Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Calvin Johnson will be selected as high as first and no lower than fourth in the NFL draft. So to all you NFL wide receivers who spend your spare time working on how to perfect your end-zone celebrations or getting into scuffles at night clubs, take a lesson from the new kid on the block.

The following is from the Georgia Tech website:

Calvin Johnson Tackles Global Sanitation Problems
Johnson part of team designing and building prototypes for better sanitation
ATLANTA (September 1, 2006) — When given a choice this summer between helping out with designs for environmentally friendly luxury condos less than a mile away from campus and designing and building solar latrines to improve sanitation in Bolivia, Georgia Tech All-American wide receiver Calvin Johnson chose the latrine project without hesitation.

“Are you sure?” said Kevin Caravati, a student project advisor and senior research scientist at the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI). “The other project is right down the street.” Johnson’s response was brief and to the point. “I want to help the less fortunate,” he answered. Four billion people globally suffer from chronic waterborne disease, and an estimated 13 million children die annually of diarrhea — conditions linked to a lack of adequate sanitation. In a developing country with extreme conditions like Bolivia, poor sanitation poses a serious health risk, contaminating the limited water supply and attracting disease-carrying insects. “You realize how fortunate you are when you see that people around the world don’t have clean water and sanitation,” Johnson said.

Emory University’s Center for Global Safe Water approached Georgia Tech’s School of Civil and Environmental Engineering and GTRI to help remove a significant sanitation roadblock faced by developing countries — the design and cost flaws of current United Nations latrines. “We wanted help with the project, but it was tough to find students enthusiastic about latrines,” Caravati said. “Calvin was our first volunteer. He wanted to have a hands-on experience to build a prototype that had the potential to have a huge global impact on people.”

Johnson immediately began work on designs for an inexpensive dry latrine system that uses the sun’s rays to safely transform bacteria-laden waste into fertilizer. He was then joined by his project partner Brad Davis, a building construction student at Georgia Tech, and the two hammered out a final design with Caravati. The goal was to create an improved solar latrine out of the most affordable and available materials. The interior needed to be heated at a minimum of 120 degrees Fahrenheit to kill pathogens, and the design and materials had to be as simple and cost effective as possible.

“We focused on designing the most inexpensive and durable model, taking into account what materials would be readily available in those nations. This gave Calvin and me the ability to think outside of the box and use everyday materials in our design,” Davis said. The team made two prototypes from a hodgepodge of household items, including a bicycle tube to insulate the waste and retain heat, a bleach bottle, plexi-glass, scrap wood and tin foil. The central idea was to “bake” the waste with an oven-like design that could reach temperatures of more than 150 degrees Fahrenheit while still keeping the inhabited area cool enough for users.

Johnson, Davis and Caravati were able to build two very effective prototypes that would cost only $78 per unit, compared to $120 for existing models used. They were also able to reach sustained temperatures of over 150 degrees while still keeping the inhabited area cool enough for users. With the initial prototypes completed, Johnson and the rest of the Georgia Tech project team plan to travel in January to a remote area of Bolivia’s Andes Mountains to build several of the new latrines and instruct locals on how to build their own. “I’m looking forward to making the trip to Bolivia after the season,” Johnson said.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

I want to tell you something about Virginia.

Virginians are fiercely proud of their heritage and their state. As my wife is so fond of telling me, during the colonial period, Virginia WAS America. It drove the economy and produced our nation's finest leaders.

The Constitution is a product of those leaders. James Madison was the savior of the Constitutional Convention, uniting the feuding parties who favored either more state power or a more powerful federal government. George Mason insisted on a Bill of Rights before ratification. And you all know about Thomas Jefferson.

The debate over the second amendment will not die out any time soon. Is it a blanket statement, granting gun owners unlimited protection? Is it the product of a bygone time, intended only to apply to a militia?

I will not answer that question with my opinion, but I want to give you something to think about: Is yesterday's carnage what Madison, Jefferson, and Mason had in mind? What would they say of their beloved Virginia, and to a greater extent, their beloved nation?

33 people no longer have the right to pursue the liberty and happiness that our founding fathers and our Constitution guaranteed, at least not on this Earth. Their lives are over.

And it happened in Virginia. The home of Jamestown, where later this year our nation will celebrate the 400th anniversary of the first colonial settlement. The home of Yorktown, where Cornwalis surrendered. The home of Arlington, where our nation's bravest lay in eternal rest. Virginia, the place where America began. So ask yourself:

What would Thomas Jefferson do?

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

I read in the news that a woman from Uganda was seeking asylum in the U.S., because in her homeland she was persecuted for being a lesbian.

I think maybe she should try Canada first...

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Whoever this Rep. Ron Paul is, people serious about a GOP presidential contender who makes sense should take a long hard look at him.

"The greatest danger we face is ourselves: what we are doing in the name of providing security for a people made fearful by distortions of facts. Fighting over there has nothing to do with preserving freedoms here at home. More likely the opposite is true. "

The man has a point.

Paul is one of just two House Republicans in the current 110th Congress who voted against the original 2002 resolution that authorized Bush to wage military operations in Iraq. Paul said the resolution amounted to an unconstitutional transfer of the power to declare war to the executive branch from the Congress.

I do not say this man has integrity because he opposed the war, but because he did it for a good reason: Congress has no business dictating what our military does. (Yes, you heard me right.) While I would love to see a withdrawl from Iraq tomorrow, the Congress has no power to dictate such a move.

Paul, who says he believes marriage is the union of one man and one woman, voted in 2004 against a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, saying at the time that he did not believe that an amendment was “either a necessary or proper way to defend marriage.”

I can live with that. The GOP seems to favor a constitutional amendment for every idea they have: flag-burning, gay marriage, balanced budgets, the list goes on. There are other ways to get things done, people.

He also syas a few things that make you want to reserve a padded room for his extended stay. On "Real Time," he hinted that 9/11 would not have happened if the FAA were privately run and opearted, because this would have allowed armed passengers and crew on a plane. That's a pretty big leap- I do not know how he could assume private ownership would automatically allow such a rule. Indeed such a rule would be possible, but not nearly automatic.

On the plus side, there are no ethical questions about his past behavior (Gingrich, Guliani), and he is from a state with the second most electoral votes (Texas)

Overall, here is a politician who votes based on his beliefs, not the polls. If I were a Republican, I'd give him a good look.