Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Pacific Blue Green Inn

Alicia's dad and step-mom have a hotel at Santa Cruz, and Smark and I are going to stay there for a night.

Pacific Blue Inn

It's a small bed and breakfast in downtown Santa Cruz. It looks really nice.


interesting show on NPR about marriage and women.

On Point with Tom Ashbrook

Monday, July 27, 2009

framing the debate

Some thoughts...

I was thinking about how to bring environmentalism into the mainstream. How do we get people to care, to think that it's a good thing? I think right now, national sovereignty and profit motives are the most compelling arguments. Americans are obviously still in a very capitalist mentality, and getting people to embrace new ways of thinking requires some prodding in vulnerable places. National sovereignty would be like, our dependence on foreign natural resources makes us vulnerable (our economy becomes vulnerable, and if we depend on a volatile backwards region like the Middle East for energy, we are vulnerable to both physical attack and economic hiccups). So that would be an incentive to develop renewable energy and gain independence. Boohoo for the established oil barons. Do we really pity them? They have avenues they could take if they're willing to set aside their pride for a second.

Profit motive is that industry ultimately saves if it cares about the environment and social labor standards.

Wireless Electricity?

The article is here.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

R. Kelly - Trapped in the Closet

This is actually quite funny. My roommate and his friends were watching it one night. It's like a 15-series thing. This is the 1st episode, and this is pretty much the style for the whole thing.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

water management for agriculture


Hey they talk about drip irrigation and sensing exactly how much a plant is drinking! That was the project I tried to work on, although my system never really worked. Oh well...

Friday, July 24, 2009

Susskind Response to previous post

Our back and forth inspired me to add a new post to my blog providing more background on the effort to create an undergraduate minor and a graduate certificate program in Environment and Sustainability. (http://theconsensusbuildingapproach.blogspot.com)

We are trying to distinguish the Energy Minor and the Environment and Sustainability Minor. The less they overlap, the better (in terms of getting them both adopted by the faculty).

I agree completely with your point about the need to offer relevant classes in each student's major. That's why we have adopted the idea of sub-specialties. But, we can only offer sub-specialties in areas where departments agree to offer the same courses on a regular basis. We have not gotten any indication from Course VI that they are willing to offer a sub-specialty. We are working with Chemistry to develop a Green Chemistry sub-specialty.

I like your IAP suggestion a lot!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Yang's Reponse

Well, I realize that the Environment and Sustainability effort isn't focused on energy. It just seems like the only aspect that anyone is working on in Course 6. The goal of power electronics (what Leeb and Perrault work on) is to convert energy efficiently so I think it's relevant by definition, but I also know that they're personally interested in sustainability.

I was thinking they could help adapt or create an undergrduate course on energy harvesting technologies. Are you saying that such a class would be more appropriate for the Energy Minor and it would be preferable for the Sustainability Minor not to overlap? Or perhaps such a class would not have enough focus on strategies for sustainability?

My idea for the sustainability minor was to offer some very technical classes that would equip students with skills relevant to making every industry sustainable instead of inadvertently equipping students with technical expertise that is most relevant to missile defense or ecryption for defense or robotics for defense. In that sense, I am not sure that any new course 6 classes could really be "about" sustainability since classes are generally not "about" any application.

However, I think that to get students engaged in sustainability in their careers it is really important to offer relevant classes in their own major. In my mind, the goal is so that people become engaged in sustainability as a part of their careers, and students often don't consider classes taken outside their major to be important to their careers. It may be nice to change that, but I think that would be a more fundamental problem. It's not really all the students' fault, though. Employers typically are only interested in what technical classes you took so there isn't really incentive to take classes outside your major. (So with this in mind, for classes that are offered outside the major, it's really important to make sure they're classified as HASS classes.) Besides the classes, students get a lot of technical expertise doing UROPs, but again, put a higher value on more technical UROPs, especially if they can be listed as an author on a paper or work in a regular basis with a professor, and then maybe they can get you into grad school...etc. Professors who teach classes, especially the core header classes get the most exposure and probably UROP students, so it could be a good idea to encourage faculty working on sustainability projects to teach more header classes. I have no idea how those decisions are made within the departments, though.

Joe Paradiso's lab hires a lot of UROPs that sometimes end up doing grad school with him. Rich Fletcher does, too. They're at the Media Lab, though, and aren't typically involved with undergraduate curriculum.

So I'd say it's really important to get more funding for professors who are interested in sustainability related projects, or perhaps just help them publicize what they do. I'm hoping that the Sustainability Minor as well as the Summit will influence the priorities of labs at MIT and perhaps get more sustainability related faculty hired as well.

Lastly, it's a good idea to offer less technical classes or seminars on sustainability over IAP. During that time, most other of their required courses are not offered and students feel they have time to "branch out."

Susskind's Response

Professor Susskind's reponse to my previous post on Course 6 and Sustainability.

Thanks for the post. Dave Staelin is the only person on your list who has been an active member of the MIT Faculty Environmental Network for Sustainability (FENS).

You seem to be conflating the Institute's Energy Initiative and the proposed
Environment and Sustainability effort suggested by the FENS. We see the Energy Initiative as a much narrower effort. You can work on Energy without being the least bit concerned about Sustainability (which often seems to be the case at MIT). Those of us interested in Environment and Sustainability who also work on energy tend to be interested in Renewables, Efficiency and strategies for minimizing greenhouse gas emissions and pollution associated with fossil fuel options. These have not been the top priorities of MITEI. They are not the primary focus of the new undergraduate Energy Minor. So, while certain aspects of energy policy and development will undoubtedly get folded into the new Environment and Sustainability Minor and Graduate Certificate, energy per se will not be ur primary focus.

Your point about what you see as an emphasis on developing countries is interesting. Those of us engaged in the battle against climate change know that anything less than
a global perspective is fruitless. Efforts to reduce CO2 emissions to manageable
levels over the next 35 years will have to be focused on the rapidly industrializing
nations of the G-77 as well as on big cities in OECD countries. What works in the North won't be particularly relevant in the South -- at least for the next several decades. So, we imagine a bifurcated approach to studying Environment and Sustainability at MIT. And, we imagine students moving from one context to the other during their careers. We want to prepare students to work successfully in both the developing and developed worlds. And, if we have a bias at this point, I think it ought to be on getting US-oriented students to pay attention to the problems facing and the differences associated with working in the mega-cities of the developing world. I hope we can do this by taking a persistently comparative approach to what
and how we teach at the Institute.

The survey that Sustainability@MIT did at the end of last semester indicates that a lot of MIT students are entirely unaware of the full scope of what is already offered at the Institute (and dramatically constrained by the requirements imposed by their home base department and degree program). Even if they have a glimmer of what's available, they don't see how they can possibly fit in what we are suggesting given everything they have to do. So, the obstacles to interdisciplinary and interdepartmental study at the Institute are severe. Do you have ideas about how we can get around them? Those of involved in real-life efforts to facilitate sustainable development both in the US and overseas know that it is crucial for the next generation of young professionals to be able to span disciplinary boundaries and to work at the intersection of theory and practice. We're struggling to figure out how to launch MIT students in this direction.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Course 6 and Sustainability

Here are some professors who might be interested in helping to adapt current curriculum to sustainability applications.

LEES - Laboratory for Electromagnetic and Electronic Systems is basically the power electronics lab, and so they have many projects on energy harvesting and energy storage systems. I took Leeb and Perreault's power electronics classes and they are the only professors in EECS that I know for sure are interested in sustainability.

Joe Paradiso
is a Media Lab professor and heads the Responsive Environments Group that does a lot of work on sensor networks. Also Rich Fletcher but he is new and often overcommits himself.

Director Joel Schindall was also working on some relevant projects and would probably also know more other people who are interested.

LIDS blog - the Laboratory for Information and Decision Systems recently had some energy events about power grid management and CO2 mitigation in the power sector by outside lecturers. This shows that while I'm not sure if anyone at LIDS currently is working on this stuff, their technical expertise is relevant.

David H. Staelin works on environmental sensing and wireless communications and seems like he might be interested in working on sustainability projects.

Dimitris Bertsimas works on Operations optimization, which seems like it could be applied to sustainability.

Bottom line is that a lot of the EECS profs are there because of the research they did that ultimately got applied to military applications, aerospace, and the communications industry (internet, cellphone).

I also wanted to address the issue of whether urban planning in developing nations or developed nations would be more relevant. I am not against studying developing nations. I think it's extremely important. I just personally feel that there has been too much emphasis on developing nations when we talk about sustainability projects. I feel it gives people the impression that if you are interested in sustainability, you should go overseas. Because of the success of D-Lab, working in developing nations has become all the rage. Of my colleagues who work on "sustainability," the vast majority of them focus on developing nations, but usually the very underdeveloped countries rather than the rapidly developing nations, which have different issues. For a sustainable society, it is just as critical for business as usual in developed nations to change, and in some ways it is even more difficult because of vested interests.

In addition, where students end up working depends on what they want to do and it depends on the resources of the field. For working on cutting edge technology in EECS, nowhere is more research and innovation happening than in the United States even if I don't think the research is focused on the right stuff.

Students who came to MIT to work on the cutting edge of technology find that the cutting edge is defined and funded largely by DARPA, NASA, and increasingly cancer research grants. Personally, I don't feel compelled to work on something unless I am in pursuit of the end goal, but many students just want to work on something really technically challenging because that is how they were motivated enough in the first place to come to MIT. While some of these people may prefer to work on projects related to sustainability, especially if there were classes and staff supporting them technically, they are fundamentally pursuing a high tech career and are not interested in working in developing countries, where the much-needed projects tend to be more low-tech as well as low-paying.

Yes, it can be surprising and perhaps dismaying that students describe their interests very narrowly, but in the context of their fields, they may feel their interests are already pretty broad, especially if they are willing to take classes outside their major. In science and engineering, people typically become extremely specialized in their particular area of expertise. At MIT, people generally already feel less stifled/sheltered because there is interdisciplinary collaboration. People don't always really have such narrow interests, though. It's just the way they talk about their interests.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Mac and Cheese

My friend Chuva made this amazing mac and cheese with four cheeses. I think it was something like this recipe. I didn't really follow it, but I was inspired by it today.

Rat Loves Cat

The Moon

Yesterday was the 40th anniversary of the moon landing by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. Yes it was really amazing the first time, but what would be the purpose of going again? Well, proponents say that we need it because it was so exciting the first time, and we need more excitement to unite the nation behind a common purpose. I'm all for the advancement of science, but I also know that the first time we had the space program, much of the science and engineering community became focused on this mission because that is what it takes. Clearly, if that much engineering resources are going to be devoted to more space exploration, there will be less, especially brainpower, for technological breakthroughs in energy, green manufacturing, etc.

On the other hand, if more space exploration means less R@D for making weapons, that would be good. Plus, any inventions may eventually be cleared for civilian use and perhaps could be a breakthrough for sustainable living. I'm not sure what they do with waste in space, but they certainly have to make do with fewer resources.

San Mateo County Fair : Usable Futures Pavilion

found out a friend of mine is managing the Usable Futures Pavilion of the San Mateo County Fair.

Looks like they're going to feature local businesses and technology for sustainability. Sounds pretty fun. Too bad I'm not out there then.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Re: MIT Sustainability Minor : Yang

Here are some responses I have. I realize this is a really awkward format, and this is exactly why I want to make thebeehive.mit.edu a forum format so we can have a discussion like this.

Prof Susskind says:
I'm a bit distressed that we didn't make the first core subject seem more important
to you. In the rest of the country, in the sustainability curricula that have already been
adopted, ecology is a centerpiece. MIT hasn't had a basic
ecology course available to undergraduates. Our approach is to embrace some
of the ethical issues concerning the responsibilities of humans for the stewardship
of the natural environment.

I don't know a whole lot about ecology. I think I had negative feelings about the words "ecology, ecologist, and conservation biology." I think there is probably a dissonance, though, between general usage of the word and academic usage of the word. In general usage, I think ecology has some negative connotations. It is often used to demonstrate that any living system is so complex that humans should never modify the natural environment since we never know the full extent of the consequences. While this idea is sometimes popular with the usual environmentalist crowd especially in developed countries, it has a different meaning for developing nations, especially rapid developing nations where conservation (of the rainforest, for example) sounds like a good idea, but it's impossible as long as people resort to logging the rainforest to improve their standard of living.

Now, I doubt that the class would have an antidevelopment message, but this is what I think of because of the mention of "conservation biology," although maybe I just don't even know what that is.

Regarding embracing ethical issues in the class, I would caution against putting too much focus on ethics. Most people who take the class would probably already agree that humans should not irreparably harm the environment, whether because of a moral obligation or because it ultimately threatens our own survival as a species. I think at some colleges it could be good to put more emphasis on ethics, but a lot of MIT students are cynical about talking about ethics and responsibilities in those terms. I think it's easier for a lot of us to think of things in terms of optimization of efficiency or utility or quality of life.

I think there is a subset of MIT students who are not activists or environmentalists but are interested in having a more fulfilling career that positively contributes to the natural world while still increasing quality of life for people. I think I'd be interested in

- tools for studying ecology rather than analyzing particular ecosystems

- tools for measuring human impact

- how ecology can help humans design better (biomimicry? perhaps this does not really count as ecology. I don't know)

- how human designs can work with ecological systems instead work against or completely separately from

- I don't really know what "population ecology and human demography...along with a review of important bio-physical cycles and the ways in which humans are affected by and shape these cycles" means, but they sound good.

MIT Sustainability Minor : Response from Susskind

I sent Professor Larry Susskind my comments, and these are his responses.

Many thanks for your comments on the sustainability minor. This is exactly
the kind of input we will use to shape the final version of the curriculum package
that goes to the full faculty for review.

I'm a bit distressed that we didn't make the first core subject seem more important
to you. In the rest of the country, in the sustainability curricula that have already been
adopted, ecology is a centerpiece. MIT hasn't had a basic
ecology course available to undergraduates. Our approach is to embrace some
of the ethical issues concerning the responsibilities of humans for the stewardship
of the natural environment.

We would love to get Course VI more involved. Who on the faculty in EECS
might we tap?

Of course, Let's continue the exchange in your blog. You can also cross reference
my blog (http://theconsensusbuildingapproach.blogspot.com) which deals
with sustainability issues as well.

I hope you'll look at the numerous undergraduate and graduate sub-specialities proposed by the various
MIT departments (or, in one case, by a set of departments) and offer your
feedback on the particular sets of subjects included. The sub-specialties are
as important to the undergraduate minor in Environment and Sustainability
as the new core subjects.

I wonder if you are right that most MIT graduates are going to work only in the
United States. My hunch is that in the future even US-born graduates will
spend at least part of their careers working in or for developing countries.
Certainly, if you look at the graduates of Course XI (Urban Studies and
Planning), you'll see that our alumni move back and forth from one part
of the world to another (and from the public sector to the private sector to
civil society) rather than stay in one position for a long time.

A lot of the skills that students learn ought to be applicable in both developing and developed
countries (particularly in mega-cities). My own interest, for example, in
wind energy, particularly the development of off-shore wind resources,
is an issue around the world. Knowing how to assess potential wind
development options, thinking through the roles that government can
play in supporting private investment in wind, understanding the best ways
of involving the public in wind development decisions, and being aware
of the best means of mitigating environmental impacts of various renewable energy
technologies are equally important in all geographical settings (even
if they are likely to produce very different results in different parts of
the world).

Sustainability@MIT did a survey last spring to get at the kinds of things
that students interested in the potential undergraduate minor and the
proposed Interdisciplinary Graduate Certificate in Environment and
Sustainability wanted to learn. I was surprised to see how narrowly
some students framed their interests.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Biking Around

Yesterday, Alicia and I biked from MIT to Lexington Center and back for a total of 23 miles or so. It was fun!

Here are some trails around MA.

I need a better bike and a better backpack, though. I would like to spend less than $200 on a new bike. Is there anyone who can break down the costs of a bike for me? Why are some (like at Target) $100, some $500, and some $1000?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

MIT Sustainability Minor : Review

So I've read through the proposal for the Sustainability minor.

Core Subjects
The Dynamics of Socio-Ecological Systems

This would be a new interdisciplinary class taught by an ecologist and ecological biologists... Key concepts from population ecology, conservation biology and human demography ... with a review of important bio-physical cycles.

-> Honestly, this class sounds kind of boring. I'm not sure how useful this information can be for a career except as basic background information. I'm also least familiar with this subject. Perhaps it would be good if the blurb mentioned what fields of study or careers these concepts lead into. It sounds like these are the kinds of tools that would be useful for measuring and tracking environmental data? Or perhaps these concepts are most useful for providing a new model of the relationship between humans and everything else so that it's easier to understand and explain to others the need for sustainability. At it is, this sounds like a typical old-school environmentalism class.

The Environmental Impacts of Engineered Systems: Designing Sustainable Mega-Cities

The focus would be on ways of designing more efficient and less environmentally damaging infrastructure in the largest cities in the developing world.

-> This seems pretty straightforward and makes sense to me. One thing, though, is I wonder if it can be also relevant to large in the developed world. That way, the knowledge and skills acquired can really be relevant to local issues. Most MIT graduates will still be working in the US after all, and plus the developed world is still the largest contributor to pollution and CO2 emissions, etc.

Governance and Markets: Law, International Regimes, and the Economics of Ecological Problems

This would be a new interdisciplinary class taught by economists, lawyers, political scientists and public policy specialists from various parts of the Institute. The focus would be on the ways in which markets and governance systems can be used to protect and create natural and social capital.

-> This class sounds really interesting, although difficult to implement.

Environmental and Occupational Health Implications of Sustainability

This would be a modification of an existing course in Biological Engineering and would be taught by Professor William Thilly and Dr. Robert McCunney.

-> This class sounds really good.

Comments on classes in general :
I noticed that there weren't any course 6 type classes except perhaps systems design. One issue with course 6 is that a lot of the material we are taught are in the context of making certain types of products: audio amplifiers, robotics, image processing. The material is most relevant to commercial electronics companies and defense contractors. What I really wish we had when I was an undergrad in course 6 are course 6 classes that are relevant to sustainability: energy harvesting (wind, solar), smart grid management, wireless sensor networks, low power design, systems modeling.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Sustainability Links

NREL - National Renewable Energy Lab - National Lab of the US DOE - Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, operated by the Alliance for Sustainable Energy. It's in Denver, though.

MIT FENS - Faculty Environmental Network for Sustainability. They are submitting a proposal for an undergraduate Sustainability Minor. I should think about how I feel about that.

PRC vs World Uyghur Congress Media Blitz

Some American news organizations have been saying that China's handling of the media during the protests this time is more like the US's tactics. They kind of imply that this is a good thing but also a bad thing since it's more manipulative. It's a little bit of a paradox.

The Uyghurs don't trust what the Chinese say, and I can understand that. I mean, they sound so cheesy towing the party line. Although honestly, I still believe their main accounts of what happened and the casualty numbers the Chinese government has released. And I don't believe anything the World Uyghur Congress says even if I'd be willing to believe individual Uyghurs.

The World Uyghur Congress has been busy with their propaganda as well, though. They used photos of completely unrelated incidents as evidence of Chinese brutality. Even if they convince Turkey and perhaps other foreign countries, the Han Chinese now consider them complete liars, and I think this is really bad for Han-Uyghur relations. It's also bad because if all Uyghurs really believe things they say, then a lot of their grievances are not even real.

This is a good blog, though, about Xinjiang in general by American expatriots.

Killing Clams

yesterday I shucked a clam for the first time. today I bought six more clams and shucked them. I feel kind of bad for murdering them. It feels a little strange because they have two muscles and even when you cut one, you can tell the clam is not dead yet because the other muscle is still flexed.

Then I got a little obsessed about researching them.

Finally figured out what those clams I ate in China were called. Razor Clams.

Also, I didn't know quahog, cherrystone, and littlenecks were all the same species, just different sizes. Huh, I feel so tricked.

Look, clam babies.

Also, I did not actually know that these were scallops! Plus, they have eyes! What???!!

Rising Inequality in China

this is a good article about the nature of protests in China.

I also agree that it's a mistake for the government to blame unrest in Tibet in Xinjiang solely on exhile communities and separatist groups. While I do think they exacerbate problems, the local Tibetan and Uyghur populations are dissatisfied and that needs to be addressed.

Han Uighur relations

They are bad right now.

The biggest problem is that neither side believes things that the other side says. Then it is impossible to even report news about the facts since ultimately it depends who you're citing and what race the reporter is.

There have also been a lot of distortions to the nature of Han and Uighur relations in order to fit a narrative that Westerners can understand. The familiar narrative is that the Han are colonizers and are racist against the Uighurs the same way white Americans and other Europeans were/are racist against black people. However, many of the Han who moved to Xinjiang are poor also, but to be clear there are two kinds of Han moving to Xinjiang: the lower class peasants and middle class entrepreneurs.

They are not exploiting the Uighurs for their land or cheap labor. In fact, a big Uighur complaint is that the Han won't hire them. While this is a legitimate complaint, the Han could hardly be considered exploiters. The lower class Han themselves are being "exploited" for cheap labor all across China by other Han and foreigners.

Some complaints are really ridiculous and only confirm to Han Chinese that Uighurs don't make any sense. Then, instead of considering that there is a misunderstanding, Han Chinese get offended and feel the need to point out where Uighurs do have certain advantages. Then it becomes an argument over who has it worse instead of trying to clear anything up.

For example, some overseas Uighurs and people in Turkey claim that there is a governmental policy of driving Uighurs from Xinjiang to other parts of China for cheap labor. That would really be an elaborate plot, and doesn't even make sense given other complaints that Han won't hire Uighurs. Anyway, there is plenty of Han Chinese cheap labor, especially in the economic downturn.

While Han Chinese have a stereotype that Uighur culture and way of life is more primitive, it's not the same attitude that white settlers had towards Native Americans, which is that they're amoral heathens that need to be civilized. For one, Han Chinese are not religious and are not interested in proselytizing. In Han culture, there is a policy of "non-interference" into other people's affairs (that is, people not in your family). This policy was put on hold in the early years of Communism, which most people now consider a disaster, and so ever since the economic reform era, it's been reinstated. It is the Uighurs who are religious and probably think the Chinese are godless heathens.

Han Chinese people consider their own culture and way of life primitive. That is why there has been such a big drive to develop and live and dress like Western people. Indeed, Han Chinese people consider much of the lower class to also be behind in culture and lifestyle, not to mention the lifestyle of more isolated minorities. The developments that Han Chinese bring are not even Han, they're Western, and they're developments that Han themselves are still getting used to. That is why Han Chinese do not understand why Uighurs think Han are trying to supress their culture. The difference is that Han consider it progress while Uighurs simply feel culture shock. However, undoubtedly, when Uighurs move to Western countries they become assimilated to Western culture. It's like how Tibetans complain about cultural genocide, but when I see Tibetans in the states, they're not wearing traditional dress and collecting yak dung. The real issue, perhaps, is that the Uighurs as well as the Tibetans do not feel that they are in control or a part of the modernization.

Uighurs are upset that they have less opportunities if they don't know Mandarin and they also claim that the Chinese are forcing them to learn Mandarin. Well, it would seem that if it's such an advantage to know Mandarin, why are they upset about having to learn it? Actually, every region in China speaks a different dialect, and so in schools across China, there has been a drive to teach the official Mandarin dialect so that people across China can talk to each other. Also, because of the advantages of knowing English, Han Chinese are practically falling over themselves trying to learn English. In China, they start teaching English in elementary school and continue through high school. The Uighurs are understandably upset because they feel they have to know Mandarin to make a living even their own hometown. This is indeed sad, but many lower class Han Chinese actually have the same problem.

With that said, Han Chinese should try to be more understanding, but there is something of a culture difference, I think. In Han culture, there is an emphasis on reforming yourself and accepting your fate. Honestly, Han Chinese often take it to the extreme and are willing to endure a lot of humiliation in pursuit of a better life or better life for their children. Part of this is because of the lack of a strict religion and thus increased flexibility for lifestyles. Many Han are now unreligious, but even those who are not practice Buddhism or Taoism, which are not that strict. Actually in old society there used to be strict rites that families were to follow, but it is now considered reactionary and "superstitious." Another part, I think, is that there are so many Han people, even if you think doing something is against your principles, there are thousands of other people who will do it so you go with it or risk losing out on an opportunity. I think these reasons are why Han Chinese don't think it's such a big deal that there are restrictions placed on Uighur religious practices.

Consider that the Chinese government does not encourage developing Xinjiang or encouraging students, teachers, businesses, and doctors to move there. Then the Uighurs would be complaining that they are being ignored and left out of the economic development.

Han Chinese, on the other hand, should stop claiming that the Uighurs and Han have always lived together harmoniously. This impossibly rosy assessment of Uighur and Chinese relations may actually have been true in the past when there were fewer Han in Xinjiang, but of course when there is such a large demographic shift in such a short amount of time, there is bound to be increased tension, especially since Uighur and Han culture are so different. Ethnic policy should be debated but Han should be sensitive when calling to revoke privileges that Uighurs have. We need to consider what are the problems that need to be addressed? Anti-affirmative action sentiment is growing in China just as it is growing in the United states amongst white Americans. This rhetoric only fosters further mistrust and antipathy between the races.

As for calls by the World Uyghur Congress and Uyghur sympathizers for the creation of an East Turkestan nation, I'd like to remind everyone that the only states that have been created based on self-determination are Kosovo and Israel, both of which were created by force and are the cause of considerable strife. If the real grievances of Uighurs are about rights and way of life, then we should focus on addressing their concerns with changes in policy and fostering better mutual understanding. The creation of a nation is based on military and economic power, not a means for solving civil problems. There should be no reason to split Chinese territory.

In short, there are race relation problems, and solutions can only come from dialogue.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Uighurs and Han

good article about what to do from different people.

wow, check out this article and the comments. world opinion is changing.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

NC Ch 15 : Once Upon a Planet

The concluding chapter talks about political theory, according to biophysicist Donella Meadows, where people are broken up into blues, reds, greens, and whites.

Blues : mainstream free-marketers

Reds : socialists

Greens : environmentalists

Whites : synthesists (the authors)

organizations that address the responsibilities and opportunities of business:
Rocky Mountain Institute
The Natural Step
The Wuppertal Institute
World Resources Institute
SustainAbility (London)
Redefining Progress
Product-Life Institute
World Business Council for Sustainable Development (Switzerland)
Center for Clean Products and Clean Technologies at the University of Tennessee
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)and Development Program (UNDP)
Institute for Sustainable Design and Commerce at the University of Virginia (Charlottesville)
Forum for the Future (London)
International Institute for Sustainable Development (Canada)
Businesses for Social Responsbility
Stockholm Environmental Institute

other organizations addressing a range of environmental issues
Society for Ecological Restoration
Worldwatch Institute
Friends of the River
Environmental Research Foundation
Development Alternatives (Delhi)
Land Stewardship Council
The Just Transition Consortium
Instituto de Ecologia Politica (Santiago, Chile)
International Society of Ecological Economics
International Institute for Industrial Environmental Economics (Lund)
Earth Island Institute
Congress for the New Urbanism
American Farmland Trust
the Energy Foundation
Southwest Organizing Project
RIVM (Holland)
Center for a New American Dream
One Thousand Friends of Oregon
the Cenozoic Society
Indigenous Environmental Network
World Wildlife Fund
Friends of the Earth

Some notable partnerships between businesses and environmental groups are Mitsubishi and OK Petroleum.

OK Petroleum is Sweden's largest refiner and retailer of gasoline, who fought for higher carbon taxes to have an advantage in the new market. (p318)

Also notable is the emergence of the community development finance movement. "From small-scale loan funds to start-up banks, and with private and federal support, a whole set of community institutions provide credit in innovative ways at the community level, rebuilding human and social capital in hundreds of towns and cities" (p320).
Examples: Shorebank Corporation and Ecotrust to create ShoreBank Pacific, a commerical bank dedicated to community development and environmental restoration in the coastal and metropolitan Pacific Northwest.

The end

bday and july 4

friends on a boat they made in the river getting ready for fireworks later

mikeyp apologizes and smark forgives

we look so pretty

Monday, July 6, 2009

makeup videos!

By Michelle Phan - I fell in love after reading her profile. My desire to dress up and play with eye makeup but still be a complete geek is what she is.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

NC Ch 14 : Human Capitalism

This chapter is a case study of social and urban programs that make the best use of people to meet everyone's needs in the city of Curitiba, Brazil.

They implemented hundreds of "multipurpose, cheap, fast, homegrown, people-centered initiatives harnessing market mechanisms, common sense, and local skills" (p288).

In 1971, the governor of "Parana State had chosen as mayor of its capital city a 33 yr old architect, engineer, urban planner, and humanist named Jaime Lerner. He was previously president of the Curitiba Research and Urban Planning Institute.

Some of the projects:
- resurrecting the historic boulevard, the Rua das Flores (Street of Flowers), Brazil's first pedestrian mall.

- kept narrow streets of city center instead of "urban renewal," which is to demolish centrally located building to widen roads.

- zoning specifications for building nearest bus avenues could have up to six times as much floorspace as land area.

- mixed use was encouraged for urban buildings

- city strategically bought nearby land in selected areas and built low-income housing on it so as to ensure affordable access to jobs, shops, and recreation.

- built schools, clinics, daycare centers, parks, food distribution centers, and cultural and sports facilities throughout its suburbs, democratizing amenities previously available only to those who journeyed downtown

- good bus system instead of subway with a specially designed platform so people step right onto the buses. "Each lane of express buses carries 20,000 passengers/hr, comparable to subways. Buses make 17,300 daily trips, on nearly 500 route-miles, covering 230,000 bus-miles/day. Plus, the bus system is entirely self-financing from fares. (p294)" Flat rates, unlimited-transfer fare, is one of the many reasons why a poor person in Curitiba typically enjoys a higher standard of living than a poor person in Sao Paulo, who has to spend over twice as much on transportation. Curitiba has lowest rate of car drivership and cleanest urban air, which saves 7 million gallons of fuel/year and uses 1/4 less fuel per capita than other Brazilian cities.

- to deal with flooding "design with nature" strategy by making parks along water and new lakes. Also put in policies to encourage trees and gardens. 1/6 of city is wooded.

- recruited 500 nonpolluting industries, and zone so that commute is minimal for employees.

- Lighthouses of Knowledge - libraries that have a light and policeman on top to keep neighborhoods safe

- preventative health care starting with children - obligatory free checkups utnil age five.

- "Garbage that isn't garbage" initiative, "led more than 70% of households to sort recyclables for thrice-weekly curbside collection by the green trucks of the private firm that won a public competition for the franchise. Sorting stations hire the homeless, the disabled, and recovering alcoholics. Landfill use has been reduced by 1/6 in weight, and even more in volume" (p301).

- Garbage Purchase Program

- "Green Exchange" - citizens bring garbage in exchange for food tickets or bus tokens.

- Community Orchards Program - to grow and sell food in neighborhood gardens

- Centers for Integrated Education, a supplement to conventional schooling

- affordable daycare centers open 11 hrs/day

- Program for Childhood and Adolescence Integration - jobs for school-age dropouts, employing them in entry level jobs, often environmental skills like forestry, water management, etc

- housing program for migrants - build their own homes instead of providing slum housing

- Citizenship Streets at larger bus stops, clusters of municipal offices to bring government closer to population

- "city's array of telephone and web-based resources and hotlines" - more participation from citizens in local government and communities

Lerner quote "If people feel respected, they will assume responsibility to help solve other problems" (p308).

NC Ch 13 : Making Markets Work

This chapter is about economic theory, and why markets do not work perfectly.

It then describes main sources of market imperfections, which are capital misallocation, organizational failures, regulatory failures, informational failures, value-chain risks, false or absent price signals, incomplete markets and property rights.

Capital misallocation - where short term gains (lower initial capital costs) take priority over longer term savings. "Typically, energy-saving devices are chosen by engineers at the firm's operating level, using a rule-of-thumb procedure called 'simple payback,' which calculates how many years of savings it takes to repay the investment in better efficiency and start earning clear profits" (p267) "One remedy is to teach the energy engineers how to speak financial language. When the engineer goes to the comptroller and says, 'Wow, have I got a deal for you - a risk-free return of 27% after tax,' it sounds better than a 3.4 year payback." Actually, I don't understand what that means. I guess I am one of those engineers who need to learn financial language.

Potential ways for people to invest in energy savings - 1997 creation of the International Performance Measurement and Verification Protocol, "standardizes streams of energy- and water-cost savings (in buildings and industrial processes) so they can be aggregated in securitized, just as FHA rules standardize home mortgages. Also, the Energy Service Company (ESCO) concept, where entrepreneurs charge nothing up front for their services but are paid by sharing the measured savings they achieve. These schemes can encourage people to buy compact fluorescents and for households to install solar panels.

Organizational failures - when the risks of making a decision outweigh the potential rewards because of the organizational structure of the company or group. Managers feel disinclined to fix an obvious inefficiency since they're not directly responsible for it and have other priorities. Columbia University's new energy director Lindsay Audin started saving $2.8 million a year, 60% in lighting alone, won 9 awards and $3 million in grants and rebates, and brought 16 new efficiency products to market. For more information on organizational economics, look to Herbert Simon. In order to avoid systematic suboptimization, create broader alignment between corporate and personal objectives.

Regulatory failures - one big problem is that standards are often interpreted as floors for compliance instead of inspiring people to meet and exceed expectations. For example, electrical wiring for buildings should use fatter wire for more energy efficiency, but thinner wires are cheaper, which is also an example of 'split incentives,' where people choosing technologies aren't the same people who pay the bills. Some ways to entice people to do better are to offer those who are trying to overcomply to jump ahead in the queue for approvals, which costs nothing, but is valuable for companies.

Informational failures - voluntary label programs are helping people make better decisions like EPA's Green Lights by creating competitive advantage.

Value chain risks - companies are hesitant to commit to volume production because they are unsure that there is enough consumer demand. "Hans Nilsson, then an official of Swedish energy-efficiency agency NUTEK, pioneered contests for bringing efficient devices into the mass market. A major public-sector purchasing office, Statskontoret, would issue a request for proposal, which committed to buy a large number of devices, bid at certain prices, if they met certain technical specifications, an explicit expression of market demand" (p277). "In 1988, B.C. Hydro started paying distributors a small, temporary subsidy to stock only efficient models of motors, covering their extra carrying cost, since risk-adverse distributors are disinclined to stock new products that they aren't sure people will buy. In three years, premium efficiency motors' market share soared from 3% to 60%."

False or absent price signals - differences in price levels as well as price structures can help people make better decisions. We want to "get incentives right so that rewards are granted for what we want - lower bills - and not the opposite - higher sales" (p278).

Incomplete markets and property rights - one market that needs to be developed is the one in saved energy or "negawatts." "Use it or lose it" water laws to allow waved water to be sold or leased without penalty, in CA, OR, and Montana.

POLICY to address these major sources of market problems.

"1991, Bush signed Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act, which mandates least-cost choices for solving local transportation needs, thus allowing federal transport dollars to flow to the best buys, not only to highways."

Resource consultant Dr. Mohamed ElGasseir, and financial adviser Andrew Tobias propose "pay at the pump" car insurance. This is certainly an interesting if seemingly farfetched idea that seems to make sense on the surface.

Need more accountability and transparency in international trade agreements.

Create more information feedback loops. Dr. Jeremy Leggett, introduced senior climate scientists to leaders of the European insurance and reinsurance industry.

Cybernetics - science of communications and control in machines and living things, may be able to help us set better feedback loops and also goals. For example, companies could publish an Alternative Annual Report, to compare what actually happened in the previous year to what could have happened.

Long Live the King

I want you back!

man, i grew up to hits like

smooth criminal
beat it
remember the time
man in the mirror
rock with you
black or white

and more recently
rock my world

plus old stuff from jackson 5 days were awesome
the love you save

whoa, random video that is awesome

his movie moonwalker

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Learn more from the Infinite Connection

Sustainability and clean energy resources page at the MIT alumni site.

NC Ch 12 : Climate

Sir John Browne, chief executive of BP, announced in 1997, 'there is now an effective consensus among the world's leading scientists and serious and well informed people outside the scientific community that there is a discernible human influence on the climate, and the link between the concentration of carbon dioxide and the increase in temperature' (p241).

Mainly, this chapter is about how saving energy and reducing CO2 emissions is good for business.


cogeneration and trigeneration power plants - in Denmark and Tulsa, Oklahoma.

reselling waste heat of industrial processes

There were probably a few more notable projects that I'll go back to later. This chapter was mostly a rehashing of the science of climate change, and giving examples of businesses that reduce emissions while making money.

NC Ch 11 : Aqueous Solutions

Agriculture accounts for 81% of consumptive use of freshwater in 1995.
Housing and commercial buildings use 12% of freshwater.

Drip irrigation can make water use more efficient.

Charge extra for excess water use.

Arava R&D, "enriches its agricultural water by growing edible fish in it under evaporation-blocking and temperature-controlling giant plastic 'Aqua-Bubbles'"

Grow crops that prefer brackish water 'halophytes'

Xeriscape movement - "design practice that creates elegant and water-efficient landscapes" (p219)

Grow native plants for landscaping

Use greywater for toilets, and make them less leaky. California Plumbing Code now defines how graywater should be controlled to protect public health, keeping it underground and off food crops.

New kind of toilet by Swedish toilets, where urine is separate from feces. Urine is collected and sold as fertilizer. Feces can be composted/dried.

Use better showerheads

use better sinks

horizontal-axis dishwashing and clothes-washing ues less water.

Living Technologies Inc, designs, builds, and operates innovative wastewater treatment systems called Living Machines, eliminate use of chlorine, polymers, aluminum salts, etc. Invented by Dr. John Todd.