What can we do about the Arab revolutions?

It’s frustrating to feel like nothing you do matters.  In isolation, we have very little effect on the world.  It’s only in aggregate, by organizing with other people that large changes — social chain reactions — can happen.  Sometimes it’s done purposefully, as in the case of universal suffrage or the civil rights movement.  Sometimes we don’t even realize what we’ve been organized to do, as with our present efforts to terraform the Earth.  A few weeks ago I was completely absorbed by the uprising in Egypt.  I don’t watch live video much (and no TV), and I was glued to Al Jazeera, and temporarily subscribed to a dozen actively twittering people in Cairo.  Then my sister sent me a link to a live hummingbird cam, which was jarringly disconnected from what I’d been immersed in, which looked more like this:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/89031137@N00/5401833184/

Continue reading What can we do about the Arab revolutions?

Links for the week of December 3rd, 2010

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Continue reading Links for the week of December 3rd, 2010

Shared Links for Jun 12th

  • Your Backyard Farmer – A couple of women in Portland who will do your organic vegetable gardening for you! They visit dozens of personal gardens all over Portland every day to tend their micro-fields, and can help teach you how to grow too. If we're willing to pay people to come do landscaping (and certainly "we" seem to be willing to do that in Pasadena), why not vegetables too? I've thought about this business model in the past too. Seemed like it would probably be a lot of work, and not a whole lot of pay, but it does have the advantage of starting up with virtually no capital. Just hand tools, seeds, and smiles 🙂 (tagged: gardening food green urban sustainability business )
  • Are we ready for honesty? | Jerusalem Post – A right-wing Israeli talks about what an honest discussion about the Israel-Palestine conflict would look like. Should they annex the West Bank formally, and set up a greater Israel in which the Arabs cannot vote? Should they expel the Arab Israelis in exchange for removing all the settlers? It might sound like crazy talk… but at some level, the questions he brings up are the real questions Israel has to deal with, no matter how ugly they might be. (tagged: israel palestine obama war policy westbank gaza terrorism )
  • China Begins Its Transition to a Clean-Energy Economy – Lots of great plans from the Chinese leadership, but are they actually enforceable, implementable, or verifiable, even by China's own government? And even if they are, the terrifying fact is that they don't end up reducing emissions, they just end up slowing the rate of increase, what what we really need is a virtual cessation of CO2 emissions worldwide. The universe is not required to be accordance with human ambition. (tagged: energy china climate policy politics )
  • Wordnik – A site for anyone who loves words and language. More than a dictionary, different from the Wiktionary, fun and social. Give words a life of their own! (tagged: education language dictionary technology web2.0 )
  • Conservative Cyclists Transcend Cultural Stereotypes – As with sustainability more generally, we're only likely to make progress on cycling when it can stop being a partisan issue. Thankfully I'm not the only one who likes it because it's cheap! (tagged: bicycle transportation politics )

Shared Links for Apr 30th

  • Transparency means nothing without justice – Government transparency is necessary, but not sufficient. If police violence is recorded and publicized, and nobody cares, it doesn't matter. This is in come sense emblematic of the coup in western propaganda. You don't need to control the media as the Soviets did or the Chinese do, if your population is comfortable enough not to care what's happening out there to someone else, and if their voting patterns are firmly tied to other issues (especially social issues like abortion), the idea of a democratic revolt becomes fairly abstract. I think this where a lot of the government's fear of economic recessions comes from. When people are out of work, or even hungry, suddenly they become a lot more excitable. (tagged: transparency law police politics technology internet )
  • Condensing steam without water – Concentrating solar thermal power stations are ultimately designed to run a steam turbine, just like a gas-fired power plant. That means they need water (to turn into steam). Problematically, most such plants use water as a condensing coolant (70% of Caltech's water usage is as coolant for our 14MW worth of gas-fired power)… which is going to be hard to come by in the desert, where CSP will be built. Thankfully, there's a way to recondense steam without using a water coolant – but it does require a huge cooling tower. Not so great in Pasadena, but probably fine in the Mojave, next to acres and acres of mirrors. (tagged: solar energy technology sustainability green electricity water )
  • Rousing a Latent Defense Mechanism to Fight HIV – It turns out there is a gene in humans that produces a protein which inhibits infection by HIV, but it has a mutation – a premature stop codon – which prevents it from being effectively synthesized. This mutation doesn't exist in most Old World monkeys (and that's apparently why they can't get HIV). Undoing the mutation allows the protein to be synthesized, and grants HIV immunity to human cells. I imagine that undoing bad mutations like this, and our inability to synthesize vitamin C, might be the first place we see human germ-line engineering outside of disease avoidance (preventing e.g. cystic fibrosis). Really, these mutations are hard to distinguish from genetic diseases – they're just diseases that we, as a species, have learned to live with. (tagged: genetic engineering hiv aids biology science research plos medicine )
  • Anna in the Middle East – Anna Baltzer is a Jewish American who got a Fulbright fellowship to live in the West Bank in 2005, and document the experiences of Palestinians. She's been giving presentations about it ever since. Some parts of her presentation are available via YouTube too. From the 15 minutes I watched she seemed like a level headed critic. She's speaking in Boulder and Denver in May. (tagged: israel palestine politics fulbright peace war )
  • Twitter + Stimulus = Humans are Gullible – A wonderful demonstration of the power of the confirmatory bias. Twitter is the perfect platform for the injection of random falsehoods. Too short for citations. Instantaneous distribution. Make sure your followers are predisposed to agree with what you say, and you can get them to believe just about anything – within that constraint. Too bad the author seems to think this only applies to conservatives. (tagged: politics twitter statistics propaganda )