Monday, August 19, 2013

Where Did the Summer Go?

I don’t know about you guys, but for me this summer has just flown by! I can’t believe that August is wrapping up and Labor Day is quickly approaching. I’ve had a quite an eventful, action packed few months (which is why I haven’t been able to post much) but I am finally able to relax and kick my feet up, so I’ll fill you guys in on what I’ve been up to! 

My wife’s birthday at the beginning of June always kicks off our summer, so this year I surprised her with a long weekend in New York City. We had an exciting couple of days exploring the streets, sightseeing, and eating some great food. This wasn’t her first time in the Big Apple, but it was mine so of course I dragged her to Times Square, Central Park and the Empire State building – all the touristy places! We didn’t get to see a Broadway show like I would have liked but we did see a play called “Potted Potter,” starring two British comedians who try to condense the Harry Potter series into just over an hour: hilarious! We indulged in seafood, got a little sun burnt, and saw quite a few characters in Times Square! On the night of her birthday she wanted to do something a little quieter and more intimate, so we strolled through Little Italy and had a nice romantic evening. It was truly a great weekend and a superb way to start out the summer! 

When we returned home it was right back to work for the both of us. On the weekends we worked on stuff around the house, my wife improving her container garden while I installed patio lanterns and added a fence to our backyard. It took a couple hot weeks of working under the sun, but once we were finished our landscape looked really nice. In fact, we were so impressed we invited our neighbors and close friends over for a little barbecue to celebrate our hard work.

My wife found this awesome blog by Joanne Ellison that we both have enjoyed visiting too. She frequently goes on to catch the daily devotionals, while I have been keen on reading the blog posts. The site also has online bible studies that my wife and I have been in talks about joining; I’ll keep you posted on what we decide!

The rest of our summer was dedicated to spending time with family. My wife’s parents came and stayed with us for a week; she was thrilled about their visit since they live across the country and we don’t get to see them very often. Luckily we had great weather so we could entertain our company in the new and improved backyard!  

It was another busy, but fun summer for us; I am still in disbelief that it’s coming to a close! I hope everyone enjoyed their summers as well! Did you relax, travel, or spend time with family? Let me know! And what your plans for Labor Day Weekend; we are still trying to figure out ours!  

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Importance of Public Art

Cloud Gate Sculpture in Millennium Park, Chicago, IL

What comes to mind when you think of public art? The term public art is used to encompass a work of art in any media that has been planned and executed with the intention of being visible in the public sphere. Public art is usually outside, free, and accessible to all. In contrast with traditional artwork featured in fine and contemporary museums, public art is much less passive because it exists in the midst of our everyday lives- we move around it, it changes in the light and seasons, and it becomes an integral part of the community we live in.

With a shift toward tolerance and more liberal ideas, combined with an emphasis on the value of creativity, data suggests that public art has been growing in popularity within the last 15 years. More public art coalitions and organizations have sprung up in urban areas and college towns across the United States—but it’s not just art enthusiasts and private donors behind the push for more community art. Some people are surprised to learn that the federal government, state, and local governments have been allocating funds for public art projects too. Even smaller economic development organizations are getting involved in areas not traditionally known as art communities. For example, Lansing Economic Development Partnership (LEAP), a regional economic development organization in Michigan, recently announced that they would be designating $30,000 for a public art grant program in nearby townships.

The benefits of public art are numerous. First, because public art is typically installed in frequent and high-foot traffic areas, works can be enjoyed by people of all ages, backgrounds, professions, and walks of life. They don’t require dishing out extra cash, dressing up for a fancy gala, or going out of your way to appreciate them. Public art is free and accessible for all- allowing direct, ongoing encounters that stimulate thoughts about art, society, connectivity, and more. Public art makes people more aware of their surroundings in general by causing people to question what they know, and take a different perspective by trying to understand the meaning behind the art piece in the space it is found. The ability to think critically and abstractly about such works provides a useful tool that can be transferred into other areas of life, personally and professionally.

Aside from broadening people’s mind, making them more aware of their surroundings, and creating an understanding of different viewpoints, public art creates an attachment to one’s community. Consider a survey called Knight Soul of the Community (SOTC) conducted by Gallup over three years across the United States. The goal of the survey was to understand the factors that attach residents to their communities emotionally, and to discover the role community attachment plays in an area’s stability and economic growth. Gallup surveyed approximately 43,000 people in 43 cities and discovered that “social offerings, openness and welcome-ness,” and, importantly, the “aesthetics of a place– its art, parks, and green spaces,” ranked higher than safety, education, and the local economy as a “driver of attachment.” Some studies even suggest that public art can result in economic revitalization by making communities more attractive to live and work in.

Public art has the ability to make an area more interesting and vibrant. Just think of how many places have gained character and widespread recognition for their iconic artwork alone. Perhaps Anish Kapoor’s unusual sculpture Cloud Gate (otherwise known as the Bean) in Chicago comes to mind, or the Olympic Sculpture Park along the Seattle waterfront. Public artwork enriches communities by adding an off-beat, thought-provoking element to the spaces we live and move through. These works often become popular attractions, and prized icons, in the city they’re part of for visitors and residents alike. Regardless of where they’re placed, public artworks have short and long term advantages that everyone can enjoy. What public art do you love most? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments! 

Monday, March 4, 2013

One Little Idea to Help out Healthcare

The president has come up with his budget request, which entails cuts to the Medicare program and increases in domestic security. While I understand that this feeds into our national obsession with being safe from the terrorist threat, the inefficiency with which we go about trying to accomplish this approaches that of delivering health care in this country, which seems to be a lingering problem we can never shake. Couldn't we:

  1. Impose a $1 a gallon tax on gasoline so that we can starve out those authoritarian regimes we are up against by decreasing consumption of the one commodity that props them up? 
  2. Spend some dollars training foreign speakers so that we can actually decipher some of those communications that we are so keen on intercepting? 
  3. Understand that we are not the only ones suffering at the hands of religious zealots and extremists (e.g. the Danes)? 

I wonder if providers could get in on the homeland security action. We could pitch the notion that preventive care improves security by keeping people out of hospitals, so that they could spend more time being vigilant, mindful, etc. I mean, look at Jack Bauer, the counter terrorism agent on “24”. He is one healthy dude, right? He has got to be getting some stellar health care.

Friday, January 18, 2013

My Business Minded Cousin George

George's graduating class
As a freshman at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, my cousin George had only a vague idea of what he wanted to pursue as a career. He was intelligent, driven, analytical, and always emerged as a leader in teamwork environments. He was good at taking a problem, examining it, and applying abstract theories to solve it. He thought in terms of ideas and possibilities, but unlike many dreamers, he also had the remarkable ability to make intangibles into realities. He could have been successful at almost anything, which may have created some of his indecision. He wanted to find something he wasn’t just good at, but passionate about.

Our family encouraged him to follow in the footsteps of his father, who had opened his own corner bicycle shop and rental store in Myrtle Beach at the age of 23. His shop had been a booming success and local go-to for people on vacation looking to enjoy the warm sunshine and picturesque scenery firsthand. George had been raised around great businessmen who knew the niche markets, and how to have influence in them. George, a spitting image of his old man, was remarkably charismatic. Coupled with his business savvy and remarkable mind, we were certain he would do well in business. After joining an undergraduate business association his sophomore year, he was determined to obtain a B.A. in Business Process Management. I am proud to declare that he graduated this past May from the Business College with honors in the top ten percent of his class (It’s alright for me to brag a little, right?!).

Now that George is out in the working world, he’s expressed how much he misses studying effective models for business management, market case studies and learning a whole slew of other business-related materials. I had a feeling he would miss the academic sphere. While he’s doing well for himself as an Account Manager at his current job, I think the idea of managing an entire company from the top down, and maybe even founding one, is growing more and more appealing. With that being said, I think grad schools are on the horizon in his near future.

I have begun to do some research on the best, most affordable Full-time MBA programs available here in Illinois to send him. We have some relatives up north who have mentioned there are several reasonably affordable MBA programs in Michigan that George should consider as well. According to US News & World Report, the MSU Broad College of Business Full-time MBA was ranked 19th among public universities and 44th overall. I don’t know much about Michigan State, but it does seem like there are Spartan alumni everywhere. Just last week I sat next to a State grad on a flight back from Atlanta. We talked for a while and he seemed like a great guy. I’m still digging up info on what they offer and other programs he should consider.

It will be interesting to see where he ends up. I know he’ll be successful regardless, I just want him to get the best education possible. I look forward to speaking with him in the coming weeks about these new opportunities!

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