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Archive for May 2009

Cotton burr bests commonly-used erosion control mulches

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Agricultural Research Service (ARS) agricultural engineer Greg Holt helped develop the erosion control industry’s first cotton hydromulch “spray-on blanket.” Holt is at the ARS Cotton Production and Processing Research Unit in Lubbock, Texas.

Hydromulch is the bright-green mulch used in spray-on slurries that cover bare lands at construction sites and roadside projects, to prevent erosion until vegetation can be established. In the past, hydromulches were made mostly from wood and paper byproducts.

GeoSkin® Cotton Hydromulch is made from cotton gin byproducts. It is a combination hydromulch/spray-on erosion-control blanket that performs better than conventional roll-on blankets and requires significantly less labor. Holt and colleagues tested the prototype against commercial erosion control blankets made of straw, wood and coconut.

The total runoff from these four mulches, including soil and mulch ingredients, was: cotton, 222 pounds per acre; straw, 7,832 pounds per acre; wood, 7,474 pounds per acre; and coconut, 3,719 pounds per acre.

One of Holt’s studies showed that cotton-based hydromulches established a good stand of grass, compared to other hydromulches and a straw blanket which didn’t do as well.

No doubt you won’t find this the most exciting post ever at my site. Or any other. But, hydromulch is one of those topics fascinating to anyone ever involved with large-scale construction projects. I’m retired, now – but, this stuff still trips my trigger.

If there’s anything the Lubbock area can research, of course, it’s cotton. They have too damned much of it, now – virtually all produced to the detriment to the overall ecology and environment. Still, it’s nice to see some of the leftover crap – I presume they’re mostly dealing with what is called cotton burr – take another step forward for complete use of agricultural byproducts.

We use cotton burr mulch BTW around just about every garden plant and tree on our property. Good stuff.

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Written by Ed Campbell

May 31, 2009 at 10:00 pm

Posted in Earth, Science

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Pakistan ‘nearing Swat victory’

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Army troops on patrol in Mingora
Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

Pakistan’s operation against Taliban rebels in the Swat valley region should be over in the next few days, the country’s defence secretary has said.

Syed Athar Ali told a meeting of Asian nations in Singapore that only “5% to 10% of the job” remains. But an army spokesman said it was not possible to predict when the military operation would be completed…

The army has said it will pursue “hardcore” rebels after recapturing Mingora, the main city in Swat. Mingora was home to 300,000 people before the fighting began…

“The main cities in the Swat valley stand clear today. The operation is being conducted in the countryside to the right and left of the valley and to the North… so the operation is ongoing and it will take a little more time,” army spokesman Maj Gen Athar Abbas told the BBC.

But while Maj Gen Abbas said the remaining militants were being hunted down, he could not confirm when the army’s operation in the area would be complete.

It’s difficult to give a timeline because this is an elusive enemy that has strongholds in the countryside,” he said…

Soldiers continued to patrol Mingora’s largely deserted streets on Saturday, securing neighbourhoods and checking houses for booby-traps.

Pakistan has increased its reward for the capture of the Taliban leader in Swat, Maulana Fazlullah, to $600,000. The radical cleric is believed to be the architect of a two-year uprising in the valley aimed at enforcing Islamic law.

News coverage makes it seem easy; but, now the hard part begins. All the qualities of life a government should provide to its citizens – some of which was offered by the Taliban in the absence of government responsibility – must now flow into the region.

Every penny promised by external exchequers must be delivered in a timely fashion. Otherwise, this will be even less than a hollow victory.

Written by Ed Campbell

May 31, 2009 at 6:00 pm

Posted in Culture, Politics

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Obama’s face rules folk art sales

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Perhaps not since John F. Kennedy, whose dusty portraits can still be seen in kitchens and barbershops and alongside the antique beer cans at bars like Manuel’s Tavern in Atlanta, has a presidency so fanned the flames of painterly ardor among hobbyist and professional artists.

Mr. Obama’s campaign was well known for inspiring art, including Shepard Fairey’s ubiquitous “Hope” poster, a version of which is now in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington. Months after the election, with the glow of the administration’s first 100 days dimming, it might have been expected that enthusiasm for Obama art would be dimming, too…

The phenomenon has been a boon to the near-anonymous painting factories crowded together in the suburbs of Shenzhen, China, famous for cranking out copies of masterpieces, along with landscapes and semitasteful nudes. Another one, seemingly based in Germany, offers stately Obamas amid air-brushy likenesses of Tupac Shakur, Bruce Lee and Al Pacino (in his “Scarface” role), advertised as “real hand-embellished” paintings on canvas.

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Written by Ed Campbell

May 31, 2009 at 3:00 pm

Posted in Culture, Politics

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Russian Navy – fires on Russian village – WTF?

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30mm AK630 cannon is the type used in the attack

A Russian naval ship has accidentally fired on a village near the city of St Petersburg during military exercises, officials have confirmed.

No one was killed or injured in the incident, which occured in the Vyborg region on Thursday evening, but some damage was reported.

Locals at a farm where the shots were fired said people took cover in basements to shield themselves from the shelling, Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency reported.

This is, of course, a disgrace, people could have died. This is the height of the planting season and there are a lot of people at the farm,” Tatyana Kostaryova, a spokeswoman for the local administration, told the agency.

Yury Mikhailov, the head of the farm, said most of the shrapnel fell on rooftops and greenhouses…

Russian naval forces said a small anti-submarine vessel from the Baltic Fleet made the mistake during exercises in the Gulf of Finland.

Igor Lebedev, a regional military prosecutor, said the ship was conducting target practice and that some shells or rounds fell on houses near the village.

So, uh, what were they trying to hit? And did they ever hit it?

Written by Ed Campbell

May 31, 2009 at 12:00 pm

Posted in Politics, Technology

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Wind turbines inside power line towers – a prizewinner

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A French team of an engineer and two architects have won this year’s prestigious Metropolis Next Generation Design Prize for “Wind-it,” a design to place wind turbines inside existing high-voltage electricity pylons.

The winners are Julien Choppin, 31, and Nicola Delon, 31, partners in the Paris architecture firm Encore Heureux, and Raphael Menard, director of Elioth, a 20-person conceptual and experimental research arm of the large French engineering firm Iosis Group.

The first non-US winners of the prize, Choppin, Delon and Menard were judged to have best met the 2009 Next Generation Prize Challenge: “FIX OUR ENERGY ADDICTION…”

Wind-it answers one of the greatest challenges to the development of wind power: where to site wind turbines. Choppin, Delon and Menard’s design uses existing infrastructure – the towers and pylons that dot the more than 157,000 miles of high voltage power lines in the U.S. – to locate their turbines, which can be stacked within already sited structures.

Moreover, Wind-it solves the problem of linking energy generation and electricity transmission in the same way – by co-locating them.

“Wind power is great in theory, but NIMBY concerns have hampered its deployment. I’m proud that our Next Generation Prize winner provides such an elegant solution to a thorny problem,” said Metropolis publisher Horace Havemeyer III…

“This seemingly simple proposal demonstrates genius on two levels: it significantly reduces wind turbine costs by using the extensive network of existing electricity distribution poles, while also overcoming many of the legal obstacles to siting and constructing new wind turbine systems,” notes competition judge, Philip White.

Anything that takes NIMBY’s out of the loop required for improving the lives of millions – instead of wasting time and resources with pettifoggery and lame litigation – is OK in my book.

Written by Ed Campbell

May 31, 2009 at 9:00 am

Create a promise to be ethical – after an era of immorality

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When a new crop of future business leaders graduates from the Harvard Business School next week, many of them will be taking a new oath that says, in effect, greed is not good.

Nearly 20 percent of the graduating class have signed “The M.B.A. Oath,” a voluntary student-led pledge that the goal of a business manager is to “serve the greater good.” It promises that Harvard M.B.A.’s will act responsibly, ethically and refrain from advancing their “own narrow ambitions” at the expense of others.

What happened to making money?

“Nearly 20%” signed on. WTF! That’s the maximum commitment to honesty at one of the snazziest business schools in the country?

That, of course, is still at the heart of the Harvard curriculum. But at Harvard and other top business schools, there has been an explosion of interest in ethics courses and in student activities — clubs, lectures, conferences — about personal and corporate responsibility and on how to view business as more than a money-making enterprise, but part of a large social community…

In the post-Enron and post-Madoff era, the issue of ethics and corporate social responsibility has taken on greater urgency among students about to graduate. While this might easily be dismissed as a passing fancy — or simply a defensive reaction to the current business environment — business school professors say that is not the case. Rather, they say, they are seeing a generational shift away from viewing an M.B.A. as simply an on-ramp to the road to riches.

Those graduating today, they say, are far more concerned about how corporations affect the community, the lives of its workers and the environment. And business schools are responding with more courses, new centers specializing in business ethics and, in the case of Harvard, student-lead efforts to bring about a professional code of conduct for M.B.A.’s, not unlike oaths that are taken by lawyers and doctors.

I hope so.

RTFA. Interesting stuff regardless which part of commerce affects your daily life. And daily bread.

Written by Ed Campbell

May 31, 2009 at 6:00 am

Death in the Heartland – the spread of Heroin

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Group session at a rehab center in Ohio

For five hours, Dana Smith huddled stunned and bewildered in her suburban living room while the body of her son Arthur Eisel IV, 31, lay slumped in an upstairs bathroom, next to a hypodermic needle…

Family and friends streamed in. Detectives scurried about. For Mrs. Smith, the cold realization set in that her oldest son Artie — quiet, shy, car enthusiast, football and softball fanatic — was dead of a heroin overdose.

The death was the end of a particular horror for Mrs. Smith, whose two other children, Mr. Eisel’s younger brothers, also fell into heroin addiction “like dominoes,” she said, and still struggle with it.

To the federal government, which prosecuted the heroin dealers for Mr. Eisel’s death, it was a stark illustration of how Mexican drug cartels have pushed heroin sales beyond major cities into America’s suburban and rural byways, some of which had seen little heroin before…

Federal officials now consider the cartels the greatest organized crime threat to the United States. Officials say the groups are taking over heroin distribution from Colombians and Dominicans and making new inroads across the country, pushing a powerful form of heroin grown and processed in Mexico known as “black tar” for its dark color and sticky texture.

Their operations often piggyback on a growing and struggling Mexican immigrant population…On this side of the border, the traffickers continue to expand their reach.

RTFA. Long, detailed, something I’ve seen from a specific subjective view – first, all the years I was on the road in the southern Rockies and second, here in Santa Fe County and northern New Mexico.

People. Stop kidding yourselves about a couple of things. The “War on Drugs” is a worse failure than the VietNam War. It simply will never end as long as users are criminalized. Every nation that has decriminalized drugs has proven this. They have destroyed 99% of the gangster income from drugs.

If poor migrant laborers are harboring drug dealers in their midst, they aren’t going to tell the coppers crap. They aren’t going to help. You already know you have a problem with your own lazyass kids selling drugs because it’s more profitable than working for a living – how do you think it feels to an out-of-work undocumentado who’s barely qualified to use a shovel? Reference? See the “War on Drugs” once again for the source of money to motivate criminal behavior.

Written by Ed Campbell

May 31, 2009 at 2:00 am

Waggling wings could cut aircraft drag and emissions 20%

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Wings which redirect air to waggle sideways could cut airline fuel bills by 20% according to research funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and Airbus. The new approach, which promises to dramatically reduce mid-flight drag, uses tiny air powered jets which redirect the air, making it flow sideways back and forth over the wing.

The jets work by the Helmholtz resonance principle – when air is forced into a cavity the pressure increases, which forces air out and sucks it back in again, causing an oscillation – the same phenomenon that happens when blowing over a bottle.

Dr Duncan Lockerby, from the University of Warwick, who is leading the project, said: “This has come as a bit of a surprise to all of us in the aerodynamics community. It was discovered, essentially, by waggling a piece of wing from side to side in a wind tunnel.”

“The truth is we’re not exactly sure why this technology reduces drag but with the pressure of climate change we can’t afford to wait around to find out. So we are pushing ahead with prototypes and have a separate three year project to look more carefully at the physics behind it…”

The new micro-jet system being developed by Dr Lockerby and his colleagues could reduce skin friction drag by up to 40%. If successful this technology could also have a major impact on the aerodynamic design and fuel consumptions of cars, boats and trains.

Glad he’s already thinking about cars and trains. It was the first thing that came to mind.

Improving aerodynamics is effective in automobile engineering at surprisingly low speeds. BTW – I don’t care if this makes our four-wheeled friends a bit uglier. Saving money and fuel – and the environment – ain’t ever ugly to me.

Written by Ed Campbell

May 30, 2009 at 10:00 pm

That’s a lotta stones – lone jewel thief in $8 million heist

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Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

Jewellery worth more than $8 million has been stolen from an exclusive Paris store in broad daylight by a lone gunman.

The suited robber entered Chopard on Place Vendome and threatened staff into handing over 15 pieces of jewellery, a police source told Reuters.

He calmly walked out of the store after the hold-up, which happened just before 3 in the afternoon…

Place Vendome is an elegant old square known for its luxury hotels, and is also home to numerous jewellery stores as well as the French justice ministry…

Late on Saturday afternoon, the store at No 1 Place Vendome stood closed behind iron shutters, an AFP correspondent reports…Only some leather handbags could be seen in the window, and no trace of a robbery could be seen from the outside.

No one saw anything – of course. In Place Vendome, most are there to be seen, not to see anything.

Written by Ed Campbell

May 30, 2009 at 6:00 pm

Germany, Canada, Russia, U.S. seal the deal to save Opel

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Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

Germany has heaved a sigh of relief over a deal with Canadian auto parts group Magna, General Motors and the U.S. government to save carmaker Opel from the imminent bankruptcy of its U.S. parent.

The accord sealed after six hours of talks in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s offices still needs final approval but seemed set to ringfence Opel and its 50,000 workers in Europe from a GM Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing widely expected for Monday.

Merkel said U.S. President Barack Obama — due to visit Germany next week — helped swing the deal with a telephone call on Friday.

That helped clear hurdles over financing that had threatened to scupper the entire transaction and allowed GM to agree the deal with Magna about the future of its European operations, of which Opel is the centerpiece…

Opel workers favored Magna over rival suitor Fiat even though Magna will cut some 11,000 jobs in Europe, a quarter in Germany. Plants in Belgium and Britain may not survive…

Like its parent GM, Opel has suffered acutely from world recession. Its fate has gripped Germany, where the auto industry remains a potent symbol of the country’s postwar recovery…

Russian state-controlled Sberbank, which is helping to finance the deal and is set to get a 35 percent stake in Opel, welcomed the agreement as a way to restructure the Russian automotive industry…

Another stumbling block had been U.S. Treasury opposition to German demands that Opel assets be temporarily placed in a trust to protect them from GM creditors. Germany will now release the bridge financing to tide Opel over until a merger is completed.

Phew! Opel was a continent-wide force in the auto industry before WW2 – in spite of Hitler’s interference. GM’s ownership never contributed much of anything as far as I coud see. In fact, holding back development of vehicles like the diesel-hybrids Opel showed at a number of venues in recent years.

Written by Ed Campbell

May 30, 2009 at 3:00 pm

Posted in Business, Earth, Politics

Tagged with , , , , ,

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