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Business and the Environment (not necessarily in conflict)

March 1, 2008

I believe that climate change is happening and it poses a great threat to modern life. I also believe that markets are the best solution to effect positive change to the environment. Two articles have come out recently detailing what a market based solution may look like. The New Yorker looks at a variety of options such as a carbon market. Richard Sandor created the sulfur-dioxide market in the early 1990’s that curbed emissions so sharply that it’s byproduct, acid rain, has been virtually eliminated. Sandor, in 2003, created the Chicago Climate Exchange. This new market trades in carbon. Sandor explains his belief in markets with the following quote:

People tell me, well, these are bad guys, and corporate guys who just want to buy the right to pollute are bad, too, and we should not be giving them incentives to stop. But we need to address the problems that exist, not drown in fear or lose ourselves in morality. Behavior changes when you offer incentives. If you want to punish people for being bad corporate citizens, you should go to your local church or synagogue and tell God to punish them. Because that is not our problem. Our problem is global warming, and my job is to reduce greenhouse gases at the lowest possible cost. I say solve the problem and deal with the bad guys somewhere else.

That is my belief as well. I come from the Realist school. We need to focus on outcomes; especially with a challenge as big as the future of our planet.

The second article I found recently was in Wired. Fred Krupp of the Environmental Defense Fund is a private enterprise focused on environmental causes. He is willing to work with companies to gain positive environmental outcomes. One minor qualm with this assessment by Mr. Krupp:

Wired: But won’t our economy get hammered by China and India?

Krupp: It’s inevitable that those countries will adopt caps, too. We will gain a competitive advantage by going first. The real question is, do we want to import clean tech from Germany, Japan, and China or export it to the rest of the world?

I guess I do not see cap adoption inevitable in India and China, but the first mover advantage may ensure a thriving American business sector for the foreseeable future. The Environmental Defense Funds motto is “Finding the Ways that Work”. That is certainly something that I agree with.

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Unique Job Opportunity

February 12, 2008

CrimsonCup is offering coffee fiends a chance to be a barista (for a day) at their flagship store on High Street in Clintonville. Crimson Cup serves a good cup of coffee and are very skilled a preparing their coffee drinks. They are cut above many of the coffee shops around town. They are also very involved in the community.

Crimson Cup
4145 N. High St.
Columbus, OH 43214

Yahoo + Microsoft ≠ Google

February 8, 2008

Microsoft faces an uncertain future. It is not a given that people will continue to buy Windows over Mac OSX or Office over Open Office and Google Docs. I have wondered what strategy Microsoft would pursue. Microsoft seemed to pursue a web and services strategy with the ascension of Ray Ozzie to Chief Software Architect. Robert Cringley has a different idea:

Same for Microsoft, which with its Yahoo acquisition will quite consciously try to convert itself into the next General Electric, a company that uses its sheer economic power to make most of its money.

It is an intriguing idea, but short on a method to make it happen. I think that Cringley may be underestimating the what it took for GE to go from a 19th century electrical parts manufacturer to global holding conglomerate. I think it will take far more than a style injection that Yahoo would provide. It might be interesting to see a future Jack Donaghy working for Microsoft as Senior Vice President of Mobile Computing Platforms, Medical Devices Manufacturing, and U.S. television news programing. I might just watch a show based on that premise.

Nico Muhly

February 7, 2008

Composer Nico Muhly on New Yorker music critic Sasha Frere Jones:

It is sort of fascinating the way he somehow manages to make everything about him and yet says nothing; he once said about Grizzly Bear, ”the band’s sound suggests a group of eunuchs singing next to a music box on a sunken galleon.”

Muhly is the subject of a Rebecca Mead article in the New Yorker about his unique composing style.

To the Red Phone; Its down…

February 6, 2008

Five underwater communications cables have been severed in the last week in the Mid East. Initial reports of a ship cutting the first line has been ruled out. Conspiracy theories have the CIA cutting the lines to cut of Iran from the internet. These cables are newer models that should not be wearing out. The only thing I can come up with is a possible geological event that is causing the disruptions.

The Gathering Storm: Cloud Computing

February 5, 2008

I have a feeling that Nick Carr’s book The Big Switch will set off the largest debate about information technology this year. It is certainly an engaging book; Carr is an excellent writer. His vision for computer hardware utility documents an emerging trend within the information technology industry. I believe a trend that will increase for the foreseeable future.

Storage expert Robin Harris counters noting that networking is currently a bottleneck and that only Google is able to make cloud computing work. I think Mr. Harris is correct that networks are going to hinder this process. I, however, disagree concerning the Google magic that Yahoo and Microsoft are unable to reproduce. Google’s two competitors are unable to compete head to head, but there are other providers like Amazon Web Services, Sungard, EMC, and SAP already pushing into the services product space.

Cloud computing certainly seems like a marketing buzzword. Progression towards IT services will be slower and much more painful than suit clad sales consultants would have you believe, but organizations will trim non-core operations where they can. I have seen Fortune 500 organizations outsource their entire HR operations. IT will be that next step in corporate streamlining. The next 20 years will be stormy in the IT industry. The change will be dramatic.

Drug Hypocrisy or Youthful Indiscretions?

January 28, 2008

Sen. Norm Coleman has come out against the perceived dangers of marijuana. A college friend, Norm Kent, has sent an open letter in response. Mr. Kent notes that he and Sen. Coleman seem to have survived their “youthful indiscretions” with marijuana.