Imagining a World Without Humans

What if humans were no longer around to run the Hydraulics Emergency Response system in Manhattan… would the 13 million gallons of water overpower the city’s subway tunnels? What about the Palo Verde, Ariz. nuclear generating station, which employs 2,000 people just to keep pumps and filters cooling the plant’s steam columns?

See Women’s Adventure Magazine for my recent review of The World Without Us, by Alan Weisman.

If you liked The Tipping Point, The World is Flat or Freakonomics, this should be right up your alley!



It wasn’t until I returned home from China and Japan that I realized how much the trip to Asia had altered my appreciation for tea. Tea – actually, I should say good tea – is an integral part of life in Asia.

Tea cups at Mount Koyasan, Shinjoshin-in Buddhist Monastery

Tea cups at Mount Koyasan, Shinjoshin-in Buddhist Monastery

Here at my folks’ house, the Bigelow tea bags that I found in the cupboard just didn’t cut it. (Turns out it was Earl Grey Green Tea – not the best mix!) But last night, I discovered a fabulous new tea shop in Madison (Ct.), called Savvy Tea. The owner, Phil, and his wife have a passion for tea and he’s been drinking green tea and traveling to Asia for decades. 

Along with my daily visits to my favorite book store (ever!) – R.J. Julia – Savvy Tea will definitely be on my meandering list.

And since I was so excited about good tea, I was up before the sun on this quiet, chilly fall morning, sniffing the tea leaves and trying out my new infuser.

Now I sit, enjoying the slow start to the day, trying to write, and savoring my cup of chartreuse Genmaimatcha.

Made in China

Made in China

Made in China

As I was sitting up in the stands during Opening Ceremonies, I noticed three little words on the plastic American flag I was waving: “Made in China.”

While it would probably be going too far to question whether we were outsourcing our patriotism, it was still one of those ironic moments worth capturing.

For me, the Paralympics are not just about national pride. They’re about international connections: rallying Chinese fans to cheer “Jia You, Mei Guo Dui!” (Let’s Go USA!) at the U.S. vs. Oz wheelchair rugby gold medal match; becoming friends with Beijing Morning Post reporter Stella Li (she’s in the USA jersey and my teeshirt says Beijing);

With Stella at the Water Cube

With Stella at the Water Cube

outside the Birds Nest, offering to take a picture of a family who, though they didn’t speak English, were able to express appreciation with smiles.

More than 4000 athletes from 148 countries competed at the 2008 Summer Paralympics… I think that example of peaceful competition and mutual respect is something we can all use more of.

Between the Water Cube & The Birdsnest

I truly had such high hopes for blogging daily while I was traveling last month in China and Japan. The initial challenges with Internet access and (alas!) work got in the way of good intentions. So, in bits and pieces, I hope to recreate some of my favorite memories and experiences… especially now as I’m going through the pictures from this amazing adventure!

Blue Sky at the Water Cube

Blue Sky at the Water Cube

 Top 5 reasons why the Beijing Paralympics lived up to its “Amazing Awaits” tagline:

1) The People. No matter where you are in the world – no matter what the political or economic or religious situation/strife/mentality – it all comes down to the people. In Beijing, I encountered some of the most friendly and open people I’ve ever met, with contagious enthusiasm for whatever the moment had in store.

2) Unexpected Blue Sky Days. Note picture, which is not photoshopped.

3) The Venues. Yes, I am narrowly focused because I spent 95% of my time in – and working from! – the Water Cube (officially: National Aquatics Center), but the venues were phenomenal. The Cube was mesmorizing, especially seen from night with the outside bubble exterior changing from turquoise to violet amidst the festive music coming from the plaza.

4) Shooting Star. Yes, I actually saw a shooting star one night – and no, it was not a lead toy being thrown out a factory window as one friend accused! While we were there a total of 20 days, we had at least three clear nights of seeing stars. Granted, it was nowhere near what we get from our clear Colorado skies and the air wouldn’t even come close to an autumn day on the east coast, but hey, when you set your expectations low, you can be content with less than stellar outcomes. (However… don’t even get me started on the topic of low expectations when it comes to Palin!)

5. Photos. Topping my list of experiences during all of September was my walk between the Water Cube and the Birdsnest. Whether it was early morning with only a handful of people walking about and the fountain water show just warming up; or the evening walk back to the hotel with joyous music blaring, people posing for pictures everywhere you turned, little kids yelping as they ran through fountain dodging the spurts water…. I took my time and slowed down during that walk, taking in every moment and trying not to forget it. I’ve never seen so many people so unconditionally happy in one place. To me, the smiles, enthusiasm and simple appreciation for a new experience that I witnessed in that plaza epitomize my experience in Beijing.

Still pictures won’t do it justice, so check out Joe’s blog (the entry “Random acts of Happiness”) for a quick video.