Saturday, January 26, 2008

Bill Gates and Creative Capitalism

Bill Gates gave a speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland in which he talked about the limitations of pure capitalism in addressing the unmet needs of the billions of very poor in the world and his proposal for creative capitalism to use recognition as an additional incentive to supplement raw profit as an incentive for business to address those unmet needs.

It is a fairly simple but powerful proposal.

That said, I am still unsure about the nuances of the concept.

For example, what is the essential role of national governments to provide aid to people in other countries?

Are there lines and if so where might they be between government aid, businesses providing aid, private philanthropy, non-governmental organizations, etc.

Where exactly does sovereign responsibility end and external aid come in?

And when you have disasters such as Rwanda, Somalia, Ethiopia, and now Kenya, where do the lines get drawn?

Yes, the very poor have unmet needs, but when "power" is at stake, the ability of anybody to provide aid becomes quite murky.

All to often, grinding poverty has less to do with money and a lot more to do with politics and raw naked power.

I am confident that business can play a much greater role in addressing the human needs of those at the bottom of the pyramid. For example, Microsoft's Unlimited Potential program really does have a lot of potential to reach a lot further down the pyramid.

That said, I do worry about being careful not to marginalize the efforts of national governments in areas where they might be uniquely positioned to do a better job of offering and delivering aid and other forms of assistance.

-- Jack Krupansky

Thursday, January 24, 2008

More Snow in Antarctica

A blog post in The New York Times by John Tierney entitled "More Snow in Antarctica" tells us that the global warming and climate change "trend" still has not reached Antarctica:

There’s new evidence from an Antarctic ice core that the popular image of the melting poles doesn't quite fit reality at the southern one. Elizabeth R. Thomas of the British Antarctic Survey and colleagues report in Geophysical Research Letters that snow accumulation has doubled since 1850 in the western Antarctic peninsula, and that the trend has accelerated in recent decades.

I mention this not to suggest this means the planet is cooling, nor to argue that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is wrong in warning of future warming. Quite the contrary. An increase in snowfall in the Antarctic happens to jibe quite well with the projections in the latest IPCC report: "Current global model studies project that the Antarctic ice sheet will remain too cold for widespread surface melting and is expected to gain in mass due to increased snowfall."

But that consensus projection hasn't gotten as much attention as the dire warnings from some scientists of an imminent meltdown in the Antarctic, so this new evidence from one spot is worth noting.

His blog post goes on to quote from the World Climate Report blog:
Not only is there no evidence of melting at the Gomez site, snow is accumulating there at an amazingly high rate. Clearly, this paper adds to the evidence that suggests that we simply, as of yet, do not have a firm grasp on the climate changes and their drivers that are effecting Antarctica, past, present, or, much less, future.

That gets to the main aspect of the whole global warming and climate change "movement" that really bugs me: the claim that all of it is "beyond debate." Let's encourage scientists to keep doing what they do best and also encourage them to refrain from extravagantly speculating about the future of a system that they as of yet still do not deeply understand. Antarctica is a fairly big piece of the overage climate puzzle, so it shouldn't be ignored.

-- Jack Krupansky

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


The World Economic Forum annual meeting, AKA "Davos", is now underway in Davos, Switzerland. You can get a lot of information about the events at the WEF web page. There is a Davos blog "conversation" as well.

Some day I would actually like to attend the forum, but I do not have any realistic expectation of ever being able to do so. The good news is that there is enough media coverage that you can get 20% of the benefit of being there without the hassle of actually having to be there.

One of the new features is that we can actually "participate" by submitting YouTub videos that address "The Davos Question":
What one thing do you think that countries, companies or individuals must do
to make the world a better place in 2008?

Some of our videos will be screened at select plenary sessions (January 23-27). World leaders will continue to watch our videos and make responses of their own at the YouTube corner in the Congress Centre.

That's actually rather cool. Alas, I still haven't gotten into this whole video thing.

I would offer the following suggestion for my "one thing":

  1. Tone down all the fear-mongering rhetoric, whether it is about terrorism, the environment, the economy, or "the other party" regardless of what your political or social persuasion might be.
-- Jack Krupansky

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Moview review: Cloverfield

I had been looking forward to seeing the Sci-Fi action monster movie Cloverfield since I saw the trailer and poster. Part of that is simply because I am a sucker for any movie set in New York City. I was prepared for it to be somewhat lame, but it was better than I expected. As far as I could tell the monster did not have a name ("What is 'that thing'?"), but was finally gargantuan enough to live up to the claim of "attacking" New York City in a credible and fitting manner for a city that is itself a giant monster. King Kong and Godzilla (and those Legend zombies as well) all seemed like simply so many mere tourists in the city, but the Cloverfield monster put all of them together to shame. The quirky YouTube style of filming actually worked fairly well. My only real complaint was that the movie was way too short and maybe too low budget and would have been more of a blockbuster if there had been some traditional cinema wrapped around it to give it a more robust beginning, some scientific interludes, and a better ending. Sounds like an invitation for some YouTube video mashups, or maybe just for a prequel and a sequel. The sound effects were decently creepy and the sound track for the credits was cool. Make sure to stay through the credits and listen carefully for the last few seconds.

In short, I was disappointed by the fact that this was more of a "short feature" than a full-length movie, but otherwise I found it reasonably entertaining.

-- Jack Krupansky

How to spend my rebate

It sounds as if it is almost a done deal that we will all get $800 rebates as part of the anti-recession fiscal stimulus package that is being developed. Some cynics are chattering that we might not see the money until the summer, but I suspect it will be in the March timeframe. Besides, there is no need to wait; simply spend the money using your credit card and then pay it off when the rebate actually arrives.

The bigger question is what to spend it on. My options for what to do with my rebate:

  1. Long weekend trip to San Francisco. Maybe even stay at the Hyatt Regency Embarcadero for the first time since 1993.
  2. Buy one of those cool new Apple iPod Touch devices that has Wi-Fi browsing and now maps, weather, stocks, news, etc. The 16GB version costs $399, so that only covers half of my rebate.
  3. Budget for some steak dinners (at about $75 to $85 each) in the coming few months.
  4. Pay down some of my back taxes. In other words, take some of the money that the U.S. Treasury will be giving me and give it back to... the U.S. Treasury (IRS).
  5. Buy carbon credits so that I can be carbon neutral for a few years.
  6. Simply save it. Not very attractive since I already have my rainy day fund fully funded and may not be eligible to contribute more to my retirement accounts this year. Besides, we are supposed to spend this money.
  7. None of the above. Something creative. Maybe even socially responsible.

I may simply opt for #1, but I would prefer to go with #7 and come up with something that will add some significant value to my life and maybe even be socially responsible. I could simply go with #5 and then feel that I have been socially responsible.

-- Jack Krupansky

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Review: There Will Be Blood

I went ahead yesterday and saw There Will Be Blood, the new movie starring Daniel Day-Lewis. It was in fact better than I was worried it might be, but still not a truly great movie as some of the hype had suggested. Yes, Mr. Day-Lewis' acting was spectacular and as cinema art the film was compelling, but all put together I would not classify it as a "blockbuster" mainstream movie.

All sorts of positive adjectives apply to this movie which qualify it a piece of fine art, but that does not make it a hard-core, mainstream "hit" for general audiences.

As a human interest story, it was rather depressing. Not the sort of movie to raise your spirits and increase your faith in humanity.

As a business historical perspective story, it was enlightening.

As raw cinema, it was visually stunning.

An open question is how this movie would have come off without Mr. Day-Lewis' doing the vast bulk of the heavy lifting.

I am glad that I saw it and would be willing to see it again, especially since it is filled with lots of nuance that can be easy to miss or fail to fully appreciate in a single sitting. In fact, it is the kind of film where you could endlessly dissect (in a positive way) even single scenes.

-- Jack Krupansky

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Will There Be Blood?

As I said last week, I had been looking forward to seeing There Will Be Blood, the new movie starring Daniel Day-Lewis, but since it still wasn't being widely shown here in the Bellevue, WA area and I was growing very annoyed with all the hype, I was considering boycotting the movie whenever it does eventually make it to a general release.

Well, now it has finally been widely released and now I can see it locally, but the question remains whether I want to stand on principle and fight all the hype and boycott the movie.

Well, it is only $7.50, so it is not a big deal financially, so I might temporarily set aside my concerns and principles and take a look at it. After all, I did see Michael Moore's movie and Al Gore's pseudo-documentary (and some random documentary having something to do with coffee), so this is not a complete compromise on principle.

But, unless the movie is really, really, really super-fantastic, I do reserve the right to criticize it after the fact. And when I say super-fantastic, I mean even besides the performance of Mr. Day-Lewis.

So, if this movie does not live up to its over-hyped expectations, then I can assure you that There Will Be (the blogging equivalent of) Blood in this space!

I'll probably catch the 1:00 p.m. showing at the Lincoln Square Cinema here in (rainy) downtown Bellevue, WA.

-- Jack Krupansky

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Edge question for 2008: What have you changed your mind about? Why?

John Brockman's Edge question for 2008 is now out: What have you changed your mind about? Why?

The Edge Annual Question -- 2008

When thinking changes your mind, that's philosophy.
When God changes your mind, that's faith.
When facts change your mind, that's science.


Science is based on evidence. What happens when the data change? How have scientific findings or arguments changed your mind?"

165 contributors; 112,600 words

That's right, there are 165 responses to the question.

Just a few of the responses that I have glanced at so far:

Personally, I do not have much of an answer to this question yet, even after reading these few responses. In general, my thinking evolves incrementally over time. I am having trouble recalling very many "Aha!" moments where I had a clear change of mind rather than that I had evolved a somewhat different perspective as I gradually incorporated new information into my thinking. Something to think about. And that is the whole point of Edge questions.

-- Jack Krupansky

Saturday, January 05, 2008

There Will Be Fraud

I had been looking forward to seeing There Will Be Blood, the new movie starring Daniel Day-Lewis, but it still isn't widely shown here in the Bellevue, WA area. It is very strange that such an "acclaimed" movie would be "released" in 2007, but not be generally shown even two weekends later. Yes, it is being shown at two theaters in Seattle, but not in any theaters in the suburbs around Seattle, where I live. If it has only "limited release" at the end of the year then it should not be considered to have been released in that year. I consider this a form of fraud. I now suspect that there may be unspecified "problems" with the movie that are preventing a true "general" release and that it is probably in fact grossly overrated. In fact, I am always suspicious of movies that claim "critical acclaim." I am now considering boycotting this movie whenever it does eventually make it to a general release.

-- Jack Krupansky

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Are the American people really ready to start paying the costs of countering global warming and climate change?

An editorial in The New York Times entitled "The One Environmental Issue" questions whether Americans are really ready to fight Global Warming and Climate Change:

It is not yet clear to what extent Americans are willing to grapple with the implications of any serious strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions: more specifically, whether they are ready to pay higher prices for energy and change their lifestyles to reduce their consumption of fossil fuels.

What The Times is really challenging is whether politicians, notably candidates for President in 2008, are ready to lead the way on the necessary changes:

One result is that even the candidates who urge comprehensive change have not been pressed on important questions of cost: How do they intend to pay for all the new efficiencies and technologies that will be necessary? And what kind of sacrifices will they be asking of people who almost certainly will have to pay more for their electric bills and their greener cars?

Addressing these questions will require more courage of the candidates than simply offering up broad new visions. The voters deserve an honest accounting and the candidates should be prepared to give it.

Alas, I am sure The Times would be disappointed to hear that neither the candidates nor the people are willing to pay a lot more money or dramatically change their lifestyles, and that all anybody will tolerate is subtle quick fixes, whether they be higher vehicle mileage requirements, more electric vehicles, more nukes, more biodiesel, etc. Alas, all of those kinds of fixes put together may only get a third of the way to where the Global Warming crowd thinks we need to get.

And The Times is not asking some of the harder and more necessary questions, like are people ready to give up air conditioning, at home, at work, and in their cars and buses and trains and planes? Go ahead and try to find a politician willing to say they are willing to make that hard choice.

-- Jack Krupansky

First BIG snow in New Hampshire

I used to think of the people of New Hampshire as hard-core, prototypical Yankees, but I guess that was a long time ago. I myself lived in New Hampshire as recently as 1997. But these days... I read on The Old Farmer's Almanac web site that:

Our first BIG snow here in Dublin [, NH] arrived on Tuesday, November 20, 2007. Two inches of snow covered our parking lot and stuck for 24 hours.

BIG snow? Two inches??!! You have to be kidding me. That would be a BIG snow in Florida, but in New England, or at least the OLD New England, two inches would not even count as "snow." We would call it a "flurry."

OTOH, maybe with "Global Warming and Climate Change", even one inch of snow would constitute a major snow storm.

BTW, here is the image from their webcam:

-- Jack Krupansky

Eat more fruit in 2008

Now that 2008 is officially here, it is time to try to put some of those pseudo-resolutions into effect. I do want to improve my nutrition, and eating more fruit is a great way to do that. I just bought a bag of clementines the other day and just had one know. I need to work on a "plan" to make sure I have plenty of fruit around at all times.

There are plenty of other aspects of good nutrition, but I doubt that there are any as convenient and pleasant and easy to commit to and follow through with as eating more fruit. It is not the end all, but it is a good start and something to build on.

-- Jack Krupansky