I have a special request to ask of you, dear readers, that will take only a couple minutes of your time but will totally make my day. My Biofortified group blog I started last year with Anastasia Bodnar, Pam Ronald, David Tribe, etc, has been entered into an online contest hosted by Ashoka Changemakers. If we win, we get a $1,500 grant to help run the site, and a conversation with Michael Pollan. (I’ve been trying to get an interview with him for the Mindcast for 3 years!)
We’re at 23 votes right now, the top entry is currently at 34 (and hasn’t budged much in the last month), but a new entry might be a challenge because it comes from an organization of sixty or more people by itself. So I could really use your votes!
The contest website is a little counter-intuitive and people have gotten lost in it, but thankfully our blog mascot Frank N. Foode wrote a detailed step-by-step post on how to do it.
And for those who are worried about giving out your email address and getting more junk mail in your inbox, if you check a box on the registration form you will not have any problems. The voting ends in one week, so there’s not much time left. If you know of anyone who might be willing to pitch in and help, please spread the word! If you blog, please do! You’ll be in my list of people to thank publicly for helping us to make a bigger and better online forum for talking about genetic engineering in agriculture.
One thing to keep in mind is that voting for Biofortified is not a vote for genetic engineering – it is a vote for dialogue in a forum built to handle this important discussion. None of the other contending entries are about dialogue but are instead about trying to eliminate or stigmatize the technology. Our entry – our site – is about bringing science and scientists and the public together to get people talking and learning in both directions. If you think this is a good idea, please go on over and vote. 🙂
Thanks for your time, and hope that mechanistic causality works in our favor!
Swine Flu versus Media woo:
In other news, Bill Maher finally expressed his true opinions of vaccines while interviewing Bill Frist. After being told he was crazy by a doctor, he followed up with being told he was crazy by three non-doctors the following week. Antiscience comes in many strains and Maher’s got a bad case of the Doubtbreak.
Ladies and gentlemen, don’t wait, inoculate!
P.S. I love how Jon Stewart worked in a joke about being a “Pasteurized Milk Drinker!” Take that, Raw Milkers!
I just got this in my inbox today. I keep tabs on my ol’ Davis station, KDRT, and I’ve been hearing about legislation designed to help Low Power FM stations get on the air and stay on the air. They’ve been treated as second-class citizens in the radio world, which hit home when a commercial station, KMJE, tried to wipe KDRT off the air by moving closer to Davis a little more than 2 years ago. Technically, KDRT would be encroaching under the old rules… not for much longer, it seems! (It still gets me that NPR was an opponent of LPFM. Glad to see that the laws of physics have changed for NPR.) Here is the press release from Prometheus Radio:
Energy and Commerce Committee Unanimously Supports
Local Community Radio Act:
Bill Moving Swiftly Toward Full House Vote
With a unanimous voice vote, the House Energy and Commerce Committee passed the Local Community Radio Act this morning. By repealing restrictions that drastically limit channels available to low power FM (LPFM) stations, the Act will allow hundreds of community groups nationwide to access the public airwaves.
The popular, bipartisan legislation is on the fast track to becoming law. Shortly after all five FCC Commissioners reaffirmed the FCC’s longstanding support, the bill passed out of the House Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet by a voice vote. After today’s passage out of committee, the Local Community Radio Act heads for a floor vote in the House. Continue reading Local Community Radio Act on fast track to approval
The Big Event that everyone has been waiting for is here: Michael Pollan is going to be in Madison, Wisconsin, speaking about food and diet and word has it he will be bringing his rose-colored glasses!
There are several events where Pollan will be the big cheese:
Thursday at 7 pm at the Kohl Center, he will be giving a talk to what will likely be a packed auditorium. His talk is called The Omnivore’s Solution. I’ve been dying to find out what Omnivores can be dissolved in.
His talk is part of a campus-wide project called Go Big Read. I know, the name is lame. But they put thousands of copies of Pollan’s book, In Defense of Food, in the hands of students in many disciplines. From sociology to nutrition and political science, the idea is to get students in many different fields talking about the same thing from different angles.
There is a blog on the Go Big Read site, and they were taking question submissions for Pollan, a handful of which will be selected. I submitted a question, along with Ariela. Continue reading Michael Pollan in Madison
Yesterday afternoon, it was my privilege to teach a class about bees to a group of young after-school students at the Eagle Heights community center on the UW-Madison campus. Ariela and I taught the same class last year, and although she was not able to make it this time, it was just as fun as ever.
First, the kids sat down (give or take) for a half hour discussion about bees, as I showed them pictures of bees doing various things with a PowerPoint presentation. I taught them how to tell a bee from a wasp, I showed the three different bee castes and what they do, and talked about how important bees are and how they make honey. It was not only a visual presentation but also tactile and olfactory experience. When it came to talking about beeswax comb, I passed around a large piece of natural comb I pulled out of one of our hives. The kids got to smell some beeswax candles, and I showed them the tools we use out in the apiary and all about the frames that make up a hive.
When we were done with questions, we adjourned to the community center’s stainless steel (yes I am jealous) kitchen where my pressure-cooker-turned-steam-generator had already been warming up. The steam powers an uncapping knife to slice open the combs and release the honey. As the layer of wax cappings dripped off, the glowing, golden cells of sweetness awed the group – who lined up to take a turn at spinning the frames in the centrifuge. After showing the gathering pool of honey in the centrifuge, I lifted it up onto the counter to let the honey flow out through the filters and into the waiting bucket.
I kept some honey from the last harvest in the bucket, so it had already settled and lost its bubbles. And one by one the kids filled their little 1/2 cup jelly jars from the spigot, excited to have a treat to take home.
Many of the kids wanted to see the bees themselves, which wouldn’t have been possible this time around, but next year, we might be able to arrange that. Ariela and I look forward to doing more classes about bees for kids – it’s great to see and hear their excitement about something that we as beekeepers are perennially privileged to experience, and I always delight in sharing a little knowledge. We were almost going to have a second bee class this year. Almost. Which is what this post is about. Continue reading Beeing an Atheist
I’m two-thirds the way through my 3-day weekend, and I’m loving it. Plenty of time to work on stuff in and around the house, write furiously, and make grand plans for the near future. Yesterday I finished digging out a trench to add some drainage to a planter, and I got a start on a scratching post for the cat. Today I will be painting a bee table and putting a second coat on some recently-bare concrete, and maybe a little filming if I can fit it in. Lots of things related to the Haus Haro von Mogel to keep me busy.
But there’s something else I’ve been busy with as well. Over the last few days I have written a few posts about genetic engineering over at Biofortified:
I have a pile more to write, some half-finished in drafts, but they are taking a backseat position to an entry I am writing for th Ashoka Changemakers. They’ve got a contest about educating the public about genetic engineering, and although they have gone to a great effort for this contest, but as I point out here, there are a couple issues. Nevertheless I’ll make a showing later, but first, a bucket of paint and a powerdrill awaits!
Right now, the moment this post has become available on the blog, I will be sound asleep. After 26 straight days of getting up early to make controlled pollinations with corn plants, I, along with a dozen and a half of my fellow field crewmates, are enjoying our first weekend day off. This field season has not been too bad, though, perhaps the most enjoyable of the three that I have experienced.
Could I be getting used to this whole plant breeder thing? Am I finally able to get to sleep at a reasonable time with regularity so that I’m not tired and groggy all day? Or am I instead sticking to a rigorous schedule of washing my long-legged and sleeved field clothes and applying sunscreen religiously every day while also wearing a wide-brimmed hat to keep from toasting my outer layer of cells with UV radiation? The answer to all these questions is Continue reading Finito! Sort of…
A few days ago, field pollination season started for the field corn labs at UW-Madison. At first, it’s out in the field every day at 8 am, next week it will be 7 am, and no one goes home until everything is done. For new grad students, the first summer pollination season can be quite the shock. Last year, in addition to our own nurseries, we had a huge field known as the NAMs (Nested Association Mapping) that made field season seem interminable.
This year I have about 560 rows of plants to manage, which isn’t a lot when you get down to it.
Anyway, this morning, however, I’m up at the crack of dawn to dilute something in the lab before heading out to the field. It has to mix in a shaker for a good two hours before I get out there at the regular time. Many people would be annoyed at leaving the lab at 6 pm only to be back in less than 12 hours later. But this is the way I see it:
It’s not every day that a guy gets to make mutants!
(Muh huh hah ha ha haaa!)
While sparks may be flying elsewhere in the science blogosphere, Google reminds us that today is Nikola Tesla’s birthday.
So forget your troubles and enjoy some singing Tesla Coils!
Forgive the pun. But I have a little local news to complain about. Ever since I moved to Madison, Wisconsin, I have noticed the awful behavior of pedestrians in the downtown area. Citizens, many of them students, cross high-speed, major streets when they are not supposed to. In particular, the parallel one-way streets of Gorham/University and West Johnson, especially where they both cross State Street – the backbone of downtown Madison.
When driving through town, I often see pedestrians starting across the street, crosswalk or not, and they may or may not be paying attention to oncoming traffic, which is often going at 25-35 miles per hour. Sometimes pedestrians are walking along State Street, a pedestrian/bike/bus-only mall, and instinctively start across a street that crosses it, only to catch themselves as they remember that 2-ton hunks of metal are bearing down on them and they forgot to look.
Considering that kindergarten was not that long ago for some of these people, you’d think that they would remember the simple lesson of looking both ways. Continue reading Will this story impact Madison pedestrians?