Watership Down, Chpt 31, Pt 1

We begin reading “The Story of El-ahrairah and the Black Rabbit of Inle” from “Watership Down” by Richard Adams. El-ahrairah’s warren experiences a difficult situation. Can the story inspire Hazel with a solution for his own warren?

Let’s read “Watership Down” together!

Image Credit:   http://lochi.deviantart.com/art/Black-Rabbit-of-Inle-217494967

Watership Down, Chpt 30

We begin part 3, “Efrafa”, of John Adams’ book “Watership Down” by reading chapter 30, “A New Journey”.  Hazel leads his team, with the help of Kehaar, back toward the dangers of Efrafa in hope of getting does for the warren.

Let’s read “Watership Down” together!

Image Credit:  http://www.penguin.co.nz/products/9780141354965/watership-down

Goldilocks & Alpha Centauri

(Originally posted 1/13/17 on Read With The Gringa)

The gringa feels rather certain than my dear readers have heard of Alpha Centauri. Not just in the scientific, astronomical sense. But think of all the things you might be familiar with that are linked to Alpha Centauri:

  • The Twilight Zone feature, 1963, “Probe 7, Over and Out
  • Ikarie XB-1”, a 1963 Czechoslovakian film
  • Lost in Space, a television series of 1965-1968, about space colonists who get lost on their way to colonize Alpha Centauri
  • Star Trek: The Original Series episode, “Tomorrow is Yesterday”, aired 1967 and featured little green aliens of Alpha Centauri
  • Cosmic Songs”, a 1878 poetic work by Jan Neruda
  • Around the Universe, 1923 fiction penned by Ray Cummings

And the list of creative reference to Alpha Centauri can go on and on. Today there are children’s toys, video games and models of extra-terrestrial spacecraft, all featuring Alpha Centauri in their branding. Why is Alpha Centauri so popular? Is there a reason for all the fuss by artists and retailers? Is there really something to Alpha Centauri?

Stephen Hawking thinks so. He wants to spend about $100 million on a mission to Alpha Centauri.  Many astronomers have devoted their professional lives to the study of Alpha Centauri. SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) has space telescope technology solely committed to monitoring Alpha Centauri. UFOlogists believe ETs from Alpha Centauri already walk among us. Experts at NASA, believe that if ETs do exist, our best chance at finding them lies in the Alpha Centauri system. But why? And is there really any chance of a manned mission to another star system?

Alpha Centauri is more than 4.3 light years away. In real mileage, that is 25 trillion miles. If Stephen Hawking gets the spacecraft of his dreams, it would take 20 years for it to reach its destination. Even then, it wouldn’t be a manned spacecraft. Instead it would be programmed to release a drone that would search for ancient or existing civilizations.

You see, there are 3 particular stars in this system that create what is called the “Goldilocks Zone”. Despite there being 3 stars to this system, it is commonly referred to as a binary star system because two stars are dominant while they third is a lowly red dwarf. By creating a “Goldilocks Zone”, conditions are expected to be favorable on some of the orbiting planets for supporting life as we know it.

Hawking calls his mission “Starshot”. Work is already underway at its New York headquarters at One World Observatory. But Hawking is not alone in his obsession to explore Alpha Centauri.

NASA has already been receiving imaging of Alpha Centauri from the Hubble Space Telescope. Located in The Centaur (constellation Centaurus), the system is dominated by twin stars. So, to say Alpha Centauri is not really an accurate description. You see, there is Alpha Centauri A and Alpha Centauri B. And there is also a red dwarf star, Alpha Centauri C, which is called Proxima Centauri. When scientists say “Alpha Centauri”, they are referring to this system which has planets circling all three stars. And NASA has some awesome images, not just of the stars, but also of the planetary objects that live out their lives in paths encircling them.

Interestingly enough, despite the dominance of Alpha Centauri A and B, it is actually Proxima Centauri, the relatively obscure red dwarf star, that has scientists the most excited. You see, in August of 2016, astronomers with the European space agencies discovered an Earth-sized planet in the sweet spot, called the habitable zone, orbiting Proxima Centauri.

If finding out what secrets Alpha Centauri holds is highly titillating, take heart. Although it is improbable that you will be invited to join Hawking’s team and unlikely that NASA will list you on their own missions, there is a citizen scientist group who is open to using your talents, whatever they may be.

Project Blue, a tongue-in-cheek honorary reference to Carl Sagan’s nickname for Earth, is on a mission. They want to be the first to photograph this Earth-like planet in Alpha Centauri. They plan to launch a space telescope by the end of the decade through a collaborative effort of universities, private industry, research organizations, space exploration professionals and the average citizen. If you have something to offer, Project Blue wants you to participate.

This year the project enters the preliminary design phase. Next year, design will be finalized and fabrication will begin. By 2019 mission objectives are to complete construction and launch. The next three years will be filled with managing the operations of the telescope as it makes its way to Alpha Centauri.

How might the gringa’s dear readers help out in such an exciting undertaking? Well, you could contact them and ask them yourselves. You might follow them on Facebook or Twitter. Or, sign up for mission updates. If you are one who likes to assist from the shadows, donations are always accepted. Whatever you do, the gringa simply wants you to reach for the stars, fulfill your potential and live your dreams!


Telegraph UK

GMA Network




Project Blue

Image Credit:  NASA

Watership Down, Chpt 30

We begin part 3, “Efrafa”, of John Adams’ book “Watership Down” by reading chapter 30, “A New Journey”.  Hazel leads his team, with the help of Kehaar, back toward the dangers of Efrafa with hopes of getting does for the warren.

Let’s read “Watership Down” together!

Image Credit:  Penguin NZ


Superhero Footwear

Most superheroes wear cool boots; Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman. Well, maybe Spiderman doesn’t because he has to have that sticky, spidey, foot-action to climb buildings. But, still, Superheroes have to have super footwear to help them out in a pinch when they need to fight the bad guys. In today’s world, what kind of shoes might Superheroes wear? After all, the kind of Superhero we really need is one who can save the entire planet. Would they wear renewable bamboo boots? Sustainably sourced soy slippers?

How far are you willing to go to help the planet? The gringa is willing to do lots of stuff. Innovative companies are making it easier than ever for climate conscious individuals to make better lifestyle choices. It’s all well and good to manage your thermostat better and reduce your water waste. For urban dwellers hopping a bus or a bike is a viable option. It’s easy to stock a pantry, cupboard and frig with ethically sourced proteins, veggie and fruit. But there are some lifestyle areas where it is hard to find eco-friendly options. Or, at least eco-friendly options you are actually willing to live with.

Take clothes. The gringa simply hates organic fabrics. I must admit that I prefer the carefree nature of rayons and nylons and all those other “on” fabrics that are wash and wear. I know that the process for manufacturing these fabrics is not exactly environmentally friendly. But can’t I skate on the fact that I don’t use the dryer or iron? At least I’m saving loads of electricity in maintaining my man-made wardrobe. So, the gringa is stuck with the stalemate of a reasonable compromise here. And then there’s my shoes.

Living in the gulf coast region of Texas means the gringa’s closet is filled with snazzy sandals and lightweight slip-on shoes. Wonder Woman boots, not so much. It’s very hard for the gringa to find any sort of realistic option when it comes to Superhero ethical footwear. I don’t just have the environment to consider. In high school I had reconstructive surgery on my left foot. My right foot had some issues that could have used correction but after the torturous recovery of my first surgery I would have to be wheelchair bound before I opt for another, that’s for sure.

So, I have very strange, mis-matched feet. Both are very, very wide. You could just say oddball duck feet and the gringa would whole-heartedly agree. My left foot is also extremely sensitive to the touch, my incision scars being perpetually tingly. That means all of my shoes have to be incredibly soft and flexible. Preferably flip-flops. But flip-flops don’t meet the dress code of every occasion. And it’s hard to find shoes that match my needs, are cute, AND environmentally ethical. It just seemed impossible to be a well-shod planetary Superhero. Until now.

Rothy’s is a San Francisco start-up that is introducing the world to cute little shoes made from recycled water bottles. The gringa just LOVES this idea. Right now they only have ladies flats but they expect to introduce more designs. And, rather than contribute to the problem of too much waste, as these designs develop, they will not be stocking shelves in retail centers and warehouses. Instead, they will be made on-demand. This also eliminates that pesky fashion problem of unwanted leftovers when fashion season cycles render a certain style obsolete.

It takes about two weeks to convert three plastic water bottles into a petite ballet slipper. The plastic is ground-up then “combed” into soft filament fibers. These fibers are then processed through a 3D-knitting process to create a seamless, waste-free shoe in about 6 minutes. The only other thing used in the process is recycled foam for the insole. And it truly is waste-free because when a gal is through with it, the shoe can be completely recycled! I mean, just look at that cuteness!


This is such wonderful news! Although environmentally conscious individuals can reduce their use of water bottles, the reality is that they are still a big seller. In the gringa’s home we use a water-filter pitcher. However, when we travel or stop for a bite to eat, we still depend widely on water bottle consumption. Whether we like it or not, water bottles are here to stay.

The U.S. only recycles about 23% of its plastic waste. That means about 38 billion water bottles are destined for landfills every year. Despite the best efforts by environmental groups at awareness of the problem of waste caused by bottled water, it is still one of the most consumed beverages in the country.  So, if it’s unlikely to change consumer behavior, then a different approach to the waste must be the solution. And Rothy’s has nailed it! The worst environmental problem about bottled water has been solved!



Ban The Bottle

Tree Hugger

Image Credit: Deviant Art

Save A Tuna, Save The Oceans

(Originally posted 1/18/17 on Read With The Gringa)

Did you know that you don’t have to be a scientist or marine biologist to help our world’s oceans be healthier? Did you know that you can contribute to saving our planet by adjusting your menu and texting? Sounds crazy but the gringa is for real. Virtually everyone can play a role in making our ocean’s healthier.

First of all, change your protein menu. Take a look in your pantry. How many cans of tuna are in there? A 2016 industry report reported that 75% of tuna is destined for canneries. That little can of scrumptiousness that you love to use for delectable salad and sandwich fixin’s is seriously overfished. According to top conservation data, the remaining stock of tuna in our oceans is at serious risk. Does that really matter? I mean, there’s lots of other kinds of fish in the sea. So what if tuna disappears and becomes extinct. How much harm could that really do in the grand scheme of things?

Actually, too little tuna is a very bad thing, indeed, for the health of the oceans. They are not just commercially valuable, their value is even greater when left in their natural habitat to do what they are supposed to do. Tuna likes to migrate. They are the largest ranging fish in the sea. As they travel throughout the Western and Central Pacific Ocean, onward to the Eastern Pacific and through the Indian and Atlantic Oceans, they have important work today along their routes.

Their number one job is to eat other fish. They are at the top of the food chain. As for Bluefin Tuna, their size and speed means they have very few enemies. Except for humans, of course. Without tuna swimming about and doing their job of eating enormous amounts of herring, sardines, anchovies, mackerel, etc., these fish populations would explode. If they became out of control, devastating cascade effects would occur in the Atlantic Ocean, effects that could reach as far as the Mediterranean and Gulf of Mexico. The entire food chain of the world’s oceans would be out of whack.

So, just as the world needs balanced fish populations in the ocean, how about helping out by having a balance represented in the tins on your cupboard shelves? Instead of having half a dozen cans of tuna, how about two tins each of tuna, anchovies, and herrings? How easy is that?

As for monitoring your local harbor, beach, or even rivers and streams that eventually feed into the ocean, many conservation groups make it easy for everyone to play a part. Take, for example, the wild antics of the marine mammal protection group that serve on the Sea Shepherd. You can text them alerts of marine mammal trouble and receive updates on their activities.

Students at Duke University have created their own textbook devoted to ocean conservation. The information is primarily for awareness and education purposes. Sharing this information, however, is the first step any person must take in order to become an ocean hero. So why not download The View From Below and become an ocean conservation activist simply by texting and sharing?

If you are serious about getting involved, here are some mobile apps that can really let you get your feet wet with marine conservation:

  • California Tidepools: Recreational users have access to a database to raise awareness about tidepool marine life.
  • Marine Debris Tracker: Report trash along any coastline or waterway.
  • Whale Alert: If you see the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale, alert mariners so they can avoid the possibility of a collision.

So, the gringa has given you your mission and your marching orders:

  • Mission:  Save the world’s oceans.
  • Orders:  #1. Adjust the inventory of your pantry. #2. Get connected.

Now, carry on!


Conservation Magazine

Pew Trusts


Marine Stewardship Council

National Geographic

Sea Shepherd

Duke University

California Tidepools

Marine Debris

Whale Alert

Image Credit:  National Geographic