Saturday, June 21, 2008

Awwww! Factor

The cutest baby picture you'll see today, courtesy of a random blog Google suggested.

A seriously great shot. That mug could sell zippers to dressmakers.

Pic of the day: Nick Small, aka "Borolad"

Flickr's borolad got a top notch shot from the stage at a UK rock concert. Best viewed at fullsize.

Look at the faces!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

How Salmonella contaminates tomato plants

Tomatoes are being pulled from restaurants and markets across the U.S. after an outbreak of salmonella tied to crops originating in Florida and Mexico sickened about 170 people across the country. The FDA considers this trend of outbreaks "ongoing", and adopted a program a couple of years ago to address the outbreaks of salmonella. From the program's statement:
Most tomato-associated outbreaks over the past ten years have been traced to product originating from the Eastern shore of Virginia and from Florida; however outbreaks have also been traced to Georgia, South Carolina, Ohio, and California.

This was June of last year. The program is ongoing, according to the FDA.

I've been trying to find some good information about how salmonella contaminates plants, specifically tomato plants. Some poking about through a few search engines found this report from the NIH detailing how salmonella is transferred to plants via soil contamination. Highly interesting reading, especially if you've assumed (as I had) that people had failed to rinse their veggies and had likely consumed a fertilizer product (animal poop.) A few relevant bullet points:
  • Tomatoes are the most common veggie carrier of salmonella.
  • Salmonella will outlive a six week crop rotation (lives in plant debris after being plowed under), and can propagate with the next crop generation.
  • Salmonella can also contaminate carrots, radish, lettuce and parsley
  • Salmonella is not deterred if the plant is diseased
  • Most likely route of contamination is untreated water via soil. - see update below!
I'm curious about homebrew methods of testing for salmonella (is there a cool CSI style blacklight gadget I can get?) in soil; anyone have ideas?

Photo by Pete Lewis.

UPDATE #1: This study by Dr. Mansel Griffiths, Dept. of Food Science, UofG suggests that salmonella cannot contaminate a plant if introduced via irrigation- It *has* be introduced on the flowers.
Human pathogens introduced through irrigation water (drip irrigation) at the flowering stage of tomato and cucumber plants did not contaminate the subsequent fruits, though they persist on the roots of these plants. However, when E. coli O157:H7, Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes were introduced onto the flowers of cucumber, tomato and strawberries the subsequent fruits were contaminated.
To paraphrase, contaminated soil got on the flowers. Exactly how that occurred is anyone's guess.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Is flickr's search broken, or just interesting?

Or do I just not know how to use it very well? All I wanted were some stock style photos about journalism or newsmedia. I thought I'd find some closeups of reporter's notebooks, maybe a newsroom interior or something. Searching for "journalism" brings up a hodgepodge of photos, none of which particularly suits the word "journalism."(I noticed a huge number of images returned are photos of young girls with attached text pleas for help...isn't this tag gaming a form of child exploitation?)

Unless, of course, you're Flickr. In Flickr's world, words are being redefined by the community in the form of photo tags. Some thoughts occur:
  • This has interesting consequences- how pervasive or "sticky" can these new definitions be? We've seen how a Fark photoshop contests can become international memes. Can redefinitions propagate similarly?
  • What kind of insight can we get regarding a community's relationships with certain words or ideas?
  • How do users game these linguistics to bring higher views to their own kind of commentary?
  • Is this a kind of metaspeak?

McCain has already lost.

This article in the conspicuously pro-White House WaPo contains a number of interesting rhetorical flourishes that if taken as true, present a bleak outlook for the McCain campaign. I've long complained about the tendency of media to impose a fiction of their own via narrative framing (see: horse race). Lately, I've turned this into a tool (kind of a contrary indicator) in an attempt to divine the inherent prejudices of the media as a whole.

While much hay has been made over the media's seeming "free pass" to McCain on many, MANY issues, I believe this article, IF TRUE, betrays a change in the winds for McCain. Put simply, it may turn out Obama sells more papers than McCain. If that's the case, McCain cannot count on the media in the way the GOP has over the last eight years.

A few paragraphs in, WaPo reports:
Two McCain aides said his speech was the beginning of a "great debate" on the direction of the country. It will be followed quickly by a television ad campaign aimed at reinforcing McCain's core message: that Obama's sweeping rhetoric offers little real promise of changing the political culture in Washington.
If McCain's "core message" is "the other guy's a dunce", he's already lost. Not that his campaign actually believes or operates in this manner, but if "the media" takes this narrative to heart, McCain is stuck operating a "negative" campaign. Further, he's perpetually on the defense. As JC Watts famously said: "If you're explaining, you're losing."

Another kind of analysis displays the comical attempts of journalists to imbue their writing with a sense of motion, by employing "action verbs" (not as redundant as you'd first think). This is done by comparing the subject with the attached verb. A few examnples:

McCain wasted - McCain began - McCain said - Obama spoke - McCain began - McCain said - McCain explicitly rejected - McCain highlighted - Obama honored - Obama said - Obama mocked - McCain said - McCain decried - etc, etc.

What leaps out at me is the usage of "said" versus "spoke". "Spoke" seems to conjure a sense of purpose and precognition. "Said" is so broad and general as to be bereft of any distinct meaning, other than it doesn't quite carry the poise of "spoke."

These are only cursory reactions to what I'm reading. To be clear, I certainly have my own political biases (not a McCain fan, that's fer sure!), but I'm incensed that I still cannot depend on the US press to provide anything useful.

What say ye?

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Today's Million Dollar Idea

Our Garden Grows (15)
Google Calendar, Farmers Almanac, Google Analytics.

As more people adopt local gardening to stave off spiking food prices, a tool like this would be absolutely critical for high-yield gardening. Imagine your calendar with a planting schedule based on your geographic location, time of year, etc, and the ability to track your yields and other stats over time (and compare with historical data) in Analytics.

Our GardenImagine: your cell phone beeps and says: "Time to plant your corn seedlings, and flood your onions."