31 August 2008

The End? ~ For Better or For Worse Finale...

Author and cartoonist Lynn Johnston has finished with the future lives of her For Better or For Worse cast of characters and will now shift to a novel format featuring "new-runs" according to Michael Cavna's piece in the Post Lynn Johnston's Drawn-Out Adieu to Cartooning. For faithful readers -- such as yours truly -- who rejoiced in living with the real-time triumphs and tragedies of the cast, it's a big blow. But all good things seem to come to an end, so they say. Maybe, however, it's a renewed beginning. Ah, the glories of fiction! In any case, check out Lynn's own explanation...

Recommended Readings 080831 ~ On Garbage, SF, Booze, Caucasia, Cruelty, MENACA, Africa, Talent, Debt, Cars, Spouses, and Robots...

Few tasty info-morsels this past week including...
  • Garbage is a lead economic indicator according to Laura Ruane's piece in USA Today Slowing Economy Curbs Garbage, where she quotes Kevin Kiernan manager of waste services in Washington state. The Times's Anna Shepard writes Waste Not, Want To Know More reviewing the new book The Big Necessity: Adventures in the World of Human Waste.
  • Lovely review in the WSJ of the year's best SF entitled No Time Like The Present. Plus John Tierney in the NYTimes writes about Technology That Outthinks Us: A Partner or a Master? about futurist Vernor Vinge and his Singularity ideas.
  • Senior Editorial Writer at the WSJ, Collin Levy, opines College Presidents Stand Up for Common Sense? I'll Drink to That, rightfully applauding those university leaders who are fighting against the unworkable, immoral, and unconstitutional age-discriminatory 21+ drinking age laws in the US.
  • In their own words in the FT: Why I had to recognize Georgia's breakaway regions by Dmitry Medvedev versus Moscow's plan to redraw the map of Europe by Mikheil Saakashvili.
  • Arther Herman opines in the WSJ about Russia and the New Axis of Evil, pointing out the scourge of oil-rich dictatorships fueled by profligate democracies. Philip Stephens in the FT opines that Putin seeks to map the boundaries of greater Russia. Bernard-Henri Levy opines in the WSJ that Russia Is Brazen, Europe Weak. Marshall Goldman opines in the Globe about The Russian power play on oil, natural gas reserves. Zeyno Baran questions in the WSJ oped section Will Turkey Abandon NATO?
  • Martin Samuel opines in the Times that China's apologists are wide-eyed and clueless, pointing out "it's wonderful what you can do with total control over your people" and"the regime will go back to its old ways quicker than a Jamaican sprinter." Ouch.
  • In the Wingnut vs Faithful department, we have Steve Bird's Times piece on Muslim guilty of cruetly over boys' ritual flogging. Add that to the list of disgusting practices like pedophilia, child brides, rape as punishment, stoning for adultery, fatwas for publishing opinions, killings over comics, and other things justified by religion.
  • Very interesting interview of MTN chief Phuthuma Nhleko by Andrew Parker in the FT about MTN's plans to dominate emerging telecoms markets.
  • Lovely to see Fashion Designer Makes a Statement in Sierra Leone as Katrina Manson writes in a Reuters piece published in the Globe.
  • Good to read the Times piece by Jeremy Page that in Afghanistan, Opium production falls as farmers reap benefit of swapping poppies for wheat. Similarly, Marian Fam writes in the WSJ that Yemen Wields Capitalism in War on Narcotic Plant.
  • FT's Andrew Jack reports on The worm that turned back, about Former US president Jimmy Carter spending 20 years eradicating the Guinea worm.
  • The Times's Jessica Brown writes that Investors drop BRICs for the Middle East. Colleague Kate Walsh writes that big investment funds are targeting African agriculture, land and livestock, including game and biofuel crops on more marginal lands.
  • At the same time, writes Andrew Kramer in the NYTimes, Russia's Lazy Collective Farms Are a Hot Capitalist Property. And Yuka Hayashi writes in the WSJ that Sleepy Side of Japan Stirs as Russia's Far East Booms.
  • Thomas Donlan opines in Barron's that there's Danger Ahead: Science Shortfall, with the US losing leadership in tech because of foolish immigration and tax policies.
  • The Times's Suzy Jagger reviews film I.O.U.S.A in Film tells some home truths about US debt mountain.
  • Good to see FT story about Zipcar by John Reed titled European drive for car-share club, indicating expansion and potential IPO.
  • Lesley Downer in the Times writes about the Weapon of Mass Seduction, a professional femme fatale hired by spouses to entrap straying partners in Japan.
  • Scott Kirsner writes in his Innovation Economy column about Robots On The Move, the growing robo-cluster in Massachusetts.

More Are Poor ~ The Bottom 1.4 Billion...

Shaohua Chen and Martin Ravallion of the World Bank just released a report The developing world is poorer than we thought, but no less successful in the fight against poverty overhauling the World Bank's past estimates of global poverty by using new and better data. As The Economist spotlights in The bottom 1.4 billion, the challenges here are a combination of how to measure and estimate prices paid for equivalent goods, plus what bar is used to define extreme poverty, i.e. is "a dollar a day" too low.

30 August 2008

Makani Powers Up ~ Next Round of Fundraising

Good to see genius inventor engineer Saul Griffith in the news for raising further financing for his Makani Wind power business as reported in various places including earth2tech's story Google Blows $5M More Into Makani’s High Altitude Wind. The big idea is to put wind energy harnessing gear up high in the sky to tap the strong and consistent currents at such altitudes. Stay tuned for Saul at early September event to influence the US Presidential candidates -- Xprize and MIT hosting energy forum.

29 August 2008

Palin Comparison ~ I Quayle To Think Who's One Heart Attack Away...

Obama taps Biden. McCain taps Palin. In the past, the Bushes tapped Quayle and Cheney. As candidates, Gore picked Lieberman and Kerry picked Edwards, both politicians who have had curious pathways since. And let's not forget Kennedy picked Johnson. The VP is the backup in case of ailment or attack or accident. It's a key choice to pick well, to tap great talent, to appreciate a long-term pattern of commitment and experience. Selecting otherwise reflects more negatively on the judgement and character of the President-candidate than the ticket choice. I will be curious to see how American voters compare and contrast the candidate tickets for US President this November.

Elitist Obama vs Populist McCain ;-)

The Onion. Word.
Portrayal Of Obama As Elitist Hailed As Step Forward For African Americans

27 August 2008

AssuredLabor.com Co-Founders David Reich & Matt Albrecht on HighTechFever.TV

I interviewed both Matt Albrecht and David Reich -- co-founders of AssuredLabor -- the mobile phone-based "eBay-for-workers" -- on my HighTechFever.tv show tonight!

Flybrid Car ~ Terrafugia Proof-of-Concept Debut!

MIT alum and Lemelson Inventor of the year Carl Dietrich writes the exciting news that his company's "flybrid car" -- the Terrafugia Transition -- had a Proof-of-Concept debut at Oshkosh. Here this roadable aircraft is midway between wings deployed and retracted...

Bug's Eye View ~ It's a Cruel World Down There!

Whoa, thanks to Cynical-C for spotting this sequence of "insecticides" (via A Welsh View) on ScienceRay! Amazing. This Robberfly shot by photographer stboed is especially cool...

26 August 2008

Free North Ossetia! ~ Is Russia Serious or Not?

Russia has just formally recognized South Ossetia (and Abkhazia) -- i.e. the internationally recognized integral parts of Georgia -- as "independent." Interesting. If the Russians are really serious and actually mean their rhetoric, then they should simultaneously declare at least North Ossetia equally independent and thus empower all Ossetians to democratically decide their own future -- voting for:
  1. Separation as North and South, or
  2. Union of all-Ossetia
And under either condition, deciding:
  1. Total independence, or
  2. Federation with Russia, or
  3. Joining together with Georgia.
And if Russia is actually interested in the liberty of the peoples involved -- as opposed to being merely cynically imperialist, as so many people fear -- they will rapidly invite international peacekeepers from acceptably neutral countries -- let's say Ghana or South Africa or Bangladesh or Malaysia or Thailand (or all of these) -- to provide truly impartial and independent security and ensure fraud-free elections. Similarly, perhaps Russia will clearly state that any oblast or okrug or region is equally empowered to democratically decide its own future. Chechnya comes to mind. I expect almost all of them would willingly stay in the Russian Federation, because there is tremendous power to unity and common markets, and so forth. Both North and South Ossetia might cleanly chose Russia at this time, under those neutral conditions -- thus resolving this unnecessary international crisis. But some of these regions will need their independence at this point in time. Some purely to grapple with complicated internal ethnicities...Perhaps later in time, after sufficient independent development, they'll decide to rejoin the Federation. But surely this and similar issues should be resolved entirely with votes and not through violence.

"Love You Daddy" ~ Family Salutes Sen. Obama

In stark contrast to Zimbabwe (see previous post), the US Presidential selection process is showcasing some great people and honestly joyous moments... Up next, I'm looking forward to seeing more of the McCains, including adopted Bangladeshi daughter Bridget.

Righteous Ridicule ~ Opposition Heckles Mugabe

MPs from Zimbabwe's opposition jeered the so-called "President" Robert Mugabe during the opening of parliament as shared by the BBC in Fuming Mugabe rattled by hecklers. The violent fraud had to endure priceless catcalls like: "You killed people, we won't forget that" and "Yes, you are murderers" and that his party is "rotten" and "We are together in the struggle, no amount of beatings and killings will deter us." Listen for yourself as they make a mockery of Mugabe. The latest crack in the fascist facade of mugger Mugabe is that yesterday the opposition-MDC chairman, Lovemore Moyo, was elected to be speaker of parliament...

25 August 2008

Flying Rays ~ Beautiful Oceanic Athletes!

The Daily Mail has some amazing photos of flying rays in their article Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it's a flying mobula ray soaring high off the Mexican shore, an aquatic ecological hotspot...

Slum Diary ~ Kroo Bay, Sierra Leone on BBC

The BBC has published another installment of the Diary from the hard working and heroic clinicians at Kroo Bay, an informal housing settlement located on the coast in central Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone. I'm both pleased and quite saddened that they're distributing Plumpy'nut nutritional supplements with support from the World Food Program.

24 August 2008

Recommended Readings 080824 ~ On Innovation, Women, Opensource, Totalitarianism, Surgery, Startups, Ugliness, Drugs, Anarchy, and Development...

Food for thought...
  • Thist for oil feeds Oman innovation writes Ellen Knickmeyer in the Globe.
  • Jennifer Powell writes in the Herald about Prof Pioneered Biz Women Study about Babson Professor Candida Brush, author of Clearing The Hurdles.
  • Sarah Kershaw in the NYTimes writes about Crowdfunding in A Different Way to Pay for the News You Want, where "journalists turn to the public for ideas and the money to do their investigative reporting."
  • Carolyn Johnson in the Globe spotlights new trends among younger researchers who are Out in the Open: Some Scientists Sharing Results.
  • Jeff Jacoby signals his disgust in a Globe opinion piece about China's Totalitarian Games.
  • Michael Sheridan in the Times reveals the latest Olympian outrage in his piece, Millions Forfeit Water to Games, about farmers in Baoding facing ruin from man-made drought -- water supply cut off to guarantee supplies to the Games. Incompetent barbarians.
  • Martin Arnold in the FT writes about Alert Over Seizure of Assets in Emerging Markets.
  • Benjamin Friedman in the NYTimes reviews Nudge, a book about "improving decisions about health, wealth, and happiness" in Guiding Forces.
  • John Plender in the FT signals The Return of the State: How Government is Back at the Heart of Economic Life.
  • Surgeons Prepare for World's First Full-Face Transplant writes David Rose in the Times.
  • Jim Schoonmaker, CEO of EveryScape, is profiled in the BBJ.
  • In the Foot-in-Mouth department we have Sophie Tedmanson's report in the Times that 'Beer Goggle' Outback Town Offers Love to Ugly Women quoting honest John Molony, mayor of Mount Isa who seeks to attract to "beauty-disadvantaged" women for the lonely blokes among his constituents.
  • Mary Anastasia O'Grady writes in the WSJ that Mexico Pays the Price of Prohibition, about the collateral damage of the unconstitutional US drug-war.
  • Anarchy-Cursed Nation Looks to Bottom-Up Rule writes Jeffrey Gettleman in the NYTimes about Somalia.
  • Finally, another WSJ post in the Lomborg challenge of best-spending scarce resources for international development in A Drug Exec and a Congressmen Spend $10 Billion.

23 August 2008

Generations of Research ~ Alums & Vintage Innovators as Advisors

I was hanging this past Thursday night at the Muddy with MIT professors Drew Endy and Ed Boyden and the founding director of Fraunhofer-MIT energy center Nol Browne. Fantastic and wide-ranging conversation, of course, about new research themes, the challenges of running a research institution, the promise of both synthetic biology and neuroengineering, and much more. When Ed Boyden brought up his latest Tech Review blog post -- Research as a Community-Building Activity -- I mentioned the still-amazing talk by Edwin Land -- the founder of Polaroid -- who in 1957 (!) spoke about the Generation of Greatness in his Arthur D Little Lecture at MIT. Land intended Generation to be a double-entendre, meaning both a new generation of remarkable young innovators as well as the process of generating. What especially struck me during our Muddy chat is Ed Boyden's welcoming more vintage researchers into his lab and his description of the advisory role they play for the up-and-coming younger students and post-docs. Curiously, Edwin Land is most known in MIT circles for having inspired UROP -- the MIT Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program -- something Land called a "Personal Project" for each Freshman. But what's less well remembered, and what I emphasized with my Muddy mates, is that Land also advocated a radically improved form of advising, encouraging all Freshman to be linked with a more vintage researcher -- what Land unfortunately called an "Usher". This is what Ed Boyden is approaching in his own lab with the help of his retiree colleagues. And the powerful advisory role such folks play makes for yet another powerful variation on the "Generations" moniker -- how older generations can assist and advise ever-newer generations of scholars in generating the latest great discoveries!

22 August 2008

Phelps vs Spitz ~ Generational Shift ;-)

Emergent Liberia ~ Investment, Anti-Corruption, and Optimism!

Very good to see the Economist spotlight emergent Liberia in an article titled With a little help from her friends. This story weaves together the post-civil war role of peacekeepers, the boom of interest among Americans -- since Liberia was founded in part by US ex-slaves in 1847 -- and most especially the leadership role of Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, an incorruptible former World Banker. Several fascinating "live-case studies" are happening, including...
Firestone, the company that owns the largest rubber plantation in the world just outside Monrovia, the capital, has signed an innovative agreement with the government, agreeing to pay taxes and invest in better housing for its workers. Liberia’s government sees this as a model for other large-scale farming enterprises damaged in the war.
Beyond the rubber agro-renewables sector are also forestry, mining, and tourism -- both historic and eco. There's tremendous further work to be done, of course, including dramatically dialing up the development ventures sector and inspiring grassroots micro-entrepreneurship everywhere.

Olympic Outrage ~ Totalitarian China "Re-Educates" Protestors

In yet another example of outrageous totalitarianism, China has sentenced two frail septuagenarian women to "re-education through labor". For what crime? Andrew Jacobs writes in his NYTimes cover story, Too Old and Frail to Re-educate? Not in China...
the Beijing police still sentenced the two women to an extrajudicial term of “re-education through labor” this week for applying to hold a legal protest in a designated area in Beijing, where officials promised that Chinese could hold demonstrations during the Olympic Games. They became the most recent examples of people punished for submitting applications to protest. A few would-be demonstrators have simply disappeared...
This is yet further evidence that the Chinese state should never have been selected by the Olympic Committee to host. Any country which outright lies and makes dishonest promises and enslaves its citizens does not deserve it.

20 August 2008

Olympian Aftermath ~ Phelps vs Cavic !-)

It was Phelps' closest race. Check out this rare additional footage of the battle-royale with Cavic...

Al-Tall ~ The Burj Uberscraper in Dubai!

Whoa! This gigaproject nears completion!

Jose Gomez-Marquez of IIH.mit.edu on HighTechFever TV

I hosted multi-company entrepreneur Jose Gomez-Marquez on my HighTechFever TV show tonight. Jose co-founded both Aerovax and XoutTB prior to his most recent role co-founding and directing Innovations in International Health (IIH) @ MIT. The Aerovax Drug Delivery System is a device for mass delivery of inhalable drugs and vaccines to remote populations. The X out TB program aims to increase TB therapy adherence in developing countries using novel diagnostics and mobile technology. And IIH targets a growing portfolio of innovations spanning fields of work including Vaccines, DisabiliTech, Maternal & Infant Health, Diagnostics, Telemedicine, Therapeutics, Surgical Tools, ICT and more. Especially cool about Jose is the fact that he is a three-time MIT IDEAS Competition winner. And being from Honduras is really helping firm up the concentration of activities happening between MIT and Central America generally.

17 August 2008

Cool Runnings ~ The Jamaican Women Sweep It!

Wow, I just watched three Jamaican goddesses sweep the 100m dash! Shelly-Ann Fraser first in 10.78 seconds with Sherone Simpson and Kerron Stewart in second, both at 10.98 seconds. This tiny island country has amazingly fast women!

More Urban Innovations ~ Traffic Solutions, Spot Markets, and Streetcars!

There's plenty of need for more urban innovations, as I've written before. Bryan Appleyard in the London Times reviews the new book Traffic by Tom Vanderbilt. Several interesting -- and counter-intuitive -- revelations therein, including the reduction in accidents when traffic signs, railings and "safety" features were removed! David Mehegan of the Globe invited Vanderbilt on a spin through Boston as shared in Going With The Flow: Bad drivers, poor signage, rotaries? No problem for 'Traffic' guru. Quothe he:
  • Congestion is as old as cities.
  • [...] one study analyzed crashes that happen between cars and trucks. In a majority of cases, the cars had more to do with it.
  • [In Beacon Hill's] sort of narrow street, with a lot of obstacles and parking on both sides, is called a self-explaining road -- you don't need a speed limit.
  • [Economist] Donald Shoup's argument is that if you raise the price of meters to the point where spaces are never more than 85 percent occupied, you'd eliminate a lot of bargain-hunting, meandering around, adding to the traffic with destinationless driving.
Hope Cohen, the deputy director of the Manhattan Institute’s Center for Rethinking Development, opines in the NYTimes No Parking, Ever encouraging the City to phase out curbside parking altogether and give it over to greenery, pedestrians, bikes, and vehicles which are actually moving. Very interesting since this would create market demand for parking structures and services, as well as transportation services, including properly priced and profitable mass transit. Who knows what other innovations might emerge once cities stop subsidizing personal vehicle parking. Perhaps parking "spot markets" or other uses? Here's one possibility ;-) Bob Driehaus from the NYTimes writes that Downtowns Across the U.S. See Streetcars in Their Future surveying trends in several dozen cities. Also online is a nice Desirable Streetcars slideshow, featuring examples like Portland... ...and New Orleans...

Recommended Readings 080817 ~ On Solar, Trash, China, Korea, Sudan, New England, Russia, Oceantech, Migrants, Mandela, Rwanda, and Neurotech...

Several readable morsels I recommend...

16 August 2008

Galactic Beauty ~ Images by NASA's Hubble!

To quote from one of Robert Heinlein's great characters, Maureen Johnson Long, "I always wanted to live in a world designed by Maxfield Parrish." It turns out we do! Or at least part of the Universe is, as you can see from this image taken with the Hubble Telescope...

15 August 2008

Smokin' Art ~ Capturing Gaseous Beauty!

Thanks to Paul from GeekPress for spotting these smokey beauties...

Britain From Above ~ Great Socioinformatic Data Visualizations!

This new BBC show Britain From Above has just lovely visualizations of socioinformatic data, including ship traffic in the English Channel... ...as well as air traffic in British airways... ...among others! This kind of imagery will become increasingly important in mining social systems at multiple scales from the small-group to corporations to cities to countries and ultimately the dynamics of humanity overall.

14 August 2008

Olympic Anatomy ~ The Psychophysiology of Aquaman Michael Phelps!

The London Times has a nice piece by Craig Lord entitled Profile: Psychology and physiology make Michael Phelps a phenomenon featuring this image lifted from Leonardo!

Fab Labs ~ MIT's Neil Gershenfeld on DIY Kits

In a nice Forbes article, author Andy Greenberg writes about MIT Professor Neil Gershenfeld's Fab Life making Labs...
The Fab Lab (short for fabrication laboratory) is a package of tools designed to make essentially any object. The kits can include a laser cutter, computer-controlled wood router and a miniature mill for drilling circuit boards, all for around $50,000, including open-source software, batteries and micro-controllers. Those appliances and materials, Gershenfeld says, are all anyone needs to build whatever he or she can imagine. [...] Gershenfeld's project is focused on bringing an early version of that replicator to the masses: He's shipped 26 Fab Labs around the world since 2002. Shepherds in Norway have used a Fab Lab to create radio-frequency ID tags for tracking wandering sheep. The South African government is working with Sun and Cisco on building simple Internet-connected computers that hook up to televisions and cost just $10 each. The latest Fab Lab was shipped to Afghanistan in June, where it will fashion customized prosthetic limbs. Gershenfeld says he receives a lab request every day. "The Fab Labs tap into this wellspring of interest from ordinary people in getting the means to create their own technology," says Gershenfeld
Beyond the core Fab Lab concept are the new Fab Fund, a venture investment wing trying to prove a "micro venture capital" business model, and a Fab Academy, an educational wing.

Wingnut or Faithful ~ Is Violence Ever Right?

I have no agreement with this Christian preacher's rant -- see video below -- but the core fact remains he is exercising his freedom of speech, something we in civilized countries have grown to appreciate and are willing to protect even when we disagree with it. In this video, the Christian calls the Muslim prophet several blunt descriptive terms which refer to the prophet's dealings with villagers who disagreed with him, his role leading raids on trade caravans, and his engaging in marital "relations" with what we today would call an "under-age girl" whom he took as one of his several wives. In the video, some woman in the audience -- apparently a Muslim -- disagrees with him and first proceeds to violate the preacher's property rights, and then assaults him with punches, and threatens "don't talk about my prophet, I'll kill you." What I would like to know is:
  • Do Muslims disagree with the facts as asserted? Even though they are rather well documented in the Hadith and by historians?
  • Do Muslims agree with appropriateness of the woman's reactions? Even though violating property right and violence against speech is against every civilized code of law ever construed?
  • Is violence ever the correct response against the exercise of free speech? Even though such freedom of speech is the core of laws in modern civilized society?
If the answer is Yes -- to any of these questions -- then it would seem there perhaps really is a Clash of Civilizations because facts are facts, and threatening violence against free speech is viciously evil, and actual assault should be punished severely, most especially a hate crime like this... I find myself in moral and political solidarity with Johann Hari, an opinion commentator in The Independent who opines that We need to stop being such cowards about Islam.

13 August 2008

IDDS @ MIT ~ Solutions to Global Gigachallenges

MIT hosted the International Development Design Summit (IDDS) this past month as David Chandler writes in his piece Improving people's lives, one device at a time. IDDS was an amazing combination of nearly 60 designers, local activists, inventive students and others drawn from dozens of countries worldwide for an intense design-build experience. Check out the summary video...

Matt McGann of MIT Admissions on HighTechFever TV

I was very pleased to host Matt McGann, Associate Director of MIT Admissions, on my HighTechFever TV show tonight. I've known Matt since his own undergrad days at the Institute and it was eye-opening to learn about his current role. He and a dozen or so colleagues travel the US and world to spread the word about MIT, attract some 13,000 or so applications, and go through the daunting task of selecting some 1,500 for admission. Ultimately 2/3 chose MIT, leading to a class of about 1,000. And this year's crop -- the Class of 2012! -- are landing in Cambridge in about a week. Of course Matt and colleagues have moved on -- they're now thinking about the Class of 2013! Anyone interested in Matt's further opinion on things should check out his MIT Admissions Blog!

China's Fauxlympics ~ Channeling Milli Vanilli ;-)

In the artistic equivalent of drug doping, Mao's minions at the Politburo insisted that the "cuter" Lin Miaoke lipsync to the actual vocals of the "pudgier" Yang Peiyi at the opening ceremony of the ongoing unreality show in Beijing. The global news is all over this Milli Vanilli-esque scandal, including this withering NYTimes cover-story by Jim Yardley In Grand Olympic Show, Some Sleight of Voice.

12 August 2008

Wizzit ~ South African Mobile "Pocket Bank"

Thanks to the Brand South Africa blog for spotlighting Wizzit in Have Cellphone, Will Bank. They point to Toby Shapshak's article in Vodaphone Receiver 'zine titled Mobile banking – the next phase in Africa’s mobile revolution. Says Shapshak:
Wizzit is a remarkable success story of innovative thinking, clever and appropriate solutions and satisfied customers. Most of its users have never owned bank accounts, but they have cellphones. Linking the bank accounts to the cellular subscriptions not only gives them an account, but use-anywhere, anytime mobile banking. [...] Wizzit is starting in the farming heartland of South Africa and in under-serviced urban areas [...] The principle difference between Wizzit and [Kenyan Safaricom's service] M-Pesa is that the latter works without a bank account. This payment model only allows payments to another cellphone user, without all the value-added benefits of banking services, but it allows person-to-person transfers, which is sorely needed in Africa with its massive migrant workforces.
Check out this Wizzit promo where CEO Brian Richardson (and colleagues) describe the Wizzit model, including tackling the "Three A's = Affordability + Accessibility + Availability" to give millions of previously unbanked individuals access to a bank account...

Clever Foods ~ Micronutrients, Macro-Impact

I was hanging earlier with my entrepreneur friend Manish Bhardwaj, co-founder of MIT spinoff Innovators-in-Health, when he mentioned Copenhagen Consensus founder Bjorn Lomborg's Global Priorities. Specifically Manish spotlighted the disproportionate potential of micronutrients, those "dietary minerals needed by the human body in very small quantities". I'd known this, of course, in the abstract, but Manish pointed out how enormous the numbers are for iron-deficiency anemia -- and the disastrous consequences of this easily-remedied ailment. This is what kills me: we know today how to deal with this issue; it is quite literally "easily remedied" -- micronutrients have macro-impact. Like Plumpy'nut. Well, Lomborg, et al, know this too, and strongly recommend prioritization. My bias, naturally, is that Developmental Entrepreneurship solutions are called for!

11 August 2008

Post-Imperialism ~ The Urgent But Volatile Sharp-End of Post-Nationalism

Macro-nations of the modern era sometimes emerged from a process of Mostly-Democratic Federation -- e.g. United States, Canada, Australia, EU, and somewhat Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, to name the biggest -- but sometimes were the Inheritors of Empire -- e.g. Russia, China, India, Indonesia, to name the biggest. In China, the unsurprising consequences of unchosen, violent imperial assimilations include ongoing separatism in the south and east, for instance in Tibet and Xinjiang. In Russia, similar separatism thrives especially on the edges, mostly the south and west, for instance in Chechnya. Other imperial agglomerations have fragmented -- e.g. Yugoslavia, the non-Russian SSRs of the Soviet Union (heir to greater Imperial Russia), Arabia (splitting into KSA, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon & Iraq), and post-partition Pakistan (forking off Bangladesh). What's especially curious about the remaining heirs of empire is how jealously they guard against interference in their own internal affairs -- e.g. witness Russia demanding immunity over slaughter and oppression in Chechnya or China demanding immunity over slaughter and oppression in Tibet -- but how also they brazenly meddle externally and interfere in the affairs of their near-neighborhood -- e.g. China historically in Vietnam and Russia today in Georgia. Stupid. Sad. Unnecessary. I seriously think Asimov is right and we need to urgently think about a post-nationalist future, most especially a post-imperialist future. And the United Nations alone doesn't cut it as vehicle for this venture. That unfortunate edifice reinforces and allows starkly authoritarian neo-imperialist nations -- including so-called Security Council members -- which outrageously oppress their citizenry while self-righteously claiming sovereign immunity from outside interference. What we really need are for the Free Peoples of Earth to unite into a new kind of polity, one ensuring inviolate individual rights and securing for each and every citizen their sacred spheres of personal sovereignty. And, who knows, perhaps in the eventual future, we'll indeed become part of a larger federation Beyond Our Cradle...

Nabuur ~ Volunteering From Behind Your PC

Thanks to Geekcorps founder Ethan Zuckerman for ask-answering “How do I help?” - Introducing Nabuur...

Read Ethan's post for more details; I especially resonated with his contrasting Nabuur as the "polar opposite model" from Geekcorps, as well as the Nabuur focus on "breaking projects into bite-sized chunks." Very interesting.

Potemkin Olympics ~ The PRC's Unreality Show

While I'm a huge supporter of the Chinese people and ancient civilization, the authoritarians in charge leave much to be desired. As IHTribune's oped piece noted, The world will be watching China's unreality TV.... This past Sunday, the Globe's Patricia Wen wrote an embarrassing cover story about China's Vanishing Act, where "Beijing's rundown storefronts are concealed behind walls as China puts best face on for the Games"... That's actually been tried before, by "Russian minister Grigori Aleksandrovich Potemkin to fool Empress Catherine II during her visit to Crimea in 1787" with this fraudulence immortalized as Potemkin Villages. So now we have the Potemkin Olympics in Beijing 2008.

10 August 2008

Learning From The Street ~ Nokia's Jan Chipchase

Nokia user experience researcher Jan Chipchase speaks at TED on mobile phones and how people use them. Core message: learning how to listen. Note especially his sections on Sente in Uganda and Street-up Inspiration...

Recommended Readings 080810 ~ On Universities, Laptops, Tools, TinyTech, Economies, Health, God, Dogs, Flying, Poverty, Explosions, Censorship, New...

Intellectual eye-candy of the week...
  • Newsweek's Stefan Theil writes about The Campus Of The Future: To better compete, a few bold leaders are rethinking their schools from the ground up.
  • Bryan Appleyard writes in the Sunday Times how Fat-Cat Multinationals Got Scared [and broke the $100 laptop].
  • Jessica Bruder in the NYTimes covers powertool drag races in My Belt Sander Can Beat Your Circular Saw.
  • David Rejeski of the Projct on Emerging Nanotechnologies at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars opines on Big questions on tiny, tiny technology in the Boston Globe.
  • Niall Ferguson of Harvard comments in the FT about How a local squall might become a global tempest.
  • Marcus Leroux in the Times describes the amazing story Built in the garage: how kidney doctor put together home-made dialysis machine to save a baby.
  • The Times features excerpts from Brian Kolodiejchuk's collection of Mother Teresa's writings entitled 'I feel unwanted by God'.
  • Boston dogs rent-a-dog writes Anjali Athavaley in the WSJ article entitled An Idea Whose Time Has Come: The Time-Share Dog: Monica Had 2 Families, 2 Names, Much Love; Boston Bans Short Pooch Leases.
  • John Schwartz checks out cool gadget flying machines in NYTimes article From Comics to James Bond To a Liftoff in the Backyard.
  • It's expensive to be poor writes Kevin Lewis in his Globe Uncommon Knowledge Ideas column.
  • USA Today's Gary Strauss writes 'Mythbusters' hosts relish blowing up stuff on TV.
  • Speaking of blowing things up, Asra Nomani writes in the WSJ that You Still Can't Write About Muhammad about Random House canceling a book about the prophet's underage wife for fear that it would "incite acts of violence". Right, that's modernity and civilization for you.
  • Another installment in the How to Get the Biggest Bang for $10 Billion series in the WSJ.
  • Interesting to read Carol Hymowitz's piece in the WSJ that IBM Combines Volunteer Service, Teamwork to Cultivate Emerging Markets.
  • Finally, Nicholas Kulish writes in the NYTimes from Friedrichshafen that In Germany, a City's Famed Industry Now Helps Keep It Afloat about the renewing zeppelin industry.

The Innovation Epicenter ~ CIC at Kendall-MIT

Very nice article today in Globe by Robert Weisman entitled The Idea Factory spotlighting the Cambridge Innovation Center (CIC) in Kendall Square's One Broadway building just next to MIT... Founded by MIT Sloan alumnus Tim Rowe and colleagues in 1999 at the height of dot.communism, this space for startups and emerging growth companies endured and has thrived through flexibility and friendliness and mostly through extremely competent and creative execution. Various Boston-metro spinouts from MIT got their start in CIC, including ThingMagic, Ember, Mok3, and dozens more. Among the compelling aspects of the space are sharable conference rooms across multiple floors, centrally managed IT and infrastructural support, and well-maintained and attractive kitchen areas which help orchestrate serendipity by maximizing the odds that interesting people from the CIC venture community connect with one another... Weisman's article mentions a few more tenants, including InVivo Therapeutics, born of MIT Sloan Fellows collaborating with biotechnologists. Bigco's like Google started their local presence in CIC and other key members of our larger venture community have had a presence there, including various law firms, venture funds, and even swissnex, the pioneering technology-business consulate which hosts entrepreneurial visitors and special events. As I wrote about recently, the Technology Venture Zone surrounding MIT is the result of the tremendous economic and urban regeneration of the near-neighborhood around the Institute (partly seeded by MIT itself, as I noted in an Xconomy article entitled How Kendall Square Became Hip: MIT Pioneered University-Linked Business Parks). Take a look where CIC fits into this larger mix... Despite these business parks all competing for clients, the CIC really stands out for its focus on young ventures, university spinouts, and a commitment to the ultra-innovative. It is truly the Innovation Epicenter of Kendall Square, Cambridge, and for that matter, Massachusetts.

09 August 2008

Legalizing Incompetence ~ MBTA Shafts Students

In the Gross Stupidity department, we have Exhibit A: MBTA suing MIT students Zack Anderson, Russell Ryan, and Alessandro Chiesa to stop these hackers -- i.e. academic researchers -- from speaking... ...about the shockingly weak and lame-ass MBTA security and the completely bone-headed equipment choices that allow anybody to readily crack the CharlieCard system... In an unconstitutional and CYA move, some politically-compliant technophobe Judge allowed the injunction, thus Legalizing Incompetence on the part of the morons in charge of the T. Because who else would specify and purchase such a weak and easily-compromised system? And, by the way, all the essential information about the insecure system is: (a) already distributed, (b) knowledge widely available, including to the MBTA long-ago, and (c) now even more widely known because of the publicity surrounding this ill-considered lawsuit. Maybe the MBTA officialdom should focus on competently engineering a proper payment system instead of seeking legal protection for their incompetence.