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Randy Smith
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A new startup is finding a way to grow crops indoors economically in the context of our current supply chain infrastructure, and with more tasty and nutritious varieties than are currently available through that infrastructure. Several things are coming together to let them do this, including substantial drops in the cost of LED lights, machine learning for placement of towers and lamps, and vertical planting allowing use of gravity to distribute water rather than pumps. The dense production (much much more produce per ft^2 than farms) allowing them to put production centers very convenient to grocery distribution centers, getting the produce to groceries much faster. That in term allows them to use varietals that are optimized for taste and nutrition instead of shelf stability (and just getting them to stores faster improves the nutrition). And being indoors means that they can minimize pests to the point where they can control them with ladybugs, avoiding pesticides.

I think there are a lot of implications to this, many positive, some disturbing.
+ It sounds like this is riding several technology curves (LED light, machine learning, IoT), so it's only going to get more efficient.
+ It's all technology all the time (the plants roots aren't even in dirt, but a plastic growth medium made from recycled bottles), which may give it an "eww!" factor, but I suspect does produce nutritious, clean plants.
+ As it evolves, this technique could substantially raise the carrying capacity of the planet, which is good because AIUI convention farming with fertilizers depletes the soil and I've been concerned that'll take us to a place where we suddenly have no ability to feed the people on the planet.
+ However, the same result means we'll have less incentive to get a handle on our population growth. (Though simply getting countries through the demographic transition to wealthy societies will help here.)
+ And the same thing gives us much less incentive to take care of the environment.

So: Modified rapture?? :-} :-J

https://www.fastcompany.com/40420610/has-this-silicon-valley-startup-finally-nailed-the-indoor-farming-model

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This is a wonderfully hopeful thing to see if you spend time thinking about the root causes of political dysfunction in this country and what to do about it. A reasonably objective way to measure how gerrymandered districts are that can feed into judicial oversight (apparently, gerrymandering is illegal--who knew? :-J) sounds like an excellent tool. If anyone knows of groups that are specifically working on challenging gerrymandering using tools like this, let me know--I'd like to support them.

+Lori Kenschaft for neat concept and possible future charitable donations.

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This ... wasn't what I expected, so I think it's worth publicizing since I suspect it wasn't what other people had expected either. I'm really curious about what motivation is claimed or ascribed as this unfolds further.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/israeli-man-19-arrested-in-connection-with-threats-against-jewish-community-centers-in-us-other-nations/2017/03/23/15123300-0fcb-11e7-9d5a-a83e627dc120_story.html?utm_term=.9b40d1f9e735

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I'd like to recommend this article as a more honest, less mealy-mouthed "Try to understand both sides" article than most others I've seen. One of my reactions to this past election is to be so horrified by Trump as to transfer that horror onto the people who voted for him, and I certainly get it when others do that explicitly and vocally. But nothing and no one human (or American) is alien to me, there are reasons with which I can empathize why people might have voted for Trump, and if we survive him we're going to need to find a way to come together as a country afterwards. And that means understanding the pain of "the other side" and trying to find common ground (without either normalizing horrible things or compromising values). I think it's possible. And I think this article is a gesture in the direction of how to do it.

For those who have read Scalzi: He's not particularly snarky or cutting in this article; he's not compromising either, but he is empathetic. It might be worth a read, if only for a guide to how one can be principled, horrified by Trump, and still be clear on the goodness of many of the people who voted for him.

http://www.latimes.com/books/jacketcopy/la-ca-jc-scalzi-bubbles-20170316-story.html

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An interesting article on how the fading of religious attendance (and presumably faith) on both left and right in American politics is correlated with dissatisfaction, populism, and ever more vicious politics. It discusses how this relates to Trump, the alt-right, the Black Live Matter movement, and Bernie Sanders.

A couple of quotes:

“Trump does best among evangelicals with one key trait: They don’t really go to church.”

"Research shows that evangelicals who don’t regularly attend church are less hostile to gay people than those who do. But they’re more hostile to African Americans, Latinos, and Muslims."

"While white Democrats who went to religious services at least once a week backed Clinton by 26 points, according to an April 2016 PRRI survey, white Democrats who rarely attended services backed Sanders by 13 points."

'In his book Twilight of the Elites, the MSNBC host Chris Hayes divides American politics between “institutionalists,” who believe in preserving and adapting the political and economic system, and “insurrectionists,” who believe it’s rotten to the core. The 2016 election represents an extraordinary shift in power from the former to the latter.' [On both left and right sides of the spectrum.]

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/04/breaking-faith/517785/?utm_source=twb

+Ed Kenschaft: This relates to the questions we've discussed about evangelicals supporting Trump (though not to why evangelical leaders do). +Lori Kenschaft: Recommended.

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I swung by Burdicks this morning as I often do, and they had this review quoted outside. My immediate reaction was "Gotta try the other ten!" :-}

I'm a little surprised they didn't have Chocolate (Santa Cruz) on it, though.

https://www.zagat.com/b/11-must-try-hot-chocolates-around-the-u.s



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Interesting historical perspective on curbing wealth inequality. It argues that (at least in the past) the only thing that's corrected large income disparities is some catastrophe (epidemics, world wars, violent revolution, etc). The rich have more to lose in such circumstances, and do.

This is basically Thomas Piketty's argument; the power that money gives the rich allows them to bias the game in their favor and gain a larger proportion of the available resources.

Depressing as all get-out for our long-term future, though.

https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2017/02/scheidel-great-leveler-inequality-violence/517164/

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Oh, this makes me sad. His was a wonderful voice, for clear presentation of facts, a deeper understanding of the world, and how both of those things could lead to optimism about some of our biggest challenges.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-38900572


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One item checked off the bucket list--I have seen lava flowing into the ocean off Kalapana, HI.

(It may not be obvious from the video or picture that that orange arch is liquid. And flowing. And something like 2000 deg F :-}.)


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2/8/17
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An opportunity to do some good while being supportive instead of oppositional.

(ETA: I have no objection to opposing what needs opposing, it just drains the spirt, and I thought this would be a nice change.)

#FightTrumpTuesday: An easy one today. Starbucks has pledged to hire 10,000 refugees! And they are getting a pile of shit about it as hateful assholes call to tell them how much they suck. Give voice to the good guys -- call to say thank you! 800-782-7282! (Script if you need it: "I just wanted to say thank you for pledging to hire refugees. It's good to see a company stand up for American values.") Thanks to +R. Eric Reuss for the tip. http://www.forbes.com/sites/barbarathau/2017/01/30/starbucks-to-hire-10000-refugees-in-latest-expression-of-conscious-capitalism/#725efa28622c
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