Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Pod Cast Update

An update to an earlier post "Coast of Araska: Podcasts!" as request by one of my co-workers, who recently became the proud owner of an ipod shuffle, and asked me what I was listening to these days.

From the original list,
Quirks and Quarks,
Tiki Bar TV

I've kept all but BNL, not because I don't like them but because they have pretty much stopped with the pod casting. The pod cast was a making of the album journal, the album is made, so until I hear otherwise, I am not expecting more from them.

To this small list (and I am told it is a small list) I have added:

A (often) drunken review of this weeks top stories on the social news web site digg.com. I'm told the video is better, but I listen anyways.

Ask a Ninja
A ninja answers questions posed by viewers, who may meet an unfortunate end for their inquisitiveness. This is video only, but worth watching at home.

Daily Giz Wiz
A gadget a day from the gadget master Dick DeBartolo, long time writer for Mad Magazine, and funny guy.

FLOSS Weekly
Free Libre Open Source Software Weekly is an interesting podcast that talks with the key people in the open source community. Well I've never been huge into the whole open source zealot business, the people on the show are quite fascinating.

Futures in Biotech
A podcast looking into new technology in the biotech field. The pilot was good, so I hope to hear more.

Pretty much the same as Quirks and Quarks, but put together by the publishers of the scientific journal Nature.

The Presidents Weekly Radio Address (site currently down)
A weekly satire of Dubya, I will say no more, just in case the CIA is watching.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Over 9 years of events since Duke Nukem Forever was announced.

Mario has appeared in 58 different video games, the the price of gas has doubled, and the International Space Station was constructed. The list contains tons of other fun facts and events that have taken place during Duke Nukem Forever's development. How much longer will it go on? Only George Broussard knows for sure.

Great story from digg today, my question is, in 9 years how many sticks of gum could have been chewed and asses kicked by Duke Nukem? What if he were out of gum?

read more | digg story

Thursday, June 15, 2006

The metaphysics of boating

I have been pondering for the last day an interesting philosophical question. In essence the question is vary similar to one Erin described to me many years ago while working on her philosophy minor, that is the question of the new boat. A sort of philosophical parable about differentiating when an object is no long the same as it used to be, it kind of goes like this:

If I have a row boat, and it has one damaged plank, and I remove that plank and replace it with a new plank, of identical dimensions, is my row boat a new boat? If systematically over a number of years replace every plank in my boat so that no plank from the original still exists in the boats current form, is the boat a new/different boat? If I did the same replacement effort that may take years, all at once, essentially building an entire boat from scratch, using the original boat as a template, would the resulting boat be a new boat?

You see the problem is in trying to determine a fixed point at which the object ceases to be, and a new object exists. One could argue that any change no matter how minuet makes it a new boat, but if we extend that to say people, if I got a new hair cut would I suddenly someone new? The rational human chaffs at that concept, I don't have the language to express what I mean, but I know that to not be the case. I couldn't make a weaker argument for my point, but my philosophical education ended in first year (not from lack of desire, but lack of room in my time table.)

Now that I have framed the problem a little bit, let me fill in the details. At the moment you can have a custom baby, at the moment your choices are limited to gender and a few heritable diseases, but there choice is there. At the moment the technology is a little blunt, effectively the doctor's fertilize a large number of eggs, and then screen them to find one that meets your criteria, the rest are presumably destroyed, or perhaps frozen for later use (if that is possible.)

In the movie Gattaca a similar technique seems to be used to get a base embryo, but then further manipulation is done to fine tune the details. Eye colour, height, IQ etc, if you have the money they will make the changes. At this time it isn't possible to do these things, and it would probably be met with torch and pitchfork mobs of scared peasantry who are angered by scientist playing god. This may not remain true, as we get comfortable with gender selection; we may also get comfortable with more involved manipulation. This is a philosophical discussion in its own right, but not what I'm interested in.

Moving further along, our technology is sufficient to completely sequence a single human. Now at the moment that sequencing process would be expensive, and time consuming. It is only a matter of time before our technology is sufficiently advanced that we will be able to completely sequence a person within a reasonable amount of time.

Additionally more and more genes are being characterized by research labs around the world. With each gene, we learn more and more how they interacts, and our ability to screen for specific characteristics increase.

Stepping deeper into the realm of science fiction, and stepping closer to my problem I want to discuss something raised in the Neanderthal Parallax by Robert Sawyer. If you haven't read the books, and want to you may not want to read on, as what I want to talk about is pivotal to the plot.

In the final book Sawyer describes a device that allows for the custom manufacturing of DNA. Essentially this machine allows a data file which describes a complete DNA sequence to be transcribed into actually DNA. This DNA can then be implanted in an embryo that has had its DNA removed, and the embryo implanted.

Now to bring it all together; the boat is the embryo; the 'one board' is a in change place to say eye colour as described by the movie Gattaca; the 'complete rebuild' would be removing the embryos DNA, sequencing it, changing the computer file, manufacturing the updated DNA with the device described by Sawyer and placing that back in the embryo. The question is, is the resulting child, the same child. The physical characteristics may differ slightly (as the wood grain of the replacement boards would differ) but the template DNA of the parents remains the same. Is their some ethereal, spiritual, philosophical, or metaphysical identity imparted by the biological merging of the parents DNA? Or is our being independent of DNA; and the DNA is only a template for our physical person?

Now, I don't have an answer to it, far from it, but I raised this because I think it is an interesting question, and one we may have to answer in the next two centuries. Perhaps it is for politicians, philosophers, scientists and religious leaders to decide, or maybe the poets. Who can say for certain what the answer will be, all I can say is that it will certainly be a question of interest. Along with perhaps the more important question of
"If we could, should we?" That is a question fraught not only with the ethical implications of "playing god" but the societal implications; implications that science fiction has already discussed at length, and is slowly moving into main stream.

With all that, I leave you all to ponder.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Good Things From the Garden, Garden in the Valley, Valley of the Jolly Green Giant.

Well the Valley is more the raised bed, and the jolly green giant I suppose is me. I'm not particularly green, and maybe only a little giant as I tend towards the upper middle for male height, but I suppose I'm a reasonably jolly fellow. So here is are growing garden. We ate some berries from it this morning and they were gooood!

And we zoom out for the full effect

Here is the rest of the new garden we finished this weekend. Those are some blue hostas in the middle and Solomon Seal at the back. Both were liberated from Erin's Parent's garden, which has been a one stop horticulture shop for us this year, thanks guys!

The rest of the merry band

Erin is oft quoted as saying "Daisies are the most cheerful flowers." I'm inclined to agree, so here is the rest of our garden cheering squad.

Check out this rock

This rock is 74.6 pounds of pure rock(tm) and is now complete with the most macho of plants... Hens and Chicks. Still it looks pretty good, and the plants are more like alien life forms then plants.

What? what!

I don't really have anything meaningful to say, other then Loki is growing quite quickly now. Also that this is (at least according to blogger) post 501. So Yeah for me. I've been doing this now for two years, so that's pretty exciting. (Technically I think I started in April of 04, but I changed from some sort of pearl based to blogger in May, I think...) So a couple more years, and a couple more posts. I figure I will keep up with my habit of going quiet, and then blogging on mass, with intermittent blogging flurries in between.

More pictures from the weekend soon.

Daaaaaisy Daaaaaaaissssy

Sci-fi references aside, this is one mighty fine picture, at least I think it is. Erin grabbed a couple this morning while we were getting ready for work, this is one of the three Gerber Daisies we planted this weekend when we pretty much finished off the rest of the gardening. I will post more pictures later.

Monday, June 05, 2006

More from the garden

These pictures are actually from last week, but we did some more gardening in the back. Planted various plants hijacked from Erin's parents garden, as well as a few from the garden center. We replanted most of the vegetable garden with non-dead plants, we find they give a higher yield. Also with last week being so full of sun and rain everything is growing really fast!

Strawberry Picking

So Erin and I went strawberry picking on Sunday, unfortunetly, Erin was right, and I was wrong, and there were no berries to be picked. Well not no berries, but not enough berries for pick your own, just those picked by the staff. So instead we picked this:

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Coffee, and coffee related stuff

A few odds and sods of coffee news today, to start with we return to last night.

Last night Erin and I attended our first Lawblaws Cooking demonstration, now this one was a lot more low key then there typical ones because it was more of a free product tasting then any actual cooking demo, but we were given instruction on the preparation of a good cup of coffee, so it wasn't completely uneducational.

The tasting was of two product lines, the first was the Van Houtte brand of coffee. We tried a number of different brews over the night, and I would have to say I liked the plain Columbian the best, but I'm really not a fan of flavoured coffees.

With our coffee we had sampled 5 different La Rocca cakes. This was certainly a rich and delectable experience. I won't say that they were all super fantastic, but at least two of them were, the Caramel Crunch, and this new WildBerry Yogurt Cake that was great! Their Strawberry Shortcake on the other hand was not good at all, the berries were over ripe, the cake was wet and spongy, and the icing cream was meh, I guess there isn't a real strawberry shortcake other then my grandma's, even when it doesn't look picture perfect.

At the end of the night they gave away a pile of door prizes, I think there were about 20 people there, and they gave out 3 cakes, two coffee bundles, and a grand prize that included different coffees, including whole bean coffee and a coffee grinder. With that many prizes, and so few people we actually stood a pretty decent chance of winning (decent when compared with the lottery.) As it happens we won the grinder, which I'm kind of excited about! So all and all a delicious, if fattening, night.

Like I said, there is a couple pieces of coffee news, and that was one of them. The other is the announcement of the retirement of Juan Valdez. I found it in the Toronto Star this morning. After nearly 40 years on the job he is retiring his poncho and hat and going to take up painting. The donkey will continue in his role as donkey, but will be joined by the new Juan Valdez soon. Juan really is an iconic figure for the coffee industry, I just never realized that he was more then just an actor in a few commercials.

Well thats my coffee news for the day, maybe I should go have coffee now.