Tag Archives: business

Stuff We Need: Affordable Electric Vehicles, Revisited

EVBack in July 2010, I wrote about electric vehicles (EV), making the claim that EVs will have to be much more affordable and charging stations more numerous and convenient in order for the desperately needed transition away from oil-burning cars to happen at any significant level.

A year later, I added that the other key factor for widespread adoption of EVs is range — how far an EV can be driven before the battery needs to be recharged — pointing out that the range offered by the vast majority of cars at that time was grossly insufficient in order to lure folks away from their gas guzzlers. (The range of the example I linked to offered a pathetic 62 miles, not even enough to get me to Seattle, 90-miles away, a place I drive to fairly regularly.)

This post today might have qualified for my Celebrating Eco-Progress series if I wasn’t such a cheapskate.

I’ll explain.

Introducing, via TreeHugger.com, the Chevy Bolt concept car, offering a decent range of 200 miles, and a projected sticker price of, gulp, $30,000:

chevrolet-bolt

Now, in 2014, the average price of a car sold in the U.S. was $31,252, so many would argue that $30,000 IS affordable, especially since it comes with a big federal tax credit. But I’m 50-years old, I’ve never purchased a new car in my life, and I will NEVER cough up $30,000, or more accurately go $30,000 in debt, for a new car…

Oh, alright!

I admit, a $30k EV with a range of 200 miles WILL get more people out of their fossil fuel mobiles, and that alone is cause to celebrate.

Hooray!!!

I just need to wait an buy a used one.

Yoga Joes: War meets Ahimsa

yoga-joes-2This is fantastic!

Via Inhabitat, check out San Francisco designer, entrepreneur, and yoga enthusiast Dan Abramson’s Yoga Joes. (see more photos below!)

Like millions of young American boys, I had an extensive collection of little green plastic army men, and I had them before I totally understood the horrors of war, before the Vietnam War bruised America’s war ego, when every day after school WABC TV from New York City showed The 4:30 Movie, known for week-long themes, based on either sequels (e.g. Planet of the Apes Week), actor (e.g. John Wayne Week), or genre (e.g. Monster Week), and once in a while they’d do War Week, showing a different war movie each day, and me and my next door neighbor and best friend would watch and take it all in, and then we’d set up our little green plastic army men, numbering in the hundreds, in an enormous battlefield covering the entire living room floor, and then we’d shoot rubber bands at the little green plastic army men, making gunfire and explosion sound effects, not a drop of blood in sight.

Well, I eventually did come to understand the horrors of war, and I came to be a full-on pacifist, and then I discovered Buddhism and Yoga and the concept of Ahimsa, the principles of nonviolence that totally aligned with the anti-war stance that I’d already assumed.

Delightful, then, to see these two worlds come together in Yoga Joes!

Below, check out some additional photos and the Kickstarter video.

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Plastic-Eating Fungus Revisited: Plastic-Fungus Fusion Food

plastic-wasteBack in March 2012, I wrote about some scientists who had discovered a fungus in the jungles of Ecuador, a fungus that can eat plastic.

At the time, I applauded the discovery as an exciting possible solution to the HUGE global problem of plastic waste, but I also expressed some lighthearted caution, imagining a scenario worthy of a sci-fi/action/thriller movie, wherein the fungus mutates, escapes, and feasts on all of the plastic we’re still actually using, plastic we depend on for a great many things.

A scenario I never in a million years would have imagined, however, is one I stumbled upon today, wherein an Austrian design firm, LIVIN, has teamed up with scientists at Utrecht University, to move beyond the fungus eating the plastic, and toward a more holistic-if-unappetizing, food-chain-integrated approach:

Introducing, via GOOD.is’ Jed Oelbaum: The Fungi Mutarium

The device uses fungus in little cups made of agar (a seaweed-based jelly) to digest sterilized plastic, which is metabolized into the fungus, leaving no traces of the original waste. But that’s not even the best part: after the plastic is digested, the agar cups and their resultant contents are completely edible. Yes, that’s right, these fungi actually turn plastic into something you can eat.

Well Jed, maybe that’s something YOU could eat, but I ain’t touching it! Ewwwwww!

(Not entirely incidentally, they call the agar cups “FUs”, which had me wondering whether or not this wasn’t just an elaborate hoax, but my further Googling on the subject seems to point to it being legit.)

Now, something Jed Oelbaum doesn’t explain is why the photos he included seem to suggest that the Fungi Mutarium is apparently meant to be operated wearing nothing but a Soviet-grey nightgown…

fungi-mutarium1

…and the fungus-plastic fusion food is apparently meant to be eaten wearing nothing at all!

fungi-mutarium2

Boggles the mind, doesn’t it?!

But, it gets better, or worse, depending on how you look at it.

The folks at LIVIN have gone so far as to design a line of utensils to be used specifically for the consumption of this product.

And while these guys try to make it sound appetizing…well…ewwww!

Scratch the fungi off the wall of this sensual cutlery and simultaneously mix with the sweet or sour sauce that tops your favorite agar FU.

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The shape of the moon spoon glides along your agar FU to reach even the tiniest fungi fruit bodies on it. It can also be loaded with the delicious agar „meat“.

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Anyway, to see the Fungi Mutarium in action, check out this brief, Stanley Kubrick-esque video presentation:

Buy Local: Holiday Edition

local1I’ve mentioned here several times over the years how much I appreciate my adopted hometown of Bellingham, Washington, for its deep commitment to a local living economy, this idea that the whole community benefits when we choose to support locally-owned businesses. It’s more than a slogan here, as evident by the fact that we have so many local businesses that are thriving.

This wasn’t always the case.

When I first moved to Bellingham in 1993, the downtown area west of Interstate 5 was practically a ghost town. A once-thriving commercial district, in 1988 it was nearly abandoned by businesses, including critical anchor department stores J.C. Penny, Sears, and The Bon Marché (now Macy’s), when the Bellis Fair Mall opened on the other side of I-5, followed by the usual suspect national “big box” chain stores along the same stretch of road, heading north, away from downtown, a road known as the Guide Meridian.

Slowly but surely, however, an unlikely and wonderful thing started to happen.

One-by-one, locally-owned businesses started popping up: restaurants, shops, art galleries, music venues, a farmers market, and even a non-profit independent cinema!

Today, not only is downtown Bellingham thriving thanks to local businesses, but our second largest commercial area west of the freeway, the Historic Fairhaven District, consists almost entirely of locally-owned. In fact, with the exception of a couple of gas stations and banks, the only non-local businesses I can think of downtown and in Fairhaven are Starbucks and Taco Del Mar, and both are headquartered just 90 miles south in Seattle.

Again, this can only happen with a community commitment, whereby some community members choose to invest in starting up businesses, and the rest of the community invests in supporting those businesses.

So, wherever you are, supporting your locally-owned businesses just makes sense on SO many levels. Give it a try!

And, to drive this message home, here’s a fantastic infographic courtesy of Advocates for Independent Business:

holidayshopping_infographic

David Letterman’s Frack You To Fracking

Fracking is, by now, old, terrifying news.

Grassroots efforts to combat fracking have been struggling mightily and losing frequently, but when a mainstream media legend like David Letterman takes a stand on his show, watched by millions, perhaps the tide is turning.

Thanks, Dave!

And folks, please consider clicking on the “Stop Fracking Now” graphic below and adding your name to this nationwide petition.

fracking

Random Logo Puzzlement

So, I was sitting on an interview panel this morning, the third interview for the position we’re currently trying to hire for, and before me was a clipboard that I’ve been using, not only for each interview, but off and on for a good 5-6 years, and for the first time after all that usage I noticed the logo of the company, Charles Leonard, Inc., from whom the clipboard was purchased, who knows how long ago:

clipboard

And I thought to myself, “What the HELL is that?!”

Seriously, it seemed to be made up of three elements, none of which were immediately identifiable, from the top down:

  1. some kind of vaguely gun-shaped thingy?
  2. a kitchen measuring tablespoon?
  3. a very flat shoe?

…and, certainly, nothing really resembled anything related to office products.

By the time my lunch break rolled around I knew I wanted to blog about this, and I couldn’t wait to do some research. My blog post, I was sure, would be all about how the logo fails, how a logo should decidedly NOT be puzzling, that a company’s brand should be immediately recognizable and tightly associated with the company’s business.

And so, my first stop was Google Image Search, where I found this Charles Leonard logo:

charles_leonard

Now, regardless of whether or not a trained graphic designer (which I’m not) would consider this a good logo, or even whether or not anyone would find this aesthetically pleasing, it IS abundantly clear what it is: CLI = Charles Leonard, Inc.

But then, a funny thing happened.

As I was pulling together the two versions of the logo for this post — taking a photo of the clipboard and editing it, downloading the other version, looking at them closely, comparing them — I suddenly and shockingly noticed something best displayed with my embarrassingly rudimentary Photoshop skills:

clipboard2

I’ll wait as you scroll up and down and it all sinks in.

I happen to have some experience with logo design, having served on several committees charged with developing new logos, and one of the things we always included in our development process was a stipulation that the final design must work well in a variety of applications: in print, on the web, on t-shirts, with one color, grayscale, or multi-color. And so, in this very narrow regard, and with the aforementioned need for the logo to be immediately obvious as to what it says and is, you could determine that the clipboard application of the CLI logo failed…

…OR…you could say that it’s a VERY cool optical illusion!

As with most optical illusions, once you’ve figured out the trick being played on the eye you’ll never NOT notice it again. Check it out. Scroll up now and look at the first photo of the clipboard and you will not be able to miss the “CLI”.

So, ultimately, is it a successful logo?

Well, it got me to spend a good half hour of my lunch break thinking about Charles Leonard, Inc., something I never saw coming.

Therefore, I’d have to answer with a resounding, “Yes!”

I’m A Guy, And I’m Wearing Beer

So, I’m a guy and I went to buy an aluminum-free deodorant and came across this:

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Then I turned the deodorant around to read the back and I found this label:

toms-deodorant-back

I can just picture the scene around the conference table at the Tom’s of Maine marketing meeting:

Director of Marketing: Ok people, listen up, especially you guys. We’re having a hard time moving our men’s deodorant. Sales continue to decline, and so I need to hear ideas and solutions!

Larry & Ed, what does our market research tell us?

Larry: Well, on the bright side, we do have the name “Tom” in our brand name, which is considered by 97% of those surveyed to be a sufficiently male name.

Ed: And, when you consider that we have the “Tom’s of Maine” brand name on all of our products, including those for women…

Director of Marketing: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know, I know. We were founded by a guy name Tom and he’s from Maine. What else positive can you tell me.

Ed & Larry: Um, nothing, sir.

Donna: Director, if I might, the problem isn’t our name on its own. Rather, it has to do with our name in comparison to the names of our competitors. Our research shows that brands with names like “Speed Stick”, “Gillette”, “Right Guard”, “Axe” or “Old Spice” conjure images of tough, edgy, macho men, whereas “Tom’s of Maine” conjures up some hippie guy walking in the woods.

Larry: I’ve got it!

Director of Marketing: Wellllllllllllll?!!

Larry: What do guys love more than anything else?

Director & Ed: Beer?

Larry: RIGHT! So, we put beer in our deodorant…or…um…rather, we put hops in our deodorant. You see, hops smell like beer, a manly smell, so that when men sweat it will seem like they just came from the brewpub, a manly place to hang out, and even though the Wikipedia page on hops says nothing about hops having odor-fighting properties, it does say that hops are used as a natural treatment for anxiety, restlessness, and insomnia, and so guys who wear our deodorant will be so mellow and relaxed that they won’t care!

Director of Marketing: Brilliant!!!

Needless to say, I bought the beer deodorant.

Day 1: Not working very well, but I am craving an ice cold India Pale Ale.