Monday, March 30, 2009

OK or Not? Bragging

Alright, I have to brag. Just a little.

My little Seedling had a hockey tournament over the weekend and did great on Sunday. Walked away with Gold in the Atom B division. Also scored 2 hattricks on Sunday (4 goals in one game, three goals & an assist in the other).

And I asked her if she would like to call Auntie & tell her (her Aunt also plays hockey), & Seedling said she did not want to brag, because no one likes to be around a bragger. I thought that was a little sad, as she worked hard in both games, and deserved those 7 goals & 1 assist.

When is it OK to brag?

I know these are not my accomplishments, but I am extremely proud to be her Mom. She works hard for these & deserves them (the amount of practice she puts into her sports is amazing, not school work though... mmmm). I want people we care about to be proud of her too!

But is she right? I know that when other people brag, it makes me uncomfortable (especially when it is nonstop!). Also, lots of other hockey moms post on Facebook and/or Twitter everything their child does, and it becomes a little much, like "Johnny Appleseed won a game" or "Johnny Appleseed made a friend!".
I guess these would be spectacular if he never wins any games or makes any friends, but I know that he does regularly...
And this is not unique. There are many other circumstances when people brag about themselves "I partied so hard on the weekend", or "I just kicked some butt on the green".

So is it different when you are bragging about yourself? Or your child? Do people REALLY want to know how many drinks you had before passing out?

Well, all I can say is I'm glad I let someone know about her weekend. It seems that no one else will if she has her way...

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A gift for Selina - c'est tu!

For someone wishing it would be spring faster! Enjoy.... these are the first things to come up in my garden every year.

Recommended Songs

Well, through a little luck of mine, I am able to get some songs free over the internet (and legally). It is in exchange for my "opinion". Ha, if only they knew I give it for free!

Anyways, I have run out of songs to get. I picked 2: (re)education through labor (by Rise Against), and Walking after midnight by Patsy Cline. (The last song was not on my CD's of her. How could they miss that song?!)

Anyways, if any of you have songs you would recommend because you like them, are relatively rare, or are the only good song on a CD, please let me know. I think I have over 20 free to get in total so far.

The other problem is I have quite a few CD's, but thankfully I have an eclectic taste, so keep the ideas coming...


Monday, March 23, 2009

Phytoremediation as an alternative method in Reclamation Strategies

Phytoremediation is the use of plants to clean up toxic levels of heavy metals, organic contaminants or pesticides by the absorption within the plant body and either converting the compound or storing it in the plant material, or immobilizing the contaminant within the soil area. Phytoremediation processes include 1) Phytostabilization, 2) Phytodecontamination 3) Rhizosphere Degredation 4) Phytoaccumulation and 5) Phytoextraction. These processes can safely clean contaminated water, wetlands, soil and air pollutants. As shown above, plants can be used as a natural way to clean up polluted waterways, and can even safetly clean up effluent from sewage contamination.

In all of the processes, except for phytostabilization, plants actively take up the contaminant and process it in a variety of ways which depend on the nature of the contaminant and the plant species itself. Sunflowers have been used to remove arsenic compounds and brassicas to remove lead compounds. Each species has its own growth rate and bioaccumulation rate which are important factors for deciding how to remove contaminants. Seasonal removal of plant material thereby removes the contaminants from the area to be safely disposed or stored in an alternate location. This method requires several seasons for the complete removal, and in fact complete removal of the contaminant may not be possible.

Phytoremediation can even occur inside the home. Air pollution that occurs inside newly built homes, known as off-gassing of new products can affect the health of the residents. NASA had conducted a study in the 80's showing that plants are effective at removing formaldehyde and benzene and other off-gasses from the environment just by growing popular houseplants.

Phytoremediation is not the whole story of course; important microorganisms such as Bacteria and Archaea are invaluable for providing in-house cleaning for a fraction of the work plants require. Already used in all tailings ponds (in the Tar-Sands of Northern Alberta), multiple fermentation Bacterias and methanogenic Archaeas provide the cheap & easy way of converting organic contaminants into methane and carbon dioxide. Of course this takes years as well, but they do not need seasonal removal of organic material like plants do. However, when plants and bacteria/archaea work in concert with each other, it is the fastest method of reclamation and probably safer than most other methods.

Gratao, P.L, et al. (2005). Phytoremediation: green technology for the clean up of toxic metals in the environment. Braz. J. Plant Physiol. 17(1) 53-64.

Meagher, R.B. (2000). Phytoremediation of toxic elemental and organic pollutants. Current Opinion in Plant Biology. 3: 153-162

Meers, E., Hopgood, M., Lesage, E., Verv.aeke, P., Tack, F. M. G. and Verloo, M. G. (2004). Enhanced Phytoextraction: In Search of EDTA Alternatives',International Journal of Phytoremediation. 6(2): 95 — 109.

Van Aken, B. (2008). Transgenic plants for phytoremediation: helping nature to clean up environmental pollution. Trends in Biotechnology. 26(5) 225-227.

Wolverton, B.C., Johnson, A., and Bounds, K. (1989). Interior Landscape Plants for Indoor Air Pollution Abatement Final Report. National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Stennis Space Center, MS.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Shark Attack! Just Kidding...

After Jaws (the movie), I'm sure more sharks were killed out of fear than food. This video is great at showing the overreaction to something that needs our respect and understanding, not fear.

Please sir... may I have spring? Warm weather?

The lowliest of the low... nothing is more overused (except Shakespeare) than Oliver Twist. I'm sure Dicken's is rolling in his grave to know the multiple ways people use his poor Oliver to affect a supplication for something they want.
.... But I'm desparate. For warm weather. For more than 6 months out of the year, there is snow crunching underneath my feet. I long for green things to see, and flowers to smell, and branches to prune. I'm sure that had Dicken's lived through a cold Canadian winter he would've written Oliver to say "Please sir... May I have some Gloves?", because who wants more... all you'll get is more snow.

What's that you say? Snow in the forecast? I should've seen it coming.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

They've found Anastasia and Alexi

Through the modern science of DNA analysis, they have finally solved a mystery that has been capturing the hearts of millions.
They have found Anastasia and Alexi Romanov which has been proved through DNA matching to their parents and siblings from a grave ~70m away. I've been assuming that the matching sister in Alexi's grave was Anastasia, but it could have been one of his other sisters. The important meaning from this is that all of the Romanov family has been found. This paper in PLOS One has the science behind it (and that the Russians and American's don't agree on which sister was missing).
The mystery that has inspired half a dozen movies can now be laid to rest.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Victory Gardening (Recession Gardening)

Victory Gardens are coming back. Originally to help sustain families during the war years (and the dirty-thirties in between), and also to reduce the pressure on food production and distribution during that time.

Apparently (I've yet to see full scale where I live) we are in a recession. Cut-backs and layoffs are the norm in Eastern Canada, as well as in the entire US. Western Canada is doing OK, but we will feel the pinch soon in Texas-of-the-North. How long the recession lasts is currently the favorite prediction guessing game of high-profile financiers and bankers (each trying to give a direr prediction than the others). People are finding ways of reducing bills in order to keep their homes (with VERY large mortgages).

In between Hardy Explorer Roses (from Morden, Manitoba), oriental lilies and ornamental grasses, you can plant small vegetables that can be sown and harvested throughout the year. There is no need to remove all of your ornamental flowering plants. Space for lettuce, beans, and carrots does not have to be large.

Also, raised beds can be arranged with vegetables to be attractive and/or easy to care for. Help is available on the web when you run into problems. Take 10-20 minutes a day for upkeep (minor hoeing, watering, etc), and you can grow your own food for the table too.

Now, I've been doing this for all my life (raised on a farm), and gardening is my passion (botany ...hello!), but you don't have to have a green thumb to do this. So things die. As long as its outside & you give a tiny bit of care, things may work out. It doesn't have to be perfect (no one is... look at Martha Stewart... I'm still laughing about the jail time :p )
Google about vegetable gardening... trust me its worth it!
(A link that you may find useful : UBC's Beginner Guide to Vegetable Gardening

DST Part Deux - Update

Aha! I have found other opinions and background on Daylight Savings Time to reflect upon...

Built on Facts: Savings Time?

Government of Canada: Time Zones & Daylight Savings Time

Consumer Energy Report: Does Daylight Savings Time Really Conserve Energy?

Me? I thought I handled Sunday with remarkable aplomb. My seedling had a hockey practice at 7:45am. She woke me up at 5:45am telling me it was time to go (I had forgotten to change my alarm clock so we would've been late had it not been for her!). I grumpily got out of bed, dressed/brushed teeth/hair, etc in 5 minutes & still had time for a Tim Hortons Roll Up To Win Coffee.
We just made it.

So anyways, I think the best idea out of the posts is that we should have permanent earlier hours. From now on (and no changes twice a year), have the clocks roll back a couple hours so that most of us take advantage of the early daylight. FOREVER. I think its the changes that bug me (and to quote a commenter on Built on Facts; it feels like jet lag twice a year.... without going anywhere).

Friday, March 6, 2009

My Favorite Open Laboratory Book 2008 Winners

Every year since before who knows when, there is an annual award for the best Science blogger IN THE WORLD!!! Mwah ha ha ha! Since I've just started I don't feel left out that they haven't picked me yet (and my writing leaves tonnes to be desired if my first sentence of this post is anything to go by). Anyways, I digress.
I've viewed the list and my top 5 favorites are:
A Rule of Thumb by Cabinet of Wonders
10 Things about GE Crops to Scratch from Your Worry List by Tomorrow's Table
*whose blog incidentally looks just like mine :)
The Evolutionary Biology Valentine's Day Poem by Digital Cuttlefish
The Igneous Petrology of Ice Cream by Green Gabbro
Even Blood Flukes Get Divorced by The Loom

The entire list is available at and they are all great. It's nice to know so many people are out there working at their everyday jobs, but are putting an effort to communicate with other people in different fields and backgrounds about their passions.

Now to work on my posts that will get me Open Laboratory 2009..... mwah ha ha ha!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Starting a petition to remove Daylight Savings Time

Alright, I know it seems futile, but I am going on a strike. Until I get spring around these parts, I, I..., I.... well, I don't know what I'll do. I'm done with the endless months of winter. Combine that with a bad haircut (no I won't post pics), my cranky seedling, and midterms that just won't end, I'm not real happy right now.
I figure that should be enough to at least petition all governments to remove Daylight Savings Time. It begins this Sunday early in the morning. So we lose an hour that I won't reclaim until the fall. And unfortunately, it is an hour of sleep.
Daylight savings time began in the early 20th century. Wikipedia has a very thorough background on the history and effects of this phenomenon.

Current Daylight Savings Time In World

Blue = Daylight Savings In Effect
Red = No Daylight Savings Ever
Orange = Had Daylight Savings but got smart and Removed it

There have been many reasons why this is a good idea. But to me, I'd rather drive to school/work in the sunshine instead of not seeing it until I leave at night. And look, it doesn't even have to be a whole province! The upper right corner of BC apparently has kicked this bad habit and no longer observes daylight savings time! I don't understand why it has to be so early in the year. Why not the end of April? That way, you only have to drive into the sun's glare in the morning only once a year. (Trust me, nothing like not being able to see where you are going). I dunno, I think I am being very reasonable. Either daylight savings goes, or spring comes early...