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May 26, 2023


The startup that I worked for '99 to '02 had a serious enshitification problem, in that it purported to be a pre-screening service for customers, but all of its revenue came from the vendor side of the handshake. As such, it quickly went from vetting and monitoring vendors to trying to guarantee vendors enough business to make subscribing cost-effective. In the process of trying to do this, the company (which shall not be named for NDA reasons) repeatedly compromised and subverted their screening and conflict management process.

The dot com bubble version of the last step, however, was not about clawing back value for themselves so much as it was about inflating the user base large enough to attract a buyer and cash in and retire, Solon like, right after with no fear of having to sustain the model - preferably right after a splashy move to go public. Most of the bubblespawn in my area ran out of development funds before they ever hit the point where they could attract a buyer.

Here's a new start up opportunity.
Generic Air-Gen Effect in Nanoporus Materials for Sustainable Energy Harvesting from Air Humodity
Basically, they've established that they can extract electrical energy from the humidity in the air. Less in Phoenix that in Miami, of course, and less in the Arctic where the water is largely frozen out of the air. But still, there's at least some humidity everywhete. And no dependence on wind or sun. Better yet, the material with nanopores can be made of pretty much anything, including organics (e.g. wood), metals, etc.

Definitely work needed to scale up, so solar panel manufacturers don't need to panic. Yet. But money will get made here by someone.

Still, isn't it awful the way we let these immigrants into the country? (All three authors are immigrants from China, currently at U Mass.) So much better if they'd just stay where they came from.

When I saw a similar article a few days ago I went looking for the paper in search of some sort of "energy per unit area" value. Didn't find the whole paper, did find a PDF with all of the figures. Their best result worked out to be 0.022 kWh per square meter per year. I think I can find a lot of better places to put angel financing than this.

Their best result worked out to be 0.022 kWh per square meter per year.

In the article I read, they pointed out that this technology doesn't just work at the surface, so long as air can reach into the object. So the relevant metric may be per cubic meter. Which, when the fibers are a fraction of the thickness of a human hair, significantly changes the viability of the technology.

I'd also note that what they have so far is in the nature of a proof of concept demonstration. We could well see a Moore's Law type phenomena with this technology as well.

Japan's first private moon lander crashed last month. AP reports that the cause has been identified: software error. It's been 40 years since I was one of the poor systems engineering schmucks who was giving talks to managers at Bell Labs telling them their future projects would fail because of software, not hardware, and they should start learning. (Most managers at that time had come from the hardware side of things.)

Beats trying to extract sunbeams from cucumbers.

Well, at least the Japanese moon lander software didn't fail from mixing up metric and english units, I'm sure.

American is still #1 in that department.

Brooke Gladstone interviewed Cory Doctorow on this topic on On the Media. part 1, part 2, part 3

Open thread, so... Visiting my wife at the memory care facility on Friday was a disaster. Today's visit was much better. I'm still struggling to deal with "some stories don't have happy endings," and will no doubt keep on struggling.

Michael, I hope you will call on us if there is anything we can do to help. Even if it is only to give you a place to talk things out.

Michael, I send my best wishes. As wj writes, if I can help in some way only ask.

Sad for you, Michael. Hard times -- I hope the mode of today's visit becomes more the norm.

And what wj said.

I'm sorry, Michael - I have an aunt who has issues with memory, but over the past 10 years everybody involved seems to have found a way to deal with it, trying to make the best of a difficult situation.

I wish you and your wife all the best.

Definitely some enshitification there, Michael. Here’s hoping for more good days.

Michael: what everybody said.

Michael, you have my sympathy as well.

My dad had memory problems and dementia, most probably caused by his college boxing career. He deteriorated quite a bit after my mom passed away, and one thing I wish that I had made him do would have been to get hearing aids. I got him to go to the check up, but then he got angry and insisted that he didn't need it, his hearing was fine. I think it would have made a difference at least in staving off some of the issues, something I note, because it might be helpful to some of us.

true, lj, a professor and ENT surgeon told me recently that loss of hearing can contribute significantly to these conditions and that it's therefore essential to correct it early on - sorry about your dad

My mother and mother-in-law both developed dementia in the last few years of their lives. I had to introduce myself to my mother each time I saw her. My mother-in-law often thought I was her late husband, and, distressingly for us both, would want to know where her late daughter was.

It seems that, with current medical knowledge, progression is inevitable. It may be a small consolation that there are stages in the decay of memory when the patient has forgetten sadnesses and sometimes remembers joys.

I mourned the loss of my mother while she was still alive. But my father, who is deaf but of sound mind, saw something of her still in her eyes until the very end.

Life is a journey. I wish you well on it, Michael.

My mother, toward the end, was reasonably happy, I think. The downward slope was hard because she knew it was happening. Then there was a scary (for her) phase when she just couldn't understand anything. THen finally she was calm and half asleep all the time and smiled a lot. Her last words to me were "I'm so proud of you."
SHe'd forgotten her other two kids.
Old age is cruel.
I hope Michael and his wife can cope their way toward some kind of equilibrium. I wish them the best.

I've dealt with this. Some lessons I have learned:
Deal with vision and hearing issues.
For my mother, UTI's would knock her IQ massively (as would Vicodin).

One important thing - get an accountant, and make sure that all affairs are in order. You don't want scammers to steal the money, or for important bills going unpaid (insurance, property taxes).

, or for important bills going unpaid (insurance, property taxes).

Until a recent Supreme Court ruling, it was legal in many states for jurisdictions to take possession of properties for even small amounts of unpaid taxes, sell the properties, and keep every cent from the sales.

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