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Giving the gift of Light

March 5, 2012 Leave a comment

BioLite. The company’s mission is fantastic! – providing reliable, rugged, efficient, and stylish camping equipment to outdoors enthusiasts to incubate self-sustained energy access for the people who need it most.

I am not sure how I stumbled on this, but now I’ve plugged it all over Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest. It is also on StumbleUpon and Digg. I could go crazy and add it everywhere else I interact socially, but I’ll stop there for now.

This is an amazing find, though. While I am looking forward to seeing this product in Japan, hopefully even playing a part in making that happen, I think its true merit is in bringing electricity and a potential lifeline to places where the grid is off as often as on. Lights, of course, but radios and mobile phones and other communication devices could mean the difference between life and death in an emergency.  But even in the absence of such a situation, the lack of continuous and reliable power often means even greater hardships for many in the developing world than would otherwise be the case.

Already, the BioLite has won recognition and awards for its performance, making cooking with wood safe and easy while also providing electrical charge to power LED lights, mobile phones, and other devices.  The CampStove is $129 (US) and is planned to ship before camping season 2012 (before summer, I assume).

Sales of the CampStove are intended to support the one-time establishment costs of the HomeStove.  The BioLite HomeStove’s efficient process uses less than half the wood of an open fire and reduces smoke emissions by more than 90%. Since around half the wood used in the world is used for fuel – more than 75%  in developing countries – and indoor air pollution is one of the key issues raised by the World Health Organization as a major cause of respiratory diseases, distribution of the HomeStove may be vital in providing clean, safe, and easy heat and an affordable source of electricity.  The company intends to become profitable while making the homes of the 3 billion people who cook on open fires safer.  Now that, is a great reason to build a company!

Introducing the new BioLite CampStove – Reserve now! from BioLite on Vimeo.

Play to Travel Smarter

December 8, 2011 Leave a comment

Chromaroma from Mudlark on Vimeo.

Chromaroma takes your travel data
and makes it into a game where every journey
counts in a competition for the city!

Play with friends or compete
against them. Set records, earn
achievements, go on real missions.
Travel like you mean it!

This video does not, alone, explain the value that Mudlark intends to instill via their game, Chromaroma, but it does hint at its promise. It is also, I think, a very cool video!

Mudlark is a game development company that says about itself, “(We) are building ways to create entertaining games from the data we create and leave behind without noticing. Mudlark believes games are a way to access this information and to make smart decisions about our lives.”

I believe that the technologies we use and the ways in which they are implemented should be designed to enable people to make smart decisions about our lives. The companies that enable people to make smart decisions should be encouraged and rewarded, while the companies that allow or force people to make stupid and dangerous decisions should be discouraged and penalized. It is clear to me that much of contemporary commerce is designed to encourage people to make poor choices, for personal and environmental well being. It is prudent to build economic incentives that discourage companies and individuals from narrowing our choices to those that are poor, insensitive, unhealthful, but highly profitable.

The concept behind Chromaroma is wonderful. It is a location-based game that is focused on the journey, not the destination. Most location-based games, like Foursquare and Gowalla, are centered on the places we go to, like parks, restaurants, offices, and train stations. They enable us to keep track of where we’ve been to, but not how we got there. Some Foursquare-based games are extensions, like Forecast, which shares not where you are, but where you are going to be. But life, as we say, is about the journey, not the destination.

So how is Chromaroma more like life itself?

It connects communities of people who cross paths and routes on a regular basis, and encourages people to make new journeys and use public transport in a different way by exploring new areas and potentially using different modes of public transport.
At its simplest, Chromaroma is about amassing the most points possible. By watching your own travel details you can investigate interesting new ways to travel and exciting new destinations in order to get more points.
Beyond competition and conquest, Chromaroma’s gameplay opens up the beauty in the city’s transport flows and reveals to its most persistent players some of the mysteries of travel, and even the strange characters travelling through the tunnels in the centre of the system, who may hold the secrets to your city.

Rather than merely tracking where we go and what how we spend our money, then trying to encourage us to spend more money at certain venues, the objective of Chromaroma, then, is to encourage people to use smarter travel means – tram, bus, boat, bicycles, etc. – meet and team up with others to travel to destinations that are meaningful, and discover things together in collaboration and competition.

Chromaroma is currently primarily available only in London. It seems that Mudlark is spreading some aspects of the game to other places, though, such as in Birmingham and Amsterdam. But other venues, it seems, are starting to take notice. The Museum of Modern Art in New York City – MoMA – is one such venue. ChromaMOMA was born in an exhibition that opened on July 24, 2011 at MoMA, entitled “Talk to Me”. The exhibition focuses on “the communication between people and objects”, and how “designers write the initial script that enables the two parties to communicate effectively and elegantly and features projects that “establish an emotional, sensual, or intellectual connection with their users.”

I think that these concepts will begin to spread to other places and directions (journey, not destination!), and will accelerate very quickly. Much has already been written about the tremendous growth of Foursquare. But again, I think that the viral growth of games that encourage and reward smart choices will rapidly rewrite this recent history. For I believe that most people are quite smart. We are smart enough to know that if we can play and win in activities that improve our lot, then it is pretty stupid to remain ignorant and dumb.

13 Tech Tools for a Paper-Free Life

November 15, 2011 Leave a comment

13 Tech Tools for a Paper-Free Life.

I’m trying get as paper-free as possible.  This is very difficult to do living in a paper-happy nation like Japan.  Despite the high emphasis on digital life, everything here is well-wrapped and printed.  For tech events, we get invitations sent by email that are to be printed out and handed in at the registration desk.  I’ve tried to do this by presenting mine on my iPad, but have had the helpful staffperson ask me if I could print it out.

It is sometimes disconcerting to expect a 3G signal everywhere in Tokyo only to find that the particular place you are trying to get to has a bad signal and the map you are trying to access won’t come up.  So once in awhile, I backtrack, going out of the building to get a signal, a map, and find my way to the place I’m trying to get to.  But little sacrifice in convenience saves a sheet of paper from being used.

I realize that we are far from getting to paper-free; in fact, we’re using more than ever.  But not only trying to conserve by printing 2 pages to a sheet and double-sided, not printing and reducing the need for the paper itself is, I think, a good thing.

「NYフィル・バーンスタイン・小澤征爾」 映写会 (於:NYC) - JanJanBlog

November 15, 2011 Leave a comment

 

 

 

 

 

「NYフィル・バーンスタイン・小澤征爾」 映写会 (於:NYC) - JanJanBlog. (Japanese)

This is a JanJan Blog post by my good friend Michio Hamaji.  A wonderful event put on in New York concerning a performance by Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra.

Categories: Art, CSR, Teaching

Corporate Aid Tracker – Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami, March 2011 | BCLC

May 18, 2011 Leave a comment

What follows below is a great list of corporate contributors to the relief effort. It is still but a drop in a bucketful of needs, but this is encouraging nonetheless.

Of course, it should be noted that these are mostly pledges, not direct contributions made to date. This is an important distinction. One year after the Haiti Earthquake of February 2010, less than half of the aid pledged by countries, including the United States, had not been delivered. Likewise, after the BP Gulf Oil Spill, less than one quarter of the pledged funds to people adversely affected by the spill had been paid by BP 9 months later.

So it is important that we are vigilant about the real contributions made by the companies that pledge their support. While I do not intend to question their sincerity or lack of real concern for victims of the calamity, true assistance is made through the delivery of funds, not the promises of support.


Read more…

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