Budget Cuts: Making Wookies Bite Size

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Ewoks were never meant to exist.

The Return of the Jedi was suppose to have an epic Wookie battle but the movie was far over budget, and large Wookie costumes are pricey.
 

Cutting costs meant cutting the Wookie down to size, and thus was born the Ewok.

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It always seemed a bit weird that a group of Care Bears was able to defeat the Empire.

 

Even their name is tongue in cheek; Ewok is simply a word jumble of Wookie, but is slightly shorter in length.

 

The original script called for a planet of Wookies, and Chewbacca reuniting with his kin. Budgeting for dozens of Wookie costumes was too tall an order, so Ewoks were invented to save money.

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Budget constraints in the original Star Wars series led to a number of creative and cherished solutions.

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Luke Skywalker’s light saber was originally colored blue, but it was hard to distinguish from the blue background of Tatooine’s sky. The result? Luke is now known for his green lightsaber, not the blue one he was scripted to have.

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Perhaps the biggest secret about Star Wars is that according to George Lucas the entire story is told by R2D2 to the Keeper of the Whills one hundred years after the events being recounted.

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“A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away” isn’t referring to the events being far away from us or long ago from our time – it is R2 beginning to recite a tale from his past to the Keeper of the Whills.

No wonder it all starts with a Princess giving a message to R2; afterall, it is his story.

 

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It’s All Relative: Shuffling the Deck

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Every time you shuffle a deck of cards their order is one that has never before, and will never again happen in the universe.

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There are over 80 unvigintillion ways a deck of cards to be ordered. I promise I didn’t make that word up! That’s an 8 with 67 zeroes after it.

 

If life ever seems repetitive just shuffle a deck of cards and know that you created something that has never before existed in the 13.8 billion year history of the universe.

 

Each shuffle seems ordinary and plain, but the odds of every card shuffling into their original “new deck” order is the same as any other arrangement. Likewise, the odds of getting a royal flush of spades in exact 10 through Ace order is exactly the same as getting 2,7,Jack,8,4 in mixed suits.

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One only SEEMS special because we have designated it so. The feeling we get upon seeing a royal flush on the board should be felt every time a hand is dealt because every hand is equally special (or ordinary depending on how you choose to view it).

 

Take a moment to think how odd it is for us to work this way. There is no difference between the worlds most exciting hand, the world’s most mind numbingly boring hand, or any hand in between these two extremes. Every deck has identical odds of existing.

 

The sensation we get when seeing a “great” board get played comes purely from our fabricated ideas. It is not an emotion forced upon us by the outside world, but a feeling we choose based upon our interpretation.

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This points to a deeper truth. How we feel at any given moment has nothing to do with outside circumstances. Our feelings and emotions are a result of our interpretation of reality, not reality itself. If we wish to interpret our day as a series of stressful and agitating events, then that is precisely what we will experience.

 

This is great news because it means we are in absolute control of how we feel about our lives, moment by moment, day by day we create our happiness or sadness, peace or anger, despair or hope.

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Usually, we think we are the victims of what unfolds. When something unexpected happens – the flight is cancelled – we feel we MUST have a negative feeling. I’ve been waiting for 2 hours and the flight gets cancelled, I get angry; the marriage falls apart, I get sad; the car cuts me off, I rage.

 

If only reality was dealt as expected we could be happy, but instead I got the wrong deck!

 

But all decks are equal. No deck is “good or evil”, it is not out to get you. You are out to get yourself! You choose how to interpret the hand you’re dealt.

 

She broke up with me. Now I’m sad. Is the universe forcing me to be sad? Or am I imposing it upon myself by means of how I CHOOSE to look at it.

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So the deck wasn’t shuffled in the order you expected it to be shuffled. The universe didn’t let me down, I let me down with my own expectations. No ordering of cards is better than any other.

 

We cannot control how the cards are ordered, but we need not control that. We are in complete control of how we perceive each shuffle. We define what makes us feel good or bad.

 

If ever you are frustrated, sad, angry, annoyed, or agitated just ask yourself “Am I required to feel this way? Who is creating this emotion, me or the outside world? What feeling would I like to feel?” From there, create an interpretation that leads to the emotion or results you desire.

 

If I hate my job and I focus on why I hate it, I am merely fostering that crappy feeling. If I change my interpretation, my focus, I can change my emotion. What parts of the job do I like? Could this be the perfect motivator for finding something better? Maybe billions of others have worse jobs, and mine isn’t so bad?

 

These are all interpretations, and they lead to vastly different emotions, different results, different experiences, and different futures.

 

What makes us human is our ability to consciously choose our reactions and emotions. Often we are not truly in control, just like any other animal is not in control.

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What makes us special is that we do not have to go with whatever our reflex is. In that moment I convince myself I have to be angry, even that I WANT to be angry. We get lost in the emotion and just roll with it instead of being truly human, being conscious, being aware, and stepping back, observing, consciously controlling our emotions to produce happiness and results.

 

We have the power to choose how we interpret our circumstances, and this tool is more powerful than any drug or any amount of money. With diligent focus and effort we can re-claim the right to see the world in whatever light is delightful and beneficial, instead of being a monkey that sticks with its default reaction.

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Are you a victim of what happens to you, or are you the creator of your experience? Both can be true. The choice is up to you.

 

“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so” -William Shakespeare

Dust in the Wind: A Hidden Miracle

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Dust blown from the Sahara Desert crosses the Atlantic Ocean to fertilize the Amazon rain forest.

Ah, so you’ve heard this one before! 

sahara arid dune

 

Good because that’s not the interesting part.

Scientists have been stumped as to how it is that dust from one of the most nutrient poor places on Earth was acting as fertilizer.

If I pour sand on my garden it’s going to have a bad time; the Sahara Desert isn’t made of Miracle Grow, afterall.

Amazon luscious lake

New satellite data finally cracked this mystery. As it turns out, a tiny, nutrient rich bowl that makes up less than 1/500th of the Sahara Desert produces over half the dust blown to the Amazon.The other 99.8% of the Sahara Desert combined produces less dust than this tiny area.

This is like pouring a bowl of Lucky Charms and getting 99% marshmallows every time you pour a bowl. A miracle in its own right.

(Satellite image of sources of trans-Atlantic dust)

Africa dust map

The dust from the other 99.8% of the Sahara Desert is nutrient poor, and would do little to fertilize the Amazon, so how is it that 50% of the dust kicked across the Atlantic comes from just 0.2% of the Sahara Desert?

Bodélé Depression from space

The winds hitting this area, called the Bodele Depression, are unusually strong jet stream winds that are completely absent in the rest of the Sahara. A strange funneling effect happens on a massive scale as the jet stream gets squeezed through the Tibesti Mountains and Ennedi Massif upon entering the former plains of Mega-Chad Lake.

This causes massive amounts of nutrient rich sediments to get pushed high into the atmosphere and carried thousands of miles across the Atlantic.

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The Bodele Depression is a remnant of the world’s largest freshwater lake. Just a few thousand years ago Mega-Chad Lake was ~140,000 square miles; for comparison, Lake Superior, the world’s largest freshwater lake today, is just 32,000 square miles.

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Today all that remains of this enormous lake is Lake Chad. Soon even this whisper of a grander past will vanish – Lake Chad has shrunk by 95% in just the last 50 years. This is highly unfortunate as 30 million people rely on its water for drinking and irrigation.

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The Bodele Depression’s dried lake bed surface is composed of layer upon layer of the phosphorous, nitrogen, and iron rich remains of plankton. This plankton was deposited long before the lake existed; over 100 million years ago this depression was part of the ocean, and for millions of years plankton lived, died, and sank to the bottom to produce these nutrient rich layers.

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There is one more factor that makes this an incredibly serendipitous situation. Not only is the Bodele Depression nutrient rich, but it is rich in the exact nutrients that the Amazon needs.

Plants need numerous nutrients to grow; only by feeding them the select few they are short on can they benefit from it. If a plant is short on Manganese and you give it Iron you’re more likely to harm it, much less help it.

The Amazon rainforest’s soil has very little phosphorous. In fact, it has so little that phosphorous is the limiting factor in plant growth. Even though there are abundant amounts of other “fertilizers” the plants can’t grow once they hit the wall of depleted phosphorous.

Amazon Wildcat

Well it just so happens that the dust from the Bodele Depression is particularly rich in phosphorous. As it crosses the Atlantic the phosphorous dissolves into the water droplets that fall to the ground in the Amazon’s frequent downpours. The Amazon’s rain is literally a liquid fertilizer enriched with the exact ratio of nutrients that it needs.

What a tale indeed!

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Life living in an ancient ocean stored just the right ratio of nutrients for a rainforest thousands of miles away that wouldn’t exist for another 100 million years. Those nutrients then traverse an entire ocean due to a near impossible funneling of a jet stream through just the right geographic features. An event so improbable that it results in just 0.2% of the Sahara Desert producing more dust than the other 99.8%.

Truly remarkable.