Monday, February 28, 2011

Transit Corridors

Frequency Matters

The Seattle Transit Blog has a cool graphic that shows all the Metro Transit and Sound Transit routes that run at least every 15 minutes for most of the day:

Seattle Transit Blog Frequent Transit Network

The map is an update from a previous version that also included the Eastside. However, there is, regrettably, not very much frequent service on the Eastside that runs most of the day. The bulk of such service is during rush hour, and is dominated by hub-and-spoke routes with downtown Seattle at the hub. Service falls off sharply after about 8:30 p.m. and, incredibly, there are no buses at all after about 11:30 p.m. on the Eastside, or that connect it to Seattle, even on weekends.

Public transit is a necessary public good that provides multiple benefits. Ridership has increased, fares keep going up, and service is under constant threat of curtailment. It is too bad that budget pressures are forcing service reduction and encouraging more car use, costing more for commuters, road maintenance, parking, and our region as a whole.

But then, we do not have one of the smartest regions for transportation.

Sunday, February 27, 2011


Getting Creative About Getting Around

Undriving logo
There are a lot of ways to get around other than by car. I like public transit (and you probably do too, even if you think you don't.) Walking is good, especially in walkable communities, like most downtowns and some of the urban villages locally. Biking is also great (my bike, alas, needs some reconditioning.)

Want other ideas? Check out the fun and useful Undriving web site, committed to helping people get around in creative ways and leave the car in park more of the time. The idea and web site were born in 2007, and has seen steady growth of Undrivers since. And you know why driving less is a good idea: less carbon, ameliorates climate change, less congestion, healthier lifestyle, more connections with people, discover more of your community, save money, etc. It's more sustainable. They've got some great sponsors, and sometimes you get free Metro transit tickets. It's appealing.

I'm getting my own Undriver License, and will post a picture of it here when it arrives (they say in a week or two.) They request a $20 donation which is tax-deductible.

There's also a Facebook fan page and a Twitter stream.

(h/t Bonnie Frye Hemphill)

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Climate Change Optimism

Faith in Technology

Praying to computer
Futurist, inventor and entrepreneur Ray Kurzweil is sanguine about climate change. Why? Kurzweil believes renewable energy from solar power will supply all our energy needs within 20 years. Advances in solar energy technology occur at a pace like those called for by Moore's Law in computer processing:
Solar energy... is doubling every two years. And it didn't start two years ago, it started 20 years ago. Every two years, we have twice as much solar energy in the world.

Today, solar is still more expensive than fossil fuels, and in most situations it still needs subsidies or special circumstances, but the costs are coming down rapidly -- we are only a few years away from parity. And then it's going to keep coming down, and people will be gravitating towards solar, even if they don't care at all about the environment, because of the economics.
Kurzweil calls this generalization of Moore's Law his Law of Accelerating Returns, and sees its application in the full diversity of human endeavors. I hope Kurzweil is right that climate change will be solved by the relentless acceleration of the fruits of technology. But it all depends on at least one tenuous assumption.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Pivotal Leaders

Cleantech Leadership in the Pacific Northwest

Nominate individuals for the Pivotal Leaders business network
A globally competitive cleantech ecosystem in the Pacific Northwest is built of several equally critical components, but chief among them is people: a cadre of talented, committed individuals to shape policy, pioneer partnerships and build companies—Pivotal Leaders.

The creation of the Pivotal Leaders business network is led by the senior team at Pivotal Investments, one of the few venture capital firms in the Pacific Northwest that vigorously funds cleantech startups. Said co-founder Greg Semler:

Thursday, February 24, 2011


How Our Imperfect Market Retards Our Progress

Public investment and wasteful subsidy are in the eye of the beholder
David Roberts at Grist just wrote a succinct post about pricing the externalities of boilers, but it applies equally well to the pricing of externalities for such things as climate change, electricity from coal, shale "plays", deepwater drilling, or any number of other aspects of our dirty energy economy.

Externalities are costs incurred in an activity that are not paid directly by the producer or the consumer of that activity. They are instead "externalized" from the provision of product or service, the economic activity, and are eventually paid by unrelated others, or, most often, by government or by the general public as a whole. In the case of boilers, about which Roberts writes:
They emit toxic air pollutants like mercury, cadmium, and acid gases, which even in extremely small amounts cause a range of health maladies from asthma to heart attacks to premature death, yet the operators of those boilers and incinerators do not pay those health costs. The public picks up the tab for that. You're welcome, boiler operators!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Where's It Wednesday—XXII

Back to the usual pattern this week with what I think is a pretty easy one.

Somewhere in Seattle... Guess the location:

Somewhere in Seattle...

Answer next week.

Details on the weekly Where's It Wednesday puzzle here.
Other weeks' puzzles here.
Answer to last week's puzzle after the jump.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Chamber of Carbon

Polluting All It Touches

US Chamber of Commerce, a wholly owned subsidiary of the GOP
Who is the US Chamber of Commerce? Bill McKibben cuts through their smog:

It claims to represent “three million businesses of all sizes, sectors, and regions.” The organization, that is, seems to speak for a country full of barbers and florists, car dealers, restaurant owners, and insurance salesmen, not to mention the small entrepreneurs who make up local and state chambers of commerce across the country.

At least when it comes to energy and climate, though, that claim is, politely put, a fib. The Chamber of Commerce doesn’t have to say where it gets its money, but last year a group called U.S. ChamberWatch used one of the last disclosure laws still in existence to uncover a single pertinent fact. They went to the headquarters of the chamber and asked to see its IRS 990 form. It showed that 55% of its funding came from just 16 companies, each of which gave more than a million dollars. It doesn’t have to say which companies, but by their deeds shall you know them.

The chamber has long opposed environmental standards. In the 1980s, it fought a ban on the dumping of hazardous waste. In the 1990s, it fought smog and soot standards. On climate change, though, it’s gone pretty near berserk.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Big Business Responds to Climate Change

Taking Action, Not Making Excuses

Public support for addressing climate change remains strong overall
The disinformation campaign and faux controversy about climate change has shifted public opinion. The general public has become less certain about the reality of climate change over the past year and more inclined to believe that a real scientific controversy exists.

However, a majority of businesses are acting as if the controversy is settled according to accounting firm Ernst & Young:

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The GOP Hates Trains

They Hate Them Even When Uncle Sam Pays

London-Swansea high speed train
The GOP hates a lot of things, but their inchoate rage against public transit is uniform, unthinking and unwavering. GOP governors are apparently making it the latest litmus of lock-step ideological intransigence. First it was New Jersey Governor Christie and Wisconsin's new wingnut darling Scott Walker. Then Ohio's John Kasich.

Now Rick Scott of Florida has joined the nincompoopery.

Saturday, February 19, 2011


So, Do You Feel Lucky?

Tom Toles cartoon: Climate change time machine
Our belief that the future of technology will solve all of today's problems is rather like betting on the outcome of a dice roll. Why do we not take action today without the risk of an unknown outcome tomorrow? Doing nothing is in itself placing a bet. Regardless of our choice: Alea iacta est.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Coal Isn't Cheap

Grid Parity Achieved

The cost of supposedly cheap coal-generated electricity
"Coal plants produce the lowest cost electricity." That's what one always hears, but it turns out coal may be the lowest priced electricity, but not the lowest cost. Adding in all the currently externalized costs would add more than $0.17/kWh to the cost of coal-generated electricity. That would make most forms of renewable energy cheaper than coal, even at utility scale. Hidden subsidies to coal prevent the straightforward comparison that shows renewables have already achieved grid parity. When will we pay the real cost of dirty energy?

All that is necessary to switch to clean renewable energy is political will. The economics already make sense, as do the environmental consequences and social impacts. Several groups have now produced studies showing it can be done by 2050.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Carbon Nation

Boeing & WCTA Sponsor Presentation, Reception, Screening

Carbon Nation: Cliff Etheredge, West Texas Wind Farmer
The Washington Clean Tech Alliance (WCTA) and Boeing are pleased to present an eventful evening Tuesday, March 1 that promises to deeply engage anyone interested in cleantech and climate change.

Featured are a presentation on local cleantech developments, a reception and the Seattle premiere of the climate change solutions film Carbon Nation, including a chance to meet the Producer/Director, Peter Byck, and ask questions. Many local leaders in cleantech, energy government and others are expected to attend. It's free, but RSVP soon as we expect it to fill up.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Where's It Wednesday—XXI

Usually this is somewhere in Seattle, but I'm changing it up a bit this week... A close look in the fish's mouth shows the Seattle skyline, so the picture is Seattle, but where is it taken? I.e. where's the fish?

Somewhere in Seattle...
Answer next week.

Details on the weekly Where's It Wednesday puzzle here.
Other weeks' puzzles here.
Answer to last week's puzzle after the jump.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

40 Years To Sustainability

A Long Time and a Short Time Both

WWF Energy Report
According to a study by the WWF, the entire world could be run on sustainable renewable energy by 2050.
And that won’t just be good for energy security, it will also cut environmental pollution and, crucially, reduce the catastrophic impacts of climate change. A 100% renewable energy future would mean carbon emissions from energy dropping by over 80% worldwide by 2050.
And it is economically feasible. However, the steps needed to get there must be taken today.
"Before pouring billions into creating a new generation of nuclear or gas power stations we need to ask whether that money would be better invested in other, more sustainable energy technologies, especially if these other technologies can create a substantial number of new jobs" [WWF's Head of Energy Policy Nick] Molho said.
40 years seems like a long time, but there is a huge amount to be done and the transition from fossil fuels will be long and painful, as will the inevitable changes in everything from our purchasing habits to our infrastructure. Looking at all that would need to happen, 40 years can also seem like a very short time to accomplish so much.

The WWF is not alone in advocating for sustainability by 2050. It can be done and it will be hard, but the hardest part is overcoming the vested interests that value today's profit over humanity's future.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Love and Leadership

Lessons Cupid Might Teach

I'm with Cupid
What we love, we do, and should love every day, not just on the day some obscure saint was buried in Rome.

Since little is known of the various early sainted Valentines, it will be more fun to focus on that impish pagan, Cupid. What can the little cherub teach us?
  1. Promoting love can be a full-time occupation. Whether we are building and motivating teams to seize startup success, or creating something which utterly delights our customers, we should always focus on the love we make.
  2. Desire is good. Who is motivated by apathy? Set clear goals and pursue them with focus and zeal.
  3. There should always be some mischief. Doing everything in the same dry and clinical fashion may be effective, but it's boring. Shake it up. Be creative. Passion wanes when one fails to motivate or stimulate. And these days what leaders couldn't use a little more stimulation?
  4. Arrows work. I've received a few arrows in the back in my day, and while not all may have been so loving, they have kindled passions that impelled me forward. Getting stuck by arrows can be just the right thing to move you, or someone you work with, forward.
  5. Follow your passion. Amor omnia vincit.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Chamber of Fossils

At Last, Have They No Shame?

US Chamber of Commerce CEO Tom DonahueMr. Burns from the Simpsons
The US Chamber of Commerce is politically corrupt, morally reprehensible and quite possibly a racketeering organization that warrants investigation by the US Department of Justice and/or the US Congress. It's not enough that they serve as the central laundry for anonymous and unaccountable campaign expenditures which buy distort elections. Nor is it enough that they are obnoxious and mendacious shills for big fossil fuel interests. Apparently they are also so thin-skinned and intellectually vacuous that they are spending their corporate benefactors' slush funds to try to dig dirt on the families of their political opponents. They're even targeting their children. They even think it might be OK to "exploit" vulnerabilities in—illegally hack into—computers owned by their spouses.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Climate Change Ecomigration

Bangladesh, India, Myanmar

A Bangladeshi migrant with his belongings
I posted earlier about how the people of the Carteret Islands are being forced to relocate as the rising seas wash their home away. This may not be the first ecomigration—the relocation of people due to ecological reasons—but it certainly won't be the last due to climate change. Not only islands, but low-lying coastal areas are also becoming uninhabitable:

The coastlines of Bangladesh, India and Myanmar have become a flashpoint for sudden cyclones and tidal floods. With every natural disaster more of the population is forced to leave their homes and livelihoods and relocate.


[Photo journalist Mohammad Rakibul] Hasan says the the fate of Bangladesh’s climate refugees is predictable: misery. 'It seems to be a silent genocide,' he adds.
The rise of extreme weather events is one predicted aspect of climate change, and the impact of these severe storms is undeniable. How many must suffer before there is concerted global action?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Yoga Values

Lessons for Life More Broadly

After more than a week away spent moving, I got back to yoga practice today. Every day on the mat is a bit different. Unlike my experience with other things I have done for exercise, I haven't felt a steady progression of mastery in doing the asanas (poses.) Some days I feel strong and enthused; others are tiring and demand more self-motivation.

While mastery may never come, yoga does provide many things of value that each can grow over time. There are values from yoga I take away into other areas of my life, especially as a leader and entrepreneur. Three on which I was reflecting today:

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A More Frugal Economy

Remarks by Futurist Glen Hiemstra at WCTA

Futurist Glen Hiemstra presents to the Washington Cleantech Alliance
I had the pleasure yesterday of introducing Glen Hiemstra to the monthly breakfast meeting of the Washington Clean Tech Alliance (WCTA). Glen gave a wide-ranging but thematically coherent and engaging talk on what the future might hold over the next 10-50 years. One key point was how we have moved, perhaps permanently, to a "frugal economy" where people have less, buy less, and want less. It may be making a virtue of necessity for some, but for others, especially those focused on sustainability, it has a deeply satisfying appeal.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Where's It Wednesday XX

I've missed my regular blogging the past 2 days, but I'm at last done moving and can get back to regular posting. It's Wednesday, so time for this week's installment of the Where's It Wednesday picture puzzle. Your challenge—identify the Seattle location in the picture.

Somewhere in Seattle.... where is this?

Somewhere in Seattle...
Answer next week.

Details on the weekly Where's It Wednesday puzzle here.
Other weeks' puzzles here.
Answer to last week's puzzle after the jump.

Sunday, February 6, 2011


One More Day...

Calvin and Hobbes cartoon about where to live

Sorry to all my friends and colleagues for whom I've been rather incommunicado the past week or so. I'm moving to a new place in Bellevue, and there's always so many details... Tomorrow the family and I are all in, so I expect to be catching up with all and sundry later this week.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Trashy Hotel

Putting Litter to Use

Trash Hotel in Rome
A hotel made from trash:
The Corona Save the Beach Hotel, designed by German artist HA Schult, is open until June 7 near Rome's Castel Sant'Angelo, which is located along the Tiber river.
This is not Schult's first such effort:
"In the ocean, the trash from all continents meets one another. The trash from Africa meets the trash from Europe, meets the trash from South America," Schult said, pointing to the guitars and shoes plastered across the building.

"The environmental problem is a global problem. We are living in a planet of garbage," said Schult, whose most famous work is "Trash People," an installation of 1,000 human figures made out of trash.

"Trash People" was installed under the Brooklyn Bridge in New York, in front of the Giza Pyramids in Egypt, in Red Square in Moscow, at La Defense in Paris, and along the Great Wall of China.

Update: fixed ugly formatting...

This is a repost from the Hydrovolts blog of 6/10/10

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Information Firehose Persists

Ye Olde Problem of TMI

Medieval scribe in a manuscript capital 'G'
A Harvard researcher reports that information overload dates back hundreds of years—to the Middle Ages:
With the spread of paper in the late middle ages, then of printing after 1453, scholarship involved ever more reading: printed books, manuscripts, and letters. Scholars relied on note taking to retain what was useful from their reading. Some collections of notes, organized with finding devices, were published as reference books, in which readers could find the best bits from many books they wouldn’t have the time or accessibility to read.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Books Few Use

Yellow Pages Fading to Black

Yellow pages dumpster
Who uses the Yellow Pages anymore? Most go into the recycle bin, or even the trash, completely unused. Worse, there are several companies dumping them on doorsteps; I used to get 8 or 10 of them every year. Stopping them entailed contacting each publisher individually, and some made this difficult, or simply ignored the request.

Now you can opt out of receiving them altogether at one web site that (theoretically) stops them all. The site is new, and in response to a Seattle ordinance which the publishers are challenging in court.

(h/t and more at Puget Sound Business Journal)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Where's It Wednesday—XIX

Somewhere in Seattle.... where is this?

Somewhere in Seattle...

Answer next week.

Details on the weekly Where's It Wednesday puzzle here.
Other weeks' puzzles here.
Answer to last week's puzzle after the jump.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Amtrak Cascades gets WiFi

Another Reason to Go Rail

Amtrak Cascades banner graphic
I really enjoy taking Amtrak from Seattle, both to Portland and also to Vancouver. Now, at long last, they've added WiFi throughout all the trains, and best of all, it's free. I actually used the WiFi on the train to Portland some months back; apparently it was turned on by accident. It's unclear why it's taken so long to formally roll it out, especially since it's been on the Acela in the Northeast corridor for almost a year.

Taking the train is great, and I'm not the only one who seems to think so. The Amtrak Cascades set a 16-year high for ridership last year. Now that they're wired up, expect a new record this year.

Some people whine about Amtrak being government-subsidized or about its losing money, which is a curiously selective complaint. How many billions do we dump into our road system every year? Does the Interstate Highway system make money?

(h/t TechFlash)