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Todd Hoff's Weblog.



Last Build Date: Sat, 19 Sep 2009 21:12:07 GMT

Copyright: Copyright 2009 todd hoff
 



This Blog is Moving

Sat, 19 Sep 2009 21:12:06 GMT

Radio User Land was originator in the blog field, but now they are packing it in. So I've had to move. The new location for my blog is at:
http://toddhoff.com/blog/

Please come by and visit me at my new home. No home warming gift is necessary :-)



Why Some Photographs Look Alive and Others Look Dead

Thu, 12 Mar 2009 20:23:38 GMT

Why Some Photographs Look Alive and Others Look Dead

Artists have long worked at portraying a sense of dynamism in static sculptures and two dimensional paintings. To this end Greeks developed a technique called symmetria - dynamic counterbalance between the relaxed and tensed body parts and between the directions in which the parts move.

(image) (image) (image)

Look at the Egyptian sculpture and notice how static it feels. The purpose behind Egyptian art was political and religious. It was used to solidify the role of the Pharaoh as the rightful leader, the only legitimate contact between the sacred and profane worlds. So their art is impressive and enduring, but there's no sense of movement.

Now look at the Spear-Bearer by Polyclitus. It has a life to it that you don't see in Egyptian art. Look closely and you can start to see how this animated feeling is accomplished. Look at how the left knee is bent and the right knee is straight. The left foot is back and turned out. The right foot is forward and turned the other way. The hips are gently shifted the right and the torso is slightly twisted. The right arm is straight and the left arm is up and bent. The spear angles and forms a diagonal with the right hand. The two knees form an opposite diagonal. The head is turned slightly to the right and is looking off passed us. The muscles are clearly defined leading the viewer to imagine that this man has fought and is ready for action.

All these little "tricks" don't consciously surface, but the overall impression is one of liveness and rhythm. I've wondered how this technique developed. It's so clever, so subtle, and works so well. Where did it come from?

Now take a look at the picture of two lionesses playing in the wild. It may look like the lionesses are fighting, but they are really just having a grand old time. When I saw this picture (see Stuart Brown: Why Play is Vital) for the first time symmetria alarm bells immediately went rang a lang a ding dang in my head.

Compare Lionesses Playing with the Spear Bearer. Amazing similarities. Notice how alive this frozen two-dimensional snapshot of time feels. I've taken a lot of pictures of things in action and they usually feel lifeless and dead, so I know the feeling of liveness just doesn't come from the fact that they are moving. I think it feels so alive for reasons of symmetria. Notice the twist in the bodies, diagonals of the paws, parallel of the tails, diagonal of the head, twist in the heads, the correspondence between the feet, and the muscled arcs of the trunks in flight.

Taken together all these effects make the picture feel vibrantly and gloriously alive. Maybe an ancient Greek artist witnessed a similar scene thousands of years ago and thought hey, we can do that in sculpture!



Grandma's Tips on Surviving Depression 2.0

Mon, 23 Feb 2009 19:37:39 GMT

Grandma's Tips on Surviving Depression 2.0

My 93 year old Grandma thinks things are looking pretty bad these days, which is saying a lot for a women who survived the Great Depression. I asked her how they made it through those tough times. Her advice sounds a lot like what would work today.

The American People Have to Learn to Cut Down


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Grandma was raised on a farm in North Dakota and she said they simply didn't have any money. Something she thinks people these days probably can't understand at all because people still seem to have money now. They were lucky even to buy food. Until Roosevelt there was absolutely no government help at all. Nothing. People were on their own.
  1. People didn't have luxuries.
  2. If they could afford shows they were worn  for a couple of years and were fixed, not thrown away.
  3. Clothes were handed down. New clothes were rare and they usually made clothes themselves.
  4. If families even had a car there was just one car per family at most.
  5. Kids walked to school. She walked 3 miles to school unless the weather was really bad.
So learn to do with less. When you have less you don't need as big an income to survive and you can ride out anything.

Learn How to Cook

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They didn't eat out in those days. Food was prepared and eaten at home. They bought beans and rice in 100 pound sacks.  They made lots of soup, especially using cabbage grown in their garden and beef bones when they had them. To this day she still doesn't like beans because they had so much of them.

Grow Your Own Food

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They had a big garden where they grew potatoes, carrots, greens, and tomatoes. Then they would can food so they could eat in the winter.

No Debt

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Credit cards didn't exist so they saved up if  they wanted to buy something. She doesn't have any debt to this day. I would think a lot of people from her generation kept those habits all their lives. It's the later generations that reacted to times of plenty by wanting plenty more.

I asked what they did about medical care. She said they didn't go to the doctor or the hospital that often, but when they did they worked out a payment plan. They would pay a little each month or at harvest times. Eventually it did get paid off.


It was definitely a different time. The US in that era was still largely rural, still largely farmers, and the population was tiny compared to now. It's hard to imagine how our urban population could live without money as the entire economy is based on money. But even if the world has changed the things they did back then to survive make a lot of sense now, even if it's not the path to a continual series of double-digit growth projections.







What I've Changed My Mind About: Was the Civil War the Best Way to End Slavery in the US?

Mon, 26 Jan 2009 00:20:54 GMT

What I've Changed My Mind About: Was the Civil War the Best Way to End Slavery in the US?Each year the Edge Foundation asks leading world thinkers a big smart sounding question. In 2008 the question was What have you changed your mind about?. I'm not a leading world thinker, and nobody asked me, but I've come to change my mind on a serious issue and it's worth talking about because it's something that not too long ago I could never have pictured myself changing my mind about.  The issue is: Was the Civil War the Best Way to End Slavery in the US? And by extension: is the military approach effective at solving a broad class of social problems?Growing up on the West Coast of the US the need for the Civil War to end slavery was unquestioned. After all, if there's something bad we appoint a czar and make war against it. Drugs are bad so we make war. Cancer is bad so we make a war. Illegal immigration is bad so we make a war. Terrorism is bad so we make a war. Saddam Hussein was bad so we made war against Iraq. This is a type of thinking we are comfortable with: X is bad so kill it. Kill or be killed. An eye for an eye. If we don't like it, kill it. It's an easy and conforting approach to problem solving. No thinking required.Interestingly though when it came to the one of the biggest evils of all--Soviet Union--we did not destroy them. In fact, we never directly attacked them. We played a long game. We outwitted and outlasted until now Russia is now more or less (often less) part of Western economic life and culture. China is being handled in a similar way. So when we think someone can hurt us we play the long game, but when we think we can win we play the short game of change through superior fire power. Notice that a long game based on values, patience, and intelligent structured interactions are the only games we seem to win.As a child I never questioned that the Civil War was necessary. Even as an adult I followed the "if X is bad kill it" way of thinking on the Civil War, even though this approach has been proven not to work against many if not most problems.I've recently read a book called the Greatest Emancipations: How the West Abolished Slavery by Jim Powell that changed my thinking on how the US chose to fight slavery. And I think the implication goes far beyond slavery and how we "fight" other "wars" as well.This is a fascinating book that is filled with a history that I had no idea about before reading the book. The key points:For thousands of years slavery went unchallenged as a way of life. In a single century slavery was abolished in the West.Only the US resorted to a Civil War to abolish slavery. The more violence involved in the emancipation process the worse the outcomes were.In the Civil War 620,000 Union and Confederate soldiers died. Perhaps more than 80,000 civilians died, most of them Southerners. Entire adult populations were wiped out in many communities.  An estimate $1 billion to $1.5 billion in property was destroyed in the South. The South experienced runaway inflation. Most of the fighting occurred in the South and everywhere was ruin and desolation.  The point is that the South suffered greatly. And like Germany after WWI, if you suffer there's not much room for change in your heart. It fuels vengence and hate and those twin powers can last forever. John Wilks Booth was outraged at the suffering of the Confederacy and showed his displeasure by murdering Lincoln. Booth did a good job furthering his cause. Lincoln's successor, Andrew Johnson, was nothing like Lincoln and was prepared to let the South go its own way. The North won the war, but the white supremacists won the after-war. What I didn't know when I was younger is abolishing slavery in the South didn't really fix the problem. Without these elements Powell asserts a society can't be truly free:Constitutional limitations on government power.Rule of law.Equal rights.After the Civil War Blacks still had none of these. The problem was after such [...]



My First Ever Zeppelin Trip!

Wed, 26 Nov 2008 17:59:45 GMT

For a reason without reason I've always dreamed of riding in a zeppelin. No, not the Led variety. I'm not a groupy. I finally got my chance thanks to Airship Adventures. Here are a few pictures from the trip: Despite my lack of photography skills it was a picture perfect day. No wind and a blue sunny sky. Zeppelins are creatures of the wind. Too much wind and they can't fly. A couple on our trip were reschedulees from a wind day. We took the trip out of Moffet field. We originally signed up for the Sonoma trip but they had some issues with the landing field so we rescheduled. There's also an Oakland trip the goes out to the bay. I'm thinking I'll eventually hit them all. They also mentioned they eventually plan on a barnstorming type trip which will move along the coast. That would be a blast. Our trip went over 101 to San Mateo and back again. Not the fall colors of wine country but it was still gorgeous.If you are expecting something the size of the Hindenburg you'll be disappointed. These beasts are about 1/3rd the size and carry 12 passengers instead of 100. On the inside aren't the luxurious appointments of a gilded age, but functional seating meant for tourists on a short excursion. It's not claustrophobic on the inside (and I'm claustrophobic). All around you are windows so you can see from any angle. A few windows open so you can take pictures without window glare. The whole back end is a window with a window seat so you can look, sit, and contemplate. More than enough room and comfort for our 1 hour tour. And there is a tiny teeny bathroom if the need should arise (complementary picture included).Saying zeppelins are creatures of the wind gets directly to heart of what makes zeppelin riding different than a plane or helicopter ride. Zeppelins do not stay still. They are always moving. This makes getting on and off a zeppelin more of an adventure than expected. To get on the zeppelin is moving towards you and you have to scurry up the entry stairs on the fly. Same with getting off. It's quite a lot of fun and adds a bit of spice. The support people have all this worked out so you don't have to worry about anything going wrong. It's no problem.Seeing the world from a 1000 feet is a completely different experience. We are either high up in the air or on the ground. Trawling slowly close to the ground but still high above allows you to see patterns you may have never seen before. Some of my favorite pictures are of the sinuous river ways that lign the bay in contrast to the compulsively square shapes humans inflict everywhere. We humans love our boxes, right angles, and straight lines. Where is Antonio Gaudi when you need him? I Iike the contrast here: Someone went wild and made a circular shape: ALIGN=CENTER>How crazy is that? It stood out amongst the Roman inspired order of everything around it.Another noticeable pattern is you can tell where people have money. It doesn't take a genius to know when you've hit Atherton:Though most houses are boring, company campuses have a little creativity:And there were a lot of buildings where I wonder what is that?There's not much green space for people to play in. We cram every spare inch with a house or something. It's hard to exercise when everything is covered in pavement. It would be nice to plan that out a little better so malls weren't the only place to get away.I also really had no idea how much wet lands we had:Spectacular to look at from above. Endless gorgeous patterns. And that's what I'll take away from this wonderful trip.[...]



Web 2.0 Won't Die Because it Excites Young Minds

Tue, 14 Oct 2008 14:00:40 GMT

Web 2.0 Won't Die Because it Excites Young Minds

With the recent financial crisis we're continually exhorted grow up and drop this Web 2.0 nonsense. Move into more dignified niche revenue opportunities. Stop wasting everyone's time with this new-age hippie free ad stuff. There's no time for such foolishness. Be serious. It's as if I can hear my Grandpa whispering in my ear. Well, Web 2.0 ain't going anywhere because it excites young minds.

I attend meetups around Silicon Valley and I'm amazed at the youth and vitality I see at the Facebook and other Web 2.0ish events. People are excited. It's not just about early exits and large cash. People are genuinely excited about the tech, even if nobody is quite sure how it works or what to do with it--yet.

A historical parallel exists: the discovery and practical application of electricy. A microcosm of the excitement electricity generated in young soon-to-be scientists can be found in the life of Hans Christian Oersted. Oersted in the 1800s was ready to follow in his father's footsteps as a respected Danish pharmacist. But the new phenomena of electricity captivated his thoughts and he shifted careers. At that time the wonder electricity would become wasn't obvious at all. Studying it was a risk as there were no practical applications of electricity, but minds were drawn to it because they sensed in electricity something new, different and interesting. And in 1820 Oersted discovered electricity and magnetism were a unified force. Until that time they had been considered to be different forces. As a Kantian philosopher Oersted assumed there where deep unifying links behind phenomena, so he was able to find the unification of electricity and magnetism when the more conventionally minded did not.

Fast forward to Web 2.0 and the constant heap of disdain shoveled on making "stupid" zombie applications on Facebook. The first electrical devices were simple too, devices like buzzers and telegraphs. These simple devices were made possible by understanding the nature of electricity and magnetism. With that knowledge it was possible to translate electrical potential into magnetic and kinetic energy. As understanding deepened, the miracles worked with electricity came to define the 20th century and make it different than any time before.

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While Facebook zombie apps may not seem impressive, they are similar to the buzzer in that they show practical applications of  phenomena still being researched and unified. Only this time it's not using electricity to turn a clapper on and off as in a buzzer, it's working out viral marketing, viral distribution, viral program design, viral loops, social networks, lifestreaming, sites as platforms, platforms as APIs, data portability, monetization strategies, mobile applications, friending, long tails, and so on.

Web 2.0 isn't going anyway. There's a deep sense something is going on here and young minds want to figure out what it is. Our James Maxwell, who found four equations codifying every aspect of electromagnetism, has yet to be found for Web 2.0, but that won't stop the young from looking and being unapologetically excited about it. When historians define the 21st century, the roots of the miracle technology may just have started in silly zombie games.



Rules For Superior Stories

Thu, 04 Sep 2008 20:58:48 GMT

Rules For Superior Stories

Charles Tilly in his book Why? distills down the rules for how Jared Diamond takes complicated ideas in books like Guns, Germ, and Steel and whittles them down to an essential yet still interesting essence:
  • Simplify the space in which your explanation operates.
  • Reduce the number of actions and actors.
  • Minimize references to incremental, indirect, reciprocal, simultaneous feedback effects.
  • Restrict your account--especially of causal mechanisms--to elements having explicit, defensible equivalents within the specialized discipline on why you are drawing.
  • Remember your audience: you will have to tell your superior story differently depending on the knowledge and motivation your listeners will bring to it. Think of your stories as relational work.




The Lifecycle of a Typical New Product Announcement

Thu, 04 Sep 2008 20:48:24 GMT

The Lifecycle of a Typical New Product Announcement

Look at enough new product announcements and there appears to be pattern. The same sorts of articles are posted on every product. So why not jump ahead of the curve? When a new product comes out see which of the following you want to sign up for:
  1. Rumor of X's Imminent Release. Oh Joy!
  2. X Has Just Launched! Live blogging now.
  3. How X Will Change Everything
  4. The Real Reason Behind X
  5. X First Impressions
  6. Warning: X has Serious Issues (performance, security, privacy, crash, design, licensing, etc)
  7. X Who Wins and Who Looses
  8. X FAIL
  9. Why X Sucks
  10. X is Better Than Everything Before and After Forever
  11. Why Y is Really Better than X
  12. The Story Behind Project X
  13. X Will Get These New Features Eventually
  14. Company Y Announces Support for X
  15. Indepth Review of X Here First
  16. X Looks Good But Not Yet Ready
  17. What X Means for the Plans of Company Y
  18. How You Can Make Old Product Z Work Like X Now
  19. X Over Hyped and Under Performs
  20. X is Now Bigger than Product Y
  21. Why Did We Ever Care About X in the First Place?
  22. I Wasted an Hour of My Life Using X
  23. X: The Video
  24. What X Means for the Future of Humanity
  25. Tips for Using X



Which Batman Villain are You?

Mon, 04 Aug 2008 16:02:21 GMT

Which Batman Villain are You?

On the theory that insight can be teased from any random meaningless thing in the world, I think the villains in Batman are useful objects of self reflection. What separates Batman from his arch nemesi are how they dealt with the tragic events in their life. Batman on the loss of his parents eventually chose the harder path, becoming a fighter of evil and protector of lost souls. Batman's villains chose the easier path when faced with tragedy.

In a way each Batman villain symbolizes a different path for running away from fear and pain.  So when we reflect on Batman's villains we are also exploring how we may let situations dictate who we become rather than making our own conscious choice of who we become.

Scarecrow - The Sadist



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Operating from a position of trust and power as psychologist, the Scarecrow enjoys seeing people's mind snap. Abuses trust and uses fear to get what they want without concern about the consequences.

The Riddler - The Narcissist



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Yearning to be caught, the ever calm and cool Riddler's obsession to be recognized as cleverer than everyone else was so strong he left self-incriminating clues that lead to his eventual fall.

Penguin - The Materialist.



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Penguin tries to fill the hole in his soul with money and things. The hole was created by the bullying he endured as a child. Taunted mercilessly by his classmates because of his beak-like nose, bulbous belly, and ever present umbrella (his mom didn't want him catching a cold), the hole grew bigger and bigger. He thought wealth and power could fill the hole, but it never does.

Joker - Chaos



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The Joker is an agent of randomness and chaos. In any interaction he could be a harmless clown or a soulless killer, yet we never know what motivates him. Money will not buy him. He can not be bargained with. He will not compromise. In that he is like Batman's evil mirror image, but with a sense of humor.

Catwoman - The Evil Twin


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Batman and Catwoman have much in common. The both enjoy the Furry lifestyle and from a conventional perspective have questionable morals, but are basically decent and do good. The difference is Batman has a line he will not cross, and Catwoman does not. Catwoman is a version of Batman without the ridig self imposed control. She is corruptible, not afraid to commit crimes, and loves the thrill for the sake of thrills.  And that's why they can never be together.

Two-Face - The Extremist



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Harvey Dent was an abused and schizophrenic child who hid his madness in fanatic devotion to law and order. After an injury deformed his face his madness flipped to a life of crime instead of the law. It was his madness, his unexamined extremism which was his essential character, not good or evil.


Batman's fight is our fight. He constantly struggles to keep Gotham safe from people who simply gave up and gave in. We also constantly fight the Gotham of our mind against letting fear and pain turn us away from our better natures. Batman may be a silly comic book, but there's a lot to learn from Batman too.



Batman and Voltaire: An Unexpected Dynamic Duo

Mon, 04 Aug 2008 04:55:34 GMT

Batman and Voltaire: An Unexpected Dynamic Duo"Everything can be taken from a man but the last of human freedoms, the right to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances--the right to choose one's own way."--Viktor Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning Why do we watch all these silly cartoon super hero movies? What's the point really? I'm not from planet Krypton and the sun only gives me a melanoma. Chances are a toxic spill will never grant me spidy powers or turn me large and green. For me worrying about how to handle the "with great power comes great responsibility" existential crisis will never be a problem. Unless of course you think we all have hidden greatness inside of us and it's our responsibility to free it to make ourselves and the world better. OK, I might buy that in some abstract "we are the world" sort of way.Other than being a billionaire (can you see Bill Gates as Batman?), Batman has no special powers setting him above normal humans. Batman is all too human as we see in his childhood mythology. Young Bruce Wayne faced a life-changing tradegy that comes to all mere mortals in time: how to deal with an event so terrible you feel like you want to die and burn the world down with you. Typically such events traumatize normal humans. We feel a burning chaotic storm of fear, pain, guilt, regret and anger.  And that's exactly how young Bruce Wayne reacted to the brutal and senseless murder of his parents. With fear. With pain. With guilt. With regret. With anger. All normal responses. Did he immediately rise up as a young child and pledge everlasting retribution against his enemies? No, that's what a cartoon character might do. It would be too superficial and too easy. We would have nothing to learn from such a reaction because it would be so unnatural no human could possibly emulate it. This is why I like Smallville. It shows Superman growing up, making mistakes, learning, and maturing. In Smallville Superman is not born a hero, he earns his super hero street cred.A single spark doesn't light a fire that transforms you from victim to an integrated empowered human being in one step. No, it's much messier than that. Movies have taught us to expect everything to be made better in two 30 minute acts. We see just how messy and how long it takes as a fearful young Bruce slowly changes into a mentally focused Batman. Bruce could have reacted like his enemies did in similar circumstances, by becoming a villain himself. But he didn't. Instead Bruce chose a different route. He made a moral choice to take a stand against evil instead of letting the unfairness of the world turn him towards the dark side. When the Joker experienced injustice, he reasoned justice did not exist. When the Joker experienced meaningless, he reasoned meaning did not exist. Without meaning and justice the Joker chose to become the chaos he saw in the world. As chaos' Avatar on Earth he hoped to shock people into seeing the hypocrisy of their beliefs. To what end is uncertain. The Joker plays a similar role as does Candide in Voltaire's book by the same name. Candide was raised to believe the Leibnizian philosophy that "this is the best of all possible worlds," a theory essentially stating: whatever is is good. The logic behind the "best of all possible worlds" thinking goes something like: God would not be so cruel as to let evil exist, yet we has human perceive evil. How do we reconcile a good God with evil? Well, evil doesn't really exist. We puny humans only see evil because we can not understand the wisdom of God's plan. We can't see the big picture. If we did we would understand that the evil we perceive is really for the best in the long run. This is really the best of all possible worlds. And because this world is the best, change goes against God's plan.This nakedly self-serving phil[...]



The Cynics Guide to Becoming and Staying Rich

Mon, 21 Jul 2008 22:00:47 GMT

The Cynics Guide to Becoming and Staying Rich

Keeping Wealth: Never draw down your principle.
Building Wealth: Have no principles.



Are Web Icons a Modern Form of Illiterate Communication for the Dumbest Generation?

Tue, 08 Jul 2008 01:45:35 GMT

Are Web Icons a Modern Form of Illiterate Communication for the Dumbest Generation?

How do you communicate with an illiterate population? That's a problem I hadn't thought of before, but on a recent trip to Europe I was fascinated to learn how medieval towns and merchants solved the problem of how to communicate with a population that couldn't read. Their solution was to use elaborate symbols that reminded me a lot of the iconography developed for websites and other computer devices. I couldn't help putting this together with the idea of Mark Bauerlein's new book ="">The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future

Complex Store Signs in Salzburg Austria

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Another example of using pictures to communicate with non-readers is the amazing Salzburg street market pictured on the left. This is a very long street with markets running seemingly forever on either side. Imagine yourself a worker who couldn't read. How would you what stores were available just looking down the street? You couldn't know so the elaborately descriptive store signs evolved so people could tell what a store sold. Here's the sign for a McDonalds:
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German Maypole's Use Pictures to Represent Town Services

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Many German towns feature a maypole in the town square. In addition to being big and beautiful, a maypole communicates to an illiterate population what services can be found in the town with a picture symbolizing the service. Take a look at the maypole in Munich. It's gorgeous. Look closely and you'll see pictures of beer barrels which would tell you Munich has a beer available. And oh boy is that true! If there's a bakery you'll see a picture of a baker. If there's a wood cutter you'll see a picture of a wood cutter.

It's all picture based so you can just look and immediately understand what you'll find in a town.

Scan a webpage, an OS GUI, or a cell phone interface and I think you get a very similar feel to the ancient maypole symbols and store signs. I can't help but wonder if over time text will drop out as people stop readining and we develop ever more intricate graphical symbol systems to communicate instead of relying on text? Everyhing old is new again.




Is Oil China's New Black Plague?

Mon, 07 Jul 2008 23:24:59 GMT

Is Oil China's New Black Plague?

The article Oil price shock means China is at risk of blowing up makes clear that if the effects of expensive oil have hit the US hard, they have hit China even harder because the China miracle is in large part built on cheap transportation based on cheap oil. When oil becomes expensive that advantage goes away which could have a devastating impact on China's economy.

Curiously this parallels another time when a dominant China was brought low by a black substance, the Black Plague. Many do not know the world has been flat once before.When the Mongols ruled much of the civilized world (which didn't include Europe of course) they instituted many practices we think of being modern: religious toleration, public schools, a mail network for fast communication through out the empire, a rule of law that applied to all in society (both high and low), a common currency, a common trading language, book keeping, an elaborate system of trade through the whole world that allowed trading specialized goods from one area to others that demand the goods, manufacture of goods in one region with the specific intent of selling for profit in other areas, and much more.

The Mongol empire was rich and vibrant in a time when Europe was mired in the comparative poverty of the middle ages. Europe was so poor the Mongols didn't even think it worth invading. The Mongols were all about plunder and the pickings were slim in Europe at the time.

Then the black plague happened and 50% of China's population was wiped out. Mongol rule was based on profits from trade which rested on fast communication and travel. When the plague hit these networks broke down as expertise was lost and the world started to close in on itself to stop the spread of the plague. A once incredibly open and profitable world went dark for many a year.

Few people realize the Christopher Columbus was attempting to reach India so that trade could reestablished with the Mongols. While Europe was not ruled by the Mongols it benefited greatly from trade. When that trade stopped because of the plague money stopped flowing into Europe as well and they wanted desperately for trade to flow once again. Columbus was a little lost. He thought he was in India which is why he called them Indians and that's the name we still use. This "discovery" of the new world opened up an entirely new economy, the role of the Mongols drifted from memory, dominance slowly moved to Europe as Atlantic powers opened a new land. Then the industrial revolution sealed the deal in favor of the west and the role of the Mongols was completely forgotten. But not just forgotten. The Mongols were vilified by Voltaire in his writings as a way to lampoon the Church and Nobility of his time as he could not safely attack them directly. So he used the Mongols as a symbolic device and ever since the Mongols have been reduced to caricature. Until recently we even spoke of "mongoloid" children as a pejorative when the Mongol empire was one of the largest, longest, most innovative, and most successful empires in human history.

When I saw that expensive oil might cut the Chinese Century short before it even had a chance to get started, I could help thinking back to the Mongols and how the world was once flat and how disaster may again reform it to be a bit bumpier.




Why Stressed Out-of-Control Americans Won't Carpool

Sun, 25 May 2008 19:58:26 GMT

Why Stressed Out-of-Control Americans Won't CarpoolGas now looks like it will be expensive until the sun burns dark. SUV and truck sales have flopped while sales of the tiny cars we've always sneered at have pulled a Robert Downey Jr. and have become stars once again. So why don't we American's do the smart and logical thing and carpool? Because we Americans need to feel like we are in control. Without that control we'll stay in our cars all lined up one-by-one in endless traffic jams even if at first it doesn't make rational sense. But this strange affliction does make sense and once we understand why we can design a mass transit system Americans are more likely to embrace, namely: A People Pod Pool of On Demand Self Driving Robotic Cars Automatically Refueled from Cheap Solar.The question of why don't we carpool was asked by a commenter in FuturePundit article American Car Drivers Cut Back Distance Traveled. When you read how the question is asked you'll wonder why you don't carpool either. Now, what's your answer to this? In the short run, I'm fascinated by the potential for carpooling. I don't understand why someone would switch jobs or homes in preference to carpooling (unless they wanted to anyway). It's easy, it's fast, it has no capital cost - 9% of Americans already do it. Modern telecom makes it easy to match people up - it used to be based on work site communication, but no more. It could reduce fuel consumption for an individual by 85% (4 people in a Prius), or for the nation by 25% (50% of US fuel consumption is light vehicles, and carpooling can be used for more than commuting) in a period of months, if we got serious. Also, car-sharing (igocars, zipcar) could share scarce PHEV/EV's - the average car is only used 1 hour per day, so 5M PHEV/EV's could be used by 50M people.My first reaction was well don't I feel like an oily dipstick. It's all so clear. So sensible. So reasonable. Carpooling is the future. Carpooling is smart, responsible, and good. Don't you want to be good? But I don't want to do it. I don't want to carpool. There, I said it. I don't hate the environment (as evidence of my virtue I both compost and recycle!). And I don't want to see mother nature stripped and turned out into the cold lonely night. But as one of those ugly Americans I feel deep in my plush leather seats and fine German engineering that I would rather starve my characteristically overweight American self into the normal weight range rather than give up and share MY car!Yes, I am well aware that this is totally irrational and irresponsible. I won't be the first or last time you notice this about me. Could there be some deeper psychological reasoning behind my madness? Let's hope so because a lot of people don't seem to like carpools and they don't like mass transit either. The Metro, a local San Francisco Bay Area weekly, published a wonderful article Fueling the Fire, on how we need to cure our car addiction using the same marginalization techniques used to "stop" smoking.A telling quote shows how difficult going cold turkey off our cars will be:Mitch Baer, a public policy and environment graduate student at George Mason University in Virginia, recently surveyed more than 2,000 commuters in the Washington, D.C., area. He found that people who drove to work alone were more emotionally satisfied with their commute than those who rode public transportation or carpooled with others. Even stuck in traffic jams, those commuters said they felt they had more control over their arrival and departure times as well as commuting route, radio stations and air conditioning levels. Commuters said that driving alone was both quicker and more affordable, according to the study. "They will [...]



Web 2.0 Suicide Monitoring Using Twitter and Emotional Presence

Fri, 29 Feb 2008 16:54:48 GMT

Web 2.0 Suicide Monitoring Using Twitter and Emotional PresencePeople on anti-depressant drugs--like Prozac--are supposed to be closely monitored for suicidal thoughts that could indicate the drug is having a "paradoxical result." While many feel better on anti-depressants others drop fast and dark into an even worse suicidal depression. Paradoxical isn't quite the word I would use, but we must keep everything clinical.Monitoring allows a doctor to detect if a patient is entering the paradox zone. If so, treatment can be changed and further harm avoided. I was thinking one potentially Web 2.0 way to monitor people's internal subjective state--their feelings and emotions--on an unnaturally frequent basis would be to combine Twitter with emotional presence and a bot that would notify a doctor if certain downward emotional trends were detected.I've been doing some work on a Jabber IM client lately, and I've done some work using the Twitter API, and I've done quite a bit of research on emotion (patent pending), so a mashup of these services seems a pretty natural way of helping people stay alive through their dark times.In IM (Instant Messaging) your presence is broadcasted to your contact list so everyone knows what you are doing and you're availability to others. Using your IM client tells everyone you are available. Don't use your IM client for awhile and and everyone will learn you are away. Pickup the phone, mark your presence as "On Phone" and everyone's IM client will associate your name with a cute little phone icon. And when you close down your IM client everyone will learn you are now unavailable. There's also an idea of emotional presence, often represented by emoticons. If you are happy or sad or angry you can broadcast your emotional presence in the same way you can broadcast your physical presence. Select an option that matches your current feelings and the whole world will instantly know how happy you are that it's Friday and a long weekend awaits.Now let's extend the emotional presence to indicate presence information for thoughts of suicide. I don't know what these would be, but I'm sure doctors could work up something. Say you have a fleeting thought of suicide you could quickly change your emotional presence to indicate your new state. More severe thoughts could have different icons. And so on.Now let's bring in Twitter. Twitter is a microblog. Its purpose is to share brief bits of what is currently happening in your life. That's the perfect match for emotional presence. You could also indicate with each post how you are feeling. These responses can be directed to a channel using the "@reply" syntax in Twitter. Doctors could follow those posts for their patients by briefly taking a look at how they are doing. Or a specially created bot look for certain trends and notify a doctor if a negative trend developed. This would allow a doctor to intervene much more quickly than they could otherwise and the information they are making their decisions on would be much more accurate because it's harder for people to fudge on their self-reports when they are in the moment. With the perspective of time we all do a lot of self-editing, but in the moment you are more likely to be honest.Clearly privacy is an issue. Users need to be able to select who sees what kind of presence information. But that's necessary anyway and exists in some form now as privacy lists. The type of information to block or allow simply needs to be extended to more granular types of data.What's great about this approach is Twitter is everywhere users want to be. On cellphones, browsers, IM, and desktop applications. Users will always be in touch with their emotiona[...]



The New Mass Transit: People Pod Pool of On Demand Self Driving Robotic Cars who Automatically Refuel from Cheap Solar

Mon, 31 Dec 2007 18:24:47 GMT

The New Mass Transit: People Pod Pool of On Demand Self Driving Robotic Cars who Automatically Refuel from Cheap SolarOur traffic in the San Francisco Bay area is like Dolly Parton, 10 pounds in a 5 pound sack. Mass transit has been our unseen traffic woe savior for a while now. But the ring of political fire circling the bay has prevented any meaningful region wide transportation solution. As everyone scrambles to live anywhere they can afford, we really need a region wide solution rather than the local fixes that can never go quite far enough.Commuters are Satisfied Not Carpooling You might think we would car pool more. But people of the bay don't like carpools and they don't much like mass transit either. In the Metro, a local weekly, they publsihed a wonderful article Fueling the Fire, on how we need to cure our car addiction using the same marginalization techniques used to "stop" smoking. A telling quote shows how difficult going cold turkey off our cars will be: Mitch Baer, a public policy and environment graduate student at George Mason University in Virginia, recently surveyed more than 2,000 commuters in the Washington, D.C., area. He found that people who drove to work alone were more emotionally satisfied with their commute than those who rode public transportation or carpooled with others. Even stuck in traffic jams, those commuters said they felt they had more control over their arrival and departure times as well as commuting route, radio stations and air conditioning levels. Commuters said that driving alone was both quicker and more affordable, according to the study. "They will have a tougher time moving people out of their cars," Baer said. "It's easier for most people to drive than take mass transit." The key phrase to me is: people who drove to work alone were more emotionally satisfied. How can people jostled in the great pinball machine that are our roadways be emotionally satisfied? That's crazy talk. Shouldn't we feel less satisfied?In Our Cars We Feel Good Because We Are in ControlSolving the mystery of why we feel satisfied while stuck in traffic turns on an important psychological clue: the more we perceive ourselves in control of a situation the less stress we feel. Robert Sapolsky talks about this surprising insight into human nature in Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers. Notice we simply need more "perceived" control. Take control of a situation in your mind and stress goes down. You don't actually need to be in more control of a situation to feel less stress. If you have diabetes, facing your possibly bleak future can be less stressful if you try to control your blood sugars. If you are a speed demon, buying a radar detector can make you feel more in control and less stressed as you zoom along the seldom empty highways. If you are bullied, figuring out ways to avoid your torturer puts you more in control and therefor less stressed. Figure out a way to control and an out of control situation and you'll feel happier. That's what I think we are accomplishing by driving alone in cars. In our car we have complete control. Cars our are castles with a 2 inch air moat cushion. Most cars are plusher than any room in your average house. Fine leather, a rad sound system, perfect temperature control, and a nice beverage of choice within easy reaching distance. In our cars we've created a second womb. The result is we feel more control, less stress, and more satisfaction, even when outside, across the moat, a tempestuous sea of stressors awaits.Our Mass Transit System Must Supply Perceived ControlGiven the warm inner glow we feel from being wrapped in the cold steel of our cars, if you want peo[...]



The Penis and Muscles Develop Before the Brain

Sat, 21 Jul 2007 04:34:30 GMT

The Penis and Muscles Develop Before the Brain

Why would Michael Vic risk everything to fight dogs? The only reason I can think of is that the penis and muscles develop before the brain. Our brain doesn't mature fully until we reach about about 25 years of age. As early as age 10 the penis and muscles start working their mysterious power. So you have about 15 years under their rule before there's significant resistance from the long ignored organ above the neck.

In those 15 years a lot of bad stuff can happen. Fortunately, for most of us nothing irreversibly bad has happened.  We learn and build a life. Yet sometimes it's simply too late to reverse the damage done. It's fortunate most of us eventually learn to follow the wisdom of the elder brain. Otherwise it would be so tempting to sentence those in the dog fighting community to the same punishment they meet out for losing dogs: douse them with water and electrocute them.



Stop Cell Phone Calls During Movies Now!

Wed, 11 Jul 2007 05:53:22 GMT

Stop Cell Phone Calls During Movies Now!

Jessica Alba just died. I was in disbelief. How could she possibly die in Silver Surfer? Was she faking her death? Nope. She was really dead. Was she asking too much for the next sequel? Wait, there's no way she could really die. But how would they bring her back? I was pondering all the existential implications of her surprise death when someone's phone rang, totally interrupting my flow of my thoughts and threating what's left of my fellow man restraint supply.

Conservatively speaking, that's about the millionth time a phone call has interrupted my joyful experience of a very expensive movie. I am tired off it. Do you feel me?

The problem is the probability of someone getting a phone call during a movie is really high. Let's say there are 50 people watching a movie and they all have cellphones. OK, not everyone will have a cellphone, but some people will have two or three or even four, so it balances out. It seems to me the chances are better than excellent at least one person will forget to turn off their phone and get a phone call. After all, in a group of 50 people the probability two people will have the same birthday is over 90%.

What we need is a mechanism that doesn't require people to remember to turn off their cellphone. People are built to make errors and no dramatic special effect laced turn-off-your-phone vignette will change that. Jamming will only piss people off and has the downside of being illegal.

How about we have a special signal that when received by a phone automatically makes it go to voice mail mode instead of ring mode? Certain venues like theaters and class rooms could broadcast this signal. So when you enter a protected area your phone behaves with social intelligence and automatically silences itself. When you leave an area your phone would automatically go back to its default mode.

Voila! No phone calls during special events and you won't miss your calls. Best of all, people don't have to do anything. And that's what people are really best at. Building this sort of ambient social intelligence into our devices might help us all get along, just a little better.

What do you think? Could it work?





Top 10 Things to Do Now that Your Blackberry has Crashed

Wed, 18 Apr 2007 14:52:51 GMT

Top 10 Things to Do Now that Your Blackberry has Crashed

WNBC reported a major outage affecting 100% of Blackberries in the US. What might dedicated crackberry users do with all this unscheduled downtime?

10. Solve world hunger. You now have the time.

9. See a movie all the way through. No interruptions.

8. Go for a run. Without your crackberry you weigh less and you'll be able to run farther and faster.

7. Contemplate the transitory nature of the universe. If an essential service like the crackberry can fail, what else in your life might fail you?

6. Have a drink. Surviving off the grid is stresseful. Did my team win last night? What time is that meeting at corporate? How is my portfolio performing? Did Jughead really sleep with Veronica? Gaping holes are bound to open up in your digital life without instantaneous answers to important questions like these. So just relax. Have a pop or two.

5. Keep twirling your thumb wheel. You want to be in tip top shape once it's back up. You'll be way ahead of the other kids who have spent their time less productively.

4. Play hall hockey. Crackberries slide really well on the floor. Get two teams together, setup two goals, and see who can make the most goals with your new puck. If you are alone find a lake and see how far you can skip your crackberry. I bet you can't slice more than 5 hops.

3. Remember the 5 stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. Let's help you dial through the stages quickly. Yes, your network is down. Mistakes happen. It's part of life. The digital gods cannot be appeased, so don't even try. There are no tasty binary cookies or digital flowers that can patch panel this one. You feel depressed now, see (2). The last stage is bunk. Deny deny deny. That's how we do it. Acceptance is for losers.

2. Schedule an appointment with your therapist to help you cope with your loss. But, wait, your crackberry is down! Noooo! The irony of it all!

1. Make a pair of glasses using two tubes from empty toilet paper rolls. Viewing the world outside the small window of your crackberry can be disorienting at first. You'll want to transition slowly to view the world in full resolution. Every hour slice an inch or so from each roll so you'll gradually see more and more of the real world.




Spam is the New Role Playing Game

Sat, 31 Mar 2007 18:45:44 GMT

Spam is the New Role Playing GameSpammers must be getting out of work romance novelists to create spam. A lot of spam weaves wonderful little stories that invite you to play the lead role in an exciting other world. Often there is a comely damsel in distress and you are cast as the hero, if only you would open up your wallet and help. Not only will you get the willing damsel, but great riches await when you finally overcome your fear, climb the tower, kiss the princess, and collect your just reward.You see, the princess lives in a place not like where you live at all. You live in a safe boring world where one day is much like any other. She lives on the frontier where risk takers can still earn great fortunes battling nature and striking smart deals. But the frontier is dangerous. And an evil doer is out to steal her families' fortune, a fortune carved out of nothing from years of back breaking work. You can save them! You can make a difference! You are a hero with untapped super powers. Now is your time! You can get the girl, the money, and live happily ever after.This is wonderful stuff. It's like an email based Role Playing Game. The side of good is clear. Evil abounds, yet can be stopped by your heroic actions. You simply must roll the dice and play the game. My favorite example of the genre is Cynthia Benson's game:Dearest, Good morning! I decided to use this opportunity to communicate with you on who I am and what I am looking for. Please I hope you don't mind the way I contacted you. How are you, your business and family? I hope all is well. I am Cynthia Benson daughter of the late ENGR. FERICOH BENSON of Free town, Sierra Leone with my brother. I am a young girl from the family of two because my beloved mother died on the day my younger brother was delivered and my father refused to re-marry immediately because he is the only child of his parents and don't want anybody that will maltreat us due to the love he has for us. My late father Engr. Fericoh Benson was the Managing Director (MD) of BETAX PLC a Gold and Diamond Mining corporation company. During the time of his service he was a very devoted and God fearing person; this cause his fellow staff to hate him because he always refuse to collaborate with them in doing evil. So one sunny Tuesday evening when I was coming back with my Dad from shopping in his own private car we ran into bandits who were totally armed, they traced us till we reach home; there they attack us. My father pleaded with them to take everything he has and spare his life, but they took everything and also shot him three times on his chest they also shot me but to the glory of God I survived the gun shots but my father died in cold blood. How I was admitted to the hospital I don't know but I found myself on the hospital bed after two weeks of the incident when I re-gain conciouse. This happened eight months ago, as I am trying to gather my deserted life and that of my brother in place. Our father has being buried that was four months ago, the present problem we are facing is that my father's uncle that is the brothers of my grand father has took everything that our father left behind both money, landed properties and all his durable asset. They ejected me and my bother leaving only the sum of US$12,5M which my father deposited in a Financial Institution which they don't know about. They treated us badly also accusing us for the calamity that befall our family, now we are left alone in this world. But why I contacted you is because we want to start a new life outside our country[...]



You Can't Twitter at Relativistic Speeds

Tue, 20 Mar 2007 19:45:47 GMT

You Can't Twitter at Relativistic Speeds

Twitter is entraining the technorati on an unbreakable hedonic treadmill. The treadmill gorges itself on an infinite supply info mediated dopamine hits. Addiction, divorce, 12 steps, and the grief cycle are sure to follow . But what really should concern twitterites is their global stream-o-conscious will shatter once we travel in space at near light speed.

Let's say you're accelerating towards Vulcan in your new Mercedes X Series Space Coup and you type in your latest bon thought: I really need to upgrade my materializer. The pate was runny. Your thoughts will stream out at a constant speed of 186,000 miles an hour and nobody will hear you! And you will not hear them! You will ache. It will 1 millisecond without a info mediated dopamine hit. Then another. And then another. Until you go entire days without sharing the barely conscious thoughts of the twitter-sphere. Then you are in hair pulling, drano drinking withdrawl. Oh what a glorious future it will be!

I do see a market in relativistic hermitages however. In time no place on earth with be safe from ads or phones or other information radiators. The only safe place to hide will be in a space capsule near the speed of light. Only then will you be alone with the strange sensation of your own thoughts.



Pleasing Things - How am I like a lady-in-waiting from ancienct Japan?

Sun, 11 Feb 2007 17:21:12 GMT

Pleasing Things - How am I like a lady-in-waiting from ancient Japan?It's exciting to think about what people were like in different cultures in the past. Are they like me? Did they have goals and motivations and dreams that I would understand? If some rift in time tossed us together how would we get a long? In a way, books our are rift in time. I recently traveled back in time when reading The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon. Sei Shonagon was a lady-in-waiting for a 11th century Japanese empress and she wrote a book about her life in court. In her time writing a book was rare for a woman. It's even rarer for the book to survive, so people must love it or it would have long ago crumbled into dust. What's do readers find so enchanting? Sei Shonagon chronicles how completely poetry was integrated into elite culture, the vast separation between elites and commoners, the vast difference in roles of women and men in her time, the political structure of the court, the passing of seasons, the cycles of religious observance, and the ever tangled web of humans just trying to get along.It's hard to imagine a more different life between hers and mine. Both products of our times, I found myself continually recoiling at how effortlessly she dismissed anyone of a lower class than her, be they ugly, or poor, or just oafish. Yet there was an envious amount of beauty in her time as well. They would take walks at night to enjoy the moon. The would make snow piles in the winter and watch them melt as the seasons changed. They would compose a poem on the spot to make more remarkable any occasion. They would have poetry contests. A common game was to give a line of an old poem and see who could remember it. Far different than surrendering to must see TV.They also had an amazing form of 11th century instant messaging. A network of pages would take letters, deliver them quickly and bring back a reply. The receiver would often be expected to compose a poem on the spot. You would be judged by the quality of your reply. These poems would be shared in the court and gossiped about by all. Sei Shonagon excelled at this game because she was a master poet and quick wit. The messages would fly around the court and between houses, linking everyone together much like email and instant messaging do today.As different as we are, there were many passages in her book that crossed the gulf of time and connected with me. One such section is called Pleasing Things, which is where she describes what she finds pleasing:Finding a large number of tales that one has not read before.Acquiring the second volume of a tale whose first volume one has enjoyed. But often it is a disappointment.Someone has torn up a letter and thrown it away. Picking up the pieces, one finds that many of them can be fitted together.One has had an upsetting dream and wonders what it can mean. In great anxiety on consults a dream-interpreter, who informs one that it has no special significance.A person who is very dear to one has fallen ill. One is miserably worried about him even if he lives in the capital and far more so if he is in some remote part of the country. What a pleasure to be told that he has recovered!I am most pleased when I hear someone I love being praised or being mentioned approvingly by an important person.A poem with whom one is not especially intimate refers to an old poem or story that is unfamiliar. Then one hears it being mentioned by someone else and has the pleasure of recognizing it. Still later, when one[...]



Rich Buddha, Poor Buddha

Mon, 05 Feb 2007 17:48:20 GMT

Rich Buddha, Poor Buddha

How-to books on managing finances always top the best seller lists. Some popular books in the past have been Rich Dad, Poor Dad, Think and Grow Rich, The Millionaire Next Door and a million others. It turns out this book genre is a lot older than you might think.

How would you like some sage financial advice from 2,500 years ago? In Karen Armstrong's excellent book Buddha, she tells us the Buddha was a fount of wisdom not only spiritual matters, but he also knew a thing or two about personal finance as well. Perhaps he soaked up this knowledge in his early years, when he lived as the pampered son of aristocracy.

According to the Buddha you should:
  1. Be attentive in your financial and social dealings.
  2. Save for emergencies.
  3. Look after your dependents: care for your partner, children, and servants.
  4. Give to your church and charities.
  5. Avoid debt.
  6. Make sure you have enough money for the immediate needs of your family.
  7. Invest money carefully.
  8. Be thrifty and sober.
  9. Avoid alcohol, late nights, gambling, laziness and bad company.
  10. And most importantly: be compassionate.
While not quite as sexy as flipping a house or shorting the market, for 500 BC it sounds like pretty solid advice, even for today.



Smackdown #2: Scrolling Crushes Paging After 2000 Years of Dominance

Sat, 03 Feb 2007 20:04:32 GMT

Smackdown #2: Scrolling Crushes Paging After 2000 Years of Dominance

Scrolling is now enjoying a historical renaissance over 2000 years in the making. Once upon a time all books were lovingly drawn on papyrus scrolls. Jewish Rabbis would have read the Old Testament from a scroll. Early Christians, perhaps as way to differentiate themselves from Jews, preferred a different book form, the codex. The codex is the same book style we use today: two sided pages held together with a binding. As Christianity rose to power the codex rose with it and scrolls fell out of popular use.

Fast forward 2000 years into the future and scrolls are once again becoming the presentation form of choice. Why? Because web tech makes scrolling better than paging. But that wasn't always the case. Early web design continued the codex form. If you read most of the advice on how to design early web sites (circa 1994) the codex form was still king. Web pages were supposed to be cut up into little chunks and readers slogged through the text stream one slow click at a time. Small pages were faster to load, scrolling was new to most people, and scrolling in web pages was clumsy. So it was thought most readers would not scroll. Pages were the better design.

All that has now changed. ClickTale, a web site usability service, has found people are scrolling and that web designers are now designing pages to feature scrolling. The User Interface Engineering folks have also found long pages are now what all the cool kids are doing. The tipping point came for me when mouses started sporting scroll wheels. Scrolling became as easy as bending a finger and just as quick. Single clicking through text was tortuously slow by comparison. And fast network pipes broadbanded concerns over slow load times into a quaint cautionary tale of the past.

What is old has become new again. It's a fascinating quirk of history that technology has brought us right back to one of our earliest forms off mass information distribution.



Slumming in Poor America is the New Adventure Travel

Fri, 19 Jan 2007 14:50:01 GMT

Slumming in Poor America is the New Adventure Travel

Today every patch of the earth is reachable with a good guide and ready cash. You can watch the rising sun slowly reveal primary colored birds as glittering gems while camped atop trees in the deepest jungles. Sherpas will carry you to the peak of any mountain. Once secret countries now welcome you with outstretched palms. What's left for the jaded ennui riddled traveler? How can you do something that will create envy in your seen-it-all, done-it-all, experienced-it-all social circle?

Jerry Newman has shown the way. In My Secret Life on the McJob Jeremy chronicles his adventures of working at 7 different fast food joints. Now Jeremy was doing research, but he missed the boat. What he was really doing was exploring a whole new area of adventure travel. Think about it. Jeremy, while in disguise as a local, met interesting people, battled tyrannical forces, and experienced both great joys and deep despair. What else could you want from a vacation?

For many Americans there is a whole unexplored territory right in their backyard! An untapped wonderland of vacation opportunities. Whole cultures of underpaid workers wait to be explored. It's new, it's edgy, and most people you know have never been there. And food service isn't your only option. There are so many different hidden worlds of the underpaid to explore. You'll never run out of new gritty adventures.

Unfortunately, I don't have a tour outfit to hook you up with at this time. I envision many forming soon. They'll need to find local establishments that can quietly place you in different jobs. A sort of modern underground railroad for authentic experience. You'll need a different wardrobe and a beat up car. Or perhaps you'll take public transportation! While in the adventure you'll need a rundown apartment, in case anyone comes over. And you'll need to learn the language and customs of the people you'll be working with. You don't want to stand out.

It will be such and adventure! Like nothing else you've ever experienced before.

A new era of Adventure Travel has begun.