Saturday, March 1, 2014

Deserts & Dead Whales

Any time you find an article featuring 'dead whales' in the title, you just have to read on. It's natural human empathy, right? Sort of like sad puppy pictures. They lure you in like an emotional trap! At least that's my philosophy. And this is exactly what happened to me the other day. I read an article about a mysterious desert whale grave site, and bam- I was hooked. Why was there a mass whale die off here? What happened to these poor guys? Did they suffer?! Were there heart-wrenching SPCA commercials about them too??

Better yet, why were they in a desert!? Questions clearly must be answered. Thus, I present to you:

The Great Atacama Desert

Widely known as the driest location on earth, it's no wonder this place is a whale-killer. In fact, our friends at Nat. Geo claim that parts of this desert have never had a recorded drop of rain. Sheesh! I'll try to remember that next time I claim to be "dying of thirst..." So now that we've decided to never visit Atacama, Chile, let's learn a little more about this so-called whale mystery. 

In 2010, a grave site was found here containing the bones of 40 whales. Since the deaths were said to have occurred 6-9 million years ago, the question becomes not why the whales once were here, but more of what caused their sudden die-off? Apparently, microscopic algae can be quite a killer too. A massive algae bloom causing toxic effects has recently been announced as the culprit. Just when you thought you were safe as one of the world's largest mammals...minuscule enemies strike again!

Because there is literally NO moisture in the Atacama, (dead) things are quite well preserved. This explains why so many of the whale fossils were discovered in such great condition.  

Other interesting facts about the great Atacama Desert:
  • this giant hand sculpture 
  • over 1 million people somehow make a living in the Atacama today
  • temperatures in the Atacama are actually rather cold, averaging only 32-77 degrees F! 
  • 'marine fog' is the only harvest-able source of water for locals 
  • in July 2011, it SNOWED here
Okay, maybe I will reconsider adding this travel destination after all! So cool.

The cool articles I read:

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Careful Getting High

After spending the evening with my ever-inspiring friend Rachel, she met every expectation and left me with my third installment of Inspiration Week. Without any prelude, I think I'll entitle this post:

Be Careful Getting High.

And now for the background: Rachel is moving to Colorado. And Colorado is known for having................. .....................well, you know....................... ............................ ........................ ......................... ................ ................... .......... MOUNTAINS!

Ok yeah yeah, mountains. But these aren't just any mountains- from someone who lives on the East Coast, these guys are massive. So massive, there's an adopted local lingo for them known as "fourteeners" referring to the fact that they rise over 14,000 ft above sea level! Well now if it's been slang-ified you know it's gotta be cool (that, and the fact that they jet up miles high into the sky).

Climbing these big guys is definitely a big deal, and not just because they're 53 of them (within the state). After doing a little research, I found out that thrill-seeking adventure hikers must be cautious climbing too high due to risk of altitude sickness. Honestly, I knew of no such thing. But here it is, all the reasons why you should be careful getting high:

  • There are 3 types of altitude related disease- Acute Mountain Sickness, High Altitude Pulmonary Edema, and High Altitude Cerebral Edema (don't think I'd mess with that last one...)
    • Acute Mountain Sickness
      • Commonly experienced when traveling above 3,500 m
      • Symptoms include: headache, nausea, fatigue, and disorientation all with a slow onset
      • Medication exists to prevent symptoms and can be taken up to a week in advance
      • To best acclimate, drink LOTS of water and travel SLOWLY
    • High Altitude Pulmonary Edema
      • Life threatening condition where fluid accumulates in the lungs
      • Symptoms include: difficulty breathing while at rest, coughing, chest tightness, cyanosis (aka blue tinted skin color)
      • Caused by low blood oxygen levels
      • What to do- descend and quickly obtain an oxygen mask!
    • High Altitude Cerebral Edema
      • Basically occurs when fluid permeates the blood-brain barrier. Potentially fatal.
      • Symptoms include: fever, confusion, loss of consciousness, ataxia, rapid heartbeat and severe headaches
      • Very rare- Only seen in 0.5-1% of hikers venturing above 4,000m
      • What to do- descend immediately, get oxygen and seek medical attention!
Good luck Rachel! ;)

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Flame Retardant Sodas

Day two of Inspiration Week: As I searched the day for hints of intriguing blog potential, it finally presented itself through the unexpected form of my coworker, Allison. In passing conversation at the vending machine, I stunningly registered the words "flame retardant" and "soda" enter the same sentence.

I'm sorry, what did you just say?? Apparently, a controversial chemical exists in many sodas and power drinks that is also used as a flame retardant. Duh duh duhhhh.... And that's why the back of your virtual cereal box today is all about:

 Flame Retardant Sodas: The Story About Brominated Vegetable Oil

For those of you unfamiliar with this subject (which is probably anyone still reading, or perhaps it's just me), the story gained public attention because many fancy soft drinks like Mountain Dew and Gatorade were found to contain a compound banned in other countries. Soo, my soda is toxic in Japan, yet magically non-toxic here in America, great! 

The culprit: brominated vegetable oil. Apparently this chemical is dangerous 'only in excessive quantities,' as are many typical ingredients (think sugar for one thing). This leads me to two questions: Is this a story of an over-dramatic society prone to exaggeration (a.k.a- America)? Or, does this substance really pose an actual health issue? 

Let's consider- BVO is on a list entitled "generally recognized as safe" put for by the FDA. Good thing the word 'generally' is in there, right? Then again, I do always strangely get a headache after drinking Mountain Dew and Gatorade...(<-true statement.) Sounds like the answer is... who knows.

To help you decide, here are a few quick facts:
  • BVO is currently on a list of acceptable additives designated by the FDA
  • The ingredient is reportedly banned in Japan and European counties
  • It is used as an emulsifier to give drinks a certain look and distribute flavor evenly 
  • Major brands containing BVO include orange Fanta, Mountain Dew, orange and citrus Gatorade, as well as similar flavors of Powerade. 
    • It is found in 10% of US sodas
  • PepsiCo has since agreed to discontinue usage of the substance. 
    • BVO will be replaced with sucrose acetate isobutyrate. (Hopefully this one won't be my next blog topic.)
  • BVO is a patented flame retardant for plastics

Welp, all I can say is... at least it's not ice cream!

*What I read:

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Hedgehogs in Hats

In light of discovering that yesterday, January 6th, was actually "Blue Monday"- the so called 'most depressing day of the year,' I have deemed the upcoming days as Inspiration Week! (Hey, everyone needs a project...

*Note first original drawing. Inspiration at its finest.)

During my self-proclaimed Inspiration Week, I have decided to create a series of posts inspired by the oh-so-inspirational people around me. First up- MOM.

Mom calls at work today with extra-exciting news to share. 'And what's that great news?' you're surely wondering:

"I just bought a pet hedgehog!!"  

And there it is- mom buys a pet hedgehog... named Dupree. Seeing as how the Great Hedgehog Event was worthy of a phone call at work, I figure it must also be worthy of cereal box news as well. Alright, here we go!

This post is all about the hedgiest-of-hogs: Meet DUPREE!

Okay, this isn't actually my mom's hedgehog. But that's besides the point. Here's what really matters!

  • Hedgehogs will ingest poisonous plants just to create poisonous saliva to rub all over their spines. Just when you thought a built-in armor was enough... meet: toxic armor.
  • There's a surprising number of Google images for 'hedgehogs in hats'. Look it up. 
  • Another popular search is 'Hedgehogs as pets'
  • Hedgies were domesticated in the 1980's, but apparently "still have much of their wild behaviors, including fear of humans."* Ah the perfect pet, one that fears humans...
  • Lastly, it is illegal to own a hedgehog in the following cities/states:
    • California
    • Georgia
    • Hawaii
    • Douglas County, NE
    • New York City, NY  


Good day to you.

*Thank you, Wikipedia. 

Monday, January 6, 2014

The Lost Art of Gold Stars

It's been awhile since I last published a blog post. I started this blog as a way to challenge myself to seek out, remember, and share extra cool things I discover each day. Especially those "Ah hah!" moments-- You know, the kind where you make a mind-blowing, out of body connection with some newly revealed information, and then promptly lose the moment forever? That's what I want to avoid.

Despite being the world's least consistent blogger, I haven't actually forgotten or given up on writing- (cerea-ously). Having been out of the academic world for a while now, I found myself sitting at my little work desk wondering "What in the world I had actually been learning recently?? Why do I have nothing interesting to discuss??" I racked my brain forever (a solid 5 minutes at least I'd say), but the truth is, I couldn't come up with anything! Then the sadness hit me. "Am I not learning anymore?! Am I not paying attention to the intriguing world around me?" NO, Audrey, YOU'RE NOT.

Okay that might be a little tough. But I did realize that now more than ever I have to seek out new information. In school, it's presented to you. Not anymore! That said, I am hereby making major efforts to consciously seek out new information, explore, and document it on my own accord.

And although I failed to conjure up a mystifyingly profound blog article for today, I decided to come up with a list of equally important adult-tasks I've undertaken that shouldn't go unnoticed. Less glamorous than weird-science and steamy pop culture news, yes, but no less deserving of mention. Anyone out there attempting new things and going beyond the 'routine' definitely gets a handful of gold stars from me!! So here's to some small motivation to break through the boring, dull, repetitive life that can define adulthood.

And without further adieu, here are the Gold Stars I'm presenting myself:
  • Figuring out the bus system in a new city (only waited at the wrong bus stop once...)
  • Making perfect Jell-O shots
  • Parallel parking championships
  • Troubleshooting my own computer
  • Starting a blog!
  • Checking my tire pressure AND refilling them (BAM-- who's an adult now?)
  • Driving the deadly freeways of L.A..... and living to tell the tale
Today's Lesson Simplified:

This does not have to be you ^^^ Adult-hood can be exciting, exhilarating and INTERESTING. Challenge yourself to learn something new!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Around the World in 152 Days

Ever done anything really cool and athletic that you’re really proud of? Perhaps you've completed a triathlon, 10k run, or maybe you worked your way up to being a level 8 gymnast. Well prepare to feel unaccomplished! Make way for:

Miss Juliana Buhring
fastest woman to circumnavigate the world by BIKE.

That may actually be worth repeating, so let me reiterate- 27 year old woman rides bicycle around the entire globe. 4 Continents. 19 Countries. 18,000 miles. ON A BIKE.

In 152 days, Juliana Buhring set the world record for her incredible cycling feat. If you just found yourself thinking “Wow, I had no idea cycling around the world was even possible,” don’t worry- that was only the first of many questions I had. So here’s what I discovered:
  • She trained for 8 months and averaged 124 miles per day
  • Of a totaled 144 days actually cycling, she suffered 29 flat tires
    • She can now change a flat in under 3 minutes
  • Before starting to train, she had never ridden a bike
  • She holds the Guinness World Record for 'fastest female to circumnavigate the globe' (as well as the only female to do so... imagine that)
  • She burned 6-7,000 calories a day
  • India was the most dangerous country she rode through. The US was most entertaining. Turkey was the nicest.
So if you're suddenly inspired to morph your next leisurely bike ride into a race around the world, just be sure to have at least 25-30 spare tires, money to eat 3x the food you consume now, and 152 days free of commitment, oh- and absolutely NO FEAR.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Locks of Love

After a good friend came back from traveling Europe and told me about this, I decided it was definitely a breakfast-worthy conversation. I've heard of wishing wells, love letters, anonymous flowers, and even graffiti as creative outlets for professing love, but padlocks affixed to public bridges? Classier than vandalism, more personal than a coin, bolder than a note—and BAM! You have a solid equation for love... or superstition. At this point, all that really matters is- what a cool destination spot!

Paris’s Pont de l'Archevêché: A Famous Love Bridge


Unbeknownst to me, this concept isn't new or unique to Europe. There are plenty of other notable places around the world with love-lock sites as well. Prague (Czech Rep.), Vrnjačka Banja (Serbia), Rome (Italy), Seoul (South Korea), Taichung (Taiwan), all have impressive public padlock structures. Even a few spots in the U.S. are catching on to this artsy PDA trend- Cabrillo Bridge in San Diego, and the Brooklyn Bridge in New York. Couples around the globe show up to these particular sites to secure a little lasting luck in their relationships.

With all this bountiful romantic faith, what’s not to love?

Apparently, there actually lies some controversy around these seemingly innocent lock displays:
  1. Structural safety concerns over the metal locks blocking views and adding weight
  2. Degradation of public property
  3. Being an aesthetic eyesore in the face of nature

Oh right, the vicious dark side to padlocks. How could I forget? Despite the controversy however, I am a fan of these eccentric little PDA creations.

Keep going strong love bridges of the world!