Sunday, December 31, 2006

Trends to watch in 2007

The title of this blog post makes me sound important, doesn't it? Clearly, I know not what lies ahead in the coming year -- nor does anyone else (except, perhaps, the folks at Popular Mechanics.)

Still, it's fun to ask questions. In 2007, I'm wondering:

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Thursday, December 21, 2006

Building a business plan in Second Life

A few evenings ago a classmate and I met with a couple of programmers to discuss applications (the details of which I'll keep mum) that they are building in Second Life. I took a screenshot as our avatars sat around a floating table on the roof of tall building. That's me with my back to the camera, and my classmate is seated to my right. The programmers are the two other guys.

I've roamed around Second Life on my own over the past few months, but this was the first time I've participated in a structured meeting "in-world," as they say. Communicating via Skype conference call and some in-world IM, we kicked around ideas for building a business plan. My classmate and I are going to work with a few other classmates on doing the market research and drafting the business plan, and we'll enter it in a competition in a few months.

To say the least, I'm finding this thoroughly fascinating. With the time-intensive first quarter in the MBA program complete, we're encouraged to start exploring directions in business that catch our fancy. The business plan competition is one avenue for this, as is the Business Consulting Network, which I am also participating in.

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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

X, Y, Z

Why do so many drug names contain the letters x, y, and z? I am curious about this.

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Saturday, December 16, 2006

Like Treebeard, but not in a good way

My sister, brother-in-law, and his son spent the better part of today here in my apartment, as there was no power in their southwest Seattle home until this evening. Like many Seattleites, they had an unsettling evening this past Wednesday. But they had the added bonus of listening to a tree hammer against their gutter (pictured). They said it sounded like Treebeard was out there, making a ruckus.

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Friday, December 15, 2006

Wind-strewn wasteland

So, the wind was pretty intense in Seattle last night.

I walked around my neighborhood today and took some blurry pictures with my phone. Here's a couple of plastic chairs. The white chair is merely upside-down; the green chair suffered a much more grisly fate!


A lot of parked vehicles got damaged last night. There was a group of folks around this wind-felled tree, all snapping pix with their phones. I wondered to myself how many of these people work at Microsoft. The Microsoft campus was essentially closed today.


Chainsawing a tree in the yard:


Power stayed on in my building, but it went out in some houses in my neighborhood (the Internet cafe in my neighborhood was packed to the gills. More Microsofties, no doubt). Down in Southwest Seattle, where my sister and brother-in-law live, power is out everywhere. They're actually on their way up to my place right now, to fill up on gas and take showers.

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My building just shook

Seriously. It's really that windy outside.

Since finishing up my first quarter as an MBA student on Tuesday, I've spent the past few days earnestly relaxing, absolutely revelling in the lack of a schedule. I've been catching up on blog-reading. I also watched 49 Up. This film gave me the same feeling I get when I look at old photos of my parents (and me): an awestruck awareness of the quick flicker of mortality.

Tonight I was walking down 15th Ave, my scarf blowing this way and that in the (then calmer) wind, when I ran into my old friend Brian. He invited me over to watch The Office and have some beer. Walking back from his place (my scarf flapping more, as the wind picked up), I thought how great it was to do something spontaneous like that, something unscheduled.

My winter break is going to be all about that.

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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Oh, my aching thumb-joint

Just finished my accounting final a few minutes ago. My thumb-joint (is that what it's called?) is hurting from all the writing. Just one more final to go - Stats at 1:30. More writing there, including an essay ... egads I'm going to have to write gently. I think I probably press down on the page too hard. I'm not used to writing so much. I (greatly) wish that all exams could be done via computer. Maybe someday.

The accounting final ... it had its good parts and its not-so-good parts. I feel good about studying up on the bonds so much; they definitely made an appearance in the exam, and I feel like I nailed those questions. I don't feel so good, however, about spending so much time on employee stock option plans, which did not show up. As for inventory, I studied LIFO and FIFO, but the exam focused on the weighted-average method - d'oh! For the most part, though, I think I did ok. Studying the practice exams was definitely helpful.

As was the triple grande americano I consumed before the exam.

Ok. Time to do some stats review.

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Sunday, December 10, 2006

Finals Eve


Yes, it is Finals Eve, and not a creature is stirring in my home...certainly not me. I am an inert, stationary lump at my desk. But rest assured that my mind is aflame with the passion of learning!

Pictured is a tantalizing glimpse into my world of finals preparations.

I think posting that schedule the other night was a good idea; something about a public proclamation of "here's what I'm going to do" has helped keep me productive. We learned something along those lines in our Management class. It's a technique of influence: commitment and consistency. A declaration of public commitment to a (perhaps undesirable) task makes it more likely that you'll want to remain consistent with that declaration and follow through. That's straight from my study notes! I think I jotted that one down around 2 AM last night.

I'll get back to the Management later this afternoon. Now it's time for Accounting prep, which I am finding surprisingly enjoyable ... much more so than econ.

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Saturday, December 09, 2006

The pathos is palpable

Ok, so I know I said you wouldn't see me til Tuesday. But we all need study breaks, right? I've done well; I've stayed on schedule. Over the last few hours I've been working my way through stats, listening to one of the finest albums released in the last ten years, and if you haven't heard it, I urge you do do so soon.

So anyways, I was just checking my site traffic, as bloggers are wont to do (often). In the past hour, someone in California found my blog via the Google search string cheat sheet for marketing mba (although I offer no such study aid on my blog, as I don't take marketing til next quarter, I nevertheless unhelpfully appear at #20 in the Google search results.)

Ahh, but the pathos of such a search. One can sense the late-night desperation.

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Friday, December 08, 2006

The ferocity of finals

Behold my schedule for this weekend, filled to the brim with jollities and amusements:


I've pondered it for a bit and I think this will be the best way to allocate my studying time over the weekend. It gives me 10 more hrs for accounting, 11 more hrs for econ, 10 more hrs for stats, and 4 more hrs for management. That seems about right. It leaves time for nothing else other than eating and sleeping...

See you all sometime after Tuesday.

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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Post-rock productivity burst

I'm feeling mysteriously energetic this evening. Perhaps it's because I got a fairly decent night's sleep (I arrived at Victrola at a reasonable 7:15 this morning), and some good exercise from walking a fair amount of the way to school this morning.

As I plough through my final edit of our group econ paper this evening, I'm listening to Godspeed You Black Emperor!'s viscerally vibrant Yanqui UXO, the merits of which Pitchfork underestimated (they gave it a 5.6 out of 10). I was inspired to listen to some post-rock this evening after a brief chat with a barista about the Sigur Ros that was playing (in the Tully's in the cafe area of the UW business school building). We'll see how much post-rock I can cycle through tonight.

Readers may notice that I've taken to talking about music lately. Had some great chats about music with a friend of my youngest sister over Thanksgiving break, and I was reminded how much I like music--in the general genres of "indie" and electronic--and how much musical knowledge I've collected over the past five years. I didn't originally intend this blog to include any writing about music. But my music appreciation has sharply risen lately; I'm noticing the refreshing right-brain stimulation that counterbalances the pummeling my left brain's been taking. :)

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The ultimate rejection letter

This was making the rounds amongst my classmates today.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Victrola in the morning

I'm in Victrola, local coffeeshop, sipping on an americano as I finish the edit on our team paper for microeconomics. I noticed that Victrola has their own blog - nice! I also noticed that they open every day at 5:30 AM. I arrived at 6:30 this morning and was feeling proud of myself. But 5:30? I'll see if I can make it in here at that time at some point this week.

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Sunday, December 03, 2006

5,000 visitors

My humble blog has just received its 5000th visitor: someone googling ibm secondlife. Incidentally, the most common googlish pathway to my blog is the string "imagining the tenth dimension" review, where visitors find this page.

And as the day darkens into dusk, I am down at Online Coffee, working on our group econ paper. It's a group endeavor; I'm editing and assembling everything.

The next week and a half will be busy. This econ paper needs to get finished, as does my stats project. There's a take-home IT & Innovation final, and an evening meeting with a client that I'll be working with in a type of mini-marketing internship with a group of classmates. (This is known as a BCN project in the UW MBA program. More on this next quarter).

Then there will be the in-class finals to prepare for: management, microeconomics, statistics, and the dreaded 3-hour accounting final. A lot to keep me busy. Finals will be finished 3:30 PM on 12/12, at which point they'll roll out some free congratulatory beer for us (according to rumor).

I'm listening to Galerie Stratique's Nothing Down-to-Earth, an album full of vaguely sinister sounds wrapped in shadowy gray rhythms. It reminds me of Aphex Twin. I think it's been a while since I've listened to it in its entirety, maybe a couple years ago when I worked at Washington State Ferries.

Speaking of which, I'll be joining those ex-coworkers for an xmas dinner in a few weeks; I'm looking forward to catching up with them.

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The remote control for life

A classmate forwarded me this interesting article from the Economist.

The cellphone is not a telephone. It is a—I don't know what it is. A communications device? A tool I carry in my pocket?
Bruce Sterling, a science-fiction writer whose future caught up with him, and who now writes books about contemporary design and technology, believes phones will be “remote controls, house keys, Game Boys, flashlights, maps, compasses, flash drives, health monitors, microphones, recorders, laser pointers, passports, make-up kits, burglar alarms, handguns, handcuffs and slave bracelets.” In short, he believes that the phone will be “the remote-control for life”.
From my own experience, I've seen my phone come to play an increasingly important role as an extension of my memory.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

December the 2nd: a historical perspective

In the Scientific American monthly section "50, 100, and 150 Years Ago," the editors rifle through the musty archives and reprint short articles from yesteryear.

I'm inspired to do something similar with my own life archives (I'm not quite able to go back 150 years yet ... someday). Starting in 1981(!) I began keeping a journal off and on. From 1986 through the mid-90s, I estimate that I wrote an entry every two days, on average.

Out of curiosity (to be truthful: I was seeking distractions from the ongoing Stats project), I looked through the old journals to see what I'd written on Dec. 2 in previous years.

Ten years ago, in 1996, I was a few days away from starting a temp grave shift position as a USPS mail sorter. On 12/2/96, I wrote:

This morning I got a call from the Post Office personnel department. They want me to start early, on Wednesday night. For some strange reason I am very excited.
Fifteen years ago, on 12/2/91, I was apparently in a melancholy mood:
I started to enjoy classical music immensely. I think for the past month I have become more introspective and reading a lot more. I have not had a desire to have a relationship for a couple months.
And 20 years ago, on 12/2/86:
Jonathan Bradley came back to school. I just started teaching him logo.

I started music. That means I just stay in the band room.

Today we had play practice (for church). My part is Paul Evans. I have 13 lines. (By the way, Paul Evans is supposed to be rich.)

Last night my ears were plugged. I slept upstairs.

It is 10:00 PM exactly.
I stuck to the facts back in the day.

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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Precipitatio pulchritudinous

There is ambiguity no further -- that's snow out there. Big, beautiful snowflakes. Mesmerizing. Pulchritudinous, if I do say so.

And lest you're worrying about me 'n' my accounting, fret not. I'm ploughing through it. It's a case that examines consolidated vs. equity-basis ownership of affiliates. Coke and Pepsi are the two example firms. Interesting stuff, but pretty complex.

I recommend The Cocteau Twins, currently gracing my ears, as lovely study-accompaniment music.

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Precipitatio Ambiguoso

For the past several minutes, I haven't been able to determine whether it's been raining or snowing here in Capitol Hill. It honestly appeared to be doing both at once. Now it looks like straight-up snow. I could go outside to examine this matter further...but no. I like the view from my cozy warm desk.

Ah, but this accursed weather keeps my attention fixed out the window, when it should be fixed upon my accounting homework!

My musical soundtrack tonight is Mi Media Naranja, the exquisitely barren and contemplative 1997 release from Labradford.

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Jon Swift: satirical genius

If you're in the mood for some excellent political satire, check out Jon Swift. This blog has become one of my new favorite study breaks!

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Sunday, November 26, 2006

Snow.

It doesn't matter that I'm 32 years old and in grad school. I keep looking at the falling snowflakes illumined by the streetlight out my window, and I feel like a little kid again, hoping school will be cancelled tomorrow. Chances are slim, I'm sure.

The snow is starting to stick now, up in the east Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle. The gradually growing snow-blanket makes my urban neighborhood smaller, more quiet, more rural-seeming.

It's a perfect evening for Nick Drake's Pink Moon. I'm listening to that now, in my pajamas and flannel shirt, doing some editing and stats research. Yes, still working on the stats.

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The problem with laptops

...is that they're too easy to work with whilst one is in a horizontal position. I greatly enjoy horizontality. Especially on days like today, filled as it is with slush and bluster, grey skies, and unceasing raindrops that have just morphed into snowflakes here in my neck of the woods.

I like to fool myself into believing that I'll actually get work done while I'm horizontal. And, if "work" is defined in a broad sense, then perhaps I am correct. I am "working" at present on this blog entry, for example.

Honestly, my industriousness from earlier in the quarter seems to be fading away. I spent much of Thanksgiving in a spot I've dubbed the womb room at my parents' place. There, down in the basement, in front of the happy warm fireplace, I spent much of the Thanksgiving break, catching up on my sleep.

Now that I've had a taste of the happy horizontality, I want more. More, I say! I wish to nap for hours on end.

But alas, there appears to be an inverse correlation between horizontality and industriousness. And speaking of inverse correlations, I have a stats project to work on ...

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

So this is why we need two editorial voices!

This past Saturday, Seattle's two major newspapers offered rather different explanations for the recent crane accident in Bellevue:





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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Editing on the fly

Someone crossed out an erroneous apostrophe in my apartment manager's hand-written note the other day.



I swear it wasn't me.

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Saturday, November 11, 2006

IBM, Second Life, and v-business

Futurismic reports that IBM is heavily involved in Second Life. According to Reuters (itself a big player in Second Life), IBM has the biggest Second Life presence of any Fortune 500 company. The CEO, Sam Palmisano, even has his own avatar there:

The company's move into virtual worlds is due in large part to the efforts of its "multiverse evangelists," Ian Hughes (Epredator Potato) and Roo Reynolds (Algernon Spackler in-world), who said last month that IBM wanted to make "v-business" a priority just as it championed "e-business" during the dot-com boom.

"We always ask the question, 'if you knew 20 years ago what you know about the Web today, what would you do differently?'" Sandy Kearney, IBM's director of emerging 3-D Internet and virtual business, told Reuters in a Second Life interview. "The Web took decades. This will likely take half that time."
V-business? It's a term presumably indicating business done in virtual worlds, such as Second Life. Wikipedia has a brief entry on virtual business, which gives an old-school definition, bascially non-bricks 'n' mortar e-business: "a business which operates without a corresponding physical identity."

But no entry for v-business.

I get the distinct feeling that this will change in the near future, as the term picks up steam.

P.S. Looks like this blog post is the first with the Technorati tag v-business.

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Friday, November 10, 2006

Lean dwelling

Recently Bob Cremin, CEO of Esterline Technologies, was a guest lecturer in my IT & Innovation class. Two things stood out to me about his philosophy of management:

  • He treats his employees as knowledge workers rather than expendable drones, and often incorporates their ideas for workflow improvement. He trusts his employees to learn from their mistakes (which will inevitably occur), and to contribute their experiential knowledge to the firm.
  • He's a big believer in lean manufacturing: simplifying operations and eliminating clutter.
Somewhere over the course of midterms, much mysterious detritus has accumulated about my apartment. So, inspired by Mr. Cremin's approach, I've been tidying things up, to make my home environment more conducive to distraction-free learning.

I'm not quite done yet, but I can already feel my stress level reducing. Somehow, cleaning house seems to clean out my mind as well.

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Thursday, November 09, 2006

Bad Technorati. Bad.

My opinion of Technorati has dropped. Precipitously. I'm in the library at moment and when I visited Technorati just now, an ad started talking, loudly. Everyone around me heard it as I raced to shut down my browser.

Internet ads that immediately produce audio--without the user's consent--are absolutely the worst sort imaginable. Worse than the most godawful blinking flash banners. I don't care how much extra revenue these ads produce for Technorati; they demonstrate an utter lack of respect for their customers.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Seattle over the past few days

A little tap on the window-pane, as though something had struck it, followed by a plentiful light falling sound, as of grains of sand being sprinkled from a window overhead, gradually spreading, intensifying, acquiring a regular rhythm, becoming fluid, sonorous, musical, immeasurable, universal: it was the rain.
-Proust, Swann's Way

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Nintendo Widow

One of my classmates, Sarah, has been blogging about her experience in our program. My own experience is very similar to hers, so it's been fun for me to read her posts.

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Monday, November 06, 2006

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

In other news

A couple months back, I confessed to finding Gmail ads fascinating, and going so far as to bring them up as objects of discussion. According to today's Wall Street Journal (subscription req'd), I'm not alone in this.

In other news, it's suddenly turned chilly in Seattle. This morning I wore the scarf my sister gave me for the first time in seven months or so.

In other news, we have a midterm in microeconomics today. We're allowed to bring in a one-page cheat sheet, and I believe I've set a new personal record for fitting a plethora of tiny text and graphs onto a page. Our instructor warns us that many of us will find this exam difficult, cheat sheet or no. The experience has certainly been building an in-the-trenches camaraderie amongst my classmates.

In other news, happy Halloween!

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Sunday, October 29, 2006

Uganda's solar-powered airport

Taking a quick study break from my team paper -- which is about blogging, so I'm technically not grazing too far afield here -- I noticed a post in the Practical Environmentalist about Africa's first "solar-powered airport," for which construction will begin in Uganda next year.

Sounds like the airport will include a lot of excellent features. For instance, rainfall will be harvested from the solar roof for irrigation purposes.

Curiously, though, I can't find any other online news sources for this story, other than the AND article. I'd like to learn more about this. Will the entire airport be solar-powered? That sounds amazing. But I can't help but suspect that we're really only talking about portions of the airport's infrastructure.

Do any other airports in the world make innovative use of alternative energy? Now I'm all curious. But I need to get back to this paper. Anyone with any information on this, do feel free to post a comment.

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Friday, October 27, 2006

Genetic discovery suggests humans were once nocturnal

Fascinating!

I wonder what it's called when an animal is both diurnal and nocturnal. Omnicturnal? That's me these days...

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Sunday, October 22, 2006

OpenID and digital identity

Doing research for one of my group projects this evening, I ran across a post about the growing interest in Identity 2.0: tools are appearing that facilitate a digital identity that you can use anywhere online.

OpenID appears to be the most well-known.

I'd love to look into this further, but I've got to get back to my project research at moment. It's an interesting project, actually, exploring the future of corporate blogging and its implications for business.

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A bright, blue Sunday morning.

the view out my window
I love the fact that the little closet I transformed into a study has a view. Especially on mornings like this.

Last night, after joining some of classmates for a Korean dinner (many students in my class are Korean), I was up until 2:30 hashing out details of an upcoming presentation over email with members of my study team. I was back to work at 7:30, and after finishing another draft of my section of the presentation, I went out for a walk around the neighborhood.

tree in my neighborhoodI can't help but feel happy on a morning like this one. For fourteen years now, autumn in Seattle has definitely been my favorite time of the year.








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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Econofun

mathsAdvice nugget #1 for prospective MBA students: if you've never studied a lick o' economics before, you might do well to read up on it a bit before you start classes. You've got to get adept with the maths.

Methinks I could have done a bit more advance preparation.


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Monday, October 16, 2006

Keep your eye on Second Life

Three Minds @ Organic reports that Reuters and Sun have both joined the growing list of companies that have established a presence in Second Life.

If you haven't heard about Second Life yet, this this article provides a good primer. Basically, it's a rapidly growing virtual world that's worth paying attention to.

I'd elaborate further, but I need to finish this stats assignment.

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Early riser

There was an odd surge of interest in early-rising techniques among the blogging community earlier this year. I even hopped on this bandwagon myself.

Currently this is a moot point. I am, for the time being, a morning person. Studying just gets too difficult past a certain point at night. After midnight or so, I generally start to enter a hypnagogic state. Not so good for the concentration.

So I'm already in a rut; I wake up early every morning. Like 6 AM. The other night I was up til 2:00, by necessity, and I thought I’d sleep in the next morning, maybe get up at 7:30. No such luck.

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Friday, October 06, 2006

YouTube: not a cheap date

The big news today is that Google aims on buying YouTube. The rumored price tag: $1.6 billion. Apparently, News Corp is another interested suitor.

Speculation about the acquisition of YouTube has been buzzing for months now, but there hasn't been anything like today's news flurry. Will Google succeed in this? The market seems to think so; its stock (GOOG) is up over 2% today.

$1.6 billion. Staggering. Google is sitting on mountains of cash and short-term investments, so this isn't going to break its back or anything. Still, Google should have given this a shot earlier this year, when it could have secured a better purchase price. Perhaps they tried this; I'd be curious to find out.

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Monday, October 02, 2006

This blog has been smacked (soundly)

This blog was reviewed today over at italk2much. The blogger there and assorted commenters raked me through some fiery coals. I shouldn't really take it personally, though; I submitted my blog for review figuring that I'd be resoundingly trashed. I did it anyways...does that make me a masochist? Hmm..

The blogger brings up a good point: that I'm not really showing my personality in this blog:

I think it reminds me of magazine articles because there’s not a whole lot of personality in it. I read one post, started to glaze over, and skipped to the next one. I glazed over again and wondered if it was because I needed a nap. Then I figured out it was just the blog I was reading.
Particularly lately, I've been enthusing about the MBA program and I can imagine that's boring or much worse for anyone other than the MBA-curious and the handful of friends 'n' family sorts who read this blog.

The commenters were a bit more pointed. Some of them made good points, others didn't, and most made me laugh (wryly). Some of my favorites:
Another MBA student. Why do they feel the need to announce this like it’s a plus or a badge of honor?
Alliteration is of the devil.
Holy shit the last one is fucking boring. Ignorant Google ads and the design leaves a lot to be desired. Although he is slightly cute.
...It’s also boring as hell and I don’t think he’s all that cute...
I only said he was slightly cute. Not a hunka hunka burnin’ love.
I wonder why someone chasing an MBA would blog about MySpace. Does this mean the intellectually superior have been sucked in by the Evil Empire’s Tractor Beam too?
The title is stupid and I’m even more pissed off that he thinks he has to explain it. And yes, it’s just as it sounds, no hidden meaning, really. Yep, another “uber-geek” MBA student, optimistically gushing, “I can tell I’m going to learn a lot!” and off to fix the world with his brilliant “Management” skills.
it bothers me that someone that seems to have something to say, is not saying it. What are you hiding?

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Net Impact

Along with the marketing, technology, and consulting clubs at the UW MBA program, I joined Net Impact earlier this week. As I've mentioned in earlier posts, I've been hopping up and down with excitement to work with this group. My new fellow Net Impact members are very plugged in to the exciting stuff happening locally, and I look forward to learning more from them about local firms that focus on sustainability.

One great resource that they introduced me to is Sustainable Industries Journal, an excellent resource that has surprisingly slipped my notice until now. See their article on the Seattle Climate Action Plan -- one more reason why I love living here.

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Brevity is the soul of b-school

I recall during my admissions interview this past March, I asked my interviewer: "will anything surprise me about business school?"

She responded: "You'll be surprised by how busy you'll be."

I told her that I had already heard this, and she said it didn't matter how many times I hear it: I'll be surprised.

And I am.

Fortunately, I like a purpose-directed busy schedule. And this quarter is supposed to be the true time-management crucible. It gets (slightly) easier from here, or so they say.

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Saturday, September 23, 2006

Plunging in

Over the past week, I attended the official kickoff for the full-time MBA program at the University of Washington. My classmates and I began to get familiar with the academic structure of the program: textbooks and syllabi, faculty expectations, and so on. But the program goes beyond classroom learning, and we learned about the multitude of opportunities for career preparation, club participation, and development of presentation and communication skills.

Peter and Susan GlaserVisiting organizational development specialists Peter and Susan Glaser worked with us on communication in groups. These sessions focused on criticism -- how to receive it and give it -- and how to achieve consensus. I met with my study team members, who I'll be spending a lot of time with over the quarter. We discussed an issue that we originally disagreed about until we came to a point of consensus. As we talked, another group watched us and gave feedback.

It was a very helpful exercise for me personally. On the one hand, I learned that I'm great at being friendly and encouraging with the other group members. On the other hand, they told me that I talk too fast and I need to slow down for the benefit of our international team members. These sorts of communication skills are tremendously valuable virtually everywhere in life, and I wish I would have learned them (particularly the tips on working with criticism) a long time ago!

Richard Tait, founder of CraniumWe also listened to a presentation by Richard Tait, founder of Cranium. He explored examples of how to succeed in business, gleaned from his own experiences with Cranium. Now, I'm as wary of motivational speeches as the next person who came of age in the sarcasm-drenched 90's. But Richard was magnificent. He's a hilarious speaker with a crystal-clear passion for the aim of his business: to encourage people to truly enjoy each other's company and to see each other's unique strengths. His primary point was that your business must have a mission: a clear sense of meaning that employees and customers can feel good about participating in.

I believe that his approach will greatly pay off in the long term. Customers and investors are paying increasing attention to what some refer to as the triple bottom line: people, planet, profit. And tomorrow's workforce -- today's teens -- will be motivated much more by meaning and values in their work than previous generations, according to a to a recent BusinessWeek article.

OneNoteOne message that has consistently come through is that we'll be busy...very busy. Second-year students showed us pages from their calendars from last October, and precious little white space could be seen. They explained how much of their time in the first quarter (the busiest of the program) was filled with class, team meetings, career coaching meetings, and informational interviews.

To prepare for this coming deluge, I've been planning my own time management strategy. Some of my classmates are using traditional paper day planners; others are keeping everything in Outlook. I'm going to be going with a combination of OneNote (my class schedule and a notes template in OneNote, pictured above) for notes and to-do lists, and my trusty Treo 600 for all things calendar-related.

Alright! I've got some Boards of Canada playing and I'm going to get studying here. :)

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Friday, September 15, 2006

Dorje-generated content

My good friend Dorje, apparently distraught over the lack of recent news updates here on Fixing Foibles & Follies, has started sending me suggestions for blog posts. Or perhaps he just thinks he's sending me interesting news stories, and I'm interpreting these emails as reminders to me to keep posting good stuff. Whatever your intent, Dorje, do keep sending me the goodies!

The first thing Dorje sent me, in the middle of my skool(intentionally misspelled cuz I'm hip like that!)-centric week, was this New York times article about Google.org, Google's new philanthropic organization. It's exciting to see what Google.org is committing to, namely:

plans to develop an ultra-fuel-efficient plug-in hybrid car engine that runs on ethanol, electricity and gasoline.

The philanthropy is consulting with hybrid-engine scientists and automakers, and has arranged for the purchase of a small fleet of cars with plans to convert the engines so that their gas mileage exceeds 100 miles per gallon. The goal of the project is to reduce dependence on oil while alleviating the effects of global warming.
Dorje also directed my attention to a great blog called The Greener Side, which is a truly linkalicious resource for alternative energy, socially responsible investing, and other green blogs. Check it out.

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Jump Start

At moment, I'm having a soy latte and bagel in Cafe Allegro. This coffeeshop opened its doors in 1975; it was one of Seattle's first espresso bars. Great place. I remember studying here back in the early 90's. The only thing that's changed in here since then is now everyone, including me, is clicking away on laptops.

I just finished an exam that covered the introductory topics we learned about over the past week: general accounting concepts, statistics, and Excel tips. I'm here in Allegro for a few hours until I head back to campus to give a short persuasive speech. I'll be posing as a CEO of a hospital who is presenting an argument for a new service to the board of directors. The speech will be videotaped and critiqued. No pressure there! ;)

The past week, known as Jump Start, was a way to ease us into the MBA program. The class sessions have been low-key overviews of what we'll studying in depth over the next few months. Many of my classmates haven't been in a classroom setting for years; for them, it's been a helpful way to get back into the student mindset. Myself, I've appreciated the overview of topics. I was already familiar with most of the accounting material (it helps to have a girlfriend with uber-accounting know-how), but it was good to get a memory refresher. And I'd never actually learned how to calculate present value before; I learned that this is a snap to do with Excel.

I've been enjoying getting to know my fellow students. I've already started having fun geeky conversations with them about open-source software, science and business, and the like. I can tell I'm going to learn a lot from them.

All in all, a good first week. It's good to be back in school full-time!

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Monday, September 11, 2006

Telos and transition

waterfall in Yellowstone national parkFive years ago, I started up an account with LiveJournal. I kept the "LJ" going for a few years. It was a digital identity that reflected who I was at that time: hypersocial and thoroughly extroverted, revelling in bizarre and self-deprecating humor.

I eventually deleted my LJ because the writing began to feel stale. The digital identity no longer conveyed my real interests, which were evolving.

So I decided to start over from a clean slate on Blogger. I originally dubbed the new blog Foibles' Follies. I thought the blog would consist of more self-deprecating humor -- just better written. But when I finally got round to writing posts this past June, I changed the name to Fixing Foibles & Follies.

The name explained
Foible has actually been my online moniker since 1993. Defined as a minor weakness or failing of character, it's long been one of my favorite words. Weaknesses and failings are particularly fascinating to me. This isn't because I'm a "glass half empty" sort who focuses on the negative. Much to the contrary, I'm a very optimistic person. I just firmly believe in thorough familiarity with one's weaknesses -- knowledge of the inner demons, if you will -- as a path of growth. You can't be truly strong unless you know where you are weak.

We can extrapolate beyond ourselves, to the entire planet. Foibles and follies are inarguably widespread. For example, many folks have been focusing on the short term, at the expense of the long term. My goal (or "telos" if you prefer a cooler word) with this blog is to look at the foibles and follies as fixable. Hence, the Fixing bit.

Plus, I like alliteration.

What lies ahead
It's been a busy time of transition for me over the past week as I've gotten ready for business school, which started today. In future posts, I'll be delving into what I'm learning, and explore the MBA program experience a bit. But I'll continue to tie topics to my main interest: how business and technology can help fix foibles and follies.

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Sunday, September 03, 2006

Hello from Tucson!

cactusKristina and I are in Tucson, AZ at moment, visiting our friends Tad and Alanna. There are Saguaro cactii everywhere. They're pretty remarkable, actually. In a single rainstorm, it's possible for the roots of a Saguaro to collect 200 gallons of water.

Saguaros are all over Gates Pass, outside of Tucson, where we watched the sunset last night. From a distance, the Saguaros at Gates Pass resemble a scattering of green sticks on the hillside. To my Pacific Northwestern eyes, it's a surreal sight. And thoroughly captivating.

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Thursday, August 31, 2006

Try reading backwards

Dedication page for 1931Google announced yesterday that it is now possible to download full PDF versions of out-of-print books via Google Book Search.

The Google blog entry links to a fun-looking book: 1931: A Glance at the Twentieth Century. It's a speculative look fifty years in the future, penned in 1881.

I noticed something interesting: you can flip back through unnumbered pages to see the dedication page for the particular volume scanned by Google. Flip back another page, and you can look at the cover.

I tried this with a few other books, and it worked on them too.

I like this ability to examine elements that are unique to a particular copy of a book. It makes the whole digitized book experience, well, a bit more "bookish."

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Digging misogynism

digg.com is a great resource for keeping abreast of news stories. Users "digg" the stories that they find most interesting. Highly dugg stories bubble up to the front page, where they receive widespread attention. Users add comments about stories, and the comments themselves are dugg up or down. Often, spirited debates break out.

I admit to being a digg addict; it's a compelling way to keep abreast of the news, and of the ever-shifting reactions of the public. Discussions like this one, however, make it all too clear who makes up the digg.com user base. The story under discussion, which hit the digg.com front page today, is about girls scoring higher than boys on the writing portion of the SAT.

The first digg.com comment to appear was "Writing is a great skill for secretaries." As of this post, that comment has received 82 diggs. In other words, it's a big hit with the users.

Other comments follow a similar vein:

  • girls are better at making up their own answers than figuring out the correct answer.
  • I live in Spain and most girls here get better grades than the male counterparts. BUT, once out in the real world with big careers they don’t know how to implement their knowledge. In another words they learn to study and memorise things but they just can’t apply them. So they end up being teachers.
  • Bull-dykes of the world, rejoice!
Who are these people? According to a recent BusinessWeek article, they're 94% male, and they're predominantly below 30. Be that as it may, the rampant misogynism is more than a little troubling. One would hope that men's attitudes toward women would be...evolving, somehow. Is it just the tired old problem of men feeling threatened by successful women?

One user summed up my own feelings on this rather well:
I'm not surprised at the (barely) latent hostility towards women in the posts so far. Most of the guys here are probably afraid to talk to them. What I am surprised at is the effort to rationalize the difference away. Is it that hard to believe that women are, in general, getting smarter?

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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Five questions

Busy week. Let me throw five questions out there and see what your thoughts are:

  • Does the Grateful Dead have any artistic merit?
  • Vast numbers of Americans devote a large percentage of their thinking to spectator sports trivia. Would we be better off if all that mental energy were devoted to something else? If so, what?
  • What's your favorite group name? (Mine is an unkindness of ravens. Thanks to my colleague Melanie Spiller for this list.)
  • Studies show that e-mail is often misunderstood. Plenty of anecdotal evidence backs this up. So how do we fix this?
  • Does peeing in public bathrooms make you nervous? If so, do you have a way of dealing with that? Doing mental math problems usually works for me.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Senior Citizen 2.0

In a long-winded stentorian monologue, one of my fellow morning bus passengers confidently explained his business prospects to his patient seatmate. "My future's bright," he said, "because geriatrics are really hot right now." The garrulous passenger didn't appear to notice my seatmate, who sat covering her ears and glaring at him. It was a little too early on a Monday morning to listen to unsolicited motivational speechifying.

At best, we view the elderly as a market demographic. At worst, we look down on them as an expensive problem. Age discrimination is widespread in the workplace. People are embarrassed simply about getting older (there's a point where it's rude to ask someone's age, as if you're drawing attention to an unmentionable ailment). Unsurprisingly, depression and inactivity are common among the elderly. Many feel that they have no value in the current milieu of fast-paced technological change.

We need to substantially readjust our attitude about our living ancestors. Your grandfather may not have heard of digg.com, but he has accumulated a wealth of experience in other areas. He's made mistakes and learned from them. In short: he's got wisdom. And while we're trying our best to ensure that the planet will sustain life 100+ years from now, we can use all the wisdom we can get.

To address this need, Rakesh Khurana and his colleagues at Harvard Business School have come up with an ingenious idea: the School for Advanced Institutional Leadership.

He says he woke up in the middle of the night and realized he had "solved the Social Security problem"....[the school is] not for people entering the workforce but for older people preparing to leave it. Enrollees would use their years of experience in science, government, business, or the arts to solve social problems. "Many of these people would like to give back, but they don't have a pathway," says Khurana. "The role of this university can be to create this third stage of education."
This plan is absolutely on the right track. BusinessWeek has argued that we've been ignoring certain intangible aspects of the economy. Might the collective wisdom of our elders be included in such an assessment?

Via Fast Company

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Friday, August 25, 2006

Pluto demoted: BLOGOSPHERE AGHAST!!

That's a headline on Technorati right now, and I find it particularly funny. It's true; bloggers have devoted lots of ink pixels to Pluto over the past few days. You can use Technorati to find what bloggers are saying about Pluto here.

A few recent Pluto posts that caught my eye:


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Thursday, August 24, 2006

The elation of calcoolation

calcoolate!!The venerable Microsoft Calculator is good at crunching out the basics, but it's not up to snuff for the more substantial calculations. You can use a spreadsheet application, like Excel, but it's a pain to a) open up a spreadsheet and (b) type the = sign at the beginning of your expression.

Enter Calcoolate. I was pleased as punch to discover it whilst browsing the chock-full-of-goodness blog Recommended. It's an online calculator that haughtily bills itself "the coolest calculator on the web."

After playing with it for a spell, I can affirm that Calcoolate has every reason to crow. It sports a spicy yet simple Ajax interface that lets you type fully nested expressions, along with basic functions (sqrt, etc). And everything can be quickly accomplished via your keyboard (which always wins me over).

Also, and this is lovely indeed, Calcoolate remembers your past calculations and displays them in a list. Click on one, and the expression appears; you can tinker with it as you like.

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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Not a good idea, McDonald's...

In a move that runs counter to the green zeitgeist currently brewing in America, McDonald's and Hummer have launched a joint marketing campaign. Marketing Shift puts it well:

In a match made in -- well, some place other than heaven -- McDonald's has teamed up with Hummer to give away toy versions of the SUVs along with happy meals.
RonaldMcHummer.comOver the past few years, McDonald's seemed to be getting smart about sniffing out the direction of popular public sentiment: they phased out their Supersize menu items and introduced salads, agreed to stop Amazon deforestation for soya farming, and started selling organic coffee in select restaurants.

So this latest decision from the McDonald's marketing staff is rather mysterious. Did they feel that their company's image had simply moved too far in a "blue state" sort of direction? It's hard to say.

A parody site has already emerged. At Ronald McHummer, you can make your own McDonald's readerboard (it's pretty fun, actually), and send a message to McDonald's with your thoughts about the Hummer marketing campagin.

Via Autopia

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Pining for smarter search technology

People talk a lot about wanting a version of the CTRL+Z keyboard shortcut in the non-digital world: we want some easy way to undo our just-committed snafu. Avid CTRL+Z users sometimes find that after they've made a real-life mistake, their fingers instinctually make the CTRL+Z motions.

That hasn't happened to me yet. But I have been catching myself wanting to perform Google searches on books and magazines. Last night, as I was groggily reading in bed, my eyes twice darted to the upper right corner of the page, trying in vain to find the Google search box.

It's those kind of moments where I feel impatient for next-generation search technology to become available now. Like a voice-activated search service that is always available. I want that. And I don't want to have to state my search requests too loudly, either. (The walls in my apartment building are remarkably non-soundproof.)

Google appears to be working on voice-activated search, and I'm looking forward to learning what they come up with. Other interesting search technology is under development. Microsoft, Riya, and others are working on a way to conduct searches that match images with submitted images, rather than text.

Also, I remember hearing something on NPR a few months ago -- a futurist fellow conjecturing about where search technology is headed. Maybe smell-based searches (in addition to sound and images) are in our future, for instance. As I recall, he thought search technology will become a standalone field of study: undergraduate students will be able to major in Search.

I can't seem to find it, however. I remember it, so it must be out there archived somewhere, right? I've been searching for it in Google and within the NPR site, and no luck. The irony is delicious.

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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Gmail ads: worthy of discussion?

If you have a Gmail account, you've doubtless become accustomed to the Gmail text ads that appear in the right-hand column. For me, the novelty hasn't worn off: I continue to find those ads fascinating. It's interesting to see how closely the ads relate to the content of my email discussion. Sometimes the ads are right on target; other times, they're about something completely different.

Also, I find it interesting how sometimes my ads are different than those of my email correspondent's. For example, a recent email thread with my girlfriend included the word "Ulysses" (the name of one of her new pet rats) and a few references to the show Lost. My ads were all about Lost; my girlfriend's ads were about James Joyce.

How do I know this? Because we discuss what our ads are about! I'm sure Google would be thrilled that we have such an active interest in our ads. I wonder: does this make us bizarre? Does anyone else actually go so far as to talk about their Gmail ads?

Do you ever discuss Gmail ads?
Yes...I'm weird that way, too!
No. I notice them but don't discuss them.
I don't even notice the ads.
I don't use Gmail.
  
Free polls from Pollhost.com



I'll post poll results in a few days!

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Solar power: who uses the most?

From the latest Scientific American magazine, which I've been continuing to happily read on the bus:

Surprisingly, Kenya is the global leader in the number of solar power systems installed per capita (but not the number of watts added). More than 30,000 very small solar panels, each producing only 12 to 30 watts, are sold in that country annually. For an investment of as little as $100 for the panel and wiring, the system can be used to charge a car battery, which can then provide enough power to run a flourescent lamp or a small black-and-white television for a few hours a day. More Kenyans adopt solar power every year than make connections to the country's electric grid.
Interesting, no? The article goes on to mention that the demand for small solar power systems is rapidly increasing throughout Africa.

As renewable energy technologies continue to mature, they'll play a big role in shaping the economy and culture of specific regions. It's clearly already starting to happen: solar is thriving in Africa, wind turbines are sprouting up all over Europe.

When I was in high school, we learned how countries are differentiated based on their main exports. I remember how a classmate of mine got frustrated and questioned the value of this sort of knowledge. "Why do I need to know that cork is a main export from Portugal?" he asked. The teacher couldn't come up with a good answer. Ironically, because of that moment, I'll always remember that cork is a main export from Portugal.

Will kids in future school classrooms differentiate countries based on their renewable energy industries?


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Sunday, August 20, 2006

The job I never worked

Me as a paperboy, circa September 1987 Regarding the poll that I posted last week, the job from that list that I've never held (although it does sound like fun) is "newspaper technology reporter."

Back in the days when kids still did it, I delivered newspapers. The photo shows me in September, 1987, looking rather unexcited to head out on my daily route in Everson, WA. A decade later, I spent a year delivering office supplies in Seattle. And, during my brief healthcare phase, I even spent a few months working as a nurse's assistant in a nursing home.

The duties at the nursing home were...not particularly pleasant, to put it mildly. And the pay was terrible. It didn't take me long to notice that I was the only nurse's assistant there who hadn't recently emigrated from an African or Asian country. One of them expressed surprise when I told her that I had a college degree. "Why are you here?" she asked.

Why, indeed? During my 20s, I was driven by an experimentalist urge. Ever-flickering in the back of my head was the notion that a wide variety of experiences leads to increased wisdom. I also thought that I could distill these tales into a novel someday. That idea may still come to fruition, in a decade or three.

Instead of philosophy, I could have majored in computer science in college (as some folks advised me to) and stayed in the same line of work over the past decade. In that scenario, I'd be in a pretty lucrative position by this point.

But, I don't regret my own multi-faceted employment history. Although it didn't pay much or lead me to a glamorous job, the nursing home experience gave me empathy and respect for the people who do this sort of work for years. As an added bonus, a Kenyan coworker taught Swahili pick-up lines ("na kutaka" translates as "I want your thing" -- she advised me to be judicious about using this one).

Travelling through a unique panoply of jobs, I’ve hammered out a deep sense of identity, vocation, and compassion. I doubt I would have developed this outlook (which I'd like to think is an initial step towards wisdom) in a more traditional career track. Now, ten years out of college, I'm ready to explore career options that involve more responsibility and allow me to make a positive net impact. It's the ideal time to get an MBA, and I'm looking forward to starting the program at UW next month.

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Saturday, August 19, 2006

Blogger beta: my initial impressions

Blogger betaI saw the invitation to try out Blogger beta yesterday, and I've been giving it a go. At this point, I think it has its pluses and minuses:

  • Categories. It's now very easy to add categories to your posts (Blogger refers to them as "labels"). Previously entered categories appear as a list of links (you need to click on "Show all" to reveal them). Alternatively, if you type the first few letters of a category name, Blogger gives you an auto-complete prompt, which is a nice touch.
  • Blogger beta - drag-and-drop Drag-and-drop template customization. Using the mouse to modify the template is definitely easier than tinkering with the HTML and CSS directly.
  • No raw HTML editing. On the flipside, you can't edit the HTML and CSS in your template. While Blogger does give you the ability to add "HTML/JavaScript" modules to your template (which you can edit), you don't have contol over the HTML of the overall page layout, or of the posts themselves. So you can't adjust the column width, or put HaloScan trackback functionality in your posts, for example. Blogger says that this will be fixed very soon.
  • Incompatiable with Windows Live Writer. I'm not able to download my latest template into Windows Live Writer. Windows Live Writer indicates this isn't a problem; it can still publish my posts. But a big part of why I use Windows Live Writer is so I can see how the posts will appear in the template. I'm guessing that this is related to the fact that Blogger beta isn't allowing raw HTML editing of the templates. And hopefully, when this changes, it will work fine with Windows Live Writer.
  • JavaScript: some works, some doesn't. Site Meter works fine for me. AdSense ads don't appear at all.
I'm guessing these little wrinkles will get smoothed out in the near future.

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Friday, August 18, 2006

Green linkalicious: 8/18/06

All manner of green linkalicious news has popping up lately. It's a lot of fun to follow what's going on in the "world o' green" right now; where ideas and innovations are occurring in a variety of flavors:

  • The September '06 issue of Scientific American is great stuff; it's educational and frankly, quite inspiring. It lays out a realistic plan for reducing world-wide carbon emissions over the next 50 years. I'm such a fan that I'll take the brazenly commercialistic move of putting an ad for the magazine right here in my post. There's plenty of gems on their Web site, too, like this article about the carbon-offset program at the 2006 World Cup.
  • In architecture, the 2030 Challenge encourages architects to design completely carbon-neutral (using no fossil fuel GHG emitting energy to operate) buildings by 2030.
  • Planning is underway for power plants that convert chicken poop into energy. The chicken poop comes from factory farms, which can redeem themselves (a bit) through their participation.
  • A company called Australian Farmers' Fuels is using animal fat to produce biodiesel.
  • You can read and share green information Wikipedia-style at gWiki -- the Green Wiki. Via Treehugger.
  • Under talks between Arnold Schwarzenegger and Tony Blair, California is cooking up a global warming reduction plan that puts the U.S. federal government -- and most other states -- to shame.
  • Carbon sequestration is the growing field of inquiry into how carbon can be captured, to prevent it from entering the atmosphere. Scientists are exploring ancient Amazonian dark soil, called terra preta do indio, for clues about how to capture carbon in the soil. Via Futurismic:
    This rare rainforest soil holds two and a half times the carbon content of normal soils, but no one is entirely sure as to how the ancient tribes of the Amazon actually created the stuff. If the secret can be cracked, we would have access to a carbon sequestration method that would take biofuels from being carbon neutral to carbon negative - in other words, actually pulling out more carbon from the ecosphere than is released by the use of the fuels produced.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

A hyper-interactive reading technique

On the bus yesterday, I noticed that one of my colleagues was ferociously scribbling on a printout that he was reading. As we walked to our next bus, I asked him about it.

He explained that he has a sort of hyper-interactive reading style. As soon as he comprehends and absorbs (or in his words, groks) a sentence, he jots a mark next it. He literally does this after each sentence. If he has any other connected thoughts, he'll write those anywhere -- not necessarily in the margin. He said that all of his reading material is heavily marked up afterwards, and basically unreadable by anyone else. But. He claims that this method does wonders for his retention of the matieral.  

I'm intrigued, and I'd like to give it a shot. I can see how the tactile element (moving your pen after you "grok") could be really helpful. I've wanted to improve my content retention, lately. Maybe I just haven't been interactive enough with my reading material.

Of course, you can't really do this with library books.

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