It's a strange world out there folks. (via Waxy)
November 27, 2008
November 24, 2008
1. From Science Daily: "hybrid plants, like corn, grow bigger and better than their parents because many of their genes for photosynthesis and starch metabolism are more active during the day," explaining in part their hybrid vigor.
As in all of their experiments, the researchers created two conditions: one of order and the other of disorder. In the former, the walls of the alley were freshly painted; in the latter, they were tagged with graffiti (but not elaborately, to avoid the perception that it might be art).
4. Help real people in developing countries by sticking a fake beard on your real face. Go ahead, just try to resist following that link.
6. Kottke has an interesting post up on beekeeping in New York City, an apparently illegal activity. I will attest to the truth of this bit Kottke quotes from an old NYT piece:
All right, but why beekeeping? "After you do it, everything else in life is calm," said Mr. Solomon, the investment banker. "Let me tell you, 40,000 bees will teach you the power of concentration and patience."
Though contra Kottke, I would recommend you go with these guys for your mail order bee needs. Picking up a package of live, gently buzzing bees from the post office is a singular experience that everyone should experience at least once in their lives - if nothing else the PO staff will forever ask how your bees are doing whenever you stop by for stamps. Here's a time lapse video a friend put together of our last honey harvest:
I caught a couple of minutes of the Nicholas Brothers on a PBS feature this weekend and finally remembered to track down some YouTube video*. This number from Stormy Weather was famously (apparently) described by Fred Astaire as the greatest musical sequence ever filmed, Fred's word carries a bit more weight than mine here but I'll just say that if it was filmed today you would think it was CGI:
There is something, however, in this clip of them when they were kids which I like even more:
Oh yeah, here with Michael Jackson:
*Yes, my wife was out of town.
From NPR: a Colorado farmer opens his farm for folks to pick vegetables after his fall harvest, expecting 4-5,000 he ended up with around 40,000 people who collected almost 600,000 pounds of food. More, including video from local CBS affiliate.
November 20, 2008
November 18, 2008
The USDA just released its annual report on household food security. The U.S. Food Policy blog has some thoughts. Good analysis and key points from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. The Washington Post points out that the USDA has turned away from naming the condition formerly known as hunger:
The U.S. government has vowed that Americans will never be hungry again. But they may experience "very low food security."
Every year, the Agriculture Department issues a report that measures Americans' access to food, and it has consistently used the word "hunger" to describe those who can least afford to put food on the table. But not this year.
Mark Nord, the lead author of the report, said "hungry" is "not a scientifically accurate term for the specific phenomenon being measured in the food security survey." Nord, a USDA sociologist, said, "We don't have a measure of that condition."
From the previously mentioned New Yorker food issue, James Surowiecki on food security:
The old emphasis on food security was undoubtedly costly, and often wasteful. But the redundancies it created also had tremendous value when things went wrong. And one sure thing about a system as complex as agriculture is that things will go wrong, often with devastating consequences. If the just-in-time system for producing cars runs into a hitch and the supply of cars shrinks for a while, people can easily adapt. When the same happens with food, people go hungry or even starve. That doesn’t mean that we need to embrace price controls or collective farms, and there are sensible market reforms, like doing away with import tariffs, that would make developing-country consumers better off. But a few weeks ago Bill Clinton, no enemy of market reform, got it right when he said that we should help countries achieve “maximum agricultural self-sufficiency.” Instead of a more efficient system, we should be trying to build a more reliable one.The also previously mentioned Japanese take on food security.
November 17, 2008
November 16, 2008
You don't have to be a fan of basketball to be a fan of Hoop Dreams. It routinely makes it into the upper echelons of everyone's "best documentaries of all time" lists, and not infrequently it's in the top spot of such lists. It's a great film and probably my favorite documentary as well, for all kinds of reasons. Fifteen years in, The Chicago Tribune has a short update on the stars of the film and the divergent paths their lives have taken post-documentary:
For more than a decade, the pair have been bound by unexpected fame. The two Chicago high school basketball players were featured in the 1994 hit documentary "Hoop Dreams." Now in their mid-30s, their contrasting fates may surprise the many people who saw the movie.
Gates, the reserved one, has become an authoritative force who leads a church in the Cabrini area. He is married with four kids. Agee, a spirited charmer, doesn't have a regular job but is launching a line of "Hoop Dreams" apparel. He has five kids by five different women.
After seeing the film for the first time I remember wondering about the "true" nature of the two's friendship, so in addition to reading that the two are still friends I liked reading this little tidbit:
The teenagers knew each other casually before "Hoop Dreams" was made, but they grew extremely close over the five years of filming. They even had secret sleepovers at each others' homes, unbeknownst to the film crew.
"We were teenagers—we didn't want them knowing everything that we were doing," Gates said.
If you've never seen Hoop Dreams, do yourself a favor and watch it for free on Hulu.
November 13, 2008
It's no secret that the economic downturn has hurt the organic food industry and from my observation a lot of that surplus and unsold merchandise is showing up at food banks. I'm doing a bit of work for a local food bank and walking through the warehouse it feels like your strolling down the aisle at Whole Foods. Does this count as trickle down?
November 12, 2008
The Beat, Publishers Weekly's comic blog (and incidentally one of the few comic blogs I'd say was worth following for the casual fan) pontificates on what I too thought was the most interesting tidbit in last week's "50 Facts You Might Not Know About Obama" in the Telegraph:
Eight simple words that spell hope for the world:
He collects Spider-Man and Conan the Barbarian comics.
Note the use of the present tense. While it’s a well known fact that young Barack was an avid comic book reader, and certainly no stranger to superhero imagery on the campaign trail, this one verb would have us believe that he still keeps a long box, or perhaps some trendy graphic novels, in his reading pile. Something like, CONAN: BORN ON THE BATTLEFIELD by Kurt Busiek and Greg Ruth, maybe? Or maybe he’s more of a Bendis fan?
We’ll leave the parsing of this particular truth to others. What with administrative transitions, and global recession and nukes in Iran, he’s got a lot on his plate, and to expect him to weigh in on the Clone Saga is just a bit much. Frankly we found this factoid just as interesting.
He has read every Harry Potter book.
Maybe the president-elect is just, you know, kind of a nerd.
Like seemingly everything the Japanese produce, this PSA on food security by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries comes out concise, compact, well designed, and colorful. In a short four minutes of information packed visual design they touch on issues of food security, country of origin labeling, rural redevelopment, environmental concerns, and global connectivity, just to name a few. As Waxy mentioned, it would be great to see a similar PSA adapted to the US context.
High resolution version here at the Ministry website.
November 11, 2008
November 6, 2008
I had forgotten about Bhutan's quality of life index until it was mentioned on NPR this morning while discussing the coronation of Bhutan's King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck (the world's youngest ruler). From Wikipedia:
Gross National Happiness (GNH) is an attempt to define quality of life in more holistic and psychological terms than Gross National Product.
The term was coined by Bhutan's King Jigme Singye Wangchuck in 1972 in response to criticism that his economy was growing poorly. It signaled his commitment to building an economy that would serve Bhutan's unique culture based on Buddhist spiritual values. Like many moral goals, it is somewhat easier to state than to define. Nonetheless, it serves as a unifying vision for the Five Year planning process and all the derived planning documents that guide the economic and development plans of the country.
While conventional development models stress economic growth as the ultimate objective, the concept of GNH claims to be based on the premise that true development of human society takes place when material and spiritual development occur side by side to complement and reinforce each other. The four pillars of GNH are the promotion of equitable and sustainable socio-economic development, preservation and promotion of cultural values, conservation of the natural environment, and establishment of good governance.
November 3, 2008
Nice interview with Pete Seeger in Pitchfork. This bit is great:
Seeger: I've been lucky to have good health most of my life. Except my brain is goin' now. I can't remember names. I confess I've never heard of Pitchfork. Is it sold in music stores?
Pitchfork: No, it's on the internet.
Seeger: An internet magazine! So you don't have to cut down trees. I'll be damned. I'm living in the past.I confess to having a soft spot for "If I Had a Hammer."
November 2, 2008
1. Studs Terkel died on Friday. I loved his interviews and coveted his love of people. NPR has a page up with a lot of good links. "This Train" is one of my favorites and you can listen to part of it here. There is of course lots on You Tube.
2. Plainview is a full-screen browser (actual full screen) for Mac's with a built in presentation mode. PC user's may find this of little regard but it's a feature I've never been able to find for any Mac browser (no, not even Firefox) and there have been more than a few occasions in the past when I have needed it. Oh, it's free.
The Turker’s Gospel is a new version of the Gospel books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, reinterpreted from the King James Version of the Bible by workers at Amazon’s Mechanical Turk.4. Red Sex, Blue Sex: why do so many evangelical teenagers become pregnant.
Workers were assigned individual Bible verses and asked to rewrite them in their own words. No context was provided. The rewritten verses were reassembled for publication on this website.