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Friday, December 6, 2013

Friday Links is a little cranky

+This is a story from India, but it applies here as well. One of the chief ways to restrict vehicle use in pedestrian areas is to simply make people pay for parking. This is simply a matter of looking at things differently. Why is our entire infrastructure geared toward the ease of use of drivers? "There Should Be No Free Parking".

+Notice how this orients the casual student, the non-major who will only encounter economics once in this survey course. They start off with an abstract market that always works, versus having to see the messy parts when it doesn’t. They then proceed to the long-run, and only after everything else do they get to something that might help them understand why unemployment is so high for young college graduates. Only then might they be introduced to the institutions that make markets happen, if those are discussed at all. Colleges are teaching economics backwards...or wrong entirely.

+I try to stay away from this sort of thing, but here's a good piece in the Guardian about the next steps for Detroit. There's so many people doing so many interesting, revolutionary things in Detroit that I am fully confident the city will be fine in the long term, but since this country never looks at the long term most people are focused on the bankruptcy and heartache.

+Michael Garrity, the co-founder and chief executive officer of FinanceIt, tells me that one reason that small and medium-size businesses struggle to compete with big-box stores, especially around holiday time, is that they need to get paid up front and sometimes consumers would prefer to spread out big payments over time. FinanceIt lets merchants approve customers for financing at point-of-sale with a simple scan of their driver’s license, giving them the in-house financing chops that big retailers already enjoy. Another reason is that our entire infrastructure is designed to support and benefit big box retailers and steer most consumers away from pedestrian-friendly downtown shopping districts. But, hey, let's get everyone more in debt. That'll solve it.

+The glory days of the United States and Soviet race to space are long over, but another rivalry between two titans of entrepreneurship has taken its place. Yesterday, Elon Musk’s SpaceX successfully completed its first transfer of a satellite into orbit. On the same day Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, the Amazon founder’s secretive space project, debuted a new liquid hydrogen rocket engine particularly suited for human space travel. Why the hell are these two clowns spending so much money trying to get to space, when they could be spending that money fixing the planet we have? I know, because they're ultra-rich individualist technologists who are looking for a way to get themselves and their rich buddies off the planet when they destroy this one.

+An alliance of corporations and conservative activists is mobilising to penalise homeowners who install their own solar panels – casting them as "freeriders" – in a sweeping new offensive against renewable energy, the Guardian has learned. Over the coming year, the American Legislative Exchange Council (Alec) will promote legislation with goals ranging from penalising individual homeowners and weakening state clean energy regulations, to blocking the Environmental Protection Agency, which is Barack Obama's main channel for climate action. From the lobbyists who brought such American classics as "Stand Your Ground" and new voter ID laws, comes a new set of laws designed to ensure the planet becomes a steaming pile of garbage.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Idea of the Week: Paging all Great Lakes Entrepreneurs!

One of the things I want to do with this blog (which I've heretofore done a terrible job of) is highlight cool sustainability ideas that are going on around the world, so that any budding entrepreneurs might be able to take those ideas and implement them in their own hometowns. There are a lot of cool things going on around the world, and if something is working in one place it might work where you live.

So, let's get to it.

The Vermont Sail Freight Project
The Vermont Sail Freight Project is an interesting idea in the Northeast, whereby a few sailors build a sailboat for less than $20k, fill it with fresh produce from Vermont, and then sail it down the Hudson River to Brooklyn, selling and restocking at different ports along the way. There are few costs for an owner-operator once the cost of the boat is covered, since wind is, you know, free.

The positives of this are multi-leveled. First it transports fresh produce from an agriculturally rich area of the country to one that is largely urban. Second, it puts zero molecules of carbon into the air. Third, it supports small farmers throughout the Hudson River Valley and connects the whole region through food, sustaining and creating jobs that are sustainable, important, and fulfilling.

The best thing about this, though, is that it can be implemented anywhere where a large body of water connects regions. Being from Michigan the Great Lakes come readily to mind, but large river systems could work as well. One obvious river is the Ohio, which connects one of the most fertile agricultural areas in the country to several cities like Louisville and Cincinnati. This idea is scalable, but it can also be implemented on the owner-operator level, which makes it economically dynamic as well.

For more information on the Vermont Sail Freight Project, check out their website here.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Best Young Writers 2013

Some of you may not be aware that I started a publishing company in 2013 called Shire Reckoning Publishing House. If you aren't aware of this, don't feel bad; it's entirely because I've done a horrible job of promoting the house on this blog. That changes now.

The first project I focused on with SRPH was the Best Young Writers contest, a literature contest for writers between 14 and 20 years old with a grand prize of $500. The 2013 winner was an amazing writer from St. Louis named Myra Stull who wrote a great short story about young love and the endurance of faith. But I received so many other great submissions I decided to compile the 21 best into an anthology titled, cleverly, Best Young Writers 2013.

I say all this because I finally got the finished books in my hot little hands last week and they are available for y'all to purchase. They're only $10 and for that you get 21 of the best short stories and poems young American writers could conjure, and you help me break even on this so that I can do it next year and the year after that and the year after that...

I only ordered 175 copies, so this is a very limited edition printing. They're selling like hot cakes, so now is definitely the time to get your hands on one...or two.

Thanks in advance for your support. It means a lot to me to give back to the younger generations of writers and your help makes that possible.

You can order the book here.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Monday Links is your utility's worst nightmare

+Optimizing resources makes sense from just about every angle. Technology Review agrees.

+While the subject of this article is actually the apex of neoliberal shock doctrine politics (i.e. manufacturing a crisis in order to make money off the solution...in this case the West producing the lion's share of carbon that causes Climate Change, and then making money off the mitigation in poor countries), I think at its heart there is truth here. Some of the purest entrepreneurial opportunities available right now are finding innovative ways to distribute resources more efficiently and help people deal with the consequences of centuries of environmental neglect. I gravitate toward housing concerns, personally, but water, food, and safety are three important areas of opportunity.

+Speaking of neoliberalism: As Harvey writes, neoliberalism is “a theory of political economic practices that proposes that human well-being can best be advanced by liberating individual entrepreneurial freedoms and skills within an institutional framework characterized by strong private property rights, free markets, and free trade.” What makes this “liberation” class war? Because the state that produces it enshrines a view of freedom that prioritizes “the interests of private property owners, businesses, multinational corporations, and financial capital.” Mike Konczal chats about the history of neoliberalism and how it's at the root of our current crises.

+It would appear the new pope has actually read the New Testament.

+14 (well, really 13) good ideas from the Huffington Post.

+One of my good friends and I got in a Twitter battle about the relative merits of the Music City Convention Center in downtown Nashville, and while we didn't come to any real consensus, he did call my attention to the AMP, a rapid bus line connecting Nashville's busiest population centers. Brilliant!

+Greenfield has paid nothing for power from his local utility since the system was installed by SolarCity a year ago. At parties and family gatherings he proudly shares his savings data with anyone who's interested. He's your utility's worst nightmare, and there are now hundreds of thousands of homeowners and small businesses like him as Silicon Valley entrepreneurs transform monthly ratepayers into smart consumers.

+Our current predicament in two paragraphs: When Abbot John de Sais laid the first stone of a church in a tiny central England town in 1118, he set in motion a construction project that would culminate in 1237 with the completion of Peterborough Cathedral -- the grandest structure in England at the time and a harbinger of the Gothic style that came to define British architecture for the next 500 years. De Sais was long dead before the project was complete, but that didn't stop him. Fast-forward to the US housing bubble of 2008. Developers built McMansions for speculation. Brokers bundled house values into mortgage-backed securities that they could trade in a nanosecond. Sprawl ensued and build quality was poor. Eventually the bubble burst, prices declined, and now we are left with foreclosed homes that nobody wants. So what changed in western culture between 1118 and 2008? How did we go from building grand cathedrals to McMansions? Forget short-termism: it's time to think longpath.