Foglio's Field Notes

Leif Utne's random rants, musings and meditations

Archive for January 2009

Video: Van Jones Goes to Washington

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One of my personal heroes, Van Jones, president of Green for All and author of The Green Collar Economy, testified last week before Congress on the importance of focusing on green jobs in the economic stimulus package. Jones tells the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming that this Congress has a historic opportunity to solve the two greatest challenges facing the US — the economic meltdown and the climate crisis.

Written by leifutne

January 18, 2009 at 9:47 pm

On the 10th day of Christmas my brother gave to me…

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Voltaic solar battery-charging backpackI arrived home on Sunday to find the coolest, geekiest Christmas present I’ve ever gotten: a Voltaic Converter solar daypack. I try not to be too covetous of material things. But this is one I’ve had my eye on for awhile. (Thanks, Sam! You’re the best.)

Its sleek black fabric is made of 100% recycled PET (soda bottles). It has three PV panels sewn into the back panel, which can output up to 10 volts in peak conditions, though normal output is 4 volts. A red LED in the middle of the logo indicates when it’s charging, which so far seems to be whenever there’s even minimal light. It came with a battery pack and 11 different standard tips, so it can charge most handheld electronic devices.

Around the city, it’ll probably be mostly a sort of eco-geek status symbol. I can’t wait to roll up on my bike at next month’s Green Drinks with this on my back.

But I can definitely picture situations where it’ll be useful when I really am off the grid — like when I’m hiking and I need to keep an extra pair of rechargeable AA batteries at the ready to power a camera or flashlight. And I imagine it’ll come in very handy when we’re on the beach in the Dominican Republic next month and keep running down the batteries in our portable blender.

I have yet to actually try charging anything with it. Will post more when I do.

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January 6, 2009 at 2:11 am

Vicki Robin on the new “Your Money or Your Life”

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A short video I produced for my good friend Vicki Robin, co-author of the bestseller “Your Money or Your Life.”  The new revised and updated edition of this great book hit stores December 10, 2008. For more on the YMOYL program for financial independence, to order your copy of the book, or to see if the book tour is visiting a city near you, visit

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January 5, 2009 at 7:11 pm

NYT: Design Loves a Depression

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This hopeful piece from yesterday’s NYT, Michael Cannell argues that, just as the Great Depression begat early modernism and democratized beautiful design, the current economic downtown could usher in a new golden age of democratic, functional — even green — design.

Design tends to thrive in hard times. In the scarcity of the 1940s, Charles and Ray Eames produced furniture and other products of enduring appeal from cheap materials like plastic, resin and plywood, and Italian design flowered in the aftermath of World War II.

Will today’s designers rise to the occasion? “What designers do really well is work within constraints, work with what they have,” said Paola Antonelli, senior curator of architecture and design at the Museum of Modern Art. “This might be the time when designers can really do their job, and do it in a humanistic spirit.”

In the lean years ahead, “there will be less design, but much better design,” Ms. Antonelli predicted.

Let’s hope Cannell’s right.

Sidenote: Is Dwell really “old paradigm” like Architectural Digest, as Cannell suggests? My old Worldchanging colleague Sarah Rich might beg to differ.

Written by leifutne

January 5, 2009 at 3:11 pm