City Blogs

I’ve added a box on the right titled, City Blogs. This morning, I stumbled across a post about deep-fried candy bars (no joke) from a blog called All Over Albany. AOA is a nice site full of things to do and be proud of  if you find yourself in Albany, New York.  I have also provided the link to the blog (online newsletter, actually) Cincinnati Soapbox, a great site that has done a lot to promote good news in the Queen City. OK, my bias is showing. Cincinnati is my hometown and I know the creators of Soapbox but it’s still a great example of how to do it right.

The use of social networking tools like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and blogs to promote people and their organizations, businesses, interests and ideas is still in it’s early stages but is expanding rapidly. I am especially interested in how communities (neighborhoods, cities,  regions and states) can use these tools to promote themselves to attract and retain businesses, attract workers and strengthen the connections among the people who already live and work there.

If you know of a blog from a community like this, send me the link. I’ll post them and build a resource for others that want to find best practice examples of how to use the web as an economic development tool.


Religion and Self-Control

I read an interesting blog post today by NY Times Science writer, John Tierney, on the topic of religion and self-control. I submitted a comment to the piece and have copied the essence of Tierney’s blog and my comment here. While I stand by what I say below, I have to admit to the irony of this blog. I should have been working on the more pressing items on my “To Do” list. So much for self-control.

You can find a link to Tierney’s blog, TierneyLab, under  “Blogs I Like” on the right.

Religion and Self-Control

Is self-discipline one reason that religious people tend to live longer? Do religious belief and piety promote self-control? You can find one answer in my Findings column. It discusses research from two psychologists at the University of Miami, Michael McCullough and Brian Willoughby, who have surveyed eight decades of scientific literature (pdf) to see if people who are more religious tend to have stronger self-control.

1. Are there any specific religious or spiritual activities that you have found to help build your self-control, or your child’s self-control?
2. Religious activities can also be exhausting, and presumably they could they could wear down someone’s self-control. Has this ever happened to you or your child?
3. If you’re not religious, what do you think of Dr. McCullough’s advice that it might be possible to build self-control by tying your New Year’s resolutions to sacred (but non-religious) values like self-reliance or concern for all of humanity?

My response:

I believe that this phenomenon of ‘religious’ people demonstrating more self-control is probably true but not due to the ‘religion’ that one learns at church, temple or mosque but due to the ‘ethics’ and ‘values’ discussions and education that occurs there. As the author, Karen Armstrong, documented in her book, ‘The Great Transformation,’ most cultures and faiths have independently developed some interpretation of what’s known to Christians as the Golden Rule as a positive way to live our lives on earth, irregardless of what some god may have in store for us later.

The notion that we should treat others as we wish to be treated requires an examination not only of others’ behaviors and actions but of our own. Once we begin to be aware of (and are then self-critical of) our own behaviors, we are more likely to avoid doing things that others might find reason to criticise – we exhibit self control. In doing this, we enable others to treat us favorably.

My own experience is that most people tire quickly of sermons and lessons (and water cooler talk) that focus too heavily on spirituality and theology. Zealotry, like a good martini, has a time and place but a little bit goes a long way. We would rather be taught how to make our faith relevant to our day-to-day lives. Personally, the sermons that don’t put me to sleep or to checking my blackberry are usually those that offer practical advice on how to live happily and productively among others. I suspect that anyone who regularly subjects themselves to a dose of practical ethical reminders is more prone to self-examination and to therefore improve their self-control in many aspects of their lives. And this, I believe, will lead to improved quality in one’s life.

As the Theory of Relativity is foundational to modern science, the Golden Rule is to life. We don’t fully understand the scope of either which is why inquiry and faith (in science and humanity) are so important. We do know through our own experiences however, that things get more difficult when we act as though these fundamental principles don’t exist.

Thank you for posing these important questions.

— John Fonner

Do it Now!

The environment demands that we use less oil and find better energy sources for our mobility. Our transportation infrastructure is crumbling due to insufficient funding provided largely by fuel taxes. Unfriendly nations are enriched and their hostility is funded by our globally unrivaled consumption of oil.  Raise the federal gas tax now!

Cream Cheese Banana Bread with Pecans

cwc-07-1220081This post is dedicated to my pals at Cooking with Caitlin who have shown me how much fun playing with your  food can be. See them at

I’ve made the Joy of Cooking Banana Bread recipe several times and it always turns out great. OK, I confess that I use brown sugar instead of white and always add an extra banana but those are ideas that Irma Rombauer suggests in the chapter on Quick Breads so they don’t count as innovations of mine.

So why mess with a good thing, right? Well, I had a dream. Really, I had a dream a few nights ago that I could substitute the butter with either cream cheese or sour cream. In the dream, I got a little of the tangy sour milk flavor and still get the richness (ie milk fat) that the butter brings. When I woke up I thought it was a pretty weird dream but I said, “what’s the worst that can happen – give it a try.” I’m glad I did!

I haven’t tried the sour cream version yet but the cream cheese sure makes a denser, moister bread with a bit more flavor than the original. Frankly, I think it’s great! The banana really comes through and the crust still has that crunchy sweetness to it.  I think there’s a hint of the sourness that I dreamt about, but it’s subtle (or I’m still dreaming.) I’m guessing that sour cream would probably deliver more tang on the tongue – I’ll let you know.

Generally, I think that the idea of  low-fat cakes & cookies is oxymoronic. No, actually it’s just moronic in my book.  Creating a low-fat banana bread certainly wasn’t my goal but I did notice, while the first loaf was in the oven, that regular cream cheese has about half the fat of butter. Half the calories too. You’re welcome to try this line of rationalization on your cardiologist (I know I will) but don’t be suprised if Doc still frowns at you. 

Again, be sure to say thank you to the legacy of the Rombauer – Becker clan for giving us the Joy of Cooking. The original Banana Bread recipe is on Page 773 of my JOC 1997 edition. Compare this Banana Bread with the original and let me know what you think.  Oh, and remember to follow your dreams.

Blah, blah, blah. You just want to try it (you know you do) so here’s the recipe:

Have all the ingredients at room temperature.
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease an 8  1/2  x  4  1/2 – inch (6-cup) loaf pan.

Whisk together thoroughly:
1  1/3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder

In a large bowl, beat on high speed until lightened in color and texture, 2 to 3 minutes:
3 oz. cream cheese
2/3 cup brown sugar

Beat in flour mixture until blended and the consistency of brown sugar. Gradually beat in:
2 large eggs, lightly beaten

Fold in until just combined:
3 very ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans

Scrape the batter into the pan and spread evenly. Bake until a toothpick comes out cleanly, 50 to 60 minutes. Let cool in the pan on a rack for 5 to 10 minutes before unmolding to cool completely on a rack.

Humility vs. Humiliation

The NY Times article in the following link is an sober acknowledgement of the addictive thrill of power. As Dr. Friedman points out, the extrodinary financial success that the ‘Masters of the Universe’ enjoyed over the past decade was to many, their sole measure of success. To see yourself go from ‘winner’ to ‘loser’ in the span of a few months must surely be  humiliating.  

I suggest that humility is best experienced in a slow steady drip over a life time rather than in fire hose portions all at once.  Had Dr. Friedman’s patients appreciated that their success was due, at least in part, to good fortune and the hard work of others perhaps their self-confidence wouldn’t be so battered today. Had they taken time to notice others not so fortunate, they might have realized that they should have considered themselves ‘blessed’ instead of ‘best.’

Act Your Age

A great article about the importance of social networks, blogs, wikis – literacy – to careers.

Habit 7 – Sharpen the Saw

Machiavelli would love times like these.

The following qoute from Machiavelli’s timeless classic on power and politics, The Prince, is often cited as a reminder of how hard it can be to implement change in organizations, systems and cultures. Times like these, when it is very difficult to defend the status quo, are exactly when major changes and initiatives are most likely to succeed. Make your move, NOW!

“It must be considered that there is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to handle, than to initiate a new order of things. For the reformer has enemies in all those who profit by the old order, and only lukewarm defenders in all those who would profit by the new order, this lukewarmness arising partly from fear of their adversaries, who have the laws in their favour; and partly from the incredulity of mankind, who do not truly believe in anything new until they have had actual experience of it.”