Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Is free public transportation the way to go?

http://www.aljazeera.com/video/europe/2012/12/20121225114258372967.html

"Estonians in the capital city of Talinn are soon to benefit from the arrival of free public transport.
It is the first EU capital to make the shift and is part of a green platform adopted by Talinn's mayor, Edgar Savisaar.
However, not everyone thinks the move will get cars off the road. The opposition fume that the idea is less about a clean environment and more about political opportunism."

Generally public transportation is pretty cheap anyway.  Here in Rapid City it's $30 a month for an unlimited-ride pass.  I doubt that many more people would ride it because it's any cheaper than that.  But it could save a little on administrating the passes I guess.  File me as unconvinced so far.

I see also that Montreal gives you a year of free public transportation if you turn in an old car.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Meal worms; the other white meat

http://health.usnews.com/health-news/news/articles/2012/12/21/mealworms-the-next-high-protein-food-source

"Researchers in the Netherlands used three factors -- land usage, energy needs and greenhouse gas emissions -- to compare the environmental impact of mealworm farms to chicken, pork, beef or milk farms.
Compared to the other types of farming, mealworm farming produced more edible protein using the same amount of land and less energy, according to the study in the journal PLoS One.
The same team of researchers previously found that mealworms produce less greenhouse gases than other meat-producing animals."

Sounds good to me. You can grind them up and make them seem like turkey burger or something. If the taste is ok, I'm fine with this.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Is work necessary?

http://bigthink.com/politeia/why-do-we-still-have-to-work

"Eighty-two years later, with the economy again faltering, it doesn’t feel like the economic problem is close to being solved. But—in spite of another world war and a growing world population—Keynes’ prediction is still roughly on target. The Bureau of Economic Analysis estimates that the U.S. economy is about 15 times larger in real terms today than it was in 1930. Per capita income is about about 6 times larger, and is on pace to be nearly 8 times larger in 2030. Nevertheless, as Mike Beggs has remarked, we still don’t have robot butlers to do our work for us and are still not close to the 15-hour work week Keynes envisioned. If we’re really so much richer, why don’t we feel that way?
Part of the answer has to do with how our wealth is divided up. As Lawrence Mishel points out, until the early 1970s hourly real compensation in the U.S. roughly kept pace with gains in productivity. That hasn't been true since then. Although productivity more than doubled over the last 40 years, what workers make in wages and other compensation has barely grown at all. Real weekly wages actually peaked in 1972 and real median household income has grown just 7% since then."

 With so many things changing nowadays, I do wonder how people will "make a living" in the future. Journalism, factory work, many other previously plentiful jobs are dying due to technological changes. When I was growing up, it was assumed that this meant people would just work less and still maintain their lifestyle. But that hasn't happened.  Now that many types of jobs are going missing, it adds more strain to our common notion of work.  Add to that the many jobs now that are done by collective action for free, just because people want to do it. Wikipedia, for example, while it has many problems, is still the astonishing result of free labor.  People do things not because they'll get paid but just because they want to contribute. But none of this gets renumerated.  Why not?  

What will be the future marker for recompensing labor? 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

gravity light!

http://vimeo.com/53588182

"The designers developed the project in their spare time over four years, while working at London-based design firm Therefore. They're expecting the light to cost less than $5 to manufacture at scale. Once a family purchases the light, they'll be able to keep it running at no additional expense."

Man this is cool. and so simple!  Bye bye kerosene!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Steven Johnson, someone worth reading

http://fdlbooksalon.com/2012/12/09/fdl-book-salon-welcomes-steven-johnson/

"One of my great frustrations about the digital age is how poor our language is to explain and understand what is happening in our midst. At the outset of Future Perfect, Johnson offers us a new word to describe an emerging political consciousness: peer progressive. It is an apt term, well-coined. Peer progressives believe in the progress of humanity – that we are on a path of continual improvement, and that the exciting technological innovations of the digital age offer new and compelling ways forward. While embracing a progressive worldview, peer progressives believe in the power of peer-to-peer networks, not institutions. They are 'wary of centralized control, but they [are] not free-market libertarians…they [are] equally suspicious of big government and big corporations.' (page xxxvi)
In many ways, Future Perfect follows directly from Johnson’s earlier books on the impact of technology on our culture. Here, he describes what it means to be a peer progressive, including provide a historical context that suggests there is a long tradition of the decentralized anti-institutional progressive point of view. He goes on to look at the impact of a peer progressive point of view on our politics, our government, our media, and our corporations. A key framework of the book is the difference between the Legrand Star and the Baran network. The Legrand Star is the French railway plan where all roads lead to Paris, the 'star' at the heart of the rail system. Johnson uses 'Legrand Star' as vocabulary to describe how the priorities of a large institution can deliver a centralized solution with significant constraints. On the other end, Paul Baran is one of the founders of the digital era. His primary insight about how to harness the power of networks led to packet switching, a technology upon which the entire internet, from email to TCP/IP, is built. A Baran Web has no center, and consequently is enormously flexible in responding to a wide range of challenges. Johnson looks at different examples in the spheres of politics, government, policy, and corporate strategy: is this a Legrand Star solution or a Baran Web solution?"

I look forward to Steven's posts.

Friday, December 7, 2012

New solar cells you can wear!

http://www.extremetech.com/computing/142755-the-first-flexible-fiber-optic-solar-cell-that-can-be-woven-into-clothes

"Moving forward, the potential for flexible, woven solar cells is enormous. On the most basic, immediate level, you can imagine a baseball cap or t-shirt that can recharge your smartphone. As we move towards bionic implants and other biomedical devices, though, there is a very pressing need to develop a wearable power source — and fiber-optic solar cells could certainly be it.
These fibers also have two other intriguing properties that still need to be investigated. Due to their three-dimensional cross-section, they can absorb sunlight from any direction — unlike their conventional, 2D siblings that lose much of their efficiency when the sun sinks below a certain angle. Further, according to Pier Sazio, another member of the research team, they used the same silicon injection method to embed photodetectors inside the fiber. Sazio doesn’t extrapolate on what this might lead to, but it’s fun to speculate: A wearable computer with built-in solar charging and high-speed networking? Neat."

I think we're moving toward sustainable energy whether The Man wants it or not.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

urine powered generator!

http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/sideshow/urine-powered-generator-unveiled-international-exhibition-234718329.html

"The generator was unveiled at last week's Maker Faire in Lagos, Nigeria, by the four teens Duro-Aina Adebola, Akindele Abiola, and Faleke Oluwatoyin, all age 14, and Bello Eniola, 15.
So how exactly does the urine-powered generator work?
  • Urine is put into an electrolytic cell, which separates out the hydrogen.
  • The hydrogen goes into a water filter for purification, which then gets pushed into the gas cylinder.
  • The gas cylinder pushes hydrogen into a cylinder of liquid borax, which is used to remove the moisture from the hydrogen gas.
  • This purified hydrogen gas is pushed into the generator.
And as for delivering the fuel itself? Well, we'll leave that up to the consumer.
The Maker Faire is a popular event across the African continent, drawing thousands of participants who travel to Lagos to show their inventions and other practical creations."


well hey, there's plenty of that fuel around!

Friday, November 23, 2012

huge income variance in US causes problems

 http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/22/opinion/kristof-a-failed-experiment.html?_r=1&adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1353679201-umNpP/bDgn/Z+AIybjMkTA

"the top 1 percent of Americans now have greater collective net worth than the entire bottom 90 percent."

This is going back to the middle ages when there was just serfs and lords.  Is that what we want?  

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

replacing old phone booths with touch screens

http://news.cnet.com/8301-1023_3-57552857-93/nyc-payphones-get-revived-as-touch-screen-tablets/

"The plan is to erect a total of 250 kiosks in old phone booths throughout the five boroughs -- from the Upper East Side to Sunny Side to Brooklyn Heights. The installations should be complete in the beginning of 2013, according to GigaOM. The end-goal is for the city to eventually replace all of its 12,800 outdoor pay phones."

Information available at the touch of a screen will be paid for by advertising.  Cool!

Monday, November 19, 2012

web site to advertise open source jobs

http://www.fossjobs.net/

This is the first website exclusively for Free & Open Source jobs: We only list jobs that directly improve and involve FOSS or Open Hardware projects. The platform is open source itself.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

simple solar house works well in South Africa

http://www.aljazeera.com/video/africa/2012/11/20121118164915406219.html

"Andreas Keller, a master's student in South Africa, wanted to find an environmentally friendly way to improve people's living conditions in the country's shanty towns.

The idea he came up with is the eco-friendly i-Shack - insulated with cardboard, complete with a rainwater harvesting system and solar-powered electricity.

Thanks to a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, there are plans to build 100 more i-Shacks."

   This is grreat. Very simple, passive design that vastly improves the living conditions of shanty town dwellers. Sometimes simple things can make a huge difference.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

ideas will rule over authority; Larry Summers and V agree!


   If you've got an hour this is supposed to be a useful thought experiment on where we're going.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

mobile solar power for Sandy victims

http://gizmodo.com/5957963/this-solar-truck-is-bringing-emergency-energy-to-rockaway

"Greenpeace has had Rolling Sunlight set up since last Wednesday night, many days before the Red Cross or FEMA were on the scene. They've been able to get five solid days/nights of power, with one shorter night due to a particularly cloudy day. For such occasions they do have traditional generators they can use.
It's great to see some outside-the-box thinking applied to emergency relief. This is the only solar truck Greenpeace has in the United States, though, and it's only able to power one aid station. So, if you've been cooking up some sort of slick alternative energy generator, you have thousands of people eagerly hoping to be your first beta testers."

    This is interesting in many ways. How many such mobile solar systems would be needed to bring the bare minimum of electricity back to a storm ravaged location?  hospitals, people relying on medical equipment to stay alive, running refigerators to keep important supplies and foods from spoiling. This could be a money and life saver in the long run.  Did the Red Cross or FEMA bring this?  Nope.  Greenpeace.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

power your cell phone by burning twigs

http://www.rsvlts.com/2012/11/02/biolite-fire-powered-cell-phone-charger/

"Using only twigs for fuel, you’ll be able to cook soup in a pot on top and plug in your USB device on the side. The charge time is comparable to charging via a USB port on a laptop computer, the company cites.  The stove comes with its own stuff sack, packs down to about 8 × 5inches, and weighs 2 lbs."

Only $129!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Collaborative construction methods and tools

http://opensourceecology.org/

"The Global Village Construction Set (GVCS) is a modular, DIY, low-cost, high-performance platform that allows for the easy fabrication of the 50 different Industrial Machines that it takes to build a small, sustainable civilization with modern comforts."

http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-11-01/the-post-apocalypse-survival-machine-nerd-farm

Fifty tools aren’t a hedge against the apocalypse, although if most of civilization is wiped out, survivors with Factor e Farm plans may at least have something to work with. What Jakubowski is trying to prove is that people can live without the help of corporations. A few years ago, his attempts at utopia kept being undermined by the costs of repairing his farm equipment. So he decided to cut out the middleman and forge his own gear. “If you’re going to try to build any kind of sustainable, model community, you find out quickly that the tools you need break down and are expensive,” he says. “Without fixing this situation, you’re always left conducting business as usual.”
After Factor e Farm completes its “Global Village Construction Set,” Jakubowski expects communities around the globe to use these tools, spurring an explosion of innovation as people take his tractors and drills and build even better ones. Eventually, this virtuous circle will yield equipment rivaling that made by market-leading corporations—a tractor that is 90 percent as good as a John Deere (DE) at a fraction of the price. Showing up established corporations is critical to Jakubowski, because, he says, they spend too much time obsessing over patents, spending millions on commercials, and generally getting in the way of progress. “We are calling our work the Open Source Economy,” he says. “We can collaborate on the machines and publish everything openly. We can reduce all of this competitive waste. You have to start somewhere.”

* * * * *

   Looks good. Again, this is where someone decides that crowd sourcing is better than corporate reliance.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Bangladesh spread Internet connection one bike at a time

http://www.sfgate.com/business/technology/article/Internet-rolls-into-Bangladesh-villages-on-a-bike-3998827.php

"JHARABARSHA, Bangladesh (AP) — Amina Begum had never seen a computer until a few years ago, but now she's on Skype regularly with her husband. A woman on a bicycle brings the Internet to her.
Dozens of "Info Ladies" bike into remote Bangladeshi villages with laptops and Internet connections, helping tens of thousands of people — especially women — get everything from government services to chats with distant loved ones. It's a vital service in a country where only 5 million of 152 million people have Internet access.
The Info Ladies project, created in 2008 by local development group D.Net and other community organizations, is modeled after a program that helped make cellphones widespread in Bangladesh. It intends to enlist thousands more workers in the next few years with startup funds from the South Asian country's central bank and expatriates working around the world.
D.Net recruits the women and trains them for three months to use a computer, the Internet, a printer and a camera. It arranges bank loans for the women to buy bicycles and equipment."


I read about the cell phone ladies previously. Hardly anyone in Bangladesh had a cell phone, so women were trained how to use and maintain one, then they set up shop in a viillage and charged a small fee for people to come use the phone.  It was very successful, though now there are millions of cell phones in Bangladesh so their service is less needed. This new Internet service will no doubt go the same way, providing Internet access to remote areas until they can get hooked in themselves.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Too much trash? send it to Sweden!

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2012/10/28/163823839/sweden-wants-your-trash

"Move over Abba, Sweden has found new fame. The small Nordic country is breaking records — in waste. Sweden's program of generating energy from garbage is wildly successful, but recently its success has also generated a surprising issue: There is simply not enough trash.
Only 4 percent of Swedish garbage ends up in a landfill, according to Swedish Waste Management. Due to its efficiency in converting waste to renewable energy, Sweden has recently begun importing around 800,000 tons of trash annually from other countries.
Norway is now paying Sweden to take its garbage. Swedish sights are also set on Bulgaria, Romania and Italy as future trash exporters, as Catarina Ostlund, a senior advisor for the country's environmental protection agency, told PRI. Those countries rely heavily on landfills – a highly inefficient and environmentally degrading system."

   I saw barges from New York heading out to the ocean to dump their garbage. It would be nice to make use of that rather than just pollute our waters.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Government offers prizes for making cool things!

http://challenge.gov/

This is a nice idea. It adds to the brain pool of people working on these needs.

car for wheelchair-bound

http://www.kenguru.com/

Technical specifications:

Engine
Rear wheel belt drive, with 2 Permanent Magnet Synchronous Motors for each wheel
Performance: 2Kw/150Nm per
Motor Operating Voltage: 32V AC
Vehicle Supply Voltage 48V DC
Brushless internal Rotor
Running Gear
Independent double wishbone wheel suspensing in the front
Twin single sided swingarms in the back
Shock absorber with adjustable preload
4 hydraulic disc brakes
Electro-mechanical parking brake
Locking brake operating on the front wheels
Rimsize: 12*2, 2
Wheelsize: 12x2.2 inches
Tire size: 100/ 90-12

Chassis
Fiberglass body on steel frame
Doors: 1
Seats: Room for one driver with wheelchair
Dimensions and Weight
Wheelbase: 1550 mm
Length: 2125 mm
Width: 1620 mm
Height: 1525 mm
Empty weight without driver: 550Kg
Empty weight without driver and batteries: 350Kg
Allowed total weight: 660 Kg
Driving Performance
Maximum Speed: 45 Km/h
Climbing Ability: 20%
Range: 70-110 km

Operation
Steering via Motorcycle handlebar (via Joystick from 2012)
LED display on dashboard
Electrical door opening system controlled via remote control

Friday, October 26, 2012

Technology and Citizen Participation in the Construction of Democracy

http://t.co/syP5v057

Haven't read this yet but it looks good. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

a new way to find work and/or help - Task Rabbit!

https://www.taskrabbit.com/

"TaskRabbit connects you with friendly, reliable people right in your neighborhood who can help you get the items on your To-Do list done.
Currently Tasking in Boston, SF Bay Area, San Antonio, Austin, Chicago, Seattle,Portland, LA & OC, and New York City… more coming soon!"

Task Rabbit somehow screens workers for skill and reliability before they're allowed a referral.  This seems like a great way to use the Internet for people to find part-time work, and for people who need smaller specific tasks done. 

Here's a guy who was a task rabbit for a while, writing about his experience.


Friday, October 12, 2012

Simple things that make a big difference

http://vitals.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/10/12/14393489-workers-find-they-like-taking-a-stand-at-their-desks?lite

"Office workers who spent an hour or so a day at stand-up workstations felt more energized, productive and even happier, researchers reported on Thursday. And if they keep it up, they may help reduce the damage done by sitting at a desk all day.
Study after study has shown that sitting all day long is bad for you. People risk developing lower back problems, kidney disease, heart disease and other ills – even if they exercise outside of work."

Such a simple thing that could make a huge health difference for many people.  I hope it catches on.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Micro apartments

http://bottomline.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/10/11/14346823-nyc-micro-maximalist-turns-teeny-tiny-apartment-into-work-of-art?lite

"In New York, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has proposed that some dwellers consider super-downsizing their lives. He’s not recommending a new batch of Sherry-Smith-sized abodes -- but he comes close. Bloomberg challenged architects in July to design apartments spanning 275 to 300 square feet to help fill the city’s lack of decent and affordable homes for the Big Apple’s rising population of singles and couples without kids.
Out west, San Francisco officials are considering a tweak to that city’s building codes to allow construction of apartments as small as 220 square feet. Lawmakers there are expected to vote on the idea in November. And in London, an 8-by-10-foot flat, originally listed for $145,000, has drawn bids as high as $280,000, in part due to its proximity to the famous Harrods department store, reports CNN Money. "

I currently live in an apartment made from a garage.  It has an upstairs, though, otherwise it would be too small for me.  I move twice a year and have been finding out just what is precious enough to keep moving around and what isn't.

online employment is growing

http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/10/10/the-global-arbitrage-of-online-work/?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20121011

"Not all those young companies will survive, but the habit of hiring online seems baked in; 64 percent of respondents said at least half of their work force would be online by 2015, and 94 percent predicted that in 10 years most businesses would consist of online temps and physical full-time workers.
The range of jobs done online is increasing, too. Workers on Elance said the highest-growing job categories in 2013 would be Web programming, making mobile applications, design, marketing and content writing. oDesk respondents were heavily in those categories too, but also saw employment in customer service, secretarial work and high-level technology development."

My brother has essentially been an online worker for a long time.  This is not new or rocket science. But the growth is finally being recognized.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Should we allow computers to run the stock exchange?

http://www.cnbc.com/id/49333454

"A single mysterious computer program that placed orders — and then subsequently canceled them — made up 4 percent of all quote traffic in the U.S. stock market last week, according to the top tracker of high-frequency trading activity. The motive of the algorithm is still unclear.

The program placed orders in 25-millisecond bursts involving about 500 stocks, according to Nanex, a market data firm. The algorithm never executed a single trade, and it abruptly ended at about 10:30 a.m. ET Friday."

And they can't figure out who did this???  Is this how we want our economy run?  Computers deciding millions of trades every millisecond?  So it becomes a battle of the algorithms rather than competition based on the quality of product and management.  I don't like this.

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Military Spending Map of the World

http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/interactive/2012/apr/17/arms-spending-map-world

Check both GDP and percentage.  The US goes nuts, but I'm not sure why. What are we so afraid of?  Is all this expenditure around the world really necessary?

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Our three branches of government

http://www.politicususa.com/house-republicans-refuse-democrats-request-work.html

"Democrats Rep. Elijah Cummings and Rep. Ruben Hinojosa attempted to stop the House adjournment in order to conduct more work, but the Republicans refused to acknowledge them and instead adjourned the Pro Forma session until Tuesday, Oct 9 at 11 AM, while legislative work will not resume until November 13. In other words, House Republicans denied the Democrats’ request to do further work for the people."

I don't like to talk about politics on this blog, but this does point to something important.  Congress is a body of people who are supposed to work together to come up with legislation that will help our country.  Instead it has become so polarized between the two political parties that the good of the country has taken a back seat to the good of the party of each legislator.  They should be called "combatants" rather than "legislators" until they can start once again working together.  Congress does not work without compromise.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Quebec student movement takes on more than tuition hikes

http://o.canada.com/2012/10/04/the-maple-spring-is-important-to-all-canadians-not-just-quebec/

"CLASSE is organized along principles of direct democracy. Every decision is made by the members, in general assemblies where each student has the right to debate and vote on all actions and policies.
I cannot imagine that students would have remained on strike for six months, braving repression and the threat of losing their semester, if the decision to strike had been made by elected representatives, rather than decided each week by the students themselves.
If there is one message I hope people take away, it is that the success of Quebec’s movement is largely attributable to its democratic character. With this tour I do not want to spread our movement so much as our democratic ideals. If students across the country insist on holding real general assemblies, where they are empowered to collectively make decisions on issues that affect their lives, they can build their own movements, which fight for their own priorities.
And why stop with students? Democratic control over our everyday affairs can be extended elsewhere, to our workplaces and neighbourhoods."

The students see that their tuition hike is a symptom of deeper problems within society. And the way they propose fixing those problems is direct action by the people.  But not through organizing a hierarchical structure. Rather, through constant direct communication between all participants.  Everyone involved gets a say, not just a role.

As I've written before, there are problems with this organizational structure. But on the other hand, it is very empowering for those involved.  I continue to believe that non-hierarchical organizational structures are the way to go, but there needs to be tweeking based on the size of the group and the complexity of the goals.  Meanwhile, I'm excited!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

History is not kept well on the Internet

http://www.salon.com/2012/09/20/history_as_recorded_on_twitter_is_vanishing/

"A significant proportion of the websites that this social media [around the Arab Spring] points to has disappeared. And the same pattern occurs for other culturally significant events, such as the the H1N1 virus outbreak, Michael Jackson’s death and the Syrian uprising. In other words, our history, as recorded by social media, is slowly leaking away.
The researchers found that 27 percent of content linked to two years ago via social media has since disappeared. A Twitter history of the Arab Spring now leads to a lot of long-gone Web pages."

This is sad.  When Anonymous began protesting Scientology in 2008, I went on their web site and posted that "you need to have an archivist!"  Fortunately, quite a bit of that fleeting history, such as the call to arms on 4chan.org, were captured.  But in many cases people don't think about the historical nature of what they are doing, and don't even consider preserving the content of their actions.

I'm not sure what the solution is, except maybe for some Great Library somewhere to capture everything so the important stuff can be gleaned later. You listening, NSA?

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Monday, September 10, 2012

Turning the net into a battleground

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/10/opinion/a-new-kind-of-warfare.html?_r=1&smid=tw-share

"The latest step occurred last month when the United States sent out bids for technologies 'to destroy, deny, degrade, disrupt, corrupt or usurp' an adversary’s attempt to use cyberspace for advantage. The Air Force asked for proposals to plan for and manage cyberwarfare, including the ability to launch superfast computer attacks and withstand retaliation."

I have an idea. Why don't we instead work on making the Internet safer and more stable, instead of running headlong into a pissing match over who can destroy the biggest part of the net?

Friday, September 7, 2012

Our big oil daddy is running dry

http://blogs.aljazeera.com/blog/middle-east/saudis-may-not-have-oil-export-2030

"Saudi Arabia could be an oil Importer by 2030 - Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest oil producer (11.1mbpd) and exporter (7.7mbpd)," Rehman wrote.

It also consumes 25% of its production. Energy consumption per capita exceeds that of most industrial nations.
Oil and its derivatives account for 50% cent of Saudi's electricity production, used mostly (>50%) for residential use. Peak power demand is growing by 8%/yr. Our analysis shows that if nothing changes Saudi may have no available oil for export by 2030."

Well, where are we going to get our oil then?  We currently import about 1.5 million barrels of Saudi oil per day [http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/17/business/energy-environment/us-reliance-on-saudi-oil-is-growing-again.html?pagewanted=all].  Where will we find that much oil elsewhere?

Or, perhaps we could ween ourselves off oil and find energy elsewhere?  Currently South Dakota gets 22% of its energy from wind power, and there's plenty more potential than that.  We may as well start thinking about this now rather than wait for 2029.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Using local eminent domain to deal with foreclosures?

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/01/eminent-domain-mortgages_n_1836710.html

"Gluckstern had an interesting idea: Authorities would seize home loans -- crucially, not the properties themselves -- that fit a defined set of characteristics: underwater, held in private trusts and still current, meaning that homeowners were still making monthly mortgage payments. The local government would then forgive all of the debt in excess of what the home was worth and help homeowners refinance at a new, lower value.
The pension and institutional investment funds that actually own these loans would get paid fair market value. Mortgage Resolution Partners would pocket a $4,500 fee per loan for fronting the money to make the purchase. Homeowners would gain a new incentive to invest in repairs and upgrades to their homes, and gain hundreds of dollars each month to spend on the local economy.
The plan could be customized to fit the needs of the local community, Gluckstern said."

I'm not sure what to think of this.  It's a bold plan.  It may be a misuse of eminent domain.  But on the other hand, it may be the only hope many homeowners have for saving their homes.  The federal government quickly bailed out the very banks that caused the problem in the first place, but not much has been done for the homeowner victims of others' greed.  So I look forward to seeing how this pans out.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Youth on the march for a new future

http://truth-out.org/articles/item/11040-the-quebec-student-protest-movement-and-the-power-of-the-radical-imagination

"From Paris, Athens, and London to Montreal and New York City, young people are challenging the current repressive historical conjuncture by rejecting its dominant premises and practices. They are fighting to create a future inclusive of their dreams as the principles of justice and equality become key elements of a radicalized democratic and social project. At stake in their efforts is not only a protest against tuition hikes, austerity measures, joblessness, and deep cuts in public spending, but also the awakening of a revolutionary ideal in the service of a new society. In short, youth have dared to call for a different world and, in doing so, have exhibited great courage in taking up a wager about the future made from the standpoint of an embattled present. To understand the shared concerns of the youthful protesters and the global nature of the forces they are fighting, it is crucial to situate these diverse student protests within a broader analysis of global capital and the changing nature of its assaults on young people."

"Individual freedom without robust communities is simply code for a stripped-down notion of humanity as a pool of self-interested automatons, lacking any sense of moral accountability, social responsibility, or civic courage. Within the vocabulary of neoliberalism, too many young people are removed from the discourse of community and collective freedom, pushed to the margins of society and forced to inhabit zones of terminal uncertainty, despair, and exclusion."

"The first lesson to be learned from striking students was that the protests were about much more than fee structures. Yet, the government seemed unwilling to assimilate this pedagogical insight, and its heavy-handedness touched a nerve in the larger social body of Quebec, activating new forms of dissent and solidarity."


This is a long, article describing why people feel our ecnomic and perhaps cultural system are failing.   Students started a boycott to protest tuition hikes. But the government's draconian reaction to their fears of great student debt quickly became a public collective effort to express the problems pervading all of society.  This reminds me of when we protested Scientology.  I always felt that the most important result of protesting in front of their "churches" was that it would give them an opportunity to show their true colors. It worked in that case and it worked, perhaps not on purpose, in Quebec.

If you protest the Girl Scouts, chances are they'll come out and give you cookies and lemonade. If you protest a cult or a government bent on crushing opposition, you will get a different result.  Do you want to know if you have a kind, peaceful government?  Try protesting something they're doing wrong and see how they react.  Occupy Wall Street tried this, and we saw the swift iron fist come down on the movement.  So perhaps the government's reaction was proof of what OWS was claiming.

"Moreover, the students organized around an idea—simply that tuition hikes need to be addressed within the suffering and injustices produced by neoliberal austerity measures—which proved revolutionary in its scope, flexible in its ability to connect to other forms of oppression, and decisive in mobilizing other students and the public at large."

The author provides us an outline of how the students managed to get 1/2 million people onto the streets after initially just complaining about tuition hikes. Obviously, there was more to their complaint, and it struck a chord among many in society.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Electric motorcycles are growing up

http://www.wired.com/reviews/2012/08/brammo-empulse-r/

"And in another electric motorcycle first, the Empulse is practical for highway use too. It pulled strongly to an indicated 105 mph tested top speed and, over a route that included suburban and rural surface streets, plus a stretch of 55 mph divided highway where riding speeds averaged 70 mph, we saw a realistic range of 75 miles. That included no attempts whatsoever at maximizing efficiency other than frequently neglected efforts to keep it in that 2,000 rpm-wide range. That matches Brammo’s claimed 77-mile combined range using the SAE Test for Electric Motorcycles. Drop that average speed to a city-like 19 mph (which includes frequent stops) and that test delivers 121 miles. Riding the Empulse fast up a mountain while dragging knee and using a lot of full throttle returns a practical 50 miles of fun."

Not quite there yet because of how long it takes to recharge, but still, this is great news.  Most people, even in LA, could easily use one of these to get to work and back. Charge while in your tired cubicle, race home.  Pennies a day for juice.

Monday, July 16, 2012

The government isn't helping, so here we go

http://blogs.aljazeera.com/blog/europe/crisis-hit-spaniards-revive-community-spirit

"The volunteers don't care about motives. Their concern is getting food to the hungry. It's an unexpected result of the economic crisis in a part of the world regarded as the land of plenty.
For many it still is, of course, but more and more people here are falling through the welfare net. Cash strapped governments, like the Spanish, are cutting back drastically."

http://www.thenation.com/blog/168895/man-sets-himself-fire-during-tel-aviv-march-triggering-more-protests#

"On Saturday evening, an estimated 10,000 people took to the streets of Tel Aviv to mark the first anniversary of J14, a movement centred around social justice and against inequality and the high cost of housing in Israel.
The march ended on Kaplan Street where a man in his 50s first distributed copies of a typed letter before pouring gasoline over his body and lighting himself on fire."

More and more people are getting disgusted with the government and taking things into their own hands.  This is unfortunate because government can be much more efficient in many things than volunteerism or self-sacrifice.  There is always a tension between paying taxes to get a service versus the service wasting tax dollars.  It takes constant observation and adjustment to make sure government runs correctly. But this is the price we must pay to have an efficient society.

But until efficient government can be re-established, it's up to us.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Biggest drought in US history

http://www.theatlanticwire.com/national/2012/07/us-declares-largest-natural-disaster-area-ever-due-drought/54479/

"The blistering summer and ongoing drought conditions have the prompted the U.S. Agriculture Department to declare a federal disaster area in more than 1,000 counties covering 26 states. That's almost one-third of all the counties in the United States, making it the largest distaster declaration ever made by the USDA. "

Global warming, which I assume you agree is happening now, is going to drastically change the weather almost everywhere. And strange consequences will arise. Here in the Black Hills, for example, the heat stress on the pine trees gives rise to the pine beetle.  The pine beetle lives under the bark, so it's difficult to eradicate.  It kills the host tree before moving on with its new horde of children.

There's no way to turn back the clock, so the new order of the day is adjustment.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Look to Finland for the answers to tough social questions

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/society-the-only-way-is-finland-7778796.html

"Its students are also the best in the West, achieving extraordinarily high scores in a triennial survey for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). According to Anu Partanen, a Finnish journalist writing in The Atlantic: 'Decades ago, when the Finnish school system was badly in need of reform, the goal of the programme that Finland instituted, resulting in so much success today, was never excellence. It was equity.'"

Finland is no shangrila.  The weather is cold. The people are cold to strangers.  There's not a lot of diversity.  But still, you have to admit, they are enviably good at social systems.  It's time to learn from the experts.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Cameroon helping rural areas with Technology

http://indigotrust.wordpress.com/2012/07/09/using-tech-to-stimulate-social-change-in-cameroon/

"They are also mobilizing citizen journalists to foster accountability in the management of Cameroon’s water system though ICT through mapping and citizen reporting of water point problems and delivering reports to local authorities and NGOs to address these problems.  A further project aims to digitise Cameroonian laws, create videos which help explain these laws in layman terms, provide online legal advice and host discussion forums.  They also run a Cyber Safety Programme, net squared and training in ICT skills for University drop outs."

These all look like great ideas for empowering local rural communities.  I look forward to hearing about their progress.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Professors produce free text books for college! Free classes!

http://chronicle.com/blogs/wiredcampus/professors-put-textbooks-online-to-reduce-costs-for-students/37677

"The rising cost of textbooks—along with the rise of easy-to-use publishing tools online—has helped drive the popularity of open-source materials and professors’ taking a do-it-yourself approach to textbook publishing. Here are three professors who wrote their own textbooks and are distributing them free."

Now how come I never had a professor like that?  My books were generally $50 to $100, and at the end of the semester I could sell them for maybe $10 to $20.  What a ripoff.  But these professors have seen the plight of their students and are trying to help where the universities themselves are not.

http://soleralearning.blogspot.com/

Here's a nice person who has made a list of university classes you can take for free.

So, as tuition costs increase beyond the reach of most people, some are fighting back.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

maybe-we-dont-know-as-much-as-we-think about GM foods

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-201_162-57459357/gm-grass-linked-to-texas-cattle-deaths/

"Preliminary tests revealed the Tifton 85 grass, which has been here for years, had suddenly started producing cyanide gas, poisoning the cattle.
'Coming off the drought that we had the last two years ... we're concerned it was a combination of events that led us to this,' Dr. Gary Warner, an Elgin veterinarian and cattle specialist who conducted the 15 necropsies, told Kelly.
What is more worrisome: Other farmers have tested their Tifton 85 grass, and several in Bastrop County have found their fields are also toxic with cyanide. However, no other cattle have died."

So... maybe we should go a little slower on this genetic modification of our foods?  If one variety decides to start pumping out poison after a while, that's not a good sign.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Occupy Our Homes saves foreclosures

http://www.thenation.com/blog/168367/occupy-our-homes-saves-another-family-foreclosure

"The group also aided a Detroit husband and wife who spent months worrying they could be evicted from their home of twenty-two years. The couple received news they would be permitted to stay after an aggressive campaign that was led by members of Moratorium Now, Occupy Detroit and Homes Before Banks and included the family’s supporters blocking the contractor from placing the dumpster.
 
Additionally, Occupy Atlanta prevented the eviction of a family when two dozen protesters encamped on the family’s lawn, and Occupy Our Homes delayed another foreclosure in Rochester, as did Occupy Cleveland in November."

Why do banks so aggressively foreclose?  It turns them into homeowners, which is not how this is supposed to work. Then the banks are responsible for upkeep.  why not RENT the home to the previous homeowners if nothing else?  Or renegotiate a tad to at least save some mortgages.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Buy direct, cut out the middleman, save $

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2012/06/2012611102126662269.html

"Athens, Greece - When an economy shrinks, prices are meant to go down in response to falling demand. This has not happened in Greece - at least not yet. While the Greek economy shrank by an average of five per cent a year between 2009 and 2011, consumer prices rose by an average 3.7 per cent a year. The combination of falling revenues and rising prices has led to an explosive political mix."
"The potato movement is giving renewed impetus to two institutions that could have been expected to channel market economics in hard times but didn't. The first, farmers' cooperatives, were set up in the 1980s to give producers the clout to compete with wholesalers. 'Cooperatives have the ability to sweep wholesalers aside, but they don't sell any cheaper,' Kamenidis said. 'They mark up produce even more.'
Farmers' markets, set up throughout Greece to help producers compete with retailers, also reportedly fall prey to the same greed. "Producers have succumbed to the logic of the market. They are trying to gouge consumers in the same way as middlemen," Ilias Tsolakidis, who created the Pieria group in Katerini, told Al Jazeera."

So the idea is for farmers to sell directly to consumers. This idea is actually older than our current system, of course.  Or you just grow your own food, which is time consuming but even better.  If the farmers get greedy, find a work-around for that too.  Way to go Greece!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

old quote on a modern problem

"So long as all the increased wealth which modern progress brings goes but to build up great fortunes, to increase luxury and make sharper the contrast between the House of Have and the House of Want, progress is not real and cannot be permanent." [Henry George, 1876]

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Is the US making the same mistake as the Soviet Union?

http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2012/03/trading_jobs_for_military_base.html

"I rest my case. America systematically subordinates its economic interests to achieve geopolitical objectives. What it should do is give back the military bases and go for the exports, and for greatly increased domestic production."

http://www.rt.com/news/us-heads-ussr-way-prestowitz-080/

"The US is suffering declining economic competiveness: we have a big trade deficit, we are heavily in debt to China and to the rest of the world. Our major source of international power is not economic, it's military. We are actually a lot like the former Soviet Union: the USSR didn't collapse because it lacked military strength, it collapsed because it lacked economic strength. The same things are now happening to the US"

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/06/gop-boost-pentagon-budget-domestic-slashed_n_891205.html

"As it considers steep cuts to domestic programs in an effort to slash the deficit, the House is set to consider a defense spending bill on Wednesday that increases the Pentagon's budget by $17 billion."

I was looking for a recent article where the Republicans in the House wanted to increase defense spending even more than the Pentagon wanted!  Consider what a huge percentage of our budget goes to the military already, more than all other militaries combined.  What are we doing?

Ronald Reagan lovers argue that Reagan destroyed the Soviet Union by making them overspend on their military. Is that what we are doing now?  Why are our overseas military alliances worth more than shoring up our own economy?  I see no rational reason for this whatsoever.


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Making higher education unaffordable

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/americas/2012/05/201252221146903477.html

http://www.sacbee.com/2012/05/17/4496704/uc-students-seek-to-bar-tuition.html

Over 200 demonstrations against tuition hikes in Montreal.  Devastating cuts in state funding to schools in California.  This is not the way to help the economy or a country's citizens.  One of the biggest economic booms in the U.S. came after World War II when returning soldiers took advantage of free college education.  That uptick in education jolted our society into high gear and produced the notion that each generation in the U.S. should be better off than the previous.  Alas, it was only a short dream.

While congress is trying to give the Pentagon more money than they are asking for, it behooves us to consider why we are gutting our educational system at the same time.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Pimply-faced kids now run the world

http://www.canada.com/technology/Christopher+Doyon+brains+behind+Anonymous/6612381/story.html

"It’s the pimply-faced kid in the basement who controls the whole game, and Bradley Manning proved that.  The fact he had the 250,000 cables that were released effectively cut the power of the U.S. State Department in half. The Afghan war diaries and the Iran war diaries effectively cut the political clout of the U.S. Department of Defence in half. All because of one guy who had enough balls to slip a CD in an envelope and mail it to somebody."

He's got a point there.  Pimply-faced kids have always had keys to important things, though.  The difference now is that with the click of a button that kid can spread information around the world with the keys he has.

Friday, May 11, 2012

So... free speech is too expensive?

http://usnews.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/05/11/11660207-cities-occupy-protests-cost-taxpayers-millions?lite

"Los Angeles officials say the costs of police overtime and cleaning up local parks due to the Occupy protests have nearly doubled to $5 million, as cities across the country continue to tally the protests’ price tag."

A couple of things. First, when did the cost of free speech become a problem?  I'm under a Permanent Injunction in Florida because, for one reason, a judge there thought it was getting too expensive for the county to allow us to protest.

Second, why do cities constantly overspend on Occupy?  When I visited Denver there were up to 20 cops constantly surrounding the Occupy encampment there. NOTHING was going on.  It was just a huge over-reaction by the city to some protester-campers.   In the perhaps 12 hours I was there the city could have easily just had one cop there for most of that time (some of it was a march through city streets, so I can see the need there).

So the cities overspend, then whine that the protests are costing them too much.  Ridiculous.


Thursday, May 10, 2012

solar hydrogen production; this could be big

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120509123900.htm

"To make these devices more widely available, Nocera replaced the platinum catalyst that produces hydrogen gas with a less-expensive nickel-molybdenum-zinc compound. On the other side of the leaf, a cobalt film generates oxygen gas. Nocera notes that all of these materials are abundant on Earth, unlike the rare and expensive platinum, noble metal oxides and semiconducting materials others have used."

Hydrogen and oxygen are what propel the space shuttle into orbit.  It's a great clean fuel.  If this really is possible cheaply enough it's a game changer for sure.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

companies stand up for our rights?

http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2012/05/twitter-hits-back-at-court/

"That’s exactly what Twitter did when it filed a surprisingly feisty motion (.pdf) this week in New York City Criminal Court to quash a court order demanding that it hand over information to law enforcement about one of its account holders — an activist who participated in the Occupy Wall Street protests — as well as tweets that he allegedly posted to the account over a three-month period. The company stepped in with the motion after the account holder lost his own bid to quash the order.
In its motion to quash, Twitter pointed out to the judge that the order would essentially force the company to break the law by handing over data without a warrant. Twitter also took issue with the judge’s ruling that the account holder had no right to fight the order on his own behalf.
The company further dinged prosecutors by pointing out that they could have saved everyone the trouble of dealing with this in court if they had simply printed or downloaded the publicly available tweets themselves.
'To the extent the desired content is publicly available, the District Attorney could presumably have an investigator print or download it without further burdening Twitter or the Court,' Twitter wrote in its motion."

This is nice to see.  Twitter stands against the over-reach of our justice system.  They didn't have to do that. But perhaps they also see the danger when our justice system goes haywire, that it could eventually go after them as a company as well.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

U.S. police getting more dangerous?

http://truth-out.org/news/item/8912-new-police-strategy-in-new-york-sexual-assault-against-peaceful-protestors

"Many of these arrests are carried out in such a way to guarantee physical injury. The tone was set on that first night of March 17, when my friend Eileen’s wrists were broken; others suffered broken fingers, concussions, and broken ribs. Again, this was on a night where OWS actions were confined to sitting in a park, playing music, raising one or two tents, and marching down the street. To give a sense of the level of violence protestors were subjected to, during the march north to Union Square, we saw the first major incident of window-breaking in New York. The window in question was broken not by protestors, but by police—using a protestor’s head. The victim in this case was a street medic named José (owing to the likelihood of physical assault and injuries from police, OWSers in New York as elsewhere have come to carry out even the most peaceful protests accompanied by medics trained in basic first aid.) He offered no resistance.
Here is a video of the incident. The window-breaking begins at 3:45."

My experiences with protests have not included such police activity.  We've had some cops making arbitrary decisions against us.  One time the police parked a paddy wagon right next to our protest.  I've always wondered which side they were planning to put in there.  But I've never seen such constant physical abuse by police as is happening now.  I don't understand it, unless it's just a new militarization of the police since 9/11.  Also, I think it could be a response to Black Bloc tactics, such as happened in the Battle in Seattle.  The police just assume protest = vandalism (thanks Black Bloc!).

UPDATE:

Here's a few more bizarre police actions from today's news:

http://truth-out.org/news/item/8947-ny-activists-ask-ag-how-can-we-help

"In a surreal turn of events, I counted 36 police officer, 8 of them on motorcycles, all there to contain and supervise roughly 50 civilians offering their help to law enforcement. 'Why the resistance?' the civilians implored.'“We’re offering assistance!'"

http://www.alternet.org/story/155292/dozens_of_police_evict_georgia_family_at_gunpoint_at_3am?page=2

"Four generations of a Georgia family were evicted at gunpoint by dozens of sheriffs and deputies at 3am last week in an Atlanta suburb. The eyebrow-raising eviction, a foreclosure action, might have been another anonymous descent into poverty were it not for Occupy Atlanta activists who tried to help the family stay in Christine Frazer’s home of 18 years."


I don't get it. I really don't get it.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

methane hydrates; miracle fuel?

http://usnews.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/05/05/11522433-us-claims-unprecedented-success-in-test-for-new-fuel-source?lite

"
Those crystals, known as methane hydrates, contain natural gas but so far releasing that fuel has been an expensive proposition.
The drilling has its environmental critics, but there’s also a climate bonus: The technique requires injecting carbon dioxide into the ground, thereby creating a new way to remove the warming gas from the atmosphere. 
'You're storing the CO2, and also liberating the natural gas,' Christopher Smith, the Energy Department's oil and natural gas deputy assistant secretary, told msnbc.com. 'It's kind of a two-for-one.'"

I've never heard of this before. It sounds better than natural gas actually, which would be one step ahead at any rate.  Gotta keep an eye on this.

46% cut in education?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J7OBLToMNas

Our country is doomed if we cut education like this.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Mobiile banking takes off in poorer countries

http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2012/04/innovations_in_mobile_banking.html

"Poor countries are jumping ahead of rich ones by building a 21st century infrastructure (because they have little legacy infrastructure to begin with). For example, India has leapfrogged from no land-line telephones to the latest in wireless telephony. That revolution, in turn, is causing India to leapfrog brick-and-mortar banking to wireless banking for the masses. We see similar patterns in other poor countries as well. Mobile money transfer in Africa, M-Pesa, is a case in point. Counterintuitive as it may seem, poor countries may be ahead of rich countries in mobile banking."

This is pretty cool. Poorer countries didn't have established banks that would fight to stay in business, so there was no pushback on developing mobile banking.  Maybe we'll get such a system some day.

Hard Power vs. Soft Power

Soft Power, by Joseph S. Nye, Jr. is a good book on the necessity for a government to use both hard (military or police) and soft (diplomacy, working together, etc.) power.  His main goal is to show how important soft power is in intergovernmental affairs.  It's a good book.  Here's an interesting comparison on how different countries apportion hard and soft power in 2001-2;

Country              Public Diplomacy          Defense
U.S.                       $1.12 billion              $347.9 billion
France                    $1.05 billion              $33.6 billion
Great Britain           $1.00 billion              $38.4 billion
Germany                $218 million              $27.5 billion
Japan                     $210 million              $40.3 billion

As can be seen, every country attempts to use both.  Some rely more heavily on hard power than others.  It's an important thing to keep in mind when considering political moves.


Thursday, May 3, 2012

new approach to school discipline

http://boingboing.net/2012/05/03/tolerance-and-understanding-so.html

"
Rule No. 1: Take nothing a raging kid says personally. Really. Act like a duck: let the words roll off your back like drops of water.
Rule No. 2: Don’t mirror the kid’s behavior. Take a deep breath. Wait for the storm to pass, and then ask something along the lines of: 'Are you okay? Did something happen to you that’s bothering you? Do you want to talk about it?'"

I drive a school bus. Last year I had a route with kids I never did figure out how to keep settled in their seats.  They'd scream, hit each other, crawl under the seats.  Of course, on a bus you don't have much time for discipline.  But the zero tolerance idea that every infraction demands a response is ridiculous.  Kids are kids, for one thing. They're supposed to be in school to learn about life.  Acting socially is part of that learning that should be taught.  Just responding with punishment is not teaching.

I have no solution to kids who act up, but at least in school this approach has time to work.  I hope it gets tried and tested many places.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Iceland; fixing their economy their own way

http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/gdp/2012/04/we-can-learn-icelands-crash-%E2%80%93-and-their-recovery

"Yet if Iceland got it all wrong in the lead-up to the October 2008 banking collapse, the country (which still has its own currency) has since done much that is interesting and positive, ignoring or going against the counsel of orthodox economists:
  • Iceland nationalised the domestic parts of its banks, and allowed the non-domestic parts to go bankrupt
  • Iceland looked after its own citizens first, and refused to be bullied by the UK and the Netherlands demanding preferential treatment for non-existent ‘loans’ at usurious rates of interest
  • Iceland’s President responded to popular dissatisfaction with proposed deals with the UK and the Netherlands, by allowing a democratic vote – which confirmed overwhelming opposition
  • Iceland imposed capital controls to stop hot money flows into or out of the country.
  • It gave special protection to home-owners threatened by banks foreclosing.




    Wow, they put their own people ahead of corporations?  I thought corporations WERE people?  See?  It pays to keep an eye on Iceland's economy.

     

Collective intelligence and poverty

http://blogs.worldbank.org/ic4d/collective-intelligence-and-poverty

"Information and Communication Technologies potentially offer a powerful means of connecting global knowledge, expertise and resources to deal with problems of poverty. Community mapping of slum environments can then allow architects and urban planners from around the world to collaborate on plans to improve the physical spaces that constitute slums, in active dialogue with local residents. A good example is the case of ArcBazar.com that helped connect 70 architects from around the world to make competitive submissions for redeveloping an abandoned school area in Somerville Massachusetts. The local residents selected the best design. Platforms like ArcBazar could provide a low-cost alternative for obtaining architectural design services, and helping poor communities to rapidly develop and improve their physical environments. I recently spoke with ArcBazar’s CEO Dr.Imdat As, who is keen to see how architects could also collaborate, rather than merely compete, to deal with the spatial dimensions of urban poverty and decay. "


An interesting article on how working together is being accomplished over the Internet.  This type of crowdsourcing was not possible before.  I do disagree, though, that " Leadership is the most important ingredient of success."  I believe that this new method of working together does not require much leadership.  See my other blog, www.internetcollectiveaction.org.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

So, collaborative learning might not be the way to go

http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/1127/2129

"In learning contexts, students do report experiencing a range of emotions, and frustration is one of the negative emotions they deal with (Do & Schallert, 2004; Pekrun, Goetz, Titz, & Perry, 2002). Despite the advantages reported in literature about collaborative learning methodologies in terms of social and psychological benefits (Panitz, 2001; Roberts, 2005), students engaged in collaborative learning activities can feel a high level of frustration."

I like the idea of learning how to work in a collaborative way, but not also while your own grades are dependent on it.  You can't control how much others put into a project, yet you get graded for the group effort.  Not the way to go.

Friday, April 13, 2012

US drought map

http://www.usatoday.com/weather/drought/story/2012-04-11/mild-winter-expands-usa-drought/54225018/1

"A mostly dry, mild winter has put nearly 61% of the lower 48 states in "abnormally dry" or drought conditions, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, a weekly federal tracking of drought. That's the highest percentage of dry or drought conditions since September 2007, when 61.5% of the country was listed in those categories."

The Dust Bowl days are an important reminder that we cannot rely on Mother Nature to give us consistent water supplies.  And the global warming changes usual weather patterns as well.  We need to plan ahead for what to do when the needed moisture is no longer reliable.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Privatization is often not a good idea

http://www.tampabay.com/news/let-life-force-be-a-lesson-on-risks-of-privatization/1224057

"There is nothing inherently wrong with private-public partnerships. And there's certainly nothing wrong with turning a profit.
But there is something seriously wrong with turning over core services to companies that do not always have the public's best interests in mind."

This is a good opinion piece on why it is often not wise to transfer some job that government is doing and turning it over to for-profit companies.The profit motive can produce cost-cutting and risk-taking in order to build the profit for investors. In the case in the article, that meant that students were drained of a better education so capitalists could garner more money for themselves.  A word to the wise.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Electric bikes, electric motorcycles

http://www.transamericanelectricbiketour.com/our-electric-bicycles/

"The bicycles are powered with a 250-watt motor and a 36V10Ah lithium battery, which can offer up to 40 miles on a single charge. Since we’re going to be covering about 80 miles per day on average, we also are each taking a spare battery to extend our range.
All of the gear and equipment is transported on two cargo trailers provided by Burley. They offer excellent capacity and are very easy and simple to tow with an electric bicycle."

http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-electric-motorcycle-20120317,0,7364322.story

"Electric motorcycles, though still a rarity on the nation's byways, have been available for years. But with new models coming out that can go freeway speeds and travel more than 100 miles on a single charge, electric motorcycles could be poised to move beyond novelty status.

Also helping to boost their prospects — the high cost of gasoline."

If you could afford it, the motorcycle is the way to go.  You can go anywhere within its range and leave your gas-guzzling car or truck at home.  I'm going to the Sturgis Rally this year and see how many electric motorcycles are running around.  I've been disappointed that the diesel motorcycle has not been produced for the public yet.  It gets 100 mpg.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The 99% Spring

http://the99spring.com/about/

"From April 9-15 we will gather across America, 100,000 strong, in homes, places of worship, campuses and the streets to join together in the work of reclaiming our country. We will organize trainings to:
  1. Tell the story of our economy: how we got here, who’s responsible, what a different future could look like, and what we can do about it
  2. Learn the history of non-violent direct action, and
  3. Get into action on our own campaigns to win change.
This spring we rise! We will reshape our country with our own hands and feet, bodies and hearts. We will take non-violent action in the spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Gandhi to forge a new destiny one block, one neighborhood, one city, one state at a time."

Don Tapscott; the collaborative world has arrived

http://rabble.ca/blogs/bloggers/don-tapscott/2012/04/brace-yourself-collaborative-world-courtesy-internet

"But don’t count on governments or most of our current business and institutional leaders to be the architects of change. Leaders of old paradigms have the greatest difficulty embracing the new. And vested interests will fight against change. It’s up to us.
The stakes are very high. As Anthony D. Williams and I describe in Macrowikinomics, people everywhere have nothing less than an historic choice: empower ourselves to achieve change and collaborate to find new solutions for our connected planet; or risk economic and social paralysis or even collapse. It’s a question of stagnation versus renewal. Atrophy versus renaissance. Peril versus promise.
Fortunately, for the first time in history, people everywhere can participate fully in creating a sustainable future. We are now building the collective intelligence to rethink many industries and sectors of society around the principles of collaboration."

 I like Don Tapscott.  But he missed Anonymous going after Scientology, well before Tunisia... www.lisamcpherson.org/pc.htm

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Saudi desert turning green, at least for a while

http://digg.com/newsbar/topnews/nasa_nasa_sees_fields_of_green_spring_up_in_saudi_arabia

"The green fields that dot the desert draw on water that in part was trapped during the last Ice Age. In addition to rainwater that fell over several hundred thousand years, this fossil water filled aquifers that are now buried deep under the desert's shifting sands.

Saudi Arabia reaches these underground rivers and lakes by drilling through the desert floor, directly irrigating the fields with a circular sprinkler system. This technique is called center-pivot irrigation.

Because rainfall in this area is now only a few centimeters (about one inch) each year, water here is a non-renewable resource. Although no one knows how much water is beneath the desert, hydrologists estimate it will only be economical to pump water for about 50 years."

I'm not so sure this is a good idea considering the whole project will fizzle once the water supply shrivels.  Is this the best use of that water?

Monday, April 2, 2012

One person changing the landscape

http://www.treehugger.com/natural-sciences/man-single-handedly-plants-entire-forest.html

"A little over 30 years ago, a teenager named Jadav "Molai" Payeng began burying seeds along a barren sandbar near his birthplace in northern India's Assam region to grow a refuge for wildlife. Not long after, he decided to dedicate his life to this endeavor, so he moved to the site where he could work full-time creating a lush new forest ecosystem. Incredibly, the spot today hosts a sprawling 1,360 acre of jungle that Payeng planted single-handedly."

One person can make a difference.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

police state

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/31/drug-search-trekies-stopped-searched-illinois_n_1364087.html

When we saw the Huff video in our office, we just laughed," Rekowski says. "Not because it wasn't outrageous. But because it's the kind of thing we see all the time. The stop for a so-called 'inappropriate lane change,' the games they play in the questioning, the claims about nervousness or inappropriate behavior that can't really be contradicted. It's all routine."
According to Koester, the defense attorney in private practice, "The dog alert that happens off-camera isn't unusual either. You see that all the time."
Koester and Rekowski say the Huff stop has all the markings of a forfeiture fishing expedition. "You see where he asks if [Huff] is carrying large amounts of U.S. currency," Rekowski says. "It's pretty clear what they're after. These kinds of cases put my kids through college." He laughs, then adds, "I'm only half joking."

Learning from the past; saves lives 1000 years later

http://articles.latimes.com/2012/mar/11/opinion/la-oe-holguin-veras-tsunami-20120311

"Instead of taking refuge on the closest hill, the one with the shrine, they took the time to get to high ground farther away. From the safety of their vantage point they saw two tsunami waves colliding at the hill with the shrine, as they did long ago. Tragically, not everyone made the right choice; I was told of at least one person who died.
Later, I saw the shrine — a simple clearing by the side of a hillside road, with stone tablets and roughly made figures — and I heard the old story and the new one again: A community remembered what it had been told and did the right thing."

A lesson from Japan to heed the wisdom of our elders.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Learn web software online free!

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/28/technology/for-an-edge-on-the-internet-computer-code-gains-a-following.html?_r=2&src=me&ref=general

"After two free computer science classes offered online by Stanford attracted more than 100,000 students, one of the instructors started a company called Udacity to offer similar free lessons. Treehouse, a site that promises to teach Web design, picked up financing from Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn, and other notable early investors...

The sites and services catering to the learn-to-program market number in the dozens and have names like Code Racer, Women Who Code, Rails for Zombies and CoderDojo. But at the center of the recent frenzy in this field is Codecademy, a start-up based in New York that walks site visitors through interactive lessons in various computing and Web languages, like JavaScript, and shows them how to write simple commands."

I know html pretty well and use Microsoft Expressions for most of my programming.  But there's a lot more to learn, and now it's free!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Traffic jams waste tons of fuel

http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/energy/story/2012-03-25/wasted-fuel-report/53776164/1?csp=34money&utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter&dlvrit=110940

"Traffic congestion costs drivers more than $100 billion annually in wasted fuel and lost time, according to the report released Friday.
The report — released in support of President Obama's plan to upgrade and expand America's transportation infrastructure in fiscal year 2013 — comes as Republican presidential candidates criticize Obama for high gasoline prices and his administration and the Senate wrestles with House Republicans over a new transportation bill."

 One of the more important findings of this report is that "For 90% of Americans, the report says, transportation costs absorb $1 of every $7 of income."  that's quite a bit of money. I'd like to see what Londoners or Parisians pay as comparison.  Fortunately, "During the past 15 years, there was a sharp increase in transit system ridership from nearly 8 billion in 1996 to 10.4 billion in 2011."  I remember the mass transit system in phoenix was fought as being a complete waste, yet today it is widely used and saves congestion (http://www.valleymetro.org/valleymetro/ridership_reports/).

  

Saturday, March 24, 2012

We waste lives and resources by having the world's largest prison population

http://globalpublicsquare.blogs.cnn.com/2012/03/22/zakaria-incarceration-nation/

"The U.S. has 760 prisoners per 100,000 citizens. That’s not just many more than in most other developed countries but seven to 10 times as many. Japan has 63 per 100,000, Germany has 90, France has 96, South Korea has 97, and ­Britain - with a rate among the ­highest - has 153....
This wide gap between the U.S. and the rest of the world is relatively recent. In 1980 the U.S.’s prison population was about 150 per 100,000 adults. It has more than quadrupled since then. So something has happened in the past 30 years to push millions of Americans into prison.
That something, of course, is the war on drugs. Drug convictions went from 15 inmates per 100,000 adults in 1980 to 148 in 1996, an almost tenfold increase. More than half of America’s federal inmates today are in prison on drug convictions. In 2009 alone, 1.66 million Americans were arrested on drug charges, more than were arrested on assault or larceny charges."

Again it seems to me we are a paranoid nation. We outspend the rest of the world on our military, and we imprison more people per capita than any other country.  Why?  Are we attacked more?  Do we have worse people?  I chalk it up to paranoia.  Part of this comes from "get tough" political rhetoric used to win votes.  We're too soft on criminals!  The world is a scary place!  Iran might get a nuke!  So these guys get voted in, then they live up to their rhetoric by spending on guns and prisons.

Did you know there are countries without a military?  Did you know China has fewer people in prison than the US?  What's going on?  Why the fear?

Here's a bit more info; http://www.businessinsider.com/how-many-americans-in-jail-2012-3