Archive for July, 2006

Jul 28 2006

Two failed books

Published by under Books

Picoverse by Robert Metzger, and
Kiln People by David Brin

I read parts of both these science fiction books but didn’t finish either as I lost interest in their story lines. Both were unplanned reads that were started when I couldn’t find the books I wanted in the library. The first book was taken on a trip and soon put aside, but the second was mostly complete when I bowed out.

Picoverse was billed as hard SF which to me means that is is more tightly tied to real science theories and speculations. In this case the theories had to do with the big bang and quantum physics. Some fictional brilliant scientists and some greedy scientists combine to create a fusion device so powerful it creates little mini universes (the picoverses of the title). So far so good, but then good and bad entangled versions of some characters appeared and occasionally jumped back and forth through ‘wormholes’ connecting the picoverses to our world. When that started, I dropped it.

Kiln people lasted much longer; 300 plus pages and within sight of the end. In some future time, the ability to make copies (‘dittos’ or ‘dits’) of one’s self in clay is widespread. These copies only last for a day but they carry copies of ones brain, memory and ‘soul’ for that day. At the end of the day they ‘dissolve’ and the clay is often recycled. If they make it back to their human (AKA ‘archie’) the day they experienced can be ‘inloaded’ back to the human but only to the proper archie who then has to integrate the two, or more, versions of the day’s experiences. All in all a clever setup.

Kiln people starts out interesting as it explores the implications on people and society of such a multiplicity of people and their dits via a detective story. The intrepid private eye is chasing a maker of illicit copies of people and lots of action ensues. Eventually, the plot explodes into a grand conspiracy of the ‘ditnapper’ and an insane scientist who wants to be god. After a fair amount of the mad scientist, who was now a dit who’d killed his archie, it became too tedious. Thinking about a society with endless ‘free’ copies who could do your work or amplify your ability to do what you do was fun. Made scientists made of clay lost me.

Oh well. That should be enough science fiction for a while.

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Jul 19 2006

Christian Nation?

Published by under General

An assertion that is often heard in current discussions of the role of religion and politics in the U.S. annoys me no end, and I believe it is patently false. The statements refer to the U.S. as originally being created as a “Christian Nation” founded by Christians with the implication that we’ve lost the way by separating church and state. The half true part of such assertions is that the founders were generally if not always Christians. However, What they founded was not a “Christian Nation” but an intentionally limited, secular government in which any form of personal religion was to be tolerated. Based on their experiences the founders rightly did not trust any government, and particularly did not trust any government to establish a religion for its citizens. Just the opposite; political and religious diversity and dissent were to be protected against government interference.

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Jul 19 2006


Published by under General,retro

Some would say that AOL in its entirety is an example of retrotechnology since it’s built on a dial up subscriber base which is shrinking. That issue aside, I recently listened to an interview of its current head, Jonathan Miller, jin which he mentioned the number of CD’s AOL had sent out as part of its marketing campaign in the 90’s. If you were alive then you remember them! Take a guess at the total number of their CD’s: 660 million! How high a retro pile would that make?

Since they now view themselves as a global company they are or have changed their legal name from America On-Line to “AOL”; no meaning attached to the letters. Another acronym cut loose.

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Jul 01 2006

Love that radiation

Published by under retro

When chatting with a friend in a park something reminded us of the shoe fitting fluoroscope what was hi-tech consumerism when I was a kid in Chicago probably in the early fifties. I don’t really know how they worked, but they displayed a low quality x-ray of feet in new shoes. Supposedly it provided the ‘best’ way to get the right fit on kids who obviously couldn’t be trusted to know what was comfortable. As I recall, the flouroscope was in a tapered box several feet high with a viewing screen on or near the top. So far, I’ve not been diagnosed as having foot cancer so maybe they were a good thing.

Somewhat similar but of more recent vintage is the practice of taking routine chest x-rays. Take a picture and look for the lung cancer you were creating wby taking the picture! Someone eventually decided they were useless or maybe just that there was a newer and better technology.

Note: Just discovered the wikipedia has a good entry on fluoroscopy that mentions the old shoe fitting machines. Fluoroscopy is still used in inproved forms as the word just means “an instrument with a fluorescent screen used for viewing X-ray images without taking and developing X-ray photographs”.

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