Monday, June 30, 2008

Life Takes Cue from The Onion

Soooo one thing I really enjoy is finding headlines that could have come from The Onion the news outlets I look at. So naturally I was interested when I saw this post from The Economists USA blog. Check it out, it made me chuckle.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Oil=dead dinosaurs right? WRONG

One thing that's astounded me for a while is the lack of knowledge about the nature and origins of oil. Check out KK's post on some of the current theories. I love his quote on bacteria: "In any case I am betting on bacteria as the creators of oil simply because I've learned to never bet against bacteria."

Population Bust

Check out this interesting NYT piece on western population issues. It's long and covers quite a bit but it's worth reading because it goes over many of the facts and faces of demographics today. Nothing really new, but good coverage of what's going on.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Facinating Solar Technology

I'm not sure how successful this will be, but it seems intriguing. Most large scale solars designs focus on solar thermal but this product concentrates light (using mirrors etc) on solar cells (sort of) to generate electricity more directly. This could be interesting....

US Needs Infrastructure Help

This may not seem green and leafy but please take a look at the Economist's article on American infrastructure. Poor infrastructure can lead to inefficiencies, poor economic growth,
and other nasties. For a country that relies on roads so much, investing in them could be just as effective as investing in the greenest solar power scheme.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Icky if Interesting Way to Track Drug Use

So, LA will now track drug use using tests on raw sewage. I find this fascinating, it reminds me of a quote from Cradle to Cradle: "Waste is Food".

One trend I look for in the path to Sustainability is a devaluation or change of the current conception of waste. To be sustainable I think a society needs to internalize the idea that there is no such thing as the unwanted. This doesn't just apply to physical objects, it applies to ideas, emotions, and people. Tolerance, and understanding are also part of sustainability. One major obstacle in the path to sustainability is rich world's attitude towards technology. I'm not a Luddite, in fact I'm pretty pro-technology in general, but I think we need figure out a way to make "old" not equal "bad".

US Gov. Freezes New Solar Energy Projects Citing Need for Environmental Assesments

*bangs head against wall...repeatedly*

ARRRRRRRRRGGGGHHHHH!!!!! This is insane!.

I'll be the first to say that solar power plants need environmental assessments. It's not something a ton of people know, but solar power plants can have serious environmental impacts (destroying habitat, hazardous waste etc). However, what was the BoLM thinking??? Isn't there a better way to do this than to stop solar power plants altogether???

Mars soil might be able to support life

It's such a small chunk of news but for some reasons it makes me wildly excited. Check it out.

Inteligence Community on Climate Change

I won't link directly to the PDF (Breakthrough Gen has the link and their take) but basically the Office of the Director of National Intelligence has put out a long term analysis of climate change politics and it's implications for US security. Check it out if you like environmental policy.

One thing I was really interested is the concept of technology transfer for climate change. Quote:
“Elsewhere, developing countries—particularly major greenhouse gas emitters—may demand that the WTO Agreement on Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) be amended to allow for the production and development of generic copies of green technologies, citing the precedent of HIV AIDS drugs.”

I find it astounding that I haven't heard this way of framing the concept of technology transfer. If you think about it the entire field of Appropriate Technology could be looked at as aid through innovation man-hours. Does this concept frame change anything? I'm not sure, but I wonder if we'll start to see more non-profit design companies or initiatives ala Design that Matters, or ones that have more government funding.

Recent Energy News

Feh! I keep wanting to blog on environmental matters and summarize the current events and trends but the folks and Breakthrough Generation are on the same page and they have like....a billion writers and are always ahead of me :P. They've kindly provided an excellent summery of some recent energy events with their thoughts.

This makes me think of James Kunstler. I've heard him speak before (I need to read the Long Emergency) and although he really is Mr Doom & Gloom I can't help but recognize that life in the US without cheap gas will probably be very different. I think suburbs and exurbs will take major hits. Take my life; currently I occasionally do something very wasteful. There's an excellent Japanese restaurant that I occasionally get take out from when there's enough money to spring for a treat. That restaurant is 26 miles away, and I can't imagine that kind of drive in a world of $8-$10 gas.

All that being said I think that Mr Kunstler has position I do not agree with (from what I've heard in his lectures and interviews). His position seems to be, at it's base, reactive. He talks about how energy costs will force change. He refers to ways of life that people will have to abandon, without any allowance for human ingenuity. While I do think many have stuck their heads in the sand I also think that trying to predict the future without allowing for humanities capacities for adaptation is fundamentally flawed.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Green Building

Dubai plans 'moving' skyscraper

This is really interesting and I'm glad it's finally happening. This may sound odd but it never made sense to me that tall buildings stand still. We, as a species, spent millions of years in trees, being rocked by the wind and the idea of us taking an idea like that and applying it to modern buildings makes me really happy. Just imagine what a city of moving buildings would like. A forest city, wow, this (the idea, not necessarily this incarnation of the idea) is where I want us to be as a civilization. Drawing electricity from our buildings moving in the wind.

I'm home....


A Kindred Spirit at the NYT

Check out this article on root beer connoisseurs and tasting. I'm glad to see that Thomas Kemper makes it into their top five but I really can't wait to try the others!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

More stupid

There was this wonderful "This American Life" episode on the philosophy of the Bush administration called "The Audacity of Government" (check it out here). They covered the leadership style of many people in the Bush administration, and found that they basically never compromise. Whatever battle you pick, you fight it forever, in spite of reason, good judgment, the facts or anything else.

Here's an other example of that philosophy: White House Refused to Open E-Mail


Stupid Policy

Hrrmmm this is starting out as a "Bush administration is stupid" day, completely unintentionally.

I knew about this but the article in ENN reminded me. Check it out.

Depressing Situation

Soooo the situation in Zimbabwe appears pretty bad, right?

What's your opinion on the situation in Equatorial Guinea?Oh, you don't have one? Why not?

Slate and Harpers have some ideas. Check them out.

These articles and a few others (see futures posts) have not improved my day.

You've got to love our administration. It must take something special for Secretary Rice to call Mr. Obiang "a good friend". I know politics necessitates strange bedfellows, but seriously what was she thinking when she called someone who had accused one of her colleagues of witchcraft and threatened him with death a "good friend".

I can't wait I can't wait I can't wait I can't wait

Teaser from Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog on Vimeo.

Thank you Joss Whedon, where would I be without you!!!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Interesting Essay about Changes in the Scientific Method

I'm going to keep an eye on this trend. It could just turn out to be nothing, but it might get more important, not sure yet.

Ok, I couldn't possibly resist posting this

I have some self-control but how could anyone expect me not to share an article with the sentence:

"It turns out that the physics of breast motion have been studied closely for the last two decades by a gamut of researchers..."

Ok, what rock did they have to dig up to find this guy!

Umm.... damn....

If you were wondering how obsessed Europeans are with the 2008 US presidential election... here is your answer. I mean wow, digging up this guy is pretty amazing.

Good bit:
"Tran Trong Duyet - a sprightly retiree and amateur ballroom dancer - must rank as one of John McCain's more unlikely supporters. Four decades ago, during the Vietnam war, Mr Duyet was in charge of the notorious Hoa Lo prison - the place where Mr McCain says he was brutally beaten and tortured during five-and-a-half years as an American prisoner of war."

Monday, June 23, 2008

Happy Dancing Man!

Where the Hell is Matt? (2008) from Matthew Harding on Vimeo.

Thanks to urbanprankster for that

there is no pain, you are receding.

Some thoughts and links on privacy sparked by Washington Monthly columnist Kevin Drum's article on the recent FISA bill:
The best bit of the piece:
"For all practical purposes, then, the decision about which U.S. citizens to spy on is being vested in a small group of technicians operating in secret and creating criteria that virtually no one else understands. The new bill requires annual review by Inspectors General of the government's compliance with targeting and minimization procedures, which is better than nothing, but stronger amendments aimed at limiting the targeting of U.S. citizens were specifically rejected."

In general conspiracy theories just put my teeth on edge. As I've told some of you before I have serious issues with the logic of most conspiracy theories. To summarize: many conspiracy theorists draw their conclusions from anomalies in the conventional narrative (they look for holes in the accepted story) but I believe that when drawing conclusions one must base one's logic on the totality of the facts, not just the outliers or unexplained ones.
When deciding how and when to believe new information I think the Buddha nailed it when he said:

"Do not go upon what has been acquired by
repeated hearing ;
nor upon tradition
nor upon rumor ;
nor upon what is in a scripture ;
nor upon surmise;
nor upon an axiom;
nor upon specious reasoning;
nor upon a bias towards a notion that has been pondered over;
nor upon another's seeming ability;
nor upon the consideration, "The monk is our teacher."
When you yourselves know:
"These things are good; these things are not blamable; these things are praised by the wise; undertaken and observed, these things lead to benefit and happiness,"
enter on and abide in them."

All of that being said I think there's a pretty good case to be made by conspiracy theorists who talk about government monitoring. From all the information I have (that withstands above tests) I feel fairly comfortable saying that every electronic communication going through a major commercial or organizational servers is probably monitored and stored. I'm less certain of traffic that goes through smaller networks or servers. Last I checked phone VRPs are not up to monitoring and storing all phone conversations but they're getting there.

The funny thing is: I don't think that this is going to change. Some conspiracy theorists think that if "the truth gets out" people will change their behavior, I think most people don't care. My guess (although things may change) is that privacy will continue to become less a question of "do I care about them?" and more about "do they care about me?" People will no longer wonder; "is the government listening to me?", they will wonder "do they care enough to do something?"

Why I love NYC

Bubble Battle NYC 08 @ Times Square from Kevin V on Vimeo.

For all that I bitch about urban pollution (environmental and psychic), and overcrowding, cities have some real things going for them. In a city people can come together to do amazing things. Blowing bubbles is a cute reminder that there are other accomplishments which are just as amazing, if not as photogenic (subways, sewers, stock exchanges).


See the rest of the set here


Map of Serenity Valley

NZ Culture watch

Interesting video of an interview with Vic Taurewa Biddle


Hrrmmm... I have an excuse to eat more curry. Yaaaaaaayy!

Mental Note: keep an eye out for the results of this experiment

Confirmation of multiple dimensions?

Why I want to study at UVM

I first heard about John Todd's work years ago in regards to his Living Machine designs and I've been impressed by what I've heard about him ever since. The fact that he works and UVM is one of the reasons I've seriously considered it as a place to go for my (as yet theoretical) grad studies. So seeing this story makes me even more interested. I just hope he's available to teach for many more years, I know he's getting older...

Sunday, June 22, 2008

I don't know what this means but...

You can now create your own political add for $500, weird huh?
Click here to see Slate's story

Dick Cheney: the fourth branch of government?

OK I stole the title of this post from Andrew Sullivan, but seriously folks... this is insane. Dick Cheney is arguing that he isn't part of the executive branch, nor part of the legislative.... and he's winning. Check it out

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Interesting Publisher

Mental note: keep an eye on books from Process Publishers

It's Electric!

One development I've been keeping my eye on is what will replace the gasoline driven engine as power plant in cars in the coming years. There seem to be three candidates so far: electric, hydrogen, or biofuels (or bio-derived fuels). Some neat articles about electric car development this Saturday.

The Chevy Volt

Some Electric Infrastructure Ideas

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Future of Energy

I've been reading the Economist since I was 15 or so. I guess that's what I get for having a credit analyst for a father. I really enjoy reading the print edition but I've moved recently and haven't managed to change my address successfully yet. Now that I'm blogging I think I'm going to take more advantage of the online resources from the Economist.

What do I like about them? They make me think of a quote from JRR Tolkien:
"He has long sight. He can perceive, if he bends his will thither, much of what is passing in the minds of men, even of those that dwell far off. It is difficult to deceive him, and dangerous to try."

I think they have a real understanding of long term responsibility and unlike most media outlets always keep in mind the Long Now. So it was nice to see this weeks leader on the future of energy.

Check it out

Segregation In America

So every now and then you'll see a post tagged as "trendwatch". This means it's an article or picture that may not be important itself but shows a larger underlying trend.

Take a look

China: The Island?

Brilliant post by KK (mental note: add to blogroll) on a way to conceptualize China. He posits that one useful way for westerners to think of China is as an "island" consisting of the traditional ethnically Han territory surrounded by the "waters" of Inner Mongolia, the Pacific Ocean, the Tibetan Plateau, and the western desert provinces. On the island the people are numerous, the economy is globalized, and growth is rampant. Off the island the people are scarce, poor, and hungry.

Please comment, I'd be curious to hear opinions from more experienced people.

Obama letting down his supporters?

Check out the newest column from David Brooks and an editorial by the NYT
I have to admit I'm disappointed. I agree in principle that the public financing system needs to be fixed but I don't think this was the time or the way to do it. No matter what his actual reasons for doing this were this damages Obama's image as "above" politics. He never could possibly have kept that anyway, not and actual govern, but part of me is disappointed that his most blatantly political decision so far was around money.

How could he have done this better? I can't really think of any proactive way. I suppose he could have waited until some 527 came out with a really nasty ad but that's reactive and not really a good strategy.

Update: I agree with Andrew, if was going to do it, better to take the image hit now when he has more time to work on PR.

Authorizing Torture

Good (if left-biased) article from Slate talking about the recent senate hearings on US torture policy. No new facts but a good summary of a very sad situation

Have yourself a bad movie

Hilarious review of The Love Guru from Slate

Physics Schmisics

I actually read this in the print edition first but I think it's worth posting online as well.
Physics Falls Apart
This is the kind of thing that makes me smile when I hear prominent physicists talk about how we know almost everything about the universe. Didn't they study the history of science???

The Cure for Cancer?

Fascinating article about cloning, I think we'll see more items like this in the future. As the writers state, this was an atypical reaction but in a few years, it may not be.
With help a patients own immune system fights off skin cancer


No words can really describe this link, I don't even know where I'd begin...
Warning! Explicit content

Thursday, June 19, 2008

More Posts

New goal: use this blog to expand my writting skills and increase understanding of the issues that concern me.
Ways to achieve this goal: write one post every day, comment on one major website every day, keep up with the news.