Now I Know Why It’s Important to Teach Biology in Schools

So I go to the grocery store to buy my first-ever protein shake. 
 As it’s the USA there are about 50 types of different kinds of powders and liquids, all with shiny letters promising all sorts of benefits. 
Then I see about 30 more kinds in the natural / vegan / gluten free / non GMO/ organic or whatnot categories that cost you 50% more for something that is half the size, all these have lots of green and white packaging that will sure make you feel healthier just looking at it. 

A nice store employee comes and asks if I need any help because I obviously look lost. I tell him that I want to buy a protein shake because I want to gain weight. So he points to one of the shelves and says I should get THAT one but “beware because it has lots of sugar.”

“Strange,” I say, “because it only has 3% daily value of carbs per serving…” (which is about less than half of the carbs in the average yogurt cup). 

“No, you have to look at the calories,” he says, “that shows you how much sugar it has. ”

Now, am I missing something or I learned the wrong things in Biology class (I know it has been at least 15 years since but still…)?

Finally, I ended up getting something that is called Muscle Milk, which has no milk, but has milk proteins (so confusing).

  

Finding Inspiration in Colorado

Originally posted on Grobetrotter:

During my graduate studies on Russia, I learned of an interesting element in Russian folklore: the theme of man’s connection with the land, with nature. We came across it in the mystical children’s stories, in Chekov’s plays and in more modern pieces such as  Nikita Mikhalkov‘s films. I always appreciated this esthetic but found it hard to comprehend; why was it that with all the modernity and attractions of big cities, one would want to return back to his or her origins in the countryside?

As I grew older and accumulated more polluted air in my lungs, I started realizing the special allure of pure nature and simple things that make our lives more real and meaningful. Jericoacoara, a quiet beach town in the northeast of Brazil (of which I wrote some time ago here) was the first place that had a transformative effect on my mental state.  Even…

View original 483 more words

Finding Inspiration in Colorado

During my graduate studies on Russia, I learned of an interesting element in Russian folklore: the theme of man’s connection with the land, with nature. We came across it in the mystical children’s stories, in Chekov’s plays and in more modern pieces such as  Nikita Mikhalkov‘s films. I always appreciated this esthetic but found it hard to comprehend; why was it that with all the modernity and attractions of big cities, one would want to return back to his or her origins in the countryside?

As I grew older and accumulated more polluted air in my lungs, I started realizing the special allure of pure nature and simple things that make our lives more real and meaningful. Jericoacoara, a quiet beach town in the northeast of Brazil (of which I wrote some time ago here) was the first place that had a transformative effect on my mental state.  Even today, when I am asked to think of a special place that makes me calm, I imagine myself walking on top of the Sunset dune in Jeri with the sandy wind touching my skin and rippling through my clothes as if it’s trying to lift me up in the air and set me flying.

When I was debating with my boyfriend about our last vacation, we’ve almost settled on yet another sightseeing frenzy but then I remembered the calming effect of nature and how much we all need it in today’s crazy world. So we we decided on the mountains of Colorado instead.

Renting a very little car (as always, I was being cheap), turned out to be a good idea on one hand because it was excellent for all the turns on the mountain highways. On the other hand, merging or accelerating turned out to be a good exercise and in peddle pressing and praying as it huffed and puffed trying to get to a speed of 65 mph. Mitsubishi Mirage is not for the outdoors but great gas milage ;)

We first stopped to visit friends near Boulder and took a trip to Estes Park, which I previously saw in its winter glory. The next day we drove up high in the mountains to visit the breathtaking Brainard Lake, which was surrounded by snowy peaks even in the hot August time.

After Boulder, we headed to Aspen, which is what I would call a yuppie Switzerland (very beautiful but very expensive and full of wealthy people in fancy clothes and fancy cars). We stayed in nearby half-yuppie Snowmass Village and enjoyed several sunny and lazy days of eating, hiking, cycling and people-watching. The highlight of this part of the trip was visiting Maroon Bells, the view of which from the Maroon lake is the most photographed scene in Colorado (google this).  There were several trails around this park so we randomly picked the Maroon Creek trail which turned out to be very versatile (forest, river, open fields, rock formations, etc) hike, that we had all to ourselves. Hooray to random guessing!

On our way back to Austin, we stopped for one day in Denver, which was kind of a nothing city in the middle of all the beauty so to compensate ourselves for its nothingness, we went to visit the Red Rocks Amphitheaterwhich was full of people jogging and doing all sorts of sports that I would never do during a 90F / 30C scorching heat. We were not surprised at all to see this as throughout the trip we learned about all sorts of crazy things that Coloradans do in the name of fitness (think of riding mountain bikes at 45 degrees incline at 8k ft/2.4k meters and smiling while at it).

Snow sports over a frozen lake in Estes Park. We had an amazing time hiking with the snow falling down.
Frozen Lake in Estes Park
Estes Park, Summer in Colorado, Emerald Lake
Same place in Estes Park in the Summer

Thank You Ellen Pao

Sexism is a Social Disease

I had an “interesting” lesson lately with Twitter haters. I always like to post thought-provoking articles on Facebook so I posted a few weeks ago an article titled : “Thank you Ellen Pao for teaching more people about sexism in the workplace.” This topic was on my mind as I learned that a friend and her several colleagues were fired right after coming back from maternity leave.

I didn’t know too much about Ellen Pao nor felt any sense of solidarity with her specifically as evidence showed that she was no saint in her conduct. Nevertheless, I reasoned that her case was putting sexism at work at the top of mind for some people so it was a good time to talk more about this issue and share examples from around the world (which the article was ultimately about).

I then tweeted this article and some stats about the lower salaries of women players in the FIFA World Cup (only 2.3 % of total paid to the men) and I was really shocked that I started getting various responses from men. They were upset with me for “supporting” Ellen Pao, and eager to share all sorts of articles about how horrible of a person she is, what an awful husband she married, how she destroyed Reddit, etc etc. On the women player salaries, I was told to “get over myself”.

When I looked at these guys’ Twitter accounts I saw that all they tweeted and retweeted had hate speech against women and attacks on anything they mapped as feminist. It was a deliberate work they did, to find women that tweet about issues and attack them personally.

I, of course, blocked those guys; they have no relevance for my life and I am not going to waste time arguing with someone who has no intention to listen. BUT, their arguments reminded me of other times in my life when I was confronted with blunt sexist comments and was told to keep my “feminist propaganda” to myself when I dared to object.

If  you want to get a better feel for what I mean – check out the #thankYouEllenPao hashtag on twitter.

Lets pause here: I don’t know what your definition of feminism is but mine is that women should have the same rights and opportunities as men. (it doesn’t mean that I hate men, don’t think man are valuable or expect them to get thrown under a bus driven by some hairy and muscular woman)

I am disgusted by this type of aggression but am certainly not surprised. I am happy to say that many young men that I know are just as disgusted by this type of behavior and some of them are actually more actively “feminist” than I.

It was the overwhelming support of the entire scientific community that got Tim Hunt sacked for his derogatory comments about women scientists (claiming that they should be put in separate laboratories because they fall in love with him).

It’s therefore important that we all work together to make sure that our women don’t get discriminated or disrespected by a haters minority, which sometimes can become a majority.

By the way, I found out that one of the things that brought on the great discontent of Reddit users agains Ellen was that she wanted to close forums that promoted hated speech against fat people, women and racial minorities (they claimed she was violating freedom of speech). How ironic.

The Secret Stairways of San Francisco

Secret stairways are a big thing in the hilly San Francisco, so much that there are entire books and websites dedicated to mapping and telling the history of these places.

My first stairway was the Greenwich/Filbert Steps next to the Coit Tower. I wrote about them here. It’s an amazing secret walkway between extremely well-kept community gardens with gorgeous flowers, leafy trees and all sorts of vegetation. They are also known for a colony of green parrots who were brought in some years ago and have multiplied ever since. I was so lucky to see only one parrot. These guys are a pretty sneaky bunch! These stairs are quite difficult to find but you will manage too if you look hard enough behind Coit tower’s parking lot (and on Google Maps). There is a way to get to them from the Embarcadero side, but I think that going from higher to lower points offers the better views.

My next stairway was in Fort Mason. I was exploring the area and then saw a woman and a child coming down a stairway along the hill. I got really curious and climbed it. It took me to the top of a hill and inside a very quaint park. It was full of teenage boys and homeless men so I kind of had to make myself into a getouttathere. The view from the top was kind of worth the risk, anyways.

view from the top, fort mason, San francisco
View from the top of Fort Mason stairway

My third stairway was the Lyon Street Steps in the Pacific Heights neighborhoods. I was just wandering around and being impressed by all the beautiful mansions when I suddenly stumbled across this stairway from a fairy tale, perfectly manicured with a breathtaking view of the Palace of the Fine Arts. I later on found out that the beautiful mansions are actually located on a street nicknamed “Billionaires Row”, home to some very famous rich people like the Getty Family, Founder of Oracle, and Senator Dianne Feinstein. Rich Bastards. They got the best views.

The last stairways I discovered were Vulcan and Jupiter stairs in Castro district. I thought that Castro was all about the sex shops, nightclubs and bars but turned out that there are many quiet and very green sections of this neighborhood. The steps were not as impressive as the ones I saw before, but I had fun looking at all the beautifully designed houses around them.

If you’re looking for other tips on San Fran, you can read my other posts