Locally Grown Food

In Miami, I am very much used to there being convenient sources of food within a short distance. But as a kid, when I would go to visit my grandmother on the other side of town, we would have to drive through farm country. (Wait what? There are farms? Miami isn’t just what you see in Dexter!) A few of the more common crops you find growing are strawberries, banana trees, baby palm trees, and tomatoes.

During these visits, my parents would also always take me to these small farmers markets. One is called Burrs’ Berry Farm where they grew the most delicious fresh strawberries EVER. The tiny market would sell fresh strawberry shakes, freshly made hot dogs, and delicious vanilla milkshakes.

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Another local Miami farm is called Knaus Berry Farm. This farmers market is a bit more popular than Burrs. In addition to their freshly grown produce, they also had a bakery which is most famously known for their delicious cinnamon buns. You can only buy them a couple months out of the year so people from all over the city go and stock up on them and freeze them for later. My family would always buy a few dozen each year.

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Thinking back, I never really thought about the significance of locally produced food, but some of my fondest memories of my family were spent at those farmers markets eating fresh, delicious food, enjoying each other’s company.

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Myakka State Park

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Despite getting a bit lost upon arrival, our class trip to Myakka State Park was enjoyable (although cooler weather would have been appreciated). All while I was there, I couldn’t help but compare it to the Florida Everglades from back home. If you live in south Florida like I do, then you know that you can’t go through lower school without at least several field trips to the everglades with the obligatory airboat ride thrown in. All in all, it was a similar view: swampy areas with tropical birds, and the occasional lazy gator snoozing in the sun. The landscapes were familiar and different at the same time. It was a raw, yet really pretty view. (At least I was able to get some really nice reference photos!)

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Something that stood out to me about Myakka State Park was that it was surprisingly untouched and rural. There was almost nobody there. Even during my many trips to the Everglades, there were always a bunch of other people and activities there (like airboat rides and large guided tours). There was even a gift shop. But Myakka was different. The self exploring aspect was unexpectedly refreshing. The forest walk and the canopy walk were nice as well. I’ve always been a lover of trees and how they look, so walking down the winding path looking up at the trees was a nice experience. The highlight of the trip was definitely the canopy walk. The tower was so high up and the view was beautiful! I enjoyed this field trip very much.

Blackfish Reaction

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I’ll admit right now, as a kid, I loved SeaWorld. I live in Florida, so it wasn’t that big of a deal for me and my family to take a drive up there for a day or two. As a little kid, there was always something magical about it. Seeing the dolphins and whales up close performing amazing tricks, and the friendly park workers. Since my childhood, I haven’t been to SeaWorld at all. And until I watched Blackfish, I still thought of SeaWorld as a wonderful, fun place.

The first time I watched Blackfish was in my Humanities class during my senior year of high school. I remember thinking to myself as I was watching it: “I can’t believe I went there and enjoyed it.” I made a promise to never go there again. The on the job deaths of the trainers bothered me, but what really hit me was when the documentary talked about the conditions that the whales and other large mammals were kept in. And despite my being upset by it, I couldn’t help but be interested at the same time. When they talked about the physical effects of being in a small, contained environment, such as the whale’s top fin slumping over from disuse and from constantly swimming in circles, I was both intrigued and saddened.

All the while I was watching it and feeling bad and also guilty for previously liking the park, I was also thinking to myself “Why are you so surprised? Did you expect this to be something different? Nothing is as happy and wonderful as it seemed as a child.” But regardless of what I thought as a child, I won’t be supporting SeaWorld again by going.

The Cove Reaction

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When I first learned what The Cove was about, it really wasn’t anything new to me exactly. As a little kid, I had learned about whaling and the like and I knew that it was illegal, but I figured that that stuff happens and accepted it as something that I couldn’t really change and went on with my day. However, after watching The Cove, I genuinely felt different. I felt anger towards those that were killing the dolphins so cruelly and I felt joy and pride when the footage was revealed at that conference gathering. The Cove did everything a good documentary is supposed to do: present the information, and convince the viewer of the angle it’s presenting. In this case, that mass dolphin killing is happening in a small town in Japan and that people are trying everything to stop it from happening.

One part of the documentary that surprised me and made me upset was that the people that were killing the dolphins seemed heartless, unsympathetic, and even proud of what they were doing. How can someone take pride in killing a beautiful creature like that? But I appreciate that later on, they interviewed normal Japanese people and they were completely unaware that this was even happening.

Even though I agreed with the documentary and everything it stood for, I also couldn’t help but notice the emotional queues that occurred as well. For example, during the “chase scenes”, the lighting would change and there would be ominous music. Also, during the night scenes when they were planting the cameras, it was completely silent, adding tension. Also, at the end when the footage of the Cove was played, there was grand, victorious music playing as well. Even though the documentary did its job, I can’t help but feel a little bit cheated that small things like lighting and music can have such a great affect on the viewer. But, the same can be said for all motion picture programs.

BP Oil Spill and Hurricanes

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I learned many things from the Sylvia Earle Documentary, but one topic that piqued my interest the most was when the BP oil spill on the gulf was mentioned. As this topic was discussed briefly in the documentary, I found myself recalling memories of my dad complaining at the dinner table about the oil spill and all the extra work he had acquired because of it. My father is the branch chief of the Hurricane Specialists Unit at the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida. When the oil spill happened, I heard all about how it affected not just marine life, but our lives as well.

One of the biggest issues concerning oil spills and hurricanes was how they would interact with each other if they should happen to cross paths. Would the oil spill help or hurt the hurricane? What would a hurricane do to the oil spill in the gulf? Could the hurricane facilitate the oil’s journey to shore? These questions crossed my mind, and I asked my dad what he thought of them. He referred me to a document he prepared for the NOAA website on how the oil spill would interact with hurricanes.

As to whether the oil would help or hurt the development of a hurricane, in theory, if the oil layer was thick enough, the evaporation that is necessary for tropical storms and hurricanes to form could be suppressed, however in this case, most of the oil layer was fairly thin and spread out, even leaving open patches. This still would allow for evaporation and possibly, a storm.

Because of this, the next concern someone would think of is, if hurricanes can still form, what would a possible hurricane do to the oil? Well, the high winds may distribute the oil over a wider area, which would further complicate clean up. Storm surges may even carry the oil to the coastline. Taking note of the fact that variables of a storm are constantly changing, (so nothing is completely concrete), a hurricane passing east of the spill could drive the oil to the coast (because of the counter clockwise spin).

I always like it when I am able to make connections from past knowledge to new material that I learn about. It makes the learning process much more interesting.

My father’s paper: http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/pdf/hurricanes_oil_factsheet.pdf

Walk along South Lido Beach

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Last week’s Biodiversity of the earth Field trip to South Lido Beach was quite lovely, despite the cold windy weather. When I first started to walk along the beach, I was struck by how much nicer Lido Beach was in contrast to Miami Beach. It was calmer, quieter, and not to mention much cleaner. The water was very clear, which was nice to see. The smell of the sea felt very familiar to me; it was very nice to experience it again. I also wondered how different it must be for people here that were just experiencing the beach and ocean for the first time. It was also interesting to see the other members of our little walking party exclaim over birds (especially the blue heron) that I was already familiar with. I almost felt guilty that I took the sighting of these animals for granted because I see them so often, where other people appreciate their presence more. It was an eye opening experience for me.

I started to really pay attention when we got to the mangroves, because this was an area that I had experience in. I’ve taken countless fieldtrips to the everglades, east coast beaches, and airboat rides, so seeing mangroves is really nothing new for me. But it was nice to see them and remember the different types. I remember first learning about the different types of mangroves when I was in 6th grade on an overnight nature camp trip with my school somewhere near Tampa. While we were there, we went to the coast and we went with a guide and learned about different kinds of marine life and plants. I remember finding it particularly interesting that there are different kinds of mangroves. Red Mangroves are found closest to the shore, white mangroves are found furthest from the shore, and black mangroves are found in between the two. I found black mangroves most interesting because they are able to excrete the salt from the salt water they use and crystalize it on their leaves.

I also remember learning about sea purslane while I was there, some of which I saw while we were walking along the mangroves. The leaves are edible, and they tastes, unsurprisingly, like saltwater. The fieldtrip was very nice and nostalgic for me. I enjoyed the experience thoroughly.

Sci-Fi Evolution

Where did we come from? What is our origin? I started thinking about evolution at a very young age. When I was still in elementary school, my father being the Sci-Fi junkie that he is, showed me the movie 2001: a Space Odyssey, which I immediately loved. In the beginning of the movie, our ancestors (at this point) are hominids (basically apes). The movie shows our “process of evolution” in which a super advanced group of beings send a black monolith to serve as a medium to test the apes with. They presumably do this with all early species to see if they are worthy of evolving. The apes were, because it shows one ape who was more intelligent than the others suddenly figuring out that he can use bones as tools to kill things with, facilitating their hunting process. Later on in the movie, human kind has created an outpost on the moon, and there they have found another one of these mysterious monoliths. They excavated it, and when the sunlight touched it, it sent a signal to the beings, letting them know that human kind had evolved to the point of reaching the moon.

I also read an article recently that made me think about its sequel, 2010: The Year We Make Contact. In one part of the sequel, humans send a probe down to Europa (one of Jupiter’s moons) and discover that there is chlorophyll. Later on in the movie, it shows the surface of Europa with another black monolith on it, evolving the icy surface into something that would be more habitable for creatures to live in, and to help life develop there as well. So, I was very much intrigued when I read that NASA requested 30 million dollars for a mission to Europa. I immediately thought of this series and started hoping that we find something interesting on Europa and wondered about possible future inhabitants of Europa.

It’s an interesting concept to toy around with. The chance that there might be some highly advanced beings watching us like some kind of elaborate science experiment is fascinating, even if it is far fetched. It reminds me of how we humans study the earth and everything that lives here.

Science of Dogs Documentary

I never really felt the need to learn much about dogs or their development through time, but after watching this documentary, I found it to be extremely interesting. I also appreciate the fact that it worked in some underlying commentary on humans and how far we go in manipulation to get what we want. 

The documentary itself had strong undertones of dislike for breed manipulation because of the nasty consequences, like genetic diseases and how we use dogs to promote our own shallowness through dog shows. While I was watching, I did feel uncomfortable and guilty for a while. It made me think about the moral ambiguity of it all, and whether it was really fair of us to alter these dogs to suit us. But then I also noticed that the documentary itself was manipulating me to feel a certain way. Covering all of the bad points of breed manipulation, using really powerful examples, some of the ominous soundtrack it was using, some of the strong wording that was used; whether it was on purpose or just by coincidence, the documentary itself was very manipulative, which I found ironic but interesting all the same.

Backtracking for a moment, the actual science of it all is really amazing. Gene manipulation is one of those things that you know exists and take for granted, but when you actually stop and think about it, you don’t have the vaguest idea of the true mechanics behind it.

Overall, the documentary was great thinking food and I enjoyed watching it.