Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Dhamma Brothers and Sex, May 30

Films at our local cinema (LINK). From the cinema:
We are so pleased to be presenting Jenny Phillips and her remarkable documentary, "Dhamma Brothers," this Friday, May 30 at 7:15 in Amherst Cinema's main theater. Jenny is a Concord native, and in 2002 she turned her camera on the Donaldson Correctional Facility, Alabama's last stop for hardened criminals. There, 36 prisoners participated in an arduous 10-day program introducing Vipassana meditation techniques. After the film, Jenny will answer questions about the film and the program she helped to start.

And at Pleasant Street Theater, we have a special treat for those looking for a summer blockbuster without the superheroes and explosions: "Sex in the City: The Movie." Carrie, Miranda, Samantha and Charlotte are back, a bit more mature, and this time on the big screen. With over 300 designer-label costume changes between the four leads, romantic dalliance never looked so good
Could two films be more different? I strongly recommend the first. It includes my friend Jonathan Crowley as one of the two key protagonists.

Run and hide is probably appropriate for the second. Or at least peruse the Jezebel take. LINK

Go Nuke!

WIRED has an incendiary cover story in which they declare: "Winning the war on global warming requires slaughtering some of environmentalism's sacred cows." Go Nuke, Keep your SUV, Screw the Spotted Owl, Forget Organics. LINK

A nice counterpoint by Alex Steffan (LINK) essentially says that WIRED misses the point that global warming is emblematic of larger cultural problems. Even if we said, "forget everything else; we're going to solve global warming, whatever it takes," we'd still be in trouble. The sort of "War on Carbon" approach that WIRED so simplistically offers does little to take into account the complexity of the problem. What it ironically also misses is the very aspect of human creativity that WIRED has been at the forefront of espousing: the creative energy of thousands of technologists and entrepreneurs working separately and collectively to invent new solutions.

For example, the only way I can see of implementing a WIRED "Go Nuke" energy plan is through a Soviet (or French) top-down, big business approach. Because that's how you get nukes to work. They are big energy projects, so very different from the decentralized and diverse solutions being offering by the green technologists and their venture capital backers that WIRED would normally trumpet. The undercurrent to the nuclear lobby is the belief that "if it weren't for those hippies" this country would be able to implement the solution that has already been discovered. It's an approach that couldn't be further from the entrepreneurial culture which the New Economy represents--and upon which WIRED is based. Where would solar be today if it had the sort of patriotic funding and support that the nuclear industry has enjoyed?

Perhaps closer to the spirit that is needed is WIRED's comparison between buying a Prius and hanging on to an old car. The argument is that the Prius may consume less fuel, but making and delivering that new car will always put it at a disadvantage, in terms of carbon footprint, compared to an existing vehicle, even an SUV.

An example of the lack of appreciation for complexity in the article is evidenced by the declaration that air conditioning is ok. They argue that it's dramatically more energy efficient to live in a warm climate, where you need air conditioning part of the year, than it is to live in a climate like New England where you have to turn on the heat in the winter. That makes lots of sense. But the comparison should also discuss the carbon footprint of a small town in New England, where I live, versus the cost of suburban sprawl in a place like Phoenix. How much carbon does the average person in Phoenix produce because the built environment is not suited to a post petroleum economy? I suspect that New England doesn't come out ahead, but I'd like to know. Somewhere I saw what looked like a good map showing how carbon footprint varies across the United States but can't find it now.

Update. My points above emphasized: "In 2007, decentralized renewables worldwide attracted $71 billion in private capital. Nuclear got zero. Why? Economics." Amory Lovins in World Changing LINK

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

It doesn't baffle ME at all!

Thomas Friedman:

It baffles me that President Bush would rather go to Saudi Arabia twice in four months and beg the Saudi king for an oil price break than ask the American people to drive 55 miles an hour, buy more fuel-efficient cars or accept a carbon tax or gasoline tax that might actually help free us from what he called our “addiction to oil.”


Thursday, May 22, 2008

Sun Microssystems Co-Founder Calls WSJ Op-Ed Fiction Writing

The Wall Street Journal published an editorial this week in which it took offense to comments made by Vinod Khosla that have downplayed ethanol’s contribution to the food crisis.The WSJ said: “As long as he’s on the federal dole, perhaps Mr. Khosla should take a vow of embarrassed silence.” Great response here: LINK

read more | digg story

"Diesel will never sell, again, below gasoline. It will always be more expensive than gasoline."

"Diesel will never sell, again, below gasoline. It will always be more expensive than gasoline." -- T. Boone Pickens LINK from Autoblog Green

A very strange video

via Gizmodo LINK

Monday, May 19, 2008

Cargo bike mums

via Copenhagenize via Amersterdamize: LINK

Why does diesel costs more?

Friends have asked me, "Why does diesel cost more in the United States than gasoline?"

Basically, "diesel is “the one product the world really wants" according to Lawrence J. Goldstein, a director of the Energy Policy Research Foundation, as quoted in the NYTimes. Good article on the subject: LINK

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Nau going . . . gone

In January 2007 I commented (LINK) on the new clothing company, Nau, and said I hoped they could stay in business, unlike predecessor company Zoza (LINK). Well, they didn't. They're going bankrupt. Argument is essentially that "capital markets didn't get the opportunity". Wrong. I've made that argument before with companies in which I've been involved but you can't blame the capital markets. Rather, management didn't properly assess capital market conditions and cash conservation didn't sufficiently match burn rate.

Both Nau and Zoza burned through some $35 million before crashing. I'm slowly learning that if you're dealing in physical goods, which of course have a cost of goods, unlike software, you're going to be on a much more conservative growth trajectory. A or software growth rate and valuation should not be planned for or expected by management and investors. Sad. Really nice clothing (both Zoza and Nau). Visions of environmental sustainability for the products. Too bad fiscal sustainability didn't make itself felt in the business model. I'll continue to wear my Zoza and my Nau and hopefully learn from these lessons.

More: LINK and LINK

Friday, May 16, 2008

Gasoline is cheap!

Nice piece of writing from Robert Bryce on Slate. Quote below but read the whole thing (LINK):
There's no doubt that high fuel prices are hurting low-income consumers, and high energy costs are placing a tax on the economy that is slowing investment while sending billions of dollars overseas. It's unsurprising that presidential candidates and members of Congress issue new proposals practically every day to lower gas prices: Stop filling the Strategic Petroleum Reserve! Suspend the federal gas tax! Open ANWR to oil drilling!

These proposals are delusions, and Americans are living in a fantasy land when it comes to energy and energy prices. Over the past few years, consumers have been inundated with news stories about the soaring price of gasoline. Invariably, these stories include comments from a motorist who is outraged at the evils of a) Saudi Arabia, b) OPEC, c) Big Oil, d) all of the above.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Copehagenize the planet!

"Copenhagenize" has become one of my favorite blogs. Pictures every day of wonderful, utilitarian bicycles from Copenhagen and other parts of Europe. This picture is from their blog and shows a Paris delivery bike. LINK to blog

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Post-American World

I've been talking with friends a lot about this book: The Post-American World by Fareed Zakaria. More later on this but for now, just go get it: LINK at Amazon and LINK to the author's site.

Monday, May 12, 2008

"there's no way oil will be able to compete with biofuels"

"I have no question that in 10 years, there's no way oil will be able to compete with biofuels. Even in five years. Now it will take a long time to scale biofuels, but I'm the only one in the world forecasting oil dropping in price to $35 a barrel by 2030. I'll put it on the record: Oil will not be able to compete with cellulosic biofuels. If you do it from food, the food will get so expensive you can't make fuel out of it." -- Vinod Khosla LINK

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Green flying

Here's some good reflections on the possibilities of making air travel more green, less damaging to the atmosphere: LINK to the website of George Monbiot.

Timely that a friend sent it to me as I've just jetted across the U.S. to meetings in California.

Monbiot reflects on the use of airships as possible alternatives to airplanes. He notes that people always thing of the Hindenburg and says that, "It’s as if, every time someone proposed travelling on a cruise ship, you were to ask, 'but what about the Titanic?'" He mentions that several small companies are working on airships. Unfortunately he doesn't mention by name, but I'm proud that one of them, SkyYacht, is just two blocks from where I live (LINK).

For those who read science fiction, there are lots of alternative visions to the Hindenburg. From a genesis I've never understood, there's a whole subsection of science fiction that features airships. Here's a passage from one of my favorite science fiction books, Diamond Age by Neil Stephenson:
Sunrise found the three airships hovering over the South China Sea, no land visible. The ocean was relatively shallow here, but only Hackworth and a few engineers knew that. The Hackworths had a passable view from their stateroom window, but John woke up early and staked out a place on the diamond floor of the ballroom, ordered an espresso and a Times from the waiter, and passed the time pleasantly while Gwen and Fiona got themselves ready for the day. All around them he could hear children speculating on what was about to happen.

LINK to this passage in WIRED and LINK to the book

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Soda pop bottle phone!

There's a short piece in BusinessWeek that references the previous entry in this blog. That post referred to a post by Nokia design anthrologist Jan Chipchase about his frantic prepping for a press event (which the BWeek writer attended). He was reflecting on the norms in a British coffee house around use of a laptop in a public environment. The BWeek post talks about the consumer design sessions that Nokia's Jan Chipchase and Younghee Jung hold in urban places around the world to understand people's vision for mobile phones. Check out the slide show from which I snagged this image. LINK