-- Business blog now available --

A quick note to say that I've set up my Business blog, to be able to speak with a clear voice on both personal and work issues (i.e. by having separate blogs).

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Paul Stamets @ TED on fungi; also re how they can help clean up Gulf oil spill


I first discovered Paul Stamets when reading this article on my Palm III via AvantGo (a forerunner of RSS) – waaay back in 2002.

I was particularly struck by the effect of fungi in cleaning up soil contaminated with diesel – as told in this Wikipedia article about Mycoremediation.

Eventually, as per this previous post – I bought some wooden dowels, innoculated by fungi from Paul’s company, and set up a large log with them in. Rather embarrassingly, I never moved the stump from one house when Caroline and I moved – it got left my the wayside as it was too heavy / I was too embarrassed to ask the movers… :$

I also bought a copy of Paul’s book Mycelium Running: A Guide to Healing the Planet through Gardening with Gourmet and Medicinal Mushrooms but that’s also still on the to-do pile. Ho hum!

Rediscovering Mr Stamets

*Anyway*, I was reading The Whuffie Factor: Using the Power of Social Networks to Build Your Business by Tara Hunt last week, and she mentioned being introduced to Paul when she was at TED. So I googled Paul’s talk and found it – see below (I think he really nailed it, although there was a cheesy joke at the beginning lol).

The citation from the TED website reads:

Entrepreneurial mycologist Paul Stamets seeks to rescue the study of mushrooms from forest gourmets and psychedelic warlords. The focus of Stamets' research is the Northwest's native fungal genome, mycelium, but along the way he has filed 22 patents for mushroom-related technologies, including pesticidal fungi that trick insects into eating them, and mushrooms that can break down the neurotoxins used in nerve gas.



He’s obviously a rocket scientist, but what he says is compelling!

Paul Stamets’ statement on Mycoremediation and its applications to oil spills

So, having found Paul’s talk, it got me thinking that his expertise might be helpful in mitigating the effects of the Gulf oil spill. I then got in touch with his company, and they forwarded the statement below:

Paul Stamets statement on Gulf oil spill

What Paul is saying is that fungi could provide a natural remedy to break down the oil and mitigate its long-term effects, but there would need to be an army of people on the ground to make it work in practice…

I think most people would put this in the “it’s so crazy, it just might work” category – but I’m putting this out there in the hope that it might get some legs. In fact, I might well send the link to the Deepwater Horizon team…


Monday, 3 May 2010

Cheaper than a 4x4

This is a fairly unvarnished paean of praise for the winter tyres I have for my VW MkIV Golf.


I bought a set of Michelin Alpins from CostCo in November 2006: Caroline and I had just moved out into the country from coastal North Shields, and I figured that if the weather turned nasty, winter tyres would be just the job to get around.

As it happened, the winter of 2006-07 turned out to be one of the warmest in recent times, which made the £220 I had shelled out for the four (including fitting) seem slightly vain. I had bought them from the local CostCo in Gateshead, who swapped them on to my existing rims, and I thought the deal was a pretty good one.


I should say that my Golf has very bog-standard steel wheels, hidden by plastic wheel trims - see photos below. The car had come from new with a set of Dunlops, and the one immediate thing I noticed was the the car became a better one when it had the Michelins on, so I decided to buy a set of 'normal' Michelins for the summer months as the front two Dunlops had worn out.

The winter tyres had been re-assuring in heavy rain, and in the light snow we’d had, they seemed pretty adept.

Coming into their own

However, snow and bad weather in early 2009, and the wintry conditions we've just been through have shown just what a massive difference winter tyres make to even a front-wheeled car like mine, let alone a rear-wheeled Beemer or Merc.

In fresh snow, settled snow and melting snow they have found grip and further re-assurance. In ice, they've been grippy and effective. The only thing I've had to do is learn a new driving style - rather in the mould of rally drivers, where you have to over-steer and wait for the back end to slide round corners...!

They've definitely saved me from sliding off the road, and allowed me to drive around Northumberland in the period where I was moving house - a priceless benefit.

Winter tyres for everyone!

I realise that, even if we we're in a recession, finding spare cash to shell out for a set of 4 winter tyres would definitely not be at the top of most people's priority list.

However, IMHO serious consideration of such a move might help free the British populace from (what seems to be) a rather passive attitude towards road conditions and the consequent blaming of the 'Authorities' for not doing more to make roads passable. More background information here about Holland and Germany deal with adverse conditions.

One thing that has been great has been the service of the local farmers contracted by the Council to keep our country lanes clear - excellent work!

I can still recalled being flashed by a motorist when I was driving down the outside lane of a local dual carriageway – which, granted, was not in a particularly good shape. I got the distinct impression they thought I was a nutter [not difficult!], but the possibility I was shod with winter tyres probably never crossed that driver’s mind. <sigh>

Wash up

Ok, so what I’m advocating is that during the summer months, many of you might want to consider ordering some winter tyres, so that you’re ready for the inclement weather.

In terms of cost, instead of putting them on your low profile alloy rims, mebbes you can get a set of cheapo steel wheels, and thereby save mega bucks versus the low profile versions. Especially recommended for rear-wheel drive cars IMO.

I pop into CostCo in early November to prep for the winter, and get the ‘normals’ put back on in late March, early April. I respectfully propose you do the same! Feedback gratefully received below. ;-D