Pure Content

Look at more stuff. Think about it harder.


A couple of days ago, I posted a link to an article about New York and their waste management plan (using plasma). Here's another article on the process, from Georgia Tech. Plasma Power.

It is possible to transform a landfill heaped with stinking rubbish into a glass boulder. Because all known hazardous and toxic chemical and biological agents are destroyed and reduced to their elemental components, it is possible to prevent radionuclides from leaching into the groundwater around Chernobyl and thus reduce harmful exposures to the surrounding populace. It is possible to supply electricity to our homes with gases captured from garbage, old tires and junkyard cars.

"Anything they don’t want is put into the hopper and it goes through a slight grinding process. Then it’s squeezed into a bale that’s pushed into the furnace. The only thing that comes out of there is a molten stream — no ashes, no cinders, just a molten stream. That’s put into water. What they end up with, instead of a big block of hard rock, is a sand-like material. The fuel gases that come off — mainly hydrogen and carbon monoxide — are sent into a secondary combustion system. The hot gases are then mixed with water to form steam, which goes up and runs a turbine to produce electricity. After a treatment process, the gaseous emissions are essentially carbon dioxide by the time they get up in the stack," Circeo explains."

Fascinating stuff. If only I had a couple million to start up a facility.


summer camp for the camp

Has anyone seen a copy of the interior design magazine Nest? If you haven’t, seek one out, it is really unlike any other magazine. The magazine’s editor in chief, Joseph Holtzmann, took an innovative approach to designing his new house 20 miles north of Albany. The Oct. 3, 2002 NYT reports on how Holtzman selected the right crew to work on his new home.

He posted want ads at a dozen design schools. The ads were looking for students to “breathe life into a showpiece house.” He didn’t require any particular skills and applicants with enthusiasm and an inclination to debate the deeper implications of stripes versus polka dots were a plus.

Six students signed on for a two month stint over the summer. The four men and two women, called the project “Camp Nest.” They were paid $400 /wk plus room (cushions in rooms that weren’t under construction) and board (communal cooking). One student commented, “He changed the way I look at things…Joe is having more fun. The places he makes are nice to be in.”

For Mr. Holtzman, he found inspiration in the students who had gathered around him. “If I can get a kid to like what I’m doing, it means everything to me.”

(change perspective, ici )


I really love what the guys at google do with their logo, check out today and check this interview with Google's, Product Manager, Marissa Mayer here is a quote:

"I think Google should be like a Swiss Army knife: clean, simple, the tool you want to take everywhere. When you need a certain tool, you can pull these lovely doodads out of it and get what you want. So on Google, rather than showing you upfront that we can do all these things, we give you tips to encourage you to do things these ways. We get you to put your query in the search field, rather than have all these links up front. That's worked well for us. Like when you see a knife with all 681 functions opened up, you're terrified. That's how other sites are - you're scared to use them. Google has that same level of complexity, but we have a simple and functional interface on it, like the Swiss Army knife closed."

Simplicity at its best



good rules for communication

my friend recently resigned from his job within a large bureaucratic organization (Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation), after his boss and his boss's boss mandated that he not reply to any phone calls, emails, or letters without their approval. as they were often out of the office, this mandate basically precluded him from having any outside communication.

his supervisors might have been better off following the communication guidelines of the Chaoyang District Education Committee in Beijing. The August 2002 issue of Harper’s, presented a list of sentences that the Committee banned last year. Most of these are pretty straight forward--no brainer's, but a good goes by.

You are slow and stupid.
Whoever teaches you has the worst of luck.
You are just simply an idiot.
Have your mother take you for a checkup—to test if you are retarded.
You are hopeless and incurable; no medicine can save you.
I believe you will have no future.
You are only a wood post with two ears.
You are a stick of elm that will never understand.
Dead fish keep their mouths shut.
I would have killed myself long ago if I were you.
You are a stick of elm that will never understand.
Dead fish keep their mouths shut.
You don’t understand human speech.
You only fill your stomach and daydream; you can do nothing but eat and you are hopeless.


Delta Trauma Centers

I want to apologize up front for not having more details. I heard this story on NPR this morning on my way to work, but could not find it on the NPR.org web site yet. Having said that, I was reminded of a post from Charlie a couple of months ago regarding innovations in peace that originated during war. The report talked about the Delta Trauma center in Richmond, VA. This is where one of the sniper victims was taken and still lives. There are only 100 of these trauma centers in the USA. Army surgeons developed this technique, which was used to save this man, during the Korean and Vietnam wars. Also, the doctor who performed the operation learned the techniques in a Bronx hospital. Though I am glad that we (society) has used war-time learning for peace time applications, I wonder if we can do more to innovate at that level in peace time, or does it take war for us to learn? BTW, I am glad that our Play friends are safe. Peace.

Dave Dec


“Creativity will have more value than intellectual capital.”

- Fiona Caufield from Faith Popcorn’s Brain Reserve


listen to your kids

The August 2002 issue of Harper’s some childrens’ suggestions collected by Elizabeth Rusch for their solutions to problems. The suggestions are published in Rusch’s book, Generation Fix: Young Ideas for a Better World. (what if)

--Restaurants should be required to make at least ten meals for the poor a day. Not any extraordinary meals where the restaurant would lose money, just simple meals. Maybe a bowl of soup, a small salad. Maybe a chicken cutlet.

--Ships that carry oil should have tanks underneath the ship, inside special plastic wrap or a giant Ziploc bag so it couldn’t spill.

--Have parties for homeless people—they deserve a little fun. You’d be bored if you were homeless.

--If you are an adult, you should at least get a ticket for saying something racist. Probably around $500.

what was the last piece of youthful wisdom you've heard?


Fighting evil and bad moods

The U.S. government is sponsoring research into the feasibility of using Valium, Prozac, and Zoloft in combat. Alexander Stone writes in the August 2, 2002 of Science, that the Marine Corps has been studying research into the combat use of sedatives and other drugs that inhibit the function of the central nervous system in an effort to create an arsenal of non-lethal weapons for soldiers and police. (what if)

Research is being conducted at the Marine Corps. Funded, Institute for Emerging Defense Technologies of Penn State University. Critics say that turning such drugs into tools to subdue hostile forces would run against the international treaty that bans the use of chemical weapons. Proponents say that it could help a lot of the “forces of evil” get rid of a bad case of the "Mondays.”


swinging my nerves

The August 2002 issue of Harper’s included a copy of a 7-year old boy’s patent application for a “Method of Swinging on a Swing.” The abstract reads: “A method of swinging on a swing is disclosed, in which a user positioned on a standard swing suspended by two chains from a substantially horizontal tree branch induces side-to-side motion by pulling alternately on one chain and then the other. (look at more stuff think about it harder)

He was awarded U.S. patent# 6,368,227 on April 9, 2002.

this has inspired me to file for a patent for my approach to eating toast.


my brain's like silly-putty

Since the mid-1800’s the conventional wisdom of the brain held that every part of the brain was specialized for particular functions, such as language, and this view of the hard-wired adult brain has predominated. This view supposed that if you had not developed your neurons to a specific task of learning a second language, by age 12, then you might as well give up because it was impossible to change the hard-wiring of your adult brain to learn the new tasks. Sharon Begley of the WSJ recently reviewed the book: The Mind and the Brain: Neuroplasticity and the Power of Mental Force, in which Jeffrey Schwartz, M.D. presents a different view of the brain.

Indeed, specific portions of the brain do specialize in certain tasks, but the brain is extremely adaptable and renewable throughout life. The adult brain has the ability to build new connections among its neuron and thus rewire itself. These plastic qualities of the brain are triggered by sensory input, for the brain remodels itself in response to behavioral demands. The more use a region of the brain gets, the more it will expand.

In a research study led by Dr. Edward Taub of the University of Alabama’s study found that people who took up the violin as adults and practiced regularly, experienced a major change in their brains. Their cortex had changed so that more neurons were assigned to the fingers of their left hand. The results of this study and many others, has led a new understanding that the brain has the ability to change in response to the input it receives. The brain rewires itself based on what we think. (look at more stuff, think about it harder)

what part of your brain would you like to rewire?


creativity is the mother of invention

Solid article in the NYTimes about the 200th birthday of the Patent Office, and a roundtable discussion about it. The members of the National Inventors Hall of Fame (how cool would it be to be in that line-up?) talked about the past, the present, and the future of inventing.

Whatever their rewards, all remained enthusiastic about the creative process that produced such original ideas, including a crucial role sometimes played by serendipity. Yet government and society also should act to make sure the pace of innovation does not slow down, several said at a round-table discussion on the future of innovation.

"We are always just at the beginning of invention and innovation," said Dr. Donald Keck, the retired co-inventor of the optical fiber that has revolutionized telecommunications. Innovation is the cornerstone of prosperity in the United States, he said, and the government should provide sustained support to promote it.

Speculating on the state of innovation over the next century, several inventors said the future lay in giving children the tools to think creatively and the motivation to invent. ... "It all starts with our kids," Mr. Wozniak said. "They have to believe they can do this, and that it is not just something done at big companies. Kids nowadays hear more of companies inventing things, not individuals."

It also addresses (briefly) a call that Wired Magazine made the other day, the effort to change the way the USPTO issues patents. From the Wired article, Stop the Patent Process Madness:

IP madness not only wastes money directly, but also blows time and opportunity, which ultimately costs all consumers dearly. Ethical inventors, innovators and entrepreneurs, both corporations and individuals, must pore through patent databases and unceasingly look back over their shoulders, scanning endlessly for "stealth" patents that might blow up like hidden time bombs. There's constant concern that an overworked patent examiner has already granted some simple, obvious process or procedure a ridiculous patent that would never stand up to serious scrutiny, but that the beneficiary will still appear like an evil genie, demanding a king's ransom, an expensive court battle or both.

A couple of other good quotes from the NYTimes piece:

"Inventing is an art," Dr. West said, "Our tools are not brushes, canvases and paints. Our tools are mathematics and physics, and we have to teach children how to use them. And that points to the role of strong mentors to encourage and guide them."

"The prepared mind notices when something doesn't go as expected, and curiosity is piqued by observation," she said. "You can encourage and teach young people to observe, to ask questions when unexpected things happen," Mrs. Sherman said. "You can teach yourself not to ignore the unanticipated. Just think of all the great inventions that have come through serendipity, such as Fleming's discovery of penicillin, and just noticing something no one conceived of before."

Here's the article: The Inquiring Minds Behind 200 Years of Inventions. Thanks to Creative Generalist for the link to the NYTimes piece.


guerilla marketing made simple, marketing as culture

Wired article on the simple marketing strategy of Apple computers: including a window decal in boxes of their computers. It develops a cult of personality around the product.

"Like the VW, the Apple II was the 'Volks-computer,'" Davis said. "The early Apple users were the hippies and freaks, as opposed to businesspeople who were in the IBM PC or CP/M camps. So the rainbow sticker became a badge of hipness honor, signifying that you were smart enough and cool enough to have a personal computer. Now that they're ubiquitous, and cost a lot less, it's hard to imagine a time when it was as much of a big deal, but to Apple users it wasn't just a big deal, it was a social-political-cultural statement."

Over the years, the stickers have been a marketing coup for Apple. It's almost guaranteed that proud owners of brand-new Macs will affix a decal on their car, boat, bike, skateboard or storefront window. In fact, an Apple sticker is often the first thing people stick on a new car. Owners even peel stickers from their old vehicles and transfer them to new ones. ... There are also a surprising number of people who use Windows PCs but put Apple stickers on them. Jennifer Ozawa reported in her online journal that the first thing her husband did with his new Sony Vaio (which runs Windows) was stick an Apple decal on it.

(values, symbols, rituals)


beyond organic

Thanks to my wife, I read a great article from Gourmet magazine last night, about innovative farming techniques, as practiced at Polyface Farm. Although I can't find that article, here are two resources if you're interested in hyperorganic farming. One is a case study (go to page 4 of the pdf), and the other is an article from The Roanoke Times. Both are from 2000, but their information is sound.

(By the way, how funny is that? I mean, the information is two years old, and I was basically treating it as "outdated" or "not as valid" as it would otherwise be. How dumb. Like Plato isn't applicable, because he wrote the Republic a couple of years ago. Or like wisdom is time-sensitive. Geez.)


Louie Anderson, Cure for Common Cold

A study recently completed by physicians at Syracuse University has concluded that rubbing the head of a Louie Anderson Bobble Head Doll may fend off the common cold. The doll, newly available at www.louieaderson.com for $15.00, does not claim to have any medicinal qualities on the website, and is merely sold as an "item of whimsy." Mr. Anderson, current star of ABC-TV's Hollywood Squares, was previously a pole vault champion at Bemiji State.

Dr. Bob Cod of SU came up with the idea for the study after a bout with a bad cold in 1987. Dr. Cod said, "During my crazier days, I was at the Comedy Store in Los Angeles one night, and I stumbled into Louie's large melon while he was in the middle of a heated leg-wrestling match with Bobcat Goldthwait." "After I righted myself from the fall, I realized that my cold, which had been plaguing me for weeks, suddenly cleared." He continued by saying that, "since it is not realistic to expect Louie to be available over the counter nationwide, I thought the Bobble Louie may be a viable alternative." Initial results are promising, with more than half of the 3 study participants reporting decreased symptoms after treatment with Little Louie. Final results will be available in January 2003.

Dr. Cod is currently seeking funding for a study to cure gout with Howie Mandel.

Bort Clambulance, Richmond, VA



Ever thought about writing the Great American Novel? Here's your chance. The National Novel Writing Month begins on November 1st. The goal of it is to write a 175 page (50,000 word) novel by midnight on November 30th.

Fron the NaNoWriMo site:

Valuing enthusiasm and perseverance over talent and craft, NaNoWriMo is a novel-writing program for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved. Because of the limited writing window, the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It's all about quantity, not quality. The kamikaze approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly. Make no mistake: You will be writing a lot of crap. And that's a good thing. By forcing yourself to write so intensely, you are giving yourself permission to make mistakes. To forgo the endless tweaking and editing and just create. To build without tearing down.

I think I'm going to give it a go. Here's a deal: if you write a novel ... or even a part of a novel ... over the month of November, we'll post it here. Well, we'll post it at lookatmorestuff.com, and we'll link to it from here.

Thanks to Jennifer for sending us a note about it. Rock on with your bad self.
(skinned knees) (deadline power) (divergent > convergent)


vending your meds

Be sure to start saving your change. Not only will that coinage buy you a Payday, but it will help deliver your meds. Dr. Ken Rosenblum has created a soda-machine-sized unit that dispenses commonly prescribed medications right in the doctor’s waiting room or front desk.

I first thought this idea, seemed rather impersonal and that it would lead to a decline in jobs in the pharmacist profession, but this is not the case. Aware that drugstores were facing a severe pharmacist shortage and that many pharmacist would prefer to be counseling patients and collaborating with doctors on care plans rather than spending their time on the old, “count, lick, and stick.”
(what if, change perspective)

thanks to mary for dropping this story to us


How can an organization inspire more creativity?

Aunt to former Play intern Armistead Booker, Betty Booker, wrote an article in today's Richmond Times-Dispatch about creativity. Although there's a glaring lack of Play in it, it's a good quick article. Check it out.

And thanks to Armistead for sending it on to us.


if this were a RoadRunner cartoon, I'd expect to see "ACME" on the side of the box

The NewYork Post has an article on a waste-management technique that sounds ... well ... too good to be true.

The device uses intense electric arcs to vaporize garbage - or anything else that goes into its maze of innards. The technology - known as plasma conversion or gassification - is widely used by manufacturers such as Ford, General Motors and major pharmaceutical companies, which employ it to vaporize hazardous materials that by federal law cannot be put into landfills. The machines convert the trash into a steady surge of useable energy or electrical power. They can be small enough to fit into a cabin on a ship, or as large as a city block to take care of a municipality's garbage. Because they generally produce far more electricity than they use, McMahon said excess power could be sold back to ConEd for a profit.

So this raises a couple of questions. One, how can it possibly "produce far more electricity than [it] use[s]"? Physics doesn't work like that, unless I'm missing something. Assuming it does work, why isn't it being used everywhere? As an energy producing mechanism, at least. The landfill crisis is pretty bad, and this would be an incredible solution. Three, how could anyone not justify spending $12 million to install this technology? I'm sure New York pays a lot. One older report I saw has it at about $300 million a year. I'm not sure if that's accurate or not.

Anybody have insight into any of this? It sounds like a neat technology, although I have to admit that it sounds too good to be true.


1000 Points of Light

In 2000, NASA created a composite satellite photograph of a clear night sky all over the earth. Dark swaths of quiet night mark the polar ice regions of the Earth’s poles, while the lights of urban civilization dot and congeal to reveal the dominating expanse and centers of development.

The beauty of this photograph is that it touches the heart the paradox that is our capacity for change and progress. The gleaming lights of the human footprint on the planet Earth trace a faith in human progress, while at the same time marking the loss of the Earth’s natural legacy. Biologists forecast the extinction of 20% of known species during the next 30 years and the lights of our progress also mark the destruction of habitat that sustains and nourishes the natural processes that support and nourish the full richness of life. (Change Perspective)

props to Dizzy Gillespie on his b-day.

who / what / why

At Play we create brands, strategies, new products, and better cultures for Fortune 100 companies. Our formula for creativity: "Look at more stuff. Think about it harder." Pure Content is one place where we do that, daily.

the cool kids' table

Ben Domenech
(politics, football, and a boatload of know-how)

Creative Generalist
(if Pure Content had a doppelganger ...)

Heath Row
(punk + business
+ creativity = Heath)


go go gadget google:

stuck in an airport

A Pattern Language

Creative Company
Orbiting the Giant Hairball
The Ultimate Book of Business Creativity

The Little Prince

Wittgenstein's Poker

The Dancing Wu Li Masters

The Tipping Point

new to you

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see our neighbors
Comments by: YACCS