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Archive for December, 2011

Based on the height (or lack thereof) of the bars on my WordPress Dashboard that show how many views this blog site has, I can safely assume that few people will care about this current rambling. But for those of you who are here, I thank you and here is my update.

The family and I will be flying across the Atlantic Ocean to spend Hannukah and the New Year in the United States in Virginia (where we hail from) with my wife’s family.

With that being said, I will be off the blog-o-sphere for the rest of this month.

Come January 2012, I will be back with more thoughts about numbers in the news, veridictions, ceditras, and more chapters from my former roommate.

So to all, Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, and Happy New Year.

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In addition to Marketplace from American Public Media and Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me from National Public Radio, another must-hear on my iPod is the podcast edition of Studio 360 from Public Radio International.

I am writing today of Studio 360 to highlight its latest Listener Challenge. Studio 360 is asking folks to send in original stories, but they must be 420 (there’s your number for the day) characters or less, including spaces, in length.

For all the messy details, you can link here.

Since there is only submission per person, here are my three options. Your comments, opinions, suggestions, and barbs are quite welcome and always well-received.

Submission Idea One
Regardless of who you are, this is your story. You are born. You work hard. You acquire some knowledge. You die. If you are lucky, you are remembered. If you are truly lucky, you are remembered fondly.

Submission Idea Two
The usual authority figures would later proclaim it to be a hoax, but all of humanity did a collective rolling double-take when everyone, everywhere, at 3:36pm by their watches suddenly found a note on royal blue vellum paper in their pockets that said, in their native language, “I’m sorry I haven’t been around lately. That will now change.” At the bottom of the correspondence it was signed simply, “Love, God”.

Submission Idea Three
The host screamed, “Congratulations, Sy, you have won the grand prize on Who Wants to Win a Genie? What is your one wish?”
Sy thought and said, “I wish for everyone in the world to have one wish.”
With that, Sy became the most popular contestant in the history of the program.

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My, how time flies.

Rise and Fall
Eight years ago today, this was a headline from The Washington Post, “Gore Will Endorse Dean”.

On the way to the 2004 United States presidential election and less than a month before the caucus in Iowa, the “outside candidacy” (as defined by the Post‘s sub-headline) of Howard Dean received a boost from former Vice President Al Gore.

I bring this headline from 2003 up now to remind the reader that anything can happen in the presidential primary season. Back in 2004, even with Gore’s endorsement, Howard Dean, the former governor of Vermont, wound up coming in third in the Iowa caucus. During a post-caucus rally, Dean gave a speech that included the infamous “Dean Scream” that was lampooned across the country. Dean would later end his campaign in mid-February after the Wisconsin primary.

Yes, he would later head the Democratic National Committee, but the scream ended his presidenial aspiriations.

The rise and fall of the Dean candidacy should be fair warning to anyone who thinks the current Republican front-runner will be the nominee come November 2012. Anything can happen.

Coming to Your Senses
Eight years ago, the news came out that researchers at Stanford University had completed a design to help restore eyesight. Researchers designed a device that would convert light into chemical signals that would then be transmitted to the brain. Implant chips at the time converted light to electrical signals that the brain would receive. The story ends with the statement that test on animals would begin if laboratory tests were successful.

Eight years later after this design was unveiled, I could find no further news or progress from Dr. Bent or Stanford University. While there have been reports about bionic eyes, telescopic eyes, and other implant devices, there is nothing about sending chemical signals to the brain. What these all have in common is that they rely on light to be converted into electrical signals which are then fed into the brain.

There was this news quite recently that researchers have grown “embryonic eyes” and that they hope to have clinical trials started in a decade.

And the waiting continues.

As for Dr. Bent, she’s now working on solar cells.

Mostly Rise
In the last month of 2003, the price of gold was at an eight-year high. An ounce of the yellow metal stood at $408.20.

As of yesterday, the price for an ounce of gold was around $1712, a nearly 320% increase in its value in eight years.

Ahhh…how time flies.

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I have written before about how I feel there is no originality at all in the world of entertainment (see here and here).

My latest incarnation of this phenomenon revolves around the cinematic deities cribbing from YouTube.

The movie Apollo 18 with its concept of a secret lunar mission and its use of aliens to explain why the United States never went back to the moon seemed eerily similar to this 2010 short movie by The Faking Hoaxer entitled We Came in Peace.

Taking ideas from other people is nothing new. In fact, it even dates back thousands of years to the creation of religious texts. On August 8 of this year, my process of ceditra, creating art through a random process (a process that is 100% my own), took me to the Torah and this following quote from 2 Kings, Chapter 4, Verse 25

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So she went and came unto the man of God to Mount Caramel. And it came to pass, when the man of God saw her afar off, that he said to Gehazi his servant, Behold, yonder is that Shunammite.

Quite an interesting story and one that doesn’t make the headlines like some other tale that it bears an uncanny resemblance to.

The “she” is an unnamed Shunammite (an ethnic group, perhaps?) who had once made a small room for the man of God, whose name is Elisha. As a possible repayment for her kindness of free room and board when he ever came through town, Elisha prophesied that this woman, despite having an elderly husband, would conceive by the next season. Lo, and behold, come the next year, she had a son.

I wonder if he had Elisha’s eyes.

As it happens, the boy, at some age (but old enough that he can talk) dies. The woman, distraught, goes to see Elisha (which is the quote above). There are some elements of the story that I will skip over that probably have some symbolic significance, but the end of this tale is that Elisha goes to visit the dead boy. Elisha sets his mouth upon the lifeless boy’s mouth, his eyes upon the boy’s eyes, and he lay with him. Lo, and behold (again), the boy awakes and is alive (and there was much rejoicing).

Hmmm…a man of God, a prophet one could say (perhaps even a teacher), brings a person back from the dead. Doesn’t that sound familiar? Of course it does because it is the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. Can one sue the creators of the religious text for plagiarism since it appears that one of the Gospels ripped off this story. It makes sense because if you want to show that Jesus was prophet like those of the Torah and associated books, then he better be able to do all of their miracles also.

Elisha does the “raise the dead” trick first, but Jesus gets the credit.

Elisha can sympathize with another Elisha, Elisha Gray, over that type of injustice.
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Back to December and as I look at the theatrical release schedule for this month, I see that originality is once again on parade with the likes of the remake of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, the sequel to Sherlock Holmes, the third in the Alvin and the Chipmunks series, The Adventures of Tintin, and the movies version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

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It goes without saying that nerds run the world.

The social networking sites that dominate your lives were created by nerds, Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey. The computers that run those sites were also created by nerds (Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniack).

Video games, that refuge of the nerd in the 1980s with the Atari 2600 and Mattel’s Intellivision, last year were a $10.1 billion business, which is as much money as cinema made that year.

Sword-slinging, wand-waving fantasy, along with science-fiction, are both serious genres in the 21st century. In this era, there is Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, anything zombie-related, Paul, 1Q84, The Wind-Up Girl, and the list goes on and on. A style of literature and cinema that was once B-movie filler is now A-level material.

Comic books, which were once thought to be such a scourge of society that the industry adopted a code for itself, are now regularly seen on the big screen. From Batman to Superman to Spider-Man to the X-Men to Thor and to the Avengers…heck, even Green Lantern…studio execs seem destined to mine the rich ore of the Golden Age.

What all these items have in common (computers, video games, comic books, science-fiction) is that during the 1980s, the kids who were deep into these cultures were classified as “nerds” and not in a good way. They were deemed asocial and were so un-cool that they should be shunned.

Now that their kind has risen up to take over the world, I have this follow-up question…

What is it in today’s culture that is considered to be un-cool and un-hip that the true “nerds” of the 21st century are consuming that will be the next big things come 2040?

I offer the furry. What say you?

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Saw in the news a few weeks back that Intel unveiled its Knights Corner accelerator chip which is capable of running at the speed of one teraflop.

A teraflop is equal to one trillion calculations per second.

If a teraflop is 1,000,000,000,000 calculations per second, then that is equal to 1 calculation in a trillionth of a second.

In the time it takes me to read one calculation (e.g., 2 + 2 = 4), Knights Corner has already done a trillion of them.

So how quick or small is a trillionth? I’m not a math major so I tried to put those numbers into some sort of comparison I could fathom.

A trillionth of a second is to a second as one second is to 31,700 years (give or take a few days).

Tick.

Now wait until the year 33,711 A.D.

Another way I thought of visualizing a trillionth of a second, also known as a picosecond, was in terms of light.

The speed of light, c, is equivalent to 186,000 miles per second.

So, how far would light travel in a picosecond?

About 0.3 (there’s your number for the day) of a millimeter.

Yep, that’s quick.

Special thanks to the Wikipedia article on the picosecond for help on this one.

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UPDATE: DECEMBER 17, 2011

For those of you who want to see how far light actually travels in a trillionth of a second, you can view this article from BBC News and video.
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Who would have thought that one of my favorite comedy troupes of all time, Monty Python’s Flying Circus, in addition to being wacky, loony, and wickedly funny, were also excellent predictors of what our culture would wrought.

With the news that came out that Vienna, Austria, is now the site of a school providing lessons on sex

…it should be noted that the movie Monty Python and the Meaning of Life thought of it first (uhhh, video link probably not NSFW).

Let us also not forget that the rise of the culture phenomenon where people dress up as animals, known as the furry

…was also predicted by the English funny-men on their television show in a sketch called “The Mouse Problem“.

I can only wonder when undertakers start suggesting dining on the dearly departed.

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