Tuesday, October 14, 2014

making fuel from straw


"Last year a commercial scale advanced biofuels plant was opened in Crescentino near Turin, with the aim of producing 75 million litres of bioethanol every year from straw and arundo donax, an energy crop grown on marginal land.
The Italians recently announced plans to open three further plants in the south of the country.
Novozymes, one of the companies involved in the Crescentino initiative welcomed the government's decision to make it legally binding on fuel suppliers to include advanced biofuels in their petrol and diesel."

This makes so much more sense than using food to make fuel, like corn ethanol.  I hope this comes to the US soon.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Cults like ISIS


Growing inequality and a general lack of concern for civilians living under ISIS's rule could eventually spell the end of the group, Elizabeth Palmer and Khaled Wassef report for CBS News.
In Raqqa, Syria, ISIS's de facto capital, civilians chaffing under the jihadist's strict rule are becoming disenchanted with the self-proclaimed Islamic State. Residents are poor and disenfranchised — while fighters for the group are living lavishly. "

From the book The False Messiahs, by Jack Gratus, it's easy to see that ISIS is nothing new in history. Someone like Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS, comes along, gathers a religious following, builds a movement, and then the whole thing collapses. I suspect, based on how ISIS is utilizing short-term strategies that will alienate most people, it will not last very long either.
A short example from the book is the Pastoureaux movement beginning in 1251 in France. "They were led by one of the three original preachers, a man who claimed to have received a direct call from the Virgin Mary to summons the Crusade. He was said to have come from Hungary and was known as Jacob, the Master of Hungary." Jacob had great sway over those who heard his message, and he gained a large following. "He claimed that his elect would never go hungry or in need because he had the power to increase their provisions indefinitely. In fact, the Pastoureaux provisioned themselves by going into towns and villages and taking what they wanted." They quickly looted over 100 communities.
"Town after town welcomed his people as holy and Jacob as Christ himself." Jacob's movement grew as he plundered and preached. But when he began to preach against the nobility and proclaimed them the enemy, the authorities chose to end his reign, and he was captured and hacked to death. (pp. 74-5).
Several such movements are related in this remarkable book. These movements, like ISIS, had a leader claiming religious dictatorship, claimed to be the restoration of past glory, were extremely violent, and were completely intolerant of outside ideas. They all failed.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

civil disobedience used to win back civil disobedience


"Hundreds of Jefferson County, Colo. high school students walked out of class on Monday to protest the district school board's plan to remove the teaching of 'civil disobedience' in the AP U.S. History curriculum.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Does the digital world reduce our ability to read the emotions of others?


"For the study, researchers looked at two groups of students from the same school. The first group, comprising 51 students, attended outdoor school at the Pali Institute, a science and nature camp that doesn't allow student use of electronic devices. The second group, with 54 students, was allowed to use their devices as usual and did not attend the Pali Institute until the study was completed.
Both groups were shown 48 pictures of happy, sad, angry or scared people and asked to identify their emotions, both at the beginning and end of the study. "They also watched videos of actors interacting with one another and were instructed to describe the characters' emotions," according to a news release. "In one scene, students take a test and submit it to their teacher; one of the students is confident and excited, the other is anxious. In another scene, one student is saddened after being excluded from a conversation."
Students who had gone without digital media averaged 14.02 mistakes in the picture test before attending camp. After five days without screens, their scores improved to an average of just 9.41 errors per student. Camping students showed similar improvements on the video test. Students who had not yet attended camp showed a much smaller average improvement on the image test and no change on the video test."

Think of the old days when there were no phones, telegraphs, or fast transportation. What did people do to keep in touch?  Letters.  Sometimes you might get a photo of your loved one included, but usually that was with a stiff non-emotional face because cameras needed you to stay still for a while.  How did people manage to read the emotions of others back then?

I think the better measure would be time spent with actual people, rather than time spent with digital things.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Micro house action in Portland


"The city of Portland, Oregon, is nearing approval of construction for tiny home communities on public land in order to house homeless and low-income residents, the Oregonian reported. Josh Alpert, the city's director of strategic initiatives under Mayor Charlie Hales, said it's not so much a question of if, but rather, when the homes will be built in partnership with Multnomah County, according to the news source. The city will ask various public branches in the area -- including Portland Public Schools -- to provide surplus land for the homes."

Less than 200 square feet is a bit small I think.  400 square feet would provide space for your "stuff" as well as a bit more comfort.

I also like the comment "Looks good but perhaps adding a community garden would aid in feeding the residents, build skills, community and confidence."

Thursday, August 21, 2014

the militarization of the police

Ferguson, Missouri shows what can go wrong when the police get military equipment and are trained for military type actions.  They forget that citizens are not the enemy and protesters are not criminals.  I blame the Battle in Seattle for part of this, where the police had to deal with Black Block vandalism and retardedness.  But definitely police need to go back to working for the citizens not having and us vs. them attitude.