Friday, August 28, 2009

anti beta blocker

found another good program on wmbr. not sure if it will still be around in the fall, though.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Beyond the Limits

This book sounds interesting and seems to be a classic amongst systems dynamics people as well as environmental policy people like Amory Lovins. I have heard that it has absolutely no math in it, though, so it might be a little fluffy.

Sucker for Products That Smell Good

Yesterday I splurged at Aveda, which is this skin and hair care product store founded by Horst Rechelbacher, who sounds like an interesting guy.

Here's a TIME article about the environmental beauty products movement.

I think the products work well (maybe?) but definitely, I just really like how everything smells. I am also impressed that Aveda is supposedly at the forefront of environmental business. At the same time, it is hard to tell real impact from greenwashing.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Boston Greenfest

This weekend was Boston Greenfest. It was pretty cool!

A lot of local vendors came and it was cool to see what people are working on in the area.

Shen and I talked to some HVAC and renewable energy systems designers and installers for home and commercial applications.

It was also good to hear that the green chemistry movement is going on in Boston.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

System Dynamics Self Study

15.988 System Dynamics Self Study by Jay Forrester

yay for open course ware

System Dynamics Sounds Awesome

(ooo, first blog post from my new laptop)

so I was reading about system dynamics. this is a talk Professor Jay Forrester gave in Spain in 1998.

Early in the development of system dynamics, we discovered surprising
things about corporations that apply to all social systems:
· first, most difficulties arise from internal causes, although people usually blame
troubles on outside forces.
· second, actions that people take, usually in the belief that the actions are a
solution to difficulties, are often the cause of the problems being experienced,
· third, the very nature of the dynamic feedback structure of a social system tends
to mislead people into taking ineffective and even counterproductive action,
· fourth, people have enough information about a system to permit successful

wow that sounds awesome. i am strongly considering going back to school to study this. here is another awesome except which is exactly how I feel about laws and policy-making! it is exactly why while i'm interested in policy, i feel hesitant about diving into that field.

People may dislike the idea of "designing" social systems. Designing social
systems may seem mechanistic or authoritarian. However, all social systems have
been designed. Corporate policies, computer systems, organization charts, and laws
constitute partial designs of social systems. Governments pass laws after superficial
debate. Laws redesign political and economic systems. Such redesigns are
experiments using a country as a laboratory. The experiments include no dynamic
modeling of the long-term effects. Changes in corporate policies receive even less
analysis. For example, the recent wave of corporate mergers and the reduction of
trade barriers constitute a major redesign of the world economy without adequate
consideration for the results. People have designed the systems within which they
live. The shortcomings of those systems result from defective design, just as the
shortcomings of a power plant result from erroneous design.

Monday, August 17, 2009

New Equipment

Got a new laptop today. The Acer Aspire One D250. It seemed like the one in the store had a good videocam.

East Coast Vacation This Time

This past weekend, I went to Cape Cod with Alicia and my mom, and then James caught up with us later. We to the beach, ate Four Seas ice-cream, and swam in a pond!! We also grilled and ate salmon.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Economics as a Dynamic System

paper by Jay Forrester who founded the System Dynamics Group at MIT. It's about Economics Theory in the New Millennium

Monday, August 10, 2009

Santa Cruz for Vacation

This past weekend I went to visit Santa Cruz for vacation because that is where Smark is doing an internship this summer. It was fun!

I have posted pics here.

We stayed at Alicia's dad's hotel. Fancy!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Paul Romer - Charter Cities

Paul Romer advocates for the idea of having a way to explore new rules or change rules in order to find the best solutions. His method would be to establish charter cities with new rules, which would allow people to voluntarily move to the charter city in order to experience the new rules. This is a very good idea, and is a very scientifically-based way of finding the best solution. I've thought about something similar before.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Cash For Clunkers Success?

Cash for clunkers is a government program subsidizing the trade-in of a "clunker" for a car that get at least 10mpg mileage than the clunker. It was wildly popular and ran out of money in a week.

I'm not sure how this is different from bailing out the car industry or giving people some stimulus money back or cutting taxes.

I guess the most valuable aspect is that the government is changing the market demand for more fuel efficient cars and therefor influencing the future of the industry. In that sense, it is better than loaning car companies money and stipulating that they make more fuel efficient low emissions cars.

A free marketer might disapprove since the government is meddling, but since the government is not giving money to any individual companies thereby picking winners and losers, there haven't been a lot of objections from raging capitalists.

Cape Cod Algae Biodiesel

Another interesting project.

Green Metropolis in the Desert

Abu Dhabi part of the United Arab Emirates is seeking to build the "world's first car-free, zero-carbon-dioxide-emissions, zero-waste city."

Very interesting.

What's exciting about it is that they're really making an effort to measure the carbon impact and effectiveness of their designs. Then we should get a wealth of data that will be helpful for modeling sustainable designs. They also have a goal to make this city profitable, and thus hopefully more developers will sign on to sustainable developments. Otherwise, it will simply be a novelty for the rich.

Better Place

Here's an interesting company working on transitioning to electric vehicles.

People at Better Place are thinking up solutions for battery charging stations or battery swapping and software for cars to make it easy and natural to save energy while driving.

Course 2 Sustainable Development Track

Shen found out that the Course 2a (Mechanical Engineering) major has two Sustainable Development Tracks, one for developing nations and one for developed nations! Wow cool.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Chinese Comedian in America!



oh well, i'm proud. maybe i will go check him out sometime since he's a local comedian.

Immigrant Children in School

Two stories about Chinese immigrant students and then a story about Dominican immigrant students. Of course I really relate to the first story. In the second story, a Dominican mother is mad that teachers have prejudices against Latino students but they tend to think Asian students are good in school. Of course, it is a big problem that teachers don't have high expectations for Latino and black students, therefor allowing them to have low expectations for themselves. But actually I was really annoyed that the Dominican mother thought that this was all the school's fault, and that she was offended that the teachers often think the Latino parents don't value education as much as Asian parents. Sounds like she has no idea how hard Asian parents push their children. It is way above and beyond what kind of expectations teachers have. When Asian students do well, it is rarely because of pressure from teachers. I mean, Asian parents are crazy about education and make their kids do all kind of extra workbooks and assignments. My dad made a little math drill program for me to play on the computer to get better at arithmetic. How can you say there is no cultural difference in values?

In fact, an Asian parent would never be offended if a teacher told them they were bad parents. They would completely agree and feel like failures. They would never be mad if a teacher told their child that they're lazy and would never amount to anything. In fact, Chinese parents would thank the teacher for agreeing with them since they tell their children that all the time. Probably, teachers try to be nice to Asian kids since they seem to be in so much anguish even when they're doing well in school. They are probably just trying to make them feel better!

I don't like it when people dismiss the model minority theory as a racist myth. While it is not true for everyone, and it is a stereotype which benefits Asians and hurts blacks and Latinos, there are trends. Some of it has to do with family background - not necessarily class, but the circumstances that brought different immigrant populations to the US. Most has to do with cultural differences, which have to do with historical circumstances of the home countries. I think we should try to talk about what is going on to try to understand it, not just dismiss these things as a coincidence.

And anyway, there is a price that Asian immigrants pay, which is what the first show is about. Everyone should learn from each other, successes as well as pitfalls.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Purpose of the Sustainability Summit

I am having reservations about helping out with the Sustainability Summit next year.

I would be interested in helping with an academic conference rather than a business conference, and for the topics to be a mix of policy and engineering. At the same time, I'm not against having speakers from the private sector. (For example, I think getting someone to talk about the Walmart initiative to calculate the carbon footprint of all of their products would be great). But I want more substantial content in policy, planning, and engineering. And I don't think there needs to be as much focus on conference paraphernalia like name-tags, etc.

It's important to me that it's free to MIT students, graduate as well as undergraduate. I don't see the value at all in limiting the space, especially when we probably have plenty of it. Plus, most engineering students only attend conferences when it's free for them, usually since their department will typically send them.

I thought that actually the Focus on Climate Change Symposium in Spring 2008 was really good. That was a three day event where each department hosted talks related to climate change. All the events were free and many were heavily attended.

In last year's summit, we tried a scenario format in hopes that the speakers would demonstrate real-time integrated problem solving and to encourage deeper discussion. That largely failed mostly because there was simply not enough time for each speaker to present even one argument much less respond to others' proposals. Plus, it was clearly frustrating for our audience, many of whom have a lot of opinions and personal experiences to draw upon, and were eager to ask questions and give their own two cents.

I think we should have the breakout session format with smaller audience and more speakers. For the larger talks, stick to a format where one speaker is presenting for half the time, and answering questions for half the time. To make it thought-provoking, we may present opposing/alternate proposals back to back so that the second talk is like a rebuttal. Basically have more of a debate format.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Purpose of the Sustainability Minor

I am reevaluating my feelings about the sustainability minor and its purpose.

On the one hand, in general, I want students to understand that solutions are not going to be purely technical. Solutions will need to work for the environment, economy, and social equality. So when we do research and engineering, we need to be more thoughtful about the kinds of applications we work on.

However, in order to make a transition to a sustainable society, every profession needs to change and so it's really important to have technical classes within every major so that no matter what engineering field you go into, there is an opportunity to gain relevant and employable skills related to aspects of the industry working on sustainability.

The current proposal of the minor offers 4 core classes outside of an engineering major: ecology, urban planning, market forces and government policy, and impact of environmental degradation on health. While I think these classes are really important for a basic understanding of sustainability issues and great that they'll be offered, I am worried that they're not relevant enough to people's own professions. Many engineering students may feel that while it's interesting, the minor does not actually give them any skills that allow them to be employable in sustainability related jobs. Then I doubt many engineering students would do the minor, and I was originally hoping for a minor to be appealing to as many people as possible since really, I think everyone should be getting a sustainability minor.

It may be, though, that the background overview information is more important and must precede the technical classes. Also, perhaps it's not important for it to appeal to every student. It may be more important right now to appeal to some students and generate interest and leave the departments themselves to add technical classes to prepare students for the economy and future job market.