Grim’s Guide to dirt

•December 13, 2008 • Leave a Comment

After reading a recent article in the National Geographic Magazine, I began to speculate about dirt. Well, soil to be more precise. After a long read about soil quality, erosion, compaction, and toxicity around the world, it became evident that there is more to good ol’ dirt than we originally expected.

My family has composted for as long as I can remember. At the time I didn’t think much of it, but here we are many years later, when I realize that just like so many other things taken for granted, soil plays an essential role in this world. As it stands, the world food supply is in the most severe danger. In the effort to feed so many people, with as little effort, for as much profit possible, we have nearly exhausted the soil. In short, the dirt is tired.

Soil is comprised of many things, a mixture of dead and dying plant matter, sand, fine rocks and minerals, and most importantly, zillions upon zillions of microorganisms. These tiny bugs work day and night to convert plain soil into an organic buffet for plants. However, these bugs are finding it hard to work in the conditions of our ignorance. Not only do they have to worry about chemical pesticides and herbicides, they need to cope with chemical fertilizers loaded with good and bad ingredients. In addition to chemicals, these amazing micro organisms have trouble getting around in dirt compacted by increasingly heavy machinery.

From what I have read so far, between the National Geographic, Wikipedia, and my mother’s guide to gardening, we are killing our soil faster than we can replenish it. Now, for most of us, improving soil quality is as simple as going to the supermarket and buying some nitrogen rich potting soil. For over two thirds of the world however, things are not so simple.

Anyway, now that we know that things are crap and getting worse, let’s yet again embark on a Quest for Informational Enlightenment and see what can be done.

I did some preliminary Questing on this subject and found several methods for improving soil quality.  Some were as simple as placing some rocks on the ground, others were much more labour intensive.  One method really caught my attention due to its self propagating nature and ease of implementation.

Terra Preta is a soil found in areas of the Amazon rain forest, which has shown some rather amazing properties. What amazed me most was the fact that this soil was being used for open crops. At first this may seem normal, but from all that I have read on soil<insert exhaustive sigh here>, is that the loamy rich soil of rain forests is extremely delicate. Rain forests are incredibly complicated ecosystems and the soil suffers greatly after deforestation. Areas of logging turn to barren dessert in a very short time and will support almost no growth. The difference between regular tropical soil and Terra Preta, is that Terra Preta will remain fertile after centuries of sun and rain.

One of the key components of Terra Preta is charcoal. Charcoal is basically a form of carbon made by smoldering bio-mass such as wood, animal waste,etc, at low temperatures with a minimal amount of oxygen.  Charcoal is a very porous material which helps retain water, nutrients and most importantly, provides an excellent home for micro organisms. A large quantity of charcoal in the soil allows crops to thrive in even tropical sun exposure. It would seem that many hundreds of years ago, some ancient cultures in the Amazon would mix charcoal as well as broken pottery into the soil. We can’t be sure of their intentions at the time; however the result was the development of a soil that could very well be the blueprint for soil restoration around the world.

At first glance, it would seem rather energy intensive to me to turn organic matter into charcoal, only to throw it into the ground again. Even more so when you consider that you must first saturate the charcoal with nutrient rich liquids such as urine. As our fortunes would have it however, there are modern technologies which actually produce more energy than is used in the production of biochar, which is essentially, fine charcoal made from biomass.

The more efficient of these practices of making biochar utilizes a process called Pyrolysis. This system allows one to take dried biomass such as human and animal wastes, woody materials, and produce biochar in addition to syngas and bio-oil. The total energy output from some of these operations can sometimes be as high as 7 times the energy invested.

So now we conclude that charcoal + pee + soil = good. The carbon from charcoal has many other uses to be explored in another quest. We hope to post again on the benefits of charcoal and how you might produce some top quality soil, right at home.


Grim’s Guide to Pyrrhonism

•December 2, 2008 • 1 Comment

Once again it is time to play the paradox and be as contradictory as the Mad Hatter.  Though I strive to add ridiculous amounts of personality to these posts, we maintain a certain methodical nature in our Quest for Informational Enlightenment.

A friend recently Emailed me a link to a Wiki about Pyrrhonism. He described it as the ultimate form of skepticism. Pyrrhonism, or Pyrrhonian skepticism, was a school of skepticism founded by Aenesidemus in the first century BC. It was named after Pyrrho, a philosopher. The details are sketchy at best but we work with what we have.

Anyway, this is how it works. For the Pyrrhonists, it is our opinions or unwarranted judgments of things which turn them into desire, painful effort, and disappointment. It would seem that this form of skepticism allows one to attain some inner tranquility through indifference. Complete indifference is somewhat difficult to accomplish, as one must eventually get down from the fence to eat. However keeping in mind the principles of Pyrrhonian skepticism, new and amazing possibilities open up for our Quest for Informational Enlightenment

While I can see the benefits of this outlook I maintain my right to be judgmental and opinionated for the sake of entertainment alone:)

Grim’s Guide to LHC

•November 26, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Aha, our first request.  One of our readers has expressed an interest in learning about LHC.  Now to give you a brief history on long horn cattle…..  just kidding, maybe some other post.  I believe however that our reader was referring to a “Large Hadron Collider”  A recent hot topic in the news as the use of one of these LHC’s brings about many fears, worries, doubts and for the partically inclined, excitement.  We shall explore the hype in a bit, but first lets explore what a LHC is.

LHC’s What?

Whipping out the google and wikipedia resources we find a wiki on Large Hadron Collider.  Described loosely as a particle  accelerator, we would be right in picturing two transport trucks in a head-on out on I-95, or for our Canadian readers, the 401.  Essentially this Large Hadron Collider is designed to take two high energy particles and smash em’ together at near the speed of light.  By near I mean 99.9999999% near the speed of light.  Ohhhh Ahhhh, the speed of light.  Unless you are into that sort of thing we really don’t have much to compare to the speed of light so please understand that it’s really bloody fast.  So fast we could not perceive it.

LHC’s Who?

The Large Hadron Collider was designed and built by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) hither on referred to as “they”  Being a large mish-mash of big brained scientific types, they represent 500 or so universities and 80 nationalities.

LHC’s Why?

Those involved in the project expect to spend 3.2–6.4 billion when all is said and done.  That equates to approximately $4-8 billion USD.  One would think that there must be one hell of a justification for that kind of expense.  Why the hell spend that much money?  It’s simple really.  They want answers.  I am glad to see that cost is not an issue in the pursuit of knowledge, though we may debate on another article about where the money could be better spent.  Anyway, back to the why.  The purpose of LHC is to answer some questions that have been plaguing the scientific community for countless (I only say this because I haven’t bothered to look it up yet) years.  Some of those are the following,

  • Why is gravity weaker than the other three fundamental forces?
  • What is the nature of dark matter and dark energy, a.k.a black-hole?
  • Are there extra dimensions?

There are many other questions they wish to answer of a more detailed nature, however these questions I choose as most of us would have some familiarity with these concepts.

LHC’s When and Where?

Several versions of LHC’s have been built over the years, but the one bringing the most heat right now, lies underneath the Franco-Swiss border between the Jura Mountains and the Alps near Geneva, Switzerland.  Having been in development since 1995, they officially inaugurated their LHC on October 21, this year.  Due to incidents and accidents, the first particle collision scheduled in September was a no go and they do not anticipate the next test until spring 2009.

LHC Controversy

Here is where we read, digest, speculate and regurgitate.  Despite having the go ahead from the worlds top science safety minds and organizations, the public is fed doomsday style ramblings from such reputable sources as CNN and The inquirer.  They would have us believe that there is a very real possibility that the LHC has the potential to create a Doomsday effect by the production of micro black-holes.  For those unfamiliar with black-holes, try visualizing a vacuum so powerful that it could suck planets and stars through a straw and compress them into nothingness.  Of course this is an artistic representation of what we don’t know, but of course as nobody knows what a black-hole really is or does, I could very well be right.  In my opinion there are no accidents, so if we manage as a species to create a black-hole and suck ourselves into oblivion… I think we have a term for this already.  Natural Selection.

In conclusion, this Large Hadron Collider seems to be congruent with the <a href=””>Quest for Informational Enlightenment</a>.  As such it gets a big thumbs up from my end.  Keep in mind however the the <a href=””>Quest for Informational Enlightenment</a> is full of debate and ponderance<insert maniacal laughter here>, so look forward to an ongoing debate on the topic.

Grim’s Guide to having a healthy winter

•December 1, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Due to a recent illness, I decided to make a post on staying healthy through the Winter.  If I can manage to follow my own advice on the topic we should be alright 🙂

Depending on where you live, Winter can be a exhaustively frigid experience.  As a resident of the the great white north, I can understand the urge to go into hiding through the long cold Winter months.  For those of you who are not big snow fans, Winter can be a dreary and depressing time of year, which results in lethargic behavior, comfort food cravings and general purpose bitchiness.  However, with a few winter activities, you can beat the cold and have a happy, healthy season.

For most, the initial sign of winter is the loathed seasonal sickness.  Colds, coughing, flu and viruses beyond count.  Begin your season fully loaded and ready for some cold weather action with immune system boosting foods such as fruits, garlic and onions, blueberries and my favorite, chocolate. Yes, chocolate.   I’m not talking dairy rich delicacies from the dollar store. I’m talking about rich dark chocolate, hot cocoa Mexican style and bittersweet chips in your cookies.  Keeping your body full of immune system boosters will help you fight off illness which would otherwise drag you down and ruin all your fun.

Maintaining a positive mindset is essential for making it through a rough Winter.  Don’t let the whether get you down, instead, get down with the whether and take advantage of some great winter activities such as Winterlude festival in Ottawa or any local winter attractions.  Try your hand at skiing, sledding, or even bobsledding.  Try to find as many outdoor activities you enjoy as possible.  If cold and snow aren’t your thing, defy winter with some indoor swimming at your local gym. You would be amazed at how good swimming in a nice warm pool feels as you watch people struggle against the blizzard outside 🙂

During the Winter months, indoor air quality goes down horribly due to reduced air circulation.  There is great merit in keeping your house draft free, but don’t forget to freshen the air daily by opening a window or two for short periods throughout the day.  Another way to stop your air from going stale is to increase the number of live plants in your house.  Be sure to acquire big leafy plants to increase the air purity.  If you are not much of a green thumb, invest in an indoor air purifier and change filters as recommend.

In conclusion, if you wish to stay happy and healthy this Winter, keep busy.  Keep up your vitamin C intake and don’t forget to get some sun.  Here’s to a helaciously happy holiday and a wonderfully warm winter.


Grims Guide to storing information and half baked ideas

•November 23, 2008 • Leave a Comment

So, we want to learn.  We find, use and then store information.  Maybe not in that particular order but I think you get the picture.  After careful consideration, I decided that having a database ( horrible word by the way ) would be necessary for a productive and functional blog.  Now I know that most blogs can store previous posts and some even have a search option so you can quickly find what you are looking for.  Unfortunately some don’t and even if they do it lacks some personality.

Though we admire the ease of finding information with databases ( need to find another term for this ) such as wikipedia, the cold methodical nature of such a program kinda diminishes the fun of learning.  We require some flux in our information, a little opinion and slant.  Something to inspire debate and discussion, while being fun to read.  I don’t mind if people hate it just as long as they feel something when they read.  That being said, lets explore some options.

We will start with some cold hard database formats and then personalize the hell out of them.  Thus redefined we shall hither refer to them as the Endless Realms of Knowledge, or ERKs for short.

We need to decide on whether or not a latent ERK for a blog publisher such at WordPress is enough for our purposes, or if we need to find a more user friendly way to recover previously posted material.  My initial thought on the matter, is that it would be better to have my blog separated ( though linked ) from the ERK so that we may utilize that as a guide and use the blog as an entertaining medium for watching me blunder through my research.  Again, my initial thought of the ERK is that it would be Wiki based.  I think this for a few reasons.  First Wiki’s are easily managed and the script is readily available.  Second, most of those on the Quest for Informational Enlightenment are already familiar with the Wiki style.  My third thought however is somewhat undeveloped as I can’t for the life of me figure out how to personalize a Wiki.

That being said, we began our research into different Wiki software.  A quick Google search led us to a Wiki about Wiki software, which in turn led us to a helpful review of some different stuff that’s out there.  Based on that information, I had to determine which software would be suitable for our needs. Thinking far ahead into the near future <insert mad chuckle here> we are assuming that our Quest for Informational Enlightenment will result in a large amount of knowledge being gained.  Cue the asses.

Second assumption is that we will need lots of storage space for such an endeavor.  However, this may be totally unfounded as there are yet some things to consider.  Will we be using graphics? Video? Sound? Extravagant flash demonstrations and the like?  Plain text is minuscule by comparison and thus I would not need several metric tonnes of storage.

Third assumption is that I will need a plethora of SQL ERKs and subdomains.  In layman’s terms this means rooms to store my crap.

There are many hosting options out there.  We shall address hosting when the time of fording expense laden rivers is upon us.

To sum up this post, organization equals good and caffeine deprived blogging equals bad.  Look forward to my next post “Grim’s Guide to storing information and half baked ideas 2” when we visit the half bakery and indulge on the premise of progress.

Happy reading


Lets begin

•November 22, 2008 • 1 Comment

In the beginning there was pixels.  Then we added some color, and now we have colored pixels.  Though I suppose some would debate that black is not a color.  That it is the absence of light which of course is all colors.  Either way, here I am writing a blog about my research…. er…. i mean quest for informational enlightenment.  That’s right informational enlightenment, for as we all know research lacks personality and lacking personality is a poor way to attract readers.  So, let the informational enlightenment begin and the personality flow.

Usually this is where I hit a stumbling block.  I am no professional writer.  I have no formal education in writing styles and as a matter of fact, I failed miserably at english in highschool.   I have taken a five minute break ( since my last sentence ) to look up blog writing advice.  The most profound advice I could find was “write about what you know”  As the primary theme of this blog is about learning about things we don’t know, we ran into the inevitable ” talk about yourself ” wall.  Seems fitting as you have ( at this point ) no idea who I am, what i’m about and if i’m worth listening too.  I will let readers decide what they want to know and go from there.

That being said, this is how the blog is going to work.  I will write about stuff.  Using any and every resource, I will piece together the in’s and out’s of anything we choose to explore.  Now, some have said to me already that this idea is kinda silly considering google, wikipedia and any number of data bases already have this covered.  Yes they do, and maybe I am silly.  However, i’ve noticed that google and friends arn’t very personable.  The cold hard facts as we know them are just that, cold hard facts.  I hope to bring the personality, the first hand experience and maybe find the Zenn, of each and everything we do.

So, interact with me and together we will learn some stuff.  I hope to hear from ya soon and until then, keep learning.