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A Show of Hands

"It certainly wasn't something I went to college for," says hand model Adele Uddo. And yet, here she is ~ or rather, here her hands are ~ showing off nail polish, mascara wands, coffee makers, juicers (someone's finger's pushing all those buttons). Her hands have even pretended to be someone else's. It's just "working one hand job to the next," she quips. Wonder if that's on her business cards ... (video):

A Phoenix Takes to the Sea

The Medi Telegraph
A entrepreneur couple ~ he's American, she's Italian ~ are doing God's work, in the words of the priest who blessed the venture. Their Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) is a ship called the Phoenix that sails the international waters of the Mediterranean looking for migrant boats in need of aid. When it finds such a boat, it communicates its location to Maltese authorities and dispenses food, water, life jackets, and medical aid. The Phoenix is equipped with, among other things, a medical bay, dinghies, two leased drones with night vision and thermal imaging cameras, and a crew that includes a former commander of the Armed Forces of Malta (story, video):

You Can Go Your Own Way

Disclaimer first: While I understand the need for shorthand, I rather dislike naming generations and all that implies. That said, when I saw the cover of reason magazine and the headline "Millennials Aren't Listening to You," my first reaction was "thank God!" And it turns out, that's almost the inside subheading. Actually, it's "That's a good thing." Yes, it is, because we "Boomers" have pretty much cocked things up, haven't we? While very little in the article comes as a surprise to anyone who knows a few members of that younger age group, it is heartening to learn that it's not just a few who feel that way. Regarding Washington, for example, most identify as Independents and see the majority of politicians as basically all alike:

Follow the Leader

waiting on the bus to ... where now?                         Reuters/Jorge Dan Lopez
The word "orthodox" comes from the Greek orthos (right, true) and doxa (opinion, praise). I find orthodoxy of every stripe fascinating and ultra orthodoxy ultra fascinating. It is fascinating to me that anyone can be so sure that everything he/she is being taught is right and true, which means, of course, that anything that deviates from those teachings is wrong and false. Witness ISIS, for example, or the Taliban. (And as always, I must admit, it's the children I wonder and worry about most.) So, anyway, that's why, when I read about a group called Lev Tahor being asked to move out of a village in Guatemala, I was intrigued enough to read up on them. Apparently, San Juan la Laguna is not the first town they've had to leave. In the last few months, they've gone from England to Canada to Guatemala (story, video):
   So who are Lev Tahor? What are their beliefs, why are they having to move so much, and perhaps more to the point, are they a religious sect or a cult? (story, videos, slideshow):

Why So Blue, Texas?

Reuters/Mike Stone
Texas hasn't seen a Democratic governor since Anne Richards won the post 14 years ago (remember when she said of Bush 41 "Poor George, he can't help it ~ he was born with a silver foot in his mouth"?), and many had long given the state up as hopelessly (or happily, depending on one's POV) red. But now Sen. Wendy Davis is running and gaining the backing of many Texas women. "Women are realizing they need to get involved," says Emmy Ruiz, political director of Annie's List, a statewide political network dedicated to getting more Democratic women elected. Explains Davis deputy campaign manager Terrysa Guerra, "I love Texas, but there are policies in place right now that really hurt women. We can do better." After so many years in the red, is Texas seeing the beginning of a backlash? And will we be seeing a bluer Texas?:

The Riddle of the Rambling Rocks

Phillip Colla
Ever since humans first saw the furrows etched out behind the boulders in Death Valley's Racetrack Playa, there have been theories about how and why the huge stones could possibly move along the flat terrain. They ranged from elaborate prank to slippery algae, but none held up to scrutiny. Well, now, thanks to video, GPS, two cousins, and a planetary scientist, the mystery has been solved (story, video):

Everything You Know Is Wrong

With the news that the kitty who is the face of Hello Kitty is not, actually, a kitty at all, someone had to come up with this illustration (and many thanks to whomever did; thanks also to Lauryn)!
In case you haven't heard, she's actually a little British girl who lives with her parents, George and Martha (I thought they were hippopotami ... or, at the very least, the first First Couple), and twin sister in London. Go figure (the comments following this story are worth the price of admission):

Highly Logical

Star Trek
Wouldn't it be great if those hand-held disease detectors they used on Star Trek were for real? Yeah, and they almost are. Ten finalists are vying for the Qualcomm Tricorder X Prize ($10 million), which will be awarded to the team that makes a workable medical scanner that can read vital signs and detect 16 medical conditions, like anemia and diabetes (story, video):

Horton: Here's a Clue

So Burger King's planned merger with a Canadian company called Tim Horton's is stirring up all kinds of controversy about taxes and tax evasion. But perhaps the more pertinent question (yes, I'm kidding ... ) is, What is a Tim Horton's ~ and who is Tim Horton, anyway?:

Just Because: 'The Dispossessed'

When my son was little, we read the first book of Ursula K. Le Guin's Earthsea trilogy and loved it. So, when, a couple of months ago, he told me that her Dispossessed was possibly his favorite book and a friend of his echoed that sentiment, I added it to my reading list. In San Francisco one afternoon, I happened to find myself near City Lights bookstore ~ and one does not find oneself near City Lights without going in. So I did. And I found The Dispossessed and took it up to the counter, where the cashier excitedly pointed out that it was his favorite book and the guy behind me in line said that not only was it his favorite, but he had written his thesis on it. Now, what I usually do is regale you with the first page or so of a book, but in this case ~ as I just read a section about education that I find particularly applicable to today (and this was written in 1974) ~ I will do that but add that later section as well.


There was a wall. It did not look important. It was built of uncut rocks roughly mortared. An adult could look right over it, and even a child could climb it. Where it crossed the roadway, instead of having a gate it degenerated into mere geometry, a line, an idea of boundary. But the idea was real. It was important. For seven generations there had been nothing in the world more important than that wall.
   Like all walls it was ambiguous, two-faced. What was inside it and what was outside it depended upon which side of it you were on.
   Looked at from one side, the wall enclosed a barren sixty-acre field called the Port of Anarres. On the field there were a couple of large gantry cranes, a rocket pad, three warehouses, a truck garage, and a dormitory. The dormitory looked durable, grimy, and mournful; it had no gardens, no children; plainly nobody lived there or was even meant to stay there long. It was in fact a quarantine. The wall shut in not only the landing field but also the ships that came down out of space, and the men that came on the

Books for All Seasons

Really, I'm not at all sure why summer has been designated as the time to read good books. Can there be anything more enjoyable than losing oneself in a well-written tale in a comfy armchair as a cold rain pummels the windows? or on a cushioned porch swing in the warm, dry breezes of early fall? Either way, the one requirement is said good book, and to that end, the BBC has compiled a list of the 10 best (of course, we all know how individual tastes can be, but it's a place to start):

All Together Now

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Serendipity is an interactive map that shows when and where in the world two people are listening to the same song at the same time (through Spotify, which apparently has 40 million active users). It is, quite honestly, very cool and fun and I'm sure someone much cleverer than I will be able to come to some fascinating conclusions based on it (story, link to map):

Singing the Songs of Scotland

Well, once again, I meet a fascinating individual only after her departure from this world (thank you, Fandray). Jean Redpath used her clear, gorgeous voice to introduce the world to Scottish folk songs. She sang for Queen Elizabeth II, sang at Lincoln Center, dated Bob Dylan (according to histories of the time), made several appearances on Garrison Keillor's Prairie Home Companion, and once worked as an undertaker's assistant:
   Redpath sings three upbeat Scottish songs. These, IMHO, really showcase her beautiful voice and range (video ~ well, it's basically audio accompanied by photographs):

Enticing Edifices

Switzerland's Blur Building                                                     Diller & Scofidio
When fashion designer Pierre Cardin wanted a unique summer home, he found Palais Bulles, in Cannes, which is all curves. There's a building in Bangkok, Thailand, shaped like a robot, and one in China shaped like a grand piano and serviced by an elevator in an adjacent transparent violin. Not to be outdone, Brussels, Belgium, boasts the Atomium, built in 1958 and renovated in 2004-06:
  Haven't had enough? How about 10 buildings that are shaped like what the resident companies are selling (or, at least, what the original residents were selling at the time)?:

Figure Painting

Marwedel's 'The Human Flamingo'      van de Wall
German artist Gesine Marwedel turns humans into hummingbirds, crickets, cyborgs, tigers, and more. But that's not all. She also opens them up and dissects them and turns them into drawings, galaxies, and landscapes ~ all with paint (story, lots of pix):
Thomas van de Wall

See Saw

In the "English Is a Funny Language" department, finally, an answer to that question that's been haunting you ever since you learned the names of the states (admit it ~ you know it has): Why is "Arkansas" pronounced differently from "Kansas"? Or, more to the point, why is "Arkansas" pronounced "Arkansaw"?:

Sleep City

China: Parents of university freshmen down for an afternoon nap. China Daily/Reuters
An app-connected wrist band called UP tracks a wearer's sleep, diet, and activity, among other things. Data collected from wearers around the world (more than 5,000 in each location listed) give an interesting portrait of the collective habits of certain cities' residents ~ a portrait, then, of the city itself. For example, of the cities studied, Tokyo sleeps the least and Melbourne the most (story, interactive graph):

Planet and People

Chris Golden
From his adopted home in Madagascar, ecologist and epidemiologist Christopher Golden works to enlighten us about the strong link between our health and the environment's. "Looking back," he says, "I know I was drawn here by a sense of adventure. ... But what's kept me here is the incredible environmental wisdom the Malagasy people possess about every aspect of their natural world. I've learned more from them than I did during my entire college and Ph.D. education." And he's giving back, too (story, video):

Baby in a Corner

The lake was 40 degrees, the leaves were spray-painted, the two stars pretty much couldn't stand each other, and the test screenings were a disaster. Spoiler alert! (Too late?) Despite it all, Dirty Dancing won an Oscar and multiple Grammys and ended up grossing about $214 million worldwide. The little chick flick that could opened Aug. 21, 1987 (story, gifs):
   Yes, it's that part ~ "Hungry Eyes" (video):
   OK, OK, since you've come this far ~ the one that got everyone wearing leg warmers and slouchy, off-the-shoulder sweatshirts, Flashdance (video):

According to the Doctors of Thinkology

Dorothy & Co. follow the Buddhist Golden Path or the road to 'the new Jerusalem'
She knew she wasn't in Kansas, but did she know she was in an allegory? She knew she was on a journey, but was it actually an acid trip? What? The Wizard of Oz isn't just another entertaining children's story? No, contends historian Quentin Taylor. "Quite simply," he says, "Oz operates on two levels, one literal and puerile, the other symbolic and political." Others agree, only instead of "political," some would say "religious," "feminist," or "theosophical" (story, videos):

Gloat the Raven Evermore

a rarer sight: the ferruginous hawk    Kent Keller
In yet another example of the unintended and unexpected consequences of human activity on nature, it seems that our structures, including billboards and and power lines, are causing the rise of the common raven and the downfall of a genus of raptor that includes certain hawks and buzzards:

Twinkle, Twinkle Indeed!

Wildlife GMBH/Alamy
Everything you didn't know you wanted to know about diamonds ~ including the fact that the biggest one we've found so far is in the Serpens Cauda constellation in the Milky Way. from

Today's selection -- from Stuff Matters by Mark Miodownik. The biggest diamond yet discovered is an entire planet five times the size of Earth:

"Carbon is a light atom with six protons and usually six neutrons in its nucleus. ... In terms of all of its other properties and behavior, it is the six electrons that surround and shield the nucleus that are important. Two of these electrons are deeply embedded in an inner core near the nucleus and play no role in the atom's chemical life -- its interaction with other elements. This leaves four electrons, which form its outermost layer, that are active. It is these four electrons that make the difference between the graphite of a pencil and the diamond of an engagement ring.

'Broken on the Rack of History'

screen shot
As part of BBC's Witness series, Indian citizen Kuldip Nayar recalls his sad and lonely childhood trip from his home in what is now Pakistan to India when the two were split up in 1947. It gives a very human face to the plight of so many in the world now who are suffering through the same ordeal only under slightly different circumstances. Perhaps the most poignant and telling anecdote comes toward the end, when he describes how his contingent met up with a group making the opposite journey. They were going in different directions, and yet, in a way, they were traveling the same path. This one recollection points to the absurdity of what we humans do to ourselves and each other (video):
   Playing directly after that clip is an equally fascinating one (actually, they are all fascinating ~ and so very important) that is related, in that it is the story of a British woman who grew up in the last days of British rule in India (video):

Eau de Space

Crescent Nebula, constellation Cygnus                          Pear Tree Observatory
You can't breathe it, but apparently, you can smell it. Well, not directly, but like some odors here on Earth, the smell of space lingers, and astronauts say they can smell it on their equipment. What they can't seem to agree on is how to describe it:

Sixty Years in the Line-Up

the first issue of Severson's 'Surfer' magazine
"Before John Severson, there was no 'surf media,' no 'surf industry,' and no 'surf culture'—at least not in the way we understand it today." So wrote journalist Sam George in 1999. Some would say surfing was better off without all that, but they can't dispute the value of Severson's photographs. They're out now, in a volume titled, simply, Surf (lots o' pix):

The Ferguson Factor

Lucas Jackson/Reuters
Are the Ferguson protests turning into a movement? Yes, according to one writer, who notes, "More than one person in the streets of Ferguson has compared what is happening here to the chaotic days of the Birmingham desegregation campaign in 1963. And, like that struggle, the local authorities, long immune to public sentiment, were incapable of understanding how their actions reverberated outside the hermetic world where they held sway—how they looked to the world":
   This is not the first time I've posted something about the militarization of our police forces (,, and what's going on in Ferguson is focusing some people's attention on that aspect of the situation. Our president was asked about it and said that there's a big difference between our police and our military and that the line shouldn't be blurred. But it already has been, according to at least on Iraq vet. "... the police in Ferguson have better armor and

First-World Solutions

There's no such thing as multitasking, says cognitive neuroscientist Daniel Levitin. What we're doing when we think we're multitasking is actually one thing at a time but, by not really focusing on any of those things, not doing any of them well. This is probably disappointing but comes as no surprise to anyone. What could be useful here, though, is the suggestions Levitin has for how we can de-clutter our minds, allowing ourselves to live in the moment and concentrate on the important things:

Sci-Fi Stars

Don't we all love stories like this, where someone wins a prestigious award his or her first time out? Well, American Ann Leckie won this year's Hugo Award for best novel with her debut work, Ancillary Justice. It's the first in a planned trilogy and has already won the Nebula, Locus, British Science Fiction Association, and Arthur C. Clarke awards. The Hugos were announced at the 72nd World Science Fiction Convention in London. A few of the other winners were Charles Stross for best novella (Equoid) and Mary Robinette Kowal for best novelette (The Lady Astronaut of Mars):

Mother Nature's Kitchen

Mark Vergari/The Journal News
When I first started buying only organic and mainly local, when possible, I was rather dismayed that some produce wasn't available at certain times of the year ~ until I realized that this was according to nature's schedule. Of course, plants can be forced to produce anytime, but that usually requires extraordinary methods. Dan Barber, co-owner and executive chef at New York's Blue Hill and Blue Hill at Stone Barns, is the author of The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food. He believes that we need to pay more attention to what our nearby farms can sustainably produce and modify our diets to be in synch with that schedule, rather than vice versa (story, video):
   Barber wrote an op-ed piece in which he laid out his argument under the intriguing headline "What Farm-to-Table Got Wrong":

From the Archives: Sands of Time

Back in April 2012, I posted a story about Andres Amador, who rakes gorgeous patterns on beaches and photographs them with a little drone (the only kind of activity for which a drone should be used, IMHO!). This morning, my spousal unit called me over to the TV to watch a segment on a guy named Andres Amador, who rakes gorgeous patterns on beaches and ... you get the idea. He said that, on one of his early-morning bike rides, he saw Amador making one of his artworks on the beach in Venice. I thought this was a good time to re-post that particular link:
Andres Amador
San Francisco artist Andres Amador's canvas is the beach at low tide (video):!

Mathematics, She Wrote

Which is more edifying, that this year's winner of mathematics' top honor, the Fields Medal, is female (the first), or that she's from Iran? Growing up in Tehran, Maryam Mirzakhani read every book she could get her hands on and decided she would be a writer. One encouraging teacher and a determined principal later, she and her best friend were on their way to the International Mathematical Olympiad, where she won gold. And that was, obviously, just the beginning (story, video):

Wine in the Well

Montelupo Fiorentino
One hundred five feet down, at the bottom of an old well on a hill in Tuscany, Italy, archaeologists have found 15 centuries' worth of objects from Etruscan, Roman, and medieval times: bronze votive cups, statuettes, game pieces, animal bones, coins, and ... perhaps most exciting of all, grape seeds from at least two of those time periods. "The first results seem to indicate that the Etruscans had a more advanced viticulture compared to the Romans," said lead researcher Gaetano di Pasquale:

Microbes and the Hygiene Hypothesis

The common "if a little is good, more must be better" cliché is amusing but rarely true, and nowhere is it less amusingly false than in the medical, advertising, and agricultural industries, in which antibiotics have been overprescribed, overtouted, and overused. We are now, according to one physician, seeing the fallout from that folly. from

Today's selection - Missing Microbes by Martin J. Blaser, MD. Blaser, former chair of medicine at NYU and president of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, is one of a growing number of medical practitioners and researchers who believe that we are experiencing a growing array of "modern plagues," and that the cause of these plagues is rooted in our "disappearing microbiota":

"Within the past few decades, amid all of [our] medical advances, something has gone terribly wrong. In many different ways we appear to be getting sicker. You can see the headlines every day. We are suffering from a mysterious array of what I call 'modern plagues': obesity, childhood diabetes, asthma, hay fever, food allergies, esophageal

Remembering Robin

Robin Williams was a genius. Not in the way people always say someone's a genius because that person just did something special, but truly, deep down, innately a genius. I doubt that he thought about it much; he just did what he did, what he had to do. His brain worked a mile a minute, and the high (dare I say "manic"?) energy that brought to his comedy ~ most of which was totally impromptu ~ was his hallmark. One never knew what was coming next. But he could also act in more serious roles, and in those, I think, we saw the real man behind the genius. He was good, he was kind, he was empathetic. But we all love to laugh, so here, even as we try to understand the tragedy, is a short collection of moments from Williams's star turn on Inside the Actor's Studio in 2001. You can easily see here that he just couldn't help himself. And we were, and are, the beneficiaries of that charming shortcoming (video):
   But THIS is the classic clip in which one can see his mind working (video):

Oooo-ooo That Smell

Trust the folks over at Mental Floss to come up with a list of the smells many of us remember but will be experiencing less and less ~ and some we haven't smelled in a long time already (Polaroid film! burning leaves!):

Close Encounters

an Amazon basin tribe in 2008                                                             Reuters
At this point in history, every isolated tribe we know of has had some kind of contact with the world beyond its borders, be it from a plane flying overhead or from outsiders stumbling upon them in the forest. Earlier this summer, in Brazil, members of one such tribe walked out of their forest to initiate contact with nearby villagers. What is interesting, sad, and surprising about this is that they didn't emerge because they were curious about the outside world, but because they were fearful and asking for help. Apparently, their village had suffered several attacks by outsiders. Such contact, however, brings its own dangers, including viruses and bacteria to which they are vulnerable:

A Seat in the Sun

invented by Thomas Lee, patented by Harry Bunnell
Before this summer slips away from us forever, let's take advantage of it to shed some sunlight on a true season classic, the Adirondack chair. Did you know, for example, that it wasn't always an Adirondack? This comfy design favorite started life ... well, it started without a name at all, but when it got one, it was called a Westport chair. Its story is very similar to that of so many familiar inventions and artworks in that it took two kinds of individuals to ensure its popularity and longevity ~ the artist and the marketer ~ and in this particular case, it's unknown whether the two, who had been friends, continued to be so by the end of the story:

Super! Moon!

July's supermoon, Olvera, Spain                                       REUTERS/John Nazca
August 10 will see the second of the three supermoons, aka perigee moons, this year. (Technically, there are five supermoons this year, but only three were/are visible.) What makes this one special is that it's the "largest" of the three, as it's the closest to Earth (story, video): and
   This is the week for sky-watching. The Perseid meteor shower is firing, but, of course, with the moon being so bright now, it's hard to see. Astronomers suggest waiting until August 11-13 to get the best view:

Mountain Hideaway

When we think about secluded Himalayan communities, most of us immediately think Tibet or Bhutan. But there's a semi-autonomous region in northern India that is as inaccessible as an area with only two main roads in and out can be. Ladakh is ten times smaller than Tibet and gets way fewer visitors, but what it has over that other mountainous region is its relative freedom (slideshow):

Something's Afoot

The whole foot-kilometer thing. So confusing. First, we were going to transition, and then ... we ... well, we weren't but we kind of were but not really. So now we buy soft drinks in liters but milk by the quart and gallon. We run 10Ks but drive miles. Do they even still teach kilometers and liters in school? And how did it come to this point, anyway, where we're neither here nor there?:

Life, Remembered

Mrs. Oikawa Shiyuko                                                    Alejandro Chaskielberg
One and a half years after Japan's devastating earthquake and tsunami, photographer Alejandro Chaskielberg visited the fishing town of Otsuchi. What he saw there ~ and, in particular, one item he found on the side of a road ~ inspired him to document the aftermath and survivors in a unique way:

For the Record

If you have some old LPs or 45s you want to get rid of, I know just the man to contact. He already has a 25,000-square-foot warehouse full and recently hired a dozen college interns to catalog them. "I've gone to therapy for 40 years to try to explain this to myself," says the collector, Brazilian businessman Zero Freitas:

Female Out Front

Col. Rashid reviews the troops.                                                                    AP
Clearly, it is women and girls who have the most to lose when a group like ISIS comes to power. In the Kurdish north of Iraq, women have been fighting against that eventuality alongside their male counterparts. In fact, there is an all-woman unit, and a different unit is led by a female colonel (story, link to audio version):

More Humans

One of the best websites I've ever found ~ now on Facebook, too, and in book form ~ is Humans of New York (, The creative, empathetic genius behind it is now on a world tour, currently posting from Iraq (please be careful over there). And while, yes, we are all people, and the photos and quotes are similar in their ability to capture an individual's very humanness, the change in tone is palpable and riveting (website):

Fame Through Misfortune

the Peacock Angel                                    © IRIN
It's a tough way to become a center of the world's attention, especially when you didn't want that attention in the first place. The religious minority now starving up in the mountains of northwest Iraq, the Yazidis, is a small group that is often wrongly thought to be a devil-worshipping sect:

Moving On

screen shot
The peregrinations of famous people and ordinary folks are given equal weight in this visualization of human migration patterns in the Western world from 600 BCE to now. Plans are already under way to cover other areas as well (story, video):

The Man Behind the Apes

the original Planet of the Apes, with Charlton Heston
The creator of the Planet of the Apes was French. Surprised? He also wrote The Bridge Over the River Kwai, another great book made into a blockbuster film. Wow, right? A scientist by training, he was a rubber planter for a British company in Malaysia before becoming an undercover agent in World War II and spent two years at hard labor in jail in Hanoi before escaping. All told, Pierre Boulle (1912-1994) wrote about 30 novels and short-story collections. And you thought that Dos Equis guy was "the most interesting man in the world"!:

Autism and the Sliding Scale of 'Normal'

Is autism an illness that needs to be "cured," or is it more like left-handedness ~ an innate difference, one among many traits that characterize an individual? Of course, any loving parent wants his/her child to enjoy a successful, painless life, and one of the things that most often means is fitting in. A person who is too different can be seen as a threat and therefore is met with varying degrees of hostility and/or ridicule. No one wants that for a child. So, many parents have turned to various therapies designed to "wipe out" autism, and some seem to have done exactly that for some children. Teaching a child the necessary basics ~ communication, social, and independent-living skills ~ is one thing, but at what point does one run the risk of killing one of the defining characteristics of a child's very being, that thing that allows for the out-of-the-box thinking that could come up with the next great novel, invention, or theory? The answer depends on whom you ask:

Fire Sale

MRAPs (mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles)      Emma Graham-Harrison
What do you do with all the stuff lying around at the end of your longest war? Since last year, Pentagon contractors have scrapped more than 643 million pounds of equipment. Scrapped it. Vehicles, housing containers, furniture. Afghans, understandably, are both mystified and outraged. "Some of this might be of use in the market and could generate revenue," explains a senior Finance Ministry official. Partly in response to such criticism, the Defense Department, which says it has donated a lot, has taken to selling rather than scrapping ~ and has made $567,000 on items that cost it $4.8 million:

Quiz for a Cause

Here's an easy way to support a good cause. UPS is donating $1 for every completed quiz to one of four charities: Earth Day Network, Paralyzed Veterans of America, UNICEF, and Opportunity International. The quiz is short, multiple choice, and centers on your giving priorities, with questions like "What would you do with an extra week of vacation?" (and "Lie out by the pool" is not one of the options!):