Monday, October 29, 2012

Too much trash? send it to Sweden!

"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!

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

car for wheelchair-bound

Technical specifications:

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

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

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

Haven't read this yet but it looks good. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

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

"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

"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

"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

"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?

"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

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

"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

"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!