Monthly Archives: October 2011

Huntington Beach Wetlands Conservancy

In 1985 a small group of concerned citizens set off on a mission to protect the last remaining wetlands in Huntington Beach, some 147 acres out of what used to be over 3,000.

Today, their dream is coming true as the Huntington Beach Wetland Conservancy owns and has restored a majority of the land, some 100 acres from the Santa Ana River to the AES Power Plant.

The remaining pieces are a 44-acre parcel located between Newland and Beach Blvd, and a tiny triangle, some 7/10 an acre, sandwiched between the Huntington Waterfront Hilton and a new residential neighborhood. These, too, will soon be owned by the Conservancy.

Here is how that Newland Marsh looks now:

Dry, full of trash and non-native invasive plants

And, the restored marshes:

That's a Grey Heron in the center drinking some water (click pic to view large size).

The difference is clearly the water.

Why Wetlands?

A wetland is “the link between land and water and are some of the most productive ecosystems in the world. Some common names for different types of wetlands are swamp, marsh and bog.

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Homemade organic toothpaste: baking soda and water (that’s it!)

A few months ago I made the switch from store toothpaste to the homemade version. There were so many recipes available on the internet that it was hard to find the right one. After several months of experimenting I’ve found the perfect recipe:

Baking Soda + Water

I can’t believe it either, but it works really well. Baking soda is a natural cleanser that helps control pH balance and neutralizes any substance that causes stains or odors. This means that not only will your family’s teeth shine, but they will have much less phlegm.

This also allows you to help your kids skip all the chemicals in the store-bought toothpaste, including fluoride which has some controversy surrounding small children.

No exact measurements are required, but you will notice that baking soda tends to stay dry. So just add a little water every so often.

I store mine in a used plastic container and that’s it!

You really can’t beat this deal since baking soda is so cheap. Plus, you have no waste products, a great bonus considering that very few of those toothpaste tubes are recyclable.

Should you be tempted to try out some of the other homemade toothpaste recipes, here is some advice.

Absolutely skip the hydrogen peroxide. I can’t believe people recommend this but they do say it matches the “cleaning power” of store toothpaste. That’s a scary thought.

I’ve also tried adding salt, coconut oil, and vegetable glycerin. Only coconut oil wasn’t dreadful and is promoted as “naturally anti-bacterial and anti-viral,” but I didn’t notice any benefit.

Finally, if you want some flavor I recommend cinnamon, but add just a dash as it is pretty powerful. Many sites also recommend mint but it hasn’t worked for me. I’ve even used fresh garden mint to no avail. Maybe I need to grind it to dust, mortar and pestle style.

I hope this helps you make the switch and make sure to let me know how it goes!

Classic magazine ad from Ipana.

Photos: CRZ (baby), Nesster (Ipana Ad)

Homemade organic toothpaste: baking soda and water (that's it!)

A few months ago I made the switch from store toothpaste to the homemade version. There were so many recipes available on the internet that it was hard to find the right one. After several months of experimenting I’ve found the perfect recipe:

Baking Soda + Water

I can’t believe it either, but it works really well. Baking soda is a natural cleanser that helps control pH balance and neutralizes any substance that causes stains or odors. This means that not only will your family’s teeth shine, but they will have much less phlegm.

This also allows you to help your kids skip all the chemicals in the store-bought toothpaste, including fluoride which has some controversy surrounding small children.

No exact measurements are required, but you will notice that baking soda tends to stay dry. So just add a little water every so often.

I store mine in a used plastic container and that’s it!

You really can’t beat this deal since baking soda is so cheap. Plus, you have no waste products, a great bonus considering that very few of those toothpaste tubes are recyclable.

Should you be tempted to try out some of the other homemade toothpaste recipes, here is some advice.

Absolutely skip the hydrogen peroxide. I can’t believe people recommend this but they do say it matches the “cleaning power” of store toothpaste. That’s a scary thought.

I’ve also tried adding salt, coconut oil, and vegetable glycerin. Only coconut oil wasn’t dreadful and is promoted as “naturally anti-bacterial and anti-viral,” but I didn’t notice any benefit.

Finally, if you want some flavor I recommend cinnamon, but add just a dash as it is pretty powerful. Many sites also recommend mint but it hasn’t worked for me. I’ve even used fresh garden mint to no avail. Maybe I need to grind it to dust, mortar and pestle style.

I hope this helps you make the switch and make sure to let me know how it goes!

Classic magazine ad from Ipana.

Photos: CRZ (baby), Nesster (Ipana Ad)

Historical Photos of European Royalty (1910-1915)

Enjoy the photos and make sure to check out the series: Historical Photos

Countess Nada Torbay (England)

 

Princess Friedrich Karl of Hesse (Germany)
Crown Princess of Rumania
St. Patrick's Welcome to Cardinal Farley

 

Maharaja of Bikaner (India)
Vice Admiral Rokuro Yashiro (Japan)

Wikipedia – V. Admiral Yahsiro

Prince Leopold of Belgium

 

Prince Leopold of Belgium
Guard at the Eiffel Tower, at right a wireless station (radio) being built.
The 1912 Summer Olympic Games in Stockholm, Sweden. Shows (left to right) Prince Wilhelm of Sweden and Norway (1884-1965), Duke of Sïdermanland; Crown Prince Gustav VI Adolf of Sweden (1882-1973) with their father King Gustav V.

 

Marjorie Ficken

 

Princess Mary of England

 Photos courtesy of the Library of Congress Archives

More Photos

Historical Baseball Photos (1880-1915)

Be Prepared for Facebook Timeline (UPDATED)

This is a guest post by Kirby Plessas (@kirbstr), President and CEO of Plessas Experts Network, a consultancy that informs, trains, and researches for clients on internet technology, information extraction, security and worldwide internet usage. 

Just as users are getting settled into the new Facebook feed style that was released a few weeks ago, Facebook is prepping again for another major change.  I don’t purport to know all of the effects of the next set of changes, but at least three items have caught my attention.

First, is the shiny and pretty new timeline feature. I have to admit, it is going to make profile pages much more attractive. I have not switched to timeline early although I know that some friends have because I wanted to wait until the official switch so I can experience the changes with the masses and notice what is effecting them. This is also the reason why I don’t use any add-ons to adjust my Facebook view (although I know there are some great functional ones out there, such as Better Facebook or the Chrome extension that suppresses the new and annoying ticker). I like my Facebook raw and gritty, if you will.

But the beauty and the danger in the new Timeline feature is that it partially solves one of the major gaps in Facebook – search. Now, I am unsure that you will be able to search through time on a profile via keyword (as would ultimately be my preference), but you could rewind and fast-forward through someone’s account through their timeline and see what they had to say a year ago or more. While this might not seem to be a privacy issue (users put this information out there – they didn’t care then), it is because until now, profile visitors could only go back in time to a minor degree to see what was posted. People change their minds and opinions they may have had two years ago may no longer be valid or what seemed funny back then might not seem funny now.

Luckily, Facebook has already provided us with a privacy tool that will keep the history within your timeline private, however, it is pretty much napalm to everything in your account. If you take a look at your privacy settings, there is an option to “limit the audience for your past posts.” This allows you to retroactively reset the privacy setting for everything you have in your account up until now to your default setting. I’ve used it a few times to set everything to “friends only,” which wiped out the few public posts I had created, and it works like a charm. To block your timeline from being exploited, you could use that tool to set all past posts to “only me” and thus make them privately searchable but blocked even to friends. I’m going to do this… soon. But the side effect is that everything posted up through now will be effectively wiped out from any of my friends’ point of view. Anything I want them to see, I will have to find myself and manually redo the privacy settings so they can view it. I don’t guarantee this would be the case with photos as well (which is probably the main thing I would want my friends to see on my timeline), but I am guessing it is.

MAJOR EDIT: Turns out this is not a solution after all. While Facebook limits posts you made viewable to the public or friends of friends to a default “friends” setting, it won’t affect every post and you cannot set it to “Only Me.” As a result, you will have to go through and get rid of posts manually. Because Facebook doesn’t give you an easy way to do this until you activate Timeline, I am changing my stance on activating it early and suggest anyone who wants to know what it will do to their account before it is viewable by everyone, activate Timeline now.

Second, timeline will also prompt users into entering even more data about themselves, such as previous employment. This might be a counter against popular professional networking site, LinkedIn. If people move their resumes and CVs over to Facebook, they may no longer have a need for yet another social network. Keep your eyes open, you may see professional recommendations as a new feature eventually. In addition, it prompts users to select which of their Facebook friends worked or studied at the same places, effectively tagging this onto multiple people’s profiles and timelines all at once. I have required all tags to be approved by me before adding them to may account and I suggest you do the same so that your resume is not automatically filled out for you by well-meaning friends.

Last note on Timeline – I just came across this article that shows that Timeline might give away your real birthday (at least year) even if you marked it private. Heads up.

Second, is the new instant sharing innovation, a definite privacy issue. Like Timeline, this isn’t a big deal if you are paying attention, but there are so many people out there apparently not paying attention to even the most basic Facebook privacy changes. Coming soon, any Facebook App that you add could include the new automatic sharing option where instead of “liking” a web article, just that fact that you clicked on the link to read that article or watched a video would be broadcast across Facebook to your default privacy settings. Some might not care, but others may not want professional friends to know how much they read the gossip pages, others may not want their political preferences highlighted across Facebook, etc. There are quite a few people already concerned about this.

I have a solution (work around) for you that I will be employing myself. First, go through your applications and delete the ones you don’t recognize. I would only keep the ones actively in use. This could solve the problem entirely, but some apps you may not want drop. If you are actively using one that might expose your reading habits (which could be any), then move on to the next step.

Since I am going to keep using my favorite apps and some of those might employ this instant sharing, I am banishing Facebook to its own dedicated browser. I’ll probably use Opera. The key is to use a browser that is different enough from your commonly used browser so that they will not share cookies/logins. If you use Chrome, don’t use Flock (or Rockmelt?) as they are based on the same code and could share cookies. Same with different versions of Firefox. Choose a browser that you like but don’t often use and keep it strictly for Facebook use. I do need to highlight that you will need to log out of Facebook on your active browser and delete all cookies for this to work, a major side effect of which would be that you cannot then use Facebook as the login to other sites using that same browser. This could be a major detractor for some, as the Facebook login across multiple sites is a great convenience and in many cases more secure.

Third and last, there is also the controversy over Facebook tracking users even when logged out. I’m not surprised, but the uproar about it reminds me of the uproar over the iPhone GPS tracking issue, so I wonder if that will stop Facebook from extensive tracking for a while. To me, this is almost a non-issue since I now expect to be tracked by pretty much every website I visit whether I log in or not. I’m also being tracked by my browsers and search engines. Everyone wants to know where I’ve been, what I had for lunch and whether I prefer Pepsi or Coke. This is the way the internet pays for itself. The only thing that really bugs me about it is that it is very secretive. Many people I know are talking about tracking and its pros and cons but there are also many people who are uneducated about who tracks you, why they track you, and how to avoid being tracked when desired. To learn more about internet tracking, please check out the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Here are some relevant articles.

Mark Zuckerberg at the F8 conference announcing Facebook Timeline.

Photos: Roebot (timeline), Dtweney (Zuckerberg, F8)

A quest for vision in Namibia

The Peace Corps Chronicles – Part 1

 

The Beginning

As a Peace Corps Volunteer in an African village, I am a teacher, librarian, HIV/AIDS coordinator, after-school program manager and all-around helper for any school functions.

Upon arriving here in Namibia, I had a great ambition to accomplish many things in my two-year service. I did a lot of brain-storming until it occurred to me that the students don’t need big things because they face serious and immediate issues such as malnutrition, hunger, poor hygiene, broken families, and the list continues.

It would be ill not to mention that Namibia has one of the highest HIV infection rates in Africa, and the nearest town has one of the highest within Namibia. All of my kids are affected by this in one way or another.

With that said, I reevaluated what my school and students needed. In the village resources and life are very basic. The schoolhouse has no electricity, no nurse, no continuous feeding program, broken chairs and desks, and missing many other basic items. Moreover, I noticed that not many students wear glasses.

Is it possible that something as fundamental as vision is not being addressed. What if the reason some kids are misbehaving or failing is because they can’t see?

Over half of the students are documented as OVC’s (Orphans and Vulnerable Children). Along with hardship at home, life at school could seem even more hopeless if you are struggling to read whats on the board and in the textbook.

With these facts and observations, the motor started churning in my head. I consulted another volunteer and luckily found that he had already initiated something similar. With his help I began my quest to aid the kids who deserve to be treated with fairness and open opportunities. What better a way to fight poverty and hardship then a motivation for educational success. Now, I realized the project to work on.

NEXT: PART II: The Initiation

The author, Spencer Mandzik, joined the Peace Corps in Feb 2010 as a volunteer in Namibia, Africa. He is living with an African family and learning to speak the local language of Oshiwambo. These are his stories as he follow’s John F. Kennedy’s dream to serve our country “in the cause of peace by living and working in developing countries.”

Namibia (in red)

Examples of what you can say to Siri on iOS 5 and iPhone 4S

When Apple announced the new iPhone the hubbub was over the hardware and the name (iPhone 4S and not iPhone 5).

Then there was this little buzz about Siri that kept popping up. Most of us ignored the announcement because of all the (negative) hoopla around voice-recognition.

Yet, many are predicting that this software, indeed an App, is the most revolutionary technology in the new phone. They may have a point. After all, it’s not the invention that creates the change, it’s the application of it and the ensuing massive adoption that does (think Henry Ford).

With that in mind, Apple might be on to something. They are bringing to the table a top-of-the-line smartphone, all of their native Apps, the best logic engine on the internet (Wolfram Alpha), and a massive user base.

A powerful combination that may cause the shift that creates the avalanche.

For more on this check out Paul Miller’s insightful, Why Siri just might work.

For me, I will definitely be using Siri as a Personal Assistant. There are at least five actions from the below list that I perform all the time:

  • Set an alarm
  • Take a note
  • Send text
  • Get driving directions
  • Google anything

 

How about you, do you use any of these Apps?

 

  • Address Book
  • Calendar
  • Clock
  • E-mail
  • Maps
  • Messages
  • iPod
  • Notes
  • Phone
  • Reminders
  • Stocks
  • Weather
  • Internet

Do you perform any of these actions?
Address Book:

  • Querying Contacts - What’s Amy’s address?
  • Finding Contacts - Show Amy Senger
  • Relationships - My mom is Fran Tarkenton

Calendars

  • Adding events – create a meeting at 9
  • Changing events – move meeting from 9am to 12pm
  • Asking about events - what is my schedule for the rest of the day?

Alarms

  • Setting an alarm – wake me up tomorrow at 7am
  • Check the clock – what is today’s date?
  • Using a timer – set the timer for 20 minutes

Reminders

  • General reminder – remind me to take my umbrella
  • Reminder to call – remind me to call mom
  • Reminder to call, location – remind me to call mom when I get home
  • Reminder to call, geo-fence – remind me to call mom when I leave here
  • Reminder with time – remind me to call mom tomorrow morning

E-mail

  • Sending messages – e-mail Shawn: Surfing on Saturday?
  • Checking messages – show last e-mail from Shawn
  • Responding to messages – reply to Shawn, time change on Saturday works

Friends

  • Check on Friends – where is Jesse?
  • Temporary geo-fencing for events – GPS location of all friends during an event

Maps

  • Directions – how do I get home?
  • Local business – show nearest Starbucks

Messages

  • Sending texts – tell Amy I’m coming home
  • Reading texts – read new message
  • Replying to texts – reply: yes I will pick up some milk

iPod

  • Play music – play: Beatles – Let it Be

Notes

  • Create notes – there once was a boy named Stevie
  • Find notes – locate note about boy named Stevie

Phone

  • Phone calls – call girlfriend

Stocks

  • Check stock price – what is Apple’s stock price?
  • Check index price – how is the NASDAQ doing?
  • Check details on stock – what is Apple’s P/E ratio?

Weather

  • Forecast – what is the weather?
  • Forecast date – what will the weather be tomorrow?
  • Forecast time – what is the weather tonight?
  • Forecast location – what is the weather in Berlin?
  • Forecast details – is it windy today?

Internet search

  • Information search – find definition of hubbub
  • Wolfram Alpha – square root of 52?
  • Near unlimited google queries…

For an even more complete list TUAW has, What can you say to Siri?

 

Family History Day: a new American holiday

Would you like to celebrate a new holiday with me?

I call it Family History Day, or Ancestors Day. 

Let’s celebrate it right before Halloween with a variety of fun and somber rituals, pulled from the most popular festivals around the world:

  • Qingming festival from East Asia
  • Día de los Muertos from Mexico
  • The rituals of Shinto in Japan.

From each I have chosen the best elements and combined them together to form a truly marvelous holiday. One that, I hope, will accomplish the goal: to gain wisdom. Wisdom is an elusive foe, one that evades us all our lives. Sometimes we find it right before we die or after a great tragedy, but none of us have it on a daily basis. This holiday is an attempt to find wisdom every year by seeking out those in our past who had it, for just a brief moment. It also formalizes the search into a ritual that can teach us about family, honor, and respect. Here is how other cultures celebrate.

Qingming

The Qingming Festival, often called Ancestors Day, occurs on the Spring Equinox, usually around April 15, and is celebrated in many countries from China to Cambodia. “Celebrants remember and honour their ancestors at grave sites. Young and old pray before the ancestors, sweep the tombs and offer food, tea, wine, chopsticks, paper accessories, and/or libations to the ancestors.” “It is also the time when young couples start courting. Families go on outings.” There is also a rich history of honoring ones ancestors through poetry and painting.

English Translation:

The ceaseless drizzle drips all the dismal day, So broken-hearted fares the traveler on the way. When asked where could be found a tavern bower, A cowboy points to yonder village of the apricot flower.

Día de loe Muertos

Día de los Muertos, translates as Day of the Dead, is celebrated in Mexico over two days, November 1-2. The first day honors children and second honors deceased relatives. It is a fun and morbid holiday that celebrates death with joy. Families create candy and treats for children in the shape of skulls and skeletons.

Young ones get involved with costumes and skeleton dolls at parties with dancing and music. Adults visit cemeteries to “build private altars containing the favorite foods and beverages as well as photos and memorabilia of the departed.” Celebrated on the Catholic holiday All Souls Day, the intent is to encourage visits by the souls, so that they will hear the prayers and the comments of the living directed to them. Celebrations can take a humorous tone, as celebrants remember funny events and anecdotes about the departed.

Shinto

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