Infographic: Get More Out Of Google

I love infographics.  They make me happy.  They make life easier.

And google, well google is one of those things you think you know how to use, but there’s always new, fun stuff to discover.  I kind of knew you could search on a specific site, via google, but wasn’t doing it quite right – now I know how.

Google scholar is a complete boon for my middle-schooler, soon to be high-schooler.  No more wikipedia first, but never admitting that you really used it as a source.  And I confess, I didn’t know you could use it as a converter – I always used my desktop widget for that.  Which I really like.  A lot.  But say I’m at the library, or on a computer that doesn’t have widgets (gasp), using google to just do the quick conversion rather than looking for a converter is jolly convenient.

As for the keyboard shortcuts, the two screenshot options are fabby.  In fact, I am going to use that now to insert what I mean right into this post….

That is all.  Glad something made me happy today!


TO THE SOURCE: Infographic: Get More Out Of Google | HackCollege.

Steven Cohen: We Need Decentralized and Renewable Energy

It’s funny how the idea of thinking of centralized economy is a complete anathema to the right and even to many in the middle and slight left in the United States.  And yet we have a completely centralized energy economy and there is huge resistance to decentralizing it.  Steven Cohen, ED of Columbia’s Earth Institute lays this out so cogently.  Below is straight from his article – emphasis is all mine.  These are just a few paragraphs from a longer article.  The link is at the end.

  • The very real dangers of climate change are a warning that we need to begin the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy. The trick is doing this while the worldwide consumption of energy continues to grow at a ferocious pace. The other trick is to convince companies that have billions of dollars in sunk costs in the current energy system to stop lobbying against renewable energy and start investing in it.
  • Communities, households and businesses must be encouraged via the tax code to become energy generators. There is of course a precedent for such a massive government intervention in the private market place. It is called home ownership. In 1940, 43.6% of all American Households owned their own homes. By 1960 that had reached 61.9%. This was made possible by making mortgage interest tax deductible and by government-backed mortgage insurance. Yes, I know that during the past two decades we made huge mistakes in housing finance and policy that led to the massive foreclosures of the last several years. That still does not mean that the basic policy of facilitating home ownership was a mistake. We need similar policy creativity to increase the percentage of people generating energy from renewable sources.
  • As the rest of the economy moves away from capital-intensive, highly-centralized production facilities, we need to do the same with energy. As we take that step, let’s also replace our dependence on fossil fuels with renewable forms of energy. Let’s increase government spending on the basic science and R & D needed to develop the breakthrough technologies needed for the transition off of fossil fuels.


TO THE SOURCE: Steven Cohen: We Need Decentralized and Renewable Energy.

Easiest Way to Reduce Your Environmental Footprint? Eat.

Yeah right.  Eating will reduce your environmental footprint?  Really?  What about all the noise about how much water and carbon it takes to make a hamburger, a fish fillet or even a salad for that matter.  Well here’s the rub.  Eating as a way to reduce your footprint means you are not throwing food away.  Let’s face it, eating a little less is probably a good idea for an awful lot of us.  But wasting less is a good idea for every one.  Dana Gunder from NRDC details some shocking numbers in her blog (as always, the emphasis is mine).

  • The average family of four in the U.S. throws away $175 of food per month.  In fact,  around 40% of edible food (not counting peels, bones, etc) in the US gets thrown away.  Beyond the financial cost, the environmental implications are staggering when you consider all the water,  fertilizer and pesticide that went into growing that food.  Consider the following estimates of resources dedicated to food that never gets eaten:

25% of all freshwater
4% of all US oil consumption
$90 billion in losses to the US economy (over $40 billion from households)
$750 million a year just to dispose of the food
31 million tons of landfill waste

Holy cow.  $175 a month?  At over $2 grand a year (yes, I do math every now and again), that’s sounding like a pretty sweet vacation to me.  Or donation to your local environment group.  Or deposit into your kids’ college fund.

As with so many things, this waste is part of a bigger systemic issue.  Some of it is lost in the supply chain.  The upside is that because of the financial cost of that, food suppliers are always trying to improve this and of course, the more you buy local, the less of a problem this is.  But inside our own kitchens, it becomes a social issue.  Families have 2 working parents who don’t have time to keep a constant catalog of what’s in the fridge at the top of their mental agenda; people have lost the art of cooking and the knowledge of  how to use leftovers to make a delicious meal, not something your kids will complain about — I’m thinkin’ chicken soup after that pre-roasted bird you bought on five buck cluck Thursdays down at the market.  But you have to know how to make the soup.  You have to know what veggies keep and what go bad quickly, how to shop wisely to make it all last through a week so it’s not all just a wilted mess by Friday that you end up throwing away because you didn’t have time to cook it on Tuesday.  And it’s also a question of ridiculous, changed social relationship with food.  We look at the package and use someone else’s definition of what’s “ok” to determine if we can eat it (I’m talking about sell-by dates here).  If you’re so removed from your food that you can’t use your eyes and nose to tell if that broccoli is OK, or the milk or cheese or ham for that matter, you’re probably going to chuck it if you’re just not sure (ok, ok, I’m like that with chicken, but that’s ’cause it’s chicken).  But if the cheese has a little white bit on the edge, for goodness sakes, cut that bit off, give it to the dog, or the cat or the chickens, or just chuck it.  But don’t chuck the whole thing.  It makes a difference.  It really does.  Go back and re-read those bullet points.  That’s a lot of natural resources consumed for something you didn’t consume.

Easiest Way to Reduce Your Environmental Footprint? Eat. | Dana Gunders’s Blog | Switchboard, from NRDC.

How Google is Making the Climate War Worse

Ok peeps.  Here’s something to try.  Search on Climate Change.  GO; now; do it in a separate tab and come back.  It’s OK.  I’ll wait…..

What were the results like?  Did you get lots of links to articles by climate sceptics?  Or did you find links to the EPA, some NGOs doing climate related campaigning, maybe the IPCC, some scientific sites.  Did you see both….I’m guessing no.   Turns out, because google is so dang smart, it is predicting what we want to hear and gives you the results you want to see.  Of course, if you’re looking for a new guitar and google cleverly knows that the last time you went on-line you were looking at Spanish acoustic guitar music, when you google guitars, it’s going to direct you to classical guitar sites first, not electric guitars designed for playing heavy metal.  Great.  Time saving.  Clever.  But with something as contentious (in the US anyway) as climate change, this isn’t such a good thing.  It ends up fueling what’s known as confirmation bias (a tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms one’s preconceptions).  And this just

Susan Kraemer on Matter Networks talks about the downside of the prediction malarkey.

Google tries very hard to please you by finding you more stuff just like the other stuff you clicked on last time. That is the essence of google’s great cleverness. But that very brilliance is becoming more and more damaging to the shared view out to an objective fact-based world.

If you’re a Fox News watcher, you are getting your daily diet of scepticism about the veracity of climate change, conspiracty theories that environmentalists are trying to hijack our economy by providing green jobs for their own and putting the rest of “good, hardworking Americans” on the sidelines.  If you’re an NPR listener, you are getting your (in my opionion, more balanced) daily diet of news confirming worse and worse news about climate change, more and more commentators and interviewees talking about the need to re-tool the economy away from its carbon addiction.  But for both listeners, when you go to google to check out something you heard, do a little research or just find more articles on a particular topic, the results of your google search are based on what you’ve searched and clicked on in the past, so are by definition skewed towards what you already think you know based on your past internet searches and activities. Kraemer continues:

So if last time you looked up climate change and chose to open something by, say, Marc Morano, then Senator Inhofe, and then the Drudge Report, which would all poo-poo climate change, google thinks, “oh, this moron likes denier news about climate change,” and next time, more of its top suggestions for your search will be skewed even further to the right.

As you keep heading further into la-la land, Google is there, holding your hand, assuring you that indeed, this is the objective, google-able truth. Two people with different search histories get two entirely different sets of google “facts” for the identical search terms.

I do wonder if you clear your cache, delete all your cookies and start over, what would happen to the results.  Of course, that’s not a realistic approach and no doubt google has some fancy way of scraping my entire disc and history elsewhere on social media, so who knows if something as simple as that would actually work. I haven’t figured it out yet.  If I do, I’ll let you know.  But here’s a thought to end with:

Google has become like a good but unobtrusive butler, that always obsequiously aims to please, by always giving you more and more of what you liked last time. Ultimately, as a result, we are now all living in what we believe to be the objective, self-evidently google-able truth. And we are not.

TO THE SOURCE: How Google is Making the Climate War Worse