Wednesday, July 25, 2007

esselon cafe

there's hardly anything as good as a perfect height counter top, a comfortable chair, good coffee . . . and free wireless and free parking. thanks Esselon.

love this logo . . . more about it later

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

American adaption

Al Gore has a contest going to create a short ad about climate change. Sad that the prize in the US is a Highland Hybrid, an SUV that can barely eek out 30 mpg. In the UK or Ireland they get a Prius. American tastes have a lot of adapting to do. LINK

Monday, July 23, 2007

Visual map of the web

I love data visualization. (Tufte etc.) Here's a neat map of the world of Web. I like the "weather" coding as to whether the particular company is in trouble (stormy) or hitting it out of the park (bright sun). (thanks sweet mojo!) LINK

Saturday, July 14, 2007

America: "a buy"

I've been musing about how the entrepreneurial culture of the United States affects our government policies and social and political outlook on world events, both negatively and positively. More on that later but here's a relevant quote from a recent leader in The Economist. Well worth reading the article in full.
If America were a stock, it would be a “buy”: an undervalued market leader, in need of new management. But that points to its last great strength. More than any rival, America corrects itself. Under pressure from voters, Mr Bush has already rediscovered some of the charms of multilateralism; he is talking about climate change; a Middle East peace initiative is possible. Next year's presidential election offers a chance for renewal. Such corrections are not automatic: something (a misadventure in Iran?) may yet compound the misery of Iraq in the same way Watergate followed Vietnam. But America recovered from the 1970s. It will bounce back stronger again.

Friday, July 13, 2007

bluetooth + bike helmet = post peak oil geek?

click picture for link to the best bluetooth earpiece

iPhone for enterprise

Article on iPhone for enterprise. I guess this might be Apple's trojan horse. LINK
Some believe it is so unique that the device may become, in essence, a wake-up call to the entire high-tech industry, especially handset manufacturer designers and software developers.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

iPhone not for enterprise?

iPhone not for the enterprise? Did it just get a little colder in Ontario (where RIM lives)?
Synchronica . . . announced that its Mobile Gateway 3.0 software supports Over the Air (OTA) synchronization between Microsoft Exchange and the Apple iPhone.
Well . . . perhaps not colder yet because as far as I can tell, this product only offers e-mail sync and not calendar and address syncing. I'd love to be told otherwise but until that's solved, I won't be giving up my Blackberry.
This will allow mobile operators and service providers to offer mobile synchronization to business users and prosumers, enabling them to receive corporate email on their iPhones without having to ask their IT manager to open the firewall or install additional software.
LINK via Macworld


"Six Rules for Effective Forecasting" is an article (available online from Harvard Business Review, at least for now LINK) by Silicon Valley forecaster Paul Saffo (LINK). Very well worth reading.

Here's a quote from the article that made me smile (the reference below to "magazine" refers to HBR):
The most commonly considered outliers are wild cards. These are trends or events that have low probabilities of occurrence (under 10%) or probabilities you simply cannot quantify but that, if the events were to occur, would have a disproportionately large impact. My favorite example of a wild card, because its probability is so uncertain and its impact so great, is finding radio evidence of intelligent life somewhere else in the universe. Nobody knows if we will ever receive a message (radio astronomers have been listening since the late 1950s), but if we did, it would send a vast and unpredictable tremor through the zeitgeist. One-third of the world’s population would probably worship the remote intelligences, one-third would want to conquer them, and the final third (the readers of this magazine) would want to do some extraterrestrial market research and sell them something.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Meditation retreats held inside the highest level maximum-security state prison in Alabama

Plug for a film featuring my friend Jonathan Crowley and others bringing immersive meditation programs into correctional facilities. They are featured in a new 75 minute documentary film called The Dhamma Brothers. It's about the first ten-day Vipassana meditation retreats held inside the highest level maximum-security state prison in Alabama, United States. It is debuting at the Woods Hole Film Festival on Saturday August 3rd, 2007 at 7 PM. More information: LINK Trailer: LINK

Sunday, July 08, 2007

British bike writing lets loose

As noted recently in a piece in The New Yorker about the Campaign to Devise a New Swear Word for the 21st Century, the British are "more inventive and permissive when it comes to cursing". LINK. Great example: the fun British bike blog Singlespeeding, Bitching and Beer. You HAVE to read the piece on being almost murdered by numerous cars as an example. LINK (A lot of the blog is about singlespeeding on THE bike that I want, the il Pompino, which is another example of crude British humor. See here for the English translation of that Italian slang: LINK.)


A good example of why I've been finding myself checking Blogfish recently is the recent short post on cod fishing--thoughtful commentary and amazing videos by the United States Director of Fish Conservation-Ocean Conservancy. LINK.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Prius Poseurs

According to the NYT (LINK) and (also Autoblog LINK):
. . . more than half of the Prius buyers surveyed this spring by CNW Marketing Research of Bandon, Ore., said the main reason they purchased their car was that “it makes a statement about me.” Only a third of Prius owners cited that reason just three years ago, according to CNW, which tracks consumers buying trends.
I still stand by what I said earlier: the Prius is a cost competitive, practical car. And as if other car choices AREN'T drive by image? No one ever chose a BMW because it produces a certain image of the driver? Disappointing that the NYT didn't take this one step further and note that there's nothing new here. Cars ARE to a significant measure about image and a Prius is no different.

This from another NYT article is also relevant here, quoting a pollster in relation to consumers buying green products (via Alex Steffen of WorldChanging LINK):

“We didn’t find that people felt that their consumption gave them a pass, so to speak,” Mr. Shellenberger said. “They knew what they were doing wasn’t going to deal with the problems, and these little consumer things won’t add up. But they do it as a practice of mindfulness. They didn’t see it as antithetical to political action. Folks who were engaged in these green practices were actually becoming more committed to more transformative political action on global warming.”
BMW drivers know that their cars won't completing transform them a paragon of cool. Similarly, I'm people buying a Prius know it doesn't erase all their unsustainable tracks upon the earth. But what's wrong with making a statement with your car?

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Amazing what people will pay for 700,000 units

Confounding Steve Ballmer of Microsoft, Apple sells 700,000 iPhones in the first weekend. "Very capable" just isn't sufficient anymore.

Monday, July 02, 2007

WSJ on Prius etc.

Relevant to my previous post (Prius Ascendant), the WSJ has an editorial today titled "The Drive-a-Toyota Act" (LINK). Essentially it states that, "Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and most of their colleagues are siding with upscale environmental lobbies over American carmakers and workers".

Since the WSJ Editorial Page is a leading global warming denier (LINK), any WSJ editorial about fuel economy needs to be seen partly in that context.

But first, let's look at some of the core claims in the article. They declare that Detroit was unable to compete with Japan on small vehicles over the last decade not because they didn't want to but because they couldn't afford to! The WSJ essentially asserts that Detroit needed to make more money per vehicle because those damn unions forced it into cost a disadvantageous situation with all of their penion and healthcare benefits! GM had to make more fuel inefficient vehicles because they needed to get the additional profits! (They don't explain why Toyota, who should be equally motivated by profits, decided to take a different, longer term approach with fewer short-term gains.) But they do acknowledge that Detroit tried. As an example of Detroit's will, they trot out GM's Saturn project. Oh? I think it's more generally accepted that Saturn stumbled not for want of but for lack of trying. GM's attention was distracted by the short-term gains in the profitable big truck sector. But even with that lack of attention, even with a struggling product line, Saturn's sales rose by 6 percent last year while GM overall fell by almost 9% (LINK). In other words, GM was so wrong about what consumers wanted that even when they gave them half-baked but relatively fuel efficient Saturns, they still bought them over other the marques on which GM was focussed! What would have happened if GM had attended to Saturn a little earlier . . . maybe sometime around when Toyota was investing in hybrids? What would have happened if GM management had the obvious foresight to imagine a world with higher fuel costs?

The WSJ goes on to say that the debate about whether the government should impose higher fuel economy standards is actually a test of who has more clout, "the men and women who work in American factories, or the affluent greens on both coasts who can afford to pay a premium to own a Prius to indulge their concern about global warming."

But the Prius doesn't have a premium price. That's an old myth, traced back to when dealers were commanding a premium over sticker price. The Prius is directly competitive with other cars in its size segment. For example, a Chevy Malibu Maxx, the hatchback version of that class American midsize car, has a base price that's only $1600 less than a Prius. It's about a 12 inches longer but in most interior dimensions it's only slightly bigger except the trunk, which is about 50% larger with the rear seat up (14.4 vs. 22.8 cu ft). Still, the cars are definitely within the same league. Compromising slightly on space, the Prius owner gets dramatically better fuel economy, easily double, for about the same base price. Is it just affluent greens who are pushing Prius into the top ten most popular cars? I don't think so. Most of the truly affluent folks I know go for fancier marques like Lexus or BMW, placing their environmental checkmarks in other columns in their lives. The Prius is simply a good, basic car not a status symbol anymore.

What I think the WSJ is really upset about is that their world view is being challenged. They have a hard time acknowledging that it's the lack of foresight by the American auto industry to forecast the effect of energy prices and global warming on consumer pocketbooks and consumer tastes. It's WSJ-style thinking that has produced the situation that Detroit now finds itself, not left coast liberals.

Project update

Here's a link to recent press about one of my company's projects (LINK) along with a new section from our corporate website providing additional information on the project (LINK).

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Prius Ascendant

A decade ago, it wasn't hard to imagine that at some point in the future fuel prices would rise and people would want a more fuel efficient vehicles. And yet, only Honda and Toyota out of all the car companies selling in the US took this possibility seriously. Simply amazing to me the evident difference between great companies like these, able to think long-term rather than just to the next quarter, and the rest of the pack. (I love the story of the HondaJet, as another example of long-term thinking and entrepreneurial zeal within a large corporation.) The gap between Toyota and Honda and the rest of the car makers selling in the US can only continue to grow. Evidence of the rewards from JD Power (via Winding Road):

Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. delivered more than 24,000 Prius hybrids in May, almost tripling year-ago deliveries. In fact, Prius sales were so strong last month that the Toyota hybrid compact car ranked as the ninth-best-selling model in the U.S. market. The Prius also seems to be attracting a wide range of vehicle trades and new buyers, according to retail transaction data collected by the Power Information Network (PIN), a division of J.D. Power and Associates. A few highlights:

• The percent of trades by owners of compact conventional car models (the segment that includes the Prius and volume sellers such as the Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic and Chevrolet Cobalt) has declined since January, which indicates that more Prius buyers are coming from other segments. In January, 31% of the trades were compact conventional models, but by early June those trades had dropped to less than 19%.

• The percentage of Prius owners trading in their hybrids for another Prius is declining as well, which suggests an increase in conquests, according to Tom Libby, PIN senior director of industry analysis. In January, 14% of the trades were Priuses but in June the percent of Prius trades for new Priuses had dropped to less than 5%.

• In addition, PIN dta indicates that conquests from non-Toyota products have risen from a little more than 68% in January to nearly 80% in early June.