Friday, November 30, 2007

Friday Hope Blogging

The Messiah, Walter Benjamin said, "will not wish to change the world by force but will merely make a slight adjustment in it."

This is as good an introduction as any for Things' discussion of the Untergunther, "a secret society dedicated to 'good' deeds," which broke into the Panthéon in Paris, set up a secret workshop, and surreptitiously repaired the building's 18th-century clock.

Under the supervision of group member Jean-Baptiste Viot, a professional clockmaker, they pieced apart and repaired the antique clock that had been left to rust in the building since the 1960s....

The network was unknown to the authorities until 2004, when the police discovered an underground cinema, complete with bar and restaurant, under the Seine. They have tried to track them down ever since.
Chicago has 2,000 miles of alleys, which comprise "the paved equivalent of five midsize airports":
Imagine having a duplicate set of streets, in miniature, to maintain that are prone to flooding and to dumping runoff into a strained sewer system.
Having noticed the problem, the city intends to do something about it.
Chicago has decided to retrofit its alleys with environmentally sustainable road-building materials under its Green Alley initiative, something experts say is among the most ambitious public street makeover plans in the country. In a larger sense, the city is rethinking the way it paves things.

In a green alley, water is allowed to penetrate the soil through the pavement itself, which consists of the relatively new but little-used technology of permeable concrete or porous asphalt. Then the water, filtered through stone beds under the permeable surface layer, recharges the underground water table instead of ending up as polluted runoff in rivers and streams.
Townspeople in Ohio are trying to prevent foreclosed properties from being bought up by real-estate spectators.
"This is not for the faint of heart. It's a proverbial pig in a poke. You can't inspect it. There's no walk-through. You show up at the auction with a blank check," Sherwood says. "Much like a dog chasing a car, we didn't know what to do with it once we got it."

But having control over the eventual use of the property - and its parking lot, which supports several other College Hill businesses - could help keep control of a strategic property in local hands, she says.
Thanks to international pressure, the Saudi judiciary may possibly be rethinking its brutal punishment of a young girl who had the temerity to get raped.
The remarks by Prince Saud al-Faisal, made in the United States and carried by the official Saudi Press Agency, were the latest in response to a salvo of international condemnation of Saudi judicial authorities' handling of the case.
And in the UK, juries in rape cases will be briefed on common misconceptions about rape:
In 1977, 33% of reported rapes ended in conviction. By 2005, that percentage had dropped to 5.4%. So in one form of response, a number of doctors, judges and academics are in the process of putting together a packet to be presented to juries which addresses these myths (such as the fact that not all rape survivors report the crime immediately, or that not all will act emotionally on the witness stand).
Inhabitat reports on the MagLev wind turbine.
Magnetic levitation is an extremely efficient system for wind energy. Here’s how it works: the vertically oriented blades of the wind turbine are suspended in the air above the base of the machine, replacing the need for ball bearings. The turbine uses “full-permanent” magnets, not electromagnets — therefore, it does not require electricty to run. The full-permanent magnet system employs neodymium (”rare earth”) magnets and there is no energy loss through friction. This also helps reduce maintenance costs and increases the lifespan of the generator.

Keith Farnish has written an interesting post on home energy management:
The peak load will always be around 5.30 in the evening, and the lowest demand will always be in the early hours of the morning. Now, remember my washing machine which did its wash cycle while I was asleep? By moving the time during which appliances do their work, you could help be responsible for shutting down every coal-fired power station on your electricity grid.
A new website allows you to see how much of your electricity comes from coal, and to survey the damage the industry has done to Appalachia's mountains.
With My Connection, a feature from North Carolina-based Appalachian Voices, users can enter their ZIP codes and use Google Earth to view the decimated mountains from which their power provider obtains coal. “When you can show people they have a direct connection to it, it makes it that much more relevant to their day-to-day life,” Mary Anne Hitt, the executive director of Appalachian Voices, told the Wall Street Journal.
Google has launched an initiative to make renewable energy cheaper than coal is claimed to be:
The company announced today their Renewable Energy Cheaper than Coal initiative with the stated goal of producing 1 gigawatt of renewable energy, enough to power the city of San Francisco, and to do it within years, not decades, as some less ambitious pundits claim such a goal would require.

Google says it will commit “hundreds of millions of dollars” to the effort in hopes that doing so will spur innovation and make renewable energy sources like solar and wind an economic rival to coal.
An African inventor has devised a generator that utilizes yeast and sugar to deliver up to eight hours of electricity.
My invention will make it easy for these people to charge their cell phones. Also, this generator can be used to charge $100 computers which are being introduced in Africa. It can also be used to charge or operate medical devices in rural Africa.
I don't normally mention fripperies like energy-efficient Christmas lights, but these ones, via AIDG Blog are really pretty nice:

It was deeply satisfying to see John Howard get his ass kicked from here to the Black Stump. He deserves worse, of course, but this was a nice start. His successor, Kevin Rudd, has made climate change a top priority...but I was almost more impressed to learn that he will seek "an end to controversial offshore detention of illegal immigrants."

Meanwhile, membership in the great global warming conspiracy continues to grow:
A sizable fraction of the international business community launched an effort to press for mandatory cuts in greenhouse gas emissions yesterday, on the eve of a major round of climate negotiations set to begin Monday in Bali. In an unprecedented show of solidarity, leaders from 150 global companies endorsed the idea of a legally binding framework in a statement published in the Financial Times newspaper. Some of the world's largest firms -- including Coca-Cola, General Electric, Shell, Nestle, Nike, DuPont, Johnson & Johnson, British Airways and Shanghai Electric -- said that the scientific evidence for climate change is 'now overwhelming' and that a legally binding agreement 'will provide business with the certainty it needs to scale up global investment in low-carbon technologies.'
And there's new evidence that ocean fertilization is a bad idea:
Scientists have revealed an important discovery that raises doubts concerning the viability of plans to fertilize the ocean to solve global warming, a projected $100 billion venture.

Research performed at Stanford and Oregon State Universities, published in the Journal of Geophysical Research, suggests that ocean fertilization may not be an effective method of reducing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, a major contributor to global warming. Ocean fertilization, the process of adding iron or other nutrients to the ocean to cause large algal blooms, has been proposed as a possible solution to global warming because the growing algae absorb carbon dioxide as they grow.
The Fish and Wildlife Service is revising seven insane decisions by a disgraced BushCo apparatchik:
The policy reversal, sparked by inquiries by the Interior Department's inspector general and by the House Natural Resources Committee, underscores the extent to which the administration is still dealing with the fallout from the tenure of Julie MacDonald, the deputy assistant secretary for fish, wildlife and parks who repeatedly overruled agency scientists' recommendations on endangered-species decisions.
Mexico is vowing to protect Monarch butterflies:
President Felipe Calderón pledged 4.6 million U.S. dollars toward advertising and equipment for the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, which covers a 124,000-acre (50,000-hectare) swathe of trees and mountains that for thousands of years has served as the winter nesting ground to millions of orange-and-black-winged monarch butterflies.
A rare Chinese tiger cub has been born in South Africa:
"It is truly a historic event, because it is the first time that a South China Tiger has been born outside of China. Only around 60 South China Tigers exist in captivity and less than 30 survive in the wild," Li Quan, founder of the organization, said in a statement sent to Reuters.

More photos here.

The Global Text Project seeks to distribute free textbooks in the developing world:
The project evolves upon a “WikiBooks” strategy (free, open content, permanently updated by common effort), as the result of a “from many to more many” philosophy and mindset.
WorldChanging discusses some implications of Radiohead's decision to release their latest album digitally:
In the United States alone, every month some 100,000 pounds of CDs become outdated, useless or unwanted, especially as their useful lifespan contracts: among younger generations in developed countries, CDs are often only used to upload the content they hold into digital devices, limiting the lifespan of a CD to a single use. The possibility of digital-only distribution to reduce at least some of the current CD production would mean good news for the environment.
In Africa, deaths from measles are down 91 percent.
Measles deaths worldwide have fallen from an estimated 757,000 to 242,000 - 68 percent - between 2000 and 2006, according to the Measles Initiative, which includes the American Red Cross, the U.S. Centers for Disease Prevention and Control, the World Health Organization and UNICEF.

In Africa, the deaths dropped from 396,000 to 36,000.
British researchers have reportedly devised a means of quickly identifying multidrug-resistant bacteria:
The new test is important because it means we can rapidly identify patients who are colonised with drug resistant strains of the bacteria so that special infection control measures can be put in place.
Anne Matthews argues for the preservation of soundscapes:
EW: Will the preservation of sound become more of an integral part of historic preservation here?

AM: Yes, especially as we move away form the urge to re-create and then freeze-dry pretty buildings and think more about human narrative, the material-culture matrix, and the art of hearing time. History is text-based; it favors the eye. But sound is nearly as powerful.
With that in mind, check out Small Sounds / Big World, Tsai-Wei's Sound Journal, The Big Ear, and Xeno-Canto.

Since Toronto's my favorite North American city, I'd be obliged to recommend Toronto Ghost Signs even if it were a good deal less attractive than it is. Also, Vintage Knitting Images (why not?).

The Tabula Peutingeriana, an ancient Roman road map.

And at Luminous Lint, Portugal 1934: Photomontage as Propaganda.

Last, Things alerts me to the embarrassment of riches at Notcot, which includes Polanoid, whence comes the image at the top, which is by a contributor named Bernhard.

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