Friday, October 24, 2014

So, 61

I don't really have a lot to say about the occasion, or I do and don't want to get into all that just now.

Mostly both, I suspect.

I have been having some initial success writing original fiction at Amazon Studios these recent months, and I do intend to write more on that come the day.  Right after I hit the "Submit" button.

Much like writing fiction that isn't painfully derivative, my sixth decade is proving harder to make headway in than has been my previous experience.  Yes, I know, nothing surprising there; it's discovering the distinction between the knowing and the doing that's the challenge I suppose, the realization that tried and true no longer gets you where it always has.  Finding new ways to do old things will be a feature of the coming decade I fear.

I don't really have a song this year, so something fun and motivational* (sorry about the ad and it will probably auto-start).

*It's my perspective; deal with it.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Bear Baiting And Other Online Sport

The problem with corresponding with old professors, even (or possibly most especially) one's who now make up their own stories rather than contenting themselves with relaying the classics, is that they will insist on illustrating their lesson du jour with a homework assignment for the further edification of the correspondent.

I've had worse.

Hi Jerry,
Read your most recent View entry (August 27) and wished to respond to your off-the-cuff aside about "eternal youth".
First, yes, it was only an aside and you made no attempt to delve into the topic. Second, I’m quite certain you have much greater online research expertise then I, but here’s my amateur contribution to that nonetheless.
Scientists turn skin cells directly into blood
Making pluripotent stem cells from a drop of blood
Young blood makes old mice more youthful
Thirdly, I suppose, while none of this is news to you I’m sure, I suggest the stories above combine into a potential (if only partial) answer to your question(s) regarding the end of work (insert bass, vibrato and echo to taste).
While much research remains, particularly into possible human applications, there seems to me to be a possible social model of – I don’t know, basic stipend? – that could be developed from this. People contributing a regular sample of their blood in order to remain eligible for receipt of their regular stipend payment.
Such a system would accommodate the transition of historic "work" to automated systems while subsidizing the healthy maintenance of humanity and human societal structures. In addition, I presume that you will agree there will always be circumstances where a spontaneously adaptable human could better resolve a short-term or otherwise unusual situation for which a device hasn’t been manufactured and thereby earn added credit to a qualified volunteer’s account.
Not a perfect solution, I know, but the juxtaposition of the two View items seemed worth noting.
Best regards,
Will Brown
I don’t purport to “have a solution” to the problem of preserving a Republic in these times. I do agree that humanity isn’t finished: robots and artificial intelligence will not be our final invention as a recent book put it. But that at the moment is more faith than analysis.
If you are interested in this subject and have not been following Freefall you probably should be. There is a problem. Freefall is incomprehensible if you go directly to the current page. It is a graphic novel with three new panels every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and it has been going on since 1998. To understand it you must go to the story start and read up to the current page before trying to follow it, and that will take an hour or so a day for a week. It is worth the time investment. This began more as a humorous comic, surely with the intention of examining problems of practical implementation of robots and AI, but over time began to look at the problem in a more serious way. It is quite thought provoking. It is also hilarious, so this is not a painful assignment. It will help if you understand that Sam is not the main character although he is an important part of the narrative; and Sam is neither human nor humanoid under that environment suit.

In his View entry for 8/27, Jerry Pournelle (just in case anyone hasn't sussed out which Jerry is "beneficiary" of my insights) commented on the changing nature of work and the economy, during which he noted the potential life extension had for making any solution that much more complex some day in the future.  I sent him three news links about how "young blood" can be made from a sample of your own blood, from that how pluripotent stem cells can be further made and how both these existing technologies seem far more likely to be near-term complexities than commonly thought.

The suggestion that some system of regulating a basic economic stipend payment around conscientiously participating in a health maintenance regimen isn't one I've seen considered-to-death as of yet.  I also don't see any obvious conflict with such a system incorporating a highly automated/robotized/AI development in effecting such a health care process.  It doesn't seem to me that this idea necessarily conflicts with the fundamental structure of the Republic as Franklin, Jefferson and the rest originally envisioned the US federal government and economic model (though I acknowledge how easily it could be made to).

So, homework ... I'm a reasonably practiced reader, but I do read online for a couple hours a day already.  Let's say an added hour a week on average; I'll be 61 late next month, maybe I'll be up-to-date on my Freefall assignment by then.  As to Sam's non-humanoid nature, I've been a variably-complex-tool user and SF reader for over 50 years now; if I'm not minimally functionally past any humanocentric interface biases (that don't involve sex objects - I do have some standards) by now, then the jokes on me, isn't it?

Thanks for responding, Doc.

PS:  For any reader who also might not have heard of Freefall before this, I suggest going to the linked site quoted above and bookmarking the "Index" page.  Give yourself a digital version of dog-earing the page to mark your spot, as it were.

Monday, September 8, 2014

What Caliber For Brickbat?

Weer'd Beard has this whole "Gun Death" meme going in which he illustrates just how hypocritical anti-2A people can be in their political posturing.  In this example, Weer'd notes a common cause of death and injury from people throwing heavy items into highway traffic from overpasses.

This one resonated with me a bit more than usual:
Happened to my Mom ~35 years ago now, driving home from work on an LA area freeway. She was lucky really; she remembered seeing two middle- or high-school boys standing on the overpass as they tossed a concrete block into oncoming traffic – her, as it worked out. They tossed the block just early enough that it hit the hood of Mom’s car (breaking it into chunks) and then the windshield on the rebound, as it were. She lived, but the insurance ended up replacing the car.
The cops were sympathetic enough, and were honest enough to explain just how unable they were to identify which two boys on bicycles might be the one’s actually leaving the scene of the crime. Of course no one was responsible for adding some kind of fencing to the overpass to make this sort of act more difficult – until it happened to someone with the political clout to make it otherwise a couple years later. And then only to some of the overpasses that similar attacks had occurred from.
If terrorists were smarter than bored middle-schoolers, they would organize an attack campaign based upon this precise type of incident in any country they wanted to attack and then use social media to subtly influence people to rage at the “ineffective police protection” and “failed politicians” and the like. Fairly heavy trash items are free for the taking virtually everywhere. Turning empty bottles into fire bombs are only one of many easy, cheap possible embellishments.
Who knew egotistical psychopath YouTube posers would be the preferred enemy?
As Weer'd says, not a gun death so doesn't matter, right?  And of course, none of the examples of this type of attack to date are known to be the result of "terrorism".

OTOH I vaguely remember news stories from the early 80's of "union thugs" tossing bricks in just this fashion into 18 wheelers driving down the interstate for not respecting their declared strike; I'm sure I heard/read stories of drivers shooting at people in retaliation, so my titular question doesn't seem all that far out of the realm of possibility to me.

Doesn't have to be the religiously motivated of course, but at some point I think it pretty likely that someone with an existential grudge is going to decide that being effective is better than being famous, and then we really will be in for it, won't we?  When the daily commute routinely includes brickbats through the windshield, I'm going to go with "whatever caliber is immediately available" being the most common answer proffered in reply myself.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Is There A (Black)Light At The End Of Our Power Tunnel?

Recently in the news again is Blacklight Power with reports of their novel theory on atomic structure having been independently verified and clearly explained for the less-technically inclined (which definitely includes me).  Assuming Randall Mills and the Blacklight gang really have developed a commercially scale-able invention (not to mention a new page in the theory of physics), it seems worth a little time to think about some of the potential opportunities this permits to the rest of us.

If we take as a given that the Blacklight power supply itself is about 1 cubic foot in dimension, it seems reasonable to further stipulate that a sealed electrical generator (one that is isolated from external environmental conditions) also of about 1 cubic foot in external dimension could be fitted to pretty much any vehicle's differential gearbox.  Whether that be a vehicle like this one, or something more substantial, or even something along more classic lines, transportation will transition out of the historic model assumptions that have accrued over the centuries.  A vehicle that can also be made to supply its own fuel requirements can only further alter those assumptions.  RV owners (and wannabes like me) will be understandably excited over the reduced operating costs, so imagine if you will what the CFO's of FedEx and UPS are in for?

Now, apply that same line of thought to the house you live in.  In the space of a small closet (say 25 cubic feet, 2' x 3' x 8' roughly) you could install a Blacklight SunCell - let's further assume a very downscale 100kw version, an atmospheric water generator and a central air heating and cooling system suitable for pretty much any structure up to ~4000 sq ft. and a family of 5 plus guest(s).  Extending that model to other structural applications, you gradually leave behind the current model of "grid power distribution" while creating a business opportunity for individuals and businesses during the transition.  I wonder how many people in Oakland, CA, just for instance, would be interested in dehumidifying the Bay area for distribution into the state's aqueduct system as a "home business water utility"?  You think the people and businesses in the southern half of the state (where the vast majority of the voters live and work) might have something to say in support of such a concept?

Now pause to consider this general model applied to water craft (of any description).

If the powers-that-be were to create a fee-exempt class of boat permit for any houseboat on Lake Powell and Lake Mead that generated an additional 100 gallons of fresh water per 24 hour day deposited into the lake, I have to believe the population of houseboats on both lakes would increase substantially.  While this wouldn't "solve" the water shortage problem in either lake, it would be a contributing factor to such a solution that imposed no added public expense.  Extending this concept to the permitting and construction of privately owned lake shore properties on both lakes that generated 1000 gallons of fresh water per day would seem an equally useful idea.

Taking this thought even further; if the governments of Denver, Oklahoma City, Dallas, Fort Worth and Houston (to name only 5 possible examples, as at least 4 of them pump from the same aquifer) were to stipulate a property tax abatement on buildings that consumed no water from ground sources, I have to think there would be a remarkable easing of the demand on the existing water sources supplying those cities.  Now, add water desalination and pipelines from coastal areas that were powered by Blacklight technology to feed water into the existing water impoundment system in the US and much of the present day concern about the availability of fresh water is alleviated.

Commercial shipping - to include large yachts, I expect - is already an explicit target market at Blacklight Power.  I'm not convinced they've fully thought through the whole "commercial airliner" aspect, but neither have I, so I remain open to being convinced.

And that's just in the USA; with all of its coastline (and population density there-on), what do you think China will make of this development?  You think Germany (all of Europe actually) won't give serious consideration to this technology instead of Russian oil?

Opportunity always creates (or, at the least, increases already existing) dangers; Randall Mills' discovery is no different.  From Saudi oil oligarchs, to back street used car salesmen, to government tax and utility entities world-wide, there is a galaxy of entrenched interests set to suffer economic disruption, if not out-right financial destruction, from this development.  It is only to be expected there will be equally widespread and determined opposition to any such change as this offers.  The transition process will be an expensive one without any objections being raised; indeed, the sheer cost of individual transition will be one of the first screams of outrage to be widely expressed.  Judging by the reactions from just the establishment science and engineering types so far, we can expect little less than near-civil war levels of resistance from those who are simply lethargic, who don't want to make their lives better if it means they have to change something they're comfortable doing and think they understand already. Imagine the reactions from those who actually stand to lose something as a result ...

On the other hand, peace in the middle-east and northern Africa might prove to consist of muslims tending Israeli-designed green houses with water distilled from ocean breezes hundreds of miles away.

I have no idea if the Blacklight technology will pan out as a commercial product or not.  It simply seems prudent to try to think through the potential disruption that opportunity of any description always consists of. Doing so in a fairly limited context (even one as fundamentally disruptive as this example) helps develop the mindset necessary to deal with any disruptive circumstance in a more positive and successful fashion.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Before It Gets Too Crowded Up On The Rooftop ...


Therefore, the Court finds that the District of Columbia’s complete ban on the carrying of handguns in public is unconstitutional. Accordingly, the Court grants Plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment and enjoins Defendants from enforcing the home limitations of D.C. Code § 7-2502.02(a)(4) and enforcing D.C. Code § 22-4504(a) unless and until such time as the District of Columbia adopts a licensing mechanism consistent with constitutional standards enabling people to exercise their Second Amendment right to bear arms.4 Furthermore, this injunction prohibits the District from completely banning the carrying of handguns in public for self-defense by otherwise qualified non-residents based solely on the fact that they are not residents of the District.

Now, of course, we all get to find out how long "permanently enjoined" lasts in actual practice.

I give it 'till noon Monday EDT at the latest myself.

Send a few bucks to the Second Amendment Foundation if you can; Alan and the boys (and girls! :)) are almost certainly already gearing up for the appeal.

Thank you, Alan Gura and the SAF for your outstanding work on all our behalf (and you can read the whole glorious thing here).

h/t to Joe Huffman - and yes, I pinched his title; it's just that good and I don't think he'll mind.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Germany 1 - Argentina 0

Now that the World Cup has finally run dry, can we get back to the Baseball?

Thanks to Borepatch for this one though.  I'm not quite convinced this is how FIFA wants the tourney to be remembered, but Whoops ... there it is.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

My Number Of The ... errr, Something

Just received official notice from the good folks at Elio Motors that I am number 4577 in line for my new car motorcycle vehicle.


No idea when that becomes a delivery date next year, but notification of that will come as an inquiry into my desired styling and optional features a few weeks before my new auto-cycle (you pick a better description) goes down the assembly line.  I know I want a touring trailer towing package and, based on Tam's recent experience, I'm thinking a rear-view camera option too (the "luggage hatch" doesn't feature glass and, however narrow the fuselage, the rear-view mirrors still won't "see" around corners).  I'll have to see what the tunes and travelogue features offered will cost come the day, it already comes with a pretty decent sound system as part of the base vehicle package (along with ac/heat, power windows and the more usual modern vehicle creature features).

I'm excited.

I only live an hour-and-a-half from the assembly plant in Shreveport, LA; I wonder if the company would let me pick mine up from the factory?

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Tea Party

... More resilient than Jesus.

Just ask House Majority Leader Eric Cantor:
Tea Party candidate soundly defeated House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., on Tuesday, sending shockwaves through the Republican establishment and the Democratic Party.
And Dave Brat, the 52-year-old chairman of the Randolph-Macon College Department of Economics and Business in Ashland, Va., staged the huge upset without any help from major Tea Party organizations.
The expression "Quantity has a quality all its own" comes to mind here; grass roots everywhere isn't a "major group", but it's still everywhere.  Good luck in your future endeavors Eric, but keep in mind that your hand still doesn't belong in anybody else's pocket.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

For A Given Value Of "Gun School"

Most people who carry a firearm have made some effort to resolve the question of Why to shoot. There are a number of widely respected instructors on How to shoot.  What I don't think we see often enough are classes on When to shoot.   This coming Thursday, I'm going to get to check my home study of the laws governing firearm usage in Texas with the pros.

You know how you can feel pretty confident you have a good grasp on the issues and facts?  We'll see.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Some Of My Best Work ...

... shows up on other people's blog; this time Say Uncle bears the burden:
the ACT-UP crowd actually put the gay rights agenda BEHIND.Which so neatly explains why ACT-UP basically owns San Francisco politics now – and thinks the rest of the country recognizing gays as “different, but normal” is a huge loss for gay rights.
Which will work as a metaphor for what follows.
As I understand things, OCT was started with the specific intention of influencing Texas politics toward legalizing open carry of handguns in the state, and deliberately chose to illustrate the logical consistency of that position by demonstrating the already legal public open carry of rifles and shotguns by Texans.
Subsequently, it appears that at least some of the affiliate groups (specifically the one in Tarrant Co. – much of Dallas, essentially – and Austin) have been taken control of by individuals who deliberately conflate state political activism with federal 2A activism, and manage to consistently achieve a completely predictable mess of both as a result.
Holding public rallies featuring citizens carrying their “long guns” in public in support of a desired state legislative change is (and has been) well received by most citizens in the state. Texas law prohibits the carrying of “modern” sidearms (defined in this case as being manufactured after 1899) on your body outside of a very few specific activities, but a sizable percentage of state citizens are licensed to carry them concealed. Making the point that the same people can carry all (Ok, a couple of :)) their guns at the same time, but some of them have to be kept out of plain sight, makes a legitimate political point.
And, if that was the message actually being sent consistently, most gun owners in other states probably wouldn’t get too excited.
By expanding the OCT effort to also challenge federal law regarding 2A exercise, the basic OCT message is obscured and activists from other states are understandably enough more than a little annoyed that their efforts on the national level are being inhibited by these people badly making an argument in support of a strictly state-level issue (no matter how many different states have a similar effort underway).
The part I find most annoying is that, mostly as a result of college football rivalry, the Texas legislature will probably go ahead and vote to approve OC of handguns (probably only to those who have a CHL) next session, because Oklahoma just passed their version of OC earlier this year. Which means that these dillweeds in Dallas and Austin will no doubt be loudly claiming credit for how effective their efforts were and what A-holes the rest of us were, etc.
At least I could go back to wearing T-shirts that fit next year (or the following, depending).
I’ve tried to make the point about this before, but the OCTers involved have a well-practiced routine of arguing the other point whenever challenged and dismissing any naysayer as being anti-2A and so unworthy of offering criticism (and mostly won’t even acknowledge what I say anyway) (not that I’m anybody special). Fortunately, the out-session committee work is being largely done over the course of this week (6/2 thru 6/6), so much of the urgency these people are currently feeling will recede shortly.
Hopefully OCT as a state-wide group will get a better grip on their group message discipline before next year’s legislative session. Also, anyone working in their own state (or on the federal level) can find plenty of lesson material for their efforts from all this – some of it even good (ask yourselves, how many of the other local Texas political demonstrations [using the same basic format] on this issue have you heard mention of?).
I should point out that I'm actually sort of sympathetic to the argument that the Second Amendment's "shall not be infringed" clause ought to take precedence in laws directed at firearms ownership, but this is a distinct issue from that of the strategy of political activism and the disturbing failure recent Open Carry Texas efforts have demonstrated in trying to achieve that change to Texas legislation.  Successful political activists focus all discussion on their one message; these guys are deliberately muddying their message while also giving support to their opposition.

As has been said before; stop helping.