Project targets common humanitarian data collection – SciDev.Net

the project faces huge challenges, he says, including working out how to respect the privacy of aid beneficiaries, create the database and get commitment from cash-strapped NGOs that lack the resources to design even their own internal standards.

via Project targets common humanitarian data collection – SciDev.Net.

Hm, if you want to get varied and diverse cash-strapped small NGOs to share a common data platform, perhaps they need something along the lines of bootstrap for their data model backend?

More about the project here: http://hxl.humanitarianresponse.info/

Industrial Cloning, Genetic Sequencing, and Curating the Real World

If it tastes good you should sequence it,” he tells me. “You should know what’s in the genes of that species.”

Species that taste good is one criterion. Another he cites is that of industrial use – raising yields, for example, or benefits for healthcare.

“A third category is if it looks cute – anything that looks cute: panda, polar bear, penguin, you should really sequence it – it’s like digitalising all the wonderful species,” he explains.

via BBC News – China cloning on an ‘industrial scale’.

We’ve been breeding plants and animals for flavor, temperament, sturdiness and many other traits for millenia. Now, as with so much of our world, technology is speeding it up.  The Chinese farm profiled by the BBC has a large cloning infrastructure for medical testing, and a large genetic sequencing center.  They’re determining what creatures work for the need and mass producing the variety of pig in one part of the facility.  In another area of the center workers record and decode the DNA sequence for a variety of animals.  The criteria are a mix of good business – flavorful, good producers, and the stereotypically Chinese – cute species.

Technology allows us to do things much faster than before. Sometimes that is destructive, as with the extinctions of whole species and ecosystems, and sometimes it’ll allow us to perform miracles. Cloning scares me as the ultimate mono-crop, but for a use like lab animal trials makes a lot of sense. Genetic sequencing can be both a way to know the animals, and a way to save crucial traits that may prove of immense value in a changing world.

If you’ve got to start somewhere, picking the cutest animals isn’t such a bad idea.

Red panda by flickr user ming1967
Red panda by flickr user ming1967

Too cute? Must see more? Watch videos, learn more, adopt a red panda here.

Street Parking, Homelessness, and “Storing Personal Property in Public”

Last year, Tampa, Florida — which had the most homeless people for a mid-sized city — passed an  ordinance allowing police officers to arrest anyone they saw sleeping in public, or “storing personal property in public.”

I look forward to seeing all of the parallel parked citizens arrested.

The article over at Nation of Change is very positive.  It describes a new Utah program to house people and provide social workers. But first the article lists other programs that have been recently implemented around the country.  This Tampa one struck me because ‘storing personal property in public’ is such a common activity.  I’ve lived in San Francisco where people overwhelmingly use street parking, and it is a fiercely fought over commodity, generating arguments over permits, parklets, construction and bus lanes.  I’m fairly sure this law was not applied in that context however.  Have you ever stopped to think how much money is spent on paving roads, grading curbs, and assisting people to store their car in the public space?  How many miles of lanes of public parking are in your town? Have you had a neighbor  who parks his boat/trailer/car that doesn’t drive on the street?

Appearing better off gets you advantages. Cars, boats, RVs, etc are a more valuable class of property and thus supported by the city, and when someone has so little, what they have is begrudged.

Programs like the one described do not fix the problems; they shift and change the problem.  The city and people still have to pay for the arrests, and cleanup the area.  Investing in long-term improvements, facilities and assistance programs for the individuals can actually be cheaper.  Homelessness in America should be fixable – we have the facilities and ignoring it isn’t free.

I’m excited to see how Lava Mae  will do in the Bay Area.

Health Risks from Pesticides, More Reasons to Grow Your Own

Pesticides are not good for you. Shocker, I know. They’re also not good for the environment.  They shouldn’t be banned, but use should be more limited than it is, and eating pesticide-laden food should be avoided when possible.  You know what’s a great way to do that? Garden! So here’s some scary factoids about pesticides in US foods, and some tips on growing your own for some of the worst pesticide culprits.
Continue reading “Health Risks from Pesticides, More Reasons to Grow Your Own”

End of 2013 Charity!

I am giving $290 to charity by the end of 2013.  Help me decide how to spend it!

Earlier this year I saw the One Percent Foundation.  I didn’t feel like joining a ‘giving circle’ but I pledged to donate 1% of this year’s money to charity. I’m behind by $290, so what should I do?

[socialpoll id=”2181286″]

Feel free to add your own suggestion in the comments.

We’re Dying Young in America

We’re sicker for a number of reasons. Not one single factor is to be blamed for the problem,” Jacoby says. “One of the reasons is we are eating bad. We are being excessively exposed to junk food… We have more pollution because of biofuels that are really, really bad for you.”

via Living Sick and Dying Young in Rich America – Leah Sottile – The Atlantic.

It’s hard to think about, and hard to speak about. My friends are sicker than our elders, and sicker than our contemporaries across the pond. Staying home might be the most dangerous thing. There is a reasonable chance I will become seriously sick for a long time, just living life normally. I try to be healthy – at least sometimes – but I know I don’t fully succeed. It’s hard to maintain a healthy lifestyle; the components are many, not stressing severely, not eating processed foods, eating & drinking in moderate amounts, exercising regularly. That’s hard to acknowledge, but it’s not really everyone else’s concern.

My mother teaches kindergarten in Central California; the kids in her class are likely going to be in the same boat as me, and perhaps even worse off. We aren’t doing anything to produce healthier kids, or a healthier next generation. When does it become everyone’s concern?

For many years, Americans have been dying at younger ages that people in almost all other wealthy countries. In addition to the impact of gun violence, Americans consume the most calories among peer countries and get involved in more accidents that involve alcohol. People living in the U.S. lose more years of their life before they reach 50 due to alcohol and drugs compared to all the other nations in the study. In general, Americans had the lowest chance of surviving to 50

via Report: U.S. life expectancy lowest among wealthy nations due to disease, violence – Michelle Castillo – CBS/AP
So if you want to raise a child in a healthier environment that has to start with local policy & culture at home, or.. you know, move to a country better for your kids.

Infographic: The Benefits of Public Transport | This Big City

Infographic: The Benefits of Public Transport | This Big City.  Transit & cycling are huge factors for me in picking where I’m willing to live.  I think more and more people are going to feel that way as lifestyles pickup importance.  We know stress is bad, we know gas is expensive, and we know that commuting through traffic in a single person vehicle can be the most stressful part of a day.  Let’s fix public transit as a society.

PP Planter: a resource for public peeing

PP Planter.  All attempts to help out the homeless, and clean up the city through that, are applauded here!

The PP Planter is a pretty cool concept for helping to reduce the smell around the city.  It’d be useful not just for the homeless, but also for the drunk – let’s put one of these next to every BART entrance. They need some help making a better design, and welcome contributions!  Seems like it may be dude-specific though, or maybe the ladies would need one of the Go Girls.

Public urination is not going to be solved through tickets, at least not in a city with a homeless population.

Reblog: Why Is There So Much Human Shit on the Streets? – The Bold Italic – San Francisco

Why Is There So Much Human Shit on the Streets? – The Bold Italic – San Francisco.

“We need to start by seeing our homeless population as actual human beings who need to eat and drink and wash their hands and who, yes, need a place to take a nice private dump once in a while”. 

I’d add showers to the dream facilities as well, because however people end up on the streets, sanitation is important. Keep people sane through access to basic resources! It also helps keep the city cleaner.

Being kind or losing my mind?

I see a problem every day. I live next to a park and in that park homeless people regularly use the shadiest corner as a bathroom. Sometimes they drag over an abandoned couch or mattress and sleep there as well. When this last happened, we were discussing dragging the couch back out to the street and calling the city to pick it up, but I couldn’t get over the question. What would I say to the man who had been sleeping on that couch if he confronted me? Sleep on the ground? Sleep on some other piece of ground not in ‘my park’? I don’t have a solution to homelessness but right now I’d really like to focus on fixing something in my world.  If I want them to stop shitting in my park, where should I tell them to go?

Continue reading “Being kind or losing my mind?”