The collapsing world economy


I recently blogged about what happens when consumers can’t buy anymore and predicted trouble for the retail industry and retail finance, specifically mentioning GE Money. At the end of this week, announcements have been made about GE Money laying off staff in several countries around the world including Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand.

Canteen’s Bandanna Week


When I was 8, my best mate died of leukemia, also aged 8. It was hard to comprehend, he had been sick for a long time and his family were very religious and somehow managed to cope. Since then another good friend died aged 20, just when life was going really well for her. Her partner who was totally devoted to her was obviously devastated and spending time with them at home and in hospital during her chemo visits was very difficult. She kept up a very brave face, but it was obvious that she was struggling with fear, dissapointment, frustration, why me, nausea, hair loss, energy loss, anguish for her partner and her family, I could keep going, but you get the picture.

New Zealand is highly regarded when it comes to cancer. When my late grandmother came to New Zealand on holiday, she had a collostomy bag, she had one kidney and had spent a year in hospital with over 50 operations. New Zealand was one of the few countries her doctors were confident about her visiting because of the reputation of care here.

We pay taxes for health care and some of it goes to research, but there are many more services that are essential, and today I have a Canteen bandanna around my neck as a tiny contribution of recognition to some of the services that Canteen facilitates.

One of the most important ones in my book is support. There is noone better to help a young cancer sufferer than someone who has been through it and uderstands what they are experiencing and going through. Noone else can really empathise.

According to a statement on Infonews there are currently 12,500 young people up to the age of 24 living with cancer or a sibling and this grows by hundreds each year.

The $4 donation I gave seems pitiful, but if 4,000,000 of us do it, it might be a different story. There are other opportunities. There are a number of bandannas on Trade Me signed by celebrities. There was supposed to be one signed by Elle McPherson, but I couldn’t find out, so I’ve put a bid on one signed by Donald Trump.

Anyway, Canteen does an awesome job and I hope they raise loads of money for this important cause. Let’s make these young people’s lives mean something and give them a lending hand.

I’m also planning one or more songs about cancer, but you’ll have to keep an eye on my Songwriting blog in the coming weeks to learn more about that.

Election Promises


It’s full on election time, we have had the first debate. One thing that I thought was very cool was that TVNZ ran the debate in conjunction with YouTube. People were invited to record their questions for the leaders of the Labour and National parties on YouTube. The questions and responses, such as this one on Law and Order are also available to view on YouTube which means everyone has easy access to the parts of the

debate they are interested in. Great use of new technology and kudos to TV One.

And the NZ Herald has regular features talking about the different offerings on a topic, from each party. Today’s topics are law and order. I was telling my wife about the Act policy which I like.

Key things I like are that you serve the sentence you are given and 3 strikes and your out. I think this policy is based on the system that made many of the streets in New York safe. The first time I went to New York and wanted to go to the Cotton Club, I was told that taxi’s would take me there before dark, but they wouldn’t come back to pick me up because it was too dangerous in Harlem and taxi drivers were being murdered. In recent years the Zero Tolerence policy has made the area much safer.

They also said that if you are sentenced to 5 years in jail, you should serve 5 years. This is something that we have been asking for for years. The problem is that parties make all these statements, but they have very little credibility because they never seem to follow through. I am thinking that one possibility is using our political system to vote for a party like Act on the party vote to give them the legs to push through one of these policies.

Law and order is an election issue and in my humble opinion Helen Clark and the Labour Party want everybody’s vote and are saying they are against gangs and organized crime, but sympathizing with the reasons people join them. The National Party doesn’t seem to be much better. John Key is saying that he wants to lock up recidivist criminals and will build a new prison to house them. In my humble opinion young gang members who go to jail will add to their ‘mana’ (in simple terms Maori for honor or power) within the gang and will be heroes when they come out. They will be looked after ‘inside’ by their gang family and life won’t be too bad at all.

My wife said, “It’s all very well them saying these things when they want to vote for you, but after the election all the promises go out the window”, well actually she said something more colorful, but she’s pretty much on the mark. How many times have we been conned by politicians, voting for them on the basis of their election promises and then when they get in they have loads of great reasons why they couldn’t go through with it, usually blaming the outgoing parliament.

The addage is that it doesn’t matter who you vote for, a politician will always get in. It’s funny really that at election time we elect people that mostly we don’t trust to keep their promises and give them a mandate to run the biggest organisation, our whole country!

Haptic Virtual Reality Suits


Lots of people escape the world through the internet, some with games, perhaps web environments like Second Life, but what’s happened to Virtual Reality that promised so much so many years ago. From what I understand the only thing really holding things back is the cost.

One thing that I would love to see is Sport VR. Imagine if you could don a suit and be your favorite All Black or soccer star. You could see what they see and feel (desensitised off course) the tackles and the thrill of the game.

There are already a range of body suits such as the Inlabs Motion Capture Suit that can be used to capture body motion data for a variety of purposes. These can be used for sports medicine, training and biomechanical research. Forms of this technology have been used to help develop movie models for animation, allowing models to look like they are real by taking motion information from people.

VR is used by the military to train pilots and the US Navy has VR parachute trainers so that they can experience everything, the visuals, the thump when the chute opens and the harness touch points grip your body.

In the future VR will support remote medicine using robots to perform surgery. In some cases the surgeon will be there, in other cases it might be through telemedicine where experts can influence or control surgery remotely from anywhere in the world with reliable broadband connections. Micro surgery is already taking place today which is far less invasive and allows recovery to be much quicker than normal.

VR would make a lot of sense in remote and dangerous locations, for example space exploration. There are major issues with space travel where the distances, event to other planets in our solar system represents years in each direction. Wouldn’t it be great if we had the dexterity (or better) of a human without having to actually send a human to Mars.

Virtual Reality is a natural progression of technology that we have already become used to. Look at the number of phones inlcuding iPhone and Windows Mobile devices from brands such as HTC which have gyroscopes that recognise which way the device is facing and automatically change the screen format accordingly. Wii fitness has become incredibly popular, combining a video game with exercise has rapidly propelled Nintendo back into leadership in the TV games world.

Worlds like Second Life, using VR could mean that the avatars become totally lifelike and the whole gaming world is in for a shakeup. Imagine all the action games where you are actually running and shooting, driving and crashing cars and feeling all the bumps and hits.

Of course the more fun this becomes the greater the risks that people will prefer VR to real life. In Japan there have been problems for a number of years where children prefer to stay in the rooms every day just living on their computers and don’t want to go into the real world. They are known as hikikimori. People like that are now appearing around the world, where virtual reality is preferable to real life.

Of course there are those who are elderly or severely disabled where VR could give them some semblance of normal experiences that they otherwise wouldn’t. Imagine being restricted to your bed or a wheelchair, but being able to experience the sensations of walking or running, or even sex.

I won’t delve too far into this, but the ultimate in safe sex could be VR sex. People who are severely disabled, or who find it difficult to find partners could have their experience without risk. It appears that they haven’t yet been manufactured in a form that is safe, but it is coming. Michael Anissimov has some good ideas and I will leave the last word to him from his accelerating future blog.

 

It’s going to be a tough Christmas


With the state of the economy,things are going to be tight for a lot of people this Christmas. According to the NZ Herald this morning, “The trend in supermarket and grocery sales have been declining since March , the longest trend since the series started in 1995.”

First of all I need to admit that I got it wrong. I thought that with petrol prices going up that we would be like frogs who get thrown in a pot of cold water, that we just put up with the rises, but the reduction of cars on the road in Auckland is clearly noticable.

Last year the newspapers were full of stories of domestic violence at Chistmas time and womens refuges were overflowing with people hiding from their partners or other family members. I suspect this year will be much worse. The retailers are suffering as are many sectors of the public, who won’t be able to spoil their families this Christmas. The pressure on low income families will be particularly bad, and as I have blogged before, the retailers have been giving delayed payments and interest free terms for so long that many people are in debt up to their eyeballs already.

There is also likely to be an increase in burglaries as those who can’t provide for their family or young people whose hopes for cool presents are dissapointed decide to help themselves to other people’s property. Most at risk will be people who leave their homes vacant while they head to their batches or camp grounds. I’d recommend they look at their home security and communicate their plans with their trusted neighbours.

Is there anything you can do to help? There will no doubt be many Christmas Charity events. Why not check out your neighbourhood and see if there is anywhere you can help. My brother in law alway made his children pick on of their brand new presents and take it to the City Mission.  Auckland City Mission is already well organised in their campaign to help people have a better Christmas. Each person who gives something at Christmas is going to feel much happier than those who didn’t. The Auckland City Mission will be hosting a Christmas dinner for 1200 people and need gifts and support. They have a page were you can find drop off points where you can leave a gift. So when you are off doing your shopping, buy something extra and feel good about putting a smile on someone’s face. I will.

What happens when the consumers can’t buy anymore?


Everyone has a deal. Harvey Norman is offering 12 months deferred payment and 12 months interest free, Noel Leeming has deals, Bond and Bond has deals, there is even a web site called Perweek that lets you search for products by the period of interest free terms they are offering.

The Scooter Bar has ads on Trade Me offering deferred payment and special deals on new motorcycles and on it goes.

There is always something essential that you need, like a new HD TV with Freeview, an iPhone, a new car, a stereo that you can plug your iPod into and on it goes.

A couple of years ago I bought a new Canon camera. I had the cash in my savings, but I decided to take the 18 months deferred payment and then pay it off straight away. I paid a week late and GE Money, the company that seems to be offering a large chunk of retail finance wanted to charge me a hefty fee for that, but no one sent me a slip or reminder to say it was due and I had diarised it a week out. I stood my ground and as Noel Leeming wanted to keep my business I didn’t have to pay the late fee.

6 months or so later I got a letter from GE Finance offering me a special deal with pre-approved finance for a sum, I can’t remember exactly, but it wasn’t interest free, they were offering me finance at 24% interest!

They have all sorts of great ideas and of course you could say that anyone silly enough to take that deal deserves to be taken to the cleaners, but the problem is that there are people who are struggling and will be thinking, these guys want to lend me money and I need money, so lets do it.

I wonder if there is recourse in the finance. If the person who is paying for their new HD TV defaults, does it become the finance company’s loss or the retailers problem. Finance companies are typically risk averse, so I’m guessing it’s the retailer. It would be great if someone can clarify that for me.

So here’s the thing. There are loads of people spending money they don’t have on things they can’t afford and chances are it’s not one item, it’s several over a period of time. So when the masses are broke and the retailers aren’t getting paid, what happens next?

We are already officially in a recession and things aren’t getting any better. Very soon a large number of people will owe much more on their homes than their value, especially the thousands who bought at 90 to 100% of the property value in a growth market and those who leveraged heavily for their retirement funds.

If retailers can’t recover their money, they can’t buy new product, they can’t afford their staff and the manufacturers can’t keep manufacturing. If houses aren’t being built because people can’t afford to buy them, all the trades will suffer, plumbers, electricians, builders, labourers, the list goes on.

Is this inevitable? Is there a solution?

Some people got hurt in 87′ but most people in New Zealand have not lived in a depression and have lived a life of instant gratification. Of course there will be some fortunes made as well. What could some of the consequences be?

Increased domestic violence is on the rise, violent crimes are on the rise including aggrevated robbery. Drug use is on the rise which increases crime and the worse of things are, the more displaced young folk will be heading into the welcoming arms of gangs.

How can we avert this?

While this blog is starting to get a good following, I would love to get more readers and encouraging me to keep writing. If you feel that my blog is interesting I would be very grateful if you would vote for me in the category of best blog at the NetGuide Web Awards. Note that the form starts each site with www whereas my blog doesn’t and is of course http://luigicappel.wordpress.com.

Thanks so much for your support:)

The GeoSmart Location Innovation Awards


During the day I work for GeoSmart Maps Ltd, a subsidiary of the NZ Automobile Association.

We have just launched the Location Innovation Awards. I’m hoping that if you are in New Zealand you will join in the fun and get your thinking juices flowing.

The background is that we know that LBS (Location Based Services) will become commonly used technology in 4-5 years and people will participate as if they have been doing it all their lives. GeoSmart has the tools to facilitate this type of technology now, so we have launched a competition to get people to develop concepts today.

There are four categories which are explained on the website (which went live today) and they have the potential to have a significant impact on people’s lives.

For example:

Imagine you are a tourist hopping off the plane at Queenstown Airport and as you head to the luggage conveyor area you see a billboard with a promotion offering you amazing deals on various local attractions. If you text ‘Queenstown Live’ to a short code, you will have $20 deducted from your account and will be offered a range of services at huge discounts. When you get to the main town pier in Queenstown you get a text message saying that if you get down to the ticket office within the next 10 minutes you can enjoy the 4P.M. jet boat experience for only $25, a saving of $70. Without the promotion, the jet boat might go out half empty. This way they sell more seats and make a profit on the trip and the tourist gets a great deal.

Or

You are a member of a jogging club on Facebook. You are in Nelson  on business and decide to stay over for the weekend. You are interested in finding a jogging buddy to go for a run with. Through an application on your phone or a map application on Facebook, you are able to locate someone to go for a run with who is also in the area.

The story we have sent to the media today is as follows:

Bringing the future forward with the Location Innovation Awards

In the near future, location based applications will be commonplace, with electronic coupons being sent to your mobile because you are near a service you have opted-in for such as a Happy Hour deal for the bar you are walking past, or a promotion from your favourite fashion retailer (with whom you have signed up and given your colour, style and size preferences) which knows that you are in the mall.

GeoSmart Maps Ltd wants to bring that future forward to 2009 and has established a competition to encourage people to come up with concepts in 4 categories, being Social Networking, Proximity Based Marketing, LBS Games and widgets for the AA MAPS website. There are prizes for each category and the overall winner will also win a trip to San Jose in the USA to attend the Where 2.0 Conference in May 2009.

The competition isn’t pitched just at developers, a proof of concept demonstration would be great, but a great concept document has just as much chance of winning great prizes from a list of sponsors including Geekzone, Tomizone, Sony Ericsson, TomTom, Vodafone new Zealand and the NZ Automobile Association.

The judging criteria are documented in the entry packs and on the official website at http://www.locationinnovation.co.nz. The judges themselves are well qualified and represent GeoSmart, Massey University, Geekzone and the Wireless and Broadband Forum.

The competition runs from 16 October 2008 and entries are to be in by 16 February 2009. The Awards will be presented at the annual Wireless and Broadband Forum Convergence 2009 event at the Alinghi Base in Auckland’s Viaduct Basin.

Living longer with Cryonic Suspension


Cryogenics has been the subject of science fiction for as long as I can remember, but it has now become an accepted science in many ways.

Cryogenics is now commonplace for use in fertility health. It is quite common now for people to store eggs or embryo’s for future implantation. Organisations like Fertility Associates in New Zealand have had success with freezing sperm, eggs and much more.

More and more people are starting to freeze the umbilical cord of newly born babies with a view to being able to use the cells to aid in treating serious immune conditions such as cancer with a guarantee of acceptance of the cells by the person, because they are in fact their own genetic matter.

Now there are companies like the American Cryonics Society who are offering a service to freeze human bodies with a view to restoring them to life at a later date. This may be a matter of freezing a sick person for an illness that we currently have no cure for, for people who are well, but know that there will be treatments available in the future to prolong life, or perhaps those who want to be able to experience the future.

You would think that this would be an expense that only extremely wealthy people can access, but there are now opportunities through people like Rudi Hoffman who are offering insurance plans that will cover the costs of cryogenics when they are needed. This means that you can plan to live longer if you wish to take the risk that it will be viable. He is also looking into your needs if and when you are revived. The insurance and investments will ensure that you have an income available to you if you do come back and also protecting your property from others who are looking for an inheritance.

One of the common questions, including mine are the damage that would be caused by ice crystals forming in the body, and especially the brain, but as Ben Best says in his Cryonics FAQ, we already use compounds to stop crystalisation such as propylene glycol which stops ice cream from crystalising and keeps it smooth. In cryogenics there are chemicals used to cause vitrification, thus preserving the tissue without damage.

According to Alcor, the other Cryogenics company in the USA less than 100 people have been frozen to date, but the exciting thing is that they have.

I find this fascinating, but am left with lots of questions:

  • People talk about proof that animals have been frozen using cryonics and then reanimated, but I couldn’t find any evidence on the web.
  • If you are already sick or dying, what is the likelihood that you could be brought back to life? What are the odds that if you could, that they would treat your condition over and above people living at the time you were brought back, unless you have huge financial resources to cover the costs.
  • Will your brain still function normally after it has been frozen?
  • If you come back, are you still you? Is your essence the same?
  • Would your chances be better if you didthis while you are still young and can take advantage of future sciences to keep you young, as opposed to someone who already has old cells that aren’t reproducing with the same youthfull excellence, in effect your body has already significantly deteriorated?

Then of course there are all sorts of religious and ethical issues which I’ll leave for someone else to ponder over.

This is fascinating and there are all sorts of opportunities for the future. For example the ability to freeze astronauts so that they can travel light years away without physically or mentally ageing.

I suspect this technology has to come, but there are so many surrounding issues that will need to be considered and I’m sure it won’t be an option for me in my lifetime. This is another example of Science Fiction becoming reality and babies are being born without defects from frozen eggs, sperm and embryos. Admittedly they are less complex than human adults, but the fact that this works suggests that it is only a matter of time before people can be frozen and reanimated. But when will this be achieved? Don’t hold your breath.

I would love to be frozen and come back for a year in every 10, but I also want to enjoy my family today. Other than dying of an incurable disease you would have to be very selfish and self indulgent to turn your back on your family in order to outlive them.

While this blog is starting to get a good following, I would love to get more readers and encouraging me to keep writing. If you feel that my blog is interesting I would be very grateful if you would vote for me in the category of best blog at the NetGuide Web Awards. Note that the form starts each site with www whereas my blog doesn’t and is of course http://luigicappel.wordpress.com.

Thanks so much for your support:)

Northern Motorway Truck Crash


Was I lucky or what! I drove through the Northern Motorway into Auckland City on my way to the airport around 6:30 AM. The first I heard about the crash was reading a NZStuff story on Twitter after I finished my presentation to the Intergraph Forum in Christchurch.

It’s interesting in this day and age how few people know about some of the information resources available to them. I probably knew about it before a lot of Aucklanders did, at least the ones that weren’t already stuck in the chaos. NZStuff has a great info page on Twitter. They do repeat their ‘Tweets’ a bit too often for my liking, but I guess that’s how people find out about their service and so far they only have 75 people following their free service. Crazy. It’s a great way of catching the headlines. I catch the Tweets on my Blackberry and can click on the links for the rest of the story.

People aren’t yet used to going on the web to check out traffic information. The last time I was in the Netherlands, we used to check the traffic site on the net to see if there were any problems we need to detour around. The site is pretty old fashioned in it’s mapping technology, nothing like the web mapping on the AA Maps website.

You might well find it worth checking that site in future before heading into the traffic. If you had done that this morning if you left after 9 AM you would have known not to go into the city via the Northern Motorway and if you check it now you will see that after 8PM tonight they are going to close it again to finish the job that the truck driver did crashing into the overbridge this morning. I’m glad I managed to get on an earlier flight!