July 2002

Depleted Uranium

“Depleted uranium is created as a by-product of the processes used to convert natural uranium for use as nuclear fuel or nuclear weapons. NATO used ammunition and weaponry made of depleted uranium during its air strikes on Yugoslavia in 1999. Suspicious deaths and illnesses among Europeans exposed to the substance are prompting investigators to examine DU’s health risks. The United States has denied any link between illnesses and exposure to depleted uranium.”

Read Trail of a Bullet, a series of articles from the Christian Science Monitor. Join the call to ban the use of DU.

>  31 July 2002 | LINK | Filed in

Subways Powering Subways

The New York Times reports on an experiment using flywheels to convert and store the braking energy of subway trains approaching stations and release it back into the electrical system in a regulated way. The system could save up to 20 million tax payer dollars a year in electricity costs and would help relieve a lot of the heat subways generate. Between Bloomberg’s budget cuts and the sweltering stations in July, this is a beautiful thing.

Found via Slashdot.

>  30 July 2002 | LINK | Filed in , ,

Posters from the WPA

John is not really dull, he may only need his eyes examined

Posters from the By the People, For the People: Posters from the WPA, 1936-1943. 908 posters from the collection of the Library of Congress. Read about the exhibit, check the massive subject listing, or skip straight to the highlights.

>  29 July 2002 | LINK | Filed in , ,

Sydney’s Green(ish) Games

The 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney were to be the first “Green Games” because of the comprehensive environmental plan included in the city’s successful bid to the International Olympic Committee. The city’s guidelines

“recognise the major environmental issues of global warming, loss of biodiversity, ozone depletion and air and water pollution. They contain commitments in five main areas: energy conservation; pollution avoidance; water conservation; protection of the natural environment, and waste minimisation and management.”

Green Games Watch 2000 has a detailed account of the successes and failures of the event.

“The main green wins include public transport access, solar power applications, good building material selection, recycling of construction waste, progressive tendering policies, energy and water conservation and wetland restoration. The main green losses include the failure of most sponsors to go green, poor quality Olympic merchandising, environmentally destructive refrigerant selection, loss of biodiversity in some projects, failure to clean up contaminated Homebush Bay sediments in time for the Games and the lack of transparency and effective public consultation by the Olympic Coordination Authority and Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games.”

See also two critical articles published in Harper’s and Current Affairs.

>  27 July 2002 | LINK | Filed in , , , ,

Selling Soap with Stereotypes

Trade cards are a “single piece of medium weight paper slightly smaller than a post card, printed with decorative images which directly or indirectly promote a commercial product, service, or event. Trade cards were used widely from the 1870s to the end of the 1890s, and were commonly distributed to the public at store counters, expositions, and through the mail.” The Daniel K.E. Ching Collection of the Chinese Historical Society of America has over four hundred trade cards produced in the United States and Europe that contain racist depictions of Chinese and Chinese Americans. Several images have been posted online. For a bit of context read the essay.

Found via American Samizdat.

>  26 July 2002 | LINK | Filed in ,

Camo in the City

At the airport in New York, two beefy guys stand akimbo in full camoflague gear, semi-automatic weapons casually slung. How very funny to see them decked out in green jungle camouflage against the commercial white interior and cheap gray carpet. In fact, it’s pretty clear the camo gear is not to conceal, but to be unavoidably present. Like the machine guns which may or may not be loaded, it is a loud signifier of military-ness, a show of force, a warning and reminder of the presence of power.

>  26 July 2002 | LINK | Filed in ,

House of Straw

“Straw is a viable building alternative, plentiful and inexpensive. Straw-bale buildings boast superinsulated walls, simple construction, low costs, and the conversion of an agricultural byproduct into a valued building material. Properly constructed and maintained, the straw-bale walls, stucco exterior and plaster interior remain water proof, fire resistant, and pest free. Because only limited skill is required, a community house-raising effort can build most of a straw-bale house in a single day. This effort yields a low-cost, elegant, and energy-efficient living space for the owners, a graceful addition to the community, and a desirable boost to local farm income. This booklet offers an in-depth look at one such community house-raising, in addition to a general overview of straw-bale construction.”

Published by the U.S. Department of Energy Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Check this site for lots of straw building resources.

>  25 July 2002 | LINK | Filed in ,

Stop Esso

On July 9, a Paris judge ordered Greenpeace to stop using a parody of the Esso logo in its StopEsso campaign in France, pending a full hearing of the case.

“Stephanie Tunmore, Greenpeace climate campaigner said, ‘This court case is just another attempt by Esso to use its money as a means of continuing its dirty business unhindered.’ Esso claimed that the dollar signs Greenpeace has used in place of the “SS” in the logo linked the company to the infamous Nazi “SS” and damaged Esso’s reputation. Appropriately, the French judge Justice Binoche categorically rejected this claim. And although Esso was seeking 80,000 Euro per day if Greenpeace did not comply, the judge reduced this sum to 5,000 Euro per day. The judge also rightly ruled that Greenpeace can continue to use the term ‘StopEsso’.... StopEsso is a coalition of groups, including Greenpeace, campaigning around the world to stop Esso from sabotaging international action to address climate change, such as the Kyoto Protocol.”

Exxon had also asked for Greenpeace to remove all the meta-tags from their site because the StopEsso campaign site was coming up third when you searched for “Esso” on Google. They should have read the FAQ. Because of all the interest in the court case, StopEsso is currently the number one search result.

>  23 July 2002 | LINK | Filed in , ,

Designing for People with Partial Sight and Color Deficiencies

This brochure contains basic guidelines for making effective color choices that work for nearly everyone. To understand them best, you need to understand the three perceptual attributes of color: hue, lightness and saturation, in the particular way that vision scientists use them. Full explanations of these terms are provided.”

From Lighthouse International. See also Making Text Legible: Designing for People with Partial Sight and The Campaign for Large Type.

>  22 July 2002 | LINK | Filed in ,

Road House

Pilot projects in Fife, Scotland and on the South Downs outside Brighton, UK are building low-cost housing from old tires. 40 million tires are discarded each year in Britain alone “enough free building material to construct 20,000 low-cost homes a year.” Known as “earthships” The new houses are “capable of functioning entirely independent of mains services such as electricity, water and sewage.” Read more from the Low Carbon Network and the Craigencalt Farm Ecology Centre, the organizations working the projects.

Found via Also Not Found in Nature.

>  21 July 2002 | LINK | Filed in , , , ,

Do You Want Fries With That?

The Greasecar runs on on 100% used vegetable oil. “Where do you get your vegetable oil? We get our oil from local restaurants; we recommend that you establish a relationship with a restaurant in your area.” For $795 you can order a kit to convert your existing diesel car into a greasecar.

>  21 July 2002 | LINK | Filed in , ,


“Biodiesel is the name of a clean burning alternative fuel, produced from domestic, renewable resources [like soybeans]. Biodiesel contains no petroleum, but it can be blended at any level with petroleum diesel to create a biodiesel blend. It can be used in compression-ignition (diesel) engines with no major modifications. Biodiesel is simple to use, biodegradable, nontoxic, and essentially free of sulfur and aromatics.”

Biodiesel.org is the official Web site of the U.S. National Biodiesel Board. Lots of good info and resources in PDF format.

>  19 July 2002 | LINK | Filed in , , ,

Falun Gong Hacks China TV

“The banned Falun Gong spiritual movement jammed one of China’s main television satellites for eight days and briefly beamed a video into millions of homes during last month’s World Cup soccer finals.... [Falun Gong] has survived a three-year campaign of repression; it also marked the most sophisticated challenge so far to the Communist Party’s control of the media.”

See the Washington Post.

>  18 July 2002 | LINK | Filed in , ,


Warchalking is a graffitti language to indiciate open 802.11b wireless networking. It’s derived from the visual marks used by hobos to communicate about the social landscape. There’s an ongoing battle though, between those who want to share their networks and those who don’t.

>  17 July 2002 | LINK | Filed in ,

Solar Heating, USA

According to the 2000 Census, Eldorado, New Mexico has the nation’s highest percentage of homes heated mainly by solar power: 13.2 percent. The numbers are pretty dismal: “According to the census, the number of U.S. homes heated primarily by solar energy fell from 54,536 in 1990 to 47,069 a decade later. Federal and many state tax credits for solar homes have long since dried up.” As of 2000, Eldorado had 317 solar homes. Also of note, 8 of the 10 cities are in Hawaii.

>  16 July 2002 | LINK | Filed in , , ,

Congressial Markup Language

“The purpose of this website is to provide information related to the ongoing work of the U.S. House of Representatives in relation to the eXtensible Markup Language (XML). Under the direction of the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration and the House Committee on Administration, the Secretary of the Senate and the Clerk of the House have worked together with the Library of Congress and the Government Printing Office to create Document Type Definition files (DTDs) for use in the creation of legislative documents using XML. As this is an ongoing project, it is important to note that the DTDs presented here have not been finalized, and may change over time.”

>  15 July 2002 | LINK | Filed in ,

Women in Iran Battle Taboo with Blog

“The web is providing a way for women in Iran to talk freely about taboo subjects such as sex and boyfriends. Over the past few months there has been a big jump in the number of Persian weblogs which are providing an insight into a closed society.... ‘I could talk very freely and very frankly about things I could never talk about in any other place, about subjects that are banned,’ said one of the first women to start a blog in Iran.”

From BBC News.

>  15 July 2002 | LINK | Filed in , , ,


“The Alameda County Computer Recycling Center is a 501c3 nonprofit computer recycling organization that provides computers to those on the Earth who would not otherwise have access to them. We help disadvantaged, undereducated, and disabled humans gain access to technology, computers, and the Internet. We teach... unskilled workers how to build and maintain computers. We give computers to underprivileged peoples, including citizens and governments..... We give computers to physically disadvantaged individuals. We donated over 5000 computers last year, all at no cost to the recipients. We are a 100% Microsoft Free organization. Every computer we donate runs a full and legitimate copy of SuSe Linux. The computers that we place with our recipients are refurbished through our Computer Repair Internship Program. In the process, we ensure that obsolete, non-working, or no longer usable electronic equipment does not end up in landfills.”

>  14 July 2002 | LINK | Filed in , ,

Elmo's Friend has HIV

“An HIV-positive puppet character is to be introduced to the South African version of long-running children’s favourite Sesame Street. The character has not yet been named or designed but is expected to be a female ‘monster’ similar to Grover or Elmo.” Says a spokesman of The Terence Higgins Trust, “half of the new HIV infections worldwide are now occurring among those aged between 15 and 24.” Read more at The Guardian. Update, August 9: After news of the character was announced, five U.S. Congressmen wrote to PBS saying “the Muppet would be unwelcome on American TV.” One PBS exec “won’t rule out an appearance of the character.”

>  12 July 2002 | LINK | Filed in , , ,

West Virginia Supreme Court Blog

“I’ve just come across a weblog for summaries of recently issued West Virginia Supreme Court opinions. This is the power of weblogging in action. Why is this so exciting? Well, weblogging provides a simple mechanism for a court clerk to publish summaries, using an off-the-shelf software package (Radio), requiring little (if any) technical knowledge. More importantly, it provides RSS feed, which would allow a (say) a law firm to trivially track new posts, and to syndicate the contents to the lawyers throughout the firm.”

Found via Column Two.

>  11 July 2002 | LINK | Filed in ,

Go Hemp Car, Go!

Hemp car is an alternative-fuel project car that utilizes hemp biodiesel for fuel. Industrial hemp would be an economical fuel if hemp were legal to cultivate in the United States. Industrial hemp has no psychoactive properties and is not a drug. Hemp Car demonstrates the concept of hemp fuels on a national level and promotes the reformation of current law.”

>  11 July 2002 | LINK | Filed in , , ,

Computing with Chicken

“In late June, a chemical engineer from the University of Delaware filed a patent that described a new generation of microchips. The patent proposes to replace silicon — which has long served as the basis for microchips — with another material. And what might this mystery component be? Chicken feathers. Richard Wool understands that nonspecialists will find this strange. But he’s used to it. Wool and his colleagues at the university’s ACRES project (Affordable Composites from Renewable Sources) have been developing new uses for plant fibers, oils and resins. Using such raw materials as the humble soybean, Wool and his colleagues are designing prototypes for everything from simple adhesives to hurricane-proof roofs.”

From the Washington Post.

Found via Slashdot.

>  9 July 2002 | LINK | Filed in , ,

Wind Power for Pennies

“Windmills may finally be ready to compete with fossil-fuel generators. The technology trick: turn them backwards and put hinges on their blades.” According to this article in the MIT Technology Review, a cheap, lightweight turbine may be here. Check out their list of players in the Wind Industry, too.

>  8 July 2002 | LINK | Filed in ,

Branding Beijing

“Beijing Organising Committee of the 2008 Olympic Games (BOCOG) opened a two-day Olympic Design Conference in Beijing on Tuesday in a bid to find the most appropriate ways to impress the world visually. Beijing Mayor Liu Qi said in the opening address that through the magnificent and unique ‘Olympic look’, Beijing will unfold the great charm of this global sporting event and the history of China. Meanwhile, Beijing will also ‘promote the concept of “New Beijing, Great Olympics”, and demonstrate and elevate the image of Beijing and China in the world’, added Liu, who is also BOCOG president.”

From the People’s Daily.

>  7 July 2002 | LINK | Filed in , , , , , ,

These Colors Don't Run

“The people in the apartment across the street have had an American flag hanging outside their second floor window since the day after 9/11. Looking out my window this morning, I noticed that the bottom of the flag is tattered from waving in the brisk San Francisco breeze for ten months. The top red stripe is seceding from the rest of the flag, the wind gradually tearing it away from the other twelve.

I wonder if they’ve forgotten about the flag and the reasons they bought it in the first place, the respect they must have felt for it then and the disrespect with which they are treating it now.”

From kottke.org.

>  6 July 2002 | LINK | Filed in ,

Web Site Helps Change Farm Policy

“Throughout the angry Senate debate about whether to limit subsidies to wealthy farmers, lawmakers kept referring to ‘the Web site’ to make their points. ‘You can see on the Web site -- 10 percent of the farmers get most of the money,’ said Senator Don Nickles, Republican of Oklahoma.... [The site] operated by the Environmental Working Group, a small nonprofit organization with the simple idea that the taxpayers who underwrite $20 billion a year in farm subsidies have the right to know who gets the money... not only caught the attention of lawmakers, it also helped transform the farm bill into a question about equity and whether the country’s wealthiest farmers should be paid to grow commodity crops while many smaller family farms receive nothing and are going out of business.”

From the New York Times.

>  6 July 2002 | LINK | Filed in ,

In and Out of Elevators in Japan

“Every morning in the apartment building where I live I take the elevator six floors down. One morning a woman appeared with her bicycle as I was waiting for the elevator. Though we live along the same corridor, I had scarcely seen her before, and we had never spoken. Japanese public behavior in residential space is customarily limited to either reserved nods of recognition or restrained ‘good mornings’ and ‘good afternoons.’ Everything changes at the elevator, as I was especially surprised to see this particular morning.

Suppressing my annoyance (a bicycle takes half the space in the small elevator), I gestured for the woman to enter when the elevator arrived and the door opened. She acknowledged my courtesy, and positioned herself inside. There was just room enough to accommodate me in front of her. As the elevator descended, suddenly I felt a hand touch my collar, and smooth it down over my tie! ‘Arigato gosaimas’ (thank you very much), I managed, when we reached the bottom floor and I could turn to face the woman. She smiled faintly and bowed in turn.

I was stunned for hours afterwards. Japanese never touch. It’s not even customary among themselves when they meet to shake hands. So how to explain why this woman would so casually reach over and adjust my collar? In public! And yet, not exactly. The space of an elevator is small enough, and, perhaps more important, brief and ephemeral enough, to admit a private character. Therefore, an individual can relax, and accord another a degree of warmth inadmissible once the elevator doors open once more. My moment of contact, I concluded, could have only happened in an elevator, and then perhaps only in Japan. Suddenly the mundane seemed luminous with an entirely different meaning to transit space.”

See “In and Out of Elevators in Japan” by Terry Caesar, published in the Journal of Mundane Behavior.

“Elevator space in Japan is considered both as an example of transit space generally and as an example of the practice of a particular national identity. The paper argues that there is an intimate relationship between the social script outside the elevator and variations possible on this script inside the elevator. In Japan, these variations serve to express the improvisational, private character of personal interaction possible inside elevators, over against the fixed, public character of behavior outside them.”

Found via Consumptive.org.

>  5 July 2002 | LINK | Filed in , ,

Universal Bathroom

The Industrial Designers Society of America has announced the 2002 winners of their Industrial Design Excellence Awards. Note the Universal Bathrooms developed by the Kelley Design Group and University at Buffalo for the National Institute of Disability & Rehabilitation Research.

“The Universal Bathroom concept uses two entries, movable fixtures and movable panels to retrofit existing bathrooms for universal design. Because many people are aging, become disabled, etc., and do not want to move from their house, retrofitting the bathroom is an economically viable and a physically easier alternative than moving to another location.”

See also the PediaPod, Automatic Public Toilet, and Universal Bedpan.

>  4 July 2002 | LINK | Filed in , ,

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