked by the sharpest one-year decline in wholesale and consumer prices in 140 years of record-keeping. The economic miracle of the Twenties didn’t really begin until July 1921, when the recession ended and boom psychology set in.

This summer, depending on how vaccinations progress, there will likely be a flicker of that mania as people emerge from their Covid-19 bubbles, ready to party. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg are predicting above-average growth in gross domestic product after a difficult first quarter, with the median forecast peaking at an annualized 4.7% in the third quarter.

Indications of pent-up demand are abundant. Carnival Corp., in a sign of confidence in the public’s desire to socialize again, plans to begin boardings in April for its biggest ship ever, the 5,200-passenger Mardi Gras. Finally free to do as they please, Americans may make like the Lost Generation, who chose to “live in the pure moment, live gaily on gin and love,” as the literary critic Malcolm Cowley wrote.

Gin and love make a powerful cocktail but won’t sustain a decade’s worth of growth. The bull case for a repeat of the 1920s is that the pandemic lockdown has accelerated the adoption of technologies such as videoconferencing and digital commerce that will keep paying dividends long after the virus is vanquished. McKinsey & Co. says a global survey of executives revealed that they were a “shocking” seven years ahead of where they planned to be in terms of the share of digital or digitally enabled products in their companies’ portfolios. And there’s still headroom. Cowen Research reports that almost half the corporate technology buyers it interviewed said they were in the early stages of a transition to cloud computing.

What’s hard about forecasting technological progress is figuring out where we are on the adoption curve. Take robots. The word was coined in 1920 by a Czech playwright, Karel Capek, but a century later robots haven’t lived up to hopes—or fears. It took 13 years, from 2005 to 2018, for the number of installed robots in the U.S. to double, according to the International Federation of Robotics. To a pessimist, that’s almost a plateau. To an optimist, it means robots are still on the bottom of the S-shaped adoption curve and are poised for takeoff at any moment.

Disclaimer

Bearish forecasters say labor-force expansion and gains in schooling don’t match those of the 1920s, and information technology and biotech breakthroughs, while impressive, don’t measure up to the transformative, general-purpose technologies—electrification and the internal combustion engine, to name two—that powered growth a century ago. As investor Peter Thiel famously said, “We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters.” (It’s 280 characters now, but still.)

For the average American, life changed more from 1920 to 1929 than it’s likely to change from 2020 to 2029. Electrification gave us refrigerators (instead of ice boxes), washing machines (instead of washboards and hand-cranked wringers), and radio (instead of your sister at the piano). With electrification, factories no longer had to rely on power from a single engine that was connected to machines via noisy, inefficient belts and pulleys.

The internal combustion engine came into its own in the 1920s, powering cars, trucks, farm equipment, and airplanes. The number of registered drivers almost tripled during the decade. The automobile’s rise sparked investment in roads and suburbs as well as production of rubber, steel, glass, and oil.

Two Decades Far Apart

Robert Gordon, an economist at Northwestern University, is a leading proponent of the argument that these modern times don’t live up to those modern times. At the request of Bloomberg Businessweek, he assembled figures on labor productivity for the entire economy from 1893 through 2019, clustering the data into roughly equal spans that begin and end at high points in the business cycle. The data up to 1948 come from a book he wrote, The Rise and Fall of American Growth: The U.S. Standard of Living Since the Civil War. For the rest he relied on government figures.

The data compiled by Gordon demonstrate that productivity growth jumped in 1920 and remained high for a half-century before slumping after 1973. “While it is likely that productivity growth will revive somewhat in the 2020s from the dismal record of the 2010s,” Gordon wrote in an email, “there is no chance of sustained decade-long growth that matches the achievement of the 1920s.”

One lesson, then, is that timing matters. The 1920s roared because technologies that had been nurtured for several decades were finally ready for mass deployment. That may not be the case today.

It’s easier to spot social similarities between the decades than economic similarities. Then as now America was divided between a fast-moving, multiethnic, urban society of immigrants and a predominantly White, conservative, rural society pining for a past that it perceived as purer and less tumultuous. Americans elected three Republican presidents in the 1920s—Harding, Calvin Coolidge, and Herbert Hoover. Harding vowed a “return to normalcy,” while Coolidge, a taciturn Vermonter, “appeared to be a reluctant refugee from the previous century,” wrote Nathan Miller in New World Coming: The 1920s and the Making of Modern America.

The reformist Progressive Era that began around 1900 had lost its moxie, and the big-government New Deal hadn’t yet arrived. Business was given free rein. “Never before, here or anywhere else, has a government been so completely fused with business,” the Wall Street Journal wrote in 1928. Said Coolidge: “The man who builds a factory builds a temple. The man who works there worships there.” Elon Musk slots in nicely as this century’s answer to Henry Ford, though our society is more skeptical that what’s good for business is good for the country.

Gordon calls the 1920s “a Janus-faced decade that defies simple characterization.” It was a time of liberation, in which women got the vote and dared to wear short skirts, smoke cigarettes, and drink bathtub gin, while Black poets, authors, and musicians found wide audiences. “It was the period when the Negro was in vogue,” poet Langston Hughes wrote.

But women still faced discrimination, and Black Americans and immigrants faced that and worse. In 1921 a White mob burned more than 1,200 homes in a Black neighborhood in Tulsa, Oklahoma. In 1925 thousands of unmasked Ku Klux Klan members marched down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington.

The Immigration Act of 1924 barred the gates to immigrants from Asia and seriously restricted immigration from southern and eastern Europe—drawing the admiration of none other than Adolf Hitler, who wrote approvingly in Mein Kampf, “The American Union categorically refuses the immigration of physically unhealthy elements, and simply excludes the immigration of certain races.”

The 1920s was a time of rising prosperity on the whole but also rising inequality of incomes and wealth and deepening divisions in society. Prohibition, which took effect in 1920, drove a wedge between “drys” and “wets” and fueled organized crime. Factory workers, stock investors, and Big Business mostly did well, but the still-sizable agriculture economy was shocked by a 53% decline in farm product prices in the 1920-21 recession and would take years to recover.

The first three years of Trump’s term were likewise marked by a tide of strong economic growth that lifted many boats, though not all. The unemployment rate for Black Americans, for instance, reached a record low. The pandemic has wrecked much of that progress. Bringing the economy back to its potential to lift up the less fortunate is a second reason, after saving lives, for President Biden to accelerate the distribution of vaccines.

Perhaps the most important lesson the 2020s can learn from the 1920s is the peril of isolationism. The U.S. emerged from the Great War of 1914-18 as the world’s most powerful economy as well as its biggest creditor, having lent heavily to the Entente Powers to finance the war effort.

Yet the U.S. resisted taking on the responsibilities of global leadership. Fed up with Europe and its bloody quarrels, isolationists in Congress prevented the U.S. from joining the League of Nations. With stringent fiscal and monetary policy, the U.S. forced its deflation onto other countries. Washington also insisted that the U.K. and France repay their war debts to the penny. In a vise, those countries raised the money to pay the Americans by exacting reparations from Germany. That fed the resentment among Germans that contributed to the rise of Hitler.

Much has changed since then. The U.S. is now a debtor nation, consuming more than it makes. Trump was correct that this is a problem: The U.S. is accumulating debts, while its productive capacity is being hollowed out.

What’s similar is that today, as in the 1920s, the U.S. can’t escape the special obligations that go along with being the world’s biggest economy. Americans learned that lesson after the twin disasters of the Great Depression and World War II. The U.S. was instrumental in the founding of the UN, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank and led the push to lower tariff barriers, which enabled poor countries and those ravaged by war to prosper through trade. Nations such as Germany and France set aside imperialist dreams and focused on quality of life. “If you ask an average European man what he cares about, it’s very often soccer,” says Columbia historian Adam Tooze, author of the 2014 book, The Deluge: The Great War, America and the Remaking of the Global Order, 1916-1931.

In four years in office, Trump revived isolationism, even resurrecting the “America First” motto that Harding campaigned on in 1920—and that was embraced by the anti-Semitic, fascist-sympathizing America First Committee that fought to keep the U.S. out of World War II.

In the absence of U.S. leadership, nations such as Kenya, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Malaysia, and Vietnam are at risk of falling into the orbit of China, says Tooze. “As in the Twenties, we are our own worst enemy,” he says. Biden must attempt to demonstrate that the U.S. is once again a reliable partner.

Meanwhile, the notion that the Covid-19 pandemic is some kind of trampoline that will bounce the U.S. toward a bright future is not only off-putting, but wrong. Pandemics enduringly damage societies in ways that go beyond the death toll. In October the IMF released a working paper by senior economist Tahsin Saadi Sedik and economist Rui Xu that uncovered a vicious cycle: Pandemics reduce output and increase inequality, stoking social unrest, which further lowers output and worsens inequality. The study was based on disease outbreaks in 133 countries from 2001 to 2018. “Our results suggest that without policy measures, the COVID-19 pandemic will likely increase inequality, trigger social unrest, and lower future output in the years to come,” the authors wrote.

A final lesson of studying the 1920s is simply that history does have something to teach us—a point that the movers and shakers of that frenetic decade sometimes had trouble grasping. “History is more or less the bunk,” Ford said in 1916. “It is tradition. We don’t want tradition. We want to live in the present, and the only history that is worth a tinker’s damn is the history we make today.”

Introspection wasn’t the forte of the Roaring Twenties. “Torn nerves craved the anodynes of speed, excitement, and passion,” Frederick Lewis Allen, looking back from the near remove of 1931, wrote in Only Yesterday: An Informal History of the 1920s.

Our nerves, too, are torn. But learning from the past can help the healing begin.

It’s OK to Acknowledge Good Covid-19 News

By RICH LOWRY. 05/20/2020 08:14 PM

It’s OK to Acknowledge Good Covid-19 News

We are PROBABLY on the other side of the curve. There are encouraging signs all over the country, and no early indications of a reopening debacle.

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The coronavirus has taken a heartbreaking toll in America, which has had more than 100,000 fatalities, but the course of the virus is not the same as it was a few months ago. We are on the other side of the curve. There are encouraging signs all over the country, and no early indications of a reopening debacle.

The question now is whether the media and political system can absorb good news on the virus, which is often ignored or buried under misleading storylines.

The press has a natural affinity for catastrophes, which make compelling viewing and good copy. The pandemic is indeed a once-in-a-generation story. So the media is naturally loath to shift gears and acknowledge that the coronavirus has begun to loosen its grip.

Meanwhile, progressives and many journalists have developed a near-theological commitment to the lockdowns, such that any information that undermines them is considered unwelcome, even threatening. This accounts for the widespread sense that no one should say things have gotten better … or people are going to die.

Usually when it is thought the public can’t handle the truth, it is a truth about some threat that could spark panic. In this case, the truth is information that might make people think it’s safe to go outside again.

Almost all the discussion about reopening is framed by worries that we will reopen too soon, not that we might reopen too late—that is literally unthinkable.

None of this is to minimize the seriousness of this pandemic. New York and its surrounding suburbs have been through hell. What’s happened in the country’s nursing homes is a tragedy. We want to be cautious about reopening—as even the most forward-leaning governors have been—and vigilant about new outbreaks.

But we have entered a new phase. As Nate Silver pointed out on Tuesday, the seven-day rolling average for deaths is 1,362, down from 1,761 the week prior and a peak of 2,070 on April 21. That’s still much too high, but the trend is favorable.

Testing capacity, such a concern for so long, has really begun to expand after hitting a plateau for weeks. Testing nationally on some days has been in the high 300,000s or (on May 17) over 400,000. The issue in some states now is not capacity but actually finding enough people to test.

Scott Gottlieb of the American Enterprise Institute notes that the positivity rate, or percentage of people testing positive, has continued to fall throughout May. In New York City, the country’s epicenter, the positivity rate was below 5 percent as of the middle of the week.

The reopenings could certainly still go awry, but so far there is no clear indication of it. Cases are still falling in Austria, Denmark and Norway, despite those countries being relatively far along on reopening. Denmark has been mystified why it is almost five weeks into reopening and hasn’t yet seen increases in infections.

On Tuesday, Georgia, so widely criticized for its reopening, had its lowest number of Covid-19 patients in the hospital since April 8, when such data began being reported. The number has dropped 12 percent since the week before, and 34 percent since May 1.

The press has often, out of sloppiness or willfulness, tried to create negative news around the reopenings. CNN tweeted last weekend, “Texas is seeing the highest number of new coronavirus cases and deaths just two weeks after it officially re-opened.” As Sean Trende of RealClearPolitics pointed out, the seven-day rolling average of new cases had indeed been trending up, but the seven-day rolling average of the number of tests had gone up, too—which would naturally turn up more cases.

The key indicator is the positivity rate, and it was down in Texas.

A North Carolina TV station tweeted, “Breaking News: NC sees largest spike in coronavirus cases since pandemic began.” That referred to 800 new cases over the past 24 hours on May 16. But tests had been going sharply up and the positivity rate trending down. Hospitalizations were basically flat.

The other day, headlines noted that Florida recorded 500 new cases on one day. It generated fewer headlines, and perhaps none, when Gov. Ron DeSantis pointed out that the state had received a dump of 75,000 test results, yielding the 500 new cases, for a minuscule positivity rate of 0.64 percent.

It’s not as though we haven’t had a cataract of unassailably legitimate bad news over the past few months. We’ve been experiencing a wrenching public health crisis and a steep recession on top of it. There shouldn’t be a need to obscure favorable trends. We can handle the truth.

A Season of Hope. We can have better days.

fullsizeoutput_3ea1The days are getting longer. Each minute brings us closer to summer here in the Northern Hemisphere.

2019 has taken a toll. A toll on our patience. A toll on un individually and collectively.  We need to remember that we are of one race. The human race. When one of us succeeds- we each succeed. It breaks my heart and my spirt to see people walk by a struggling individual. To see a mighty nation turn it’s back on it’s neighbor.  I still hold out hope for us. We are truly better than what we have recently shown.

Time does not have a rearview mirror or reverse. It can only move in one direction. We have HOPE for better days.

And you ask me what I want this year
And I try to make this kind and clear
Just a chance that maybe we’ll find better days
Cause I don’t need boxes wrapped in strings
And designer love and empty things
Just a chance that maybe we’ll find better days

So take these words
And sing out loud
Cause everyone is forgiven now
Cause tonight’s the night the world begins again

I need someplace simple where we could live
And something only you can give
And thats faith and trust and peace while we’re alive
And the one poor child who saved this world
And there’s 10 million more who probably could
If we all just stopped and said a prayer for them

So take these words
And sing out loud
Cause everyone is forgiven now
Cause tonight’s the night the world begins again

I wish everyone was loved tonight
And somehow stop this endless fight
Just a chance that maybe we’ll find better days

So take these words
And sing out loud
Cause everyone is forgiven now
Cause tonight’s the night the world begins again

Some great artists have been taken from us this year.

One of my favorite groups in the late 70’s and 80’’s was The Cars.  Singer/songwriter Ric Ocasek died of cardiovascular disease at the age of 75.

Rest In Peace.

Happy New Year All.

Peace,

Tony

A Season of Hope. Christmas Truce

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This time of year we really need to put aside our differences.

When we say “PEACE ON EARTH” remember that peace doesn’t see race, color, or religion. I truly believe that 99.9% of all people on earth want the same thing.

A roof over our head

A better life for our children

A world of peace and prosperity.

To Love and be Loved.

Lets focus on our similarities not our differences.

100 years ago- PEACE BROKE OUT.

During World War I, on and around Christmas Day 1914, the sounds of rifles firing and shells exploding faded in a number of places along the Western Front in favor of holiday celebrations in the trenches and gestures of goodwill between enemies.

On December 7, 1914, Pope Benedict XV suggested a temporary hiatus of the war for the celebration of Christmas. The warring countries refused to create any official cease-fire, but on Christmas the soldiers in the trenches declared their own unofficial truce.

On Christmas Eve, many German soldiers put up Christmas trees, decorated with candles, on the parapets of their trenches. Hundreds of Christmas trees lighted the German trenches and although British soldiers could see the lights, it took them a few minutes to figure out what they were from. Could this be a trick? British soldiers were ordered not to fire but to watch them closely. Instead of trickery, the British soldiers heard many of the Germans celebrating.

Time and again during the course of that day, the Eve of Christmas, there were wafted towards us from the trenches opposite the sounds of singing and merry-making, and occasionally the guttural tones of a German were to be heard shouting out lustily, ‘A happy Christmas to you Englishmen!’ Only too glad to show that the sentiments were reciprocated, back would go the response from a thick-set Clydesider, ‘Same to you, Fritz, but dinna o’er eat yourself wi’ they sausages!’

In other areas, the two sides exchanged Christmas carols.

They finished their carol and we thought that we ought to retaliate in some way, so we sang ‘The first Noël’, and when we finished that they all began clapping; and then they struck up another favourite of theirs, ‘ O Tannenbaum’. And so it went on. First the Germans would sing one of their carols and then we would sing one of ours, until when we started up ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’ the Germans immediately joined in singing the same hymn to the Latin words ‘ Adeste Fidéles’. And I thought, well, this was really a most extraordinary thing – two nations both singing the same carol in the middle of a war.

British and German troops meet in no man’s land. Boxing Day, 1914. Photographed by 2nd Lt Cyril Drummand, RFA.
British and German troops meet in no man’s land. Boxing Day, 1914. Photographed by 2nd Lt Cyril Drummand, RFA.

At the first light of dawn on Christmas Day, some German soldiers emerged from their trenches and approached the Allied lines across no-man’s-land, calling out “Merry Christmas” in their enemies’ native tongues. At first, the Allied soldiers feared it was a trick, but seeing the Germans unarmed they climbed out of their trenches and shook hands with the enemy soldiers. The men exchanged presents of cigarettes and plum puddings and sang carols and songs. There was even a documented case of soldiers from opposing sides playing a good-natured game of soccer.

Some soldiers used this short-lived ceasefire for a more somber task: the retrieval of the bodies of fellow combatants who had fallen within the no-man’s land between the lines.

The so-called Christmas Truce of 1914 came only five months after the outbreak of war in Europe and was one of the last examples of the outdated notion of chivalry between enemies in warfare. It was never repeated—future attempts at holiday ceasefires were quashed by officers’ threats of disciplinary action—but it served as heartening proof, however brief, that beneath the brutal clash of weapons, the soldiers’ essential humanity endured.

During World War I, the soldiers on the Western Front did not expect to celebrate on the battlefield, but even a world war could not destory the Christmas spirit.

Right now I feel many times we find a reason to have a fight and to fight a war. I think it is time we have a reason to wage peace.

Peace to All of you. Pass it on.

 

Even the SADDEST Christmas song can give you hope. Here is one of my personal favorites.

It is a song I tried to sing to my kids when they were little.

 

 

Peace.

A Season of Hope. There is Beauty Out There- if you look.

The world is filled with beautiful and amazing things. You need to slow down to see slowdown and notice. It may be a flower growing in a trash filled vacant lot. It may be the white helmet volunteers in Syria. It may be a young girl with autism in Northern Ireland with the voice of an angel.

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Girl With Autism Sings A Stunning Rendition Of ‘Hallelujah’

It’s not just good because she’s dealing with autism … It’s good because it’s good — really good.

This 10-year-old’s rendition of “Hallelujah” would have given Leonard Cohen himself chills. Turn the volume up and give it a listen.

 

Kaylee Rodgers, a student who has autism and ADHD, sang the solo part for the famous tune during her school choir concert at Killard House School in Donaghadee, Northern Ireland, and the performance went viral.

Rodgers’ voice is stunningly beautiful ― and she exudes confidence while she sings with her classmates. Tracy Rodgers, Kaylee’s mother, told the BBC that Kaylee’s music teacher, Lloyd Scates, played a huge part in nurturing her special talent.

“She always loved singing, but it wasn’t until she started at Killard House School that she really came into her own,” she told BBC. “[Mr. Scates is] like her safety blanket ― he’s amazing.”

Killard House principal Colin Millar told ITV that Kaylee was very shy when she started at the school. She “wouldn’t really read out in class,” he said. So “to stand and perform in front of an audience is amazing … It takes a lot of effort on Kaylee’s part.”

Go and find beauty in the world today.

Peace.

A Season of Hope. TSO Old City Bar

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“Old City Bar”

In an old city bar
That is never too far
From the places that gather
The dreams that have been

In the safety of night
With its old neon light
It beckons to strangers
And they always come in

And the snow it was falling
The neon was calling
The music was low
And the night
Christmas Eve

And here was the danger
That even with strangers
Inside of this night
It’s easier to believe

Then the door opened wide
And a child came inside
That no one in the bar
Had seen there before

And he asked did we know
That outside in the snow
That someone was lost
Standing outside our door

Then the bartender gazed
Through the smoke and the haze
Through the window and ice
To a corner streetlight

Where standing alone
By a broken pay phone
Was a girl the child said
Could no longer get home

And the snow it was falling
The neon was calling
The bartender turned
And said, not that I care
But how would you know this?
The child said I’ve noticed
If one could be home
They’d be all ready there

Then the bartender came out from behind the bar
And in all of his life he was never that far
And he did something else that he thought no one saw
When he took all the cash from the register draw

Then he followed the child to the girl cross the street
And we watched from the bar as they started to speak
Then he called for a cab and he said J.F.K.
Put the girl in the cab and the cab drove away
And we saw in his hand
That the cash was all gone
From the light that she had wished upon

If you want to arrange it
This world you can change it
If we could somehow make this
Christmas thing last

By helping a neighbor
Or even a stranger
And to know who needs help
You need only just ask

Then he looked for the child
But the child wasn’t there
Just the wind and the snow
Waltzing dreams through the air

So he walked back inside
Somehow different I think
For the rest of the night
No one paid for a drink

And the cynics will say
That some neighborhood kid
Wandered in on some bums
In the world where they hid

But they weren’t there
So they couldn’t see
By an old neon star
On that night, Christmas Eve

When the snow it was falling
The neon was calling
And in case you should wonder
In case you should care

Why we’re on our own
Never went home
On that night of all nights
We were already there

THEN ALL AT ONCE INSIDE THAT NIGHT
HE SAW IT ALL SO CLEAR
THE ANSWER THAT HE SOUGHT SO LONG
HAD ALWAYS BEEN SO NEAR

IT’S EVERY GIFT THAT SOMEONE GIVES
EXPECTING NOTHING BACK
IT’S EVERY KINDNESS THAT WE DO
EACH SIMPLE LITTLE ACT

The point is – it is never too late to make a difference. Not just on Christmas Eve, any day. WHY NOT TODAY?

Peace

 

 

A Season of Hope. Cherish our Differences 

Our strength is in out differences.

Last night the US House of Representatives voted to Impeach President Trump. 9PLEASE KEEP READING- THIS IS NOT A POLITICAL RANT) Listening to the Republicans and Democrats state their case it was as if they were each operating on their on set of facts. I grew up in a time BEFORE “alternative facts”. The news was respected, even if you didn’t agree with it. In high school and college I had liberal friends, conservative friends, apathetic friends, cynical friends. We joked, we debated, we laughed and cried. What we never did was put each other down.

Have you ever heard the story behind this highest selling Christmas carol? Robert May was an advertising executive that first wrote the poem “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” in 1939 as an ad gimmick for a local department store. 10 years later, May’s brother wrote the music. The song was turned down by Bing Crosby and Dinah Shore, but Gene Autry recorded it. Today “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” is the highest-selling Christmas carol, at more than 25 million units.

Do you know why the carol is so loved? You might say that it’s the courage and fortitude of Rudolph, the apparent hero of the story. I think the real charm of the carol is found at the heart of what the carol is really about—grace! Despite that Rudolph was clearly an outsider and an apparent reject due to the glowing flaw of his shiny red nose, Santa chose him. When the fog rolled in and the moment became critical, Santa called on Rudolph, the reject reindeer with the big, weird, red nose to lead the pack. What everyone else saw as weakness, Santa saw as the vital component of strength to accomplish his purposes.

We each have things that make us unique. Instead of trying to hide those things and viewing them as a weakness, lets view them as a strength. Not just in ourselves but in others.

I was the weird kids growing up. I was the gymnast in a town full of football players. Look at me now! If I had listened to those who wanted me to blend in and conform I would not have be contributing to the lives of thousands of children.

As an employer, I am looking for people who are individuals but share our same passion. It is those differences that add spice to life and makeAtlantic Gymnastics an exciting place.

Cherish the differences in those around you. Appreciate each indivual.

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A Season of Hope. 19 Things That Made the World a Better Place

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There’s been good news this year. No, really. Mixed in amid the political chaos, climate crisis, and other human-made horrors, there have been shining moments in health, space and even politics that suggest progress hasn’t entirely halted. Here are our run-down of the most uplifting and inspiring news from 2019.

Scientists released the first photo of a black hole

A black hole is invisible, swallowing up light and emitting no detectable radiation. Yet, scientists working on the Event Horizon Telescope have shown us the unseeable — and it looks rather like a glowing bagel. The image is of the black hole at the centre of galaxy M87 and shows glowing plasma surrounding the black hole itself, with the darkness at the centre revealing the shape and size of the event horizon, as well as key information about how rapidly it’s rotating. With one black hole in the picture books, EHT is now looking at others — including Sagittarius A* at the centre of our own Milky Way. Read more at WIRED.

The first all-women spacewalk repairs the ISS

The first all-female spacewalk finally happened, but the pair had to wait for a new suit before they could step outside the International Space Station’s airlock. The historic spacewalk by Christina Koch and Jessica Meir was set back by several months for a second medium-sized spacesuit to be sent up to the space station, highlighting the assumptions that hold back women in the workplace, even when it’s not on Earth. Koch and Meir spent five and a half hours outside the ISS to fix a power control unit. Read more at The Guardian.

Jodrell Bank awarded Unesco World Heritage status

After a decade-long bid, the Jodrell Bank Observatory was added to Unesco’s list of World Heritage sites. Home to the Lovell telescope – once the world’s largest, but now ranked third – the University of Manchester site has been used to watch the skies since 1945, and is where the science of radio astronomy was born. It joins the Palace of Westminster, Stonehenge, and the Lake District for British sites on the Unesco list. Read more at the BBC.

Eliud Kipchoge runs a 1:59 marathon

Getty Images / HERBERT NEUBAUER / Contributor

Running a marathon in less than two hours wasn’t supposed to be possible, but science and sporting talent combined in Eliud Kipchoge to break one of distance running’s biggest hurdles. The epic run was achieved through perfect food prep, which included drinking special energy drinks throughout the race, picking the perfect day for weather, custom-made shoes, and using pacers to block the wind. But even with that help, it was no small feat: to hit that time, Kipchoge ran the equivalent of a 100 metre sprint in 17 seconds, but 422 times in a row. Read more at WIRED.

Simone Biles becomes most decorated gymnast ever

The 22-year-old American didn’t only win five gold medals at this year’s world championships, but did it with the largest points margin of her career while performing her own stunt, the Biles II — which involves a double backflip and three full twists — and in doing so, became the most successful gymnast ever. The achievement came a year after Biles confirmed that she too had been sexually assaulted by USA Gymnastics physician Larry Nassar, leading the athlete to speak out against the organisational cover-up but also to celebrate her own accomplishments, encouraging confidence for female athletes everywhere — even those that can’t do quite so many backflips. Read more at The Guardian.

Quantum supremacy is here

Google leaked a paper, and the world changed — suddenly, quantum supremacy was here. That milestone, when a quantum computer can solve a problem that a standard computer couldn’t in our lifetimes, has been on the horizon for years, with Google predicting it would reach it by 2017, and rivals hoping to do the same. But this year, for the first time, researchers at Google used a quantum processor called “Sycamore” to solve a random sampling problem. Sycamore took three minutes and 20 seconds to spit out an answer; the best of our current supercomputers would take 10,000 years. Quantum supremacy is only the first milestone, but it’s now been reached. Read more at WIRED.

Tesla builds a battery to go one million miles

One of the challenges of electric cars is declining capacity in batteries, which could require them to be replaced at high financial and environmental cost. But that could be solved with battery tech developed by Tesla’s head of battery research. Jeff Danh, who is also an academic at the University of Dalhousie, published a paper detailing a battery design based around a series of pouches that could last a million miles without losing capacity, even with constant recharging. With Danh’s design, capacity fell only four per cent after being recharged 3,400 times. Read more at WIRED.

DeepMind plays fair at StarCraft — and still beats us

Google-owned DeepMind’s AI royally thrashed professional StarCraft players — but it wasn’t playing fair. But in a second round, DeepMind’s AI had human-level restrictions to better mimic real gameplay, such as having to look through the in-game camera to see the map just like anyone else. It not only beat its human opponents, but played at an elite level — highlighting the success of the neural network at learning new skills in a real-world environment. Read more at WIRED.

Britain went two weeks without coal

Photofusion / Getty

The road to fully renewable energy sources hit a milestone when the UK went two weeks without using coal to generate power — no small feat given coal provided 40 per cent of British electricity just six years ago. (The figures don’t include Northern Ireland, which shares a grid with Ireland.) While some of the power for those two weeks came from natural gas — not a carbon-free source — as well as nuclear, there have been gains in true renewables, with new records for solar and wind power. Read more at WIRED.

Norway says no to oil project

This year, millions of children skipped school to protest inaction over climate change, while Greta Thunberg shamed political leaders at the UN for their slowness to take up the fight. But Norway apparently heard, with its parliament refusing to sign off on a drilling project in the Lofoten archipelago. It’s one step towards keeping oil in the ground — in this case, three billion barrels of it. Read more at Bloomberg.

First electric aircraft takes flight for 15 minutes

A short, 15-minute flight from Vancouver could be the future of air travel. Harbour Air, which flies turbo-prop planes between the Canadian city and local island communities, worked with Australian engineering firm magniX to retrofit a 62-year-old six-seater seaplane with an electric motor and battery with 160km range. After the successful trial, Harbour Air hopes to electrify its entire fleet, but regulatory tests mean that will have to wait two years. Read more at The Guardian.

Britain’s carnivores are bouncing back

Badger
iStockphoto / DamianKuzdak

A study of Britain’s carnivorous mammals revealed their numbers have improved despite lost habitat, the threat of busy roads, and government-approved culls. The Exeter University study showed that animals such as badgers, stoats, and weasels have improved since the 1960s, with otters, polecats and pine martens recovering from near extinction largely without human help. The only such animal still at risk is the Scottish wildcat. Read more at The Guardian.

Humpback whales recover from near extinction

A study in Royal Society Open Science reveals that the number of Western South Atlantic humpback whales has almost entirely recovered from mass hunting. By the mid 1950s, just 440 were believed to be left, but after a moratorium on hunting, they now number 24,900, close to the original population before the slaughter began three hundred years ago. Read more at Smithsonian Magazine.

UK porn block ditched

TonyBaggett / WIRED

Conservative politicians have spent the last five years pushing through plans to require age verification for porn websites in order to keep children from viewing adult material. After years of delays and plenty of criticism of the security and sanity of the various proposals, culture secretary Nicky Morgan admitted the plans had been shelved, hopefully for good. Read more at WIRED.

Abortion legalised in Northern Ireland

Four decades after the rest of the UK started to legalise abortions, Northern Ireland has finally followed suit, allowing women in the country the right to access the medical procedure. As abortion services are not yet provided, the UK government will pay for women to travel to England for the procedure — something women and girls have done for decades; last year, more than a thousand are recorded to have made the journey. As of next year, local services will mean such a trip is no longer required. Read more at New Scientist.

Humans placed in suspended animation

When trauma victims arrive in A&E, doctors have minutes to save their lives. Scientists at the University of Maryland School of Medicine are buying medics more time by placing patients in suspended animation. Called emergency preservation and resuscitation, the procedure is used on patients with acute trauma whose heart has stopped beating and have lost at least half their blood, leaving them with a five per cent survival rate. To give surgeons time to operate, this procedure cools the patient by replacing their blood with cold saline, stopping brain activity. After two hours, the patient is rewarmed and their heart – hopefully – restarted. The work is still in trial phase, with results expected in 2020. Read more at New Scientist.

Antiretrovirals prevent HIV transmission

A Lancet study of 1,000 couples over eight years revealed that the use of antiretroviral drugs prevents transmission of HIV. Not only does that mean those with HIV need not worry about infecting their partners, but suggests that if everyone with HIV had access to treatment, there need not be any more infections.

That good news comes as researchers have revealed a second man has been cleared of the HIV virus using a bone marrow transplant. The treatment was given for the unnamed patient’s cancer, and the procedure is largely unused for HIV infections because bone-marrow transplants can be risky and other treatments are preferred. However, researchers hope it could lead to new treatment techniques and say it proves that HIV is curable. Read more at The Guardian.

li Xin/AFP/Getty Images

Google is still capable of listening to criticism, in at least one case. Project Dragonfly was the codename for controversial plans to launch a censored search engine for China, ten years after it departed over disagreement with the government over the issue. Dragonfly would have blocked results for sensitive searches, such as “Tiananmen Square”, as well as sources such as the BBC and Wikipedia. But, after the plans leaked, Google quietly killed the project.

Given all the dodgy decisions made by Google this year – suspending its AI ethics board after appointing a right-wing think tank leader, hoovering up health data via Project Nightingale, plus an investigation into whether it fired staff in retaliation for activism against company policies on hate speech – it’s good to see a bit of light, and know that the behemoth can still be influenced on moral grounds. Read more at the BBC.

Greggs’ vegan sausage roll sparks meat-free fast food frenzy

Greggs makes sausage rolls, so it made one for vegans. It pissed off Piers Morgan, caused queues and sellouts, and helped bump profits for the baked goods chain by 58 per cent. Now, Tesco and M&S both offer vegan sausage rolls, KFC is set to start selling a vegan chicken burger and McDonalds is considering vegan options, making it easier to eat fast food without the impact on the environment or animals. It’s a good time to be vegan, even if just for a meal. Read more at The Independent.

A Season of Hope. Compassion

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For the last nine years, Eric Schmitt-Matzen has dressed up as Santa to spread joy around Knoxville, Tennessee.

A few weeks ago, he also brought peace to a five-year-old terminally ill boy, who ended up dying in his arms.

The 60-year-old Schmitt-Matzen was working at his day job as a mechanical engineer in Jacksboro when a nurse called him from a nearby hospital.

The name of the hospital is not being named out of the privacy of the parents.

“She said there was a very sick 5-year-old boy who wanted to see Santa Claus,” Schmitt-Matzen told the Knoxville News-Sentinel. “I told her, ‘OK, just let me change into my outfit.’” She said, ‘There isn’t time for that. Your Santa suspenders are good enough. Come right now.’”

When Schmitt-Matzen got to the hospital, he was taken to the Intensive Care Unit where he met the boy’s family and was given a toy to give to him.

Schmitt-Matzen also gave the boy a pep talk.

“I sat down on his bed and asked, ‘Say, what’s this I hear about you’re gonna miss Christmas? There’s no way you can miss Christmas! Why, you’re my Number One elf!

“He looked up and said, ‘I am?’

“I said, ‘Sure!’”

Schmitt-Matzen said the boy then asked him point blank: “They say I’m gonna die. How can I tell when I get to where I’m going?”

The kindly Kris Kringle figure told the boy to just tell everyone “you’re Santa’s Number One elf, and I know they’ll let you in.”

Schmitt-Matzen then hugged the boy as the child died in his arms.

The story has since gone viral and is touching people based on social media comments.

The experience was emotionally draining for Schmitt-Matzen, who admits he thought about hanging up his Santa suit for good.

He has since changed his mind after doing what he thought was one final show, according to the Knoxville News-Sentinel.

“When I saw all those children laughing, it brought me back into the fold. It made me realize the role I have to play,” he said. “For them and for me.”

 

Season of Hope. The Psychology of HOPE

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Talent, skill, ability—whatever you want to call it—will not get you there. Sure, it helps. But a wealth of psychological research over the past few decades show loud and clear that it’s the psychological vehicles that really get you there. You can have the best engine in the world, but if you can’t be bothered to drive it, you won’t get anywhere.

Many have proposed lots of different vehicles over the years. Grit, Conscientiousness, self-efficacy, optimism, passion, inspiration, etc. They are all important. One vehicle, however, is particularly undervalued and underappreciated in psychology and society.

That’s hope.

Hope often gets a bad rap. For some, it conjures up images of a blissfully naïve chump pushing up against a wall with a big smile. or Don Quixote tilting against windmills. That’s a shame. Cutting-edge science shows that hope, at least as defined by psychologists, matters a lot.

Hope is not a brand new concept in psychology. In 1991, the eminent positive psychologist Charles R. Snyder and his colleagues came up with Hope Theory. According to their theory, hope consists of agency and pathways.  The person who has hope has the will and determination that goals will be achieved, and a set of different strategies at their disposal to reach their goals. Put simply: hope involves the will to get there, and different ways to get there.

Why is hope important? Well, life is difficult. There are many obstacles. Having goals is not enough. One has to believe that they can accomplish their goals, amidst all the inevitable twists and turns of life. Hope allows people to approach problems with a mindset and strategy-set suitable to success, thereby increasing the chances they will actually accomplish their goals.
Those lacking hope, tend to adopt mastery goals. People with mastery goals choose easy tasks that don’t offer a challenge or opportunity for growth. When they fail, they quit. People with mastery goals act helpless, and feel a lack of control over their environment. They don’t believe in their capacity to obtain the kind of future they want. They have no hope.

It seems that performance can be enhanced in the short term by reminding people that they have the motivation and the means to pursue a goal. This “situational hope” could potentially be useful in the future as a means of short-term intervention to enhance performance. By reminding people before tests or situations in which performance and achievement are required that they have the will and the ways to do well, possible potential can be better utilized.

Athletes had higher levels of hope than non-athletes. I have seen that among my gymnasts, the state of having hope predicted outcomes beyond training, self-esteem, confidence, and mood.

I like to think that current ability is the best predictor of future success. Important psychological studies show that ability is important, but it’s the vehicles that actually get people where they want to go. Oftentimes, the vehicles even help you build up that ability you never thought you had. And hope—with its will and ways—is one of the most important vehicles of them all.

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