Recycling: Light from a soda bottle

Wow, what a great way to recycle soda bottles!  These bottles admit clear light to a dark home using only sunshine and purified water (with a little bleach added to discourage algae growth).

The lighting device can be installed in less than 1 hour, improving standards of living in poor, densely populated areas, where safe lighting is an issue.

I love what Filipino “eco-entrepreneur” Illiac Diaz is doing.

He founded My Shelter Foundation and works with Isang Litrong Liwanag (A Liter of Light) “a sustainable lighting project which aims to bring the eco-friendly Solar Bottle Bulb to disprivileged communities nationwide.

Originally designed and developed by students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), 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”.

Here is a video article about the project, from Reuters.

There is also an informative article by Jaymee T. Gamil of the Philippine Daily Inquirer posted on the Isang Litrong Liwanag (A Liter of Light) website.

We could use a lot more people like Illac Diaz in this world.

Related: Link to PBS Newshour profile and video segment on Illac Diaz here for the Agents of Change series.

Sack Scene

Every time I see these sacks lined up on farm fields next to Highway 101, I wonder…what is inside the sack and what do they grow there?

Last week, on the drive back from San Jose, we actually had a reason to turn on the side road near the fields, and stopped to take a closer look.

The scene reminded me of boot camp, soldiers lined up, and ready to march.

Oh…red onions.  So now I know.  And it was not I who tipped the sack over…really!

More Cucurbitas

Here are more cucurbita varieties, this time found at Trader Joe’s in Monterey.  I am not sure yet if I like the warty types.  Some of these cucurbitas have serious wart conditions.

Variety over monoculture…it’s a good thing.  Maybe it’s a trend.


Autumn Time, Pumpkin Time – and the difference between a pumpkin, squash and gourd

Officially, the fall season starts today for countries in the Northern Hemisphere (the United States, Canada).

We are enjoying the last of the sweet summer corn, and now see dried and decorative corn in the market.

And I lament not savoring enough local cherries (yet again) this year.

Pumpkins / Squashes of varying shapes and sizes are now in stores and market stands.

And by the way, if you are wondering what the difference is between a pumpkin and a squash — or a gourd — the answer is at the end of this post.

This year, there seems to be more varieties than ever, like the cream and orange pumpkins below.  They look to me like designer pumpkins, and the texture and pattern could be on a sofa or chair fabric.

There are white pumpkins

There are also miniature white and orange pumpkins

And beautiful, as well as crazy, alien looking squashes (at least what I call squash)

My favorites are these turban squashes, for the unusual shape and color variety

Here is the answer to the question, what is the difference between a pumpkin, squash and a gourd (from the Texas A&M Aggie Horticulture website).

The genetic history of the pumpkin is so intertwined with the squash and the gourd that it’s sometimes difficult to tell them apart.

Generally speaking a pumpkin is something you carve, a squash is something you cook and a gourd is something you look at. Though it’s really not that simple, it’s also not that difficult. The answer is in the stem.

Pumpkins and squashes and gourds all belong to the same genetic family – Cucurbita. Within that family are several species or subgroups – Cucurbita pepo, Cucurbita maxima and Cucurbita moschata.

The pepo species is usually recognized as the true pumpkin. Varieties within this group have bright orange skin and hard, woody, distinctly furrowed stems. But the group also includes gourds, vegetable marrow, Pattypan summer squash, scallop summer squash, gray and black zucchini and summer crookneck squash.

The maxima species also contains varieties that produce pumpkin-like fruit but the skin is usually more yellow than orange and the stems are soft and spongy or corky, without ridges and without an enlargement next to the fruit. They don’t really make good handles for jack-o’-lanterns. Varieties such as Atlantic Giant, Big Max and Show King are often listed as pumpkins but are more properly called pumpkin-squash or squash- type pumpkins. Other members of the maxima group are Hubbard squashes, banana squashes, buttercup squashes and turban squashes – in short, most autumn and winter squash.

Finally, there’s the moschata species. Varieties in this group are usually long and oblong instead of round and have tan rather than orange skin. The stems are deeply ridged and enlarged next to the fruit. Ironically, a member of this group is used for much of the canned pumpkin sold in this country. Other non-pumpkin members include the squash-like cushaw, winter crookneck squash and butternut squash.

And if you are wondering where the Cucurbitas — photographed for this post — can be purchased, we found these at the Moss Landing Farm Fresh Produce Stand today, next to the The Whole Enchilada Marketplace off Hwy 1.

Enjoy the fall…and your pumpkin pies.  And remind me to eat more cherries (and maybe make a cobbler) next summer.  This summer went by so quickly.

~Lola Jane

California’s Median Income Falls, Poverty Rates Increase

OK, no more charts for a while…at least after this one, from Sharon Okada of the Sacramento Bee.  You may have heard about median incomes falling and poverty rates rising in California, so here are the numbers:

California Median Income Falls and Poverty Rate Increases


  • The nationwide median household income is at $49,445, and down from $50,599 in 2009.
  • Last year,  6.1 million Californians lived in poverty — an increase of almost 500,000 from the previous year.  This rate is the highest since 1997.
  • A family of 4 earning $22,350 or less, or a single person earning $10,890 falls below the federal poverty line.

——Data below from United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)—-           Figures for poverty in 2011

Persons in
Family Unit
48 Contiguous States
and D.C.
Alaska Hawaii
1 $10,890 $13,600 $12,540
2 $14,710 $18,380 $16,930
3 $18,530 $23,160 $21,320
4 $22,350 $27,940 $25,710
5 $26,170 $32,720 $30,100
6 $29,990 $37,500 $34,490
7 $33,810 $42,280 $38,880
8 $37,630 $47,060 $43,270
Each additional
person adds
$3,820 $4,780 $4,390

If you want to read more on California’s poverty rate increase, here is a link to the article in the Sacramento Bee “California’s poverty rate highest in more than a decade”.

Obviously, poverty in a country like the U.S. is a lot different from poverty in Burundi — the poorest nation in the world as measured by per capita income.

No matter the country or the poverty line thresholds and definitions, we don’t ever want to see poverty rates increasing.

A Demographic Riddle

There is a great chart in the September 2011 issue of National Geographic Magazine. The chart illustrates the relationship between a country’s fertility rate and per capita income, and this demographic riddle:

Do women bear fewer children because a country is prosperous, or does a country’s economy grow when women have fewer children?

The fertility rate chart illustrates that indeed, there is a link between family size and per capita incomes.  Compare the fertility rate on this chart to the world map – and population living on $2 a day, on my earlier post.

I could not find the chart on-line or on the National Geographic website —- so a scanned version is on this post (created by John Tomanio and Lawson Parker, National Geographic Magazine staff members).

Here is the key:

The full chart below is the world map, with countries in gray, behind the fertility rate babies.  Area details follow below.

Below is the section showing North, Central and South America.  I added the black larger text of some countries (e.g., CANADA 1.7) to give perspective of the map’s regions, as parts of the scanned chart are not clear.

Here is the Europe / Africa region:

Below is the Asia / Australia – Oceania region.  And note, the national fertility rate for the Philippines is 3.2.

The chart is part of an article about Brazil, and National Geographic Magazine‘s year-long series on global population.

Here is a link to Cynthia Gorney’s article, Brazil’s Girl Power – How a mix of female empowerment and steamy soap operas helped bring down Brazil’s fertility rate and stoke its vibrant economy.

GDP – Poor Nations Per Capita Income

Using data from the World Bank, I was working on a GDP per capita, Poor Nations Quiz for this post (follow-up to Rich Nations Quiz as well as my post on the book Plastic: A Toxic Love Story).

It turns out 32 countries on our planet have a GDP per income capita of less than $1,000 per year.  This was surprising, at least to me — and way too depressing.  So…no quiz for this post, just information.

The country with the lowest per capita income is Burundi at $189 per year, population 8,518,862.  Other countries in this below $1,000 range — that you may have heard of:

  • Kenya – $769 per year, population 40,862,900
  • Bangladesh – $609 per year, population 164,425,491
  • Nepal – $526, population 29,852,682
  • Uganda – $503 per year, population 33,796,461
  • Mozambique – $410 per year, population 23,405,670
  • Ethiopia – $350 per year, population 84,975,606

Below is a world map showing population percentage living on less than $2 per day (annual income less than $730 per year).

Data is from United Nations estimates.  The Philippines falls in the red group — with 41% to 60% of the population living on less than $2 per day.

More poverty maps can be viewed on this link to Wikipedia’s List of countries by percentage of population living in poverty.

There are 21 countries with annual per capita under $2,000, including:

  • India – $1,477, population 1,170,438,000
  • Sudan – $1,425, population 43,551,941
  • Nigeria $1,224, population 158,258,197
  • Vietnam $1,172, population 88,361,983

And 16 countries with per capita incomes under $3,000 (the Philippines falls in this range, listed as $2,132, population 93,616,853).  Others in this range include:

  • Egypt – $2,591,  population 84,474,427
  • Iraq – $2,544, population 32,297,391
  • Sri Lanka – $2,423, population 20,451,826
  • Morocco – $2,771, population 32,381,283

A reminder, the World Bank’s tag line is Working for a World Free of Poverty.

  • The World Bank’s defines per capita as the “gross domestic product divided by mid year population. GDP is the sum of gross value added by all resident producers in the economy plus any product taxes and minus any subsidies not included in the value of the products. It is calculated without making deductions for depreciation of fabricated assets or for depletion and degradation of natural resources.

With all our modern technology, when we have so much information, and are connected in so many ways, is there still so much poverty in the world?  There must be a group of very smart people out there working on the answers…

What are your thoughts on why (updated as of May, 2014) we still cannot find the answer to address poverty worldwide?

Poverty-related Lola Jane post:

There is some good news!  See the blog post (here) on the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDG) for 2015. Excerpt:  Back in the year 2000, 189 nations promised to free people from extreme poverty and other deprivations.  This pledge  is the basis for the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals (MDG) — a blueprint agreed to by the world’s countries and all the world’s leading development institutions — with a target for the year 2015.

Massive power outages, and when a smart phone is not so smart…

I’ve had my Blackberry for a few years now, and rely on its many convenient features.

It gives me access to emails, a browser for the Internet, and my favorite apps like Yelp.  It’s my camera, video recorder, voice recorder and memo pad, which means I don’t have to worry about even having a pen and paper with me.

So when it started having “issues” the other day (as in the keyboard locked up and started to speak its own language), I suddenly had

  1. no phone
  2. no mini computer to access my email and the Internet
  3. no camera
  4. no video camera
  5. no voice recorder
  6. no navigation aid / GPS
  7. and now in need of pen and paper since I could not use my memo pad feature

Then it does not seem so smart after all.

A few days ago, over a million people in Southern California, Arizona and Mexico were affected by a huge power outage.  It was caused by a short-circuit at a substation in North Gila, Arizona.

Photo from L.A. Times Article "Arizona power company baffled by events that led to outage"

Worrisome to think that one botched repair job — on equipment the size of a car — could not be isolated, and ended up cascading and affecting other utility companies in the area.  The San Onofre nuclear power plant near San Diego automatically shut down, reportedly due to grid instability.

Technology connects us…and our reliance on it also makes us vulnerable when it fails.

The Department of Energy, along with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is said to be working to find out the causes of these massive power outages. Click on this link to an article from the LA Times for further details.

In my small world and smart phone example, it is just an annoyance.  In the bigger world, I have to wonder what other systems have been overlooked…and disasters-in-waiting, due to centralizing and connecting so many of these systems.

What do you think?

A GDP, Rich Nations Per Capita Income Quiz

There is a lot of interesting information on the World Bank’s Countries and Economies section — which I visited for my blog post on Plastic, A Toxic Love Story.  The most glaring being the income disparity between countries.

Here is a little quiz for you….with the answers at the bottom of this post.  Data is in US Dollars and from 2010 unless noted otherwise.

  1. Can you guess the 3 countries that have the highest incomes (over $100,000 per capita) in the world?
  2. Name the top 5 by per capita income countries in Europe.  And oh…not counting the answers to question #1 –which makes this a clue to the answer to #1…highest income countries are all in Europe.
  3. The top 5 by per capita income countries in Asia?
  4. The top 5 by per capita income countries in the Middle East?
  5. The Caribbean country with a per capita income of over $88,000?


  1. Monaco ($186,175 for 2009, population 32,904), Liechtenstein ($134,392 for 2009, population 36,190), Luxembourg ($108,747, population 506,640)
  2. Norway ($84,880, population 4,882,930), Switzerland ($67,236, population 7,790,010), Denmark ($55,778, population 5,565,020), Sweden ($48,754, population 9,394,130), Netherlands ($47,130, population 16,622,560)
  3. Singapore ($43,324, population 5,140,300) Japan ($43,161, population UN Data 127,450,459), Australia ($42,279 for 2009, population 22,327,200), Hong Kong SAR, China ($31,877, population 7,041,270), New Zealand ($29,352 for 2009, population 4,370,700)
  4. Qatar ($69,754 for 2009, population 1,508,322), Kuwait ($54,260 for 2008, population 2,863,00), United Arab Emirates ($50,070 for 2009, population 4,707,307), Israel ($28,683, population 7,577,000), Bahrain ($26,021 for 2009, population 807,131).
  5. Bermuda ($88,747 for 2009, population 64,600)

Note:  The World Bank Website defines per capita as the “gross domestic product divided by mid year population. GDP is the sum of gross value added by all resident producers in the economy plus any product taxes and minus any subsidies not included in the value of the products. It is calculated without making deductions for depreciation of fabricated assets or for depletion and degradation of natural resources.

The World Bank tag line is: Working for a World Free of Poverty.

Next time, GDP, Per Capita Income Quiz, at the other end of the spectrum.

Did any of the quiz answers surprise you?  Let me know.

Lola Jane


1900’s Philippine-American War Movie: Amigo

Click on this link to John Sayles’ blog, for a list of the opening dates around the country.

Filmed on location in the Philippines, the movie is set in the early 1900’s, during a time in history when the Philippines was occupied by the US, .  More information on my blog post “Bring John Sayles’ Film “Amigo” to Monterey Bay.

There is a picture of a carabao (Philippine water buffalo) — looking annoyed — at the top of his blog.