01 January 2010

2009's greatest hits, part two

I love it when I get the chance to go all science-y in this blog and I take the opportunity any time it presents itself and sometimes when it doesn't. The basics of chemistry, biology, physics, geology and the rest are not hard to master and understanding the underlying mechanisms of everyday life are the first step in facing the world from a place of knowledge instead of a place of fear.

I have very little tolerance for conventional wisdom that's born of ignorance and scientific illiteracy and one of the bogeymen I enjoy slaying is the cloud of fear that surrounds a little concept called radiation. In June of '09 I wrote a series about radon with the help of Chris Forrest, a physicist from the University of Manchester.

Reader Question: Are My Counters Giving Me a Headache?

That radiation series was a real highlight for me. It is my supreme pleasure to help other non-scientists like me understand how the world works.

I love ancient Roman art and mosaic was an form where they excelled. My appreciation for Roman mosaics sits underneath my passion for mosaics now. In June of last year I wrote a post based on some ancient Roman mosaics that had been unearthed recently in Israel. I'd been alerted to their existence by the great Sara Baldwin of New Ravenna Mosaics.

That mosaic post from June cemented my friendship with Sara and her company and it introduced me to the amazing group behind Mosaic Art Now. Mosaic Art Now has been a real boon to me both within this blog and outside of it. My life's been enhanced immeasurably by my contacts and friendships in the world of contemporary mosaics and I am anxiously awaiting what great doors are waiting to be opened in the new year.

Roman Mosaics Make Me Swoon

Many thanks to the artists who opened up their work and their studios to me and many thanks to my readers for indulging my passion for the things I find there.

If at the beginning of the year you would have told me that I was going to change my pro range brand loyalty from Wolf to GE Monogram I would have called you delusional at best.

Well July found me in a GE test kitchen in Louisville, KY where that exact brand loyalty shift happened. I learned so much from the gang at Monogram not the least of which is that they really know what they're doing. They also host a hell of a training seminar.

I'd Like to Add Some Initials to My Monogram

Big thanks to the whole gang at Monogram.

I got nominated for a 2009 Homie award from Apartment Therapy last week, a development I find toe curlingly hilarious when I stop to think how much mileage I get from ragging on that site. Big thanks to Nim for that nomination.

Anyhow, at some point in July some misinformed but no-doubt well-meaning soul wrote into AT about her unchlorinated, "natural" swimming pool. The irresponsible staff at AT wasted no time praising this hare-brained plan as a "healthy" alternative to yucky chemicals. Never mind that the pool they were praising was a waterborne disease outbreak waiting to happen.

Please Don't Try This at Home

I say it all the time, chemistry is your friend folks. So my question remains, when a website pushes some kind of alternative medicine nonsense (whether it's the Huffington Post's embrace of the anti-vaccination movement or AT's endorsement of swimming in untreated pool water) are they responsible for the typhus or polio outbreaks that follow? Just wondering.

Second only to my love of Italy is my deep love and respect for The Bahamas and her people. Few places I've encountered expose me to more and make me take stock of my own life the way a little island in the middle of the Atlantic ocean does. I wrote a lot about The Bahamas in 2009, but my favorite post involved the retelling of an adventure I have with a broken down jeep on a Thursday afternoon.

A Traveler's Tale: High Adventure with a Broken, Rented Jeep

All hail the Bahamian people for showing this white face how enjoyable life can be when you have less stuff and even fewer expectations.

September found me at Fashion Week in New York thanks to my friends at Brizo. Going to Fashion Week has been a running joke between my friend Kevin and I for years. I call it a joke because we're both fashion-illiterate and aren't the kind of folk who attend such things as A-list runway shows under ordinary circumstances.

New York Day Two and What a Day It's Been

Sittting up close and personal with a major unveiling that like was an experience I'll remember forever. I still don't know anything about fashion, but I certainly have a better appreciation (if not awe) for the role those runway shows play in every day life. I came away from that weekend with an insider's look at fashion design but thanks to Judd Lord and the rest of the gang at Brizo, I got an insider's look at industrial design.

That same month, I found out that there was an exhibition opening at the American Museum of Natural History and it opened within days of my leaving New York. Drat!

A couple of Malagasy artists had found a way to spin spider silk into thread and then they wove that thread into fabric. Finding a use for spider's silk has been a quest for dreamers and schemers since the dawn of humanity and these guys pulled it off.

Of Spiders and Silk, of Silk and Textiles

This story appealed to me for a host of reasons. For starters, it involved the American Museum of Natural History. Secondly, the spiders in question were Nephila inaurata, a close relative to Florida's Nephila clavipes pictured here. Nephila clavipes is an arachnid of such majesty it's hard for me to put into words what amazing creatures they are. That some of their relative's silk would be woven into what's arguably the world's most expensive textile is perfect on a bunch of levels all at once.

In October I'd been done wrong by some missing appliance specs from Sears Kenmore Pro and I wrote a blog post about it. My complaints were bitter and my criticisms were pointed. I wrote that post to get my frustrations off my chest.

Sears' Blue Crew Needs Some Work

Well imagine my surprise when I heard from Sears about my blog post. They were genuinely concerned and they really wanted to help. Within two weeks of that post's going live I'd organized a conference call between the Kenmore Product Team and a handful of design bloggers I hand-picked. I think it will go down as the least expensive focus group ever assembled and a whole lot of good came out of it. Not only that, I have a respect for Sears as an organization I would have never had otherwise. Social Media works gang, let there be no doubt.

I started off this round up with an admission to my fondness for getting science-y on this blog and I don't think anything fired my curiosity quite as much as an invitation I received in November from the Aspex Corporation.

A Microscopic Look at Some Counter Materials

Aspex makes Scanning Electron Microscopes and I had them scan some granite and quarts samples I had lying around. I spoke with a couple of their techs and with their help wrote a great post about Scanning Electron Microscopy in general and the results of my sample scans in particular.

And so I wrap up 2009 and head into the new year. Thank you to everyone who reads these screeds. Putting this blog together every day is a real peak experience and the feedback I get from you guys keeps me plugging away at it. Happy new year to one and all and keep coming back for more.


  1. Prime examples why I keep visiting you.

    P.S: Count your blessings I don't Twitter :)

  2. Thank you Brenda, and I think you ought to consider Tweeting, I think you'd get a real charge out of it. But in the mean time, have a happy new year.

  3. Happy New Year, Paul!! Enjoyed all your posts this year -except the spiders- they scare me to death!!

  4. Thanks for Beautiful, sculpted landscaped natural pools, eco friendly and environmentally sound our pools use non-chemical filtration systems to maintain naturally pure, clean water.
    Natural swimming pool design


Talk to me!