Tasty butterflies and other discoveries: BikeAbout 2008

The 2008 Columbia BikeAbout happened on a gorgeous spring-summer day, sunny with the temperature somewhere in the 70s and a light breeze. I covered the thirteen miles of woodsy Columbia trails in two hours exactly, stopping on occasion to take in some exhibits on Columbia's history and suck down water.

Any time I am in the woods it is akin to a religious experience. Call it some Gaia religious belief riding alongside my (nonsecular) humanism: I worship nature and humanity. If that sounds flaky or contradictory, consider that I have no embarrassing clergy or bizarre rules to explain. And since humanity is part of nature, then the two actually go together like cereal and milk.

A rabbit raced me down one trail, scared witless, a squirrel did its best to run under my front tire, but missed, and a butterfly flew right at my mouth, which thankfully was closed. I could feel both its wings flatten against my lips like it was a feathery light bandage covering my lower face. Then it flew off. Since I was whipping along downhill at the moment and it was capable of flight, I didn't stop to see if it was okay. It didn't check on me either. Nature loving can be rough sometimes.

Maybe I'm drinking the Columbia Kool-Aid in saying this, but I think the Columbia street naming convention is neat. All Columbia street names are based on poetry, literature or in some cases the usual forgotten historical sources. Lots of people think these names are bizarre and that street names ought to be boring old and familiar (1st st, 2nd st, etc). Liquid Laughter Lane and Rippling Water Walk are unique and lyrical. In many cases, the original poetry has been expanded by the addition of the street type.

All in all, a very pleasant morning in suburban utopia.

Prediction markets and Innovation

Check out this NYT article about using prediction markets to capture innovative ideas, foster communication and to give heads up to people in an organization about events or trends that are emerging below the radar. More companies are jumping into this because they hold some promise.

Google has experimented with this as well for improving idea generation and communication, and some folks have actually researched how well it works.

Prediction markets have many uses, one of which apparently is not political markets. Market response to elections seems to follow the latest polls exactly and is not often that accurate. These things have their limits when it comes to the general population. Within organizations, where knowledge is both common and not, they may be quite revealing.

As many of you know, I have been looking at prediction markets and other ways of predicting the future. Interestingly enough, prediction markets seem better at finding and aggregating existing information about the present (like 'we are behind opening a store in China' as the story points out).

If you want to know more about wisdom of the crowd-type techniques, read The Wisdom of Crowds. Who wrote it? Click the link, I'm too lazy to post all that info when you have your hand on the trackball.

The sweetless it is, the sweeter it gets

I've written about fighting off the dreaded High Fructose Corn Syrup devil and in general becoming post-food. Here is an account from Slate of someone who went even further. Does sugar intake cause zits? Don't know. Does the taste of sugary things become unappetizing when you go off it even to some extent? Absolutely.

I haven't had the sugar cravings that this woman describes, nor the hangovers she had, but I have been not quite avoiding sugar as much. (Organic root beer and sarsaparilla rocks!) It could be your brain trying to go back to the 'good times' even though your body chemistry has moved on. Avoiding dairy and all fruit seems too extreme, and I can't eat nuts, which seems to be a major leg of her food consumption patterns. Some of the problem, as she points out, is that you really have to prepare all your own food to dodge sugar entirely. And that is just not possible at breakfast (organic cereal is the best I can do), lunch (at work: leftovers, frozen or buy it).

Still, I get the feeling that she and I and Dr. Trackball are much further ahead than most adults. Now if Pot Bellies would just stop making those chocolate chip oatmeal cookies and Trader Joes would stop selling cookies altogether...