Category Archives: Environment

Writing in Four Dimensions

To appreciate writing in four dimensions, look at Mike Matas explain in crisp sentences the new generation of digital book that he has developed with his team at Push Pop Press: Our Choice.  Written by Al Gore, the book is a follow up to An Inconvenient Truth, but this time Gore makes his case in an interactive, multimedia e-book. The content bends and flexes, moves and breathes. For the first time, Gore says, he is able to bring together deep research with images and sounds to prove his thesis. Details infuse every key point, down to the bars on bar graphs designed into a natural landscape.

The implications for readers are enormous; we must train ourselves so we do not let the gloss dazzle away our skepticism -not of Gore, I support his concerns on the environment – but of any content presented in such a slick fashion. People believe what they see on television, after all, even if it is not true.

The implications for writers are also enormous: crafting a story or an argument must be done with words and with design and with video and music and graphs and choices. What writers once conveyed using only words to get from their minds to readers’ imaginations, they will be expected to do to a standard of media-rich layers that can be touched and pinched and turned: “Using Push Pop Press authors can weave together text, images, audio, video and interactive graphics into immersive multi-touch interactive books, without dealing with the complexities and costs normally involved in software development. ”

Writers have always had to anticipate what Mortimer J. Adler explained in 1940 in How to Read a Book, “The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading.” Adler tells his readers, “If you have the habit of asking a book questions as you read, you are a better reader than if you do not..Reading a book should be a conversation between you and the author…But understanding is a two-way operation, the learner has to question himself and question the teacher. He even has to be willing to argue with the teacher, once he understands what the teacher has to say.” The standard for reading and writing is becoming an immediate two-way conversation.

And while the advice writing teachers have always given – show, don’t tell – now takes on a literal meaning as well as a literary one, a foundation of simple and crisp will always under-gird the glitz. Play Matas’s clip on TED, but do it by choosing a language other than English. Note the correlation between Matas’s sentences and the translations: he explains an amazing complex product with direct, well chosen words that are relatively idiom-free, and immensely clear. As writers consider not only how to incorporate sights and sounds, I believe they will also need to consider how what they write translates, since choice of language is one more dimension to consider in new digital books.


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Filed under Classic, Environment, Technology, Tools of the Trade

Repower America, ABC

For the life of me, I can’t figure out why ABC won’t run ‘s ad about working together to re-power the country. “We” is

The We Campaign is a project of The Alliance for Climate Protection — a nonprofit, nonpartisan effort founded by Nobel laureate and former Vice President Al Gore. The goal of the Alliance is to build a movement that creates the political will to solve the climate crisis — in part through repowering America with 100 percent of its electricity from clean energy sources within 10 years. Our economy, national security, and climate can’t afford to wait.

While I always like to believe there must be a rest of the story, like maybe who owns ABC, for example (I haven’t looked that up), there really doesn’t seem to be any excusable reason for not running this ad. Check it out:

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Filed under Environment

Where are you on the Talent “Food Pyramid?”

In “Class Struggle: Helping Kids Who Hate High School,” Washington Post staff writer Jay Matthews recounts his debate with California educator Chris Peters about a total overhaul of education that would allow students, after their sophomore year, to – after thoroughly mastering important basic skills – choose one of four tracks. One of the tracks is college, another is community college with vocational education, another is more intensive high school tutoring, the fourth is dropping out.  The debate between the two centered initially on the value of vocational education.

The article is well worth reading, but the debate is may be moot if you check out the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce. Download the “Standard Power Point” offered on the left side of the page, then go to slide 8 of 34: Profile of Successful US Firms of the Future. It seems to indicate that unless people plan to enter the fields of research, development, design, marketing and sales, or global supply chain management – so-called “creative work” – prospects are low.  Consider those implications while considering Matthews conclusions:

The steady erosion of the social safety net provided by the workplace in the form of reliable, long-term employment, paid sick-leave and vacation, health and retirement benefits necessitates that young people be much better informed about and prepared for the job marketplace.

Don’t we have some obligation to prepare kids for the lives they will actually lead rather than the ones we wish they would lead?

With regard to college, we educators have become exactly like the kind of overbearing parents who insist that all our children play competitive sports just because they did and who can’t imagine a richly fulfilling life without them.

People who have great skills through vocational programs need to be able to find meaningful work near their homes right here in the United States, not only for their well being, but for our national well being. Opportunities need to be here. That is why energy policy and education policy and our collective futures are tightly linked, in my view.

Micro economies need to be developed within the United States, just as they are being used in developing countries so that people with talent for making things as well as designing things have outlets for their natural talents.  What holds us back from local self-sufficiency is that we are all so interdependent on expensive forms of energy. In order to have small economies with local manufacturing, we need locally sustainable and containable sources of energy. The talented, skilled workers coming out of Peters and Matthews plans would have places to ply their trades.

Hopefully, that is what those research folks at the top of the talent pyramid are looking into.

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Filed under Around the world while you were sleeping..., Environment, Just thinking, Technology, Training

Public Libraries Must Live

Take a look at a fascinating slide show that shows both old grand libraries and new grand libraries. I love them all. The show poses the question of what libraries should look like now as Washington DC struggles with a decision about what to do about a fairly modern building whose design doesn’t work well in the digital age.

As I thought about the slide show and the interesting comments by each slide, I formed several opinions:

  • It is good to have a monument to knowledge in our cities.
  • These monuments should not intimidate people, but welcome them.
  • They should become gathering places even more than they are now, hosting perhaps spontaneous groups of citizens who get together to do, say, an MIT Opencourseware course together – libraries could become spontaneous universities!
  • Writers groups should have homes in libraries.
  • Places for quiet reflection should be a mainstay of libraries.

If libraries cultivate the social side of learning, they will have a market beyond the year 2019, the date of their predicted demise. Investing in a place for specifically intellectual exchange will remind us to stay civilized.

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Filed under Environment, Looking forward, Technology

Want to be jealous of a manufacturing plant?

If you are striving to live a sustainable lifestyle by reducing, reusing and recycling, you may wonder how a plant that makes cars can reach 100% waste free while you are still putting out trash for pickup.

Wired‘s Dan Orzech writes about the Lafayette, Indiana Subaru plant that has managed to be so lean and green even left over paint is sent off to be reincarnated as parking lot stripes. It is inspiring and hopeful to read about.

There are temptations around the edges of the page, however, that may get you off track such as the clickable headlines about the new, beleagured iPhone and the Transformers.

But if you stick with the Wired article you will find that there are some classic principles and maxims of work and life that Subaru, Xerox and others are applying that support their waste reduction successes:

  • Reducing waste is cost efficient
  • Reducing waste can be as simple as returning leftover material
  • Reducing waste is not necessary if it is not produced in the first place
  • Make people accountable for reducing waste

I have done my part in a very tiny way in the last few minutes. I am using a reusable coffee filter and I am composting the grinds. Since I drink too much coffee, it is quite a little pile I am keeping out of our town landfill. I will look around to see if there are ways I can avoid producing waste in the first place.

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Filed under Environment