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Volunteering Turns Out to be Great for Mental Health

Sarrah M

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The payback for volunteering turns out to be a lot more than just a tax deduction. Based on quite a bit of research, it turns out that it helps improve our health when we volunteer and help others. Giving may very well be one of the best mental health boosts people can engage in. As it turns out, there is a reciprocity that naturally occurs when volunteering engages in actually helping someone else, regardless of the initial motive.

Researchers everywhere from Yale University to institutions stateside all agree, the happiest people in the world have in common the regular habit of helping other people. And volunteer work doesn’t need to be specific either; any kind of work that helps someone else does the job mentally. Most people know that feeling, a sense of accomplishment that feels fulfilling. And it’s not specific to a given region or a culture. The effect happens just about everywhere.

The reaction that occurs mentally is often similar to what happens with other types of action and reward experiences. Our brains have a chemical interaction when we receive a reward, and that releases additional chemicals that make us feel good. Many try to copy this with drugs, but they are never as permanent, as long-lasting as the real experience that comes from volunteering apparently. And, as expected, the more one volunteers, the more the effect and experience is reinforced.

As for getting started, there’s plenty of volunteering opportunities to go around as well. There’s no shortage of the number of people who need help, including agencies, organizations, help services and more. Even better, there’s no age limit. Kids and teens can help out with animal sanctuaries, and seniors can help out with archaeology projects while everyone else helps out on everything in between and then some. Every year, volunteering recipient programs and groups go without sufficient help, so there’s no shortage of the related demand, ever.

Volunteering also keeps people social and staves off negative mental health conditions such as loneliness and depression. Being alone is generally not good for most people. And most have figured this out all too well over the last year thanks to the COVID pandemic and required social distancing requirements. Not only do people need to connect, volunteering helps folks build new connections, including those across generations, a key factor in new connections as well as learning and passing down knowledge from one older group to the next younger one.

For retirees volunteering is also useful for helping folks feel needing and part of their community. It can be a big shift to suddenly go from a career or a full household to suddenly and empty one and no responsibility to take care of during the day. Volunteering helps fill the gap for seniors and gives them purpose on a daily basis.

So, again, volunteering is good for the mind and soul, as well as everyone it benefits on the recipient end of things. Try it. You may be surprised how good being a volunteer can be for yourself as well.

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Culture

Parachute Dresses and World War II Ingenuity

Danielle S

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World War II was a time of massive change across the known world, and it was also a time of rationing. Whatever usable resources existed, they were generally redirected to the war effort by every country involved. For the folks on the home front, that meant both doing without in terms of regular conveniences as well as being far more creative with what was available. Interestingly enough, military aviation parachutes were just one of those items.

A Unique Design First Made for Aviation Safety

World War II parachutes were designed to be highly durable but also extremely lightweight. That allowed them to be packed and carried easily inside the tight confines of a military plane, which already didn’t have much room to move around in. When things were going badly, and the pilot and crew needed to jump out, the tight confines made it challenging to get from the seat to the exit quickly. Every second counted, so the parachute design had to be compact. That produced a fabric that served dual purposes.

On the home front, however, parachutes were also a convenient material from which to make a wedding dress as well. The material was extremely soft, and it could essentially be crafted, sown and shaped like any other fabric. As a result, the idea of a parachute wedding dress was not only quite common, it was also symbolic. By the mid to late 1940s, the trend had picked up and was regularly used by brides whose soon-to-be husbands had been saved by a parachute or were expected to be protected by one going off to war.

Parchute Weddings Become Vogue

Starting in about 1943, brides started appearing in wedding photos with visible and obvious parachutes for wedding dresses. Lois Frommer appeared in the local papers of St. Paul, MN, being married to Captain Lawrence Graebner. The dress was crafted from his parachute that ended up not being needed during his tour. Bold and visible, the dress was still labeled with its serial number and the letters, “U.S. Army,” right across the broad part of the dress. However, unlike typical military garb, Frommer remembered the dress being extremely soft and luxurious to wear.

Other weddings came along shortly, with profound ones including dresses made from parachutes that actually served their purpose during wartime. Major Claude Hensinger was shot down over Yowata, Japan, when his B-29 caught fire. The Captain was able to parachute out, get to the ground, and survived hidden using the parachute for a blanket and pillow during sleep until he was rescued. Hensinger saved the parachute and then gave it to his bride when he proposed to her for marriage. Ruth Hensinger used the dress at their 1947 wedding and later passed it on to her daughter. The dress is now in the Smithsonian as a historical archive.

Similarly, Evelyn Braet crafted a dress from a less than complete parachute. As it turned out, her husband’s chute not only saved his life but took damage from his plane being shot up while he was flying. Holes and all, the perforated chute turned into her wedding dress to George Braet.

Any Parachute Will Do

Other brides were just as industrious, even if the chute they used was not as heroic. Again, everything was in short supply in the 1940s, so anybody’s parachute would do for a wedding dress. Deany Powers got her own parachute to make a dress out of when her brother gave her a German soldier’s chute that he brought back home after the war. No surprise, the chute did just fine as a dress in 1947 for Deany.

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Endangered Trout Might Be Returning to Los Angeles in Ambitious Restoration Move

Jolie

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The Los Angeles River Fish Passage & Habitat Structures Program (LAR FPHS) probably won’t win any awards for its acronym. With that being said, the institution is doing great things to address natural restoration within Los Angeles County. Focused on ways to potentially engineer and redesign channel beds throughout the nearly 5-mile section of Los Angeles River, the LAR FPHS is one of the champions of restoration in the region. Recently, the team has been making headway in their attempts to bring trout back into the river.

Let’s take a closer look at the trout restoration program that has LA locals excited.

Endangered Trout Make Their Return

The Los Angeles River is more akin to a 5-mile tract of concrete than it is any water-filled body. Flooding throughout the 1930s would send city planners reeling as they had to adjust the major canal, adding massive concrete walls along the 49-mile stretch of the former river. As the walls went up, the ecosystem within the river fell apart. By 1948, the last trout to ever get caught in the river was recorded.

With time passing by and the trout of the LA River becoming a memory, criticism from locals finally engineered a potential remedy. With more and more people looking to bring the river back to its old splendor, the LA River Fish Passage & Habitat Structures Program would get erected. Understanding how pivotal the LA river is to the quality of the Arroyo Seco, another tributary of the famous LA River only further emboldened efforts.

One particular area of focus during these restorative efforts has been on the endangered trout. Similar to the salmon, trout will leave the ocean to swim upstream, eventually spawning along the small tributaries that sprawl away from the LA River. With a focus on rehabilitating these tributaries through comprehensively filled passageways, trout will be able to swim to their spawning grounds, avoiding major obstacles along the way.

To help facilitate the efforts of the trout population, a focus has been made to line the riverbed with sand, riverine plants, and pebbles as well as side pools and other safe habitats. With these efforts underway, there is hope that trout will be able to return to the LA River in relatively short order. This will require controls to better be put in place along the tributaries that we’ve been discussing, ensuring their safe return downstream from the sea and up into the river.

When all is said and done, there is potential for wild trout to swim through a concrete river, winding through one of the largest urban areas on the planet. Who says we city planners and government officials can’t have imaginations?

Council for Watershed Health

Leading the way with the LA River Fish Passage & Habitat Structures Program is the Council for Watershed Health, established in 1996. Created with the intention of advancing and emboldening sustainability throughout the region’s watersheds, streams, rivers, and habitats, the CWH has become an integral program to the longevity and vitality of the region.

Ultimately, the Council for Watershed Health is focused on creating a sustainable model for urban and rural watershed management. At its most effective, the Council for Watershed Health plays a pivotal role in improving the water supply and quality found throughout Southern California, a core mission that is integral to environmental health and societal functionality.

The Los Angeles River Fish Passage & Habitat Structures Program (LAR FPHS) probably won’t win any awards for its acronym. With that being said, the institution is doing great things to address natural restoration within Los Angeles County. Focused on ways to potentially engineer and redesign channel beds throughout the nearly 5-mile section of Los Angeles River, the LAR FPHS is one of the champions of restoration in the region. Recently, the team has been making headway in their attempts to bring trout back into the river.

Let’s take a closer look at the trout restoration program that has LA locals excited.

Endangered Trout Make Their Return

The Los Angeles River is more akin to a 5-mile tract of concrete than it is any water-filled body. Flooding throughout the 1930s would send city planners reeling as they had to adjust the major canal, adding massive concrete walls along the 49-mile stretch of the former river. As the walls went up, the ecosystem within the river fell apart. By 1948, the last trout to ever get caught in the river was recorded.

With time passing by and the trout of the LA River becoming a memory, criticism from locals finally engineered a potential remedy. With more and more people looking to bring the river back to its old splendor, the LA River Fish Passage & Habitat Structures Program would get erected. Understanding how pivotal the LA river is to the quality of the Arroyo Seco, another tributary of the famous LA River only further emboldened efforts.

One particular area of focus during these restorative efforts has been on the endangered trout. Similar to the salmon, trout will leave the ocean to swim upstream, eventually spawning along the small tributaries that sprawl away from the LA River. With a focus on rehabilitating these tributaries through comprehensively filled passageways, trout will be able to swim to their spawning grounds, avoiding major obstacles along the way.

To help facilitate the efforts of the trout population, a focus has been made to line the riverbed with sand, riverine plants, and pebbles as well as side pools and other safe habitats. With these efforts underway, there is hope that trout will be able to return to the LA River in relatively short order. This will require controls to better be put in place along the tributaries that we’ve been discussing, ensuring their safe return downstream from the sea and up into the river.

When all is said and done, there is potential for wild trout to swim through a concrete river, winding through one of the largest urban areas on the planet. Who says we city planners and government officials can’t have imaginations?

Council for Watershed Health

Leading the way with the LA River Fish Passage & Habitat Structures Program is the Council for Watershed Health, established in 1996. Created with the intention of advancing and emboldening sustainability throughout the region’s watersheds, streams, rivers, and habitats, the CWH has become an integral program to the longevity and vitality of the region.

Ultimately, the Council for Watershed Health is focused on creating a sustainable model for urban and rural watershed management. At its most effective, the Council for Watershed Health plays a pivotal role in improving the water supply and quality found throughout Southern California, a core mission that is integral to environmental health and societal functionality.

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Culture

Nearly $1M Donated To Battle Racism By Elderly Asian Attack Victim

Amanda J

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Nearly one million dollars has been raised by the victim of what is deemed as a racially motivated attack in San Francisco to help combat attacks against Asian-Americans.

The funds have been pouring in from supporters not just in the United States but across the globe.

The attacks on Asians across the United States continue and are drawing the attention of activists, the media, and the government.

While several incidents have occurred over the years, the incidents have spiraled in recent months, sending shockwaves and panic into the Asian communities across the country.

Most notable is the attack on an elderly woman in San Francisco recently, not just because of her age, but the fact that she was able to stave off her attacker.

Even though she was injured, the woman gave her attacker a whooping, and her bravery has encouraged Asians and American victims as a whole to wage war against racism, using the gofundme platform.

Over $900,000 has been collected for a 75-year-old Asian woman who had been attacked viciously and without provocation last week in San Francisco.

Contributions flowed in from across the world to support Xiao Zhen Xie in her recovery. By Wednesday evening, Xie’s GoFundMe page had raised $917,000.

In the latest update to the victim’s crowdfunding website, Xie’s family stated that she plans to donate all of the funds raised to the Asian American society in order to fight racism.

“We must not [submit] to bigotry, she said and must fight to the end if possible. She also claimed numerous times that she would donate all of the funds raised from this GoFundMe to the Asian American community in order to fight racism. “John Chen, her grandson, posted an update on the fundraiser page on Monday. “She is stubborn about making this decision, arguing that the problem is bigger than [her].”

The assault left Xie with two dark eyes and a bruised thumb, as well as mental and emotional scars, according to Chen.

He says his grandma is “afraid to leave her house” and has “PTSD” as a result of the incident.

The woman was stabbed on Market Street in San Francisco on Wednesday and bravely fought off her assailant.

Steven Jenkins, 39, was arrested in San Francisco on suspicion of assaulting Xie and a man, according to police.

In the meantime, other victims have also launched gofundme pages and are planning to join in the fight against racism.

The assault on the elderly woman was also in addition to two previous violent assaults in New York City that were caught on tape. They are the most recent in a string of attacks on Asian Americans around the world. According to a new review of police department data, anti-Asian hate crimes rose dramatically in sixteen cities across the United States last year.

The California State University’s Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, located in San Bernardino, released some mind-blowing statistics on hate crimes against people of Asian descent recently.

According to the reports, hate crimes against Asian people increased by nearly one hundred and fifty percent in 2020, despite the fact that overall hate crimes decreased by seven percent.

This is one of the clearest indicators yet that sians have been targeted almost twice as much as they’ve ever been in years.

However, while some are afraid to walk the streets out of concerns they may be attacked, others have decided they will fight on behalf of the victims and to prevent the incidents from continuing.

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Meerkat Party at the Zoo

Amanda J

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Meerkats are highly social creatures absolutely tuned into their pack’s nuances and signals. However, no one expected that a pack of meerkats at a zoo would also be extremely influenced by humans watching them from afar when the zoo is open to the public.

Animals in general are extremely attentive to what’s going on around them in their environment, even if they don’t necessarily act panicked. A good amount of communication within species happens with body behavior versus the language factor that humans rely on so much instead. Meerkats, which look like over-sized slim ferrets with long fur-ringed tails and big dark eyes, practically jump as a group when one of them is spooked by something, a skill that keeps them alive in the wild where they sit at a lower rung on the food chain.

However, when COVID arrived, social distancing pretty much shut down big city zoos as they represented a primary gathering point for humans and potential infection. Given the potential impact mentally to many zoo animals, researchers decided the change gave them a good stimulus to study regarding zoo animal behavior changes. When the same zoos opened up again, it also represented another change point that could be isolated and studied, adding to the research. What was found out ended up being published in a peer-reviewed academic periodical, Applied Animal Behaviour Science. The results indicated a clear improvement positive mood change among meerkats in particular.

For zoo animals, human visitors are a clear part of their environment. Most of their cages and containment is limited and the same, so humans end up being one of the few factors that change dramatically each day. Humans show up in different shapes and sizes, make lots of noise, and become part of the pattern of daily life for the animals. So, when lockdowns occurred, the animals immediately sensed something was off. Many of the animals actually exhibited sings of missing their dedicated audience as well as clearly patterns of loneliness. For the less dangerous animals many of the zoo staff in various institutions had to engage with their tenants far more, even taking them for walks to keep them actively motivated.

The meerkats ended up being the most visible to study for researchers, clearly shifting their behavior patterns as conditions in zoos changed back to being visited again. Many returned back to their normal behavior patterns of grooming, playing and eating timely versus what the disruption triggered in their patterns. On the other hand, some animals didn’t give a darn either way, not changing a thing in their daily routine.

The conclusion of the research is likely to be added to the growing collection of studies on what the latest pandemic has changed in society, even among non-human inhabitants. And it provides an element of pandemic impact that was not recorded in previous serious virus outbreaks such as the Spanish flu a century earlier.

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Seville shows the world the “power” of orange

Amanda J

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The fragrance of Azahar, or orange blossom, fills the air in Seville during springtime, but the fruit that the city’s forty-eight thousand trees drop on the streets in the winter is a danger for pedestrians and a cleaning nightmare.

A scheme has been introduced to transform the unwanted oranges into a very distinct sort of juice: energy. The city in southern Spain has started a pilot project to produce pure current from the methane generated as the fruit gets overripe.

Emasesa, the city’s water corporation, has launched a pilot program that will use 35 tons of fruit to produce renewable energy to power one of the city’s water purification plants.

The fruits will be processed at a plant that already uses organic matter to produce electricity. The methane collected from the fermenting oranges will then be utilized to power the generator.

Benigno López, who heads the Environmental Department, anticipates a full-time recycling program shortly. He predicts that the city will be required to spend about 250 thousand Euros to accomplish this.

According to him, the juice is fructose, which consists of short carbon chains with high energetic efficiency during the fermenting phase.

It’s not all about saving money, Lopez adds. The fruits are a challenge for the area, and they add value to the waste stream.

While the immediate goal is to use the energy to power the purified-water plants, the long-term goal is to return any excess electricity to the grid.

Given a large amount of fruit that would either be dumped or utilized as fertilizer, the project’s supporters claim that the potential is enormous.

They claim that a thousand kilograms of oranges produce fifty kWh of electricity to power five homes per day which can become 73 thousand homes if they’re all recycled, and the power is returned to the grid.

Emasesa is already a role model in Spain for development and climate change, according to Seville’s mayor.

He goes on to say that new investment will be focused on water purification plants, which consume nearly a dirty percent of the energy required to furnish the city with drinkable water and sanitation.

He stressed that this project would assist them in meeting their carbon reduction, energy self-sufficiency, and circular economy goals.

When the oranges fall from the tree and are squashed under the wheels of passing cars, the streets are a sticky haven for flies. Around 200 people are employed by the city council to harvest the fruit.

Arabs brought the bitter oranges, which are native to Asia, to Seville a thousand years ago and have thrived in the warm climate of southern Spain.

They’ve taken root in the city, are pollution-resistant, and have adapted well to the area, according to Fernando Mora Figueroa, the city’s parks director. Seville is said to have the world’s biggest orange orchard.

The area generates about fifteen thousand tons of oranges, but the Spanish don’t eat them, so the majority of the fruit is shipped to the United Kingdom, where it is turned into marmalade. Cointreau and Grand Marnier also use Seville oranges as the main ingredient.

The origins of marmalade are shrouded in folklore and myths. However, a handwritten marmalade recipe dating from 1683 was discovered in Dunrobin Castle in Sutherland, Scotland.

According to legend, a ship carrying oranges from Spain sailed into Dundee Harbour, and local confectionery maker James Keiller initiated its use as an edible fruit. While this is a legend, Keiller did make the original marmalade advertisement in 1797.

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