What Would Dick Think? (WWDT)
Reality is becoming more like a Philip Dick novel all the time.

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Monday, June 13, 2005
 

Baltimore

I'm driving to Baltimore today to clean out my office and tie up loose ends. I'll be back near the end of the week.

I have a lot going on in my life right now, in terms of career changes, relationship difficulties, etc.

More later.
12:49:05 PM    comment []


Monday, June 6, 2005
 

Hiatus

I apologize for the dearth of posts lately, but I've been swamped by a host of important issues to deal with.

I hope to be back in a week.
11:50:24 AM    comment []


Thursday, June 2, 2005
 

Philip K. Dick, Android

A picture named PKDrobot.jpg Wired reports that robotics wizard David Hanson has developed an interactive Philip Dick robotic bust for NextFest 2005 (Wired's World Fair, June 24-6, Chicago):

Do androids really dream of electric sheep? Now you can ask P. K. Dick himself. This bust relies on 36 servomotors to mimic the sci-fi legend's facial expressions, and features a polymer called Frubber that looks and moves like human skin. The bot uses motion-tracking machine vision to make eye contact with passersby, and best of all, artificial intelligence and speech software enable it to carry on complex conversations. "It invents new ideas using a mathematical model of Philip K. Dick's mind extracted from his vast body of writing," says David Hanson, founder of Hanson Robotics.

The PKD bust is remarkably lifelike, except for its lack of hair. It looks like an ultramodern PKD or a PKD after surviving cancer treatments.

For more, see Book of Joe.

[Thanks to reader CN]
12:53:53 PM    comment []


Ethics

To get some impartial analysis on the "Deep Throat" revelation last Tuesday evening, Joe Scarborough turned to G. Gordon Liddy:

SCARBOROUGH:  Any final thoughts? 

LIDDY:  This, that if Mark Felt was Deep Throat, he is no hero.  He is someone who behaved unethically, in that he did not take his evidence to the grand jury and seek an indictment.  That's what he should have done, instead of selectively leak to one news outlet some of the information that he had.

For someone sick and tired of the liberal media's moral relativism, it's nice to see someone finally exercise moral judgment on television.
12:34:08 PM    comment []


Tuesday, May 31, 2005
 

Absurd

Bush & Co. weighed in harshly on the recent Amnesty International report that accused the United States of violating human rights and labelled Guantanamo Bay "the gulag of our times."

First, there was the President himself during today's press conference:

I'm aware of the Amnesty International report, and it's absurd. It's an absurd allegation. The United States is a country that is -- promotes freedom around the world. When there's accusations made about certain actions by our people, they're fully investigated in a transparent way. It's just an absurd allegation.

In terms of the detainees, we've had thousands of people detained. We've investigated every single complaint against the detainees. It seemed like to me they based some of their decisions on the word of -- and the allegations -- by people who were held in detention, people who hate America, people that had been trained in some instances to disassemble -- that means not tell the truth. And so it was an absurd report. ...

Um, that's not embarrassing to hear from the leader of the free world.

Cheney came out against the report on Larry King Live:

Frankly, I was offended by it. For Amnesty International to suggest that somehow the United States is a violator of human rights, I frankly just don't take them seriously.

Finally, there was Gen. Richard Myers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on Fox News Sunday:

I think it's irresponsible. I think it's absolutely irresponsible.

If you look back at the policy of this government, what we said we treat people -- the president said, and we've all said -- humanely and where military necessity permits, and in accordance with the Geneva Convention, we're doing that. And I just outlined a number of incidents. And it's very small compared to the population of detainees we've handled.

But here's the question that needs to be debated by everybody, and that is: how do you handle people who aren't part of a nation- state effort, that are picked up on the battlefield, that if you release them or let them go back to their home countries, they would turn right around and try to slit our throats, our children's throats? I mean, these are the people that took four airplanes and drove them into three buildings on September 11th. They're the same folks with the same mentality.

Wow, I didn't know the 9/11 hijackers were captured. Isn't that news?

[Via Cursor]
11:42:33 PM    comment []


Fido 3.0

The pet-cloning business is now up and running, with clones costing as much as luxury automobiles.

And they're taking bold steps to promote and normalize the practice:

To display its work and perhaps to help demystify its science, the company is opening an 8,000-square-foot research site outside Madison, Wis. It will have plate-glass windows set into the U-shaped perimeter of a laboratory so that people can view this modern version of a maternity ward.

My dog-adoring dissertation adviser has already taken the step of putting cell-cultures of his "fuzzy little children" aside for future cloning.

As an animal lover without a pet, I worry about the fates of those left in animal shelters.
11:06:30 PM    comment []


Brave New World

If Moses were born today, he'd be sold on e-Bay.
10:54:37 PM    comment []


Friday, May 27, 2005
 

Criminal

A picture named jesuscriminal.gif

"Read it before it becomes illegal!"
1:58:21 PM    comment []


Nusak

What is it, you ask? Surely you know...

Nuzak is like Muzak. It runs in the background. It's a New York Times headline on the way out of the house. It's CNN at the airport. It's Fox News at home whileJoe is really doing something else. The purpose of Nuzak is to be mildly interesting and possibly entertaining without telling Joe anything that would disturb him personally. Real news has immediacy. It is "actionable intelligence," the last thing Joe is interested in. The average person basically wants to be left alone and to be told, town-crier fashion, that "All is well." Elevator news.

How long before it makes the OED?

[Via SubIntSoc]
1:53:56 PM    comment []


Sex or sight?

A question straight out of a Dickian novel...

The FDA is looking into a possible link between Viagra and blindness, although the set of reported cases of blindness seems very small.
1:45:18 PM    comment []


Thursday, May 26, 2005
 

The World Leader in Carbon Sequestration

A picture named bodman.jpg In response to a NY Times editorial that highlighted the President's "passive approach" to global warming, Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman decided to set the record straight:

To the Editor:

Re "Climate Signals" (editorial, May 19), about President Bush and global climate change:

Under the president's direction, our government has taken a global leadership role in developing technologies to reduce emissions. America has the largest carbon sequestration program in the world, and in 2003 we founded the international Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum.

Wow, that's quite a claim to fame. However, carbon sequestration doesn't, strictly speaking, reduce emissions. It reduces the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. But if the rate of increase in emissions outperforms our noble efforts in carbon sequestration, we still have a problem.

By the way, I can just see Sascha Cohen's Borat objecting that, no, as a matter of fact, Kazakhstan has the world's best carbon sequestration program.

We are working to develop zero-emission power plants through the $1 billion FutureGen program; we are investing $2 billion in "clean coal" technologies; we are working to create incentives for the construction of more clean, safe and reliable nuclear power plants; and the United States has tripled wind power generation since 2000.

The last sentence reminds me of the "record home ownership" line.

The comments made by Jeffrey Immelt, the chief executive of General Electric, regarding G.E.'s investment in environmentally friendly technologies are further proof that the free-market approach advocated by the president works. If given the opportunity, companies will invest in such technologies because, as Mr. Immelt says, "green is green."

The president's opponents have called him a lot of things, but "passive" with regard to climate change is certainly not accurate.

Yes, we must really correct this distorting name-calling. No one in his right mind would label the President passive with regard to global warming.

By the way, doesn't it say it all that the Energy Secretary was the cabinet member who responded to an editorial on global warming?
2:49:16 PM    comment []


Tuesday, May 24, 2005
 

Hello, Mr. Anderton!

If you saw the movie Minority Report, you may recall the individualized advertising that Tom Cruise's character encountered at the shopping mall.

Well, thanks to RFID technology, retailers are experimenting with such advertising in Seattle:

Some cafes and retail stores in Seattle this week will begin individually marketing products and services to bypassers in Seattle using RFID (radio frequency identification) technology. The first target group is visually and hearing-impaired individuals who can benefit from positioning and navigation applications added to the system.

Six wireless public areas, called activation fields, will go live next week throughout downtown Seattle and at the city's ferry terminal. Over a few months 15 more city areas will be added. Users carrying an active tag and entering the activation field are recognized as the tag is read, and then are presented with announcements.

"Speakers are mounted on the telephone booth or the facade of the store. So they will be above the individual[base ']s head when they pass underneath or nearby," said Harry H Hart. III, founder and chief executive officer of Seattle's Awarea, which owns and manages the system.

And you thought that spam and unsolicited phone calls were bad. Soon it will be impossible to go out shopping without being harrassed.

[Via Fantastic Planet. Thanks to j.puma]
10:58:10 PM    comment []


Monday, May 23, 2005
 

A portrait of the people

While reading Paul Krugman's column today, I was reminded of John Adams's thoughts on the role of a representative assembly ( from Thoughts on Government):

It should be in miniature an exact portrait of the people at large. It should think, feel, reason, and act like them. That it may be the interest of this assembly to do strict justice at all times, it should be an equal representation, or, in other words, equal interests among the people should have equal interests in it.

Krugman interestingly notes that state assemblies, in stark contrast to Congress, have recently taken progressive stances on "social safety net" issues.

Could the reason be that state assemblies are far more likely to be representative of the people at large -- more likely to be middle class and attuned to the needs of the average citizen -- than members of Congress?
6:15:31 PM    comment []


Saturday, May 21, 2005
 

A Day in the Afterlife of PKD

I'm surprised I only just saw this recently, but the BBC broadcast an excellent hour-long special on PKD in 1994 entitled "A Day in the Afterlife of PKD."

It includes interviews with his wives, friends, biographers, other science fiction writers, and Terry Gilliam, as well as a cameo by Elvis Costello.

Philip K Dick Fans (your source for everything PKD) has a link to the video in Real format. I recommend it enthusiastically.
1:24:59 PM    comment []


Space advertising

A new life awaits you in the off-world colonies ... A chance to begin again in a golden land filled with opportunity and adventure ...

ABCNews reports that the FAA is attempting to modify its regulations to ensure its ability to enforce its ban on space advertising.

A picture named bladerad.jpgThe worry:

"Objects placed in orbit, if large enough, could be seen by people around the world for long periods of time," the FAA said in a regulatory filing.

Currently, the FAA lacks the authority to enforce the existing law.

For instance, outsized billboards deployed by a space company into low Earth orbit could appear as large as the moon and be seen without a telescope, the FAA said. Big and bright advertisements might hinder astronomers.

"Large advertisements could destroy the darkness of the night sky," regulators said.

It will be interesting to see how long they'll be able to hold out.

I wonder what the first space advertisement will be. Any guesses?

Here's mine:

Be all that you can be ...

After all, we all know that space forces are the way of the future.

[Via Coast to Coast AM]
1:08:27 PM    comment []


Friday, May 20, 2005
 

Pulitzer, McKinley, and Bush

A picture named pulitzer.jpg Several commentators have drawn parallels between Dubya and the Iraq War, on the one hand, and McKinley and the Spanish-American War, on the other.

In doing some research on Joseph Pulitzer, I came across an interesting piece he wrote for The North American Review entitled "Has Congress Abdicated?" (Vol. 169, Dec. 1899, pp. 885-893). In it he argues that Congress, by abdicating its war declaration powers to the President, severely damaged the constitutional system of checks and balances, thereby threatening the future existence of the Republic.

What I found remarkable was how relevant his perspective is to our own political situation.

Consider, for example, the two forces unforseen by the framers of the Constitution that he blames for the undue expansion of Executive power:

The first is party spirit. The President has become the head of a party. He is a party chief as well as the Chief Executive of the Government. No prerogative conferred upon him by the Constitution is so potent as this. It arrays behind him, if he be a shrewd politician -- as Mr. McKinley is -- the forces of party organization, party discipline, party loyalty and party rewards. We saw in the recent elections how "loyalty to the flag" was made synonymous with loyalty to the President. No man in Congress, no ambitious politician anywhere, can oppose the President's policy without "going against his party." And to go against the party, whenever the President chooses to enter upon a war of "criminal agression," is, in the view of the party organs and orators, to commit treason.

What all this means in ostracism and abuse the very few Republican Senators and Representatives who have had the courage to oppose the President's progressive militarism have learned to their cost.

[snip]

The other and allied force which has gradually made the President the master of Congress is the power of patronage. This was unknown to the earlier Presidents, or at least was not employed by them. Such an attempt as Mr. McKinley has successfully made to sap the independence and to influence the course of Senators and Representatives by honorary appointments and profitable patronage would have been vigorously resented in earlier Congresses and have aroused the indignation of the people.

Second, consider the interesting and salutary suggestion he makes for reform:

A Constitutional amendment extending the President's term to six years and making him ineligible to re-election.

If this were done we should no longer see the President beginning on the very first day of his term to plan and work for a second term. We should not see our Presidents indulging in the menace of a foreign war to make capital for re-election, as President Harrison did in the Chili affair and President Cleveland did in the Venezuelan incident, or actually leading the country into a war of conquest and "empire," as Mr. McKinley has done in the Philippines. A single term for the Executive, as was the original intention of the Constitutional Convention, would limit the ambition of the President and remove the temptation, which is now apparently irresistible, to use his power for personal and partisan ends.

He also suggests a complete reform of the civil-service system to eliminate the power gained by McKinley's use of political patronage. A similar point could be made nowadays against the privatization of government agencies and functions.

Pulitzer concludes:

When the people's representatives prefer patronage to power and party servitude to conscience -- when they obey their party boss instead of asserting their own authority -- Congress has failed as a check upon the Executive and is no longer the guardian of popular liberty. The genius of republican institutions requires that Congress shall direct, guide, control the Executive. But today the President directs, guides, controls Congress.

True in 1899.

True in 2005.
12:01:47 AM    comment []


Wednesday, May 18, 2005
 

Virtual petting

Wired reports that researchers at the Mixed Reality Lab at the National University of Singapore have developed the "Touchy Internet" -- a system for touching and petting other animals via internet link (i.e. "remote haptic interaction").

Here's how it works for a chicken:

You walk into your office, where a hollow, chicken-shaped doll sits on a mechanical positioning table close to your computer.

The doll whirs to life as soon as you switch on the system, duplicating the motion of a real chicken in the backyard whose movements are being captured by a webcam. Fondling the doll translates into touching the real fowl.

Touch sensors attached to the doll convey tactile information to a nearby PC through radio signals. The data is sent over the internet to a remote computer near the chicken; the remote computer triggers tiny vibration motors in a lightweight haptic jacket worn by the fowl.

The chicken feels your touch in the exact same place where the replica was stroked.

As an animal lover who suffers from allergies to pet dander, I now can take some solace in the future of remote haptic interaction.

Of course, researchers are especially excited about the potential for human interaction. For example, "internet hugging":

The team is investigating the possibility of "internet hugging" and plans to develop an advanced haptic suit for humans, which will incorporate tiny air sacs, compressors and valves to impart a "high-fidelity" feeling of being hugged.

Both parties in the internet hug would have to wear haptic suits, and they would have to cuddle a human doll or a pillow embedded with pressure sensors. Adding a heartbeat and body-heat sensors would provide more intimacy.

Just think ... pretty soon we will be able to enjoy human contact without the miasma of the human body.

Mercerism, here we come.
11:39:39 PM    comment []


Tuesday, May 17, 2005
 

700 Club or local news?

From the "Darts and Laurels" column of this month's Columbia Journalism Review:

DART to WREG, in Memphis, Tennessee, for less-than-divine journalism. Two weeks after the revelation by the city's bachelor mayor, Willie Herenton, that he was the father of a four-month-old boy, the child's mother, Claudine Marsh, granted an exclusive interview to the station's Andy Wise. The reason the journalist had been so blessed, he explained to viewers, was that "she and I have a bond ... We both believe in Jesus Christ." As Marsh's story story proceeded to be told -- told, Wise reported, because "God told her to" reveal it -- Wise seemed to be sending a sign to the mayor to do the right thing: "A family," he intoned, "should be a mother, father, and son." For his final lesson, Wise invoked the biblical advice to sinners against casting the first stone.

As my friend Eric said, they're like cicadas. They come out in full force every so often to plague us all.
11:17:58 PM    comment []


Monday, May 16, 2005
 

Ever seen a grown man naked?

DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff supports the use of new airport X-Ray scanners (backscatter technology) that, according to the ACLU, provide a "virtual strip search" of any traveller:

Security workers using the machines can see through clothes and peer at whatever may be hidden in undergarments, shirts or pants. The images also paint a revealing picture of a person's nude body.

[snip]

The ACLU says the scanners invade personal privacy. "This leads directly to a surveillance society," says Barry Steinhardt, who runs the group's technology program.

But Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff told a Senate subcommittee last month that he wants to employ the technology and doesn't want an "endless debate" over privacy issues.

He just wants to get off. What a perve.
4:45:39 PM    comment []


Compassionate Conservatism

The Daily Sentinel reports that the Praetorian Guard Secret Service has visited Ted Nugent's Crawford, Texas ranch for some target practice.

Three dozen agents took target practice last month at Nugent's ranch, he said. They initiated the visit, bringing machine guns and other government-issued weapons and ammunition -- and spent hours having fun at taxpayers' expense, Nugent said with a laugh.

Secret Service officials would not confirm or deny the incident.

"(We were) just shooting and shooting and shooting and talking and went down to the river ... just like a bunch of guys hanging out, but these were all the world's greatest warriors, every one of them," Nugent said.

It also seems that Ted and Dubya are mutual admirers:

When Nugent attended a private Washington, D.C., party after the 2000 presidential election, Bush hugged him and said "just keep doing what you're doing," he said.

[snip]

White House spokesman Taylor Gross declined to say whether Bush and Nugent are friends but said "the president appreciates the support of any American that feels strongly about his compassionate conservative agenda and his plans to make America a safer, better place."

Safer and more compassionate?

"Isn't it fascinating that without compromising a spit, that now those who traditionally despised me and all my NRA, Bambi-slaughtering lifestyle, now realize that my connection to the huge segment of America is something to instead of condemn and run away from, they might want to upgrade their level of that awareness and tap into it," Nugent said.

Yes, nowadays even Ted Nugent is mainstream.
4:37:11 PM    comment []


American Eugenics

ABC News reports on a secret government eugenics program that led to the sterilization of approximately 65,000 between 1900 and the 1970's.

The article highlights the case of Elaine Riddick, an African American woman from North Carolina. State authorities sterilized Ms. Riddick without her knowledge when she was 14, after she gave birth to a child conceived from a prior rape, on the grounds that she was "too promiscuous" and "too feeble-minded" to raise children responsibly.

She subsequently got a college degree and is now an engineering consultant. She discovered the secret after she got married and found it impossible to get pregnant with her husband.

[Via Coasttocoast AM]
11:56:32 AM    comment []


Friday, May 13, 2005
 

RIP

CNBC has dropped washed-up comic Dennis Miller. How long before we see him on an infomercial?

Fox News drops Rita Cosby, the pride of SUV-driving soccer moms everywhere. Go fug yourself, Rita.

Ah, time for a drink.

[Thanks to CH]
3:57:11 PM    comment []


Optical scanners

A picture named irisscan.jpg Orlando International Airport has begun using iris scanners as part of their security clearance procedures for airplane crews, airport workers and others. If the pilot project is successful, we'll soon see iris scanners being used in airports across the country.

How long before we start seeing eyeballs or eye-replacement surgeries being sold along with fake ID's?
12:54:34 PM    comment []



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