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I’ve read a couple of articles recently questioning something we thought was known, the idea that we only use 10% of our brains, and I wonder how they know?  First of all, any sample size for an experiment that is short of 7 billion is going to give inconclusive results because some people might use more, some considerably less.

Are the teabaggers only using 5%, or were they that dumb to start with?  My feeling is it doesn’t matter too much because 10% of a lot is still a lot, but 10% of a little is damned near nothing at all, and that is half the population.  Sometimes, I wonder how society can function as well as it does.

I’m sure there must be a range.  We are so different from each other in so many different ways that it seems impossible we should be consistent in this.

For instance.  It has long been said that people need 8 hours of sleep every night.  I average about 6, and I usually manage to get through the day without hallucinations or sudden tantrums.  Some people might need 10.  It’s O.K.   We can all get along.

I saw another study recently that said that 80% of our DNA is just junk.  I believe that, too.  Nature, and the law of natural selection, doesn’t have to be efficient – just effective.  There is redundancy and overkill all over the place.

The vast majority of the universe is empty space.

Whether we use 10% of our brain, or 20% of a 50% less intelligent brain, is an interesting question for scientists, but it doesn’t change anything.  We are as smart as we are, we are at the stage of evolution we are at, and the only thing that is certain is that it won’t remain exactly the same.

Nothing  ever does.

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Back From the Cottage

Back from two days at the cottage and it’ll probably be a few months before I go up there again.  On the one hand, it really is spectacularly beautiful.  We spent a great deal of time outdooors, I picked a lot of blackberries, the last of the red currants and, down by the pond, an orange yellow fruit which seems to be some kind of plum.kotelsko

There are long views,  views that give you the idea you are looking at a whole region, the sides of hills just below the line where they would be considered mountains, and there is a checkerboard design across them.  Light green fields of grass interspersed with darker green forests.

But, damn, it wears me out.  Everybody is speaking Czech, so it sounds like a non-stop shouting and bitching session, an acrimonious town hall meeting, even though I know it’s nothing of the sort.  Not fun.

It was kind of fun when I was in the pool with the kids, mine plus 2 nephiws and a niece, the oldest of whom is 7.  they want  me to throw them and spin them around and climb on my back and hold me under water.  Kind of fun, but it got out of control sometimes.  Wore me out.

Last night we did a fun thing.  Mad up a treasure hunt for the kids (the treasure was a bag of potato chips), and left clues and hid it behind a cross (grave? I don’t know.  It says 1896, but there is no name on it) I put a sheet over my head to play ghost and waited behind.  My niece Natalka was scared to death and crying but little Adam, who is 4 I think, said “Oh, it’s only Willie,” lifted up the sheet and punched me in the crotch.

Everybody except me thought this was extremely amusing.

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The Dream Machine

We are headed off to the cottage in a few minutes, I wanted to weasel out of it and just stay home and write, I feel I’m finally making a bit of progress on my novel, but it’s my Mother-in-Law’s birthday so I’ve got no choice in the matter.

Therefore, I’m going to bang out this blog now, and be done.  Somebody posted this on my facebook page this morning and my first thought was ‘cute cartoon,’ which I suspect was the intent, but my second thought was ‘Wow! what an ingenious invention that would be, and actually will be, soon, because scientists are getting better and better at brain mapping and computer nerds are getting better and better at making connections, handicapped people can move cursors just by thinking about it for instance.’

My 3rd thought was ‘this is an important invention on the way to the singularity.’  Then I started to write my response to it and, as I often do, I decided to write my response in the form of a short rhyme, because nobody else does that.  Actually, I imagine that in all of the vastness of facebook, there must be a few other people here and there doing that, but I haven’t met them yet.

As is common, when I’m writing a rhyme, the words that come out show me a different way of thinking about the subject.  My first reaction is to say, no, no, no, that is not what I meant to say but then I look at them again and think  ‘well, maybe it’s not what I intended to say, but it’s true, and therefore valid, and deserves to be part of the conversation.

I wrote:

This will be designed and built some day, we’ll put it to the test

and then our dreams won’t give us any rest

And that is true, the purpose of dreams is to let the brain relax, to filter the images, to keep us from going insane from sensory overload.  So, while this might be a brilliant invention, drawing us one step closer to the singularity and the next step of evolution after humankind, it could also result, short term, in massive depression, insanity, suicides and murders galore.

There’s a book in there somewhere.

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Slow Death

I am against the death penalty.  I don’t think it’s necessary, for one thing.  As long as the person is locked up, not out in the world among the general population, that is enough.  That fulfills the obligation of the justice system, which is, as I see it, to keep the criminals away from the general population and vice versa.  Also, I think it’s just giving too much power to the state.  I suspect they would have loved to execute Chelsea Manning, if they thought they could have gotten away with it.  There have definitely been politically motivated executions in American history: the Rosenbergs, Sacco and Vanzetti, Joe Hill, probably a few others.

But, I’ve never been tempted to stand outside the prison walls holding a candle, because in most specific cases, even though I object to the practice, it’s hard to have any sympathy for the person being executed.  They are, in the majority of cases, horrible people.

The guy that just got executed to death in Arizona is no exception.  He’d been found guilty of two murders and his death will probably not affect anybody in the world adversely.   Even his family and loved ones, if he has such, will probably be just as well off with him dead.

But why does it have to be so complicated?  Why does it take two hours to kill somebody?  Police in Arizona, and elsewhere across the U.S., seem to be quite efficient, usually, at killing people quickly.  It can happen in an instant, at a traffic stop, during a marijuana raid on your house, which may not have even been intended for your house, but all houses look pretty much alike, or while peaceably rolling down the street in your wheelchair.

There are many methods of death which don’t take two hours.  You could thrown them from a high building.  It might take a few seconds to reach the bottom, but that’s not two hours.  You could use the guillotine.  Ugly symbolism, but nobody ever said that guillotines were ineffective.  Certainly, it does  not take two hours to die after your head has been severed form your body.

If the vet has to put down a wounded horse, or other animal, they just get out a gun and put a bullet through it’s head.  It’s quick, problem solved.  Thousands, maybe millions of animals are killed in the U.S. every day, generally in swift and humane circumstances.

No, it does not take two hours to kill somebody.  It makes me wonder if the authorities in Arizona really had a hard time killing this guy – or were they actually enjoying themselves.


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Prophets of Science Fiction

My new favorite TV program is a thing on Discovery Channel called “Prophets of Science Fiction.”  I have no idea if this is a new program or not.  Discovery Channel recycles the shit out of their programming.  This morning I was watching a thing about a new Metro Station being built in Singapore and they said “But, it won’t be open until 2012,” and the tone of voice implied that that was still a couple of years in the future.

Arthur C. Clarke 1917-2008

Arthur C. Clarke 1917-2008

It doesn’t matter.  It’s a new show to me.

Tonight they are doing Arthur C. Clarke,  one of my favorites.  The thing about Arthur C. Clarke is he was not just a great science fiction writer, he was also a brilliant scientist, and an all around cool guy.  He invented the radio satellite so, when you use a mobile phone, you very much have him to thank.  He predicted the space elevator, which we haven’t got yet but when we do, space is going to open up for us big time, like the way railroads opened up the west, but even more extreme.  And, of course, he wrote 2001, A Space Odyssey.  One thing that I really like about Clarke, though, was a lifestyle choice.  After he was rich and famous, and everybody expected him to just stay focused on space and write more books, he moved to Sri Lanka, because he was as interested in the world under the sea as he was in outer space.

Just an all around cool guy with a wide range of interests.

A couple nights ago, they focused on Philip K. Dick.  Of course I’m a fan but I must admit, I think both Blade Runner and Total Recall were improved by being turned into movies.  Like Asimov and Heinlein,  you can read Clarke’s books without being a genius yourself.  Dick is a bit harder.  He’s like the William Faulkner of science fiction.  It was a really interesting program.  I hadn’t realized just how insane he was, for one thing.

The show raised an interesting question in ethics.  When Ridley Scott was making Blade Runner, the studio approached Dick and said “It’s going great but we want to change the name.”  Dick said no way.  It’s my book  (“Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”) and I want you to keep the title.  They said “We’ll pay you an extra $400,000.”  He still said no.

Then he up and died before the film was completed, and they went ahead and changed the name.

On the one hand, I think Blade Runner is a much better name for the movie, so, if it were just an argument over the name, I’d agree with them.

But ignoring the author’s last wish was pretty tacky.

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