Friday, March 14, 2008

Of Sense and Responsibility

I recently received a well-intentioned-but-completely-misguided approach to the current gasoline "crisis." Quoting a powerful but unnamed "executive from Coca-Cola," this email virus ("send this to 30 people!") seemed to say two things; first, that WE, the masses, could not stop buying gas; and second, that this whole thing could be solved, not by a boycott, but by a boycott of ExxonMobile filling stations, who, faced with losing money, would force the rest of the world to reduce the price of fuel.

"Not this time, Virginia; there is no Santa Claus." we have to do this ourselves, by Not Buying Gas.

Lookit, Kid, by imagining Exxon/Mobile as the boogey man, you are just pushing your peas around on the plate; you still have to eat them. The ONLY way to reduce the price is to reduce the demand.

Each of us has to start by reducing their own demand. This is like a good exercise program. Go ahead and start small, and then work from there. It requires imagination. Not the "save the world now" kind, but the everyday kind, the little ideas that used to make their way into "Hints from Heloise" in the paper. How many ways can we think of? Chances are that Nobody can figure out huge reductions right away, but, if we are all thinking about conservation, every little bit saved will help. Here are some that I have heard of;

1) MEASURE how much fuel you are/have been using. POST the numbers on the kitchen wall, where you can see them, each week.
2) Attempt to Reduce that by 20%
a. Plan shopping, only go twice a week
b. Work at home 1 day (and don’t drive anywhere)
c. “Carpool” with neighbors to shopping
d. Attempt to carpool or use mass transit one day per week
e. Aggressively measure your fuel bills and keep the results where you can see them every day.
3) House/Office temp: 65 winter, 75 summer
4) Buy on internet, delivered by Postal Service (at home: unlike UPS/FedEx, they drive the route daily, regardless)
5) Find non-travel ways to amuse ourselves
a. Bridge clubs, book clubs, garden clubs
b. Get to know your neighbors & try to 'carpool' to events
c. Think back to those old community organizations and traditions that were probably hold-overs from when transportation was scarce.

Communities need to try to become community-oriented again. In our attempts to become more diverse, embracing all traditions and cultures, the places in which we live have become equally strange to all. Everybody drives away to meet friends and to Do Stuff. Cheap transportation means we don't actually have to live with the neighbors. That requires effort.

Monday, March 3, 2008

You have to respect them

There is a lot of information Out There. So much, that the business of searching and sorting it has given rise to Google (our host) and many rivals. So, I suppose it should come as no surprise to me that I am somewhere around the 65 millionth downloader of the VLC Media Player.

As there is only one of me, and I spend a lot of time in the conventional Open Source arena, looking at business solutions. I am trying to get folks interested in more mundane scabbed-edge technology, and beg to be excused for not being up on streaming audio and video and everything related to it. When urged to get the VLC ( by my son-at-college, I went right out and did so. In the media arena, this thing is the slicer-dicer-food processor of the video/audio world, offering us formats and data that will take weeks just to learn to spell the acronyms. But, enough shameless promotion. As an Open Source Zealot, I also tried to get an idea of who they are and what they are about.

The core team are French developers. Unlike a lot of French Open Source folks, they have an English language website; I have yet to find anything in French. I found an Impress presentation that they gave at FOSDEM several years ago that gave a great overview of the product and what VLC are about. Near the end of the presentation, while they were outlining where they wanted the product to go and what they were thinking (and asking for Laborers in the Harvest), there was a single bullet:

World Domination

Hey, you have to respect this. A lofty goal, as their product is not autoloaded with the operating system, and folks have to look for it. Respect them, we should. As the 65 millionth-or-so user of their product, I don't think I have any other choice.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Rushing to Join the Crowd

Rushing to join the crowd, I too have a blog. We'll see if it turns out to be anything, or if it becomes yet another stain of bit-rot on the digital landscape.

I used to be young and sentimental. I even wrote poetry. My friends all toughened me up by making fun of me, and I must have gotten the message. I stopped writing poetry first, and then I slowly stopped writing anything that did not directly affect my income. No personal letters (just Reach Out and Touch Someone), no diaries,I learned to write simply and directly, with simple, easy-to-read words. Faux-German. Rather than use a 5-syllable word, just link a lot of simple words together with hyphens (I tried without hyphens, and it looked like German!).

The digital age and the internet came upon us recently, and we have collectively been growing along with it, I suppose. We have all of these ways to communicate, but we find that we have not got a lot to say. I get 4 or 5 times forwarded emails with some joke or sentimental message, like a greeting card (Happy divorce-anniversary to the nicest loser I ever met...) that says it all and requires only the X to mark the spot where we used to sign our names.

However, maybe something has changed (other than the fact that we have all grown older). I seem to be getting more letters & emails from people trying to explain themselves. People who I thought all left for another planet seem to be popping out of the woodwork, explaining stuff and having feelings that they have to express in emails and blogs... I am not sure I am ready for them all to return from whence they came. My youth was not tragic, but, once they toughened me up, it was easy to leave behind, like the poetry. Recently, a friend of mine who had gone on a long sabbatical from Life came up with a blog to explain the past, and, in the process of reading his, I got the invite to start my own.

Poetry looks out of place in a blog. I won't do that just yet.