Archive for October, 2012

Change the World Wednesday – 31st Oct

It’s Halloween tonight.

Happy Halloween!

Not that it bothers me, I don’t do Halloween and it’s not that popular in Brazil, some places have Halloween Parties.

I hope you all recycled your pumpkin guts… oh, I love that expression.

Nice to have Small Footprints back; it seemed strange without the weekly CTWW.

My posting has been a bit irregular over the past three weeks. Haven’t been 100%, but that is over now.

I couldn’t find anything to ‘moan’ about on Monday, Tuesday I did the things I was supposed to do on Monday, and this morning I am running late because of a visit to the dentist. I had a wobbly front tooth removed (ouch! I am such a coward at the dentist) and fitted with a partial plate. But the joy is I can bite without wincing when I forget the ‘tooth.’

This weeks CTWW, is a difficult one for me, but I guess I win again.

It’s all about preparing for the holidays. I assume it refers to Thanksgiving (which we don’t have) and then Christmas.

This week consider the upcoming holidays and suggest Eco-friendly, Waste-free gifts, gift wrap and decorations. These might include handmade gifts, recycled materials for gift wrap and natural decorations. The idea is to come up with a list of ideas to help everyone have a “green” holiday.


Or …

If you don’t celebrate the holidays or would simply prefer to do something different, then your challenge is to suggest ways in which we might help those around us. This might include giving the gift of food to someone who needs help or donating to an organization which provides meals to families in need. It could also include helping a neighbor with recycling, composting or starting a garden … or giving your time to someone who could use a “listening ear”. The idea here is to come up with a list which will help us give in an Eco-friendly, meaningful way.

I’m a contracted teacher, I don’t have holidays, I don’t do Christmas, I just keep working. So I have to look at the second part of the challenge.

Each year I buy more than a half dozen panetones (Latin American Christmas cakes) and give them to some of the kids who frequent our little praça (park). Many of them come from poorer families that don’t have enough money to buy such luxuries; Dad has enough money for beer, so the kids miss out.

They come in a Christmassy box with a Christmassy wrapping and ususally cost around R$8 (USD4) for good ones. There are cheaper, there are more expensive, but the cheaper ones are a case of you get (or don’t) what you paid for, and I don’t have the money to splash around unnecessarily for more expensive ones.

Also at Christmas I don a Father Christmas hat (recycled for four years) and a red T-shirt and dish out sweets (candy) at the bar to passing kids. I have the white beard, I have the paunch, most of the kids call me Papai Noel (Father Christmas in Portuguese) anyway, so why not play the part for one day of the year. Many of the local parents bring their kids along for photos, so it’s all a bit of fun. There is also the litter side, any kid who drops his candy wrapper on the ground, gets the message from Papai Noel.

So this Christmas shouldn’t be any different from past Christmases.

Nature Ramble

Sorry about the last couple of weeks, ran out of steam. In fact, I have been quite out of sorts.

But we’re pretty much back to normal now and should proceed.

This week we travel to Africa, the South African desert actually, and we’re talking about poop.

Dung beetles like to chill on top of balls of poop.

Dung beetles eat feces. Everyone knows this. But here’s something you didn’t know: newly published research reveals that dung beetles can use spheres of rollable poop-meals as portable AC units — and they’re damn effective ones, at that.

The sands of the South African desert can exceed temperatures of 60 degrees Celsius, or 140 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s ridiculously hot. In fact, for a dung beetle like Scarabaeus lamarcki — which transports its meal by rolling it into a ball and pushing it across the scorching desert landscape with its hind legs — it’s too hot, as demonstrated in a study by functional zoologist Jochen Smolka in the latest issue of Current Biology. Using infrared thermography and behavioral experiments, Smolka and his colleagues have shown that dung beetles use their poo-ball as “a mobile thermal refuge” — a portable evaporative unit that cools the beetle slightly as it rolls, and dramatically when it clambers on top of it….

…So what’s the secret to ball-cooling? The big one is evaporation. Dung balls are moist. As that moisture evaporates it keeps the ball very cool — around 32 °C, even when it’s resting atop 60 °C soil. What’s more, note the researchers, “because beetles roll their ball rather than drag it, the ball, preceding the beetle, cools down the sand the beetle is about to step on” by around 1.5 °C.

All told, that means a beetle’s ball of crap helps keep it cool in three ways. First: as a platform, elevated above the scorching desert sand. Second: as a heat sink, drawing heat from the beetle’s forelimbs whenever they start to overheat. And third: as a mobile sand-cooling unit, paving a cooler path for the beetle as it pushes its prize ball of poo from one place to the next.

Source:  io9 There’s more tech stuff and a video clip there.

Make you Fink on Friday


Monday Moaning


This post is about hypocrisy.

The governments of the world have taken it on their backs to warn people about the ills of smoking.

My question is, when are those same governments going to demand labeling for products that contain aspartame and HFCS?



This product contains ASPARTAME which can cause slower learning in children!


This product contains HFCS which is a major cause of childhood obesity!

These and many other variants are possible.

Shocking Fact

Last night on the news I was somewhat disturbed to hear that 8 – 10% of Brazilian school children suffer from enxaqueca (migraines). I have no doubt that this statistic is not limited to Brazil.

So, I ask myself, what has changed from my day when school children and migraines were never heard about to today where approximately one in ten school children have become sufferers?

I immediately made a connection. It’s not new, I have posted on it before.


This chemical that we feed to our children 24 hours a day in sodas, sweets and seemingly healthy foods is the culprit.

Anything you eat or drink that is ‘light,’ ‘diet,’ ‘sugar substitute,’ or ‘zero,’ contains aspartame.


Aspartame consumption strongly associated with migraines and seizures

You can’t walk into a convenience store, grocery store or restaurant without being offered a dose of aspartame. You can’t buy a stick of gum or a box of mints without having to read the label like a hawk, because it’s not always obvious that a product contains aspartame. Restaurant condiment caddies are filled with white packets of sugar, which is unhealthy in its own right, alongside pink and blue packets of NutraSweet and Equal, both of which contain known excitotoxins. Would you like some excitotoxin with your coffee?

Do you know what excitotoxins even are? Most people don’t. They’re chemical substances, such as aspartame, that cause neurons to fire spasmodically. This eventually burns out, or damages, the neurons. Decades of research studies support the increasingly held belief that aspartame causes these painful, often debilitating headaches.

If you’re one of those people who drinks diet soda like water, you could argue that you’ve been drinking diet soda for years and you’ve never gotten a headache from it. Your experience might change, however, if you were to stop using aspartame for a period of several months. Then, your sensitivity to the chemical would probably be heightened and consuming it again would more likely cause headaches.

Dr. James Braly, an allergy expert in Hollywood, Florida, says that 90 percent of all migraine headaches are caused by food allergies or reactions caused by additives. Furthermore, according to Michael T. Murray, ND, in his book Natural Alternatives, “There is little doubt that food allergy/intolerance is the major cause of migraine headaches … Aspartame is among the most common allergens.” Just as some people may develop hives from eating peanuts, some people may develop migraines from consuming aspartame
Learn more:

Who makes aspartame?


I say no more.

Change the World Wednesday – 10th Oct

After being ‘double-dog dared’ by SF to be more creative in the kitchen, all bets were off, as on Friday I became a very sick puppy, then Saturday was more of the same; Sunday was a vast improvement, then Monday was a ‘Barra Day’ and sushi.

Even yesterday, I hadn’t fully recovered and my nose is running this morning and I’m still not firing on all cylinders.

All this because I figured I needed more exercise. It nearly killed me.

I need to reevaluate my limits so they are more commensurate with my getting older; what’s worse, is that I need to accept that I am.

On with the challenge!

SF is going on holiday, lucky girl, so she has set a longer challenge than usual.

For this challenge, please consider all the ways in which you can achieve a zero impact. For example, reducing paper towel use is going green … not using them at all is zero impact. Driving less is going green … not driving at all and walking instead is zero impact. Adjusting your thermostat for the season is going green … not turning it on at all is zero impact. The idea is to search out those changes which will, in terms of that particular action, eliminate your impact on the earth. Once you’ve identified the activity, try it out and see if you can maintain the zero impact through the end of the month. And, of course, we want to hear all about it.


Or …

If you don’t feel that you can achieve a zero impact on any of your activities, then please find at least one area where you can reduce your impact significantly. And yep, we want to hear all about it.


So it’s all about ‘zero-impact’.

As most of you know, my life is pretty frugal. I am old, I have few needs, I don’t have family and I live alone.

Most of my usage has dwindled to zero impact, or very close to it. It’s difficult to think of an area where I can use less of the less I am already using.

An example, my shower head has been on low throughout the winter months instead of high, now that we have some very hot weather for our early spring, I have turned it off all together, the water from the tank on the roof is already hotter than with the setting on high.

I must get the on/off button on the TV fixed (I pushed it too hard one day and it disappeared inside, so I have to rely on the remote and the TV is on standby mode all the time. I don’t like that and have always used the on/off button to avoid standby which uses electricity.


Monday Moaning

One pretty similar to this

I was in a car last Thursday, my student always gives me a lift home after class; nice car, a Honda with all the mod-cons. Things that my last car never had.

As the window rolled down beside me, I commented that I wasn’t too lazy to wind it down myself, but then of course there wasn’t a handle to do so.

This set me to thinking just how lazy we have become.

:: Too lazy to wind down the window

:: Too lazy to walk around the car and check the doors are locked

:: Too lazy to get a map out of the glove box

:: Too lazy to reach out and adjust the rear vision mirror with our hand

All these things are adding to the burden on our natural resources, each time you add a new mod-con requires more metal, more plastic, another electric motor, an LCD display and circuitry, etc.

In my day we didn’t have, electric windows, central locking and GPS, now you can’t get a car without them.

When was the last time you asked a car salesman “Do you have a model without that?”

If you really want to be green, you would; if not then you are only paying lip-service to the green idea.

The two concepts, “green” and “lazy” do NOT go together.

You are either green, or you are lazy.

If you are the latter, please get off the planet at the next stop and wait for the next planet with unlimited resources to waste, we don’t want you here!

Nature Ramble

This is not so much a Ramble as one of those things you see while out for a walk.

I have been AFK for a few days, I was not a well puppy (result of the walk).

While walking (actually a fast hobble with my walking stick) to work on Thursday, I saw one of these.

I had never seen one before. I am fully familiar with regular cockroaches, they are a fact of life here in Brazil.

This beastie was rather large as you can see by the comparison with the hand. No, that’s not my hand, no, I did not pick it up. I figured when they get that big, they could have teeth.

I was surprised when googling to discover what I had seen, that while this one doesn’t bite, it does hiss. It comes from a line of Madagascan hissing cockroaches.

I’ll tell you one thing, if the beastie had turned on me and ‘hissed’, I would have turned tail.


Change the World Wednesday – 3rd Oct

Oh dear, this week is not a good week.

Only yesterday, I had decided that my next computer keyboard would have a “Bacon Button”, and then I discover the theme of this week’s CTWW, right after I put a slab of rump steak on the grill for lunch.

You see, I am a carnivore, although I did the last time this theme came around try, once, but failed.

Vegan is just too difficult for me; vege, I can handle, vegies aren’t too hard, but vegan…

Somebody hates me; I just threw a R$5 pieces of rump steak down the back of the stove while I was turning it over!

This week prepare and enjoy at least one vegan meal at home. Try to use locally grown, seasonal foods and utilize cooking methods which are Eco-friendly (the right sized pot for the burner being used, crock-pots, table top appliances like toaster ovens, etc.). Serve your meal in reuseable plates and utensils … and avoid any waste associated with the meal.


Or …

If you’ll be eating out this week, choose at least one vegan meal AND focus on being as Eco-friendly as possible. For example, choose a restaurant which uses real plates and utensils (versus establishments which use single-use, disposable items … yep, that leaves out fast food). Consider bringing your own utensils. Accept only the water which you’ll actually drink. Try to order foods which are local and in season. And if you’re feeling very ambitious, do a little research and choose a restaurant which employes sustainable operating methods.


And then …

Once you’ve chosen an option above, plan to enjoy your meal at a time when you can fully appreciate it. Don’t eat on the run or without thinking about it. Make time for this meal. Pay attention to the taste of the food and how it looks and smells. Savor each bite. In other words … “Eat like you give a $%#@”.

For me to eat totally vegan has already been a failure, everything I try has at least eggs in it, if not meat or animal derived products.

I do plan to eat out this week. I love eating out; no dishes. And, I certainly don’t eat ‘gobble & go’. There are no plastic plates where I eat, but they do have these annoying salt sachets, because here that’s the law, no salt shakers, toothpicks each individually wrapped too. Here I add that the Councillor who proposed the law was a relative of the company that does the wrapping. That’s the way things work in Rio.

The restaurants in this part of town (remember we are 85kms from the city centre) aren’t known for their sustainability practices, even though they charge Five Star prices. This part of town is a little bit like the Wild West, yes, some parts even have street shoot outs. You may have heard on the news we have an election this weekend for mayors and councillors, the military is here to protect the people from the militicias trying to bully voters into voting for their candidates.

So even with research it would be difficult to find a suitable place to eat.

Certainly when I do eat out, I go to enjoy the experience and don’t eat and run. I tend to do that more at home. Often I don’t sit for a meal, but eat standing at the counter. Whenever I eat, be it at home or out, I follow my inclination as a chef to enjoy what I am eating, flavour, texture, etc are important to me.

Oh, you remember that piece of rump steak… I salvaged it and washed it (no detergent) and put it back on the grill with a dash of olive oil. I waste nothing.


Reducing your Carbon Footprint

There are many products available to help the consumer reduce their carbon footprint.

Try using this to sweeten your morning coffee…

Carbon Free Sugar

If my high school chemistry serves me right…

C6H12O6 is the chemical formula for sugar; you take away the carbon, and all you’ve got is a bag of water…

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