Because more that I expected have asked, a brief announcement:
I share no blood or knowledge with a teacher accused of having sex with her students.
I also don’t know anyone selling their child to buy a car in the western US.
That is all.
Superstition holds that celebrity deaths come in threes, but the latest triple seems much stranger than most. Watching the coverage of the funerals of James Brown, Gerald Ford and Saddam Hussein showcases how completely different these three men were. Watching these pageants, I couldn’t help but think there was some Jungian connection between it all, but can’t quite flush it out. Instead, stray observations, in no particular order:
I finally upgraded this site to the latest version of WordPress. Although it was not strictly necessary, I completely recreated my theme from scratch based on the new default theme, so some parts of the site may be a little strange looking. If you see any weird problems, please post a comment here.
Update: I have also added style definitions that should make the pages more readable on mobile devices (where previously they were illegible). Unfortunately, there is not much consistency for style support in mobile devices, so it may not work for you. Leave a comment if you have an issue on a mobile.
I have a confession to make: I don’t care about the JonBenet Ramsey case. I didn’t care when it happened, and I don’t care now. I will admit to being morally outraged about the “dress up five year olds like Texan whores” thing…ok, no I wasn’t. That part was a bit creepy, but I didn’t care much about that either.
I am therefore supremely qualified to make a prediction about the case. From the handful of three-second snippets I’ve heard on it, I predict the following:
You heard it here first. Or, hell, maybe someone else has already made this prediction. I wouldn’t know.
My career as a fortune-teller is not off to a very good start, since I’m making a prediction that will be completely unambiguous if it comes true or not. I should have put it in a quatrain about “one with a receding hairline” or something to be more cryptic.
Not that ambiguity would really matter, since people seem to fill in the blanks even when there are none. Take this comparison of a drawing a psychic made in 1998 predicting the appearance of JonBenet’s killer with the guy that confessed:
While upwards of 20 whole seconds of Googling couldn’t find a public version of this picture posted prior to three days ago, I’ll give the benefit of the doubt on that for now, since it is not particularly relevant to my point here. Which is: many people are freaking out over the similarity of the pictures. But…what similarity?
If you think these two look the same, what about these pictures suggests that? They both show a thin white guy? Check. With a receding hairline? Check. With similar eye shape? Maybe a little. With a combover? Uh… no. With a similar nose? No. With a remotely similar jaw line or head shape? No. With ears in the same position? No. With similar lip structure? No. With similar eyebrow bushiness? No. I, too, could have drawn a skinny white guy and been just as “accurate”.
I’d like to believe in mental powers beyond those of mortals as much as anyone, but real evidence of this is…limited. Psychics continue to succeed because humans are experts at finding patterns where there are none and see things that are not there, like “similarity” in these pictures.
Even though we chow on lots of bandwidth…the cost of bandwidth has come down so low. Now the biggest expense to us is electricity. On one server set we pay more money on electricity than on bandwidth. Bandwidth is really no longer the dominant factor to push value to our customers.
Back while Wired was jumping the shark (a process unquestionably completed by issue 5.03 and started much earlier), it published an article by George Gilder predicting essentially this, that an era would come where people would “waste bandwidth and save watts.”
My instinct usually led me to distrust Gilder, a feeling that was confirmed by his later founding of the Discovery Institute; however, in spite of using the word “paradigm” far to often (i.e. more than zero times), at the time I thought this Wired article prediction was correct. I remember getting into an argument about it not long after the article was published with a gamer buddy of mine. I felt that companies who built technology assuming they had infinite bandwidth would eventually crush those who invested energies into technology that assumed bandwidth was scarce. My buddy disagreed. The argument petered out when we realized that we were thinking about very different time scales. My buddy was thinking about the next five years. I was thinking about the next 50. Looks like I only needed to wait 10.
Actually, I was probably wrong back then, because I ignored the other half of Gilder’s point: that electricity would become scarce. While most of the first world is worried about terrorism, immigration, global environmental problems and which celebrities are breeding, power generation is more likely than all of them combined to bring down the first world. Imagine that you knew that world electricity consumption (around 12.8 TW now) was going to more than double by 2050 (to 28-35 TW) and were given the task to figure out where this power would come from. To get this power, would you:
It turns out that even if you did all of the first four, none of which are actually practical, you’d only barely be able to meet your target. Option 5 is the likely reality and, while opinions vary on exactly how much petroleum-based fuel remains, all agree that whatever the quantity is, it is both finite and non-renewable. It’s also fairly certain that the geopolitics surrounding oil that have been such a source of joy over the last few decades will only get more ugly. Eventually, this will probably get bad enough that option six will become economical. Chances are, this will improve things; however, it is most likely that any efficiencies will be in the area of petroleum-based power and, since this is non-renewable, such a solution ultimately becomes useless.
One thing we have a lot of, however, is sunlight and water. We can build fuel cells that combine hydrogen with air to produce water and energy. If sunlight could be harnessed to convert water to hydrogen, very large quantities of power could be generated in a renewable way. Barring something like antimatter reactors, only the sun contains the energy potential we’re likely to need. Unfortunately, we don’t actually know enough fundamental chemistry to solve this problem yet. One of my rules is to suggest solutions, and to this problem, I have none. I know of those who are working on one, though.
The Nocera Lab at MIT (the source I’ve used for the numbers and information above) is working on this exact problem. I’d trust their ability to hit on a solution over mine. An interesting prediction of the leader of this lab (mentioned in a lecture at a private company) is that every key advance in chemistry in the next few decades is likely to have something to do with power.
Another potential solution comes from the much less prestigious (bordering on flaky) Living Universe Foundation. While this group has grand plans for space colonization, the early stage of their plan is more grounded, involving building platform “cities” on the oceans. Whether of not these will be true cities, these platforms would be built around a large Stirling engine that would use the temperature differential between the surface and several dozen feet under water to generate electricity, which would then be used to extract hydrogen from water. Essentially, the power input into these systems is also the sun, as it is what heats the surface water.
Whatever occurs, if Gilder’s contention that “every economic era is based on a key abundance and a key scarcity” is true, the scarcity over my lifetime is likely to be electricity until someone ushers in the hydrogen age. Whether the “key abundance” will turn out to be bandwidth or not remains to be seen, but it’s as good a guess as any.
Which of the following is an impeachable offense for a United States President?:
(Extra credit for Ann Coulter: which of the above are treasonous?)
Clearly #8 is the correct answer, as it actually happened. I think everything else on the list is monumentally more severe, however. Item #9 became more topical a few weeks ago, when Bush held an interview that gave the distinct impression that a) he would have invaded Iraq anyway and b) he was not interested in invading Iran, a country that arguably is trying to develop WMDs. Some have taken this as a concrete admission that he lied about why we are at war, though it’s pretty clear the administration has been backpedaling on the reasons for war for some time.
While there will be some easily forgotten furor from the left about this, it won’t turn out to be nearly the uprising that it probably should be and some really foaming voices on the left will wonder why, genuinely baffled that the public isn’t furious for being duped.
I think the reason the public won’t be furious is that none of them were really that misled. Take you, for example: did you honestly, truly, deep-down believe that Saddam Hussein was rapidly preparing nukes, chemical and germ weapons to the extent that attacks with them against the US were a
imminent threat clear and present danger? I didn’t. I don’t know anyone who did. I don’t know anyone who thought that the “WMD rationale” was anything other than a pretext.
Basically, the public gave Bush a pass on lying to us, just like we seem to always do with our leaders. I suspect we won’t be so forgiving about the lie that more executive power is needed to make us safe, but more on that later.
After screwing up yesterday’s post about a class action suit, I spent a while prowling the net for photos of the actual class council (rather than the defendant’s lawyers). In looking for information on Seth A. Safier, Esq., came across another class action lawsuit he settled. This one accused a software store of selling used CDs as new.
Two things jump out at me:
Draw your own conclusions.