mm499: Blast from the Past! No. 53 – Fuel without oil, or corn

September 19, 2008
© Carbouval | Dreamstime.com

© Carbouval | Dreamstime.com

So it’s been pretty tough this week, as Faithful Reader might imagine, and we’re dipping our toes gingerly back into the blogging sea tonight.

Nevertheless, we’re all about doing the right thing here at Left-Handed Complement, and in that spirit we’re recycling some of yr (justifiably) humble svt‘s favorite electrons. And, with nearly 470 fresh daily posts in the past 16+ months, the recycling process has an exceptionally rich vein to mine.

I hereby stop apologizing for resuming our observance of the prime directive of blogging: Thou Shalt Blog Daily!

And, I’m guessing that most of you weren’t here nine months ago. As one of my favorite paper publications used to say as they flogged unsold back issues: “If you haven’t read it yet, it’s new for you!”

lhc76019043_thumb24_thumb2_thumb2_th[2]

Blast from the Past!

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

From last fall, originally posted November 13, 2007, and with a woman vice presidential candidate, more germane than ever, titled “mm193: Fuel without oil, or corn.”

MUDGE’S Musings

It’s been an ongoing theme (here, here and here) at Left-Handed Complement: the pandering, wrong-headed concentration on corn derived ethanol as the U.S. main alternative to Saudi (and Nigerian, Gulf of Mexico and North Slope) petroleum to fuel our transportation system.

This past weekend, the NYTimes featured a fascinating look at non-corn alternatives to powering our SUVs.

biomassethanol

For years, scientists have known that the building blocks in plant matter — not just corn kernels, but also corn stalks, wood chips, straw and even some household garbage — constituted an immense potential resource that could, in theory, help fill the gasoline tanks of America’s cars and trucks.

Mostly, they have focused on biology as a way to do it, tinkering with bacteria or fungi that could digest the plant material, known as biomass, and extract sugar that could be fermented into ethanol. But now, nipping at the heels of various companies using biological methods, is a new group of entrepreneurs, including Mr. Mandich, who favor chemistry.

The conceptual problem with ethanol from corn has always rested in the strong suspicion that the energy required to process corn to burn in one’s automobile exceeds the yield of energy so created.

Ethanol from corn is a political hot button, especially for all of the presidential campaigners prostrating themselves before Iowa’s farmers — isn’t it high time to divest this country from its inappropriate emphasis on Iowa and New Hampshire in the primary process?

You don’t see Georgia influencing election trends, and yet:

In Georgia alone, enough waste wood is available to make two billion gallons of ethanol a year, Mr. Mandich said. If all that material could be captured and converted to fuel, it could replace about 1 percent of the nation’s gasoline consumption.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Fuel Without the Fossil – New York Times

Obviously, there are some very bright people working hard at solutions, made increasingly economically attractive as the baseline of comparison to petroleum-based fuels persists in climbing inexorably toward $4/gallon.

And, corn-based or not, it looks like ethanol is going to be the end result of all of this chemical creativity, since it’s ethanol that has the Congressionally mandated tax credit.

MUDGE used to believe that the fuel cell guys had the answer, but what with the way the real world works, I can’t see corner hydrogen pumps popping up in many neighborhoods in my lifetime. So chemically derived ethanol will have to do.

Good to see U.S. innovation persists. Like the current IBM advertisements proclaim, it’s easy to say, and so very much more difficult to actually do.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

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mm496: Blast from the Past! No. 52 – Women at work

September 12, 2008
© Richard Hoffkins | Dreamstime.com

© Richard Hoffkins | Dreamstime.com

I am beginning to be concerned about the lack of blogging motivation I’m feeling this week; you’ve seen my excuse — does it buy me some slack?

Nevertheless, we’re all about doing the right thing here at Left-Handed Complement, and in that spirit we’re recycling some of yr (justifiably) humble svt‘s favorite electrons. And, with nearly 470 fresh daily posts in the past 16+ months, the recycling process has an exceptionally rich vein to mine.

I hereby stop apologizing for observing the prime directive of blogging: Thou Shalt Blog Daily!

And, I’m guessing that most of you weren’t here nine months ago. As one of my favorite paper publications used to say as they flogged unsold back issues: “If you haven’t read it yet, it’s new for you!”

lhc76019043_thumb24_thumb2_thumb2_th

Blast from the Past!

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

From last fall, originally posted November 12, 2007, and with a woman vice presidential candidate, more germane than ever, titled “mm192: Women at work: A level playing field at last?”

MUDGE’S Musings

We’re still playing catch up with a bulging ideas folder here at L-HC. A recent NYTimes column updates us on the ever-intriguing topic: women in corporate America.

One might ask: why are we still confounded by this? After all, U.S. women began to flood the workplace after the economic shocks of the 1970’s put single income families on the endangered species list. Why would a fact of work life for more than 30 years be cause for comment?

nytimes

By LISA BELKIN  | November 1, 2007 | Life’s Work

DON’T get angry. But do take charge. Be nice. But not too nice. Speak up. But don’t seem like you talk too much. Never, ever dress sexy. Make sure to inspire your colleagues — unless you work in Norway, in which case, focus on delegating instead.

Writing about life and work means receiving a steady stream of research on how women in the workplace are viewed differently from men. These are academic and professional studies, not whimsical online polls, and each time I read one I feel deflated. What are women supposed to do with this information? Transform overnight? And if so, into what? How are we supposed to be assertive, but not, at the same time?

“It’s enough to make you dizzy,” said Ilene H. Lang, the president of Catalyst, an organization that studies women in the workplace. “Women are dizzy, men are dizzy, and we still don’t have a simple straightforward answer as to why there just aren’t enough women in positions of leadership.”

Catalyst’s research is often an exploration of why, 30 years after women entered the work force in large numbers, the default mental image of a leader is still male. Most recent is the report titled “Damned if You Do, Doomed if You Don’t,” which surveyed 1,231 senior executives from the United States and Europe. It found that women who act in ways that are consistent with gender stereotypes — defined as focusing “on work relationships” and expressing “concern for other people’s perspectives” — are considered less competent. But if they act in ways that are seen as more “male” — like “act assertively, focus on work task, display ambition” — they are seen as “too tough” and “unfeminine.”

Women can’t win.

Read the rest of this entry »


mm494: Blast from the Past! No. 50 — Health care excuses

September 9, 2008
© Kandasamy M  | Dreamstime.com

© Kandasamy M | Dreamstime.com

A very long day today (the alarm went off at 3:10am!), but hey, recycling is IN, right?

We’re all about doing the right thing here at Left-Handed Complement, and in that spirit we’re recycling some of yr (justifiably) humble svt‘s favorite electrons. And, with nearly 470 fresh daily posts in the past 16+ months, the recycling process has an exceptionally rich vein to mine.

I hereby stop apologizing for observing the prime directive of blogging: Thou Shalt Blog Daily!

And, I’m guessing that most of you weren’t here nine months ago. As one of my favorite paper publications used to say as they flogged unsold back issues: “If you haven’t read it yet, it’s new for you!”

lhc76019043_thumb24_thumb2_thumb2_th[2]

Blast from the Past!

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

From last fall, originally posted November 11, 2007, and truer now than ever, titled “mm190: U. S. Health Care – Excuses, not facts.”

MUDGE’S Musings

Access to affordable health care. Five words. Easy to write. Rolls off the keyboard fluidly even. Simple phrase; political cesspool. Can universal access to affordable health care ever happen in the U.S.?

Paul Krugman, the economist whose columns appear in the Opinion section of the NYTimes, this week reminds us that the failings of our health care system are manifest: we spend more, but get less – fewer covered and lower life expectancy than in any other western economy.

Moreover, the usual suspects (our lifestyle) and the usual bugbears (socialized medicine!) are distortions and outright lies.

Read the rest of this entry »


mm492: Blast from the Past! No. 49 – Blogging – NSFW?

September 7, 2008
© Carbouval | Dreamstime.com

© Carbouval | Dreamstime.com

In a serious creative slump here folks, battered by events as we are, but hey, recycling is IN, right?

We’re all about doing the right thing here at Left-Handed Complement, and in that spirit we’re recycling some of yr (justifiably) humble svt‘s favorite electrons. And, with nearly 470 fresh daily posts in the past 16+ months, the recycling process has an exceptionally rich vein to mine.

I hereby stop apologizing for observing the prime directive of blogging: Thou Shalt Blog Daily!

And, I’m guessing that most of you weren’t here nine months ago. As one of my favorite paper publications used to say as they flogged unsold back issues: “If you haven’t read it yet, it’s new for you!”

lhc76019043_thumb24_thumb2_thumb2_th

Blast from the Past!

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

From last fall, originally posted in two sections, November 7-8, 2007, and titled “mm187-8: Blogging — NSFW?”

MUDGE’S Musings

From the first, hesitant attempts at this newfangled hobby-thing called blogging, MUDGE has been very concerned about how any employee’s blog would be received by his specific employer.

We’ve tried to err on the side of… circumspection. Thus, the pseudonym, both for this writer, and for the occasional references to that employer in basically general, not to speak of generic terms: HCA, the Heart of Corporate America.

There’s bad and good to pseudonomity [did we just coin a new term? or just misspell an old one?].

The bad: as MUDGE, I lack a certain amount of credibility, especially when I write on the topic of web conferencing, one that I would like to be perceived as owning some expertise.

The good: as of this writing, I still have a job at HCA.

Which brings us to the cautionary tale of John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods. You might remember the story: during a turbulent acquisition of Whole Foods competitor Wild Oats, Mackey was exposed as having blogged anonymously, denigrating Wild Oats management and talking up his own company’s stock.

So one guesses that Mackey violated protocol: one supposes that it’s okay to do the above as a third party, unaffiliated with either entity, but it’s entirely too self-serving to do so when one is the CEO of one of the principals in the transaction.

And of course, Mackey violated the first rule of miscreancy [did we just coin a new term? or just misspell an old one?]: don’t get caught.

Read the rest of this entry »


mm485: Celebrating small "L" labor

August 31, 2008
© Irisangel | Dreamstime.com

© Irisangel | Dreamstime.com

The first Monday in September is celebrated as Labor Day in the U.S.

Always enjoyed the three-day weekend, but as the middle class scion of a entrepreneurial family, never had much sympathy for the cause of organized labor in this country. As time has passed, however, my attitude has evolved.

In my defense, organized labor had long since won its important battles as I came of age, and was as established and comfortable as its so-called adversary, big business.

In an expansive economy, business finally realized that labor peace was well worth the expense, and in an expansive economy could pass that expense along to its Consumerist Age customers.

As Henry Ford, that brilliant, miserable anti-Semite, revealed to a shocked world, well paid workers can afford to purchase the products they labor to produce for you. I’m not being sarcastic — this was an incredible breakthrough.

The lasting images of pot-bellied union representatives cozily dealing with their pot-bellied corporate counterparts; and the often hinted (and sometimes proven) relationship between organized labor and organized crime; all this kept yr (justifiably) humble svt from feeling too much sympathy for what seemed an obsolete cause.

Portly and comfortable, labor long since lost its fighting trim, and paid the price as business steadily, and with little fear of labor’s confrontation, moved jobs, first to union free states mainly in the Southern U.S., and ultimately to Canada, Mexico and offshore altogether.

Read the rest of this entry »


mm478: Blast from the Past! No. 44

August 24, 2008
© Kandasamy M  | Dreamstime.com

© Kandasamy M | Dreamstime.com

MUDGE’S Musings

Events, and / or in today’s case, a general malaise, continue to conspire, sapping all the vigor out of my keyboard, but hey, recycling is IN, right? We’re all about doing the right thing here at Left-Handed Complement, and in that spirit we’re recycling some of yr (justifiably) humble svt‘s favorite electrons.

I hereby stop apologizing for observing the prime directive of blogging: Thou Shalt Blog Daily!

And, I’m guessing that most of you weren’t here nine months ago. As one of my favorite paper publications used to say as they flogged unsold back issues: “If you haven’t read it yet, it’s new for you!”

lhc76019043_thumb24_thumb2_thumb2_th[2][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, especially since it’s back to school time for millions, originally posted October 31, 2007, and titled “mm181: Virtual classroom — real learning?”

MUDGE’S Musings

Apparently it’s Education Week here at L-HC! Earlier we looked at the number of engineers we’re training in the U.S.; devoted the last third of a Short Attention Span pastiche to OLPC (One Laptop Per Child); and presented a devastating counter to the engineering story with one high school teacher’s indictment of today’s students (ratified by hundreds of comments).

Featured today is a most interesting look at on-line learning at the college level.

nytimes

October 31, 2007 | On Education

By JOSEPH BERGER | HERSHEY, Pa.

The university classroom of the future is in Janet Duck’s dining room on East Chocolate Avenue here.

There is no blackboard and no lectern, and, most glaringly, no students. Dr. Duck teaches her classes in Pennsylvania State University’s master’s program in business administration by sitting for several hours each day in jeans and shag-lined slippers at her dining table, which in soccer mom fashion is cluttered with crayon sketches by her 6-year-old Elijah and shoulder pads for her 9-year-old Olivia’s Halloween costume.

In this homespun setting, the spirited Dr. Duck pecks at a Toshiba laptop and posts lesson content, readings and questions for her two courses on “managing human resources” that touch on topics like performance evaluations and recruitment. The instructional software allows her 54 students to log on from almost anywhere at any time and post remarkably extended responses, the equivalent of a blog about the course. Recently, the class exchanged hard-earned experiences about how managers deal with lackluster workers.

Read the rest of this entry »


mm463: Blast from the Past! No. 40!

August 9, 2008

MUDGE’S Musings

© Carbouval | Dreamstime.com

© Carbouval | Dreamstime.com

So, back into the archives yet again, but hey, recycling is IN, right? We’re all about doing the right thing here at Left-Handed Complement, and in that spirit we’re recycling some of yr (justifiably) humble svt‘s favorite electrons.

I hereby stop apologizing for observing the prime directive of blogging: Thou Shalt Blog Daily!

And, I’m guessing that most of you weren’t here nine months ago. As one of my favorite paper publications used to say as they flogged unsold back issues: “If you haven’t read it yet, it’s new for you!”

lhc76019043_thumb24_thumb2_thumb2_th

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 19, 2007, and originally titled “mm173: Legalize all drugs!”

MUDGE’S Musings

Earlier this week, the failed U.S. war on drugs was discussed in this space.

Turns out that a high ranking provincial law enforcement officer in Britain believes that the UK’s version is just as pointless as its U.S. cousin’s.

theindependent

By Jonathan Brown and David Langton

Published: 15 October 2007

One of Britain’s most senior police officers is to call for all drugs – including heroin and cocaine – to be legalised and urges the Government to declare an end to the “failed” war on illegal narcotics.

Richard Brunstrom, the Chief Constable of North Wales, advocates an end to UK drug policy based on “prohibition”. His comments come as the Home Office this week ends the process of gathering expert advice looking at the next 10 years of strategy.

In his radical analysis, which he will present to the North Wales Police Authority today, Mr Brunstrom points out that illegal drugs are now cheaper and more plentiful than ever before.

The number of users has soared while drug-related crime is rising with narcotics now supporting a worldwide business empire second only in value to oil. “If policy on drugs is in future to be pragmatic not moralistic, driven by ethics not dogma, then the current prohibitionist stance will have to be swept away as both unworkable and immoral, to be replaced with an evidence-based unified system (specifically including tobacco and alcohol) aimed at minimisation of harms to society,” he will say.

The war on drugs benefits the prison-industrial complex, but not society.

Read the rest of this entry »


mm462: Impervious to the Olympics

August 8, 2008

dreamstime_5517370

© Claudio Negri | Dreamstime.com

MUDGE’s Musings

Long ago, yr (justifiably) humble svt was quite the sports fan. Some of this was genetic; my long-deceased father was a baseball fan, first and foremost; during his prime he was pleased to have season’s tickets for both Chicago ball clubs.

His oldest son is more of a fair weather fan. And the weather thus far this season has been quite fair, thank you very much, on both the North and South sides of town, although all such observations are via television or Internet; stadium tickets, parking, refreshments are luxury goods.

Professional and college football I find more compelling; even though I never have been at all athletic, the large size of football players fits my self image better, I think. Those seasons are just about to begin; it’s been a long several months football-free drought. But, interest is vicarious; the past two seasons, courtesy of my Naval Academy children, I have actually attended a couple of live college games, but it’s been 30 years or more since I’ve attended a professional contest.

For many years, I was a happy subscriber to Sports Illustrated, and a voracious consumer of televised sports of all kinds, although until the past few years penury deprived me of many years of ESPN.

And, every four years, and lately, since the Winter and Summer games have been split, every two years, I was a consumer of televised Olympics.

A fellow denizen of BlogExplosion.com, michiganrafter, much more into things athletic (and commercial) than am I, had a listing the other day of the Top Ten Olympic Moments, and I could recall and concur with all of his choices.

That was then. It’s no accident, I think, that most of his top 10 occurred at least 20, and some more than 30, years ago.

Sport has changed.

Read the rest of this entry »


mm461: The world of work at $4.199/gallon

August 7, 2008

dreamstime_5638124

© Tara Carlin | Dreamstime.com

MUDGE’s Musings

The new reality of $80 fuel fill ups has begun to penetrate the consciousness of this nation’s employers, many of whom are responding to their employees’ pain in a variety of intriguing ways.

nytimes

The New Workplace Perk: Gas

Life’s Work | By LISA BELKIN | Published: August 7, 2008

IN Washington State, Microsoft has leased three large office complexes miles from company headquarters in recent months to shorten the commutes of about 7,000 employees.

In San Francisco, Citigate Cunningham, a public relations company, now encourages workers to stay home whenever possible, providing laptop computers and BlackBerrys to enable telecommuting, and reimbursing them $40 a month for high-speed Internet connections in their homes.

At Rejuvenation, a lighting manufacturer in Portland, Ore., employees skip one day of work completely. The company has gone to a four-day week, with each workday being 10 hours long. Alysa Rose, the president, also gives away a free bicycle to an employee every month.

Increased telecommuting, or working from home, suddenly is not only tolerated, but actually encouraged by many forward-thinking managers who suddenly are experiencing attrition of valued staff for reasons of excessive commuting expense. And, as an electronic collaboration professional, I can’t help but be heartened by this trend, since tools such as web conferencing allow dispersed workers to interact most productively.

Read the rest of this entry »


mm460: Globalization: Rough seas ahead

August 6, 2008

dreamstime_5041579

© Lowerkase | Dreamstime.com

MUDGE’s Musings

Went after everyone’s favorite hateful big business, Wal-Mart, a couple of posts ago, as we explored their ham-fisted attempts at influencing presidential election politics.

Slate’s Daniel Gross, whom after all gets paid to write these things, did a nice job exploring the issue (but yr [justifiably] humble svt was there with typically cogent commentary the previous evening, thank you very much; my son sent me the Journal story well after I had harvested it into WindowsLiveWriter, in preparation for the post. Just setting the record straight! smile_regular ).

Lately, we’ve become intrigued as we learn that the mechanism that allows Wal-Mart to be Wal-Mart…

After all, these are the guys who have rolled back prices so relentlessly that they’ve rolled up entire industries and sent the jobs and our treasure to China, at the expense of zillions of decent paying blue collar jobs in the U.S.

globalism, is under ferocious attack.

nytimes

Shipping Costs Start to Crimp Globalization

By LARRY ROHTER | Published: August 3, 2008

…. Cheap oil, the lubricant of quick, inexpensive transportation links across the world, may not return anytime soon, upsetting the logic of diffuse global supply chains that treat geography as a footnote in the pursuit of lower wages. Rising concern about global warming, the reaction against lost jobs in rich countries, worries about food safety and security, and the collapse of world trade talks in Geneva last week also signal that political and environmental concerns may make the calculus of globalization far more complex.

“If we think about the Wal-Mart model, it is incredibly fuel-intensive at every stage, and at every one of those stages we are now seeing an inflation of the costs for boats, trucks, cars,” said Naomi Klein, the author of “The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.”

All of that consumer stuff that packs the shelves of Wal-Mart, and, to be fair, its competition, and all of the so-called big box stores: the toys, the apparel, the electronics and decorative accent pieces for your great room; all that stuff got to Wal-Mart in 40-foot shipping containers.

Read the rest of this entry »