Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Big Necessity

This is an important book describing what the catastrophic lack of simple tech means to 2.6 billion people.

"The disease toll of this is stunning. Eighty percent of the world's illness is caused by fecal matter. A gram of feces can contain 10 million viruses, 1 million bacteria, 1,000 parasite cysts, and 100 worm eggs. Bacteria can be beneficial: the human body needs bacteria to function, and only 10 percent of cells in our body are actually human. Plenty are not. Small fecal particles can then contaminate water, food, cutlery, and shoes—and be ingested, drunk, or unwittingly eaten. One sanitation specialist has estimated that people who live in areas with inadequate sanitation ingest 10 grams of fecal matter every day.

Diarrhea—usually caused by feces-contaminated food or water—kills a child every fifteen seconds. That means more people dead of diarrhea than all the people killed in conflict since the Second World War. Diarrhea, says the UN children's agency UNICEF, is the largest hurdle a small child in a developing country has to overcome. Larger than AIDS, or TB, or malaria. 2.2 million people—mostly children—die from an affliction that to most westerners is the result of bad takeout. Public health professionals talk about water-related diseases, but that is a euphemism for the truth. These are shit-related diseases."

The world should not be this way.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Memex

"The real heart of the matter of selection, however, goes deeper than a lag in the adoption of mechanisms by libraries, or a lack of development of devices for their use. Our ineptitude in getting at the record is largely caused by the artificiality of systems of indexing. When data of any sort are placed in storage, they are filed alphabetically or numerically, and information is found (when it is) by tracing it down from subclass to subclass. It can be in only one place, unless duplicates are used; one has to have rules as to which path will locate it, and the rules are cumbersome. Having found one item, moreover, one has to emerge from the system and re-enter on a new path.

The human mind does not work that way. It operates by association. With one item in its grasp, it snaps instantly to the next that is suggested by the association of thoughts, in accordance with some intricate web of trails carried by the cells of the brain. It has other characteristics, of course; trails that are not frequently followed are prone to fade, items are not fully permanent, memory is transitory. Yet the speed of action, the intricacy of trails, the detail of mental pictures, is awe-inspiring beyond all else in nature.

Man cannot hope fully to duplicate this mental process artificially, but he certainly ought to be able to learn from it. In minor ways he may even improve, for his records have relative permanency. The first idea, however, to be drawn from the analogy concerns selection. Selection by association, rather than indexing, may yet be mechanized. One cannot hope thus to equal the speed and flexibility with which the mind follows an associative trail, but it should be possible to beat the mind decisively in regard to the permanence and clarity of the items resurrected from storage.

Consider a future device for individual use, which is a sort of mechanized private file and library. It needs a name, and, to coin one at random, "memex" will do. A memex is a device in which an individual stores all his books, records, and communications, and which is mechanized so that it may be consulted with exceeding speed and flexibility. It is an enlarged intimate supplement to his memory."

Sounds like the web doesn't it? Taken from the seminal article As We May Think, Vannevar Bush created the notion of hypertext and connectivity 50 years before the web was invented.

IMHO, Einstein's peer in every sense of the word.

Head Bangers Unite

"The authors found that there is an increasing risk of neck injury beginning at tempos of 130 beats per minute related to the range of motion in the head banging style.

The average head banging song has a tempo of about 146 beats per minute. The authors suggest that at this tempo head banging may cause headaches and dizziness if the range of movement of the head and neck is more than 75º. They report that at higher tempos and greater ranges of motion there is an additional risk of neck injury.

So could someone render themselves unconscious while head banging? Unlikely, say the authors, unless they are banging their head on the stage or connect with someone else's head.

And what of two of the most famous head bangers, Beavis and Butt-head? When head banging at a tempo of 164 beats per minute to "I Wanna be Sedated" the range of motion of Beavis' head and neck is about 45º, say the authors, so he would be unlikely to sustain any injury. But the news for Butt-head may not be so rosy. Preferring to head bang at a range of motion of 75º, he may well experience symptoms of headaches and dizziness."

For your listening pleasure, here is I Wanna Be Sedated by the Ramones.

Don't Get Spore! :)

Don't get Spore, it's a time killer to the max. I NEVER play video games but Spore is different. The hard part is impressing other species to gain allies in order to advance. Very tricky stuff here to be sure. The cute little darling above is Leopardswarm, a fast, strong predator with smarts. He "aint" too pretty or smart, for that matter, but he does survive.

Addendum: Leopardswarm has advanced to tribal status :)

Friday, December 26, 2008

ED & Then Some

"The Afghan chieftain looked older than his 60-odd years, and his bearded face bore the creases of a man burdened with duties as tribal patriarch and husband to four younger women. His visitor, a CIA officer, saw an opportunity, and reached into his bag for a small gift.

Four blue pills. Viagra.

"Take one of these. You'll love it," the officer said. Compliments of Uncle Sam.

The enticement worked. The officer, who described the encounter, returned four days later to an enthusiastic reception. The grinning chief offered up a bonanza of information about Taliban movements and supply routes -- followed by a request for more pills."

You CANNOT make this up. :)

Chaos Incarnate

Absolutely terrific post from the NY Times on Chaos & Cancer...

"A striking feature of many cancer cells is that the DNA in their chromosomes is all jumbled up. Chunks of DNA containing one or more genes have been ripped out of their chromosome and reinserted in a different place. Other lengths of DNA have been transferred to a different chromosome altogether."

"One of the rearrangements disrupts a gene called RAD51C which is involved in mending serious chromosome breaks, those in which both strands in the DNA are disrupted. The impairment of double strand break repair could be a major cause of all the other rearrangements, the researchers suggest."

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Smoke & Mirrors

When I look at this Dilbert, I realized this one, in a very indirect but telling way, shows how profound the disconnect is when people try to explain just what money is and how it's used in today's world. Like the disjointed conversation in this Dilbert, the cognitive dissonance on this fascinating subject resembles the one on obscenity whereby the definition never seems to fit but the old "I know it when I see it." rant applies whenever a politician tries to invoke censorship to gain more political power by "protecting the innocent" from this most dreadful plague on society. As per obscenity, the slipperiness of definition applies to money as well because what it is (and how it's used) depends on the party or parties who interact with this most mysterious of items.

"Money is anything which is accepted as a medium of exchange and it can be classified into the following terms:
  1. Barter (Pre-Money)
  2. Commodity Money (medium of exchange/food/metal et. al. )
    'Metal is a storehouse and a measure of value.'
  3. Receipt Money (forerunner of checks - a written receipt that enables the owner of deposited coins in a vault to withdraw the coins at any time.)
  4. Fiat Money (paper money decreed legal tender, not backed by gold or silver. 'US money is fiat money')
  5. Fractional Money...is paper money which is backed by up to only a portion of the face amount. (see fractional investment banking to learn more.)
    LAW: Fractional money will always degenerate into fiat money. It is but fiat money in transition."
To learn more, read The Creature from Jekyll Island or view the author's interview below.

To get more information about $, type Fed in the BRT search box and hit Search. The end result will amaze you.

Addendum: "While technically and legally the Federal Reserve note is an obligation of the United States Government, in reality it is an obligation, the sole actual responsibility for which rests on the reserve banks...The government could only be called upon to take them up after the reserve banks had failed." - Paul Warburg (A Founding father of the Fed)

In other words: The Federal Resrve notes constitute privately issued money with the taxpayers standing by to cover the potential losses of the banks which issue it.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


I was helping out a good friend in setting up his brand new iMac, a process I have done several times before for Apple systems I have had over the years and noticed, once again, what attention to detail really means. From carrying the box to configuring the system, I was continually struck by how nuanced the Apple product truly is. The box opened with ease, the protective plastic bag, designed to keep scratches at bay, had a nice feel and the tape holding the keyboard and mouse together during it's trip to the customer released it's grip without the need of scissors. The machine itself had enough heft to it that bespoke of good materials used in the building of the product and when booted up and linked to the web, it simply worked.

The guts of the machine are the same as any decent Windows box (I use Windows as well as Macs in my real job.) but the experience of setting up an Apple computer always strikes me as being different, which translates to quality, a concept well addressed by Robert M. Pirsig, a writer I have long admired as being one of the few who really knows how do this most difficult craft with elegance and grace.

His first book, Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, instructs one to see quality as an undefinable essence that just "is" as life is just "is" when viewed through the prism of Zen.

In Lila, this attempt to define quality (and to experience it) becomes the central locus of the book because wasting one's time on anything less is not acceptable as one moves toward old age.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


IMHO, Orwell would have loved Dilbert...

"5. If a new spirit is to be infused into this old country, there is one thorny and contentious reform which must be tackled, and that is the humanization and galvanization of the B.B.C. Timidity here will bespeak canker and atrophy of the soul. The heart of Britain may be sound and of strong beat, for instance, but the British lion's roar at present is like that of Bottom in Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream -- as gentle as any sucking dove.

Each of these passages has faults of its own, but, quite apart from avoidable ugliness, two qualities are common to all of them. The first is staleness of imagery; the other is lack of precision. The writer either has a meaning and cannot express it, or he inadvertently says something else, or he is almost indifferent as to whether his words mean anything or not. This mixture of vagueness and sheer incompetence is the most marked characteristic of modern English prose, and especially of any kind of political writing. As soon as certain topics are raised, the concrete melts into the abstract and no one seems able to think of turns of speech that are not hackneyed: prose consists less and less of words chosen for the sake of their meaning, and more and more of phrases tacked together like the sections of a prefabricated henhouse. "

Or to quote Catbert... "Does any of that mean the same as firing idiots and cutting the budget?"

I can hear George laughing at this one. I know I am.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Visualization 101

Seeing how the quantum world works is the ultimate in frustration as subatomic particles do things that "don't make sense" in relation to the "calm" classic world in which we live, until now.

"For the first time, a detailed description on the making of Sanders’ animation—Solid State Quantum Computer in Silicon—was published this month in the New Journal of Physics. This issue is devoted to the leading uses of visualization in astrophysics, biophysics, geophysics, medical physics and quantum physics and Sanders is one the guest editors for this issue."

To see the clips, click here. (Note, These are Quicktime files. To download the Apple free QT player, click here.

“Not only is the universe stranger than we imagine; it is stranger than we can imagine.” - Sir Arthur Eddington

To see more of the great invisible, click here.

See what I mean?

Slumdog Millionaire

"It’s a virtuoso feast of filmmaking by Danny Boyle, but it’s also the perfect fairy tale for our hard times. The hero labors as a serf in the toilet of globalization: one of those mammoth call centers Westerners reach when ringing an 800 number to, say, check on credit card debt. When he gets his unlikely crack at instant wealth, the whole system is stacked against him, including the corrupt back office of a slick game show too good to be true.

Just when we thought that reality couldn’t hit a new bottom it did with Bernie
Madoff, a smiling shark as sleazy as the TV host in “Slumdog.” A pillar of both the Wall Street and Jewish communities — a former Nasdaq chairman, a trustee at Yeshiva University — he even victimized Elie Wiesel’s Foundation for Humanity with his Ponzi scheme. A Jewish financier rips off millions of dollars devoted to memorializing the Holocaust — who could make this stuff up? Dickens, Balzac, Trollope and, for that matter, even Mel Brooks might be appalled."

"No one knows, do one?" - Fats Waller

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Black Swan

Question: What do these events have in common? Bush - 2000 - Florida, 9/11, JFK Assassination, the internet, 1929, 1987 & 2008 market crashes, rogue waves and the 50 Billion Dollar Ponzi Scheme

Answer: They're Black Swans /highly improbable events that carry great impact.

"Banks hire dull people and train them to be even more dull. If they look conservative, it’s only because their loans go bust on rare, very rare occasions. But (…)bankers are not conservative at all. They are just phenomenally skilled at self-deception by burying the possibility of a large, devastating loss under the rug."


"Globalization creates interlocking fragility, while reducing volatility and giving the appearance of stability. In other words it creates devastating Black Swans. We have never lived before under the threat of a global collapse. Financial Institutions have been merging into a smaller number of very large banks. Almost all banks are interrelated. So the financial ecology is swelling into gigantic, incestuous, bureaucratic banks – when one fails, they all fall. The increased concentration among banks seems to have the effect of making financial crises less likely, but when they happen they are more global in scale and hit us very hard. We have moved from a diversified ecology of small banks, with varied lending policies, to a more homogeneous framework of firms that all resemble one another. True, we now have fewer failures, but when they occur ….I shiver at the thought."

To followers of quantum, chaos and Murphy's Law, this book relates because no intelligent person accepts the fact that reality can be predicted. (Except for self proclaimed experts such as economists, financial advisers, governments and corporations etc., etc. who refuse to accept this irrefutable fact.).

The law of initial conditions rules and aggregates of initial conditions which makes up reality means that making educated guesses about anything is a crap shoot at best. See James Gleick as reference point. "Guess what caused the expensive crash of the Ariane 5 in 1996. And what does it say about software design?"

The most original part of the book is Nassim's take on history being a vehicle that "looks forward" as history, as everything else, will  always be a set of incomplete initial conditions that attempts to describe why a particular event happened as it did. What even more damming is the fact History is written by the winners.

And yes Virginia, there is a black swan. :)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Day...

Even though the movie The Day the Earth Stood Still has gotten mixed reviews, (The original TDESS is beloved.) the notion of man being a virus is not far fetched at all given we are the only species that knowingly pollutes the environment at global levels in order to "improve our lot in life". On the tech side, the film basically works, especially regarding Gort, the nanotech/silicon entity that is truly majestic and frightening at the same time.

Both flicks resonate, the original with nuclear concerns brought about by the cold war, the latter with the environment and the spectre of global warming.

Interestingly enough, an author who, I think, got inspired by the first TDTESS was Arthur C. Clark as he wrote two masterpieces that dealt with the environment and with advanced civilizations. In The Deep Range, the issue was man's right to kill whales as Clark sensed that cetaceans were intelligent even though, in the book, "earth's population is fed principally from the sea--on whale products or from plankton farms."

In Childhood' End, the circumstances directly relate to The Day..."Childhood's End explores humanity's transformation and integration with an interstellar "hive mind" or Overmind. It also touches upon such matters as cruelty to animals, man's inability to live in a utopian society, and the apocalyptic concept of The Last Man on Earth. The 1953 edition of the story begins at the height of the Cold War, some thirty years after the fall of the Third Reich, with attempts by both the United States and the Soviet Union to launch nuclear rockets into space for military purposes, threatening imminent doom for the planet."

Now that I have seen and read all the material quoted in this article, the question I keep asking myself is, "What is the survival rate of civilizations in this universe?" because at the rate we're going, we may not make it.

Size 10

'Nuff Said

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

First Steps

This is one of the best thought grams depicting creativity ever put forth. The image will draw you in forever, something not surprising as the author of said art work is Douglas Engelbart, inventor of the computer mouse and engineer extraordinaire who thinks big things about mankind and tech.

Also speaking of big things, Adobe might have a biggie by the name of Zoetrope, a cool and sophisticated information linker that uses time as the weapon of choice to enable users to tease out skeins of information from the ephemeral web. (Click here to get a PDF & the QT talking about the tech behind this most interesting app.)

Now, combine this with semantics and the road to Oz beckons.

For more information on semantics, click here.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

What were they thinking?

MARKETING 101: Don't do a promotion deal when one organization is valid while the other is not.

To whit..."Some complained that the zoo, which receives public support through a tax levy, should not become involved with a private museum dedicated to the teachings of the Bible’s Book of Genesis. Others said a scientific institution shouldn’t link itself to a place that argues man once lived side by side with dinosaurs.

“They seem like diametrically opposed institutions,” said Dr. James Leach, a Cincinnati radiologist who e-mailed zoo officials about his concerns. “The Cincinnati Zoo is one of this city’s treasures. The Creation Museum is an international laughingstock.”

The lights are on but nobody's at home.

Why Detroit (& the US) Don't Get It.

When one does a little research, interesting facts come to light. For instance, alcohol can power cars without a problem as seen by Brazil telling the Big Three to "flex" or else.

"Flex-fuel" vehicles, which run on any combination of ethanol and petrol, now make up 77% of the Brazilian market."

And this video graphically depicts another amazing property of hemp besides that of making rope or getting one pleasantly "toasted".

Or this where two designers have built very cool vehicles running on compressed air.

"Same as it ever was." - Talking Heads

Predicting the Future

When viewed in the light of quantum theory,

and Murphy's Law, any organisation, person or government thinking they can predict the future, can't.

A Keeper

Just got mine, a NASA Climate Change Widget.

We are running out of time.

Saturday, December 06, 2008


Just had to show some particulars regarding the $8.5 trillion the US Government is going to give away, courtesy of Seeking Alpha.

Any questions?

For more info on just how big this amount of money truly is, click here.