Tag Archives: science

Calling Lou Diamond Phillips

I was about to turn on tonight’s Sci-Fi Channel offering of Lou Diamond Phillips dealing with genetically altered bats (which sounds like a movie designed specifically to my tastes), when I came across something better. Engadget either getting owned or owning others (I’m not really sure which) over a dog brain in a dish.

According to this Engadget story, some cat (the human kind, but keep reading and you may begin to wonder) has grown a dog brain in a dish. Now we could make a Sci-Fi Channel offering out of that alone- but there’s more.

What, you might ask, is the highest and best use of a dog brain in a dish?

To play video games, of course. It sort of takes “man’s best friend” to a whole new level.

Now all we need is for the Sci-Fi Channel and Lou Diamond to team up and bring us a movie about the dog brain’s entry into and domination of the pro video game circuit. After the dog brains start winning all of the teens of dollars of prize money, Lou Diamond could play a human gamer who unseats them and returns mankind to its rightful place at the top of the couch potato chain.

Possible sequels could involve squirrel brains that needlepoint, whale brains that rap and turtle brains that play fart football.

Earthquakes, Hurricanes and the Math Thing

Doc Searls has a thoughtful and scary post today on earthquakes.

Today is the 100th anniversary of the San Francisco earthquake of 1906.

Thankfully, I’ve never experienced an earthquake. But Hurricanes are a constant worry here along the Texas coast and I have stood outside my house more than once in the yellowish glow of a bad storm and listened for the train-like sound of a tornado.

I remember the very first Sim City game. I didn’t like the natural disasters, so I turned them off. Unfortunately, you can’t do that in real life.

I hope we are spared another hurricane and I hope California is spared another earthquake. But as Doc points out, the math is not in either of our favor.

The Persistence of False Memory

I am very skeptical of the whole recovered/repressed memory thing. You know, when someone, usually someone with a lawyer, suddenly recalls being abused by someone else 30 or 40 years ago. I’m not saying this doesn’t happen, but I don’t think it happens nearly as often as it is claimed to have happened. For one thing, I have yet to hear about someone who had a repressed memory about something good (“wow, I just remembered that I went to Disneyland when I was nine”). It’s sort of like how everyone who believes in reincarnation used to be somebody famous.

Another reason I have my doubts about recovered/repressed memory is because I have a false memory- something that seems exactly like a real memory. Only I know it didn’t happen. Ironically, it is a pleasant memory. Since it’s Christmas-related, here goes.

videogame-710323I have this memory of getting an arcade-like, multi-game video game for Christmas. It was maybe 6 feet tall, light blue on the sides, with a some black parts where the knobs and coin slots were. It had a single joystick with a red ball at the end of it and a few black buttons. This is a drawing of it. I got it for Christmas, and my memory of getting that game is as sharp now as it would have been the week after I got it- except I didn’t.

For one thing, I have no memories of ever actually playing the game, or even what games were on it. I have no later recollection of it in my room or house. I don’t remember getting rid of it. My only memory (and it’s a vivid one) is of getting it Christmas morning, and later that day having it moved (by people or forces unknown) upstairs to my room.

Additionally, this would have been around 1970 or so and I’m pretty sure these sorts of games didn’t exist then, and if they did, they would have cost a lot more than my mom would have spent.

I can’t recall exactly when this memory made its way into my consciousness, but it’s been there at least 10 years.

Very strange indeed.

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Rita Update- Saturday 9:45 a.m.

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The wind blew very, very hard all night. We lost our biggest and most productive banana tree and a few smaller tree limbs, but otherwise everything is in tact. The hurricane has moved up to east Texas. We are still getting a lot of wind, but nothing like we had overnight. We had very little rain. Other than a few spikes, we never lost electricity.

Gas is going to be a problem for a while, so it will take some time for things to get back to normal. It will also take time for the million or so people who evacuated to get back home.

We’ll have some limbs to clean up, but as I have said so many times, we were very lucky.

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Rita Update- Saturday 12:10 a.m.

We are now within the outer bands of Hurricane Rita, though again we seem to have been spared the worst of it.

The wind is blowing very hard, at least by non-hurricane standards. It’s raining, but not all that hard. The eye of the hurricane has not reached the coastline, however, and the question now seems to be how fast and where the hurricane will begin to slow down after it reaches landfall.

As the eye reaches the coast we expect a lot more rain. So far our power has stayed on, but I have noticed a lot of spikes (4 since I started writing this post). That is a bad sign as far as keeping electricity goes, but maybe we’ll get lucky again.

I sound like a broken record, but we are so much better off than what we expected, and I am very thankful for that. I was extremely nervous when Raina and the girls couldn’t get to Fort Worth yesterday and came home. If someone had told me yesterday morning that we’d have only moderate rain and electricity right now, I would have laughed.

I am going to sit up for another hour or so, and then I’ll try to get some sleep. My prayers tonight will be prayers of thanks for our good fortune so far and prayers of concern for the people in the direct path of this storm.

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Rita Update- Friday 8:00 p.m.

It has started to rain, although not hard (yet). The wind comes in gusts, but nothing like we were expecting (so far). I don’t want to jinx us, but it seems like we may be spared the horrible storm we were expecting. I’m not ready to relax yet, but it is starting to feel a little better

The news indicates that the hurricane continues to move eastward towards Lousiana. In fact the weatherman on channel 13 just said that it’s possible the entire eye of the hurricane may land east of the Louisiana line. This is the same guy who usually tries to scare us to death, so if he’s saying that, it must be true.

We’re still expecting a severe storm, but with every passing hour, we become more hopeful that this will not be as bad as we expected.

Now, my take on the media and its “scare tactics.” First of all, most people will only hear the good news in a mixed news story. As a result, the media and the government leaders probably have to turn up the scare volume in order to get the message across. Having said that, I felt yesterday and last night that some of the newscasters and writers were going a bit overboard in their analysis.

In particular, I thought Eric Berger, who writes a blog for the Houston Chronicle that I generally enjoy, was at times a little over the top. Take this post, for example:

“Unless the storm turns south or north in the next 24 to 48 hours we are set up for a truly horrific event. I am not going to sugar-coast this, my friends. If the storm comes ashore as forecast, it would essentially be the worst-case scenario described here.”

Again, he has to tell it like he sees it, and as a blogger he has greater latitude to express his feelings and personal perspective (that’s what makes blogs an improved method of news delivery), but as someone who, at the time, was at home alone preparing to ride out a category 5 direct hit, I didn’t need any help being nervous.

Some folks are already being critical of the media, and I think a lot of the criticism is logically sound. But here’s my thing:

(a) There are never enough rules and models to plan for this sort of thing.

(b) As mentioned above, people need to be told very bad news to hear moderately bad news.

(c) People were, in general, doing the best they could. I especially thought Mayor White did a good job.

(d) In hindsight, everyone should have seen the evacuation traffic and gas problems as 100% inevitable. All of those people have to get back home via those same roads, so let’s not stop thinking about traffic and gas for a while.

(e) We have a culture of fear in this country that is propagated mainly by the media because the media believes, rightly or wrongly, that scary things bring higher ratings. Watch any newscast, even when there’s not a hurricane coming, and note how many scary stories there are. I believe this is a major problem in our country, but it has nothing to do with hurricanes.

We have been very lucky so far. That’s what matters the most, and we are thankful.

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Rita Update- Friday 5:00 p.m.

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At almost exactly 5:00 p.m. the wind kicked up a few notches. You can definitely tell that a storm is coming, even though not a drop of rain has fallen yet and the sky is not very dark.

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