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Missed the shot by a week, darn it!
Published on December 7, 2014 By Phil Osborn In Science & Tech



Update: December 10, 2014

Still calm on the ebola front, if only because the action is taking place off camera, as in the reported hidden epidemic in Sierra Leone.  

Meanwhile, yesterday at work, it suddenly  occurred to me that there was indeed clear evidence that perhaps the radical feminists are more on target than I have been wont to credit.  Probably subliminally reflecting the focus at LOSCON on all kinds of gender issues, I suddenly remembered the plot line to a famous orchestral piece, one often used as an intro to orchestra for kids, slightly more advanced than the ever handy "Peter and the Wolf." 

I refer of course to Scheherazade.  See the wiki for the gory details:


Yet I recall listening to my parents explain the plot to the piece as tho there was nothing amiss.  Doubtless innumerable kids like me were fed this along with storys about ogres and child-eating witches, etc.  All harmless fun, right?  Or maybe not.  Do those pretty fairy tails, with the cannibalism, mayhem and, with Scheherazade, serial rape and murder on a scale perhaps only matched by Idi Amin,* add up to something? 

*From a reliable source - former career State Dept., Amin placed ads all over Europe for young models to come to the coffee houses and salons of Uganda.  They would be met by a uniformed delegation, all shiny and serious, who would take them to the palace, where they would be wined, dined, entertained and then raped by Amin, and then by everyone else, and then fed alive to the crocodiles kept in a pool in the basement.  This went on for years, according to the former State Dept. woman who almost responded to an invite - saved at the last moment by a CIA friend, who clued her in.

Perhaps a cultural blindness that allows us to join the military, knowing that such a choice entails voluntarily agreeing to kill other people on orders, no evidence required, and be applauded as a hero for doing so.  Like the prince who chooses a new virgin every night to rape and then kill in Scheherazade, and who is forever enshrined in some of the world's most beautiful music, how many other artifacts of our collective cultural subconscious entail that blindness to evil?  These package deals subvert our critical faculties.

So the bodies pile up in Sierra Leone, out of sight, out of mind, while the world culture of crude Darwinian competition rules.

Which brings up another evidentiary issue...  On the flip side of Scheherazade blase' acceptance and retelling of rape and murder as tho it were suitable to children, we find the OC library system shamelessly censoring via their internet filter anything to the South of "GQ."  GQ itself is verboten, unless you seek out the physical copy, of course.  Hegre?  Forget it.  Now, kiddies, here's the facts:

Sex is a GOOD thing - keeping in mind all the practical warnings about stupid behavior.  Sexual dichotomy (?) - men/women/other is so universal among both plants and animals that one HAS TO assume that it serves a major, essential, mind-bogglingly important function.  For one example, it basically separates evolutionary selection from the investment of having a child.  Males, in most species, take the risks and often die childless because their brains are geared to risk-taking to prove how adept and worthy they are.  Dying for sex.  Happens all over the place. 

However, both men and women play the "hard-to-get" game.  Let on that you're really hot for someone's bod and you will most likely be summarily rejected, and  possibly ostracized or even arrested.  So, on the one hand, you know that fulfilling your duty to carry on the species requires sex and sexual attraction and - for males, anyway - initiative.  But you have to pretend that the subject is of no interest or be branded a pervert or worse.  Never mind that most people of breeding age have regular sex, as evidenced by all those babies, which on average require 100+ sex acts per hit, or that 90% or so of people of all ages masturbate regularly, or that the vast majority of people choose to view porn.  (Porn is GOOD for you, BTW.)

We are still not out of the Victorian era sexually.  So, we can tell our kids the story of Scheherazade, without batting an eye, and then listen to the wonderful music that celebrates real sexual depravity, and fly a drone according to the President's daily kill list, and react in horror to someone accessing porn, and ignore the 1 billion people who go to bed hungry most nights.  And notice that I didn't have to invoke a diety at all in this sermon from the "mount."

For good reason, given that the most commonly accepted dieties are not exactly paragons of any recognizable virtues, other than a vast capacity for beastly mayhem.  But if you accept that ethos - that God defines what is "good," (What? You're going to argue with a being that made the universe and knows everything and can do anything?) then you can accept that its ok to murder by wire, so long as you can trace the chain of responsibilty back to Him, or his elected proxy.  And you can tell the beautiful tale of Scheherazade to your kids without qualms, as God or the Prez or someone else has written off moral reality to get a more desireable fantasy.  And those people in Sierra Leone?   Losers.  Right?

Just one more brick...

Update: December 08, 2014

Just posted on the Occupy Economics FB site:

"Game Changer Alert:

Most of the world's human wealth is no longer land or gold or anything tangible, but rather the intellectual capital of centuries and millenia - and it keeps growing and diversifying from the real to the virtual and surreal.  Linden dollars from Second Life - among many, many others - have an exchange rate with US dollars and every other currency by extension.  See Charles Stross's "Halting State."

Now there is an added spin in the form of virtual objects that one can see, hear and now touch - or be touched by.  Imagine an empty space where a conference or three or four - or, simultaneously a band or orchestra - is playing - but only for people with the google contact lenses and something like kinect and now, an ultrasonics system that generates objects that anyone - even without any body tech - can touch and feel, right out of thin air.  So, perhaps in fact, the area is empty, except for the pressure one feels passing through invisable haptic objects that are merely standing waves - interference patterns between ultrasonic transducers.  Subtle and not hard surfaced, but definitely felt.

But only if you are among the privileged to afford the tech and pay the piper.  Imagine a world in which you can live in as heavenly a state as you can afford.  A Bill Gates could afford an army of paid, often human "manned" virtual avatars, witnessing and seeking the best and worst of what the real or virtual worlds offer, feeding their experiences to the owner and his buddies or lovers.  Let me have access to what you're experiencing in real time, and I - and perhaps millions of other people - will pay you a little or cumulatively, a whole lot, if you're of rock star calibre, if you're williing to go over the falls in a barrel or fight a lion for real.

This is for real."

Posted December 06, 2014

After I read this article from December 3rd, I went to the local Keanes coffee shop and dutifully set out to read Nietzsche's "The Genealogy of Morals."  I think it was his infectious, irreverant, funny to the point of hysterical laughing tone that completely caught me by surprise, kicking me out of a state of mallaise and depression.  Actually, I had DECIDED - damn it - that I WAS going to read the book.  But the problem was that I couldn't maintain that serious attitude due to damned Nietsche undercutting me at every turn.  What a smart guy!  So, thoughts about virtual haptic objects kept intruding until I lost the guilt and started calling all the people in the field who were on my cell contact list.

(We may have a mini sculdugery meetup at the Prancing Skiltaire party, as there are at least a couple people from that group who are in the field professionally.  Imagine you're in the theater watching a 3D movie and one of the characters reaches out and touches you - or SMACKs you - not very hard, to be sure, but enough to feel it. Or, you reach out and touch something that exists only in the movie - and you feel the contact, the texture, and the shape.  Imagine any of the major Disney furry films reprogrammed to create the haptic objects matching the 3D.
This haptic virtual object stuff makes that kind of immersive experience that much more attractive...  Being River in the final fight scene with the Rievers in Serenity.  <Or maybe try being a Riever, just for fun...>)

I had the idea of doing this back in the '60's, while getting my physics degree, and several of the people I called had also had similar ideas about using standing waves to create virtual objects.

So, I was talking to a guy from the furry species who is a master Linux hacker and a maker who builds all sorts of electromagical devices on the side.  He immediately caught the significance of the link above. As he was bringing up dozens of related links and we were discussing physical constraints on just how solid an interference pattern could really be without risking frying the user, it suddenly occurred to me that if it's a standing wave function, then it could interact with other objects - tap someone on the shoulder from accross a room or from a VR telepresence - become the Ghost in the Room - perhaps pick up a piece of paper remotely.

Increase the waveform amplitudes and you could, in theory, have a weapon, at least one that you could use in say a Kinect/RIFT assembly.  You would see it as a sword.  It would behave like a VR sword.  But, you would feel the bite of it, just not enough to cause real damage.  No special haptic body equipment required.  Anyone else in the area could also touch the blade or feel the thrust, somewhat faintly, if you attacked them in the AR.

I had called a local animation software developer first, but he was in ConLag mode from LOSCON and had the yearly Con Flu besides, so I didn't expect it when an hour or so later his CEO (and wife) showed up at the coffee shop with their artist daughter and friend and we then spent the next thirty minutes exploring the possibilities of the new tech.  I think that a new MeetUp is likely.

I was on a panel with J. Michael Straczynski - B5 - at last weekend's LOSCON, supposedly doing a retrospective on how it would be done differently today and in the future - or that's what I thought we were going to discuss.  Mind you, this was days BEFORE I read the article.  But I tried right at the start to bring up the context of interactive, multi-threaded, choosable viewpoint, immersive VR movies, with volunteer teams, perhaps, creating mini-environments within the main text.  Joe shut me down fast.  Joe gets things done like nobody else, so am I going to argue with one of the real geniuses of sf?  My chuzpa only extends to the lunar orbit.

Had I known about the additional potential factor of haptic objects, however, I would have probably worked that into several of the panels I was on, regardless of alleged content.  

So, my furry hacker friend, as soon as I mentioned the realization that had just dawned on me, started finding multiple sites where this is already happening.  I.e., this is real.  Imagine an overlaid or augmented reality, running off your google glass/contacts, in which you not only see and hear the virtual objects but can also touch them or they you.

 Hey, readers, please send me the links you find on this!

Meanwhile, if you're in the area in the next couple hours, you might want to check out the OCVR Hackathon - MeetUp, which will be winding down starting about 4PM today (Sunday).  I understand that then people who want to observe the new hacks and the new VR equipment are welcome.  At least I hope so.   No guarantees. 


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