Thursday, December 22, 2011

Happy developments in one tiny village this holiday

Our fund to build a cafeteria for a school in rural China reached a milestone this week with the opening of the new space and a celebratory meal for the students and staff!

There's still more to do, like raising enough money for the hot-lunch program. This will really help the kids whose families can't afford to give them food for lunch. My hope is that no child who uses the cafeteria will go hungry.

You can learn more about the Lan Cun Education Project and donate here.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Bald Eagle

is "a bird of bad moral character. He does not get his living honestly . . . . He watches the labor of the fishing hawk; and when that diligent bird has at length taken a fish, and is bearing it to his nest for the support of his mate and young ones, the bald eagle pursues him, and takes it from him."

-Benjamin Franklin

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Teeny tiny shrimp

After a month of carrying a few dozen eggs under their tails, the three female red crystal shrimp in my tank have hatched their broods. The shrimplets popped out fully formed, a hundredth the size of their parents, who are less than an inch long themselves.

The excitement of their arrival was quickly dampened when a week later, all the females were again carrying eggs under their tails. What to do with the hundred or so shrimp soon to be crowding my nanotank?

All right, I know what you're thinking. No, no, no. I'm not going to eat them.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Another reason not to leave the house: YogaGlo

Upward-facing cat.

Lately, I've been counting days that I don't have to head into an office or otherwise leave the house as little triumphs. The one regular disruption has been to get to yoga, Pilates, or some other physical activity. But then, I discovered YogaGlo.

YogaGlo is an online yoga school offering instruction in styles ranging from Anusura to Yin. Unlike other online yoga stuff I've tried, the videos are of real classes taught by thoughtful, organized, and motivating teachers. My personal favorites so far are Elena Brower (who, for better or worse, will forever be known as Gwyneth Paltrow's personal guru) and Jason Crandell (Rodney Yee's protege whose classes I've been lucky to attend in real life).

I know that doing yoga under the watchful eye of an experienced teacher is still the only way I'll really improve (and stay clear of injury). I miss the immediate benefits of hands-on adjustments. And, I definitely fall more easily into a calm, focused state when I'm surrounded by other people breathing heavily. But some days, it feels amazing to do a handstand in the middle of my living room.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Eating and genetics

I've been trying to avoid eating genetically modified organisms (GMOs), which is very hard since the U.S. produces the majority of the world's GMO foods and (conveniently) does not require labeling.

GMOs are plants and animals with laboratory rejiggered DNA so that they grow faster, larger, contain specific nutrients, stand up better against pests and drought, or last longer on the shelf. There are controversial arguments for why GMOs are beneficial, for example the companies behind them argue we cannot meet the nutrient demands of the exploding global population without them. On the other side are concerns about unintended gene transfer and side effects on human health. For me, the likelihood and seriousness of the harm are both great enough to say no.

If you want to avoid GMOs in your food:

1. Look for food labelled "non-GMO."

2. Look for "100% organic," "organic," or "made with organic ingredients." Foods with any of these labels cannot contain any GMOs. Keep in mind though that "made with organic ingredients" means up to 30% of the ingredients are NOT organic (another issue for another post).

3. If not 1 and 2, avoid the "Big Four" GMO crops:
  • Corn (including corn flour, meal, starch, syrup),
  • Canola (as in oil, also know as rapeseed oil), 
  • Soybeans (including soy flour, lecithin, isolate, isoflavone), and 
  • Cottonseed (oil)
  • Also, increasingly beets (go for sweeteners made from cane sugar, agave, or otherwise marked "organic."
Speaking of GMOs, here's an adorable/insidious stop motion tale/Chipotle advertisement/commentary on industrial agriculture that science writer Tom Hayden ponders thoughtfully here

Learn more about the legal battle to restrict and label GMOs at the Center for Food Safety.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Creative spaces

 The office doors at ActivSpace are as colorful as the people and projects behind them.

I met some fun, creative minds while working on a story about the occupants of affordable office spaces for The Bold Italic.

This time, I took on the added challenge of shooting the accompanying photos and discovered how tricky it can be to get people to express themselves in front of a lens.

In photography as in writing, you are trying to capture a single moment that can stand for a much broader experience, but the moments when representation and reality perfectly align are so rare. I am in awe of the artists who somehow make these moments happen more often than not.