The Daily Gusketeer

Baja Trek's daily blog.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Glasses for Mexican Children

I just heard that Yves Behar, a fancy-pants designer and a partner with the OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) project, is beginning a new project that is surprisingly down-to-earth! It's goal: to provide a solution to the need for glasses among low-income kids in Mexico. Apparently about a half million children entering school down here in Mexico each year need glasses, and few of them get a pair. Even fewer get cool ones...

Fuseproject says: "Currently, the percentage of children in need of lenses at or above .75 correction [...] can be as high as 60-70% in some schools in states like Morelos, Sonora and Chiapas. The average classroom need percentage is 11%. Additionally, the wearing of glasses is looked at as a handicap, this social stigma adds to the resistance to correct the problem," (taken from here).

Behar's group has apparently gotten the manufacturing cost of a pair of these glasses down to 10 bucks.  The glasses come in five styles, three sizes and seven colors and apparently are designed to look cool.  The project, called "Ver Bien para Aprender Mejor", is being co-funded by the Mexican government, Augen Optics, and the non-profit created for this program. Their aim is to produce and give out 300,000 pairs of glasses a year.

The idea is that school children will receive eye exams from their local optometrist, or from a visiting one if none is available, and their prescriptions will be sent off to create the glasses, which should arrive back to the children within a few weeks.  The coolest part is the design of the glasses, which pop apart hot dog-style when you need to replace the lenses with a new prescription. Behar talks a lot about valuable design: "What I'm always trying to demonstrate is that you can get high-quality design at a low price point when a low price is just one of the criteria you are using in creating the design," (taken from here). He's an interesting guy!

Learn more about the project here.

Since I mentioned the OLPC project in passing, I'm going to indulge and include it in today's post! If you've done some traveling/volunteering around Latin America, you may have run across one of the signature little green laptops that OLPC distributes (at left).

Their mission: "To create educational opportunities for the world's poorest children by providing each child with a rugged, low-cost, low-power, connected laptop with content and software designed for collaborative, joyful, self-empowered learning." Yeah! Joyful, self-empowered learning is something we can all get behind, right?

The OLPC Mexico wiki is a good source of info on what's happening with the program within Mexico. Check it out! Contribute or just feel good about it!

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Moon Zoo

Put on your space suits! The Moon needs you!

Check out this NPR article, which explains about how our new Moon-Cam, a.k.a. the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), is sending back far more images than can be processed by the researchers on hand. So Chris Lintott of Oxford has set up a new site called Moon Zoo, designed for people like us to help sift through the images! We can help identify craters, rocks, leftover space junk, and other cool features.

The best part is that this isn't just grunt-work that some computer could do, but tasks specifically requiring a human brain, hopefully yours, which can pick out strange things on the Moon's surface, and get its curiosity piqued by unusual features that don't belong. They're counting on us to help!

Get started now! I know I'm going to. Here's an intro video they suggest watching to get "trained" on how to help:

Moon Zoo: Crater Survey from The Zooniverse on Vimeo.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Save the Whales!

Sure, it's a lot easier to campaign to save the big, huggable beasts than the little grubs that are equally important to sustaining the health of our world's ecosystems, but if we're having trouble keeping even the largest, most campained-about animal species protected, then you know that we're really in trouble!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Fish Tacos!

I had the good fortune to chance upon this incredible-looking recipe for the Ultimate Baja Fish Taco today, over on The Paupered Chef. (I love their moto: "Shallow pockets, rich feasts.")

They'll have you prepare tortillas from scratch (flour ones), then make the creamy white sauce based on yogurt, mayo, and a whole bunch of yummy spices, and then fry your fish in batter. Looks pretty authentic to me!

So if you're sitting at home missing Baja and its tasty tacos, you should probably this recipe a try and see if it helps or hurts the nostalgia.

And then you should get on the bus for our upcoming Beach Break Trek down to Cuatros Casas this weekend! :)


Thursday, May 20, 2010

Mexico's Green Movement

Here's an interesting article from Forum for the Future about Viva la vida verde, a publication which aims to document the current state of the Green Movement in Mexico. Sure, it's from last year, but I just happened upon it today. And it sure is still relevant!

Some examples of Mexican environmental leadership that the article mentions:
  • "the Mexican tourism industry, one of the biggest in the world, is linking up traditional package holidays with local food projects and coral reef conservation;
  • Mexico City has an ambitious Green Plan – with a goal of being self-sufficient for water by 2022, the introduction of waste to energy plants and a citywide recycling scheme;
  • Mexico is to plant 250 million trees over the next decade;
  • conservation efforts are being made to protect species such as the monarch butterfly;
  • President Calderon sees a Green Fund as a better way to reduce global carbon emissions than the Clean Development Mechanism."
Yay for the Mexican tourism industry! That includes us, right?  Read about our own Baja Trek Mission and check out our Eco-travel pages to see about our own environmental commitments.

Read the Viva La Vida Verde publication here (PDF).

Monday, May 17, 2010

Wiki day!

Wikis are awesome. Editable conglomerations of random assorted knowledge. What could be better?

Here's a Baja California travel wiki that really needs some editing help. I mean, come on, this is all you can find to say about the food?
"Baja is famous for fish tacos; there is some disagreement about whether they were "invented" in San Felipe or Ensenada - try both and make up your own mind! Mexicali's Chinese restaurants are well-known."
Give them some help! Put in your favorite taco spot. Ours is definitely Lalo's in La Rumorosa...

Another awesome wiki I ran across lately is the one on  They have all kinds of great topics covered, like How to Use a Plastic Garbage Bag for Survival

Other good topics:
There are a bunch of pretty entertaining wikis, from Wikibooks, which is dedicated to open-content textbooks on all kinds of disciplines, to Wikihow, where you can learn how to make a zoetrope.

Lastly, you should probably check out Wiki's Best,  which documents some of the glorious things that happen on Wikipedia.  Ferret Legging? Really?

Friday, May 14, 2010

A Sustainability Primer

Here at Gus Headquarters, we throw the word "sustainable" around a lot. Besides having to keep our little business economically sustainable without crossing over to the dark side, we also try to build our treks to be not just environmentally benign, but ecologically sustainable, not least by helping to complete the cycle from waste back to food in Gus's very gas tank!

Additionally, I think, we make a lot of effort to think about the cultural and social implications of what we're doing, not just for the lovely Gusketeers, but also for the people of Baja. We spend a lot of time considering how best to foster cultural integrity, awareness and interchange, and perhaps we could use the term "cutural sustainability" to help guide us in our thoughts about how best to facilitate this interchange and help it carry over into people's everyday lives.

All in all, we like to think of Gus as a little red microcosm of malleable civilization within our greater one. I'd like to think that we should work on fostering all aspects of sustainability. Not because we're trying to be good people, but because it's a vision of how we want our civilization to work.

Check out 18 short theses about sustainability below...

Theses on Sustainability: A Primer by Eric Zencey in Orion Magazine:

[1] THE TERM HAS BECOME so widely used that it is in danger of meaning nothing. It has been applied to all manner of activities in an effort to give those activities the gloss of moral imperative, the cachet of environmental enlightenment. “Sustainable” has been used variously to mean “politically feasible,” “economically feasible,” “not part of a pyramid or bubble,” “socially enlightened,” “consistent with neoconservative small-government dogma,” “consistent with liberal principles of justice and fairness,” “morally desirable,” and, at its most diffuse, “sensibly far-sighted.”

[2] NATURE WILL DECIDE what is sustainable; it always has and always will. The reflexive invocation of the term as cover for all manner of human acts and wants shows that sustainability has gained wide acceptance as a longed-for, if imperfectly understood, state of being.

[3] AN ACT, PROCESS, OR STATE of affairs can be said to be economically sustainable, ecologically sustainable, or socially sustainable. To these three some would add a fourth: culturally sustainable.

[4] NATURE IS MALLEABLE and has enormous resilience, a resilience that gives healthy ecosystems a dynamic equilibrium. But the resiliency of nature has limits and to transgress them is to act unsustainably. Thus, the most diffuse usage, “sensibly far-sighted,” is the usage that contains and properly reflects the strict ecological definition of the term: a thing is ecologically sustainable if it doesn’t destroy the environmental preconditions for its own existence.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Flickr Buses!

Just noticed this Flickr blog post called Hit The Road, full of VW bus pictures. (We do love our VW buses.)

And we couldn't help but follow up on their exhortation to dream up our ultimate road trip.

Of course our dreams are mostly full of a different kind of bus...
(All pics below are from Flickr, found through the search engine. Photographer names are at the bottom!)

(^ Gus himself in days of old!)