A Chance to Geek Out

I mentioned a few days ago that it was my childhood dream to become a marine biologist. So, when the Underwater Photography Awards come out, I jump in it. I love the Comedy Wildlife Photo Awards too, but these pictures touch me on a different level.

I’m sure I would suck at being a judge though, as I think I can’t focus on the photographic skill nearly enough, rather reveling in the focus of the picture itself.

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Sunday Cooking With Crys: Seppie e Piselli

I still find the odd moment to cook for myself and so, in celebration of my boyfriend finally finding a decent source of frozen fish in this town, I decided to make a comfort food favorite of mine: Seppie e piselli, or cuttlefish and peas.

First of all, I feel I need to emphasize the difference between the various cephalopods that make in onto my plate. I know that many people flinch away from the word “cuttlefish”, but in reality they are very similar to calamari (a.k.a. squid), just smaller, more flavorful and more tender.

Cuttlefish have a rounder mantle, containing a calcium-based internal shell called a cuttlebone. Squid belong to a different order of cephalopods, have a longer mantle, and only a thin plastic-like internal shell, made of chitin, called a pen. Another cephalopod that finds its way onto Italian plates are totani, which are in the same order as squid, but have no common name in English as far as I can tell. Of course, the king of the cephalopods is the octopus, but cooking those is worthy of a seperate post for another time.

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A Bitter Sweet Victory

This week, a Salvadoran woman was released from prison after serving 11 years of her 30 year murder charge. So, why am I mentioning that as any kind of victory at all, let alone a bitter sweet one? Was it self defense? Was she innocent of the charges? The facts are much more convoluted and depressing than that.

She was convicted of murder because she had a stillbirth, and the courts decided it was all her fault.

You are certainly aware that women’s rights vary enormously across the globe, whether it be in regard to protections against violence, representation in government, or the right to bodily autonomy. In El Salvador, the abuse of women is reflected in the most draconian anti-abortion laws that can be conceived by man.

Not only is it illegal to get an abortion at any time and for any reason, but you will also be charged with murder not only if you seek an abortion, but even if you do not seek get enough prenatal care and have a stillbirth. I usually do not speak in black and white terms, but I literally cannot conceive of any way that they can make their anti-abortion laws even more extreme.

Luckily in the case of Teodora del Carmen Vásquez, she was not forced to serve the entirety of her sentence. I am happy that she is now free, but I am also deeply depressed as to the details surrounding her release, hence my description of the case.

 

A woman sentenced to 30 years in prison for aggravated murder after having a stillbirth has been freed in El Salvador in a case highlighting the dire consequences of the Central American country’s total ban on abortion.

 

Teodora del Carmen Vásquez, 34, was released on Thursday after serving almost 11 years for a crime she has always vehemently denied. Her sentence was commuted by the supreme court on the grounds that there was insufficient scientific evidence to determine that she had intentionally caused the stillbirth, but her conviction was not overturned.

 

She was not released because the government of El Salvador has budged an inch from their horrific laws regarding women’s rights, but rather because they decided that she was convicted on insufficient evidence. Activists must and are still appealing these sentences on a case by case basis in order to try to counteract this gross violation of human rights.

 

Vásquez is the 16th woman to be freed as a result of appeals and campaigns by reproductive rights groups and lawyers working under hostile conditions perpetuated by the conservative media and powerful anti-abortion groups. A 17th woman, Mayra Figueroa, who was jailed for 30 years in 2003, will be freed next month.

 

This story is both happy and tragic. Happy for Teodora and her family, but tragic for all the women who still have to suffer under these brutal laws.

 

They Found Their Silver Lining, I Guess

Sure, climate change is happening at an allarming rate. Sure, for the first time ever, a gas tanker was able to cross the Arctic in witer without an icebreaker escort for the first time ever, but some scientists were able to find the tiniest of silver linings in such globally catastrophic events.

In July of last year, a gigantic piece of ice broke off of the Larsen C ice shelf in Antarctica. When I had heard of it, I felt enormously depressed. While scientists initially hesitated to link it directly and conclusively to climate change, I saw it is yet more proof that we are watching the devastating effects of climate change happen right before our eyes. If it collapses completely, it will simply be added to the list of irreversible consequences which will worsen our situation. I guess I’m just not enterprising enough though, because other scientists saw it also as an opportunity.

This Delaware-sized chunk of ice, by breaking off, also happened to render an ecosystem which had been hidden for over 120,000 years accessible to researchers.

 

“The calving of [iceberg] A-68 [from the Larsen C Ice Shelf] provides us with a unique opportunity to study marine life as it responds to a dramatic environmental change. It’s important we get there quickly before the undersea environment changes as sunlight enters the water and new species begin to colonize,” Katrin Linse, of the British Antarctic Survey, said in a statement.

 

As a Zoology major, I am ashamed that I had not thought of that possibility. While I of course would have chosen for the ice shelf to remain intact, if I had such power, once it breaks off, let’s at least take the opportunity to add to our knowledge of our planet.

So, what could they find?

 

Scientists know little about the possibly alien-like life that has taken up residence beneath Antarctica’s ice shelf. […] n other icy realms around Antarctica, some bizarre creatures have turned up. For instance, a bristled marine worm that lives in the Southern Ocean, and Live Science previously reported as looking like a “Christmas ornament from hell,” has an extendable throat tipped with pointy teeth. And some creatures have made a living under extreme conditions, including a crustacean called Lyssianasid amphipod, which was found thriving beneath the Ross Ice Shelf in western Antarctica. One of the more famous Antarctic animals, the icefish has natural antifreeze in its blood and body fluids, allowing it to survive the frigid temperatures of Earth’s chilly bottom.

 

I’m officially jealous of the scientists on that expedition. As a child, my first dream was to become a marine biologist, and I would give anything to get to be a part of that exploration.

Instead, I’ll just have to wait and hear what lurks beneath the ice through the interwebs.

 

 

 

Favorite Invention Thursdays

Credible sources believe that, by 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean. Whether that terrifying prediction comes true or not, we have a massive plastic problem on our hands already.

Of course, one of the biggest contributors to that problem is the fact that many countries have a culture based on consumerism, where we constantly buy and throw things away. Some are trying to combat that culture but, in the meantime, any small invention which fits with what people want to do (such as buy 10 different phone cases for their smartphone) while at the same time protecting the environment from excess plastic, is something I’m all for.

Hear Me Now, Mock Me Later

On the 4th of March, there are going to be general elections in Italy. I am making my prediction now, so that you don’t think that I will be shocked when the results come back. Despite all that has happened politically since the election of Donald Trump, I am afraid that Italy is going to bring back the original Trump for another term.

That’s right guys. I fear that Berlusconi is going to be elected again.

If you care about this at all, here’s why.

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