That cat needs to get his head straight.

Update:

Jess and I just got to shake Barack Obama’s hand!  He made a quick stop in Bloomington today.  I heard about it right before hand and just happened to be near where he was going to be (I was at the law school as usual).  His bus parked about a blog away from Nick’s bar, and he walked to the bar, stayed in the bar for about 10 minutes, and walked back to the bus.  Being the clever people that we are, Jess and I walked near his bus while he was still in Nick’s and got a premo location on the sidewalk.  He shook both of our hands as he walked backed to his bus.  Exciting stuff.

On a life update…

Things are going decently right now.  Most of my time lately has been spent studying for finals.  I have four of them, plus a paper, so I’ll be staying very busy until early May.

My birthday was last month, and Jess made sure that everything went well.  She planned a “surprise” birthday party in Milwaukee over spring break, which was a lot of fun (even though I knew it was going down well before hand, you have to wake up extra early to fool me!).  Also, Jess planned and executed a really fun get-together here in Bloomington with some of my close friends, which was also quite nice.

I became pretty consumed with March Madness while it was going down.  Every year, I enter three brackets in a large office pool where first place gets around $1500 (second place gets $750 and so forth).  This year, I went the extra yard in doing my early round research and as a result, I went into Final Four weekend with a chance to win first place if UCLA would have beaten Kansas in the final (there are over 300 people in the pool).  Unfortunately, UCLA was upended by Memphis, but I’m pretty proud of my work nonetheless.  My contrarian (one of my champions was Xavier, who made the Elite Eight)/research (casting a wide net of stats)/3-bracket approach is going to pay off one of these years.  But even if it doesn’t, March Madness is the best sports time of the year and is always great fun.

Unfortunately, the Badgers lost a game earlier than I was thinking when they were “upset” by Davidson (I use quotes because Davidson was actually ranked higher than Wisconsin in the preseason polls).  That was a disappointing game, and I’m wondering if my yearly “emotional bracket,” where I have Wisconsin winning the championship, is a good thing to continue or not.  I’m thinking that in the future, they’ll have to be at least a 2 seed with a Devin Harris-like superstar on the team for me to continue the emotional bracket.  In the meantime, Badger football is just around the corner and I’m excited for their season because I think they’re going to be good.

On the cats…

Freedom and Justice are doing quite well.  Neither (ahem . . . Justice) has tried to run away lately, so that’s always good.  They’ve visited Jess’s parents’ house a few times during breaks and have basically taken the house over (I’m so proud!).  Meanwhile, we’ve taken numerous pictures of the cats in funny positions/poses/situations, and one of these days after finals I’m going to make a photo album, complete with historical quotes on the values of freedom and justice, as well as every related pun that I can conjure.

The only negative is that Justice has recently taken to scratching at the bedroom door at night, making plenty of racket and generally annoying Jess and I.  That cat needs to get his head straight.

On other stuff…

The pentagon was trying to hide a report that states officially that there was no connection between Al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein (link, abcnews.com).  Oh yeah, so that’s why I despised the Bush administration so much!  It’s easy to forget all of the scandals and catastrophes that have surrounded the Bush administration now that Bush is a lame duck and we’re focused on finding his replacement.  It’s also easy to consider the run-up to the Iraq war as water under the bridge since we’ve all become so accustomed to the war’s existence.  But to briefly recall and state what we all know, Bush told us we needed to go to Iraq because of its connection to Al-Qaeda and its WMDs.  The WMDs didn’t exist, and there was never a connection to Al-Qaeda.  We were lied to (nobody likes to use the “L” word and it gets associated with crazy left liberals, but there’s no getting around it!) and few seem to care, and those who do care seem to get grouped into the “ultra/radical/crazy” liberal group.  Thousands of our soldiers have died, and hundreds of billions of dollars that could have spent on worthwhile things here at home were used up there.

The nation was still reeling from 9/11 and the administration took advantage of it by duping us into supporting an unnecessary war.  Fortunately, we’ve seemed to have settled down here and we’re well on our way to ending the “ebbing” and starting the “flowing” with a new President.  But, what’s going to happen if we get attacked again?  Will we be too afraid to ask our leaders the tough questions?  Will we stand by and let our leaders lie to us about things as important as war?  If we hastily go into another unnecessary war, will our military, country, constitution, and democracy be able to survive as we know them?  Let’s hope that we’ve learned our lesson here.  Sheesh!

On the Presidential election…

Well a lot has happened since I last wrote, but I’m just going to focus on the stuff that’s gone down lately, which mostly circles around Clinton.  The now infamous Bosnia bluff has circled the globe and back many times, and is apparently just the latest example of tall tales from Clinton (link, cnn.com).  Here’s a funny youtube video of the Bosnia story (link, youtube.com).  Here’s a funny (and fake) list of other dangerous historical events that Hillary Clinton experienced as First Lady (link, mcsweeneys.net).

In all seriousness though, this Bosnia stuff is important because it directly relates to Clinton’s primary argument for winning; namely, that she has the experience needed to be President.  That experience has come under serious scrutiny (link, chicagotribune.com).  I say it’s about time.  We’ve basically given her a pass on this entire thing, just blankly assuming that she does in fact have the type of experience that she’s said she has and that the experience she has prepares her to be President.

Meanwhile, that delegate math that we’ve been talking about for awhile now is still extraordinarily difficult for Clinton (link, slate.com), and there are some painful facts about the state of the race that she ought to know (link, time.com).  One has to wonder if Clinton knows she can’t win the nomination, but is continuing her campaign anyway for the purposes of destroying Obama so that he’ll lose in McCain in November.  This would allow her to run again in 2012.  The Clinton’s wouldn’t put their own ambitions over the future of the Democratic party and the country . . . would they?  We at least know that they’re willing to play 2000 Bush to Obama’s 2000 Gore, even though they’ve tried to say that the analogy should be reversed (link, slate.com).

Here’s a provocative opinion by Bill Maher on the Rev. Wright situation (link, 236.com).  Basically, he compares the idea that some put forth that Obama should have left his church as soon as he saw Wright making controversial statements to the idea that Catholics should leave their church . . . forever.  I will add the disclaimer that the views of Maher aren’t mine.  Nonetheless, I do think the criticism that Obama has received because of a few 10 second sound bites from a reverend that’s preached for decades is fairly ridiculous.  There is a strong sense of hypocrisy in the criticism as well as far as I’m concerned.  The basic line of thought is that one should take great pains to distance themselves from anybody even remotely connected to them if that person says something controversial (when the judgment of ‘controversial’ here is made independent of context) and should have their whole personhood viciously attacked if they do anything less.

If we applied this standard to ourselves, all of us would have to distance ourselves from every single person that we’ve ever known or have ever met (if you had a camera on you at all times for your entire adult life, I’m willing to wager that the camera would have captured at least a few awful sounding and extremely politically incorrect sound bites).  And at the very least, Catholics would have to consider distancing themselves from a church that knew abuse was going on and systemically tried to hide it.  And most relevant of all, John McCain would have to distance himself from ministers he’s courted that have said things at least as blasphemous as anything Wright ever spoke (link, mediamatters.org).  Why hasn’t that dominated cable news for the last several weeks???

People think that the Wright controversy will be a huge problem for Obama in the general.  Of course, the Republicans will work hard to make it so, but McCain has reverend problems of his own that are relatively analogous to Obama’s situation.  If Obama’s campaign does its job, these issues will cancel themselves out.  The independent voters that these candidates will fight over, I would think, would be offended on both sides here.

On the Indiana primary…

Indiana voters: In case you’ve been living under a rock that’s underneath a larger rock, the primary is coming up on May 6th.  If you’re registered, you can get info on where to vote here (link, indianavoters.com).  Also, you can vote early (up until May 5th) at the Curry building (link, maps.google.com).  You can early vote between 8am and 4 pm, Monday through Friday.  If I’m correct, they’ll have you fill out an absentee ballot form, which I believe is this (link, in.gov).  I’m going to early vote pretty soon and I’ll update this if I have anything wrong.  And, make sure to bring a photo ID!

On technology and future…

I haven’t ranted about technology and the future for awhile on this blog, so I figured I had some catching up to do.  I guess I have two basic thoughts.  First, the speed of technological development is far faster than people realize.  When hypotheticals of crazy-sounding technological developments are posed to people, they frequently state that they think such development is possible, but won’t happen until long after they’re dead.  Very often, they are really wrong about the time frame.  My second general thought is that the development of technology is going to continue to put immense pressure on our values as citizens and as human beings.  That’s awfully vague and meaningless, but you know I’m trying to quickly write something here.  Anyways, to the link infused discussion…

A critical area of our existence where technology will be able to help us is in the arena of energy, energy efficiency and availability, and global warming.  There is all sorts of research going down that’s going to help us solve the global warming situation while increasing the efficiency of our energy usage.  Environmentalists like to note that a hypothetical 300 mile by 300 mile (or so) square of solar cells would take in enough of the sun’s energy to power the entire world.  Of course, such a scenario is not feasible for a wide variety of reasons, but it does help illustrate the power of solar energy and the potential that exists there.  Now, researchers have developed a new solar cell that is 27% more efficient than the typical cell without costing more (link, technologyreview.com).  Expect developments like this to continue.  The sun provides us with a grotesque amount of energy on a constant basis and it would be silly to not take full advantage of that.

Meanwhile, hydrogren is a much ballyhooed fuel transporter that has a lot of potential.  A hydrogen vehicle, powered by a fuel cell, would only exhaust water, so such a vehicle would be a wonderful development in terms of climate change.  Of course, there are a variety of catches.  First and foremost, hydrogen rarely exists on its own, it’s always bonding to other elements, and we’d have to find an environmentally effective and economically efficient way to obtain hydrogen.  One idea is to engineer algae to produce large amounts of hydrogen (link, eurekalert.org).

If you’d rather stick to traditional hydrocarbons for your energy-carrying needs, how about organisms designed to turn sugar into oil (link, popsci.com)?

The other arena of technological development that I always find interesting is the increasing efficiency and decreasing size of computers and computer components, which results in us having more and more gadgets on our person linking us to others.  Researchers are developing microchips that are so efficient, they could actually be recharged by human body heat (link, itwire.com).  A quick thought experiment on what humans could do with smart, compact devices powered by themselves gets crazy fast.

Of course, a large limitation on portable gadgets is the fact that we have to sit there and look at a small screen, which gets annoying.  I’m assuming that there will be projectors capable of projecting a “screen” onto our eyes in a decade or two, but for now I’ll just reference the creation of an “active matrix” display, using nanowires, which represents a step towards applications like e-paper and transparent screens on the windshield of your car (link, physorg.com).

A related development is that of “stretchy” gadgets, which could then be used for computers embedded in clothes, or even for gadgets implanted in the brain (link, newscientist.com).  Is this getting immediate enough and scary enough for you yet?

How about supercomputers capable of producing made up realities so life-like that a human wouldn’t be able to distinguish them from actual reality (link, abcnews.com)?  Perhaps the impressiveness of this is tempered by the fact that it currently takes a supercomputer to make it happen, but do recall that my cell phone probably has more computing power than the superest of supercomputers at some point in the not-so-distant past.  Merely recalling the processing abilities of a computer a decade ago and comparing with the speed of my cell phone is enough to establish how quickly the computing speed of affordable devices increases with time.  If that pace of development continues, the supercomputers of today will be the smart phones (or whatever dominant portable technology of the day) of a decade from now.

Not impressed?  Fine.  How about a nerve-tapping neckband that allows a ‘telepathic’ chat (link, kurzweilai.net)?  The neckband can read the nerves that travel from your brain to your vocal cords, know what you’re thinking about saying, and then convert that to whatever electronic medium you’d want.  So, you could “talk” on the telephone, but instead of actually talking, you’re thinking about what you’d say, and then the phone would translate those thoughts into words that would then be communicated to the user on the other end of the call.  The technology for this exists right now (see video). Of course, currently, the technology is only capable of recognizing around 150 words, and I’m guessing it’s too bulky and expensive to be used by us regular folk any time terribly soon.  But again, it’s only a matter of time before it’ll be capable of recognizing anything, and is small and cheap enough to be put on the market.  By then, who knows, maybe they’ll have another technology that can input to the nerves and simulate sound like this technology simulates voice.  Then, we really would have telepathy.

This is just an extremely cursory and rather uneducated look at some of the research and development that’s going down.  I guess my point is that you shouldn’t sleep on the development of technology and how much the development of stuff you don’t think will be possible in your lifetime is actually going down right now.  If you accept this, then the next thing to be thought about is, how is all this stuff going to affect our lives?  Socially, psychologically, legally, philosophically and otherwise?  Technology is easily a slippery slope to insanity and dystopia, and we’ve already been on the slope for awhile now (a brief thought of your technological footprint – phone, internet, credit card etc, how easily it is accessed by our government, and whether or not that’s a good thing is enough to show that).

At the very least, when the next crazy technology hits the store shelves, remember who told you first 😉

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