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Putin vs. Humanity

russia

(map is from Canadian NATO delegation)

There is not much doubt about it.  Russia is actively supporting the rebels in East Ukraine, with troops, inside Ukraine.  Prisoners have been taken, press conferences given.  This is fucked up.  This is scary.

As an American, I can’t really use this to go on an anti-Russian rant.  We’ve invaded plenty of smaller countries with even less justification.  There was no American minority population living in Iraq.  Our navy did not need the ports in Grenada.  The U.S. does not have a border with Afghanistan.

But, while Putin is no worse than your average American Republican war mongering president, this proves he’s no better, either.  And it’s all so stupid.  Russia didn’t need to control Ukraine to achieve their goals.  They needed to have friendly relations with Ukraine.  They’ve kind of blown that one.

When communism and the Warsaw Pact collapsed in the late 80s, it was a good thing for almost everybody.  People in Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Poland, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Ukraine and like 5 or 10 other countries were ecstatic.  But, even Russia was better off.  They saved a lot of money by not having to keep oppressing all of those countries, a lot of their people got rich, people could travel to the west, and westerners could go to Russia.

Putin seems to want to go back to the bad old days.  May he fail miserably.

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Immortality is Right Around the Corner

We may not need to wait for the singularity, and submit to the hive mind, to achieve immortality.

Scientists in England have managed to grow a bodily organ from scratch.  Of course, it was in a mouse, but that’s a minor detail.  If they can do it in a mouse, they can do it in a pig, a chimp, a human.

Also, it was something called the Thymus, which is an organ I’ve never even heard of so, even though it may have a very important function, is not exactly the same as growing a heart, or a liver, or a brain.  Except it probably is.  I mean, the technology is probably not much different.

The brain will probably be a lot harder.  That involves a lot of complex functions that we don’t fully comprehend yet and, as a thinking machine, it is the some total of a lifetime of programming.  I guess that’s mind, rather than brain, but then we’re into a philosophical discussion.

As amazing as they are (and they are, working in some cases up to a century non-stop without a breakdown), the heart is basically a pump, and the lungs are basically an air filter.

It will not be long until you can check into the hospital at age whatever, when you have your first heart attack, and get a replacement heart – and, while you’re in, they can go ahead and give you new lungs, a new kidney, a new liver, the works.  You’ll walk out of there like a 20 year old.

Of course, it probably won’t be covered by public health insurance, anywhere, right off the bat, being a new thing, and so only rich people will be able to get it, which is horribly unfair.

I have a suggestion, though.  If you want to buy yourself a whole, younger body so you can live forever, it should cost you every penny you have.  If a guy with 20 billion dollars wants a brand new start, it should cost him 20 billion dollars. 

People would pay, because life is life, and it would become affordable for all, because if all you have is what’s left from your most recent social security check, then that’s what it should cost, too.

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Who’s on Who’s Side?

So, an Islamist group called Misrata, who I’d never heard of up till 2 minutes ago, took over the airport in Tripoli, which is a sure sign that the revolution that toppled Gaddafi is having a bit of trouble, and then the airport gets bombed and at first nobody knows who did it and then Egypt and the United Arab Emirates take credit and the U.S. says it was totally surprised and didn’t see that one coming at all.

I can’t quite fathom Egypt’s motivation but, to be clear, I’m not really sure who’s in charge in Egypt any more and I’m not sure the Egyptians know, either, because even the ones who are in charge might not be in charge for long, and I understand the  UAE’s motivation even less because I thought they were just busy building all of the tallest buildings in the world and  attracting wealthy western tourists.

Then there is ISIS, the crazy Islamic group in Iraq and Syria, who some people say (see, we on the left can play that game, too) were trained by the  CIA, and it’s believable because it has happened before (the Taliban, for instance), although I’m not sure that means the U.S. is directly behind ISIS, it’s more likely just another group we supported without understanding their actual motives.  Just another CIA fuckup, like every CIA fuckup.

To the best of my knowledge, they have never done a single thing which did not make the world a more dangerous place.

Bashar Assad has indicated that he’d be all in favor of the U.S. coming in and taking out the ISIS, but he doesn’t want the U.S. to come in without co-ordinating it with him first, which puts Obama in a bit of a weird position, or would, if people’s memories extended back beyond a week or two, because he did say at one point that Assad was totally unacceptable and had to go but it seems like now we are on his side, because there is so little doubt the others are even worse.

It’s a bloody barroom brawl.  You swing a chair, you’ll hit somebody, but you’re not exactly sure who.

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El Golfo de Hermosillo

There was apparently a 6.0 earthquake in Northern California today, and Volcano Bang Bang Boom over in Iceland is threatening to smother the northern hemisphere in ash  but, as damaging as these events might be, they are at least natural disasters of a type we understand: fire, flood, hurricane, tsunami, volcano, earthquake, avalanche…there might be a few others on that list.

Golfo de Hermosillo (proposed)

Golfo de Hermosillo (proposed)

Nobody really knows how  bad the Icelandic volcano could be (experts are estimating it at ‘very fucking bad.’), and a 6.0 is nothing to sneeze at, especially if you’re near the epicenter, but Bay Area residents have lived through worse.

As bad as they might be, though, there are people who know about earthquakes and volcanoes, there are emergency responses in place. 

The strange holes in the Earth’s surface that have been appearing all over the place, now, there’s another kettle of fish.  Of course, sinkholes aren’t even making the news any more, unless they swallow a bus or something.  People aren’t paying too much attention to the weird holes that opened up in Siberia, probably because it’s Siberia.  Not a lot of people want to live there.  In fact, the number who want to live there is probably somewhat less than the number of people who actually live there, and that is not a high number.  Then there is the Hermosillo Trench.

The Hermosillo Trench is a hole in the Earth that just opened up the other day, about a kilometer long, about 8 meters deep at the deepest and about 5 meters wide at the widest.  It is near Hermosillo, Mexico, which is just a bit inland from the Pacific Coast.  A couple of newspaper articles I read said ‘farmland,’ but it sure looks like desert to me.

Some experts are saying quake, some are saying a collapsed river bed.  I say, whatever.  The question is, what are we going to do about it.

With the Siberian  holes, as I wrote once before, the sensible thing to do would be to plant as many plants as possible around the rims, to try and get the methane out of the air the same way that plants everywhere take care of carbon dioxide, or  monoxide, I always get those two confused (which is a euphemistic way of saying I don’t know the difference).

With the Golfo do Hermosillo, I would (if I were the town council  of Hermosillo) widen it a bit and extend it as far as the ocean.  Give yourselves a bit of a recreational area, and a tourist draw.  Maybe even set up some shrimp farms.

You know.  Lemons.  Lemonade.

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The Best Individual for the Job

I do love a cute robot story, so here is this one. A hotel in Silicon Valley (obvs) is trying out a new service. Robot bell hops. They can deliver your luggage to your room or items from room service ordered via the hotel intranet – no living person needs to be aware of your porn fetish.

Thank   you, Botlr!

Thank you, Botlr!

The robotic butler, known as Botlr due, no doubt, to some horribly contrived acronym, will not be too rude or too sycophantic, will not leer at your girlfriend, will not even think about stealing your possessions and, most importantly, will not wait around for a tip just because he had to come all they way up in the elevator to bring you a bottle of vodka.  The price of hotel living just got a little bit cheaper.

I expect this will work, because the job is simple enough for robots to do.  There’s no real imagination required.  Once upon a time we had elevator operators and gas station attendants, but the jobs just weren’t complicated enough to require full time human employees.

What other jobs will someday be done by robots?  I’ve got a suggestion.  It’s a complex job, but one human beings constantly screw up.  It’s one that requires objectivity, but every human who ever gets the job has an agenda.  I’m talking about world leadership.

Need to redraw the voting districts so they’re not gerrymandered? There must be an algorithm for that.  Need a fairer method of taxation, which brings in enough money for all necessary social services but doesn’t ding anybody too harshly?  Add enough data in, the answer will pop out.  It could be done on an experimental basis at first, with the Presibot just as an advisor, but once it gets to the point where it makes the right decision more often than not, flesh and blood politicians would be fools to ignore it.  Unfortunately , they are.

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To ‘Like’ or not to ‘Like’

It’s midnight and I want to get to bed and, as usual, I am fishing for a topic.  I do not want to write about Ferguson or Gaza because I’ve written about both topics  before, they are totally  depressing and it seems  like everybody’s decided what side they’re on.  I could, I suppose, write about the two things that could happen in the next week which might be big enough to end life on Earth  as we know it -the Icelandic supervolcano, bangerbonker or something  like that, and the  looming Russian  invasion of Ukraine.

In the case of the  supervolcano, there’s little we can do.  Stock up on bottled water and surgical  masks, I guess.  But, if it’s going  to happen, nobody  can  stop it happening.

Russia invading  Ukraine would be Russia saying to the world “Fuck you, world, we’re back.”  This  is not what the world wants to hear.  It could wind up being disastrous.  Certainly for the Ukrainians who are, for the most part,  harmless folk.

I wrote last night about the Russian discovery  of microscopic organismss (sea plankton) growing on the outside of the space station, and nothing can really top that.

So tonight I’m just going  to comment on this, a study in which one  person just ‘liked’ everything on their facebook page and another just ignored the like button totally.  Unsurprisingly, the one who didn’t ‘like’ anything was much happier with the results.like

Myself, I use it sparingly, family pictures, sometimes a vacation pic if it’s a particularly beautiful spot,  some art stuff, but with most posts I’m either moved to comment or not interested enough to do anything at all.

Besides, as long as that’s your only choice,  it’s rather  meaningless.  They should also have a ‘dislike’ button.  While they’re at it, they should have a ‘grossed out’ button, and a ‘please seek psychiatric help button.’  There should be a ‘mildly aroused but feeling guilty about it’ button and ‘WTF did I just watch?’ button.

But none of them are necessary.  You can just type your feelings into the comments, like this: I like this.

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Life in Space!

This should be headline news everywhere.  This is the most important thing to happen this week.  This month.  This century.  Maybe ever.  Life has been discovered in outer space!tree in space

Of course, it is microscopically small life, little sea plankton particles growing on the outside of the International Space Station, like barnacles on a ship.  Who was the scientist who said that our first contact with extra-terrestrial life would be some kind of bacteria or something extremely small like that?  Was it Sagan?  Whoever it was, he just got proved right.

No matter that it’s small.  There is life outside of the Earth!

No matter that it’s growing on an artificial surface.  It proves that live can survive in deep space, without any atmosphere, and exposed to extremes of solar radiation alternating with the terrifying cold of the void.

It doesn’t even matter that it’s terrestrial in origin.  Nobody’s quite sure how it got there, but since it’s not something usually found in the middle of landlocked Southern  Russia, scientists think it probably drifted up (being particulate matter, lighter than air) into outer space, which is kind of an amazing development with regards to terrestrial life as well.  Our atmosphere is not an impermeable barrier.  It’s thin enough for meteors to come in and destroy everything, which means it’s thin enough that some life can get out.  That’s important, but it’s doubly amazing that life formed on Earth can live, and thrive, in space.  Without a space suit, outside of a ship, that is.

If it’s that easy for life to leave a planet and grow in outer space, then life is almost undoubtedly widespread throughout the universe.

Now, it’s just microscopic plankton.  What if the station is up there for a thousand years?  Will it be covered with moss?  What about a million years?  What about the multi-generational Stanford Torus ark ships?  Will they arrive, millions of years in the future, at some distant solar system, covered with forests, encased in a self-generated atmosphere, with squirrels leaping from branch to branch and birds flitting around and around?  Maybe they will.  Maybe they will.

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