Treehouse Masters

Who doesn’t love a treehouse?!?

And what about the crew of folks who make their living creating these amazing elevated spaces? Dream job, right? Right!

You won’t get any disagreement from Pete Nelson, the treehouse master builder who hails from Fall City, Washington, a small town just south of Seattle, nestled in the lush old-growth forest greenery of the US Pacific Northwest.

Pete and his wife and daughter run Nelson Treehouse and Supply, based at Treehouse Point, a beautiful location with its own collection of treehouses that have been known to harbor a vacationer or two or even a honeymooning couple. Pete and his hardy gang, including riggers, carpenters, builders, the ace interior decorator Tory, and his own sons, travel all over the world to make the fantasy of living in the trees a very comfortable reality. Although most of their work remains within the United States, Pete and his crew go anywhere at any time of year to bring a treehouse vision to life.

Watch Treehouse Masters on Animal Planet or Discovery Channel — or catch up with episodes, behind-the-scenes time-lapses, and more at the Treehouse Masters website — and you can see these incredible treehouses emerge from initial conversation with the customer and Pete’s on-site sketches. You’ll go inside the fabrication shop at Treehouse Point, and, ultimately, watch the reality of weather and unexpected events on the ground unfold while the skilled, enthusiastic, and well-matched crew put up a magical structure at the client’s property.

Makes you start scouting the backyard for a place to put a treehouse of your very own…

Copyright ©2014 Jill J. Jensen | Clarity from Chaos


— insider source for and about broadcast network and cable news — 

Nobody has to tell anybody that we live in a 24/7 news cycle.

But the nature of ‘news’ has changed dramatically in a very short time. Some would even say that what passes for news these days is just a lot of celebrity gossip with a snippet of war-zone coverage and a political scandal or mud-sling thrown in for good measure.

Regardless, we still want to find out what’s going on in the world or our little corner of it. So do the folks who actually work in the news biz. Who knew?

So. Where do the news “professionals” go for the latest on their industry?

To a blog-cum-website, TVNewser from Launched in 2004 by Brian Stelter, a reporter for The New York Times who was then a 20-year-old senior journalism student at Towson University near Baltimore, Maryland, the blogsite provides up-to-the minute daily info about what’s happening in the teevee news biz. You’ll find ratings stats, who’s watching what (demographic breakdowns by program), links to major cable and broadcast resources, and lists of topics, archives, and recent ‘newsworthy’ events.

Great quote from one day’s entries on the TVNewser website —
The Hollywood Reporter: “Tune in to Fox News for comedy done right.”

If you’re really into this stuff — as most of the well-known talking heads seem to be, you can also sign up for the “Daily Media Newsfeed” via email to get your fix.

Be warned: news, blogs, email — all this electronic buzz about the electronic buzz can be addictive….

Copyright ©2014 Jill J. Jensen | Clarity from Chaos

Great Museums

— celebrate America’s ‘year of the museum’ — 2006 — anytime online —

No matter where you travel in the United States — or, for that matter, around the world — you can find some kind of museum to visit. And why not give it a go?

Whether you enjoy the Old Masters, contemporary art, sculpture, historical memorabilia, rock ‘n’ roll, Elvis, farm life, classic cars, giant balls of twine, or anything else, some organization has probably collected it, catalogued it, and put it on display. The Great Museums website offers a chance to learn about places and spaces online that you might never have the chance to visit in person.

Based on Marjorie Schwarzer’s book Riches, Rivals & Radicals: 100 Years of Museums in America, the original series of videos was shown on PBS and can now be found online at Hulu, Netflix, YouTube, and elsewhere. Beyond links to the videos, the Great Museums website continues to expand its collection of video tours of America’s museums and offers a wide range of collateral materials, including DVDs and books. Choose Explore Great Museums to see video clips of places across the country.

Get even more information at the website for American Alliance of Museums. Then, after finishing your online visit, take some time to get out and see the real thing.

Copyright ©2014 Jill J. Jensen | Clarity from Chaos


— news from the sustainable future —

Make a difference in and with your life in lots of ways while you also help others close to home and around the world.

The Worldchanging website highlights many opportunities in a variety of disciplines from nanotechnology to fashion. Some examples:

  • “Hot rocks” for home energy
  • Free bicycles in Paris
  • Indonesia’s efforts to keep its forests
  • Jeff Christian and the Buildings Technology Center at the Oak Ridge National Labs, conducting research on five prototype houses that cost between 60 cents and one dollar a day in energy costs
  • Venture capitalists investing in green technologies
  • Professor Ron Deibert, director of Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto, creating a remarkable institution to research the intersection of civic politics and digital technology
  • Toronto’s Transit Camp

Explore issues like shelter, cities, community, business, and politics to see what you can do to help make the future one we’ll enjoy living. Let’s start now!

Copyright ©2014 Jill J. Jensen | Clarity from Chaos

Very Short Introductions

— a pretty painless way to learn a little about a lot —

The Very Short Introductions (VSI) website starts off with a cogent sentence about the featured books:

“Combining authority with wit, accessibility and style, Very Short Introductions offer an introduction to some of life’s most interesting topics. They are written by experts for the newcomer, demonstrating the finest contemporary thinking about the central problems and issues in 100 key subjects: from philosophy to Freud, quantum theory to Islam.”

What more does one need?!?!?

Very Short Introductions is a series from the Oxford University Press at the University of Oxford in England. Subjects include topics you would expect from such a prestigious institution, such as all the major world’s religions and wisdom traditions, the classical philosophers, and the world’s political systems. But also in VSI’s “basic 100” are volumes about drugs, world music, architecture, terrorism, intelligence, animal rights, cryptography, and globalization.

Recent VSI volumes included ethics, atheism, linguistics, myth, schizophrenia, the Cold War, and the history of astronomy.

The list continues to evolve. “Forthcoming” publications will cover subjects such as hieroglyphs, Hiroshima, jazz, international relations, dreaming and sleep, design, chaos, medical ethics, Nelson Mandela, perception, photography, and citizenship.

As an added bonus, book jackets for the VSI series are based on wonderful original paintings by Philip Atkins, who can be contacted through an email link on the VSI website.

Copyright ©2014 Jill J. Jensen | Clarity from Chaos


— public television at its best — 

Looking for kid-friendly and family-friendly television? Wondering where to find a variety of news and opinion? Ready to get busy with how-to programs on everything from construction, gardening, quilting, painting, and cooking to antiques? Excited to experience nature, history, and cultural programming you won’t see anywhere else? That’s what public television in the United States does so well.

From coast to coast, America’s Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and its public television affiliates offer a variety of over-the-air, digital cable, Web-based, classroom, and educational services to anyone with access to a TV set or a computer. Most led their states and communities in helping residents making the transition from analog to digital television in 2009 and are now offering diverse program streams on multiple digital channels — able to be viewed through humble rabbit-ears/over-the-air antennas in addition to the pricier cable TV subscriptions — as well as on their websites.

Here, we highlight IPTV (Iowa Public Television, Iowa’s statewide network) and KQED (the San Francisco affiliate of PBS), following a conference on the development of digital television (the ninth!), held each fall in Des Moines, Iowa, and sponsored in part by IPTV and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB). As you’ll see when you visit these websites, each public television station has its own personality, most often reflecting its location and its audiences. They’re fun, flashy, studious, and entertaining — separately or all at the same time.

As Pat Mitchell, one-time head of the Public Broadcasting Service, reminds anyone who will listen, the PBS mothership itself is only an umbrella organization for this nation’s public television affiliates; it’s not an actual network like CBS, ABC, or Fox, which own their own stations across the country and can pretty much dictate the programs that go on the air (with advertising revenue as the main draw).

Rather, PBS is an umbrella structure that helps develop programming, which is then offered to its affiliates. But affiliates don’t have to put it on the air locally if they don’t want to. While that’s a challenge for the national organization, it’s also a darn good recommendation for the quality programming that usually shows up on your local PBS station. And it can serve as a reminder about what you can do (contact the local station!) if you want to see something else on the public television channels in your area.

PBS takes education and children’s television seriously — and has a lot of fun with it, too, as they’ve branched out beyond the TV screen. Maybe that’s why ranks as the most-visited site on the Web. PBS now offers material for targeted audiences that’s accessible directly from its home page — including PBS Kids, PBS Parents, PBS TeacherSource (free lesson plans, activities and professional development tools for PreK-12 educators), and PBS Campus (distance learning courses available for college credit).

These days, more than ever, public television offers incredible value. Jump in!

Copyright ©2014 Jill J. Jensen | Clarity from Chaos

Free Press: Media Reform Network

— returning real content to journalism and expanding media literacy — 

Wonder what’s happened to the news? Why TV screens and radio airwaves are full of celebrities and their fashionable lives but you don’t hear a sensible discussion about ways to create jobs, restore the economy, rein in Wall Street speculators, improve educational opportunities and outcomes, or the impact on our children’s future of the mandated testing policy in the No Child Left Behind Act?

Wonder why more of us turn to international sources such as the BBC to find out what’s going on inside the government of the United States? Why fewer and fewer corporations own more and more media outlets (radio, TV, newspapers, magazines, books, music, concerts, and maybe even the Internet)? Why your local radio station disappeared into a sea of automated programming or your hometown newspaper disappeared altogether?

Well, you’re not alone. More of us are talking about it — and now, more people are doing something about it. In an unprecedented show of national concern, some 2.5 million Americans expressed their disapproval of the move toward media consolidation to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) following their June 2, 2003 decision to expand the ownership rules and allow the handful of existing media conglomerates to own even more properties. Politicians as diverse as Trent Lott of Mississippi, Jesse Helms of North Carolina, Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, and Byron Dorgan of North Dakota spoke out against the monopoly of information.

Clear Channel, now the owner of more than 1400 radio stations and other media companies nationwide, is only one example of how media concentration shuts out local information. You’ve heard the story of the chlorine gas spill in Minot, North Dakota? Well, neither did the local residents. Perhaps that’s because Clear Channel owns the majority of radio stations in town — but they’re automated, meaning that the music and “talk” comes from some pre-packaged faraway source. The only real person in the area is a technician who monitors the machinery, and that person is not always in the building. Which is why the citizens of Minot couldn’t get any information about the chlorine gas leak in their own city in time to protect themselves. Is this really what we want for our communities?

Free Press is a national organization intent on increasing our participation in democracy and in the public policy debates about the media and its value to participatory governance. They sponsored the first of many National Conferences on Media Reform in Madison, Wisconsin (November 7-9, 2003), where veteran journalist Bill Moyers, a roster of national dignitaries, and two FCC Commissioners gave important speeches.

Free Press also joins the media literacy effort with groups including Smart Media Education from the Action Coalition for Media Education, Democracy Now!, and others, in helping us all learn how to watch a TV program or film, how to read the underlying messages in advertising, how to find child-friendly, family-friendly, and just plain people-friendly media fare on any platform or device, and how to ensure a wide range of thought and opinion in newspapers, radio/television broadcasting, online/social media, and access to information technology.

The conversation about diversity of media ownership is crucial to the health of our democracy. When fewer outlets are available, fewer opinions — regardless of their message — are expressed, and that’s not good for any of us. A recent study of young people, eligible to vote for the first time, found that many did not vote because they said they didn’t have enough information to make an informed decision. And still the big media giants gobble each other up, often with the blessing of the FCC.

In a democracy, it’s not important that everyone holds the same opinion (in fact, that’s extremely counter-productive); it is important that each of us has the information to hold an informed opinion and to respect the opinions of others (even when we don’t agree with them) as we participate in the community dialogue that makes our system work. We can’t do that if we don’t have access to information in the first place.

Everything we do is now shaped by some form of media. Keeping ourselves involved and informed is a critical responsibility of citizens in a democracy, and all of us need to be sure we can — and do — get in the game.

Oh, by the way…
The evening of November 8, 2003, also offered a spectacular lunar eclipse, clearly visible to most in the Northern Hemisphere of the United States. If you didn’t stand outside and gaze appreciatively during its approximately 7:06-7:36pm totality, check out and the NASA Eclipse website, both products of long-time eclipse guru Fred Espanek. He offers tips for how to photograph eclipses and information on the ones that will appear in coming years. Then, search for ‘eclipse’ to see more fantastic images.

Copyright ©2014 Jill J. Jensen | Clarity from Chaos


— “make sense of TXT [and other online] lingo”— 

You may not need the transL8it! website very often, but it will really come in handy when you do. And that probably means you’re somewhere on the far side of 25. No need to be discouraged, though. The site exists because there are lots of us who can use the help.

TransL8it (trans-late-it) is a very cool little translation engine. Type in characters you see in the text message, chat lingo, smiley-face emoticon, or other slang about which you’re totally clueless and the wizards at TransL8it spit out real English words for it.

You can reverse the process, too — write out your message in English and click for the ‘lingo.’ As simple as that, you can then type what you see into your smartphone or instant message program and look way cool to your kids and grandkids.

Language evolves and transL8it! is one of the ways that happens.

Now, ain’t life grand?!?

Copyright ©2014 Jill J. Jensen | Clarity from Chaos

Unclaimed Baggage

— amazing finds from the “land of lost luggage” — 

Whether you’re a shop-till-you-drop bargain hunter or just curious about the netherworld of missing luggage and cargo, Unclaimed Baggage gives you an idea of the one-of-a-kind treasures people haul with them when they travel…and what happens to them when they’re separated at the baggage carousel or the loading dock.

Started in 1970 by Doyle and Sue Owens, Unclaimed Baggage buys whatever the airlines and cargo haulers can’t match with owners after 90 to 120 days of searching. Contrary to what you might suspect as an unlucky traveler, the bags you check aren’t simply spirited away to fill this store. Airlines and freight companies really do try — for up to four months — to find the actual owners of lost luggage or misdirected cargo. But after that, time’s up, and this company buys the remainders to stock its gigantic warehouse/store in Scottsboro, Alabama. In 1995, the son of the owners acquired the store and expanded its physical presence in the town of about 15,000 that sits in the Appalachian Mountains east of Huntsville and not far from Chattanooga.

The online baggage store can only offer a taste of the vast array of stuff that passes through the Scottsboro facility. As many as 7,000 items can be found in a day’s inventory — and they’re put on display as soon as they’re sorted, cleaned, and priced, which happens as many as twenty times a day. About sixty percent of the products are clothes. Again, everything is cleaned before being put up for sale — Unclaimed Baggage runs the largest dry-cleaning operation in several states.

Beyond clothing, you’ll find everything from snow-, skate-, and surf-boards to cameras, jewelry, tools, electronics, CDs, DVDs, and baby gear. Recently, the company started handling unclaimed cargo, the business-to-business shipments that somehow fail to end up on the loading docks of the companies that originally ordered them. Who knew?

While the Unclaimed Baggage website doesn’t pretend to be the kind of one-stop-shopping experience you might get from, for example, it does offer a selection of inventory from the bricks-and-mortar store and a few interesting asides: peek inside the bag of a real shopper to see the purchases and prices (as much as 60 to 70 percent below retail), submit a guess about an unidentified item and how it’s used to win a T-shirt, go on a virtual tour of the store, or ‘unpack the bag’ to see a smattering of the most recently acquired items.

For holiday shoppers, bargain hunters, or curiosity seekers, this place could be addictive. Start online and you may want to take your chances on a road trip to the real warehouse in northeastern Alabama.

Copyright ©2014 Jill J. Jensen | Clarity from Chaos

Christmas Song Lyrics

— …for a variety of standard tunes, just in case you forgot the words… — 

Nothing fancy, this basic website offers a straightforward layout of the lyrics for some typical holiday songs. Most are secular (Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town; Baby It’s Cold Outside; White Christmas), but you’ll find some sacred music and traditional carols here, too. Just what you need for a night by the fire with a steaming cup of cocoa or as you watch the twinkling lights on the tree.

If you don’t find what you’re looking for, try this larger holiday song lyrics website with even more Christmas-related “stuff.” Go for it — and have the happiest of holidays!

Copyright ©2013 Jill J. Jensen | Clarity from Chaos