the tracking of mere energy usage

Part of what makes the smart grid “smart” is its ability to know a lot about the energy-consuming devices in our homes.

In addition to reaching into homes to regulate devices, information about usage and activities could be extracted from homes.

Home energy consumption patterns could be gathered and analyzed on a room-by-room and device-by-device basis to determine which devices are used and at what time of day.

What else will smart appliances “tell” others?

Pews and the Bench

Salon’s Frances Kissling asks, “Are six Catholics too many for the Supreme Court?”

If Sonia Sotomayor is confirmed as an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, six of the nine justices will be Roman Catholic. Two of the other three justices, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer, are Jewish. John Paul Stevens, at age 89 the oldest and longest-serving justice, would be the only Protestant left on the court.

Should that worry us?

After all, for most of the court’s 220-year history, all the members were white Protestant males.

Teaching Thievery

BusinessWeek:

Whether, and to what extent, the nation’s business schools laid the groundwork for the economic crisis is a debate that’s engulfing the world of management education these days.

…the charge is serious and systemic.

“Business schools fell into the same trap as business media. They were not critical enough of what was going on, which made them complicit to the problem.”

Fools Spilling Blood

In another revealing and disturbing development, the former chief of staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell, Lawrence Wilkerson, has suggested what is possibly as scandalous a deception as the false case Bush and Cheney made for invading Iraq. Colonel Wilkerson writes that in their zeal to prove a link between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein during the months leading up to the Iraq war, one suspect held in Egypt, Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, was water tortured until he falsely told the interrogators what they wanted to hear.

That phony confession that Wilkerson says was wrung from a broken man who simply wanted the torture to stop was then used as evidence in Colin Powell’s infamous address to the United Nations shortly before the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Media Sphere

Of the world’s population of 6.7 billion, over 60% or 4 billion now have wireless phones, up from just 15% in 2002, and another billion will have them within a year.

So, in short, if you want to accomplish anything in the future, you must be deeply connected to this media sphere, accomplished in its use, and immersed in its flows.

Skin is Home

The bacteria that live under your arms likely are more similar to those under another person’s arm than they are to the bacteria that live on your forearm.

Three microenvironments: oily, moist and dry.

  1. Oily sites include between the eyebrows, beside the nose, inside the ear, back of the scalp, and upper chest and back.
  2. Moist areas were inside the nose, armpit, inner elbow, webbed area between the middle and ring fingers, side of the groin, top fold of the buttocks, behind the knee, bottom of the foot and the navel.
  3. Dry areas included the inside surface of the mid-forearm, the palm of the hand and the buttock.

Health Is Unimportant

In the last eighteen years, the number of people adhering to healthy habits has decreased from 15% to 8%:

  1. the percentage of adults aged 40-74 years with a body mass index greater than 30 has increased from 28% to 36%;
  2. physical activity 12 times a month or more has decreased from 53% to 43%;
  3. smoking rates have not changed (26.9% to 26.1%);
  4. eating 5 or more fruits and vegetables a day has decreased from 42% to 26%;
  5. and moderate alcohol use has increased from 40% to 51%.

Americans are not trying to be healthy?

Conservative Cognitive Ability

It’s rude to impugn voter smarts, but the National Institute of Education in Singapore has found low cognitive ability is associated with high conservatism.

At the individual level of analysis, conservatism scores correlate negatively with SAT, Vocabulary, and Analogy test scores.

At the national level of analysis, conservatism scores correlate negatively with measures of education…

The Conservative syndrome describes a person who attaches particular importance to the respect of tradition, humility, devoutness and moderation as well as to obedience, self-discipline and politeness, social order, family, and national security and has a sense of belonging to and a pride in a group with which he or she identifies. A Conservative person also subscribes to conventional religious beliefs and accepts the mystical, including paranormal, experiences. The same person is likely to be less open to intellectual challenges and will be seen as a responsible “good citizen” at work and in the society while expressing rather harsh views toward those outside his or her group.

Stuart Buck at Overcoming Bias asks “Why?”

“If people can’t think clearly about anything that has become part of their identity, then all other things being equal, the best plan is to let as few things into your identity as possible.”

Earth is Hiring

Working for the earth is not a way to get rich, it is a way to be rich.

A Paul Hawken transcript getting much green buzz:

Basically, the earth needs a new operating system, you are the programmers, and we need it within a few decades.

This planet came with a set of operating instructions, but we seem to have misplaced them. Important rules like don’t poison the water, soil, or air, and don’t let the earth get overcrowded, and don’t touch the thermostat have been broken. Buckminster Fuller said that spaceship earth was so ingeniously designed that no one has a clue that we are on one, flying through the universe at a million miles per hour, with no need for seatbelts, lots of room in coach, and really good food. But all that is changing.

There is invisible writing on the back of the diploma you will receive, and in case you didn’t bring lemon juice to decode it, I can tell you what it says:

YOU ARE BRILLIANT, AND THE EARTH IS HIRING.

Ideology in service of the rich

“It should be noted upfront that economics – or, more precisely, the neoclassical branch of political economy – is not an objective reality. In fact, for the most part it is not even a scientific inquiry into objective reality.

Instead, neoclassical political economy is largely an ideology in the service of the powerful.

It is the language in which the capitalist ruling class conceives and shapes society.

Simultaneously, it is also the tool with which this class conceals its own power and the means with which it persuades others to accept that power.”

Jonathan Nitzan and Shimshon Bichler, Capital As Power (Routledge 2009)

An Energy Option

SolSource 3-in-1Versus current and dominant tradition!

About the size of a laptop computer, easily folded for portability… the SolSource generates enough heat at its focal point to bring a kettle of water to boil in about five to seven minutes – about the same amount of time as conventional gas stoves, and generates heat to warm a room, or enough light for about seven hours.

[WorldChanging]

Realistic like a movie

Clipped from an interview with Tim Sweeney, founder of games maker Epic:

Looking ahead, how long do you think it will be before real-time computer graphics are 100% realistic like a movie?

Tim Sweeney: There are two parts to the graphical problem. Number one, there are all those problems that are just a matter of brute force computing power: so completely realistic lighting with real-time radiosity, perfectly anti-aliased graphics, and movie-quality static scenes and motion.

We’re only about a factor of a thousand off from achieving all that in real-time without sacrifices. So we’ll certainly see that happen in our lifetimes; it’s just a result of Moore’s Law. Probably 10-15 years for that stuff, which isn’t far at all. Which is scary — we’ll be able to saturate our visual systems with realistic graphics at that point.

But there’s another problem in graphics that’s not as easily solvable. It’s anything that requires simulating human intelligence or behavior: animation, character movement, interaction with characters, and conversations with characters. They’re really cheesy in games now.

A state-of-the-art game like the latest Half-Life expansion from Valve, Gears of War, or Bungie’s stuff is extraordinarily unrealistic compared to a human actor in a human movie, just because of the really fine nuances of human behavior.

We simulate character facial animation using tens of bones and facial controls, but in the body, you have thousands. It turns out we’ve evolved to recognize those things with extraordinary detail, so we’re far short of being able to simulate that.

And unfortunately, all of that’s not just a matter of computational power, because if we had infinitely fast computers now, we still wouldn’t be able to solve that, because we just don’t have the algorithms; we don’t know how the brain works or how to simulate it.

So you’d have to create a perfectly realistic virtual human first to have perfectly realistic graphics.

Tim Sweeney: Yeah, you’d have to simulate the brain and nervous system in the computer.

And circulation and everything. But that’s probably going to be possible some day, don’t you think?

Tim Sweeney: Some day, yeah. But there’s no Moore’s Law for that stuff, and progress is very non-linear. Somebody must have a clear understanding of how a neuron works now and how it transmits to adjacent neurons, but they have no idea how a billion neurons combine together to create a brain and what parts of our brain are basically hard-coded by evolution, and which parts are based on learning, and so on.

And if you could simulate it all, how could you train it to be realistic like a human? Those problems are probably decades away from being solved. Those are things that may not occur in our lifetimes.

Just like perfect computer speech recognition: if you look at speech recognition, it’s only gotten slightly better in the past decade, just by a factor of several hundred increases in computing power.

That shows that those problems are not falling to brute force.

Baking the Pie

A Brawny Recovery:

We have known since the 1970’s that we would become increasingly dependent under the Old Energy Economy. We have known since the 1970’s that our four centuries of energy self-sufficiency since European Settlement of the eastern seaboard of North America would be coming to an end unless we made substantial changes.

And then our ruling elites collectively decided to pretend… and we descended into the last thirty years of the wealthy focusing in grabbing a bigger share of the pie, while assuming that the baking of the pie would magically take care of itself.

But … well, we know this.

Incentive Dominance

Analysis:

Bill Gates once derided open source advocates with the worst epithet a capitalist can muster. These folks, he said, were a “new modern-day sort of communists”, a malevolent force bent on destroying the monopolistic incentive that helps support the American dream.

Hurry Up Error?

Said in 1925
“Does the average citizen understand what this means? In from 10 to 20 years this country will be dependent entirely upon outside sources for a supply of liquid fuels … paying out vast sums yearly in order to obtain supplies of crude oil from Mexico, Russia, and Persia.” — Yale Professor Harold Hibbert, ethanol promoter.

But
There is increasing evidence that ethanol is destroying engines [BusinessWeek].

The de-industrialization of the United States

The de-industrialization of the United StatesThe fundamental problem is the big players on Wall Street have misused the credit mechanism of the economy for their own private gains through the bloating of debt and speculation, at the expense of actually allocating and supplying capital to the real economy.

The dollar volume of financial trading has increased nearly forty-fold since the 1960s, but almost none of that trading is of any use to the real economy.

Even now, after the collapse of September 2008, big Wall Street firms are still making most of their money by trading for their own account.

Anyone who believes that saving the financial system is the way to save the economy, just does not know what the financial system is really all about.

Tony Wikrent at e pluribus media

Second-Class Soldiers?

The Lonely Soldier: The Private War of Women Serving in Iraq“Nobody believes me when I say I’m a veteran,” she said.

“I was in Iraq getting bombed and shot at, but people won’t even listen when I say I was at war.

You know why? Because I’m a female.”

In Iraq, one in ten troops is a woman.

They join the military for the same reasons men do–to escape dead-end towns or dysfunctional families, to pay for college or seek adventure, to follow their ideals or find a career–only to find themselves denigrated and sexually hounded by many of the “brothers” on whom they are supposed to rely. And when they go to war, this harassment does not necessarily stop. The double traumas of combat and sexual persecution may be why a 2008 RAND study found that female veterans are suffering double the rates of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder for their male counterparts.

Over 206,000 have served in the Middle East since March 2003, most of them in Iraq; and over 600 have been wounded and 104 have died in Iraq alone.

More than 2,000 women who fought in Iraq or Afghanistan have been awarded Bronze Stars, several for bravery and valor in combat; more than 1,300 have earned the Combat Action Badge; and two have been awarded Silver Stars, the military’s top honor for bravery in combat… but: More female troops have died in Iraq of non-hostile causes than have been killed in battle.

A Government Destroyed

Economist Paul Krugman explains California’s bankruptcy: Not a state you’d expect to go broke.

Who would have thought that America’s largest state, a state whose economy is larger than that of all but a few nations, could so easily become a banana republic?

For California, where the Republicans began their transformation from the party of Eisenhower to the party of Reagan, is also the place where they began their next transformation, into the party of Rush Limbaugh.

As the political tide has turned against California Republicans, the party’s remaining members have become ever more extreme, ever less interested in the actual business of governing.

And while the party’s growing extremism condemns it to seemingly permanent minority status — Mr. Schwarzenegger was and is sui generis — the Republican rump retains enough seats in the Legislature to block any responsible action in the face of the fiscal crisis.

More than ribbons

And that is a sacred trust I am committed to keeping as President of the United States.

That is why I will send our servicemen and women into harm’s way only when it is necessary, and ensure that they have the training and equipment they need when they enter the theater of war.

That is why we are building a 21st century Department of Veterans Affairs with the largest single-year funding increase in three decades.

It’s a commitment that will help us provide our veterans with the support and benefits they have earned, and expand quality health care to a half million more veterans.