Actual Progress

Over the last decade or so Peter Thiel has made a point of claiming that other than computer automation, technological progress has been at a standstill.  And he’s essentially correct.  From about 1900 to 1960 we went from horse power to nuclear power.

From 1960 to 2020 we went from nuclear power to wind power.  This is not technological progress.  It’s surrender.

And this is mostly a psychological problem we’re facing.  We haven’t hit any quantum barrier that forbids us from improving almost every aspect of our technology.  Even the make-believe problems we create have solutions that are neglected by the dim-witted “technologists” that preside over our decline.  A good example is the farce called recycling.  Currently we are all forced to dutifully separate “recyclables” in a separate pail from the rest of our trash as if this was a magical process that allowed these paper and plastic waste products to somehow become usable materials.

But in reality, the majority of this material is landfilled along with the non-recyclable garbage that we collect in the other pail.  And the reason is simple.  Crude oil is a cheaper and better raw material for making plastic than plastic scrap.  Maybe in the far future when petroleum runs out, our landfills will become plastic mines that we’ll tap for a feed stream in our manufacturing process.

Of course, another thing it’s good for is as fuel.  Paper and plastic are mostly hydrogen and carbon and as such they make incredibly good combustion fuels.  Buring these materials in a garbage incinerator associated with a turbine generator would be the most efficient use of these waste materials.  But, you know, Gaia.

But let’s assume that at some point in the next twenty years, first world people are going to get tired of being forced into third world squalor.  At that point I’m guessing that the first direction selected for energy production will be nuclear fission steam turbine generation plants.  Sure, maybe they’ll have to pay lip service to global warming pieties.  Maybe they’ll even build solar powered carbon sequestration projects to please Gaia.  But at some point, people will demand to have the amenities they’ve become accustomed to; reliable electrical distribution and convenient transportation.  In the long run what the source of that power will be is yet to be determined.  My theory is that geothermal energy will supplement and maybe replace nuclear in the long run.

One thing I’m not sure of is what will be the fuel for transportation.  Many people have said that hydrogen is too hazardous.  Maybe they’re right.  It does tend to go boom when trapped in an enclosure.  Well, it’s cheaper and easier to make than octane but with unlimited electrical energy from something like widespread nuclear or geothermal I don’t see a problem with an octane synthesizing plant.  Carbon dioxide and water are available in endless supply so all that’s needed is cheap power.  And there’s a lot to be said for a really well-built internal combustion engine car.

But this is all just getting back to where we were in 1960.  What will real technological progress look like?  Ironically, I think that there will be an emphasis on Gaia!

I think quality of life innovation will be the future.  Research into the detrimental effects of all the chemicals that we add to our foods and come in contact with our bodies will begin shaping the products our industries produce.

And likewise with containers.  Maybe bottles will start being made of glass and metal again.  Some of the older materials were safer and newer alloys and other materials can be tested and whatever the healthiest choices can be substituted for things that may be harming us.

So better living through chemistry may become something more than just an empty slogan.

With all the talk of AI I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the progress, we can expect from the ongoing computer automation revolution.  Eventually all automobiles will be subject to traffic control in densely crowded traffic.  Despite our strongest resistance, this will happen in many jurisdictions.  The nanny-state is just too strong in places like California and New York.  For many people this will be welcomed.  It will relieve them of the responsibility of driving.

Artificial intelligence will eventually make large scale industrial economic planning much more efficient.  Supply chain coordination for a whole network of companies producing a multitude of products will be optimized and trends and changes tracked and compensated for.  How this will effect capitalism remains to be seen.

Maybe the greatest use of AI will be in bioresearch and medicine.  The enormous complexity of living systems and the almost infinite number of chemicals that need to be tested for toxic and other detrimental effects cries out for the brute force that artificial intelligence can bring to bear on bioresearch and development.  I can see a future where the oncologist is a computer that scans the DNA of a cancer cell and chooses a custom antibody coded precisely to attach to and kill only the cancer cells and nothing else.

And the final area of progress is a sentimental one for me and one I’ll never see.  Mankind should send an unmanned probe to Proxima Centauri.  I guess HAL 9000 will be in charge of this mission.  It will require an enormous tank of water that will be used as rocket mass.  A fission reactor will be used to boil the water as a jet to provide acceleration.  Maybe it can get up to .3c and so the round trip will be something less than a century.  It can take readings and photos and see if there are any little green men there and come back and let us know.  Now that’s progress.

People’s Republic – A Book Review

Kurt Schlichter’s novel, “People’s Republic – A Novel” is an action-adventure story set in a near future where the United States has fractured into two separate countries.  The People’s Republic of North America encompasses the west coast and the Great Lakes and east coast down to about half of Virginia.  The remaining states are still called the United States of America.  There was at least some combat between the two groups of states but at the time of the story it has settled into a bickering of guerillas at the borders.

(Spoiler Alert – Skip down to last paragraph to avoid spoilers and read recommendation)

Now the story is not about the civil war or the current relations between the two countries.  Rather it is an adventure story about an undercover operation by a family to rescue a woman who foolishly defected to the People’s Republic.  The main protagonist is a former special forces soldier who earns his living by smuggling people across the closed border from the People’s Republic to the United States.

Together with the woman’s brother who is also a veteran they go on an odyssey to reach Los Angeles and rescue the girl and also carry back a data base full of the names of spies currently working in the United States.  Along the way we see the results of the radical progressive agenda in the People’s Republic and the growing discontent with the extreme economic hardships that exist there.

The book is liberally seasoned with fights, gun fights and escapes.  This is solidly in the action/adventure genre and provides a fast paced and well-written story.  There is a fair bit of progressive bashing built into the plot but being a progressive-basher myself I enjoyed it pretty consistently.  I would happily recommend this book to anyone on the right side of the political divide who enjoys action-adventure.  Progressives will definitely not enjoy how the Left is characterized.  Oh well.

Talk the Talk

Regular readers of this site know I tend to make fun of H P Lovecraft’s prose style.  In his better written stories, it has a quasi-nineteenth century sound to it.  But in some of his less ably written material it instead just sounds kind of overblown.  But recently I’ve been listening to a YouTube channel called Horror Babble by some guy called Ian Gordon who sounds a little like the actor who played Jay Peterman on Seinfeld.  He provides an accent that, I guess, is supposed to sound like something between 1920’s Oxbridge English and possibly early twentieth century Boston Brahmin.

After listening to a few of these recordings I’ve realized that this presentation makes these stories incalculably more entertaining.  Let me qualify this statement.  It doesn’t make the stories better horror stories.  But the presentation is just more fun.  I think the accent makes the ridiculousness of the stories seem intentional.  It’s camp.

And maybe it works because that’s more or less the “voice” that Lovecraft was hearing in his own head.  It’s always seemed to me that Lovecraft’s work was sort of an homage to Edgar Allan Poe.  And because Lovecraft lived far removed from the era when Poe’s prose was contemporary and because Poe was a consummately better writer Lovecraft’s language always seems stilted.   But with a spoken word interpreter somewhat bridging the gap with his theatrical reading it somehow works pretty well.

Now most of you probably already listen to audio-books.  The only ones I’ve ever listened to were Larry Correia’s Adventures of Tom Stranger with Adam Baldwin providing the voice talent.  And come to think of it the specific voice really does make a big difference in the enjoyment of that story too.

Well, anyway, this little epiphany has got me thinking about the voice that you hear when you write something.  I mean, unless you’re writing a character that’s more or less you, how do you hear that character or characters speaking.  What do they sound like?  Is it a regional accent?  And that’s kind of a big deal.  If all my characters sound exactly like me that might make it hard for my readers to see these characters as real people.  Going back and reading some of my dialog I would say that there are definitely differences in speech for the different characters.  And this is most noticeable for characters that differ in sex, age and generation.  So, I’m not worried that I have to reinvent all of my dialog.

But it does occur to me that maybe I’d like to add some characters that have very flamboyant speech patterns just to give the story some extra zing.  After all, even Shakespeare added dialect characters to make some of the scenes comical or memorable.  His dialect characters were usually Irish or Welsh or Scottish.  I guess I could throw in a Southie from Boston or a South Asian character for good measure.  But if I really want to get exotic, I’ll throw in a Millennial Social Justice Warrior.  Now that’s a foreign language that’ll take some practice.

An Entertaining Movie Review of “Independence Day”

There is a YouTube channel for a guy that calls himself “The Critical Drinker.”  He has some kind of Gaelic brogue whether it’s Irish or Scottish or fake.  And he pretends to be drunk in every review.  And he swears a blue streak so be warned in advance that his videos are not safe for work or home or anywhere that genteel ears are present.  But he is extremely funny and his criticism is often very accurate.  This review of Independence Day is well done and identifies why this ridiculous film is still so enjoyable despite being a ridiculous film.

Heinlein’s Short Stories – Gentlemen Be Seated

Today I was rooting around on YouTube and found this audio version of one of Heinlein’s short stories from “The Green Hills of Earth” collection; “Gentlemen, Be Seated.”

I haven’t read that story in fifty years.  Unsurprisingly it’s still a good story.  Nimoy’s voice sounds very un-Spock-like.  I think he does a very decent job.

My Thoughts on the New Movie, “Civil War”

I have not gone to see the new movie “Civil War.”  And unless something comes out to convince me otherwise, I won’t be.  I watched a bunch of video reviews by people who went to the early IMAX screening.  And based on these reviews I understood that the director wanted the audiences to feel that the movie is drawing no comparison between the existing political sides in the United States and the fictional factions that are at war in the movie.

The director wants the audience to think that the movie is about the unstoppable desire of the four journalists to document the war and also about the horrors that would break out in the event of an American Civil War.  So that doesn’t sound like a partisan set-up waiting to mug unsuspecting conservatives after they plunk down their hard-earned movie money.  But the more I thought about the details of the movie the less convinced I was that this was an even-handed film.

I think the first “tell” I found was the fact that in the movie the dictatorial three term president had disbanded the FBI.  Now everyone knows that the FBI is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Obama/Clinton/Biden crime cartel.  And that Donald Trump has called for the FBI to be purged and possibly closed down.  To me this is the clearest sign that the rogue authoritarian president is meant to be Trump.

The second sign that the civil war is being presented as a battle between the Left and the Right is the scene where a “white” militiaman is pointedly asking the non-white journalist what kind of an American he is.  The implication is that at least one of the seceding entities is made up of white nationalists murdering non-whites.

But for me the thing that makes it most likely that I won’t enjoy this movie is the choice of protagonists.  The heroes of this drama are intrepid journalists.  These pillars of democracy are there to present the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help them CNN.  After all, when might we have seen journalists reporting from a war zone with less than the complete truth?  Hmmm.  Oh, I remember, the fiery, but mostly peaceful George Floyd riots when half of America’s cities were looted and burned.  Yeah, that was it!  Why wouldn’t I buy into a movie where these paragons of objectivity were the heroes?

Based on the reviews and the statements made by the cast and director they are putting this forward as a completely neutral film.  Well, of course they are.  Alienating the half of the country that enjoys action movies is a recipe for box office failure for a movie like this.  But I’m extremely tired of paying for movies that portray me as what’s wrong with this country.  I’ll let someone else pay for that.

And it’s a shame I won’t be going.  From what I’ve read and seen, the war sequences are pretty exciting.  And they do blow up Washington DC pretty convincingly, which sounds like fun.  Maybe I’ll wait until it’s streaming for free or I can rent it from the public library.  Oh, and one last thing.  The guy who plays the evil president doesn’t look like him but he sounds exactly like Mike Pence.  I’m okay if the Western Alliance takes old Mike away for high crimes and misdemeanors.  That I’d be okay with.

Cthulhu Attempts to Swallow the Sun and Fails Badly

The First Selectman was miffed about something.  Maybe his shadow appeared a little too portly or his reflection in a dank lake was a little too unflattering.  Whatever it was he attempted to swallow Earth’s star.  Luckily he’s not the Elder God he used to be.  All he got was a nasty burn around his mouth tentacles, a case of butthurt and a dose of reality.

I collected this shot at the moment of maximum effort.

Metallic Crystals, Imagination and the Persistence of Memory

In July 1971 I had finished up my freshman year in high school.  And I was a poor kid who used the Brooklyn Public Library as my main source of books.  So each month I would trek to my local branch and take out the latest (or the closest to latest) issue of Analog Science Fiction magazine.  In that month’s edition, there was an illustration on the back page of what was a photograph of what was purported to be a futuristic city that was being eroded by unimaginable eons of time as it lay dead under a dying red star at the end of the universe.

Actually, it was a scanning electron microscope photo of lead-tin telluride crystals.

But it sort of reminds me of the bismuth crystals that I used for today’s photo of the day.

I wonder if the anonymous author of that blurb was John Campbell.  But I can understand his imaginative description.  It is apt.

Funny how these things stick with you.  Wow, that’s almost 53 years ago.

Serializing the Uncompleted Novel Sniper – Installment 20

For anyone who has read all or part of the story and would like to help me gage its quality, I’ve added a poll at the end to get some feed back on what you thought about the book.

Thanks

photog

 

As part of my previously discussed plan to make my site more interesting to me I’m going to publish my ongoing attempt at a dystopic science fiction story, “Sniper.”  Part of my reason for putting it up on the site is to get feedback from sf fans and also because I hope at some future time to finish it and put it up for sale.  If anyone likes the story, I highly encourage him to spread it to anyone among his acquaintances or sites that he thinks would be likely to be interested.  After all the whole reason for the internet is mass communication.

Also, I’m encouraging all comments; positive and negative.  Feedback is greatly desired.  And away we go.

 

 

Link to Installment 1

 

The American Archipelago

Book 1 – The Sniper

Chapter 14 – Aftermath

The world woke up to a strange new America.  Panic reigned supreme in the corridors of business, finance, diplomacy and almost every other endeavor that had formerly been overseen by the Global American Empire.  Things were just generally pandemonium.  The Strategic Air Command was in high level communication with global allies and adversaries reassuring and threatening that the United States nuclear arsenal was still the deadliest power on the planet.

But aside from that organization, the rest of the United States leadership in whatever capacity was in stunned inaction.  Finally, the governors of Maryland and Virginia agreed to declare a joint state of emergency and call in their National Guard units to restore some semblance of order in Washington DC.  At first, the command of the army units based in Virginia balked at a state government taking this initiative.  But after confirming that neither civilian nor military hierarchy effectively existed within Washington anymore, an ad hoc arrangement was worked out to utilize the guard units to crush the very serious rioting and looting going on in the city.

Eventually the Maryland governor requested that his colleague in Virginia establish some kind of temporary council to run the day to day needs of the city.  The mayor of DC had been murdered during the rioting and the rest of the city government had fled.  The Virginia governor reluctantly agreed and so slowly and painfully martial law began to bring that benighted city back into some kind of order.

In places like Manhattan and Chicago; Los Angeles and San Francisco there was stunned disbelief.  After the announcement of the nuclear strike on the “terrorists” and then Connors’ broadcast of his decapitation of the United States federal government the oligarchs of the American Empire were in shock.  With much of the managerial elite dead and the databases and systems that they used to direct the levers of power, no one in the lower echelons of the government knew how to respond to this disaster.  The strike had taken out whole divisions of the government.  The FBI now consisted of the local offices.  The Justice Department had effectively ceased to exist.  Interestingly so had the IRS.  And the intelligence agencies had been especially targeted.  All of the data repositories including the “cloud locations” of these agencies had been destroyed completely.  The attacks had been thorough and precise.  Nobody in the remaining portions of the federal bureaucracy knew anything.  They were isolated and completely overwhelmed by the scope of the losses.

But outside of the cities the reaction was quite different.  In the red states and even in the countryside in the blue states it was as if a great weight had been lifted off the shoulders of these people.  Their oppressor was gone.  And it was as if they heard the quote from Revelations, “And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.”  And even though many feared that this fall would unleash chaos and war and death, still, they felt their hearts lightened and people began to hope that  life would become better without the tyrants who ruled them from DC.

Current end of unfinished story. 

 

Dear Reader:

Thank you for reading part or all of my unfinished story. If you don’t mind would you answer the following question:

How would you describe the story so far?

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