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!

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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!

Sources:

Rothy’s

Ban The Bottle

Tree Hugger

Image Credit: Deviant Art

Sparky & Boot, The Greatest Heroes of All Time


Although the gringa doesn’t often write about dogs, there is, indeed, a very soft space in my heart for them. In fact, I love them with all of my heart. I think dogs are just grand. In fact, in my own life I consider a dog named Sparky to be a hero. Alone on a rural farm with my oldest son who was about 5 years old at the time, Sparky took a bullet while keeping out an intruder. The gringa’s dear readers can only imagine how that dog lived a life fit for a king the rest of his days, even if he was left with one paw that resembled a flipper as a result of his wounds.

That being said, and after the gringa regained her composure and was able to type once again, I am moved to share the story of Boot.  He was the only retriever in a company of twenty military service dogs comprised of German Shepherds and Dobermans. Serving aboard an attack boat, he landed on the shores of enemy territory in Japan during World War II.

Trained at Camp Pendleton in California, Boot was actually the pet of a Sergeant and soon earned a reputation as playful, friendly and a bit of a character. When the ship was asea, the War Dogs were housed in kennels. Boot, however, got special privileges as a pet. He enjoyed more freedom as an on-board mascot and liked to cruise the decks, sneaking up behind unsuspecting sailors and grabbing their arms from off the railings. When forces landed at Iwo Jima, Boot was part of the invasion force and his later unexpected performance in battle made headlines in local papers.

The story goes that a Lieutenant arrived at camp and requested a War Dog to flush out some enemies forces who were hiding out in nearby caves. The Sergeant explained that all the War Dogs were currently out on duty and he would have to wait until their return. Noticing Boot, the Lieutenant asked why he could not be deployed. The Sergeant explained that, despite the fact that he had been fully trained as a War Dog, he was actually a pet, the troop’s mascot, but, since he knew all the battle commands, the Lieutenant could take him and give it a shot. The Lieutenant did just that and Boot was successful at clearing out three caves that were being held by enemy forces.

Because of Boot’s heroic actions, U.S. Marines were able to advance their battle line. Once Boot returned home, his fame followed him. He and his Sergeant made a guest appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show.

The nation’s very first Marine War Dog Training School was at Quantico Bay. It opened in January, 1943 under the command of Captain Samuel T. Brick. Fourteen Doberman Pinschers and a single Boxer were the first recruits. The Boxer, named Fritz, was the first dog sworn in as part of the Marine Corp. By the time Boot joined the Marine Corp, the United States had several War Dog training camps, including the one he attended at California’s Camp Pendleton.

When training began, War Dog recruits were ranked as Privates. Within three months successful recruits became Private First Class. Corporal rank was achieved at one year, Sergeant at two years and Platoon Sergeant at three years. Four year War Dog veterans became Gunner Sergeants and one year later they promoted to Master Gunner Sergeant. It was not uncommon for a War Dog to have a higher rank than their handler who might be fresh out of boot camp.

As the gringa envisions Boot fearlessly chasing the enemies in the close confines of the caves, she is taken back in her memory to the day Sparky took a bullet. He started out as a stray taken in as a pup. The gringa can’t count the number of times he tore up the fence and caused any number of problems. At one time the man of the house became so frustrated that he ordered the gringa to “take that dog to the pound”. The gringa obediently loaded Sparky up into the car the next day, drove to the pound, read the documents that required a signature releasing the dog for euthanasia in the event an adoption never happened, then burst into tears and loaded that darn dog back into the car and returned home.

When the man of the house returned and growled, “I thought I told you to take that dog to the pound.” The gringa calmly replied, “I did. You didn’t say anything about leaving him there.” And that was that. Although one would have never known from all the trouble he caused as a one year old spunky pup, that darn dog grew up to become the most amazing dog the gringa has ever known.

We lived on a farm and had loads of chickens. That came about because the gringa had the bright idea of becoming a chicken farmer. What wasn’t expected was that when it came time to sell hens to become roasters on family tables or roosters that might end up in a soup pot or illicit cockfighting ring, the gringa could not bear to destine the little creatures to such a fate. So, the chicken farm became an egg farm and rooster bachelor haven. It also became the hub for local chicken hawks looking to score an easy meal.

Although Sparky had no training whatsoever, it did not take him long to realize that the chickens were part of the family and he became their self-appointed protector. He would go bananas barking and lunging upward as far as he could, threatening chicken hawks that seemed to be miles away in the sky. If the chickens got too spread out as they foraged, he would herd them closer to the barn where they could skedaddle to safety if a chicken hawk showed up.

Sparky wasn’t our only dog on the farm. Living out in the country meant that it was not uncommon for people to dump an unwanted dog, expecting it to somehow revert to its wild nature and survive alone. We also had Dot, a dumped deaf Dalmatian, Trixie, a golden chow the man of the house found as a homeless golden puffball that the gringa relentlessly shaved down to the skin all year round, and Scooby, a fat black retriever looking thing who revealed an amazing rapid weight loss overnight which caused us to realize that she was only fat because she was pregnant. So then we had 6 more dogs on our hands, which we eventually found homes for.

Out of all of these dogs who had a grand farm dog life, Sparky was the only one who exhibited remarkable intelligence. The others were all fine dogs in their own respects but there is no doubt that Sparky alone stood out as a hero.

For instance, there was the day a neighbor moved in about 5 acres over. She was a single woman who, the gringa believes, must have had a very tragic story. She was not just reclusive but obsessed with security. She installed an electrified security fence that was 8-10’ tall around her house. If that weren’t enough she put in a small shooting range and was outside all the time practicing her marksmanship with her pistols. Then she got some dogs. And not just any dogs.

You see, we lived on the flatland prairie north of Dallas at that time. A person could step outside and practically see for miles. And sound carried even further. It didn’t take too many trips to the barn before the gringa witnessed the new neighbor outside her secure perimeter with four full-grown German Shepherds and a professional handler in a protective suit training the dogs to attack. I tell ya, the gringa went from thinking she had a recovering victim next door to considering a full-fledged, dangerous lunatic was near at hand.

After weeks of training, the handler no longer came. The neighbor, however, continued to take the dogs outside the security fence and work with them on the open prairie. Her confidence in controlling them was misplaced.

One day, while I was outside working and our oldest son was doing his thing on the swingset, the gringa could hear the whistles and commands that indicated the nut next door was working with her dogs. Soon her tone of voice changed. The gringa heard crazy barking and turned to see her pack of attack dogs high-tailing it across the fields, making a bee-line for me and mine. I threw down my feed buckets, ran and scooped up my son, threw him through the back door of the house then hoped I had time to lock the gate on the pen to the barn where my donkeys were happily munching away on some fresh hay I had just laid out. I gave the chickens up for dead and started calling the dogs to me.

I locked up the pen and headed back for the house eyeing the distance that was quickly closing between me and the German Shepherds. I realized I had to make a decision. I might not even have time to make it into the house myself, there was no way to even attempt penning up my dogs. All of them were outside dogs, housed in the barn at night and during bad weather. These unmannered barn dogs were all going to have to go in the house with me. I didn’t care and they were more than happy to follow and see what the mystery was all about in this one structure they had never been allowed to explore.

As I turned to close and lock the patio door, seeing the German Shepherds lunge through the gap between barbed wire strands of our fence I realized that Sparky was still out on the deck barking like a maniac at the intruders. I called and called but he ignored me and stood his ground. In the midst of the chaos and fear it took some time before I realized that his refusal to obey me was because, in the confusion, Trixie, still quite young, had run under the deck instead of into the house. I could see her trembling in the gaps between the wooden steps. He was protecting her. Crap. Now what does the gringa do?

The gringa instructs her 5-year-old son to man the back door. The gringa runs to the front door on the other side of the house, slips out and under the porch, belly crawls under the house, grabs Trixie, crawls back to the front, puppy in tow, still listening to the ruckus Sparky is making, hoping he survives but grateful for the distraction so I can safely rescue Trixie. By now I can hear the shouts from my neighbor who has obviously been making her way across the pasture to get her crazed dog pack.

I get back in the house, dump Trixie and load my shotgun with birdshot. I get my son out of the way who has been cheering Sparky but then suddenly becomes very serious when he sees his dirty, cobweb covered mother with an enormous gun in her hand (and most likely a very mean, murderous gleam in her eye).

I walk out beside Sparky and yell at the dogs to get. They go bananas, even crazier, and the gringa is pretty sure that she has just poured gasoline onto a fire. I don’t dare touch Sparky and try to drag him in the house. He is so pissed he might just bite me. The German Shepherds are not listening to their master as she uses her stupid dog whistle from the other side of the fence. Finally, the gringa makes her most critical decision. I maneuver over to the side of the deck slowly and land a blast of birdshot on the behind of the dog in the most unfortunate position of the outside of the pack. I never in my life thought a dog could jump straight up like a cat. However, when they are shot with birdshot in the backside, they do.

For a split second everything was quiet. We were all in shock. It was like the dogs were saying, “Did she just shoot one of us?” And Sparky was thinking, “What should I do next?” And then it was all chaos again. The neighbor lady was about to stroke out in her madness that I had just shot one of her dogs, not realizing it was only a flesh wound. One of her dogs was wailing in pain, the others were circling the deck, eyeing the steps as they prepared to rip me apart, and the gringa took advantage of Sparky’s momentary lapse back into reason to grab his collar and back up to the door. Thankfully my son was still performing his door duty because it promptly opened when my own backside struck it.

When the man of the house returned home from work, true to 5-year-old form, our son streaked right out the door and before his father could set one foot out of his truck, he promptly tattled on his mother and said, “Mom shot the neighbor’s dog today.”

And who knows, Sparky’s future injury may have very well been payback. The gringa will never know. All she does know is that it was afternoon naptime for her and a very grubby 6-year-old boy about six months after the gringa shot the neighbor’s dog. We had been sound asleep for about one hour when there came a strange, repeating pound on the front door accompanied by whines and yips. Dog sounds, yes, but not the usual dog sounds our little pack made.

I went to the front door and found Scooby and Dot jumping up on the door and the side of the house in distress. Scooby, like a retriever, took my hand in her mouth and tugged. Dot just made circles and strange yipping sounds. I followed, puzzled. They led me to the front gate of our driveway that was about the length of a football field. It couldn’t be seen from the house because of a cluster of trees that surrounded a small watering hole directly in front of the house. When I got to the gate there sat Sparky, shivering in pain and shock as Trixie comforted him by licking his wounded paw that would become a flipper after removing all the pieces of shattered bone in order to avoid amputating the whole darn leg.

I rushed Sparky to the vet not knowing exactly what had happened. I wouldn’t learn the truth until I talked to our other neighbor. He was a horse trainer and almost always outside working on his property which was across the road from me. He only noticed what happened after he heard the shot. He saw a person, too far away for any other details, running down the road and eventually out of sight. By the time he had put up his horses and come over to check on us we were already at the vet’s office. He said he saw the enormous cloud of dust I left behind as I drove like a  bat out of you know where.

When the vet found out that Sparky had been injured in the line of duty, he was very impressed. He knew that saving Sparky was going to be very expensive and that the gringa was not made of money. He offered to save Sparky for free if I would let him keep my hero dog. The gringa said no thank you, that a certain little boy would never forgive me for such a betrayal, and chose to max out a credit card instead.

Despite my own notoriety with a shotgun, it was really Sparky’s fame that ended up stretching far and wide throughout the local high school. When he reached the end of his days at 17-years-old and the appointment was made with the veterinarian to ease his passing, for three days high school students that were classmates and friends with our children made their way over for one last visit with Sparky. You see, since our kids were school age, Sparky faithfully made the morning and afternoon pick-up and drop-off trips to the school. Often he was hanging out the window, mooching a scratch from any passerby. Everyone knew Sparky, the dog with a limping flipper who was a hero. And now the gringa is crying again.

Sources:

www.uswardogs.org

k9history.com

 

Salute Our Space Heroes


Traveling in outer space sounds fun. Being an astronaut seems to be an exciting career. Until the gringa is reminded about space radiation. Those heavy duty marshmallow looking suits astronauts wear are not just to keep them warm, properly pressurized and surrounded by oxygen. They also protect against dangerous space radiation. But is it enough? Are spacecrafts and the International Space Station adequately protected or are our astronauts slowly being radiated to death?

Radiation is an invisible energy form of high-speed particles and electromagnetics. It surrounds humans in everyday artificial light, sunlight, and electronics that produce radio-, television-, and micro- waves. Radiation comes in two forms:

  • Ionized: This is the worst in the form of gamma rays, protons and neutrons. Exposure to ionized radiation results in exposed atoms becoming unstable by an energy powerful enough to remove electrons from their orbit around the atom’s nucleus.
  • Non-ionized: Not powerful enough to destabilize atoms, this is the kind of common radiation produced by microwaves, radio waves and light.

The radiation in space is, unfortunately, comprised of ionized radiation. There are three things that typically create dangerous space radiation:

  • Trapped radiation: The Earth’s core creates a magnetic field that surrounds our planet up to several thousand kilometers from our planet’s surface. Solar wind carries charged particles that slam into our magnetic shield. Some particles manage to pass through. Those that don’t create a shockwave that deflects from Earth’s magnetic field. This creates layers of cavities called the “magnetosphere” that act as shock absorbers to protect Earth further from charged particle bombardment. But some particles get trapped in these cavities and they become radioactive belts surrounding Earth. Astronauts have to pass through these dangerous belts before they reach deeper space.
  • Galactic Cosmic Radiation (GCR): Outside our solar system ionized atoms traveling at almost light speed pass through space matter, including humans and man-made objects unless they are properly shielded.
  • Solar Particle Events (SPE): Sometimes the Sun flares and ejects copious amounts of highly charged radioactive particles into space. These particles travel so fast they are capable of reaching Earth within ten minutes of a solar or coronal flare event. These are dramatic happenings that temporarily drastically increase radiation exposure.

Astronauts traveling through space radiation or living in the ISS have to be protected from space radiation. Radiation exposure causes damage to human cells. There is a scientific formula used to calculate how much radiation exposure an astronaut can expect when working on the ISS. It’s a bit too complicated for the gringa to understand. These calculations are the reason ISS missions have a maximum six month cycle and spacewalks are limited. Exposure is increased during a spacewalk to perform repairs and maintenance.

Shielding is preferred to be constructed of materials like polyethylene because it has a high hydrogen content. This kind of material is more effective than metals at reducing the ability of particles to pass through and enter the modules. Astronauts also wear monitors called “dosimeters” that constantly measure the level of radiation damage to the chromosomes in their blood cells.

Every single astronaut is a hero. No matter what the duration of their mission. No matter what the nature of their mission. No matter what it is they did, whether it seemed glamorous or insignificant, these men and women are heroes of science. They are risking their lives every moment they are off the surface of the Earth. Even if they return safely, they have still sacrificed much. From musculo-skeletal issues to organ damage and higher cancer risks, every single astronaut will experience the effects of radiation exposure for a lifetime despite the measures taken to protect them. If you ever meet an astronaut thank them for their invaluable sacrifice and service performing critical scientific endeavors that are helping us understand our origins, learn about climate change conditions and create solutions to save our homeworld.

Sources:

jsc.nasa.gov

spaceflight.nasa.gov

Image source:  antarcticglaciers.org