Saturday, April 28, 2007

There is ZERO empirical evidence for human caused global warming???!!!

"There is still zero empirical evidence that anthropogenic production of carbon dioxide is making any measurable contribution to the world's present warming trend." -- Alexander "Ace" Cockburn in The Nation


Wow! Left wing pundit Alexander Cockburn uses ONE source, a retired combustion research scientist, to in Cockburn's mind completely debunk all of the thousands of scientists all over the world and all of the masses of data that they have laboriously collected and analyzed over decades. What a wonderful bedfellow to folks on the right like Senator Inhofe who with identical logic think a science fiction writer like Crichton and a smattering of other self-proclaimed experts are sufficient to counter the entirety of the scientific community. Both Cockburn and Inhofe are so boldly ludicrous, so extreme and fringe in their views, and so vacant in their arguments that some people probably think, "Well if they're THAT bold, maybe there's something to it. Because after all, people of such prominence couldn't just be completely deluded, could they?" Answer: YES.

If anyone wants to a summary of the scientific consensus, there's a comprehensive overview at Real Climate (LINK) and also a more simplified version (LINK). It's not science fiction but perhaps Cockburn will be able to make sense of it nevertheless.

(Cockburn's articles and responses to these articles are on ZNet. LINK)

Friday, April 20, 2007

"I am convinced that the future of America is rosier than people claim . . ."


I am convinced that the future of America is rosier than people claim — I've been hearing about its imminent decline ever since I started reading. Take the following puzzle. Whenever you hear or read a snotty European presenting his stereotypes about Americans, he will often describe them as "uncultured", "unintellectual" and "poor in math" because, unlike his peers, they are not into equation drills and the constructions middlebrows people call "high culture". Yet the person making these statements will be likely to be addicted to his Ipod, wearing t-shirts and blue jeans, and using Microsoft Word to jot down his "cultural" statements on his (Intel) PC, with some Google searches on the Internet here and there interrupting his composition. Well, it so happened that the U.S. is currently far, far more tinkering an environment than that of these nations of museum goers and equation solvers — in spite of the perceived weakness of the educational system, which allows the bottom-up uncertainty-driven trial-and-error system to govern it, whether in technology or in business.

It fosters entrepreneurs and creators, not exam takers, bureaucrats or, worse, deluded economists. So the perceived weakness of the American pupil in conventional and theoretical studies is where it very strength lies — it produces "doers", Black Swan hunting, dream-chasing entrepreneurs, or others with a tolerance for risk-taking which attracts aggressive tinkering foreigners. And globalization allowed the U.S. to specialize in the creative aspect of things, the risk-taking production of concepts and ideas, that is, the scalable and fat-tailed part of the products, and, increasingly, by exporting jobs, separate the less scalable and more linear components and assign them to someone in more mathematical and "cultural" states happy to be paid by the hour and work on other people's ideas. (I hold, against the current Adam Smith-style discourse in economics, that the American undirected free-enterprise works because it aggressively allows to capture the randomness of the environment — "cheap options"— not much because of competition and certainly less because of material incentives. Neither the followers of Adam Smith, nor to some extent, those of Karl Marx, seem to be conscious about the role of wild randomness. They are too bathed in enlightenment-style causation and cannot separate skills and payoffs.)

The world is giving us more "cheap options", and options benefit principally from uncertainty. So I am particularly optimistic about medical cures. To the dismay of many planners, there is an acceleration of the random element in medicine putting the impact of discoveries in a class of Mandelbrotian power-law style payoffs. It is compounded by another effect: exposure to serendipity. People are starting to realize that a considerable component of the gravy in medical discoveries is coming from the "fringes", people finding what they are not exactly looking for. It is not just that hypertension drugs lead to Viagra, angiogenesis drugs lead to the treatment of macular degeneration, tuberculosis drugs treat depression and Parkinson's disease, etc., but that even discoveries that we claim to come from research are themselves highly accidental, the result of tinkering narrated ex post and dressed up as design. The high rate of failure should be sufficiently convincing of the lack of effectiveness of design.


Thursday, April 19, 2007

BMW's design delirium

I have been driving one of these during the last few days:

It's a $75,000 BMW 645i with a 333 hp 8 cylinder engine and it has a disturbing effect on me. Delirium.

Have you ever been delirious with fever, felt like your body was bloated and filled with stuffing, that your throat was severely constricted, and that gravity was several times normal? I have and every time I get into this car I can't shake that feeling. Seriously. It's the strongest negative reaction I've ever had to a product. I feel just like that woman in Gibson's Pattern Recognition, Cayce Pollard, who's career is based on her emotional and physical reactions to logos. She's used as a canary in a coalmine for companies testing whether their new logos will be positively or negatively received by the public.

This car is big for a 2 door. It's a full 12 inches larger on the outside than the 2 door BMW 3 series. Yet it feels less spacious and in many dimensions, is indeed smaller. Although I'm 6 ft tall, the driving position is deep bathtub. The steering wheel is too thick even for my large hands. And it's too large in diameter, emphasizing the feeling that everything is twisted and out of proportion. The bulbous Bangle trunk just caps the strange coherence of all this car's inharmonious proportions. Enough has been said about iDrive--link to a blog item about the 9 steps to change the clock. But the other controls also are ill conceived. The key fob still doesn't make sense to me--the icons are meaningless. If you hold down the trunk release too long the alarm will go off. The seat adjustment controls aren't intuitive, as they should be because as on any car you can't see them. The words on the stalk that controls the info panel on the dash don't have meaning to me. And I can't master the deft touch required to properly operate the turn signals!

I can't wait to give this car back to my friend and return to my old Miata, where the world is normally proportioned and comfortable in a way that plush leather alone simply can't match.

Just brilliant commercial

See Metacool for an explanation of this brilliant commercial

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The $12,000 car wash

I am always fascinated by the love and affection between people (more often men) and machines. A $12,000 car wash has to be the ultimate.

If one of the top musicians in the world played a Strad in the subways would you notice?

This is an absolutely wonderful article! Link. Thanks Amit.

Monday, April 09, 2007

E-mail visualization

There is a good post at 37Signals about the importance of brevity in e-mail communications to customers.

Someone needs to write a pamphlet about e-mail along the lines of Edward Tufte's rant about PowerPoint. E-mail is after all even more common as a communications medium than PowerPoint, though of course the uses are quite different.


Friday, April 06, 2007

Aichaku, Porsche and IF

In an effort to up my sustainability quotient (!), I'm trying to switch my love and affection from this club racer . . .

to this club racer . . .

Not that I can afford either.

On a related note, I've been reading The Laws of Simplicity by John Maeda. I thought it was going to be just another throw away business book with not much to it. But less (than 100 pages) is sometimes more. There's a section that's worth reporting in the above context. Maeda comments on modernism compared to Japanese design. He notes the surface similarities but points out that "a hidden fact of Japanese design" is its animistic theme. Objects are accorded their own spiritual existence and imbued by the user with a life force that is "a kind of deep, hidden ornamentation known to only those who feel it." He says that the Japanese term aichaku is for this sense of attachment one can feel for an object. He notes that "acknowledging the existence of aichaku in our built environment helps us to aspire to design artifacts that people will feel for, care for, and own for a lifetime."

Porsche accomplishes this. IF (Independent Fabrication) gets it. Does your company? Are the products you buy or create made in such a way that they elicit care and affection from their users? Although it would seem hard to link a high end car company that's a lot about power and road performance to simplicity and sustainability, creating products that people care about enough to maintain and sustain their lifespans indefinitely, rather than throw them away, is part of creating a sustainable future.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

What America Does Best

"What America does best is product the ability to accept failure."

Nassim Nicholas Taleb via Wired

Walt on disrespecting the computer consumer

Walt Mossberg talks about how his new Sony confronted him with two dozen trial programs advertising their virtues and 21 software updates. Then he goes on to say:

"I also was shocked at how long this machine took to restart and to do a cold start after being completely shut down. Restarting took over three minutes, and a cold start took more than two minutes. That suggests the computer is loading a bunch of stuff I neither know about nor want. By contrast, a brand new Apple MacBook laptop, under the same test conditions, restarted in 34 seconds and did a cold start in 29 seconds."

Link from WSJ

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Iranian mens' fashion

Strange how the captured Britons have been asked to adopt the dress code associated with the Iranian leader, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

ConceptDraw MINDMAP Review

I have been using mindmapping software ever since Jorge Kanahuati introduced me to Mindjet's MindManager sometime in the early 2000's in Baja California, Mexico. At that day long planning exercise Jorge took masterful notes throughout the day using MindManager. At the end of the day he was able to visually represent the meeting to the participants and walk participants through a process by which we came as a group to consensus on our collective conclusions. I was sold at that point on mindmapping but Mindjet wasn't cross-platform, I was using a Mac and began to search for cross-platform solutions. Surprisingly, there are several. Of those, ConceptDraw MINDMAP definitely deserves a look.

At its core, mindmapping software is relatively simple stuff. All the programs allow you to create visualizations of a conversation, a plan or a strategy, with text boxes hierarchically linked by lines. At this level what distinguishes the programs is how elegantly they're able to draw the boxes and connecting lines--not a lot from which to differentiate a program. ConceptDraw seems to have placed itself on the visually more interesting end of the spectrum. Ideas within the ConceptDraw MINDMAP are automatically linked with colorful and flowing lines versus MindManager which produces more conservative and "corporate" looking results. I tend to prefer the aesthetic that MindManager presents and initially found MINDMAP's interface visually overwhelming, with a tremendous number of generic clip-art icon presented as options around the edges of the screen. But you can ignore all that stuff and just make use of the drawing tools to enhance your mindmaps. As I use the product more I'll provide some more details of how well these tools work in practice. But so far so good.

Years ago I used ConceptDraw's initial product, now at v6, a diagramming package with vector drawing tools, libraries of pre-drawn shapes, scripting language etc. ConceptDraw MINDMAP distinguishes itself from other mindmapping products by its origin and home in the ConceptDraw family of products--all efficient programs targeted at the visualization needs of businesses.

One of the ways that I currently use MindManager is in combination with two tools I use frequently. FastTrack , the cross-platform project management product, imports MindManager files. The GTD (Getting Things Done) tools made by Gyronix make use of the MindManager engine. What I hadn't realized is that ConceptDraw's own cross-platform project management tool , ConceptDraw Project, will similarly import MINDMAP files. While I haven't used ConceptDraw Project as much as FastTrack yet, it appears to be excellent at rendering visually satisfying GANTT charts and to have fewer of the interface quirks that still sometimes trip me up on FastTrack. I'll report more about this later when I've made a bit more use of the product.

As with any of these tools, it is entirely up to the user whether their visual presentations are effective and beautiful or visual smorgasbords that obscure and confuse. The ConceptDraw suite provides powerful tools for users to go far, for better or worse in the direction of their choosing.

Ships passing in the night

A day after members of an American Congressional delegation led by Senator John McCain pointed to their brief visit to Baghdad’s central market as evidence that the new security plan for the city was working, the merchants there were incredulous about the Americans’ conclusions.

"At a news conference shortly after their outing, Mr. McCain, an Arizona Republican, and his three Congressional colleagues described Shorja as a safe, bustling place full of hopeful and warmly welcoming Iraqis — “like a normal outdoor market in Indiana in the summertime,” offered Representative Mike Pence, an Indiana Republican who was a member of the delegation."

“What are they talking about?” Ali Jassim Faiyad, the owner of an electrical appliances shop in the market.

Excerpts from NYTimes