Monthly Archives: June 2010

The weird and wonderful beauty of the Spanish Shawl and other nude molluscs

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… er… I mean, nude-gilled (but otherwise clothed in a shawl?!) molluscs, i.e., Nudibranchs. The above blurry image shows the closest I’ve ever come to one (to my knowledge), separated only by a glass wall in the Monterey Bay Aquarium a year ago. It was but a small splash of bright color among a mess of other critters in a corner of the rocky tidal shore area of the exhibits (if I remember correctly). It wasn’t even specifically identified on the info panel on its enclosure – I only discovered later what it was. And I remembered this image today when I saw this fantastic gallery of Nudibranch portraits at National Geographic. Go check them out. They just might brighten your day too!

To flush or not to flush, that is the (pissing) question!

Photo: Dan ForbesPhoto: Dan Forbes

In a laboratory 10 miles east of downtown Los Angeles, a mechanical penis sputters to life. A technician starts a timer as a stream of water erupts from the apparatus’s brass tip, arcing into a urinal mounted exactly 12 inches away. James Krug smiles. His latest back-splatter experiment is under way.

After that opening, surely you’ll want to read the rest of Joshua Davis’ wonderful article in Wired magazine, on the technological, social, institutional, political, and environmental ramifications of urinals. Eye-opening stuff about an everyday piece of technology that you probably never think about even as you are quite literally pissing in it. While trying to minimize that back-splatter.

Of course, this applies mainly to us guys, so the waterless urinal only solves half the world’s water-wasting problem. Perhaps even less than that, because ladies’ rooms don’t have urinals and they are likely wasting (for all I know) a larger tankful per flush on a regular toilet – so are there plans to extend these waterless technologies across that gender gap, I wonder?

After all, as my friend Susannah Lerman reminds me (through pictures she just posted on facebook from her recent trip to the middle east), it is possible to have waterless WCs as well:

Pic ©Susannah Lerman

Don’t see any water tank or plumbing behind that throne, do you? You wouldn’t, because that, my friends, is a composting toilet, from the Lotan Center for Creative Ecology in Kibbutz Lotan near Eilat in the Arava valley of Israel. Now that’s something even more likely to get the clog into the plumbers union, eh?

On a lighter note, pondering the gender differences between excretory technologies reminded me of this classic application of the ideal-free distribution model of habitat selection by Dave Barry to a conundrum faced only by guys: which urinal to choose when faced with a row of them along a public restroom wall. Although, I doubt Barry has ever heard of the ideal-free distribution model.

Have I given your week a good start then, with this Monday morning blog post? No? Well, piss-off then!

To flush or not to flush, that is the (pissing) question!

Photo: Dan ForbesPhoto: Dan Forbes

In a laboratory 10 miles east of downtown Los Angeles, a mechanical penis sputters to life. A technician starts a timer as a stream of water erupts from the apparatus’s brass tip, arcing into a urinal mounted exactly 12 inches away. James Krug smiles. His latest back-splatter experiment is under way.

After that opening, surely you’ll want to read the rest of Joshua Davis’ wonderful article in Wired magazine, on the technological, social, institutional, political, and environmental ramifications of urinals. Eye-opening stuff about an everyday piece of technology that you probably never think about even as you are quite literally pissing in it. While trying to minimize that back-splatter.

Of course, this applies mainly to us guys, so the waterless urinal only solves half the world’s water-wasting problem. Perhaps even less than that, because ladies’ rooms don’t have urinals and they are likely wasting (for all I know) a larger tankful per flush on a regular toilet – so are there plans to extend these waterless technologies across that gender gap, I wonder?

After all, as my friend Susannah Lerman reminds me (through pictures she just posted on facebook from her recent trip to the middle east), it is possible to have waterless WCs as well:

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Pic ©Susannah Lerman

Don’t see any water tank or plumbing behind that throne, do you? You wouldn’t, because that, my friends, is a composting toilet, from the Lotan Center for Creative Ecology in Kibbutz Lotan near Eilat in the Arava valley of Israel. Now that’s something even more likely to get the clog into the plumbers union, eh?

On a lighter note, pondering the gender differences between excretory technologies reminded me of this classic application of the ideal-free distribution model of habitat selection by Dave Barry to a conundrum faced only by guys: which urinal to choose when faced with a row of them along a public restroom wall. Although, I doubt Barry has ever heard of the ideal-free distribution model.

Have I given your week a good start then, with this Monday morning blog post? No? Well, piss-off then!

BP’s Next Disaster: You ain’t seen nothing yet!!

Illustration by Tim Bower
Rolling Stone is on a roll, exposing one depressing thing after another about this hope and change administration. Here’s the latest about what is yet to come from everybody’s current favorite big oil company, BP. Some excerpts:

But Obama’s tough-guy act offers no guarantee that oil giants like BP won’t be permitted to repeat the same mistakes that led to the nightmare in the Gulf. Indeed, top environmentalists warn, the suspension of drilling appears to be little more than a stalling tactic designed to let public anger over BP’s spill subside before giving Big Oil the go-ahead to drill in an area that has long been off-limits: the Arctic Ocean. The administration has approved plans by both BP and Shell Oil to drill a total of 11 exploratory wells in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas above Alaska — waters far more remote and hostile than the Gulf. Shell’s operations could proceed as soon as the president’s suspension expires in January. And thanks to an odd twist in its rig design, BP’s drilling in the Arctic is on track to get the green light as soon as this fall.

Ken Salazar, the Interior secretary whose staff allowed BP to drill in the Gulf based on pro-industry rules cooked up during the Bush years, has made no secret of his determination to push the “frontier” of oil drilling into the Arctic. The region’s untapped waters are believed to hold as much as 27 billion barrels of oil — an amount that would rival some of the largest oil fields in the Middle East. “Everything I’ve heard internally, from sources within both the administration and industry, tells me that the administration is all over wanting these guys out in the Arctic Ocean,” says Rick Steiner, a top marine scientist in Alaska who helped guide the response to the Exxon Valdez spill. “They’re trying to solve this political problem with this Gulf spill in time to get these guys out in the Arctic next summer.”

And if that doesn’t worry you,

Here’s what BP has in store for the Arctic: First, the company will drill two miles beneath its tiny island, which it has christened “Liberty.” Then, in an ingenious twist, it will drill sideways for another six to eight miles, until it reaches an offshore reservoir estimated to hold 105 million barrels of oil. This would be the longest “extended reach” well ever attempted, and the effort has required BP to push drilling technology beyond its proven limits. As the most powerful “land-based” oil rig ever built, Liberty requires special pipe to withstand the 105,000 foot-pounds of torque — the equivalent of 50 Mack truck engines — needed to turn the drill. “This is about as sexy as it gets,” a top BP official boasted to reporters in 2008. BP, a repeat felon subject to record fines for its willful safety violations, calls the project “one of its biggest challenges to date” — an engineering task made even more dangerous by plans to operate year-round in what the company itself admits is “some of the harshest weather on Earth.”

Keepers of the Water (a $500 movie)

What would you come up with, if someone offered you a video camera and 500 bucks to go shoot your own movie? The Toronto International Film Festival did just that, to find emerging filmmakers, and the above film Keepers of the Water is my pick from among the five finalists in the competition. Go see the film and the other four – they are all quite good – and cast your vote:

TIFF® Talent Lab presents the Emerging Filmmakers Competition in support of up-and-coming filmmakers. The idea was simple: give filmmakers a video camera, $500 and ask them to create something original on the subject of water.

TIFF’s jury panel has selected their top five, and now it’s your chance to vote for your favourite short and give an emerging filmmaker a shot at winning the Fan Favourite Award, which will be presented at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival®.

After selecting one film of your choice, you’ll be taken to our contest entry page for your chance to WIN+ a TIFF Festival Red Carpet Experience worth $5,000!

 

Looking for something purposeful to read this summer? Here’s a list for all ages

This list comes from Teaching for Change‘s Busboys and Poets Bookstore:

Summer Reading With a Purpose

Fiction: Young Adult and Adult

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
… and the list continues below the fold for other categories…

Banglar King Kong rules!!!!… but what’s a loris doing in his kingdom?

A google search for Slender Loris somehow lead me to this improbably fantastic trailer! So did you spot the loris in the midst of the mayhem? What’s it doing there?!

More importantly, perhaps: can we get this special effects laden romantic action extravaganza in 3D please? That’ll knock James Cameroon’s socks off, surely. If the famous Assamese musical theatre adaptation of Titanic (complete with big ship sinking on stage) hasn’t already done so, that is.

Water: a critical source of sustenance and existential angst for cities everywhere

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g7-qaATFziA&hl=en&fs=1]

I found the above video via my friend (and once-and-future collaborator) David Lewis’ Facebook page, after realizing that he was among the initial recipients of an ULTRA-Exploratory award. More interestingly, his team is also studying questions about urban water use (like us), but in a very different regional context than Fresno-Clovis, as you can see above!

I found this video shortly after a stimulating skype chat with George Hess, at NCSU, who as PI of the Triangle ULTRA project has set up the OpenULTRA wiki to begin some meta-networking across the nascent ULTRA sites. I sure hope fellow scientists at all the other sites are also open to joining the wiki and opening up our research to share ideas and findings with each other, and with the public whose ecologies we are studying.

The Triangle ULTRA is also focused on questions of water use and equity in water distribution – but at a broader institutional level than our individual homeowner focus. And, given that the Triangle refers to the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill Triangle Region of mega urban sprawl in North Carolina, they’re dealing with a much larger set of institutions (govt. bodies) than we are in Fresno-Clovis.

So, from what I know, at least 3 of the 19 (?? that we know of?) ULTRA projects are focusing on water issues! I look forward to collaborating with these folks across sites, and being able to make some interesting comparisions in the near future as our projects proceed along parallel paths. And I will continue to share what I can here on this blog too.


Cool, eh?!