Wednesday, March 23, 2011

L.I.N.K.S. that Lure, Intrigue, Nurture, Kindle, or Stimulate, Part 3

History of the World in 100 Seconds

The Human Development Index (vice GDP)

The Illustrated Guide to a PhD

Social Media Explained

Brewing with the Enemy (Collaboration Beers)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Happy Pi Day 3.14

This is a Post Script, added on 3.16 after the original 3.14 post. There is a story here worth the telling: a tale of who owns the creative commons, and legal battles erupting via YouTube.

At the bottom of this post is an embedded video called, "What Pi Sounds Like." Don't try to scroll down and click on it now, for reasons that will become obvious as the story unfolds. Just know that I liked the concept of the video: a song based on converting the digits of the mathematical constant, Pi, 3.14.... to musical notes, E.CF.... The video is creative, even if the music sounds like a children's song. The creator and performer, Mr John Blake, was even invited to appear on NPR and talk about his work. I am not sure when the interview was recorded but I heard the interview about midnight.

But some time after I posted the link, and probably before I heard the interview about it, a composer named Lars Erickson blocked access to the video, which caused my link here to break. The link below is still cold. Some of you may have tried to click it already. Mr Erickson blocked the video, claiming it was a copyright infringement. Lars' 1992 Pi Symphony was created based on the idea of converting the notes of a musical scale into numbers and then playing the digits of Pi. The second video up from the bottom is a video in which Mr Erickson explains the concept for his symphony.

The question is: does Mr Erickson own the concept of converting the digits of Pi to musical notes? Even if he does have some legitimate claim to the idea, what is the most effective strategy for maximizing his position, financially and socially, when other players have similar creative ideas?

First of all, I seriously doubt that Mr Erickson is the first to think of playing Pi on the piano. He may be entitled to royalties for future productions of the Pi Symphony, but there is no way anyone could possibly confuse Mr Blake's effort with the Pi Symphony. And if Mr Erickson does not own the concept of playing Pi on musical instruments, then he has no reason to block Mr Blake's effort. In fact, he may have been smarter from a financial and social perspective to promote and encourage Mr Blake's video.

Within 24 hours, the controversy was apparently resolved when Mr Blake's video was reposted. I have left the original, broken video (1), added both Mr Erickson's video (2) and Mr Blake's re-posted video (3) below.

3. John Blake's video is back online.

2. Lars Erickson explains his 1992 symphony in this 2006 video.

1. The video I posted on 3.14 was subsequently blocked by Lars Erickson for copyright infringement.

For discussion:

  • Does Mr Erickson have a legitimate claim to the concept of making music based on Pi? 
  • Did Lars over-react to Mr Blake's video? 
  • Is John's effort a rip-off, or is it unique, or something in-between? 
  • Does Mr Blake owe Mr Erickson any royalties? 
  • Has Lars helped or harmed his financial ond social standing by attempting to block his rival? 
  • Would it have been better financially or socially for Mr Erickson to promote Mr Blake's effort? 
  • If so, how, and if not, why not? 
  • What would you do if you were Lars Erickson? 

Comments welcome.

Japan Earthquake & Tsunami: 7 Simple Ways to Help

With a hat tip to Mashable, some ideas for how to help the earthquake & tsunami relief effort (HERE)

Street-Level Footage of Japanese Town Washing Away

Some frightening video shot by a modern Zapruder (HERE)

Friday, March 4, 2011

Support Local Brewers--Watch the Video, Click LIKE

I got the below email via DC-Beer. I am republishing it here to encourage people to support a great, beer-related business idea. Catherine Portner is a great-granddaughter of brewer Robert Portner. She and her siblings have the idea of creating a brewery incubator--a place for home brewers to test their favorite recipes alongside Portner family faves. They plan a brewhouse and beer garden in the Alexandria area. They are competing nationally for a $100,000 prize and I hope they win!  


Dear Friends, Family and Well-Wishers, 

I hope this e-mail finds you well! 

My siblings and I have been chosen as a Top 20 Finalist in the Last Plan Standing 100K Competition, a nationwide competition that will award a marketing communications plan worth up to $100,000 to an original, relevant and ingenious business idea. 

Please help us advance to the next round by selecting the "LIKE" button when you follow the link below before March 20th 

If you would not mind also sharing with folks in your network, we would appreciate your support! 

Questions, comments or other - please share - we are all ears and would love to hear your thoughts! 

Our Sincere Thank You!! 

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Poll: What do people want in a local brewery?

In a recent blog post (HERE), I welcomed Port City Brewing to the community of beer lovers, particularly those of us in Alexandria. I described the brewery and the beers and gave a brief assessment, which concluded like this: "The beers are well-made, with a focus on balance and moderation. They may not be overly exciting to my jaded palate, but they are certainly good and very drinkable." 

As thrilled as I am to have a craft brewer in my back yard, I must admit my comments about this new brewery are not exactly a ringing endorsement. Why not? What is the source of my disappointment? This question got me thinking about what sort of a brewery I would have preferred. Or, to put it more bluntly, what kind of brewery would I create myself, given this market and my own dreams and desires?  

My $0.02 on the Port City business plan: Bill's brewing for the portion of the craft beer market that has been left behind in the push for extremes. That’s a clear mission statement, but it makes me wonder: is it an accurate reading of the market? Extreme beers generate curiosity, but what are people buying the most? Are people who like craft beer so tired of variety and novelty that they long for a good, old-fashioned beer? 

I personally love the wide variety of great beer that we can already get here in the DC area. When people visit from out of town, they are amazed by the variety at our fingertips. We rival places like Portland for variety available. Yet visitors are stunned by the dearth of home-grown brands in the mix. With Port City open and others opening soon, that situation is changing! 

Brewers are definitely responding to this gap, and I am so excited about the burgeoning local brewing scene.  As I reported in a recent post, there are 31 currently open local breweries and brew-pubs within 100 miles of the Capitol, plus an additional 15 non-local brew-pub chains and "tied house" brewery outlets with no brewing on premises.  Added to these 46 establishments, we have 9 more breweries and brew-pubs coming soon to this area. Lots of choice, and more on the way! I am excited about the possibility of even more great beer, especially great locally-made beer at our taps. 

At the same time, I am not so excited about good beers just because they are locally made. Bill's brewing for the portion of the craft beer market that has been left behind in the push for extremes. Perhaps I am caught up in the chase to the extremes? Does that put me in the market or out of it? Am I so overstimulated by the awesome variety that I have lost my taste for the merely solid? What does the market want from the new brewers that are arriving on the scene?

Here are the results of a poll I commissioned on BeerPal to help shed some light on this issue. The results indicate that people want variety. They like their variety to come from local sources if possible. They want reasonably priced beers. Now and then, they will pay more for unique or great beer.  

Bill is realizing his vision for balanced, well-made beers. For his sake I hope he is reading the market right. If so, his efforts will be richly rewarded. That said, I believe a place like Mad Fox might be a little closer to meeting this market’s demand. We can get a good wit, pale, IPA, or porter at almost any corner grocery store. But you must go to Mad Fox to get Orange Whip or India Ink. Those beers are not only local, they are unique and incredibly tasty! And they are not available anywhere else in the world. Now THAT is local pride.

When I go to a restaurant with a good tap list like Old Town's Pizzeria Paradiso, for example, and I see Port City Optimal Wit on offer as one of 20 choices, would I choose that over other options which are far more intriguing or satisfying? Maybe I would choose it once, because I want to have something local, but twice? Certainly I would recommend it to someone who has not tried it. Local pride is a great thing, but sentiment only goes so far in a free market economy.

I could be wrong, or just jaded by all the great beers I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy by virtue of living in this area and traveling abroad. I am looking for variety and something new and good. I don’t need envelope-pushing novelty all the time, but I am not the kind to order the same beer every day for years on end when there is so much new stuff to try.

I conclude that Bill’s simply not brewing for guys like me. And that’s OK, because there’s Mad Fox for guys like me. And there's a ton of young people drinking Shock Top at the Kennedy Center who have never had a real Belgian-style witbier. For them, may I recommend Port City Optimal Wit?