Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The root of all cliches

Seen ( and almost run over by) today: A frosted Blonde in a H3 Hummer talking on a pink cell phone while driving- tears a left in front of me when I have the right of way so that she can pull up to the curb in front of the favorite local chinese restaurant and pick up take out.

I kid you not.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

linkedIn use #9986

In addition to the obvious uses for LinkedIn ( searching for job, checking out employee prospects, getting questions answered) I came up with a new use for the site today.

Today was the kickoff meeting for the MESA Lean Manufacturing Working Group (it is actually much more interesting than that sounds, but probably more geeky) and after the meeting I went out to LinkedIn to connect with any of my new teammates who were on the site. After some discussion and thought, it became apparent that one of the team members was also a perfect contact and information source for an issue at work (although unrelated to this working group). I confirmed this with him after the meeting and decided having my boss and my grandboss in the teleconference next week was more efficient. Normally I would have written up an intro and overview on his background, relevance to the problem, etc. In this case, since both my boss and my grandboss are connected to me on LinkedIn, I just forwarded them his profile link with a quick note. Hardly any writing on my part, and lots more information than they normally would have gotten the old manual way.

I know there are a bunch of people out there who say all they do is multiply connections on LinkedIn and never really use it, but the more time I spend there, the more useful I find it.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Microfunding Research

A couple of months ago, I wrote a piece to kick start some thinking about innovative ways to fund research. One of the ideas was to have a site where you can raise money from several supporters, ala musicians seeking funding to make a record. Seems the site already exists: Fundable.org is a site set up to allow you to request sponsorship. If you get the required pledges by your due date, then they actually charge people and send you a check. If the pledges do not add up, everyone's pledge is canceled and you are out of luck. This is bordering on "so simple it is brilliant".

As Kevin Kelly recently pointed out, if you are a musician you can make a decent living with 1,000 True Fans. Since research often involves a little more capital expense, you could probably do good and interesting research with just two to three thousand True Fans. If researchers work together and share capital resources, a little less is not unfeasible.

Can you cure cancer this way? Unlikely. But could new, innovative and interesting discoveries whose investigation government science agencies consider too risky be made this way? Without a doubt. From browsing the site, I have not seen any scientific research projects, but if people can get someone else to pay for their ski trip and their vet bills, someone has to be willing to pay for interesting research.
Who wants to give it a whirl? If we post a project, I will be sure to let you know.

The insanity of DST

I grew up with DST. In Maryland, barely on the eastern-most edge of the time zone, you were glad for those days of a little bit of stretched sunlight in the evening. The sun rose very early in the morning, so pushing it an hour later was never an issue. When I moved to Indiana, not having DST was an odd thing, but not really much of an issue. Located at the very far west edge of the Eastern Time Zone, summer evening were bright even without DST. I did not miss it at all. As a matter of fact, switching back and forth seemed fairly silly, and I quickly got used to staying on one time all the time. Then Indiana, rather than sticking up for a reasonable- though unpopular- stance finally gave in and went to DST.
It has only been in the last week or so that it is reasonably bright out by 7:15 am and I do not need all the outside floodlights turned on for my 8th grade daughter to catch the bus to school. Shifting to DST this weekend will mean that for at least another month it will be dark for another hour, pushing us back to fighting the darkness to get up and moving in the morning and having all the lights on while waiting for the bus. We could banish DST entirely and I would be perfectly happy. Still, when I see studies like this reported, it makes me laugh on the inside, knowing that even a somewhat scientific study showing that switching to DST actually cost us millions of dollars is unlikely to allow politicians to back down and change their position now.

Who's answering the phone

I was so glad to see someone do this twist on the Hillary campaign ad. It was the first thing that popped into my mind when I heard about the ad. I am to the point of almost ready to give up on having anyone worthwhile to vote for this year. Sadness.