Two juniors at Sherwood High School in Montgomery County, Maryland volunteered to help their Spanish teacher, Tanya Aguilar, find COVID-19 vaccination appointments for members of their community who were struggling to get the shot. Many of them are older and do not have access to computers, while others do not speak or read English well enough to schedule an appointment for themselves. Kashmira Heaton- Vakharia, who is sixteen years old, and Fernando Johnson, who is seventeen years old, started volunteering as “vaccine hunters” along with a group of students and teachers in Montgomery County, Maryland community.
The teenage volunteers use their internet skills to navigate through dozens of websites to locate available appointments. Once the appointments are located, they carefully fill in the needed information to secure the appointment. The appointments were made for members of Takoma Park Seventh Day Adventist church, which included the pastor, Daniel Xisto. Sixty church members who were identified as at risk of contracting the incredibly contagious virus were able to take advantage of the volunteer’s computer skills to book their COVID-19 vaccines. People are considered at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 for a number of reasons. One of the leading factors that place certain people at greater risk is simply their age. Anyone who is sixty-five years old or older is typically considered at high risk for contracting the COVID-19 virus if they are not vaccinated. Others may be considered at high risk because they have underlying health conditions including, but not limited to, diabetes, asthma, or heart problems. These chronic illnesses could make it difficult for the patient’s body to successfully fight off COVID-19 because the immune system is busy with other pre-existing illnesses. It was important for members of the Takoma Park Seventh Day Adventist church to know the risk factors so they could make use of the volunteers and get their vaccinations scheduled.
When asked about the experience, Fernando Johnson replied, “ It is an incredibly liberating feeling every time [ a vaccine is successfully scheduled.]” Johnson and Heaton-Vakharia have been able to utilize their computer skills and their time in order to schedule two hundred and fifteen COVID-19 vaccination appointments for members of their community. The teenage and adult volunteers are careful to fill in all the vaccine registration information correctly. Having the wrong information at the time of the appointment can cause delays and slow the process at the vaccination site.
The work of these teenage vaccine hunters did not go unrecognized. Pater Daniel Xisto made sure to get a picture of himself getting his vaccine. He wanted to show his congregation it was not a difficult thing to do. The pastor also wanted to publicly thank Johnson and Heaton-Vakharia and let them know what a wonderful service they provided to his congregation. He wants to invite them to services when his church is able to reopen. The vaccine hunters replied that it would be cool to sit down and talk to the pastor and congregation.
Bakery Truck Fed Scores of Stranded I-95 Motorists Biblical Style
The Holihan’s had been stuck on I-95 in Virginia for almost 16 hours before they came up with a plan to get home.
Around 9 a.m. on Tuesday, the couple saw a Schmidt Baking Company vehicle just several feet ahead of them. At this point, they guessed that it had been 37 hours when they had eaten.
23-year-old Holihan recalls that they were “starving” at the stoppage, which took place near Quantico. “Not only were we struggling, but everyone around us was as well. Kids were wailing in the background.”
Schmidt Baking Co. in Baltimore was the number they dialed in the hopes that they’d happily offer any goods on the vehicle to famished commuters, and they were not disappointed. Despite the couple’s knowledge that it was a bit of a stretch, they and countless others, many of whom got stranded on I-95 for nearly 24 hours, were starving for food.
When they dialed the customer service phone number, they gave them their phone number.
I doubted it would work, Holihan admitted.
Chuck Paterakis, another of the founders of H&S Bakery, which owns Schmidt Baking Company, contacted the couple within 20 minutes after she had contacted them.
Afterward, he instructed the truck driver to offer up two items—a package of rolls and a loaf of bread—to everyone who requested them.
Paterakis stated, “It was a no-brainer.” With no food and water, “I would want somebody to give their products” was his final thought when asked about being stranded in the middle of nowhere.
They were on their way from Ellicott City, Md., to see Noe’s relatives in Newport, NC, on I-95 when they got into an accident.
Ron Hill, Holihan, and Noe joined the truck driver in snatching bread from the truck and dispersing it to passing motorists. Others quickly jumped on the bandwagon.
He remarked, “We started knocking on doors, and we were able to help several folks.”
About 300 loaves of bread got distributed during an hour’s trek along the ice-slicked roadways.
Holihan added that “some folks said that this was a lifesaver for them.”
For several hours, an Uber driver and a passenger got stuck on I-95. Her safety was his number one priority.
There were families with kids stranded for long periods without sustenance. “We established a tiny little commune that will stay etched in their memories,” she said of the experience of sleeping on a highway all night.
Paterakis’s compassionate act was the only thing that stood out to them in an otherwise harrowing situation.
“He didn’t have to assist us. Holihan opined, “He could have generated revenue on that bread.” He said, “It was quite touching.”
“We’re flattered and thankful that we could contribute,” Paterakis said of his family’s 80-year legacy as a family-run bakery in Baltimore. Since then, his three brothers have taken control of the business.
It has given about 3 million loaves of food aid to the poor in the Baltimore-Washington region since March 2020, he said.
It was instilled in him by his parents, who he credits with teaching him how to strive and help the less fortunate. It would be a great honor for my parents to see this.
Holihan expressed her gratitude for the bread and the unexpected community they discovered. On Tuesday evening, the pair was on the highway for 33 hours but still had roughly two hours to go before they arrived in Newport.
Even though it seemed like an interminable road journey, we could make friends with other stranded travelers and bring them bread from the rear of the truck.
All of Holihan’s friends and coworkers expressed their gratitude.
Saving the Great Barrier Reef One Coral at a Time
The Great Barrier Reef has been the subject of news focus for a number of years now many of the existing adult coral reefs have been damaged by water temperature changes and sun bleaching. Entire ecosystems depend on the reefs, so the loss of even some of the structure could be disastrous for life in the area. As a proactive effort to reverse some of the loss, a project involving lab-created coral has been worked on with the hope of generating new coral beds with new life. The results are starting to pay off with the first generation of offspring now appearing.
Starting in 2016, 22 coral colonies were developed through lab-enhanced growth and establishment, and then they were transplanted to the Great Barrier Reef to promote establishment. Now, some five years later, the results are being seen as those artificially-created coral are now at maturity and beginning to propagate an entire new generation from them. This is exactly the long-term results researchers were hoping for.
The initial size of the planted coral when first started was microscopic. They have since grown into sizable clusters, most as big as a plate of food. Even more promising, another wave of coral at mid-development stage should be maturing within another year, creating another wave of growth and propagation in case the first one suffers some sort of a glitch. However, given the results the researchers are seeing, the planted colonies are raging forward in growth and showing no signs of sputtering at doing what they do best.
The helping hand provided by science and the conservation efforts are a big confidence booster for multiple efforts working to save the Great Barrier Reef. It’s also proving that the methodology used for prolonged coral development is a working, viable path that can be scaled up to bigger levels now that it’s a proven success. The project is the first to cross the line and re-establish successfully a coral bed and colony, especially where factors have damaged the previous coral and killed it off.
While the project is not a perfect, all-encompassing solution for the Great Barrier Reef die-off, the lab-produced coral are showing themselves to be one of the most successful approaches so far with a significant potential to replace lost coral altogether in a short period of time. If humans can help reverse the past damage, it could produce a positive karma effect that benefits future generations with a preserved ocean eco-system range vital to regional sea life.
Incredible Use Of Technology to Save Birds Near Wind Turbines
The push for sustainable energy production that is environmentally friendly has boosted the technology and proliferation of wind turbines, among other options for alternative sourcing. And sizable wind farms can produce significant new energy in traditional wind channel areas, spanning miles across such traps to take advantage of natural air flows. However, for bird flocks, the turbine “nets” can be a death hazard, including everything from small birds to large-sized raptors flying blindly into the spinning blades. One company thinks it may have come up with an artificial intelligence solution to solve the problem.
The wind farm bird killing is such a problem, the federal government has offered funding to help find a way to stop it, or at least reduce the risk significantly. $13.5 million has been made available in the form of grant funding and research to create a fix. A Colorado company decided to take a shot at the point by using the ability of computers and cameras to “see” birds and shut down turbines before they harm or kill the fowl flying nearby. Dubbed “IdentiFlight,” the software and hardware package has already shown in testing a 560 percent improved accuracy at spotting birds in the air versus a human spotter. While there is room for error, the programming produces a 94 percent level of accuracy in spotting, incredibly well within the acceptable range of performance.
The IdentiFlight package works with special sensors designed for optical detection as well as applying algorithms to expect where a bird will end up based on its current flight path. If the combination calculates to a contact with the turbine based on the formula, then the system directs the turbine to stop spinning. In essence, the bird flies through the area without danger, and then the turbine starts up again.
The concept is not a theoretical model; it works in realtime application already. IdentiFlight was used back in 2018 at an Australian facility, and it reduced raptor deaths from turbines by 80 percent. The applicable facility ran 48 turbines with a significant span of area that affected local birds flying through. Duke Energy picked up the tool and has been applying similar at its facilities and wind farms worldwide as a result.
A key factor of modern AI has been the technology’s ability to learn and improve accuracy once it is installed and put online. The software reads off the findings, both positive and negative, and adjusts its operations for greater accuracy going forward. The result is an increased spotting ability over time unique and specific to the location the AI is positioned in. While again, there is no perfect tool that prevents birds from being hit by wind turbines completely, modern AI is doing a pretty good job of filling in the gap.
Blink 182’s Mark Hoppus Gets a Cancer-Free Second Chance
Being in a punk band comes with a lot of adventure, mishaps and strange situations. Being in a mega-popular hit band that is also a punk band extrapolates all the above times ten. However, for Mark Hoppus, the bass player and lead singer for Blink 182, he did not expect that one of his hardest challenges would actually be inside his own body in the form of cancer. Fortunately, Hoppus was able to reach a good end to that chapter when he declared to his fans in September 2021 that he was indeed cancer-free.
After getting the good news from his cancer doctors, the singer had to burst out and tell everyone, so his announcement went straight to social media, updating all of Hoppus’ fans and followers on Twitter and Instagram. It was a hoped for ending after spending six grueling months twisting under the effects of chemotherapy, a well-known curse of a cure. The medical process has been a long standard in fighting cancer, but in doing so the process poisons the body as well, which can feel just as bad or worse.
The above said, Mark Hoppus now joins the ranks of many other former cancer patients with their condition in remission, testing every year or two to make sure the disease hasn’t reappeared again in his system. Unlike many patients, however, Hoppus took his fans along with him on his medical journey. From almost the start, the Blink 182 singer posted regularly about his condition, the chemotherapy and the side effects he had to go through.
As the chemotherapy took effect, the later treatment sessions became harder. His body suffered from the chemical effects, and Hoppus joked about the misery online to make himself feel slightly better. Three-week doses of poison were a common refrain from the singer. However, once Hoppus got to the end of the process, what really mattered was the critical scan three weeks later to see if his system was indeed clear of the cancer that was found. And, as was clearly evident from his post, Hoppus was ecstatic about his revised diagnosis.
The cancer-free scan was the best news Hoppus could get. And multiple other musicians chimed in congratulating the Blink 182 singer and wishing him the best for getting through it all. Cancer unfortunately affects so many thousands more, and not always with such a positive turnout. Mark Hoppus’ experience was a great ending for him, but it also helps spotlight the fear and anxiety one goes through with mortality when facing cancer. In that regard, his social media posting may help others by continuing to bring a spotlight to cancer and the need to find a cure.
Staffing Shortage Means Free Pizza for School Lunch At One Lucky School
Usually, when kids go to school, they either bring their own lunch or they are provided a hot lunch, depending on what their parents sign them up for. That’s the typical approach at S. Weir Mitchell Elementary School. However, on one particular day in September, things went haywire. Fortunately, like the good manager she is, principal Stephanie Andrewlevich waded in and solved the matter.
For the parents involved, the first they heard about the problem was a letter sent out from the School District of Philadelphia, letting them know that the kitchen and food staff failed to show up for work on September 23. When the press got wind of it and asked questions, the story they received was a situation of short-staffing and poor supply chain problems. However, the true story was far more interesting.
Under normal circumstances, the Philadelphia School District insures both breakfast as well as lunch for all attending students at no cost. No surprise, a number of students depend on those meals for a regular diet, as their parents are unable to provide sufficient food at home on a regular basis. So, when staff didn’t show up to prepare and serve the food, it was a critical issue for the school. However, in the same letter, principal Andrewlevich pointed out that the kids involved were fed, just with ordered pizza instead for lunch. 400 pizzas to be exact. The school district press people continued on with the message of the hampered supply chains, but the real story was clearly how the principal jumped into action to solve the immediate problem. Kids don’t care about supply logistics, shipping issues, warehouse tie-ups and middleman miscommunications. They focus on being hungry when a meal is not ready.
Staff from different functions were redirected and chipped in to make sure the kids were fed properly and efficiently. That included managing all the pizza delivery, producing drinks and moving stock from nearby stores to the school. Worse, the school district had not provided any kind of back-up solution by the time the situation had hit critical mass with kids having had no meals by 2pm. So, the principal kicked into high gear and arranged for hot feeding. The district disputed the situation, arguing there was back up stock and emergency supplies available. Whether true or not, what is clear was the lack of ready meals for the children involved.
As more and more details came out, the crux of the issue was a lack of food staff present to do the work of distributing the food. So, principal Andrewlevich had to essentially contract out for the same. Interestingly, there was no repeat of the food-serving crisis the next day. Food staff were present, and the entire process ran smoothly, as if September 23 never happened.