Rising Sea Level = Competition for Space

Global warming and climate change.  Regardless of what your stance is in the issue, read this article about Kiribati.

Kiribati is an island nation in the south Pacific with a population 103,000.  All of their land is only mere meters above sea level.  With the gradual rise in sea level, soon their entire land will be submerged.

With no indications of sea levels receding, President Anote Tong has been trying to address this issue so that his citizens retain a home.  In September 2011, The Telegraph reported that Tong was considering converting the entire nation to a nation on stilts.  Now, almost a year later, Tong has reconsidered this option of creating new land to using existing land: purchasing land area from Fiji.

Like the more recent article mentions, with the transfer of the Kiribati nation to another land, they will inevitably lose a part of their cultural heritage and identity as they must implicitly adopt and assimilate.  Therefore, it is not only the death of their islands but a toll for the people as well.

The important thing to realize that neither of Tong’s suggestions is a solution.  They are merely an immediate response to accommodate a problem that, for the moment, affects Kiribati more extremely than any other nation.  If sea levels rise even more, all countries will be scrambling for higher ground and overcrowding cities inland.  (Use this map to see how a rise in sea level will affect our islands and coasts).  Being here in southern California and seeing all the mansions scattered  along every bit of the coastline, I worry that if this time of chaos arrives, the competition will become one of wealth.

For the preservation of the world’s cultural richness, biodiversity, or beauty for our children to admire and enjoy…. Whatever the reason, let’s convince our individual nations to change out current way of life and seek a solution together.

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Advances in Stem Cell Research!

Amazing! Some researchers in Japan have claimed to have created a functional human liver from stem cells.  The scientists implantes induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, whose function is not yet determined and can develop into any type of cell.  While controversy exists on stem cells taken from embryos, this discovery could bypass the argument as iPS cells can be obtained from adults.  This would revolutionize the future of health care in eliminating or reducing the wait time for organ donations, replacing damaged or sick cells, and more.  Read the New York Daily News article here.

The Joys of CSA and Urban Farming

Three of my roommates and I have signed up for a CSA  with the Lancaster Farm Fresh Collective.  Now I know what you’re thinking.  We’re a whole bunch of hippies.  Hear me out though.  Until this spring, I was pretty foreign to the idea, but having learned what it is, the concept of CSA is pretty awesome.

CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) is a system that allows consumers to directly support local farmers.  For an initial investment, customers receive a variety of seasonal products that are most often organic and grown by sustainable methods.

Have you ever thought where the fruits and vegetables in the produce section of grocery stores come from??  Avocados from California.  Bananas from the Caribbean.  Grains and corn from the Midwest.  Tons and tons of these products have to be packaged and shipped by air, sea, and land to get to your grocery store.  Purchasing groceries from Farmers Markets and CSAs is environmentally beneficial in reducing the energy that is necessary to transport food to the consumer. 

You’re probably thinking that transporting food is a necessity. Farms are concentrated in certain areas, and climate requirements must be met for proper growth of certain products.  Trade is a fundamental part of the global economy.  True. I’m not saying everyone should just gnaw on grass clippings from your front lawn as a source of vegetation.  In light of climate change, I just wanted to say that we could improve on cutting down the necessity to transport food.

from wjfarm.wordpress.com

I think it is a common misunderstanding that farms require acres and acres of open space.  Not true!  Take The Farm at Walker Jones, for example, in Washington, D.C.   On a one acre lot, this plot of land produces flowers and vegetables yearround with the help of community members and volunteers.  They even began maintaining bee hives for honey! It is a prime example of urban farming.

Today, too much energy is wasted in the production of food that the amount going into production outweighs the amount of caloric energy that they provide.  Plus, with the idea of mass production we need to be more concerned with the quality of food that we eat.  No more pink slime or polluting chemicals!

I hope you consider joining a local CSA or supporting the local farmers.  If you’re in the city, find or begin an urban farm!!!  To help convince you in joining the movement for sustainable food production, I will give you a preview of what great food items you could end up receiving!

With the Lancaster Farm Fresh Collective, we get a box of vegetables to share every week for 25 weeks.  This week, the contents include…..   

1 Bunch Asparagus – Certified Organic – Lancaster Farmacy

1 Bunch Baby Hakurei Turnips – Certified Organic – Echo Valley Organics

1 Bunch Green Kale – Certified Organic – Eagle View Acres

1 Bunch French Breakfast Radishes – Certified Organic – Meadow Brook Organics

1 Bunch Red Scallions – Certified Organic – Sweetaire Farm

1 Bunch Curly Parsley – Certified Organic – Noble Herbs

1 Bag Lettuce Mix – Certified Organic – Plum Hill Farm

1 Head Green Leaf Lettuce – Certified Organic – Plum Hill Farm

Pretty awesome stuff.  We’re making dinner with all of the ingredients tomorrow! I’ll let you know what we cook!

The Magical Power of Glasses

I have had glasses since 5th grade.  Back then, I hated having to wear them, so I only wore them in class to see the blackboard.  Eventually, my vision just got worse and I didn’t really have a choice but wear them or I would be ignoring my friends’ waves of hello.  At the elementary school age,   glasses wearers are a minority.  I was too self-conscious about epitomizing the Asian stereotype of academic nerdiness.

I finally got contact lenses in high school because I argued to my parents that running 5k cross-country meets with my glasses in my hand in case a stretch of the course enters the forest with roots, rocks, and other tripping hazards was not the best.  (Ok, I managed fine without using my glasses at all, but hey, it worked).   Having rid of glasses, I felt like I underwent  this drastic transformation.   After that I lived in contact lenses for years that my glasses prescription became obsolete.

Now, my attachment to contacts has waned.  I don’t know what changed.  Maybe it was the indifference as to whether the boys in my class thought I was cute or the self-confidence of diverging from the current fashion trend I developed over time.  I actually really wanted glasses, so I got them in January.

I love wearing my glasses.  It’s funny because I have some friends who wear fake glasses for the sake of wearing glasses.  I don’t know whether to feel pride in the fact that the glasses actually help me see better or disbelief that they are jealous of me being pretty much blind.

Need proof that glasses are now the cool way to see?

Google’s Project Glass is taking glasses to a new level that only seems possible in the science fiction realm – an experience called “augmented reality.”  What is augmented reality?  Unlike virtual reality in which one’s perception of the world is replaced by an artificial, computer-generated one, augmented reality is when technology functions to enhance one’s perception of current reality.  Take a look at the video below and learn more about augmented realityin this article by howstuffworks.com.

And you thought Benjamin Franklin’s bifocals or photochromic/transition lenses were about as advanced as glasses would get, huh?

When Holi and a 5k combine….The Color Run

Spring is here. The flowers are blooming. The trees are sprouting new leaves.  The people are emerging from hibernation to bike and run outside

For all those wish for more excitement while running in the city….join The Color Run!!!  For this race, runners must wear a white shirt at the start.  At each kilometer mark, runners are doused with powder of a different color (1k is yellow, 2k is blue, 3k is green, 4k is pink) until the 5k mark where runners reach the “Color Extravaganza.”

 

 

The colors and joy surrounding this 5k is very reminiscent of Holi, the Hindu religious holiday celebrated during the last full moon of the lunar month Phalguna (late February or early March).  Originally, Holi was a festival that commemorated good harvests and the fertile land.  Hindus believe it is a time of enjoying spring’s abundant colors and saying farewell to winter.  Although the religious aspect is highly emphasized, Holi also commemorates events present in Hindu mythology.  During this event, participants hold a bonfire, throw colored powder at each other, and celebrate wildly. This period lasting about two days is also a time when social boundaries are relieved and people of all castes, gender, age, and socioeconomic status come together to enjoy each other’s presence as they celebrate the festival of new beginning.

I’ll be venturing up to Philadelphia on July 8th to run in this colorful event with a couple of friends for an informal high school cross country team reunion. Let me know if you’re going to be there!

Our long and arduous path to repair the Earth

Aside

A great read to follow up my thoughts on Earth Day is Edward Norton’s reflection on climate change.

This issue involves an “urgency of now.”

“We have no time to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism.”

-Martin Luther King

It is a daunting task but we have no choice.  We must take responsibility and embark on a collaborative journey to repair our home and reinvent a lifestyle harmonious to all life and resources of the planet.

Learn how to say and make Quinoa!!!

I work at a clinic one day a week, and we had an office potluck dinner on Sunday.  Since I knew that one of my colleagues was on the paleo diet, I wanted to make a dish that would accommodate her dietary needs….or at least my best attempt to fit the needs with a quick internet research since all she had told me about the diet before was no rice or peanuts.

The answer: Quinoa!!!

Having been to many potlucks hosted by/for a vegan and vegetarian community, I was no stranger to eating quinoa.  However, I knew nothing about it!  I didn’t even know how to say the name!

Quinoa (pronounced “keen-wah”) is an ancient product of South America grown for its edible seeds.  Unlike grains, it is a great source of amino acids, as well as fiber, phosphorus, and magnesium.  In its natural form, quinoa seeds have a bitter coating of sapopins that make it unideal for consumption, a characteristic to promote dissemination for cultivation.  However, quinoa purchased at the grocery store have been processed to remove the coating.  You can learn more about these delicious seeds reading this article.

For the potluck dish, I modified a basic recipe on the back of my quinoa box and added whatever vegetables I had around.  Other ingredients that would have been nice to add are tofu and bell peppers.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 medium size onion – sliced
  • 3 medium size carrots -peeled and cut into pieces
  • 1/2 cup spinach
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn
  • minced garlic, salt, pepper (optional)
  1. Bring quinoa and broth to a boil. Reduce heat, add corn and carrots, and allow to simmer until all of the broth has been absorbed.
  2. While broth is coming to a boil, cook the onion in a skillet with a little bit of olive oil until soft and it gets a tinge of brown
  3. Add onion to the broth mixture when most of the liquid has been absorbed.  Add the garlic, salt, and pepper as you please.
  4. Allow to cool a bit and enjoy!

I should have taken a photo of the finished dish.  It was very pretty and delicious!

Body Language

My friend and I went to a birthday party Saturday night at Rock N Roll Hotel on H Street.  The place was packed! Rock N Roll Hotel is a really big bar with three floors: the first is often a venue for concerts, the second is a bar and dance floor, the third is the rooftop bar.  If you like 90s music, definitely go there and stay on the second floor. I was belting out songs that I sang along to during my middle school dances! That level also has several sections for private parties.  One was reserved for a group of people who were deaf or hard of hearing.

In DC, it’s not a rare sight to see a group of people signing to each other while you grab a cup of coffee or push your cart down the cereal aisle of the grocery store.  DC is home to Gallaudet University, the world’s only university where all the programs are designed to accommodate students who are deaf or hard of hearing.

The first time I learned about sign language was on an episode of Reading Rainbow where LeVar Burton.  (You kids born since the 90s won’t have a clue what I’m talking about).  LeVar introduced his friend who is deaf, and she taught him words and phrases throughout the show.  Afterwards, I went to my local public library (like the kids at the end of each episode advise) and checked out a book on the ASL alphabet.  Somehow, since learning the alphabet as a middle school student, I retained the knowledge to this today.

I love learning languages, and I was very excited to learn that Martin Luther King Public Library offers free ASL classes.  I had gone to a few sessions about a year ago.  After having had to use pen and paper to communicate with patients at the primary care clinic where I work, I was coincidentally thinking about how I should start going to them again a few hours before the party.

The classes are hosted on the second floor in the lobby.  In these classes, there is no formal structure. Anyone is welcome.  You attend and pick up whatever you can.  To be honest, it’s daunting.  However, there are always people dropping in for their first time, so you will not be alone.  As with any class, the amount that you learn will depend on the effort you put into it.

Also on the second floor is the Adaptive Services Center where you can find large print books, books in Braille, and computers with programs designed for those with hearing or visual impairment.  A staff member named Patrick (? It was a year ago) introduced me to ASL Pro, an online resource of videos for you to learn how to sign.

Along with some words and phrases like “Can you go to the store for me?” and “tomorrow,” I learned that sign language is not just about your hands.  It  relies on your facial expression, body position, and the strength, speed and size of your signs or gestures to fully communicate your thoughts.  The language is very much an art form of dance or theatrics.

On a dance floor where the music is so loud I resorted to screaming in my friend’s ear for conversations that turned into impromptu games of telephone, my other dance buddies did not strain at all -signing, laughing and enjoying the night. Maybe next time, I will spare my vocal cords and follow their route.

A new part of them

I’m not alone when I say that I love TEDIf you don’t know about TED already, you are missing out on a great educational resource for presentations that are reminiscent of university lecture halls.  In about 15 minutes, I learn about economy, philosophy, religion, technology, design, comedy, art, international relations, and medicine.

Today, boredom struck while I was at work, and I watched Scott Summit’s lecture.

Courtesy of bespokeinnovations.com

Scott Summit is the co-founder of Bespoke Innovations. He is an industrial designer who works with individuals to help personalize their prosthetics for optimal functionality and aesthetics. Check it out! The lace pattern prosthetic is gorgeous.

Bespoke Innovations and the 3-D printing process to create the prosthetics was also featured in a New York Times article.

Bespoke Innovations is one of a handful of companies that work to create artificial limbs to fit people’s lifestyles.  Special Olympians require prosthetics specifically designed for athletic performance.  An example made famous by the movie 127 Hours is Aron Ralston, whose custom artificial arm was created by Hanger to meet the demands of rock climbing.  Through the combined efforts of doctors, scientists, and deigners, this new realm of art, science, and engineering gives individuals confidence and allows them a way to express themselves, despite the loss of their limb.  Most importantly, these individuals can continue to live empowered and not overpowered by their disability.