Archive for February 20th, 2005

The Name Game

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Scientists may be serious people, engaged in the pursuit of objective
truth. But when it comes to naming species, they often let their hair
down.

So the insect world has Heerz tooya, Apopyllus now and Pieza pi and Pieza rhea,
among thousands of puns and other oddities. (In science, all creatures are binomial,
with a capitalized genus name followed by a lower-case species name.) The oceans
are home to Ittibittium, a genus of mollusks that are smaller than those named
Bittium. There are species named for body parts and bodily functions, for celebrities,
painters and writers, for cartoon characters and favorite sports. For those who
find it to be all too much, there is even Ba humbugi, a snail from Fiji.

Still don’t get the Bill Gates joke…

from the
New York Times

The Golden Hour

ø



We sometimes get so caught up in the whining and kvetching we do on a
daily basis that we lose sight of the fact that we are really among
the most blessed of men, as part of a generation which will be seen
in the future as the apex of human achievement and quality of life.
We are truly living in the Golden Hour, able to still enjoy both
the priceless inheritance we received from our forebears and at
the same time reap the benefits of the science and technology
which are pointing the way towards humanity’s future.

Despite the dire predictions of Thomas
Malthus
and
his ilk, it appears that the human population of the planet will stabilize
late in the present
century at 10-15 billion people. The ongoing decline in birth rates is
directly related to economic development, and seems based on the simple
fact that, when faced with economically viable alternatives to staying
home and making babies, women take them. Of course, all projections depend
on assumptions about the presence or absence of things like continuing
economic development and wide scale war or epidemic, so who can say how
much this all means.

But it seems certain, just by reading history and the news, that life
in the brave new world of the 22nd century and beyond will be much more
removed,
in
all senses, from the life we live today than we are from our ancestors
in the late 1800’s.

Probably, the Internet will be everywhere. Every computer, camera, door,
refrigerator, telephone, turnstyle, cash register, bank account, can
opener and copy machine will be connected and reachable via whatever
portable or surgically implanted interface is the Windows of the day.
Just as citizens will be able to watch or find out anything about their
world, so the powers that control the Internet will be able to watch
and find out anything about any of those citizens.

There will no longer be any fish left in the world, except maybe for
very very rich business, government or media figures. They will probably
have some kelp based fish stick products for the rest of us. In fact,
our whole diet will be different, as there won’t be space for ranches
or vineyards. Porterhouse steaks will be a thing of the past; eating
meat at all will probably be considered savage, primitive and wasteful.
Chicken may survive, they are a remarkably efficient protein converter
and really little more than vegetables with feathers.

Again, the super-rich will probably still be able to serve swordfish
and veal in their hermetically sealed cyber compounds, but the common
people will be relegated to sausage and sushi, and who the hell knows
what goes into those.

The extreme environments, the Amazon jungle and the Sahara Desert and
the Wilds of Borneo will be paved over and developed, their resources
efficiently extracted and the left-overs providing homes a workplaces
for some unfortunate sliver of humanity. The highest peaks of the Andes
and Himalayas may remain somewhat isolated given the high cost of development,
but they will probably be popular resorts just for that reason. The oceans
will be mostly dead.

There will be no more indigenous peoples left on the planet, and their cultures will disappear, except
as fodder for memorial and reenactment societies. The 187 distinct languages now
spoken on the planet will be reduced to 12 or 15. There will be a Target,
and a Burger King and a Bank of America within 45 minutes travel of any
place on Earth.

The way we live will be different, too. To support that many people,
society will have to be very highly regularized and regimented. We will
be following the lead, not of the US, paragon of the individualism of
the past century, but of China, the paragon of the collectivism and control
which will be necessary just to get along with that many other people.
No more messy, open forums, no more maverick, divisive candidates, no
more disruptive protests or destructive civil wars. The time has come
to put behind us such childish toys.

In a very real way September 11, 2001 will be looked back as a historic
dividing line, the end of humanities residence in our terrestrial garden
of Eden. For better or worse, the tipping point has been reached, certain
previously possible paths of development have become defunct, and we
are proceeding ahead down the path of command and control.

Most of the changes are not even visible yet. Most people are going
along in their lives pretty much as they did before 9/11, worried about
the same stuff, the dentist, the bills, the diet, with perhaps just an
underlying edge of inexpressible fear.

How lucky we are to be alive while there is still a bit of planet to despoil! While we can still partake of pastimes like slash and burn agriculture, fox hunting and open pit mining. That is why we should enjoy these
last few moments basking in the innocence and warm sunshine of our primal
state. They won’t last much longer.

The changes may be inevitable now, but they haven’t started to happen
yet, except insofar as we can see the players lining up and the groundwork
being laid. It won’t be long now before we’ll look back wistfully on
today, and say, "Those were the days."

Bush Admits to Smoking Pot

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WASHINGTON,
Feb. 19 – As George W. Bush was first moving onto the national political
stage, he often turned for advice to an old friend who secretly taped
some of their private conversations, creating a rare record of the future
president as a politician and a personality.

In the last several weeks, that friend, Doug Wead, an author and former
aide to Mr. Bush’s father, disclosed the tapes’ existence to a reporter
and played about a dozen of them.

Mr. Bush, who has acknowledged a drinking problem years ago, told Mr.
Wead on the tapes that he could withstand scrutiny of his past. He said
it involved nothing more than "just, you know, wild behavior." He
worried, though, that allegations of cocaine use would surface in the
campaign, and he blamed his opponents for stirring rumors. "If nobody
shows up, there’s no story," he told Mr. Wead, "and if somebody
shows up, it is going to be made up." But when Mr. Wead said that
Mr. Bush had in the past publicly denied using cocaine, Mr. Bush replied, "I
haven’t denied anything."

He refused to answer reporters’ questions about his past behavior, he said, even
though it might cost him the election. Defending his approach, Mr. Bush said: "I
wouldn’t answer the marijuana questions. You know why? Because I don’t want some
little kid doing what I tried."

Could his disinclination to answer the marijuana questions be related
to the "vision thing"? Is it acceptable for a US President who is embarassed
or ashamed by past illegal activity to simply refuse to answer questions
on the topic? OK, he got away with it, and in retrospect it was obviously
the "smart" thing to do, but was it RIGHT? Was it LEGAL? Is it IMPEACHABLE?

from the
New York Times

Inns and Outs of Love Hotels

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In what could be a very interesting retirement investment opportunity,
the ailing "Love Hotel" industry in Japan is looking for foreign investors.
Since new erections are so expensive in a fevered real-estate market
like Japan’s, refurbishing and renovating existing hotels looks like
the way
to go. However, the recent Durex
sex survey
, which shows Japanese
have LESS sex than any other developed nation, may introduce a note of
caution.

TOKYO — Japan’s ”love hotels" are
hard to miss. Clustered around freeway ramps and dotting the suburbs,
the
neon-lit
hotels often
look
like faux castles or garish villas from the Arabian Nights.

Sniffing for opportunities, foreign investors such as Miro Mijatovic are scouting
love hotels for signs of distressed ownership and tallying the couples
entering each day as a way to estimate revenues.

What they say they have found is an industry any investor could cherish.
Most love hotels are mom-and-pop businesses with an average of 10 to
25 rooms,
although some have as many as 80. Chains are few, usually with
no more than two dozen hotels each. In general, rooms rent for two or
three hours, averaging about $66 a stay. Overnight stays are possible
at a higher rate.

from the Boston
Globe