Monthly Archives: July 2010

Mountaintop Removal Mining Should Be Abolished

On April 1, Lisa Jackson, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, announced strong new guidance on mountaintop removal permits, which, if applied rigorously, could prohibit most MTR operations and the resulting toxic dumping into streams and valleys.

However, two weeks ago Lisa Jackson’s U.S. Environmental Protection Agency gave the Army Corps of Engineers a green light for the Pine Creek mine permit, a mountaintop removal (MTR) mining site in Logan County, W.Va. This is the first permit decision the EPA has issued under the new mountaintop mining guidelines, which came out last April and were anticipated to provide tougher oversight of mountaintop removal coal mining.

The new MTR guidelines were understood to provide greater protection for headwater streams by curbing the practice of dumping waste in neighboring valleys to create what is known as valley fills. The Pine Creek permit is the first test of these guidelines, and green lights three new valley fills (each over 40 acres large). It was anticipated that these guidelines, by requiring mining operators to control levels of toxins in nearby streams, would significantly reduce the dumping of mining waste in valleys, which the EPA said was scientifically proven to contaminate drinking water and wreck ecosystems.

Read the rest here and learn what action you might take.

Walking around the lakes

When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time at lakes, but the idea of walking around a lake hardly every occurred to me or anyone else. This might be because the lakes were either really big (like the Great Sacandaga Reservoir) or nestled into deep sided rock canyons carved out by glaciers, and thus, not walk-aroundable. Lakes were central places, termini of inland pathways, points along long distance hikes, not things you walked around.

Continue reading Walking around the lakes

Coming Soon to an OpenSource Platform Near You

Item 1:

Linux has perfectly good fonts these days, and they are getting better.

Patents held by Apple Corporation did not allow basic technology (the Bytecode Interpreter)to be implemented in Linux fonts (without paying). FreeType (the Linux font system) worked around this and things were workable, but still, having the Apple technology would have been better. But now….

As of May 2010, those patents have expired and as of July 12 with version 2.4.0, Freetype ships with the Bytecode Interpreter enabled. Version 2.4.1 was released July 18 to address a small bug found in 2.4.0. Freetype is released under a BSD-style FreeType License and the GPL.

Bwahahaha!!! The patents always expire, the dam always breaks, the grip always loosens. Bwhahahaha!!!

Item 2:
Continue reading Coming Soon to an OpenSource Platform Near You

Stop the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline

Earlier this week, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman warned Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a letter that approving the Keystone XL pipeline would be “a step in the wrong direction” and criticized the State Department’s limited environmental impact statement about the pipeline.

The proposed pipeline would transport 900,000 barrels of oil a day nearly 2,000 miles from Alberta, Canada to U.S. Gulf Coast refineries. The project is currently undergoing the State Department’s review process since all transnational pipelines must be approved by the State Department as coinciding with “national interests.” The pipeline seemed like a done deal, but recently environmental groups, citizens across the country, and 50 members of Congress have been speaking up about the horrible environmental impacts of the pipeline.

Keystone XL would transport oil from oil sands, also called tar sands, the dirtiest fuel that we use. The extraction of oil from tar sands is inherently more energy intensive, using three times more energy to produce than pumping oil from wells. Increasing our use of tar sands oil from this pipeline would increase our greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to adding 18 million cars to the roads. Extracting the oil from Canadian tar sands is also an extremely water-intensive process and destroys large areas of forests.

In addition to highlighting these concerns in his letter, Waxman also criticized the environmental impact statement released by the State Department about the Keystone XL project. As part of their review process, the State Department is required to release this statement weighing the environmental consequences of the project, but Waxman writes that the Department’s statement “makes little sense” since it never discusses the pipeline’s significant impact on global warming, “the most significant environmental problem associated with the project”.

It is unthinkable that at this crucial moment in history we could approve a multi-billion dollar project that increases our dependence on fossil fuels, let alone an investment in one of the dirtiest fuels out there. As Waxman and other public figures are standing up to fight for a clean energy future, we hope that Secretary Clinton hears their voices and refuses to approve a project that would drastically increase our greenhouse gas emissions.


Source of press release

Skeptical Search Engine Update

So far, my new experimental Skeptical Search Engine has been used hundreds of times, and the top searchers are:

  • deepak chopra
  • homeopath
  • ghost
  • high fructose corn syrup
  • god
  • evolution
  • zecharia sitchin
  • creationism
  • ghosts
  • global warming
  • ancient astronauts
  • ufo
  • pyramids egypt
  • love
  • vaccines
  • methane bubble
  • climate change
  • pyramids
  • fossil sirenia
  • carbohydrates
  • easter island
  • acupuncture
  • vaccine
  • Gmos
  • bigfoot

This is excellent. One suggestion: Use GMO rather than GMOs and ghost instead of ghosts in order to avoid limiting the search.

My congressperson embarrasses me, as does my neighbor

Both Erik Paulsen, my representative to the US congress, and Michele Bachmann, the infamous insane person who represents my neighbors a few blocks away, have elected to vote against worker’s health compensation for 9/11 first responders.

And they dare to call themselves Americans!!!
Continue reading My congressperson embarrasses me, as does my neighbor

Lost in time, freezing cold … unable to utter the simplest “beep”

The Rover Spirit is hibernating on a dark slope on the winter end of the planet Mars. Solar panels may be providing enough energy to keep its clock going. If not, it will become suspended in time and not know to wake up and send a signal that it is ‘alive.’ The panels may or may not keep the battery temperatures above 40 degrees below zero Celsius so that batteries survive the Martian winter, which is said to be almost as bad as the Minnesota winter. But probably not. And for now, the mission controllers are waiting for a beep that could come any time.
Continue reading Lost in time, freezing cold … unable to utter the simplest “beep”

Does drinking beer increase your attractiveness …. to mosquitoes?

ResearchBlogging.orgThe anopheles mosquito, Anopheles gambiae, is the primary vector for human malaria. Mosquitoes in general, the A. gambiae included, find their prey by tracking body odor exuded from the breath and skin. Apparently, the composition of body odor determines A. gambiae‘s preference for one individual over another. It has been known for some time now that A. gambiae preferentially seek out and draw blood from pregnant women (Linsay et al 2000; Ansell et al 2002; Himeidan, Elbashir and Adam 2004), preferring pregnant over none pregnant women at about a 2:1 ratio.


Continue reading Does drinking beer increase your attractiveness …. to mosquitoes?

Nature, Energy, Technology Wow Moments

Can a fly’s eye(s) be used for solar cells? Apparently so. Speaking of which, I have a gripe. Nuclear power supporters have always ignored the fact that Nuclear power (a.k.a. “unlimited safe free energy”) is more expensive than other traditional forms of energy. In the mean time, anti “alternative” energy, often the same people, have touted that Solar is too expensive to be worth it. Well, guess what. A recent study seems to have shown that Solar power is cheaper than nuclear. So, there you go.

Berry Go Round # 30, the Plant Carnival, is up and running at Brainripples. This is your window to amazing plant photography (and some insects too) as well as discussions of plant evolutionary biology.

There is now a fast hybrid car, and it’s a porsche.

And: Apparently, they’ve cracked the mystery of how rubber bands work!