Thursday, July 31, 2008

Wow, I'm agreeing with Scalia

After reading this article from Slate I find myself agreeing with Antonin Scalia for once: if people are competent to stand trial, they're competent enough to represent themselves. It shouldn't be the government's business to judge levels of competence (with a few exceptions).

Interesting Idea

I wonder how this Canadian program for Green Bonds will work out. I've always liked the metaphor of WWII preparations to describe sustainability problems and I'm glad to see another item in this trend.

I want to go to this bar

So I think having a bar inside an ancient try is really cool. I'd love to have a drink inside a living 6000 year old tree. Take a look

How did I miss this??????

This video is awesome!!! Apparently it's been out for a while and I can't believe I've missed it.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Amazingly cool update on the Antikythera device

I'm so excited!!!!! There's been some further developments in figuring out what the device is and what it does. Go here first (you MUST watch the video) then go here for the Long Now take.

Daft Punk video

So I really liked the video of the two sexy women dancing to Daft Punk that was huge a couple of years ago, and I just found a video with some sexy guys doing the same thing. I have to confess I actually like it better (it's the sunglasses I think).

Interesting Obama post

I've read many profiles of Obama; long ones, short ones, friendly ones, unfriendly ones and I actually found this profile of him as a teacher more compelling that almost any other one. Thoughts?


Cool Long Now seminar about art (I'm interested in the mention of Rodan's Crater and the lightning field), covered by Worldchanging.

Veepstakes update

538 has some veep speculation, check it out. Of the contenders who haven't bowed out I still think Sebelius makes the best pick for Obama (although I like Schweitzer) but I could be completely surprised by his choice. I'm not sure if Palin still makes sense for McCain, she's currently embroiled in what appears to be a minor scandal (via 538) and McCain doesn't need any more of those. That being said I still think she's the best pick. Romney's a snake, Pawlenty is clean but unexciting, and Huckabee is crazy (although he may end up being picked).

LHC Comes online in August

I'll let an expert explain what the LHC's all about

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A technology resurgent

I first thought about the potential revival of wind-powered ships years ago but it's interesting to see how it's becoming a reality.

Developments in armor technology

Brings a whole new meaning to Dragon scale armor no? Check out this neat article about armor based on an ancient eel's skin.

TV linked to autism

Old post from Slate on a study showing the above. I haven't heard anything about this, has it been discredited?

Solar Power Gathering momentum (again)?

In a new post on Yale's blog Jon Luoma goes over the recent rapid expansion of solar power. My reasons for supporting solar power over other forms are somewhat complex (an not completely developed) so I may post in more detail later but suffice to say I'm glad to hear this. Although it should be said that we've heard this story before.

The city rising

Check out this long, but interesting, article from TNR on how inner cities may be becoming gentrified. The rise of the city is something I've been keeping an eye since I started listening to Long Now seminars. I think the sustainable way of the future is the way of the city. There are increased dangers to be sure (terrorism, nuclear strikes, epidemics) but my sense is that the potential benefits outweigh them (increased efficiency, decreased transportation costs, increased connectedness). Your thoughts

A ven diagram for you

Slate comes out with great graphics (as does for news related items. Here's a new one on the major players in the various Bush schemes. It's good.

Exciting developments in physics

So I've been keeping an eye on the debate over Garret Lisi's new theory of everything. It's been making waves in the popular science (not to be confused with the magazine) community. I think that's partially due to Lisi's personality and partially because his theory is cool. Unfortunately his talk at the TED conference does not appear to be available yet but I'm eagerly awaiting it. To slathe my thirst for more news I found this video on youtube. I also went and took a look at the actual paper that codifies the draft of his theory but couldn't make head nor tails of it. *sigh* I wish I could take a couple of years and learn enough maths to actually understand this but I think 'tis not to be.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Coincidence makes message more powerful

Reading this just after finishing this made it even more powerful.

This was achingly familiar

This article from Wired on WoW really hit home for me. People who haven't MMORPG'd are amazed at the lengths went to acquire items when I was playing Everquest. One thing that's hard to get people to understand is how relaxing it was to grind out xp and items. Sure the teamwork, exploration, "danger", and item collection all had their own charms and fit into the puzzle that is the success of online worlds, but the most satisfying part was the grinding. In this article the author really puts his finger on why it works. It makes me want to go back to playing. Check it out.

Hits a nerve

After Barkingshaman's issues with his Ipod touch this article about Apple's failings hits home

Hon, this goes out for you

Via Sullivan, a new blog I think you should check out ;)

Another disaster to prepare for, oh joy

From Sci-Am, who, along with Popular Science, occasionally publishes a scary article like this about some immanent disaster (during slow months I assume). Nonetheless a massive solar flare could really screw things up for our modern digital world.


Another chapter in the (mostly) unforeseen consequences of climate change; apparently Greenland is agitating for independence from Denmark, and probably will get it. Global warming makes many more resources available as the ice moves. Weird huh.

Busy Weekend

So there are like 11 things I want to post about today. So as not to clutter up assorted inboxes I'll spread them out over the next couple of days.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Apple missing a marketing opportunity? WTF

Nancy Scola makes the excellent point that apple seems to be missing many opportunities to score points for their environmental friendliness? Any thoughts as to why they're doing this?

Define Irony

When a discovery of huge oil resources in the Arctic is made possible by global warming, that irony.

Soooo Granite Countertops maybe not so good

Interesting article from the NYT on how some granite counter tops seem to be dangerously radioactive. Weird

Thursday, July 24, 2008

This really scares me

I wish Scientific American would site their sources for this report (I'd love to learn more details) but assuming they know what they're talking about this is a really scary illustration of a worrying trend: the disappearing of freshwater resources worldwide.

Mental note: buy the hardcopy of the august edition of Sci-Am

Just neat

An interesting article from Slate on how lockbreaking is becoming a sport/hobby through internet communications. Check it out
I'm glad people are finally becoming more aware of greenwashing. Check out this CNN article (via Barkingshaman)

War Games

Slate paints a frighting picture of future warriors who fight remotely. Nothing super new but it's a scary trend.

A good point

Ashley Lin over at Breakthrough Gen makes an excellent point; assorted politicians are advocating drilling for oil, wouldn't it make much more sense to advocate drilling for something renewable, say geothermal power.

Pretty Pictures

I love pictures of light, here's a neat example of some light photography

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


Someone has a list of the 10 most amazing ghost towns. Very sad, but pretty.


I thought this was funny

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Innovation Engine

InnoCentive is another company trying to promote collaborative innovations. Check out the NYT's profile, I've already registered and I'll keep checking it out.

Cute and Funny

Cute kitty!

I've wondered about this

Where are all the government hackers taking down al Qaeda websites? Wired ponders

New developments in AT

So there's a new tongue motion controller for wheelchairs, I think it's neat.

Monday, July 21, 2008

*sigh* Brings back good memories

This solar collector is really neat, I remember working on a very similar project in college

This could be good

I like hearing about non-lethal replacements for conventional handguns so check out this article on variable speed bullets (sort of)

I wonder how this will turn out

Some reforms in Shenzhen as covered by the Washington Post

Funny Fix

Be afraid, be very afraid.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Facinating video

Friday, July 18, 2008

Could be good?

Check out the Watchmen Trailer

I love the Onion

This perfectly captures some the articles Time and Newsweek run.

This could be good...or not

My sense is that the derivatives market does need more regulation but I want to hear more about this bill. I'll be keeping an eye out for a more comprehensive analysis.

G&S Meets Sci-Fi

Wow, this was totally inevitable (and funny)

Thursday, July 17, 2008


So I figure I might as well get my VP musings up before the candidates actually announce in August. First I must say that predicting who will be picked to be VP will inevitably fail because the first, and most important, criteria in a VP candidate is the relationship he or she has to the candidate. That information is not publicly available so any predictions of mine are doomed to failure. That being the case I will focus more on what I would do if I were in Obama or McCain’s shoes.

So, first I’ll lay down what I think is the criteria for being picked
1. Chemistry
This one is really simple; the candidate and potential VP need to like each other. You can’t give someone the codes to the missiles if you don’t like and trust them. For sure, candidates have won without good chemistry (see JFK and LBJ) but it’s probably the most important qualification.
2. Skills as a vice-president
a. Plausible surrogate
The VP needs someone who could be a believable president. This person should have decades (at least 15 years) as a public servant, at least 5 years on a national level either in the pentagon, a cabinet position, member of one of the legislative branches, or governor of a state. The VP pick also needs to be a plausible surrogate for the candidate’s beliefs i.e. he or she needs to be able to speak articulately about the candidate’s positions and act like zhe agrees with them.
b. Good XO
In completely the opposite direction this person needs to be an excellent XO. He or she needs to be good at taking direction and obeying orders. Not that they need to be totally silent, in fact they should have good advice and opinions to offer the president, but when he makes a decision they should be baking him 100%.
3. Balance the ticket
a. Qualifications
Obama has the following negative perceptions about him: he’s too inexperienced, he’s too liberal, he has problems with Latino voters, he has problems with Clinton supporters, and he has problems with white working class voters. McCain is seen as too old, not conservative enough (or too conservative depending on who you’re talking to), and unskilled at domestic politics. Whether these perceptions are true or not (debatable) picking a VP that makes one of these perceptions go away will be an important consideration.
b. Geography
Pundits seem to be saying that getting a VP from a particular state means that you will win that state in general election and I just don’t think that’s true. That being said, if you had a public official with a high popularity rating in a big swing state, who met all the other qualifications it would be very tempting to pick them.

Considering that criteria we go from millions of people down to about 100. This includes popular senators and representatives, popular governors, mayors of the biggest cities, former high ranking military officers, former senators and representatives, former governors, and possibly a few people from business.

Ok from that who would go onto my shortlist?
Obama’s choices break down into three categories:

1. The secret insider. Someone older who has a great deal of Washington experience but has been out of the field lately and thus can bring a message of experience AND a message of change to the ticket. My picks: Sam Nunn, Tom Daschle, or Al Gore
2. The rising star. Obama might pick another youngish person for VP. Probably someone with executive experience and a history of bringing government reform. My picks: Tim Kaine, Brian Schweitzer, or Kathleen Sebelius
3. The fighter. Someone who can really act as a point person on politics. Someone who can go to other countries and wrangle concessions or speak with authority on issues at the UN but who does not have a huge influence on policy. My picks: Bill Richardson or Chuck Hagel
4. Heavy weight. If Obama feels like his experience might be an issue in office or in the election he might pick a very experienced person to provide "weight" to the ticket. My picks: Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, or Colin Powell

I think McCain has less choice about who he can pick to be VP: he needs someone somewhat younger than him, with excellent domestic policy credentials, who can attract independents without pissing off conservatives too much. My picks: Sarah Palin, Tim Pawlenty, Mitt Romney, or Charlie Crist.

The above I think is fairly plausible, it agrees with the analysts who’ve written on the subject and with the leaked information from the campaigns. So we have the short list, who should they actually pick? Again, this is not who I think they will pick -I can’t know that, I don’t know what the interpersonal chemistry is- this is who I would pick.

I think McCain should pick Sarah Palin.
Why? When you look at Sarah Palin and her record you can imagine a new face on the Republican party (although not one I’m super fond of). Pros: she’s young, she’s conservative, she’s about as far away from the Bush administration as you can be (literally), and she and McCain agree on many areas. Cons: not a ton of experience (might hurt arguments that Obama’s inexperienced), not a lot of appeal to independents.
What does McCain get? Picking Sarah Palin might do two things: energize the conservative base a bit, attract pro-life democrats, and attract people who are focused on domestic issues.
What does Palin get? A chance to be the president after McCain

I think Obama should pick Al Gore
Why? Gore can talk eloquently about change (see his book Assault on Reason), on many issues he’s fairly moderate, he’s been out of politics for long enough that most people will have forgotten the scandals associated with him, but at the same time he extensive legislative experience and foreign policy experience. Cons: he has even more name recognition that Obama.
What does Obama get? The most important thing he gets is a connection to the democratic establishment; I think Al Gore might help his numbers among Regan democrats and older democrats.
What does Gore get? Gore has been “taking a break” from politics for the last 8 years and has even said he isn’t trying to be VP, but not trying and refusing to serve are very different things. I think if he was approached and offered the opportunity to pass the environmental and technology laws he tried to pass earlier in his career he would be tempted.

Update: I guess Gore staffers read my blog. This morning he gave a pretty Shermanesque statement on serving as VP again so it's probably reasonable to count him out of the candidate pool. If not Gore the choices get a little murkier. Want to appeal to the democratic establishment? Pick Chris Dodd. Want reach across the isle? Pick Brian Schweitzer. I guess if I had to pick I'd plunk for Kathleen Sebelius but I'm not very confident about that.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Who is the "doer" of US foreign policy?

First, read this article

The basic question raised in the post is worth pondering: with all of the development overlapping with military conflict in the 21st century who or what is the appropriate agency to conduct applied foreign policy? The standard answer for a long time was the State Dept and clearly that is no longer the answer. In the past 10 years the military has taken an increasing roll in applying policy on the ground. Why is this an issue? There are many reasons but the first ones that come to mind are:
1. It's bad public relations. I don't care how you spin a big military presences in development projects it ALWAYS looks like we're trying to create an empire.
2. People sign up to the military because they love our country and want to defend it, possibly by by killing shit (an huge oversimplification which I hope you'll forgive me). I don't think those people are necessarily suited to doing good development work.

What should we do? I don't think throwing more money at the State department is the best way to go. The conflicts that loom in the future seem like they'll require a combination of hard military action and follow up development work. I think the best way to go is something like the way Thomas Barnett has advocated.

Summary from wikipedia:
  1. In recognition of its dual role, the US military should organize itself according to two functions, the "Leviathan" and the "System Administrator."
    • Leviathan's purpose is employ overwhelming force to end violence quickly. It will take out governments, defend Core countries, and generally do the deterrence work that the US military has been doing since the end of WWII. The Leviathan force is primarily staffed by young aggressive personnel and is overwhelmingly American.
    • The SysAdmin's purpose is to wage peace: peacekeeping, nation building, strengthening weak governments, etc. The SysAdmin force is primarily staffed by older, more experienced personnel, though not entirely (he would put the Marines in SysAdmin as the " Mini-me Leviathan"). The sys Admin force would work best as a Core-wide phenomenon.

Wow, neat website

So I went to Instructables a long time ago and decided that it was kind of ehhh. I just visited again and the site has gotten soooo much better. I may add this to my science blogroll

I have my daily funny fix

Send a JibJab Sendables® eCard Today!

Thanks jibjab

Why The Apocalypse Won't Happen

First read this article

I find my self conflicted about this article. I do think that there are serious issues in the world that could cause an "Apocalypse" but I've increasingly come to believe that we are going to see a vast transition that will neither be as easy as some hope nor as catastrophic as some others fear. We'll see...

I try not to advocate giving money willy-nilly but...

This guy made me laugh with his cartoons about his run for office in Kansas (via BoingBoing). I may not give the $8.34 he's asking for but I might give something.

Update: Grrr.... it looks like all the boingboing visitors crashed his site

Wow this would soooo suck

Environmental destruction causes a world without chocolate? Kill me now

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Sounds like just another cooky idea but...

I wonder what it would be like to live next to a farming skyscraper. huh *ponders*


Dr Horrible Act I is up!!!

Update: looks like the dr horrible website is down due to traffic

Beautiful and Creepy

On the one hand this video about bird formations is really pretty, on the other it reminds me of the The Birds (plus the lack of sound is creepy)


Check out this well animated short film about shrews


Check out this Vegan Zombie Tshirt

Monday, July 14, 2008

Really Hard

It was REALLY hard not to buy this today. I clenched my teeth and thought of my car bill and eventually the desire faded. However, if anyone were to happen to buy this for me as a birthday present I would be suuuper grateful.

I can never decide... I post about the amazing scientific discovery? Or the cool technology that comes from it? Today I'll err on the side of scientific discovery. I think it's really neat and slightly disturbing that people are creating new DNA base "letters".

Why I'm not Libertarian

I kind of waffle between Democrat and Libertarian politics. This past year has been more on the Democratic side but I could see going back. One of the reasons I'm not part of the Libertarian Party (as it currently exists) is that I worry about what kind of environmental policy they'd have. Doing good environmental policy requires the kind of big picture thinking that I don't hear libertarians talking about. For example, what do you think Bob Barr's position on energy and the environment is? If you answered "he doesn't have one" you win! Personally I think that's a bit... err... crazy.

Alan Jacobs puts in well:

"... However, we also know that no empirical claim could possibly be better established than this: People, left to their own devices, simply do not make wise decisions about their natural environments. They almost invariably chose short-term goods that leave their descendants with damaged and impoverished conditions; and often the damage is irreversible. And even when hard lessons are learned by one generation, they are likely to be forgotten by the next, or the one after that.

Moreover, these the stakes in these matters are raised dramatically in technologically powerful ages such as our own. If a libertarian with a hands-off environmental policy were to be elected President in this country, and were to implement such a policy, the vultures would descend so quickly and do so much damage — especially to water resources, and especially in the West — in a single four-year Presidential term that recovery could take decades if it could be achieved at all. I think this would be a tragic result, and my reasons for thinking so are simultaneously civic and Christian (the latter deriving from the Biblical mandate for what people are now calling “Creation care”). Is a significant increase in personal freedom worth such a price? I don’t think I can say that, not given my current state of knowledge, anyway.

Of course, this is all speculative in the extreme. Bob Barr is not going to be elected President, and even if that miracle did happen he’d be faced with a Congress that wouldn’t let him do much of what he wants to do (repeal the 16th Amendment, for instance). So it might be worth my while to cast a symbolic protest vote for Barr, and I may well do that. But it makes me uneasy to contemplate casting a vote for someone whose candidacy I can’t truly endorse."

David Plouffe is sexy hot!!

I realized something today; David Plouffe looks a little like an older version of John Barrowman. Big donations from from gay men..... suddenly explained.

I think this is neat

Sounds like it might be fun. On the other hand, people might totally ignore it.

Giving meds to pets? Discuss

This article disturbs me. Any other takes/comments?

Neat explanation

Check out this detailed explanation of Barrett's Privateer's terminology.

Lawrence Lessigs new project

Soooo Lawrence Lessig has done some things that I admire, mostly having to do with taking IP law in a good direction. He's starting a new project called Change Congress, basically to fight the implicit corruption that (arguably) exists in Congress today.

I think I'm going to sign the pledge he has up, why? First of all I think the way Congress conducts politics is pretty fucked right now. I won't make all the arguments about why I think it's fucked (Mr. Lessig actually makes them pretty well in this long lecture) but suffice it to say that I agree with him. The question I have ask myself is why is it worth to sign onto the pledge, I mean it's tiny operation that is highly likely to fail. Two reasons:

1. Mr Lessig has accomplished quite a bit and I'm not willing to say this has a 100% chance of failure.
2. This is related to the kind of open-source politics that I believe, why? Simply it has a very high RIO for us as citizens. As Mr. Lessig says in his lecture I can spend 20mins at home in my underwear and potentially change the way politics is conducted. The key is that I'm connecting myself. If I've understood anything about innovation generation is that connections matter. You lose the potential to influence a process when you disconnect yourself from it. This is a tiny way of connecting myself to something much larger but I'll take it, because the RIO is so high.

A series of depressing events

If you want good news, skip this post.
1. An NYT op-ed covering the new book by Jane Meyer on torture in the Bush administration (gotta love the title). I'll pick up the book but I'm sort of torn on this. On the one hand it sounds like everything I've wanted to hear ("it was just a few evil people", "as soon as they're gone things will get better", "they were soooo evil") but so far life has shown me that it's never that simple. More thoughts to follow when I read the book.
2. An editorial covering the recent raid on a slaughterhouse in Iowa where hundreds of illegal immigrants were rounded up. Lots of HR abuses, misuse of taxpayer funds (IMO), bleh.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Interesting definition of future heros

I'll have to chew over this post from WorldChanging's Alex Steffen for a while. Basically he's talking about a kind of post-apocalyptic missionary. Huh (*mental gears start moving*), maybe I'll have something more interesting to say about this when I've thought about it more.

Umm....isn't it a little early for these stories

Obama post warning!

Here are two articles analyzing what an Obama administration would look like. One from TNR focusing mostly on foreign policy, and one from The Economist focusing more on what his agenda might be.

Solar Windows, Neat!

Interesting work from some people at MIT who are developing a way to make your standard everyday window collect solar energy.

Oldy by sort of goody

Some times meandering, sometimes profound post from WorldChanging

Friday, July 11, 2008

I'd like to see it...

Check out Slate's review of Hellboy II
I'll see it, maybe not in the theater but some day

An interesting message from BP

BP discuses renewable energy

Thursday, July 10, 2008

I knew it!

The Slate editors and me seem to be on the same wavelength when it comes to movies and tv. We seem to being seeing the same connections between movies and politics; first it was West Wing now it's Predator.

Not sure if this is going to succed but I might as well post about it

So now (or soon) you'll be able to acquire a home hydrogen generator.

Arctic Development

The rush to exploit the arctic kind of saddens me in some ways, especially since people are getting interested in methane-hydrates reserves which are a) far more larger than oil reserves and b) far worse for the environment if used (for more reading start here). Anyways here's a good post on the matter from Yale's Environment Blog.

Also, if WWIII were started over disputes around Arctic exploration (don't laugh, when Russia, Canada, America, Europe, and China all have legitimate or semi-legitimate claims to the vast natural resources you realize that it isn't funny) I'd be really pissed

Normally I don't post stuff link this but...

This was just too funny and stupid to ignore: ban on saggy pants

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Watercooling Silicon

Interesting article from The Economist on the move to water cooled chips. I'm not actually as facinated by that as by the last two paragraphs that focus on cooling the silicon in solar cells. Quote:

"Water-cooling of this sort may also make a more direct contribution to the reduction of greenhouse-gas emissions, by promoting the use of solar energy. Solar cells are also made of silicon, and the latest fashion is to concentrate sunlight on them using mirrors. That means you need less silicon to make a given amount of electricity, but it also makes the silicon very hot—as hot as a commercial microprocessor.

By cooling such devices with liquids, IBM reckons it can increase the amount of sunlight that can be focused on them without destroying them, thus increasing the amount of electrical energy they produce. Supratik Guha, a researcher at IBM's Thomas J. Watson Research Centre in Yorktown Heights, New York, has put this to the test and found that he can concentrate 2,300 times more sunlight on a cell than nature would provide, while maintaining that cell at a (relatively) cool 85°C. Without the cooling system, its temperature would rapidly exceed 1,500ยบ, causing it to melt. With cooling, the cells can manage an output of 70 watts a square centimetre—a record, according to IBM, and a demonstration that plumbing, too, can be a high-tech form of engineering."


Ventura vs Franklen? The mind boggles

Thanks TNR
Ok, he hasn't actually said he would run, but wouldn't it make for an interesting race if he did run?

Yay building codes

Here's an interesting article from grist on how towns could have a major impact on sustainability through smart building codes. This ties into a larger trend that I'm keeping my eye on: the rise of the city. Demographics tells us that more and more people will probably live in cities in the coming decades. In the past this may not have made a huge difference politically but in the kind of interconnected world we probably will live in it might make a bigger difference. In the past landlocked cities (say...Denver) could not conduct foreign policy, now they can. City governments can move faster and more efficiently than federal governments ever will be able to. Something to keep in mind....

Um, why?

Elfquest is apparently going to be made into a movie. Any reaction from people who've read the comics?

Why Development Sucks

Good post on Design Observer on Third World Development. I've been hearing for a long time, and from many sources, that the way the west has done development for the past several decades is misguided. If you want to know more, read the article and watch this video for starters.

Nice post from Breakthrough

Good post on anti-consumerism and why it isn't as great an idea as others think. I may write more on this later

Unbearable cuteness

Fear the cuteness!!!!


Take a look at this amazing photography. I'm going post my favorites over time I think.


Very impressive works of sand art. How the heck does this guy do this in one day??????

Another post on why dirigibles might come back

NYT on new technologies and applications for dirigibles. I'm not especially enamoured of dirigibles myself ("whatever works babe, whatever works") but I do think it would neat if they came back.


Very strange new technology for generating renewable energy

Ok, what lessons can we take from this

TNY publishes a nice in depth article on Scandinavian town that has pretty much moved to using 100% renewable energy. My question is: what lessons can we take from this project that are applicable elsewhere or scalable (if any)?

Rumsfield's Genius?

A counter point to most liberal media blatherings on Rumsfield. My sense is that he's being a little overly generous to Rumsfield. Everything I've read has said that he sucked as a SoD but maybe I'm guilty of succumbing to oversimplification.

VP Puns

I love this post over at TNR. Nunn's a good idea for other reasons but the puns....think of the puns.

Taking Power Away from The Executive Brance

This op-ed in the NYT speaks to a theme that concerns me. It seems to me that the executive branch of the government has gotten too powerful over the past half-century. I won't pretend to know all the reasons but it seems like one aspect is that congress has gotten less efficient. Bills take forever to pass, and if they do they're pretty week. I don't know how exactly how this could be fixed, I think part of it is reducing the ties between the president and his political party (so the president isn't assumed to be the leader of his party), part of it would including reducing the massive amounts of money that go into campaigns.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Heartwarming Ad

This ad made me happy

A Confession

After reading this post on Breakthrough: Gen I think I need to confess something: I'm part wonk. I'm not saying all I want to is be a wonk, but there is a wonk streak running through my intellectual pursuits (especially recently). One of my favorite tasks EVER was writing a public transportation technology policy recommendation for the NYC MTA. So when I saw the following paragraph:

"You all should really check out this McKinsey Global Initiative’s Energy Markets page. Just reading the titles–'The case for investing in energy productivity', 'Wasted energy: How the U.S. can reach its energy productivity potential', 'Leapfrogging to higher energy productivity in China' give me goosebumps and make my spine tingle"

it made me smile.

The Economist on Global Governance Trends

I'm just a posting machine today...

Anyways, The Economist has a new article on global governance and where it's going. I think it's a good article so you should check it out.

I follow developments in global governance because some problems facing humanity require international dispute resolution (water, energy, trade, terror, pollution etc), which in turn requires (often) a body that can legitimately oversee said disputes. So over time you'll see more like this.

I'm So Impressed

Wow, I just finished reading Freeman Dyson's book review and KK's intellectual riff on it. My first feeling is Part of me thinks that I should just stop writing and pondering long term thinking 'cus these guys are waaay smarter than me. I won't bother to summarize their posts other than to say that they cover long term thinking and environmental trends, they're fairly dense posts, and that I think they are profoundly insightful. I don't think I have my own riff on them yet I have to chew over their ideas for a while ( Anyways, I'll leave you with my favorite piece from KK's post.

"But while progress runs on exponential curves, our individual lives proceed in a linear fashion. We live day by day by day. While we might think time flies as we age, it really trickles out steadily. Today will always be more valuable than some day in the future, in large part because we have no guarantee we’ll get that extra day. Ditto for civilizations. In linear time, the future is a loss. But because human minds and societies can improve things over time, and compound that improvement in virtuous circles, the future in this dimension is a gain. Therefore long-term thinking entails the confluence of the linear and the exponential. The linear march of our time intersects the cascading rise and fall of numerous self-amplifying exponential forces. Generations, too, proceed in a linear sequence. They advance steadily one after another while pushed by the compounding cycles of exponential change.

Balancing that point where the linear crosses the exponential is what long-term thinking should be about. For each generation and for each issue that equation of intersection will be different. Sometimes the immediate needs of the now will dominate, and the discount rate will favor the present. For example, the chronic use of childhood vaccines and antibiotics may prove to have long-term downsides, but their value to present generations is so great that we agree to send the cost to the future. Descending generations will have to pay the price — or to solve the problem by inventing better medicines using exponentially better knowledge and resources. Other times future generations will be so enhanced by the later exponential growth begun in a small immediate gain that we raise the discount rate. For example the yield in educating girls in any society is so great, so amplified and compounded in so many ways, over so many generations, that it is worth an awful lot to pay its costs now — even stiff costs in the face of cultural resistance and low immediate yields. Here the cost point is shifted to the present.

A timeline of where we expect these cost/benefit/risk-thresholds to fall in each sector of our civilization, or a field map of places we can see where our linear lives cross exponential change — either would be very handy to have."

Obama responds to protesters on his site

I was really interested to see how Obama would deal with this situation. Now I have the answer.

One of the (many) long term trends I follow is the development of citizen governance (or "open-source politics") as described in the recent works of John Varley (Rolling Thunder). I think it's a really interesting idea and might be one of the ways we, as a civilization, move toward sustainability. That is, in fact, one of the reasons I support Obama, I think his principles mesh well with open-source politics (or at least better than many other candidates) so I was really looking for how he would handle this situation. A more conventional politician would have ignored it, or maybe given in/pandered. Obama has incorporated the protest into his dialog with voters. To me that says that he listened to it which is very interesting.

Also consider the political economics of the situation. A small group of ordinary people, with no money, and no more organization than a facebook group, intentionally generated national media coverage and a response from a national politician, just by protesting on his website. One of things that seems radical about that to me is how low the ROI was for the online group. Yes tiny groups of lobbyists can get good ROI but that's an oversimplification of lobbyists as we know them. It takes a great deal of person-hours to become an effective lobbyist. There's an institution behind the kind of lobbying that goes on in K Street. On a fundamental level, I would argue, this incident seems like a more efficient way of conducting politics, and that is really what open-source governance is about; increasing the productivity and efficiency of how politics is conducted.

Interesting Wired Article

Online role-playing for spooks? At first I thought this was kind of haha funny, but then I started thinking a bit more about it and it actually has some long term applications. Consider the implications of the sentence "However, unlike players of World of Warcraft or Eve Online, A-SpaceX's analysts will be able to turn back the clock, and see how they arrived at conclusions."

They want to use this world as an intellectual and analytical tool, could we begin to see academics having conferences in a virtual world where their thoughts and random networking ideas are recorded, and where modeling tools are part of the game? I don't know, but it's an interesting possibility to think of.

Terrifing and Saddening Destruction of Forest Due to Global Warming

The Economist is running an article on the destruction of vast swathes of forest in British Columbia due to the Mountain Pine Beetle. Why hasn't this happened before you ask? Well said Beetle is normally killed off in the icy BC winters but since the last several years have been so warm it's allowed the beetle to flourish.

I don't intend to post articles like this often. The Environmental News Network, Dot Earth, and others document environmental degradation far better than I can. What I'm interested in is the long term problem of becoming sustainable, what the issues are, and how we can get there.

The reason I'm posting this is because it exemplifies some of the big picture problems of climate change:
1. Climate change is positive feedback loop. These trees are dead and will no longer be able to store carbon which will in turn accelerate the climate change.
2. Climate change will bring new problems that we could never have modeled or anticipated because it operates in such a large and dynamic system that it ripe for emergent properties.
3. This is the kind of problem that we will see increasingly in the future if climate change isn't slowed: a vast natural change that has negative consequences for us and which we have no solution for. Our children will increasingly be faced with situations that render the life we would want for them impossible.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

The Onion writers outdo themselves

Bush Tours America To Survey Damage Caused By His Disastrous Presidency

"This might be his finest moment".... I love it!!!

On the current flurry of liberal blogger Obama hate

'Nuff said

Interesting Business Model for Games

As a former rabid gamer and current (and past) rabid reader of The Economist I enjoy the articles they've had over the past decade on how computer games change business and business models and how our concept of gaming is changing. Here's a new article of theirs on how some Asian companies are offering gaming software for free and still making money.

I like Fareed Zakaria

One of the reasons I read Newsweek over Time is Fareed Zakaria, and his sense of balance in the news. He often has articles which offer complexity without simply devolving into a bland "on the one hand...on the other hand" article. This article on the status of the conflict with radical Islam and how that applies to American politcs is a good example of that.

Cooky Idea

Don't ya love inventors? This is an interesting idea that I somehow think may not see implementation very soon on a way to save energy in public transportation.

I have ULTIMATE power

Didn't you know that the BoLM reads my blog????? I see they're following my advice (at least it appears that way).

TNR Agrees with me about attitude!

Check out this post from TNRs Environment blog. I think we don't hear enough posts like this from folks in the environmental movement (except for the excellent Breakthrough Institute). It's gotten better recently but we still hear leftists/progressives talking about how other people (usually poorer, less educated people who disagree with them) need to run their lives. Talking like that is a complete turn-off and totally uninspiring. The work Environics has done shows this again and again, talking down to people and speaking outside of their values and their life context is will doom whatever you're trying to promote.

Yes it was only a fairly minor thing but TNR picked it up, which isn't minor, and I like that.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Technology to keep an eye on

Take a look at this post from KK (just listened to his TED lecture on the evolution of technology and...damn). I don't think this technology is going to explode immediately but I do think you'll start to see things that use it cropping up.


I totally want one of these. Although I think if you gave me one, I'd only get out to eat, go to the bathroom, and recharge batteries.

Good Writing

Tale a look at this insightful post from Al Giordano about the implications of Obama's speech on Patriotism and what it means about his style of leadership.


Damn Interesting, where have you been all my life???????

Funny XKCD

Hehe. Check out the rollover text for today's comic

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Developments in Solar

Organic solar: I think this could be an interesting development in solar energy. Not sure how exactly but I'll be following this.

New to me: Liberaltarians?

Musings by Brink Lindsey from 2006 on the potential coming alliance between new liberals and libertarians. Interesting speculation which seems to have some grains of truth behind it.

Other Reactions to the Moratorium On Solar Projects

A nice, thoughtful June 30th post from Energy Outlook (one of my favorite reads) on the reasons and implications of the BoLMs decision. Also some ideas on where to go from here.

The Patriotism Speech

Sullivan has the full text of Obama's recent speech. If you're a fan it's worth a read, if not you can skip (nothing you won't have heard before). At some point I'll post on how much I love Obama's speeches and why, but not today. Suffice it to say that I found it beautiful and very moving.

Pictures of Halved Cameras

Wired has an interesting gallery with pictures of cameras that have been sawed in half so that people can see the inner workings.