Thursday, June 28, 2012

Climate Change Visualized—II

Graphical Temperature Rise

 ~ The acceleration of global temperarures compellingly depicted in just 26 seconds:

I posted a similar video before that spans the last 200 years and takes just over 2 minutes to watch.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Where's It Wednesday—LXXXVII

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, June 26, 2012


Cape Wind

 ~ After 10 years of effort, there is, astonishingly, no final go-ahead to build Cape Wind, what would be the first offshore wind farm in the US.

Why has it been 10 years and counting? There have been the normal delays from those with real or imagined objections, but the root of the problem is a dysfunctional energy policy that makes every step of the process an ordeal. It's surreal and bizarre:

Most risible, of course, is that we don't, despite the caterwauling from fossil fuel interests, suffer any of this theater of the absurd on oil and gas projects, including those off-shore. It's not that we don't have an energy policy. We do have one: the de facto commitment to fossil energy, with it's immediate and damaging impacts and its irrefutable long-term lack of sustainability. And that is the real reason for obstruction.

"There is nothing stronger than the truth."

Monday, June 25, 2012

Deficit Reduction

Wallowing in Wishful Thinking

 ~ I expect the over-long political season to perseverate on the debt and the deficit, and there's no doubt that many voters identify this as an important issue. (Voters still identify jobs and the economy as more important, however.)

Slate has published revealing polling results that highlight the yawning gap between the embrace of political slogans and the willingness to make the tough decisions necessary:

Slate graphic of Dartmouth study on preferred solutions to the deficit, by party

Magical thinking will not solve real-world problems. Nor will a doctrinaire austerity. There are many good, fact-based overviews of the problem and what might form the basis of real solutions. For example, see here and here. One can object to various aspects of such analyses, but in broad brush they paint a realistic portrait that cannot be credibly dismissed by a broad ideological retort.

Bottom line: vote for solutions, not solipsisms.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Wise Donation

A Easier Way to Give

Wise Donation logo
 ~ And a better one too.

The idea of a donation portal is not new, but has produced a better version in a clean and appealing web site. Their raison d'etre:
Wise Donation is a new way to give. Our goal is to empower everyone to become philanthropists. We make giving accessible, regardless of income level. We help people support their passions by connecting them to charities they care about. And we make it so easy, it not only feels great, it’s fun!
The site provides not only a huge database of searchable charities but budget-based giving that the donor can customize by fixed amount or percentages on a one-time or recurring basis. It's a great idea that fills a growing need. In an era of shriveling public support for social good, WiseDonation provides a powerful, flexible, and accessible way for anyone to make a difference in their community or in the world.

(Full disclosure: WiseDonation is a client of Fingo Consulting.)

Friday, June 22, 2012


Wither Wages

 ~ Many continue to wonder what the Occupy movement is about. The following two graphs highlight a central critique:

Wages as fraction of the overall US economy
Wages as a fraction of GDP

Corporate profits as fraction of the overall US economy
Corporate profits as a fraction of GDP

Workers are not sharing in the bounty produced by their steadily increasing productivity.

Lack of purchasing power is hollowing out the middle class, and as goes the middle class, so goes the rest of the economy, and eventually everyone else in it. There's gas in the coal mine, and the canaries are starting to die.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

WMD—We're Mighty Dumb

"A Hall of Ideological Mirrors"

 ~ Remember WMD? Weapons of Mass Distraction Destruction? They're still a distraction from rational analysis, and still destructive to our public policy discourse.

This is a poll from last month, not 10 years ago.

Ignorance and democracy cannot long coexist. Which shall we give up?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Where's It Wednesday—LXXXVI

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, June 19, 2012


Reality in Depth

 ~ No, not Steve's Amazing New Device, but a microscopic view of what sand really looks like:

Microscopic magnification of sand

It's like diving into fractals. This changes my view of beachcombing.

Oh, and how exactly could one clean an oil spill off of this?

Monday, June 18, 2012

Short-Sighted and Fuelish

Weakening National Security

F/A-18 on 50/50 biofuel blend
 ~ The GOP hatred for all renewable energy technologies has jumped the shark.

They are no longer content with demagoguery about Solyndra, squelching renewable energy, and gutting regulations to promote drilling on every square inch of land and sea. No, now they even demand a prohibition on the development of alternative fuel capability by the US military.

There was a time that our military leaders got pretty much whatever they wanted if they made any kind of case that it supported the warfighter or enhanced national security. No more. Evidently "support the troops" is a political bromide or a bumper sticker, but not something that covers the making of policy if military leadership dares an initiative that bucks GOP ideology, or annoys its campaign bagmen.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Shining Examples of Solar Power

Renewable Aesthetic

 ~ Beautiful and eye-catching for sure, but mostly appealing because they show that sustainability doesn't need to be spartan or severely functional:

Dezhou Solar City

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Turbine Transport

Wind by Rail

 ~ As wind turbines get larger so do the blades. Because they are fabricated as single pieces, their transport has become quite difficult. Rail can minimize the distance they must travel by truck, a significant challenge on most roads, which generally lack the long, sweeping curves of railbeds. So it's great to see this:

Wind turbine blades moving by train near Seattle

A much better use of rail capacity than the environmentally atrocious idea of transporting coal for export to China.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Single Malt Map

Dram Tootin!

 ~ Business plans often feature a competitive analysis rendered as a scatter chart. The desirable location is generally the top-right, the positively differentiated and most competitive position.

By analogy, it feels good to favor, as I do, the upper-right quadrant in other areas:

Glen Grant? Isn't that a car dealership?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Visions of Transportation

Walking, Biking, Riding

 ~ Sound Transit is extending light rail to Northgate. There's a vigorous debate about whether to build park-and-ride spaces or infrastructure for bikes and pedestrians, especially a foot/bike bridge over I-5.

Which to build?
Park-and-ride use is popular in King County, where most major lots are filled or overflowing. The 1,500 spots at Northgate are generally full, sending people to park on surrounding streets.

"We could fill more, I could assure you of that," says Ron Posthuma, a Metro Transit assistant director for planning.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Where's It Wednesday—LXXXV

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, June 12, 2012


How to Pick One

 ~ They aren't all the same.

Cartoon | Consultant stabbed to death
Disappointed in your outsourced help? Not getting value?

Consultants have been caricatured for running up huge bills while not delivering a lot of value. It can make clients angry enough to forswear consultants altogether.

But really, you just need to pick them more smartly.

As an entrepreneur, you learn how to do anything and everything with scant resources, relying instead on insight and innovation. And isn't that what you often want from a consultant? Understanding and creativity in solving a problem or crafting a new way forward without a load of expensive process and superfluous rigmarole?

So don't hire any old consultant, especially if they come from a big firm with a big dollar mentality, or sport an MBA dragging a massive student loan that needs servicing (by you!)

Hire instead one that comes from a hardscrabble operational background, where lean practices and disciplined imagination are the norm. You'll pay less and get more. Want to see for yourself? Contact me.

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Job Creators—IV

By Industry

 ~ Public transit just makes sense in so many ways.

Jobs created per million dollars of investment

Oh, and where is Big Oil which the API keeps telling us is such a wonderful job creator? The original study suggests combined oil and gas is 5.18 jobs per $1M investment, but that is, well, all gas. If oil were broken out in this chart, their number would be negative. The oil industry has been shedding jobs for years and pales as a job creator to the renewable energy industry.

Others of interest: roads and bridges repair (20), conservation (20), water infrastructure (20), school buildings (19), financial industry (7), nuclear industry (4). Study details here.

Cross-posted to the Fare-Free Northwest blog.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Making Good Choices

Who Decides?

Libertarian lifeguards
 ~ One broad side of political argument today is based on the unshakable belief that, left alone, people will make good choices that benefit themselves and in turn, benefit society as a whole. Does experience support that belief?

There are numerous examples of this magical thinking. For example:

Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Devil's Excrement

Ruptured Canadian Pipeline

 ~ This could never happen in the US, right?

Alberta oil pipeline spill


No, it only happens in other countries. Like Canada. Why should anyone be a scaredy-cat on something like Keystone XL just because spills happen all the time? They're so routine there's even an international conference on oil spills.

Proponents of pieplines would have us believe spills are just a minor detail. Indeed.

Mark Anderson cartoon | Devil is in the details

Notice how the jet of environment-destroying oil has pushed the pipeline sideways. Now imagine that displacement causing it to rupture completely. Unlike in the Gulf of Mexico, Big Oil will not be able to hide it with "dispersants". How much disaster should we court?

Friday, June 8, 2012

Things I Learned from my Mum—IV

Love of the Outdoors

 ~ My Mum was a staunch environmentalist, and loved the outdoors. She enjoyed contemplative walks on the beach near her beloved cottage in PEI, and took several walking tours of England and Wales. Active in the environmental movement for much of her life, my Mum believed in the importance of caring for our natural world, a belief she instilled in all of her children.

Shi Shi beach, Washington

Thank you Mum.

Mary Ellen Leyerle
1/8/29 - 6/8/09

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Austerians

Destroying Ourselves

 ~ Tom Tomorrow:

Tom Tomorrow | The Austerians

Austerity doesn't work. The so-called job creators won't be confident until everyone else are dependent serfs.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Where's It Wednesday—LXXXIV

Where in Seattle is this?

Somewhere in Seattle... but where?

Although it seems as if he's sporting an iPod, it's seemingly a prank and offers no hints... 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, June 5, 2012

What It Feels Like To Be The CEO Of A Startup

It's Not a Job, It's a Calling

Paul Graham's startup curve
 ~ The experience of being a startup CEO is hard to explain, as is the passion that drives those of us who do it. The following guest post by Paul DeJoe, reprinted with permission, captures it perfectly. Paul is founder at lead management software startup Ecquire and EIR at Fairbridge Venture Partners.

Very tough to sleep most nights of the week. Weekends don't mean anything to you anymore. Closing a round of financing is not a relief. It means more people are depending on you to turn their investment into 20 times what they gave you.

It's very difficult to "turn it off". But at the same time, television, movies and vacations become so boring to you when your company's future might be sitting in your inbox or in the results of a new A/B test you decided to run.

You feel guilty when you're doing something you like doing outside of the company. Only through years of wrestling with this internal fight do you recognize how the word "balance" is an art that is just as important as any other skill set you could ever hope to have. You begin to see how valuable creativity is and that you must think differently not only to win, but to see the biggest opportunities. You recognize you get your best ideas when you're not staring at a screen. You see immediate returns on healthy distractions.

You start to respect the Duck. Paddle like hell under the water and be smooth and calm on top where everyone can see you. You learn the hard way that if you lose your cool you lose.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Energy Lies—XII

"Obama is Restricting Oil Drilling"

 ~ If Obama and his Administration were working to restrict domestic oil production, how would we know?

We could listen to the usual mouthpieces from the API, partisan nincompoops in the GOP-run US House, the right-wing echo chamber, and the parrots of Gerardia, but how do they know? Where is the evidence? Where is the data?

It's not to be found in US oil production, which has gone up every year since Obama took office.

Nor can it be found in the primary measure of drilling activity, the Baker-Hughes rig count:

US domestic oil rig count

In the last 3 years the rig count has quadrupled, and is higher than it has been in at least 25 years. "Drill, baby, drill"? It's de facto policy.

How can so many in the GOP and among their allies tell such outrageous and blatantly false lies? (Hint: follow the money.) How can so many people so uncritically believe them? It was false a year ago and it's still false today. They sure hate Obama it seems, but we must look elsewhere for reasons.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Gasoline Price Gouging

Seattle Area Diverges

 ~ What is going on with Seattle gasoline prices?

There are many factors that go into the price of gasoline, its movement is complicated, and it is very hard to predict.

Not so hard is to inspect the historical data:

Seattle gasoline prices go up even as oil prices fall

Why does it diverge from the national average price so abruptly starting a month ago?

The biggest component of gasoline prices by far is the cost of crude oil. Even accounting for the tiresome time lag from when oil prices decline to when the pump price does, this makes no sense. Oil has plunged more than $20 a barrel in recent months, and yet our gasoline prices have gone up.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Allure of Entrepreneurship

More Want to Start Their Own Business

Evaluating new ideas for a business
 ~ The desire to create a new business is strong:
[A] survey released in November suggests that 1 in 4 Americans aged 44-70 are interested in starting businesses or nonprofit ventures in the next 5-10 years.

Of those potential business owners, 58% say the current economic crisis makes them more likely to create their own venture, despite doubts about startup funding. Nearly as many (47%) said they expect to tap into personal savings to launch their ventures.
Many of these fledgling entrepreneurs will take the plunge for the first time. Most will fail. The biggest reasons for not succeeding? Running out of cash, building a business without paying attention to what customers want, and choking on their own growth. The likelihood of failure can be greatly reduced with proper business planning and a focus on the fundamentals of starting a successful business. There is no substitute for experience, and first-time entrepreneurs often make the same mistakes made by many others before them. One way to avoid that sad outcome is by learning from the mistakes of others so you needn't make them yourself—have a good team, or work with an experienced guide.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Privacy Policy

What's Mine is Mine; What's Yours is Ours

Cartoon: suspicions on Facebook IPO
 ~ As individuals we hardly expect privacy any longer; and we are getting just what we expect. In contrast, corporations, banks and government at all levels are becoming more and more private, secretive and opaque, and ever-more aggressive about it. Increasingly, we expect that as well, and we are going to get it, in more ways than one.

JP Morgan and Facebook are, in this way, typical of their time. Nothing will come of the lawsuits and investigations because what has happened will trend for some time.

Update: The problem is systemic; it seems fraud was committed at Bank of America too. The retail investing game is rigged, and the only smart move is not to play.