Monday, December 20, 2004

Are rabbits potty-trained?

My housemate owns a white-haired, pink-eyed, floppy-eared rabbit named Princess. She lives in a cage in the garage, but most nights, we allow her to romp around the kitchen: for exercise, carrot/salad eating and box destroying (she loves to chew up and eat cardboard). This has been going on for well over 3 months now. Sometimes, she'll be there for 8 or 9 hours (on a weekend). What surprises me the most is that she has yet to go to the bathroom in the kitchen. She will only do this in her cage. Does anyone know about the bathroom habits of this specis of rodent?

Saturday, December 18, 2004

To School or not To School

Okay, so I'm thinking of taking some night classes and Stanford has a Master's program in Liberal Arts that seems to be to my liking. In January, I may take a course in Capitalism or Morals. This will most likely mean that I won't be playing vball next season. Also, if I went forward and applied, I wouldn't enter the program until the Fall of 2006, and it would require me to be in SF for another 4 years, so this may be a big stretch. But in the meantime, the courses should be a good diversion and stretch of my right brain.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Cute to look at...just don't put them in your mouth

Over the weekend, I was hiking in Big Basin with a friend...a nice long 12-mile jaunt through the redwood groves. It was wet from the recent rains, and this made for some interesting sights...newts everywhere. They were on the trails, next to the trails and soon enough we had the cute little buggers crawling on our hands. While watching them mosy about, we wondered aloud, "Why are they so slow? What predators do they have? They must taste bad, cause it sure is easy to find them."

Once home, I googled "salamander california woods" and quickly came across the taricha family of newts and learned that we had spotted the Coast Range Newt. After one sentence, my eyes were drawn to the red text in the second paragraph:
Warning The skin secretions of the newts of the genus Taricha contain toxins similar to those found in pufferfish liver. These are among the deadliest natural toxins yet discovered. A healthy adult human will die from eating just one newt. Care should be taken to wash hands thoroughly after handling newts

Yikes!!! We were going to die? (We shall see.) Did we really eat our lunch with our hands only minutes after handling those pokey fellows? (Yes.) What were we thinking? (We weren't.)

We forgot one big lesson from life. If something in nature is brightly-colored, that typically means...HELLO, IF YOU EAT ME, YOU WILL DIE. Luckily, neither of us did. Later I discovered that these specific newts aren't all that toxic, so my fears were unwarranted. My comment/advice on newts: yes, they are cute to look at...just don't put them in your mouth.

Friday, December 10, 2004

A trip into the past...

While pushing some book-containing crates into the reading room, my eyes were drawn to a tome entitled, "Think Tanks", and I thought to myself...hey...that's US! I lifted the cover and dove in to see the print date and noted that it was 1971. Hmmm...could we be in here? Soon, I discovered that we were...a solid 13 pages of coverage!

The section begins with an excerpt from a scenario of the technological world of 1985, conducted for the state of Connecticut in September 1969. Artificial organs (hearts with power sources that last five years) and anti-contraceptive pill and detection systems to combat surreptitious contraception (new warfare: biological and chemical weapons) are discussed.

Next an overview and excerpt from the original prospectus of IFTF's roots and founding philosophy:
The idea for the Institute...arises from a change in attitude toward the future. The fatalistic view that it is unforeseeable and inevitable is being abandoned. It is being recognized that there are a multitude of possible futures and that appropriate intervention can make a difference in their probabilities. This raises the exploration of the future, and the search for ways to influence its direction, to activities of great social responsibility.

The responsibility is not just an academic one, and to discharge it more than perfunctorily we must cease to be mere spectators in our own on-going history, and participate with determination in molding the future. It will take wisdom, courage and sensitivity to human values to shape a better world. Now is the time to commit ourselves fully to the problems of the future of our society. The proposed Institute would constitute a key step in getting on with this urgent task.

One hundred candidate actions for the state of Connecticut were suggested. Some include:
* Build a bridge to Long Island
* Remove all highway and bridge tolls
* Teach birth control in the public high schools
* Require registration of firearms
* Make drug use a noncriminal act
* Provide free college for all students

Another study outlined is a projection of the future of employee benefits in the nation over the next fifteen years. Some results:
* Employers now dispense half of their payroll in benefits
* The average work week is now down to about thirty-five hours
* Pension plans can be transferred between jobs

Other research topics that we pursued:
* A look at the future environment for education in America
* An inquiry into people's use of time and its consequences both now and in the future
* A long-range future of the cities
* The future of economically retarded nations

Finally, a bio of our President at the time, Olaf Helmer, is given. "Helmer is a tall, imposing man who would rather talk about futurism in general and its promises than about the institute itself."

We seemed to be very left-facing back then, however, it being the late 60s/early 70s, this isn't too surprising. The one interesting thing was that funding for these endeavors was never mentioned. I think it's pretty easy to recommend things that need/should be changed...but somewhere in the equation money always raises its ugly head.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Boring night...

Last night, I went to Churchill Club's most recent event...Making a List: What's Hot and What's Not in Personal Technology. I can sum it up in one word: BORING. The whole time, all I wanted to do was go home. Sure, there was one celebrity up there, Jerry Yang, the founder of Yahoo!. But no one was prepared; the presenters didn't know how to use the display; they kept waving the devices around while they spoke instead of keeping still. Sure there were some funny putdowns and sexual innuendos, but they weren't good enough to make up for that fact that it was BORING.

I think I know why I was bored though. I am NOT a gadget freak...never have been, never will be. I own a cell phone, a couple of TVs and a couple of DVD players. But, I do not possess the following: camera, digital camera, USB memory stick, big stereo, big speakers, TIVO, home computer (the old one died), no palm pilot (dropped mine almost 3 years ago), and no IPod.

Is this sad? I don't think so. What do I do instead? Well...I ditched runs to Blockbuster in favor of Netflix...if that counts as *gadgety*. At some point I may get an IPod, but listening to Limbik Frequencies (Ambient stream on I-Tunes) suits me fine at work, as does NPR on the road. The girl wants an HDTV...and I can understand that; one of those will be in our future. But nothing else really *jazzes* me. I guess that means I save a lot of money, huh?

Great Place to Work presentation

Last week, I sat in on a presentation given by Amy Lyman, President/Founder of the Great Place to Work Institute.

They are the organization behind Fortune's annual "100 Best Companies to Work for" edition. Amy reviewed with us the five dimensions that make a great place to work: credibility, respect, fairness, pride and camaraderie. The first three are subsets of TRUST, which makes up the bulk of the scoring when companies are ranked. It was interesting to hear that fairness is always the hardest one to achieve in an organization. This makes sense...because no matter what management says, there always seems to be managers who will play favorites.

If you work at a lousy company...have a look into what the GPTW Institute does and get it into the hands of your management team. If they *get it* and implement, then you'll be a much happier person at work.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

The Office

I've been watching The Office, Season 1 (thank you Netflix!!!) and have to say it's one of the best comedies I have ever seen. Though hard to understand at time (the accents...not sure why I didn't see if there were subtitles), it definitely keeps your attention. I'm looking forward to Season 2, and then the 2 hour special. Ricky Gervais (the writer and lead in Season 1) is a genius. Anyone know what he is up to these days?

I watched some episodes of Coupling a few months back and they were just as good. What is up with American TV...why can't it be as original? Perhaps when the reality craze wanes, it will improve. Yeah, right...

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Acrobatic crows...revisited

Well, Tom Sienstra didn't write back. Instead, he used part of my email in his column last Sunday. Here's the excerpt (scroll down to the bottom to see):

-- "As we sat there, looking up, one pair of crows would fly in tandem and occasionally, the larger crow, would roll 180 degrees upside down and cruise directly beneath the smaller crow. This upside-down behavior occurred roughly every 10-15 seconds and lasted for about 10 minutes. Was this a mating ritual? Training for attacks? Play? We weren't sure." -- Sean Ness

Note: Just like some of the things dogs do, they do it because they can.

Was hoping for more...but I got my 15 seconds of fame, huh?

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Acrobatic crows of Mt. Tam

While enjoying a leisurely lunch last weekend at the top of Forbes Bench in Mt. Tamalpais State Park, my friend and I encountered very curious crow behavior. The updrafts/winds were allowing the crows to cruise around effortlessly.

As we sat there, looking up, one pair of crows would fly in tandem and occasionally, the larger crow, would roll 180 degrees upside down and cruise directly beneath the smaller crow. This upside down behavior occurred roughly every 10-15 seconds and lasted for about 10 minutes. Was this a mating ritual? Training for attacks? Play? We weren't sure. We did notice several pairs/threesome/groups of crows all over the hills, however, doing similar antics.

While we were marveling in this behavior, we soon spotted a solo crow exhibiting very interesting flight the point where it seemed it was enjoying itself. It would pirouette, twist, roll over, dive bomb, stall, etc. Like a little stunt bird, or one who suddenly realizes, "hey, i can fly" and takes advantage of Bernoulli's law, it was having the time of it's life...letting out a "caw caw" every 5 seconds or so. It took a break after 5 minutes of this and perched upon a nearby tree.

Unfortunately, no one else was around to ask if these behaviours were ordinary. During a web search, I came up with someone who had witnessed similar behavior.

I wrote a letter to the Chronicle's Outdoors beat writer, Tom Sienstra. If he responds, I'll post his response.

Churchill Club - Top Ten Technology Trends review

At last week's Churchill Club event, several Valley luminaries debated the Top Ten Technology Trends of the coming 1-3 years.

The format for the event is to have each panelist and the moderator select two trends (10 total). The moderator presents them one by one, and the trend champion is asked to present/pre-defend their trend, and then debate ensues. Those trends mentioned early tend to derive more discussion amongst the panel than those at then end (time constraints), but nonetheless, there was sufficient chatter and inside jokes/jabs to keep the audience entertained.

I had a few takeaways: All were in agreement that the Internet has been under-hyped and we are poised for the next great Internet ride, though I don't think that a tulip bulb investment mentality will enjoy a similar resurrection this time. The future GeoWeb that we (IFTF) forecast was not mentioned, but the trends discussed are for the next 1-3 years, so that came as no surprise. Roughly 1/3 of the audience had been to China; those in attendance (and their employers) are well aware of the opportunities there. In order for stem cell research to maintain public favor, a PR campaign must coincide to ensure that the coming cures are understood with a realistic timeframe in mind. And just because California voters okayed monies to be spent, that does not mean that the ethical debate has stopped. There will be passions surrounding this issue for years to come.

My personal questions on the ramifications of stem cell cures: If all diseases go away and we stop aging, what are people to die from and how long will they live? How will society function with completely healthy/able-bodied centurians and 140 year old retirees who are still coherent enough to drive their cars? What will it be like to know your great, great great grandmother? Oh yes...there are many things to wonder about/question!

Will this year's Top 10 Trends become true? For the most part, I think yes. Will they all happen in 1-3 years...probably not. But it's always good to be mindful of what our visionaries are thinking about.