it’s not just a light, it’s tactical

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You say you’ve got your bluetooth-enabled speaker embedded in a fidget spinner? You own a fleet of Groot-branded HD camera drones? Toss that crap aside because what you truly deserve is a tactical flashlight, or even better, a tactical lantern

How many times have to said this to yourself:

I need a lantern, but not just any lantern — it must be tactical.

“Tactical” generally means something related to military operations. It can also refer to carefully planning or strategizing to achieve an end. So when you’re using precision and strategy to illuminate a dark place, you want the type of photons that radiate from a tactical light. 

(Be aware that you will also need batteries, or, as I like to call them, “tactical portable electricity cylinders.”)

Below you’ll see two lanterns, one tactical and one not. Study this carefully so you don’t accidentally purchase a non-tactical light. 

Tactical Lantern – plastic – uses 3 AA batteries – collapsible

Non-tactical Lantern – plastic – uses 3 AA batteries – collapsible

Got it? Now it’s time to go out and plan your illumination campaign. Next, we’ll examine hydration systems (sometimes called “water bottles”).

down a rock music rabbit hole

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(Image above from a Birdeatsbaby video)

This is how an entire afternoon can disappear. Recently I was perusing a long list of rock music genres and sub-genres when I came across this one:

Italian Occult Psychedelia

How could I not look into it? Before long I was on Spotify listening to a band called Cannibal Movie.  Imagine if you dumped a beat up old carnival organ into a swamp, and then the Creature from the Black Lagoon sat down and began to play. The sound burbling up from the water is their song, “Fame.” 

Take a less distorted organ and add somber drumming and gothic chanting and you’ve got Capra Informis. Music to play at a goat sacrifice – “Tunnels of Cliphoth.” From here I moved on to …

Math Rock

I listened to music from several bands in this genre and really couldn’t detect a common denominator (ha ha) among them. One British group called Three Trapped Tigers had an album called “Numbers: 1-13” with songs labelled 1, 2, etc., as befitting math rock. I like a lot of this music. Another group, from Japan, called Ruins was utterly different and berserk. I recommend this inspired weirdness called “Skhanddraviza,” which must be a homage to Frank Zappa.

Folk Metal

I started with Finntroll. I don’t know why, but this combination of black metal and a type of Finnish polka music was hard to take seriously. It kept reminding me of the Stonehenge scene from Spinal Tap. Much of this genre is Scandinavian. However, the Orphaned Land is out of Israel, mixing metal with Middle Eastern folk music. Here they are live, doing a number without the deep growly voice technique they use on other songs. Finally, I’ll end with:

Dark Cabaret

Picture a group of young circus vampires trying to look menacing while playing squeezeboxes. Face makeup, accordions, and a theatrical style create the cabaret and lyrics about death and destruction make it dark. The Tiger Lillies recommend mindless insurrection in “Start a Fire.” I really like the stop motion style video for this Birdeatsbaby song called “The Trouble.”

You can have the same adventure I did by following the links to the music videos above. As an avant-guard metal band, Gorguts, says, “As spleen takes over me, resound, the echoes of my threnodies.” Live at the Brutal Assault festival.

(Avant-garde metal band, Giant Squid.)

usa – “let’s abandon leadership, go backwards”

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A quick summary of responses to Trump abandoning the Paris Climate Agreement.

Corporate Support for the Paris Climate Agreement

A few companies that support the Paris accords

Ford, GM, Microsoft, PepsiCo, Walmart, Amazon, ExxonMobile, and ConocoPhillips.

Some corporations and CEOs that not only support the Paris agreement but publicly disagree with Trump’s decision

Jeff Immelt, CEO GE, Ben van Beurden, CEO Royal Dutch Shell, David MacLennan, CEO Cargill, Jamie Dimon, CEO JPMorgan Chase, Lloyd Blankfein, CEO Goldman Sachs, Tim Cook, CEO Apple, Mark Zuckerberg CEO Facebook, Mark Benioff, CEO Salesforce, Sundar Pichai, GEO Google, Elon Musk, Tesla, SpaceX – Resigned from White House business advisory council in protest, Bob Iger, Walt Disney – Resigned from White House business advisory council in protest

HP, DuPont, Nike, UnileverAdobe, Intel, Levi, Mars – all signed a letter urging Trump to stay with the Paris agreement

Coal companies that asked Trump to stay with Paris agreement
Cloud Peak Energy and Peabody Energy

Calculate how much of the U.S. economy is represented in the list above. It’s safe to say that these are people who make pragmatic decisions.

Economic Impact of Pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement

Fastest growing occupations: #1 is wind turbine technician, #29 solar photovoltaic installers. Why are we not prioritizing clean energy jobs instead of fossil fuels?

“1.1 million Americans work in electric-power generation through traditional fossil fuels, but renewables follow closely with 880,000 employees.” And guess which one is growing? There are more jobs in solar power than in the coal industry.

“The decision means the U.S. will miss out on some the $1.4 trillion global business opportunity that the global low-carbon economy represents.”

Despite this, Trump has decided to let China and Europe take the lead in clean energy development and leave the U.S. behind in a growing industry.

Trump Continues to Spew Lies on the Topic (no surprise)

http://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/donald-trump-climate-accord-fact-check

Meanwhile in the Reality-Based Universe

Every year it gets harder for denialists to find cover. You have to believe that every major climate science organization across the globe, and almost all climate scientists worldwide, are in error or engaged in a huge conspiracy to cover up the truth. There is no factual support for denialism, just an occasional op-ed in the Wall Street Journal from someone outside the field, or posts by some energy industry funded propaganda outfit. That’s pretty thin gruel. 

Oh, and you must believe that, along with U.S. corporations and science community, the 197 signing governments and 147 ratifiers of the Paris Climate Agreement are all deluded, too. Syria didn’t sign (in the middle of a war) and Nicaragua (thought it was too weak) and now the U.S. (Trump).

Incidental info: The oceans are warming, we hit temperature records each year, wildlife is moving north, etc. etc.   https://climate.nasa.gov/  

It’s encouraging that individual companies, states, and cities in the U.S. are vowing to continue with climate change mitigation. Let’s act like there’s a civilization on earth. Let’s look ahead and plan.

super brain is out to get you

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I recently read yet another article about the alleged threat posed by artificial intelligence. I don’t buy it; at least as this story is usually framed. When someone says that the danger lies in self-aware, volitional computer intelligence, I think they are projecting science fiction plots onto reality. When they talk about a runaway recursive loop of smarter-than-human computers creating even smarter computers, and so on unto “singularity,” they are pretending that real life resembles a really cool novel they once read.

When do we get there and where is “there”?

I think it’s so very unlikely and/or so far off, that it would be a wasted effort to worry about it, and even worse to take action on it when there are so many actual serious problems to deal with. Why do I think that? Point me to an example of a self-aware, volitional computer to justify the concern. Show me any non-biological intelligence. As far as I’m aware, examples offered as even the beginnings of this are stretching the definitions of “intelligence” and “self-awareness” to the breaking point.

There is no clear and obvious path from where we are now to a human-like artificial intelligence. People have been working on AI for decades and are no closer. I think it’s possible in principle, and we may get there, but where are the signs that we’re even close? To take one crude example, do you think that something will just “wake up,” given enough processing power? Are there even hints of this happening? Look at the Blue Brain Project, it’s a great thing, but I don’t think anyone involved would say they are even remotely near such an achievement.

Smarter than what?

I think we have another problem, which is even knowing what it means to have a computer that is smarter than humans. Already there are computers that perform calculations much faster than people. Is that it? Most people would say no. They mean a computer that is “super-intelligent,”  as far beyond us as we are beyond a microbe. Again, people tend to mean self-aware machines with desires of their own, but super, and incomprehensible. I think we’re assigning magic to consciousness and intelligence. Just scale up the “smartness” 10 or 100-fold and magic happens. The machines will save us. No, they’ll destroy us. No, they’ll put us all in a simulation. No, we’re already in one.

I’ve heard some alarmists suggest that if it happens just once – if a smarter-than-human intelligence develops — we’re in trouble. Then it’s too late. The genie is  out of the bottle. How does it get the better of us? Maybe it’s so smart that it uses its super-smart AI silver tongue to talk us into not unplugging it. Or maybe it replicates itself all over the internet, and somehow (magic) gains control of our physical environment and eradicates us. It makes smarter copies of itself, and the smarter it gets, the more magic happens.

Get real

I think a genuine threat is humans giving increasing responsibilities to machines without developing sufficient safeguards. An example would be a self-driving car that can’t handle certain tricky situations on the road. That’s a danger. A malfunctioning gun-wielding military robot that selects its own targets – that’s a danger.  A runaway super-smart AI? Not so much. It’s a gross misuse of resources to spend money combatting evil machines. We have bigger fish to fry like poverty, disease, war, and climate change.

the dumb creepy uncle who became president

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So Trump is in the middle of an investigation of his administration’s ties to the Russian government and potential collusion with Russians to win the election. This is what he does:

Meets Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov in the White House, and does not invite the US press, but allows Russia’s TASS news agency in. Thanks to photos published by TASS, we know that Russian Ambassador Kislyak was there (the one with whom the now fired National Security Advisor Michael Flynn discussed the upcoming election).

  • Trump reveals highly classified information to the Russians during this meeting.
  • Also during the meeting, he tells Russians that he got rid of that “nut job” FBI Director James Comey. Trump tells them he was under “great pressure” because of Comey and the Russian thing.

That’s right. He fired the man leading the FBI investigation of the Trump/Russia connection. The White House said it was because of a memo describing Comey’s poor handling of the Clinton email investigation. 🙂  Then Trump said he was going to fire him anyway because “this Russia thing” is a made-up story.

How many times do we have to be hit over the head with the reality that Trump is as incompetent as he seemed to be all along? Even if he has no sinister ties with Russia, it will be hard to believe it after this. It’s only May and he already looks like someone who got his foot stuck in a bucket, and he’s clomping around the house, running into things, with a fallen curtain over his head. 

If only he was a Russian oligarch himself, he could order the murder of his enemies, consolidate his power, and shut down the press. He could freely indulge in his genital-grabbing predilections. I don’t think he can get away with any of that here. I’m an optimist.

seattle area winter

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I’ve been sadly neglectful of this blog. I’ll post a few photos from the long cloudy winter:

Ebey’s Landing in February

Rattlesnake Ledge in March

A rare bit of snow seen from our deck in December

An obstructed view of Space Needle fireworks on New Years

Dreaming of a purple Christmas