Friday, May 29, 2009

Friday Ted Talk May 29th

This week, I have found an inspirational TED Talk for us botanists.
Why we are saving billions of seeds by Jonathan Drori.

It is regarding the Millennium Seed Bank run by Kew Gardens.

Wonderful talk....

Friday, May 22, 2009

Flower Focus I: Crocus

Now that spring has sprung in our horribly cold climate, I do enjoy my little croci that pop up wherever they can & give a little colour to the beds in the spring.
The crocus is genus of flowers that were originally found in southern Europe and the Middle East. A few species are hardy to Canadian Zone 2, and most will naturalize (aka multiply year after year) so that they turn out to be a very good investment in your garden. A spring flower (although in Alberta we use the word “spring” lightly), it comes in a multitude of colours (blue, purple, pink, white) and sizes. In my garden I have 2 species of true croci.
The crocus belongs to the iris family. Included in the iris family are (obviously) irises, gladioli, and freesia.

Saffron (the bits you use in cooking to give taste and colour) comes from a section of the girly reproductive bits (stigmas) of a specific species of croci that is commercially grown in Iran, Spain, Kashmir, Greece, Azerbaijan, Morocco, and Italy. It is used in cooking all over the world (but well known in Middle Eastern and Indian cooking).

Saffron (Crocus sativus)

So the next time you are eating any meal with saffron, you now know what you are eating. BTW, saffron is one of the most expensive herbs/spices that are available on the market because each stigma is hand picked. There are millions that need to be picked to make a little bit of seasoning.

I will try and regularly spotlight different plants/flowers that I am growing currently (or would like to grow when more space is made available. People regularly believe that choices are limited waaaayyyy up here & growing plants is hard. It's not. I don't water ever & I only pick weeds when I remember :)

Great TED Talks

I've been a regular listener/viewer to TED Talks for a while now. I think as a regular Friday post, I'll post a couple of links to some talks that I think all people should watch.

Here are my two for today:

Sir Ken Robinson says schools kill creativity

Margaret Wertheim on the beautiful math of coral
(great talk & great fusion between art & science)

Au revoir!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Bill 44: Good Idea Gone Bad or Giving Parents the Power to Make Kids Stupid?

Bill 44 is an amendment to the Human Rights, Citizenship and Multiculturalism Act in Alberta (which if passed will be renamed the Alberta Human Rights Act) which is aimed to include sexual orientation as a fundamental human right along with race, religious belief, colour, gender, physical disability, mental disability, age, ancestry, place of origin, maritial status, source of income or family status.
This has been a long time coming……
However, I am suspicious of a part of the wording in Section 11.1 which is the Notice to parent or guardian. I am assuming (big assumption though) that the intentions are good. However, by denying all children basic information about sexual health, sexuality, sexual orientation or religion we are ill-equipping them to deal with subject matter that will become more important as they get older, and information to deal with decisions in a logical and mature manner.
There is no such thing as too much information. Instead of picking and choosing what information we give children, cannot we teach them our values and morals while disseminating the information with them so that they are not afraid of information? If we refuse to teach children about other lifestyles, cultures, and practices they will be afraid of them and therefore discrimination will happen more frequently. (I’m trying not to use cliché’s here, but “Knowledge is Power” and “Your only afraid of what you don’t know” come to mind and are very appropriate I’m thinking)
I am an atheist. However, I want my seedling to learn about all of the other religions out there so that when she hears about them, she will be prepared with her decision & it will not be tricked out of her with half-truths and omissions.
I am heterosexual. However, I want her to learn about homosexual and bisexual people, and the fact that they are the same as heterosexual people. (There is no “gay lifestyle” per se as they lead normal lives just like everyone else) I want her to learn about what monogamy, polygamy, bigamy, and abstinence is. What is sexual intercourse and does fellatio count as sex? I want her to know about birth control for both men and women, abortion, sexually transmitted infections (diseases), child birth and child care.
Mostly, I want her to know that there are choices, so many choices and that no one has a right to chose for her (not even me). I want to instill my values and ethics in her, but the individual responses are up to her. And I do this because I TRUST HER! I trust her to make the right choices for her. I trust her to learn from mistakes that she makes. And most of all, I trust her to let her children choose as well. The only way that she can make choices for herself is if she learns about all of this.
There is another problem with this bill. With religion comes the controversy about evolution. Many fundamental religious people believe that Bill 44 is a way to deny their children learning about evolution. However, what they do not realize is that evolution is a cornerstone of all science. In an effort to refuse their children something that they are scared of, they will deny their children any hopes of being successful in science. But then again, maybe I’m thinking this is a good opportunity for the kids that do learn about evolution (survival of the fittest). Ironic.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Alternative Transportation ... ALL ABOARD!!

Just finished reading Plan B v. 3.0 by Lester R. Brown from the Earth Policy Institute. It was an interesting book, and he puts emphasis on certain points that are interesting to me. While taking a look at the usage of energy, consumption of consumer products, and transportation he also addresses ways that the States can change its ways to become more energy efficient, produce less consumer waste and use alternate energy in a fashion which will reduce reliance on oil & gas.
I especially was interested in the alternate transportation. In Alberta (aka. Canada’s Texas), we have a large reliance on automobiles. Our cities are designed around them and sprawl could be the alternate name for both Edmonton and Calgary. The true waste is using the best farmland in the world to put ugly homes upon. This is one of the oldest arguments in Edmonton and Calgary and the Michael Phair’s / Tooker Gomberg’s have used this argument time and time again, but big (housing) industry wins out all the time.
But I digress. Alternative transportation technology is here, and can be possible at this very minute, and while Europe and Asia is utilizing this technology, North America is lagging behind. So much for “west is best”.

High speed trains have the capability of running over 500km/hour speeds. Average speed time in Europe and Asia is roughly 250km/hour. This means that travel between Edmonton and Calgary could be accomplished in less than 1 ½ hours including embarking and disembarking. Existing tracks can be used AND a stop between in Red Deer is feasible. Next thing you know is high speed transit between Edmonton and Vancouver, and Vancouver to Ontario using existing track.

Map Between Edmonton & Calgary ... 298km of wasted time

View Larger Map

Often, the complaint is that people want to use their cars to get around once in the other city. However, if the train stations are set-up in a way to be accessible to city public transport in the same station, ease of getting around will be increased. This may have an added benefit of increased tourism, as people can relax and read the paper & have coffee on the train and then take the light rail transit or busses to their final destination. No longer would there be 3-5 hour long car trips and then the navigation of strange cities.

I can imagine it now….
A relaxing train trip from Edmonton to Calgary while reading a book to my little seedling. Getting there and taking the bus to the zoo. Visit family afterwards for supper and then taking the train back home in time to get seedling to bed and watching the new Criminal Minds on TV...