September 2010 Archives
Great, short editorial in the NYT about the clean cookstove initiatives.
Here is a shocking statistic: nearly two million people -- mostly women and children -- in the developing world die annually from illnesses brought on by breathing toxic smoke from indoor cooking stoves. The Obama administration is rightly doing something about it.
On Tuesday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced a global partnership aimed at providing 100 million clean-burning stoves to villages in Africa, Asia and South America. That would cover about one-fifth of the 500 million poor families that burn wood, crop waste, coal, even dung, for cooking and heating.
The United States will provide $50 million in seed money to the project, known as the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves. Other countries and private organizations have pledged a mere $10 million to the cause. But, as Mrs. Clinton noted, "we have to start somewhere," and Washington will, and must, press for more.
Researchers have long known of the risks of primitive indoor stoves -- including pneumonia in children, lung cancer, pulmonary and cardiovascular disease. They have also known that these stoves contribute to global warming by producing large quantities of fine-particle soot normally associated with diesel engines and burning down forests.
The replacement stoves are relatively small, simple cylindrical devices costing less than $100 and capable of capturing between half and 95 percent of the harmful emissions. The program will sensibly not use the money to buy and ship stoves but, rather, to create small manufacturing companies close to the target populations -- creating new jobs in the process. This is an ingenious and overdue response to a global problem.
Most of you who know me know I like photography, cameras, gadgets, whirlygigs, gizmos, etc. Fuji's about to release or announce or something this marvelous looking beast, which [prima facie] seems to combine retro styling and controls with some digital goodness.
Beth and I went to see Kristian Matsson, aka the Tallest Man on Earth, on Monday night at The Fillmore in San Francisco. The venue was fantastic. The show was outstanding. It takes serious gusto to get up on stage in front of throngs of the ÃƒÂ¼ber-hip and perform like a maddened billy goat.
The setup was extremely simple. A man, three guitars, a smattering of peddles, and some amps. The Tallest Man seemed amused, entertained, and generally happy to be performing -- and the crowd loved him. We were lucky enough to be at the front of the audience, slightly off to the left. It was pretty outstanding; the combination of his unique voice, picking, and a pretty awe-inducing command of the audience made for a good night out. I wasn't sure what to expect -- sometimes a man and a guitar can be a bit boring -- but the show was great.
The show was at its peak for me when some of the showmanship and antics died down and the fellow just performed like an emotive mad man. Maybe the most amusing bit of performance was when, after a song, the tallest man flung his picks down pretty violently. He threw them at his amp, at his guitar, at the floor, always looking a bit pissed off and a bit bemused by the whole situation. I like that.
What the hell is this?
This post began by berating the UI gurus at Apple for breaking their own rules and messing with standard UI elements -- in this case, the close / minimize / maximize window buttons. At left, as you can see, the window buttons are in a non-standard orientation in a size that looks like some of the modals used in inspector UIs -- but not the standard window buttone size. As I began to dig in deeper, though, it became apparent there are many subtle and many not-so-subtle changes. Its all a little weird.
The icons in the side bar are now monochromatic; the sidebar itself is more muted. I generally think this is a bad thing. As others have pointed out, there's some familiarity with the old color scheme -- the new one, with its total lack of color, ignores that.
The new "Show" And "Hide" for SHARED and PLAYLISTS is weird. Why not standard system widgets? Why a strange, AJAX-y, seemingly hackish replacement?
What's up with the weird checkboxes next to songs? These look comic-ish. I don't detect enough contrast between the checkbox and the back of the window. Again, these seem to be non-standard UI elements.
Up top, in the clickable/sortable area with column titles -- what are those new dividers between elements? I understand the intention of the effect -- I think it just fails.
The striping of rows seems more subtle, to the point of being gone unless I alter the viewing angle on my MBP to something absurd.
These are retrograde moves. They are not refined or consistent. Using iTunes as a UI testing ground has always struck me as an odd move -- the software goes out to more people than the OS reaches. Having an extremely polished product that constructively and accurately reflects upon the OS would be beneficial -- the whole 'halo' concept. This should be your best product with the best possible experience.
And the icon. Oh, the icon.