Wednesday, August 02, 2006


I'm headed to a local biodiesel co-op tomorrow to fill up my tank and find out more about it. The guy running it is into alternative fuels and he gets his veggie oil from Yosemite, the Casino in Tuolumne City, and other local restaurants. It sounds like he's worked out a pretty good deal within the local area. I'm not sure what he's charging per gallon, but I think biodiesel is pretty competitive with petro diesel these days.

Rudolph Diesel originally patented his motor on peanut oil - petroleum diesel hadn't been invented yet. Henry Ford's motor burned methyl alcohol (methanol) and they both had the same idea - namely that farmers could be self sufficient energy-wise by growing enough crop to produce either vegetable oil or alcohol. If a farmer had 160 acres, 20 acres or so could be set aside simply for fuel production to run pumps, motors, presses, generators, etc. There'd be no need for the utility grid or runs to the gas station.

Biodiesel is different than straight vegetable oil (SVO) or waste veggie oil (WVO). Biodiesel is brewed from veggie oil and lye or sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide. The two are mixed and glycerin along with biodiesel is produced. The glycerin can be used to make soap or other products, or even composted since it's organic. SVO can be burned directly in a diesel motor but it has to be heated first to insure the viscosity is low enough and that it doesn't congeal in the fuel lines and injector at lower temperatures (like bacon grease). WVO also has to be filtered to remove food particles from the frier and settled so that any water that might be present is separated by gravity to the bottom, then drained off - don't want water in your diesel motor! Older vehicles should make sure the fuel lines won't react with the biodiesel and corrode or otherwise degrade. Newer vehicles don't seem to have this problem, but if one does switch over, it's ultimately the responsibility of the owner to research this issue for their own vehicle.

One thing to think about in joining a co-op like the one in Groveland is storing biodiesel in a tank or 55 gallon drum so that one doesn't have to do the drive too often. Mike, the proprietor, said he's willing to work a deal where he delivers biodiesel to customers who are near his pickup route when he's collecting veggie oil.

So I'm looking forward to tomorrow and learning more...

Monday, July 31, 2006


Confluent education has been ignored. Perhaps a change is in the air, though. After reading Daniel Pink's book ("A Whole New Mind") I'm thinking that affective domain issues may be more valued in the future. Confluent ed says there are 3 domains to learning: 1) cognitive; 2) affective; and 3) psychomotor. Our left-brained culture has focused on the cognitive - linear/serial processing, problem-solving, rational thinking has taken the front seat in education. he claims that they're still important, however, we need a balanced approach for the future. Right-brained processes and attributes may be moving to the forefront if Pink is right. Affective domain issues deal with feelings, emotions, and the like, and of Pink's 6 attributes of the future (design, empathy, symphony, meaning, story, and play), empathy fits right in. We have two halves of the brain to make a whole (the sum is greater than the parts...) and in confluent education, 3 domains make a whole. We can't ignore the psychomotor domain that copes with the physical elements of learning (i.e. hand/eye coordination that athletes, artists, mechanics, dancers, etc. all utilize). I saw yesterday where the Nickelodian Channel is asking kids to go outside to play in order to help combat rising childhood obesity levels. Here's a tv channel asking kids NOT to watch tv (or at least not as much...). As a side note, this helps us to combat the rising levels of "nature deficit disorder" Richard Louv discusses in his book "Last Child in the Woods". This seems to fit in as another piece of the wholistic puzzle. Too much focus on left brained activities in school, not enough emphasis on affective and psychomotor issues. Let's get kids back outside playing, learning, feeling, creating, storytelling, designing, and working together.

Sunday, July 30, 2006


Thoughts on competition vs. cooperation. First, a good book on this is Alfie Kohn's "No Contest: The Case Against Competition", a very thoughtful, well researched book on the topic. Alfie's claim is that competition is not only not good, but bad for society. He cites volumes of research showing the benefits of such things as cooperative learning, the "New Biology", and other support for cooperative behaviors over competitive ones. Competition causes people to worry more about how many points, dollars, rewards, or other measures one has and has them motivated more by external, rather than internal forces. He thinks that we should be motivated by internal mechanisms - doing things because they're the right thing to do, not because we'll get something for doing it (i.e. the points, dollars, rewards, etc.).

I used to value competition so highly - I'd do almost anything to win. Now my attitude has changed 180 degrees. I see the value of cooperation, having researched much on this topic for my dissertation. Cooperative learning benefits students so highly, when implemented appropriately and there's a huge volume of literature supporting this. See some of the work by Johnson and Johnson out of the University of Minnesota in the 1980's and beyond. Students will learn for the sake of learning, rather than to be #1 in class if the classroom culture is set up appropriately. They love teaching one another, helping one another learn.

This theme connects with Daniel Pink's book called "A Whole New Mind" when he claims that we should be moving toward a more right-brained culture valuing the following attributes: design, empathy, story, symphony, play, and meaning. We should still value left-brained, serial/linear, problem-solving, rational thinking, but we should also focus on developing the right-side aspects in order to balance our lives, culture, world. Left-brained jobs are being sent over seas; jobs that can be automated are being snapped up by computers and machines. The jobs of the future will involve right-brained skill sets and traits. Affective domain issues will be increasingly valued. Makes sense to me and resonates with something I've known and felt for a long time. The folks at UCSB doing work on confluent education had it right a long time ago - they were way ahead of their time. Maybe they'll end up having the last laugh - I probably shouldn't say that since it sounds so competitive...