50 Best Inventions of 2008

This is one of those “un-looked-for” joys: Time Magazines’ annual article about the most impressive, game-changing inventions of the year. There are some very cool things on the list this year:

The Tesla Roadster – an all-electric rocket that goes from 0-60 in four seconds, powered entirely by the same lithium ion batteries in laptops and created by a Silicon Valley startup. In my book, the new sedan is even cooler, but that’s probably because I’m old.

Hulu – Okay, call be a believer, as you already know from my recent web review article, but Hulu is just flat-out awesome. Coupled with Boxee, it doesn’t only change the game, the changes the entire paradigm. (And that’s not just hyperbole.)

The Seed Vault – I first heard about this on a 60 Minutes report and smacked myself in the forehead and thought, “That’s something that makes perfect sense that I never considered.” This is why I’m glad there are lots of smart people thinking about lots of different things.

The Montreal Public Bike System – This just needs to happen in lots of places.

(Freaking) Bionic Contacts – Yeah, sure, they’ll let you look up and see maps placed directly in your field of vision or even show you — exactly — which button to press to avoid a nuclear meltdown (perhaps), but can you imagine the games?

And, perhaps my personal favorite:

The Direct-to-Web Supervillain Musical – And to think my neighbor Paul knew him when he was just Doogie Howser, MD…Neil Patrick Harris blew everyone away with this. You just have to watch it to appreciate it.

For the first time I can remember, there are also a few on the list that I take considerable umbrage with. For the sake of us all, I hope Time reconsiders the following:
Housing Funds
The Branded Candidate
The New Ping Pong Serve

Head over to see the complete list and find your own favorite.

"I'm Robert Bianco, and I have a man-crush on Barack Obama."

Let’s be perfectly clear: you can vote for whomever you feel is the best candidate. In fact, please do. The more of us that are informed and involved in the process, the better off we’ll all be. (I think.)

(I hope.)

This morning I noticed a USA Today headline about Obama’s 30-minute infomercial that called it a “triumph.” I thought to myself, “when was the last time an advertisement for anything was called a triumph?” Interest piqued, I read the article.

Written by Robert Bianco, it should have contained the disclaimer that is the title of this post. Again, Bianco can vote for anyone he chooses, but we should at least know where he stands before he tosses out platitudes like “low-key triumph… perfectly tuned for the cool side of the medium” or “some parts, perhaps, were hokey [but] they are well-used here.”

Perhaps the biggest clue was his use of the following: “The show was designed to prove that Obama understands us.” “Prove,” not show or maybe demonstrate. “Us,” not working Americans or retirees or undecided voters or whatever.

“Me,” Bianco seems to be saying, “Obama understands me, and for that I am gushing.”

The fact is that words matter, and the words we choose to communicate affect the overall message. It’s my opinion that Bianco, a professional columnist, could have either chosen his better or offered some sort of disclosure about the context of his point of view. But I could be overreacting. You can read it yourself and let me know if you think I’m wrong.

"I've been made into a stereotype."

By now, you’ve likely seen the Windows ads complaining about how Apple is stereotyping PC people. I think it’s admirable of Microsoft to “fight back,” though they seem to be missing a couple of obvious points.

First, I don’t think most PC people associate themselves with their computers like Mac people tend to. Neither good nor bad, just an assumption based on the people I know who use PCs. Therefore, without this personal association, most PC-using people don’t see themselves when they see the PC guy in the Apple ads. Thus, this whole campaign from Microsoft is kinda missing the point.

Second, since the advent of the Intel chip in Macs, most people know that you can run Windows and all of the related programs on your Mac. In fact, I can boot my laptop in native Windows mode, essentially turning it into a Windows PC. (Not that I would want to.) Thus, this whole campaign from Microsoft seems kind of… well, odd. Why not embrace all of these Mac people and sell them software, too?

Anyway, now that there’s a full stereotypical stereotyping war going on, there are a plethora of user-generated ads making the rounds on YouTube. Lots of fun stuff, but here’s one I really like (well done, Michael!)