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.

Paranoia for the day: Mattresses

Slow day today. I started researching online about mattresses.

Here’s some bad news:
1. If you bought your bed after 2006, more than likely, it’s covered in a fire resistant chemical called polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE). Some law in the U.S. requires mattresses to be fire resistant. Who smokes in beds these days anymore?? And keep your candles on the other side of the room away from the bed! The bad part about all of this is, PBDE is bad for your body. I don’t know how bad, but I don’t want to be the guinea pig to find out.

2. If you purchased your bed before 2006, there’s no guarantee it doesn’t have this chemical either. Manufacturers aren’t required to label it. Beyond PBDE, there are a slew of other toxic chemicals and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that come out of these mattresses – benzene, naphthalene (mothballs).

3. If you have a standard mattress with innerspring metal coils, you could be sleeping in a nice little electromagnetic field (EMF) of radiation. Radiation which is bad for your body. Again, I don’t know how bad, but I don’t want to be the guinea pig to find that out either.

The good news: We have alternatives!
Bad news: They’re expensive! Prepare to spend $2,000 to $4,000.

But here are the alternatives I found in case you care to splurge. Made in the USA!
The Natural Sleep Store sells SavvyRest which is made of rubber latex. Latex isn’t completely chemical free but it’s a little better than conventional mattresses and there are no innerspring coils.

Organic Mattresses, Inc. sells a few options too. Some are like SavvyRest’s latex beds and some are more traditional-style.

The bad news is, you have to choose the firmness without getting a chance to lay in it. The good news is they let you exchange it if it doesn’t feel right. I would imagine that would be a big PITA so just get it right. Talk to a sales person before buying!

So following up after having just got a bed, order it from a store that sells these brands. They will walk you through the best fit for your needs, which brands, models, customizations, and they’ll even quote you a better price than the manufacturer’s suggested retail price. I went with Your Organic Bedroom.

Doing it all wrong.

I was taught to use 2 spaces after a period. Blame it on the typewriter. Even now as I type this, I have to go back and delete the extra space after my periods because my thumb automatically hits the space bar twice after I hit the period. Typographers decided that it ought to be one space after a period. I had a 60-year old boss who would correct every document to ensure every sentence had two spaces after each period. She made a point of it each time.

I was also taught that Pluto was a planet. It’s really a dwarf planet.  Not a planet.  Basically it’s considered just a big rock flying around in the Kuiper Belt.
And I was taught that saying “and” between two numbers indicated a decimal. 602 is “six hundred two” not “six hundred and two” which would indicate 600.2. Is this still correct? I’ve seen so many instances where this rule is ignored that I’ve come to think of it as another failure in my education.
I don’t know what to think!

Winter Solstice

Shortest day of the year, about 9.5 hours. First day of Winter, but I don’t care because it’s just gonna be longer days now! And if I understand things correctly, even though it’s the shortest daylight hours, it’s not the latest sunrise or earliest sunset. The latest sunrise (for us) is January 1st (2014)! at 7:27 AM and the earliest sunset was the first week of December at 4:46 PM.

So the reason for the shifting sunrise and sunset times is because by late December the Earth is closest to the Sun (the orbit is elliptical) so it’s actually moving faster around the Sun right now. Spinning faster and everything! So during the equinoxes (Spring and Fall) the usual full Sun to full Sun would usually be 12:00 PM to 12:00 PM but not in December. Day to day, the Earth spins so fast, solar noon goes from 12:00 PM to 12:03 PM the following day. It shifts forward a little each day. What a zoo. A revolution of the Earth around its axis in December isn’t a full 24 hours! When we get to Summer Solstice, the Earth is furthest from the Sun so it’s going slower and spinning around slower too. A full revolution takes a little longer than 24 hours. I just learned this! My mind is blown.

I probably botched the explanation.  Look up equation of time. Or check this out: The Atlantic.