Friday, September 18, 2009

I'm getting an education on fish

I never fail to be amazed how much information can be accessed on the Internet. I so remember going to the public library to look up stuff in the encyclopedia. So I have started doing a little reading for the new job. My first project will be "fish n chips" on how to identify fish that no longer has scales or fins or a head. There is a lot of stuff out there about fishing as a business and a sustainable enterprise. I think seafood farming may be a lot like making sausage - there is such a thing as too much information.

Some time back I found the Seafood watch put out by the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Now that my store has labels on the fish, I think I will get a little more responsible about what I buy.

Monday, September 14, 2009

what you don't know CAN hurt you

Ever use Pine-Sol to clean the kitchen? Bought one of those plastic cutting boards that are treated to be germ free? Have a plastic sponge that has some chemical attached so it won't grow germs? Well, me too. I have always been sanguine about these approaches to fighting the chicken crud, and been very smug about spraying Lysol all around and wiping it down. Huh.

Turns out there is pretty good evidence to show that exposure to these kinds of chemicals, benzylkonium chloride and hexachlorophene are ones you may recognize if you are a label-reader, promotes resistance to antibiotics. It's already a huge problem, antibiotic resistance, and there has not been a new class of antibiotics introduced in decades. Unregulated administration of antibiotics to treat non-bacterial diseases, not to mention the use of antibiotics to grow animals for food, has multiplied the number of pathogens that succumb to few, or even no, antibiotics. And that is not a good thing, Martha. So shucks, there, ma'am, I am part of the problem. Who knew? Well, back to bleach in a spray bottle for me. It's even cheaper.

weekend fauna

You know how cats are always looking for a new special place to sleep? Tootsie has found the best place in the house, on my handwoven wool suit under construction. Awww.
Have you ever seen anything sillier than a turkey on a birdbath? Particularly since they can just stand on the ground there and have a sip.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The color of things we love

Did you know that beetles and blue jays are not colored by pigments, like your hair is colored? It is the reflection of light from ordered surfaces that selectively reflects colored light. For blue jay feathers, it is the fine lines to the feathers that absorbs most light and reflects the lovely blue. Beetle exoskeleton has a hexagonal pattern, with pentagrams and heptagrams to help fit the curve of the shell. The light gets polarized just like going through your Ray-Bans, so you get the beautiful iridescent colors that make beetles one of god's favorite insects. Very cool that optics technologies are starting to study these complex biological structural designs for new ideas.

You know all those beautiful poinsettias that are so dense and bushy? Ever tried to keep growing one of those lush plants and it gets all leggy? Commercial poinsettias are infected by plant bacteria called phytoplasmas. It shortens the distance between branches by producing a specific protein that promotes dwarfism, branching, and general yellowing. Have you ever seen witches broom? There is a couple mile stretch in Death Valley festooned with witches broom, all curled and yellow. Unfortunately poinsettias are the only known commercially advantageous application (don't ask me why the leaves are not yellow), because it is very damaging to grapes, pears, apples, and so on. Another case of 'who knew?'

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The word of the day is geoengineering

Geoengineering: the deliberate large-scale manipulation of the planetary environment to counteract anthropogenic climate change.

This can be done two ways. If the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is reduced, heat in the form of infra-red radiation can escape the earth's surface more easily. The other way is not to let the solar radiation be absorbed in the first place, by increasing the reflectivity of the Earth. Now, what would it look like if we painted all the horizontal surfaces (roofs, for example, and parking lots) white? If you find this intriguing, or if you find you have insomnia, here is a report to browse The Summary is not so long-winded or obtuse for casual reading.