Thursday, April 30, 2009

Broken News and the Climate Science Memo

I read a piece of front page breaking news. It didn't feel powerful or interested or questioning or humble enough. And I thought of this...

I left at a time...when the Baltimore Sun was earning 37 percent profits...

All that R&D money that was supposed to go in to make newspapers more essential, more viable, more able to explain the complexities of the world. It went to shareholders in the Tribune Company. Or the L.A. Times Mirror Company before that. And ultimately, when the internet did hit, they had an inferior product that was not essential enough that they could charge online for it...

The internet, while it's great for commentary and froth, doesn't do very much first generation reporting at all. And it can't sustain that. The economic model can't sustain that kind of reporting. And to lose to that, because you didn't value - they had contempt for their own product, these people. I mean, you give it away for free?

But, for 20 years, they looked upon the copy as being the stuff that went around the ads. The ads were the God. And then all of a sudden the ads were not there, and the copy, they had had contempt for. And they had - they had actually marginalized themselves.

That's David Simon, creator of The Wire, in an interview with Bill Moyers.

And I realize it's a stretch to make that connection.


I think it's worth noting that Andy Revkin, the journalist that wrote that front page article, also blogged about the edited memo.* And his posts, in my opinion, are much more powerful than his front page story.

But maybe I'm just a sucker for the vernacular.

Or maybe another way newspapers marginalized themselves (and continue to marginalize themselves) was (is) by clinging to a communication style that's aggressively non-conversational.

And now I've changed the subject, so now I'm going to stop. For tonight.

I'm still convinced there is something in here, though. Something.

*Note: And also worth noting that he gets paid to blog. By the same company that pays him to write front page stories.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Meat, Lasers, and Business Cards (A Confession)

Until a couple of days ago, I thought The Carrot Project had the coolest business cards possible.

Then I saw this.

We still win on crunchiness, of course. But wow. Meat and lasers? Crazy. And, despite my electricity-conserving vegetarian tendencies, awesome.

Posted via email from Radical Transparency

Friday, April 24, 2009

Not Impossible

If they can pull this off without raising prices, I think it's big news...

...And the questions become:

Do people know how to compost?

Do people know why it's important?

And what portion of the planet's biological metabolism can we afford to set aside for the packaging industry?

Well. Some of the questions anyway...

Productive Distraction

Good question from No Impact Man yesterday:

How do we get people not to try not to care?

Given the immense emotional energy we expend worrying about our immediate, personal-level problems, to accept the burden of planet-level problems is overwhelming. It's extra pain, bonus frustration. And since, unlike our own worries, which often stem from obstacles we can, by ourselves, or with a little help, overcome, the big problems - war, poverty, corruption, pollution, disease, climate change, etc. - are all but the tiniest fraction out of our control. They're causes for hopelessness, the kinds of things that drive people to alcohol, heroin, styrofoam coffee cups, and V-12 luxury SUVs.

When I first read the question, the answer that jumped to my mind was to convince people that caring is more fun. And to start the convincing process with Bob Thurman's TED Talk.

But, thinking about it more, I wondered if maybe Bob's too stark a contrast, too giggly for people that are struggling so much that they're trying not to care.

So maybe Bill McKibben (and a comment he made in an interview with Yale Environment 360) is a better starting point...

e360: How optimistic are you that the world will take the steps necessary to avoid what you see are the most drastic effects of climate change?

McKibben: You know, for the moment, I am not spending my time being either optimistic or pessimistic. I am just working.

Just working. Head down. One word at a time. One nail at a time. One meal at a time.

Harder to worry about the pain of caring when the task at hand is clear. And accomplishable. And needing to get done. Right now.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Appreciating Our Home

Maybe a good little Earth Day exercise is to remember how majestically weird this place is. Mysterious. Improbable. Surprising. And everything else in that category of adjectives.

Three examples:

A cave.

A bird.

And a dude in a contest.

Three crazy little flecks awesomeness grown and fed by this planet. Three reasons to treat it well, to keep it happy, to keep it productive, to keep it weird.

Happy Day, Earth.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Chicken Sourcing Experiment

We needed chicken last weekend. For the big pre-egg-hunt meal. So I made some calls. To a farmer and some butchers.

And, while it took a little while to find exactly what we wanted, we got the chicken and cooked a beautiful meal.


One of the conversations from that day has been haunting me ever since:

Butcher: Hello. Bachetti Brothers. How may I help you?
Jake: Hi. Do you guys have any local, organic chicken?
Butcher: We don't have any organic food here.

And she said it righteously. A roll of her verbal eyes.

Ugh. Total bummer.

But I think I've just exorcised the haunting. By pulling out the calendar and turning this into an experiment...

Two months from now, I'm calling Bachetti Bros. Gourmet Meat Market & Catering, asking that same question, and taking notes. And then, two months from then, I'm calling and asking again. And after another two months, another call. And on and on.


Baschetti Brothers tells me they can sell me local, organic chicken.


They go out of business.

I Just Wish I Were Better At It

My unofficial but for all intents and purposes cousin Danny is starting a web-heavy t-shirt business.

A couple of days ago, he posted about the trickiness of working with illustrators.

I just read the post, and three sentences leapt off the page:

Working on this site is a major learning experience.

I love it all.

I just wish I were better at it.

I feel the same way. I bet a lot of other rookie entrepreneurs do too. And I wouldn't be surprised if it wasn't just a rookie thing either.

Thank you for the validation, Danny.

And thank you for blogging, too. Our unrelated but related grandchildren will appreciate it. For the windows into your brilliance and madness. For the story of Icronical. And probably especially for the post about promises and ice cream.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

In Uncertainties

When I first read the quote below, it was describing the state of mind that makes communication with alethiometers possible.

But maybe it's the state of mind to achieve when working on anything creative, when accessing the imagination.

Or maybe it's just simply the state mind to achieve...

...capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason...

One of the things I appreciate about the blog medium is that it allows lots more products of those uncertainties out into the world. No editors to demand a particular kind of clarity. No significant structural constraints. Just pure mid-thought thinking. In writing. In public.

Not the easiest body of content to sift and curate, of course. But definitely stuff I'd rather have on the internets and searchable than hiding in forgotten notebooks.

The world needs all the wisdom it can get. Even if its authors don't know its wisdom when they write it.

Note: Maybe not the most spot-on relevant post when it comes to the creation of a more perfect market, but this is the original blog for me, and that makes it feel like the natural place to celebrate blogging.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Water Is For Fightin

I was catching up on comment responses this morning, and I noticed that a thought I posted on nouns and verbs brought in a link to some rules governing literary art.

It's Mark Twain criticizing James Fenimore Cooper. And it's harsh. And funny. And useful. If you write or tell stories. Which I think we all do, in one way or another.

Anyway, as soon as I finished reading the essay and responding to the comment, I figured I'd follow my catching up on blog commenting with some catching up on blog reading. I checked in on No Impact Man, pressed play on the embedded video I found there, and, magically, nouns and verbs segued perfectly into water and plastic...

I love weird little coincidences like that.

And I love to see journalists working to educate consumers.

Whole lot of dangerously partial truth in water marketing. Whole lot of manipulation. And someone's gotta fill in the gaps.

Thank you Stephanie Soechtig. In advance. Provided that the movie's as good as the trailer makes it look. And the soundtrack's as good as the trailer makes it sound.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Patience, Policy, and the Seven Dollar Cup

This is how I remember it anyway...

Customer brings a stainless steel water bottle to an airport coffee shop and orders a drink.

Barista (a word I'm pretty sure I've never written before) looks at it skeptically and says the bottle's skinny neck and spout make it an unacceptable latte shape.

Customer is determined not to use a paper cup, leaves, figures she could do with another ceramic mug in her life, spends seven dollars at the shop that sells gum, magazines, and Salt Lake City shot glasses, and goes back to see Barista.

Barista says ceramics are no good either. Lattes go in paper cups. According to The Rules, anyway.

Customer stares, thinks, holds back a scream, breathes, smiles, explains, and asks REALLY nicely.

Barista feels the smile, agrees that the rule's a bummer, and inaugurates the seven dollar cup.

I react in three ways...

First, I love the patient perseverance. A lot of power there. Tough power to harness. Easy power to lose. But very serious power that we all can have, hold, wield, use, whatever it is we do with power. And that, I think, is worth a few moments' thought.

Second, policy scares me. It lingers. Because it's so often less hassle (in the immediate, instant gratification term) to let it linger than to review, consider, adjust, perfect, etc.

And, third, you gotta love the virtuous subversion of policy. But you gotta follow it up with policy change. Which probably, given the nature of policy, requires none other than patient perseverance.

As I said, that's how I remember it. Second hand. Here's how it really went down.

Monday, April 6, 2009

A New Nature?

Good, in my opinion, to see that Disney is going into the environmental education business...

This is a bit of a yucky way of looking at things, but I think it'll bode well for the planet's long-term health if this movie shows that Charismatic Megafauna* and their stories can be short-term (and Disney-level) profitable.

*Elephants, wolves, polar bears, whales, sea turtles, etc. I think of it as a Van Jones term, though he might be quoting someone else.

Bunnies, Carrots, and Compostable Cups

I had visions of following my unplanned, week-long More Perfect Market hiatus with something a little thinkier, but this is current, so it's going up. Thinkiness to follow soon. I hope.

My grandfather hosts an egg hunt and softball game every year on Easter, and whichever of us (his progeny) are closest at hand do the organizing (inviting, dyeing, hiding, old glove repair, etc.).

Given my living arrangement for the past year plus, I'm definitely close, so, in the spirit of crunchiness (and because it's the right thing to do), we're going be a little more mindful this year.

And that starts with eliminating bottled water from the shopping list. We'll have beer and juice boxes (which might be an environmental disaster themselves...gotta do some learning there), but, if people want water, we'll have taps and hoses.

And cups. Sustainably produced cups. Or, at least, what we hope are sustainably produced cups.

I just placed an order with Eco Products. I thought about going the show the big company that it ought to commit hard to its "green" product lines route and getting bare cups by Solo, but I had a good chat with the Eco Products customer service department (full IM transcript here), and I figured I'd give them a try.

Their corn polymer sourcing looks decent. They offset their transportation footprint. And the fact that they're wiling to talk and think and do a little follow up info gathering for me is a good sign.

Gotta be accessible if you're gonna be transparent. So far, so good from Eco Products.

I'll report more if there's more to report.