Happy Earth Day!

A report came out about a month ago saying the carbon dioxide levels in our atmosphere is measuring at 405 parts per million – a record high. Since scientists have been tracking it at Mauna Loa in 1958, increases in carbon dioxide levels have averaged about 2 parts per million each year. These past two years (2015 & 2016), it’s been increasing at 3 ppm each year. It’s accelerating and compounding.

During the Paris Climate talks, we kept hearing about this magical two degrees figure. The message being we need to keep the planet from warming an additional two degrees Celcius, since we’ve been measuring (in the 1800s). To give you an idea, for the past 10,000 years, Earth’s temperature has been fluctuating by around one degree. It wasn’t until recently when we started using fossil fuels that the temperatures have undergone this steady increase.

So why two degrees? It’s just a goal so that maybe countries can try to do their part to curb carbon emissions. And maybe it’s scientists’ guesstimate of the level that humans can tolerate. Because CO2 is a major contributor to global warming and it appears to be increasing at an accelerating rate, I think two degrees is an optimistic target. Realistically, we’re on our way to exceeding that.

There are currently about 7 billion people on the planet. Even with decreasing global birthrates since the 1950s, the population is projected to exceed 10 billion in less than 100 years due to longer lifespans. No matter how conservatively we live, even if we were all in developing nations and didn’t drive cars, energy requirements alone for 3 billion more will probably push us over the 2 degrees. Scientists are predicting 2 to 4 feet sea level rise this century, and more if the Antarctic or Greenland ice sheets collapse. Speaking of, a few days ago, scientists observed a new crack in one of Greenland’s glaciers. It’s not really new, just newly noticed. It appeared last summer. As these glaciers break off into the ocean, or calve, the melting of the land ice will accelerate and so will sea level rise.

Global temperatures rising aside, at what point of CO2 levels in the atmosphere does it affect people? Some studies show that at 1,000 ppm, we start showing cognitive decline. But what about long term effects of exposure at lower levels?

Now here I’ve been living my life trying to be more informed of my contribution to the carbon footprint. I’ve been of the belief, maybe naively, that I can do my part to live more gently and leave as small a mark as I can. I wonder though, if it’s too late anyway, maybe we should just party like it’s 1999 and let the consequences play out as they will regardless. Is this what climate change deniers think? That this is the last hurrah, and the every-man-for-himself moment? I flit between these two thoughts. That maybe dash it all, we should live it up, screw the pooch. Or there’s still hope if we all do our part. Try as I do to remind myself that it’s probably futile, the optimist in me won’t give up.

Union Market

Earlier this month, we planned to go to a little vegan bakery diner place called Fare Well for brunch.  They didn’t take reservations for weekend brunch and when we got there the wait was 2 hours!  So we trekked it over to Union Market.
Union Market
Union Market is a bustling, crowded indoor market with tons of little food stands. It’s tucked away in a corner of what otherwise would look like a totally sketchballz place. Actually H Street looks like a gentrified former sketchy place. It’s now full of fancypants casual restaurants, yoga studios, and a Whole Foods. On our way to Union Market we even passed by a rental apartment sign. 1 bedroom – 1 den – 1 bath for $2,500!
The food at Union Market all looked tasty but unfortunately the seating is very limited so we ended up eating at a restaurant there called Bidwell. Kinda’ pricey for the stuff they sell, but they have tables and chairs! I probably wouldn’t eat there again but I wouldn’t mind going back to Union Market for some of their other food options. I saw a dosa stand that looked pretty good and there’s good people-watching too. Not a resounding endorsement, but eh, on a day where the weather is nice, and I just want to go outside and be among my brethren, it’s a good option.

Scratching the fountain pen itch

Instead of getting a new pen, I got myself a new bottle of ink. I reached the bottoms of the Diamine Evergreen and Iroshizuku Tsuki-yo bottles to the point where I can’t draw it up with the nib. I’ll have to use a syringe to suck up the last of the inks in those bottles. In the meantime, I wanted to have the convenience of a full bottle for easy refilling, where I can just stick the entire nib in the bottle and suck it up. And even though I still have other fairly full bottles, I didn’t want to take my nicer bottles of inks to work (Pelikan Tourmaline, Montblanc Irish Green). So this is more along the lines of introducing more frivolity into my life this year. And apparently, frivolity translates into buying shit I don’t really need.
Noodler's Ink - Black Swan in Australian Roses
But it’s so pretty and it has a lot of variation in light and dark shading. It’s a dark merlot/wine color that’s easy on the eyes.

Beauty products

Tony Moly Strawberry blackhead removing nose packs. Thumbs down.
Blackhead nose strips
I’m not a fan of these types of products, nose strips, but once in a blue moon, I forget that I hate these things and use them again. Then I don’t use it for a long time again. They probably do more harm than good.  I like this Tony Moly version even less.  They reek of a terrible artificial strawberry scent and the three step process is more gimmicky than effective.  It’s basically Biore, but more annoying and no more effective.

Real Techniques Expert Face Brush. Thumbs up. 
EcoTools and Real Techniques
I got into a conversation with a coworker a few weeks ago, talking about the one makeup we like to wear the most. You know, the whole, “I feel absolutely naked without … ” For her, it was lipstick. For me, it’s blush. Not that I wear it all the time, but it’s probably my most frequently used product. It makes such a difference on my complexion that I’ve had people ask me if I’m well on days I don’t wear it. I had a couple of them fall apart on me last year – a Sonia Kashuk and an E.L.F.  So I got a Real Techniques brush. It can be used for face powder, blush, bronzer, or powder foundation.  I’ve been loving this brush.  The bristles are dense and short and don’t shed.  It blends beautifully and feels very soft.

I also got the EcoTools brush for powder foundation. It’s incredibly soft but not as dense as the Real Techniques. For powdering the whole face though, it’s exactly what I need. Something big and floofy.

At Home Gym Equipment

While we’re on the subject of gyms, let me share with you my thoughts about at-home gym equipment.
Because I often attend gym classes that use all kinds of exercise equipment, I’m always wanting yet another new toy.  I ambitiously think, hey I could do this at home! As if my butt can lift off the black hole that is the couch.  So let me preface all of this by saying that I hardly ever use any of my at-home gym equipment. I do use them but most, only a few times a year.  Here are the items I do use – even if infrequently.

  • Foam roller – It helps tremendously with sore muscles. Sometimes no amount of stretching works as well as rolling pin the heck out of your legs or sides – like a self-massage.  I don’t know though, sometimes I wonder if maybe I could have just used the one at the gym and saved the space.  Ok this is a take it or leave it.
  • Yoga mat – It’s not just for yoga.  The grippyness of it helps when I use a foam roller, or if I just want to do some stretching or calisthenics.  I probably use this the most regularly – as in, I aim to use it at least once a week.
  • Jump-rope – This is a very effective cardio equipment.  It’s portable and takes up minimal space. The few times a year I use it, I jump for 5-minutes at a time (with minimal breaks) with squats and weightlifting in between the jump roping repeating three or four rounds. It’s an effective workout.  I don’t use this a lot because at the end of the day, I still need to take it with me to a place that has the room to skip rope, which ends up being a gym.  So… I could just use the gym rope.  BUT!  This one is tailored to my height and it’s to my liking so I jump rope more now that I have my own.  I am glad I have it for the times I want to do cardio but don’t feel like running.  Realistically though, I use it maybe a few times a year.  Which I suppose is still more than I used to jump rope, which was hardly ever.

That’s it! That’s all I have or would get (for now)
The other items I have and why I wouldn’t recommend them:

  • Weights of any sort – This includes kettlebells – which I almost got, but thankfully decided against it.  While I like kettlebells and other weights, they’re heavy! They can dent the floor when you drop them, which will happen.  And they take up a good amount of space because they will eventually multiply.  Lets say you get a set of 5 lb dumbbells to start.  Eventually, that gets easier as you get stronger and then you’ll need to buy the 7 lb or 8 lb ones.  Then the 10 lb.  So on and so forth.  Or if you choose to stop with the craziness, the sets that are too easy aren’t really going to be as effective and you basically have dumbbells that you’ll never use. A better alternative to weights, resistance bands.  For use at home, they’re definitely better than dumbbells. These things are light, portable and just as effective and frankly more versatile than dumbbells.  I didn’t get them though because I can’t see myself really using them enough to justify owning them.
  • Exercise balls – These big balls take up space.  I rarely use them except as auxiliary chairs when we have more people over.  Yes, there are some moves I can do with them but I can do similar moves that activate the same muscles without the balls just as effectively.  Mine is more furniture than exercise equipment.

OR save your money and just do what I do most days, which is sit on the couch watching Netflix or YouTube.

Loud Gym Update

So you know how I mentioned the deafening volume of the music and instructors at the gym classes I go to?  And how even with earplugs, the music and microphones were still too loud? I ended up filling out and submitting the form for gym membership cancellation. Ten days later, I asked them to cancel the cancellation. The reason was because in those 10 days, I noticed the music in the classes were less deafening. Still loud, but bearable. And even though I still feel the need to wear earplugs, it’s been a lot easier on my ears to the point where I can go back to enjoying the activity rather than focusing the entire time on the loudness of everything.  And the whole reason why I joined in the first place was to have some activity to do that got me out of the house.  So if it wasn’t this gym, it would have been another studio of some sort.  I was considering a yoga/pilates studio.  And now, since it’s not going to be a yoga studio, I am doing it at home.

If you’re interested, one of my favorite YouTuber’s is Fiji McAlpine.  She is an excellent verbal cue’er.

Cheap fountain pens

I have come to regret purchasing my quasi-disposable cheap fountain pens. The ones that cost less than $10. I thought apart from the ink filling mechanism (cartridge converters and syringe cartridge refills being less expensive compared to piston or vacuum fill), they would all be the same, especially carrying the Pilot name. Not so. At least by my experience. My cheapies leak more. They run dry. They’re scratchy. The caps crack. From now on, I will be staying away from the “toy” fountain pens (under $10, and look almost disposable). One of the reasons for using fountain pens is to be able to use and reuse them for many years as opposed to tossing one plastic disposable pen after another. If cheapies can’t last but a couple of years before they start falling apart, that defeats that purpose.  And if they’re a chore to use, I don’t want to be stuck with it for years either!

I’m talking about my Pilot Petit1 and Kakuno. The Petit is not pleasant to use but otherwise has no issues. I still use (put up with) it.  It’s scratchy and rather short, too small for my hand. The Kakuno runs dry. I’ve swapped the nib and feed with the medium nib from my Metropolitan and it’s improved. The cap cracked just a few months after use. Fountain pens should be pleasant to use, not a never ending chore to drag about.  On the plus side, the Kakuno fine nib swapped on the Metropolitan is a pleasure to use.

Also, one detail I’ve noticed about my nicer pens versus my junky ones is if I pause to think about what I’m going to write, the nib doesn’t dry out immediately.  For example, with the junky ones, I can’t do a crossword puzzle without constantly uncapping and recapping the pen.  With my Pelikan, it can withstand a pause for a little while longer.  Minor detail but it’s a significant improvement to my pen writing experience!

 

 

The key to good alfredo is pepper! Lots and lots of pepper!

I found a bunch of recipes for vegan alfredo online and mixed them up for this:

  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 1.5 cups of raw cashews, soaked in water for a few hours
  • 1 onion
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • lemon juice (1 lemon) – I didn’t have this so I substituted with apple cider vinegar, and it was fine.
  • Nutritional yeast
  • Salt and pepper.  One can never have too much pepper in alfredo sauce.

I don’t remember where I got the idea or learned that alfredo requires mucho pepper.  The first time I had it was from a local Kentuckian chain Italian restaurant and a strong pepper flavor stuck out to me.  I know.  Kentucky, Italian.  This was a memorably good alfredo pasta though.  I think I ate an entire family sized bucket of it in a couple of days.  And it was over a decade ago and I still have fond memories of that bucket of pasta.  Who doesn’t enjoy a nice bucket of pasta?

  1. Stir fry the garlic and onions with a bit of salt and oil. Onions and Garlic
  2. Cut up the cauliflower into big chunks and poach it in maybe an inch of water with some seasoning.  I used a vegetable broth powder, but regular salt and pepper is fine.Cauliflower
  3. In a blender, blend the ingredients together.
  4. Cauliflower Alfredo SauceI added more nutritional yeast at the end to have a richer flavor. I also added about a tablespoon of cracked black pepper. I would have added more but my wrists were tired from the grinding.
  5. Simmer the sauce over low heat for about 30 minutes.  Stir the entire time and cover it with a lid.  Keep the lid over the pot as you move a spoon around in there because this thick sauce tends to spurt bubbles all over the place.

I like to serve it over pasta with green peas. It’s rich and creamy without the after effects of eating rich and creamy. I could eat a bucket of this sauce.

Pi Day

Happy Pi Day!  It’s also Albert Einstein’s birthday.  How fitting.

It snowed pretty hard last night and today.  I went into the office late and most people weren’t around.  It’s kind of nice to watch a satisfying snowstorm before winter is over.  I guess the groundhog, Phil, was right after all about a long winter.  It was springlike weather all winter long and just as we’re a week away from Spring, we get this.

Gym Classes and Noise Level

I’ve been going to gym classes for the past six months or so and I’m fighting a losing battle when it comes to ear protection.  They blast the music to the point where the ground is rumbling and then to make sure we can hear the instruction, they then turn their microphones even louder.  I’ve tried every corner of the class, asking instructors to turn it down, speaking with management, and even wearing ear plugs. As much as they have helped to make it less painful on my ears, the classes are still deafeningly loud, even with earplugs.  I’m considering cancelling my membership to save my ears.

I read a Reddit thread not too long ago about the one thing people would tell their younger selves.  An inordinate amount of responses had to do with not being stupid in their young age about their hearing.  We’re already surrounded by a constant barrage of noise pollution all around us.  Traffic, sirens, television, the hum of fluorescent lights.  I want to be physically fit and strong, but I want that without sacrificing my hearing.