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Chicago Eyebrows

Here’s an informative article in the New York Times about the Smithsonian Photography Initiative.

Of particular interest within the Smithsonian’s project is the series of articles called Click! Photography Changes Everything written by “one hundred experts in their fields to explore the ways photography has changed a broad spectrum of disciplines—from anthropology to astrophysics, from media to medicine, from philosophy to sports.”

Check it out! 

Ten with Jenn

Jenn at Come Along Farm

Jenn is my niece. She models for me when she’s home from college.  She’s here on spring break so I decided to interview her.

1 – Who is Jenn and what does she do?

I’m a 22-year old student at Lock Haven University double-majoring in Biology and Chemistry because I want to go to pharmacy school. I play basketball and run when I’m not studying. On breaks I model for my aunt, the photographer, and work in the pharmacy department of CVS.

Life is boring right now but when summer comes it’ll pick up.

2 – How often and how far do you run?

I try to run as much as I can during the week. Lately three days, but I’d like to run everyday. I can run further on treadmills because of the slow pace. When it’s nice out I run along the Susquehanna River.

3 – Name three great things about living in Lock Haven and three bad things.

Oh my goodness, I don’t think there is one great thing. (Laughs.) No, there are great things. Like the scenery. That’s it.

Three bad things: 1 – Small town. Nowhere to go and nothing to do.  That makes it sound terrible. (Laughs.)  2 -Wal-Mart is the only place to go for anything. Well not for anything, but…most things. I went to Wal-Mart one time and the guy that was ringing me up, I guess he was my age, he said hi and I said hi back, and I was just being polite, and he started going off on this tangent about how he plays this video game on the computer about dragons, and how you really gamble your money with it, and that’s what he uses his paychecks for. He went on for five minutes. It was crazy. 3 – The train goes through the town five times everyday, and the engineer feels the need to be louder at night with his whistle, or whatever it’s called.  It rattles everything!

4 – What’s on your iPod?

Lots of Beatles. I like to play “Good Day Sunshine” when I’m driving. Jay-Z, Counting Crows, The Doors, Paramore. I like upbeat things when I run. I also have Britney’s latest album, I think it’s called “Blackout,” and some Kelly Clarkson.

5 – Do you collect anything?

I picked up a bunch of seashells in Florida last summer. That’s it.

6 – Tell us about your trip to Florida last summer and what you did.

I went with my family and friends on a treasure hunt. I won’t reveal where. We had a picnic on the beach with three full coolers of food. We walked it all off with our metal detectors. I’m such a beach bum. I woke up early on the last day just so I could get a few extra hours of sun on the beach. The beach was very private and I’m used to the New Jersey beaches which are always packed. We’re going again this year and I’m really looking forward to it. 

One night we had dinner and played Sequence Dice and everyone was really competitive.  The teams were really funny – Mike & Neil were the best.

7 – What’s your oldest memory?

My friends and I would play with Barbie dolls and we would give them really high-pitched voices. When I went to preschool I was nervous because I thought girls should have really high-pitched voices and I thought my voice was too low. My mom stayed with me on the playground while the other kids started class.

8 – What’s your favorite meal?

Roast turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potato fries, corn on the cob, cranberry sauce, cornbread, any kind of pickles, black cherry soda and pumpkin pie with homemade whipped cream. And an omelet with mushrooms, bacon, spinach and salsa. I love to eat! (Laughs).

9 – Are you single?

I’m not married.

10 – The James Lipton rundown:

• Favorite word? Petunia.
• Least favorite word? A tie between “folks” and “y’all.”
• What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally? The outdoors.
• What turns you off? Loud people in small places.
• Favorite curse word? Sh**.
• What sound or noise do you love? The swoosh of a basketball net.
• What sound or noise do you hate? Scraping metal of any kind. Like a colander in the sink.
• What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? A baker.
• What profession would you not like to do? Inspector at a conveyer belt.
• If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? “Finally!”

You can see more of Jenn at my photoblog, www.durhamtownship.com.  

Fruits of Our Labor

Spring is nearly here and I’m encouraging you to think about where you’ll buy fresh fruits and vegetables this year.  With help from the Santa Fe Farmers Market, here are ten reasons to consider your local farmers market or food co-op:

♦ 1 – Local food tastes better.
Most likely it was picked in the last couple of days, which makes it crisp and flavorful. Produce that travels long distances (California, Florida, Chile or Holland) is days older.  Sugars turn to starches, plant cells shrink, and produce loses its vitality and flavor.

♦ 2 – Local food is more nutritious.
Once harvested, produce quickly loses nutrients.  Produce that’s flash-frozen just after harvest is often more nutritious than “fresh” produce that’s on the supermarket shelf for a week.  Since local produce is sold right after it’s picked, it retains more nutrients.

3 – Local food preserves genetic diversity.
Large commercial farms grow a relatively small number of hybrid fruits and vegetables that are able to withstand the rigors of harvesting, packing, shipping and storage. This leaves little genetic diversity in the food supply.  By contrast, family farms grow a huge number of varieties to extend their growing season, provide eye-catching colors and great flavor. Many varieties are “heirlooms” passed down through the generations because of their excellent flavor.  Older varieties contain the genetic structure of hundreds or thousands of years of human selection and may provide the diversity needed to thrive in a changing climate.

4 – Local food promotes energy conservation.
The average distance our food travels is 1500 miles, mostly by air and truck, increasing our dependence on petroleum. By buying locally, you conserve the energy that’s used for transport.

5 – Local food supports local farmers.
The American family farmer is a vanishing breed – there are less than 1,000,000 people who claim farming as a primary occupation.  Why?  Maybe because it’s hard to make a living:  family farmers get less than 10 cents of every retail food dollar. By buying locally, the middleman disappears and the farmer gets full retail price, helping farmers continue to farm.

♦ 6 – Local food builds community.
By getting to know the farmers who grow your food, you build understanding, trust and a connection to your neighbors & your environment. The weather, the seasons and the science of growing food offer great lessons in nature and agriculture.  Visiting local farms with children and grandchildren brings that education and appreciation to the next generation.

7 – Local food preserves open space.
As you enjoy visits to the country to see lush fields of crops, meadows of wildflowers, picturesque barns and rolling pastures, remember that our treasured agricultural landscape survives only when farms are financially viable. By spending your money on locally grown food, you’re increasing the value of the land to the farmer and making development less likely.

8 – Local food keeps taxes in check.
For every $1 in revenue raised by residential development, governments spend $1.17 on services, which increases taxes. For every $1 in revenue raised by a farm, a forest or open space, governments spend $0.34 cents on services.

9 – Local food supports the environment and benefits wildlife.
Family farmers are good stewards of the land — they respect and value fertile soil and clean water.  And their farms provide the fields, meadows, forests, ponds and buildings that are the habitat for many beloved and important species of wildlife.

10 – Local food is about the future.
Supporting local farms today helps keep those farms in your community, ensuring your children and grandchildren have access to nourishing, flavorful and abundant food.  When you choose to buy locally, and make your choices known, you raise the consciousness of your family, friends and neighbors.

Beetle Parts

Did you ever cut your fingers or hands opening the hard plastic shell that surrounds newly purchased kids’ toys or electronic devices or… mixed salad greens?

I cut myself twice last week – once on a party tray and once on a package of cookies!  Cookies!  And I’m not the only one – a quick Google search on “dangerous plastic packaging” (!) turned up innumerable blog entries from others who’ve experienced the same indignation, plus a selection of “tools” for $10 – $15 that safely cut through the stuff (some ironically packaged in rigid plastic).

“Clamshell” or “blister” packaging is used by manufacturers as a theft deterrant,  a protective device and a means of making products look attractive to consumers.   On the flip side it’s a growing environmental disaster:  first, it’s made from petroleum and we all know the problems with that; second, the manufacturing process requires great quantities of water (it takes four bottles of water to create one bottle of water); and third, you may see the “chasing arrow” symbol on the packaging but much of it is unrecyclable, or is recycled into forms of plastic that aren’t recyclable and end up in landfills.

How do we deal with all of this frustration?  Here are a six ideas I found at lighterfootsteps.com:

♦  After you’ve stopped cursing and found a Band-Aid, look for customer contact info on the packaging and write or call the manufacturer.  Be polite and specific.  Explain why you won’t buy their product again, and if possible, the name of a competing product you will buy.  

♦ When you have a choice, buy the product with the least (or most environmentally-friendly) packaging.  Manufacturers pay close attention to packaging changes and resulting sales. 

♦ Recycle or creatively repurpose the plastics you buy.  (I reuse plastic trays to organize small tools in the garage.)

♦ Buy in bulk.  Warehouse stores manage costs by shrink-wrapping things together instead of selling separately packaged items.

♦ Buy unpackaged goods from food co-ops or local farmer’s markets.

♦ Blog about your experiences. If you don’t have a blog, send your story to OverPackaging.com.  

Tongue-Twisters

Baltimore Aquarium Fish

For the last 20+ years, my favorite tongue-twister has been:

Fresh fish, crisp chips.

(Go on,  say it five times fast.)

Today it was replaced by:

Any noise annoys an oyster but a noisy noise annoys an oyster most.

(Funny how they’re both about sea creatures.  Hmmm.)

Outside the Ice Cream Shop

Science says happiness leads to a long life, good health, resilience and good performance. On average, people who consider themselves happy live nine years longer than people who consider themselves unhappy. 
 
Psychologist and Professor Ed Diener from the University of Illinois says there are three vital ingredients to happiness:
 
♦  Family and friends – the wider and deeper, the better.  Friendship has a protective effect on our health. 
♦  Finding meaning –a belief in something bigger, a sense of spirituality or a philosophy of life.
♦  Working toward and making progress on goals we find interesting, and which use our strengths and abilities.
 
Why doesn’t money make us happy? Because we adapt to pleasure. When we’re attracted to things that give us short bursts of pleasure – from a candy bar to a Corvette – the effect quickly wears off.  We adapt less quickly to more meaningful things such as friendship and goals.

(I bet you have 10 unanswered emails from friends and family sitting in your inbox.   Answer one everyday – even “I’m thinking of you!” will suffice – for ten days and see what happens.  Let me know.)
 

Apples

I’m not a doctor (nor do I play one on TV) but here’s a prescription that might add 14 quality years to your life:

Three to five times per week, take a 20-minute walk to your favorite non-smoking restaurant, order a big glass of red wine and a large garden salad with extra veggies.

How hard is that?!

A recent study of 20,000 people in the UK determined that if you don’t smoke, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, exercise regularly and drink alcohol in moderation, you’ll gain an additional 14 years of life. The study appears in the Public Library of Science Medicine Journal – a site well worth checking out for other reasons, too.

Kay-Tee Khaw, one of the people who conducted the study at the University of Cambridge said, “We measured normal behaviors that were entirely feasible within people’s normal, everyday lives.” She thinks the findings might help people understand that improving their health doesn’t necessarily require an extreme change in lifestyle.

Tim Armstrong, a physical activity expert at the World Health Organization said, “This research is an important piece of work which emphasizes how modifying just a few risk factors can add years to your life.”

I’ll follow up on these findings in 2077!

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