2010 — 23 August: Monday

Did it rain last night?1 I seem to have slept through it quite well — it's now 08:52 and my cuppa is gathering strength from its tea bag. I must have been tired, too: I left the power amplifier switched on. It runs very cool. But at least I didn't leave a T-shirt in the washing machine. I discovered last week that when you do that it gives a whole new wrinkle to the meaning of "wrinkled". Not enough to get me to break the iron out of custody, however.

Start the week with a bang?

It is surely impossible to read this story...


... without recalling "newspeak" from Orwell's 1984. (That last link has some wonderful cover artwork, by the way, from ten different editions.)

Looking for Life...

... in all the wrong places? Source and snippet:

Dr Shostak says that artificially intelligent alien life would be likely to migrate to places where both matter and energy — the only things he says would be of interest to the machines — would be in plentiful supply. That means the Seti hunt may need to focus its attentions near hot, young stars or even near the centres of galaxies.

"I think we could spend at least a few percent of our time... looking in the directions that are maybe not the most attractive in terms of biological intelligence but maybe where sentient machines are hanging out."

Jason Palmer, BBC

It set me thinking. I read the book "Intelligent Life in the Universe" (Carl Sagan's collaborative reworking of the earlier "Universe. Life. Mind" by IS Shklovskii) over 30 years ago. The duo saved for their very last, short, chapter (8 pages out of 490 or so) any consideration of non-biological "life". But A.I. really doesn't seem to have taken off yet, does it?

The sun's shining, and it's time (10:20) for some breakfast.

Lunch already?

I nipped out to buy some foody stuff when the rain seemed least likely, then put on a couple of Jean Michel Jarre CDs, the more recent of which ("Rendez-vous") has artwork that Carl Sagan2 would probably have liked:


Its last track had been composed for astronaut Ron McNair to play on the space shuttle "Challenger" in January 1986.

It's 13:32 and I'm hungry (again). Mentioning the Blu-ray of Contact... I lost nearly an hour of my life yesterday browsing the considerably revamped and now rather wonderful price comparison site here. (You have been warned.)

Tea already?

Dear mama visited? Check.

Sticking with today's A.I. theme, it occurred to me3 as I was driving back from the care-home an hour or so ago that...

... then a small piece of the dialogue6 from that excellent film (the lobotomy scene where Dave Bowman is disconnecting a set of memory modules from Hal's "brain") would have fitted to perfection today's small loop of our "conversation" dealing with what she now vaguely refers to as her "noggin" or her "ticker" while gesturing in the vicinity of her head:


Still, the slice of marmalade cake was nice. And, as far as I can tell, she appreciates my company. She also understands, to the extent she can (I believe) that she is warm, dry, fed, clean, safe, and has little or nothing to worry about. At one point she suddenly asked "Should I make a will?" (Who knows where that came from?) At another she asked "Where's the money coming from for all this?" We revisited the chain of events that has brought her to this point, but she was equally happy breaking off to admire her blue vase every time she noticed it.

If this represents the pinnacle of Intelligent Design, then I am but a lowly barnacle on the shell of Pratchett's Great Turtle A'Tuin. It further occurs to me: you hafta laff!

It's 18:14 and the sun is shining.


The moon is almost unbelievably bright out there at the moment, the moment being 22:00 — I'm pausing between West Wing episodes. Time for a supper cuppa.



1  Rhetorical question. (Source.)
2  The commentary tracks on the Blu-ray of the film Contact showed just how much he put into some of the imagery, not least the splendid opening "zoom" away from the Earth. (Ignore "c" when watching it.)
3  In the context of a surreal conversation this afternoon about dear Mama's elderly mini, triggered by her recognising a picture of it in the double garage — nestled alongside her husband (who?) Peter's large Jaguar (as she does every single time we reach that page in her 90th birthday Festschrift book) followed by an attempt to explain that I was now driving around in the final birthday present I got from Christa (who?), and that no, I hadn't just got there on the bus...
4  She hasn't, though she derided all such material as "rubbish" throughout my SF-reading childhood at home — I (very) long ago simply tuned her out, leaving her to the literary material she happened to prefer; Peyton Place, for example :-)
5  She didn't, thank goodness.
6  Mike has kindly corrected me. What are friends for? HAL (a fictional A.I. in a piece of fiction, remember) says:
"I'm afraid, Dave.
Dave, my mind is going.
I can feel it.
I can feel it.
My mind is going.
There is no question about it."
He didn't like the font I used, either. (It's the closest match I have on this system to the data70 used in the Kubrick titles.)