Surferbird News-Links, 59th Edition

Welcome, all! Today's Surferbird News-Links includes essays on education, Robert E. Lee and a true story about an American family's slave. In addition, look for articles on the relationship between the Pacific and climate change, bacteria and melting permafrost, farming photos from the past, how sourdough affects blood sugar and more.

News from my wood

Greetings from my very hot wood! It was 107°F (41.6°C) on Sunday, and we don't have air-conditioning. The house we rent was built in 1950, before home cooling in this part of California became standard. And because Martinez sits on the east side of the San Francisco Bay, the weather stays much cooler than inland cities like Sacramento—but not cool enough. But the owl will survive. Meanwhile, please send large chunks of ice her way. Just make sure, though, that they'll slip easily under the Golden Gate Bridge and into the Carquinez Strait. I'll be down straightaway to fetch them. Thank you.

Also, I'll be inconsistent posting Surferbird News-Links the next few weeks. Between starting my Etsy store and changing my website to Squarespace, I have my hands full! But I'm still reading news articles and look forward to sharing them soon. On a different note, I may change the name Surferbird News-Links to The Surferbird. I think I like that better. How about you?

Those of you who follow my Facebook page have already seen this photo of my lonely sewing cabinet with the limp plant on top. My great-grandmother's sewing machine sits inside, waiting for its cue. In fact, by the time you read this, it will be humming along for the first time in almost 16 years! But will I remember how to thread it?


We send our thoughts, hopes and prayers to the people in the UK. And as a way to express this, I turned to a small group of poets that I follow for words of wisdom. I hope you'll read these poems and share them with others. This poem, by Davy D, is a response to the Manchester incident, along with this one by Roland Keld. Both poets live in the UK. Since originally starting this post, however, more events have unfolded. So I'm sharing another poem by Davy D about how nature reminds us that life is still worthwhile, in spite of terrorists.


Historical photos of farm laborer protests in honor of Cesar Chavez Day (

Cesar Chavez Day has come and gone. But farm workers remain. And these images from modern farmer are a poignant reminder of where our food comes from.



Saving money is one of the best ways to help the environment. (

It isn't sexy—saving money, that is. But it's one of the best ways consumers can decrease their carbon footprints and conserve natural resources. I'm far from perfect, yet this article encourages me to find ways to live more frugally, which has a bigger impact on the environment than buying green products.

Latest divestment news—look at which companies, communities and organizations are on the list. (

From educational institutions to faith-based groups, philanthropic foundations, pension funds, for profit corporations, governments and NGOs, more groups from around the world are divesting from fossil fuels. Even though we have a long way to go, I confess that reading this list gives me goosebumps.


Defiance in the classroom (

Society doesn't generally value rebelliousness in the classroom. But kids who are difficult to teach often grow up to be innovators, like Einstein, for example. Those of you who question the tendency of school systems to apply the same teaching methods to all students will enjoy this essay by Ashley Lamb-Sinclair, a high-school instructional coach and founder of Curio Learning.

The benefits of being a troublemaker (

This interview with the author of Troublemakers: Lessons in Freedom from Young Children at School follows along similar lines to the article above. The author addresses education's inherent practice of controlling troublemakers through rewards, punishment and isolation. But is this really the best way to create a cohesive society?


How fast global temperatures pass the 1.5° Celsius goal set by the Paris Agreement might depend on the Pacific. (

Besides greenhouse gases, other mechanisms, such as El Niño and El Tío, also play into planet warming. And although the effects are temporary, El Tío can increase temperatures over a 10–30 year stretch. This is much longer than El Niño warming events, which occur every "two to seven years." The Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation (IPO) is the driving force behind whether El Tío (warm phase of IPO) or La Tía (cool phase of IPO) will dominate conditions in the Pacific. But what concerns climatologist is that an El Tío phase of the IPO could be arriving soon, and this could push global temperatures over the 1.5°C threshold set by the Paris Agreement as early as 2026 (

Ancient bacteria and viruses revived with melting permafrost (

Although it's true that ancient viruses and bacteria can be released with permafrost thaw (they already have), the biggest threat from climate change continues to be the displacement of people from sea level rise, the spread of warmer climate diseases and the health effects from increasing temperatures.

Increase in CO2 released from Alaskan soils (

Alaskan soils are freezing much later in winter than they used to, causing a 70 percent increase in CO2 levels "between 1975 and 2015, in the period between October and December each year." According to models, this wasn't supposed to happen "for another 50–100 years."

Food and farming

Refugee farming communities in Burlington, Vermont (

Not only would I like to visit this farming community, but I would also like to try Ndagijimana's bitter melons and her "bright green, oval eggplants." Refugees often arrive in the U.S. having experienced many hardships. Yet, being part of a farming community is a rich way to begin life in America. And we are richer for their presence.

A new lower-carb rice for the Chinese (

I found this article fascinating because of my interest in blood sugar and diabetes. It left me with further questions, though. What kind of rice did the Chinese eat before diabetes became so prevalent? Also, I read that you can prepare rice in a way that increases the resistant starch, which is supposed to be much better for blood glucose levels.

If you would like to learn more, here's an article in Time on resistant starch in addition to this one on Chris Kresser's website. Remember, however, I'm not advocating any particular diet. Rather, I enjoy exploring controversial topics on food and nutrition. In the near future, I'm going to be a guinea pig instead of an owl and see how resistant starch affects my blood glucose levels. That would make a tedious, yet enlightening, blog post!

Health and home

Is sourdough bread better for your blood sugar? (

Speaking of blood sugar, here's another study that contradicts the sourdough mantra I've been preaching for years. Although I've been under the impression that sourdough bread is better for blood glucose levels than regular bread, including whole grain breads, a new study suggests that the effects of sourdough on blood glucose levels varies from person to person. Furthermore, a person's microbiome is a good indicator of how they'll respond to different kinds of breads. I'm finding all kinds of uses for my glucose monitor. (I don't have diabetes; it runs in my family, though, and I've been at high risk before.)

More good news about CVS and green cosmetics (

Safety concerns over personal care products and cosmetics are gaining traction. And a good indicator of this is CVS's recent decision to remove parabens, formaldehyde and phthalates from its line of cosmetics. This is excellent news, indeed.

A new alternative to polystyrene coolers? (

Could we replace polystyrene coolers with wool-lined wooden boxes? WooBox thinks we can. You can learn more about the project in the link above and here.

Science and technology

A helpful mobile phone guide (

I'm still waiting to buy my first smartphone. Can you believe that? I'm always at home—well, most of the time. So, why bother? Besides, when I'm out and about, I would rather enjoy the scenery and chat with people than stare at a screen. But soon, I'll need to give in to technology. Because of that, I've include a guide on purchasing a phone with the planet in mind.

Through the eyes of a jumping spider (

Jumping spiders are special. Did you know that their eyes are fashioned like a "Galilean telescope"? Only falcons, jumping spiders and chameleons share this trait. But enough with the chit chat. Watch the video of a jumping spider chasing a laser pointer to learn just how special jumping spiders are. Furthermore, the next time you're gazing at the moon, you might be in good company without even knowing it. Yes, they can see the moon too!

On a side note, many years ago I had an interesting encounter with a jumping spider. I was seated at the dining room table, and there was a jumping spider on the side of the empty chair next to me. I watched as it drew up its legs as if to jump across to the chair I was sitting in. After carefully considering the situation, I said with a haughty laugh, "Oh, that jumping spider isn't gong to jump across to my chair." I didn't really think he or she could do that. Guess who had the last laugh? Now, it was my turn to jump!


An essay about a family and their slave in 20th century America (

This is a true and compelling story. But it also became controversial and led to The Atlantic posting additional articles that criticized what was perceived as complacency on the part of the author. Others shared their own stories of having a family slave. Regardless of how you feel about the author, who passed away before The Atlantic published his essay, Lola's story will stay with you for a long time. Alex Tizon leads us deep into his family's secret with courage, honesty and heart. Thank you, Alex Tizon. Lola will never be forgotten.

No, Robert E. Lee was not a benevolent man. (

What I learned about Lee in this article leaves no room for doubt as to why so many communities are removing Confederate Era statues from public spaces.  


Today's earworm will probably annoy you, or you'll skip it altogether. It's a sappy one, and I admit that it runs counter to the tone of current events. But the harmony gets me every time. I'm unable to remain pessimistic. Also, it's important to point out that I'm not responsible for the music that plays in my head. This week, the fault lies with an email I received. The subject line read, "We've only just begun to… ." To do what? Was it another email about fighting climate change? I'll never know because I didn't click. I'm tired of fighting. I would prefer to create a world with clean air and clean water; plant more trees while preserving Earth's forests; and cultivate an open heart and an open mind. These activities, among others, will change the course we're on, including planet warming. What have you only just begun to do or hope for?