Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Finca Cielo Azul has a new home!

I've mentioned it a few times before, and I finally did: I moved to wordpress!

Seems like it was just in time, since I logged in to write this post and realized the set up on Blogger has changed a bit.  I'm sure it's a good thing, but I don't really feel like learning a whole new user interface on here.

Anyhow, the blog writing will continue over here.  

I hope you'll keep reading!

Friday, April 13, 2012


Aside from coffee, I've never been addicted to anything. The only time I actually had a cigarette between my lips was as a prop for a White Trash Birthday Bash (and yes, I won the Trailer Park Queen award, a-thank-ya-very-much!), and it wasn't even lit.

Again, caffeine headaches aside, I didn't know what addiction or withdrawal symptoms felt like. Until this week. Google "technology addiction." Scary stuff out there, people.

So I wrote how I'm trying to disconnect myself a little more from my cell phone, and in my last blog about this I wrote how I was going to stop using my phone while driving, as well as sleeping next to my phone. At the expense of again sounding ridiculous (I realize this), the first few days were pretty tough! That first night I drove home and made a conscious effort to not look at my phone while driving or to entertain myself at red lights, I had to really be conscious of not picking up my phone, I had to work very hard at not thinking about my phone. Kinda scary. But, it's gotten easier as the days go by.

As far as not sleeping next to my phone, it's really not that big of a deal, but I do get a little bored in the mornings. I usually wake up way before Jeff's alarm goes off, so normally I check Facebook or Twitter during that time. Without my phone to entertain me, all I have is my thoughts. Those can be pretty useless at 6am. But, I'm managing. I'm thinking instead of just laying in bed, I'll start getting out of bed and going for an early morning walk. We'll see how that works.

On Wednesday night, as Jeff and I were in the living room with his parents watching American Idol (helloooooo Phillip Phillips), I decided what my next step was: not using my phone after dinner when the family is hanging out. I mean, I don't need TV AND my cell phone to entertain me, do I? So I told myself no more catching up on Words with Friends and Draw Something while I have Jeff right next to me to talk to.

Which led me to...not using Words with Friends or Draw Something at all. They're both neat apps, but the reality is that they make me more anxious than happy. Has so-and-so played me yet? Dammit, I need at least a 30-point word. How do I draw Beyonce? Hospital, again.

Performance anxiety aside, they don't really promote contact with the person I'm playing with. I'm usually not having a conversation with them, and drawing randomly selected items on a phone is not going to tell me anything about what or how they're doing.

So, I've decided to delete both apps from my phone. It'll give me more time to focus on the things I need to focus on, and less time stressing out about my next move.k

To my friends on Draw Something and Words with Friends: it's been real. I've learned some new words that I didn't even know existed, and learned that you can convey almost anything with stick figures. Certainly life lessons worth learning!

Speaking of unplugging, saw this campaign on billboards in LA today. I like. STOP PLAYING VIDEOGAMES AND GET OUTSIDE.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

My Soda Blog.

$66 billion dollars a year. That’s what American’s spend on carbonated drinks every year. Well, according to this at least. (Notice it’s an addiction center website--I find that funny/interesting/disturbing/comical/questionable).

Another interesting factoid: from 1970 to 1990, “the supply of low-fat milk rose from 5.8 to 15.5 gallons..but that of soft drinks rose from 24.3 to 53 gallons.” Food Politics, Marion Nestle, page 9.

I started looking into the negative health effects of soda, and ahoy, there’s quite a few of them. Including, but not limited to:

  • Tooth decay
  • Obesity (“...for each additional soda consumed, the risk of obesity increases 1.6 times”)
  • Bone loss
  • Hypokalemia

Why am I writing about soda? When Jeff and I moved into our apartment back in 2008, we stopped buying soda because we realized we didn’t need to spend money on that. Ever since then, we consume mostly water and beer. And iced tea on occasion. It works out well. We save a few bucks, which allows us to buy more beer. But I digress.

After a while of not having soda at home, I realized that when we’d go out to eat, I didn’t feel like drinking soda. It was too sweet, and sounded less than appetizing. This made me realize how prevalent soda is everywhere, and how few alternatives there really are.

I was made more aware of this when I discovered Native Foods, and their non-soda beverages. It was disturbing to realize how weird it was that Native Foods didn’t have soda (instead they have delicious lavender lemonade, watermelon fresca, and native iced idea). So this got me thinking: how did this relationship develop between food establishments (especially fast food) and the soda industry, to the point that they go hand in hand?

Another food establishment that got me thinking about this, in a somewhat different manner, is In n Out’s policy regarding bottled water. The policy is that they don’t sell any. I found that really interesting, and pretty admirable. What does this have to do with soda? Well, it has more to do with the soda industry, since Dasani is owned by Coca Cola, and Aquafina is owned by PepsiCo. Interesting and long discussion on the promotion of bottled water versus tap water here.

Both of these got me wondering how this all got started, and how we ended up drinking as much soda and bottled water as we do.

Let’s start with a little history.

Carbonated drinks were sold commercially before the 19th century as tonic or “medicine,” and it wasn’t until someone started adding fruit syrups to it that soft drinks became popular. There’s also an interesting correlation between “soft” drinks and “hard” liquor, ha! It seems that soda became especially popular during the prohibition, where soft drinks were encouraged and promoted over hard liquor. Who knew?

You can find an interesting, and entertaining, history of soda fountains here. There’s also a time line and history of each major soda company (including my personal favorite, Dr. Pepper) that you can read here.

So, soda came, and it conquered.

It’s taken a special place in our culture. In an NPR article, a speaker states “I remember when I was a child, it was not considered appropriate to offer a soda with a meal on a regular basis, milk or water was the norm.” Ha!

The second segment of that NPR special talks about a student who was proud about having a healthy breakfast: a pineapple soda.


Again, how did we get here?

Jeff has always been surprised by the legality of “lobbying.” So, you pay money to get what you want, even if it run against what’s good or in the best interest? Yep.

Food Politics has a whole chapter (chapter 9) devoted to lobbying efforts and soft drinks. It talks about how soft drink companies (mostly the Coca Cola company) pour tons of money into schools in exchange for exclusivity rights (aka “pouring rights”). Many schools are not in a position to turn down these financially lucrative offers, so what happens? “...soft drinks have replaced milk in the diets of many American children as well as adults...From 1985 to 1997, school districts decreased the amounts of milk they bought by nearly 30% and increased their purchase of carbonated sodas by an impressive 1,100%.” Nestle, 198-9; emphasis added.

The book has an interesting timeline of the history of regulations governing sales of soft drinks in elementary and secondary schools. For example, in 1970: amendments to 1996 Act ban sales of sodas in or near school cafeterias during mealtimes...then in 1972 another amendment permits sale during mealtimes if the proceeds benefit schools or school groups. Regulation authority is then transferred to the USDA, who tries unsuccessfully to clamp down even more and ban completely the sale of soda on school campuses. Every time they try to propose such amendments, the Coca Cola company and PepsiCo lobby against it. One bill introduction caused Coca-Cola to organize a letter-writing campaign “among school principles, superintendents, and coaches who feared losing revenues generated by vending machines.” Nestle, 208-9, 210.

Part of some state regulations include restrictions like “no water ices except those which contain fruit or fruit juices, shall be sold in any public school within the state.” So... “companies developed sweetened fruit ‘drinks’ that can be sold on lunch lines; these contain just barely enough juice (5%) to get around being defined as a food of minimal nutritional value.” Nestle, 212. Take THAT!

Food Politics focuses on lobbying only at the educational level, but I think that has longstanding implications: you get used to drinking soda at a young age, and probably continue to do so way past your formative educational years.

This website has some interesting, albeit outdated, information concerning campaign contributions and the Coca Cola company. The site breaks down campaign contributions by year, and by political party (up to 2003, $491,000 to Republican party committees and $8,850 to Democratic party committees--I find that interesting), as well as lobbying expenses.

“Congressional reluctance to favor children’s health above the rights of soft drink producers is a direct result of election laws that require legislators to obtain corporate funding for their campaigns. Like most corporations, soft drink companies donate funds to local and national candidates. More rational campaign financing laws might permit Congress to take positions based on public good rather than private greed.” Nestle, 217; emphasis added.

This influence on congress has far reaching implications.

The Coca Cola Company has been demonized in Latin America because of it’s influence on fighting local labor unions. There are sites dedicated to lobbying against the Coca Cola Company, suck as Killer Coke.

There’s also the issue of the environment. The Coca Cola Company seemed to be pretty bent out of shape when the Grand Canyon decided to ban plastic bottles from the park. Coca Cola has donated more than $13 billion to the parks, and the park started to second guess whether it really wanted to ban plastic bottles or not when Coca Cola representatives weren’t happy with the news. Hmmm. In the end, the park moved forward with its plans, but with some conditions.

Yikes, I kinda went all over the place on this one (this includes mixing issues such as soda health concerns and bottled water environmental concerns). I'm sure this could be a whole research paper on the subject, but hopefully these little tid bits of information are interesting to you. What it means to you is up to you. I still enjoy a Coke or Dr. Pepper on occasion, but I’m glad I stopped consuming as much of it as I used to.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Technology and the Demise of Human Relationships

When I go on longer drives, I like to find a couple good TED talks that I can listen to while I drive. On Wednesday, I heard one that really struck a chord.

The talk was by Sherry Turkle, and titled "Connected, but alone?". At almost twenty minutes it's one of the longer TED talks, but I highly recommend watching it. Turkle brought up some interesting points that I've thought about (especially robots being the demise of humans--fine, she doesn't make that exact point, but she's implying it).

One great point she made is that technology gadgets have made us uncomfortable with being "alone." To the point that we (or I) lunge towards our phones for company. Turkle mentioned grocery lines and red lights. Guilty and guilty. The red light thing is something I realized a couple months ago. I got to the point where I couldn't sit at a red light without checking my phone and trying to find something to interest me. When did I become bored with the people, cars, streets, homes, schools, stores, pedestrians, etc., that surround me? At some point, I felt the need to rush to my phone for entertainment for every second of down time.

I also latch on to my phone when I'm standing in line somewhere. I'm not sure why I feel awkward just standing there. Maybe it's to avoid awkward glances or interactions with strangers. But the status I'm reading on Facebook might as well come from strangers, it's not like I've seen most of them in a few years anyway.

Another great point Turkle made is how we prefer interactions via technology, as opposed to human interaction (in person or even on a phone conversation instead of texting) because we can "edit" ourselves: we can change, draft, delete, and perfect. We can present ourselves as we want others to see us. We can keep the bad to ourselves, and present only the shiny, cool, interesting. I often have to remind myself that people (usually) only post the great or fun stuff that happens in their life, and that I shouldn't be jealous of the great trips, excursions, outings, etc. that they are enjoying at any specific time. I have those too. Just not at exactly the same time that they are. And they have shitty moments just like I do: they have to work, make a living, deal with the mundane of every day life. Sure, some of them take more trips than I do...but that's for another discussion (socialism!) ;)

I decided that I fall into too many of the scenarios that Turkle mentions in her talk. Now that Lent is over and I no longer have to say "no" to chocolate, I'm choosing to wean myself off of my phone. Not that I'm going to give it up entirely (ha!), but I want to be better about being in the now, being aware of what's around me, and not focus so much on being "connected" to people who's lives and whereabouts have absolutely zero effect on my life and happiness.

I started last week by doing really simple little things, like leaving my phone in our room when we're in the living room, or leaving my phone at home when we go on evening walks. Today I took a big step: no phone while driving. "Hey, isn't there a law in California about using your phone while driving?" Yeah. Most people still do it, and I'm probably one of the worst offenders. Especially at red lights. When I was done with tutoring tonight, I challenged myself to not look at my phone at all during the drive home. I realize to some of you this probably sounds ridiculous. It is. But at least I realize I have a ridiculous problem that needs to be addressed. And for some reason this blog allows me to feel ok sharing my ridiculousness with all of you.

Anyhow, I made it home without looking at my phone. Instead, I sang along to the radio, belted out a few good ones, searched for better ones, looked around me, and had a thoroughly enjoyable ride home.

My next challenge: leaving my phone on the desk when I go to bed, instead of next to my pillow. I mean, really...I'm not in a career field where I'm expecting an emergency call, email or text in the middle of the night. And I don't need to check Facebook as soon as I wake up.

Baby steps...(and yes, you can make fun of me all you want).

Monday, April 2, 2012

March Charity of the Month: Mercy House

A couple days late, but here we are!

Toward the beginning of March, I volunteered with a small group from the Orange County Bar Association ("OCBA") at the Fullerton Armory, where Mercy House provides emergency shelter for homeless people during the fall and winter months. This year they received some extra funding, so they were able to provide emergency shelter through the month of March. (You can learn all about Mercy House here.)

I volunteered at the Fullerton Armory in law school through Public Law Center, but in a different capacity. Instead of staying towards the back and handling legal intakes, this time I helped with the actual set up of the armory, and helped check people in as they arrived.

Mercy House provides up to 400 "beds" every night for homeless people at Armory locations in Fullerton and Santa Ana. My first job when I arrived was to sanitize and set up the mats for everyone that would be staying there that night. First you lay out all the mats, side by side, row by row. Then you grab a mop and have to wipe down each mat individually. Thankfully I was given some important tips on how to do this quickly and efficiently...otherwise who knows how long it would've taken me! After I mopped them, someone else was walking by spraying them down with lysol.

It's crazy to think of how much people probably appreciate those mats. To you and me, the idea of sleeping on a mat that's been slept on by countless strangers, that needs to be mopped down and sprayed with lysol, is probably less than appealing. But to many in our own neighborhoods, it's a safe haven, and probably way more comfortable than places where they usually sleep.

After setting up and cleaning the mats, I was assigned the task of registering people as they came in. I was really surprised by the organization that Mercy House has put in place. Every individual has an identification card, provided by Mercy House, with the person's name, picture, and date of birth. My job was to verify the ID, write down their name and date of birth on the registration form for that night, and have them sign it. After they signed in, they were given a paper cup and a meal ticket. Some people carried their ID cards with care, others with reckless abandon. But each person had it. No matter how much or how little they carried, they made sure to conserve this one piece of paper that allowed them to seek shelter from the cold.
While working the registration table I found out that there are certain meeting points throughout various surrounding cities. People are picked up from those sites, and bussed to the armory clinics. I also noted an important difference from my last volunteer experience to now: children and families do not stay at the armory, but are instead checked in to a hotel where the whole family can stay together. Years ago, children slept in the armory along with everyone else, but it was (and still is) divided by sex: males sleep on one side, females on the other. This meant that not only were children sleeping along hundreds of strangers, they were also probably separated from either their father or their mother.

I thought this was a great improvement for the program: taking action and finding solutions. I was also struck by the variety of people who were seeking shelter at the armory. People of all races and backgrounds. There were kids who didn't even look like they were 21 yet, a middle aged man in a business suit, older war veterans, people with obvious mental health issues, people who look just like you and me. It makes me wonder what brought each of these people to be homeless, and what keeps them there: are they just staying for a couple nights while they get enough to put a deposit on an apartment, or do they come here every winter? I guess there are some things I'll never know.

What I do know is that I felt like my time spent there was very much appreciated by the people I was checking in: they greeted my smile with a smile, and I was surprised at how much they enjoyed and embraced a friendly face. Then I remembered how many times I've avoided making eye contact with homeless people on the street for fear that the'll ask me for something, and I realized they probably don't see friendly, smiling faces too often.

I think the armory emergency shelter is closed for the Spring and Summer, but if you feel like giving away some free smiles in the future, I highly recommend signing up for some volunteer shifts starting again in the fall (they need volunteers seven days a week, and they have an a.m. and p.m. shift). You can also check out other volunteer opportunities with Mercy House here.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Discussions on Development: Guatemala Land Grab

So this was in the news early this week, and this is a response I just came across that I really enjoyed:

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

"What must it feel like getting to the capital city for the first time? What do the queqchis [indigenous tribe of Guatemala] think of our shadowless streets, of our grey colored progress, of the smell of shit of our city? I can't imagine the strength and conviction that is needed to walk during 8 days, 200 kilometers under the sun and/or rain with the naive hope of being heard and taken seriously. Those of us from the capital are so far away from the rural villagers that it's difficult for us to realize that they are the other side of this coin called Guatemala. One day we will understand that what happens to our brothers has a direct repercussion over our own lives. One day we will understand that we are all part of one whole. If they are not doing well, neither are we. I take my hat off at their conviction and the communal sentiment of the indigenous Guatemalans. I appreciate that I was born in this country where resistance and rebellion are still a reality. I, like the rural villagers who arrived in the capital yesterday, don't want a mine or cement factory around the corner from my home, I don't want them to contaminate the water from the rivers, or to blast the mountains, or to cut down the forests to plant one single product. I also do not agree with the mega projects that DON'T bring development to the communities and that only line the pockets of the same. I also dream of having my own piece of land where I can build a house and grow my food. I also dream of a country with social justice and in which human life is worth more than private property. And you guys?"

Photo caption: "My mother taught me to fight."

Monday, March 26, 2012

Easter Basket

Things I want in my Easter Basket:
  • Oreo's
  • Chips Ahoy
  • Snicker's
  • Reese's Pieces
  • Brownies
  • Chocolate chip ice cream (not even mint chocolate chip, which is my fav--just chocolate chip)
  • Chocolate cake
  • Hot chocolate (already made, ready for the drinking)
I'm sure I'll have a couple more things to add in the next two weeks....

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Adventures in Baking: Snickerdoodles

A couple weeks ago I was thinking to myself how I wanted to start baking...just for the sake of baking and experimenting. Then last week Jeff mentioned how he missed the snickerdoodles from the coffee shop he used to work at. *lightbulb*

So Sunday I decided to look for a good snickerdoodle recipe,and got to work. My go-to recipe resource is All Recipes. What I love about it is that you can go through the comments, and see how people improved on the recipe, or read suggestions they have, or read a heads up on what to avoid or do differently. For someone who does not have kitchen common sense, I getting these little pieces of practical advice from people who have tried the recipe before. This is the snickerdoodle recipe I used, although I'll write it out with the suggestions I found helpful.

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened (let it soften by leaving outside of fridge for a while, do not microwave)
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1 and 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs (room temperature)
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 and 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp cream of tartar (if you want fluffier cookies, use 2 tsp. of baking powder, which is what I used)
  • 1 tsp. baking soda (make sure your baking soda is still good--test it by placing some in water and making sure it still fizzles) (is "fizzles" a real word?)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
For coating:
  • 3 tsp sugar
  • 3 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • Preheat oven to 375
  • Mix all dry ingredients together; mix all wet ingredients together (hand mix, do not use a mixer)
  • Mix both dry and wet ingredients together

  • Use spoon to measure out small balls, shape until you have used all dough

  • Mix the coating ingredients in a ziplock bag
  • Roll each ball in the cinnamon mixture

  • Place parchment paper on cookie sheets, and place coated balls about 2 inches apart

  • Bake for 8 minutes; remove immediately from cookie sheets

I had a lot of cinnamon coating left over. I think that's because I made my cookies too big, and therefore there were less of them to coat than what the recipe called for. They still turned out uh-mazing.

Getting Crafty

Not sure if I mentioned this before or not, but Jeff got me a beautiful iPad for Christmas, and instead of buying a cover for it I thought I would make one myself. I bought a plastic cover for it, but I wanted to make something like a little bag to carry it around. So right after Christmas I looked around on Etsy and looked at samples, then wentto Joanne's and Michael's and bought all the stuff I needed. I even went so far as cutting the fabric and filling...and then realized that I needed to use a sewingmachine to put it all together.

I'm ashamed to say that I've never used a sewing machine in my life. Most of this shame is because my grandmother is an amazing seamstress. I mean, amazing. She's made beautiful wedding gowns, quinceanera dresses, she made my First Holy Communion dress (which I still have), as well as my prom dress. So, for her granddaughter to not know how to use one when she's almost thirty...well, let's just say I'm not very proud of it.

So, for the last three months, all my prep work has been sitting in a corner of our room. I also came to realize that I don't really need it. But I already had all the materials, and I LOVE the color scheme and materials that I picked, so last week I decided it was time to finish the project.

I enlisted the help of my mom, and thank goodness for that. It turns out that when I sloppily cut all my materials, I didn't leave enough room for all the seams, so she had to add some fabric here and there to make it work. She ended up putting it together by herself, but now I know more or less how to work a sewing machine, and hope that the next time I need to use it myself, I'll be able to...

Finished product to come!

Sunday, March 18, 2012


I've been dreaming a lot lately. This wasn't always the case (well, I might have dreamt, but I didn't remember them). Now I remember my dreams all the time, and I couldn't quite pin point how I felt about this. Until a couple days ago.

As I was driving, I realized I was annoyed. Why, you ask? Because the day after having a particular dream I find myself trying to figure out what they meant or where they came from. And this takes up time. Time that I would rather spend doing something else, or taking care of something else. Whatever dream theory you subscribe to, I'm sure they have their meaning and purpose. But I don't really want to spend time every day trying to figure out what they mean.

Mostly because I never have a single idea what they mean, ha.