Saturday, April 29, 2006

For the Fashion-Conscious Astronaut

Scientists at MIT are developing the next generation of space-suits. Finally, a space-suit that approaches those depicted in science-fiction games and movies. Check out the awesome gallery of concept artwork.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Today's Longevity Link

Exciting new research into an aberrant protein that seems to contribute to aging. Finding a way to block this protein could possibly lead to revolutionary anti-aging treatments. Of course, more research needs to be done. All is explained in this article at

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Fun with Geographic Information

A friend of mine just clued me in to the most most amazing use Google Maps (or similar service) that I've seen. Zillow allows you to enter an address and then view estimated home values superimposed on a satellite photograph of the neighborhood (along with the values of all the other houses in the neighborhood). It's a major time-suck, as I couldn't resists checking out our house, the homes of people I knew, and the neighborhoods where we are hoping to move. Fantastic.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The Euston Manifesto

Ok, I'm dipping my toe into politics... but my first post on that topic should be fairly uncontroversial. I have recently discovered The Euston Manifesto, a call to arms for progressives who are tired of being associated with the irrational anti-Americanism of the radical Left. While written by British Leftists who no-doubt hold views that I disagree with, I can find very little to quibble with in the actual manifesto itself. Indeed, it comes very close to completely summarizing my own political views. If the Democratic Party leadership were to clearly embrace the principals of this document then we might finally restore a healthy balance between Right and Left.
I would describe myself as a left-leaning moderate. I lean right on economic issues and I strongly support free trade and responsible budgetary policy (something that used to be called conservative). On social issues, I lean a bit much more to the left. As you might imagine, the Bush years have been particularly hard on me.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

There there, Tongue Tongue...

...He weeps for he has but one small tongue with which to taste an entire world.
I just couldn't resist quoting (or paraphrasing) Dr. Mung Mung when I saw this article that describes the military's efforts to  use the tongue as an interface for new battlefield sensory data. Mmmm... tastes like a sonar contact!

Monday, April 24, 2006

Dear Leaders (a catalogue)

The Sunday Washington Post had a great collection of articles (here, here, here, and here ) on the world's super-villains. As a gamer geek, I immediately thought "cool! I can use the evil bastards in a contemporary roleplaying game". Alas, other than Slaying Solomon , I'm not planning on running such a game any time soon. But I definitely want to file away these sociopaths for future reference.

Back from the Carolinas

I am happy to say that this weekend's trip to the Carolinas was well worth the effort. It's kind of hard to travel with an infant, but he seemed to take it well and he really enjoyed meeting our friends in South Carolina. Indeed, we can now add yet another state to the list places he has been.  
I also really enjoyed making the trip into Raleigh for NC Gameday. The weather made the early-morning drive somewhat hellish, but it was so nice to be able to talk to Professor Pope that I didn't mind so much. If I had some time to write a longer post, I'd write about some of the thing we discussed... but alas, this week is going to for catching up work, sleep, housework, and workouts.
Once in Raleigh, I ran my first convention game and was pleased to catch up with EN World friends. The game itself was a hell of a lot of fun and reinforced my love of Risus. The week leading up to the trip was rather stressful and I didn't get to prepare as much as I would liked. But ultimately, it didn't matter one bit. With Risus, it's easy to improvise. I'm bummed that we couldn't stay for other games, but there will be time at GenCon (crossing my fingers...) to play in some of those games.
Ok, that's more personal stuff than I usually write about. For those of you that could care less, here's a great gaming blog that I just discovered.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Invention Machine

As I head out of town for the weekend, I leave you with this excellent article about using Genetic Algorithms to develop inventions that can be patented. Pretty cool stuff. I so want to experiment with using Genetic Algorithms, but I just don't have the time to hack around after work anymore.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Air Scooter

Back in the day, futurists used to predict that we'd all be commuting to work in flying cars. Even as recently as Bladerunner, flying cars figure prominently. So far, these visions have failed to materialize.
But that could be changing. I just caught a cool clip of the new Air Scooter on (look in the video section). It's a personal helicopter that will retail for the cost of a Lexus. Best thing about it is that it is classified as an ultralight... which means you don't need a pilot's license to fly it. Check out their website here for more details.

Done with Buffy

Well, this has been a crazy weekend. All of my son's aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents came down to visit for a combined Easter/Baptism celebration. I love my relatives, but with the return of the little boy's ear infection, I was getting pretty stressed out over his well-being and the chaos in our house.

But now that everyone has left and my boy is on the mend, things are settling back to normal. Last night, my wife and I watched the only Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode that we had missed. Strike that, it was probably the only episode that I had missed. I'm fairly certain that she hasn't seen every episode. Strike that again. I'm fairly certain that she doesn't know if she's seen every episode. I'm the true geek in the family and I am the one who can actually identify the episodes by season and title.

The episode was the Lies My Parents Told Me. It featured various Spike flashbacks (Victorian England and 70's New York). Since we were such big fans of the character, I'm surprised it took so long for us to finally get to the episode. We've had the 7th season DVD for almost 6 months now. I guess I blame it on Netflix and the new baby. Every time we finally have time to watch something on TV, it's usually a movie on Netflix that we failed to see on the big screen.

Anyway, did anyone else notice that Spike's mother's doctor was Dr. Gull (from the various Jack the Ripper conspiracy theories)? And what was up with the actress who played Nikki Wood? Was she the same actress that was in Fool For Love? She had a vary odd look about her.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Fun with Science!

Today's science experiment involves 2 liters of diet coke and a pack of mentos. I have a bunch of nieces and nephews coming into town this weekend, so I've gotta try this out for them. There are many videos of this experiment on the Internet, but the one at this site is the best that I've found.

Weird Dream

If I had realistic ambitions to be a writer, I would look to my exceptionally vivid dreams for inspiration. Last night's dream was especially ripe for possible story development. In the dream, I remember having this mystical ability to manifest special tattoos when touched by other people. These tattoos were elaborate and beautiful and always communicated some kind of unique insight into the past, present, or future of the person who touched me (in the location where they touched me). I remember being exhilarated at the thought of having this ability, yet having to go into hiding for fear of being swamped by people who would come to me for answers about their lives. There was also a romance angle, but I won't really get into that here.
Anyway, I hereby give permission for other writers out there to develop this into a story. Just be sure to let me read it.

Is Synthehol Possible?

And do we want it?

For the uninitiated, Synthehol is a Star Trek creation - an alcohol with none of the negative side-effects of real alcohol. In this article, Professor David Nutt, a psychopharmacologist at the University of Bristol in the UK, believes that there is no scientific reason why it cannot be created now.

I must admit my thoughts are mixed on the subject. In general, I'm all in favor of technological solutions to problems. And the problem of hangovers, liver damage, and memory loss due to alcohol consumption should be no exception. But if we had an alcohol with none of the side-effects, I suspect people would drink more. This would increase drunk-driving incidents and I have no idea what Synthehol would do to alcoholics. I'm not one to moralize about chemical recreation, so long as it doesn't put other people in danger. But it's probably going to happen, so I should stop worrying. And we've had many years of really educating people about the dangers of driving drunk, so perhaps this wouldn't really add to the problem?

For myself, I wonder about the effect on taste. It doesn't sound like you make Synthehol beverages in the same way as good old-fashion alcoholic beverages. I don't expect fine syntheholic wines or beers.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Sweet RPG Blog

The Velvet Edge has been focusing on technology and futurism issues as of late, mostly because it is easiest for me to blog on those topics while at work. But gaming is still one of my primary interests. The generically named RPG Blog is what the Velvet Edge might look like, if I had more time to write about general RPG cool stuff. Today's topic is the PDQ System, a rules-lite system that would have really excited me before I discovered Risus. As it is, the system is still very interesting.

The Power of Regeneration

Sign me up for cool Regeneration Powers!

This article in the NYTimes (registration required) surveys the work to exploit the power of regeneration that is present in most animals, to some degree. Oddly, it fails to mention the exciting work done with the Murphy Roths Large (MRL) mouse, which has a Highlander-esque ability to recover from injury. Not familiar with Connor MacMouse of the clan MacMouse? Check out this article on the BBC.

Photo Update

Family & Friends: Check out the Photos section for new family photos. I especially like the one of me and the boy at the Cherry Blossom festival.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Lost for Free

I haven't got into the online watercooler talk (much), but I am a big fan of ABC's Lost. Great news for fellow Lost fans (and those who like other ABC shows) - episodes will be streamed for free the day after they air on TV. For those of us without DVR or Tivo, this is fantastic news.

RoboToys for Tots

The latest and greatest robotic toy: Pleo. My son's a little young for a pet robot, but I imagine that I may have the urge to buy him one at some point in the future. I think it must be the gadget-lover in me. I could never justify buying a robot toy for myself, but having a little boy gives me a great excuse to mess with the technology.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Building Gods

Ok, if you need a primer on Transhumanism and the issues raised by accelerating technology then you must see Building Gods (a rough cut of a new documentary available on Google video).

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Vat Meat... Yum!

Ok, I can see it now. The frankenfood-phobes are going to go nuts. But greens and people who are interested in health and animal welfare should cheer the efforts to produce lab-grown meat. This article on talks about one company that is trying to make the rotisserie-chicken version of a breadmaker. I think this a great idea. I just hope that it tastes like the real thing.

Low-Cal Longevity

A bunch of news reports hit the web last night that talk about the results of a recent study that seems to offer proof that a calorie restriction diet will increase longevity in humans. It has been known for a while now that caloric restriction can dramatically increase the longevity of lab animals. Until now, the efficacy of such a regimen in humans was only theoretical. Well, technically, it still is. This study only measures certain indicators. Measuring true longevity gains will take longer. I also imagine a long-term study will be difficult because keeping humans on such a diet over a long period of time will be tough. I think that even I would have trouble with such a strict diet, and I'm very much into doing whatever I can to increase my lifespan. But this kind of diet would be an order of magnitude tougher than my current low-sugar, good fat diet. Fortunately, some people are working on drugs that will mimic the effects of caloric restriction. Let's hope they are affordable!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Organs Made To Order

Soon... soon  we will be able to replace our failing organs with lab-grown versions that are young and healthy. Another step towards this eventuality is described in this article (New York Times). Scientists have grown new bladders for seven children. Amazing.

Monday, April 03, 2006

The Robot Revolution Will Start in South Korea

If you don't believe me, read this article on the New York Times (possible registration required). Here are the money quotes:
The government, which succeeded in getting broadband Internet into 72 percent of all households in the last half decade, has marshaled an army of scientists and business leaders to make robots full members of society.
If all goes according to plan, robots will be in every South Korean household between 2015 and 2020. That is the prediction, at least, of the Ministry of Information and Communication, which has grouped more than 30 companies, as well as 1,000 scientists from universities and research institutes, under its wing.
"My personal goal is to put a robot in every home by 2010," said Oh Sang Rok, manager of the ministry's intelligent service robot project.
Well, I find their goals to be a little ambitious... and I wonder at the focus on robots-for-robots-sake. But at least they have ambitious technology goals that they actually fund with real government money. Go South Korea!

And How Is This Bad?

According to this ZDNed UK article, Google is being accused of being "biggest threat to genetic privacy" for its plan to create an online searchable database of genetic information. Moreover, it's accusers go on to say that "Google, in cooperation with Craig Venter, are developing plans to make all of our genomes Googlable to facilitate the brave new world of private genetically-tailored medicines". From what I understand, nobody would be forcing you to input your genome into Google. And for the chance to have genetically-tailored medicine that could enhance or extend my life... well, sign me up. Obviously, there would be privacy concerns about employers and insurance companies getting a hold of this information, but that's going to be an issue regardless of what Google does. Google won't be the only one doing this.

Time Enough for Love

I haven't posted in a few days because I've been feeling a bit overwhelmed with all the tasks that I've taken on. In addition to doing my share of parenting duties, I've been trying to maintain a vigorous fitness regimen, learn Chinese, keep the house clean, get started reading a new book, set up a new role-playing campaign, and plan for running a game down at NC Game Day. In the midst of all this, I found time for a weekend getaway to Havre de Grace, MD with my wife to celebrate her birthday. No computers. No Chinese books. No pressure to workout. No house to clean. Just some quality time with my family and some rather amazing weather. Boy I needed the break. It's good to just step back and remember what matters in the world.