Monday, March 31, 2014

Let's Go O's!

I'm reppin my Baltimore pride in Mexico City today! Happy Opening Day! Let's Go O's!




Saturday, March 29, 2014

Article: Huge Mexican pyramid could collapse like a sandcastle

Not good news for the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan!



Photo of the Pyramid of the Sun from my visit in 2010
Photo of the Pyramid of the Sun from my visit in 2013
Click on the links to see photos from my visits to Teotihuacan in April 2013January 2011, and October 2010, as well as my family's visit (I had class!) in November 2011. 

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Huge Mexican pyramid could collapse like a sandcastle


The Pyramid of the Sun may fall apart. One side is dry while another side is wet, which could lead to the pyramid's collapse unless a fix can be found.
Between the 1st and 7th centuries, Mexico's Pyramid of the Sun was at the heart of the largest city in the Americas. Now known as Teotihuacan, the lost city had a population of more than 125,000, making it one of the biggest in the world. The pyramid itself is among the largest on the planet. Its exterior is covered with 3 million tonnes of volcanic rock, but the interior is a mound of earth.
From 2010 to 2013, Arturo Menchaca of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) in Mexico City and colleagues studied the interior of the pyramid using muons. These sub-atomic particles can pass through most materials, but are deflected when they hit denser ones. That means more muons reach the other side if an object has an internal cavity, filled with less dense air. So by tracking the paths of muons through the pyramid, Menchaca could create a 3D representation of its insides.
To do this, his team placed muon detectors under the centre of the pyramid, in a tunnel that runs beneath its base. The muons originate in space as cosmic rays, which break up into smaller particles when they pass through Earth's atmosphere.
The team was looking for internal chambers, but none was apparent. In contrast, the nearby Pyramid of the Moon contains royal tombs.
Instead they found a problem: the density of the earth in the pyramid is at least 20 per cent lower on one side than the other. "The pyramid is at risk of collapsing if something isn't done," says Menchaca. He presented his results at a conference on Teotihuacan at UNAM last month.
Menchaca believes the difference is caused by the south side drying out. He compares the pyramid to a sandcastle on a beach. "I can use slightly moist sand to make a sandcastle," he says. "If I leave it exposed to the sun and touch it when it is dry, then it crumbles."
The pyramid is "not going to collapse tomorrow", Menchaca says. "But it is the same phenomenon we observe in the subsoil of Mexico City." Mexico's capital is built on a dried-out lake, and every year the city sinks by tens of centimetres as water is extracted from aquifers beneath it.
Opinion is divided on how to save the pyramid. Menchaca suggests wetting the dry side.
But the real problem may be excess water, not dryness, says Alejandro Sarabia, the site director at Teotihuacan. "Decades ago, cement was added between the covering stones. This added stability and hindered the growth of vegetation," he says. "On the other hand, it prevents evaporation of damp created by water seeping through gaps."
Sarabia says archaeologists are now replacing the cement with more suitable materials like river sand.
This article appeared in print under the headline "Mexico's great pyramid under threat of collapse"

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Biking and EcoFest

Today we went for another bike ride along Paseo de la Reforma, this time riding to Plaza Tlaxcoaque (a plaza with a church I didn't know existed), about 10.7 km (6.6 miles) in total. 



Plaza Tlaxcoaque
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tlaxcoaque
"Sunday ride" route
Source: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mu%C3%A9vete-En-Bici/100801496692679
We also discovered that EcoFest was going on, so we walked along Paseo de la Reforma checking out the various stands (my favorites are the ones that give free samples - ha!). 




We also got something to eat at Los Loosers, which offers organic, vegan meals. Edson had the Black Burger with huitlacoche and mole and I had the Eggplant Burger. We also tried a brownie made with avocado and cocoa. 



Black burger (left), Eggplant burger (right) and brownie (in front) 

And just for fun - a photo hula hooping from last week at Paseo de la Reforma.




Friday, March 21, 2014

Choir rehearsal

A photo from rehearsal on Wednesday:

*Ana's photo

Article: Slug catches ride from Mexico, forces customs to destroy mint shipment to Elkridge

My current country of residence and hometown place near my hometown are currently linked in the news....about a slug.  

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Slug catches ride from Mexico, forces customs to destroy mint shipment to Elkridge


Officials say the slug, a 'new pest' for region, could have carried pathogens



A stowaway slug that caught a free ride on a shipment of Mexican mint bound for Elkridge was intercepted at Washington Dulles International Airport as the first of its kind to be identified in the Washington region.
Considered a threat to crops and human health, it was captured — and the mint destroyed.

An entomologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture confirmed the Philomycidae slug was a "new pest" for the region, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials said Friday.

The slug was discovered late last month in an 83-pound shipment of mint that had been flown into Dulles. Its destination in Elkridge was not identified.

Slugs can carry human pathogens, including parasitic nematodes that have become a worldwide problem, according to customs officials. They also "eat a wide variety of leafy plants causing damage and disease and potentially lowering crop yield," the agency said.

"This is another example of our agriculture specialists performing a thorough inspection and finding a new potential threat to the U.S. agriculture industry," said Christopher Hess, CBP Port Director for the Port of Washington, in a statement.

The slug was quarantined for inspection, while the importer of the mint shipment selected to destroy it through "steam sterilization" rather than pay to export it out of the country — the only options offered.

The customs agency said it inspects tens of thousands of passengers and air and sea cargoes nationally each day and seizes "4,379 prohibited meat, plant materials or animal products, including 440 insect pests."

krector@baltsun.com
twitter.com/rectorsun


Read more: http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/howard/elkridge/bs-md-slug-intercept-20140321,0,5462504.story#ixzz2weiICrZ6

El Caudillo

Edson and I went to the cantina El Caudillo two weekends ago to celebrate a birthday. It was my first time there and I still can't quite get over the place!

It was explained to me that there are traditionally two types of cantinas: some that have a menu you can order off of and others that give you snack foods (like quesadillas, for example) to accompany your drinks. At El Caudillo, with the consumption of 4 (alcoholic) drinks, you get a 4-course meal for free!


The first course is soup. I chose Sopa Azteca. The second course is rice or salad. I had some really yummy roasted veggies. Ok. Nothing out of the ordinary. 

menu
What blew me away is that the third and fourth courses are huge portions and surprisingly good. I thought it would be along the lines of most buffets - quantity over quality - but was pleasantly surprised that this was not the case. The third course had options like enchiladas, huaraches, and pork chops. I had enchiladas de mole.  The fourth course included options like ribs, veal, fish, shrimp, arrachera (flank steak?), T-bone steak, chicken, leg of pork (it was huge!!), rabbit, or quesadillas. I think I had baked veal breast? (Though I wasn't sure what it was while ordering) So. Much. Food!

at El Caudillo
There was also live music. I think we saw three or four different singers / groups while we were there. According to their brochure they have live music every day (well, minus Sundays when they're closed). It was a fun (and tasty) evening!


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Drinks at Maison Artemisia

On Saturday we celebrated a friend's birthday at Maison Artemisia, a restaurant and bar located in La Roma neighborhood and inspired by La Belle Époque in France.

Downstairs is the restaurant -- we didn't try the food, but I've heard it's good (...and expensive). They play up the secret/ exclusive club aspect and we had to be let in through the otherwise closed door next to the restaurant and invited upstairs to the bar. I liked the decor and the vibe of the place.

upstairs at the bar at Maison Artemisia
The bar is famous for its absinthe, imported from France and Switzerland, and absinthe-based cocktails. While I tried the girls' absinthe, I opted for a cocktail. I got the house specialty, an Artemisia Sour, with absinthe, lemon, egg white, sugar, and chocolate shavings. It was definitely an interesting mix of flavors.

with my Artemisia Sour at Maison Artemisia
Artemisia Sour
They feature cocktails with other spirits as well. For me, absinthe was interesting to try, but I'm not a huge fan of the anise flavor. For round two I tried a Lemongrass Collins, made with vodka, vanilla, Licor 43, lemon, and ginger beer.  It doesn't look too intimidating, but it was strong!


Most of the cocktails boast an interesting combination of flavors (which threw us off when one "only" tasted like raspberry - hah!). They're not cheap though -- absinthe or cocktails range from 130 to 180 pesos each. 

a photo of our (not absinthe-based) cocktails 

I liked the vibe of the place and the cocktails were high quality and very interesting. It made for a fun night!


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Article: Labor Shortages Increase U.S. Reliance on Imported Foods, Harming Local Economies

Labor Shortages Increase U.S. Reliance on Imported Foods, Harming Local Economies

Written by on March 18, 2014 in AlabamaBusinessEconomicsAmerican Immigration Council
Immigration Impact
While U.S. consumers increasingly seek out locally grown produce in grocery stores and farmers markets, imported fruits and vegetables are making up a growing share of the produce consumed in the United States. U.S. agricultural production is out of alignment with the demands of consumers and one problem is the difficulty in finding skilled farm workers, according to a new report from the Partnership for a New American Economy. Using data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Commerce, and the University of Georgia, the report shows that one of the main reasons for the increase of imported fruits and vegetables is due to an outmoded immigration system because growers have trouble accessing the labor needed to harvest crops and expand production. In particular, “American families are eating more imported fresh produce today than ever before, in substantial part because U.S. fresh produce growers lack enough labor to expand their production and compete with foreign importers.” These labor force challenges also lead to a loss in gross domestic product (GDP), farm income, and a negative impact on local economies.
Specifically, the report finds:
  • “In recent years, the share of fresh fruits and vegetables consumed by American families that was imported has grown by 79.3 percent.”
  • “In America, our production of fresh produce and the demands of consumers are increasingly out-of-sync. While the amount of fresh produce and vegetables consumed by Americans has grown in recent years, production levels have either barely grown or declined.”
  • “Had U.S. fresh fruit and vegetable growers been able to maintain the domestic market share they held from 1998-2000, their communities would have enjoyed a substantial economic boost, resulting in an estimated $4.9 billion in additional farming income and 89,300 more jobs in 2012 alone. U.S. GDP would have been $12.4 billion higher in 2012.”
  • “Labor challenges faced by U.S. farmers and the inadequacies of the H-2A visa program are a key reason why American farmers have been unable to maintain their share of the domestic market. Labor alone can explain as much as $3.3 billion in missed GDP growth in 2012. It also accounts for $1.4 billion in farm income that wasn’t realized this year.”
Whether it’s Florida oranges, Georgia peaches, or Washington apples, people increasingly want to know where their food comes from and who produces it. As the report states:
“From a business perspective, this presents U.S. growers with a real opportunity to expand their operations and contribute more to the country’s economic growth…In an era when the vast majority of Americans say they are concerned about food safety, domestic farms hold a real advantage: Studies have consistently found that U.S. consumers worry that other countries have more relaxed standards and enforcement when it comes to the chemicals and safety practices used in fresh food production. Fruits and vegetables are also playing a greater role in the U.S. diet than they did in the past. From 2003-2005, for instance, the average American household ate 63 more pounds of commercially produced fresh produce annually than they had 20 years before. Domestic fresh fruit and vegetable growers then have been in a unique position to claim a larger piece of an ever-growing pie.”
No one is saying it’s better for the U.S. to import all of its food, yet the disconnect between our current immigration system and  current economic demands creates a need to import more of our food. It is also leading to local economic and job losses in agricultural areas, which means farmers and growers can’t expand their operations in local places. Consequently, it hurts local economies when farmers face a shortage of workers and are unable to expand their production.
Foreign-born workers play a critical role in food production in the United States. That much became clear in the economically disastrous aftermath of state “self-deportation” immigration legislation like Georgia’s HB 87 and Alabama’s HB 56. Those states’ agricultural economies suffered enormous losses as a result of such legislation. But by instituting meaningful reforms to modernize our immigration system to meet the needs of our economy and society, while protecting workers and their families at the same time, we can ensure that more of the food we eat is produced locally.
- See more at: http://immigrationimpact.com/2014/03/18/labor-shortages-increase-u-s-reliance-on-imported-foods-harming-local-economies/#sthash.5l4UAwCf.dpuf

International meals

I've enjoyed lots of delicious international meals over the last couple of weeks!

At the end of February we enjoyed homemade Argentine/Italian-style pizza and a tortilla española / Spanish omelette (thick egg omelette with fried potatoes and onion) with my roommates and some of their friends. (Sorry for the blurry photos!)

Pizza (left) and tortilla española (right)


At the beginning of March a Brazilian friend prepared feijoada for us (a typical dish in Brazil), plus another friend bought rajas con crema (a Mexican dish of sliced poblano peppers with cheese and cream), which was the first time I was able to enjoy the dish without it being too spicy!

the fixings for feijoada (plus the rajas con crema in the blue bowl)
feijoada
This past weekend we had another international lunch at my apartment. I made shrimp salad sandwiches (with Old Bay, of course!) to represent Maryland.

Shrimp salad sandwiches
Representing Mexico, Edson made "bistecate": a combination of "bistec" (steak) and "aguacate" (avocado), blended together and eaten in a taco.

bistecte, with scallions on the side
My roommate from Sevilla, Spain made Salmorejo, a purée with tomato, bread, garlic, oil, and vinegar, which can either be eaten as a (cold) soup, or put on top of bread with some olive oil, hard boiled egg, and cucumber.

Salmorejo

bread with Salmorejo, hard boiled egg, and cucumber 
My roommate from Cadiz, Spain made fried fish and fried calamari. Everything was delicious!

Shrimp salad sandwich, bread with Salmorejo and hard boiled egg, fried fish,
and a bistecate taco
On Sunday, Edson and I had leftover shrimp salad, plus chilaquiles (tortillas quartered and fried to make totopos, covered in a tomato-based salsa, topped with queso fresco and onion) with a bit of steak and chicken on the side.


Yum!!


Sunday bike ride

On Sunday I got my very own EcoBici card! Woohoo! (And now it's linked to the metro / metrobus card - how convenient!)

people biking past the Diana Cazadora Fountain
From there Edson and I participated in the "Sunday Ride" along Paseo de la Reforma.  We biked from the Angel of Independence to the end of the route and then back to the Caballito statue (about 12.7 km or 7.9 miles in total).

Sunday's "Sunday Ride" Route
Source:
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mu%C3%A9vete-En-Bici/100801496692679




Friday, March 14, 2014

Video: One Minute in Mexico - The Perennial Plate's Real Food World Tour

Yum! (Who wants to come visit and eat yummy food?)

One Minute in Mexico - The Perennial Plate's Real Food World Tour




Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Bad news in the DF

Two pieces of bad news in the DF.....

1. Yesterday officials announced that just 16 months after the new gold / no. 12 Metro line opened, 11 of the 20 stations will be closed for up to 6 months for repairs of structural defects. According to an article by Agencia EFE (published here or here): 

"A waviness in the rails along the 14 kilometers (about 9 miles) of track between the Tlahuac and Atlalilco stations has caused damage to the wheels of metro trains such that six of the 30 trains are out of service.The unevenness in the rails results in strong vibrations and caused an electric cable to fail, not to mention creating cracks in the ties and fractures in the supports for the track. Authorities said that 300 buses will be used to temporarily replace service along Line 12." 

Let's not forget that it took about 4 years to build and cost around 24 billion pesos (~1.8 billion USD). 

-and-

2. (Though this is nationally and not just the DF) The price of limes has gone up by 68%, up to 59.90 pesos (4.51 USD) per kilo. If I hadn't mentioned it before, let me be clear that lime (plus some kind of salsa, chile, or chile powder) goes on just about everything here! Though at times it's used as a main ingredient, lime is usually used as a condiment to enhance flavor. We're talking on fruit, veggies, meat, tacos, soups, seafood, etc., not to mention limeade or micheladas (beer + lime + salt on the rim) to drink.

Though it's bad news for anyone buying limes, it has resulted in some pretty entertaining memes (which is also pretty typical in Mexico - poking fun at difficult situations as a form a criticism). Here's a few that I've seen floating around Facebook: 


Tequila: 50 pesos
Double: 75 pesos
with lime: 500 pesos
Money does grow on trees! 
I'll exchange a lime tree for
a luxury house with a pool 
Special sale on limes
[...] and no interest for up to 18 months
Liverpool (an expensive department store in Mexico) 
new form of payment! 
If life gives you limes...
collect them because it's pure gold, a kilo of limes is super expensive! 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Jacarandas

Technically we're not quite there yet, but there are signs of Spring all over the city! The jacarandas are in bloom!









Happy Birthday Elon University!

Happy Elon Day from Mexico City! Today Elon University (my alma mater) celebrates 125 years since its founding!


If you're interested, check out the Elon E-net article here: http://www.elon.edu/e-net/Article/89913