MonthDecember 2008

Russian Economy Tanking Because Energy Prices Have Collapsed

The ruble has fallen 19 percent against the basket since Russia’s invasion of Georgia in August, to 34.8216. That five-day war, the global credit squeeze and plunging oil prices have led investors to pull more than $200 billion out of Russian investments in the last five months, according to BNP Paribas SA.

“A large part of the government’s revenues, such as oil and gas export duties and extraction taxes, is dollar-denominated, so the ruble weakening certainly helps both the budget and income statements of the oil and gas producers,” said Ronald Smith, head of research at Alfa Bank in Moscow.

Full Story: Bloomberg

(via Cryptogon)

Oregon to pursue mileage tax

Terrible idea for so many reasons…

“As Oregonians drive less and demand more fuel-efficient vehicles, it is increasingly important that the state find a new way, other than the gas tax, to finance our transportation system.”

According to the policies he has outlined online, Kulongoski proposes to continue the work of the special task force that came up with and tested the idea of a mileage tax to replace the gas tax. […]

A GPS-based system kept track of the in-state mileage driven by the volunteers. When they bought fuel, a device in their vehicles was read, and they paid 1.2 cents a mile and got a refund of the state gas tax of 24 cents a gallon.

Full Story: Albany Democrat Herald

(via Cryptogon)

Pachube: web service for ubicomp/everyware/”the Internet of things”

Welcome to Pachube, a service that enables you to connect, tag and share real time sensor data from objects, devices, buildings and environments around the world. The key aim is to facilitate interaction between remote environments, both physical and virtual.

Pachube

(Thanks AlgoMantra)

Klintron’s 2009 survival strategies

Meeting more people
Indoor gardening
Excercise & ergonomics
Start using local currency
Committing to solving global problems

Full Story: Klintron’s Brain

Inventor’s 2020 vision: to help 1bn of the world’s poorest see better

It was a chance conversation on March 23 1985 (“in the afternoon, as I recall”) that first started Josh Silver on his quest to make the world’s poor see. A professor of physics at Oxford University, Silver was idly discussing optical lenses with a colleague, wondering whether they might be adjusted without the need for expensive specialist equipment, when the lightbulb of inspiration first flickered above his head.

What if it were possible, he thought, to make a pair of glasses which, instead of requiring an optician, could be “tuned” by the wearer to correct his or her own vision? Might it be possible to bring affordable spectacles to millions who would never otherwise have them?

More than two decades after posing that question, Silver now feels he has the answer. The British inventor has embarked on a quest that is breathtakingly ambitious, but which he insists is achievable – to offer glasses to a billion of the world’s poorest people by 2020.

Full Story: The Guardian

(via OVO)

SubGenius custody case update

Latest update from Rachel Bevilacqua (Rev. Magdalen):

Dear Friends,

Thank you so much for all your help so far in fighting to get back and
keep my family together. It’s a little over a year since we finally
moved back into our house in Georgia, our whole family back together.
It’s so wonderful to be together again I can’t describe how good it
feels, and how thankful we are to have been able to have two holidays
together so far without being split up again, even though the court
case started back up in September.

Since the first notification of the court case, we’ve come a long way.
I retained Mr. Brian Goewey to represent me, and got permission from
the court to testify by telephone. At the last court appearance,
Judge Punch, who had returned to the case, raised the issue of
inconvenient forum himself, and told the two lawyers to submit papers
about that issue, and he would decide it all in writing. So for the
first time in a while we had no pending court cases, just waiting for
the judge to decide!

After several weeks, Judge Punch dismissed the case! I was so excited
I didn’t know what to do, but then my lawyer informed me that it’s
possible to appeal even the dismissal of a case. Jeff has until
January 15 to submit an appeal, so I am counting down the days to find
out whether the case is finally dismissed beyond all recall from the
County of Orleans.

I haven’t spoken to Jeff since the decision, so I don’t know what he
will do, but I have to assume he’s going to try his hardest to appeal,
so each day that goes by without a phone call saying there’s an appeal
is a good day. I will write again after the deadline passes and let
you know whether we won!

Meanwhile, Mr. Mattingly, the original lawyer who won us the right to
go home in the summer of 2007, but who can’t represent me anymore
because I owe him so much, needs to be paid something before the end
of the year, or he will get in trouble with his partners. I still owe
him $24,000, but he never bothers me about it, and he took off a lot
of other charges to get it down that low.

Of course, I have no hopes of raising so much money, but I hope that
if everyone who reads this either sends in a little bit, just $10 or
so, or else forwards this email to someone who might be willing and
able to help, we can make it a good year for Mr. Mattingly after all,
so in the future when some other poor artist needs help, he’ll once
again step up to fight for civil rights, without worrying about a
financial penalty.

We already raised $500 for Mr. Mattingly from the Jocko Dome-o
fundraiser in Cleveland, which is so awesome! So many amazing artists
and good friends came together and made some really cool art. You can
read all about it here:

http://devodude.com/jocko/jockodomeo.htm

I know the last time I wrote I used a link that wasn’t working for
everyone, so I’ve included this link that is pretty old but seems to
still work (sorry, you have to scroll down almost to the end):

http://www.subgenius.com/updates/maghelp.html

Or if you want to just mail Mr. Mattingly a check, or use a card over
the phone, his info is:

Christopher S. Mattingly
42 Delaware Ave
Ste 120
Buffalo, NY 14202-3924
(716) 849-1333 ext 351

Together, we’ve already come so far. I could never have made it to
where I am today without all of you who have helped me so much
already. Thank you once again for all your help and support, and I
will write again as soon as I find out the final outcome of this long,
long, long case.

Thank you!!

Rachel Bevilacqua (Rev. Magdalen)

(Thanks Trevor!)

Criminalizing science: chemistry student arrested for home lab

A Canadian college student majoring in chemistry built himself a home lab – and discovered that trying to do science in your own home quickly leads to accusations of drug-making and terrorism.

Lewis Casey, an 18-year-old in Saskatchewan, had built a small chemistry lab in his family’s garage near the university where he studies. Then two weeks ago, police arrived at his home with a search warrant and based on a quick survey of his lab determined that it was a meth lab. They pulled Casey out of the shower to interrogate him, and then arrested him.

A few days later, police admitted that Casey’s chemistry lab wasn’t a meth lab – but they kept him in jail, claiming that he had some of the materials necessary to produce explosives. Friends and neighbors wrote dozens of letters to the court, testifying that Casey was innocent and merely a student who is really enthusiastic about chemistry.

Full Story: io9

(Thanks Justin!)

My 2009 survival strategies

Meeting more people

This one’s simple: meet more people in the real world. Attend more conferences, unconferences, and meetups. I know of no better way than “networking” (however crass that sounds) to find jobs, collaborators, business partners, romantic partners, customers, clients, etc. etc. In increasingly precarious times, having strong networks has never been more important.

Indoor gardening

I have no illusions about getting “off the grid” but I do want to substantially supplement my diet with homegrown food. Given that during WWII 40% of all vegtables eaten were grown at home, I think it’s reasonable to think that gardening will be a key part of our food security moving forward into the recession.

My partner and I have access to outdoor gardening space at our apartment building, and live about 3 blocks from a community garden. But since we’re planning on moving (and obviously we missed planting season) we’re planning on starting with a small indoor hydroponic system, probably an EarthBox (or maybe a DIY EarthBox) with an LED grow light. Also, I just ordered the Espresso Oyster Mushroom Patch from Fungi Perfecti. I’ll be sharing my results and experiences with the process.

Excercise & ergonomics

Your health is probably the most sound investment you can make at this point. I’d done a decent job of keeping in shape in recent years until 2008, but I totally fell off this year. My partner and I have been doing vinyasa yoga at home lately, and I plan on keeping up with this. More walking and biking is also mandatory.

I’m also dedicating myself to learning up on ergonomics. Bruce Sterling has a good rant on the subject here, but doesn’t fully drive home the health angle. Most of you reading this are probably destroying your eyes and back right now. Hell, I’m screwing myself up writing this. This must stop.

Start using local currency

I’ve been fascinated with local currency for some time, but have never actually used it. It’s about time I signed up for Cascadia Hour Exchange.

Committing to solving global problems

Perhaps the best way to protect oneself against the global problems we face is to solve the problems. Thus, I am committing myself to converting all my experience to the highest advantage of others. So from now on, everything I do will revolve around a couple simple questions: does this benefit humanity and if not, how can it?

Bruce Schneier interview

The Internet is responsible for the greatest generation gap since rock and roll. There’s an enormous difference in the way the older and younger generations use the Internet, and that’s healthy. We can look in horror at some things the younger generation is doing, but you’re looking at the future.

It’s not that young people don’t care about privacy, they just have a different socialization. They want to have control over their data: What upsets them is if something happens to their data—say, their photos—that they don’t want. We as the older generation are morally obligated to build systems that will allow the younger generation to communicate, to contribute and be part of society without forcing them into particular boxes that we think is required of them.

Full Story: CIO Insight

23 days until Lost returns

goat born with the number 10 written in its fur

In the meantime, here’s something weird: a goat was born with the number 10 written in its fur. Television/reality bleed through?

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