Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Activism Redux

I am reminded again of just how strongly I want to get into politics every now and then.

This morning during the commute I tuned into NPR as usual, catching the unfolding news of the day and looking for the subtle indicators which delineate the pulse and sway of the represented corner of humanity.

Not long into my audienceship I felt the urge to demonstrate a vulgar but futile gesture at the tuning controls (but refrained) and instead switched over to classical music to soothe my now-incensed disposition. The music worked only slightly, though did prevent me from seething too deeply; not enough to erase it from off the current stack though, which is why you get to hear about it here.

I am not normally given to emotional upset at the words or actions of others. To do so is to be within their control by abdicating my own responsibility and creates situations of desire and conflict upon them of which they are not aware, nor to which they bear any true ownership. I much prefer the closer-to-Zen philosophy of a Persian proverb:
He who takes offense when none is intended is a fool. He who takes offense when offense is intended is usually a fool.
Though I strive to overcome the "usually" in that second portion of the phrase.

This morning differed somewhat in that I did allow arousal of infuriation as I heard values of tolerance maligned (perhaps unconsciously) by those placed in positions of influence by their various constituencies. I believe the weight of representation and voice placed upon those politicians to have been betrayed by the stupid catty remarks and positions they are choosing to take on a topic of some importance.

The catalyst for my outrage is this: Yesterday, Nouri al-Maliki, current Prime Minister of Iraq, participated in a press conference with President Bush in what was orchestrated by the present administration as a symbolic hurrah of flag waving and international solidarity. However, when P.M. al-Maliki was asked about his views on the situation between Lebanon based Hizbollah and Israel, he provided a view point which differs somewhat from that of Pres. Bush, stating that he believed the best course would be an immediate cessation of hostility followed by diplomatic communication; contrary to the position of justification in Israel's overwhelming response and futility of a cease-fire until diplomacy is already established held by the U.S. Government.

This difference of opinion has prompted some of the participants in our diplomatic process to call for a boycott of P.M. al-Maliki's speech today, or even for the leader to publicly alter his belief to be more aligned with their preferred stance; that, "a cease fire would accomplish nothing." Even going so far as to say that somehow the Prime Minister's words mean that he does not feel Israel's response is appropriate or that they "have a right to defend themselves."

It is this display of ignorant indignation (and inference, just to round out the upset "i" words) which I have allowed to rile me. Here, a man from an allied nation whom we purportedly support, expresses the wisdom of his station in a region continually awash with bloodshed and all accompanying pains. Knowing that the prevention of loss of life on any side is in itself an accomplishment and a valid first step in reducing heartache and destruction.

The response of those trusted officials to suppose opinions not stated by assuming the most negative conclusion, and even request that he change his mind to appease them, is fantastically close-minded. It feels like the "rich old white-guy" kind of ignorance of blind, untested belief in principles of their own somehow justified supremacy simply because they're not the ones getting shot at.

Walk a mile in his war-torn and bloodied shoes, gentlemen. You can still disagree with him, but don't dare disrespect him in our names.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Slush: DaVinci Part II, 17 1/2 teeth, Misc.

Re:DaVinci - My expectations of ever actually fulfilling that are quite low. Which doesn't mean I won't put forth effort and move along with it so far as it will go, even prodding it energetically if it slows down (just to make sure it's sill breathing, or to know when to abandon). I figure there's nothing in the experience which won't be beneficial to personal and professional growth.

The way the math works out, it would be basically equivalent (to the investors) of hiring an executive over on R&D division on a roughly $300K salary plus discretionary project budget; not that far out of sight of current trends (or my own experience and qualifications, I hope), and with far fewer hang-ups than would normally be involved at that level of employment (not looking for stock options or extra perks, or even to maintain an inordinate amount of control over... well, anything really).

I also plan to do most everything on that list anyway - some of the business ideas are a little more time sensitive, based largely on the current climate and evolution of related fields, and will naturally fall by the side into that bin of vindication labeled, "I Thought Of It First" (or the companion, "Boy I'm Glad I Never Tried That"). I, like I'm sure many if not most of the populace, have enjoyed seeing a number of my ideas come to fruition over the last several years through the hands of others (Surface-conduction Emission Display [SEDs] being one of the best - came up with that on a walk home from school once, though I'm sure long after the folks at Canon & Toshiba had started trying to prototype it). My goal then, in asking for the cash is to get a head start on things - but not anything I'm not shooting for regardless.

Re: 17 1/2 Teeth - I've long had some small measure of bragging rights about my arduous dental (mis)adventures. Enormous infant and baby teeth which left little room when the adult versions began to make their appearance, an extra tooth (perfectly conical fang, almost dead-center of the top row: turned one of the others sideways and sent a chain reaction all the way back), and malformed wisdom teeth so deeply impacted that their scraggly roots started to merge and almost pincered together. I had 8 baby teeth pulled to help make room for the adult teeth, the fang, 4 more adult teeth to make room for the crowding wisdom teeth, and then said wisdom teeth. Grand total of 17 teeth removed from my mouth over the years (and 9 years of orthodontic work to boot, with headgear!) in an attempt to soften the influence of my ancestry from across the pond.

This last Monday the crown was finally installed over the root canal I've undergone; a temporary had been molded and placed with milder cement while the nice porcelain cap graduated from a contracted lab. In order to provide the correct surface to bond to, however, the tooth (now pretty much hollow) had to be tapered and plateaued. A large amount of the material is now completely missing beneath the shiny new exterior.

I can still only cite 17 teeth pulled - but can up the count to 17 1/2 that have been removed.

Misc. - Acute anterograde amnesia. I've recently learned of a family of pharmaceutical chemicals with the ability to inhibit the formation of (most) new memory during its administration without impairing the existing or short-term memory, or cognizance of the subject. This plays very beautifully into a variety of thought experiments, but mostly as fodder for a story concept I've had on a back shelf for a while: The Washhand Murders. It's a working title, be nice.

The premise is simple enough - a contract agency coordinates to take out a hit on an individual of your choosing, for a price and a favor. They help to establish a firm alibi and reduce the potential indicators of motive, and commit the acts so anonymously that a long string have never been effectively connected to one another (admittedly, a fair number of them do look like horrible accidents). In working out the contract, enough incriminating evidence is gathered against the client to be able to wield influence and leverage of an uncomfortable and desperate sort: enough to have them, on the agency's behalf, carry out one of their staged murders (presumably for another far-removed [for now] client).

Pushing a person effectively to that limit without exposing the organization has always been a point of implausibility I've been trying to work around. Looking over this pharmacology though, how far do you suppose a person would be willing to go if they could be absolutely sure to never remember any of it? The possibility is also now open to more securely anonymize the identity and nature of the organization, were they to discriminatingly administer the agent prior to key conversations and events. I'll leave off here for now, my own thoughts are still simmering and not particularly well organized yet - but they smell good on the stove.

That's it for now - it's late and I'm tired. G'night!

Monday, July 17, 2006

DaVinci Initiative

I want to be the recipient of $2MM USD in venture capital - with as loose of strings as possible. A discussion as to why (aside from the obvious) follows:

A common passive-aggressive tendency decries the fortune of wealth and opportunity of others as an unfair distribution, insinuating that were such splendor bestowed more equally or fairly (i.e., upon the complainant), similar "worry-free" success would naturally result. To this type of personality the grievance is a means of absolving responsibility for actual achievement by placing it upon the distant real or imagined figure; removing the requirement to make attempt without damaging the pretense of unbridled personal potential. This case does not, however, diminish what may well still be an accurate observation when viewed from a less self-oriented perspective: that the undeserving are at times seemingly afforded greater means while other more worthy candidates remain unpunished.

"Undeserving" as a title carries tremendous amounts of baggage. I believe it to be most commonly implicitly bestowed (as opposed to expressly remarked upon) during the expression of other related grievances. Perceived incompetence (especially of hierarchical superiors in business, or loathed celebrities), gross opulence or conspicuous consumption, or insensitivity to the under-privileged: the long-lived missquote, "Let them eat cake," aptly embodies all of the above. Conversely, the honestly endeavoring character of misfortune evokes deep sympathy and natural generosity (the reason this role is so classically successfully employed by con artists). Middle-of-the-road examples and extremes of the blessing of the worthy and cursing of the vile also abound.

Altogether, this roughly computes through an internal and social algorithm to determine the opinion of how deserving or undeserving a person (or creature or abstract entity) is of their current station, and provides justification for response and behavior toward that person. A stereotypical mid-life crisis, in this terminology, would be an attempt to reconcile the lack of deserved success upon the worthy yet somehow overlooked self.

The full exploration of the applicability of the assumptions I've just outlined is beyond the scope of this article, however.

I'll leave it at (and segue with): honest results from hard work are rarely challenged. The dumb luck aspect invites the true cynical scrutiny, and my requesting a windfall of cash should do just that. What audacity inspires me to think I should be given nearly boundless resources to pursue my own ends, and what measure of work can possibly justify and off-set the suspicion? The specifics will be reserved for the official solicitation/proposal, but the gist of it is thus: I have too many ideas I want to get more than a small start on, and a number of "distractions" I would like to get out of the way in order to do so. That idea bank is comprised of several business initiatives requiring due diligence and a budget, a few inventions (less likely I'll be exploring those though, based on lower ROI expectations) and software packages, and a prose novel or two. I have no illusions that I would be set for life (that's not the goal), or that I would not be required to make repayment based on the success of these projects: venture capitalists are not strictly philanthropists, after all. The probability of the endeavors bearing fruit greater than the invested moneys is the real question; hopefully I can convince him/her/them that the answer is a qualified and unequivocal yes.

The five-to-seven year plan starts with a large bonus to the sole proprietor (me) sufficient such that after taxes and charitable tithes the outstanding debt on the house is erased - quite a hefty bonus. The remainder would be used to establish an institutional trust out of which I would continue to draw less than half my current annual salary (seeing as I really wouldn't need more without the mortgage) and which would be used to fund the aforementioned undertakings (acquisition of materials, talent, advice, as little travel as possible, etc.) as approved on the basis of individual proposals.

The first 2 years would see implementation of a pilot program from one of the more promising business concepts and the simultaneous completion of the first novel. This is assuming an overhead of up to 30-40% (in terms of time) spent in communication, reports, and analysis of other ideas put forth by the investor(s) - myself acting as an entrepreneur-in-residence. I would contract with other resources as necessary to assist me in reaching the ambitious goals (well, except for the book - editors maybe, but no ghost writers).

In return for the funds, any and all rights and ownership (including copyrights to creative works) of these creations reverts immediately to the control of the financial contributors. Similarly, at the sole discretion of investor control the income from projects will either be reinvested into its origins, in order to prove self-sufficiency, or be used toward repayment.

At the conclusion of the 5-7 year span some non-exclusive rights would be returned to me (to allow me the use of characters and material from creative works should I decide to continue a series), but the disposal of all other ventures would be at the whim of the owners, who would of course be free to retain my involvement under newly negotiated contracts should they wish to do so. I'd also be keeping notes and journals about the whole exercise and attempt to distill the experience into an Entrepreneurial Handbook of sorts fo subsequent publication.

The reason I've been referring to this intrigue as my "DaVinci Initiative" is due to the multiple disciplines involved, and because of visions of unfettered creativity and (hopefully less cryptic) notebooks packed with the exploration of bringing imagination to reality. No delusions of grandeur - at least, not many - and not attempting to classify myself among the true masters through such ad hoc association by any means.

But with the explosive wealth of information readily available to the common man, one could reasonably expect a new renaissance by now. Let's have at it, shall we?

Monday, July 10, 2006


I'm going to take a moment here and go off on the stupidity of the mass media. It's nothing new, everyone knows the willful ignorance is a shallow dig for viewers, and I doubt anything I say here is new. But I am annoyed enough to say it.

Worse yet, my gripe is about a simple, petty story, too: not some national, international, or global issue about the evolution of humankind's insensitive and barbaric relationships with one another (though the lack of coverage on these types of concerns is just as emotionally inflammatory). It's about a teenager who happened to be struck by lightning while wearing an iPod.

For one, the pseudo-celebrity status of the novel iPod brand is almost the only reason this is being covered: the uniqueness of the combination of elements barely comes in first if at all. The sensational aspect of this is the emphasis that one with an iPod must somehow exercise greater caution as they are seemingly placed in a higher risk category; supported by the fact that there were taller trees "nearby" (we're not told how near) which were un-touched.

The graphic imagery is trotted out of a burned line down each side of his head from the extreme heat generated when the electricity discharged through his ear-bud wires and miscellaneous other minor burns. His mother is cited as believing that the cords acted as an antenna and attracted the lightning to him.

It all sounds like a setup for lawsuit from the nearly implausible event.

Very few sources I've seen on this yet have made mention of the comments of qualified meteorological personnel that the device probably had nothing to do with it, and then only in a line or two blurb near the very end of the text. Televised renditions have been completely silent on that observation, as well as the following facts and details:
  1. Lightning arcs to the ground in order to dissipate - the only way it could actually have struck the iPod is if it contained enough electrical potential (several hundred millions volts) of an opposing charge to the static building up in the atmosphere to be able to satisfy the difference.

  2. Much of the damage suffered by lightning strike victims is based on the thunderous concussion of rapidly expanding air, leaving many deaf from the event. The fact that the current had some place to travel more efficiently than ionized air means that the local effect of the thunder was likely significantly reduced and may have softened the blow to his hearing (possibly to be destroyed again by the high-gain volume of an iPod in the future? - as reported in other recent trends). As my brother pointed out, when lightning does discharge through a person (rather than the more typical "flash-over" event, which travels across the surface) it uses the circulatory system and places the heart at significant risk. Thus it may also be argued that an additional life-threatening risk was completely mitigated.

  3. The victim was MOWING THE LAWN. Hanging on to a large hunk of metal much closer the earth, making far more use itself of electricity than was the iPod and even generating atmospheric static with the rotating blades - although any effect those would have had is minuscule next to that of the metallic content.

  4. The lightning didn't come out of nowhere: proper caution was not being shown in the first place.
I wish him well in his recovery, and am sympathetic to the harrowing ordeal he's been through. I fully expect these feelings of good-will to vanish if someone decides to sue Apple or the hardware manufacturers and distributors; making them (the feelings) conditional and perhaps petty of me as well.

I normally try not to apply contingencies to my sentiments, as it causes me to be subject to forces beyond my control (having surrendered them). I'll work on that in this case, too - but will still in all probability be annoyed for a while all the same.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Root Canals and Face Hoses

I was an excellent couple of hundred words into what I consider to be a beautiful post this afternoon.

Then looked up a factoid in support of said post on a separate Firefox tab. Unfortunately the resulting site contained adverts in a format with which this champion browser couldn't cope, and after I switched back to the Blogger tab the whole thing froze, and had to be put down.

This is a lesson to me that I need to resurrect my "save early, save often" habits from back when I used Microsoft products: I can't trust the web.

But I still want to write, so I'll put something in here:

I had most of the rest of the follow-up on the root canal. The rest of the stuff was hollowed out and filled, and the tooth tapered and plateaued to be able to accept a crown. Said crown is being crafted at a lab to be fitted in another week and a half after which I will be done with the rest. I stand by my original statement that it's really not that bad, as far as dental procedures go.

More interestingly and completely separately, I've had a chance to follow up somewhat on the sleep study. I still haven't met with the specialist who reviewed it, but he's sent me through 2 other hoops in the meantime based on his review of that data I have yet to see (the last study I had done approximately 5 1/2 years ago revealed ~200 waking episodes a night, but only mild apnea if at all - it's any guess what's in this one). One of those hoops was a CPAP titration which has left me with a device to strap on my face every night, forcing air into the nasal cavity and keeping airways open. Results have been slightly mixed, based on compounding factors of allergies and having a 7 week old at home; but overall have been quite positive. Mild to moderate exertion isn't coming back to incise my posterior, the ability to focus is retained past 10am, appetite has decreased and hunger now comes with weakness instead of fatigue.

And the chest pain? Turns out there was massive acid reflux into the esophagus which had eroded enough to impact a shared nerve, causing referred pain deeper into otherwise unrelated areas of the chest cavity.

That was my first experience with referred pain - which was confusing, because even my deep hypno-meditative states indicated separate pin-point areas which one wouldn't think of having anything to do with stomach acid. Furthermore, while I did experience frequent heartburn, it seemed to have more to do with how well rested I was and how hard I was working - a pattern that didn't match the arbitrary on-set of the other acute discomfort.

The second experience with the mobile anguish was the root canal: I could have sworn is was my back tooth on the top right. Would have bet $100 on it. Dentist took a good look at it, tapped on it, and failed to elicit a reaction. Tapped the one directly below it - not next to it - and my head promptly exploded. Was the darndest thing, since my jaw hadn't been bothering me at all.

I suppose I've had one instance before either of those, but which I designated "phantom sensations" instead. That was while healing from a knife to the hand (self inflicted in an accident during which I wasn't doing anything with a knife - it was the process of "sitting down" actually) which had severed a nerve in my thumb. The exterior of my right thumb lost all sensation but the wound site, roughly halfway between the base knuckle of the thumb and the wrist, could be jostled (unintentionally - no way would I ever cause myself that kind of grief on purpose) and create excruciating pain and conflicting signals regarding the insensitive area: crushed, ground, burning and freezing in an electric current that brought dark stars and tears to the eyes. Instinctually grabbing and nursing the "affected" area yielded nothing, since that's not where the sensation originated regardless of where my neurology manifested it.

Brought new dimensions of physical understanding to my life, such as few events have (which can probably be listed on one hand).

I'll go spend some more time with the family now - I'm still enjoying the transition from Director to Skilled Grunt and all its accompanying surprises.