Tag Archive | technology

It’s Time to get all Israeli on our Water

.Tal-Ya Water Technologies (Tal means dew in Hebrew) developed reusable plastic trays to collect dew from the air, reducing the water needed by crops or trees by up to 50 percent. (photo from israel21c.org)

While gardeners and farmers feel the drought first, it won’t be long until we all feel it. No one, not even your neighbors who keep watering their lawns despite the news that more than 50 percent of the country is facing a drought not seen since the 1950’s is immune.

This summer has been brutal on our water supply. Newspapers and media reports are full of the plight of the farmer as they watch crops wither because most are at the mercy of rainfall for water.

But perhaps this drought is waking us up to appreciate the most precious resource we all take for granted. And it may be time to rethink and apply some extreme agricultural practices as the earth heats up.

In times like these, we can take a lesson from Israel.

Israel is one of the driest countries on the planet. On average, it receives only 19.4 inches of rain annually. Yet, thanks to cutting edge technology, and even more, the stubborn willingness of a people who know that in order to practically live in Israel, you have to believe in miracles, Israel blooms.

A lustrous display of pomegranates in an Israeli market.

This tiny country has learned to efficiently use every drop of water that falls from the sky in the summer or coats the mountains in the north in winter to grow some of the most beautiful produce in the world. Check out this photo of huge greenhouses growing vegetables like eggplants, tomatoes and peppers in the Negev Desert. Check out this photo courtesy of Daniel Lawrence’s blog:

Hundreds of greenhouses line the Negev Desert and grow crops year around. The greenhouses are completely computerized so as not to create any error in the cultivation the plants. Peppers, eggplants, and tomatoes are the main crops grown here.

Israel not only makes the desert bloom, but it has developed technology and methods that the rest of the world can use to reverse and prevent desertification, as noted in this post from israel21c.org. Israel21c.org is an online magazine that offers topical and timely reports on how Israelis from all walks of life and religion, innovate, improve and add value to the world.

So here are a few tips we can learn from Israel to conserve our water resources not only during times of drought, but for the long haul:

  1. Stop Watering Your Lawn. Right Now. – You! Yes, you, the suburbanite! Fuggetabout your lawn. (okay, fuggetabout it is technically a Brooklyn/New Jersey and not an Israeli term, but let’s get back on topic) Israelis don’t have silly things like lawns. Lawns are nothing but vanity.  I’ll say it again: STOP WATERING YOUR LAWN NOW. Your brown lawn has gone into dormancy and watering your lawn artificially just puts more of a strain on its root system. It will come back soft and green when the rains return.
  2. Use drip irrigation – Did you know that agriculturalists in Israel invented drip irrigation technology? Instead of wastefully watering your garden through a sprinkler, where most water evaporates into the air, use drip irrigation to deliver the water right to where the plants need it – the roots.
  3. Save that H2O from your A/C – As shown in the photo above, Israel has developed technologies that draw humidity out of the air for irrigating crops. On a smaller scale, you can do the same by catching water runoff from your central air conditioner (my hose empties into the slop sink) to water plants and vegetables
  4. Less Wasting Water at Restaurants –  When you sit down at a restaurant in Israel, don’t assume that the waitress will automatically fill your glass with endless glasses of water. No way are they just giving water away if it’s not asked for.  You have to ask for the water, sometimes twice – in two different languages, until the waitress gives you a glass of water. So, next time you dine out, if you are not going to drink the water, tell your server not to pour, or refill your glass.
  5. Selective Flushing – Here is a picture of just one type of toilet flush in Israel:                                                                                                                                  The flush mechanism is divided into a big section and a small section.  If you are reading my blog, you are indeed a very intelligent person, so I’ll let you figure out what purpose each section serves.
  6. Shower Shorter, or Shower with a Friend – a drought is a great excuse to share your shower.
  7. Rejoice in the rain: Finally, instead of getting all bummed out when your ball game or picnic gets rained just be thankful. Think of the farmers who need the rain for their crops and livestock (a.k.a. your food, right down to that box of Cheerios and glass of milk at the breakfast table). Any event, even a wedding, can have a postponement, a change of venue or a rain date. But there is no substitute for the blessing of rain.

I’m routing for this Science Mom: Vote for her today!

Every now and again, I get a story idea in my inbox that just cannot wait a week until it is published in my column. In our age of overtesting our children to the point of desparation where they even cheat on college entrance examinations, here is a story of Melissa Gertner.

Melissa is a mom who was inspired by her son’s curiosity to solve problems by tinkering with old machine parts in his basement to start an after school club called FIRST LEGO® League  that lights the spark of science and technology in tween and teen-aged kids in Victor, NY.

She is competing for a scholarship to win $10,000 for the  Victor school district to continue and grow the LEGO program for years to come in Victor.

Here is her story. Vote for her at this link

A Mom and a STEM Advocate

A Mom and a STEM Advocate

I never liked science. Or math. Technology scares me. So, you must wonder, how could I have helped connect others to science, technology, engineering and math? I am not a teacher. Or an engineer. I can barely balance my checkbook. Still you wonder…

The answer is simple. I am a mom and an advocate. My son is endlessly curious and creative. He is always inventing things in the basement, taking machines apart to see how they work, reading about the way our world works, drawing his plans, bringing them to life, making a mess, starting all over again. Every day. All day. And he inspires me. To provide opportunities for him and others like him to find their very special and immensely valuable place our world.

So, two and a half years ago, with the guidance of the Victor Intermediate School, another devoted mom and I started the Victor Intermediate School FIRST LEGO League (VIS FLL) Club, a 3 year after-school pilot program designed to capture students’ interest in science, technology and engineering. The program offers hands-on real–world learning experiences that reach beyond the traditional classroom.

In our first year, we served 26 4th graders in a non-competitive format. In 2010, we took six teams of 43 4th and 5th graders to qualifiers. Three of those teams advanced to the Regional Championship. This year we will serve 80 students, including six teams of 5th and 6th graders attending the qualifiers in November and six teams of 4th and 5th graders participating in a non-competitive season starting in January 2012.

How did I find my way to this program you ask. Well, three years ago, I had the privilege of coaching my son’s Jr. FIRST LEGO® League team. Little did I know, I had embarked upon the journey of a lifetime. Somewhere along the way, perhaps when I saw the pride in the faces of my son and his teammates at their show and share event or the incredible ideas they generated or the solutions these 8 year olds developed, I was hooked and committed to providing a continuum of science and engineering opportunities to as many students as I could possibly embrace.

Since that time, I have coached his FLL team for two more consecutive years, been a co-coordinator for the club in the off-season and am currently the coordinator of the VIS FLL Club. I have also actively helped other teams get started in our region by sharing information, resources and encouragement.

I continue to be inspired by the imagination, ideas, teamwork and passion these kids generate. Not only do our students participate in community events and competitions, they also mentor local students and others throughout our region, and spread the word about how exciting science and engineering can be. As much as I am helping to connect all these kids with science, technology and engineering experiences, they are the true connectors, connecting me with the best of myself and the best of themselves with our world.

I love you as much as you can stand…. More Love Letters

Did they ever think they would be parents and great-grandparents? A photo of Pauline and Milton in 1938

Since I started blogging, the post that has received the most amount of views is my post Hey … vs. The Love Letter.  It has received over 4,000 views and that’s without being freshly pressed — when a blogger’s post is hand-picked by the WordPress editors and prominently displayed on the website’s front portal.

Now, I don’t know if people read all the way through my post, but it goes to show that there are those out there that still believe in love letters and the power of the written word for the sake of romance.  In spite of advances in technology.

In this post, written in January during National Letter Writing Week, I pondered if my generation, the Gen Xers, will indeed be the last that will pen physical, hand-written love notes, or even letters in general. Call me old-fashioned with my fears. I don’t like the notion of how texting is replacing plain talking, or how e-book readers are replacing paper books.  But fearing new technologies is nothing new. Even the invention of the printing press brought on apprehension. In fact, a character in Victor Hugo’s proclaimed medieval novel Notre Dame de Paris states that the invention of the printing press would kill architecture, the way humans communicate. I wish that Victor would have stuck around long enough to see the works of Frank Lloyd Wright or Frank Gehry.

But here’s where I back up my point that sometimes old-fashioned ways, like letter writing, can’t be replaced:

Last summer, at a prolonged stay at my parent’s house, I got, well, bored. So, I started snooping through the closet in my brother’s old room (sorry, bro!). In an accordion filing folder, I found some very old letters. Letters with two separate penmanship: one so flowery it should be regarded as an art form, the other, more masculine and primitive.

Love letters. Between my grandparents. Way before they were great-grandparents or even parents.

I don’t think that two people were more madly and crazy in love than my grandparents. Or fought as much as my grandparents. I mean fights that involved throwing a can of corn across the room or driving away from a family dinner all the way back to Brooklyn fights. But they still flirted with each other all the way into their 80’s.

But even into their 80’s, they still flirted with each other. At family gatherings, my grandfather would take me around, point to my grandmother, and whisper to me “Hey, aint she cute? Ain’t she sweet? She’s all mine.”

My grandparents had two anniversaries. One,was when they eloped in September 1939. They actually ran away in the middle of the night, headed upstate New York, and found a justice of the peace to marry them. An asthmatic one at that. I remember my grandmother recounting the ceremony, mimicking how the justice wheezed between reciting the vows. That was the anniversary my grandfather recognized.

Afterwords, none of my great-grandparents approved to this elopement. And I think the way it went was that my grandparents were not allowed to cohabit until they had a proper Jewish wedding, which happened three months later. That’s the anniversary my grandmother recognized.

So, in these letters, I found one from my grandfather, Milton, that I think contained my grandfather’s plot to take my grandmother, Pauline, away to get hitched.

Dated August 29, 1938 my grandfather writes

I received your second letter this morning after I sent my fourth. I got my days changed to Sunday and Monday off. (Grandpa worked night shifts for the New York Daily News). That goes into effect this Tuesday. Find our all the arrangements for Saturday, September 7, so that we don’t get mixed up. Try and come in early enough to get to the shower (?) about 9:30 but don’t forget to allow some sleep as I’ll be working Saturday morning. Will they be surprised?! Boy, oh Boy!

Some talk about my grandmother being away somewhere…. I don’t understand that part, but then….

I found lipstick on my blue tie that I wore Saturday nite but I won’t make any attempt to clean it……I’ll see you Saturday night and then all day Sunday and Monday and don’t go kick me home early….

and …after a bit of more plotting and even some sqabbling about my grandmother “putting on airs” the last time they met…

“You don’t know what a funny, but a lost feeling I get when I see a couple on the street or a couple kissing or a fellow saying I got a date. Nobody loves me except you. ….I love you alone, Milton.”

Then, I find a letter from my grandmother, not dated. But even back then, and they must have been in their late teens, my grandmother was nudging my grandpa about his health:

“I won’t see you on the nights you can’t manage to get your eight or nine (NINE??) hours of sleep each day. Your also going to watch your diet closely. Believe you me!”

And on the letters and their love went, for 67 years. By the way, My grandfather, a second generation photo engraver for the New York Daily News, was in fact a victim of new technology. In 1982, he was given a buy-out package along with the other photo engravers at the New York Daily News.

His job was being replaced by something called…. the laser printer.

Hey…… vs. the Love Letter

The first day into December break, my 14-year-old daughter sat at the breakfast table in a blue funk. I asked her what was troubling her.

“No one is around, I’ve tried to get in touch with everyone I know and no one is calling or texting me back to hang out or talk or do anything!” I empathized with her angst. Hanging out just with the members of the family, all friendless and all,  can be such a chore.

So, I asked her who she left messages with, who she called asking to make plans.

Her reply was, “Well, I didn’t exactly ask if anyone wanted to get together. I just texted ‘Hey’ to a bunch of people.  No one has replied.”

Obviously, in the texting generation, “hey” seems to carry more weight and meaning than its three letters imply. It might simply mean “hello!” Or it might mean

“what are you doing?”

“do you want to get together?” 

or, maybe, even

“I really like you.”

That is a lot to figure out for this upcoming generation of few words.

WordPress recently asked, as part of its daily blogging suggestions,

“Would you rather talk or text?”

For me, I’d rather talk. Or better yet, I would choose to write.

I do understand that texting can be convenient, such as when held up in a meeting and you need to get a succinct message out, like, “I’ll be late for dinner or daycare pickup.”

But, I would still prefer to hear the lilt, happiness or sadness in the voice of a friend or a loved one to better understand where they are coming from.  Nothing beats a phone conversation when you want to get to the bottom of things quickly.

Sometimes, though, it’s the anticipation of that special letter that makes communication all the more sweeter.  This week is National Letter Writing Week. That’s right. The kind of communication that requires a stamp. And ink from something called a pen.

When was the last time you received a love letter? When did you last wait days for that all-important message? Without that longing, songs like “Hey Mr. Postman” would never have been written.

If mere phone conversations and emails are dying away to curt, cryptic texts, then our culture may have seen our last generation of love letter writers.

I’m glad that technology did not arrive in time to deprive me of my letters. They are in a shoebox decorated with wrapping paper. Eighteen months worth of letters that document hopes and longings of my husband and I when we were just starting out.  He was in California, I was in New York. He was in grad school, I was in an entry-level job I hated. Each of these handwritten letters — some short, some long — took days to cross the continent and we waited with anticipation for them to arrive in our mailboxes.  And, by slowing down to write things out, we said things that we could never say to each other in a long distance phone conversation. Some of the dreams we put on paper, things we wouldn’t dare say when we were long distance dating, are a testament to our life today, our life with the three kids and the house. The house that holds a shoebox of old love letters.

In the digital age of bits and bytes, where will today’s young lovers store their earliest expressions of affection?


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