Eth: 0x00cce8E2e56a543abc084920eee3f88eFD0921ea

Thursday, January 29, 2009


How people deal with risk in their life, what type of risk they are willing to expose themselves to, all these things are very interesting.

Myself, working for a startup I've taken on quite a bit of risk. While I could have chosen to work for an established company, kept my head down, earned a living. But I wanted something more. To me, life isn't about keeping in line and doing the same thing as everyone else. I can see why they don't want to risk doing a startup. They don't always work. You could loose all the time and effort you put into it.

The west was founded by people that took risks. They crossed the ocean in sailing ships braving disease to land in a land with no infrastructure, no roads or houses to buy. Everything was new to them. There were no guarantees in their life.

And today America is the last true super power. Built on ideas and ideals that the rest of the world can only hope to imitate.

None of that could have happened if people refused to take the risks that were inherent in crossing an ocean and founding a country in a new and strange land. And today we are all the better for it. So now while I'm still young and healthy, I will also take risks. Because I want to build a better future.

Standing on the Earth looking Towards the Sky

I believe for years people have looked out at space and dreamed about sailing away in large ships, leaving earth behind and setting up Utopias at distant stars. These types of irrational expectations have caused the entire industry harm because people have never been given the chance to evaluate a serious, for profit, space program. While an individual may desire that humans go into space to explore, the fact of the matter is that the instruments of labor dictate that there must a strong financial reason to explore these possibilities. I want humans to go into space in a big way. Asking myself where this feeling originated, I am not sure. However, I can conjecture.

I read many science fiction books as a child and throughout my short life. Joules Vern, HG Wells. But I did not spend inordinate amount of time with them. In fact through puberty till I was 19 or so I tended more towards the realm of fantasy with authors like Piers Anthony, Margaret Weiss and Tracy Hickman, R.A. Salvatore. But then I drifted back to Science Fiction. I read books by Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein and Alistair Reynolds. These books helped me understand a small fraction of what could be. Of course their ideas were far fetched. But there were still some reasonable notes to take. For example the construction of a linear accelerator on the moon. No atmospheric resistance means that this could be used effectively as a Single Stage to Orbit (SSO).

I studied Aerospace Engineering in college at WPI. The most interesting classes I remember were Astronautics, the movement of bodies in space, and Spacecraft and Mission Design. In the latter I learned about project optimization. The summary of the class was to build the mission profile of a spacecraft that flew as close to the earth as possible, for as long as possible, with the least weight. Astronautics opened up the majestic realm of space travel to my phsyci. It was like a terrific ball with dancers going this way an that, and the goal was to find your way through them to the beautiful girl on the other side of the room, all the while, keeping time.

Other reasons have come up more recently. Through my US history research, reading books and talking with people, I've come to realize the importance of colonizing the west and the vast opportunities that it offered to all those that were willing to take the risks of coming here. And I've also witnessed a generation of uninspired young men and women plodding through the best education system known to man with no hope of applying the knowledge they worked so hard to attain. California is one of the richest and vibrant places in the whole world with innovation centers like Silicon Valley that are the envy of major governments. Those that came west, and then traveled even further it seems created the best atmosphere of innovation because they created a culture that accepted and grew off risk.

What I see today is that the US does not have the Vision, the Knowledge and Expertise, the Financial Backing, and the Willingness to Take Risks that could culminate in an expert space program. What I want to see is resources being taking from outside of the earth, not from the depths of the earth or her surface, but from other places like the moon or asteroids, that are then put to work to improve the conditions of the people on the ground in ways that we begin to understand today.

Why take materials from outside earth? I believe that we are currently exploring every which way we can exploit the material resources we have today on the surface of the planet. But what we have not done is conducted a thorough analysis of what materials we have in space floating around us. For all we know, we have the most precious and abundant materials just outside our earth-moon system, and we'll never get to them because we haven't even explored the possibilities that they could be useful.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Zombie Girl Song

A short song I've thought up in the shower over the last few months. It should be sung to the general tune of I'm a barbi girl in a barbi world for full effect:

She's a Zombie Girl
In a Zombie World
She's Contagious
Totally Salacious

Buggies in Her Hair
She's Bleeding Everywhere
Don't go Near Her
They Think We should Fear Her

Zombie Girl is Here
And She Does Not Appear
To Be Evil
She Just Eats People

I Took Her On a Date
And Now It's Getting Very Late
She's Fantastic
Overly Sarcastic

We Went to My Place
And Now She's Kissing Face
Her Eyes Revealing
Her True Feelin's

Now Everything Has Changed
And When I Try to Explain
What Just Happened
People Just Laugh and

I'm a Zombie Boy
With a Zombie Girl Toy
We're Contagious
Totally Salacious

Buggies in Our Hair
We're Bleeding Everywhere
Don't Get Near Us
They Should Really Fear Us

I hope you now have learned
The knowledge that I spurned
Zombies are People
And They are Still Eeviiiil!

-Revised December 12, 2009

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Lassa Virus

I am reading a very interesting book titled: The Coming Plague by Laurie Garrett. In it she details the history of the Lassa Fever and the researchers who combated it's spread and documented it's effects. The virus was noted to kill 9:10 people who were infected in non-immune populations. For immune populations the death rate is still around 1-2:10. Most people cannot even muster a strong enough immune response to fight off repeated infection.

It is easy to think that we are insulated from the plague and viruses that prey on our bodies. Growing up in the United States I always figured that nothing like that could ever happen here. A plague in the US? That was the sort of thing you read about when studying the middle ages. And you pointed at all the people in the picture books doing strange things, drinking snake oil, burning bodies in piles, locking up their doors.

The reason that I thought that nothing like a horrible disease could happen to me or could happen in the US I connected with the book. The first page of the preface for the book reads like this:

We always want to believe that history happened only to "them," "in the past," and that somehow we are outside history, rather than enmeshed within it. Many aspects of history are unanticipated and unforeseen, predictable only in retrospect: the fall of the Berlin Wall is a single recent example. et in one vital area, the emergence and spread of new infectious diseases, we can already predict the future - and it is threatening and dangerous to us all. -Source

After reading this I was confounded by the fact that I had spent all of my life in denial about a critical problem that has struck at the heart of humanity and civilization time and time again. The black plague in 1300-1400's, the Spanish Influenza epidemic of 1918. These pandemics killed millions of people. By not being concerned with the spread of diseases, I in fact was contributing to a false sense of security that we have built up around ourselves in the civilized world.

We must understand that diseases, plagues, viruses and bacteria are very small and very real killers. The Lassa Virus and others can have devastating consequences of we ignore it's threat.

Continuous Contraception

I'm not a woman but I find myself with a bit of knowledge that most women don't have. For some context I was raised with two sisters and as such I was exposed to a few things that I would not have been otherwise.

Birth Control for women, specifically the Pill is what I am going to write about today. I recently had a chat with a friend online about an NPR article. I listened to this article on the radio when it first came out and it reminded me of a discussion I had with a good lady friend of mine at college in which she outlined the same information as the article. Mainly that when your taking the pill, periods are needlessly engineered because there was no other way to sell the product.

This is called Continuous Contraception and this is how it works:

Continuous contraception works the same way as the 21 days on/seven days off cycle. It stops the body's monthly preparation for pregnancy by lowering the production of hormones that make pregnancy possible.

When women are on traditional 21 days on/seven days off birth control, monthly periods are artificial anyway, says reproductive endocrinologist Sheldon Segal, a longtime contraceptive researcher at New York's Population Council and an adjunct professor of pharmacology at Cornell Medical School.

These periods are considered artificial because they're not shedding an unfertilized egg along with the uterine lining. And monthly bleeding, says Segal, "was actually a marketing decision made decades ago when the pill was developed.

"Marketers at the manufacturing company which developed the pill," says Segal, "felt at the time that an oral contraceptive might or might not be accepted by the public. These were very different times. Not only was this the first oral contraceptive but it was the first medication given to healthy women for any purpose at all." -Source
Now, after talking with my friend online, she mentioned that the problem with methods like this is that:
  • most women do use a period as a pregnancy indicator
  • you totally get to eat what you want for a week, you can do it and you don't really gain weight
That being said, I think there are plenty of other indicators that a woman is pregnant rather than just having a once a month spot check so to say. Infact, if not having to survive through seven days of random pain and exchanging that for one of those $20 pregnancy tests every month seems reasonable to me. I mean it's better than spending $20 / month on asperin right?

I conjecture that once women get over their initial reaction of not having their periods, they will realize continuous contraception is preferable. In the end, it's not my decision. But I think with enough information, those that are risk taking will find better alternatives to the current practice.

I'm still looking forward to whats developed for a male hormone contraceptive treatment. And despite what you may read, we're not all against it.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Ride

Note: This is part of the 2nd Earth story that I work on occasionally.

Strapped into a little padded cylinder with no room to move was not the idealistic form of fun. Still, the short trip to freedom was the best bet for a new life. The only alternative was a hard cold floor and crumbling cement walls. The only thing to look back on was the rain, drop by drop coming in through the ceiling. The only thing the broke the monotony was the rain. Memories of the past were rancid, foul, dead, useless now that they were gone. So long away it seemed, they existed outside of the small being that was encapsulated in a soft blue padding waiting on a final ride to freedom.

The rain was washing the launch site, like a flood of a thousand little rocks it came down pelting the figures below. Two figures paced some ways away from the launch area. The vehicle itself was seated upright like an elongated egg, tall and slender, it sat against the wind, not moving an inch. The humans however were much less stationary. They tried shrugging off the droplets by shaking their shoulders in their big green coats but to no avail, there was more wet where that came from. Their large weapons hung heavy on their shoulders. They were there only till the package got off the ground. Sooner rather than later was best.

Sooner rather than later was best. And the rain kept coming down in a tap tap tap. And that was slowly drowned out by the ignition switches. And the roar of the engine soon drowned out any point the rain was trying to make. And then they were on their way. All twenty of them, strapped in their little padded cells, headed to freedom.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

2nd Earth

Note: This is part of the 2nd Earth story that I work on occasionally.

The sun shown down through the bright green leaves of the tick jungle canopy. Thick vines and branches clung to anything that moved. The hunter's movement was followed by a shower of sticky dew onto the undergrowth. The sinuous form wove it's way through the verdant growth driven by a desire to feed. Some ways distant, a green form stumbled through the undergrowth. It clung close to the ground, leathery skin efficiently brushing aside branches. But its wounds hindered it from masking it's scent, and the hunter followed.

The shadow moved across the sun seemingly slowly at first, and then with a great rush it was covered completely. The breath of the forest hushed. Not knowing what to make of this new mystery, the hunter slowed. Two eyes stared up at the dark form that covered the suns' radiance. It's prey, forgotten, slithered away, happy to be free of the threat.

It would take centuries to realize the event again, but by then, they would be ready to understand some of its significance. For now, it was enough to watch and wait, two eyes up, wondering of the possibilities. A weathered hand rested on a nearby tree. It's five fingers gripped the bark absently, it's attention focused on the sky and the future.