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Colin Ly

High School Student,

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If you could do a TED talk, what would you talk about?

Hey, despite the age gaps and definite bias associated with youth in life and being one of the "younger" members at least TED closes them up (this means you people you're the cool old people :D) ok but else than that,

If you could do a TED talk what would you do? what do you find important and why?
nice and long please

Topics: Everything!
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    Sep 28 2011: Hitchhiking across Africa. I recently spent 19 months crossing 28 countries from Morocco to South Africa via the west, completely by getting free lifts, walking, and (in the southern countries) cycling. Before I left and while I was there almost everyone I knew from home and met on the road (including Africans) said it was impossible/too dangerous/not worth the risks; one fairly educated (ex)friend of mine even went as far as to say I was throwing my life away on a worthless, suicidal project.

    What I would talk about at TED is just how wrong they were. I would aim to dispel some of the ridiculous myths about Africans and how they live. I started the trip when I was 22, and as a single woman got across the entire continent without once feeling like my security was threatened. Yes, it takes being assertive, but many people (even some who have been there) do not understand the depth of hospitality and community that is core to African values (continent-wide). People always looked out for me, gave reliable advice and made me feel like a respected member of their community - whether it be planting peanuts in Gambia, sitting around at a women's night in Timbuktu, dancing at a funeral ceremony in Cameroon, or stranded in a tiny village in DRC next to a broken down truck. I never once had to stay in hotels, because I was always welcomed into peoples homes, or warmly received when I asked at police stations or schools for a place to rest.

    If I could pass on one message, it would be for westerners to realize more respect for African culture and way of life. Looking at the entire continent as a place of pity that needs to be saved is ridiculous. There are a lot of ways in which western culture needs to be "saved" too - and if we give Africa enough respect I'd say we can learn a lot towards our own salvation. The Western "teacher" and everyone else "student" model doesn't work - collaborative learning is the way forward.
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      Sep 29 2011: This is some really cool stuff, im shocked how TED doesnt call you in already :D, i mean if the western world being like ... im going to guess maybe 30% to 10% of the worlds population, im sure the rest of the world has many "well built" ideas also to collaborate on thanks
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      Sep 29 2011: Having visited the Sudan during one of it's few moments of peace, I can say that it really depends where you go on the safety thing. While the people I met every day were possibly the kindest, gentlest and most interesting people I have ever met, there was more than one occasion where things were a bit sticky. However, I full heartedly agree that your run of the mill American has a less than broad idea of what Africa is. In fact there are a number of people who will tell you Africa is a country--but that might bring us back over to one of the Education conversations....

      My 73 year old Mother travelled to Tunis this past summer, and she had a wonderful time, met wonderful people. She was not on a tour or anything, and she was with friends who spoke the language. So I agree---I would just add that one should do one's homework and really understand whatever you can about current affairs of the areas you are visiting.
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        Sep 30 2011: I too visited locations that were considered dangerous and flagged by western governments with the same level travel advisories as places like Mogadishu or Kabul (although I havent actually been to either of those places). It just took being well informed of the current situation (mostly by word of mouth) and when travelling through places that were rebel-held or had a high rate of kidnappings making sure I met locals who could help me through and give advice. The help of the police was also invaluable despite their reputation for bribes - I never once paid a bribe, they are people too and were often more than willing to help find me a lift once I explained my story and showed respect. (Obviously if I had been driving a fancy 4WD and waving around a $500 camera, the bribe part would have been different).

        Im glad your mother got a chance to visit the continent. Mine also flew out for a few weeks and (despite having read my blogs) had a very enlightening experience.
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      Sep 29 2011: Hi Alyssa Hoseman

      I ma completely speechless, you bring tears to me eyes and all I can say is this, I have so much respect for you right now!!!
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      Sep 30 2011: QUOTE: "What I would talk about at TED is just how wrong they were."

      They weren't wrong. You got lucky.

      And before you jump all over me for bursting your balloon - I lived there for seven years and had friends, both black and white, who were killed by drunk drivers, killed by sober drivers who thought the road belonged to them, murdered for no apparent reason, raped, raped and murdered, die from illness, mugged, robbed, etc.

      And I am not talking about a few friends, I am talking about a lot of friends. And I am not including the tourists and acquaintances who faired as badly.

      My best friend there is a man by the name of Maurice Kokayo. He is a poor Kenyan; a big black man who obviously blends in. While I was there, he was mugged, violently, three times. He had no money and did not look wealthy. They were stealing his shoes.

      I got mugged (but I beat the mugger up - fortunately, he was not armed.)

      I commend your spirit of adventure and your perception of humanity in general, and African culture in particular (a perception I share by the way) BUT by My God woman ... you got lucky!
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        Sep 30 2011: Hi Thomas,
        I love the TALK of Alyssa for it was good to see proof of this possibility to be welcomed by all people.
        It may not always be that way as I know someone close that had both experienced bad and good in Zimbabwe. He was born there (white) and felt he had to go back to do some good for the people. He lived a year with the people in Harare to do his project to inform the people about AIDS and the use of condoms.
        Eventually he came in the hospital with many fractures and a broken hipbone and we had to get him back. At first they neglected him and without our intervention he was still there or dead. Then the nurses did what was necessary but if they could hurt him in any way they did so.

        Yet I do understand that life in the city isn't comparable with the country where tradition still is at its place. It could well be that to avoid any city you avoid a lot of trouble.

        Another thing is your own thought and attitude. To go in peace or in fear will definitely give another result in what you meet in other people.
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          Sep 30 2011: Hi Frans,

          You're right about attitude having an impact on how others treat you. You're also right that some areas are safer than others. Sometimes it's the cities that are safe(er); sometimes, it's the countryside. It depends on the country; and it also changes from time to time.

          When I was in Ghana, my friends (who are all black) would not go to Nigeria. They were afraid to. They said you could pay the equivalent of 25cents there to have someone killed. (I'm told it's much safer now.)

          In Ethiopia, the government would not allow people to go to the southern part of the country (unless you had a permit and a police escort), it was too dangerous.

          One of my friends in South Africa was driving home and he hit a large rock on the highway. It blew out his tire. When he stopped to fix it, some men came out of the bushes and shot him to death. It was they who had put the rock on the road.

          In the 7 years I was in Africa, 15 of my close friends died or were murdered. If we count the people who I knew less well (brothers of my friends and so on) the number of people I know who died or were killed is about 200. About two people a month.

          How many people do you personally know who have died in the last seven years?

          ---------------
          By the way, I like Africa and I am planning on going back. The country is beautiful and the people are fantastic BUT it is relatively lawless, there is a lot of poverty, and many people resort to crime to support themselves and their family. Even people who have lived there their whole lives make mistakes and end up in the wrong place at the wrong time and pay for it with their lives.
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        Sep 30 2011: Thomas, when I said 'they were wrong' I was not implying that they were wrong about the fact that Africa is dangerous, because it is, and so are many other places in the world. Like yourself, I have also heard my share of African horror stories, and any westerner who occasionally turns on a world news station gets their fill too. I do not deny that violent crimes happen there - they happen everywhere and possibly more frequently in certain countries/cities in Africa. But the point of my ‘talk’ would not be to discuss crime or corruption or poverty, or any of the ‘usual’ African topics.

        What I said the skeptics were wrong about was their claim that my journey was (QUOTE) "impossible/too dangerous/not worth the risks"...and that "I was throwing my life away on a worthless, suicidal project." It obviously was not impossible or suicidal, it was dangerous but not too dangerous, and it was a hundred times over worth the risks.

        Like I said before, the message I want people to understand is that Africans have many values and systems that are worth respecting and learning from, instead of the current view that is for the entire continent to adapt all things Western. Clearly there is a lot that doesn’t work here, so instead of pushing our flawed models on the rest of the world, I believe we should be learning collectively and adopting each other’s strongest attributes.

        I am sure you agree with this view somewhat, because you are also a traveler and a TED enthusiast. You are right that I did get lucky in some ways, and I wouldn’t tell people to naïvely go walking across the Guinean bush or hitchhiking in the Niger Delta red zone like I did without experience and preparation. What I do want to do is provide a counter to the usual horror stories that come out of the continent, and give the average person a reason to challenge their beliefs.
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          Sep 30 2011: Hi Alyssa,

          As I say, I admire your adventurous spirit.

          You said, "Like yourself, I have also heard my share of African horror stories, and any westerner who occasionally turns on a world news station gets their fill too."

          I did not "hear" these stories.

          QUOTE: I do not deny that violent crimes happen there - they happen everywhere and possibly more frequently in certain countries/cities in Africa.

          No, my dear, not "possibly more frequently in certain countries/cities in Africa." Definitely more frequently in virtually all countries/cities in Africa.

          QUOTE: But the point of my ‘talk’ would not be to discuss crime or corruption or poverty, or any of the ‘usual’ African topics.

          You could do that without talking about hitchhiking solo across Africa.

          QUOTE: "... it was dangerous but not too dangerous, and it was a hundred times over worth the risks."

          No, your friends were right: it was "too dangerous" ... you just got lucky. And only you know the value you place on your life.

          QUOTE: Like I said before, the message I want people to understand is that Africans have many values and systems that are worth respecting and learning from, instead of the current view that is for the entire continent to adapt all things Western.

          I am not questioning your intention or motives, I am just saying you obviously have no idea the risk you took.

          QUOTE: I am sure you agree with this view somewhat, because you are also a traveler and a TED enthusiast.

          Only in that I support your right to do what you want to do. Personally, I would rather introduce the world to my friend Maurice Kokayo.

          QUOTE: "You are right that I did get lucky in some ways..."

          No, not "in some ways" ... you literally have no idea how lucky you are.

          Regardless of the outcome, my point is: Your friends were right.

          But past is past. If you can use your experience beneficially, you might as well. You payed for it.

          Please don't do it again.
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      Sep 30 2011: @Alyssa- Thats a talk I would like to hear! And contrary to the advice given above. Do it again or as many times as you feel lead. :) Thanks for being a part of the world.
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        Sep 30 2011: Jacob,

        If she was your daughter, your niece, or your girlfriend, would you give her the same advice?

        Imagine what her friends and her family would go through if she were to "do it again or as many times as [she feels the] lead." (For them, it's not about "a talk.")

        Imagine, that she is walking down a dirt road hoping to find a ride, she gets picked up by a truck delivering potatoes to, say, Mogadishu. Imagine there are twelve year old boys walking around with AK-47s.

        Now imagine she is dropped off in a small village, where the local power-lords (tribal, military, political, etc) detain her in a small compound made to contain livestock. While there, she overhears their discussions about what they are going to do with her. The options range from dropping her off across the border in, say, Kenya (to a part of the country called "The Northern Frontier District") which would mean almost certain death; to, killing her, stealing her belongings and dumping her body next to a crashed vehicle to make it look like an accident.

        Imagine she has to listen to these discussion go on for four days.

        Imagine how she would feel when she realizes the majority favour the second option.

        Now imagine, even if she could get out of the compound, there is no means of communication with the outside world - no phone, no electricity, nothing. But fortunately, she has a handheld radio of the kind used by pilots and she (luckily) contacts an overflying jet on the third day. On the fourth day, a rescue aircraft (paid for by the Canadian Government) flies in and picks her up.

        Now imagine she is not a single woman but one of two men and you will have some understanding of what actually happened to me.

        What are the chances she would carry such a radio (or even know how to use one?) I'm a pilot. The engine in my plane failed. I had no choice were I landed.

        Now forget all that.

        Imagine nothing happens to her (again.)

        Now, imagine how her friends and family feel every minute she is gone.
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          Oct 1 2011: I'm sorry for your lost friends, but it seems inconceivable that they did not know of the dangers before they went. I think what Alyssa is getting at is the dangers are well advertised ahead of time, while the beauty in these places is what hidden. She made a choice exercised caution and had a bit of luck and came away from it a richer person, and hopefully enriched the lives of those she met along the way, who most likely saw few traveler from her world. The reality is with all the talk we shed about providing African aid we should at least have some people who have spent some time hanging out with people. Get to know who they are, what there concerns, and aspirations are. As sad as it is that you have lost friends at least you can take a solace in knowing they lived out their lives on their terms, it's much sadder when we die without trying for goals no matter how noble or practical our reasons are.
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          Oct 1 2011: Exactly as Anthony said, the risks are known and informed choices made. Thomas, what you went through is horrible and you're right that there is always the potential for something like that to happen in Africa, particularly while travelling off the beaten track. I personally avoided places as infamous as the Mogadishu region, and when traveling through somewhere with a bad reputation was much more careful which rides I accepted. But that said, something could have happened.

          I think your story actually illustrates exactly the stereotype I am try to dispel - ask your average American to tell you a story they know of Africa and that is exactly the type of thing they'll tell you. But the fact that bad things can and do happen is not a reason to avoid experiences all together.

          My point, as Anthony understood, is that we should think of Africans as intelligent people whom we need to respect and learn from, in addition to doing what we can to make their world a better place. And besides, people take far greater risks in pursuit of their personal dreams or in service to the world, and we commend them for it.

          A last point - my family and friends were incredibly supportive. Yes when I first came up with the idea and at the beginning of the trip they were pessimistic and thought it a bad idea, because they too had only ever heard the bad stories. But slowly but surely many of them changed their minds from reading my blogs and hearing my stories. In fact, my mother whose previous travel experience had been limited to one Club-Med vacation in her 20s, came and met me in South Africa and we hitchhiked together through Mozambique and Zimbabwe. Judging by the amount of time she still spends talking about it I would say it was one of the most important experiences of her life.

          As for me, I only came back to Canada because a family illness here requires my support for the next few months, but come 2012 I'll be back on the road.
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        Oct 1 2011: QUOTE: "My point, as Anthony understood, is that we should think of Africans as intelligent people whom we need to respect and learn from, in addition to doing what we can to make their world a better place."

        Do you have any idea how condescending this sounds?

        -------------

        Alyssa, you seem to be missing my point: Hitchhiking is dangerous.

        There are safer ways to explore the great nations of Africa.

        My comments relate directly (and only) to hitchhiking not to your desire for adventure.

        Perhaps I am being direct because, those of us who lived in Africa (and even after seven years I was considered an interloper) often had to "clean up the mess" left by some idealistic dreamer who ended up in pieces on the side of a road (literally.)*

        We did not appreciate it.

        -----------
        To those of you who are supporting Alyssa's aspirations: Put aside the romanticism, idealism, "positive thinking" (and the desire for a great "talk") and ask yourself this: If you knew a young woman who was at a party in, say, Los Angeles, and she told you she was going to hitchhike home from the party, would you let her?

        How about if she lived in Toronto? New York? Detroit? London?

        Now think.

        Think!

        -----------
        * These are not "stereotypical stories" these are simply stories. They happen on a frequency that not even the news media is distorting (they do not report 99.9% of them.)
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          Oct 1 2011: Thomas
          I am a bit curious to why you were in Africa. As for hitchhiking, its a realistic means of transportation for many people around the world. Its is less fashionable in many parts of the industrial world now, but that has to do with more people owning their own transportation and having the privilege of being less community orientated. If the primary concern was safety no one would drive faster than 30 which would do more road side danger than cracking down on hitchhiking.

          Alyssa

          I'm glad I did not misinterpret your sentiment. Its always a danger with online communications.

          Safe travels.
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          Oct 1 2011: I have hitchhiked in Europe and North America including out of Toronto, Paris and Madrid, and have met many others who have done the same. There are entire websites dedicated to hitchhiking, there's even hitchwiki. The reason it is less popular now, besides more car-ownership and public-transit, is that westerners have become afraid of strangers and the unknown. Besides being the most environmentally friendly way to travel, hitchhiking connects people and supports the belief that the majority of people are good, a belief that I personally hold dear. And for the record, in my experience hitchhiking in Africa is safer than in the west.

          And as far as the condescending comment, maybe I should have said "Africans ARE intelligent people and we need to respect and learn from them", but as someone who has lived in Africa you should know that that goes without saying, so my point stands that it is only western beliefs that need to change.
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          Oct 3 2011: @ Thomas Jones. AFRICA is not a country, but a mostly a beautiful CONTINENT with 54 countries!
          Don’t generalise, crime is everywhere. The images and stories we get to watch on the “CI” channel 99.9% are not crimes from Africa, we get to watch all sorts of gory crimes, straight from the horror movies, men and women who murder people, including young girls and bury them in their backyards. Once they showed us a boy who killed other boys, chopped them up into pieces, froze their body parts and ate them as and when. I have watched stories about men who raped their own children and I’ve watched serial killers after serial killers. There was once a show about girls who willingly sleep with their fathers and give birth through their father’s semen, but because I’m open-minded and know that no sane human being, government or country wants poverty, crime, lawlessness and all the other stuff you pointed out. I know these things are small incidents, some are one in a million, and that not all Americans are like that, because there’s a lot of beauty there, there’s more good than evil; everywhere in the world. Never judge because you were fortunate to be born to the parents and circumstances that you were born into…..you could have been a black child born in the DCR, what then?……no one chooses their parents!
          Lastly, I have lived here my whole life, and my family and my friends, and their families and their friends, I guess according to your theory, it’s just pure luck that we are still here. I take it then that where you, its either there are no correctional facilities or they are just full of only innocent, peaceful people who can do no harm to another, whether they are black or white!
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        Oct 1 2011: Anthony,

        You seem to be unwilling to make a distinction between simplistic generalizations and a specific case.

        Yes, in general, there may be places were hitchhiking is a realistic means of transportation. (Most places in Africa are not among them.) People do not "hitchhike." There are exceptions but they are rare.

        Generally, people might try to arrange a ride with someone who is going to, say, Nairobi but the ride will be just that "arranged" - the person offering the ride, and the person receiving the ride will be known to some third person. There is little to no risk and, as you say, it is a realistic form of transportation.

        In general, all of these people are from the same culture, they look alike, are not perceived as wealthy (and are usually men.)

        We are not talking about "generalities" - we are talking a bout a single, young, wealthy*, white woman, with red hair standing alone on the side of the road sticking her thumb out.

        Again, if this was not Alyssa we were talking about, if it was (to make a point) your 17-year-old daughter who was going to hitchhike across Africa, would you be so open minded?

        You might. You might not. Most of us wouldn't.

        But because it's Alyssa, all of sudden we become "defenders of liberty." Our romanticized ideals become more important to us than a young, naive Canadian girl who wants to "explore the world."

        What she has done, was dangerous. What she is planning on doing, is dangerous.

        Very dangerous.

        I would not (and will not) encourage such behaviour. (As, I said: Celebrate her adventurous spirit? Yes! Condone her behaviour? No!)

        Of course, it's not my choice; or yours. It is Alyssa's; and she has already made up her mind.

        My only hope is that my comments induce her to add a degree of caution to her future actions (if not motivate her to find some other means of transportation.)

        ---------
        * She may not perceive herself as "wealthy" - virtually everyone who sees her will assume otherwise. And by comparison, she is.
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          Oct 2 2011: Well yes I would be worried if someone I knew were trying to hitchhike across Africa, but I would not try to stuff them, maybe give a few pointers though. I agree with you that you should know the people you are riding with when you are in a dangerous area. That said we are so program to fear stranger, when in reality most violence, outside of military, or police happen within families. Chance are if you surrounded by people you do not know you are safe.
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          Oct 2 2011: " there may be places were hitchhiking is a realistic means of transportation. (Most places in Africa are not among them.) People do not "hitchhike." There are exceptions but they are rare."

          From your previous comments and this one Im assuming you spent your time in the East, which I mostly didnt get to because of the emergency I came back for. But I have to say that hitchhiking actually IS very popular in many parts of the continent. In Banjul (and all of Gambia) for example, despite their effective public transit system it is common to see people trying to hitch rides. While in Mauritania I asked a Ghaniain if it would be possible in his country, he laughed and said "yes, just tell them you want a 'lift' and theyll know you're looking for a free ride." which turned out to be perfect advice. In DRC, where there is no effective public transit, hitchhiking is the only way to get around - standing on the side of a Kinshasa street you make universally understood hand-signals indicating where in the (massive) city you want to go, and any vehicle could pick you up - usually run down cars that operate more like shared taxis, but occasionally a shiny SUV will give a lift and not want any money. It's an entire city of hitchhiking carpoolers, great environmentally friendly practice, I thought.

          Yes hitchhiking is taboo in some places I passed through, Cameroon for example, but still possible. Just goes to show how diverse the continent is!
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        Oct 1 2011: Hi Anthony,

        To answer your question: I set up educational programs and trained volunteers to maintain them.
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        Oct 2 2011: Alyssa,

        You seem committed to what you are doing and as I have said I support your freedom to do what you want to do.

        I would like to point out that you have consistently "rationalized away" what I am telling you as if it was "unusual" and I just got unlucky.

        Would that it were true.

        Sadly, what happened to me, what happened to my friends, and what I witnessed is typical. It is NOT unusual.

        If you wish to discount the information, that is your prerogative.

        Let me leave you with another "typical 'story:'"

        I was in Africa for not more that two weeks and was on my first "solo" drive in a major city (one of the safest cities in Africa.) I was stopped at a red light at a major intersection - there were dozens of cars around me. After a moment, I noticed "a commotion." I looked in my rearview mirror and saw a crowd of people running. They were chasing two men.

        They caught them right next to my car on a grassy boulevard.

        With calm precision, they killed them.

        One man was hit in the throat with a stick, he fell to the ground perhaps unconscious. Another man walked to the road, lifted a loose piece of blacktop from the street, walked back and crushed the other man's skull with it. The second running man was beaten to death with a stick.

        I sat stunned wondering when someone from one of the cars would "do something."

        I did not know how to call the police. I did not know where the police station was.

        The light changed green.

        We all drove away.

        -------------
        I was in a state of shock for several days. I told an "old-timer" what had happened. He could see that I was confused and perplexed.

        Not unkindly, he laughed right out loud at my naiveté.

        Then he brushed it aside as if we were talking about power failures - he said, "That happens all the time. If you had gotten out of the car, they would have killed you too."

        You may think the world a wonderful place, and it is.

        Chances are PRETTY GOOD you will be okay but, sadly, my experience is common; not unusual.
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        Oct 2 2011: QUOTE: "Yes hitchhiking is taboo in some places I passed through, Cameroon for example, but still possible. Just goes to show how diverse the continent is!"

        Alyssa,

        Again, you choose to "rationalize away" the information I am giving you.

        Of course, you will have to do this, to feel good about a decision you have already made.

        You only have to be wrong once.

        (And no, I am not talking about "the East," I am talking about most of Africa - with exceptions. Exceptions that, I assert, do not apply to a young, white, red-haired woman from Toronto, Canada.)

        I feel it my responsibility to share with you what I know. I have done so.

        Do what you will with the information.

        Good luck,
        Thomas
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          Oct 2 2011: I have to say it has been interesting discussing this with you. I am glad you shared your stories, it must be hard to recount some of them. Know that I do pay attention and take them seriously because the more educated the decision the better, and it is always good to have one's beliefs challenged. So thank you.

          -------------------------

          On another note, for anyone who found my original post interesting, this morning I opened up my newspaper and found the following story:

          http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/article/1063092--montreal-man-walks-around-the-world

          There are so many travelers out there doing incredible things - maybe incredibly foolish from some viewpoints - but incredible nonetheless. Really takes the "anything's possible" theme to the limit. Now Jean Beliveau is one person who really should be giving a TED talk.
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        Oct 3 2011: QUOTE: Thomas Jones. AFRICA is not a country, but a mostly a beautiful CONTINENT with 54 countries!

        Zanele,

        Perhaps you haven't read all of my posts. I lived in Africa for seven years and have visited many of the countries there.

        And while I agree it is a wonderful place we cannot compare the reality of Africa (on any level) with the reality of any other place.

        Africa, in general, is the most dangerous continent on planet earth - and not only through crime but also from disease, poverty, and so on.

        It is a wonderful place but it is dangerous - especially for someone who "stands out in a crowd."

        The stories that you refer to on TV are just that stories - they are based on fact (especially if it's CSI) but most of us who live in the West will NEVER experience anything like those stories in our lifetime. Not personally.

        The "stories" I am telling in this thread are not TV, nor are the "hearsay" (for me) - they happened in my presence or to friends I know by name. Look at the numbers: 200 people in seven years.

        And believe me, I did not tell the worst of it. I wouldn't.

        I have no desire to discuss this further. My purpose was to point out to Alyssa what she seems to be unwilling to see or to acknowledge. I have done that.
  • Sep 28 2011: Hi Colin
    I would talk about the stigma and discrimination associated with mental illness, schizophrenia in particular. I have had this illness for over 30 years and suffered at the hands of those who new I had it. They mostly just plain alianated me but most of all was they hurt me. That's what stigma and discrimination do, hurt people. I would take the oppotunity to educate people about what these illnesses really are and that we recover from them and lead normal lives. We live all around you and most of us you would never know had a disease like that. I own my own home, help support my mother, work fulltime at a good career and enjoy all the things in life everyone else does. Yet society fears me, thinks I'm a street person pushing around a shopping cart and talking to myself. I've never done any of those things but people look at the most ill among us and stereotype us. We are no different than the rest of society, we just have some extra barriers to overcome. Great question and I could go on but don't want to bore anyone. I will ask that if you know someone with a mental illness that you try to support them rather than hurt them, we are no more dangerous than the rest of the population, in fact we are less dangerous statisticaly.
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      Sep 29 2011: First off your topic DOES NOT bore anyone, I personally think that your idea is very interesting and would love to hear more about it actually. And yes I will heed your advice, thanks for your input.
      • Sep 29 2011: Thanks Colin, your support will be appreciated by someone and thank you for not getting bored.
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      Sep 29 2011: Hi James Kindler

      Thanks for sharing your experience with us, trust me, I am more interested in your story than bored. Its people like you who teaches us compassion and that we shouldn’t be so consumed in our own lives that we forget to take note of people that have to face obstacles every day of their waking lives; that we have to acknowledge that you have just as much birth right to be, like every person who thinks you’re different. What a coincidence. I’m a part-time Honors degree student in Industrial Psychology and just last week we held workshop on the topic and had case studies on the categories of mental illnesses. I know now it’s no way a disease, but an illness that can be cured. I also learned that some of us are carrying some form of mental illness in our genes and we may never know we have it (yes, its genetic) until its triggered at any time, for instance, by encountering an overwhelming experience, good or bad, that which when our psych have no defense mechanism to cope with that experience, the illness manifests itself in whatever form. I guess what I want to say is I am here, I acknowledge you and I hear you. Be well my brother!
      Anyone interest on the subject, I’m reading “Abnormal Psychology in A Changing World” by Nevid, Rathus & Greene. Ignorance is never bliss!
      • Sep 29 2011: Hi Zanele
        Thanks for the feedback and I think you will like the field you are getting into. I work in it as a recovery coordinator and teach doctors, residents, med students and the mentally ill about recovery. I've written seven trainings on the subject and plan on writing more, I'm working on my 8th called community inclusion. Thanks again!

        James
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          Sep 30 2011: Hi James

          Thank you for the encouragement. I would like to read some of your work sometime if its not too much to ask. My email zshongwe@mineworkers.com. Keep well!
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    Sep 28 2011: All I really would have to offer is simply the story of a woman's life. As the first woman to take a skilled trade at GM Canada, I really learned about what prejudice was. I learned what it was to be seen as less than, a rebel, an interloper and unnatural. I saw how trade unions and a major corporation had to wrestle with my very existence and even bowed to the pressure of the times and laid me and my cohort off to avoid a walkout strike because the men refused to train a woman. These experiences made me know that I could never do that to someone else. I went on a long journey of learning and living to understand about the ways that people think and how to overcome such destructive ways of thinking. Through motherhood of sons and a daughter, through master's degrees, through heartache and joy, I learned more. Every step there were lessons in humanity, in understanding and in realizing that we all have obscured perspectives and we need each other very much to get through life with a more complete picture of this world and our place in it.
    • Sep 28 2011: Hi Debra, An intersting story about GM Canada. Made me think about a film that you might like based on the Ford Corporation in England and the fight for equal pay by women machinests. A great film, would be out on video now. http://www.paramountpicturesintl.com/intl/uk/madeindagenham/
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        Sep 28 2011: Hi Wayne, Thanks for that link.
        I did in fact see this film at the Shaw Festival theatre film festival last winter in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada. I really enjoyed it. The main difference for me was that I had no one at all. I was 19 and I was alone with 100s of men who really did not want me there.
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      Sep 29 2011: Hey thanks for your input, its hard to believe that there's still gender prejudice in an age like now and even more crazy in a country like Canada. I also find it insane that how anybody can even make a reason like, "because she's a woman," can even work as an acceptable statement. I encourage you to push on ... how did this not get on CBC :S
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    Oct 1 2011: I would talk about the need for radical redesign of the healthcare system for the 21st century. As a physician on the front lines for over 25 years, I have seen both the successes and failures of the current system and obtained an understanding of the system behind the facade. As we all are human and mortal, we should enter into with those assumptions intact and be asking honestly what will likely shorten or terminate any one life and then without prejustice how can we best prolong their life and minimize suffering - at the lowest cost.
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    Sep 29 2011: If I could do a TED talk I would talk about changing stereotypes about Africa! We are more than the obscured, ill-informed, and untrue stories after stories written about US by men and women who has never even set foot on this Continent, let alone walking a mile in ours shoes. Men and women who don’t even know where my country is located on the Map. I want to teach the world that we are great, strong, beautiful, intelligent people that are doing just fine without their scrutiny. We want the same things for our children, we dream beautiful dreams, we want clean water, clean air and compassion, peace and good life. We have the same fears and bleed the same color blood. We want to be treated with respect and to be trusted enough to try and fail, and nevertheless keep trying. So that when our time comes to pass, we would have done everything we could to leave this earth in a better shape for our grandchildren to inherit and live in.

    Excerpts from ex-president speech, Mr Thabo Mbeki, I Am an African

    I owe my being to the hills and the valleys, the mountains and the glades, the rivers, the deserts, the trees, the flowers, the seas and the ever-changing seasons that define the face of our native land. I owe my being to the Khoi and the San whose desolate souls haunt the great expanses of the beautiful Cape - they who fell victim to the most merciless genocide our native land has ever seen. I am the grandchild of the warrior men and women that Hintsa and Sekhukhune led, the patriots that Cetshwayo and Mphephu took to battle, the soldiers Moshoeshoe and Ngungunyane taught never to dishonour the cause of freedom. I am the grandchild who lays fresh flowers on the Boer graves at St Helena and the Bahamas, who sees in the mind`s eye and suffers the suffering of a simple peasant folk, death, concentration camps, destroyed homesteads, a dream in ruins.Being part of all these people, and in the knowledge that none dare contest that assertion, I shall claim that - I am an Africa
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    Sep 28 2011: No doubt, it'll be about Peace in the world
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      Sep 29 2011: the very common word found in math homework would work perfectly here.... EXPAND, thanks :D
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    Sep 28 2011: If i had a chance to do a TED talk,i'd talk about what we,chinese,need most in china.Because,with the rapid development of economic in china,there're more and more chinese focus their mind on money or high status instead of the original need,dream.Yes,it's our dreams that changed the world we living,but if we forget what we dreamed in the past,what could we do in the future? So,i really want every chinese just like me to spend more time on what we dreamed as well as who we are.
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      Sep 29 2011: as a chinese person born in canada this is very interesting to me, cause I can relate to this, what is the dream to be exact?
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        Sep 29 2011: I have a dream that people living in china could trust in each other,i have a dream that there will be less lies any more,i have a dream that we,chinese,could take responsibility to every wrong things we didi before,,I have a dream that people who love for each other will stay forever.......so,bro,as a chinese born in canada,what's your dreams about china?
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    Oct 2 2011: 'Revisting our concepts of Problems and Solution'. Did a small presentation with a friend for a Rotary Club in Mumbai, India. It was on the lines of how we have traditionally seen 'problems' (or obstacles, questions etc.) - as something that is 'bad', difficult to understand due to the complex or subjective nature - and 'solutions' (or answers) - as something that is 'good', eliminates the problem, brings happiness. By trying to just give an alternative view, we left everyone with a thought they can not just carry back with them, but can use and apply in the daily life. The idea has developed further and we are planning on writing a book.
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    Oct 1 2011: I would talk about being the change you want to see in the world. I recently started working at Buffalo Wild Wings. The training books were phenomenal about promoting teamwork and how good teamwork makes for good nights. I quickly realized that this was no longer the case at BDubs ( what everyone at the restaurant calls our store). I started cleaning everyone's tables even when i didnt have time. People keep asking me, " Why are you helping me?" My only reply was, " I'm starting a revolution." About two weeks ago I noticed a girl i work with helping me. This wouldn't be strange if the girl had ever talked to me. I asked what sparked such kindness she replied, "For the revolution!" and thrust her fist into the air. I've dang near brought that store back to amazing performance. So remember, no matter how bleak your change may seem keep on being the change you want to see.
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    Sep 30 2011: If I had the opportunity to give a TED talk I would speak about the poor state of US education. I would address two key issues- first, we need to return to teaching critical thinking skills to all students instead of teaching rote memorization or to the test. And second, and most importantly (maybe) I would speak about the need to begin to recognize various learning styles, without needing to label every variety. I found it incredibly discouraging that the educational system promoted (and still promotes) a style of learning that insists on the ability to sit still and be quiet, instead of allowing students to learn in the manner that they are best able to learn. As a student that needed to explore, be inquisitive and move around- I speak from experience that an educational system that values quiet, seated, and non-inquisitive students really doesn’t teach the skills necessary for the future. Consequently, my two topic areas merger into one- the educational system in the US needs to begin to teach critical thinking skills while giving teachers the support that allows them to recognize and support the various ways that each student learns.
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    Sep 28 2011: While I could rant about myriad things--I'd probably get my stepdad to talk about the spread of malaria. He is a water engineer who specializes in tropical diseases. Formally of the World Health Organization, he sees a great number of flaws in the way that the world is proceeding on these issues. Fueled by the public donations of Gates and the like, the common thinking has turned to the idea of vaccinations or a pill you can pop. These remain ineffective, the only difference has been that a lot of pharmaceutical companies have received a lot of money and quite a few researchers have received big paychecks. Additionally, the millions of dollars that have been put to "the search" for the perfect drug will result in a drug too expensive to manufacture in the quantities needed to affect the millions of people who need the drug. You didn't think those pharmaceutical companies were going to get all warm and fuzzy and cure people for nothing, did you?

    Another push has been for the mosquito net donation program. My stepfather, who lived in the Sudan for 10 years, explains that while a truly well intentioned program, the fact of the matter is this--it's hot in these places where malaria is an issue, and when it's hot, people go outside and sleep on the ground, and do not want to be swathed in fabric. It's human nature. If your AC dies in a heat wave, you will realize there is a point where you will do anything at all to get cool.

    His experience of over 60 years in tropical disease control leads him to a simple conclusion: get rid of the mosquitoes. Through the use of dams and moving water, you can kill off mosquito larvae. Like most of the Great Answers in health that everyone wants to ignore---it's about PREVENTION. He used this approach on the snails that carry the disease schistosomaisis. Through raising and lowering dams in the Sudan, he effectively wiped out disease carrying snails and saved lives. And that's what it's supposed to be about, right?
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      Sep 29 2011: I love this idea really, you stepfather sounds like a very very ...cool guy being in the WHO after all. (sorry for the lack of a better term) I can see the elite few getting the perfect drug but I cant really imagine the more impoverished people getting it. Prevention sounds believable but pharmaceutical companies advertisements make it sound to simple to believe and that's what I think society wishes to believe. Just out of curiosity would there be any environmental issues (ecosystem?) after modifying the mosquito population? thanks!
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        Sep 29 2011: As far as I know--and I am but a sculptor in a familial sea of intellectuals-- there are not any unfortunate ecological issues raised by killing off mosquitoes. It's just that this approach requires people to take everything into consideration--the land around a population. The terrain. Every area is different. The reality of how people behave (as an outside example--when a large company like, say, the Mobil Corporation puts in new pipelines in Africa or creates any two year engineering expansion--there is suddenly a rise in HIV. Why? How does oil connect to HIV? Well you have a bunch of guys, removed from their families, camping out in thrown together towns around the site for two years. What happens? Think on that. That's what I mean by "how people behave". No one factors the realities of how people behave into their quick answers. The prefer the idea of flipping a switch, or in the malaria instance--popping a pill...). It's really about creating a culture of health, if you will, instead of trying to come up with a production line answer. And yes--he is a fascinating guy! If you are interested, he has books on Amazon that talk about all of this--they are a little heady for me--I prefer the Round-the Dinner-Table versions of the discussion--but they are wonderful books about his experiences and ideas on malaria etc...
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    Sep 28 2011: Music. :)
  • Oct 2 2011: I probably wouldn't talk. I would listen.

    I would talk to the audience, ask them to introduce themselves, state a problem they were interested in solving, and then ask them to get with one or more members of the audience at the end of the time to talk about solving problems and perhaps make a friend.
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    Oct 1 2011: I would talk about why, if I was rich enough, I would make all of my donations to projects like TED. Or even about that I would initiate my own TED if there was not exiting any before. In my talk I would also call all the rich people & organizations in the world to donate as much as they can to TED and alike.

    The importance of TED is that it is NOT occupied merely in “Fire Extinguishing” but in “Fire Prevention”.

    The majority of philanthropy in the world goes to projects of urgent needs, where it’s urgent to act in order to save lives, to improve living standard, etc. In other words, it is like Fire Extinguishing where there is an urgent need for immediate action to fight the fire in order to save lives. But as we know, fire extinguishing doesn’t guarantee us from the outburst of the next fire. For that, there’s a need for taking the action of fire prevention. In the same way, taking care of the urgent needs, doesn’t give the needers the required tools to prevent their next predicaments. The needers in this case are not just the poors in Africa, India, or in the USA. The needers are also people like the TEDsters and others, who need and desire to see what’s ahead of us in our common global future.

    What TED does is to lay down free in front of all of us the tools in the form of diverse ideas & possibilities, various knowledges & methods, numerous modes of perspectives & actions, in order to empower us to take the actions for “Fire Prevention”.
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    Oct 1 2011: I would give a TED talk about how Information Security vulnerabilities are this century's equivalent of toxic waste dumps. With all other factors being equal, a company who properly disposes of waste has less margin or profit than one who cheats. The practice of dumping waste shifted massive wealth and health from the future and converted it to present-day profits for the dumpers. Unfortunately, the transfer of resources this way is not very efficient because the cost to clean up is orders of magnitude greater than the cost of proper disposal and the toll in human suffering is immeasurable.

    Info security today is in the same position. Our banks, retailers, manufacturers and even governments and infrastructure targets are cutting corners on security in the name of higher profits. The result is a wholesale transfer of wealth from the future to a much lesser present day profit. Like toxic waste, the cleanup costs are orders of magnitude greater than the cost of proper security. Sadly, also like toxic waste, there is a tremendous toll in human suffering. In the US when your Social Security Number is compromised, that is for life. It's not replaced and never again safe. When your bank accounts are taken over, the money usually funds organized crime. When a certificate authority is breached, political dissenters lose their anonymity and can die. A breach big enough to bring down a large corporation could have impacts on a global scale. The breaches we have seen in the news recently are just the tip of the iceberg compared to the growing pool of accumulated security exposures. The frequency, magnitude and consequences of breaches continues to rise and there are no indicators that things are going to get better any time soon.

    The good news is that individuals like you and I can choose to do something about it if we want. My talk would be a call to action and include specific things anyone can do that will make a significant difference.
  • Sep 29 2011: I would talk about the patient experience with chronic disease, particularly Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis. There are so many things worth exploring, such as doctors' tendency to misdiagnose the patient as having separate conditions that are really all one disease (because of the tendency to break a person into separate systems and forget that there is a whole person), the psychosocial effects on the patient after coming down with the condition, the way a patient feels about herself after losing what life she had before...

    I might also speak about the role technology has played in doctors refusing to listen to and trust a patient. Many of my doctors have been so over-reliant on tests that they have missed obvious diagnoses. Sometimes I've been told my symptoms or side effects of certain drugs aren't real because they can't be proved, and some doctors have said that my symptoms are real, but they are due to aging (I'm 30, I was told this in my 20s, so that seems unlikely) or that they are not worth treating despite the fact that they have ruined my life. I'd like to see doctors treat their patients as human beings and not bags of chemicals and images.
  • Sep 29 2011: Here be dragons

    I would love to do a TED Talk about finding passion and purpose in life as a mature adult. As a true Baby-boomer, there is a new sense of adventure and exploration growing in me. A lot of us, idealists in our youth or not, sense that longing to go out there, to the edge of the map and see what is there. Some of us have “paid our dues”, others have postponed dreams, and others are now staring at “later retirement” and saying this cannot be all that I am supposed to be.

    “Here be dragons” was a phrase placed on some maps to denote unchartered territory; maybe a place of danger, maybe just a place undiscovered. Finding real passion for living might mean going to new places, tasting new food or riding on top of a train. Passion really means that deep satisfied/unsatisfied longing for something or someone out there. A lot of mature adults want the experience of contributing to a world many have just seen on T.V. While some younger people would love to just blame us “for the condition of the world” many mature adults want to stand up and say: “Look, we want to make it better too.”

    I would love to outline how it might be possible for people of our age range to leave behind old dreams and go out and make some new ones come true. There may really be dragons, but it will be fun finding them.
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    Sep 29 2011: I would present a proposal for a radical redesign of financial and securities markets' regulation. I've been a compliance officer and attorney working in the investment industry for the better part of two decades, and I believe in a vision of a strong, transparent, logical regulatory system that protects all participants. We have a long way to go, but I am not without hope.
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      Sep 29 2011: YES I wish i could check them out, THanks
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    Sep 28 2011: My talk would be on the parallels of religion, science, philosophy, and mysticism. I would talk about how they seek the same truth through a different lens. Also I would mention the contradictory paradigms in the east and west, namely the east focusing on union while the west has an underlying notion of division.
  • Josh E

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    Sep 28 2011: The Role of God in life.
    I would talk about this because a lot of people(like dawkins) enforce a strict policy of militant atheism and seek to destroy religion- which I believe is a potent force for good in this world.
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      Sep 28 2011: very interesting, thanks for your input, also by a potent force for good what do you mean?
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      Sep 28 2011: I would be glad to offer a counterpoint to your talk like Daniel Dennet did with Rick Warren. It shouldn't be too hard to show how the wrongdoings of religion over the centuries clearly outdo any good that came out of it. Maybe also I shall discuss how playing the persecution card will not strip down atheists from their right to discuss and dispute religion. Although to be honest, I think a TED audience could tell that claiming that militant atheists are trying to enforce a strict policy of militant atheism on others is completely at odds with reality. Not sure we could say the same about religion, seems like religious theocracies and religiously-inspired laws abound.
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        Sep 29 2011: also very interesting, but i will say some religious inspired laws are sensible like theft and i think you agree some laws do make sense, Thanks for your comment!
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          Sep 29 2011: Find me a sane person who needed religion to know that theft and murder are immoral. Religion gets its morals from Mankind. Sadly that means that some moral values are desperately outdated.
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    Oct 4 2011: Love your story, Taylor! :D
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    Oct 3 2011: overview then
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    Oct 3 2011: ahhh so your a spectator too, the world is an interesting place/thing/group/technology isnt it
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    Oct 3 2011: what a very interesting book im going to try to find it at the library... right now.
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    Oct 3 2011: maybe some blueprints?
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    Oct 3 2011: thanks, adele is some good stuff, do you have any musical preferences like genre or perhaps artists? :D
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    Oct 3 2011: I'd give anything to be at your state, creativity frees the mind doesn't it?
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    Oct 3 2011: The spark
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    Oct 3 2011: What would the wealth from the future be used to profit from nowadays, oil perhaps?