Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Soldati Attempting To Extort The Capo De Tutti Capi?

The Atlantic's Connor Friedersdorf seems to be of the opinion that a "work stoppage" by New York's Finest is - not quite extortion - but being used as leverage for union negotiations.
"The statistics cited suggest significant solidarity among cops. Overall arrests rates fell 66 percent "for the week starting Dec. 22 compared with the same period in 2013, stats show. Citations for traffic violations fell by 94 percent, from 10,069 to 587, during that time frame. Summonses for low-level offenses like public drinking and urination also plunged 94 percent—from 4,831 to 300. Even parking violations are way down, dropping by 92 percent, from 14,699 to 1,241."
It will be interesting to see if this has any effect on crime. My guess is no. And if so, it will be an embarrassment.

The "broken windows" theory of neighborhood involvement (or harassment, depending on your income level or skin color) is touted by conservatives as effective, but many others suggest it doesn't really work, or worse, turns into a mass harvest method of extortion, one that is clearly uneven in its application.


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Peter Thiel Wants To Live Forever

Why?

I guess he assume things will be good for him in the future, launched into orbit away from society, tucked away in that .01-per-center cocoon.

Oh, he says he only wants to live to 120 years, but when you plow money into life extension ventures, you kind of have a clue as to what he wants to do. Immortality, or the next best thing, immorbidity.

He's taking human growth hormone to prevent bone breakage (and hoping the cancer risk is ameliorated with a cure in ten years), drinks red wine, doesn't eat sugar, and subscribes to the paleo diet. Well, isn't that nice. Maybe he should read this article about how if he is worried about bone breakage, he really needs to do strenuous, dangerous physical activities out of doors. He should become someone's bitch and do all the hard manual labor for them. Diet doesn't help. 

And what exactly is so important about Peter Thiel that he should live forever? Especially when the case can be made that a huge amount of public resources were expended so he could leverage his fortune, and a huge amount of scarce labor and ingenuity will be wasted on keeping him alive, as opposed to, I don't know, several other people just having a normal life with the same resources and expended energies?

Notes Slashdot's Hugh Pickens: "With the 70 plus years remaining him and inspired by "Atlas Shrugged," Thiel also plans to launch a floating sovereign nation in international waters, freeing him and like-minded thinkers to live by libertarian ideals with no welfare, looser building codes, no minimum wage, and few restrictions on weapons".

I'm willing to bet, if he moves to his rickety offshore libertopia bristling with weapons, with all the safety features off, and no safety net, he won't make it 70.

Good luck Peter!

Monday, December 22, 2014

What I Done Did Today

I got two requests done for clients today. I cast five peach pits in bronze.


I was mailed peach pits that had been molded and cast in wax. It was brown wax, so when I open the box, I said "Boy I sure hope these are wax". The peach pits I invest in plaster/silica in a coffee can flask.

I also cast four little sails for a sail boat. The sails I won't show you a picture of because they are just triangles, but they were 1/16" thick, so I had to invest them in jewelry flasks and spin cast them.

I also cast four archies to finish "The Caretakers". (The archies are the cockroach looking things, and there were not enough of them to constitute a herd).

I also cast three glass pieces over the weekend, and loaded up two more with glass frit and put them into the kiln. The first one was kind of an experiment, and I'm going to keep it I think.
"Machinerette Tych #A"

The second two cast glass pieces are part of the machinerette series, and are "Machinerette Diptych #4".


I got them out of the kiln, cleaned them, bead blasted them, glued a wood mount on back. I didn't get around to welding up a steel mandala piece for my mom for Xmas. I better get that done tomorrow.

See this is what I can do when I am not bothered...

12/23/14 Update: I got my mom's Xmas present done. It took a lot less time than I expected, but I really burned the shit out of my fingers making it. Bent, cut, welded up steel pencil rod. Patinaed with Birchwood-Casey M-20, and waxed it up. It's from a mandala key fob she liked. It's about 12" in diameter:

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Rescue Of A Dixie Warbot


The first time I met Aaron - my first day on Alterra - I walked into the store next to mine in the frontier strip mall. It was a hundred times the size of my corner space. I saw outdoor gear, clothes, tents, ropes, sleeping bags, survival accessories, cook stoves, cook wear, lanterns, hand tools, motors, generators, power tools, knives, machetes, axes, explosives, guns. Guns. Lots and lots of guns.

"Sporting goods?" I asked at the counter, shaking hands. “ Wilderness experience?”

"Estate management", Aaron answered.

=======================

Meat is how Alterra makes money. 

Alterra is a world about like the Earth back in the Miocene. Big mammals. Big. Pretty much everything elephant-sized big. And so? Big predators! Lions the size of rhinos. Wolves the size of bears.  Bears the size of, well you get the idea. Humanity found itself about halfway up the food chain. Again. 

But all the money is in the meat harvest. Those delicious mammoth steaks and giant ribs and meat bits aplenty are what Earth wants. If you are on Alterra, being a cowboy, hunter, trapper, herder, zoo worker, or manager thereof, is what you want to be about. 

=======================

“So when Nixon allowed Texas to secede, the state of Texas emigrated to the planet Texas?” asked Mr. Merkin.

“That’s right. Through the Houston Astrodome Portal” I answered. “30 million of them at least.”

(I’m teaching a class in consistent histories because the wormhole network is preternaturally dimmed down and I can’t earn without it. This teaching gig is charity from the colony, and a college credit class for my fellow unemployed).

“A good part of the South went along.” I continued, and swept my hand across the map of the continental United States of America. 

“Basically? The Confederacy. Henry Kissinger negotiated an amicable divorce. Most every berg from the Mason-Dixon line on south was now chocolate city.”

They stared at me.

“All the white people left. Most of them. There was still a big waiting line, when Houston lost power. Wormhole collapsed. When contact was regained, there was nothing there. Empty space.”

Ms. Murka raised her hand. “A Lost Colony?”

“The first! Of many. Lesson there? Don’t turn the wormhole off!”

Laughter.

“So, but then we get in contact with them again! But, you know, spooky action at an instance, and the Confederacy is 10,000 years in the future.”

“And that’s why the giant Texan warbot terrorizes us and tries to infest us with mechanical bacteria??” asked Ms. Murka.

Yes, Nancy” I sigh. “and I’m sorry, but we are working on that”. 

=======================

Aaron and Claire Willis are my next store neighbors in Spiral City, on the planet Alterra, galaxy NGC 6264, almost half a billion light years from Earth. 

I think it’s unusual to love your neighbors, but I do love them.

Claire is the station master at the wormhole. Everyone loves Claire. She’s gorgeous. Vivacious. Superlative. 

Claire and Aaron have three children. Craig, out East, carving out the meat empire. Aaron Jr. studying on Earth. Cory, the baby, captured me from the start. She might as well be my daughter. Aaron is, well, what isn’t he? Scrounger? Fixer? Hustler? Mayor?

Did I mention they are black? Is it important? It shouldn’t be, but now it is.

“You two do realize you are both black, right?” I asked. “The only black people out here? On this here uberweisse planet?” 

They looked at me and smiled... and continued to smile. I frowned...finally I figured it out. 

Willis. Brontoburgers Willis. Dinoburgers. The Willis Clan owned the best quarter of this here uberweisse planet. My new neighbors are trillionaires.

=======================

Edward Hopper, the giant robot from the Empire of Texas, had tried to infest Alterra with miniscule mechanical creatures. 

The plan was to give him - and by proxy the Intergalactic Empire of Dixie - total control over every living thing on the planet. 

It didn’t quite work out because of the Kraken. The Kraken are big furry alien octopus monsters that are a billion years ahead of humanity. The Kraken had unleashed a virus on Alterra months before Edward Hopper unleashed his mechanical plague. The virus disabled the mechanicules as they were spawned. 

Why the Kraken didn’t just stop Ed from doing all that shit to begin with, I don’t know.


 =======================

It was all that President Nixon had hoped, but not how he planned. It wasn’t the inner cities and rural poverty districts that depopulated. It was the Great White Flight into the cosmos. 

The last, and greatest, liberal welfare project ever.

Nixon did what he could to steer folks he wanted gone. Along with the Northern Cities, wormhole stations were set up in Knoxville, Baltimore, Birmingham, Baton Rouge, St. Louis, New Orleans. The black and brown folk did not leave. They took jobs instead. 

It was the biggest economic boom in American history. Huntsville was and will be Rocket City, but Detroit became Nuclear Rocket City. KC, Mo? What don’t they do there? Oakland, Memphis, Cleveland, Toledo humming on government war production budgets, cranking out yolk for all those interstellar zygotes.

Ah, but then things went sour.  The start was a news leak of wormhole dumping, toxic garbage and radioactive waste dropped into deep space. Almost cost Nixon the reelection. Well, that, and the lost colonies, and the space deaths, and Spiro Agnew, and country club black markets and profiteering, and... but you know, cosmic irony, Nixon gets a second term.

=======================

It got on week twenty of the wormholes all dimmed down. The colony had broken into the warehouses: older technology pulled out that did not use electricity. I used the darkened store for sleeping between odd jobs. It was a sloppy mess. Aaron walked in, looked about with a smirk.

“Bachelor Man!” he sang out.

“Hi Aaron.”

"Are you still in contact with Ed Hopper?"

"Not recently. But as a matter of fact, he came to me in a dream last night."

“So? Well! Meteor Bay? South-east shore thereof?”

“Si?”

“Jimmy Mungo was down there yesterday. He tells me he saw something weird.”

“When can we go?”

Aaron smiled a million watts. “Now!”

=======================

Jimmy Mungo’s name wasn’t Jimmy Mungo. Jimmy Mungo was Howard Pogue, originally from Melbourne, Australia.


 =======================

The Convergence is that entendu of superpositions of the universe where humanity survives.

The Convergence is abstracted out of a very shaky holographic gestalt, but there are set points.

Contact with the Kraken is one. It gets the Convergence rolling.

Only Nixon can meet the Kraken.

=======================
Jimmy Mungo piloted the electric airplane over Meteor Bay.

Aaron’s daughter Cory was his co-pilot apprentice. Aaron and I sat in back with drinks. Aaron poked me and pointed down.

“Gorgeous!” I nodded.

It was gorgeous. Meteor Bay seen from its north cape, the green water to the west tracing to the thinnest of arcs. To the south, the water turned blue again, and it looked like a new sea off to the east, but no, its the bay. The crater.

We hugged the coast turning east, flew over sandy islands and reefs, approached the shore of a peninsula. The blue water turned green again.

“HEY!!”

“WOW!”

“Cool!” cried Cory.

“Fuck” I said.

Down below us was a city of giant fungi. Square miles of skyscraper sized mushrooms. A forest of nickel clad toadstools below this canopy. Stalks of liquid metal. Pearlescent and oily white superellipsoids floating or perched about like bird blimps and popcorn. Surfaces of fine china and soot carpet the floor of this rain forest, this factory, this rain forest, fading east and up to a monotone.

In the center, big red brick smokestacks a quarter mile high, gills and stone veils crawling down them. Once belching out billions of tons of mechanicules, now quiet. And wouldn’t you know, a speck of gold tinsel waving at us, a tinkerbell on shore. Edward Hopper. 

Jimmy Mungo pressed the plane close to shore and landed on pontoons. We cast up on a spit less sparse of the eldritch living machine growths. Edward Hopper, resplendent in gold imperial, waded over to tower above us. 

I was scared, in front of this giant mechanical war god, his vast citadel arrayed around me. I feared for my life, but I was also very angry.

“You! Asshole! I shouted “Fucking! Asshole! Cocksucking! Motherfucker! This is bullshit! Bullshit! This ends today! Okay? You prick? All this shit! Just leave us the fuck alone! Please!”

“Mr. Hopper?” Aaron asked, holding his palms up. “What do you want?”

“Well, it’s more what you need.”

“I get it.” Aaron turned to me “He is a dick, isn’t he?” He shouted slowly to Hopper, “What do you want?” 

“Respite. Healing. In case you haven’t noticed...” Ed Hopper indicated his golden body. Up close, Ed Hopper was not so resplendent. The gash on his thigh, received from Kraken claw, had not healed. 

“Jesus Ed!” I commiserated, turned to Aaron and muttered “This is a limited time offer”.

“He is correct.” Ed said, “I am slowly rotting from the inside out, and this citadel as well. Only a week at best before we die.”

Aaron grunted. “And what bargaining chip do we have? How can we help you?”

Hopper pointed at me. “He can call off this curse.”

Aaron frowned.  “Why should he? You’re a bully. You’re a monster. You’ve terrified everybody with your antics. Everyone.”

“I was only trying to help.”

"Oh, easy, then” Aaron laughed. “Go die!”

“Okay, hang on” Ed Hopper held up his hands. “You need electricity, Mr. Mayor. I can’t build transmission lines now. I can send batteries up to Spiral City right now”. 

He clapped his hands. Five cold iron things lurched forward. They were 55 gallon drums with dunce caps on top and four War of the Worlds tentacle legs attached. They stumbled in a drunken walk, leaning and swaying side to side.

“What are those tipsy things? I asked.

“Those are.. tipsies. Each can pump out ten megawatts per hour for two weeks. Plug and play, or hack away. It gets you back on the network today.”

Well. I don’t trust you, babycakes. We sure as hell don’t trust your freaks” Aaron replied. 

“I can do more. I can build more animals. Mineral or elemental refinement. Mining robots. Transportation. Warriors. To protect you from the big predators.”

“It still sounds like an army you want to build, Ed."

"I really mean well. I'm trying to help.

"No. No, thank you.”

Ed Hopper slumped down dejectedly.

=======================

“...Ah, son of a-!” I caved, old softie that I am. “If I can heal him, I have to try.”

Aaron stared hard at me. “Whatever, man.”

“Edward Hopper, do you renounce Satan and all his works?”

“ I do.”

“Heh. OK. Edward Hopper! Do you want to be healed? Do you want to rejoin the bliss of You robot brethren and sestren? Do you?  Get on your knees! Get on your knees and pray to the furry octopussies with me!”

Edward Hopper got upon his knees, and clasped his hands, and I did likewise, and we prayed. We prayed to the furry octopussies that my friend Edward Hopper and all his servants and all his works be healed.

 And it was so.

=======================

We’d found some wood and set it alight. Dinner followed. We settled down around the merry fire, Cory leaned against her dad. Jimmy tossed logs and poked the fire. I drank heavily. Edward Hopper a seated statue, nickel plate handsome in the firelight. 

"If this were a story?” observed Cory “This is all just stupid."

“Oh, don’t just say stupid. How is it stupid?”

“Nothing has really changed. Right? Mr. Hopper started out terrorizing you guys. Now he’s indispensably terrorizing you guys. And the other stuff?” smiled Cory, 

“Yeah?”

“There is no point to it. And what was with that praying to the aliens miracle? Really?” 

I thought a bit, and said, “In this boundless universe, there are bound to be beings that are like gods to us... That doesn’t mean we should worship them. Prayer isn’t the same as worship, hon”. 

“I know that.”

“Really?”

“Yeah!”  

“Well then, on to the next story.” 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Pulling Wings Off Flies

81 million bucks to provide due diligence for butt-wumping practices?

I'm sure the CIA could have gone much cheaper in their consultation services, but, hey, one hand washes the other, especially when it's been rectally feeding someone.

(In fact, when I read the summary of techniques such as as sleep deprivation, waterboarding, diapers, and rectal feeding, I thought, well, hell, just another day in the Cheney household. "Liz!... LIZ! Time for daddy's rectal feeding! Stat!" RRARRH!". Cheney wouldn't find anything wrong with all this. What's the problem? ).

Of course, I have to assume that there are people smarter than me in the CIA, who know that the best way to extract information is through kindness. Get them all comfy, stroke them with compliments, get the ego all expansive and ready to brag, and you get yourself all the information you want. I'm reminded of the story of the Nazi interrogator Hanns Scharff, who used his used car salesman techniques to get info from Allied airmen.

This is not an isolated case, I can't remember what book it was in, but I read of two other cases, one a Mossad interrogator of hardened Palestinian terrorists, the other a NYC police detective ("If I could get them to use my first name, I knew I had them"), also used these techniques. Any good parent uses these techniques.

So, if the CIA spooks are smarter than me, they know this, and they know that strong arm tactics, 3rd degree stuff, gives unreliable or false information, and so they must be doing this out of sheer infantile sadism and spite, and to send out the message that the old white vampires still mean business, to show the world that the bumbling amateurs in ISIS are mere pikers compared to us.

Problem is, if you present yourself as a intolerable, inexorable threat, inevitably people will get rid of you when the opportunity presents itself... jess sayin'.

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Dreaded P Word

I was showing the latest bronze castings to two students in my class.

These are tipsies. Tipsies are robot animals that are walking batteries.

This is a tipsie driver.

The tipsie driver travels in a tentacular personel carrier, because the gipsies imprint upon him as the leader of the pack, and also they can move at speeds up 30 miles an hour, much faster than a man can run.

Looking at the tipsies, the students both noticed the "baby" and said, "Oh, look at the baby!" "That's so cute". "It's more than cute, it's precious!"

Oh. Fuck.

Precious.

Yeah, okay, maybe the tendency is to make the little buggers more attractive, because, you know, marketability.  But, just so you know what is going on, the title of the whole piece is called the Tipsie Driver.

The tipsie driver's name is Aabel Jussiennimi. Why a Finn is a tipsie driver I don't know. His son, Torsti, lost a foot to the baby tipsie. It lashed out with a vicious kick that severed the foot from the leg. Fortunately, Aabel was nearby to stanch the bleeding, and his son survived.

Precious little thing.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Okay, I'll Bite

Charlie Stross is milking his audience for ideas, again. Some people object to this. I, for one, do not. He has made it clear that anyone can steal from him, provided there is either modification or attribution. I think the term is open source, crowd sourcing,  etc. and I say more power to him.

So the set-up is: they come up with magic pill that makes you are youthful and immortal...

...(and clearly you also live in a post-scarcity society where things are cool and you don't have to live in squalor and fear forever and ever, so that your youthful immortality is not a curse. You are not an immortal slave. You are not forced to kowtow to assholes. The asshole niche of the .01% has been eliminated somehow, and society is a fun place to live and we have also managed to quit shitting where we eat as well. I guess everything is run by robots or something so that the one constant trend in all civilizations - ALL civilizations going back before the written word - is that there isn't a permanent underclass that is forced to work for the benefit of a parasitic overlord class. In short, we finally got rid of the vampires)...

... but you've got this brain that is clearly not designed for immortality. So how are you going to cope with the clutter of extended memories and challenges to how you think and live, adaptive behaviors for same seem to become more brittle over time? 

Actually, Charlie puts it like this:
"But your cognitive functioning is burdened by decades of memories to integrate, canalized by prior experiences, dominated by the complexity of long-term planning at the expense of real-time responsiveness. Every time you look around you are struck by intricate, esoteric cross-references to that which has gone before. Every politician, celebrity, actor, blogger, pop star, author ... you've seen someone like them previously, you know what they're going to say before they open their mouth. Every new policy or strategy has failure modes you recognize: "that won't work" is your usual response to change, not because you're a curmudgeonly pessimist but because you've been there before. Maybe you're going to make extensive use of lifeloggers or external prosthetic memory assistance devices—think of your own personal google, refreshing your memory whenever you ask the right question—or maybe you're going to float forward in time through a haze of forgetting, deliberately shedding old context to make room for fresh. Some folks try for rolling amnesia with a 40-70 year horizon behind them. You gradually lose contact with such people because they just don't want to know you any more. Others try to hang on to every experience, wallowing in the lush, intricate texture of an extended lifespan until their ability to respond is so impaired that they appear catatonic. 
Which are you going to be? And how will you cope with a century of memories contained in the undecaying flesh of indefinitely protracted adulthood?"
Okay, I'll bite. And I'll just tell you straight off what I will be. I will be what I already am now: a member of a tribal AI*. 

Only, because this is Charlie's utopian WEIRD future, I'll be electronically mediated and distributed. This is not to say I'm a Borg or anything, just that I'll be a electronically and computationally enhanced version of a member of the strange loosely-connected hive mind that humanity already is. In short, humanity is already a collective AI, and computers are just another part of it. This is my answer to Hawkings' fearful vision of AI. We are already AI. 

(If you want a more specific future example, trends in computation and engineering suggest both electronically enhanced brains, and brain to brain communication is inevitable. The expanded mental capacities combined with tighter coupling of communication should - should - produce even more innovation and socially cohesive good works, leading to even more progress. Not an exponential Singularity, mind you, but a really grand S curve up to the carrying capacity of humankind).

(Oh, and also, those wearable electronic devices that will hook all our brains up? You end looking like you are wearing a bonnet and an apron, because they find out the second brain of the gut needs consulting as well).

So, I will continue to be a part of my tribal AI, but I'll be more choosy. You will note that tribal AIs, in the form of organizations, have pushed that portion of culture known as technology to lots of different places, with no end of innovations in sight. These tribal AIs have allowed humanity to live in every single Earthly environment, and even go to the Moon, and live in orbit.

One salient attribute of these tribal AIs is a purposeful collecting of various skills, talents, and intentions, in the various forms of meritocratic/familial collectives, to best choose and pursue these group goals and/or products/activities/artifice/manifested dreams.

More importantly, I would suggest that the most effective groups are the ones that get along well.

(What's that you say? Fitness selection at a group level? Blasphemy!)

They are composed of kindred spirits, or more concisely, friends and loved ones. Yes, even guilds and corporations, the effective ones, have a shared love of something, a generosity of spirit, an urge to put the welfare of others in the group above themselves, which in turn, I would suggest, attracts talented people who get along with each other.

So, a trend from my take (that we continue to be members of tribal AIs) is that matchmaking services will be in even more demand for us immortals. Looking for just the right organization to join and get along in, to be cherished in, to be a valued member of, will be of more importance than a strict qualification set of competencies.


*I come to this conclusion based upon some hints Charlie provided which I didn't see any of his audience pick up on:
"Watch a pair of 70-80 year olds who've been together for half a century some time. They often appear to ignore each other, because they have such a strong internal model of the other's mind that they can anticipate their partner's words or actions: it's an ignorance derived from deep insight and familiarity, not obliviousness. There's some evidence from cognitive psychology that we use our partners or children or other relatives as external content-addressable memory storage, relying on their shared experience to fill in our patchy recollections: just like google. (Google isn't making our memory obsolete, rather it's plugging into an existing interpersonal human mechanism at a very low level.)"   

Monday, November 24, 2014

Corporations are the *only* people, my friends.

The rest of us are just pesky citizens.

Mostly in the way, at least until the universally reprogrammable robots are online.

Case in point: Is there some way to exploit the labors of pesky citizens, without having to provide an unwholesome equanimity of remuneration? Make them temporary workers. And from there, why, it's all downhill. They don't have any real legal recourse, once they accept that first humiliation, but now it all looks so entrepreneurial!

Lesson? Never invite a vampire into your house.

Case in point: North Dakota. The person involved is Burlington Northern Railroad. The key passage for me in this article is:

"On June 20, 2011, the Schwalbes received a letter informing them that Burlington Resources intended to forge a 30,883.94-acre oil production unit that would effectively override their lease agreement with Marathon and subsume their mineral property. In the Bakken, such units are typically 1,280 acres.
The Schwalbes were instructed to sign a ratification agreement by August, when a hearing was scheduled on what some started calling “the mega-unit.” The mega-unit would include the Little Missouri State Park, a patchwork of private, state and federal land beloved for its rugged trails.Initially perplexed by the thick document on their doorstep, the Schwalbes soon grasped a painful point: though they would be ceding control of their mineral property, their consent was not required. Only the owners of 60 percent of the unit’s minerals were needed for ratification, and Burlington, together with the federal government, already met that goal.
“That’s part of why they chose Corral Creek for their scheme,” Dr. Chaffee said. “They didn’t have to deal with a lot of fleas like us, the pesky citizens.” 
Sound familiar? For this part of the country, it should: "For as long as grass grows and rivers run, the tribes shall have the right to possess, occupy, and use the lands allotted to it".

History doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme. And the Conquest of the New World would seem the best analogy I can use as comparison. But now individuals are the Redskins.

Friday, November 21, 2014

M. fetor particeps and M. ultor particeps

Moving slowly on the mechanical front. This one I did as two separate pieces, and then realized they were kind of boring, and so combined them.

I suppose dirty-minded people might find this naughty



So, originally thought to be two different mechanicules and wrongly named M. fetor and M. ultor (guess which one is which), it was later found they were two components of one mechanicule named M. particeps.

Nomenclature being what it is, they retained their original names, and so are the first mechanicules to have middle names. I suppose if a component gets in trouble you will know, because the middle name will be included when addressing them.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Collective Unconscious of Superorganisms

I notice the Senate failed to pass the Keystone XL pipeline project. That's all right. They'll do it next year. It's not like we don't have oil pipeline leaks anyway. We have hundreds thousands of leaks a year, most of them unreported. Keystone XL will leak the hell over everything, just like all the others do.

First of all, any engineer will tell you that there is no such thing as leakproof. I've heard tell that, on average, even the best pipeline will have at least one very small leak for every mile of pipe. That wouldn't surprise me. Multiply that by tens of thousands of miles, and you get the idea. If you live in Nebraska and Kansas, you've already got some really hideous chemicals in your rapidly depleting aquifer anyway, so what's a few more volatile toxins?

And anyway, the way solar is going, and, until oil prices goes up, rooftop solar will start to seriously compete with natural gas right about the time Keystone XL is completed. And so what if Canada rapes their landscape?

See that's the thing I've noticed about the group think of group minds: just how fucking stupid it can be.

Are you worried about AI, hyper-intelligent killer robot swarms, massively vast collective consciousnesses, the way Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking are? Don't be.

We've had these things - these organizations - since at least the time of the Sumerians, and, true, they make life miserable for a lot of us citizens, and they do seem to be hellbent on wrecking our habitable living spaces, but they sure don't display much in the way of real intelligence, even a planned malevolent intelligence actively trying to commit genocide (can't even manage to get that right).

See, the thing I've noticed about these collective entities is that seem to get their tasks down despite themselves. It's not that there are not neat things happening. It's like, if you peer inside a black box you see all sorts of clever and wondrous elvish behaviors and tactics and coping mechanisms, but when you look at the black box, it just takes the inputs and stupidly poops out the outputs according to some least common denominator version of cheap-ass processing.

Mine is admittedly an anecdotal experience, but I've worked for five successful multi-billion-dollar corporations, and the thing I notice was they all made money despite themselves. It was always weakest link in the chain kind of stuff (and granted, these are hierarchical collective command structures, but a more distributed network still has the same weak links. I'll go further, and suggest that these links are made weak by the very globally emergent properties of these collective minds.

You know, I think I started to think about this back in high school, or perhaps before. It may have been exposure to Carl Jung's notion of the collective unconscious, but no, it was science fiction reading. Maybe Jack Vance, but for sure Fritz Lieber. I still remember a (paraphrased) line from Leiber's "The Foxholes of Mars"  where the protagonist, battling his alien enemy, has the feeling of the two of them being "epithelial cells scraped off the skin of two warring monsters".

And that, more than anything, gave me the idea that bigger and smarter is not necessarily bigger and smarter. True, you see it in ant colonies, where the behavior of the super organism is much sophisticated than an individual ant, and true, humankind as a whole has done things like land probes on comets, but then, you can also get ants to engage in a death march around the rim of a bowl, and humans to (maybe someday) annihilate themselves in nuclear armageddon.

So, it came to my attention that AI was bandied about over at Edge.org. I haven't been able to read edge for at least ten years now. Those fuckers can't seem to put forth a substantive discussion without using ten words where one will do. And once you condense what they are saying into a more palatable and digestible form, it's usually old wine in new bottles. I never rarely seem to learn anything new from these smart fuckers. Okay, enough snark.

Anyway, that's what prompted me to write about this subject. It doesn't mean that a superior collective intelligence isn't an existential threat, it's just that this is not a new threat.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Saturday Bronze Pour 11/15/2014

I gave my safety lecture with my cupped right hand brimming with blood and hidden behind my back. It was the tiniest cut on the pad of my ring finger, but it was from a broken shard of slag off the crucible. At one silica-molecule-thick, glass is the sharpest edge in the universe... so far. And, I had taken aspirin as a blood thinner that morning, so that one little tiny cut bled a good quarter cup before it was done.

Eventually, the blood started to overflow and drip onto the pavement, and a student noticed it.

"You're bleeding", he discretely murmured.

"I know", I replied "Consider it an object lesson".

It almost screwed up my speech, but either people did not notice, or chose not to. And I had practiced a long time on that speech. In front of a mirror.

Are you surpassed that I practice speeches? Well, I do. I'm trying to engage my students, impart the maximum information in the minimum time, and keep their attention from wandering. Like any performer, I hone my delivery and content, culling what doesn't work, keeping what gets a laugh, but more importantly, a laugh that drives the particular point home.

So, that bleeding threw off my touch and timing some. Parts where I thought would rivet them drew puzzled stares. Parts where I became alarmed at the bleeding through me off, but I got back on track and went through okay. I mean, that's why I practice my delivery, right?

My post-mortem of the Saturday bronze cast is that it went well, but I failed to allow my students to participate more. I know exactly why it happened. We had over fifty pieces, and some 560 lbs of bronze to pour, and me doing 85% of the heavy lifting meant that we got done in a timely fashion. We started at 9am and (I) went non-stop to 4pm, and I didn't want to go beyond that.

So... this time out, I pretty much was the attendant at the roller coaster ride. Not so much them casting their own pieces as me muppeting them into casting their own pieces. Normally, that doesn't happen. But like I said, we had a lot of shit to go through.

I'll remedy that for the next semester, and in fact, most semesters, I stand back and let them do the work.

On the whole, a very good semester so far. We had zero failures and minimal defects. Almost all pieces defect free, with those with defects being hot and cold tears of the metal, due to too thick an investment shell. Well, I warned them about that...

P.S. About the only thing that makes me happy lately, is staring down into the crucible and watch metal melt... which makes for some expensive therapy.

P.P.S. Not to brag, but I was informed by my students on Monday, that I ROCKED!!!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

I Don't See Any Other Animals Landing Shit On Comets

The European Union, in the form of the European Space Agency, landed a probe on a comet today.

Consider that, one hundred years ago, this same group of peoples were engaged in geopolitical Lesch-Nyhan Syndrome: some one-million-plus people slaughtered since July of 1914, trenches now scarring a moonscape which was once a landscape. A lot more gruesome ghoulishness is to occur until four years from now - minus one hundred years and a day - when an armistice went into effect.

It's not that we've advanced any. We are the same killer ape we one hundred years ago. If anything, we've only managed to manage the carnage, and there's no reason to think we won't screw the pooch at some (near) time in the future, and do far worse than try and chew our tongues off, or poke our eyes out.

Still, as bestial as we are, I don't see any other animals landing shit on comets. And if other animals  did, why, I suppose it would be our duty to wipe them out.

Other things. I had probably the most horrible lunch at the college the other day. I got a chicken sandwich, and the chicken was a grisly, gristly mess. I sure do miss the socialist food service we used to have. Now, because of privatization, the food quality is down, service is shoddier, portions are smaller, and prices are up. Yay, capitalism!

I expect no less once our new empty Carhartt jacket is installed in the governor's mansion that he just bought, I'm sure we can expect to see the destruction of lots public institutions, the emptying of public coffers into the pockets of rich crooks, and the ongoing race to the bottom which we have all come to expect here in America.

Speaking of Bruce Rauner, I have been taking an inordinate number of poops lately. You know how, you eat a whole bunch, and you don't gain weight, but then, when you empty your bowels, this pathetic teaspoon of stool comes out. And you wonder, where the heck did the food go? Perhaps there is some extra-dimensional pocket in our innards where it gets stored, and then finally it fills up, and even though aren't eat any more than usual, suddenly you are pooping out a cornucopia, a horn of plenty of poop?

Yeah, America, like that. Get used to it.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Does Not Want To Be Made Manifest

This is my second biggest class, and they are cranking out the stuff. I don't think this is a record, at least in terms of amount of bronze or in number of pieces, but it's up there.















One student, a musician, read up on a guy named Harry Parch. He decided he wanted to make a Parch-like instrument similar to his Gourd Tree with Cone Gongs.

I had never done bellfounding, rather liked the idea of the gourd tree, and am a frustrated musician, I said why not? So, the kid is cranking out bells. Lots of bells. Not sure how this will turn out, but we are to cast a lot of bells.

I'm not sure how many bells, or how he is going to tune them, as we don't have a metal lathe here. Many of the bells were fashioned from bowls, so I assume the tuning part may be mostly happenstance? I don't know.

My own stuff I am having problems with. I had a wax tree work just fine until just this afternoon, when I set it down, and the weight of the investment bent a wax rod and broke the mold.


My solution was to just cut off the part that broke and fashion new pouring cup for it to pour separately. And I will just seal off the break on the other part of the tree.













But the other piece is just a problem child. It has broken three four times now, and I'm starting to think it does not want to exist. That, of course, is the Pathetic Fallacy. My inattentiveness is the reason for the breakage. I do pride myself in not having tantrums after they break. There was a time when I would rage for awhile before I fixed it. Perhaps getting older makes you realize that tantrums are a waste of time.

In any case, I'm off to the hardware store to get furnace cement and fix it that way, as the investment is now too thick to recoat and repair.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Yeah, I Been Busy

The past week has seen me trying to get my students' pieces rigged up and ready for investing in ceramic slurry. I mixed up the batch on Monday, which now seems like a month ago.

I have been sacrificing getting my stuff ready to act as Mother Hen over the kids so that the amount of mishaps - never zero - is kept to a minimum. I actually prefer that they make mistakes, because they learn faster and the lesson is retained longer. But the mistakes must be controlled so that it is not a complete disaster. Thus, my teaching style is: let them fail, up to the recoverable point, and then step in before it is a complete wash.

I just now (8:19pm, Tuesday, October 29th) finished rigging up my planned pieces to cast. I will show  you them in a second. I've kind of decided that I should do more than just document these things, but to present them as pieces of art in and of themselves. So, that's how they are presented...




These are the cockroach like plutonium poppers, or something like that. The first batch of them failed, and I am keeping the failure as an teaching object for almost every casting defect you can get. And the failures were all in the rigging of the pieces. These, rigged more properly, should work fine, but we shall see...


This guy, upside down, is a Tipsie Driver, or a Tipsie Herder.


 This looks like the mask of the Beetle King, but it is, upside down, the Chemical Segway for the Tipsie Driver. (I called it a tentacle segway, but a kid misheard it as chemical seaway, and I liked that better).

 These are Tipsies...






Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Client's Bronzes Pretty Much Finished

The client's name is Philip Soosloff. I completed two sets of bronzes for him. All that is required now is for him to approve and/or apply finishing touches to the bronzes. Phil started out as a ceramics artist, got interested in doing sculptural landscapes with forced perspective, but they all have a narrative as well.

He crafted the originals in ceramic. I made silicon rubber molds of them, then wax, then lost wax, then bronze, then welded, then cleaned and chased, then patinated them.

The first is baseball themed: an old guy pretending. The piece is about 12" in any dimension and weighs about 35 lbs.




The second is nautical themed: a boat on the ocean in a coffee cup. The piece is in three separate pieces and is about 8" x 6" x 8".



I think I'm done. Hope he likes them.