Friday, March 28, 2008

The Tide is Turning

The Tide is Turning (Roger Waters on the album Radio KAOS, 1987)

Using Saltwater for Energy

Super incredibly interesting video. It leaves me wanting to know more! Things like this make me realize that there is no excuse for us not jumping into renewable energy to solve our oil crisis.

Of course, the big question is, how much energy does his machine require?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Understanding the Issues in this Election

If you'd like more of a focus on the issues in this election than the horse race or "poo flinging" aspects, read on.

A new Website has introduced a unique and simple way to evaluate the candidates on the issues.

With, you fill out two fairly short questionnaires (it will take you five minutes) and it tells you which candidate is closest to your views. Even better, it gives you a next best candidate, and the next, etc. It even will show you exactly how the candidate differs from your views, and what their basis is for determining the candidates views (text of speeches, Website, etc.).

Take the quiz. Wouldn't it be great if we all voted based on which politician was most likely to implement the measures we cared about, rather than based on fear or who made the best speeches?

For me, my top candidate was Mike Gravel. (Didn't know he was still in the running!) Second place was Barack and third was Hillary. McCain was a distant third (but I still love the guy - I'm sorry.)

As I've said before, this is a no-lose election for me. Any of the three top contenders will be a massive step up from what we've been dealing with for the past seven years.

In a related story, ThinkProgress has established a new blog called The Wonk Room. This will be a place where focus is placed squarely on the issues of the election, with no attention to the horse race or poo flinging. All from a decidely liberal perspective, of course, but it's better than nothing.

Hulu Doesn't Suck!!

The first part of this story is familiar. Young startup companies (e.g. YouTube, BrightCove, etc.) produce amazing Websites that are able to host television shows (or snippets), movies and homemade videos. The Websites become hugely popular. The television and movie studios, owners of the copyrights to the content, sue the startups.

With me so far?

The way the story is supposed to continue is like this. The television and movie studios finally (years later) come out with their own Website to host their own content and blow it. The Websites are hard to use, are cluttered with ads and nobody goes there.

But, this time, that didn't happen.

Fox and NBC did a joint venture, no less, to produce a Website to feature their content. This Website, announced long ago, would start out with a little bit of content, including movies, television series, news programs and even snippets of popular segments. It would be viewable online but no content would be downloadable.

Well, it's here. It's called Hulu. And guess what? It doesn't suck.

In fact, it's pretty amazing. I personally love the site. But my wife, she's gone bananas. Let me back up a second.

My wife is a seamstress. She does a lot of work in what we call "the cutting room" where she has a TV to keep her company during some of the most boring parts of sewing. That TV had gone on the fritz recently and we decided to replace it or change our service to fix the problem.

But Hulu fixed the problem for us. Now she takes one of my laptops into her cutting room, fires up Hulu and watches a show while she's cutting. Simple.

Here are Hulu's benefits:

  1. Hulu is incredibly easy to use. The placement of every button is intuitive, the behavior of every widget is predictable. It just works. It's the iPod of online video.
  2. Hulu is free. Every TV show and movie is delivered for no charge.
  3. Hulu's commercials are non-intrusive. There are commercials in every Hulu movie and TV show. But the commercial breaks are short (one commercial per break) and not that annoying. You cannot fast forward through the commercial. For me, that might actually be a problem, because I hate watching any kind of commercial, but my wife doesn't care. She's only half-listening most of the time anyway.
  4. Hulu's content is good enough for now. Hulu has a nice mix of new and old TV series, plus a couple of pages of movies. The on-demand feature is so nice. Just decide which movie you want to see and it starts right there. For free. And I am sure that Fox and NBC are working to continue populating the site with more and more content. I see the series and movies coming on-stream every day.
  5. There are even social aspects to Hulu. You can send a movie to a friend (e-mail them the link). You can send a snippet that you choose (a minute or an hour) to a friend (again - with a link).
  6. Hulu video is good quality. Jump to full-screen video and you've got nearly television quality video. It's quite nice.

Congratulations to Fox and NBC. Great job! I could give a rundown of the downside of Hulu but that is documented sufficiently elsewhere. For now I just want to give a high five to Fox and NBC for a job well done.

By the way - there are even competitors to Hulu. Veoh and Joost are in this same space - what you could call "legal commercial video" and also doing well. I still prefer Hulu, but it's nice to see several services popping up like this.

Barack Obama Makes His Speech on Race - March 18, 2008

Barack Obama made his historic speech on race in America today, partially to address comments made by his former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, made in a sermon last year.

I thought Obama's speech was eloquent and effectively brought the conversation back to how we can heal our current issues, including race relations. So many of these issues have dogged our nation for decades or centuries, and my view is that Obama is the only politician talking about Politics 2.0 and Government 2.0 where we will rethink our approach to each and every problem, without limiting ourselves to a Red Solution and a Blue Solution.

View Obama's speech right here:

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Why I'm Voting for Barack Obama

I think what is missing from the debate over the Democratic presidential contest is brought to light best by a seemingly unrelated NPR series that ran last week.

They profiled the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). In the report, NPR said that the FCC is trying to wedge all Internet services into a "type of cable service" while they are assuming that wireless frequencies are just for cell phones.

Professor Bankler, one of their guests, says that the FCC is actually charged with promoting the American communications industry as well as regulating them. How can they continue to operate like this?

Try explaining network neutrality or the success of YouTube to an agency that is stuck in a forty-year-old paradigm like this.

Barack Obama is the only candidate that I hear who is talking about rethinking politics and government. He is bringing a fresh perspective to the problems that ail America. The arguments about experience and years in office are distractions from the fact that American government needs to experience a Renaissance. Who has the politic courage and will to execute this Renaissance? I don't think it is Hillary Clinton or John McCain, because they are dismissing Obama's calls for change as "eloquent but empty." Is that what we need? Small tweaks to today's systems? Or simply to choose the Red Team or the Blue Team and then fight the other's ideas to the death?

I say no. We need to rethink government. We need to rethink the political process. To rethink the FCC, FAA and EPA. To rethink industry and commerce and pollution and our approaches to global warming. Rethink airports and roads and cars. Rethink intellectual property rights and "the commons." Rethink how we approach everything and look for ideas for better ways.

All three politicians are calling for an increase in "green collar jobs" by investing in renewable energy. But is it that simple? Just throw some money at this nascent industry and it'll flourish? Didn't Jimmy Carter do that in the 1970s? How did that work?

I think our solutions will be much more complicated than a Red Solution or a Blue Solution. It will be a complex intermix of ideas from both sides, plus perspectives that neither side has even considered yet. I feel like my approach to health insurance is an example of this (free e-Book here). Parts of it are probably despised by liberals (it includes Health Savings Accounts) and other parts are anathema to conservatives (although I'm not sure what). And even other parts probably seem strange to both Red and Blue (all this stuff about holistic healthcare). But it might be just the solution we need to help solve our healthcare crisis.

Anyway, enough of my self-promotion. The reason I like what I hear from Barack Obama is that he is starting the conversation we need to have - about a Renaissance in America. (By the way, Barack, or anyone else - feel free to use that line!)