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    Sunday, November 30, 2008

    Worked on the weekend all kitchen . . .

    . . . who am I again?

    Man, I need a shower and shave!

    Tuesday, November 25, 2008

    Kitchenless for the Holidays

    This past weekend Gina had me pull the entire kitchen apart. The object here is to put it back together better than it was without spending much (read "any") real money. This is not a difficult as it might sound, mostly because the kitchen was in such a sorry state. I estimate that the last time this was done, it was done by my father, some 30 years ago. He did a good job and installed real wood cabinets (Thank goodness!) but, as I say, it was about 30 years ago. So, how to do it? When we have to buy things we are looking for green products, that are on clearance (of which there seems to be plenty!). We are doing all the work ourselves, using supplies and tools that we already have, and making up the difference with a lot of elbow grease. Stay tuned for more updates.
    Thankfully some good friends have invited us over for Thanksgiving dinner this Thursday, so at least I don't have to worry about having to cook or anything.

    Wednesday, November 19, 2008

    Food for thought. Quote of the day:

    "AI's in the future will be able to recreate people from the information left behind about them if suitable backups of their brain were not made (in which case it would be straightforward). Neural nanobots would obtain all the available information about them from other people's brains. The AI would also consider all of the person's writings, pictures, movies, etc. Also their genetic code. And it could then create a person who would pass a Turing test for that person with their best friends as the judges. For that reason it is worthwhile keeping your own files -- letters, emails, photos, writings, etc.

    Is this recreated person the same person? It is an interesting question, but we could also ask today are we the same person as we were, say, a year ago. The recreated person by the AI is probably at least as close as we are to ourselves after some time passage."

    — Ray Kurzweil

    I know at least one person who would be furious to be "brought back" in such a manner.

    "A new age in surigical care." - Martin Birchall
    Read this and then really think about it. This is huge. Look at the time frames, four days for seeding, four days after implantation and you could hardly tell the old tissue from the new tissue, two months and she's breathing like normal!!!
    Wondering why Europe is WAY ahead of the United States on this? That's because of the idealogical and irrational stand against stem cell research that our current lame duck administration has taken. Please note this was not done with embryonic stem cells.

    Sunday, November 16, 2008

    New Star Trek Trailer

    This movie scares the hell out of me. I have not dreaded the release of a movie like this since . . . well . . . ever. I have nothing clever on this, it's just such a huge step in the wrong direction. We have the Star Trek universe. All established and, you know, memorized by people like me . . . okay just me, but it's done, it's all fixed.
    Then they do three seasons of Enterprise, which didn't find it's legs until the third season, when it was already on the chopping block. Fine though, I can work this in.
    Now, I see these previews and they show Kirk really young and then the Enterprise being built and then (Bang!) he's on the bridge! He's in command!
    What happened to Christopher Pike? That whole Talos IV thing, the thirteen years Spock served on the ship before Kirk even came along. To say noting of Robert April from TAS thank you very much.
    Who the hell do these people think they are?
    I haven't been this mad since Star Trek V!
    Goddamn it!!!

    Friday, November 14, 2008


    Man this looks good! I just hope they don't screw up the ending.

    Wednesday, November 12, 2008

    Tim Young's latest local book signing - Howell, NJ

    Check out the link here.

    Tuesday, November 11, 2008

    Outlook 2009 and beyond

    The Futurist has published their top 10 predictions.
    It's a pretty conservative list in my view.
    It doesn't take into account the rapid rate of change we're seeing on so many different fronts. The other night Patrick asked me to come up with a list of my own expectations and I've been thinking about it.

    First the disclaimers:
    All of this is, of course, wild speculation based on the assumption that we don't wipe ourselves out, or push our selves back into another dark age, or suffer some unforeseen natural disaster or ecological meltdown. I know that's a lot of assuming but just play along for now. Also I think it would be useful, and perhaps more entertaining, to use Science Fiction as a kind of short hand for getting some pretty complex and challenging ideas across.

    With all of that said let us speculate.
    In the near future we will see:

    Klingons and Vulcans: (Wait, come back here, I'm serious!) Well not Klingons from Qo'noS, and not Vulcans exactly, but humans who have elected to directly alter and enhance their physical appearance and health. As genetic engineering and bio-enhancement becomes more commercially viable people will no longer be limited to simple steroids. They will begin to use things like myostatin inhibitors and other much more advanced techniques to make themselves stronger, faster, smarter and so on. Some may even begin to splice DNA from other species into their own DNA just as people today experiment with recreational drugs, use steroids, get tattoos or piercings - and probably with about as much forethought. People will likely want stronger, more efficient heart and lung function, greater emotional control, higher metabolism, or enhanced vision or hearing, just for a few examples. Naturally these new changes will, by design, be inheritable in their off spring. Within a single generation, if for practical or aesthetic reasons, one of your parents decided to add a brow ridge or pointed ears . . . guess what? Now ask yourself how many changes we will see in two generations? Needless to say this will lead to whole new types of discrimination. Don't believe people will take these kinds of risk, take another look at the global sales figures for products like Viagra, Xanax, or Enzyte.

    As an aside, one of the complaints about Star Trek aliens has always been that they all look basically human with other parts added. Strangely enough though they may have gotten it right. I do not expect to see bipedal aliens landing on the mall in DC anytime soon. However I do think that we will see more extropians and trans-humans looking more and more like they stepped off of the set of one of any number of our more popular Science Fiction television shows.

    Artificial Life: We're not talking Cylons here, not yet anyway. However we will very shortly see the advent of artificial (designer) life. Built from carefully selected proteins and amino acids to have very specific qualities. These new lifeforms will have vast and dramatic commercial applications. For instance a form of life that can ingest carbon pollution and excrete usable fuel is being designed right now by JCVI right now.

    Star Wars style Droids:
    Robots designed for specific functions are already commercially available. Ask anyone who owns a Roomba.
    In the movie "I, Robot" we saw that there were several levels of AI. The androids had autonomous intelligence that was (for the sake of drama) co-opted and taken over by the central, much more powerful AI. My question is, if you have the central, really powerful AI, why bother with the autonomous android AI at all? Just let the central AI manage all the androids, all the time. All the androids need is the basic mechanics and firmware to manage their own extremities and few simple routines. That and the ability to have their software wirelessly updated and tailored as needed for specific applications (Paint the house, mow the lawn, wash the dishes, whatever). Any droid that fails to function properly can be monitored and shut down remotely using existing military grade GPS applications. Then other droids can even be dispatched to recover, repair or replace it. Robots can be any shape needed for any given function. Robot flying cars for everyone! Droid housekeepers and landscapers for all!

    The Borg: Don't think rows of Borg standing in regeneration chambers in the their Borg cubes here, think more along the lines of Seven of Nine.
    PDA's, and on line social networks are already leading to this. People will have the ability to be as connected as they like to various collectives - like their family, friends or co-workers. We are already moving past glasses and contact lenses that merely correct faulty vision into technology that enhances vision well past human norms or adds data augmentation and a VR overlay. To say nothing of changing the color of your eyes. If that means a few tech looking add-ons like the current bluetooth headsets - so be it! Don't think it will go this way? Consider the fact that, although it is seldom enforced, it is currently illegal to operate a car and a cell phone simultaneously without a bluetooth headset.

    Nanites: Self replicating, really small, machines that can build anything out of everything. Now we're talking! (We've seen these everywhere in Science Fiction from Star Trek to Stargate to Jake 2.0.) We're already on the cusp of a surge in three dimensional printing technology that will revolutionize retail as we know it. (Soon you won't need the item itself, just the file for the item and a 3D printer.) This is the step just after that where anything, (Including things made out of metamaterials and even more Nanites!) can be designed and assembled from the molecular level up. The commercial and medical applications speak for themselves and are already funding advances in this technology at a spectacular rate. Talk about green, imagine physical object that only exist on an as needed basis. Their component elements completely reclaimed and reused again and again. Swarms of nanites swimming through your blood repairing cell damage, hunting down cancer cells or just maintaining muscle tone and flexibility without the need for dieting or exercise.

    True AI: This is the big one as it informs and augments all the others. You want to really make use of all of those droids and nanites? You want to splice or tweak genes without giving yourself cancer? You need to crack this one. Right now we have very specific, simple forms of artificial intelligence that do things like play Chess, play Checkers, monitor the stock market, and so on. I call these types of AI, virtual intelligence or VI to separate them form the true, general or strong, AI that is lurking right around the corner. To look at the progress of VI all you need to do is look at the progress being made in autonomous driving. However that kind of AI is very task specific and,as Dr. Ben Goertzel points out, is notoriously difficult to adapt to anything except what is was originally designed to do. The chess program, for instance, is never going to play Backgammon with you. It has no ability to expand on it's own parameters or adapt what it knows about playing Chess to any other endeavor. True AI will have these abilities and will, very rapidly from a human perspective, redesign itself to solve a number of problems and limitations. Both for itself and for us. Will it be Skynet (like in the Terminator Franchise) and decide to wipe us out. No. There are several very good reasons why this is not the case but they are outside the scope of this article. What is not outside the scope of this article however is another set of observations and they are first, and again from a human perspective, if you have enough VI it has the same effect as True AI and second, it's only a mater of time before the good folks working on true AI design a VI to help them get it done sooner rather than later. Probably much sooner.

    Once we have True AI (or enough VI) all bets are off. Our problems will no longer be driven by concepts such as supply and demand, but rather by the limits of our own imagination and character . . but that's another topic.

    Monday, November 10, 2008

    First Generation Shields Now in Development

    Deep space travel gets one step closer.

    "Computer simulations done by a team in Lisbon with scientists at Rutherford Appleton last year showed that theoretically a very much smaller "magnetic bubble" of only several hundred meters across would be enough to protect a spacecraft."

    Wednesday, November 5, 2008

    Just can't get enough!!!

    Welcome to the twenty first century.

    That was really something. We watched until just after 1:00 AM and then I called it a night and went to bed and slept the sleep of the just.
    Thanks to everyone who came over and made the night special. Years from now we will remember last night and where we were and who we were with. From the tears in Patrick's eyes when President Elect Barack Obama officially won, to the tears in mine during his victory speech, we were all moved.
    McCain's speech was very gracious, but many of us will not easily forget nor forgive the tactics that he and his supporters employed throughout his campaign. The same goes for Hillary.
    I hope that those who, out of ignorance, fear and hate are nay saying this historic victory and overwhelming mandate from the people, will take a moment to reassess their fundamental assumptions. You are wrong and you always have been.
    To those of you who are saying smugly "He won't live to see the end of his first term . . ." "Not that I hope that anything happens, but . . ."
    You are despicable cowards. You have already lost. Nothing that happens after this will change that. Your fear and anger make you weak and will not save you. Your compassion might. To the most hardcore among you, who are looking to forward to Palin in 2012, heh, that's a really good idea, I think you should go with that!

    I hope that the overwhelming national losses among Republicans will spell another chapter towards the end of the entire socially conservative movement as a national force and relegate it to fractured, powerless, regional aberration and eventual, ultimate death.
    Welcome to the twenty first century, we can no longer afford to indulge your obfuscation, intolerance, superstition and ignorance.
    If this sounds a little harsh, good, it is meant to be.
    The future is here, now! From here we will see more change on more fronts, coming faster and faster, the likes of which most of you literally cannot imagine.
    Buy a helmet and buckle up!

    Finally in light of all of this I hope that, now that this battle has been won, I can post fewer political items and more about the rapid advance of change that is my primary interest here on my blog.

    Monday, November 3, 2008

    Here we go!

    Okay, for the next 24 to 48 hours everything will be under this post, so refresh early and refresh often.

    Earlier I posted that the Obama sign in my yard had been stolen. Well, yesterday it happened again. Luckily I was prepared and had a spare sign ready to go. So to the person who keeps stealing my yard sign - YOU ARE AN UN-AMERICAN COWARD!!!

    I am live on Twitter and will try to stay there as much as I can for the next few hours.

    6:52 AM Up Early and headed out to VOTE!!! "YES, WE CAN!!!"

    7:15 AM The deed is done!!! Small lines and no trouble this morning. Gina went with me and this was her first time voting.

    I for one am very glad to have been wrong in my predictions that these elections might have been suspended for some emergency. Now to make plans to attend the inauguration.

    This is looking more and more like a landslide of biblical proportions. All of the evidence is anecdotal so far . . . but still.

    We're seeing a lot of Voter problems and people are starting to panic.
    Then I got this from Patrick:

    The suspense is killing me over here!!!

    5:19 PM Okay, I am home and watching the coverage. What are we doing to food around here?

    Fox news (Yes I monitor Fox news too) Exit polls
    New Voters-------OBAMA----McCain

    Not sure what to think of this, it may be a tactic by the Republicans to skew the exit polls, but if true it would indicate . . . 40 STATES!!!!

    7:58 PM Man, this is tighter than I hoped it would be.
    Let's see what happens next.

    9:24 PM They just called Ohio for Obama and Pat and Chris are exchanging high fives and saying it's over.

    10:00 PM God answers Palin's prayers; "No," God says.

    11:02 PM IT'S OVER!!! WE WON!!! CHAMPAGNE all around here at Chateau Elysium!
    BUSH you are FIRED!!!

    "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, . . ."
    - Declaration of Independence

    "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."
    - Martin Luther King Jr.

    Sunday, November 2, 2008

    "YES, We CAN!!!" NOW!!!

    This in from Brigid Fitch:

    "'The cellphone polls have Obama ahead by an average of 9.4 points; the landline-only polls, 5.1 points.'"

    "I’ve been phone-canvassing for Obama for the past 3 weeks and all of my calls have been landlines.  Of the 150+ calls I’ve made, I’d say 65-70% are for Obama, if they are to be believed.  I’m still very much aware of the Bradley Effect, so remain cautiously optimistic.  Until the results start coming in on Tuesday, I’m going to keep hammering away at the phones. 

    "Truth be told, I’ve NEVER been this involved in an election of any sort.  But this year, I’m so polarized that I’ve donated over $500 to various Democratic candidates—Obama, Hagan, Franken, and Tinklenberg.  I’m volunteering for Obama and have weathered such responses as being called a n*gger-lover, a terrorist, baby-killer, and socialist.  It’s incredible how far the Republican Party has sunk.  They’re left with nothing more than the right-wing fundamentalists whose only news outlet is Fox.  It’s downright scary.  I feel the moral need to thwart them any way I can; there’s no reasoning with them.  The FoxNews-ites all shout the same thing:  Joe the Plumber, socialism, terrorist, Muslim, birth certificate, ACORN, and Rev. Wright.  I point out that McCain gave Khalidi almost $450K and it falls on deaf ears.  I mention that no litigation against ACORN has yet to be put through and that McCain attended a 2006 rally and I’m branded un-American.  I tell them that Obama’s tax plan is essentially a roll-back of Bush’s policy and that they’d get the same deal they did under the Clinton years and I’m told I’m a fascist.  There’s no turning the right-wing fundie base, but it hurts no less when you come across them.

    "By all realistic accounts, Obama has this election in the bag.  The only way he’ll lose is if those of us who are sick of Bush’s policies DON’T go out and vote.  Complacency is our enemy, not McCain.  If PA and VA go blue on Tuesday, Obama will be declared the next president by 8:15.  But that’s only going to happen if everyone gets out there and VOTES." 

    Brigid Fitch
    Meanwhile, I also went over the local call center and made some calls for Barack and the Democrats this Saturday morning. I had honestly forgotten how much I hated working phones. Anyway, I am very optimistic about how this whole thing is going to shake out.
    When you're looking at the polls be sure to check the dates. A lot of those deep red state polls are over a month old!

    Pro Obama - Election Night Party

    Tuesday after 6:00 PM, at my house.
    Basically the plan is, if Obama wins I'm getting drunk.
    If McCain wins I am going to get really drunk! (Seriously, we're talking stomach pumps and probable hospitalization here.)
    We're going to have snacks, drinks, TV, Internet,  more drinks, and a full night of election coverage.
    Stop by (AFTER you Vote!) and watch history unfold, I'm betting Obama wins by a landslide.

    35 to 40 STATES!!!