Thursday, April 28, 2005

I'm 50% Republican

That was so just plain wrong. There were at least 4 of those questions that I couldn't find an answer I liked. I'm insulted at being called a 'NASCAR Dad'. I fracking hate NASCAR.

Ah well.

I am:
"Congratulations, you're a swing voter. When they say 'Nascar Dad', they mean you. Every Republican ad on the TV set was made just for your viewing pleasure. Don't you feel special?"

Are You A Republican?

Ouch and Ouch: a Review of the Beagle 2 Project

Dwayne Day wrote an intersting pair of articles about the Beagle 2 probe. Read here and here.

The Consequences of Cheap First World Manufacturing

I've been thinking about the future alot lately. Part of this is because I now have a daughter that I need to plan her future for. Part of this is that I have some pent up SF novels that need to finish cooking before being turned loose. Part of this is because I just love playing with ideas.

There are a number of technologies that I think are going to be rather important over the next twenty to thirty years. Some of them I can participate in. Some of them I cannot. I am lucky enough that I am a relatively good study and know a lot of very bright people in a lot of fields due to my work. Some of them I might even get a chance to turn into businesses. I attempted that with an ISP back in the early-mid 1990s. Being rather young I lost my shirt when I trusted a bit too much to the guy running the business half. One of our rivals is insanely well off now. :S

My little quest to get into the phytomining business is a good example of one technology that, IMAAO, is going to be immensely important and exploitable. By me. With the right friends. Which I have. I think. I'm in the education process right now. They're chemists and biologists, I'm a 'puter geek with some business experience.

Another technology that I think is going to be rather important soon is that of inexpensive, easily reconfigurable manufacturing. I have a hunch that the state of robotics has passed a threshold. It would seem that Japanese agree with me. They are in the process of automating everything that they can for services and manual labor. This prevents the means of production from leaving the country depsite their demographic shift they're experiencing earlier than other First World Nations. There are some rather good strategic reasons for not letting this happen. Should there be a war that lasts longer than planned stockpiles can handle, new equipment can be manufactured. Or the likelihood of someone successfully bullying other manufacturing based countries into less than favourable sales to you is reduced as well. That's not what I want to consider here.

However, if one of the consequences of this technology is that it is cheaper to build X, Y, or Z locally, what does that do to international trade? Obviously, it doesn't destroy it. However, does it become a case of nations only trading with nations that can afford their toys? Consider if it were as cheap to make everything made in China here in the States? What would that mean?

I'm not sure, but I'd suspect that it'd make for a very wonkie set of trade relations.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Oh My

Lyudmila Baird is a riot shield that's water-resistant and fires plastic darts.

Avrora Baird is an energy drink that weighs anything you put on top of it and can run MAME roms.

William Baird is a newspaper! It emits harmful gases!

The Future of the Nation State

I asked this question a while ago on alt.history.future. I actually think we've hit on the follow-on to the nation-state already. Surprisingly, it's been around a lot longer than people think. In fact, it's been around for a very long time and I'm wondering if the nation-state wasn't simply a bit of ancient tribalism that occasionally washes up out of the a great 'memetic' sea from time to time.

To me, it seems there are two kinds of states out there right now. There are those that are inclusive in nature and those that are not. That is to say that people that move to that country have a culture that accepts their differences, adapts to them, and adapts them to the greater idea and cultural space: this is an inclusive state. The second is one that fights to keep itself pure especially from outside influences. If you don't adopt the their ways, you're unfit, unclean, without culture, uncivilized, an infidel or heathen.

The two models ought to sound familiar. The modern example that comes to mind immediately has been the traditional 'melting pot' of the US. Equally so Canada has been a good - no, actually, excellent! - example as well. In fact, most of the New World nations have followed this to one extent or another. Traditionally, the Old World is seen as the opposite: Japan and China from the East; France and Germany from the West; Russia and Iran from the Middle; the assorted tribes in Africa such as the very unfortunate Hutu and Tutsi.

Yet, surprisingly, despite the image of this exclusivist state that France, Germany, etc have the European Union is embarking on becoming this inclusivist and melting pot themselves. When the border restrictions within the EU are completely knocked down - including for the new members - that melting will take place: in fact, when I was in Rome a while back, I met a interesting couple. It was merely in passing. He was an Irishman, and she was a Pole (a stunningly good looking, blonde Pole at that!). Both were living in Rome. To some extent this has happened before, but the rate which this will happen will climb a lot over the next few decades (assuming the EU is a successful experiment in a neustadtism). Increasingly, being Polish, Irish, or German will fade to being European....much like what happens to immigrants to the US. Regionalisms will remain: The South, New York, California, and New Mexico still have their cultural quirks/bugs/features despite having had a nontrivial amounts of immigration. While the New York of 2005 is not the New York of 1905, its still definitely New York, not Mexico City nor London.

Why did I say that this was actually an old model being revived? The reason being is that the oldest inclusivist state that I can think of is actually the old pagan Roman Empire. They'd conquer, coopt, and adopt, often including the religion. The Rome of 3rd century BC was not the same as the Rome of the 2nd century AD despite the fact that people like think that things were relatively static the older cultures are.

Right now the US is having a crisis of identity. Are we going to be an inclusivist or exclusivist nation? The Conservatives of the Religious Right and the Anti-Immigration Crowd are pushing very hard right now to be an exclusivist state: their vision of the US is very narrow. VERY narrow. Equally so some of the far left is pushing for the same thing: their vision is equally narrow. Traditionally, we've been more of an inclusivist nation though: the Irish came and made an impact. Ditto the Italians and others. We were emphatetically not a perfect inclusivist nation but a work in progress. If either the extremes have their way, it'll no longer be.

I have a very strong feeling that the future is that we must an inclusivist nation and culture. The exclusivist nations are withering and their cultures are dying in the face of those that are willing to adopt and adapt. I am definitely thinking that the Inclusivist State, no longer the traditional nation-state is going to be the future for the next hundred plus years.

A footnote though is that the Inclusivist States and Cultures cannot so embrace themselves that they do not have a place of mixing. You take the salad bowl analogy too far and you end up with a lot of separate bowls that never mix. The importance is in the mixing and including the new ingredients. Hence the melting pot, not salad bowl POV here.

Anyways, just a long rambling thought.

Time for all of you, if you're out there, to take your potshots.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Quick Kidlet update

Avrora went to the doctor's last night. I called into Kaiser just to verify that the goop in her left eye isn't anything to worry about. The advice nurse popped a gasket about me not being worried: my siblings all had this problem at one point or another. Avrora had no redness, no fussiness, no fever, no coughing, and no anything else that might be a problem. However the nurse insisted that we had an infection and that we go right away. We went. We spent 1 1/2 hours waiting for the Dr on call to get done with the patient before us. Lo and behold, there was no issue. Her tear duct, like many newborns is getting a little clogged. It'll unclog in time. We went home afetr 5 minutes with the Dr. The Doc even told us that she new almost instantly there was no issue and that our baby was definitely healthy.

Avrora weighed in at 8 lbs 14 oz and she's 20 1/2 inches. She's still gaining weight at a rate faster than the norm (according to the Docs): 1.37 oz/day. IDK where she is on the vertical growth rate whether its up down or just right. I'm not too worried though. She'll grow as she grows and all we can do is feed, love, and care for her. :D

Other thoughts later today.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Overdue & Promised

I promsied a while ago that I would talk about our visit to the the hypercompetive Russians. The reality is that I really shouldn't be calling them Russians. Of the crew there is only one Russian national: the Muscovite. The other two are ethnic Russians but from Kyrgyrzstan. One was an embassy worker that married the Muscovite and the other married an American. I'll call the women N and T respectively and the men P and J.

The one of the women (T) is hypercompetive with my wife. Lyuda does something T has to do it better or bigger or something. When my wife got her ring, T all but forced her husband to get another that had a bigger stone. A much bigger stone. When T heard that Lyuda was getting a car, she made her husband get one for her much faster (we bought a new one and she is galled that hers isn't). N never seemed to be competitive with my wife. However, that seems to have changed.

What changed? All three of them have babies and we all went to a birth party for T's baby.

N's is the oldest. He (L) is a very sweet child of about 1 1/2 years. He's funny and fun. He's shaped a little strange: his head is disproportionally huge and he has extra bones in his skull. He's developing along like a normal child. Nothing to be anything other than proud of. T's brand new son is (whom the party was for) is a little strange looking, but he's a newborn. They often looked a little squished and some such. Avrora was a little small so she didn't look that way though.

The women retreated into a back bedroom at this Newborn Party to breastfeed and that left the men up front. However, there was a steady stream of "Will! Tell T that Avrora really is already doing X, Y, or Z!" I'd explain, "Yes, she's doing X or Y or Z." Our poor daughter was having to demonstrate holding her head or pushing herself up or whatnot while she was hungry. T and N started getting really jealous. N had told us when her baby had done X, Y, and Z prior to Avrora's birth. After watching Avrora she revised her statement saying, oh yes her son had done that as early as Avrora. *sighs* T kept muttering that what was happening was impossible because all the books had said it was. I thought the whole thing was ridiculous, personally and so did my wife. Every baby develops differently. Some get ahead. Some do not. Some start fast and slow down. Vice versa too.

Is Avrora early for developing stuff? Right now, yeah.

Is it a little remarkable since she was premature? Yup.

I it something that these women ought to get into a tizzy about? Nope.

The men chatted, awkwardly, out in the livingroom while the women were off having their pissing contest. P and I don't really get along that well. We've reached an awkward, armed neutrality with one another. The other man is J and he's a librarian that's about a decade older. The three men sat around and chatted, but we were not overly comfortable. We were just making the best of the situation.

In the end we split, women finished jockeying for position when Avrora and the newborn had their photos taken together. When turned to look at each other, Avrora reached out for the newborn to touch and grab. Lyuda quickly snapped some picts...but from the wrong angle so neither expressions nor to show what Avrora was up to. I got a good look and so did J since we were holding the kidlets.

Friday, April 15, 2005

It seems I speak...

75% American English
25% Yankee.

damn. Considering I've never even been to the Yanqi-ish parts of the US that's mildly disturbing. *chuckles* That's definitely an eastern US biased linguistic test. No mention of anything that might be Southwestern in origin nor Californian, frex. Californian has had some nontrivial lendings. Also, I'd break out Texan from Dixie, personally.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Broadcast Ping

Anyone actually read this or am I merely babbling to myself in the dark?

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

I'm a knight...boggle

I was looking over some shwian blogs and saw the 'Who would you be in 1400' test. I took it. I turned out to be a knight:

The Knight
You scored 23% Cardinal, 46% Monk, 44% Lady, and 62% Knight!

You are the hero. Brave and bold. You are strong and utterly selfless. You are also a pawn to your superiors and will be lucky if you live very long. If you survive the Holy wars you are thrust into you will be praised for your valor and opportunities both romantic and financial will become available to you.

For my age group, I scored better than 23% on cardinal, 56% on monk, 51% on lady (hrm), and 79% on knight. IDK what to think of my age group.

The description of me doesn't really fit either. 'Pawn to your superiors...' *ROFLMAO* Heck, my superiors would roflmao too if they heard that. Bah. The test was just too short...if fun.

My favourite newsgroups seem to be dying

At one time I was big usenet poster. I had very good reputations on different groups and was even referenced by people outside of usenet for their discussions of stealth aircraft (frex). My interests spanned from palaeoanthropology to history to fusion physics to military matters to the scifi. Since I started nonself employed jobs in the later 90s my posting decreased. Then I moved to Cali to work for NERSC. That decreased things further. Right now I am pretty much restricted to three newsgroups because of the interests of time: (discussing scifi science), soc.history.what-if (discussing alternate history), and alt.history.future (discussing the future direction of history). All three of them seem to be in trouble.

rasf has had deadish times in the past and had many rebirths. It seems to be going through a slow period again. ahf is suffering the same fate. shwi is suffering from being spammed by revisionists. I thought maybe it was a case that we were just seeing a slow period, but I went and looked at google groups 'about this group' tools. It's actually rather depressing. All three groups have dropped in the amount of posting. Not only have they dropped, its been a downward trend since 2002 for all three. Additionally, it seems that there haven't been a whole lot of new posters for them in, well, ages. With AOL cutting off access to Usenet except through third party means we might have some serious problems. :S

I hate to say it, but is usenet getting to be on its last legs? blogspace doesn't seem to have the equivalent easily accessible exchange of ideas...:S

Monday, April 11, 2005

Something I wrote for a Terraformed Mars

I am yanking some world building material and caching it here.

Have fun. I had an interesting baby party this weekend. I'll discuss that another time.

This is the Argyre Sea on Mars and its different ecosystems:

The tubeworm-clam reefs.

The first ecology is the tubeworm and clam reefs. Very large tube
worms that grow to extraordinary heights (or from extraordinary
depths) compared to their Terran cousins form the central columns
of the reefs. These sometimes get tangled with one another. A
fast growing and breeding clam attaches itself outside the range
of the cleaning capability of the worms, these pile up over time
as clams die and grow atop the corpses of previous generations.
The reefs are generally pyramidal in shape, but shaped by currents.
They are often dotted with sea anemonaes and sponges. Where the
reefs breach the water, a specialized grass grows on the coral
along with a silica secreting semisponge that builds a twisted
skeleton up into the air. There is also a metalophillic mussel
that secrets metals into its shell as protection from most lifeforms.

The most important resident of the reef is the metalophillic
crab. It hunts for alien smelling lifeforms and eats them.
When there are none, or very few, the crabs eat the mussels. The
crabs shells are also laced with a very large portion of metal as
protection from each other and predators. The crabs are social.
They have two distinct living behaviors that is causing them
speciate. The first is the krem building subspecies. This one
takes young tubeworm reefs and shapes them into nests called
'krems'. They use this as fortresses. The second variety is that
which spreads to new ecosystems and acts a little like a mercenary,
eventually adopting itself into the local ecology and defending it.
The first is the intended behavior. The second is something that
has developed since the engineers introduced the crabs thousands of
years ago. Both varieties have a once-every-seven year mass exodus.
This is due to population pressure. The alien smelling life and
mussels get depleted and there are too many crabs. The vast majority
of them march off looking for new territory. OFten larva and seeds
stick to the crabs as they leave, helping to spread the tubeworm-clam
ecosystem. It also rips up any foreign ecosystems that the crab
marches encounter. The crab young are far more vulernable as that
they haven't accumulated much metal as yet and many fish eat them.

Designed in the same vein, but rather different in ancestry is the
gem crab. Its derived from landcrabs and is an airbreather. It lives
atop the reefs fighting off foreign lifeform invasions. Its a lot
rarer since there are a lot less water breaching reefs than on earth.
However, they do make use of semisponges like the wasps building their
own aerial krems.

Also living atop the reefs, annotating the semisponge growths are
the sea wasps. These secrete calcium through symbiotes to attach
onto the skeletal structures. The diving wasps' poison is a relaxant
and it uses it to hunt clams. The wasps are actually quite large,
being over 6" (15 cm) long.

The wasps' primary enemies are an armored lobefin fish and the
Aresian Archer. The lobefin that lays its eggs in the sea anemonaes
and crawls onto land to raid the wasp nests. The Aresian Archer
spits a jet of water and sticky saliva that takes down a wasp where
the sharp toothed archer fish deriv can tear it apart.

2. The Kelp Forests

The kelp forests are in deeper waters than the reefs can tolerate.
The kelp grows to much, much longer strands than on earth. There's
not much else that the kelp is noted for. However, some of the
animals that live there are quite interesting and exotic.

The flaminguin is one of those. Retaining its famous color, the
flaminguin has been radically altered from its original form.
The beak has been greatly enlarged, both in width and length, specificly
modified for supporting the filter feeder lifestyle that this bird
deriv lives. Secondly, the neck, while still quite long, is stouter
for the purpose of supporting that neck. The wings have grown immensely
to give the flaminguin a manta-like appearance when it is swimming.
Its legs are much reduced in length to almost, but not quite, penguin
proportions. It lives as a flocking filter feeder for most of the
year in the reefs save for breeding time. Then it seeks out the northern
isles of the Argyre Sea and nests in the beach sands.

The second notable creature is also a bird deriv, but it lives in, or
above, the kelp forest year round. These are the hive cormorant. its
name is a little bit of a misnomer. They do make large floating balls
of kelp that act as communal nests. There are no specific breeders or
nonbreeders, nor queens, workers, or drones. They are flightless.
Their role in the kelp forest is something of a defender and a tender.
Colonies are intensely competitive with each other. If a kelp forest
is large enough, you will see multiple colonies. If there's not
enough distance between the colonies, some very vicious territorial
fights will ensue.

Another resident is the very lethal dart snail. The dart snail breeds
quickly in the presence of food, but its normal food is metalophilic
crab that periodicly wanders it or wanders through in the form of mass
migration. It uses a poison tipped 'foot' that can pierce the weak
points in the crab's shell.

An interesting creature that inhabits the bottom waters of the kelp
forest almost exclusively is the filter feeding sea slug. It is a
free swimmer and grows to be about 10 cm in length. Recalling Amiskwia
of the Burgess Shale, it swims about acting as a filter feeder as well.

The kelp forests are also the spawning grown for the camouflage lobster.
This lobster migrates between the deeper parts of the Argyre Sea and
the Kelp Forests. There is only one thing that is really notable about
this lobster since by and far it is a standard lobster in most ways.
That one notable feature is that it has a symbiotic sponge that grows
on its shell. That sponge filter feeds while the lobster moves along.
It acts as a bit of camouflage for the lobster at times and as something
less than tasty should a predator try to eat the lobster.

Thursday, April 07, 2005


I have found two lots that I need to talk my wife into going to check out this weekend. They are land, obviously. I have been bent on building a house for some time. One of them is in Marin County. It's set in redwoods and abuts a seasonal creek. The other is in Alameda County and is 20 acres in size. Marin is where I really want to be at though. I guess I grew up in areas with a lot less population density and I have grown to miss it. A lot. I rather like the redwood forests which is something we didn't have back in NM.

Baby Baird was up almost all night. I need to get my wife to crash and relax more so she can sleep. Heck, I need more sleep right now. Caffeine is not the way to go LT.

I have started working out again. I am badly out of shape in comparative terms. I can't believe how quick I put back on the weight I worked so hard to get rid of. Ah well, back to it, eh?

Monday, April 04, 2005

Back to Work

Today is my first day at work since Avrora was born.

Wee! Actually, I think I'd enjoy being at home with the kidlet and mom more than this.

I am getting caught up on everything. We'll see where we go. I'm glad I was gone for the last month. It revealed a lot of stress that I had. That helepd with the attitude I had been developing too.

On a different note, let me say that I have been enjoying the new Battlestar Galactica. Mostly. It seems a little oversexed at times, but its come down a lot. Also its a little frustrating because the first season just asked questions. There was absolutely no emotional pay off with some sort of tying up of any of the character threads posed this season. Zilch. Would have been nice if just *ONE* had been really...

Philopolis. I am starting to contemplate what that means to Machiavelli. It should be interesting to spin it out. I have to resolve the Kunikos-Mach debates and the roll that Oriestes is playing. She's more important after the debates than during. I know the general parts of where I want to go with Machiavelli in Morea. It's just that I need the time and the thought that writing pseudoMachiavelli requires...and with a new baby...ergh.

Friday, April 01, 2005

An interesting table: property values over the last year in Alameda County, CA

Median Home Prices for Alameda County

Area Jan 05 Jan 04 Change
Alameda Co $500,000.00 $415,000.00 20.5%
Alameda $593,000.00 $507,500.00 16.8%
Albany $500,000.00 $337,500.00 48.1%
Berkeley $485,000.00 $496,750.00 -2.4%
Castro Valley $558,000.00 $449,500.00 24.1%
Dublin $580,000.00 $453,500.00 27.9%
Emeryville $385,000.00 $310,000.00 24.2%
Fremont $565,000.00 $455,000.00 24.2%
Hayward $466,500.00 $393,500.00 18.6%
Livermore $545,000.00 $453,000.00 20.3%
Newark $495,000.00 $407,000.00 21.6%
Oakland $390,000.00 $335,000.00 16.4%
Pleasanton $686,500.00 $632,000.00 8.6%

I can't see how this is sustainable at all...must suck to be a home owner in Berkeley though! I suspect its because of all the problems the city is facing right now budgetarily and otherwise.