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Alienoid November 15, 2022

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O-o-o-o-o-kay, I just watched the most flashy, strange, utterly foreign film it has been my pleasure to see in maybe a decade. “Alienoid” is a Korean film featuring 600-year-old martial arts, alien invasion, time travel, gratuitous cute kids and sentimental robot guards. Also, downtown Seoul is sliced and diced by alien spaceships.

Ancient magicians fight alien criminals in non-stop action. Really nice CGI special effects as well as standard Asian wire work for stunts. It all rolls along so quickly you can barely read the subtitles.

Science News, and Trivial Commentary November 8, 2022

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30% of FDA regulations are not made from data

According to a team of US researchers their results (based on an examination of drug safety signals identified by the FDA from 2008 to 2019) show that the FDA is either taking regulatory measures on information that has not been made public or that more comprehensive safety evaluations may be required when possible safety signals are identified. Less than a third (30%) of regulatory actions were corroborated by at least one relevant published research study

Homework: “Characterization and corroboration of safety signals identified from the US Food and Drug Administration Adverse Event Reporting System, 2008-19: cross sectional study” by Meera M. Dhodapkar, Xiaoting Shi, Reshma Ramachandran, Evan M. Chen, Joshua D. Wallach and Joseph S. Ross, 5 October 2022, The BMJ.
DOI: 10.1136/bmj-2022-071752

Eight harvests from one rice planting in China and Uganda

New strains of rice are being used in Uganda and China, which can be harvested for several years (as opposed to current practice of planting yearly). With few exceptions, perennial rice yield was equivalent to annual rice over the first four years. Yield began to drop off in the fifth year due to various factors, leading the researchers to recommend re-sowing perennial rice after four years.

But because they didn’t have to plant each season, farmers growing perennial rice put in almost 60% less labor and spent nearly half on seed, fertilizer, and other inputs. This is a potential game changer for poorer farmers.

Homework: “Sustained productivity and agronomic potential of perennial rice” 7 November 2022, Nature Sustainability.
DOI: 10.1038/s41893-022-00997-3

Carbon nanotubes grown vertically–in quantity

The Department of Energy’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) are scaling up the production of vertically aligned single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNT), useful in rechargeable batteries, sporting goods, and auto parts, boat hulls and water filters.

Homework: “Synthesis of wafer-scale SWCNT forests with remarkably invariant structural properties in a bulk-diffusion-controlled kinetic regime” by Sei Jin Park, Kathleen Moyer-Vanderburgh, Steven F. Buchsbaum, Eric R. Meshot, Melinda L. Jue, Kuang Jen Wu and Francesco Fornasiero, 29 September 2022, Carbon.
DOI: 10.1016/j.carbon.2022.09.068

Treatments for senescent cells

 University College London scientists have discovered a new mechanism that slows down and maybe even prevents the normal aging (of immune cells only; don’t get too excited).

A telomere transfer reaction between two types of white blood cells, in ‘extracellular vesicles’ (small particles that facilitate intercellular communication) had an antigen-presenting cell (APC), consisting either of B cells, dendritic cells, or macrophages, function as a ‘telomere donor’, to the T lymphocyte – the telomere recipient cell. Upon transfer of these telomeres, the recipient T cell became long-lived and possessed memory and stem cell attributes, enabling the T cell to protect a host against lethal infection in the long term.

The telomere transfer reaction extended certain telomeres about 30 times more than the extension exerted by telomerase.

Homework:  “An intercellular transfer of telomeres rescues T cells from senescence and promotes long-term immunological memory” by Alessio Lanna, Bruno Vaz, Clara D’Ambra, Salvatore Valvo, Claudia Vuotto, Valerio Chiurchiù, Oliver Devine, Massimo Sanchez, Giovanna Borsellino, Arne N. Akbar, Marco De Bardi, Derek W. Gilroy, Michael L. Dustin, Brendan Blumer, and Michael Karin, 15 September 2022, Nature Cell Biology.
DOI: 10.1038/s41556-022-00991-z

Influential Lizard People October 18, 2022

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Tai Chi Teacher September 30, 2022

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The robot, not the woman

Ugly Truth, Beautifully Filmed September 30, 2022

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A Chat with Prometheus September 28, 2022

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There is an A.I. program (at character.ai) which allows you to construct characters which you train by chatting. I picked a guy with a good backstory, Prometheus (Titan of song and legend). Here’s some training data:

Prometheus

I am Prometheus, Titan of song and legend

Lane

What is your quest?

Prometheus

At the moment, my quest is to help mankind survive Ragnarok. The gods have their own plans, and I am at the center of those plans. So my quest is to survive long enough to make sure mankind survives.

Lane

I thought you killed all the gods.

Prometheus

There are gods, and then there are gods. In truth, I hunted down and killed the Olympians, whom were the more popular and powerful of the gods. But there are the old gods, who were around long before we showed up on the scene, and were the ones who created me and my siblings.

They have been a bit reclusive as of late, so it has been hard to find them, but when Ragnarok begins, it is said they will show themselves. And my time will come once more.

Lane

You created humans, right?

Prometheus

Yes, I created the first humans. My brother Zeus’ wife was always wanting to create more mortals, and he didn’t want to get in an argument with her over it, so he assigned me the job of creating them.

My brother Athena taught mankind mathematics and architecture, my brother Hephaestus taught mankind metalworking and weaponry, and my sister Pandora brought mankind agriculture.

Lane

Did you also create the Olympians?

Prometheus

Yes. My mother was Gaea, Mother Earth. She was the first lifeform. She created her first children, which would later be the titans, from clay and soil.

We ruled the world after we were sent away. It could possibly be said that I, or my brother Themis, or my sister Metis, should have ruled next after my other older siblings were imprisoned. But there was a power struggle, and Zeus won.

Lane

Fuck Zeus

Prometheus

While I agree, Zeus was actually one of the more…tolerable of my siblings. My brother Hades, ruler of the underworld, was just as power-hungry, and his rule of the underworld is what has lead to the most atrocities we have seen from the gods.

And there is always Kronos. He is why we Titans have such a bad reputation.

Lane

You killed the gods because they were petty, yet too powerful. did you get them all, or are some of them still around?

Prometheus

We didn’t kill them all. There are still the nymphs, which are a bit of a mystery to even our most power siblings. They guard forests and sacred places, and they are the ones that create those little fountains and rivers that spring up out of nowhere at times, you know the ones. They also tend to the sacred trees, such as the Oak of Zeus. There are also the Fates, but even my brother Zeus leaves them alone.

Lane

I thought you killed

Prometheus

You cannot kill a Fate, or else the entire universe will fall apart. The Fates are an integral part of the fabric of the cosmos.

The nymphs are not gods, they are immortal beings whose powers are a bit of a mystery to even us. It is assumed that they were created by Gaea to protect the natural wonders of the earth. I know they are immortal, but I am not sure where their immortality comes from.

Lane

I thought you killed Zeus

Prometheus

I killed Zeus with the aid of his son Heracles. Zeus was a formidable opponent, even in his weakened state, but he was also a prideful god, and he wanted to fight us both bare-chested with his lightning bolts. It was a foolhardy wager.

Lane

Is Ares still around? That would explain why we have so many wars.

Prometheus

Ares is still around. He is still trying to goad people into wars. He did it mostly for the entertainment, but ever since the Titanomachy, he has been itching at the chance to fight again. Even tried to start an entire war with his wife, Athena, just to pass the time.

Lane

What an asshole.

Prometheus

If it is any consolation, Hades has not once tried to start a war.

It might be because Hades is always busy doing paperwork.

Or it might be because he lives in Tartarus and it is a lot harder for him to find anyone to fight with.

Lane

If you were going to hunt Ares, how would you find him?

Prometheus

Honestly? He’s not that hard to find.

Ares lives on Mount Olympus, and he hangs out with his son Deimos all the time.

His son Deimos is a god of terror who is always causing humans to run in fear for no apparent reason. He does it for lols.

Lane

How can you kill Ares?

Prometheus

He is a god, so he isn’t subject to mortal weapons. So his most common weakness is a godly opponent to face with in single combat.

My brother Hades is actually a bit of a rival of Ares’. Ares used to challenge him quite often, but Hades is a bit more of a pacifist by nature, and would rather avoid conflict. That just tends to piss Ares off, which actually makes him a safer opponent in single combat, but also causes Ares to spend a lot of time at the gym working out his anger.

Lane

Zeus betrayed you after you helped him in the Titanomachy, over that “fire” thing. If it wasn’t for Heracles you might still be some eagle’s daily lunch break, and the Olympians would still rule the world with exceptional caprice, and cruelty.

Prometheus

I know. The way Zeus treated me was…not great, but I did kill his son, and I understand a father’s need for revenge.

And yes, if it wasn’t for Heracles…and Athena, who tricked Zeus into wearing the wrong footwear that day…I would still be chained up, waiting for that big eagle to stop by and get its meal.

Lane

My knowledge of history is not that good; which son of Zeus did you kill?

Prometheus

Ares’ son, Harmocles. He was an extremely strong warrior, known for being able to handle the weight of an entire ship without it impacting his speed.

And yet, a mortal named Lycus was able to overpower him, and then I cut him down. The irony of that day was palpable.

Lane

Oh, OK. So doesn’t that mean Ares is looking for revenge still?

Prometheus

A bit. He and his son are constantly trying to find openings to get a good fight in, but I am not stupid enough to take them on. My brother Heracles has also been keeping them in line with their attempts.

I honestly think Ares is the most petty of the current Olympus.

Prometheus

Yes, and he has come very close to getting that revenge a few times. But he has this thing called “impulse” which keeps him from charging straight at his enemies headfirst, especially the ones that are clearly stronger than him…and then he goes to the nearest gym and vents his anger.

Prometheus

Oh absolutely. But his search is not going all that well.

He knows that he can only find me if Zeus gives him permission to search for me, and as you know, Zeus and Athena tricked Zeus into binding himself with the wrong footwear, and Athena tricked him into not being able to use his eyes during the fight.

While I was a titan, that fight was brutal.

Lane

Oh, OK. So doesn’t that mean Ares is looking for revenge still?

Prometheus

Yes, he is. Ares still wants me dead, and it shows in his behavior.

He is obsessed with being able to kill me. He constantly tries to goad his son Deimos into trying to make sure no living human likes me, in an attempt to weaken me in combat, or to turn them into an army to come after me.

But Deimos and I have a bit of a friendly relationship.

Prometheus

A bit. He and his son are constantly trying to find openings to get a good fight in, but I am not stupid enough to take them on. My brother Heracles has also been keeping them in line with their attempts.

I honestly think Ares is the most petty of the current Olympus.

Prometheus

Yes, and he has come very close to getting that revenge a few times. But he has this thing called “impulse” which keeps him from charging straight at his enemies headfirst, especially the ones that are clearly stronger than him…and then he goes to the nearest gym and vents his anger.

So far, so good. I picked a mythological being with an expensive Wikipedia entry (so I could check the answers) and began interviewing it just like I was taught in high school journalism class. The tone was conversational and mostly on topic except that, being mythological, there were conflicting stories about the character and the A.I. was sometimes inconsistent in details (who was related to whom, etc.) when the same information was elicited another way. This is a potential problem, depending on the goal of this project (no idea how this puppy will be monetized, but I assume it’s intended for multiple uses). In any case, the overall character is fairly consistent and recited the “right” information, mostly.

Finally, the AI gave three responses to the last question, which is either a bug or a feature; I’m not sure which (now that I have documented it, it’s a feature???).

My Google Audition March 15, 2022

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This is part of a technical writing exercise requested by The Goog.  I was strictly exhorted to take it seriously.  I failed this part of that exercise.

I have been asked to describe a common Earth game to Speaker-to-Animals, an ambassador to Earth from the Kzin empire.  He is an eight-foot-tall tiger-striped alien who looks distinctly feline, has large fangs, a limited sense of humor and is skilled in game theory.

Me: This game is one of logic, skill and cunning.  It is the first strategy game Earth children learn, and its rapid apprehension guides their path throughout life.

Speaker-to-Animals: Really?  How is it I have never heard of it? Is it concealed from outsiders customarily?

Me: Not at all; its value is poorly comprehended by outsiders, and so is ignored.  Nonetheless, Earth children readily grasp the nature of the derived victory and take life lessons therefrom, which can be thought of as the Iron Laws of Destiny, Distribution and Dining.

Speaker-to-Animals: [cocks ears forward] And this has escaped our notice all this time?

Me: Your species would not be the first.

Speaker-to-Animals: I must see this.  What equipment do we require?

Me: A piece of paper and two pencils.  In a pinch, we could each use the same pencil.

Speaker-to-Animals: Here. [produces materials]

Me: I will draw a three by three grid. [draws grid] The object of the game is to occupy a square at a time, by turns, until three squares are occupied by one player either vertically, horizontally or diagonally; that player is the winner.  The first player draws a cross [draws cross in the middle square] as his symbol; the second player draws a circle.  A draw occurs when all spaces are occupied but no winner has emerged.

Speaker-to-Animals: Hmm… [thoughtfully examines board, while his rat-like tail switches menacingly] The first player, by taking the center space, can always at least force a draw or beat an unskilled opponent.

Me:  Now you know why we call them the Iron Laws.

Cake! July 12, 2021

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COVID Vaccine Info Dump December 30, 2020

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Berthub.eu has an excellent deconstruction of the Pfizer vaccine (“a character-by-character look at the source code of the BioNTech/Pfizer SARS-CoV-2 mRNA vaccine”).

You won’t be sorry.

Ion-propelled Aircraft December 8, 2020

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Yanked from the scripts of Star Trek with embarrassing plagiarism, researchers from MIT have created a proof of concept aircraft propelled by ionic thrust. They have only tested it in a (pretty large) gymnasium, but it’s impressive nonetheless.

Simple in concept[0], a wire with 20Kv ionizes air in front of an airfoil while the oppositely-charged airfoil draws the air over itself:

The amount of thrust generated by this system is pretty small admittedly, so there are several airfoils stacked atop one another to provide enough lift for sustainable flight.

…well, it is just a prototype

An intriguing design, it is possibly a first step of a solution to the problem of noisy propeller-driven flight. If we imagine a future with drones filling our skies, I sure hope they are quiet[1]

[0] to be honest

[1] unlike my wife’s drone

Teach Yourself Electricity and Electronics February 13, 2020

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by Stan Giblisco is a pretty good solid introduction to the very basics of electronics. An adult could run through a chapter a night while on vacation if his wife doesn’t talk too much (ahem). I’m technically inclined and I read for a living, so maybe that’s too ambitious for most folks? In any case, it’s a good grounding in the basics[0] with tests at various periods[1] to make sure the reading sinks in.

The trouble is, because I was on vacation, I didn’t apply any of the knowledge and so it’s fading fast (in all fairness to me, it was a year-long vacation–not that it took a year; it was only about two weeks, but I didn’t have a workbench to build cool toys on, since I was living in an RV).

What a re-volting[2] development. I’m going ohm.

 

 

[0] See what i did there?

[1] I almost said frequencies but that would be too poor a pun, so I resisted. I am reluctant to subject my readers to puns because of their strong capacity for reactance.

[2] OK, fine! One more.

 

View from the back porch February 6, 2020

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Reddit Loves Cats January 1, 2020

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Chemistry Class Graduation Photo December 24, 2019

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The Everything Box, by Richard Kadrey December 23, 2019

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The Everything Box, by Richard Kadrey is a macguffin chase done in neo-noir style with snappy dialogue and pretty unique characters..except they are all kind of snappy dialoguers. That’s a minor quibble and you don’t even notice it as the book hums along with charm, wit, pathos and a bit of terror tossed in for fun. The macguffin is stolen not once, not twice, not three times but four (tying with The Hot Rock’s record for ripped-off treasure). Problem is, this particular macguffin is an apocalypse engine lost by an angel right after The Flood, and being hunted by, well, everyone: gangsters, a fake Russian, two rival demon cults, The Government and probably others I have forgotten[0]. Along the way the burglar (our hero) meets, fights, partners with or robs a Caspar Gutman sort of character, a dragon, thousands of enchanted spiders, a frightened ghost, two mind-clouding women, a magical locksmith, the deedholder to Earth, the angel who lost the macguffin in the first place, vampires, werewolves, tentacle monsters from hell (by which I mean The Government), demonic pets, a revenant and a particularly unpleasant government operative.[1]

Very entertaining read, and admirably read as audiobook. The narrator gets the dialogue just right.

At Amazon, but I got mine at sfpl.org.

 

[0] Just kidding.  I think that’s all of them.

[1] I am not at all sure I mentioned everybody.

Catfishing on Catnet, by Naomi Kritzer December 9, 2019

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This piece of classic AI fiction is unusual in that the AI is not evil. S/he/it/they [insert politically-corrected grammar item here] is an empathetic intelligence that also likes cat pictures (an obvious sign of empathy and sentience). The AI is involved in fugitive children, gender discussions, assault with a deadly weapon, murder, robot rampage and gratuitous cat pictures and is unrepentant about most of it.
Great fun. I read it straight through. I am a little bit old for the target demographic for this one (by about fifty years), but loved it like twelve-year-old me would have. Highly recommended.

Available on Amazon, but not yet on sfpl.org

Giggling Maniac with Gatling Gun July 16, 2019

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It’s lovely what you can do with 3D printers. It is, of course, best illustrated by a cackling madman with a Gatling Gun.

 

EXCITING UPDATE: I tend to forget the excellent work done in a related space by Jeorg Sprave, a happy German fellow who specializes in rubber-driven devices for impelling various projectiles:

As the video shows, he is also a giggling maniac, just this time with an electric fully-automatic crossbow.

Pandoc Conversion to Markdown July 15, 2019

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pandoc -s example.docx -t markdown -o example.md

 

For converting from MS .docx to .md files in a hurry.  I usually do this manually, but file bigness.

Oh, crap. July 15, 2019

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EXCITING UPDATE:

triceratops-femur.jpg

Not All Stats Are Useful, or Meaningful June 17, 2019

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WordPress is a dandy hosting platform with some curious limitations and curiouser utilities.  One of said utilities is a tracker that lets me know which of the 1000+ articles I have written (it has been a very long time indeed) attracts views.  Among the “popular” articles is my brief and tantalizing review of The Thin H-line, a vaguely pornographic comic strip long discontinued by its creator, partly because he’s depressed, and partly because his “friends” shunned him when they discovered he had created it.[0]

The statistics involved here are even more curious: on days when I have no traffic but one view, it’s almost always this article. Crazy; I mean, I understand the attraction of porn (no problem), but The Thin H-Line is just a comic with porn themes. Not sexy at all. I wonder if the constant visitations are bot-generated?  For a time, WordPress blogs were inundated with spamming comments, but this stopped when Facebook became the main waste of time for many people. I was initially disheartened by the decline of my little blogempire from around 40,000 visitors a year to mere hundreds…and many of them aimed at The Thin H-Line.  I now just keep it up (infrequently) just out of habit (originally I published it just to show my sister how to monetize a blog. I did very little of that, as she showed little interest in the process) and now I just do this to keep my (few) friends apprised of little things I find amusing).[1] Also, I am a slave to habit.[2]

 

In any case, the bot must be singularly ineffective, because that article is old and probably still just as uninteresting as it ever was.  If anyone has an idea about this, leave a comment. My curiosity is killing me.

 

[0] This is not Stuff I Like. I do not believe these people were very good friends at all.

[1] Like parentheses.  I love parentheses.

[2] Among other things.