fighting the lack of good ideas

what if human cloning …

… instead of making a unique individual spawned from a synapse record instead created the reverse of a horcrux? For those who haven’t seen the Harry Potter movies or read J K Rowling’s books, a horcrux is an object (potentially “alive”) into which a wizard can split his/her soul to make themselves harder to kill. They also provide an intermittent link (apparently in an on-demand, individual basis) between themselves and the horcruxer.

In The 6th Day, syncords are used to transfer a person’s identity, memories, etc into a human blank.

In the Newsflesh trilogy, we’re not told how cloning is done, but just that there is a way of recording the state of someone’s brain and implanting it into a new body.

In Jet Li’s The One, we are presented with a multiverse in which everyone exists in alternate versions of themselves – but when one of the multiverses loses an instance of a person, their physical energy/strength/etc is transferred to their remaining “selves” until eventually all instances die, at which point there is no place for the energy to transfer, and it is eliminated (I think – it wasn’t really explained in the film).

Discounting the possibility of a multiverse, what if every time a clone was created, while the current state of mind was implanted to give a common history, going forward all simultaneously-extant instances of the individual would not branch their histories, but instead would create a hive mind, each gaining the experience of the others via “inverse horcruxification”? Ie, instead of splitting the soul, it would diversify the mind, and create extra ‘containers’ in which the person can experience the world.

Multiplicity kinda went down the line of thought, but while all the clones worked together, they weren’t creating a shared memory/history of their “lives”.

I think it could be pretty cool to explore this concept in a good book/movie (or even series).

zombies and vampires

Many people recently have asked me why I like [some] zombie and vampire stories (and, more generally, why they’re so popular right now), and after taking the time to think carefully on the topic and explain it to them in person, I thought I’d do my 3 readers a favor and write it out here as well.

First, the two apparently-different genres have several similarities:

  • fantasize about what could be done with [effectively] unlimited power
  • fantasize about existing as an amoral being – one who is no longer bound to human standards because of their “conversion” to something other-than-human
  • follow a “scorched earth” scenario to clean the slate and allow individuals to create new societies (also, consider The Postman and other apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic stories)
  • fantasize about how humanity as a whole can recover from an unconventional apocalypse (so many stories have gone the “nuclear option” that it’s almost passé)
  • explore the dark side of the human condition without being criticized [as much] for talking about taboo topics (eg racism and [healthy] feminism in Night of the Living Dead)

Second, the history of the undead in mythology goes back a long time before the modern era of Twilight and Night of the Living Dead.

In many ways, zombies and vampires are the prototype supervillians we love to hate in comic books.


Vampires (in some form) have been mythologized for at least a thousand years. That wikipedia page goes further to note that dating back to at least the Mesopotamians there were stories of protovampires. Additionally, various recent archaeological news stories show “vampire graveyards” being found all over Europe – some dating 2000-4000 years ago.

Modern fascination with vampires started a long time before the paranormal romance section in your local bookstore started (which predates Twilight) – we can backup to Dracula by Bram Stoker for igniting the interest in vampiric stories over the last ~120 years in the West. However, until Twilight came along, there were very few vampire stories which had “good” vampires in them – Wesley Snipes’ Blade trilogy did, as has Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Dark Shadows (which, as a sidebar, starred characters with the last name of “Collins”, which has made me wonder whether Stephanie Meyer picked “Cullen” for her prime protagonist family’s last name because of the “positive” vampires in the previous series), and, arguably, Interview with the Vampire.

You might also claim The Munsters and The Addams Family romanticized (along with comedicized) paranormal relations (both human to non-human & non-human to non-human).

However, the vast majority of stories surrounding undead creatures who appeared human but drank the blood of mere mortals, or who could morph into bats was far more prolific than any “good” rendition of the genre. Surely there is a reason that, in general, when we hear “vampire” the first thing we think of is something coming to suck our blood and make us like themselves (or dry us out like the creature Imhotep did in The Mummy).


What about zombies? And no, I am not referring to the voodoo zombies (though it’s where we get the term from). The undead who come to prey on the living have been glorified in Western pop culture horror, scifi, and fantasy stories for at least the last century. And they have existed in mythology dating back to at least the Epic of Gilgamesh.

The basic background always falls into one of a few camps:

The zombies portrayed always fall into one of three types:

  • “believable” – ie, slow, uncoordinated, existing only to feed and replicate their infection/condition, and gradually getting worse / more decomposed
    • may include non-human zombification, but generally within certain “guidelines” (eg the animal size and type (mammal) limit in the Newsfleshiverse)
    • traits of the recently infected/”undead” most closely resembling the uncontaminated “living”
    • may have zombies display apparent semi-rational activity as the virus (most often) in control decides whether to feed or replicate (generally related to the time elapsed from contamination and/or from last feed/spread activity)
    • may display hive/swarm “mentality” in large enough groups (Mira Grant and George A Romero)
    • any of George A Romero’s works, or the AMC (and graphic novel) series The Walking Dead are good examples of this classification
  • “superhuman” – fast, ravenous, unintelligent, but displaying swarm/hive mentalities
    • because the adherents of this theory tend to discount decomposition to some greater or lesser degree, the universes tend to be substantially more violent and bleak than in the “believeable” category
    • the Dawn of the Dead remake 9 years ago, 28 Days Later, and the movie adaptation of World War Z are prime examples of this zombie theory (interestingly, Max Brooks’ book World War Z (my review) did not have the superhuman zombie type on display)
    • not all superhuman zombie examples are outside the realm of plausibility outside their own worlds, but most stretch believability past where you could think, “hey – that could happen” (especially when dealing with “infections”)
  • “transhuman” – research / engineering gone wrong
    • this category tends towards the superhuman
    • may (and often does) include non-human zombification
    • can only exist in the world created by the imaginers – ie, the background explicitly makes known that it is not “our” world, but the one of the story-teller’s making (though, of course, it may closely mimic our world)
    • Resident Evil is a perfect example of the transhuman category


The CDC released a “Zombie Preparedness Guide” in the last few years. Some people have scoffed at the concept, citing the guide as a prime example of government waste – up there with the $7600 coffee pot on the C-5 Galaxy and congressional pensions.

However, especially because of the recent spike in interest of the topic of zombies among the general public, such a guide is a fantastic way to raise public awareness to general emergency preparedness, under the guise of humor and fantasy. Such techniques have been employed throughout history (thinking in somewhat recent past, consider the cartoons that accompanied movies in the 30s, 40s, and 50s or the “duck and cover” songs with the turtle propagated during the height of the Cold War; you could also cite the “this is your brain .. this is your brain on drugs” ads from the 80s and 90s with an egg and then the same egg cracked and sizzling in a frying pan).

Unlike aliens (and demons, djinn, and similar otherworldly beings), vampires and zombies do not come from anywhere but “here” (excluding the intergalactic space dust creation theory of Fido and others – where the zombies are terrestrial, but the cause is not). The purely terrestrial – though typically unexplained, and certainly not understood – nature of the creatures that want to eat us gives them an unusual power over our psyche that cartoonish or non-terrestrial evil cannot. If aliens, a la those in Independence Day, come to invade earth – there’s not much we can do (because by now they’ve all seen the movies we’ve made, and know not to come here if they’re allergic to our bacteria (War of the Worlds), hygrophobic (Signs), or running compatible-with-a-Mac-and-CodeWarrior computers susceptible to electronic infiltration by a cable guy with a master’s from MIT).

If vampires exist, depending on which vampireverse is most true, there are ways of destroying them … though it’s hard (fire, silver weapons, the sun, etc).

And if zombies can exist, we all know from every good zombie story (though first promulgated in the Night of the Living Dead) that we can kill them “in the brain and not the chest, headshots are the very best”.

If vampires and zombies are our most primal supervillians, who are our superheroes to deal with them?

Though mentioned, there are many of other myths of the undead, third-world, and/or otherworld inhabitants, including jinn (include Vikram the Vampire in Alif the Unseen by G Willow Wilson (review), aliens, and daemons. Perhaps I’ll get around to writing about them someday. But for now, I’ll keep them as mere passing references.

avnet buying seamless technologies

Avnet (AVT) is acquiring Seamless Technologies (my employer).

Full Press Release (well, the important part): (and WSJ reprint)

Avnet, Inc. Announces Agreement to Acquire Assets of Seamless Technologies, Inc.

Significantly Expands Cloud and Automation Solutions

PHOENIX–(BUSINESS WIRE)– Avnet, Inc. (NYSE:AVT) announced today that it has agreed to acquire substantially all of the assets of Seamless Technologies, an IT private cloud and data center automation service provider. Seamless Technologies provides expertise and services in IT infrastructure software technologies, automation, cloud, virtualization, integration, and Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) best practices. Seamless Technologies has developed a robust cloud practice, working with customers of all sizes on their transition to private, public and hybrid cloud environments. The company generated revenue of approximately US$14 million in the 2012 calendar year.

“Recent services acquisitions have been well-received by our partners. This latest acquisition adds a critical component to our expanding services portfolio, with private cloud, virtualization and data center automation services that broaden and deepen our suite of solutions for our customers,” said Tony Vottima, senior vice president and general manager, Avnet Services, Americas. “Our capabilities span presales through implementation, training and managed services, which create new opportunities for our suppliers and reseller partners.”

Founded in 1992, Seamless Technologies has created a unique set of intellectual property and software that enables faster integration and deployment of large-scale private cloud and IT infrastructure environments. This acquisition will be integrated into the operations of Avnet Services.

“The addition of these new service offerings supports our long-range vision of solutions distribution, delivering technologies, services and solutions that provide high business value and accelerate hardware, software and services sales. Seamless Technologies’ domain expertise in financial services, healthcare, and insurance will complement our SolutionsPath® strategy and enable our partners and customers to achieve their business goals,” Vottima added.

This transaction, which is expected to close in approximately 30 days, is immediately accretive to earnings and supports Avnet’s long-term return on capital goal of 12.5 percent.

vet visit

This morning was our dog’s annual vet visit. Though we have not lived in Corbin in a few years, we still take our dog to the vet my inlaws use in Williamsburg. Why, you may ask? Because the whole visit is less than half the cost of going to one in Lexington.

That’s crazy.

I know it’s a lower-income part of the state to be in the Corbin/Williamsburg area, but half the cost for a vet visit?

Oh well.

Just means we have an excuse to go visit my wife’s family an extra time 🙂


I learned about the call command in Windows recently.

Some context – was trying to run a command via HPSA at a customer, but kept getting an error that the program was not a recognized internal or external command.

Very frustrating.

Then one of the guys I worked with suggested adding a “call” to the front of my script. That worked like a champ. Here’s why.

When the HPSA Agent on a Managed Server receives a script to run from the Core, it runs it in a headless terminal session. This means that while environment variables (eg %ProgramFiles%) expand properly, if the first part of the command is NOT a built-in from cmd.exe, it won’t execute. Unlike *nix which is designed to run most things headless, Windows never was (and isn’t still as of Win2k8R2).

The built-in command ‘call‘ forks the next command to a full session (albeit still headless), and enables cmd.exe to run it properly.

Now you know.

digital preservation

I have been an active member on the Stack Exchange family of sites [nearly] since StackOverflow started a few years ago.

Recently a new proposal has been made for Digital Preservation. Many of the proposed questions are interesting (including one of mine) – and I would strongly encourage anyone interested in the topic to check it out.

The topic has resparked a question I have had for a long time – why is it important to archive data?

Not that I think it’s inherently bad to hold onto digital information for some period of time – but what is the impetus for storing it more-or-less forever?

In tech popculture we have services like Google’s gmail which starts users at a mind-boggling 7+ gigabytes of storage! For email! Who has 7GB of email that needs to be stored?! For a variety of reasons, I hold onto all of my work email for the duration of my employment with a given company – you never know when it might be useful (and it turns out it’s useful fairly frequently). But personal email? Really? Who needs either anywhere near that much, or to hold onto it for that long? And those few people who arguably DO need that much, or to keep it forever, can afford to store it somewhere safely.

I think there is a major failing in modern thinking that says we have to save everything we can just because we can. Is storage “cheap”? Absolutely. But the hoard / “archive” mentality that pervades modern culture needs to be combated heavily. We, as a people, need to learn how to forget – and how to remember properly. Our minds are, more and more, becoming “googlized“. We have decided it’s more important to know how to find what we want rather to know it. And for some things, this is good:

If you are a machinist, is it better to know how to reverse-thread the inside of a titanium pipe end-cap, or to go look up what kind of tooling and lathe settings you will need when you get around to making that part? I suppose that if all you ever do in life is mill reverse-threaded titanium pipe end-caps, you should probably commit that piece of information to memory.

But we need to remember to forget, too:

when you need to make two of these things. Ever. In your entire life. In the entire history of every company you ever work for. Well, then I would say it’s better to go look up that particular datum when you need it. And then promptly forget it.

The historical value, interest, and amazing work that is contained in the “Domesday Books” is amazing – and something that has been of immense value to historians, archivists, politicians, and the general public. Various and sundry public records (census data, property deeds, genealogies, etc) are fantastic pieces to hold onto – and to make as available and accessible as possible.

Making various other archives available publicly is great too (eg the NYO&WRHS) – and I applaud each and every one of those efforts; indeed, I contribute to them whenever I can.

I continuously wonder, though, how many of these records and artifacts truly need to be saved – certainly it is true of physical artifacts that preservation is important, but how many copies of the first printing of Moby Dick do we need (to pick an example)?

I don’t know what the best answer is to digital hoarding, but preservation is a topic which needs to be considered carefully.

the gold standard

This is going to ramble a bit, and I’m not 100% sure my opinions are even remotely reasonable, but I had a great conversation on the Gold Standard recently, and thought sharing that would be fun. The quoted sections are relevant parts of the conversation from my friend*, and the unquoted segments are my responses.

I’ve seen pundits, or as I call them, “blowhards”, on both sides of the aisle claim that even suggesting we return to the gold standard is madness. Maybe it’s just because I’m not an economist, but I don’t understand that – we had like 3-4 thousand years of experience with the gold standard; we have less than a century with floating currencies. Why is it so crazy to say “we keep getting into trouble this way, maybe we should fall back until we’ve got this figured out better”?

The only issue I can see with returning to the gold standard (or the silver or any other), is that since gold is by nature a finite resource (whereas many others, while finite, are growable (eg crops, industry, etc)), there would be no reason to have an “exchange” between different countries, and that it would make an effective universal currency – to some extent, undervaluing the currency systems of every country that chose to use the standard, and globalize (even more) our economies.

Plus, it makes issuing loans (and receiving them) substantially more difficult – and loans are NOT always a Bad Thing™.

For example, if, say, Canada and the US use the gold standard and decide that $1000 US is one ounce of gold, and $500 Canadian is one ounce of gold, the exchange “rate” is fixed – and it’s fixed to something that is increasable, but only at a fairly fixed rate (how fast you can acquire/generate gold). Whereas if you have floating currencies with no “real” backing, exchange rates can change based on the relative health of each country.

By setting a fixed exchange (which is what the gold standard would do … like what China has been doing for years to the US, but only on paper), is that it can cyclically under- and over-value individual countries currencies and economies, ultimately bringing more down at once when a few fail (or, of course the reverse – bring more up when some few major ones succeed).

During the early part of the last century, we were still mostly working with gold, and we had both the Great Depression, and some of the greatest economic growth ever seen.

The Great Depression, imho (though, admittedly, a biased, and fairly-underinformed opinion), was about 90% perception, and 10% reality – a fairly commonplace occurrence in economics, but one that was exacerbated by the [initially] fixed relations between the various national currencies

Also, imho, basing currency on a fixed standard (like gold) was truly only viable in an era of poor communication (I’d personally argue that shortly after the telegram became more than a technological marvel, this became more and more true until it was universal) – with poor communication, perceptions take a LONG time to be transferred – which correspondingly means that “news” was A) old, and B) taken with larger grains of salt than we *tend* to take it with now, since comunication is [effectively] instantaneous. {I have no research or citations to this point – yet: it is currently only my opinion.}

In my opinion, by floating currencies against each other and the relative strengths of each country involved, crashes are slowed (not eliminated, of course). Of course, again, the reverse is also true – booms are flattened-out. So, I’d view the floating-currency approach as one that will *tend* to flatten local (and global) booms and busts into substantially smaller ripples, rather than major mountains and troughs.

Not being an economist, I’m not sure I understand why that should be. What’s the evidence for that? How can we be certain that’s a good thing? Maybe the cycle of mountains and valleys is important, socially?

[not being an economist either,] I’d *think* that it would be better to keep the mountains and valleys more stable / less high|deep, so that slowdowns aren’t felt by a disproportionately small community/niche of the economy, and so that speed-ups can have a “good neighbor” effect to bringing some of the underperforming sectors ‘along for the ride’.

As to question 2 – I don’t *know* that it’s “a good thing” … but I also can’t say it’s a ‘bad thing’, either.

I’d be happy to hear arguments that either oppose mine, or are different 🙂

I think my strongest one would be that we used the gold standard for like 4000 years, and it seemed to work very well for us nearly globally during that time. As far as any possible good neighbor effect from flattening things out, it may be that social upheaval is an important component of progress: almost all major advances thus far in history have had some component of socio-economic shift; flattening those upheavals could very well have consequences that we can’t foresee (I realize this is a weak, speculative argument, but it’s worth considering).

There’s also part of me that feels like floating currencies are so much handwaving and voodoo. You talked about how they allow countries to create exchanges that are tied to their relative health, instead of some fixed point – but isn’t how much currency they’ve arbitrarily decided to create often used as one of the measures of health? If so, that’s somewhat circular logic: if floating currencies let us control how much inflation we’ve got, and inflation is one of the health metrics, then what prevents nations from trying to hide economic problems, just the way that nearly every EU member has done over the last 15 years?

Isn’t it exactly the fact that their currencies were floating relative to one another before hand that allowed them to hide so much of their debt before entering the euro zone? Or have i misunderstood that?

Prior to the “euro zone” cluster****, country finances were a LOT less open/transparent, too … kinda like a private vs public company (not that public companies are as transparent as would be helpful, but the comparison stands).

I feel like if they’d been the gold standard, the euro zone negotiations would have been more along the lines of:

“ok, so how much gold have you got?”
“oh, quite a bit!”
“ok, well, we’re going to need to count all of it, so that we can figure out how many euros to give you.”
“oh, well, we have quite a bit of gold!”
“yeah, still need to count it.”
“oh. um. crap. …fine”

It’s a lot harder to hide how much actual wealth you have, when your wealth can be reduced to a physical object, instead of just assertions on paper.

However, if you’re going to count the gold nuggets (or whatever), it’s also trivially-simple to elect to *NOT* show your whole hand … which would seem to me to be the same economic sleight-of-hand as can be done when asked “how many barrels of oil do you have?” and you reply “we’re recovering 5million bbl/day”

That’s not an answer – it’s interesting information … but not an answer.

In this particular case, there’s no benefit I can immediately think of to hiding your wealth – the whole point was to get your finances into a good enough shape to be able to qualify for the euro zone. The shenanigans were more about hiding debt than hiding wealth.

I think that hiding wealth *could* be beneficial to make yourself *appear* weaker than you are, so that when you “need|want” to be “strong”, you can be. It could also be from a detail-vs-gestalt approach.

So now I ask all of you – is this plausible/reasonable/right? Or am I smoking some serious space crack?

*He gave me permission to quote him as appropriate if desired