Monday, February 27, 2012

fairtrade fortnight

The UK's annual Fairtrade Fortnight starts today, so watch out for events near you supporting fair trade. I have rounded up some fairtrade supplies from our household for a family portrait:

A notable new addition to my shopping list since last year's fairtrade fortnight is the Geo muesly from TraidCraft, which I love to bits.

PS this is post no. 996 of my blogspot blog (there have been previous incarnations in MySpace and on yahoo 360, but not sure how many additional posts they had). Thinking of something special to do for the 1000th. Watch this space.

Friday, February 24, 2012

good year for odd book titles

2011 seems to have been a good year for strange book titles, as the diagram shortlist is looking very strong. So good in fact that my suggestion, for which I had very high hopes, didn't make it into the final 7. In fact I had made several suggestions, but the most promising one was:

Karsai Nei Tsang: Therapeutic Massage for the Sexual Organs

Never mind, I love the 7 titles that were selected, haven't even made up my mind yet who to vote for.

The shortlist (complete with explanations from the Booksellers magazine website) includes:

A Century of Sand Dredging in the Bristol Channel: Volume Two by Peter Gosson (Amberley). A book that documents the sand trade from its inception in 1912 to the present day, focusing on the Welsh coast.

Cooking with Poo
by Saiyuud Diwong (Urban Neighbours of Hope). Thai cookbook. “Poo” is Thai for “crab” and is Diwong’s nickname.

Estonian Sock Patterns All Around the World
by Aino Praakli (Kirjastus Elmatar). Covers styles of socks and stockings found in Estonian knitting.

The Great Singapore Penis Panic: And the Future of American Mass Hysteria
by Scott D Mendelson (Createspace). An analysis of the “Koro” psychiatric epidemic that hit the island of Singapore in 1967.

Mr Andoh's Pennine Diary: Memoirs of a Japanese Chicken Sexer in 1935 Hebden Bridge by Stephen Curry and Takayoshi Andoh (Royd Press). The story of Koichi Andoh, who travelled from Japan to Yorkshire in the 1930s to train workers at a hatchery business the art of determining the sex of one-day-old chicks.

A Taxonomy of Office Chairs
by Jonathan Olivares (Phaidon). Exhaustive overview of the evolution of the modern office chair.

The Mushroom in Christian Art
by John A Rush (North Atlantic Books). In which the author reveals that Jesus is a personification of the Holy Mushroom, Amanita Muscaria.

in fact, I've just seen A Taxonomy of Office Chairs at an Oxfam bookshop, but was just about able to resist the temptation. Don't think it will win either.

The Guardian has a picture gallery with the covers of all seven books, in case it helps with the voting.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

alternative energy

The conversion of our energy supplies to sustainable resources isn't advancing quite as fast as we may wish, and in the meantime, the people who seem to be desperate to burn even more fossil fuels than we are burning already have come up with ingenious ways of getting even more coal and gas out of the ground.

I've written a feature rounding up some alternative energy sources, including both green and not quite so green ones, which is out in Current Biology today and freely accessible to all.

Looking for alternative energy sources
Current Biology, Volume 22, Issue 4, R103-R106, 21 February 2012

Free access to full text and PDF download

Brown algae are one of the options considered for the production of next generation biofuels. (Photo: Bjørn Christian Tørrissen/Wikipedia.)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

miscellaneous musings

rounding up the last two months worth of German pieces, I have the miraculous interconversion of spider glue and barnacle cement, the wine diet, barcodes and autism. Here goes:

Chemie in unserer Zeit 46, Nr 1, 6
Naturstoffe: Seide aus Beton
Abstract and FREE access to PDF file

Nachrichten aus der Chemie 59, Nr 2, 111
Ausgeforscht: Na denn, prost!

Nachrichten aus der Chemie 59, Nr 2, 137-8
Blickpunkt Biowissenschaften: Barcodes für Tiere und Pflanzen

Spektrum der Wissenschaft Nr 1, 24-26
Autismus: neue genetische Fährten

plus a late arrival from last December:

Trillium Report 9 Nr 4, 211-212
Astrobiologie: Lebenszeichen aus dem All

writer's fuel

Astrobiology diffracted through a glass of Cotes du Rhone ...

Monday, February 13, 2012

move your money

Last week saw the UK launch of the "Move your Money" campaign, which aims to encourage people to move their accounts from the big casino banks to other institutions that operate more sustainably and for the benefit of the communities they serve, such as credit unions or the co-operative bank. There is an excellent overview of the options available to UK customers in last Saturday's Guardian:

Unhappy with big banks? You could move your money

You can find more info on the campaign sites of:

Move your Money (UK)
Move your Money (US)
Bankwechselkampagne "Krötenwanderung jetzt!" (Germany)

I've been slightly ahead of the (UK) wave and started moving my finances in November, though there are still some things left to move like insurances. (I have to admit though I was stung into action by hearing from someone who switched their finances to a credit union 20 years ago.)

While I'm not sure whether the gambling boys up there in the upper floors of those shiny skyscrapers actually notice what we're doing down here in the real world, I think it is important to withdraw their apparent legitimation, the pretence of doing a useful service to the real economy. If they are just left with their casino operations, it will be easier to legislate against them and to let them crash.

So while they are busy with the bonuses, and incidentally we're also celebrating the international year of the co-operatives, move your money now!

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

barcoding biodiversity

DNA barcodes are specific DNA sequences that can be used for convenient species identification. There are now huge projects underway to compile databases of barcodes for many thousands of species, linking in traditional museum collections, but also changing the way ecological field research is done and species protection can be policed. This is a topic I hadn't covered before, so there was a lot to catch up with in this feature, which is out in Current Biology today and freely accessible to all:

Barcoding biodiversity
Current Biology, Volume 22, Issue 3, R73-R76, 7 February 2012
HTML text
PDF file

Yes, Nemo has been barcoded too! (Photo: Fourth International Barcode of Life Conference, Adelaide, Australia, Nov-Dec.2011)

Thursday, February 02, 2012

je l'aime a mourir

it's Shakira's birthday today, so in celebration, here's the video of her lovely bilingual rendition of "Je l'aime a mourir" by Francis Cabrel, from the recent DVD Live from Paris: