Friday, September 30, 2005

One Ben Franklin Laptop

MIT Media Lab recently launched a campaign to develop a $100 laptop with the goal being to make technology affordable and obtainable for children in the developing world.

What could 100 bucks buy you? A lot, if MIT researchers have their way.

The proposed $100 machine will be a Linux-based, full-color, full-screen laptop that will use innovative power (including wind-up) and will be able to do most everything except store huge amounts of data. These rugged laptops will be WiFi- and cell phone-enabled, and have USB ports galore. Its current specifications are: 500MHz, 1GB, 1 Megapixel.

They plan to cut down on costs by using cheaper LCD screens and trimming down the software and storage space on the machines. Their goal is to provide a laptop for every student, hence the name of the non-profit organization created to oversee the project, One Laptop Per Child (OLPC).

I really hope they are succesful. When I spent time in Tanzania and Costa Rica, it was wonderful to see so many school children at the internet cafes there, using the internet to connect with people around the world and learn computer skills that make them much better prepared for higher paying jobs in a digital workplace. However, these cafes were crowded, often featuring old technology that was unreliable - not to mention that they charge by the hour. Giving students the power to use a computer at home and in class on a daily basis would instantly impact education on a global level - not to mention the ability to connect children all over the world. Who knows how many of the world's problems might be solved by merely fostering dialogue between children of different nations, ethnicities and religions at an early age.

MIT's plan is extremely ambitious - with the goal to build 100 million laptops within two years. This is one of the most potentially impactful non-profit initiatives in the world's history - and it is extremely exciting to think about the possibilities of this program succeeding and essentially leveling the playing field between the developed and developing world.

Could the digital divide be erased in one sweeping movement?

Charles and Marie

Spear is expanding his blog empire. His latest project is called Charles and Marie, the first ever "lifestyle navigator." The site promises to offer exclusive products, honest and insightful city guides, and the latest info on happenings around the globe targeted at the discerning consumer.

A portion of the site is available by invite only - but lucky for you, you know people who know people. So if you want to check it out, just drop me an email and I'll see what I can do.

connected with the site is a new blog that is already featuring some great content.

So go scope out his new project and let me know what you think.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Respect for Saint Ex

This is a post for the locals.

Apparently Cafe Saint Ex has decided that someone must take a stand against the collar-popping epidemic that is sweeping the nation's capital.

DCist captured this message written on the chalkboard outside of the local watering hole last Friday.

And my opinion of this honorable establishment just climbed another notch.

I'm hoping next week they make sneakers mandatory to help trim down the prepster quotient a little further. And then maybe we can think about doing somehting about those striped shirts.

And the winner is . . .

Gorilla Mask is hosting their 4th annual "Web Tard" Competition - and boy is there some stiff competition this year. You may already be familiar with the "Boom goes the dynamite" guy, but have you seen the shirtless crooning of "Titanic Pimp" or the uplifting self-affirmations of "You Da Man"? You can watch them all right here - and marvel at how willing people are to embarass themselves in front of millions of people.

As you are watching this year's nominees, keep in mind the purpose of this prestigous award.

Gorilla Mask's "Annual Web Tard Competition" honors the best in traumatic, life-altering web exposures, and the award itself is designed to pay homage to one pathetic individual, but the competition as a whole also acts as an ode to the web's ability to bring us finger-pointing entertainment we never would have experienced in the pre-net days.

But how can you know where you are going unless you revisit where you've been‽ While many of you are intimately familiar with 2003's winner "Star Wars Kid" and last year's people's champ "Numa Numa", I doubt nearly as many of you have ever experienced 2002's title holder - "Aicha." Wait until about half way through the video for his dance moves - and bring a pen and a paper to take notes. Homeboy's moves are notarized bananas.

Thanks to Gorilla Mask for compiling all these great videos in one place. Long live the internet!

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Google Turns 7, PRADE Hits Slightly Less Impressive Milestone

Today is Google's 7th birthday - and boy has this little search engine been an active toddler. When I was seven I was still wearing Transformers underwear and learning how to ride a bike. Meanwhile, Google is dominating the search engine and free-mail game and pioneering a host of new technologies that will likely drastically change the internet landscape.

One of these new technologies is Google Video- a service that has high aspirations of cataloguing television programming to make all of its content searchable over the web. As a demonstration of what a great tool this can be, Google Video announced that it is making the entire pilot episode of Chris Rock's new show available to watch online. This is great news if, like me, you missed the Everybody Hates Chris premiere last Thursday but have been hearing great things about the UPN hit.

And in related celebratory news - this is PRADE's 300th post. I wasn't quite sure what I was getting myself into when I jumped on the blog bandwagon - but I've really enjoyed the experience so far. While finding time to dedicate to PRADE has been challenging, hearing positive feedback from designers whose projects I've covered and receiving compliments from other respected bloggers has been extremely encouraging. So I'll try to keep up the effort on my end as long as the PRADE public deems my little musings readable enough to keep returning to the site.

Monday, September 26, 2005


The 1960's were a time of almost unprecedented cultural and social change in America - our attitudes about race, sex, and politics underwent a dramatic upheaval as the youth in the country rebelled against the conservatism of their parents and forged its own identity.

However, one of the greatest revolutions failed to materialize. Instead, it was left behind - a remnant of a cultural change that failed to take hold. I'm speaking, of course, about the interrobang - the little punctuation mark that could.

Devised by advertising exec Mark Speckter in 1962, the interrobang seamlessly combines the inquisitive nature of the question mark and the blunt forwardness of an exclamation - making it the perfect end to that snarky rhetorical question you are asking and answering at the same time.

Who died and made Mark Speckter king of punctuation ‽ Great question/statement . . . and one that is perfect for an interrobang.

The name of the beautifully simple symbol comes from an amalgamation of the Latin "interro" for question and the printer's slang term for an exclamation point ("bang"). Unfortunately, the interrobang never caught on, and people have continued to inefficiently place their exclamation points and question marks adjacent to one another. (Why would you do that?!?!? Are you crazy‽) Apparently, it is harder than you would think to get stubborn English writer's to simplify their language - as only a small following are dedicated enough to keep the interrobang in use today. Which is bizarre considering the ubiquity of the smiley face emoticon :)

Sam from the cartoon strip The Moseying is down with the interrobang.
Shouldn't you be‽

However, I refuse to let the interrobang die. Its brilliant simplicity and uniquely American heritage make it a worthy punctuation mark to rally behind. It's capable of capturing everything from the biting accusation of "Who died and made you king‽" to the irony and sarcasm in "So, how long have you had your lips surgically fused to the boss's rectum‽" to the blatant offensiveness of "Could you be a bigger douchebag‽" Isn't that a powerful written tool‽

If you like, we can even take the argument for the interrobang to the spiritual level, as Ron Shuresa does here.

"Not unlike the relationship between the masculine and feminine is the dynamic between the slam and the query. In form no less than function, the question represents the feminine and receptive, the exclamation symbolizes the masculine and assertive. In cultures around the world and throughout history, the union of the masculine and feminine has been regarded as the sacred conjunction of the two most elemental principles. The point upon which the two pieces stand individually -- as well as dance together in the combined form of the interrobang -- represents the seed (or bindu, in Sanskrit) of the entire cosmic creation, the neutral ground upon which the duality of male and female appear."

Gripping stuff.

So I encourage all of you to integrate the interrobang into your daily writing. There is info on how to create the symbol on your computer here. And for detailed histories of this overlooked innovator of the punctuation family you can check out Shuresa's essay here and the unofficial interrobang site here.

Designer Treehouses

For the kid inside of you that always wanted a treehouse growing up, but had to settle for playing fort with the cushions from the couch.

These luxurious, modern elevated dwellings are more about the whimsical mystique of treetop living then they seem to be about eco-friendly construction - however, the possibility for both to coexist does seem possible.

Joel Sherman's AIA award-winning Steel Tree House in Lake Tahoe, CA

Marcio Kogan's BR House. Photos via Nelson Kon.

Via L+L.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Nike iDone

Spear got a chance to go to the famed Nike iD lab on 255 Elizabeth St. and create some custom kicks.

The one of a kind Spear Edition Waffle Racers have arrived and they look sick. Subtle, phlegmatic even.

While you can technically customize your own pair on the Nike iD site - they definitely hamper your creativity with only a handful of real options. But at the lab - Josh had access to hundreds of choices.

Even with the restrictions of the site though - I still think this pair I concocted online would be straight wasabi. If only I could get into the lab - Nike if you are reading this, I can be bought!!

Over The River

Christo & Jean Claude of Gates fame are already looking ahead to their next project. (Check out PRADE's EXCLUSIVE coverage of The Gates here. Seriously, no one else knew about the Gates - I was the only one who wrote about it.)

Over The River will build on their familiar formula of nature swabbed in fabric - this time suspending women fabric panels horizontally above the Arkansas River in Colorado. The flowing fabric will "follow the configuration and width of the changing course of the river," allowing visitors to experience the display from above on the high banks or below by raft or kayak. The initial renderings are stunning - the flowing fabric is ideally suited to recreate the curves and movement of the river.

Unfortunately, the project will be very temporary like their other works, installed for only two weeks sometime in July or August of 2008. As always, the duo are paying for their own installation.

You can also learn more at Christo and Jean Claude's site.

Via Archinect.

For anyone in DC there is a documentary about Christo and Jean Claude playing this weekend at the National Gallery of Art. Here are the details, courtesy of Ronson.

On the Way to "Over the River"
September 21, 22, 23, and 25 at 12:30 p.m.
September 24 at 12:30 p.m. in the East Building Small Auditorium

This new documentary by German filmmakers Wolfram and Jörg Daniel
Hissen catches Christo and Jeanne-Claude in private moments and public
interviews as they gear up for their next big project (after this
year's "The Gates"). The new venture, which they are calling "Over the
River," proposes a draping of the Arkansas River in Colorado. There are
many delightful moments, as when Chelsea Hotel manager Stanley Bard
reminisces about his old pals, carefully explaining Jeanne-Claude's
various roles, or when New York's Mayor Bloomberg expresses an obvious
passion for art. (Wolfram Hissen and Jörg Daniel Hissen, 2005, 34

Here is a direct link.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005


I got into a discussion last night about just what a cultural, technological, economic, and political Behemoth China is turning into - the pace of growth and sheer enormity of the development effort is just staggering to me.

Then it occurred to me after seeing
this post . . . China is essentially colonizing itself.


Hump Day

It is hard out here for a working stiff. Have had zero time to post, but I couldn't let it get past Wednesday without bringing anything new to the table.

So here are PRADE's rapid fire Wednesday links.

  • Pictures of miniature people inhabiting fruitscapes. Sound weird? Well it is slightly - but interesting nonetheless. Via L+L.

  • I did some digging for some friend last night to find the best iPod speaker dock. He was looking for sound quality, portability, and affordability - with little interest in fancy remotes or displays. What I found to be the best deal was Logitech's mm50 portable speakers reviewed here. I haven't tried them though, this is all internet hearsay.

  • Wondering what book you should read next? Consult this site. When I entered Cat's Cradle I was given a nice list of suggestions of books I hadn't read. However, when I entered Catch-22 (which seems like a similar book to me) it suggested Harry Potter and the DaVinci Code. So obviously the site is a work in progress - but the more you enter info about your favorite books, the better its suggestions will become (like Netflix!). Via CH.

  • Damian Marley's new album Welcome to Jamrock is currently on heavy rotation. All Night is certified monkey food. Don't take my word for it though, trust the pros. An interview with the man himself can be found here.

  • Last night at my Herpetology class at the National Zoo - I saw a feeding of a Kimodo dragon and learned all about Chameleon physiology. Check out FONZ for information about upcoming classes - they come PRADE recommended.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Audible Odyssey

One of my favorite things about good radio is how it exposes you to NEW music that you haven't heard, expanding your musical horizons and turning you on to artists you may never have discovered on your own.

Of course, commercial radio hasn't even approached this model for years. But luckily, college radio has been revived thanks to the wonderful Al Gore creation - the internet.

I just listened to 2 hours of the coolest global funk, reggae and hip hop courtesy of University of Austin's KVRX website. Every Friday from 12 - 2 PM (E) you can tune in to the Afro-boogaloo Odyssey, bringing you the best from the African diaspora. I guarantee that there are few places, even on satellite radio, where you can hear everything from Zion I to Fela Kuti, People Under the Stairs to Chico Cesar. And the best part is, I think I was only familiar with about five or six songs from the whole two hour playlist. But everything was fantastically funky and delightfully groovy. And the playlist on the site updates in real time - so you can go explore for more information about anything that catches your ear.

So consider this your invitation for a global voyage captained by your Dr. of Funkology - Thomas Fawcett. This man has traveled the globe as a musical ambassador - from dancing the robot to Andean flute music to singing James Brown in Costa Rican karaoke bars . And now he brings his vast knowledge and affinity for da funk to your eardrums.

And you can bet I'll be tuning in every Firday to boogie down to the Boogaloo.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Bombs Over Iceland

BLDBLOG has posted about one of the most interesting yet mildly disturbing environmental projects I've ever heard of - Soil Bombing.

Apparently, Iceland is trying to reverse the desertification of its barren areas by replanting it with seeds of carefully chosen plant species mixed with fertilizers selected specifically for the climate. However, their method of delivery those seeds and soil is via bomb squadron.

Yes, Iceland is currently at war with itself, so to speak. They are dropping "bombs" filled with seeds and fertilizer from a WWII DC 3 Dakota, targeting the formerly green areas of the country that have been felled and overgrazed over the centuries. The bomb sites will presumably be transformed from black sand to vibrant green foliage - returning the largest desert in Europe to its formerly green self.

Will this be a rallying cause for pacifist treehuggers everywhere? What better way to combine environmental advocacy and disarmament policy then to assign all our planes to gardening missions? Seriously though, Iceland's dedication to reversing the environmental impact its society has had on the surrounding habitat is admirable and inspirational.

Read more at the BBC and you can hear about the story via podcast right here.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Dwell Dwellings

Dwell magazine has always been a supporter of pre-fab design, but now they are putting their money where their mouth is.

Dwell has just launched a line of modern pre-fab houses in conjunction with Empyrean International LLC (formerly Deck House), Resolution: 4 Architecture, and Lazor Office. The collection of custom prefabricated homes will be sold under the banner The Dwell Homes by Empyrean.

Three initial designs will be offered, including the Resolution 4's winning design from the 2003 Dwell Home Design competition. Prices will vary based on specifics of local labor and site-specific costs, but the average cost of a 2,500 square foot Dwell Home is estimated to range between $175-$250 per square foot.

This seems like a bold move on behalf of the magazine, but I guess they were sick of writing about how the advantages of pre-fab housing were not being realized. Their commitment to the promotion of pre-fab housing can definitely no longer be questioned - now it only remains to be seen whether this alternative housing paradigm will resonate with today's buyers.

Via Inhabitat.

It's a Beautiful Hay

Saw this in a couple places and just thought the image was remarkably cheerful and striking.

This rainbow made of hay is part of "What the Hay" art contest in Utica, Montana. 49 entries made of hay currently dot the landscape along a 24 mile stretch of highway in Montana, including this piece entitled "R-Hay-N-Bow."

Stuff like this just make me happy. It's like the DC Pandamania - only with a much more stunning backdrop.

Via Modbee.

Monday, September 12, 2005


Frog Design, the company behind the Apple IIc and the Sony Trinitron TV, is now contributing a weekly feature to Gizmodo.

The subject of their first column is about why the public perceives the design of the iPod as "clean" and about consumer perceptions of design in general.

Apparently, their theory is that the starch white and shiny chrome reference traditional bathroom design - something most consumers associate with notions of cleanliness. Additionally, the seamless casing and lack of moving parts calls upon our sci-fi conventions of what advanced technology will look like.

Interesting theory - and sounds pretty spot on to me. Read the column here.

Public Service Announcement

Knowing the viral nature of the internet, I wanted to pass along this resource in case it in any way ends up getting to people who are looking for missing people following the hurricane.

The National Center of Missing & Exploited Children has set up a hotline to help people locate missing loved ones in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. There are thousands of children and adults who have been reported missing, and this is a centralized resource to help ensure that rescue workers and law enforcement officials are aware of the names and identities of those missing. If you call 1-888-544-5475 and give them information about missing relatives/loved ones, they will add the person to their web site so law enforcement will be on the lookout to find them. This goes for children and adults.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Power Generating Backpack

While some treehuggers drooled over the solar powered bags that have hit the market recently, this latest invention should really send them into a gronola snorting frenzy.

Biologist Lawrence Rome has developed a backpack that uses the up and down motion of the wearer's strides to generate up to 7 watts of electricity. So on your hike up the mountain to sing politically correct folk songs by the fire and drink organic rum and green tea cola from your Nalgene, you can create enough power to charge your cell phone or GPS device.

But beyond the power generating possibilities of the pack, Rome's suspended mechanism actually cusions the weight of the pack and makes the load more comfortable to wear according to early users. So not only does it harness what would otherwise be wasted energy, it also improves on the basic design of a pack by adding shock absorbing comfort.

For more on the pack check out National Geographic News.

Via Treehugger and Future Feeder.

Da Backlash

The hip hop community is not laying down when it comes to responding to the government response to Hurricane Katrina.

Two new tracks are heating up the blogsphere right now. K-Otix adapted Kanye's hit Gold Digger inspired by a quote from Mr. West himself. Lyrics include:

"He said 'I know it looks bad, just have to wait'
Forgetting folks are too broke to evacuate
Niggas starving and they dyin of thirst,
I bet he had to go check on the refineries first.
Making a killing of the price of gas
He would have been up in Connecticut twice as fast."

Listen to "George Bush Don't Like Black People" here.

And Mos Def also jumps into the game, bringing lyrical heat with a version of the Nolia Clap called the Katrina Clap. Rhymes include:

"It's dollar day in New Orleans
there's water everywhere and people dead in the streets,
and Mr. President he bout that cash,
he's got a policy for handling the niggas and trash.
And if you poor, you black
I laugh a laugh they won't be givin you ass
you're better off on crack,
dead or in jail or with a gun in Iraq"


"Where the fuck is Sir Bono and his famous friends now?
Don’t get it twisted man, I dig U2
but if you ain’t about the ghetto then fuck you too."

Listen to "Dollar Day for New Orleans . . . Katrina Clap" here.

Regardless of your political stance - it is refreshing to see that people are not emracing the apathy that plagued the country in response to the war in Iraq. These musicians are taking a stance - love it or leave it, at least they are being vocal. And this seems more appropriate then airing your own politics out on a relief show.

It seems it is much harder to silence the outrage of people when you can't just call them a terrorist or label them as unpatriotic. Dissent is the most important part of democracy - and I am glad that these artists are expressing themselves and putting these viewpoints out there.

Via Soul Sides and Catch Dubs.

Ok - no more preaching, I promise.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

iPhone and iNano

The first cell phone with integrated iTunes software was just announced today. The Motorola ROKR E1, a collaboration between Motorola and Apple and available only with Cingular service, will be capable of storing 100 songs and will sell for $249.99 with a 2 year agreement. Ton more details here.

The phone sounds cool, and will likely lead to further integration between video and music software and consumer cell phones. However, with 100 songs, it is very apparent that Apple has no interest in you buying the cell phone in lieu of an iPod - but rather in addition to one.

All that being said, I just went to the Apple site and saw the newly announced
iPod Nano! It is ridiculously small, comes with color screen and all the newest features, and is retailing at $250 for a 4 GB model. Apple continues to ride the iPod wave.


Open Source TV?

A.R.R.T. has a great post about a new show on PBS called Nerd TV. While the show sounds fairly interesting on its own (essentially interviews with nerd celebrities like the first Mac programmer), it is the program's attitude towards its content distribution that is interesting. In addition to a traditional tv broadcast, the show encourages viewers to download the content and edit it and share it as they see fit. From the official website:

NerdTV is distributed under a Creative Commons license so viewers can legally share the shows with their friends and even edit their own versions. If not THE future of television, NerdTV represents A future of television for niche audiences that have deep interest in certain topics.

The website offers each show in multiple audio and video formats for download, or you can read the provided transcript. Will this type of "open source" content become the wave of the future for special interest programming of this sort? Only time will tell, but it is apparent that media companies will need to think of new ways to package their programming as technology advances and their old models of 30 minute sitcoms with commercials becomes outdated.

But you can also turn in to Nerd TV for geek humor, like when the host claims he is worried about flying on commercial airlines because the cabin pressure is run by Windows! Lol! Pwn3d!!11!!

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Ask Questions

By now, you've probably heard about Kanye's outburst of emotional babble on the Hurricane Katrina telethon. If you haven't actually seen it though, watch it here. (Mike Myers reaction is ridiculous - something out of an SNL skit).

Most articles make his comments out to be a well thought out diatribe against the response to the black victims in New Orleans, but really it is more like a kid who is trying to tell you a story and has too much to say so he can't get it all out. Kanye was literally on the verge of tears of anger I think, and so unfortunately his comments come out as verbal diarrhea. But he does manage to get out two important points - one which I made here about the media constantly referring to black people as looters, and the other, which is becoming the battle cry for disillusioned citizens. "George Bush doesn't care about Black people."

Despite the muddled result, the intentions behind his comments are admirable. It takes a lot of courage to risk your celebrity and try to speak up for what you believe. I'm actually beginning to think that there is much more to West than sick beats, tight lyrics, and a questionable flow.

Other bloggers are beginning to ask some important questions about why the majority of stranded victims are all poor black folks. Race and class are definitely huge factors in determining who suffered the most when the hurricane hit - but maybe the fact that New Orleans is a predominantly poor, Black city led to the neglect from Federal and State officials in adequately preparing the city for this type of disaster in the first place. And the media focus on sporadic "looting" and lawlessness seems to be merely a distraction from the less sensationalized story of normal American families suffering and dying needlessly.

It is wonderful to see people unite and be moved into action to help the victims in Mississippi and New Orleans, but that doesn't mean these questions shouldn't be asked. People often show their true colors in times of panic, and what our society has displayed is a persisting racism and class prejudice that pervades our media coverage, our government agencies, and our public consciousness.

Did we really need bloggers to tell our journalists that American citizens are not refugees? Do we really need a rich rapper to be the first to raise the issue of race on a national level? Questions.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Damn . . .

Reports of snipers, armed looters, rescue trucks being seized at gunpoint, thousands of people stranded with no help on the horizon. With little hope, some people are taking the rescue efforts into their own hands.

It's ugly and getting uglier. When will the dark clouds break?

PRADE will return next week, hopefully with better news and a brighter outlook for the survivors of Hurricane Katrina.

If you would like to donate, the Red Cross site can be found here or you can help to rebuild homes with Habitat For Hummanity here. You can give as little as $5 or as much as Jay Z. Just give.