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Thomas Edison said this on New Year’s Eve in 1879, as he turned the switch on and off to thousands of incandescent lights in his Menlo Park lab.

In a way his prediction came true, in the sense that, at least in America and the advanced countries, candles are lighted mostly for special occasions, but by the poor as well as the rich.

How might his prediction prove relevant to our future today? For example, might we predict: “We will make electric cars so cheap to operate that only the rich will drive vehicles with internal combustion engines.”

Looking forward 20 years or less, from 1995, Bill Gates of Microsoft foresaw the computer as the ubiquitous communication device it is today. From his address to the Economic Club of Chicago, April, 1995, at the dawn of the internet age:

“Certainly within the next 20 years the impact here in the United States will be very, very dramatic…

“The first 20 years were really about creating a tool that would allow us to build documents, and it was a tool of the individual. That’s very different than the computer that came before, which was a tool of organizations. But the primary way that you got a benefit out of the tool was that you would type in your word-processing document or your spread- sheet or your database and you’d print something out; take it to a meeting. And so it was only you, working alone, that was sitting at that device.

“What I’ll talk about that comes in the next 20 years is that, rather than being a device for an individual, or even a computation device, these will turn into communication devices. And devices that are so far beyond, in terms of their presentation capability and their location capability, something like the phone is, to redefine how we reach out into the world at large…”

In the following excerpt from Jamie Malanowski’s article on, we see  the “survelliance state,” — Great Britain — gone amuck. Before you program your I-Phone to tell all your friends where you are at any given moment, give this discussion a thought.

“Instead, the cameras catch people in the act of performing the kind of infraction that Gordon Brown committed—things that are embarrassing, things that should be ignored that instead cause tons of explanation, things that everybody does. Everyone in London seems to have heard a story like the one about the university security sweep that was aimed against car thieves but instead caught two faculty members snogging in the back seat of a sedan. That was an accidental discovery, but as it turns out, local governments, armed with souped-up surveillance capabilities invested in them with new anti-terror laws, have been targeting people suspected of littering, fishing illegally, dumping, and applying to a school outside their area of eligibility. Seeking al-qaeda, we found cow-tippers. Last January, documents were revealed that suggested that the South Coast partnership, a cooperative venture between the Kent Police and the Home Office, was planning to use unmanned spy drones of the type employed in Afghanistan, in policing the population. Hey, it’s not a black helicopter, but it’s close.

“And CCTV is just the beginning; British civil libertarians have been fighting other recent Labor Party initiatives include the institution of a biometric national ID card, the creation of a national DNA database, fitting all cars with tracking devices, and instituting systems for tracking all e-mails, phone calls and internet use. The glib line often cited to justify these measures is “If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.’’ But everybody’s got something to hide. If you don’t believe me, ask Gordon Brown.”

via Gordon Brown’s Ironic Demise: Surveilled on His Own Petard – Jamie Malanowski – Topic A, Among Others – True/Slant.

Ran across MBurger yesterday, behind Michigan Avenue’s Apple Store, on Huron. This inconspicuous, tiny new spot was carved out of Tru’s former pastry room, and the customer service area is 12 by 12 with just 8 rickety seats, but a fabulous window view into Tru’s kitchen. (MBurger’s parent Tru is the fine-dining restaurant with a menu that starts at $95 and goes to the moon.)

The basic burger-plus menu reminds me of the one Dick and Mac McDonald created out of their previous bar-be-cue drive-in in 1948’s San Bernardino. I had a double burger, fries and diet coke. The bill was around $8, the food served in a bag, and for a burger guy like me (retired McDonald’s VP), it was great. Juicy burgers, nice chopped lettuce and a soft bun. Fries were super shoestrings, thinner than McDonald’s, hot and tasty, like the fries you get with an authentic steak frite. Check out their menu at their simple website — I hear they will set up a nice street-side al fresco dining area when it warms up. The small staff is grown-up and friendly.

MBurger won’t be the next McDonald’s, but I’d go back. A high quality fast food burger take-out experience, with a pedigree. By the way, I didn’t buy an IPad around the corner — went online there and saw that many new IPad owners are reporting Wi-Fi connection problems. Let’s wait for the new, improved version.

Today is Albert Einstein’s birthday. He was born in Ulm, Germany (1879), and his pre-kindergarten fascination with a compass needle left an impression on him that lasted a lifetime. He liked math but hated school, dropped out, and taught himself calculus in the meantime. Einstein worked for the Swiss Patent Office in Bern, where his job was to evaluate patent applications for electromagnetic devices and determine whether the inventions described would actually work. The job wasn’t particularly demanding, and at night he would come home and pursue scientific investigations and theories.

In 1905, he wrote a paper on the Special Theory of Relativity, which is that if the speed of light is constant and if all natural laws are the same in every frame of reference, then both time and motion are relative to the observer. That same year, he published three more papers, each of which was just as revolutionary as the first, among them the paper that included his most famous equation: Emc2. E is energy, m is mass, and c stands for the velocity of light.

Einstein received the Nobel Prize in physics in 1921. He said, “The pursuit of truth and beauty is a sphere of activity in which we are permitted to remain children all our lives.”

I thought I’d add the following perspective on why man might want to go into space, which was part of the closing of my 2005 essay, “French Fried — From Monticello to the Moon,” which you can find at  Albert Einstein thought that perhaps the greatest challenge facing mankind is to “widen our circle of compassion” across both time and space. Our ethnic and geopolitical squabbling might pale into insignificance if our compassionate circles were wide enough, he reasoned.

The Eisenhower interstate system requires
that one mile in every five must be straight.
These straight sections are usable as airstrips
in times of war or other emergencies.

Toyota’s CEO Akio Toyoda gets an “A” for his efforts at credibility at yesterday’s Congressional hearing. He seemed sincere, in charge, and determined to get to the bottom of Toyota’s safety problem. His theme, a new commitment “to put our customers first” came through clearly, and was well backed with planed actions.

His remarks suggested that Toyota will begin to significantly decentralize their decision-making in key worldwide markets, much as McDonald’s did as they grew into a global brand, particularly where it affects safety and quality control. I remember from the 70s, when I was mid-America PR chief for Toyota, that big decisions often required trips by U.S. management to make their case in Japan. This slowed down decision-making, and this slow-down is part of what got Toyota in trouble in reacting to their accelerator problems.

In another departure from Japanese tradition, I think there is a good chance Mr. Toyoda will not resign over this issue, which has so damaged their reputation, but rather stay to lead reform. The company now seems to be doing all the right things, both in terms of reputation management and quality control. They are effectively utilizing both mass media (Mr. Toyoda’s good performance on the Larry King Show last night is one example) and social media (web site, Twitter, Facebook) to interact with and inform their customers and demonstrate transparency.

In QC, they are creating a new “Special Committee on Global Quality” management structure, with a senior U.S. executive to be named. But it’s not over: 1) Toyota is yet to rule out possible electronic problems in contributing to sudden acceleration (are our cars to be subject to the same troublesome glitches as our PCs?), 2) the lawsuits growing out of the debacle are just beginning and will keep the issues in the news for months, if not years, and, 3) the impacts on Toyota’s sales and competitive position, the changes in regulatory issues stemming from all this, and the impacts on Toyota’s stock, are all yet to be seen. If Toyota winds up slowing U.S. production, letting go U.S. factory and dealer employees, and having continuing QC/safety issues, their reputation could be further impacted.

As for myself, while I rented a Hertz Camry and drove in comfort and safety through 200 miles of Arizona desert last week, this week I took delivery on a new Buick Enclave (no thanks to Tiger Woods). For most of my adult life, I’ve purchased foreign cars, but a few years ago, I discovered that U.S. iron has dramatically improved in design and quality, and is very well priced. So I’m driving my second Detroit car now. Will be fascinating to see how the future of the automotive industry evolves, as demand, innovation, energy and economy — not to mention further adoption of mass transit — transform lifestyles and global markets.

Is this cool, or what?

Vegawatt — Vegawatt™ Cogeneration System

Vegawatt is a fully automated and work-flow integrated energy cogeneration (CHP) system that generates on-site electricity and hot water for foodservice operations by using the waste vegetable oil from their fryers as a fuel source.

via Kitchen Innovations.

January 2023

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