Recently I’ve been reading Storming Heaven which is a fascinating look at how the psychedelic era of the 60’s influenced American Culture. One of the key players in distributing hallucinogens to a huge array of famous people in the 50’s was an amazing character named Al Hubbard that almost no one has ever heard of. In the 15 years he was giving lsd to people before it was illegal he turned on such diverse luminaries as Aldus Huxley and Stanley Kubrick, not to mention Myron Stolaroff who ultimately gave LSD to Steve Jobs and a slew of other soon-to-be-famous engineers at HP who then went on to invent the modern computer world in Silicon Valley.  Here’s a very interesting article abut his life …



Balance your carbon

Topher and Kerstin have created a very nice site to inspire people to transition to a zero-carbon lifestyle

Check it out… http://carbonbalancers.wordpress.com/

On that same note, we use Bonneville Environmental to buy our offsets, they seem to have a pretty robust system for making sure they are selling real offsets.

Another handy way to offset your CO2 is through your local power company. For example, in Utah, we can pay a bit extra on our power bill and then the power company buys wind and solar power instead of coal generated power for the amount of green energy that customers have paid for. To offset other CO2 emissions other than power usage, you can just buy extra power blocks beyond the amount you use for power. The outcome is less power bought as coal and more as wind and sun. This is a nice way to offset because it is a direct offset of CO2 emissions and is relatively local to one’s location. In Utah, the coal power comes from within the state and so has a direct impact on our air quality.  I’m not sure how this approach squares with the standard methods of offsetting emissions. Any ideas?

lost souls and a kitten

bucky’s house
Posted via Pixelpipe.

I’ve been trying to get my office more organized lately and this includes trying to find a solid, affordable way to always have back ups of all my digital data. Since what I do now for a living is record long, high resolution timelapses, I also shoot about 10,000 pictures a year, and in years past I shot tons of video on DV most of which is in half completed projects on various hard drives. On top of that, we’ve been sorting through some data transfer problems with our software which has led to a bunch of drive failures. Most people wouldn’t have encountered this problem but if you tell windows XP to copy more than about 900,000 files at a time, your computer will crash in a spectacular way. If you haven’t turned of write-caching on all your drives, you have a pretty could chance that one or both of you drives – the original and the backup – now have corrupted Master File Tables (MFT’s). Which mostly means you are totally f**ked. However, the good news is that as far as we can tell, XP’s Service Pack 3 seems to have fixed this issue.

So anyways, a couple of days ago I pulled all the drives I have lying around and attempted to label them. The result… I have 13 hard drives ranging from 120 to 750 GB in size, all with partial duplications of all my images, data, video and so on. 3 or 4 of these partially or totally dead from copy failures, but have the only backup of much of the other data, so I am afraid to wipe them to make room for other backups. I have about another 700GB of data on my main computer in 3 drives that is only partially backed up, and about 500GB of data from an ongoing project that needs to find a backed up home. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, but I’ll spare y’all the rest of the details except to say that data management for users who can’t afford massive enterprise level disk arrays is still in the dark ages.

What prompted this post though was the vision I have of a future where this problem is solved. I wish there was a cheap disk array where you could just slot all the drives you own in and then tell the machine to collate them, move the data around, back it up and so on. Seems like at least simple drive interface hardware is finally getting here with hot-swap in eSATA, etc, but if you look at the NAS systems under say $800, they rarely handle more than a few disks and about 25% of users suffer massive data failure problems with almost ever system I’ve seen on the market so far (peruse the reviews for NAS systems on newegg.com to see what I’m talking about).

So what I want to see is this… When everything finally makes it to solid state, I have this vision of just having a rack of mini storage devices, kind of like a stack of instant access DV tapes that you could use all at once. The hardware would treat the whole thing like one giant dynamic disk array and collate all my data in a smart, redundant way. if I need more space, I just buy a few more storage components and stick em at the top of the stack, whenever there is extra space, the top drives just show green and you can pull them out and plug them them in your video camera or laptop, whatever needs extra storage.

So how far away is this? I’d guess 5 or 10 years, but its been more than a decade now since computers really became fully mainstream and I’m still crawling around in the dust behind my computer all the time trying to jiggle sensitive components in and out of poorly designed desktop cases and motherboards, so who knows. While we’re dreaming, when is someone going to start making computer components and computer cases that are simple, modular and easy to service. I mean it is 2008, I can see where all my friends are in realtime on my iPhone, do I really have to be trying to snake some tiny SATA cable into a connector that is blocked by my video card and two hard drives. Please, someone fix this – you will make millions.

While I’ve been mostly enjoying my iPhone, I’ve been disappointed that it doesn’t support Flash since of course this would open up a whole world of cool and interesting things you could use the phone for.

A bit of web searching turned up this interesting article by smoothspan. His suggestion is that since flash lets you send any sort of app you want from a web page to the browser that’s viewing it, it would provide an easy backdoor for people to run apps to the iPhone that aren’t sanctioned (and sold) by Apple. Since apple is projecting more than a $1 billion a year in profits on iPhone apps, we could assume they will do everything they can to prevent this from happening. One could imagine them making some locked-down version of flash, but this would be hard to do very effectively. Pretty good explanation. This gives me yet another reason to think I should return my iPhone and wait until Google’s Android-enabled phones start coming out before I upgrade to a Future-phone.

If (when) Android phones do start competing with the IPhone, this seems like it will be a serious problem for apple. I mean why would you want a phone that is intentionally disabled (i.e. broken) in so many ways, when you can get one that actually works; frees you from the stupidity of being locked to a single carried and doesn’t make you fell like big brother is calling all the shots every time you try to use it.

There is a great article over at earthfirst.com about how hard it is to reduce the amount of plastic in our lives (link).

It is amazing to me that something so obviously terrible as the fact that we throw away billions of pounds of plastics a day should be controversial. To anyone who understands what sustainability means our current behaviors appear totally insane. If we ever make it to a sustainable future, it will be illegal to sell products in plastics that can’t be recycled and it will be illegal not to recycle. This isn’t a matter of violating our personal liberties or big government intervention, it is common sense. We live in an unstable system now where manufacturers can put their products in any packaging they want with no regard for the full lifecycle of the packaging or the products or the toxic byproducts that go into making them and are released when they degrade. In a sustainable future these things will as seem as bizarre and wrong-headed to our decedents as doctors prescribing heroin children for coughs does to us (yes that was common 100 years ago).

People concerned about the environment too often fall into the trap of demanding that everyone give up everything they have to save the world. While we seriously need to curb our unbridled consumptive habits, we have reached a point in our technological development that we can build a sustainable world and give everyone a better standard of living and a higher quality of life.

The problem is not that we use plastic – plastic is great for so many things – that’s why there is so much of it. The problem is that the plastic we use is toxic and gets thrown out instead of recycled when we are done with it.

In a sustainable future, plastics will be non-toxic we will all have desktop fabricators (link, link) to make the parts we need to repair the things we own by recycling the plastic we use ourselves. This may seem far-fetched now, but 10 years ago I don’t think most people would have believed you could get a phone that would show you the location of all your friends, in realtime, on a satellite map of your neighborhood (yes the iPhone does that).  The way these things become real is for people to demand that they become real. We need to have the vision and see a better future and then we need to educate our friends, tell everyone we know and demand that the people with power make rational decisions based on sound science.

BoingBoing has a link to an research study just released by the RAND corp. looking at how terrorist groups have been defeated in the past (http://www.boingboing.net/2008/07/29/to-destroy-al-qaeda.html).

According to the study only 7% of terrorist group that have been defeated since 1968 were stopped through military efforts. Effective policing and politics accounted for about 40% each in being effective at stopping terrorist groups.

This graph is amazing.

This graph is amazing

It is so crazy to me that people believe that the only option we have to make America safer is to spend a few trillion dollars invading other countries and killing everyone there that disagrees with us.
Whether or not you support these wars on principle is immaterial; fighting wars to stop terrorist groups is a waste of money because it is ineffective.
This fact is should make sane people appose war for purely practical reasons, totally independent of your political or moral views on the matter.
For some fascinating insights into why the US behaves in such irrational ways (and why we spend at least half our annual budget making war) check out the movie “Why We Fight“.