Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Pumpkin and Procrastination

A mountain of reading to do, a report to write, one assignment to finish, a long list of emails to send for thesis contacts, research to do, plane tickets to book, cleaning to do, a holiday to plan with my mom... But I'd rather procrastinate and share a few thoughts and links (mostly about food).

  • Freiburg, Germany just entered my list of top cities. Mountains, fall colors, plaid wearing environmentalists, mountain bikes, vineyards, farms serving fresh food from their crops, a market with delicious local specialties, scores of vegetarian friendly restaurants, the sunniest city in Germany, and the hub of green party activity in Germany. Ironically, I nearly applied to a master program here 2.5 years ago. 
  • I am beyond excited about this website: http://www.eatwith.com/ . You can cook for and host people or eat delicious food at someone's house all over the world. Cooking, eating, and meeting new people=brilliant!
  • In case you're in need of healthy food inspiration, want to procrastinate by drooling over pictures of delicious food: http://www.thisrawsomeveganlife.com/
  • Looking for a healthy and delicious snack? Soak some dates for an hour or so, throw them in a blender with your nut of choice (I recommend raw cashews), some cocoa powder (high quality is best), coconut, chia seeds, flax, cocoa nibs or chocolate chips, and anything else you want. Mix away (hopefully you have a better blender than me), roll into balls, feel free to roll the balls in coconut or cocoa powder then immediately consume! Try not to eat them all at once!
  • Pumpkin is delicious. And more delicious when you go through the tedious process of preparing it yourself. So ditch that canned pumpkin, go to a farm, buy a pumpkin and cook it yourself! Try pumpkin soup, curry, burritos, flammkuchen (after my recent visit), pie, bread, muffins, cookies... and don't forget to roast the seeds. 
  • Eat your beets. But don't panic if your pee is red. 
  • The dense, seedy, nutty, and wholesome goodness of German bread cannot be beat. It's totally worth it to lug around "bricks" of bread back to the Netherlands. 
  • Understanding German and Dutch is quite gratifying and makes unplanned and long train delays very amusing. Observing how stressed and uptight Germans get when things do not function right and how Dutch resort to sarcasm and jokes to make the inconvenience more tolerable is entertaining. These two neighboring places could often not be more different. I love them both in their own ways. 
  • Speaking German with middle aged Germans is fun! Speaking English sentences in a German way by accident is funnier. 
  • European food gets progressively tastier the further south you move. 
  • Sharing is caring (food, drinks, clothes, beds, rooms, money, ideas, love)
  • The economic crisis is not the fault of the republican or democrat party alone but the result of a faulty economic system. Go read this book: From Financial Crisis to Stagnation by Thomas Palley. Let's stop all the name calling and blaming and change the system! 
  • I am going to to Budapest in a week in a half, Tunisia in about two to learn about smart grids, and my favorite mother is coming three weeks!
Happy fall and happy studying to all the students out there! Enjoy being a student while it lasts! 

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Priorities and Mosquitos

“If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.”

This quote is the best summary of what I've learned over the last three months. To attempt and summarize my busy, awesome, educational, fun, inspiring, and mostly insane summer in a blog post is impossible. I don't know who is still reading this blog but perhaps many of you know that two of my biggest passions involve preserving this beautiful, unique and perfectly designed world we live in, and seeing the quality of life improve for all of earth's citizens. The intersection of these two passions is the primary reason why I chose to study in Delft rather than going the more usual route and attending one of the world wide ranked American universities (although Delft is also ranked internationally). Although the social and political atmosphere in the Netherlands and Europe in general is also riddled with barriers preventing the widespread movement of mitigating climate change, it is a far more encouraging environment to begin actively seeking solutions to most pressing challenge that perhaps humanity has ever faced. 

Besides travels to Norway, hitching hiking to Paris, a conference in the US, a whirl wind visit to friends and family, and attempting to sort through fifteen years of life, I spent five weeks of my summer attending a summer school on climate change and entrepreneurship and upon return to Delft immediately focused my classes around the complex issues surrounding sustainability. The summer school surpassed my expectations, primarily because of the people I met, but most importantly the last three months have forced me to ponder my priorities. I say that I care about the environment, but over the last three years I have made far too many short and long distance flights, an activity that significantly contributes to global CO2 emissions. I desperately want to see the sustainable electrification of the continent of Africa which has led me to my current Cameroon off grid lighting project and the business idea that came out of the summer school. However, I also desperately want to see the political decision making and discourse dramatically change in the US. As I contemplate my plans for next year and strongly consider the possibility of continuing studying (PhD!) and begin the frightening and overwhelming task of writing PhD proposals, I realize I need to give some focus to my life. As much as a love meeting new people, I also need to prioritize the people who really mean something to me. As much as love learning, it is impossible to learn about everything and work in every area. As much as I love traveling, can I really continue flying as much as do and ignore the environmental impact that flying has (side fact: jet fuel is not taxed, which is why it is often significantly cheaper to fly rather than take the train within Europe)?

I am convinced that we are not too small to make a difference. So I am going to start taking small steps to make a difference. Before I go back to attempting to write a detailed PhD research proposal, I leave you with some snapshots of the summer (and a bit before).