COP22.

Today, was invited to – and officially accepted – COP22 as a U.S. delegate.  I don’t think it has completely set in yet.  Honestly, receiving a cheery call from Morgan Curtis of SustainUs feels cheery in and of itself; realizing that’s she’s really saying, “See you in Morocco to push amazing global policy work on climate change and the environment!” is a whole other thing.  To think, 10 years ago today I was stressing out over which shows my high school, Celtic Rock band would or would not choose to play in…Actually, 10 years ago this summer I was competing in my first Junior Olympics in Detroit.  But that’s besides the point.  The reality is, 10 years ago today I never imagined I would be more than a female violinist behind a male-dominated music ensemble, or more than a defenseman on a team I hardly made the cut for.

It’s exciting to see all of my work come together.  What’s the most exciting is not a day goes by without me realizing how much of my work came from my grandmothers.  My paternal grandmother, who just had her 87th birthday on Friday, taught me work ethic.  She’s been independent for decades.  In fact, she’s been independent her whole life.  The only girl among many brother and half-brothers, she always held her own.  She worked a whole slew of jobs, bought her own cars, and even worked to keep the farm afloat when her husband died and she was on the verge of poverty.

Then there’s my maternal grandmother, teaching more than maybe she realized.  I’ve traced my lineage through a line of medicine people, the clan I’m enrolled in, and it seems fitting.  The emphasis she placed on plants.  The central part gardening played in our lives growing up.  Making salads of Lovage from her Salad Bowl…It has all translated into my work today.  It has taken me some time, but I finally realize how many people have lost this common sense.  That’s why so much of my work is dedicated to food sovereignty, seed saving practices, and native seed banks.

One thing I love about engineering is how flexible it can be.  I learn all of the tools to apply it to fancy technology, but there’s a whole other realm of possibilities too.  That realm is where engineering overlaps with the most basic concepts.  “Expounding on traditional knowledge” is probably my favorite way to describe it.  It’s taking engineering to analyze why certain traditional farming and other techniques work, then looking at how to make them even more efficient or effective.  Water use and resource management.  Seed cleaning, saving, and distribution.  Even traditional structures.  (Did you know kivas utilize convection to function?)

It’s hard to imagine, based on how I grew up, that people don’t raise their own food, that they don’t know how to grow it or how to save seeds.  But I’m realizing how much that is the reality.  Through the local programs our AISES group has been collaborating with, I’ve been able to work with Working in Beauty, members from COPE, and a variety of other organizations to tackle food sovereignty topics on both the educational as well as policy levels.  Outreach.  Outreach.  Outreach.

If you ever want me to speak at your function, be sure to contact my agent.  Just kidding…my agent’s on vacation this month. 😉

but first, let me take a selfie.

I’ve had a lot of topics pass in and out of my thoughts over the last week but I haven’t sat down to write about any of them.  One that’s been reoccurring for over a year, however, is regarding vanity.  I’ve written a lot of things that reflect my dislike of silly trends and vain generations, but I’m not sure how often I’ve spelled out my frustrations of avoiding hypocrisy.  I was thinking about it a lot again today and decided maybe it was time to pen something out.



Case and point.  (If you haven’t watched that video yet, do it…because you’ll be hearing a lot about it for quite some time.  It’s the new, What Does the Fox Say.)


I have read sooo many articles lately that bash my generation.  “Vain”, “self-absorbed”, “egocentric”,… and at first I was nodding right along.  Then I thought, isn’t it a bit ironic?  All of these people from my generation keep writing about “those guys” in the same generation, the people who are giving us the “bad rap”.  But even us writers, here we are breaking things down and giving our view on some larger thing just because we think we have a valuable opinion?  That people will want to hear what we have to say?  And what about the fact that we’re still part of that generation?


I’m pretty sure anyone in our generation associated at all with technology or the internet is at least a little self-absorbed, albeit because they do have a Facebook account and post photos or because they play online video games and don’t associate with live humans.  I know there are people out there who refrain completely from technology.  But I’m not sure that struggling to separate themselves from the rest of the people doesn’t make them any less concerned about self-image and what demographic they represent.


Not gonna lie, though…I love having interfaces that put data in my hand whenever I want it, whatever I want.  I love efficiency.  I think that all comes from technology’s development and, as a result, an increased pace in society.  Pushing to get ahead, not just to be the best country at something but also as an individual trying not to lose that scholarship in college.  There are some justifications for technological dependencies, at least if you’ve ever been to college or worked in your career in recent years.


But I still make choices.  I don’t “selfie it up” in the bathroom, I dress in ways that make me happy for myself but not in ways that are meant to draw attention (ick!), and I refrain from being on my phone all of the freaking time.  You know how annoyed clerks get with that?  They don’t feel like “real” people when phone’s are used at the counter.  (Dewey’s Coffeehouse at Shaker Square even forbids phones in line for that reason.)


Yet there are some things that I see and that I wish I had.  For example, pretty much every friend I know has had professional photos taken for high school graduation.  Then again after college.  Well, yesterday was my graduation ceremony from Case Western and I thought, wow, I have no documentation of any of this.  No formal photos besides the classic headshot from senior year of high school to show how much I have or haven’t changed.  And it’s kind of nice to have real quality photos instead of selfies or some janky set-up your parents put together in your den.


However, I also see some other people’s blogs.  They are super fashion obsessed and I don’t mean obsessed as in my obsession with looking decent and classy.  No, I mean they think they are *teh shiz*.  When I see all of these photos of them that they post in the same outfit (sometimes pretty, sometimes seriously just a boring black shower curtain with a necklace), I have mixed feelings.  First, I think ick!  How obsessed are you with yourself!?  (You really think you’re that pretty?)  Second, I think what about me!  I want photos like that.  I want to feel special.  —–   But do I?


I think having fashion photos of me would be appealing if it were one casual shot in this outfit, maybe another casual shot wearing something else…but also in a pretty setting.  I can’t stand these girls who have fifty shots of themselves taken with the same building behind them every time, trying to strike poses that they’re just not pulling off and which I think look stupid in the magazines as it is…and so I can scrap any desire to look like that just by thinking of how vain they look!


Yup, I still hate the fashion industry.  I hate what it does to people, how it affects farmers, the pesticides involved in producing cotton, the rip-offs, the hoity-toity designers, how men design scandalous women’s clothing, how women think this is something to which they should aspire, just soo sooo sooooo so much about the fashion industry itself is stupid.  Then add on all of these “selfies” and “photo shoots” and you’re left looking at this generation and thinking, “Wow, what a bunch of egocentric airheads” and wondering if they’ve even graduated high school or if they were too obsessed with what they were going to wear to prom.


And now…my closing -siiiigh-….


P.S. I totally took a selfie today.

Taken for Granted.

ImageI’ve been reading One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.  The story focuses on an extended family and surrounding people living rather isolated and somewhat primitive in Colombia.  The patriarch of the family is transfixed with the ideas of science and invention.  In fact, he founds his own village, Macondo, on an island so he can spend his life entertaining his curiosities.  What’s particularly interesting about this man and his village, though, is the fact that the both are so isolated in only the familiar and with little contact to the outside.  For example, some gypsies bring in a large piece of ice to the village as a “demonstration” – not of science, but of magic.  The man is transfixed by this enormous diamond and pays for him and his sons to touch it.  Because he sees things in one light and one light only.

I’m still reading the book, but that was the gist of what I’ve gotten from summaries of it and what I’ve read so far.  But what really stuck out to me was that ice scenario.  I started thinking about the life that family had, isolated in one of the last regions to be explored.  In fact, Colombia is still heavily avoided, perhaps due more to violence than environmental concern such as the Amazon in Brazil.

But…ice.

I see ice every morning during this time of year.  There’s ice on my windows, ice hanging from my eaves, and ice on the sidewalks.  We go to the restaurant and we’re served water with ice.  We buy bags of ice for coolers to pack samples in the lab.  We have ice for injuries whenever we need it.

But, ice.

There are people in this world who have lived their whole lives without ever seeing, feeling, tasting, knowing ice.  They might know steam and not recognize it as water.  If they saw ice, they surely wouldn’t first guess water, would they?  Could they say ‘diamonds’ if they knew diamonds?  And how could you ever explain that feeling of such coldness?  So cold, it seems boiling hot if you have only ever known boiling hot.

I’m not just thinking about the materialistic things we take for granted in our daily lives, like heat and air-conditioning.  I’m not just talking about the people we take for granted in our daily lives, like friends and family.  I’m talking about the science we have come to know and how it has changed our lives as we’ve learned to manipulate it.

Medication.  Transportation.  Entertainment.  Those are some of the big ones.

But even something as simple as ice.  Phase change.  Think of how many things we have that rely on phase change: cooking, engines, pumps,…a lot of little things that make up much bigger things.  Science, knowledge….the ability to share that information – it can so easily be taken for granted.

How different would your life be if you lived in a place where no one knew ice?