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A science-fictional article on the ethics of real-life killer robots [Aug. 3rd, 2009|05:16 pm]
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Skynet never had to worry about this issue :)
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Baltimore cops shoot assailant and then everyone thinks he's dead for 30 minutes [Aug. 3rd, 2009|03:28 pm]
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But it turned out he was still alive. You don't hear about this kind of thing happening too often these days. I wonder if it was some kind of weird medical thing or if the paramedics screwed up or if something more nefarious was going on. If "Homicide: Life on the Streets" or "The Wire" ever return in some form, they will have new story fodder :)
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I just realized "Burn Notice" is starting to remind me of "Angel" [Aug. 3rd, 2009|09:05 am]
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Over the last few days I've watched the last half of season 2 of "Burn Notice." During every episode I found myself thinking, "Damm, Michael Westin is acting more and more like a Champion (in the Buffyverse sense of the term)." When he was on the run after almost getting blown up by one of his enemies, he still noticed the signs of a man working himself up to commit suicide by walking into the front of a bus and stopped it and ended up resolving the issue the man was so worked up about. After that I said, "Michael really is a Champion."

To take the comparison further, I've begun to think of Michael's time as an official spy as his "Angelus Years." Now that he's burned, he is free to give his conscience full reign. I believe one of the main motivations for Michael's good deeds is his guilt over some of the bad things he had to do during his career. One of the episodes had a remarkable scene where Michael for a few minutes talked to Fiona as the IRA terrorist cover identity that he was using when he met her and first won her heart. It was like Angelus emerging, except without all the wanting to kill everyone :)

But it isn't just Michael who reminds me of Angel, its Sam and Fiona who remind me of the rest of Angel Instigations/Team Angel/The Fang Gang. Both of them have the information gathering skills and contacts of Doyle and Wesley and Fiona has Wesley's weapon's expertise and Sam displays Doyle's love of a good beer and story to go with it. Fiona also has Cordy's ability to call his partner on his brooding/uncommunicativeness and the sensitivity to the plight of the most vulnerable of victims that makes the group even more determined to help them. And I love the resonance between Fi's Freelance Bounty Hunter gig and Wesley's stint as a "Rogue Demon Hunter."

The comparison extends to Michael's mother and brother who complicate and also enrich Michael's life in much the same way that Angel's family (Spike, Darla, Dru, Connor) do. Finally I see similarities in the overall season arcs. "Burn Notice's" first season had alot of stand-alone stories that established him as a "helper of the helpless" but also had a continuing backstory of him struggling to find out who burned him. Michael wanted desperately to be unburned so he could be an official spy again in much the same way Angel wanted the Shansu and to be human again.

But when season 2 started Michael found himself deeper in the clutches of a shadowy covert organization that was more than a little like Wolfram & Heart. And his nemesis Carla pretty much took on the mythic nature of a Buffyverse "Big Bad." After the season 2 finale where he learned that the organization that burned him is as hard to ultimately take down as the "Senior Partners," I'm sure Michael is questioning whether or not he really wants to be unburned again. It may be that he can do more good as his own man.

In the first episode of season 3, Michael has to deal a female Miami police detective who reminds me a little of of Elisabeth Röhm's Kate Lockely. I'm really looking forward to seeing how their relationship plays out.
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10 out of 16 homicide cases this year in my hometown of Savannah remain open [Aug. 2nd, 2009|03:17 pm]
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That's a 38% clearance rate. Closing and prosecuting homicide cases is usually a lengthy process, so the rate should improve as time goes by, but that's still alot of killers who are remaining free. Savannah is probably not doing as bad with murders as cities like Balitmore, but it is definitely lagging behind cities like New York, which has revolutionized its policing methods and seen a huge drop in crime, including homicides. I don't think things are as bad in Savannah now as when I was growing up and saw one or two murder stories on the local news every week (there were 29 homicides in 2008), but still its bad enough especially when you consider that alot of crime victims who would have died in past are now being saved because of improvements in first responder and trauma medicine services.

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Big feasabilty study about moving up to Division I status at my alma mater released [Aug. 2nd, 2009|02:26 pm]
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Ever since Georgia Southern restarted its football program in 1981, there has been a strong and steady under current of people who want to see us move to Division 1 and compete every week with the likes of UGA, Auburn, Florida State, etc. We have done very well in our current Football Championship Subdivision (previously Division 1-AA), winning six national championships and numerous Southern Conference championships. But the thought of our 18,000 student University nestled in the relatively low population and low income area of South Georgia competing against institutions with double or more the number of students and much greater community resources to draw on is a daunting prospect.

The study seems to support my belief that Georgia Southern has the administration and coaching leadership and recruiting power to support moving to Division I football, but lags behind in the number and generosity of athletic boosters compared to other schools. And while we would probably attract an adequate number of fans to a newly enlarged stadium, a large percentage of them would not be willing to see an increase of more than five dollars in ticket prices.

But the real kicker is that while Georgia Southern's football program would probably do relatively well, the rest of our athletic program would suffer in comparison. The increased revenues from football would be hard pressed to offset the added expenses of maintaining Division I athletics in all sports. And if the economy remains bad, there would be a much better chance of things getting overall worse for university sports rather than better.

To me, the report supports my belief than moving up to Division I would be like becoming a little fish in a big pond after being a big fish in a medium-sized pond. I don't think South Georgia has the resources at this time necessary to push Georgia Southern into the big leagues. I think we should continue to concentrate on being a great regional university rather than risk becoming a mediocre or even lackluster national institution. Hopefully we will have better prospects in the future.
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Article about uniqueness of "All Mental-No Pads" approach to start of NFL training camp confuses me [Aug. 1st, 2009|09:54 pm]


It confuses me because this is almost exactly what my teams in middle and high school did except we also had heavy doses of physical conditioning, which this article doesn't mention. I've never actually watched the start of any other teams' training camp, but until now I've never run across any evidence that the "all mental, no pads" at the beginning approach WASN'T in wide use in all of American football, be it youth, high school, college or pro.

I attended a small high school so we never cut anyone, which is one of the main purposes of NFL training camp. And there were laws that regulated when and how often we could have official team practices during the year, an issue the NFL doesn't have to deal with as much and means their players are much more mentally and physically prepared at the start of training camp than my teams were. But still my coaches explained the value of repeated no-contact drills as way to mentally prepare for full-contact drills and also to reduce the chances of injuries and I took it as a given that this was a wide-spread principle.

I realize that rookies probably do alot of no-contact stuff in their earlier mini-camp and returning players shouldn't need it as much, but still rushing right into full contact seems kind of counter-productive to me. My team got a new head coach at end of my freshman season and he could only take a week off his current job to coach that year's Spring Training for us, so he chose to do full contact the whole week as a way to cram as much training into our limited time as possible. But during that week we concentrated on fundamentals and only ran a limited numbers of plays and didn't have any kind of scrim at the end because we didn't have time for anything else. And despite all the neck exercises we did in the weight room during the off season, we all still had incredibly sore necks after the first day of practice because it takes awhile for your body to get used to wearing a heavy football helmet and exercising and hitting other people with it on. Is this not a problem for all those teams that go full contact on the first day?

So either I was mistaken or things have changed alot in the last 25-odd years or the reporter doesn't know what he's talking about when he says the Oakland Raider drills are "like nothing they’ve been through before as football players." Surely some of the players have done something similar in one of their previous levels of football, correct? Does anyone else have knowledge of this issue?
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Evidence of science-fictional concepts like Singularity creeping into mainstream culture [Jul. 31st, 2009|12:55 am]
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Its always interesting when I see an idea or concept from a science fiction novel show up or get referenced in real life. Today I attended a virtual conference on providing library services for mobile/cell/smart phone and other handheld device users and one of the keynote speakers used the singularity concept as one of the cornerstones of his discussion on how technological culture is evolving. He even mentioned Vernor Vinge and Ray Kurzwell.

I first encountered the singularity meme 20 years ago in Vinge's "Marooned in Realtime." It impressed me so much that I tried to explain it in French to my classmates while studying that summer in Quebec. I'm not sure how well that really turned out, but never-the-less it seems like the word is spreading :)

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Stephen Baxter and some thoughts about Galactic Evolution and Humanity's Ultimate Fate [Jul. 28th, 2009|10:17 am]
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I've recently finished reading Stephen Baxter's "Manifold: Time" (available as a free e-book from http://www.suvudu.com/freelibrary/ ) and "Manifold: Space" and they have inspired fresh thoughts about what humanity's place in the universe might be. The Manifold in the titles refers to the concept of multiple universes and divergent timestreams. "Time" focuses on one of these universes and humanity's near future exploration and manipulation of the universe and the basic principles underlying it while dealing with the seemingly inevitable doomsday scenario inherent in the supposition that if the humans alive today are in a random place in the whole human history timeline, chances are we are about halfway through it. And even if we manage to escape that doomsday and spread to the farthest reaches of this and other galaxies, humanity (and everything that we evolve into) must still somehow deal with the expanding universe and its eventual heat death. The three main characters in this story (including astronaut/space entrepreneur Reid Malenfant) go through a series of stargate-like devices that reveal the ultimate fate of the universe and all seems hopeless until the downstreamers (our descendants, who may be time travelers) reveal that they have a plan to reshape our evolution and the nature of the universe itself.

"Manifold: Space" focuses on a universe where humanity is not alone, where in fact life evolves in all sorts of places (even the moon). But the aliens are mostly really alien and can not or do not care about making meaningful contact with humanity (kind of like John Varley's Invaders). And some of them want to use our solar system as raw materials in a desperate, hopeless bid to outrace the periodic galactic extinctions caused by gamma ray bursts from binary neutron stars colliding and similar events. In this universe no sentient species is given the time needed to evolve on a truly galactic scale because of the extinction events. Everything seems fragmented and hopeless until one of the more advanced alien races reveals there is a galactic plan to escape one of the extinction events and thus gain time to evolve beyond them. And it turns out that humanity and an alternate version of astronaut Reid Malenfant has a part to play in that plan.

These books are like catnip to me and I can't wait to read the third one in the series, "Manifold: Origin." I've probably been curious about the eventual fate of humanity since I read John 14:2 in the Kings James Bible:

"In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you."

This helped me realize that there may be more to the world than what I'm thinking, feeling, and doing right now. Reading Issac Asimov's "I Robot" got me hooked on science fiction, in large part because I was fascinated by the concept of Asimov's robot evolution. Fred Saberhagen and his "Berserkers" advanced that concept more for me as well as Greg Bear's "Forge of God" and "Anvil of Stars."

I encountered similar concepts concerning humanity in other SF books. David Brin's "Uplift" books were a real eye-opener and mind-blower because of his concepts of technology driven-evolution and galactic migration towards becoming transhuman (transentient?). Vernor Vinge's "Marooned in Realtime" and its singularity meme gave me still more brain food. And Larry Niven's "Known Space" books dealt with these themes too. David Weber's "Dahok" series uses some of these themes in an optimistic, space opera fashion.

I know I'm forgetting many things that have influenced me on these subjects over the years. Over time I've seen these themes permeate the popular media. "The Sarah Conner Chronicles" was exploring the nature of machine evolution and humanity's response to it and "Battlestar Galactica's" finale gave a pessimistic, but still science-fictional solution to the "endless cycle of rises and falls of civilization" quandary. I like the fact that BGS's solution resonates with Baxter's "it doesn't matter if our specific civilization survives as long as civilization eventually survives" theme. Unlike Reid Malenfant, I'll probably never live to see the ulitmate fate of humanity, but I remain hopeful that we will have an ultimate fate, not just an unnoticed fall into oblivion.
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"Burn Notice" star probably wishes Miami cops were more like the ones in the game "Vice City" [Jul. 21st, 2009|05:41 pm]
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Because cops in the game "Grand Theft Auto: Vice City" wouldn't have pulled Jeffrey Donovan over for suspected DUI after he swerved to avoid rear-ending a police cruiser. The rule in the game is: no contact, no foul and they will sometimes ignore you even if you steal a car or kill someone in their sight.


This connection comes to my mind because I'm currently playing "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas." It occurs to me to that "Burn Notice" would make an interesting GTA--type game. I would be happy to see more non-lethal methods used in a game of this type. I try not to kill any "innocent" people in "San Andreas," but sometimes its hard because I'm kind of a bad driver :)
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Three encounters with Horus in three days [Jul. 19th, 2009|01:57 pm]
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Thursday morning I caught the last 40 minutes of the 2004 Gallic SF movie "Immortal" which featured a "Fifth Element"-esque future in which a CGI Horus in hybrid bird/human form who for some reason possessed some French dude so he could rape a three month old yet fully adult blue chick several times and impregnate her before his fellow CGI Egyptian gods pass judgment on him for something and imprison him. The movie also involved a demonic-looking land shark used as an assassin.

Friday afternoon I watched "Hancock" and it was pretty clear to me that the Horus myth figures into the backplot of the movie. Don't want to spoil too much for those who haven't seen it yet.

And Saturday I started re-reading (for the third or fourth time) David Weber's "Empire from the Ashes" trilogy in which Horus is a main character and actually a proto-human who was stranded on Earth 51,000 years ago. I remembered the character, but hadn't remembered that his name was Horus and that he was the inspiration for the Egyptian god until I read the 3rd or 4th chapter again, so I was surprised by my three encounters with Horus in three days. I guess I could have gone for 4 days in a row by watching "Stargate" again for the Horus guards or one of the "SG-1" episodes that feature Heru'u (Horus the Elder) but three is good enough for me :)
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