24 ways Trump is making America great again

I really did have good intentions about not posting for a while, but this…this was just too good to ignore:

A new forward going around:

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but it looks like Trump is actually making America great again. Just look at the progress made since the election:
1. Unprecedented levels of ongoing civic engagement.
2. Millions of Americans now know who their state and federal representatives are without having to google.
3. Millions of Americans are exercising more. They’re holding signs and marching every week.
4. Alec Baldwin is great again. Everyone’s forgotten he’s kind of a jerk.
5. The Postal Service is enjoying the influx cash due to stamps purchased by millions of people for letter and postcard campaigns.
6. Likewise, the pharmaceutical industry is enjoying record growth in sales of anti-depressants.
7. Millions of Americans now know how to call their elected officials and know exactly what to say to be effective.
8. Footage of town hall meetings is now entertaining.
9. Tens of millions of people are now correctly spelling words like emoluments, narcissist, fascist, misogynist, holocaust and cognitive dissonance.
10. Everyone knows more about the rise of Hitler than they did last year.
11. Everyone knows more about legislation, branches of power and how checks and balances work.
12. Marginalized groups are experiencing a surge in white allies.
13. White people in record numbers have just learned that racism is not dead. (See #6)
14. White people in record numbers also finally understand that Obamacare IS the Affordable Care Act.
15. Stephen Colbert’s “Late Night” finally gained the elusive #1 spot in late night talk shows, and Seth Meyers is finding his footing as today’s Jon Stewart.
16. “Mike Pence” has donated millions of dollars to Planned Parenthood since Nov. 9th.
17. Melissa FREAKING McCarthy.
18. Travel ban protesters put $24 million into ACLU coffers in just 48 hours, enabling them to hire 200 more attorneys. Lawyers are now heroes.
19. As people seek veracity in their news sources, respected news outlets are happily reporting a substantial increase in subscriptions, a boon to a struggling industry vital to our democracy.
20. Live streaming court cases and congressional sessions are now as popular as the Kardashians.
21. Massive cleanup of facebook friend lists.
22. People are reading classic literature again. Sales of George Orwell’s “1984” increased by 10,000% after the inauguration. (Yes, that is true. 10,000%. 9th grade Lit teachers all over the country are now rock stars.)
23. More than ever before, Americans are aware that education is important. Like, super important.
24. Now, more than anytime in history, everyone believes that anyone can be President. Seriously, anyone.

– Susan Keller (Copy and paste to share.)

I will be going to work with a smile on my face today because many of the points above can just as easily apply to Pauline Hanson and Malcolm Turnbull here in Australia. My thanks to Lucky Otter for sharing this great list. I love irony. 😀

cheers

Meeks


Cat to the rescue!

I wasn’t going to post this weekend, but then my friend Scottie posted this, and I just had to share it:

I’ve watched the rescue three times already and I still get a lump in my throat watching that cat save one of the ‘enemy’. 😀

We humans could learn a thing or two from this amazing cat.

Still smiling,

Meeks


The birth of cybernetics?

Doctor Who fans will immediately recognize the concept of the ‘Cyberman’, but for everyone else, it’s a being that evolved from a biological base into a fusion of ‘meat + machine’.

In the Doctor Who series, the Cybermen are more machine than meat, but the concept stays the same. And it’s been a recurring theme in science fiction for decades. Anyone remember a TV show called the 64 Million Dollar Man?

But that’s all just make believe…isn’t it?

Well, no, no it’s not, not any more. Welcome to the world of David Eagleman. If you have any interest in what makes all life on earth tick, you will find this TED talk absolutely rivetting:

Did you watch it? Did it blow you away? Yeah, me too. 😀

There were a number of things in that talk that made me nod like crazy, but two really stood out:

  • the brain is a general purpose computing device, and
  • the concept of sensory substitution

As someone interested in biology, I sort of knew about the parts of the brain and how they functioned, but until quite recently, I assumed that brain plasticity [the ability of the brain to change itself when necessary] was restricted to fairly ‘small’ functions. And then I heard about Daniel Kish. He has no eyes, so everything you see him do, he does without using the physical pathways you or I use when we ‘see’ things. Instead, he makes clicking sounds and ‘hears’ them bounce off objects in their path:

Daniel Kish is an example of biological sensory substitution because he uses his hearing to provide data to the brain which the brain then interprets as a kind of vision. It’s real, it can be done, it’s just that most of the time, we humans prefer to use the easy path we learned as babies.

Just as a matter of interest, did you know that the visual cortex of a newborn baby is ‘unfinished’? Steropsis, or

The perception of depth produced by the reception in the brain of visual stimuli from both eyes in combination; binocular vision

https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/stereopsis

is ‘learned’ in the first 18 months of a baby’s life. If something happens to disrupt this learning process, binocular vision will not develop. Instead, the child will learn how to see 3D using a process called ‘motion parallax’. I know, because that’s how I see, and I can play pretty fast and furious table tennis. 😀

The more I learn about the world, the more amazed I become at its incredible power. Is it any wonder I’m a sci-fi nut?

Special thanks to Museworthyman for pointing me towards that mind-blowing TED talk. Kindred spirits unite!

cheers

Meeks

 


-blush- ‘teledildonics’…

You should consider this a tech post with an R rating. You’ve been warned.

haptic-glove-2

http://fab.cba.mit.edu/classes/863.11/people/daniel.rosenberg/pf.html

Right. This really is a case of sci-fi made obsolete by reality. The image you’re looking at shows a pair of ‘haptic’ gloves at work. They allow the wearer to manipulate elements of a digital environment directly – i.e. no need for a mouse or keyboard or game controller. Essentially, sensors in the glove translate real world movement and pressure into digital movement and pressure.

I knew about these haptic gloves because I’m a gamer, and I like to think about new technologies that make gaming more fun. Not surprisingly then, my sci-fi story, Innerscape, contains many existing technologies, extrapolated into their possible future equivalents. One example is the evolution of the haptic glove into the full body gaming suit. But even modern day technology can be used in all sorts of ways. Most people see web cams and Skype as a useful tool for teleconferencing, or to allow friends to see each other and talk in real time. To the porn industry, however, the same technology is a great way to deliver a lucrative product.

Online porn is not something I know a great deal about, but it’s not something I can ignore, either. I do a lot of research online, and anything of a sexual nature can be bring up unexpected results – e.g., when I researched hermaphrodites for Vokhtah. I quickly learned to phrase my queries with great care, and that awareness informed my prediction that the porn industry would spear-head the development of immersive reality in Innerscape. Yes, I know, pun intended…

Despite this rather pragmatic view of the world, however, I had no idea that a real world company was already selling a primitive version of the immersive porn of my imagined future. What’s even worse, I had no idea that this real world company bears the same name [more or less] as a company I dreamed up for Innerscape.

[SPOILER: Leon lets the Woman in Red into his apartment when he sees that she’s delivering his brand new, top of the range, Real Touch gaming suit.]

The real world company already making haptic devices for the porn industry is called Realtouch Interactive.

I swear I am not making this up. I didn’t know about Realtouch Interactive until just now when I read about the latest developments in ‘haptic gloves’ on New Atlas. Imagine my surprise when the same article included a link to…’teledildonics’.

The link to that article is here:

http://newatlas.com/flex-n-feel-glove-long-distance-relationships/47900/?utm_source=Gizmag+Subscribers&utm_campaign=f1f477b260-UA-2235360-4&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_65b67362bd-f1f477b260-92416841

You can find the link to ‘teledildonics’ yourselves. If you so wish. -cough-

Be warned though, in the article, a male writer test drives the ‘device’, and although the descriptions are not super graphic, they don’t leave too much to the imagination. Included in the article is information about how the company created its own tech in order to sync sight, sound and data. Just as I predicted!

I suppose this is the point at which I should explain why data has to be synced along with sight and sound. The haptic ‘device’ is hooked up to the computer via USB at the user’s end. At the ‘cam girl’ end, a slightly different device allows the professional lady to control the sensations sent to the user’s device. Thus, audio, video and the transfer of this haptic data has to occur at the same time or the effect is ruined.

Long term, however, this very same technology will drive something else I wrote about in Innerscape – teleoperations. This is where the surgeon and the patient are separated by long distances, but the surgeon can still operate via a robotic surgical tool.

I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling kind of shell-shocked. None of this technology was meant to happen for decades, yet here it is in 2017. Clearly, the tech will be enhanced and improved enormously in the coming years, but I still feel rather ambivalent about the whole thing. Yes, it’s nice to predict the tech of the future, but it’s not so nice to get the timing so very wrong. Oh well…back to work.

cheers

Meeks

 

 

 


Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful!

Website : Kkaa.co.jp

via Tsubomi Villas by Kengo Kuma — Mega Luxus

I have always loved the inspired simplicity of Japanese art and design, but this one really does take my breath away. Curves are the basic building blocks of nature, not straight lines, but I cannot begin to imagine how much work went into creating this organic, deceptively simple shape. Pure perfection.


Foxes and Magpies in Warrandyte

I scribbled this down yesterday, just before racing off to work:

Monday 9:40am. Saw a smallish brindle fox sprint across the back yard, pursued by 4 magpies. They were our resident magpies, and they chased that fox right off the premises…theirs & mine.

Just before jumping over the side fence the fox stopped & seemed to look straight at me, despite being inside the house & 40 metres away.

I think it heard the whistle of my kettle as it came up to boil. Whatever the truth of it, by the time I turned back to the window from the stove, the fox was gone.

I wish I could have taken a photo for you, but it all happened too quickly. Instead, I went looking for photos online and found these:

fox-brindle

The image of the brindle fox is courtesy of http://www.wildlifeonline.me.uk/red_fox.html and is exactly the odd mottled, brownish colour of the fox I saw. I love foxes but know nothing about them. Is this colour a seasonal thing? Or is it perhaps a sign of immaturity?

magpie-swooping

The image of a magpie swooping is courtesy of http://www.lifehacker.com.au/2015/09/how-to-survive-magpie-swooping-season/.

When the Offspring was little, we were both swooped by magpies while out for a walk. I was terrified [for the Offspring], but since moving out to Warrandyte I’ve learned a lot about magpies. I’ve seen them swoop the dog and the cats, but only during breeding season. The rest of the time the maggies ignore them as creatures beneath contempt. And I’ve seen maggies hound a young possum out of a tree [where there was a nest?] so I know these birds are fierce when they want to be.

But I’ve also seen my maggies conscientiously feeding and teaching their young:

baby-magpie

This image is courtesy of https://www.trevorsbirding.com/baby-magpie/

And believe me, maggies are smart. When I throw out stale bread for them, or some scraps of meat, the first one on the scene will warble an alert and in moments, their young will come to feed. Maybe that’s why they treat me like a member of the family. In loco parentis?

I’ve never been swooped out in the garden. Not even once. Somehow, the maggies whose territory I share know I’m a friend, and as the story of the fox shows, they know when to protect ‘our’ domain. Much as I love foxes I don’t want Mogi, my tiny chihuahua-cross dog to be snatched up one day when the hunting has been poor.

So yesterday I went to work with a smile on my face. There are times when I love Warrandyte so much it hurts. 🙂

cheers

Meeks


Letter of resignation from Climate Change Authority

I promised myself some good news posts this weekend, and in a strange sort of way, this is one. It’s a resignation in response to the ‘clean’ coal bullshit of the Libs.:

climate-change-resignation

My thanks to Metan for tweeting about this, even if it made me angry all over again. And hats off to Professor Clive Hamilton for putting his principles first, but what a sad indictment of the man-who-once-supported-the-ETS. It seems our PM has decided that his reputation and legacy are of less value than his continued presence as our leader.

If the above sounds as if I’m taking Malcolm Turncoat’s defection personally, you’re right, I am. Despite being a Labor supporter, I did harbour a secret admiration for the man. He was what I thought all good politicians ought to be – a man of honour and integrity who became a politician to serve us, the people.

No fool like an old fool. In betraying his own principles, Malcolm Turncoat also betrayed me and every other voter who believed in him. The man who should have resigned was not Professor Hamilton, it was the PM.

Not happy, Malcolm,

Meeks


A smelly but good news tech post

Apologies if this puts anyone off, but I’m really excited by this innovative way of dealing with sewage. Not only does it make something useful out of a big, smelly problem, it does so in a ‘relatively’ small space. [Conventional sewage works take up acres and acres and acres of land that could be used for other things].

To read how this innovative approach actually works, please read the article on New Atlas:

http://newatlas.com/mimic-nature-sewage-oil/46260/?li_source=LI&li_medium=default-widget

As a sci-fi writer I’m interested in all kinds of futuristic world building and one of my earliest ideas was for an ‘undercity’ built to replace much of Melbourne, post sea level rises that drown the lower reaches. Obviously, the new undercity would have to be built on much higher ground to avoid being drowned as well, but it would have lots of big advantages – temperature would remain more or less constant, bushfires would no longer be a danger and the land above the city could be used for productive agriculture. [At the moment, all Australian cities spread outward and our suburbs are built on land that would be better used for the growing of food].

One major problem with this undercity, however, was the issue of waste. I imagined food waste being ‘eaten’ by the SL’ick [synthetic life chickens that look like huge worms made of chicken breast meat], but I simply could not come up with an innovative way of dealing with the body wastes we humans produce. Until now. One small step for my world of the future, one large step for waste management. 🙂

cheers

Meeks


Prof. Hans Rosling, teacher extraordinaire

The world has lost a giant intellect with the death of Professor Hans Rosling, the statistician who breathed life into data and gave humanity an enormous gift. His entertaining and optimistic approach to data analysis is inspirational. His teaching methods will live on in every person who had the good fortune to hear him speak, […]

via Life and Death: The Next Big Thing — Honie Briggs

Statistics and math are not the same beast. Math is about precise relationships, stats is about patterns, and Professor Rosling was about helping people recognize the patterns created by statistics.

Human beings are very good at pattern recognition, but usually that skill is restricted to the small scale – my house, my world, my life. Statistics gives us a tool with which to recognize patterns on a large scale – our country, our planet, humankind. And you don’t have to be a maths wiz to do it. All you need is basic math and logic.

If I could change one thing about education right now, it would be to teach each child about statistics. Maybe then, we would not have a world in which every fact is open to ‘interpretation’.

But don’t watch Professor Rosling’s videos just for his brilliant, visual ways of displaying stats, watch them for the content. However dissatisfied we may be with our world in 2017, I was gobsmacked to learn that the Industrial Revolution – a period in Western history that saw terrible disruptions to the life of the common man – was also the start of an incredible climb up out of poverty. It gives me hope that the Era of Automation will actually lead to an even better standard of living for all of us, not just a few.

 


#Australia – new climate change predictions

Sitting here with the aircon turned on, and a hot north wind blowing outside, it’s hard not to be afraid, especially after seeing this graph:

climate-change-temperature-graph

The graph charts temperatures over the last 100 years – from 1910 to 2010. Not surprisingly, blue represents years of below average cold and red represents years of above average heat. And no, it wasn’t your imagination – summers really have been getting hotter.

My growing up years [1950s to 1970s] were mild. We did get the odd hot day in Melbourne. We even experienced the odd heatwave, but they were unusual events. I know, because we did not even own a fan back then! Now, I can’t imagine living without an air-conditioner.

Unfortunately, heat is not the only thing that’s changed. Nor will it be the only thing that gets worse. I highly recommend reading the complete report from the Climate Council:

https://www.climatecouncil.org.au/uploads/1b331044fb03fd0997c4a4946705606b.pdf

You can also read an abbreviated, ‘highlights of’ article about the report here:

http://www.news.com.au/technology/environment/climate-change/longer-hotter-summers-predicted-in-extreme-weather-report-by-climate-council/news-story/958f45a1141453664fcb5933921b4c14?utm_source=Daily+Carbon+Briefing&utm_campaign=4b550aee94-cb_daily&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_876aab4fd7-4b550aee94-303473869

Now think about these facts – every year for the last three years has been the hottest on record. That means since we’ve been measuring and recording temperature.

According to the Climate Change deniers and skeptics, what we’re experiencing is just another ‘cycle’ in the earth’s climate history. We’ve had ice ages, now we’re having a period of heat. The one thing they’re not ‘having’ is that this period of heat might be caused by humans rather than natural fluctuations.

So let’s take that perspective to its natural conclusion: the world may be getting hotter and climate may be getting more extreme, but it’s not our fault so there’s nothing we can do about it except ‘suck it up’ [and hope we all survive].

To me, that is the most terrifying, defeatist outlook possible. Yes, it does allow for ‘business as usual’, but only because disaster is inevitable so we may as well make money while we can.

By contrast, almost all of the actual climate change scientists say that this distopian outlook is not inevitable. It will take a lot of work, and things will get worse before they get better, but there’s a good chance that we’ll survive…if we clean up the mess we’ve made.

As one of the canaries in the coal mine, I much prefer the optimistic outlook, don’t you?

But why do I imply that Australians are canaries in the coal mine? Isn’t that fate reserved for the island nations of the Pacific?

Um, no, actually. Australia has quite a delicate climate. Yes, I know, how can deserts and bushfires be delicate? What I mean is that we already experience extremes thanks to our geography which means that climate change will have less work to do to make extreme turn into unbearable.

But it is the Australia inhabited by this generation’s grandchildren, 2090, where the heat will really be on, if greenhouse gas emissions worldwide fail to meet current reduction targets.

By that year the report predicts Darwin will have a staggering 265 days each year above 35C.

That quote was taken from the news.com.au article, but the data comes from the Climate Council report [linked above].

Melbourne won’t fare so badly in terms of temperature, but we’ll have other worries – such as increased droughts and a great many more bushfires. If we continue with business as usual, life will be close to unbearable for our children and their children. This is not some dystopian, science fiction plot line I’ve come up with to give you all a good scare. This is real, my friends, and becoming harder to fix with every day we procrastinate.

Back in 2009, eight years ago now, Malcolm Turnbull lost the leadership of the Liberal Party because he supported the Rudd, Labor government, in its attempts to get a Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme up and running. Many Australians honoured Turnbull for that, seeing him as a politician of integrity. Many Australians supported his return to the leadship of the Liberal party for the same reason. I know I did. 😦

But where is Turnbull now? Shackled to the idiology of the ultra Right, that’s where. These Conservatives do not believe in human induced climate change. As a result, they fight tooth and nail to keep Australia from shifting to a low or neutral carbon economy [read renewables instead of coal]. If Turnbull wants to stay in power, he has to appease these deniers and skeptics.

Well guess what? Turnbull has been appeasing these deniers and skeptics. The latest ‘clean’ coal proposals are the greatest betrayal possible because Turnbull must know that the holy grail of clean coal will never be achieved. Even with the most stringest technologies currently available [which would make electricity from coal more expensive not less], coal fired power plants would still produce more emissions than gas fired power plants. Yes, gas. Not solar, not wind, not wave or geothermal, but gas.

I no longer believe that Malcolm Turnbull is a man of integrity. He has what he wanted all along – the Prime Ministership – and he’ll betray everything he believes in to keep it. Thanks, Malcolm. I hope your stay at Kirribilli House is short.

Meeks

 


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