April 1st, 2012


Plan A and Plan A and Plan A

I had three Plan A's today:
Meet sis before she had to fly back up north
Hear at least the two talks on cetacean language learning at Contact (which meant obtaining a free pass)
Attend the art show at 5 and meet some of the attendees.

Done, done and done. Sis was at the Snot's Valley farmer's market when I texted her, and she was going to continue on to the one in Santa Clara from there. We met at the SC market at about noon, it was raining and half the farmers had already packed up but she still had lot of fun sampling cheese (cheese guy: "Have you ever tried curds" Me: "Not since Afghanistan") and then she told me all about the 14 different varieties of oranges at one stand, feeding me samples as she went, and fed me a slice of Asian pear at another (they are hard to find on the Olympic Peninsula), and she told the guy with the biggest selection of veggies he should move his beets to the front. A fun time with a master gardener. Then we went for a quick bite to eat, and then it was time for her to be on her way.

And me too - went to the Domain Hotel, found the art show director who took me up to registration where an old theater friend was in charge, and gladly made a badge for me. I saw four presentations and walked out on a fifth. Almost walked out on the second and third, they were like a bad movie you know has to get better but only gets worse.

First talk was Bill Clancey - "Belief Systems and Cross-Cultural Communication". Bill covered a lot of area in the world of psychology on how we develop our belief systems, and what it takes to change them. He lost my vote when he poo-pooed the scientists who try to convert human systems into mathematical formulas and study them through math. It's one of the things my dad did for fun, and it works if you understand math. Bill apparently does not. But he did have a lot of good stuff, most of it was work done by others with him giving his opinions about their work.

What I really wanted to hear was the talk by Roberta Goodman - "Learning Cetacean Languages". Turns out Roberta is a dolphin lover, not an effective researcher. The two can certainly go together, but in this case, not. She made a lot of claims about being able to recognize some dolphin words, but she had no recordings or data. Toward the end she put the nail in the coffin by asking if anyone knew how to slow down the recordings and clean them up a bit. I've had that technology since the early 80s. Any podcaster knows how to do it. Too much time underwater, I guess.

I was hoping the next talk would redeem the dolphin talk track: Peter Sugarman ­ "DNA Code Principles for Two-Way Communication with Extra-terrestrials", but it had nothing to do with DNA or extra-terrestrials except in the very semantic sense that since dolphins are not land animals they are not terrestrial. Gag me. He was dead boring as a speaker, his slides were unreadable, and he ended by suggesting that we need to teach dolphins a language which we would learn together with them, and he suggested one called aUI by W. John Weilgart, who died in 1981. Gag Me2.

Best presentation by far was billed as Gus Frederick - "Graphics of the Gilded Age: The Original Steam Punk Art" but it was really a brilliant Powerpoint presentation of American newspaper cartoons from the time of Pres. Grant to about 1901. He had half an hour to cover an hour's worth of stuff, I would have gladly stayed for more, but there was yet another speaker:

David Sanborn Scott- "Always Begin with the End in Mind: Hydricity" . I walked out when he looked at the microphone and said something rude about "technology". His opening slide was Just Plain Ugly and his opening line was that Hydricity is power from Hydrogen. Or something like that. He spoke too softly to be heard, even with the mike.

Went to the con suite, chatted with some folks but mostly Ed from BASFA. A litle before 5 I went to the art show, and there were maybe 25-30 people who walked though, some of them had nice things to say about my photos. The biggest hit was the close-up of a naked Hangar One.

After an hour the place had turned into a series of bottlenecks of non-art-related private conversations, so I left.  Went to the Starbucks down the block, it's a big one, plenty of seating this time (spring break and the rain helped). Hit Lucky's in the same shopping center for some essentials, like bananas, goat brie and sauerkraut.

Plans for tomorrow:
If I wake up in time, the Contact talks from 10-11:30 look interesting.
3 pm start taking down the photos and packing up.
Maybe find someone on whom to pull an April Fools joke.
Or get a massage.

Dr. Howeird

I Wish It Had Been An April Fool's Joke

Every time I hear something about Obamacare and this debate about mandatory health insurance, I want to throw a shoe at the TV/radio/person.

Pardon my screaming, but Obama and Pelosi promised

National Health Care

Not insurance.

Like all the other countries which have socialized medicine, the plan was for the insurance companies to leave the medical world and try to make ends meet gouging us on car, home, life and flood insurance. I know they could eke out a tiny profit from those. The government would pay the doctors and hospitals directly, there would be no co-pay, no insurance premium, it would all come from taxes.

Very early in the debate the GOP cleverly flooded the media with crap about single-payer insurance, and the media obligingly changed the vocabulary from health care to health insurance.

All Obamacare does is encourage the insurance companies' gouging by forcing everyone to buy insurance. It's a 1% plan - with one hand give a small number of people with pre-existing conditions the chance to pay exorbitant prices for insurance, and on the other hand take away $$ from those who can least afford it by requiring them to BUY insurance.


Day is Done

The only plan for today was to listen to some lectures at Contact, have lunch and pack up my photos.
All the talks had good content, two of the speakers actually knew how to speak to an audience.

Jim Pass - "Medical Astrosociology: A Combination of Space Medicine and Social Science" had a ton of interesting info about what to expect from various societies in space and in lunar and planetary colonies. Dr. Pass started out okay but by the end of his talk was not easy to hear. His slides made up for that, they were filled to the brim with detail. During the Q&A he got back to speaking into the mike.

Chad Rohrbacher - "Curriculum Guide for Using SF to Teach Science" is a subject I am fond of. Chad is a professor, he speaks well, has a sense of humor, and his slides were talking points rather than jam-packed with every word of his lecture. My only complaint is he cited three or four people on the slides, only giving the full name of one. None of them were household names.

Dennis Etler - "China's Vision of the Future" sounded like it could have been dull, and Etler not having any slides was not a good omen, but the guy has a powerful stage voice, he made the mike redundant, and he is super articulate, had good notes in front of him, and did a fine job of comparing and contrasting China's version of communism with the Soviet Union's, and basically gave a warning that unlike the USA, China has a clear vision of its future in space, and has a head start since most of those wheels have already been invented. Who would have guessed he is a paleontologist?

Lunch was at the Fish Market, delicious cup of clam chowder, right-sized crab & shrimp louie with blue cheese dressing instead of that godawful hundred islands of ketchup dressing, way too heavily sugared apple crisp. Pricey, but excellent food & service. At lunch I started reading Water For Elephants, having finished The Forever War last night. Riveting, is WFE. Looks to be a very quick read, unlike FW.

From there to the big Starbucks, got a view seat right away, and have been building April Fools images for FB. The first one was a Dalai Lama quote attributed to Abe Lincoln, the next two were Abe Lincoln quotes attributed to the Dalai Lama. I posted the first one here too.

Will go home soon and spend some quality time being ignored by the cat.