A Mechanism of Immortality

February 25, 2014 at 12:54 pm (By Amba)

. . . that even a materialist could love?

I’m not a convinced materialist (that takes belief, and I am not a believer of any kind—I’m as pure an agnostic as you’ll find), but I’m immersed in science all day long and so I am conversant with its core belief, which is—crudely put—that only what has a demonstrable physical, material basis is real. Let’s take that as our premise just for the moment, without taking it as truth or untruth.

We all have odd thoughts sometimes, and what follows was one of mine. It was spurred by hearing about someone who, late in his own life, had quite convincing hallucinatory conversations with his deceased wife. And more than one person my age who has said that it was only when their second parent died that they lost them both. And the truism, maybe especially a secular Jewish one, that memory is our immortality.

What if that’s literally true?

Another ingredient in this thought is having copyedited a book about the Singularity, the techno-geek fantasy that machines will bring us immortality (it’s been called “the Rapture for nerds”). Various mechanisms are imagined, but one of them is transferring our consciousness into a silicon substrate, a deathless machine. I am extremely skeptical of this and think it’s basically a religious hope of escape from death transferred lock, stock, and barrel onto science, but that’s beside my point here.

Which is: What if we actually transfer at least a part of our consciousness into another brain?

That seems less of a stretch than transferring it into the alien medium of silicon. And love is the technology of transfer. Longtime couples, besides sharing a lot of experiences, certainly incorporate parts of each other’s outlook into themselves. “Becoming one flesh” might be a metaphor not only for feeling one another’s joy or pain, but for an identification intimate enough to incorporate some of each other’s cognitive traces. When one dies, then, maybe some aspects of their consciousness literally live on in the other’s brain.

Just putting it out there. When I listen to jazz, it feels like Jacques is listening through me.

Cross-posted on A Cold Eye

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Meanwhile, the Crimean seethes and Eric Holder has the vapors.

February 24, 2014 at 2:51 pm (Icepick)

And all Scooby can think is, “Whoa, man. It all seems so real to me now!”

(Scooby speaks fine American when stoned.)

[Edit: originally posted on the 27th of Feb, and since moved down.]

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A day at the movies!

February 23, 2014 at 5:58 pm (Icepick)

This morning, my wife and I decided to take our three year-old daughter to see The Lego Movie. (We’ve got a friend who is likely to assault us if we don’t see it soon.) So we went to the 11:10 AM showing this morning at a local theater of good repute.

For three matinee tickets, one small drink, one medium drink, one large popcorn, and a package of Junior Mints (my wife’s greatest desire at a movie), the total price came to $49.00. Forty-nine dollars! My shock at this is evidence of how infrequently we go to the movies, I guess, and for the record, this was a regular showing, not a 3D showing or an IMAX showing or a Smell-o-vision showing.

Anyway, what we saw of the movie was pretty good, but about 35 minutes in our daughter started throwing up. Yuck. Thankfully, with both parents in attendance, one of use handled the mess and one handled the child. Sigh. The manager at the theater was most accommodating and even gave us passes so we can come back another time, which was unnecessary but very appreciated.

For those that have seen the movie, we were at the point where they build a ramp to get the police car off the train in the Old West, which will make much more sense if you see the movie. It had been rather clever to that point in time, and was a real treat visually.

And I feel the need to draw your attention to one of the trailers. A movie called The Boxtrolls is coming out later this year, and it is a stop-motion animation flick, from the studio that did Coraline. Anyway, I thought the trailer was nicely done and worth the two minutes it will take to watch it.

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WHERE’S MY THEBES?!

February 20, 2014 at 8:09 pm (Icepick) ()

The rantings of one very irate man to follow soon.

Quite a bit later, certainly later than “soon” by any reasonable definition…

First, some background.

My mother was born in 1927. She worked at Walt Disney World Resorts from 1980 to 2000. I was covered under her medical insurance for several years while I was still a minor. Eventually Mom retired with a (great) retiree medical benefit.

I was born in 1968. I worked at Walt Disney World Resort from 2003 until 2008.

My mother died in September of 2011.

Then the adventure begins!

Shortly after Mom died, my sister and I received her death benefit payment from Disney. It wasn’t a lot, but it came to the correct person, with the correct SS#.

Then I started getting notices from the WDW benefits center telling me that I was eligible for a medical benefit. I called them, told them I certainly wasn’t eligible, and they said it was cleared up.

I kept getting notices about signing up for my medical benefits. Grrr. Called again, eventually, told them they were wrong. Eventually they figured out that two of me were in the system, one with a SS# that was off by one digit. Someone had goofed up and created a phantom me. They told me that they had it resolved.

I kept getting notices about signing up for my medical benefits. Grrr. Called again.

Lather, rinse, repeat a couple of times.

I kept getting notices about signing up for my medical benefits. GRRR. Called again some time last summer. Allegedly got everything settled, killed the phantom me, had everything under the correct me, had everything cancelled.

I KEPT GETTING NOTICES ABOUT SIGNING UP FOR MY MEDICAL BENEFITS. GRRR. Gave up calling, decided, “Fuck it [Something much more polite than “Fuck it”, I’m sure], I’ve done what I need to do, they need to figure this out on their own.”

I kept getting notices about signing up for my medical benefits. Didn’t care any more, ignored them, moved on with my life.

January 2, 2014 rolls around and I finally go to the doctor about an issue that had been bothering me for almost two months. Samples are taken, and samples are dropped off at a lab. (Don’t ask for details – you really don’t want details.)

Now, unemployed man that I am, my wife’s medical insurance covers me. Turns out that the same company that covers my wife’s employer is the same company that handles the administration of Disney’s medical insurance here in Florida. (Disney self-insures, so they actually pay for everything themselves, but it uses an insurance company to handle everything for a variety of reasons. This is common for large employers.)

So when I went to the lab I made certain that they had my current insurance information.

A couple of weeks later, we get a couple of notifications of benefits from the insurance company. My wife looks at them and realizes that my Disney insurance has been billed.

GRRR!

Now, feeling like Bruce Banner right before he turns green, I call the Disney benefits people AGAIN. Eventually (and I can’t remember if this was on the first or second call, or maybe a third call), we determine the nature of the problem. Namely, Disney has me listed as my mother’s surviving spouse, thus entitled to her (quite excellent) medical coverage.

This after numerous attempts to clear things up. This after many attempts from me explaining to them that they were in error and needed to fix this. This after the Disney benefits folks told me on several occasions that they had cleared everything up.

So now I find out that I had been eligible for the benefit, according to Disney, since 1/1/2012, and that the insurance had been active (despite my not paying them anything) since 1/1/2013. So now I’m suddenly scared that more than two lab fees (and a visit to the doctor’s office, it turns out) have been billed to the wrong insurance policy. Because you know that would be a true and royal clusterfuck [something much more polite than “clusterfuck”, I’m sure], and that I would be on the hook for it, quite possibly criminally, despite the fact that I hadn’t done anything wrong. They take insurance fraud seriously in Florida. Uh, unless you’re the governor, I mean.

Seriously, I don’t know why Disney feels like they need to fuck me all over again (having already fired me early in the recession, thus ruining my chances of ever holding down a job of any kind again, on the flimsiest of reasons by a jack-ass who gambled on his work computer using aliases of founders of the Ku Klux Klan to do it), but my God they have decided to fuck my all over again. Seriously, what is wrong with those goddamned bastards? How fucking evil, stupid, and/or mean are they that they are insisting on repeatedly screwing me over? Seriously, is there anybody with that company that is competent left, or are they dimply this fucking mean? I began to ponder the wisdom of Murphy and Finagle.

(I told you I was pissed irate.)

Anyway …

They tell me they’ve finally got it cleared up again. So they tell me. They really do. They practically pinky-swore on the matter.

Then, yesterday, I get a letter from the goddamned absolutely lovely Disney benefits people, telling me they’ve been trying to contact me, and I need to talk to them about my fucking (I got nothin’) benefits with the Walt Disney Company, of which I HAVE NONE.

So after my wife gets home, I call them. Mind you, I’m very polite when I make these calls. The people to whom I’m speaking probably aren’t the ones fucking me over responsible, and besides, you can catch more flies with honey. Or insert the cliched bit of tripe of you choice for that last clause. Whatever.

So I call them. And I try to find out what’s going on. I explain my situation to them again.

And then they tell me that the reason they’re calling is because they want to know if I’ve signed up for Medicare yet.

~~~~~~….

“Okay, do not slam the phone against the wall,” I tell myself, “the phone isn’t responsible, and besides you own it.”

“Okay, do not try to bash you head through a wall,” I tell myself, “the wall isn’t responsible; besides, you own it. Furthermore, if you somehow break your skull, they’ll probably bill the wrong fucking [absolutely lovely, I’m sure] insurance again.”

GRRR!

Anyway, eventually one of the women on the other end of my communication network connection (because it took two of them because the first one couldn’t get her computer to work) finally tells me that they show I’m not covered. So this was all about what, exactly? I don’t even bother to ask.

So I get off the phone, assured that I’m  not covered by anything (I’m waiting to find out they’ve cancelled all my coverages, even the coverage I have through my wife’s employer), and I say to my wife,

“Congratulations honey, you’re married to a man who has magically aged at least 22 years, is a bigamist, and an incestuous bastard to boot.”

To which she cheerily replied, “Oh, you’re just like Oedipus!”

To which I thundered,

“WHERE’S MY THEBES?!”

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I cannot tell a lie….

February 17, 2014 at 12:42 pm (By Ron)

Ron-avatar_George_Washington

I wish I had a rocks glass to hold this cherry and a true Old Fashioned…..Happy Presidents Day!

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You are your own Sultan of Swat!

February 6, 2014 at 7:27 pm (By Ron)

BabeRuth-ShadowBall

Happy 119th Babe!   (like he would have made it this far!)  The greatest 20th Century example of Unrestrained Id.  Eat it, Drink it, Have Sex with it, Smoke it….Ruth is always good for that!  Ruth used bats that were 40 to 54 ounces, very, very heavy bats!

Added:   Since in the comments Lem uses the word “Ruthian”, I think it only fair to give you a bit more!

gty_babe_ruth_8_fans_kb_130710_blog

Here’s the Babe tossing Baby Ruth candy bars to the right field crowd!

RuthGehrigHuggins

Ruth and pal Lou Gehrig (their uniform numbers were 3 and 4….where they hit in the lineup!)   And the small guy in the middle?  Then manager Miller Huggins, whom Ruth dangled by his ankles out the window of a moving train to “celebrate” winning the 1928 World Series!

454px-babe_ruth_george_bushA famous picture, taken 2 months before his death, of Ruth rewarding the captain of the Yale baseball team and winner of the College World Series, George Herbert Walker Bush!

Babe Ruth

When Ruth died in August 1948  (2 years younger than me!)  he lay in state at Yankee Stadium for 3 days.  The Yankees sent up lines on each side of him so over 100,000 people could pay their respects….

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For those with slightly …off … tastes ….

February 6, 2014 at 6:28 pm (Icepick)

Calvin & Hobbes meets the Dune Universe.

Calvin & Muad’dib

One in particular jumps out:

The Science of Discontent

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The Fruit Bat Fitness Regime

February 5, 2014 at 12:27 am (Icepick) (, )

From one Eric the Fruit Bat:

Here it is, in a nutshell:

(1) Do something.

(2) Start now.

(3) Keep it simple. You didn’t turn into a blob overnight and you won’t get back into shape overnight.

(4) I’m serious about that. Do five squats every morning for a week. Next week, do six. After that comes seven. You get the idea.

(5) I’m serious. That’s how it’s done. One day at a time. Patience is a virtue.

(6) It wasn’t so long ago I would have to undo my belt because it was too tight at 40 inches. Now it’s about 31 inches. And yes, the femoral arteries are plain as day.

(7) You want to know what does that? Squats, diet and consistency.

(8) Oh, and one more thing . . . start now.

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Signs of the Times

February 2, 2014 at 2:15 am (Icepick) ()

Saw yet another depressing story today.

States see record high in long-term joblessness

In 28 states, a third or more of the unemployed have been without a job for six months or longer, leaving them with no unemployment insurance safety net following the expiration of extended benefits in December.

In New Jersey, Florida and the District of Columbia, nearly half of the unemployed have been out of work for longer than 26 weeks, according to an analysis from the Economic Policy Institute of data from the U.S. Census Bureau and Bureau of Labor Statistics. Among all 50 states and D.C., the average is 33%.

Before the Great Recession, the highest the long-term joblessness share ever reached was 26% in mid-1983, according to the EPI analysis. Today, 41 states and D.C. have shares of long-term unemployment above that level.

This reminded me that a few weeks ago Dave Schuler had pointed out the story linked below:

Half of U.S. Counties Haven’t Recovered From Recession

This was from the Wall Street Journal’s Real Time Economics blog. It includes an interactive map showing which counties in the USA have recovered from the Great Recession. As to be expected, I looked at the area where I live, Central Florida. In that area, it shows that Osceola, Pasco and Sumter counties have recovered. Pasco and Sumpter aren’t that populous. But Osceola County surprised me. At the height of the recession somewhere between one sixth and one fifth of the houses in Osceola County were sitting empty: built but never lived in, half-built, abandoned, or foreclosed upon.

But despite the fact that Osceola (the county directly south of Walt Disney World Resort) is in recovery, all is not well:

Near Disney World, number of homeless families soars

In the shadow of Walt Disney World, Osceola County has one of the highest rates of homeless families in the nation, and the problem continues to grow at an “astonishing” rate, officials told more than 300 community leaders Wednesday.

The number of homeless school-age children and parents rose by 54 percent to more than 5,000 in the past year alone, according to a new report commissioned by county government. Current programs aimed at helping those families get back on their feet have enough funding to help fewer than 10 percent of them.

Bailey said the “shockingly high” number of homeless families in Osceola stem from a unique intersection of low-wage jobs, high mobility, cheap and plentiful motel rooms, a lack of homeless shelters and, some say, a lack of code enforcement that allows families to stay in motels for months — sometimes years — at a time.

Back in June of 2010, the Obama Administration kicked off a celebration of Recovery Summer. According to the latest data, we’re still over 2,000,000 jobs short of where we were in November of 2007, a month before the recession began. And we’re over 4,000,000 full-time jobs short of where we were then. (It’s too depressing to break out the numbers at this time of night, we may be over 5,000,000 full-time jobs short.) And this doesn’t take into account that the working age population has grown considerably in the interim.

Can someone please tell me what the Hell recovery is supposed to mean? Can someone please tell me what the Hell anyone is doing about? Can someone tell me why the people that are running the country are more concerned with trying to fix every other country in the world (sometimes by importing more people from there to here) instead of trying to fix the country we’ve got?

And can someone please tell me why the rulers of the country are so damned pleased with themselves when the signs of the times are the ones held by women standing in front of groceries stores, holding a child with one hand and a placard  in the other stating,

Homeless

Please help

Thank you

God Bless

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Looking Back

February 1, 2014 at 9:03 pm (Icepick)

While working on our taxes tonight (yeech) I thought of a couple of people I knew from my time in the University of Florida’s Mathematics Graduate program in the late 1990s. So I looked them up. One, a former professor of mine, has apparently dropped off the face of the Earth. This isn’t completely surprising, as he was a complete and total wild man.

The second was another graduate student who went on to get her PhD. She’s doing alright, but not so well that it’s making me wish I had continued on and earned one of my own. The same for several of the other students I knew who got PhDs in mathematics.

Read the rest of this entry »

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