Friday, December 01, 2006

Friday Hope Blogging

For years, I have told the almost unbelievable, related the unreal, and shown it to be more than a fact. Now, I tell a tale of the threshold people, so astounding that some of you may faint!

Patrols in the Serengeti have reduced poaching:

"The Hilborn team has shown that protection of wildlife by active enforcement of laws and regulations remains an essential tool for conserving biological diversity," Hobbs says. "This sounds so simple, but it has been controversial."
Odd, isn't it? Meanwhile, Kenya is phasing out methyl bromide:
The alternatives, the researchers say, include using an underlying layer of pumice and coco peat, which are locally available.
This sounds so simple, but it has been controversial!

A startling new study indicates that contraception is a better way to prevent pregnancy – and abortion – than abstinence:
Eighty-six percent of the recent decline in U.S. teen pregnancy rates is the result of improved contraceptive use, while a small proportion of the decline (14%) can be attributed to teens waiting longer to start having sex, according to a report by John Santelli, MD, MPH, department chair and professor of Clinical Population and Family Health at the Mailman School of Public Health and published in the January issue of the American Journal of Public Health.
In related news, a vaginal microbicide could thwart God’s loving plan for mankind by protecting users from herpes and AIDS:
[T]he gel would be an important weapon in the fight against HIV because it would allow women to protect themselves from infection rather than relying on their partners to use condoms.
Protecting human beings from disease? It sounds so simple, but it has been controversial.

A rare spice found only in West African swamps may be a powerful anti-inflammatory:
The compound works in a similar way to the well-known anti-inflammatory drugs Vioxx, Celebrex and Bextra but, it is hoped, without their side effects, said Raskin and other scientists.
In Baltimore, developers are turning economic logic on its head by replacing the asphalt around schools with grass:
For decades, all of Franklin Square's 2-acre playground was asphalt - much of it cracked, covered in broken glass and weeds. The children were forbidden to run on it, and when they did, they often ended up in the nurse's office with scrapes and bruises. But under a partnership with the city, the Parks and People Foundation and various developers, the pavement at Franklin Square and nine other schools has been transformed into green space. The city is using storm water requirements to encourage some developers who are building in Baltimore to compensate for their paving by removing impervious surfaces somewhere else.
Trees in many cities produce tons of fruit that never gets eaten. In a reckless assault on this fundamental principle of human society, an activist has mapped Tucson's trees in order to make collecting and distributing fruit easier:
After watching elderly and low-income community members in Tucson suffer the consequences of being unable to access or afford fresh foods, she decided to put her skills to use mapping the available fruits and vegetables growing around town and redistributing the goods to those in need.
A firm called Greendimes claims it’ll do the hard work of getting your name off junk-mail lists, and plant trees in your name, all for the low, low cost of $3 a month:
So not only will you be putting a dent in the estimated 100 million trees chopped down every year to generate junkmail, you will become the proud parent of 12 saplings for each year you subscribe to Greendimes.
Worth a look, possibly.

An Indian firm is making edible chopsticks and cutlery:
Entrepreneur Narayana Peesapaty has the solution to the problem of billions of pieces of disposable plastic cutlery being discarded in India: he makes them edible. So after people have eaten their soup, they can chew and swallow the spoon.
Betcha can't eat just one! Researchers have devised an ultrasound-based stethoscope:
A new type of stethoscope enables doctors to hear the sounds of the body in extremely loud situations, such as during the transportation of wounded soldiers in Blackhawk helicopters.
And there's apparently been yet another breakthrough in hydrogen fuel-cell technology.
In a promising development for industrial hydrogenation and the storage and production of hydrogen for fuel cells, researchers have synthesized a lightweight, nonmetal compound that readily breaks apart and recombines H2 molecules.
The kids are also talking about a genetically engineered molecule derived from human blood, which “can use energy from the sun to create hydrogen gas, providing an alternative to electrolysis.” A few thousand more "promising developments" like these, and we should be doing pretty well.

Personally, I'm more impressed with Engineer-Poet's epic biomass-to-charcoal proposal, which is worth reading in full (bring a compass, and pack a lunch). There’s some fairly staggering proof-of-concept info here.

New York City has installed solar-parking meters:
The parking meters don't need direct sunlight. They are designed to operate with ambient light only recharging an internal Sealed Lead Acid battery capable of powering the meter completely. Designed from scratch with solar power in mind, many of the efficient and durable internal components were specifically designed for the meters.
New German research underscores the benefits of concentrated solar power:
There are different forms of CSP but all share in common the use of mirrors to concentrate the sun's rays on a pipe or vessel containing some sort of gas or liquid that heats up to around 400C (752F) and is used to power conventional steam turbines.

The mirrors are very large and create shaded areas underneath which can be used for horticulture irrigated by desalinated water generated by the plants. The cold water that can also be produced for air conditioning means there are three benefits.
Inhabitat describes a strange sort-of biomimetic building under consideration in Rotterdam. Behold:

In legal news, San Diego has banned Wal-Mart. The EPA has scaled back its plans to ease pollution controls. The owner of an asbestos testing lab that falsified results was sentenced two over two years in prison. And a federal judge has ordered deadbeat insurance companies to pay Katrina victims what they’re owed:
If upheld, the ruling late Monday by Judge Stanwood R. Duval Jr. of Federal District Court in New Orleans could cost the insurers billions of dollars more than the $41 billion they have already paid to storm victims.
A big if, of course, but one can always hope.

Subtopia describes an innovative (i.e., sensible and humane) response to natural disaster in other countries:
After consulting survivors and enabling them to take direct responsibility for the distribution of funds and reconstruction materials, the program has resulted in a coordinated community activism to help survivors build shelters themselves out of local materials…. Nothing like seeing communities take charge of their destiny, even in the face of the most grim circumstances. In fact, that is where community is capable of functioning at its best.
I was also interested by this article on the ecology of coupled oscillations, and the presence of “coordinated chaos” in ecosystems.

The photo at top is from Signage and Type, a beautiful Flickr set by sgoralnick. You may also enjoy these lenticulations (via Coudal), and this survey of Dekotora (via Things).

If you want to express your gratitude, I recommend that you learn to do it in Solresol, “a universal language, translatable to colour, melody, writing, touch, hand signals, and endless strings of numbers.”


juniper pearl said...

i was pretty happy about the change in the epa proposal, too, but it's only one tiny change in a ream of bad ideas. companies will still have to report annually, instead of every other year as suggested, but starting in 2007 the epa plans to raise the reporting threshold to 5,000 pounds of toxic pollutants, instead of the current 500 pounds (holy 800% increase, batman), and this would mean that about a third of reporting facilities would become exempt from filing their pollution at all. it's hopeful that democrats' pleas for corporate reform in this area were heard--but in this instance, the hope is only on the surface.

Phila said...

i was pretty happy about the change in the epa proposal, too, but it's only one tiny change in a ream of bad ideas.

True enough, as it currently stands. But we'll have to wait and see what happens. I'm not convinced the dead-enders are done compromising on this.

Anonymous said...

ALWAYS a pleasure to come here. Thanx again.

Phila said...

Thanks, Nanette. I'm always very glad when people respond well to FHB, 'cause it's so much work and rarely generates any comments.

Always such an amazing variety of really neat things... I can't imagine how you find them all.

Believe it or not, I used to do it all on Friday until maybe six months ago. Since then, I've simply been adding stuff to a special bookmarks menu as I see it, which makes things a bit easier.

Phila said...

Thanks for the tip, Nanette. I'm actually on Safari, which is similar to - though not nearly as good as - Firefox. I think I can do something similar, although it'd mean reading and editing on the fly, as opposed to procrastinating.

Reading somewhat critically through the articles, editing them into digestible chunks, doing the HTML, and finding pictures are the hardest parts, usually...

None of it would be all that big a deal if I weren't so goddamn busy with other chores.

Eh, maybe I'll look into the Scrapbook thing, or something like it...

Anonymous said...

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