Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Energy Question: A Solution

I'm wondering if something like this made by these nice people here might not be "the answer" to the worlds future energy needs when coupled with a scaled down version (on the order of a 10 kwh capability, say) of one of these to augment the solar component?

The Hyperion unit could be incorporated into a single structure (buried or not as seems best) along with the other external-to-the-living-structure components of a modern dwelling, air circulation and conditioning, water filtration and heating and cooling, sewage treatment, etc. There's no inherent requirement that any of these technologies necessarily be a stand-alone entity, despite that being the result stemming from the historical development of each process.

If we were to include this technology (to electrolize and store fuel for an emergency generator as well as a vehicle) as part of the combined energy development system as well, then individual energy semi-independence would seem a realistic and near-term objective. I qualify that statement because I foresee an ongoing need for periodic servicing of all this technology that an individual home owner isn't likely to want/be able to do for him/herself in any sort of economical fashion.

Please take note, this particular proposal would not adequately address the continuing need for commercial demand for electrical power; we would still need the electrical distribution grid to power commercial enterprise for the foreseeable future. What this would do is to relieve existing residential demand and projected increased future non-commercial demand to energise the ever expanding selection of electrically powered equipment available to individual electrical energy consumers. The effect of which would be tantamount to an expansion of our grid and centralised power generation capabilities, allowing a more gradual expansion process or for further technological development to meet increased future needs.

How do we pay for it all? Basically, the same way we pay for any other growth of a market, we let the rich go first! :)

In fact, we do everything we reasonably can to encourage them to do so. Who else can better afford to finance a newish industry to the point of development that sufficient economies of scale and product refinement are achieved to permit greater depth and width of market penetration? Such that decidedly blue-collar me can afford to adopt them too.

Lack of a piece of paper that says I'm smart doesn't automatically equate to my being stupid, you know.

That bold claim having been asserted, I can't help thinking I'm missing something obvious about all this though. At least one obvious thing is the current lack of a unifying force.

Basic rule of strategy (one of several, actually); individual advancement always takes precedence over group advancement absent some unifying force to keep group advancement more profitable to the individual then s/he could expect to achieve working at odds to all others.

If such an inclination were a natural condition of business, it seems reasonable that these demonstrably intelligent people would already be making efforts to do something very like meeting this widely recognised, and demonstrably unmet, market demand. Since that doesn't appear to be the case, I speculate that someone with sufficient bucks to command attention will be needed to convince the component companies that a portion of a virtually unlimited market (see here or here for some existing limitations) is a better alternative to seeking a profit from none of an unmet one.

Any thoughts? What else am I missing?

Saturday, June 28, 2008

With Friends Like These ...

I believe this is known as "damning with faint praise":

IT APPEARS that there have been some accusations made against our rugby union players currently touring New Zealand. A lady apparently alleges that some of them behaved inappropriately towards her.

To be honest, after watching them last Saturday morning, I find it hard to believe that they could actually catch someone, never mind hold them down. Although I’m not sure that counts as evidence.

The not-so-Hot Fuzz come in for their fair share of attention too.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Gandhi, Stage 4 (almost)

This article at offers an even-handed report on the current general state of gerontological research, in particular as regards Aubrey de Grey's SENS theory(s).

What I find particularly instructive are the comments.

I frankly don't know if Dr. de Grey is correct in his speculations or not. I am quite certain (having read his book) that his theories are deliberately structured in a fashion to facilitate their being tested by the scientific community without need of his direct participation. And, equally frankly, I find his willingness to speculate about the potential ramifications of his series of experiments to be both stimulating and cautionary.

What I don't understand is why any of this should cause such extreme fearfulness in people. What part of living a disease free and healthy life until eventually something kills you is so disturbing to some people? It's not like it's going to change our ultimate outcome or anything, we're still going to go "splat" when we finally do wind up going under the bus. Other than our not having to suffer the aches and pains, physical inabilities and generally being a burden to others that we are forced to endure as the aging process now, of course. Is getting older somehow less scary if it hurts too?

I just don't get it.

Update: Brian Wang at Next Big Future got there first. As usual ... :)

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Ankleing* our way into the future

An intriguing article in the New York Times Health Guide on the current state of medical technology, specifically the human ankle joint.

I found certain aspects of the interview to be of particular interest:

In orthopedics, the problem with cartilage, the translucent rubbery material that covers and protects the ends of bone, is that it doesn’t want to regenerate. We can get bone to regenerate, but not cartilage in the same way. When cartilage is damaged, the body often attempts to repair it with weaker fibrocartilage, but this is not as durable as the original cartilage. However, we are now actively at work in the laboratory looking to use adult stem cells to repair damaged cartilage, restore surface geometry and function, eliminate pain and delay or prevent further joint destruction.

Did someone say something about a lack of stem cell research in the USA? Sorry, had to get the snark out of my system before it created a blockage or something. I feel better now.

That aside, this paragraph offers hope for more than just ankle joint ailments and injuries. Cartilage exists in every skeletal joint in the human body; being able to repair/regrow it would be an essential capability to achieving the stated goals of SENS I would think.

Research is also being carried out using small molecules that can be used as drugs to stimulate cellular signaling pathways to trigger local cartilage cells to turn on and create more cartilage. We are in the early stages with this exciting research, but as we gain a better understanding of the fundamental biology and the mechanics of the foot and ankle, I expect that we will be very advanced in the next 10 years.

I keep seeing that time period being suggested. Just for the sake of discussion, let's round it up to the year 2020. Without being too specific, that's the year when I will qualify for full benefits status as a recipient of social security and medicare.

What I find particularly compelling about the good doctor's prognostication is that by the time I'm old enough to apply for retirement benefits (I'm deliberately foregoing editorialising via scare quotes), it appears a reasonable expectation that I might well be physically healthy and capable enough not to want to do any such opportunity-limiting thing at all.

Many years ago now, then-Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich popularised the phrase "Opportunity Society". One of the tenets that concept stipulated was that we each would need to make ourselves better informed about the (medical in this example) alternatives available to us resulting from technological advances as our personal condition demanded. Our personal experts (the professionals who's services we individually retained) couldn't be expected to keep that degree of specific knowledge immediately on-hand at all times. We were going to have to assume some portion of proactive responsibility in guiding our personal regimen, whether that be health related, financial, whatever the topic of interest might be. We will still need the specialised expertise to fully implement whatever course of action is ultimately settled upon, but we each would take a more involved approach to initiating and guiding that determination process.

So, in the present example, it falls to each of us to make ourselves sufficiently informed enough of medical advances to offer reasonably specific suggestions to our personal physician regarding our particular medical condition. Should each of us be successful in doing so, it would appear that we might have a reasonable expectation of living to see some aspect of singularity transpire after all (whatever form that might eventually take).

All a part of staying out from under the bus as I see it.

NYT article via Instapundit.

* English english slang for walking.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Advance to the ... oh, off over there. I think.

Brian Wang has a wonderfully intriguing post up at Next Big Future.

A company called Blacklight Power has announced their development of a prototype power generation device that functions based upon a new resolution of the paradoxes inherent in Einstein's Theory of Relativity. While I make no secret of my high school dropout status (quite the contrary, in fact), the following statement by Dr. Mills, who's theoretical work (.pdf) it is drawn from, seems critically important to uneducated me:

"However, this inability to identify or understand the nature of
absolute space and an absolute frame at rest should not be confused with the lack of their existence and the consequences for the nature of spacetime, matter, and energy."

What this statement implies to me is that all the experimental work performed using Einstein's (and others) theoretical work as a basis cannot be considered exclusive of other work performed using a (proposed) more complete theory. None of which necessarily speaks to the accuracy or honesty of any such previous work, just by the way. I would go so far as to ask, how could a theory which doesn't acknowledge a certain datum possibly disprove anything derived from that previously unrecognised datum?

Thus, when a commenter at Next Big Future said:

"Strling Westrup said...
This is sheer nonsense. Mills is explicitly saying that Quantum Mechanics, the most rigorously tested theory in all of science is flat out wrong.

For him to be right, the last 30 years of experiments would have to have all been falsified.

The chances are MUCH higher that little green men will arrive tomorrow and give us advanced alien energy technology. Why not write about them instead?

June 18, 2008"

... I was slightly taken aback.

If his reaction can be fairly taken as indicative of mainstream response to Dr. Mills' theoretical work, then it becomes quite obvious that certainly in Mr. Westrup's case he hasn't bothered to think the matter through very well, if at all.

As seems obvious to me, the fact that an admittedly incomplete theory (by none other than A. Einstein himself) doesn't take into account data that it does not include hardly equates to, "the last 30 years of experiments would have to have all been falsified.", does it? Dr. Mills is proposing a complete Unified Theory which, if I understand things, includes Quantum Mechanics as a contributing component, after all.

Strikes me as a lot of hand waving while resolutely looking the other way, Mr. Westrup.

None of the foregoing should be taken as any sort of endorsement of all this on my part; I firmly associate myself with the position advanced by fellow blogger Al Fin:

"al fin said...
The proof is in the pudding. The company has set its goals in a short enough timespan so that we will soon know whether they are just trolling for investors, or if they actually do have something new.

Brian isn't vouching for the technology or science. He is only letting us know what the company is doing and what its claims are. You can do what you want with the information."

Let me also take this opportunity to say that my use of Mr. Westrup's readily available comment to illustrate a point was not an attempt to insult him personally. No offense was intended, Sir.

Friday, June 13, 2008


So, here's the question, are we subject to the Rule of Law or are we subjects of the Law as Ruler? Are we really going to confine ourselves, in particular those who have chosen the role of defending us, to choose between this:

Habeus corpus, for those of you unfamiliar with the term, is a right under the US Constitution that allows US citizens to challenge their incarceration in court. What this ruling means is that terrorist non-citizens now have the right to go to court before a federal judge who will determine whether the government has sufficient evidence that they committed crimes, and who may order the release of these men if the judge decides the government lacks grounds for holding them.

Aside from stretching the Constitution out of shape to cover non-citizens who basically amount to POW's, the Court's action also negates a system of military tribunals already okayed by Congress and signed into law ...

... (A)nd there's no limit to how insane this can get...was the prisoner read his Miranda rights? Did the soldier who captured him use excessive force? Is there any conclusive proof that the AK 47 found with the prisoner in that cave was actually used to fire at US soldiers? Anybody actually see the prisoner performing aggressive acts, or did he just look like he was about to? Was the prisoner allowed to talk to a lawyer before he was interrogated?

And what about discovery, the legal procedure that allows a defendant's lawyers access to all the evidence the prosecution has...including secret informants within groups like al-Qaeda, top secret methods of surveillance and even access to ongoing investigations on other related terrorists? How many jihadis will the US government have to kick loose simply because they can't afford to compromise US security operations in open court?

Or this:

... the Supreme Court decision on Habeus Corpus for non-citizen, non-combatants is a disaster for the American people and the war against terror.

I have a question: are our soldiers on foreign shores now required to read the Miranda rights to Islamo Nazi scum?

Here's my suggestion to our troops: Take no prisoners.

Really? And it's no good quoting Andrew Jackson now, either. I don't recall him being all that successful with the idea back in the day.

So, either we isolate ourselves from all other nations through their quite reasonable fear of our revealing their intelligence in open court (not to mention our own data), or we commit ourselves to, as official policy, an endless succession of atrocities to avoid the alternative.

"Accept No Surrender" = "Kill Them All".

I certainly hope this is only an example of "unintended consequence" as I'm really not looking forward to the virtually inevitable alternative.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

New Addition

Thought I'd take this opportunity to point out a new link in the blogroll: The B J Norris Blog. BJ shoots IPSC competitively and is (or has been) the National and World Junior Champion. Just for the exercise mostly, he also shoots Steel Plate, where he most recently split top honors with two members of the US Army's Marksmanship Unit Action Pistol Team.

Since he doesn't wear a hat when he's not shooting anyway (so it doesn't matter if you get a bit of a swelled head, BJ :)), the boy is scary good.

Having a conversation with him can be err, a bit disconcerting. By way of example, BJ has the habit of spontaneously assuming a shooting stance and practicing his draw-and-target-acquisition drill - without missing a conversational beat.

Let's face it, if the rest of us understood how champions really functioned there wouldn't be anything special about it would there? They have different, and so much higher, expectations than do the rest of us because they actually live what the rest of us only work or play at.

Still, it's a bit off-putting when you first experience the thing - he's really not throwing some kind of firearm-related spastic fit, it just looks that way until you've trained your eye to follow events closely enough to see what he's actually doing. Champion competitors really are different from the rest of us, I don't care how much they might like to think otherwise.

Oh, and that's the other point of this post; BJ works at Lock and Load so I get to take a regular customer's advantage of his good nature and expertise whenever he happens to be able to show up for work (ie: when he's not travelling to someone else's town to show them up instead).

So, when it comes to matters gun related on this blog, from now on you'll have to ask yourself, "Is it BS, or BJ?"

Good Luck in San Antonio next weekend stud. Show 'em how it's done.

Friday, June 6, 2008


I'm currently reading Philip Carlo's biography, The Ice Man; Confessions of a MAFIA Contract Killer. True Crime isn't my usual choice of genre, but having seen parts of a documentary about Richard Kuklinski on one of the hobo channel clones I decided I wanted to read a little more about the man.

In the chapter Mob Guys and Crooked Cops, Mr. Carlo recounts an exchange between Richard Kuklinski and a pair of west coast hoodlums called "Rat Face" and "Ferret Face":

"That for me?" Richard asked, friendly enough, but not liking either of these men.

"Yeah, that's for you," Ferret Face said. "You got any ID?"

"Do you have any ID?" Richard asked.


"Then why should I?" Richard wanted to know.

They all stared at one another. Uncomfortable seconds slipped by. Richard reached inside his jacket and pulled out a short-barreled pistol.

"This is my ID. Its called .357," Richard said. "And in this pocket, I've got some more ID - it's called .38." Richard added, showing them both his guns, solemn-faced, staring at them, deadpan.

A few sentences later, Mr. Carlo comments:

"In those days there was no screening for drugs or weapons and Richard was able to walk onto the plane without being questioned or challenged. Without incident he made it back to Hoboken, delivered the suitcase, was paid, and as far as Richard was concerned, it was a done deal."

Now, I'm quite prepared to stipulate that Richard Kuklinski was and remains one of the most brutally dangerous men alive on this planet. Even so, he managed to travel by air without incident or apparent danger to anyone else on the airplane while being demonstrably well armed.

Tell me again about how much safer the airport Nazis make our air travel experience.

While I suspect Mr. Carlo might disagree (the passage, read in context, comes across as being more than a little disparaging of the historical practice) I suggest this passage from his book nonetheless makes clear that the presence of weapons doesn't determine the presence of threat, rather that their availability offers additional potential response in the event of threat/danger as a result of some other person's actions.

The point being that, while I'm heartily glad that Richard Kuklinski is a lifetime guest of the state (Update: and has since died as such), it is the intentions of the individual, not how well armed s/he may be, that makes security measures necessary. Only those measures that confront this fact directly should be seriously considered; all else is mere theater to support the manipulation of the many to the benefit of the politically adroit few.

Update: I made several minor edits to this post to correct stylistic errors after returning home from work. Haste also makes nonsense of a questionable argument too.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Love Is In The Air

Mr. Free Market suggests that the Israeli's might benefit from some assistance in their efforts to "spread the love", while I recommend in comments that an altogether bigger tool might offer greater satisfaction.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Sugar and Spice and ...

Happy Birthday, Lara.

Love always,


Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Progress's Progression

Ray Kurzweil's theory on the exponential nature of technological progress receives a shallow but even-handed review in the NY Times. However, the Grey Lady missed an opportunity to illustrate how the Technological Singularity is achieved. At least part of the reason so many people have difficulty accepting the concept of a singularity is that they can't imagine how we get to such an extreme capability from our present level of knowledge. The boys and girls at Duke University provide an excellent show-and-tell example.

As our knowledge base grows and our increased comprehension permits us to achieve ever greater technological achievements, the Singularity will continue to recede into our technological future to a certain extent. To prevent being personally overwhelmed by the exponential nature of that advance, we each need to attempt to incorporate into our daily lives whichever of the advances developed we are able to. The dis-advantage of exponential change is the steadily accelerating rate at which further change occurs. If you take too long to "upgrade", you may not be able to take advantage of what follows.

Via Instapundit.

Monday, June 2, 2008

The (An?) American Way

Back to Al Fin again and their latest post Solar Powered Biomass Gasification. I can't pretend to any expertise in this area of research, but I find it an endlessly fascinating display of human ingenuity. The very concept of growing and/or building our way out of a problem has always struck me as being the ultimate expression of what I as an American regard as being our fundamental trait as a society and as individuals.

A more complete collection of posts on this and related subjects can be found at Al Fin Energy.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Minute of William, Update Zwei

Given that Steve Prater had a long-standing commitment to officiate at a wedding yesterday (and there's a story behind all that I mean to tell some day), I took his absence as an opportunity to test possible rifle configurations, using my other .22 Mag boltie (a Marlin 882 SS model in black composition stock, identical to this current offering with the addition of adjustable open sights with hooded front sight as shown here).

In preparation for same, on my way home from work the previous night I stopped in at my friendly neighborhood Walmart Super Center (no, really, it's literally right around the corner from my apartment and accesses the main thoroughfare I have to take to the factory, which itself is only another mile down the road) (commute? What's that? :)). Along with admiring the predictable collection of mildly-toasted post-party college girls giggling their way down the aisles (reason enough for a casual wander about the store on a Friday night in and of itself), I stopped in the sporting goods department long enough to put one of these Shooters Ridge model 40853 in the shopping cart, which is a regularly stocked item at this particular store. At $38.95 (plus the governor's gratuity), this 9" to 13" bipod didn't seem too unreasonable a price for essentially a one-time test for applicability. And in fact, between 10" and 11" proved to be the right height above the shooting surface for me at my present notch in the girth strap. I further discovered that an integral swivel may well be an absolutely neat-o feature, but not one I'm willing to pay extra for. I am, however, quite sold on the desirability of notches in the bipod legs. A .22 mag doesn't have any serious recoil issues (although firing off anything much over 50 rounds or so will cause a mild degree of tenderization in the applicable shoulder joint), but does generate sufficient vibration between potentially moving parts in and on the gun to make them prone to spontaneously doing so. This can be quite disconcerting when the thumbscrew on one bipod leg isn't quite as tight as is the one on the opposite leg. So, leg notches - and thank you very much for that info in comments Kevin; right again.

After firing off 75 rounds of CCI (Maxi-Mag, 40 grain Total Metal Jacket @ 1875 fps), I had Ken Lottman (click on "Our Staff") order this Harris Bipod, which should arrive at the store by weeks end.

As for a sling, I've settled on the Butler Creek Quick Carry model, in black for the fashion conscious, which should also arrive as part of the same order (both items were "in stock" at the time of the phoned-in augmentation to the routine weekly order) (I'm such a special guy!). As it turns out, I already had one example of this sling in my closet at home. While it was nice not to have to buy a sling for this experiment, the thought of transferring the one I had back and forth between two different rifles was just too silly to contemplate.

I like to pretend I'm thrifty, not flint-ass cheap.

At least two items remain as yet unresolved ...

First is that I'm simply going to have to have Steve do a trigger job on this rifle as well. The weight of the gun and bipod will cause the trigger to break, but without the bipod requires a little jiggle to help things along. Not an insurmountable condition (I managed a couple of 7 round, 3/4" groups at 25 yards), but not something to put up with for any longer than necessary either. The point of all this is to make shooting an enjoyable test of my skills don't you know.

The other item is that I find myself less than impressed with the Simmons Blazer 3-9 x 40mm fixed objective scope currently mounted on this rifle.

In this particular - and quite limited - setting, at least.

Don't get me wrong, Simmons makes a perfectly fine product, and upgrading to a different scope isn't in my near-term plans, but the optical difference between the two guns is appreciable. It may be that the Simmons scope will prove the better (or at least a perfectly adequate) model in an outdoor/field setting. I certainly hope so, since I also have this same model Simmons scope mounted on a different, larger caliber, rifle as well. Much more shooting with these two rifles will be required to make that judgement.

Like that should come as a surprise to anyone. :)

Another good day at the range. There can be a bad day you know; that potential is part of the inherent challenge of the sport, after all, and one of the more atavistic aspects that makes for so much discomfort in non-participants, I believe.

A topic for another day, perhaps. How was your day?