Never pass up a chance to sit down or relieve yourself. -old Apache saying

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

SETI

SETI stands for "Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence."  

What is the SETI project?

SETI stands for the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. It is a project which started in 1959 to search for radio signals from intelligent life in space. The SETI project uses radio telescopes from around the world to scan the sky and look for special patterns in radio waves which could have been sent by another civilization in space. Radio telescopes are used because radio waves can travel very far in space without being absorbed by the thick clouds of gas and dust which lie in many regions of space. Also, radio telescopes can be used both day and night. We have been sending out our own radio waves into space for over sixty years. All of our radio and televison signals travel into space at the speed of light and may one day be detected by another civilization in space.

Science continues to push the frontiers of knowledge.  It's so gratifying to think that we humans are actively searching for life elsewhere in the cosmos.  If the preachers and bishops had their way, humans would not seek anything beyond the planet, hell, hardly anything beyond their own noses.  After all, everything we need is right there in the Bible (I gag even writing that sarcastic comment.)

When that time comes....when we discover once and for all that there is indeed intelligent life somewhere else in the universe, it will change the world.  Well, it will change a LOT of the world.

You just KNOW that the fundies, and the Muslims, will deny the discovery.  Then they will try to co-opt it to fit in with God's plan.  I mentioned it was gratifying before about humans seeking to discover life elsewhere.  It's perhaps equally appalling and very depressing to think that a certain number of humans will resist new knowledge with all they have.  Their entire lives are vested in ignorance, how can they just chuck it all?

Frankly, I don't care.  Religionistas will be tossed onto the scrapheap of history, where they belong, where they should have been tossed hundreds of years ago.  

Knowledge is a powerful thing.

So, a word from the President and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of SETI:

This is an incredibly exciting time for the SETI Institute. The number of verified planets outside of our solar systems grows rapidly, and includes several that may have liquid water on their surfaces. At the same time, we are learning that life can survive in amazing places, even in lakes sealed beneath the Antarctic ice. These and other recent developments virtually assure the existence, and ultimate verification, of life beyond Earth. Recently NASA Chief Scientist Ellen Stofan agreed, predicting "I think we're going to have strong indications of life beyond Earth within a decade, and I think we're going to have definitive evidence within 20 to 30 years." The SETI Institute is at the forefront of many of these discoveries. As the only organization that addresses the full range of disciplines related to understanding and explaining the origin and nature of life in the universe, we search for answers to critical questions such as:
  • How did life begin on Earth?
  • Where/when/how did it overcome bottlenecks?
  • Does it exist elsewhere?
  • Are there other technological life forms?
  • Can we survive our own technological adolescence?
  • Is there a long future for life on Earth?

The answers to these and related questions are critical for informing some of the most important decisions mankind will make in the next 50 years.

Unfortunately, it has become increasingly difficult for basic research institutions like our Institute to rely on government funding in the United States. Increasingly, we are dependent on visionaries such as you to support our programs. When you invest in the SETI Institute, you join leaders such as Dave Packard, Paul Allen, Bill Hewlett, Gordon Moore, and Franklin Antonio, all of whom have been strong supporters. The Institute is approaching a critical point where we may need to curtail some of our programs, so we need your support now!

After nine years en route, the New Horizons spacecraft is nearing Pluto for the July 14 flyby. We have many ideas to enhance our public and student engagement based on the expertise of our scientists who are participating in this mission, but we lack the funding to execute on them. 

The Institute’s NASA Astrobiology Team uses innovative, autonomous rovers in the high lakes of the Andes to simulate landers that will float in Titan’s ethane lakes. This team strives to better understand planetary responses to rapid climate change.  We have multiple opportunities for independent studies by postdoctoral fellows using these data, but we must find funds to support them. 

The Allen Telescope Array is being upgraded with more sensitive radio receivers, capable at working at even higher frequencies, to improve the search for other technological civilizations. This improved sensitivity is like building more telescopes, making the search even more effective. But we must urgently find funding to support our scientists to make use of the array.

These opportunities are all here today, but we need your help to seize them. You can be a part of discovering life beyond Earth! Please go to https://www.teamseti.org to make your tax-deductible donation now!

Thanks for your help!


Monday, May 25, 2015

sick of Comcast?

I sure am.  

The other day, my internet just "quit."  I am, sadly, used to it.  The internet would often just "quit" but it would always come back within an hour or two.  

So I got used to just walking away from the computer for awhile and when I went back to the computer, voila!  The internet would be back on.  Pretty stupid, huh?

One strange aspect of this is that the internet would ONLY go out during weekdays.  It would almost never go out on weeknights or on weekends.  

But this time, it went out in the evening, I got disgusted, switched to 4G on my mobile phone, and turned off the computer.  The next day, it was still out.  

So I finally call up Comcast and they want me to do the usual "unplug it and plug it back in" bullshit which actually works every now and then.  But not this time.  Nothing worked.  A pulse from the head end?  Nothing.  

So instead of scheduling yet another service call, and being very inconvenienced by it, I decided to just go to the Comcast (Xfinity) office and swap out the modem.

Which I did, with no argument.  Now, it works fine.  But for how long?   (Another problem with Comcast: they have ONE "store" for the entire west side of Houston, when they need four or five, so the place is always packed with people). 

If only we could get broadband by some other means than Comcast.  (And AT&T got onto my shitlist long ago, so they are also OUT).

The link below might work for you. It showed eight different broadband providers for my address, but not Comcast!!??



Q. How do you find a broadband connection other than the cable company? It’s really expensive and the only other option I can find here in my area is the phone company, which has a really bad reputation for reliability.

A. For one quick trip to see an overview of the available services in your neighborhood, visit the National Broadband Map site at www.broadbandmap.gov. The map was first published in 2011 and is the result of a collaboration between the National Telecommunications & Information Administration, the Federal Communications Commission, all 50 states, the District of Columbia and five United States territories.

When you type your address into the search box at the top of the page, the site displays a chart showing all the companies with wired and wireless broadband service in your area, along with the range of speeds each company offers. In addition to the common cable and DSL connections, the map should show you any other options available, including fiber, satellite and mobile wireless service.

When you click the Expand All link on the page, the chart expands to reveal more information about each provider listed. Although the National Broadband Map does not list the prices for monthly plans, it does include links to each company’s website so you can click through and look for yourself.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Transhumanism

It looks like America, and the world, has a new "political" party: The Transhumanist Party.  You can go here to see the party website.

What is Transhumanism?  

Transhumanism (or H+), broadly speaking, is a futurist movement with a set of beliefs with a common theme of anticipating an evolutionary plateau beyond the current Homo sapiens. The term was coined and movement founded by the biologist Julian Huxley in 1957.
The general expectation is that in the near future greater manipulation of human nature will be possible because of the adoption of techniques apparent on the technological frontier: machine intelligence greater than that of contemporary humans, direct mind-computer interface, genetic engineering andnanotechnology. Transhumanists tend to believe that respect for human agency, even when practiced by humans in their current form, is valuable, however.

They have a logo: 

Here is an interesting, 11-minute video explaining in brief what Transhumanism is all about:


The Transhumanist Party has a Presidential candidate for 2016: Zoltan Istvan.  


No, Zoltan is not a space lizard.  But he is an avowed atheist, so, hey! We have an atheist running for President! Does he stand a chance in 2016? Highly unlikely, but Zoltan knows this, and the goal is to build for the future.


I'll probably vote for the Democrat in 2016, but the time after that...?

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Eurovision Song Contest

Russia's Polina Gagarina sings "A Million Voices" in the video below.  This song was first runner-up in this years Eurovision Contest.

Damn, is it me?  I cried during this song too.   Music can really be special.


The entire 2015 Eurovision Song Contest: Grand Final can be seen here.  All 5 hours and 26 minutes of it. 

Sweden's Mans Zelmerlow won the final vote. His video starts around 01:02:00 of the video. Polina's performance at the 02:05:00 mark. There are some great performances in here.

And, oh yeah.....



Friday, May 22, 2015

the first Immortal

But not if I'm going to be all wrinkled, or lose my mind, or not be able to fuck, etc etc. 

from the May 1st issue of Earth Week 

Earth's First 'Immortal' Said to Be Already Alive


A U.K. gerontologist claims that the first person to be able to avoid the illnesses of old age and to live indefinitely has probably already been born.
This 105-year-old woman from India was born a century too early for technology to someday offer her immortality.
Cambridge PhD alum, author and chief science officer of the SENS Research Foundation Aubrey de Grey believes that the first person to live to be 1,000 is already walking the planet.

But he tells Vice’s Motherboard website that true immortality is probably out of the question.

“The first thing I want to do is get rid of the use of this word 'immortality,' because it’s enormously damaging. It is not just wrong; it is damaging,” said de Grey. “It means zero risk of death from any cause—whereas I just work on one particular cause of death, namely aging.”

He said he’s already working on therapies that could take people aged 60 years and rejuvenate them enough so they won’t be biologically 60 again until they are actually 90.





Thursday, May 21, 2015

Mortality

I've enjoyed Christopher Hitchen's sharp wit and tongue for a long while.  It was very sad to see him passing away, in Houston, in 2011.

Sadder still was reading his final book, Mortality, which is a chronology of sorts of Hitchens final years.  Thank you, Chris, for keeping this book short.  It is excrutiatingly painful to read. The book is grippingly gruesome in it's detail of the nasty effects of cancer.  He certainly had a way with words.

The topper was reading the Afterward, penned by Hitchens wife, Carol Blue.  

I cried for a good 10 minutes.  I daresay a book has not affected me this negatively since ... ever.  So far, I can't shake the feeling of impending doom that has befallen me since finishing this book.  

It's also got me contemplating my eventual demise.

My advice?  Do not read this book.  Others may disagree.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Texas medical weed?

Don't get your hopes up too high, Texas.  

Do you really think the retards and Neanderthals in the Texas Legislature (it's heavily dominated by Republicans, in case you've been living in a cave) were going to propose a serious bill to really help people by making medical marijuana even semi-widely available?

Texas?

Not yet.  It won't happen here until the Democrats finally take back the government. But even then, most Texas Democrats are considerably more conservative than the "mainstream" GOP, if that even still exists.

One Republican from East Texas proposed full legalization, basing the idea on the "fact" that God created marijuana, and so how dare we feeble mortals criminalize part of God's creation?!  Sigh.

This from High Times magazine, who keeps an eye and a nose on stuff like this:

Texas House Approves Worthless Medical Marijuana Bill, Likely Will Become Law

Texas may be on its way to legalizing medical marijuana, but many proponents say the bill is completely worthless in its current form. Nevertheless, the state’s House of Representatives put their preliminarily seal of approval on a measure earlier this week, aimed at providing “low-THC” cannabis oil to patients suffering from epilepsy and other chronic conditions.
Senate Bill 339, which was introduced by Senator Kevin Eltife, was passed by the state Senate in early May. On Monday, the House announced its support for the measure in a vote of 96 to 34, a move that has earned the “Texas Compassionate Use Act” a ticket to Governor Greg Abbott’s office for either his signature or a veto.
Marijuana activists claim this toe-in-the-water approach to establishing a statewide medical marijuana program will do nothing to actually provide patients who qualify under its restrictive nature with the medicine they need. The Marijuana Policy Project’s Heather Fazio recently pointed out in an interview with CBS News that it will be impossible for patients to get their hands on cannabis oil because the legislation forces doctors to “prescribe” the herb rather than issue recommendations. This, of course, is a major cause for concern since it is illegal in the eyes of the federal government for physicians to “prescribe” cannabis. And doing so could result in the revocation of their license to prescribe all medications.
“Lawmakers missed several opportunities to amend the bill in ways that could have provided real relief to countless Texans.” Fazio said. “Not a single patient will be helped by this legislation.”
Although the crippling language of Senate Bill 339 may have been an oversight, in the end, the Lone Star State has haphazardly stood behind a restrictive proposal that caters mostly to epilepsy patients without amending the language to, at least, ensure those people can take advantage of the program if passed into law.
“Nearly half of the states in the country have effectively implemented medical marijuana programs, and I have no doubt Texas could adopt an even better one,” Fazio said. “We need a law that ensures seriously ill patients who could benefit from medical marijuana are able to access it. There is no reason to put it off any longer.”
However, state lawmakers seem strangely determined to give Texans the illusion that marijuana reform is a high priority, while pulling the rug out from under them at the last minute. Earlier this week, HIGH TIMES reported on the killing of two bills aimed at bettering the state’s marijuana laws. The first, House Bill 507, was introduced in hopes of decriminalizing the possession of marijuana by replacing the criminal penalties with a modest fine. The second measure, House Bill 2165, sought to legalize a cannabis industry by regulating marijuana as the state does tomatoes and other “God-given” produce.
Both proposals, each seemingly more of a stretch than the next, surprisingly managed to win the approval of the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee and were reportedly scheduled for review in the House of Representatives. However, it was made known on Monday that Todd Hunter, chair of the House Calendar Committee, refused to put the proposals on the docket and left them for dead before they ever had a chance to be put to a vote.
Although Governor Abbott has not exactly sided with the issue of medical marijuana, advocates are still encouraging him to sign Senate Bill 339, regardless of its restrictiveness, because they want the opportunity to repair the program so that patients with "other debilitating conditions, such as PTSD, cancer, and multiple sclerosis," can also legally possess and use medical marijuana. In addition, they hope to amend the language to protect physicians.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Food Truck Fridays

I think this is pretty awesome:  Food Truck Fridays.

The AMLI complex where we live - 2121 - is bringing in a different Food Truck each Friday for the next six Fridays or so, and probably more.  Good chance to sample some different cuisine and meet some neighbors.

I know where I'll be having dinner this Friday.


Food Truck Fridays | Starting May 22nd @ 5:00 pm
You've had a long work week and cooking is the last thing on your mind.  Dinner is just a few steps away.  Every Friday we will have a food truck parked at the Alley on the East side of the building from 5:00 pm - 8:00 pm.  Let us know your favorite food truck for repeat visits.  Here's our line up until the end of June.
  • May 22nd - Cousins Maine Lobster
  • May 29th - Casian King
  • June 5th - Churrasco To-go & Cupcake and a Smile
  • June 12th - Katmania Crepes
  • June 19th - Cousins Maine Lobster
  • June 26th - Big 6 Bar-B-Que

First up: Cousins

Cousins Maine Lobster brings the tradition and quality of Maine’s iconic lobster industry to Houston. We are proud to offer a menu consisting of fresh, sustainably harvested lobster directly from Maine’s icy cold waters.


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