4/16/2014

"New IRS" Lets Americans Tell The US Where Their Tax Dollars Should Go


Happy Tax Day! Do you know where your tax dollars are going? No? Doesn't that seem a little ridiculous? What if you could tell the government exactly how to spend your hard-earned money? Now you can—even if it is hypothetically.

The New IRS is a project that lets you tell the U.S. how you'd like your tax dollars to be spent. Using an interactive tool on its website, you can create your "personal allocation plan," using color-coded sliders to adjust where you'd like your money to go. The site then compares your personal allocations with the way the U.S. actually plans to spend your tax money. Guess what that maroon color is?

After the site has collected lots of personal allocation plans, the folks behind it plan to release a report that shows how out of sync the wishes of Americans are with the actual spending plan for the country. WhiteHouse.gov has a nifty taxpayer "receipt" tool that shows you where your tax dollars will go, but it doesn't have any place for Americans to input their own thoughts about the expenditures. The New IRS hopes to bridge that gap.

The project was conceived by Alex Ebert, the singer for the band Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros (whose catchy 2010 hit "Home" may have appeared in more commercials than any other song in history), as part of a hackathon at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year. “We present to you a simulation, that you may peruse and develop a taste for a new paradigm of citizen power," he said in a statement. “Through your participation, we will be able to collect national data that will serve to reflect our ethics as a nation, as well as to illuminate disparities between our will and the actual expenditures of the current political powers." And then he started whistling. Just kidding....more at Gizmodo 

Imogen Heap's high-tech gloves could make the rest of your band obsolete


If you thought Michael Jackson was the only musician to believe in the magical power of a glove, think again. Imogen Heap has "joined forces with the nerd underworld" to create a new high-tech glove called Mi.Mu that allows you to control sound with your hands. Using lights and motion sensors, the gloves can map a variety of hand gestures to different instruments and sounds, with each pair able to store literally thousands of combinations. It's a concept she first talked about at TED in 2011.

Right now the gestural music system is being built specifically for Heap, who has already come up with some crazy combinations. One of them, for example, is as follows: "If I am making a fist with my right hand, and pointing downwards with my left hand, map the 'roll' of my right wrist to MIDI control change message 60 on channel 2." Say what? The goal is to make the project open-source so anyone can get in on the action. Pricing on the Mi.Mu's Kickstarter page, however, represents a product that's more for pop stars than your average garage band. To get a glove and the necessary electronics you'll need to shell out 750 pounds ($1260!). If you do decide to invest, the system could certainly add a little flair to your stage presence -- as long as you don't have to sneeze. Via Engadget 


Oklahoma Will Charge Customers Who Install Their Own Solar Panels


Oklahoma residents who produce their own energy through solar panels or small wind turbines on their property will now be charged an additional fee, the result of a new bill passed by the state legislature and expected to be signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin (R).

On Monday, S.B. 1456 passed the state House 83-5 after no debate. The measure creates a new class of customers: those who install distributed power generation systems like solar panels or small wind turbines on their property and sell the excess energy back to the grid. While those with systems already installed won’t be affected, the new class of customers will now be charged a monthly fee — a shift that happened quickly and caught many in the state off guard.

“We knew nothing about it and all of a sudden it’s attached to some other bill,” Ctaci Gary, owner of Sun City Oklahoma, told ThinkProgress. “It just appeared out of nowhere.”

Because the surcharge amount has not been determined, Gary is cautious about predicting the impact it will have on her business. She has already received multiple calls from people asking questions about the bill and wanting to have solar systems installed before the new fee takes effect. “We’re going to use it as a marketing tool,” Gary said. “People deserve to have an opportunity [to install their own solar panels] and not be charged.”

“It is unfortunate that some utilities that enthusiastically support wind power for their own use are promoting a regressive policy that will make it harder for their customers to use wind power on their own,” said Mike Bergey, president & CEO of Bergey Windpower in Norman, Oklahoma, in a statement. “Oklahoma offers tax credits for large wind turbines which are built elsewhere, but wants to penalize small wind which we manufacture here in the state? That makes no sense to me.”..more at Climate Progress 

MUSIC: Amason - Älgen

MUSIC: Hundred Waters - Xtalk

MUSIC: Comets We Fall - Falling Skies (Ft. Yushichi)

4/14/2014

Imagine if, after you die, all of your e-mails, G-chats, tweets, photos and Facebook posts became available to the public.

You Can Read All 17,198 of Susan Sontag's Emails

She sent emails with subject lines like "Whassup?"

 Imagine if, after you die, all of your e-mails, G-chats, tweets, photos and Facebook posts became available to the public. For a handful of famous writers and intellectuals, a version of that digital mind dump is already reality. For instance, NPR reports, Susan Sontag's 17,198 emails are all available for viewing on a laptop in the UCLA Library Special Collections reading room.

For better or for worse, archived e-mails can add an element of personality to a writer. From The Millions:

[Biographer D.T.] Max may regret that [David Foster] Wallace’s writing became terse when he used email, yet it surely casts light on the life and work. It could be that Wallace, as he lapsed back into the depression that eventually killed him, simply didn’t want to write more effusively. Or that in emails he didn’t feel the same obligation to cloak his feelings in craft. Whatever the reason, clearly the expansive and carefully-wrought writing of Wallace’s novels did not come entirely naturally.

For many others, however, email is a light-hearted form. Benjamin Moser highlights his delight at realizing “that Sontag sent e-mails with the subject heading ‘Whassup?’”


With limited amounts of time, historians are more likely to focus on public figures like Sontag and Wallace to create full-scale archives instead of documenting every single electronic artifact left by John Smith from Anytown, USA. But librarians are working to capture at least a portion of the the thoughts and feelings of ordinary people, too. The Library of Congress has an archive of every tweet that was tweeted from 2006 to 2010. And the Internet Archive has subcollection, curated by librarians, of the information and rumors that fly around so quickly during troubling times like revolutions or attacks...more at The Smithsonian

Bike Repair Rooms Popping Up in New Apartment Buildings


Apartment complexes are sprouting up all over the Denver metro area, many of them featuring a new amenity: bicycle-maintenance rooms.

A nod to the growing popularity of two-wheelers in urban settings, bike rooms have been built at two downtown apartment buildings — Solera, which opened in 2010 at 1956 Lawrence St., and Skyline 1801, a renovated building at 18th and Arapahoe streets, which expects its first new tenants to move in late this month.

Bike maintenance and repair rooms also are planned for at least six other apartment buildings under construction or planned for the area, including two projects by Zocalo Community Development: Cadence, at 17th Street and Chestnut Place, and 2020 Lawrence Apartments.

Bike rooms are also in the blueprints for two Nichols Partnership projects: Cruise, a renovation at 1899 Gaylord Street in City Park West, and a planned 314-unit apartment complex above an urban grocery store at 20th Street and Chestnut. And they're planned for Riverfront Park, 1900 Little Raven St., and The Retreat at Flatirons, in the Broomfield Business Center.

In addition, bike rooms are featured in at least four other complexes across the country.

"More and more, we see a biking culture taking hold here," said David Zucker, a principal and development manager at Zocalo.

Zocalo pioneered the bike-room concept locally — the company calls it a "Velo Room" — at Solera.

"We will be doing it at 2020 Lawrence and at Cadence, and we take bigger steps at each project," Zucker said. "Whether you have an expensive bike or a beat-up old cruiser, people like to ride."

Susan Maxwell, director of real estate for Zocalo, said the Velo Room at Solera includes "all the tools that you might need — Park brand tools, a stand to put your bike on while you work on it, a workbench, aprons, air pumps, tubes and lube, and other supplies. Also, consumables such as gel packs and energy bars, as well as maps on the wall for the more than 800 miles of bike trails in the Denver area."..more at Denver Post