August 2008 Archives

August 28, 2008

The Shotgun Principle: Development at it's Best

While listening to NPR this morning, I was thinking of the basic principle of development.  Whether it's new technologies, new processes, or new products, it all seems to be developed through the same principle:  The shotgun effect.  What is the shotgun effect?  Well, let's say you go hunting for water fowl (duck or goose), and want to be sure you get one.  Say you and your buddy each take a gun, you have a rifle, your buddy has a shotgun.  You split up and start shooting.  Who gets more fowl?  The shotgun.  Why?  Because the shotgun, instead of firing one projectile in a (relatively) straight line, fires a collection of projectiles (shot) in a close group.  As such, it increases the likelihood a hit will come from a shot.  So what does this have to do with development?  Let's say your company is new to the market.  You have one killer product that is great, and you pour all your investment into this one project.  Then the Economy changes, and your product is no longer a necessary product.  Your company will most likely fail, and the product will go the way of the Turnip-flavored ice cream.  But let's say your company has that one killer product, but your development team has a number of other ideas to which they would like to devote time.  You give in, allowing your development team to have a small portion of their time to work on their own projects (sound familiar, like Google?).  Because they are developing on Company time their projects provide value to the company depending on whether or not it pans out.  Now the economy changes again, and your killer product is no longer relevant, and as such goes the way of the beet-flavored popcicle.  All of a sudden you have a collection of products that you can fall back on, because you allowed your development team freedom to work on their own ideas and projects.  Given now the full investment capital from your company, one or several of these little projects become all killer products.  This same principle is followed by Biology.  Genes have set codes that allow some variation without significant changes.  Yet they also mutate while being copied, and eventually significant variations start to show.  As one set of codes become too limiting in a given environment, another set may thrive, and those genes become dominant.  Whether you believe in Evolution or not, this concept of adaptation and genetic variation has been proven, within species.  Genetic codes follow the shotgun effect in their development, and only those viable characteristics that are the result dictate which codes work.  So why was I thinking about this?  Because Energy policy and the Economy has been very prevalent in the political spectrum for this shining moment (who knows how the political landscape will change in a few weeks).  We can either put all our eggs in one basket, or allow the shotgun effect to work and invest in all technologies out there that can grow our energy production.  Only those that are the most viable in the given environment will succeed, while others may be waiting in the wings should the environment change.  Perhaps it's my bias showing through, but I see this happening again in Air travel.  Soon airlines will realize that airships will become less expensive to maintain for passengers than current airplanes, though it will take longer for someone to travel from one place to another.  It will probably start in the small communities that are currently losing airlines because of the low rate of return.  But soon I do see it becoming a more common method of travel and shipping.  After all, it's just one more bit of shot from the gun.

August 27, 2008

The Dark Side of Politics: Us Against Them vs. Responsible Voting

I've always wondered where the taboo in political and religious discussion came from.  It seems that when people start talking about these two deeply held beliefs, they get defensive and are quick to personal attacks. And this year is no different with the political posturing of both parties (again, I say parties instead of candidates).  Perhaps it is because of the inherent need for Americans to "win".  We live in a very competitive society for which rewards are only seen in a complete and overall domination in a desired area.  As such personal victory is the only thing that matters, whether or not one is actually part of the process.  For example, sports fans are dedicated to their team, often cutting down the fans of other teams because of their "loyalties".But it doesn't stop there, many a flame war is driven by someone's need to be right, and another's need to prove that they are more knowledgeable.  And so it continues through to other aspects of life.  The need to "race" against each other to see who is the best is deep-rooted in the human psyche, it seems.  But sports fans and others like them are willing to accept their teams flaws and understand why they didn't win.  And yet this doesn't happen in a political pundits are unable to accept the loss of their candidates.  Why?  What makes the process so difficult to understand?  The first reason is the process in which elections are held.  People have the right to vote, and people make the decision.  Because it's not really in the power of the candidate to win based on a set guide of criteria, often a defeat can be crushing.  Hence (at least in my mind) the reason why Democrats have been so bitter the past 8 years, and Republicans the 8 years before that:  They just couldn't understand why they lost.  Generally 3rd party candidates are blamed for the loss.  It kind of makes you feel sorry for Ralph Nader and others like him. The second reason is because "better" and "best" is such a subjective definition when it comes to politics.  Politics reflect a person's base value system.  One votes for a person based on their perception that the candidate best reflects their values.  Some of these values are based in real issues (i.e., war, economic needs, etc.), and others are based on superficial concerns (gender, race, age, wealth, eye color, etc.).  Either way, the candidate needs to prove to the majority of people around them that they are more likely to rule in their favor.  Us Against ThemOne popular method of getting the support from people is to turn them against "THEM".  No, not the giant ants in a popular 50's horror film, but rather the ambiguous "them" that are against us.  How are they against us?  They don't have our values.  They don't care about us.  They want us to lie in the gutter and die as they manage to steal our money, land, children, and kidneys.  "They" are determined to see us dead and dance merrily on our graves while our children are slaves to their will.  In short, everything we hate they are, and everything we are they hate.  Is there really a "they"?  I don't think so.  People, in general, are good.  They want to do what is best for all persons, including themselves.  And so they look for ways to do that.  What is the saying?  "The road to hell is paved with good intentions?"  Everyone wants to believe they are doing something for the good of all.  Politicians (and people in general) have seemed to tap into the fear of a "them" in order to generate more votes.  Talks about "being out of touch with the average American", or "they are just too popular to really know what is going on" merely feed into that concept of a "them" out to destroy us.  It is all based on fear, uncertainty, and doubt.  Responsible VotingSo how do we combat the FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) around political pressures and make informed decisions?  Educate ourselves!  Get to know the candidates, the parties, and the platforms that are being bandied about.  Use resources to see track records of candidates, look at the issues that are best for you, and who better embodies those issues based on real results.  Resources that are best are those that are the least biased (notice i say leased biased.  No person can claim they are not biased, nor that their products are not biased).  I find that actual roll call votes from the Congressional sessions are ideal, because you can see how people voted at a given time.  Likewise the same roll call votes from the Senate are just as useful, particularly if you are looking at the candidates.Next, look at each party individually.  Filter out the partisan bickering and finger-pointing, and get down to the core values that they hold.  Remember that "I'm not another Party" is not a position.  Just because they oppose another party doesn't make that party responsible.  Look at the goals they are trying to accomplish, as well as those that are absent.  Which are the most important to you?  Finally, I find that it is by far more important to be unaffiliated to a particular party.  This is my personal choice, but it gives me the freedom to look at both parties without worrying about potential loyalty guilt.  Of course there is a drawback:  I can't participate in the primary elections for many parties, and as such have little control over who does end up representing me.  So, I hope this post has made some sense.  Hopefully I can convince someone out there to look past the rhetoric and look at the real issues at hand.  Don't look at the person, look at the people they will hire to get the job done.  Who will be their staffers?  Who will be in the Cabinet?  Who do they support in Congress, or the Supreme Court?  All these issues are just as important as whether or not they will be the oldest person to sit in the Oval Office, or the first person of their race (or gender).  After all, in this day and age, isn't is time we got past the whole bias on age, race, gender, etc?  Are we not supposed to be a more tolerant generation?Anyway, my 2 cents.

August 23, 2008

New House in Second Life: Two Buildings for Sale

As my neighbors in Second Life have noticed (and been amused, it seems), I have been rather fickle with the the various buildings for my home.  Most of the time I have purchased low-cost structures built by someone else.  All of them have looked great, but none have been what I wanted:  a building that would allow me to cover all the goals for my property while being low-prim enough to meet the requirements of my plot.  Lately I have been interested in building my own homes.  I wanted to target a more commercial aspect (hoping against hope that my efforts would pay for the land I have purchased).  In order to do so, I would need to build something that is all my own, yet looking professional.  This is also important for me as I wish to have a learning environment for my students to visit for "extra credit", and for office hours.  I started with an idea for an English Country Pub.  From the many pictures I have pulled from the Internet, I came with a very well constructed approximation of a pub as my first home.  It's currently for sale in my new digs for a price I think reflects the level of construction.  I also built a number of low-prim accessories for the building, which I will have up for sale soon.  But it was too small for what I wanted, and I didn't feel that it fit in the neighborhood in Caledon Downs.  That, and I didn't have enough room for everything I wanted in the house.  I tried a parachute platform, but since you can fly in Caledon, why would someone want to parachute around the land?  It just didn't make sense.  So, I found some nice textures for a Victorian Brick building, and set to work.  I built a new Victorian Department Store that is just large enough to fit in my land, and gives me 4 floors to provide a store (first floor), a Cinema currently showing the 1916 version of "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" (second floor), a third floor with a whiteboard and slideshow viewer for online courses, a fourth floor Restaurant with Fish and Chips and Tea for all, and finally an attic for changing clothes without anyone looking in on me.  I've since had two neighbors who have not talked to me before comment on how much they like the new building, and are quite impressed with it.  As such I posted it for sale inside for the benefit of anyone else that would like the building.  Now, I have heard some people mention the fact that they find Second Life a "game" that equates to something similar to Facebook or MySpace.  And all I can say is many Universities are using Second Life as a solution to their physical classroom problems, and there is a reason.  Soon I hope to have a solution for some Technology Education classes to be taught in the new medium.  And this new building is large enough to provide for those classes, and provide a fun environment for students to enjoy.So if you are new to Second Life, or have land and want a nice large building with a small footprint, feel free to visit!

August 21, 2008

Rainwater Collection Plans Part 2: New Legislation Allowing Collection??

Again, like with many of my other governmental inquiries through email, I have as yet received a reply from the Water Resources board regarding the avenues available for rainwater collection on an urban farm.  And then, a few weeks ago, I heard a report (or a followup at the very least) that legislators here in Utah are looking into reforming the Water Rights laws to allow for residential rainwater collection.  So why did it take me so long to reply?  Because I can't find any reference to the followup report on KSL, nor can I find a reference online from any legislator that is taking up the fight.  So in spite of the total lack of references, I'm reassured that someone somewhere is willing to take up this fight.  Perhaps that is why I am not getting a reply from the Water Resources board.  Perhaps... or perhaps it is because I made the inquiry via email.  Either way, it looks as though sometime in the future it may be possible to build and collect rainwater for use on an urban farm.  Unfortunately I don't know when or who is fighting for this.  Perhaps it's time I contact my local legislator again.  Maybe I'll get a reply.

August 19, 2008

The Fog of Politics: Looking at the Parties

For those of you who have not seen, heard, or read anything regarding news lately, the US is currently in a dead heat for the Presidential election.  The Republicans are getting desperate to hold on to some branch of the government that will give them some leverage as their hold on government slips from their grasp, while the Democrats are feverishly trying to win back what they feel is their right to govern.  Both sides are attacking each other on policy points, and promising the world to potential voters.  But what exactly are they promising?  It's hard to understand what the Candidates are promising, as they do change either their positions or the flavors of their positions slightly to appeal to the group to whom they are talking.  So what does this mean for the average voter?  What can we do as voters to evaluate the positions of the parties and their candidates? One great thing about the modern election system is the use of websites for both truth and propoganda.  The Web is now a very powerful tool a voter can use to evaluate the documented positions of the candidates, and their specific policies.  Below I am going to list the policies and positions of the Republican and Democratic National Committees.  Please note that the decisions to post one party over another is not based on personal preference:  I am unaffiliated, and prefer to remain so.  I am just posting their positions, and someone needs to come first.  Also note that it is the responsibility of the reader to sift through the promises and look at what is actually possible.  Can the promise be kept?  Are the obstacles, and if so have they been accounted for?  Are the ideas just ideas, or are they realistic?  What helps over the short term, and again in the long term?  What past experience does the candidate, party, and entourage bring to each unique problem?  All these questions and more should be asked by the reader as they go through the mire.  Author Note:  I don't like mud-slinging politics, and hate watching ads, read speeches, etc. that attack other candidates.  As such, I will not post such attacks made by candidates to prove their position.  As I told a good Democrat friend of mine back in 2004:  "I'm not Bush" is not a position.  I need substantive policies to look at, and the minute a candidate attacks another candidate on a policy I stop listening.  The Republican National Committee: The RNC website is  On the main page, they have a menu item that covers Issues.  Here are the Issues, as seen by the Republican Party: 
  1. Faith and Values:  Providing support for Faith-based community organizations, Support of the New Freedom Initiative, which provides support of freedom and independence for individuals with disabilities, and Support of Partial Birth Abortion Ban and "Connor's Law".  
  2. Education:  A new high school initiative to help states hold high schools accountable for teaching all students and to provide effective interventions for those students who are not learning at grade level, Increasing reading skills for America’s striving readers by providing a focus on improving the reading skills of high school students who read below grade level, Accelerating mathematics and science achievement dedicated to support projects to accelerate the mathematics achievement of all secondary students, and especially low-achieving students, Accelerating student achievement with Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate, and Promoting Scholastic Achievement with State Scholars.   
  3. Energy:  The President's Advanced Energy Initiative promotes America's four main sources of electricity: coal, nuclear, natural gas, and renewable sources, Nuclear Power is abundant and affordable, clean, and safe, President Bush is encouraging the research and development of Clean-Coal technologies, which is by far America’s most abundant and affordable energy resource, and President Bush's FY2007 budget proposed $44 million in funding for wind energy research and other alternative and renewable resource.  
  4. Healthcare:  The President's plan will help more Americans afford health insurance by reforming the tax code with a standard deduction for health insurance - like the standard deduction for dependents, and The Affordable Choices Initiative will help make basic private health insurance available and will provide additional help to Americans who cannot afford insurance (These two policies will work together to help more Americans afford basic private coverage), and The President's proposal will lower taxes for millions of Americans who now purchase health insurance on their own, making their insurance more affordable.  
  5. Jobs and Economy:  Restraining spending by the Federal Government, Working with Congress to pass legislation that promotes economic growth - including making his tax cuts permanent, Reforming the institutions fundamental to American society, so that they can meet the realities of our new century, and Strengthening high schools and the secondary education system.  
  6. Legal Reform:  Securing the ability of injured patients to get quick, unlimited compensation for their "economic losses," including the loss of ability to provide unpaid services like care for children or parents, and Ensuring recoveries for non-economic damages do not exceed a reasonable amount ($250,000), Reserving punitive damages for egregious cases where they are justified, and limiting damages to reasonable amounts.   
  7. Safety and Security:  Strengthening our Military, Deploying a missile defense system, Strengthening our ties NATO, and Protecting the homeland and acheiving a sustained level of success and progress in Iraq.  
  8. Social Security:  In 1950, there were 16 workers to support every one beneficiary of Social Security. Today, there are only 3.3 workers supporting every Social Security beneficiary, In 2008 - baby boomers will begin to retire, and Under the current system, today's 30-year-old worker will face a 26% benefit cut when he or she reaches normal retirement age.    
  9. Tax Reform:  Restraining spending by the Federal Government, Reforming the tax code, as the President believes that America's taxpayers deserve, and our future economic prosperity demands, a simpler, fairer, more pro-growth system, and Taxes should be applied fairly, and reform should recognize the importance of homeownership and charity in our American society.  
Those are the published issues the Republican National Committee are dedicated to accomplishing.  The Democratic National Committee, located at, has their own agenda: 
  1. Honest Government:  The Democratic Party is committed to real ethics reform and meaningful campaign finance reform that protects our rights and ensures that elected officials act ethically -- not just within the law, but within the spirit of the law. To do so, we will create and enforce rules that demand the highest ethics from every public servant, sever unethical ties between lawmakers and lobbyists, and establish clear standards that prevent the trading of official business for gifts.  Please note that I have cut whole sections out of their original paragraphs due to irrelevant comparisons to another party (as in both parties have struggled with ethics in government, not just one).  
  2. Real Security:  [Democrats] will protect Americans at home and lead the world by telling the truth to our troops, our citizens and our allies. We believe in a strong national defense that is both tough and smart, recognizing that homeland security begins with hometown security.  Democrats have a plan that is comprehensive-- from repairing our military, to winning the war on terror, to protecting our homeland security, to ensuring success in Iraq and freeing America of its dependence on foreign oil--and it will finally prepare America for the security needs of the 21st Century. And we honor the sacrifices our troops, their families and veterans by making sure we take care of them when they come home.Democrats are unwavering in our commitment to keep our nation safe. For Democrats, homeland security begins with hometown security. That's why we led the fight to create the Department of Homeland Security and continue to fight to ensure that our ports, nuclear and chemical plants, and other sensitive facilities are secured against attack and support increased funding for our first responders and programs like the COPS program so we keep our communities safe. We want to close the remaining gaps in our security by enacting the 9/11 Commission recommendations. 
  3. Energy Independence:  [Democrats] will create a cleaner, greener and stronger America by reducing our dependence on foreign oil, eliminating billions in subsidies for oil and gas companies and use the savings to provide consumer relief and develop energy alternatives, and investing in energy independent technology.  By clearing the pathways to innovation, investing in our workers and infrastructure, and providing American consumers with broader, more responsible choices, the Democratic plan will provide the tools to help move America forward, toward real energy security for the 21st century.  Again, this was edited, though not for partisan comparisons.  Much of the statement here is simply stating the obvious.  For a full version of this agenda item, visit the page. 
  4. Economic Prosperity and Educational Excellence:  We will create jobs that stay in America and restore opportunity for all Americans, starting with raising the minimum wage, expanding Pell grants and making college tuition tax deductible. We also believe in budget discipline that reduces our deficit.  Democrats believe that the most effective way to increase opportunity for our families is a high quality, good paying job. The Democratic Party supports fair trade agreements that raise standards for all workers here and abroad, while making American businesses more competitive, and we don’t believe in tax giveaways that reward companies for moving American jobs overseas.  We also believe in balanced budgets and paying down our national debt, [partisan attack edited out]. We want to restore the budget discipline of the 1990s that helped eliminate deficits and spur record economic growth.  Democrats know that the key to expanding opportunity is to provide every child with a strong foundation of education. We will also help expand educational opportunities for college by making college tuition tax deductible, expanding Pell Grants, and cut student loan interest rates.
  5. Affordable Healthcare:  We will join 36 other industrialized nations in making sure everyone has access to affordable health care, starting by fixing the prescription drug program and investing in stem cell and other medical research.  Democrats are committed to making sure every single American has access to affordable, effective health care coverage. We want to fix the disastrous Medicare Part D and ensure our seniors can afford their prescription drugs.  We also believe in investing in life saving stem cell and other medical research that offers real hope for cures and treatment for millions of Americans.
  6. Retirement Security:  We will ensure that a retirement with dignity is the right and expectation of every single American, starting with pension reform, expanding saving incentives and preventing the privatization of social security.  Democrats believe that after a life of hard work, you earn a secure retirement. Our commitment to protecting the promise of Social Security is absolute.  Democrats also recognize that Americans rely on more than just Social Security for a secure and dignified retirement. Democrats will continue to fight for genuine pension reform that protects employees’ financial security from future Enron-style abuse. We also want to work on new ways to help hard-working Americans create retirement savings.
  7. The Environment:  The Democratic Party believes that it is our responsibility to protect America's extraordinary natural resources. The health of our families and the strength of our economy depend on our stewardship of the environment.  We reject the false choice between a healthy economy and a healthy environment. Farming, fishing, tourism, and other industries require a healthy environment. New technologies that protect the environment will create new high-paying jobs. A cleaner environment means a stronger economy.  Far too many Americans live with unhealthy air or water quality. Democrats will fight to strengthen the laws that ensure we have clean air to breathe and clean water to drink. And Democrats will make sure these laws are enforced.  Democrats know that a sensible energy policy is key to a strong economy, our national security, and a clean environment. Democrats are committed to the next generation of affordable and renewable energy for the 21st century and to conservation measures that will immediately reduce our dependence on foreign oil.
  8. Civil Rights and Justice:  Democrats are unwavering in our support of equal opportunity for all Americans. That's why we’ve worked to pass every one of our nation’s Civil Rights laws, and every law that protects workers. Most recently, Democrats stood together to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act.  On every civil rights issue, Democrats have led the fight. We support vigorous enforcement of existing laws, and remain committed to protecting fundamental civil rights in America.
  9. Election Reform:  A fundamental tenet of our democracy is the right to vote and have that vote counted. We must be vigilant in protecting this right and ensuring that our voting system is fair for every American.  Democrats are determined to reform the voting system in this country so that it includes verification, accountability, and accuracy. It is imperative that we modernize election equipment, and guarantee access to polls with common sense reforms such as Election Day registration, shorter lines, and early voting. The Democratic Party is committed to election reform and will fight for federal standards that restore confidence in our voting process.
  10. Immigration:  America deserves realistic solutions to address border security and immigration reform, consistent with American values. That means reform that is comprehensive, tough and smart but also fair.  Democrats are fighting for laws that will:Secure our bordersProtect all U.S. workers and their wages & prevent exploitation of immigrant workersReunite familiesAllow immigrants who pay taxes and don't have trouble with the law a path to earn the opportunities and responsibilities of U.S. citizenship.
That was the list of the Democratic National Committee agenda items.  I have a lot to say about some of them, but I'll leave it for another post.  Due to the length of this article, I'll leave the candidates to next week.

August 16, 2008

My Son's Autism Workbook

This week, after spending a lot of effort trying to prepare for the Mac OS X 10.5 Advanced System Administration test, I took off the last half of the week to work on a workbook for my son.  As those of you who have followed my blog know, my son Jonathan is within the Autistic Spectrum, at either very high level autism or Asperger's Syndrome (we find out in February which it is).  As such, trying to work with him has been an adventure, to say the least.  We found a book that has been a great help.  The Autistic Spectrum Parents' Daily Helper by Philip Abrams and Leslie Hendriques provides a great insight into teaching in general, and teaching autistic children specifically.  It's focus is on learning through repetition, Constructivist learning by building upon skills and recognizing associations between skills, and finally learning design.  Why learning design?  Because autistic children vary across the spectrum, their learning requirements are different.  The only way to teach your autistic children the skills they know is to break them down and teach each part of the skill.  This book tells you what to do, but it does lack in telling someone how to do it.  That means parents may know that they have to do a skills analysis, but they don't know how to do it.  Luckily the book provides several references for parents that need more help. This book is more about doing something, which ultimately is what all students want.  Parents want to be able to do what they can, and this book is perfect for them.  It has a workbook for parents (giving them a teaching skill crash course), and a workbook for the child(ren).  The students are focused on tactile and visual learning, which is great for autistic children (mostly because their auditory learning is generally challenged).  The workbook is focused on basic skills that most children pick up through imitation.  This includes doing chores, dressing oneself, etc.  It's a great workbook, and one that I want my son to use.  Now, the workbook is designed to have tear-out pages, but I have this thing about tearing out portions of books.  That, and it's a standard 8.5" by 11" which is a bit larger than I like.  So, I took a lot of the ideas from the book and a few scans, and started making my own version of the book.  I started by writing up all the text sections in Pages (which, ironically, I think the workbook was written in originally).  I also broke up the sections into two pages that fit within a compact Franklin planner.  39 pages later I cut out the new workbook sections and laminated them.  Then I punched holes to clip it in the planner.  Now I have a nice and compact workbook for my son that will travel nicely.  So, that's the workbook I have.  There are still some small details that need to be finished with it, but all in all it's a functional workbook.  I can set a schedule for my son, have him match some skills together, and even start to learn how to tell time.  Needless to say, I'm quite happy with this workbook project, and look forward to augmenting it with new skills as we find that my son needs them.

August 13, 2008

Rainwater Collection Plans and Urban Farming: Rainwater is Part of Water Rights

Last night, while watching the Olympics, advertised a piece on collecting rainwater for watering the garden.  It seems that this practice is illegal, as it is technically stealing from those that have purchased water rights downstream of wherever you are.  Water rights, in Suburbia?  The first thing you need to understand is that Utah, despite the growing urban sprawl in the Salt Lake, Utah, Davis, and Weber counties, is an Agricultural State.  Our laws were originally written to protect the rights of farmers from other farmers, and those laws stay on the books.  With dwindling farmland in the Salt Lake valley in particular, the water rights laws seem to be more archaic than applicable.  But note, I said dwindling, not non-existent.  There are still some farms, generally small, in the area around my home.  So taking the water that someone else has spent money to procure would be stealing, and as I support farming in all forms it just isn't something I could do in all good conscience.So what is the urban farmer do to in order to decrease drinking water usage?  Is there no hope?  Does the urban farmer need to forever be a slave to municipal water districts and their high  fees?  That's what I am about to find out.  I started by emailing the director of the Utah Division of Water Resources, and the Salt Lake representative to see what exactly would be their recommended course of action.  I intend to complete this project, which would not only provide water for my plants, but also help "fuel" my aquaculture program as well.  But I want it to be legal.  There is at least one possible recourse, which is what Mark Miller Toyota took in order to use the rainwater that landed on their roof for car washes:  he worked out a deal with the Salt Lake City public works department to use their name to divert the rainwater into their cisterns.  Perhaps a similar course of action could be accomplished for residents.  After all, no self respecting urban farmer would want to be in violation of the law while accomplishing their goal.  Once I get an answer from Water Resources, I will post it.

August 12, 2008

Rash of Plane Crashes: Rethinking Small Craft Travel

Anyone who has followed my blog for a while knows that I have a bias toward the airship.  I think they are fascinating in their design and potential.  Seen as not very practical in execution, they drifted into the realms of Football Game advertisements, instead of mainstream transport vehicles.  We can thank the disaster of the Hindenburg for the state of the airship in this day and age.  But airships have been seeing a comeback:  For the first time since before World War II, a German airship has been seen in the skies of London.  Canada is looking to airships to solve the problem of global warming melting the ice roads between remote locations in the Great White North.  Airships are even being used remotely for border patrols along the US-Mexico border.  And now, it seems, I keep hearing about small aircraft crashes.  Within Utah and Wyoming we have had three fatal crashes in a matter of weeks, and I just read this story about a similar small plane crash in Easton, Mass.  It seems with the price of fuel, the increasing need for safe travel, and the growing complaints against airlines closing smaller community flights, we need to rethink the travel options.  Enter the airship again.  Airships are ideally designed for small community flights to larger airports.  They can carry smaller passenger loads and still make money, because they use only a fraction of the fuel a jet or propeller plane uses.  That, added to the fact that they can land at any clearing without the need for a paved or prepared runway, makes the airship an ideal vehicle.  Now, you may be asking why I think a Blimp can be more effective than a plane.  I don't, because I don't see airships as blimps.  Airships have rigid frames that enclose their envelope, and can even be heavier than air (as opposed to lighter than air).  They can be hybrid craft like the Aeroscraft, and even be solar powered, like the Turtle Airship.Of course, neither company has completed their prototypes as of yet, and they are much anticipated.  While they may take twice as long to reach your destination they would use a fraction of the fuel, fly lower in the atmosphere to avoid impact on the existing flight paths of planes, and provide more overall space than a comparative jet.  Perhaps airliners will see the potential of such craft when they are finally launched, and we will start to see more local flights being taken by more fuel efficient airships.  Perhaps the dream will never be realized and the world of flight will continue to shrink based on fuel restrictions.  Either way, something must give in order to decrease the growing frustration regarding the airline industry, or we will find our global economy throttled slowly and painfully.  Of course, there is always the idea of the Trans-Aleutian Bridge, or the sub-Atlantic railway...

August 6, 2008

Calendaring update: CalDAV and Google Calendar

A while ago I published a post on my problems trying to work in an enterprise environment without an Exchange compatible calendar.  It's been tough, it's been heart-breaking, it's been a lot of work, but I have managed to hobble along with various forms of updates, patches, syncing tools that failed, etc.  Then today, while still looking for a solution to Outlook 2007 and iCal Server compatibility, I read it:  Google finally enabled CalDAV for their calendars.  It's still very much in the beta stage, but it works.  For those who are not familiar with the CalDAV protocol, it's an open source subset of the WebDAV protocol, which is a subset of the HTTP protocol.  The standard was developed as an open source, non-proprietary competitor to the Exchange format, and works with cross-platform clients.  The protocol allows for publishing and updating iCalendar files from multiple sources.  Apple developers spent a lot of time and effort with this protocol in order to get it out there for their Collaboration server setup (iCal Server, Wiki Server, Blogs, iChat, etc.).  As such, iCal 3.x (the version that came with 10.5 Leopard) supports it, as does a number of other clients (Thunderbird, Sunbird, etc.).  The set up went very smoothly.  Google has a support link here that shows you how to set up your iCal client to connect to your Google Calendar, and any secondary calendars to which you have access.  It's very painless, and from what I can see so far works just fine for regular calendar entries.  That being said, beyond just scheduling my classes, lab deployments, and the odd meeting, I don't use calendaring software much.  Of course there enters a new wrench:  Outlook.  I still need to share my calendar with other people in the department using Outlook.  Outlook 2003 doesn't support viewing iCal calendars through a WebDAV connection (which allows sharing, but not multi-user publishing), without a 3rd party plugin.  It can read files that are in the iCal and vCal format, but from what I have read it doesn't support them very well (if anyone has heard or knows otherwise, please let me know!). Enter Outlook 2007.  Outlook 2007 will let you read a Google Calendar without a problem.  It's actually fairly easy to set up.  You can also publish a calendar the same way using WebDAV.  The problem is, you can't use a CalDAV calendar, no matter how hard you try.  There are, in theory, some applications that act as a bridge, but I'm not too keen on bridges like that (though if you must, Calgoo has added CalDAV to it's calendaring utility!).  I'd much rather use the application that comes with the OS (or in Windows case, the application that comes with the Office software you purchase separately).  If anyone is aware of an alternative solution, please let me know!  So while my personal calendaring needs are met with the Google Calendar solution, there is still one missing:  setting up Outlook to add to a CalDAV calendar.  Perhaps, with a patch to Outlook, this will be possible.
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This page is an archive of entries from August 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

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