Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Reap the Wild Wind, 2009 Edition

Yessss! Ultravox is making a comeback in 2009 with their first live shows since Live Aid in 185 (though nothing here in the U.S.)

Oh heck, here's one more. Gotta love those low-budget early 80s videos.


Sunday, November 09, 2008

Sofian at the park in Raleigh

Sofian at the park in Raleigh
Originally uploaded by bornflippy

Love that expression.

Climate Crisis Priorities for President Obama

As listed by Nobel Peace Prize winner Al Gore in the NYTimes:
First, the new president and the new Congress should offer large-scale investment in incentives for the construction of concentrated solar thermal plants in the Southwestern deserts, wind farms in the corridor stretching from Texas to the Dakotas and advanced plants in geothermal hot spots that could produce large amounts of electricity.

Second, we should begin the planning and construction of a unified national smart grid for the transport of renewable electricity from the rural places where it is mostly generated to the cities where it is mostly used. New high-voltage, low-loss underground lines can be designed with “smart” features that provide consumers with sophisticated information and easy-to-use tools for conserving electricity, eliminating inefficiency and reducing their energy bills. The cost of this modern grid — $400 billion over 10 years — pales in comparison with the annual loss to American business of $120 billion due to the cascading failures that are endemic to our current balkanized and antiquated electricity lines.

Third, we should help America’s automobile industry (not only the Big Three but the innovative new startup companies as well) to convert quickly to plug-in hybrids that can run on the renewable electricity that will be available as the rest of this plan matures. In combination with the unified grid, a nationwide fleet of plug-in hybrids would also help to solve the problem of electricity storage. Think about it: with this sort of grid, cars could be charged during off-peak energy-use hours; during peak hours, when fewer cars are on the road, they could contribute their electricity back into the national grid.

Fourth, we should embark on a nationwide effort to retrofit buildings with better insulation and energy-efficient windows and lighting. Approximately 40 percent of carbon dioxide emissions in the United States come from buildings — and stopping that pollution saves money for homeowners and businesses. This initiative should be coupled with the proposal in Congress to help Americans who are burdened by mortgages that exceed the value of their homes.

Fifth, the United States should lead the way by putting a price on carbon here at home, and by leading the world’s efforts to replace the Kyoto treaty next year in Copenhagen with a more effective treaty that caps global carbon dioxide emissions and encourages nations to invest together in efficient ways to reduce global warming pollution quickly, including by sharply reducing deforestation.

Sounds daunting right? Maybe not that much:
In an earlier transformative era in American history, President John F. Kennedy challenged our nation to land a man on the moon within 10 years. Eight years and two months later, Neil Armstrong set foot on the lunar surface. The average age of the systems engineers cheering on Apollo 11 from the Houston control room that day was 26, which means that their average age when President Kennedy announced the challenge was 18.


Sodden Chelsea...

...prevail against Blackburn despite the conditions. Looking forward to seeing the highlights on Match of the Day later.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Getting Back to Blogginess

Things have been crazy busy and I've just not had the energy or desire to face the blogs. But I'm getting my feet back under me, and am aiming to be a bit more proactive (I'm also going to be reviewing my blogging direction during the next few weeks, so there may be some changes afoot). To get things started, here's an energetic track from Kraak & Smaak found via Swissmiss:

Friday, April 25, 2008

My New (Sort Of) Blog Playground

I've been blogging for the Amazon Electronics store for a good long while now (since late 2006), and this week it got a new name (End User), snazzy, refreshed design where it's broken out of the Amazon site (it's now powered by TypePad), and given some Web 2.0 love. One post that I submitted a little while back never made it up because of the transition work going on (I can now publish directly, which makes me gleeful and probably makes my editors at Amazon a little nervous), so I offer it to you here:


A couple of months back, I stood rather aghast in the checkout line of my local grocery store as a woman continued chattering on her phone rather loudly during her entire transaction, acknowledging the mere existence of the check-out person just enough to grab her receipt and whirl away to finish the conversation. But rather than being witness to a mannerless boob, it turns out I was watching a sociological revue play itself out, at least according to one of the collection of articles in this week's Economist magazine (happily available to nonsubscribers) about the way that wireless communication is changing the way that people interact with one another.
Richard Ling, a sociologist at Telenor, the largest Norwegian telephone company, and author of New Tech, New Ties: How Mobile Communication Is Reshaping Social Cohesion, was standing on his porch in Oslo one day, saying farewell to a few guests, when a plumber walked around the corner, talking on his mobile phone to what appeared to be his wife. Mr Ling, who had a leak in the kitchen, was expecting him. But the plumber took Mr Ling and his guests aback by walking right past them and into the house, where he took off his shoes and headed for the kitchen, chattering into his handset all the while.

It was the sort of thing that perhaps excites only sociologists. Here was an example of two big tensions in nomadic society. First, mobile technology pitted the plumber's interaction with a stranger (Mr Ling) against that with his own wife on the phone. The plumber, to use the technical term, had a "weak tie" to Mr Ling but a "strong tie" to his wife which easily prevailed over the weak one, leaving a few Norwegians feeling temporarily awkward and pondering the fate of their society.

Second, the plumber gave precedence to what Mr Ling calls the "mediated" interaction with the person at the other end of the phone, at the expense of his "co-present" communication with Mr Ling who was standing right next to him. In other words, the person who was physically more distant was nonetheless psychologically closer. So out went social norms and rituals (handshakes, greetings) that Norway and other societies accumulated during a past of exclusively co-present interactions. The plumber's only nod to ritual was to take off his shoes.

As a once budding sociologist (for a few semesters back in college, before one of my many major changes), the collection of special report articles at The Economist about the "new nomadism" of our wireless ways is a great read, and reminds me that the way I work today is so much different than I did even 5 years ago. I now conduct business via email and Twitter on my iPhone as I push my toddler son's jogging stroller. There's still a lot of work to do on my laptop, but assignments, review of documents, and conversation of direction can be made completely untethered from my PC.

Sociologically related, the New York Times Magazine from last Sunday (NYTimes membership required) featured an article that focused on Jan Chipchase, a man whose job I'm envious of. He works for Nokia as a "human-behavior researcher," also sometimes referred to as a "user anthropologist," he travels the globe "to peer into the lives of other people, accumulating as much knowledge as possible about human behavior so that he can feed helpful bits of information back to the company -- to the squads of designers and technologists and marketing people who may never have set foot in a Vietnamese barbershop but who would appreciate it greatly if that barber someday were to buy a Nokia."

The article is a great reminder that the cell phone isn't just a communication convenience and knowledge worker accoutrement in the industrial world, but is also a technological key to how the cell phone will shape micro- and macroeconomics in the developing world over the next decade.
During a 2006 field study in Uganda, Chipchase and his colleagues stumbled upon an innovative use of the shared village phone, a practice called sente. Ugandans are using prepaid airtime as a way of transferring money from place to place, something that’s especially important to those who do not use banks. Someone working in Kampala, for instance, who wishes to send the equivalent of $5 back to his mother in a village will buy a $5 prepaid airtime card, but rather than entering the code into his own phone, he will call the village phone operator ("phone ladies" often run their businesses from small kiosks) and read the code to her. She then uses the airtime for her phone and completes the transaction by giving the man’s mother the money, minus a small commission. "It’s a rather ingenious practice," Chipchase says, "an example of grass-roots innovation, in which people create new uses for technology based on need."

Maybe in a century or so, someone will write a Kurlansky-esque book on how the cell phone changed the world. Of course, the way Moore's Law seems to accelerate the pace of technological change, we might get that book within my lifetime.

Modfather May: Stanley Road Revisisted

Paul Weller is coming out with a new disc the first week of June (it seems my Well-ey senses have been tingling of late - just take a look at the previous posts), so I'm going to dedicate the next month to mining video and audio from his very lengthy career. First off is a collection of videos of him and his band playing selections from his Stanley Road album, which was his biggest seller in the UK during his current solo career.

When Stanley came out, I was frankly disappointed by it, as it seemed to trade the acid jazz-tinged, Traffic-inspired tunes of his first solo record and subsequent Wild Wood for a more straight-forward Dad Rock album. I was also rather aghast at its reworking of the previously released "Out of the Sinking," one of my very most favorite tunes and one that meant a lot to me around that time period. For the album, Weller and producer Brendan Lynch pasted in some R&B background singing that just didn't seem to fit.

But as the years have worn on, the album has grown on me (and I'm now a rocking Dad), and these performances on Jools Holland's Later program from the BBC, done some years after the release as a bit of a retrospective (not sure when it was filmed, but it looks from Weller's hair style that it was probably around 2004 to 2005), feature some kick ass grooves.

The lineup of videos is in the playlist wrapper below (with individual links):

"Whirlpool's End" (complete with orchestration and horn section)
"Stanley Road"
"Woodcutter's Son"
"Out of the Sinking" (the backup singers are much more integrated now)

And since this is a playlist capsule from YouTube, you can just let the whole thing play consecutively.



The new Chelsea strip for 08/10 was unveiled today, and it's underwhelming:

Compare that to the previous strip:

I'm not a fan of the lighter blue hue.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

You Don't Have to Take This Crap

With all the mud being flung in Pennsylvania and the travesty that was that horrid ABC debate, I've been humming this song a lot this past week -- one of my fave Style Council songs from Our Favorite Shop (which I just repurchased from Amazon's MP3 store, complete with all the b-sides that I've got lingering on my shelf). This one's a pretty good live rendition from the Old Grey Whistle Test.

You don't have to take this crap
You don't have to sit back and relax
You can actually try changing it
I know we've always been taught to rely
Upon those in authority -
But you never know until you try
How things just might be -
If we came together so strongly

Are you gonna try to make this work
Or spend your days down in the dirt
You see things can change -
YES an' walls can come tumbling down!


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Cable Guy

Next time I have need of a cable, I'm going to Blue Jeans Cable, as they seem to have some good prices, are quirkily geeky about cables... and can give a hilariously legalistic F.U. to Monster Cable, the most bloodsuckerish company in consumer electronics.


Monday, April 14, 2008

The Bitterest Pill

That seems to be Hillary Clinton's claim to fame these days. And thusly, here's the soundtrack:

In your white lace and your wedding bells
You look the picture of contented new wealth
But from the on-looking fool who believed your lies
I wish this grave would open up and swallow me alive
For the bitterest pill is hard to swallow
The love I gave hangs in sad coloured, mocking shadows