A Pavlova for You

My signature dessert at parties has, of late, become the pavlova. It’s a wonderful dessert with origins in New Zealand. I’ve often had people ask me how to make one. So check this video, which is where I learned how, and enjoy! Happy Thanksgiving!


And one word of advice: in the pavlova base, don’t use powdered sugar. It just…doesn’t work.

This Is Worth Seeing

Continuing my new goal of largely posting positive things,  here’s this.

How Not to Respond to Terrorism

The French are attacking ISIS, as we all expected them to. Well, at last those of us who know history, and know that the French military has always been a force to reckon with. Anyhow, they’re bombing the shit out of the targets in Syria, and will no doubt kill a large number of ISIS personnel.

129 people were killed, so far, in the attacks in Paris, which is terrible. But how many more innocent people are dying as a result of the response? I’m willing to bet the number ends up being a lot more than 129, but, hey, it’s their fault for living in Syria and not trying to get out, right?

Attacking someone violently who has hurt you feels good. It makes you feel powerful and superior. It’s also a terrible idea in general, and a really terrible idea in cases like this. I mean, what, you surely don’t think that ISIS launched these attacks saying, “No, the French won’t attack us. No one will.”

No, they launched the attacks hoping to get exactly the kind of response that they’re getting. They want the violence. They want the death, and giving your enemy what they want is generally a bad move. The French attacks on them are a great publicity coup, and will help mightily in recruitment. You doubt me? Put yourself in the shoes of a 20 year old Syrian man whose mother was killed by a French bomb and tell me you wouldn’t want revenge. Hell, you’re probably just some American sitting at your desk reading this, and you already want revenge against ISIS. Now make it even more personal.

Violence begats violence, because of course it does. We have to stop lashing out militarily when bad shit like this goes down. It never works, it kills a lot more innocent people (100,000 plus in Iraq as a direct result of our invasion and the fallout from it), and it’s a waste of time and money.

You know what would be far better? Leading by example. Showing the world that we’re the better man by not using our military and simply showing how terrified we are, and what a bully we are. No, preach peace, preach justice, keep the military away from it all, and treat it like the crime that it is. Arrest those responsible, when you can, try them, and imprison them.

I’ll admit, that’s difficult in a situation like this, where ISIS was inspiring/directing from a distance, but even with this kind of situation, the best should do is support local opposition to ISIS. Even then we have to be careful. Historically it’s rather embarrassing, after all, when the dictator we prop up fights back against people wanting democracy and uses weapons we gave him to do so. So to when someone sees their village flattened by weapons that are stamped with, “MADE IN THE USA”.

But we can fight ISIS and the like in other ways, such as various economic means, plus isolating them as much as possible from the rest of the world. We can also continue to be vigilant and do our best to stop any terrorism here by Americans or from people overseas.

I know this is lots less sexy, and slower, and far more uncertain, than invading countries, bombing cities, and otherwise bullying our way around the world. But I’m willing to take that over the certainty of more violence, where the only “certain” things are more death, and more terrorists.

A Funny Conversation

In the interest of people being cheered-up, I thought I’d share the content of a conversation I had with a co-worker recently.

ME: 3 and 5 aren’t prime numbers.

HIM: What? Yes, they are.

ME: No, they aren’t. Because you can add 3 and 5 together to get 35.

HIM: What?

ME: Yeah. Any two numbers that you can add together aren’t prime.

HIM: But that’s all numbers.

ME: Right, that’s why we have imaginary numbers. Those are the only ones that are prime.

HIM: …

ME: Look, it’s not my fault if you don’t understand how math works.

HIM: …I hate you so much.


Things to Be Genuinely Happy About

I was going to write up a blog article about the attacks in Paris, and then I thought…no. It was a bad thing, and France’s response is going to play right into the hands of ISIS, just as our responses always do.

So instead of that, I thought I’d share a few fun, happy things that I’ve found out over the last week.

First off, and this is pretty much limited to a small group of people who will be made happy by it, Cloud Striffe is coming to Super Smash Bros.

This is great on several levels. First off, he’s always been a favorite character of mine (even while sulking constantly. At least he isn’t Squall). Plus he reminds me of someone I used to be involved with back about 15 years ago, and that’s no bad thing.

But also this is a great turning point for the relationship between Nintendo and Square-Enix. Back in the day, when they were just Square, they were going to developing Final Fantasy VII for Nintendo’s SNES successor system. That didn’t happen and things got…ugly. The bottom line is that for a very long time, there was nothing on any Nintendo system that was made by Square. That began changing a few years ago, and now we’re getting the culmination of that change, and that pleases me.

Of course, I’d be more pleased if Square-Enix could turn out a non-crappy FF game, but let’s not go insane here.

Another thing to be happy about? A resolution to a certain plotline in Doctor Who. You can read here for details, though be aware, Spoilers, ahoy!

You say you want some good news that doesn’t have to do with geek stuff? Pft. Fine. Ok, how about this? Polio is about to stop being a thing. This is excellent news. It stopped being a thing in the USA before I was born, with the result that I’ve only ever once met one person who was younger than me and who had had polio. In his case, he was raised in a Romanian orphanage, so…yeah. Polio was probably the least of what he had.

For those who want to continue to carp on vaccines and how terrible they are, let me remind you that because of vaccines, smallpox is on the ash heap of history and it’s quite likely that polio will soon be there, too.

Let’s turn to some happy political news. Trump is flaming out at long last. Carson is…well, just fucking weird. He’s leading in some key polls, but he won’t go anywhere in the long run. At this point, I’m willing to lay down money, though not much, that Rubio will be the nominee, which I’m sort-of ok with. He’s still more conservative than I’d like, but at least he’s not insane, and I can easily see him enjoying a nice, four year, caretaker term as president.

Of course, I still think that the next president will be Hillary Clinton. She’s really trouncing Sanders in the polls now, and barring something extremely unexpected, she’ll be the nominee. She’s a stronger candidate than any of the Republican set, and so I fully expect her to win.

Then of course, we have this to look forward to at the end of the year.

Yeah, I know we’ve been burned before, but it looks like this could really be an excellent movie. Disney rarely has any mis-steps, especially when it’s something this major, so hopefully it’ll be spectacular.

Lastly, here’s a cheerful little video with Jeremy Clarkson.

Oh, and in addition to all of this, you can, I suppose, focus on the fact that even now, the world is more at peace than ever before, poverty is decreasing, education is increasing, and the world is a pretty fucking amazing place to live in right now.

The Great Butchery

97 years ago today, World War One, that meat-grinder of a generation, came to a halt, with 38 million people dead or injured. It was the worst war up to that point in history, and the levels of sheer brutality and waste stagger the mind even today.

Of those 38 million, 17 million died. That’s over the course of four years and change. That’s approximately 11,000 people per day that were killed. That’s more each and every day than the total number of soldiers the USA has lost during the War on Terror. That means every five days, the allies lost the same number of soldiers we lost during the Vietnam War.

The First World War was a terrible, pointless affair, best summed-up in this exchange from Blackadder Goes Forth.

Baldrick: The thing is: The way I see it, these days there’s a war on, right? and, ages ago, there wasn’t a war on, right? So, there must have been a moment when there not being a war on went away, right? and there being a war on came along. So, what I want to know is: How did we get from the one case of affairs to the other case of affairs?

Edmund: Do you mean “Why did the war start?”

Baldrick: Yeah.

George: The war started because of the vile Hun and his villainous empire-building.

Edmund: George, the British Empire at present covers a quarter of the globe, while the German Empire consists of a small sausage factory in Tanganyika. I hardly think that we can be entirely absolved of blame on the imperialistic front.

George: Oh, no, sir, absolutely not. [aside, to Baldick] Mad as a bicycle!

Baldrick: I heard that it started when a bloke called Archie Duke shot an ostrich ’cause he was hungry.

Edmund: I think you mean it started when the Archduke of Austro-Hungary got shot.

Baldrick: Nah, there was definitely an ostrich involved, sir.

Edmund: Well, possibly. But the real reason for the whole thing was that it was too much effort not to have a war.

George: By Golly, this is interesting; I always loved history…

Edmund: You see, Baldrick, in order to prevent war in Europe, two superblocs developed: us, the French and the Russians on one side, and the Germans and Austro-Hungary on the other. The idea was to have two vast opposing armies, each acting as the other’s deterrent. That way there could never be a war.

Baldrick: But this is a sort of a war, isn’t it, sir?

Edmund: Yes, that’s right. You see, there was a tiny flaw in the plan.

George: What was that, sir?

Edmund: It was bollocks.

Baldrick: So the poor old ostrich died for nothing.

Sadly the ostrich wasn’t alone, and by the end of that episode, had plenty of company.

World War One doesn’t loom large enough in the American consciousness, and that’s a shame. We like to remember our clear-cut, wonderful victories, like in Revolution, when we beat the British, World War II, where we beat the Axis, and the Civil War, where we beat…well, other Americans.

But World War I is different. On paper, the US and the Allies won. But in reality, no one won that war. Millions dead, billions of dollars wasted, huge swathes of land devastated, nations destabilized, and the stage set for World War II: Adolf’s Revenge. It was a pointless, terrible waste, and maybe, just maybe, if we focused on this war and it’s outcomes more often, we might be somewhat less eager to rush into the next war.


The Coming (Permanent) Economic Collapse

The economy is going to collapse and never recover. What will take its place is something almost entirely inconceivable by modern standards, and yet it’s something that a good number of us will likely live to see.

So that’s just a bit alarmist.

Ok, let me back up a few paces.

First off, let’s assume that sometime in the next forty or fifty years, we develop clean, inexpensive energy. Like so cheap that it’s really pointless to charge anyone more than a pittance for it. This could take the form of, say, fusion generators or something similar. Something that is very efficient and very cheap. This will happen eventually, the only question is when. Once that happens, the stage is set for the economy to go bye-bye because of another interesting technological development.

Have you heard about nanotechnology? I’m sure you have. At its most basic, nanotech is the manipulation of atoms and molecules. This by necessity happens on a very small (nano) scale. Among other things, it lets you move around atoms, molecules, and possibly even sub-atomic particles. A few moments thinking will reveal that this enables us to quite literally turn lead into gold simply by making a few adjustments at the atomic level. Indeed, this is already possible, and can provide you with gold provided that a: you don’t mind paying several times the amount of money for the gold you’ll get, and b: you don’t mind that gold being highly radioactive. Also, it’s got an insanely short half-life, so you’d best spend it quickly.

But this shows that the basic premise of turning one element into another is possible. If we can do that, then surely we can rearrange molecules to change from one thing to another, right? Take some basic material and turn it into something else, like for example turning molecules of sugar into molecules of water by adding and removing the necessary elements.

If you can do that, then you’re on the path to, say, turn a pile of dirt into steak. Or turn some rocks into silk. Or, indeed, turn lead into gold and have it be stable.

I’m not going to pretend that this will be easy, won’t consume tons of money, or is going to happen tomorrow. But it seems likely that it will at some point happen in a cost-efficient way. Once that occurs, game over for the economy. Why?

Because as soon as you have one machine that can, with reasonable energy use, turn a clod of dirt into anything else, you’ve utterly destroyed the agricultural, manufacturing, and financial industries. If I can turn dirt into dinner, what do I need to go to the grocery store for? If I can transform another pile of dirt into a new tablet PC, what do I need to buy one for? If I can transform a third pile of dirt into blocks of gold, then doesn’t the financial system lose all meaning?

This happens as soon as you have one machine that can do this, because that machine will presumably be able to replicate itself. I’m sure there would be all sorts of safeguards and regulations against using them to do that, but I’m equally sure that people will find a way around those. I can promise you that within only a few months, maybe two years, of someone inventing a machine that can do this, it’ll be basically everywhere, especially if it coincides with cheap energy.

Now if all this sounds familiar, it’s because there’s a certain sci-fi franchise out there that has done much to popularize the concept.


In Star Trek, especially from TNG onward, they had something called replicators. These used very localized versions of transporter technology to create various items from base materials (maybe. It might have also been a direct conversion of energy to matter). This was used for food, drinks, toys, whatever.


The result of this, and the very cheaply-produced energy that the Federation has, was that no one had to work anymore, and that money didn’t exist. Oh, you’d have some people who worked because they enjoyed their jobs (most of Starfleet, the Picard family with their vineyard, Sisko’s dad with his restaurant), but no one worked because they’d starve if they didn’t. The concept was pretty much alien to the people of the Federation, as was the concept of money, especially to humans. Jake Sisko was often genuinely baffled by the idea of money when he and Nog discussed it, and he’s not the only one. It’s clearly and repeatedly established that the Federation doesn’t have or use money (caveat: there was mention of “credits” in TOS, but that might have simply been something Federation personnel were given to use in places outside the Federation’s economic zone).

The Federation is what’s called a “post-scarcity economy“. This means just what it seems it would; production of the basics for survival is so incredibly cheap that it’s basically free, therefore no one does without. This sort of economy is inevitable once you have something like replicators with energy production so cheap as to be basically free.

Also, the Federation is, as a result, basically a Communist utopia in the proper, Marxian sense, but that’s a discussion for another time.

I think we an all agree that life in the Federation is basically pretty super, and that it’s a great goal to aim for. The tough part is what’s going to happen in the early years when we first have this sort of technology come into our lives; namely the permanent collapse of our economy as it currently exists.

Time for one of my thought experiments!

It’s 2059, five years after the first of these “replicators” winds up appearing. Within a few months, most everyone had one. Layoffs began very quickly, as industry after industry realized they couldn’t sell anything. Oh, a handful continued to exist, because there will always be snobs who want to say, “This food I’m serving you was actually grown! And that chair? Someone built that thing!”, but for the most part, no one was making anything physical anymore. The agricultural industry shrunk to a small group of hobby farms serving the vanity crowd I mentioned above, and the banking industry almost completely vanished. Why wouldn’t it? Nothing physical has any value anymore, and even if people have money, what are they going to spend it on?

Rapidly, people wind up being homeless. No job means you can’t pay your rent. Of course, your landlord also now can’t afford to do anything with their property, and possibly won’t even be able to pay their property taxes, so that’s a thing. This leads to a bizarre situation where people have no homes, but they have their replicators, or access to someone else’s, so they’re sleeping on the streets, but doing so in silk-lined sleeping bags, on top of comfortable air mattresses, and eating steak at every meal.

Now five years after this began, unemployment is well over 80%, with the only real jobs being those in the entertainment and information sectors (people do still want art, sports, and the like, after all). At this point…

At this point…what? I genuinely have no idea what happens next. I know that at some point in this scenario, we basically end up with something akin to the living standard the people of the Federation have, but what happens to get us to that place? There’s massive unemployment, huge numbers of homeless people, and the government hasn’t even got the money to step in and help. So what gets done?

I have no idea, but I do know that in 2059, I’ll only be 87, and with technology moving as it has been, there’s a good chance I’ll be alive at this point. I hope I am, and I hope we do get technology like this. The transition from what we have now to what things will be like after this technology is going to be terrifying, exciting, fascinating, and in the end, the best thing that’s ever happened to our species.


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