Video of Bill Stone, the maverick cave explorer and diver, from TED

Bill Stone, modern adventurer, exibits a rare combination of intelligence, courage, and vision. Below is a video of his presentation at TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design).

Link: TED | TEDBlog: To the depths of the Earth … and beyond! Watch Bill Stone on TED.com

Bill Stone, the maverick cave explorer and diver — who has invented robots and rebreathing equipment to let him plumb Earth’s deepest abysses — talks about his efforts to build a robot to explore Jupiter’s moon Europa. …he’s also planning to mine ice, on Earth’s own moon, by 2015. (Recorded March 2007 in Monterey, CA. Duration: 17:55)

Read more about Bill Stone on TED.com.

The First Square Mile and Rural America

Rural areas need broadband so that people like me can buy some land, build a home, protect the land from being subdivided or monocultured, and put some money into the local economy.

Information workers can stop the extinction of the small farm — if we have broadband connections to do our work and stay connected with our friends and families.

Bob Frankston is a technology expert who has a mission: the First Square Mile.

Link: FSM – The First Square Mile, Our Neighborhood

Telecom is about services delivered over the last mile. Our connected neighborhood gives us the opportunity to discover the unanticipated. Instead of waiting at the end of the last mile we should look within our first square mile and see the possibilities, not just the choices offered.

Today’s underserved rural communities may provide the test beds we need. They may not have "broadband" but they do have phone service and those copper wires have a high carrying capacity if you use the right electronics. Today those wires are not available because the FCC Universal Service Fund (USF) collects billions by adding a fee for legacy phone service and then uses the money to assure that the wires are used for phone service. I should say wasted since that can leave each wire running at one millionth of its potential capacity. If the community had real ownership and honest and transparent funding it could use those wires to jumpstart neighborhood connectivity. While traditional DSL service is fairly slow we can use back to back DSL units to extend the reach and new technologies to run each wire at 100mbps or more.

The state regulators and commissioners have an opportunity to play a leadership role recognizing that their mission has changed. They can and must serve their community rather than presuming that anything good for the service providers is good for the community. It isn’t true because the telecom model serves the mythical average and not any of us. With analog signaling we may have had to subsume our individual needs to the restrictions of the technology but digital technology frees us from having to have a special wire for each purpose. Bits are just bits.

As long as we think of networking in terms of being at the last mile of a service delivery pipe we will have to settle for what happens to arrive. If we look at the first square mile around us — our neighborhood we will get the opportunity to be participants who can meeting their own needs while also contributing to the common good.

Reducing Junk Mail and Spam Email

From the blog of Tim Ferriss (author of the 4-Hour Work-week), some advice about getting removed from mailing lists.

Link: » How to Do The Impossible: Create a Paperless Life, Never Check Voicemail Again, Never Return Another Phone Call….

…get removed from junk mail lists and common commercial mailing lists. There are a few ways to do this: 1) Get remove from the most common junkmail lists (this costs a few dollars in some cases) and check alternative strategies at www.stopjunkmail.org, 2) Use LifeLock, or another identity protection service, which automatically removes you from large mailing lists, one of the most common vehicles for identity theft. Last, we’ll have your mail forwarded to special processing centers, where it is all scanned and emailed to you. One popular service is called Remote Control Mail, and there are two big benefits to the time-focused and mobile-minded: relevant postal mail is funneled into e-mail, so you can check both email and postal mail at once (“batching” both at the same time); you can travel freely whenever and wherever without ever missing a letter.

Energy: Paying Now or Paying Later

Sara Robinson at Orcinus on There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch (TANSTAAFL):

Years ago, bars used to offer a "free lunch" as a way to draw customers. Of course, the drinks in those bars cost twice as much, so the lunches weren’t really "free" at all. Similarly, in complex systems, what looks like the cheapest solution to a problem often turns out to be the most expensive one in the long run. TANSTAAFL is a way of saying, "Don’t expect something for nothing — there’s always a hidden cost somewhere."

Fossil fuels have been a big free lunch, until we found out that there was no "away" with those, either. And now we’re going to get to spend the next 50 years trying to pay for that long lunch. There are a couple lunches that look considerably cheaper right now — biofuels and nukes among them — but anybody who thinks those are going to be free is kidding themselves, too.

Jim Jubak at MSN Money (U.S. economy’s fate in Saudi hands – MSN Money) describes the Saudi stranglehold on the U.S.:

I have bad news for anybody who thinks that this Saudi control over the U.S. and global economies is a brief phase that will end by itself. The decision among oil producers such as Saudi Arabia to shift away from being a mere producer of crude oil to becoming a producer of value-added products made from oil — such as gasoline, fertilizer and plastics — will prolong the economic clout of these countries. Saudi Arabia will go from being the low-cost swing producer of crude oil to being the low-cost dominant producer in gasoline, fertilizer and plastics.

The only thing that changes this game — that redresses the balance between supplier economies and consumer economies — is a change in the price signals that consumer economies send in response to price increases. As long as the response to an increase in the price of oil is an increase in consumption, then oil prices will drift higher at a pace set by the self-interest of oil producers. Those of us who live in the consuming economies will just have to hope that the Saudis and other oil producers efficiently milk consuming countries’ cash-cow economies.

On the other hand, if higher prices lead to less consumption because consumers become permanently more efficient in the ways they use energy, and because consuming economies adopt lasting sources of alternative supply (and don’t abandon them at the next dip in oil prices), then consuming countries have a chance to take back some degree of control over their own economies.

Do we really need alternative sources of energy?

Do we really need to cut back on energy consumption?

No hassle solar energy for your home?

It seems too good to be true, so I’m going to investigate further. But if it works the way it says, it is a no-brainer. Read the features and benefits statement below.

Update: In researching this issue, I have found a number of naysayers. Here’s a link to an example, from a competitor. http://www.energybulletin.net/26022.html

From my research, I have concluded that this is a business model that will succeed if the executive team can overcome a number of conventional obstacles. I HOPE they can succeed because we are currently funding hostile countries and polluting our air and water by using fossil fuels.

Link: Citizen REnU Service Overview

Citizen REnU program packages solar power for you in a simple and smart way. Plainly put, the Citizen Corporation pays for, installs, owns and operates the solar installation. You don’t have to worry about maintaining the equipment or any of the other concerns that come with making an investment into solar power. All you are required to do is pay for the electricity generated from these panels, at a fixed rate that is at or below your current electricity price, for up to twenty-five years. Just take a look at some of the benefits that our customers will receive:

No upfront investment, no need to become a financial expert to justify your investment.
No waiting for rebates.
No headaches with the city and the utility; let us handle the engineering, procurement, and construction.
Performance-based contract means you only pay for what is delivered. And since the solar power you generate will reduce the need for electricity from your power company, your net payment should always be equal to, or less than, what you’re paying now.
Hassle-free operating and maintenance; it’s handled by the experts.
Actual hedge against future utility price increases: you can “lock in” your rates for the electricity generated from the solar system at your home for a period of up to twenty-five years, far longer than the guaranteed rates offered by other electricity providers.

Solar Savings Calculator

Service Territory and Rates

How Solar Energy Works

Frequently Asked Questions

The Citizen Corporation is presently limited in the areas that it can offer the REnU program. Our service territory is defined by the regions that have enacted net-metering legislation. That is because we want to make sure that our customers receive the full benefits of solar power without being penalized by their local utility.

As you can see below, even with the limitations, we have a sizeable service territory. It is likely that you are even within our territory and are eligible for the REnU program. However, in the event that you fall just outside of our territory at this time – because it is growing year after year, you can still participate in making clean energy a priority.

If you do not find yourself in our service territory, please take a look at our green energy program below. There you will find out how you can help make solar power a significant player in our energy mix.

Click on the map for a list of provider for each state (pop-up window)

Click on the map to see details
State-wide net metering for all utility types
State-wide net metering for certain utility types
No metering currently available

Beautiful Images: Ashes and Snow

The TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) Blog presents "Ashes and Snow" photographer Gregory Colbert. His images are amazing.

Link: TED Blog: "Ashes and Snow" photographer Gregory Colbert on TEDTalks

Photographer Gregory Colbert shares an astounding film from his exhibit, Ashes and Snow, and announces his new initiative, the Animal Copyright Foundation, which aims to collect royalties from companies using images of nature in their ad campaigns. For more than a decade, Gregory Colbert has traveled the world and collaborated with 40+ species to create "Ashes and Snow," the ground-breaking exhibition of more than 100 photographs and three films, housed in the Nomadic Museum. His remarkable sepia-toned images explore the relationship between people and animals, glimpsing a world in which humans live in profound harmony with the rest of the animal kingdom. (Recorded February 2006 in Monterey, CA. Duration: 18:42)

Download this talk: Video (MP4)

The Best Nuclear Power

Bill McDonough, visionary and practical at the same time, comments on nuclear power.

Link: Plenty Magazine – Environmental News and Commentary

From Bill McDonough’s keynote address at Greenbuild, the annual conference of the U.S. Green Building Council, taking place this week in Denver:

Recently I was asked to give a talk about sustainability at the White House to over 40 federal agencies. So I gave my talk and showed these slides, and afterwards I was asked, "Mr. McDonough, what do you think of nuclear power? A lot of environmentalists are now in favor of it because of concerns about global warming." And I said, oh, I like nuclear power. I’m a big fan of fusion. I think we should invest lots of money into nuclear power and consider using it for all our energy needs. And look—we’ve already got the perfect nuclear power plant. It’s 93 million miles away. It’s wireless. The construction costs are zero. Its operable lifetime is infinite. It’s right there. What are we waiting for?

Identity Theft (not me!)

Last week my bank called to ask if I had entered some large bill pay amounts in my online bill pay service. They had flagged them as unusual and contacted me. I had not entered those payments.

We think some spyware got on my PC and logged my keystrokes to get my bank login. (I had anti-virus software and a NAT firewal in my router but not anti-spyware). The bank recommended some high-powered spyware detection software and I installed it. The bank set up a new bank account at no charge for me and moved my linked other accounts to the new account. I was able to login to the new account within 24 hours.

I commend Wachovia Bank for detecting the unusual activity. Their customer service was terrific in helping me quickly adjust to the online break-in.

But… when I logged in to my new account, none of my account history had been moved over. The only transaction was my balance that had been moved over to start the new account. It was just like I was a new customer. I called and questioned this surprising turn of events. I was told that my transaction history in the old account would not be available from my new account.

I wish terrible misfortune on all identity thieves.

Google to House Largest U.S. Corporate Solar Installation

GreenBiz News describes Google’s plans to install 9000+ solar panels on rooftops and above parking areas. This is a great example of how to generate electricity while reducing the heat build-up in buildings and parked cars.

Google continues to take the lead in using technology intelligently.

Link: GreenBiz News | Google to House Largest U.S. Corporate Solar Installation

Google will house the largest corporate solar installation in the U.S., according to EI Solutions, the company installing the system.

EI Solutions, the systems integration arm of Energy Innovations, Inc., says it will begin constructing a solar electricity system for Google’s Mountain View, California, headquarters campus. With a total capacity of 1.6 megawatts — enough to supply 1,000 average California homes — the Google system will be the largest solar installation on any corporate campus in the U.S. and one of the largest on any corporate site in the world.

The project will involve 9,212 solar panels provided by Sharp Electronics. A majority will be placed on the rooftops of some of the buildings in the Googleplex and others will provide shaded parking as part of newly constructed solar panel support structures on existing Google parking lots. The solar energy will be used to power several of Google’s Mountain View office facilities.

"When the project is completed this spring, Google employees, shareholders and the community around us will begin to enjoy the environmental as well as economic benefits of clean, renewable energy generated on-site," says David Radcliffe, vice president of real estate at Google.

A three-dimensional representation of how the project may look once completed can be viewed online at www.eispv.com.