mm454: It’s going to take a liberal quantity of BOLD

July 31, 2008

dreamstime_4341351_thumb[1]

© Michaeljung | Dreamstime.com

MUDGE’s Musings

We observe the first anniversary of the tragic collapse of the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis (August 1, 2007) with some sadness, and furious anger.

Sadness due to the thirteen lives lost, and 100+ injured.

Anger because the danger embodied in this country’s aging and dilapidated bridges, highways, levees and schools is criminally no closer to alleviation than 366 days ago.

Meanwhile, the economy is faltering: banks are failing, foreclosures are at record highs (three million empty houses!), the ranks of under- and unemployed growing apace.

What is it going to take to repair this country’s infrastructure osteoporosis?

What is it going to take to kick start the economy, to get people working and once again able to meet their mortgage obligations, perhaps even afford that $4.299/gallon gasoline?

It’s going to take a liberal quantity of bold.

Read the rest of this entry »


mm453: Go with the wind

July 30, 2008

dreamstime_1129778

© David Davis | Dreamstime.com

MUDGE’s Musings

Electricity generated by windmills, sponsored by one of the last of the iconoclastic oilmen.

Electric powered automobiles that actually have a driving radius between recharges of more than an hour or two.

We’ve looked at wind power several times [mm294: Making the world unsafe for bats and birds; mm220: It’s all about power; mm204: Wind power – Ugly, noisy, destructive! Who knew?] in this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere© as an idea whose time has arrived.

And we caught the first inklings of Shai Agassi’s ambitious electric dream earlier this year [mm271: The automobile post – diesel / electric].

Leave it to Tom Friedman of the NYTimes, global strategic thinker that he is, to make the connection.

nytimes

Texas to Tel Aviv

Op-Ed Columnist | By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN | Published: July 27, 2008

What would happen if you cross-bred J. R. Ewing of “Dallas” and Carl Pope, the head of the Sierra Club? You’d get T. Boone Pickens. What would happen if you cross-bred Henry Ford and Yitzhak Rabin? You’d get Shai Agassi. And what would happen if you put together T. Boone Pickens, the green billionaire Texas oilman now obsessed with wind power, and Shai Agassi, the Jewish Henry Ford now obsessed with making Israel the world’s leader in electric cars?

You’d have the start of an energy revolution.

Read the rest of this entry »


mm452: Well, it’s been a long day

July 29, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

Well, it’s been a long, been a long, been a long, been a long day.

Moderated a meeting on location first thing this morning, which was routine except for the web conference participation: Ireland, Argentina, Japan, the Netherlands, and most places between. Oh, yes, and one of the speakers was connecting from just outside Rome.

Sometimes I really, really like my job.

This afternoon, performed another one of MUDGE’s rare personal appearances: a training class on-site, rather than behind the protection of a telephone call and a web conference. Fortunately, it was an easy audience, and turned out to be quite well received.

Then, after the usual hour-long commute, broken up today by a succession of phone calls (hands-free, of course), arrived home to make silly faces at the neighbor’s toddler grandson, passing by in this generation’s version of a “Daddy Blue Car.”

And then, after a quick change to leisure clothes, off to the lakefront, for a picnic with close friends, and a free evening concert by the lagoon.

Read the rest of this entry »


mm451: Goodbye, old blue, you’re worth more to me dead than alive

July 28, 2008

dreamstime_3143346

© Mel Gama | Dreamstime.com

MUDGE’s Musings

Old cars. If they’re old enough (in most states, more than 25 years old), they’re vintage, even antique, and perhaps worth the extra effort it takes to keep them running.

If they are 15-25 years old, they are usually just basic transportation, and a basic pain.

The body parts not rusted are crumpled. The driver’s window no longer winds down (maybe the entire door is rusted shut), so paying a toll, or dining at a drive-through fast food establishment, is yet another hassle.

You prefer to drive at night, because the black exhaust cloud isn’t as obvious.

And then the usual litany:

Will it start?

Will it stop??

What’s it going to cost me to fix it for the third time this year???

And the planet shares your pain.

How sensitive of the planet!

Princeton University economist Alan Blinder, whom I fondly remember as a columnist for Business Week years ago, a side job while vice-chairing the Federal Reserve and holding down the Princeton gig, would like to take that beast off of your hands.

Because that black cloud trailing behind you isn’t unique. The state of California estimates that cars 13 years and older account for 25% of miles driven overall, but an astonishing 75% of all passenger automobile generated pollution.

nytimes

A Modest Proposal: Eco-Friendly Stimulus

Economic View | By ALAN S. BLINDER | Published: July 27, 2008

ECONOMISTS and members of Congress are now on the prowl for new ways to stimulate spending in our dreary economy. Here’s my humble suggestion: “Cash for Clunkers,” the best stimulus idea you’ve never heard of.

Read the rest of this entry »


mm450: Big hat, no cattle

July 27, 2008
dreamstime_3355583
© Martin Flyntz | Dreamstime.com

MUDGE’s Musings

Sunday evening. A rather scattered weekend: errands Saturday and Sunday morning. Dinner out with relatives/friends Saturday. Lunch in with mothers and sister-in-law Sunday. Strolling solo later Sunday through a rather high quality summer art fair. Not nearly as fun as with my lovely life partner, who chose to recover from the excesses of cooking and entertaining (honest, I did the dishes before I left!).

Lots of surfing, but the usual suspects yielded potential future seeds, but no immediate inspiration.

So, in the manner of Seinfeld, a blog post about nothing.

Read the rest of this entry »


mm449: Blast from the Past! No. 37

July 26, 2008

MUDGE’S Musings

Summer Saturday. Errands, and more errands. Chores. When’s the week start, so I can relax?

A DVD matinée. Very little time to blog. Ouch.

So, back into the archives yet again.

I console myself by guessing that most of you weren’t here nine months ago. As one of my favorite paper publications used to say: “If you haven’t read it yet, it’s new for you!”

lhc76019043_thumb2[4]

Blast from the Past!

A post we really, really loved to write, and read, and re-read…

From last fall, and always in season, originally posted October 11, 2007, and originally titled “mm167: Writer’s Diarrhea.”

MUDGE’S Musings

… is the opposite of writer’s block, right?

So another blog about blogging. Why bother? Take two Imodium and call me in the morning.

There’s never a lack of news and features to write about. Although, today…

There are frequently referenced topics in this space that could stand another post, MUDGE: web conferencing, our latest profession.

Or, the odd current interest (some of you must feel) in UAVs: unmanned aerial vehicles or, robot aircraft.

Or, politics: impeachment (first Cheney, then Bush); Michael Bloomberg; this horribly mismanaged war.

Or, air travel, probably our most popular topic (thanks, Patrick Smith [who actually noticed and commented on one of our several references to his wonderful column — talk about finding a plankton in the Pacific]!).

Or, technology, especially One Laptop Per Child, a wonderful initiative deserving of everyone’s support.

But not today.

Read the rest of this entry »


mm448: Global warming: real but not catastrophe

July 25, 2008

dreamstime_638321

© Markwr | Dreamstime.com

MUDGE’s Musings

Politicians disagree. That’s not news — that’s politics.

Scientists disagree. That sometimes does not make the news. The flaming rhetoric gets the attention; the calm, carefully reasoned rebuttal is buried on page A22.

Or buried in a special interest magazine.

Found another such publication: Skeptical Inquirer.

Al Gore wants this country to totally migrate power generation from coal, like that sooty specimen above, to renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar, in 10 years. A very Kennedy-esque proposal. Actually, Kennedy’s inspiration (or, at least, his speechwriters’) might have been Chicago visionary, and leading proponent of the Columbian Exposition of 1892-93, Daniel Burnham, who most famously said: “Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood…”

[Editor’s note: the paragraph immediately above is a prime example of this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere©‘s specialty: Sequitur Service©.]

Gore’s proposal of course is the follow-on to his environmental hobby-horse, sound-bit as global warming.

Not so fast, Al…

Read the rest of this entry »


mm447: Blast from the Past! No. 36

July 24, 2008

MUDGE’S Musings

Well, today was that Thursday that actually began at 10:00pm last night, flowing seamlessly from Wednesday, and save for about two hours between the end of one meeting at 2am and the preparation for the next at 5:15am, sleep for yr (justifiably) humble svt has been as scarce as home buyers.

So, we’re on a reduced blogging schedule, with just enough energy to faithfully observe the Prime Directive: Thou Shalt Blog Daily.

As we’ve opined in the past (recently, actually) one of our favorite bloggers regardless of topic is Sandy Szwarc.

The first time we found her was last October. Enjoy!

lhc7601904[3]

Blast from the Past!

A post we really, really loved to write, and read, and re-read…

From last fall, and always in season, originally posted October 8, 2007, and originally titled “mm165: Junkfood Science: Obesity Paradox No. 13 — Take heart.”

MUDGE’S Musings

Welcome to one of the newest members of the Left-Handed Complement blogroll, Junkfood Science.

Sandy Szwarc seems to have the credentials, and she has a point of view.

Points of view are not lacking in the blogosphere (although credentials may be!), but I was attracted to hers immediately.

Anyone glancing at the rendition of Yr (Justifiably) Humble Svt that graces the top of the sidebar of this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere© can probably tell that one might charitably describe MUDGE as horizontally challenged.

Fat.

Obese even.

A war fought over all but six decades. Oh, a battle won here or there, but the trend is lousy. And, the implicit message has always been: get skinny or die early.

Well, heredity and Snickers bars have long impaired my ability to do the former.

Read the rest of this entry »


WcW014: It’s not all bright lights and glamour

July 23, 2008

dreamstime_2037198

© Ron Chapple Studios | Dreamstime.com

wcw1

Web Conferencing Week

So, if this were really a weekly feature, we’d be on number 052 or something, and this is only number 14. Thus, why not two in a row?

The poor sap fallen asleep over his laptop in front of his desktop PC in the illustration doesn’t resemble yr (justifiably) humble svt in the slightest, but it’s what I’ll look like in a few hours.

No, I won’t suddenly get 35 years younger, grow back a lot of very dark hair and become vaguely Asian.

But, I’m working very late tonight, and very early in the morning. Sigh.

As I’ve often noted in this space, I support the enterprise web conferencing application from an end-user perspective. A vendor once described me most flatteringly as the manager of the end user experience for my technology.

So, in addition to working with the other, more technical, members of the team (server administrators and system architects); developing curriculum and reference materials; teaching nearly 4,000 fellow employees in the past six years to use web conferences  by attending my training web conferences; besides all that, I’m the guy who gets the call when users have critical conferences that require my professional expertise.

Got the call a few weeks ago: we’re doing an important meeting three times, because the sun never sets on our global enterprise: once for the Asia-Pacific region, once for Europe and once for the Western Hemisphere. 8amCEST, 1pmCEST, 6pmCEST. We’ve had trouble with the web conferencing tool in the past, please help.

I endeavor to honor requests like this. But, of course, I’m sitting in the U.S. Central time zone.

8amCEST (Central European Summer Time) in, yes, central Europe, the origin of the meetings, translates to 1amCDT (U.S. Central Daylight Time).

Read the rest of this entry »


WcW013: Telepresence hits the mainstream

July 22, 2008
telepresencenyt8722
Peter Wynn Thompson for The New York Times

wcw1

Web Conferencing Week

Telepresence is the most exciting luxury class concept since the Learjet.

Telepresence is the advanced version of videoconferencing first exposed in this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere© last 01-August-2007 in WcW004, and then updated in WcW010 24-October-2007.

It’s videoconferences gone ultra high definition, and it just made its way out of the trade press ghetto, into the mainstream in today’s New York Times.

nytimes

As Travel Costs Rise, More Meetings Go Virtual

By STEVE LOHR | Published: July 22, 2008

Jill Smart, an Accenture executive, was skeptical the first time she stepped into her firm’s new videoconferencing room in Chicago for a meeting with a group of colleagues in London. But the videoconferencing technology, known as telepresence, delivered an experience so lifelike, Ms. Smart recalled, that “10 minutes into it, you forget you are not in the room with them.”

Accenture, a technology consulting firm, has installed 13 of the videoconferencing rooms at its offices around the world and plans to have an additional 22 operating before the end of the year.

Accenture figures its consultants used virtual meetings to avoid 240 international trips and 120 domestic flights in May alone, for an annual saving of millions of dollars and countless hours of wearying travel for its workers.

As travel costs rise and airlines cut service, companies large and small are rethinking the face-to-face meeting — and business travel as well. At the same time, the technology has matured to the point where it is often practical, affordable and more productive to move digital bits instead of bodies.

These telepresence studios are not cheap (as much as $350,000 at each end!) compared to the standard issue videoconference suite; just as that first Learjet wasn’t as cheap as a first class airline ticket, until the green eyeshade folks got a look at the productivity gains and the outright savings.

Read the rest of this entry »