Hydrogen + Electricity = Hydricity

Geoffrey Ballard is getting the hero treatment these days for his pioneering work on the hydrogen fuel cell. His eponymous company is leading the world in practical solutions to fuel cell power generation. More recently, Ballard has joined an outfit called General Hydrogen “to fulfill his vision of a hydrogen economy,” according to the company’s web site. He’s promoting an intriguing vision of a virtuous cycle of freely convertible hydrogen and electricity. One problem with our electric grid these days is that there aren’t good “batteries” for storing up excess electrical generation capacity. For instance, windmills turn whenever the wind blows, but not necessarily when the electricity can be sold. Use that electricity to make hydrogen, and then you have the ability recover it as electricity whenever you like.

Ballard is appealing because of the methodical way he goes about solving practical commercial problems. I found a good interview with Ballard, and although you might suspect he’s green to the bone, in fact he acknowledges that if you leave oil behind, you have to fill in the deficit with nuclear power. Otherwise there just aren’t enough kilowatts to go around.

The Mailinator

Want a quick and anonymous email address at no hassle? Send a note to fizzbin@mailinator.com. Now go to the Mailinator site and enter the email address fizzbin and you’ll see the email you just sent. No password, no privacy, no problem. Any account name will work. Try it!

Mailinator was invented as a sort of tax dodge. Go to a site that gives you something for free, and it’s very likely that they’ll demand your email address so they can market to you later (that’s the tax). They’ll demand a working address by making you click through the email they send you. Mailinator avoids this problem by displaying (insecurely, by the way) any mail to anyone. And if Mailinator gets spammed as a result, well, that was the whole idea. If you always retrieve your email within an hour or so of receiving it, Mailinator can function as a perfectly reasonable free email service.

It’s hard to outsmart the web.

Newsmap

If you haven’t seen it yet, take a spin past newsmap, a news visualization program. It’s designed to take advantage of the space-dividing treemap algorithm made popular by SmartMoney’s Map of the Market. The big idea is that the amount of ink a story is getting in the national press is reflected by the amount of area dedicated to that story in newsmap interface. It’s a nice idea because we are in desperate need of landscape views of our shared information space.

Huge amounts of information won’t wreck our brains or make us babble incoherently. It’s just that we’ll be inefficient and stressed-out until we solve this problem of taking it all in. What we need is some altitude.

Aggie vs. FeedDemon

I’ve been talking up the benefits for RSS aggregation, but it’s been a while since I reconsidered my choice of aggregator. I use an old horse called Aggie. It looks like it was thrown together by a grad student, but it’s been working very well for me despite its plain appearance. Last week, someone at work was singing the praises of Nick Bradbury’s FeedDemon. It costs $30, as compared to Aggie (free) and another highly rated aggregator, SharpReader (also free). I’ve been trying FeedDemon for the past couple of days, and it is a nice piece of work. Slick-looking, and fast, it only has one problem. It’s built like a newsreader, and I hate newsreaders. Specifically, I dislike having to mark things in great big lists as having been read or not. I only want to see what’s new since the last time I ran the program. FeedDemon lets me do that, but I’m constantly having to select lots of entries and mark them as read. FeedDemon is a well-executed design built on the wrong model. Aggie is three-cylinder amateurish-looking design that is built on exactly the right user model. I haven’t seen anybody else using Aggie’s build-a-single-HTML-page approach, and I don’t know if Aggie has any staying power. I hope they do… or that someone else picks up their model. In the meantime, I’ll save myself $30.

An absurdity of animal plurals

Here’s yet another list of animal congregations, as in the query What Do You Call a Group Of…..? What I want to know is, who makes this stuff up? I mean, really, was there ever a time when people found it useful and pertinent to refer to an ostentation of peacocks? I don’t believe it.

Some people love lists like this. They will inhale sharply if you purpose to say “a bunch” of kangaroos rather than the more appropriate “mob” of same. These people will correct your grammar and then pointedly observe that they completed their taxes before Valentine’s Day this year. Last year too, in fact. Haven’t you? Of course you have.

People like this constitute a smarm of smarty-pants. Or perhaps a tedium of busy-bodies.

My theory is that some clown in the 18th century penned the phrase “exaltation of larks” and once the door was propped open, every frustrated writer with an axe to grind rushed in and tacked up his own absurd plurality. The more ridiculous the better! No one will question you! Here are some more supposedly genuine pluralities. A parliament of owls. A clowder of cats. A singular of pigs. Make up one yourself and swear that you saw it in Spenser’s Faerie Queen: A coagulation of kittens. An effluvium of eels. A lot of used car salesmen.

By the way, the list refers to an unkindness of ravens. I believe proper term is a murder of ravens. Sniff sniff.