Melissa Maddonni Haims led kids in weaving the fence at the J.S Jenks School in Chestnut Hill with colorful strips of fabric as part of the community’s annual Fall for the Arts Festival. Sections of the fence represent the colors of the Jenks School and also represent the Houses the of Hogwarts School for Wizardry. The Harry Potter festival descends on the Chestnut Hill neighborhood of Philadelphia the weekend of October 17th. Watch video here.
Four homeschooled girls are selling snacks and cold drinks four days a week outside the Andorra Shopping Center in Roxborough, Philadelphia. They have been doing this for the last ten weeks. Watch video interview here.
While tying up bags of compost at the Henry Got Crops farm in Roxborough, Raisa Williams, a retired dean at Haverford College, recounted how she was one of fourteen thousand Cuban children brought to the United States in 1960 as part of “Operation Pedro Pan.” Although her mother had been a staunch supporter of the Cuban revolution, things began to change. Amid rumors that she might not be able to stay in school unless she complied with a government requirement to be sent somewhere summer- long to perform community service, Williams’ parents opted for the 14 year old Raisa and her 11 year old sister, to come to the States through the Peter Pan program of Catholic Charities in conjunction with the U. S. State Department. Once here, the girls would be able to apply for visas for their parents.
What she thought would be a couple months separated from her parents, stretched out to two years. For a young girl, this was an adventure and she was relatively content at a camp in Florida where she studied English and other subjects. But when it became overcrowded, she was transferred to an orphanage in Pottsville, PA. “The orphanage was – an orphanage.”
And Cuba? “I love the place. The people have suffered enough. It’s no fun to be in a dictatorship for the last 50 years. You can’t talk. You can’t say anything. But when I was there in 2011, people were beginning to be very vocal about things.”
“Lo que me estrano de Cuba es sol, la calidad de la persona, el modo que son simpatico…la musica….” She hopes to live there again one day.
Princess Sofia the First was walking briskly down Germantown Avenue Sunday morning headed toward a birthday party. Haviva Goldman helped explain her purpled gowned daughter Annalena’s enchantment with the newish princess in the Disney empire. Watch video interview here.
The Lego Company has been fantastically successful. In each of the last 5 years sales have risen 24% and profits, 40%. But it was not always so. For most of its 80-year existence, its reach did not extend so far beyond Billun, Denmark, where Ole Kirk Christiansen, a carpenter unable to secure enough wood to build furniture during the 1930s depression, began experimenting building wooden toys.
The company under Christiansen’s progeny soared in the last couple decades but tie-in products to the Star Wars and Harry Potter movies nearly doomed the company in 2003; sales of those products crashed when the movie franchises hadn’t yet come out with new films.
This, according to Wharton Professor Dave Robertson and former LEGO Professor of Innovation and Technology Management at Switzerland's Institute for Management. Robertson, a Chestnut Hill resident, discussed his new book, “Brick by Brick: How LEGO Rewrote the Rules of Innovation and Conquered the Global Toy Industry” at the William Jeannes Library in Lafayette Hill this past Thursday evening.
He began his slide talk by distributing baggies, each packed with the identical same six logo pieces, and instructed the audience to “Build a duck” and gave us only a minute or two. Participants then brought their “ducks” up to the front table. At the end of the talk, Robertson pointed to the wide variation of these Lego “ducks” as evidence that incredible creativity is possible even when severe constraints are imposed, a major thesis of his book.
He credits Lego Company’s resurgence to its imposition of key constraints: drastically reducing the number of parts (about 14000 different ones at peak) that had made the manufacturing process unwieldy, getting back to products that are more “Lego-y” and subjecting product proposals to the approval a committee of 3 seasoned Lego designers. And, ultimately, insisting that projected profitability be a constant constraint.
What Lego pioneered was not just a toy, Robertson maintains, but a system of play. And that system “is about the brick.”
Twenty five percent of Philadelphians live below the poverty level. This somber statistic was delivered last night to hundreds of diners, along with delicious soups and breads donated by dozens of restaurants and caterers, at the Northwest Philadelphia Interfaith Hospitality Network’s 15th annual “Empty Bowl Dinner” held at the Lutheran Theological Seminary.
Through a large network of religious congregations and volunteers, the Network (“NPIHN”) provides emergency and transitional housing and support services to families facing homelessness, like the Baez family, now “alumni”, who recounted their continuing personal struggle to support themselves and stay together as a family.
The youngest person at Chestnut Hill’s Fall for the Arts festival Sunday may have been two day-old Xavier Brubaker. Sleep-deprived but happy parents Japheth and Suzanne recently returned to Chestnut Hill with their 2 year-old daughter, Quinn, to be closer to family. They were the southernmost exhibitors at the festival, promoting their new fitness and personal training studio, "Water and Rock," at 8109 Germantown Avenue. Visit http://waterandrockstudio.com/ for more information.
I was driving behind a car with interesting bumper stickers on Germantown Avenue in Chestnut Hill and when it pulled over to park, I pulled over, too, to ask the driver if she might extemporize on her stickers.
Martha Knox was with her four year old daughter, BB, waiting for the post office to open. She was then headed to the UCP (United Cerebral Palsy) Best Friends pre-school where BB is intentionally “reversed mainstreamed” with kids with disabilities.
Knox works professionally as a graphic designer and teacher and identifies strongly as a secular humanist. Her car’s rear bumper graphically and humorously expresses her beliefs. The 2013-2014 “Zombie Hunting Permit,” however, was placed by her husband.
“Honk! If you understand punctuated equilibria” was one sticker that particularly caught my attention. The theory in evolutionary biology, Knox explained, is that genetic changes happen rapidly in “short” periods of time, geologically speaking.
In these four videos, you can also see and hear Knox talk about “Nietzsche is Peachy,” “Evolution happens” both of which she designed, “There is no way to peace, peace is the way,” “Support Net Neutrality”and “Schrödinger’s Cat: Dead and Alive.”
We arrived at the Museum of Math one hour before closing on a Saturday in late summer and zipped through it. The exhibits deserved more than the limited time we gave them and these videos, summarized below, will help us understand what we experienced with the intriguing interactive demonstrations. GO MO MATH!
SHAPES OF CONSTANT WIDTH You sit on a boat-shaped platform above a field of irregularly shaped objects and yet glide rather smoothly over them because these objects, such as the Meissner tetrahedron, all have the same constant diameter whichever way they roll.
SQUARE WHEELS, CATENARY CURVES You ride a tricycle with square wheels without any problem. This is because the surface you are riding on is catenary curved (hyperbolic cosine). And, for any shaped wheel, there is a corresponding road that will facilitate locomotion.
A SPECIAL SQUARE When you and others step upon this large lit-from-below square, the square divides into as many differently colored geometric areas as there are people and each point within any one’s area is closer to that person than to any one else.
THE HUMAN FRACTAL TREE On a projection screen, a copy of your body is copied where your arms are and on those projections, your body is again copied where your arms are and so on, forming a fractal pattern of you as a tree.
SOLIDS OF REVOLUTION SLICED TWISTED, REATTACHED AND ROLLED Solids of revolution are cut along the axis of symmetry and then twisted and reattached to form an asymmetric object which then describes a distinct path when it rolls and it’s your job to match up each object with the trail it makes.
The Mexican-American and Spanish speaking communities rallied in Norristown Monday evening for immigration reform. They demanded that Congress pass the immigration legislation that is now stalled and overshadowed by the Syrian crisis. They also gathered signatures on a petition calling on the Norristown police force not to assist in raids by federal immigration authorities.
Amidst chants of "Si, se puede" ("Yes we can") speakers discussed how 400 local families have been torn apart by deportation. And parents, joined by their young children testified about how their arrests and the threat of deportation were causing their families severe emotional and economic stress. A Norristown public high school student described her constant fear that her parents might step out to the grocery store and she might never see them again were they to be arrested and deported.
Under the proposed “Dream Act,” undocumented youth who complete college or do two years of military service could earn their way to citizenship over the course of six years.
Calling for human rights and dignity for all, rally participants lit candles as dusk fell, then circled and sang out loudly in Spanish and English, the civil rights anthem, "We shall overcome."