Video Complete!

Amidst packing, 4th of July celebrations, saying goodbye to the city where I’ve lived for the past four years and all the people I’ve come to know in it, training a new employee, moving from couch to couch each night, and trying to enjoy the one sunny weekend in all of the spring/summer thus far, I have been hard at work.  But, at long last, my law school scholarship video is complete.  Please check it out:

Hopefully I’ll be a finalist in the running and calling on all of you fine people to vote for me, come August (Access Group, pick me!  I’m even blogging about you!).  Yippee!

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Oceans of time

I’m a big fan of unrelated bits of knowledge that clog up your brain function and sidetrack you from basic daily tasks.  That’s why I was highly excited when I heard about some of the ocean-related new features in Google Earth 5.  I can follow the migrational paths of sharks?  Excellent.  I can examine coral reefs in the Red Sea?  Awesome.  I didn’t even know they HAD coral over there.

Very highly excited, I downloaded the new version and set about trying to figure out how to key into that whole shark-tracking thing.  Usually I am a somewhat tech-savvy person, a bit of a nerd but not so much so that I can’t talk other than in geek speak.  However, the search function on this program gave me no help finding the sharkies and made me feel consistently dumb.  I mean, how does shark migration get linked to data on shark attacks?  I mean, I know the shark has to be in the area ot bite, but still – one is delightful knowledge, the other is potentially painful.  As Seth Rosenblatt mentioned “For Google to fail so hard with its search algorithms is like Ford failing to stay on top of developing car tech.”  Eventually I just scrolled around coastlines looking for something good, and eventually came across a shark icon, which gave me this.  Hurrah!

gtopp

I especially enjoyed the little ocean floor ‘swim with me’ video that allows you to view at least some of what teh shark would’ve seen while swimming.

Finally, I have yet to explore the Mars maps, but they look interesting, as does all the good ol’ night sky stuff.  I look forward to spending future days pondering the available information, really delving in, and hopefully eventually being mroe able to instantly find what I want.

Rob Gauntlett – He drank milk.

There are a wide range of things I still want to do with my life.  I’d like to see Europe, and Africa.  I’d like to learn how to sail and how to build machines.  I think trying hang gliding once might be fun, even though I’m afraid of heights.  I wouldn’t mind to spend some time as a hermit.  I’d like to learn more traditional folk dances, especially the ones they do with swords.

Some people dedicate their entire lives to just such interests.  Some people pursue mountain climbing, or athletics, or scientific discovery, or invention, or learning, or service as their whole selves.  I have great respect for such people.  Though I am more of a dabbler myself and will never excel in any of my interests, I dream for those who can devote all the bundled energy of life in some singular striving.  There is a sort of beauty that comes from really living, and I think those with such a force exhibit it.  I think the rest of us can exhibit the same, but those with that intensity of purpose show this type of beauty most clearly to the world.

Rob Gauntlett was that type of person.  His life’s story is littered with firsts, with accomplishments, with explorations and challenges the like of which I will never experience.  He seems, from all accounts, to have been that half-mad, lovable sort that can’t help but push themselves, loving ever bone-tingling moment of experience.  He seems to truly have lived in beauty, despite the shortness of that life and the potential curse of his name.

artgauntlettfile

Finally, on a less than serious note, we know he had strong bones.  Even on year-long treks, across land, sea, and basically halfway around the world, he had time for the calcium.  And who doesn’t love a milk drinker?  Yum.

(Yes, I know this is frost on the upper lip.  Geez, give me at least a little license…)

It’s called credit, not free stuff.

Some people are pretty upset about the recent rise in credit card rates.  I can understand how this would be a major drain on finances at a time when money is tight.  I understand it as a legitimate worry.  Still, I can’t help feeling that it’s a situation that you bring on yourself.  True, the credit card companies make it really easy to slip into debt with them.  But that’s exactly what it is – debt.  You owe them money.  They have the right to charge you interest.  And they have the right to change those rates, or sell that debt, to someone else.

Personally part of my view of the situation may be driven by the fact that I don’t pay credit card interest.  I don’t let my credit card balance accrue.  I use credit cards, but at the end of the month, I pay what I owe.  No interest charge.  Why do I use credit cards then?  Convenience.  Perks.  Cashback bonuses or airline miles or other things that accrue to my advantage because that credit card company wants you to spend.  They earn money through your debt’s interest.  That’s how it works.

But you don’t have to take part in the system.  Debit cards are now just as easy to use as credit cards.  The money can come directly from your bank account with no interfereing rates in between.  Or, you could actually budget your paycheck.  You know, don’t spend money you don’t have.

I don’t mean to come down hard on anyone.  Many of us have basic needs we are struggling to meet.  Many of us feel that big business and rich concerns have overshadowed our own freedoms.  I know it’s hard, very hard at the moment.  But I look at other places, or at other less fortunate times in this country, and I see plenty of people who made do with less.  And that makes me question exactly what it is we’re complaining about.

Robots that Fetch: Yet another reason to let your muscles atrophy.

I’m all for helping those with difficulties.  I’m all for home health care and making the elderly more self-reliant when possible.  And for particular cases, a robot like El-E would be a meaningful life improvement for people.  But there is nothing keeping such a robot from being something other than a home health care device.

I know a guy who used to ride around on motorized scooters and pop wheelies on them.  Then there’s the episode of Seinfeld where George pretends to be disabled.  An extreme case, but we all at least know someone who’ve ridden the electric carts for the handicapped around Walmart until their charges run out.  Some of us have gotten up and just left them after, walking away.  These are tendencies that are not goo, not because some person in need was kept from using a device, but because they breed disrespect.  A robot can be a toy, but a home healthcare robot shouldn’t be.

Some people may ask why.  If it isn’t damaging anyone, or damaging the tool, why not have a little fun with it when it’s free?  Why not become familiar with such technologies through use?  Perhaps such testing and play is not all bad, but I think we let it get out of hand.  We forget, in the wonder of a new toy, that we don’t need the device.  We forget, on the scooter, that we have two legs to walk with.  We forget that we can go over and pick the remote up ourselves, or even walk over to the TV itself and turn it off.  Experimentation is one thing, but too many of us do not recognise the shift from testing the limits of a tool to becoming habitually dependant on that tool.

A good example would be cell phones.  At my high school, they were not allowed.  If you had one for emergencies, to contact parents or others while you were travelling to or from school, or for other legitimate reasons, that was fine, but they were expected to be kept in cars, or lockers, or otherwise out of sight for the duration of school hours.  If you were caught with one, you lost it.  But as years passed and my means of communication with the outside world narrowed due to distance, I used mine more frequently.  I could have taken to answer the thing out of hand on the first ring, but I’ve tried not to.  I cultivate accidents.  I forget to charge my phone before long trips, before going home for Thanksgiving, before spending the night at a friend’s.  I do, on occasion, turn it off.

But I wonder if this is enough.  I wonder if all of us, despite protests and reserve, will have our own Rosie the robot maid of Jetsons fame.  Perhaps it will nto make us totally lazy, in the end.

For the tin man.

There has been a fascination for us with the interaction between the mechanical and the visceral since the early popularity of L. Frank Baum’s books.  A range of characters portray the variations of what are supposedly the central issues of the two types of ‘people’.  Tik Tok, Data (from Star Trek: The Next Generation), and Adam Link (of The Outer Limits ‘I, Robot’ episode) all deal with the issue of becoming more human.  They, like humans who may want the advantages of being stronger or more durable or faster, are searching for something they don’t quite have the reach for.  Others, like David from A.I. or Andrew from Bicentennial Man, are searching for the acceptance of what they feel but others don’t see.  And some – the cyborgs – are simply seeking to regain what they have lost.  The most notable of these is the tin man, who has even lost his heart.

To a certain extent, many of us will be cyborgs in the future.  We’ll have prosthetic limbs that respond to nerve twitches in still-functioning parts of our body, or special exoskeletal devices to make us stronger or faster, or nano things in our blood to prevent disease.  We have new organs of a mechanical variety to replace the old ones as they give out.  Heck, they’re already doing it with hearts, and I have to say that the one in the article looks absolutely awesome and amazing.  But despite the replacement parts, we seem reasonably confident that we can remain ourselves.  The hope is that we can recombine in new ways, instead of stagnating, when we cheat death through more mechanical means.  I’m comfortable with that, as long as we don’t cheat life too.

Pigtails? You don’t say…

I read this article on CNN just this morning about your brain and paralysis.  Unfortunately, it was too full of technobabbly and ‘maybe possibly someday’s that it was completely unexciting.  Sure it will be great when paralyzed people will have new technologies that tap into their brains to help them move again.  But the experiment didn’t seem to really prove much to me, so what’s the point of getting excited?

I did find something of note, however – Pigtail Macaques.  Wikipedia has failed me on this particular issue, as they did not mention why these fuzzy things have th ‘pigtail’ name.  They don’t even have hair tufts, let alone actual ‘tails’ of hair.  I guess it could have something to do with the fact that their tails are shorter, but they’re not called ‘lion-tailed macaques’, which is more what they look like.

After careful further research, it is the tail.  “Pigtail macaques have an abbreviated tail, less than the length of the body from head to rump, which is often bare or covered only by sparse fur (Rowe 1996; Groves 2001). Pigtail macaques get their popular name from their tails, which are short and carried half-erect so that they somewhat resemble a pig’s tail (Choudhury 2003).”  I’ll let you decide:

The so-called ‘pigtail’ – is that half-erect?

The apparently unpiggish tail

Spread the Word, Shake the Interweb

Today started as one of those days that was bound to be memorable.  The sun was shining, the leaves were turning, and the air was not quite to cold.  The world smells of briskness and new life, even if it is just a last flash in the pan before winter.  The world is waiting for all of us to scamper about, flinging limbs, in some final furious effort to enjoy ourselves before winter hibernation.  And I myself am ready to fling.

But there are other vibrations about as well.  Thanksgiving is coming up, the first marker of the holiday season, which is supposed to be all about gratitude, love, and sharing.  And what better way to begin the early edge of that season than with Blog Action Day, a day to really educate others on a single topic and hopefully do something about it. This year, the focus is on poverty.

And what can we say about it?  We are, after all, going through a financial crisis.  Many of those who were not feeling the bite of poverty now are.  And how are we, on the whole, responding?  Many of us are looking to the government for support.  Some of us are looking to each other, which is a start.  But I personally haven’t felt the bite too much.  And what have I been doing about it?  Very little.

I can remember first moving to Boston and being completely strapped for cash.  And yet, every week, I would put a little something aside to give away to people who might need it.  It might have been a small donation to a food pantry or a shelter.  It might have been just paying for a friend’s lunch.  But I remember those small expenses as something I couldn’t really afford, that I gave anyway.

Now that I’ve been steadily employed for several years, the savings all go somewhere else.  Sure, I make a much more sizable charitable donation every month, and I do still set aside some time to volunteer.  But by percentage, it’s nowhere near the same amount.  When you’re making ends meet, you don’t worry about setting aside money for health care or as savings.  Now that I actually have money and can afford nice things, I feel I’ve become much more materialistic and scroogy.

So where is the line drawn?  At what point do I stop spending for myself and start spending for others, or vice versa?  And how much do I try to save, even if in trust for those who will need it later?

Try, try again.

In recent news, a polar bear at a zoo fell into the moat surrounding his enclosure.  He was not injured, due to some netting rigged to protect from just such a fall.  Zoo workers cut him out of the netting so he wouldn’t hurt himself, but left him in the moat.  Eventually they think he’ll wander out of his own volition when he gets hungry enough.  And really, who wants to think of a polar bear starving himself to death?

But the facts of the case leave me puzzling (according to the town of Ravensburg, it’s a verb).  Evidently this same polar bear has fallen into the moat before.  Perhaps that’s why the netting was put in place.  Perhaps this particular polar bear has balance issues.  But the question still remains as to why the moat is there in the first place.  Is it cheaper than two sets of fences separating the bears from zoo goers by the necessary distance?  Is it there to provide shade?  Is it there for drainage purposes, or some technical aspect not readily apparent to the casual eye?  Because, to me, it looks like a waste and a danger to young, precocious polar bears.

Let’s just give people money…

Ok, Google is pretty cool.  And, they have a sense of humor (unlike Kia).  But the recently announced Project 10^100th is beyond awesome.  Have a good idea?  Lack the technical expertise to implement it?  We’ll give you money to get the job done and hook you up with the appropriate know-how (we are, after all, a search engine).

I, for one, have about a thousand ideas I need to dust off, spruce up, and submit.  I’m not going to list them all here, because then you’d steal them and win the prizes for yourself.  But, that being said, the spirit of this whole competition is about doing good stuff for the world.  So, if you have your own ideas, please submit them here.  The due date for project submission is October 20th, so get cracking.  And if you do end up working on a project of ultimate coolness as a result, remember the humble blogger who sent you on your way to funding.  Heck, I’d even volunteer for a project of ultimate coolness…

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