Comcast's Carbon Tax

Last week my Comcast cable stopped working on certain channels. As I was trying to figure out what worked and what didn't, I recalled a brief conversation with someone in a Comcast storefront about some sort of "digital conversion" (not the federally mandated one, as Comcast wants us to believe).

Luckily, that same person (one of the only two helpful people I've dealt with at Comcast, ever) had given me two items called "Digital Adapters" that were to be used to connect the TV(s) that had no box (cable straight from the wall) so that they could continue to receive all the channels (at least the ones I pay for).

I'm not all that thrilled about now having more boxes hanging around my TV sets, nor am I happy that I can't just use the cable feed from the wall in a way that I choose (and there are issues with the new remotes also). But as I searched for yet another open outlet to plug in yet another device (oddly, the Comcast-supplied plug won't fit into the plug in the back of the one Comcast cable box I do have), this thought occurred to me:

These things (I have two) use electricity. My electric bill will go up. So will my carbon footprint.

Comcast tells me that these little boxes are mandatory (unless I want to pay for a full cable box - no thanks). So I have no choice. They also told me they are free. But they're not. Comcast doesn't charge me for them.

But I will be paying PG&E for the electricity they use. And they will be the cause of more carbon emissions.

I know they probably use very little power (I asked @comcastcares exactly how much, and 6 days and 2 repeated requests later have yet to receive a response - update: this morning the Comcast twitter team responded and promised to try to find info on Monday), but they use power. And I have two. So do most of my neighbors.

I wonder - if you added up all the tiny bits of carbon emissions created by these boxes all across all of Comcast's customers, how big exactly is the mandatory Comcast Carbon Tax?

I'm sure Comcast won't tell us.

Evolution of an Industry, in short (from the New York Times)

From The New York Times:

When Publishing Had Scents and Sounds
Published: September 5, 2009

WE did not notice Charles Darwin slip inside the doors of Simon & Schuster and take a seat in our reception area.

When I grew up in publishing in the 1970s, the process and the tools were relatively simple. Marketing worked like this: whatever book that Doubleday Bookstore chose to feature in its Fifth Avenue store window (now Prada) usually became a best seller. The Book of the Month Club judges — the Simon Cowells of their day — selected what they considered the very best. We were a small community of authors, editors and agents, and we were on fire.

We gorged on news of the latest books — those that changed the world, like “Future Shock” by Alvin Toffler, “The Female Eunuch” by Germaine Greer or “Radical Chic” by Tom Wolfe.

We proudly carried manuscripts everywhere. I carried them in canvas tote bags to summer beach rentals in East Hampton and to winter sales conferences in South Carolina. Decades later, I discovered that my right arm was a half-inch longer than my left.

But it was our office archaeology that I remember the most. There was a primitive chaos to it all — the hybrid scent of tobacco and mimeograph ink, and the sounds of ringing phones, of typewriters zipping along until the warning bell pinged near the end of a line, and of the clack-clack-clack of the return handle as the carriage reset.

Our artifacts were sitting atop our desks: Rolodexes, “in” and “out” boxes and fountain pens that stained our blotters. And dictionaries, atlases and all manner of reference books were propped high over file cabinets.

I started out at William Morrow as a “manuscript girl” — a promising title in the ’70s — reading everything that came into the office and distributing it to the correct editor, copy editor, proofreader, art director or sales manager. I was buried in paper: onion skin carbon paper, three-ply message pads, and manuscripts bound by three-ring binders or stuffed into oatmeal boxes.

Then I joined Simon & Schuster, working my way up the ladder. During my 14 years there, “progress” came in the form of electric typewriters and Filofaxes. And Mr. Darwin was now working in our supply room, dumping our paper clips in the “soon to be extinct” bin and stacking packs of Post-it notes atop the “potentially fit for survival” shelf.

Eventually, the answering of our wired-to-the-wall phones by secretaries and editorial assistants morphed into voice mail. Gone were message pads and telephone dialers.

The Xerox machine meant that suddenly, not one manuscript was submitted to one publisher, but that 10 copies went to 10 publishers simultaneously. The first publisher to claim the book won, cutting a six-week process to six days or sometimes six hours.

Agents soon realized that they could auction books to publishers and not settle for the first bid. Knopf would bid against Putnam, Simon & Schuster would bid againstRandom House, and so on. The fax machine accelerated the process of signing contracts, and beamed manuscripts overseas for worldwide auctions.

Our lives changed. Agents descended on our formerly humble authors, empowering the new literary lions with Hollywood-like contracts and making us dizzy with new rules.

We were all drunk on the new attention. We hired public relations firms, sought Barbara Walters interviews and romanced the “Today” show. The heads of the B. Dalton/Waldenbooks/Borders/Barnes & Noble chains now sat next toJohn Updike at dinner tables at booksellers’ conventions.

Then came the ’90s — the age of the computer, the atomic bomb that wiped out typewriters as well as typewriter ribbon, Wite-Out, carbon paper, in and out boxes and a serious percentage of stamps, Scotch Tape, stationery, staplers, paper clips, clocks, adding machines and, ultimately, paper itself. Palm Pilots phased out calendars, address books and calculators.

E-mail replaced phone calls. E-mail replaced meetings. And, eventually, e-mail replaced secretaries. Soon, our efficient tools started to threaten more of our species. BookScan used bar codes to measure book sales, doing some work that sales managers used to do. Quicken started doing some of the accountants’ work. Google search replaced work of researchers. Spell-check and TextEdit did some of what copy editors and proofreaders had done.

Our offices became sleek. Desks became clean, except for the computer with a Nano or BlackBerry or iPhone tethered to it (like mother and child). And print on demand and e-readers were transforming the very foundation of publishing.

SO, it’s 2009. Now what?

Is the screen the new paper? Will publishing houses go the way of the old-fashioned record store? Is digital delivery the new bookstore? Is Google the new library? Is the author the new musician, playing directly to the audience? Is the audience the new author?

I can’t answer these questions. I am no longer in book publishing. I ran from the building several years ago, the moment I glimpsed Charlie Darwin sitting in the corner office.

Joni Evans, a former book publishing executive and literary agent, is a co-founder and C.E.O. of, a Web site for women.

RAW DATA: Text of Resignation Letter From Van Jones - Political News -

"I am resigning my post at the Council on Environmental Quality, effective today.

On the eve of historic fights for health care and clean energy, opponents of reform have mounted a vicious smear campaign against me. They are using lies and distortions to distract and divide.

I have been inundated with calls - from across the political spectrum - urging me to "stay and fight."

But I came here to fight for others, not for myself. I cannot in good conscience ask my colleagues to expend precious time and energy defending or explaining my past. We need all hands on deck, fighting for the future.

It has been a great honor to serve my country and my President in this capacity. I thank everyone who has offered support and encouragement. I am proud to have been able to make a contribution to the clean energy future. I will continue to do so, in the months and years ahead."

Lee C. Bollinger: New York: Media Capital 2.0

There is a troubling virus that is spreading among New York's business and intellectual communities. It is the assumption that the virtual world of the internet can assume the role that a great city like New York has always filled in attracting ingenious people who generate new ideas and new businesses. The truth is, this is a viral myth. Information technology has certainly changed a lot about our society and our economy. But most creative people want to live and work together in a real community of other interesting people. That's the great strength of university campuses and of cities themselves. The question is whether New York City can use its historic position as an innovative leader to take advantage of new technology and provide the next generation with the long-term jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities they need.

New York City area colleges and universities are central to achieving that goal. The area's institutions of higher learning generate 65,000 jobs and have an estimated economic impact of $18.5 billion each year. That's why it was a wise decision to include Columbia and several other universities on Mayor Bloomberg's multi-sector MediaNYC 2020 task force, the goal of which is to create roughly 8,000 media-sector jobs while strengthening New York's position as the media capital of the world.

Currently, the city's media industry employs more than 300,000 people and accounts for $30 billion in annual revenue. But, like Wall Street, many of our traditional media companies are shedding jobs while the new media and technology sector - which includes global mobile entertainment, internet gaming, social networking and user-generated content - is growing ... unfortunately, mostly outside of New York City.

The Mayor's MediaNYC 2020 initiative aims to address that gap in part by increasing collaboration between the media industry and New York City's universities to foster innovation and entrepreneurship. As part of this initiative, the city plans to develop the NYC Media Lab, modeled after highly successful media labs at Stanford and MIT. The Lab will serve as an exchange center connecting companies looking to advance new media technologies with institutions, like Columbia, that have the research capabilities to bring them to life.

In fact, universities like Columbia have long played a central role in nurturing some of the world's most influential writers, artists, filmmakers, and publishers who were drawn to the media capital of the world.

What is less well known about Columbia -- and our local peer institutions -- is the extent to which our scientists, engineers, and biomedical researchers have produced essential research and breakthrough discoveries. These discoveries are the source of entrepreneurial ideas and commercial technologies, leading to local investment, jobs, and taxes. New York City's academic research centers - Columbia, NYU, Rockefeller, Mt. Sinai, Sloan Kettering, Einstein, and Cornell - receive nearly $2 billion in combined research funding and generate 650 inventions, 200 new licenses and options, 20 new start-up companies and over $500 million in licensing revenue annually. Technology from Columbia alone is responsible for an average of 10 to 12 new companies each year. Our research breakthroughs have led to the creation of over 100 new companies to-date, many of which got their start right here in the City.

And the City's leadership is not just in the life sciences. While Silicon Valley may be more well known for leveraging the enormous research capacities of its major universities into new local industries, the fact is that many great ideas have been developed right here. For example, Columbia researchers have had a hand in media and communications breakthroughs, including FM radio, lasers, VOIP, compression algorithms behind DVDs and HDTV, X-ray photography, and a new laser-based method that makes possible, among other things, sharper display screens found in many high-end smart phones.

What the Mayor's initiative can do is help make sure that more of the entrepreneurial businesses that rely on such local breakthroughs not only start in New York City, but also stay and grow here.

New York City remains a global center for knowledge and culture, media and communications precisely because creative people thrive by living and working together in a vibrant city. Our research universities continue to attract great minds and generate new intellectual capital by bringing together scholars and practitioners in diverse fields - from journalism and business to engineering and computer science. With that kind of talent, New York can be a place where new technology doesn't threaten our leadership, but instead provides yet another opportunity for this city to chart its own future.

Why the internet is not New York City