Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Reality of "Ethnic Food"

It seems that most of the things we think of as "ethnic food", from fajitas to egg rolls to chicken tikka masala, is about as ethnic as a Jack in the Box. This Houston Press article takes a popular survey of how Texans describe the typical food from various countries, where they overlap with respondents from those countries, and the often-huge disconnect between them. It's interesting to see our very popular and largely unchallenged conceptions of ethnic food rocked to their core. Also a challenge to the more adventurous among us to try some of those daily foods, from Indian roti to German pfaankuchen, that have yet to breach the American culinary radar.

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Lately I've become more and more interested in how pictures can speak to our arguments, to our emotions, and to our values. With the midterm elections coming up, it's interesting how a simple graphic can illuminate one set of ideas while simultaneously laying waste to another.

This series of "Infographics" is one of my favorite bits on GOOD magazine. They're produced every few days, and are a great example of how data-rich, visual posters could come to compete with traditional TV political advertising in the Internet Age.

Say you are a pro-immigration candidate and you want to show succinctly how immigrants, legal and illegal, contribute to the economy. Instead of reading off random stats, you could create an interactive poster showing where the immigrants are coming from, what jobs they are working and where.

What issues do Americans care about in this election cycle, compared with previous elections?

Which countries in the world are the most politically corrupt? I'll give you a hint: Mexico and Italy don't rank so well!

The Lazy Person's Guide to Exercise

We've all heard the same excuses, the same mantras: I'll get to exercising week! Eat less, move more!...It's my New Year's Resolution!....I'd go out more if I didn't work so much :(....

We all know the same crap reasons why we aren't more active. According to a 2002 study, only 30% of Americans regularly exercise.

Not only is exercise key to overall physical health - and avoiding problems like heart disease, high blood pressure, hypertension, obesity, and Type II diabetes later in life - it also makes you happier, more productive, more energetic, and sexier, too.

I now present a slideshow of the many shortcuts to your on-again, off-again exercise regimen.

Among the recommendations:

  1. Stand while you work. Standing up requires two times the energy as sitting down, but calories are not the only reason to consider this unusual method of working. Standing desks are gaining in popularity for other reasons too. Being upright may help you get ideas out, help alleviate back problems associated with long hours at the computer, and burn fat.
  2. Pace while you talk. High-strung people tend to this anyways—have you ever noticed how thin they are despite what they may eat? Every time your cell rings, pop up from your desk (or couch) like you have somewhere important to go and take that conversation on the road. Not only is that less annoying for co-workers, it’s a mindless way to get activity in. Pace up and down the halls of your office, or up and down your front street. Pacing burns about 90 calories an hour, which adds up if you spend half your day on conference calls.
  3. Have more sex. This is tired but true advice, folks: Sex is the most fun anyone will have burning calories. It’s a total get-out-of-jail free card from the gods: Even the laziest people on earth tend to enjoy a good romp. And aside from the myriad other benefits it offers—like happy hormones, glowing skin, and less stress—it’s a great way to get your heart rate going.
  4. Play music while you clean. You may have already heard that doing housework can burn all sorts of calories, but we’re going to bet that adding music to the mix will put even more bounce in your scrub. Listening to upbeat tunes can also boost your mood and distract you from unpleasant thoughts—just like your cleaner home can—making chore time pass more easily.


Thursday, October 28, 2010

50 Movies for 50 States

I've begun reading GOOD magazine within the past few weeks, and every day they come up with a little treasure like this one. It's a map of 50 iconic films that define the character of the 50 states. Most are recognizable fits, but there are some funny surprises! Jesus Camp = South Dakota?

Click here for the larger version.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Algae-fueled Planes One Step Closer to Reality

So we've already seen bio-fuel powered aircraft and algae-fueled biodiesel cars....why not combine the two and get the maximum environmental benefit?

Biofuel made from algae, also known as cellulosic ethanol has the advantage of requiring far less carbon emissions to produce than corn or sugar-based ethanol. It is cleaner burning and less damaging to the environment overall. It also avoids the ethical dilemma of burning foodstuffs to create fuel for cars, which seems especially insensitive to developing countries struggling with legitimate hunger problems of their own. According to PhysOrg, Algae is also useful for its ability to consume atmospheric carbon dioxide, where other plants would be used for agriculture.

European aerospace company EADS is developing a Diamond DA 42 that is fueled partially with cellulosic ethanol from algae. The plane debuted at the Berlin Air Show in June 2010.

According to Inhabitat, the algae-based fuel has such high energy content that the plane would require a half-gallon (1.5 liters) less fuel per hour than with conventional fuel.

Even the Pentagon is taking notice. A new federal DARPA project aims to test a 50-50 blend of cellulosic ethanol on military planes within the next year. If that is any indication, it may be only a matter of time before the fuel makes the transition to regular commercial aircraft, one of the biggest and most entrenched contributors to climate change.

Via: Inhabitat

Monday, October 25, 2010

Graduation Pictures!!!

I'm sorry for not posting these pictures sooner. They are from my graduation from the University of Washington this past June. A bit of post-college we go!

Me with Jill Sterrett, FAICP, one of my mentors for the Evergreen Fleets project. She is a lovely and very talented professor at the UW who really catalyzed my interest in environmental consulting.

Dennis Ryan, former Director of CEP and one of the most interesting and quirky professors I knew at UW.  Always with a flair for the eccentric, Dennis very much embodied Michel Foucault's maxim "How do we solve the problem? By displacing the question". Dennis was the first to teach us to look at the urban environment as a living text, with all the symbolism, narrative, and allusions that any book would have.

Onstage introducing fellow CEP student Patrick Pirtle, who just got a land use policy fellowship with Americorps in Salem, Oregon. Goooo Patrick!!!

Familia! My Grandma Edie and Grandpa Les flew all the way from St. Louis to see the whole shebang :) Love you guys

Me and the Fajaaa....

There is No Such Thing as a Vegan

It's unnerving the number of cattle products that find their way into nearly every daily necessity you can think of. While it may be true that being vegan is cheaper and better for the environment than being vegetarian or a meat-eater, cutting out meat (especially cattle) products out of your consumption may be much more difficult than it seems. If you are a vegan, did you know about most of these products? Have you tried actively avoiding any of them because of their cattle origins?

Via: Good 

The "It Gets Better Project"

In light of all the recent suicides of gay teenagers that have been in the news, it would be a crime to not turn our focus to the "It Gets Better Project" that has taken Youtube by storm.

Started with a single posting by Dan Savage (probably the coolest and most prominent gay celebrity in Seattle and arguably the US), the project has mushroomed into an international phenomenon. Even President Obama, Google and Vinny from Jersey Shore have jumped onto the bandwagon. If you can capture the political establishment, top corporations, and popular culture, I think you just might have a movement on your hands!

What's interesting to me is that suicide among gay teenagers, and LGBT people in general is hardly news. Stats from the Human Rights Campaign have shown that suicide is as much as four times more common among gay-identified teenagers as other groups. It's not hard to imagine that kids who grow up gay in rural areas, especially where religious prejudices remain strong, may not have an ally in their struggle for their identities. Outside of parents, schools, sports teams, churches, and friend groups, the only outlet for them may very well be the media.

The It Gets Better Project is truly remarkable in that instead of merely suggesting gay-friendly themes or situations as a television show or music artist would, it projects its message of tolerance directly to your Facebook page and from a diverse host of characters as we have seen in any political cause since perhaps the civil rights movement.

Has our culture finally taken a turn for the better in terms of gay rights that we are no longer willing to accept such realities as gay suicide and bullying in the schools? Could this explain the sudden overwhelming attention the media and institutions are now paying to these issues?

Some activists will take umbrage at Obama's involvement with the It Gets Better Project, with his lakcluster commitment to gay rights over the course of his term. But in truth, I think that there is great reason for optimism. We may not have full equality yet in the United States, but with the recent federal ruling against Don't Ask Don't Tell and the sudden popular groundswell of activism against such a recently untouchable issue as gay suicide, we clearly have a lot to look forward to.