Archive for May, 2009

Canada Hates the Blind

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) held a meeting in Geneva this week, where the issue of a treaty to protect the rights of blind people and other people with disabilities regarding copyright law.

The purpose of the treaty, introduced by Brazil, Ecuador and Paraguay, is to permit the cross-border import/export of accessible books (like audiobooks, refreshable braille, computer generated text to speech, or books with large type), so that people with visual impairments, dyslexia, or other reading disabilities can have access to the works, which are expensive to make. Who would object to “a harmonized system of copyright exceptions that ensure that it’s possible for disabled people to get access to the written word?”

Well, Canada does, but that’s probably because America does. So does Australia, New Zealand, the Vatican and Norway.

Yup. The governments that are supposed to be representing their constituency are willing to place the interests of corporate lobbyists before the rights of disabled people.

As Cory Doctorow says,

We know that WIPO negotiations can be overwhelmed by citizen activists — that’s how we killed the Broadcast Treaty negotiation a few years back — and with your help, we can make history, and create a world where copyright law protects the public interest.

The proposed treaty is still on the agenda for the next meeting, so you have time to tell your government how disgusted you are that your voice at the meeting thinks it is appropriate to deny equal access to information for people with disabilities. Where I come from, they call that a human rights violation.

Get the word out. Is your MP sick of hearing from you yet?

Via BoingBoing.


May 30, 2009 at 12:02 pm 4 comments

Hot Season Lettuce

R asked me the other day whether it was too late to plant lettuce. The short answer is yes, it will bolt in the heat. Bolted lettuce is terrible. The long answer is, you can get around that. Here’s some tricks:

1. Give it lots of water. Lettuce is mostly comprised of water, so water frequently to keep it in shape. By frequently I mean daily, at least.

2. Give it nitrogen. Lettuce likes fertilizer. You can apply a balanced composted manure, or for a bigger nitrogen kick, apply fish meal or blood meal. Interplanting lettuce with soybeans is good too, so you can enjoy edamame and nitrogen fixing from a plant that will be roughly the same height. Another surprising nitrogen source is hair. Finely chopping up the (un-dyed/permed) hair from your comb and pets and mixing it into the soil is a good way of adding nitrogen. On another note, your soil loves toenails, but the wonders of human soil additives are best saved for another post.

3. Eat your sprouts. Make sure you are thinning your lettuce crop as it grows, so that the plants have room to grow. Lettuce can’t bolt before it’s mature, so eat salad every day. With leaf lettuce, you can also harvest single leaves from the plant, so that it continues to produce new leaves without having a chance to reach its bolting stage. This reminds me of another tip:

4. Plant leaf lettuces, not head lettuces. Head lettuces are harder to grow, even in the appropriate season. Plus, there are more fun varieties. Check the seed packets for varieties that say they’re resistant to heat or bolting.

4. Shade it. Keep it out of full sun, because lettuce isn’t a fan of summer weather. If you’ve ever moved a plant into natural sunlight without adjusting it first, you’ve probably seen that plants can get a sunburn (whitening of the leaves). Lettuce is the Irishman of the veggie patch: it sunburns easily, and then it’s cranky. Either plant it in part shade, install a shade cloth, or plant tall things to shade it.

5. Use containers. A soil-less potting mix retains water better than earth, so container planting can be a good solution if you’re more neglectful. Just remember to plant it in clay, not plastic, so that the roots stay cool.

May 29, 2009 at 10:56 am 3 comments

Sometimes you don’t know whether to laugh or cry…

via Green Upgrader.

May 28, 2009 at 4:57 pm Leave a comment

Subversive Library

Kat Atreides is a student of a private high school that released a long list of books that students were not allowed to read.

I was absolutely appalled, because a large number of the books were classics and others that are my favorites. One of my personal favorites, The Catcher in the Rye, was on the list, so I decided to bring it to school to see if I would really get in trouble. Well… I did but not too much. Then (surprise!) a boy in my English class asked if he could borrow the book, because he heard it was very good AND it was banned!

Now she’s running an illegal library of 62 banned books (I shudder to think how long the list must be) out of her locker and the unoccupied locker next to hers. I love that students who had no previous interest in reading these classics are now hungry for their chance. Because she doesn’t want to cause mental harm to children unprepared to deal with the content of these dangerously subversive books (many of which were on my highschool’s curriculum), Kat doesn’t loan books to freshmen.

A sampling of the offending books in her catalogue:
– Animal Farm
– Catch-22
– A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court
– The Catcher in the Rye
– The Canterbury Tales
– Candide
– The Divine Comedy
– The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy
– Lord of the Flies
– One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
– Paradise Lost
– The Picture of Dorian Gray
– Slaughterhouse-5

Kudos, Kat. In my first year of university, students were getting special permission not to read Timothy Findley’s The Wars because they were certain they’d be irreparably damaged by the description of homosexual acts.

From Yahoo Answers: “Is it OK to run an illegal library from my locker at school?”

May 27, 2009 at 2:20 pm Leave a comment

12-Year-Old Activist

When 12 year old Dustin was looking for a community service project, he wanted to find something that would combine his dual passions: animals, and solar energy. So, proving that he had more moxie than most adults, he “made an initial business presentation” about the benefits of solar to the CEO of the Humane Society of Boulder Valley, explaining the fact that installing solar systems would have a future payoff. Then he approached Namasté Solar, about whether their granting program could help make it happen. When the Center for ReSource Conservation (CRC) later received an anonymous donation and asked Namasté, a community partner, about projects that deserved funding, Dustin’s project was on their mind. Together, the two organizations were able to cover 100% of the cost of a solar array.

Says Dustin:

“It was exciting – we had a sheet with costs showing where all of the money was coming from. Usually, the section ‘what you have to pay’ is a bigger number, but for the Humane Society, it was $0. We had found ways to fully pay for their system, and that meant there was more money for the animals.”

Aside from the 18000 lbs of emissions savings, the Humane Society can expect an annual energy savings of $800. Because of a 12 year old boy with a superhero complex.

Via Yellows and Blues.

May 26, 2009 at 2:33 pm Leave a comment

You asked Google, I answer:

I’ve noticed a lot of people are arriving here at Living Lime on search terms with some variation of “buttercrunch lettuce” and “lime” (as in ground limestone for the garden). Hopefully I can help you find what you’re looking for:

1. Leaf Lettuces:
– are delicious, but have to be planted in cool weather, and give them frequent, short watering (most other plants want infrequent deep watering). If leaf lettuces bolt (suddenly grow tall and flower), you may as well just let them seed and try again, because they’ll be bitter.

– How to harvest? pick it. Early in the morning is the best time, whenever the leaves are big enough to eat.

– If you plant the seeds close together, then you can thin the lettuce patch by eating it. This will help you grow more in less space. Even better is if you mix a bunch of leaf lettuce seeds together in one spot, so you get a tasty salad mix.

– companion planting: beans, kohlrabi carrots, alliums(onion family), radishes. Avoid celery, cabbage, cress, parsley.

2. Horticultural lime:
– is excellent for raising the Ph of your soil for alkaline loving plants. But unless a soil test has told you your soil is too acidic, you probably don’t need it for this use. Your plants like soil that’s full of organic matter, even if it makes the soil more acidic. I wouldn’t recommend applying lime unless you’ve done a soil test, because you don’t want to be mucking about with your soil’s pH if it’s already perfect. It can damage plants and drinking water supplies.

– is often used for adding calcium to the soil, which is particularly useful for preventing blossom end rot in peppers, tomatoes, and eggplants (the fruit gets sunken dark patches of rot on the bottom). More likely, your peppers just need more consistent water conditions, as peppers have difficulty taking up nutrients if they go through periods of drought. Bone meal delivers calcium but is also high in phosphorous (= strong roots), so I’d rather use that than lime. I’ve also read that that you can put a Tums tablet in the bottom of the hole when you plant, as the calcium is more available in that form, and it only goes where you need it.

Blossom End Rot:

-lime is best applied in the fall, because it needs time to break down. Adding it in the spring isn’t really going to help with calcium levels for your new plantings.

-If you’re going to use lime, Don’t ever apply lime mixed with a chemical fertilizer. Even with natural fertilizers, it’s best applied at a different time, because nitrogen + lime = ammonia + negated nutritional benefit to your plants. Also, don’t apply lime two years in a row, or you’re just asking for trouble.

-If you’re sure you want to apply lime, use a face mask. Trust me, you don’t want it in your lungs.

May 25, 2009 at 12:25 pm Leave a comment

Deception at the local “Farmer’s Market”

I’ve been noticing a disturbing trend at the farmers market lately. More and more vendors at the farmers market are selling imported produce, and you have to pay attention to the labelling to know if you’re actually buying from a local farm, or if you’re at a quaint supermarket stand. Yesterday’s trip to the market was particularly disheartening.

We were perusing the outdoor vendors, and came across a stand with zucchinis and tomatoes that caused me to go on my usual envious rant about Leamington having an earlier season. But there were strawberries there. I wait all year for the summer berry binge of Ontario strawberry season, so I was pretty surprised, especially since it said product of Ontario on the sign. I asked the guy where in Ontario strawberries season starts in May. Short answer: It doesn’t. They were product of California. Then why was he using a Foodland Ontario sign? He wasn’t trying to lie, he assured me. When people ask he tells them that they’re from California, as he did with me. He was just using the signs provided by the market. Obviously, if that was the case, he could easily have used the back of the sign, or cross out the “Product of Ontario” claim at the bottom (which we suggested to him). But since he was the only one around using Foodland Ontario signs, and he had taken the time to put the strawberries in cardboard pint boxes, it was pretty clear that deliberate deception was exactly the point.

We didn’t ask about the rest of the produce, but let the market office know what he said about the strawberries. They were not interested in having their customers deceived and made him change his sign. But he vends at 4 local markets, they informed us. Taking advantage of people who are trying to locally source their food.

It’s definitely worth chatting with your market vendors before you buy.

UPDATE: Foodland Ontario said, “It is illegal to sell produces [sic] as ‘Product of Ontario’.” Thought so. They also investigate abuses, like food police!

May 24, 2009 at 11:22 am Leave a comment

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