Friday, September 28, 2007

Here today; gone tomorrow

Recent quotes related to climate change policy:
Germany’s environment minister, Sigmar Gabriel, took a detached view of the [President Bush climate change] conference, noting that the Bush administration would be gone in less than 18 months, and that it was unlikely to change its position. He said he spent two days this week discussing climate change with Democrats in Congress with an eye toward the post-Bush future. LINK (NYTimes)

And from an Al Gore e-mail to his list:

On Friday a friend of mine forwarded me an e-mail from Martin McGuiness, special assistant to the president for legislative affairs. At this point, we expect the White House to spin every issue to its advantage, but this quote in Mr. McGuiness's email stood out:

"This administration has done more for the environment and addressing energy security and climate change than any other in history."

While the claim that George Bush has done more to address climate change than any administration seems ridiculous, I am always willing to welcome converts to our movement. If this administration has finally come around on the climate crisis, then now is the time for them to take action.

Let's join together and demand that the Bush Administration commit to an international treaty that would cut CO2 by 90%. LINK

revolutionary quackery

Just got a link in my mailbox from Revolution Health pitching cold medicines . . . I clicked and learned that the #1 seller is the quack medicine Airbourne. What revolution? The more things change the more they stay the same. Whenever I think of Airbourne I think of 19th century quack doctors peddling Magic Elixir from the back of a horse drawn wagon. THIS is the progress we've made in the last hundred years?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Pedal Powered Garbage Collection

The way our trash is picked up: Pedal People. (Or cynically, America edges closer to India and China.)
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Fun and creepy short story from Cory Doctorow on the subject of "if Google went bad". LINK

rest of the world still running equivalent of DOS

"The significance of the iPhone is not that it is the best phone/smartphone. It isn’t. It is, however, the first of its kind, an elegant if flawed harbinger of a new era — just like its ancestor, the first Mac. The rest of the world is still running the equivalent of DOS. When you use the iPhone, you are using the future of portable, personal computing." LINK from Bob Matsuoka via David Strom

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Mozy (backup) + EMC

Here's a story about my favorite way to ensure my data security--Mozy--being bought up by EMC. If you worried about having your data "out there in the cloud" I've always said that it's safer than simply residing on your physical desk, ready to be snatched. The interest and possible acquisition of Mozy by EMC should make some people more secure that the idea of a backup copy in the cloud is bright. LINK via Xconomy.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Revolution Money

New Steve Case etc. thing launched. Revolution Money with Revolution Card. Hopes to be a great secure, alternative PayPal , Visa etc. Key features are that you always use a PIN and can change that PIN whenever you want. Good for one-time purchases where you think you're dealing with a sketchy vendor. Also, card doesn't have your name on it or any personal info embedded. Press release: LINK And apply for a card here: LINK

Southwest: Customer Service Done Right

"Wit, style and panache" (says David Strom) about Southwest's revision to their check-in procedures as described on their website: LINK. Worth a quick peek for an example of a company that uses the Web expertly to get right to the heart of their customers.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Smart Growth and Global Warming

Here's a new publication to add to the "walkable neighborhood" vs. "greentech" debate in the architecture and planning world. LINK via Gristmill. And part of the discussion we'll be having October 3 about what really matters in the challenge to confront and adapt to global warming.

San Diego Mayor: A Mayor with Backbone

In a tearful press conference, Republican San Diego mayor explains his eleventh hour decision to backs gay marriage. As one YouTube commentator said, "Very human and moving. America Rocks!" (Thanks Apophenia.)

Friday, September 21, 2007

Fresh new snow

Picture of fresh, new snow in Alaska from a wonderful bike-oriented blog: LINK.

1st Elements 22 Salon, October 3

I'm teaming up with a great marketing and branding guy, Mitch Anthony, to initiate what we're calling the "Element 22 Salon Series". We're planning a diverse range of salon topics, united by our own broad interests. First event: October 3. Time: probably 7:30 - 9:30 pm. Venue not yet determined but it will be in Franklin County, Massachusetts. This first event is about climate change.

Except for a few rare folks lurking in the back closets of the Wall Street Journal Editorial page, everyone accepts that global warming is happening. The question is: what can we do about it and does what we do really matter? Even in the best case scenario of significant reductions in carbon emissions, global warming is with us for the next few centuries, at least. We should not only be trying to foster changes in the way we live, we should be planning for a future world that looks very different that today. What questions do we need to ask? What are the opportunities that such a change is likely to offer?

On October 3, we'll create a collaborative salon to discuss these issues. The event will be headlined by my brother, Eric Steig, a climate change scientist based in Seattle. He's also a founding member of the blog Real Climate, recently named by the Guardian newspaper as one of the top ten green websites. RealClimate bills itself as "a commentary site on climate science by working climate scientists for the interested public and journalists".

More details to follow. In the meantime, take a look at the recent Thomas Friedman article which gets directly to the issue (LINK).

Thursday, September 20, 2007

2009 Honda Fit

Yep, that's the car I want. The current one is nice but this one is really nice. More filled out and muscular but still tiny. Will be here in a year. Finally, the US is getting some interesting small cars. LINK to Temple of VTEC.

Skype for iPhone or Blackberry

Love to hear from anyone who has used this product: LINK. How well does it work?

AT&T and RIM are in the dark ages!

AT&T and RIM (Research in Motion, maker of Blackberry) have some clueless marketing folks that ought to be shown the door immediately. They are in the dark ages!

Yesterday, September 19, press releases hit the geek "2muchtech" websites like GizModo, Engadget, Boy Genius. They said that finally the Blackberry 8820 was being released on September 20. This is a long awaited phone, the first Blackberry with WIFI. But BOTH the AT&T and Blackberry hyperlinks in the press release . . . WERE DEAD LINKS. They didn't even go to a page that said something like "being released tomorrow". I'm sure the logic was "well, since it's being released on the 20th, we won't make those Web pages live until the 20th". But the press release got onto the Web on the 19th! So effectively, both AT&T and RIM pissed off the early adopters, the folks who's love they need, and showed what complete marketing buffoons AT&T and RIM indeed are. Had someone at Apple done such a thing, the entire team would have been permanently exiled to Siberia!! AT&T and RIM deserve to have Apple eat not only their breakfast and their lunch but their dinner as well unless they clean up this sort of behavior.

(But I still want an 8820 instead of a iPhone . . . at least for now.)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Personal Fabrication

You have to follow this links on this blog post of Amit Gupta's about personal fabrication and a company called Ponoko: LINK

Monday, September 17, 2007

Hans Rosling, the Zen master of statistics

This is really a stunning presentation about life expectancy relative to GNP and also an amazing example of data visualization.

More about GapMinder here: LINK

Thanks to PresentationZen for this: LINK

Now The True Story of Colossus Can Be Told

From David Strom:
What if I told you that a secret project conducted more than 60 years ago held the true origins of the modern computing era? And that the country behind this project did such a good job erasing its tracks that it did itself a disservice? And that many of the things invented during this project would only be realized with modern-day PCs?
It sounds like a made-for-TV movie, and it should be, and finally -- Now The True Story of Colossus Can Be Told (cue announcer and swelling music).

The world's first electronic digital computer wasn't developed on American soil but presaged by nearly two years during an intensive British top-secret wartime effort called Colossus. A team of engineers built the room-sized computer for a single purpose: to decrypt German military radio transmissions. The original designer died without ever receiving any acknowledgment or acclaim accorded to many of his American computing counterparts, yet he was responsible for the first implementations of program-controlled logic, parallel processing, variable programming, hardware interrupts, optical reading of punched paper tape, shift registers and other things that are now common to the PC lexicon. Some of these innovations took a decade or more to implement elsewhere by others.
More: LINK

shellac + modernist bars

New bars on the Bianchi Volpe, now taped and drenched in shellac. (Did you know that this is how handlebars used to be taped and that shellac is a naturally derived substance?) Previous post about these modernist bars.
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Thursday, September 13, 2007

Colbert does Bjorn Lomborg

Nice job by Colbert poking fun at global warming skeptic Bjorn Lomborg (via Treehugger). Colbert gets the point that RealClimate made a year or more ago: if you, Lomborg, are so concerned about issues other than global warming, why aren't you focused on doing something about those issues (like malaria) instead of trying to create confusion about the significance of global warming? More on Lomborg here and the RealClimate post here. Specific criticism of Lomborg's new book here. Main conclusion, here quoting Eban Goodstein in Salon: "he cherry-picks evidence to manufacture a scientific and economic consensus that doesn't exist." Goodstein goes on to say:

The glaring error in "Cool It," and the one that disqualifies the book from making a serious contribution, is that Lomborg ignores the main concern driving the debate. Incredibly, he never mentions even the possibility that the world might heat up more than 4.7 degrees. Although he claims IPCC science as gospel, in fact the scientific body gives no single "standard" estimate as its official forecast for this century's warming. Instead, the IPCC provides a range of up to 10.5 degrees -- more than double the number on which Lomborg bases his entire argument. (LINK)

My climate change scientist brother taught me long ago that stats like 4.7 degrees have a high degree of uncertainty, which means that they could not be that bad but equally they could be much much worse. And if so, we're in really big trouble. Consequences are too big to take the Lomborg gamble.

I have to admit though that I warmed to him a bit by the way he responded in this interview in Salon (LINK):
Interviewer: Don't you think it's kind of odd that the Bush administration invited [Michael Crichton] to the White House to talk about climate change?

Lomborg: They did? Yeah, that is weird.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

New bars!

OK. Folks are laughing at me in the office. But I love these new bars. A modernist take from France via Velo Orange. (LINK)

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

best bluetooth headset

Another accolade for my favorite headset:
"It sounds excellent, better than other headsets. In fact, in my testing, the Jawbone sounded even better than using a cell phone directly." PCMag. LINK

My previous review here: LINK. Available online and at ATT (née Cingular) and Apple stores.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Facebook + LinkedIn + Plaxo + DayLite = Dreaming

I've been casually following the Scoble/boyd debate about Facebook (FB), privacy, and why tech insiders are responding so rabidly to FB.

boyd: "But what I don’t understand is why so much of the tech crowd who lament Walled Gardens worship Facebook.”

Scoble response: "Because there isn’t anything better. It’s like why we are so gaga over the iPhone. The iPhone is locked up tight and doesn’t let us play. But it is so superior to the alternatives that we’ll put up with all the walls."
What I really want is something more and different. I find FB tiresome and banal (maybe that's just my friends . . . but I am linked to Scoble). I find LinkedIn overly restrictive. What I want is something that will allow me to flexibly annotate in private my own take on my network of contacts--how they relate to each other etc.--regardless of whether the contact is in the network or not and have it update and sync with those contacts who are in the network. In other words, I'd love to have a LinkedIn like system in which I can keep track of my business connections and other people's business connections, but add into it my own data, my own connections whether they're on the network or not. This would be like a personal CRM system (Customer Relationship Managment, like the wonderful DayLite) that's connected into the broader world. Plaxo sort of does this, by allowing you to sync up all your own contact data, and if a person is on the Plaxo network (or other networks like LinkedIn) connect also with that live contact data. But what Plaxo needs is the greater toolset of a CRM (connecting contacts to companies, to projects, to opportunities and tracking historical relationships), the business orientation of LinkedIn and the open source elements of FB. I guess I'm dreaming . . .

Sunday, September 09, 2007

World's Smallest Cars

I love this compilation of the world's smallest cars from Dark Roasted (via Treehugger).

When will the current accepted American standard for cars change to something other than a combination of speed and size? Certainly the Mini is a change in the right direction. The Fit too. And the Prius is #11 best selling car (or something like that). And my favorite small car, the Miata, is one of the very rare cases of a car not changing in size since it was introduced 17 years ago. But we've still got a long way to go. My Miata has actually gotten smaller over the years, at least proportionally to other cars on the road. I think the American obsession with 4x4 do everything big cars has at its root a deep paranoia: should catastrophe appear, or I just want to escape, I can take virtually all my possessions with me and hit the road.

collapsible chair adoption

None of these collapsible chairs existed 15 (?) years ago. Now every single person has one. I find consumer adoption like that remarkable.

recycling . . . but why create it in the first place?

I like that this recycling bin shows the excesses of our consumption.

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color coding with GMail

for those of you who love GMail, here's a very nice little script that color codes labels: LINK

Friday, September 07, 2007

"Apple is the best-managed computer company on Earth"

This part from an article by Robert X. Cringely deserves to be quoted in full. (LINK to article)
Here is something very important to remember about Steve Jobs (and probably the only part of this column that will bother him in the least): most of his business moves are still in reaction to having been fired by Apple back in 1985.

Back then Steve was a willful and profligate creator of new products but not very interested in profits. When he put himself up against John Sculley, wanting the Apple board to fire Sculley and make Jobs the CEO, what killed Jobs’ chance for the position was the board’s belief that he wouldn’t deliver the numbers. And they were correct. The Steve Jobs of 1985 was a terrible manager. The board was wrong, however, in believing that Sculley could provide an acceptable substitute for Jobs’ technology vision.

In the 22 years since that humiliation, Jobs has devoted himself to proving: 1) that he can deliver the numbers (and does he — Apple is the best-managed computer company on Earth), and; 2) that he is a better marketer than Sculley, the supposed marketing genius. The product vision part is easy. Not only does Jobs push these products out without apparent effort, he couldn’t make himself not do it if he tried. It’s an obsession. So he puts the real sweat into managing and marketing and occasionally beating up on anyone who gets too close.

And that 1999 quote from Bill Gates about Jobs: “He has to know that he can never win.”

I don’t think Steve knows that at all.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Apple + Starbucks + Music

From MacWorld's Apple keynote notes (LINK):
Apple and Starbucks partnership

"There's even one more incredible part of this," said Jobs, who said that Apple has been working on this for two years. "I cannot tell you how much pleasure it gives me to announce we've got a great partnership with Starbucks today."

Jobs called Starbucks "an incredible phenomenon in our culture" and added that a lot of Apple employees are great customers. Apple wanted to combine iPods and their love of music with Starbucks' coffee and love of music.

"In the new iTunes Wi-Fi Store, when you get near a participating Starbucks, automatically a fifth button is going to pop up in the store with a Starbucks button," he said.

"You will know what songs they're playing in Starbucks, and you can buy it with one tap of your finger. And if you just missed it, you can look at the last 10 songs they've played. They're going to program some cool music for us in terms of their collections," Jobs said.

To me, it's a fascinating twinkle at the convergence of computing out in the world with real life going all around us. It's the first big implementation of location-aware consumer purchasing, a direct connection between hearing something in the real world (but it could in the future be seeing something) and having it delivered immediately to an electronic extension of yourself. It's intravenous consumerism. Certainly outside the US, the ability to use a mobile phone to purchase a Coke for example from a vending machine is years old now. But this is an opening of something new. Can you imagine, for example, going into your doctor's office and being able to seamlessly grab your medical history or your xray photo and take it away with you on your device? Being able to go to a concert and walk out with the music of that artist in your portable device? Being able to go to an art gallery and be able to transfer images of the art from that location into your iPod? Or more nefariously, have to fend off location specific, personally tailored come-ons as you walk down the street. A peek a hyperlocality? (LINK)

OK. Enough breathlessness. Related views: Paperback Sluts (see first comment) and LINK.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

bike tree

This photo from the wonderful bike blog, Kent's Bike Blog.

we might be the best dinosaur

"Columbia is stuck in the dark ages. I have great confidence that we will have the best record company in the industry, but the reality is, in today's world, we might have the best dinosaur. Until a new model is agreed upon and rolling, we can be the best at the existing paradigm, but until the paradigm shifts, it's going to be a declining business. This model is done."

That's a quote from the NYT Sunday Mag, from Rick Rubin who since May has officially been co-head of Columbia Records.

photo Lynn Hirschberg, NYTimes

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Skype + Caller ID + USA

If you use Skype and pay for "Skype-out" service that allows you to connect with non-Skype telephone numbers and you are tired of having your Skype calls show up on the phones of those you call with a weird looking number . . . and you live in the UK, Sweden, Denmark, Japan, Hong Kong, Estonia or Poland . . . you're in luck! Otherwise, probably not and definitely not in the USA. The Skype help FAQ info on this is totally useless and completely confusing. See the Skype blog here: LINK. You can parse all this information from the blog entry and the comments but Skype doesn't make it easy to make sense of it all.