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The Elliptical Machine Office Desk: putting the ‘commute’ back in ‘telecommuting’

Quite frankly, you've got it just a bit too easy. You rise 98 seconds before you're scheduled to clock in, you mash a power button, and suddenly, you're at work. PJs still caked to your legs, mouth still steaming from a lack of brushing. You're a telecommuter, and you're the envy of the working world. In fact, it'd be just stellar if you'd do us all a solid and add a sliver of complexity to your workday -- you know, like swapping out your OfficeMax special for an elliptical machine. And maybe, just maybe, you can convert your laptop into one that's pedal-powered, forcing you to keep churning for fear of dropping from the virtual office. And no, you can't ask for donations to cover the $8,000 price tag -- your fuel savings from last week alone should just about cover it. Harrumph.

The Elliptical Machine Office Desk: putting the 'commute' back in 'telecommuting' originally appeared on Engadget on Wed, 29 Jun 2011 07:08:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

Permalink Medical Xpress  |  sourceHammacher Schlemmer  | Email this | Comments

Back To School

When posts collide.

This column started life as a response to the "Should You Go to College?" bong that's being passed around in the familiar NYT-Yglesias-Sullivan-NYT circle in the dorm room down the hall.

Then it collided with Suzannah Breslin's delightful advice column , "How to Fail at a Job Interview".

Then it caromed off of an uplifting story about a high school of my acquaintance.

So now it's something else.

Part I: Like, or Like Not. There is no "Why".

Back when I was a dashing, worldly Returning Adult College Student, I picked up a little rent-and-sammich money as a student worker: a job for which I was hilariously overqualified, and which I enjoyed a lot.

After sizing me up (which, as I recall, involved seeing how well I could handle the weapon's suite in whatever the latest first-person-shooter game was popular at the moment, and playing some deep-cut "Depeche Mode" b-side and asking me if I recognized it in a tone that suggested shibboleth-testing) my fellow student workers accepted me as one of the tribe, I found myself;
1) Playing a lot more chess than I had played in years and,

2) Being asked to regale them with Amazing True Tales of a strange place called the Real World about which they had only heard scraps and whispers around the campfire ("...and so the intern hit the gas and rocketed down the old country road. By the time she got back to town she felt silly about being so scared...but when she got out of the car to look for what had made the scraping sound...she found the escaped maniac supervisor's metal hand stuck to the back bumper...still holding her shitty employee evaluation!")
Among these 20-something art, theater and videography majors, many myths had grown up about the Real World -- a terra incognita which I (not unlike Bilbo Baggins) had traversed and lived to tell about.

Overwhelmingly, their legends about the Real World all descended from some
understanding that they had picked up in their childhood about how people should behave and how work ought to be.

"I mean, people can't just fire someone for no good reason, right?"
Sure they can. I'd guess that thousands of people get hired and fired every month for no good reason at all.
"But if you work really hard and you do a great job...?"
You should do that anyway, but no, being competent is no protection against being summarily shitcanned. In fact in many places being competent makes you a threat.
These were not idle questions: these young men and women had almost all taken on huge debt loads to buy a piece of paper that said they were prepared to be dropped onto an alien world, and they were beginning to suspect that, by way of practical preparation, their elders may have given them a box of Crayons and a "Steak n' Shake Funland" maze instead of the maps and weapons necessary to survive the rigors

of planet LV-426.

During one semester this sense of dread was sharply heightened when one of their older peers -- a gifted grad student -- took a job at The Very Prestigious Advertising Company, and over the course of several weeks was driven to frantic despair by what she believed to be the unfair and contradictory demands of her many bosses.

Each time she returned to us she looked more and more defeated and desperate. She spoke of impossible deadlines. Of creatively deadening projects. Of incredibly clueless superiors with enormous power. What, did they expect her to give up her outside life and just work for them around the clock?

"Yes," I told her during one of our asides. "That is exactly what they expect you to do."

"But this is ridiculous! How can people work like this?"

I shrugged. "Millions do. Every day."

She was near tears.

"Well that's just totally stupid. And unfair. They don't even know what they're doing. They won't give me a chance to good work."

I agreed. I still do. My heart went out to her and to all the others with whom I have had such conversations over the years.

Part II: "Oh, people can come up with statistics to prove anything. 14% of people know that." -- Homer Simpson

Here is a useful chart (one of many) that explains where all of your hard work on those impossible deadlines working on horrible misconceived projects for those brain-dead bosses ends up going:

You Have Nothing To Lose But Your Gains

Productivity has surged, but income and wages have stagnated for most Americans. If the median household income had kept pace with the economy since 1970, it would now be nearly $92,000, not $50,000.

Part III: The Real World does not care that you can recite the Bhagavad Gītā backwards and can change water into Fanta with your mind.

Here is a snip from the fine column by Ms. Breslin that explains how humans get jobs in the Real World

How to Fail at a Job Interview
Jun. 22 2011

I’ve been on more job interviews this year than any other year in my life.

This is a good thing (theoretically, at least) because it forces you to figure out who you are and sell it.

Can’t do that? You lose.

TIP #1: Miss the point.

Earlier this month, I hired a young female journalist to write a guest post on this blog for $100. (Expect to see it soon.) As a hirer, I was forced to confront the real reason why people hire you.

Because they like you.

This has been said elsewhere, but it is the single truth people fail to grasp about interviewing. It’s not about your skills, it’s not about your resume, it’s not about if you answered the questions right.

Do they like you? If they like you the best, they will hire you. If they don’t, they won’t.
Remember that: social networks and chemistry count for vastly more than you are ever led to believe in school. This will be on the test and will count for 75% of your final grade.

Part IV: Driftglass talks to Young Americans about college
Here, in no particular order, are some home truths I know about college that did not get covered by the New York Times or Think Progress.
  • The old social order that paid teachers much less than plumbers but rewarded teachers with a higher social distinction is now gone. The collapse of the union movement, the rise of the "college prep or bust" mentality in secondary education and the highly-focused contempt on the Right for all public employees has remade out national narrative into a story about billionaire CEOs national heroes versus school teaching moochers and/or or AFT/SEIU goon.

  • As someone who has hired many, many people, I can tell you that, outside of special training and certification requirements, a degree is generally treated as little more than a filtering device to save the HR manager from having to read 1,000 resumes for every job. It represents nothing more than a proxy for "do you have a pulse, can you read at a ninth grade level, and can you sit still and not fuck up too badly for 2-4 years? Yes? Great. we'll train you to do the rest."

  • If you are over 45, no one wants to hire you. Ever again. Details about your college years and experience serve as a way for hiring managers to very quickly weed out middle-aged applicants without leaving fingerprints. In the age of "we'll get back to you, but we really never do" you will likely never know why you didn't get that job, but the whiff of gray hair and higher health care premiums are a huge reason.

  • The business of college isn't primarily about education anymore: it is about a Wonka Golden Ticket that will get your kid a place on the ever-shrinking cultural lifeboat called The Middle Class. It means a house, maybe, and a job with benefits. Sure Junior might be on the road 270 days a years for the Ramjak Corporation selling Chinese anthrax-dipped toys to babies, but Junior will be in a suit and have a per diem and have a scrap of paper that says they shouldn't be fired first when the company decides to move most of its operations to Saigon.

  • The day institutions of higher learning figured that they held sole title to a device that could produce secular economic indulgences was the day educational quality and college experience began to become completely secondary to the awarding of pieces of paper for which the American public would pay ANY price.

  • Colleges generate vast wealth and are run as a feudal system: those at the top -- officers and those with tenure -- often enjoy comforts, wages and appurtenances that would astonish you, which is why tenure is handed out only to those who work the hardest to help keep the feudal system intact. Everyone else from janitors to "associate" professors are itinerant labor that will one day be hired by the van-load for cash from pools of dirty, sullen unemployed English and Philosophy majors who will by then be living in abandoned refrigerator boxes insulated with moldering copies Master's theses on the influence of "'The Beverly Hillbillies' on the novels of the New South", in vast slums called "Mitchnervilles".

  • If you can afford it, go anyway. From a spiritual perspective, you'll find a couple of great teachers who will change your life and why would you deny yourself that? From a career perspective, the most durable capital is social capital. The mentors you have and the contacts you make in school will pay you far better dividends for far longer than almost anything you will learn there. Also unless you are, say, a flautist or a New York Times op-ed pundit, you are going to need skills upgrades for the rest of your life starting right now, so after awhile the whole distinction between white collar and blue collar gets more and more meaningless.

Part V: The Wisdom of Youth.

Before you listen either to me or or to the New York Times, consider taking a real Real World lesson from some terrific young men and women who are graduating from the very first senior class of a new Chicago high school called Austin Polytech -- a flawed but promising and innovative academy in the heart of one of Chicago's toughest, poorest neighborhoods that is trying to erase the false and destructive distinction between a good vocational education and a good college-prep education, while at the same time producing the next generation of leaders in the field of advanced manufacturing.

You want hope? You want "act local"? You want a practical economic, educational and community-based vision of a better future with something to offer both Liberals and Conservatives of good faith? A place where smart labor and smart business can both lay down their swords for a moment and perhaps find common ground?

I give you APA.

A Troubled High School Celebrates a Milestone

Austin Polytechnical Academy opened on the West Side of Chicago in 2007 as the city’s first and only career academy dedicated to occupations in high-skill manufacturing. On June 12, the school sent its first 92 graduates into that understaffed job market, many with industry-recognized credentials, internship experience and more than three years of engineering classes on their transcripts.

The school, developed as part of the Renaissance 2010 initiative by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, then chief executive of Chicago Public Schools, aims to prepare students to fill some of the nation’s estimated three million vacant positions in science, technology, engineering and math. The ambitious plan seeks to engage private-industry companies to help train the students, all of them from a community that has watched local industry flee, unemployment climb and foreclosure rates soar to the highest in the city.

Where graduates go from here — work force or college, inside or outside the community — will be a test of achievement for Austin Polytech.

Since September, the Chicago News Cooperative has followed three students: Stran’Ja Burge and Marquiese Travae Booker, both seniors, and Deandre Joyce, a junior. In that time, the school has endured wrenching changes, many of them emblematic of a larger instability within C.P.S. as leaders seek to reform one of the country’s largest and most troubled public school systems .

Two separate narratives about the school have emerged: one public and one private; one filled with success, the other fraught with troubles.

In the positive narrative, the Center for Labor and Community Research, a nonprofit organization, helped Austin Polytech obtain accreditation for its machine shop through the National Institute for Metalworking Skills, becoming the only high school in Illinois to earn that classification. The school also rolled out two job-shadowing programs, secured summer jobs and internships for 36 students, and saw 89 students earn 123 industry-recognized certificates.

But it was also a year of nearly constant fits and starts by the C.P.S. system, sapping energy from teachers, administrators and students.

Yet for students like Ms. Burge, who is ranked in the top 10 of her class, as well as for Mr. Joyce and Mr. Booker, much of the hurly-burly has been a sideshow to the usual rites of passage: college applications, ACTs, prom, final exams and future plans. The unrest at the school was more a nuisance than anything else, they said.

What comes next is different for each: Ms. Burge will attend college at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, where she will play basketball and pursue a degree in engineering. Mr. Booker landed a job at the Laystrom Manufacturing Company, where he interned last summer. Mr. Joyce hopes to stay on track during his senior year, raise his ACT score from an 18 to a 20, and then decide what will come next: college or work.

Despite the school’s tumultuous year, Ms. Burge said she had enjoyed her time at Austin Polytech. It gave her the opportunity to take advanced-placement calculus, travel to Washington on behalf of the school and participate in student government.

As she headed off to school a few days before the graduation ceremony, Ms. Burge walked by her uncle sleeping on the front porch. He struggles with addiction and her grandmother lets him sleep there, she said, adding that his example was an impetus to work harder.

“I’m not like ‘Aw because my uncle’s a crackhead, then I’m not going to go to school,’ ” she said last fall. “I’m going to do the reverse and because I see him do that, this is why I’m going to school every day and this why I’m going to college.” She is the first in her family to pursue college outside Illinois.

When Mr. Booker was not playing baseball or practicing with the bowling team, he spent the year working at Harold’s Chicken and trying to figure out what came next. Then an opportunity presented itself. Laystrom Manufacturing offered Mr. Booker a position, created just for him, in the quality control department. He took the job.

There is no Bachmann in this story. No political horse race between "I don't know" and "I don't care" for our pundit class to get a case of hopping priapism over. No place for a wingnut to get his "welfare queen" bigot batteries recharged. No pie fight over the debt ceiling between the craven and the insane.

Just a page 10 story from my own back yard about the poise, persistence and character of some fine young men and women who are up against obstacles every day of their lives that are far more formidable than Eric Fucking Cantor and his Insane Teabagger Posse.

For the record, this is what gives me hope.

Also for the record, this is why I have zero patience for whiners who counsel giving up and rolling over because Harry Reid is still a jellybag, and Barack Obama hurt their fee-fees.


20 Most Inspiring Interview Statements

In one of my latest posts - 9 Tips on How To Improve Yourself as a Web Designer, I made a quick reference to the fact that reading interviews is as important as reading magazines and books. That’s because in interviews you get straight and direct answers from the best in the field. For the purpose of this article, I’ve selected some of the best interview statements of several different professionals.

Interviews give you great insights about how a person thinks, works and feels about his job and life. If you don’t usually read interviews, this is an opportunity to get an idea about how reading them can be an extremely useful learning method. Let’s get started!

“Bonus Question! Any suggestions out there for students or newbie designers trying to learn and grow as designers?”

“Absolutely! The best thing I ever did when learning to design was to spend copious amounts of time in my local Borders reading through all the expensive books on design and typography which I couldn’t afford to buy. There’s so much great information which isn’t yet available online, in fact with books often there’s a lot to learn simply by looking at how the books themselves have been designed!”

Collis Ta’eed interview at DesignO’Blog

“I see that you design brilliant icons. Give us some tips for designing an effective icon…”

“An effective icon should be simple and meaningful. So, make your icon as simple as possible. You can go fancy with the various effects, but keep your icon as minimal as possible. The entire point of an icon is to communicate a single message to the users.”

Nick La interview at Vector Tuts

“What are your best methods for finding/attracting clients?”

“The best way is having a very good network and let people know about your work. The promotion is the most difficult part of the process but as soon as you get a client and you do a good job, they recommend you. Also there are so many good sites to find jobs and even different ways to get work like writing tutorials for example.”

Fabio Sasso interview at FuelYourCreativity

“Walk us through your creative process. Do you start your process with references or sketches on paper or wireframes, or are your initial concepts more spontaneous? Is there some difference in thought processes between web and print projects?”

“The problem is that my process isn’t always the same; it mostly shifts depending on what it is that I am working on. The most constant part in my process is logo design where I almost always start with sketches in my little sketchbooks and scan them in to start the process in Illustrator. When designing websites it depends on how complex the project really is. When it is really complex I always start by wire-framing the most difficult parts before actually starting to move to Photoshop. Some concepts happen spontaneously, but not often. After receiving an OK from the client, I move over to create the final HTML/CSS part. There, I always start with structure first in HTML before starting to style things. The Illustrations that I draw almost always start on paper first, well at least the basic idea. Sometimes I end up with a different result due to experimenting.”

Veerle Pieters interview at Vector Tuts

“Lots of designers struggle when faced with the task of creating a logo for themselves. How would you advise a designer who is trying to figure out how to best to brand themself?”

“Tough question, especially given that I spent the bulk of a year on my own identity design (brainstorming, sketching, finalizing, then scrapping it and returning to the start). Settling on a design that represents you needs to be a very personal thing, so I guess if there’s one tip I can give, it’s to make your identity reflect who you are. With that said, it’s your client work that sells you, so if in doubt, why not opt for a clean, professional logotype?”

David Airey interview at Colorburned

“What, for you personally, are the pros and cons of being a designer?”

“The biggest pro is that I love what I do so it is not really work which gives me the highest satisfaction. The cons of being a freelance designer is that you have to be disciplined, your own boss and do all of the business administration yourself.”

Jacob Cass interview at Abduzeedo

“What books do you consider must read?”

“Providing you have the time, all books! With regards to design and development when I was writing my dissertation I really enjoyed Jeffrey Zeldman’s designing with web standards, it’s a really good book that provides the necessary foundations for good web standards. Other than that its been a while since I read any design/development orientated books. On my list to read though I would like Smashing Magazine’s book and also David Airey’s book, Logo Design Love. Outside of the work world I am currently reading Robinson Crusoe.”

Damian Herrington interview at admixweb

“Where did you go to school and has it helped you become a better web design professional?”

“I attended the secondary school and high school “Nicolae Tonitza” in Bucharest. Then followed The Fine Arts University “Nicolae Grigorescu” in Bucharest, Department of Graphic Design. Surely the 15 years of study were a great help. Studies matter a lot but they are just the first brick in the making of a web designer or a graphic designer.”

Simona Buzatu interview at SWD

“How does a student determine whether design is for them or they should pursue another career?”

“Do what you love doing. That goes for any career. If you are bored with the industry now, then it probably isn’t for you! If you love what you are doing, then work and fun can merge a lot of the time, which is a much better way to live than dreading the 9:00-to-5:00 every day. Yes, you need talent, but enthusiasm, a love of what you do and hard work can get you a long way. smile

Rachel Andrew in a group interview at Smashing Magazine

“What are some of the best ways for new designers to find clients?”

“Go after them. Don’t expect clients to come to you if you’re new to the industry. What worked the best for me was cold-emailing agencies for their overflow work. Some people might think that’s spamming, but it isn’t if it’s short, relevant and only done to a company once.”

Amber Weinberg in a group interview at Smashing Magazine

“What advice would you offer to young entrepreneurs looking to establish themselves in the online world?”

“The Internet is an enormous space, and there’s room for anyone to make a living doing what they enjoy.

If you’re wanting to build a web application to fill a niche (or just solve an existing problem better than everyone else), check out 37Signals’ blog. They’re opinionated and contentious, but have some absolutely fascinating insight and advice to share.

If you want to start a blog, read Crush It. If any book will give you a background to the tools and techniques used in blogging today, this one will. It’s also worth following Skellie, a remarkably talented blogger and writer who manages Envato’s Tuts+ websites.

Don’t quit your day job tomorrow to set up an online business. Start small, and understand that building a presence online takes time. Jump on any opportunities that come your way, and don’t be afraid to fail. If you’re building a bricks-and-mortar business, failure is usually a financial disaster. If your online project fails, there’s a good chance that no-one will even notice (and it won’t cost you a penny).”

David Appleyard interview at Elite By Design

“You’ve worked for a number of studios. Was it a useful experience? What made you want to work for yourself?”

“Vital! This is a must for all designers or developers, no matter which studio you work for you will learn and you will learn a lot. I once worked for a studio which was possibly the worst place I have ever worked, getting out of there was like being resuscitated from drowning, but I still took positives from it. Even if all you learn is how to treat customers and fellow peers, you’ve learnt something vital.”

Rich Brown interview at

“In your opinion, what is the best way to test the usability of a website?”

“Follow the 3 basic rules: get representative customers, ask them to perform realistic tasks, and shut up and let them do the talking. You only need 5 users to uncover enough usability insights to keep you busy for months. Even though there are only 3 rules, they are routinely violated in many studies. For example, it’s wrong to test with your friends or colleagues. You need to bring in external users who are representative of the target audience and who don’t know anything about your project. And you can’t just let them fool around: they have to do real tasks. And, of course, you have to keep from biasing their behavior and giving them hints about how to use the site.”

Jakob Nielsen interview at Webdesignerdepot

“What role has social media played in your blog’s success?”

“Not a whole lot. Social Media is young, and for all we know, it might just be a trend. That’s not an attack (I’m addicted to Twitter), but it seems strange to me that there are so many “Social Media Experts”. That’s roughly equivalent to calling oneself an “expert at talking to people online over several mediums”. It just doesn’t make much sense to me. I grew up on the Web, so a lot of the online social scene is just a natural thing to me. It’s a great way to chat and connect with people, and it’s definitely offered a great deal of opportunity to entrepeneurs. Maybe it’s contributed to sending some traffic my way, but it’s miniscule compared to the tried and true methods of just developing quality materials.”

David Legget interview at Colorburned

“What is the most important question you ask when first meeting with a client to discuss a new design or project?”

“I think that first meeting should be 75% about them. Who they are, what they do, why they do it, who their customers are, what the goals of the project are. That kind of thing. Then 25% about you. Who you are, how you work, what you expect, things you have done in the past that might be relevant. It should be 0% about design, technologies used, or any specifics about what the final product might be. After you get a good feel for each other, then the NEXT discussion can be more focused on a proposal and ideas for a final product.”

Chris Coyier interview at Nettuts

“When you are low on inspiration where is a common place that you turn to?”

“I really like to look at design related imagery, a book cover, a poster, a typographic arrangement or a good typeface, anything from music to retro stuff like B-movies, music band posters or even illustrations and typography from medieval books can be a source of inspiration.”

João Oliveira interview at PSDTuts

“What words of advice would you give to an aspiring designer just starting out?”

“Sketch, sketch sketch. Also try different creative activities that you haven’t tried before such as photography or painting. You never know what you will be good at and you may pick up some really unique design ideas and methods you’ve never thought of before that you can apply to your work.”

Adelle Charles interview at Myinkblog

“What do you find to be the most challenging part of running a blog?”

“The most challenging aspect is continuously thinking of new content. I have a posting schedule of one post per week, with a roundup of interesting news articles every other week, yet I still find times when I’m stuck for content! On the other hand I’ll sometimes be able to schedule a batch of posts for the upcoming month.”

Chris Spooner interview at Inspiredology

“Do you think it’s important for a designer to not be restrict in using only photoshop and move on to 3d as well?”

“I have found it more effective to use a mix of 3d, photos and painting to achieve the level of detail I strive for in my images, but this is just my personal way of working. Some people can create fantastic images with photoshop only, and that’s just the way they work. That said, learning 3d can open up whole new worlds in your artwork. I can really give you the flexibility to create anything you dream up. I started with a program called Bryce, and this gave me the basic stepping stone into 3d. Cinema 4d is my preferred 3d package simply for its intuitive design and ease of use. Someday i would love to learn Zbrush to take my artwork to the next level.”

Christopher Haines Interview at Abduzeedo

“What are the biggest challenges that you face in web design currently?”

“My personal challenge is a lack of time to learn everything I would like to. For instance, I’d love to master motion tools, but still don’t have time. Maybe next year… In general, the biggest challenge is educating clients about the user experience, explaining why they need usability testings and reviews, and about the true powers of their web site or application. Many investors come to me with an idea of forums and/or similar community features, but they rarely realize that they don’t have resources to handle this. They often overhear the idea (or read a blog post entitled “Increase revenue with social network”), but can neither really understand nor explain why they need it.”

Marko Dugonjić interview at Nettuts


Interviews are definitely a great way to get inspired and to know a bit more about the professional world. With so much information available, the only wall between you and success is your will and motivation. Go after them!


Skype gets Congressional approval, will help Representatives stay in touch with the common people

Look, Capitol Hill is a nice place to be, okay? There are interns eager to please, lobbyists keen to buy you dinner, why would you ever want to leave? Unfortunately for US Congressmen and women, the schleps who elected them insist on getting face time with their supposed representatives, which means a regular schedule of commuting getting in the way of some critically important foot massages and aromatherapy treatments. Never fear, though, Skype has come to the rescue. Microsoft's latest acquisition has scored a stamp of approval from the House of Representatives, permitting Congresspersons to use it to interact with constituents, attend virtual town hall meetings, and collaborate with other members of the House. All fun-making of lawmakers aside, this strikes us as a step in the right direction and Skype promises that it's done its homework on keeping communications secure. Let's hope so.

Skype gets Congressional approval, will help Representatives stay in touch with the common people originally appeared on Engadget on Wed, 29 Jun 2011 03:04:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Google unveils Swiffy: turns high maintenance Flash animations into HTML5

Still hanging on to those sweet site loaders hoping they'd be of use again someday? Perhaps the time has come -- for some ads and animations, that is. Google Labs has cooked up Swiffy, which takes an antediluvian SWF file and creates an HTML5 version that will run in most current browsers (Chrome and Safari, for example). The converted file is pretty close in size to the original; however, the company warns that the project is fresh out of the oven, so it won't convert your entire Flash library just yet. Even still, software that makes existing animations useful without starting from scratch? Sign us up! Check out the source link for the FAQs and some of Swiffy's handiwork, then test drive this bad boy yourself.

Google unveils Swiffy: turns high maintenance Flash animations into HTML5 originally appeared on Engadget on Wed, 29 Jun 2011 02:11:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Oregon engineers roll out cheaper, less wasteful solar cells with inkjet printer

Oregon engineers roll out cheaper, less wasteful solar cells with inkjet printer It looks like the push to turn the inkjet printer into the next great manufacturer of solar cells has found another proponent in a team of engineers at Oregon State University. That group of resourceful researchers claims to have created the world's first "CIGS solar devices with inkjet printing," thus giving birth to a new production process that reduces raw material waste by 90 percent. CIGS (an acronym for copper, indium, gallium, and selenium) is a highly absorbent and efficient compound, especially suited to creating thin-film solar cells. The team has used inkjet technology to pump out a CIGS ink with an efficiency of five percent, and a potential efficiency of 12 percent; apparently enough to produce a "commercially viable solar cell." Unfortunately, the group has yet to announce plans to bring the ink to our desktop printer -- so much for that backyard solar farm. Full PR after the break.

Continue reading Oregon engineers roll out cheaper, less wasteful solar cells with inkjet printer

Oregon engineers roll out cheaper, less wasteful solar cells with inkjet printer originally appeared on Engadget on Wed, 29 Jun 2011 01:18:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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On one hand, you'll never be able to convince your parents to switch. On the other hand, you'll never be able to convince your parents to switch!

Stewart Brand reviews “Environmentalism for THIS century” [Tomorrow’s Table]

Peter Kareiva, the chief scientist for The Nature Conservancy, recently gave a seminar at the Long Now Foundation. His talk was reviewed by Stewart Brand:

Kareiva began by recalling the environmental "golden decade" of 1965-75, set in motion by the scientist Rachel Carson. In quick succession Congress created the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act---which passed the Senate unanimously.

Green influence has been dwindling ever since. A series of polls in the US asked how many agreed with the statement, "Most environmentalists are extremists, not reasonable people." In 1996, 32% agreed. In 2004, 43% agreed. Now it's over 50% who think environmentalists are unreasonable.

Kareiva noted that as the world is urbanizing, ever fewer people grow up in contact with nature---current college freshman have less than a tenth of the childhood experience of nature as previous generations. And there's a demographic shift toward multiethnicity, with whites already a minority in California and soon to be a minority in the whole country. Asked to describe a typical environmentalist, current grade school students say it's a girl, white, with money, preachy about recycling, nice but uptight, not sought as a friend.

In general, environmentalist have earned the reputation of being "misanthropic, anti-technology, anti-growth, dogmatic, purist, zealous, exclusive pastoralists."

Kareiva gave several examples of how that reputation was earned. In Green rhetoric, everything in nature is described as "fragile!"---rivers, forests, the whole planet. It's manifestly untrue. America's eastern forest lost two of its most dominant species---the american chestnut and the passenger pigeon---and never faltered. Bikini Atoll was vaporized in an H-bomb test that boiled the ocean. When National Geographic sent a research team there recently, they found 25% more coral than was ever there before. The Deepwater Horizon oil disaster last year caused dramatically less harm to salt marshes and fisheries than expected, apparently because ocean bacteria ate most of the 5 million barrels of oil.

The problem with the fragility illusion is that it encourages a misplaced purism, leaving no room for compromise or negotiation, and it leads to "fortress conservation"---the idea that the only way to protect "fragile" ecosystems is to exclude all people. In Uganda, when a national park was established to protect biodiversity, 5,000 families were forced out of the area. After a change in government, those families returned in anger. To make sure they were never forced out again, they slaughtered all the local wildlife. In the 1980s, Kareiva was a witness in Seattle for protecting old growth forest (and spotted owls). At the courtroom loggers carried signs reading: "You care about owls more than my children." That jarred him.

When genetically engineered crops (GMOs) came along, environmentalists responded with "knee-jerk anti-technology religiosity," Kareiva said. How to feed the world was not a consideration. Lessening the overwhelming impact of agriculture on natural systems was not a consideration. Instead, the usual apocalyptic fears were deployed in the usual terms: EVERYTHING'S GOING TO BE DEAD TOMORROW! When Kareiva was working on protecting salmon, he saw the same kind of language employed in a 1999 New York Times full-page ad about dams in the Snake River: TIMELINE TO EXTINCTION! He knew it wasn't true. Salmon are a weedy species, and the re-engineered dams were letting the fish through.

The Nature Conservancy---where Kareiva is chief scientist working with the organization's 600 scientists, 4,000 staff, and one million members in 37 countries---promotes a realistic approach to conservation. Instead of demonizing corporations, they collaborate actively with them. They've decided to do the same with farmers, starting an agriculture initiative within the Conservancy. For the growing cities they emphasize the economic value of conservation in terms of valuable clean water and air. They started a program taking inner-city kids out to their field conservation projects not to play but to work on research and restoration. An astonishing 30% of those kids go on to major in science.

Kareiva sees conservation in this century as a profoundly social, cooperative undertaking that has to include everyone. New social networking tools can be in the thick of it. For instance, people could use their smartphones to photograph (and geotag, timestamp, and broadcast) the northernmost occurrence of bird species, and the aggregate data could be graphed in real time, showing the increasing effects of global warming on the natural world. When everyone makes science like that, everyone owns it. They've invested.

--Stewart Brand

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Google+ invite received, we go hands-on

It's hard to argue with Google's track record. The company has scored a hit in nearly every space in which it's dabbled: search, email, ads, office software, etc. There's always been one glaring exception to this rule, however: social networking. The company hasn't made much of a dent in a world dominated by Facebook (and, once upon a time, MySpace and Friendster). For Google+, however, the company dove in with both feet, launching a multi-faceted service that brings a lot to the table with features like Circles, Hang Out, and Huddle. Is it enough to end the Google's streak? We take a deeper dive to find out.

Continue reading Google+ invite received, we go hands-on

Google+ invite received, we go hands-on originally appeared on Engadget on Tue, 28 Jun 2011 20:06:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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The Iron Loony

“They're casting their problem on society. And you know, there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families”
-- Margaret Thatcher, October 9, 1987

"...more than ever, Washington IS the problem, and the real solutions will come from our businesses, our communities, our schools and the most basic and powerful unit of all-our families."
-- Michele Bachmann, June 27, 2011, Waterloo, IA

A bloody-minded True Believer's faith in the Godliness of their dogma.

An unvarnished loathing for all opposition.

An boundless contempt for government.

A ruthless eagerness to sacrifice the lives and futures of the poor, the sick, the weak, the elderly and the outsider on the altar of unfettered oligarchy.

Slavishly loyal acolytes who happily blind themselves to the misery and ugliness their ideology leaves in its wake.

And fuck the facts when they get in the way.

Regardless of what feckless, dorm-room "real" conservatives may tell themselves to balm their wounded egos over being wrong about everything their entire adult lives, these are the real pillars of Conservatism, over here and over there, then and now.

All else is tactic, style and commentary.


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