Thursday, April 30, 2009

Obama calls a spade a spade

In his 3rd press conference, the most telling remarks made by Obama (to me) were one ones calling Water boarding torture.

It remains to be seen whether the Obama White House will actually move forward on this and prosecute those responsible, but I'm not holding my breath.

Again, as I've said here and elsewhere, that this country is talking at all about the "merits" of torture dizzies me with shame and frustration.


[photo credit in linked article]

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Possible cure for Colony Collapse Disorder?

According to this article in Science Daily, scientists in Spain have isolated a specific parasite, Nosema ceranae (Microsporidia), in two separate apiaries inflicted with CCD. They treated the remaining bees in the apiaries and the bees recovered from the affliction.

This is only the first study, but you can be sure that this success will be tested many times over.

A cure for CCD affects us all. Even though other news items have grabbed the spotlight, if we lose our bees a massive hit in agricultural production is guaranteed.

Even though the cure used wasn't organic, if it works then we have avoided a serious, real catastrophe (unlike hysterical over-reaction to the "catastrophe-that-isn't-yet" like the swine flu).

Enjoy a chance that worldwide agriculture was saved by a couple microbio geeks in Spain,


[Photo credit in linked article, "Pig plague and Twitter" article via Uncle Ted]

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Bicycle ownage

Ok, just because I could care less about certain sports (most sports) doesn't mean I can't appreciate a master when I see one. The first minute or so of the video is the most boring -- I guess they wanted you to see some failures before they showed you the cream of the crop.

But this guy owns. Seriously.

Reminds me of when Michael Jordan was still playing hoops. I'd watch a game (ok, part of a game... some of a game) just because he was so miraculous on the court. This kid's the same way.

Amazing stuff.

Best thing is, my MOM sent me the video link. Go figure.

Enjoy watching people excel, completely, at something -- anything,


Monday, April 27, 2009

Lets look at the last swine flu, shall we?

Lets look back, back to 1976, when this type of thing happened before. Here is a post on Gawker about the last swine flu and the government reaction -- it's pretty brilliant.

*spoiler alert* In the end, the government spent a bunch of money on vaccines, and then even more destroying said vaccines because the cure was worse than the disease.

Not saying this is exactly the same scenario, just saying "bold decisive action" can be a load of hogwash and a political maneuver to quell histrionics in the populace incited by the media.

I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'.

I also truly, sincerely believe that the majority of people are so deeply desirous of radical change, that they subconsciously lust after catastrophe because it will at least disrupt the stasis in which they find themselves (it's an "inward" problem, but gets projected outward to society and "the world").

Sorry, did I say that in my out loud voice?

Back to your regular programming,


[thank you cousin Zed for the article, image credit in linked article]

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Saturday Morning Awesome: Scary Mary

Awesome recut of Mary Poppins into a horror trailer.

Enjoy a different perspective on what you once thought was so familiar,


[via Deb]

Friday, April 24, 2009

Red fox hunting in deep snow

Death from above. Awesome.

Enjoy seeing animals pull off amazing feats,


[via my faithful Canukistani operative "Yuri"]

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Inflating your tire with lighter fluid

Hadn't posted anything this random in a while. Not only is it random, it's probably something that can come in handy in a pinch. Maybe that's a stretch, but it's cool nonetheless.

And, to be honest, I accidentally posted it today instead of for the Saturday Morning Awesome -- and now it won't go away. So there ya go Faux Pas becomes post.

Enjoy tricks that would make McGyver proud,


[via Butternutjelly]

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Margaret Wertheim: The beautiful math that links coral, crochet and hyperbolic geometry

The Ted Talks rock.

This talk starts off almost quaint -- a group of women crochet a coral reef as an art project. It is cool, it looks amazing. But then the presenter goes into the math of crochet, and the math of coral and Nudibranchs (maybe my favorite group of animals on the planet), and suddenly things get very interesting, very geeky and very deep.

By the end she's talking about The Institute for Figuring, and how mathematical thinking has gotten a bit too separated from reality and "things" and how thinking through playing with objects (like crochet and its connection, directly, to non-euclidian geometry) has enormous potential for widening human thought.

This is a long way of saying, watch the whole thing, it's only 18 minutes and it just gets deeper and more interesting as it goes along.

Enjoy the constant march,


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Breast feeding not only good for baby, but for the mother too

Occasionally, the kiddo and kiddo-relevant information will be slipping into this blog. Just a little warning.

It appears that there are a multitude of long-term health benefits for breast-feeding mothers. A U.S. study quoted in this BBC article points out correlations between breast feeding and benefits such as lower instances of: osteoporosis, diabetes, heart problems, and even strokes.

The findings suggest what many folks (especially midwives and great great grandmothers) have known for a long time -- breast feeding helps mothers recover more quickly from the birthing process. This quicker recovery appears to benefit health for decades after the fact.

Enjoy finding out what you're going to do anyway is being lauded by scientists a well,


[photo credit in linked article]

Monday, April 20, 2009

Dark Side of the Moon synched with The Wizard of Oz

We've all heard the rumors -- start the Pink Floyd album at a such-and-such point in the movie and it will blow your mind. There will be references left and right straight to the movie from the music.

Well, I hadn't ever gotten it up to try, but thanks to the intartubes -- here it is. Pre-sycnched and ready to watch.

Seems like one of those things one aught to do at least once, no?

Enjoy the remnant charms of the age of psychadelia,


Saturday, April 18, 2009

Saturday Morning Awesome: Geek Hierarcy

See where you fit.

[image below is clickable, but this link gives additional options]

Enjoy knowing, finally, where you fit,


[via Muse]

Friday, April 17, 2009

Paper companies use creative interpretation of transportation bill to land $8 billion in subsidies

Check this out -- this The Nation article explains how the largest paper companies in the U.S. are reaping enormous profits from subsidies not intended for them. And they're doing it by using more petroleum products, not less.

Through a perfectly serviceable interpretation of a subsidy written into a Bush-era transportation bill (intended to encourage use of alternative fuels like Biodiesel), paper companies have become more profitable than possibly any time in their existence. The trick to being eligible for this subsidy is -- they add some diesel to their "black liquor" which is burned to provide power to their factories.

Black liquor is already a by-product of the paper making process, and already is used as a fuel source for the plants -- a great practice. In fact, upwards of 70% of their power can be provided by using their own by-product. But to qualify for this subsidy, standard petroleum fuels must be present.

As insidious as it sounds, it's still kinda legit. I mean -- this process of using black liquor as fuel to create energy for the plant, even though it's been around a long time, is a good re-use of an industrial by-product. It's great that a business is being rewarded for right-practices. However, using extra diesel to do it sucks, and the amount of money they're being awarded is surely way over the top as well.

It's almost guaranteed that the loophole/interpretation will be sewn up in some way, some time soon, but in the meanwhile stocks for these companies are looking good.

Enjoy seeing how damned inventive humans can be when money is at stake,


[via Micah, random image of German pulp mill via Wiki commons]

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Bee Photographer -- Eric Tourneret

Here is a link to Eric Tourneret's website The Bee Photographer. His "Bees in the World" series highlights the different ways in which humans interact with bees in different cultures -- from first-world beekeepers in France, to Boat-based bee keeping in Argentina, and of course the fantastic climbing honey harvesters of Nepal.

The website is fantastic, I'll only grab a few photos to show off, you should head to the source. Thanks to Dani the Canukistani for pointing this out to me.

Enjoy great representations of interesting subjects,


[photo credits in linked website]

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Death and Taxes, where your federal tax dollars go

I'm a big fan of seeing budgets visually represented in ways you can get your head around. This pie chart of U.S. budget priorities is an example. There is a newer one circulating right now called Death and Taxes that warrants a good look. You can link directly to it HERE. Through the link it is navigable and easier to read.

Here's a teeny version to spruce up the blog a bit, clickable for a larger copy.

Enjoy learning more about where your money is going,


[via Muse]

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A primer on Compact Flourescent bulbs -- you know less than you might expect, I bet.

It turns out I didn't know much about compact flourescent lamps (CFL's) -- despite being an electrician. For instance, I've long known that you shouldn't put compact CFL's in locations that switch on and off a lot, or aren't on for a long period of time -- but I had no specific guidelines. I had a vague notion that they had hazardous guts too, but didn't know specifics. I'll cover both these aspects of CFL's below, you may be surprised at what you learn. [here is the wiki on CFL's for you self-starter types]

First off, where to use them. In this Yahoo Green article, they make some recognizable guidelines.

Basically, if lights in a certain area aren't going to be on for at least 15 minutes at a stretch, don't use CLF's there. You can still use normal flourescent tubes or tungsten (normal) bulbs. Normal flourescents can be used in areas that are on for at least 5 minutes, and of course normal bulbs wherever you want a dimmer or have lights that aren't on much at all.

It's nit picky, but nit picky can be fun if you are geeky enough. Basically if you go outside these guidelines, the bulbs won't last as long or give you the stated energy efficiency -- in either case they won't payback the initial cost as well.

For more info on how and where to use CFL's, here is the Energystar site on them.

A note on the dark side of CLF's -- Mercury.

Overall, in the large scheme of things, CFL's appear to reduce mercury emissions and waste by humans -- but this is by no means absolutely certain. Less pollution is asserted because they reduce energy use (which, in turn, reduces all sorts of waste and pollution -- including Mercury), and they last longer (again, less landfill). This is not rock-solid fact, and is being debated wherever the assertion is made (like in the comments of this Popular Mechanics article).

I'll let you decide whether the jury is out on this one or not -- here is one graph, and another graph on the side of CFL's being a benefit in this regard -- you can see the numbers vary quite a bit.

CFL's do contain small amounts of mercury. Therefore, you have to treat them as a hazardous material when disposing of them, or dealing with a broken one in your home. There are some surprising precautions laid out in this fact sheet by energy star.

For Portland Oregon locals, PGE's suggestions for disposal are here -- basically, store them "safely" and when you have a good number stored up take them to the Haz Mat section of the waste transfer station. That's the same section you take old paints and thinners and whatnot.

Here are the EPA suggestions for CFL disposal and clean-up:

1. Before Clean-up: Air Out the Room
• Have people and pets leave the room, and don't let anyone walk through the breakage area on their way out.
• Open a window and leave the room for 15 minutes or more.
• Shut off the central forced-air heating/air conditioning system, if you have one.

2. Clean-Up Steps for Hard Surfaces
• Carefully scoop up glass fragments and powder using stiff paper or cardboard and place them in a glass jar with metal lid (such as a canning jar) or in a sealed plastic bag.
• Use sticky tape, such as duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass pieces and powder.
• Wipe the area clean with damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes. Place towels in the glass jar or plastic bag.
• Do not use a vacuum or broom to clean up the broken bulb on hard surfaces.

3. Clean-up Steps for Carpeting or Rug:

• Carefully pick up glass fragments and place them in a glass jar with metal lid (such as a canning jar) or in a sealed plastic bag.
• Use sticky tape, such as duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass fragments and powder.
• If vacuuming is needed after all visible materials are removed, vacuum the area where the bulb was broken.
• Remove the vacuum bag (or empty and wipe the canister), and put the bag or vacuum debris in a sealed plastic bag.

4. Clean-up Steps for Clothing, Bedding, etc.:

• If clothing or bedding materials come in direct contact with broken glass or mercury-containing powder from inside the bulb that may stick to the fabric, the clothing or bedding should be thrown away. Do not wash such clothing or bedding because mercury fragments in the clothing may contaminate the machine and/or pollute sewage.
• You can, however, wash clothing or other materials that have been exposed to the mercury vapor from a broken CFL, such as the clothing you are wearing when you cleaned up the broken CFL, as long as that clothing has not come into direct contact with the materials from the broken bulb.
• If shoes come into direct contact with broken glass or mercury-containing powder from the bulb, wipe them off with damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes. Place the towels or wipes in a glass jar or plastic bag for disposal.

5. Disposal of Clean-up Materials
• Immediately place all clean-up materials outdoors in a trash container or protected area for the next normal trash pickup.
• Wash your hands after disposing of the jars or plastic bags containing clean-up materials.
• Check with your local or state government about disposal requirements in your specific area. Some states do not allow such trash disposal. Instead, they require that broken and unbroken mercury-containing bulbs be taken to a local recycling center.

6. Future Cleaning of Carpeting or Rug: Air Out the Room During and After Vacuuming
• The next several times you vacuum, shut off the central forced-air heating/air conditioning system and open a window before vacuuming.
• Keep the central heating/air conditioning system shut off and the window open for at least 15 minutes after vacuuming is completed.

After all the reading needed to write this post, I have to say I was surprised at how uninformed the public was of the hazardous aspects of this technology. And I was especially surprised at how rare it was to find the real information on how to property dispose of them. It's important information, and I hope it gets better disseminated.

Enjoy finding out more about products you are encouraged to be using all over your home, especially the poisonous bits,


[CFL image via Wikimedia commons, tungsten image credit in linked article]

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Onion -- "98% of Babies Manic-Depressive"

Clipped from The Onion's Science and Technology section:

NEW YORK—A new study published in The Journal Of Pediatric Medicine found that a shocking 98 percent of all infants suffer from bipolar disorder. "The majority of our subjects, regardless of size, sex, or race, exhibited extreme mood swings, often crying one minute and then giggling playfully the next," the study's author Dr. Steven Gregory told reporters. "Additionally we found that most babies had trouble concentrating during the day, often struggled to sleep at night, and could not be counted on to take care of themselves—all classic symptoms of manic depression." Gregory added that nearly 100 percent of infants appear to suffer from the poor motor skills and impaired speech associated with Parkinson's disease.

Enjoy humor in a time of sleep deprivation,


Saturday, April 11, 2009

Saturday Morning Awesome: A warning about the age of the Intartubes

Here is a set of photos at Masala Time for a morning laugh. I'll post two below -- the series is called 'Never Publish Your Pictures on the Internet.'

Enjoy a laugh over coffee,


Friday, April 10, 2009

Caller rips Limbaugh

This is too awesome, here is a Huffington Post article that has audio (and transcript) of a Republican, Veteran Marine calling Limbaugh (on air) a brainwashed Nazi for his support of Torture.

It's worth the click to hear the audio.

Enjoy enemies of human rights getting called out,


Thursday, April 9, 2009

Little Dudes: Noble's Pygmy Frog -- Noblella pygmaea

Discovered in the Andes, Noble's Pygmy Frog may be the world's smallest. For a great article on the frog with details, click here for the Discovery News article. For my part, lets see some pictures. It's all about the cute around here anyway lately.

Enjoy new discoveries, especially cute ones,


[photo credit in linked article]

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Sorry for no post today -- but, IT'S A GIRL!!!

See my doctor's note on the right for why I missed my allotted post today: Her name is Vivian, and she was 9 lbs. 15 Oz. 21" long. She's quite a little peanut.


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Bee Time + Eddie Izzard on Bees

Spring is not just Garden Time and Nettle Time -- it's Bee Time. I'm excited.

I went down to Ruhl Bee Supply with Estu to pick up his hives, equipment, and some packages of Carniolans. He, too, will be mixing a Langstroth hive into his home bee keeping, while continuing to work with his Top Bar hive.

I still need to assemble my Langstroth for the garden, and paint it, before I get a nuc to ensure a nice solid take with the new bees. I'm very excited, only a couple weeks and I'll be in business.

Looks like I'll be lending out two of my top bar hives to friends, and will keep one to gather a swarm into this season. The idea is to see if there is any way they'll stay in a top bar up in its current location -- it would be fantastic if they'd stay, because I could get a few hives up there without much trouble at all.

Anyway, plans and dreams aside, below is a great Eddie Izzard skit about bees to finish off this post.

Enjoy the care and feeding of small creatures,


Monday, April 6, 2009

Enzyme search hot as ever to solve food-to-fuel debacle

Biofuel needs to be produced on what is now considered "waste" for me to get excited about it. I've talked about this a few times before.

According to this article, there is promising research being done in this field.

The oily grail is a fungi (or lichen) that will efficiently convert organic cellulose into biofuel. More specifically, in this case, an enzyme produced by a fungi or lichen. If found, any source of cellulose would become fuel fodder -- agricultural waste of all sorts, waste wood, and waste paper.

Competition between two companies, Novozymes and Danisco, is pushing the research and development of this technology. It is encouraging to know that market forces are pushing innovation in the alternative energy sector finally. Money is showing up to bolster this work.

And with money comes the usual shenanigans, including a pretty righteous patent infringement settlement against Danisco.

If biofuel production can be based on simply cellulose (as opposed to the current need for plant sugars), then the options for what crops could provide good fodder for fuel production opens right up, as well. Fast-growing, high-cellulose crops like bamboo become viable at that point. Crops that do just fine in temperate environments.

Enjoy keeping your eye on the ball,


[via my ex-pat Canukistani Uncle, photo credit in linked article]

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Saturday Morning Awesome: Lemurs getting high -- on Millipedes

I've encountered this behavior before in my biology degree somewhere, but it was always explained as being for the bug repellent qualities. I hadn't heard about the psychedelic effects until today.

Enjoy primates expanding their consciousnesses,


Friday, April 3, 2009

Nettle Time -- Part 4, cooking

Now for the fourth and final installment about my first spring picking of Nettles -- recipes.

Here is the easy answer as to how to use fresh/parboiled nettles -- treat them like spinach.

Some recipes I tried were Nettle Quiche (top), and Sauteed Nettles.

The Nettle Quiche is very straightforward, I just used a basic quiche recipe and put some chopped, sauteed nettles into the mix with the cheese.

The Sauteed Nettles are simply onions cut thin, sauteed down until carmelized, then the parboiled, chopped nettles introduced into the pan with some salt and pepper and tossed until warm and coated with tasty onion oil goodness. The non-veg version is to cook bacon in the pan first, pour off most of the fat, keeping about 2 Tbs., then cook the onions and Nettles as above, but adding bacon bits into the mix. Mega tasty.

Although I used freshly-parboiled Nettles for the dishes pictured here, frozen ones work just dandy. The flavor is preserved, and if you were sparce with parboiling as I mentioned in Part 3, then the texture will be good as well.

The taste of the nettles was most apparent in the saute recipes, so if you are wanting to show off their unique flavor I'd go that route.

I found out that folks have been able to buy nettles at farmers markets lately, so you might want to check that option out if you don't have time to hit the woods but want to experiment with these greens.

Enjoy exploring wild foods this spring,


Thursday, April 2, 2009

Odds of dying in a terrorist attack

When the need for fear is great, the propaganda is strong, I tell you. Nearly the most dangerous thing you could possibly do in this country is get into a car (or worse yet eat a greasy meal), and yet we are asked to give up civil liberties, fight wars on two fronts, go into massive debt, and torture innocents to "protect us" against the this supposed emergency.

It reminds me of the odds of shark attack.

Please, people.

The below list is from The Eyewash Station. You can view stats directly here at the NSC.

You are 13 times more likely to die in a railway accident than from a terrorist attack

You are 12,571 times more likely to die from cancer than from a terrorist attack

You are six times more likely to die from hot weather than from a terrorist attack

You are eight times more likely to die from accidental electrocution than from a terrorist attack

You are 11,000 times more likely to die in an airplane accident than from a terrorist plot involving an airplane

You are 87 times more likely to drown than die in a terrorist attack

You are 404 times more likely to die in a fall than from a terrorist attack

You are 17,600 times more likely to die from heart disease than from a terrorist attack

You are 1048 times more likely to die from a car accident than from a terrorist attack

You are 12 times more likely to die from accidental suffocation in bed than from a terrorist attack

You are nine times more likely to choke to death on your own vomit than die in a terrorist attack

You are eight times more likely to be killed by a police officer than by a terrorist

Enjoy putting things back in perspective,


[image via Wiki Commons]

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Virile Vampire strikes again: Putin photographed being KGB'ish

I haven't updated you on the virile-ness of Putin lately, so I will continue my Virile Vampire series with a photograph of Putin in his KGB days posing as a tourist for one of Reagan's visits to Russia.

How awesome is that?

Enjoy the complex chemistry that is the Virile Vampire,


[photo credit in linked article]