Friday, February 26, 2010

Junk collector or Antiquarian

By: AlienOverlord626, Contributor

Anyone who has ever seen the television program "Antiques Roadshow" knows that often people may have a small fortune in their houses without realizing it. An old rug can be worth thousands. In many instances the person inherited the item from a relative and had no idea of it's true value. The chance of this happening to the average person is pretty slim. It is possibe however to enter the exciting world of the Antiquarian (someone who collects antiques) with only a minimum of preparation and cost. Here are a few simple suggestions that will help the average person get started.

Start at your local Thrift store. Often people donate old, unused furniture and household good without thinking about their possible value. People love the new, shinny gadgets that come out year after year. They are incouraged to get rid of their old things and buy new ones. This is of course foolish. New furnishings are often designed to last only a few years while older furniture can last literally for hundreds of years. 'Grandma's old table may be worth hundreds more than that new glass table.

Which brings us to the next important thing: Learn what to look for. Valuable antiques will often have the name of the craftsman who made them on an underside. Plates, dishes and silverwear will have what is called a 'watermark'. This is simply the stamp of the person or company who made it and the date it was made. Designer clothing can often be found in such places and can be purchased for a fraction of their original cost.

Special note: The reason Antique stores aren't mentioned in this section is because the people that own them often know the real value of their goods and will charge much more than that just to cover costs and profit.

Yard sales. One person's trash can literally be another's treasure. A classic example is a man (Who shall remain nameless) who bought a set of wrought iron lamps for 35 dollars. He went home and looked them up to discover they were worth 900 dollars each! The man who did this understood the two most important rules for buying antiques. 1. If it looks valuable it probably is. 2.Gold is where you find it. That is an old expression that means you have to be looking for something to find it. The man I just mentioned has been doing this for years. He enjoys filling his house with high quality furnishings and artwork for a fraction of what new furnishings would cost. There is no rule that says you have to look for yard sales in your own neighbourhood. By taking a Saturday to check out the yardsales in town it is possible to discover a secret world of treasure.

There is another aspect to this hobby that makes it particularly appealing these days, the savings a person achieve by furnishing their homes this way. The same man furnished an entire house for 300 dollars. There are a couple of things to consider though. The popularity of television shows about antiques means there is more competition than in earlier years. The second thing to consider is the economy. There was a time when only a few people frequented yard sales and thrift stores and most of those people were poor. Such is not the case these days. It is not unusual to see new cars in the parking lots of thrift stores and parked in front of yard sales. This is where homework comes in. The average person will look at an old crank operated record player and not realize it's an old 'Victrola' and worth it's weight in gold (even at today's rates).

The simple act of research can make the difference between buying old junk and making a prudent investment. Collecting antiques is the only hobby where a person can spend twenty dollars and recieve something worth hundreds. It is worth well worth doing even if only for fun.

"One of the most obvious facts about grownups to a child is that they have forgotten what it is like to be a child." - Randall Jarrell

Friday, February 19, 2010

USDA Tightens Organic Standards on Dairy and Livestock

by Sara Novak, Columbia, SC

As organic food has grown in popularity so too have the size of organic dairies and farms in this country. And in the last ten years questions have been raised about whether these large scale so-called organic dairies and farms have been abiding by all of the regulations which define them as organic in the first place. Some of the regulations themselves have been a bit gray and lacking in clarity. Issues have been specifically raised about whether enormous farms have been confining livestock excessively, without regard for the animals. Now the USDA has introduced tighter regulations to bring clarity to the amount of time organic livestock should ... Read the full story on TreeHugger

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Families Living and Loving Green Alternative Life Styles

by Bonnie Alter, London

With all the best intentions, most of us don't have the nerve to really change our life style dramatically. We do as much as we can within the limitations of our busy lives, but haven't the true grit to go that extra mile. Here are 3 inspirational stories of young families that are taking things to the limit and loving it.

The first tale is about a family of 4 that decided to see if they could survive for a year without shopping at supermarkets. They grew their own vegetables in their back yard and bartered the extra food for essentials. Living in a smallish city, they were able to rent an acre of land to plant crops as well as keep animals.

They bought a share in a pig and a cow at local farms to add to the chickens that they were keeping. Then they were offered a few more acres and they bought a flock of sheep. They plan to invest in a small herd of Aberdeen Angus soon. They do a lot of swapping, for example eggs for homemade jams. The family says that they have no intention of returning to the supermarket. As well as enjoying the ethical and tasty benefits, they are saving £110 ( US$ 177) a week.
... more story at

Saturday, February 6, 2010

RETECH 2010: Municipal Governments Fostering a YIMBY Culture

by David DeFranza

"Not In My Backyard" has been a rallying cry for homeowners upset with the aesthetic implications of renewable energy facilities and a distributed power grid. This attitude, combined with slow state and federal legislatures and now dwindling stimulus money, has made it difficult to make dramatic advances in the nation's renewable energy system.

According to one panel at RETECH 2010, however, small changes, bubbling up from the community and municipal levels, are accomplishing what big government can't—one town at a the full story on

Friday, February 5, 2010

Tornadoes: When Weather Gets Violent

by David DeFranza

From Toto to Twister, Storm Chasers to Greensburg, tornadoes have swept into our imaginations.

And with good reason: Every year, tornadoes in the United States cause millions of dollars in damage and lead to several severe injuries and even fatalities.

Due to urban land use practices and climate change, severe tornadoes will only become more common.

Tornadogenesis, the process of tornado formation, typically begins during a supercell, or severe thunderstorm. These storms contain a mesocyclone—a column of rotating air—that begins driving the rotation of the tornado.

As rain increases, it pulls air from the storm towards the grown. This is called the "rear flank downdraft." As this cold dry air descends, it pulls the mesocyclone towards the ground with it.

As the horizontally-rotating winds of the mesocyclone descend, they come into contact with air moving through the storm intake. This causes the horizontal wind to tilt and become vertical. This transition typically forms a large "wall cloud."

When the warm, moist, air of the updraft mixed with the cool, dry, air of the rear flank downdraft, cloud formation is intensified. In addition, the downdraft focuses the base of the mesocyclone, causing it to pull air from a smaller area.

Once this base is focused, the updraft intensifies dramatically, lowering the air pressure on the ground and pulling the mesocyclone closer to the surface. This creates the funnel cloud and marks the point at which a true tornado has formed.

Though it generally requires this specific interaction of air currents, tornadoes have been known to form over a wide-range of terrains during all seasons of the year. They have even been known to form and travel over water.

These waterspouts look like they suck water up into the atmosphere but in reality, the water visible in the column is storm condensation.

A common myth associated with tornadoes is that their size is relative to their severity. While there is an observed trend that massive wedge-shaped tornadoes have caused more damage, this is certainly not a rule. Historically, skinny "rope" tornadoes have been some of the most damaging.

Tornadoes are classified, in fact, by the amount of damage the cause. The most commonly used metric is the Fujita Scale—or the updated Enhanced Fujita Scale—which measures a tornado's ability to cause damage to human-built structures and vegetation.

At the bottom of the scale, EF0 tornadoes may only be able to damage trees while EF5 tornadoes, at the top of the scale, can pull buildings from their foundations and even deform skyscrapers.

There should be a separate category, however, for tornadoes like the one encountered by high school senior Matt Sutter on March 16, 2006.

The tornado pulled Matt from his home and carried him 1,307 feet. Though he had been knocked unconscious by a blow to the head second before liftoff, Matt survived.

Scientists know that pollution can increase the severity of thunderstorms, and thus tornadoes, but what factor does climate change play?

Some researchers believe that the increase of carbon and moisture in the atmosphere indicates that there is simply "more energy" there, making all kinds to powerful climate events more likely.

For whatever reason, the frequency and severity of tornadoes has increased and, even if thunderstorms become less common, an almost guaranteed increase in storm intensity will make tornadoes even more likely.

So much of the research and documentation of tornadoes focuses on the obvious destruction they cause; the danger they pose to people's lives and livelihoods. But, as with every storm, there is usually a silver lining.

Whether it is new technology for harnessing the power of a tornado or the story of a community using a disaster as an opportunity to build a better life, such positive actions help us step back and, from a safe distance, appreciate tornadoes for what they are: Powerful testaments to the intricate beauty of nature.

...view Tornado slideshow at

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Make a Square for the Climate Quilt

by Bonnie Alter, London

The hardy pioneer women started quilting out of necessity; using every little bit of left over and worn out fabric to make covers to keep them warm in winter. Sociability was part of it too: the quilting bee was a chance to get together with other women and chat and create together.

The quilting phenomenon continues to this day, as a hobby and a communal effort. Only now quilts are often made for a cause, with many people contributing squares on a particular theme. The National Plastic Quilt had squares made of plastic to emphasize recycling. This one, the Climate Quilt, is for children and is being prepared for Earth Day in you can still get involved with more story at