How Much Carbon Do Bushes Absorb? This Ninth Grader Plans To Find Out

Washington (GGM) Analysis | October 30, 2020 by Noreen Wise

Do bushes sequester carbon too? Is planting more shrubs as important as planting more trees in helping to lower atmospheric carbon levels and reverse global warming?

One student at W. T. Woodson High School in Fairfax, Virginia is determined to find out. Ninth grader Julia Victor has accepted the challenge to conduct her own science experiment for the upcoming Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair and is busy mapping out the procedure she will follow to test how much carbon five species of Northern Virginia natives can absorb in comparison to one another. 

The Regeneron ISEF has a wide range of categories, 21 in all, that 1800 participating students are selecting from. As a nature lover, Earth and Environmental Sciences was Julia’s top choice, which she quickly narrowed down to climate change. Julia asked herself questions about which NoVa natives might absorb the most carbon. She then spent time researching, and eventually arrived at her hypothesis: “I am hypothesizing that the holly tree will grow to be the largest and will absorb the most carbon. I also think that shrubs might not be far behind. I am hoping to be able to come to the conclusion that shrubs and smaller plants are just as important to reversing climate change as large trees.”

Julia will be implementing the following steps to test her hypothesis. All the plants will be kept in open containers.

  1. Remove the soil and weigh each plant. Record each plant’s bare root weight (without soil).
  2. If plants are not the same weight, trim each plant until they are approximately equal.
  3. Plant each plant in its new container with 1 gallon of soil each. Label each container with the plant species.
  4. Water each plant with 1 cup of water each. 
  5. Set up each plant’s light to a 12-hour timer to simulate the sun.
  6. Water each plant regularly with its recommended amount of water.
  7. After 25 days, remove all the soil from the bare roots from each plant and weigh.

An important science experiment like this one is challenging enough without there being an extra layer of difficulty. But, Julia isn’t daunted by the complications during the fall season. Julia explained, that there are far less species available for her to choose from this late in the year. Many NoVa natives are nearly dormant, so there’s far less photosynthesis, which means very little, if any, carbon absorption. But Julia persevered and unearthed several standouts she can rely on:

  • American Holly 
  • Strawberry bush
  • Spicebush
  • Arrowwood Viburnum
  • Black Chokeberry

We’ll be checking back with Julia in December to learn about the conclusions she drew once she completes her experiment, weighs each plant, and is able to identify the winning species that sequestered the most carbon. Julia will be managing a total of 25 small plants for her project.

This is a lot of extra work during a very challenging global pandemic. Julia began her freshman year with virtual learning, and appears to be very excited about having something she feels passionately about, nature and science, to keep her mind preoccupied in the midst of a health crisis. “This is my first time participating in the Regeneron ISEF and I’m excited to see everyone’s projects, especially during covid-19.”

I asked Julia how she keeps from feeling intimidated by such a challenging, high level competition. Her response was one that we could all apply to our own lives.

“These days, it’s very easy to get intimidated by projects and big assignments. I found that if I don’t think about it as an assignment, but rather as something I enjoy, then it becomes much easier to do get motivated by my curiosity.”

Nature is an exciting and therapeutic ally to help combat our daily challenges during covid. A major destresser, thanks to its beauty and healing scents, as well as the chemicals it emits that we humans respond to by releasing our own positive chemicals—serotonin for example. Nature is very responsive to human interaction, both positively and negatively. Humans and nature are connected through a symbiotic relationship. What we give is what we get. We see this with climate change of course, but it’s equally as powerful on the positive side of the coin. Nature nurtures. It comforts. Heals. Inspires. Supports. Motivates. Hanging out with nature makes us physically and emotionally stronger. It’s time to recognize this fact and act on it. Planting millions of trees and shrubs and flowers and all types of nature is an investment that pays us back exponentially. So, let’s get planting! If it’s too cold where you are right now, you can plant a seedling indoors in a container and leave inside until spring. 

© Copyright 2018 – 2020. ALL Rights Reserved.

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Getting a Handle on the Russia Danger | Perspective


How do we stay three steps ahead of Russia (it’s tricky when our president is the enemy and he’s working so hard to fend off our nation’s traditional defense, the FBI)? To further thwart our defensive line, Trump/Russia has a loyal group of Russia surrogates, the GOP House Intelligence Committee, who’ve sold their soul to the devil – Putin.

So what are American citizens supposed to do now to protect ourselves?

STEP 1 (for me anyway): watch as many Russia/CIA spy thrillers as possible. Below are a few, but there are many more. I find that this really helps in broadening my understanding about the way Russia operates which helps with projecting into America’s future /our future.

  • Red Sparrow – 2018, Excellent film, helped me “imagine” the possibilities of what Russia is capable of; great because it’s present day
  • The Assets, My Name is Aldrich Ames – 2014, Highlights how easy it is for someone to get away with selling our nation’s secrets to a foreign enemy, this because colleagues don’t want to believe their coworker – who’s supposed to be a patriot, protecting our country and our allies – is actually busy undermining it. Very insightful considering our president appears to be in overdrive accomplishing this very thing.
  • The Sum of All Fears – 2002, Seems so real it’s terrifying. I can totally picture this happening; in fact, I envision someone plotting this right now
  • Hunt for Red October – 1990, One of my favorite movies of all times
  • No Way Out – 1987, Best Kevin Costner film. Movies were so riveting back in the day

The most gripping Cold War book I ever read was Nelson Demille’s The Talbot Odyssey. Eye-bulging books like this are mesmerizing, this one is impossible to put down. I’m going to re-read it now that Mueller has uncovered so much proof of collusion and the White House seems to be in melt down mode, last night Friday March 16, 2018 with Sessions firing FBI Deputy Andrew McCabe just 26 hours before he was supposed to retire. See? That’s such a cruel “Russia” thing for Trump Team to do.

STEP 2: Be on the lookout on Social Media. Turn it into a “Find Waldo” exercise. Find the Russia Troll and call them out. I see them everywhere. They have markers.

STEP 3: Russian trolls are actually easier to locate than they realize. They might look and sound like us on Social Media, but they don’t think like us. Instead what they do is deflect by screaming and shouting and attempting to humiliate. They’ve softened their approach a little bit this year, but if you get into a discussion with one on a comment board for a major News site like New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal etc, you soon realize they don’t understand how to think like an American. They can’t reason the same way American’s can. Instead, their tactic is to storm Social Media as abusers, much like Trump, attempting to get viewers/readers to not believe in what someone is stating by attacking the one posting. But this is actually their achilles heel. And it’s not something they can easily correct…which gives us the upper hand.

STEP 4: Trust your instincts. When you get that unsettling 6th sense type of feeling about someone online, learn to stay far away from them. Avoidance is a great defensive strategy

We can do this. This horror is unlike any war we’ve ever been in before. We’re all trying to make our way through the jungle on this. We have to help each other, and work diligently to create light in the midst of all this darkness.

© Copyright 2017 – 2018. ALL Rights Reserved.

Disaster Artist | DoubleTake by REGGIE WOLTZ

The Disaster Artist
Wiseau’s Bizarre Adventures


For anyone who has ever made it through the entirety of The Room, first of all, congratulations. There’s a special place in heaven reserved for those with the wherewithal to endure that tragic comedy. Having seen it a handful of times (primarily because I enjoy sharing my pain with others), I can attest to experiencing the delirium that slowly eats your brain over its 99 minute runtime.

The existence of such a movie poses many serious and philosophical questions. Was there even a script? Is God evil for allowing this to be made? What exactly were the creators going for? But mainly: who the frig is Tommy Wiseau?

This last question is what The Disaster Artist seeks to help us answer. By channeling the presence of The Room’s auteur to an absolute T, James Franco gives us a peek behind a curtain that is unsettling, mystifying, and definitely not from New Orleans. And while the movie ends without providing satisfying results for its three essential queries (Where is he from? How old is he? Why is he so rich?), the journey that we take to get there is quite a pleasure.

Beyond the inherent mystery of the film, it is the individual performances that make The Disaster Artist stand out. James Franco deserves awards for his replication of Wiseau’s laugh alone. His brother, Dave Franco, serves as a tonic to the tall glass of absinthe that is Tommy Wiseau by creating an empathetic Greg Sestero from the opening scene. This movie would not be the same without Sestero’s overly smiley and optimistic attitude cutting the dramatic tension and allowing this to be a comedy, rather than a disturbing sort of biopic.

In fact, it is this abundance of chemistry between the two leads that creates one of the film’s only flaws. The climax of the conflict, the filming of The Room’s surrealist football tossing scene, feels jarring and sudden after much of the movie had downplayed the underlying darkness of its main characters’ relationship in order to let its absurdist humor shine. This crashing back to reality, a departure in tone and logic from the rest of the story, was also undone by the finale – which cheapens its presence even further.

Now, I’m not upset in the least that this movie leaned way more towards comedy than drama. Forcing the crew behind Pineapple Express and This is the End to create a somber film would be like Alfred Hitchcock making a musical. It would feel unnatural. Instead we get what this movie ought to be: an incredible combination of character and cringe comedy with moments of darkness that hit and disturb the audience like Wiseau’s deathly pelvic thrusts.

This comedy isn’t only derived from the Franco brothers’ portrayals. This film utilizes one-shot characters with mastery. Judd Apatow, Jerrod Carmichael, Jason Mantzoukas, Hannibal Burress, Megan Mullally, Josh Hutcherson, and Zac Efron (and all the others I’m forgetting about) deliver hilarious moments in their limited number of scenes. Not to mention how well the most prominent supporting characters, played by Seth Rogen and Paul Scheer, mesh with the Francos’ and allow them to shine even more.

Just as The Room was not meant to be a comedy, The Disaster Artist was not meant to be a masterpiece. And yet, I haven’t had a more fun or inspiring experience in the theater in a long time.

This movie is a love letter to the art of Tommy Wiseau: part genius, part child, but an undisputed creator of his vision. It does not want us to pity him or look down upon his twisted accomplishment. We are meant to be motivated by him to open up ourselves to our craft and be the best we can be. Just as Adam Scott said in the opening to the film, “We are still talking about this movie over a decade after it came out. We aren’t talking about what won the Oscar ten years ago.” By putting himself out there, Tommy Wiseau may not have become the star that he dreamed of, but he transcended what a star could ever be.

© Copyright 2017 – 2018. ALL Rights Reserved.


Sun Tzu & Kim Jong Un | Perspective


Sun Tzu’s Art of War is the centerpiece of modern warfare. These ancient Chinese principles have proven so useful and effective across milleniums, 6th Century BC, that they’re considered truths.

“The art of war is deception.” …  “Appear weak when you are strong, and strong when weak.”

One can’t help but wonder what playbook Kim Jong Un is working off of.

Either he’s never heard of Sun Tzu and The Art of War and has no idea that as our enemy he’s supposed to lay low with his nuclear weapons so he can spring them on us unexpected, which may be the case (after all, he’s just a kid and may not be able to take good advice). Or, he is following Sun Tzu’s legendary wisdom, and is appearing strong when he is weak. Maybe he feels weak because he’s so young, and is shorter than the vast majority of world leaders and generals so must talk and act like a giant beast.

Whichever the case may be, as the Winter Olympics in South Korea approaches, I’m not nearly as apprehensive (with this in mind) as I was just a few days ago.


Trump’s unilateral dangerous initiatives make it clear his mission isn’t to represent the American people and our best interest the way a United States President is supposed to, and the way he claimed in his inaugural address he would do.

Between moving our embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and now authorizing federal drilling along every coastline, who exactly is Trump working for?

Not only are the coastal governors strongly objecting to federal drilling along the entire U.S. coastline, but so is the US military.

It’s been universally affirmed that Trump is a moron, dotard, idiot…a long list of scathing adjectives that spell out that Trump is unfit to be president. He’s not even bright enough to think up these extreme anti-American policies. So one can’t help but wonder who’s really calling the shots. A clue might be that every one of these moves causes the United States great harm. Only an enemy would want to hurt us this badly.

So again, I don’t believe Trump is capable of masterminding these policies.

Nor are his children, who apparently suffer the same deficiencies.

These aggressive Trump policies strongly resemble the unilateral orders of a dictator. Which begs the question…are these endless knife jabs Putin?

Did Kushner succeed at establishing a back channel?


One of the first big business news stories of the new year, following the “Tax Overhal” just before Christmas that promised to grow jobs bigly, was that AT&T was slashing jobs. The bad news continued today with the unexpected announcement that there was a rise in unemployment last month.

Every reliable source has predicted the GOP tax overhaul was built on a false hypothesis, which would sky rocket the debt. I can’t help but wonder if the tax overhaul is another Putin brainchild. After all, Russia was brought to it’s knees by too much debt which ended the Cold War. Enemies aren’t forgiving. They get even.

Putin’s the one who’s proven himself to be the master of deception.



Creating healthy daily routines to live by, can add years to our lives. Our circadian rhythm is the foundation for our health and wellness. It’s the one core principle we should be proud to be obsessive about.



© Copyright 2017 – 2018. ALL Rights Reserved.


Star Wars: The Last Jedi | DoubleTake by REGGIE WOLTZ

Star Wars: The Force Goes Back To Sleep 



A short time ago in a galaxy very, very nearby…

The most divisive and controversial blockbuster in recent memory was released. Whether you are a Star Wars junkie or a casual moviegoer, chances are that you were looking forward to this one.

And why not be?

The Force Awakens was a perfect kick-off to the new trilogy — creating original characters and a bright future while rehashing enough of the 1977 original to get the bad taste of the prequels out of the fanbase’s collective mouth. In addition, 2016’s Rogue One was a gem of a standalone film and a benchmark in storytelling for the franchise.

This lineage, in addition to great critical reviews, beautiful promotional material, and having visionary director Rian Johnson (Looper, Breaking Bad) at the helm, built up a lot of hype for The Last Jedi. And while some lauded the movie and started making a case for it being the best Star Wars since Revenge of the Sith, there was a massive amount of backlash. Why exactly were so many viewers up in arms? Let’s break it down.

It is no accident that Star Wars has such a massive following. The original movie was a technical and creative achievement, capturing imaginations in a way that had never been done before. But The Last Jedi, instead of following in that tradition and continuing to push boundaries, takes the opportunities it was given and tosses them away like yesterday’s lightsaber.

Every major character that made it to the end of The Force Awakens had much to look forward to for the subsequent films. Rey and Kylo Ren, the tent poles of the new trilogy, provided new life to the tried and true Light vs Dark theme and promised to break the mold of the Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader archetypes.

Finn, the Stormtrooper-turned-reluctant-rebel, presented a characterization that hadn’t been seen before. Poe Dameron, ace pilot and all-around badass, added energy and a cool factor to every scene he was in. Snoke, General Hux, and Captain Phasma promised the same menace as the old Empire characters but with the possibility for even more devastating conquest. Even the old guard, Leia and Luke Skywalker, had more stories to tell in episodes seven through nine that would deepen the complexity and richness of their iconic characters.

So what did we get from all of that potential?

Well, let’s just say that a certain Supreme Leader would be very disappointed if The Last Jedi was his apprentice. While Rey and Kylo Ren provide the most intrigue and deliver on at least some of their promise, every other character falls short in a major way. Finn is reduced to a joke machine that gets stuck in easily the worst subplot of the film and a forced romance with an unnecessary new character. Poe has his moments early on but then gets caught in a tedious collection of scenes (with yet another awful new character) that is supposed to convey development but ends up feeling like empty screen time. Snoke is downright menacing for much of the movie before being inexplicably killed off; Hux is reduced to a sniveling child; and Phasma is completely wasted after being one of the most interesting characters in The Force Awakens.

But where this film really starts losing fans is with Luke and Leia.

Luke is the most renowned ‘good guy’ in the series, and perhaps even in film history. But this incarnation sees him turn from hero of the rebellion to salty space hermit, all because his former student happened to be leaning to the dark side (which shouldn’t be a surprise considering the kid’s grandfather is Darth Vader). He spends much of his screen time going from rebuking his past life to cracking jokes with shifts in tone that are questionable at best and discombobulating at worst. Betraying an audience that is well acquainted with Luke, this movie implies massive character development but only follows it up with a handful of flashbacks and a quick turnaround in its climax. This is certainly not enough to be believable and ends up tarnishing one of the most awaited returns of a character in film history.

The problems with Leia’s character are symptomatic of an issue with this film fitting into the larger Star Wars mythos: anythinghaving to do with the Force. Leia, a character that was known to be Force-sensitive but not nearly as capable as a trained Jedi, performs the most impressive feat seen in a Star Wars movie: surviving being blown up and sucked into the vacuum of space, and then using the Force to fly back to her ship. I couldn’t suspend my disbelief on this one. I had to look around at my fellow moviegoers to make sure that I wasn’t just hallucinating. Unfortunately, I wasn’t.

While Leia’s character would go on to have meaningful scenes in the rest of the movie, it really didn’t matter to me anymore. The damage was done. This was an egregious act by the film, rewriting the rules of the Force in such a flippant way that it just felt disrespectful. The Last Jedi didn’t stop there in its reintroduction of the Force. Snoke shows never-before-seen powers, appearing nearly omnipotent before being cleaved in the most predictable manner possible. Yoda, who has been dead for decades at this point, summons actual lightning out of nowhere and now has forced us to consider if space ghosts are the most powerful beings in the galaxy. Luke projects himself across lightyears in his only redemptive moment to dodge Kylo Ren a couple of times before pathetically dying for no reason.

The best thing about the new trilogy is the continued exploration of the Star Wars universe and lore. One of the coolest moments in The Force Awakens is Kylo halting a laser blast in midair. It’s like this movie saw that and said “hold my beer” over and over again. The result is too many suspensions of disbelief, too many perceived plot holes, and way, way too much fan service.

I don’t want to sell this movie completely short. It had beautiful cinematography, excellent dialogue, and heart-pounding action. If this were not a Star Wars movie, perhaps that would have been enough to meet expectations. But that is not the case. As a result, this feels less like a canonical film and more like a two and a half hour fan-created tribute video with a massive budget.

Yes there are great moments, but without proper story elements and characterization it was just that, a loosely tied collection of moments. Many fans were expecting this to go beyond, push the limits, and give us the next great Star Wars sequel. Instead it explored all the wrong boundaries and transformed this storied franchise from an epic space opera into something we never could have expected: a hacky space comedy.

© Copyright 2017 – 2018. ALL Rights Reserved.

Eyes Wide Open

I’m sure we can all think of personal stories like this one, a fleeting chance encounter at an elevator that has an alarming negative ripple effect. But I’d like to share it in the hopes that it will serve as a strong reminder about how important it is to be more aware when out in public.

Eyes wide open…

My dad is getting older. His mind is very sharp despite his age, and even though he has a few worrisome conditions that would convince most not to drive, my father is extremely stubborn and blind to this reality, and fights like a demon to keep his independence and stay in control of his life. Oh, and drive himself wherever he wants to go, whenever he wants.

He’s physically impaired so this isn’t easy, which is a good thing, but it’s not the obstacle that it could be, and should be, unfortunately.

We four siblings (all living in different states, spread out across 600 miles) have battled for nearly five years to find an effective way for Daddy Dearest not to get behind the wheel. But my father is a retired attorney, blocks EVERY suggestion, no matter how reasonable. He’s still keeping up with his legal life. Spending eight hours a day researching cases then typing up arguments, sending off letters to “corrupt” leaders and business executives. He’s fiercely determined to get his way, and becomes vicious when your suggestions conflict with his opinions.

Needless to say, there have been thousands and thousands of hours spent strategizing about how to succeed with our mission to stop my father from driving.

Hire a driver. Let the air out of his tires. Remove a vital part so the car won’t start. Take away his keys. Hide his license. Call the police.

Endless combative discussions. We all end the conversations feeling bruised.

I eventually sent him a pass for the town’s dial-a-ride, this at the encouragement of the town police. Yes, the police did get involved when a woman waiting at the entrance of Bed, Bath & Beyond with her friend, claimed that my dad was reckless and nearly hit them, then took “forever” to get out of the car and trek into the store with his walker (he’s an amputee with a fake right leg and his left leg has extreme arthritis).

So the policeman arrived. The officer saw firsthand how physically impaired my dad was, took his license, left the car in the parking lot, and drove my father home. But en route, my father was suddenly back in the court room, litigating in front of a judge, and went for the officer’s jugular, so that by the time they arrived at my father’s condo at the Active Adult Community where he lives, the officer had handed back my dad’s driver’s license and apologized.

The officer called my sister who lives in town. Explained that because there was no record of any past driving offenses or complaints, and because he personally hadn’t been a witness and thus hadn’t seen my father drive recklessly, he could’t keep the license. But he did start a file on my dad, and record the incident, so that next time his license could be taken away. He also strongly cautioned us, urging us to do whatever we could to keep him from driving.

So we continued to argue and suffer and blame each other for ten more months. THEN, the Friday before Memorial Day, my dad fell in his condo and broke his hip. He had surgery and was in rehab for three months. My other sister confiscated his keys and hid his car in the parking deck beneath the complex.

We celebrated that our despair and frustration was finally over.

My father returned home in September. We arranged for a nurse to visit each day from 10:00a-1:00p. She drives him wherever he wants, or simply dashes out and picks up whatever he needs. The four of us felt at peace. Whenever he screamed about his missing car key, we tuned him out.

But one afternoon this past October, he became fixated on driving to the library 200 yards from his condo. Laser focus. Man on a mission. With sheer determination, he swiveled his wheelchair to the elevator, pushed himself inside, hit the “G” for garage and descended to the lower level. The door opened, he tried to push himself out and became stuck.

After a few minutes, a fifty-something man arrived at the elevator. My father poured on the charm and convinced the man to help him get to his numbered car spot. The car wasn’t there. My dad instructed the man to search for the car in the parking deck and provided details. The man eventually located the car. My father then asked him to open the gas cap and find the key taped inside. The man retrieved the hidden key and handed it to my father. He then headed off to visit his mother upstairs.

None of us had any idea about a hidden key.

Now we’re all back to extreme despair again, fuming mad.

It took an army of people five years to get my father out from behind the steering wheel. It was completely undone in five minutes by a nice, pleasant, good man who wasn’t more aware that he was stepping onto an unexpected landmine.

I can’t get this ordeal out of my mind. I’m wracking my brain wondering if I’ve ever been this unaware. Have I ever missed “See Something, Say Something” opportunities?

The FBI and Department of Defense spend billions of dollars protecting us, but one tiny critical moment of someone not being alert can upend massive amounts of painstaking work and effort that becomes the catalyst for disaster.

And how about the days and hours leading up to mass shootings…at churches, concerts, schools, Walmarts, movie theaters? I have to believe these deranged murderers gave a few red flags leading up to the massacres. But no one noticed. Or did they and just not mention anything?

Our awareness can make a HUGE difference. It will definitely save lives.

We have to practice every day.

Eyes wide open and attentive, all day, every day, whenever we’re out in public.