November 28, 2011

New York, New York

I have been visiting New York a lot lately, and even though I grew up there, the city never fails to amaze me. Even while walking down Broadway, navigating the annoyingly quintessential swarms of tourists, I recall fond memories of years past. My high school was located in downtown Manhattan, and before the high-rises took over the coveted real estate, we were spoiled with the view of the Hudson river. The school was minutes away from the Twin Towers, and we spent many afternoons in the Borders store there, taking over the floor space and browsing the book shelves for hours. I still can't believe the towers are gone.

I went to college in Manhattan as well, and I got to live on campus all four years. We changed dorms every year, "upgrading" our room options with seniority. One year, my windows faced a psychiatric hospital. Another year, I lived across from a fire station. In my four years on campus, I became immune to sirens. I completely tuned them out - there was no other way for me to get some sleep at night. So when I moved to California after graduation and finally learned how to drive a car, it took a while for me to recognize the sound of sirens on the highways, signaling my tuned out brain to pull over and get the hell out of their way.

There are things that you can only see in New York. The other day, we saw a man golfing in the middle of Manhattan. He was standing on a walkway between two sides of a broad, two-way street, and swinging a golf-club. The balls he was hitting into the air were not imaginary. I wondered what their target was. A police car pulled up to the golfer, and the man proceeded to heatedly explain something to the cop. He even gave the policeman a golf ball to hold. Meanwhile, at the intersection of Broadway and Canal, the sidewalks were densely packed with tourists trying to score a deal from the street vendors selling fake Coach handbags and Rolex watches. Several police officers hung out nearby, observing the scene and doing nothing about it. It was business as usual.

I was on a bus once when I happened to pass by the Occupy Wall Street movement before the tents were banned from the park. As the bus drove by, I saw the crowds of people with protest signs taking over a narrow downtown street. On a parallel street, policemen were nervously waiting, with their scooters lined up, ready to get into action if it became necessary. Across the street, I noticed this truck:

Sorry for the blurry photo. I took it with my phone while the bus was moving.
I am fairly certain that the truck did not, in fact, belong to the anonymously run WikiLeaks organization, but there was someone in the back of the truck, interviewing passerbys.

Even though I was born in a different country, I consider myself a New Yorker. I no longer live in New York, and perhaps I never will again. But part of my heart was left in that city, and I will always go back there, to the place I still call home.

November 23, 2011

So about those Mason jars...

Remember how I said I was letting go of the Mason jar? Yeah, that didn't exactly happen. But I did let go of the idea of a vintage Mason jar, or even a pretend-vintage version. I still liked the shape of the jar, and my inner bargain hunter was not prepared to declare defeat. So I drove over to Kmart and bought myself a pack of these:

Twelve 16 ounce Mason jars for under ten dollars. That's less than a dollar each! I don't think I could find a better deal even if I shopped at Good Will. Thanks to Kmart, and a little bit of compromising, I'm on my way to staying well below the venue decor budget. Score!

November 21, 2011

Bargain Hunting: Statement-Making Mirror

Did you know that bargain hunting is one of my superpowers? When it comes to decorating our place, I relentlessly search for the best deal until the cows come home. That is exactly what I did when I got it into my head that we really need a round, statement-making mirror in our living room.

You see, a long time ago, I fell in love with West Elm rolling cubic shelving. I thought that the 3x2 version in dark brown would look great in our living room, while providing us with valuable storage. But I couldn't bring myself to shell out four hundred bucks for it. I scoured Craigslist like it was my job, and my efforts eventually paid off. We found the exact shelving we wanted for only seventy dollars. The cubic shelving provided great space for displaying little knick-knacks and pretty books. But our living room was beginning to look very angular. Most of the furniture in the room has right angles, and I thought that putting something round above the shelving would be a great way to soften the edges a bit.

Browsing various decor blogs, I pinned statement-making mirrors like this:

From Haute Look (flash sale site)

and this:

Found on YoungHouseLove

I loved everything about these mirrors except their price tag - most options I found were upward of $200. But here is my favorite bargain hunting tip: lots of high-end looking items end up being sold at Home Goods for ridiculously cheap prices. The tricky thing about Home Goods is that their inventory keeps changing on a daily basis, so if you find something you love, you have to buy it right away, or it may disappear (you can always return it later). So imagine how happy I was when I discovered this beauty for mere $25:

There it is, hanging above our cubic shelving. (By the way, that lamp was also found at Home Goods. I practically live at that store.) And here is the full view of that side of the living room:

Together with the green mid-century chair (found on Craigslist, of course), we created a reading nook in that corner of the room. It's not quite finished yet, as I would like to hang some art above the chair, but the mirror is already doing a great job of filling in some of the empty space on the wall and softening an otherwise very angular setup.

November 18, 2011

How to be a woman - dying my hair

My favorite sane wedding blog, A Practical Wedding, recently held another one of its world-wide book club meetups, and the book we read and discussed was aptly titled "How To Be a Woman" by Caitlin Moran. The book is a humorous (but serious in its message) take on feminism and what it means to be a woman, on a practical level. For example, there is an entire chapter devoted to hair and the constant battle that women have with it.

During our local APW book club meetup, we talked about how some of us (or most of us) feel that in some aspects, we fail at being women. I personally don't think it is even possible to fail at being a woman if that is what you are. It seems to me that to say that we are failing at being women, we have to define the criteria that make one a "successful" woman. Based on our discussion, it appears that inability to put together a fashionable outfit or ineptitude at applying makeup could result in being a failure of a woman. If so, I am a lost case. I seem to be missing the gene required for finding fashionable clothing, my makeup comes out only on special occasions, and I have never been able to figure out what to do with the mane of hair on my head.

But, "successful" woman or not, I had a situation to deal with. Namely, the increasingly obvious amount of gray hair that has been popping up on my twenty-eight-year-old head. I held off as long as I could, but those grays were finally starting to get to me. Something had to be done.

A month ago, I purchased a hair dye from the pharmacy. I was fairly certain that I had picked the wrong hair color (there was no mirror in the hair dye aisle), but didn't have the patience to go to multiple stores in search of the perfect match. The hair dye box sat in the bathroom vanity for weeks, mocking my gray hair every time I looked at it. Yesterday, I finally gave in and decided to give it a try.

Having never done this before, I set out to read all the instructions carefully before doing anything. The instructions looked like something that might appear in my lab, not in a widely available hair product. The labels warned me that, despite this dye being ammonia-free, if I get any of it in my eyes, I will go blind. (!) Also, I was not to squeeze or shake the bottle without first twisting off the tip, as the contents "may explode". Duly noted.

Despite the life-threatening warnings, I decided to proceed. First order of business was to find some clothing that I wouldn't mind ruining with the dye. Unfortunately, I'm so good at purging my closet, that I couldn't find anything appropriate for the job. Giving up on the clothing hunt, I decided to sacrifice an old towel. Things went downhill from there.

Armed with the hair dye components, plastic gloves, instructions, and the towel, I locked myself in the bathroom. Stripping half naked, I wrapped the towel around myself and put on the gloves. That's when I realized that I'd have to remove my glasses in order to dye my hair. I am extremely near-sighted. This was going to be interesting. With the glasses off, I opened the two parts of the hair dye and mixed them together. The chemistry geek in me happily observed that upon mixing, the two white substances turned purple and gave off lots of heat. Then, the hair dye started coming out of the bottle prematurely, as I was shaking it. The purple stuff covered my gloves (and all the surfaces in the bathroom, as I later discovered). While I was debating whether or not I shook the dye long enough, and whether I should wash my gloves before proceeding, my towel began sliding off of me. Instinctively, I adjusted the towel, getting the purple stuff all over myself. So far, the hair dying process was going great - the dye was on my gloves, my shoulders, the bathroom sink, the toilet, but not a drop of it was on my hair.

Giving up on the towel, I brought the instruction sheet to my face and reviewed. My next step was to apply the dye to my hair, making small parts in the process. Avoiding the hairline in an effort to not accidentally squirt the stuff into my eyes and make myself blind (and also, completely missing the grays in the front), I held the bottle over my head and squeezed. Nothing came out. WTF. I squeezed again. Still nothing. I shook the bottle in frustration and tried for the third time. Finally, the purple stuff appeared. I tried to guide the bottle over my head and make small parts, realizing that I have no idea what is going on on the back of my head. The small parts weren't happening anyway. Ignoring the instructions, I poured some of the dye in my gloved hands and spread the goop into my hair, hoping that I was distributing it evenly.

According to the instructions, I was to put the hair covered in goop on top of my head and wait ten minutes. I put the hair on top of my head. The hair immediately fell off the top of my head. I walked out of the terribly stinky bathroom and paraded around the kitchen in all my glory - dirty towel wrapped around me, purple stuff all over my head and shoulders. D called me a cute purple dinosaur. He had never seen such a curious sight.

Ten minutes later, I hopped in the shower. I was to rinse my hair until the water ran clear, all the time wearing the plastic gloves. But I was also supposed to not get this stuff in my eyes because of the whole blindness thing. As I stood in the shower with my eyes closed, I wondered how the hell I would know when the water ran clear if I couldn't look at it! Some time later, at the risk of losing my eyesight, I opened my eyes. To my relief the water ran clear. I applied the conditioner that was to lock in the color, rinsed, and got out of the shower. Immediately, my fears about getting the wrong hair color were confirmed. My hair was now darker than normal, and I also became a slight redhead. And with all my ineptitude, I missed half the gray hair. Failure at being a woman confirmed!

Nevertheless, the battle against gray hair continues. I will persevere!

November 16, 2011

Organized Bedroom Closet

So I got my ass into gear uncharacteristically fast and took some photos of my bedroom closet. As promised, I am sharing these photos with you, along with some bits of "wisdom" about how to keep a closet organized.

Our bedroom is so tiny that to get this photo of the closet, I had to stand on the bed at the opposite wall of the room. As you can see, it is a standard issue small bedroom closet.

The closet has sliding doors, which I am not particularly a fan of, but I've learned to live with them. Regular doors that swing open would not work in this tiny space. And yes, I could theoretically replace the doors with pretty curtains, but we live in a rental apartment, and I would have to keep those doors somewhere until we move out, and we have no extra storage. So, I live with the doors.

When you slide the right door open, you get a peak into my obsessive-compulsive personality closet.

As you can see, I tried to use the vertical space in the most efficient manner possible.

On the shelf on the top (which was already in the closet when we moved in), I store my larger handbags. To keep them separated and easy to reach, I bought this organizer from The Container Store and turned it on its side. On top of the handbag organizer, we store our extra pillows that come out when we have guests sleeping over. Our apartment doesn't have much storage space, so we have to keep stuff other than clothing and accessories in our bedroom closets. Next to the handbags, we keep an extra comforter.

Perhaps I don't own as much clothing as some women, but my closet is still pretty full. Hanging on the rod, I have skirts, jeans, pants, cardigans, button-down shirts, and blazers. I read somewhere that using the same type of hangers for everything helps make the closet appear more organized, and so I bought a bunch of these hangers from Ikea on the cheap. I think they do the trick nicely!

To maximize the use of the lower space of the closet, I bought a ClosetMaid cube organizer from Target (like this, only six cubes) along with three fabric drawers to match. On top of the shelving, I keep my warmer winter sweaters. We don't have extra storage elsewhere to do a rotation of winter and summer clothing, so the sweaters are always stored here. In the top row of cubes, I have my "home clothes" on the left (think sweat pants and t-shirts that never leave the house), my smaller handbags in the middle, and long-sleeved shirts on the right (usually those two stacks are full, but we haven't finished doing laundry yet...). My short-sleeve shirts and tees are actually not in this closet - they are in a dresser that also lives in the bedroom. On the bottom row of cubes, I have a drawer with underwear, another drawer with some of my dresses (that are ok to store folded), and the third drawer contains miscellaneous items, such as various cables and electronics.

The other side of the closet looks less "spectacular".

Hanging on the rod, I have some of my fancier dresses, a bathrobe, and belts (on a hanger that looks like this). I also have a sweater organizer hanging on the rod that helps me store lots of little items, like scarves, gloves, swimming suits, etc. in a way that utilizes vertical space well. Some luggage and backpacks reside on the top shelf, and things like rain boots, basketball, and hand weights are on the floor below the dresses. (Full disclosure: my shoes reside in D's closet, which is even smaller than this one. Yes, it's not fair. But he has less clothing than me, and I have organized his closet in a way that fits all his stuff AND my shoes. So it works out ok.)

I also hung some removable hooks on the inner walls of the closet for even more storage. It's an easy way to store frequently used clothing, like these yoga pants, for example. But you can also use such hooks for belts, scarves, or handbags.

So there you go! A tour of my bedroom closet is complete, and now you have all seen that my wardrobe is full of blues, greens, and neutrals, and that I am definitely fashion-challenged. If you want some tips on how to maintain an organized closet, here is what I learned as I was whipping this closet into shape over the past year and a half:
  • Maximize the use of vertical space. This is especially important if you have a small closet and limited storage in general. You can do this by adding free-standing shelving or hanging tiered organizers on the closet rod.
  • Use dividers to keep things easy to reach. Seriously, if you have to dig through ten handbags to find the one that you want, more often than not, you will end up with a messy pile of stuff you have to sort through, and no desire to organize it. Dividers (like the handbag organizer on the top shelf, or the cubic shelving on the floor) help prevent messes from happening in the first place, making it that much easier to keep the closet organized.
  • Periodically go through all your stuff and PURGE! Not everyone is a compulsive purger like me, but you can still do this once or twice a year. If you have clothing with tags on it that has been hanging in the closet for years, chances are you will never wear it. So sell or donate it, and make room in your closet for things you really love. Give your favorite items some breathing room, and you'll be more likely to find them in your closet the next time you stand in front of the mirror and exclaim that you have nothing to wear.

November 14, 2011

Closet Organization Inspiration

I've been on an organizing kick lately. A couple of weekends ago, I spent an entire day reorganizing our kitchen. It's not quite done yet, and I am still tweaking it, but it's way more organized than it has been for the past year and a half. Poor D can't find anything in our kitchen anymore because I've moved everything around. Hopefully, he will get used to it soon. I promise to share photos once the organization is a bit more complete.

Meanwhile, I am contemplating tackling our closets. Some of them are already in pretty good shape, but some need major help. So, I turned to Pinterest for inspiration. My search for closets came up with tons of inspirational and completely unachievable scenarios. It just so happens that I don't have an entire room dedicated to storing my shoes. Also, I own more than three pairs of pants. Is this somehow unrealistic? Because you would think, judging by most of the closet pictures I found, that people either own three shirts that they generously hang in their oversized closets, or they live in mansions and can afford to dedicate several rooms to clothing storage only.

I insisted on pinning only more or less realistic looking closets, and here is what I found.

Pretty and organized. Realistic amount of clothing. Found here.

Custom-made closet designed to fit the needs of the individual. Still, everything fits in a realistic amount of space. Found here.

Real size closet. Organized and not cluttered. Found here.

Another realistic closet. Built-in shelving helps keep it organized. Found here.

In all these closets, shelving and dividers help keep things organized. In the real world, we don't just store clothing and shoes in the closet. Handbags, luggage, extra blankets all find their way into our bedroom closets if we live in small apartments with even smaller storage space. The trick to keeping things organized is to set up the closet in a way that is easy to maintain. Even if the closet does not have built-in shelving, you can still put standing shelves on the floor of the closet, and hang sweater organizers on the closet rod to maximize the use of vertical space. Baskets and boxes could be useful as well, as long as they don't become junk collectors (which they can easily become, since you can simply throw things in and keep them out of sight, out of mind). Hanging hooks on the inside of the closet walls and doors also helps maximize storage in a small closet.

My bedroom closet uses all of these tricks. When I get my ass into gear and take photos of the closet, I promise to share them on the blog!

November 10, 2011

Letting Go of the Mason Jar

While considering decorations for our wedding, I gravitated toward elegant, simple, and affordable. (For some reason, I've seen "elegant and simple" as common wedding descriptions, but "affordable" isn't usually mentioned in the same sentence). Since we are DIY'ing the decorations ourselves (with some help from the family, of course), I figured that "easy to make" should also be part of the requirements.

And then, I read a lot of wedding blogs with gorgeous photos. And I browsed Pinterest like it was my (full-time) job. I discovered crafty brides rebelling against the Wedding Industrial Complex with their beautifully hand-crafted crocheted napkins and burlap table runners. That was when I fell in love with the mason jar. My Pinterest wedding board is dotted with images like these:

Found here
Found here

Those vintage blue mason jars had me at hello. What could be more elegant and simple? And they couldn't be too expensive, right? Convincing myself that I had to have those blue beauties at our wedding, I commenced the hunt for the mason jars. Our trip to the Brimfield Antique Show was the perfect opportunity to look for some unique and vintage wedding decor. (Unique and vintage? Where did that come from? What happened to "simple and elegant"? Those crafty wedding blogs were infiltrating my brain with these new descriptors that suddenly were being applied to our wedding. Oops.)

We did find a bunch of mason jars at the antique show. But it turned out that they were not so affordable after all. The prices were all over the place, but on average ranged from $30 to $50. If we have ten tables, with $30 per jar... that's $300 just for the flower holders! Insanity. I abandoned hope of getting my hands on a vintage mason jar. But I was not so easily deterred. The crafty brides have shown me the way to DIY those damn mason jars. I added several tutorials on dying regular, clear mason jars blue to my Pinterest wedding board.

That was when I read the Mason Jar Manifesto. I had become so caught up in the "simple and elegant" mantra that I failed to notice that the mason jar has become so ubiquitous on the wedding blogs that it came to represent a certain level of insanity. The mason jar became a symbol of getting lost in all the pretty details of the wedding that make beautiful photographs, all the while forgetting what the wedding is actually all about: "celebrating love, a manifestation of commitment, a gathering of friends and family."

I realized that in my effort to eschew the Wedding Industrial Complex, I was getting dangerously close to crossing over to the OTHER side of obsession - the DIY craftzilla territory was beckoning me with mason jar tutorials and "personalized" details. It was time to let go of the mason jar and recognize that no one will remember the centerpieces, but they will remember how much fun they would have at our wedding.

So I am moving on from the mason jar. And I am taking a break from wedding planning. And it feels really, really good.

November 7, 2011

Women's Rights Under Fire

How naive was I to think that in the twenty first century, fighting for women's rights would be a thing of the past, a done deal? Very naive.

I'm sure you've heard about the sexual harassment allegations raised against Herman Cain. Well, apparently, some very special people don't think sexual harassment is ever real. Check out this article that talks about the denial that is going on about sexual harassment. Basically, women are portrayed as crazy, off-the-wall bitches that have no ground to stand on when it comes to these allegations, and all they want is easy money and fame. As the author of the article sardonically retorts: "Just think of all the famous sex-discrimination memoirs you’ve read recently." Yeah, exactly.

(I realize that it's not just women that could be a target of sexual harassment, but this particular article specifically talks about women.)

Well, sexual harassment is certainly an important issue, but it gets worse. The same Herman Cain, the potential Republican candidate for presidency, made his views very clear on abortion. His exact words were: "I am pro-life from conception, period." What he means to say, in plain English, is that he is against the option of abortion, NO MATTER WHAT. But let's just think about it for a minute - he says he is pro-life. Of course, he means pro-life of a fetus. Or actually, pro-life of a fertilized egg. What Herman Cain is telling us women is that if this fertilized egg is literally threatening our life, he would still defend the "life" of the fertilized egg. So he is he not really pro-life. In fact, he appears to be pro-death of women whose life is in danger due to the pregnancy. Hypocrite, much?

And by the way, if that egg was fertilized against the woman's will, guess what! Herman Cain says you are stuck with it! Because he values a one-celled organism higher than a grown woman's life and health. How convenient that he should be making life decisions on behalf of all the women in this country, while never being in danger of facing the reality of unwanted pregnancy himself.

Oh yes, and let's talk about all those children that would be born to mothers who never wanted them in the first place. Of course, all those children would be brought up in loving environments with full support of their parents, right?!? They would grow up to be perfectly balanced adults with a healthy mental state, and be contributing members of the society, right? Did Herman Cain, and everyone else who thinks it's their business to control a woman's uterus, think of all this when they stood up on their imaginary soapboxes and yelled about being "pro-life"?

But hey, Herman Cain is not the president of the United States. This bullshit can still be avoided, right? Wrong. The state of Mississippi is taking things into their own hands - they are voting on an amendment to the state constitution that would define life as beginning from the moment of conception, which will imply that ALL abortions are illegal, no matter what. What happened to Roe v. Wade? What happened to women deciding for themselves what they should do with their own bodies? How can the United States consider itself a progressive, developed country when shit like this is still going on right here? How is this issue even up for a vote???

Ok fine, you want to have a vote on this? Great. But the only people who should be allowed to vote on this issue are menstruating women. Because they are the only ones who would be affected by this ridiculous excuse of a legislature. And even then, the so-called amendment should be nullified because a pregnancy, and an abortion, is not a group decision. It is up to the individual woman, and the circumstances are different every time. Choosing between pregnancy and an abortion is never easy, and abortion is not a default choice (even though it is sometimes a necessity). This is why it's called being PRO-CHOICE.

Edited to note: The Mississippi amendment did not pass. But the "debate" has not gone away.

November 4, 2011

Labcoat Fridays: Climate Change and Public Perception

"Do you believe in global warming?"

This misguided, but thought-provoking question was the basis of two articles in a recent issue of Physics Today, a publication of the American Institute of Physics. One of the issues with this question is that when it comes to climate change, it's not about belief. That global warming is happening, and that humans are its primary cause, is a conclusion rooted in facts and evidence. The majority of scientists that work in the areas of climate and climate change have come to this conclusion. And when I say majority, I mean more than 95% - the topic is not up for dispute in the scientific community. Yes, there are some outliers who have different views, but that is the case in any scientific field. Regardless, indisputable data unequivocally demonstrates that global warming is real, it's happening now, and we are mostly responsible for it.

The other issue with the question, of course, is that it is precisely the kind of conversation that the general public is having regarding climate change. The general public perception on this matter varies from country to country, but in the United States, less than half of the population believes that global warming, if it is happening at all, has anything to do with human activity. The other part of public debate is the questioning of scientific consensus on the matter: only 40% of people think that most scientists agree that global warming is happening, and another 40% believe there is a LOT of disagreement in the scientific community on this issue. Clearly, this has nothing to do with reality, so why is there such a huge discrepancy between what is actually happening in the scientific community, and what the public perceives is going on?

The split in the public belief and concern about global warming. Data from 2011. Found here.

The reasons for the widespread public confusion are many. With hard economic times in the country today, people seem to be more likely to reject scientific climate change conclusions, possibly for the fear that the policies necessary to address the global warming issue may further worsen the economy. Another major reason is the ridiculous and on-going disinformation campaign waged by the media against the science of climate change. Those well skilled in the ways of the media and public relations find it easy to come up with clear and simple slogans that they repeat over and over. When you hear something so many times for so long, you start to believe it, no matter how false it actually is. The media doesn't help when it portrays climate change as a controversy, presenting opposing sides as equally valid, when in reality the two "sides" are 95% of the scientific community, braced with facts and evidence, versus the very few outliers.

But another culprit in public confusion lies with the scientists themselves. Or, to be more precise, how the scientist communicate, or fail to communicate, with the public. The general public isn't interested in all the basic scientific research, or all the models that were scrupulously developed to predict climate behavior, or how collected evidence then supported those models. No, people are more interested in how this climate change will affect them directly, and what their options are.

It doesn't help the case that historically, public agreement on a new scientific conclusion generally lags the scientific consensus by at least a century. This was the case with accepting the idea that the Earth is round and that it revolves around the Sun, instead of the other way around (also known as heliocentrism). The same thing happened with Einstein's theory of general relativity. And now, it's happening with climate change. Except this time, the consequences of waiting an entire century to do something about it could be dire.

Timelines for heliocentrism, relativity, and global warming due to greenhouse gases: scientific consensus and public agreement. Found here. By the way, "anthropogenic" means "human-caused".

So what can scientists do to help alleviate the public misconceptions about global warming? Well, for starters, they need to realize that some of the terms so widely used in science have completely different meanings for the general public. For example to a non-scientist, "theory" might mean a hunch or a speculation, rather than a solid scientific understanding of an issue. Similarly, "manipulation" comes off as illicit tampering, and not what it actually means - scientific data processing. A "scheme" is perceived as a devious plot rather than a systematic plan. The public hears the word "uncertainty" as ignorance, rather than a range of numbers. And an "error" is interpreted as a mistake, and not as a difference from the exact true number. So, can you imagine if I said that I was "manipulating the data to account for the error in the results, so that I could explain how my scheme relates to the theory being tested"? Don't I sound like a complete fraud and a malicious human being? But really all I said was that I was processing the data collected from experiments in order to understand why my numbers were deviating from the expected or true numbers. Words matter, and they matter a lot. It's no wonder that a scandal erupted back in 2009 over some stolen emails written by climate scientists. The researchers were accused of tampering with data, among other things, and the media went to town with this. Many investigations later, the scientists were found not guilty of any fraud or scientific misconduct, but the media was strangely silent on this outcome.

If you are wondering about the evidence that points to the fact that global warming is indeed happening, and that humans are the primary cause of it, here are some of the facts. Many observations have been made that show that the climate is definitely warming up. Temperatures are measured on the earth's surface, in the air, and in the ocean. All of these measurements show that warming is going on, and most of it is happening in the ocean. The sea level is rising all over the globe. The glaciers, Arctic ice, and the ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica are losing mass. To figure out whether humans are causing these changes, or if they are due to natural variations in climate, an entire branch of climate science has been developed. The conclusions of the extensive research done to answer this question show that most of the observed changes in the climate are due to an increase in the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Moreover, these changes are not a result of any natural occurrences, such as volcanic activity or changes in the Sun. The continuing increase in the greenhouse gases ever since the Industrial Revolution is clearly due to human activity. We are the major cause of global warming, and we are not off the hook.

The good news is, we can also make a change for the better. We can choose to reduce our greenhouse emissions in order to avoid a crisis that would affect our most basic needs, such as food, water, and safety. But we cannot wait forever to get started - such a crisis could very well arrive by the end of this century, leaving our children and grandchildren to deal with the consequences of our actions. And by the way, inaction is also a choice, one with serious side effects. Let's hope that the scientists learn to communicate their findings to the government more effectively, so that proper public policy could be established to deal with the very real phenomenon of global warming.

November 2, 2011

Setting Goals: Healthy Lifestyle

At the end of September, I sat down with my journal and wrote down two goals for myself. I'm not talking about New Year's resolutions type goals - that would be setting myself up for inevitable failure. I've tried those resolution types before. They always follow the same trajectory. In January, I am all excited about my newly established goals, just itching to get started. By February, I am congratulating myself on keeping up with my goals thus far, while a small but definite thought begins to gestate in my subconscious that tells me this won't last much longer. By mid-March, I am already dragging my feet, dreading the hour of the day, the day of the week that I have to spend on pursuing this never-ending goal. By April, I pretty much quit and by May, even the guilt quietly subsides. Basically, I feel like this. (I know that link has been going around the internet forever now, but it's totally relevant and you should check it out if you haven't seen it yet and want a good laugh.)

No, goals I wrote down in my journal in September were the long-term kind. The kind that might take a lifetime to achieve, and really are just ongoing. The nice thing about a long-term goal is that it doesn't have to be achieved right this minute, or even by the end of the year. So if you accomplish only part of the goal in the first year, or even none at all, you don't feel like a failure because there is no deadline. At least, in my head there is no deadline. It's less stressful that way, and surprisingly, also more motivating.

One of the long-term goals that I set for myself was to lead a healthy lifestyle. Having had much experience with setting vague, grandiose goals for myself and then failing to go through with them precisely because they were so... imprecise, I started a list of the specific things I want to accomplish in order to maintain and improve my health. You know I love me a good list, so here is what it included:

  • Incorporate regular exercise into my routine
    • Schedule exercise
    • Start with 20 minutes of 30 Day Shred video on Tuesdays and Thursdays, right after work
  • Make time to cook healthy food in bulk so that there are leftovers available on days I don't feel like cooking or have little time
    • Schedule cooking time on Sundays
    • Get a microwave to enable quick reheating of leftovers
  • Take vitamins on a regular basis
    • Buy a weekly pill box
  • Maintain healthy teeth
    • Buy a fancy, pulsating toothbrush
    • Consider flossing

As you see, not only did I break down my healthy lifestyle goal into subcategories, but I also wrote out specific action items to help me accomplish those subcategories. And now I sound like a total nerd, but this is how my mind works.

A month later, I can say that I've accomplished some of those things, and this is a great start to achieving my long term goal. Although I have scheduled my 20 (or more like 30) minutes of exercise on Tuesdays and Thursdays after work, I've actually only been exercising once a week on most weeks. And it's ok, it does not mean I failed. It means I am getting more exercise now than I had been getting in the past several months, and that feels great! I completely neglected the cooking time on Sundays and we still don't have a microwave. Yes, it is the twenty first century and we don't have a microwave. I used to own one, but it was sacrificed for the sake of my relationship with D. Around the time we were moving in together, we had a major battle about my TV and microwave. I only had it in me to win the TV battle (yay for Netflix). The microwave moved on to greener pastures in the land of Goodwill. But now, I want it back.

I'm not a big fan of taking medicine if it's not completely necessary, and so I have conflicting ideas on taking multivitamins. On one hand, it's another pill to take for no particularly good reason. On the other hand, it can't really hurt (well, it can if you are allergic to it or have other bad reactions, but otherwise I think it's pretty harmless). On the third hand, blood tests show that I am low on some vitamins, so maybe there is a good reason to take them. But even so, I never remember to do that. To help me remember, I wanted to get one of those weekly pill boxes with daily slots I can pre-fill with vitamins to help me remember to take them in the mornings. The other day, D was going to the pharmacy, and I asked him to pick me up one of those pill boxes. Despite making fun of me for being an old lady, he obliged. But instead of getting me the adult version with the letters on them ("They were too boring," he claimed), D got me this:

Ironically, he bought this "old lady" a children's pill box. And it was so cute with its little ladybugs and bright green color, that I did a happy dance when I saw it. And yes, it has been helping remember to take the vitamins in the mornings, so one more thing on my list that's getting accomplished.

Finally, I did buy myself one of those expensive pulsating toothbrushes. It seems to me that it's doing a better job at cleaning my teeth than a regular toothbrush (and I hate flossing, which my dentist is quite aware of), but I guess we'll see what my dentist says.

Overall, not a bad month to start off my lifetime goal of staying healthy!