Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Role of Big Data in Health Care

In health care delivery systems, data science promises to save lives; improve quality control; reduce the price of health care; reduce hospital costs; discover efficiencies; streamline the flow of work, information, supplies and equipment; and thus, to transform healthcare as we know it. 

There is no rational argument against major reform and re-working of our old-fashioned, inefficient healthcare systems. I should know. The author is a former Registered Nurse, Nurse educator; Director of Nurses and health system/clinic board of directors member. Yes, I spent the last 35+ years in technology, but I started out in health care delivery. So just what are we looking at?

From immediate appointments without repetitive forms to decision-making based on science, not intuition or guesswork, the “big data” revolution will touch every aspect of our health care delivery system in a significant and positive manner.

"At the heart of many health care industry debates is what to do about data: how to realize its value for quality care, bending the cost curve, how to share it and how to secure it. Health care providers face significant obstacles in implementing analytics, BI tools and data warehousing. Health data is diverse and distributed in hard-to-penetrate silos owned by a multitude of stakeholders. To complicate matters, each stakeholder has different interests and business incentives while still being closely intertwined."  Institute of Health Technology Transformation
The literature reveals an early stage interest in and adoption of “data science,” often expressed as “big data,” to achieve measurable improvements in efficiency; discover bottlenecks; and extract meaningful, actionable data from the estimated 150 exabytes of data that has been generated to date in US healthcare institutions.

“Big data are high volume, high velocity and/or high variety information assets that require new forms of processing to enable enhanced decision making, insight discovery and process optimization.” Gartner Group
The initial focus of these efforts to harness the power of “big data” is around workflow monitoring and improvement; information and communication management; EMR; outcome improvements; performance improvement; QA, safety, epidemiology; trend spotting; and, waste reduction.  And billing optimization. It is disappointing to this writer that some initial efforts to leverage big date in healthcare are around billing, and not outcomes. Experts agree that this transition needs to be patient-centric: not profit-centric.

There are many, additional opportunities for leveraging big data as well, including: facilities and plant management; personnel management; and, equipment and supply management.

That’s why companies like Premier Healthcare Alliance and Explorys (an offshoot of the Cleveland Clinic) are successful in this space… in addition to recent entrants GE and an IBM/Cisco collaboration. GE just ramped-up a new HC-oriented practice and immediately hired 400 new staff. That said, there’s room for a lot more players in the major league, including regional players.

The move to "performance-based" reimbursement from traditional "fee-for-service" models is also driving the transition to big data within health care delivery systems. The federal government, in an attempt to control costs, increase transparency, and establish accountability; has mandated the capture of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) in all of the healthcare delivery environments and agencies it funds/supports. The value of KPIs to healthcare is explored in more depth in this article from the Lean Six Sigma Healthcare blog.

Why is this important?

Citing a 2011 McKinsey & Co. study,  the Institute for Health Technology Transformation (IHT2), a New York-based research and consulting firm said the U.S. healthcare industry could potentially save $300 billion a year with the help of advanced analytics, but healthcare organizations continue to struggle with managing and leveraging the vast stores of data they are building up.

By 2011, U.S. healthcare organizations had generated 150 exabytes -- that's 150 billion gigabytes -- of data, IHT2 said. Kaiser Permanente alone might have as much as 44 petabytes of patient data just from its electronic health record (EHR) system, or 4,400 times the amount of information held at the Library of Congress.  Source: http://www.informationweek.com/healthcare/clinical-systems/big-data-use-in-healthcare-needs-governa/240151395

The new firm, Analytics 2 Insight, that I co-founded with my friend and colleague Michael Davies, MBA CFA, prepared this slide deck to highlight the services we offer health care providers/systems.



Editor's Note: This is the second post in a planned series. Preliminary posts cover the basics. The first post in the series is here. More specific articles are planned to explore the details...  #BigData #Analytics #Metrics #KPIs #healthcare

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Big Data Will Change the World

After spending the last four years struggling to re-imagine and re-invent a storied video game developer, the author is taking a hiatus for the gaming software world and venturing into the emerging "big data" and "analytics" marketplace. It is an exciting journey that will be shared in this blog - with posts and updates on a regular basis. So on to the basics...

As Vince Lombardi once said: “If you’re not keeping score, you’re only practicing… not playing.” In business and institutional settings, analytics is how we keep score.


Analytics is defined as the process of analyzing statistical data to gain insight.  The depth and scope of insight to be gained is demonstrably substantial; so interest in metrics, analytics, infographics and visualization continues to grow in businesses and institutions.  In some settings, like federally-supported health care systems, moving to an analytics-based model is a mandate with looming deadlines.  In a sense, small-to-medium size businesses have some serious deadlines approaching as well.

For the most part, business executives understand the need to harness the power of “big data,” analytics and predictive analysis to stay competitive; but many have no idea where to begin, or how to transition to a data- and analytics-driven business model.  Much of the material in this post come from a Foreword that I wrote for a new e-book on the subject entitled: Analytics 2 Insight.

Quoted in a recent Forbes article, Michael Cristiani at Powerhouse Factories might have captured it best, telling Reuters that small businesses already have most of the data they need. “The world runs on data and analytics,” he said. “They’re starving for the insights.”

Analytics can be applied to identify trends, patterns, and anomalies so that businesses, institutions and agencies can lower costs; reduce risks, enhance performance and increase value through data-based decision making. 

Analytics is a powerful decision support tool, and is particularly useful to aligning strategy to business/institutional objectives. By combining statistics, operations, marketing, and financial analysis with data from internal and external sources, a better understanding of trends, patterns, and interactions can be established.  That is what insight is all about.

As Tech America Foundation's Federal Big Data Commission recently found: "Hidden in the immense volume, variety and velocity of data that is produced today is new information, facts, relationships, indicators and pointers, that either could not be practically discovered in the past, or simply did not exist before."

Analytics service engagements range from predictive and propensity modeling to sensor monitoring and anomaly detection. Analytics and “big data” are the next revolution in the digital world. Data visualization decreases time-to-insight, ensuring relevancy and magnifying actions and interventions. 

At the end of the day, it’s about collecting/capturing data, both internal and external, then analyzing the data based on key indicators so that the insight gleaned can be brought to bear on the mandates and challenges of delivering and documenting efficient, effective products and services to your customer base. This welcome trend is being driven by a combination of factors, including: competitive mandates, contractual mandates, savvy board directors and community partners.  And sometime in the not so distant future, there will be a serious price to pay for failure to comply.

Editor's Note: this is the first installment of a series of articles I have planned on the subject. So stay tuned, more to follow.  #BigData #Analytics #Metrics #NewBook #Business

Friday, September 12, 2014

What's Up With J-Pop?

So I confess, I like Puffy Ami Yumi, that ever-so-cute J-pop duo that owns the charts in Japan and has a host of adoring fans in North and South America as well. I mean, everybody’s got a cartoon these days, right? And a video game. What’s up with that music video that features the pair singing to an image of Jimmy Hendrix? I totally don’t understand it, but I want it. Here's a sample of their music.

Perhaps the most famous of recent J-pop divas, Hikki Utada, has sold over 35,000,000 albums worldwide, according to her bio on Wikipedia. Fluent in both Japanese and English, she released her very first album, Cubic U, in the U.S. Other, J-pop girl bands of note include Morning Musume, SPEED and Perfume. Solo artists of note include Kyary Pamu Pamu and Namie Amuro, a Japanese R&B singer.  On my Jpop Youtube playlist, I've got some great examples of Jpop stars & groups. I'm also very fond of Shiina Ringo and the time she spent with Tokyo Jihen. She's my personal favorite, but alas, has just retired. This is her best tune with the band. Also been listening to a bunch of "Capsule" tunes, what I'd classify as Jpop "electronica." 

Regular listeners to J-pop begin, over time, to recognize a certain similarity to a lot of the tunes. The players also seem to be regularly refreshed. I think Morning Musume has had six or seven different line-ups. It’s what my favorite Japanese pop-culture blogging maven Neomarxisme calls “the template.” Though producing mega-Dollars (actually, mega-Yen) in Japan, the world’s second largest consumer of retail music to (you guessed it) the U.S., actual sales of new music in Japan have been trending down. That’s the logical product of digital music sharing and the highest CD prices on the planet. But in the U.S., musical explorers, gamers who love Japanese graphics and anime fans are driving a modest, but reliable market for J-pop.

I really admire the “whatever” confidence and the unbridled creativity of J-pop cute. Even if there is some “templating” involved. Though I can’t quite put my finger on the magic, it works. As the sales of gazillions of dollars of merchandise will attest. But there’s more to J-pop than cute. And more ways to explore and appreciate the sub-culture than music. Fashionistas will second that.

If you’ve got NetFlix or a Blockbuster account with a good foreign section close by, dial-up Kamikaze Girls, a contemporary Japanese “chick flick” that features an irresistibly cute heroine who is absolutely obsessed with Rococo fashion. That’s Rococo. Think Marie Antoinette. Our protagonist is completely oblivious to everything and everybody around her until she accidentally hooks-up with a biker chick with tats on a café racer. That’s what I’m talking about: cute with attitude. Here's the IMDB page.

For a serious dose of J-pop attitude, check out Fruits and Fresh Fruits by Shoichi Aoki, two volumes that explore the colorful, multi-layered teen fashion of Tokyo's Harajuku district in its heyday. No text, just image-after-image of creatively dressed teens pushing all the limits.

(First posted in 2007. Edited with updates and new links in 9/14)

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Israel's Murder of Rachel Corrie - Ten Years On

It is ten years today since the brutal and unnecessary death of Rachel Corrie, an American student, at the hands of the Israel Defense Force (IDF). I am reposting this note from my blog World Impusle to mark the occasion, lest we forget. Rachel was just an idealistic girl, she could have been any of us or our children. This is the way our supposed friends treat our children. Recent reports also indicate that the Israeli authorities routinely abuse and imprison 700 Palestinian children between the age of 12 and 17 every year.


Recently, an Israeli court in Haifa found the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) innocent of any responsibility for the death of young, American peace activist Rachel Corrie. Corrie was run over and killed by a Caterpillar D9 bulldozer, just think about it... death by bulldozer, operated by a member of the IDF. According to eyewitnesses, there when it happened, she was clearly visible from the dozer. Well, not according to the IDF or the court.

It's a dark day for human rights and peace in the Middle East. Our hearts go out to the Corrie family, after their years of determined actions designed to gain some measure of closure and justice in this case. (Read more here).

I can't say I'm surprised, the IDF has a long history of finding its own members innocent of virtually every crime. Recently, an IDF participant in Operation Cast Lead - the war against the innocent in GAZA - received only 45 days of punishment for summarily executing a mother and daughter who were waving a white flag at the time (SOURCE).

Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year

Wishing everyone a happy new year. Hey 2012, called you cab... now be outta here by midnight. Good to see the old year off. Hoping it was a "bottom," and that things will look-up from here. But I'd be less than candid if I said that I had no doubts in that regard.

2012, at least for this writer, was characterized by almost medieval tragedy. The mas murders, civil wars, governments killing their own people, imprisoning artists, musicians, feminists and free-thinkers. It was not what one would call a "progressive" year where we moved the human race forward in significant ways. Indeed, it is not even possible to say we stemmed the tide of negatives; slowed global warming; or made progress toward peace and justice. Shame, that. One wonders how many more "tries" we'll be given as a species.

But in spite of the depressing realities, it is my sincere hope that all can raise a glass tonight to life itself; to Mother Earth; to the many mysteries, still unsolved; and to the indomitable spirit of our kind. We may not be as smart, or as mature as we need to be to properly steward this great gift of a planet... but we have the moment, and each other to grasp and hold. Here's to that.

Monday, November 19, 2012

It Is time To Let Israel Stand On Its Own

Editor's note:  this article was first posted in Feb. 2009 on "World Impulse," the author's foreign affairs blog. Regrettably, it is even more relevant today.


Today, Amnesty International called for the United States to end foreign aid to Israel. The Author concurs, it is time to let this wealthy, nuclear-armed nation stand on its own.

Amnesty specifically called for a US reappraisal following the extensive and disproportionate use of American weapons in the recent Gaza operation which killed and injured countless civilians. It is, in fact, very likely that American weapons were used in the commission of war crimes.  Read the article here.
The US has long been the largest arms supplier to Israel; under a current 10-year agreement negotiated by the Bush administration the US will provide $30bn (£21bn) in military aid to Israel.

"As the major supplier of weapons to Israel, the USA has a particular obligation to stop any supply that contributes to gross violations of the laws of war and of human rights," said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa programme director. "To a large extent, Israel's military offensive in Gaza was carried out with weapons, munitions and military equipment supplied by the USA and paid for with US taxpayers' money."
The Author, however, is concerned with the over $80 billion of direct aid provided since 1949. It is important to acknowledge up-front that our national interests were well served by this support during the Cold War. Times have changed, and our continuing, one-sided support of Israel is costly in the region and the Muslim world. Further, Israel has not reciprocated our support like most loyal allies. It continues to authorize illegal settlements, conduct disproportionate military operations, collectively punish innocents and occupy disputed lands. The continuous flow of American taxpayer dollars have also not prevented Israel from spying on the U.S. on multiple occasions; attacking an American Naval vessel killing 34 (image above), and harboring terrorists accused of murdering American citizens.

That has been the subject of previous posts, it it not the focus of this one - which is to pose a single question.  Should the U.S. continue to pour taxpayer dollars into Israel? First some background.
According to an October 27 Congressional Research Service (CRS) report, cumulative aid to Israel from 1949 through fiscal year (FY) 2000 was $81.38 billion. This number is too low because it omits "hidden" funds. While it includes the $1.2 billion promised to Israel in the Wye River Memorandum, the old Food for Peace program, and the current subsidy for "refugee resettlement," it omits money from the DOD budget on the grounds that those funds are for research and development projects that benefit both the United States and Israel-a questionable premise. The CRS total also excludes estimated interest on the early disbursement of aid.

The Congressional Research Service report states that from FY 1994 through FY 1998, Israel received $29 billion in waived loans. (source)
According to Wikipedia, the U.S. currently has increased its annual military aid to Israel to the whopping sum of over $3 billion. We give this to a wealthy country with nuclear weapons. Our unconditional support for Israel was cited, among several other grievances, as grounds for the 9/11 attacks. We need to protect ourselves from terrorists, but we sure need to have a smart foreign policy that demands sacrifice from our friends whom we've supported for decades and offers all parties an honest path to peace. Perhaps reassessing our military aid to the state of Israel would make that position clearer to all the players concerned.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Wealth? What Wealth?

"In 2011, the six heirs to the Walmart empire commanded wealth of almost $70 billion, which is equivalent to the wealth of the entire bottom 30 percent of US society. There has been no improvement in well-being for the typical American family for 20 years. On the other side, the top one percent of the population gets 40 percent more in one week than the bottom fifth receive in a full year. In short, we have become a divided society. America has created a marvelous economic machine, but most of the benefits have gone to the top." 

"...many of those in the financial sector got rich by economic manipulation, by deceptive and anti-competitive practices, by predatory lending. They took advantage of the poor and uninformed, as they made enormous amounts of money by preying upon these groups with predatory lending. They sold them costly mortgages and were hiding details of the fees in fine print."

Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel-prize winning economics professor at Columbia University. (Source: Der Spiegel)

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Wow. A newly released animated short created for Sigur Ros. That is all...


Seraph from Sigur Rós Valtari Mystery Films on Vimeo.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Sami People - Northern Europe's Indigenous Tribes

Music and ethno-musicology constitute about half of the content in this blog. The author has spent a lifetime exploring unique and often inaccessible musical traditions. From the Ladino music of former Spanish Jews, to the mysteries of Roma music and the joyous tunes of the Balkan states; a lot of ground, time and cultures are covered.

As readers may have learned, I am fascinated by traditional music performed by powerful women. Lately I've found some amazing tunes, and uncovered a fascinating bit of history and ethno-musicology in the process. Here's how it all got started.

I was fleshing-out the "Metal playlist" on my YouTube channel, which has ended up with primarily Scandinavian bands. That just kind of happened, and looking back...my interest was piqued. Just what was it about this music that appealed? I drilled down and realized that a lot of the music I found appealing contained elements of traditional, even folk music. In a Pagan kind of way, which made it even better.

YouTube has the added value and convenience of suggesting videos based on prior user choices. I like that and have found some awesome material by experimenting with those suggested links. I recently stumbled on Sami traditional folk music. And discovered Yoiking.

The Sami people are northern Europe's indigenous tribes. They are physically located in the northern/arctic regions of four countries: Finland, Norway, Sweden and Russia. They speak a unique language that has dialects based on tribe and geography. Sometimes called Laplanders, the Sami people were largely nomadic for centuries. They herd Raindeer.

They live in temporary, rustic dwellings - including Teepees. They are, in some ways, similar to indigenous peoples everywhere - including native Americans. They speak of "brother Bear" and "brother Eagle," they focus on the land and the seasons, live in harmony with nature and the animals. They have a long, Shamanic tradition and the power of the "northern Witches" is the subject of legends.


Back to Yoiking. Like some native american chants, Sami Yoiks are very special musical compositions - designed to "be" the thing or person that is their core subject. Yoiks are often creative vocalizations, and not words per se. A singer would not Yoik about a river, he/she would Yoik the river. So the resulting tunes are sometimes unfamiliar to modern ears, and it is necessary to get one's head around the representational nature of the art. The impact of a Yoik is not in the meaning of the lyrics, there often aren't any, it is in the IMPACT of the performance - which should take listeners to another place.  This post, from a University of Texas School of Music blog, is very detailed and definitive. A great article for those who want to dig deeper and know more.  And now, without further ado...Sofia Jannok of Sweden.




The ethereal sound of Mari Boine...

And the music of Elle Márjá Eira


You might also like:

AfroPop Music

Portugal's Fado

Spain's Musical Regions

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Corruption - It's A New Plague

I came across this point-on video recently and deemed it totally worth sharing. We need to escalate the urgency of this conversation - as we grapple with increasing evidence of endemic corruption at every level of our private and public institutions.


 
Are Your Politicians For Sale? from Political Prostitution on Vimeo.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Is The NSA Spying On American Citizens?

Just a few days ago, the proverbial feces hit the fan. Wired Magazine, in a stellar piece of investigative reporting, revealed a treasure-trove of information regarding the NSA's new Utah spy center, and the agency's secretive agreements with shadowy firms to spy on US Citizens. Uh-huh. That's right. We should all be concerned.

The story hit hard, and spread. TV News reports from small local stations all the way to national news programs highlighted the story. The US Army General responsible for the NSA felt compelled to go public with a denial. Of course, it didn't hurt that concerned congressional representative started asking direct questions. Read the Wired article. And read the General's denials here. Take note that he says quite specifically: We don't do we have sub-contracted that task out to trusted foreign allies like Israel and Singapore.that here. "Here" is the operative word. I submit that means the agency does not spy on US Citizens from US territory. Thus, the "here." In fact, there is evidence that

There are many who are quite skeptical about the General's denials. After all, it's not like the NSA has a long record of honesty when addressing Congress or the American public. It's a spy thing. So we have to rely on the judgments of others in that regard. Read what ComputerWorld had to say about the denials in this article.

Now, read about how we've outsourced the invasion of our privacy to foreign firms in this BUSINESS INSIDER article.

The Author is connected to this story, in a peripheral sort of way. During the 80's I had a chance to meet and chat with Admiral John Poindexter, the US Governments uber-geek programmer, and the conceptual architect of the TIAA (Total Information Awarness & Analysis) program that was deemed so unconstitutional by Congress that they de-funded it and sent it away. Problem is, it never really disappeared. It just went underground. I first wrote about my conversation with the Admiral years ago in THIS POST.

So you can see that in addition to Israeli firms, Singapore is also involved. Investigations reveal that THIS MAN is part of the Singaporean effort. He's an old associate of Poindexter's by the way. You remember Poindexter's TIAA, well in Singapore it's called RAHS: Risk Assessment Horizon Scanning. Snowden is an integral part of a firm called Cognitive Edge that is the architect of RAHS. From the firm's website, this vague but tantalizing description of the program.

The RAHS system is a strategic risk assessment and analysis tool, which aims to provide early alerts on potential threats to national security by building a network that links various independent government agencies throughout the Singapore government. Through the RAHS project, the government aims to identify early indicators of change, detect signals and analyze potential threat patterns which otherwise would have gone unnoticed.

Finally, here's a video piece from Amy Goodman's Democracy Today covering the story.



Update:  This just in. Stratfor emails reveal secret, widespread TrapWire surveillance system powered by Abraxas technology. Abraxas founder Richard “Hollis” Helms said his signature product“can collect information about people and vehicles that is more accurate than facial recognition, draw patterns, and do threat assessments of areas that may be under observation from terrorists.” He calls it “a proprietary technology designed to protect critical national infrastructure from a terrorist attack by detecting the pre-attack activities of the terrorist and enabling law enforcement to investigate and engage the terrorist long before an attack is executed,” and that, “The beauty of it is that we can protect an infinite number of facilities just as efficiently as we can one and we push information out to local law authorities automatically.”  The author has nothing against predictive analytics or the notion of horizon-scanning for threat detection. However I personally hold the belief that these kinds of culture-impacting decisions should be taken with full public involvement, discussion and debate. I'm not seeing that happening in this case.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Hiromi Uehara - A Musical Wonder

Recently, I've been listening a lot to Hiromi Uehara and her band. The jazz world has a new piano master, and she's really a lot of fun. Born in Japan in 1979, Uehara began her musical education at age 6 and was first introduced to jazz at age eight.  She had an opportunity to meet and perform with Chick Corea at 17, then moved to Boston to attend the prestigious Berklee College of Music. There, she met colleagues and made friends that still play with her now.  And play she does. Lots of high-profile concert appearances these days, complimented by a ton of international exposure. So what's the story with this young woman? What's the buzz all about? Just listen.




And this, with her mentor Chick Corea...

Friday, March 30, 2012

The President's Message to Planned Parenthood

I am the father of two daughters, a former RN, and a long-time feminist. I have had the privilege of serving on the board of directors of Planned Parenthood Health Services of Southwest Oregon; Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon; and, as a founding member of the Planned Parenthood Oregon PAC. During that same period, I was also a member of the state board of directors at Oregon NARAL.

One-in-four women will use the services of Planned Parenthood during the course of their lives, for all kinds of reasons related to reproductive health. Planned Parenthood counselors help millions of American women plan their families, and tend to their personal health. They provide advice, STD prevention, pregnancy testing, access to contraception, physical examinations, breast exams; and, access to safe pregnancy termination if that is the express desire of the patient.

It is important to note that almost all of Planned Parenthood's mission and programs are designed to minimize the incidence of abortion.  Huge budgets are devoted to appropriate sex education and community outreach. Education programs help kids and young adults build successful, honest relationships, avoid STDs, and deal with difficult issues like body image and peer pressure. Adult education programs teach about birth control, general healthcare, pregnancy and family planning. Planned Parenthood health centers are a safe place for candid, accurate advice on sex and sexuality. The Organization has been providing these services for over 95 years through 75 locally governed affiliates that run 800 health care centers nationwide.  More than 90 percent of care provided in these health centers is preventative, primary care - a fact that is lost on those who inaccurately characterize Planned Parenthood as an "abortion provider." The local affiliate that I helped govern, for example, did not even provide abortion services - as there were adequate resources in this medical community to address that need.

It is, however, important that when women decide to terminate a pregnancy  there are provisions made for a safe and sanitary clinical procedure conducted by a qualified physician. Especially in areas where there is a lack of service providers. History teaches us one thing. Women will take the matter into their own hands under desperate circumstances, and put their own health and well-being at risk to manage family planning. Given that certain knowledge, it is nothing short of crass, politically-driven malpractice to deny this population control over their own bodies, access to safe clinics, and the right to chose their own course based on their own values.

I have a well-known position on access to health care and patient rights, gleaned from my years in the health care delivery system. And I have a sense of what it was like before women were handed control over their own reproductive systems. A dear friend of mine suffered through a back-ally, motel-based abortion before the procedure was legal. It was a horrifying experience for her and those of us who loved and supported her. I vowed then to work to ensure that kind of often injurious illicit procedure would go away so future generations of young women wouldn't be subject to such an unnecessary, intrusive, and out-of-line experience.

I am, therefore, very gratified to hear this kind of unequivocal statement from the President of the United States. 


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A Call for Women to Rise Up

Laurie Penny writes in England's "The Independent" newspaper:
With women under attack financially, socially and sexually across the developed and developing world, with assaults on jobs, welfare, childcare, contraception and the right to choose, the time for polite conversation is over. It's time for anger. It's time for daring, direct action, big demands, big dreams. The men who still run the world from boardrooms and government offices have become too used to not being afraid of what women will do if we are attacked, used and exploited. We must make them afraid.
Intrigued? It's a great opinion piece that surely reflects the frustration of many. Read the article.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Farmer Who Beat Monsanto

I rarely include audio programs as part of this blog, but I'm making an exception for this one. It's worth a listen to hear the story of the only farmer who has actually prevailed over mega agri-giant Monsanto in a court of law.
Listen to internet radio with The Organic View on Blog Talk Radio

Monday, December 19, 2011

SAAB Automobiles RIP | 1950 - 2011


Famously born from jet fighter planes, one of the quirkiest, most geeky car companies ever gave it up today. And it was a sad thing.

Sweden's SAAB Automobiles was not, after much time and effort, capable of sustaining its business model nor putting together the kind of deal to keep the company afloat in hard times. Management was in talks with potential Chinese white knights until the last possible moment. Then it all collapsed and the world lost a great and storied auto maker.

The author adored the 1976, red turbo 99 that graced more than one driveway for almost a decade. That was one wonderful car, one of the first to deploy a turbocharger, and a joy to drive and to look at.

So sure-footed on any kind of terrain. So nimble in the turns. So freaking much fun to drive. I can't tell you how many times that car got me out of nasty, slushy snow; or how it could virtually ford small streams. When on a skiing trip to Vail, Colorado, it was not surprising to find the local constabulary equipped with SAAB police cruisers. Uh-huh. That's right.

The best SAAB memory that remains with me these many years later, is driving all day through the southern Oregon forest and finding ourselves at dusk on an unmarked timber road.  But hey, we had the SAAB. No problem.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Celtic Classics

This is the music of my ancestors. Celtic Song. From my personal Youtube channel, this playlist represents my favorites from Scotland, Ireland, Canada and the USA.

The very best place to hear true, roots Celtic music in the Western Hemisphere is at the annual Celtic Colours festival held every Oct. on Nova Scotia's Cape Breton Island.

A previous series of posts, here and here, document the author's last visit to the festival. The opening video of this playlist features the Beaton Sisters, from a legendary, Cape Breton Island family. It's families like the Beaton's the Rankin's, the MacMasters and the MacGillivray's that are keeping the sound alive and updated.

The Beaton Sisters' Celtic Colours performance below was conducted sometime after midnight on the stage of the Nova Scotia's Gaelic College - the only Gaelic-language college in the Western Hemisphere. It is traditional for most of the musicians who've performed on any day of the week-long festival to cap-off the day with a rousing late-night appearance at the College.  The second video features the very exciting 13 year old Kathleen Gorey-MacSorley. Natalie MacMaster, also from Cape Breton Island, better watch out!




In addition to selections from Celtic Colours, this extensive playlist features a wide variety of traditional and non-traditional Celtic music artists. Young Scot, Julie Fowlis and Irish diva Cara Dillion get special attention and a number of videos each - as they are personal favorites.  But traditionalists won't be disappointed with the likes of Paul Brady, Dougie MacLean, Sean Keane and others. There is no shortage of Jigs, Reels, Strathpeys and waltzes in this, 70-clip playlist. So if you love fiddle, strings, pipes and Sharon Shannon's Concertina, this is the place for you. Comments are encouraged.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Just What Is SteamPunk?

The author's latest passion is for all things "steampunk." Movies, animations, books, music and fashion - all now have steampunk sub-genres. If you love science fiction, brass, leather, fine-wood and all things mechanical, it's like being a kid in a candy store.

There have been a number of attempts to properly define the movement, and many have fallen short. Just what is steampunk?  And where did it come from?   What's up with the whole "Victorian" thing? The video below is one of the best explanations to date.


So Steampunk is a movement loosely organized around retro-science fiction and fantasy expressed through the style, materials and craftsmanship of the Victorian era. Nowhere has that fantasy world been better captured than in the radical MASKS associated with the genre.


 

Ukrainian artist Bob Basset is the most celebrated.  The author's favorite blog, Boing Boing, has done a fine job of covering Basset's work here and here.

Steampunk has definitely had an impact on fashion. The melding of fantasy Victorian with modern-day technologies - as the Victorians would have implemented them - creates an irresistible science fiction palate that is well-exploited by contemporary fashionistas.
 


 

One of the best media for Steampunk themed storytelling is animation. And the seminal animated short film in that regard (author's opinion) is "The Mysterious Explorations of Jasper Morello." A personal favorite, included below.




"A Gentleman's Duel" is another, outstanding animation - recently voted to the YouTube "recommended" list.




Finallly, Steampunk has had a profound affect on music that we're likely to see more of as this movement continues to catch on. Abney Park is the Author's personal favorite Steampunk band. They're the whole package.


When I was a boy, my father was a devoted deep-sea fisherman. He had an all-wood construction fishing boat that slept four. Among his collection of nautical instruments, he had one of those great metal and glass compasses in a wooden box with metal screws. It was mounted inside on it's own cool frame and the top of the box was lined with purple silk inscribed in gold thread. It made quiet an impression on me. He also had one of those bulky but very cool wrist compasses, with a weathered, leather strap. Steampunk makes me feel like I did then, handling his mechanical treasures. Just like I did the first time I saw Captain Nemo's fantastic ship in the early 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea film; or, watched the original Dune.