Friday, May 25, 2007

Friday Hope Blogging

This feature is exceedingly hard to research each week, so if anyone feels like sending me items, I’d be very grateful (and will of course credit you). My e-mail is at the bottom of the page.

Having made this plea, I expect to be on Easy Street very shortly. But for now, there’s nothing to do but put what's left of my nose to what's left of the grindstone.

There was some fear that bricks made of recycled fly-ash would leach mercury. Oddly enough, they seem to do the opposite:

Researchers have found that bricks made from fly ash--fine ash particles captured as waste by coal-fired power plants--may be even safer than predicted. Instead of leaching minute amounts of mercury as some researchers had predicted, the bricks apparently do the reverse, pulling minute amounts of the toxic metal out of ambient air.
Go figure!

There's good news from POGO Blog:
The Senate Armed Services Committee approved language on the Defense Authorization bill last night which improves disclosure of Congressional earmarks and improves taxpayer protections for whistleblowers who work for defense contractors.
A new program would allow low-income people to use EBT cards at farmers’ markets:
The project will enable food stamp benefit recipients to purchase products from individual farmers' market vendors without each vendor being separately authorized by the USDA Food and Nutrition Services.
David Roberts links to an essay on “religious environmentalism” by Roger S. Gottlieb:
As religions become greener a number of other things happen as well. First, the global nature of environmental problems helps bridge the gap between different names for God, spiritual truth, or simple human goodness. As a result effective interfaith coalitions become increasingly more commonplace. The Interfaith Global Climate Change Network, for instance, has chapters in eighteen states and includes Protestants, Catholics, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, and Native Americans in its membership….

This comprehensive perspective of eco-justice offers hope for a new kind of politics that will transcend both blind faith in the "market" and a moribund liberalism of separate and competing interest groups.
Gottlieb also makes a point I’ve made before, on the value of the religious vocabulary in situations where “most people would find even a language of rights inadequate, and one of "consumer preferences" patently absurd.” There are plenty of things to quibble with here, but all in all it's an interesting read.

Also via Grist, Vancouver’s initial stab at a new city plan is pretty impressive:
Vancouver should put high-density housing next to its major parks and along every one of its major streets, suggests the first draft of Vancouver's ecodensity charter, released today.

The city should also close down some roads to cars and require developers to include solar power, rainwater collection, and laundry drying facilities in any new project....The over-arching idea [is that]Vancouver needs to redefine what it means to be livable city.
Fairfax County, VA has voted to restrict big-box retailers:
Fairfax County Supervisors have approved a new measure to restrict the development of stores larger than 80,000 square feet, against the protests of the business community.
Meanwhile, Arizona has agreed to limit growth based on whether or not growth is feasible:
Arizona lawmakers voted Thursday to expand the state's growth management efforts, approving a bipartisan bill to empower counties and cities to place new restrictions on rural development without adequate water supplies.
Obviously, no one’s informed these folks that rain follows the plow.

In today’s world, minor concessions to reality amount to heroism. Escondido, CA recently toyed with the idea of privatizing its sewer system, and came up with some interesting conclusions:
Deputy City Manager Charlie Grimm said last week that the city had contacted a consulting firm to determine what would be involved in privatizing a sewer system and got answers to three important questions:
- Could the sewer system be run more efficiently?
- Would the city reap any financial benefits?
- Would the city still have some control of sewer operations?
"Basically, down the line it's no, no and no, so we didn't spend a lot of time with it," Grimm said.
Probably wise, all things considered.

Arnold Schwarzenegger has refused to allow the siting of an LNG terminal off the coast of California:
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger last Friday announced his rejection of BHP Billiton's proposal to anchor a 1,000-foot-long liquefied natural gas terminal 14 miles off the Malibu coast, effectively killing the project outside of the Australian energy and mining giant winning a court battle or an unlikely federal government intervention (which would be difficult since the current federal law states the governor's rejection stops the project).
An Alaskan mine will not be allowed to dump its tailings in a lake:
The decision has important implications for mining. A few years ago, the Bush administration redefined mining waste as “fill”, which can legally be dumped into streams and lakes. Couer Alaska’s mine, the first metals mine to get a permit under that new definition, would have set a dangerous precedent for allowing mines to dump toxic tailings into Western waterways. We can all breathe a sigh of relief — for now.
A fox has withdrawn his bid to guard the henhouse:
Yesterday, Michael Baroody withdrew himself as nominee to head the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). News of the withdrawal came less than 24 hours before today's scheduled nomination hearing.

It is unclear whether the withdrawal came at the behest of the White House or was of Baroody's own accord. Either way, it is not surprising. The Senate nomination panel was preparing to grill Baroody on his ties to industry and obvious conflicts of interest.
A little-known, endangered species of turtle has been found in the Mekong River:
“This incredible discovery means that a unique turtle can be saved from disappearing from our planet,” said David Emmett, a CI wildlife biologist. “We thought it might be almost gone, but found it in abundance in this one pristine stretch of the Mekong, making the area the world’s most important site for saving this particular species.”
BLDG BLOG has posted a nice photospread on “the implosion of four cooling towers at the Chapelcross nuclear power station, in Scotland, where the UK used to produce weapons-grade plutonium.” Not sure whether this is good, bad, or indifferent in the grand scheme of things, but I’m a sucker for demolition (so long as the buildings are new enough).

That said, here’s a new building I’d rather not see demolished:

This incredible structure – built near Seville, Spain - comprises “a 300ft tall tower surrounded by 624 solar panels which will produce enough energy to power 60,000 homes.” Inhabitat has much more, including a video.

Nissan is attempting to recycle 100% of its vehicles:
Under the Nissan Green Program 2010 action plan, the company plans to accelerate its recycling efforts to achieve an average 95% recovery rate for end-of-life vehicles (ELVs) by FY2010. In Japan, this is four years ahead of the 2015 regulations.
Regulations, you’ll note, spur competitive behavior.

Also via The Seitch Blog, a solar heater made out of soda cans:
After a winter of freezing while working in the garage, Daniel Strohl was struck with the idea of creating his own solar panel garage heater. Fifty cans of Sprite later, he concocted a heater that was easily able to add 15 degrees of heat to the air.
Ethopia’s highest religious official has announced that it’s permissible to take anti-AIDS drugs and drink holy water at the same time:
Yonas, 41, who was in the congregation Wednesday, said he was pleased to know his preferred treatment was acceptable.

"I feel better now. Before, they forbade me to take the medicine," he said of his priests. "Now they welcome it."
Winning ideas in this year’s Development Market awards include novel mosquito traps, riverbank filtration, and health insurance for street children.

This may not be grounds for any sort of hope, but it’s certainly interesting:
Plasma astrophysicists at the University of Warwick have found that key information about the Sun’s 'storm season’ is being broadcast across the solar system in a fractal snapshot imprinted in the solar wind. This research opens up new ways of looking at both space weather and the unstable behaviour that affects the operation of fusion powered power plants.
Meanwhile, the European Space Agency has produced the sharpest satellite image of the earth yet. It’s magnificent, and you can see it by clicking here.

With Nature and a Camera is an online version of Richard Kearton’s 1898 book of natural history, which includes plenty of nice photographic plates. (Link via Plep.)

BLDG BLOG has a fascinating post on the West Norwood Cemetery catacombs.

Once you’ve admired this picture sufficiently, be sure to read BLDG BLOG’s earlier post on architectural hallucinations.

BibliOdyssey has posted an amazing collection of engineering diagrams from the Renaissance, as thus:

Where is an interesting blog “about urban places, placemaking and the concept of ‘place’” (via Things). See also Subway Systems of the World, Presented on the Same Scale, which comes via AIDG Blog.

Just for fun, see if you can guess which of these images outlines Moscow’s subway system, and which was created by a spider dosed with chloral hydrate.

God only knows why it’s taken me so long to link to Vitaphone Varieties. Since they’ve recently posted an mp3 of the Dixieland Jug Blowers’ “Banjoreno” - one of my favorite songs - it’s definitely time to remedy the oversight.

On a slightly different aesthetic plane: The films of Irene Moon (some readers will recall that I linked to one of these in an earlier FHB).

Last, an incredible collection of ambrotypes at Luminous Lint, an incredible collection of cameo cards at (what is this?), and an incredible collection at Le Divan Fumoir Bohemien (via Angela).

(Illustration at top by Francesca Berrini, via Moon River.)


Sandy-LA 90034 said...


Regarding your request for help to find posts for Friday Hope Blogging - I thought you had some special mystical talent for finding things!

I love the items you come up with. If there's anything I come across, I'll pass it on, but I have a feeling you've got some bookmarks that are kind out of my range of understandings.

However, do try to preserve your nose and if these posts are becoming too much, lesson the load on yourself. Take good care of yourself. Your posts are treasures and I know I enjoy whatever you come up with.

Thank you!

roger said...

i'm worn out just reading the whole thing every saturday, though heartened by the positive and interesting news. the breadth of your coverage is breathtaking. it would take me a week just to follow all your links, let alone the links from those links. i too think you have some mystical talent for finding things.

Phila said...

Sandy and Roger,

There's no mystical talent involved...just labor! I bookmark stuff throughout the week - about 75% of which comes from sites I read regularly anyway - and then boil it all down at the end.

I really have to find some way of streamlining the process, especially because I'm going to be so busy the next few weeks....

Sandy-LA 90034 said...

I'm sure we'll enjoy whatever you come up with. Thanks for all your good efforts.

Anonymous said...

I've been impressed by these Friday posts; I know how much work they must represent.

So I'll make a resolution to send you stuff that I find. That I don't use in my Tuesday posts.

And you know what resolutions are worth! ;-)


olvlzl said...

Phila, I can't find your e-mail. Either I'm going blind, make that blinder, or it's lost. I'd love to help you, this is one of the blog features I look forward to every week. We've got to keep hope alive.

Phila said...


That's very kind! To me, your cast-offs are worth as much as most people's diamonds.


If you click the link at the bottom, it should open within your e-mail client. In any case, it's buffoonia at yahoo.

Anonymous said...

hi, I`m from Germany and I wonder me what you about telling?
But I love it to read.
see you torsten
Hotel Rothenburger Hof Dresden

Anonymous said...

Re: bricks made of fly ash

I used to work with fly ash and much of it contains particles nearly identical to something called molecular sieves - essentially, they are hollow spheroids which can filter various molecules from fluids such as air through the miracle of adsorption.

That's probably what is happening with the bricks. Cool.

Anonymous said...

This is my first visit here, from a link at Eschaton. Very cool post, though I can see where it must be absolutely exhausting to compile so much information. I really didn't enjoy Banjoreno, but the very next song on there was fab. I love vocal music of that period.

Nick Kasoff
The Thug Report

Anonymous said...

Always a pleasure to read you.
Your firt Development Market link is broken, though.