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Prune, Plan, Peruse

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Empowerment
Prune, Plan, Peruse

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“A man travels the world over in search of what he needs and returns home to find it.”

~ George Moore

Like most of us who have been sheltering at home for the past eleven months, traveling to foreign lands has not been part of my normal activities. At first, I was immensely disappointed to cancel my 2020 exotic trips, especially the one that would have reunited me with my European pen pal with whom I’ve been corresponding regularly since I was nine years old. That’s a long time to have maintained a close relationship across thousands of miles.

But, like so many, this past year has found me digging even deeper into communion with nature. I have been inspired by its majesty and motivated to respect our alliance with a stronger devotion by spending many hours outdoors in contemplation as well as work-mode.

A week ago, the hills were still golden brown but with the recent heavy rains, a lushness and verdancy have finally appeared.  February nights bring increased frost and freezing temperatures. We must cover our tender plants with burlap or cloth as protection.

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The most necessary garden chore this month is pruning our fruit trees. It is essential to prune your peaches, pears, prunes, plums, apples, and apricots while the trees are dormant in winter. Sweet cherries are pruned in summer as they are susceptible to fungal and bacterial diseases. All other fruiting trees need to be pruned to allow for increased sunlight to penetrate the branches which will in turn yield higher quality fruit. Pruning helps battle diseases while developing a better form for a healthier tree.

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The tools you’ll need are a lopper, hand pruner, pruning saw, and long-handled pruning shear. You may need a ladder if your tree is especially tall but be very careful when using any ladder. Make sure to have a second person with you to hold the ladder since the ground may not be level. Sterilize your tools with alcohol or bleach mixed with water to avoid spreading any disease from plant to plant. 

By removing unnecessary limbs, you will be able to shape the tree while providing better access for any necessary spraying.  The increased sunlight promotes a larger size of fruit with a uniform ripening time. Insect infestation and other diseases are reduced through pruning because after a rain shower, the limbs will dry more quickly. Pruning appropriately will provide a more beautiful canopy without topping the tree. The sugar content of the crop is increased with the airflow and sun. Harvesting is easier. Pick up a book on pruning to read about the best methods for your various tress or watch online tutorials. If you feel out of your league, hire a professional arborist. Always gather the trimmings from the ground.  When dry, use as kindling, shred for mulch, or add to your green bin.

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Although this month is not the time to plant annuals and perennials, it is the perfect time to plant any bare-root specimens including roses, berries, and fruit trees. Check out the selection at your favorite nursery or garden center. Follow the directions on the packaging for soaking the roots, light pruning, digging the holes, and filling. By late spring most bare-rooted plants are established and flourishing.

Besides pruning and planting bare-root, February is a terrific time to plan for all-season enjoyment and splendor. Recently a delivery was made by someone who hadn’t been to my garden since the summer before the pandemic. His first comment to me was: “Your landscape is so beautiful and colorful… it’s like falling into a chapter of Alice in Wonderland.” I expressed my thanks for his sweet compliment, although in my mind I was thinking “winter is the ugliest time of the year in my garden.” 

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I decided to look at my yard through a different lens…fresh eyes, as if returning from a vacation. Sometimes when we rarely leave our cocoon, we fail to recognize the evolution of the cycles of attraction. As I walked around my property, I saw what he saw—a hillside covered in sweet-smelling narcissi, rows of pink Bergenia, waves of purple sage, shimmers of calendulas, bushes of azaleas, rhododendrons, and roses, trees of camellias, groves of ferns, mounds of nemesia, orchards of citrus, crocus, calla lilies, and daffodils popping, and the soaring orange plumes of birds of paradise all in full glorious bloom.  Even in the middle of winter, my garden is teeming with interest and vibrancy. 

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Take a walk around your garden and make notes of where you need more wit and whimsy. Know where the sun rises, moves, and sets throughout your landscape. Do you need to add or extend irrigation? Do you have a favorite color palette, or do you prefer a cacophony of color authentically unique to you? 

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Once you understand your wants and needs, pour a cup of tea, cover yourself with a cozy throw, and peruse a multitude of garden catalogs that showcase bulbs, annuals, perennials, trees, shrubs, grasses, fruits, vegetables, and herbs. Research what plants will be best suited to your terrain and micro-climate. Make a wish list noting the months to order, when to plant, and when to expect the show. By creating a calendar of flowering events, your garden will boast attractive appeal all year long. For a dramatic night environment, make sure to add outdoor lighting and lanterns to highlight trees, paths, fences, and walls. 

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Here are a few catalog favorites that you can order:

White Flower Farm: www.WhiteFlowerFarm.com

John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds: www.KitchenGardenSeeds.com

Plant Delight Nursery, Inc.: www.PlantDelights.com

Bluestone Perennials: www.BluestonePerennials.com

The Whole Seed Catalog: www.Rareseeds.com

Renee’s Garden Seeds: www.Reneesgarden.com

Proven Winners Shrubs: www.ProvenWinners-shrubs.com

David Austin Roses: www.DavidAustinRoses.com

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Your general state of happiness is connected to how much you enjoy your home. With these garden catalog treasures, you can travel the globe without leaving the safety of your house. Prune, plan, peruse, and dream on. 

Happy Gardening! Happy Growing! Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Photos and More: https://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1425/Digging-Deep-with-Goddess-Gardener-Cynthia-Brian-Prune-plan-and-peruse.html

Cynthia Brian, The Goddess Gardener, is available for hire to help you prepare for your spring garden. Raised in the vineyards of Napa County, Cynthia is a New York Times best-selling author, actor, radio personality, speaker, media and writing coach as well as the Founder and Executive Director of Be the Star You Are!® 501 c3. Tune into Cynthia’s StarStyle® Radio Broadcast at www.StarStyleRadio.com.

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Buy copies of her best-selling books, including, Chicken Soup for the Gardener’s Soul, Growing with the Goddess Gardener, and Be the Star You Are! Millennials to Boomers at www.cynthiabrian.com/online-store. Receive a FREE inspirational music DVD.

Hire Cynthia for writing projects, garden consults, and inspirational lectures.

Cynthia@GoddessGardener.com

www.GoddessGardener.com

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Resilience Through Relationship (w/ Rina Singh)

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Variety
Resilience Through Relationship (w/ Rina Singh)

Join me October 7, 2021 at 9am EST!

Resilience isn’t just about technology components are available or ensuring business operations continue, it’s also about personal resilience. I speak with resilience expert and the creator and host of the popular podcast RESILIENCEPOD, Rina Singh. Rina will talk to us about four (4) key tips organizations and individuals can foster to help build a sense of resiliency by developing relationships in our professional and personal lives. These tips will seem simple and logical but without the hard work and continuous effort, resiliency cannot be pursued. Rina will also talk to us about Business Continuity Institute’s (BCI) Women in Resilience (WiR) initiative, where she is the Vice-Chair.

Don’t miss a truly enlightening and inspiring discussion to help you become more resilient.

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Go, Dog, Go! * Adaptation of the Classic PD Eastman book, With Quality Animation and Story

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Movie Reviews
Go, Dog, Go! * Adaptation of the Classic PD Eastman book, With Quality Animation and Story

Based on P.D. Eastman’s best-selling, classic children’s book (over 8 million copies sold), Go, Dog. Go! follows six-year-old Tag Barker on her adventures in the city of Pawston, a fun-loving community of dogs on the go. Tag is a skilled mechanic and loves anything that goes. With her ingenuity and creativity, Tag can go as far as any plan will take her with her best friend Scooch Pooch by her side. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Kyla C. comments, “Throughout the series, I am impressed time after time with its amazing animation. While it is colorful and fun; it is also fairly realistic. The dogs look so real and cute, I want to hug them! Something that makes this show even more special is the creative way that it uses so many elements from P.D. Eastman’s original book and creates a whole new world out of it.” Katherine S. adds, This new series will not disappoint all of the Go, Dog, Go! lovers as there is a reference to almost every storyline in the book. Also, the characters’ names are hilarious. Instead of grandpa it’s grandpaw and there is a group of singing dogs called the Barkapellas.” See their full reviews and interview with Adam Peltzman, Executive Producer below.

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Go, Dog, Go
By Kyla C., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 11

https://youtu.be/bf29EokWz_g

The creative TV series Go, Dog, Go! based on the book by P.D Eastman is completely satisfying. Every element of traditional animated shows is used to create a brand new, originally entertaining series. With intriguing animation and impressive voice-over acting, Go, Dog, Go is a must-see for young viewers! Each of the nine episodes follows Tag Barker (Michela Luci) in her adventures through Pawston with her friend Scooch Pooch (Callum Shoniker). Together, they solve problems and have fun. There are two individual stories per episode, with the same general characters. The antagonist is primarily Frank, (David Berni), who stands in the way of Tag and Scooch.

Throughout the series, I am impressed time after time with its amazing animation. While it is colorful and fun; it is also fairly realistic. The dogs look so real and cute, I want to hug them! Something that makes this show even more special is the creative way that it uses so many elements from P.D. Eastman’s original book and creates a whole new world out of it. All of the main story parts are included and more are added such as a doorbell shop, a racecar track and so much more. All these locations and lots of extra events are important to the story. One of my favorite aspects of the film is when the dogs sing. It’s very clever and funny. The creative story is amazing, but the acting is even better. With such cute, specific-to-character performances, I almost wondered if these characters are real! There is only one minor issue that most likely isn’t noticeable to little kids – some of the episodes are repetitive. Most of the time, the series doesn’t change the plot very much from one story to the next. That doesn’t make much of a dent in my overall enjoyment of this series however.

The message that Tag, Scooch and all of their friends convey is that teamwork and kindness are best. They work together to problem solve and help out dogs around town. Sometimes there are additional themes for individual episodes.

I give Go, Dog, Go! 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 3 to 7. You can watch Go, Dog, Go on Netflix beginning Tuesday, January 26, 2021.

Go, Dog, Go!

By Katherine S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 13

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Yes! The classic book by P. D. Eastman is now an animated series. Go, Dog, Go! has such clever dialogue and references to the book, high quality animation and is very fun to watch

This series is about a dog named Tag Barker (Michela Luci) and her adventures throughout her town, Pawston. There are big dogs, little dogs and even a dog party in a tree. On Tag’s adventures, we meet her family and friends as well as new friends like Scooch Pooch and Gerald the Mail Dog as she helps to solve problems along the way. This new series is based on P. D. Eastman book, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, so this story is not only relevant to the kids of today but to their parents as well. I grew up with this book; my brothers grew up with this book; and my dad grew up with this book. My whole family grew up enjoying this book! And this new series will not disappoint all of the Go, Dog, Go! lovers as there is a reference to almost every storyline in the book. Also, the characters’ names are hilarious. Instead of grandpa it’s grandpaw and there is a group of singing dogs called the Barkapellas. The animation is so colorful as there are red dogs, blue dogs, green dogs, yellow dogs, purple dogs, and, pretty much, dogs of every color of the rainbow. I also enjoy seeing a town full of dogs riding bikes, trikes, blimps, boats and cars.  My favorite voice actress is Michela Luci, who plays Tag, because she brings so much energy to the role.

There are many positive messages throughout the show, like helping others, perseverance and friendship.

I give Go, Dog, Go! 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 5 to 10. Adults will love all of the references to the book. This show comes out on Netflix January 26, 2021.

Apollo 11: Quarantine * Unique Film Sure To Allure Space Fans, History Buffs And More

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Movie Reviews
Apollo 11: Quarantine * Unique Film Sure To Allure Space Fans, History Buffs And More

Apollo 11 astronauts spend three weeks in medical quarantine after safely returning to Earth in the summer of 1969. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Eshaan M. comments, “Apollo 11: Quarantine is a uniquely relatable found-footage style film that is sure to allure space fans, history buffs and everyone else, too! The creators of this film have pieced together parts of old footage from newsfeeds and other sources to tell a grand story of astronauts in quarantine.” See his full review below.

Apollo 11: Quarantine

By Eshaan M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14

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Apollo 11: Quarantine is a uniquely relatable found-footage style film that is sure to allure space fans, history buffs and everyone else, too! The creators of this film have pieced together parts of old footage from newsfeeds and other sources to tell a grand story of astronauts in quarantine Now, more about that story! The film follows the crew of the Apollo 11 spaceflight that first landed humans on the moon (Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins) in their 21-day quarantine in the summer of 1969. Scientists weren’t sure if they had made contact (and maybe even brought back) dangerous lunar microorganisms like bacteria, so the astronauts had to be contained and swabbed and scrubbed down regularly. But the Apollo 11 crew weren’t as isolated as you’d think: they kept contact with the outside world through a pane of thick glass. This film shows the activities that went on during those 21 days and how much patience and emotional strength the astronauts had to show; it took a lot of resilience for the roving moon-explorers, but they pulled through!

To the fun stuff, now! Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins are the lead “characters” in the film. Todd Douglas Miller brilliantly edited together all of the individual incredible clips. Besides the editing, the music and small intercut scenes of footage shot in the 21st century both help create the ambiance for the film. I also have to say that the audio work is quite interesting; I didn’t think that audio from the late ‘60s was surround sound or stereo. I watch the film with headphones on and was surprised that the audio in parts of the film (like when the crew uses walkie-talkies) goes from one ear to the other. Quite modern for the mid-to-late 20th century! ApolloApollo 11: Quarantine promotes the message of resilience and sticking through anything that comes your way. The film shows exactly how difficult it was for the crew of Apollo 11 to be quarantined for 21 days, interacting with the outside world through a glass pane or capsule. But they pulled through, and President Gerald Ford congratulated them with a proud speech on Day 21 of their quarantine, the last day.

I give Apollo 11: Quarantine 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 11 to 18. Adults will enjoy this film as well. Apollo 11: Quarantine will be released exclusively in IMAX™ on January 29, 2021, and on Premium On Demand on February 5, 2021.

Movie Review: Blizzard of Souls * A Cinematic Masterpiece and Oscar Submission from Latvia

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Categories
Movie Review: Blizzard of Souls * A Cinematic Masterpiece and Oscar Submission from Latvia

Based on true events and the novel by Aleksandrs Grins, which was forbidden in the USSR, the film follows a coming-of-age story of a sixteen-year-old Arthur. After the loss of his mother, he enlists to fight in WWI with dreams of becoming a hero, but after surviving the brutalities of trench warfare and the loss of his family, he wonders if his efforts in battle were futile and if hope is only to be found in rebuilding a family and a home as Latvia itself is born from the atrocities of war.

Blizzard Of Souls was directed by Dzintars Dreibergs and written by Dreibergs and Boriss Frumins. The film was produced by Inga Pranevska and Dzintars Dreibergs for KULTFILMA, and associate produced by Gatis Sniedziņš. Ilona Bičevska serves as International Producer. It was edited by Gatis Belogrudovs and composed by Lolita Ritmanis. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Eshaan M. comments, “A cinematic masterpiece and the Oscar submission from the Baltic nation of Latvia, Blizzard of Souls will take you through a rollercoaster of emotions while providing you with a thorough history lesson!” See his full review below.

Blizzard of Souls

By Eshaan M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14

A cinematic masterpiece and the Oscar submission from the Baltic nation of Latvia, Blizzard of Souls will take you through a rollercoaster of emotions while providing you with a thorough history lesson! With echoes of 1917, Blizzard of Souls has masterful editing and cinematography, incredible sets and locations, and a talented cast, but falls a bit short on explaining major events in the First World War.

KULTFILMA took inspiration from true events and the novel by Grins to create Blizzard of Souls, which follows a teenage boy named Arturs Vanags in Russian-controlled Latvia (around the 1910s). Arturs’ father was a highly decorated commander of a regiment of the Latvian army, and his brother Edgars is focused on carrying on that legacy. He’s not exactly a fighter, but when his mother is killed by the Germans, Arturs, his brother, and his father conscript in the national Latvian Riflemen battalions of the Imperial Russian army in hopes of getting revenge and finding glory. He experiences many loves and losses in battle, after which he, among other soldiers, grows weary of the Tsarist cause and feels forgotten. Arturs must decide whether to stay with his regiment or defect and join his comrades in fighting the Latvian War of Independence and start his life all over again. As you can see, there’s a lot happening in the film, and it’s an intriguing plotline. Though I am a history buff, I’m not at the top of my game when it comes to Latvian war history, so I was really hoping for some time or battle markers; all of the battles seemed to blend together, save for the final conflict Arturs is involved in – the Battle of Cesis.

The cast and crew shine in this Baltic beauty. Oto Brantevics and Raimonds Celms play the brothers Vanags, with Oto as Arturs and Raimonds as Edgars. Raimond is a more experienced actor, but Oto really shines in his performance, with perfectly toned emotions and dialogue. Their on-screen father is played by Martins Vilsons, whose cerebral, tough personality gives way (at the perfect time) to paternal love. And the Vanags’ friends in the film, Mikelsons and Konrads, are played by Jēkabs Reinis and Gatis Gaga, who excel in their supporting roles with pointed humor and emulating the characters’ focused, yet free personalities. Behind the scenes, Dzintars Dreibergs directed the film meticulously, with a keen eye on historical accuracy and believability. The music in the film, which majestically introduces and drives the action in each scene, was composed by Lolita Ritmanis. The soundtrack is definitely one of my favorite parts of the film. Another beautiful element of Blizzard of Souls is the cinematography by Valdis Celmiņš; viewers can tell that each shot was thoughtfully planned out. There is a large part of one battle sequence that was shot and edited in one take, which really helps the speed of the film.

The message of Blizzard of Souls is one of growth; Arturs grows from a young boy to a mature hero throughout this film and has to make many tough decisions along the way. It’s a positive and relatable message, as we all grow as people throughout our lives. There are some scenes for parents to watch out for though; there’s a lot of blood and gore, some nudity and profanity (given the culture of trench warfare).

I give Blizzard of Souls 5 stars out of 5 and recommend it for ages 14 to 18. Adults will enjoy this film as well. Blizzard of Souls is out in theatres and on DVD now!

‘Presilience’ Part 2 – w/ Dr. Gavriel Schneider

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Variety
‘Presilience’ Part 2 – w/ Dr. Gavriel Schneider

Join me August 12, 2021 at 9am EST!

Part 2 of my talk with Dr. Gavriel Schneider on Presilience. Presilience is a different way of viewing resilience, in individuals and organizations. Join me as I talk with acknowledged subject matter expert on human centric and Integrated Risk Management, Safety and Security, Dr. Gavriel Schneider. Dr. Schneider has extensive senior level management and leadership experience, and talks to us about how the current compliance-based resiliency approach of organizational leaders needs to change. Presilience is about the ongoing use of skills in a way to better your response to risk, whether it is an opportunity, crisis or emergency. It’s not just the commonplace way of utilizing risk management to create a ‘response plan’; it allows you and your organization to be better positioned even after you’ve experienced an adverse situation. It’s another real eye-opener of a chat, so don’t miss this episode and don’t forget to check out Part 1 which aired 2021-07-08!

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A Practical Guide to Building Supply Chain Resilience w/ Paul Raw

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Variety
A Practical Guide to Building Supply Chain Resilience w/ Paul Raw

Join me September 16, 2021 at 9am EST!

Supply Chain Management and building resiliency within your supply chain is more than thinking about finding alternate suppliers. I talk with recognized Supply Chain Management industry expert Paul Raw, about what really makes up a good Supply Chain Management system and the considerations that organizations often overlook – or don’t even know about. We’ll touch on how the supply chain can be managed effectively using risk identification and risk management practices. Paul will also talk about he Resiliency Cycle (Prevention, Mitigation, Preparation, Response, Recovery) using real-world examples and some personal experiences. Paul takes Supply Chain Management and Resiliency into a much more detailed world.

Don’t miss it!

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Floogals: Season One * Mini Aliens Help Preschoolers Discover How The World Works

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Movie Reviews
Floogals: Season One * Mini Aliens Help Preschoolers Discover How The World Works

Join the Floogals on a mission of discovery as they explore Earth and the funny hoomans who live there! The show centers on three three-inch tall extraterrestrials called Floogals who have come to Earth to study its inhabitants. Upon landing, a human boy, thinking their spaceship is a toy, hangs their craft onto the ceiling of his bedroom. The Floogals, however, don’t seem to mind as they carry on with their studying. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Giana N. comments, “The DVD Floogals: Season One is a collection of episodes from the animated children’s TV show that teaches kids about new things in a fun way. The characters are colorful and fun, and they never run out of new things to explore. This show is entertaining and interesting, which is perfect for a younger audience. Kayla A. adds, “The theme song of the show is very catchy. I could see myself listening to it multiple times. My favorite character is Boomer, voiced by Hugo Harold-Harrison, because he is funny, caring and kind of silly and that makes him even funnier.” See their full reviews below.

Floogals: Season One

By Giana N., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 9

https://youtu.be/Ww1KKmS3ad8

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The DVD Floogals: Season One is a collection of episodes from the animated children’s TV show that teaches kids about new things in a fun way. The characters are colorful and fun, and they never run out of new things to explore. This show is entertaining and interesting, which is perfect for a younger audience. The show is about tiny aliens named Fleeker, Flo and Boomer who are from the planet Floog. After coming to Earth, they observe and learn new things every day. As the aliens roam around the “hoomans” house, they learn about things that people use, such as a balloon, flashlight, and a trumpet. After the aliens are done investigating and learning all about the new objects, they send a report back to their home planet Floog. If the other aliens like their report, the aliens get a sticker. The aliens go to sleep and get ready to learn something new the next day.

The theme song of the show is very catchy. I could see myself listening to it multiple times. My favorite character is Boomer, voiced by Hugo Harold-Harrison, because he is funny, caring and kind of silly and that makes him even funnier. For example, at the end of each episode, after the aliens send their report to Floog, Boomer either makes a joke or does something funny to make the audience laugh. The storylines are easy to follow because they help kids learn about basic things, such as a doll, a cast, and a tent. Also, the aliens don’t use big words; they use words that young children will know and understand. Many animated kids’ shows don’t show a contrast between cartoons and humans, so that part is pretty cool.

The message of Floogals is you can learn something new with everything you do. There is always a way to learn something, even if you don’t notice it. This is totally kid-friendly.

Floogals: Season One is a great DVD to watch! I give it 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 2 to 6. The DVD releases on January 19, 2021. Go check it out!

Floogals: Season One

By Kayla A., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 10

https://youtu.be/T71dK-_Qt7w

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The DVD Floogals: Season One is a collection of episodes from the fantastic animated TV show Floogals. It is perfect for young children with its fun, playful storyline. It’s very kid-friendly and enjoyable for other family members to watch as well. I like how short each episode is. Parents don’t want their young children watching screens all day, and these short episodes combat that problem.The storyline follows the Floogals, a team of intergalactic alien explorers named Captain Fleeker, Junior Boomer and First Officer Flo, who travel to Earth to learn more about its wonders. In each episode, the Floogals find different objects that the “hoomans” use, learn more about them and report back to their planet.

This voice-acting in this show is very enjoyable. Ramus Hardiker (Captain Fleeker), Jules de Jongh (First Officer Flo) and Hugo Harold-Harrison (Junior Boomer) perfectly portray explorer aliens on a whole new planet. Their voice-acting really brings life to the characters in this show. Also, I love the animation, which is full of bright colors and perfect for young kids. Lastly, I love the theme song. It’s really catchy and has a memorable tune.

I think the message of this film about exploring. The show really encourages kids to ask questions and be curious.

I rate Floogals: Season One 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it to ages 4 to 6. This DVD is available January 19, 2021.

Cyber Resilience and Leveraging AI in Business Continuity

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Variety
Cyber Resilience and Leveraging AI in Business Continuity

Join me September 30, 2021 at 9am EST!

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is becoming a key component in many components of our daily lives and that includes Technology Plans and Business Continuity Management. I talk with longtime security expert Agnidipta (Agni) Sarkar about how AI can help the BC industry in the future and what AI is doing for us now. Agni will also talk to us about Cyber Resilience, and how it differs from Cybersecurity. He will provide an overview of what organization’s need to have in place to address Cyber attacks (e.g. Ransomware) prior to any actual instance occurring.

An informative chat about AI and Cyber Resilience you don’t want to miss!

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Three Problems of Power—Problem Three: Distance and Dehumanization

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Business
Three Problems of Power—Problem Three: Distance and Dehumanization

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This blog is provided by Margaret Heffernan, author of the book, “Uncharted: How to Map the Future Together.”  Margaret’s interview is also part of the International Leadership Association Interview Series.   It is a companion to her interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled “Uncharted: How to Map the Future Together” that aired on Tuesday, January 19th, 2021. The past two weeks have featured the first two problems.  Problem one was Pleasing and problem two was Silence and Blindness.  This is the final week of the series.

 

Problem Three: Distance and Dehumanization

When CEO of Lehman Brothers, Richard Fuld was driven from his home to a heliport, then helicoptered into Manhattan, driven in another limo to the bank’s offices where a private elevator sent him up to his office. This ornate commute ensconced him in a physical bubble that no weak signals or accidental encounters could penetrate. This physical manifestation of power may look like luxury but it comes at a cost. The bubble of power seals off bad news, inconvenient detail, hostile opinion and messy reality, leaving leaders free to inhale the rarefied air of pure abstraction. Like the cave dwellers of Plato’s parable, the powerful risk mistaking shadows for reality.  Power inserts distance between those who have it and those who do not. It determines whether you fly in the peaceful isolation of a private jet or the middle row in economy, next to the mother who needs help with her restless child. Power lets you, like the Google founders, arrive at meetings via paraglider, not stuck in San Francisco traffic.

The physical distance experienced by the powerful is amplified by the psychological distance of hierarchies. Frances Miliken, who helped to pioneer the research into organizational silence, also studied how those in power communicate differently from those without it. Her language analysis showed a more common use of abstractions and a tendency to over-optimism. Experimentation showed that people given power demonstrate more stereotyped thinking. Further from the action, reinforced by a sense of their own capability, the combination of power, optimism and abstraction made them more confident of their own judgement. The more cut off from others, the more certain they were of their decisions about people and detail they did not know.

That it is a problem is obvious in catastrophes like the COVID pandemic and Hurricane Katrina or, in the UK, the fire at Grenfell Tower. In each case (and there are many more) big decisions are made by confident, optimistic people who think largely in abstraction. Some even regard this as an asset, as when one executive recently suggested to me that it would be better for layoffs to be decided by leaders too far from the action to know the people impacted by their decisions. Distance, dehumanization were seen as assets.

This is the third problem of power. Its status and rewards erode judgement. This isn’t wholly inevitable; a few leaders I’ve known have had the humility and tenacity to fight it, to reach into, rather than over, the crowd. But it is phenomenally difficult to disbelieve the worship of the crowd. If the world chooses to throw all these goodies my way, it must be because I’m worth it — mustn’t it?

I retain a visceral memory of this from the 1990s. Running tech companies, I saw many of my friends and colleagues get rich fast. They went from pretty humdrum individuals in January to exhilarated millionaires by June. And most of them believed the money.

It confirmed that they were special. They’d always thought that might be true, but here was proof. The rare few just put the money away and carried on before. When I asked them, saying they’d been lucky. They didn’t believe the money, seeing it instead as a market fluke. But most got sucked into a reaffirming circle: more money, more power, more confidence, greater distance from the crowd.

They make — and we make — the same mistake: an attribution error. It’s logical, but not necessarily true, that the success of an organization owes something to its figurehead. But how much? Did GE flourish because of Jack Welch or has it failed because of his legacy? Did Apple succeed after Steve Jobs’s return because of his unique magic, or did his hapless competitors’ lame innovation play a role? In the statistically implausible 41 quarters out of 42 that Microsoft met or beat its market forecast, was that the genius of Bill Gates or of his accounting team? If Johnson & Johnson is so well run, how did its role in the opioid scandal occur? If Fred Goodwin was, as celebrated by a Harvard Business School case study, the “master of acquisition,” why did the Bank have to be rescued by the U.K. government?

You can’t run the experiment. It’s impossible to cut the company in half and run half with one leader and half with another. So it is beguilingly simple to attribute success to the powerful individual at the top. And it is supremely difficult for most people, at the height of their power, to see how much their success owes to circumstance, the talents of others, the weakness of competition and to sheer luck. Easier to believe the money. Easier to believe the power.

Such attribution errors flourish in part because we feed them. Believing that a company or a country succeeds or fails because of one mighty person is simple and alleviates our anxiety. It turns a complex world into a simple narrative: we have only to change the person to change the story. Context, apparently, counts for nothing.

The problems of power are damaging not only for those with power — but for the rest of us too. The more we believe in the leadership myths, the more we absolve ourselves of responsibility and action: just wait for Superman or Superwoman to turn up, and everything will be fine. The costly investment in leadership training (said to be over $300 billion) is a sign not of its effectiveness but our urgent desire to simplify and to believe. Critics argue most of this money has no effect. The reality may be worse than that: worshipping leaders may exacerbate the problem it pretends to fix. As long as we believe in leaders, we need not examine our own failure to act on our values and insight.

Of course, all three problems of power feed each other. Failure to learn to think for oneself makes us more credulous of leadership, and it can paralyze those given power. Absence of conflict and debate perpetuates the problem. And if we make it to the top, years of passivity and conventional wisdom make it likely we will believe in our own celebration. This risks making us more aggressive; it can also make leaders justifiably afraid.

I’ve always been wary of the concept of leadership. In part, this was a language problem: when translated, the words duce and fuhrer had unpleasant connotations. We used to talk about bosses or managers but in the late 1970s, that started to change. This is also the period when American economic inequality began to increase markedly. Since then, the clamor for leadership has grown louder as inequality has become more pronounced. The expectation that a sole individual can, singlehandedly, alter complex realities has inflamed faith and guaranteed disappointment.

It’s time for a reset.

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music and iHeartRADIO. Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

 

About the Author

Margaret Heffernan is the author of the best-selling UNCHARTED: How to Map the Future Together, nominated for a Financial Times Best Business Book award. She is a Professor of Practice at the University of Bath, Lead Faculty for the Forward Institute’s Responsible Leadership Programme and, through Merryck & Co., mentors CEOs and senior executives of major global organizations. She is the author of six books and her TED talks have been seen by over twelve million people.

Photo by Grant Durr on Unsplash

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