Friday, September 25, 2009
I see two keys to the future of automobiles. The first is the one everyone is talking about right now, the propulsion system. Gas power (though I love the feel of a good race car under my foot) will be extinct in 50 years. The only question is what will replace it. Some say ethanol, some say fuel cells, I say that there's a reason forward thinking investment firms keep dumping money in Tesla Motors. The key to Tesla's success (assuming it does not drop the ball) will be that it is an electric car rather then an alternative fuel car. Why solve the fossil fuel problem twice (once for powering our homes/offices and once for powering our cars)? Since battery cars are capable of so much (The Tesla Roadster beats my 350Z to 60, soundly), why not figure out how to make nuclear fission, hydro, solar, clean coal or whatever clean power a success and then stick that clean energy in my car? If ethanol is so great, let's build ethanol power plants.
The second key to the future of automobiles is the way they are operated. If 10 people get on the highway to drive to Pittsburgh from Charlotte (a trip I'm making this evening), why on earth should they each be responsible for navigating themselves? From a conceptual, utilitarian perspective it makes NO sense. What we need is a smart highway. What if the highway knew where I was going? What if it could put me in a group of cars headed to a similar place, lock me at the same pace as those cars (only inches from them) and have us all slam the pedal to the medal? This would let me take a little nap (which I desperately need) and wake me up when we're in the Fort Pitt Tunnels so I can take it the rest of the way. This change in the way we drive is coming from closer then you might think, CMU is working on exactly such a system.
Just something to think about this Friday evening. Get out, enjoy your favorite protest. Virginia (how wierd is it to type PittGirl's name out?) already highlighted my favorite (see point 2)
In 1991, a document was locked in the safe of the director of the CIA. The document is still there today. Its cryptic text includes references to an ancient portal and an unknown location underground. The document also contains the phrase “It’s buried out there somewhere.”
All organizations in this novel exist, including the Freemasons, the Invisible College, the Office of Security, the SMSC, and the Institute of Noetic Sciences.
All rituals, science, artwork, and monuments in this novel are real.
I started The Lost Symbol last week and while I am finding it entertaining so far, I'm also finding more then enough that can be cut out to make it in to a 2 hour (perhaps much less) movie. My content cuts would start with the cryptic introduction he provides at the very beginning (quoted above). I find that comment to be almost irresponsible. The Freemasons and Institute of Noetic sciences do exist but their prestige (and certainly their historical significance) are WAY overstated in the book. Why did the CIA director lock such a scary document in his safe? Because an artist gave it to him with a sculpture. The document is the answer to the riddle posed by the sculpture. It's a game ladies and gentlemen, speculation is that "It's buried out there somewhere" refers to a piece of the sculpture buried on CIA's campus somewhere.
I enjoy Brown's books as much as the next guy (well unless the next guy is one of those fanatics), but I wish he'd stop pretending fantasy is historical (or at least historically based) fiction. It sparks irresponsible public debate. If I had a nickel for every stupid conversation I've had because of a Dan Brown book, my Starbucks tomorrow would be free.P.S. Yes, I'm aware that the G20 is going on. I'll talk about it at somepoint.
Monday, September 21, 2009
Take a look at Four Square and let me know what you think. I'm going to try to continue to find other tools that might be good fits for Pittsburgh. Hopefully they will be a recurring theme on this blog.
Today, I only have Sourburgh. I'll make a tech post tomorrow.
- This Wall Street Journal article pissed me off. I had about a page long post on why, but then decided I would put you all to sleep if I published it. I think it's pretty clear (as Chris pointed out) that this guy hasn't lived in Pittsburgh in a while.
- There was a scattered but great post on Burgh Diaspora the other day. It weaved and winded through three interesting concepts. The first was Mayor Murphy's legacy (an interesting side bar to the G-20 since he was largely responsible for the initially unpopular convention center). The second was an off hand arguement that Pittsburgh may be fairing better then more western and northern rust belt cities because of our proximity to DC. The last is how Dan Rooney's roll in the Irish Diaspora might mimic what we would hope to setup with Pittsburgh.
- The Economist covered Pittsburgh for the G20. They gave a mostly rosey view that is the kind of press we were hoping to receive from international papers.
- Pedro Alvarez hit 3 Home Runs for the USA in a game against Chinese Taipei. Hang in their folks, it will get better.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
The problem is that the information age that IT helps foster, doesn't appear to be giving CIOs what they need. This will change. Standardization, outsourcing, ITIL, virtualization, commoditization of Storage and most of all CIOs and CEOs who were raised with computers will change it. In 20 years there will be 10% as many IT consultants.
Looking for a reference case, think of how long it took us from the time we had planes that could support a FedEx or UPS model until we had overnight shipping. Once a game changing technology (and for now I will lump the advances of Information Technology from say 1990 to 2002 as one game changing technology*) has widespread adoption, as IT now does, it takes years for the follow on advances to drive maximum value and simplicity out of that technology.
I'm not sure why exactly I wrote this post, this is just an observation that keeps occuring to me. I can say it's one of the reasons I'm persuing my MBA. While IT is maturing, it's going to be willing to pay for consultants (and executives, depending on what I end up doing in the long run) who understand not only the technology but its implications on business. I intend to be one of those consultants or executives.
*I could discuss why I am, for this discussion, lumping them as one technology and I might in another post.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
One of the highlights so far of TechCrunch 50 (one of the leading conferences on technology start-ups) is a company call CitySourced. CitySourced has posted the admin demo for their product on their website and it is VERY impressive. I highly recommend if you have an interest in city government or software that you go take a look. If you ignored my advice, the summary (in CitySourced words) is this:
Sounds pretty nifty right? So why isn't Pittsburgh doing anything with it? To be fair, one of the reasons Pittsburgh hasn't jumped on this is that even CitySourced will admit that its not quite ready yet (they only have an iPhone App and they're still proving out their pilot with San Jose). This reason doesn't scare me at all, in fact I applaud Howard Stern (Pittsburgh's CIO), the administration and Bill Peduto (a self proclaimed evangalist for Pittsburgh and technology) for avoiding jumping too fast. I've worked in technology long enough to know that the first guy to take the plunge is often the guy who finds out the pool is pretty shallow.
It's the other reason that Pittsburgh isn't (and might not) dive in that concerns me. That's that Pittsburgh is already partnered with a CMU project called YinzCam to perform a similar function. The problem is, this takes a LOT of modification of YinzCam to make it suit this purpose (YinzCam is a very innovative tool that's primary purpose is a sort of "journalism by mob" approach to sports replays). Here's hoping that the City of Pittsburgh isn't so married to the concept of a local approach that they miss an opportunity with CitySourced. Some times the right answers are at CMU and lets hope Californians come here when they are. Some times the answers are in California, and lets go there when they are. That's how we become a technology leader.
Monday, September 14, 2009
More specifically then the general rule, decide whether you want your message to be remembered or never be forgotten. If you want your message remembered, pick up the telephone. You're mentor, perspective employer, customer, etc... will remember the gesture months from now when you run in to him/her again. If you need your message never to be forgotten (e.g. you may later need to prove you wrote it), then (and only then) should you send an email where a phone call will do. Even then a follow up phone call is not a bad idea if you want your message remembered as well.
Sunday, September 13, 2009
What I do have an opinion on is the context of the argument. The debate at the water cooler IS about how health care should look tomorrow. It SHOULD be about how health care should look in 20 years. The fact is that the current health care system does a pretty decent job, today and it will continue to do so tomorrow. Of course it's not perfect, but it's not bad. The rich get GREAT health care, and hospitals don't turn away emergencies even for the uninsured (most of which enjoy welfare or CHIPs opportunities). The problem is the current system is built for health care costs that represent about 16% to 18% of GDP. That's not as bad as it sounds, and it's downright cheap when you look in to a crystal ball. The congressional budget office projects health care costs will be 25% of GDP in 2025, 37% in 2050 and 49% in 2075. If that sounds like a long way off, recognize that if it's not still in your lifetime, it's likely still in your child's lifetime. If/when healthcare is 25%+ of GDP more pension funds will go bankrupt more employers will stop offering insurance and more unions will be disolved. The current system will go from 10% uninsured to much much much higher.
Why are healthcare costs headed so high? To be blunt here, healthcare costs become 49% of GDP because people don't die. Things that used to kill people instead are treated by expensive medicines, prolonging their life so that they can need to be treated for something else. If that sounds harsh, it's because it is. I'm harsh because I don't believe this country has time to talk about this issue in "nice" terms. It's people being queasy about the real issue here (what health care will look like in 20 years), that is destroying the water cooler debate in this country.
So what are our options for healthcare 20 years from now? I think there are two of them, and I will outline them below. What you can't look for from me is advice on which one is best. They both suck, but part of the price for living longer then mother nature intended, is being stuck with tough decisions.
- We institute a socialized health system. The system controls drug and treatment prices and options. This stifles innovation in the medical community because would be innovators aren't inclined to produce medical advances that the government won't pay for. The rate of increase of spending relative to GDP levels off. Everyone has good healthcare, given current technologies, but the life expectancy stops increasing. By 2100 the average life expectancy of a rich person is 110 years and for a poor person it is 100.
- We keep healthcare private. As lifetime costs of healthcare skyrocket for those who have elite medical insurance, less and less people have access to top-of-the-line service. Those who don't have access to the higher plans either have lesser plans or are uninsured. With pension funds and companies going bankrupt under promised health care that exceeds the costs anyone could have projected, more and more people become uninsured. This increases the cost of insurance, and the cycle repeats. By 2075 only a handful of people have access to health coverage that covers all life sustaining procedures. Those handful though, have access to the medicine of science fiction novels. By 2075 the average life expectancy of a rich person is a remarkable 150 years but for a person in remains largely unchanged from 2009 at around 85.
Saturday, September 12, 2009
This trade has to be the model for the Pittsburgh Pirates after they become competitive. There have been far too many columns in local papers over the last month that say that the test of ownership will be "whether the Pirates resign their players when they're playing well." This statement is far too generic. The Pirates should only keep talent when it is the best cost/benefit solution at a position. To remain competitive (once we achieve competitiveness in the first place of course) the Pirates must constantly be open to accepting deals that will help the team in the long run without cripling it in the short term. The best example I can give of this Richard Seymor like trade is the Nate McLouth trade. If the Pirates were competing, I would still expect that trade to be made. McCutchen was ready in the minors and the Braves were offering more then they should.
This philosophy won't be popular with the unenlightened fans, but these trades have to be part of the Pirates long-term future, especially if Baseball's economics remain as they are.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
I live on the South Side, and the only reason they bother me is that they keep people who stay at my house awake at night. I'm sure he had a reason, I just don't know what it is. What access does it impede?
P.S. Is the Maglev project seriously still alive? Somehow it's still alive, but no closer to being finished, "The grant is the largest federal commitment to the project so far, but construction would still be well into the future."