Sunday, February 12, 2012

UPDATE - August 29, 2011

Has this ever happened to you?

You arrive at an event, and as one blogger said, you’re confused as you try to figure out which option you are:
omnivore, carnivore, locavore, flexitarian, pescatarian, pollotarian, raw foodist, vegetarian, ovo-vegetarian, lacto-vegetarian, lacto-ovo-vegetarian, lactating-ovulating vegetarian, lactose-intolerant vegetarian, vegan, bi-curious vegan (fantasizes about eggs and milk), gluten-free, glutton-free, or decline to state.

What about this?

You are thirsty and about to grab a Styrofoam cup and someone yells.

“I can’t believe you’re about to grab a Styrofoam cup. That is soooo bad for the environment.”

“Hmmm.” So you change your mind and you reach for a plastic cup.

“I can’t belieeeeve you’re about to grab a plastic cup. Don’t you know how long that
will stay in the environment?”


“And don’t you know that’s made from oil or fossil fuels?”

“Ok.” You put it down and you go for a paper cup.

“Are you serious? A paper cup? Do you know where that comes from?”


“From a tree, mister. You must be tired today. We’re not killing any trees today. We’re going to be hugging them. Put that thing down, hugger.”

“Ok.” You start hugging yourself but can’t get your arms around your body (or I can’t). So you put down the paper cup and reach for a glass thinking she won’t say anything now. But now her friend yells at you.

“So you’re going to use a glass knowing full well, someone has to waste water and soap on that when you don’t have to use any water to wash a paper cup?”

“But she sai—“

“I don’t care what she said. Why would you waste water like that?”

“I thought it was a renewable resou—“

“Renewable my beautiful thick lips! My lipstick is renewable; it’s called saliva. But water is not necessarily renewable. Are you going to use lukewarm water or cold water?”

“Uhhh, I usually wash with lukewarm water, so---“

“So, you’re going to use water and use the energy of the water heater to heat the water to wash the dish, and your dishwashing liquid isn’t even made from natural ingredients.”

You look around. “Where did your friend go? The anti-styrofoam, anti-plastic, anti-paper one?”

In this environmentally aware age, sometimes it’s confusing to decide which option uses the least amount of energy or contributes the least amount to carbon emissions. At my current job, we have four bins—food compost, recycling, landfill, and glass. We have napkins/serviettes that are made from 100% recyclable materials. When people finish eating, I have seen people throw the napkins into the landfill. I’ve seen some throw it into the recycling bin, and I’ve seen some throw it into the food composting bin. Which is it? And how can you recycle used napkin?

And how am I supposed to use cold water washing to get stains out of clothes that are white cotton? I mean isn’t that the purpose of warm wash and hot wash to get stains out of clothes that can undergo warmer water? I mean I’ve listened to the two women above who were complaining, and I’ve done cold wash, but people always look at me strange when I walk around with stains on my clothes cold-washed clothes or on my jacket. They think I don’t know.

“Hey, you’ve got a stain on your jacket.”

“Oh really?”

“Yeah, it’s right---hey, where are you going?”

I head out to find the anti-paper woman. I think she’s ok with warm water.

I’ve had a good past few months doing some education work from September through December while waiting for a visa for a new job in London. In the meantime I’ve done some writing for an online newspaper. I’ve listed a few of the articles below if you want to read them. The editor asked me to write about the intersection between science and faith so they are quite controversial and touch writings, but the point was to create conversation and the 2nd one below definitely did that. The first two articles were edited and came out a bit disjointed and poorly ended; I have a better joint version of the two blog entries together. If you want that, I can send it to you.

Role of Doubt in Science & Faith Part I
Role of Doubt in Science & Faith Part II
A Dinner Party
Does Science Make Belief in God Obsolete?
Adam & Eve and Mystery (this entry is pasted in an augmented form at the bottom of this update)

I think the biggest thing going on is that my fellowship is coming to a close at the moment (August 31, 2011). The funny thing about that is so many people still don’t know what I do. So I thought I would take some time in this update not to explain my program and why I moved to DC, but to at least explain what I do day-to-day.

It’s been a really exciting time, though, for me. I still live in quite a boring shell of a life with a superficially regular schedule, but I find ways to spice it up, mostly and usually through interpersonal encounters and relational living. I’ve been blessed to see Beth and Buddy (like 2nd parents to me), Efrat (really good friend from high school who is in the best place in life that I’ve seen her for a long time, though she still argues I’m certifiably crazy), Jose-Miguel (deeply close friend who I’m happy to say is wedding soon. ConGRATS!!). I’ve had some great trips to see different parts of the country and world experiencing the Grand Canyon for the first time and participating in the tornado relief efforts in Joplin, Missouri. And I’ve spent a great deal writing and editing. It always amazes me the vast variety of things I’m asked to write or review. I’ve been working on two chapters on fluid dynamics for a new book later this year, science education policy, the interaction and sociological interplay between drug use, gang violence, and HIV prevalence in South Africa, renewable energy policy and energy security, etc. I’m enjoying it and I hope this continues, but it reminds me of another point.

I had someone close to me, recently, openly criticize me saying that my problem is that I have no focus in my life. “By now, everyone in the world should have heard of the name Victor Udoewa.” This point was underscored when my PhD advisor came to DC because he was being awarded a National Medal of Science by President Obama. At one of the ceremonies, he took joy in introducing me, but he would always say “This guys is good at too many things; he’s good at everything.” This was something he normally said, but then he added, for the first time, “And his problem is that he can’t focus. He has no focus.” This was the first time I heard him say something like that. . . almost as a criticism. So I’ve thought about it a lot. I think the problem with such statements is that they are connected to what I said last time: too many people believe the only people doing real impacting work are famous. Regardless of my beliefs, I’m so happy to report that I have experienced this as untrue. That’s why I’m always overjoyed to see programs that try to highlight the efforts of unsung, unknown heroes because they exist everywhere. CNN has a program on heroes for instance, and I’m always glad to see more good news in the news instead of the biased turn it’s taken towards the negative and horrific.

In general, without men “who didn’t focus” we would lose the imaginative creations and inventions of men like Leonardo da Vinci and Benjamin Franklin (this guy did EVERYTHING). Yes, with the amount of knowledge we have today and the rate that knowledge currently doubles, it is highly improbable that someone can do as much as Renaissance men like Franklin and da Vinci; I know that just to get to the edge of knowledge today in even one field requires many years of focused study (believe me, I did the “pursuit of focused study”). Still, I say that you need not be focused on one thing or the other thing in order to make a difference. Not only does this ignore the many people, even today, who do it quite well, but it also reduces life our experience to s dualist one ignoring the interconnectedness of fields, studies, intelligences, and realms of work.

So as it gets colder and colder in the mid-Atlantic region and the beauty of changing leaves bursts through our foliage in its ever persistent southward march, I wanted to take a moment to remind of you what I’ve been doing during the day. . . for the most part. :-) Sometimes the oversized, gigantic acorns fall crashing down onto car windshields and distract me. Other times they lead me into a song or a frenzied march of creativity.

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