I used to think that football was just a guy thing — like men watching soap operas, but with passionate stats. For the three decades I’ve lived in Seattle, game days were my subversive time for an unobstructed run through empty Costco aisles to score big deals. Now, as Seattle celebrates Super Bowl déjà vu, my hometown is practically levitating — the same way our snow-capped Mt. Rainier floats hauntingly above our city like a hallucination.

Some of my non-fan friends suspect they are hallucinating when they see this year I’ve joined the Seahawk Fan Fridays dress code. Seattle sidewalk parades of Amazonites, Microsofties, Starbuck baristas — even mother’s strollers boasting Seahawks blankies — all proudly display our blue-green team swag: pom-pom knit caps, Russell Wilson or Marshawn Lynch jerseys, and of course, Seahawks rain slickers. Some tattoo artists have already inked Seahawks in skin anticipating our second straight Super Bowl win. Even the dog I walk with daily is now outfitted with a Seahawks super-hero cape.

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One of many dog fans. photo credit: Brenda Peterson

What happened to our bookish, techie, Ecotopian Seattle? Why do our obsessive football fans wear blue-green war paint and scream so loudly, it registers as seismic activity? How did I–who always looks for Exit signs whenever anyone is too evangelical about anything– morph into a fervent Seahawks fan?

It’s not just winning that brought me into the hawk’s nest. There is something truly unique about this team that makes it a civic duty to follow their roller-coaster ride. The Seahawks cherish teamwork over individual stardom. Under the rigorous but nourishing mentorship of Pete Carroll, the team is not run like a paramilitary operation charging the battlefield. They are openhearted, inventive and smart, like Seattle itself.

After early season losses, coach Carroll called his team leaders together for his famous talk about “taking care of each other” and “not letting the other man down.” Carroll gave his guys wristbands with initials, “LOB.” Of course, it could stand for “Legion of Boom,” our ace defense. But to the Seahawks, it also means, “Love Our Brothers.” This brotherhood, explains cornerback Byron Maxwell, is what bonds the team. “During tough times — and you’re going to go through tough times–it’s a lot easier to handle with someone you’re close with.”

Our team not only trusts and nurtures each other, but also us. We wildly engaged fans, called “The 12s,” feel warmly included in this camaraderie. The Seahawks are, perhaps like the West Coast itself, more cooperative than hierarchical, more fiercely playful than the all-business East, more emotional than stoic.

“We have heart,” Earl Thomas III passionately urged his teammates on when they were losing 19-7 in the NFC championship game.

After leading his downtrodden teammates to a stunning fourth quarter comeback, quarterback Russell Wilson simply burst into tears.

“Now, that’s a real man!” a woman at my Seahawks party nodded approvingly as Seahawks flocked around their sobbing leader. They all leaned in close, patting Wilson’s muscled back. That’s my idea of a good huddle.

The Seahawks offer Seattle a kind of collective commons that haloes our city. No matter your class, your color, your gender, your neighborhood, your religion, or your politics — we can all speak the same language. Happy talk.

Seahawks have flown into traditionally football-free zones — book clubs, nail salons, even therapy sessions. The morning after the Seahawks exuberantly won the NFC championship, I assumed that since no one had ever mentioned football in our writing class, sports certainly wouldn’t be part of my teaching plan. I was wrong.

“Can you believe that comeback?” a student exulted. “One of my friends with stage four cancer was so happy, he was actually able to leap out of his chair.”

“Talk about grace under adversity,” another writer marveled. “That’s the best storyline of all.”

The Seahawks have made their story ours, as well. It’s not just a local phenomenon. My brother in Afghanistan got up in the middle of the night to watch and text with me. My niece and her husband in Virginia took to Facebook to “like” Seahawks links. At a very literary dinner party, with a lot of transplanted East coast guests, I was listening to the rapid-fire, brilliant discourse while secretly imagining the dialogue if these intellectuals discussed Seahawks football–kind of like a mash-up of NPR and ESPN. To my surprise, someone brought up the Seahawks during dessert.

“Watching Richard Sherman leap is like football ballet,” one of the well-regarded journalists commented.

“Yes,” I eagerly joined the field. “As a high school gymnast, I still love watching bodies move through space. It’s physics and it’s… beautiful.”

We did not talk about how those beautiful bodies get injured, how the Clay Matthews’ blindside hit to our quarterback was like witnessing whiplash. We didn’t talk about how we hoped our kids wouldn’t play football because of concussions.

“Life is dangerous,” was all someone said. “But they’re adults. And it’s all how you play the game.”

Is life a game? The well read and more philosophical among us would say, no. But right now, for us hopeful and happy football fans, a game is as good a metaphor for life as any. So I’m finally, and fully, a fan. Well, I haven’t yet actually braved the stadium. I would look foolish in my noise-cancelling headphones.

But I can faithfully bird-watch with Hawk friends. I can walk this week in Seattle’s record-breaking winter sunshine, while New England endures a colossal snowstorm — crazy weather courtesy of global warming. Or maybe the extreme weather is a sign from God; since there are reports that one out of every four fans believes that God will determine who wins the Super Bowl?

This week we fans will stroll the streets, swap our favorite Seahawks superstitions, and snap “Twelfies.” We’ll nod and slap high-fives with neighbors; we’ll chat stats as if we actually understand the cool language of numbers. It’s magic here in the Emerald City and we’re setting off to see our real wizards win — again.

When she’s not obsessively replaying the last three minutes of the Seahawk’s championship comeback, Brenda Peterson is working on her 19th book. Your Life is a Book: How to Craft and Publish Your Memoir is just out and featured on Oprah.com. www.BrendaPetersonBooks.com

To celebrate Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day (yes, that’s apparently a thing), the five guys of YouTube’s Dude Perfect channel organized a Bubble Wrap battle of epic proportions — and it was totally magnificent.

The battle was held at the Charlotte, North Carolina, headquarters of Sealed Air Corporation, the makers of Bubble Wrap. There, the lads jousted, raced scooters and played a round of paintball, all with the added cushioning power of rolls and rolls of the poppable stuff.

Bubble wrap sumo wrestling, anyone?

bubble-wrap-battle

We’re so jealous.

H/T Viral Viral Videos

Sorry Bill, but it looks like Megyn is winning the Fox News popularity contest.

On “The O’Reilly Factor” on Monday, Bill O’Reilly brought up fellow Fox News host Megyn Kelly’s New York Times Magazine profile, calling it a “puff piece.”

“Jealous is an ugly emotion, Bill,” Kelly shot back.

“Apparently they like you. They don’t like anybody else on the Fox News channel, but they like you,” he joked. “Miss Kelly everybody, the only one the New York Times likes.”

The Times piece, by Jim Rutenberg, was published Jan. 21. Overall, the piece does paint a pretty positive picture of Kelly.

“A Megyn moment, as I have taken to calling it, is when you, a Fox guest — maybe a regular guest or even an official contributor — are pursuing a line of argument that seems perfectly congruent with the Fox worldview, only to have Kelly seize on some part of it and call it out as nonsense, maybe even turn it back on you,” he writes. “The Megyn moment has upended the popular notion of how a Fox News star is supposed to behave, and led to the spectacle of a Fox anchor winning praise from the very elites whose disdain Fox has always welcomed.”

Looks like it’s time to for you to coin an “O’Reilly moment,” Bill.

H/T Raw Story

Senior Japanese officials are meeting to try to authenticate a new video purporting to show Japanese ISIS hostage Kenji Goto, Reuters reports.

This is breaking news. Check back later for updates.

Food journalism in today’s world is all about a “best” list, a “what’s hot and what’s not” or a restaurant ranking system. It’s about what we need more of, less of and what we better start doing right away. They tell us a chef’s favorite holiday treat, favorite knife, favorite gadget, favorite song, favorite thing to do after work, favorite late-night snack, favorite morning ritual. Instead of stories, we get inventories. Is there any other form of journalism that continually rates things, judges them and then packages them up in a neat list? What is this insane business about ratings and lists? It’s true, people read them, they click on them, but why should journalists always pander to the most basic, low-brow instincts of the readers?

To me, that constitutes a crisis. I understand that print media is a difficult endeavor, especially in the food world. We lost Gourmet magazine and La Cucina Italiana. Newspapers are working with skeleton crews in order to just survive. The select few that remain are desperately trying to be relevant in this increasingly digital world where clickbait is king. But what is relevant food journalism today? That’s worth trying to figure out.

Social media — just as much as lost advertising revenue — is the enemy of relevant food journalism. Why would a reader wait around for a thoughtful and analytical article when he can obtain an immediate jolt from a cool, hip Twitter feed or even better, an Instagram account? He can read constantly updated online foodie sites like Eater, GrubStreet and Zagat and see all of the latest and greatest lists, hot spots, gossip, closings, chef divorces and breakups. With the addition of sites like Yelp, Chowhound and Urbanspoon, he has instant access to the hottest restaurant openings and so-called reviews from anyone who chooses to go online and write one.

Unfortunately, to combat the curse of instant access, real journalists have been forced to downgrade their standards, and are now in the business of giving younger readers their much-needed immediate buzz as opposed to producing more thoughtful — and thought-provoking –content. In the process of lowering their standards they have done irreparable harm to the once-elegant business of reviewing restaurants. They have made traditional restaurant reviews all but irrelevant.

It wasn’t always like this. It used to be a basic and admirable process. First, someone opens up a restaurant. Then, someone who has restaurant and/or cooking experience and knows how to write well, visits the establishment numerous times, describes it and gives it a rating. Usually it’s stars, but here in Philadelphia, it’s bells — the influence of the Liberty Bell. The important thing to note here is that the professional reviewer sets the bar. He or she has carefully defined parameters: food, wine, service, ambiance and hospitality are among the most important. The restaurant waits anxiously for the review, which for most of my professional life was considered the benchmark of success. A positive review coupled with a well-written article, meant phone calls galore the next day, as well as a full reservations book.

Vetri opened in 1999. When we were well-reviewed, we could hardly handle all the phone calls. It was nearly incomprehensible. I answered phones in the morning. When Jeff Benjamin, my partner, arrived later, I started cooking and he took over the phones. We went from doing 4-6 covers on a Monday night to doing 40. Then in 2001, when we got our 4th bell (star) it was more of the same. We were forced to hire two extra receptionists to handle the onslaught; certainly a good problem to have. Even 8 years ago when we opened Osteria, our first casual restaurant, there was a significant change after a good review. But that was then and this is now. Osteria, for us, was the last review that moved the needle. Today in Philadelphia and in most other big cities, a major newspaper, local magazine or blog review literally all bear the same weight. That is to say, they all have minimal effect. In a city like NYC, where the New York Times is all-powerful, it may be slightly different. But even so, many chefs with restaurants there tell me that a good article may drive traffic for a week or so, but after that the uptick in business is basically a rounding error.

The reason is simple: All reviews carry the same weight, and are the same in importance. A newspaper review is buried under massive amounts of opinion and critiquing coming from every direction. And reviewers have responded by doing their very worst. Instead of changing with the times, finding ways to set a new standard, they have descended into the abyss of shock-and-awe journalism — anything to draw readers’ attention, and to encourage them to share on social media. This in my mind brings about a few major issues.

First, major critics have abandoned their sense of discretion. They no longer believe in standards for restaurants. One that invests heavily in a wine or cocktail program is no better than one that only serves food. A full-service restaurant is the same as a sandwich shop, pizzeria or even a hummus stand. Nice hummus at a counter? Give the joint three stars.

Critics illogically argue that they review each place based on how well it executes a particular concept. With that thinking, a McDonald’s could conceivably get 4 stars as it strives to be the very best greasy, fat-laden, diabetes-causing place in the universe. Even the Golden Globes is intelligent enough to have separate categories for actor/actress for Drama and Comedy, because the organizers understand that the two simply cannot be rated by the same standards.

Secondly, it seems as if writers have become exactly the same as “egotarian chefs.” Alan Richman coined the phrase in a GQ article called “The Rise of Egotarian Cuisine”. However, he might as well have been talking about food writers. In fact, if you substitute a couple words here and there, you can make the same argument.

He writes:

“…something is wrong in our restaurant kitchens (food reviews) lately. Suddenly, a new breed of chefs (writers) seem to have decided that they should be cooking (writing) not for your pleasure but for their own.”

Or this:

“The food (writing) is intellectual, yet at the same time often thoughtless. It goes directly from mind to plate (paper), straddling the line between the creative and the self indulgent. The dishes (articles) that fail have little to do with the foundations of cuisine (writing) as we know it, as taught by master chefs (great food writers) or in culinary (writing) academies. When it works, the chefs (food writers) have been classically schooled and their worst impulses reined in.”

Illustrative of how seriously food critics are taking themselves these days is the recent epidemic of stories they have been publishing about themselves, announcing they are dropping their anonymity. The truth: They never had any. As if we didn’t know who every one of them are when they come into our restaurants, wearing wigs or dark glasses. Those stories demonstrate dual flaws, that they are both deluded and self-important.

By far the least admirable aspect of reviewing today is the need to express every opinion in superlatives. No nuances allowed. Everything is either awesome or awful. If it’s not the best, it’s the worst. If it’s awesome, they are screaming with joy. If it’s awful, they are howling with rage. Subtlety is nonexistent. They are no longer writing for the purpose of informing the reader. They are writing to take center stage, to promote themselves and their agenda. Aspiring critics who once studied writing, journalism and the art of creative expression are now using words and expressions such as “eeewwww,” and “seriously yum,” just like those on social media sites with which they are competing. Many of them would do a service to journalism by starting their own personal blogs, or critiquing solely from their personal social media profiles rather than pretending to be actual journalists. That way they will no longer be restricted by principles.

You might wonder why a chef/restaurateur is writing an article about writers. It might feel to you as though I am biting the media hand that feeds me. This is my attempt to come clean, to speak for all of us in the business. We talk about this all the time amongst ourselves. We discuss the food media. We’re kind of obsessed with it. But we don’t make it public. It’s time we did.

Some of what we talk about has gotten better. The John Marianis of the world, the writers who lived in an ethical netherworld, are fading away. They are practically nonexistent. So too are the extremely questionable, maybe even litigable, tactics of Yelp. At least they operate out in the open, and everyone reads the reviews posted there with extreme skepticism.

The next big question is what the major critics will do next in their continuing campaign to make the lives of chefs more miserable. In Philadelphia, they have threatened that once they have published a review and graded a restaurant, they reserve the right to go back a couple months later and with one visit change the ratings however they deem fit. Sounds a little bit like journalistic bullying to me.

One thing is for certain, regardless of which direction food journalism takes, I’m still happy to earn my reputation the old-fashioned way, one good meal at a time.

Most of us turn to food experts when we need help with dinner — cookbooks, cooking shows, food magazines — but Leonie Anholts, a recent graduate of Academie Artemis, had a better idea: making it into a game. The Netherlands-based designer came up with a food-themed domino game, named Anatomy of a Recipe, that transforms the tedious search of what to cook for dinner from a chore into a game, literally.

Anholt’s game, a set of domino tiles that each contain a food ingredient cast inside resin, comes with a cookbook. Each tile corresponds to a recipe in the book. The game is played much like traditional dominos, but in this version the last tile played determines which recipe in the book will be made for dinner.

The dinner problem has been solved.


(This domino is holding a piece of parsley.)

While Anholt’s Anatomy of a Recipe is not for sale, we’re pretty sure you could come up with your own version. Make a game out of dinner and never stress about it again.

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H/T Laughing Squid

Sure, you can always book a hotel or an Airbnb rental, but there will come a time when you might want to shack up in a truly unique abode. And for that, we’ve got you covered.

Play Swiss Family Robinson in one of these treehouse hotels.

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Get the royal treatment at a rentable château or palace.

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Keep an eye out for passing ships from the comfort of your bed in one of these lighthouses. (Sea legs not required.)

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See how the other half lives by renting a celebrity’s home for vacation.

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Dip into your savings for a cushy stay at one of these splurge-worthy resorts.

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Leave camping to the Cheryl Strayeds of the world, and pack your bags for a chic glamping trip instead.

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A 17-year-old boy died in a snow-tubing accident on Long Island Monday night, Newsday reported. It was the first reported death of the blizzard that struck the northeast this week.

Snow-tubing is a winter activity that involves riding an inner tube on snow.

Around 10 p.m., a teen from East Northport and two friends were outside, taking turns snow-tubing in Huntington, N.Y. One of the teens lost control and hit a light pole, Suffolk County police told ABC News.

According to Newsday, the teen was taken to Huntington Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

By: Mac Macartney

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In 1984 I was employed as the head gardener at a leadership development centre for corporate executives. I had somehow survived a colourful, illegal, and occasionally hazardous decade. At the same time I was involved in a driving accident – a head-on collision with another car in which the woman driving the other car was killed. It was a terrifying experience, and made all the worse for the fact that in spite of pleading for help, the occupants of a nearby house refused my request to call the emergency services. They were beside themselves with fear, and the wildly overwrought, bloodied and disheveled man who stood in their front garden, occasionally losing consciousness and trampling their flower bed, rendered them incapable of understanding the request. I was later found unconscious in the road at the site of the accident. At the inquest it was revealed that in all probability the woman deliberately drove her car at mine. This had been her threat as she left a pub some miles away, angry, hurt, and wanting to punish the lover who had rejected her.

Some months later, intrigued by the executives who visited our training centre, I asked my boss if I could shadow one of the groups on an outdoor leadership task. He acceded to my request, only cautioning me that I must confine myself to silent observation and refuse any temptation to speak. A few days later I was in a river gorge with six middle managers from one of the UK’s leading supermarkets. The day had begun well but as the hours passed an inconsequential disagreement between two of the team erupted into a full-scale row. The trainer responsible for facilitating learning in the team had long since failed to contain or resolve the situation, and the row was allowed to escalate until one of the protagonists threw the first punch.

I had been quietly watching this drama, engrossed, entranced, and a little startled. I had no way of knowing whether this was normal for such training courses but snatching glances at the trainer and witnessing the blood drain from his face, I judged it was not. I decided to break my promise, and interceded. I didn’t know anything about leadership theory but I did know about people and aggravated situations. When, some hours later, we eventually returned to the leadership centre, the team was in great shape and profoundly relieved that the incident would remain unreported. Overnight I became a leadership trainer and facilitator, and three years later I was promoted to Head of Consultancy.

In 1989 I started my own leadership development business and by 1994 we had started two additional businesses, one in Russia and one in Poland. With many international corporate clients our reputation became increasingly strong and the business prospered. An even more exciting future drew closer when we won a contract with a small insurance company. Our task was to accompany this business as it strove towards its enormously ambitious commercial goals, so that when one day they sold the business they could truthfully claim that they had achieved their goals, while also remaining true to their values.

Five years later, and after a thrilling ride with our new client, the company was sold to Warren Buffet and a fortune was made. David, one of our client’s founders, came to me and asked me what my dream was. Without pausing I described a valley where I would create an enterprise that inspired people from all walks of life, to locate their gifts and energetically contribute them to ‘the world of our longing’. A land-based social enterprise that sought to move people from sympathetic observers standing on the sidelines to engaged participants – people who understood the Hopi Nation elders declaration ‘We are the people we have been waiting for’.

David paused, reached over for his cheque book, and filled out one of the cheques.
“Here, take this. Now you can live your dream.”

It was enough money to buy 50 acres of some of Britain’s most beautiful land.

I think back to that time and occasionally wonder how it was I found myself so immediately eloquent in describing this dream. Alongside my business I had also been enormously inspired and massively challenged by a group of Native Americans who mentored me for many years. This, and my own deep love of nature, my ever-increasing awareness of the huge social and environmental challenges confronting our world, my longing for a life in which my work was fully aligned to the things I most value, and the over-reaching desire to feel that I had indeed ‘lived while I was alive’.

Now in 2014, Embercombe has positively impacted thousands of lives. Our world is still massively and increasingly challenged, but along with many others I have the deep satisfaction of knowing that when the invitation came, I did not turn away.

About Mac Macartney
Mac Macartney is a social entrepreneur, an international speaker on leadership and sustainability, a coach and an author. In all aspects of his work he seeks to inspire people to step forward and contribute towards the emergence of a just, sustainable, and peaceful world. He is the founder of Embercombe – a land-based social enterprise located in the southwest of the UK.

He has been a faculty member for IMD Business School/WWF ‘One Planet Leaders’ Programme in Lausanne for three years, and regularly contributes to the Exeter University Business School ‘One Planet Leaders’ MBA programme. Mac has co-facilitated leadership, values, and sustainability workshops with INSEAD Business School (Singapore), Lafarge, P&G (Europe), PepsiCo, and Nokia Siemens Networks amongst others. Recent and forthcoming speaking engagements include the Harvard Business School Club of New York, the Globally Responsible Leadership Initiative (South Africa), the International Academy for Collaborative Professionals (Vancouver), and the EC Retail Forum for Sustainability (Brussels). He has also spoken at three TEDx events.

For twenty years Mac was mentored by a group of Native Americans. This prolonged and challenging training has profoundly influenced Mac’s worldview and continues to inform all aspects of his work with organisations, children, families, and youth.

It’s your job as a parent to always try to see things through your children’s eyes — no small feat now that the online world has broadened their experiences exponentially. “The advent of the Internet means that the [drug] pusher is no longer on the corner in the bad part of town, but on the Internet a click away from your own kitchen table,” explains Dr. Phil in his Tip of the Day. “There is such accessibility for these children that you have to plug in and know what’s going on. Don’t be intimidated by technology, and don’t be intimidated when they roll their eyes. If you’re asking your kid questions and they’re rolling their eyes, that doesn’t mean that their ears have turned off … Knock on the door again and get an answer — it is your job.”

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