Thought for the Day


An Online Resource for Unloading, and Scoring, Surplus Seeds and Bulbs

PlantCatching, an online 'catch and release' community that connects folks in possession of unwanted/surplus gardening materials with those who might want them, aims to curb gardening-related waste.

PlantCatching, an online ‘catch and release’ community that connects folks in possession of unwanted/surplus gardening materials with those who might want them, aims to curb gardening-related waste.

What do you do with that nagging sense of remorse that occurs when after a gardening project you realize that you have about 10 pounds of extra potting soil, a big bag of bad decision bulbs, and enough of those black plastic nursery pots to open your own garden center? What do you with it all? Shove it in the back of the garden shed or garage and try to forget about it? Compost it? Throw it all away?

Meet, a website that enables those with extra or unwanted seeds, perennials, gardening materials, and related plant-related paraphernalia to connect with local folks who might actually need/want the surplus goods for gratis which, in turn, prevents the aforementioned not-so-ideal alternatives.

PlantCatching aims to help you find new plants close to you and giving you the means to provide your own. The site was launched back in April by Nicolas Cadilhac, a French Canadian gardener, who, after a large gardening project found himself with an ample amount of leftovers on his hands. “There were a lot of errors, dead plants, re-buys, compulsive buys. My neighbors had the same problem,” he tells the Los Angeles Times.

PlantCatching revolves around a nifty labeling system identifying what exactly you are “releasing”: Seeds, bulbs, materials (rocks, containers, soil, compost, etc.), fruits and veggies from your own harvest, or even a plant (generally a perennial, but houseplants and annuals work too). Other information such as sunlight requirements and color are listed on the label as well.

Once a label is created, the actual donation process can work in three ways: Public mode (you leave your donation in front of your home or in a public space with label attached for a random passerby to pick up), semi-private mode (the donation is listed on the PlantCatching map with instructions from the donor on how to retrieve it), or private mode (the donation is listed on the PlantCatching Map and actual interaction with the donor is required).

To find a plant or gardening materials that are up for grabs, simply type in your address using the search function and nearby donors — it starts with donors within a 1-mile radius and can be expanded to 10 or 20 miles — will pop up on the map. Once the recipient picks up the item, they indicate that it’s been “caught” on the PlantCatching website using the plant’s unique label. The donor then confirms this action and the item disappears from the website. This way, a dozen different people aren’t left scrambling for someone’s excess compost after it’s been already snagged. Registered PlantCatching users can also create requests that appear on the site: “You can list the plants you would like to acquire, the compost you need or the new vegetable variety you dream to try. When a user makes a search on the map in your neighborhood, he will see the existing local demand and could be tempted to donate some of the requested plants.”

As pointed out by the Los Angeles Times, while popular in Montreal, PlantCatching has yet to catch on in the same manner elsewhere. However, PlantCatching’s Seed Your City” section has details on how to foster a community of PlantCatchers in your neighborhood.


The top 10 CNN Heroes of 2012 are…

Catalina Escobar is helping young moms in Colombia, where one in five girls age 15-19 is or has been pregnant. Since 2002, her foundation has provided counseling, education and job training to more than 2,000 teenage mothers. "Teenage pregnancy is a world poverty problem, and we have developed models of intervention that break the cycle," Escobar said. "I want to share it with people around the world."

Catalina Escobar is helping young moms in Colombia, where one in five girls age 15-19 is or has been pregnant. Since 2002, her foundation has provided counseling, education and job training to more than 2,000 teenage mothers. “Teenage pregnancy is a world poverty problem, and we have developed models of intervention that break the cycle,” Escobar said. “I want to share it with people around the world.”

For their extraordinary efforts to help change the world and better the lives of others, 10 everyday people will receive $50,000 and a chance for much more. All the top 10 were nominated by CNN’s global audience and profiled earlier this year on CNN. They will be honored at “CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute,” a globally broadcast event that airs live December 2 at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT. At the tribute show, hosted by Anderson Cooper in Los Angeles, one of the top 10 will be named CNN Hero of the Year and receive an additional $250,000 to continue their work. The Hero of the Year is decided by a public vote. Through November 28, you can vote for your favorite Hero at or from your mobile device. This is the sixth year CNN has conducted its annual search for CNN Heroes. In those years, the campaign has profiled more than 180 people on CNN and

Here are the top 10 Heroes of 2012, in alphabetical order:

Pushpa Basnet
Pushpa Basnet was shocked to learn that many children in Nepal have to live in prisons with their parents. In 2005, she started a children’s center (The Early Childhood Development Center) that has provided support, such as housing, education and medical care, to more than 140 children of incarcerated parents.

Wanda Butts
Wanda Butts lost her son in a drowning accident six years ago. In his memory, she started the Josh Project, a nonprofit that taught nearly 1,200 children — most of them minorities — how to swim.

Mary Cortani
Mary Cortani is a former Army dog trainer who started Operation Freedoms Paws, a nonprofit that helps war veterans train their own service dogs. Since 2010, she has worked with more than 80 veterans who have invisible wounds such as post-traumatic stress disorder.

Catalina Escobar
Catalina Escobar is helping young moms in Colombia, where one in five girls age 15-19 is or has been pregnant. Since 2002, her foundation (Juan Felipe Gomez Escobar Foundation) has provided counseling, education and job training to more than 2,000 teenage mothers.

Razia Jan
Razia Jan is fighting to educate girls in rural Afghanistan, where terrorists will stop at nothing to keep them from learning. She and her team at the Zabuli Education Center are providing a free education to about 350 girls, many of whom would not normally have access to school.

Thulani Madondo
Thulani Madondo struggled as a child growing up in the slums of Kliptown, South Africa. Today, his Kliptown Youth Program provides school uniforms, tutoring, meals and activities to 400 children in the community.

Leo McCarthy
In memory of his daughter, who was killed by a drunken driver in 2007, Leo McCarthy started Mariah’s Challenge. The nonprofit gives college scholarships to teenagers who pledge not to drink while they’re underage. Nearly $150,000 in scholarship money has been awarded.

Connie Siskowski
Connie Siskowski is helping young people who have to take care of an ill, disabled or aging family member. Since 2006, her nonprofit has provided assistance to more than 550 young caregivers in Palm Beach County, Florida.

Scott Strode
After beating his addiction to drugs and alcohol, Scott Strode found support through sports. Since 2007, his nonprofit, Phoenix Multisport, has provided free athletic activities and a sober support community to more than 6,000 participants in Colorado.

Malya Villard-Appolon
Malya Villard-Appolon is a rape survivor dedicated to supporting victims of sexual violence in Haiti. In 2004, she co-founded KOFAVIV, an organization that has helped more than 4,000 rape survivors find safety, psychological support and/or legal aid.

In addition to receiving $50,000 for being a top 10 CNN Hero, this year’s group will also receive free training from the Annenberg Foundation, a leading supporter of nonprofits worldwide. Each Hero will receive a customized version of the Annenberg Alchemy program, which provides practical guidance on fundraising, communications, management and much more.


Thought for the Day

“The way to find out about happiness is to keep your mind on those moments when you feel most happy, when you are really happy — not excited, not just thrilled, but deeply happy. This requires a little bit of self-analysis. What is it that makes you happy? Stay with it, no matter what people tell you. This is what is called following your bliss.” – Joseph Campbell

Libyan Peace Rally Slams Terrorism, Offers Apology for Consulate Attack

On the heels of the deadly attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, protesters took to the streets of Tripoli to offer condolences for the death of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and express their disapproval of the protests against a film that demonstrators deemed blasphemous to the Prophet Muhammad. Bearing signs that read “RIP Christopher Stevens” and “This is not how we thank who helped us when we needed help the most,” among other anti-terrorist sentiments, the demonstration maintained its message of peace and the belief that not all people in Libya agree with those who attacked the consulate.



Brain-Enhancing Activities to Combat Stress

While the list below is not exhaustive, these three activities have enhanced brain functioning in controlled studies.

Take a Daily DHA Supplement– DHA or Docosahexaenoic acid is an Omega-3 fatty acid that is a central building block of brain tissue. DHA is thought to combat the inflammatory effects of cortisol and the plaque buildup associated with vulnerability to Alzheimer’s disease. According to Dr. Mehmet Oz, in one study, a dose of 600mg of DHA taken daily for 6 months led the brain to perform as if it were three years younger.

Exercise Most Days  – In studies with mice, exercise led to more improved performance on cognitive tasks than exposure to enriched environments with lots of activities and stimulation. Exercise leads to increases in BDNF or brain-derived neurotropic factor, a substance that strengthens brain cells and neuronal connections. BDNF is also thought to promote neurogenesis or the creation of new brain cells from existing stem cells in the hippocampus. Although these effects can’t be studied in living human brains, researchers have found increases in BDNF in the bloodstream of humans following workouts.

Do Yoga, Meditate, or Pray – These activities can activate what scientist Herb Benson at Massachusetts General Hospital calls “the relaxation response,” which lowers blood pressure and heart rate and lowers subjective anxiety. Benson and scientists from a genetics institute showed, in a recent study, that inducing the relaxation response can beneficially alter the expression of genes involved with inflammation, programmed cell death and how the body handles free radicals. The effects shown were in the same genes implicated in PTSD and depression. According to Jeffery Dusek, Ph.D., co-lead author of the study, “Changes in the activation of these same genes have previously been seen in conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder; but the relaxation-response-associated changes were the opposite of stress-associated changes and were much more pronounced in the long-term practitioners.”



Johnson & Johnson to Remove Formaldehyde from Products

Johnson & Johnson, which makes a range of personal care products like baby shampoo, acne cream and antiwrinkle lotion, announced plans to remove a host of potentially harmful chemicals, like formaldehyde, from its line of consumer products by the end of 2015, becoming the first major consumer products company to make such a widespread commitment.

The company had already pledged to remove certain chemicals from its baby products by 2013, but the latest announcement extended the program to its adult products, including well-known drugstore brands like Neutrogena, Aveeno and Clean & Clear. “There’s a very lively public discussion going on about the safety of ingredients in personal care products,” said Susan Nettesheim, vice president for product stewardship and toxicology for the company’s consumer health brands. “It was really important that we had a voice in that.”

In 2009, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a coalition that includes the Environmental Working Group, analyzed the contents of dozens of products for children and found that many items contained two substances of particular concern: formaldehyde and 1,4 dioxane. Consumers won’t find either listed on the back of their shampoos or lotions because neither is technically an ingredient. Formaldehyde, which last year was identified by government scientists as a carcinogen, is released over time by common preservatives like quaternium-15 and DMDM hydantoin, which do appear on labels. And 1,4 dioxane, which has been linked to cancer in animal studies, is created during a process commonly used to make other ingredients gentler on the skin.

The company also plans to phase out other ingredients that have been linked to health problems, including phthalates, which have a variety of uses, like lessening the stiffening effects of hair spray; several fragrance ingredients; and triclosan, an antibacterial substance used in soaps. Johnson & Johnson will remove all parabens, a type of preservative, from baby products and some other parabens from its adult products.

Lisa Archer, director of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, said her group would continue to press other cosmetics and consumer-goods companies to follow Johnson & Johnson, including the Estée Lauder Companies, Procter & Gamble, Avon and L’Oreal.


Study Claims That Dogs Really Do Feel Your Pain

According to a paper published in the journal Animal Cognition, in an experiment conducted by the university, dogs approached people who appeared to be distressed more often than those who weren’t. “I think there is good reason to suspect dogs would be more sensitive to human emotion than other species,” author Deborah Custance told the Press Trust of India.

Goldsmiths University doctors used an experimental set up that was first used to investigate empathy in human infants. According to the Daily Mail, a diverse group of 18 dogs was individually exposed to three different scenarios: two people talking, a person “humming in an odd manner” to incite the dog’s curiosity, and a person crying or pretending to cry. The experiments were conducted both with the dog’s owner and with a stranger. Significantly more dogs approached the individual in distress and displayed submissive tendencies.

Surprisingly, the dogs approached the strangers as often as their owners, indicating that their empathy response doesn’t discriminate among familiar and unfamiliar people. The study’s authors suggest that the empathy response might have been bred into the canines after thousands of years of living in close proximity to humans.

“The fact that the dogs differentiated between crying and humming indicates that their response to crying was not purely driven by curiosity. Rather, the crying carried greater emotional meaning for the dogs and provoked a stronger overall response than either humming or talking,” Dr. Custance told the Daily Mail.

“If the dog’s approaches during the crying condition were motivated by self-oriented comfort-seeking, they would be more likely to approach their usual source of comfort, their owner, rather than the stranger,” Jennifer Mayer, the study’s co-author, said in a Goldsmiths College press release. “No such preference was found. The dogs approached whoever was crying regardless of their identity. Thus they were responding to the person’s emotion, not their own needs, which is suggestive of empathic-like comfort-offering behavior.”


Sergey Brin, Google Co-Founder, Buys Real Estate, Charges Below-Market Rent to Those in Need

Google co-founder Sergey Brin has long been known for his philanthropic spirit. Throughout the past few years, Brin and his wife, Anne Wojcicki, have donated millions of dollars in support of a variety of causes, including Parkinson’s research and space exploration. Now it seems Brin has quietly undertaken yet another charitable endeavor — only this time, the 39-year-old tech titan has set his sights on the world of real estate.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Brin — through his small real estate holding firm Passerelle Investment Company — has been buying up property in Los Altos, Calif., in an attempt to “beautify and transform its sleepy downtown.” Brin’s company is reportedly also trying to promote and protect local businesses, while encouraging family-friendly establishments. Passerelle has helped keep some existing mom-and-pop shops in place — sometimes by charging them below-market rents, say local store owners and a person briefed on the firm’s activities. Passerelle has paid tens of millions of dollars to snap up at least a half-dozen commercial buildings in the past three years, according to public records and local real-estate agents. So far, the firm has brought in businesses that cater to families, such as a children’s bookstore, a children’s “playspace” and a cafe called Bumble that has a supervised children’s play area and sandbox.

In 2011, Brin and his wife ranked number 25 on the The Chronicle’s Philanthropy 50 list of the most-generous donors for their $61.9 million donation to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. As of May 2012, the couple — through their Brin Wojcicki Foundation — had donated more than $130 million to Parkinson’s research and has promised to donate up to $50 million more by the end of the year. The tech titan has also donated millions to space exploration and in 2009, gave $1 million to the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, among other charitable contributions.