Saturday, August 26, 2006

Syriana

I watched Syriana for the first time last week. While I was watching it I could tell that I was following the basic plot but I knew I was missing LOTS of details and subtle connections. I didn't really understand why things were unfolding they way the did so I decided to watch it much slower and more carefully today. The tag line for the movie "Everything is connected" is very accurate. I would recommend this movie to anyone if you're up for a bit of a brain twister and you're OK with a movie that doesn't have a happy Hollywood ending.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Lake Windigo Portage Swim

Last Tuesday I did a really fun open water swim that ended up being a little over 3 miles long. We (one other person did this with me and two people paddled kayaks as safety boats) swam a route that took us through two lakes and across two portages. You can see the route at this link - http://tinyurl.com/kd5nm

I wish we had brought a camera along as I'd love to post pictures but unfortunately we forgot about that. The swim was interesting for a number of reasons but the things that I remember most vividly are the beer-drinking, cigarette-smoking people hanging out on their pontoon boats at the first portage, the eriness of Lake Windigo with its extreme shallowness and aquatic plants that hug the surface, and the wind that had started to pick up out of the east when we got back into Cass Lake for the final stretch north.

I'm looking forward to doing this swim again next year and I'm thinking about what else I can add to it to make it even more of an adventure.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

The Long Tail

The Long Tail – Why the future of Business Is Selling Less of More by Chris Anderson.

I read Chris Anderson’s Wired column (that in many ways initiated the current discussion of The Long Tail) over Thanksgiving weekend 2004. I remember distinctly being at my uncle’s house in rural British Columbia sitting on an old couch in his eclectic second floor (see the photos- BTW I love this house, so much visual stimulation that it provides a great place for new ideas to flower)










and reading the article. At the time it seemed interesting but didn’t really hit home. I wasn’t quite able to see how this concept of the long tail applied to my life but I was intrigued. In retrospect, I realize that I was hanging out with a person (my uncle) that has lived most of his life pretty far out on the tail of traditional culture.

Again I've highlighted my comments in blue throughout the text below. The italics in the text are transcribed from the book. The bold is my editorial emphasis.

There are three primary concepts from this book that I wanted to mention. The first one has to do with time and the effect that our filters are having on the traditional time effect.


Page 142
“But there is another factor that influences popularity: age. Just as things of broad appeal tend to sell better than things of narrow appeal, new things tend to sell better than old things.”

“If you think about it, today’s hit is tomorrow’s niche. Almost all products, even hits, see their sales decay over time. Twister was the number two movie of 1996, but it’s DVD version is now outsold two-to-one on Amazon by a 2005 History Channel documentary on the French Revolution.

“Einstein described time as the fourth dimension of space; you can think of it equally as the fourth dimension of the Long Tail. Both hits and niches see their sales slow over time; hits may start higher, but they all end up down the Tail eventually. The research to quantify this conclusion is continuing, but conceptually the picture looks like the graph on the next page [see image titled "Time tails"].

“What’s particularly interesting about time and the Long Tail is that Google appears to be changing the rules of the game. For online media, like media anywhere, there is a tyranny of the new. Yesterday’s news is fish wrap, and once content falls off the front page of a Web site, its popularity plummets. But as sites find more and more of their traffic coming from Google, they’re seeing this rule break.

“Google is not quite time-agnostic, but it does measure relevance mostly in terms of incoming links, not newness. So when you search for a term, you’re more likely to get the best page than the newest one. And because older pages have more time to attract incoming links, they sometimes have an advantage over the newer ones. The result is that the usual decay of popularity for blog posts and online news pages is now much more gradual than it was thanks to the amount of traffic that comes via search. Google is in a sense serving as a time machine, and we’re just now being able to measure the effect that has on publishing, advertising, and attention.”

I think the impact filters such as Google are having in regard to finding things that are “older” and therefore in the tail is incredible. Anderson provides several other examples of media that was overlooked when it was produced that resurfaced later due to the technologies available in the filters. He begins chapter 1 with the story of Touching the Void and how this story resurfaced years after it was first written thanks to Amazon’s “people who bought also bought…” feature.

The second idea I wanted to mention has to do with microculultures. Thanks to the filter technologies we are finally able to indulge many of our long tail preferences and interests. I think this is great but it can sure make it difficult to talk to my neighbors. We just don’t share the same reference points the way we used to.


Page 182
"I decided to test other cultural touchstones to see if they were as widely held as I had thought. I started by running a few other clich├ęs from my little online world past real-world friends: “All Your Base Are Belong To Us”; “More Cowbell!” “I for one welcome our new [fill in the blank] overlords,” and so on. Turns out that these snippets of culture that I thought were ubiquitous are actually pretty obscure, even in my own office. When I took an informal poll at a public relations conference at which I was speaking, I found that only about 10 percent of the audience had heard of any of them – and for each phrase it was a different 10 percent.

"What does this show? It shows that my tribe is not always your tribe, even if we work together, play together, and otherwise live in the same world. Same bed, different dreams.

"The same Long Tail forces and technologies that are leading to an explosion of variety and abundant choice in the content we consume are also tending to lead us into tribal eddies. When mass culture breaks apart, it doesn’t re-form into a different mass. Instead, it turns into millions of microcultures, which coexist and interact in a baffling array of ways.

"As a result, we cannot treat culture not a one big blanket, but as the superposition of many interwoven threads, each of which is individually addressable and connects different groups of people simultaneously.

In short, we’re seeing a shift from mass culture to massively parallel culture. Whether we thing "of it this way or not, each of us belongs to many different tribes simultaneously, often overlapping (geek culture and LEGO), often not (tennis and punk-funk). We share some interests with our colleagues and some with our families, but not all of our interests. Increasingly, we have other people to share them with, people we have never met or even think of as individuals (e.g., blog authors or playlist creators).

"Virginia Postrel observed that the variety boom is nothing more than a reflection of the diversity inherent in any population distribution:
  1. Every aspect of human identity, from size, shape, and color to sexual proclivities and intellectual gifts, comes in a wide range. Most of us cluster somewhere in the middle of most statistical distributions. But there are lots of bell curves, and pretty much everyone is on a tail of t least one of them. We may collect strange memorabilia or read esoteric books, hold unusual religious beliefs or wear odd-sized shoes, suffer rare diseases or enjoy obscure movies.
"This has always been true, but it’s only now something we can act on. The resulting rise of niche culture will reshape the social landscape. People are re-forming into thousands of cultural tribes of interest, connected less by geographic proximity and workplace chatter than by shared interests. In other words, we’re leaving the water-cooler era, when most of us listened, watched, and read from the same, relatively small pool of mostly hit content. And we’re entering the microculture era, when we’re all into different things."

I think we’re just at the beginning of discovering how this trend is going to impact our communities. Part of the reason I write this blog is to give other people a window into the microcultures that I’m spending my time in.

The third idea I wanted to touch on has to do with “who is in control of all of this”. The following passage discusses this in the world of newspapers and bloggers but I think that this passage could easily apply to music, film/video and other types of content just as easily.


Page 188
"In Letters to a Young Contrarian, Christopher Hitchens writes that he wakes up every morning and checks his vital signs by grapping the front page of the New York Times: “’All the News That’s Fit to Print,’ it says. It’s been saying that for decades, day in and day out. I imagine that most readers of the canonical sheet have long ceased to notice the bannered and flaunted symbol of its mental furniture. I myself check every day to make sure that it still irritates me. If I can still exclaim, under my breath, why do they insult me and what do they take me for and what the hell is it supposed to mean unless it’s an obviously complacent and conceited and censorious as it seems to be, then at least I know that I still have a pulse.”

"As Jerry Sienfeld quips, “It’s amazing that the amount of news that happens in the world every day always just exactly fits the newspaper.”

"The reality, slogan aside, is that the New York Times now competes not only with other New York City newspapers and newspapers elsewhere, but also with the collective wisdom and information of everyone online. Authority is in the eye of the beholder; it is not innate to the institution itself. It is a credit to the Times journalists and editors that they do so well, continuing to break news and set the agenda, despite this. But news and information is clearly no longer the exclusive domain of professionals.

"With an estimated 15 million bloggers out there, the odds that a few will have something important and insightful to say are good and getting better. And as our filters improve, the odds that we’ll see them are getting better, too. From a mainstream media perspective, this is simply more competition, whatever the source. And some audiences will prefer it. Like it or not, fragmentation is inevitable."

Now that I think about this a bit more I realize that I’ve been using bloggers as a tool to point me to specific media items. I often like the filters that bloggers provide better than skimming the list of headlines on a newspaper home page.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

The Tipping Point

Over the last couple of years I’ve been part of a number of different conversations about both The Tipping Point and Blink, both by Malcolm Gladwell. Up to this point I haven’t read either one but feel like I have based on all of these conversations. I decided it was time to sit down and flip through them to see what else I’ve been missing. Here are a few thoughts about The Tipping Point.

In general I was a bit disappointed in the book. Maybe there’s been too much discussion of the book over the last couple of years and it was bound to fall short of my expectations. I was expecting more academic rigor rather that his colloquial approach of presenting a concept and the selecting stories that support the concept. Seemed to be a bit sloppy to me. However, that doesn’t mean the ideas aren’t powerful, I would just like to see more research on the specific assertions that Gladwell makes.

Page 259 The last paragraph of the whole book
“But if there is difficulty and volatility in the world of the Tipping Point, there is a large measure of hopefulness as well. Merely by manipulating the size of a group, we can dramatically improve its receptivity to new ideas. By tinkering with the presentation of information, we can significantly improve its stickiness. Simply by finding and reaching those few special people who hold so much social power, we can shape the course of social epidemics. In the end, Tipping points are a reaffirmation of the potential for change and the power if intelligent action. Look at the world around you. It may seem like an immovable, implacable place. It is not. With the slightest push – in just the right place – it can be tipped.”

I think that this paragraph summarizes the entire book quite well. The key is to remember that small things can make a big difference. The art and magic of creating Tipping Points is not easy to learn. I sure don’t feel like I would know where to begin based on the examples he provided. I have some sense for what he is talking about and may be able to recognize a Tipping Point in the rearveiw mirror, but making it happen is either an art I don’t understand or a formula that he decided not to share with the rest of us. I suspect it’s the former.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Cradle to Cradle – Remaking the Way We make Things

I've had a copy of Cradle to Cradle – Remaking the Way We make Things
By William McDonough and Michael Braungart
sitting on my bookshelf for about a year. I started reading it last winter but didn't finish. I was looking forward to having a chance to dig back in and have recently done so.

I'm starting into this theme of writing up little book reports and this post will be the second entry in that pattern. Once again I'm going to have to quote pretty big chunks of the text in order to capture the ideas I'm interested in. If you find any of this fascinating I would suggest taking the time to read the whole book as I'm just skimming the surface of a couple of ideas.

I've highlighted my comments in blue throughout the text below. The italics in the text are transcribed from the book. The bold is my editorial emphasis.


There are a couple of ideas that I picked up on in this book. The first one is the difference between eco-efficiency (loosely defined as optimizing our current systems to pollute less, produce less waste and burn more fuel) and eco-effectiveness (loosely defined as designing systems up front to be healthful for profits, the environment and the people involved) and the implications that each approach has for our societies.

Page 66
Environmental destruction is a complex system in its own right - widespread, with deeper causes that are difficult to see and understand. Like our ancestors, we may react automatically, with terror and guilt, and we may look for ways to purge ourselves - which the “eco-efficiency” movement provides in abundance, with its exhortations to consume and produce less by minimizing, avoiding, reducing and sacrificing. Humans are condemned as the one species on the planet guilty of burdening it beyond what it can withstand; as such, we must shrink our presence, our systems, our activities, and even our populations so as to become almost invisible. (Those who believe population is the root of our ills think people should mostly stop having children.) The goal is zero: zero waste, zero emissions, zero “ecological footprint.”

As long as human beings are regarded as “bad,” zero is a good goal. But to be less bad is to accept things are they are, to believe that poorly designed, dishonorable, destructive systems are the best humans can do. This is the ultimate failure of the “be less bad” approach: a failure of the imagination. From our perspective, this is a depressing vision of our species’ role in the world.

What about an entirely different model? What would it mean to be 100 percent good?

These two simple questions may be the most powerful idea in this whole book and I believe are worth looking into more deeply. Reframing our industrial and social systems to be 100 percent good for people, the planet and our economy is a wild idea that taps into deep energy. Continuing...

Page 90
Is our goal to starve ourselves? To deprive ourselves of our own culture, our own industries, our own presence on the planet, to aim for zero? How inspiring a goal is that? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if, rather than bemoaning human industry, we had reason to champion it? If environmentalists as well as automobile makers could applaud every time someone exchanged an old car for a new one, because new cars purified the air and produced drinking water? If new buildings imitated trees, providing shade, songbird habitat, food, energy, and clean water? If each new addition to a human community deepened ecological and cultural as well as economic wealth? If modern societies were perceived as increasing assets and delights on a very large scale, instead of bringing the planet to the brink of disaster?

We would like to suggest a new design assignment. Instead of fine-tuning the existing destructive framework, why don’t people and industries set out to create the following:
  • Buildings that, like trees, produce more energy than they consume and purify their own waste water
  • Factories that produce effluents that are drinking water
  • Products that, when their useful life is over, do not become useless waste but can be tossed onto the ground to decompose and become food for plants and animals and nutrients for soil; or, alternately, that can return to industrial cycles to supply high quality raw materials for new products
  • Billions, even trillions, of dollars’ worth of materials accrued for human and natural purposes each year
  • Transportation that improves the quality of life while delivering goods and services
  • A world of abundance, not one of limits, pollution and waste.

And the second main theme has to do with how we can change our approach to design with the idea of eco-effectiveness squarely in the center of the process.

Page 103
The overarching design framework we exist within has two essential elements: mass (the Earth) and energy (the sun). Nothing goes in or out of the planetary system except for heat and the occasional meteorite. Otherwise, for our practical purposes, the system is closed, and its basic elements are valuable and finite. What ever is naturally here is all we have. Whatever humans make des not go “away.”

If our systems contaminate Earth’s biological mass and continue to throw away technical materials (such as metals) or render them useless, we will indeed live in a world of limits, where production and consumption are restrained, and the Earth will literally become a grave.

If humans are truly going to prosper, we will have to learn to imitate nature’s highly effective cradle-to-cradle system of nutrient flow and metabolism, in which the very concept of waste does not exist. To eliminate the concept of waste means to design things - products, packaging, and systems-from the very beginning on the understanding that waste does not exist. It means that the valuable nutrients contained in the materials shape and determine the design: form follows evolution, not just function. We think this is a more robust prospect than the current way of making things.

As we indicated, there are two discrete metabolisms on the planet. The first is the biological metabolism, or the biosphere - the cycles of nature. The second is the technical metabolism, of the technosphere - the cycles of industry, including the harvesting of technical materials from natural places. With the right design, all of the products and materials manufactured by industry will safely feed these two metabolisms, providing nourishment for something new.

Products can be composed either of materials that biodegrade and become food for biological cycles, or of technical materials that stay in closed –loop technical cycles, in which they continually circulate as valuable nutrients for industry. In order for these two metabolisms to remain healthy, valuable and successful, great care must be taken to avoid contaminating one with the other. Things that go into the organic metabolism must not contain mutagens, carcinogens, persistent toxins, or other substances that accumulate in natural systems to damaging effect. (Some materials that would damage the biological metabolism, however, could be safely handled by the technical metabolism.) By the same token, biological nutrients are not designed to be fed into the technical metabolism, where they would not only be lost to the biosphere but would weaken the quality of technical materials or make their retrieval and reuse more complicated.

Page 131
In the long run, connecting to natural energy flows is a matter of reestablishing our fundamental connection to the source of all good growth on the planet: the sun, that tremendous nuclear power plant 93 million miles away (exactly where we want it). Even at such distances, the sun’s heat can be devastating, and it commands a healthy respect for the delicate orchestration of circumstances that makes natural energy flows possible. Humans thrive on the earth under such intense emanations of heat and light only because billions of years of evolutionary processes have created the atmosphere and surface that support our existence - the soil, plant life, and cloud cover that cool the planet down and distribute water around it, keeping the atmosphere within a temperate range that we can live in. So reestablishing our connection to the sun by definition includes maintaining interdependence with all the other ecological circumstances that make natural energy flows possible in the first place.

The third major theme has to do with how our concepts of how things should work can be taken to extremes to the point of not functioning.

Page 147
A Diversity of “Isms”

Ultimately, it is the agenda with which we approach the making of things that must be truly diverse. To concentrate on any single criterion creates instability in the larger context, and represents what we call an “ism,” an extreme position disconnected from the overall structure. And we know from human history the havoc an ism can create-think of the consequences of fascism, racism, sexism, Nazism, or terrorism.

Consider two manifestos that have shaped industrial systems: Adam Smith’s Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776), and The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels (1848). In the first manifesto - written when England was still trying to monopolize her colonies and published the same year as the Declaration of Independence - Smith discounts empire and argues for the value of free trade. He links a country’s wealth and productivity with general improvement, claiming that “every man working for his own selfish interest will be led by an invisible hand to promote the public good.” Smith was a man whose beliefs and work centered on moral as well as economic forces. Thus, the invisible hand he imagined would regulate commercial standards and ward of injustice would have been working in a market full of “moral” people making individual choices - an ideal of the eighteenth century, not necessarily a reality of the twenty-first.

Unfair distribution of wealth and worker exploitation inspired Marx and Engels to write The Communist Manifesto, in which they sounded an alarm for the need to address human rights and share economic wealth. “Masses of laborers, crowded into the factory, are organized like soldiers…they are daily and hourly enslaved by the machine, by the foreman, and, above all, by the individual bourgeois manufacturer himself.” While capitalism had often ignored the interest of the worker in pursuit of its economic goals, socialism, when singly-mindedly pursued as an ism, also failed. If nothing belongs to anyone but the state, the individual can be diminished by the system. This happened in the former USSR, where government denied fundamental human rights such as freedom of speech. The environment also suffered: scientists have deemed 16 percent of the former Soviet state unsafe to inhabit, due to industrial pollution and contamination so sever it has been termed “ecocide.”

In the United States, England and other countries, capitalism flourished, in some places informed by an interest in social welfare combined with economic growth (for example, with Henry Ford’s recognition that “cars cannot buy cars”) and regulated to reduce pollution. But environmental problems grew. In 1962 Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring promoted a new agenda – ecologism - that steadily gained adherents. Since then, in response to growing environmental concerns, individuals, communities, government agencies, and environmental groups have offered various strategies for protecting nature, conserving resources, and cleaning up pollution.

All three of these manifestos were inspired by a genuine desire to improve the human condition, and all three had their triumphs as well as their perceived failures. But taken to extremes - reduced to isms - the stances they inspired can neglect factors crucial to long-term success, such as social fairness, the diversity of human culture, and the health of the environment. Carson sent an important warning to the world, but even ecological concern, stretched to an ism, can neglect social, cultural and economic concerns to the detriment of the whole system.

“How can you work with them?” we are often asked, regarding our willingness to work with every sector of the economy, including big corporations. To which we sometimes reply, “how can you not work with them?” (We think of Emerson visiting Thoreau when he was jailed for not paying his taxes - part of his civil disobedience. “What are you doing in there?” Emerson is said to have asked, prompting Thoreau’s famous retort: “What are you doing out there?”

Our questioners often believe that the interests of commerce and the environment are inherently in conflict, and that environmentalists who work with big business have sold out. And businesspeople have their own biases about environmentalists and social activists, whom they often see as extremists promoting ugly, troublesome, low-tech, and impossibly expensive designs and policies. The conventional wisdom seems to be that you sit on one side of the fence or the other.

Some philosophies marry two of the ostensibly competing sectors, propounding the notion of a “social market economy,” or “business for social responsibility,” or “natural capitalism” - capitalism that takes into account the values of natural systems and resources, an idea famously associated with Herman Daly. Clearly these dyads can have a broadening effect. But too often they represent uneasy alliances, not true unions of purpose. Eco-effectiveness sees commerce as the engine of change, and honors its need to function quickly and productively. But it also recognizes that if commerce shuns environmental social, and cultural concerns, it will produce a large-scale tragedy of the commons, destroying valuable natural and human resources for generation to come. Eco-effectiveness celebrates commerce and the commonwealth in which it is rooted.

When people hear about the work that I want to do in renewable energy they often seem to assume that I will be working for a non-profit. This assumption seems to reflect the sentiment expressed above by the questioners that ask "how can you work with them". I believe that for "alternative energy" to be able to drop the alternative label these energy sources will have to be developed in a way that allows prices to be competitive with or better than fossil fuel sources for both the consumer and producer, therefore making them very lucrative. This pretty much means that I'm going to be working with or for "them" and I'm looking forward to it.

And the fourth theme has to do with turning the Triple Bottom Line into the Triple Top Line. Again a much more positive way of shaping things that seems to provide for much more interesting outcomes.

Page 153
“The Triple Top Line”

The conventional design criteria are a tripod: cost, aesthetics, and performance. Can we profit from it? The company asks. Will the customer find it attractive? And will it work? Champions of “sustainable development” like to use a “triple bottom line” approach based on the tripod of Ecology, Equity and Economy. This approach has had a major positive effect on efforts to incorporate sustainability concerns into corporate accountability. But in practice we find that it often appears to center only on economic considerations, with social or ecological benefits considered as an afterthought rather than given equal weight at the outset. Businesses calculate their conventional economic profitability and add to that what they perceive to be the social benefits, with, perhaps, some reduction in environmental damage - lower emissions, fewer materials sent to a landfill, reduced materials in the product itself. In other words, they assess their health as they always have – economically - and then tack on bonus points for eco-efficiency, reduced accidents or product liabilities, jobs created, and philanthropy.

If businesses are not using triple bottom line analysis as a strategic design tool, they are missing a rich opportunity. The real magic results when industry begins with all these questions, addressing them up front as “triple top line” questions rather than turning to them after the fact. Used as a design tool, the fractal allows the designer to create value in all three sectors. In fact, often a project that begins with pronounced concerns of Ecology or Equity (how do I create habitat? How can I create jobs?) can turn out to be tremendously productive financially in ways that would never have been imagined if you’d started from a purely economic perspective.

In the book William and Michael provide numerous examples of their ideas in action. I won't even begin to try to summarize those examples. These ideas I've sketched out here are going to tumble around in my head for a while and I hope to write about them again in the future.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

First Day of the Program at Unistar

Camp Unistar August 12-19
Harry Potter and Philosophy

Sunday Day One: The Sorting: Introduction, what is character?

Started off with a reading from one of the books regarding an interaction between HP and Dumbledore about the Mirror of Arasid, which shows you your greatest wish, “The happiest man on earth would be able to look into the mirror and see his reflection”.

Other introductory info provided about how the week will go.

Provided hand out titled “Is Ambition a Virtue? Why Slytherin Belongs at Hogwarts” from the book Harry Potter and Philosophy. http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/isbninquiry.asp?z=y&ean=9780812694550&displayonly=TOC

What is your favorite thing about the books, favorite book, etc? For me it is the relationship between Voldomort/Death Eaters and Harry, Dumbledore and the Order of the Phoneix. They both need each other to define themselves. I think this translates to the world we live in.

The questions of
“What is evil?”

“How do people define evil for themselves?”

“Why is there apparent universal agreement that Voldomort and the Death Eaters are evil?”

The last 150 pages of book 6 were my favorite part. I’m not sure why yet but will re-read this week to see what jumps out. I think it has to do with the role of Snape and trying to figure out which side he is on. Is he really still loyal to Voldomort or is he a double agent and Dumbledore and Snape conspired to provide Dumbledore a way to go underground?

Everyone in the group shared their own answer to this question and the answers were a unique as the people in the group. Not one response was the same as the others. These introductions were a great way to build a group dynamic and set the tone for the discussion.

Three Harry Potter trivia questions:
What is quidditch? A game that the magical world plays played on brooms and a Snitch?
What are the names of the three balls? Quaffle, Snitch and Bluddger?

The name of the captain of the Holy Head Harpies? Gwenog Jones

What does the word Philosophy mena? Love of knowledge or wisdom.

Name a philosopher from one of these periods? Ancitnet, Midevil, Modern, 20th Century.

What does Epistemology mean? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epistemology

Craig Provided a brief description of western philosophy. I missed most of this but here is a link to wikipedia about this topic that provides a lot of the same content. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Philosophy

Someone asked what deconstructionist means. Here is wikipedia’s definition: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deconstruction

Metaphysics: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metaphysics

Ontology: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ontology

Next we performed our sorting. based on a series of questions on the back of one of the hand outs. Here were my answers highlighted in yellow:

1. I prefer making decisions: A after finding out what others think B without consulting others.
2. I prefer being called A Imaginative or intuitive B factual and accurate.
3. I prefer making decisions A about people based on facts and data B about people based on empathy and feelings
4. I prefer commitments A to occur if others want to make them B to be definite and to ensure they are made
5. I prefer A quiet, thoughtful time alone B Active, energetic time with people.
6. I prefer to A Use methods I know well to get the job done B think of new methods fordoing tasks.
7. I prefer drawing conclusions A based on logic and step by step analysis B based on what I feel from past experiences
8. I prefer A avoiding making deadlines B setting a schedule and sticking to it
9. I prefer talking A a while then thinking to myself B freely for an extended period, thinking later
10. I prefer A thinking about possibilities B dealing with actualities
11. I prefer being thought of A as a thinking person B as a feeling person
12. I prefer A considering all possibilities before making a decision B making quick decisions abased on the info at hand
13. I prefer A inner thoughts and feelings others cannot see B activities involving others
14. I prefer A the abstract or theoretical B the concrete or real
15. I prefer helping others A explore their feelings B make logical decisions
16. I prefer A change and keeping options open B predictability and knowing in advance
17. I prefer communicating A little of my inner thinking and feelings B freely my inner thinking and feelings
18. I prefer A possible views of the whole B the factual details available
19. I prefer using A common sense to make decisions B dada, analysis and reason to make decisions
20. I prefer planning A ahead based on projections B as necessities arise
21. I prefer A meeting new people B being alone, or with one person I know well
22. I prefer A ideas B facts
23. I prefer A convictions B verifiable conclusions
24. I prefer A using appointment books as much as possible B using appointment books as little as possible
25. I prefer A discussing new issues at length in a group B puzzling out ideas in my mind, and then sharing
26. I prefer A carrying out plans with precision B designing plans, not necessarily carrying them out
27. I prefer A logical people B feeling people
28. I prefer A being free to do things spur of the moment B knowing in advance what I’m expected to do
29. I prefer being A the center of attention B in the background
30. I prefer A imagining the nonexistent B examining details of the actual
31. I prefer A experiencing emotional situations B using my ability to analyze situations
32. I prefer starting meetings A at a prearranged time B when all are comfortable or ready

The results of this gives us a Myers Briggs types that can be mapped to houses

(Here is an example of one of the quizes online - http://quizilla.com/users/ReaderRavenclaw/quizzes/Hogwarts%20Sorting%20Hat%3A%20Based%20on%20Myers-Briggs%20Personality%20Typing)

I’m an INTJ

Last three letters of type
STJ = Hufflepuff
SFJ = Hufflepuff
NTP = Ravenclaw
NFP = Ravenclaw
NTJ = Ravenclaw
STP = Girffendore
SFP = Griffendore
NFP = Griffendore
NTP = Slytherin
NTJ = Slytherin

Here is more info about Myers Briggs: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myers_Briggs

Friday, August 11, 2006

Management Styles and the Impact on Motivation

After re-reading this post I decided that the message I was trying to express got lost somewhere along the way. The core insight that Joel's posts provided for me was realizing how important intrinsic motivation is for me to be able to sustain my enthusiasm for a job, a hobby or anything else that I put my time and energy into. The post seemed to drift much more toward my feelings about the other management styles and that isn't where I wanted to go.

I'm going to try to rework this post and re-publish in the next couple of days. At times it can be helpful for me to see my own writing to realize that I didn't quite express myself the way I was intending. Sorry for going off track a bit.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Al Gore - "What you can do"

This video of Al Gore is from TED 2006 and was a special request by the organizers as a follow up to his regular slide show. In this one he talks more about the things we can do about climate change. In his regular slide show he is focused more on "what is happening" and "why you should care". I think you'll find it interesting.

http://tedblog.typepad.com/tedblog/2006/06/al_gore_on_tedt.html

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Salsa Performance This Friday

The Salsa Performance Team (we still need to come up with a name) that I've been practicing with for the last month has our first performance this coming Friday (8/4/06). It will be during Club Salsero at Cinema Ballroom in St Paul. Our performance will be sometime between 10 and 11 PM. We're also planning to perform around 10 or 10:15 next Tuesday (8/8/06) at Trocaderos Night Club in Minneapolis.

I'll try to post a link to the YouTube video sometime next week.

Should be fun! Feel free to come by to see for yourself.

Here is the "So You Think You Can Dance" video on YouTube
http://youtube.com/watch?v=JO5eGcZOSOU

Also, it looks like Trocaderos is no longer having Tuesday night salsa so our performance there has been cancelled.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Twins Territory

I went to the Twins game that started at 12:15 PM. I met a couple friends there and happened to have my laptop with me. The Twins were loosing bigtime and it was getting a little boring so I decided to see if there was a wireless network in the stadium. Turns out there is! It's called "Twins Territory" and appears to be an open high speed network. Very Cool!

I can imagine going to other games as a place to work. You can get a Cheap Seats (outfield upper deck GA) ticket for $6 and it's a pretty nice atmosphere. Certianly different than sitting at the desk.

If you're interested in joining me for a game let me know!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Two Questions and One Long Answer

I recently received an email that included the following two questions.

“What are your thoughts on how your IT skills might be transferred to the renewable energy field?”

“Are you thinking of the business side or the non-profit side more?”

My response to these questions surprised me a little bit and helped me to frame what I’m doing. I wanted to post this response in this forum as well and see if anyone has any comments.

Good questions. My response has gotten a little long but both of your questions open up a lot of territory!

I’m open to working in a for-profit, non-profit, governmental or academic organization. I believe that it will be possible for me to utilize my skills, experience and enthusiasm to work on renewable energy from any of these perspectives. However, I do believe that it’s critical that renewable energy continue to develop in such a way that it is financially competitive (if not superior) to fossil fuel energy for both the producer and consumer. As long as people have to pay a premium renewables will remain alternative rather than go mainstream. I believe that all four types of organizations have a key role to play in creating a sustainable energy future. That said, my experience in IT has all been in for-profit companies and I’m quite happy working in that environment.

I believe that technology provides tools for people to solve problems and maximize the potential presented by opportunities. This is the spirit that I bring to my exploration of how I can use my background in the renewable energy field. I’m primarily interested in understanding the challenges the renewable energy industry is facing and then look for ways that I can apply my skill set to make a difference.

The digital world we live in requires software and IT systems in an amazingly diverse number of areas. The possibilities I see for how I can apply my IT/software background is equally diverse. Here are some of the ideas that have surfaced during my investigation:

• Consumer Education

o Carbon and other types of calculators (for example http://www.climatecrisis.net/takeaction/carboncalculator/). What is the next generation of calculator going to look like? How will efficiency opportunities be incorporated in the calculators?

o Web based marketing and education campaigns. Eyeballs are looking at the web around the world making this is a fantastic medium. One of my client groups at Target was On-line Marketing and I can see how a number of the things that Target did to build brand could be applied to renewable energy education and enrollment such as games, contests, and user submitted content (movies, stories, songs, art work, etc).

• Community Organizing

o Creating web based applications that allow neighbors to work together to change the energy choices in their community. Community owned solar or wind project. “Ask your neighbor” discussion forums. Offering ways for people to express their desire for sustainable energy options.

o Credit trading systems such as the Chicago Climate Exchange (http://www.chicagoclimatex.com/)

• Distributed Generation Management

o Creating/enhancing software to monitor distributed power generation and maximizes the financial reward (use immediately, store for the future or sell back to grid).

• Centralized Generation

o What systems are used to monitor and control turbines in wind farms?

o New approaches to solar (http://www.stirlingenergy.com/) may require specialized software and systems.

• Modeling – applies to both Distributed and Centralized Generation

o Refining models of wind speed and available energy

o Consumer Information about Solar – see http://www.technologyreview.com/read_article.aspx?id=17129&ch=biztech for bit about plan to create a web application that will provide consumers and builders information about wattage they can expect from integrated solar systems.

o Ocean wave and tidal energy.

• Marketing of renewable energy solutions

o Renewable energy carbon offset purchasing

o Providing online tools for people to see the financial and aesthetic impact of different energy system options.

• Holistic solution design

o Provide tools (wikis, discussion forums, VOIP conferences) for interdisciplinary and geographically disparate teams to work together on projects. Projects often require significant involvement from business, design and technical experts to be successful.

• Appliance manufacturing (i.e. solar photovoltaic panels and membranes, wind turbines, geothermal systems) companies have information management challenges. I could work directly for one of these organizations. For Example SunPower, SunTech or Evergreen Solar.

• Building construction and renovation

o Streamline the LEED certification and application process through on-line tools. I understand that USGBC has been working with Adobe to do this.

• Demand management

o Smart appliances that can monitor grid demand and operate a lowest cost or most efficient times.

o Feedback systems to allow people to see the complete cost of their energy consumption patterns. The interfaces for these systems could be built into cell phones, PDAs and other items that we keep close to us on regular basis. You could hit a button on your phone to see your carbon footprint for the day with a couple of simple suggestions for what you could do to change the pattern. Data could come from things as diverse as your car, your electric utility, your refrigerator, and your computer.

• Financial Modeling. Are there customized solutions needed to support the financial models used to argue for public policy, corporate policy and personal choices?

• Bio Fuels.

o Manufacturing facility monitoring and control. Are there any special needs of the bio fuel industry that are not currently being addressed?

o Research into cellulosic ethanol technology. My undergrad degree is in biochemistry. I imagine that these companies create mountains of data that has to be managed and presented in such a way as to be usable.

• Distribution and Grid management.

o Transmission capacity. Provide tools for a consumer/developer to be able to negotiate with the utility?

o Location, Location, Location. How do we get power produced in one location to a consumer in a different location? Are there “better” ways to manage this that require software to make real-time decisions and provide feedback?


As I mentioned in my initial email, I’m most interested in distributed generation. There are two reasons for this. First, I’m a strong believer in enabling people to participate. Distributed generation allows many more people to be contributors and consumers rather than just consumers. Second, more diversity in a system makes it more stable, flexible, reliable and secure. In IT this is called avoiding single points of failure. In natural ecosystems we call this biodiversity.