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Archive for January, 2012

With my westward adventure approaching, I can’t help but think of Edward Abbey’s novel, The Monkey Wrench Gang. With this book, Abbey has single-handedly assembled my vision of the southwest, with his descriptions of pitiless vultures soaring high above the box canyons. Aside from kick-starting my search for truth in the wild, Abbey also led me to question the type of environmentalist I am, and aim to be.

In the novel, four individuals ban together with the common agenda of protesting the destruction and change of their beloved American Southwest. They all remembered something different than the current landscape and self-appointed themselves to restore things to the way it used to be. So we have Dr. Sarvis and Bonnie burning billboards along the highway, Hayduke blowing up rail lines, and Seldom Seen plotting to destroy the dam that submerged his city under a man-made lake.

While the four members of the Monkey Wrench Gang all have a desire to reinstate the natural world, they all differ in their motives. Some intentions are noble, like Dr. Sarvis’ who wants to protect humans from the repercussions of the machines and others are nostalgic, like Seldom Seen who misses his hometown. There is a point to my babbling, which is to pose this question, what is it that motivates you to be an environmentalist? Is it a sheer love for the natural world? It very well might be, but is there also an underlying reason to your actions?

Personally, I know that while I do appreciate the intrinsic value of the natural world, another motive behind my environmental interests lies in the fact that I hope to contribute to building the bridge between the human and natural world. Too often we view them as separate entities, rather than one world. The romantic in me wants us all to live in harmony. Lofty goal. I’m aware. Well, what’s your answer?

PS: I leave tomorrow! Ah!

The twigster,

Josephine

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Whenever I see a rock or tree trunk covered in fuzzy, green moss I can’t help but stop, point it out to whomever I’m with, and touch the lush mini-carpet. Clearly then, moss, the most primitive of land plants, is by far my favorite plant. Over 350 million years old, mosses are a halfway point between algae and higher land plants. Since they have no roots and no vascular system, meaning no xylem or phloem to conduct water internally, they absorb water through their leaves. Their dependency on a water source helps explain why you often find moss in moist areas.

As a New Yorker, observing signs of life other than the grumpy pigeon, and the oversized subway rat can be pretty rare. Catching a glimpse of the furry bryophyte in a sidewalk crack or sewer drain, is enough to remind me that the city, too, is a part of the natural world. Others share my love of the plant and have spread the environmental art form of moss graffiti. As a natural art, the moss graffiti reintroduces the color green into our color palette, finally breaking the monotony of the gray and black cityscape.

The moss graffiti has the added bonus of helping us keep track of the air-quality in our cities. Different species of moss are tolerant of varying levels of pollution. The species present in the city or a certain area of the city will clue you in to the pollution levels. Only some mosses, like some people, can survive the hustle and bustle of city life.

Have I inspired you to vandalize some city streets with moss yet? One could only hope.

PS: Check out this tutorial to make your own moss graffiti.

PPS: If you like moss as much as I do, I highly recommend the book, Gathering Moss by Robin Wall Kimmerer.

The twigster,

Josephine

London-based artist, Anna Garforth

You're so fuzzy.


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I have one more week, to the day, until I depart for Chicago and begin traveling throughout the west. As one adventure often leads to another, I am wandering with a fellow wwoofer (Parker) I met while working with Lowernine.org down in New Orleans. Of course budgets and my tentative Peace Corps departure in July will factor into travel plans, but otherwise we have little restrictions on where and when we will travel.

To start off the adventure, we’re going to work for PAC Tour, Pacific-Atlantic-Cycling Tour, during their Arizona Desert Training Camp for three weeks. While I admittedly know zilch about cycling and endurance cycling at that, I am intrigued to see what it’s all about while also taking in Arizona’s countryside.  Texas is the farthest west I’ve made it within the US and the frontier is calling…

Travel plans thus far…

New York City -> Chicago/suburbs of Chicago -> Road trip to Arizona -> Arizona -> ?

PS: Check out the logic behind this bold statement: “There is nothing natural about the concept of wilderness.” This is one my favorite essays about the wilderness and the western frontier by William Cronon. I’ve struggled with this essay and often come back to it and reflect upon Cronon’s message.

The twigster,

Josephine

Image

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Friends and family can attest to the fact that I hate throwing things away that could have some future use. Oh, you don’t want that ribbon from your birthday present? I’ll just stick that in the craft drawer. While this mentality has the potential danger of ending in a hoarding mess, it also has the potential to recreate materials, liberating them from their original purpose and the dismal fate of a landfill. As long as you follow through with your crafting projects, and remember the resources that you have saved, rest assured that you would not be buried alive in an avalanche of spare ribbons and cardboard. It is also important to remember what crafts you have the time to take on. Crafting should be fun, not work (unless you have an Etsy profile <3).

Needing a cold, hibernation day activity, I logged on to craftgawker.com, a user-submitted photo gallery of handmade crafts. After some scrolling, I found a tutorial to make this awesome art made out of no other than toilet paper rolls. Seeing the potential of decorating on a budget, I tried it out and loved the result. Scroll down and take a look.

You can make your own with these easy steps.

1. Collect toilet paper and paper towel rolls from friends and your own household. How big you want the piece to be will determine how many cardboard rolls you need to collect. In order to track my waste usage, I want my piece to grow as I use more rolls, so I started with about ten and will go from there.

2. Smoosh down the toilet paper rolls and cut the cardboard into 1-inch strips. Again you can use your preference here with how deep you would like the segments.

3. Start gluing the pieces together and let the creation find you.

4. Color options. If you do not like the color of the cardboard, you can spray paint the piece to a color of your liking. Personally, I chose to leave the cardboard as I think it will turn into a conversation piece when guests get a closer look at the art and realize the material’s past life.

5. Hang and enjoy.

Some extra tips:

It creates a really awesome shadow, if you leave a little room between it and the wall. Perhaps you can use a string to hang it from the ceiling.

This project can be used as seasonal decoration. Paint the cardboard to match the season!

The twigster,

Josephine

PS: I’d love to hear what you think about this DIY project and I am happy to answer any questions while you craft. 

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Happy Chinese New Year!

Happy Chinese New Year!

Fortune cookie message + time in a library  + prize from mall arcade room = One wise fish

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Medical Clearance

The next stage for my Peace Corps application is gathering all my medical information in order to be medically cleared for service. So the past two weeks have been filled with one doctor appointment after the other, with a few road bumps along the way. As I had not yet graduated from my pediatrician to a big girl doctor, I thought this was the prime time to seek a new physician. Conveniently enough, I started seeing the doctor in my building. He is a little up there in age, probably 80 years old. He is also the sweetest, cutest little man, although a little forgetful.

Appointment 1 ran smoothly. I completed all of my blood work, began to fill out the millions of forms, and received a skin test for Tuberculosis. Feeling accomplished, I went home, arranged for some more doctors’ visits and gathered documents about my medical history. The next morning my face felt funny. I looked in the mirror and had Hitch face. Swollen face, swollen lips, the whole shabang. It was one of the most uncomfortable feelings I have experienced. A visit to the physician and allergist, some rest, and lots of meds deflated my balloon face and I was ready to continue on with my schedule of doctor appointments.

At another appointment with my physician he ran an EKG, which showed I had an incomplete right bundle branch block. Whatever that means.  Of course this all my mother needed to hear to begin her attempts of convincing me that I shouldn’t go to the Peace Corps. Mind you, we had no idea what the heart thing was all about at this point.  So today was doctor appointment #6, a stress test and echocardiogram. After running on a treadmill with millions of wires attached to me, the cardiologist deduced that my heart was perfectly healthy. Apparently my physician tends to be super cautious with his patients, a blessing and a curse.

I am almost done with this stage of my application! I have one appointment left to receive some immunizations and then I will mail in all my forms, and keep my fingers crossed that I will be medically cleared and move to the next stage of the process. So exciting! Let’s just hope I don’t hit any more road bumps along the way.

PS: I was majorly distracted from the initial prompt of this post. I wanted to show you the townhouse next to my doctor’s office today that is decorated oh so beautifully. Look at all the leaves and pine cones! The twigster could not just walk by this without stopping to admire and creepily photographing someone’s home. Enjoy.

The twigster,

Josephine

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For the past month I have been gainfully employed at Big Daddy’s diner on the Upper East Side of NYC.  When I wasn’t blowing up balloons for the kiddies, attempting to balance dishes or making a countless number of cookie monster milkshakes, I served people their food. Service with smile of course.  Here are some things I realized as I had shake mix splattered all over my face and a table that left $1 for a $60 meal.

1. Don’t be rude to your waitress when your order is incorrect.

I worked the holiday season at Big Daddy’s and we were swamped on the weekends. Servers ran around like crazy as the kitchen tried to turn out food as quickly as possible. Mistakes were inevitable on both ends. Oh, you ordered an egg white omelette instead of a regular one? Oops. We are happy to fix your order if you keep your cool. I’m sure you make mistakes at work sometimes. Surprise, surprise, so do servers. Give us a break!

2. Don’t alter the menu item.

The item that you are interested in on the menu is like that for a reason. The kitchen does not have every single food option at its disposal, mostly it has the ingredients on the menu. With that said, stick to the damn menu! (I was formerly guilty of this, I must admit.)

3.  An opportunity for a random act of kindness.

Food portions at Big Daddy’s were BIG. Very often people were unable to finish their meals and left untouched halves of sandwiches and even whole burgers on their plates. Seeing as how I would normally pass a homeless person on my way to work everyday, I didn’t have the heart to throw away the food. So I started putting aside the leftovers until I got off my shift and gave very thankful homeless people food that would have ended up trashed. You can do the same thing, a random act of kindness.

4. If you want to order food and have the option, use Seamlessweb.com instead of calling the restaurant.

Servers at Big Daddy also answered the phone and put in delivery orders. While we are trying to bus tables or bring out food, it’s not too easy to take your order. Trust me it is easier for you to do it online anyway. No one asks you to hold on the web.

5. The food industry in NYC is dominated by Spanish-speakers.

Rusty on your Spanish and want to brush up? Become a server.

6. Don’t forget the value of your time. 

There was a fine line between being a good employee and being taken advantage of at Big Daddy’s. Among servers’ responsibilities was restocking the stations after their shift, which entailed multiple trips up and downstairs to the storage room and refrigerators. Sometimes this could take upwards of a half of an hour, especially if you were on bar duty that day. Since servers work primarily for tips with a $5 an hour wage, when they don’t have a table they are not making very much money. Restocking, cleaning the tables and the stations more or less was free labor for the restaurant. Not cool, especially after you worked a double and wanted to get home.

7. Tip your waiters & waitresses, please.

Like I said, servers work for tips. Please give your servers 20% of the bill. If you really have a bad experience with your server, then use your judgment, but please be considerate. It is their living.

8. Money-making.

I drained my bank account so I could live and work in New Orleans with Lowernine.org during November 2011. Therefore, in order to fund my next adventure, the journey west, I needed to save some money. Seeing as how I was seeking a very temporary position, my options were very limited. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to work for Big Daddy’s, but I often found myself incredibly depressed after work. After speaking with my sister I realized my problem. I can not work solely for the acquisition of money. It is awful to work without your passion involved, and working primarily for money without a grander goal in mind made me feel like a huge sellout. Ew.

9. One portion per meal, please.

I witnessed just how unhealthily people eat. One mother allowed her already obese son to order 2 hot dogs, a cheeseburger, a side of tater tots, and to top it off, a vanilla milkshake. That kid’s health can’t be good, and his mother certainly wasn’t helping the cause.

10. There are selfish and beautiful people in the world.

I encountered a server who lied about her net sales for the day so she could tip out the bussers and runners less money. Obviously this is totally rude and amoral, especially since the bussers and runners work just as hard as the servers.  On the same token, however, most of my co-workers were amazing people. As I was first learning Micros, the computer system to place orders, I was a fumbling idiot. Quite a few servers took time and practiced patience to show me how to use the system as well as save me from many potentially devastating mistakes. Thank you. Just another lesson about the contrasts in the world.
I gave my notice to Big Daddy’s and this was my last week on the job. I learned a lot and gained a totally new perspective on the food industry and life as a server. It wasn’t the right fit for me, and I am on to the next experience. To all the servers out there, I respect you so much. The twigster, however, has thrown in her apron.
The twigster,
Josephine

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