20 December 2007

The Fife Diet

The idea started in Canada, and now it's been adopted by a family in Scotland, where people are more conscious than we here in the US about the consequences for global warming of air-freighting strawberries between hemispheres: eat only food grown within 100 miles of one's home. If it can be done in Scotland--in the winter!--it ought to be possible here in NYC. Especially with the help of a large freezer and some planning ahead during the summer months. I'm going to have to try to get the family on board.

17 December 2007

"Web Log" Turns Ten

The BBC reports today that Jorn Barger created the term "Web Log" ten years ago to refer to his regularly updated collection of links. Given that definition, it turns out I'm not ten years behind the times after all; I started my own web page collection of links interesting to me some time late in the last century, and I did update it periodically, if not daily. But having just started my own Blog, in the current meaning of the term, it's a bit dismaying to read that there are now at least 70 million of them out there. Moreover:
Technorati, which keeps an eye on the blogosphere, estimates that there are now 120,000 new blogs being created every day. Posts are being added to blogs at a rate of 17 per second - a total of 1.5 million per day, says the firm.
This makes the chance that I'll find readership for this blog seem rather remote.

15 December 2007

Climate Change

The New York Times has been covering the climate talks in Indonesia for the past several days, often running the story at the top of the web edition. on line at the moment concerns climate talks on-going in Indonesia. Articles note that the Bush administration has been sharply criticized for its reluctance to make any substantial commitments to limiting the use of fossil fuels and, therefore, to the release of greenhouse gases that warm the planet.

Yet the paper also provides a helpful list of "The 53 Places to Go in 2008" (published December 9). The top ten: Laos, Lisbon, Tunisia, Mauritius, Miami (Mid-Beach and South Beach), Maldives, Death Valley, Courchevel, and Libya. Among the remaining 43 places, just four are in the United States: San Francisco, Detroit, San Diego, and (at 53rd place) New York.

Without apparent irony, the article comments: "The ice-capped peak of Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest mountain, is melting at an alarming rate. Within several decades, scientists predict, the glaciers will have completely disappeared" and then goes on to comment: Expect more adventure seekers to tackle the climb next year: One outfitter, International Mountain Guides, has seven trips scheduled for 2008."

The article does not mention the amount of fossil fuels burned in traveling to the remote places on the list, nor of the local impact of increased tourism on already fragile environments. Air travel is a major culprit in global warming for various reasons, including huge amounts of fuel burned, the impact on the upper atmosphere of contrails (those trailing lines you can see following airplanes through the sky), and the vast increases in numbers of flights in the past few decades.

The Times has published plenty of articles and op-ed pieces about climate change. But there's not a lot of attention to individual responsibility, in terms of the decisions the little people make day in and day out, year in and year out, and the impact of those decisions on the earth. In the article "Study Details How U.S. Could Cut 28% of Greenhouse Gases," published last month, Matthew L. Wald focuses on regulatory change that would force consumers and government bodies to reduce energy consumption.

These are important points. Moreover, town and city management should focus on encouraging rather than discouraging walking, cycling and use of public transit. But there's another major piece of the puzzle: Individuals, and especially those who are well-off or relatively so, need to take responsibility for reducing their own carbon footprint.

The editors of the Times ought to be using their considerable informational power to encourage individual choices that reduce energy use, rather than suggesting travel itineraries that will only contribute to global warming.

14 December 2007

Electric Bug

The idea sounded simple, and the instructions were clear enough. They involved two short pieces of wire, a flashlight bulb, a C battery, pipe cleaners, and some stiff paper. One piece of wire gets taped to the negative end of the battery and up along the side of the battery; the other piece gets wound around the bulb which then gets taped onto the positive end of the battery. The other ends of the wires stick out the top: antennae; the pipe cleaners and stiff paper get cut down and attached as legs and wings. (I departed from protocol and used duct tape for the wings to match the completely duct-tape-covered battery/body.) The kid is supposed to touch the two antennae to various household objects and see if the "nose" lights up to learn about conductivity.

How hard can it be?

How hard can it be to get the rounded bottom of the flashlight bulb to stay aligned with the round protrusion from the top of the battery?

With a kid poking and prodding and asking if it's done yet?

Well, it's done. The bulb is wiggly, but it is possible to wiggle it back into place. The conductivity testing part of the project was over in minutes and I found the thing lying around on the kitchen floor this morning.

This is why I don't home-school.

11 November 2007

Free Rice

Well, in honor of National Blog Posting Month I created a blog, but I've failed dramatically at posting daily. The Postmodern Beowulf sits, reproachful in its un-read-ness, by my bed.

Meanwhile, here's an odd but perhaps helpful way to get some food to folks who need it:


The idea: you test your vocabulary, and for each correct answer, ten grains of rice get added to the donation pile. Advertising at the bottom of the screen pays for the site. That's barely a forkful, so to do any real good you have to keep at it for a while. In a few minutes of quick clicking, I donated a couple thousand grains... a bowl or two? But there seem to be a large number of people at it, as the daily totals are quite impressive numbers.