Subscribe via RSS Feed Connect on Google Plus Connect on Flickr

Elon Musk and the Quest for a Fantastic Future

Wednesday, 13 May, 2015 0 Comments

Coming next week: Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance, a technology writer for Bloomberg Businessweek based in Palo Alto. From the Amazon blurb:

“Written with exclusive access to Musk, his family and friends, the book traces the entrepreneur’s journey from a rough upbringing in South Africa to the pinnacle of the global business world. Vance spent more than 30 hours in conversation with Musk and interviewed close to 300 people to tell the tumultuous stories of Musk’s world-changing companies: PayPal, Tesla Motors, SpaceX and SolarCity, and to characterize a man who has renewed American industry and sparked new levels of innovation while making plenty of enemies along the way.”

While we wait for delivery, Tim Urban of Wait But Why is conducing a series of interviews with Musk. The first post is titled: Elon Musk: The World’s Raddest Man.

Talking about delivery, yesterday Musk tweeted: “It is total BS & hurtful to claim that I told a guy to miss his child’s birth just to attend a company meeting. I would never do that.”

This was in response to the publication by the Washington Post of a list of the 22 most memorable quotes from the Vance book. #6. “My mentality is that of a samurai. I would rather commit seppuku than fail.” But the WaPo adds: “Update, May 12: Since publication of this article Musk has said he has never called himself a samurai.”

Musk, the visionary and perfectionist, has been busy on Twitter disputing his supposed quotes and preparing the pre-publication battleground: “Ashlee’s book was not independently fact-checked. Should be taken w a grain of salt.”

Salt or not, it will be taken next week here.

Elon Musk

Visca el Barça vs. mia san mia on the second screen

Tuesday, 12 May, 2015 0 Comments

A number of initiatives have been started in recent years to encourage more women to learn about computing, such as Ada Developers Academy, and Google, for its part, says it has given more than $40 million to organizations working to bring computer science education to girls. The reality, though, is that tech is still very much a man’s, man’s world and this impression was reinforced last week at the EIT Innovation Forum in Budapest, where Emanuela Zaccone was the only female nominee for the 2015 Awards.

Zaccone is the co-founder of TOK.tv, a platform that lets users chat to their friends while watching a game, such as tomorrow night’s Champions League semi-final between Juventus and Real Madrid. As it happens, the two teams are TOK.tv partners and Zaccone pitches her second screen play as a win-win for both sides as their fans, scattered around the world, can sit on the same virtual couch during a match and the clubs can monetize this engagement. And what about tonight’s Barcelona vs. Bayern Munich game, which pits the Catalan Visca el Barça against the Bavarian mia san mia cultures? Zaccone smiles. “We’re talking,” she says. The two teams are global players in every sense of the term and their joint presence on the TOK.tv platform would add considerably to its reach.

Back in 2007, when Emanuela Zaccone was working on her PhD thesis at the University of Nottingham, she had a hunch that a combination of social media streams and audio-visual content would lead to to new forms of audience participation in entertainment. She was right. From her vantage point in Rome today and in her role as Social Media Strategist at TOK.tv, she’s proving that a woman can transform a man’s game.

Emanuela Zaccone

The Innovation Prize for Africa Awards

Monday, 11 May, 2015 0 Comments

Tomorrow and on Wednesday, The Innovation Prize for Africa Awards ceremony will be held in Skhirat, Morocco. A record 925 applications from 41 countries were submitted and the jury has whittled the list down to 10 nominees. Marc Arthur Zang from Cameroon is one of the finalists and his idea will be of particular interest to Mrs Rainy Day and her colleagues in cardiology:

The cardio-pad: “An affordable tablet that records and processes the patient’s ECG (heart signal) before transferring it to a remote station using mobile phone networks. The device can be used in village hospital and clinic settings in the absence of a cardiologist. ECG results can be downloaded on a tablet by the cardiologist. The examination is then interpreted using cardio-pad’s computer-assisted diagnostic embedded application, then results and prescription transmitted to the nurse performing the procedure. This will ensure effective monitoring of heart patients living in rural areas with limited or no access to cardiologists.”

For Jean Claude Bastos de Morais, founder of the African Innovation Foundation, the key word is ecosystem. “Innovation thrives when people are connected, and when they are connected ecosystems are born,” he writes. IPA “By supporting innovation ecosystems, we collectively contribute to building African innovation economies. I believe it’s achievable (and I’d go as far as to say in the very near future), if African leaders, business communities and investors can take a step back, observe the strengths and gaps particular to their nation or region, and then accordingly mobilize knowledge, expertise and funds where required.”

Leap Before You Look

Sunday, 10 May, 2015 0 Comments

The proverb “Look before you leap” was first recorded in John Heywood’s A dialogue conteinyng the nomber in effect of all the prouerbes in the Englishe tongue, published in 1546. Some believe that it originated in the wisdom of checking a fence before jumping over it on horseback, but others say it expresses an ancient warning about rashly rushing into marriage.

W. H. Auden turned the proverb on its head 75 years ago and urged readers to experience all that life has to offer instead of worrying about every possible outcome. Danger is everywhere: “Our dream of safety has to disappear.” The best place to be is in the present says Auden. If “tough minded men” have no problem breaking silly “by-laws” that any “fool can keep”, why should the rest of us live in fear?

Leap Before You Look

The sense of danger must not disappear:
The way is certainly both short and steep,
However gradual it looks from here;
Look if you like, but you will have to leap.

Tough-minded men get mushy in their sleep
And break the by-laws any fool can keep;
It is not the convention but the fear
That has a tendency to disappear.

The worried efforts of the busy heap,
The dirt, the imprecision, and the beer
Produce a few smart wisecracks every year;
Laugh if you can, but you will have to leap.

The clothes that are considered right to wear
Will not be either sensible or cheap,
So long as we consent to live like sheep
And never mention those who disappear.

Much can be said for social savoir-faire,
But to rejoice when no one else is there
Is even harder than it is to weep;
No one is watching, but you have to leap.

A solitude ten thousand fathoms deep
Sustains the bed on which we lie, my dear:
Although I love you, you will have to leap;
Our dream of safety has to disappear.

W. H. Auden

Vienna, World

Saturday, 9 May, 2015 0 Comments

A recent stop in Vienna during a train journey to Budapest led to time spent looking at local newspapers, which in turn led to the news that Austrian guitarist and singer Wolfgang Muthspiel has released an album titled Vienna, World. It was written and recorded with the help of a global group of musicians in locations as diverse as Buenos Aires, New York City, Tibro in Sweden and, naturally, Vienna.

Vienna

The high towers of Buda and Pest

Friday, 8 May, 2015 0 Comments

“When I was at High School my favourite pastime was walking. Or rather, loitering. If we are talking about my adolescence, it’s the more accurate word. Systematically, one by one, I explored all the districts of Pest. I relished the special atmosphere of every quarter and every street. Even now I can still find the same delight in houses that I did then. In this respect I’ve never grown up. Houses have so much to say to me. For me, they are what Nature used to be to the poets — or rather, what the poets thought of as Nature.

Keleti

But best of all I loved the Castle Hill District of Buda. I never tired of its ancient streets. Even in those days old things attracted me more than new ones. For me the deepest truth was found only in things suffused with the lives of many generations, which hold the past as permanently as mason Kelemen’s wife buried in the high tower of Deva.” — Antal Szerb

Buda and Pest

Innovation in Budapest

Thursday, 7 May, 2015 0 Comments

“Innovation is the specific instrument of entrepreneurship,” said Peter Drucker. “It’s the act that endows resources with a new capacity to create wealth.” When Drucker was born in 1909 in Vienna, it was one half of the twin-city capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire; Budapest was the other half. Today, Vienna and Budapest are united in a global competition that will decide which cities are capitals of the empire of the innovative.

Photo: Viktória Katona of Connected Healthcare Solutions presenting at the EIT Innovation Forum in Budapest.

Viktória Katona

Big porridge

Wednesday, 6 May, 2015 1 Comment

The Irish milling company Flahavan’s has been run by the Flahavan family since 1785 in Kilmacthomas, County Waterford. Oatmeal became popular in the 18th century when it was mixed with whiskey as a cure for the common cold and it was around this time that oatmeal porridge became a regular breakfast dish. Note: Oats are a source of vitamin B1 (thiamin), which is crucial for the nervous system.

How to make porridge: Put 50g of oatmeal in a saucepan, pour in milk or water and add a sprinkle of salt. Bring to the boil and simmer for 4-5 minutes, stirring from time to time. Serve in a bowl and add your preferred topping.

Oats

Francesco in fiction and in fact

Tuesday, 5 May, 2015 0 Comments

The Vicar of Christ A novel called The Vicar of Christ spent 13 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list In 1979. It was written by Walter F. Murphy, a Princeton legal scholar, and its protagonist was an unusual man named Declan Walsh — an American war hero, a United States Supreme Court justice, and then, following an affair and the untimely death of his wife, a monk — who is elected Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church by a deadlocked papal conclave in Rome.

The new broom sweeps famously clean and the new pope loses no time in dusting down the the Vatican. He launches a global campaign against hunger, paid for by the sale of Church treasures. He intervenes in global conflicts, flying to Tel Aviv at one point during an Arab terror campaign. He proclaims a plan to reverse Church teachings on celibacy and contraception, and banishes conservative cardinals to monastic exile when they plot against him. He toys with the Arian heresy, which casts doubt on the divinity of Jesus, and he embraces a Quaker-like religious pacifism, arguing that the just-war theory is out of date in an age of nuclear weapons. It is this last move that gets him assassinated.

In Walter F. Murphy’s novel, Declan Walsh takes the name Francesco, which is the name Jorge Mario Bergoglio took on 13 March 2013, when he was elected pope. The non-fiction Francesco is quite the reformer, too.

Breakfast of Champions (calf version)

Monday, 4 May, 2015 0 Comments

While hiking in the Swiss Alps during the latter part of the 19th century, Dr. Maximilian Bircher-Benner stayed with a family who ate a simple breakfast food called “d’Spys” (Swiss German for “the dish”, in German die Speise). Inspired by the meal, he developed his own variant based on oats, dried fruits, seeds and nuts, mixed with milk or yogurt. Thus was born muesli and it became an essential part of the morning routine for patients in the Bircher-Benner clinic in Zürich, where a diet rich in fruit and vegetables was a core part of the good doctor’s nutritional therapy.

Language note: The word Müesli is an Alemannic form of Mues which means “mash-up.”

Agrarian note: Now that calves are very valuable, they need pampering and their very own calf muesli contains barley, maize, soya, peas, beans and molasses.

Calf muesli

The Cat Of The House

Sunday, 3 May, 2015 1 Comment

Cat

The Cat Of The House

Over the hearth with my ‘minishing eyes I muse; until after
the last coal dies.
Every tunnel of the mouse,
every channel of the cricket,
I have smelt,
I have felt
the secret shifting of the mouldered rafter,
and heard
every bird in the thicket.
I see
you
Nightingale up in the tree!
I, born of a race of strange things,
of deserts, great temples, great kings,
in the hot sands where the nightingale never sings!

Ford Madox Ford (1873 – 1939)