Archive for July, 2007


Missed MinnSec

For those who inquired and for those who sent their greetings, yes I missed MinnSec on Thursday due to family obligations. It sounded good, I hope that there will be more, and I will try to make it to them.

For those who don’t know what the heck I missed, follow the link. Or don’t, since Gunnar’s summary is succinct: “unmediated, unvendorized, peer to peer security meetup.”

Architecture, Climate, Design, Environment

Sustainable Architecture and Design

I’m listening to one of my favorite episodes of Tech Nation, Dr. Moira Gunn’s interview with Michelle Kaufmann about her work with sustainable architecture. Her architecture firm focuses on modular, sustainable design using green materials and processes.

I find this fascinating and even a little exciting on more than one level. First, I am enchanted (although not surprised) to hear architects thinking about these things. Kaufmann’s firm carefully chooses renewable, sustainable materials like bamboo instead of hardwood floors because it grows back so fast. Dual-flush toilets to save water (brilliant! why doesn’t everyone have these?). They build modular components in a controlled factory environment, which allows for efficiencies like precision cuts for less waste, and reduced energy consumption. She likens a site-built house to building a car in your driveway. :)

They’ve published a book about their process, choosing Blurb because just-in-time publishing lets them keep the book up to date without waste. It reminds me of how Flickr chose parters/vendors based on their API because APIs are important to Flickr.

The role of the architect in their work is interesting, as well. Too often writing software is likened to building, well, buildings (why can’t it just be like building a bridge?). In conversations about waterfall methodologies, the analogy is close: an architect throws a design over the wall and the construction engineers take the design and turn it in a building. Writing software doesn’t work like that, of course, so I was glad to hear in the interview that Kauffman stresses the importance of the building contractors getting involved much earlier in the process, and the architect staying involved much longer. It works well for them.

Good show.


Kopplin’s Coffee

On a tip from Garrick, I stopped by Kopplin’s Coffee in Saint Paul yesterday. I now find myself trying to arrange my life so I can get back there soon. It is the coffee shop I have been waiting for.

The espresso, served ristretto by default, was excellent, the first I have had in months that is even worth mentioning. And although I saw no evidence, I hear tell that they may have a guest espresso from time to time. I also had a cup of their Papua New Guinea, which didn’t quite taste fully developed — it felt like a dark caramel flavor was screaming to come out through the just-a-tad-too-light roast — but that was nevertheless very good, no doubt because it was brewed for me when I ordered it.


I see they have TeaSource teas. Smart.

They use local milk.

I was there briefly, just long enough to share a muffin with my son, but expect me to return very soon and spend a bit more time, lingering over carefully prepared coffee. I can’t wait.


It’s working

For several years, Minnesota required that vehicles pass an emissions test before they could be licensed. It was a simple enough process for most of us, but I know it irked many. They grumbled about the small fee and the trouble of having to drive to a testing station. But the air got cleaner.

When Jesse Ventura was governor, he lifted the requirement.

Why? Because it had worked. The air was cleaner, he argued, so the emissions testing program has done its job. Now we can stop testing.

Uh, yeah. Right. Not the conclusion I had reached. I would rather say that the program was working rather than that it had worked, and so we should have kept it going. But it was a popular decision, and now we can just go on polluting. Yay for us.

My four year old has had a cough for several weeks. A persistent, non-productive cough that sometimes interferes with his sleep. He never coughs when we bring him to the doctor, of course, so they can’t verify or attempt a decent diagnosis. As an experiment, we’re trying a non-dairy diet. Within a day after starting, his cough had stopped. It’s been several days now, and he hasn’t coughed once.

The first day, he said to us, “See? It worked. I’m not coughing. May I please have some milk now?”

It’s working, kiddo, let’s stick with it awhile longer.

He understood.