No, you can’t use it to test wedding cake

Not yet in commercial production but promising: a tabletop device that can detect gluten proteins in food at the 5 ppm level in 120 seconds.

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Stephanie Strom visits a big soybean/corn agricultural complex (spanning two states) and finds a old school farm practice that improves soil quality, reduces sediment runoff, and improves yields: cover crops.

Posted in Agriculture, Economics and Business | Comments Off on Messy


Craig Havighurst has proposed a new umbrella term for that thing that most people call classical music, that my friends in college (particularly in the School of Music) encouraged me to call art music or serious music, and that I have also heard described as Western concert hall music. Havighust likes the term composed music, and he makes some good points.

Composed Music’s primary virtue is its blunt veracity. It is what it says it is: works by a singular mind, fixed and promulgated in written form. …it emphasizes the actual creator of the music, giving credit where it’s due in an era when the general public has been conditioned to associate works with performers.

And lest we forget,

The awkwardness of there being a Classical Period in Classical Music becomes moot.

In a follow-up, he points out that he intends the term to include jazz and third stream compositions as well, written by artists as diverse as Brubeck and Zappa.

Of course, we can always go with the dichotomy associated with Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington:

There are simply two kinds of music, good music and the other kind.


Posted in Music, Words Words Words | Comments Off on Composure

Letting go

In the first half of last year, The Guardian produced a very effective closed-end podcast about its reporting and advocacy concerning climate change. With no exaggeration, it can be called The Biggest Story in the World.

For me, the most important episodes consisted largely of interviews with Marc Morano, climate change heckler, and with Ben Van Beurden, CEO of Shell.


The focus of the newspaper’s campaign was to persuade two large charitable foundations to divest from companies dependent on carbon-based fuel extraction—the big oil companies, in short.

Meanwhile, Joel Rose recently reported on stepped-up efforts by gun safety activists, asking pension funds and personal investors to drop gun-related stocks from their portfolios. Does divestment have an impact?

“Well, unfortunately, it does not have an effect,” says Paul Wazzan, an economist at the Berkeley Research Group in California. He has studied the divestment campaigns against companies that did business in South Africa in the 1980s and 1990s. Wazzan says there was no measurable effect on their stock prices.

“But it does generate a lot of press and interest,” Wazzan says. “And the political pressure starts to build and that did ultimately have an effect. It’s not what our paper was about, but I think the political pressure ultimately did have an effect on these companies.”

That kind of pressure is harder to measure than a stock price. But divestment supporters say it’s still worth a try.

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Living still

A longread for a snow day: Linton Weeks compiles dozens of pointers to techniques and technology that have been preserved, essentially unchanged, from a century ago.

Posted in History | Comments Off on Living still


Lynn Nottage’s Sweat (commissioned and produced by the Oregon Shakespeare Festival) is a distillation of the frustrations and personal tragedies visited on the working class of Reading, Pennsylvania. The economic shocks of globalization generally and NAFTA specifically resound here on Route 422 as plant closings, lockouts, and busted pensions. Nottage dramatizes these Berks County stories with a strong ensemble of nine fully-realized characters, by turns striving, washed up, deluded, and occasionally successful. All of them, in one way or another, are trying to find a way to hold the line, be it against strikebreakers, addiction, or self-destructive violence. And through Nottage’s particulars she achieves a universal.

The main playing space is a local bar, designed by John Lee Beatty, meticulously tricked out with lamps advertising beer and a TV set playing news from the Bush-Gore campaign of 2000. It’s almost too good looking—one feels the need of a little grit and grime in the corners. It’s presided over by Jack Willis’s Stan, a veteran of both Vietnam and the shop floor; although partially disabled, he makes a worthy bartender, his voice a powerful deep bray of sardonic acceptance.

  • Sweat, by Lynn Nottage, directed by Kate Whoriskey, Arena Stage Kreeger Theater, Washington

In a note in the program book, Executive Producer Edgar Dobie calls out the importance of unions and collective bargaining to the artistic process.

Embracing a system of unions benefits both employees and employers; the production you are about to enjoy would not have been possible without several of the unions mentioned above, nor could it have transferred from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival to Arena in its original form. We are indebted to the men and women who are represented within these unions, as they hold us accountable to our commitment to fairness and prosperity.

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Side project

free, for the time beingA little digging, and we have one temporarily freed fire hydrant.

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Silver Line progress report: 40

Sand Box John gives us an update on Phase 2 construction.

Posted in Transit in D.C. | Comments Off on Silver Line progress report: 40

Birds and botany

Duarte S. Viana et al. have published research on the importance of migratory birds as a long-distance seed dispersal mechanism.

By sampling birds caught while in migratory flight by GPS-tracked wild falcons, we show that migratory birds transport seeds over hundreds of kilometres and mediate dispersal from mainland to oceanic islands.

Posted in Biodiversity and Species Preservation, Birds and Birding, Botany | Comments Off on Birds and botany


Cryptococcal meningitis is a debilitating and lethal fungal disease that afflicts persons with compromised immune symptoms. Of the many neglected diseases, tropical and otherwise, it may be the most overlooked.

There is no day named for its awareness, no celebrity ambassador to champion its demise. The World Health Organization (WHO) team tasked with addressing cryptococcal meningitis is a team of one.

That’s also the number of times cryptococcal meningitis is mentioned in the 500-plus pages of the latest UNAIDS report.

Not since 2009 has it been mentioned in The New York Times.

Immuno Mycologics in Norman, Okla. is developing an assay that can detect the disease while it’s still at treatable stages in its progress.

Patrick Adams has the report.

Posted in Health and Medicine | Comments Off on Crypto


[Faber:] “Do you know why books such as this are so important? Because they have quality. And what does the word quality mean? To me it means texture. This book has pores. It has features. This book can go under the microscope. You’d find life under the glass, streaming past in infinite profusion. The more pores, the more truthfully recorded details of life per square inch you can get on a sheet of paper, the more ‘literary’ you are. That’s my definition, anyway. Telling detail. Freshdetail. The good writers touch life often.”

—Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451 (1953)
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On deck: 15

on deck: 15Some gifts, some post-holiday purchases, Cheryl Strayed via book swap meet, Anne Enright via the freebie ARC shelf at work. Echenoz in French, with backup translation—maybe this year?

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We paid for it

Peter Cashwell responds to the selfish occupiers of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

This is the purpose of a national wildlife refuge: to use our collective wealth and will to protect something important to all of us.

48,000 acres of the refuge (26% of the total) were purchased with Migratory Bird Conservation Fund dollars.

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Holiday break projects

@mkramer likes to post lists of tasks that she has completed, large and small, required and optional. In that spirit, here’s what I accomplished over my holiday break:

  • Scrubbed coffee stains from my breakfast cup set.
  • Registered as a prospective host for my university’s externship program.
  • Snacked on a tasty (store-brought) Christmas stollen.
  • Updated my medical emergency/end-of-life instructions.
  • Replaced the battery in one device. (Thought there would be more.)
  • Cleaned out file folders of 20-year-old travel brochures and directions to birding hot spots.
  • Made some birthday arrangements for Leta.
  • Received a judgment: “Not eating at home brings good fortune.”
  • Restocked the food and water in my Go Box.
  • Cleaned out the closet of linens/bathroom stuff.
  • Tightened the buttons on one of my comfy shirts.
  • Remounted a wobbly toilet roll holder.
  • Straightened up the basement after October’s mini-flood.
  • Set up my script for my next show; set up my 2016 notebooks.
  • Watched two movies, in cinemas, like a grownup.
  • Mislaid the power adapter for my music keyboard. Again.
  • Cleaned up the cabinet of PC gear; organized the hall hat rack and closet.
  • Vinegared the coffeemaker.
  • Played Scrabble with Leta.
  • Went for a walk in Huntley Meadows Park.

Since I usually finish a bout of to-do checkoffs with more to-dos than I started, it’s nice to look back on what got done.

Posted in Like Life | Comments Off on Holiday break projects

Dear employer/

charity I work for-contribute to/conference organizer,

enoughPlease don’t send me another tote bag. I’m good.



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