Accurate Land Size​ Maps

Studying the Mercator map, the one on display in most U.S. classrooms, one of my students might exclaim, “Wow! Greenland is huge.” Or, “India is so small. Must be crowded.” Their predictable comments met with my well-rehearsed explanation that maps are two-dimensional while the Earth is three-dimensional. I’d  have them peel an orange that is close to the shape of our Earth, then ask them to flatten it and discuss what happened and the implication for our world map.

Below is the map that you’ve grown up with, right?

Mercator Projection Map

Take a close look at the map. North America (Mexico, U.S., and Canada) looks larger than Africa, and Scandinavia looks larger than India (below China). Greenland is huge, big enough to rival Africa.

All our maps, even Google maps, are wrong. Flynn Mercator, a European cartographer, created his map with Europe at the center, with its size generously inflated. Sixteenth century Europe was on the rise with Spanish explorers opening trade across the Pacific Ocean, linking the Americas with Asia. It’s easy to understand why Flynn saw Europe as the center of the world. I doubt that political correctness was much on European’s minds as they rushed around to conquer the wealth of the world. Fact checking came much later.

Boston Public Schools has decided to replace the Mercator maps in their classrooms with Peters projection maps that more accurately portray the sizes of the Earth’s continents. The Peters projection map distorts shapes, but visually, the scale, position, and proportion of the areas on the Earth are correct.

Peter Projection Map

Of all the land distortions on Mercator’s map, the elephant in the room is Africa. On the map, Africa looks smaller than North America, where in fact, it is three times larger. If you use Africa (white outline on map) as the base for a world puzzle and all pieces are correct to size, you can fit in the USA, India, Europe, and China, and still have space for Liberia and have room to squeeze Japan in as well. Wouldn’t my African-American students have found that empowering?

Africa map

Maps are made from different perspectives. Why is north always up? Up makes it more important somehow. North is up to the heavens and south is “below.” Let’s switch this around, have south reach up to the sky—sort of.  Europe and the U.S. don’t look as important.

South on Top

Our social and political biases come through our work, maps and writings. What I would tell my students today is that our world and lives are more beautiful than any one person’s perspective. I would tell them to “go and find your own beautiful life for yourself.”

Compare landmasses.

Watch the West Wing as it learns the true size of the Earth. Humor.

Blue Zones

Blue zones, Sardinia (Italy), Okinawa (Japan), Nicoya Peninsula (Costa Rica), Loma Linda (California), and the Island of Ikaria (Greece) are regions of the world where people live active lives often past 100. What contributes to these pockets of people living longer and healthier lives? Funded in part by the U.S. National Institute on Aging, scientists studied these five longevity hot spots to discover the answer. They found that good genes help (20-30%), but there were other contributing factors people share that appear to play a bigger influence than your parents’ longevity.

The residents of the Italian island of Sardinia—first Blue Zone identified—are culturally isolated. Here, not only do the women reach the age of 100 at an amazing rate, but men do as well. Sardinians hunt, fish, and harvest their food. Families and friends remain close, with laughing and sharing red wine together a part of everyday life.

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The longest living women in the world are in Okinawa, Japan. According to the UN, Japan has the highest number of centenarians (85% of the world’s centenarians are female) in the world. Active and social, the Okinawans’ regular diet is fish, rice, vegetables, soy, and whole grains. Japanese centenarians rule for eating is to stop when their stomachs are 80% full. I take that to mean before they actually feel full. Sumitra writes, “Not only do they live long lives, they live very healthy and happy ones too.” An old Okinawa saying goes, “At 70 you are still a child, at 80 a young man or woman. And if at 90 someone from heaven invites you over, tell him: ‘Just go away, and come back when I am 100.’”


The centenarians in Nicoya, a peninsula in Costa Rica, say the have a “plan de vida,” a reason to get up in the morning because they feel needed. Families retain close social networks and share a strong belief in God and their daily “faith routines” which helps them relieve stress and anxiety.  Moderate daily activities include walking bicycling, cooking, and taking care of animals. Like other Blue Zone populations, their diet is primarily plant-based, especially legumes (beans, peas, and lentils).


The fourth Blue Zone was found by researchers who were studying a group of Seventh-day Adventists in Loma Linda, a community in southern California. They discovered that the Adventists suffered a fraction of the diseases that kill most people in other parts of the U.S. “Many Seventh-Day Adventists are vegetarians, physically active, and involved in their community. In other words, their lifestyles are quite unique in an America where community has become less and less important and over one-third of the population is obese.” Adventists believe you should take care of what God has created. In the words of Pastor Randy of Loma Linda University’s Medical Center, “You are the temple of the Holy Spirit. Whatever you do in your body, you do it to the honor, the glory and the praise of God.” Smoking and drinking are discouraged, as is the consumption of caffeine, rich foods, and certain spices. Many celebrate the Sabbath (Saturday) by removing themselves from the larger culture.

Loma Linda

Ikaria is an island where people forget to die. They stay up late and take a siesta in the afternoon. The Ikarians experience a low stress lifestyle, maintaining their gardens, walking in nature and around the village with a view of the blue Aegean Sea. Their diet consists mainly of vegetables, fresh fruits, nuts, wheat, beans, fish and drinking with with friends and family. Family ties are important to Ikarians and houses often hold multiple generations. Grandparents have an active part in the upbringing of their grandchildren and the work in the household. From the Ikarian perspective, living alone is unhealthy.

Blue sea

Conclusion? The gift of a long and healthy life may be within our control. True, some of us are cursed with misbehaving genes that take us down, but those occurrences are a low percent. These  five longevity zones suggest that a long healthy life is about simplicity of lifestyle, whole food, sense of purpose—looking forward to getting up in the morning—, daily exercise, low stress, and social interactions.

Article is based on the book, The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest

The Answer


Tim drinks green tea, 175 degrees water poured over a tea bag with cut up green leaves. I drink  16 ounces of warm soy milk with matcha, green tea leaves milled into fine powder. After drinking his tea, Tim throws out the tea leaves. I, in a sense, eat them.

Couple of weeks ago at Starbucks, I suggested to my friend, Maryann, she try a green tea soy latte instead of her usual coffee. “What is that?” her voice full of doubt. Every time I’ve suggested this drink, it’s met with suspicion. Usually, I buy it for my friends over their objections and then they feel obliged to at least try it. It could be the name, green tea soy latte, or it could be that I flood out so many ideas to friends that their automatic response is to resist.

Sitting across from me, Maryann took a careful sip, looked surprised and said, “This is good!” She’s right. It is. Matcha gives a pleasant sense of what’s best described as “alert calmness.”

After introducing many friends to green tea lattes–my friend Ruth was so enthusiastic that she bought a milk frothier– that I set out to confirm how healthy the drink is. I know that whole food is better than extracted food like oranges and orange juice. But is that true for tea leaves? Or is tea like bananas, you should not eat the outer covering, only the extracted food or nutrients within?

The verdict from a published report is that between the two, Japanese green tea and Japanese matcha, the latter takes first spot. “You’ll get about two to three times more EGCG (antioxidants) from matcha” than from regular green tea, says Tod Cooperman, president of, of White Plains, N.Y.

Matcha tea is one of the biggest culinary successes of the last decade. Compared to power drinks and other advertised as good-for-you drinks, matcha leads the pack.

However, there is information about green tea that calls to be included. When Consumer Labs tested some popular green teas, it found that they had high amounts of lead. But before you worry too much about drinking green tea, 90% of the lead stays in the tea leaves.  When it comes to matcha, it is worth the effort to be discriminating. Here is what you need to know: Green Tea

  • Stick with matcha teas grown in Japan. The regions in Japan with the highest quality are Kyushu, Nishio, Shizuoka, and Uji. If the green powder does not come from Japan, it’s not matcha.
  • High quality matcha is bright green with a fine powdery consistency.
  • Expect to pay $6 to $32 for about an ounce.

Five a Day is Good. Ten is Better

veggiesThe World Health Organization recommends we should eat five portions of fruit and vegetables each day, 400g.  Canadians are told to eat ten or 800g. The CDC suggests five, 400g, ( as a baseline. A portion is 80g (3oz) of fruit or vegetables, (small banana, a pear, etc.).

Pooling data from 95 separate studies, the Imperial College of London concluded that eating five-a-day could prevent 7.8 million premature deaths each year.

Eating green and yellow vegetables and from the cruciferous (e.g., cabbage and kale) family lowered the risk of cancer.

Apples, pears, citrus fruits, salads, green leafy and cruciferous vegetables were linked to lower risks of heart disease and strokes.

When compared to eating no fruit or vegetables, eating:

200g, about half of U.S. recommendations, cut cardiovascular disease by 13% while 800g cut the risk by 28%

  • 200g cut the risk of cancer by 4%, while 800g cut it by 13%
  • 200g cut the risk of premature death by 15%, while 800g cut the risk by 31%


What you may want to know about the five-a-day list.

  1. Each portion should be about 80g.
  2. Beans count, but only as one serving. They are a good source of fiber but have fewer nutrients than fruit and vegetables. Putting beans on toast or eating hummus counts.
  3. Regular potatoes do not count, too much starch. But sweet potatoes do and you can make mashed cauliflower instead of mashed potatoes.
  4. Fruit juice counts, but never more than one portion because of its low fiber count. (Some nutritionist say fruit juice shouldn’t count at all.) Smoothies count as two portions if they contain whole fruit or vegetables and 100% juice.
  5. Dried fruits count because they have plenty of fiber. The portion size is reduced to 30g because they are high in calories.
  6. Onions count, but it’s hard to get 80g.
  7. Salad on your turkey sandwich will not be enough to add up to a serving. Eat a salad with you sandwich instead.
  8. Combine fruits and vegetables to make a single serving.
  9. The five-a-day should make up about a third of the food you eat in a day.

Government Over-Spending

The Horse and the Jockey, published on March 5, 2017, in my Sunday Newsletter for Women focused on excessive regulation.


The pie graph below shows that over-spending is not the hallmark of Democrats or Republicans. Both parties hold oars in the spending boat.

The numbers come from the website. Keep in mind, although the percentages seem small, they are NOT.  One percent may represent one billion, this depends on the size of the budget for that year. In 1977, Jimmy Carter (and Congress) had a deficit of 2.6%. In dollar terms, they overspent by $155 Billion.

Democrat   Jimmy Carter          (1977; -2.6%)  (1978; -2.6%)  (1979; -1.6%)  (1980; -2.6%)

Republican Ronald Reagan       (1981; -2.5%)   (1982; -3.9%)   (1983; 5.9%)   (1984; -4.7%)

Republican Ronald Reagan        (1985; -5%)      (1986; -4.9%)   (1987; -3.1%) (1988; -3%)

Republican George H. W. Bush  (1989; -2.7%)  (1990; -3.7%)   (1991; -4.4%) (1992; -4.5%)

Democrat Bill Clinton                 (1993; -3.8%)   (1994; -2.8%)  (1995; -2.2%) (1996; -1.2%)


As of 2015, 6% of the Budget went to pay interest on Debts. That’s the same as what money is allocated for Transportation and Education (The Federal Government represents about 10% of what is spent on Education. The rest of the money comes from the States.)

Democrat Bill Clinton                   (1997; -0.3%)   (1998; -0.8%) (1999; -1.3%)  (2000; -2.3%)

Republican George W. Bush         (2001; -1.2%)   (2002; -1.5%) (2003; -3.3%)   (2004; -3.4%)

Republican  George W. Bush        (2005; -2.5%)  (2006; -1.8%)  (2007; -1.1%)   (2008; -3.1%)

Democrat Barack Obama              (2009; -9.8%)   (2010; -8.7%)  (2011; -8.5%)   (2012; -6.8%)

Democrat Barack Obama               (2013; -4.1%)   (2014; -2.8%)   (2015; -2.5%)   (2016; -3.3%)

U.S. Presidents’ Take on Social Security

In Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen wrote, “people always live for ever when there is an annuity to be paid them.”

Rachel Maddow said, “Social security isn’t a ponzi scheme. It’s not bankrupting us. It’s not an outrage. It is working.”

Fact or fiction, after writing a “history lesson of Social Security” for my Sunday Newsletter, I set out to learn the views our past Presidents. The following come from the official Social Security website, starting with the earliest Presidents and working our way up to, but not including, Obama.  

Franklin Delano Roosevelt:  “This law represents a cornerstone in a structure which is being built but is by no means completed–a structure intended to lessen the force of possible future depressions, to act as a protection to future administrations of the Government against the necessity of going deeply into debt to furnish relief to the needy–a law to flatten out the peaks and valleys of deflation and of inflation–in other words, a law that will take care of human needs and at the same time provide for the United States an economic structure of vastly greater soundness.” -August 14, 1935

Harry S. Truman: “It has long been recognized as an inescapable obligation of a democratic society to provide for every individual some measure of basic protection from hardship and want caused by factors beyond his control. In our own country, the obligation of the Federal Government in this respect has been recognized by the establishment of our Social Security system. . . . The passage of the Social Security Act in 1935 marked a great advance in our concept of the means by which our citizens, through their Government, can provide against common economic risks. . .” -May 24, 1948

Dwight David Eisenhower: “The system is not intended as a substitute for private savings, pension plans, and insurance protection. It is, rather, intended as the foundation upon which these other forms of protection can be soundly built. Thus, the individual’s own work, his planning and his thrift will bring him a higher standard of living upon his retirement, or his family a higher standard of living in the event of his death, than would otherwise be the case. Hence the system both encourages thrift and self-reliance, and helps to prevent destitution in our national life.” -January 14, 1954

Lyndon Baines Johnson: “Thirty years ago, the American people made a basic decision that the later years of life should not be years of despondency and drift. The result was enactment of our Social Security program. . . . Since World War II, there has been increasing awareness of the fact that the full value of Social Security would not be realized unless provision were made to deal with the problem of costs of illnesses among our older citizens. . . . Compassion and reason dictate that this logical extension of our proven Social Security system will supply the prudent, feasible, and dignified way to free the aged from the fear of financial hardship in the event of illness.”
-January 7, 1965

Richard Milhous Nixon: “This Nation must not break faith with those Americans who have a right to expect that Social Security payments will protect them and their families. . . . In the 34 years since the Social Security program was first established, it has become a central part of life for a growing number of Americans. . . . Almost all Americans have a stake in the soundness of the Social Security system.” -September 25, 1969

Gerald Rudolph Ford: “The fortieth anniversary of the Social Security Act celebrates an important milestone in responsible public service. I continue to be impressed by the steady responsiveness of the Social Security program to the changing needs of our people. . . . I warmly commend the employees of the Social Security Administration whose efforts are such a positive influence on the lives of countless fellow citizens.” -August 9, 1975

Jimmy Carter: “The Social Security program is a pact between workers and their employers that they will contribute to a common fund to ensure that those who are no longer part of the work force will have a basic income on which to live. It represents our commitment as a society to the belief that workers should not live in dread that a disability, death, or old age could leave them or their families destitute.” – December 20, 1977

Ronald Wilson Reagan: “The changes in this legislation will allow Social Security to age as gracefully as all of us hope to do ourselves, without becoming an overwhelming burden on generations still to come. . . . Our elderly need no longer fear that the checks they depend on will be stopped or reduced. These amendments protect them. Americans of middle age need no longer worry whether their career-long investment will pay off. These amendments guarantee it. And younger people can feel confident that Social Security will still be around when they need it to cushion their retirement.” – April 20, 1982

Geroge H. W. Bush: “And there’s one thing I hope we will all be able to agree on. It’s about our commitments. I’m talking about Social Security. To every American out there on Social Security, to every American supporting that system today, and to everyone counting on it when they retire, we made a promise to you, and we are going to keep it.” – January 31, 1990

William Jefferson Clinton: “Today, I want to talk about Social Security and how all of us can ensure that one of the greatest achievements of this century continues to serve our people well into the next. . . . For 60 years, Social Security has meant more than an ID number on a tax form; more than a monthly check in the mail. It reflects our deepest values — our respect for our parents and our belief that all Americans deserve to retire with dignity.” — March 21, 1998

George W.Bush: “We will reform Social Security and Medicare, sparing our children from struggles we have the power to prevent.” – January 20, 2001



We Marched

Returning from the Women’s March on Washington D.C., it felt good to return finding my house just the way I left it. There is great comfort in having things the way they always were. I slip into a favorite pair of pants, the ones that don’t pinch at the waste, pour a cup of tea, and sink into the couch to watch another hour of Queen Victoria on PBS. Nice. Very nice.

However, ease and comfort were not what added the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that gave women the right to vote—a right known as woman suffrage. Before this law went into effect, women couldn’t own property and had no legal claim to the money they might earn. Their marches and meetings were a seventy-year struggle that included incarceration and force- feeding.

Today, marching with other women and men was not about the right to vote, per se. Yet, I know first hand that not all American women feel empowered to vote. The women who whisper into the phone, “I can’t talk now. He’s home.” Or the woman whose husband controls whom she can see and if she can use the car, or the physically abused woman who tip-toes so not to arouse her spouse’s roars.

We marched on Washington for equal pay.  In the U.S., the median annual pay for women with full-time, year-round jobs is $40,742 while for men it is $51,212. So for every 80 cents a woman makes a man makes a $1. The wage gap for women of color is typically 63 cents on the dollar and Latinas are paid 54 cents for every one dollar paid to white men.

We marched for equal rights of our bodies. I listened to the chorus of young women chant, “My body, my choice” followed with thousands of deep men’s voices, “her body, her choice.”

We marched for equal representation in government. Today, less than 20% of  the U.S. Congress is women. We want to hear the soprano and baritone voices from the pulpits of Capitol Hill.

We marched to say: women should have the same opportunity as men for career advancement and women who choose to stay home and take care of their family should be valued. In this writer’s opinion, all stay-at-home-parents should receive a monthly stipend—society’s expression of the value and importance of this work.

We marched to remember that we are a tapestry of colors, black, white, brown, yellow, and red. We are black braids and yellow locks, smooth skin, and wrinkled faces. When a marcher yelled, “Tell me what democracy looks like” we responded with “this is what democracy looks like.”

The march was a balm for those looking for support, for others to have their voices heard, and for one historic day, we immersed ourselves in a sea of citizens. It was civil, inclusive, and supportive.  A day in history that I shared with women in my native country, adopted country, and women all around the world— a solidarity of sisters like one the world has never seen before.