Archive for March, 2008

On batteries that suck..

Monday, March 31st, 2008

As part of a discussion with my friend deadman the other night, the subject of how much batteries suck came up.

Now, as many of you know, I’m a strong proponent of plug-in EVs, rechargables instead of primary cells, and in general a battery kind of guy. However, I will be the first to admit that batteries suck. What’s astonishing is how *much* they suck.

I got into this line of thinking because I was musing about how much energy (tens of kilowatt-hours) each  of us keeps stored. 1 kg of fat = approximately 10 kwh,which means 2 kg of fat – 4.4 pounds for you non-metric types – contains as much power as the traction pack of my car. Which weighs, let’s see, approximately 700 lbs.  Hm. 4.4 lbs != 700 lbs.

It’s easy to see why people are pushing for fuel cells, but really hard to see why they’re pushing for platinum based ones. As deadman pointed out, perhaps what we need – and I’m sure there are thousands of people working on this, and also that by the time I could learn enough about it to contribute anything useful it would be solved – is a enzyme-catalized room-temp fuel cell.

My mother (who believes we were created by a perfect creator)  is probably gloating about how our bodies beat our best rechargable energy systems by a factor of 100 right now, and I can’t really blame her. Our RNA and DNA data storage also beats our best hard drives by several orders of magnitude, so it’s not like this is exactly suprising. We’re not really inventing new technology so much as trying to find ways to duplicate what’s already in our bodies in ways that we can control and debug.

(although, in all fairness, the signalling rate of our nervious systems is way, way slower than the internet. Probably. )

Hwrr, whine, whine

Sunday, March 30th, 2008

My back hurts again. I’ve been trying to do the exercises that the physical therapist suggested for me, and *they* hurt. So I guess I will call him and go back in and have him work on me some more.

I still blame the car accident that I was in a few years ago – I never had any problems with my back before that, and it seems like it’s been intermittently broken in more and more irritating ways ever since. Since I can’t think of any amount of money that would be worth ongoing pain, I think that what we need to do is redesign cars so that these things can’t happen.

I was musing last night as I was driving to get fast food about how many different ways computer-assisted driving could work. Obvious ways are things like putting a bracket around anything radiating at 37 degrees so that you’d be aware of children, dogs, etc as you drove past them – and, of course, a system that tracked what speed you were closing on potential obsticles and displayed warnings, sounded alarms, and ultimately engaged the car’s braking system.

I keep hoping that DARPA’s various autonomous vehicle challenges will lead to more autonomous safety systems being built into vehicles. Humans really shouldn’t drive cars – we’re too easily distracted, we can only see in two directions at once and those directions have to be on approximately the same plane, and we’re too fragile and we don’t handle high G loads well. When humans fly planes or drive trains, they often use computer systems to assist them in all sorts of ways – and, yes, I know taht cars have traction control computers and antilock computers, but that’s really just a small segment of what should be onboard.

Among other things, why don’t cars have black box style recorders? It seems to me that this would remove a lot of sources of arguments during car accident discussions – how fast was driver A going? How hard did he brake? What was he seeing?

I also suspect that a somewhat centrally-dispatched traffic management system – soemthing more sophisticated than a guy on the radio telling me I should avoid the 405 – would save everybody a lot of time.

Someone should also figure out a very sort set of strategies  that if done by every driver in a traffic jam, will tend to unjam the traffic. I noticed when me and Nicka drive down 123 at rush hour on our mopeds that by slowing the road from 45 to 35, it changed from gridlock to flowing smoothly. I suspect that there’s a whole set of these – like, for example, leaving more space in front of you during a traffic jam so you can drive at a constant speed, using the space in front of you as a buffer, rather than constantly speeding up and slowing down (and losing time to human reaction time for every single driver behind you as they do the same)

I noticed one of my friends talked about a book, something like you can’t afford a negative thought. I definately think I suffer from some negative thinking.. part of it is engineer’s disease – you have to be able to see all the flaws before you can improve the system.. but part of it is just plain excessive.

Anyway, my back hurts, whine whine whine whine

Bah! Bah! Memesheep! memesheep!

Sunday, March 30th, 2008

Hi! Where would YOU rather be?
Four places where I’ve held jobs in my life:
– Epoch Internet
– Hacker Shack computers
– Radio shack

Four movies I could watch over and over:
– Pump Up The Volume

– Dead poets society
– Hackers
– Sneakers

Four cities in which I have lived:
– Fayetteville, AR
– Woodbridge, VA

– Irvine, CA
– Seattle, WA

Four TV shows that I watch:
– House


– Ally McBeal

– The Muppets

Four places I have been to:
– Bangkok, Thailand

– New York, NY
– Swindon

– Sydney, Australia

Four people who email, IM or call me regularly:
– Kayti
– Dan S.

– My boss
– My coworkers

Four of my favorite foods:
– Portabello burgers
– Sushi

– Chicken fajitas
– Pho

Four places I would rather be right now:
– in another universe with file permissions, multithreaded time, and not based on the model that all life lives at the expense of other life

– in tropical paradise
– at a rave

– at a jam session

Four stupidest things I’ve ever done:
– cheated on people
– been born in America
– worked for free for someone who could afford to pay me

– not done things

Four things I am grateful for:
– Kayti

– my cat

– the knowledge that this, too, will pass

– steady employment

Four things I am looking forward to this year:
–  I’m drawing a blank here
– perhaps the insurance company of the guy who hit me will finally cough up the money I lost because of lost work time (and, today, my back hurts. Grr. Humans shouldn’t drive cars)

– possibly releasing the software I’ve been working on for almost a year
– maybe having somewhat more financial security

Sunday, March 30th, 2008

Arther C Clarke has logged out. Godspeed, wherever you’re headed…

(and don’t forget to write)

I have *got* to get me one of these…

Sunday, March 30th, 2008

No, seriously, external EM stimulation of emotion. The entertainment possibilities are endless. Then you start thinking about the fun you could have combining this with music, video, etc..

Wednesday, March 26th, 2008

When I first was learning unix, I was far too impressed to criticize – after all, here was a operating system that made it possible for hundreds of users to share, mostly peacefully, a computer!

Now that I’ve been a unix administrator for a while – and administered a number of flavors of unix – I do have a few, um, questions about it.

The biggest one is WHY are all the configuration files in a directory called etc? Wouldn’t conf or config make more sense?

Actually, one can apply that criticism to /var – wouldn’t /data make more sense?

Of course, mine is not to reason why. At this point, changing would be painful – all of the directories are hardcoded in thousands of different applications.

If I were immortal, I would want to write a operating system at some point. Being limited to – at least on the surface of things – a 100,000 hour MTBF makes me inclined to just be grateful that other people have put together such nice ones.  (Even though I complain bitterly about them, I love Linux and am pretty fond of 2000 and even XP. Give me another ten years and I’ll probably like Vista. As usual, I’m not yet running it anywhere. I should get a workstation with vmware set up so I can play with five or six operating systems painlessly.. )

Out of the loop..

Tuesday, March 25th, 2008

while I’ve been off writing web 2.0 applications, apparently the rest of you all have been off *using* them. Today, I learned just how out of touch I am. I’d never heard of pownce, twitter frankly frightens me, I had no idea that you could now stream realtime video from your cell phone to the net, I’m still reeling from learning that someone wrote a virtual television studio in Flex, and I feel terribly uncool. Even as a geek, I’m a failure. 😉

After some thought, I have a few additional comments:

Tuesday, March 25th, 2008

1) Claiming to disapprove of being judgmental and simultaneously judging another group of people (i.e. saying they should grow up) is more than a little hypocritical. Probably I would strike the last paragraph entirely. I apologize if anyone had their feelings hurt by it

2) I do think that the people who recorded ‘God Hates The World’ are either a: trolls or b: examples of the very worst kind of Christian fundamentalism. Christianity is a extrordinarily broad group – as is any religion, comprising so many sub-factions that it’s difficult to find ANY statement that’s true of all it’s members.

3) Probably the people posting hate speech on Clint’s blog are examples of a few extreme viewpoints, and not representative of all Christians anywhere.

4) I still believe that I was right in thinking that I shouldn’t continue to think about, talk about, or write about Christianity. There’s nothing I would have to say that hasn’t been said better by many, many others, and it is far better for my happiness and mental – and I suspect spiritual – health not to think about it, as I just get angry and feel frustrated that so much harm is being done and there’s nothing I can do about it. (Not to mention that there’s a subset of humanity that are okay with the idea that I be tortured for eternity. #include <christian_rant.h>)

5) Yes, I know that C is horribly dated. I still like it.

I know I said I’d leave the Christian thing alone..

Tuesday, March 25th, 2008

but my friend Clint has been drawing a lot of Christian – or at least self-identified-as-Christian – hate speech on his blog:

I wrote a response which I feel like is both Vintage Sheer and some of my better writing, so I include it here:

I have a number of comments.

First of all, in reaction to ‘God hates the world’:

Christians claim God is the superuser, the almighty Root in the sky. They claim he created everything (although they haven’t come up with a good explanation for where HE came from. Apparently it’s okay for God to have always existed, but not for everything to have always existed).

As the superuser, God sets things like physical laws. God doesn’t want you breaking the law of gravity, and he makes sure it’s enforced. Then religious people CLAIM that God sets spiritual laws as well. Interestingly, God doesn’t directly communicate those to us. Essentually, in order to believe that I’ve broken God’s Law, I have to believe that the bible IS God’s Law. That’s rather hard, because God is claimed to be a ethical being, and the bible shows God behaving in clearly unethical ways.

I have a very clear sense of what *I* feel good and evil is – and I feel being judgemental, speaking of torturing people for eternity, speaking of wrath instead of forgiveness, and speaking of the world as a evil place are all signs of, well, evil. Clearly my moral compass doesn’t have the same alignment as the people who are joyfully singing about how the rest of us are going to suffer, suffer, suffer for being who and what we are – presumably, if you believe in God, who and what we were created to be.

When I was young, I went to raves and was told about peace, love, unity, and respect. I naively believed that this is what all the world’s religions were about – I mean, clearly, it feels so right, it must be what everyone’s been talking about. What’s interesting in this is that I had already had – and rejected – a Christian upbringing, so some part of my subconscious knew better. But still, I talked with my friends about this whole peace & love thing, seriously thinking that that’s what Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, etc were all about. (In fact, Buddhism IS about peace & love – it’s interesting how much my mom, a very Christian sort of person, hates & fears it)

Now I have read the bible – or at least large chunks of it – and now I know. The bible is not about just peace & love. The bible is, as far as I can tell, white noise. It contains a little bit of everything, all translated until the original grains of truth are just barely visible and the dark lies are far stronger. You have to strain your mental eyes to find the PLUR in the bible – or just read certain, selected passages. It is there, of course, but it’s largely overshadowed by far darker things like the homicidal tendancies of God in the old testiment, or the mysogeny of Jesus’s early followers in the NT.

I think it’s really time to write a new one, but the Christians are convicned that this book is the Word Of God and doesn’t need fixed. Interestingly, the bible appears to be a informational virus.. just like those virii that appear on the net from time to time. It contains instructions that say “make a copy of me” and “don’t change me or awful things will happen to you”. This is bad because religion needs, very badly, to evolve with technology and social change.

I understand that there are a group of people that are fundamentally against ANY change – that the people who speak of our proud sinning in that song probably think the internet is wrong and evil, and aren’t really all that clear on whether they should really be using the microphones and video cameras with which they recorded it. For these people I feel mostly sadness – change is a constant that, if God is real, She built into the universe. By disliking this change instead of enjoying it, you’re setting yourselves at odds with the God that Is, and unhappiness almost has to result.

Also for the people who recorded that video: God hates the world, even though *e created it? God is, according to your doctrine, supposed to be perfect and eternally unchanging (even though *e clearly goes through a major design overhaul between the OT and the NT – or at least, our understanding of *e does). How could a perfect creator create a imperfect creation?

For my take on things, I continue to believe that God is the sum of all life, that we are all literally a part of God and thusly we get to decide, individually and every day, just how good God is or isn’t. And, in my opinion, we’ve come a long, long way since even the N.T. – but we have a long, long way yet to go.

I would like to encourage every Christian who is glorying in how much we will all suffer for our sin to look deep within their heart, and consider whether a perfect being would *want* others to suffer. The desire to see others unhappy, the action of taking joy from others misery, is in my opinion a fault, and something that we would all be better off without. Jesus never spoke of wanting to see anyone suffering in any of the parts of the bible I’ve read yet, and often spoke of ways to alleviate suffering, or performed actions that reduced it.

It is my belief also that the universe is neither matter nor energy, but entirely information. It’s convenient to call types of information matter, energy, atoms, elements, etc because it gives us mental models which allow us to manipulate the universe in fun and interesting ways, but in essence it is information. I sometimes think that the information is stored in digital form, and that the darkness in all of us is the zeros – needed to make the ones make any sense at all. After all, a digital computer without zero would be nothing but a paperweight.

So please, to the many Christians – or so-called Christians – attacking Clint & Carolyn: Grow up. Accept your responsability as part of God, and start working towards a better God – and a better self.

The futility of anger..

Wednesday, March 19th, 2008

So, I listened to Barack Obama’s responses to his pastor’s comments – at

At first, I was dissapointed with Obama for having condemned his pastor for having made such statements, since I feel that a lot of them have more than a grain of truth behind them. Then I came to realize what Obama was condemning. It’s not that he was saying that these things aren’t true – just that he was saying that getting angry about them, and making angry and inciting remarks, is pointless.

I suppose you could say that anger is a motivating force, and that as such, getting angry about the many things that suck in the universe is a good thing, because it leads to us making them suck less. However, it’s also true that getting angry and then giving up any hope on the situation getting any better is futile and a waste.

Anger is such a negative emotion – it leads to us doing all sorts of irrational things. Turned outward, it starts wars between entities. Turned inwards, it slowly destroys us, especially if the thing we’re angry over is something that we’re not in a position to change.

For a long time, I tried very hard to never feel anger over anything. Like jealousy, I thought that it was a mistake, a problem that resulted from designing a species using mostly evolutionary techniques, and that it could have nothing but bad effects. Then for a while, at the advice of some various professionals, I embraced my anger, and accepted feeling it as part of the human experience.

Ultimately, however, I think what I want is the ability to feel anger selectively. To feel anger when feeling anger will help motivate me to protect myself or to make the world suck less in general, and to not feel anger when feeling anger will make me feel hopeless, and unempowered, and bitter.

I feel as though I am a slave to my emotions in general, and I would prefer to be the master.