Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

I’m Published, Yo   Leave a comment

Two weeks ago I started a new graduate assistantship at UT – I’m now the “Environmental Communications Coordinator” for UT’s communications and marketing department. Fancy title, huh! It’s been a lot of fun so far – meeting new people and talking about recycling and sustainability efforts on campus (of which there are many). With this job, my goal is to make UT’s students, faculty and staff more aware of and more involved in UT’s sustainability and recycling ventures.

Anyway, today my first article was published in Tennessee Today, and I want to share! Tennessee Today is the Communication & Marketing official online newspaper for all things UT.

Here’s the direct article link:

And here’s the main link to Tennessee Today:

I’m celebrating with a second cup of coffee and maybe some fresh hot homemade bread. What will you be doing to celebrate this momentous occasion?


Chipotle Does It Right   1 comment

I’ve been on hiatus from the blogging world for a while, huh. Sorry about that. I’ve been so busy doing insert meaningful-but-lame excuse, and I haven’t had the chance to make heartfelt apology here, but today I’m back! Maybe I’ll be back tomorrow as well too, I’m not sure. One day at a time. Alright kids, what we have here is Willie Nelson covering Coldplay. Check it, yo. After that, go grow some vegetables and also tell your mum I said hi.




Garden Fever   4 comments

The past few weeks, my parents have been in town visiting. It’s been great having them here, partly because it’s a great excuse for me to work on my garden with mum. Each year I plant veggies in the hope that I’ll be able to save money by eating what I grow. And each year my entire crop gets wiped out by the adorable family of chipmunks that live in the drainage pipes surrounding my garden. They’re too cute to be mad at! I guess I’m an eternal optimist, because this is my third attempt at growing a real veggie garden. This year will be different! This year my veggies will grow strong and healthy, and the chipmunks will give up their vegan diet in exchange for a diet of just insects and dirt! Well, I said I was an optimist.

I also want to mention that I took all of these photos with my iPhone. If you remember, I previously blogged about getting an iPhone 4 and how excited I was about testing out the built-in camera. Well, it’s a great little camera. I’ll let the photos below do the talking.

One last comment: Taking photos on a camera phone is great, but I typically blog from my laptop (especially when a post is picture heavy). Instead of emailing all these pics to myself, I used Dropbox. Dropbox is a fast, easy, and FREE application that you can put on all of your Internet-capable devices. You can share any kind of file or photo (there is a size limit of 300MB per item), and a free account comes with 2GB of space. So I put all of my garden photos on my Dropbox iPhone app, and they were immediately available on my laptop’s Dropbox app. Genius!

Another great feature of Dropbox is that you can create a shared folder for you and your friends. Want to send your friend an audio file you created, but it’s too large to email? Send it via Dropbox! You can just add your friend as a “member”, and voila: Sharing enabled.

And now, zee peektures:

Pink Magnolias in the backyard

Violets covering the backyard. I know, I'm not a good leaf raker.

I don't know why new leaves on this tree start out bright red, but I like it!

A possible mole hole in the back yard. Either that, or it's a portal to another dimension.

My Oregano has survived the winter and bounced back! This stuff is om nom in pasta sauce!

New blackberry leaves. This one's a slow grower, but the blackberries are pretty tasty.

Class of '11 seedlings. Fingers crossed they all grow! The marigolds are great to plant between tomatoes to deter tomato root nematodes

Lettuce, parsley, cilantro, and some more lettuce.

And Now You Know   Leave a comment

I was browsing Reddit and came across this little ripper of an image that I wanted to share.

Japan's Tectonic Plates. ~Wikipedia

The image is literally too long to post to my blog, so please check out the link if you’re interested. If you didn’t click the link, here are the Cliffs Notes:

Did you know that the altitude of Everest is higher than the “death zone”? That’s the altitude (26,000 ft) at which air no longer contains enough oxygen to sustain human life. Yet Everest towers above that height at 29,029 ft. How are these mountaineers coping with that last 3,000 ft?

Pop quiz: How long does it take to boil an egg at your house? About 5 or 6 minutes if you live at or just above sea level. On Everest it takes about 18 1/2 minutes. Talk about a waste of time. I’d rather be taking panoramic photographs and focusing on my breathing.

If you scroll down the image to beneath sea level, you’ll notice another tidbit of information:

Once the ocean depth reaches “Deep Sea” – about 5,900 ft – it’s referred to as “The Midnight Zone” because there’s absolutely no sunlight penetrating that far down. Isn’t that cool? Interestingly enough, this depth also coincides with the lowest point of the Grand Canyon (about 6,000 ft below sea level). It’s so fascinating that sunlight can reach a mile below sea level to the bottom of a canyon, but not a mile below the sea itself. Once the depth reaches about 26,000 ft below sea level, you’re in “The Hades Zone”. At temperatures less than 39°F, this area confuses me. I thought the saying was “hotter than Hades.”

Finally, the deepest crevice of the ocean: The Mariana Trench. Approximately 35,814 ft deep.

This trench is a subduction zone for two large tectonic plates – the Pacific and the Okhotsk. A subduction zone is where two tectonic plates move towards each other: The older plate moves under the younger plate, creating earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. When a subduction event is particularly violent, a “megathrust” earthquake can occur. These are earthquakes with magnitudes over 9.0 on the Richter scale. During a megathrust earthquake the seafloor also becomes deformed from the subduction, which leads to gigantic tsunamis at sea level. To the right is an image of the tectonic plates near Japan. As you can see, the country is surrounded on all sides and even dissected by fault lines. It’s a proverbial hotbed for tectonic activity, especially earthquakes.

On March 11th, 2011, Northeast Japan experienced a megathrust 9.0 earthquake and devastating tsunami. The NOAA image below shows the wave height of the tsunami as it spread across the Pacific Ocean. The eastern coast of Japan experienced waves in excess of seven feet. Amazingly, as you can see, the west coast of Japan experienced absolutely no waves at all as a result of the earthquake.

2011 Tsunami Wave Height. ~NOAA.

The way our Earth works is fascinating to me. I find it beautifully orchestrated, yet terrifying and deadly all at the same time. Sometimes I forget I’m on a moving, living, changing planet: Some geological events happen over hundreds of years without being noticeable to most humans. But earthquakes that literally rupture highways, and tsunamis that wipe out entire cities are both instantaneous and devastating to humanity. They remind me that this Earth is not a place to take for granted. I’m lucky to have a nice home located in a relatively stable geographic and geologic environment. If the worst of my problems boil down to stressing about a midterm exam, and worrying about whether or not my dog’s broken paw is healing properly, then I guess I’m doing okay. I hate to get all sentimental and mushy, but take ten seconds to put your life in perspective. Are your problems really that bad?


Cyclone Yasi Hits Social Media   Leave a comment

This morning I made myself a coffee, grabbed my laptop and settled down on the couch to check my favorite news and social websites. If this was 1990 I would have reached for the local newspaper, or maybe turned on the television. Oh, how times have changed. At least good coffee is a generational constant.

As I was browsing, a satellite picture of a cyclone off the coast of Australia caught my eye. It took me about 37 seconds to read the comments and discover that a) this was not a historic archive, because b) Cyclone Yasi hit the northeast coast of Australia about four hours ago, and is currently wreaking havoc. It’s also nighttime in Queensland right now, which make events like a category five cyclone all more the frightening for local residents.

Satellite image of Cyclone Yasi hitting the coast of Queensland ~ The Australian

I then checked out The Australian online to confirm the news. NEWS CONFIRMED. In the image above, you can see the cyclone’s eye about to touch down on Aussie soil. Towns up and down the Queensland coast are in a state of emergency.

Wanting to share this news with my American friends here in Tennessee, I logged into Twitter and checked the latest world trends for a useful hashtag reference. #tcyasi was listed in the top 5. Perfect. Less than four hours, and the entire world is already privy to a currently-in-action natural disaster on a fairly isolated continent. By localizing the Twitter trend region from “world” to “Australia”, Cyclone Yasi took over seven of the top ten listings.

Reflecting on the three minutes it took me to find and process this news, some noteworthy points arose:

One: Younger generations do not rely on traditional news sources as their primary source for information. These days, news quickly spreads from one medium to the next, exponentially expanding reach and readership. Social networks are rapidly becoming the bedrock for news dissemination.

Two: With the ability to “upvote,” “downvote,” “retweet,” or “hashtag,” users of these social networks are absolutely setting the agenda of what issues are important, and what issues rise up to the front page of search engine lists.

Three: Trained journalists are skilled writers who (hopefully) abide by a code of ethics and morals, but in 140 characters or less,  anyone can share any experience or thought. If, in the case of a natural disaster, enough people do the same, hundreds, thousands, or even millions of everyday people become pseudo-reporters.

The impact social networks are having on all levels of the news media is irreversible. Social networks are here to stay, and will continue to grow and develop as more global citizens begin to harness the power of instant, digital communication.

Finally, please keep Australia and its northeast residents in your thoughts, and donate to the cause if you can.


Posted February 2, 2011 by Elfawin in Environment, Social Media

Tagged with , ,

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