Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Texas - Panel 6 repaired

Panel 6 has finally be repaired and grouted, one cannot tell the difference unless one looks really close.

As it look last month

Culture - Semi-comforting words from Niall Ferguson

From Niall Ferguson, an historian and commentator.

Five days a week I wake up and say, "This is within the range of normal American politics. He is a populist, we have seen populism before, and the constitution was set up for the eventuality, for a demigod in the White House, and it is working, he is constrained. SO CHILL."

Two days a week I wake up and think, "Hmm, I wonder if it felt like this in the final years of the Roman Republic." 

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Culture - Competition between nations?

We are becoming one people, a global community, including the Olympics.

For a long times cars and planes are made globally, and assembled in the "country of origin." The Olympics, ostensibly being a competition between nations, has blurred the lines too. The athletes, their coach, their training venue, can all be in or from different countries. Many train in the USA.

But a new wrinkle, the ice skating pair for South Korea are Americans Yura Min (became a dual citizen in 2011) and Alexander Gamelin (became a dual citizen in 2016). Their coach is Igor Shpilband, a Russian, now an American Citizen, and they train in Novi, Michigan, USA, just outside Detroit.

100% made in the US, assembled and displayed in South Korea.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Climate - A Good Life For All Within Planetary Boundaries

From Nature Sustainability 

Daniel W. O’Neill, Andrew L. Fanning, William F. Lamb & Julia K. Steinberger

Humanity faces the challenge of how to achieve a high quality of life for over 7 billion people without destabilizing critical planetary processes. Using indicators designed to measure a ‘safe and just’ development space, we quantify the resource use associated with meeting basic human needs, and compare this to downscaled planetary boundaries for over 150 nations. We find that no country meets basic needs for its citizens at a globally sustainable level of resource use. Physical needs such as nutrition, sanitation, access to electricity and the elimination of extreme poverty could likely be met for all people without transgressing planetary boundaries. However, the universal achievement of more qualitative goals (for example, high life satisfaction) would require a level of resource use that is 2–6 times the sustainable level, based on current relationships. Strategies to improve physical and social provisioning systems, with a focus on sufficiency and equity, have the potential to move nations towards sustainability, but the challenge remains substantial.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Consciousness - How widespread is it?

From the New York Times

"The researchers trapped pea plants in glass chambers with ether, soaked roots of the sensitive plant and seedlings of garden cress in lidocaine and even measured the electrical activity of a Venus fly trap’s cells. An hour or so later the plants became unresponsive. The seedlings stayed dormant. And the Venus fly trap didn’t react to a stimulus similar to a bug crawling across its maw. Its cells stopped firing.

When the dope wore off, the plants returned to life, as if something had hit pause — almost like they were regaining consciousness, something we typically don’t think they possess. It’s all so animal-like.

“How organisms are perceiving the environment or responding or adapting are based on some very similar principles,” Dr. Baluska said."

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Physics - The Machine Intelligence Research Institute (MIRI)

We tend to be too clever for our own good, but do understand clever machines could take over the Earth to our detriment.  MIRI's aim is to ".... do foundational mathematical research to ensure smarter-than-human artificial intelligence has a positive impact."

I wish I was clever enough to understand their work, see Cheating death in damascus

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Culture - Civilization so recently lost

This week the portraits of the Obama's were unveiled at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC. A touch of civilization in a chaotic land.

Getty Image

The portraits

Monday, February 12, 2018

Culture - Conversation not about churches

I was talking to a general contractor about adding a concrete circle to the back yard of the blue house, and unconsciously, we assessed each other. He understood we were weekend people from the city, owned the two adjacent properties, I had a tech job and an English accent.

I hope the price did not go up.

We understood he was a local, catholic, had a least one gun, liked black people. He had traveled to London with his church, to Walsingham which I had to look up.

His local catholic church is a typical mid-Texas construction:


The church he visited, in London, is a small brick church in a suburban street, Saint Anthony of Padua's R.C. Church, Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham :

But, in Houston is the Cathedral of our Lady of Walsington, built in 1984, a Norman Cathedral:

Friday, February 9, 2018

Culture - Eudaimonia - The English word from the Greek

Eudaimonia translates to Human Flourishing, such a good concept.

From Wikipedia:

Eudaimonia is a Greek word commonly translated as happiness or welfare; however, "human flourishing" has been proposed as a more accurate translation.

Etymologically, it consists of the words "eu" ("good") and "daimōn" ("spirit"). It is a central concept in Aristotelian ethics and political philosophy, along with the terms "aretē", most often translated as "virtue" or "excellence", and "phronesis", often translated as "practical or ethical wisdom".

In Aristotle's works, eudaimonia (based on older Greek tradition) was used as the term for the highest human good, and so it is the aim of practical philosophy, including ethics and political philosophy, to consider (and also experience) what it really is, and how it can be achieved.

Texas - Lowes always a good source

I had bought 250 small concrete pavers, and two employees in their mid-twenties, were loading them into my truck. One was talkative, he detected my accent and asked if I was English, and went on to tell me he knew a girl from college that was English, she was now back home, "She was in the Olympic Games twirling things."  He had been to college in California studying theology, so I assumed he was religious.

But he went on to say emphatically, "We studied the historical Jesus, not the religious Jesus."  And I though, OK, strange, that would take maybe a week, tops.   He wanted to move to Austin, and I asked him what he would do for work. "I would work in a church that helped people, I believe in bringing happiness and prosperity to people."

So, he is in to the Feel-Good type of Church. Something like Lakewood Church which draws 50,000 people each week.