Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Good of Social Media: Meet Walter.

More often than not, news stations thrive on broadcasting disheartening and depressing stories. Fires. Deaths. Robberies. Natural disasters. (Not exactly your morning picker-uppers over a cup of coffee). BUT, every once in a while, an inspiring snapshot of selfless people doing good in their communities graces our television sets. Individuals who are making a positive impact. Even saving a life.

Such is the story of Walter, a 2-month old Pit Bull-mix who has recently become something of a four-legged celebrity throughout the 5 boroughs of NYC. His story has appeared in local newspapers, blogs, and even on News Channel 7. Badly abused then abandoned by being thrown out of a car in Brooklyn, NY on Easter Sunday, Walter was severely dehydrated, malnourished, his skin burned by chemicals, and he was suffering from a debilitating case of mange. He was then discovered on the street by a young man named Alex, who collectively with his friends took on the endeavor of helping him recover.

Arriving at the Veterinary Emergency Referral Group then sequentially at the HOPE Veterinary Clinic, Walter's diagnosis was deemed curable, though with a long road ahead of him, and he was received into the friendly and caring arms of Veterinarians. However, overnight stays, medications, and intensive care quickly brought on an onslaught of steep medical bills. Unwilling to sacrifice this innocent puppy's life for inability to pay for his care, Alex and friends brilliantly turned to the powers of Social Media. Via setting up a "Help Save Walter" Facebook Page and Blog on Blogspot, they were instantly able to share Walter's story with hundreds of friends, family, and coworkers. Then, within the span of only three weeks through viral communication, Alex and his friends had raised enough money to cover all of Walter's medical bills. Walter's Blogspot now has 160 followers and his Facebook Page - more than 5,000 fans (both of which are growing as I write this!). And now that their monetary goal has been reached to cover Walter's care, any additional funds collected will be generously donated to the ASPCA.

The success of Walter's ongoing recovery is credited not only to the kind hearts of this group of friends from Brooklyn, but by Social Media; the means by which Walter's story could be shared so quickly and efficiently. His Facebook Page and Blog were vehicles for letting his story touch the hearts of thousands; his pictures and videos, enabling fans and followers to feel a personal connection to him.

In the words of Walter's new family, they hope his story will inspire all animal-lovers to donate their money, volunteer their time, condemn animal abuse, and have the heart to adopt neglected, homeless, and abused animals, whether they be in shelters or on the streets. Because all of these innocent creatures like Walter deserve a better life, and are in desperate need of loving families.

Walter's Blog

Walter's Facebook Page

Walter on News Channel 7


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A Groovy Beat by Corinne Bailey Rae

There I was, slowly awakening to the world this past Tuesday morning before work as I stood in a midtown coffee shop, pouring soy milk into my black dark-roast coffee. The sun was shining, my caffeinated concoction tasted delish, and to top it all off, I was having a great hair day (if I do say so myself). Perhaps it was a combination of these things that inspired me to really tune into the groovy beat that had just started playing overhead through the cafe's sound system. What a beautiful voice! Who was this?! I quickly whipped out the "Shazam" app on my iPhone to tag it.

Corinne Bailey Rae is my new favorite artist, though she has been recording for some time now; you may recognize her song titled "Put Your Records On". The one I initially heard, also linked below, is titled "Call Me When You Get This". Her voice, her music, her lyrics; gorgeous and unique with a swishy jazz style. I highly recommend checking out Corinne's website and adding her as one of your stations on Pandora for some feel-good/chill musica.

Call Me When You Get This by Corinne Bailey Rae

Play song from
Corinne Bailey Rae - 2007 - 5:02

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Water from the Coconut

Eight weeks until half-marathon "go-time." Panicccc. Actually, I do feel as if my running has been progressing, but I'm still recovering from the lingerings of a nasty cold which really threw a wrench into the gears for a solid week and a half. Coughing. Congestion. Sneezing. Symptoms that are NOT conducive to the 6-mile long-run.

Nevertheless, I'm back up and running and have recently discovered the ultimate sports recovery beverage for both pre and post-workout! Coming to a grocery store (or already in) a health-foods store near you: Coconut Water.

I decided to give it a whirl a while back because I'm constantly trying to hone-in on methods to prevent the crippling "side-stitch." For me, its onset is usually a result of eating a meal too soon before running, drinking too much water too soon before running, not having enough salt and/or electrolytes in my system, or being slightly dehydrated throughout the day. Coconut Water is the ultimate cramp-buster, I swear. Entirely all-natural with no added sugars, fat, cholesterol, colorings, chemicals or preservatives, it is low-calorie, chock-full of essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, and boosts more potassium than a banana. Think of it as nature's sport drink.

For more than 4,000 years, coconut water has been revered as a natural source of hydration, nutrition, wellness, and beauty. Present-day, coconut water is harvested from young, green coconuts - approximately 7 months old (before the meat grows) - and is usually flash pasteurized. Naturally containing the 5 essential electrolytes the body needs to keep nerves firing, muscles moving, and to help handle stress - potassium, magnesium, phosphorous, sodium, and calcium - they help prevent muscle cramping as well.

Low in acidity with a pH of 5, incredibly, coconut water has also been used to save lives. Particularly in World War II and the Vietnam War when IV solutions were in short supply, coconut water was actually used as an intravenous solution to prevent dehydration. In fact, it is the only natural substance that can be safely injected into the human bloodstream (though drinking it, of course, is the preferred method).

There are three prominent coconut water brands on the market that I've encountered thus far: ZICO, O.N.E., and Vita Coco. They all taste pretty similar to me, though their fruit infusion flavors vary. I recently purchased ZICO's mango-flavored coconut water because it was on sale at Whole Foods. As far as the nutrition label is concerned, here's a snapshot from the back of my 1-Liter carton.

60 calories per approximately 11 oz. (1 serving). Not bad for the nutritional benefits to be gained from this miracle fruit! p.s. You can also freeze coconut water instead of regular water for ice cubes. Margarita on the coconut-water rocks anyone?

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Hold the Bag, Save the Dough

I've traveled to Washington D.C. only a handful of times (and counting!), but here's a story about a girl, a carton of Soy Milk, a plastic bag, and a 5-cent tax. A tax, yes, in the sense I had to part with my hard-earned cash, but a brilliant, potentially-revolutionizing tax that in my eyes, is a progressive step towards greener communities and more sustainable environments.

Before you think I'm crazy, first things first:

1.) No. I do not enjoy paying taxes.
2.) I don't think anybody in their right mind particularly enjoys paying taxes. (If you do, let me in on your secret).

So now, here goes the little story: I purchased a carton of soy milk at a natural foods market this past weekend in D.C. The cashier inquired if I needed a plastic bag. The thought crossed my mind and I briefly debated her question in my head. Pictures of tattered plastic bags blowing in the wind fluttered through my cerebrum. But, against my better judgement, I said yes - "Sure, throw it all in a plastic bag." Side note: I had some other things to carry at the time, I always reuse plastic bags anyway, and my thinking was that it would be handy to consolidate my goodies for fear of dropping them splat all over the sidewalk.

Big mistake. To my out-of-towner dismay after glancing down at my freshly-printed receipt, I had just paid a whopping 5-cents for that flimsy plastic bag. What was that all about?!

Turns out, on January 1 of this year, a 5-cent tax law came into effect for Washington D.C. One of the first of its kind in the nation, the tax is designed to change consumer behavior and limit pollution in the Chesapeake Bay watershed - specifically, the Anacostia River with collected revenue directed specifically towards the clean-up project. Under regulations created by the D.C. Department of the Environment, bakeries, delicatessens, grocery stores, pharmacies, and convenience stores that sell food, as well as restaurants, street vendors, liquor stores and "any business that sells food items," are required to charge the tax on paper or plastic bags. Signage is posted at the register explaining the law, and vendors must ask the customer if he or she would like a bag-with-purchase. As an incentive, stores keep one cent of every five cents they charge for bags, and two cents if they give customers a credit of at least five cents for each bag (of any sort) that they bring to the store.

Slightly inconvenient, yes. But totally worth getting into the habit of toting along a reusable bag to avoid the additional charge. It's a win-win situation, really. Cut down on disposable bag consumption and simultaneously aid the Watershed clean-up. And the tax is working. Already within a few months, District residents have drastically reduced their use of disposable bags and have adopted using reusable ones more quickly than expected. The D.C. Office of Tax and Revenue estimates that city food and grocery establishments handed out about 3.3 million bags in January, a drastic reduction compared to the estimated 22.5 million bags issued per month in 2009. And according to a recent March 29th article published by the Washington Post, the District's 5-cent bag tax generated approximately $150,000 during the month of January to help clean up the Anacostia River. (A lot of dough for a lot less paper and plastic).

To be honest, after being taxed on something so avoidable, I was slightly irritated. But, after a brief moment of frustration, my better judgement sank in. I don't know about you, but plastic bags are seemingly everywhere I look. Stuck in fences. Snarled in leaf piles in Central Park. Floating along in the East River. Being handed out two-by-two in double-bag form at Drug Stores and Supermarkets around NYC. Whether or not you believe in global warming/climate change, it can not be denied that tattered plastic bags on the ground, in rivers and streams, on the the side of the road, perhaps even in your front lawn, are unsightly and have a negative impact on the environment. Eventually, they all end up in landfills, (if not in the woods or river bottoms). Super ick.

So, while it may require a little extra planning on your next trip to the grocery store, and sure - can be a slight inconvenience from time to time, I think this tax is an incredibly effective solution for solving two pressing issues: curbing disposable bag consumption by encouraging environmentally-responsible shopping practices, and cleaning up the local environment by directing tax revenue towards the project(s).

A hands-on lesson and policy learned that was worth my 5-cents at the time. Though, you can be assured this budget-minded city dweller will be bringing along a tote bag or hand-carrying any Nation's Capital purchases in the future.