Crossing the Borders of Cuisine or Who Is General Tso Anyway?

NYTimes reporter Jennifer 8. Lee talks about her culinary mission for the origins of familiar Chinese-American dishes, that in many cases aren’t really either one and in others have combined to form a new cuisine.

Let me present the question to you: If our benchmark for Americanness is apple pie, you should ask yourself, how often do you eat apple pie, versus how often do you eat Chinese food..If you think about it, a lot of the foods that Americans think of as Chinese food are barely recognizable to Chinese. For example, I took a whole bunch of fortune cookies back to China, gave them to Chinese to see how they would react. Continue reading

Walking the Talk

Nowadays people are sitting 9.3 hours a day, which is more than we’re sleeping, at 7.7 hours. Sitting is so incredibly prevalent, we don’t even question how much we’re doing it, and because everyone else is doing it, it doesn’t even occur to us that it’s not okay. In that way, sitting has become the smoking of our generation.

If business innovator Nilofer Merchant had her way there would be a “surgeon’s general warning” placed on desk chairs around the world. But she isn’t only referring to the health reasons why we shouldn’t be sitting as much as we are. Continue reading

WED 2013: The Fourth “R”

WED 2013 - Raxa Collective

On June 5, we’ll celebrate World Environment Day. This year UNEP focuses on the theme Food waste/Food Loss. At Raxa Collective we’ll be carrying out actions and sharing experience and ideas. Come and join us with your ideas and tips to preserve foods, preserve resources and preserve our planet.

Recently when thinking about the universal recycling symbol it occurred to me that many of our expectations on how basic human needs are met can be influenced by the three concepts of Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.

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TED talk Majora Carter : Greening the Ghetto, how entrepreneurial conservation and urban regeneration lead to more social justice

This seminal talk from 2006 by Majora Carter, founder of the Majora Carter Group, introduced me to entrepreneurial conservation. So you can say it kind of led me here.

It is unfortunate how the reputation of a neighbourhood may reflect on its inhabitants. In french the silly expression “C’est le Bronx” refers to a messy room. People from the Bronx, Majora Carter included, decided to change this image. In fact, they decided to reclaim their rivers, their air, their land while creating jobs, leisure activities for local families, a safer gentler environment for children to grow up in.

It’s a story I’d like to hear about in many neighbourhoods around the world.

TED Says Thank You In A Big Way

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TED’s blog has this description of the man who it awarded $1 million this year:

It’s a question on so many minds: what will the future of education look like?

It’s something Sir Ken Robinson has asked for decades…Robinson got the opportunity to announce the winner of the 2013 TED Prize, someone who has a bold answer.

“So many kids are disengaged from education and there’s a tendency to confuse testing with learning,” says Robinson in his introduction. “What drives learning is curiosity, questioning … What fires people up to learn is having their mind opened up by possibilities.”

And with that, he revealed the winner of the $1 million TED Prize: education innovator Sugata Mitra, who has given two TED Talks over the years and released a TED ebook called Beyond The Hole in The Wall.

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Denser, Faster, Greener

Click the image above to go to the article in which Alex Steffens, of Worldchanging (and TED, and plenty of other deserved) fame gives a synopsis on how to ramp up urban greening most efficiently:

If we’re talking about transportation, the best thing a city can do is densify as quickly as it can. That needs to be said every time this issue comes up, because it’s the only universal strategy that works. That’s the best-documented finding in urban planning—that as density goes up, trip length goes down and transportation energy use goes down.

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Optimism and Opportunity

Many of my posts reflect my outlook to err on the upside of life’s circumstances.  I try to drown out my inner (and often powerful) pessimism by surrounding myself with positivity and optimism.  I find that this is a careful balance of being hopeful while remaining realistic.  Today, when I was taking a break from my coursework, or the slightly negative part of my day, I watched an encouraging Ted Talk that I think demonstrates hopeful realism.

Johan Rockstrom suggests that the earth is at a point where major transformation must occur.  He optimistically recommends that we use and continue to use crises as opportunities and local initiatives to transform and sustain life.  Also, he makes a realistic statement that climate change is not our biggest problem only a symptom of our land use.

I found this talk engaging and thought-provoking.  I agree that I transformation is soon to happen and I look forward to being a part of it.

Positively Happy

My high school chemistry teacher always said, “Don’t be negative; be positive.  Multiply the love and divide the hate,” while she used her hands and fingers to represent each mathematical symbol.  This phrase would surface in my memory occasionally, but I must admit I rarely took it to heart.  However, I was preparing for a presentation about affirmations when I stumbled across a Ted Talk that affirmed this old saying.

I found this short speech relatable, funny, and surprisingly thought-provoking.

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Bright Ideas

Ingenuity can go a long way in meeting people’s essential needs with the simplest of materials.

The recipe: Start with students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), add basic materials destined for dumps and landfills around the world, mix with filtered water and bleach, install, expose to sunlight. And voilà!–a light that will last for 10 years!

The Solar Bottle Bulb is based on the principles of Appropriate Technologies – a concept that provides simple and easily replicable technologies that address basic needs in developing communities.

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Fringe Physics

We have a soft spot for unusual geniuses, whether formally defined, or recognized in other ways, so it is with pleasure that we discovered this book (click the image to the left), its author, and a TED talk (after the jump) to boot.

For the past fifteen years, acclaimed science writer Margaret Wertheim has been collecting the works of “outsider physicists,” many without formal training and all convinced that they have found true alternative theories of the universe. Jim Carter, the Einstein of outsiders, has developed his own complete theory of matter and energy and gravity that he demonstrates with experiments in his backyard‚-with garbage cans and a disco fog machine he makes smoke rings to test his ideas about atoms. Captivated by the imaginative power of his theories and his resolutely DIY attitude, Wertheim has been following Carter’s progress for the past decade.

Click the picture to the right for a podcast that gives a nifty overview of the book. Click here for a review of the book from a great blog connected to Columbia University’s math department. Click here for an excellent review in a once great and occasionally still good newspaper’s website. And click here for a review from an always great magazine’s website.

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When I posted about the artist Vik Muniz a few days ago I wrote primarily about his collaborative film with director Lucy Walker. I feel I didn’t do justice to the general wit of his work.  Like fellow artists Chris Jordan and Mary Ellen Croteau,  Muniz is an ultimate recycler, but his “puckish” personality informs his work, both through his choice of medium (sugar to create shimmering portraits of the children of cane workers on St. Kitts) or visual jokes (Pre-Columbian drip coffee maker). Continue reading

A World Apart*

Stranded Iceberg III, Cape Bird Antarctica, December 2006, Camille Seaman

2011 TED fellow Camille Seaman has been photographing Icebergs for 10 years.  In her talk below she speaks of her first visceral response to their immensity and their fragility.  Her images tell the stories of their births, as they face their environments as distinct individuals, and poignantly of their deaths, as they each move toward their inevitable end. Continue reading

Music of the Spheres

Changing Water – Gulf of Maine, 2011, Nathalie Miebach

Tones sound, and roar and storm about me until I have set them down in notes                                                              —Ludwig van Beethoven

Boston artist Nathalie Miebach found the seemingly unlikely intersection between astronomy, meteorology, ecology and basket weaving, essentially translating data into 3 dimensions… then she adds the plane of music.  For her work, Miebach was selected as a 2011 TEDGlobal Fellow.

Initially focusing her woven sculptures on data from the stars, her work was rerouted by a call from two weather scientists at Tufts University.  Intrigued by her work and it’s possible applications, they asked her to collect weather data on Cape Cod.  From that point on, winds, temperature, barometric pressures, and rainfall became part of the raw material for her artistic work. Continue reading

Wind, Water, Light

Janet Echelman, Her Secret is Patience, Phoenix, AZ, U.S.A. 2009

American artist Janet Echelman has worked in numerous mediums throughout her career and has a long history of working collaboratively with communities outside of her own culture, whether it be Balinese textile artisans or Indian bronze castors.

A Fulbright lectureship about painting brought her to Mahabalipuram, India, a fishing village in Tamil Nadu famous for sculpture. But it was watching the millennia-old craft of weaving and working with nets that ultimately inspired the work that now defines her art. When she watched the men making piles of nets on the shore she began wondering if the material was “a way to create volumetric form without heavy, solid materials.”   Continue reading