Monday, October 31, 2011

Changing sports habits

The four-month old professional basketball lockout presents an opportunity for fans to reconsider how they spend their upcoming winter months.  Just for the cost of a couple of mid priced tickets to a game a person could pay for a month’s membership in a health club, a pair of running shoes or a sweat suit.  For a half of a seasons worth of tickets one might even purchase a nice set of downhill or cross-country skis, boots and poles. How much more valuable it is for one’s mental and physical health to exercise rather than watch others slam-dunk basketballs on television.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Impressive "also rans"

There were hundreds of high school students running this past week at Bassett Creek Park in the Lefty Wright cross country meet.  These were kids from 25 metro schools, all of whom didn't make their varsity teams.  The top seven runners who qualified for varsity would be running later in the week at their sectional meets.   Inspiring to see these young men and women out running hard in likely the last race of the season, and for many seniors, perhaps the last race of their running career. They put in hundreds of miles training. For those wondering about he younger generation, this was a great example that there are still many with a strong work ethic and willingness to train and work hard. 

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Tom Maakastad art exhibit

Chasing Rain 
Beanfields at dusk
William O'Brien

A view into the art gallery
My wife and I enjoyed a visit to the Groveland Gallery near downtown Minneapolis yesterday to view Tom Maakastad's art exhibit.  Tom's beautiful pastel paintings are mostly of rural Midwestern scenes.

It was a pleasure to reconnect with Tom. We were classmates at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa.... some number of years ago.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Tension and relaxation

Tension is who you think you should be.  
Relaxation is who you are. 
                                               --Chinese Proverb
Marigolds at season's end
     This seems like a good reminder to "lighten up" and "get real" for all of us with perfectionism in our disposition.  
     While brushing our cat earlier this morning I was impressed with how relaxed she was, just being in the moment.  Clearly she wasn't trying to be a nervous dog or some other creature.  She just appears to enjoy being a cat, and could care less about what others might think of her.
     Being focused and "in the moment" is valuable, whether reading a book, playing an instrument, presenting before a group, taking a test, participating in an athletic activity or simply conversing with another person.  While it may be laudable to seek to improve oneself, setting the bar too high may lead too much tension and hence poor performance.  
     The Fortune magazine founder, B.C. Forbes, had different take on things.  He remarked "It may be all right to be content with what you have; never with what you are."  This philosophy helps sell magazines and self improvement books. 
     Seems there is considerable wisdom in the ancient Greek aphorism, "Know thyself."

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Veterans for Peace

Veterans for Peace
While at the Occupy Wall Street protests in downtown Minneapolis I visited with a few guys who were with Veterans for Peace.  They shared some literature which indicated the U.S. military spends over $500 billion, as high as the next largest 15 nations combined!  Our nation's tax dollars going to the global "war on terror have sky rocketed from $20 billion in 2001 to approximately $200 billion in 2009.  Additional information about military spending can be found through the War Resisters League website. They noted that while the VFW supports the "glorification" of war, they support the "horrification" of war.

They also shared information on Minnesota Arms Spending Alternatives Project (MN ASAP), a non-partisan citizen-based initiative using a simple resolution process to build political support to shift federal spending priorities from war to essential needs.  
     Last, but not least, these gentlemen provided me with information on an upcoming Every Church a Peace Church (ECAPC) Bimonthly potluck supper meeting coming up on Monday, November 14th, which will begin at 6:30 p.m. at Faith Mennonite Church, 2720 E 22nd Street, Minneapolis, MN  55406.  Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer will be presenting about how to encourage our nation to shift spending from the military to essential needs.  For further information call 612-522-1861.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Minneapolis' Wall Street demonstrations

Earlier in the week I stopped by to see some of the protests going on in downtown Minneapolis, on the city hall lawn.  As noted, there seemed to be a variety of issues and concerns being raised by those present.  The signs that I've posted give a flavor of some of the sentiment being shared by protesters.

I had a nice visit with some Veterans for Peace.  I'll post some of their issues and concerns tomorrow.

Sleeping quarters

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Food Day

Project Sweetie Pie Booth at Food Day Gathering
Food Day Booth
I participated in Food Day yesterday morning at the University of Minnesota, volunteering at the Project Sweetie Pie booth.  It was great to see about 20 other food and healthy living booths.

The goals of Food Day are as follows:
Robert Jones (lf), Senior Vice President for System
Academic Administration and Michael Chaney (rt),
Founder Project Sweetie Pie

1.  Reduce diet related disease by promoting safe, healthy foods.
2.  Support sustainable farms and limit subsidies to big agribusiness
3.  Expand access to food and alleviate hunger
4.  Protect the environment and animals by reforming factory farms
5.  Promote healthy by curbing junk-food marketing to kids
6.  Support fair conditions for food and farm workers

Among the many booths there was Making it Better, a community initiative that brings people together to discover and share stories that inspire healthy everyday choices wherever they live, work, learn or play.  They are currently taking challenge submissions for community efforts that fit their mission. Project Sweetie Pie is among the entrants.

    Monday, October 24, 2011

    Many hands, bryozoan colonies and clouds

    Over the weekend I was a part of a group that experienced the age old saying "many hands make light work".  We pulled out about a half dozen docks and a few boat lifts from the water.  Saturday was an absolutely beautiful day to do this work, with lots of sun and temperatures in the 50s and 60s.

    One of the guys pointed out something he called fresh water coral, that was found underwater on some of the docks.  Not sure if this is an accurate description of this large fairly firm gelatinous mass to which many small shell like creatures adhered. I did a bit of research on the internet and discovered an answer to this mystery.  No, this was not coral, but rather we were observing gelatinous freshwater bryozoan colonies.

    Sunday's sunrise was spectacular.  The clouds added considerable color and interest.  Were it not for clouds we wouldn't have rain.  Aren't clouds much like the adversity in our life, without which we wouldn't grow?  We may complain and be upset that everything doesn't go our way, but in fact these are growth and learning opportunities.  Of course it is also important to have some sun and encouragement to keep us healthy and growing too!

    Saturday, October 22, 2011

    Bejeweled plants and flowers

    As predicted, jack frost arrived yesterday morning and was about his artistry.
    Swamp milkweed

    Last of the season's roses

    Bejeweled plant by the pond's edge

    Friday, October 21, 2011

    End of season flowers

    With the threat of frost overnight I thought it might be nice to take a few shots of flowers around our home in their bright and blooming form.  Soon they might not be nearly so bright and cheery.

    Thursday, October 20, 2011

    Claiming our roles and identity

    All day yesterday it felt like I wasn't getting anything done.  Yet, as I reflect I was able to...
    Garbage collected by pond
    • read from the book "Your Money or your Life" and generate a related blog entry
    • take a long walk with a friend and our dog
    • put together some information regarding steps for developing a nonprofit and disseminated it to the advisory committee of Project Sweetie Pie, which I'm helping to serve
    • mow the yard, mulching up leaves into the yard
    • help our pastor edit a stewardship letter for church (Valley of Peace Lutheran)
    • arrange a meeting to discuss possible consulting work for a website developer that has a product he would like to offer to nonprofits (adaptive portal)
    • frame a couple of large photographs I had taken
    • send a card to a friend who's mother had passed away
    • post a few pictures on TPT's Capture Minnesota website and comment on other photos
    • clean up some litter around the pond while on a run
    • grill bratwurst for supper
    • practice with the church choir
    Whew, lots of various roles played in one day!  I was a blogger, home owner, walker/runner, friend, church/community/park volunteer, choir member, photographer, and cook.  So, while I didn't do anything that generated an income, I felt like I was making a contribution to the world.  I can live with that, albeit somewhat modestly ;-)

    Wednesday, October 19, 2011

    Claiming our primary identity

    I've had numerous conversations this past year with a friend about the challenge of identifying, and even justifying, one's status when unemployed.  My walking friend and I have commiserated about how in this society much of one's primary identity is connected to work.  It was a great pleasure to read in a book entitled "Your money or your life" by Vicky Robin and Joe Dominguez who challenge this tendency to link people's primary identity to employment.  They note "Our focus on money and materialism may have robbed us of the pride we can and should feel in who we are as people and the many ways we contribute to the well-being of others.  Our task now is to retrieve that birthright of knowing ourselves as human beings rather than as human doings or human earnings."  They further suggest "Breaking the link between work and money allows us to reclaim balance and sanity."

    How refreshing it was to hear others suggesting that work no longer be the primary identifier of our lives.  It is a blessing when the things that we get paid to do also help us to earn a living wage.  However there are many other important, life giving roles that are not linked to wages e.g. those things we do in our roles as friends and family members, community volunteers, developing our creativity and interests, etc.  If we only recognize the value in ourselves by our time at paid work, then what credit do we give to the rest of our time when we're "unemployed" and not on the job?

    If your interested in transforming your relationship with money and achieving financial independence, I would recommend a read of "Your MONEY or your LIFE".  To save a few bucks you might want to consider checking it out from the library ;-)

    Tuesday, October 18, 2011

    Danger of unbridled capitalism

    The greed of gain has no time or limit to its capaciousness. Its one object is to produce and consume. It has pity neither for beautiful nature nor for living human beings. It is ruthlessly ready without a moment's hesitation to crush beauty and life out of them, molding them into money.
    This was written by Rabindranath Tagore.  In 1913 he was the first Indian to earn the Noble Peace Prize for literature.  He was a prolific poet, playwright, and world traveler.  

    Monday, October 17, 2011

    Lessons from the life of Vincent van Gogh

    Life's not at all fair is one of the biggest take aways from watching CBS's 60 minutes program on The Life and Death of Vincent van Gogh.  He lived the life of a pauper, depending on a brother to subsidize his food and lodging, yet years later many of his his thousands of paintings are each worth millions.  There were other lessons as well.

    Perseverance.  Despite being teased and essentially friendless, Vincent van Gogh persevered with his passion of painting.    He wanted console others who were heartbroken by their struggles in life, and most certainly did!

    Follow your own passions.  Vincent tried being a pastor like his father, but the world should rejoice that it didn't work out.  He failed at most everything he tried to do, even art school. It seems his painting was too innovative for his times.

    People suffering from mental illness are not all dumb.  Vincent van Gogh is now considered the foremost painter in the world, but also spent time a year in an insane asylum.  In addition to being a brilliant painter he was a fluent in Dutch, French, German and English.  He was also a voracious reader.

    Support local artist.  In addition to getting a one of a kind piece of art work you might also be helping with the livelihood of the next van Gogh.

    Thank goodness for a safety net which now helps to assure people like Vincent van Gogh have adequate support to live on without depending on an ailing sibling for their survival.

    A video of a few of Vincent van Gogh's paintings along with descriptions narrated by Morley Safer is available on 60 Minutes Overtime

    Sunday, October 16, 2011

    Planting apple trees

    Apple tree
    The namesake of the Lutheran Church, Martin Luther, once famously remarked that if he knew that the world were going to end tomorrow that he would plant an apple tree today.  While it is easy to become anxious about the future, one of the best antidotes to this anxiety is to live faithfully and courageously in the present.

    My wife and I purchased Honeycrisp and Zestar apple trees for our yard yesterday.  Truthfully this purchase didn't require all that much faith or courage.  The trees were discounted 25%, so that it only required a visit to the nursery and about $80.
    Hawthorne stump

    I had to cut down an aging Hawthorne to make room for one of the trees. This was the most difficult part of the experience.  As advertised, Hawthorne trees have large thorns, which easily pierce the skin.  So while planting of the apple trees was a painless process, I spilled blood during the preparation work.  Like so many efforts it seems that the preparation is the most difficult part of a successful experience.

    PS  The white corrugated tubes on the trees are to keep the deer and rabbits from eating the bark.

    Saturday, October 15, 2011

    Why worry about tomorrow?

         Why worry about tomorrow,
    and the rising of the sun, 
    or anguish over past mistakes
    that cannot be undone?

         Why waste life's precious moment
    on things that bruise the heart,
    when today is ours to fashion
    into a work of art?

         Today comes but once, my friend,
    it never can return -
    so use it wisely while you can
    there's a lesson you may learn.

         Let history record the past,
    and tomorrow come what may.
    Be content to do your best,
    with what you have today.

                                                                        -Clay Harrison

    Friday, October 14, 2011

    Reflections on lifestyle by the Dalai Lama and Jesus

         The Dalai Lama, when asked what surprised him most about humanity, answered Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”

         Words from Jesus in the book of Matthew,“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

    Thursday, October 13, 2011

    99% and the 1%... USA's great economic divide

    We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we cannot have both.  Justice Louis Brandeis, 1941

    A StarTribune editorial by Paul Zerby, "Living in Occupied America", helps to explain the great level of frustration expressed through the Occupy MN protest and those elsewhere in the US.  He refers to a statement made a few years back from a law classmate of his... "the principal in Washington is no longer the government or the people it represents.  It is the Money Power." He notes that the overarching theme of the protests is that 99% of Americans need to find a way to limit the power that the 1% currently has over the rest.  Given the vast amounts of money in Washington DC that goes into political campaigns and lobbying, this change in the balance of power won't come without rocking the boat.

    During this prolonged recession a tragic waiting game has been occurring, with many corporations stock piling cash, fearful of investing in their infrastructure or employees. And so the economy spirals further downward.  Those still holding jobs are left with the work load of a a few people.  People are stressed either because they have a job or because they don't. 

    On the nonprofit side of the equation recent years have been brutal for many charities.  An article in the StarTribune, Giving drops with economy, noted that charitable giving decreased between 2008 and 2009, going from $5.4 billion to $4.9 billion. Most nonprofits, unlike their for profit cousins, have been operating all out to meet human needs.  Sadly, given a decline in resources many have been forced to reduce their staffing and services, merge or perhaps go out of service. So, during a time when need is up, resources to meet these human needs are diminishing. An indicator of this condition was announced at our church on Sunday when we heard that the local food shelf being operated by PRISM (People Responding in Social Ministry) was bare, much like Old Mother Hubbard's food shelf.  In addition to increased demands PRISM has also been under severe financial stress.

    While a simple "tax the rich" solution may not go nearly far enough to balance the budget, it would go a long way in helping the other 99% feel like all were making some sacrifices for the long term health of the nation during these most difficult economic times.  

    Wednesday, October 12, 2011

    Racial awareness

    My awareness of the impact of race was recently heightened by reading "The Grace of Silence".  This is a memoir by Michele Norris, an African American author and National Public Radio journalist.  It hits close to home for me, since I grew up about a half of a mile from Michele's home in south Minneapolis.

    I've heard more than once from other white folk about how slavery has long been abolished in the United States and that now African Americans have no excuses to be lagging behind in many social indicators.  Yet, the legacy  of racism still resonates loudly for many people of color in this nation.  As a person in the majority status I often take for granted the considerable privilege and acceptance that I receive on a daily basis. Michele's book was a great reminder for me of the vastly different experience one of my neighbors had growing up, simply because of her racial identity.

    Tuesday, October 11, 2011

    Peter Benson and Search Institute

    I attended the funeral for Dr. Peter Benson yesterday at Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church, in downtown Minneapolis. There were moving testimonials of the spark that Peter brought to others through his active listening and engaging leadership style.  His son, Kai, also shared of the unconditional love and humor he shared with his family, even when Kai sported a purple mohawk during teen years.

    Peter Benson, former president of Search Institute, was a national and worldwide leader in the field of youth research. In addition to formulating 40 Developmental Assets for Youth, Peter also developed a nationwide initiative of Healthy Communities - Healthy Youth. His final major effort centered around the area of helping people, especially teens, find their sparks, those deepest passions and interests that give purpose, focus, joy and energy and that are good and useful for the world.

    It was noted that all of the worlds great leaders, including Peter Benson, point away from themselves and to the rest of the world. One of the songs sung at the funeral was "This little light of mine".  All were encouraged to let their lights shine, and to recognize and light the sparks in others... those special gifts and interests that are unique to each of us.

    Following is a quote from Howard Zinn, 2004, that graced a handout given at the funeral.

    To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage and kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and place - and there are so many - where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a wold in a different direction.

    Monday, October 10, 2011

    Poverty among children in US on the rise

    Listening to the news recently I heard that in Brooklyn Park, a northwest suburb of Minneapolis, nearly one third of the children live in poverty.  Within the city of Minneapolis a staggering number of schools have a majority of their children living in property.  The overall number of children enrolled in free/reduced rate lunch sky rocked from 39% in 1985 to 66% in 1997, and it has held steady at that high rate through 2010.  The vast majority of these students are children of color.

    Poverty is not limited to urban and suburban residents.  Within the state of Minnesota one in seven of our children are living in poverty. The rate of poverty has increased 56% in the state of Minnesota since 2000.  For a family of four the poverty line is at $22,000 per year.

    A commentary, "When hard work is not enough", by Brian Rusche, the executive director of the Joint Religious Legislative Coalition discusses the severe impact poverty can have on children.  It is now believed that the chronic stress related to poverty leads to inhibited brain development. Mr. Rusche cites the following additional impacts of poverty on children.

    • more likely to drop out of school
    • require economic aid and social services as adults
    • exhibit hopelessness
    • fall into patterns of criminal behavior
    • be under of unemployed
    Solutions to poverty among children include early childhood education, subsidized quality child daycare, quality schools, and jobs that pay a livable wage.

    During the month of October many faith communities observe "Children's Sabbath", to draw attention to the needs of children in our state.  Helping to bring children out of poverty is not only an ethical thing to do, but also in the long term it is also is the most economically responsible action. Far better for children to have a successful start to enhance their chances of being productive, contributing members of society.  

    Peter Benson, October 2010, presenting
    at state mentoring conference
    the University of Minnesota
    Peter Benson, former president of the Search Institute, was a great advocate for children and youth.  He promoted the development of assets, rather than focusing on prevention of negative behaviors, such as lowering high school drop out rates, drug use, and teenaged pregnancy. I was blessed to have crossed paths with Dr. Benson at various local and national youth conferences.  My thoughts and prayers are are with him and his family as a celebration of his life occurs this afternoon.   He died at age 65 after a battle with colon cancer.  A TED video with Peter Benson, "Sparks: How Youth Thrive", is available for viewing.

    Saturday, October 8, 2011

    Benefits of less structured play

    Ultimate Frisbee
    A commentary by Carlo Rotella, director of American studies at Boston college, suggested kids benefit greatly from unstructured play (How to make Jack a dull boy, and Jill a dull girl).

    Carlo noted that kids are learning much these days, it is just that most of this takes place in structured settings.  He argues that free play is vital to a child's mental health and acquisition of important skills, such as decision making, problem solving, following rules, regulating emotions, and getting along with others.

    So, he argues we should all encourage our kids, along with our neighbor's kids to get out and play.  With all of the fear and anxiety of the big bad world that has been generated by the news this is easier said than done.  Unfortunately so many parents also seem to prefer to enroll their children in structured activities from a very early age.  And, with so many two parent working families also makes it challenging to have unstructured time outside.

    I'm a big fan of Ultimate Frisbee because it is one of the very few sports that is self officiated.  Many Ultimate clubs even play without coaches.

    Friday, October 7, 2011

    Less stuff, more happiness

    A case for less being more is made by Graham Hill in a Ted lecture, Less stuff, more happiness.  He  noted that despite the huge average American home size, there is still a 22 billion dollars in storage industry.  Americans currently have  three times the space they had fifty years ago.  Mr. Hill suggests paradoxically that less is equal to more.  Less stuff, less space = smaller foot print, more ease, less costly and more freedom.

    His suggestions yo live with less include the following:

    1.  Edit ruthlessly, get rid of the extraneous and think before we buy.
    2.  Think small.  Space efficiency.  Consider things that nest and stack. Digitize books and photos.
    3.  Utilize multifunctional spaces and house ware.

    Mr Hill predicts that editing in going to be the skill of this century.

    I must confess a story from when we moved 13 years ago from our old home in Robbinsdale. An elderly neighbor from across the street, Mr. Blake, told me he knew we would be moving.  He had foreseen that our 1,300 square foot  house was "much too large" for our small three person family.  Mr. Blake, one of the original home owners in the neighborhood, lived happily in an 800 square foot home.  Truth be told, we did the trendy American thing, and moved to a slightly newer and larger home.

    Interestingly, after super sizing the trend is now slowly evolving to smaller homes. Starting in 2009 the average home size in the United States was 100 square feet smaller (30-year growth spurt ends for average American house size).  The median size fell to 2, 094 square feet.

    Thursday, October 6, 2011

    Thoughts on death by Steve Jobs

    Swamp Milkweed
         Big headline in today's newspaper about the death of Steve Jobs, former CEO of Apple Computer.  As a highly successful inventor he had an interesting remark about life's final chapter.  He commented "Death is very likely the best invention of life.  All pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure, these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important."
         Pictured left is a Swamp Milkweed along side of Bassett Creek pond.  It is looking quite lovely, and even elegant in its death.  As you can see its last act is the dispersion of seeds.
         While most flower blossoms have long fallen, a late blooming wildflower was still keeping company with the milkweed during its last act of the season.

    Nothing Gold Can Stay

    by Robert Frost

    Nature's first green is gold,
    Her hardest hue to hold,
    Her early leaf's a flower;
    But only so an hour.
    Then leaf subsides to leaf.
    So Eden sank to grief,
    So dawn goes down to day.
    Nothing gold can stay.

    Wednesday, October 5, 2011

    WAM Exhibits

    One of the themes at the WAM re-opening was "Sympathies: Producing, Experiencing, Interpreting Art".  The goal of the sympathies series is to explore the relevance of the museum collections in the twenty-first century.
    Sharon Louden and Eun-Kyung Suh, two contemporary artists, had major art exhibits on display.  Louden worked off the theme of the building's metal exterior and created a vast number of aluminum-slashing strips that were curled in the "Merge"exhibit.

    Eun-Kyung Suh of Seoul, Korea and Duluth, Minnesota developed a large exhibit, "Anchae", which incorporated images on cotton onto sheets of silk cloth. Anchae refers to the primary section of a Korean home, which was a comfortable place for rearing of children and conducting family life.

    Tuesday, October 4, 2011

    Weisman Art Museum, now WAM!

    I attended a re-opening celebration of the Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum on October 2nd.  In addition to expanded exhibit space, they were rebranding the museum as WAM.  This use of acronyms seems to be following a trend.  A couple of other arts and cultural organizations have also taken this route.  The Minneapolis Institute of Arts became the MIA.  More recently Twin Cities Public Television became TPT.

    One of the benefits of abbreviated names is that it makes it much more convenient to communicate about these institutions via text messaging.  e.g. IMO AASAP you G2G to the WAM. LMK RSN if U can go . CWYL.

    Help translating the above can be found on the webopedia site.

    Sunday, October 2, 2011

    Historic Fort Snelling

     I enjoyed a visit to the Historic Fort Snelling yesterday morning, after dropping off a friend at nearby Minneapolis international airport. 

    At Fort Snelling I discovered people dressed in the attire of the days when the fort was active, back in the eighteen hundreds.  They also reenact everyday life, including baking, metallurgy, woodworking, etc.

    One of the reenactments was the raising of the flag nearby the round tower, which is thought to be the oldest structure in the state of Minnesota, dating back to approximately 1820.

    I arrived before the flag raising and noticed an interesting shadow of the flag pole on the round tower, pictured left.

    The soldiers were inspected (below) before the flag raising.  The rifles were stood up in a circle (lower right) to keep them from getting dirty when they were not needed.

    Saturday, October 1, 2011

    Insects on the trail

     On an evening walk yesterday I watched for insects on the path.  I noticed a couple of different kinds of caterpillars and a grasshopper.  It is amazing how many insects are around us if we take time to notice.

    Looking up  information on insects I discovered at any given time it is estimated that there are some 10 quintillion (10,000,000,000,000,000,000) individual insects alive.  Wow, that's a lot of bugs!