The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)

November 28, 2010 at 1:30 am | In links | Comments Off on The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)

November 21, 2010 at 1:31 am | In links | Comments Off on The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)
  • Cities/ metropolitan areas dominate the US economy: 12% of land mass, but 2/3s of population and 75% of gross domestic product. But municipal governments remain small and a crazy quilt:
    There are benefits associated with intense localism. Citizens feel a closer connection to their local officials (although does anyone really know the boundaries of their local library district?). And, in theory, individuals and firms can shop around for the government that most closely matches their preferred mix of efficiency, service and taxes.

    Yet the drawbacks of fragmented governance far outweigh the benefits.

    Fragmentation keeps government weak. With the landscape chopped into thousands of municipalities and special bodies, most local governments remain tiny, nearly amateur concerns, unequal to the widening challenges of global competition, suburbanization, revitalization and economic development.

    Many states are bedeviled by what David Rusk, the former mayor of Albuquerque, N.M., has called a crazy quilt of “little box governments and limited horizons.” In geographical terms, little boxes ensure that in almost every region scores of archaic boundaries artificially divide areas that otherwise represent single, interrelated social, economic and environmental communities. Such divisions complicate efforts to carry out cross-boundary visioning, plan cooperatively or coordinate decision-making across large areas.

    tags: wsj_opinion bruce_katz municipal_government cities governance

  • Must-read article.
    The bigger issue is whether the country can afford the systemic damage being done by the ever-growing income inequality between the wealthiest Americans and everyone else, whether poor, middle class or even rich. That burden is inflicted not just on the debt but on the very idea of America — our Horatio Alger faith in social mobility over plutocracy, our belief that our brand of can-do capitalism brings about innovation and growth, and our fundamental sense of fairness. Incredibly, the top 1 percent of Americans now have tax rates a third lower than the same top percentile had in 1970.

    “How can hedge-fund managers who are pulling down billions sometimes pay a lower tax rate than do their secretaries?” ask the political scientists Jacob S. Hacker (of Yale) and Paul Pierson (University of California, Berkeley) in their deservedly lauded new book, “Winner-Take-All Politics.” If you want to cry real tears about the American dream — as opposed to the self-canonizing tears of John Boehner — read this book and weep. The authors’ answer to that question and others amounts to a devastating indictment of both parties.

    tags: nyt frank_rich wealth economy

  • Interesting details on what helps us keep neuro-plasticity.
    What the researchers discovered was that within each of our brains there exists a population of neural stem cells which are continually replenished and can differentiate into brain neurons. Simply stated, we are all experiencing brain stem cell therapy every moment of our lives.

    As one might expect, the process of neurogenesis is controlled by our DNA. A specific gene codes for the production of a protein, brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) which plays a key role in creating new neurons. Studies reveal decreased BDNF in Alzheimer’s patients, as well as in a variety of neurological conditions including epilepsy, depression, schizophrenia and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

    Fortunately, many of the factors that influence our DNA to produce BDNF factors are under our direct control. The gene that turns on BDNF is activated by a variety of factors including physical exercise, caloric restriction, curcumin and the omega-3 fat, DHA.

    This is a powerful message. These factors are all within our grasp and represent choices we can make to turn on the gene for neurogenesis. Thus, we can treat ourselves to stem cell therapy by taking control of our gene expression.

    tags: david_perlmutter neurogenesis neuroscience brain

  • Synopsis of Juliet Schor’s new book, Plenitude. Excerpt from pt. II:
    Through a major shift to new sources of wealth, green technologies, and different ways of living, individuals and the country as a whole can be better off and more economically secure. Schor draws on recent developments in economic theory, social analysis, and ecological design to map out a path to a healthier environment and a higher quality of life.

    tags: juliet_schor synopsis economy recession plenitude

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Xtranormal version of Victoria BC’s Johnson Street Bridge Debate

November 16, 2010 at 11:19 pm | In johnson street bridge, victoria | Comments Off on Xtranormal version of Victoria BC’s Johnson Street Bridge Debate


Maybe the self-styled “chairman of the board” will take a boo. And learn something.

Click on image below or here.

Random notes

November 15, 2010 at 10:07 pm | In harvard, ideas, notes | Comments Off on Random notes

I’m in information overload right now – cramming into my head a 2 1/2-inch thick binder full of sometimes esoteric data well beyond my usual comfort zone (financial info and accounting, anyone?), as I get ready to interview a few arts organizations. Too many words, too many numbers.

But of course, when it rains, it pours – which is why I’m finding additional information online that I really want to splash around in, versus just dipping my toes into.

So…, here’s a very brief shout-out for two (ok, three) pages in particular.

First, Alexandra Samuel has an incredibly useful 5-part series called Social Media for Journalists, which is a must-read for researchers of any sort. Want to know how to use Evernote or LinkedIn or bookmarking services or even Google to your best research advantage? Click on through. I’m not sure why or how I missed the series when it came out (it began on October 26 and ended on October 29), but better late than never, as they say…

Next, tomorrow morning there’s going to be a Berkman Center lunch hour webcast scheduled for EST 12:30pm with Juliet Schor (in our Pacific Standard Time zone, this will start at 9:30am), called Using the Internet to “Save the Planet”. The webcast will be archived for those who want to view it later, but if anyone has a free hour around tomorrow, drop in on Schor’s presentation. From the blurb:

We are witnessing escalating evidence of human destabilization of the climate and biodiversity loss. In the sustainability community, both activists and practitioners are increasingly turning to the internet to foster new lifestyles, consumption patterns and ways of producing. There has been an explosion of web-enabled innovations around consumption sharing and extra-market exchange in order to reduce footprint. At the cutting-edge people are turning to peer production and open-source practices to accelerate the design and diffusion of ecologically-intelligent and efficient modes of provision in agriculture, consumption and manufacturing. (source)

The page has additional links to explore, and (this my third pointer) there’s a great video of Schor’s presentation last May at the Seattle Library, which you can watch here.

PS: And since Schor has talked about up-scaling and up-ticks in consumption, which sounds like the Gilded Age of yore, here’s a link to a great Frank Rich op-ed from Nov. 13, 2010, Who Will Stand Up to the Superrich?

The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)

November 14, 2010 at 1:31 am | In links | Comments Off on The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)
  • Great blog post from Doc Searls:

    Right now it’s hard to argue against all the money being spent (and therefore made) in the personalized advertising business—just like it was hard to argue against the bubble in tech stock prices in 1999 and in home prices in 2004. But we need to come to our senses here, and develop new and better systems by which demand and supply can meet and deal with each other as equally powerful parties in the open marketplace. Some of the tech we need for that is coming into being right now. That’s what we should be following. Not just whether Google, Facebook or Twitter will do the best job of putting crosshairs on our backs.

    John’s right that the split is between dependence and independence. But the split that matters most is between yesterday’s dependence and tomorrow’s independence—for ourselves. If we want a truly conversational economy, we’re going to need individuals who are independent and self-empowered. Once we have that, the level of economic activity that follows will be a lot higher, and a lot more productive, than we’re getting now just by improving the world’s biggest guesswork business.

    tags: doc_searls marketing data

  • Getting people on board with climate change reduction strategies, even the orthodox religious who deny the science of it: money, fiscal conservatism, frugality – an appeal to the virtues prized by those communities:

    “It is in our DNA to leave a place better than we found it,” he said.

    Elliot Lahn, a community development planner for Merriam, a city that reduced its energy use by 5 percent, said that when public meetings were held on the six-town competition to save energy, some residents offered their view that global warming was a hoax.

    But they were very eager to hear about saving money, Mr. Lahn said. “That’s what really motivated them.”

    Jerry Clasen, a grain farmer in Reno County, south of Salina, said he largely discounted global warming. “I believe we are going through a cycle and it is not a big deal,” he said. But his ears pricked up when project workers came to town to talk about harnessing wind power. “There is no sense in our dependency on foreign oil,” he said, “especially since we have got this resource here.”

    Mr. Clasen helped organize a group of local leaders to lobby the electronics and energy giant Siemens to build a wind turbine factory in the area. When the company signed a deal in 2009 promising to create as many as 400 local jobs, it stirred a wave of excitement about the future of wind power.

    Now, farmers expect to lease some of their land for turbines and rely on wind power as a stable source of income, he said, and land prices are rising as result.

    “Whether or not the earth is getting warmer,” he said, “it feels good to be part of something that works for Kansas and for the nation.”

    tags: climate_change kansas nyt strategies

  • The English language is remarkable: “creation care,” a new-to-me descriptive that makes eco-consciousness appealing to the religious. Well, if it works, I’m all for it…
    The Climate and Energy Project is cleverly avoiding the climate debate and thus any discussion at all that triggers arguments about the really bad misinformation out there (the article, for example, points out the shocking statistic that only 48% of people in the Midwest agree that there is actually warming going on — whether you think it’s human-caused or not, temperature measurements are clear on this point).

    Instead, Nancy Jackson, Chairman of the Climate and Energy Project, has hit on three alternative arguments to going green: personal thrift, the benefit to the community of promoting green jobs, and a religious appeal to “creation care.” The program has targeted everything from home weatherization to getting the community to lobby Siemens to build a wind plant in the region. They’ve also gotten towns to compete with each other to save energy.

    tags: ecology economics harvard_business green_strategies

  • Must-see video, with Tom Rand explaining clean-tech.
    Tom Rand, Cleantech Practice Lead at MaRS Discovery District, inventor of the Green Bond, previous entrepreneur and successful Venture Capitalist talks about his journey to build “the continent’s greenest hotel” – Planet Traveler.

    Rand sees the world through green-colored glasses. There is too little time and too much at stake to invest in “green” technologies that do not succeed in effecting a substantive reduction in carbon emissions. Low carbon technologies represent a third-industrial revolution that Rand believes must take place. And soon.

    In pursuing the goal of building the greenest hotel, Rand didn’t waste time quibbling over payback periods on geothermal heat exchangers, or spend months negotiating with government agencies to obtain retrofit grants. In fact, Rand and his partner are making this project work without the help of any grants or subsidies as an example to others that the adoption of green technologies isn’t prohibitively expensive. Day-to-day building operations are responsible for 40 per cent of the world’s carbon emissions: a huge market. And greening buildings are the low-hanging fruit of carbon emissions reduction, ripe for the adoption of new green technologies.

    Rand talks about City cooperation, payback periods, technology and financing options and how to measure the cost savings of green technologies.

    tags: tom_rand cleantech economics ecology climate_change retrofit greenwashing green_strategies green_buildings

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Victoria, the ecosystem

November 10, 2010 at 11:59 pm | In ideas, victoria | Comments Off on Victoria, the ecosystem

When people say that Victoria British Columbia is “a small town,” I think they’re dead wrong. I understand what those people are getting at, but I think they’re completely missing the mark: because, with a Capital Regional District (CRD) population of over 350,000 people, it’s not a small town by Canadian standards. We punch above our weight in many areas: we have several universities and colleges in town (and research and medical facilities to go with these); we have art and music and ballet schools; a kick-ass opera (and I say that even though I’m opera-challenged – love the singing, but hate the stupid story-lines); a great symphony orchestra; an exciting youth orchestra; a gazillion music groups and gobs of talented players; an incredible indy music scene; a whole bunch of thriving, innovative theaters, from musical to improv to way-out-there-fringe; slam poets galore; an art gallery that has the best Asian collection (albeit mostly in storage); …the list goes on.

It’s true that we are very very small if we count only the population of the City of Victoria, but no one in their right mind understands those arbitrary political boundaries as having actual social or practical significance in real life (except, of course, when those same political lines in the sand mess up your life with regard to pulling permits or other bureaucratic niceties, etc.). For all intents and purposes, “Victoria” is comprised of all the people in the CRD.

We don’t punch above our weight economically, perhaps in part because there are no “big” employers aside from the Province (government) and we don’t attract any head offices. But there’s a sometimes surprising network of small businesses that increasingly (thank-you, interwebs) plug into the world beyond the island. (For non-BC readers: we’re located on a peninsula on the southernmost tip of a rather large, vastly uninhabited island.)

That we are an island-locked ocean-bordered city is, aside from our municipal political structure (balkanization into 13 municipalities), our biggest constraint, and I’m not yet sure how even if you look at it as a design issue and say, “let this constraint be a feature, not a …well, constraint/ bug” – or whether it’s possible to get around it. At the end of the day, there’s something so final about geography.

Essentially, people say that Victoria is “a small town” because anyone who begins to engage in any of the city’s spheres comes to realize very quickly that everyone knows everyone here.

Isn’t that the very definition of “small town”?

I don’t think so.

You know what a Venn diagram is, right? There’s a simple example on the right —>

In a small town, a simple Venn diagram would explain the overlap of people connections. There would be this core group of individuals (the ones in the area where all three circles overlap) who sort of know everyone and everything, and there would be slightly weaker overlaps in those areas where just two circles overlap.

What makes Victoria different – possibly unique – is that we can’t use simple Venn diagrams to “explain” overlaps or cultures in this city. Imagine, instead, a Venn diagram drawn by M.C. Escher (on the left, a relatively uncomplicated – heh – structure called Circle Limit <– click that link for a larger image).

Or perhaps imagine a Venn diagram drawn by M.C. Escher, which is then re-interpreted by Benoit Mandelbrot as a fractal.

That’s the sort of overlap we deal with here, and it can make for some very strange overlaps indeed – and it can create the feeling that it’s literally impossible to get away from anyone anytime anywhere in this city. Wherever you go, there you are – and you are connected to everyone else.

Why is that? My theory is that Victoria has one of the densest (and sometimes weirdest) ecosystems of any place around. This ecosystem is of course expressed in the nature of the place – a nature which is indomitable, impossible to squelch or suppress – and it replicates in all the “little” human ways of the two-legged inhabitants of this place.

This is not a small town. This is an especially dense and concentrated ecosystem (albeit economically still underdeveloped). But if it ever busts out and becomes the sort of economic generator that Jane Jacobs talked about when she described economies as ecosystems (stretching imports in the conduit, she called it), it’s going to be very big (that is: rich and complex and vibrant) indeed.

I would like to think that our political and civic leaders get this. Most of the time, I’m not convinced.

Victoria BC’s Johnson Street Bridge sings

November 9, 2010 at 11:42 pm | In johnson street bridge, victoria | 1 Comment

Really, she does.

I love this video – political activism at its most poetic and poignant.

Green Design as Art

November 8, 2010 at 9:31 pm | In arts, green, victoria | 4 Comments

Last Friday, I stopped in at Exploring the Aesthetics of Sustainability | Green Design as Art, a small (but interesting!) weekend exhibit at the newly-completed Atrium Building in downtown Victoria. The developer (Victoria-based Jawl Properties) made an unfinished/ raw ground-floor retail space available to the the organizers – props to the Jawls for their civic-minded generosity.

(For some beautiful photographs of this building, especially its eoponymous interior, the atrium, see Lotus Johnson’s Atrium set on Flickr. Her photos are stunning – I particularly love the interior shots, for example, this one…)

On Picasa, I created an album of photos I took at the Green Design as Art event, which was organized by Cascadia Green Building Council’s Emerging Green Builders – Victoria. Wherever there’s a photo of an object, followed by a photo of an information sheet pasted to cardboard, the latter is the wall post that describes the object.

My favorite objects were Gary Streight’s “automans”: two stools made from recycled tires and other materials. The fluffy-topped one was cheekily feminine, yet oh-so-tough; and the elegant brown tailored number could fit into the most soigné of setting. Loved them both.

Below: photo of the show’s producers:

<—  Cascadia Green Building Council’s Emerging Green Builders organizers Dave, Tim, and Melissa pose for the cameras.

The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)

November 7, 2010 at 1:31 am | In links | Comments Off on The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)
  • Call it real estate p0rn, call it social envy, but put together some interesting eye candy here…
    After learning of Steve Jobs’ soon-to-be demolished historic home, and Mark Zuckerberg’s life as a month-to-month renter, we decided to see what other types of real estate today’s tech titans like to call home. Here’s where some of the biggest (and richest) tech-industry moguls take a break from their web-ruled world.

    Whatever excess is displayed bothers me less than the fact that so many of these “titans” have squirreled themselves away in suburban settings. Kudos to Ev Williams for choosing an in-town abode; ditto Zuckerberg (although the house looks suburban enough).

    tags: real_estate moguls

  • Very worth reading, on “The Cities We Want,” by Witold Rybczynski
    All the cities that have experienced vigorous population growth during the second half of the 20th century—Houston; Phoenix, Ariz.; Dallas; San Jose, Calif.; Atlanta, Ga.—have grown by spreading out. These are horizontal cities, with generally low population densities, typically fewer than 10 people per acre compared with 15 to 20 people per acre in the older, vertical cities. Horizontal cities depend on automobiles for mass transportation and on trucks for the movement of goods. In a horizontal city, the difference between city and suburb is indistinct. People in both live chiefly in individual houses rather than in flats or apartment buildings, and the houses are organized in dispersed, semi-autonomous planned communities that are different from the urban neighborhoods of the past. Versions of the dispersed city can be found in large cities such as Los Angeles, small cities such as Las Vegas, and in the metropolitan areas surrounding all cities, old and new.

    tags: witold_rybczynski slate_magazine urbanism urbanization urban_development cities

  • Brilliant:
    The 6 Species Of Vancouver’s Arm-Chair Urban Planners

    1. Smarmy City Sucks!
    No one can live here. Another high-end condo will just continue to force normal folk out of town.

    2. Resort City Sucks!
    All anyone does is live here. We need more offices and jobs.

    3. The City is an Extension of my Ego!
    A world-class city requires a grand statement to inspire [our journey over the Burrard Bridge]. And it’ll make the car ads better.

    4. Table Top City Sucks!
    We, the Skyscraper Nerds, call for an end to monotonous rows of mid-rise, cookie-cutter buildings and demand taller, architecturally expressive, “signature” towers.

    5. That thing’s gonna block the fucking view!
    Nimbys and View Coners united will never be defeated.

    6. Where’s Everyone Going to Park?!
    These are the “think of the children” people when it comes to urban planning.

    tags: urbanplanning urban_development scout_magazine scott_daniel vancouver

  • Amazing photos by Ryan McGinley.
    The photos — a mixture of black-and-white portraits and colorful road trip images — are different from his previous work in that some of the nudes are posing with live, wild animals. The results are strange, but stunning; a cheeky juxtaposition of the beauty and unpredictability of youth and the natural world.

    tags: flavorwire ryan_mcginley photography

  • This is an excellent article (unfortunately, the “single page” link doesn’t work). The article really kicks in around p.3 or so.
    QUOTE (from byline)
    Amy Cuddy probes snap judgments, warm feelings, and how to become an “alpha dog.”

    tags: amy_cuddy psychology harvard_magazine snap_judgments

  • Very interesting:
     …companies like Groupon, Gilt, and other group buying and private sale startups are changing the money flow. People buy online, and redeem offline. But this is just the beginning of a perfect storm brewing that will change the way we discover, shop, and pay for things. Let’s focus on the main function each of these different startups provide to understand how bringing them together will ultimately disrupt multiple trillion dollar industries:

    * Facebook: provides the Social Graph, which is fast becoming a utility. Through its open platform, and APIs, we share more about our lives and our interactions online and on mobile every day.
    * Foursquare and Gowalla: provide location services and check-ins, along with game mechanics that motivate users to unlock badges, earn mayorships, and get discounts at local stores in the process.
    * Yelp: provides crowdsourced reviews of local businesses. Now also provides check-ins, and offers.
    * Groupon: provides discounted offers against a promise to increase sales and bring in brand new customers to local businesses.

    The interesting thing here is that there’s a lot of overlap between the features offered by these companies. Recently, Facebook launched Places, a mobile geo-location service that mimics Foursquare local check-ins. Yelp also added check-ins, and recently rolled out Yelp Deals, a Groupon clone.

    Considering that Local Commerce will be mostly mobile, one of these companies still must bring all of these features together, along with one-click payments (IMHO), to truly tap into the potential of all these disruptive technologies. In my mind, the ultimate product combines all these features in a mobile app. A user would launch the app, see what special deals are in her area (location + group buying), whom of her friends already bought the coupon/item (social graph), local reviews from friends (social graph + reviews), and then she could buy the desired coupon in one click on her handset. She could walk into the local business with

    tags: techcrunch mobile mobile_city facebook shopping consumerism commerce david_marcus

  • Make my head explode – while the honeybee dances…
    Mathematicians like to examine different manifolds the way antiques dealers browse through curio shops–always exploring, always looking for unusual characteristics that expand their understanding of numbers or geometry. The difficult part about exploring a manifold, however, is that mathematicians don’t always confine them to the three dimensions of ordinary experience. A manifold can have two dimensions like the surface of a screen, three dimensions like the inside of an empty box, four dimensions like the space-time of our Einsteinian universe, or even ten or a hundred dimensions. The flag manifold (which got its name because some imaginative mathematician thought it had a shape like a flag on a pole) happens to have six dimensions, which means mathematicians can’t visualize all the two-dimensional objects that can live there. That does not mean, though, that they cannot see the objects’ shadows.

    One of the more effective tricks for visualizing objects with more than three dimensions is to project or map them onto a space that has fewer dimensions (usually two or three). A topographic map, in which three-dimensional mountains get squashed onto a two-dimensional page, is a type of projection. Likewise, the shadow of your hand on the wall is a two- dimensional projection of your three-dimensional hand.

    tags: barbara_shipman math bees quantum_physics geometry

  • Oh boy. Time to wake up, America.
    Getting from rocks to the pure metals and alloys required for manufacturing requires several steps that U.S. companies no longer have the infrastructure or the intellectual property to perform.
    You cannot rely on outsourcing everything, you have to produce and manufacture STUFF yourself.

    tags: mit_techreview rare_metals outsourcing china manufacturing

  • Very well-done sophisticated images of women (models), but I’m not so sanguine as the photographer, regarding the meaning and message. I see good-looking women made to look perfect, and from that I see a narrative developing that tells all of us women that our natural state is never ever good enough. This isn’t something that pleases me, irrespective of the visual pleasures these photographs may provide.

    tags: beauty fashion photography feminism women photoshop m_seth_jones

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