Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Pragmatic Alternative is . . .

Neil Young and Johnathan Goodwin.

Neil and Johnathan are working together to convert Neil's '59 Lincoln Continental convertible to an all-electric car that never needs refueling, only recharging.

Neil has this to say,
(courtesy of NewEnergyNews): "Johnathan and this car are going to make history…We're going to change the world, we're going to create a car that will allow us to stop giving our wealth to other countries for petroleum….And we're going to do it right here in Wichita, a great place that I now love, where people know how to make things, and make things happen."

Why is the veteran rock and roll star geared up about this project? 2 reasons. First, because he loves his cars: "…people are saying we should go to small cars, but I love big American cars with power…I asked Johnathan that first day if we could take a huge American car like this, 2 ½ tons, 19 ½ feet long, and make it so you could drive it without ever refueling. Something practical…And Jonathan said 'Yeah.' And that's what we're going to do."

Second, because his motivation hasn’t changed all that much since 1971. He’s still trying to use his success to make the world a better place: "…I thought long ago you could change the world by writing songs. But you can't…Oh, you can inspire a few people, get some of them to change their thinking about something. But you can't change the world by writing songs…But we could change it with this car."

Johnathan was profiled in Fast Company in November of '07. Here's an excerpt:

Goodwin's work proves that a counterattack [on Detroit] is possible, and maybe easier than many of us imagined. If the dream is a big, badass ride that's also clean, well, he's there already. As he points out, his conversions consist almost entirely of taking stock GM parts and snapping them together in clever new ways. "They could do all this stuff if they wanted to," he tells me, slapping on a visor and hunching over an arc welder. "The technology has been there forever. They make 90% of the components I use." He doesn't have an engineering degree; he didn't even go to high school: "I've just been messing around and seeing what I can do."

All of which raises an interesting possibility. Has this guy in a far-off Kansas garage figured out the way to save Detroit?

America's most revolutionary innovations, it has long been said, sprang from the ramshackle dens of amateurs. Thomas Edison was a home-schooled dropout who got his start tinkering with battery parts; Chester Carlson invented the photocopier in his cramped Long Island kitchen. NASA, desperate for breakthroughs to help it return to the moon, has set up million-dollar prizes to encourage private citizens to come forward with any idea, no matter how crazy. As the theory goes, only those outside big industries can truly reinvent them.

Goodwin is certainly an outsider. He grew up in a dirt-poor Kansas family with six siblings and by age 13 began taking on piecework in local auto shops to help his mother pay the bills. He particularly enjoyed jamming oversized engines into places no one believed they'd fit. He put truck engines inside Camaros, Grand Nationals, and Super Bees; he even put a methanol-fueled turbocharger on a tiny Yamaha Banshee four-wheeler. "We took that thing from 35 horsepower to 208," he recalls. "It was crazy. We couldn't put enough fins on the back to keep it on the ground." After dropping out of school in the seventh grade, he made a living by buying up totaled cars and making them as good as new. "That," he says, "was my school."

This past November, Neil's post in the HuffingtonPost, outlined his ideas on how to retool the American auto industry:

We need forward looking people who are not restricted by the existing culture in Detroit. We need visionary people now with business sense to create automobiles that do not contribute to global warming.

It is time to change and our problems can facilitate our solutions. We can no longer afford to continue down Detroit's old road. The people have spoken. They do not want gas guzzlers (although they still like big cars and trucks). It is possible to build large long-range vehicles that are very efficient. People will buy those vehicles because they represent real change and a solution that we can live with.

The government must take advantage of the powerful position that exists today. The Big 3 are looking for a bailout. They should only get it if they agree to stop building autos that contribute to global warming now. The stress on the auto manufacturers today is gigantic. In order to keep people working in their jobs and keep factories open, this plan is suggested:

The big three must reduce models to basics. a truck, an SUV, a large family sedan, an economy sedan, and a sports car. Use existing tooling.

Keep building these models to keep the workforce employed but build them without engines and transmissions. These new vehicles, called Transition Rollers, are ready for a re-power. No new tooling is required at this stage. The adapters are part of the kits described next.

At the same time as the new Transition Rollers are being built, keeping the work force working, utilize existing technology now, create re-power kits to retrofit the Transition Rollers to SCEVs (self charging electric vehicles) for long range capability up to and over 100mpg. If you don't think this technology is realistic or available, check out the Progressive Insurance Automotive X prize. Alternatively, check out or other examples.

A bailed out Auto manufacturer must open or re-purpose one or more factories and dedicate them to do the re-power/retrofit assembly. These factories would focus on re-powering the Transition Rollers into SCEVs but could also retrofit and re-power many existing vehicles to SCEVs. These existing vehicles are currently sitting unsold at dealerships across America.

Auto manufacturers taking advantage of a government bailout must only sell clean and green vehicles that do not contribute to global warming. No more internal combustion engines that run exclusively on fossil fuels can be sold period.

No Big Three excuses like "new tooling takes time". New tooling is not a requirement for SCEV transition rollers.

Build only new vehicles that attain the goal of reversing global warming and enhancing National Security.

Government legislation going with the bailout should include tax breaks for purchasers of these cars with the new green SCEV technology. The legislation accompanying the bailout of major auto manufacturers must include directives to build only vehicles that attain the goal of reversing global warming while enhancing National security, and provide the financial assistance to make manufacturing these cars affordable in the short term while the industry re-stabilizes.

Eventually the SCEV technology could be built into every new car and truck as it is being assembled and the stop gap plan described above would have completed its job of keeping America building and working through this turbulent time.

Detroit has had a long time to adapt to the new world and now the failure of Detroit's actions is costing us all. We pay the bailout. Let's make a good deal for the future of America and the Planet. Companies like UQM (Colorado) and others build great electric motors right here in the USA. Use these domestic electric motors. Put these people to work now. This plan reverses the flow from negative to positive because people need and will buy clean and green cars to be part of World Change. Unique wheel covers will identify these cars on the road so that others can see the great example a new car owner is making. People want America to win!

This plan addresses the issue of Global warming from our automobiles while enhancing our National Security and keeping Detroit working.

Neil Young and Johnathan Goodwin: getting it done, making it happen.

Pragmatically. Alternatively.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Pragmatic Alternative is . . .

. . . President Barack Obama.

Many have commented on it by now, but the point that most resonated with us here at the PA was this one:

" The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works -- whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end."

Obama continued: "And those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account -- to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day -- because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.

Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control -- and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous.

The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our Gross Domestic Product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart -- not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good."

Obama also reminded us of the eternal verities, of the age of wisdom:

"Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends -- hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism -- these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths.

What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility -- a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.

This is the price and the promise of citizenship. . . ."

Few Americans today, with money tight and markets uncertain, with our world in seismic spasm, and our steps tentative in response, can deny the need to adopt as pragmatic an approach as possible to the many challenges we face, both at home and abroad; as a nation one among many, and also as the nation which first and still holds these truths to be self-evident: "that all are created equal . . . [and] are endowed by their Creator with . . . unalienable rights . . . Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness."

And the honor of the Pursuit of Responsibility.

Here's to you, President Obama.

Here's to all of us, working together.


"Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations."


Wednesday, January 7, 2009

You should know this about me . . .

Whole albums on my iPod:

Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs, Derek and the Dominoes, 1970

Eat a Peach, The Allman Brothers Band, 1972

Europe '72, Grateful Dead, 1972

Wake of the Flood, Grateful Dead, 1973

The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle, Bruce Springsteen, 1974

Katy Lied, Steely Dan, 1975

Station to Station, David Bowie, 1976

I know what you're thinking: What happened to '71?

Every Picture Tells a Story . . .

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

No post today . . .

. . . going to sleep. Please re-read yesterday's.

Or just go to Bruce Mau's Incomplete Manifesto.

Night . . .

Monday, January 5, 2009

Bruce Mau's "Incomplete Manifesto for Change"

Fascinating guidelines for the creative soul.

Found through tracking back from Seth's Blog to Social Hallucinations by Daria Radota Rasmussen to John Moore's Brand Autopsy, from which this excerpt is gratefully reprinted.

Collect 'em all!

And here's a link to an ETR YouTube video featuring managing editorSuzanne Richardson.

Remember kids: Show, DON'T tell.

Your teachers will thank you.

And when you're not taking remedial writing for no credit freshman year, you'll thank yourself.

So paint that gambrell-roofed red barn with sturdy silo, crash those cymbals--and symbols, smell the ocean tang, run your hand the length of that cat's tail, and feel that lemon make your mouth water.

Show, don't tell.

Beyond Thinking Different to Doing Different
Electronically reprinting Bruce Mau's Incomplete Manifesto for Change has become a New Year's tradition on Brand Autopsy. Enjoy all over again ...

Originally posted on December 31, 2004

Bruce Mau, a designer, thinker, articulator, and massive change provocateur, has a lot of ideas on a lot of things. His Incomplete Manifesto for Change is a list, an incomplete one at that, of 43 ideas to get you beyond thinking differently but doing differently. As 2008 turns to 2009, the message of doing differently is one we should all heed. Enjoy.


An Incomplete Manifesto for Growth
Author: Bruce Mau (1998)

1. Allow events to change you. You have to be willing to grow. Growth is different from something that happens to you. You produce it. You live it. The prerequisites for growth: the openness to experience events and the willingness to be changed by them.

2. Forget about good. Good is a known quantity. Good is what we all agree on. Growth is not necessarily good. Growth is an exploration of unlit recesses that may or may not yield to our research. As long as you stick to good you’ll never have real growth.

3. Process is more important than outcome. When the outcome drives the process we will only ever go to where we’ve already been. If process drives outcome we may not know where we’re going, but we will know we want to be there.

4. Love your experiments (as you would an ugly child). Joy is the engine of growth. Exploit the liberty in casting your work as beautiful experiments, iterations, attempts, trials, and errors. Take the long view and allow yourself the fun of failure every day.

5. Go deep. The deeper you go the more likely you will discover something of value.

6. Capture accidents. The wrong answer is the right answer in search of a different question. Collect wrong answers as part of the process. Ask different questions.

7. Study. A studio is a place of study. Use the necessity of production as an excuse to study. Everyone will benefit.

8. Drift. Allow yourself to wander aimlessly. Explore adjacencies. Lack judgment. Postpone criticism.

9. Begin anywhere. John Cage tells us that not knowing where to begin is a common form of paralysis. His advice: begin anywhere.

10. Everyone is a leader. Growth happens. Whenever it does, allow it to emerge. Learn to follow when it makes sense. Let anyone lead.

11. Harvest ideas. Edit applications. Ideas need a dynamic, fluid, generous environment to sustain life. Applications, on the other hand, benefit from critical rigor. Produce a high ratio of ideas to applications.

12. Keep moving. The market and its operations have a tendency to reinforce success. Resist it. Allow failure and migration to be part of your practice.

13. Slow down. Desynchronize from standard time frames and surprising opportunities may present themselves.

14. Don’t be cool. Cool is conservative fear dressed in black. Free yourself from limits of this sort.

15. Ask stupid questions. Growth is fueled by desire and innocence. Assess the answer, not the question. Imagine learning throughout your life at the rate of an infant.

16. Collaborate. The space between people working together is filled with conflict, friction, strife, exhilaration, delight, and vast creative potential.

17. ——————————. Intentionally left blank. Allow space for the ideas you haven’t had yet, and for the ideas of others.

18. Stay up late. Strange things happen when you’ve gone too far, been up too long, worked too hard, and you’re separated from the rest of the world.

19. Work the metaphor. Every object has the capacity to stand for something other than what is apparent. Work on what it stands for.

20. Be careful to take risks. Time is genetic. Today is the child of yesterday and the parent of tomorrow. The work you produce today will create your future.

21. Repeat yourself. If you like it, do it again. If you don’t like it, do it again.

22. Make your own tools. Hybridize your tools in order to build unique things. Even simple tools that are your own can yield entirely new avenues of exploration. Remember, tools amplify our capacities, so even a small tool can make a big difference.

23. Stand on someone’s shoulders. You can travel farther carried on the accomplishments of those who came before you. And the view is so much better.

24. Avoid software. The problem with software is that everyone has it.

25. Don’t clean your desk. You might find something in the morning that you can’t see tonight.

26. Don’t enter awards competitions. Just don’t. It’s not good for you.

27. Read only left-hand pages. Marshall McLuhan did this. By decreasing the amount of information, we leave room for what he called our “noodle.”

28. Make new words. Expand the lexicon. The new conditions demand a new way of thinking. The thinking demands new forms of expression. The expression generates new conditions.

29. Think with your mind. Forget technology. Creativity is not device-dependent.

30. Organization = Liberty. Real innovation in design, or any other field, happens in context. That context is usually some form of cooperatively managed enterprise. Frank Gehry, for instance, is only able to realize Bilbao because his studio can deliver it on budget. The myth of a split between “creatives” and “suits” is what Leonard Cohen calls a 'charming artifact of the past.'

31. Don’t borrow money. Once again, Frank Gehry’s advice. By maintaining financial control, we maintain creative control. It’s not exactly rocket science, but it’s surprising how hard it is to maintain this discipline, and how many have failed.

32. Listen carefully. Every collaborator who enters our orbit brings with him or her a world more strange and complex than any we could ever hope to imagine. By listening to the details and the subtlety of their needs, desires, or ambitions, we fold their world onto our own. Neither party will ever be the same.

33. Take field trips. The bandwidth of the world is greater than that of your TV set, or the Internet, or even a totally immersive, interactive, dynamically rendered, object-oriented, real-time, computer graphic–simulated environment.

34. Make mistakes faster. This isn’t my idea — I borrowed it. I think it belongs to Andy Grove.

35. Imitate. Don’t be shy about it. Try to get as close as you can. You’ll never get all the way, and the separation might be truly remarkable. We have only to look to Richard Hamilton and his version of Marcel Duchamp’s large glass to see how rich, discredited, and underused imitation is as a technique.

36. Scat. When you forget the words, do what Ella did: make up something else … but not words.

37. Break it, stretch it, bend it, crush it, crack it, fold it.

38. Explore the other edge. Great liberty exists when we avoid trying to run with the technological pack. We can’t find the leading edge because it’s trampled underfoot. Try using old-tech equipment made obsolete by an economic cycle but still rich with potential.

39. Coffee breaks, cab rides, green rooms. Real growth often happens outside of where we intend it to, in the interstitial spaces — what Dr. Seuss calls “the waiting place.” Hans Ulrich Obrist once organized a science and art conference with all of the infrastructure of a conference — the parties, chats, lunches, airport arrivals — but with no actual conference. Apparently it was hugely successful and spawned many ongoing collaborations.

40. Avoid fields. Jump fences. Disciplinary boundaries and regulatory regimes are attempts to control the wilding of creative life. They are often understandable efforts to order what are manifold, complex, evolutionary processes. Our job is to jump the fences and cross the fields.

41. Laugh. People visiting the studio often comment on how much we laugh. Since I’ve become aware of this, I use it as a barometer of how comfortably we are expressing ourselves.

42. Remember. Growth is only possible as a product of history. Without memory, innovation is merely novelty. History gives growth a direction. But a memory is never perfect. Every memory is a degraded or composite image of a previous moment or event. That’s what makes us aware of its quality as a past and not a present. It means that every memory is new, a partial construct different from its source, and, as such, a potential for growth itself.

43. Power to the people. Play can only happen when people feel they have control over their lives. We can’t be free agents if we’re not free.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

"Early to bed, early to rise . . ."

. . . makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise."

Words I find it hard to live by. I'm more of an "as long as I can sleep from 4 to 7 am, all will be fine," kind of guy.

But Ben Franklin said those words, and Michael Masterson, entrepreneur extraordinaire, has taken them to heart.

About 8 years ago, he started the online ezine, which is only part of what it is, Early to Rise, based on the (once very familiar) Franklin aphorism.

ETR as Masterson and we subscribers refer to it, is full of good advice on beginning a business venture, investing, maintaining health, and Hey kids! there's even a "Word of the Day" for you vocabulary fans!

Recommended for anyone who wants practical insights into business success, especially sales, marketing, speaking and writing.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

How to Read . . .

Reading. Pretty simple really.

See the letters.

Say their sounds.

Sound letters, sound!

That's it. That's all there is to it.

So how come we all don't score 800 on the SAT Critical Reading?

Well, there is that small issue of vocabulary. If you don't know the meaning of a word, you're not sure of what the sentence says. If you don't know the meaning of several words, well, there's less meaning still.

But beyond simple vocabulary, the thing to keep in mind is: What do you know going into the reading? What in the reading connects to what you already know?

Dr. Mortimer J. Adler, author of How to Read a Book, discusses how to read a difficult book in this excerpt.


by Mortimer J. Adler, Ph.D

Dear Dr. Adler,

To tell you the truth, I find the so-called great books very difficult to read. I am willing to take your word for it that they are great. But how am I to appreciate the them if they are too hard for me to read? Can you give me some helpful hints on how to read a hard book?

THE MOST IMPORTANT RULE about reading is one that I have told my great books seminars again and again: In reading a difficult book for the first time, read the book through without stopping. Pay attention to what you can understand, and don't be stopped by what you can't immediately grasp on this way. Read the book through undeterred by the paragraphs, footnotes, arguments, and references that escape you. If you stop at any of these stumbling blocks, if you let yourself get stalled, you are lost. In most cases you won't be able to puzzle the thing out by sticking to it. You have better chance of understanding it on a second reading, but that requires you to read the book through for the first time.

This is the most practical method I know to break the crust of a book, to get the feel and general sense of it, and to come to terms with its structure as quickly and as easily as possible. The longer you delay in getting some sense of the over-all plan of a book, the longer you are in understanding it. You simply must have some grasp of the whole before you can see the parts in their true perspective -- or often in any perspective at all.

Shakespeare was spoiled for generations of high-school students who were forced to go through Julius Caesar, Hamlet, or Macbeth scene by scene, to look up all the words that were new to them, and to study all the scholarly footnotes. As a result, they never actually read the play. Instead they were dragged through it, bit by bit, over a period of many weeks. By the time they got to the end of the play, they had surely forgotten the beginning. They should have been encouraged to read the play in one sitting. Only then would they have understood enough of it to make it possible for them to understand more.

What you understand by reading a book through to the end -- even if it is only fifty per cent or less will help you later in making the additional effort to go back to places you passed by on your first reading. Actually you will be proceeding like any traveler in unknown parts. Having been over the terrain once, you will be able to explore it again from points you could not have known about before. You will be less likely to mistake the side roads for the main highway. You won't be deceived by the shadows at high noon because you will remember how they looked at sunset.And the mental map you have fashioned will show better how the valleys and mountains are all part of one landscape.

There is nothing magical about a first quick reading. It cannot work wonders and should certainly never be thought of as a substitute for the careful reading that a good book deserves. But a first quick reading makes the careful study much easier.

This practice helps you to keep alert in going at a book. How many times have you daydreamed your way through pages and pages only to wake up with no idea of the ground you have been over? That can't help happening if you let yourself drift passively through a book. No one even understands much that way. You must have a way of getting a general thread to hold onto.

A good reader is active in his efforts to understand. Any book is a problem, a puzzle. The reader's attitude is that of a detective looking for clues to its basic ideas and alert for anything that will make them clearer. The rule about a first quick reading helps to sustain this attitude. If you follow it, you will be surprised how much time you will save, how much more you will grasp, and how much easier it will be.

The same applies to a shorter piece. Whether you know the words or not, whether you know a lot about the subject or not, read it through once thoroughly, then go back and re-read it.

Good reading is re-reading.

Friday, January 2, 2009


I've had this posted on the wall of my bedroom for a few years now, but it dates to about 1990, and survives as one of the many scraps of paper I haven't thrown away yet.

Found the added lines in an online thread.

I love the dueling anaphora of infinitive phrases.

Live the life you love.

To laugh is to risk appearing the fool.
To weep is to risk appearing sentimental.
To reach out to another is to risk involvement.
To explore feelings is to risk exposing our true self.
To place your ideas, your dreams before the crowd is to risk loss.
To love is to risk not being loved in return.
To live is to risk dying.
To hope is to risk despair.
To try at all is to risk failure.
But to risk we must,
Because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.
The man, the woman, who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing, is nothing.
One may avoid suffering and sorrow, but one cannot learn, feel, change, grow or love.
Chained by certitudes, one is a slave who has forfeited freedom.
Only one who risks is free.

A simple "Thank You!" . . .

. . . to Barbara J. Winter, writer/teacher/entrepreneur amply noted in the inaugural posting to this blog.

Or maybe not so amply noted. Because it's been three weeks since I've mentioned her.

Barbara responded to my first posting with a lot of support and
a link from her post, "Email worth reading" to Taking My Own Advice.


So, thanks again to Barbara J. Winter for her empowering notion of Making A Living Without A Job.

In it, Barbara says, "For the few who are passionate in their work, that passion is basic to their emotional well-being--and to their financial success."

The few, the proud, the passionate, the pragmatic alternatives!

Finding meaningful work . . .

At its core, meaningful work is helping people. Penelope Trunk 9/29/08

1. Make sure you can take care of yourself first. If you're not healthy, provided for reasonably sane, you're not much good to anyone else. And as mentioned at the top everybody else is why you're here.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Riffing . . .

Nothing changes on New Year's Day -- U2

Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose. (The more things change, the more they stay the same). -- Alphonse Karr, Les Guepes 1849

If we don't change, we don't grow. If we don't grow, we aren't really living.
Gail Sheehy

If you're not doing it everyday, you're not doing it. -- The Book of Hep, 4/8/82

Thought for the Year:

Today the Internet democratizes authority, and people are judged not by their age or experience but by the quality of what they have to say.

Penelope Trunk 11/29/07