Sunday, December 31, 2023

John Carpenter's The Thing

I rewatched this 1982 classic and it is a greeat piece of Red Scare witchhunt paranoia. Thinking about the movie's ending and opening credits scene, I think I know how a sequel would play out. To quote from my memory hut:

In 1938 John Campbell wrote a science fiction novella called "Who Goes There?" Later it was adapted into two movies. The first movie by Howard Hawks, "The Thing From Another World", was considered a science fiction horror movie classic. The second movie, John Carpenter's "The Thing", conforms more to the original story. In Hawks' version, the monster is your standard humanoid monster, ala Frankenstein's monster. In Carpenter's version, it is much more alien, more like the Blob - all consuming, but with that imposter twist - and the accompanying paranoia as to whom to trust.

I've read Campbell's novella, and it scared the hell out me. I'll tell you why. One of the more delicious fears one can have is not fear of death, but fear of lack of control. The alien creature doesn't just consume you. It imitates you. It enslaves you. It mutilates your mind and will, and binds you to service it. The other factor is just the right amount of information. In a horror flick, or in a story, you need just enough information to know that something is a threat, perhaps even an existential threat, but not so much information that you are familiar with the threat. This has always been a problem in movies. How much of the monster do you show? Not enough, and it is all just boring. Too much, and the monster is just another character.

There is a defining scene in Campbell's story when the humans realize that even the tiniest piece of monster can take over an organism. And when one character realizes that their cows have not been monitored against "infection", and that they have all been drinking the milk.
"Mac, how long have the... cows been... not cows?"
 It's a great creepy moment, when he realizes, in a fit of revulsion, hysteria, and self-loathing, that he may be a Thing and not even know it.

The end scene is MacReady (Kurt Russell) and Childs (Keith David) sitting among a ruined camp, soon to freeze to death. There is indecision whether one of both of them is the Thing. MacReady points out they are in no position to do anything about it. They share a bottle of whiskey as the fire dies down and the dark and cold close in. If either of them is a Thing. one cell passed by whiskey makes two Things. Carpenter said he has the answer but won't say. It goes like this:

Point being the Earth is probably doomed. Not from the crashed Thing, but what was chasing it. 

In the opening credits scene, the flying saucer's flight path is erratic, probably damaged, and crashing on Earth is both an act of desperation and an attempt to hide. From something worse than the Thing.

The Thing might be a criminal or refugee or a larger threat to things like us out there. It is unlikely the things like us will have any sympathy towards us things like them. 

One sequel would be where the Thing talks to us, through somebody, giving us a choice to live because these things like us from the galaxy are going to blast the planet otherwise, just to be sure. So, do we become Things and maybe survive.

No, I think my sequel would be presented as the aliens chasing the Thing versus us, only at the end to find out we were Things all along and didn't know it.

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

What Happens When the AI Bubble Pops

We've had lots of market bubbles, some more harmful than others. The tech dotcom bust was bad and in some ways we still have not recovered. The mortage crisis, the crypto market, NFTs and now AI.

The problem is you start out with a useful thing and it gets abused, rideshare apps turn into Ubers, blockchain into Bitcoins, LLMs into ChatGPTs.  But, like abandoned malls, each bubble left something useful behind.  Cory Doctorow wrote a Locus column about this stuff
Think about some 21st century bubbles. The dotcom bubble was a terrible tragedy, one that drained the coffers of pension funds and other institutional investors and wiped out retail investors who were gulled by Superbowl Ads. But there was a lot left behind after the dotcoms were wiped out: cheap servers, office furniture and space, but far more importantly, a generation of young people who'd been trained as web makers, leaving nontechnical degree programs to learn HTML, perl and python. This created a whole cohort of technologists from non-technical backgrounds, a first in technological history. Many of these people became the vanguard of a more inclusive and humane tech development movement, and they were able to make interesting and useful services and products in an environment where raw materials – compute, bandwidth, space and talent – were available at firesale prices.
Cory goes on about crypto and NFTs and AI and notes that all of these things are incredibly energy intensive and requires water hog server farms which  require lots of people with  high technical skills. When you consider the average human brain runs on 40 watts of power, AI doesn't look so super in terms of computation over energy use. For that matter, the sheer computational waste on useless mining calculations or frivolous queries is tantamount to just worst kind of circle jerks. 

Take self-driving cars, which have blown through 100 billion dollars and still require supervision. It has been estimated that we could have (had) commercial nuclear fusion for 200 billion dollars and yet the amount spent on fusion research is a pittance compared to replacing reliable but expensive human drivers with flawed robots.

What is the real problem is that all of these bubbles are based upon fraud, grift and lies. (Not surprising as the salient of capitalism is force and fraud. There is little to be done about this so long as it is profitable.)\

What Cory points out it what is left afterwards? In some cases, like his example above, obstacles become opportunities, and in others, nothing goods comes from it:
Or think of Worldcom vs Enron. Both bubbles were built on pure fraud, but Enron's fraud left nothing behind but a string of suspicious deaths. By contrast, Worldcom's fraud was a Big Store con that required laying a ton of fiber that is still in the ground to this day, and is being bought and used at pennies on the dollar.
So, what about AI?  There are useful applications, the equivalent of crows and wolves that can efficiently and effectively disassemble a real world problem into data carrion. Others? If the bubble pops and the companies deflate or bust entirely, what of some actually useful applications no longer supported? I keep thinking of people with medical technology in them that is orphaned by bankrupt tech companies or organizations gutted by private equity. 

The reason there is a scare about AGI or human or superhuman level AI is because the companies with very large investments would like very much for the open source methods to go away and they can earn/hide their profits by good old fashioned bullying or theft, via the time-tested rentier system. 

I  have pointed out somewhere in this memory hut, we've had AGI for thousands of years and it is called government. In smaller more specialized versions called corportations. We have already seen these entities to pursue their own utility functions to he detriment of us regular folks. 

I'm less worried about AI safety and more worried about fairness, privacy, criminality and bias than I am about robot overlords.  

Other things. I keep thinking of the weird right wing religous bullshit that seems to be getting more stirdent, or more press. Given the woeful state of journalism, (and AI hasn't helped, but it s not AIs fault, its greedy executives are pulling this turd) I'm guess just sensationalist press. Still, this shit fest with abortion and fetus as a person.

I should note that most human embryos naturally die after conception. Spontaneous abortion is perfetly natural. Nonviable cell clusters disintegrate before attaching to the uterus. 

So the quesion I have to ask those who believe that life begins at conception: why are so many people commiting suicide? That's a sin, right? Why does God permit this unless it is part of His Plan. Maybe God just really likes killing babies.

Also, I got spiffed up for a holiday party.

I clean up well.

I think I accidentally go some powerful tattoos. Or maybe it is me.

If I were playing a part, the obvious one is Hitler's butler, because I bet you I could pass.

Friday, December 15, 2023

My name is John and I am 66 and a half

Silverback! Starting for me about 60? Six and a half years later, I'm less muscular, getting skinny arms and a fat belly unless I pick up the pace. My goal (and despite my medical problems) is that I am leaner and fitter so I can work when I am old.  Exercises are geared more towards balance and Turkish get ups, etc. along with resistence training. At least walk every day. Cancer free.

So, why fit enough to work? Why not just fit enough to be old? Independence for as long as possible, before the enfeeblement and second infancy.  

The family history is strokes and heart attacks in the mid 60s, perfect for the Social Security Administration plan. Modern medicine is changing that and we Kurmans are heading into uncharted territory, death-wise. 

Speaking of Social Security, I will be on SS at 67, for optimal payout. and hurray to yesterday Johnny for earning through labor and occasional ingenuity, the promise of such that we call "money".

Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Burnt Weenie Sandwich

I'm feeling sorry for all the lunk-heads in the news: Trump, Biden, Musk, Xi, Putin, fuck me the list is endless. I've too many famous people to worry about! 

Assume that 8 billion and a smidge humans have altered the planet. You say, we're so tiny what could we do? The Ozone hole for one. Smacking an asteroid with a robot for two. The Amazon rain forest for three, human cultivated and a gruesome reminder of just how many millions of people died from filthy disgusting western europeans and their clever savage ways!

If the planet has been altered we face two futures, the Anthropocene, or the Anthropozoic. 

(Do I have to explain? The antrhopocene is short-lived, doomed to short dick thinking. The Anthropozoic is much much longer, certainly not a quarter billion years like the dinosaurs, but longer than a million. Homo sapiens sapiens, anatomically modern humans, lookalikes, have been around a third of a million years. So we got two-thirds of a million years to not fuck it up and survive.

Intelligence has still not shown advantage in long term evolutionary survival.

Anyway, Elon Musk is getting butt hurt. Cars recalled, rockets and websites crashing, a Boring company that has drill 2 and a half miles. Monkeys slaughtered to put chips in brains for his Martian slave army, but . A breakthrough for a wearable device to access the brain is being developed

Not surprising, given networks were reverse engineered from neurons because we couldn't figure it out. Neural networks get used to filtering out stuff and call it noise. These thinking caps (like we are stuck in the 1920s Monkey Singularity) successfully interpret thought. Verbs more accurately than nouns, but a promising start. And if this can be done as a wearable, it can be done remotely. 

If a brain can be read remotely, can it also be written?

Anyway pics of the latest iterations of one hit wonder interspersed through the narrative. I have stumbled upon a really nice aerofoil design for smoike delivery in the form of a turtle, or a tongue.

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Grandpa Weed's One Hit Wonders redux

The best evidence suggests the local universe is 13.8 billion years old and at least 192 billion light years in diameter (based on furthest objects seen with telescopes). This immense volume contains some billion trillion stars, a sextillion of stars and octillions of planets. And all that so that Christ could die for your sins.

Always wondered why the Almighty made Its only son an ape, but at least a great ape.

Anyway, evolution of pipe technology continues

I had a happy accident with a breaking glaze on a cone 5 fire. The glaze broke at the edges and pooled in the facets of the original 3D print surface. 

This is a cone 5 purple glaze that goes red at cone 6. I took it to cone 5 but maybe I should refire in the kiln. I've already people suggest I do a underglaze wash and then apply this glaze. I've also yet to explore underglaze paintings. Make them psychedelic because pipes anit just for smoking weed anymore. Toad. Shrooms. Mescalin.  At any rate, this form wins. The turtle wins. Jellybean second, golf ball third.

For some reason, the thinner casts smoke better. Thinner walled slip castings. My suspicion is it feels lighter and you expect less of a draw from it. The bigmouth carboretur is the way to go.

Perhaps some instructions are in order. The volume of the pipe is the average human mouth, for maximum suck. So you suck in a mouthful of smoke, pull away a fraction and sip it. 

Suck and sip. Suck and sip. 

Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Fragile Kurman Syndrome

What's wrong with us Kurmans, brainwise?

What do you got? What fucked up part of the mind do you want? We got it. Just in equal amounts.Schizophrenic? Bipolar? OCD? ADHD? Autistic? etc? Yeah, got it all. It's more a mole on the face than a hunch in the back, but we are weird, or even wyrd, and suicidal.

I think we got the suicide gene from my dad's mom. Her family is brilliant and suicidal, bred with the brilliant German Florida Men, the Kurmans, what could go wrong? Kurmans always a little shady up until the GI Bill anyway. Criminal masterminds they weren't.

My grandfather got run out of town in Illinois, went to Indianapolis. Every picture of him, he's with a bunch of guys and he is the boss. So, criminal.

Anyway, flower pipes. The Turtle, or Frog, or Beef Tongue pipe has been sample by me, and many prototypes have been parceled out with good feedback.

Item: Stoned people can't handle the Golf Ball and Jellybean pipes. The pipes roll over too easily and fall and break. I can make the base larger to solve that. 

Everyone loves the ellipsoid. I'm not suffering from creator's bias that this is the best pipe ever. I am in the foothills of the smooth flower smoke mountains. 

Nah, bullshit, I just slipcast the bowls and bodies, and throw them together. I can crank out a dozen a day, kind of like knitting. Don't think I would do it for a living, like sell my soul to the corporate world. It's all open source. These clay flower pipes have digital masters, which I am more than happy to throw out into Open Source .stl files

I think cast iron versions would do well and also not break like fragile clay

Monday, October 30, 2023

Grandpa Weed's One Hit Wonders

I had a chance to test my prototypes and all did well. I didn't get to try the ellipsoid because I gave it to my ceramics professor. I didn't test to destruction, or at least not in the physical, perhaps in my brain.

POSTMORTEM: Jelly Bean Pipe

This isn't a one hit.  It's bigger on the inside than out. This is a party whale.

I'll add a carburetor hole a half inch down and to the left of the bowl. If this ever goes into production, 9 out of ten on the left, and 1 out of ten on the right, since most people are right-handed. There is something to be said about laminar flow through the jelly bean/hot dog form. I have ass backward engineered a mitochondrian for weed. This is a allesuzammenbindenkugel. A hologram. A really nice clean pipe that smokes like a bong. Yum.

POSTMORTEM: Golf Ball Pipe 

They say form follows function, and boy does this baby function. Again, just making something look good usually means it will fly. This is one sweet fighter jet. It may be an orbital weapon, like a death star but for getting high. The smoke is so light you think you didn't get a hit, but oh boy did you! I love Grandpa Weed's One Hit Wonder Golf Ball Pipe!

Probably around Saturday I will have the Ellipsoid in hand, and it could be this might be the last post you ever see.

Thursday, October 26, 2023

Everybody Loves The Ellipsoid

My eldest brother's best friend once wrote five essays in one night in college on speed. The beginning words of the fifth essay were IT ALL BULLSHIT.

It true. This is the age of bullshit and our only saving virtue is improvisation.

Welded these two 1/12th scale figures that had been sitting in a plastic bucket for over a year.  

These figures are following my biomimetic mechanoid style I've played with since the aughts. They could easily be incorporated into the Grandpa's Funeral Project (sometimes great-grandpa). Ongoing since maybe 2017,  I've tried to add new mourners every year. Anyone who buys the whole thing, I would set money aside so that figures could be added each year. 

Prototypes of One Hit Wonders are bisqued, wet sanded, glazed and firing as I type these very words. They are astoundingly awesome flower pipes and now I need to find a ceramic place that can make them for me. Everybody loves the ellipsoid.

Monday, October 16, 2023

Side Quest

I'm running out of my little ceramic pipes that I call One Hit Wonders - The One Hitter That Smokes Like a Bong, says one of my daughters.

I keep breaking them, fragile clay things. I'm wondering if I make metal pipes they would overheat? In any case I am making more of them as my stockpile is down to four,

The ceramic pipes I slipcast with a porcelain mix, which means I make two part plaster molds to pour the slip in. I could have, as I originally did, fashion the originals out of clay, but I decided to go New School, and 3D print the mold halves. Why not 3D print the plaster mold or clay pipe itself? I don't have anything that does that.

(One partition mold with embedded pipe half and its other half , 3D print).

The traditional one-hitter was a sphere with a bowl and a big mouth as the carburetor. I fashioned carbs and downstems on some, but the big mouth carb worked best. 

Another great shape is the jelly bean or kidney pipe which goes back to the days of my kidney troubles, when my subconscious latched onto the kidney form and I made several art pieces prior to losing the kidney. By my estimation, one hundred years ago, 1914 at the time, I would have been dead, dead of the stone as they used to say.

The kidney form is a smokable form. 

Ellipsoids are also fun and they will be included in the mix of the new One Hit Wonders Collection.

Thursday, September 28, 2023

Scale and Complexity

Abundance and organism mass is complexity scaled to a linear thing? I think not. Complexity looks more like scale invariant. You'd think it woud be simple, linear, and we can choose things that do that, but this chart does not measure complexity. It measures scale.

Abundance and mass is not complexity. If  anything, the protist stage, the mechanics of archaeon or bacteria, are far more complex than a human society consisting of a few billion people, a few quadrillions of cells, a few septillion molecules.

True, our human biofilm is getting big, our infrastructure trillions of pounds to one pound of flesh, but there are structures far vaster on Earth (made even vaster if scaled up to our size). Protists and fungi enjoy global connectivity. There is evidence that life goes right on down to the mantle, and could outnumber surface life to be the majority of species on Earth. There could be a plate tectonic network for all we know. Point being, complexity is scale invariant. Complexity is a dimensionless constant.

Looking at the chart, what I get is maybe we are too small for aliens to notice.

Other things.

No mosquitoes this summer. True, we are in drought. But the alarming number of murder/death/kill lawn companies, with little yard signs showing mosquitoes in anguish or death, has reduced insect populations. That's alarming. 

I had one lone mosquito appear out of nowhere while I'm on the couch. She was a her and bit me. I let her feed. I took her outside on my arm and waited until she was done eating and flew away.

(I am a shoo bug instead of a kill bug, escorting bugs out rather than smoosh them. I don't think its a moral or philosophical choice. It's a respect of life that life shows life. Naturally. Therefore, I only kill when classified vermin).

When I was a kid, the planets of the solar system were smudges on photographs taken by telescopes. People didn't know what it looked like, so they made shit up. I do know a lot of people beleieved other people lived on those other planets. I drew pictures of what the people looked like. The people of the Sun were always fire and lightning bolts. Mercury a clown face sarguaro cactus. Venus obviously a blonde. Mars little green man. Jupiter and on were tough to do and varied on who looked like what.

It helped a lot that we explored space with robots and found out what's really going on. 

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Tooth Pull and a Trip to the Big Lake

There are three stages of dental problems. 

1) Cavities: youth and adolescence
2) Gum disease: adults and elderly
3) Tooth loss: mostly elderly

I enjoy the night time bruxism, and without wearing my guard one night I must have cracked the lower left back molar. Or started a crack and the bruxism kept on worrying it until cracked to the bone.

I experienced a lot of needless suffering before going to the dentist, but mainly because it quit hurting as much, I waited for my regular dental appointment. The dentist looked at it and said you that's coming out and you are an idiot for not coming in when it hurt. People can still die of tooth abcesses and, do die.

I also have a massive tori, a bone spur, on my left jaw which had to be addressed. The tori are there acting like flying buttresses holding the teeth in place while I try to grind their enamel into chalk.

The oral surgeon was great. I already told him it would be a local, as I had been under twice this year and didn't need another IQ drop. He was cutting my jaw up like he was going to eat it. He showed me the tori bits of bone and they were the most perfect white and smooth as plastic. I asked about the tooth and he brushed that off. After they were done I snuck a peak the surgeon's tray and there is the tooth.

Hm. Took a bit of jaw out with it but I'm healing fine. Follow up today and he said wow beautifully healed.

Happy Labor Day! My niece and great niece, I think she's 8 or 9, came in for a family reunion on my sister-in-law's side. We had time before they went to the shindig, so my brother - papa - and I took the youngster up to Lake Michigan. She is from Kansas and has never seen a large body of water.

Papa says keep youreye out for a big blue horizon, and as we top the last dune to see the lake-

"It's an Ocean!" she exclaimed. It's the Big Lake. All other lakes in nowrthwest Indiana have names to clarify but if you say we were at the lake, most would ask The Big Lake? 

Parking is a premium but we finally found a spot when someone pulled out. We made our way down from the road to the beach over boulders and rocks and then orcks and pebbles. My poor feet have hardly been barefoot this summer so there were lots of ooches and ouches out of Uncle John. Made it down to sand and water. The water temperature is 70-72F which is about as warm as it gets. The child complained when dipping toe and  wave washed foot but we said she would get used to it. She did.

I went in with her and after a little bit of a heart attack I was fine too. Papa took pictures from the shore.

I grew up here, ten mles south of Lake Michigan. Every chance I could get I would head to the Dunes. Summers in high school I practically lived there. When I hitch-hiked through Europe in 1976, I had on my itinerary great beaches. I almost didn't leave Denmark. I'm told the north coast of Germany (the Florida of Germany, where my dad's family is from) is even better. I could have gone to East Germany in'76, but it wasn't worth the hassle. 

I had flirted with the idea of hiking the Pacific coast of Baja California, until I read a book by guy who tried to do it. It was a nightmare and he almost died. Finally rescued by fisherman. All the towns on his map were ruins.

The kid was right. It's an ocean, and I am a son of that ocean.

Thursday, August 10, 2023

The Alien Cinematic Universe

Recovering from my hernia operation I watched a lot of movies from the library and kept up with the habit. New stuff or previously unseen, favorites, and also some second chances. Two of those second chances were Prometheus and Alien: Covenant. Both were stinkers with some good parts and the redeemable parts are why I rewatched them. Because I am a tinkerer of masturbatory parts I had to somehow reationalize the bullshit of these two films. 

Not that the prior 4 alien films (I'm ignoring AVP for now) aten't problematic but didn't need a rational backstory. Item: soon after the original alien came out, I'm in a bar with my coding geek coworkers and we got to talking about the weird Alien movie and the convoluted way the alien reproduced. I pointed out that parasitism is a vast and highly lucrative evoluionary niche, but the way the facehugger huged faces would suggest design. Too specific of  a vector, and Ridley Scott confirmed that aliens are designed.. These things are bioweapons. Multiply that in the movie Aliens .

The Alien franchise also inhabits the same universe as Bladerunner (and a 1998 Kurt Russell movie called Soldier} with replicants of those films being organic and eventually synthetic like Ash, Bishop, David and Walter and Call. This connection to Bladerunner/Soldier confirmed that humans had FTL transport, massive (fusion?) power generation to move gigantic shit around the stars. The other commonality is artificial general intelligence, which is far huger than mere fusion power. You see, once you have such a substrate, like a Universal Turing machine, you can run any conscious software that you like, human or alien. Couple it to a material insturmentality and you have protean technology. The only thing scarier is giving this access to life forms, input and output tailored for whatever by what looks like a black goo. (Per Sir Ridley, the black goo can only infect animal forms not plant. Its a rationalization to keep the human protagonists being eaten alive by the grass itself when they set off the lander).

So the black goo is the real villain here. Eating everything in its path to satisfy its objective function. In all the movies, there is no will or intent from this stuff except to spread. David, the android from the 2 prequel movies, is the designer of the xenomorph, but he is using another being's workshop and tools (the Engineers). 

Alien Covnenant is a glorious mess, but it solidifies where the prequels end and the first Alien begins.

What is harder to explain is that humans (per Prometheus) are engineered. In that movie, we see the replicant version of the Engineer species, the Space Jockeys, giants 8 to 14 feet tall. They are not androids, but biological replicants just like Decker and Kurt Russell's character in Soldier. (The story of Soldier is how the synthetics were favored by the corporation over "obsolete" replicant soldiers) 

As biological replicants, and unlike synthetics, they are vulnerable to the black goo, which is why the planets in Prometheus or Covenant are not the Engineer home or colony worlds. They were military bases. Go back and look at the Covenant footage when the Juggernaut docks and before David bombs them all with goo, they have the look of soldiers and airmen at Tinian welcoming back the Enola Gay from bombing Hiroshima. And then the goo hits the fans.

The alien world in Prometheus was both Area 51 and a strike base for the Engineer race, clearly. The hubris of humans to waltz in was well depicted, arrogant stupid little monkeys.

In the confrontation scene between awakened Space Jockey and Weyland, Sir Ridley tells us David asked the alien "This man wants to know if he can have more life".  The Space Jockey carresses David's hair, and then picks him up and rips his head off. The Space Jockey is enraged because their black goo weapon had sent back dolls. What the fuck am I going to do with these things as ground troops? Cancel the whole batch.

Can you blame the guy? We were supposed to be super weapons like the xenomorphs.

Where does this leave us?  The first and last question of this whole film series is why the goo? Who is the Eneny that so frightens them they create this doomsday goo? I can't see it being a rival facion of their own species. At this point you can throw in the AVP universe and suppose the Predators are their enemy but I think not.

There's something scary out there, if you think about it. Way scarier than jump scare monsters. In future Alien movies, here are known facts. 

1 David is still alive and has a planetary laboratory on Origa 4 or whatever. 
2 The Engineers are out there and they are still at war with some Enemy.
3 The Enemy is out there as well
4 Earth is a legitimate target to the section 51 crowd.

Friday, August 4, 2023

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

I took the summer off to get an umbilical hernia repaired. Leave it to an American to take time off from work for a medical procedure and then call it a vacation. Meanwhile all my friends and acquaintances are on vacation and I'm eating a toasted cheese sandwich.

Eight weeks on from the operation and I still have tender spots but I'm heading for heavy lifting. I've babied myself for seven weeks and hit the gym last week, so this is week 2 of I assume 9-10 weeks of trying to get to my remembered peak at 60 when I was a fucking animal.

I remember once at the gym this kid, big muscle kid in his 20s asked 'scuse me sir but how old are you? 60, I said.  60!!! Dude you are my hero.

We Kurmans are naturally muscular so I was a fucking animal from 17 on anyways. But I had a schedule at 60 I started at 20: two upper body days, two legs days, core and kettle bells on Friday. Run every day. In my 20s I was a werewolf. Now I'm a silverback, longer to heal and recover. Intermittent fasting got me from my pre-op fat slob weight of 224 down to current 214. I see no shrink of the belly but what would I do without my fat anyway?

I took a fitness evaluation and I got superior (for my age). I walk almost everyday and try to get in at least 2.5 miles. My resting heart rate is 64. My suspicion is I'm gonna be an old Norwegian fisherman and hit the high 90s. I can't afford that. 

Aside from the VR and animation, I've been looking at AI art, and what I like is not the AI and the prompts so much as the centaurs. Centaurs, the people using the AI to make stuff. There is still uncanny valley, a seeping in of nightmare realities in the images and videos. Now that artists are using their own images and prompts to embellish, I've seen some neat stuff. I like where it is going. Motion picture and TV wise, my prediction is the public will want authenticity at some point and we see more practical effects and a big revival (with the help of AI) of light weight sets, now self-assembling sets what with the robots. Perfect for quick change in the theater. What you tihnk theater is going away? Ha! AI and robots are supergay, perfect for the theater. Folks get tired ot all the CGI magic.

A hugre impact now already is editing, and AI is all over that.

Directing a picture is just creating a camera roll. The editor makes the picture. A kickass centaur film editor, or team, can give you some kickass editing. Already been happening.

LK-99 anyone? I'm still waitng for more replications since the procedure is published and simple. So far, not good for room temperature, but they got superconductor at -160C, not bad and way above the boiling point of liquid nitrogen. A chinese lab has got magnetic levitation, but no one yet gets both. This copper-doped lead apatite is polycrystalline, so it is possible there is a pathway matrix that works, perhaps like a lead lined highway with copper bumper guards, that they need to isolate. 

The Korean papers said superconducting as high as 60-90C, which is the high one hundreds which makes this discovery not just astounding but ready for hard, dirty work. And wouldnt' it be ironic if the call for lead caused us to clean up all the tainted lead sites, and buried cable and pipe,  to make superconducting circuits, wire and cable?

Monday, July 31, 2023

Something Went Wrong

Memory hut working as planned, my dear diary, gentle readers, giving my own (still quite good) memory a physical anchor. A chain between physical and actual Johnny.

Case in point. I've told the joke about how all that radioactive fallout and never-before-seen chemical poisons, toxins, heavy metals, excretions forced upon the Boomer generation. Maybe not the Most Poisoned generation, but for sure the Most-Novelty/Variety-Of-Poisoned generation. 

Thanks to simpering liberal pussy regulations, the air and water are SO much cleaner than when I was a youth, and yet not before Gen X breathed more leaded gas fumes than any childhood generation, Millenials get their PCBs and PFAS and who knows how much nanoplastic. What of Gen Z, awaiting some unknown horror, some time bomb from the Aughts?

See, I've already lost the joke, let me cut and paste it in from this essay.
All those atmospheric tests, all that radiation affecting the brain development of human fetuses, anyone born after, say, 1954, is severely and profoundly retarded. And so, our parents, and older brothers and sisters, have worked feverishly to create a Fisher-Price civilization to accommodate all of us Boomers & progeny.

I told this fantasy at a family gathering once, and got a laugh out of everyone except my parents. They gave me the cold fish eye, and maybe even looked at each other and thought "What do you know, he's on to us".

If I brought someone (you!) back 14,000 years ago, people back then would see us as fairies. Light boned, weak , but tall and comely of face and limb. No wings. Not fairies. They would also figure out we are stupid. Not know how to do anything. Don't even know how to make a fire. Don't have all of civilization packed in one or ten skulls. Shitty memories. Easily distracted. We would appear to neolithic humans as human do to Klingons: Klingon children.

You want my conspiracy theory? The most boring day in history, April 11, 1954.

Some kind of cosmic horror shit hit the fan. Who can say what it was but everyone wants to forget. Especially in the USA but It happened everywhere. If you want to call it alien, for common purpose? There was no take me to your leader stuff. Everyone had an alien in the head, talking at the same time.

Am I saying it was aliens? 

I just used that as one example, but Something Happened, or Something Went Wrong, or we are just an angry ghost of a planet. 

Regardless, some people have the skinny on what happened. And those people are looting the Earth of everything, furiously scrambling, and why? Because there's a deadline. And it takes a lot of moneyto get to escape velocity. 

To what end? Death awaits all. All else is memory.

Who will the future remember? Pee Wee Herman.


Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Barbie and the right-wing outrage of supposedly grown men

 My take on the manosphere is that such is the fate of the dickless right. I wrote a prior essay about this, called The Interminable Dicklessness of the Political Right. Feel free to read it before continuing.

I had a discussion with my brother about this. He considers himself a conservative and all the squawking hens on the media are, according to him, not conservative. They are the radical right. The last vestige of the so-called patriarchy.

The term has been bandied about, and though I consdier it a bit simplistic, there is evidence that it is a ephemeral thing, possessed of both imperfection and impermanence. The narrative goes that the patriarchy started with the arrival of horse riding bornze age central asians migrating into Europe. But that is too simplistic an explanation. Archaeological digs of the steppe peoples and their descendants find a lifestyle equivalent to rodeo people today, with all the broken bones and impressive physiques read from their bones. One thing to note is the women are just as busted up and sturdy as the men, indicating no division of labor by sex. Move forward a few thousand years, and my northern barbarian ancestors display a similar lack of division of labor. One can easily find burial mounds of Viking queens as of Viking kings. In fact, Vikings were equal opportunity employers. One can find burial mounds of chiefs who were not ethnically Scandinavia, including one treasure horde found with a viking chieftain of African origins.

Point being the patriarchy is neither permanent nor perfect and situations for the past 99.9999% of human existence shows a shared lifestyle egalitarian and equal.

So, what to make of today's big babies? Case in point: Ben Shapiro annoying little fly was so upset about the Barbie movie that he set dolls on fire. Which means (not unlike Kid Rock shooting up Bud Light cans) he went out and bought the product so he could videotape his temper tantrum.  

What to make of this? Aside from the dopamine thrill of media exposure, I can only think to say fucking grow up. Or move to an island of similar weenies to circle stroke the spot where once your peens existed.

Thursday, July 6, 2023

Digital claymation and some loose threads

 Medium by Adobe, formerly Oculus Medium, is a clay-based 3d modeling program. I've used it since 2018 at least. Five years on and like driving the same car I get more comfortable, less afraid, more poised and graceful in economy of movement. The is as close to clay sculpting in meat space but with magical powers. Anyway, it struck me that I had not done stop motion photography using digital clay. I mean, it should be wild Frankenstein light show, but the figure as ground is my artificial rule and ground is everything.

It took me maybe 30 minutes to an hour for one second of video, but you get mindful of how it strings together in time, the space works itself out as you move stuff and take pictures. We forget our brain is a multi-dimensional survival machine. Butcher, baker, candlestick maker, sure, but first and foremost, warrior.

(It's hard to admit we monkeys are so clever. This little monkey singularity of ours, 100 plus years on and waiting, is 100% electricity. This is the magic of the monkey singularity.)

Update: I've got it down to 5-10 mins per second of video through something called pre-production. I have a automatic machine gun of images pre-loaded and then its mindless repetition, which, hey guess what, perfecto for #AI performance. AI is neither A nor I. I said that back in 1987 and no one was around to hear me say it. So I wrote it down and here it is.

Am I going to continue this boring tedious claymation task inside the computer with VR goggles? Fuckers I've been doing stop motion since junior high. Why I never went into the business was not fear of failure, but of mediocrity.

At the age of ten (TEN) I felt I had lost my creativity, I was losing my edge. I found a book at the public library called Lateral Thinking. I read, then skimmed, then just looked at the pictures through the book without really understanding it, but I did get that a joke is logic sideways, on the x,y,z,t,donut axes. The joke is most of what we do,we do autopilot, because, again, survival machines.

A nuclear booster rocket. No fuckiing way anyone would want this, but- If you use an unshielded core, the weight to thrust vastly exceeds chemical rockets. It has been determined that you can cluster nuclear rockets without them setting each other off, and with the cargo shielded by the hydrogen fuel, an easy ground to orbit and back again, 3-4 runs on one tank of fuel. Radiation? Hell yes! One has to worry about anything within 50 miles of your rocket field (not to mention a tidal wave of legistlation to prevent redress from the atomic rocket corporations I'm guessing Nevada passes state laws to open up atomic rocket ranges.. Nevada is the future of US states)

Anyway, with an unshielded thermal nuclear engine core, you are gettting spectacular blue Cherenkov radiation (eyeballs melting? too close!) from spitfire neutrons hitting atmosphere. Those neutrons are sterilizing everything down to viruses and weird proteins for thousands of yards, and it is the most peculiar form of taxidermy known to this writer. 

Your fuel can be the preferred hydrogen, but methane and water will do. The engine is a liberal, of flexible tendencies.  Rocket malfunctions are U235 or U233 fuel getting spit out rapidly decaying to the worst product is Strontium-90 which gets in your bones and has the half-life of the average human being. So, ixnay on the ocket-ray.

Thursday, June 22, 2023

Nuclear Thermal Rocket Engine

Searching through my memory hut, the most comprehensive essay I had on this subject was in this post, Stuck In the 20s. I'm very disappointed in myself. I thought I had gone into more detail than I did.

Recovering from umbilical hernia surgery, I stopped at the library prior to the operation to pick up reading materials, some new and some favorites. I looked for Atomic Accidents by James Mahaffey which had entertained me before and found it checked out. Fortunately, Atomic Adventures by the same author was available, and lo and behold, he had a chapter on the thermal nuclear rocket program. Now, there is any amount of declassified material available on the internet, but few that is understandable to the average US citizen (read: morons). As this was a worthwhile chapter (entitled the Lost Expedition to Mars) I figured I'd provide some of the goodies.

As mentioned in my prior essay, Elon Musk is wasting our time with chemical rockets. Not only is the Solar System out of our grasp with this technology, but simple Earth to Low Orbit transportation is also wasteful and long-term cost ineffective as well. If humans want to exploit space, we need nuclear booster tugs to get stuff out there. Damn the radation and crashes, there is no other way to do it.

So, I have to assume I am stuck in this dark timeline where, rather than dying and frying investigating refractory tehcnologies on Venus, I must watch a catfight between Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg in a Las Vegas cage.

Pathetic. Nuclear rockets could have been so easy, that, in some brighter timeline, even the Romans could have made a nuclear rocket, had they the knowledge*. Starting in the the 1950s, Los Alamos scientists got to work building nuclear thermal rockets. This consisted of an atomic pile of graphite and uranium fuel used to heat liquid hydrogen to propel itself. Not to demean the genius and talents of scientists and engineers that worked on it, but, like the atomic pile itself, the thing practically willed itself into existence, given the ease with which matter, arranged properly, obeyed the simple wish to fly up into the sky.

(Seriously, the time from the startup of Enrico Fermi's Chicago Pile 1 until the final experiments which solidified atomic pile reactor design was 90 days. The patent for a neutronic reactor, US Patent number 2,708,656, would not be made public until 1955).

A little known fact is that the nuclear engine, or if you will, the proton rocket engine (given that heated and ejected hydrogen gas particles are protons) was to be the third stage of the Saturn V rocket. Werner von Braun approved it without a flinch, and had not the program been pressed for time, they'd have used it.

Back in the 1950s, the atomic rocket was developed in conjunction with the atomic jet plane, the problem being how to lob these massively huge hydrogen bombs down upon Soviet heads. The bomb was shrunk down enough that conventional rockets would work. (In fact, the thousands of pounds of Sputnik II and Yuri Gargarin's capsule were flung into space atop arrayed banks of WWII V2 rocket engines, much as Musk plans to do with his Buck Rogers dildo Starship). The atomic jet plane was killed off, but work on atomic rockets continued until cancellation in 1973. Imagine what we would have now with proven 50-year-old nuclear rocket technologies.

Doctor Mahaffey: "The advantage of a nuclear rocket over chemical rockets is the efficient use of fuel, as designated by its specfic impulse (SI). SI which is expressed in seconds, is the "hang time" of a rocket, or the maximum number of seconds it can accelerate, balancing against the pull of  Earth's gravity and hanging still above the ground. The SI depends on many factors, such as the weight of the fuel which must be carried and the speed of the mass exhaust leaving the engine. The faster the flying gas exits the nozzle, the more reaction is derived, and the speed of the gas is due to its temperature and weight of the gas particles. The lightest possible gas is hydrogen which is the perfect propellent for a nuclear engine. For a chemical engine, the lightest possible (LH2/LOX) combustion product is steam, which is 18 times the weight of a hydrogen particle or proton. The F-1 engines used in the Saturn V, burning kerosene in liquid oxygen, had an SI of 350 seconds. The theoretical limit to a steam exhaust rocket is 450 seconds. A SpaceX Raptor engine has an SI of 380 seconds. The SI for a nuclear rocket starts at 900 seconds and can increase, in theory, into the millions of seconds."

The Rocketdyne F-1 engine, burning through olympic sized pools of propellant, lasted 165 seconds on the first stage of the Saturn V. It could only be started once and its only throttle setting is full thrust. A NERVA  nuclear rocket engine can be run for 10 hours, stopped and restarted sixty times (chilled down by space to near absolute zero an brought up to 2750F in minutes, and can throttle from full thrust to barely moving. Reactor core designs, U235 and graphite, pinned together with stainless steel rods and tungsten ranged from 4000 megawatts to 600 megawatts. In May 1971, the smallest refined nuclear engine, Peewee, weighed just 11 pounds and had a SI of 1000 seconds. It ran for two hours at a blistering 4145F degrees.

Doctor Mahaffey: "(from 1955 on, Los Alamos developed) Five reactor (U235) core designs with power ratings ranging from 600 to 2000 megawatts using graphite as a neutron moderator. Their aggressively odd code names were Uncle Tom, Uncle Tung, Bloodhound, Shish, and Old Black Joe".

(Clearly racist names but hand waved away due to working with black-as-ink graphite would quickly turn technicians into black faced, black handed minstrel show characters. Racial sensitivity being nonexistent then, but I can't help feeling there was a grudging recognition that if you wanted sheer brute strength and stamina, old negroe men were an archetype for a nuclear rocket). 

"Old Black Joe, designed to run at 1200 megawatts of power, was approved in Novermber 1956 for continued development. The design was upgraded to 2700 megawatts and plans were to use it as for a range-extending second stage for the Atlas missile. This Super Atlas would be capable of parking a heavy H-bomb in geosynchronous orbit hovering above Moscow ready to pounce at a moment's notice. It would be 9.6 feet in in diameter and 96.6 feet high, and to the delight of the Air Force, it would seem a better idea than carrying missiles around in submarines. The bad news was it would take an eye-watering one billion dollars to develop."

(Keep in mind a decade later the US of A would be spending 2 billion dollars a month in Vietnam).

"At this point in 1956, no nuclear rocket engine had ever been built and the technology consisted of designs on paper and a few computer simulations."

(in 1956 95% of all electronic computer calculations were devoted to simulating nuclear processes. Without  a burgeoning need for computers from the defense sector, there woudn't have been enough demand for commercial development and you, gentle reader, would not be reading this on a magical glass box)

"The mind numbing list of impossibilities didn't seem to bother the engineering climate of the time. The fuel pump would take a frozen hydrogen slush at -434F, near absolute zero, and push it at a rate of 70 pounds per second into the top of a nuclear reactor running at two billion watts. No such pump existed. No nuclear reactor had ever run at that power level. In 52 inches, from the hydrogen intake to the nozzle, the liquified fuel would go from near abosulte zero to 3682F through multiple mechanically chaotic phase changes and a severe pressure drop that would try to suck the core out of the end of the engine. The fuel, liquid hydrogen, was the most corrosive substance known, and while sittting quietly in the storage tank would diffuse into all the metal structures it touched, rendering them more brittle than mere freezing would make them. Nothing was know about how stray neutrons from the reactor would interact with hydrogen slush in the fuel tank, whether two nuclear rockets sitting side by side would cause each other to go supercritical via neutron exchange, or how to keep the hot unsupported end of the reactor, glowing incandescent, from following the hydrogen gas out the rocket nozzle."

"(Rocketdyne was contracted to design the fuel pump and nozzle (the nozzle jacketed to flow liquid hydrogen so it didn't melt) and Aerojet General Nucleonics did the plumbing. The Soviets had their own secret nuclear rocket program in their RD-0410 engine. Their project began in 1965 after clandestine observation of American efforts, but was stopped after Chernobyl in 1986. Their engineers were never able to master the intricacies of pumping liquid hydrogen or even keeping it in a tank. They never put a comrade on the Moon. Think of the money they saved)".

What about radiation? Fuck that noise we're going to Mars. To mollify the proles, talk was always that the nuclear engine would be launched by conventional means, and should an oopsie occur it would be outside the contamination-sensitive atmosphere. But oopsies do occur and it was recognized that stuff would fall to Earth eventually. Studies showed that activation at 100,000 feet or in LEO would result in the same amount of radiation as blasting off from ground zero nuclear engines ablaze. Hydrogen exhaust is not radioactive. An added bonus of ground launch is that the thousands of degrees hydrogen exhaust would combust with atmospheric oxygen, boosting the rocket further. Besides, daily radioactive fallout from cosmic rays hitting Earth's atmosphere far exceed the danger of nuclear rocket exhaust.

What about crashes? During the decades of tests of the various nuclear rocket configurations at Jackass Flats Nevade, yes, chunks of the reactor would occasionally break loose and fly out. Often times no big deal and they would continue operating the rocket regardless. KIWI-B1B, in September 1962 operated at 965 megawatts almost to the target 1000 megawatts.

"It hung there for 100 seconds, despite the fact that the core was still leaving in chunks. It ran for a few more minutes, control drums rotating to maintain criticality, until a nozzle sensor blew out and a fire started. All in all, it was seen as a successful run. Back in Washington, details of the KIWI-B1B test were interpreted differently, and key people in charge of the budget had to be peeled off the walls by Werner von Braun at a hearing. These nuclear rockets were to be used for Earth-Moon shuttles to and from a Moon base, and we could not have pieces of engines flying willy-nilly hither and yon. Even wihout a Mars mission, the nuclear rocket program was important if the manned spaceflight program was going to be something other than an isolated moment of glory".

Again, what about crashes? Oh, well, if you are going to get snippy about it. Development of the nuclear engines was turned over to Westinghouse for construction, but in 1965 Los Alamos decided to end its KIWI program with a bang. 

"NASA, always safty conscious had asked what's the worst that can happen? That would probably be toppling off the top of the Saturn V booster, where it was scheduled to be the last of three boost stages for the manned Moon shot. Los Alamos dropped a KIWI 75 feet onto a concrete pad, to see if it would somehow throw the reactor into uncontrolled criticality, which they knew would not happen. That's interesting said NASA but but it's a 300 foot drop off a Saturn. Los Alamos took the challenge, bolted a KIWI to a rocket sled and slammed it into a concrete barrier at high speed. Then, to top it off, they put together a special KIWI, cleverly named KIWI-TNT, having controls that could be slammed into the full-on position with pneumatic cylinders, putting the reactor into prompt critical mode all of a sudden. The reactor exploded in a blue flash with a blast equivalent of 300 pounds of black gunpowder, scattering its remains over a 1700 foot radius. Over half of it was found and picked up eventually (by hand)." No problem, I guess, considering Jackass Flats was surrounded by nuclear test sites. NASA canned the engine as a third stage for Apollo, feeling that development was moving too slowly.  What if the engine had been dropped from space? Oh, well, the Soviets routinely did that with the Kosmos series. Ho hum.

So there you have it. DARPA and NASA are working on nuclear rockets again, but I can't help but feel that by this time, given real world use of nuclear rocket boosters, we could be putting aircraft carriers moving back and forth from orbit at this point. Hi ho!

Sunday, May 21, 2023

Digital Art and Animation Class: Final Project

I have been enrolled in Digital Art and Animation Class this semester and just finished up. Honestly don't care what my grade is as I'm 66, this was an elective (they are all elective), and I felt I did well. The class used Adobe software products from image creation (Photoshop, Illustrator) to video post production (Premier Pro, Aftereffects). Oldest student after me was maybe 22. These kids had been using these products since middle school. I'm never embarassed to ask and fortunately my work station was next to a on the spectrum kid named Lennon who was a wizard.

"Lennon! How do I make it do this? No, tell me, don't try to do it". I got up to speed fairly quickly but nothing compared to what my young classmates were doing. It was humbling. Still, half the class dropped, so there's that.

I'm going to post a Youtube link of the Project 5, my final project. I also had to write a paper.

ART 241

Project 5

”Sometime After The End Of The World”

By John Kurman


This film started from two pictures I made in January 2020 on Adobe Medium, near the start of the pandemic lockdown. Work was physically closed and soon to be online, I had little to do but go for long walks in my neighborhood. Most of the time I would see dogwalkers and moms with baby strollers. At the time, the seriousness of the COVID virus was becoming appreciated, and I found that I treated my fellow walkers with some caution. One day, a fellow and I were walking past each other, each eyeing the other for plague symptoms I suppose, and we warily waved at each other. Mutual suspicion and maybe a mild rancor hidden under a shallow amity was what I got from that encounter and decided to document it as a sculpt (a VR file containing the 3D staged scene). When I got home, I created the sculpt of the two robots and took pictures. So the short film I created kind of took three years to make.

Could 19-year-old Johnny have made this short film? Not without a lot of explosions and pow-pow, blammo, blown to smithereens sparkly special effects. The symbolism (if any) would have had the subtlety of a sledge hammer strapped to an atomic bomb. There is an advantage to age and experience which hopefully makes this short film more of an elegiac narrative than action flick.

After trying out short animations, I decided that a graphic novel format using sequences of stills was more practical and appropriate for the tone and mood I wanted. I created the still pictures from snapshots of scenes I made in Medium by Adobe, a VR sculpting program that is an analog of clay manipulation to create 3D objects. The two robot figures (and crows) were 3D assets that I either obtained from asset libraries off the internet, or used a figurative kitbash method from a posing program called Design Doll. The landscape was created in Medium, but I deceptively used stagecraft, lighting, and scale to make basically two pizza slices of barren hills and snowy plains combined and rearranged for the illusion of a much larger landscape.

The only animated portions (done in Adobe Illustrator) are the internal visor displays of the robots, which, like Chekov’s gun, shown in the first act, used in the third act. I wanted the visor display to convey robot status and intent when things go mysteriously pear-shaped.

The plot is straight forward and linear, two robots on patrol, each the last remnant of a dead civilization, following their algorithms of guarding a now wasted terrain after, I guess, the Last War. The mystery enters when a set of footprints unknown to either party appears in the snow.

The first act is Silverbot’s story, rather hum drum except for a brief wolf encounter (the wolves categorized as harmless). Silverbot runs into Goldiebot, they exchange perfunctory greetings, and the story is handed over to a Goldiebot second act. Goldiebot surprises some crows which were feeding on remains of a wolf kill. Quick cut back to Silverbot, who is surprised by a crow that causes it (him?) to notice a set of tiny human(?) footprints that were not there before.

Cut back to Goldiebot discovering a similar set of footprints. They both go on Red Alert, hightail it on the tracks after the mystery intruders. When they confront each other, they find the tiny footprints stop where they stand. Both apparently have enough wits not to blast each other with their ridiculous laser cannons, and they stand puzzled for a zoom out and fade.

Are they robots or humans in armored suits? Hopefully, the impression is that they are robots sophisticated enough for humanlike interaction and restraint. Two armored humans or cyborgs would probably have blasted each other, which I considered as an ending...

Silverbot is unfortunately just a rip-off from the Cybermen from the TV series Doctor Who. Goldiebot just kind of fell together as I was modifying the 3D asset manikin.

So there you go. About as much as I could do with my winter plague encounter made into a show.

Here is the video: