Small Streams

The Continuing Adventures of Agrobots
December 31, 2009, 8:09 am
Filed under: ecology, eutechnics, Pittsburgh, research, technology | Tags: ,

The Economist has a summary of what servo-control devices are doing on farms. It seems mostly they’re doing a lot of speculative, expensive work. Robots, though, will invade our countryside soon enough.

I’m hoping that robots won’t look sophisticated. I think that farms will be best served by small and cheap cultivators and sensors, hundreds of little spidery devices that will weed and prune and detect insects or blights. This machinery as opposed to the current six figure tractors that are air-conditioned, Internet-enabled enclosures 10 feet off the ground might provide a greater appreciation of the health of the soil.

Also in the article is the continued fetish of increasing production and reducing labor. I’m reminded of Wendell Berry’s constant harping on the need to increase farm labor. Although few of us really want to work on the farm.

The best line in the article comes from a Pittsburgh robotics engineer:

“It is actually not hard to pick an orange, but it is very hard to pick an orange cost effectively,” says Tony Stentz of the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

September 14, 2009, 2:33 pm
Filed under: cities, Pittsburgh, politics | Tags:

In regards to a recent Chris Briem post here’s a graphic on crowds.

Thanks, Dan

Secret Places
July 24, 2009, 4:30 am
Filed under: awareness, cities, photography, Pittsburgh, Tourism, walking

This book about Boston’s secret places had me thinking about the secret places in my own neighborhood and city.

There’s this tunnel in Highland Park that I’ve always wanted to share with people. Of course once a secret is shared or published it doesn’t become a secret anymore. The secret becomes familiar, even banal.

Then again, there are some things that are so encased in shadow and rumor that no amount of light and perspective will change our opinion of them as secret.

But if you want success in life or photojournalism, go with the obvious.

Phipps Conservatory
September 19, 2008, 6:37 pm
Filed under: Pittsburgh, railbelt | Tags: ,

Phipps Conservatory will be landscaping their backyard down to Panther Hollow, according to this article in the P-G.

Must Be a Story There
September 10, 2008, 6:06 am
Filed under: Pittsburgh

As interesting as this story in the P-G is, I have to say sago there’s got to be more to it. The suspect must have run a mile and a half to the river and was looking to swim the Ohio.

Podcamp Pittsburgh
August 19, 2007, 8:12 am
Filed under: Pittsburgh, technology

I went to Podcamp Pittsburgh 2 yesterday. Here are some flickr images of the event. Chris Brogan, who gave a seminar on presentation hacks, had the quote of the day:

Presentation is a conversation that just sounds like it’s one sided.

Jack Kelly Gets It Wrong
June 3, 2007, 6:24 pm
Filed under: Pittsburgh, politics

I know it’s not news, but P-G columnist Jack Kelly makes a mistake in today’s column.

Liberals tend not to like the president because of what he’s trying to do. Conservatives are upset with him chiefly because of how frequently he botches what he tries to do.

Pardon me, but I think the liberals are also upset with how badly the president is botching things.

For more on Kelly’s Reign of Error, check out Two Political Junkies.

This Is How It Spreads
February 17, 2007, 12:04 pm
Filed under: gardening, Pittsburgh

Though I do not believe
that a plant will spring up
where no seed has been,
I have great faith in a seed.
Convince me that you have a seed there,
and I am prepared to expect wonders.
–Henry David Thoreau

Spring training and seed catalogs. We are beginning to break winter’s back.

Doug Oster, the P-G’s Backyard Gardener, lets us know the joy of seed catalogs.

He mentions a local heirloom seed company, Heirloom Seeds, located in West Elizabeth. Funny how hybrid seeds have become the standard and seeds that grow true have to have a modifier appended.

Heirloom seeds, though, looks like a fine place to buy seeds and I’ve seen some good comments about the establishment. Gardeners tend to be thorough commenters. What would you call them? Garden geeks? Garden aficianados? Some of us garden. Make a little compost. Plant a little seed. Get down tonight. But some of us go beyond gardening.

I don’t think “garden geek” is a good phrase because geek has unhealthy or technological connotations. The garden geek might be a person who might hook up a solar powered irrigation system. But most double-plus good gardeners are more intent on building good soil. Making tilth.

Aficianado doesn’t satisfy because it’s got six syllables and that “c” has to slide between the “s” and the “sh” sound, so it comes off as a lisp.

So maybe we just don’t name these people, these readers of Rodale press offerings. We don’t name them. We don’t classify them. Because this gardeningness could spread. More of us letting compost happen, promoting good tilth, and understanding the connection between the land and our food.

Commentary on seeds and fertility grows forever. Folks like Kent Whealy and Stephani Flom remind us that seeds have stories. Don’t try to stop it either. Remember that sheriff that Bob Marley was talking about? He wouldn’t have got shot if he’d have let those plants grow.

I gotta run and test the viability of some old seeds.

Pittsburgh Police Secondary Employment
February 13, 2007, 3:11 pm
Filed under: Pittsburgh, politics

I must say I’m impressed with Pittsburgh police. I hardly have the energy to hold down one job, and they do fairly well holding down two. The only problem is that in many cases city taxpayers are left holding the bill. The People’s Republic of Pittsburgh lays it all out 123.