Sunday, January 31, 2010
This post is not about CBS’s decision to air Focus on Family’s rant against free will. I feel it won’t make a bit of difference, as it will probably be like the rest of the stuff they put out and not be translated to the 74% of America that doesn’t speak moron. So it will be the bankrupt organizations last masturbatory message to the people they’ve been fleecing, which they rightfully call their flock.
This post is about CBS’s business decision to go out of their way to turn away customers.
When I was broke I had to give up pay TV and start watching shows online. That’s not a problem as Hulu airs most of what is on TV and the things they don’t are available illegally.
The illegal sites offer high-quality, commercial free broadcasts of all TV shows. Hulu barely works, it offers low-quality versions of shows with commercial breaks, in both meanings of the word the commercials often don’t load and you have to restart the show. Hulu is technically is inferior to the illegal sites, but it offers one thing the illegal sites don’t: The people who made the show get some money from Hulu (not much but some).
If I have the choice between high-quality, non-annoying TV watching that doesn’t pay the artists vs. low quality, annoying, barely workable TV watching that pays the artists I’ll go for the low quality, annoying, barely workable TV every time.
CBS is deliberately turning people like me away by not putting their shows on Hulu and instead puts them up on their own site, which doesn’t work. Most of the time it won’t load at all, when it does it doesn’t buffer so if there is a network slow down or interruption instead of pausing for 10 or 20 seconds it stops for a second, plays for a second, stops again. So instead of giving the watcher a minor annoyance it turns that part of the program into gibberish.
The seek function on their videos is a joke so when a commercial doesn’t load you can’t just reload the show and sit through the commercials like on other sites.
In other words they have a site that is unwatchable and it has been that way since I first started watching TV online 6 years ago.
As a result if CBS puts out a show, viewers who have given up on the Cable and Satellite Companies are forced to watch it illegally and not support the artists who made it. CBS has responded by making a programming schedule that makes people not care if their “artists” get paid. They either put out shows from Mark Burnett who doesn’t pay the stars of his shows or they put out total crap. As far as their new shows it doesn’t matter that they have to be watched illegally, but they also have some old shows from a time when their target audience wasn’t the people who are to stupid to figure out how to use their remote and get stuck on CBS and only use the TV for soothing background noise. I would watch shows like the original Twilight Zone and Star Trek with commercials because if those shows continue to make money it would encourage TV producers to invest in quality, but CBS doesn’t give me that choice.
While CBS turns people like me away they complain how they are losing money to illegal sites.
So to the executives at CBS who bitch about the illegal sites, but don’t give viewers a way to watch their shows with advertisements I say, “Shut-up Stupid” and give me a way watch your damn shows that will make you money.
Is there a group of stupid people that irritate you? If so I am looking for a guest blogger to do their own “Shut-up Stupid” post. Drop me and email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Friday, January 29, 2010
There’s an old saying, “To a hammer every problem looks like a thumb.” Coming from the Energy Industry, I tend to look at every problem as a need to increase the amount of useful energy available by either making more or conserving what we are already using. In this series I’ve talked a lot about saving energy on everything but the sector that uses 40% of our oil, or 10 million barrels each day, passenger cars.
A quick disclaimer: Aptera Motors has not compensated me in any way, and they have NOT given me an Aptera 2e to review.
Most of the time passenger cars are used for one thing: Moving a 150 lb person and a cup of coffee from point A to point B. In order to do that they use anywhere from 2,000 lbs to 6,000 lbs of metal and spend 50% of their energy fighting wind resistance. So the vast majority of the energy spent in moving a 150 lb person is used for things unrelated to that purpose.
The amount of extra weight needed to move a person and their coffee in any manner besides walking can never be reduced to zero, but it can be greatly reduced from the 6,000 lb of a large SUV. The almost extreme example is the Aptera 2e, which I don’t have.
The Aptera 2e is less than 900 lbs or 15% of a large SUV and is more aerodynamic than a bicycle. With its plug-in hybrid motor it gets around 300-mpg and looks cool as hell. It also comes with two cup holders. A great way for them to advertise would be for them to give me one to drive around.
If everyone switched to the Aptera 2e the US could save 90% of what it spends on foreign oil to power passenger cars. I know I’d like to keep that money in my pocket rather than send it to terrorists. So if Aptera gave me a 2e, I would be helping to fight terrorism.
The problem with getting the Aptera, and others like it, to take over American highways isn’t technological but it’s a problem that comes from my other former industry, Insurance.
Property and Casualty Insurance is rated by the amount of risk of the Insurance Company takes in having to payout. If you drive a 6,000 lbs SUV your liability insurance is raised because you will inflict greater damage to the other person in an accident. If you drive a Nissan Sentra weighing 3,000 lbs, your Personal Injury insurance is raised as you have a greater chance of being seriously injured in an accident.
The reason is simple Physics.
The 7,000 lb Ford ExcursionIf two cars weighing the exact same amount hit each other while both are traveling at 30 mph, it is the same as one car hitting a wall at 30 mph. The total deceleration is 30 mph over the distance that the cars front end collapses.
If a SUV that weighs 6,000 lbs hits me in my little Nissan Sentra that weighs 3,000 lbs while we are both traveling at 30 mph, my poor little Sentra will lose all its momentum (30 mph) and be pushed back at 15 mph giving it a total backward acceleration of 45 mph. For the SUV it will go from 30 mph to 15 mph. The greater the difference in the weights of the vehicles the worse the damage to the smaller car. That’s why 18 wheelers need to carry a million dollars in insurance, if they hit a passenger car at any speed they will kill the people. So if it happens the family gets a million dollar check.
Currently, even though SUV have the potential to do greater damage to a passenger car they aren’t required to carry any more insurance than the lighter cars. This fact scares the hell out of me because as an insurance agent I’ve talked to a lot of SUV drivers that only carry the state minimums.
When the Aptera hits the road this weight difference is even worse, if a 6,000 lb SUV hits a 900 lb Aptera, both doing 30 mph, the SUV will slow down by 4.5 mph and the Aptera will be sent backwards at 25.5 mph. So the Aptera has to withstand the same force as hitting a wall at 55.5 mph.
Because the SUV driver doesn’t carry the same insurance that an 18-wheeler has to carry the Aptera drivers family will be handed a check, by the SUV drivers insurance company, for the state minimum, $25,000 in my state, and be told sorry about your loss.
Oddly enough if the Aptera is hit by an 18-wheeler it will be nearly unharmed as the big truck will drive right over it, and it is designed to withstand that.
Right now our Insurance Laws reward people who put others at risk by driving SUVs. If laws were rewritten so that the greater the weight of the vehicle the more insurance they had to carry this would help overcome this unfairness. If the minimum liability was $25,000 with an additional $10,000 for every 1,000 lbs over the first 2,000 it would compensate for this unequal risk.
If you somehow got killed by an Aptera in your car, your family would get $25,000 dollars from the insurance company and who knows how much from the media wanting to interview the family as they try to figure out how the hell that happened.
If my little Sentra killed someone they’d get $35,000. But in the most likely scenario if a monster SUV kills someone the family would get $65,000.
With people having to pay more in order put people at risk and send money to terrorists, they would stop and think before purchasing those death machines.
In the meantime I would gladly increase my underinsured amount if Aptera would give me a 2e.
If the Insurance Laws would be changed so that the cars that have a greater chance of killing someone in an accident had to carry more liability, super efficient cars like the Aptera could take over the highways, and if Aptera would give me a 2e I would save tons of gas money, This would lead to a fantastic future, especially for me.
In case I didn’t make this point clear in this article, I WANT AN APTERA 2e.
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
I just got the Cover Art back from the publisher for my book “Invasive Thoughts”. I really love the foreground with the word “Invasive” coming out of the guy’s head, and the background has some of the elements from the book, DNA strands and the fingerprint. In this picture the reddish-brown doesn’t give much contrast but I’m sure when put on book stock the contrast will be much better and the details will show up clearly.
I am really excited about how everything is coming together. It’s making me eager to actually hold the finished product in my hands.
Monday, January 25, 2010
Steve Jobs has announced that Apple Inc will be unveiling a new product at Macworld 2010. Rumors are flying around as to what it might be, so I would be remiss not to start my own.
On Wednesday Apple will introduce to the world the iKitten:
The iKitten will completely change the way you interact with cats.
At first it will be launched with only consumer applications, or purrs, but it will allow for 3rd party purrs to be added on which will allow it to work in business settings.
It’s expected that after having an iKitten you will wonder how you ever lived without it.
Sunday, January 24, 2010
We have a hypnotist rolling into town and flooding the radiowaves with ads for quitting smoking and weight loss.
These adds promise that through hypnosis you can suddenly stop smoking or lose 30 to 50 lbs, all for $59.95. Sound too good to be true? That’s because it is.
I struggled to quit smoking a couple years ago, and detailed that here. In that time I learned a little bit about the science of nicotine addiction.
Nicotine is an addictive drug that changes the state of the brain, when you take away the nicotine the brain rebels. Random areas of the brain start going hyperactive as it tries to establish a new equilibrium. When this happens the victim has no control over their emotions, strange old memories flair up randomly making the victim think they are hearing voices or hallucinating, and they can have seizures.
Nicotine stays in the blood stream for 3 days, so the brain has to react to lower and lower levels of nicotine during that time. So for the first 3 days of quitting the victim is literally psychotic. After that the nicotine stays in the fatty tissue of the body for 28 days and is released sporadically causing the victim to undergo milder withdrawal symptoms during that time.
Finally the brain needs to completely reset itself to not having nicotine, this can take anywhere from 6 months to a year. During that time the victim feels “not quite right”.
Because nicotine has such a powerful effect on the brain people who try to quit on their own experience an 82% failure rate. With therapy, either behavioral of drug, that failure rate goes down to 80%. The only true treatment that has been shown to work is locking someone up for 28 days to get them over the worst of the withdrawal symptoms and then put them in a foreign environment (like an other country) for a year so the feeling of being not quite right is normal. If you want to quit and have $60,000 or more to blow this is the way to do it.
With hypnosis therapy the failure rate is about 80%, the same as any other treatment but the key is it is an ongoing process. Getting hypnotized one time a week gives the person something to focus on during the cravings (If it does anything more than that is debatable).
Taking the unverifiable claims of hypnotists that use once a week sessions to get people to quit smoking, it is a behavior modification program that needs to be done over time to be effective. Or if you take the psychological view it is all just the placebo effect.
Whichever hypnosis is in regard to quitting smoking, these one-day seminars for $59.95 don’t even measure up to the loose standards of the pseudo-science and are a complete rip off. So to the people running these things that are designed to just to make a quick buck at the expense of people who are suffering I say, “Shut-up Stupid and find a productive way to make a living.”
Is there a group of stupid people that irritate you? If so I am looking for a guest blogger to do their own “Shut-up Stupid” post. Drop me an email at: email@example.com.
Friday, January 22, 2010
In 2013 the asteroid Apophis will be close enough to the Earth to launch a probe to it. The Planetary Society had a contest to get ideas using off the shelf technology to design a probe and lay out a plan to have the probe send back useful data. So the concept for a probe is in place.
What is so significant about Apophis is it will make two fly-bys of Earth in the first half of this century. In 2029 it will come closer to Earth than Geo-Stationary orbiting satellites and then return in 2036. This offers mankind with a rare opportunity.
Apophis is an Asteroid weighing 2.7 Trillion kilograms, if were made of just low-grade 1% Iron ore it would be worth roughly $27 Trillion in today’s market.
Asteroids that have fallen to Earth have shown to have 95% concentrations of Iron, Nickel and Cobalt. The Iron ore found in meteorites has been used as refined Iron in the past. The 5% “junk” in asteroids is stuff like gold, palladium and platinum. But lets say we are unlucky and it’s a piss poor asteroid so it’s only worth double Earth bound Iron ore that’s still $54 Trillion dollars.
The problem is mining it. Doing some quick calculations I found it would be possible.
If we send up a probe in 2013 we can determine its orbit and where it will enter Earth’s space in 2029 and 2036 down to a few kilometers. With this knowledge we can plan out the next phase.
It would be impossible to use any known rocket science to capture this 27 trillion kilogram rock, but we could divert it by a few miles an hour.
If we altered its course in 2029 just enough for it to do a close fly-by of the Moon in 2036 we could use gravitational braking to capture it into an orbit that at its highest point is lower than the orbit of the Moon and its lowest point is higher than Geo-Stationary satellites, so its gravity doesn’t send them out of whack, then it will be at a nice convenient spot to set up mining facilities. Later we can think about adjusting its orbit to the LaGrange point permanently between the Earth and Moon.
(Warning Math ahead)
Without knowing its precise orbit I can’t determine the exact amount of change in speed it would need but I can determine the worst case scenario, its on the exact wrong side of Earth from the Moon and we need to move it 500,000 miles in 17 years.
In that case we would need to change its orbit by a whopping 8 miles per hour, or 13 kilometers per hour. In order to move 27 trillion kilograms of mass that much the Main Shuttle Engines would have to burn for 23 minutes which would use 1,434,229 gallons of fuel. That means 66,000 kilograms of liquid Hydrogen and 473,000 kilograms of liquid oxygen or a little over 500,000 kilograms combined.
When completed the Ares V will be able to lift 134,000 kilograms into Trans Lunar Injection so it could either get stuff into position where it can be captured by Apophis’s gravity or use the Moon to slingshot it into the proper orbit.
Including the launch to bring the engines to Apophis it would take 6 Ares V launches to be able to divert the asteroid the necessary 8 miles per hour.
The Ares V is supposed to cost less per launch than the shuttle, just like the shuttle was supposed to cost less per launch than the Apollo/Saturn 1b. I know per pound of cargo this is true, but in per launch cost it didn’t turn out that way. So lets say the Ares V costs twice as much as the shuttle to launch or $2 billion per launch. That means the 2029 mission would cost about $12 billion dollars. That means for every $1 spent on the mission it would return roughly $4,500. Those are the type of returns that Wall St can only dream of when they make mortgage backed securities and default credit swaps.
The weakest part of this mission is it would mean several Ares V launches in a few months, however if the Ares V is built on time and starts service in 2018 it would be in its 11th year of service so it could be called middle aged technology (or at least out adolescence) and should be relatively stable.
With $54 trillion of high grade iron at the their disposal the Space Programs of the world could really take off. With a sudden injection of $54 trillion, or 4.5 times the US debt, into the world economy a lot of the world’s suffering would be a thing of the past and that will lead to a fantastic future.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Alternate Title: A funny thing happened on the way to my next two novels.
When the creative juices are flowing it’s a wonderful thing. I wrote my novel “The Setting Earth” and had no problem writing a few short stories and posting on my blog while doing it. It took me about 6 weeks to write and I hated it when I had to go to bed, because I had more to write. I woke up in the morning after 6 hours sleep, dieing to write more.
Now it’s finished and I started on the sequel I had planned in the trilogy and found I had a major problem, I could write the great imagery I planned, I had the characters nailed down but something was missing.
I went back through and read my novel and found the problem. I had written a great romance novel. It was set in the background of an interplanetary cold war and took place on the dwarf planet Ceres, but it was about the main characters wanting to be with each other but their cultures made them offend each other as they tried to seduce each other. Classic Romance novel stuff with great imagery as a backdrop.
Having the war break out while they are on their honeymoon seems mean. The second novel in the trilogy would be “Gone with the Wind II” or “Romeo and Juliet II” it just doesn’t work.
So I turned my attention to my other novel, “The Pizza Diaries”. I wrote a few short stories with the same main character Brian a Pizza Delivery Guy who runs into Aliens, Devil Worshipers, Beings from other dimensions, Poltergeists, and a time traveling babe, I figured I could turn it into a horror/comedy novel (I’ve got the ending all set up to tie everything together). I began writing the stories to tie them together and realized my A plot is a fantasy and I’ve never wrote or really read fantasy.
So now I’ve got writers block, I’ve visited some web sites that give the advise to write up some imagery to get the process going. I’ve got no problem in that area, I can describe the Cloud Cities on Venus or the platform at Mercury’s Lagrange point that can power the 22nd century’s space ships in vivid detail, I’m just having a problem staying in genre. My sci-fi turns to romance, my horror turns to comedy, my comedy turns to fantasy, and my porn turns to either horror or epic space opera.
Does anyone have any advise how to kick start the process and get the juices flowing again?
Monday, January 18, 2010
I’ve been posting 4 to 5 times a week and I suddenly realize that there are 7 days in a week. That leaves two days a week that this blog isn’t used by me.
I’ve also noticed that there are a whole lot of stupid people in the news, much more than I can ever call out in my series, “Shut-Up Stupid Sunday”. So I’m asking for help.
Once a week I’d like to have a guest blogger tell a group of stupid people to shut up. It can be any group of people who are yelling about anything that has a stupid premise behind it. Trust me once you start looking there is more stupid out there than can be tackled by one person.
It doesn’t have to be Earth shattering stupid, it could be trivial like, Stupid Song Lyrics: In Thin Lizzy’s song “Jail Break” they sing, “Tonight there’s gonna be a Jail Break, Somewhere in this town”. Um, most likely the Jail, but that’s just a guess.
Spelling and Grammar: I’ll run it through Word to check for obvious spelling mistakes and typos. As far as grammar, if I can figure out what you are saying it’s good enough for this site. If you look over this site you can see I’m not too picky about that.
Just be sure to give me the URL to your blog, the blog name, and how you want your credit to read so I can put it up top. In the last paragraph include… to (Stupid People) I say, “Shut-up Stupid”. Other than that have fun.
As far as readership I’ve been consistently getting over a hundred hits a day, so that will give your blog a little more exposure.
Send your post to: firstname.lastname@example.org and put “More Stupid” in the subject. Not that the spambots care but that email is only going to be used for this purpose.
Again have fun and thanks for helping me expose more stupidity.
Sunday, January 17, 2010
President Obama has recently said that he will impose a 0.6% tax on the largest banks in order to recoup the money that the taxpayers gave them. These financial geniuses are saying that they will merely transfer the costs on to their customers because clearly none of them have taken any economic classes in their lives.
Here is a little secret that is only taught in Economics 101 and above. No one can become rich in a true free market economy. Under classical economic models as soon as someone develops a product or system that gives them a benefit of $1 over the current product, competition will close that gap. So profits are actually derived by inefficiencies in the free market, not caused by the free market itself.
So huge profits are signs of weakness within the economy, not a sign of strength.
When mega-banks made the huge profits that they did before the meltdown it wasn’t because they made a better product, it was because the regressive tax system and perverse regulations created barriers to competition.
As the tax system changed in this country to favor the financial industry over the manufacturing industry money flowed to that sector. When the financial regulation system changed so that banks could shop around to find who could regulate them, it created a system where the bigger the bank the less regulations it had on what it could do with its customer’s money. So the system was gamed towards having the bigger banks make a larger profit on the virtue of being big. Under that system a smaller bank, and there are tons of them, has to work harder and more efficiently to achieve the same results. This uneven playing field would have crushed the smaller banks if the big banks weren’t so incompetent.
Placing a higher tax on the biggest banks works to balance out this uneven playing field so that if a small bank is able to invest smartly with its customer’s money and grow responsibly it can compete with the big banks.
Even it the playing field was evened out having a tax on largest players in any industries actually helps the free market. The economic bubbles are the effect of an inefficiency in the market, if the companies that gain the most from this inefficiency need to work 1% harder than the smallest companies in their field it gives them an incentive to continue to develop better products than the smaller companies. It also encourages the smaller companies to try new things hoping to gain an even larger advantage than the 1%.
This leads the larger, mature companies to work on continuous improvement in their products and the smaller companies taking risks coming up with “outside the box” improvements, instead of the largest companies in a sector rolling the dice with the economy and hoping the smaller companies will save it.
It also offsets the effects of the bubble bursting as when the bubble is at its peak the federal government is taking money the most out of it. When it starts to decline, the federal government takes less. So while the growth of the bubble is slowed so is its decline. So the massive economic devastation of an economic bubble bursting is lessened.
So to the heads of the nations largest banks who stand before congress and boldly proclaim that they don’t understand a simple concept that is taught in Econ 101; I say, “Shut-Up Stupid” either stop lying or go to your nearest community college and take a class in Economics.
Friday, January 15, 2010
At the risk of sounding Orwellian, no building is 100% earthquake-proof, but some are more earthquake-proof than others.
The number one way that earthquakes damage buildings is they move them back and forth, putting sideways stresses on the walls that are designed for downward pressure. In poor regions, like Haiti, the simplest way to build a building is to make the walls out of brick or concrete block and put a roof over it.
Bricks and concrete have incredible compression strength, meaning you can put a lot of weight on them and they won’t break easily. However they have almost no tensile strength, meaning they can’t bend.
When these buildings are hit by and earthquake, they start moving sideways and all the mass of the building pushes on the middle of the wall, which can’t support the sideways force and crumbles, taking the building down.
To make a building that can survive a moderate quake, the building has to be designed as a box that can take sideways pressure as well as the weight of the roof. In earthquake regions of the US building codes require that houses are built with reinforcements to take the sideways pressure. If the buildings in Haiti were built according to US building codes they still would have collapsed, but the residents would have a minute or two to get out which would have greatly reduced the loss of life.
Even if you make a perfect box that can withstand as much sideways pressure as it can downward pressure a large building won’t be totally earthquake proof as the shaking can literally shake it off its foundation. With a single-family house this is repairable and most people would only suffer minor injuries from being shaken around, with taller building this can cause them to topple over.
To prevent this engineers have been using a foundation technique called base isolation. This means the foundation and the bottom of the building move separately. With smaller buildings this is done by putting large ball bearings between the house and its foundation, with larger building shock absorbers are built into the base of the building to slow the shaking.
Techniques like vibration dampeners, large weights placed on the top of the building that move counter to the vibration, stress points, points designed to fail first, and other methods are being tested and put into practice in earthquake prone regions.
Making buildings that can survive the scale of the earthquake that hit Haiti is nearly impossible because of its loose soil, but there are building methods available that can make buildings withstand an earthquake longer giving the people inside the building more time to get outside.
Hopefully, as Haiti rebuilds from this tragedy some of these building techniques will be used so the next time an earthquake hits the loss of life will be greatly reduced.
Here is a cool little demonstration of the effects of an earthquake to different types of foundations: Discovery Channel Earthquake Simulator.
Thursday, January 14, 2010
In this series of posts I will highlight the Senators that voted against this amendment:
To prohibit the use of funds for any Federal contract with Halliburton Company, KBR, Inc., any of their subsidiaries or affiliates, or any other contracting party if such contractor or a subcontractor at any tier under such contract requires that employees or independent contractors sign mandatory arbitration clauses regarding certain claims.
This amendment is to hold Halliburton liable if they actively try to stop one of their employees from reporting if they are gang raped. Its pretty cut and dry if you voted for this amendment you are against gang rape, if you voted against it you believe gang rape is part of a normal work environment.
The first Senator that I will highlight in this series is Georgia’s Johnny Isakson.
Isakson was originally a pro-choice Republican when he ran for Congress, and served as a moderate Republican.
When he ran for Senate in 2004 he shifted sharply to the right, and became anti-abortion, anti-gay rights, and pro-gun.
Although he claims to be fiscally conservative he championed the F-22 Raptor, a combat jet that can’t go into combat and is sensitive to rain and its duties can be carried out for a fraction of the cost by the F-35.
He originally proposed adding the “living will” provision into Medicaid so seniors could make end of life decisions with their doctors before they are too ill to make that decision. He did call Sarah Palin out when she called it a “Death Panel”.
However he then bowed down to the Palin-bots when they went after him and started calling his own proposal “Death Panels”.
On immigration he was formerly sane and even helped write the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007 a bill while not perfect did work to reduce illegal immigration and not just use immigrates as scapegoats. When he was criticized that it offered “Amnesty” he did an about face and voted against the bill.
With his this record and his vote in support of workplace gang rape it’s easy to see exactly what type of politician Isakson is. A man who knows right from wrong but has no problem voting for what he believes is wrong in response to the political winds.
If re-elected he will most certainly cave into the most extreme of the tea-baggers. So if you live in Georgia ask yourself this question before you vote. If Johnny Isakson won’t stand up for what he believes, Why would he stand up for his constituents?
If you would like to contact Senator Isakson and ask him why he supports gang-rape, or why he is fond of attacking his own proposals, you can contact him here: Senator Isakson Contact Page.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Last week my publisher sent me the proof of my novel, “Invasive Thoughts”. The proof is the final edit. They send you the book without the covers (back or front) and ask you to look at the formatting for errors, not the actual words.
Obviously you can’t check the format without reading the book. So this was my first chance to actually read my own book without editing it. This may sound conceited but I enjoyed it.
The last time I read it was right after it was accepted and they gave me 2 days to make any final changes. Naturally I went through and rapidly made a bunch of changes totally about 10,000 words and saw all sorts of things I’d like to change but didn’t have the time. During the months that the book was in the hands of the publishers I only thought about all those things that I wanted to change but didn’t. My mind was filled with all the tiny details of every slightly awkward sentence in the book and every plot line that was nailed down with a tack hammer instead of a sledgehammer.
When I started reading it without being allowed to edit it I was able to look at it as a whole instead of taking it all apart. I could see there were some awkward phrases, but taken as a whole one sentence in a thirty page chapter is barely going to be noticed.
Also taking the book as a whole, if the wrapping up of a minor plot line is missed by the reader I believe the overall mood more than makes up for it.
So with my most objective reading of my book so far, it will be decades before I can stand back and be truly objective about it, I have to say it’s a book I can be proud of.
It makes me want to take my other books and put them in a PDF form and read them over and promise myself not to make any changes until after I’ve read the whole thing. But I don’t know if my willpower is strong enough to do that.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
The Republicans are a minority but they did manage get some key accomplishments this year.They managed to block the federal government from having a Surgeon General during the Swine Flu epidemic. This is a major accomplishment, who knows how many lives could have been saved by having someone in charge of the office that oversees the federal response to Public Health Threats during an epidemic.
They managed to block the federal government from having someone in charge of the Transportation Security Agency in a decade when terrorists have been targeting planes. Then started fearmongering when a terrorist plot failed, doing his work for him. This is a double accomplishment not only did they facilitate the terrorist plots, but they had a backup plan something they didn’t have when invading Iraq and Afghanistan.
They stopped conversation on the Healthcare Plan, making sure American citizens weren’t able to have any input in it.
They have set a record for the number of filibusters used, slowing the federal government down to a crawl in a year filled with major crisis that need swift action.
They stopped legislation on climate change, forcing the EPA to step in and use much blunter tools to stop the most immediate damage to the environment.
Coming into the election year of 2010 they can boast of these great accomplishments and how if they can get just one more Senator elected they can bring the federal government to a state of total paralysis, keeping their record of having done absolutely nothing positive for America in the last 20 years.
Sunday, January 10, 2010
I can remember thinking when I had a TV and saw the ads for prescription drugs, heart meds, depression meds, ect, who’s word should I take? On the one hand you have your General Practitioner who has spent 4 years in pre-med, 3 years in med school, a one-year internship, and a 3 and a half-year residency plus how ever many years in practice. On the other hand you have a 30 second commercial. It’s such a tough decision choosing who’s advice to take.
Somehow these ads either must be effective, or the drug manufactures are making so much money overcharging people that they can afford to blow millions on an ineffective campaign. I think it’s a little of both.
Outside the commercials we have the medical activists that take on misguided causes like the anti-vax movement, cell phones cause cancer movements, healing through prayer and a host of other movements that don’t care if their assertions have been debunked time and time again.
With the anti-vaxers on the one hand you’ve got the CDC, the AMA and a hundred years of research. On the other hand you’ve got Jenny McCarthy.
Now I’d take Jenny’s advise on a lot of stuff, how to feel confident being naked, choosing the film crew for a gang bang, how to get your name so well searched that it will lead 20 people to a website when even the owner of the website can’t find his site by entering your name (I admire the people who have gone beyond the first 18 pages of a search to find me). But on medical advise I’ll stick to the real experts.
These people who continue to push bad medical advise cause the medical field to spend money on ideas that have been 99.9% debunked so that they can be 99.99% debunked, money that could be used in real research to cure what they are on about.
On a more humorous side Digital Cuddlefish posted a poem about the anti-vaxers.
The bottom line about the Medical Profession vs. Drug Commercials, Anti-vaxers, people who believe that cell phones cause cancer is this. Medicine is a science; it’s a complex one because of the extreme number of variables in it, which gives it a lot of gray areas. Since it is a science there are some things that are known and it is ridiculous to argue against the things that are known and have been proven time and time again through experimentation.
So to everyone who thinks the public should take the word of someone because they are a celebrity or can pay to get a drug advertised on TV or their faith says something that is contradictory to hundreds of real scientific experiments I say, “Shut-up Stupid”.
Saturday, January 9, 2010
Last fall I built a trap for the Evil Minions that spy on me when I’m working in my office.
It worked purrfectly on sunny days but was less effective on cloudy days. Then when it snowed recently it wasn’t used at all.
As a result the Evil Minions started spying on me again, this time with laser eyes.
I realize I’d need a new trap for cold snowy nights so I built another one. In this version I will employ the tactics of Judo and used my enemies own power against them.
I had a small Styrofoam cooler that was sent to me when I bought meat online, so I cut a hole in one end for the minions to enter, taped the lid shut and put some weight on top of it to keep it from blowing away.
I had a small Styrofoam cooler that was sent to me when I bought meat online, so I cut a hole in one end for the minions to enter, taped the lid shut and put some weight on top of it to keep it from blowing away.
This version should use the minions own body heat to keep it warm inside and since it is well insulated they will sleep toasty warm when it’s below freezing out.
Friday, January 8, 2010
On Monday SpaceX had a successful test of the upper stage engine for their Falcon 9 rocket.
That completes the ground testing phase of the Falcon 9 and in one to three months they will be ready to go ahead with a full test flight.
While I can’t say enough about how I think having another launch system capable of lifting cargo into orbit is great for both America and humanity, I do fear many politicians will look on SpaceX’s success as a reason to abandon the work being done on Ares I.
One of the proposals that the Augustine commission gave President Obama was that NASA stop research on the Ares I and go straight ahead to the Ares V Super heavy lifter.
They estimated with that plan NASA could get by with a $2 billion budget increase instead of a $3 billion increase.
So far Obama has increased NASA’s budget by $900 million and people that I consider reliable sources tell me that people that they consider reliable sources have heard from people they consider reliable sources that Obama is going to increase NASA’s budget by another billion.
If this third hand information is correct, that would have the budget right for NASA to return to the Moon, relying on the Falcon 9 only.
On paper the Falcon 9 should be the most reliable launch system to date. It uses liquid oxygen- kerosene rockets like Atlas launchers that were used in the Mercury space missions, which are stable and reliable. These are still complex pieces of machinery that have thousands of interacting parts.
The biggest problem NASA has had in the past has been relying on only one way to get to orbit. After the Challenger disaster a lot of unmanned missions were postponed because they were designed so that they could only get to orbit by the Space Shuttle, when there were other rockets that could carry them to orbit.
While I’m excited that the Falcon 9 program is going well and I hope that it and other commercial rockets are successful and eventual replace NASA in taking smallish commercial payloads into orbit, I think switching all of NASA’s manned activities on to one launch vehicle, their own or someone else’s, is setting them up for the same problem they had with the Shuttle.
If they use only the Falcon 9 to get people into space and there is a problem with it, they have no alternative other than to stop activities until it is fixed. With manned missions going on both the Falcon 9 and the Ares I, which are based on different architectures, if there is a problem with one the other can be used to until it is fixed.
With two American alternatives for humans to get into space as well as using the Russians or Chinese programs, manned commercial ventures in LEO get less risky. As a manned commercial presence develops in LEO more companies will develop their own rockets, making it even less risky.
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
This morning I checked my email and I had the proof copy of "Invasive Thoughts" waiting for me to check for errors.
It looks fantastic. In word the book was 514 pages, I was worried as I wouldn't even pick up a book that long. I've skipped most of Stephen King's stuff for that reason. But the proof is 384 pages, about normal for a book I read.
It looks great all formatted for publication.
Now, I've got to look it all over and find any errors.
It's a great day.
It looks fantastic. In word the book was 514 pages, I was worried as I wouldn't even pick up a book that long. I've skipped most of Stephen King's stuff for that reason. But the proof is 384 pages, about normal for a book I read.
It looks great all formatted for publication.
Now, I've got to look it all over and find any errors.
It's a great day.
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
In marketing anything you have to reduce it down to its simplest form, that’s where the phrase “Kiss – Keep It Simple Salesman” comes from. With a good product it’s like an Onion, you see the outer layer and when you peel it back there are more layers underneath. With bad products it’s like a tennis ball, you see the outer layer and when you peel it back there is only air inside.
In our short attention span world we are hit constantly by marketing of the simplest form, and it becomes nearly impossible to figure out beforehand what is things have layers and you’re only seeing the outer layer, and what is just the tennis ball with great marketing wrapped around nothing.
With blogs I’ve seen one that scored incredible pageranks and hundreds of followers and the writing was complete gibberish, jokes run through babblefish so they make no sense. On the flip side one of my favorite blogs Bad News from Outer Space where the author spends a lot of time making highly crafted reviews of bad movies and barely beats out reviews of his site on google.
With blogs that would be fine, I don’t mind being beaten out by someone who puts all their effort into marketing their blog and not on content. But it is rampant in all aspects of the media.
In politics we have Sarah Palin who complains about gotcha interviews if asked to say anything beyond catchphrases because if she’s asked to think she looks like an idiot. She’s the tennis ball of politics, you peel back the outer layer and find there is nothing inside.
We recently lost Billy Mays the TV pitchman for any crappy product you care to name. He had one great skill, the ability to present a great 30 second demonstration. Somehow people took his endorsement as something they could trust when he made no claims to be anything other than a good pitchman.
I don’t have any answers as to how to have people look beyond the surface and see if they are looking at an onion with many layers or a tennis ball with nothing inside but air, but I personally try to look at everything being presented to me and hope to catch a glimpse beneath the surface before trusting anything.
Sunday, January 3, 2010
Dictionary.Com defines Terrorism as 2) the state of fear and submission produced by terrorism or terrorization.
The terrorist’s goal is to instill an unrealistic sense of panic in the population of the nation they are attacking.
When the recent terrorist attempt to blow up his dick on a US aircraft before Christmas failed, we as a nation pretty much defeated that attempt by ignoring the whole thing. Failed terrorist attempts are pretty much old news as Islamic terrorists have proven that they just aren’t as good at attacking America as Right Wing Christian terrorists.
But that doesn’t stop the GOP from trying to help the Islamic terrorists by panicking and trying to convince others to panic.
People like Jim Demint are taking advantage the fact that the GOP has spent a lot of energy blocking Obama’s pick to lead the TSA Transportation Security Administration, to moan about that the TSA hasn’t said anything about the attacks.
Fox news is yelling about Obama’s slow three-days before issuing a response to the event, wasn’t as quick as Bush’s taking Six days to respond to the similar shoe bombing attempt. (What is it with Fox not knowing the difference between more and less? I thought that subject was pretty well covered in Sesame Street.)
Dick Cheney is hitting the airwaves to say how the Administration’s approach to stopping terrorist attempts by focusing on results instead of empty rhetoric is wrong. Because it’s well known that standing on your porch waving your fist at kids who get on your lawn is much more effective than putting up a fence.
Other members of the GOP are doing everything they can to turn this non-event into a panic, doing the terrorists work for them.
So to all the members of the GOP who are hitting the airwaves in an attempt to spread fear and panic I say “Shut-up Stupid” you are doing the job that the terrorists failed to do.
Friday, January 1, 2010
In my Fantastic Future series I’ve been exploring technological ideas to transform the next century. As this is the first of the series for this decade I’ll explore seven things that will transform the next decade.
1) PV Film:These are non-silicone Photovoltaic cells that can basically be “printed” on to materials and convert sunlight into energy.
Besides cost, the main disadvantage to solar power is the rigid heavy cells. In order to install this generation of solar panels they have to come in large assemblies and if they don’t quite fit, well you’re out of luck.
With PV Film the solar panels can be put on flexible rolls and rolled out to fit the area needed. They are less efficient than current solar cells but the light weight and ease of use can easily make up for that.
Another advantage of PV Film is it can be printed on to other materials, like metal roofing. Instead of building a roof and putting solar panels over it, the south facing roof itself could become the solar panel.
With a southern facing roof being a solid solar panel, homes could go all day without drawing from the power grid.
Right now PV Film is more expensive than conventional solar panels, but the raw materials cost 1% of those panels so the costs can drop quickly.
2) Carbon Nanotechnology:
Carbon Nanotechnology or Buckytubes (Named after Buckminster Fuller as the resemble geodesic domes that he was famous for) are carbon atoms formed so each atom is connected 12 others in to form a “perfect” molecule that can made into tubes of any length.
This “perfect” molecule has many amazing properties; first of all it is perfect. By that I mean from one end of the tube to the other the properties are exactly the same, as opposed to typical construction materials that have imperfection in the processing, making them only as strong the spot that has the most imperfections. The forging of steel as it advanced over the last century has just been a process of refining it better to the point we are at now where it has 1% of its theoretical strength. Buckytubes are stronger than steel (or any other material known) and don’t suffer from imperfections.
In building better materials, Buckytubes can be weaved together and held with a polymer to form Buckypaper. This material could cover a football field, be stronger than steel and still weigh less than a gram. An airplanes fuselage made out of Buckypaper would only weigh a few pounds instead of tons.
Buckytubes also transfer heat better than any substance known. This makes it great for electronics but it will soon start to move into places where heat is a crucial element like hypersonic aircraft.
3) Hypersonic Aircraft:
Since the 1950 jets have been governed by air resistance, the optimal speed of current jets is 0.8 mach (80% of the speed of sound) going any faster and the friction gets increasingly greater until it breaks the sound barrier. After breaking the sound barrier current jets must slow the incoming air down to sub-sonic speeds to use it.
Scramjet engines use the supersonic air without having to slow it down making them much more efficient. Unfortunately even though they have less air resistance than their subsonic counterparts their huge speed turns this friction into very high temperatures.
NASA X-43 has reached speeds of Mach 10 before burning up. Using buckypaper this heat could be routed away and the craft could stay relatively cool.
For International Flights Hypersonic Aircraft are the way to go. NY to London in half an hour, LA to Tokyo in a couple hours.
For the 26% of the nation that only cares about blowing things up in foreign lands, a Hypersonic Bomber could be based in Kansas and blow up anything in the world within 4 hours.
For people interested in space, Hypersonic craft could eventually reach speeds of Mach 20, four-fifths the speed needed for orbit. With just a nudge of rockets at the final stage they could achieve orbital speeds.
4) Smart Grid:
In the US the electrical infrastructure was designed in the 1880s and set up in the 1930s as part of the New Deal, basically 1,000’s of major power stations pump in electricity to the central powerlines and then smaller substations kick in to handle any peak demands. If a large power supplier fails, the others try to make up for the loss until the one power station is back on line. If they can’t or two power stations fail, the system will draw to much and the weakest power station will go down putting its burden on the rest, forcing the next weakest to fail, and the next. Until the whole system goes down.
This domino effect means one failure can take out the entire region. To get the grid back up all of the power stations have to start at the same time. If one starts early it tries to power the entire grid and shuts down starting the domino effect all over.
To combat this problem President Obama has asked congress to pass legislation to build the “smart grid”. The smart grid would actively reroute electricity to where it is needed instead of just reacting to drops in the power supply.
By reworking the power network in this country, not only will it stop the domino effect but also it will make it easier for very small-scale power generation to be added to the grid. With the cost of residential solar power systems dropping this will save money in two ways. First the excess solar power can be fed back into the grid, and second in small subdivisions there could be times when they are completely on solar and don’t need the to get power from the grid. There is no reason to keep the power lines active, losing power at those times. So the smart grid will save power then.
The goal of the smart grid is to make electricity more reliable and delivered cheaper. The cost of supplying power is expected to rise, so cutting the waste in delivery is the best way to offset this cost.
5) Bullet Trains:
This isn’t a new technology, they’ve been around since the 1980s in Europe and Japan (Japan actually started working on them during WWII but they became popular in the 80s). But in this coming decade they will make more sense than ever for the US.
Bullet Trains travel at 300-mph as opposed to normal trains that travel at 55-mph. Having trains only move at 55 mph is why plane travel is preferred in the US.
During the Air Traffic Controllers strike, I traveled from NYC to Chicago by train. It was horrible, even though the train was much roomier than a plane; it took a day to travel the 700+ miles. A Bullet Train the trip would take less than 3 hours.
In the coming decade the cost of energy, especially oil, will rise. On a cost per ton basis trains are the cheapest way to travel. With rising energy costs train travel will make a comeback and passengers will start demanding they are competitive with the airlines.
The whole reason Bullet Trains have never been used here in the US is that airlines don’t want the competition. But as we saw in 2008 the airline industry can’t survive $150 barrel oil.
Bullet Trains will start connecting the major cities in America over the next decade giving travelers a choice between flying and uncomfortably arriving at their destination quickly, or taking roughly twice as long, more comfortably for a quarter the cost.
6) Speak Gibberish in any language
Since the mid 90s places like babblefish have been able to translate text from one language into gibberish in another. For example if I take this Buckminster Fuller phrase and translate it into Japanese then translate it back, it almost but not quite makes sense.
“Children are born true scientists. They spontaneously experiment and experience and reexperience again. They select, combine, and test, seeking to find order in their experiences - "which is the mostest? which is the leastest?" They smell, taste, bite, and touch-test for hardness, softness, springiness, roughness, smoothness, coldness, warmness: they heft, shake, punch, squeeze, push, crush, rub, and try to pull things apart.”
Translates into this:
“The child is the true scientist who is born. They reach voluntarily and reexperience experiment, experience for the second time. They to choose, connect, and test, order of their experiences - " In order to find, you endeavor; It is mostest which? It is leastest which? " They, and hardness and tenderness, flexibility, are rough, touching test smell for smoothness, coolness and warmness does, taste does, bites: They raise, shake, strike, squeeze, push, crush, rub, try the fact that it pulls from thing and separated.”
At the moment this useful product can only deal with text, but voice recognition software is getting good at identifying 90% of the words it is told so soon you will be able talk over the internet and have 9 out of 10 words you speak translated into gibberish.
A program that is being used in the recording industry is “Auto-tune” which takes the musical notes that a singer wants to hit and synthesis their voice to that pitch in a way that sounds almost, but not quite, human.
If you put these three technologies together, someone could say something into their computer in English and have 90% of it translated into gibberish and have it played back in Japanese in almost their own voice, with inflections hitting at the most ridiculous places.
Having people talk gibberish to each other instead of different languages will bring different cultures together as people all around the world will learn to laugh at people who speak different languages instead of fear them.
That and it might be used as incentive to write better translation software.
7) 3-D Printing and Rapid Prototyping:
Several new technologies are emerging that can “print” with individual molecules, building them up on top of each other to form 3-D objects.
This means parts don’t have to go through the lengthy machining process.
As this technology get more and more advanced it could even become a way to manufacture products on a large scale.
The advantage would be instead of a product being manufactured in one place and shipped to where it is needed, only the information and the raw ingredients would need to be sent to a spot and it could be manufactured right there.
This will be invaluable in remote places where they need very specialized parts, like the ISS and as the technology improves (and prices come down) it will start to be used for more and parts that are too rare for stores to have in stock.
Eventually this will become the “standard” way of manufacturing and in order to make a new product someone will merely have to design it in a CAD program and send it to the machine.
The explosion of new and innovative products will be truly remarkable.
As all these new technologies come together we will live in a world where location is less and less important, as both energy and products will be readily available anywhere on the planet and all points on the globe will be only hours away, and you can speak gibberish to anyone in the world in their native language and have them speak gibberish back to you in your native tongue.
This shrinking of the world will make a fantastic future.