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Photo: Chandana Banerjee
Dr. Medha Tadpatrikar found a nontoxic way to burn plastic and produce a cheap fuel for India.

I never use plastic in the oven or the microwave because I know that as plastic heats and disintegrates, it lets off toxic fumes.

So I was a little surprised — but also relieved — to learn that a new process burns plastic waste to generate energy and doesn’t expose anyone to danger.

For the Christian Science Monitor, Chandana Banerjee reports, “In 60 cities in India, 16,876 tons of plastic waste are generated each day, according to data from the country’s Central Pollution Control Board. Multiply that by 365, and you have more than 6 million tons of plastic that end up in landfills a year. …

“Dr. [Medha] Tadpatrikar resolved to find a way to make plastic waste useful. She and Shirish Phadtare started experimenting in Tadpatrikar’s kitchen, trying to ‘cook’ plastic in a pressure cooker to create a practical fuel. ‘Plastic is made of crude oil, and we wanted to reverse the process to get usable oil,’ Tadpatrikar explains.

“After lots of kitchen R&D, some trial and error, and help from engineer friends, this experimenting duo has come up with an operation in the Pune, India, area that benefits the environment in several ways. They are indeed producing fuel, using a process that doesn’t emit toxic gases. …

“ ‘We blew up quite a few cookers in the process,’ says Tadpatrikar, smiling. Later that year, they cofounded Rudra Environmental Solution. …

“ ‘Our two new machines, one that we launched in 2013 and the other in 2015, use up every bit of the byproducts, including the gases,’ says Tadpatrikar, noting that even the leftover sludge can be mixed with bitumen to create roads. …

“The fuel churned out by the two machines is carefully collected in bottles, and it’s sold to people in 122 villages around Pune at a subsidized rate of 38 rupees (53 cents) per liter. It’s a boon for villagers like Nanda Shinde, who can’t afford to buy any other fuel. …

“ ‘In the monsoons, when the wood is soggy, I’d have to burn plastic bags to cook a meal on,’ explains Shinde, who toils in the fields, attends to household chores, and looks after her family of six from the first light of dawn until the last of the evening.

” ‘Now I give my waste plastic to Rudra, and I am doing this so my children will have a cleaner world to live in,” adds Shinde.”

More at the Christian Science Monitor, here.

Photo: Charleston County School/Facebook
South Carolina teacher Katie Blomquist said she wanted her students to grow up with happy biking memories like hers.

I woke up one morning and checked the headlines and saw four stories on horrible things and felt the weight of the world descending. But I also keep finding stories reminding me that, whatever happens, the human spirit of kindness survives.

Here is a recent example from South Carolina, where a teacher was so moved by the poverty of her students that she took an unusual action.

Eun Kyung Kim reported the story at TODAY.com.

“Students jumped with joy, hugged one another and squealed with delight as teachers at their South Carolina elementary school revealed hundreds of custom-made bicycles beneath parachutes normally used for P.E. class.

“The new set of wheels [came] courtesy of first-grade teacher Katie Blomquist.

“ ‘I made a really conscious effort to watch their faces and let it soak in and imprint in my brain when those tarps went up,’ she told TODAY. ‘It was that moment I’ve been waiting for seven months.’

“But the idea originated more than a year ago. Blomquist, 34, teaches at North Charleston’s Pepperhill Elementary School, where many of the students live in poverty. Last year, one of her students mentioned how much he wanted a bike for his birthday. His parents couldn’t afford to buy him one, and neither could she.

“ ‘I started thinking about all the other kids who might not have bikes. We take a lot for granted and we forget that there’s a large category of kids out there who don’t have bikes,’ she said. ‘That was such a large piece of my childhood memories, and I immediately thought, “oh, they’re not getting that!”‘ …

“In September, Blomquist started a ‘Every Kid Deserves a Bike!’ GoFundMe page and set a $65,000 goal, enough to buy bikes and helmets for the 650 students at Pepperhill. Within three months, she had raised more than $82,000. …

“ ‘This was an entire second job for me, when I got home from work until midnight every night,’ she said.

“Radio Flyer donated 100 big-wheel tricycles and training bikes for the pre-school students, while a local business, Affordabike, worked with Blomquist to customize the remaining 550 bicycles …

“Beyond the children’s reactions — and the hugs from parents as they picked up the bikes —Blomquist said she’s enjoyed the sense of community created by strangers around the nation who donated to the campaign. It was support she hadn’t anticipated. …

“ ‘But maybe one day when they’re adults, they’ll know that this gift, it wasn’t from me. It was from our community and our country,’ she said.”

More here.

Here’s an extra post. It’s from the blog Safira’s Journey and describes a colorful Indonesian festival.

Safira's Journey

I have joined in a dancing community in Yogyakarta called Paradance. Last year, there was a festival called Borobudur International Writer and Art Festival. It is located in a hill called Andong near Borobudur Temple.

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The theme of the art is about Centini Gunung. Centini is a book about Javanese encyclopedia. So, it’s complete with all the ceremonies, Javanese kamasutra and all the Javanese life in the encyclopedia. Unfortunately, there is no full translation in English. Even it hasn’t finished in Bahasa translation as it is in Javanese Manuscripts. In the festival, all the dancers and artists performed their interpretation about Centini.

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Some of the photos in this post are not only from me but also from my friend who took the picture of performance. Btw, I found my dancing teacher in the festival. Then at the first time, there must be a parade. So, all the dancers and performers…

View original post 86 more words

Image: NPR Multimedia/AP Photo
Purple, Prose: The new book Nabokov’s Favorite Word is Mauve subjects thousands of books to statistical analysis.

Nabokov’s favorite word is mauve. That is actually the name of a book by statistician Ben Blatt.

Glen Weldon reviewed it at National Public Radio’s Morning Edition. Blatt, he reports, “loaded thousands of books — classics and contemporary best-sellers — into various databases and let his hard drive churn through them, seeking to determine, for example, if our favorite authors follow conventional writing advice about using cliches, adverbs and exclamation points (they mostly do); if men and women write differently (yep); if an algorithm can identify a writer from his or her prose style (it can); and which authors use the shortest first sentences (Toni Morrison, Margaret Atwood, Mark Twain) versus those who use the longest (Salman Rushdie, Michael Chabon, Edith Wharton). …

“Blatt’s book isn’t terribly interested in the art of writing. What it’s fascinated by — and is fascinating about — is the craft of writing.

“Technique. Word choice. Sentence structure. Reading level. There’s something cheeky in the way Blatt throws genre best-sellers into his statistical blender alongside literary lions and hits puree, looking for patterns of style shared by, say, James Joyce and James Patterson. …

“Blatt looked for the specific words that authors use much more frequently than the rate at which those words generally occur in the rest of written English (i.e., compared to a huge sample of literary works — some 385 million words in total — written in English between 1810 and 2009, assembled by linguists at Brigham Young University). …

“Here’s some that jumped out at me. Jane Austen: civility, fancying, imprudence … Dan Brown: grail, masonic, pyramid. … Truman Capote: clutter, zoo, geranium. John Cheever: infirmary, venereal, erotic … Agatha Christie: inquest, alibi, frightful. F. Scott Fitzgerald: facetious, muddled, sanitarium. Ian Fleming: lavatory, trouser, spangled … Ernest Hemingway: concierge, astern, cognac … Toni Morrison: messed, navel, slop.”

For many people, doing this to literature would be off-putting, but to me it is interesting. And fun. One of the reasons a favorite mystery writer, Eliot Pattison, stopped being my favorite was that I got bored with everyone who got hurt “moaning.”

Check out Weldon’s favorite findings from the book at NPR, here.

Photo: Leila Navidi/Star Tribune
Kate Coleman, outreach coordinator at the Minneapolis Central Library, met with Byron Brooks about his housing issues.

Ever since the Ferguson, Missouri, library created a safe zone for residents during the 2014 riots, my eyes have been opened to the range of services that contemporary libraries offer the public.

In Minneapolis, for example, one library branch has a social worker who focuses on helping homeless patrons find resources.

Haley Hansen at the Star Tribune reports, “Kate Coleman worked with nearly 500 homeless people at Minneapolis Central Library last year … as part of a yearslong effort by the Hennepin County Library system to better help the homeless connect with tools and resources in the area. …

“Coleman’s position allows the library to be more than just a basic reference point for help. She said the full-time role fits in with the library’s overall mission of connecting all parts of the community with help and information. …

“Coleman works for St. Stephen’s Human Services, a nonprofit whose mission is to end homelessness. Her position is funded by Hennepin County’s human services and public health department and the Downtown Council. …

” ‘I think the library allows people to feel human and to just feel like they can comfortably be themselves when they’re here,’ she said. … ‘It’s my job to always keep up with what’s available and stay connected with those other community service providers.’ …

“Coleman asks [clients] about income, disability diagnoses and the length of time they’ve been homeless to help connect them with the services that best fit their needs.”

I suspect that people who are down on their luck may also be treated more courteously at libraries than at overwhelmed social service agencies. I hope the libraries never get overwhelmed.

More at the Star Tribune, here.

The Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway in downtown Boston is not only the place to go for peaceful walks among gorgeous trees and flowers, it is loaded with art. One example: a 3-D printer in the Chinatown stretch of Greenway for passerby to celebrate the Year of the Rooster.

Allison Meier at Hyperallergic writes, “Acquiring a 3D-printed rooster from the “Make and Take” installation in Boston’s Chinatown Plaza on the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway requires a bit of luck.

“The small objects are printed continuously, dropping into a slot when complete. Although artist and engineer Chris Templeman designed his project with ample space for accumulating roosters, visitors have been arriving day and night to collect the free birds. …

“The ‘Make and Take’ machine, made in collaboration with New American Public Art, is housed in an eight-foot-tall polycarbonate kiosk, positioned just before the red gate to the plaza. It was launched on Chinese New Year in January in honor of the Year of the Rooster. The interactive art machine follows previous Greenway Conservancy projects based on the Chinese zodiac, including Kyu Seok Oh’s handmade paper ‘Wandering Sheep‘ for 2015’s Year of the Goat, and Don Kennell’s steel ‘Monkey See‘ for 2016’s Year of the Monkey.

“Templeman’s rooster was 3D scanned from a porcelain statue at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. …

“Running a 3D printer constantly out in the elements of Boston has had its challenges, with wild tangles, and misshapen botched birds. …

” ‘Over the first month I was on site on average every other day, so it was a tough start, but I learned so much and I got to interact with the public which was awesome,’ Templeman said. ‘I am awe-struck that people are waiting hours to get a rooster.’ ”

More here. If you are on instagram, check this out, too: @newamericanpublicart.

Image: Chris Templeman
“Make and Take” 3D printer installed in Chinatown Plaza on the Rose Kennedy Greenway, Boston.

Image: Norah Borges
The artist’s older brother, Jorge Luis Borges, wrote that Norah was the fearless one in the family and “I the slow, timid, submissive one. She climbed to the top of the roof, traipsed through the trees, and I followed along with more fear than enthusiasm.”

How many women in the arts have been overshadowed by the men in their families? Countless. Just the other day I was surprised to hear some work by Fanny Mendelssohn — composer of more than 480 pieces of music — that was pretty impressive.

Maria Popova at Brain Pickings wrote recently of another female artist who was new to me: “Few people know that literary titan Jorge Luis Borges had a sister, and even fewer that Leonor Fanny Borges Acevedo (1901–1998), better-known under the pseudonym Norah Borges, was an acclaimed artist in her own right, who emerged in the 1920s as one of the female pioneers of modern art. …

“During her lifetime, Borges illustrated close to eighty books, including some of her brother’s, in addition to editorial illustrations for a number of avant-garde magazines belonging to ultraísmo — the first major avant-garde movement in Spain, comprising an eclectic group of writers and artists influenced by Italian futurism.

“Her soulful paintings and drawings, the earliest of which is collected in the out-of-print Spanish-language volume Norah Borges: Obra Gráfica, … spans more than seven decades and is nothing short of breathtaking.” See examples of that oeuvre here, at Brain Pickings.

For details on the life of Norah Borges, go to Wikipedia, here.

Photo: Wikipedia
Norah Borges, Argentinian artist, 1901-1998