"Undermining my electoral viability since 2001."

Obvious Systemic Problems Part 2

Via Mr. Kos, more proof that we are not as free as we can be:

bq.. Goodwin leads me over to a red 2005 H3 Hummer that's up on jacks, its mechanicals removed. He aims to use the turbine to turn the Hummer into a tricked-out electric hybrid. Like most hybrids, it'll have two engines, including an electric motor. But in this case, the second will be the turbine, Goodwin's secret ingredient. Whenever the truck's juice runs low, the turbine will roar into action for a few seconds, powering a generator with such gusto that it'll recharge a set of "supercapacitor" batteries in seconds. This means the H3's electric motor will be able to perform awesome feats of acceleration and power over and over again, like a Prius on steroids. What's more, the turbine will burn biodiesel, a renewable fuel with much lower emissions than normal diesel; a hydrogen-injection system will then cut those low emissions in half. And when it's time to fill the tank, he'll be able to just pull up to the back of a diner and dump in its excess french-fry grease--as he does with his many other Hummers. Oh, yeah, he adds, the horsepower will double--from 300 to 600.

"Conservatively," Goodwin muses, scratching his chin, "it'll get 60 miles to the gallon. With 2,000 foot-pounds of torque. You'll be able to smoke the tires. And it's going to be superefficient."

p. Because we are serfs in our cars, beholden to a relatively small business elite when it comes to answering the automotive engineering questions of our times, we are not doing what we could be doing.

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Obvious Systemic Problems

So, in 2001 the Bush Administration cut the funding that NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab was using to investigate some promising nuclear fusion technologies. This guy's project is sitting around in need of $2M in funding to do a proof-of-concept which would demonstrate something we've never seen before: a controlled fusion reaction that produces a net energy gain.

Why can't this guy raise $2M on the internet? It seems totally possible, but there's a critical gap in expertise and entrepreneurial acumen. I'm a fan of the positive disruptive potential that this here world-wide-web offers, and if we can scrounge up tens of millions for a bunch of lag-ass politicians on a regular basis, why can't we start making strategic investments in things that Make Sense for humanity?

This would be cool, and essentially means dis-intermediating existing political systems as a means of shepherding the Public Good. It's an exciting prospect, both in this particular case (who wouldn't kick down $20 if it would get this thing off the ground?) and as a test case for how we might Solve Obvious Problems going forward. It would be nice if the State were more useful here, but it's priorities are fuxxored, and its ability to deal proactively with big problems that are associated with entrenched influences (global warming for $2000, Alex) is apparently quite weak.

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A Little Volunteer Work

So on Thursday a message came across the Redwood Tech Consortium mailing list proposing to set up a website to help offer housing for people displaced by the SoCal fires. I thought it sounded like a good idea, and me and a few heads from the Drupal Dojo created a site in one night that's up for the job:


Big ups to Matt Koglin for cooking up an excellent design, Michael Welch for snagging the domain, and to Larry Goldberg for spearheading the organizing. He's working w/the Rotary club to get folks registered, and gotten the site some press:

”We are going to simply be a broker between people in need and people who have housing to offer,” he said. “People, especially with children and families, who need to get out of the smoke can go somewhere temporarily until literally, the dust settles.”

Those who can provide housing type information, such as the number of people and pets they could accommodate and whether smoking would be permitted, into the Rotary Home Matching system. The site then matches volunteers with those in need, and it's up to the person providing housing to contact the other party.

”We're a facilitator, it's up to the volunteer to contact the person,” Goldberg said. “It's just a person-to-person endeavor.”

Anyway, it's pretty neat that this can be done in a matter of hours. Speaks well to the potential for the internet to continue driving change.

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Draper's Kodiac Carousel Pitch

So I mentioned this bit in the show Mad Men in a post below. It's really really good, and so naturally some smart kid put it on YouTube. Here's the beef:

Good. Shit.

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Teh Politx

This is pretty neat:

More smartness from the swoopy white haired guy's tech team.

Background on why I'm caring is here. Dianne Feinstein is a pretty lousy Senator, so I don't have high hopes.

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Inspired by TV? Why not...

One of the shows I've been enjoying over the past couple months (thanks eztv!) is AMC's Mad Men, a stylish serial drama full of moral ambiguity set in the NYC advertising industry (Madison Avenue, hence the title) circa 1960. Aside from just generally being smart and well-executed, I'm occasionally actually inspired by the marketing presentations that the protagonist Don Draper gives.

They remind me of the best of Larry Lessig's powerpoints, but because the whole point is that Draper is being brutally emotionally manipulative -- both in the context of presenting a modern marketing strategy, and also in the sense that he's closing the deal with a client -- they resonate with my artistic side even more. Truly the greatest performance work I've done has been essentially along the same lines: stacking up rhetoric with music and stage-imagery to seduce the audience in one way or another.

There's something you can definitely feel as a performer when this is working, when the crowd is in your pocket. I've felt the same thing in business meetings and selling vacuum cleaners door to door, the energy of control when another human will folds itself into your own. It's probably the rawest power I've ever experienced, and mostly since I've used it for good, it's been a good thing. Lot of responsibility though.

Anyway, the season finale of the show had a particularly great sequence like this, and it's got me mentally cutting up the music I listen to, looking for theme-clips, thinking of images, ways of explaining. Explaining what exactly is an open question. Hopefully we'll find out.

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Quote of the Day

This is a winner, from the most recent Rolling Stone, which features excerpts from an oral history of Hunter S. Thompson. This by William Kennedy:

bq. I remember talking with [Hunter] about an essay by James Baldwin about the writer's quest for wisdom. Baldwin viewed the generation of American literary giants -- Hemmingway, Fitzgerald, Dos Passos and Faulkner -- as looking at the world as "a place to be corrected, and in which innocence is inexplicably lost." The key phrase for Hunter was Baldwin's view that "innocence must die, if we are ever to begin that journey toward that greater innocence called wisdom."

Give all my rending of soul over the loss of novelty and innocence over the past four years, I find great solace in that notion. Bring on the wisdom!

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Stagnant Sensations

So, the old blog has been pretty much steady-set since March, and two seasons is more than enough for a single design. The uber-minimal dirtstyle plus the background I ripped from koshi had a nice feeling, but I'm not satisfied with it anymore. More directly, I'm also not satisfied with my writing lately. Feels like I'm lacking punch and flow and voice, the gonzo spirit at low tide.

Part of this is no doubt my own physical and spiritual fatigue. It's been a long week, full of things I can't quite publicly discuss, that other people might not understand; meetings with my attorney, an Iraq war trophy knife choping up 17-year old pain pills, dark glances into the abyss of post-modern capitalism.

Secrecy wearies me, and if it were all the same I'd turn my whole life into some weird performance piece, tell everyone all the shit I did. But it's not all the same. The presumption that you might write something about an experience colors it for you, and people react differently under those circumstances. At a minimum, one must consider that an autobiography has other characters in it, many of whom may have bosses, some of whom may have discovered Teh Google, and so I feel restrained.

In the best of all possible worlds we'd all live somewhat more open lives, and whether or not there are myspace pictures of you doing keg-stands wouldn't be an issue, but a shame-based morality is the spiritual companion to our debt-based economy, and so many of the best and truest stories of the human condition circulate as a sort of samizdat; secret underground utterances of the sort you get into trading once you've determined that some Other is perhaps trustworthy. "One time I got so drunk and then..."

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Return to Resthaven

After a busy-as-all-hell week in SF (note to self: this is what happens when I don't set foot in the office for two months) I've returned to the welcoming arms of Westhaven. It's nice to be back in the land of hot tubs and bonfires and cookouts and such. We also have some old and new friends from Portland and New Zealand visiting this weekend, so it's been a fun-time party.

Yesterday we hit up the shooting club and fired off a few rounds w/Capn. Frank's shotgun. It was just my second time shooting and the first for some of the girls we brought, which was fun. By the third round of traps I was actually correctly aiming (or as our elderly sweat-pants and tie-dye range guide called it "pointing") and able to hit two out of three targets. It's nice to know how to safely handle guns; makes them less alien and frightening.

I hit the skate ramp too. Our 6-year-old former roommate Wiley has been working his skills and just learned to drop in, and was egging me on to do it with him. I have yet to put in the hours to even learn basic side-to-side balance, but for Wiley's sake I made four or five attempts. Two of them were actually correct to form -- putting the nose down; not what your instincts want you to do -- but all resulted in total wipeouts, which is part of the whole thing after all. It's a lot of fun to have kids use the ramp because A) it's very cute and B) our neighbors really really hate the thing, and having a bunch of kids and toddlers playing on it makes it sort of invincible to criticism.

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Drop a Dodd Bomb! Or, My First Political Donation of the Season

I've made my first political donation for the 2008 cycle, $50 to Chris Dodd. I know some of the people working for him, and as of yesterday he's sticking his neck way the fuck out in the Senate to block a bill that would give telecommunications executives retroactive immunity for breaking the law in allowing the Bush Administration to eavesdrop on citizens without warrants. I'll let Glenn Greenwald explain why this is a Very Bat Thing™:

bq.. Just think about what is really happening here. AT&T's customers sued them for violating their privacy in violation of long-standing federal laws and for violating their Fourth Amendment rights. Even with the most expensive armies of lawyers possible, AT&T and other telecoms are losing in a court of law. The federal judge presiding over the case ruled against them -- ruled that the law is so clear they could not possibly have believed that what they did was legal -- and most observers, having heard the Oral Argument on appeal, predicted that they will lose in the Court of Appeals, too.

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