The Curious Autodidact

April 11, 2015

One Person Can Make a Difference: Ms Veronika Scott

Filed under: media related,nonprofit,social justice,women heroes — Honilima @ 11:55 am


If you ever doubted that one person can make a difference meet Veronika Scott a then 23 year old design student who decided to make a piece of warm clothing called The Element Survival Coat. She designed it to serve as a sleeping bag for Detriot’s many homeless citizens. Her group The Empowerment Plan  works with “individuals…are trained to manufacture a coat that transforms into a sleeping bag at night, and a bag when not in use.  The coats are distributed to homeless people living on the streets at no cost to them through partnerships we have established with outreach organizations in communities around the nation”  (from their website). You can listen to a segment about her on NPR or read more in the Detroit Free Press or watch this short You Tube video or Vimeo.

Bravo Ms. Scott thanks for being a woman hero to so many and for having the heart to think beyond just fashion  You have empowered others to change lives one coat at a time.

You can send in donations large and small to her organization here.


April 10, 2015

One Last Kindness: Organ and Body Donation

Filed under: end of life,environmental ideas — Honilima @ 1:50 am



Death provides many of us with a one-time chance to make a valuable gift to humanity. All major religions approve of body and organ donation for medical and dental teaching, research, and transplants. According to public opinion polls, most people believe that such donations are desirable.

Organ Donation

With the advances in medical science in the last decade, organ transplants have become fairly common. Organ donation at a time of death is a gift of life or sight to the recipient. Circumstances surrounding death may limit this option, yet the corneas of even elderly donors will be grateful accepted. If your wish is to aid the living with an organ donation, make sure your next-of-kin and your physician know your preference. This intent should be noted on any medical or hospital records, too. A body from which organs have been removed will not be accepted for medical study.

Body Donation

Medical schools have an ongoing need of bodies for teaching and research. The need may be especially urgent at osteopathic and chiropractic schools. No medical school buys bodies, but there is usually little or no expense for the family when death occurs. Therefore, if you live in an area where low-cost funeral options do not exist, body donation may be an economical as well as thoughtful and generous choice.

Most medical schools pay for nearby transportation as well as embalming and final disposition. The School may have a contract with a particular firm for transporting bodies, so it is important to inquire about the specific arrangements to be used at the time of death in order to avoid added costs. After medical study, the body is usually cremated, with burial or scattering in a university plot. Often the cremains or remains can be returned to the family for burial within a year or two. This request should be made known at the time of donation. Some medical schools require that a donor register before death. However, in many cases, next-of-kin may make the bequest without prior arrangement.

Funeral Plans

Because it is important for the medical school to start preservation as soon after death as possible, a memorial service is most appropriate for those planning on body donation. Alternative plans for body disposition should be discussed with your family. A few schools take care of disposition regardless of condition at the time of death, in fulfillment of their contract with a donor. Most medical schools, however, follow guidelines in the acceptance of a body. If death occurs at the time of surgery, for example, the body would not be accepted for study. Certain diseases, as well as obesity, make a body unsuitable. Some medical schools may not have an immediate need and have no provision for storage or for sharing with another university.

Provisions When Traveling

There will be special considerations if death occurs while you are traveling and you planned on body donation. If you are a great distance from the medical school of your choice, should your family bear the cost of transporting your body there, or may the nearest university be contacted? The need for cadavers in some foreign countries is even greater than in the U.S. For example, in Argentina 200 medical students must share a cadaver. A private individual’s body may be shipped to another country if placed in a hermetically sealed container. If death were to occur abroad, do you wish your survivors to inquire about the local need for bodies or organs to fulfill the intent of your anatomical bequest? Be sure to note your preference on the Uniform Donor Card you carry.



April 9, 2015

Old World Language Families: Infographic

Filed under: cool internet stuff,origin of phrases,Word Related — Honilima @ 6:10 pm

Old World Language Families infographic

April 7, 2015

Margaret Meade: A Woman’s Task

Filed under: women heroes,Word Related — Honilima @ 12:07 am

Image result for google image Margaret Mead

It has been a woman’s task throughout history

to go on believing in life when there was almost no hope.

-Margaret Meade

April 5, 2015

Diane Rehm: A Widow with a Microphone

Filed under: end of life,media related,women heroes — Honilima @ 6:35 pm


Diane Rehm is a stunning journalist working out of WAMU in Washington DC. Her husband’s recent death has gotten her only more active in working for national access to end-of-life choice.

At 78 years old she has stepped up her coverage of death to open the dialogue nationally after seeing her husband’s sad decline from Parkinson’s Disease. Theirs was a strong marriage of two smart active people and seeing one’s partner decline as she had to activated her to join with Compassion and Choices to work on end of life options for those who desire it most.

Here are a few of her recent broadcasts of merit include New Efforts to Expand Options for Terminally Ill Patients and Choosing to Die.

April 4, 2015

Eleven People Who Used to be in Jail….

Filed under: prison reform,social justice,women heroes — Honilima @ 12:19 pm

Embedded image permalink

The issue of what happens to people when they are released from prison is real. How can we make sure former prisoners have options for real work and housing despite their previous records? What do you do if you have not been offered an education and have no support system on the outside upon release? It is tough. You have nothing and you are expected to be able to get an ID card never mind anything else with little or no money and no where to sleep. It makes no sense. We have to examine and break down the current system and take a page from other countries that also have a prison system with lower recidivism rates and better educational options inside.

Stories of former prisoners who have made a difference should be highlighted and we should all remember these people are all someone’s son or daughter, and possibly someone’s mother or father. Here is a great story of eleven former inmates who have made a difference.

We have to work to change our system so that education is put before incarceration on our national list of priorities. Why should anyone leave prison without a GED or a trade they can parlay after release? It makes no sense. You can make a difference by giving someone a second chance or encouraging someone who has been released from prison by being part of their support system.

April 1, 2015

Ted Conover: Winner of the Curious Autodidact “Must Read” Praise

Filed under: book related,environmental ideas,media related,social justice — Honilima @ 3:39 pm

Every once in a while there comes along an author whose work is so well done I stop to realize, hey I’ve read all of his or her books! This astonishes me as I have access to so many writers how could one gain this praise but it is generally very well deserved.  I am a tough customer when it comes to books.

Image result for google image "Rolling nowhere"


I remember in 1984 when Ted Conover’s book Rolling Nowhere about riding the rails came out as part of the Vintage Departures Series. It was one of the first books in the series and so far I haven’t read one that I didn’t like. I would have thought these would be grouped together on the Random House website but alas they are not.

from Rolling Nowhere:

“ ‘Well, at least you got the best of life/Until it got the best of you’ a song consoled a hobo who fell off a train and died. Few could claim as much, I thought; I wanted them to be able to say that about me.”

Conover is a great writer of nonfiction, he takes his readers inside a world you might not otherwise know about. After Rolling Nowhere about riding the rails as a neo-hobo came Coyotes: A Journey Across Borders with America’s Mexican Migrants about crossing into America illegally and living among these illegals. Has has a great affection for the people he met writing this book and he still speaks about this with fondness in his voice.

From Coyotes:

“Teo,” asked Jesús, “how do you say it when a girl is wearing perfume? What do you say to her? I like your smell? Is that it?”

“I like the way you sm —– ?”

“Yes, yes, that’s it, ‘I like the way you smell,’” he interrupted. “Well, you know what I said to my girlfriend there one night?”

Jesús had dated a number of American girls, none of whom spoke Spanish. I shook my head.

“We were driving in the owner’s car—that old Cadillac he gave us—and she smelled good, so I took her real close, like this, and I said, ‘Baby, I like the way you stink.”

Image result for google image "Rolling nowhere"


Then he wrote Whiteout: Lost in Aspen a bit off his usual and then Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing about working as a prison guard at Sing Sing Penitentiary which was a finalist for the Pulitzer.

From Newjack:

“Then tell me, Conover, if I understand correctly. It says in this article that the government is planning right now for the new prisons they’re going to need in ten or twelve years. I got that right?” Again I nodded.

“That’s wrong.”

“What’s wrong about planning ahead?”

“Because, dig this: anyone planning a prison they’re not going to build for ten or fifteen years is planning for a child. Planning prison for somebody who’s a child right now. So you see? They’ve already given up on that child!”



His “you are there” style and well-crafted books remind me a bit about of my hero Studs Terkel. Conover goes where others fear to tread and bring readers back a story well told and captivating. He is willing to admit when he is scared and in an interview on the Longform Podcast he speaks about his writing and experiences undercover particularly to write a piece for Harper’s about his two month stint in a slaughterhouse called The Way of All Flesh (yes he still eats meat).

His most recent book is Routes of Man: How Roads are Changing the World and the Way we Life Today about how roads and our inter-connectedness has altered various communities worldwide.

From Routes of Man:

“ ‘I don’t want to be rude,’ I said to her, ‘but I really would like to live to the end of this trip.’ We consulted, and soon Li Lu announced from the back seat that we both really wished Mr. Zhu would slow down a bit. Zhu looked at me sidelong and then, if anything, speeded up.”

Conover holds a special place in my heart. He is a brilliant writer and currently teaches writing at NYU. We have aged together and I have felt lucky thirty years ago to have stumbled onto his books.

Highly recommended!

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