31 December 2009

Medical Tourism ~ Faraway Hospitals on 60 Min

Check out this 2006 piece by 60 Minutes on Luxurious Faraway Hospitals about medical tourism providers in Thailand, India, and elsewhere providing quality services for as little as a tenth the price... As I've written about previously, among the drivers for these service providers is the growing middle class in these countries combined with lower labor and other costs -- including, no doubt, liability, insurance, etc.

Cheated of Childhood ~ Russian Street Kids...

Surfing around reading about Russia, and especially remembering how exactly 10 years ago today President Boris Yeltsin dramatically handed over to Vladimir Putin, plus reading about great Russian cities including Vladivostok and St Petersburg, I stumbled upon this Cheated of Childhood piece by Journeyman Pictures. Not pleasant, and certainly not unique to Russia either, although this happening is perhaps the most tragic aspects of post Soviet life...

Synthohol + Pills ~ Inspiration or Damnation?-)

Paul Rodgers and Richard Alleyne write in The Telegraph about an Alcohol substitute that avoids drunkenness and hangovers in development. The upshot: drink the night away, then pop a pill to "switch off" your inebriation!
"The synthetic alcohol, being developed from chemicals related to Valium, works like alcohol on nerves in the brain that provide a feeling of wellbeing and relaxation. But unlike alcohol its does not affect other parts of the brain that control mood swings and lead to addiction. It is also much easier to flush out of the body. Finally because it is much more focused in its effects, it can also be switched off with an antidote, leaving the drinker immediately sober. The new alcohol is being developed by a team at Imperial College London, led by Professor David Nutt, Britain's top drugs expert who was recently sacked as a government adviser for his comments about cannabis and ecstasy."
Well, that last bit is a mark in his favor, I say. In any case, I'm torn between thinking this is truly inspired and fearing a whole new level on Dante's ladder of damnation!-)

Greenmobile ~ Van Braak's Caravan Garden...

The DailyMail spots Dutchman Kevin Van Braak's caravan;-)

30 December 2009

Patrick Paulisch ~ German Multi-Entrepreneur!

I'm delighted to have German multi-company founder Patrick Paulisch join me again on MaximizingProgress.tv tonight! We met over a decade ago when Patrick was a Visiting Scholar at MIT. He caught the entrepreneurial bug here in Cambridge and proceeded to co-found a half-dozen ventures since then, starting with Datango and most recently Wooga, the rocketing Facebook gaming firm! We talked about his experiences and learnings, both delightful and painful, and about his latest set of companies which he's co-founded with two other "partner-founders". The three of them are together as co-owners of multiple firms even though they agree to be primarily active in only one or two. And yet they are each others advisors and coaches on their respective firms which is the intellectual and entrepreneurial glue that makes their structure work. Very interesting! From now, Patrick's heading on a round-the-world venture-vacation, so we wish him the best on that.

Kinkajou ~ DesignThatMatters Literacy Projector

Here's an ultra-affordable good-enough information display, the Kinkajou by MIT alum Tim Prestero and the DesignThatMatters team. Plastic optics inspired by a Fisher-Price toy married with cheap, bright LEDs, plus going-retro with microfiche, leads to a key tool for literacy education in Mali, their start-country... Interestingly enough, the original Kinkajou concept came out of a 1999 Media Lab class on Wind-Up Browsers where genius inventor engineer Saul Griffith did an initial design. That Browsers class was pretty epic, btw, in being a precursor inspiration for the OLPC XO laptop, the Potenco pull-cord generator, and even the FirstMileSolutions/UnitedVillages connectivity system.

29 December 2009

OLED Pickle?! ~ MIT's Bulovic New Display Demo

Been thinking about cameras, displays, and visual computing -- indeed, these are the subjects of the Imaging Ventures class my MIT Media Lab colleague Ramesh Raskar and I run in the Spring. In that spirit, take a look as MIT RLE's Vladimir Bulovic demos new OLED displays -- yes, including the famous OLED Pickle!

Vacas Mochileras ~ Gas-Capturing Cow Packs!-)

My intrepid D-Lab Health colleague José Gómez-Márquez spotted this Argentinian contribution to "sequestering" greenhouse gasses and thus slowing global warming, Argentina monta «vacas mochileras» contra el cambio climático. For those of us insufficiently fluent in Spanish, here's some of Google's translation...
"The so-called "backpacker cow" was developed by a group of experts from the National Institute of Agricultural Technology (INTA) working since 1996 on the effects of agricultural activities and livestock on global warming. It is a kind of plastic bag that stores the gases produced these animals in their stomachs, which affect much of the emissions produced by Argentina, which has always boasted of having more cows than people. "It consists of an electronic system, fitted with a harness in the back of cattle, which is coupled to a system of nozzles communicated directly to the area where the gases are formed that contain methane," said Guillermo Berra"
Wow, 15 years in the making! Note they don't show the gas-capture nozzles in the photo; must be an intellectual property issue;-)

The Waltz of the Bikes ~ Music in Motion!

Thanks to Mike Rubbo and Violeta Brana-Lafourcade from Situp-Cycle for their Waltz of the Bikes Dutch cycling montage... Props to the inimitable Copenhagen Cycle Chic for the spot!

False Security? ~ Limits of Better Imaging...

TSA shows examples of the latest millimeter-wave security systems... Here AP illustrates one example scanner -- and the ankle-biter "privacy" opposition... T-Rays and backscatter methods are among the latest elements in the "War on Terror." Of course, they are, like so many of the latest policies, are essentially irrelevant. A determined team will smuggle something through by escalating beyond the current security approaches. Or they'll end-run all of that by using a private jet or one of the unlicensed flight vehicles. Short of some kind of Truth Machine, these detection schema are largely just disruptors -- of the rest of our lives. Misguided policies are allowing terrorists to succeed in interfering with our lives, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.

Communications Chaos ~ GSM Crypto-Cracked!

Kevin O'Brien writes in the NYTimes that Cellphone Encryption Code Is Divulged. German cryptographer Karsten Nohl unlocked and exposed the code used to secure the world's GSM calls...
"This shows that existing G.S.M. security is inadequate," Mr. Nohl, 28, told about 600 people attending the Chaos Communication Congress, a four-day conference of computer hackers that runs through Wednesday in Berlin. "We are trying to push operators to adopt better security measures for mobile phone calls." The G.S.M. Association, the industry group based in London that devised the algorithm and represents wireless companies, called Mr. Nohl’s efforts illegal and said they overstated the security threat to wireless calls..."
Hmm, interesting response. A lot of calls are involved here, "Over 3.5 billion subscribers across 1,050 networks in 222 countries & regions" according to the GSM association...

Age of Consent ~ Range of Cultural Norms...

Over the centuries there has been an evolution in most cultures about the legalities surrounding sexual activity and the resulting Age of Consent. See here the situation prevalent in various countries today on this global map...

27 December 2009

Healing Through Humor ~ Bobby Henline ;-)

NPR writer Terry Gildea and photographer Katie Hayes tells how Wounded Vet Takes Pain Of War To Comedy Club. Bobby Henline got IED'd in Iraq, resulting in massive burns plus loss of left arm...
"He spent months recovering inside the burn unit at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio and went through dozens of surgeries. During the most difficult days of his recovery, he tried to maintain his sense of humor, telling jokes to his doctors and therapists. "And they just thought I was funny, and they were like 'You've got to go do stand-up.' And I thought, 'I can't do that. It's different making you laugh here,'" Henline says.
Now doing stand-up comedy is part of his healing process.

Closed Zone ~ Towards Freedom of Movement

Living everyday life in a concentration camp -- for no crime -- doesn't seem legitimate or just at all, does it? Everyone should have the basic human right to travel peaceably and freely where ever they please.

Run Rabbit Run ~ Bicycling in the Netherlands!

See here Mike Rubbo and Violeta Brana-Lafourcade from Situp-Cycle interviewing David Hembrow about bicycling in the Netherlands...

Chairmorphic ~ Uber-Adjustable Furniture!

Thanks to Ted Moallem from MITERS from spotting this simple, but powerful, Chinese chair, also known as "Flexible Love"...

26 December 2009

Leaving A Footprint ~ Squashing Iranian Mullahs

Neda Soltan was murdered by Mullahs -- and their evil minions -- in the country we know as Iran. Yet, she left a footprint... Person Of The Year is merely a retrospective honorific from The Times, but it's still extraordinarily crucial. In her own words...
"Even if a bullet goes through my heart it’s not important,” she told Caspian Makan, her fiancé. “What we’re fighting for is more important. When it comes to taking our stolen rights back we should not hesitate. Everyone is responsible. Each person leaves a footprint in this world.”
Those illegitimate mad Mullahs are like Mafia bosses, thugs and cretins, who, amazingly enough are currently "in charge" of the glorious people of Persia. But the entire Planet is against their irrational cult of illegitimacy -- and they will eventually be overthrown. It can't happen soon enough.

New Netherlands Project ~ Dutch-USA Legacy!

The Dutch landed in 1609 with Henry Hudson's exploration of his eponymous river. The resulting Dutch colony, first identified as New Netherland by Adriaen Block in 1614, extended from the Connecticut River to Delaware Bay. Unfortunately, the colony's spot between New England to the north and Maryland and Virginia to the south placed it square in English gunsights, resulting in full handover by treaty in 1674. This is fantastically relevant because...
"New Netherland represents about two-thirds of a century of Dutch activity in the important central region of the eastern United States. Here the influence of Dutch culture has persisted throughout the nineteenth century and beyond. The region's bustling commerce, cosmopolitanism, and tradition of individual freedom are rooted in its Dutch past."
This core appreciation remains currently critical because the essential ethos of America is also fundamentally Dutch -- the free and glorious aspiration for Liberty, Prosperity, and Vitality!

Happy Howtoons! ~ Holidyas, Newtonmas, plus!!

Yes -- Happy Holidyas -- mispeling and lovely sentiments alike both courtesy of our Superhero Storyteller -- Nick Dragotta -- plus our DIY crew of Ingrid, Saul, Arwen & team!-)

Greenhabitats ~ Delightful Designs & More!

Another great Inhabitat week! Clickon these green delighters...

Organ = Lego ~ XKCD on Philosophy of Life

Thanks to MIT's one-and-only Hector Hernandez for this XKCD spot...

Firefighting ~ Schiphol's Emergency Responsers

Reading of the recent Jamaica airplane crash and the more recent Northwestern terrorist incident while landing in Detroit -- another religious wingnut, literally -- I got to thinking about airport emergency response -- especially Firefighting. Well check out this site about the fire brigade at Schiphol, which appropriately enough spotlights both the team and their tools! Schiphol's one of the oldest and highest-volume in the world and, naturally, has a full-on emergency team. And their own fire-response practice facility, the Firefly...

Pets2Vets ~ Therapeutic Companionship & Love

Thanks to veteran John Silva for spotting this AP article on MSNBC War vets, shelter dogs heal together in program, about Pets2Vets, which helps stressed soldiers and vets find comfort, love, and support through a bond with needy animals. See here veteran Will "Ace" Acevedo hugging Xena, a Jack Russell mix he adopted...
"She's done wonders for me," says Avedo, who was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. "Instead of you focusing on yourself and your battle wounds, you focus on the dog."
I've written before about both the healing power of pets for the ill and elderly, and also about Puppies Behind Bars and the rehabilitative power of animals in prisons. Not only are animals great family companions, but their role in human mental and social health and well-being is blossoming.

Vélib ~ Large-Scale Bike Share System in Paris

Boston-metro will soon get a bike-share system powered by the Montreal Bixi solution. For over two years now, Paris has had its own version of such a system -- Vélib -- deployed on an advertisement-subsidized basis by JCDecaux. This Paris model may not be replicable elsewhere, but nevertheless, compelling lessons can be learned from this fantastically dense and highly used system...

Fembot Aiko ~ Perfect Christmas Present ?-)

The DailyMail delivers again, this time spotting inventor spends Christmas with his perfect woman -- a £30,000 custom-made fembot...
"Inventor Le Trung spent Christmas Day with the most important woman in his life -- his robot Aiko. 'Aiko is like any woman, she enjoys getting new clothes,' he said. Aiko, whose name is Japanese for 'love-child' has an amazing artificial intelligence... Le has made his fembot as womanly as possible, in order to make a human-like companion. Aiko, whose age is 'in her early 20's', is 5ft tall and has a perfect 32, 23, 33 figure. She has real silicone skin and a real-hair wig made by a Japanese doll company. Her touch sensitive body knows the difference between being stroked gently or tickled. 'Like a real female she will react to being touched in certain ways,' said Le. Aiko is always helpful and never complains. She is the perfect woman to have around at Christmas.'
Indeed, soon others will surely find Aiko's under future Xmas trees;-)

Aquarium Gigantum ~ Seattle's Waterworld!

Just cool to see such an enormous aquarium!

25 December 2009

StoryCorps ~ Experiencing Important Memories

I just caught an interview on Democracy Now! with Dave Isay, the founder of StoryCorps, a project whose mission is to honor and celebrate human lives through listening and experiencing their core stories. This is an enormous oral history project whose ethos is signaled by the project book title: Listening Is an Act of Love. In the DN piece, National Social History Project Records Ordinary People Telling Their Stories to Each Other, Isay tells Amy Goodman of their history and goals and shares some moving example stories...

Rooftop Bar ~ The Way The Top Should Be!

Most everyone knows how irritated I am that the latest MIT buildings have been so incompetently conceived and executed. There's a long list of damnable errors of design, construction, operations, and maintenance, but one especially stupid element is poor use of roof space. I wrote last week about how every top should be a garden. Especially when you have the views of either the MIT Sloan or Media Lab projects, there should have been proper function space as well. Something akin to this Sirocco Bar at the Lebua Hotel in Bangkok... (And the bare-bones, inaccessible, paltry sad-excuse of a deck in the new Media Lab scarcely qualifies.)

Rope Workers ~ Technicians Get High To Fix!

Kate Galbraith writes in the NYTimes that the Rise of Wind Turbines Is a Boon for Rope Workers...
"Rope specialists [...] long filled a range of niche jobs, like inspecting big dams, cleaning Mount Rushmore and repairing offshore oil platforms. But as wind farms have sprouted across the nation, rope companies have quickly expanded into a new line of work -- fixing turbines so they last longer..."
But it seems to me they still need better tools, for instance, the powered rope accender made by MIT alumco Atlas Devices...

Paper Works ~ Peter Callesen's Magical Art!

Thanks to the DailyMail for spotting Peter Callesen's magical Paper Works! He conceives and painstakingly cuts, folds, and glues extraordinary 3D figures starting from a normal flat piece of paper! Here's just a few samplers...

24 December 2009

Clear Views ~ Glorious Glass Structures!

I love glass as a building material and for its photonic qualities...

Pimp My Planet ~ Studio Smack Plays God!

Whoa, how cool an educational interface this would be?!
"Studio Smack presents Pimp My Planet. A short animated film and game trailer in which the possibilities of playing God are explored. Redesigning the planet according to your ideals or aesthetic values. What are the consequences of your actions?"
Thanks to UniqueDaily for the spot!

Brewing Up a Civilization ~ Neolithic Inspiration!

Thanks to intrepid reporting by Der Spiegel's Frank Thadeusz we can read archaeologist Patrick McGovern's thesis that our neolithic ancestors turned to agriculture to get their drink on and thus commenced Brewing Up a Civilization!
"Here is how the story likely began -- a prehistoric human picked up some dropped fruit from the ground and popped it unsuspectingly into his or her mouth. The first effect was nothing more than an agreeably bittersweet flavor spreading across the palate. But as alcohol entered the bloodstream, the brain started sending out a new message -- whatever that was, I want more of it! Humankind's first encounters with alcohol in the form of fermented fruit probably occurred in just such an accidental fashion. But once they were familiar with the effect, archaeologist Patrick McGovern believes, humans stopped at nothing in their pursuit of frequent intoxication. A secure supply of alcohol appears to have been part of the human community's basic requirements much earlier than was long believed. As early as around 9,000 years ago, long before the invention of the wheel, inhabitants of the Neolithic village Jiahu in China were brewing a type of mead with an alcohol content of 10 percent, McGovern discovered recently."
McGovern's written all about this in his book Uncorking the Past: The Quest for Wine, Beer and Other Alcoholic Beverages! Fascinating history, including the challenging questions of finding the scraps of evidence and stitching together a coherent thesis!

23 December 2009

Self Balancing Unicycle ~ Savage Gets Focus!

I was just chatting earlier today with Gwyn Jones, my MIT D-Lab colleague who runs the Cycles class, about why folding bikes are so cool, namely multi-modality, the ease of shifting from biking to driving to mass-transit. I asked about unicycles and specifically the Enicycle -- the cool Adria-tech invention I noted a couple months ago. And now, lo-and-behold, we see MythBuster Adam Savage getting on this Focus Designs invention, the Self Balancing Unicycle (SBU) ($1499)...

22 December 2009

More Tempohousing ~ Fast & Flexible System

I first wrote about the ultra-cool Tempohousing container-based living system earlier this year. Thanks to their seasonally clever greetings email, I'm reminded again just how relevant their fast, flexible construction approach is! Here's their survey intro video... And I especially like what I call their "Tempotel" concept, a rapidly deployable four-room festival hotel space for any popular event, something pioneered in Denmark as the Dejligheder by the Smukfest...

HP PC is Racist ~ Hilarious Demo-Fail ;-)

Thanks to Charlie Lieu for spotting this bit of ridiculousness... I'm beginning to think this is BS, but it's funny nevertheless. I really want to see some Chinese and Indians in front of the cam to get a comparable;-)

Root Capital ~ Investing in SME Agri-Ventures

Since founding in 1999, Root Capital has made over 500 loans of between $25,000 and $500,000 to small and medium-sized enterprises working in sustainable agriculture and fisheries, wild-harvested products, certified wood and ecotourism in Latin American, African and South Asian countries. See here a Skoll-funded Uncommon Heroes video of their story and the specific case of a loan for capital equipment to a coop of Tanzanian coffee growers...

Fusion is Hard ~ Cowley @ TED on Energy...

Hard to harness, yes, but view here UK nuclear research Steven Cowley at TED proclaiming that Fusion is energy's future... in 2030!

21 December 2009

African Reaspora ~ Diaspora Academics Return

Thanks to Harvard's Calestous Juma for spotting this piece by Megan Lindow in the Chronicle of Higher Education on Academics in African Diaspora Reach Back to Help Universities Rebuild, about those who left chaotic conditions looking for ways to support colleagues who stayed. For various historical reasons, African academics...
"...fled ugly political situations and poor working conditions on the continent or have been drawn by better opportunities elsewhere. This brain drain has proved catastrophic for African countries, which collectively spend some four billion dollars a year hiring foreigners to replace professionals who leave, according to the United Nations Development Programme. Nigeria, Ethiopia, and Sierra Leone, among other countries, face critical shortages of expertise, in part because they have lost tens of thousands of doctors, scientists, and professors to the United States and Europe. Some African universities, however, are finding new ways to tap the expertise of the diaspora, which includes world-renowned academics in engineering, medicine, and literature. The trend is particularly strong in Nigeria, where higher education enjoyed a golden age during the oil boom of the 1970s before economic and political woes overburdened the university system and drove promising academics away. Now, as the country begins to stabilize, many academics who fled are helping to rebuild, some returning to Nigeria and others engaging from afar."
Perhaps Calestous is too modest to trumpet things, but he's been instrumental in founding the Kenyan Victoria Institute of Science & Technology, thus practicing what he preaches! Plus there's a nascent blog supporting The Return of the Diaspora to Africa called Reaspora!

R.I.P. Sol Price ~ Costco, Wal-Mart Inspiration...

Sol Price, pioneer of big-box wholesale clubs and inspiration for Costco, Wal-Mart and more, passed away December 14th at age 93. The founder of Fed-Mart and Price Club, Price helped create the members-only store concept which sold giant portions of groceries and staple-goods at rock-bottom prices. A generous philanthropist, Price donated to the construction of a new student center on the UCSD campus, and more. He inspired...
"I guess I've stolen -- I actually prefer the word 'borrowed' -- as many ideas from Sol Price as from anybody else in the business," Mr. Walton wrote in his memoir, Made in America."

MicroFinance or CrowdPonzi? ~ WSJ Questions...

WSJournal Pearl Memorial Intern Ketaki Gokhale writes As Microfinance Grows in India, So Do Its Rivals, noting that...
"Small Credit Lines Were Supposed to Trim the Practice of High-Interest Loans in Rural Areas, but Moneylenders Flourish"
What's worrisome to me is that the misaligned incentive scheme inherent in too many microfinance operations induce recipients to seek multiple loans to round-robin payback their debts. Sharky moneylenders contribute as well, with the net result being a vicious kind of "Crowd Ponzi" scheme. See also the related WSJournal microfinance slideshow.

In Vino Vivo ~ Most Livable Places on Planet!

Curious how the most livable parts of our planet are also those where wine and alcohol and other "liberties" are appreciated, starting with Freedom to Ferment... Propensity to Imbibe...Freedom to Drink...Freedom to Say What You Damn Please...