Saturday, January 26, 2008

Brainy Computer Not Such a Smartypants

While reading an MSNBC article about Britain's Fastest Supercomputer HECToR, I was shocked to see the inverse synergy that was portrayed in the article:

"With the power of 12,000 desktop PCs, the mammoth machine called HECToR is the country's fastest computer and one of the most powerful in Europe.

It can make 63 million calculations each second, allowing scientists to conduct research into everything from climate change to new medicines."

My old Mac G5 is 1000 times faster than Britain's fastest supercomputer? They really got ripped off! They could have just bought a Pentium II 300 and had two extra megaflops. I guess that having the power of 12,000 desktop simply refers to the fact that they have a redundant array of e-machines aftermarket power supplies which as we all know, are far better than the originals, and Britain wouldn't want their floppy drive to get corrupted during a reboot!

Now, I'm not the type of person to believe everything I read, but what type of technology writer could possibly make such a mistake? Interestingly, the person who posted this article on MSNBC had taken it from the Reuters feed, which at the time I'm writing this says the same thing.

Of course, we know that the worlds fastest computer is Japan's MDGRAPE-3 @ 1 petafllop, followed by the BlueGene at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California @ 478.2 teraflops. Of course the BlueGene is considered the the world's fastest because it is not in Japan. This helps us to understand why a computer that is far slower than everything I use on a daily basis can be the fastest in Britain, it's that pesky high pound vs. dollar value which must reach a balance somewhere. This balance is struck in the amount of processing power allocated to other countries. That is why Japan's supercomputer doesn't exist even though it is so fast, and why Britain's is so fast even though it is so slow.

Now, I will clear up the mistakes made in the Reuters feed, which should have read as follows: With 12,000 redundant aftermarket e-machines power supplies, the mammoth machine called HECToR is the country's fastest computer and one of the most powerful in Europe due in part to the surprising stability of the Euro.

It can make 63 million calculations each second, allowing scientists to check e-mail, run DOS programs, and play tetris.

I guess what I'm trying to say here is, don't believe everything you read, because, not only is it poorly written, it's wrong.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Legend of the Vomelette

Dale Perkins - retired hotel inspector - enjoyed nothing more than an extended stay at a bed and breakfast. He liked the casual atmosphere and the idea of waking up and having a meal with new friends almost every day. Indeed, it is the rare guest that is entirely standoffish at such an establishment. But Mr. Perkins had an odd and secret hobby, he was in search of the world's most obscenely disgusting naturally occurring omelette.

Being a hotel inspector, he had come close many times, but it always seemed forced. Hotel employees are often treated with little respect and will at times be tempted to add a little something special to a meal. He didn't want to find the worst omelette that could ever be made. A bad or even deadly omelette could be produced by anybody if they were upset enough. He simply wanted to observe in the wild, the worst omelette that could be found, free of malice or animus. Poetically, he wrote in his journal of "an omelette born of good but bent on evil".

There were times when the monotony of the search got to him, and while not directly saying, "make me a disgusting omelette", he would occasionally garnish his order with the words "add your own special touch" or "do something unexpected with it" or "do something crazy" or even "feel free to experiment wildly and insanely". Although he felt guilty about possibly tainting the integrity of his retirement project, there was really nothing to worry about. One inn keeper spit in the omelette, but the only disgusting thing about that was the slight taste of Listerine that made its way into the omelette. Other than that, there was an omelette that had grated shoe polish on it. That was it, from now on he was determined to let this omelette manifest itself naturally. He only hoped that he would live to see it.

Dale decided that a change of venue was in order. He simply wasn't getting the results he expected from these typical b&b's. His first foray into the underworld of the b&b's was an abysmal failure. He had chosen a b&b that actually advertised its proximity to the local brothel and blood bank. As he walked in, he chuckled when he saw the "check all firearms at door" sign. It was plain to see that this was no ordinary b&b. Yet, the place was clean and tidy, in fact it was by far the cleanest b&b he had ever been to. It was really an oasis in the concrete jungle.

The true test of this place was going to be the omelette. Dale came down stairs early to get a jump on the inn keepers. He thought that he could perhaps irritate them into making him a bad omelette, but when they came downstairs and saw him starting breakfast on his own, he didn't say the unspeakably rude things he wanted to say, he just said, "I'm sorry, I just got a bit crazy there for a second". They responded, "that's okay, we love it when the guests take the initiative". They added, "however, since we can't be sure that you perfectly followed our omelette hygiene chart..."

Yes indeed, this omelette was by far the best he had ever tried, even though he was eating it in the most sanitized setting imaginable. Finally, he had to ask the inn keepers why they advertised the fact that they were so close to the house of ill repute. They responded, "we did it because we didn't want to disappoint anyone, we believe in honesty in advertising".

Dale had eaten it all, omelettes that were too runny, too dry - even crispy, obnoxiously overflowing with salsa, omelettes with brown slices of avocado, omelettes with raw cucumber and pineapple, omelettes with way too much bacon (even though that is nearly impossible). There were no more towering omelette mountains to climb, and no omelette fords that needed to be waded across, nor were there any omelette volcanoes, oceans, rivers, or other metaphors that needed to be confronted in some illustrative way.

Mr. Perkins died before he ever found his elusive evil and/or deadly omelette. Or did he?

Yes, there are many who speculate that the final omelette eaten by Mr. Perkins was indeed the elusive Vomelette, and studies have been started to prove it. Using Mr Perkins copious notes they aim to re create every omelette experience he ever had and have a seven man and one woman control group eat this diet for the next 50 years until they come to the last omelette. At this point the three woman and two man variable group along with the 2 woman and 14 man secondary control group (which will have never eaten any eggs or egg products before) will all eat a lab created exact duplicate of his final omelette.

Of course, when conducting any type of controlled tests, it is important to take good notes and there has been considerable and heated debate as to whether that final omelette was made with imitation crab meat or imitation crap meat. It will only take 50 years to find out.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

banana upheaval

Mind escapes me in an oblivious turn for the better or worse that seems to be smiling the length of my doom in a cold sweat with razor burn banana peel whiplash as the garden of indentured servitude entices you to partake of its fruit and the unparalleled joy that comes from knowing your choices are bad in advance.

Friday, January 11, 2008

pet peeve #9,000,000,000,004.07

Randomly numbered list items presented out of order. Stupid, pointless, hated them since I first saw them. Why are they still around?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

sifting through the red tape of my lucid dreams

As I fill the folds of my weathered neck with baby field greens, I spy an opening in the human resources department of my soul. I send in my resume and get called in immediately for an interview. The interview goes well, and pretty soon I’m told that I’m overqualified for the position. As frantically as I know how, I just miss explaining the fact that the position wouldn’t even be available if it wasn’t for me. The double meaning makes me laugh and the tension is traded in for a bucket of handlebars. The entire staff of my body hop on their unicycles and pretend the handlebars are connected. Oddly, I don’t see a thing but I am provided with all the forms, signed in triplicate and notarized by Dr. Penguin, a most respected figment of my embellishment.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Imitation Limitation

You imitate art and you imitate life,
but you forgot who you were
and lost all your notes.

You come to me for validation
but all I have is truth.

The truth is that
you never knew
who you were
and nobody cares
who you are.

I could teach you to be me
but you’d just be
a cheap knock off.

Could you honestly live with that?

Look who I’m talking to,
there’s nobody there,
it’s you.

Monday, January 7, 2008

this old steak

my heart is a steak - aged and tender

your heart is a hammer - it keeps beating and beating and beating my steak to a pulp

i just know

a woman once said to me, "how did you know?"

"mans intuition", I replied.

I never really thought about it before...
but I wonder what we were talking about.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

i was rain

Like a droplet in a dream
falling so fast that it feels like floating or even flying
I try to recapture the weightlessness
by laying on the roof and staring at the stars
but I’m afraid to climb the ladder at night
so I stay right here on the ground
in fact, I crawl
but for fear that someone might roll me over
I lay down
face down
with my
eyes closed
maybe I should
dig a hole

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Baby Face

M. T. Brown was the first adult recipient of a human baby face transplant. The circumstances surrounding how his face went missing were a mystery. All he could remember was that he was walking to the office on Tuesday and the next thing he knew his face was just gone.

Being that Dr. Brown was a very important under cover geneticist, he was fast tracked to the head of the queue at the reconstructive surgery ward. His fellow doctors and scientists would do anything to get him back on track so he could meet with investors, world leaders, and the Nobel committee. They were so focused on getting him back to work that they allowed many ethical grey areas to be temporarily swept under the rug. One such area was the use of brain dead patients that hadn’t been qualified or released to be used as donors, another was using patients that were in waking comas and simply drugging them to make them appear lifeless, another was capturing vagrants and ragamuffins directly from the streets and drugging or even lobotomizing them so they could be used as possible face donors. Finally, they started rounding up minors who were lost or seemed to be “up to no good”. Some who disapproved of these methods still agreed that this needed to be done for the sake of efficiency and variety, both of which were very important to Dr. Brown. Besides, they were able to round up over 80 possibilities in less than 7 hours.

They would load the possible donors on carts and parade them in front of Mr. Brown, but he just kept waving them away and saying no, no, no. After running through all the adults, they finally put all the youngsters on the carts and began wheeling them in, every one was a “no”. They were beginning to get frustrated that they had done all this work seemingly for nothing, when one of the doctors remembered that he had seen a baby laying in a basket earlier on the street corner on his way in to work. He left it there because he didn’t think he would need it. I mean, who could even know that events would possibly have unfolded in such a way, and that a seemingly useless baby would be so urgently needed. He jumped into his fancy Italian sports car (that was normally for picking up the ladies) and raced to the street corner hoping, wishing, dreaming and even praying that the baby would still be there. To the astonishment and titillation of the doctor the baby was still there! He was so excited that he had found the baby that he accidentally slammed its left foot and right hand in the door, no big deal though, they wouldn’t be needing those anyway.

The scientist was frustrated that the baby was screaming and fussing so much that he threatened the baby in no uncertain terms. The baby finally shut up just in time to sneak it into the hospital. The surgeons quickly drugged the baby and didn’t even bother to place it on the presentation cart. They ran with the baby and as one of the interns held it up, Dr Brown excitedly yelled, “That’s the face!! That’s the face!” The doctors and scientists breathed a stunted sigh of relief, then someone spoke up, “we’ve got a lot of work to do lads, first we’ve got to kill this baby!”

Once the baby was killed, they quickly but carefully removed its face. Two of the best interns they had were assigned to the task of making this whole thing look like an accident. First they stole a forklift, a vehicle that would be totally untraceable back to them. Next they collected old liquor bottles and spread them around inside the cabin. They wanted this baby to appear to have been drunk at the time of impact, because they knew the media would run with the whole “faceless baby” thing, but a “faceless drunk baby” seems like a much less sympathetic character.

After hours on the operating table, Dr. Brown was finally lucid enough to move a little on his own. The surgeons explained to him that even with all of the advancements that have been made in accelerated healing, the process was far from over and the sutures would need to remain in place for a month. Then they peeled off the wrapping to reveal the new face of Dr. Brown.

First, Dr. Brown faced the group and they marveled at how well their fellow surgeons did at grafting a baby face onto a full grown man’s head, but they marveled even more at Dr. Brown, and how he instinctively knew that this face would suit him so well. Finally, Dr. Brown turned to the mirror and at seeing himself, he screamed, “That’s the face!!! That’s the face!!!” then he stabbed himself in the forehead with a scalpel and began cutting chunks out of his new face. Everyone started to scream, but then remembered that they had seen and done some slightly unethical things that evening themselves, so they regained composure pretty quickly.

Dr. Brown however, was literally and figuratively coming apart. They quickly sedated him and started to investigate what could have gone wrong. Finally one of the doctors said, he knew what was going on. “Where’s that baby?” he said. One of the interns came forward and said, “we put it in a forklift and drove it over a cliff.” The interns and the doctor raced to the scene of the “disposal” in a really cool Lamborghini stretch limo. When they arrived at the scene it was crawling with fuzz, when they asked the pigs what had happened, they said, “looks like some disgruntled child laborer got drunk off his keister, ate his own face and flipped his forklift “ass over teakettle” into the ravine."

“You think he ate his own face?” they inquired. “Yep, that’s what it looks like, we’ll know for sure when they do the autopsy”, he replied.

Finding that the body had already been taken to the coroner’s office, they raced on ahead of the rest of the group knowing that the answers were there. As they arrived, the medical examiner was just finishing up documentation of the contents of the baby’s stomach. When asked, the M.E. told them that there was definitely ingested human tissue in this baby. After performing DNA testing, it was clear that this was indeed the baby that had eaten Dr. Browns face. They now realized that Dr. Brown thought the carts of bodies were part of a criminal identification lineup, not a visage buffet. But they chose to let it slide because he was clearly in shock, so you couldn’t totally blame him for his confusion.

They asked the M.E. to make this new information go away, to which he replied, “Sure thing, anything for you Chuck,” which made Dr. Chuck feel pretty good about being a Rotary Club member. They took the face fragments back to the hospital and were able to use about 50% of Dr. Browns original face in the project. They couldn’t remove all of the parts of the baby face from Dr. Brown without severely limiting his chances of recovery, but they were able to use parts from a couple of other donors to create a real cohesive whole. The only problem was if Dr. Brown didn’t shave he would have 5 different colors of hair in his beard. Most people would just think this was a sign of his age. Since some touchy secrets may have been revealed, everyone involved was charged not to tell that Dr. Brown was not only the first adult to receive a baby face transplant, but he was also the first recipient of a community patchwork face.

Incidentally, the only article in the daily newspaper that was in any way related to these events was in the classified ads, it read as follows: LOST, unmarked industrial sized forklift, was used for drug and gun trafficking, REWARD! If found, please contact Lester Joseph Gillis VI.

Thursday, January 3, 2008


I've been catching up on my scientific reading lately and have been astounded by the abundance of published research that is unfinished. I understand that you guys want grants and other sources of funding to keep going, and you need to make a name for yourself in order to continue your research. But similar projects will be funded with or without your help, and I think it would be in the best interest of science if you just back off, stay in the background or just quit! Did you ever think that maybe you're taking money away from real scientists who may have some actual research to do?

All you "scientists" who subscribe to the idea that science is unprovable should really tone it down. If you feel the need to be near lab equipment, why don't you get a little cart with wheels? You can use this cart to fetch flasks, beakers, books, coffee, doughnuts, and other science related equipment. Yes, you can have a doughnut, but don't shove it into a flask and write a paper about it, that's not your job anymore.

Imagine a world where everyone waited to speak until they produced a genuine thought. Imagine a world where no one published articles unless they said anything new. Imagine yourself actually helping to facilitate the realization of such a world.

The beggar on the street makes up crap too when he thinks he can get some money from someone, but at least he doesn't publish his findings in science journals. The nightly news is filled with error, misinformation and hack, but at least they throw in a generous dusting of "allegedly".

I know the blame doesn't rest *entirely* in the hands of you "pseudo scientists", you only start the wheels of misinformation rolling, the "editors" have to take a healthy portion of blame pie as well. After all, they are the ones who checked for spelling, grammar and clarity of thought, yet they never bothered to check and see if anything was actually accomplished by your writing. A good question for an editor to ask would be, "Was any new, interesting or even documented data presented?"

I know, I shouldn't expect that being a scientist should be any different than any other job, where politics, recognition and power get in the way of a job well done. But I like to think of science as beyond all that. I know it isn't, and I know that most of what is called science is marketing fluff and office (lab) politics. But wouldn't it be great if the content was as powerful as the headline?

For you non scientific people who actually read this far... Generally, what is written in the science tabloids is based on some factual data or on an observation that cannot be reproduced. I have to admit to having perpetrated a science hoax myself.

Once upon a time when I was a young lad, I was looking up at the stars through an opening in the clouds and a small spark came down, hit my brother's truck and disintegrated into many tinier sparks. I ran in to the house to tell everyone what I saw. NOBODY believed me. I was so upset that I was disbelieved that I formulated a hoax. I dug a small hole in the driveway, placed a rock that would look like a meteorite into the hole and super heated the rock with my dads oxy-acetelene torch. Then I ran into the house *acting* excited about the meteor that I had seen land in front of the garage. Everyone believed me, it didn't matter that I was a bad actor and the rock was clearly a fake, the rock was hot and in a hole so it must have dropped from the sky.

The rock was so hot in fact that you could ignite matches on it by touch for a few minutes afterward. It was so hot that it shattered the glass bottle we tried to pick it up in. Any doubt that was generated by the fact that the rock was sitting in a hole dug with a tablespoon instantly abated when the match test (which I recommended) was administered. In fact I remember comments about how it wouldn't be possible to heat the rock up that hot.

Well, there was one small hiccup to my family hoax. My mom wanted to call the local "authorities", the college, the planetarium, that kind of thing. Realizing that this hoax would have been seen through by even the least competent scientist, I conveniently lost the rock. If you looked at it closely, you could see that it was full of seashells and was basically sandstone. Not the stuff meteors are made of. I imagined a scientist coming to the house to test it and laughing when he couldn't even get a magnet to stick to it, then turning to me and saying, "thanks for wasting my time and by extension the time of the entire world of science."

Now that I'm older, I realize that the odds of that scenario playing out were slim to none. I had a true story with a false outcome that would have created a cloud of buzz that you couldn't cut with an electric buzz knife. The "scientist" would have taken it to the lab and written page after page of observations. The sheer bulk of words would lead others to believe that I really found something. And everybody else that wanted a little taste of my fame pie would hop on board no matter how skeptical, in fact they would have reasoned that after they get fame and funding they could separate themselves from the issue and wriggle out of the pit of scientific whoredom they had now bedded down in for the short haul.

You can understand it when put in this context, because the rock I saw fall COULD have been sandstone, and it COULD have been full of little sea shells. It can never be proven so it can never be disproved. When you lie about something you believe, all you need to do is create enough reason to suspend disbelief long enough to present the evidence that proves your lie. I guess that's science.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

individuality overdose

Stan was like every other boy his age in that he wanted to be just like everybody else but still retain a vague sense of individuality. In all other ways he was totally different from other boys his age. And if you say that the other boys are also boys, then I'll remind you 1) you are talking to a story that has already been written, you won't convince the story to change now 2) you are not allowing the story to unfold naturally like the petals of a flower, a soggy accordion, or the pages of a book.

So back to the story...

Stan was keen to be influenced by peer pressure but was hard pressed to find a peer that was forceful enough to influence him. He was the equivalent of an autistic savant who only understood his own need for social acceptance. His comprehension of his own isolation was so profound that people would come from miles around to see just how lonely he could be. One and all, they were impressed by Stan's stark portrayal of loneliness. Comments ranged from, "looking at Stan is like you're drowning in his own sorrow", to "staring at Stan was like being microwaved to death in a sensory deprivation iron maiden".

As the years wore on, many other attractions were added near and around the Stan exhibit. A slacker exhibit which blurred the lines of slack by its use of coma patients rather than actual slackers was a particular hit. Examples of displays that never quite caught on were such flops as, Dudes with Suds, Jocks with Zubaz, and Turd Flingers. The Turd Flingers debacle was a shock to the parents who arranged the showing. They assumed that since monkeys were so popular, humans with the same antics would be a boon. The reality was that most families weren't willing to pay great fees to see the same things that happen on a daily basis in their own homes.

A stark comprehension of a singular petrifying reality was still worth coughing up some serious bread. Anyone who knew anyone knew that they could never be as alone as Stan. Seeing him suffer in his chronic involuntary detachment remained a great comfort to many. The thousands of onlookers somehow intensified and focused his already obscene estrangement.

One day a particularly depressive dental school dropout decided to walk through the displays because he had a few minutes to spare before killing himself. When he got to the Stan exhibit he was shocked by what he saw. A single hand movement. Was that a wave? Again, there was another almost undetectable movement of a hand. ExPreDent waved back and saw what appeared to be a smile. Although ExPreDent had never visited the Stan exhibit before, he had heard about it and seen Stan on all the magazine covers. He knew this was Stan, but he was acting so different, and even though the communication was minimal, Stan was expressing himself more than ever before.

Having been there to see all of this, made ExPreDent change his mind. He climbed down the steep concrete wall using a piece of a sturdy vine to lower himself to Stan's level. He said to Stan, "Why of all people did you pick me to communicate with?" Stan replied, "Because I knew no one would believe you."

Stan and ExPre sat up all night talking and laughing about uninteresting thoughts they had throughout their lives but never felt like sharing with anyone else. At least that's what appears to have happened. Both Stan and ExPre were found dead the next morning lying in a pool of their own sarcasm. Shards of crystalized thoughts were found as far as 30 meters from the corpses, and the fragments seemed to make up complex hyperbolic allegoric palindromes written in some hybridized variant of pig latin, esperanto and calculus.

Without Stan the exhibits seemed pointless, because there was no longer a clear benchmark for isolation and sadness. The loneliest person in the world could be just about anybody.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008


Fantasy is for suckers,
reality is a pain that never goes away,
even in death.
Not that I'm a masochist or even a pessimist.
I'm a multitasking realist who needs...
Organic Heirloom Tomatoes
Feta Cheese
Kalamata Olives
Something I can Kill Myself With
Razor Sharp Fettuccini?