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Hybrid Gas Mileage: Has It Hit a Plateau?

When you look at the historical chart of hybrid gas mileage, you just have to wonder … when are the auto manufacturers going to take things to the next level? The Honda Insight, the earliest hybrid, was rated at 70 miles per gallon on the highway. Granted it was a wee little two seater with a three cylinder engine, but still … where are the OEM advances?

The answer, in short, is that the advances have already been made, but they aren’t for sale by the OEM manufacturers (not yet, at least).

Many folks lack an understanding of how hybrids fit into the big picture going forward. With a million Prius on the road, much of the general (non-hybrid driving) population is still unsure whether hybrid technology is a good bet.

Now if you’re a betting man (or woman) and you like to place a wager or two on the horses, you look to the papers for your research. On your way to the paddock, you’d open up your Daily Racing Form and check the past performances of the ponies in the next race.

If you’re considering whether a hybrid car is a good bet, you’d head over to Kelly’s Blue Book to check used hybrid resale values. If you were new to the game, you might be stunned.

In my area, a 2004 Prius with 60,000 miles has a KBB suggested retail price just one thousand dollars less then the original MSRP sticker. What other car could you have bought in 2004 and driven for four years (with excellent gas mileage) that retained that much value?

It gets even more crazy then that. I searched on AutoTrader to see what the local dealers were asking for 2004 Prius. There were just three Prius available in a 50 mile radius, at $21,900, $21,990, and $21,995, with mileage ranging from 56K to 77.5K.

Does two thousand dollars over the original list price represent irrational exuberance, or something worse?

As the latest generation Prius come off lease, a fantastic opportunity presents itself. We have the chance to dramatically increase the gas mileage of the hybrid fleet by upgrading these vehicles to plug-in hybrids utilizing Lithium battery packs to achieve a remarkable 100 MPG. This technology is here today and quite simply, it works.

How much would you pay for a car that got 100 MPG? Would you be willing to spend $30,000?

What if that car was a completely refurbished and warrantied used car?

Reference: Hybrid Gas Mileage

Andy Law of St. Luke’s and thelawfirm: A Creative Interview

I recently read Creative Company: How St. Luke’s Became “the Ad Agency to End All Ad Agencies” and was inspired enough by the book to reach out to the author, Andy Law. To my surprise, he actually responded and agreed to an interview for my blog. The full interview is below, but first a little background about Andy Law:

Andy studied Latin, Archaeology and Ancient History at the University of Bristol and worked briefly in commodities trading before beginning his advertising career in 1978. He joined the graduate trainee program at Wasey-Campbell Ewald and eventually became the youngest board director at Collet Dickenson Pearce in 1988 working on famous brands like Hamlet Cigars and Range Rover. He joined Chiat/Day in 1990 as Senior Vice President for business development and chaired the Chiat/Day “think tank” which was formed to make recommendations on how Chiat/Day should change to take advantage of future developments such as the Internet. He became CEO in 1993. Andy co- founded the radical communications company St. Luke’s in 1995 and two years later the agency was voted Agency of the Year. In 1999 came the Business Ethics Magazine’s Millennium Ethics Award and numerous other plaudits and prizes followed. By 1996 Andy had instilled a zero carbon footprint at St. Luke’s as well as a “performance-related” social welfare programme in India. In 2002 Andy was voted Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year. Andy has been invited to join a number of UK Government “think tanks” including The Knowledge Economy Advisory Group, chaired by Lord Sainsbury, “Healthy Teachers, Healthy Schools “ for the Departments of Health and Education and the DTI’s Digital Economy Policy Group. Andy is one of only a very few Admen invited to participate in, and chair working parties at, The World Economic Forum at Davos and is regularly invied to speak worldwide on Creativity, Business and Human Capital. Andy has written two best selling business books. Open Minds (published 1998), voted The Daily Telegraph’s Business Book of the Year, and Experiment At Work (published 2003), voted WHSmiths’ Business Book of the month. Open Minds was published as Creative Company in the US. A profile of Andy was written up in Harvard Business Review of October 2000. He was also profiled in Charles Handy’s book The New Alchemists, alongside Richard Branson, Trevor Bayliss and Bob Ayling of BA. Andy has founded the global communications company The Law Firm to help clients worldwide meet the communications challenges of the 21st Century consumer age and fuel global awareness of the need for social and environmental change. He is based in London. The Law Firm now operates in over 80 countries worldwide.

KL: And how you ended up with the idea of creating the transformative agency, St. Luke’s in London over a decade ago.

AL: St. Luke’s was a team effort although David Abraham and I spearheaded the ideas and ideals behind the company. David and I were fascinated by how companies were struggling to retain their control and command techniques, due to the emerging internet, legislation and the growth of whistle blowers. We developed a concept called TRS (Total Role in Society) whereby a company could measure its total social, environmental, ethical and commercial effects. It was ambitious, but I look at what’s happening now, 15 years later, and I realize that we were genuinely way ahead of our time. Key to making TRS work, we felt, was instilling “Human Rights in the Workplace”. Since our business was people-intensive we wanted to invest and nurture Human Capital.

KL: At what point did you decide to write a book (Creative Agency)? How did that process work for you, being a busy agency owner/executive?

AL: I was approached by Martin Liu of Orion Business Press who was on the lookout for an innovative UK business story. The UK is generally not a place to find experimental ideas in the workplace. The US has always pioneered cool workspace and innovative working practices. Martin said we had a great story and it would make a great book. I said “fine, who’s writing it?”. “You”, he said.” Its got to be a personal story”. I wrote it between 9.00pm and 2.00 am every night for 6 months. We had our second baby and I utilized the time when the baby needed attention! Yes, you can think and change diapers at the same time…..almost.

KL: Why did you decide to write the second book, Experiment at Work? How would you describe the differences between the two books for those that haven’t read it?

AL: After the amazing success of Open Minds/Creative Company, Martin approached me again. I had been asked to speak around the world at conferences which my fellow Admen had no idea even existed. I was taking about Human Capital and Creativity. I found myself on podiums with the likes Mikael Gorbachev, Buzz Aldrin and Bill Clinton. Agencies around the world were knocking on the door to join The St. Luke’s Story. Experiment At Work ended up being a flawed book in my opinion, though with more “out-there” ideas than Creative Company. I was writing about a global dream and people at St. Luke’s were telling me St. Luke’s was never going to be the agency to deliver it. However, it has its moments and Chapters 3 and 4 are special.

KL: You have another book, Open Minds, which focuses on the business lessons from innovations at St. Luke’s. Can you tell us about that?

AL: No! Its just the UK version of Creative Company! I did tell Amazon, but the two still appears as a joint promotion sometimes. I just hope no one has bought both.

KL: When you first started St. Luke’s, just about every aspect of the organizational structure and creative process was altered from the traditional ad agency model. Since then, many agencies around the world have mimicked a variety of your concepts. How does that make you feel?

AL: I always saw St. Luke’s as pioneering and experimental. So the fact that so many have cherry-picked ideas is fantastic. Our business is full of fabulous people, but I felt they were working in a way that did not bring the best out. If agencies have re-thought some of their processes because of Creative Company then I’m a happy man.

KL: More than a decade has passed since the inception of St. Luke’s…what do you see as its most lasting legacy?

AL: We showed that Ad Agencies can innovative and change with the times. Importantly we showed that we could be creative businesses not just creative suppliers.

KL: What of your original concepts implemented at St. Luke’s have you taken with you to your latest agency, thelawfirm?

AL: The issue of ownership has been expanded and greatly developed onto a worldwide stage into what you might call Liberation Management. The Law Firm started with nothing, literally a blank sheet of paper, yet Liberation Management has created a global company in under two years. I have also developed the brand room idea into client management and created a concept of account handlers as “generalists” who work for the client more than they work for the agency.

KL: Which, if any, concepts you’ve tested over the years at various agencies, would you recommend a small boutique agency consider testing?

AL: Involve the client at every stage of development and they will become your best friend. Make your agency a Destination Agency. What I mean is, make it buzz with creativity so much that even the paper boy gets what you’re trying to say.

KL: What of your concepts would you prefer people forgot about?

AL: Equal shares for all. It was a red herring. In fact it ended up rewarding long service not talent. At the end of the day, you must never devalue yourself.

KL: One of my favorite ideas from your book, is the family day, where parents visit the office to get a better feeling for what their children do for a living. We plan on implementing the idea at our search engine marketing agency, Anvil. Do you still do that at thelawfirm?

AL: Yes! It was a simple but fab idea and I recommend it to everyone! The Law Firm has just returned from its annual birthday think-a-thon (July 4th…of course!) and we have some even more crazy plans to unveil. We now encourage friends and faily to come into the workplace whenever they wish and use our facilities.

KL: If you had to distill your ad agency experiences into three rules, tips or immutable laws, what would they be?

  1. You can liberate people and lead them, but you Can’t Make People Do Want They Don’t Want To Do.
  2. As George Lois said, “Creativity is the defeat of habit by originality”. If you’re doing today what you did yesterday you are being boring.
  3. Companies based on a strong idea grow with no idea where they’re going (That’s innovation, that’s adventure!). But companies based on no idea need to be told where to go and how to grow (that’s lawyers, that’s accountants, that’s consultants….. that’s not creative!)

KL: Thanks for your time.

DMV Puts 3.4 Million People at Risk of Identity Theft

The problem of identity theft should be well known by now. There is a long history of security breaches by government agencies, educational institutions and businesses. The cost of a data breach can be millions of dollars, in providing credit monitoring and protection for those who have had their personal information exposed. In addition, there are lawsuits seeking punitive damages.

There is no question that the security of data bases is paramount. Yet, in spite of the history of data breach disasters and warnings from policing agencies, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in Colorado endangers millions of citizens with its security procedures:

“…The DMV regularly sends large batches of personal information over the Internet without encryption and has failed to properly limit access to its database, according to a recent audit. At one point, 33 former DMV employees could access names, addresses, dates of birth and Social Security numbers — some workers more than a year after their departure, auditors found.”

link: DMV puts Coloradans at risk of ID theft

Apparently there are insufficient funds to protect the people of Colorado from identity theft.

Here is a solution. Be candid with the people. Tell them that security is inadequate and that their data are at risk. If the security issues need one and a half million dollars to resolve, then ask the nearly three and a half million Coloradans to help.

By rough calculations, it would cost each of these people of Colorado to pay an extra fifty cents ($0.50) to have adequate security protection. Fifty cents would secure their data at the DMV. It would take hours of work and years of concern if their personal data were exposed.

All it would take is fifty cents… and some candor.

Catherine Forsythe

Yahoo Asks – Who’s The BOSS?

Yahoo is offering a new search service called BOSS [Build your Own Search Service] which is an open source answer that allows innovation for developers, start-ups and large Internet companies.  Yahoo is touting the fact that users will be able to access all of Yahoo’s features such as relevant algorithms, ranking, indexing and a host of other powerful infrastructure features. In addition Yahoo states that:

Search APIs are nothing new, but typically they’ve included rate limits, strict terms of service regarding the re-ordering and presentation of results, and provided little or no opportunity for monetization. These constraints have limited the innovation and commercial viability of new search solutions.

BOSS (Build your Own Search Service) is different – it’s a truly open API with as few rules and limitations as possible. With BOSS, developers and start-ups now have the technology and infrastructure to build next generation search solutions that can compete head-to-head with the principals in the search industry. BOSS will grow and evolve with a focus on providing additional functionality, tools, and data for developers.

Though I can see where Yahoo is heading with this new feature, it begs to answer the following questions. Why wasn’t this done long ago, before Microsoft make their takeover overtures?  Will Yahoo be able to attract anyone to the new service with the threat of Yahoo being consumed by Microsoft?

I don’t believe if in fact Microsoft takes over Yahoo search, that the company will allow BOSS to proceed.

But what do you think? Is Yahoo’s BOSS program just a little late in coming?

Comments welcome.



iTunes App Store Day One: My Sacrifices

I was very happy with my jailbroken iPhone. I was using more apps than I ever had. Today, as I browse the iPhone App Store (just search for AOL in iTunes 7.7), I realize, at least on Day One and the immediate short term, I am giving up certain things, hopefully not for good though.

Losing – Twinkle. Awesome location based Twitter app with picture attaching.

Gaining – Twitterific. What seems to be a plain Twitter client.

Losing – Mobilescrobbler. The fantastic app that helped me scrobble more tracks than ever with super functionality. Reading lyrics to songs that the iPhone was playing was pretty damn cool.

Gaining – Pandora. Totally different service.

Losing – Mobilechat. aim/chat client with horizontal orientation.

Gaining – Official Aim client. Not sure if it gets horizontal.

Losing – iFlickr. I only took pics with this program.

Gaining – Mobile Flickr.

Losing – uSirius. I was able to go to a restaurant on lunch and listen to Howard Stern while I ate over EDGE!!

Gaining – Nothing.

Losing – Summerboard. My PRECIOUS UI! Icons and wallpaper. Some sick themes.

Gaining – Nothing. This could be the biggest loss because I don’t see an Appearance, UI, or Tweak cateogry in the App Store.

NemusSync – gCalendar sync

Gaining – Nothing

So those were my main ones. Other than that I think overall:

Losing – Fully free software, constantly updated apps, unofficial OS tweaks and fixes

Gaining – Better game selection, a “funded” development community,

In the end, I hope it’s just a matter of time before my truly favorite apps are sent to the App Store because the ones I’ve listed are the ones I will spend cash on without batting an eye. I really am not optimistic about Summerboard though.

Google Fighting Fake eBay And PalPay Messages

Google is taking another step in the fight against philshing and is authenticating any messages from eBay or PayPal. The system will try and prohibit fake messages from either company, from reaching consumers.

Gmail does its best to put a red warning label on phishing messages, but it can be hard for us to know sometimes and we can’t be 100% perfect. So, for the fraction of a time when Gmail misses it, you may end up squinting three times and turning the message sideways before suspecting that it’s phishing. Wouldn’t it be better if you never saw phishing messages at all, not even in your spam folder? Since 2004, we’ve been supporting email authentication standards including DomainKeys and DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) to verify senders and help identify forged messages. This is a key tool we use to keep spam out of Gmail inboxes. But these systems can only be effective when high volume senders consistently use them to sign their mail — if they’re sending some mail without signatures, it’s harder to tell whether it’s phishing or not. Well, I’m happy to announce today that by working with eBay and PayPal, we’re one step closer to stopping all phishing messages in their tracks.

Now any email that claims to come from “paypal.com” or “ebay.com” (and their international versions) is authenticated by Gmail and — here comes the important part — rejected if it fails to verify as actually coming from PayPal or eBay. That’s right: you won’t even see the phishing message in your spam folder. Gmail just won’t accept it at all. Conversely, if you get an message in Gmail where the “From” says “@paypal.com” or “@ebay.com,” then you’ll know it actually came from PayPal or eBay. It’s email the way it should be.

Authentication should be used by ALL ISP’s. It is time to start and take spam and phishing emails seriously and to protect the consumer from fake messages. To many people fall for the deceitful emails sending personal information to the bad guys.

What do you think?

Comments welcome.


Luggage Fees Among the Increases at Northwest Airlines

Northwest Airlines announced staff reductions and increased fees:

“…Northwest will begin charging many customers $15 for a first checked bag and up to $100 for redeeming frequent-flier miles. Charges to change some domestic tickets will jump to $150, up from $100. Some international change fees will rise even more.”

link: NWA slashes 2,500 jobs, pumps up ticket, bag fees

US Airways will remove video systems from their aircraft. Removing the in-flight movies is another way to reduce weight, in an attempt to meet the rising cost of fuel. Even experienced travelers are asked to check the web site of the air carrier that they are using. New regulations and fees are being added without much notice. The airlines have little choice in order to survive.

Catherine Forsythe

Nanotechnology Oversight: An Agenda For The New Administration

Few domestic policy areas that the new administration must address will have greater long-range consequences than nanotechnology — a new technology that has been compared with the industrial revolution in terms of its impact on society. If the right decisions are made, nanotechnology will bring vast improvements to almost every area of daily living. If the wrong decisions are made, the American economy, human health, and the environment will suffer.

Nanotechnology can have a major impact on many of the most important problems facing the United States. It can reduce dependence on foreign oil, help deal with global climate change, improve the country’s health system, strengthen national defense, help fight terrorism, and make a major contribution to the national economy. Nanotechnology is also important as a prototype of the technological opportunities and challenges that will characterize the 21st Century. The country needs to learn how to deal with potential adverse consequences of new technologies and how to make sure that the technologies best serve society’s needs.

On Wednesday, July 23, 2008, from 12:30 – 1:30 PM (Eastern Standard Time), join former Environmental Protection Agency official J. Clarence Davies, one of the nation’s foremost authorities on environmental regulation and policy, at the release of his new report that identifies the steps the incoming president must take to deal with the potential risks posed by nanotechnology.

[Colin Finan @ Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies]


Aerosol Toxins From Red Tides May Cause Long-Term Health Threat

NOAA scientists reported in the current issue of the journal Environmental Health Perspectives that an algal toxin commonly inhaled in sea spray, attacks and damages DNA in the lungs of laboratory rats. The findings document how the body’s way of disposing the toxin inadvertently converts it to a molecule that damages DNA. Human inhalation of brevetoxins produced by the red tide organism, Karenia brevis, is an increasing public health concern.

The scientists, led by John Ramsdell of NOAA’s Center for Environmental Health and Biomolecular Research in Charleston, S.C., determined that brevetoxins react with DNA of lung tissue and attach to the DNA-bases that code genetic information. The linkage of chemicals in the environment to DNA is a first step for many cancer causing agents and can lead to mutations in genes that normally prevent the formation of cancers.

The red tide toxin, brevetoxin, has long been recognized as a cause of both neurotoxic poisoning after both consumption of toxic shellfish as well as a respiratory irritation after inhalation of toxic sea spray. Groundbreaking research, leading to this third potential form of poisoning, identified that metabolism produces chemically reactive forms of the toxin. Recognizing the potential of these metabolites to attack DNA, NOAA scientists analyzed the DNA after the toxin was metabolized in the lung. Scientists have not yet determined if brevetoxin damaged DNA accurately repairs itself or if gene mutations result. Brevetoxin has been measured in air during red tide events and human exposure levels have been reported; however, the long-term health risk associated with inhalation of brevetoxins remains to be defined. Individuals are continually exposed to environmental chemicals capable of damaging DNA like carcinogens found in tobacco smoke and air pollution. It is possible that exposure to brevetoxins can add to the cumulative amount of chemically altered DNA in the lungs; an indicator of cancer risk.

"This represents a significant breakthrough in defining the metabolic transformation of brevetoxins and the potential long-term health effects of red tides. It should change perceptions of risk and management of inhalation exposure to harmful algal blooms," notes Ramsdell.

Red tides in the Gulf of Mexico are common, and often persistent, naturally occurring events that release toxins into sea spray aerosols. These aerosols are a particular problem at beaches, as they can cause respiratory distress to lifeguards and beachgoers. Although these shorter-term effects of the airborne toxin are well characterized, potential longer-term effects remain a concern to health officials and coastal communities.

cientists, in NOAA’s Oceans and Human Health Initiative, are studying long term health consequences of harmful algal blooms, to predict how the condition of the coastal waters affect human health and how to reduce or eliminate health risks.

[David Hall @ NOAA Headquarters]


Special Horseshoes Measure Acceleration In Horses

The most frequent injuries that horses suffer are derived from pressure exerted by riders, and knowing which forces are involved when horses move can prove highly informative when considering treatment for such injuries. A team of scientists from Wageningen University, led by Professor Johan van Leeuwen, has carried out studies both into the advantages of different rider techniques in reducing injury risk, and into the benefits of a method of equine rehabilitation. By using computer modelling and specialist horseshoes to measure acceleration, these investigations suggest that aqua-training rehabilitation is beneficial due to lower impact accelerations. However, rising trot may not be as advantageous as previously thought.

Rehabilitation after equine joint and muscle injuries, including those of the back, shoulders and legs, now often involves ‘aquatraining’, whereby horses move in water-filled treadmills. Due to buoyancy, this treatment is currently thought to reduce weight-bearing forces, which can otherwise have detrimental effects on joints, but to date there has been a virtual absence of studies into the magnitude of these benefits. Professor van Leeuwen’s team has used special horseshoes to measure accelerations of horses undergoing aquatraining, as well as walking normally, which provide a good indication of the impact forces involved. "Our results, based on data from seven horses, show the accelerations are significantly lower during ‘aquatic walking’," he asserts. "We will be carrying out further experiments to confirm these results, but at this stage, it appears that aquatraining may indeed be beneficial for rehabilitation after joint injury."

Professor van Leeuwen and his colleagues have also used specialised force gauges to measure the strain placed on the backs of horses through the saddle and stirrups. These measurements have been combined with the output of computer models to provide insight into the mechanisms that a rider can use to respond to the movements of a horse, and to prevent injury. "We have given particular attention to the comparison of sitting and rising trot, as it is broadly accepted in the equestrian world that rising trot imposes less loading on the back of the horse," Professor van Leeuwen explains. "However, our results have not been able to confirm the belief that rising trot is mechanically less demanding for the horse. Looking at back extension, which is most often related to back injuries, we found that the extension of the back is similar in rising and sitting trot."

[Holly Astley @ Society for Experimental Biology]