21 December 2012

A New Holiday Classic

And a shameless self-promotional plug...

A couple years ago my friend Michael Gruber invited me over to co-write a tune. We had a title and imagined ourselves writing a new Christmas classic. Somehow the session devolved into playing Foosball, drinking beer, and spinning vinyl. But we did eventually find our way to writing a folk gospel holiday song; a look at the nativity scene from the wisemen's perspective. Let the angel chorus proclaim Hallelujah!

Last year we got around to recording a four part harmony rendition, with some guitar, bass, and percussion. At that point, we thought we'd had our say.

This year, Michael added some more drums and percussion, slide guitar, organ, piano and mandolin samples.  An epiphany indeed! A 2012

The result is now available on CdBaby.com. If you're willing to drop a couple e-bucks you can download a copy to add to your favorite Holiday Playlist.  Can you dig it?!


Happy Holidays and a very Happy New Year!

17 December 2012

Creative Confidence

The recent post about 5 factors to help you be more creative, from John Cleese, as posted by Maria Popova on her brilliant Brain Pickings twitter feed ( @brainpicker ), is great.

I especially liked #4: Confidence (“Nothing will stop you being creative so effectively as the fear of making a mistake.”)

I know exactly what this means. Like many people; I have had more opportunities slip past me for fear of trying than for having tried and failed.

As Benjamin Mee would say: “Sometimes all you need is 20 seconds of insane courage, and I promise you something great will come of it.”

Okay, so, let's go ahead and give that a try.

05 December 2012

Promoting Place through Local Investment

An interesting article from the Energy Bulletin promoting the idea that local investment enriches a sense of place for citizens and the community.

03 December 2012

Bioenergy, Place, and Communication Power

We covered so much ground at the recent Bioenergy Futures workshop that it is hard to summarize. There were "scribes" attending and note-taking throughout the meeting who will contribute their notes to an eventual white paper summarizing the three-day workshop. I look forward to that. In the meantime, however, I offer a few thoughts... incomplete as they may be.

Sustainable bioenergy (bioE) is a robust topic. What is sustainbility? What is bioenergy? Where does the development of bioE fit within the larger picture of energy consumption worldwide? At what scale is it appropriate to think about bioE as related to other non-fossil-fuel energy (wind, solar, wave, etc.)? These are all questions that came up repeatedly among this diverse group of about 50 participants with backgrounds from sociology and law to physical and natural sciences to university extension and industry.

In some ways, all energy (like all politics) is local. When we flip on the lightswitch at home, we expect that a light comes on. But what about people who have no electricity? There are millions in the world without regular or even any steady supply of electricity. Who speaks for those disenfranchised voices and how do the elements of power play out in the politics of energy production and consumption?  If there seems to be more questions than answers here, you're right. From a roomfull of (mostly) academics, questions were often met with more questions rather than solid answers. But progress was made.

Macro- and micro-scale differences must be taken into account when discussing energy systems, that much is clear. It is difficult to effectively communication about a topic as big as energy across these scales, however. Generally, pick one "level" and stick with it. When the dialogue changes, adjust the assumptions about scale, from local to global. There are many assumptions taken for granted and most conversations would be better served if basic assumptions were laid bare at the outset.

There is the general "public" consisting of many mini-publics. These segments of the population change across cultures and subcultures and, with that change, may come various understandings (and meanings) associated with different language use or context. An ongoing effort to recognize these differences is helpful. Scale and audience are two primary 'agreements' that need to be acknowledged before moving into any in-depth dialogue, no matter what the new technology may be. What I mean by that is know who you're audience is and be specific and transparent about what level or scale is being addressed.

Bioenergy, as a set of new technologies trying to loosen the death-grip of carbon-based fossil fuels, is still a topic (or set of topics) where public opinion is forming. I mentioned this is the previous post. When uncertainty is high and opinions still forming, normative information can be part of a powerful feedback loop. What do the experts think? How do communities (rural and urban) view project development? How does the energy history of an area (of failure, resistance, and/or success) influence short- and long-term perceptions of risk and/or benefits? Who controls the dialogue and how much public participation is expected or desired? New energy developments need to take these questions into account in order to avoid what seem like common pitfalls.

One metaphor for sustainability is a three-legged stool consisting of social, environmental, and economic concerns. These are the "Three P's" of People, Planet and Profits that must be included in any sustainable outcome. When mass media frames come into being, such as the "food vs. fuel" dichotomy of the corn ethanol debate, conversations get oversimiplified into either-or dualities. This is not productive. The food vs. fuel 'thing' is an adequate question to raise but an oversimplification where other potential parts of the conversation get left out.

It takes a village to generate success. The value of group gatherings such as the Bioenergy Futures workshop is that the multiple strands of conversation included topics that were much different (given the different professional lenses avaiable) than the conversation that would have happened if it were "just" social scientists or "just" economists or "just" natural scientists, etc.. As mentioned above, the multiple conversations will be synthesized into an informative white paper (meaning, more-or-less, an academic paper but one not published in a peer-reviewed journal). It will be interesting to see how these ideas develop and bear fruit in the coming year.

Questions/comments on my scattershot recap?  Leave a comment... let the dialogue continue.