Sunday, May 29, 2011

Black love, human love

There's been a lot of media attention this past year about "black beauty".....

--> The movie Good Hair about the obsession and million dollar industry around black women's hair (or more accurately, the dislike of our natural hair hence all the chemicals and Indian hair purchased)
--> Dark Girls: A documentary exploring the deep-seated biases and attitudes about skin color - particularly dark skinned women, outside of and within the Black American culture.
--> Writers crazily saying black women are not attractive re: Kanazawa's article in Psychology Today.

I must say, I felt like someone slapped me in the face when I read Kanazawa's article. Using "science" to explain why beautiful black women like myself, my mother and countless others are less beautiful. I might just use my "surplus" testosterone (the supposed reason black woman are less attractive) to kick his behind.

And I can't tell you the amount of times some guy has said to me "You're the prettiest dark skin woman I've ever met". Or before I put my hair in dreadlocks, how many people warned me I'd look less attractive for embracing my natural hair.

I am fortunate that my parents raised me in a house full of appreciation for black beauty, that my life is full of love, that my husband tells me I'm beautiful daily and whenever I might give pause to whether or not I'm beautiful some random guy on the street screams a reminder at me. I'm worried about people who don't have these things in their lives.....

In the Baha'i faith we view all humans as varying flowers in one garden. The diversity adds to the beauty of the garden:
"If the flowers of a garden were all of one color, the effect would be monotonous to the eye; but if the colors are variegated, it is most pleasing and wonderful. The difference in adornment of color and capacity of reflection among the flowers gives the garden its beauty and charm. Therefore, although we are of different individualities, different in ideas and of various fragrances, let us strive like flowers of the same divine garden to live together in harmony. Even though each soul has its own individual perfume and color, all are reflecting the same light, all contributing fragrance to the same breeze which blows through the garden, all continuing to grow in complete harmony and accord. Become as waves of one sea, trees of one forest, growing in the utmost love, agreement and unity." (‘Abdu'l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 24)
Please be kind with your words:
"The tongue is a smoldering fire, and excess of speech a deadly poison. Material fire consumeth the body, whereas the fire of the tongue devoureth both heart and soul. The force of the former lasteth but for a time, whilst the effects of the latter endureth a century." Baha'u'llah

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Peanutty Pumpkin Stew

Thanks again Vegan on the Cheap cookbook. I love stews/soups because 1 batch can last me 3-4 lunches. I really like the use of peanut butter in this recipe

1 tbs olive oil, 1 onion, 1 carrot, 1 potato, 2 garlic cloves, 1 (14.5 oz) can crushed tomatoes, 1 (16 oz) solid pack pumpkin, 1/2 cup peanut butter, 2 tbs soy sauce, 2 tsp hot/mild curry powder, 2 cups vegetable stock, 1.5 cups cooked or 15.5 oz kidney beans drained and rinsed, 1 (4 oz) can chopped green chilies, 1 cup thawed peas (I didn't include the peas), 1/4 cup chopped peanuts

Directions (4 to 6 servings):
1. Saute onions, garlic, carrots and potato in a large pot. Cover and cook until softened.
2. Stir in tomatoes, pumpkin, peanut butter, soy sauce, curry powder and stock, stirring after each addition. Add beans and chilies stirring occasionally for 20 minutes.
3. Shortly before serving stir in peas. Garnish with chopped peanuts.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Vegan pizza

I made vegan pizza, with whole grain rice dough last week. Healthy and delicious, husband approved.

Recipe: sauteed zucchini, onions, garlic, mushrooms and yellow/orange bell peppers. Put tomato sauce on the whole grain rice dough, topped with sauteed veggies and daiya mozzarella cheese

Friday, May 13, 2011

Changing shoes/running form will not reduce all injuries but might help with a certain type

Read a breakdown of the study via Shut Up ad Run!'s blog post.
Or read the entire article on Runner's World.

To sum up the study in 4 sentences...... The results show that whether you use a forefoot/heel/midfoot strike or if you wear regular of minimalist shoes you still risk injury while running. However, certain types of injury might correlate to running style. “It looks like barefoot running and minimalist shoes increase risk of some foot injuries by while rear foot striking and traditional shoes increase knee injuries.”

Since my main injury issue has been my knees, this study just confirms what I discovered last year. Forefoot/minimalist shoes = less knee pain. Sure I have more calf pain the next day but that sort of pain is more of muscle building (positive) and not ligament/cartilage tearing&wearing (negative).

Speaking of calf pain....I'm almost back to last summer's peak. I ran 5 miles yesterday in the Vibrams and have only a slight calf discomfort today. Much better than last month :)

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Updated race calendar

~ June 11 – Women’s 10K – Central Park
~ August 21 – ING New York City Marathon Long Training Run #2 (6,11, 16 or 20 miles, runners choice) – Central Park
~ September 25 – ING New York City Marathon Tune-Up– Central Park
~ October 9 – Steamtown Marathon – Steamtown, PA

It's May and I feel like I've had a nice start in terms of my marathon training. Although I have not been consistently running 4x....I have been able to get in one long run 8-9 miles a week and a few shorter runs of 5 miles. I even got in some mini vibram runs.

I signed up for 2 more NY Road Runner races.... I am a little nervous/wary that the Sept 25 race is only 2 weeks before my marathon. And the Aug 21 is right after my summer vacation (it's so hard to kept up training during vacay). But I figure the best way to up my pace is to race.

I'm really excited for the Women's 10K next month. Last year I ran it 48:54 minutes (avg 7:52/mile). I've been running faster than that for my weekly runs this year. So I'm aiming for 46 minutes or less.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

getting off 'the road to hell'

This week I read The Road to Hell: The Ravaging Effects of Foreign Aid and International Charity by Michael Maren. From the first few pages where Maren paints a negative picture of Peace Corps volunteers (I'm a returned Peace Corps volunteer, Tanzania 06-08) I was torn between wanting to throw the book out the window and being really captivated. I'm glad I read it because it forced me to really think critically about foreign aid. Moving forward I will only donate to an organization if I have detailed knowledge of their projects/operation.

Most of the book features Somalia aid work by Save the Children and CARE. To give a really brief summary..... the book claims the aid work is making things worst, keeping evil governments in power and making slaves of those in refugee camps. Maren basically says aid workers/orgs care most about attracting funding. They don't care if their projects fail or if most of the "free food" goes to rebel army groups etc. Plus they often lie about where money is going.

After reading the book, I was left feeling cheated by all the ads I have viewed throughout my lifetime calling for my donation. I started to wonder if my past donations to UNHCR, CARE and the Red Cross etc. were wasted. So I enlisted Facebook for help. I posted "To anyone who has read 'The Road to Hell'. The book was written in 1997, are NGO/charities still this bad?" and the universe answered.

I forgot I have a lot of friends in international development. Watch this video about the importance of learning from failures and read some of their thoughts below.
  • Not all aid orgs are evil, some believe in accountability, openness and innovating: Engineers Without Borders publishes failure reports annually
  • EWB also created Admitting Failure inviting others to admit their failure so everyone can benefit and not repeat mistakes.
  • One friend works for CARE now and says they are much different now. Plus the picture Maren painted of its employees is not accurate.
  • When faced with the problem: give food to people who need it but some rebels will get some of it OR give no food whatsoever and chance people starving to death...what would you do?
  • We do need more oversight/regulation of the whole field. Also more follow through and maintenance (Pumps and pipes fail within months of installation, but the installing NGO or GO never goes back to make sure things are still running smoothly.)
  • A lot of people out there make their livings off of criticizing aid/development (Bill Easterly, Dambisa Moyo and Mahmood Mamdani) while seldom offering solutions for fixing what's wrong.
  • NGOs are dependent on donors for funding, and donors often give money for specific purposes. Everyone wants to give money to help build schools and all of the other high-profile projects. But where's the money to increase protection for aid workers in conflict situations, for example? There are so many areas that are underfunded by donors because they aren't attention-grabbing, but they may be equally important as other stuff. NGOs often push for unrestricted donations, but ultimately that's the donor's choice.
  • There's still too much focus on providing basic necessities (food/water/shelter/medicine) in refugee camps and not enough on psychosocial support and livelihood support. "We're so concerned with how people are dying, but not with how they are living".
  • Aid absolves African govs of accountability to its citizens and cuts the african entrepreneur out of the decision making process. Why should the govt sit with its people to find ways of increasing revenue yet they can do that with the IMF? Africans don’t want handouts, we want opportunities to trade, just like everybody else. There's more poverty in India and China than continental Africa combined in terms of absolute numbers, and yet you don’t see images of their children requesting aid. Instead, their govs astutely figured out that wealth is a function of income-generating jobs, not donations. The entire framework of aid must change from POVERTY ERADICATION to WEALTH CREATION: there's a big difference. Instead of handing out mosquito nets, give small loans to African entrepreneurs who want to set up a mosquito net manufacturing store. Check out, its brilliant.
  • Overall, I think the development "industry" is headed in the right direction. There is also now actual science being done and submitted in refereed journals looking at and comparing different aid techniques. I think the next decade will be a good one for development.
Picture: This picture is from Engineers Without Borders. It summarizes how it might not be as "sexy" to sponsor spreadsheets/maintenance/a teacher's salary as it is to help build a new school or water well, but we need less "hardware" (building/installing) and more "software"(people with skills)