Blade Runner had it all wrong

Filed under: a group of folks,movies,thoughts @ 01:56

So Blade Runner is a pretty awesome movie. A question everyone should ask themselves at some point in their lives: Do androids dream of electric sheep?

The only problem I have is Philip K. Dick/Ridley Scott’s vision of the future; There’s way too much petroleum being burned and filth being tossed about. Holly and I were talking the other day, and I told her about my biggest paranoid fear: a world without oil. (Trite, I know. Get over it.) As with any paranoia, some of what follows is a little half-baked, and some stuff may be inaccurate (what paranoid is going to do real research?). Feel free to correct me where appropriate.

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Raw unadulterated computational power

Filed under: thoughts @ 17:15

Imagine a bee. A complex individual with its own thought processes resulting from native task prioritizing schemas, error handling systems, creativity and ingenuity centers (read “random number generators”), decision making algorithms (complete with dilemma rectifiers), and means of interfacing with both the environement in general and other bee individuals.

Now imagine another bee. Another complex individual, similar, but not necessarily exactly the same as the first. Both bees are capable of interacting with other bees. Therefore, two bees can interact with each other and, a priori, we cannot dismiss the idea that two bees can perform functions which one bee or even two uncoupled bees cannot. To consider the most general case, assume that this “greater than the sum of the parts” (a misnomer, to some) behavior, indeed, occurs.

Imagine further a thousand bees. Each relegated (even arbitrarily or randomly) to a specific task. I’ll let you count the number of naive two-body, three-body, etc. interactions that are possible, but I will tell you it’s a lot. The hive is a tremendously complicated system: complicated individuals, and complicated interactions. (Note, though, that the emergent properties of the hive can be relatively simple depending on the scale at which it’s viewed.) The hive is computationally powerful.

Put that all aside for a moment.

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I’m a burnt out old man

Filed under: thoughts @ 13:00

So it’s been my theory for several years that the age of twenty-two is officially old. There’s lots of birthdays people look forward to. Ten, thirteen, fourteen (at least back in the day in Idaho), fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, nineteen (go Canada), twenty, twenty-one: all good years. But after the age of twenty-one, there’s no more birthdays to joyfully anticipate. Except twenty-five. And lower insurance premiums is a really old person thing to look forward to.

So there it is. Twenty-three. Old. I once explained my rationale to my grandmother, who didn’t seem pleased. “If you’re old, then what am I?” After I explained that, in my view, she was in the same demographic as a twenty-three year old, she seemed to cheer up a bit.

But what brought this on? I’ve been old for a while now.

It all came back to mind after learning two surprising facts in quick succession. The first: one of the head developers for WordPress is only twenty-one. The second: the guy who helped me out with some DNS issues with this site the other day is in High School. He helps run a large DNS server, everydns.net, and he’s in High School.

What did I do in High School? Watched a bunch of movies, mostly. Most of them were even pretty good. But anything useful? Let’s see… nope. Just a typical, burden to society, teenager. I don’t feel jealous or put out; I’m just impressed. More power to them. Plus, it gives me a little confidence that the world really isn’t going to pot. There are people out there (of every age) who are capable of both doing things and getting things done.

While it’s nice to know these people exist. I suppose time will tell if I ever reach an age where I’m one of them.


Isn’t it great that women can do science too?

Filed under: academe,rants,thoughts @ 01:52

*vision of a thousand hackels rising on each of a thousand people*

Down the hall from my office is a poster of “Women in Science & Mathematics”. It shows about twenty or so famous women, noting their respective fields of studies: astronaut, theoretical nuclear physicist, geneticist, mathematician, etc. Every time I walk down the hall, I see this poster and I cringe.

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The Last Homely House

Filed under: news,thoughts @ 13:02

I’m back in Moscow(.id.us), and things have changed. I walked in the door around 10pm and smelled baking. I’ve always loved Mom’s baking so I stopped by the kitchen to see what delight she has in store. The smell, as it turns out came from freshly baked bread. Not the bread I knew and love as young child returning from school, but minaiture, tiny elven bread in wee baby, lillipution loafs.

Mom said that the bread was going bad in larger loafs, so now she makes little ones. Practical, I was forced to admit. Though it no means I have to eat twice as many sandwiches to reach satiety.

But the real shock came, though, before seeing the diminutive baked goods. Just as I walked into the kitchem I stopped.

“What, Mother, is this abomination?”

My parents, apparently, had purchased a microwave, for themselves, no less – for their own kitchen.

Now, I have a microwave (or rather, Greg does) and I use it frequently. However, it has long been my belief that my parents’ was the only house in Moscow without one. When I was younger, I would occassionally campaign for the purchase of such a useful appliance, but the response this generated was always “what would we need one for?” My mother was obstinate in the face of my bleatings.

However, as I got a bit older it became a small source of pride that my parents’ household was the last outpost of disdain for modern convenience. I recall times when friends I’d known for years first realized our kitchen’s crutch:

“What do you mean you don’t have a microwave?”
*walks over to kitchen*
“Where the hell is your microwave?”
*walks back to living room*
“How do you survive? You’re parent’s are American, right?”

No longer. And indeed, it was my mother who purchased the beast a few months ago. Both of my parents now happily use it as if they had had one for years, as if nothing in the world had turned upsidedown.

All my world shook. Everything I had known as a child came into question. Was the sky actually blue? It was night, how could I find out? Perhaps Scary Harry (rest his soul) was really a demon after all, and not the human being my mother claimed he was in spite of my own observations to the contrary every Halloween. Did morning snow actually come from the sky, as Dad suggested, or must it have grown up from the ground as I, far more naturally, believed as a young boy? And perhaps the really were called “Ice Pickles”, afterall, and my days since have merely been full of deception.

None can say. All I know now is that my parents have entered the modern era.

Man, if I’d known they’d ever actually use a microwave, I could have gotten them one for Christmas. Now I’ve got to think of something else. But first I’m off to eat half a dozen sandwiches.


My life as a vast and empty wasteland

Filed under: a group of folks,thoughts @ 20:21

It has recently come to my attention that there are people out there who are actively involved in making a difference. In talking with some of these people, I have realized that I am not one of them. Educating children, feeding the hungry, counselling, community development, hell even auditing and entertaining all have wonderful, respectable uses in today’s society. Slacking off in grad school studying analytical bounds on quantum search algorithms seems not to. Sure, it’s easy to say that something I do will eventually be a part of the next big development in computing or the next big theory describing our universe; neither of these things is impossible.

But that’s just the thing, my field (on many levels) deals with probabilities. It is certain that being an assistant at a preschool helps people’s lives. It is known that financial services are a useful commodity and that entertainment is highly valued. But it is not known that some bit of research I do (supposing I ever actually do any) will result in any change in lives or society, let alone an improvement.

It’s also a fair argument to say that, currently, I am simply being trained. My real accomplishments will come when(?) I am a card carrying professor either leading a group of intelligent researchers on the future’s current topics, or teaching to a room of eager students looking to learn about the ways of nature (man will it ever be hard to dash the dreams of the naive). But that doesn’t help much with the fact that right now, sitting here in some torn up jeans and a wrinkled guess brand shirt having just finished a helping or two of Mac n’ Cheese, my current, cumulative offering to the world at large is a few bucks to a couple worthy causes, a couple “charity” concerts with some old choirs, volunteering at a church rummage sale or two, making fun of a few detriments to society (I’m talking about you, JH), and lots of well wishing. Oh – and I gave some homeless dude some spare change.

I’ve talked about something like this before, but it was thrust into my mind again this afternoon at Holly and Cheryl’s surprise (SUPPLIES!) birthday party downstairs. All of their friends are real people. What’s worse is that real people seem to be impressed with a person studying physics in grad school at caltech even when that person does absolutely nothing of immediate consequence. That really speaks to the amount of faith society has in science and it’s far reaching consequences: faith I’m not sure I deserve (though I can certainly name many people here who do: developements in medicine, medical technology, environmental studies, alternative energy, technologies and methods which could be considered ‘meta’ in the context of this tirade…).

Perhaps I should just be a stronger believer in ‘division of labor’ as a key and fundamental component of our society.



Filed under: a group of folks,thoughts @ 12:59

While I was busily trying to calculate the mass of the neutrino, Dixie stole my post. Sitting in my apartment last night at like 3:30am, I decided to cruise over to her site before writing up how miserable and miserly of a person I am. It’s a good thing I did, otherwise I’d be labelled quite the poser.

That said: I’m a miserable and miserly person. What’s worse is that it doesn’t bother me enough to change my ways. But at least admitting I have a problem is the first step toward recovery.


To a certain Someone

Filed under: rants,thoughts @ 18:28

I deal with people Everyday. Multiple times a day, really. And, as a consequence of this people dealing, I have found there are several people in this world whom I find terribly annoying. That set of people happens to overlap (albeit lightly) with the set of people with whom I deal regularly.

I suppose that since that intersection of sets is non-null, you might as well be an element therein.

But, not necessarily a believer in fate, but rather a believer that something can be learned from every situation into which one gets tossed, I’d like to take this (contrived) opportunity to thank you for being so completely antiposed (to conflate a few apropos words) to my idea of a one hundred percent not-at-all annoying individual. You see, in reflecting upon just why I find every action of yours to grate so on the very sinews of my body and to jar so truly the synapses of my nervous system, I have discovered that I’m really being very bigoted.

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The 1998 Saturn SL1: A lesson in self love and ambiguity

Filed under: a group of folks,slice,thoughts @ 15:42

Or as I refer to my car: my pimped out, sexed up, undone, tricked out little ’98 SL1 that unpimps, out sexes and in general does up everything else on the road.

Of course, not everyone views my ride in the same way. Last night, Jeff tricked me into admitting that Love (pronounce à la Barry White) was not included standard, and that my car was “all about self serve”. I think I was trying to say that car’s lady magnet was capable of being ramped up to any strength, but that that strength was entirely dependent on the car’s owner and driver. Clearly, however, it came out as “I masturbate a lot in my car”.

Think before you speak.



Filed under: academe,thoughts @ 20:01

So I never registered for Fall classes. Who cares? Well, apparently the registrar does. You’d think it’d just be one fewer student to keep track of for them if I never registered. Something tells me they’d say it’s just one more to keep track of. I wouldn’t be worrying about it – the registrar is one person who seems like can make things happen retroactively – except that a necessary (sufficient?) condition to receiving helah benefits is actually being registered.

Thus, if I don’t register soon – I no longer have health coverage. And I am positive I will have some sort of horrific accident the day after I lose coverage. So I guess I’ll need to deal with that tomorrow.

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