Monarch Butterflies

I love living in Santa Cruz because of the coastal redwoods, beaches, elephant seals, yacht harbor, and the Monarch Butterflies.

Last weekend, we visited Natural Bridges State Park to see the clusters of thousands of Monarchs hanging from the Eucalyptus trees – just a quick walk from the beach. How cool is it to live in one of the few places that the Monarchs migrate to each year?

If you get a chance to visit before February, it’s a natural phenomenon worth seeing!  And you’ll support California state parks in the process!

Smartphones Cause Depression in Teens

Did you know that iGen kids – those born between 1995-2012 -- are suffering from depression in record numbers?  Yup.  Not surprisingly, the blame goes to smartphones. 

According to Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University, teens don’t have enough face-to-face interaction with friends because they’re consumed by social media on their smartphones. This means that they don’t have the social benefits of reading one another’s emotions and giving personal support that teens really need.

What surprises me is that teens today are physically safer than previous generations.  They drink less, start driving later, and hold off on having sex. I guess that makes sense when you’re interacting with a smartphone and not with other teens.

While being physically safe may make parents feel like they have better control over their teens, parents need to monitor and limit their teens’ smartphone and internet usage to encourage kids to just be kids.  When’s the last time teens went out to play together?

My advice: set blocks of time where smartphones are turned OFF each day to force teens to break their addiction to the internet and to engage with people.  They’ll never do this on their own and it’s up to parents to give them this much-needed break in cyberspace.


You Need A Go Bag!

In October, the Santa Rosa Fire in Northern California hit home for me. I don’t live in Santa Rosa, but the reality that climate change is really happening NOW shook me.  I was nervous to leave my home for fear that the Santa Cruz Mountains fire would blow down our way and I might not be able to retrieve anything or save my dogs and chickens.  That’s when I got serious and created an Evacuation Plan.

I met with my IT guy and we started backing up all of my business and personal files in the cloud. The software scans my computers and uploads new (or newly updated) files to the cloud. I have already scanned my 200+ photo albums (1 TB) and digitized my 450+ videos (3.5 TB), and we organized a systematic back-up these files to physical hard drives that are stored off-site with my two daughters in different parts of the country. Phew!  That gives me peace of mind.

We also have Replacement-Cost insurance, so theoretically, our physical possessions would be replaced if our home is destroyed.  I took photos of every item in our house, including all books, albums, tools, clothes, and furniture. EVERYTHING!  And those photos are saved on our photo drives offsite. 

Knowing that I have all of my photos, videos, and a photo record of all physical possessions in our house, made it easy for me to create a Go-Bag.  Nicole, my daughter who is doing an EMS fellowship at UCSF, told me to create 2 Go-Bags: (1) Things we’ll need to survive for a week; and (2) Things that we use daily and can’t pack away ahead of time.

I made my Go-Bag (1) and filled it with clothes, contact lenses, hydrogen battery charger, water, and food.  I also packed sleeping bags, blankets, and pillows, and placed all of this in my trunk so it’s always with me and ready to go.

Then I made my Go-Bag (2) and stapled a list of things (with photos) that I would like to take in the case of an evacuation.  I placed these bags near all of the exits in my house so anyone in the house would know what to take in an emergency.  I listed my computer servers, files I use daily, medications, and jewelry. 

As our climate heats up and our droughts become more severe, wildfires are going to become the norm.  Set up your Go-Bags for your car and house, so you won’t have to make difficult decisions about what to take if you have to evacuate. 

Pack your Go-Bag!


I Want To Shop At A Zero Waste Grocery Store

If you’re like me, you feel proud that you recycle your mayonnaise jars and juice bottles. Right? But lately I’ve noticed how many plastic containers fill our recycle bins each week.  Trying to reduce my plastic waste, I purchased large glass containers to store bulk flours, nuts, and dried fruit.  I was happy to see that my pantry was filled with glass jars that contain our organic staples. 

But the problem is that buying bulk foods at Costco or local grocery stores only slightly reduces my plastic intake because they sell everything in large plastic containers. Sure, it’s better to buy one large container than four smaller ones, but I wanted to stop buying food in plastic containers altogether.  

Health Food stores like Whole Foods, Staff of Life, and NewLeaf offer a bulk section where you can either bring your own container or use plastic bags to purchase large quantities of ingredients like nuts, seeds, and flours.  Then, at home, you simply pour the ingredients into your large glass jars. The only problem with that is that you’re still using plastic bags, and they don’t have bulk purchasing options for other things like cheeses, meats, drinks, and other packaged goods. 

I want to shop at a store that has no packaging at all –where everything is sold in bulk and you bring your own reuseable storage containers so there is no plastic usage at all. Sadly, there are no stores like that anywhere near where I live.

Leave it to the rest of the world to do the right thing:

Good news: Earth.Food.Love that sells groceries with no packaging at all.  They sell organic, ethical food in bulk. It is truly a zero waste store.  Not only do they ban all packaging, but allof the products they sell can be composted or recycled. Wow!

Bad news: It’s only in England

Good news: Germany has an anti-waste supermarket called Unperfekthaus.

More good news: Kenyans face up to 4 years in prison for using plastic bags.

Good news here in the US: Seattle plans to ban all plastic straws and utensils in restaurants by 2018

Support stores that sell bulk items and allow you to bring your own containers.  Try converting all of your food storage to glass containers – they keep foods fresher and the plastic chemicals don’t leach into your food. 


UC Offers Extension on Nov 30th Transfer Deadlines!

If you missed the November 30th deadline for transfer applications this year, you’re in luck!  For UC Santa Cruz, UC Riverside and UC Merced, the new transfer deadline is January 8th

The UCs are making a concerted effort to enroll more transfer students across all campuses this year.  So if you were considering UCs and were worried you weren’t a strong applicant, try applying to these 3 campuses and you just might get in!  Good luck!

Discrimination in College Admissions: It's Not What You Think

Harvard is being sued by the Justice Dept because of their discriminatory admissions policies against Asian-Americans (not international students).  Apparently Harvard restricted admission of Asian-Americans to 18 percent in 2013.  A Princeton study found that Asian-Americans need to score 140 points higher on the SAT to have the same chance of admission to private colleges and the Ivy League. 

History repeats itself -- again.    

Back in the 1920s, when Jews were high-achieving minorities – just like the Asian-Americans today – Harvard, Yale, and Princeton changed admissions criteria from strictly grades and standardized test to considering leadership, volunteer work, and athletic prowess.  In doing so, this ensured that the Jewish admissions rates wouldn’t continue past 20% on this upward trend. These colleges needed to protect their legacies and aristocracies.

So Harvard, Yale, and Princeton were able to change the merit-based admissions policy to a quota system that would limit the number of Jews admitted each year.  Read the book ­The Chosen: The Hidden History of Admission and Exclusion at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton by Jerome Karabel to learn how elite colleges blatantly discriminated against women, Jews, blacks, and others.

Look at colleges that don’t ban students based on their ethnicities.  Asian-Americans made up 34.8% of the student body at the UCLA and 42.5% at Caltech in 2013.  Elite colleges are worried that if they removed the race factor from the admissions process, Asian-American admissions would rise, while white, black and Hispanic numbers would fall.

Sounds to me like admissions committees are making discriminatory policies about whom they are admitting.  Why can’t the best students be admitted based on their own merit?


Happy Thanksgiving!

With all the terrible things that have happened so far in 2017, I am still thankful. 

No matter how grim the future looks when you consider the climate change nay-sayers and the disastrous Trump administration, I believe that because we are descendants of pioneers and risk takers we will continue to lead the world as a superpower. Every one of our families at some point were immigrants (except Native Americans) and all of them weathered the discrimination of being "outsiders" to become successful here in the United States of America. 
We are leaders and innovators. Let us not forget our roots and appreciate the diversity that has made us a great country.  Today, I am thankful to have my family, my health, and my future.  Tomorrow, I will fight like hell to make sure that we ward off climate change by getting America, and the world, on board to save civilization as we know it today.

UC Application Update: What To Do About SAT Scores!

If you’ve taken the November SATs or plan to take the December SATs, enter the dates of the exams on your online application form.  Then, after you receive your scores, go back to the UC application (even if you’ve already submitted it) and enter your new scores.  You only need to do this for one of the UC campuses because all of the UCs will receive your updated SAT scores. 

If you have any questions, just contact us at 831.462.5655.  

Curses: Foiled Again!

As we prepare for big holiday meals this year, don’t wrap your yams and potatoes (or anything else) in aluminum foil!  Yup. According to researchers at the American University of Sharjah, the neurotoxic nature of foil negatively affects brain functioning and may trigger the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Foil also impacts bones by leading to loss of calcium.  And even worse, it can cause pulmonary fibrosis and other respiratory issues.

Cooking with aluminum foil may contaminate food with up to 400 mg of aluminum. The higher the temperature, the more leaching.  Acidic foods like tomatoes, citric juices, or spices are the worst because they absorb the most aluminum.  On the other hand, foods cooked in salt or alcohol absorb the least amount of aluminum. 

According to the World Health Organization, just 40 mg of aluminum is safe to ingest daily.  Food wrapped in aluminum might have 6 times that amount. So for this holiday season, bake your potatoes in Pyrex dishes!