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act April 23, 2008

Posted by KG in design, econ, environment, food, health, news, science, tech.
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“act” – from the nytimes magazine green issue:

WALK THE WALK: In many parts of the country, walking has become as quaint a pastime as spinning yarn or playing the bagpipes. Between 1977 and 1995, the number of daily walking trips taken by adults declined by 40 percent — while more than a quarter of all car trips are now shorter than a mile. Those under-a-mile journeys fall into the zone that new urbanists call “walkshed”: the area a person can reasonably cover on foot. People whose walksheds teem with shops and restaurants have more reason to walk than those whose don’t, so it was only a matter of time before someone tried to quantify a neighborhood’s pedestrian-friendliness. Last summer, a trio of Seattle software developers started walkscore.com, which calculates the number of potential destinations within walking distance of any given address and then produces a rating. If your neighborhood scores 90 or above, you can easily live there without a car; if it scores under 25, you’ll be driving to the backyard. More than a million addresses were searched in the site’s first month. Matt Lerner, one of the site’s developers, knew the concept had arrived when a condo in Seattle hung out a gigantic banner that said “Walk Score 100.” “People react really negatively to phrases like ‘density,’ ” he says, “but they react really positively to phrases like ‘walkability.’ ”Walk Score’s popularity may be a sign that walking is making a comeback, fueled by both rising gas prices and widening waistlines.

BEYOND WASTE: Zero waste, a state of eco-utopia far beyond ordinary sustainability, raises the notion of planetary stewardship to a sweeping level: instead of using, we should reuse; instead of dumping, we should compost. A number of municipalities, including Seattle and Boulder, Colo., have made zero waste a guiding ambition. The daunting challenge is that so many consumer products are neither recyclable nor compostable. Worse, they’re made with highly toxic chemicals. Reducing the impact of these products may depend less on finding better ways to dispose of them and more on discovering how to remake them — or on no longer making them at all. A number of green certifications exist for “healthier” consumer products, but for the past three years, a small firm in Virginia known as MBDC has been awarding a “Cradle to Cradle” certification, or “C2C,” to certain items that satisfy a rigorous philosophy espoused by its founders, the green architect William McDonough and the environmental chemist Michael Braungart. The duo have long held that, as McDonough recently put it, “waste is basically stupid.” Theirs is a business-friendly credo. Corporate growth isn’t in itself problematic; nor should sustainability mean getting by with less. Rather, the firm endorses rethinking the way products are designed and manufactured. To get a C2C seal of approval, a product needs to be made from components that are either “technical nutrients” (which can be recycled or repurposed) or biological nutrients (which can degrade naturally, like compost). “Instead of saying zero waste, we say let’s just eliminate the concept of waste,” says Jay Bolus, an environmental engineer who is in charge of the MBDC certification process. C2C has mainly been a business-to-business endeavor, and only a few of the 100 products that have won MBDC certification — Herman Miller chairs, United States Postal Service envelopes — are familiar to consumers. But C2C is expanding, and next year, according to Bolus, there should be 400 or 500 products with the logo. To McDonough, his certification is a point of entry into the world that he’s imagining. “It honors intention,” he says. “And I think that’s really important, given that we have to redesign nearly everything.”

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link roundup March 19, 2008

Posted by KG in 2008 Elections, books, econ, environment, news, politics, race, religion, science, sex, tech.
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1) the human side of ralph nader (make sure you change the bookmark to chapter 1)

2) hillary’s “experience”

3) fred krupp, president of the environmental defense fund, talks about “his new book and his thoughts on harnessing the great forces of capitalism to save the world from catastrophe.” – direct real audio link & airtalk archive link (scroll to 3/14)

4) andrew sullivan ponders prostitution – 1 & 2

5) ezra klein on wright vs. falwell

6) TED talks (richard dawkins, larry brilliant, bill clinton, the google guys, and more)

robert reich speaks the truth on trade March 5, 2008

Posted by KG in 2008 Elections, berkeley, econ, international, op-ed, politics, tech.
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to sum it up: trade=good, not having safety net for the short term costs=bad

yet the democrats can’t articulate this properly.  they could become the party of pro-growth/free-trade + robust safety net…add in an emphasis on “good governance”/competence/anti-corruption/anti-special interests + middle-class tax cuts, environmentalism, and they might actually win elections by more than 2% points.

that would leave the republicans with the social conservatives and military hawks.  the democrats really have an opportunity to get the fiscal conservatives and tax cutters if they’re able to articulate middle-class tax cuts and trade in a way that appeals to liberals and conservatives.

hillary and barack, afta nafta:

While the overall benefits from free trade far exceed the costs, and the winners from trade (including all of us consumers who get cheaper goods and services because of it) far exceed the losers, there’s a big problem: The costs fall disproportionately on the losers — mostly blue-collar workers who get dumped because their jobs can be done more cheaply by someone abroad who’ll do it for a fraction of the American wage. The losers usually get new jobs eventually but the new jobs are typically in the local service economy and they pay far less than the ones lost.

Even though the winners from free trade could theoretically compensate the losers and still come out ahead, they don’t. America doesn’t have a system for helping job losers find new jobs that pay about the same as the ones they’ve lost – regardless of whether the loss was because of trade or automation. There’s no national retraining system. Unemployment insurance reaches fewer than 40 percent of people who lose their jobs – a smaller percentage than when the unemployment system was designed seventy years ago. We have no national health care system to cover job losers and their families. There’s no wage insurance. Nothing. And unless or until America finds a way to help the losers, the backlash against trade is only going to grow.

Get me? The Dems shouldn’t be redebating NAFTA. They should be debating how to help Americans adapt to a new economy in which no job is safe.

designing obama February 28, 2008

Posted by KG in 2008 Elections, arts/culture, design, news, politics, style, tech.
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andrew romano interviews graphic designer michael bieruit on the branding of obama:

Obama’s success owes a lot, of course, to his message–the promise to pass Democratic policies by rallying a “coalition for change.” But watching Obamamania over the past few weeks, I’ve become convinced that there’s something more subtle at work, too. It’s not just the message and the man and the speeches that are swaying Democratic voters–though they are. It’s the way the campaign has folded the man and the message and the speeches into a systemic branding effort. Reinforced with a coherent, comprehensive program of fonts, logos, slogans and web design, Obama is the first presidential candidate to be marketed like a high-end consumer brand.* And for folks who don’t necessarily need Democratic social programs–upscale voters, young people–I suspect that the novel comfort of that brand affiliation contributes (however subconsciously) to his appeal.

Seeking expert opinion, I tested my hypothesis on leading graphic designer and critic Michael Bieruit, who was kind enough to dissect Obama’s unprecedented branding campaign–and show me how it’s helping his candidacy. Excerpts:

What do you see as the “philosophical implications,” to use a highfalutin phrase, of Obama’s design choices?
There are a couple of levels. There’s the close-in parlor game you can play about what all these typefaces actually mean. Gotham was a typeface designed originally for GQ magazine, so it’s a sleek, purposefully not fancy, very straightforward, plainspoken font, but done with a great deal of elegance and taste–and drawn from very American sources, by the way. Unlike other sans serif typefaces, it’s not German, it’s not French, it’s not Swiss. It’s very American. The serif font that he often uses to write Obama is delicate and nuanced and almost, not feminine exactly, but it’s very literary-looking. It looks very conversational and pleasant, as opposed to strident and yelling. It’s a persuasive-looking font, I would say. But that’s putting these things on couches and pretending they have personalities.

Right. It’s sort of hard to imagine in a voter in Cleveland (or a Newsweek political blogger from New York, for that matter) interacting with Obama’s design on that level. How does it affect those of us who aren’t graphic designers?
Well, I’m teaching this class at the Yale School of Management, and we were just talking about brand management and politics–exactly this thing before we got on the phone. And one of the things that came up in the conversation is, if you think about it, the challenge for someone named Barack Hussein Obama is that he’s such an unprecedented figure in American politics–so much so that everything he’s trying to do is, in a way, trying to make him look smoother and more normal. Someone said, “Well, why shouldn’t he have revolutionary looking graphics–graphics that make him look like grassroots, like an outsider? Things drawn by hand, things that look forceful and avant-garde.” But I think he’s using design in a way to make him look as normal, as comfortable, as inevitable as a brand can look in American life. Those are really deliberate, interesting choices. Whether or not a sans serif font like Gotham looks more “American” than a Swiss font like Helvetica, that’s in our imaginations to a certain degree. I think it’s much more incontrovertible that he’s actually using the seamlessness of this branding to convey a candidacy that’s not a dangerous, revolutionary, risk-everything proposition–but as something that is well-managed and has everything under control.

michael shermer @ google February 18, 2008

Posted by KG in books, cognitive science, econ, history, marketing, media, neuroscience, politics, psychology, science, speeches, talks, tech.
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michael shermer @ google discussing his new book – the mind of the market: compassionate apes, competitive humans, and other tales from evolutionary economics

discusses the ultimatum game @ 27min, the evolution of moral sense/trolley car experiment @ 33min & how hormones affect trust/cooperation @ 43min:

related: shermer speaking about debunking superstitions @ TED & “why people believe weird things about money

tim harford @ google February 2, 2008

Posted by KG in books, econ, media, neuroscience, psychology, speeches, talks, tech.
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discussing his new book, the logic of life: the rational economics of an irrational world…interesting bit about “hyperbolic discounting,” or the idea that “consequences which occur at a later time, good or bad, tend to have a lot less bearing on our choices the more distantly they fall in the future” @ 43min:

in hip-hop album news… January 30, 2008

Posted by KG in hip-hop, music, style, tech.
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okayplayer:

In a shift from their previous two releases, The Roots’ Rising Down is STACKED with guest appearances. In addition to crew regulars Dice Raw, Truck North, P.O.R.N. and yes, Malik B, confirmed guests include: Mos Def, Common, Kweli, Peedi Peedi, Styles P, Wale, Patrick Stump, Mercedes Martinez, Chrisette Michelle. Also rumored to appear are Q-Tip, Lupe Fiasco, and Jay Electronica.

jamaica observer with erykah badu:

I have three albums coming out this year, the first one will be released on February 26 (her birthday) and it’s gonna be called New Amerykah,” Badu says, adding that the next, Return Of The Ankh is scheduled for a July release.

“The other one’s gonna be called New Amerykah II and it’s gonna be a totally digital experience.”

Removing an ebony puff of her larger-than-life afro from her face, Badu explains the meaning of “totally digital experience”.

“You’ll purchase (instead of a CD) a USB stick, each will come with a specific code that you punch in. That way you’ll get to upload a new song every month for the next 10 months.”

Her digital ideas, however, don’t stop there!

“I’ll also be starting a magazine called Freaq, it’s gonna be dedicated to arts, politics, beauty, fashion, photography and technology,” shares the 36-year-old, adding that she also manages her own Myspace page.

“I feel so inspired. My religion is Art, I do the creator’s work best in that medium,” she says.

“You don’t see the head-wrap no more, no ankh? That’s because I am that. I don’t have to have nothing on me. It just takes the things that I have buried inside of me to become who I am. I’m just happy in my day”

 

mark penn & microtrends January 29, 2008

Posted by KG in 2008 Elections, books, marketing, news, politics, tech.
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nymag:

A pollster by trade, the CEO of PR giant Burson-Marsteller by position, Penn is obsessed with carving up the electorate into itty-bitty slices and famous for propounding micro-policies to satisfy their cravings and allay their anxieties. Among many in the Clinton circle, he is regarded with intense suspicion; his feuding with her communications director, Howard Wolfson, and longtime ally Harold Ickes is legendary. “A lot of Clinton people aren’t sure that Penn is really a Democrat—you know, he’s kind of a New York Sun guy,” says one of his clients. “Some of them wouldn’t piss on his head if his hair were on fire.”

 

Clinton’s focus on the quotidian telegraphs to voters her seriousness about issues and tangible deliverables. And this, in turn, may help explain why she is doing so much better among downscale voters than Obama is—along with highlighting one of the core strengths of her candidacy in an ever-worsening economy. According to copious research conducted by Penn, upscale voters tend to focus more on personality and character, while working stiffs focus more on substance and on who will effectively defend their interests. “The eggheads have become the jug-heads,” Penn says, “and the jug-heads have become the eggheads.”

penn discussing microtrends & his book @ google:

new insights on poverty January 19, 2008

Posted by KG in animation, econ, environment, health, history, international, media, politics, science, talks, tech.
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professor hans rosling @ TED in 2006 (20:35):

2007 presentation available here

“Even the most worldly and well-traveled among us will have their perspectives shifted by Hans Rosling. A professor of global health at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute, his current work focuses on dispelling common myths about the so-called developing world, which (he points out) is no longer worlds away from the west. In fact, most of the third world is on the same trajectory toward health and prosperity, and many countries are moving twice as fast as the west did.

What sets Rosling apart isn’t just his apt observations of broad social and economic trends, but the stunning way he presents them. Guaranteed: You’ve never seen data presented like this. By any logic, a presentation that tracks global health and poverty trends should be, in a word: boring. But in Rosling’s hands, data sings. Trends come to life. And the big picture — usually hazy at best — snaps into sharp focus.

Rosling’s presentations are grounded in solid statistics (often drawn from United Nations data), illustrated by the visualization software he developed. The animations transform development statistics into moving bubbles and flowing curves that make global trends clear, intuitive and even playful. During his legendary presentations, Rosling takes this one step farther, narrating the animations with a sportscaster’s flair.

Rosling developed the breakthrough software behind his visualizations through his nonprofit Gapminder, founded with his son and daughter-in-law. The free software — which can be loaded with any data — was purchased by Google in March 2007. (Rosling met the Google founders at TED.)”

big brother December 29, 2007

Posted by KG in politics, privacy, tech.
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big-brother.jpg

vanity fair profiles aristotle inc. and their political data mining and micro-targeting operation. while it’s tempting to criticize what they do, they offer their services to anyone and they use publicly available information. this should really raise questions about the personal information we choose to divulge and how we manage and protect that information with privacy laws. as more and more information about us gets aggregated online, the possibilities for it being used in ways we didn’t consent to obviously increases. i don’t know if we even realize just how much information about us is floating around in the internet ether right now… (slate with some online privacy tips)

“big brother inc.”:

“What we do is help a campaign run more and more like an effective business,” Phillips says as he types on his laptop, bringing up on a large projection screen the profile of an actual voter in Atlanta, whom we’ll call John Smith.

Phillips hits a button and up pops Smith’s basic information—address, phone number, etc. A click of the mouse brings more personal information—his photograph, his age and occupation, the names of his adult family members, his party affiliation and approximate income. Another click summons the exact amounts of political donations he has made. Phillips clicks once more, and a kind of molecular model appears on-screen, showing every political donor and potentially influential person Smith is linked to, in Atlanta and beyond, with dozens of interlocking nodes. Each node leads to the profile of another voter, about whom Aristotle knows just as much or more.

An example of Aristotle in action: During the 2000 Republican presidential-primary season, Arizona senator John McCain was the media-darling challenger to Texas governor George W. Bush. Bush loyalists in Virginia decided to play hardball, holding the state voter lists hostage, according to a McCain campaign official. Without access to them, McCain couldn’t get the 10,000 signatures he needed to put his name on the state ballot. McCain’s desperate campaign managers called Phillips, who went to work immediately, creating a targeted list of Virginia Republicans known to vote in primaries and cross-referencing that with Aristotle’s files on Internet users in the state. Soon, matching subjects were seeing banner ads on their computer screens urging them to give the senator their signatures. McCain’s name was on the ballot in a matter of days. (It’s worth noting that Bush and McCain were both Aristotle clients in 2000.)

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