Eating Plastic

I remember during the Vietnam War that autopsies performed on our thousands of young soldiers showed that there was Styrofoam in their bodies.  After eating and drinking out of Styrofoam containers, the polystyrene leached into their bodies and stayed there for life. I thought those days were gone because we banned Styrofoam, and later BPA (Bisphenol A) in water bottles. But a recent study now shows that children have harmful plastics (phthalates) in their bodies.

Our food production techniques have become “mass production” due to overpopulation and corporate greed. Meat for burgers is extruded through PVC tubing, bulk supplies of grain are stored in plastic containers, and virtually all food is wrapped in plastic.  The fast food industry is the culprit because food servers wear PVC gloves, food is wrapped or stored in plastic containers, and fast food is often reheated or assembled on plastic surfaces.

Studies show that people who eat fast food have more phthalates in their bodies than their counterparts who eat organic and fresh foods.  Children who eat school meals have 100% more phthalates in their bodies according to an Italian study.  In a food monitoring and duplicate diet study conducted in Japan, they found that people who ate fast food prepared by servers who wore PVC gloves during the preparation and packaging of the meals had a demonstrated increase in phthalates in their bodies. And because grains typically hold meals together like they do in burritos and sandwiches, they have more contact with plastic packaging materials. 

The industrialization of our food production, processing, and handling is causing us to develop health problems.  Sadly, it’s the poor and minorities who eat fast food and school lunches because it’s less expensive.  My recommendation is to grow your own veggies, stay away from fast food, and store/reheat your food in glass containers.  We need to consciously make decisions about our food intake in order to stay healthy.


(Tsumura et al. 2001a2001b).

(Tsumura et al. 2003).

(Schlosser 2012).

(Cirillo et al. 2011)

(Chronic Hazard Advisory Panel on Phthalates and Phthalate Alternatives 2014U.S. EPA 2012). 

Saving Water By Eating More Fruits and Veggies

Imagine India’s population growing to 1.6 BILLION by 2050?  Remember we’re currently at 7.5 billion worldwide, and if we reach 10 billion, we’re not going to have enough food and water for our civilization. Indians need to take drastic measures to reduce their population [HINT: Consider Pascal Costa’s Preventing OverPopulation project!] But if India isn’t ready to endorse a 2-child policy, the Thomson Reuters Foundation suggests that “they could save water and reduce planet-warming emissions if people added more vegetables and fruits like melon, oranges, and papaya to their diet while reducing wheat and poultry.”

Indians must cut their water usage by 33% to ensure that they’ll have enough water for their growing population.  By 2050, irrigation of crops will take more than 70% of the water in India unless they significantly reduce their population or change their diets to more veggies and fruit and less meat.

This is a wake-up call for all of us.  Just because we had a wet winter in Northern California doesn’t mean we’re out of the woods yet… 

Keep Twitter Out Of Our Private Places

I’m worried about my privacy on a lot of levels.  It seems that every time I accept an “upgrade,” a part of my privacy is handed over to advertisers and others.  They always claim that they’ll provide better services and connect us with stores, brands, and organic content that I care about, but what is really happening is that they’re sharing our shopping, viewing, and browsing habits with retailers.  Twitter just updated their privacy policy on May 18th, and guess what?  You were automatically opted in.  Hmm.

The good news is that you can stop Twitter from sharing your information.  Here’s how:

1. Go to your account page and open “Settings”

2. Click on “Settings and Privacy”> “Privacy and Safety”> “Personalization and Data”

3. At the top of this page, disable “All Personalization and Data Settings”

    a. Twitter website: click “Disable all”

    b. Twitter mobile app: click toggle switch at the top

    c. Make sure to disable on both the website and the app

Another way to make sure you’re protected is to check out the new “Your Data” section to see the demographic, geographic, and other personal information they’re collecting about you.  On the mobile app, scroll down to the bottom of the page on the Personalization and Data page (in Settings), and tap “See your Twitter Data.” You can view and edit Your Profile here. You can also go to the “Your Data” tab to request a list of advertisers that Twitter has shared your personal information with. 

Protect yourself and prevent advertisers from stalking you!

Accelerated Programs for Gifted Girls to Help Break the Glass Ceiling

With over a million gifted girls in the United States, it’s time to rethink holding them back for “socialization” when accelerating their education to innovating their curiosity and ability to learn, setting up and establishing their careers, and having time to raise a family will give them extraordinary advantages for the rest of their lives. Naturally, this is not for every girl.  But for those girls who are truly gifted, it allows them to have the lifestyle that want and deserve, on a timeline that works for them.

When exceptionally gifted girls remain with their peers through high school, they typically underachieve and lose motivation, become anxious, and succumb to low self-esteem. Classes are boring and homework is an exercise in busy work and brain-numbing obedience.  But according to Maureen Neihart, “The Socioaffective Impact of Acceleration and Ability Grouping: Recommendations for Best Practice,” girls who engage in accelerated programs and college classes actually produces social-emotional gains for these gifted and talented students

It would be ideal for gifted girls to move ahead together in small groups so they can support one another’s social and emotional needs in a high school or college setting.  That’s why I opened Merit Academy back in 1994.  My goal was to give both of my daughters that opportunity to develop intellectually, academically, and socio-emotionally in small groups and later in one-on-one classes at Merit.  I found that they engaged with their teachers and learned a wider breadth and depth in each of their subjects – something I’m certain they wouldn’t have received in a regular class setting. 

For gifted girls who might graduate from high school at age 14, graduate from college at 18, and receive their PhD at age 22, they have the opportunity to be fully immersed in their studies and practice their expertise and establish their careers by the time they can settled down to get married and start a family.  Women who have followed this path find that they’re more successful, land professional careers, and have plenty of time to raise a family without the burden of being in medical school while raising a young family. By accelerating gifted girls’ education, we can break the glass ceiling and women might be able to finally join the ranks of the top positions in every field – something that has been missing in every board room in corporate America.


Wanna Turn Heads At Your Prom? Check Out These Gorgeous Braids!

It’s that time of year again!  PROM! 

No matter what your budget is, beautiful braids can add just the right touch – to make you stand out!  And if you have your mom or friend do the braids – it’s free! 

Check out these stunning braids that my daughter Jaclyn and I created when we put together a collection of our best designs in our book Simply Gorgeous Braids.


Homework: Yes or No?

The homework debate has fueled many town hall meetings and board rooms since the early 20th century.  Some believe that students need the discipline to do homework to reinforce what is taught in class while others argue that homework is a bunch of busy work that infringes on students’ much needed play time or down time.

I just read a fascinating article “Never Mind the Students; Homework Divides Parents” in the New York Times which addresses the fact that many parents rely on homework to fill the time with productive things for students to do until parents return home from work.  Wealthy families have access to enrichment activities and educational supplements that their kids can do when they don’t have homework, but families with less means typically have less resources available to their children.  This translates to an unequal playing field where the wealthy kids fare far better than their poorer counterparts.

Homework is a complicated concept.  I believe that instruction and introduction to concepts should be done in the classroom and homework should be assigned IF it reinforces what was introduced and IF it is necessary for the student to reinforce those concepts in the first place.  In other words, don’t give students busy work to keep them out of trouble because they’ll resent it and they probably won’t be any better off for doing it.

The tricky part is that every student is different and each student has strengths in some subjects and weaknesses in others.  So how can a teacher assign the right amount of homework to a class of 30 students? Um, not happening.  And we can’t make homework voluntary because kids probably won’t do it and those that do are probably not the students who needed to do it in the first place.  Hmmm.


Fingerprint Security

I’m a klutz when I text.  My girls laugh at me when I type with one finger on my phone because they have the magical touch and can type 80 words a minute using the sides of their thumbs. I don’t get it.  That’s why when the fingerprint scanner first came out, I had them installed on all of our computers and I bought one of the first Android phones that came with the fingerprint sensor. But now, researchers at New York University and Michigan State University say that fake fingerprints can fool fingerprint sensors 65% of the time.

Now I’m worried.  Considering that I do my banking, financials, and other personal things on my phone and computers, I want to make sure that everything is as secure as possible. I thought that because every fingerprint is unique, there would be no way that anyone could replicate my fingerprint.  I was wrong.

When you set up your fingerprint security on your phone or computer, you usually take about 8-10 images per finger.  This makes it easier for the device to identify the print.  While security is the goal, users want the device to be able to accurately see their fingerprints within the first few swipes.  Nobody wants to have to swipe a dozen times to open their phones.

So, the security verdict is still out on fingerprint pads.  More tests need to be conducted on a variety of cell phones and developers need to improve anti-spoofing techniques to detect the presence of a real finger vs a fake one.

In the meantime, Dr. Boehnen, the federal government’s Odin program, says you can protect yourself by turning off fingerprint authentication for your most sensitive apps, such as mobile payments.  That’s sound advice. In a world of ever-changing technology, I make paper copies of important documents and put them in my safe deposit box.  I guess that’s old fashioned, but it gives me peace of mind. 

Veggies Are Thriving In Our Media Beds!

Our veggies are thriving in the media beds of our aquaponics system.  They’re growing so fast, we can’t eat them fast enough! 

The fish are growing and the floating raft system is stabilizing. 

This system uses no chemicals or fertilizers because the plants get their nutrients from the fish waste and the fish get water that is filtered through the plant root network. 

It’s a perfect system!  

Tips on Preventing Pain after Shots?

Getting my blood drawn and getting shots ranks right up there with – well, having my teeth pulled without pain medication.  I GET STRESSED OUT! I count down the days and then on the day I plan to get the shots, I wake up hoping I have the flu.  My blood pressure skyrockets because all I can think of is the PAIN I’ll feel when the needle goes into my arm.  I’m a complete wreck until I mastermind a way to successfully miss the appointment.  Then I take a deep breath until my denial fades and I have to make another appointment.

Well, about 10 years ago, a nurse promised me that the TDAP wouldn’t hurt because she had a special technique to reduce the swelling and pain.  I didn’t really believe her because nobody knows that I FEEL PAIN MORE THAN OTHERS and that I’m such a baby about needles.  But, what happened that day was amazing.  The nurse massaged my arm before she gave me the injection.  Then, she immediately massaged my arm after the injection for about a minute or two.  I was happy that the shot didn’t hurt the way I was anticipating it to, but the really surprising part was that the next day, my arm didn’t hurt at all.  Phew!

It’s been 10 years, and I just got notification that I’m due for my TDAP.  I inquired about the new “massage technique” at my last doctor’s appointment and the nurse looked at me like I was crazy.  Back to my old tricks, I told her that I was going to find that nurse and have her give me the injection.  Again – I’m sure the nurse and the doctor think I’m a lunatic.  So I called my old doctor’s office but nobody knew anything about this “technique.”  I even went online but couldn’t find anything that resembled this pain-free way to give the TDAP.

So I have decided that I am going to be my own nurse and guinea pig. I will massage my left upper arm for 5 minutes before I get the TDAP and again for 5 minutes afterwards.  I also plan to do arm rotations and comfort the area with a heating pad throughout the day and in the evening. 

If you have any tips, I’m all ears!  I’ll let you know if this technique works.