After 80 Rejections, Inventor, 84, Comes Up with a Winner

George Weiss and his granddaughter, Jennifer Litt, play Dabble. Weiss came up with the word game in his basement; now it’s on sale nationwide. (Michelle Leifer for

Some people golf. Some collect stamps. George Weiss tinkers. For the past 50 years, Weiss, 84, has spent much of his free time dreaming up new inventions and building them.“I was a wallpaper hanger until I retired nine years ago, but my hobby was tinkering in the basement,” he says. “And one tinker leads to another tinker, you know?”

Half a century of tinkering has produced more than 80 inventions, many of which are piled up in the basement of the Brooklyn, N.Y., home in which Weiss has lived for the last 45 years. Among his favorites are the car-key buckle, the “Do It Your Shelf” storage system and a Christmas ornament that opens to form a cross.

His products have won rave reviews from his friends and family, yet he was unable to get companies to invest in them. “Everywhere I’d go I’d get rejected,” he told “They have form letters at all the companies. I just couldn’t get a foot in the door.”

But all that changed when a small company named Ideas Never Implemented agreed to invest in a word game Weiss came up with. Fittingly, its name is “Dabble.” Dabble is now sold in 50 stores nationwide. And recently it won the 2011 Game of the Year Award from Creative Child Magazine.

Weiss came up with the idea for Dabble three years ago and made the prototype in his basement, cutting plastic tiles and building a five-tiered wooden rack by hand. As with all his brainchildren, Weiss says the concept was an inspiration. “I don’t sit down and think, ‘What should I invent?’” he told “It just comes to me out of thin air.”

“I fell in love with the game the first time I played it,” says Jay Vohra, president of Ideas Never Implemented, which brought Dabble out of Weiss’ basement and on to the market just three weeks ago. “It’s also a great time for it, since word games are very popular right now.” The company is scheduled to launch a Dabble app on July 1.

Dabble is especially meaningful to Weiss because he played the game with Faye, his wife of 61 years, who has Alzheimer’s disease. “Faye saw the beginning stages of the game, but she’s been sick for a year,” Weiss said. His wife now lives in a nearby care facility. If Dabble makes his fortune, Weiss insists that it won’t change his life. “I don’t need a bigger house,” he said. “My wife is close by and I can see her every day. I’m happy here.” His advice to other dabblers with big dreams? Don’t create a product just because you think it will make you rich. “Work on something that’s meaningful to you,” Weiss advised. “If you do that, you’re more likely to find success.”

Source:  www.


Author J.K. Rowling Launches Pottermore Website

J.K. Rowling answered mounting speculation about the nature of her new project and announced Pottermore, a unique and free-to-use website which builds an exciting online experience around the reading of her hugely successful Harry Potter books, and is partnered by Sony ( The announcement was heralded by the revealing of the website’s name via an online search for its letters, and a ‘coming soon’ holding page which received over a million visits within 36 hours of launching.

For this groundbreaking collaborative project, J.K. Rowling has written extensive new material about the characters, places and objects in the much-loved stories, which will inform, inspire and entertain readers as they journey through the storylines of the books. Pottermore will later incorporate an online shop where people can purchase exclusively the long-awaited Harry Potter eBooks, in partnership with J.K. Rowling’s publishers worldwide, and is ultimately intended to become an online reading experience, extending the relevance of Harry Potter to new generations of readers, while still appealing to existing fans. As the Pottermore Shop develops, it is intended that it should include further products designed specifically for Harry Potter fans, offering a potential outlet for Sony products and services related to Pottermore. In keeping with Harry Potter’s international appeal, the site will launch in English, French, Italian, German and Spanish, with more languages to follow.

In the new website, the storyline will be brought to life with sumptuous newly-commissioned illustrations and interactive ‘Moments’ through which you can navigate, starting with the first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s (Sorcerer’s) Stone. On entering, you choose a magic username and begin your experience. As you move through the chapters, you can read and share exclusive writing from J.K. Rowling, and, just as Harry joins Hogwarts, so can you. You visit Diagon Alley, get sorted into a house, cast spells and mix potions to help your house compete for the House Cup.

At a press conference at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, Rowling revealed some key features of the website. In an announcement which will thrill fans, she described how she has brought to life both the Sorting Hat and Ollivanders experiences from her books for the first time on Pottermore, by revealing the questions asked by the Sorting Hat – which places newcomers into their Hogwarts houses according to their characteristics – and the magic behind the Wand Chooser – which finds the right wand for each user from over 33,000 possible combinations. She also revealed glimpses of the new information she has provided on some of the best-loved characters.

J.K. Rowling’s announcement on YouTube and revealed that Pottermore (along with the Pottermore Shop) will be open to all users in October 2011. Fans can submit their email addresses on in order to be contacted by the site following the opening of registration on 31st July, Harry’s birthday. Also on that date, an online challenge will be launched, whereby the first million people to complete their registration will gain early entry into the website, and help put final touches to the experience.

J.K. Rowling commented, “I wanted to give something back to the fans that have followed Harry so devotedly over the years, and to bring the stories to a new digital generation. I hope fans and those new to Harry will have as much fun helping to shape Pottermore as I have. Just as I have contributed to the website, everyone else will be able to join in by submitting their own comments, drawings and other content in a safe and friendly environment – Pottermore has been designed as a place to share the stories with your friends as you journey through the site.”


In Africa, Michelle Obama Aims to Inspire Youth Leaders During Visit to South Africa, Botswana

Michelle Obama is fond of saying there’s no magic to her being first lady. She didn’t come from a wealthy or well-connected family. She came from the South Side of Chicago and is a descendant of slaves. But she says it’s a passion for an education that she and President Barack Obama shared and a willingness to work hard that helped them become successful.

It’s a message that young leaders in Africa will hear as Mrs. Obama visits South Africa and Botswana in her second solo tour abroad. “In so many ways, I see myself in you all. And I want you to see yourselves in me,” she recently told Washington high school students, hoping to inspire them with her personal story.

Mrs. Obama, accompanied by her two daughters, a niece, a nephew and her mother, received a warm welcome upon her arrival Monday night at the air force base in the capital of South Africa, Pretoria, after 18 hours and more than 1,800 miles of travel. The weeklong visit is intended to improve relations between the U.S. and Africa and promote youth engagement, education, health and wellness.

It was during Mrs. Obama’s first solo trip outside the U.S., to Mexico in April 2010, that she started an effort to encourage young people to become involved in their communities and countries and not shy away from trying to solve persistent global problems. The youth population outside the U.S. is growing fast, with young people ages 15 to 24 making up 20 percent of the world’s population. “The fact is that responsibility for meeting the defining challenges of our time will soon fall to all of you,” Mrs. Obama told thousands of university students in Mexico City. “Soon, the world will be looking to your generation to make the discoveries and to build the industries that will fuel our prosperity and ensure our well-being for decades to come.”

That message is likely to resonate in a place such as South Africa, where two of three residents are younger than 30, said Jennifer Cooke, an Africa scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank. Many of the stops on Mrs. Obama’s trip will highlight South Africa’s past under apartheid, the system of white-minority rule. She’ll also pay tribute to the legacy of Nelson Mandela, who spent 27 years in prison for his role in the anti-apartheid movement. He later became South Africa’s first elected black president.


Everybody Wants to Rule the World

If I ran the world, I would …

Make a video of the best teachers teaching…  Make everyone pick up garbage…  Disallow any chemicals to be used for farming…  Make sure every child has a book to read…

The single biggest pool of untapped natural resource in the world is human good intentions that never translate into actions. If We Ran the World (, a new site, has set out to change that. They have created a platform that takes good intentions and makes it easy to turn them into actions.

First things first. When you open the site you answer the question that you probably haven’t been asked since you were in Kindergarten: If You Ran the World What Would You Do? Your answer becomes a micro-action that other people on the site can connect to, forming a group.  A group who cares about the same things you do. Together you can actually take those good intentions and turn them into real live actions. It can be anything, really. Something small (like create promotional materials) or something not-so-small (like make my house sustainable). Just type it in. Then start with picking up a microaction, and join forces on actionplatforms with people already working to make it happen. Or start an actionplatform of your own.


MBAs Want to Make an Impact

Scores of business school students want to learn how to make profits in the business world. That’s a given. But the way in which they want to profit is changing: they want to do good. Impact investing programs, which combine social consciousness with financial returns, are popping up at universities around the world.

“Social entrepreneurship programs have exploded in business schools across the U.S. and Europe,” says Suzanne Biegel, chief executive of Investors’ Circle, a San Francisco-based impact investment group. Wharton, Stanford, and other leading business schools have launched social impact initiatives.

U.S. News & World Report recently reported on MBA programs that invest in social good. It pointed to Cornell University’s Graduate School of Management and the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, which hosted the first International Impact Investing Challenge this year. The challenge awarded more than $40,000 in prizes for innovative impact investment vehicles. Students pitched their ideas to institutional investors, including endowments, pension funds, and family foundations. (The winner was a real estate investment trust called The Grain Fund Depot, which rented storage space to small farmers in India.)

The business school trend is important because it foreshadows what types of investments will drive the financial world in the future. In the Washington area, there are regular impact investing “meetups” for students and investors alike. They host happy hours, and discuss career opportunities, as well as investing ideas. The meetups are sponsored by the Calvert Foundation, DC Net Impact Professional Chapter, American University, Georgetown University, George Washington University, Johns Hopkins University, and the University of Maryland, among other groups.

In addition to graduates focusing on business plans that incorporate social welfare, 88.3% of graduating MBA students say they’d take a pay cut to work for firms that have ethical business practices, according to a survey of 759 students in North America and Europe. The researchers, David B. Montgomery of Stanford University and Catherine A. Ramus of the University of California, Santa Barbara, suggest that the finding should be seen by the public as a hopeful sign for the management profession.

Over the next decade, you can bet that ethical companies and businesses operating to solve social and environmental problems will be all the rage. It’s the future. And we can all benefit from investments that do more than turn a financial profit.


US National Parks to Waive Park Entry Fees

America’s national parks get even better with several fee-free days at more than 100 national parks that usually charge entrance fees.

Mark your calendar for these fee-free days in 2011:

  • June 21
    (First day of summer)
  • September 24
    (Public Lands Day)
  • November 11-13
    (Veterans Day weekend)


Boy, 13, Invents Doorbell that Tricks Would-be Burglars

The state-of-the-art device uses an in-built SIM card and existing mobile technology to let you hold a conversation with whoever is at the door.

Laurence Rook, 13, has invented a doorbell that tricks potential burglars into thinking you’re at home, even when you’re not. The ‘Smart Bell’ calls your cell phone when someone rings on the door bell, allowing for a conversation with whomever is at the door. The doorbell can also be used to help delivery workers to complete their deliveries.

Rook, who is from Whyteleafe, Surrey in England, has already sold 20,000 units to communications firm Commtel Innovate, and has other potential buyers. Rook says he had the idea for the product when his mother complained about going to the post office to collect deliveries when she wasn’t home. He said he also realized the bell could be a burglar-deterrent. His mother, Margaret Rook, 39, says Laurence’s accomplishment is “extra-ordinary but I’m just trying to keep Laurence grounded at the moment.”


American Widow Project Helps Young Women Find Support

When Taryn Davis lost her husband at the age of 21, she couldn’t find a relatable support group. Because of her young age, she says her grief was often dismissed and she was encouraged to get remarried.  But, she says, she didn’t want to get remarried. She wanted to cope with losing the love of her life, and she knew there must be others who felt the same way.

So, she started her own support group. Through the American Widow Project, Davis connects young widows across the country to share their experiences coping with tragedy. Using social networking, she encourages them to share their memories of their husbands and learn from each other. “One widow told me…the first time you meet another military widow, it’s like someone holding a mirror up to you. And it’s a mirror that…you haven’t wanted to look into, because for once, you’re finally seeing who you are, and you’re seeing it through them. It’s liberating.”

On the American Widow Project’s website, a section is devoted to widow’s stories from around the country. Sometimes humorous but always sincere, the stories tell personal accounts of love, loss, and the work toward regaining their former lives.

As the average age of women involved with the group is 25, many of their activities cater to a younger crowd. From skydiving to surfing retreats, Davis encourages her fellow widows to not only remember the men they once loved, but remember who they were before their grief.


‘Tinha’ Carvalho Uses Martial Arts to Show Kids from Rio Slums a Wider World

Ricardo ‘Tinha’ Carvalho became a famous local celebrity by training big Rio personalities, including soap opera stars and newscasters, in his popular boxing gyms. He has also started, at his own expense, free gyms for at-risk youths in low-income areas to entice kids to stay in school.

Celebrity trainer Ricardo “Tinha” Carvalho will not budge on the price to become a member at his gym: one report, signed by the school principal, proving that the child is regularly attending class. That’s a privilege Mr. Carvalho, a high school dropout in a family of 10, didn’t have himself growing up.

On his gym wall hang the pictures of his career’s “peak moments”: a chummy photo with popular former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and another with Kevin Richardson, formerly of the Backstreet Boys pop singing group, who trained with Tinha while on vacation here. But when Tinha reached the status of local celebrity himself, he chose to turn his time and money back to the poor communities he first called home.

As the youngest child in a family living in a small favela (shantytown) house on a steep hill behind the Ipanema beach neighborhood, Tinha had dropped out of school in his mid-teens to make early-morning deliveries for a local bakery. “I snuck milk and bread because sometimes I myself was delivering bread without having eaten breakfast,” the now-hulk-of-a-man says laughing. His dad was a doorman and his mom was a maid. “Everyone my age either entered into crime or found something to do,” he says. “But my mom … always showed what was right and wrong.” Tinha recalls hearing early-morning shootouts between rival drug traffickers as he descended his morro (common Rio slang for its hillside shantytowns) down to the asfalto (the wealthier neighborhoods on paved ground below). Though he later returned to school to earn his high school equivalency, he still takes classes to try to improve his written Portuguese.

Tinha had studied a year of martial arts when a friend of his mother suggested that he fix up a decrepit gym attached to the school in Cantagalo, the favela where he was raised. He knew personally about poverty. “I saw that all the children of the community of Cantagalo, Pavão-Pavãozinho were still having that same difficulty. So I said, man, I’m going to try,” he says of starting his judo and boxing academy. As his morro gym took off, residents of the asfalto below started to take note. “When my work started to get articles, interviews on the TV, new clients started to get my phone number,” Tinha says. His students soon included a newscaster, soap opera actors, lawyers, policemen, and judges.

Four years ago he rented a bare studio lit only by five fluorescent bulbs and the streetlights that shine through its big broken window. He pays the rent out of his own pocket. The grade-school age kids who attend bring only their principal’s notes to join the daily afternoon workout sessions. Tinha asks the dozen students – from muscular teenagers to skinny wide-eyed girls – to form two lines. They pump doll-sized dumbbells and alternate between crunches and punches. An older boy leads the counting – “um, dois, tres!” – in an exhausted huff of a voice. The tiniest girl, Thamires, stands up straight and practices with cartoonish, oversized boxing gloves. “He’s not like those other teachers who yell. He goes along calmly,” says one 9-year-old girl. Tinha later explains that this student began coming to the gym the week before, telling him her mother was working and her father had left her home alone.

“Here they have … their second home,” says Tinha, a father of four himself. He says his dream is to buy uniforms for the kids. Tinha’s fellow boxer Rosolieres Junior has donated 12 pairs of gloves. The value of the project, he says, is to get kids out of their communities and introduce them to something larger.

These local projects are what will keep this generation from turning to crime, Tinha says. Each child “has already formed a new identity there,” he says of his gym. “He won’t want to go back. He’ll see the world, embrace it.”


Small Hands, Big Effort Helps Feed Hungry Kids in Asia

In one day, Mount Mourne eighth-graders assembled and packed 21,000 nutritious meal packets for shipment to Azerbaijan. (

In one day, Mount Mourne eighth-graders assembled and packed 21,000 nutritious meal packets for shipment to Azerbaijan. (

Eighth-graders at Mount Mourne I.B. World School ( worked in assembly-line fashion in the school’s gym to package 21,000 nutritious meals for malnourished children a world away.

This wasn’t Principal Jason Van Heukelum’s idea or that of their parents. Samantha Freeman and Kendall Castillo, both 14 and friends since kindergarten, dreamed up and led the effort at the southern Iredell County school near the Lowe’s corporate campus. The girls organized fundraisers that netted $5,300 to provide the meals through Stop Hunger Now, an international hunger relief organization that has distributed 42 million meals since 1998.

Steve Deal, who manages Stop Hunger Now’s warehouse on Westinghouse Boulevard in Charlotte, said he’s never seen such an initiative sustained over so many months by students so young. “To this level, this is exceptional,” their principal said. Even Samantha was surprised at how many meals the students were able to assemble. “Our goal at first was 10,000,” she said. But she never expected their Phoenix Phun Run 5K in March to raise what it did, at least $4,000.

The meals will be shipped from Charleston to the former Soviet satellite country of Azerbaijan. The meals will be given to schools and orphanages. Each meal packet includes rice, soy, dehydrated vegetables and a flavoring mix with 21 essential vitamins and minerals.

While the students packed the meal together, top-40 music blared in the gym, and a gong sounded each time the students packaged another 1,000 meals to be loaded onto a Stop Hunger Now truck outside. The students erupted into cheers at each sounding of the gong. Each of the more than 100 eighth-graders had a task.

Samantha’s parents, Joe and Carol Freeman, helped out, too. “We didn’t plant the seed in her mind,” Joe Freeman said. “She did herself. My wife and I have just tried to support her. We are really proud.” Samantha learned about Stop Hunger Now on a 2009 youth religious retreat. Last year, she and Kendall attended a retreat that challenged them to open their eyes to the world’s needs. “We felt it was our responsibility to at least make an effort, to make a small act,” Samantha said. “It turned out much larger than we thought.”



Forgiving Her Son’s Killer

Mary Johnson, 59, spoke with Oshea Israel, 34, at StoryCorps in Minneapolis.

It would be easy — expected, even — for Mary Johnson and Oshea Israel to be enemies. After all, Israel killed Johnson’s only son, in 1993. Israel went to prison for that — and toward the end of his sentence, he and Johnson made peace. Today, they’re neighbors.

As a teenager in Minneapolis, Israel was involved with gangs and drugs. One night at a party, he got into a fight with Laramiun Byrd, 20, and shot and killed him. Oshea is now 34; he finished serving his prison sentence for murder about a year and a half ago. Israel recently visited StoryCorps with Johnson, to discuss their relationship — and the forgiveness it is built upon. As Johnson recalls, their first face-to-face conversation took place at Stillwater Prison, when Israel agreed to her repeated requests to see him.

“I wanted to know if you were in the same mindset of what I remembered from court, where I wanted to go over and hurt you,” Johnson tells Israel. “But you were not that 16-year-old. You were a grown man.” “He became human to me,” Israel says. At the end of their meeting at the prison, Johnson was overcome by emotion. “The initial thing to do was just try and hold you up as best I can,” Israel says, “just hug you like I would my own mother.” “After you left the room, I began to say, ‘I just hugged the man that murdered my son,” Johnson said. “And I instantly knew that all that anger and the animosity, all the stuff I had in my heart for 12 years for you — I knew it was over, that I had totally forgiven you.”

Johnson founded From Death To Life: Two Mothers Coming Together for Heal­ing, a support group for mothers who have lost their children to violence. And for Israel, Johnson’s forgiveness has brought both changes and challenges to his life. “Sometimes I still don’t know how to take it,” he says, “because I haven’t totally forgiven myself yet. It’s something that I’m learning from you. I won’t say that I have learned yet, because it’s still a process that I’m going through.”

“I treat you as I would treat my son,” Johnson says. “And our relationship is beyond belief.” In fact, the two live right next door to one another in Minneapolis. “So you can see what I’m doing — you know firsthand,” Israel says. And if he falls out of touch, Israel is sure to hear about it from Johnson — who calls out to him, “Boy, how come you ain’t called over here to check on me in a couple of days? You ain’t even asked me if I need my garbage to go out!” “I find those things funny, because it’s a relationship with a mother for real,” Israel says.

“Well, my natural son is no longer here. I didn’t see him graduate. Now you’re going to college. I’ll have the opportunity to see you graduate,” Johnson says. “I didn’t see him getting married. Hopefully one day, I’ll be able to experience that with you.” Hearing her say those things, Israel says, gives him a reason to reach his goals. “It motivates me to make sure that I stay on the right path…You still believe in me. And the fact that you can do it, despite how much pain I caused you — it’s amazing.”