Friday, November 24, 2006

U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC)


The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is the nation’s foremost coalition of leaders from every sector of the building industry working to promote buildings that are environmentally responsible, profitable and healthy places to live and work. Our more than 7,200 member organizations and our network of more than 80 regional chapters are united to advance our mission of transforming the building industry to sustainability.

Core Purpose: The U.S. Green Building Council's core purpose is to transform the way buildings and communities are designed, built and operated, enabling an environmentally and socially responsible, healthy, and prosperous environment that improves the quality of life.

The Cleantech Venture Network


The Cleantech Venture Network® LLC is a membership organization bringing insight, opportunities and relationships to investors, entrepreneurs and service providers interested in clean technology. We do this through related information products, advisory and online services, and the Cleantech Forum™ series of events.

We introduced the "cleantech" concept in 2002 and have since popularized it as a viable investment category. We believe cleantech is one of the next and necessary waves of business innovation. Our goal is to ensure "good money meets good deals".

We serve over 1300 affiliate investor members worldwide. We have tracked more than $10.6 billion invested in cleantech ventures since 1999 in North America and $2.6 billion invested in Europe since 2003. Over $550 million has been raised by Cleantech Forum™ presenting companies since 2002.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Turkey day?

Why do so many people call the fourth thursday of November "Turkey Day"? For my readers outside the U.S. the fourth thursday of November, in the U.S., is a "holiday" called Thanksgiving. It's a harvest festival just like harvest festivals in other parts of the world. Our story for this holiday comes from the "earliest settlers" to North America. Well, the earliest European settlers, as there were already people here, attesting to earlier settlers coming to this continent. Those earliest European settlers ran into some problems when it became winter and they didn't have food, the earlier settlers took pity upon them, fed them, they all had a big party, and then a few years later those earlier settlers were all being massacred.

That's kind of a birds eye view of the "holiday season" from the Bizarro comic strip.

Haven't we lost sight of what these holidays were meant to be?

First, the word "holiday" is really "holy day" in disguise. The modern "holiday" is really a corruption of the holy day, a day that was meant to be in worship. Yet, today holidays are simply a day off, with a wide variety of activities one can do.

The retailers have taken over holidays with special sales, promotions, decorations, etc all related to the theme of each holiday. Ask yourself, did Jesus die on the cross for the furtherance of commerce?

Getting back to "Thanks Giving", what do you think was being commemorated? The event was a rescue from death by compassionate strangers. Right? In what part of that story was an orgy of football supposed to be involved?

bizarro-thanks-giving.jpg22.61 KB

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Fun with semi-solids

If you mix corn starch in water to the right consistency it takes on amazing properties. It can act as both a liquid and a solid, hence the name semi-solid. It can also be called a non-newtonian fluid. If you apply stress to the fluid it becomes solid. If this doesn't make sense perhaps a demonstration is in order.

This is a spanish language video of some performers who made a vat of this liquid and performed some stunts. It's crazy.

What's happening is when they run across the liquid, their feet striking the surface of the liquid causes a localized solid to form and they're able to run across water. But when they walk out onto the vat and then stand, the localized solid turns back into a liquid and they sink in.

Just because they're able to run on water doesn't make them Jesus. Jesus walked on water, not ran.

This next they label "Cornstarch Life Form". It is really a demonstration of cymatics.

Cymatics is a field of science created by a Swiss scientist Hans Jenny. He applied sounds of different frequency to pollens and with a video camera studied the patterns that formed.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Black Gold, the movie that explains the coffee industry

What is Fair Trade coffee? You've probably seen this in the organic friendly stores but if you're like me you don't know what it means, why it's important, "they" just make it seem like the right thing to do.

Black Gold: Wake Up and Smell The Coffee purports to explain the coffee industry, especially the high end coffee shops that are infesting America, and explain how much of the high priced coffee money reaches the producer. Actually: "while we continue to pay for our lattes and cappuccinos, the price paid to coffee farmers remains so low that many have been forced to abandon their coffee fields" as we might have suspected, very little of the price for that Mocha Grande makes it to the farmers that grew the stuff.

The movie apparently focuses on the Ethiopian coffee industry. But the issues it explains ought to be global due to the effect of globalization.

Tree Hugger has further explanation: Black Gold: A Coffee Film That Has Starbucks Scared

Black Gold Movie

Plastic jack-o'-lantern threatens deer's life

Plastic jack-o'-lantern threatens deer's life What happens with the local wildlife is attracted to Trick-and-Treating? Well, they get a plastic pumpkin stuck on their head, and they cannot eat or drink, threatening them with starvation, and it raises concerns by the people over the plight of the poor animal.

I suppose this draws out the best in us, and we want to help such animals. And I wish this deer the best.

But consider what Modern Society is doing to the wildlife. Every time a vacant field is turned into a shopping mall, wildlife has less place to live. Every time we drive our car, it spews more poison into the air and water, increasingly poisoning everything the wildlife has to eat. Every passing car on the highway keeps the wildlife from occupying the space occupied by the highway. That is a huger threat to wildlife than the few who get plastic pumpkin's stuck on their heads.

I think one of the universal values of living beings is for the environment around us to suit the bodies we inhabit. Modern technology, however, drives us to build this gigantic machine that is gobbling up the planet. The machine wants us to create an environment that suits the machine, but if we step back we see the two environments are vastly different.

Why do people who live in cities fantasize about pristine nature scenes? Such fantasies represent something lacking in the lives of people who have such fantasies. I suggest that fantasy derives from our innate human desire for an environment that suits our bodies, the natural world. But our technological society is building a different world.

Sunday, November 5, 2006

YouTube Citizens speaking out

It's election season and we have silly politicians pulling silly stunts to try to get elected. I don't watch television so I don't experience this first hand, but I hear the TV is full of the typical ugly political campaign advertising. That's partly why I don't watch TV. In any case in addition to the TV advertising YouTube has drawn a number of political and corporate videos. And, the presence of these videos are causing some to question whether YouTube is being ruined. But I think it's an example of the question: Who owns a community?

An interesting sidebar this year is the growing effect of YouTube. It's about sharing video content, and it has several viral features that has helped propel the site into mainstream America. Well, at least among those of mainstream America who are intelligent enough to figure out how to post to YouTube.

Apparently YouTube users were originally brought on board with a promise, possibly explicit, that the site would be for their use, for them to share whatever video content they wanted to post. But given the number of eyeballs now browsing YouTube it has drawn corporate types, and political types. Consider this video:

It's decrying a set of videos posted by obvious political hacks who are brazenly violating YouTube's rules, and who are somehow able to get links into Google's search engine results pretty quickly. The author of that video has a certain conception of the purpose of YouTube, and s/he's being offended by the destruction of that purpose. And this demonstrates very well the question at the beginning of this posting: Who owns a community?

YouTube is an example of an online community. A community forms when a group of people come together for common activities, shared activities that head to a common purpose. In YouTube's case the purpose is sharing video content and creating contact with one another through video content.

YouTube and Google may think they own the community. YouTube built the community infrastructure and enticed the people into the community, and Google bought everything that is YouTube. So by some measures Google owns the thing. But let me ask you, is the community the web site, or is the community the people?

Obviously I believe the community is the people. Without those people YouTube would be just another web site, one of the zillions of them on the Web. It is the people who enliven the YouTube site with activity and life. And what's valuable about YouTube is the sharing between people, and the connection created between people via that sharing.

What control does Google/YouTube have? Obviously as the owners of the site they can do anything they want. But if they manage to offend the community members, those people will vote with their feet. It's not all that hard to implement something like YouTube, what's hard is getting people on-board. The example would be eBay's phenomenon in the auctioneering space, where there are dozens of online auction houses but only one (eBay) who has a major presence. That is the community in action, and eBay has been carefully nurturing its community.

The real world analogy I think of is a bar owner. The bar owner earns their money by operating a space for a community to form, siphoning some money out of the pockets of people who come to meet one another. For the bar to be successful the bar owner has to offer an inviting space. And the people can abandon a bar if the bar owner screws up the space. Can the bar owner be dictatorial? Maybe. But a dictatorial bar owner might see few patrons unless the bar is extremely inviting in some way. (I'm thinking of that "Soup Nazi" character on some TV show)

When Google bought YouTube did they end up owning the community? Nope. They bought a service, and to do well with it they need to learn to nurture community. YouTube did an excellent job of this.