Saturday, December 31, 2011

Blog Year In Review

Greetings, Strangers.
Even though I generally regard this holiday as just another day, I now tender my year-end review.  So long, 2011.  Don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.

On UFOs:
The object seemed to suddenly shrink in size and its bright reflection was gone.  It was difficult to make out in the sky, but I managed to follow it as it made a lazy drift towards the south.  Then it grew to its original size once more and with it came the brilliant sheen.  This cycle repeated itself at irregular intervals as the object continued to make a slow, seemingly aimless path in the sky.  Were they trying to communicate with me?  To impart mantic messages?  Was I about to get butt-tubed?  As the wind ran across the hairs of my arms and the object shrank once more, it suddenly came to me...

This was a Mylar balloon.

On Dreams:
Recently, Armando said that dreams are attempts by the subconscious to tell you something.  Or a phrase to that effect.  Makes me wonder about the popular notion that dreams are far more than "day residue" played back by the subconscious.  Perhaps they are a sort of Matrix-like simulation, an arena where alternatives might be played out and problems sifted through.  Whatever their nature, I certainly had a peculiar one this morning.

I was in a rural area, not at all dissimilar to where I spent my childhood in Indiana.  I was standing next to a beer delivery truck on a gravel apron at a beverage distributor.  My boss was giving me my delivery route; first Lake Station, then Deerfield, then out west to Rockford.  I was also supposed to push insulated bags on the customers and make a sale if I could. 
I like beer.  I had three today while I watched the Bears play with intermittent switches over to the Cubs game.  But this dream made me realize that Hell is an app that is customized to the user.  For one thing, I cannot imagine having to drive a vehicle that large.  I'm certain I would kill someone.  Secondly, if you read the "You Know What Really Grinds My Gears?" post, then  you know that I hate driving in general.  I cannot conscience the idea of making a job out of it.  Lastly, there seemed to be sales incorporated into my dream and that is the worst career I can think of next to...nothing.  I cannot properly express to you the melancholy weight that I felt during this dream.
Then someone from my day job showed up, someone I respect very much.  She took a cigarette out of her mouth and said, "What the hell are you doing here?" 
"I need the money," I replied.
"You were going to be an English professor!" she said.
"That ship has already sailed."
"So what are you doing now?"
"About what?"
"UFOs, among other things."
"That's crazy.  They don't exist and you're wasting your time."

Lastly, Neppe made one key point: "The universe itself is conscious and intelligent and has an innate order to it."

That statement is critical.  I believe that it gets at what a great many people term as "God."  The universe is energy.  From the stars burning nuclear fuel to the minor levels of electrical current in our bodies.  It's all energy and we are linked in with it  Consciousness itself might be a form of energy, an omnibus of our accumulated knowledge and experience and perhaps even things we aren't aware that we know yet.  The "unknown knowns" as Donald Rumsfield might say.  Oh I could keep going but I need meditate and reflect on all of this first.  So fascinating...

On transhumanism:
I'd have to include my entire interview with Nikki Olson...but here's just a snippet:
5)   How do you see Transhumanism affecting global issues such as poverty and instability in developing nations?

The best answer is that it already is. Though we don’t consider the technologies that play a role here, ‘Transhumanist’ technologies. Information technology, through artificial intelligence programs and automation, has reduced the cost of creating powerful software, and has ‘democratized’ knowledge. Education, and access to information, is probably the most valuable resource lacking in developing nations. It’s perhaps impossible, I think, to overestimate the difference that Internet access has made in these nations, and will continue to have, in nations plagued with economic and political  struggles. Also, we are on our way to solving major health concerns that create enormous obstacles in poorer nations. There is good reason to be confident that through greater understanding of the human genome that we will be able to really tackle things like AIDs and malaria. Through the pursuit of advanced technology, which is a main goal of Transhumanists, we have breakthroughs daily that help to solve global issues. I see a very bright future for developing nations, actually, so long as we pursue these problems with the mentality that they can be solved, and we focus on technology as the way to solve them. 


Why am I doing this?  As I pointed out in an earlier post, I love Star Wars.  I wouldn’t be doing any of this if not for that film.  I want to go back to that joy I felt in 1977 when first seeing that film, capturing “the good old stuff” as Brian Aldiss once called the subgenre.  This is not being written on spec for publication or monetary gain, only for fun.  I wish only to move spaceships around in my head, to explore strange, alien worlds in my imagination, to root for androids wishing for status as living things, and to wonder to super powered beings.  And why not?  Even Aristotle recognized the need for “spectacle” in the Poetics, so how can entertainment be all that bad?

What do I think?  Personally, I'm calling "b.s." on the fireworks theory.  I also think that the death of a former Pentagon official such as Wheeler, an especially odd death it would seem, is highly suspect.  But the bird die off need not be from any of these exotic, conspiratorial mechanics.  It might have happened as the result of our own detrimental impact on the environment.  That, if you ask me, is every bit as insidious as the other man-made possibilities.  And what will we do?  Probably watch as the skies and the oceans die, say "aw that's terrible," and then hop back into our SUVs to drive off.  We're caretakers of this world.  I wonder when or if we will ever come to realize that?

On April O'Neil:
With Asia Carrera retired and settling into married life (again), I'd say she's pretty much off the market for me.  Who am I kidding?  It's not like she was ever really on for me.  Anyway, I've found a new adult film starlet who while not a member of Mensa has many geeky qualities.  Her name is April O'Neil (that link is NSFW).  Yes she took her screen name from the character on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  She's also an enormous Doctor Who fan and attended San Diego Comic Con in cosplay.  Also doesn't hurt that she's drop dead gorgeous.

Best wishes for happiness in 2012!

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

Friday, December 30, 2011

Searching for life on Mars: a human timeline

If I have learned one thing, it is that I truly love Infographics.

Anything that gives a visual breakdown of facts and just does it for me.  Just one more geeky thing about me, I suppose. 
Yesterday, Geeks Are Sexy posted an infographic from NYU about the history of the search for life on Mars.  You can see it for yourself at the link but here are what I found to be a few of the more interesting tidbits.
In a 1909 article in the New York Times, the legendary Nikola Telsa claimed that living beings on Mars were attempting to contact him through his wireless radio transmitters.  By 1925, it was determined that what were thought to be alien transmissions was actually static noise from Earth's own radios.  From there on out, the idea of life on Mars became a taboo subject in academia. Give Tesla a break.  Even a genius doesn't get it right every time.
In 1971, Bowie releases "Life On Mars."  Don't know if it's critical or germane to an astronomical timeline, but I like it.
The graph moves on through the Viking years, the photo of the now debunked "face," the 1996 microbial life controversy, and the prechlorates discovered a year ago.  The "future explorations" section of the timeline talks about the ESA's effort to send a rover to the Red Planet by 2016 that will hopefully be able to dig deep enough to find residual DNA traces or perhaps even life itself in the water reservoirs beneath the surface.  There is a proposed NASA mission for 2018 that would do much the same but that's all depending upon just how broke the good ol' U.S. of A. is by then. 
And no talk of manned missions to Mars.  I know, I know, we're a long way off from that but it just seems to me that if we stop talking about it there really will be no chance for a human expedition. 

As I keep thinking about it, Mars doesn't sound all that bad...and I'm certain there are plenty of people who would like to send me there.  Quiet.  Could get a lot of writing done.  No neighbors (or are there??).  Yeah yeah, I know.  Blah blah blah oxygen.  Blah blah blah radiation shielding.  Blah blah blah water.
Or then again, that last point might be resolved.

Now playing: "Brain Damage" by Pink Floyd.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Another witness to Roswell

A week or so ago, Linda Moulton Howe was on Coast-to-Coast AM, discussing a great many things paranormal.  The most interesting story to me was the one she told about Patrick Murphy.

Murphy's father, Francis Murphy, was stationed at the Roswell Airfield on that fateful day in July of 1947.  Francis Murphy told his son that on the day in question, cargo planes and ambulances arrived on the base rapidly after the crash occurred.  One hangar was sealed off and rendered "off limits" to all but the highest ranking officers.  A security officer on the base told Francis Murphy that the crash debris consisted of "strange looking metal" and body parts that "did not belong to humans."  Later that day, Francis would assist with the loading of crates into waiting planes.  The crates were marked only with numbers and the single phrase, "Wright Patterson AFB."

On her web site Earthfiles, Ms. Moulton Howe did even more in-depth interview with Patrick Murphy.  One of the more interesting points to be gleaned from this talk was that Francis Murphy reported that in the days following the famous Kenneth Arnold UFO sighting over Mt. Rainier in Washington (an event that happened only days before the crash at Roswell), several P-51 fighter planes were stationed at Roswell.  As Patrick Murphy put it, "The P-51s were stationed there and were always armed. They weren't there just for training and those planes were well equipped for offensive, not just defensive capability."
Coincidence?  Sure, it could be.  I just find it an intriguing juxtaposition of events.  Likewise interesting is that Patrick asserted that his father saw the original report sent out from Roswell, one clearly stating that bodies were recovered and that they were "not human."  Additionally, Francis Murphy noted that cargo planes came and went from Roswell airfield for three days after the crash.  From the amount of debris gathered, Francis guessed that the craft had to be about the size of a B-29.

So what are we to think from Patrick's interview?  Sure, you can say that it's all secondhand and we are interpolating based upon that, but it's the man's father.  Let's take a look at just who Francis Murphy was as described on the Earthfiles site:
"During World War II, he was promoted to Captain and was assigned to the 8th Army Air Corp with an intelligence unit on the front lines. He worked in North Africa desert wars and then was in Naples, Italy, until the war ended in 1945. Captain Murphy was wounded four times, received four purple hearts and a bronze star. From Italy, Capt. Murphy was assigned to Roswell Army Air Field, New Mexico, in late 1945 through 1947 to early 1948."

Four purple hearts.  One bronze star.  Yeah, I'd say the guy had pretty good character would likely not be prone to confabulation.  Also interesting was the fact that Patrick claimed that his father would willingly speak about almost all aspects of his service in World War II but he did not like talking about Roswell.  
For my money, this ties in directly with the argument against those who allege, "With all the people involved, the government couldn't have kept a UFO crash at Roswell a secret."  I'll forgo the Manhattan Project example and cite instead a story posted just a few days ago at UFO Iconoclast(s).  For more than a decade, several men in Connecticut worked on one of the most successful spy satellite programs ever...all under the noses of their families and no one was ever the wiser.  If told not to talk about it, many in the defense industry and in the service, especially at the time of Roswell, did not talk about it.

Many things can be kept secret...including alien life.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Alien Dawn by Colin Wilson

It was not the Christmas gift that I had anticipated.

The flu, that is.  Let me emphasize this to you one and all: get rest, drink fruit juice, get a flu shot, do whatever you can to prevent getting this virus because this thing is a son of a seabiscuit. 
It took hold of me on Friday, just the barest of beachheads in the sinuses.  By yesterday morning I was feverish, chilled to the bone, and a hacking up things that looked like they could get up and walk away on their own.  I've been cranberry juiced, I've been souped, I've been blanketed, I've been Vitamin C'd, D'd, and B'd.  I've been too exhausted to read and have settled for TV (thank goodness for M*A*S*H or I would have been left with a wasteland.  You know, like that garbage they show on TLC for the daytime crowd?)  In short, not fun.

What has been fun is this proper Christmas gift that I received, the book Alien Dawn by Colin Wilson.  Wilson is the author of a book called The Outsider, one that will get a blog post in its own right in due time.  In this book, however, Wilson takes on what seems to be everything and the paranormal kitchen sink.  I'm talking alien encounters and abductions, UFOs, cryptids, poltergeists, time slips, out-of-body-experiences, and tales from the fusty annals of antiquity that have long been excluded from the academic canon. What intrigues me most about the prospect of this book is how Wilson seems to be seeking a "grand unified theory" of The Weird; a perspective that sees seemingly unrelated phenomena as parts of a greater mosaic whole.  What's more, Wilson appears to be a skeptic at heart...or at least that's what it seems from the first few pages.  I like that.  That means he's running all of his research through the wringer and that's definitely something this author can appreciate.

I'll write more once I've actually read the entire book. First, however, I must get through The Truth About Flying Saucers and Above Black.
But now I'm going back to bed.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas in London

When you study The Weird, it helps to have a sense of history.

No one can move forward without a sense of where they have been.  That, in fact, is not an  insignificant factor in our modern problems.  Most Americans appear to have the sense that the world was just cut out of whole cloth about 20 years ago.  Universities are abandoning curricula such as history, literature, and other aspects of the Humanities and Arts.  Real smart.  Yes, why study history when you can just watch it repeat itself?
Whatever my future academic plans, I want well as a few other fields of be integrated into them.  But I digress...

There is a block of text I read every year on Christmas Eve.  It helps me to place the difficulties I face into perspective and to really analyze my supposed "unhappiness."  The words were from the paragon of journalism himself, Edward R. Morrow, as he broadcast from London in the wee hours of Christmas Day, 1940.  It was the height of the German attack on Britain.  Here was how he described it:

"Christmas Day began in London nearly an hour ago.  The church bells did not ring at midnight.  When they ring again, it will be to announce invasion.  And if they ring, the British are ready.  Tonight, as on every other night, the rooftop watchers are peering out across the fantastic forest of London's chimney pots.  The antiaircraft gunners stand ready.  And all along the coast of this island, the observers revolve in their reclining chairs, listening for the sound of German planes.  The fire fighters and the ambulance drivers are waiting, too.  The blackout stretches from Birmingham to Bethlehem, but tonight over Britain the skies are clear.
This is not a merry Christmas in London.   I heard that phrase only twice in the last three days."

Taking a few days off to spend with family.  Wishing you a Happy/Merry Whateveryoubelievein.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Bats surviving despite mass die-off

Thanks to John Shirley on Facebook for posting this story to his wall.

Millions of brown bats have died from what is known as "white nose syndrome.

The disease has only been on the radar scope of biologists for the past five years or so.  Its origins are thought to be in a type of fungus but beyond that or as to how exactly it gets transmitted between bats is still unknown.  So much of a concern is this that US officials have dictated a temporary end to caving for spelunkers in the affected areas, namely the Eastern Seaboard of the United States and Canada.  What is known for certain is that the fungus-related disease destroys the membrane that allows bats to flap their wings and it has been responsible for a 98-99% drop in the brown bat population.

Now, pockets of surviving bat colonies have been located in Vermont and Pennsylvania.  The hope is that these bats have somehow developed an adapted immunity to white nose syndrome.
“They need to be further evaluated to see if they’re exposed or carrying any of the disease,”one biologist said, but further commented that naturalists were thankful "there were survivors here at all. We’ve observed two trends, and one is that many or most of the little brown bat colonies are gone. There were hundreds, and now they’re gone.”

Already I detect the more narrow-minded and the tea bagger/fundy set (or are all of those one in the same?) yawning and saying, "So what?  Why should we care?  Why is tax money being spent on this?"
Ahhh that old chestnut.  Let me see how simply I can put it.  Bats eat bugs.  If there are no bats, more bugs attack farmers' crops.  Farmers then spend a ton more on pesticide.  Not only does this drench our food in chemicals but it raises the cost of the food.  After all, if farmers have to pay more to raise the crop, they need to recover the cost somewhere. There was even a study about this done for the journal Science.  One colony of bats was found to have eaten 1.3 million insects that would have otherwise gone after crops.  That's pretty cheap pesticide.  Additionally, bugs carry disease.  While the vast majority of the maladies are treatable, they are still nuisances that you just wouldn't want.  So like many...or most...organisms, bats matter.
As a matter of fact, I have a family member who did her graduate work in environmental science.  She worked at a firm where her job was to basically go into heavily wooded areas of Virginia and Pennsylvania to see if there were bat colonies present before an electric company could run power lines through the region.  If there were bats, the deal was off.

You know what would really chafe my rear?  If it were somehow determined that human activity was the cause of the white nose proliferation.  Can't say it would surprise me, but it would annoy me.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Asking the musical question: Is there life on Mars?

Scientists have always speculated that life could exist in the subterranean reaches of Mars.  Now, a study seems to lend credence to that speculation and go it one better.

A paper has been published, detailing the findings of experiments conducted by the Australian National University.  These studies found that over three percent of Mars is capable of sustaining life, underground life that is.  By way of comparison, only one percent of the Earth is habitable.  Adding to the case for either bacteria or simple organisms beneath the surface is the fact that Mars has vast deposits of ice in its interior.  It might even have liquid water.  This might even be, as the study suggests, on a planet-wide scale rather than just isolated pockets.

Sure, microorganisms and single-cell life isn’t all that exciting; except for the virtue of it being the only life we will have encountered off-planet.  Officially, anyway.  But I keep coming back to these “extremophiles” we continue to discover here on Earth.  These are organisms living in locales like say, the icy reaches under Antarctica, that science previously deemed inhospitable.  It’s not a far stretch to then imagine microorganisms in the harsh and unforgiving landscapes of space or a planet like Mars.

What of intelligent life?  Granted the leap from microscopic life to intelligence is a vast one, yet I still wonder.  Could an entire civilization of intelligent life exist beneath the surface of Mars?  Unaware of the tiny probes landing above it? 

And of course, how else would I close out this post?

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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

It's too The Defenders

Last week, Dorkland did a blog post about The Defenders.  Inspired by this (don't let it get to your head, Chris), I wanted to offer a few thoughts on the book myself.

The Defenders harkens me back to the sunny days of my youth when the majority of what I read were Marvel Comics.  It's probably been since 2000 or so since I regularly read anything Marvel and there was a long era of abstinence before that point as well.  But I digress..

The comic book series concerned heroes who were outsiders with strong streaks of individuality.  This stood in stark contrast to The Avengers, who were most of the publisher's flagship characters at the time.  The Avengers had a headquarters, an organizational charter, government restrictions, and probably HR rules and a mission statement to boot.  The Defenders had none of this.  They were, as Marvel touted them, a "non-team" team of superheroes.

The first Defenders were formed in a crossover of Dr. Strange, the Hulk, and Namor the Sub-Mariner.  The three came together to stand against the threat of extra-dimensional beings called The Undying Ones. The good guys won of course.  In a subsequent story arc, Namor enlists the help of the Silver Surfer to fight a weather control experiment gone horribly awry.  Silver Surfer would then become a semi-regular in the series.  All of this can be found in Marvel's edition of Essential Defenders Vol. 1.  Also contained in that volume is one of my favorite issues, Defenders #2, "Nightmare on Bald Mountain."  It's a blatant homage to the work of H.P. Lovecraft and it's a true gem in comics.

Those I read in the Essential edition.  My true indoctrination to the team came when the roster was Hulk, Nighthawk, Hellcat, Valkyrie, and the occasional visit from Dr. Strange.  Since it was my first exposure, it also happens to be my favorite line-up and for no real better reason than that.  Somewhere out there, I'm sure there is someone who favorites the New Defenders line-up, which was basically X-Factor before that team came to be.

Speaking of taste, the storylines and opponents in The Defenders were usually supernatural and occult in nature.  In other words, things usually got really weird really fast.  That not being my prime interest in comics, I was not a regular buyer of the book.  I would pick it up whenever a) the cover grabbed me and b) there was not much else I wanted to buy with my comics allowance.  That said, it was typically a fun ride, even if I could only take it in small doses, and compared to Marvel's output of the past few decades, those issues were absolutely lucent. 

Marvel has recently relaunched a Defenders title.  Dorkland says it keeps the feel of the original series.  And it features Iron Fist as a team member.  Bonus!  Still, I just can't bring myself to rush off to the comics store and buy it.  Maybe one day but not too soon.  For now, I'm content with my classic issues, reliving the writing of Roy Thomas and Steve Gerber.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

Monday, December 19, 2011

Moon Base Newt

A most interesting sparring point arose in the recent debate of Republican presidential hopefuls. 

When Mitt Romney was asked what the biggest difference was between him and Newt Gingrich, Romney replied, “We could start with his idea to have a lunar colony that would mine minerals from the moon. I’m not in favor of spending that kind of money to do that.”

So help me, the man is right.  In fact, George W. Bush ordered NASA to begin planning a Moon Base, gave them a timeline and a deadline, and then authorized the funding for it.  Obama trashed this entire plan, claiming that space exploration would best be left to the private sector from now on.  He might have a point.  Then again, so does Gingrich.  He is calling for the same corporatization of space and if businesses can get the job done, why not? 

The Moon has trillions of dollars worth of minerals just waiting to be mined.  I’m talking about ores such as gold, platinum, iron, and so forth.  Nuclear-powered robots could be sent to the lunar surface first, establishing the groundwork for a permanent habitat next to a crater that gets perpetual sunlight.  The Chinese have already located such an area on The Moon.  By the time astronauts arrive they would be able to walk into the beginnings of an actual lunar base.  Robots would then begin to tunnel into the surface of The Moon in order to mine minerals to send back to Earth.  As mining progresses, the Moon Base may progress into a full-on lunar colony, complete with solar power plants and inflatable domes for growing food. After this outpost is established, an ectype of the colony could then be placed on Mars.

Of course everyone usually whines about the cost at this point.  In doing so, they neglect the number of jobs such a venture would create and how much money could be made on the resources extracted from The Moon.  Since there no loner appears to be any kind of vision for space in the White House, perhaps we will one day see a corporation or another private firm display mondo amounts of guts and go forth with this enterprise. 

And if they don’t, it seems like the Chinese will be happy to do it for us.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

Sunday, December 18, 2011

A noun, a verb, and 9/11...

Just a while back, I mentioned Alex Jones in a post about NDAA legislation.

Turns out the vote was indeed a factual event, even though I still debate and contest the alleged ramifications.  Anhyoo, my first introduction to Jones was through various 9/11 conspiracy theories.  It was an inside job, there were far more nefarious and Luciferian forces at work, so on and so forth.  One of the aspects of 9/11 that Jones along with several other researchers have pointed out is the fact that Anwar al-Awlaki seemed awfully snuggly with the U.S. government even while the Feds were calling him the most wanted man in the world after Osama bin Laden.  In fact, an FBI agent who interviewed al-Awlaki after the 9/11 attacks said that no one knew the story and details behind 9/11 better than al-Awlaki.  This casts a bit more shadow on the fact that al-Awlaki was killed by a U.S. Reaper drone last September.  Combining that with my personal belief that no plane ever struck the Pentagon on 9/11, I thought that I should head over to Jones' site and maybe even listen in on a bit of his radio program.

Seems that Jones' current preaching is that we are facing a military takeover of our nation.  The approval of NDAA was just the beginning.  Next will come total censorship of the Internet and then World War III.  As war breaks out, Obama will then suspend the constitution and rule by decree.  Hmmm.  Seems to me I heard the same thing a few years back, only it wasn't from Alex Jones and it was about George W. Bush.  Scrolling along through his site, I saw that Jones claims "Proof!  The Feds did the Oklahoma City bombing!"  Also, he has a review of the magnificent film, A Clockwork Orange, which he calls a portrayal of "a degenerate society that the nanny government tries to literally reprogram in order to control it." An apt, even if slightly skewed summary.  I'm going to check out the entire review when I'm done here on the blog.

Then it hit me.  I have seen Alex Jones before.  It was on an episode of Conspiracy Theory with Jesse Ventura.  Jones brought Jesse "The Body" to the edge of a CDC compound in order to show the Governor that the evil Fed agency was stockpiling caskets.  What could they possibly have in mind?  You can imagine what Jones and Ventura thought, it was related to plans of FEMA concentration camps and martial law.  Personally, I think that the CDC is exercising due diligence in preparing for...God epidemic that would result in mass fatalities.  But that's just me.

I think that every presidential administration has its pockets of opponents who believe that the man in charge is orchestrating a master plan to subjugate the American people.  I can't say that they're wrong.  Tons of things go on without our knowledge, the tale of 9/11 being only one cog in a vaster machine.  No, I don't believe that we were told the entire story of 9/11 and doubt that we will ever know the full truth (again, no plane ever hit the Pentagon.)  Is it to the ends that Alex Jones is alleging?  I can't say that he's wrong.

Even though I kinda think that he is.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Apparently, we need stupid people to vote

I have often recited this quote from Thomas Jefferson, my favorite Founding Father: "Democracy requires two things, education and participation."
Turns out it might only be half right.

A new study from the journal Science says that the uninformed are "vital for democracy."  They help to achieve consensus. 
When uninformed, people tend to side with the majority.  This has the affect of "diluting the minority factions that would otherwise dominate everyone else." 

"They prevent deadlock and fragmentation because the strength of an opinion no longer matters - it comes down to numbers," said Iain Couzin, the lead researcher on the study.  "You can imagine this being a good or bad thing."

I'll say.  It also seems as if this sway is dependent upon where we're at in the political process.  A loud minority movement can influence the more politically-inclined among us during times of primaries, mid-term elections, and off-year elections.  In bigger, more popular elections such as a presidential year, those voices are watered down in the procellous stream of white noise as less passionate voters take part in the process.

Certainly sounds like a mixed bag to me.  When "groupthink" and "I'll just follow the crowd so I'm not left out of the herd" takes over, that's when you start getting people who base their vote not on a candidate's policies but on their personal life and non sequiturs such as how they tie their ties.  "Yes.  That's it.  W would make a great president."  In fact, I remember someone once saying to me, "I like baseball and George W. Bush used to own a baseball team so I guess I'll vote for him." 

Ahhh democracy.  I'll close with another quote, this time from C. Montgomery Burns:

"This anonymous clan of slack-jawed troglodytes has cost me the election, and yet if I were to have them killed, I would be the one to go to jail. That's democracy for you." 

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Friday, December 16, 2011

Cyber attacks

This is one of those nights where my concentration is about as thin as a playing card.  But I try to post as close to daily as I can, so I'm here for you anyway.

Last night's Coast-to-Coast AM was all about cyber attacks.  That is to say, the use of computer hacking and viruses in a militaristic manner, taking out the various aspects of our day-to-day lives that are governed by computers...which is pretty much everything.
Seriously.  The electrical grid that allows you access to the Internet (yeah, yeah, at one point or another you're going to have to recharge your battery), the water that comes out of your faucet and flushes your toilet, the sewage treatment systems that take care of our shit (literally), and so on and so forth all the live long day.

Author and cyber security consultant Andrew Colarik was the guest on the program.  He had this to say on the subject of cyber attacks:
"We're getting, literally, thousands of attacks on all kinds of our infrastructure from all over the world," he declared, noting that the problem is under reported because it is so commonplace.
He went on to urge the nation to have an "open discussion" on the issue of cyber attacks. For example, the United States has yet to define what constitutes an "act of war" in terms of cyber strikes.  If a terrorist hacks someone's identity and uses it to enter the U.S. illegally an act of war?  That's open for discussion.

I once brought up the concept of cyber warfare in the company of Kip Haggis.  He told me, "I'm not worried about a bunch of terrorists hanging out in a cave in Afghanistan doing something like that."  Oh Kip.  Good luck improving your critical thinking skills and abrading the barnacles from your mind.  The kind of attacks that Mr. Colarik has been talking about can be done with a laptop from say, a hotel room in Switzerland.  That's just a location I pulled out of thin air but the truth could be far more banal than that.  More importantly, he is quite correct in pointing out that these kinds of cyber attacks are going on all the time and have been for many years.

During the first Gulf War, military intelligence released a virus into the defense computer systems of Iraq.  In The Hacker Crackdown, author Bruce Sterling writes about ace hackers that after being busted and charged were summarily swept into jobs inside the national security matrix.  Just recently, the Stuxnet computer virus damaged the centrifuge systems of Iran's nuclear program.  In what might be seen as a response, an Iranian electronic warfare engineer claims that Iran hacked the RQ-170 UAV drone that landed in that nation's custody.  The Iranians supposedly "spoofed" the drone into landing where they wanted it to by taking over its GPS system, making it think it was landing in Afghanistan, not Iran.

Welcome to the bold new frontier.  The next war will be conducted by salvos and volleys of zeroes and ones.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

Thursday, December 15, 2011

William Burroughs guest-reviews at Board Game Geek

Board Game Geek is a site for people who still prefer their gaming to be done on a table top with dice and bereft of controllers or consoles.

I can understand that.  I'm a big fan of Axis & Allies and even its bastard cousin, Fortress America.  And that's not even even going into all of the tabletop RPGs I've played and loved over the years.
Now, an enterprising member of the Board Game Geek forum has developed a set of reviews for the best games of December 2011...only he has done so via the cut-up method. 
You can find out more about this literary technique at my long-suffering sister blog, Why Did I Write That?  Suffice to say that it is a method made popular by the venerable William S. Burroughs (read: literary god) even though he learned it from Brion Gysin.  In the employment of this method, one or two texts are cut apart and the words then rearranged to create an entirely new literary text.  In the words of Burroughs, "when you cut into the future, the truth leaks out."  What follows is...I can almost guarantee you...the veriest, utmost collection of Burroughs-styled game reviews anywhere on the Internets.  We'll start off with the full review for the game Earth Reborn just to set the mood:

"the to and a game of i is this it in with but for that you are play my rules scenario more like have be on one as so not scenarios all played can very time really great just only up it's first an me much if games there will fun get - has out some too or star good was rating i'm don't playing when through than from do best board even system into theme tactical at think they i've also what way we well how which combat still set about after space would want player setup by components"

I'll say.  Here's a choice bit from the game Dominant Species: "many area by turn lot hours after has bit placement."
The truth leaks out indeed. 
But wait.  It gets better.  This is quite a line from a review of Alien Frontiers: "don't think control."
That, to me, is so cool.  That statement is probably both true and accurate in almost any way you look at it. 
And what of the game Civilization?  Let's see: "civilization be not games great on - very if players was good more."
How about Combat Commander: Europe?  Check this out, Bernard: "love first other think war."  Were truer words ever spoken?
Mansions of Madness: "horror time fun."  Most succinct.
Caylus: "some think what strategy."  That's usually me in these games.  Here's another one for you, Bernard...
Advanced Squad Leader: "play asl have with not all my time."  Sure you don't.
Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries  "more ticket play you like ride."  Sounds simple enough to me.
And for Carcassonne: "enjoy light best bit wife."  That's funny.  I've never known a wife to play any of these kinds of games.  I must not have hung out in the right circles.

Personally, I'm just glad to see someone invoking Burroughs and keeping the cut-up technique alive and well.  I'm sure that Burroughs would have wanted it that way. 

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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

2012: Much ado about nothing

Fear not, everybody.  Everything's gonna be okay.

Another New Year is fast approaching.  Just around the corner as a matter of fact.  Except this one has a more ominous ring to it.  It's 2012, the year that it all comes to an end or so they say.  Armageddon.  The Apocalypse.  Stuff hitting the fan.  I never finished eating all my Spam from Y2K so I guess it's a good thing I still have it around.
But those fine folks at NASA (and if you can't trust them who can you trust?) have let us know that there is absolutely no need to fear the end of the world on December 21st, 2012.  So says an article posted recently on  And to think that it all started with the ancient Mayan calendar.

"The short-count was 52 of our years, and the long-count was 5,125 years long. This long-count calendar is coming to an end on Dec. 21," said astronomer Don Yeomans, manager of NASA's Near-Earth Object program at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "Of course, a new calendar would start on Dec. 22. It would be like saying that our calendar ends Dec. 31, and that's the end of time, the end of days, that's it, no regard for how a new cycle would begin. The Maya never predicted the end of the world occurred at that time."

Yeomans went on to systematically dismantle every popular scenario for a 2012 doomsday next December.  Will an unprecedented planetary alignment cause wackiness in space?  Well, there is no alignment on December 21st, 2012 and even if there were one, its the gravitational effects of The Moon and The Sun that have any effect on us.  The other planets in our solar system and their rotations and position have a negligible influence.  Solar storms?  Streams of radioactive particles released from solar eruptions and hurled straight towards our Big Blue Marble?  Well, there's a bit of truth to that scenario.

We are heading into a period of strong solar activity.  Such solar flares may be powerful enough to knock out electrical power in isolated areas for several days or even in larger grids for a short period.  That's about it, though.  Nothing, as Yeomans states in the article, that will cause "lasting damage."  Wait, what about "pole shift?"  Well, it seems that the magnetic poles of a planet really can shift...over a period of 500,000 years.  If ours did shift, our Moon would keep us stabilized.  The most we'd have to do is change our compasses.

But what about "Planet X?"  Um...let's just say it's not looking too likely.

So if you want to cleave towards the apocalyptic theories and get into a bunker on December 20th, 2012, awaiting the end of the world, that's cool.  Just say you'll listen to The Cure's "Burn" while you're hunkering down with your Spam...and try not to be too disappointed when the Sun really does rise the following morning.  Yes, somewhere the ancient Mayans are probably laughing at us all yet one of their predictions really did come to pass: the movie 2012 was every bit as bad as they predicted it would be.

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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

How about a chip for that brain?

It appears that future of 2020 is when it all changes.
At least that's the year that New York Times readers selected in this article.  That's when we begin to see really rapid changes in the affects of technology on our lives.  Then in just 65 years from now, we will be able to directly interface our brains with the Internet.  Supporters of the Singularity hypothesis have been saying this for quite a while now but it seems that finally the mainstream is beginning to awaken to this notion.  What about the near future?  Sure, direct interface between my brain and the Internet would be about as great as a guy could hope for, but I probably won't make it another 65 years to have it happen.  What do readers, both experts and laymen, predict for our lives in the more immediate sense?

One reader predicted that by 2013, electronic ink, flatscreen display technology that mimics ink on paper, would be the new "it" item.  That writing has been on the wall, no pun intended, for the publishing industry for quite a while now.
Another prognostication, this time from an M.I.T. professor of computer science, was that science publications would finally become an online process by 2019.  By 2016, an exec at Orange Labs predicts that people will be surrounded by a "halo of data."  By pressing a button, someone could get an augmented reality display about you, detailing personal descriptions of you.
Scared?  I'm certain Kip Haggis is.  So is another NYT reader, who asserts that due to human neural interface with the Net and electronics integrated into our bodies, more people will die in 2170 from computer viruses than actual viruses.  That's ok.  If biology (or technology) would somehow permit me, I would stick around until 2058 when "Enhanced intelligence will be available to most people through a combination of nanotechnology and embedded processors."  Cybernetic intelligence?  Be still my fiery synapses.  Allow me to be at the front of the cortege when those handy implants get doled out.  Although right now, I'd settle for implants that would permit me to never have to eat or sleep again.

Although I'm sure that Kevin Warwick may be approaching this news with a weary, "been there, done that" demeanor.  He is the British university professor who had implants placed into his arm that directly interface with his nervous system.  Read outs of the electrical impulses in his body can be taken from the devices in his arm.  There those who have even called Warwick "the first cyborg."  Warwick is among those visionaries who see transhumanism leading towards astonishing abilities such as enhanced memory and intelligence and maybe even x-ray vision.  He led the way for these advances with his own vision, enthusiasm, and sacrifice.  

Maybe we should just call all future implant interfaces "Warwick chips."

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Monday, December 12, 2011


When I first heard about Daniel H. Wilson’s book, Robopocalypse, I steered away from it.

I knew that it had made several different bestseller lists but that is seldom a selling point for me.  The title, to my ears anyway, was a bit off-putting in its manufactured glitziness and Wilson is also the author of How to Survive a Robot Uprising, one of those pseudo-guides you see such as (and I can't remember exact titles) "How to Fight Zombies," "How to Be an Action Star," and "How to Vote Republican" so that didn't entice me any further.   Not to mention the fact that I really wasn’t interested in reading any more neo-Luddite, anti-transhumanism, Kip Haggis-loving, World War Z-ripping off, Terminator-like “felonious machines rise up to destroy humanity” pap.  Then this post appeared on the Singularity Weblog that took a pair of forceps to my closed mind.

The book has been optioned by Steven Spielberg and will be released as a movie in 2013.  Again, this is not necessarily a selling point for me but the description of Robopocalypse in the post did pique my interest.  The book’s main character is Archos, a cybernetic AI that kills its creator and starts a global war against humanity.  But the objective of this crusade is not to destroy humanity.  Archos recognizes value in nature and in life itself.  Apparently, Archos states on numerous occasions that humanity must and will survive the war.  “I will burn your civilization down to light your way forward,” he says.

I don’t know about you, but that last quote really got me.  I’d like to think that I now have a better understanding of where Wilson was coming from in writing this book.  Archos seems to seek a coexistence between humans and robots, a birth of a new order of living.  That’s a fresh take on a tired concept in my opinion and well worth reading.  I’m adding the book to my already mammoth reading list but I do have one thing going for me.  The movie won’t be out for another couple years so that gives me time to get the story read before I allow anyone else’s vision of it to influence my perceptions.

Also, it sounds like Socrates is still trying to get Daniel H. Wilson for a Singularity 1-on-1 interview on the subject.  Here’s to hoping.

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Sunday, December 11, 2011


Who puts the future in your hand?
Who gives you robots to command?
-ad copy for the toys/show.

In a continuing series on science fiction cartoons of my youth, I bring you Robotix.
Robotix was a Sunbow production, those same visionaries who brought us G.I. Joe and Transformers.  Like those two aforementioned franchises, Robotix was likewise a toy line.
The animated series appeared as part of Super Sunday, a cartoon that, as the name implies, appeared on Sunday mornings.  The series also gave us The Inhumanoids, which I blogged about previously.  Unlike that cartoon, I seldom got to see Robotix as with it being Sunday morning, my father whisked me off to church before it aired.  My younger brother, however, was spared that fate (why, I have no idea) and would later fill me in on the plot details...if you could call them that.

The series began as a spaceship under the command of one Exeter Galaxon (gotta love that name) is being pursued by an enemy battlecruiser.  Badly damaged, the hounded ship crash lands on the planet Skalorr.  The crew survives, only to find themselves on a ruined planet...but not an uninhabited one.  Giant robots rise up from the ground, opposing factions named Autobots and Decep...I mean Protectons and Terrakors.  Battle ensues and the evil Terrakors are driven off.  
The Protectons befriend the stranded crew and begin to help them repair their ship.  In the course of this, a few members of the human star travelers learn that they can interface with the giant robots, thereby enhancing the mech's abilities.  The Terrakors attack once more and the humans interface to the Protecton's aid.  Bront, the Protecton's resident asskicker, leads the counter-attack and once more drives the bad guys off.  However, all is not well.
Argus, leader of the Protectons and romantic interest of Narra (that's right.  Robots gettin' it on) is a prisoner of the Terrakors.  With Captain Galaxon as his pilot, Bront leads the Protectons on a rescue mission to free Argus.  Argus then brings the Protectons and their allied humans to an underground base once thought to be lost.  There, Compucore, Skalorr's central intelligence computer (something like Marvel's ISAAC on Titan), relays the history of the planet.
Three million years ago, the Protectons and the Terrakors were once organic beings, rather reptilian in appearance (of course.  A staple of pulpy science fiction.)  Both sides were forced to cooperate as their sun threatened to go nova.  A Terrakor named Nemesis (again, of course) had other designs.  He planned to use Compucore to launch his own ship, the Terrastar.  This spaceship would be loaded by a select few chosen by him.  Compucore instead suggested that the entire population be preserved in stasis tubes beneath the planet's surface.  Needless to say, that was the option that won out.
Yet a deadly radiation leak compromised the physical forms of the people.  Compucore was forced to transfer their essences into the Robotix.  Once the radiation levels returned to normal (though how the hell the planet survived the supernova is anybody's guess), Compucore released the robots upon the surface.
This information leads to a schism within Galaxon's crew.  A few of them break off with a "let's blow this joint" attitude and begin to seek out the Terrastar to do so.  In order to find this ship, they offer their interface services to the Terrakors.

I remember that my brother had the toys as well.  He had Argus and a Captain Exeter Galaxon action figure with a cool spacesuit.  He had the evil Tyrannix and a figure called Gaxon who had a flamethrower.  That's right.  A flamethrower.  The robots themselves had an intriguing Lego-like quality to them.  There was actual building involved in their creation and they had actual motorized parts.  It was a kids primer for real robotics.  Yet neither I nor my brother went into that field.  Trust me, if I had, I wouldn't be struggling like I am today.  
Like any other robots worth their salt in the 1980s, the Robotix could transform in vehicles with wheels and wings and a few of the Protectons even had gruff, one-sentence characters like the Dinobots.  Yet aside from all of this I must admit.  The series is rather unmemorable.

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Saturday, December 10, 2011

Book review--Cryptonomicon

CRYPTONOMICON by Neal Stephenson
During World War II, Lawrence Waterhouse is assigned to military Detachment 2702 commanded by Marine Bobby Shaftoe.  Their mission is to keep the Nazis from learning that the Allies have broken the infamous Enigma code.  This involves a mathematical cat-and-mouse game between Waterhouse and his German counterpart, all while Shaftoe sees to the combat action.
In modern times, the grandson of Waterhouse and the granddaughter of Shaftoe are involved in another form of cryptography in The Philippines.  Waterhouse is a hacker, working with his partner to create a "data haven" on a Pacific island while also attempting to salvage a sunken Nazi U-boat that might have the key to the unbreakable code known as Arethusa...and the pathway to conspiracy and fortune.

To read this book is a mammoth undertaking.  I am embarrassed to admit just how long it took to me to complete this tome.  In my defense, I only have time to read maybe three pages or so every night before passing out, so do dedicate longer blocks of time to reading the book if you wish to finish it with any amount of expediency.  Cryptonomicon will demand patience...and will never fail to reward it.
This not science fiction per se but rather a text of post-cyberpunk fiction.  More than that, it is a fine example of postmodern fiction.  Stephenson manages to deftly weave in between two intertwining plot lines that take place in entirely different eras, even at times branching off into two or three subplots, while never once losing the reader.  One moment you'll be learning about life on a Nazi U-boat, the next you'll be hacking C++ code, and Stephenson's acumen will make it all seem natural.  There are numerous digressions, such as a discourse on the perfect way in which to eat cereal or exactly how a spider constructs its web and I do hope you enjoy mathematics because there are ample page lengths of number theory.  Each one of these digressions, while tedious at times, serves a greater purpose.  If read through the prism of the books main theme, cryptography, these digressions become apparently purposeful and even necessary.  Plus if you're the type of reader who disdains "all that talking," there will eventually be kickass military action to whet your appetite.  Real-life people are characters within the narrative.  Appearances by Ronald Reagan, Douglas MacArthur, Winston Churchill, and especially Alan Turing only add to the pleasurable experience of this book.  As I said, Stephenson's lengthy novel may seem as a sort of intellectual adytum at first blush, but press on.  You will be glad that you did.

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Friday, December 9, 2011

What sets us apart

Among the many strange subjects I explore, I can think of none stranger than human beings themselves.  Why do we do the catastrophic things that we do?  As the venerable Charles M. Schulz once said through one of his characters, “I love mankind.  It’s people I can’t stand.” 

Today in The New York Times, I read about an art exhibit that touches on that notion.  We, as a species, are afraid of many things but I’m willing to bet that what we fear the most is each other.  I know that I for one would place “people” at the very top of my stack of things to fear and be disgusted by.  So I do things to keep myself protected and the rest of the population at bay.  Multimedia artist Muntadas has been exploring this sort of action for decades now through photography and illustration in a number of different art installations.  A retrospective exhibit of pieces of his artwork is now ongoing at The Bronx Museum of the Arts in New York City.  As the author of the link above says:

“In the show’s most complicated project Mr. Muntadas examines a modern architectural form with ancient antecedents: the stadium. It includes a video montage of exuberant and violent soccer fans; a video projection of soccer players celebrating after scoring goals; and a set of triptychs, each with photographs of a stadium, spectators and fences, seats, railings and other devices by which crowds are organized and controlled. This is one way that enormous, exhilarating and sometimes destabilizing human energy is diverted into, and contained by, an integrated structure of architecture and programmed entertainment.”

The reviewer who wrote the article seems lukewarm on Muntadas’ work, claiming it to be too restrained in matters of creativity and emotion and perhaps too academic in a vein of Michel Foucault (as Pa Nichols once said, “Every academic cites Foucault but nobody knows what the heck he’s saying.”)  I tend to disregard reviews, allowing myself to make up my own mind.  That said, one can’t very “unread” what has been read so the opinion is still rattling about my cobwebbed brain when viewing or reading the piece in question.  Despite the NYT’s ambivalent viewpoint, I would still be very interest to see this exhibit of art.

After all, Muntadas seems to be delving into an important subject, the notion of social isolation on scales both singular and global, a thesis to which I feel a personal connection.  That alone would worth the price of admission…that is, if I could get to New York.

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Thursday, December 8, 2011

Pendulum waves

I came across the video above and thought it was cool enough to merit posting.

It's from Harvard Natural Science Lecture Demonstrations.  What you'll see in the video is a series of 15 different pendulums of increasing lengths.  These pendulums are set into motion and once that happens, intriguing geometric patterns begin to form within the motion.  As they say on the Harvard site: "One might call this kinetic art and the choreography of the dance of the pendulums is stunning!"

Indeed it is.  What accounts for it?  Well, precise adjustments in pendulum lengths to create specific quantities of oscillations for each pendulum.  Ok, even I'm not sure what I just said but I sorta get it.  Please refer to the link above for a more detailed explanation, otherwise you'll just be here with me, unable to see the forest for the copse.  

I find this experiment interesting on a number of levels.  I have always had a difficult time with math and to this day I struggle to perform even basic addition.  Math is therefore an enigma to me, something as mysterious in my reckoning as anything else I've discussed on this blog.  There is also real beauty in the discipline of mathematics.  This pendulum video proves it.  There seems to me, anyway...a methodical pattern in nature, an expression of mathematics that is almost a form of communication for our consciousness.

Just who or what is doing the communicating is what I am uncertain of...

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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Mystery object near Mercury

I want to give out props for tonight's post to the people who brought this story to my attention.  Mike Smith at Prairie Independent Media and my old college buddy, Ski...thanks for the heads up!
Two, that's right two, separate NASA satellites caught a weird image near the Sun.  Video of a coronal mass ejection (CME), bursts of radiation and magnetism that are hurled outward along with plasma ejecta from explosions on the surface of the Sun, seems to reveal something hidden.  As the CME makes its way towards Mercury, it appears to unveil an enormous, angular object or perhaps two joined objects.  You can click the link to check out the video but most observers are describing the scene as being similar to when a Klingon warship de-cloaks on Star Trek whether willingly or by...coincidentally enough...exposure to stellar radiation.  Bingo bango you got yourself a UFO.

As I'm sure you're already thinking, there is another explanation for this.  It all has to do with camera optics and video artifacts.  What we're seeing on the video as a "de-cloaked" spacecraft is really leftover images of where the planet Mercury had been on the previous day.  Here's how puts it:

"To make the relatively faint glow of a coronal mass ejection stand out against the bright glare of space — caused by interplanetary dust and the stellar/galactic background — the NRL scientists must remove as much background light as possible. They explained that they determine what light is background light, and thus can be subtracted out, by calculating the average amount of light that entered each camera pixel on the day of the CME event and on the previous day. Light appearing in the pixels on both days is considered to be background light and is removed from the footage of the CME. The remaining light is then enhanced.

This works great for objects far off in the distance, such as stars, which don't move much relative to the sun. But it gets a little trickier when trying to account for nearer objects, particularly moving ones, like planets.

"When [this averaging process] is done between the previous day and the current day and there is a feature like a planet, this introduces dark (negative) artifacts in the background where the planet was on the previous day, which then show up as bright areas in the enhanced image," [Nathan] Rich [of the US Naval Research Laboratory] wrote in an email."

This make for a likely and tidy explanation.  The sole reservation that I have with that rationale is the sharp and angular nature of the image, making it look very artificial.  That, however, is nowhere near enough suspicion to permit me to start crying "UFO," especially since it would have to be a UFO almost the size of Mercury.  While I don't discount the possibility of such craft existing, something about it just seems unlikely to me.

Which is too bad.  This would have made for a great story.  After all, what better place to acquire a bona fide image of a UFO than out in space?  Oh well, there's still hope.  Linda Moulton Howe at Earthfiles recently grilled Dr. Lance Benner at NASA's JPL as to just why images taken of asteroid YU55 on its close approach to Earth have not been made available to the public yet.  Dr. Benner said that there's a procedure involved, there's terabytes of data to go through, yadda yadda pretty much what you might expect.  Linda Moulton Howe also quoted Benner from a NASA press release where he says, "“The radar animation reveals a number of puzzling structures on the surface that we don't yet understand. To date, we've seen less than one-half of the surface, so we expect more surprises.” Two of the surprises have been a bulging equator and a nearly 100-foot-high “sharp, pointy hill” unlike any structure ever seen before on asteroids."

This of course has lead to Internet speculation that YU55 is really just an enormous UFO.  Are there artificial structures on the surface of the asteroid?  Time will tell on that one.

For other UFO goodness, please check out the new book by last night's Coast-to-Coast AM guest, writer Mack Maloney He has a new book called UFOs in Wartime that appears to be chock full of glorious illustrations just like this gem:

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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Your Earth in 2080

A picture of the exact future of 2080 is still uncertain. One thing it is generally agreed upon is that the average temperature will be about two degrees warmer around the world.

One of the first major alterations will be the frequency of extreme weather.  Everything from cyclones in Southeast Asia to more killer tornadoes and storms in the U.S. South and Midwest.  Yeah, we here in states like Illinois, Indiana, and Kansas know all about what warm, humid air tends to bring in the spring and the summer.  There's also going to be a toll taken on agriculture worldwide.  Crops that humans depend upon heavily, such as wheat and rice, will fail more often than not.  Scientists are working on future varieties of these staples that can survive in higher heat, but that kind of breakthrough is going to take time. Withered crops will mean higher food prices and fewer supplies.  This could lead to civil unrest, especially in lesser developed regions where food is already a scarcity.  

Health issues are also a concern.  Heatstroke of the kind seen by hundreds of victims in recent heatwaves across France and Russia are harbingers of what we can expect.  There are those who believe that infectious disease will be more widespread.  The thinking behind this is that with warmer temperatures and wetter conditions from rain and from the rise in sea level that tropical diseases will become more prevalent.  While a rise in sea level does tend to follow a rise in temperatures in most models, it is still uncertain just how high the water will go and how soon.  Of course if it does rise, we'll have coastline populations displaced and seeking higher elevations.  This means refugees and more disease.

Frequently, those older than my current age will say to me, "You weren't around during the late 1960s.  Those were scary times, too.  We got through those, we'll get through this."
They are correct in pointing out that I was not in existence during the late 1960s.  They are likewise spot-on when they say those are scary times.  Young people had a half-decent chance of getting drafted to fight in a hopeless war whether they wanted to or not, civic unrest threatened major cities, and if you were African American...well, let's just say you had it pretty rough.
But I'm sorry.  It's different now.  The stakes are much higher.  I'm not trying to sound pulpy, but the future of the world does rest on decisions we make right now regarding agenda items such as the environment and finance.  Does our leadership get that?  Or are they too concerned that they'll lose too much of their money due to pesky environmental regulations designed to better the world?  Want to help the environment?  You must be anti-business.  You are therefore a communist...just like The Muppets.  Or at least that's what Fox News says.    (Sorry, folks. Next post won't be political.  Promise.)

Bruce Sterling is right.  Like him, I'll live long enough to see climate change deniers living in refugee camps.

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Monday, December 5, 2011

Amendment 1274 anyone??

An interesting bit fell into my email box this morning.

I receive email updates from various…um, I suppose you could say, “alternative” news sources.  Not that I really depend on them for any kind of hardcore journalism but more as an exercise in gathering writing prompts and feeding my insatiable appetite for the weird.  Today, I read about a Senate bill called Amendment No. 1274. 

The source was “Prison Planet,” a site maintained by conspiracy theorist, Alex Jones.  I find this guy entertaining.  Anyway, the story goes that on the evening of December 1st, the U.S. Senate attempted to pass an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would allow the U.S. military to detain American citizens even if said detainees had been found not guilty by trial.  Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) brought a halt to the proceedings by calling for a last-minute roll call vote.  The amendment was struck down by a vote of 41-59, a margin that “Prison Planet” calls “worryingly narrow.”

But that’s just it.  As I’ve searched in an effort to locate any source of corroboration for this news story, the sites that come back all have names like “Propaganda Matrix,” “Right Face,” and of course, “Prison Planet.”  There is a conspicuous absence…that I can tell anyway…of coverage from news sources with names such as CNN, ABC, MSNBC, and the like.  Why is this?  Is this evidence of mainstream media numbing our minds as part of the takeover conspiracy or has the vote on and the contents of Amendment No. 1274 been distorted and exaggerated? 

I can imagine that the language in the Senate bill did say something along the lines of what has been alleged.  It wouldn’t surprise me that such a measure was considered in order to deal American citizens who openly fight for terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda.  As U.S. citizens, they are technically entitled to due process but the situation is an entirely different can of tuna from your run-of-the-mill criminal case.  Conspiracy theorists have argued that this kind of legislation is a slippery slope and that such measures could be employed by the unscrupulous to establish an autocratic state here in the U.S. 

Tough to see the forest for the frondescence isn’t it?  I would sincerely hope that such a vote by our political leaders on such legislation would make more news than it has.  Then again, knowing the mentality of the average American and corporate media’s need to make money from them…well, I can’t say that it would surprise me if such measures did get passed one day and we would be none the wiser.  Why?  Because we just didn’t care.
I always point to my paraphrased quote from Thomas Jefferson: “Democracy takes two things: education and participation.” 

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