Right In the Thick of the Carbon

SciAm on a (depressing) report ranking the top 100 U.S. metropolitan areas in terms of amount of carbon emissions. The part that really startled me (emphasis added):

The residents of Lexington, Ky., Indianapolis and Cincinnati emit the most greenhouse gases—nearly 2.5 times as much carbon on a per capita basis as their peers at the top of the list with smaller footprints. But these cities have the added burden of being major regional transportation hubs; in other words, their per capita emissions burden is skewed upward by the freight needs of the rest of the country, according to senior research analyst Andrea Sarzynski at Brookings (based in Washington, D.C., ranked 89th).

Rounding out the bottom 10 biggest emitters per capita are: Knoxville, Tenn., Harrisburg, Pa., Oklahoma City, St. Louis, Nashville, Louisville, Ky., and Toledo, Ohio.

No.s 4 and 8, here in TN. One of my first thoughts on what these cities might have in common is that they are all widespread cities in which cars are the dominant means of transportation (that is: almost no bikes, walking, mass transit, etc.) – not that this is by any means uncommon in the U.S. Perhaps this is the silver lining around $4/gal. gasoline?

The Pheonix Has Landed

NASA had put the odds at around 50% of having a successful landing near the North Pole of Mars. Their track record of Mars missions thus far wasn’t even that high (55% of missions had been lost). However, with amazing successes like the two rovers who have simply kept going, that coin-toss of chance seemed okay.

Today, after what was described as an excruciating seven minute time of decent, NASA reported a successful landing. What’s more, they even have the photos to show for it.

Pheonix Lander Foot

Congratulations to the University of Arizona and NASA teams. Everyone is looking forward to some more great science from this mission.

IPMT – IP Movie Theater

From Wired.com’s review of the Roku set-top box for streaming Netflix films:

[The] Roku Netflix Set Top Box is Just Shy of Totally Amazing… The score below is balanced between the ease of use and quality of the hardware, and the dearth of content available. If every piece of media in the Netflix catalog were streamable, this would be a 10 for sure.

They do mention a few other drawbacks (not the least of which is that it is not terribly attractive). However, it’s a good price point for existing Netflix users. I’ve noticed that Netflix is adding quite a bit to their “Watch Now” section, though I rarely use it as you cannot directly watch anything on a Mac. I’m not ready to get rid of DVD’s just yet, but I do think we just got one step closer to the goal of real IPTV. As far as the Roku goes, it looks like it’s getting positive reviews across the board.

Web Two Point Wha?

I think Wired’s epicenter blog needs to clarify one of today’s posts a bit:

Big Payday for Web 2.0The biggest web deal announced today was CBS’ plan to buy CNET, one of the last independent online content companies, for $1.8 billion, or $11.50 per share. The valuation represents a healthy 45 percent premium over yesterday’s closing price, and it’s a couple hundred million dollars more than the $1.6 billion CNET spent on its ZDNet acquisition eight years ago.

Let’s be clear: CNET (formerly C|Net, as I recall) is considered Web 2.0? As in the same CNET Central I used to watch Richard Hart, Gina St. John, Ryan Seacrest, and John C. Dvorak on back in 1997? I just don’t see CNET as being anything other than Web 1.0. Period. They are still a professional journalist-driven site, even they allow a few user comments here-and-there. There’s no social aspect to the site to speak of. Just because it was a big acquisition of a mostly internet/tech company doesn’t make it fall into the latest buzzword space. You’d think Betsy Schiffman, and Wired, would know better than to just throw around hip labels without thinking. To be fair, the article also mentions Comcast’s acquisition of Plaxo (which has me a bit concerned about the privacy of my friends and family) but clearly is focusing on the big-dollar deal of the day, here. It appears a better title would have been "Web 1.0 finally paying off."

Convert Text to iTunes Audiobook

Since I’ve been all about listening to audiobooks lately (actually, for the past year – just more recently of the fantasy genre), this link was pretty timely. Using some of the integrated Apple services and some scripting, macOSXhints user miketyson put together a Service in OS X to simply convert highlighted text to an Audiobook and add to the iTunes library. I gave it a try with a webpage in Safari (the Speech → Start speaking text service doesn’t work in Firefox) and the result was pretty easy to listen to. The new Alex voice in 10.5 helps, though I don’t know if I could listen to an entire book this way. However, it’d be perfect for those longer New Yorker (and the like) articles I never seem to have time to read. It would certainly be nice to have this Service automatically switch the AAC encoding to “Spoken Podcast” instead of having to switch to iTunes and change the setting manually. I’ll inevitably forget to switch it back and end up with some really awful sounding music files, no doubt.