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Friday, June 29, 2007

run he's fuzzy ... get outta here

The Escanaba Daily Press is reporting that Matthew Moneymaker and the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization (BFRO) are planning their next expedition to find the big, fuzzy, out-of-focus monster known as Bigfoot, or sometimes Sasquatch, in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

The search will focus in the UP's Marquette County, throwing a wrench in the general consensus that Bigfoot is roaming the Rocky Mountains somewhere. Quite the contrary, BFRO's website has a comprehensive list of the groups past 30 expeditions, which apparently include Oklahoma, West Virginia and Hilton Head. (There's also a place to sign-up for the group's next trip to Ontario. Pad your amateur naturalist resume!)

Being a Michigan native, I must admit, Bigfoot hiding out in the Upper Peninsula makes perfect sense. In fact, I honestly wouldn't even be surprised if Bigfoot was a Yooper. I think last deer season I saw him at a bingo hall in Houghton.

via CNN

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

talk crop

Indoor farming is an idea that has been around for a long time. It is done on a small scale in greenhouses all around the world, and many foods that we consume on a daily basis are grown via larger scale, hot house farming. Indoor methods such as hot house farming allow all kinds of produce to be grown year-round in a controlled environment, virtually eliminating the threat of pests and weather to the crop yield and removing the need for soil by using a method known as hydroponics to grow things. Hot house farming can be done anywhere, bringing agriculture to the most arid of climates. While hot house farming solves the problems associated with outdoor farming, it doesn't do much to reduce the carbon footprint associated with transport of produce. This is where the idea of urban vertical farming comes in.

Dr. Dickson Despommier, Ph.D a professor of Public Health in Environmental Health Sciences and Microbiology at Columbia created The Vertical Farm Project. As a microbiologist and someone concerned with sustainability, he is a man after my own heart. The central idea of The Vertical Farm Project is to integrate vertical farms into the skylines of heavily populated cities thereby reducing the need to import produce and even small livestock such as chickens and pigs. The farms would be completely sustainable of course, using solar panels, recycling water, not using chemicals that can leach into the environment and kill fish and dolphins and baby eagles. Despommier's plan is quite impressive, and he seems to solve a lot of environmental problems associated with traditional farming techniques--especially the one about clearcutting rainforests to make farmland to grow crops to feed the projected 9 billion people that will be on Earth in 2050.

This plan could not come at a better time when it seems like world leaders are grasping at straws to do anything to reduce greenhouse gasses and couteract global warming. I can't think of a better way than letting forests grow where they once existed forever before we humans cleared them for crops.

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Monday, June 25, 2007

aw frenchie, you scared?

French officials are no longer allowed to carry Blackberries, according to a report in French papers last Wednesday, because they fear spies. (And not spam?)

The US, UK, Austria, New Zealand and Australian governments have all aproved the Blackberry network for sensitive material. But the US and UK based servers worry the Frogs. They don't want their secret widdle emails to leak. (Aw...)

Reseach in Motion (RIM), the Canadian Blackberry manufacturer denied the possibility of data interception. And a number of French officals are floating the ban anyhow. Figures.

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i'm rich! duh i use facebook.

A recent 6 month research project conducted at UC Berkeley by PhD student Danah Boyd reveals that Facebook users are of a higher socioeconmic class than MySpace users. Boyd defines class not just by how much money someone makes, but also by their ambitions, how much education they have recieved, race, religion, and geographic location. Initially I was intrigued by such a sweeping generalization, but upon deeper analysis, I realized that Boyd is totally wrong in her findings. Not to say they are completely devoid of merit, but Danah's conclusions are forgetting one very important aspect of Facebook's history--it was started at Harvard in 2004 and remained a social network that only college students and alumni and highschoolers could be a part of until September 2006. MySpace; on the other hand, is a social network that has never discriminated against users who weren't associated with an educational institution (that's why when I was 18, 36 year old men were messaging me). So, the very history of both MySpace and Facebook accounts for this observed difference in class of people who use the online social networks. I am not sure why something so evident to me, a recent college graduate, escaped dear Danah Boyd.
She also claims that Facebook users are for the most part white and degree seeking, while the MySpace user demographic contains more latinos and hispanics and "the kids who are socially ostracised at school because they are geeks, freaks, or queers." Again, these findings can be explained by who could join Facebook in the past as well as nationwide statistics on races and classes of people who attend college.
I use both MySpace and Facebook, and for different reasons. Facebook is what I use to talk to friends and when I am feeling a bit voyeuristic. MySpace is what I use when I want to check out new bands or friend a 45 year old.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007


This week, the European Space Agency announced that it is looking for 12 candidates to participate in a series of simulated trips to Mars. Surely astronauts the world over are wetting themselves at the prospect of being able to become one of the first humans to set foot on Mars, so there will likely be no shortage of applicants. The simulations are designed to study the psychological effects of space travel to Mars, and will be conducted in Moscow at the Russian Institute for Biomedical Problems. The participants will be made to live in a completely sealed space measuring 19,250 cubic feet for simulations lasting 105 or 520 days, dining on astronaut food and having only 40-minute-delayed radio contact with the outside world. The simulation is as close to a real Mars mission as possible with launches, emergencies and even exploration of the Martian surface. Sadly, the one fun thing about space travel--weightlessness--will be missing.
The screening process for the participants will be thorough, and the ESA is seeking healthy individuals 25-50 years of age and no more than 6 feet tall. The journey to Mars would be trying for anyone, and the average person would likely go crazy from that sort of isolation. If only space travel was like the movies and astronauts could be put in a medically induced coma for the long journey.
With a salary of about $160 per day and no expenses, being a fake astronaut seems like a pretty good job. The actual mission to Mars is still a ways off, and these simulations will help tremendously with the planning. Hopefully no crazies like Lisa Nowak slip through the cracks and get on that spaceship.

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