Posts Tagged “holidays”

Tis the Season… for Giving! 

Help Jade Tailor of the Syfy Channel’s series, The Magicians, bring holiday cheer to those in the community!

From Jade:

In honor of the holidays, I decided to do a Christmas single in hopes that it would inspire you to give this holiday season. All of the proceeds will be going to Haven Hills, a DV shelter for women, men, and children. 

During the holidays we often forget that there are many that are less fortunate, that may not have a place to sleep or warm meal to eat, let alone receive gifts, nor will they spend holidays with their families or loved ones. What if this year we make it about giving rather than receiving gifts this year? We get so caught up in spending time and money on elaborate gifts that we forget about the millions upon millions of people that will be without, that can’t even afford a  warm meal for their children, let alone presents for them. Whether it’s a warm meal, a warm coat, a friendly hello, letting someone know you care, I guarantee you make that person’s life that much brighter. 

My holiday wish… the greatest gift you could give me… is to give a gift to those in need. So please take a moment to take a listen, donate, or share and help me spread some holiday cheer! 

GIVE HERE: https://www.gofundme.com/tistheseasonforgiving

 The gift is in the giving. Happy Holidays!

Jade

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Why There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays

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George Henry Durrie’s ‘Winter in the Country: A Cold Morning’ (1861).
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

Author: Frank T. McAndrew, Knox College

While Christmas playlists often include cheesy favorites like “Rockin Around the Christmas Tree” and “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” there are also a handful of wistful tracks that go a little bit deeper.

Listen closely to “I’ll be Home for Christmas” or “White Christmas,” and you’ll hear a deep yearning for home, and sorrow at having to spend the holidays somewhere else.

Strip away the cursory Christmas rituals – the TV specials, the lights, the gifts, the music – and what remains is home. It is the beating heart of the holiday, and its importance reflects our primal need to have a meaningful relationship with a setting – a place that transcends the boundary between the self and the physical world.

Can you love a place like a person?

Most of us can probably name at least one place we feel an emotional connection to. But you probably don’t realize just how much a place can influence your sense of who you are, or how essential it is for your psychological well-being.

Psychologists even possess an entire vocabulary for the affectionate bonds between people and places: There’s “topophilia,” “rootedness” and “attachment to place,” which are all used to describe the feelings of comfort and security that bind us to a place.

Your fondness for a place – whether it’s the house where you lived your whole life, or the fields and woods where you played as a child – can even mimic the affection you feel for other people.

Studies have shown that a forced relocation can elicit heartbreak and distress every bit as intense as the loss of a loved one. Another study found that if you feel a strong attachment to your town or city, you’ll be more satisfied with your house and you’ll also be less anxious about your future.

Gusztáv Magyar Mannheimer’s ‘Factory Site at the Outskirts of Budapest’ (1893).
Hungarian National Gallery

Our physical surroundings play an important role in creating meaning and organization in our lives; much of how we view our lives and what we have become depends on where we’ve lived, and the experiences we’ve had there.

So it’s no surprise that architecture professor Kim Dovey, who has studied the concept of home and the experience of homelessness, confirmed that where we live is closely tied to our sense of who we are.

An anchor of order and comfort

At the same time, the concept of home can be slippery.

One of the first questions we ask when we meet someone new is “Where are you from?” But we seldom pause to consider how complicated that question is. Does it mean where you currently live? Where you were born? Where you grew up?

Environmental psychologists have long understood that the word “home” clearly connotes more than just a house. It encompasses people, places, objects and memories.

So what or where, exactly, do people consider “home”?

A 2008 Pew study asked people to identify “the place in your heart you consider to be home.” Twenty-six percent reported that home was where they were born or raised; only 22 percent said that it was where they currently lived. Eighteen percent identified home as the place that they had lived the longest, and 15 percent felt that it was where most of their extended family had come from.

Matsumoto Shunsuke’s ‘Suburban Landscape’ (1938).
Wikimedia Commons

But if you look at different cultures across time, a common thread emerges.

No matter where they come from, people tend to think about home as a central place that represents order, a counterbalance to the chaos that exists elsewhere. This might explain why, when asked to draw a picture of “where you live,” children and adolescents around the world invariably place their house in the center of the sheet of paper. In short, it’s what everything else revolves around.

Anthropologists Charles Hart and Arnold Pilling lived among the the Tiwi People of Bathurst Island off the coast of Northern Australia during the 1920s. They noted that the Tiwi thought their island was the only habitable place in the world; to them, everywhere else was the “land of the dead.”

The Zuni of the American Southwest, meanwhile, have long viewed the house as a living thing. It’s where they raise their kids and communicate with spirits, and there’s an annual ritual – called the Shalako – in which homes are blessed and consecrated as part of the year-end winter solstice celebration.

The ceremony strengthens bonds to the community, to the family (including dead ancestors), and to the spirits and gods by dramatizing the connection each party has to the home.

During the holidays, we might not officially bless our home like the Zuni. But our holiday traditions probably sound familiar: eating with family, exchanging gifts, catching up with old friends and visiting old haunts. These homecoming rituals affirm and renew a person’s place in the family and often are a key way to strengthen the family’s social fabric.

Home, therefore, is a predictable and secure place where you feel in control and properly oriented in space and time; it is a bridge between your past and your present, an enduring tether to your family and friends.

The ConversationIt is a place where, as the poet Robert Frost aptly wrote, “when you have to go there, they have to take you in.”

Frank T. McAndrew, Cornelia H. Dudley Professor of Psychology, Knox College

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Thinking Like an Economist Can Make Your Next Trip Abroad Cheaper

A record number of tourists and business travelers visited another country in 2016, and this year is already on pace to exceed that tally.

Author: Jay L. Zagorsky, The Ohio State University

One thing you definitely need when traveling abroad besides a passport is local currency, such as euros in Europe, yen in Japan or rubles in Russia. In the past, travelers would typically withdraw what they need from an ATM in the country they’re visiting or simply use a credit card, letting their bank calculate the cost in their home currency at roughly the market rate. There was usually also a foreign transaction fee.

Increasingly, however, retailers, restaurants and ATMs are offering travelers the option to pay or withdraw money in terms immediately converted into their home currency. Companies offering the service call it “dynamic currency conversion.” For example, an American tourist visiting Paris is able to use her credit card to pay for a fancy meal at a French bistro in U.S. dollars, instead of euros.

This may seem innocuous – or even convenient – but agreeing to use your home currency in a foreign land can significantly inflate the cost of every purchase. Thinking a bit more like an economist can help you avoid this mistake, and save a lot of money.

Surge in tourists

A century ago, international travel was only for the rich. These days, almost anyone from an industrialized country can see a bit of the world on a budget.

While people commonly complain about “high” airfares, the real cost of flying has never been less expensive – it’s half what it was in the early ‘80’s – or safer.

And that’s one reason why a record 1.24 billion people visited another country in 2016. Naturally, financial firms have sought to capitalize on all this wandering by inventing ever more ways to separate travelers from their hard-earned money.

Buying things abroad

Tourists rely on credit, debit or ATM cards to pay for hotels, restaurant meals and local trinkets.

A complex international computer network checks if a card is valid for the transaction and transfers the money. Traditionally, to help pay for this, banks and credit card companies have charged customers a foreign transaction fee.

However, banks are now offering more cards with no foreign transaction fees. At the same time, “free ATMs” are popping up around the world that don’t charge local transaction fees (though your own bank may still do so).

So how do banks cover the costs of these transactions if they are increasingly letting consumers use the system for free? One way is offering the option to pay in a user’s home currency. Even some bankers warn against consumers doing this because the exchange rate used is much worse than the one your bank would offer.

For example, say you’re a Spaniard visiting New York City and shopping for some clothes at a department store. After scouring the store for the right sweater for your mother, you go to the cashier to pay the US$50 bill (tax included). After you swipe your Spanish credit card (which boasts no foreign transaction fee), the cashier asks if you’d like to pay in euros instead of dollars.

If you stick with dollars, your bank would convert the price into euros at about the market rate, €43 at the moment. If you choose to pay in euros, however, the currency conversion includes a fee for the privilege, which may be as much as 10 percentage points. So you might end up paying about €47 instead.

The same thing happens with ATMs. I was recently in London’s Heathrow Airport and needed some British pounds. In the old days, an ATM would simply offer a few denomination options, issue me money and my bank at home would eventually calculate the cost in U.S. dollars. Instead, the airport ATM asked me if I wanted to lock in the exchange rate and know exactly how many dollars would be debited from my bank account.

I wanted £100 and tried two different ATMs. The currency rate offered in dollars ranged from almost 4 percent to 10 percent more than what my bank charged (or about $134 to $142). I rejected both offers, did the transaction in the local currency and ended up with a total charge of just $129 from my bank.

I have observed numerous international travelers as they made this choice, such as an Italian family arguing about it at the next ATM, and most chose the dynamic conversion into their own currencies.

So why do travelers pay more by accepting a worse exchange rate when they could simply say no?

An ATM at Heathrow Airport offered to debit my bank account in U.S. dollars rather than the British pounds I was withdrawing. The rate it charged would have been $1.42 per pound, or 14 cents above the market rate that day.
Jay Zagorsky, CC BY-SA

Three functions of money

Economists consider any item as money if it performs three different functions: unit of account, store of value and medium of exchange. Two out of three explain why so many international travelers act the way they do.

The first function of money is a unit of account, which is how people post and keep track of prices. This is why banks and credit card companies get people to agree to pay in the currency where they live, instead of using local money.

When people travel to a country with a different currency, they often mentally keep track of their spending using their home currency, converting all prices in their heads as they shop and eat. If an ATM or credit card terminal asks if you want to pay for something in the currency you use as your unit of account, your brain says yes.

Money also acts as a store of value. Items used as money provide the ability to make purchases now and also in the future. At the end of a trip, travelers not planning on returning to a country tend to spend leftover money in airports buying things they don’t really want. They don’t want to hold onto foreign bills since they are not a store of value. For the same reason, they prefer to be charged in their home currency when getting money from an ATM.

Money is also a medium of exchange, which is anything readily acceptable as payment to buy or sell goods and services. This is why people have to convert money when they travel abroad. In New York City, a dollar bill is a medium of exchange for food, drink or a ride on the subway. However, those dollars are not a medium of exchange in, say, China, where waving a wad of greenbacks would mostly get you stares. And that’s why travelers must convert money from one currency to another.

How to save money abroad

When faced with an ATM or credit card machine that asks if you want to convert to your home currency, I recommend you decline, especially if you went to the pain and effort to ensure you have a card or bank with no extra foreign exchange fees. Even if you don’t have one, and your debt card charges a fee, in most cases it still makes sense to use the local currency.

An exception to this rule, of course, is if your bank or credit card charges a very high fixed foreign exchange fee and you need only a little bit of money. If this is your case, then saying yes might save you money even if you get a poor exchange rate.

The ConversationThe main thing is: Think it through! Resist your natural inclination to say yes just because it makes you feel comfortable. Don’t be fooled when asked if you want to complete a transaction using your home currency. Using the local currency can save you money, making your next trip abroad less costly.

Jay L. Zagorsky, Economist and Research Scientist, The Ohio State University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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From Robots to Board Games, It’s Easy to Do Science This Christmas

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Beebots are robots that kids can easily program, with direct feedback seen in where the robot goes.
arselectronica/flickr , CC BY-NC-ND

Author(s): George Aranda, Deakin University and Wendy Jobling, Deakin University

We all want to spoil the children in our lives at Christmas time. Some of us like to sneak in a bit of learning too.

From an educational perspective, toys are an excellent way to engage all ages in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

Here we’ve put together some tips for those of you looking for yuletide shopping inspiration beyond just the typical array of toys marked “science and technology” on the shelf.


Read more: Why we’re building a climate change game for 12-year-olds


But first, a quick wrap of key terms.

Science is about exploring the nature of things, and involves skills such as predicting (hypothesising), observing, collecting data, fair testing, explaining and communicating.

Technology is a process that builds over time, and involves meeting a need or solving a problem. It includes both design technologies and digital technologies.

Engineering, very simply put, involves how systems can be put together to produce the desired outcome. For young children this is almost the same as technological skills.

Mathematics should go beyond just measuring and counting, and incorporate problem-solving skills such as those involved in coding.

Under the STEM umbrella, it’s also important to consider what are termed “21st-century skills”, such as critical thinking, problem-solving, creativity, innovation, communication and collaboration.

I want a robot

Many of us have access to smart phones and portable computing, and apps – including those that feature augmented reality such as Pokémon GO – are incredibly popular and accessible.

But moving beyond just regular use of digital technology, coding and robotic products are available that teach children how coding works, where it can be applied, and what its limitations are. These include programmable toys that can be operated by simply pressing buttons or sequencing physical tokens to produce movement.

You have to tell Spheros where you want it to go.

Devices such as Beebots and Cubettos allow children to use their imaginations to create scenarios – for example, tunnels, roads or bridges – that their robot can negotiate. Kids learn planning, algorithmic thinking, and mathematical reasoning.

More sophisticated robots such as Spheros or Edisons connect toys to tablets or computers. Children must negotiate the constraints and opportunities of the real world – for example, slopes, different surfaces, and wind – and test their code under different situations. These toys encourage children to think creatively when coming up with their solutions.

In the future we will see more toys building in augmented reality, with many companies now investing in the interactivity between physical and virtual worlds. The goal is to build products that allow children to use physical objects and real-world locations (via GPS) in conjunction with computational devices, not only on their own, but also in competitive and collaborative environments.

Kids are capable of applying computational thinking to solve problems.

Old-fashioned fun

Even with the rise of digital technology, board and card games and building toys are still very popular. Chosen carefully, these too allow players to learn about important aspects of science.

Popular collaborative board games such as Pandemic are praised for their accurate depiction of how health workers respond to disease outbreaks. Children see the real impact of disease, how it can spread across the world, and the role of science in bringing outbreaks to a resolution. Children also learn collaborative problem-solving skills, computational thinking, and the benefits of planning and sequencing.

Science literacy can also improve by playing board games. Card games like Organ Attack! give children the opportunity to learn about real diseases and the organs that they affect – for example, hepatosplenomegaly, a disease that affects the spleen and the liver. Amusing drawings – the game is based on the comic series The Awkward Yeti – depict the organs in an engaging and entertaining way, which adds to children’s understanding of their own body parts.

The object of Organ Attack is to remove your opponents’ organs before they remove yours.
Organ Attack

Construction sets are also useful for developing a range of STEM skills.

At a basic level, simple wooden blocks have been shown to bring many benefits to children’s development, including spatial reasoning and language.


Read more: Blocks are still the best present you can buy children for Christmas


More complex building sets can involve digital aspects such as designing, making and programming robotic toys.

Consider toys that give children the scope to go beyond simply putting the pieces together according to the instructions, but also encourage them to use their imaginations to turn the pieces into something unexpected.

Tips to get it right

It is worth noting that when children engage with toys and games with a STEM focus, they will not necessarily be aware of the knowledge and skills involved. Parents can support their children’s scientific thinking, elaborate on scientific information, and help them structure meaning from their observations, using the following tips:

  • question children about their ideas
  • gently highlight inconsistencies in their thinking that contradict the evidence in front of them
  • support them in not focusing on only one piece of evidence, at the cost of other relevant information.

It can be difficult to get the balance right between digital technologies that involve individual use (and can isolate children) and those that focus on collaboration and conversation. To address this concern,

  • look at how you may tap into the skills and knowledge that are learned
  • focus on apps that encourage multiple players, turn taking and collaboration.

The ConversationToys and games that involve friends and family members are more than just fun: they can foster new skills, challenge children to work in a team and encourage thinking and idea development.

George Aranda, Lecturer in Science Education, Deakin University and Wendy Jobling, Lecturer, Deakin University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.
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