Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The most pointless blog I ever wrote...

... though, it must be said, there are some other good contenders.

But this one is to a machine. The stupid, relentless spam bot that is
ceaselessly attaching random names to and then using our
URL to fire off the tripe they are selling.

It's bad enough that some people think we have anything to do with
this (have had a few rather unpleasant 'replies', that really could
not be answered as anyone who is so thick as to believe we have
anything to do with this or uses such language is unlikely to be open
to a reasoned response) and through sheer volume and persistence on
this thing's part our name may get compromised.

God forbid it may get blacklisted, though one hopes that those who
control such things know how these things work. After all, who in
their right mind would send spams from a name like 'Junkk'!!!! Much
less have any interest in dodgy stock, enhancing manhood or whatever
else rubbish you are peddling.

But also, selfishly, I get all the bounces. And 'I'm not at the
office right now'. Or the extraordinarily polite ' I think you may be

Please, you totally wasteful bit of nonsense, stop.

There, I feel better now.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Make Sun While The Hay Shines

That title is nothing much to do with this blog, but I couldn't resist.

Nor could I avoid a small titter at the progress of a blog from Guardian, whilst attending the Hay festival (hence the slight link to the title, plus the fcat it is all about saving the planet in lots of e-ways).

Comment is free at Hay

It was just rather fun to note the number of folk who were more than a little distracted by a MacDonalds ad that graced the same pages.

I must say that I rather feel Mr. Kern would owe me the money, though.

Interesting to note the explanation that 'site editors do not control ad policy'. Is that so?

The rest jsut shows why I'm not big on having my blog be configured for replies.

You say Payola, we say 'legitimate (and legal) consumer conning extortion'

At one stage in our musical career I seriously considered trying to get a number 1. Not by actually making a good (they all were/are, I rush to add) record mind, as that would be silly. But by the simple act of giving away or buying enough singles to get into various charts such that the public thought it must be good because it was in a chart.

Another way would be to hire someone who had lunch with someone on a playlist committee I couldn't even have a hope of reaching, even if they were part of a public broadcaster.

But that was music. So it's nice to see that all's fair in, well, pretty much anything that can con the public into buying something on merits that don't really exist:£50,000 to get a book on recommended list 

I love the fact that publishers think it is getting out of hand, presumably as it is getting to the point when even they can't afford to rig it in their direction any more. And, as pointed out, it also happens on supermarket shelves, of course.

I wonder how much I would need to fork out to get a mention in the various monthly shopper mags, even when they have pieces on 'greening your home'.

Having an opinion can be hazardous to your career

With, I no longer have much to lose, so you may have noticed that I'm pretty much saying what I think. 

There was a time when I was more circumspect, if only because there were people we could benefit from working with, or for. Both, usually, involving money (see: He who pays the piper from long ago). And money to is money to the family coffers, so there really was a vested interest in not rocking the boat.

And it seems that to exist, much less thrive, in a career these days, you better no do anything that comes close to not agreeing with anyone below, besides or, good forbid, above you, or even have much by way of an opinion.

This Protect us from Billy the Offender is about the Home Office. It applies pretty much throughout every walk of life.

The mediocre have at last found a way to ensure they stay at the top of the asylum. At least the targets are being met.

Writes of Reply

The Sunday Times' essayist Simon Jenkins is the latest to weigh in on a now the issue de jour in his column Global warming might not be so bad, if we keep our cool . Of course I felt the urge to reply, not because I feel I have much more to add in these pages to the whole thing (like these commentaries, there is not much more that can be said), but in the slim hope of gaining a broader audience for our efforts by getting noticed in the more major media:

"Like you, I try to stay abreast of it all. And like you I am reeling from the sheer volume.... of it all. By which I mean that great catch-all that is global warming.

My response has been to give up worrying, at least about what is causing it, and devote myself where possible to doing as much as I can to mitigate it in my own small way, both personally and a few other outward, inclusive ones as well. 

Less ‘doom and gloom’. More ‘do and bloom’.

I must say I tend to agree with Prof. Lovelock on the issue of population growth, and have written about this a lot before. There is a finite amount of planet to live on, and off. The global population is expanding. This suggest an end-point. Most are also getting richer, and hence more land-hungry, material-acquisitive and wanderlusty, which inevitably means consumption and pollution. Which can only hurt the planet's ability to cope still further, and suggests the end-point is being brought forward exponentially 

Where I tend to diverge is in deciding that it is worth trying to do something, no matter what. And if it is unclear what that may be, then we must plug on (or rather take the thing out) and do our best while those that know better get their collective acts together.

David Attenborough’s first programme was a disappointment. I was awaiting something new and got more of the same. But I unfairly raised an eyebrow that he offered no solutions. These are to come this week. Whether they will extend beyond not driving (but, we presume, keep flying, so long as you are a naturalist or environmental journalist whose career depends on looking at bugs or talking about their demise at conferences in far-flung places) and sharing a bath remains to be seen. If the medicine doesn’t taste nice, it does not matter how eminent the advice of health professional holding the spoon, unless they have added a nice dose of sugar to it in complement.

And as with the Malthusian implications of population growth, the issue of the Asian economies is one that makes anything we do here pale into insignificance, yet warrant scant mention for all sorts of reasons. I only had to watch last night’s 'Tank Man' to grasp just we are facing, and how hard it will be to attempt to check the glory of having a turn at being rich after all they have been through. And seen us enjoy.

You rightly note we face the potent issues of trust and comprehension even on our doorstep. Just to cite to examples from your own paper, we have pretty relevant questions on the independence of our government, and a letter (chosen from how many, and for what reason? A ratings maintaining rebuke from the wind lobby perhaps?) showing that there are widely diverse views on some pretty heady issues. 

But I'm afraid I can't accept the notion that mankind’s' polluting efforts are possibly a balance for global dimming, and do feel that perhaps your warmer Northern hemisphere comment may err on the flip. Though I do tend to agree, as it does suggest we may enjoy our camping holiday in the near vicinity more than some richer,  adventurous souls who brave a storm-lashed tropical paradise, seduced by the articles and ads in the very newspaper sections that are now sanctimoniously offsetting the consequences of their correspondents traveling there.

Though they must address such global socio-economic issues such as travel, I concern myself about the international governing community cooperating on anything. Political will can only be moved by individual desire.

So I'm not sure becoming Dutch and creating more land to generate more people and their waste products is quite the answer. But certainly a bit more effort in mirroring that nation's public efforts to reduce waste certainly is. There is a lot more we can do. We are just not doing it yet. I wonder why?"

Travelin' Lite

As I am now in earnest pursuit of the day job, it looks like the Saturday Guardian will now be an addition to my weekly hard copy newspaper purchase. Actually it's not too bad, and in addition to the Media/Creative appointments pages there are a few sections that are worth the scope.

One such is Travel, which I noted from last week had gone all offset. And now at last I have had a chance to delve into soem of the more in-depth artciles. A few (well, most, it seemed) were by Leo Hickman - How could planes be less damaging?Is it OK to fly?Is the future green?  - and actually all seemed well balanced. One interesting fact in there was that the C02 per passenger in one return flight to Sydney is equal to half that generated by one person in the UK per year (I wonder if that includes the holiday to Oz?). Stick that offset in your exhaust pipe and justify it, globetrotters! 

Because even in this 'special', there were a few voices saying thyat the one thing they would not be doing is not travelling. Which I am sure comes as a huge relief to all those tourist desinations whose economies depend on us coming to see them before they are destroyed by us coming to see them.

What I am not quite sure is how well all this sits with this week's version. Now coyly branded in a discreet earpiece, they are of course now offsetting the trips. Just the journalists , mind. Who after last week's eco-edition are back to advocating that the readership barrels off as far as possible to buy stuff. I leave you with exhibit 'A': Designer China.

Aiiiiiiiyaa!, as they say in Hong Kong.

Test match

I watched a BBC 'special' called "Test The nation", which had as its theme 'How well do you know your planet'.

What was quite fun was seeing one of the 'green elite' gurus squirm a bit when challenged by the host on her flying habits, including a trip to Nigeria for a green conference. I guess that's how you get to be guru; by going to such things and being privy to stuff the rest of us are not. But then, I'm sure a lot of folk would reasonably claim that flying around is what they have to do to stay at the top of their game. Tricky dilemma. Must have been fun in the green room afterwards.

On the whole a light-hearted event, and possibly effective in its populist delivery. I'm big on entertainment and accessibility, but I have to say the whole thing came across as a bit trivial and ever-so slightly naff. Too much celebrity, too much vox-pop and not enough proactive, solution-based 'meat'.

But my kids loved it, and I gave me a chance to talk about the issues with them, so a lot better than nothing.

In the spirit of balance

The question mark at the end is key, and indicative of a slightly worrying trend in journalism these days: Climate change: Tearing the Earth apart? 

However, when a publication such as the New Scientist uses a phrase like  "the idea that climate change is linked to extreme geological events is not as far-fetched as it might sound." one needs to take notice.

I for one was quick to flick an eyebrow at those who chose to relate tectonic shifts to Humvee purchases, so it looks like I need to be more circumspect.

But really it does not matter to my... our missions, which is simply to reduce waste. I just hope we don't end up doing yet more gassing at the expnse of doing in debating this new information.

Block off the old chip

Nothing like a bank holiday to recharge the batteries. And ensure the
in-box is overflowing when it gets ignored for an extra day.

But at least I managed to grab some quality time to attack the
garden, and have it attack me, inbetween the erratic weather. Plus of
course catch up on the weekend papers.

To start, I refer to one from the Sunday Timers I cannot hyperlink
to, but as it is short it probably no consequence.

It seems Toyota Prius owners in the US (where else?) are improving
the mpg of their cars by reprogramming (chipping). And now it is
catching on here (at £1/litre, I wonder why?).

Thing is, why wouldn't the car be already tuned by the manufacturer
this way? I can only assume there must be a consequence, either in
the effect it has on the reliability or durability of the components,
or the thing now has the overtaking ability of a milk float.

But I guess 100mpg does covey a certain smugness and eco-cred when
you turn up (eventually) at parties.

Addendum: Well, if you wait long enough (in this case a few days), and answer may be forthcoming, this time courtesy of Forbes: The Frankenstein Hybrid

Sunday, May 28, 2006

This, I like - money in the bank. Staying there.

I'm not big on banks. They tend in my mind, and experience, to err on the far, bad end of 'necessary evil'. we're still smarting over being told there would be no start-up charges when we set-up our first, then finding there were, and that they had been taken without our being told to push us into unauthorised O/D, which then incurred a penalty! Plus I have yet to have any bank marketing dept. respond positively to our suggestion that while going 'carbon neutral' is dead spiffy and all, it is hardly PR we feel like covering, but would be interested if they launched something like a loan to help promote good e-practice (like a reduced rate on solar), like the car insurers have for hybrids.

Anyway, I must say that, although it has little to do with the environment (though a lot to do with waste), as a personal customer I do like the look of this Barclays banks on anti-virus deal, especially as, amazingly...  it's free! For once a win-win.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

"When life gives you lemons, make lemonade"

It would be hard not to smile at that call to arms aginst minor adversity. And be inspired by its simple, homely truth.
I have just had the following, from the MAD* show:
The Mad* Show
It is with great regret that we have to announce that the conference and exhibition scheduled to be held at Earls Court has now been cancelled.

Whilst considerable expenditure has been made in marketing the event, the take up of tickets and sponsorship has rendered the event totally unviable. Accordingly we have taken professional advice and have been advised that we should take steps to liquidate the company.

The company does not have sufficient funds to place the company into creditors’ voluntary liquidation and therefore we, as directors, have placed Field Seymour Parkes (Solicitors) in funds, to issue a petition to wind up the company. We would expect the petition to be heard in 6-8 weeks and clearly it will not be opposed.

The directors repeat their sadness at having to take this action as substantial funds have been invested into the company. Thank you to everybody who has supported us throughout the project and we hope that the little we have done could one day *make a difference.

The Directors of The Mad* Group Ltd
It is no longer postponed; it is gone, with the hopes (but, hopefully, nothing else) of many who were seeking to take part with it. The organisers have put a lot in, and lost a great deal. So, sadly, have we. After the disappointment that was the Ideal Home Show's 'Green' themed - Not - event, this was one we were looking forward to to bring our message to a wider, and more empathetic audience. Plus of course the media. I was to be a speaker, and in heavyweight company, so there was a chance to have our reuse message noted and reported.
Again, it was not to be. But exists, and has been designed to evolve no matter what. Its core structures are easily maintained and the skeletons on which the data, ideas and information can be added by the public, business and authorities firmly in place an awaiting any and all contributions.
Time to make lemonade, people! Or, as it turns out, kill weeds (though it's looking like vinegar is better).

Friday, May 26, 2006

Re:quiem for Re:pair

I love my deck shoes. For decades they have conferred sockless casual
style to my feet on demand. And despite several serious bouts of
maintenance, they just got more and more comfortable. But now I fear
they have reached the end of the long road we had been walking together.

I had hoped against hope that a repair would be possible, but even if
it had (and most artisans simply shook their heads and did the Dead
Parrot sketch from Monty Python) the price to restore an already
shaky superstructure was going to be prohibitive - costs started at
£45. And just a few doors down there was a gleaming new pair for £40.
Not as nice, but.... affordable. And so it is. All I know is that I
will be carefully picking them apart as that tough weathered leather
will have a use... someday.

Meanwhile in my garage the dead decade-old dryer rests ready for a
weekend disassembly job. £50 call-out plus unknown parts and labour
to put it right, when a new one at £150 plus 3 years' warranty means
it is simply not worth it. And now, especially with summer upon us,
my airing cupboard conversion is already churning out nice, if
crispy, dry towels and saving a big electricity bill in the process.
So it will not be replaced.

I hope to soon report a positive story in the form of an actual
repair that was still worth it. Watch the ideas page!

Lots Choice

When I wrote that headline it was just a play on words based on a faintly remembered saying. It was only when I Googled it to find out the origins that I discovered - without meaning or wishing to get all theological on this - another relevant complement to the modern environmental/commercial relationship.

There is no doubt that there are out there a lot of good people, with lots of good intentions, trying to do a lot of good. A lot.

Warming to my notion that a lot of our problems are down to the fact that there are lots of us, as a consumer who has either asked for or simply gets exposed to green-group messages I have to say I'm feeling a little overwhelmed these days, 'cos there are lots! And there I'll draw the 'lots' bit to a close.

But sadly, despite the overwhelming volunteer, not-for-profit, charitable nature of all this activity and most of the practitioners, I can't help but have a small concern about the motivations behind it all; whether there is a slight shift of concern more to paying the mortgage and locking down the pension plan at Central Office Towers.

Hence I was more than interested, and impressed, by this commentary from Grist - How I Didn't Spend My Summer Vacation - a critical examination of how the youth are used by environmental organisations.

The author poses this valid question (and provides an answer I must say seems accurate, if not attrative): "But what if a listener got so riled up by the canvasser's description of climate change, deforestation, or urban sprawl that he or she wanted to get active -- lobby! demonstrate! organize! -- rather than give money? This person might be a great public speaker, a natural organizer, or a talented artist who could contribute more value to the movement with a week of volunteering than with annual membership dues. The hastily trained canvassers would probably suggest checking out a group's website and signing up for emails, but they're not really sure -- all they've been taught to do is ask for money."

It's a good article. Worth reading. I just wish there was more of a clearer solution to take away.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Do and Bloom. Not Doom and Gloom

In today's Guardian Blog there was an interesting and well-linked piece by Matthew Weaver, entitled Naturalist wisdom, discussing Sr. David Attenborough's pitching into the climate debate.

I was moved to reply, but directly rather than on the posting site, as I seldom respond to blog/forums of this nature as I find the often frustratingly unpleasant result to be flaming 'e-scalation. Which is why I don't have a reply feature on this blog, though I am reviewing this stance. 

Another reason is that often the effort put in is poorly rewarded. While adding to a debate is Oooooo...k, if it doesn't go anywhere then all that has happened is a venting. In some blogs (like the Telegraph), your company URL can be added, which does lead to fruitful relationships and makes the investment in considered time worthwhile.

Here at least I have some blog material, with or without a reply...:

"Can't fault a thing you have read, or quoted. In fact I'm pleasantly surprised to find most of those links you have provided already reside in my files. They are now mostly under the category 'Climate Change/Global Warming', which is already sadly vast, gets added to daily... and is now gathering e-dust.

I have pretty much given up worrying about it. At least, to clarify, what is causing it.

It would be wrong to say I don't care about the causes, but I really am overwhelmed by the amount of effort going into debating this issue. It is great that media such as the Guardian, Indy and latterly BBC have and are throwing their considerable weight behind it all, but to me it is still too much talk.

Quite simply, it is clear is that something is not going in the right direction, and whether it is through the earth tilting on its axis or the collective efforts of Hummer drivers is now moot. What is surely clear is that not doing anything, especially that which we need not, really makes little sense. 

And while I think it is tee-top-triffic that Sir. David has at last weighed in on the side of the Green Elite, I am slightly saddened that it is mainly to 'raise the alarm'. My ears are already ringing!

As an organisation that champions choice, I have very much respected his stance(s), but it is telling that I even now get a sense of 'don't do as I do, but worry about what I'm telling you enough not to do it too'. And that is a hard thing to swallow as I plan our camping trip to a local site up the road (no great eco-statement... simply broke. At least we may have a nice summer here in the UK).

Especially when we are getting a ton of mixed messages from the political and economic brigade that quite frankly are at total odds with what seems to me pretty obvious.

There is a finite amount of planet to live on, and off. The global population is expanding. This suggest an end-point. 
Most are also getting richer, and hence more land-hungry, material-acquisitive and wanderlusty, which inevitably means consumption and pollution. Which can only hurt the planet's ability to cope still further, and suggests the end-point is being brought forward exponentially.

As to the details, I am not qualified to even guess. Like most, I am just an average Joe.

I want to do what I can, when I can, how I can... if not for me, but for some future generation who may thank me for at least trying when at last I knew I should, and still in hope I can make a difference.

All this big stuff is waaaay to much for me. The only thing I know is that it is a shame to waste, and seek to devote my efforts to tangible, fun (if possible) ways to avoid this waste -  of  energy, time, money and stuff. 

It simply isn't sensible to throw away that which is unused (leaving a TV on standby), can be better used (not having a low energy bulb), reused (anything on!), repaired (ditto) or recycled (cue a horde of very well-funded initiatives whose public-moving messages and ROI I often question). 

We need to get this drummed into the public's mind, and in ways they will respond to, with skilled global brand-level marketing techniques and incentives leading the charge. Any life assurer will tell you the last way you sell a policy is telling folk they are going to die. You look for end-benefits (excuse the pun) they can respond to.

I hope I am not being too idealistic in seeing merit in more 'do and bloom' rather than so much, or at least in stronger complement to, 'doom and gloom'."

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Money talking

I quite enjoy the Telegraph Business Club, and am often moved to contribute to debates. Sometimes I 'm quoted, sometimes perhaps not (one can become a tad prevalent). This was from the latest question posed (in blue, below). It does reflect a certain lack of faith in the current system, sadly:

"I know next to nothing about financial markets, and their contribution to the complex interactions that make up and are essential to driving a modern economy. I just have to presume that they are necessary, as they have been around for a heck of a long time, and an awful lot of folk are permitted to make an awful lot of money doing whatever it is they do. The best I can come up with is it all acts a 'buffer' between those making stuff and those who can help to fund them to do so. 

The thing I have had trouble getting to grips with is how all this lot get sustained when few actually make anything beyond their own salaries and bonuses.  At best most are facilitators to varying degrees of constructive processes. But from my reading of David's piece many are simply self-interested parasites actively damaging forward progress through, at best, the uncertainties created by second-guessing of their actions, or worse still by the damage that gets inflicted when these actions are taken for that 'quick buck'.

I was going to say I wouldn't mind if all this effort and money was consumed and made in the cause of skillful decisions, but without sounding like 'Citizen Smith' I must say I do. Especially when, like politicians and many business leaders, the rewards seem to flow in quickly when a lucky decision is made (or they're simply in the room when something good happens), but for some reason still get retained when they are not. At least football managers seem to reap the consequences of their positions and the decisions made whilst in them.

So to [the] question whether I think the stock exchange has become corrupted?... take that as a yes. But it's not just in this sector. I await a sense that any part of our society today has a view beyond making as much as possible tomorrow, literally,  at the expense of future considerations in the longer term."

Do you share my exasperation by the panic gripping financial markets? Stock indices are shaky, but nothing has really changed. When a company loses ten percent of its share value it does not mean it's doing ten percent less business or making ten percent less profit. It simply means City traders have taken a decision to withdraw some of their bets. 

I use the word 'bets' deliberately. Many City traders seem to know more about gambling than the real world of business. In real companies, managers take strategic decisions with a view to increasing sales and profits over a three or five year time-frame. But far too many City traders look no further than the next set of quarterly results. It is little wonder that one hears of so many companies like Marks & Spencer undertaking share buy-backs so they can get off the Stock Exchange and focus on satisfying customers rather than pleasing the packs of City lemmings. 

Not every City trader is a lemming, of course. Some wiser heads look at the bigger picture and make longer-term investment decisions. But most City traders follow the herd and scrabble around in pursuit of the latest opportunity to make a 'quick buck'.

Want proof? Look at Gizmondo Europe. This company was going to be 'the next big thing', making a hand-held computer game to rival Sony and Nintendo. It did not matter that the company bosses had dubious backgrounds. The City traders didn't care that Gizmondo was hardly selling anything, either. The market hype was loud enough for the firm to reach a market valuation of $1bn and the directors to spend £160m living the high life before the truth became apparent. Now the company is in liquidation. 

The principles of a stock exchange are totally sound, but it has become corrupted. If only investments were made to help businesses grow, rather than to help City gamblers get rich quick, the business environment would be far less volatile. What do you think?  

Now that's what I call an incentive!

Can't quote it as there is no online link, but I noticed a small
piece in The Sunday Times Driving section that More Than insurance is
offering a discount of up to 13% on insurance of hybrids.

Assuming this is a genuine deal (there is a funny trick marketing
folk can pull of bumping a price up only to discount it) this is to
be lauded as an incentive based idea.

Don't know if hybrid drivers are safer, though.

Guilt trips

Well, another question posed, another answer provided.

In a previous blog I'd noted a Sunday Times Travel piece that had
been carbon offset, and wondered whether this was a 'new and/or
unique' thing.

Well, I was reading this Saturday's Guardian, and came across their
Travel section, and the answer to the above is now 'looks like/not
any more', as it was littered with 'Non-flying' special logos, and
their own claim that 'This edition has been carbon offset.'

I was going to pounce on that, but inside it does have a piece about
how from this week on, the emissions created by writers will be offset.

It's better than nothing I guess, and digs them out of a slight hole
eyebrow-twitch-wise ( at least they noted the irony of Leo Hickman
flying to attend a summit in Geneva - I've yet to read the report so
we'll see what I have to say about what he says subsequently), but
let us not forget that we are only talking the consequences of travel
of a few individuals from one section of a major organisation, whose
jobs are to sell the joys of traveling the world to a readership in
the millions.

At least they are now setting an example, but how many will follow?

Before I do, I'd need a much better sense that this liberal guilt-
trip (currently voluntary) imposition is going where I know it's
doing some good. And I simply have no idea, because nothing so far
has been done to explain it to me in terms I can grasp and/or be
convinced by.

Dilemma Time Again!

No sooner do I write that earlier blog about ads than one comes my
way that pretty much falls into's lap!

It has everything I could hope for: lifestyle, end-benefit... and
built-in second use ideas. I count at least two. Not so sure about
the shower but the sun-lounger is actually already part of my
PEPTalkin' range.


Why... oh, why... did this proof of our concept have to be for
bottled water, especially at a time when the desalinity advocates
(see another recent blog) are making the very fair point (if missing
a counter version that the amount we drink probably pales in
comparison to all the rest of purified tap water's uses) that making
a litre of deSal is waaaaay more energy efficient to a litre of bottled.

Yet another horn to sit upon I guess.

Reduce, repair, reuse, recycle... retrograde

The news was full yesterday of plans to try desalination in the Thames Estuary to solve the South East's water shortage problem. Oddly, nothing online has so far cropped up with my usual sources to quote the spin, so I'll need to add this later as and when it comes.

It's not an easy one to call. 

But I'd say using an energy-intensive system to whack out tons of greenhouse gasses to purify water that is now scarce because of climate change is not necessarily the way to go. 

Discourage (or better encourage alternatives to) unneccesary usage, fixing the pipes, popping in reclamation systems at every point is. And stop building more and more things that simply increase demand, like vast swathes of homes, doubtless en-greened by people's golf courses. 

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

This, I like.

Oh, the joys of the internet!

I was reading my Fortune mag when I came across a small piece about something called IdleAire

I did try the magazine site for a link to the piece, but nothing obvious popped up, but entering the name got me to the one above.

Using a whopping $320 million of VC funding, they are building a nationwide system for tuckers to shut off the engines they leave on idle, and plug in to a much cheaper and more eco-way of getting what they need.

It is claimed that CO2 emissions can be cut by 32 millions tons, and US oil imports cut by 2%.

What is not to like, except it takes a private company to do it?

Google reinvents TV ads with pay-per-click video

Tue May 23, 2006 05:29 AM ET 

By Eric Auchard
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Google Inc. said on Monday the company is ready to help Web sites run video advertisements, putting the Web search leader into competition with television for the biggest chunk of ad spending.
Google is seeking to take the pay-per-click model it refined for text ads and apply the approach to video, cleaning up a nascent market where irritating splash ads distract users and limit advertisers' desire to spend money on the medium.
Google video ads first appear on Web pages as static screenshots in small television-screen like boxes. Only when a consumer clicks on the screen does the ad begin running inside the box -- instead of jumping off the page as many video ads do -- giving users control over how much or how little they view.
"We are offering a very, very non-intrusive ad product," said Gokul Rajaram, product manager for Google AdSense, which runs advertising campaigns across affiliated Web sites. "Only users who click on the ad see the video."
Google's AdSense network generates nearly half of Google's revenue, with most of the rest coming from Google's own sites.
The new "click to play" video ads complement Google's existing line-up of text, static image, banner and flash animation ads that run on the edges of Web pages of sites that use Google to deliver advertising for them. Google aims to make video advertising as simple to buy as these existing formats.
Video ads will be introduced this week, Rajaram said.
To make it easy for advertisers to use the format, Google will host video advertisements on its own computer servers instead of forcing customers to contract out with a third-party supplier as many video advertisers must now do.
Click to play video ads differ from the scattershot approach of broadcast TV advertising in that Google promises to measure the duration of how long customers, on average, watch any particular ad on a site before moving on to another page.
"It is very good for advertisers because they now know the user is engaged," Rajaram said in a phone interview.
"The targeting is more powerful than traditional broadcast TV," said Greg Sterling, an industry analyst with Sterling Market Intelligence in Berkeley, California.
For example, Sterling said one way Google plans to promote the service as a way for advertisers to test-market TV ads on the Web to determine the best ad for broadcast TV campaigns.
The Internet ad market grew 30 percent in 2005 to $12.5 billion (7 billion pounds). But that represents only 5 percent of the budget that U.S. marketers spend on all media, including newspapers, radio and TV, according to Internet Advertising Bureau data. U.S. ad spending on cable TV alone totalled $18.9 billion last year.
But analyst Safa Rashtchy of broker Piper Jaffray estimates that major advertisers in categories such as autos, finance, entertainment and consumer goods are shifting a growing amount of their spending -- 10 to 20 percent so far -- online.
Such brand name advertisers favour using richer graphical or video based elements in their advertising. This part of the market is where rival Yahoo Inc. has long dominated.
"Brand marketers will take notice. This is going to cause others like Yahoo, Microsoft and AOL to develop some of the same targeting," Sterling said.
"We will see an acceleration of video advertising from here," he predicted.

Losing the sizzle

I am beginning to feel like one of those folk featured in home video shows, where they are straddling a boat and the pier and the two are slowly con and diverging. was born, initially as a hobby riding on the back of, the creative collective of which I am part. But somewhere along the line it became the dominant call on my resources.
Well now for reasons of I must return - at least for the day job - to the fold I know better, and with luck will have enough success again to feed the family and fund The blog will continue, as will the ideas, but I guess the main areas to be curtailed will be the promotion and in-depth research. Well, the first was costing an arm and leg, and the latter is mainly well covered by other, better funded resources, so it should not detract from the site experience.
But there will always be overlaps.
Today I was reviewing the latest crop of press ads gleaned from the Sunday mags, with a view to doing 'adapts' to show how easy it would be to sell the product... and then the benefits of the packaging's second use.
And it struck me how easy my Junkk job is often made, because so many of the ads actually do show the packaging.
In many ways that struck me as odd, because the whole point is to sell the sizzle, not the sausage.
Plus it does stretch across the whole ad spectrum. I've added a couple more examples here.
One presumes these are intended to motivate the consumer, but where's the end-benefit to make me want to engage?
The branding is great, and all the copy boxes may be ticked, but really they are just so much wasted space.
And you know how I feel about waste.

I may not agree with what you say... so I won't pay any attention

Poorly recalled history time again ! Voltaire? The hero in Tale of Two Cities? Anways, one of the most impactful embodiments of the democratic ideal is the rallying cry that goes something like: 'I may not agree with what you say, but I will fight with my life for your right to say it'.

In an interesting twist, from that great defender of democracy, the USA, we have a possible new version which I have summarised above in my title, this time uttered by the President, when asked if he'll be watching Al Gore's new movie  "An Inconvenient Truth", to which he replied... 'I doubt it.

I have blogged on this before, and was about to again when I read in a recent Fortune that Steve Balmer of Microsoft had forbidden his kids to go near iPods and all things non-MSN.

I actually don't believe them, but if true, then it seems the height of stupidity to dismiss or blot out alternative or competitive viewpoints in this manner.

I for one keep intelligence on my friends close, and that on my enemies even closer still.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Listen to me. Just me. My job depends on it.

As it is a mercifully foul day (doubtless not enough to make a dent
in the reservoir levels, but certainly a boost for the garden and
enough to make me not pine for the outdoors as I potter within), I
was engaged in the rather depressing task of deconstructing the stand
we had prepared for the MAD* show.

And for something to do I had left the TV on and caught a polito-
theological programme called the 'Heaven and Earth' show. Quite

One thing that caught my attention, for obvious reasons, was a debate
sparked by a bishop somewhere saying nuclear was wrong, and mixing in
a bit of Christian faith why. The main rallying call, which I
actually liked, was that we are only borrowing the future from our
children', but there was some other stuff about 'us' being custodians
of the planet too.

And mixing it up was a guy from a Christian Ecology group (maybe the
same one that never replied to my invitation to add the eco-church
stuff to and some MP who has faith-driven affiliations
plus was pro-nuke. It was moderated by a cosy Gloria Hunniford, media-
celebrity extraordinaire (hold that thought).

The debate was pretty standard. Anti-guy made some fair points about
how we don't know what to do with the nasty lefts overs we already
have, so making more seems a poor option. The pro-guy made some
(possibly) fair points about it being the best option to avoid
further short term global warming.... if we insist of sucking juice
at the rate we are.

Cue sanctimonious 'it's more what we as individuals can do' all
round. And especially from main media person.

Well, one thing I could have done is switch off the TV. In fact I
could stop watching altogether. TV does a fair amount of sucking, by
which I mean of energy. But then what would happen to her/their
ratings, and hence her/their salaries?

So yet again, we seem to be in the zone of being exhorted to do
something by a collection of people, so long as it does not impinge
upon them.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Stick head in sand and it will go away

I just had to share this form the BBC Newsnight daily 'Watch us
tonight' email:

> Conversations with the Tax Office on the question of illegal
> immigrants have become a little surreal.
> "If a fake National Insurance number is used, do you flag it up and
> tell an employer?" we asked.
> "I'm not telling you", they said. "Is it a secret?" we asked. "I'm
> not telling you that either".
> Do we need investigative journalists on this programme or therapists?

Sadly I missed the show, but I rather suspect there was no one there
for Paxo to tear into.

As you know, I'm not that impressed with the extent or quality of
investigative journalism in the UK these days, and especially when it
comes to tenacity.

So I really hope that this is one that will not go away.

Who was this in our Public Services, paid by us, who took such a
stance? Why do they still have a job?

There is simply too much that we need to know and are allowed to
know, that can now be, and is dismissed by those responsible when it
is not convenient for them to share with us for purely personal
reasons of self-preservation.

It would make one heck of a smoothie

A bit of fun for the weekend.

I subscribe to a few rather odd 'e-wsletters, which can often prove distractions, but more often than not throw up a diamond.

One such is eatmail, who has passed on this rather hilarious, but very well done (doubtless claimed to be by some students to protect the guilty, but such things do not happen easily or come cheap) viral 'homage' to the gorgeous Sony ad.

And yes, as an advocate of not wasting, I guess I shouldn't like  nor promote this, or indeed the original. Maybe it would have been better if it had been sponsored by Innocent.

But that's the dilemma of being a creative soul; it's hard to make anything with consuming. 

Friday, May 19, 2006

Greening Your Eats

One of the many pleasures of staying abreast of all the stuff feels it should stay on top of, is making links across a series of seemingly disconnected sources.

For instance, I have been entertaining myself lately with the antics of some of our major retailers (at least, as reported), who seem to have lately decided to bathe themselves in green a lot more than before, and thus suitably washed are quite aggressive/defensive in staking their competitive claims to be first, best, most, etc.

I accept most of what follows comes from the Telegraph (it would have been more striking had it spanned a few other colour shades of media, but as a lot is pretty factual it's worth working with me on this), but you can try this - Sainsbury's wrestles with Tesco for environmental high ground from the Indy - but their links don't seem to hold up for very long.

As followers of my blog will know, I have cocked a few eyebrows at some of the claims being made in this arena, and also lamented how little they have been delved into by the mainstream enviro-media who reprint their press releases.

So first up, to set the scene from another source than myself, there's this from the Telegraph Business Club, initiated by a question: “I would like to know peoples viewpoints on the ever increasing cost of energy in the UK.”

To which an obviously well-versed chap has responded extensively, but I do pick out these words in particular: "It is fair to say that large businesses are being motivated to take proactive steps to save energy, most financially driven and little to do with their Corporate Social Responsibly standing."

Which now brings me to a few commentary pieces, firstly one from Sophie Brodie's Business Diary: Leafy Leahy refuses 'greener than thou' row, which refers to Tesco's 10-point plan to make the world a better place. This I imagine includes the '£100m investment' that so comprehensively underwhelmed me recently, but has also stirred 'a bit of a do' with Sainsbury’s Head Honcho, and then, in short order, that of Boots.

Thing is, so far pretty much all I have heard from these CEOs in this regard is stuff about improving their energy efficiencies. Bearing in mind that comment at the start, when you read Sainsbury's energy bill rises £75m, with the comforting opening line that they '... tried to calm fears that it would be forced to pass on escalating energy costs to shoppers, after its chairman suggested the company could not absorb all of its hefty fuel bills', you start to see what's what.

And to which Tom Stephenson has referred (another dodgy link, but it is accessible by link from the base of the one above) in his Business Comment: 'Passing on higher energy costs is a non-starter when you are scrapping for market share with the likes of Tesco and Asda.'

My simple observation to all this would be to ask: 'Where are the benefits to the green consumer?'.

Of course costs and profits simply get reflected in the price we pay at the checkout. But until I see much that is tangible by way of environmental initiatives that have a direct relationship to the buying public (making the store cheaper to heat or cool is great 'n all, but so what?), I really rather wish they'd stop behaving like the pols and insulting our intelligence with all these 'smoke and reflective panels' stories. They really are only about helping their bottom lines and very little about doing their genuine bit for the environment.

Addendum: I don't always follow the path laid out by Friends of the Earth, but they are without doubt sincere and can be tremendously effective. Just after I wrote this a press release came in (rather dramatically entitled 'Fight Corporate Abuse, which at first seemed extreme for self-interested greed, but on reflection is pretty fair) from them that is pertinent and does seem to point at some relevant action.

Mad* if you don't. And it looks like, for now... we won't

We have been looking forward to the Mad* Show. After a few major disappointments on the exhibition front, this seemed like the real deal. A good message. A good blend. A good audience. And I was to be a co-speaker in very good company, an illustrious crew who were likely to attract a media audience as much for what they had to say as their celebrity.
So it is with great regret, and no little frustration, that I share an email from Richard Dratton, MD of the Mad* Group, received last night:

Dear all,
I am writing to you to announce the postponement of the Mad* Show 2006.
We apologise for the short notice but we believe this is in the best interest of all concerned.
We are busy working on an alternative date and will announce this together with
our future plans within the next few days.
We would like to thank everybody for the huge support that we have received so far
and hope to continue our relationship with you into the future.
From all of us at The Mad* Group.

That's about all I know for now, though I did manage to contact their director of sales. It seems there were 'problems' with meeting the minimum exhibitor number requirements of the hall. This the same hall that managed about 6 enviro-stands out of 600 on a show (the Ideal Home) billed as 'Sustainable Living and Recycling' not so long ago. The hundred odd for Mad* would have been a wonderful focus for like-minded exhibitors and visitors to interact. A shame they could not pad it out with jacuzzis and patio heaters too.

All I can hang onto is the word 'postponed'. I can only imagine what it must be like for the organisers. But being selfish, it has thrown a major spanner into our already dented marketing efforts for the year.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

All the news that's fit. Well fit.

Doing well at the moment PR-wise.
Our little bit of radio (still figuring out how to lift that off a steam driven cassette and upload digitally) was very good, thanks in no small measure to a very nice and professional interviewer, Nicola, who put me at ease and charged around all our Junkk features seeing great ways to talk about them. She also took some video too, which will be edited and uploaded later on in the summer.
It was going to be sooner, but by coincidence the Rural Media-organised feature by the Yarrantons was posted as well the other day, and this can be seen here and viewed via here.
So we do seem to be getting our message out slowly and surely.

This... I like.

Via a variety of resources (quoting this as the earliest 'origin' I could find, outside of the creator of course), I found this.
Just wanted to share. For every ugly lamp I have with the panels bolted on, this one is just geeeorgeous and a triumph of form and function.
Thanks dude for making it. Thanks dudes for sharing it.
And Ya-Boo to the posters who are having a whinge. Right though you may be about the efficiency (or otherwise) of the design, I hadn't thought of it, hadn't seen it before now. And it is inspirational. Now, do better if you can.

Plane Crazy

I get many business newsletters, and one I do enjoy is from the Telegraph Business Club. It does have interesting articles, and often rather challenging debates, many initiated by their editor, David Sumner Smith. One of which I have pitched into. I can't seem to find a URL on their site, so I'll have to quote it in full here, followed by my reply:
"It's scary. The statistics we learnt at the Business Club seminars about the growth of the Chinese economy (for details click here) are impressive. But one can't help but wonder how the UK can compete with such an awesome pace of development. Take air travel, for example. Every time plans are made to build a new runway or extend a terminal at a British airport, it unleashes a furious debate. Environmentalists and 'Not In My Back Yard' local residents spend long enough squabbling with the airport authorities and local businesses for the minister for transport to have been replaced at least once. Fair enough. That would not be a problem if all the UK's competitors behaved in the same way. But compare that process with development in China. Over the next five years, China will spend £9.4bn to expand the three biggest international hub airports and build 48 more airports. While they are at it, China will buy 100 planes and recruit 1,000 new pilots every year until 2010. Digby Jones, director general of the CBI, points to the business benefits to British companies that are involved in the development programme. "Our idea is to get China wealthy as quickly as possible," he says, "so they can pay for all the value-added goods and services we can provide." In the short to medium term, that might be feasible. But it is only a matter of time before companies in China and elsewhere in Asia start providing those services. If the UK is going to retain its competitive position, then it will have to stop spending so much time listening to NIMBYs and environmentalists and give business its head. But is that what we want? Do we want to sacrifice our 'green and pleasant land' to compete in a race we can never win?
Yes, it is scary. The Chinese economy of course, and perhaps a few other not unrelated nor insignificant issues.
Such as air travel. As I look at the sky above Ross-on-Wye criss-crossed by contrails caused by a single flight - which I couldn't match for greenhouse gasses driving a Veyron for a lifetime with Jeremy Clarkson paragliding off the back - I do feel a slight shudder of the prospect of 50 more airports adding to the airspace race. Even if they are over the other side of the globe. Sadly jetstreams do have a habit of sharing things about evenly.
We could of course try and set a small example to get them to ignore the precedents we in the West have set and learn from our mistakes, but then again we could also simply gun the engines of commerce and see about beating them.
Trouble is, with a world of finite land and finite resources to sustain a growing population, trying to out-produce, consume and hence pollute those with whom we share a common atmosphere seems to point at a dubious end-game eventually.
I recently caught, and as it appealed quoted in my blog, the tail end of yet another academo/journalistic spat about climate warming - A Tart Counterpoint To Ibbitson's Irrelevance - and without comment on who said what to whom, why and who has had the latest laugh, would just like to share a neat analogy made that seems apt and pertinent to this topic:
[You are] flying on holiday and the plane is ½ hour out over the Atlantic. Of 150 aerospace engineers on board, 90 say that there's been a fuel leak and the plane has 40 minutes of flying time left. It's time to turn around. The other 60 say that there's no conclusive evidence of a leak and [you] should not turn around because it would inconvenience the CEOs in business class. Who [do you] listen to? The answer seems clear: You listen to the journalist who tells [you that you] should really do something about the in-flight service.

The conclusion is also worth sharing: '[The] debate is about risk, not certainty. [We] might choose to listen when more than half the experts are warning of a problem that threatens our entire species'.
I'm all for the need to compete, but maybe it's time we thought ahead a tad from the consequences to our green and pleasant land, to those that may affect our green and pleasant planet?
Today's debate about the A380 show the dilemmas faced. More passengers per plane: good for environment? Or just lowering prices and encouraging more flights? Personally I'd advocate designing greenhouse gas-free aero engines to flog to any of our Asian friends who may, like us, be unwilling to forgo travelling, but are enlightened enough to see that copying us to spite us literally will be losing the nose... and more than face.
I don't think of myself as a NIMBY, but no one does until something happens next door they don't fancy and decide to take a stand, so I guess we all are, potentially and/or eventually. And what is an environmentalist, especially when used pejoratively? I consider myself to be no more than a guest resident on this planet, and parent of future occupants, concerned about the state of the land I leave to the coming generations.

STOP PRESS: My comment has been kindly added. Looks like it may be shaping up to be an interesting debate:

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Inspirational Stuff - Mark Barthel

The other day we were going through our sign-ups, and were pleased and frustrated in equal measure to suspect that we had had a mention in Saturday's Telegraph, which of course was now well off the shelves.

I guess it is too much to ask (even though we happily inform the subjects of our editorial coverage when it happens. Why not? It's a 10 second email) that folk let us know, but it does mean we miss out on good PR to quote, and does lead us on a merry online hunt to find it if we can.

Often we are successful. This time we are not. But in searching it is is fascinating what we can stumble across. In this case a rather inspiring story about a real green lite warrior I can actually empathise with. Nice philosophy and a lot of things to 'do'.

It really does not affect what I say above, but having subsequently 'done a Google' to try and get in touch with him, I was a tad disappointed to find he really is part of our 'Green Elite', at least if he is the same guy who is a high-up in WRAP and BSI.

The hints were there, I guess, but I would have wished he was doing all this with the same level of access and resource as an average Joe. I just feel that the experiences and financing such folk share with us may not reflect reality, and could lead to disappointing experiences.


Another from (well,, Air Force Print News, C. Todd Lopez, 15 May 2006 via) Grist: The Air Force consumes more than half the fuel used by the entire U.S. government.

This one seems to be from the 'I'll save you if it kills me (and you, too)' files'. 

Answers on a postcard... er... email...

A question from the very excellent Grist:

What do they say?....: 'Where the US leads the UK follows'.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Better Red than... well, any other colour, really

Last night I watched a re-run of Sunday's Top Gear. Actually it was just one bit, when the merry trio of presenter/pranksters were handed a radio station to play with. And play they did. I don't know if it was a success or not, but the body language of some of the staff seemed to suggest that the plan may not have fired in the direction required. When the dust has settled, the next day the workers have to clear up the debris.

And so we come to today's edition of the Independent, which unless you have been locked in a box these last few days (even other media ran features), is the one with Bono editing, to borrow a nomenclature trick from Friends' episodes. It sets an interesting precedent for any other medium looking for a circulation boost.

My first mistake was not buying a copy, because I did not get the chance to pop out first thing, and once I did it had gone. Which is a good sign, because they are forking over half the revenue to the cause. Better than nothing, when all's said and done.

So I am left with today's online, and it is all a bit daunting. As, cleverly, the RED features were in, well, red, which kind of drew the eye (distracting from some top enviro bits too, try Carbon trading chaos as Brussels gets numbers wrong). And there were a fair few of them. Lots and lots. All covering some aspect of the cause. And all contributed by the A1alpha list of UK pol, comment and celebdom.

It's hard to know what to quote from (as a few were a bit SOSO), so I won't. In fact the better summary is from yesterday, which I will: A red revolution on the high street (see, I am playing along, too).

There were many bits I liked, but I am being selfish, because I get encouarged with what we are trying to do for the environment when I see stuff like: '...brings together two of the most powerful forces in the contemporary world - the appetite of consumers and the marketing intelligence of the corporate sector - to open up an entirely new front...', and: '...they wanted to do something. So we had to come up with something for them to do - something easier" ,"You need to market this like Nike.", and "We had the churches, the student campuses, the activists. But we didn't have the high street."

And the piece is further littered with direct lifts, it seems, from our Funding Proposal:

"What was needed, was not a mere spur to the social consciousness of big business, but something more structured - a new brand. And one which iconic companies would fight to join." "Only that way would we be able to bring to bear the marketing muscle and intelligence of these big companies who, above all else, know how to sell stuff". "In between are "middle- path realists" - who want to effect change without spending much money or time," "...hoping it will also attract the kind of shoppers who look for the cheapest chicken on the supermarket shelf. "...they are no more expensive than the one you were going to buy. On top of that they are products that are aspirational, cool and look good. Where's the downside?'"

"The point of RED is that it is win-win-win - consumers, corporate business and the world's poorest people all benefit."

All I can say is good luck, and why not?

But I'm afraid my passion, and what I am a bit more interested in is GREEN, which is the totality of the environment.  And I am keen to engage as much as possible with the average person in the street, and especially those who may not be slavish adherents to media hype-driven elitist icons to feel guilty about, and then satisfied with a low effort way to buy off their guilt (not that the environment is immune from a few of these).

But we have a ways to go. As one of the top organisers is quoted:  "I got a phone call the other day from someone who works for the Global Fund. She happened to be in Cardiff and saw the RED window display in Gap and went in to see the T-shirts... The woman came out of the shop in tears of joy and called me." 

Gap. Hmn. Nice she happened to have his number handy, too.