Wednesday, June 30, 2010

YouTube - smalin's Channel

Ah, I recall a Summer's drive through the Valley of the Giants on a road trip to see Humboldt and ses environs. We listened to the Brandenburg Concerti on cassette in the yellow Fiesta. A beautiful winding road through the redwoods, shadows dancing on the windshield creating a visual reference for the music.

But nothing like this visualization. Check out Stephen YouTube channel, set the video to full screen, dim the lights, don the headphones and be mesmerized. Yum.

YouTube - smalin's Channel

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A global teacher of 1,516 lessons and counting

This guy rocks. He's a natural teacher. And he's posted over 1500 video explaining things from finance to chemistry. There are a bunch of math series as well. My son balked at the beginning of the Basic Addition video, but was jumping to see the second in the series after the 8 minutes had passed.

Here's the article:
A global teacher of 1,516 lessons and counting

And here's his site. I prefer this over the YouTube Channel as it's easier to navigate to the subject you want.


Friday, June 25, 2010

Small Is the New Big at Ford - Fiesta to the US

After owning a 1965 Plymouth Fury (a car that could seat six - for dinner!) I got a 1979 Ford Fiesta. Loved it even though the brakes were mush, it kangarooed like a... kangaroo, and spun out a couple of times on me. I killed it with a tree.

 Backpacking through Europe, I admired how they evolved to the smart sub-compact they became for years. Happy to see it coming to the US. Never was a big fan of the Focus. And don't confuse it with the Festiva. That was not a good car.

Small Is the New Big at Ford | Autopia |

Thursday, June 24, 2010

A good idea from good ol' boys - Oil Spill

Here is a good ol' boy solution to the oil spill. This has a lot of natural credibility. It's a Southern solution to a Southern problem. It's entrepreneurial in that the farmers have a lot of hay from their varied crops. They'd make a few bucks for what they usually turn under. But more importantly, I think they feel like they'd genuinely help. In a caveman way, this is probably what they did 20,000 years ago when the problem happened organically. So I guess I'm saying it's in their blood.

I'd like to see some larger experiments of this. But BP is not likely to adopt it. They already rejected nearly 900 ideas generated by a community of specialists. South for the South approach might have a chance.

Hard to make fun of this video:

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The True Cost of Corn Ethanol

Here's a good article - with plenty of links to dig deeper - into the true cost of ethanol. I'm still pretty skeptical about this fuel in spite of what I wrote about Poet last week.

Before reading this article, I had never heard about "drop in" fuel replacements. These are third and fourth generation alternative fuels whose molecules fit within the existing petroleum chain, making the fuel compatible with current infrastructure and autos.
"... the calculation of corn ethanol's costs are a combination of direct subsidies like the blenders credit, renewable fuels standards, and the import tax on Brazilian ethanol, as well as indirect subsidies in the form of higher food prices and any positive carbon footprint that might exist."

The True Cost of Corn Ethanol
Via: Greentech Media

 Image via: The future is Green Blog [] a blog worth checking out.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Remote Controlled Hummingbird Robot From Chiba (Video) | Singularity Hub

Late lunch today.

This is cool. A hummingbird robot. Check out the video. Seems the professor is all about building this for use in surveillance. What other use could you think of? Beauty? Art? Perhaps. They are trying to get it down to the size of a house fly - again to spy on people and things.

But wait. Why build from scratch when there is already the remote controlled fly?

The Remote Controlled Hummingbird Robot From Chiba (Video) | Singularity Hub

Friday, June 18, 2010

What's in a Twinkie?

Back around 1973, I saw a film in elementary school that I thought was called "A Chemical Feast.". [Here is all I can find about it online.] Not sure if it was related to the movement brought about by Ralph Nader.

But it was a mock chef recreating a Sara Lee Lemon cake. He tossed in a host of chemicals - a lot like the Muppets' Swedish chef. Concluded with, "No lemon. No cake."

Not surprising, a Twinkie has not much twink in it.

What's in a Twinkie?
via: The Vertical Farm Blog

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Demolished! 11 Beautiful Train Stations That Fell To The Wrecking Ball

It's sad what we can do to ourselves and the great buildings we create. Check out these sad stories about demolished train stations. Some of them remain undeveloped. Can you believe that? You would think that today they'd be transformed into office space for new companies, or residential buildings.

Demolished! 11 Beautiful Train Stations That Fell To The Wrecking Ball

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Versatile solar Pebble looks to replace dependence on kerosene

We bought a solar light for our son from Ikea. It was sold with the promise that if you bought one, Ikea would send one to a needy kid somewhere who could really use one. You know, to read and learn into the night. Or cook, or play cards with friends. Here are the details of the program.

This article spells out a similar product - the same except for form factor. But it goes into why it's a good idea versus the current use of kerosene. Turns out that stuff is nasty, and dangerous. 

Versatile solar Pebble looks to replace dependence on kerosene

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Selling alternative Energy - the soft sell

While waiting in the lobby of a financial services corporation today, I tuned into the lobby TV. MSNBC was on. I spotted a commercial about energy. Very John Wayne, cowboy-esque. Really nice production and cinematography. Almost too much. So I noted the URL,

Turns out it's an ethanol producer. The site is really slick. A video for every section. Well written, explanatory copy. Position pieces really. In fact, the whole site is Like a PR briefing. I find it hard to walk away from the site with anything but favorable feelings toward the company, and a big dose of reconsideration of ethanol in my head. Damn they did a good job!

I was not (am not?) a big believer in ethanol as an energy source. It has to be subsidized, it competes with food crops, and is not really a net energy gain. It's this latter claim that really gets me. Make ethanol production feel like a conspiracy between agribusiness and big oil.

But check out the site. Let me know what you think.

POET - Home

Monday, June 14, 2010

Should we have him say "Bullshit or ass?" - Swearing in the White House

I dig the Economist. It's often a lot like the sports show on NPR. A heady, brainy, OK, cerebral version of a pre- or post-game show on ESPN. A good example of their style is this article on language. The made up part about how the press team debate what he should say is classic. I think these conversations happen much more often than people realize. We certainly had our share of them in advertising.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Health Insurance: Someone Else's Money | This American Life

OK, What I Heard at Lunch. It could have been at dinner, or the morning jog, or late at night while playing Evony due to the utter shear convenience of time shifting via pod casts. Tell me I'm not the only one who reached for the reverse button on the car radio to catch something I missed.

Anyway, this is part 2 of 2 of a series about health insurance. This part goes into, among other things, the history of the US health care system. It's a total accident. Nothing planned. All just pieced together over time. Definitely need a be rebuilt from the ground up.

I almost want to become a pet insurance broker too. Great lessons to be heard in that part of the story.

Someone Else's Money | This American Life

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Scientists breed goats that produce spider silk

 OK, here's a quickly. I can only imagine the sci-fi stories that may result. SpiderMan + Goat Boy.
 Amazing what we can do. If we only had the smarts to know when to say no. Is our society an immature, partying, experimenting teenager?

Scientists breed goats that produce spider silk

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Student invention lets Guatemalans pump water on the go

 Simple and effective. What a thrill it must be for an engineering student to develop something that can have such an impact. Like the Hippo Roller and many of the ideas in the Google 10^100 project.

EDN's Ron Wilson wrote an editorial further pointing out the demise of scientific study and learning in the US. The comments are entertaining reading - smart, not jingoistic. And on the Google project site one of the 16 winning categories spells out the need:

Enhance science and engineering education

Support initiatives that enhance young people's engineering and science education. Users from many countries agreed that encouraging science education was an ideal way to ensure the brightest future for technology development itself. Specific ideas ranged from building a virtual science lab and a live multiplayer math game to putting Lego robots and local high-tech professionals in schools.

Student invention lets Guatemalans pump water on the go

Monday, June 7, 2010

Japanese firm wants to transform the Moon into a giant solar power plant

Is this what we really want for humanity? This idea of turning the moon into our own personal power plant might have sounded good to me when I was watching first runs (maybe second) of the Thunderbirds on TV as a kid. But now it makes me think of the poor Humpalumpas or another battered creature in a Dr Seuss book. Poor Moon. And what if one of them lasers veers off course? Zap.

Japanese firm wants to transform the Moon into a giant solar power plant

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

New water-splitting catalyst found - Energy from Water

 Back at Marina High School circa 1979, I had a science/chemestry teacher named Mr Skands. He was a great teacher. Made it super interesting and fun. He raced rail buggies on the weekends. We all though t he was cool. Until he did the electrolysis of water experiment. Then we thought he was very cool.

Skands explained the process and demonstrated up at the front lab bench. He used a 3 gallon fish tank for the water. He collected hydrogen in a 500 ml beaker. Made it go pop over the bunsen burner. But he further explained how oxygen increases the efficiency of the burn and added, I think a third, of the volume in O2. He warned us it would be different. I think we put on goggles. He wrapped the beaker in a towel and brought it over the flame. The loud explosion blew out the burner, and blew us away. Hooked from then on. I wonder if they still can even do that in school?

So in the meantime (31 years) they've been working on increasing the efficiency of the process. The goal then and now was to harness solar energy to make hydrogen, and use the hydrogen as fuel. They've gotten closer with an inexpensive, almost common substance, for the anode. Check it.

New water-splitting catalyst found