Liberated from laundry? Humanity and my take on this week’s photo challenge

We walked to the river carrying everything we needed to do the laundry…from the bundles of clothes and wash basins balanced on top of our heads, the bars of soap, the pot of rice, bananas and other food we will cook and eat while we wait for the warm sun to dry the clothes on the rocks.

This was laundry day when I was a kid and lived in the province (away from the city). Since my younger sister and I were still little, we played and splashed in the water while the other women in our household went about the task of washing clothes.

Fast forward decades later, I am  back to the Philippines, and while stopped over a bridge to take in the view, I look below and see a scene from my childhood…women washing clothes by the river.

Laundry day 3 web

I am nostalgic and remember the fun we had playing in the river during laundry day — rearranging rocks to form our own little swimming pools and creating dams to capture fish and freshwater shrimps.

Then I thought, wait….I am a grandmother now…why are these women STILL doing laundry this way?

My take on this week’s WordPress photo challenge are photos about something we share as modern humans..that is, we all wear clothes, and these clothes need to be washed.

Laundry day 2a web

How we go about doing laundry though is a symbol of how developed the area is where we live, and how much time is available to women.

Here in the US, over 80% of households have clothes washers (even almost a decade ago, based on the these stats from the US Department of Energy):

Percent clothes washer stats US

For poor households, over 60% still had clothes washers…and anyone can go to laundromat to wash clothes.

We take for granted the clean running water we have access to, and the machines that liberate us from tedious tasks, like washing clothes.

Laundry day 5 web

How often is this scene still repeated around the world daily?  Imagine how liberated human beings  — particularly women — can be, simply by having a  machine that we take for granted here in the US.

Laundry day 4 web

It may not be something we ever think about, but to me, how laundry is done around the world is an indicator of progress.

And the work towards eradicating poverty worldwide — so that everyone has access to the tools, and yes, machinery — to allow us more time to live a good life and express ourselves is part of what defines our humanity.

To see beautiful humanity inspired photographs and other imaginative takes on the challenge, visit the WordPress Photo Challenge Site. 

For more on why I think there is still so much poverty in my home country of the Philippines, see my post Chameleons: Why Filipinos live and work in just about every country in the world.

Plastic: Now available in your…beer?

Beer now available with plastic

Beer…now available infused with plastic bits!

Plastic trash is found even at remote locations on our planet.  And now, a new study finds that little bits of plastic — perhaps remnants of our trash — can be found in beer, too!

Note: The study was conducted in Germany, a country where beer is a huge part of the culture and culinary history.  The Germans have brewed ale style beer for over 3,000 years.

From the Grist article, Beer: a magical mixture of hops, barley, and tiny pieces of plastic: Excerpt:

…This is how the study worked: Researchers lab-tested samples of 24 varieties of German beers, including 10 of the nation’s most popular brands. Through their superpowers of microscopic analysis, the team discovered plastic microfibers in 100 percent of the tested beer samples.

Reads the study:

“The small numbers of microplastic items in beer in themselves may not be alarming, but their occurrence in a beverage as common as beer indicates that the human environment is contaminated by micro-sized synthetic polymers to a far-reaching extent.”

It’s not breaking news that plastics don’t just vanish into the ether when we’re finished with them. Unless you haven’t heard, in which case … BREAKING NEWS: The plastics we use today will stick around longer than your great-great-great-great (and then some) grandchildren. 

Grandchildren at beach summer 2014

My grandsons enjoying the beach while their Lola (grandmother) enjoys the sunset, summer 2014 on the central coast of California

Sadly, it is not surprising at all to learn about the findings of this study. We already know about the plastic and trash vortex (now the size of Texas) in the North Pacific and of the trash contaminating the deepest of our planet’s oceans.

We are careless about plastic trash.  So why wouldn’t plastics eventually end up in our beverages?

All you have to do is look outside your car window the next time you are stuck in traffic. See that plastic bottle on the side of the road?  And look above…see that plastic bag up on that tree branch…plastic trash dot our landscape, no matter where we live.

And if you live near the water, that trash you saw by the roadside can end up in our waterways, and eventually turn into tiny particles that end up right back into your water source. Yummy!

Please be mindful of plastic trash….recycle, use alternatives, bring your reusable bags to the store, and most of all, let’s all do our best to control our plastic trash and not let it get into our oceans.

Let’s fix what we can for the health of our planet…and for our grandchildren.

Also see LolaKo.com post:

On thFrancis-Malasig-photo-philippine plastic trash probleme burden of civilization’s excess

About plastic trash problems in the Philippines (river of trash photo after typhoon by Francis R. Malasig via 5gyres.org)

 

plastic trim on walis tambo broomFrom the Native Leaf blog, post on when plastic use is totally unnecessary

…Before the advent of plastic strapping materials and plastic trim, these brooms were made entirely from natural materials — and the entire broom would have been biodegradable.

book_plastic_greyLolako.com post Plastic Rich / Plastic Poor on Susan Freinkel’s book, Plastic, A Toxic Love Story. Foreign editions in Australia, China, Korea, Spain and Taiwan – Link to Ms. Freinkel’s website, here.

Lola Jane’s post excerpt: I am part of this plastics generation — and problem — and feel propelled into doing something, before it is too late.

The question is…what can I do…how do I get the word out?

 

International Literacy Day

Intl Literacy DayToday, Monday, September 8th is International Literacy Day.

Most of us take being able to read and literacy for granted…but worldwide, there are still 781 million adults who are illiterate (more than DOUBLE the population of the entire United States).

  “Literacy is a key lever of change and a practical tool of empowerment on each of the three main pillars of sustainable development: economic development, social development and environmental protection.”  Former UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan

Here are the statistics from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO):

UNESCO illiteracy table

And from UNESCO on why literacy is important…

Literacy is a human right, a tool of personal empowerment and a means for social and human development. Educational opportunities depend on literacy.

Literacy is at the heart of basic education for all, and essential for eradicating poverty, reducing child mortality, curbing population growth, achieving gender equality and ensuring sustainable development, peace and democracy…

A good quality basic education equips pupils with literacy skills for life and further learning; literate parents are more likely to send their children to school; literate people are better able to access continuing educational opportunities… continue reading

Also see Third Eye Mom’s blog post about READ Global  – and where I first viewed the beautiful video below on READ’s program in Bhutan…excerpt:

READ (Rural Education and Development) Global, a not-for-profit organization based in San Francisco, changed the future by opening their first READ Center, a community library and resource center that teaches people to read. Before READ began working in Bhutan, the country had only one public lending library in the entire country. Today, there are five READ centers reaching over 37,000 rural villagers creating a culture of reading and providing access to information and resources to help farmers, children and women’s empowerment…

The statistics regarding illiteracy are heartbreaking:

    • 17% of children in the developing world will not enroll in primary school
    • 39% of South Asia is illiterate.
    • 50% of women in South Asia are illiterate.
    • On average, kids only go through 4.7 years of schooling in South Asia (continue reading)

View this inspiring video on creating a culture of reading…

Great work READ Global!

Seeing the type of work that organizations like READ Global is doing, I believe we can further use technology to good use and bridge the gap and enormous disparity between modern libraries (see post from yesterday) and new libraries in developing countries —- and achieve goals of reducing illiteracy rates worldwide! What about you?

Related LolaKo.com post:

A library with no books — and it’s at a university

Cookbooks

How much longer will homes have bookcases with actual books ?

I wanted to look up a recipe for quince (a type of fruit with a lovely scent that has to be cooked before eating) and I debated whether to go to the bookcase and thumb through our cookbooks… or to just search for “quince recipes” on our Samsung tablet.

I had access to both, so I had the choice…

But If you are one of the 550 students attending the brand new Florida Polytechnic University and want to look at books from their library, you won’t be going towards the library’s shelving system to pull out a book because at this university library there are no physical books to check out — all their books are in digital format only.

Is this the inevitable next phase of the digital era?

When a university opens a new library and there are no actual books to touch, to pull out of library bookshelves, when there are no paper pages for fingers to flip through, or actual books to carry to the check out counter, then a new era is truly upon us.

la-et-jc-florida-polytechnic-universitys-bookl-002

Brand new library at Florida Polytechnic University – Photo by Rocket Science Photography / Florida Polytechnic University The university’s campus library has no books.

Excerpt from the L.A. Times article…

…That is, unless a student happens to bring an old-style hardcover or paperback to school.

They might; like most university systems, Florida State makes all of its books available to students through interlibrary loans, giving them access to 6 million volumes.

But the idea of the new Florida Polytechnic library is to move away from paper. Printers for articles accessed online are available but not encouraged. Instead, the staff hopes students will organize their research online with tools that are part of the library service.

There are also some collections of print books that Florida Polytechnic owns, but they are not currently available on campus.

“As for the electronic-only aspect of the library resources,” writes the trade magazine Library Journal, ” [Director of Libraries Kathryn] Miller emphasized that it’s the information that’s key, not its form.

Oh wow…so the environmentalist part of me is happy to know we are saving trees and saving the resources that goes into making paper.  Still…there is something kind of sad about no longer holding an actual book in one’s hands.

juns and minecraft book web

My 9-year-old grandson, Jun reading his Minecraft book. Will he look at this photo when he is a grandfather and feel nostalgic for the days when he held a physical book in his hand — or show the photos to his grandchildren of a bygone era when kids still  held books with their hands?

Is it just me being nostalgic (already!) even if there are still books all around me?

Will my grandsons’ children no longer have physical books around them — at least as I define books — and will they even still call them “books”?

And when my grandsons go to college, will their university library look like Florida Polytechnic’s library, too?

Lola and Gabriel hands

Hands — the digits of Lola Jane and grandson Gabriel, who was about 3 1/2 years old at the time this photograph was taken. The origin of the word digital is the Latin “digitus” meaning finger / toe.

It is interesting that the origin of the word “digital” is the Latin digitalis from the late 15th century — digitus meaning finger / toe.  

What do you prefer these days when you want to read the latest book or when you look up recipes?

Traditional books or digital, e-book sources?

And if you are a regular visitor to libraries (like we are)…what will you miss?  Will you miss the smell of books and paper?  And what about the tactile process of touching, picking up and selecting books versus the mostly visual act of reading from a tablet or smart phone…

Gosh, will there even be libraries  then, or will these buildings be unnecessary if there is access to any and all information we want anytime and anywhere?

Gutenberg-press-print-drawingRelated Lolako.com post: How long before print newspapers completely disappear

Also see The Digital Scriptorium – from the University of California, Bancroft Library – a growing image database of medieval and renaissance manuscripts that unites scattered resources from many institutions into an international tool for teaching and scholarly research. 

Otters in the Philippines (Asian short-clawed otters)

I adore sea otters and have posted several articles / photos / videos about California sea otters on my blog.  Until recently — and although I grew up in the Philippines — I did not know there were otters in the Philippines, too.

California Sea Otter - Photo by my grandson (then 8 years old) Jun-Jun

California Sea Otter – Photo by my grandson (then 8 years old) Jun-Jun

It turns out that sea otters are found not only along the coastal areas of the Pacific Ocean in North America but also in parts of Asia.

Philippine Map Source US State Department

Map Source: US Department of State

In the Philippines, otters live in the Palawan area, on the western part of the archipelago.

There is not much information about Philippine otters posted on-line, not even within the comprehensive National Geographic website.

And I could not find information on exactly how many otters are left in the wild in Palawan or anything else about their current status.

So far, here is what I did find:

From Arkive.org:

The Asian short-clawed otter has a large distribution, ranging from north-western and south-western India, through southern China (including Hainan) and the Malay Peninsula, to Sumatra, Java, Borneo and the Riau Archipelago (Indonesia), and Palawan Island in the Philippines.

The Switzerland-based International Union for Conservation of Nature(IUCN) list Asian sea otters in the “Threatened” category.  

Specifically, Asian sea otters are listed as “Vulnerable” under the IUCN Red list.

As with other wildlife vulnerable to or facing extinction in the Philippines, the threats to  otters include deforestation, pollution, humans destroying the otters and their natural habitats (e.g., turning mangroves into aquaculture farms).

Compared to the sea otters we see here on the central California coast, the Philippine otter is much smaller. This video from Diana J. Limjoco’s blog shows 3 young Philippine otters brought to her Palawan home by locals.

The otters on this video — like most otters — are truly adorable.  I am curious about how they are doing, especially health-wise living among the other domesticated pets in the household.

I am also curious if there is a program in the Philippines established to care for orphaned otters so they can be re-introduced back into the wild (as the topic of the film Saving Otter 501 — shown on the PBS show Nature).

In neighboring countries of Malaysia and Singapore, otters are totally protected by the government.  In the Philippines, Republic Act # 9147 (2001) prohibits the killing, collection, possession, and maltreatment of wildlife.

But if locals do not know about the R.A. 9147 law or how special and rare these creatures are, and if there is no funding to enforce the law or do public service announcements (PSAs), then the law is useless in terms of saving remaining Philippine otters.

There was a blog started by Philippine otter researchers called “Palawan Otters” (Lyca Sandrea G. Castro) but it may be abandoned as there were only a few post, and not any new information since last year.  I hope they are continuing their research and will post new information on the blog soon.  (NOTE – as of September, 2014, Ms. Castro has revived the blog — YAY!!! I have added the “protecting otters” poster from the Palawan Otters blog at the bottom of this post.)

Here is another video of Asian small-clawed otters at the Wellington Zoo in New Zealand playing with a pebble, via Wikipedia commons.

When I think of poverty issues facing many Filipinos it seems that my interest and focus on endangered animals are inconsequential.  What is the point of learning about these animals and writing a blog post if they are so close to the edge of extinction.  What difference is it going to make…

I suppose there is always hope, and I am again reminded of the 1968 quote from Senegalese environmentalist Baba Dioum:

“In the end, we will conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand.  We will understand only what we are taught.”

Sometimes, endangered wildlife are killed simply due to a lack of understanding of their role in our ecosystem, or by necessity, caught for food…it is as basic as that, and goes back to poverty issues.

The same problems that cause wildlife to become extinct — pollution from pesticides, loss of their habitat due to illegal activities that degrade the environment — are issues that also make people vulnerable to other disasters. So I don’t think we have a choice…we have to learn about endangered wildlife and how their loss affects our ecosystem, and spread the word.  It can only improve our prospect for saving our environment and perhaps make the difference for future inhabitants of our planet.

UPDATE:  As I was getting ready to publish this post, I googled “Philippine Wildlife Act 9147 sea otters” and found a comprehensive paper written by Jeric Bocol Gonzalez titled Distribution Exploitation and Trade Dynamics of A.cinereus in Mainland Palawan, Philippines.  Published in 2010, the situation did not look promising for rare Philippine sea otters back then!  Does anyone have any new information since publication of Jeric’s thesis?

Otter Protection Photo from Palawan Otter Blog

Click on the photo to link to Palawan Otters blog

Other (Sea) Otter posts on LolaKo.com:

And for more about California sea otters, see The Otter Project. and the Monterey Bay Aquarium website page Sea Otters as Risk.

Related endangered wildlife posts:

LAST NOTE:  If you want more information about otters in other parts of the world, visit the IUCN’s Otter Specialist Group website (where I found Jeric Gonzalez’s paper).

Purple blue jellyfish-like creatures (related to dangerous Portugese man o’ war) stranded on Central California beaches

Earlier this week, we noticed these purplish blue jellyfish-like creatures stranded at the Moss Landing – Salinas River State Beach (Central California coast)…

Vellela jellie like creatures washed up on California beaches wb

My 9-year-old grandson, Jun standing next to a Velella — a sort of close cousin to jellyfish, and closely related to Portuguese man o’ wars.  Photo Lolako.com

We have not seen these before, and they looked very interesting, with a blue, disc-shaped purplish bottom on one side and sliver of jelly-like material and flap on the other side.

Vellela jellie like closeup washed up on California beaches

Velella velella – photo by Lolako.com

At first we saw one or two every 5 to 10 feet….but then, as we walked further down the beach, we started to see hundreds of them.

Vellela jellie like creatures washed up California beaches wb

Velella velella stranded at Central California beaches. Photo by Lolako.com

We found out they are a close cousin to jellyfish and are called Velellas.

They are also known as sea raftby-the-wind sailorpurple sail, and little sail. They are found in most of the world’s oceans, and live on the surface of the water.

The top, jelly part acts like a sail and floats above the water, and the bottom blueish part is actually a colony of polyps with tentacles that catch prey like plankton, fish eggs and small shrimps.

Though quite small, these creatures are closely related to Portuguese man o’ wars.

But unlike Portuguese man o’ wars with tentacles of up to 160 feet (50 meters) that are venomous and dangerous to humans (even the ones washed up on the beach!) the much tinier Velellas’ are generally harmless to humans.  Still, the website Encyclopedia of Life (EOL) recommends not touching one’s face or eyes after handling Velellas.

Everything else you would want to know about Velellas is on the EOL website, which is where we also found this terrific video.

Velella – Planktonic Vessels from Parafilms on Vimeo.

Colonies of polyps transported by prevailing winds, velella drift at the surface of warm seas.   Plankton Chronicles Project by Christian Sardet, CNRS / Noe Sardet and Sharif Mirshak, Parafilms.  See Plankton Chronicles interactive site: planktonchronicles.org

Because Velellas cannot propel themselves, they are at the mercy of prevailing winds, and explains why they can sometimes wash ashore, stranded on beaches by the thousands.

Shore birds did not seem interested in eating the washed up Velellas…so they’ll just decompose or get washed back to sea at next high tide.

Have you seen Velella before or know more about these creatures washing up and stranded near where you live?

More Moss Landing beach related post from Lolako.com:

Turtle Tunes and the Giant Pacific Leatherback

There is a lot we do know about the hundreds of species of turtles living on our planet. Except that is….how they sound or vocalize.  

Papers published in the 1950′s claimed that turtles were deaf and did not vocalize.  So until recently, and because of this false assumption, no one studied turtle vocalizations. From mongabay.com….

Two new studies published recently in Chelonian Conservation and Biology and Herpetologica find that two turtle species vocalize when they reproduce and during some social interactions, and that their vocalizations are many and varied.   

Leatherback sea turtles are the largest turtles living today. Photo by Tiffany Roufs.  Read more at http://news.mongabay.com/2014/0725-morgan-turtletalk.html#IR3v7DoAVuTo2xUF.99

California’s official marine reptile is the giant Pacific Leatherback Sea Turtle. Leatherback sea turtles are the largest turtles living today. Photo by Tiffany Roufs via mongabay.com

The studies respectively looked at two very different species: giant Amazon river turtles (Podocnemis expansa) and leatherback sea turtles (Dermochelys coriacea). They found that the river turtles vocalized in all sorts of situations, from interactions between adults to hatchling communication. Leatherbacks, less social turtles, were also found to vocalize as when hatching and as they dispersed from their nests into the sea. Read more 

Interesting…and a reminder that just because we humans can’t hear certain creatures making sounds, it does not mean they are not making them.

it took decades to dispel the belief that turtles are deaf and did not vocalize…and most scientists tuned out ever studying their vocalizations all because of published literature dating back from the 1950′s.

Related Lolako.com posts — especially on the giant Pacific Leatherback turtle (California’s official marine reptile) :

Did you know…Elephants also vocalize in super low frequencies that humans can’t hear.  Low frequency sounds travel farther, making them better for long distance communication (see more about forest elephant vocalization here – The Cornell Lab Elephant Listening Project).

Jose Antonio Vargas…and the upcoming Pistahan Festival

Jose-Antonio-Vargas-22Jose Antonio Vargas, a well-known activist for undocumented immigrants was recently detained at a Texas airport while reporting on the onslaught of minors crossing into the U.S. from Central America.

I posted about Mr. Vargas when he was the keynote speaker at the 2012 Pistahan Festival — a festival in San Francisco celebrating Filipino culture and cuisine.   Excerpt:

Jose Antonio Vargas was part of the Washington Post team covering the Virginia Tech shootings, earning a Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Reporting. Vargas profiled Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg for the New Yorker in 2010, and his articles on AIDS inspired the documentary, The Other City.

In 2011, Vargas became the “story” when he revealed that he was an undocumented immigrant, in an essay for The New York Times Sunday Magazine.   Continue reading…

I am following his courageous work…and fears about him being deported (though always the possibility, and part of his reality) were allayed after reading the article from Mother Jones on 8 Reasons Why Jose Antonio Vargas Won’t Be Deported.  Made sense to me!

Pistahan-Fest-Young-Women

Members of the Kariktan Dance Company at the Pistahan Festival celebrating Filipino culture

And the post reminded me that the 2014 Pistahan Festival is coming up soon…

In case you live in the San Francisco Bay Area or nearby, Pistahan is the largest celebration of Filipino culture in the United States and worth attending.

Pistahan’s focus this year is the Visayan culture!

A huge and colorful parade kicks the festival off on August 9th, and the festival runs through August 10th at Yerba Buena Gardens – Moscone Convention Center area.  For parade schedule and festival information, visit Pistahan.net.

There are terrific performances and great food if you want to sample Filipino cuisine (the year we went, they had Pinx Catering serving up Ube Waffles).

More Filipino food related posts, here and post on Why Filipinos live and work in just about every country in the world, here.

Yes, California is STILL in a drought emergency…so how about fake lawns, anyone?

California Drought 2014 web

Brown is the new green?  Brown grass — or alternatives to green lawns — SHOULD be the new normal for many lawns in California.

It’s been over six months since California declared a drought emergency with the goal of reducing 20% of our water use.

Instead, water use actually increased this year!

How is this possible?  Many areas of California closed out year 2013 as the driest in recorded history.  

Yet three years into this drought — and despite wide local (and National) media coverage and attention — water use has gone up.

Do people not watch the news, don’t care, are selfish and do not see this drought as a real and long-term problem? Are there not enough Public Service Announcements (PSAs) or are people ignoring the PSAs?

It could be too that unlike floods, fires or other emergencies, drought is gradual…so as long as water comes out of our faucets and water hoses, perhaps we don’t think of it as a real emergency?

A couple of days ago, California’s State Water Resources Control Board approved regulations to allow local law and water organizations to fine water wasters up to $500 per day (e.g., for hosing down sidewalks, washing cars with free-flowing hoses, excessive lawn watering).

I wonder if the threat of a $500 fine will make a difference.  What will it take to get the point to California residents that we are in a serious situation.  Is it because water is too inexpensive for the average California consumer?

Near our neighborhood a new lawn made from artificial grass is in process of getting installed…

Are your neighbors doing something similar or xeriscaping — installing llandscapes or gardens that minimizes or eliminates water needs?

I have always disliked plastic plants and especially plastic flowers.  Yes, most real flowers are ephemeral (except for orchids that can last for months) but isn’t that the point…that some things should be enjoyed in their moment and life cycle?

So how about a fake (no water EVER needed) lawn?

I suppose if you absolutely must have a green front yard…this one looks pretty close to the real thing.

replacing grass lawns web

I think we will go to the nearest park though, if I really must be surrounded by manicured green grass.  Just can’t get past adding all that plastic around a home…  How about you?

Related Links: California Department of Water Resources and Sunset Magazine article Should you fake the lawn?

Mosquito bites and the chickungunya virus

A viral disease called chickungunya is now being spread by mosquitoes in the US.   Oh great…one more thing to worry about with mosquito bites.

Types of mosquitos spreading CHIKV virus

Chikungunya (CHIKV) is transmitted via the bite of an infected mosquito. Most common are the mosquito types on this photos (Aedes spp., predominantly Aedes aegypti and Ae. albopictus).  These mosquitos are the same type that spread dengue fever.  They bite in the daytime.  Photo via CDC website.

Have you heard about chickungunya?

The first outbreak of the disease was in southern Tanzania in 1952.  The name ‘chikungunya’ is from a word in the Kimakonde language (spoken in southern Tanzania and northern Mozambique) that means “to become contorted” or “that which bends up”.

It describes the stooped appearance of sufferers with joint pain.  Signs and symptoms also include a sudden start of fever often accompanied by joint pain. Other symptoms are muscle pain, headache, nausea, fatigue and rash. The joint pain is often very debilitating, but usually lasts for a few days.

Most infected patients recover fully, but in some cases joint pain may persist for several weeks or months, or even years.  The good news is that deaths from chikungunya are rare.

Countries where chikungunya virus transmitted

Countries where chikungunya virus transmitted – map via the US CDC

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), chikungunya (CHIKVI) has occurred in Africa, Southern Europe, Southeast Asia, and islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

In late 2013, CHIKVI was found for the first time on islands in the Caribbean.

chik-inbound-english-tSince then, CHIKVI has been found in multiple countries or territories in the Caribbean, Central America, or South America, and now in the US.

NOTE: In California, the mosquito Aedes albopictus (one of the types that spread CHIKV) are found in Southern and Central California.

Its habitat are small containers and old tires.

As there are no known vaccine or medication, the CDC advice is to reduce your exposure by:

There are currently no antiviral medicines to treat the chikungunya virus. However, there are medicines to reduce the fever and pain experienced by those exposed to the virus.  For more details, visit the CDC’s website about chikungunya, here.

yellow fever mosquito

Photo via montereycountymosquito.com

Also visit Monterey County Mosquito website, here:  Excerpt:

The yellow fever mosquito, Aedes aegypti is a mosquito that can spread the dengue fever, chikungunya and yellow fever viruses, and other diseases. The mosquito can be recognized by white markings on legs and a marking in the form of a lyre on the thorax. The mosquito originated in Africa but is now found in tropical and subtropical regions throughout the world, now including many parts of California.

And by the way, there is also a measles outbreak now, which originated in the Philippines!  Over forty-thousand cases were reported in the Philippines between January to May, 2014.  More on the measles outbreak, here, including information on what travelers can do to protect themselves if traveling to the Philippines.

Blog post information source from the U.S. CDC and World Health Organization (WHO)

An encounter with a (not so scary) snake

Backyard snake Monterey County CA 1

I’m sure my intense fear of snakes stems from an  encounter with a huge snake when I was around 5 years old.

We lived near a rice field in the province of Bulacan (Luzon island in the Philippines).

While I was in the outhouse (an outdoor bathroom) by myself, the snake crept inside through the gap between the bamboo door and the dirt floor.

I froze in fear, and then let out the loudest scream I could summon.  Shortly after, I heard my mother running towards me and then right outside the outhouse door.

I was too frightened to move and unhinge the door, so my mother had to break the door to get to me — and not so easy to do as she was in the late stage of being pregnant with my brother.

Perhaps because of my screaming, or maybe it was really interested or following something else, the snake was gone by the time my mother got through the door.

Rice Fields and mountain background

Rice fields in the Philippines, coconut trees and mountain backdrop. Photo Lolako.com

Since venomous sakes — including the Philippine spitting cobra, one of the most venomous snakes in the world — often hunt for rodents in rice fields near where we lived, a group of neighbors, with their machetes firmly in hand, formed a line at the rice fields behind the outhouse to look for the snake.  I can’t remember if they caught it.

Rice-Field-Almost-Ready-for-Harvest

Many decades later…I am (understandably!) still afraid of snakes.  I am not fearful of spiders, or bees or most bugs really…but when I think of snakes and sharks...the feeling of fear is immediate.

And it turns out that even people without a conscious fear of snakes are wired to react fearfully to snakes because snakes were among the earliest threats and predators to human beings.

A few days ago, my 9-year-old grandson Jun found a 2 1/2 foot long snake skin in the backyard.  Fascinated, he was holding it stretched above his head when he came over to show me what he found.

And this morning, as I was coming from the driveway, here is what I encountered…

Pacific Gopher Snake in Monterey County

I now know that snakes are important to our ecosystem...so instead of running away and screaming, I grabbed my camera and took a photo (thank you zoom lens) so I could learn more about this snake living near our home.

Pacific Gopher Snake range in California

A visit to the California Herps website’s picture gallery made it easy to identify the snake.

It is a Pacific Gopher snake and harmless to human beings.  It is found in a wide range in the state of California, as shown in red on the map at left.

Because gopher snakes are sometimes mistaken for more dangerous rattlesnakes, they are killed unnecessarily.

The California Herps website notes:

It is easy to avoid this mistake by learning to tell the difference between the two families of snakes as shown in these signs.

Unless you have experience handling venomous snakes, you should never handle a snake unless you are absolutely sure that it is not dangerous.

rattlesnake vs gopher snakeHere are some interesting snake facts:

Worldwide:

map of world distribution of snakes

map of world distribution of sea snakes and land snakes via Wikipedia

  • Snakes are found in every continent except Antarctica (see Life is short, but snakes are long blog post on the most widespread snakes in the world)
  • Most snake bites occur in agricultural and tropical regions
  • There are 3,000 known species of snakes — of which, only 15% are considered as dangerous to people.
  • Most snake related deaths occur in South Asia, with India reporting the most deaths of any country (this would make sense though, as India is the most populous country in South Asia).
  • Worldwide, snake bites are most common during the summer when people are outdoors and when snakes are most active

In the USA from the wanderingherpetologist.com

  • There are more casualties in the United States due to car accidents (37,594), lightning strikes (54), and dog attacks (21) each year than from venomous snakebites (5).
  • approximately 7,000-8,000 people are envenomated each year in the United States but there is only an average of 5 casualties
  • In Texas alone, there were more casualties in 2005 from drowning (308), firearms/hunting (79), and venomous arthropods (16) than venomous snakebites.

In California

  • CaliforniaHerps.com- a guide to the Amphibians and Reptiles of California is a super website with loads of information, pictures and useful links.  Visit the page on what kind of reptiles and amphibians might live near your home and how to encourage them to stay there, by clicking here.

I am less fearful of snakes since I learned that most snakes are NOT dangerous to humans, and that most snake bites to humans are caused by snakes that are NOT venomous.

Remember though, unless you are a snake expert,  it is best to leave lots of room between you and any snake you may encounter…and don’t kill snakes!

Further reading and resources:

Related post about animals (and endangered animals) from Lola Jane (click on photo to link to article)

Sierran Tree Frog profilePost about the Sierran Tree Frog (photo by Lola Jane)

…It is comforting to know the little frogs survive in our backyard, despite the large presence of big business agriculture in our county (Monterey is the only county in the United States with more than 1 BILLION in annual vegetable sales).

 

Leatherback-turtle-found-dead-off-leyteAbout the Giant Pacific Leatherback Turtle and the connection between Indonesia / the Philippines and Monterey Bay, California)

Photo by Austin Don Perez for Bayan Mo, iPatrol Mo: Ako ang Simula, via post by Iloed.C at www.skyscrapercity.com

 

Philippine-Eagle-Close-up-photo1On the critically endangered and magnificent Philippine eagle (Photograph by Klaus Nigge – www.nigge.com)  ...the Philippine Eagle, pithecophaga jefferyi – and referred to as “haring ibon” or king bird.  It is among the rarest and most powerful birds in the world.  In 1995, it was designated as the national bird as well as an official  symbol of the Philippines.

Shark-photo-Sean-Van-SommeranPost about Sharks!

The photo is of a 4,000 lb shark tagged in Santa Cruz, California and caught by accident in the Sea of Cortez area, Mexico.  Photo Source: Santa Cruz Sentinel, contributed by Sean VanSommeran.

Also see comparison of shark attacks vs. lightning fatalities on the US Coast

“In the end, we will conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand.  We will understand only what we are taught.”
— Baba Dioum

Champurrado to Champorado: origin of a favorite Filipino breakfast

In the Philippines, champorado is a chocolate, riced-based porridge typically eaten for breakfast.  In Mexico, champurrado is a chocolate-based drink (made with masa — lime treated corn dough, or corn flour) also served for breakfast.

champorado Filipino style

Champorado is typically eaten at breakfast but can also be served for dessert

The common ingredient is chocolate — but which version came first?

The answer is the Mexican champurrado, as the cacao trees (source of chocolate) grown in the Philippines originally came from Mexico.  And the connection, of course, is that Mexico and the Philippines were colonies of Spain.

Some of the most popular fruits and plants common in the Philippines —  avocados, pineapples, cashews, guyabano — are native to Latin American countries and arrived in the Philippines via the galleon ships from Mexico during the colonial era.  Rice and fruits like the carambola (star apple) and mangoes were transported from the Philippines to Mexico.

Champorado is a breakfast favorite of my oldest grandson, Jun.  Because there is a lot of stirring involved, he knows it is a special request breakfast and that his Lola has to wake up a little earlier to have it ready before school time.

As with many Filipino sweets, making champorado requires just a handful of ingredients.  Philippine chocolate tablets are the traditional ingredient, but we use cocoa powder in our version.  Recipe:

Philippine Champorado ingriedients w

  • 1 cup of sticky rice – usually marked “Sweet Rice” sourced mainly from Thailand, or the Philippine brands marked “Malagkit”
  • Water & Milk – start with 4 and 1/2 cups of water to cook the rice into a porridge (I add a cup of low-fat milk to the mixture when the porridge is almost done, and depending on the consistency you like, you can add more milk and water)
  • Unsweetened Cocoa Powder – use from 1/2 cup or add more to your liking.  We keep a container of Trader Joe’s brand on hand, sourced from Columbia.
  • Brown sugar can be added during the porridge cooking process or served with the bowl of champorado.

Rinse, then cook the rice with the water over low heat, then gradually add the cocoa powder to make the porridge.  I add the milk and brown sugar when the rice softens and is almost cooked.  Watch over and stir the mixture often.  The champorado is done when the rice is mushy and cooked through.

In the Philippines, champorado is sometimes eaten with salted dried fish (tuyo), as Filipinos love mixing salty and sweet flavors.

For more about chocolate, see Most Craved Food post here, or click on the photo below.

Cacao Photo Group

Cacao tree growing next to a house in the Philippines, bottom photo are cacao seeds drying, and cacao seeds for sale at the market, Central Philippines. Photos Lolako.com

And a little on the early history of chocolate in the Philippines, said to be introduced by missionaries from Mexico in the late 1600′s.  Excerpt from the book “The Philippine Islands”, published in 1898…

The trees are usually planted in gardens near the house, and the chocolate-paste is made at home. A small quantity of the bean is sent annually to Spain; and there is a chocolate factory in Manila for the benefit of those that do not care to trouble themselves with either the growth of the fruit or the preparation of the kernel. The oil of the cocoa is used also for lighting the houses and streets.

It is impossible to find better chocolate than that made by the friars of the Philippines. Special pains are taken with the cacao tree, which is planted in the orchards and gardens of the monasteries, and in the manufacture of the paste and in the making of the beverage.

White King brand instant champorado web

White King brand instant champorado mix

Do you make homemade champorado or champurrado?

Or have you bought instant type champorado mix at your local Filipino store (like the type pictured at left by White King)?  And if so, was the taste comparable to homemade champorado?

What are your favorite Filipino chocolate related memories?

More food posts from Lolalako.com:

Old photo and update to “Most Craved Food in the World” article

I updated the post “Most Craved Food in the World” after finding this interesting photo in a book about the Philippines, via the Gutenberg website and another old book published in digitized format from Google.

Chocolate maker

Photo from the book “The Philippine Islands” from the Gutenberg website, by Ramon Reyes Lala, published in 1898 by the Continental Publishing Company.  He is rolling out a paste (that is later dried into tablets) of what we now know as the most craved food in the world.

Click on the photo above to link to the updated article…

I love finding these interesting books on-line!

WordPress Photo Challenge Reflections: cactus, black oak and well cover

Here is my submission for the WordPress Photo Challenge – reflections, inspiration from Ben, whose beautiful photos are posted on his blog, Flights, Camera, Satisfaction.

My three reflection photos:

Saguaro Cactus Reflection r

Saguaro Cactus grown from seed, mirror reflection.  Saguaros can live up to 150 years, and at about 75 years old, will grow an arm (called a spear).  Click on the photo to view post.

Being open to appreciating new things, such as for plants I did not care for in the past, like cactus…which are actually amazing plants.

Springtime California Black Oak

To be in the moment to appreciate reflections of time.  Spring is my favorite time of the year, and a great time to photograph trees like the California Black Oak sprouting light green leaves…

Well-Cover-Detail-Larkin-House reflection

And reflection from the well water that shows off details of its metal cover (also used in the WordPress photo challenge, resolved to pay attention to — .and to capture more details in my photographs.)

And about that cactus on the photograph… It is now 18 years old and was grown from seed.  If you are curious to know how long cactus seeds keep (or are viable)…check out the comment section on Lolako.com’s “Contact” page, here.   Can you guess?

  • over 20 years?
  • over 200 years?
  • or for over 2,000 years?

Chameleons? Why Filipinos live & work in just about every country in the world

The words “why are Filipinos like chameleons” showed up on my blog’s search engine terms recently.

Chameleon definition

Mixed-Up-Chameleon by Eric CarleI did not write an article (until now) that connected the two words — Filipino and chameleon — but I do write often about Filipinos and the Philippines, wildlife, and about a particular chameleon, as in the Eric Carle book that I read to my grandchildren, The Mixed-Up Chameleon.

Initially I thought the search words were funny.  Chameleons — a special kind of lizard — are not native to the Philippines.  And then I wondered what information was sought…was this inquiry and the string of words derogatory?

And are Filipinos like chameleons? We Filipinos do tend to blend in, don’t we?   We all speak English (very well — and most with a clear American accent) and since English is one of the most popular language in the world, all that much easier to blend in, right?

Aside from language, is it also because most Filipinos are Christians?  A Pew Research demographics study on global religion found that Christians are the most evenly dispersed around the world and represent the largest percentage among the world’s religion  (2.2 billion or 32% of the world’s majority religion) .

20_religionCountryMap from Pew Research

Graphic on majority religions by country from Pew Research. The Philippine archipelago has the most Christians among countries in Southeast Asia,

I am pretty sure that Filipinos live and work in just about every country in the world — around 10% of the total population, and 2.2 million contract or Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) — according to Philippine government data.

  • When I lived in Germany in the mid 1980′s, one of the first things our landlord, Klaus, wanted to do was to introduce me to the Filipina married to a local German, in our town of Dudeldorf.
  • When we first immigrated to the United States and living in Portland, Maine (of all places, right, and not exactly a hotbed for Filipinos in America) my mother quickly found another Filipina living nearby who befriended us.

So,  super chameleons?  Able to survive in any environment, no matter where on the globe?  Or rather, is it more because we don’t stick out?  The Philippines was a Spanish colony from 1521 to 1898, so most Filipinos have Spanish last names.  Is this another way we blend, since our names are not so unusual?

A friend theorized that because the Philippines is a nation of islands (over 7,000 in case you did not know), Filipinos are accustomed to traveling beyond their own island to the next…and the next, so what is another 5,000 more miles?  It’s in our DNA!  Hmmmn, interesting, and maybe!

Are Filipinos everywhere because they like adventure, because Filipinos like to travel? Is it by necessity, for survival? Because we must…as a sacrifice to contribute financially for the greater good of the family?

In 1980, the Philippines scored higher than China, Thailand and Brazil on the United Nations (UN) Human Development Indicators (HDI). The most recent UN HDI report show these three countries now have higher HDI scores than the Philippines.  And after World War II, the only other country in Asia richer than the Philippines was Japan.

So what happened?  Could it be because the Philippine population has more than DOUBLED in the last 3 decades?.

The Philippines is the 12th most populous country in the world, and according to United Nations GDP / per capita income data, over 40% of Filipinos live on less than $2 per day.

These days, I think Filipinos are everywhere primarily because of over population and because the economy cannot support the population…so by necessity.

Every year, millions of Filipinos have no choice but to leave their homeland to find work elsewhere.  Many work in the shipping industries (notice that when cruise lines, or container ships are in the news, often, there are Filipino crew members?)

The Philippines export nurses all over the world.  And most recently, our teachers, too.

It is easier to understand Filipino communities in neighboring countries like Australia, New Zealand, especially Korea and Japan.  But Zambia?  ICELAND, The Isle of Mann?

Tropical Philippines web

Photo of banka (traditional Philippine outrigger boat) Lolako.com. From lush green tropics to….Scandinavia?

And how is it that Filipinos manage to survive, and even thrive in countries with climates and cultures so different from their homes?  And do we — the chameleons –  blend in no matter where we are  because it’s safer if others like us, accept us, include us in their, and what then becomes OUR community?

In Sweden alone, there are over 20 Filipino communities! (see Fincomlas Sweden)

I admire Filipino characteristics — our friendly, caring nature, resilience, our sense of humor, and strong commitment to family  — and yes, maybe the chameleon qualities in a positive sense.  But I do hope that in my lifetime, the majority of Filipinos who live and work overseas will be because of their own choice to do so, and not because they have no other choice.

This post was inspired by a search query on my blog, and turned emotional when I thought of families torn apart and separated for many years due to the economic needs of Filipinos.  I’ll continue to explore more on this topic, and of course to celebrate and remember our food and culture.

In the meantime, if you are a Filipino in a faraway place, please share your experience, or your family’s experience.  Do you think Filipinos are like chameleons?  If so, is this positive or a negative?

Related Lolako.com posts:

Which of California’s 15 coastal counties are tsunami ready?

Despite the 5,000 mile distance between the California coastline and Japan, our coastal community was affected by the March 2011 tsunami (and subsequent disaster at the Fukushima nuclear power facility.)

Moss Landing Beach

Photo Lolako.com

Between debris that washed up on the U.S. Western coastlines — and our worries of radiation contaminated items reaching our shores  —  to the bathtub effect that caused millions of dollars of damage to boats and property at the Santa Cruz harbor, the disaster originating thousands of miles away directly impacted us.  It was another reminder of  how small our world really is, and our interconnectedness …

March-11-Tsunami-Effects-in-Santa-Cruz-Photo-Larissa-Mueller

Sailboats in the Santa Cruz Harbor crash against each other Friday morning as a tsunami surge sucks out muddy, backwater from the upper harbor. Photo by Dan Coyro/Sentinel

My post 2 years ago (Is Monterey County ready for a Tsunami) listed Monterey County –  along with the California counties of San Francisco, San Mateo and Orange as TsunamiReady™ — under a program administered by the U.S. National Weather Service (NWS).

Tsunami-Hazard-Warning-Sign3

Tsunami Hazard Zone sign at Monterey County area beach.   Photo Lolako.com

The California counties designated as TsunamiReady™  met NWS criteria, including developing a safety plan, setting up alert systems and promoting tsunami safety through public outreach.

The addition of the counties of Marin, Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara and San Diego means there are now 8 counties listed as TsunamiReady™ in California.

The state of California is divided into 58 counties. The California coast covers 840 miles (1,350 km), and 15 of California’s 58 counties directly face the Pacific Ocean.  These counties are:

  • Del Norte County
  • Humboldt County
  • Los Angeles County
  • Marin County
  • Mendocino County
  • Monterey County
  • Orange County
  • San Diego County
  • San Francisco County
  • San Luis Obispo County
  • San Mateo County
  • Santa Barbara County
  • Santa Cruz County
  • Sonoma County
  • Ventura County

Counties in bold are listed as TsunamiReady™.  We will follow-up again next year to see if all of California’s coastal counties receive the TsunamiReady™ designation.

Do you live in one of California’s coastal communities?  With this month marking the 3rd anniversary of the Japanese tsunami disaster, do you know — or care — if your community has a TsunamiReady™ designation?

Related LolaKo.com posts:

Another strange plane disappearance in Southeast Asia

The missing Malaysia Airlines flight carrying 239 passengers and crew has been on the news over the last few days.  It is hard to believe that a huge commercial airplane — in this day and age,  with our radars, satellites and modern technology — can just disappear without a trace.

In 1962, during clear weather and calm seas, a flight originating from a Northern California U.S. Air Force base and destined for Vietnam also went missing, while en route from Guam to the Philippines to refuel.   The 5-year-old Lockheed L-1049 (Flying Tiger Line)  plane carried 93 U.S. Army Rangers, 3 Vietnamese nationals, 11 civilians, and 3 military passengers.

KLM_L-1049C_Constellation_at_Santa_Maria_(Azores)

Photo of Lockheed L-1049 Super Constellation propliner plane by Greg and Cindy via Wikipedia Commons / Flickr

The Lockheed plane crew did not issue distress signals after it left Guam, headed for Clark Air Base in Angeles City, Philippines.  And despite a search by the U.S. military covering over 200,000 square miles (520,000 square km), it was never seen or heard from again, disappearing without a trace.

But that was over 50 years ago, and our technology makes the world a smaller place now.  It does not seem possible that in 2014, a plane can simply disappear…

An international search effort to find the missing Malaysia Airlines plane is ongoing, including help from the U.S. Navy and countries neighboring Malaysia (Southeast Asia).

Southeast-asia

Click on the map image to view Lolako.com post about countries in Southeast Asia

More mysterious aviation disappearances, here.

Drought and the 2014 official California shower

2014 California Shower

This is a somewhat funny graphic on showers during a drought — but it is actually a reality that we need to consider in light of California’s drought emergency.  (Graphic source – Save our Water website)

What do you think?  Skip a shower — shower every other day or two?  Super short showers?

Strigil used by Greeks and Romans web

Photo of ancient shower/bath tool called a strigil

Skipping a shower or two every week may be better for our skin and hair anyway.  There are parts of the world where taking a shower every other day is the norm.

Just as long as we don’t have to skip showers altogether!

Ancient Greeks and Romans used olive oil and this tool called a strigil to clean dirt off (first they rubbed olive oil on their skin, and then scraped away dirt and grime).  Hmmm…

It’s a good thing there are over 400 growers / producers of olive oil in California…oh wait, the drought can adversely affect olive oil production too!   The 2012 drought in Spain — the world’s top olive oil producer — resulted in a huge drop in Spain’s olive oil production, and increased olive oil prices in Europe.

So okay, we will continue to do our part to cut our water use, and hopefully we will not have to revert back to using olive oil and a strigil instead of modern showers.

Showering habits aside, and on a serious note, the drought here in California will affect not only our vegetable crops, but also olive oil, nut and fruit production.  Farmers are already having to pull out or let trees die and expect losses for many crops.

Less nuts and fruits to pick means less work for the agricultural sector, higher prices for everyone...

President Obama is in the Central Valley today with a promise of millions of dollars in aid to help California farmers due to the drought.  He also pledged to speed up federal help that threatens the agriculture industry.

Save Water link to Christian Science articleMore on Obama in California: a pledge of drought aid, climate change planning, from the CSMonitor’s website, here. 

“He’ll offer a message of hope and a message that the federal government will do all that it can to try to alleviate some of the stress connected with this drought,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told reporters Thursday night.

Lolako.com drought-related posts:

If you live in California, how has the drought affected you?  As a resident here, are you making changes to your routines or plan to?

Zero Waste…from the city of San Francsico to Sierra Nevada Brewing Company

Can you imagine a time when we recycle or compost everything in our household and send NOTHING to landfills or to incineration facilities?

The recycling rate for Americans has increased to 34% compared to less than 10% a few decades ago.  Although we are headed in the right direction, the latest data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on our municipal solid waste indicate there are still millions of tons of trash going to landfills.

Recycling-Bins-at-big conferences

For environmentally progressive cities and businesses, standard recycling programs are not enough.  Zero waste is the new goal and the next step towards protecting our environment and conserving resources for future inhabitants of our planet.

I posted a new article on Native Leaf’s blog about San Francisco — voted the greenest city in North America– and its zero waste goals including how they plan to recycle textiles (because we in the U.S. send 39 million pounds of textile products to landfills each year).  Click here or the photo below to view the blog post.

View of San Francisco from TI rd

Early evening panorama photo of picturesque and environmentally progressive city of San Francisco, California (population 825,863).

Recently, an organization called the U.S. Zero Waste Council awarded its first ever Platinum Certification to the Northern California-based Sierra Nevada Brewing Company.   Excerpt:

…The goal of businesses participating in the Zero Waste Certification program is to divert all end-use material from landfill, incineration and the environment, while achieving a minimum of 90 percent diversion based on the standards set by the Zero Waste International Alliance (ZWIA). Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. is exceeding this by 9.8 percent.

Sierra Nevada logoSierra Nevada Brewing Company’s Chico facility received this platinum certification by reaching an amazing 99.8% trash diversion rate!

The sustainability culture at the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company is established  during the first day of work, when employees are given reusable water bottles and reusable shopping bags.  What a terrific way to set the tone and culture of sustainability…and for how the company works.

In addition to this recognition, Sierra Nevada also received awards from the EPA (Green Business of the Year), PG&E (Clean and Green Award), the state of California’s Waste Reduction Award Program, among their many accolades.

This is one beverage that environmentalist can feel good about drinking!  For more on how Sierra Nevada achieved their 99.8% diversion rate, click here.

What if all major metropolitan cities and corporations set zero waste goals?  With the way things are going and the strange world climate patterns we are experiencing, we may not have a choice….that is, if we want our grandchildren to live in a planet similar to what we now have.

I do wonder if the Philippines’ biggest beer (and largest food company) company, San Miguel is setting sustainability programs…

Related Lolako.com post:

Informative graphic from the U.S. EPA below.  Click on the graphic or here for posters, facts and figures on municipal solid waste in the United States.

EPA Recycling Graphic