The Idiot Cycle by Emmanuelle Schick Garcia – a review

I had the good fortune to be invited to the premier screening of the documentary film,”The Idiot Cycle,” directed and produced by Emmanuelle Schick Garcia. Presented at a private viewing, and in the company of many journalists, the 96-minute film received a robust round of applause.  At its conclusion, we were allowed a lengthy and candid Q&A session with Ms Garcia.

Emmanuelle Schick Garcia is a Spanish-Canadian film director, with a most charming accent from the South of France (when speaking in French).   The idea of the film took root when Ms Garcia’s mother was struck down with cancer and she then found out that at least one of the parents of each her twenty closest friends had also come down with cancer.  Clearly, more than coincidence was at work.

The Idiot Cycle, which took 10 years to make, documents how the rise of cancer can be related to the work of a number of chemical companies, such as Monsanto, Dow Chemical, BASF, etc.  Among the core issues, the film puts the focus more on the cause rather than the cure.  One of the major revelations for me was the fact that, in some cases, the companies that produce the chemicals used in the fertilizers are also pharmaceutical companies, providing the medication to cure the cancers that the same chemicals are (alleged) to cause. According to the film’s site, AstraZeneca is a perfect example.  AstraZeneca is the result of a merger between Astra AG (Sweden) and Zeneca Group of the UK (second biggest maker of cancer drugs behind Bristol-Meyers Squibb).  “Zeneca is also maker of fungicides and herbicides (including the carcinogen acetochlor) and owns the third-largest source of cancer-causing pollution in the U.S. – a chemical plant in Perry, Ohio. In 1996 this facility emitted 53,000 pounds of recognized carcinogens into the air.”

The other revelation was the fact that the Canadian government was not interested in participating in the film.  Any politicians that were interviewed for the film were edited out because of a tongue-tied lack of pertinency.  The fact that the cited chemical companies chose not to participate is more understandable.  However, the government’s role is to protect its people.  Seemingly, the film underscores how economics are the driving force.

If The Idiot Cycle still has not found any broad distribution (yet), due to its sensitive nature, it is certainly a film worth seeing.  The film can be rented for 4.99 euros here at Japanese Pop Songs.  In a new twist on community film watching, you can also rent the film for up to five friends in one single transaction.

Here is a trailer of the film via YouTube:

If the embedded link to the trailer disappears (which seems to be the case), you can go directly view the trailer on YouTube here.

N.B. Emmanuelle Schick is prepared to provide viewings of the film on school/university campuses for free.

Sir James Dyson Airblade: Favourite Hair Dryer Status

Dyson Airblade Hand DryerAs you travel around and visit the various public toilets, you tend to come across an ever growing array of hand dryers. Nothwithstanding the different ecological benefits, which obviously vary between units, some hand dryers are more effective and sleek than others. Not that I have seen any list of top ranked hand dryers, although such much exist somewhere, I thought I’d post about this Dyson Airblade hand dryer, invented by billionaire Sir James Dyson. I found it extremely attractive, sleek and effective. You basically put your hands down into the slot and the thrust of cold air dries your hands in no time flat (officially 10 seconds). When you extract your hands, the machine actually turns off immediately. Here is a write up on gizmodo. The Dyson Airblade apparently uses 80% less energy than normal warm hand dryers and is thus better for the environment. The Airblade is a credit to design and engineering. Check the company’s site for a better animated visual of the product.

Starbucks opens eco-store, 50th in France

Starbucks France celebrated last week (July 1st) the opening of its 50th store in the country, with all the Starbucks high brass in attendance.  Located in the Disney Village at Disneyland outside of Paris, this store is the first “eco-responsible” Starbucks outside of Seattle, where they have already opened two such eco-concept stores. 

The concept and design of this Eco-Responsible Starbucks is “an evolution of the Third Place concept,” whereby, according to the company, Starbucks would be the third “go to” place behind the home and the workplace.

Starbucks Disney Paris Eco Store: Light within a Light Concept
 Light within a light decorations

In keeping with a Sustainable Development approach, the design of the store was conceived by using as many local partners as possible (furnishings were all provided by businesses within a radius of 30 km of the store) and to be strongly ingrained with the local [“Disney”] community.

One of the highlight points was that this Starbucks store is LEED certified.  Now recognized in some 90 countries, LEED has become an international standard for benchmarking energy consumption and CO2 emissions.  Three pillars to the eco-conception: natural ventilation for the air conditioning system (-30% reduction in energy), LED and fluo-compact lighting (-90% in electricity consumption in the public zones of the store), and various water reducing mechanisms (mousser, sensor systems…) which are expected to reduce water consumption by 49%. 

Starbucks Euro Disney Store: Wine Rack Lighting 
Wine rack used for ceiling decoration

This Disney Village Starbucks features a number of recycled materials and objects, including using wine racks for lighting (pictured) and ceiling decorations, wood from wine barrels, airplane carpeting and used leather from jettisoned cars. 

Starbucks Founder CEO Howard Schultz in ParisI spoke with CEO and founder, Howard Schultz who was on hand to cut the ceremonial ribbon, and asked about when Starbucks would make it to coffee-paradise Italy?  He said that there were no definitive plans, but that Italy’s day would come some day.  Meanwhile, in another coffee-loving country, Turkey, Schultz was quick to say how well Starbucks has done there. 

Starbucks Community Involvement
Around the store were plaques that made for casual reading and reaffirm Starbucks’ official policy regarding its community involvement (pictured left) and environmental stewardship.  In all, the Starbucks store continues to provide a different way to enjoy coffee and clearly the Starbucks employees (“partners”) were enjoying the new concept.  Starbucks plan to generalize this concept throughout its network for all new stores and any renovations.  Read here for more on their own news wire.

Irony of the opening ceremony was how hard it was to get served a coffee.  A little “pull” and I was served.  After the store opening ceremony, Starbucks “partners” in France were invited to a 5-year anniversary party in a big tent behind the 50th store.  I took a sneak preview and enjoyed a few words with a woman there to teach about Starbucks’ philosophy regarding bean selection and coffee-making.  Kudos to Starbucks France Managing Director and fellow INSEAD grad Philippe Sanchez.

Permanent Changes arising from the Economic Crisis

Changes? What Changes?
Change InvertedThe ongoing worldwide economic crisis has created many obvious changes in behaviour, mostly focused on the effects of reduced funds. Whether it is the fear that makes a salaried person “tighten” his or her budget or someone who actually has less money coming in (for example, an entrepreneur struggling to make ends meet or, worse yet, someone who has been fired), there is less money floating around. However, given human nature, once the world’s economies recover and businesses reignite, with fuller employment, most of these shifts in behaviour will inevitably revert back in pavlovian style to the habits of the past.

The question that interests me most, however, for this post is which of the changes will be permanent. The profound changes in culture and the creation of related new processes are what will cause the change to stick. Many of the changes pre-date the recession, at least in their origin. The recession has also provoked new business models and practices. Among the lingering changes in behaviour, clearly, from a corporate standpoint, managers who have never had to face such difficult times will have plentiful learnings which should augur well for being better prepared in future downturns. A perfect example is how management at internet companies have managed this crisis much better since getting their proverbial fingers burned in bursting of the internet bubble in 2000-2001.

I will present below which four major changes I believe will have staying power, at least in the much of the developed world.

Durable Sustainable Development Effects

Instant Sustainable Development

As the need to green has invaded mass media, I have three thoughts here about the more lasting cultural shifts: (1) There is clearly a move away from heavy consumption of fossil fuels (SUVs and cars in general), creating new habits such as walking to work or taking public transport which may, in turn, help justify and finance more public transport development. (2) Purchasing “green” for the long term should have, by definition, a long tail. An example is the purchase of long lasting LED lights whose benefits of durability and low energy consumption are slowly gaining traction, even if they present a higher upfront cost. (3) Attention to reducing water consumption has meant walking away from bottled water (at restaurants as well as at home) and perhaps showering a little quicker and, perhaps, less frequently… On average, every minute under the shower represents 2 gallons or 7 1/2 litres. (Find out how much water you use daily with this handy USGS calculator here). There’s a continuing business opportunity for the water filter companies, although it is not so good for the shower gel business.

ChangeGoods that are good for you and the end of consumerism
I would argue that, for an ever growing part of the population, there is going to be a true and lasting trend away from hyper consumerism. Ownership is not all it is be cracked up to be. Beyond the worry of reduced finances, the issue of buying and owning goods is one of quality of life: people will come to the realisation that owning too much is actually a burden, a headache, often times actually creating additional embedded costs and hassles; and, it certainly does not lead to greater happiness.

Someone who owns more than two homes knows what I am talking about: each home creates multiples of paperwork, presumably having to adjust to different rules and regulations. Just making sure that each house is stocked with the basics, much less complete dinner settings, etc. is quite the ongoing exercise. If you are someone who owns a super expensive car, you know that investing in spare parts and getting little scratch marks fixed is a hassle — especially as you roam away from the local dealership. Finding “protected” parking when you decide to take your jazzy car for a ride in town is an extra constraint. Of course, having too much of anything means that you need to have the space to store it… extra hassle and expenses. One of the more potent trends that plays to avoiding owning yet another holiday house: swapping homes (whether for the holidays or not). Here’s a plug for a friend’s initiative, Geenee, which allows for a swap with the “world’s best.”

Slow FoodOn another level, eating at home as opposed to going out to the restaurant will create a new culture of homecooking, with a sharper attention to the ingredients (not just their cost). There has apparently been tremendous growth in cooking school enrollments. And, in a similar vein, there is also the notion of SLOW FOOD*, as promoted diligently and valiantly in the US by Alice Waters (check out her restaurant Chez Panisse in Berkeley CA where they serve only in-season fruit and vegetables).

So, the lasting trend here is a move away from amassing goods that crimp my space, burden my mind and waste resources. Instead, people w
ill focus on goods that bring mental freedom, physical health and, hopefully, a smile to the face. As the literature and media coverage latches on to this trend, I see this trend going mainstream even in the rich circles. Recommended reading: The Story of Stuff by Annie Leonard and The Art of Simpe Food by Alice Waters.

Buy Local
Buy Fresh Buy Local LabelThere are two driving forces to buy local: “sustainable development” and latent protectionism. If you buy locally produced goods, the concept is that the items didn’t use as many resources travelling from faraway lands, and at the same time that you are supporting your local community. There are two sBuy Local Posterubplots to this trend: the potential revival of the feelgood effect of buying from a local shopkeeper who knows you (even by name!), and greater attention to the content (“made in” labels) and ingredients (“made of”). In economic tough times, this may be a counter-intuitive trend in that mom & pop stores have a hard time competing on price. Nonetheless, I would look for this “Buy Local” trend to prosper on the other side of the recession.

How Well do You ShareSharing, renting and leasing versus buying

There are certainly economic reasons for not being able to buy something and, to the extent the item you are looking to buy is for limited use (e.g. a new dress for a party, a bigger car for a 2 week family holiday…), the option of sharing, renting or leasing becomes more inviting. Sharing & renting may also be collateral plays on the reduced need/desire to buy and own (point 2 above) as the need to preserve and store the item(s) is less onerous. Sharing & renting also pander well to the green conscience. With this burgeoning trend, there are many new offers that have cropped up. I cite a few of the more interesting ones that I have come across:
  • Zipcar: a for-profit, membership-based carsharing company providing automobile rental to its members, billable by the hour or day.
  • providing “rotating monthly rental packages, Fine Art Leases and direct sales… Individual prices start at just $20 per month, including eco-friendly Green Art.”
  • Avelle, or BagBorrowSteal: Rent by the week, the month or for as long as you’d like top fashion brand names for jewelry, handbags, sunglasses, watches, etc. “There’s never a late fee.” You don’t have to be a member, but if you are, the prices are better.
  • Babyplays: A membership-based online toy rental site. About time kids’ closets stopped bursting with just-opened, barely used toys, no?
Craigslist, Olx and eBay are the leading internet plays on the circulation of second-hand goods (and services). With Craigslist and Olx, there is the local play as well.

Underpinning virtually all these structural changes in behaviour are (1) the internet and (2) sustainable development.

I wrote a while back about how inter-related I felt web 2.0 and sustainable development are (read here), and when you overlay the evident economic benefits, I can only reinforce how this crisis will accelerate the changes and how, coming out on the other end, we will all be that much more on the web, taking advantage of new behaviours and goods & services, indeed creating a kind of new ‘unpop’ eco-culture.

*Slow Food, a non-profit, eco-gastronomic member-supported organization, was borne out of the anti-fast food movement in France in 1989 and is headquartered in Bra, Italy. Slow Food stands against “the disappearance of local food traditions and people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from, how it tastes and how our food choices affect the rest of the world. To do that, Slow Food brings together pleasure and responsibility, and makes them inseparable.” The organisation boasts over 100,000 members in 132 countries.

Henri Meiresonne Presents the State of Recycling in Europe

Henri Meiresonne Eco Emballage ParisHenrie Meiresonne, CEO of Fost Plus Belgium and newly appointed President of PRO Europe, gave a speech in Paris on June 22, 2009, regarding the efficiency and effectiveness of the Green Dot (“Grüne Punkt” or “point vert“) in France.  Here are some of the interesting points and facts raised by Mr Meiresonne:

1. There are 22 million tonnes of recycled materials in Europe each year.  This represents 27 million tonnes of CO2, or the equivalent of 8 million middle sized cars, or 11 million passengers going round-trip Paris-New York.

Point Vert / Grune Punkt / Green Dot

2.  Mr Meiresonne explained that the success of a recycling programme is measured along two criteria: the penetration of recycling as well as the cost of doing so.  Since 1994, recycling has tripled in France and the cost of recycling is lower today than it was in 1994.  In France, 95% of all packaging have the Green Dot and Eco-Emballage (the organisation in France responsible for recycling all household refuse) manages to cover 95% of the French territory in terms of recuperating recyclable waste.  The cost of the Eco-Emballage recycling system is evaluated at less than 7 euros per year per inhabitant.  In Belgium, the cost is closer to 5,50 euros per person, whereas in Germany the price is closer to 17 euros.  In Holland, the tax is 21 euros/pp, while at the bottom of the proverbial barrel, Denmark, the cost is 26 euros per inhabitant.

3. Mr Meiresonne is completely opposed to the system of “returnable” cans for a small coin (which exists, for example, in the USA).   He underscored the expense and the negative CO2 footprint of such a “consignment” system.  And, one can certainly see his point if each consumer has to drive back to recuperate the nickels and dimes.

4. In terms of penetration of household recycling, France manages to recuperate 70% of the packaging for recycling.  Belgium is at 90%!  One could say that it is time for some healthy competition between recycling organizations.  Chief among the reasons for the Belgian success, according to Meiresonne, is that there are only 39 inter-municipal offices in Belgium (for a population of 10 million) as opposed to 1,300 communes in France (62 million pop).  This might provide another justification for Sarkozy to rationalise the number of local bureaucracies.

Meiresonne’s final comments were to encourage eco-conception to diminish the amount of plastic used in packaging (i.e. at the source), to find solutions for more a cost efficient recuperation of waste, and also to avoid price wars on recycled materials (I inferred here he was refering to the dramatic price drop of PCR paper, aluminum, etc., which has occured since the recession settled in).

State of the Spam Business: Spam Pollution

State of the Spam Business

How many legitimate (non junk or spam) emails do you receive in your inbox?

Stop Spam Sign

It may come as a surprise to you that only 3% of the world’s supply of emails are legitimate, at least that’s what a recent Microsoft survey says. On a personal level, I know that I have a spam-to-legit ratio that is more like 1:6, aided by (a) the never ending screening and hunting down of phoney addresses and cyber pirates by the various governing bodies; (b) the individual mail filters (I use hotmail mostly) which appear to direct with about 80% accuracy true junk into the junk folder; and (c) my attempting not to leave my email address in public spaces that are too easy for email bots to trawl and discover. In any event, in a recent BBC article regarding a recent Microsoft security report, “[m]ore than 97% of all e-mails sent over the net are unwanted… The e-mails are dominated by spam adverts for drugs [nearly 50%], and general product pitches and often have malicious attachments.” Other industry reports have the volume of junk mail somewhere between 75% and 90%, so this latest number takes the morass of spam to even higher levels.

A second source for spam information is the monthly Symantec State of Spam report (PDF – April 2009). According to the Symantec report, in March, the spam coming from the US accounted for 28% of the world’s supply (up from 25% in February and 23% in January). Coming in second, Brazil accounts for 9%, while India at 3rd fell back to 4%. South Korea leads the Far Eastern countries at 4%, ahead of Turkey, Russia and China (all 3%). Below is the chart courtesy of Symantec. Latin America is responsible for a quite surprising 15% of the total. As far as I was concerned, it seems that half of my spam relates to winning the jackpot and inheriting some African fortune, so I was surprised not find Nigeria up in there in the top 10.

Top Countries sending Spam

“The [Microsoft] report found that the global ratio of infected machines was 8.6 for every 1,000 uninfected machines.” I would suspect that Mac gets a less than market share representation…fortunately for us Mac users.

The only good news, if you read on in the BBC report, is that malicious software (aka malware) must increasingly be adapted country to country (see world map of malware levels), which diminishes the odds of an Armageddon style worldwide malware. The article states, “[a]s the malware ecosystem becomes more reliant on social engineering, threats worldwide have become more dependent on language and cultural factors,” [the Microsoft study] reported. In China, several malicious web browser modifiers are common, while in Brazil, malware that targets users of online banks is more widespread.”

In terms of where the malicious software is most prevalent, “the [Microsoft] report, which looked at online activity during the second half of 2008, also pinpoints…[that] Russia and Brazil top the global chart of infections, followed by Turkey and Serbia and Montenegro.”

On another level, from a report out in March 2009, I read about how much spam is said to pollute our world… A Carbon Footprint study from McAfee says that spam generates greenhouse gas (GHG — aka Carbon Dioxide or CO2) equivalent to 3.1 million passenger cars. This report says that “the energy [33 billion KWh] consumed in transmitting and deleting spam is equivalent to the electricity used in 2.4 million U.S. homes.” I love the notion of the life cycle of spam! If you want to download the McAfee PDF report, do so here. Another feature in the McAfee report is the estimated loss in productivity caused by spam: “If you have 1,000 workers earning $30 per hour, your company will suffer $182,500 per year in lost productivity.” It is very crafty to propose an ROI on their anti-spam software.

In any event, as I indicated in a prior post TV5 from Québec, Canada, there are also the unwanted communications from companies where you can no longer unsubscribe to their newsletters, as is the case with TV5. Another one on my can’t-get-rid-of-them list is  No way to unsubscribe.  I suspect such mail should be considered spam along with the other 97%! On the other end of the scale, kudos to Nick @ NickOnWine for sending out regular subscriber updates.

Like mosquitoes, I can think of absolutely nothing beneficial from spam. After the ERACE ‘EM Campaign (the Eternal Radical and Complete Extermination of Every Mosquito), comes the EAT SPAM Campaign, Eradicate All Toxic Spam. Sign up here!

Obama to bring bullet trains (TGV Shinkansen style) to USA

SNCF TGV Train a Grande Vitesse Bullet Train

There are plenty of surprising deficiencies in the US, it being the number 1 world power (still).  I have  written previously about the poor state of education (at the high school level) in the US and the insufficient medical coverage (despite the disproportionately high percentage of GDP spent on health care).  There is, of course, also the fact that the US energy policy is overly reliant on oil and carbon (for its electricity).  But, it is also true that, while the US road infrastructure is quite exceptional according to world standards, the US train infrastructure is quite the embarrassment, trailing way behind that of countries such as Japan (Shinkansen, pictured below left), France (TGV, pictured right above), Germany (ICE), Spain (AVE), and even South Korea and China.   US trains, many of which travel over long distances, basically trundle along today at speeds of 125 kmh (78 mph).  Only five trains in the States average more than 127 kmh (79 mph).  Even the fastest trains in the US only reach 132 kmh.  Fairly desperate, even if speed limits on the road are also remarkably low, too.

What I like about this initiative laid out by Obama this week is that it contains both economic and social sense.  Investing some paltry $8 billion of the $787 billion bailout, the notion of improving the US rail system to have trains hurtling down parallel lines at average speeds of well over 300 kilometres an hour (186 mph) is good (nay fantastic) for improved efficiency and reduced carbon emissions.  At the same time it is a good way to occupy (hire & train) American workers.  Unplugging traffic jams is just one part of the story.  Faster travel (from point A to point B) and, more importantly, an ability to work constructively while riding on the train must be no small addition to increased productivity.  And, as if I needed another argument, the bullet trains are certainly a lot more interesting to look at from a design angle.   These high-speed trains are just a lot sexier looking than the clunky, stub-nosed Amtrak or even Metroliner trains.   Here is the story as covered by USA Today (April 16).

Shinkansen Japan Bullet TrainThere are many hurdles to making the fast train project succeed: the continuing affection for cars, the poor service record of train service (Amtrak, for example, is quite poorly regarded), the fact that all the tracks would need not only to be widened but also straightened…  All the same, the project is the right one, for all the right reasons.  As long as the unions do not get a stranglehold on the jobs (and becoming a train driver does not mean being able to retire at the age of 52 as is in the case currently in France).  That means, also, that the system will need to figure out how to run on time, without exhorbitant cost.  The team evaluating the train system of the future for the US would be well advised to learn from the SNCF ( on how to run a CRM and fidelity program, too.  The last componenet of success (and lesson learned from the Japanese) will be the courtesy of passengers not to use their cell phones indiscrimately (and rudely) in the face of the surrounding passengers.

My only concern will be to see how effectively Government manages its funds.   Otherwise, I enthusiastically press on the “green” button.

All those in favour, say “ay”!  If not, give me your counter arguments.

Keep Paris Clean says the Mayor’s Office…

The Paris mayor’s office has seen fit to launch an outdoor ad campaign to keep Paris clean.  The image of trash in one or other natural environment is headlined with “unacceptable” or “scandalous” in Paris, too!  To the extent that photos of trash in Paris would have not had much impact, this is quite a good execution.  Of course, when you know how little recycling goes on in Paris, you wonder on the consistency of the effort.  Dog litter is also rather unacceptable in my mind.  Meanwhile, how about those pigeons?  Are they not right up there as the foulest, polluting element…aside from us human beings, of course?

Carrotmob for Paris? Wasting in the streets… at Cook

Restaurant with Wasteful Outside Heaters


Carrot Mob Ganging up on a PeaNo longer acceptable in today’s eco-age, above is an appalling example of waste, right under my nose. This restaurant, COOK, located on our street corner at 27 avenue Niel (Paris 17e), blasts these 4 electric heaters out onto the pavement throughout the colder winter nights. On the night I took this photo, all night long, there was never anyone seated outside. Granted it was cold; clearly, it was just too cold to be seated outside inspite of these heaters extravagantly warming the pavement. You wonder how the employees do not take a stand. Clients should be more enlightened (rather than heated).   Of course, this is the same restaurant where clients park their splashy cars (or faux-eco Smart cars) all over the place, in the bus lanes, pedestrian crossings, delivery zones, etc., without much regard for others. 

Similarly, it makes me think that shops that leave their doors open in the midsummer heat to let their airconditioned air attract pedestrians (like bees to honey) should no longer be tolerated. Maybe there should be a site where we can dump together all un-eco friendly commerces — the stick please!

Carrot MobThat said, on another note, and working the positive supporting angle, I recently learned about Carrotmob, a network of consumers who buy products in order to reward businesses who are making the most socially responsible decisions. As its site says, no one wins in boycotting a location. Everyone can win if you band together and support those making the best eco-efforts.

Let’s campaign for Carrotmob à la française! La manifestation positive!  More carrot.  Less stick… or should I say less schtick?

Their site is a little poor, but you can find out more about Carrotmob via this video:

Carrotmob Makes It Rain from carrotmob on Vimeo.

International Year of Astronomy 2009

The Universe 2009: The Year of AstronomyIt is the International Year of Astronomy 2009 (and from Wikipedia), a collaboration between UNESCO and the International Astronomical Union.  Thanks to an interview on Europe1 this morning of Hubert Reeves, the brilliant Canadian astronomer and philosopher, I learned about this celebration and the inter connection between astrophysics/astronomy (the history of our universe) and ecology (the future of our universe).  And, nodding my head, I thought about how I have become a student/acolyte of both as well. 

Of course, I was also perplexed as to how one goes about creating a year of Anything… and whether astronomers around the world are, as a result, going to come up with the big one this year (i.e. proof that life exists on other planets).  I’d love to be on the UNESCO committee that comes up with which topic area will be attributed the “Year of” status.  How many subjects can be given in a year?  It is the year of how many other things?  The year of Obama?  The year of Facebook?  The year that peace broke out somewhere?  I note that there is a branding guideline for this Year of Astronomy which you can read here (serious business).

Meanwhile, I also was contemplating the link, in a prior post, between sustainable development and web 2.0.  Now I am left wondering about the link between astrophysics and web 2.0, to close the circle.  The ever expanding universe, the interconnectability of everything, the virtual life (secondlife and more)…  It makes me wonder.  What are your thoughts?