Monday, January 27, 2014

OTIS Green Mountain College Design Build

I love innovative design. Besides the sustainability elements, I think it's quite ascetically pleasing. 



Exploring GMOs Deeper

I was recently engaged in an online debate about sexual shaming as a response to "disagreement", or a dislike for reporting. In the discussion, the focus, Amy Harmon with the NYTimes asked me to look at her GMO story with fresh eyes. And so I tired.

A bit of background is important at this point. I have years of experience on the "con" side of this issue. I've worked in environmental affairs, been involved with myriad environmental action groups; hell, I drive a Prius. And I've read over the years the stories about increased cancer risk, Monstanto's seed police, contaminated soils, and myriad other concerns. Yet I also recognize science evolves, that what we understand about any particular subject gathers more information, different analyses; that the scientific consensus may change. Plus, I'm willing to admit that I am often within an political echo-chamber, where truly hearing other voices can be rather difficult.

With that, I decided to read the article with as open a mind as I can muster. Ms. Harmon does a great job providing in-depth research that challenges my mindset. But, also, I see that this issue is a giant, freakin' muddle. I've spent a little time digging, exploring and counter-exploring. The main thing I've learned at this point: this is no easy project. I found this quote over at Nature perfect:

People are positively swimming in information about GM technologies. Much of it is wrong — on both sides of the debate. But a lot of this incorrect information is sophisticated, backed by legitimate-sounding research and written with certitude. (With GM crops, a good gauge of a statement’s fallacy is the conviction with which it is delivered.)
I found another writer looking to make sense of all of this, over with my friends at Grist,  Nathanael Johnson. He started a series on GMO foods, starting with "The genetically modified food debate: Where do we begin?" If you have an interest in this subject, I suggest you give the series a read.

I intend to continue my dive into this.  Feel free to follow my reading via my Delicious account. This will serve as something of a bibliography on the matter for me. As of right now, my brain is full. And, ultimately, I really want to do the subject justice.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Thoughts on the Apple TV

My house has moved into the "unplugged" realm; we stream our content via the internet. Our main appliance is an Apple TV, which we love. Mainly, we prefers its navigation in comparison with our Xbox 360.

The one issue many folks might have is what I'll call release lag. It takes a few days/weeks (or more) for a show to make its way to Netflix or the iTunes store. For me, that's really not it an issue. However, it will be for some.

Apple has some work to do. Right now, navigating the main screen is tolerable, though a bit clunky. However, with each new app & service, it gets messier. Soon, it will become unwieldy. I want to see the ability to organize this "desktop". Folders will be critical. Plus, I want to have a "favorites/bookmarks" section. It would also be good to let me delete apps I don't want.

The range of content amazes and delights me. And the lack of commercials is glorious. And the ability to stream from my iPhone or Macbook further increases the range of content.

I'm convinced this is the future of content distribution. Well, the ala carte model, at least. There is a revolutionary idea out there, getting ready to shift things again. That's the exciting part.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Tom Perkins, Income Inequality, And Engaging With The Public

I groaned when I saw this come through my Twitter feed:



Jumping straight to the Nazi/Hitler comparison's really streamlines the descent to trollish online discussion. No need to wade through all that high-falutin, intellectual discussion; jump straight to the trash talk! Weak rhetorical technique, I'm afraid. I won't bother with deconstructing the analogy Mr. Perkins presents, Tim Fernholz did a good job at that on Quartz. I do, however, want to explore the main point: the growing discontent at our income disparity.

Mr. Perkins statement brings to mind a misconception that's paralyzing the income inequality debate. "You're just jealous of our success", generally rattled off defensively. Now I've grown weary of this. It's simply knee-jerk defensive justification that serves no purpose. Simply, it's folks' like Mr. Perkins way to avoid dealing with the larger issue. And, of course, the role they play both in the causality of the situation and any solution.

There is a growing groundswell of discontent at the ever widening income disparity gap. From the Occupy Movement to efforts to raise the minimum wage, we're seeing a populist swelling of "dislike" for the current status quo. There are a number of articles on the subject of the income disparity between CEO and Average Worker pay, some stating it's as much as 400 times more.  But let's take a more conservative number, From Bloomberg, "Across the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index of companies, the average multiple of CEO compensation to that of rank-and-file workers is 204...". What's more telling, though is that this is growing, "...up 20 percent since 2009". Economic growth is concentrating in the hands of a very few, while the work is done more broadly. That's the root of the discontent. And, with that, I don't feel there's a great demand for a Robin Hood-eque income reallocation. To take the campaign to raise the minimum wage as an example, the statement really is that more of the profit from that burger (or whatever minimum wage product is being produced) needs to go the cook, and less to the CEO (and other executives) of burger company X.


Personally, I have no issue with some income differential. And I imagine that most people in the US, at least, don't. However, there comes a point when the rewards of work and initiative are not shared justly that people rebel. It looks like people are feeling these rates are exploitive, and hence morally reprehensible. That's, ultimately, what needs to be addressed. Whining that progressives aren't being nice to you adds nothing the debate, and, actually, makes the 1% look crass and uncaring. Mr. Perkins' op-ed comes across as a temper-tantrum, which is sad. The larger, and more critical, debate will now be lost in the Twitter backlash. At least, for now.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Oh, Life's Cruel Ironies

One of the cruel ironies of life: when sick, the body mainly needs rest. Which I find nearly impossible, when sick, to get. Perhaps more real than other perceptions, like how traffic volumes directly correlate to how late you are, likelihood of a flat-tire to the dressiness of your clothes, those sorts of things. 

Part of dealing with the sick/sleep issue: medications. NyQuil and it's sibling medicines certainly help make life better, or at least tolerable. Of course, there comes a point that I start to worry that any other additive to my system will result in my blood becoming corrosive. 
Now, I do utilize some naturopathic techniques. Mostly steamy showers, netti pots and hot teas. Oh, and chicken pho!

I guess you could view this as another area technology has taken solid hold. Do we ever really consider the innovations that all these meds represent? That so many have only been part of western life for a few decades? Yet we do we think twice about them? It's as natural to me, at least, to grab pharmaceuticals when ailing as I can imagine.  

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Google+ and Social Media Movement

I've been spending more time on Google+ lately (here's the link to my Google+ page). Twitter has been my biggest site of late, with Facebook being a solid second. However, I'm beginning to see some solid value in the Google+ platform.

The main thing I like: larger posting sizes than Twitter. Twitter was designed around SMS limiting factors. The character limits don't, as a general rule, bother me. However, there are times I like the larger posts and Google+ seems to fit the bill better.

Also, especially when compared to Facebook, filtering content and controlling what you see, and who sees your posts, Google+ is clearly better. The interface is cleaner and more straightforward.

It also helps that Google has stated on multiple occasions that it is prioritizing Google+ posts and content. One does need to consider SEO value as well.

Lastly, and most important to me, Google+ is still pretty new. The feeds I see are still quite free of trollish behavior. It's a much more pleasant experience. Will that change if/when the platform takes off? That's my concern. But, for now, it's a fun world with interesting discussions delightfully free of troll-bait. 

Monday, January 20, 2014

Being Female in the Digital Age and my Disappointment for Food Democracy Now

I was annoyed when I saw this hit my Twitter feed.

,

The article references Food Democracy Now's response to an article written by the New York Time's Amy Harmon. That an organization that I support  pulled this crap really got to me.



We're used to this stuff from the Right, whether Rush Limbaugh railing against a 7th grade Chelsea Clinton not being sexy enough, or the blather about Nancy Pelosi unprettyness, ad nasuem. Yet, Pamela reminds us that both sides of the aisle are happy to partake. Then I remember seeing some of the pornographic representations of Sarah Palin during the "Drill Baby Drill" kerfuffle. Sadly, politics seems to bring out the ugliest in us all.

It disappoints me when the Left, in all our drive for equal access, the obliteration of privilege and the like undercut our own message with sexist drivel. For those of us who value reason and debate over petty slings, we need to respond accordingly. Food Democracy Now, I'm deeply disappointed in you. Whether that means anything to you, I don't know. My ability to take anything you say with seriousness has been compromised, knowing you'll resort to cheap harassment in the face of critique.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Contracts: Where Tech and Real Estate Could Actually Meet and Add Value

The past few years I've worked in real estate. One thing I've noticed: a general dis-trust, or at least dislike for many technological solutions. The slow adoption of e-Signatures are one that particularly get me. It's hysterical to me how many institutions refuse to accept them. Many of the government owned properties as well major banks amongst them. It's so much easier to forge a ink signature compared to electronic, that I really am not certain that's the reason for the refusal.

These institutions tend to have very rigid, and exacting, contract terms, what they want signed and all that. I've wondered for quite some time why they don't each build their own website for the offer and contract process. Electronic forms can be set to demand a signature/initial for each item, with prompts set up and refusing to advance in the process until completed. It seems so much cleaner to have folks go to a website and fill out the form with prompts than to email me information, I enter into a website, the site prompts negotiation points, email those to other party (redo until agreement reached), print a contract, email the contract, print it, review it, sign it, rescan it, email it back, then upload to some site. If nothing else, these multiple steps violate the basic principles of data normalization. Which, to me, is begging for trouble.

I expect that technology will make real impacts in this space soon. Now that e-signatures are part of our MLS, many real estate services provide that complimentary, the demand will clear and straightforward. Hopefully, the better security will become more obvious, too. And I see some great innovation opportunities (easy and simple idea: dialog box pops out to highlight a key contract term...just a simple, easy example). Slow but steady evolution will come, surely.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Thoughts on the Kelly Thomas Verdict

This came across this on my Twitter feed this evening.



Hard hitting, painful as a father to see, to consider. To picture my son begging for his live at the hands of a merciless beating. It's a provocative image, eliciting a solid emotional response.

My intellect, as a general rule, questions emotion-based responses. Thus, I choose to search out details, and, perhaps, facts. Doing so, of course, simply adds muddle to this. Start with this, Whiting: Kelly Thomas verdict shocking, then understandable", adds a bit of color, and here's another piece with details "Two former officers found not guilty in death of Kelly Thomas"

I read through all of this, and am starting to feel confused and numb. Which side is right? Is this verdict really just? Unjust? Are these guys just doing their job?
A few details give me pause.

First and foremost, these officers beat Thomas for 10 minutes. Ten.

"Defense attorneys said Thomas suffered physically from drug abuse, and his exertions during the struggle were too much for him."That's countered by the county's pathologist's report stating Thomas cause of death was "from asphyxiation caused by injuries he received during the confrontation." Not heart failure or any other "failure". Being beaten savagely for nearly 10 minutes will kill the most physically fit of us. I find the defense's "expert testimony" to the contrary expected, and hollow. Sorry, but I'm sure if you pay out enough cash, you'll find someone with the right credentials to provide whatever argument you want. I feel the state's experts have the most valuable insight here. Not buying the defense's claims here.

Another was uttered by Ramos' attorney,John Barnett">, claiming "...they had no malice in their hearts." His client's own words counter this. The whole encounter started with Ramos "see these fists?....They're getting ready to ---- you up." No malice, indeed.

So, ultimately, I need to acknowledge I wasn't on the jury, didn't see what they saw and hear what they heard. Just or unjust, we need to keep that in mind. If this is a failure of "the system", then raging against some of the players is counter-productive (meaning the jurors, to be clear).

The defense, though, came up with one thought that should chill us. The defense said that "cops must protect themselves when they believe they are in danger, without fear of prosecution for handling the incident with force. "That fear costs livesJohn Barnett, an attorney for Ramos, told the Los Angeles Times. "Not because they fear the criminal, but because they fear the court.” Afraid of the court, or afraid of being held responsible for their actions? Sorry, but I think they should feel that fear, that they should have that concern in the back of their minds, "I can be held accountable for my actions".  And the argument that it costs lives specious.

Officers are granted great power, great authority and need to be held to a standard that warrants that trust. From what I've read this evening, it's hard for me to feel that these officers lived up to that standard. Mr. Thomas, for whatever his issues and failures, didn't commit a capital crime. I wonder if there is a way to prevent such terrible things from happening.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Skype Birthday Issue

My started with a few chums wishing me a happy birthday. Problem? It's not my birthday (October, if you care). Turns out, my Skype profile was displaying today is my day of happiness and aging acknowledgment.

My profile in Skype was right. So, after a brief, and fruitless, web search, it finally occurred to me, "check the website". Sure enough, my profile at Skype.com was pretty weirdly messed up. My full name appeared in my First Name spot, my picture was gone, and my birthday was today. Oddly, I made the edits, clicked save, then pinged a friend to see if they'd taken. Nope. Then I tried the slow approach. Changed the profile pic. Saved. Clicked out, then back into my profile. Edit. Change Name. Out. Then back. Change birthday. Out. Back. I've logged out, then back in. The changes seem to be holding. We'll see.

My theory is something got mucked up during the port over the Microsoft. Perhaps with the interconnection with my Hotmail account. Or, well, who knows. Just, hopefully, it's fixed.

Technology makes your life better...when it works.

Cheers!

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Data, Greek Love, Choices

Today: another day where I sit amazed at the information stream I've set up for myself. Emails, website, tweets, etc, tons of stuff I WANT to process. Add to that the stream of stuff I "should" read. It's really mind blowing.

I consider, though, "why?"  It's hits me that is rather new. Must of my life, getting access to information required more effort. I needed to subscribe to a magazine or journal, go to a library, etc. Plus, editors and publishers weeded the irrelevant (ostensibly, at least). I never needed to invest time in determining whether I was investing in worthwhile information.

Now, knowledge races towards me. Things that would've required hours, of not days, of research I can now access from my bed. And it's all there... ALL, good, bad, useful and not...all. And I value that, democratizing information, even with the added burden.

I'm working on the control skills. Really, though, the challenge is gluttony, on my part. I love knowing stuff, especially the eclectic, unusual. Perhaps a little showing off, but also it just makes me giddy. And that's really my challenge: I want to read it all. How do I prioritize it, chose which this to ignore? Hmm... indeed...

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Coin, Phones and the Future of Credit Cards

After reading this TechCruch piece on Coin, I'm wondering if, someday, credit card companies will stop producing the plastic throw-away cards. This future would see us using our cell phones with NFC functionality or tools like Coin. That should reduce the amount of plastic added to our waste stream, and, I expect, lower costs for the credit-card industry. They won't need to manufacture, much less distribute cards.

I also hope gift cards will evolve this way. One example: I get a number of Starbucks cards as thank-yous for various efforts. The first thing I do with them is transfer the balance onto my iPhone's Starbucks app, then toss the card. Usually, the plastic card is in my possession from a few minutes to a day. It's really rather wasteful.

So, green benefits and cost savings; what a better win/win combination, right?

Moleskine Day




As a productivity and effectiveness junkie, I found this clever little bit from my chums at Moleskine a gentle little reminder about the importance of planners and planning. And a nice nudge to grab a new paper planner. More on that soon, though.