Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A Good Deed....

Good deed of the day complete. I had just stepped out for a walk around my neighborhood in Maryland when a woman asked for help in moving some very heavy bins. She was a retired teacher who is friends with one of my neighbors a few houses down who is also a teacher. The retired teacher was picking up two blue bins of children's books my neighbor had set out for her. Unfortunately, the bins were too heavy for her to lift on her own. Although I have back problems that prevent me from lifting heavy things, I walked over and began helping her get those books into her car. Turns out, the retired teacher runs a nonprofit with her husband in Pennsylvania. The books my neighbor donated and I helped get into her car will soon be shipped to children in Belize.

On a random note, here's a picture of a northern green frog from my backyard pond.


Monday, May 20, 2013

Moore, Oklahoma Tornado

Roopa and me. And since Roopa doesn't look too happy in this photo....
...I'll give you another to prove that she is one of the most cheerful people I know.
I live in Maryland and Austin, TX. In Maryland, we get tornadoes (about 10 a year), but all of them are usually EF0 to EF1. These cause damage and a few injuries, but they are pretty minor tornadoes. That is not to say we don't take them seriously. People have died from tornadoes in Maryland, but they are nowhere near the scale of tornadoes in the Plains.

One of my best friends, Roopa, recently moved from Maryland to Moore, Oklahoma. I just received a text from her, after worrying for most of the evening. She and her family are okay. Their house is okay. The EF4/5 tornado came within half a mile of their house.

I am so grateful that Roopa and her family are okay. Unfortunately, as I write this, 51 people, almost half of them children, are confirmed dead. I'm not religious, but I do pray that survivors in the elementary school are found.

Not to make light of the situation, but I hope that someone some day invents a method that would make building basements and underground shelters in the Plains easy and cost effective, and in the process help save lives during tornadoes like this.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

447 and

So the semester has ended, except for a final I have to grade once I get back from Akron, OH, which means I get to send Jee Jee (ARC) all the items I've crocheted for her during the semester.

-5 pairs of socks
-1 hat
-2 earwarmers (one is very small)
-1 cowl
-13 scarves

Now my total is 447 items donated since 2009.

So now to some of my thoughts (if you aren't interested in my life as a grad student, you can skip down to the next section on

An update on the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship: I didn't get it :D. I didn't want it since I don't want a PhD at this time and getting the NSF GRFP would have forced me into one. I'm still uncertain what I want to do in life. Now that I'm actually moving on my master thesis research (the reason why I'm in Akron), I feel better about paleontology. However, even though I'm enjoying it, I still can't see a future in paleontology for me. I think I still want to get a masters in chemistry and work in industry for a bit and then decide if it is something I want to continue with. A non sequitur, but I like teaching. I really enjoyed TAing GEO 404C Plate Tectonics and Earth History. In fact, I liked teaching more than I liked doing work for my thesis this semester. Meh. I guess we shall just let time tell...

Now to

If you can't tell already (which actually you may not have been able to tell), I LOVE To date, I've made 32 loans to 28 countries. Kiva is a microfinancing charity, in which lenders can loan as little as $25 to people all over the world (specifically in 64 countries). Usually, the people are in developing countries, although Kiva does have loans in the US. This is how the process works:

  • The borrower requests a small loan (from as low as $150 to as high as $6,500, although the US loans can be up to $10,000) from a micofinancing institution (MFI) in their home country.
  • The MFI disperses funds to the borrower and sends the loan information to Kiva, which then places the loan online.
  • Lenders (ordinary people, like you and me) from around the world lend as little as $25 to any of the 300 to 3,000 loans listed at any given time (there are usually just a few hundred around the 17th of each month and usually a few thousand around the 14-15th of each month for reasons I will explain later).
  • Your and my money is used to backfill the loan that has already been distributed to the borrower. This takes the risk of the loan off the MFI and onto you, which helps the MFI continue to provide more loans to be people who are looking to improve their qualities of life.
  • The borrower repays the loan as set by the schedule of the MFI. The money first goes to the MFI and then to Kiva and then to you.
  • The money arrives back in your account on the 15th of each month (everyone relends the money to new loans then so that's why there are so many listed prior to this date and so few after). You can relend the money to your heart's content or withdraw it.
  • Kiva costs nothing to sign up or to use ever (of course not including the money you lend). If you follow this link, you (and me) can get a free $25 loan to a listed loan of your choosing (this money will be repaid to Kiva, not you or me).

Now I don't want to scare you with the "takes the risk of the loan off the MFI and onto you" part. I have never had a loan that ended with a loss. Although I have had a few loans that were delinquent (a late repayment), they always picked it up during the next month's repayment. Overall, lending on Kiva is very low risk and in the process, you are helping someone improve their life, help send their children to school, help expand their business so now they can hire additional employees and in turn improve their lives, and so on.

To help give you an idea of what your money can help do, here are some details about some of the loans that I have contributed to:

  • Countries: Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Chile, Ecuador, El Salvador, Georgia, Haiti, Honduras, Indonesia, Iraq, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Mali, Mexico, Mongolia, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Tajikistan, Uganda, Ukraine, United States, and Zambia (28 total)
  • I've donated to women, men, groups of one gender, groups of both genders, married people, single people, old, young, widows, widowers, mothers, fathers, a Palestinian refugee
  • Some are taxi drivers or wives of taxi drivers, some work in motorcycle or car repair shops, some are farmers, some sell food and other general supplies, some are artisans and make clothes and jewelry, some wish to make improvements to their home or even just build one
  • To see a full list of my loans:
  • Also if you are a Nerdfighter, the Kiva Nerdfighter team

Recently, I received an update from one of my loans (Made, Indonesia; jewelry artisan). Using the funds from the loan he requested, he has made the jewelry that has been listed on NOVICA and is available for purchase. Now, I'm not trying to promote him, but I am trying to give you the sense the the money that is lent to people through Kiva really does produce results and can true help their lives.