Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Benefits of Gardening

Works Cited:

Armstrong, D. A survey of community gardens in upstate New York: Implications for health promotion and community development. Health & Place (2000) Vol 6 pp 319-327.

Galluzzi, G.; Eyzaguirre, P.; Negri, V. Home gardens: Neglected hotspots of agro-biodiversity and cultural diversity. Biodiversity and Conservation (2010) Vol 19 pp 3635-3654.

Hale, J.; Knapp, C.; Bardwell, L.; Buchenau, M.; Marshall, J.; Sancar, F.; Litt, J. S. Connecting food environments and health through the relational nature of aesthetics: Gaining insight through the community gardening experience. Social Science & Medicine (2011) Vol 72 pp 1853-1863.

Hartig, T.; Mitchell, R.; de Vries, D.; Frumkin, H. Nature and Health. Annual Review of Public Health (2014) Vol 35 pp 207-228.

Maller, C.; Townsend, M.; Pryor, A.; Brown, P.; St Leger, L. Healthy nature healthy people: ‘contact with nature as an upstream health promotion intervention for populations. Health Promotion International (2005) Vol 21 pp 45-54.

Milligan, C.; Gatrell, A.; Bingley, A. ‘Cultivating health’: Therapeutic landscapes and older people in northern England. Social Science & Medicine (2004) Vol 58 pp 1781-1793.

Shinew, K. J. Leisure spaces as potential sites for interracial interaction: Community gardens in urban areas. Journal of Leisure Research (2004) Vol 36 pp 336-355.

Twiss, J.; Dickinson, J.; Duma, S.; Kleinman, T.; Paulsen, H.; Rilveria, L. Community gardens: Lessons learned from California healthy cities and communities. American Journal of Public Health (2003) Vol 93 pp 1435-1438.

Wannamethee, S. G.; Gerald Shaper, A.; Walker, M. Physical activity and mortality in older men with diagnosed coronary heart disease. Circulation (2000) Vol 102 pp 1358-1363.

Monday, July 25, 2016

If PokemonGo Can Inspire Walking, Can Bike Share Inspire Active (Bicycle) Transportation?

The wildly popular game Pokemon Go has been out for nearly two weeks and has been getting people to moving around (walking) in order to capture 'Pokemon' treasures.  I read an article recently in which the author speculated if there would be an indirect positive impact (elevation) of the player's health as a result  of playing "Pokemon Go."  Along the same line of reasoning, I have to ask if the new Bike Share program unveiled in downtown Los Angeles will have the same effect -- that is to inspire more people to transition toward bicycle commuting?  Below are a few initial thoughts.

Pokemon-Go Has People Moving For Treasures

There is no doubt that the new release of the version of the Pokemon Go game has inspired people to start moving around.  According to an article on the website "" titled "‘Pokémon Go’ Number of Downloads: How Many People Are Playing It?" the number of users engaged in playing the game is already reaching into the millions -- WOW.  Here is an excerpt describing the results from two independent surveys:

According to The USA Today, earlier in the week, Pokémon Go was reported to have been downloaded at least 15 million times. But other recent data suggests the number is even higher than that.

As of Monday, July 11th, the game was seeing about 21 million daily active users, according to Survey Monkey. This means that in terms of daily users, it is the biggest mobile game in U.S. history. For comparison, at its peak Candy Crush reportedly had about 20 million daily active users in the United States.

That is amazing.  These numbers are aligned with a common statement that I tell my friends -- which is that if you want to make a movement in the world -- make a video game that motivates that movement.  Which is to say that, if a person was interested in making more people interested in science, then producing an "engaging" game that motivates people to learn science is the way to go.

Further, the results (the numbers) show that if the game is popular enough, people will engage in playing for a long time.  Again, here is an excerpt highlighting the time spent thus far by players compared to other popular games:

Another impressive piece of data is the fact that many users are spending significantly more time in their Pokémon Go app than they are on Facebook or Twitter. According to Sensor Tower, on Monday, July 11th, the average iPhone user spent 33 minutes in the Pokémon Go app, whereas they only spent 28 minutes in the Facebook app, 18 minutes in the Snapchat app, 17 minutes in the Twitter app, and 15 minutes in the Instagram app.

 According to the amount of time reported that have players engaged (walking for a large portion) in the game, players are reaching the minimal amount of exercise needed in a week's duration.  Meaning, if a player is engaged in the game for at least 33 minutes a day and plays 7 days a week, counting stopping and capturing "treasures" -- most likely the player is achieving the minimal amount of exercise needed.

Additionally, despite the reported negative effects of the game (distraction, robbery, etc.), there are reports of the game having a positive effect on mental health (depression and anxiety).  Tallying up the disadvantages and advantages on a person's health, as of now, the game appears to be beneficial to society thus far.

Here is a picture of one our board members (for our nonprofit organization -- Bikecar101) playing Pokemon Go on the train shown below:

He swears that since the game has come out, he has walked extra laps around his house in order to capture more "treasures".  Additionally, the game has captured him while engaging in active transportation (for him, train + bicycle).  This is motivating.

Hopefully, more people see such positive benefits to their health as those already playing have.  Furthermore, if the game dies out, hopefully, the players will see the benefits of increased physical activity and continue on engaging in more outdoor activities.  Stay tuned.

Having a game or a new system motivate indirectly active living is wonderful.  As shown above, millions of people are moving.  Some of whom probably were inactive before the new game emerged.  Another form of indirect motivation that will engage more people into using active modes of transportation is the newly unveiled 'Bike Share' program in downtown Los Angeles by Metro.

Bike Share Indirectly Motivates Active Transportation!

Some readers might not agree with the title of this section.  Why would a bikeshare program "indirectly" motivate people to become engaged in active transportation?  Let me explain briefly below.

Recently, I took a weekend trip to Nebraska, specifically, visiting family in downtown Omaha.  I arrived on a Friday afternoon to meet up with my wife (who had flown in earlier in the week) and my father-in-law.  After picking me up from the airport, they notified me that we had a few hours to spare until the next event.  Further, they suggested that we walk down by the river that separates Nebraska and Iowa as shown in the picture below:

The walk was great as usual.  I needed to stretch my legs after sitting on a rather long flight (I do not fly very often).  Of course, I am being silly when I say a long flight from California.  Back in my military days, we would fly from South Carolina to Saudi Arabia on a direct flight for 24 hours (very fun) -- with earplugs in and a dark plane.  Yeah!

Anyways, on this particular Friday, the weather was great and the walk was too.  Along the walk, we noticed that the newly installed Bike Share was installed at various points along the river and dotted throughout the downtown area -- which was super cool.  Here is a picture of the Bike Share station in Omaha Nebraska shown below:

I was immediately attracted to the message written on the sign -- which reads "Imagine Better Health" -- super cool.  In the future, I imagine more healthcare organizations will utilize Bike Share programs for there "at risk" heart patients (discussions are underway currently).  We could not help but try it out.  Here are pictures of each of us on bicycles below:


Me -- Mike:

And Steve:

The experience was great.  We used the bicycles to return to the car.  Ironically, we parked in front of a train museum (an old train station) that had a bikeshare hub just outside.  We were able to ride back to the museum and return the bicycles nearly in front of the parking lot where the car was parked.

On a side note: I am frequently asked about my position on the future of bikeshare programs in the Southern California region.  Specifically, because I am a co-founder of Bikecar101 -- whose mission is to advocate and educate the public about bicycles on public transit trains.  A bikeshare program might seem contradictory to our mission.  Let me clear the air now.

We believe that all modes of active transportation are the solution to the future of motivating the public to engage in active transportation.  Not any single one outpaces any other.  Each will work in concert with one another along parallel lines to motivate active living.  There is a time and a place for each mode to be used by each of us.

The trip to Nebraska was a perfect example of a great time for us to try out the bikeshare system.  We had a ball riding around.  The bicycles were heavier and noticeably different from those that we ride on a daily basis.  Nevertheless, having the opportunity to ride around on a bicycle then conveniently return it was great.  That was Nebraska, what about downtown Los Angeles?

Bike Share Inspires Active Transportation

After reading the initial account from the LA Times upon the unveiling by Metro of the new Bike Share program downtown on the 7th of July, I was super happy to see how much press the LA Times was giving the program over the next week.  Of course, this coverage was on top of the usual stellar coverage of the unveiling by the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition.  We need the popular news to help us out with spreading the word about the new program.  Further, the opportunity to engage in active modes of transportation for tourists, businesses, consumers, etc.

Similar to the release of the PokemonGo game, the new program has the potential to motivate people to engage in active transportation.  Additionally, the program has the potential to turn a non-bicycle commuter into a person who chooses to use a bicycle in addition to other modes of transportation to get around town.  Why do I believe that to be true?

At first upon hearing the unveiling of the Bike Share program, I was hoping that the program would be successful -- for the purpose of investment into the initial program.  Although, after having a weekly conversation with my father (who was born in Santa Monica and is 74 years old), I have a new optimism about the program turning over more people to active transportation.

He was mentioning that the amount of press is great to spread awareness of the program.  This he states has been a great problem with motivating all modes of public transportation since he was a child.  Awareness is key.   Second, he believes that he would jump on a bicycle and try it out if he finds himself near a hub sometime in the future.  Additionally, he can easily see himself motivated after riding a Bike Share bicycle to go out and purchase a bicycle to add to his daily routine.  Why?

He stated that if he had the opportunity to ride around town and build up a mental library of the amount of time spent traveling from place to place, he would be motivated to try alternative transportation instead of driving.  Especially, in hope of relieving stress and elevating his health.  Not to mention, coupling a "workout with his commute" (as he stated).

After talking with him, I am convinced that the program could very well result in more residents engaging in active modes of transportation on top of the tourists who choose to try the new system.


I hope that you will share our optimism and try the system out.  At the very least, spread the word about our experiences and motivate others to try to engage in active transportation.  Right about now, the advocates of the active transportation world are appreciative of any efforts to motivate residents to engage in a healthier lifestyle -- even if that entails supporting Pokemon Go.

In the future though, we would hope that the seed has been planted and sprouts organically through a responsive engagement on part of the public to utilize these programs that precious tax dollars have been spent on -- for the better of society.  Additionally, the influence of friends and family is contagious in making (motivating) changes to our society which result in a more healthier and environmentally friendlier world.  Join us and spread the word!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Gardening Experiments

Biodiversity in the garden is something that I value.  When I am planning my garden, I definitely consider each branch of the evolutionary tree and try to include members from each family.  Some things, like fruit trees, are out of the question because I don't have enough room.

I try to think about what goes (grows) well together.  This concept is called "companion planting" and it is interesting to think that a small organic garden (using no pesticides) can be grown when plants that help each other are planted together, in nearby containers.  Some plants are grown to be a "trap" or "sacrificial" crop.  These plants attract predators away from your crop plants.  I use marigold.

Another way to scare pests is to use pinwheels as scarecrows.  The pinwheels I made are much prettier than some fake bird.  I got a pattern (shown at left), some colored straws, some corsage pins, and some gels that are used for stage lighting.  They are easy to assemble.  I mounted the straws on bamboo kebab skewers and stuck them in the ground throughout my garden.

I got the idea when we were planning an activity around Earth Day a few years ago.  I thought it would be great to talk about capturing wind energy.  It was perfect since the day we did the activity was really windy.  A year or so later, we were talking about color and light so I went to a DJ store and bought a bunch of light gels in all different colors.  These made pretty durable pinwheels.  The thing that actually degraded first was the straw, in particular the red one.  Maybe it was in the most direct sunlight.

What are your ideas for organic gardening?  How do you deter pests?

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Fun Fitness Events

Griffith Park Trail Relay Marathon & 8K
July 17, 2016 @ 7:00am
$49.00 Registration - through 7/13 for individual 8K
Team registration is currently closed
2016 is the inaugural year for this event

Tour de Laemmle
Sunday, July 24th @ 6:00am
Registration is FREE
ALL LEGS: The Whole Enchilada! (125 miles)
LEG 1: Monica Film Center in Santa Monica to Claremont 5 (55 miles)
LEG 2: Claremont 5 to Playhouse 7 in Pasadena (30 miles)
LEG 3: Playhouse 7 to Glendale 5 and on to NoHo 7 in North Hollywood (15 miles)
LEG 4: NoHo 7 to Town Center 5 in Encino and back to Monica Film Center (25 miles)

August 6, 2016 @ 8:00am
$35 individual ~ $30 student/military
Hilly, varied terrain (asphalt, dirt, grass), finisher's medal
Packet pick-up starts at 6:30am

Pride of the Valley 5K
August 6, 2016 @ 8:00am
$25 registration, $30 with T-shirt
$15 team category, goes up to $20 in 52 days
Esther Snyder Community Center • 4100 Baldwin Park Blvd Baldwin Park, CA 91706

August 13, 2016 @ 7:30am
Flat course, sunglasses, T-shirt, medal.
$35 individual, goes up to $40 in 3 days
Packet pick-up at A Runner's Circle on Friday, August 12 from 10am-6pm

August 14, 2016 from 9am - 4pm
Car-free streets for 3.5 miles
Completely FREE and no cost

Bikecar101 & Softball Junkies CoEd Tournament
September 3, 2016
Santa Clarita Central Park
$350 per team

Summer Breeze 5k, 10k, 15k, Half Marathon
September 10, 2016 @ 7:30am
$20 for individual 5k
$25 for individual 10k
$35 for individual half-marathon

October 2015, ride schedule coming soon

CicLAvia ~ Heart of LA
October 9, 2016

39th Annual Mission Inn Run
Sunday, November 13, 2016
$40 for 5k, $50 for 10k, $70 for half marathon
December 4, 2016
Bib Pick-Up Saturday December 3rd at Fleet Feet Sports, Burbank
$60 for 10k and $85 for the half-marathon

Friday, July 8, 2016

What Is Holding You Back From Achieving Your Potential?

The question is relatively straight forward and has been asked of people for generations.  Unfortunately, each of us do not always have the answer to achieve the success that we would like to or envision.  Why is this the case?  I believe the answer lies in looking within ourselves to work on "inner obstacles" that prevent us from moving toward the next level.  Why do I believe this to be the case?  I give you the example of a Paralympian Lex Gillette below as an example.

Identify The Obstacle!

Recently, I was in awe after watching a commercial of a ParaOlympian for the upcoming Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.  Why?  These athletes are amazing to say the least.  Especially, since each have achieved an obstacle and moved forward to compete in the sport of their interest.

The example that I use is of Lex Gillette.  Here is the short (less and 1.5 minutes long) video of the advertisement titled "Raising An Olympian: Lex Gillette - U.S. Paralympian - P&G Thank You Mom" shown below:

Wow!  I cried the first time that I watched this commercial.  You might be thinking that I have over dramatized the video.  But each of us can learn from Lex's evolution.  Think about the video that is shown below in frames to illustrate my point of potential:

Here is a child who was bound to lose his eyesight as explained by his saddened mother.  Although, determined to support his interests, she pushes him to remain in a public high school and graduate as shown below:

During which, he showed an interest in the "long jump" and chooses to try out.  His mother describes with emotion the feeling of watching him go "off course" during his first jump and land on the "side of the pit" rather than in the sand.

I could only imagine the pain that is felt by a parent watching their child hit the side (of the sand box) and fail to achieve their goal.  Further, a majority of people would give up at this point in pursuing an interest (in the face of adversity).  Instead, Lex listened to great advice from his mother.  A powerful statement that had an immeasurable impact on his success:

"Lexis, it does not matter what anybody tells decide what you can do and no one else."

Wow!  What I do know is that the body is resilient and can adapt to a wide range of difficult situations if the mind chooses to train the body.  How do I know this?

I was born "club footed" and had to wear casts on my legs for the first couple of years of my life.  I can still remember the feeling of trying to walk as the casts were "straightening" out my legs over time.  I remarked on this to my mother a few years ago and her response was: "Mike, you can still remember that.  Amazing since you were so young."

She remembers having to watch me learn how to get up and go on my own -- despite her yearnings to help me.  Similarly, Lex Gillette needed to learn how to work with his blindness to achieve the "long jump" and to go onto compete in the Paralympics -- and win.

How has he done in competing over the years?

Here is a description of the competitions from his 'Wikipedia' page shown below:

He competed in the 2004 Summer Paralympics in Athens, where he won silver in the men's long jump F11 event. At the 2008 Summer Paralympics in Beijing, he won a silver medal in the men's long jump F11 event and finished fifth in the men's triple jump F11. He competed in 100m and 200m T11 events but did not advance to the finals. At the 2012 Summer Paralympics in London, he won a third consecutive silver medal in the men's long jump F11 event. He also finished fourth in the triple jump event.
At the 2013 IPC Athletics World Championships in Lyon, France, he won gold in the men's long jump F11 event and he also won silver in the triple jump event. Gillette is apart of the 2013 IPC Athletics World Championships 4 × 100 m relay team that won a silver medal and set a new American record in the process. Gillette broke his own long jump world record for F11 classified athletes of 6.73m (22 ft. 1in.) with a leap of 6.77m (22 ft. 2in.) on April 23, 2015 at a high performance meet held at the Chula Vista Olympic Training Center.[1][2]

This is a brief summary.  Below on the 'Wikipedia' page is a long list of his amazing accomplishments.  He is a true athlete and inspiration for anyone struggling to achieve their potential.  If you need motivation, do not look any further than him.

Ready To Explore Within Yourself?

This is just one of many stories meant to inspire anyone to find their potential within themselves.  There are a wide range of success stories all around us available to motivate a change toward achieving a goal.  Why don't we look for inspiration and action?

I guess that sitting on the 'pitty potty' ("poor me") is easier than the actual work toward achieving whatever goal the you desire.  The next time that you find yourself wondering why failure is knocking on your door, think of Lex Gillette.  Furthermore, get up and start working to achieve your desired goal.  Until next time, best of luck in your adventure!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

2016 Summer Garden

This summer, I am being of service to a fellow seed-saver.  I learned that heirloom seeds are those which are passed through generations of people.  I am growing a few varieties of heirloom plants this year for a friend who rides the train with us.

I did successfully raise one plant of Tomato "Black Prince" and one plant of Tomato "Cosmic Eclipse."  I believe I have one plant of Pepper "Sweet Salad" and one plant of Zucchini "Dark Star."  I was pretty confident in my ability to get these varieties from seed through one generation to produce more seeds, but with last week's heat wave I'm having trouble keeping the squash alive.  Some kind of tomato is sprouting alongside one of my peppers and they are all rapidly ougrowing their containers.

I also planted the California poppies way too close together and none of them flowered.  The Marigolds flowered and made seeds already.  I planted them to keep the other plants safe, as they are said to help tomatoes, peppers and squash.  The Dill totally bolted and is flowering now.  The cosmos sprung up but might not flower because they are so deprived of water and cool temps.  The Chard is FINALLY flowering, after what feels like many years.

Tell us what you're growing in your garden.  No matter how small of a space you have, you can still collect the most renewable resource we have: sunlight.  Turn solar energy into sugars and vitamins using plants and their metabolism.  Convert carbon dioxide into oxygen to improve the air quality.  A xeroscaped lawn and brick patio is a blank canvas for container gardening.  Your neighbors will thank you for it, mine do!