Monday, December 29, 2003

For Those Possessing Short Attention Spans:

Molly Ringwraith presents The Return of the King condensed script.

Spoiler alert: The Ring gets slagged.

Return to your previously scheduled surfing. Thank you.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Merry Christmas, One and All

The guys at Scrappleface pulled out a great one. I don't have anything else to say.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

So Where's My Mr. Fusion?

This is just too good.

And I am still waiting for my flying car.
Testify, Professor!

Glenn Reynolds has a new article on Tech Cetral describing some of the items brought up in a EPA advisory board meeting on nanotechnology. This is the new field in which the imagination boggles at the concievable.

The good professor describes the near term applications of nanotechnology in materials development as:

"The impact of high- strength materials, for example, is likely to be much greater than people generally realize. Materials science isn't sexy the way that, say, robots are sexy, but when you can cut the weight, or boost the strength, of aircraft, or spacecraft, or even automobiles by a factor of ten or fifty, the consequences are enormous."

I am one of the lucky people for whom the decision of what to do in life became clear in a moment. It was early January, 1990, and I was reading the previous month's National Geographic. One of the features of that issue was a look at advanced materials, everything from polymers to superalloys, composites to superconductors. At the time I was having a blast (fortunately not literally) in my high school chemistry class, and these new fields were fascinating. Now, I run a lab that maintains and develops repair techniques for gas turbine engines.

Materials science draws little attention in the wider technological world. When I graduated with my engineering class, at the ceremony there were 500 computer science grads, 500 electrical, 250 structural, and 14 materials scientists. To say materials science isn't seen as sexy is a slight understatement.

The impact of materials science, however, still has potentials in fields that have yet to understood. I have worked with material applications that replace highly polluting processes. A great friend of mine has worked on polymer lattices that would allow for cloned tissues to grow vascular paths and become fully functional replacement organs.

Structural, aerospace, and automotive engineers may have the glory of pushing the envelope, but it is materials science that defines the size of the envelope they have to start with.

Monday, December 22, 2003

"No, No, No, It Wasn't The Rain"

Some people can never seem to grasp the fact that everyone is playing the same game. Essentially, there is only one game being played, and no move can be made that does not influence the game and the other players.

That does not mean that there will be some who claim that one move may not particularly influence another move. In this instance, via Stephen den Beste, it just doesn't hold water.

Diplomacy is one of the greatest creations of mankind. My father taught me the definition of diplomacy that goes: "The ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip." I recall another definition by a gentleman whose name escapes me who said, "Diplomacy is war delayed," or something similar.

The weakness of the diplomacy of the Western World over the past decade was the at times explicit assumption that war would not happen regardless of the progress of the discussions. With no threat that a dictator would understand in the offing, it is easy to see why they would return with the polite version of, "What are you going to do about it?"

Saddam Hussein is now the example of what we would do about it. Yes, that is a saber making that rattling noise, and yes, it is sharp.

Saturday, December 20, 2003

... And Rain Doesn't Make You Wet

I don't really understand how anyone can not look at the timing of the invasion of Iraq and the opening of discussions with Libya and claim that one is not related to the other. That Gadhafi's son would claim that fact is not surprising. After all, the whole point of seeking WMD is to have strength, and letting people believe that one is a spineless jellyfish is very dangerous.

Hopefully now people will come to understand that the world still operates on the basis of strength and power. It is commendable that the United States and the rest of the Western World prefers to operate on the genteel levels of economic clout and popular authority, but when dealing with those who do not, only the possession and will to use gross physical force is respected. I commend Gadhafi for taking these steps to join the world community.

And to think, what it ultimately took was the United States and our true allies to stand up and say, "We are not that jellyfish!"

Friday, December 19, 2003

Moral Federalism

Frederick Turner at Tech Central Station (Tiananmen in London)writes about the displays of hatred directed at George Bush around the world. He goes into depth about two different concepts of law: the Law of Good and the Law of Right. Read the article as it would be much more enlightening than the paltry summation I'll make below.

Essentially, the Law of Good calls on the power of the government to coerce the individuals living under the state to comport themselves in a moral way. In short, immoral is illegal.

The Law of Right, on the other hand, contents itself with enforcing agreements between individuals. Also, the Law of Right seeks to prevent one individual from infringing upon the rights of another.

A key assumption under the Law of Right is that the individual is sovreign within himself, and that it makes no claim within that sphere of influence. Only when the individual conducts dealings with another individual, carries out an agreement between one sovreign being and another, does the Law of Right claim influence.

This relationship is therefore federal in nature. Much like a state can (should be able to) decide the laws within its borders while the National government will only (should only) intervene where borders are crossed. In this way, the good is ultimately served on all levels of interaction by acting on the levels where they are most effective. More on that thought later.

Link via

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Loosing the Inner Fanboy

I have just returned home from a screening of The Return of the King. As a long time geek for Tolkein, compounded with an even longer time spent playing and writing role-playing games, I have to say that it was the best film that I have seen this year. Trying to separate this final installment from the other two is impossible and not enlightening. The way it was shot as one movie created a seamlessness that has me counting down to the release of the DVD so that my friends and I can blow a whole Saturday immersing ourselves. Yes, I know that is fundamentally pathetic, but I am comfortable with my geekiness.
Shifting Perspective

Seated here on my lunch break, playing with this new toy. Anyone who gets into blogging probably feels like they have a Steinbeck or a Murrow buried deep down inside screaming to get out.

For me, it is more like I have ideas that are bouncing around in my head. These ideas are nebulous until I either speak them aloud or write them. Either way, the process of making the idea real involves words.

Now that I am placing these new formed ideas into the public realm, I am much more conscious of them. (Spell check don't fail me now) In the scant hour since I have started this site, I can already sense a difference in the way I am processing the words of others. Maybe the generation of ideas in my mind is different since they may be destined for public view. Maybe its a greater empathy for the writers.

Either way, this is the first of the unforeseen places that writing a blog has taken me.

My apologies go to all of those people out there who get twitchy when someone uses a noun as a verb. The second instance in the title of this blog may not have been necessary, but the first one was. It describes what is becoming the core of my philosophy of the world and all of the human things that go on within it.

Shakespeare, through the character of melancholy Jaques in As You Like It, wrote that “All the world is a stage, and the men and women in it merely players.” (Act Whichever, Scene I Don’t Feel Like Digging Out the Book Right Now) He got it half right. We are all players, but we are not acting out a play, but a game. Some of you are already turning ideas of Game Theory over in your mind. I have the barest knowledge of the field with respect to the mathematics, but I do very much like the metaphor. Every time a decision is made, every time one option or course of action is selected above all others, we are looking to win, to come out better than we were before the decision. More precise terminology might be maximizing value or minimizing cost, but I will just stick with the idea of winning.

When I took the position that all decisions are made with an eye toward winning and losing, I had to go to another thought: There is no such thing as altruism, everyone is greedy. Cue Michael Douglas as Gordon Gecko in Wall Street. The one point where I differ from Gordon is that money is not the be all and end all of greed. What everyone is greedy for is satisfaction. If money is what makes you feel good about yourself, then you have the classical greed. Most people show their greed in other ways, and those ways are mostly good and benefit those around them as well.

Doubtless there are some people out there who feel their motives to be above the mere concerns of self-interest. To those individuals, I propose a little thought experiment. Imagine that you have $10,000 to give to any one charity of your choice. Which charity would you choose? Greenpeace? Doctors Without Borders? NRA Gun Safety Training Programs? Ask yourself why you chose that one charity over all of the others. If you are honest, you will realize that you gave it to the one that you felt the best about giving to. When you make charitable donation you are buying satisfaction. If a man is happy paying $100,00 a 1990 Honda Accord with 200,000 miles on the odometer, then he has not been ripped-off. Incredibly stupid, perhaps, but not ripped-off.

Ultimately, everyone is jonesing for Warm Fuzzies.

It may seem that I am advocating a world of every man for himself and screw the other guy. Not so. It has been said the honor is a gift a man gives himself. The great thing about satisfaction is that it is not a conserved quantity. There is no fixed amount of satisfaction to be had in the world. Most people gain more of it when, after a deal, they know that the other person is also satisfied. Robert Wright has explored the ideas that lead to this idea in several articles for Slate. Some day I’ll get around to reading his book on the topic.

Over the next few days, I’ll be laying out more of my fundamental beliefs, especially as other stories come along. Some of the entries will be about life, work, pastimes, and others will be observations about the world at large with links to other sites. I make no guarantees about quality or quantity, only that I will be just as curious as to where this thing is going to go.