The Six-Day Skyscraper

As China increases their ownership of U.S. debt (at a rate now exceeding $1 billion per DAY), they are also methodically leapfrogging us in terms of everyday technologies. A good example is China’s Broad Construction Company ( They can now build a fifteen story hotel that meets our best green energy standards. And they can build it in SIX DAYS.

From Broad’s Chinese website:

Level 9 Earthquake Resistance: diagonal bracing structure, light weight,
steel construction, passed level 9 earthquake resistance testing.

6x Less Material: even though the construction materials are much
lighter(250kg/m2) than the traditional materials(over 1500kg/m2), the floors
and walls are solid with surefootedness, airtight and sound-proofing.

5x Energy Efficient: 150mm thermal insulation for walls and roofs, triple
glazed plastic windows, external solar shading, heat insulation, fresh
air heat recovery, LED lighting, yearly HVAC A/C energy consumption
equivalent to 7 liters oil. [ed., i doubt that last figure]

20x Purification: after 3 levels of purification, the purification efficiency
for fresh air reaches 95%-99.9%; air exchanged 1-2.5 times per hour, and
indoor air is 20x cleaner than out door air.

1% Construction Waste: all components are factory made, construction
waste, mainly package materials, result from on site set-up only and
amount to 1% of the total weight of the building.

This is the first building in human history which combines almost all
environmental friendly, comfortable and secure elements. So, we call it:
Sustainable Building.

Perceptual – Conceptual

“The most violent revolutions in an individual’s beliefs leave most of his old order standing. Time and space, cause and effect, nature and history, and one’s own biography remain untouched. New truth is always a go-between, a smoother-over of transitions. It marries old opinion to new fact so as ever to show a minimum of jolt, a maximum of continuity.”

“Grant an idea or belief to be true, what concrete difference will its being true make in any one’s actual life? How will the truth be realized? What experiences will be different from those which would obtain if the belief were false? What, in short, is the truth’s cash-value in experiential terms?”

“Life defies our phrases. It is infinitely continuous and subtle and shaded, whilst our verbal terms are discrete, rude, and few.”

The intellectual life of man consists almost wholly in his substitution of a conceptual order for the perceptual order in which his experience originally comes.”

-William James

“The lesson of history is that our firmest convictions are not to be asserted dogmatically; in fact they should be most suspect; they mark not our conquests but our limitations and our bounds”

– Morris Kline, writing in Mathematics, the Loss of Certainty

High Intensity / Super Slow

Some months ago, a friend told me about a newer book called Body by Science by Doug Mc Guff, an emergency room physician. McGuff claims that we can make sustained, significant improvements in both strength and overall health in just 12 minutes a week. Twelve minutes? If I hadn’t heard positive comments about this protocol from someone I respect, I would have dismissed it out of hand. (McGuff blogs here)

I’ve always shied away from gyms because, frankly, I’m not interested in budgeting hours each week pumping iron. But a thirty minutes each week? I can commit to that. And that includes driving from my office to the gym and back (!)

I’ve never been on a weight lifting routine in my life, so I wasn’t certain what to expect. I’ve now been active on McGuff’s protocol since April 2010 and am happy to report that it WORKS. Moreover, McGuff’s book is an excellent lay resource on the latest science in muscle physiology. Truly a fascinating read on how muscles develop, and how to maximize the growth response.

Turns out that long hours of modest weight lifting is terribly inefficient. We now know that the physiology of muscle growth favors short, high intensity activity. In order to grow, muscles must be stressed into sustained failure — the metabolic point at which a muscle group drops in strength potential by roughly 40% and simply cannot support its original starting load. This failure is recognized by a hot, burning sensation and a psychological response that says “I can’t do this any longer!” The most important muscle improvements occur during this intensive period of increasing failure (I’m reminded of the poet Rilke, who said the purpose of life is to be defeated by ever greater things).

And just as importantly, after a muscle reaches failure, it must be given ample time to recover and grow. This healing time varies between genotypes but is, on average, about one week. I’m becoming more familiar with my own optimal healing period, and I think it may be closer to ten days. According to McGuff, any additional weight work during the healing period is effectively wasted, offering little additional benefit.

The point of all this is to achieve a deep inroad into the targeted muscle groups. Only by “inroading” will muscles grow. The technique McGuff uses to achieve inroading is called Super Slow / High Intensity training.  It’s very simple:  do each strength training exercise very slowly, perhaps 10 seconds up and 10 seconds down, and continue without stopping. Even when the muscle becomes “spent” we keep pushing as hard as possible for another 30 second or so, even though we can no longer move the weights. We keep track of both the actual weight lifted and the time under load (TUL).

I have changed nothing else in my lifestyle since beginning this once-a-week, 15 minute gym protocol seven months ago. In those seven months, I have spent a total of roughly four hours actual weight lifting. My average “super slow” weight lifting strength has increased on average over 30%.

When I started on this protocol in April, I acquired an Omron Body Composition Scale to track my progress. I’m most happy about the increase in skeletal muscle, and the decrease in body fat. Allow me to share my progress.


Upper Arm  14″

Thigh 23″

Gut 41″

Body Fat 21.6% 17.5%

Visceral Fat  7  5-6

Skeletal Muscle 34.9%  38.0%

As is normal, my first 12-14 weeks saw the greatest strength improvements. Since then, positive change has come slower, but progress continues. As McGuff notes, genetics plays a primary role in determining our response to muscle inroading. Everyone responds differently, but I’m convinced that everyone will benefit.

This is a program I can stick with for the rest of my life.

Here’s a good example of a typical Super Slow / High Intensity weekly workout. A grand total of ten minutes. Note how quickly he moves from one exercise to the next: this is essential to achieve maximum metabolic inroading. His TUL on first set is 1:54.

Photos from Maine

Beautiful Camden Maine. Trees are still turning. Was a nice surprise to see Alex and Erwin McManus here at PopTech today. The three of us took some time off for exploring and photographing the area. Also had a surprise visit and performance from Imogen Heap just a moment ago. She sang Hide and Seek – gorgeous. Hope to spend some time with mastering engineer Bob Ludwig tonight in Portland. Enjoy the photos.








breakfast 22 oct 2010 sm

PopTech 2010

At the PopTech conference this week in Camden Maine. A small gathering of people conspiring to generate positive world change. The format is TED-like, but the demographic seems about 15 years younger, which is a welcome difference.

You might enjoy a couple of videos filmed this week at Poptech. The first is a very funny guy named Reggie Watts. The second is from our sail around Camden Harbor with adventurer David de Rothschild, leader of the Plastiki Expedition. David talks briefly about Plastiki and the essential power of storytelling. Enjoy.

Reggie Watts: Part 1 from PopTech on Vimeo.

The Prayer of the Children

I was at an audio show yesterday in Denver. In one of the endless demonstration rooms, a gear manufacturer was playing a song I had heard years ago, and forgotten how moving it was. I’m supposed to be there critiquing audio products and instead I’m sitting on their couch, weeping.

Just a moment ago, I found the song with a video. This is hard for me to watch all the way through. The theme is religious, but the call is universal. Anyone touched by this poem cannot help but make the world a better place, regardless of their belief or tribe. Alas, human separation and alienation resulting from tribal and religious belief is part of the problem.

POW-r Algorithms

Twelve years ago, some friends and I got together with the intent of developing the most musically neutral and dynamically accurate audio bit length reduction algorithms. As we completed the code, many of the audio industry’s golden-eared engineers and producers reviewed our work favorably. We soon after became the world’s #1 software for audio bit length reduction.

The software is called POW-r, which is an acronym for “psychoacoustically optimized word-length reduction.” Most professional audio recording today uses DAWs, PC-based “digital audio workstations.”  Digitized audio is stored in software bit chunks called “words.” Most DAWs today default to 24-bit word lengths (although internal processing may be twice that or more). Each bit represents a 6dB change in “audio voltage.” More bits equals higher acoustic dynamic range. A higher dynamic range equates to more realistic sound reproduction.

The common CD stores digital audio in 16-bit word lengths. And this is the problem: when transferring native 24-bit audio from the DAW onto a 16-bit CD, we lose 8-bits, or 48dB!

What does 48dB sound like? It’s the difference between normal conversation (65dB) and a live rock concert (115dB), or the difference between a softly played piano (75dB) and a forte symphony orchestra (120dB). How do you get the full impact of a 24-bit studio recording (potentially 144dB*) onto a CD which can only represent 96dB?

Enter the unique software algorithms called POW-r. Our code was created in the real world of symphony orchestras, of which I have engineered hundreds of recordings. We tested numerous iterations of the software in real-world acoustics, carefully comparing musical results until we found optimal subjective performance.

Today, POW-r remains the world’s #1 word-length-reduction solution, both for CD and MP3 bit preparation. Most of the top DAW companies license POW-r (Apple Logic, Avid ProTools, Cakewalk Sonar, Magix Samplitude and Sequoia, Ableton Live, Pyramix, and many others). It’s been estimated that POW-r is now used on over 400 million CDs and downloads annually.

(* in practice, studio recordings rarely achieve 144dB dynamic range, and home playback systems can rarely offer much more than 110dB, if that. What’s worse, most music today is played back into ear buds, with a dynamic range rarely exceeding 90dB, and that assumes a very quiet environment and high quality playback source.)


It’s that time again – grape harvest in the Sierra Foothills of California. Unfortunately, we had one of the coolest summers on record so our own grapes (grown at nearly 3,000 ft. elevation) are unripe, and unlikely to ripen before frost. We purchased three varieties this year from other growers. My crusher motor stopped working, so some of these grapes were crushed under a pair of very large feet – size 14 (Keen) or 15 (Nike).

500 pounds Grenache

300 pounds Pinotage (a South African variety, rare in the USA)

600 pounds Syrah

This year, I’m fermenting in small (100 pound) batches in food-grade bins. This gives me the opportunity to experiment with different kinds of yeasts on the same grape and taste the results before choosing to barrel blend. It also allows increased skin-to-juice contact during maceration.

Apparently, there are only 40 acres of Pintoage planted in the USA, and half of those acres are here in the Sierra Foothills. My friend Aaron has been making a Pintoage for years, and it is always exceptional. This will be my first experience with the grape, which is a genetic cross of Pinot Noir (Burgundy) and Cinsault (Rhone).

When we picked the Pinotage, sugar content was at 30 brix. This is a MASSIVE amount of grape sugar, but the ripeness gave the grapes a really deep and rich flavor, almost raisin-like. At 30 brix, no yeast I’m aware of can handle the eventual alcohol (18%), so after a two-day cold enzyme soak, I diluted the must to 25 brix and started fermentation with slow starting, slow working Laffort FX-10 yeast. It’s said that Pinotage delivers better fruit flavors with a slow fermentation.

The Grenache came from my friend and neighbor John, coming in around 24 brix with high TA (0.9). I drew off 6 gallons of early crush, which will become a Grenache Rose. Am trying a new yeast called Lalvin Rhone 4600, which promises to bring out “complex aromatic notes and elevated ester produc­tion such as tropical (pineapple) and fresh fruit (apple, pear, strawberry).” We’ll see… The color of this year’s Grenache is medium salmon. It will probably become blending stock for some other wines currently in barrel.

The Syrah ended its cold soak last night. I’m experimenting with three different yeasts: D-254, D-21, and FX-10.  Am also separating for later blending decision the hard press from the free run, as each gives a unique character to the wine.


Just an update on our Safeplug invention.

So far this year, we have signed multiple OEM “rebranding” deals that will see the installation of Safeplug “Smart Energy” technology in a number of consumer, commercial, and industrial applications. These applications include electric vehicle charging stations, pay-per-use / point-of-sale receptacle stations, and residential + commercial construction and retrofit.

In 2009, Safeplug won the prestigious CES Innovation Award and was invited to unveil the technology at TED2009. Since then, Safeplug technologies have been listed in Scientific American’s “Top 10 Tech Toys” and Fast Company’s “10 Radical World Changing Ideas” – with more coming soon.

New Radical Julia Moulden writes in the Huffington Post,

“Imagine a world where every plug could talk to the Internet. Where your appliances, plugged into their outlets, suddenly became intelligent and could talk, so that you could monitor and optimize their activities and control them remotely. It’s not science fiction anymore… TALKINGplug, a new device powered by Zerofootprint [Safeplug technololgy] is now available. Already described by Fast Company as “better than the smart meter” and included on Scientific American’s Top 10 gadgets of 2009, TALKINGplug is revolutionary and will change the way we measure and manage our energy.”

From the Safeplug website,

The SafePlug 1202 Smart Energy outlet has a unique design.  It contains standard Demand Response features such as a Zigbee SE radio and Zigbee SE Metering cluster and Demand Response cluster functions.  However, it also includes a Fire and Shock Hazard monitor and a RightPlug address tag monitor.  The fire and shock hazard monitor continuously detects the top ignition causes including overloaded appliances, bad wire junctions in walls, series arcing, and open neutral conditions. The RightPlug tag ( reader enables the SafePlug 1202 SE outlet to ensure a successful Demand Response event by confirming the start and end of the DR event and participation by the appliance.

Khan Academy

Salman Khan sees his on-line learning center as the world’s first free, world-class virtual school where anyone can learn anything–for free. He just won a $2M Google 10^100 prize – one of five selected from over 150,000 entries.  There are over 1,600 training videos on every K-12 topic. Sal made all the videos himself, and continues to make videos almost every week.

My son has been “attending” the Khan Academy, when he needs to brush up on his algebra mostly. Sal is an engaging, motivated teacher, and his educational videos are first class. Information wants to be free.