28 February, 2008

Lo-- the slacker returns

Sorry for the lack of update (who do I really apologize to...?). I think that these posts need to begin having thesis. Anyway, I was surprisingly busy for a "break" last week (hence the lack of a post).

It is time to look into the green economy. I find the oncoming sustainability market as absolutely fascinating. As my understanding of (1) economics and (2) sustainability grows, so does my interest in the oncoming move. I'm a bit uncertain as to exactly where the innovation will come from (India or China, likely), but as an economy, and as a society, I think that the generational swing of inventiveness will strike again in the next decade or so.

Let's face it, most of the world is slowly becoming aware that resources are in fact, limited. Solving the problem for providing more people with less raw material is indeed the $100 billion question.

Too many ways to approach this... myriad problems to solve and myriad ways to solve them (=myriad2 solutions?) means that the late-21st century world will be defined by people and ideas (literally and figuratively) coming from all directions at once.... biotech, physical sciences, sociology, policy, agricultural... At this point, you can take your pick as to which will be the first pebble in the avalanche, but you're certain that it will come.

To make a long rant (thankfully) shorter, I think that it'd be really cool to be involved on the ground floor of something this big (karmic and financial rewards notwithstanding). It's all a matter of knowing which horse to back for this race. Or just running for yourself.

There's certainly a lot going on out there (you can reference any number of texts), and any predictions from my non-expert vantage would strictly be grasping at straws. You can, however, be assured that the billionaires of the next decade will be made in this industry.

Keep your ear to the ground. It's coming.

25 February, 2008

Yes, yes, I have no updated in two weeks. We can all agree that I am a slacker and move on (hopefully tomorrow though)

13 February, 2008

Snow day!

Yeah, so the weather in eastern Massachusetts is terrible today-- snow, rain, sleet, hail, freezing rain. I (literally) that that everything which possibly can fall from the sky has today.

Later this afternoon, I expect frogs

11 February, 2008

Ranting-- Good for the soul

Good Monday, everyone!

It's an awfully hard thing to manage to find time for independent reading, but if you get the chance, I would recommend The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan. It's a sinclaireqsue journey to the source of the American meal. No sausage-factories per se, but it is an exploration of our society's natural propensity for abundance, and how a nation of poor in the land of plenty eventually got exactly what they wanted-- everything.
If you have spoken tome personally at some point in the last couple of years, the odds are good that you have heard at least one diatribe on the evils of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). This chemical, derived from the nutrient-rich portion of a zea mays seed (corn kernel) has found its way into just about everything most Americans eat. It is added as a sweetener, as a replacement for imported sugar by all-American midwest-grown, agricorporate-owned formerly prairie farmland. In our world, there is an eternal web of interconnectedness (i.e., I could go into a rant about the abusive power of the agribusiness lobby, but I think that would distract me from... whatever it is that I'm talking about), but in the United States, HFCS is cheap, plentiful, and artificial.
"So what if it's synthetic, Phil?"
HFCS is just the most well-known example. Looking at the back of most foods, we are familiar with the laboratory-eqsue terms such as "xantham gum," "lecithan", and others. At the heart of this matter, is that most of these are derived from corn. That's just the vegetarian-friendly fare.
Chickens eat corn. Duh. That's what they do. They're chickens. Their job is to eat things they find on the ground (corn, bugs, crap) and eat it. Later, their job is to lay a few eggs and eventually populate the stir-fry I'm planning for tomorrow night. But, we as a people are the red-meat loving, leather-wearing cowboys who like beef, which like anything else is good in moderation. Bovines, however, are ruminants, in that they are evolutionarily geared to eat grass and have a lovely symbiotic team with this undigestible-by-humans plant. But as corn is cheap & plentiful, factory cows (yes, I'll use factory, long ago, they stopped being animals and started being raw material to process) are fed only a slurry of corn/pharmaceutical-derived... something for a few brief, miserable weeks in their accelerated lives from calf-to-steak.
There is much, much more in Pollan's book, but this overdependence on maise worries me deeply. The Aztecs, who were the original cultivators of this tropical grass, literally worshiped corn as the source of all life-- they had no illusions that they were anything other than "corn people" in their own words. Yet it's this monoculture as the basis of our society's food system strikes me as highly unstable. An over-reliance on anything is dangerous; I will admittedly say that I don't know all that much about biology or agriculture, but I have a disturbing feeling that we are setting ourselves up for a Malthusian- like catastrophe in the event of a crop-collapse.
This is the sort of thing that makes me begin to consider some of the back-to-the-land movements in the '70s with some sort of quasi-utopian fantasy of a self-sustaining community up in the Green Mountains. I am often concerned about the state of the world. Or, specifically, how long we can keep going at the pace which we are. Often, I have faith that some sort of balancing forces will ultimately keep things in check, but it is likely that a proper solution would be a worldwide motion toward a sustainable planet. We certainly have enough to support everyone, but there needs to be a concerted leadership, a greater sense of unity. Goodness knows that the knowhow and funding and technology and will is out there, but so rarely do these things come together for a truly great cause. But hasn't things like this been the bane of humanity since the dawn of civilization? Are there real solutions? Or should we all just withdraw into our Ron Paul-wannabe enclaves and simply not interact with our neighbors?
To be lazy, we need a deus ex machina.
To be hopeful, we need tomorrow

04 February, 2008

Okay, that's not for another twelve hours, when the polls open, but there is a buzz about America today. I hope that anyone who is reading this has gone out to their local polling place and cast their ballot (if able, not all of us are lucky enough to live in an open primary state). The important part is that you vote. The next most important part is that I see lots and lots of support for Senator Barack Obama, both here in Massachusetts and around the rest of the land.
I tend to wave optimist in (probably) too many things in my life, but seeing the interest today among my students in the democratic process was extremely satisfying. And this rant has suddenly become a stream-of-consciousness babble.
Nonetheless, I share in the excitement. And it's not just because I watch politics like normal people watch football. There are record numbers and interest in the primary season which has not been seen in my lifetime (I believe that NPR cited 1980 as the last time). Even people who often could not care less about these things are talking about debate performance, stance on issues, and the future decade for America and the world.
I hope that this keeps-- the natural cynic in me serves as a reminder that the hype around the primaries will die along with the anointment of the nominees (in all likelihood this week), and there will be a glut of interest until November, when we return to our <50% voter rates, etc. We seek so often for our Enlightened Republic.
Yet, I am a hopeless optimist. Let's watch tomorrow