Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Where's It Wednesday—LX

Where in Seattle is this?

Somewhere in Seattle... but where?

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, November 29, 2011

Business Sociopaths—II

The Inmates Now Run the Asylum

Corporate scociopath
 ~ I knew it. Now there's research that supports it:
Some psychopaths are violent and end up in jail, others forge careers in corporations.
Remind you of anyone? Perhaps any of the many captains of industry that ran the economy aground in the Great Recession, even as they skipped away with millions or billions looted from both the enterprise and the taxpayer?
...the Corporate Psychopath’s single-minded pursuit of their own self-enrichment and self-aggrandizement to the exclusion of all other considerations has led to an abandonment of the old fashioned concept of noblesse oblige, equality, fairness, or of any real notion of corporate social responsibility.
Undeterred by their shameless self-aggrandizement, and never satisfied with their obscenely outsized and undeserved gains, they have all returned to the trough:
The very same Corporate Psychopaths, who probably caused the crisis by their self-seeking greed and avarice, are now advising governments on how to get out of the crisis. That this involves paying themselves vast bonuses in the midst of financial hardship for many millions of others, is symptomatic of the problem. Further, if the Corporate Psychopaths Theory of the Global Financial Crisis is correct then we are now far from the end of the crisis. Indeed, it is only the end of the beginning. Perhaps more than ever before, the world needs corporate leaders with a conscience. It does not need Corporate Psychopaths.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Wind Turbines

Near Palm Springs, CA

 ~ Heading west from Palm Desert on I-10 in California I am always amazed at the enormous number of wind turbines that flank the highway. Some are quite old and no longer functional but others are spinning away. Today there was very little wind until we got through the pass. The radio was playing some great music, but I had to "remaster" this to make it fit the video segments.

There's something captivating about wind making power all down the highway.

Update: Redid video, uploaded to YouTube and embedded here.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Phytelligence at NWEN

Pitch Video

 ~ Here is the 5-minute presentation of WSU spin-out company Phytelligence I did at the NWEN First Look Forum back on October 18:

Web site coming soon.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Climate Change Skeptics

Who's Accountable?

How climate change skeptics lie with statistics

How climate change skeptics lie with statistics
 ~ The graphics above show an example of how deniers try to use bogus "science" to cast doubt on climate change: reliance on the selective and misleading use of data. "Skeptical" journalists (and bloggers) through laziness or ulterior motive would flunk a statistics class:
“...what they have done is an old trick. It’s how to lie with statistics, right? And scientists can’t do that because 10 years from now, they’ll look back on my publications and say, ‘Was he right?’ But a journalist can lie with statistics. They can choose a little piece of the data and prove what they want, carefully cutting out the end. If I wanted to do this, I could demonstrate, for example, with the same data set that from 1980 to 1995 that it’s equally flat. You can find little realms where it’s equally flat. What that tells me is that 15 years is not enough to be able to tell whether it’s warming or not. And so when they take 13 years, and they say based on that they can reach a conclusion based on our data set, I think they’re playing that same game and the fact that we can find that back in 1980, the same effect, when we know it [was] warming simply shows that that method doesn’t work. But no scientist could do that because he’d be discredited for lying with statistics. Newspapers can do that because 10 years from now, nobody will remember that they showed that.”
That's a large reason why the media paints a different picture than real climate scientists—they're not accountable.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Time Travel

Stop-Motion Video on the Long Trail

 ~ I prefer the walking version, but this is exhilarating as well:

I especially like the crossing towards Seattle on the Bainbridge Ferry.

(h/t the Telegraph)

Update: Yeah, the "BRAINbridge" Ferry? I've lived here 30+ years and I flub the name? I need a brain bridge.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


Much Gratitude

 ~ Another year gone already?! It's been eventful, for sure, but looking back I am reminded of many good things in my life:
  • Plenty of interesting projects and opportunities, with many great colleagues, and especially those at ArchSkills, Enerdyne Solutions and Phytelligence

  • Many good friends with whom I have shared many joys and, yes, a few sorrows, but fantastic to have, or to be, a good friend at such times

  • Intellectuals and writers like Matt Taibbi, Barry Ritholtz, Paul Krugman and Robert Reich that cut through the crap:
    Some think the revolution has begun. I hope they are right.
  • A sense of history that provides insight on current events:
    Old photo of poor man chasing plutocrats for some alms
  • My wife, kids and everyone else in my zany family

  • My "girls", a.k.a. The Fantods:
    Two kittens on a bed
  • Less than a month until the days start getting longer...
Thanks too to my readers; I love to hear from you!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Where's It Wednesday—LIX

Where in Seattle is this?

Somewhere in Seattle... but where?

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, November 22, 2011

Climate Change Political Progress

By Defeating Obama in 2012?

President Obama with head bowed
 ~ Does real progress on climate change depend on Obama losing in 2012? Political prisoner Tim DeChristopher thinks so. He writes that Obama needs to lose and it needs to be obvious that climate hawks were responsible.
But come 2012, the climate movement will still face that arrogant taunt, "Whaddaya gonna do? Let a Republican win?" If this movement is ever going to get serious political power, the answer needs to be yes. This is where things get dirty. Like any abusive relationship, this movement will always be taken for granted if it's not willing to turn its back on Obama. He needs to lose, and everyone needs to know it was us. Instead of making phone calls for Obama, those who helped him get elected should make phone calls to Obama explaining why they turned.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Doc Hastings Offers Bad Medicine

Deeply Unserious Governance

Doc Hastings
 ~ Representatives such as Doc Hastings (R-Pasco, WA) are why only 9% of voters approve of the job Congress is doing.

Hastings chairs the House Natural Resources Committee, and has used that position as a soapbox for views which neither accord with public opinion nor have any hope of becoming pragmatic, effective solutions to our problems.

Last week he renewed the feckless call for oil drilling in the Alaskan Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR.) Won't happen. Even if the House can pass something on this the Senate and even President Obama are unlikely to agree. This is a fight waged for partisan point-scoring and base-pandering, nothing more, and as such, it represents a squandered opportunity to propose—and dare one say—negotiate legislation that pragmatically addresses real problems that still beg for solutions.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Business Sociopaths

Milton Friedman was Wrong

John Sherffius cartoon: Socialism for the rich! Capitalism for the rest
 ~ Milton Friedman writes in the first paragraph of his much-cited 1970 NYT Magazine essay:
Businessmen believe that they are defending free en­terprise when they declaim that business is not concerned "merely" with profit but also with promoting desirable "social" ends; that business has a "social conscience" and takes seriously its responsibilities for providing em­ployment, eliminating discrimination, avoid­ing pollution and whatever else may be the catchwords of the contemporary crop of re­formers. In fact they are–or would be if they or anyone else took them seriously–preach­ing pure and unadulterated socialism.
Business has only one purpose—maximizing profits—and only one constituency whose desires should be heeded—its owners (shareholders.) Ayn Rand uses cartoonish caricatures in more than 1000 pages of turgid prose and to reach the same simple statement, and imputing an ethical foundation more pithily put in Wall Streetgreed is good.

Events of the past few years have shown beyond any credible dispute that greed is good only for a privileged or lucky few; most have fared much worse due to the effects of others' greed.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Climate Change Visualized

Increasing Temperatures Over 200 Years

 ~ Watch this time lapse view of increasing temperatures from 1800 to the present:


 The change is compelling, and the last few decades especially so.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Things I Learned from my Dad—IV

Having a Good Hat

John Leyerle in Irish tweed hat
 ~ He wore it with aplomb.

Now that I too can get sunburned on the top of my head—in Seattle no less!—I need to find the right hat for me. Not the Irish tweed hat he wore, and certainly not these.

I guess he taught me what not to wear! Thank you Dad.

He would have been 85 today.

John Frank Leyerle
11/18/26 - 8/2/06

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Tax Code Driving Incentives

Uncle Sam Subsidizes Cars, not Buses

Cartoon: Driver ironically complains about public transit subsidies, missing all those that enable him and his car
 ~ Think government is too big and spends too much money? You can write your legislator, sure. But if you have your own business, you could also take direct action to help the budget: leave your car in the garage and take the bus.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Where's It Wednesday—LVIII

Where in Seattle is this?

Somewhere in Seattle... but where?

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, November 15, 2011


Government Energy Investment

Pew poll shows more support for renewable energy than offshore drilling
 ~ A recent poll by Pew Research shows that support for renewable energy investment by government is declining, especially among Republicans and right-leaning independents.

In this winter of budgetary discontent, declining support is not terribly surprising, and it is still the case that the great majority (a landslide 68%) of the public supports not just continued, but increased government investment in renewable energy development. (And even 53% of Republicans support increased funding.)

What is surprising, however, is the framing of the question. Those opposed consider such funding unnecessary. Not unaffordable, not a lower spending priority, not because renewable technology won't work, not even because of Solyndra. No, because it is unnecessary; opponents think renewable technology will be developed anyway without government support:

Monday, November 14, 2011

Time Stasis

Who Gets Tax Subsidies?

 ~ Those who've got shall get:

Table of US tax subsidies by industry

So why do thriving, insanely profitable industries need taxpayer subsidies in a time of mounting deficit hysteria? Because they deserve it! It's the same reason that the 1% need more tax breaks—they've worked hard, they've been successful, so we shower them with largesse in recognition. It's the product of a peculiar mindset, as well as stark evidence of the corporate capture of our political institutions.

Too much of our public policy focuses on rewarding the past rather than investing in our future.

"We are made wise not by the recollection of our past, but by the responsibility for our future." As we rest on our national laurels, and simultaneously emaciate our financial health, we diminish our ability to compete in the global economy of tomorrow.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Climate Change Insurance

Polar bears threatened by thaw across the Arctic
In early 2010, at the Harvesting Clean Energy Conference in Washington's Tri-Cities, Claudio Stockle made the reasonable observation that the severely negative outcomes of climate change, if they occur which are happening everywhere one looks, demand action just for their possibility: it is "prudent to start taking some action, not to ignore it."

Just the day before Kurt Cobb made a similar point in discussing the need for "vigorous preparations" on climate change, even if the worst scenario is only 5% likely:
If you were told that the trans-Atlantic flight you were about to board only crashes 5 percent of the time, would you still board that plane? My guess is that you would change your reservations. Even with a 95 percent chance of surviving the flight, you would find the risk of death too high.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Collective Nouns

Market Socialism

Cartoon: Capitalists look just like socialists when they take government handouts
 ~ Margaret Thatcher claimed that "there is no such thing as society."

Ayn Rand wrote "there is no such entity as the public."

Like those other believers in the myth of social atomism (that underlies libertarianism and free-market laissez-faire orthodoxy) their point is that we should focus on empowering the individual and avoid addressing collective needs. The collective not only has no reality compared to the individual, but catering to it is socialist, and deprives non-consenting individuals of their very liberty and takes from them their wealth, an unacceptable burden.

Why then are we always talking about The Market like it were some anthropomorphic reality?

If there is no policy value in speaking of, or addressing needs of the public, or of society, then surely the same is true of the market. Each is really only a collection of individuals, right? Thus a brutal budgetary austerity and other measures aimed at boosting "market confidence" are revealed as socialism. Such policies benefit individuals who have the wherewithal to invest by stealing from those that do not.

Friday, November 11, 2011


Support Our Troops Really Need

Honk Honk | Save our Veterans Homeland
 ~ Today is Veterans' Day, or Memorial Day, and we all (should) pause to honor those who have served our country and remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in doing so. They deserve our utmost respect, and our deepest thanks.

But they deserve much more than that.

It's easy to post a quick note on Facebook, or unfurl Old Glory over the porch, or put a bumper sticker on one's car. Those are all good gestures, but they are merely nice; they don't actually support in any meaningful way our soldiers past or current.

And they really need our support.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


America's Identity Crisis

Ratio of CEO pay to worker pay 1965-2011

 ~ The Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement puzzles some. How can we explain (or justify) what seems to the passing observer a ragtag bunch of incoherent people protesting ... what exactly?

But that is easier to explain (or justify) than another puzzle. Are the Masters of the Universe really ten times more valuable relative to other workers now than they were in 1965? Are they ten times more productive, more meritorious, more ... what exactly?

I was fortunate to go to a high school that exposed me to some really bright and interesting people, including classmates David Frum and Douglas Anthony Cooper. Some of their recent writing, although from rather different viewpoints, both illuminate ... exactly what all of us are now trying to discern.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Where's It Wednesday—LVII

Where in Seattle is this?

Somewhere in Seattle... but where?

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, November 8, 2011


Teddy Roosevelt on Politicians

Teddy Roosevelt
 ~ A friend posted this quote today from Teddy Roosevelt talking about politicians:
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.
It applies to entrepreneurs equally well.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Climate Change Game Theory

Is Climate Change Really Happening?

 ~ In the rational decision-making that arises from classic game theory analysis we don't even need to know. The choice we need to make is pretty obvious:

And one last thing: "we only get to play this game once."

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Pipeline Dreams

Keystone XL Fantasies

 ~ The number and fervor of those seeking to stop the Keystone XL (KXL) pipeline is awesome:
An estimated 10,000 to 12,000 protesters converged on the nation's capitol Sunday to press President Obama to block construction of the 1,700-mile Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport tar-sands oil from Canada to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico.
There were more than enough protesters on hand to link arms and entirely encircle the White House compound.

Later today, and doubtless in a complete coincidence of timing, it leaked out that Obama may defer the decision (which he will make personally) until after the 2012 elections. The delay will likely please few, and make KXL even more of a political football; it's highly unlikely the issue will engender a thoughtful, fact-based election debate on energy policy.

Instead, we will get the usual dissembling from the API and others about how the project is supposedly a choice between developing desperately needed sources of energy in an environmentally responsible manner or not developing them at all. And of course, we'll hear about all those jobs it would allegedly create. Never mind that the job figures are likely bogus, and the numbers simply output of the fossil fuel echo chamber.

Jobs are the rationale, but profits are the motive

Expect overheated accusations against Obama for delaying the decision, and much wailing and rending of garments about the unconscionable cost to the Big Oil entities involved. Those of us advocating a saner path—the commitment to renewable energy sources—can lean back in our chairs, arms crossed in sardonic satisfaction. KXL makes strange political bedfellows, is a terrible idea worthy of fervent opposition, and it's hard to be sympathetic to the mighty fossil lobby over a delay of only a year or two. Not until they see the kinds of delays that renewable energy projects suffer should their complaints be prioritized.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Nothing Ventured

Gaining from Startup Experience

Cartoon: How to start a small business
 ~ Serial Entrepreneur Steve Blank has a great post that argues no VC is truly qualified to be a VC without startup CEO experience. He quotes Mark Twain:
A man who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn in no other way.
He's right. But why stop at VCs? The advice is good for investors of any kind. I made several really dumb invetsments in startup companies before I got down in the operational trenches, first as a role player, then as a number 2, and eventually as a founder and CEO.

I wish I had run a company myself before I committed my money to others without better understanding what questions to ask, and what it takes to turn an idea by execution into a cash flow positive success. In I have been sweaty and bloodied, have dealt with all manner of people issues, struggled to close customers, scraped together funds to pay staff, faced exhaustion beyond belief yet kept going, and found ways to win even against the bleakest prospect. I've never looked at an investment opportunity the same way since.

Could one learn without doing? Perhaps some do. John Doerr famously remarked that a new VC will lose $30M before figuring out the job. Steve Blank is right—it's much cheaper and faster to have a new VC learn by running a startup.

They'd never look at an entrepreneur seeking funding the same way again.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Where's It Wednesday—LVI

My laptop unexpectedly died Wednesday night, and could not be resurrected. Just what I needed—a sudden, top-priority task that takes 6-8 hours dumped into the middle of my schedule. New laptop acquired, installation of most software, endless updates, restored backups... Sorry for no posts the past 2 days. Here is the one on which I was working Wednesday evening when the bit rot became toxic—now a special Friday version of Where's It Wednesday.

Where in Seattle is this?

Somewhere in Seattle... but where?

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, November 1, 2011

Feed Your Head

The Importance of Downtime

 ~ It has become very hard to find time and space where we are not distracted.
Interruption-free space is sacred. Yet, in the digital era we live in, we are losing hold of the few sacred spaces that remain untouched by email, the Internet, people, and other forms of distraction. Our cars now have mobile phone integration and a thousand satellite radio stations. When walking from one place to another, we have our devices streaming data from dozens of sources. Even at our bedside, we now have our iPads with heaps of digital apps and the world's information at our fingertips.
We need more than our dream or shower time to break free of the relentless onslaught of media, communications, and the grating grind of advertising. How many of us deliberately set aside the contemplative off-grid time we need to ponder strategy, spark creative moments, or even just nurture our over-revved mental engines?