Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

unnamed

Photo: Matthew Morris
Boston Medical Center’s rooftop farm, spanning 2,658 square feet, is part of a mission to keep patients, especially low-income patients, healthy. 

For many years, visionary physicians and staff at Boston Medical Center (BMC) have been taking a holistic approach to caring for patients — more often than not, desperately poor patients. If a child had asthma from conditions in a suboptimal apartment, BMC enlisted pro bono lawyers to get the landlord to meet legal obligations. If new Americans needed help understanding the forms they were supposed to fill out, BMC rounded up translators and guides. It didn’t have to be medical forms: people could get help with any kind of form.

The story below shows BMC’s ongoing efforts to ensure patients living in food deserts get decent nourishment. Doctors started writing prescriptions for farmers markets. Now they’re supporting a move to grow healthful food on the hospital’s roof.

Lindsay Campbell has the story at Modern Farmer.

“Carrie Golden believes the only reason she’s diabetes free is that she has access to fresh, locally grown food.

“A few years after the Boston resident was diagnosed with prediabetes, she was referred to Boston Medical Center’s Preventative Food Pantry as someone who was food insecure. The food pantry is a free food resource for low-income patients.

“ ‘You become diabetic because when you don’t have good food to eat, you eat whatever you can to survive,’ Golden says. …

“Three years ago, the hospital launched a rooftop farm to grow fresh produce for the pantry. The farm has produced 6,000 pounds of food a year, with 3,500 pounds slated for the pantry. The rest of its produce goes to the hospital’s cafeteria, patients, a teaching kitchen and an in-house portable farmers market. … The facility’s 2,658-square-foot garden houses more than 25 crops, organically grown in a milk crate system.

“ ‘Food is medicine. That’s why we’re doing what we’re doing,’ says David Maffeo, the hospital’s senior director of support services. ‘Most urban environments are food deserts. It’s hard to get locally grown food and I think it’s something that we owe to our patients and our community.’

“Lindsay Allen, a farmer who has been managing the rooftop oasis since its inception, says her farm’s produce is being used for preventative care as well as in reactive care. … What people put in their bodies has a direct link to their health she says, adding that hospitals have a responsibility to give their patients better food. …

“In addition to running the farm, Allen teaches a number of farming workshops to educate patients, employees and their families on how to grow their own food. The hospital’s teaching kitchen employs a number of food technicians and dieticians who offer their expertise to patients on how they can make meals with the local produce they’re given.

“This is part of the medical center’s objective to not only give patients good food, but also provide them the tools to lead a healthy life. Golden, who has used the pantry for the last three years, says the experience has changed the way she looks at food.

“ ‘I’ve gone many days with nothing to eat, so I know what that feels like when you get something like the food pantry that gives you what you need to stay healthy,’ she says. ‘I appreciate all the people that put their heart into working in the garden. If only they knew how we really need them.’ ” Perhaps they do.

More at Modern Farmer.

Read Full Post »

spanish-stonehenge-1024x604

Photo: Ruben Ortega Martin, Raices de Peraleda
Drought has uncovered a Spanish version of Stonehenge, the 7,000-year-old Dolmen of Guadalperal.

As global warming brings changes to our planet, the permafrost is melting and releasing dangerous bacteria. But sometimes other, less harmful things come to light.

Caroline Goldstein writes at ArtNet, “If there’s even the slightest silver lining to the ravages of climate change, it’s that the warming conditions are revealing some previously unknown archaeological sites and artifacts.

“This past summer, an extreme drought in the Extremadura area of Spain that caused the Valdecañas Reservoir’s water levels to plummet has revealed a series of megalithic stones. Previously submerged underwater, the Dolmen de Guadalperal, often called the Spanish Stonehenge, are now in plain sight.

“Though the Dolmen are 7,000 years old, the last time they were seen in their entirety was around 1963, when the reservoir was built as part of Franco’s push toward modernization. …

“Angel Castaño, who lives near the reservoir and serves as the president of a Spanish cultural group, told the website the Local, ‘We grew up hearing about the legend of the treasure hidden beneath the lake and now we finally get to view them.’

“The approximately 100 menhirs are, like Stonehenge, hulking megalith stones — some standing up to six feet tall — that are arranged in an oval and appear oriented to filter sunlight. Evidence suggests that these stones could actually be 2,000 years older than Stonehenge.

“Castaño is working with the group Raices de Peraleda to move the dolmen before rains come and re-submerge them. ‘Whatever we do here needs to be done extremely carefully.’ he said.”

I guess so. I can’t help wondering if it would be better to move the reservoir and leave the stones, which obviously were placed where they are for a reason. But not being an engineer, I suppose moving the reservoir would be even more difficult. And already access to water is becoming a serious problem around the world. (For a heartbreaking story about the difficulty many Navajo people have getting clean water, read this.)

So hard to balance conflicting goods!

More here.

Read Full Post »

henry-danton-today-main-1-190910_26e176561866dbafd4741d502c270891.fit-1240w

Photo: David Sprayberry / Belhaven University
“Henry Danton was born on March 30, 1919. At 100, the former ballet star turned master teacher still drives around Mississippi teaching ballet,” reports NBC.

I’m always impressed by people who enjoy their work so much that they are still doing it at an advanced age. The 100-year-old ballet teacher in this story is a great example. I definitely don’t want to be driving at his age, but I admire him for continuing to make a contribution in the world and having fun while doing it.

A. Pawlowski at Today.com reports, “At 100 years old, Henry Danton is still the center of attention in the ballet studio, now full of students one-fifth his age.

“The former dancer once pirouetted on premier stages around the world, then became a master teacher, training new generations of ballet dancers. He continues to teach today, and says he has no intention of retiring.

“The British-born centenarian said he has a healthy body and mind, lives on his own, loves his smartphone, hasn’t been to the doctor in 10 years and still travels the world. … He recently completed a residency at the Belhaven University Dance Department in Jackson, Mississippi, and teaches ballet around the state. …

“ ‘You have to take care of yourself,’ Danton told TODAY. ‘This body is the only thing you’ve got. You’ve been given this wonderful instrument, you have to look after it. …

‘I see people who retire and they become so bored, they don’t know what to do with themselves,’ Danton said. ‘That’s when their health starts to go down. I love teaching, I don’t want to stop. Children are my vitamin.’ …

“These are the factors Danton credits for his long life and wellness:

“Diet: Danton said he became a vegetarian more than 50 years ago when he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, the same illness that took his brother’s life. … He stopped eating red meat, fish and poultry at age 49 and hasn’t consumed any animal flesh since, he said.

“Danton likes to ‘live on seeds and nuts,’ enjoys organic vegetables, drinks lots of carrot juice and consumes dairy including cheese and milk. He also occasionally eats chocolate, but stays away from other sweets in his regular diet. He likes beer — ‘like a good Englishman’ — but skips other alcoholic drinks.

“Exercise: Danton credits constant movement as a dancer as one of the main factors that’s kept him healthy and helped him reach the age of 100.

“ ‘I really, absolutely believe exercise is the answer to everything,’ he said. Swimming is the best workout after ballet, Danton said. He still gets some of his exercise from teaching and composing his class for the day. He also has an extensive morning routine centered on a deep tissue massage he gives himself before getting out of bed. Starting with his scalp, then moving down to his neck, shoulders, arms, legs and feet, the one-hour-plus massage stimulates blood circulation, Danton noted.

“ ‘With your thumb, you go as deep as you can into the muscle,’ he said. ‘It works because my body is in incredible condition for my age.’

“Another part of his busy morning routine involves stretching with an elastic resistance band. After all his morning exercises, he said he never eats breakfast before 11 a.m.

“Positive [outlook]: Danton is an optimist, which he called a ‘very important’ factor in his longevity.

“ ‘There’s absolutely no point in making your life miserable,’ he said. ‘Your mood affects you physically, absolutely.’ …

“Danton stays curious about the world and said he is still learning. He has a computer and an iPhone, immediately suggesting that a caller switch to FaceTime during a recent conversation. And he loves his phone’s virtual assistant.

“ ‘Siri amazes me. She answers you immediately,’ he said. …

“Lifestyle: In his whole life, Danton said he has only smoked one cigarette. … Danton hasn’t been to see a doctor in a decade, he said, only running into his primary care physician a few years ago when he was getting a flu shot. The doctor has since retired.”

More at NBC’s Today show, here.

Read Full Post »

01-airport-welcome

Paul Watson (right) and Matthew Conrad arriving in Pohnpei to reenergize Micronesian soccer. Previous coach Charles Musana, from Uganda, came along to do introductions.

Sometimes giving up on your dream lands you in the wrong profession. That’s what happened to Paul Watson. He wasn’t good enough to play Olympic soccer. So he tried soccer journalism, but it bored him. Then he and his friend, just for fun, started researching teams they could have qualified for had they been born in those countries.

James Parkinson reports at the WBUR radio show Only a Game, “From the time he was very young, Paul Watson had one dream: to play soccer.

” ‘My first passion was that I would play for England,’ he says. ‘You know, that was the dream. Despite not having any talent, really. No discernible sort of natural talent. [As] the years went on, it got less and less likely.’ …

“So he became a football [soccer] journalist who kept his dream alive by playing for a semi-pro team. But he says, that wasn’t enough. …

“In 2008, Paul Watson and his flatmate Matthew Conrad found themselves reflecting on their footballing dreams, wondering what life could have been like if they had made it in the professional game.

” ‘We would sit around in the evenings and kind of watch Brazilian second division football and sort of lament our lack of talent,’ Paul remembers. ‘And, one day, like a lot of fans probably around the world, we came up with the thing of saying, “Well, what team could we have played for if we’d been born there?” … We trawled through the FIFA rankings, got to the very, very bottom. … That was when we found the non-FIFA rankings — you know, places that aren’t recognized by FIFA. At the bottom of that was this island, Pohnpei.’

“Pohnpei: it’s an island in Micronesia. Population: just over 36,000. …

” ‘We sent them an email to the address that we could find for them. And that was it. That was supposed to be the end of it. But it was only actually when their head of their FA got back to us and said, “You know, I’d love to help you, but I’ve just moved to London.” ‘ …

“That man was Charles Musana, a Ugandan who had spent 15 years on the island of Pohnpei playing and coaching football.

” ‘And he said to us: “You can’t go there and play. It’s harder to get a Micronesian nationality than it is to get a British one. … Why don’t you come over and coach? The team’s basically disbanded, so come over and coach the team.” And I think he thought we’d laugh about that and go home. But instead, we said, “Yes.”  …

” ‘It was a good sort of 13 months ’til we actually were able to leave because, you know, we had to save up money, we had to give up jobs,’ Paul says. …

” ‘My long-term girlfriend — and now wife, amazingly — Lizzie, basically said, “You should do this. It’s something you want to do.” …

‘Crazy as it might seem, the thing I was most worried about, that gave me sleepless nights, was that someone would get their first,’ Paul says. …

“After 13 months of research, Paul and Matt finally booked their flights to Pohnpei. They were only planning to stay for three weeks to assess the situation. …

“Charles Musana, the man who proposed the idea of coaching the team in the first place, would come along to make introductions. …

“After 24 hours in the air, Paul and Matt arrived in Pohnpei.

” ‘It’s a U.S. protectorate, so it has a bit of a U.S. feel to it,’ Paul says. “Uses the dollar. But in many ways, it’s a tropical paradise. You know, it’s this incredible, shocking greenery and beautiful blue ocean. It’s absolutely stunning. It’s just such a friendly island. Everyone nods to everyone. It’s incredibly laid back. You drive at about 10 mph, and you swerve around all the potholes.’ …

” ‘We met the head of the Olympic committee in Micronesia — he’s called Jim Tobin, a really amazing American man who’s administrated sport there for years. … We were going down to the field every day and just seeing what level of interest there was.

” ‘And it would range. You know, some days we had a five-on-five kick around on this sort of flooded field. Other days, it would get up to sort of 20 people kicking around. Some days, we’d arrange everyone to turn up at 6:00 — they’d get there at 8:00. You know, it was a mess. But there was interest, and there were kids coming out and kicking a football who’d never done it before. There was some who were actually clearly really good.’ …

“When their three weeks on the island were up, Paul and Matt returned home to plan their next move. For Matt, that decision was taken out of his hands. He had gotten into film school — something he’d always wanted to do. But Paul decided to return to Pohnpei and take the coaching job.

“There was no pay. …

” ‘In a weird way, I felt more comfortable that way. Because if I’d taken on a professional role and commanded a salary, it wouldn’t have felt particularly ethical. Because I would have felt I was painting myself as something I wasn’t. … I was getting more out of this than they were in many ways. So it felt like a deal that made sense.’…

“When he returned to Pohnpei, he met a young man named Dilshan Senarathgoda.

” ‘He had been coaching this group of young kids. So I met up with him, and he was absolutely over the moon that I was there,’ Paul says.”

Read what happened next at WBUR, here.

Read Full Post »

beaver-map-saltwater-beavers

Illustration: Mark Garrison
“The mouths of the Elwha, Snohomish, and Skagit rivers in Washington State provide important saltwater habitat for beavers, salmon, and other estuarine species,” says the radio show Living on Earth.

One of the main reasons I like writing a blog is that I like to learn new things and to have something interesting to think about. I save up promising links, sometimes just because the headline looks interesting. Later, when I actually work on the post, it’s such a treat to read the whole story!

When I saw that there was such a thing as saltwater beavers, I thought, Really? This is a keeper!

From the radio show Living on Earth: “Until recently, biologists assumed that beavers occupied freshwater ecosystems only. But scientists are now studying beavers living in brackish water and how they help restore degraded estuaries and provide crucial habitat for salmon, waterfowl, and many other species. Journalist Ben Goldfarb speaks with Host Bobby Bascomb.

“BASCOMB: The eager beaver is an extremely effective engineer of its environment. Beaver dams hold back water that can be a nuisance to homeowners, but they create a complex system of ponds and wetlands that are a haven for numerous plant and animal species. …

“Scientists recently discovered that beavers are also happy to live in the brackish mix of fresh and salt water in coastal areas. And just as they help restore freshwater ecosystems, beavers could also hold the key to restoring damaged coastal wetlands. Journalist Ben Goldfarb wrote about saltwater beavers for Hakai Magazine. …

“Ben, how surprised were you to find out that there are saltwater beavers? …

“GOLDFARB: It was definitely surprising. … It’s just really within the last several years, thanks in large part to this guy, Greg Hood, a scientist who works in the Skagit river in Washington, that we’ve begun to understand that [beavers are] living full-time in these intertidal estuaries. …

“BASCOMB: You actually went to visit one of those beaver lodges on this Snohomish river in Puget Sound. Can you describe that? …

“GOLDFARB: It’s kind of this huge saltmarsh that’s scored with these little freshwater channels that freshwater comes down in. But then when the tide comes up twice a day, those freshwater channels are completely submerged, they’re inundated. So it’s this really dynamic ecosystem with the tides are just going in and out all the time. And beavers are actually building in there. So they’ll build these dams that when the tide comes up, the dams are actually completely submerged under water, you could kayak over the top of one of these dams and have no idea that they were beavers building there. And then when the tide goes out again those dams suddenly reemerge. …

[It’s] almost like the beavers are anticipating these tidal fluctuations and are accounting for them in their construction, and in this really sophisticated way. …

“BASCOMB: How do their dams in these intertidal areas affect the ecosystem around them? …

“GOLDFARB: What Greg found is that [these beaver construction sites] are hugely important for juvenile salmon, especially. You know when the tide goes out, those fish would get flushed out into these estuaries where they’re really at risk of being preyed upon by larger fish, by birds. … Baby salmon were three times more abundant in these beaver pools than in other habitat. …

“BASCOMB: Wow. So, they really serve a critical function. I mean, everybody likes salmon, right? The bears, the whales, people. …

“GOLDFARB: We saw this past year just how badly the southern resident killer whales are doing, the orcas in Puget Sound, and they’re essentially starving because there’s just not enough salmon. …

“BASCOMB: It’s all connected. Now, you write about how beaver ponds can help restore degraded coastal wetlands. And there’s clear evidence for that in removal of dams on the Elwha River in Washington State. …

“GOLDFARB: Two enormous dams had basically been there since the ’20s, I think, just trapping enormous amounts of sediment and blocking salmon runs. … A few years ago the government actually bought those dams and — thanks to pressure from native tribes — removed the dams, and opened up this huge amount of spawning habitat for salmon, so now salmon are swimming up river, past the former dam sites.

“[But] the river mouth had been starved of sediment for so long that it basically just flowed straight into the ocean. There was no real estuary there. … Beavers are really going into town in there. And by creating burrows and canals and dams, they’re just creating this amazing habitat complexity. They’re just opening up lots and lots of little spaces for all kinds of salmon and trout and other fish to live in.”

More here.

Photo: Becky Matsubara, Flickr
Because they build dams that shape the very environments in which they live, beavers are a classic example of a “keystone species.”

beaver-beaver

Read Full Post »

2048

Photo: Kim Stevens/Cape Town Opera
Vuvu Mpofu in a production of Donizetti’s
Maria Stuarda in Cape Town last year.

Who can say why certain random things draw our lives in one direction or another? Did a Mozart aria and a DVD of La Traviata draw this young opera star into an unfamiliar career because her family loved singing? Because the music was so sad? Whatever the reason, Vuvu Mpofu overcame many obstacles because of that powerful draw.

Dalya Alberge writes at the Guardian, “Vuvu Mpofu had never heard opera until, aged 15, she was overwhelmed by a Mozart aria at a school concert. In her home town of Port Elizabeth, South Africa, there were no opera teachers, the library had only one book on the subject, and her classmates were scornful of her interest. But Mpofu overcame all these hurdles: she taught herself to sing by mimicking the singers on two opera DVDs and, several years later, her talent was spotted by a voice coach.

“Now, at 28, the soprano has mentors in the world’s foremost opera companies. … Stephen Langridge, artistic director of Glyndebourne, said Mpofu had a ‘unique’ talent. … ‘People who sing very high in the soprano range can be very impressive … She keeps a humanity and warmth in the sound.’

“Mpofu has been taken aback by such accolades. It is a long way from the two DVDs – one of La Traviata and the other of The Magic Flute – she watched repeatedly as a teenager. ‘I come from a small town in South Africa,’ she said. ‘I never dreamed of any of this.’ Recalling the first time she watched La Traviata, she said: ‘It was overwhelming. I cried while I was watching it. It took my breathe away … I kept on watching, just mimicking how they sang, how they acted. That’s how I taught myself.’

“Mpofu went on to audition successfully for the South African College of Music at Cape Town University, a remarkable feat for someone with no formal training. A voice coach there spotted her potential and helped her get a student loan – although she has yet to pay it off.

“ ‘We were not rich,’ Mpofu said of her family, who loved singing, whether it was gospel, traditional music or choral. ‘I didn’t have things that other kids did … but my mum made sure that we always ate morning, afternoon and evening. At school, people didn’t bring lunches. You had money … If [mum] didn’t have it, I would just make myself bread. I was OK.’

“As she didn’t have a formal music background, her initial studies were challenging, particularly as her mother died not long after she had started. Nevertheless, she went on to study for four years as an undergraduate and two years as a postgraduate.

“Mpofu overcame other challenges. She was mugged by a man with a knife the day before she entered the International Hans Gabor Belvedere singing competition, opera’s ‘world cup,’ when it was staged in Cape Town.

“This was so traumatic that she nearly dropped out of the competition. But, feeling that music was ‘some sort of remedy,’ she sang an aria from La Traviata that got her into the final. She also came third in the prestigious international Operalia competition. …

“Mpofu said competitions had really helped her career. The Belvedere got her noticed by Diane Zola of the Metropolitan Opera, who became one of her mentors. ‘Entering competitions is a way of getting yourself out there to be seen by important people,’ she said. ‘Also, it builds confidence.’ ”

More at the Guardian, here.

Read Full Post »

d8a7d993d8b3db8cd8a7d8a8_d987d8a7db8c_d986d8b4d8aadb8cd981d8a7d986_d8b4d987d8b1d8b3d8aad8a7d986_d8aed988d8a7d981d88c_d8b1d988d8b3d8aad8a7db8c_d986d8b4d8aadb8cd981d8a7d986_d982d8b1d8a7d8b

Photo: Mohammad Hossein Taghi
Ancient vertical windmills in Iran’s Nashtifan village. Proof that “the sun also rises and goeth to his downsetting, and there is no new thing under the sun.”

There’s been a lot of excitement in recent years about using windmills for energy, as if we invented the giants I see on summer visits to New Shoreham (below) before Iran did, Don Quixote, the Dutch, or Denmark.

080516-first-deepwater-windmill

The website Atlas Obscura corrects the misapprehension.

“Located on the arid and windswept plains of northeastern Iran, 30 miles from the Afghan border, the small village of Nashtifan is keeping ancient traditions alive amid the winds of change. The town is home to some of the earliest windmills in the world, and the structures are still in use today.

“Along the southern edge of town, a towering 65-foot-tall earthen wall shelters residents from the abrasive gales. The high wall houses two dozen mostly functional vertical axis windmills that date back to ancient Persian times. It’s estimated the structures, made of clay, straw, and wood, are around 1,000 years old, used for milling grain into flour.

“The area is known for its uniquely powerful winds, and in fact the name Nashtifan is derived from words that translate to ‘storm’s sting.’ During turbulent winter months the handcrafted wooden blades whirl with a surprising velocity and power grindstones in a marvel of engineering and passive ventilation. …

“The tall walls framing the windmills both support the turbines, and funnel the airflow like the elliptical throat in a primitive windtunnel.

Unlike European Don Quixote-style windmills, the Persian design is powered by drag as opposed to lift.

“And since the blades are arrayed on a vertical axis, energy is translated down the mast to the grindstone without the need for any of the intermediary gears found on horizontal axis windmills.”

More at Atlas Obscura, here.

Video: Deveci Tech
Note that today’s hybrid vertical-axis turbines in Turkey are using the same principles to generate wind energy from vehicles speeding by. More on that here.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »