Monday, April 18, 2011

2011 Black Weblog Awards Nominations are open

It's that time of year, a little ealy this time, but it's award season - the 2011 Black Weblog Awards Nominations season is open. Time to nominate your favorite blogs about any and every topic. Of course, I'm throwing my hat into the race, in several races in fact. But I'm also sharing my other favorite blogs to check out, too. Nominate your conscience, but either, please help me spread the word about the online award program.


Nominations are open from April 18 - May 7th
The official Nomination site is here.
You provide the web address (url) for your favorite blog in each category as well as your name and email address on the nomination form and that's it.
There are 37 categories.


Finalists will be announced the week of May 15th and online voting commences May 16 – June 17, 2011. Again, you will need to cast your vote (your valid email address will confirm you are a person and not a bot).
Winners will be announced live at the Black Weblog Awards Ceremony during the 2011 Blogging While Brown Conference in Los Angeles, California.

Here are the categories, along with some of my favorites for select categories.
Best Blog Design (This category is for well-designed blogs that incorporate a unique and eye-catching visual web design, keen use of typography, and a killer layout)

Best Blog Network (This category is for Black blog networks. Blog networks should be comprised of at least three (3) blogs with content updated regularly, include some level of quality control, and include some type of blog network indication (badge, link, etc.) which links to the blog network’s site.)

Best Blog Post Series (This category is for a series of posts in a blog about a particular topic. Posts can be fiction or non-fiction, but post series must be linked by a common and identifiable theme with the ability to skip forward or backwards through the series for judging purposes (i.e., archives, pagination, etc.))
I’m a fan of my Feministing Friday posts at SouthernPlayalisticEvolutionMusic, just saying.

Best Business Blog This category is for blogs that talk about the modern business world (advertising, marketing, finance, business trends, etc.).

Best Culture Blog (This category is for blogs which analyze and discuss Black culture and/or the African diaspora with respect to art, dance, Black history, music, and other related content.)
Rooted in Earth

Best Cooking or Food Blog
This category is for blogs which focus on food and/or recipes. Blogs may also include restaurant and product reviews.

Best Faith-Based Blog (This category is for blogs which feature unique religious and spiritual content from any religion or faith.)

Best Fashion or Beauty Blog (This category is for blogs which cover the topics of beauty, fashion, clothing, cosmetics, design, accessories, personal styling, and other related content for either men or women.)

Best Film Blog (This category is for blogs which promote or discuss films, actors, film culture, and other related content.)

Best Gaming or Comics Blog (This category is for blogs which promote or discuss films, actors, film culture, and other related content.)

Best Gossip Blog (This category is for blogs that focus on the reporting, satire, and lampooning of celebrities and pop culture.)

Best Group Blog (This category is for a single blog which is updated by a group of people (two or more people). This blog can be about any topic.)

Best Health or Wellness Blog (This category is for blogs that focus on health, fitness, living green, and overall physical wellness.)

Best Hip-Hop Blog (This category is for blogs that focus primarily on hip-hop culture, including urban fashion, current events, hip-hop music, and other related content.)

Best Humor Blog (This category is for humor blogs or blogs which feature humorous content. All sites comedy-related, including humor sites, sites spotlighting comedians, and sites that simply make you laugh.)
Awesomely Luvvie

Best International Blog (This category is for blogs of any topic that are based in countries other than the United States. The country of origin for the blog must be clearly identified for judging purposes.)
Geotraveler’s Niche
The Urban Birder

Best LGBT Blog (This category is for blogs that relate to or are about the LGBT community, including news, pop culture, or personal stories)

Best Microblog (This category is for the following types of microblogs: Twitter profiles, Tumblr blogs, or Posterous blogs.)
Lola Gets Life
Blacking it Up!

Best Music Blog (This category is for blogs that focus on music; blogs can provide downloadable mp3s, and may cover more than one genre of music. The majority of the blog should be about music, not satire on pop culture.)

Best New Blog This category is for blogs of any topic which have been started on or after September 1, 2010.)

Best Parenting or Family Blog (This category is for blogs which center around the topics of family, raising children, families, etc.)

Best Personal Blog (This category is for blogs written by individuals about themselves or about others. Blogs do not have to adhere to a specific theme, but should specifically be about the blogger’s life.)

Best Photography Blog (This category is for blogs which present and feature photographs taken by the blog author.)
For most part, I feature nature photos taken by me at Urban Science Adventures! ©, just saying.
The Urban Birder

Best Podcast Series (This category highlights podcasts — serialized audio files available to download — on any topic.)

Best Political or News Blog (This category is for blogs which are about politics or current newsworthy topics.)

Best Science or Technology Blog (This category is for blogs which feature content about biology, chemistry, physics, technology, the Internet, and the various realms of science) Let me say how excited to let you know that there are more science blogs out there by black authors – other than mine of course. Yay! Glad to say, you have some deciding to do!
Urban Science Adventures! ©
The Hermitage
On the Tech side, there are some awesome blogs, too.
Anjuan Simmons
BDPA Education & Technology Foundation
But You're a Girl

Best Sex or Relationships Blog (This category is for blogs which discuss or analyze romantic or interpersonal relationship topics, sexual health, and/or other sexual or relationship topics.)
Lola Gets Life

Best Sports Blog (This category is for blogs which discuss or analyze anything sports-related, including professional sports teams, fantasy sports, sports players, and other related content.)
Black Sports Online

Best Teen Blog (This category is for blogs of any topic where the author is anywhere from 13-19 years old.)

Best Travel Blog (This category is for blogs which explore world travel, travel plans, tourism, travel writing, or other related content)
Jay Travels
Geotraveler’s Niche

Best Video Blog/Vlogger (This category highlights blogs which feature original video content by the blog’s author on any topic. Blog content must be primarily video content.)

Best Writing in a Blog (This category is for blogs which have exceptional writing.)

Blog of the Year (The blog of the year has it all: great writing, frequent posts, active comments, and a strong reader base)
Dare I dream, either of my blogs…LOL

Blog to Watch (This category is for that great blog that not everyone knows about…but should! It’s undiscovered. It’s a best kept secret)
SouthernPlayalisticEvolutionMusic – I think my mash-up blog of hip hop and science is awesome and the neatest things I’ve ever conceived, but I am biased.

Best Lifestyle Blog
Naturally Leslie
The Cubicle Chick

Best Plus-Sized Fashion Blog

Best Automotive/ Car Blog

Best Green/ Nature/ Outdoor Living Blog (I’m super excited about his category. I recommended it!)
Outdoor Afro
Rooted in Earth
The Joy Trip Project
Black and into Green
The Urban Birder

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Crab apple flowers

I've had this on-going relationship with crab apple trees since my childhood.  In the front yard of my paternal grandparent's house was a crab apple tree.  It was tall and thin and I would often wrap my arms around it when I was a little girl (and I'm drawing memories that go way back to the age of 3 or so).  I remember fat, round crab apple fruits, about the size of a jack ball that hung heavy on the limbs.  The fruits would litter the front yard, which interferred with my grandfather cutting the grass or my boy cousins playing touch football.

That tree was the focal part of the front yard.  I would guess that others thought warmly of the tree, too. I remember for my grandparents 50th anniversay there was a special framed portrait/clock that included individual photos of my grandparents flanking a photo of that crab apple tree in the middle, with the thin gold clock hands originating at the branching part of the tree. Tiny little tics encircled the tree, which represented each of the 12 hours of the day.

A few years later, late 1980's/early 1990's the tree was struck by lightning, bring down the front portion of the limbs and leaving a very bad scar.  It was large and quite dark.  I remember being sad about it. Without its full rounded crown of leaves in the spring and autumn, it just seemed to droop on one-side. It looked like it was slumped over, like a family-member in declining health, feeling sad and awaiting death.  Eventually, the decision was made to cut it down, because it was bad off afterall. I gasped with shock and lost when I saw missing one day.

Sigh....but in all of that, I never really paid attention to the tree in spring, so the memory of flowers isn't as salient for me. And in my fuzzy memory, I don't remember the flowers of that tree in my grandparents' yard being this pink or this colorful.  For some reason, I recall the flowers being white or blush. But now that it's gone, I can't confirm it.

Do you have any nostalgic memories of trees from your childhood?  Do you hold some wild spaces or things as special friends?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Yuri Night - Celebrating 50 years of human space flight

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the very first human space flight, April 12, 2011.  On this night, 50 years ago, Russian Cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin completed an orbit around the earth.  He became an instant international celebrity and a heor of the Soviet Union.  Today, space flight and exploration isn't as new as it was then, but it's stilll exciting!  Everybody's doing the moonwalk.

There's a celebration event here in my town, St. Louis, Missouri; but it's a worldwide party and you are invited.  Ir create your own impromptu event like go outside and enjoy the beautiful night sky - alone or with friends and family.

You can also make a video about why you're excited about Yuri's Night.  Say something cool about science, engineering, space and planetary science, and you could be the winner of the YURI'S NIGHT 2011 VIDEO CONTEST. The Yuri’s Night 2011 Video Contest is an open source competition to engage the public to create tribute videos for the 50th Anniversary of Human Spaceflight to share at Yuri’s Night events around the world. As more videos become available they will be posted on this website and notifications will be circulated via Facebook and Twitter @YurisNight.

Learn more about Yuri Gagarin at these links.
Yuri's Night
Biography of Yuri Gagarin, via Wikipedia.
Yuri Gagarin's space flight 50th anniversary: the view from Russia, includes video

Yay! Space Exploration!
Me, next to Space Exploration Patches, Boeing Museum
taken at Boeing, St. Louis, Missouri - the Engineering company that designed and/or built most US space travel vehicle and equipment
Skylab Patch at the Boeing Museum

Commemorative glassware for US Space Flight, Boeing Museum

Model of US Space Shuttle, Boeing Museum

I know, my science geekiness surprises me, too.
See you outside, and tell me all about yur Yuri Night celebration!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Citizen Science Spring & Summer Field Season opens

The warmer weather calls us outside to run, jump and play.  And if you take a close look or listen, you'll notice that the nature is all-abuzz, too.  All of that new life sprouting and peeping around is waiting on someone just like you make very important scientific observations and report them.  There are alot of projects out there and scientists like myself who could use a hand and your eyes!

Why get involved in a citizen science project?

It's a perfect way to spend time with your family. You're always wondering what you can do that's different, will make for a great adventure and doesn't cost alot of money.
Start a fun learning project. If you're a home schooling parent, after-school teacher or camp counselor and you want the kids to have a meaning experience that will go with them forever. This is it. Just a little time once a week or once a day yields the perfect opportunity to do a big end-of-camp presentation and capstone experience.

It is so easy! Seriously, simply visit a website, sign-up for a project (and sometimes you don't have to do that), and email the results back (or fill out an online form).  If you find a local project, then you show up and lend a scientist a hand and get a chance to get up close and personal with some exciting plants and animals.
Here are some Citizen Science projects you can do right now!

1. Nature Notebook with The USA National Phenology Network.
Basically, you adopt a special place, like your backyard, special area of your neighborhood park, your school yard, or even the empty lot along your street.  You visit your special place at least once a week. Make notes in your nature journal (are you journaling? if, not it is so much fun and you should do so right now) and share your results with the online data base. The data from you and others all over the nation will be used to track any changes our natural world is making to climate changes and human influences. Go to their website to learn more and  sign up. Also follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

2. Firefly Watch.  As a child I loved catching lightning bugs and putting them in a jar.  I didn't know it then, but the little fluorescent bug was a scientific wonder - producing this yellow-green glow to communicate with other fireflies to mate or catch prey.  How neat! Now, you can take that simple pastime and make a difference.  Scientists using that information to track any changes in firefly distribution, habits, and population growth. You can sign up to be an observer and submit your weekly observations at the website sponsored by the Museum of Science.

3. If you live in my neck of the woods, you can participate in BioBlitz in Creve Coeur Park! The Academy of Science of St. Louis is leading an expedition of citizens and scientists on a 6-hour exploration and cataloging of urban wildlife biodiversity of this St. Louis Metro area park on Saturday, April 16, from 6 am - 12 noon. This is Creve Coeur Park’s first BioBlitz. Teams of public volunteers led by biologists, naturalists and environmental enthusiasts search natural areas within the park, listing as many different species as they can find. You can follow the Academy @AcademyofSciSTL on Twitter.

4. Shark tagging. My friend David Shiffman needs volunteers to help him with his research for school.  Do you like Shark Week?  Then, you're going to love being a citizen science with David.  He tags (small) sharks for his research in sharking feeding behavior and ecology; and his research also helps to measure the size and health of the shark populations in the Coastal South Caroline sea.  Over 30 different species of sharks call that coast home. It's very interesting work and definitely will give you something to talk about at parties forever.  You can learn more about his research here and follow his blog about sharks, marine biology and conversation of the ocean and its creatures at Southern Fried Science and on Twitter @WhySharksMatter.

5. Interested in more citizen science ideas? Then check out Science for Citizens. You can look up upcoming projects or submit your own ideas.  I bet you find something perfect.  Be sure to come back and let me know what you've been up to.

demystifying nature letting everyone experience

Thursday, April 07, 2011

In Memorium: Jenni M. Higashiguchi

Jenni Malie Higashiguchi, a doctoral student in biology at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, was born in Hawaii on March 24, 1981, and passed away on April 4 after a brief but catastrophic illness.

Jenni received her undergraduate degree in biology from the University of Hawaii, where she studied some of the Hawaiian forest birds that occur nowhere else. She joined the large number of researchers interested in understanding why so many Hawaiian forest birds have become extinct.

She joined the PhD program in Evolution, Ecology, and Systematics in the Department of Biology at the University of Missouri-St. Louis in 2007 to work with Patricia Parker, the E. Desmond Lee Endowed Professor of Zoological Studies. Working with Parker's group she applied what was learned in Hawaii in order to help Galapagos birds escape the same sad fate.

She had identified the study of the mosquito vectors of bird diseases as a critical piece of the puzzle that she would solve, and one that would contribute importantly to the goal of preventing extinctions of Galapagos birds.

She was in her third Galapagos field season, and second on this project, when she fell ill. Parker said the mosquitoes Jenni caught before her illness may provide the understanding that will help preserve the birds in one of nature's most famous wild places.

Jenni was brought to Miami for treatment, and then to Cleveland, where she passed away. She did not have any infectious diseases, but died of acute liver failure of unknown cause.

"Jenni Malie Higashiguchi was a gentle and caring person who would make beautiful leis for her student colleagues in celebration of each of their successes and bring delectable homemade sushi to any gathering," said Parker. "She always preferred talking in person to email or phone and we will forever continue to see her face peeking around our doors. Her contributions to UMSL and to Galapagos have been enormous."

She is survived by her parents, Owen and Carol Higashiguchi of Makawao, Hawaii. She is also survived by all of the members of the UMSL biology community who regard her as part of their own family.

I didn't know Jenni very well, but I was aquainted with her.  That's what often happens when fresh new students start a program and a few slackers seasoned students are still around.  She was a sweet and quiet girl (but who isn't quiet compared to me?).  I interacted with her occassionally at seminars, defense celebrations, and major department programs.  Her sudden illness and death is certainly a reminder of our mortality.  It also gives me pause because it could have happened to any one -- me, you, and countless of friends who spend weeks on end at sea, in the jungle, out in the desert or some other far off somewhat isolated place. During the field season, we can really become focused on getting as much data as we can because the window of opportunity is so slim.  But remember to take care of yourself; and be sure to give all of your family and friends a big kiss and hug before you set off on your journeys.

A fund has been created in her name at the Whitney R. Harris World Ecology Center. Memorial donations should go to: Jenni Malie Higashiguchi Fund of the Whitney R. Harris World Ecology Center, at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, One University Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63121.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Red buds bloom

Red buds are by far my most favorite flowering tree.  I think I've dedicated more blog posts to blooming red buds than to any other species.  Here are photos I took recently, in St. Louis between the bouts of cold.  Our spring is starting in spurts and fits, but the flowers are still blooming.

I love to photograph young red buds against the bright blue sky.  The contrasts is just aaaah-mazing to me.

Check out my previous posts about red buds, including more pretty photos.

Wordless Wednesday: Red Buds Blooming (from April 2009)

Have you spotted any red buds blooming in your backyard? What is your favorite flowering treet in your urban nature habitat?

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Urban Environmentalism in Action: St. Louis North City residents sue city over recycling

We’ve only got one planet and the resources we need are limited. April is such an optimistic time for environmentalist and conservationists. Thanks to some great social marketing and patience, most people are now on board to Save the Earth and use our natural resources more responsibly. For a long time, major metropolitan areas were hold-outs on these efforts – slow adoption of recycling, fear of limiting water for recreational purposes. And many people had concluded that some people didn’t care at all. But as KSDK Channel 5 of St. Louis recently reported, North city women to file lawsuit over recycling.

Ms. Annie Cooper and Ms. Maxine Johnson, residents of North St. Louis residents are filing a discrimination suit against the city claiming their alderman, Mr. Jeffrey Boyd of the 22nd Ward, refused to provide city-ordered recycling bins because the residents in their neighborhood are "too dumb to recycle." Mr. Boyd says he never said such things; but he does admit to not making recycling bins readily available to his neighbors because saw other measures as having higher priority. To be honest, I wouldn’t be surprised if his decision to overlook placing recycling bins in his neighborhood was based on an opinion held by many that African-Americans and people from inner-city communities are not likely to be environmental advocates and his residents probably wouldn’t use them anyway. It’s not uncommon for neighborhoods like his to recycle less frequently and in smaller volumes than more affluent parts of the city. In fact, I’ve done some anecdotal observations of how often community recycling bins, the ones by the fire stations, would get filled in different neighborhoods in St. Louis. Just as a comparison, there are no fewer than 4 bins in my old neighborhood, Benton Park, which always seemed to get full rather quickly. However, in Old North St. Louis, where I worked and very near Mr. Boyd’s ward, there were only 2 and they seemed to be empty most of the time.

Ms. Johnson and Ms. Cooper claim their neighborhood did not receive alley recycling bins like these.
(image courtesy of Threshold Properties blog)
 When it came time to use his share of the $100,000 of the city budget, Mr. Boyd allocated 60% of it to install cameras in alleys because dumping is a bigger problem than recycling by his judgment. I will agree that dumping is a problem in North St. Louis. I’ve driven by my fair share of empty lots and buildings with trash, furniture, and tires heaped high. However, I’m not impressed with his decision. Installing cameras doesn’t actually do anything about the problem; it simply catalogs the problem and it might lead to prosecution and fining of the offenders. That just seems like a long-roundabout way to resolving the problem, which is better trash removal and disposal in his neighborhood. How I see it, he could address both issues, getting people to recycle more and stem illegal dumping via education and outreach programs. And if it’s a matter of not knowing how to achieve this education and outreach, then look no further. I am a resident of the city (so no ‘know-it-all outsider effects); I have years of experience in environmental education and outreach to communities just like his community. I could help him

• engage his neighbors and help them understand why responsible trash removal is important to their health, well-being, property value, etc,
• raise awareness about the problem of filling up landfills, running out of natural resources, and illegal dumping,
• work with citizens to help them dispose of trash via ways that reduce environmental impact that are affordable, feasible and convenient,
• coordinate neighborhood cleanup efforts that give citizens a sense of pride and ownership in a clean, healthy community, and
• empower citizens to educate other residents in responsible trash removal and reporting illegal dumping activities.

Though it is often assumed that Black people and people from less-affluent neighbors aren’t interested in recycling and have more important things to worry about, that doesn’t seem to hold true for this neighborhood. Actually, I am quite energized by Ms. Cooper’s and Ms. Johnson’s actions; and I am proud of them, too! Far too often attention is placed on the lack of interest of people from urban, primarily minority, working-class neighborhoods to participate in environmental initiatives. This is a strong example of how people of color are as invested in environmental issues as well-to-do, mostly white citizens. It’s also a great example of citizens who have been traditionally marginalized, speaking up and demanding to be taken seriously on a very public issue. I think when citizens speak up, it behooves elected officials to listen and work with them. Especially in a situation that can be easily addressed like this one.

So, call me Alderman Boyd. I think I could help you out.

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