Monthly Archives: January 2011

If you can’t handle something in moderation, it doesn’t matter whether you “should” be able to handle it

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If you can’t handle something in moderation, it doesn’t matter whether you “should” be able to handle it. Social networking, alcohol, chocolate bars, whatever, … You’ve probably got at least one slippery slope item where a little always seems to turn into a lot.

You don’t cut off things like that because they’re so awful, and everybody must cut them off, but because it’s some personal kryptonite you’ve found out about and rationally must take into account. It’s tempting to say, you ought to be able to handle it, other people seem to be able to, etc., but it’s just about you.

There should be no more shame associated with that fact then there is with having a peanut allergy. I enjoy peanut butter now and then, and it’s no problem for me, but for somebody that’s allergic they must cut it out entirely. Just the way it is. The reality habit.

Reversifying your product offerings

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According to Carmine Gallo

“Do you have any advice?” [Nike CEO Mark] Parker asked [Apple CEO Steve] Jobs.

“Well, just one thing,” said Jobs. “Nike makes some of the best products in the world. Products that you lust after. Absolutely beautiful, stunning products. But you also make a lot of crap. Just get rid of the crappy stuff and focus on the good stuff.”

and

Tim Cook once commented that a traditional management philosophy taught in business schools is to reduce risk by diversifying your product offerings. Apple, he said, represents the anti–business school philosophy. Apple’s approach is to put its resources behind a few products and commit to making those products exceptionally well.

Sustainability and the environment

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An opinion leader’s global warming epiphany

“If you believe in the garbage island that you’ve never seen, why don’t you believe in manmade global warming?”

The “big one” might be a flood (California and climate risks)

A huge flood hit California in 1861-1862. Because of unrestrained global warming, the likelihood of a similar event is increasing. If it does, it will cost us $725 billion in damages. And those won’t be damages on paper, like a stock market crash, that the government can print more money to bail out, but real damages to power, water, sewer, and property.

Joseph Romm’s solution for stopping global warming

There’s still time to be heroes for future generations instead of being cursed by them. But not much.

The depraved energy waste of most buildings

HVAC wastes a huge amount of energy because most buildings have no energy use monitoring and their HVAC is not evaluated by a third party to find the ways it’s not working up to spec. (Like profiling and quality assurance of software.)

Deep sea heat — coming soon to an ice shelf near you

“Global warming is sneaky. For more than a century it has been hiding large amounts of excess heat in the world’s deep seas. Now that heat is coming to the surface again in one of the worst possible places: Antarctica.”

Tax bads, not goods

A carbon tax would be good for the economy. Making polluters pay for the damage they cause seems common sense. It should be politically popular with the majority of voters. But powerful corporations apparently think it would eat into their profits.

Saving tropical forests with sugar palm

“By 2030, we could replace all of the world’s oil with ethanol from sugar palm.” Spreading the green word about the virtues of the arenga sugar palm.

Threat indicators

According to Dan Miller, “Humans respond best to threats that are immediate, visible, simple, personal, have historical precedent, and are caused by another ‘tribe’ (think Al-Qaeda). Unfortunately, climate change, has none of these characteristics and this may partially explain why so little is being done to address the biggest threat mankind has ever faced.”

Changing the world means changing the rules

If the society is not willing to change its rules than its alleged concerns about the environment are just sham poses for the camera, pious hopes and empty promises, irrelevant.

Time is running out for the oceans, and for us

Microscopic life crucial to the marine food chain is dying out. The cause is global warming

Pilot CSP plant that uses molten salts not just for heat storage, but for heat transfer

“Archimede is the first plant in the world to use molten salts not just to store heat but also to collect it from the sun in the first place.”

The future is green … and salty

“Algae and bacteria are the two most important biofuel technologies of the twenty-first century. As a replacement for oil, algae is extremely practical, utilizes mostly cheap and abundant resources like saltwater and wasteland, and has the potential to reduce global carbon-dioxide output tremendously.”

Devouring the Earth is a traditional value

Our devouring of the Earth far predates the beginnings of capitalism. But we need a new economic system that, unlike capitalism, fights that tendency — not embraces it.

Like taking candy from a baby: our war on the future

Growth — the human tendency to devour the Earth and “get it before the hoarders do” — has become enshrined in modern economics as the key metric of economic health. It’s as if medical doctors saw their central mission as trying to increase the incidence of cancer or pituitary gigantism.

Climate change denialism

Climate change denial blogs have been effective in cultivating doubt about science.

Visual metaphor for global warming

A classic photo saved by the one and only Superbomba.

Food miles — a distracting marketing fad

Food miles are a distraction from the very real and serious issues that affect energy consumption, the environmental impact of modern food production, and the affordability of food.

The demise of the American chestnut

“The loss of the chestnut, in terms of the sheer number of trees killed, the size of its range before the blight, and the variety of habitats affected by its demise, is unrivaled in the history of human-wrought ecological disasters …”

Anthropogenics

Growth simply cannot go on forever if it means consuming ever more of a finite world. Is there an alternate economic system that would incorporate markets, competition, free trade and all the other things economists love, but which would not depend on the growth of material consumption?

Biochar — the carbon negative topsoil doctor

“There is one way we could save ourselves and that is through the massive burial of charcoal. It would mean farmers turning all their agricultural waste – which contains carbon that the plants have spent the summer sequestering – into non-biodegradable charcoal, and burying it in the soil. Then you can start shifting really hefty quantities of carbon out of the system and pull the CO2 down quite fast.”

40 to 50 percent of all US food ready for harvest never gets eaten

Each year, the nation ’s supermarkets, restaurants and convenience stores toss out approximately 27 million tons of edible food worth $30 billion. And, on average, households waste 14 percent of their food purchases. Fifteen percent of that includes products still within their expiration date but never opened.

Who killed the electric streetcar?

“In the 1920s automaker General Motors (GM) began a covert campaign to undermine the popular rail-based public transit systems that were ubiquitous in and around the country ’s bustling urban areas. With help from Standard Oil, Firestone Tire, Mack Truck and Phillips Petroleum, they succeeded in decimating the nation’s trolley system.”

The wasteful electrical power grid

Two-thirds of the energy used by the electrical generation and distribution system never reaches the end user.

“That orb is red, I should turn something off”

“Ambient information tries to combat data overload by moving information off computer screens and into the world around us. We’re more likely to act on a subtle but continuously present message than an intermittent one.”

The Age of Endarkment

Leaving behind us a degraded sewer world.

Ecocide — our premeditated murder of Mother Earth

We could save the world’s ecosystem if we really wanted to. Consider how one civil servant organized the villagers of India’s poorest state to reforest, including planting almost a billion trees in one day.

“It’s a turf war on a global scale” — but now the globe is on fire

We need to find a way to let the big guys stay on top, but for them to see self-interest in making protecting the Earth part of their racket, too.

If there is a significant chance of utter catastrophe

“As Harvard’s Martin Weitzman has argued in several influential papers, if there is a significant chance of utter catastrophe, that chance — rather than what is most likely to happen — should dominate cost-benefit calculations.”

How Nauru Island “became 80 percent mined-out ruins”

“Like the entire planet, Nauru’s fate was sealed by greed, corruption, and short-sightedness.”

Retroactive subsidies

“We are forcing future generations to retroactively subsidize our decision not to increase energy efficiency and move to cleaner fuels.”

Are you a productive member of society?

What does it mean for a citizen to be “productive”. Is a tobacco farmer productive? Or the CEO of a too-big-to-fail bank?

Pencil tip of the long now

It’s said that a typical wooden pencil can write for 35 miles. According to a back-of-the-envelope calculation, the thickness of a pencil line is to the length of the pencil as 10,000 years are to the age of multicellular life on Earth.

Global warming — yes, your house really is on fire

“If we stay anywhere near our current emissions path, we are facing incalculable catastrophes.”

Sorry, Mother Earth, but Warren Buffett needs more money

Global warming and Warren Buffett’s bottom line.

Renewable energy’s Achilles heel — America’s aging electrical transmission system

“America’s aging electrical transmission system is renewable energy’s Achilles heel, and unless a broad policy consensus to upgrade our electrical grid is forged soon, the potential of wind and solar power will be vastly diminished.”

Mother Nature strikes back

“Climate change really means Mother Nature is preparing to rid herself of humans. If we are to survive, we can no longer worship her, we must fight back with smart weapons.”

Money is just information, not real wealth

“Information […] can never be wealth in precisely the same basic way that oysters and cream, or wheat and water, are wealth in themselves.”

Life after stuff

“Now that I know how many people share this vision, I am more confident than ever that we can bring about this transition. And now that I’ve seen the viciousness of the resistance firsthand, I see more clearly the structural and cultural obstacles we’ll face.”

Huge dead zones

Fish could vanish from huge stretches of the ocean for tens of thousands of years.

US population projected to grow to 439 million by 2050

US carbon footprints are much larger than those of a developing country, but US population growth is as large as that of a developing country. Improving education and access to contraception in US should be green priorities.

The planet changer — ocean acidification

CO2 pollution is not just about global warming, it’s also about ocean acidification.

“`Scuse me while I disappear”

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Following up to “The priorities of Beethoven” and “Genius and madness“.

According to Geoffrey O’Brien

as Sinatra works with Nelson Riddle to create a separate reality invulnerable to ordinary suffering, the reality of song at the heart of his maze. And then, again with Nelson Riddle, at the end of one of those ballads that he seems to slow down to a pace almost intolerably slow, so as to sound the very bottom of each note and each thought, he inscribes in the final phrase what might be taken as a symbolic suicide note, a record of inner transcendence, or a demonstration of how deeply he had lost himself in his art: “‘Scuse me while I disappear.”

Bangkok to be hub of ASEAN high-speed rail network

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According to John Chan

As the foreign ministers met in Kunming, the adjacent Guangxi province’s development and reform commission announced plans to build a $2.36 billion high-speed railway linking the provincial capital Nanning with Hanoi in Vietnam, Vientiane in Laos, Phnom Penh in Cambodia, Bangkok in Thailand, Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia and, ultimately, Singapore.

The high-speed rail is part of a 300 billion yuan ($45 billion) program over the next five years to create a “Nanning-Singapore Economic Corridor”. Construction of new tracks from Nanning to the border with Laos is due to commence in the second half of this year.

The designated commercial hub of this railway network is Bangkok. The Thai capital will serve as a gateway to new markets for Chinese exports among South East Asia’s 600 million people as the Chinese government seeks to offset declining sales to the US and Europe. Bangkok is the site for a planned Chinese-financed $1.5 billion wholesale trade centre for Chinese goods. The centre will have a total floor space of 700,000 square metres, the size of 100 football fields.

Web of cloud-genius robots

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Following up to “Mobile supercomputers“.

According to Erico Guizzo

“Coupling robotics and distributed computing could bring about big changes in robot autonomy,” said Jean-Paul Laumond, director of research at France’s Laboratory of Analysis and Architecture of Systems, in Toulouse. He says that it’s not surprising that a company like Google, which develops core cloud technologies and services, is pushing the idea of cloud robotics.

But Laumond and others note that cloud robotics is no panacea. In particular, controlling a robot’s motion—which relies heavily on sensors and feedback—won’t benefit much from the cloud. “Tasks that involve real time execution require onboard processing,” he says.

And there are other challenges. As any Net user knows, cloud-based applications can get slow, or simply become unavailable. If a robot relies too much on the cloud, a problem could make it “brainless.”

DNA, water, and diseases not of obvious infectious origin

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Luc Montagnier’s recent DNA experiments have been derided by some as pathological science. For example, see here.

I’m not qualified to say. And it hasn’t been accepted for publication yet. The safest bet is usually against anything amazing. But for some reason I’m not ready to count out their data just yet.

If it turns out that the data is accurate, then the following idea from their draft may turn out to be significant, too.

We remark that it is possible to detect the same EMS from the plasma of patients suffering from various infections and chronic diseases. The plasma has to be kept fresh and unfrozen. If the plasma is frozen at −70 ◦C then one must extract the DNA in order to recover the signals. The DNA can be also extracted from tissue biopsies. The list of diseases in which EMS have been found (such as Alzheimer, Parkinson, Multiple Sclerosis, various neuropathies, chronic Lyme syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis) indicate clearly that their presence is not limited to diseases known to be of infectious origin: The fact that EMS have been found in diseases not known be of infectious origin is intriguing, and leads us to seek bacterial or viral factors in these diseases.