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Archive for August 2008

New Firm to Develop Algae-Based Fuel

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A new company called AXI, LLC is looking to develop next-generation algae that makes the production of biodiesel more economical. Specifically, the company looks to algae as

[having] the potential for producing vast quantities of biostock for conversion into biofuels for transportation and heating. Our proprietary methodology for developing specific growth and productivity traits will help any algae production system improve its output of inexpensive, oil-rich algae as the raw material for the production of biofuel.

Further information about the company, as seen on AXI’s company profile is as follows:

AXI is a University of Washington spin-out Company created in partnership with the founders, the University and Allied Minds, Inc.  Allied Minds is a seed investment company creating partnerships with key Universities to fund corporate spin-offs resulting from successful early stage technology research.

This is interesting, as I have documented that algae may be one of the most promising “alternative” energy source in development (see prior posts “Algae Based Biofuels Are The¬†Future“, and more recently “Alternative Fuels“).

Also, it is an example of the type of firms that venture capital has been flooding to, as I discussed in a June 10th post.

Written by walonline

August 15, 2008 at 2:13 pm

Lifehacker: Top 10 How To Videos

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Lifehacker has a great post for the MacGyver in you. My personal favorite on the list: using a sheet of paper to open a bottle of beer. If you can’t convert that skill into a free beer with your buddies, you’ve really lost it.

Here’s a list of the rest:

  • Buy a car without getting screwed
  • Seal chips without a clip
  • Get eight watch batteries from a AA
  • Fold a t-shirt in two motions perfectly (and fast)
  • Suck less at Photoshop
  • Upgrade or replace your MacBook’s memory
  • Pick a lock with a bump key
  • Boost your Wi-Fi signal with tinfoil parabolas
  • Turn a $5 flashlight into a $95 torch

All certainly useful, but less likely to earn you a free beer.

Written by walonline

August 13, 2008 at 2:56 pm

Posted in Life, The Web

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Alternative Fuels

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Popular Mechanics offers a look at the most promising alternative fuels being developed.

  • Cellulosic Ethanol–Biological Method
  • Cellulosic Ethanol–Gasification Method
  • Algal Biodiesel
  • Green Gasoline
  • Biobutanol
  • Designer Hydrocarbons
  • Fourth-Generation Fuel

What is interesting to note is that none of these alternatives has been rolled out on a large enough scale to matter, yet. This is why it is very important to supplement our R & D of alternatives with new oil well development. Also, those in favor of wind use will first need to develop a 21st century energy grid to transfer power to where its needed both from wind and whatever other method is being used to make up any slack (ie when the wind isn’t blowing).

Of these, I’m in favor of the algal biodiesel, which I’ve talked about before.

Written by walonline

August 13, 2008 at 9:46 am

It’s like Amsterdam…

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… only worse.

For those that have ever been to Amsterdam, you notice the stairs are all rediculously steep because properties are very narrow. This would be worse.

Written by walonline

August 13, 2008 at 9:31 am

Flickr Photo Friday

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Today’s photos come from Flickr user Eole’s set “Patterns in the city.” Here’s a preview:

Used under a Creative Commons License. "Road lights" by Eole (via Flickr).

Used under a Creative Commons License. "Road lights" by Eole (via Flickr).

Happy Friday!

Written by walonline

August 8, 2008 at 9:37 am

Fickle Politics Aside (Part 3)

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Along the same lines of previous articles, here are two more. I could beat a dead horse and breakdown specific details from these writers, but I’ll let you read them, and enjoy them. You’ll see the same themes as before. What’s really amazing is how widespread this thought process is.

First, Tom Knott at the Washington Times writes, “If you are keeping score at home, China already is up 1-0 in the gold-medal count, easily topping its rivals in the blocking competition”

Then, Naomi Klein at the Huffington Post says:

Like it or not, you are about to be awed by China’s sheer awesomeness.

The games have been billed as China’s “coming out party” to the world. […] These Olympics are the coming out party for a disturbingly efficient way of organizing society, one that China has perfected over the past three decades, and is finally ready to show off. It is a potent hybrid of the most powerful political tools of authoritarianism communism — central planning, merciless repression, constant surveillance — harnessed to advance the goals of global capitalism. Some call it “authoritarian capitalism,” others “market Stalinism,” personally I prefer “McCommunism.”

Klein continues by discussing the sheer size and power that the Communist Party in China will mobilize to ensure they are able to show off their rapidly rising power… and look to export that as well.

Written by walonline

August 8, 2008 at 9:27 am

Fickle Politics Aside (Part 2)

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Another example of setting aside differences in the favor of championing liberty comes from Washington Post sports columnist Thomas Boswell. He points out the difference between western democracy-based governments and the very nasty authoritarian-capitalism running China. At times people here may claim the moguls of industry are in bed with politicians through heavily funded lobbyists, special interests, etc.

This Olympics will be remembered as a worldwide multi-week debate on the historic experiment that evolved by accident here over the past 25 years.


The largest nation on earth has unexpectedly evolved to the point where it is capitalist in every practical sense, including an entrenched elite every bit as ruthless as America’s robber barons. Yet China has kept its strict, one-party, often-thuggish Communist rule.

Used under a Creative Commons License. "Guarding" by tinou bao (via Flickr).

Used under a Creative Commons License. "Guarding" by tinou bao (via Flickr).

This form of capitalism is, as Boswell alludes, reminiscent of times in our country’s history where capitalism has shown its ugly, social-Darwinist side. He continues:

“The West has assumed that capitalism must lead to democracy, that free markets inevitably result in free societies,” Philip P. Pan wrote in “Out of Mao’s Shadow.” “But by embracing market reforms while continuing to restrict political freedom, China’s Communist leaders have presided over an economic revolution without surrendering power.”

Boswell continues to discuss two contrasting ideas in his article–between the authoritarian human rights abuses and the showcase of economic progress. Both make for a very interesting read.

My recent “Crooks!” category showcases how bad it can be here with politicians. As Americans, we should have extremely high standards for ourselves and our representatives. We are Reagan’s shining city on the hill. But we should also focus our free media on countries like China at times when they invite the lens of the world upon them.

In the same vein, we should balance comparisons like those Boswell draws equating times from our history with what others are going through today. It is an easy argument to make, but not very intelligent. Countries will find plenty of knowledge, technology and science that can allow their growing pains (politically, economically, environmentally, etc.) to be measurably less than what the Anglo-Saxon west (read Charles Dickens and Upton Sinclair for great examples) endured. Through that lense, it is unconscionable for modernizing countries such as China to have the same (or worse) situations compared to what we did one hundred years ago.

Written by walonline

August 7, 2008 at 10:29 pm

*Ring* *Ring*

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It’s 1978 calling, telling us nuclear power plants are safer to live near than those of the coal-fired variety.

This, per a Gristmill article:

Former ORNL researchers J. P. McBride, R. E. Moore, J. P. Witherspoon, and R. E. Blanco made this point in their article “Radiological Impact of Airborne Effluents of Coal and Nuclear Plants” [PDF] in the December 8, 1978, issue of Science magazine. They concluded that Americans living near coal-fired power plants are exposed to higher radiation doses than those living near nuclear power plants that meet government regulations.


The fact that coal-fired power plants throughout the world are the major sources of radioactive materials released to the environment has several implications. It suggests that coal combustion is more hazardous to health than nuclear power and that it adds to the background radiation burden even more than does nuclear power. It also suggests that if radiation emissions from coal plants were regulated, their capital and operating costs would increase, making coal-fired power less economically competitive.

Hmmmm. Don’t we look silly for wasting our time on coal? Sure, we’ve got a ton of it, but we can surely find some other use for that black stuff (hard, not liquid variety) than our open-pit strip mining.

Used under a Creative Commons License. "Coal mine Lake" by Nitin Kirloskar (via Flickr).

Used under a Creative Commons License. "Coal mine Lake" by Nitin Kirloskar (via Flickr).

Sure makes for cool pictures, though.

Written by walonline

August 6, 2008 at 10:44 pm

Fickle Politics Aside

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One very interesting development paralleling the events unfolding in China has been the outcry from both sides of the aisle in the United States. It’s great to see that, although we have differences on many things, we are quite united in our thoughts on human rights.

'1984'" by surfstyle.

Used under a Creative Commons License. "George Orwell: '1984'" by surfstyle.

One great example of this is the outcry from Marty Kaplan, writing at the Huffington Post. He calls these the “Orwell Olympics.” First, quick update to the status quo:

Now that every dissident within a hundred miles of Beijing has been intimidated, jailed or internally exiled; now that the Chinese communist party has shut down formerly legal means of citizen redress, like petitioning the government; now that free assembly has been banned, unsightly small businesses have been bulldozed, hotel computers have been bugged, and the foreign press has been bamboozled […].

Now, policies appear to be changing.

[…] the president is finally saying in public, in Thailand, what he says he has been saying in private: “America stands in firm opposition to China’s detention of political dissidents, human rights advocates and religious activists. We speak out for a free press, freedom of assembly and labor rights — not to antagonize China’s leaders, but because trusting its people with greater freedom is the only way for China to develop its full potential.”

It’s about time, cowboy.


Our president never let the bully of Baghdad crimp his freedom-agenda rhetoric. Why did it take him so long to send some public pro-democracy love to the Big Brothers of Beijing?

I agree with Kaplan. Prior to his ending line, he speculates that our ties to China as a trade partner have made it difficult for Bush, but now with its visibility, it is more difficult to maintain “quiet diplomacy.”

Too bad that following the Olympics this will not focus us, as a country, anew towards maintaining (and increasing) liberty in our homeland. We have it really good, but there’s always room to improve systems and continue to be on the cutting edge

Written by walonline

August 6, 2008 at 9:18 pm

Coffee: Good for You!

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The New York Times has a very comprehensive look at coffee and the old question of whether its really good for you. I read through the article and struggled to find something negative about it, other than the “gut-rot” (stomach ache) that is sometimes associated with it.

Used under a Creative Commons License. "colorful coffee composition" by once and future (via Flickr).

Used under a Creative Commons License. "colorful coffee composition" by once and future (via Flickr).

That said, I’m a huge coffee drinker–black and unadulterated–so below are the good highlights.

Coffee doesn’t:

  • dehydrate you
  • contribute to heart disease
  • contribute to the development of hypertension (high blood pressure), but colas do
  • contribute to cancer development
  • cause bone loss (and with some cream/milk, it helps prevent it)

Coffee does:

  • improve athletic performance
  • improve memory and the completion of complex tasks (like driving to/from work in the wee hours)
  • lowers the risk of Parkinson’s disease
  • lowers the risk of the onset of Type 2 Diabetes

In otherwords, weighing a stomach ache along side these positives, you should suck down that coffee–no matter how bitter.

Written by walonline

August 5, 2008 at 9:42 pm

Posted in Life

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