The best of the federal blogosphere

The face of distracted driving
Transportation Department
fastlane.dot.gov
March 28, 2011

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is highlighting the dangers of distracted driving on his “Fast Lane” blog with a series called "Faces of Distracted Driving."

In the most recent installment, LaHood writes about 19-year-old Eric Okerblom, who was riding his bicycle when a car struck him at 60 mph and killed him. The driver was a teenage girl who was sending a text message at the time.

Okerblom's family has started a foundation to fight distracted driving, and Bob Okerblom, Eric’s father, is biking across the country to raise awareness.

"My message is as personal as it gets," Eilene Okerblom says, as quoted in LaHood’s blog. "My son is dead because a driver was not focused on the road. It didn't have to happen."

Women in mathematics
NASA
blogs.nasa.gov
March 19, 2011

NASA CIO Linda Cureton is celebrating the achievements of women in science. In a recent blog entry titled “Women in History: Counting on Women in Mathematics,” she tells the stories of three mathematicians whose names might be less than familiar to some: Ada Lovelace, considered to have been the first computer programmer; Alicia Boole Stott, who published several papers on mathematics; and Hypatia of Alexandria, who taught mathematics and astronomy in a male-dominated culture — she died in 415 A.D.

“I chose mathematics in college because I loved figuring things out like Alicia, I wanted to drive my own chariot like Hypatia and, like Ada, found [that] these things called computers lacked the humanity that made them useful to most people,” Cureton writes.

She also shares the story of a friend who ended up studying physics because the line to sign up for psychology classes was too long. Cureton concludes: “To all the young women thinking about what line to get in, get in a line for science, technology, engineering or mathematics. Dear ladies, the line is short, and the opportunities are many. When you consider our study in these discipline areas along with our strengths — skills in communication, intuition and curiosity — WE women become people that you can truly count on.”

Winner: MyTSA app
Transportation Security Administration
blog.tsa.gov
March 22, 2011

The Transportation Security Administration's blog is celebrating MyTSA being chosen Best Mobile App in the Excellence.Gov awards, a program of the American Council for Technology/Industry Advisory Council.

MyTSA puts information into the hands of travelers on demand, writes blog team member Lynn. The app’s four features are:

  • Airport Status: Allows you to see which airports are experiencing general delays. It isn't flight-specific.
  • “Can I Bring…?”: Lets you quickly learn whether items you want to bring on your trip are permitted on airplanes.
  • Guide: Includes the most frequently requested security information, such as the rules for liquids or tips for packing and dressing to speed through security.
  • Security waiting times: Lets you post your security waiting time and see how long other passengers have waited at U.S. airports.

“While we greatly appreciate the award for our app, we plan to continue improving our users’ experience by implementing users' suggestions and other innovations,” Lynn writes. “A few things we’re working on now are adding type-ahead functionality to the ‘Can I Bring’ part of the app to help find items quickly even if you’re not sure how to spell them, adding video to the Guide section, and increasing the number of airports in the app so users can select the airport nearest them regardless of size and even set a ‘favorite’ airport for status updates.”

Wind powers Wisconsin county
Agriculture Department
blogs.usda.gov
March 28, 2011

Alternative energy has become a reality in Wisconsin.

“Today, there are two anaerobic digesters, both on cattle dairy farms, and three wind farms in operation throughout Kewaunee County,” writes Kelly Edwards, a public information officer at the Agriculture Department, on USDA’s blog. “Collectively, these systems generate enough power to support and sustain 8,000 households. With a total of 8,900 households located in the entire county, renewable energy is powering Kewaunee County.”

Anaerobic digesters recover methane and carbon dioxide from manure. The gases are then burned to generate electricity.

“We are a blue-collar and agricultural county, we pride ourselves on the many ways that we are self-sufficient, and this is just another means of supporting ourselves and our neighbors,” says Don Niles, co-owner of Dairy Dreams, as quoted in Edwards’ blog post. His company’s dairy farm hosts one of the anaerobic digesters, funded by a USDA grant.

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