Thursday, December 28, 2006

15 Houseplants Can Reduce Indoor Pollution

Practical Tips Dept. (Green desk)

"As few as 15 houseplants in an average-size home can offer a significant reduction in the number of indoor contaminants.

"Look for plants such as philodendrons, spider plants (Chlorophytum comosum), and golden pothos (Epipremnum aureum) -- all have long been appreciated as houseplants for their decorative qualities and are highly effective in removing molecules of formaldehyde. This contaminant is present in many household items, including particleboard, carpet backings, some grocery bags, facial tissues, paper towels, and permanent-press clothing.

"Flowering plants such as gerbera daisies and chrysanthemums are excellent choices for removing benzene -- frequently present in gasoline, inks, oils, paints, plastics, and rubber -- from the atmosphere.

From "Ask Martha" in the Boston Globe, December 28, 2006
This is according to -- Gack!! -- Martha Stewart! Maybe she learned this in "that place where I was." (I'll admit I never thought I'd find occasion to quote this insufferably hyperactive housekeeper, and convicted abuser of market insider information. But she shore do know her houseplants, I guess.)

I might add that Pothos, mentioned here, are very hardy, tolerant plants that will not faint dead away if you forget to water them for a few days, or even a week. Just the thing for those of us whose thumbs are a pale green at best.

Unmentioned in this article is the fact that living with plants has an unmistakeably soothing effect on one's nerves, too.

The article also reminds us that, "Plants produce oxygen." That's good: scientists are beginning to suspect that oxygen might have some role in respiration, perhaps even some beneficial effects on the brain.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Web 2.0 and "Rational" VC Investing

Couldn't resist a quick (snarky) comment here: the Wall St. Journal, in "Today's Free Feature" of this date, created an e-mail discussion between two venture capitalists on the dodgy subject, "Is 'Web 2.0' Another Bubble?" (via Techmeme)

Saying he saw no bubble forming, one of the gentlemen, David Hornik (a partner at August Capital), made the following astonishing statement:

"Venture capitalists will rationally stop investing in ideas that don't bear fruit."
As an editor, I yearned to append, "...once the bubble bursts."

Back during the dot-bomb days, I understood that VCs' M.O. was to fund 20 companies in a sector that could support one or two, in the hopes that one of theirs makes it. I may be a rube where high finance is concerned, but that sounds intrinsically bubbly to me.

Mr. Hornik seems to confirm this track record by later referring to, "...the irrationality of the Web 1.0 ascendancy." Yet he also states, "While many Web 2.0 companies will fail, they will not likely fail in significantly greater proportions than has been the case with other venture investments historically."

So was there or was there not an Internet bubble? Was the the year 2000 that long ago?
Winky Dept.
This could well be considered a risky post on my part, since I'm still hoping some angelic or partnerized investor will be interested in funding my own Breakthrough E-Commerce idea!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Season's Greetings!

(and/or Happy Holidays)!

Wishing you the best of all

An Exchange About GPS Monitoring of Kids

I just got involved in a fun exchange in David "Pogue's Posts" at*, still in progress as of this writing, on the serious subject of parents electronically monitoring their older children.

I happened to see a new post before anyone had added a comment, so I sallied forth, and got an intriguing response a few comments later. (Mine was #2, it turned out, then #9 is where I replied to #7's objection to my first one, while saluting #4's input. "Martha" makes a useful point at #20, among numerous other interesting windows on the topic, including pleas from creeped-out teens. I'm done, though, 'cuz like Stan Lee used to caption, "Nuff Said!")

The "net" consensus: In the long term, a trusting relationship will result in a healthier, happier person. Fear Strikes Out.

(Yet one more thing I'd like to do a search on, sometime: At what age do children generally start to become aware of themselves as individual entities, and to develop self pride?)

* -- "Wordsy" tangent:

Traditionally, something was "in" the New York Times. But in the current environment, no one says "in" a website, it's either "on" (that's old techie style,) or "at" (the marketing way). I might as easily used one or the other there.

Seems like people often refer to a site that supports a company's products as "on," but a destination site like a newspaper, where the site itself is the offering, as "at." On the other hand, doesn't everyone say "on AOL"? Funny how language evolves.

("So what?" -- Hey, I clearly labelled this a tangent!)

Speaking of which:

...that would be Stan Lee, the founder of Marvel Comics, the guy who created the first superheroes with human problems and senses of humor (...who doesn't appear to have his own site, so we're giving you the Wikipedia page).

(Note: This is what you'd have to call a real holiday-style, freely tangential post, hm?)

Friday, December 15, 2006

TNT's NBA broadcast focuses on New Orleans today

Kudos to TNT to devote all their between- and after-game airtime to bring the still-broken condition of New Orleans to the forefront. This was on the occasion of the first game played in New Orleans by the itinerant "New Orleans/Oklahoma City-nee-Charlotte Hornets" since Katrina hit the criminally weak levies to remodel the city.

And a heartfelt shout-out to Ernie Johnson, the longtime host of Turner's NBA halftime show -- hang in there, Ernie! Great to see you back. I've always enjoyed your considerable wit, the smooth way you literally "moderate" the show, your always evident humanity, and now your courage.

I was one who was really annoyed when the bull, Barkley, first joined your fine china shop, since I really enjoyed you and Kenny Smith before he and his great big mouth arrived. But now the youngster's calmed down and settled in, and the three of you are a clever, relaxed, enjoyable ride on the subject of professional basketball.
What a contrast with how ESPN handles its NBA share, the much larger one, unfortunately. I like a lot of the individual on-air personalities, but they're clearly being conducted to deliver all opinions at a high pitch, with that constant, macho hurling of challenges.

Don't you hate those ESPN shoutfests? On one of their regular shows, we're invited to watch as those two guys -- I'm not going to name it or them, because we shouldn't encourage them to carry in the manner they do -- argue and yell at each other as they sprint through a tightly timed series of the day's hot topics. It's exhausting, but even better, it leaves you in a cross, contentious mood. Just what we need more of in our world today.

It's "Crossfire" on sports, and it was an advance of civilization when that CNN show went off the air, sunk, it seemed, by John Stewart's gutsy appearance on their show to beg them to stop.
-- See, now, here's a great example: Barkley says he could compete in the Eastern Conference today, Reggie Miller says if you can run up and down those stairs (the lower bowl of the arena) in 20 seconds, I'll believe you -- and the next thing you know, Charles is charging up the stairs. The camerapeople are quick and zoom back to catch it, and he arrives back in a respectable time, but clearly winded, to the merriment of all.

This kind of spontaneous fun happens so seldom on television these days; it makes you wonder why.
(Note: I wrote this last night while watching the basketball post-game show, after which it was just too late to do any more with.)

Related (satire), here:
"Dance vs. Hoops"

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The "Greenest" Cities

The Green Guide, an environmental newsletter, has ranked Eugene, Oregon, at the top of its survey of America's most eco-friendly cities in 2006, "cities whose green achievements set the standard for others." The ranking is based on eleven criteria, including air quality, recycling, green space and transportation. Austin, Texas, was runner up and Portland, Oregon, came third. Boston was ranked a fairly respectable 11th.

Eugene is “well known as a powerhouse of green industry, clustering sustainable businesses like an environmentally minded Silicon Valley. …Residents enjoy numerous bike trails, clean air and water, parkland and outlying wilderness areas.

“Hydroelectric and wind power contribute over 85 percent of Eugene's power, reducing greenhouse gas emissions considerably. A little over 16 percent of Eugene is green space, including athletic fields, city parks, public gardens, trails and waterfront. The city has over 2,500 acres of publicly owned wetlands.”
Reuters’ story on the survey was headlined, "’Greenest' U.S. city faces same problems as others," as if to reassure us that we shouldn't bother going to all that trouble to act cooperatively with our home environment, because it makes no real difference.

The article, as you might expect, has a much more positive tone. But problems still sell better at the newsstand than solutions.
The city of Eugene has adopted aggressive environmental policies aimed at conserving energy, using alternative fuels and fostering an industry of green businesses. By 2020, Eugene aims to be carbon neutral in its buildings and operations... Eugene's entire fleet of diesel vehicles including heavy machinery and fire trucks run on a biodiesel blend. (Now at two-thirds, soon the entire fleet of its 400 automobiles will be hybrids...)

Nonetheless, Eugene struggles with many of the same problems facing other growing U.S. cities: urban sprawl, congested roadways and limited public transportation.

Eugene's vision is to transform the city's downtown into a more vibrant area with mixed commercial- and residential-use buildings to stem city sprawl, while buying up land for new parks and bike paths. Voters approved a $27.5 million bond in November to purchase land to build new parks, upgrade existing ones and expand hiking trails.

Connecting it all will be the city's new rapid transit system of large hybrid-electric buses that run in dedicated lanes with special traffic signals to guarantee consistent commuter times similar to train travel.

Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy says business and the environment are no longer in opposing corners. "People used to say you can't be good for business and protect the environment at the same time," said Piercy, a former state lawmaker who became mayor in 2005. "That is absolutely not the truth."

(By Daisuke Wakabayashi, publ. Dec. 11, 2006)

(Related, here:)
- Cambridge to ban or regulate leaf blowers

- Dell Starts Recycling Program with Free Home Pickup

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Easily Jazz Up Your Site with Embedded Video Clips

'Don't know about you, but this year I sensed the conclusive sea change to video as The fundamental medium of communication. (I can just hear the incredulous cries: "Dude! Like, get with it, man -- that's really old news!" But, look, I'm a writer -- what do you expect?)

Obviously, most people have long turned to TV for most of their information input, as sad but true as that is. But what's really tipped the scales this year is Internet video: YouTube and all its clones, where we can now be the Producers instead of just the prodigious swallowers of footage.

Why "sad" but true? Because movies are naturally superior at conveying emotional information, but a far smaller pipe where thoughts and ideas are concerned. We may live by the former, being the "feeling machines" we are, but we need the latter to build things.

But I digress. YouTube's wonderful, genius stroke is to allow you to embed a video on your site, where viewers can watch it without leaving your page even though it's stored on YT. Like this:

(This is something I just put together for Dodge Street, a music club in nearby Salem, Mass., adding it to their site -- which is not otherwise my work, thank you! -- after first getting their video "ingested" from an older analog camcorder. I will post something more erudite as soon as such becomes available.)

There's nothing like moving pictures with sound to make an impression on humans. This YouTubian technique just makes it so easy, and you don't have to store bulky video files on your own server, or send those coveted eyeballs to another site to see your clips.

(Related, here:)
"What will make the Web universal is video"