Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Lesser-known heroes...

Often when I see stories of success or good news in sports, it relates to a game won or a professional athlete receiving word that his shoulder/back/knee/big toe is not as injured as previously thought. Maybe I'm cynical, but that kind of news about a person who is most likely going to get paid an absurdly large amount of money to play a child's game regardless of whether he is on the field or the bench does not warrant my attention.

However, I do love me some sports stories with unexpected protagonists. A lot has been made of the Oregon-Boise State nonsense, where the Ducks proceeded to punctuate a disastrous game with one of its players punching a member of the other team. Oregon head coach Chip Kelly's less-than-stellar debut was played over and over and over again on all the major networks. As Yahoo! points out, part of being a fan is taking the good with the bad, but sometimes it's so bad, it's not fair. Ducks fan Tony Seminary decided he wasn't going to go quietly into the night and fired off an angry but composed email to Kelly with an invoice for his travel expenses from the game. Much to Seminary's surprise, a few days later he received a personal check from the coach.

Boise State and Oregon's nascent rivalry has nothing on the drama going on between Puma and adidas. The two sportswear companies began as a single venture between two German brothers - Adolf and Rudolph Dassler. But shortly after World War II, the siblings had a falling out and formed two separate companies. The chasm between adidas and Puma was so bad, the town in which they were both headquartered literally divided itself in two; there were separate shops and schools depending on who you supported. According to WBUR, this past Monday employees from both companies temporarily buried the hatchet in honor of World Peace Day. They played soccer on mixed teams, and the team that had both CEOs on it won.

Staying in world news for a second, as reported by the AP on September 9, 64 year-old retiree Ruth Day shot two holes-in-one in one round, besting what some are calling 67 million to one odds. She made her first shot on the 149-yard third hole and duplicated the feat 10 holes later on the 161-yard 13th hole. Day, a former showroom manager in northern England, has now done something even Tiger Woods has not yet managed.

For perhaps the sweetest story of the day, we come back to the States. Imagine for a second being told your two year-old daughter has autism and may never speak. Now fast-forward five years and behold that same little girl standing in front of tens of thousands of people and belting out the National Anthem. Gina Marie Incandela's parents decided early on to aggressive treat her autism, enrolling her in occupational and intensive speech therapy. Progress was slow until Gina began music therapy; she connected with it, and not only her speech but her grades and social skills began improving. After seeing someone sing the National Anthem on TV, the little girl declared she wanted to sing at a ballgame. God bless her mother, but Michelle Incandela found a try-out for a Mets' spring training game. Gina aced the try-out, and her little career took off. Considered the good luck charm for the Orlando Magic last year, she sang at nine playoff games - including three Finals games - hockey arenas, conventions and the US Open tennis tournament, according to CBS News. Gina's performance at a Mets game, linked from CBS News, is darling, and her dress is adorable.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Tuesday morning roundup...

It's been a while since I've done a roundup post (that and I don't have a theme for today!). So without further ado, here are three cool stories I found on the world-wide Interweb recently.

As if The Happiest Place on Earth wasn't enough of a draw to visit the Sunshine State, Universal Studios, via Yahoo! Travel, has revealed plans for "The Wizarding World of Harry Potter," a new theme park area. Visitors to the park area enter through an archway designed to block out all signs of the Muggle world they just left behind, and the WWoHP will include rides like "Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey," which takes guests through scenes from the movies and inside a Hogwarts Castle made to look 700 feet tall. Every shop is Harry Potter-themed, meaning Ollivanders will sell wands, Zonko's will sell Sneakoscopes, and Honeydukes will sell Chocolate Frogs. Visitors can send mail with a Hogsmeade postmark from the Owl Post and take a pull on a draft of butterbeer at the Three Broomsticks. contributes my other two stories of the day. The first article features Susan Jacobs and her "Wheels of Success" program. Born out of personal experience in how hard it can be to get to a job without reliable transportation, Jacobs started the foundation to provide cars to low-income workers in Florida. The program refurbishes donated cars before offering them to qualified full-time workers. Since 2003, Wheels of Success has provided 280 cars to clients and helped another 280 people with vehicle-related services.

The second article relates to Maria Toor Pakay. The 18 year-old Pakistani girl is the No. 10-ranked squash player for her home country and stands 91st in the world. But the really remarkable thing is she originally hails from South Waziristan - a stronghold of the Taliban. In her hometown, girls are punished for attending school, much less playing sports. But Maria's father recognized her talent and moved the family to Peshawar, so his daughter could reach her full potential.

Monday, September 21, 2009


I have no actual proof of this, but I suspect one of the first things out of prior employers' mouths when called for a reference on me is, "She's very organized." At my first job, I completely organized the server on which we kept our shared files. At the second job, I ordered a filing cabinet to control the chaos that was our rainbow of copy paper colors. I'm telling you, Skittles had nothing on us. At my last job, I helped organize the photo folders on our server which is no mean feat, considering we had six to seven years worth of digital photos of 23 varsity sports.

While falling short of OCD, my devotion to lists extends far beyond any normal person, I'm sure. I actually have a little steno pad containing all sorts of lists - songs to download on iTunes, books I want to read, etc. So you can imagine how pleased I was to read a post at Very Good Taste on the Omnivore's 100. Andrew listed 100 foods - from the odd to the ordinary - that any good omnivore should eat at least once in his/her life.

England's Guardian newspaper did something similar, gathering together the 50 best foods in the world and where to eat them. Columnist Killian Fox collaborated with other foodies to track down regional specialties as well as foods commonly hailed as terrific and the best places to consume them. As with the list on Very Good Taste, some of the foods on the Guardian's slate are out-of-the-ordinary (read: I will not be traveling to Cebu to eat Filipino cuisine), but I can totally see myself stopping off at Laduree for macarons or Fosselman's for a milkshake on a future trip.

Prevention Magazine posted a partial inventory of mood-altering foods on its website. If you can get past the unfortunate choice to make the entirety of the text italic (at least on PCs), there's some interesting stuff on there. Chocolate is my self-medication of choice to treat a bad day; however, I could totally see myself happily scarfing down an English muffin with fruit jam plopped on top. Colleen Pierre, RD, also gives hints on how to improve sleeping, avoid Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), and stop stress in its tracks simply by changing your diet.

The following story on the New York Times' Caucus Blog definitely altered my mood for the better. This past Thursday, First Lady Michelle Obama helped launch a new farmer's market near the White House. Despite a steady drizzle, Mrs. Obama led a crowd of area residents and employees in the market area after some opening remarks. Her appearance was part of an ongoing campaign to help Americans make healthier choices when it comes to preparing meals.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Shana Tova Umetukah...

This evening at sundown marks the start of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Not being Jewish, I did need to Wikipedia it to learn more. Rosh Hashanah marks the start of the Jewish civil year; it is the new year for people, animals and legal contracts. The first of the High Holidays - days set aside to focus on repentance and which conclude with Yom Kippur - Rosh Hashanah is a day of rest and reflection to cleanse oneself of his/her sins before the end of the year.

Me being me, I spent particular time reading the section on meals and traditional foods. Apples and honey are often included to symbolize a sweet start to the new year. Foods eaten vary with the community, but typical additions to the meal include dates, black-eyed beans, leek, spinach, gourd, pomegranates and challah.

By the way, my blog title is a Rosh Hashanah greeting that means, "a good and sweet year."

In a nice confluence of events (I would make a terrible journalist as I usually find out about things after the fact), I saw a story in the New York Times today about the cantor of the then-first Jewish religious ceremony in Germany since Hitler's rise. In late October, 1944, NBC radio broadcast a short service conducted by Sidney Lefkowitz, a rabbi and unit leader. His cantor that day was Pfc. Art Fuchs, then 22 years old. Typical of WWII veterans, Fuchs was reticent about his service and only admitted to playing a part in the historic service when questioned directly by his daughter 65 years after the fact.

The NYT story linked to the YouTube video of the mini-documentary the American Jewish Committees commissioned after one of its staffers, Charlotte Bonelli, found the original sound recording of the service in the Library of Congress. Below is that documentary.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

R-E-S, er, C-U-E (my apologies, Aretha)...

A lot of people have weighed in on Michael Vick and the fallout from his prison sentence and subsequent reinstatement to the NFL. As a football fan, an animal lover and inveterate believer that people are basically good, I don't know what to think. On one hand, his actions were despicable and disgusting. But on the other, I do agree with what a Phildelphia woman told the Philly Inquirer - if you don't allow someone a second chance, why should they try to better themselves? I wish he'd apologized more directly and seemed truly committed to animal welfare, but I guess I'm just going to wait and see with that one.

However, my moral quandary did not keep me from laughing out loud at a story on FoxSports on MSN. The Main Line Animal Rescue League (based in DC and just outside Philadelphia) has begun placing ads in the newspapers of each of the cities the Philadelphia Eagles play, offering to donate five bags of food to animal shelters for every time Vick is tackled. Bill Smith, founder and CEO of the shelter, did say that since Vick is hard to catch, a minimum donation will be made even if the new Philly QB is not tackled.

Another major news network, ABC News, featured an initiative by the organization Pilots N Paws. This week, the rescue group aims to transport 5000 homeless animals from death row at their respective shelters to other shelters or foster homes across the country. Founded in 2008, Pilots N Paws helps alleviate the problem of transporting shelter animals long distances. When an animal is transferred from a shelter in one state to another, the journey by car or truck is long and requires frequent stops and vehicle changes, all of which is traumatizing to a group of animals who have enough to deal with. Volunteer pilots are giving their time, and some flight schools are donating their planes so the organization can fulfill its goal by Sept. 20.

PetSmart Charities has a similar mission to Pilots N Paws - the Rescue Waggin'. How cute is that?? According to The Canadian Press (via Google Hosted News), the tricked out trucks (specially constructed with air conditioning, piped in music and video cameras so the dogs can be monitored) have transported over 29,000 animals from communities with high euthanasia rates to ones with high adoption rates since 2004. The animals are moved from shelters all across the US to the Washington Animal Rescue League in DC, where they receive medical examination, social and behavioral training and, hopefully, new homes. The facility sounds like doggy Eden - a full service hospital, behavior school and cageless facility complete with cascading waterfall.

(Photo courtesy of

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Odd little ends...

It's not terribly often I can say I was inspired by a pink grasshopper. No, I'm not talking about an "adult beverage" or a character in a children's book. Daniel Tate, an English schoolboy on an outing with his great-grandfather, spotted a common grasshopper who was born a little special. The 11 year-old boy was looking for grasshoppers at a wildlife event last week at Seaton Marshes Local Nature Reserve and at first thought he spotted a flower. He changed his tune when that flower hopped. The Yahoo! article also has photos of other pink insects found in nature. I'm not a bug-lover, but the pics are pretty cool.

Today's "weird but true" theme pretty much unspooled from there. posted a feature on its green technology page about the Chevrolet Equinox. I know absolutely nothing about cars. I can tell you the make and model of my car, but when one of my male friends pause in mid-sentence to drool over a passing vehicle, I'm at a loss. However, Chevy's hydrogen-fueled test car recently reached its 1,000,000th mile driven. Nearly 5000 everyday people have driven more than 100 pollution-free Equinoxes in the past 25 months, and many report they cannot tell a fuel cell car from a gas-fueled one. The only thing emitted from these "green" cars is a wisp of water vapor out the tailpipe. Once they start putting hydrogen fuel stations in more than 70 places in the US, sign me up.

Anything that helps shelter dogs I'm in favor of, as I'm sure you've all glommed onto through this blog if not by impassioned soap box speeches by yours truly. The San Francisco Chronicle's City Brights blog by Ken White highlighted the organization Working Dogs for Conservation, a Montana-based group utilizing some of nature's best sniffers in conservation efforts. Many dogs are turned over to shelters because they are too active for families (doing research on breeds before adopting or buying would be the smart option here, but do not even get me started...). Dr. Megan Parker and her research team find uber-focused dogs in shelters and train them to help her and her team in conservation efforts. The dogs are minimally invasive to nature and excellent and exuberant trackers. Seven of the nine dogs working for the WDC are rescues, and mind you, these are the dogs that are usually unadoptable, labeled "out of control," "obsessively active," and "crazy."

(Photo courtesy of APEX and Yahoo!)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

In memoriam...

Patrick Swayze, Crystal Lee Sutton and Norman Borlaug are three names which do not have much in common at first glance. Swayze is best known for taking Baby out of the corner, Sutton for agitating for labor rights and Borlaug for keeping millions from starving to death.

However, all three made a significant impact on the world.

Swayze was, by all accounts, one of the few truly decent men in Hollywood. He and his wife married young and stayed together for 34 years. He stayed out of the tabloids until the very end and kept working because that was what he knew how to do. Swayze may have been typecast, but always playing the man who stepped up when others wouldn't isn't necessarily a bad thing. The Los Angeles Times has a very nice article looking back on Swayze's contributions to Hollywood.

Sutton, the inspiration for the movie "Norma Rae," catalyzed the union movement in the North Carolina. Just 17 when she started working at a textile mill in the mid-1950s, she met labor organizer Eli Zifkovitch when he visited her plant after helping organize the coal workers in West Virginia. Sutton was making $2.65 an hour at JP Stevens' plant in 1973 when Zifkovitch inspired her to take up the cause of workers' rights. Later in life she also advocated for women's rights, racial equality, the poor and equal access to medical treatment, according to the Columbia Ledger-Enquirer.

The City Journal has an excellent blog post on all of Borlaug's many contributions to sustainability. He grew up on an Iowa farm during rough times, an experience which propelled him into the study of plants and hybridization. Borlaug's efforts in Mexico in the 1950s helped make Mexican wheat fungus-free and allowed the farmers to not only feed themselves but sell the surplus. He traveled to India next, creating a strain of large-headed short wheat whose high yield reversed the Indian trend toward famine. The 1970 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize continued to train others throughout his life, so his important work could live on.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Forget swine flu - this is something you actually want to catch...

Like many others, psychology and trying to figure out why people do what they do fascinates me. I devoured Malcolm Gladwell's "The Tipping Point;" a lot of his points and case studies made an enormous amount of sense to me.

That book is referenced in a New York Times magazine article which discusses a recent theory that happiness is contagious. Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler are the two social scientists behind a study which looked at the interconnectedness of people and how those links affected their behaviors in terms of obesity, smoking, mood, etc. They discovered people's behaviors can affect up to three others - people you may not associate as close friends.

One finding that caught my eye was better-connected people (ones who are connected to a lot of people with varying degrees of closeness) are actually happier than people with small, tight-knit clusters of friends. The idea being with lots of exposure to happ(ier) people, you become happier.

The Sydney Morning Herald takes a slightly different approach to cultivating happiness. The paper cites findings from several different researchers who, prompted by the recent rise in depression in the West, have looked into what makes people happy. Experts suggest the usual nuggets like being positive and kind to yourself, but a couple tips surprised me.

Daniel Gilbert, from Harvard University, says to be brave. Gilbert believes people rationalize an excess of courage more easily than an excess of cowardice, so it is better to risk it than sit idly by. Failing brings out our self-defense mechanism of saying "at least I learned X." That can promote a positive slant to the experience. And Julie Noreem of Wellesley College urges citizens to put their pessimism to work. She theorizes those who expect the worse and think out all the possible ways things can go wrong actually help themselves realize goals because they have thought of all the contingency plans needed for the situation.

When all else fails, break out the stress-busters. When I was in college, it was coloring books and crayons. There was something very soothing about using pretty colors in an ordered design. When I worked in a job that constantly thrust new, unexpected and usually unpleasant obstacles and issues at me, it was baking. The precision in amounts of ingredients needed and the strict order of recipe steps helped me regain control of something. Now it's reading. For me, there is nothing like having all my problems put on hold while I travel into someone else's world for a bit.

For Bob Wire, a presumably very self-possessed Colorado man, it's crocheting. Looking for an outlet for his stress which was also creative, constructive and not too complicated, Wire stumbled into a new yarn shop in his town and was swept into crocheting. His project choices - guitar case, cowboy hat band - definitely reflect his gender, but if it works for him, good on him. Because, in the end, being happy - even fleetingly - is the goal, no?

(Photo courtesy of The Quaker Agitator)

Friday, September 11, 2009

Today, we sailed on...

As I'm sure everyone is aware, today is the eighth anniversary of the terror attacks on September 11. Just like people can tell you where they were when the Challenger blew up or JFK was shot, anyone over the age of 18 can tell you where he or she was that day.

I myself was on the college shuttle back from a 9:30 a.m. American history class. Ironic, eh? That shuttle ride was the only time I can remember our rasta-reggae-loving bus driver did not have Bob Marley jamming on the radio. I remember the silence of my fellow students and the solemnity of the broadcaster's voice. I recall thinking it was some sick joke, like an edition of The Onion gone terribly, terribly wrong.

I distinctly remember looking at my watch at exactly 8:46 a.m. while waiting for the shuttle to class. Shortly after that glance to my wrist, I watched staff pulling a little plastic bus-wagon full of toddlers from the nearby university daycare center down the street and thought it was such a beautiful day and how adorable the children were.

A lot has happened since that day, much of it bad or worse. But as I put in my Facebook status for the day, I am choosing to remember the anniversary with hope rather than sadness.

Today's blog title came from an Examiner article about Christopher Columbus. He wrote that sentence in his diary every day of his voyage to America, to a land only he saw in his dreams (never mind he thought it was India...). The article by Mary Ann Maxwell-Hebbert reminds us nothing truly important is finished in a day, and we should just have courage we're heading in the right direction.

The photo for today's post (from is of a photo frame in the style known as "tramp art." Back in the Great Depression, the (mostly) men who criss-crossed the country as hobos created an entire genre of art which originated from their ingenuity and a lack of resources. They took what they had and made the best of it. That is an American ideal - to find hope through daily struggle and "making do."

One 9/11 widow did just that. Cathy Carilli found hope in her own pets after the loss of her husband and now works to make sure others find hope in animals. She founded The Tower of Hope in 2006 to train service animals for disabled veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Finally, on a much lighter note, Newsday recently posted a story on the continued success of Journey's touchstone song, "Don't Stop Believin'." While not even the band's biggest hit, it remains in the iTunes top 100 downloads (ahead of seven Michael Jackson songs, Bon Jovi's "Livin' on a Prayer," and "Eye of the Tiger"). Former Journey lead singer Steve Perry puts it best, in his quote, "It's about having hope and not quitting when things get tough because I'm telling you things get tough for everybody."

(My favorite part of that YouTube video is the shot of the drummer at 0:50 in full '80s basketball regalia.)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Lost and found...

Hello, hello. I know I've been MIA for the last few days, and I apologise. A visit with the parents meant very little time (thankfully) for the Internet. But I'm back at work now and digging myself out from under my cascading inbox.

The articles I found this morning have theme of reclamation attached to them. In two cases species have been reclaimed from extinction and in the third, certain death. Cheery, eh?

Yahoo! News posted a story on the breeding of species of ladybugs found by amateur scientists in Colorado and Oregon. Entomologist John Losey launched The Ladybug Project last year to find out why once-plentiful native species of ladybug had all but disappeared. He recruited people all over the country, including a lot of children, to go out and look for nine-spotted, two-spotted and transverse ladybugs. The entomologists-in-training were instructed to take photos of these creatures and send the pics, along with where they were taken, back to Losey. He and his colleagues traveled to Colorado and Oregon to collect the ladybugs for breeding. Happily for fans of this particular insect (myself included), the ladybugs are thriving in captivity, and Losey hopes to conduct studies to sort out why they declined.

The AP, hosted on Google News, reported on the unexpected discovery of a specie of turtles thought to be extinct. Scientists from the Wildlife Conservation Society who braved torrential rain, leeches and the dictatorial government of Burma/Myanmar to examine the Rakine Yoma Elephant Sanctuary discovered five turtles from a breed declared extinct over 100 years ago due to extreme over-hunting. One of the scientific names for this specie is Arakan, but the way-more-fun name is Pyant Cheezar - a local moniker that translates to "turtle who eats rhinoceros feces." posted on the bobcat and fawn who became fast friends after each was rescued from the Jesusita fire in Santa Barbara, Calif. The bobcat kitten, starved and very dehydrated, was found first and placed with the fawn only after the rescuers realized they didn't have a large enough cage for the little deer. Apparently the bob-kitten went straight over to the fawn, and the pair snuggled under a desk for hours. The photos on this post are flat-out ADORABLE.

(Photo courtesy of

Friday, September 4, 2009

Mankind's continual leaps forward...

Living with three physicists (and spending time with their equally science-y friends) definitely left a mark.

As outlined in a previous post, I am just not a left-brain person. I rely on gut feelings and intuition and have very little patience for having to examine every little fact before reaching a conclusion. Yes, occasionally this gets me into trouble (hello, my first apartment in Boston), but usually I make out okay.
Still, I suppose daily exposure to the squiggles and letters that make up physics has left with me a lingering attraction for the more technical side of life.

MSNBC reports on the MIT PhDs who created robotic fish, which can look for pollutants and inspect submerged things like pipelines by mimicking the swimming motions of real fish. These fake fish are sleek and easy to maneuver with just 10 parts and one motor; they are much more likely to be able to go places other, more bulky underwater vehicles can't.

Technological advances in healthcare are reported on both MSNBC and CNET; the US and Japan have created robot doctors and nurses, respectively. Last night, I saw a preview for a movie called "Surrogates" where robots take over and seem to basically replace humans in every day living. In the case of Robo-ER here, thankfully only the Japanese seem bent on professional domination.

The "Chungbot," named after Brooke Army Medical Center's Dr. Kevin Chung, has allowed the doctor to check on patients from as far away as Iraq. The doc-bot is a five-foot tall, motorized robot is controlled by a joystick and laptop and wirelessly transmits images between the screen mounted on its "body" and Chung's laptop. This technology allows Chung to be able to see his patients and instruct another medical staff member who is there with the patient to do the hands-on care.

The Japanese have created a robot nurse to lift elderly patients from wheelchairs and beds, and, as CNet's opening paragraph says best, "naturally, it looks like a teddy bear." The bear can lift up to 134 pounds and apparently has a cuddly face to make it look less scary to the patients. It was created to help combat the problem of the workforce shrinking in proportion to the population aging.

The story on makes me chuckle just at the premise - six mice boarding the international space station as invited guests. The tone of the Switched blog post is so perfect, I'm not even going to try to compete.

Lastly, Newsweek's website has a photo gallery nearly 100 years in the making. Court photographer Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii traveled all over Mother Russia taking photographs at Czar Nicholas II's behest. Prokudin-Gorskii took three consecutive photos of every subject - one each with separate red, green and blue filters - and melded them through a process of his own devising in a specially fitted railway car. The result were a wide range of photos of Russia's people, architecture, technology and environment in living color. But it took the advent of digital imaging to be able to restore them.

(Photo courtesy of CNET)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Bullies start playing nice?...

Ghengis Khan fascinates me. Awhile back I picked up a book called "Ghengis Khan and the Making of the Modern World" on a whim, and I've been hooked ever since. I learned a lot from that book about advances made by the Mongols and things that are still in place today that started with Ghengis Khan, like meritocracy in the military and diplomatic immunity. 

My point is people can surprise you. Yeah, the khans were known for their ferocity and violence, but they had their good points too.

The World blog on MSNBC's website featured a story on the "reindeer people" of Mongolia. The Tsaatan only number in the hundreds these days, but these herders rely their reindeer for all their basic needs except meat. They were on the edge of extinction after a bacterial infection began to render their animals sterile, but with the help of a then-college junior, the Tsaatan have not only bounced back but taken a leap forward into (some) technology and eco-tourism.

While the world no longer lives under the threat of hordes of Tatars, we do still have our fair share of scary people/nation-states. But even two members of the Axis of Evil have recently taken baby steps in a good direction. 

After a very bloody election which revealed a growing schism in the population, Iran has approved its first woman cabinet minister since the Islamic Revolution in 1979. Appointed by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Marzieh Vahid Dastjerdi will be the health minister, according to Bloomberg. She has a degree in obstetrics and gynecology and is currently an associate professor and member of the Medical Ethics Board Committee at the Tehran University of Medical Sciences. 

North Korea has started committing random acts of kindness (well, as best it can). The Voice of America reported on the release of four South Korean fishermen who accidentally wandered into North Korean waters last month. This past Friday the rogue state agreed to resume reunions of separated families after a two-year ban and has started talking with the South about joint tourism efforts.

(Image courtesy of

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Eat good food, drink good coffee...

The title of this blog has become my personal motto over the last few months. I might add "own good bedsheets" to it, but that is probably just me. 

I'm not sure if it is religion-based or philosophical or what, but it seems the prevailing wisdom has been doing without is more admirable and right than allowing yourself to sink into any type of pleasure. To fully appreciate anything more than the essentials is selfish and gluttonous, "they" say. 

To that, I say pbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbt. And stick my tongue out for good measure. Stoicism is all well and good for Spartans, but this is not Sparta. Give me liberty AND 600-count Egyptian cotton sheets! We only go around once (that I know of), and I intend to enjoy the ride. So what if my singleton monthly grocery bills exceed that of an average family of four? My chocolate chip cookies contain Valhrona chocolate feves, and I don't leave a crumb on the plate. I just bought a handmade Persian rug (granted, it was from Building 19), and I enjoy walking across my otherwise bare dining room every morning on the way to the kitchen. 

But I have never had a shred of evidence to back up my epicurean lifestyle to non-believers until now. The Daily Mail had a story on all the benefits of some of the things we've been told are bad for so long. The Mail extols the virtues of anger, swearing, lazing about, and fidgeting, among other things. 

In an article in the Ottawa Citizen, our dear neighbors to the North have published findings that say teetotalers may have more of a risk of depression than moderate drinkers. The study examined the drinking habits of 38,000 people and found that individuals who drank no alcohol over a two-week period were more likely than moderate drinkers to indicated symptoms of depression. So here's to that occasional glass of wine with your gourmet, locavore dinner!

And who could forget the favorite vice of 99 percent of people on the planet: chocolate? It is still somewhat puzzling to me there are people in the world who do not like sugar. I understand it empirically, but it just makes no sense in everyday life. I had to go off chocolate for a few months last year due to health reasons, and I went stir crazy. Dr. Patricia Fitzgerald, on the Huffington Post website, gives seven healthy reasons why chocolate should not only be included in your diet but celebrated!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The business (and benefits) of gardening...

Recently my friend and I were discussing the "joys" of working at a small company. We talked about the positives - getting a half day on the whim of the boss - and the negatives - suffering with slow servers and crappy Internet connections. Malcolm Gladwell points out in his book "The Tipping Point" that companies are best suited to top out at 150 employees. Anything larger becomes unwieldy and impersonal. I agree with this and definitely see more advantages in working for smaller organizations. One of those advantages is the ability to connect with your co-workers.

I'm a person who values relationships with people over those with things, and the Wall Street Journal had a story in the small business section on how vegetable gardens are boosting morale. Someone in the article mentions how the gardens are starting to leech the "water cooler effect" from the indoors, with employees bonding while working in the soil. There is also the added perk of getting fresh veggies.

School gardens do the exact same thing for the students. posted a local story about Ruskin PK-8 School in Dayton, Ohio which has started a school-based community garden. The kids raised money to start the garden by reading, and they and their parents and teachers pitch in to plant, weed and harvest the produce. Students there don't just learn about science while getting down and dirty with carrots and radishes, they also learn about the value of eating fresh foods and, since the harvest goes to a local ministry, they learn about the power of giving

This past week, Aug. 23-29, was National Organic Gardening week. And two English companies do not believe city-dwellers should be excluded from the fun. Omlet and Bidgiemire Pig Company have each adjusted traditional farming methods to allow urbanites to keep bees and pigs, respectively. Both hobbies are becoming all the rage since folks have been bitten with the desire to know where their food comes from. 

NYT's Green, Inc. blog highlights Omlet's Beehaus, an up-to-date hive which could produce up to 44 pounds of fresh honey each year and help stem the decline of bee populations. According to the Daily Mail, Bidgiemire constructs, for lack of a better term, pig coops for backyard keeping. The company has seen a 40 percent increase in orders in the last year. People in England apparently want to to return to self-sufficiency and see the benefit in home-raised meat. I am personally not sure I could raise pigs without getting attached. Chickens I would have an easier time with since I only want them for the eggs. I actually do want to have chickens, but I'm fairly certain my apartment complex is not zone for livestock...

(Photo courtesy of The Daily Mail)