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January 2004 Archives

January 6, 2004

We're back... [test]

After a computerless week getting kernel panics scrubbed out. Which would have been a great enforced vacation for technoaddict like me... except simultaneous gutter failure and sump pump failure during heaviest rainstorm in years kept me running around in the downpour frantically fixing those very simple yet fundamental systems.

No rest for the weary, they say...

January 7, 2004

With G!d on our side?

The God Gulf. I wish we could recall how Abe Lincoln achieved moral clarity without moral sanctimony.. By Nicholas D. Kristof. [New York Times: Opinion]

Amazing factoid:
Americans increasingly telling pollsters that they believe in prayer and miracles, while only 28 percent say they believe in evolution

What's Special About This Number?

bBlog: If you know a distinctive fact about a number not listed here, please e-mail me. Divisors, algebra, primes, sums of powers, powers/polygonal, matrices, graphs, combinatorics, Fibonacci, digits, perfect/amicable, bases, repdigits, geometry... [bBlog: The sales, marketing and business weblog | XPLANE]

F'rinstance: 87 is the sum of the squares of the first 4 primes.


'The talent myth'

bBlog: This 'talent mind-set' is the new orthodoxy of American management.... None, however, have spread the word quite so ardently as McKinsey, and, of all its clients, one firm took the talent mind-set closest to heart....The company, of course, was Enron.... Enron was the ultimate 'talent' company....The one Enron partner that has escaped largely unscathed is McKinsey, which is odd, given that it essentially created the blueprint for the Enron culture. [bBlog: The sales, marketing and business weblog | XPLANE]

The tool is never enough. How it's applied is always as important. Talent was far from enough for Enron. Innovation hasn't been enough for Apple.

Mark Twain recognized the problem of single-minded focus:

When your only tool is a hammer, you tend to see all problems as nails.

Pointless power

Don Norman on PowerPoint Usability. http://www.sociablemedia.com/articles_norman.htm [xBlog: The visual thinking weblog | XPLANE]

PowerPoint isæNOT the problem. The problem is bad talks, and in part, this comes about because of so many pointless meetings, where people with - or without - a point to make - have to give pointless talks. The problem is that it is difficult work to give a good talk, and to do so, the presenter has to have learned how to give talks, has to have practiced, and has had to have good feedback about the quality of the talks - the better to improve them.... Tufte misses the point completely.

India - The next five years

Conversations with Dina:
Says Mashelkar: 'I can confidently predict that if India plays its cards right, by 2025, it can become the number one knowledge production centre of the world.'

With India as 'the number one knowledge production centre,' and China as a [the?] driving economic powerhouse, the US and Europe may have to reconsider their places in the world, not to mention their very self-identities.

Is anyone -- which think tanks? (surely no political leaders) -- begining to do that groundwork, to dip toes in those dark, unknown waters?

January 8, 2004

'Tech execs press U.S. to stay competitive'

Interesting timing to find the next day's headlines reporting on Carly Fiorina and Craig Barrett addressing just these issues (or some of them) in discussing new report from the Computer Systems Policy Project, 'Choose To Compete.'

The report offers Three policy priorities to spur economic growth:

1. Promote innovation: Maintain America‰s leadership.

2. Encourage investment in the innovation infrastructure: Maintain a business climate that rewards risk and encourages entrepreneurship.

3. Improve education and training: Keep American workers on top.

Some of this could be seen as self-serving, perhaps. After all, these are companies that will get contracts from 'investment in the innovation infrastructure.' And #3 is a bit optimistic, since American workers aren't _on_ top. But it's got to be useful that important business leaders are calling attention to important issues -- one's that I fear we'll manage to ignore for a long time.

January 9, 2004

Garbage in, garbage out

Farmed Salmon Have More Contaminants Than Wild Ones, Study Finds. A new study of fillets from 700 salmon, wild and farmed, finds that the farmed fish consistently have more PCB's and other contaminants. By Gina Kolata. [New York Times: Science]

Once again, the most suprising thing about this story is that people are suprised about it at all. Not so surprising is that the various quoted experts talk about the wisdom of restricting salmon consumption, the risks of eating other things, but not about the choice of wild salmon. Also not discussed, the intentional pollutants introduced into farmed fish: antibiotics, dyes, etc.

Basic problem: if you want clean fish, you need clean water. Sorry, folks, that's just how it is.

Mega-growth? Eco-growth?

Freethinking.   I still love the idea of the US going from a population of 290 m to well over 500 m in the next 15 years using a work-to-citizenship program.  Imagine bringing 210 m of the most motivated, intelligent, and capable people in the world to the US (regardless of proximity to US borders).  Our economy would boooooom (can you say double digit growth rates).  The social security and budget failures would fade to oblivion as young workers outpace retired workers 15 to 1 (or more).  The trade deficit would reverse!  Offshoring would disappear.  Real estate prices would zoom to provide monster nest eggs for current residents.  It would even help the rest of the world as these people flowed back to their countries of origin with money, experience, and connections (to the US).  The perception of the US globally would shift mightily in the right direction. [John Robb's Weblog]

Enough to drive the ZPGers crazy. The challenge -- a the key to doing this in a way that build rather than drains fundamental prosperity -- is to do with attention to radical resource productitivity improvements, so the US of 500m would be using fewer resources, emitting less pollution, and eating less of the seed corn than the US of 290m. Or even of 150m.

Possible? Why not? What if we could mirror a fraction of the magic of Moore's Law to the macro world? Those who figure out how will laugh all the way to the bank.

The 'factor four' folks in Europe talked about producing double the value with half the resources (2x2=4), before they decided the goal was too limited, and transformed the vision to Factor Ten. The Europeans won't be sitting back and counting their toes while the US grows. We should expect profound productivity challenges from the. And, as I've said, from China and India, who will be only too happy to leapfrog Europe as well as the US.



PS: Assuming growth is good, Mr. Robb, rate of growth is a critical variable. Grow too fast and the character of society changes. Things always change here -- that's one of our great strengths -- but it's important that the rate of immigration not exceed (or not by too much) the rate of acculturation. Otherwise you risk 'booooooming' economic growth at the potential expense of cultural and political values -- like democracy, free speech, etc -- which are also critical contributors to US prosperity.

Living cells are wrapped in semi-permeable membranes for a reason.

January 11, 2004

Sorry folks, 'natural' ain't enough

Herbal medicine boom threatens plants [New Scientist]

The multimillion-pound boom in herbal medicine is threatening to wipe out up to a fifth of the plant species on which it depends, wrecking their natural habitats and jeopardising the health of millions of people in developing countries.

Sorry folks, 'natural' just ain't enough. The viability of natural depends on rates of flow.

And as Amory Lovins is fond of reminding us, the cause of most problems is solutions.

Move to Ban Altered Crops

Move to Ban Altered Crops Is Focused on California. The center of the nation's anti-biotechnology movement can be found these days in Mendocino County, a quirky region with a strong streak of independence. By The Associated Press. [New York Times: Science]

'I believe that genetic engineering at this stage is the biggest uncontrolled biological experiment going on in the world today,' said Els Cooperrider, an owner of the Ukiah Brewing Company.

More Sunday enviro concerns

Environmentalists promote fears of a nanotech "green" goo (PDF report) disaster. [John Robb's Weblog]

Or you can browse around at the site of the e t c group -- the Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration (formerly the Rural Advancement Foundation International -- and find this and other downloads here.

January 12, 2004

Significant Annual Growth in Green Power

[GreenBiz]: Sales of certified renewable energy grew substantially during 2002, according to a new report from the Center for Resource Solutions.... The report shows over 1.9 million megawatt-hours of certified renewable resources procured in 2002 -- a doubling over 2001.

Substantially faster than the overall rate of growth of renewable energy worldwide, reportedly ~20%.

Op-ed: Corporate homeland security a win-win

[Network World Fusion]: According to my buddy David Stephenson,

Many corporations have been less than enthusiastic about new homeland security responsibilities, which they see as threatening to disrupt just-in-time manufacturing strategies, impose new costs and introduce yet another set of regulations. There were similar complaints when environmental regulations were imposed in the 1970s and 1980s. Yet, by the early 1990s, companies such as DuPont and 3M had gained a competitive advantage by adopting waste-reduction strategies that were good for the environment and the bottom line.

I believe a similar paradigm shift, from viewing homeland security as a costly burden to seeing it as a competitive advantage, is possible. There are three benefits to companies taking the lead on homeland security strategies that don't just meet the letter of the law, but do so in a synergistic way [affecting]:

- Increased collaboration....

- Error reduction....

- Employee empowerment.


Less polluting airport?

[USA Today]:

Starry eyed inventor -- actually named 'Starry' -- says he's spent $1m of his own cash on new airport design. His revolutionary design aims to efficiently handle an expected huge increase in air travel and dramatically reduce air pollution.... Starry says his design would cut air pollution at a single airport 56% and save 1,000 gallons of jet fuel per flight.

Interesting, though comments like this:

'I say, with total humility, I'm the only person on the planet with simple enough solutions that will make a large enough difference in a short enough period of time to save humanity from total environmental destruction.'

probably don't help his cause very much.

It's the law!

BoingBoing's fulla gems today. Here's one:

Laws from interesting people:

Edge.org has asked a bunch of interesting people to formulate bits of wisdom phrased as "laws" -- they're quite good.

Morgan's Second Law: To a first approximation all appointments are canceled.

Brand's Pace Law: In haste, mistakes cascade. With deliberation, mistakes instruct.

Sterling's Corollary to Clarke's Law: Any sufficiently advanced garbage is indistinguishable from magic.

Link (via Kottke)

And one more (my probable favorite) from among the many::

Minksy's Second Law: Don't just do something. Stand there.

Ancient futures

[Electrolite]: "He was the train we did not catch." John Clute reviews the finally-published first Heinlein novel. (via BoingBoing, who sez: 'The 140-comments-and-still-going discussion of this on Electrolite is just about the most fascinating literary/political/historical discussion I've ever read.')

And one more from the boingboy

Slug sex. XXX.
Wanna get slimy?


Once again, Radio is not updating. Trying to force the posts since Sunday night...

Test again

Seems to be posting now, after quit and relaunch. But who knows if it's working because of that, because of Andy Fragen's myFixFilePathsAndAddresses script, or because the server just decided to come back from its break...

January 13, 2004

'...prepare to be creative'

Enlightened Brand Journal points to Twyla Tharp's The Creative Habit. Here's some of what the publisher says:

Creativity is not a gift from the gods, says Twyla Tharp, bestowed by some divine and mystical spark. It is the product of preparation and effort, and it's within reach of everyone who wants to achieve it. All it takes is the willingness to make creativity a habit, an integral part of your life: 'In order to be creative, you have to know how to prepare to be creative.'... When Tharp is at a creative dead end, she relies on a lifetime of exercises to help her get out of the rut, and 'The Creative Habit' contains more than thirty of them to ease the fears of anyone facing a blank beginning and to open the mind to new possibilities.

Sounds worthy. Has anyone read it?

More on enlightened branding

Aso in Enlightened Brand Journal current issue:

Thought Leader: True to Their Roots.The Evolution of the Fetzer Brand

Emerging Trend: Consumers Want Low Price and Luxury, Too

Enlightened Practice: E3: Fetzer Vineyards' Triple Bottom Line

Net Favorite: Future-store.org: The Retail Store of the Future

Leadership Thought: How Brands are Taking Over the Corporation

Featured Events


Hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons to denounce anti-Semitism

[Haaretz]: In a ground-breaking article to be published soon, hip-hop legend Russell Simmons will urge African-Americans to join forces with Jews, to fight anti-Semitism in Europe and the U.S....

If Martin Luther King were alive today, the authors [Simmons and Rabbi Marc Schneier] write, he would protest against the new wave of anti-Semitism. Nor would Martin Luther King keep quiet about the "moral laryngitis" of political leaders who fail to speak out against hatred of Jews.


January 15, 2004

Sometimes ya gotta ignore the acronym :-)

Brain rich environment..

Susan advised a bit about the state of the Actionable Sense Society's formation. Thanks.  

a klog apart]

Actionable Sense Society. I like the sound of that. Today google, tomorrow...

Insitutional ephemeralization?

David Pollard's vision of a global corporation in 2015. The company this employee works for no longer has a knowledge centre, in-house researchers or a corporate library. In fact, it has outsourced and shrunk its IT and other infrastructure to zero. It has no in-house overhead, no 'back office'. Everyone on the payroll either sells product or delivers services to customers. [Steve Hooker's Radio: kids, war, blogs, gadgets]

Bucky Fuller chronicled the trend of dematerialization of physical stuff, and it's become an important pivot point in corporate and national environmental sustainability strategies. But why stop there? Why indeed.

[May need to go 'off the job standard' for this work. I'll see if I can find that 20 year old article and post it here.]

January 21, 2004

Partisan observation

Slate: MIA in the SOU - Bush stops pretending that he cares about the environment By Timothy Noah. In a famous memo to Republican politicians about how to talk about the environment, pollster Frank Luntz warned against using the phrases 'risk assessment' and 'cost-benefit analysis,' and urged them to instead use the words, 'safer,' 'cleaner," and 'healthier.' But in President Bush's State of the Union address , the words 'cleaner' and 'healthier' were never uttered, and the word 'safer' was spoken only in the context of the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. Here are some other words and phrases that did not appear in the speech: 'environment,' 'pollution,' 'natural resources,' 'global warming,' 'clean air,' 'clean water,' and 'Clear Skies,' which is what Bush calls his main initiative on air pollution. The word 'conservation' appeared once in a plea to pass the energy bill, which takes various steps to encourage more oil drilling. This in a speech where Bush found time to call for an end to steroid abuse in professional sports, an issue completely outside the realm of government at the federal, state, or local level. Apparently Karl Rove has decided that the environment isn't even worth talking about anymore.

Non-partisan observation

Clinton at the World Economic Forum (on C-SPAN), keeping me up past my bedtime, calling for 'not just good works, but SYSTEMATIC action' to make things work. Sorry, I don't have the exact quotes, but it was cherce. And a reminder of what it's like to have a leader who is brilliant, knowledgable and CURIOUS.

January 22, 2004

Do Plants Practice Grid Computing?

[Roland Piquepaille's Technology Trends]: According to Nature, plants seem to optimize their 'breathing' by conducting simple calculations through a distributed computing scheme. 'Plants appear to 'think', according to US researchers, who say that green plants engage in a form of problem-solving computation.'

Very wild. Well worth a read. [The veil between worlds is often far thinner than we imagine.]

About January 2004

This page contains all entries posted to Gil Friend in January 2004. They are listed from oldest to newest.

December 2003 is the previous archive.

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