Saturday, December 8, 2012

My Journey to Geoengineering

Chapter One - The Weekly Reader  -- I learned about climate change like many people did: in grade school. I was in grade school a long time ago, and I read in the Weekly Reader that there were two effects on the climate greenhouse gases and reflection from particulates in smog.  In those days scientists were not sure which effect was stronger, and whether the earth would warm or cool.

As I grew up evidence built that the greenhouse gas effect was stronger, and that the earth was warming. It was also easier to stop particulate pollution than carbon dioxide pollution.

Chapter Two LeChatlelier  -- I thought that the earth's climate was in a stable equilibrium -- like a chemical equilibrium. I am a chemist, and it was natural to see the world that way. In chemistry there is a concept called Le Chatelier's principle which holds that a chemical system will alter itself to re-establish equilibrium. Last year, I heard a climate change denier make such an argument . (Here is a more sophisticated version.)  At the time I thought the same, I thought more CO2 in the air, would mean faster growing forests and more algae in the sea. The biosphere would moderate the increase. As Time passed scientists tested one source of CO2 absorption after another, and nothing is fast enough. There are still people fertilizing the sea to increase CO2 absorption, but the best data shows the algae are eaten by other animals before they sink to the bottom of sea and leave the biosphere. Let's remember ocean fertilization though, because it is a Geoengineering Idea.

Chapter Three  Instability -- As global warming plays out we see faster temperature increases than expected from the carbon dioxide green house gas alone. Rather than returning to equilibrium, it seems there are auto-accelerated factors. Here are two:  1. Less ice means less reflection of sunlight back into space. 2. Warmer ocean means release of dissolved gases making green house gases worse: specifically methane which is ordinarily trapped in cold water at the bottom of the ocean.

The news item that kicked off this essay is about methane hydrates at the bottom of the Arctic Ocean, which may melt. If these large methane deposits melt, it will increase the amount of green house gas, cause more warming, more ocean warming, and more melting. We will see an acceleration of global warming.

Chapter Four  -- Change.  In business, we talk often about the inevitability of change, and how we need to embrace it. The alternative to change is ----- Well there is no alternative, unless you count death.  Change is thrust upon us, and while we can wish for boring times, we get the times we get.

Chapter Four -- Geoengineering. Geoengineering is doing an engineering project on a global scale to change the climate, and I am becoming an advocate. With accelerating climate change there will be climate change to a huge extent with large sea level increases and unpredicable consequences. It is unlikely that the Earth would become Kevin Costner's Waterworld, but that would be unacceptable. In Waterworld, people lived in floating colonies because all the continents had been submerged by melting ice.

There are many geoengineering concepts to cool the Earth, and one is to create a cloud of dust in space to reflect the sunlight, and in effect, dim the sun.

Many environmentalists hate this idea preferring to return carbon dioxide emissions to stone age levels, but it is too late for that.

Chapter Five --  Dr. Strangelove.  There is one simple sad geoengineering solution, a thermonuclear war would toss up enough dust to cool the Earth, and perhaps stop greenhouse gas production as well.  National Geographic and NASA have done simulations that show it.  I'd rather not see millions of people die in a war, but sadly a trigger happy North Korea or Pakistan is the most plausible solution to global warming.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

I Mourn the Death of The Daily

The Daily, a iPad-only newspaper from News Corp, is dying, and will expire on December 15. See my previous post on The Daily.

 object to all the wags who say that you can get on the content for free. Wrong. The Daily gave me an all-in-one place reading experience far better than the free (or paid) version of USA Today or the Detroit Free Press. Critics don't understand how nice it is to get The Daily without trekking outside in the cold pick up a physical paper, or without tolerating the repetitiveness free online news sites. Sometimes it is nice to have editor for the news.

It had some great features especially the advice column, "The Croquette," which deserves to continue in some other paper. The Croquette blogs at, but its not the same.  The Sudoku page is the best I have ever seen. All the challenge, with very little bothersome scribbling.

The only bright side is the Rupert Murdock's ultraconservative editorial page is dying too.

The Daily was ahead of its time. Where will I find a substitute?

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Running and my GPS Watch

It was warm enough to run outside, but the rain did not cooperate. I like getting out to a park on Sunday and running on a trail instead of on the concrete. I still think that running on the crowned roads is bad for my knees. For me running is all about keeping my knees healthy. I want to run as hard as I can without wrecking my knees, so I can't run anymore.

One of the my happy discoveries this year was my Nike GPS watch. It works with the $20 shoe pod that I keep in the sole of my Nike shoes, and it tracks the overall distance by GPS.

While I am running, I can see how fast I am going. This is important to me, since in a race I always always always run too fast at the beginning, and then die at the end. With the watch you can see how fast your are going, and try to throttle back.

When you get home you can plug it in to your computer and look at where you ran and how fast. It even shows the elevation, so you can tell whether you slowed down going up hill.

There are a few tricks. If you have not used it lately, plug it into the computer so it can update satellite locations. Try to get it connected in a true open area without overhead wires and metal poles. If you connect it once, and then turn it off, you can connect the second time much faster. It helps to connect to the satellite if you stay still.

The Nike system is best with the footpod for instantaneous speed. You can buy a shoelace mounted holder for non-Nike shoes. I use one on  my Asics.

The Nike watch is called the Nike+ Sportwatch GPS. It is made by TomTom.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

What if you could shop forever?

I saw a Target commercial that ended with a girlish voice saying "What if you could shop forever?"

Strange that someone would want to shop forever.

In the commercial one girl wants to. If I were a retailer, I'd be thrilled to have shoppers that want to shop forever, and on the day before Black Friday -- maybe people are getting their shopping juices cooking.

Its funny because shopping is a chore too. But maybe shopping can be fun, especially if you do it socially, like Target is suggesting in this ad.  When 16 year olds start shopping for groceries and diapers, shopping is less fun. On the other hand, spending money is always more fun than saving it.

Shopping forever is sounds like the punishment in Dante's fifth circle of hell. Can't you picture people rolling shopping carts around the linoleum aisles of hell? This circle of hell would have a big aisle in the middle, and people would shop their way around it for eternity.

The guy is Kirby Heyborne, but I don't know who the actress is.  It was created with ad agency 72andSunny. Here are the lyrics to the song; I can't believe someone puts commercial lyrics on line.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

"Open Enrollment" for Healthcare

Like many people I need to sign up for 2013 healthcare now. I have three plans available to me, and I worked out the differences graphically as shown above. I thought a graph would make it easier to understand which plan to get.

For the three plans, an HMO, a PPO and a high deductable plan, the cost for a catastrophic event is about the same. The difference is in the upfront expense versus the benefits for low utilization rates.

I wish I knew what the effect of Obamacare on these benefits were, but I don't know.
My internet research showed that older people and young children need the most healthcare according to a HSA study.

In regard to which plan to get, I think the less insurance you can get away with the better. The high deductible plan has worked well for me every year except two.  That is most years I save money on the high deductible plan.

Friday, November 2, 2012

How Much to Feed Kitty?

Tonight I was bedevilled by a cat begging for food.  We couldn't give her food since she was chubby already. How much food should a cat eat?

Calorie intake depends on activity but 25 calories per pound of body weight is often cited, or sometimes a range of 20-30 cal/lb.  This site has calorie content of different brands and flavors of cat food. Cat food flavors vary from by 20% so it is hard to be accurate unless you want to feed kitty only one flavor.

We have two cats who are both about ten pounds, so they should have 250 calories a day. Fancy Feast varies from 23.2 to 31.9 calories per ounce, and the cans are three ounces, so about 83 calories per can. 250/83 = 3.0 .   So unless I want my cats to lose weight, they should get three cans a day.

The variability per can is a problem, since it varies by 31%.  If I were to skip 31% of my calories in a day or about 730 calories -- I'd notice it.  If I decide to give one on the low end like Grilled Salmon flavor Fancy Feast instead of Classic Salmon flavor Fancy Feast, the cat gets many more calories and would lose weight.

The variability of canned food is a good reason to feed dry food.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

How Much Running is Too Much Running

I ran a Halloween race today. This guy captures the
spirit of the event. Source
I ran a 5K today, and after the race I met an old guy who ran 80 races this year so far, and plans to do two more this week. There was a woman there who does more than he does.

I have always thought of running as healthy, in part because I feel it should help me lose weight, but sadly the data does not always support that. One has to exercise a lot to receive weight loss from exercising -- 6-7 hours a week.

I keep looking for data that shows a graph of miles run against life expectancy, and I am certain nothing like that exists. It seems that very long races can weaken the heart, and the heart adapts by changing shape: enlarging here, thickening there.  On the other hand, running clearly helps; it is just that too much running stops helping -- and there may be a best point.

Too much exercise can be damaging to the heart as well as the joints, and it can lead to atrial fibrillation, something that I am worried about. Atrial fibrillation is five times higher in endurance athletes.

Thus site discusses the changes in endurance athlete's hearts after an event -- for example a professional cycling race. The athlete's right ventricle function decreased, but it self-corrected after a week. This may reinforce the benefit of rest to prevent permanent scarring.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Spoilt Corks and Smell Wine

Trichloroanisole is found produced by fungus, often on
Ever bought a bottle of over-price old wine and found that the bottle was spoiled? The fungus growing on the cork produces trichloro-anisole which wine-jocks say smells like wet dog or damp basement.

This brings up several issues: why arn't the corks sterilized? And where does the chlorine come from to make the trichloro-anisole? And most importantly, how poisonous is trichloro-anisole?

Why are natural corks sterilized? I am sure people try but cork is even worse than wood for sterilization. Cork might be quant, but it isn't a very good material, and probably should not regarded as food grade. Old fashioned traditionalists need to grow up.

Some say that the source is chlorine-containing air pollutants on the trees that grow the cork. It is more likely that it is due to the wood preservative trichloro-phenol that is used with wood barrels. Another source of chlorine is from the use of bleach and related oxidizers as cleaning agents.

Chlorine bleach reacts with wine residue and living microbes to make chlorinated byproducts -- some of which may be carcinogenic. You need to rinse a lot after using bleach, and dirt that reacts with bleach may be hard to see -- but still could contain chlorinated compounds that are harmful. Trichloro-anisole is not carcinogenic however -- so don't worry.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Is Violence Decreasing?

It is an article of faith among some that modern society is a perversion, and that we need to return to the simple pastoral existence where life was pure and good. This romantic idea has roots in the Industrial Revolution when the changes in society prompted a backlash.

Psychologist Steve Pinker did a history of violence called The Better Angels of our Nature. A good summary of the book is here and here.  It is in my queue to read this 862 page book -- I'll let you know when I finish it.

I like the optimism, and the rational reason for being optimistic. It shows that a combination of cohesion by kings and governments, combined with a higher-standard of living and greater communication has been good for people collectively. While modern society has problems, other societies had problems too.  

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Promised Land - the Anti-Fracking Film: Financed by Oil Rich Foreign Investors

Films can have political views -- fine. Films are often anti-business and especially anti-chemical industry & anti-oil industry. I am used to that.

What is so bad about the Matt Damon movie, Promised Land is that it is a blatant advocacy movie backed by OIL RICH FOREIGN INVESTORS. Foreign oil investors don't like America becoming energy independent, and are financing movies to fight it.

Check this out: Link


Saturday, September 29, 2012

How long does it take the moon to go around the earth?

In August there were two full moons. In September there was a full moon today, Sept 29. Since the moon goes around the earth in 28 days, why weren't there two full moons in September. The answer is that the number of days between full moons is 30, even though the moon orbits in 28 days. To understand this detail, takes some time.

Astrologers have known this for 6000 years, but I never understood how long it takes the moon to go around the sun.

I remembered from school that the moon goes around the sun in 28 days. It is actually 27.3 days, but close enough. On the other hand, the new moons are 30 (29.5) days apart. What is going on?

The time for the moon to go around the earth is called a sidereal month, and the time between new moons (or full moons) is called a synodic month.

Here is a good illustration from AstroGirlWest on YouTube. Notice that the earth's movement around the sun causes the relative position of the sun to change.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Paleo Diet

Got a look at a diet based on pre-civilization human diets. The big difference is no grain, no legumes, and no dairy, so it is an unusual diet. The study was published in 2009, and it was done by five guys at UC-San Francisco School of Medicine with Frassetto as first author.

Generally I am skeptical of "the past is better than today" diets. My knowledge of hunter gather culture is that people at a narrow variety that varied with the seasons. Frassetto's point was that some foods we have not evolved to eat. (This contradicted by the widely accepted notion that the ability to metabolize lactose post adolescence was a genetic adaptation to dairy farming.)

From Frassetto (1992) Euro J Clinical Nutrit. 1-9
As you might expect the people on the diet got healthier. Lower blood pressure, lower blood glucose.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Robots and Your Christmas Gifts

Here is an interesting video about industrial robotics that enable order picking in a so-called fulfillment center -- like Amazon has. Each individual shelving unit has a little computerized controller than moves it around on the work floor like a giant gameboard. The computerized shelving units are less robots than drones controlled by a master program.

This product, from Kiva Systems, is used by Toys-R-Us, but it is owned by Amazon. Presumably Amazon will use this in their new distribution centers. Amazon appears to be expanding it; Massachusetts-based Kiva has dozens of openings.

Mitt Romney's company Bain Capital was/is an investor in Kiva.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

OS X Mountain Lion:

I upgraded to Mountain Lion OSX 10.8. It is the update of the Lion release, and has a minor upgrades and bug fixes. Lion was a major release and it obsoleted a lot of old software. This is mostly little stuff. Maybe that is why it is only $20.

The most notable thing is in Safari -- where the address window now accepts searchers just like Chrome.  A minor feature, but it was one of the reasons that I liked Chrome.

It has scrollbars that hide themselves. I think of them as less convenient, but I seldom use scroll bars, almost always using jesters on the touchpad.

Another little thing is some new desktop pictures and a screensaver.

Another feature is dictation, which still needs some work: here is the transcript for the first dictation:

"Just got him McNab OS X Mountain I am on my night I was upgrade his computer version it's just needed a dude he's my computer working well am anyway so Duncheon any differences really I would've this dictation since I'm taking dictation right now that you write up this blog post will see how it works the first time, and that I was going to what update the mountain on my way to bed."

My policy is to keep the computer up-to-date with the latest revisions. I think it saves me time in the long run.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Diving Off the Fiscal Cliff

I am really tired of politician that can't get anything done. At the end of the year, we have a chance to rid ourselves of all of it. When the tax cuts end and the govenment programs get cut, we just need to embrace it.

We need to get excited about it. I call it Fiscal Cliff Diving.

People get excited about it since it will contract the economy due to the higher taxes and job cuts in government. I say suck it up.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Wood Fungi & Global Warming

Wood Fungi that changed the world.
They even call it the carboniferous age: that was when coal formed in the earth. Then, for some reason it stopped. I have always wondered why, and the climatological explanations never made sense.

Now we know the real reason, it is because fungi evolved a pathway to digest lignin; lignin the inscrutable phenolic component of wood that holds the cellulose together. One species of fungus, Agaricomycetes, evolved a method for digesting lignin, and that ended the new creation of coal. 

Researchers at Clark University and DOE looked at fungal DNA from 31 species of white rot fungus, and then traced back the evolution to the end of the carboniferous period using an assumed model of genetic divergence, and derived 250 million years ago -- matching what is found geologically.

So this little microscopic fungus changed the world

Geo-engineering and global warming

A geo-engineering fix for global warming would be to capture all the atmospheric CO2 -- as trees to, and then lock up so it won't decay and re-enter the atmosphere. The problem is that trees decay. If they did not, then problem solved. That is, we could bury wood underground and entrap all the CO2 that we are releasing elsewhere, but we can't wood fungi makes the wood decay -- back to CO2.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Urbanscreen Light Shows

Google's picture of Manuel Engels,
unconfirmed, but probably right.
Urbanscreen is a group of about 3-6 people, including Manuel Engels, Thorsten Bauer, Till Botterweg. They are based in Bremen Germany.

Urbanscreens is a member of the Urban Screen Association.  The ideas of Ambient Media are described in this article from the University of Applied Sciences Mittweida -- also in Germany. Urbanscreen describes their work as the neologism, lumentecture, which is as good as anything else.

Oh, and they're hiring: so if your German is good, and you want to move to Bremen.

Supermarket Tomatoes Lack Chloroplasts in the Fruit -- that is why They Taste Bland.

Depth of Processing readers probably think that I am obsessed with tomato posts, but Cuong Nguyen at Cornell found a mutated gene in most cultivars of tomatoes that reduce the number of chloropasts in the tomato fruit. 

This gives the fruit a more even color, so that tomato buyers will think a fruit is uniformly ripe even when it is not. 

Importantly, it turns out the chloroplasts also kick out tasty, flavorful chemicals too. This means the commercial varieties are going to taste poorer. 

Haven't you always wondered why commercial growers did not try to breed flavor into the fruit? 

These tomatoes have chloroplasts and have uneven color.
It helps explain why radically different cultivars like Kumato taste better. Check out my Kumato blog post --one of the DoP blog's most popular.  Kumato is a black tomato created relatively recently from salt-resistant cultivars on Galapogos.

Anana Noir, a French tomato, touted for flavor, that
clearly does not ripen evenly. 
Other people claim that Pruden's Purple is one of the best tomatoes for taste, and it is a large, dark and irregularly ripening fruit.  At right is Anana Noir, that ripens very irregularly, but which is supposed to taste great.

This does not help me with why my orange cherry tomatoes taste so good. Perhaps it is because they are so sweet?

The big question going forward is, what will commercial growers do now. Will they look for another way to get good appearance while retaining the flavor producing chloroplasts, or will appearance prevail?

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Nike Shox Roadster Review and More Running Shoe Talk

Nike Shox Roadster

I just got some new running shoes I really like. These are Nike Shox Roadster's. There are about eight different colors, but my store only had white -- actually black, white and blue, but the blue looks black. (My skill in photoshopping was not great enough to show the blueness in that dark blue.)

Periodically, I have been posting reviews on my running shoes.  I like shoes that feel good, and that has a lot to do with my injury-of-the-month.  I often think that my exercises regime is a continuous series of recovery from different minor injuries -- does that happen to you?

I like the Shox Roadster because it has three things.

First, a shock-absorbing heel to reduce injury and reduce stress on my knees. These have a tough urethane shock absorber that reminds me of the BASF Cellasto urethane shock absorbers.

Nike Shox Roadster Bottom
Second, a stiff mid-sole to protect my foot. One of the problem with my Nike Lunarglides and Flywires is that get too soft and spongy too fast. As that happens my middle foot starts to hurt.

Z-Coil Freedom
Third, not too heavy. At 443 grams, it is 30% lighter than my Z-Coil Freedom -- an odd shoe with a giant spring on the bottom. The Z-coils make me run noticeably slower. It is also more stable than the Z-Coil which was tippy on dirt paths or grass. 

On the other hand,  it is 17% heavier than my current shoe which is the Under Armour Spectre 2.

Under Armour Spectre 2
The Under Armour Sprectre 2 is a fine shoe, and under ordinary circumstances I think I could wear if fine. It is not helping recover from my overly soft Nike Lunarglides. When my foot heals up, I will go back to them.

Under Armour Spectre 2 Bottom

Here is a list of my recent running shoes and their weights. Obviously all in my size, and just for one shoe. All have pictures here.

Vibram Five Finger   172 g
Nike Flywire              312 g
Adidas Swyft Cushion   323 g
Nike Lunarglide         326 g
UnderArmour Spectre 2     370 g
Nike Agitate Air         417 g
Nike Shox Roadster      443 g
Z-Coil Freedom          623 g

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Mosquitos and Repellent Made from Breadfruit

I have tried organic mosquito repellents before, and I thought they were a big waste of time.  DEET, diethyl toluamide, is the usual one. DEET is a weak neurotoxin, and it numbs the noses of mosquitos, so they can't find you.

Yesterday, I was hauling bricks out of the woods, and I had DEET on my face. When I got some on my lips, I could feel them getting numb. Sometimes infants are harmed by an over-protective mother slathering DEET all over baby.

Breadfruit is a prolific crop grown in southern Pacific Islands, the Caribbean, and other tropical areas.  The flowers of the tree reputedly repel mosquitos and now researchers Maxwell and Jones at U of British Columbia have proven it.

They have separated out all the individual substances and found the three responsible ones---all fatty acids, capric acid, undeconoic acid and laurie acid that have ten to twelve carbons.  

Undecanoic acid is one of the ingredients in breadfruit blossoms.
The flowers are a good spot to find the fatty acids.  

No one thinks that C-10 to C-12 fatty acids are neurotoxins, so I wonder how it works.

My DW believes that coconut oil is a balm for all illnesses, and one that coconut oil is touted for is mosquito repellency. It is interesting coconut oil has a lot of C-6 to C-12 fatty acid, so rancid or over-processed coconut oil might work as a mosquito repellent.  Cooking up coconut oil to degrade it, especially with acid or base would make it work better. I did not find any commercial mosquito repellants like that.

There is a slightly geekier version of this on my other blog.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

My Vegetable Garden for '12

This year's garden got a very early start because I could work the soil back in MARCH -- global warming came though with lots of great Spring weather.

Big changes this year are: 

++ Bye-bye Strawberries. After three terrible seasons, I have torn them all out. They kept sending runners so they grew into a mat of tiny strawberries -- each one too small to make fruit. I also tore out the blueberries which have been doing NOTHING.

++ Hello EIGHT tomatoes. Last year, I nearly had CROP FAILURE when the late blight stuck. I put in twice as many this year. I am also growing a few in different ways like, some in Wall-O-Waters and some without. Some staked and some running. And five different varieties. No heirlooms either -- only blight resistant hybrids.   

++ Catnip continues to takeover more real estate. Jenny likes it though. 

++ Asparagus - despite the asparagus jinx, I have big health asparagus ferns this year. [The asparagus jinx is that I always get transferred before I get a chance to eat the asparagus. In the last house I delayed planting it because I did not want to move. Later I got cocky thinking it was just a superstition, and I planted some, and then --- I got transferred. So the healthy crop this year is making a prediction. . .]

++ Marigolds - This year I have marigolds in the old strawberry patch. They are in a bed rather than a border. Sofia French Marigolds in front and  American Marigolds in back. 

++ Miracle Grow -- This year I am a commercial for Miracle Grow. After last year generic products, I am back to name brand fertilizer. I know it is all the same, but Miracle Grow is a good product at a good price. 


Burpee's Big Boy. Vigorous and fairly self-supporting so far.

Early Girl Improved. This is the vigorous one;
The less vigorous one produced a fruit on 8-June:
Acorn squash grown from a sweet variety
we bought at the store. 

A Snack Attack Tomato. Looks good. I'll let you know how it tastes.

This is my Sweet 100. Very vigorous. I have had
two cherry tomatoes so far. Both were from flowers that set inside.

Other crops are basil, peas, eggplant, peppers (pimento), and leeks. The peas are strong, and falling all over each other. 

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Thumb Drive

Here is a real thumb drive.

I tried to figure out where you could get one to link to the post, but all the links I could find did not work. An early poster was Ubergizmo, but they don't have it on their site any more.

I wonder if it was photoshopped, but it looks too plastic

Monday, April 9, 2012

My iPod Went Through the Washing Machine and IT STILL WORKS!

I came home from the gym, and took off my earbuds, but I left the iPod snapped to my waistband as I went to water the plants. Afterwards, I put the clothes in the wash, and as it was washing day, the next thing I knew, Jenny found my iPod in the dryer.

I was so sure it was wrecked that I ordered another one from Amazon the next day. I have had terrible problems with my iPod shuffle in the past because of water. See four previous posts. There was no change it would work after drying out.

However strangely and miraculously the iPod lives. It was working the next day, although I needed to recharge it.

The iPod works fine as an iPod. The docking port is a little noisy when I plug it into my car. Maybe that will get better.

Apple gets static for gluing the nano together which prevents users from changing the battery and so on. In this case, the glue is probably keeping the water out as well.

Kudos to Cupertino.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Fake Eggs for Easter

Fake egg being dipped in a wax/calcium chloride mix to make
a shell. 
Because its Easter, I want to post on eggs, specifically fake eggs. Fake eggs are being sold in China in place of real chicken eggs. Some people think this is a hoax, but even if it is a hoax, the hoaxers have developed a great craft technique to make realistic looking eggs from goop.

There are even recipes for how to do it.

Below is a youtube link to a Chinese news report including undercover footage on how to make the eggs. If  you want to see him making a pretty convincing egg, fast forward to about 3:30 minutes.

This link has a recipe: it has three different gelants, "sodium alga" (which might be sodium alginate), gelatin, and carboymethyl cellulose. The white is the same as the yoke except for food coloring in the yoke. The egg is "set" in place with calcium chloride, and that solidifies the gels, making a skin around it.

The egg looks and feels realistic, but I don't think anyone would be fooled by these eggs if they were eating them.  The egg shell looks pretty convincing too. I bet a con man could pass them at a farmers market.

The other kind of fake egg is a human egg that is made with stem cell techniques. More on that next time. 

Friday, March 30, 2012

Unemployment in Michigan Dropping

Unemployment in home state Michigan continued to fall, and let me tell you that is welcome. Now it is hard to get a table on the weekend at the local restaurants. It used to be 14.4% and now it is 8.4%. See my previous post as the recession bottomed out. Now Michigan has improved from worst to seventh from worst.

See the graph above. It is interesting that Northern Tier states have the lowest unemployment, and Sunbelt states are worst.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Fancy Feast Addiction

Cat's like Nestle's Fancy Feast cat food  that customers say their cats are addicted to it, and won't eat anything else. They call it "Kitty Crack," although I think that catnip is a better fit since it looks like a narcotic. 

I can confirm that. At our house we switched our cats back from other foods, when one cat got sick. They had been eating exotic cat food that we bought frozen. Now they are back on Fancy Feast and they won't touch anything else. 

I have to believe that Nestle chemists are working hard "cat-testing" to get formulas that cats want to eat. I suppose that is what gourmet cat food means -- if it means anything at all.

Most people think that Fancy Feast is healthy, although people can't agree on cat diets anymore than people diets. 

Nestle's bought Purina in 2001 and merged it with their existing Friskies line. They offer SEVENTEEN different cat food brands in the United States, and that is after the government made them divest Meow Mix because of anti-trust. Fancy Feast is one of their high end brands, but probably not the most expensive those seem to be Purina One, Pro Plan, and Purina Veterinary Diets. 

There are five kids of Fancy Feast, regular, appetizers, Elegant Melodies, Gourmet Cat Food (a dry food), and Gourmet Kitten Food (a canned food.) Most Fancy Feast is canned, and the ingredients are on-line along with nutritional analysis. Like most canned food they are mostly water (78-82%) and 9-12% protein. Gravy-containing foods have 3% more water and 2% less protein. 

St Patrick's Day Corktown 5K Race

You get bling when you run this race. You can
wear it as you walk the parade with your
green mardi gras beads. 
For the first time in two years, I actually did a running event today. It was the Corktown race, which precedes the Detroit St. Patrick's Day Parade, so the whole even was bathed in Irishness, or at least Greenness. Aside from the Irish theme, this race is notable for having free beer at the end, but alas only one glass each.

The race itself was fun. As usual I ran too fast at the beginning and choked near the end. Wonder how I did? You'll need to check the link yourself. 

I ran in my Z-Coil shoes, which strange as they are, did not attract any comments. I suppose the St. Patrick's Day spectators were weirder than that. The Z-Coil shoes did great.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Are We All Going to Freeze in the Dark? Probably Not?

It the world running out of oil? It does not look like it. Increasing gas prices make it feel that way, doesn't it?

People have always thought that they were running out of petroleum. In 1873 a Pennsylvania state geologist said there was enough petroleum for another FOUR years of oil lantern use. Ever sense, people have worried about running out.

In reality, we have just changed what we meant by "oil." 

Over the decades, oil drillers have pioneered one technology after another to get to the oil. Going deeper, going offshore, going to unstable 3rd world nations, going miles down under waters, and so on. Increasingly, oil companies are including natural gas in their oil reserve numbers. And gas reserves have been sky-rocketing due to shale gas, and the technology to recover it -- fracking.

Reinforcing the abundance of buried hydrocarbons is an new enormous natural gas estimate in China. Chinese geologists are claiming 25 trillion cubic meters of shale gas. This is 50% larger than the USA has, and the US has huge shale gas resources. See the map.

I don't know why oil prices keep going up, but I am going to pretend that I do. My four reasons are below.

Four Reasons Oil Prices Go Up

1. As the world industrializes it demands more and more cars, and cars run on gasoline. The problem is increasing demand; supply is less important.

2. A second effect is that oil companies need to access petroleum in more and more difficult locations. This is more expensive. Obviously companies have drilled the easiest oil first.

3. More new petroleum is located in developing countries that have nationalized their oil companies, like Venezuela and Libya. These countries take large tariffs, and make exports much more expensive.

4. Speculators are parking their money in oil, and this has created a little bubble in prices. Reinforcing the bubble are other speculators with futures contracts. Oil futures is like Vegas gambling, but as long as prices go up the speculators take a cut of the 'action.'

In summary, I have gone from an oil pessimist to a realist. While petroleum will run out someday, that day is at least a century away -- beyond the lifetime of anyone reading this. This means that global warming will likely continue because we lack any political system to control it. Conservation and climate control measures are worthy goals, because we aren't running out of oil anytime soon.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Heart Attacks, Beer and Bis-phenol A

BPA is found in canned beer. It is extracted
from the aluminum can's lining. 
Bis-phenol A, prominently used in beer cans and other food cans, continues to suffer bad health reports.   90% of the world's population has bis phenol A in their blood. Isn't that amazing?

It is increasing likely that this common, cheap, and durable chemical will soon be banned from food contact.

Circulation, the Heart Association Journal, published a report from a University of Exeter group showing that 756 people with coronary disease had relatively high BPA in their blood. High being 1.3 nanogram/milliliter in the blood. This result was significant at 97.3%. (It continues to amaze me how sensitive these tests are.)

When they controlled for all the standard cardiac risk factors, the trend was present at only 94.2%. Still convincing to me, but hard-core statistic geeks and their lawyers will disregard this result since it is less than 95%.

On the other hand, bis-phenol A compounds are pretty stable, and until now the most important medical effect was weak estrogen mimicking. (Meaning that it acted like estrogen in very high doses, causing early puberty in girls and low sperm counts.)

Bis phenol A is used in zillions of things, but most notably in the lining of food cans. Until recently it was used in clear re-usable plastic containers made from polycarbonate, but this has stopped in the US and Canada.  Here are three previous posts, click here and here and here on the estrogen effect.

More diabetes and liver enzyme changes were shown too, but the proof was not that strong.

The mode of action of the bis phenol A may be interaction with the BK ion channel, which transports potassium and calcium in smooth muscle cells; there is speculation about effects via the liver and via the aforementioned estrogen mimic effect.

Glass bottles are best.
So what does this mean? It probably means the packaging industry will be more motivated to convert to BPA-free alternatives to avoid crippling lawsuits.

Maybe you should start buying frozen vegetables instead of canned. Buying food in pouches instead of cans is a good idea too.

I am going to buy my beer in glass bottles.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Hybrid & Electric Sales Down Again in January 2012

Perhaps American sense they don't need to conserve fuel, and that it why they are buying more conventional cars and fewer hybrids.

In the popular imagination oil is running out, and gas will increase in price forever. However they buying public is not acting that way. Hybrid sales were down 30% from last year. All electric cars were down 40%, and the GM Volt was down 60%, probably on news on battery fires on improperly discharged batteries.

I actually have two hybrid vehicles, and I think they are a better way to build a car, but they cost too much, and probably still have not paid me back -- unless you count their higher resale value. 

Toyota is the giant of hybrid manufacturing. (Source)

I believe the poor economy is making people buy cheaper cars, and that cheaper cars cost more to run over the long haul. Of coarse, $4.50/gal gas may be coming. It seems that every time the economy hints that it might be getting stronger oil speculators run the price of oil up by $5/barrel. 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Alternative Medicine

Alternative medicine are treatments the derive from folk traditions not from modern medicine. Modern medicine is the observation-based approach sometimes credited with starting in Paris about 1796 and developing further during the French Revolution, but which has a long history into Renaissance times.

Today's medicine resides in medical schools and pharma companies. The interface between medical schools and pharma companies is problematic. The interface between Alternative medicine providers and their herbs + treatments is also problematic. Medicine providers fund themselves by selling treatments, and ineffective treatments can cost as much as effective ones.

It is too simple to say that modern medicine is better than alternative medicine because modern medicine keeps trying to incorporate parts of alternative medicine. I was surprised to see there were 72 postings in the last year on Science Daily's Alternative Medicine site, which usually feature popularizations of journal research. When academic research embraces a folk medicine treatment, it become both modern medicine and alternative medicine, for example, acupuncture reduces dry mouth side effects of drugs.

My big problem with alternative medicine is that people with serious illness can take unproven and probably ineffective treatment, when an effective conventional treatment is available.

What makes this worse is growing distrust of science spread started by anti-evolution advocates, pushed ahead by tobacco companies, and now spreading to climate change deniers.  In this environment, it is too easy to cast away valuable science-based medicine and embrace the folksy.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Running Shoe Review 2.0

It has been two and half years since I reviewed shoes, and I have a few new pairs to talk about.

The first running shoe is not really a shoe at all. I confess I have run only a few minutes in it since it hurts my feet.

I think these five toes shoes are a fad.
They are Vibram FiveFingers Bikila shoes. They are kind of funny looking, and I think they might be OK for walking outside. When I run in them, my plantar tendon hurts.

They are also hard to put on.

I like the look of these Nike Flywires. I got them so I could use the Nike pedometer that talks to my iPod. That worked pretty well.

The shoes were great for a while, but they insole wore quickly, and I did not get a lot of wear from them.

I like the soles of these too. My favorite running shoes have heels with the rubber around the outside, and a hole in the middle. The idea is the foot holds weight better on its edges.


Next up are my current running shoes. They are Nike Lunarglide +3 with the Lance Armstrong Livestrong colors.

I like these shoes pretty well. Even though they look just like the Nike Flywires, they are really comfortable,

don't show signs of wearing out yet.


Last are my Adidas Swyft Cushions. They are quite light, and seldom hurt my feet.

They remind me of my old Adidas Electras,

Adidas has been making this basic shoe for several years, and changing it a bit cosmetically.  They are a pretty good shoe, so why change it?

I like them because of their oversized heel. Thoughout all the problems with my hip and feet, these shoes always felt pretty good. For some reason, I don't give them any respect.