Monthly Archives: July 2012


Yossi Vardi fights local warming

Of all the.. I apparently ‘procrastinated’ myself by making the mistake of turning on Youtube and seeing a video going viral which then made me click something else and then an hour later, feelings of dark dark shame.

Tonight was a difficult task of selecting which TED talk to examine and so I watched a dozen of them before going insane and switching to YouTube.

There has got to a warning label on what happens if one ingests too many TED Talks in one go, it’s something akin to ‘too many vitamins’.  If you eat too many vitamins, you either a) pee them out or b) you begin to die. 

With too many TED Talks, I’ll lean towards the first option except it’s ideas peeing into a pool of other ideas that you forget who was talking about what and in general messages become lost.

However, in doing so, I stumbled across this gem that I thought was also related to Global Warming.

Yossi Vardi turns on the telly and hits the next slide button faster than a message sent in Morse code.  Check it out:


Date Filmed: March 2007

 Length: 6 minutes, 18 seconds

Total Views so far: 486,499

One Sentence Summary: “Laptops are hell on a sausage.”

This, is a real phenomenon that should be made aware of.  I remember playing World of Warcraft in my bed, and my junk would be roasting like a pair of marshmallows set on fire.  It wasn’t comfortable but I wanted to keep playing.

Little did I realize that I was possibly doing some serious gene damage to my little ‘Eugenes’.  Poor little guys, in the art of leveling I was accidentally holding them over a fire pit. 

However, I cannot let this turn strictly into a twig and berries conversation.

It’s quite a relief to see the TED talks are also composed of strictly comedic routines that entertain the audience.  It’s a welcome sigh that pulls away from having to twist your mind around new radical ideas and approaches or feeling the deep sympathies that usually accompany a TED Talk. 

Comedy, in itself, is a series of ideas. I remember in school following the mental memory tricks of utilizing unusual imagery to help memorize a list of details.  This worked better when I found the image or sequence to be funny. 

Vardi, you’re a funny guy.

So what now?

Proper positioning is the phrase, use a table or a dinner tray. 

Which coincidentally enough, I began using because it was that uncomfortable.  That is, when I was grinding to get to the next level.

As for the men blogging being dangerous?  Blogging implies writing down thoughts, responses or general reflection. 

That’s always dangerous.

-Updated every Friday

Leave a comment

Posted by on July 27, 2012 in Uncategorized




JJ Abrams: the mystery box

We all have underutilized skill sets, and I think I have a general idea of some of mine own.  It’s isn’t that interesting to be honest, it isn’t the ability to eat fire or shoot 3 pointers or anything even classifiable as a money maker.  However, it is a talent that I can utilize during ‘game nights’.

Just to add a little background flavor to this, and this TED Talk, I’ve been asked to host a game of Dread (a role playing game) for tomorrow night for 9 people I do not know.

So that got me thinking about tonight’s EDTalksTED, and that is what elements of story telling can I reach out to for tomorrow?  Is there a technique or idea that might better the overall night?

It isn’t something that I particularly need, for my hidden talent is to walk into a room of strangers, talk to them for a few minutes and create a complete story composed of elements that was just discussed, biased for the personality types present. 

And I’m considered quite good at this, being able to weave a bunch of random elements into something that is fun too.

Now before I go TOO deep into this, here is JJ Abrams: the mystery box!


Date Filmed: March 2007

Length: 18 minutes, 6 seconds

Total Views so far: 1,202,295  (wow, that’s alot)

One Sentence Summary: “Inside the mystery box, is another ???.” 

(??? means mystery, I’m not questioning)

Abrams is beyond famous.  He is one of those ‘behind the scenes’ guys that is arguably more famous than the actors that he ends up hiring.  Lost is/was/will remain to be an incredible phenomenon that brought scripted stories back into the spotlight of television.

And obviously, there’s a few elements here that I can learn from.  The most notable of which, is the plot device of the ‘mystery box’. 

Now the mystery box is an element of story telling that is already well established, if I were to draw a Venn diagram about it, it would include 1) a broad generalization plot device that becomes more specific and 2) knowledge that is known to that world/characters/person but remains unknown to the audience 3) an actual freakin mystery.

Let’s go way back, and pull a couple random examples (not necessary real quotes) of what I mean.

God created the world in 7 days.  On Day 1…

The sun did not shine.  It was too wet to play.  So we sat in the house All that cold, cold, wet day.  (Then a cat in a hat appeared)

It was the best of times, it was the blurst of times.  (Simpsons parody quote which is just awesome)

These quick starts, much like the various Star Wars ‘mystery boxes’ that Abrams refers to, makes the audience curious about knowing more.  This happens significantly more when there is a preconceived notion that there is a payoff provided you’re willing to sit for the ride.

It’s the ‘how did they do that’ or ‘what happens next’ and ‘my curiosity is rivaled only by felines’ mentality that provides a sensation that I’d describe as neurologically pleasing.  We want to learn, want to know if our hunches are right and want to be surprised.

But Abrams makes careful note that the mystery box, upon its opening reveals additional mystery boxes.  It’s an endless cycle of mystery boxes that are within each box and every single time the audience is intrigued to follow it along.  The Tannen’s Mystery Box, remaining sealed, is a physical representation that Abrams can literally hit people on the head with. 

And that’s brilliant.  Abrams is not just a story teller in this regard, but he knows how to sell. 

What caught me off guard

Now being able to sell doesn’t necessarily mean ‘being able to talk to an audience’.  Abrams pulls it off, but he waivers.  He has quite a few jokes and remains entertaining despite the fact there is a vibrato in his voice that makes him sound really nervous. 

He even includes a sight gag?  I was expecting a laugh from the audience when he pulled out the kleenex box.  That is FUNNY.  (The audience, surprisingly, did not react.  I guess they couldn’t handle the idea that he stole a box of tissue from a hotel.  Damn it Abrams, you’re rich!  You should have just bought a box and donated millions to a charity.) 

I wonder if Abrams could have been a box maker.  Well, it’s certainly possible and he alludes to that possibility but that is also a bit of the ‘balancing’ that someone of his renown needs to address to find common ground with common folk.  Let’s face it, there are many famous people out there who are much too caught up with ‘themselves’.  That’s a shame.

Abrams also manages to pull off a good sleight with a playing card which was something I didn’t expect.  I think the card was gimmicked so he could do it more easily but still, it was done right. 

(There are two Magic stores in Toronto that I used to frequent quite regularly.  Sure wasted a lot of money there.  In any case, taking the time to perform a magic trick at a TED Talk shows a legitimate interest in the art to me)


I gotta know what’s in that box. 

After a little searching, I can see that I can still BUY the box.

Hey, Abrams even did a little spot for Tannen’s.

There doesn’t appear to be any links showing the contents of the box and I guess that only proves people respect the mystery. 

And in case you haven’t seen one of the funniest ‘mystery box’ stories to hit the internet..  You gotta check this out:

So what now?

I could tell you, but the suspense is much better.

– Updated every Friday

Leave a comment

Posted by on July 20, 2012 in Uncategorized


Wolfgang Kessling: How to air-condition outdoor spaces

It’s quite interesting how TED Talks subject matter overlap.  Sometimes it is a purposeful, useful interaction, and sometimes its pure chance.  In this particular case, it’s pure chance.

But the idea of air conditioning the outdoors isn’t anything new.  Any one who has gone to Vegas must have walked from hotel to hotel, where there is blazing sun and hot temperatures and its offset by the open air conditioned doors of the casinos. 

How to air condition the outdoor spaces!  Link below.

Date Filmed: April 2012

 Length: 11 minutes, 36 seconds

Total Views so far: 178,018  (One would think this number would be higher, given how damn hot its been this summer)

One Sentence Summary: “It’s the humans that give off heat, so let them perceive its cool.  Oh yeah, it’s not really outside.”

Let’s go on a thought experiment.  Let’s pretend that global warming is not just real but its also unavoidable.  What’s better?  To walk around with private suncoats and specialized private air conditioners or for there to be some new design structure towards city centers themselves? 

Well, obviously letting people fend for themselves is a heck of a lot cheaper, but it’s just not as ‘modern’.  Let’s make a bunch of fancy walkways / open area concepts instead!

If it ever comes down to being outside = ahhh my burning face, then it would make a great deal of sense to start rebuilding various areas to become more hospitable for people to wander about on.   The hypothetical ‘cool environment’ Kessling presents might actually be a possible snapshot of our future outdoor design. 

Kessling gives an interesting list of locations beforehand.  All of them are stadiums, and with each example he gives a rating of whether or not the people in attendance were comfortable versus the ambient weather at the time.  Sometimes it required the weather to be nice before the audience felt comfortable and sometimes it didn’t matter, and people were uncomfortable no matter what.  The big ‘wtf’ point that he makes, is that people will be sitting at the same temperature in a whole series of situations and feel different levels of comfort.

It shows he did his homework, and has an understanding of what makes people comfortable.  In previous years, when friends complained of how hot the weather is, I would instruct them to go out and buy a fan.  They’d retort that the fan would only push ‘hot air around’ and that there would be little change in comfort.  (I later proved this opinion wrong, but it took multiple fans and creation of an artificial wind tunnel which is havoc with paper and, apparently, pizza toppings)

Now the definition of outdoor space needs to be taken into account here, if a person is covered from all angles, is that person still outside? 

Definition of Out Doors:

1) The open air

2) An area away from human settlements.

Interestingly enough, the concept of building a football stadium in the middle of a desert fits both of these criteria.  *shakes fist, they got lucky*  However, I’m going to be a jerk and say that I’m not sold that this is not actually air conditioning the outdoors. 

Although it is unlikely, we need a solution for ANY location without spending a bajillion dollars on over powered air conditioning (see Vegas) or building an actual stadium.

Keeping the ground level cool is a very difficult concept and Kessling discusses the use of water pipes to control that temperature.  I wonder if there is a better way.  Then again, I wonder if Dean Kamen will fully complete the Stirling engine.

The Stirling engine (aka Water based engine):

I bring it up, because this talk of cold water to hot ground = hot water, and if we bring that water deep to cold ground, then there is something like a natural Stirling engine happening.  Of course, the temperatures are not in the right zones and etc, but hot on top / cold below is what’s triggering this memory more.

What caught me off guard

Is that a plane at 7:10?  Wait, is Kessling selling this?  Yes, yes he is.

Upon looking at the company website (which starts off in German, but has an English translation), I can see that Kessling is immediately putting his money where his mouth is.  This firm, Transsolar, is a climate engineering firm. 

That sounds like really something, a climate engineering firm, it sounds like the beginning towards some kind of global weather control system.  However, this isn’t the case, they aren’t out to control weather rather it’s more taking advantage of one’s environment to help create an artificial climate within those confines.

There’s some really pretty architecture pictures as well.  (The Outdoor Comfort Calculator is there, but to be honest it is a pointless tool for ‘me’, as I don’t pay that much attention weather)

What’s next?

There was a severe lack of ice cream in this talk.  If it’s a hot day, eat ice cream.  If it’s evening and you don’t need to drive anywhere, then it’s time for a couple beers too. 

If I was giving this TED Talk, I’d say “How to air condition outdoor spaces?” and then crack open a few cold ones.  The audience wouldn’t have time to applause because there would be additional cold ones being passed around to everyone. 

Afterwards, beach party and doing the monkey.

But seriously, I hope this technology / paradigm of outdoor climate control continues.  Support this!


– updated every Friday


Posted by on July 13, 2012 in Uncategorized




James Hansen: Why I must speak out about climate change

As North America breaks heat record after heat record this year, it brings up the question about ‘Global Warming’.  I have no idea how, but the very phrase of it feels like I’m bringing up a touchy subject.  It is, isn’t it?

There are quite a few TED talks on this subject, so I will link to the latest and greatest.  (note: Not necessarily the greatest, that’s just a fancy saying that rhymes)

Date Filmed: February 2012

Length:17 minutes, 51 seconds

Total Views so Far: 471,285 views

One Sentence So Far: “Look, I even let myself get arrested on this, can we start charging companies for this?”

(It’s a detailed talk that shares Hansen’s personal experiences over the years and how it touches him, his family and his life.)

This talk is one of the least ‘impacting’ to me in contrast to other TED Talks.  Why?  It’s probably have to do with the fact that scientists have been talking about global warming for the past 50 years.  That’s half a century, which is a VERY long time. 

Let’s not shy away from the fact that it’s been talked about again and again.  Yes, I can make huge arguments that fifty years is ‘young’ on a multitude of scales.  It’s nothing compared to the history of our world, it’s just over enough to discover the Higgs Boson, and it’s certainly much too young for someone to die.

On the other hand, this is quickly becoming the only ‘global WARNING’ that has lasted this long with such a low impact.  Low impact, in the sense, of openly clear initiatives that have exceptional funding and awareness dedicated towards the reduction of global warming.

Isn’t this a touchy subject?  Isn’t there an opposing opinion by a similar expert made for every video that warns of global warming?

Yes, this is definitely true.  I’ve seen debates and interviews on this topic and as per the standard route of statistics, the same data can lead to different claims.  (Well, I partially say that to be cute about the topic, but seriously there are charts that say weather fluctuations are natural and whatnot too)

What about the local level?  What about my own social circles and the public opinion that I’m aware of?

I’d stake to say, that four out of five people I personally know, believe global warming is a real phenomenon.  The remaining fifth person isn’t against the notion, rather they simply say ‘they don’t know’. 

I have yet to speak with an individual, that adamantly believes that global warming does NOT exist.  Now keep in mind that global warming isn’t exactly the most common of topics, but this is throughout my entire life.  I have not met an individual who shouts “IT’S A LIE!” and then runs out and starts a bunch of car engines.

However, I have met individuals who say, “WHO CARES!” and they run inside and turn on all the lights, crank up their air conditioning units and start smoking cigars.

There’s a difference between not believing in something versus believing in it but not taking action to do anything about it.

Not doing anything, is NOT a crime, it’s not even a poor choice.  A poor choice is smoking when you know it hurts you, drinking in excess when you know it hurts you, or drinking bucket after bucket of milk knowing you’re lactose intolerant.  But people DO IT ANYWAYS.

Wait, ignoring the impact of our emissions / energy use IS a poor choice right?

I’m going to have to argue, that in today’s society, a person is effectively ‘trained’ to believe that the reduction of our energy use is the equivalent of HURTING yourself. 

Last week I had a great deal of excitement and fascination with the idea of the robot car.  However, despite its innovations with keeping our roads safer, I’d be putting myself into monstrous debt if I ever were to try to attain one.  And by monstrous debt, I’m talking a 30 ft tall two headed giant named Tom and Jerry who is going to beat the living crap out of me because I can’t make my payments.

Despite the fact that pretty much everyone I know believes in global warming, we can’t afford to spend the extra to buy hybrid cars.  We can’t afford to lose the time by giving up cars or gas engines.  How in the world are we supposed to give up our air conditioners when we’re having one of the biggest heat waves in history?  (Ironically powered by our air conditioners)

In essence, for the common person to stop global warming, they would have to put themselves at such a distinct disadvantage that they could, arguably, lose their place in society.  I NEED to drive to work, not just because I’m a lazy bastard, but because it is physically impossible for me to get to work and back in time. 

How about the big abusers?  Companies that have huge chimney stacks of Carbon pumping out the CO2 like no tomorrow?

For most of us, these are also the ‘money providers’ in some form of fashion.  They sign paychecks, and hand out raises, if not directly then certainly indirectly.  Again, speaking strictly in terms of common everyday people (ok, I can’t really speak for everyone but for the purpose of this exercise I’m pretending I can), unless the locals are willing to risk their livelihoods, they’re not going to start protesting in front of buildings. 

Consider it another form of the Golden Handcuffs (money is too good to leave so a worker is essentially ‘voluntarily chained’ to their job), except they’re made of Energy.  

(Except for the protestors.  Although based upon what I’ve seen in the media, they’re protesting everything you can name anyways.  I wonder if there’s a TED talk about this?)

Now looking at this as an ‘individual’ matter, when we go up the chain, decision makers are also bound by the Energy Handcuffs.  Why should a single company risk taking the time for energy innovation while losing to its competition or allotting capital that could be spent on maintaining it’s market share?  Why should a politician push for a hard stance on this topic where other policies take precedence, or worse, that their initial supporters might be these very companies.

It comes to the point that discussion about global warming is in some ways, pointless.  It’s only a symptom of another issue, that our society is naturally designed to support a trend that does not support fighting global warming.

This doesn’t mean that we need to uproot society and start over.  In fact, society has gone through multiple social evolutions that have brought equal rights, labor laws and even reality television.  However, each of these were identifiable groups that were willing to take a stand.

Maybe someday there will be a distinctly recognizable ‘global warming victim’ identifier.

I really hope it doesn’t have to come to that.


– Updated every Friday.

Leave a comment

Posted by on July 6, 2012 in Uncategorized