Thursday, February 27, 2014

Reptile Hiss

I once thought about emigrating to Iceland, but then found out winter goes until June. Forget that.

I get enough winter here, and I'm pretty much sated now with everything winter. It's not so much the cold. I'm used to the cold. Cold doesn't bother me now, not even the single digit stuff.

It's the dry. Skin between my shoulder blades in constant itch. Why even lip balm isn't working anymore, and I'm peeling off these little dry potato chips from my lips. My cuticles are cracking, and since I work with my hands, I have to put the neosporin and band aids on the tips of my thumbs at night to heal them up.

Fortunately, I'm not one of those people who's skin cracks so bad everywhere they bleed. But I  have to use the Norwegian fisherman's lotion to combat the lizard scales on my arms and legs where it used to be mammal skin. I'm starting to look like one of my Permian period therapsid ancestors.

I  swear, if winter goes on much longer, I won't be able to greet people with much more than a reptile hiss.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Jobs Report

I really enjoy Bruce Sterling's blog on Wired, Beyond the Beyond. He has a way of succinctly connecting future dots that I envy, both for brevity, and relative ranking of trend/surprise importance, and also finds fun stuff that highlights the more unusual in trivial matters.

Atlantic Cities has the BLS's projected-10-years-out jobs report, and nifty maps to go with it.

(Provided, of course, the electrically-powered robots don't take over every job from us food-powered robots, as has been threatened by various magazines, expect growth in service industries and what they call now "creative class" jobs. I for one do not value a job changing old people's diapers in Arizona, but I suppose that's where it is all heading.

But still, my suspicion is one government agency is not sharing data with another (what? really? that happens?), as some of the regions projected for growth seem unreasonable and/or unsustainable.

So, the Southwest to boom with jobs? Really? Anyone notice that don't have any fucking water? And ain't gonna have no more water if things continue? Because the pattern, which, yes, can shift, tends towards everything getting increasingly arid west of the Mississippi.  Throw in a little sea level rise, and all those jobs projected for southwest Florida and the Gulf coast of Texas kind of head underwater.

So, it's early, and 2024 is still a far distant future to me.

Speaking of which, does anyone think ITER is going to be up and running by then?



There's an article in the New Yorker that shows just how daunting that task is, even when you throw in the old science joke of "As always, fusion is only thirty years away". But here is a task that is challenging even materials standards. From the article:
Depending on whom you talk to, the history of the central solenoid epitomizes either iter’s flaws or its ability to overcome them. From the start, the magnet’s technical requirements indicated that it would be extremely difficult to build. To prevent the solenoid from launching through the roof, a thousand and eighty screws must be fixed to the top and the bottom, to keep the stack in viselike compression. Moreover, niobium-3-tin is difficult to work with. It does not attain its superconducting properties until it is baked: cables made with strands of it must be coiled into a module, then heated for days in a custom-made furnace flooded with argon gas. The strands, each one less than a millimetre thick, are interwoven with copper. In the furnace, the metals bind into a fragile matrix that later cannot be flexed.
“The challenge for the central solenoid is that it has to ramp up every time you do a plasma shot, which is thousands of times during the lifetime of the machine—so you have to create a superconducting cable that can pulse tens of thousands of times without degrading, and that is very hard with niobium-3-tin,” an engineer who worked on the magnet told me. “It is a brittle material. How is it not going to become dust? With each pulse, you are literally breaking it, micro-fracturing it. So what is the solution? Don’t pulse so many times, or pulse with less energy. But you cannot do either. If you pulse with less energy, then you don’t get the heating that you need, and if you pulse fewer times then the life of the machine is shorter. So you are pushing up against the limit of what the material can do.”
Why even during the Manhattan Project, which, other than a certain amount of sheer dumb luck in casting the right allotrope of fissile plutonium, enigneers and physicists encountered no few materials issues. It was strictly a matter of engineering finesse.

My guess is, it will be considered a success, even though it is a monumental failure. But there is hope, and I suspect the rescue of fusion will come from a clever application of metamaterials.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

"He say you Brade Runner"

I think it may be time to watch that movie again. I watch it about every four years or so. I especially like the concept art for the movie, which was done by Syd Mead: http://sydmead.com/v/12/

Ain't it cool he's still around?

I'll give credit to everyone on the art staff that worked on Blade Runner, but the vision was solidly Syd's, and they did their darnedest to maintain the fidelity of that vision. I'm pretty sure I've bought some SF books purely on Syd's cover art. There's lots of people I am envious of that can draw so much better than I can, but, Syd, well, he's just slick as snot.

Check out his images.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Trivial Life Stuff

I'm sure I'll talk about this later in the year, but over the weekend my brother informed me that, as of July 23rd, I will be older than Dad when he died. I asked him if he was trying to jinx me.

My dad died of a heart attack at age 57. Each of his children is going to view their 57th year with a hairy eye ball. I think me less so than my other brothers. They are built more like Dad, who looked like a Mongolian wrestler.

I take after my maternal grandfather, who was more wiry. And actually, given that my mother's side of the family, the Norwegian hill people, are probably half troll and or half ogre (which is to say, Neanderthal), I'm surprised grandpa was as skinny and wiry as he was.

You'd figure, with all that Neanderthal blood, he'd be a thick-boned knuckle dragger. But he, and I, had/have these wimpy looking wrists and ankles. I say wimpy looking, because, well, as far as I know, no one on that side of the family, going back generations, has ever broken a bone, and it's not from lack of trying. Maybe we had some fleet-footed long distance runners, skiers, and rowers in our Viking past, and the ones that broke bones were left on the shores of England and Ireland, to face the wrath of the natives.

And let's not forget Dad's side of the family; natural athletes all, and preternaturally muscular. My uncles scared me when I was a child. I learned long ago not to wrestle with any of my brothers. That was a guaranteed defeat. Instead, hit hard and run was the name of my game.

In any case, it doesn't mean a damn thing when it comes to heart health. I haven't had myself checked out for any of that stuff. My brothers have, so, and they all got great hearts and clean vascular systems. So what do you think? Modern medicine? Modern diet? My father, like many of his generation, basically lived bird suet and sugar, smoked and drank like they were ethically bound to make way for the next generation as soon as possible, and had to raise little assholes like me, which had be to high stress.

Overheard once: "You worry about keeping them alive until age 12, and then after that, you worry they don't kill anybody".

I understand. Teaching kids in the 18 to 28 range, I know now how my Dad felt about me: DUMB-ASS!

It takes some time for the last part of brain to grow into the front part of the skull, usually no sooner than the age of 25, and in a lot of people, it just never does.

In any case, what with my health problems over the past year, I ended up getting soft and fat, and even for the first time in my life, developed a belly.

I'm not vain, or at least, not vain enough to worry overmuch about trying to regain the body of my youth, but I did decide to try and get back to some semblance of fighting trim. I don't have the time to get back in that kind of shape, and I've noticed that people in their 50s that do manage to do that, get an alligator belly and all, they look weird. It's like their meat is a little gamy and coarse. The skin, obviously, is not the elastic and supple thing it once was, and draped over these artificially worked up muscles, like Hollywood youth-obsessed freaks, it just looks weird.

So imagine how it snuck up on me with no small amount of pleasure when I noticed my pants are falling off my hips, and, oh, nice, I had to cinch the belt in a notch. Pretty good, considering I still weigh the same.

So! That fat turned to muscle, yes? And here's the thing, I haven't even gotten into spring and summer mode when I always got a little bit more time to get a lot fitter, which I use. Becuase it's more than looks, it's feeling good, it's being in shape to do my job, it's being in shape so that, when I need to, I can go from cruising speed to ramming speed.

You know what I think it was? I used to eat ice cream every night. Not a lot, not even a dish, but enough. I cut back on that. I give myself an ice cream treat no more than once/twice on the weekend.

Now, I'm going to get all unrealistic. I can stay fit, but entropy is eventually going to win. No reason not to keep trying, though.

Monday, February 17, 2014

This One Weird Amendment Can Stave Off Tyranny...

So, lately, every slippery little flipper-limbed jellyhead squirts out a stain over the 2nd amendment and gun rights.

Hey, you know I would like to see a poster of, all the time, for gun rights? The NRA should be required to use this poster:

You know who should be the patron saints of gun rights? Bobby Seale and Huey Newton. The NRA should pay monies for statues of them in front of their national headquarters. You want to see real Americans actually using real gun rights? I can't think of a better example. Not those doughy poodles that show up at teatard rallies. Those guys are just a fucking joke.

You know why they are a joke? The 1932 Bonus Army March. That's why they are a joke. Let me tell what would happen if teatards ever decided to "exercise their 2nd amendment option"? George S. Patton:
Information:

As in all military operations, information is vital. By the use of detectives, soldiers in civilian clothes, and friendly citizens, get all possible information about the condition within the city. In particular, locate on a map the position of public utilities, banks, commercial districts, residential districts, armories, sporting goods stores, and other places of importance. Also the general focal points of the disturbance and the names of the leaders. It may be desirable to fly over the city to become oriented. If fired upon while in the air, reply at once with small bombs and machine gun fire.

From the information secured, arrange your axis of approach so as to drive the mob into the poor quarter and away from vital areas.

Weapons:

The use of gas is paramount. It may be used by hand grenades with a range of 25 yards, rifle grenades with a range of 250 yards, or bombs and stokes mortars. While tear gas is effective, it should be backed up with vomiting gas.

Although white phosphorus is incendiary, it is useful in forming a screen for the attack of barricades and defended houses.

Next in order of importance come the saber, the bayonet, and the club. In the case of dismounted troops, do not close in on a mob with the bayonet or club if you are largely outnumbered. If the mob refuses to disperse, give them a fixed time, perhaps five minutes. Call the minutes so they can hear. If they are unheeding, lob some gas into the rear of the crowd at exactly the end of the period. If this fails to move them, open fire with one man per squad for a frontal attack while at the same time have men in houses shoot into the rear ranks selecting apparent leaders. Always fire for effect. Due to over shooting of the battle sight at short range, caution the men to fire at the knees of the crowd. If it is necessary to use machine guns, aim at their feet. If you must fire, DO A GOOD JOB. A few casualties become martyrs; a large number becomes an object lesson.

With mounted men even small numbers may charge with impunity with the saber. At first use the flat side, but if real resistance occurs, use the point and try for lethal effect near the belt line. Never allow a man to be pulled from his horse. If this happens, use pistols and give a GOOD lesson.

Artillery fire may be used against barricades or defended buildings or with shrapnel cut at zero to clear streets in really serious fighting.

Tactics:

In general, never halt, except to give warning with a time limit and act instantly at the end of the period specified. Never permit a mob to gain a success. Should they do so, make instant and vigorous reprisals. When a mob starts to move, keep it on the run but always leave it a line of retreat; a cornered rat will fight desperately, while on the other hand, movement to the rear engenders panic.

In an attack, move first against the flanks via side streets using cavalry. While this action is in progress, start a rear attack also with cavalry but don't push it home. Finally, make the frontal attack.

Tanks are useful against barricades or for forcing doors of houses but they must be closely supported by infantry as they can be rushed and destroyed by gasoline. Such a success encourages a mob.

Street Formations:

In moving to the scene of trouble, secure guides and avoid poor or disaffected quarters. Use security detachments with reduced distance.

As you get close to the enemy, send two squads along each side walk. The first man looks to the front, the second in file looks to the opposite side of the street. The third man is responsible for doors and windows on the first floor on his side of the street. The fourth man watches second story openings on the opposite side of the street. The remaining men watch upper stories and roofs on the opposite sides of the street. When reaching a cross street, look down the street and then get the leading squads across. When the main body arrives, send a squad down the side street one block to prevent flank fire while the main body is crossing. This squad rejoins the rear of the column, hence, should be detailed from the rear company.

If an enemy is met in a street, deploy completely across the street in close order and direct him to fall back, unless he is in equal or smaller numbers, in which case keep moving and use the bayonet to encourage his retreat. If they are running, a few good wounds in the buttocks will encourage them. If they resist, they must be killed.

As stated above, the frontal attack should follow flanking and rear operations.

If the enemy occupies a park or square, use normal methods of attack with emphasis on flanks and rear.

If he is barricaded, the effect of modern rifle fire is so great that he can usually be shot out of the barricade with direct fire, aided by gas and offensive grenades. In the face of very serious resistance, and lacking artillery, it may be necessary to use roof detachments paralleling the head of the column along the roofs. Firemen, if available, should accompany these detachments with ladders and breaching equipment. It may be necessary to fight down to the street through the houses on the flanks of the obstacle. In such operations, gas dropped down stair wells is effective.

In any operation keep a strongly formed reserve and if the need arises, use it ruthlessly.

On The Defensive:

When guarding buildings, mark a "DEAD" line and announce clearly that those who cross it will be killed. be sure to kill the first one who tries to cross it and to LEAVE HIM THERE to encourage the others."
Do you think any of those overweight slobbermouths stand a chance against the 21st century version of George S. Patton, especially now, when the civil police forces are so militarized and formidable, that they make the 1932 US Army forces look like a bunch of skinny little kids with squirt guns?

All this time, those in power have been shaking the keys known as "threat to the 2nd amendment", when they've pretty much left the 1st, 4th, 5th, and 8th in tatters. And it happened long before 9/11. Nixon started it with the War on Drugs. Reagan added to it. Both of them did their level best to destroy the 4th amendment.

Problem was, the people most affected by it weren't all those soft white poodles who are worried about "tyranny".

Interestingly, the one amendment that might prove the most valuable is the 3rd. Remember that one? That's the one everyone scratches their head over:
 "No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law."
As has been pointed out by some legal scholars, this is based upon the Castle Doctrine, a man's home is his castle. We're not a police state... yet. But it may be the symbolism behind the 3rd amendment that staves it off.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Tom Perkins Quadruples Down on the Stupid

Yeah, he done it again. I disagree with Mother Jones. This is not a double down. He already doubled down. You do it again, it's quadruple. Anyone want to see Tom go exponential? Give him time.

Interestingly, Scott Adams, who is Dilbert, defended Perkins in a rant posing as rational analysis back in January. The gist was Perkins has identified a distressing trend against the rich. It's worth a giggle reading it, in that it is the essence of irony: rhetoric barely approaching anything rational, but presented as such.

Dilbert says:
"Keep in mind that Perkins got rich by identifying trends before others recognized them. His firm invested in AOL, Amazon.com, Citrix, Compaq, Electronic Arts, Genentech, Geron, Google, Intuit, Netscape, Sun, Symantic and more. So if you disagree with Perkins' assessment of the risk, please compare your success rate to his."
Wow, I think this is a complex logical fallacy: red herring, false equivalence, and post hoc ergo propter hoc. Probably more if I thought about it, which I won't.

Red Herring: He's has some success at gambling. So fucking what? Thousands of springbok antelopes in Africa have a better track record, and that's the ultimate gamble with life and death. Why even the most pusillanimous creature that crawls on the Earth, or slinks through slimy seas, has done better than Perkins trend-wise. So, should we listen to the antelope? ...and you don't suppose Perkins was ever privy to insider information, starting out there at HP, and therefore maybe had an edge in trend watching?

False equivalence: Success in one of area of life transfers automatically to all areas? Wisdom in one discipline transfers to all areas? If so, then book me Einstein for my gall bladder surgery, or Warren Buffet for my lawn care advice.

Post hoc ergo propter hoc: Come, come, Dilbert. Do I even really need to walk you through this one? False cause?

You know what, fuck Dilbert. He admits he is a dick, and if we add the qualifier ignorant in front, we are pretty much done with him.

But Perkins as miraculously inerrant self-made man who's every word should be unquestioningly lapped up, like some child's turd dropped in a doggy dish? He just appeared fully formed out of the shining void with all powers and talents intact? Credit where credit is due, I never deny intelligence and hard work  for success, but LUCK, luck and circumstance, and social position, have to be accounted for as well.

I've been through this before, but, where did all the money come from? Hmm? The very taxpayers and progressive policies that created the basic science R&D, and all the engineers and technicians that made Perkins, and a lot of others in Silicon Valley, rich.

Because if you are going to talk about Perkins and Silicon Valley, then you have to talk about Hewlett-Packard, Stanford U, MIT, and massive government subsidies from the Defense Dep. And if you have to talk about Silicon Valley, then you got to talk about Fred Terman.
"Fred Terman was the founder of Silicon Valley, if any single person can be given credit for it. He was one of the most successful American administrators of science, engineering, and higher education in the 20th century. He made the Stanford engineering department one of the best in the country and laid the foundations that would make Stanford one of the world’s preeminent research universities. He single-handedly created the university, government, private industry partnership model that still characterizes Silicon Valley in the twenty-first century. Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard were two of Terman’s favorite engineering students, and certainly his most successful protégés. They left behind a Global Fortune 50 company that in 2010 sold products around the world (it is Silicon Valley’s largest corporation by revenues) and multiple multi-billion dollar charitable foundations.
The history of the three is best combined, as is the partnership of Stanford University with the federal government and private industry; the Hewlett Packard Corporation (HP) provides the best example. Their friendship and admiration for each other was genuine. David Packard showed it at Terman’s Memorial Service in January 1983, in Stanford California, when he mentioned knowing Terman for more than 50 years. Packard said he enjoyed Terman’s “friendship and benefited in many ways and on many occasions from his council, his advice, and his wisdom. . . Fred Terman was an engineer’s engineer.” Terman was unique in that he loved technical theory but also loved to build useful products and companies, to see practical things get done.[6]  
Bill Hewlett showed the depth of his affection after hearing of his best friend Packard’s death in a March morning in 1996. Another friend came by to pay his condolences. The friend went into the kitchen and saw Hewlett sitting on his wheelchair by a table in the breakfast nook. Hewlett was staring into the distance; his staff watched him sitting there from the early morning into the afternoon hours, with a deep and sad look on his face.[7]
The HP history is an admirable one of two close friends building a multinational company which during their lives was one of the world’s most admired companies for both its profit growth and its employee-oriented culture. 

Fred Terman Settles in California
In 1905 the Terman family moved to Southern California from the Midwest, as Terman’s father needed the warm climate to get over tuberculosis. Terman’s father took a Stanford Education School professorship in 1910, and so the family moved to the place where Fred Terman would both grow up and die. Terman went to Palo Alto High School just as Federal Telegraph Corp. (funded by Stanford President David Starr Jordan) became a major radio company in Palo Alto.
Federal Telegraph is important for both the Valley and Terman. Cy Elwell‘s company convinced the inventor Lee DeForest to leave the East Coast and come to Palo Alto to be his Chief Scientist. DeForest created the electronic amplifier (found in so many electronics devices today), but was still being persecuted and had even been sent to jail for stock fraud charges for a previously failed New York startup.  Elwell had to post bail, and California was a much more amenable place to work for a risky electronics venture. Federal Telegraph went on to have the first intercontinental radio broadcast in 1919 (Annapolis Maryland to Bordeaux France) and was one of the major radio manufacturing companies in the US. Alas, the glamour of Federal Telegraph didn’t last, as it slowly faded around a handful of products till Marconi acquired it in 1931 (two entrepreneurial employees left to found Magnavox).
Federal Telegraph was doubly important because all the neighborhood techie kids became amateur radio enthusiasts, hanging around Federal Telegraph’s labs. In fact, ham radio may have been the first Silicon Valley boom, with its low cost of entry and simple technology, and hence accessibility to a large group of technical-minded people. The inspiration of radio never left Terman environment was destiny in his case."


Do I need to talk about Fred Terman? I just gave you the link, but, come on, without Terman building up Stanford's School of Engineering, and without HP taking a rather progressive attitude (due in no small part by Terman's influence) of "share the company’s prosperity with workers" (SOCIALISM!), Perkins could have just as easily been some nobody jerkoff. And no one would care if he violated Godwin's Law. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

Redemption in Indigo: A Book Report

As a recently mutated milk-drinking portion of humanity known as caucasian, I've noted that, on really drab, wet, grey, overcast, awful days, possibly with a heavy mist or light rain, I am in the best of moods. Can this be because I come from the northern region of the planet? Is this some kind of "race memory" thing? (I should note, you know, that I really am a Northern Barbarian, have the genetic test results to back it up, at least on the exclusively paternal branch... and the family records show great-grandpa emigrated from Prussia. And that region enjoys a northern maritime climate, a moderate blend of warm summers and mild cloudy winters).

Or am I just suited by personality to this type of day? Or is there something else?

I not only enjoy these kinds of grey, drab days, I actually thrive on them. Sunny days, yes, awesome, but as a highlight, a diversion, as dessert but not as regular fare. But I've also noticed it's a early spring/late fall mood. There's got to be a cheery spot of green someplace around in the picture to evoke this mood, and so I wonder if it's just a fond memory of childhood?

Some positive reinforcement happened that spiked this visual memory with a good mood?  I think it might be that. And if it is that, I think I have to chalk to Ursula K. Le Guin's book A Wizard of Earthsea. I'm pretty sure it was early spring when I read that book, and the notion stuck in my head that the protagonist's home enjoyed a northern maritime climate. So, there was the evocation of that world, but also the characters who were, mostly likeable, but mainly real. Maybe the first characters that I as a Young Adult, had first encountered.

Inspired by a Senegalese folktale, Redemption in Indigo by Karen Lord, I would classify as young adult fiction. It's sophisticated enough for adults, has adult ideas in it, but is a good introduction for young adults for adult thinking. Lord, has a knack for depicting characters that are well-rounded and enjoyable. I derived, for lack of a better word, a certain delight in the depiction of the undying ones - not so much spirits as creatures outside of time and space. They were more archetypes than characters, I think.

In all, even though it was set, not quite in our world, but a close enough world, and primarily in the dry savanna landscape of Senegal, it still evoked that warm visual memory I get from those grey, drab, overcast late spring days.

A fun little repast of a book.

Friday, February 7, 2014

The Peculiar Diorama

When I documented "The Stockmen" to submit to shows, I didn't submit the entire scenario as I saw it. I didn't do so because it would not have photographed well. I am also maybe slightly embarrassed at the it all being too hokey. But here is the scene I wanted:

The "diorama" (for lack of a better term)  was kind of a 'cowboys and alien robots' scene, perhaps catching a branding or a culling in action. Working class types working around dangerous mechanical animals, and suited up in such a way as to get the job done. In some ways, it's no different from ordinary people putting on suits and ties and entering into the constructed fantasy or alien world of business.

Anyone recall the 'bacteria" things I made a few years ago? I guess they are dog analogues now. Helping out the tentacle wranglers. And that lazy bee/cow now has a bee/calf, or a drone, which I guess they helping keep separate. Which suggests I head into the territory of co-evolved partner species, since, really, for the past 50-100,000 years we aren't just people, but people and dogs. Biology is just amazing fodder for art!

So, looks like I am heading for a merger of the "Masque" and "mechanicule" series as well as maintaining both series separately, and I like that that idea of parallel evolution taking as many divergent paths as possible.

I am working on more figures to be cast in with my class's stuff in April. I already know those figures will be partnered with the dog/bacteria, and they will have some type of robot livestock to manage.

Maybe something more along the lines of sheep robots.

In any case, I have also progressed with ideas about the mechnicules in that they need socket "fasteners" so that they more readily may be leggoed to one another. I even considered making a pair that have plug heads and anal sockets for joining together. For now they just have limb connections like this guy, who I think will be cast in glass.
 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

That dystopian nightmare known as "The Jetsons"

I was thinking about the Jetsons the other day, and I decided it was really not a utopian vision that Hanna-Barbera presented it as.

The original series, from 1962-63, was set one hundred years later, in 2062, in a place called Orbit City. George Jetson worked one hour a day at a two day a week job, and complained about it. His wife Judy, was a homemaker, but had a robot maid, Rosie, that actually kept up the place, and many labor saving devices. George and his family lived in an apartment complex on top of a big metal cylinder. the complex, and all other buildings were representative of the Googie style of architecture.

George Jetson's main nemesis was a big-headed robot named Uniblab, who was his supervisor. George also had bombastic little asshole boss named Mr. Spacely, who fires him a lot, and then rehires him before the end of the episode.

George also had an ally, R.U.D.I., a computer who it was George's responsibility to turn on and off each work day. R.U.D.I. was a member of the Society to Prevent Cruelty to Humans, which I think is an important clue.

I understand these episodes are 1950s sitcoms repackaged in a futuristic vehicle, and as such, satirical of  the progressive consumerist visions of the economy of that time.

Still, one could speculate that all this was really just a dark, depressing, fallout-ridden, computer controlled dystopian vision of what it will be like in 2062.

Consider:


  • Robots and computer overlords are running things. 
  • Henry Orbit, the apartment janitor is the only who can repair or invent things, and he is relegated to the lowest rung of the social ladder. 
  • On the other hand, Mr. Spacely and his rival Mr. Cogswell, who are obviously idiots, are in charge. 
  • Clearly, some type of mental dissipation among the populace has occurred, possibly due to massive amounts of fallout, and subsequent degradation. 
  • I'm not the first to think along these lines. Over at TV tropes, it is pointed out that the reason everyone lives in the sky is that surface world is ravaged and populated with mutants.
  • The machines, although depicted as benevolent consumer devices, do have a tendency to display mischievous qualities, a la the dog-walking treadmill that goes haywire, so that George is forced to shout "JANE, STOP THIS CRAZY THING!"
  • Everyone is white.
  • They still use paper money.
  • Dogs that talk.
  • Dogs are smarter than humans.
  • There is a glimmer of hope. Elroy, who is considered smart, has the black bead eyes mutation.


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Creation Scientists

I didn't watch the Bill Nye versus Ken Ham debate. I heard about it. I read a little bit about it. The thing  that I really liked was Ken ham's use of the phrase "creation scientists", as in the current global "cooling trend" is "no surprise to creation scientists".

The idea of creation scientists brings this picture to mind:

I'm sure, had Bosch been aware of control groups or Chi Square Goodness of Fit tests, or a proper use of statistics, he would have painted a portrait where the Stone of Madness is ground up and smoked.

Basically same picture, just all those creation scientists all stoned and trying to figure out how fast was the First Man licked out of a block of ice by the Primeval Cow Audhumla, which really ought to be taught in public schools, instead of all that Mesopotamian silliness of waters separating from the waters*.

I hear Canada is minting a coin showing Tiktaalik, the transitional fossil between fish and quadrupeds.
courtesy: http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary

Meanwhile, in America, we have our wannabe chief warlock waving his hands to weave a spell designed to preserve and protect the "democracy of the market". (Did he really say that? Yeah, he really said that. Wow. What a primitive and paranoid culture we Americans aspire to)!

*One of the demands the Almighty made to his beloved foreman and right hand man, Lucifer, in his rather removed and dictated act of Creation. "By Friday, boss!" replied Lucifer.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Black and White is the New Grey

First off, since the beginning of the year, the cafeteria food services at the college was privatized. It was turned to a company called Sodexho, which, if you recall two years ago, was the company at the heart of the horse meat scandal in Great Britain. Sodexho also is in the incarceration business over there in France. There was a protest, or actually a petition, which I signed, to object to the closing of the in-house food services. The food was perfectly fine, and, in fact, some dishes, served on china, would have been indistinguishable from meals at finer restaurants in downtown Chicago. One recipe, a fish dish fusion of blackened cajun and ala Mexicana, was so damned good that you had to get there early at lunch to get some before they sold out.

But the administration had made up their mind, the cafeteria was a money losing proposition, not part of the college's core business functions, and privatization was what was going to happen. There was some worry that, when Sodexho took over, they would fire the existing staff. But they were kept on, although they no longer prepared the meals according to the in-house recipes. They cook what comes from the supply chain.

As one staffer told me "We just feel lucky to keep our jobs". I'm sorry, but that is... that's just completely fucked. An economy where you have to suck it up and take it up the ass and feel lucky about it is not an economy that works for us.

So, anyway, as a consumer, what I've noticed from the transition is this: smaller portions, lesser quality, higher prices. That's privatization for you.

Goddamnit.

Other things. I bought myself a present. I bought a Korg Kaossilator 2, which is a dynamic phrase synthesizer about the size of a mobile. I let my nephew mess with it the day after I bought it, and practically had to steal it back from him. It is, I am finding out, an instrument with an immediate playability, but a very steep learning curve to master it. It is a powerful little fucker. I have literally played myself to sleep with the thing.

So, I recorded some of the stuff I did on late night drunken jam sessions, and, listening back, discovered all of my kaossilator compositions to be wretchedly horrid. They are, all of them, a messy assault upon the ear drums.

As whoever it was said it, it's not the notes you play, it's ones you don't play that count.

So, I decided to see what other people were doing with it, and just through random chance, came across a piece by Magical Power Mako, which you can listen to here: https://soundcloud.com/korg/magical-power-mako-kaossilator-2

Magical Power Mako? I'd completely forgotten about him, and so went asearchin', and found this:



and a short:



Ah, yes, from my psychedelic daze days, now long gone.

Anyway, In a previous essay, I mentioned how grey was just little fractal pieces of black and white, meaning good and evil. I was looking for an appropriate visual metaphor to add to the essay, found a nice little video on the Mandelbrot set, but decided not to use it. Here it is:



You know, back in the late '80s, I had an old IBM PC that I  programmed to generate Mandelbrot and Julia sets on, and then I would print them off in black and white. Many people enjoyed them and they could be found on the walls of cubicles throughout the corporation I worked for.

The thing about the picture generation is what you see is not the set itself, but rather the approximation of the set.

(Briefly, it goes like this: an iteration of the function z = z2 + C, ( where z is a complex number, like a + ib, or  the variables x + iy, and C is a constant), and the value of z is substituted back into the z squared plus a constant part, and so on, until you get tired of doing it. So what happens is, in lot of cases z goes to infinity. And sometimes it goes to infinity quickly, and sometimes it doesn't, and so the Mandelbrot set is the visualization of how fast or slow this iteration goes. You might have see colored versions like this:

In the case of black and white visualization, some arbitrary small number eta is picked that determines the cut between how fast or slow it all goes, Clear?)

So, anyway, I played around with fractal generation for awhile, but only for a while because it got boring. Seen one, seen 'em all. And not real life with it's constant change and variety. Now some say, "How can you call this kind of math boring? It goes to infinity. Does that not just make you swoon?"

And I say, no. See, the problem I have with maths and mathematical platonists is the same problem I have with so many other things, which is, it doesn't change. You can wait an eternity and come back and examine a mathematical function theorem or number or graph, and it never changes.

And some say, well, see? It's eternal, not transient, and so superior to this crude matter and ephemeral reality we see around us. And to that I say, no, what unchangingness means is it is at all not alive, but dead as hell, and therefore ultimately incapable of growth or novelty or, anything fun, and therefore, over the long run, boring. And since all it has going for it is over the long run, that's a sad state of affairs.

Because once you've been exposed to it, gotten over the delight and surprise, it will always be the same, never new or different, like TV reruns in Hell.

So, the question is, how does this dead zombie math get confused with real life? Because it approximates life. But it is not life, Jim, not life as we would know it, or want it.  

Oh, and, by the way...

the giraffe ate his head