Friday, November 21, 2008

Bush not popular?

Well, it looks like Bush isn't so popular anymore. Especially with world leaders...

Monday, November 10, 2008

Change is coming

Obama is already at work behind the scenes, and poised to enact executive orders to reverse much of the terrible EO's that Bush implemented. Should be an interesting first year, as Congress and Obama's mandate from the people should help to bring a change of how things work in Washington.

In fact, Obama even has a website, to hear the voice of the people:

Friday, November 7, 2008

The socio-political landscapes of America

Fascinating read over at BLDGBLOG. Why are one demographics deemed more important politcally than others? Organization, of course, plays a huge role in this. But lets relax our narrowed view of Obama and McCain's political race, filled with photo ops and interviews staged in Old America, those almost-forgotten small rural towns and landscapes rapidly fading into a distant memory and increasingly losing relevance in our post-industrial, information-age globalized economy.

They find small towns that, by definition, are under-populated and thus unrepresentative of the United States as a whole; they find "old-fashioned" restaurants that seem on the verge of closing for lack of interested customers; they tour "Main Streets" that lost their inhabitants and their businesses long ago.
All along they pretend that these landscapes are politically relevant.

Fungus makes biodiesel?! Sign us up!

Ooh, more good news! Kind of hailing from obscurity, but are our fuel woes a thing of the past? A newly discovered fungus makes, as a byproduct of decomposing plant matter, biodiesel! It can even directly convert cellulose directly to biodiesel, which was one of the main challenges facing the next gen of biodiesel adoption - being able to convert plant waste, such as stems (the wasted part of crops) directly into fuel.

The fungus, called Gliocladium roseum and discovered growing inside the ulmo tree (Eucryphia cordifolia) in northern Patagonia, produces a range of long-chain hydrocarbon molecules that are virtually identical to the fuel-grade compounds in existing fossil fuels.

"It's another piece of evidence that there is real potential to adapt such processes to provide energy sources that can help reduce our need for, and dependence on, fossil fuels."

Such a timely developments such as this may dramatically impact where we get our energy and fuels from.

Yah! Obama won!

...8 years of horror are over.

Now, it would be nice if the economy would pick up, but it looks like I'll have to hold my breath for a few more years.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Insightful economics

Interesting story on the Daily Kos about the mergers being fueled by the government's quest to prop up every failing bank and investment company in the current economic downfall. I have always been rather suspicious of large corporations myself, growing up with the software industry and Microsoft's borg-like domination of the industry (and subsequent failure to provide much more innovation as of late).

The article brings up a book, Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered, a book I read many years ago for an Economics class at college, that looks at economics in a more holistic light than a purely statistical one. It makes me think of different strategies being pursued to improve standards of living in third world countries: wait for a large Western corporation to operate a strip-mining operation in the rainforest, or should you instead help local farmers by improving their access to global markets and improve the quality and yield of their coffee crops?

Which one is the better route? Which one has less adverse impacts on the environment, health and welfare of the people in the poor nation?

It seems to me that being small and nimble in today's globalizing world is not a liability, but an asset - particularly when it comes to transparency in the accounting department, flexibility in responding to a market (and not getting stuck trying to push a product line that is dying out - ala the Sport Utility Vehicle), and simply being a more humanizing place to work. This is anecdotal, but from all the people I have met, by far the ones that enjoy their careers more are the ones who work for the smaller, more innovative firms. I personally would hate to be one of the many hundreds of peons cut when one of the large "fortune 500" companies starts its regular payroll trimmings.

So why do we keep providing the incentive that generates big companies?

We seem to like bigger. There's something that's extremely satisfying about seeing companies expand, the number of employees increase, the bottom line fill up with larger and larger numbers. It not only scratches some deep psychological itch, it's practically the only way we measure success. Our measure for the standard of living is based on the amount of consumption, not knowledge or fulfillment or leisure. Our measure for efficiency is simply numbers over time, with little regard to quality, or pride, or environmental impact. Our measure for a company's success is simply size. After all, the Fortune 500 doesn't let you in because you're company is nice.

Whatever happened to compeitition?

Interestingly, 25% of all jobs in America are provided by companies with over 500 employees. (census)