Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Home-Made Ice Cream, Anyone?

At 111 in the shade, fantasies turn to frozen concoctions. 

I crossed a bunch of stuff off my to do list.  Don't you think I deserve a reward?  Something stupendous like home-made ice cream?

Of course, I feel so guilty about eating ice cream, so I am constantly experimenting around with healthier versions.  Preferably sugar-free.  My favorite so far is a grapefruit granache made from fresh grapefruits picked off the tree outside Jean's front door.  Perfection.

Some of my other experiments haven't been so successful.   Too frequently, my fat-free, sugar-free outcome is ice cream frozen so solid that it has to be hacked out of the ice cream maker.

If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.

I like things simple.  But today I risked one of those over-the-top Ben & Jerry type things with potentially too many flavors.  To counter the rich ingredients, I went light on the sweetener. 

First, I need to acknowledge Alison at Wholesome Goodness Blog, whose proportion of liquid to solids, etc, I decided to mimic.  The simplicity of her recipe for Strawberry Coconut Ice Cream gave me courage.

Second, the recipes in David Lebovitz' "The Perfect Scoop" sit unused on Jean's kitchen bookshelf.  I can't make his stuff because the word "diet" is not in his vocabulary.  But his clear explanations about the physics of ice cream-making mean the difference between a batch eaten or tossed.  I lifted Lebovitz' suggestion to add alcohol to the ice cream to keep it from over-freezing.  Upon occasion, I've been forced to take any handy instrument remotely resembling a pick axe to a frozen solid mound of inedible iceberg.  Way too much work.

Finally, I used organic ingredients.  Blue Diamond's Organic Unsweetened Almond Milk.  Trader Joe's Organic 73% Cacao  Super Dark Chocolate (3.5 oz).  Let's Do Organic's Unsweetened Organic Coconut Flakes.  Whole Foods' Organic Stevia. 

Oh wait.  The Kaluah is neither sugar-free nor organic.  So sue me.  When Kaluah offers an organic, sugar-free version, I'll be the first to get on it.

Kaluah Dark Chocolate Chunk Coconut Flake Ice Cream

Wack your organic chocolate bar across the edge of a counter, to break it in half.  Carefully unwrap one end of the bar, pull half the chocolate out, give in to the urge to bite into it, then put the remainder into the fridge for another day.

Tuck the open end of the chocolate wrapper snuggly under the bar to keep chocolate pieces from flying during the next step.  With a mallot or a rolling pin, pummel the chocolate bar into submission, or into lots of smashed chunks of chocolate, whichever occurs first.  Dump the slivers into a small bowl.  Add a handful of the organic coconut flakes to the bowl.  This is obviously a "to taste" recipe.  Set these yummies aside.

In a 32 ounce measuring glass, add 3 tablespoons of Kaluah and 1 teaspoon of organic vanilla extract.

Fill the measuring glass to 28 ounces with very cold (refrigerated), unsweetened almond milk.  Depending on your brand of Stevia, add the equivilent of four teaspoons.  Use a wisk to stir this mixture really well.

This is it for culinary skill, folks, really.  The rest is pretty much up to your ice cream maker. 

Mine has a container that sits in the freezer at ready, taking up shelf space, awaiting inspiration.  Pour the liquid mixture into your ice cream maker and follow directions. 

As soon as your ice cream maker is going, set your kitchen timer to five minutes.  You're waiting for the ice cream solidify somewhat before adding the chocolate and coconut.  If you add them now, they will sink to the bottom of the mixture. 

Jean and I keep it pretty warm.  At 83 degrees in the house, I had to wait about ten minutes for enough body to test the coconut flakes.  When those didn't sink, I added the heavier chocolate chunks.  They didn't sink either.  Every couple of minutes, I added a bit more until there was none left to add. 

I never know when enough is enough, but eventually I stopped the machine and put the container back in the freezer to freeze up for a couple of hours. 

I tasted my ice cream at the soft serve stage, and it is delicious.  I am still waiting to find out whether the Kaluah will keep the mixture from freezing into a solid lump.  If you're in Phoenix, come on over and sample it with me!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Lord, help us rise above it.

More and more I feel myself drawn toward vegetarianism.  I often feel a strong desire for meat but I am tired of death in the name of life.

I know it is the way of the animal kingdom, but it seems as perverse to me as committing war in the name of God.

Let me rise above it.

Science Discovers Something We've Always Known

We're not purely physical.

..."We assume there's a universe "out there" separate from what we are, and that we play no role in its appearance. Yet since the 1920s, experiments have shown just the opposite; results do depend on whether anyone is observing. This is most vividly illustrated by the famous two-hole experiment. When you watch a particle go through the holes, it behaves like a bullet, passing through one hole or the other. But if no one observes the particle, it exhibits the behavior of a wave and can pass through both holes at the same time.

This and other experiments tell us that unobserved particles exist only as "waves of probability" as Max Born demonstrated in 1926. They're statistical predictions -- nothing but a likely outcome. Until observed, they have no real existence; only when the mind sets the scaffolding in place can they be thought of as having duration or a position in space. Experiments make it increasingly clear that even mere knowledge in the experimenter's mind is sufficient to convert possibility to reality..."

I just had to share this thought-provoking article by Dr. Robert Lanza, MD and "theoretician," "What Are We? New Experiments Suggest We're Not Purely Physical."

Now I must get his new book, "Biocentrism," which seems to be available at Barnes & Noble, but not at right now. Thanks to mentor and friend Robyne Turner for this.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Why Wait for Cancer?

Four of every ten Americans will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetimes, and two of every ten will die of it, says Environmental Working Group.

I love this photo.  It's parade time in Syracuse, New York.  I don't know a soul in the photo, but I relate to it - brim full of Every American - man, woman, and child - coming together as community to celebrate.  It makes me cry to think that such a beautiful crowd will fall prey to the statistic above.  Especially when it doesn't have to be this way. 

Today in my email box I got a note from Environmental Working Group saying that The President's Cancer Panel acknowleged in a recent report that environmental toxins are responsible for more cancer than previously acknowleged.  Well, no surprise to most of my readers.  What continues to be a surprise, though, is the range and breadth of common household and personal products that contain dangerous chemicals.  Even if these are present in "harmless" amounts - if there is such a thing - think of the impact when you add up all the different products you're used to using... 

And usually I don't say things without researching them, but I'm going to toss an idea out here that just makes common sense to me.  If you think about it, itty bitty pills create huge changes in our bodies.  A teeny red round pill can stop my nose from dripping.  A minature oblong pink pill can put a case of hives to rest.  A tiny blue oval pill can fell my stress headache in its tracks.  I bet a lot of you know exactly which pills I'm referring to!  If such a diminuitive amount of substance can make such a big difference, why don't we believe that the onslaught of small doses of toxins from our house-cleaning and toiletry products can also make a difference in our health - for the worse - over time?

Environmental Working Group [EWG] is one of my most trusted sources for information about the environmental and health impact of products we use and lifestyle behaviors we choose. Their team collects and analyzes all the best science out there to put myth and hype to rest.

Below are nine tips from EWG for healthier living.  I strongly recommend you go right to their article, though, as they include links to download product information that can make healthy purchasing decisions a lot easier.  And, this is shameless, but if you have a few bucks, EWG is a great organization to support with your charitable donation.  Oh, btw, this link goes straight to EWG's online donation page!

All the rest of the links below lead directly to the article, not to the particular document or data base.

1. Filter your tap water. Common carcinogens in tap water include arsenic, chromium, and chemical byproducts that form when water is disinfected. A simple carbon tap-mounted filter or pitcher can help reduce the levels of some of these contaminants. If your water is polluted with arsenic or chromium, a reverse osmosis filter will help. Learn about your tap water and home water filters at EWG's National Tap Water Database.

2. Seal outdoor wooden decks and play sets. Those built before 2005 are likely coated with an arsenic pesticide that can stick to hands and clothing. Learn more from EWG.

3. Cut down on stain- and grease-proofing chemicals. "Fluorochemicals" related to Teflon and Scotchgard are used in stain repellants on carpets and couches and in greaseproof coatings for packaged and fast foods. To avoid them, avoid greasy packaged foods and say no to optional stain treatments in the home. Download EWG's Guide to PFCs.

4. Stay safe in the sun. More than one million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in the United States each year. To protect your skin from the sun's cancer-causing ultraviolet (UV) radiation, seek shade, wear protective clothing and use a safe and effective sunscreen from EWG's sunscreen database.

5. Cut down on fatty meat and high-fat dairy products. Long-lasting cancer-causing pollutants like dioxins and PCBs accumulate in the food chain and concentrate in animal fat.

6. Eat EWG's Clean 15. Many pesticides have been linked to cancer. Eating from EWG's Clean 15 list of the least contaminated fruits and vegetables will help cut your pesticide exposures. (And for EWG's Dirty Dozen, buy organic.) Learn more at EWG's Shopper's Guide to Pesticides.

7. Cut your exposures to BPA. Bisphenol A (BPA) is a synthetic estrogen found in some hard plastic water bottles, canned infant formula, and canned foods. Some of these chemicals cause cancer in lab studies. To avoid them, eat fewer canned foods, breast feed your baby or use powdered formula, and choose water bottles free of BPA. Get EWG's tips to avoid it.

8. Avoid carcinogens in cosmetics. Use EWG's Skin Deep cosmetic database to find products free of chemicals known or suspected to cause cancer. When you're shopping, don't buy products that list ingredients with "PEG" or "-eth" in their name.

9. Read the warnings. Some products list warnings of cancer risks -- read the label before you buy. Californians will see a "Proposition 65" warning label on products that contain chemicals the state has identified as cancer-causing.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

"Let us think about that now," said C, B & A

Is Using Dispersants on the BP Gulf Oil Spill Fighting Pollution with Pollution?

An important question raised in this June 18, 2010 Scientific American article:   Should we allow the use of toxic material to clean up other toxic materials?  Here are just a couple of paragraphs lifted from the article.  It's an important question, and I hope you'll take the time to read the full article:

"[T]here is no doubt that dispersants are toxic: Both types of the dispersal compound COREXIT used in the Gulf so far are capable of killing or depressing the growth of a wide range of aquatic species, ranging from phytoplankton to fish. "It's a trade-off decision to lessen the overall environmental impact," explained marine biologist Jane Lubchenco, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), at a press conference on May 12. "When an oil spill occurs, there are no good outcomes.""

# # #

The problem? The EPA's industry-generated data is unclear as to the relative toxicity of various dispersants. "If you think the data on COREXIT is bad, try to find any decent toxicology data on the alternatives," says toxicologist Carys Mitchelmore of the University of Maryland's Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, who helped write a 2005 National Research Council (NRC) report on dispersants. "I couldn't compare and contrast which one was more toxic than the other based on that."

# # #

By last week, the EPA and Nalco had both released the ingredient list for COREXIT 9500 in response to widespread public concern. Its constituents include butanedioic acid (a wetting agent in cosmetics), sorbitan (found in everything from baby bath to food), and petroleum distillates in varying proportions—and it decomposes almost entirely in 28 days. "All six [ingredients] are used in day-to-day life—in mouthwash, toothpaste, ice cream, pickles," Ramesh argues. "We believe COREXIT 9500 is very safe."
# # #

However, those solvents—petroleum distillates—are also known animal carcinogens, according to toxicology data, and make up 10 to 30 percent of a given volume of COREXIT. And those same everyday products can be deadly to wildlife. "It's the same products in Dawn dishwasher soap," Mitchelmore notes, which is being used widely to clean up oiled birds and other animals. "I wouldn't want to put a fish in Dawn dishwashing soap either. That would kill it."

As a result, the EPA ordered BP to stop spraying dispersants on the oil slick on May 26. The EPA also ordered BP to look for less toxic alternatives on May 20, and the company responded in a letter dated that same day that "BP continues to believe that COREXIT EC9500A is the best alternative." The dispersant continues to be sprayed onto the ongoing oil spill.

No alternative

One reason BP can make such claims is due to a lack of clear data on any of the alternative dispersants. As part of the National Contingency Plan required for offshore drilling, one of 18 EPA-approved dispersants must be on hand to handle spilled oil. Each of those dispersants has been preapproved for use, and each of those dispersants has been tested—by the companies that make them—for toxicity using representative species of estuarine shrimp (Mysidopsis bahia) and fish (Menidia beryllina). Specifically, these animals are exposed to a mix of one liter of dispersant for every 10 liters of heavy fuel oil in water."

Whole article at this link:

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Just Answering.

"Is the left ever ready to defend their basic anti-human mindset? Just asking."

Some of you who are also facebook friends may have noticed a slow proliferation of right-leaning posters on my wall.  These "friends" are interested in discussing policy issues across the fence, trying to understand one-another and to find common ground.  I met these folks, for the most part, on the facebook wall of Ann E.W. Stone, where cross-fence conversations are nurtured.  Each of my new friends is someone I found to be intelligent, interesting, often funny, and always, always civil.  Civility is key.  I live in fear of my wall morphing into the equivilent of a rowdy town hall.  

On the wall, we take time to probe perspectives, instead of slinging slogans.  I've noticed that ideology-driven semantics often mask similar underlying interests, while ideology-driven tactics often inhibit the generation of mutually agreeable policies.  I worry that this is intentional, a divide driven by the competitive priorities of parties and candidates who benefit from polarizing us instead of bringing us together.   So, I applaud everyone who is willing to listen open-mindedly to the points of view not his or her own, and to look for the common ground.  Either that's the reason for this good natured discussion, or Ann is practicing a version of "keep your friends close, but your enemies closer."  Just kidding, Ann.

One of my frequent wall guests from this new right-leaning crowd is Michael Feeney. He's bright, articulate and quite genteel. This all makes for good and often lively discussion.  We were talking about the BP oil spill and he posted this:

"The right generally has an appreciation for the need for oil, gas, coal, and energy in general. The left is correct to push more solar and wind. Human progress requires energy and this entails risk. The left wrings it's hands at risk and accidents. What is the alternative, should we default to a Marxist mindset like the one child policy? This would help the environment for sure. Is the left ever ready to defend their basic anti-human mindset? Just asking."

I decided this was worth an answer, and more - worth posting on my blog because Michael is thoughtful, so I assume his thoughts are likely shared by other right-leaners. 

Before I do, though, let me address a thought that surely must be spinning some left-leaning heads - hearing yourselves characterized as having a "basic anti-human mindset"!   In Michael's defense, I am guessing he is likening us - despite the fact that you cannot put "the left" into a one-size-fits-all box any more than you could put the right into that box - to naturalist John Muir.  Muir believed that the natural world has intrinsic value, independent of human use for it; therefore the natural world should be left alone where possible, and any necessary damage should be repaired and restored to previous natural conditions.  This view doesn't leave all that much room for us to utilize natural resources for human purposes. 

By contrast, I assume Michael likens himself more to the first Chief of the U.S. Forest Service, Gifford Pinchot, who had a much more anthropocentric view: that the natural world has been put under human dominion, and hence should be managed to provide as much for humankind as possible.  Pinchot did not, however, discount the value of these same resources to future generations.  He believed that good stewardship included managing for availability to future generations.  Very utilitarian. 

For the record, there are multiple environmental ethics.  These are just two, and if you charted them all, they would form a continuum, starting with the green anarchy movement on the one hand - they wish to dismantle our human-built institutional structure and return to the wild - and probably ending with the view of the rapturists, who believe the ascencion to heaven is imminent for those who are righteous.  The environmental corollary is that we have reached the end of time, and so natural resources will soon be of no consequence.  We are free to use them all up.   I'm not off the deep end to the left, and I would hope Michael is not off the deep end to the right. 

Here's my answer:

"Ok, Michael... sigh... I should be grading but cannot resist.  The left uses and understands the need for oil etc, but also sees that the oil companies are more interested in realizing the last dollar of profit from their sunk investment costs than in doing the necessary R&D to get alternatives going - or to allow anyone else to do it, if their lobby can influence spending.   While you can't blame them for wanting to maximize investment - and there's even an argument to be made that fiduciary duty to stockholders requires it - there needs to be a line drawn at destructive practices.

Neither is the left against human progress.  The left feels it is not progressive to pursue policies that destroy the environment that supports us, as well as the assorted flora & fauna we share it with.  We are not "ringing our hands," by which I assume you are referring to the precautionary principle, which states that when we have inadequate information to predict the hazards, our actions should err on the side of safety.  I think a little more precaution around Katrina, the Upper Big Branch mine explosion, BP's oil drilling permits and procedures - and those are only a few recent examples - would have been in order.  

What we're seeing here is greed - and it's not something we're unfamiliar with.   In all the cases I mentioned, companies (or governments in the case of Katrina) made decisions to take a cheaper gamble despite the safety risks.   You would never tolerate that for the airlines, but that's only because so many of us fly them.  That makes it personal.   Yet, look how many lives were lost in Katrina.  You can put all these incidents into the category with the Ford Pinto exploding gas tanks.   In litigation, it came out that Ford made a conscious decision to pay claims on deaths, rather than to bear the cost of recalling all Pintos.   In many ways, whether the decision-makers say these things out loud or not, this is the same calculation being done in each circumstance where precautions were inadequately taken.

In the case of the earth, Michael, if we do not take adequate precaution, we all will lose.   We don't have another planet."

Before a switch of the gears, I want to reiterate something.  What triggered today's post was Michael's question itself.  To my ears it was a hateful statement.  But I know Michael is not a hateful person, and so I backed up and asked myself, what else could Michael mean?  This is the problem - we need trust to give each other the benefit of the doubt instead of reacting.  If we didn't know each other, I would have written Michael off because of the way he phrased the question.  These cross-fence dialogues have taught me to look beneath the words.  

Beyond Michael, I worry that we the people - who were admonished by our forebearers to form a more perfect union - are intentionally being manipulated by political strategists into a political divide, driven by the competitive priorities of parties and candidates who benefit from polarizing us instead of bringing us together.   This is the conclusion I'm beginning to draw - that we are overly competitive to the point of the political win - e.g. power - being more important than the good of the country.  To me, driving the country apart politically is as traitorous as anything perpetrated upon us by home grown terrorists.

# # #

On a side note - or really, smack dab in the middle of the note - my summer Urban Environmental Policy students pulled news stories on environmental justice this week.  I wanted them to get a feel for the breadth of the problem, and their samples bring in examples from around the globe, and include an initial look at the enviro justice aspects of the BP spill. 

It seems fitting to offer these stories to you, because precautionary action could alleviate a lot of the suffering these stories represent.   I've embedded the videos and provided links to the articles..  All of them are heart-wrenching, and speak to both greed and the way our marginalized communities - people with less power - end up bearing a bigger share of the costs associated with environmental pollution.  And of course, all the gut-ripping photos of wildlife from the gulf speak loudly for wildlife's burden.  Too bad they couldn't have had a representative in the permitting process, instead of having to wait for photographers to notice their carnage.  Just saying...


Yucca Mtn Nuclear Waste Facility Siting:

BP Oil Spill:


Stone mining in India:

Roxbury, Boston:

KC sewage:

Tainted tap water:

Flouride in drinking water:


About EJ:

* can't find the photographer who is responsible for this photo (found on someone else's blog), since the URL on the photo is no longer active, but thanks go out to you, and if you want it taken down, just hollar!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Hybrids Galore! Who Knew?

"There's a Volt in my future!" shouted my friend John S. Martinson from his facebook wall.  Not once but repeatedly he staccato'd my wall with this message, reminding me of nothing so much as Paul Revere (without horse, of course) scooting excitedly through the narrow lanes of Boston and on to Lexington with his important message.

With that much clamor, what's a girl to do but prepare for arrival?  I googled "Volt" to find out what preparations might be needed.  It turns out, he's referring to the new Chevy Volt, due to come out at the end of 2010, an electric car with a novel feature.  The Volt "uses gas to create its own electricity. Plug it in, let it charge overnight, and it's ready to run on a pure electric charge for up to 40 miles — gas and emissions free.  After that, Volt keeps going, even if you can't plug it in. Volt uses a range-extending gas generator that produces enough energy to power it for hundreds of miles on a single tank of gas," to quote their website.

Personally, I've been holding out for the new green Acura TSX Hybrid that's also supposed to come to market for 2011.  But I just cruised on over to the Acura site, and could find absolutely no mention of a hybrid.  Even their "Future Vehicles" tab made no mention.  So I googled it.  Last article I saw was last March.  Guess an Acura TSX Hybrid is not in my immediate future.

Obviously there's the Ford Fusion (just above), which Car & Driver called the best green car on the road (but see below for a different opinion).  I admit to hesitancy about Ford, period, because a mechanic once told me that a Ford after 60 - thousand miles, that is - is how he makes his living.  That was a long time ago, but you don't just throw off that kind of advice.  I kinda like the Nissan Altima (white above right), but it's not for sale in all 50 states. I'd have to fly into California and drive one home.  I did find the Nissan Leaf (red model at right).  It really doesn't look like something I should be seen in, at my age, but why do I say such things?   Then I headed on over to Honda, where believe it or not three cars in their line-up are green, the Insight (rear-facing blue sedan), the Civic Hybrid (front-facing blue sedan), and a Civic GX   (silver side shot) - maybe G stands for green - the only dedicated natural gas passenger car.  Here's something I didn't know:

"For the seventh straight year, Civic GX NGV was named 'Greenest Vehicle' by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE). Not only did the Civic GX beat out the Toyota Prius for the top spot, but three other Honda vehicles also made the list, making 2010 the ninth consecutive year Honda has had more than three cars named to ACEEE's 'Greenest Vehicles.'"   Click here to see the ACEEE's ratings.  What's interesting is that the Civic GX gets the greenest mark, but by no means the highest miles per gallon (24 city), an honor that goes to the Toyota Prius (51 city).

So, speaking of Toyota, I found three more vehicles there, the Prius (red above), the Camry Hybrid (gold), and the Hylander (pearl blue), a high profile vehicle.  Ok friends, I'm pretty shopped out.  There are more cars.  There are bigger cars, and makers like Lincoln I haven't even googled yet, but I know there's something on the market.  There are some juicy luxury hybrids (Lexus has four lush beauties), but my purse would gag and ask to be rushed to the ladies' room if I even look at those.  To be honest, I was stuck on the idea of another Acura TSX, and I'm going to have to rethink all this, and look carefully at all the available vehicles.  And I hear Volvo has a hybrid coming 2012.   Good thing I love my TSX, because it could take me a year or two to sort through all these cars.

One of the most amazing things I learned today prepping this blogpost (all because John S. Martinson wants to be Paul Revere) is that hybrid has definitely gone mainstream!   Before I sign off, let me share the ACEEE chart in its full glory, in case you didn't look.  It's worth a glance. You can click on this link if you want to head over to the website to see how they ranked these vehicles.

Just for fun, if you're interested in seeing more hybrids of the future, both the marketable and the whimsical, check out Future Cars, just for fun! Here's a couple of samples of the fare there, including the human-powered XR3 (left), the Ford Start (red), and the three-wheeler TWIKE (right).

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Where there's fire, there's smoke...

Least Tern eggs barely missed by clean-up equipment tires running across a gulf beach.

It's too late to say, "where there's smoke, there's fire."   It's been a raging inferno for about 57 days now.  But excellent reporting by both professional news organizations and unofficial citizen reporters is unearthing a whole lotta smoke.  Maybe we should put journalists in charge of the regulatory agencies.  If you're not caught up on the BP oil spill news, here are a few headlines:

Documents Show Risky Decisions Before BP Blowout
Published: June 14, 2010
New York Times

Internal BP documents, including an e-mail message calling the well drilled by the Deepwater Horizon a “nightmare,” show a pattern of risky choices made to save time and money in the weeks before the disastrous April 20 blowout, according to a letter sent to the oil company by the leaders of a House committee on Monday....more

Foreign Flagging of Offshore Rigs Skirts U.S. Safety Rules
The Marshall Islands, not the U.S., had the main responsibility for safety inspections on the Deepwater Horizon.
June 14, 2010
By Tom Hamburger and Kim Geiger, Tribune Washington Bureau
L.A. Times

Reporting from Washington — The Deepwater Horizon oil rig that exploded in the Gulf of Mexico was built in South Korea. It was operated by a Swiss company under contract to a British oil firm. Primary responsibility for safety and other inspections rested not with the U.S. government but with the Republic of the Marshall Islands — a tiny, impoverished nation in the Pacific Ocean....more

Gov. Bobby Jindal Orders National Guard to Build Barrier Wall Off Louisiana Shore
Louisiana Gov. Takes Matters Into Own Hands, But Will BP Foot the Bill?
June 14, 2010
ABC News

Eight weeks into the oil spill disaster in the Gulf of the Mexico, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has told the National Guard that there's no time left to wait for BP, so they're taking matters into their own hands...more

More Dispersant? Asking Hard Questions
June 2, 2010, 12:47 pm
New York Times

In announcing on Saturday that BP would end efforts to plug the gulf oil leak through a “top kill” and focus instead on capturing oil until a relief well is in place, Rear Adm. Mary Landry of the Coast Guard said that the use of dispersants would inevitably continue...more

This heartbreaking American Birding video had me in tears...

Tern chicks somehow survive tire overrun.

Grand Isle Gulf Spill Clean Up Sweeps Up Least Tern Colony From: AmericanBirding
June 14, 2010

Drew Wheelan from the American Birding association demonstrates the lack of environmental oversight associated with the Deepwater Horizon clean up response. Sensitive Least Tern nests are literally driven over by clean up crews, and failed nests discovered. Please call your senator and demand better...more

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Sending Neda Viral

Today I make my blog available for a very important documentary, created at great peril for all involved.  The subject, if you haven't guessed from the visual, is Neda Aghad-Soltan, the young woman martyred in Iran during post-election protests just about a year ago.  I especially want to single out the courageous 24 year old journalist in Iran, Saeed Kamali Dehghan, who knowingly risks his life to interview Neda's family when many others understandably refused.  Below is an hour-long video, worth every moment I spent watching it for its intimate look inside today's Iranian culture, and inside Neda's life before a bullet took it from her in one tragic moment.  For its ability to carry Neda's message on into the future.

As an aside, it was difficult for me to choose a picture of Neda.  Do we prefer to remember her as her family and friends will, in life?  Beautiful smile on a lovely face?  Or in death, the powerful picture of her dying, eyes open to her own fate?  I finally found this montage. I do not know whom to credit, as it appeared on many webpages.  What visual would you have chosen?

The second picture, by the way, I created by taking a screen shot from the video.  The woman is not Neda, but she could have been.  I captured this moment because she was so obviously afraid, and yet, determined - not hiding in the car below, not running, arm raised in defiant gesture.  What you cannot see from a still shot:  she was in the process of scanning from right to left, fearfully looking and looking around, afraid of what might come.  Fear, courage, determination.  The makings of change.

I will also make this observation:   the face of this revolution is as female as it is male.  Women in Iran are so oppressed, and have so much to gain by a regime change.  I am so proud of these women. 

Please help send Neda's story viral by reposting this blog or reposting the video itself on whatever social networks you use.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Debunking the Debunked - Food Myths

I recently read an article on Yahoo! Green by Lori Bongiorno, titled "Seven Myths about Veggies."  The article has enough good information to be worth the read; hence I offer it here. 

However, a couple of things in the article trouble me - not because anything Bongiorno wrote is off-base - rather because her story is incomplete.  It's a good start, and I'm sure very educational for many readers.  But for my tastes, I'd like to add the complexity and nuance.  Here are a few caveats to consider as you read:

1.  Nutrient loss in harvested produce is dependent upon a lot of factors, and unfortunately, there is not a rule of thumb that applies to all vegetable types.  Some produce ripens beautifully off the vine, while other produce should not be picked until ripe.  Some produce will maintain its nutrient value for quite awhile after picking, while other produce will lose it quickly upon harvest.  Some produce maintains its nutrients better if it is refrigerated, while refrigeration damages nutritional values in other produce.  How can you keep track of all this?  You have a couple of choices.  You could research each vegetable and make a table for yourself.  Or, like me, you could take the simpler path, and as often as possible, limit yourself to buying just what is in season locally.  That saves a lot of research, but it does pretty much dictate my menu planning.  Here is an article on the nutrition benefits of seasonal eating from George Mateljan's Worlds Healthiest Foods website:

2.  To cook or not to cook:  Bongiorno makes the point that some foods are more nutritious when cooked - or at least the nutrients become more available - while others are more beneficial raw.  This is absolutely true, and kind of debunks the "God's Diet" myth that everything is better for you in its raw form.  But knowing how to prep each food to preserve its particular nutrients -  again - requires a huge learning curve.  Did you know that letting some foods sit before cooking enhances nutrition value?  Did you know that some foods should be smashed rather than cut?   Again, I would turn to the World's Healthiest Foods website, where a wealth of information is presented about food preparation to preserve and optimize nutrients.  No, they don't pay me.  It's just that they present both the "why" and the "how" in plain English.  And although they do hawk their expensive cookbooks endlessly, they've made all the information available to everyone, for free, even the recipes.  They want us reform our eating habits, and they aren't trying to limit it to those who can pay. 

3.  No iceberg.  Period:  Ok, so iceberg lettuce has some nutrients.  Big whoop.  Avoid iceberg lettuce like the plague, because it's wasted calories in my book compared to romaine, spinach, kale, chard, arugula, bok choy, even spring mix and the dark designer green lettuces that - unlike iceberg - are actually loaded with nutrients.  These green leafy veggies are more nutrient dense than meat!  

What you say?  You just love a quarter head of iceberg with thousand island dressing?  Ok, fine.  I love sweet potato fries.  So sue me.  But I don't eat them daily.  Daily, you should be eating dark, leafy greens if you care about your insides and want the healthiest shot at old-age possible. 

Wait, I hear some of you saying, "But I don't LIKE dark green leaves."  Well, teach your tastebuds something new.  Did you know it supposedly takes eight "tastes" of something for your tastebuds to acclimate and begin to like something?   To get the benefit of green, consider mixing a handful of darker greens into your lighter greens.  When you're used to it, add a second handful to the salad, eventually converting yourself to a dark leaf eater.  By the way, this works for those of you who haven't gravitated to the much healthier dark chocolate from the milk variety too.  Even though this is a veggie post, chocolate-lovers can read more on dark chocolate here:  Oh, and here's more on the health benefits of adding dark green leaves to your diet:

4.  Potatoes...sigh.  I love potatoes, and I used to think they were a great diet food as long as you didn't load them with sour cream and cheese.  But then I learned - fortunately before I hit that magic age when simply stating that you like a food will put weight on you - that many types of potatoes are high on the glycemic index.  The glycemic index is a measure of a food's capacity to spike your blood sugar levels, imitate insulin, and create havoc with your ability to keep your weight down.   I don't have the time today to educate you about how to take glycemic index (and glycemic "load") into account in your meal and diet planning, but here is an article,, on the glycemic ramifications of potatoes, with chart on the relative glycemic values of different types of potatoes.   And, if this is the first you're hearing about glycemic index, or you've been meaning to learn about it:  The best option, however, is to switch to sweet potatoes, which, lucky for those of us who love sweet potato fries (preferably baked but hey - occasionally fried), are low on the glycemic index and high on nutrition. 

Ok, I've said my piece.  Now for the article:

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


What bothers me most about a recent New York Times story (link below):

EPA's public naming of the chemical make-up of a product released into the Gulf in an effort to deal with the BP oil spill was so quiet and so slow.

The EPA says their snail's pace had something to do with protecting trade secrets for the manufacturer;  but the Times suggests that the EPA had the authority to name the chemicals all along.  So why not do it in a way that garners public trust?  I'm thinking it's more likely that the chemicals are, in their own way, as toxic as the oil itself, and apparently not that effective. 

Still, EPA allowed the product's use.

Think about it.  It's going to come out anyway.   It's got to come out anyway.  If the agency would have been up-front about its decision-process, people might intelligently differ about whether it was the right move, but we all could at least have had some respect for their transparency. Now EPA will have to waste resources on damage control. And trust has a very slow rebuild rate.  About the same pace, I'd imagine, as the rate it will take to achieve the Gulf restoration.

Here's the opening paragraph of the Times article:

"U.S. EPA has quietly released a full list of ingredients in the two controversial dispersants BP PLC is using to combat the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, following weeks of complaints from members of Congress and public health advocates that the dispersant manufacturer had kept its complete formula a secret from the public..."

Link here: