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.

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.

Cruelty-Free Cosmetics

After my uninformed purchase of the Bourjois foundation which turned out to test on animals (and isn’t very good anyway), I started looking up more information on cruelty free beauty products. It turns out that a lot of cosmetics that carry that label aren’t necessarily so. If a company sells to the Chinese market, they’re required to test on animals. A brand that’s technically cruelty free could be owned by a parent company that tests on animals. So the list of truly cruelty free brands is actually pretty short. Which in a way simplifies things for me. Fewer options makes for easier decision-making.

Based on what I’ve found these are the ones I use or have used that I think are still truly cruelty free:

  • 100% Pure (they sell to China but explain on their website how they do it without testing on animals).  I like their products but they’re expensive.
  • Rejuva Minerals – I like their loose powder foundation, which I use as a finishing powder or just by itself as a lighter foundation.
  • Mineral Fusion – Only tried the lip tint and 3-in-1 Color Stick and like them both.  The Color Stick is a natural looking blush for everyday.
  • Andalou Naturals – Excellent BB and CC creams for everyday use.  I love their 1000 Roses line.
  • Pacifica – My only gripe about their stuff is the perfumes.  It’s on the stronger side.
  • Juice Beauty – Good but expensive.

In threes

First, it was the cellphone. Not my pink phone, of course. That phone is indestructible. It was the smart phone. The battery swelled up and became unusable. The guy at the phone store was even afraid it would explode. Geez.

Second, the Internet. The magic box that grants Internet to our place stopped working.

Third, the TV. We turn it on and the picture comes out blurry on one side, with double horizontal pictures. It eventually cleans up on its own but this is the beginning of the end for that television.

So yeah. Hopefully, that’s done.

Metro Attacker

Last week, there was a report of a guy who was stabbed and beaten to death on a Metro train by a guy with a knife. This happened during the day while the train was still running between stations and with other passengers aboard. I’ve been thinking about this a lot over and over in my head. I’ve read articles with people opining about how they would have reacted. They would have fought him, stepped in. When this kinda’ thing happens, I think of Kitty Genovese. No one steps in when someone is attacked in front of others. The thing is, I don’t know what I would have done. I’ve witnessed a mugging at a metro station before during rush hour. Tons of people were standing on a platform as a gang of boys punched a guy for his cell phone. No one stepped in. I could only dial for police because I was too scared to hit any one of the attackers too. I think I was slack-jawed the entire time. So I don’t think it’s fair for us sitting in front of our computers in a moment of calm to say what we would have done if such a horrifying thing were happening before us. The brain operates differently under that kind of stress. It’s reactionary almost. Fight or flight. Or like me, stiff, panicked, and useless. So in this moment of calm, I’m thinking how I ought to react if I encounter this kind of situation. I can’t fight. But I can throw stuff. Monkeys do that I think. They throw shit. Literally. I probably don’t have time to defecate but my glass lunch boxes would hurt. My heavy bag of dirty gym clothes maybe? I guess if the crowd throws everything we have at the attacker, it could overwhelm him enough to confuse him? Make him stop? I don’t know. It’s the only plan I have right now. What a horrifying situation to have to witness.

My baby is better than yours

According to this article, there’s a new NY law banning people from tattooing or piercing their pets.

I find this laughable. If tattooing or piercing animals is “cruel” because “unlike humans, animals do not have the ability to choose the pain that comes with body art,” what do they call CAFOs? Slaughterhouses? Animal laboratories? Hahaha… Poor Fido indeed. Fido just had a tasty meal of the poor chicken who was raised in pain and suffering and then slaughtered. I don’t think that chicken was asked either. This law carries a $250 fine or 15 days in jail. The other animal cruelty inflicted on other living beings’ babies carry rewards of the consumers’ dollars. It’s so out-of-sight-out-of-mind. And selfish. My-baby-is-more-precious-than-your-baby mentality.

I think before lawmakers waste their time on these trivialities, they need to look to improving the well-being of the forgotten. The “non-pet” animals locked up in labs somewhere. The “agricultural livestock” that aren’t thought of as living beings but rather as $$$. Make their short lives less miserable. Give them more space. Outlaw some of the practices such as branding them, confining them in overcrowded spaces stepping over their own dead brethren. Basic basic things. Fido is fine. Fido’s life, however sorry or pathetic, is still better than the animal that landed on our dinner plates.

What I learned from outer space

I’ve watched some outer space videos. They can be kinda’ weird. A lot of incomprehensible nerdtalk happens. It’s kinda’ fun when I come across a video narrated by Spock or Captain Picard or one of my faves, Murphy Brown.

Even though they talk about some out-there topics, I’ve actually gained a new perspective about my puny little existence from learning a little about outer space science. It’s helps me cope with news about disease or pollution, or the shifting public opinion about thick or thin eyebrows. Because none of that really matters too much when looking at Earth from it’s position in outer space.

There’s a theory some astrophysicists believe, that there are multiple universes. A multiverse. And if you subscribe to the big bang theory, the universe (ours) started from a bang from nothing. Something came from nothing.
And eventually the universe will go back to nothing and then maybe bang again to a universe again. Cyclical-like. Many universes could be doing this.

And in each universe, or hey just in this universe alone, there are many many galaxies with many many stars and planets that could potentially sustain life as we define it on Earth. As in, it needs water, some kind of air/atmosphere, not too hot, not too cold (within the general ranges of Earth). So there are more than likely other life forms in outer space because we’re finding many planets in these so-called “Goldilocks zones”.

Even if humans are wrecking the planet, and our waistlines are growing, or NYC is going under water, it’s really not as awful as I once thought it would be because it won’t last anyway. The dinosaurs went extinct and they didn’t build massive cities and burn fossil fuels. Something else happened to them. And something will happen to us. The Moon will drift away from the Earth. The Sun will eventually consume all the hydrogen fuel in its core. And the Milky Way will eventually collide with the Andromeda galaxy. And this universe may eventually bang in to nothing again. No matter how green we lived or how well-shaped my eyebrows look.

If I had to bet, I think odds are humans will more than likely, eventually, be extinct. Even if we found another habitable planet in another solar system, we couldn’t escape the colliding of the galaxies. And life more than likely in some form or another exists and will always exist somewhere.

So. Ebola? No big deal. Pandas going extinct? Eh… there’s probably another cute cuddly life form out yonder. Do humans have to carry on? I don’t think we can and I don’t think that’s important either. I’m just going to enjoy my ride. And try not to impede others enjoyment of theirs.

Folklife Festival 2014

The Smithsonian Folklife Festival is back! I went yesterday to check things out. This year’s festivities feature China and Kenya.

This was the most interesting display: Searching For Human Origins
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Originating out of Kenya, Homo Erectus spread all over the world.

These are the sorts of things that keep me coming back year after year though.
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I love watching people make crafts.

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I love seeing throwaway items finding a second life. This was made out of recycled flipflops.

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This man is making a hut out of empty beer bottles. I spotted a Jim Beam in there too.

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And the music and dance.

This year’s festival was missing the old Folklife Festival bus that’s usually on display every year. It was the loud gaudy mascot of the Folklife Festival.
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Instead, they replaced it with this large bamboo display. Just as loud. Just as garish. Way way bigger.

Since I was on the Mall, I paid a quick visit to my favorite farmer’s market in the area, the USDA Friday farmer’s market. It’s even more than I remembered it to be. There’s a kettle corn stand that is very popular. A long line snaked along the lot with people holding refillable buckets.
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I used to buy 20 lbs of zucchini and eggplant every Friday when it was in season and lug it home on the metro. I didn’t get anything this time though since I wasn’t going straight home.

Eating Animals

This book, though hard to read, was important for me to read. I am so grateful to Jonathan Safran Foer for presenting this information in an easy-to-understand format that is helping me make choices with my eyes a little more open. I’m glad I read it because it’s important to make informed decisions whenever possible. It’s okay to be ignorant and then educate oneself, but it’s not okay to be proud of ignorance or choose to be willfully ignorant. I think it’s important for anybody who eats to read this and make informed choices.

Upon reading this book, I won’t say I’m a vegetarian or vegan or whatever. But I will say with this information, I choose not to eat animal products today and probably tomorrow. I will have this information with me and make an informed choice every day. I was heartbroken upon reading this book and though I knew about most of this stuff going on, I chose to push it out of my mind. To conveniently “forget”about it. But I hope not to do that in the future. If I choose to eat meat, I will do so with full knowledge of the consequences of my decisions.

So I won’t urge people to read this book so they will stop eating meat, but to be less ignorant. Keep an open mind when you read and make informed choices.

I copied this in my journal off the book. “Every time you make a decision about food, you are farming by proxy.”

Drink water in the morning

I had to get a fasting blood test in the morning the other day and even though I drank a half a glass of water before leaving the house, the phlebotomist poked me twice and got nothing. It was like trying to squeeze juice out of a raisin. I didn’t realize how dehydrated our bodies are in the mornings. Though it makes sense now that I think about it. I mean, we sleep for 7 or 8 hours with no water breaks in between. It’s no wonder we’re dried out. Since then, I’ve been making myself drink a full glass of water before heading out for work, or before eating anything, if it’s not a work day. I imagine it plumps up my pruney body as the tiny shriveled up veins take their first drink of water. So yeah, moral of the story, drink water in the morning. Even if you don’t feel thirst, you need it.