Saturday, February 23, 2008

Why it pays to know your PC hardware. A lesson in the greatness of the internet.

I love my desktop computers, I love each and every one...Rorschach, Beebe, Theseus and even little my little suckcock (that's what I named the old HP that I frankensteined)

But lately I have been thinking about laptops. Specifically this one.

Granted having a quad core laptop would be nothing shy of silly but it engaged my brain cogs all the same. Plus I have been thinking about Nat's laptop lately and wondered if a cheap linux laptop could make its way into my possession in the next year or so.

However my enthusiasm and cognizance of PC hardware has proven an ill fit for UPOR (Uber Pwnage On the Road) I was looking at Dell's options for the attactive Ubuntu 7.10 Gutsy selection of laptops and found the lightest of them debutued at a modest $649 plus shipping and all that.

That's not bad for starters but the curse of knowing what is out there prevents me from ever accepting default selections. So, just for kicks I specced out the Inspiron 1525N as I would want to purchase it. To my dismay what started as a $649 laptop quickly jumped up to a much more expensive situation.

Here's a screenie to illustrate my point.

It got me to thinking...what if instead of upgrading via dell I just bought better parts from It might work out better this way and I can always offload the other stuff on craigslist.

Now the four salient points for this particular brand of laptop are as follows.

CPU - Default 1.6 Core 2 Duo
RAM 1 Gig DDR2 667mhz
HDD 120 gig drive at 5400 rpm
DVD Burner/software - It's an 80 dollar upgrade for some Roxio software but HELLO this is a Linux laptop. Sheesh. Let's focus on Hardware.

From Dell. Stick with default chip or upgrade to 2.0ghz core 2 duo and pay 250 or go to newegg and spend about 210. Check it out.

So we save 40 bucks (Shipping will be factored in at the end) AND we get the 1.6 and the 2.0 chips.

RAM is so dirt cheap right now it's hard to believe that anyone could settle for a mere gig. However via Dell adding 3 gigs to the total costs 300 even. Or go to newegg and shell out 84 dollars for 4 brand new gigs of Kington Ram. You can go pqi or OCZ as well and stay under the 90 bucks neighborhood.

Plus you get to sell the other gig on craigslist.

Harddrive default is 120 gigs at 5400 rpm. That's pretty cool for a laptop since you can always warehouse collection at home on a fat Sata drive. Upgrading to a 160 gig drive at 7200 rpms adds 155 to your tag. Newegg only costs 150.

I realize that's a pretty modest difference but you aren't just upgrading you get to keep that 120 gig drive and for a measly 19 bucks you can get an enclosure and hey presto your backup situation is resolved as well. That's right, 20 bucks more gets you almost total backup coverage.

Let's review the upgrade/replacement scenario

CPU = 250/210
RAM= 300/84
HDD= 155/150

So we see that the total cost to upgrade from Dell is 705 bucks. Total cost to swap out components is 444. Add 20 for the enclosure and factor in shipping and everything and the grand total only adds up to be about 472. Not a bad deal especially when you consider the RAM CPU resale plus you'll have an easy way to backup data or just carry more around with you.

Shipping turned out to be a lot less than I thought. Still More than 200 bucks cheaper even if you just toss out the surplus hardware.

If you take nothing else away from this post remember this. RAM is just dirt cheap right now. Don't pay 300 bucks when you can shell out only 90 and get the same type and quality. A little research, and a little consumer awareness go a long long way when its time to upgrade or replace your system.

Next up I'm going to look at Alienware and see what a difference I can make there vs newegg.

BS alert!!!

Dear people...

When I read things as I am about to link to I can only shake my head with chagrin. For if people could not swallow BS in such potent doses people would have to cut it smaller and weaker for anyone to bite down.

If you feel like cutting a swath of brain cells down in their prime simply click here.

It's almost too perfect not to throw a shout out to cectic's latest comic.

If you don't want to read it that's fine the gist is that a bunch of 'scientists' supposedly built some random number generators and then had 'people off the street' come in and concentrate on shifting the patterns.

The article goes on to explain how putting these 'random number generators' all over the world that weird inexplicable spikes happen during momentous events including the death of princess diana and september 11th.

What the article fails to mention is any explanation of how the devices were built, what technology they use and how non-existant human mental powers could have any effect on them whatsoever.

The whole thing smacks of nonsensical pseudoscience, it's fucking chain-letter material at best. Here's a few problems with the article from a critical thinking stand point.

1) The biggest red flag is that the premise of the article is that there's a device capable of sensing the future. Sub-BS it does so by tapping into the non-existant group conscious of OTHER HUMAN BEINGS.
2) The work stems from a lone scientist. The guy is obviously working with subpar equipment and personnel if he doesn't even have a team or a lab or anything.
3) Random number generation is best done using computer algorithms. While they are not truly random (you'd need a quantum computer for that) that can get pretty close.
4) The human brain is a vehicle of information processing. As far as every other relevant scientific discipline can tell it works strictly in standalone mode. Sure people with brains communicate but its totally indirect. Compared to networked computers trying to talk to another brain is like typing up a report, printing it out and then physically handing it to the other brain who then scans it in, crunches the data and in turn spits out pages back (in terms of speed anyways)
5) There is no 'greater consciousness' that humans share or tap into. As a species I am sure we have a lot of redundant pathways and similar structures that allow people to understand and share culture even as we are able to absorb it when no other species can. Chimps can to a much smaller degree but that's another discussion.
6) Belief in this article requires belief in esp, shared consciousness for the human race, devices susceptible to esp and humanity's innate ability to sense catastrophe before it happens.

I'll go no further except to point out that this article fails a prime naturalistic bullshit test. Namely if we apply the standard given to humans to any other mammal it will produce absurdly sad results.

Here's a taste of the article but I have replaced all the people with monkeys.

"Dr John Hartwell, working at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands, was the first to uncover evidence that [monkeys] could sense the future. In the mid 1970s he hooked [monkeys] up to hospital EEG machines so that he could study their brainwave patterns. When these [monkeys] were shown emotionally charged cartoons, characteristic patterns flickered through their brainwaves. Strangely, these patterns began to emerge a few seconds before [monkeys] actually saw the pictures.

But it was to be another 15 years before anyone else took this work further. Dean Radin,
[a monkey] working in America, connected [monkeys] up to a machine that measured [monkey] skin's resistance to electricity. This is known to fluctuate in tandem with [monkey's] moods, indeed, it's this principle that underlies many lie detectors. Radin repeated Dr Hall's work whilst measuring skin resistance. Again, [monkeys] began reacting a few seconds before they were shown the pictures. This was clearly impossible, or so he thought, so he kept on repeating the experiments and getting the same results."

Sound a little far fetched? Well we share a common ancestor who's to say chimps never developed language because they're all communing on a higher plane of existence than mere physical distractions.

Suck it, pseudoscience. We're not fooled!!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Scary Dog Picture...

This will cheer me up when I am sad...

I'm actually quite ok right now, just thought I'd slap it up.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Segment: I'm a better parent than you.

For those of you who don't know my work situation goes something like this. I sit at my desk, cluster o' PC's at the ready to handle my gruntwork, our receptionist in Raleigh sends me tickets via MSN Messenger and I respond to them as needed.

It's a decent one-person-call-center sort of arrangement. I will say that our knowledge base is prone to synaptic misfires and isn't really fault tolerant (being my brain and all) but its a good enough system.

One problem is the two-tier social structure of incoming work requests. Namely Kim filters out the fluffy stuff (meaning the non-tech, sales and customer service component of our company) and the calls sluice over into my domain. As you can see there's a clear level of bias since annoying people will affect Kim first and then her reaction will in turn affect me.

This has certain...negative consequences for my day.

For example last week a certain client called in three times in rapid succession over a minor issue. I was content to let it just sit there and fester until I reached them by my priority scale. However their annoyance agitated my coworker who karmically passed it on to me.

I expressed my concern, this was after all not something I usually bow to. Why not answer a customer in distress? Because that is fucking bullshit, that's why.

I bumped three calls to respond to their minor issue. I rewarded the whiny and forsook the patient among us. That galls me in several ways. Let's set aside the very obvious cognitive dissonance of knowing the psychological implications and bowing to them anyway.

This of course leads to an ugly and unavoidable cycle of irritation at the problem and scrutiny of how to avoid it in the future. If not careful this sort of point/counterpoint can simply lead to infinite recursion.

Like this gem I got while beta testing gotoassist.

In the end it is only with a measure of fortitude that we can move past such contradictions. After all it's pretty easy to break out of recursion. It's called beer.

And it makes me happy.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Dark have been my dreams of late...

In case you're wondering the title phrase was uttered by King Theoden of LOTR fame shortly after being exorcised by one Gandalf Stormcrow.

I have been feeling somewhat disquieted and angry lately but without form or purpose this malevolence turns to pure frustration. Work has contributed but much more so than usual. It's like running a marathon with two annoying yappy type dogs in tow. I have the muscle for it sure but the constant distractions and kid gloves are getting tiresome.

Not that I've been sleeping much what with all the shenanigans and goings on. Anyway all my short term projects are over with and done. Trying to bring myself to work on a book or a short story turns instantly flustering, than galling and then I get so super pissed off because I want to do it but I can't fucking make it happen like I want to.

At the risk of sounding petulant, well no I am just going to be a bitch about it, I have been contemplating the injustices of the world lately.

Worse still so many of them prove to be good ideas in the long run or lean towards some aspect of the greater good it makes me sick. I mean of course the genetic proclivity towards certain behaviors and aspirations. I wish I could master certain parts of my brain better by allowing more conscious control and simultaneously curse the innefficent slag heap soaking up 20% of my caloric intake every day.

Stupid self-part of my brain!

Here's what I mean. When I set an alarm for myself I am perpetually waking up 30 mins or so before it goes off. I check the time and get frustrated because it's too early to get up. What sucks is that by the time the alarm goes off I just want to go back to sleep.

When Natalie's alarm goes off I snap awake in a second and it takes me an hour to get back to sleep. What possible use does that have for me? Oh good another hour to lie awake feeling like crap and accomplishing nothing. Thanks, brain. Really.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Scary how things turn out sometimes on the internet...

Take this page for example.

The other day I was thinking about the problem where you have to connect a 3x3 grid of dots using only 4 lines without 'picking up the pencil' as it were. Click the link for the conventional solution.

It reminded me of my days back in Algebra class, circa 8th grade year. We had this as a bonus problem or something and I thought to myself...self, surely there's a better way to solve this problem.

The way it was phrased was that you had to draw a line through ALL the dots (not points, but dots, that's important.) and you could not draw curved lines, nor pick up the pencil and you only got 4 to work with.

Naturally people are flustered at first (at least 8th graders) because you have to draw the line outside the confines of the grid so that you can complete the puzzle. As a joke Ms. Collins said she'd give an A to anyone who could solve the problem while keeping within the rules using less than 4 lines. I examined the simple matrix and pondered it for a few minutes and finally came up with a brilliant solution using only 3 lines.

Care to see?
Ok so check it out. Here's the solution using only 3 lines.

Ok I know my graphic is TERRIBLE but it was the best I could do without hating myself for wasting the time. In case it's too awful to tell the first line begins left of center for the 7 dot and crosses the right edge of the 1 dot. This line travels up to an unspecified point (I didn't do the math because I don't really care about distance and my mspaint skills aren't up to par.)

So anyway as I recall the teacher REFUSED to accept my solution citing the mathematical convention of 'point' being a formless, massless and zero space entity. I protested on the grounds that even if each dot was a single angstrom thick you could still get enough parallax to form the three line solution. It's kind of like a really steady EKG but oh well.

Needless to say my creativity, and I think that's a pretty damn creative solution, was wasted and I received a single point of extra credit for 'defending my idea' This was the same teacher who spent five minutes lecturing me on how I had a terrible work ethic, couldn't show my work and displayed very little aptitude for math (which I'll concede) and then dismissively remarked that I wouldn't fail the class because I happened to land a near perfect score on the state mandated math exam.

Gotta love standardized testing eh?

Here's your homework now. Go to google and type 'ubuntu logo' and then see what pops under images. Oh and be sure to turn safesearch off. It'll blow your mind.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Linux on my mind...

So I just wanted to write a quick note from my nascent linux machine. I don't have pics to prove it but I was finally able to restore the box to all and more of its former glory.

The Machine is called 'Argonaut' for whimsical reasons, it just popped into my head that way. The box lived in an attic for some years before I rescued it.

"Board is fried but everything else should be ok," said the former owner.

"We'll see," I replied. Granted I spent several attempts and a few cranky hours tinkering with the bios and fudging around with the system to get it fixed. At long last I was finally able to do so. Where Mandriva, OpenSUSE and Ubuntu's Feisty and Gutsy failed for some reason Kubuntu Gutsy (7.10 I believe) worked. I just had to run the Oem setup and it worked like a charm. Granted there are a few errata I am working through but for the most part all is well.

Let's consider Hardware for a moment. Even though I didn't really construct much of the guts of the case I spent enough time fucking around with cables and little components to fairly designate this PC as Build III.

If you'll remember Build I (Rorschach) is my primary system and Build II (Beebe) is my folding @home/storage box. Whie Build III is my official linux box I don't have a designated purpose for it as of now. Perhaps if Build II goes pure SATA I can gank the half-terabyte of IDE goodness for Build III to enjoy.

Anyways, here's the nitty gritty for the new Box.

****Update - Due to some serendipitous circumstances I discovered that the HP PC will not be upgradeable to 2.8 ghz after all. Luckily though one of the salvaged socket 478 chips that I had clocked out at 3.2 ghz so it all balances out. I was hoping to upgrade the 2.53 chip to 2.8 but since the 2.8 is clocked for a 533mhz front side bus the damn power supply would come on but the board just sat totally still.

Build III - Kubuntu 7.10
3.2 ghz Pentium 4 Processor
2 gigabytes DDR400 Ram (4 x 512mb sticks)
128mb AGP 8x MSI Video card (Geforce 5200 series)
160gb IDE HDD

All of this tasty goodness is sitting primly on an intel server board circa 2003. So it's a bit older than I tend to like them but it cost nothing to build, nothing to load OS and the electricity I can spare.

It's ironic that I also acquired an HP Pavilion with a dead HDD and valid XP Home Key. Luckily I had a dinky little 80gig drive laying around. I'll probably dual boot another distro or two once I decide to swap the processor out. I didn't build it so I can't designate as Build IV but here are the specs anyways.

HP Zombie - XP Home SP3 (Beta-not a real big difference)
2.53 Pentium 4 Processor
1 gigabyte DDR400 (2 x 512mb sticks)
128mb AGP 8x MSI Card (also Geforce 5200 series)
80 gigabyte IDE HDD

(I was able to double the RAM and add the card but that was about it. One upshot is that I added an active heat sink, originally it had the passive sink with the little air tunnel to the exhaust fan. Cable management's a BITCH inside that little case but the airflow dropped the cpu temp from 90f to 79f at idle. Haven't had a chance to stress test just yet.)

And yes I realize that SP3 isn't out yet and that's why its still a beta. I downloaded it because it didn't crash out one of my virtuals on Build I so I figured I'd run it through a live fire exercise. My opinion remains 'meh' with a touch of 'whatever.'

The reason for the doubling of functional PC's in my house (excluding nat's laptop) is simply due to spare part availability. I crashed a coworker's residence and ransacked a few years of discarded doodad's and semi-functional PC's. From this I got the parts to complete Build III (Ram and vcard) and I also got the guts of the HP and a host of other goodies. With a little tinkering I'll soon have access to some of this crap listed below.

-HP 3330 LaserJet printer (semi defunct but still functional, only works for ten minutes at a time)
USB Key wireless adapter (media center time, bitches!!!)
-4 Port KVM Switch + cables
-2 Wirelss access points
-VPN Router
-Wireless Router
-Cisco PIX 501(semi-defunct, just wanted it for testing/learning purposes)
-Wireless Keyboards/Mice
-1.2 shitloads of older RAM
-Semi-defunct Beige Case PC - Harvested CPU, RAM, Vcard and HDD but the board was fried.
-SCSI controller card (PCI-X interface - Adaptec)

There's a few more random upgrades and doodads but I'll have to sift and sort through the rest later. Alex is waking up but more to come soon. Probably lunch tomorrow.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Motivate this, bitches!!

Lately I have been trying to consciously criticize stuff that I take for granted. One such feature of my day during hold time (the myriad periods of my day where I am stuck on hold with people waiting for problem descriptions or passwords) relates to the use of stumbleupon.

God help you if you don't know what that is.

Anyway while a certain gentleman, we'll call him 'Vanity' for reasons I can't disclose had me held captive while extolling his many various reasons for wanting to do an upgrade that we already have scheduled. I had one of those rare three pages in a row of similar subjects and what do you know...motivational lists EVERY... LAST... ONE... (the last being supremely ironic for several reasons)

It should be noted immediately after this was the Canonical list of evil baby names.
Vega are Ryu are on the list but I couldn't find M. Bison, Sagat or anyone else from Street Fighter II. A shame, though I must now make my point.

Motivational speeches are like advertisments for erectile enhancement. They make bold claims and support them with testimonials and pseudo-legitimate proof but we all know the tacit truth. If these things were legitimate EVERYONE would know that they would work. They'd be putting it in the water.

I know that's circular but consider. Every motivational list, graph or formula has by definition bold statements with little or no demonstrable proof. In fact the sheer profusion of these fabrications without substantiative proof is perfect evidence of their perfidy.

An iceberg sank the titanic. Throwing snowballs, however vigorously will not have the same effect. If your mind was capable of absorbing a page of textual information and radically reshaping itself then civilization would be radically different.

People just aren't that malleable unless they are children. Even so as a young child it's very easy to leave deep impressions but as we age and gain resilience it becomes harder and harder to sway someone. If you do succeed most behavioral changes are temporary and the status quo resumes in due course. If you don't believe me then think about 9/11 for a minute.

For a day or so I was really, really shaken and upset with the world. But guess what. I, like every other level headed American was able to come to terms with the tragedy and get on with life. Sure things were somber and depressing for a good month but by the end of it things were more or less back to normal. Oh except for our freedoms being usurped by a greedy piece of shit government but that's another post.

Think about it. If such a momentous event could only leave a minor dent in society what hope does another crappy list of vague 'to-do's' really hope to accomplish? You might make a few people turn their lives around or at least bring to their attention the walls that are in fact the sides of a tremendous sinkhole into which their life is mired. But in order to pass muster with me you need some fucking data.

So let's see it, people!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Random Silliness

Click this link

No it's not a valentines day bit of scullduggery or mischief. It's a link to a stupid ass 'test' that measures...well what exactly.

You go take it and then report back after the line of asterisks.
So what'd you think of? I for one came up with an Ibus eating Starfruit in Djibouti myself. But then again I happen to know the old 'the capital of Djibouti is Djibouti from tenth grade history' detail. It's one of those things that I don't think I could forget without losing some neural hardware.

Anyhow here's why this 'test' is not only not freaky it's just a prejudice trap. Consider the first three steps.

1) Pick a number between 1-10
2) Multiply by 9
3) Add digits together if applicable

Anyone who passed elementary school in the US has had to do multiplication tables and its relatively well known that any multiple of 9 less than 10 well have digits that 'add up' to 9.

So no matter what you pick after step three the answer will always be 9:

1 = 09 = 9
2 = 18 = 9
3 = 27 = 9
4 = 36 = 9
5 = 45 = 9
6 = 54 = 9
7 = 63 = 9
8 = 72 = 9
9 = 81 = 9
10 = 90 = 9

So step 4 is just a convenient way to get everyone to the number 4 which corresponds to the letter D. So step 5 we just convert our inexorable number into an inexorable letter.

Though D is a common enough letter there are only 4 countries on the planet that begin with D.

Consider Denmark, Djibouti, Dominica and the Dominican Republic.

I'll concede that Denmark is the most well-known of these places and certainly most americans would have to pick that first. Here the trap continues. Assuming that you've picked Denmark when you're given the next choice of an animal beginning with the last letter of the country naturally everyone will pick kangaroo right?

What about koalas or kiwis or kookaburras? I think here the kangaroo is most renowned but also begins with ka rather than k(any other vowel) I know I subconsciously alphabetize things so I suspect the double whammy applies and if you're here you're committed.

Pick a fruit of the last letter. O...mmm, not many people reach for well, anything else.

Hence 98% of people theorhetically pick the choices listed.


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Seven Day Jane

Well I thought that I would comment on 90 day Jane, the short-lived (har har) internet phenomenon that I stumbled across.

You can check out her 'attempt' here or just google it and see what you find. Rest assured I use the word 'attempt' with the utmost condescension. It's amazing me to me how quickly the responses have popped up around the intarweb.

For example thefriendly atheist immediately launched into an op-ed piece about her intentions and potential sincerity. I too immediately thought it strange that an atheist would commit suicide out of despair or helplessness but each brain is a unique bunch of grapes and we all have our differences.

Personally I have tried to think of a situation that would merit suicide. The only one I have been able to come up with is the 'I am literally on fire and holding a pistol' and its infinite variations. There are a host of other possible reasons to 'give one's life' perhaps in defense of a loved one, to stop a disaster or to take some great risk. But taking one's life due to existential woes just reeks to me.

If you're unhappy with the world then you basically have two choices:

1) Suck it up.
2) Suck a weiner (at least that'll add to someone's happiness before you give your last hurrah)

Granted people that are terribly suffering have every right to want to leave this world. In that situation I am sure my opinion would be different. Actually I'd be really pissed off because I know a little bit about how pain works and terminating the signals/chemicals would be much easier than dying. We'll get there at some point.

Now consider this picture.

I ganked this from Jane's first post. Look at this shit. It's FUCKING BLUE for fuck's sake. How obvious. Oh and look at those fucking lines. Unless that person is planning to totally sever their hands from the wrist (and that would be fucking horrible) this is a terrible method of suicide. Everyone knows you go down the street, not across the road.

Fucking amateurs.

Now before I digress too far into the realm of ways to ensure your own demise I want to say the 'I am going to kill myself, or I did already' thing has been death.

Consider a few examples.

Anyone else remember 'countdown to oblivion?' Or when stile faked his own death? More recently Lonelygirl15 made a bit of a stir but she was fictitiously killed off, not suicided.

All this ironically makes me nostalgic for one of the first internet documents that I ever came across. It was a simple text file much in the vein of the early anarchist's cookbook kind of stuff. I can't remember the title exactly but part of it featured one of the most vile things I have ever heard.

We'll call it the X document since I can't recall the title (fun things to do if you're a sociopath is what i might name it myself)

Anyway the primer is all about meeting someone who is lonely, isolated and not thrilled to be a part of this world for long. The idea was to snag this person, and even in the early nineties I could think of a few people that I went to school with who might have matched the description.

Basically you start out by being nice, offering friendship to a lost soul and making them feel welcome into your world. You mold your actions and reactions to suit this person, all the while learning more and more about them and how to control them. Finally you yourself are flung into tragedy and convince the person to commit suicide with you. However, as we find out at the end, you do something fucked up like wait until the other person jumps and scream 'sucker' as they plummet to certain death.

Ah, the good ol' days.

A good story will really stick with you no matter what format it comes in. I wish I had time for more but its lunch break for me. More later on today.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Keep your penis off my intarnet!!!!

A sad day, dear friends, for that awesomely huge bastion of free entertainment hath been pierced by arrows of iniquity. Google, swaddled by your armored 'safe search' I thought myself free from evil as I browsed in your presence. more...

And yet I have to admit a slightly sick thrill, not at the content of the 8 second video, but at the mere presence of finding it myself. Naturally non-kosher content is bound to wind up where it is banned and only a matter of time before someone reports it but this time it was ME BABY!!!

Oh and speaking of highly innappropriate content (contextually anyways) my fervent efforts to grace the comments section of Dembski's blog has turned out, thus far, to be totally unfruitful. I'm not debating any more but it strikes me as amusing how differently each side of theism/atheism debate responds to criticism.

Oh well. Back to work on the new book. Once I get a good bit done I'll start posting here in serial.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

But we can win!!!! We have to keep fighting so we can WIN!!!

As requested from my one and very possibly only reader Matt:

"After stumbling upon ~6 web pages in a row talking about how people that don't believe in evolution are stupid I got an idea for your blog. You can write about how it doesn't fucking matter because either way it isn't going help us shoot lightning bolts out of our asses any sooner. Such a silly point pisses people on any side off so much that to a neutral observer (Galapagos style) they all look like crazy fish people. Its pretty damn funny. That said, argue about something that matters, like nano-bots or cloning..."

Fair enough.

Before I begin I would like to document that I have coined the term 'Cycrobe' to describe a nano-scale cybernetic or silicon based micro robot or hybrid organism. Someone else may have thought they came up with this term before now but I have documents proving that I in fact first used this phrase in 2002 so BOOYAH!!!

That being said I wish to address the not yet stirred ethical stew pot regarding the cloning of humans and nano-bot augmentation.

I am sick to death of people freaking out about human clones! Probably the worst argument I have ever heard is 'man I don't wanna walk down the street one day and run into my clone!'

Here's the good news: If you're stupid enough to worry about that, you're never going to be cloned because planet earth is doing just dandy when it comes to paranoid assholes. That being said what's the problem. Human cloning has been going on for millenia.

Ever heard of identical twins? Two people with exactly the same DNA!!! Or triplets, the horror!

That's human cloning. Whether it happens by accident or by intention doesn't matter. It's not even a moral question, its all about information.

Stem cells, embryonic or not, are basically tiny protoplasmic hard drives chock full of humany goodness (assuming we're talking about human stem cells.) The problem, and I may have stated this before, is that people are looking for truth in their lives.

Most people, and I believe this to be true irrespective of their beliefs, would say that truth is an abolute and unwavering standard by which to gauge the universe and more specifically their role in it. I say to that 'what a bunch of crap.'

Truth is the Newtonian physics of philosophy. In common every day life it suits us just perfectly. High school physics wouldn't be the same without it. Newtonian physics are demonstrably true on a certain scale. However zoom out to look at the solar system and you find a different story. When astronomy was coming into its own there was an unusual variance with Mercury's orbit that could not be justified. It was a tiny variation, almost miniscule but it was still WRONG according to Newton's laws.

Einstein and quantum physics filled in the gaps but that doesn't mean we can retrofit newtonian physics to fill in the gaps. We need a new model if we're going to include things so far beyond ordinary terrestrial variables.

When you increase (or decrease) density, gravity, temperature, distance time or speed beyond conventional or earth bound limitations you see a weakening of Newtonian equations. You also lose the ability to conceptualize accurately how the universe appears. Think of the solar system.

Just hang the sun and drop in Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars the asteroid belt, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. Pluto, I still say you're a planet but for the sake of argument fuck off for the time being. You're probably imagining something where you see the sun and all the planets together right?


The solar system is HUGE and this better explained HERE than I care to elaborate. If you don't click the link Here's the highlight. Imagine the sun is a bowling ball and earth is a peppercorn. At solar scale that peppercorn is what...3 feet, 5 feet away tops right? Try about 108 feet away.

Pluto is some half a mile out and all that is just a pittance, 5 mere light hours. The hypothetical
Oort cloud
May stretch out over 1000 times that or roughly one light year. If the earth were a peppercorn and pluto has an average distance from the sun of about half a mile than a light year would be comparable on that scale to 500 miles. Multiply that out by 4.2 (number of light years to proxima centauri) and we get 2,100 miles. That is when we shrink the entire earth to the size of a peppercorn.

To understate: That's quite a haul.

Dismaying as this data is I find it hopeful that should we ever feel up to the challenge if we can achieve speeds of a tenth a light year and outfit ships capable of hibernating people then space travel would not be fantasy. It would probably be a shit load cheaper to just download some brains and haul over some embryoes to a new system if we're going to colonize. We'll let the singularity sort that one out.

Does this relate at all to truth versus information? Perhaps it does and perhaps it does not. Truth is a human concept it's like 'good information with a guarantee that the information is good.' That is fine and well but what does it really mean?

I am operating under the assumption that this post will never be addressed by an omniscient being who can prove me wrong but here goes. Human understanding will always be imperfect. Our intuitive understanding of the world, our ability to be objective and the simple existence of human emotion virtually guarantee that almost any statement or 'truth' is bound to be skewed or incomplete.

Following Neal Stephenson's particle logic we can safely state that statements of more complexity will contain greater quantities of uncertainty. Consider: The sky is blue.

It's a pretty simple statement but is it true? The atmosphere itself is transparent so no the sky isn't blue. However the reason the sky appears to be blue is that our atmosphere scatters light in the shorter wavelengths within the visible spectrum. Therefore when you look up there's a damn good reason to think the sky is blue because that's what it appears to be. However your photoreceptors aren't perfect and we see blue better than violet.

Without delving wholeheartedly into post modernity I'll leave it there. So, is it truth that the sky is blue or not? My honest answer is that truth does not matter. Uncertainty is like gravity, it's everywhere in the universe. Furthermore what we consider 'truth' changes depending on our level of understanding. If we didn't detect electromagnetic radiation on a very narrow range of spectra then the question would be meaningless. However I shudder to think of the effect purely scientific nomenclature would have on art, literature and entertainment...(imagine a thought bubble.

Roses reflect light near 700nm
violets reflect light near 400nm...

Ghastly isn't it. So, I propose that we abandon the whole notion of truth and trade it in, as we did for newtonian physics with general relativity and quantum mechanics and instead we concern ourselves with pure information. Surely there are cons but consider the pros. Nay consider the sympathetic friend phenomenon.

Even if your best friend and you analyze to death the reasons why your girlfriend booted you that will not bring her back. Similarly whatever logical rube goldberg devices you can mentally construct to fit your world view it will not change the parts of the universe not influenced by human opinion. For the record that includes space, time and all inanimate matter dark or otherwise.

So there it is.

Anywho that's my post for the day. I apologize if it degenerated into incoherence sooner than usual but I've had a lot on my mind lately.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Epoch fail...

I know I know, the title's a direct ripoff from a recent xkcd but its been stuck in my head for so long I can't shed the mental picture.

Today's early Tuesday morning rant is brought to you by the letters YMC and A as in All-the-motherfucking-old-people-in-the-world-doing-motherfucking-water-aerobics.

They displease me.

Argyle Ninja is not amused. Niether is Floral Ninja.

Hell I might as well add them all.

One of the many reasons I hate they inevitably grey-haired and flabby gatherings is the fact that they all look the same. And guess what, even the instructor isn't shapely enough to justify the experience. We've been members of the Y now for more than half a year and there's a trio of ladies who look exactly the same now as they did the first time i saw them over the summer.

I'm dangerously close to throwing out some Larry Niven slang and adding TANJ to my already burgeoning vernacular of old college inside jokes, family guy references, south parkisms and wistful dialog from my long and dirty history with fiction writing. Ting a ling!

I'm struggling with an unusual moral dilemma as it pertains to the elderly people of the world and my own inexorable trip into the future. Fifty years seems such a short time on paper or when considering history but in that span of time I will have trebled in age and shriveled in height. But with the advances in modern medicine and genetics one wonders if we could perhaps be among the first to cheat death with a little help from our PPO plan?

If so could we forestall the inevitable decline of body as well as mind? If it were possible to freeze one's level of health at forty years or so then living past 100 would become a viable prospect and not just counterproductive for society.

That would change so much of everything. Perhaps most importantly if we had dramatically increased lifespans then we could make Frank Herbert proud and actually start long term planning. It would probably still be limited to some fraction of human life but any increase could prove useful...then again it could lead to stagnation of the human spirit. Oh well, we'd have plenty of time to get over it.