2008 Year End

2008 is winding down. I have been busy recently so have not had much time to post. A quick review of the movie "Yes Man". I am not a big Jim Carrey fan; he is OK but just not a type of humor that normally attracts me. I went to "Yes Man" with friends and it was better than I expected. The scene of the EST/revival/groupthink meeting was hilarious.

My friend Nancy and I are heading to Mike and Karen's wonderful NYE party in a short while. Please be safe this NYE.

I wish everyone a happy and prosperous 2009.


I attended a baby shower.

When I started to write this post the words of Bob Dylan came to mind: The times they are a-changin'. When I was growing up in small town Kansas men did not attend baby showers. Later I reached a more advanced civilization in California and I can remember attending a baby shower where the ratio of men to women was about equal. Today I attended a baby shower; I was in California, the mother-to-be was in Colorado, other participants were scattered in various places from Texas to Europe.

The event occurred within Second Life and was incredibly great. The attendees were mostly from the extended Extropian/Transhumanist community. The mother-to-be is an extremely intelligent person and held us all with rapt attention as she discussed topics ranging from IVF to childbirth to mother and child bonding to the issues related to women and family and children in science and technology careers. The discussion was a combination of text and voice and worked well for the most part. It lasted over an hour and the time went quickly. Comments and questions were good for a lively discussion.

It seems to me that this baby shower in Second Life can serve to help illustrate the changes which have already occurred and those which will likely occur in the coming decades. The technological changes (hardware, software, networks) which allow for this real time communication in a virtual world are one obvious feature. But beyond that are the increasing roles of women in science and technology fields. This is not to say that there are not obstacles for women however progress has occurred. Now women have more choices including freezing their eggs so that they can pursue education and careers for a couple of decades and then in their late 40s or early 50s become pregnant. The ability to be healthy enough for bearing a child at that later age is being facilitated by the general increase in knowledge about human health and how that health can be extended to later in life.

But these advances are not uniform through out the world. They are not uniform geographically but they are also not uniform within in a geographic region. So let us work to steadily increase the choices and liberties of individuals. Think about what the baby shower will be like in a few more decades? Hopefully everyone everywhere will have the opportunity to be at least at the social and technical level that I experienced today. Hopefully we will all be even more advanced.

And why just think about baby showers a few decades in the future? What about a few centuries? What will a baby shower even mean? I would like to be there. So yes the times are changing and we can all work to make the changes positive and to increase individual liberty. It may not be a guarantee to a better future but it the best path that I know of.

Saw the movie Milk

Saturday night I saw the movie Milk. It was well done and I recommend it. The movie worked well in covering not only the personal life and history of Harvey Milk but also touched on some of the context issues related to San Francisco and also the rest of USA. At the end of the movie I noticed that most people sat in their seats watching the credits. As a straight white male in his 50s I found the movie very engaging even though I had just moved to San Jose a few months before Milk and Moscone were murdered so the events were prominent in the local news and thus I already knew quite a bit about what had happened. There were several things that I either did not know or had forgotten such as the role that the Coors beer boycott played.



There is a site GenderAnalyzer.com that claims to be able to determine the gender of a web page author. I was somewhat sceptical to begin with but on December 1 I entered the URL for this blog http://blog.lightingonemorecandle.com/ and the site told me that they were 61% sure it was written by a woman. Of course they were wrong; all of it was written by me. There was a check box to indicate if they were right or wrong so I checked Wrong and hit Submit and the next page showed the results of 802 Correct and 671 Incorrect. So they were correct 54% and incorrect 46% of the time.

So not being able to fall asleep I tried it again at a bit after midnight on December 5 and this time it said that it was 62% sure that this blog was written by a woman. Of course it was wrong and what is more interesting is that there was not change or new posts or comments made between the two tests. Now they claim that they are at 1150 Correct and 965 Incorrect which is still in the 54% to 46% rate.

I was very sceptical of this Gender Analysis program but I thought it might be amusing. Well it was amusing enough to be the subject of this blog post but not much more. If a person is setting up a system to do any kind of analysis it is usually a good idea to the the system store knowledge about the specific input. So ideally it would have been slightly more reasonable if the analysis program had stored the URL, the dates of posts and other information about the page along with the crucial piece of information the this blog is written by a man. I could have then reported two values; what it found based on prior knowledge and what it computed based on its algorithms.


Cheech and Chong

To cap off the weekend my friend Nancy and I went to see Cheech and Chong. They are touring and there was one show in San Jose. The Performing Arts Center was packed (over 2000) for the sold out performance. I was lucky enough to find someone selling a couple of tickets at their cost on Craigslist. The show was great. Very funny. We had a great time.

Beautiful Day

It is a beautiful day here in the Silicon Valley. Just before noon I walked down to a coffee shop to get a cup of espresso. It was sunny with a deep blue sky. I wore a short sleeved shirt and was very comfortable. Thursday I had some fine food and a good time with friends and friends of friends; of course we had the traditional food as well as some items with a southern flair such as collard greens. Friday I worked and then Friday evening had pizza with friends. Saturday some members of the local Cryonics/Extropian/Transhumanist community got together to see a movie and eat at a local salad bar restaurant. I thought the Bond movie Quantum of Solace showed a drop in quality. However eating at Fresh Choice with friends and having wonderful discussions was tremendous.
So far this has been a fine weekend.


Bailout for the Republicans???

Read about about it here.
All I can say is that Jesse nailed it. If you like the Onion then you will love the article by Jesse Walker. If you lack a sense of humor then do not bother because you will not get it.


I Expected It But Not This Soon

Today I saw a new shiny bumper sticker which said "Impeach Obama". I kid you not. As I have said before I did not find any of the candidates worth supporting but calling for Impeachment before Inauguration strikes me as either silly or ridiculous; I am not sure which.


Weekend at Convergence08

I had a wonderful time a the Convergence08 Conference held November 15 and 16. The location of the conference was the Computer History Museum which was a very good venue. The focus of the conference was on the convergence technologies (Infotech, Biotech, Nanotech). There are many supporting organization such as Foresight, Methuselah Foundation and many others listed on their sponsor page.

The attendees were a good mix of specialists, press and non-specialists. I had a great time, saw many old friends and had a couple of days of fine intellectual stimulation. One item of note is that UCI physics prof and SF author Gregory Benford is now in the health and life extension business. He became interested in the work of Dr. Michael Rose on long lived flies as a way to investigate health and longevity in humans. The results is a small company called Genescient. Their webpage is short on details. They indicated they would be getting more info out beginning of next year. I hope they are able to follow through on this.


Expectations for the Obama Administration

It seems like a lot of people are discussing what it will be like with Obama as POTUS and I decided to add my comments to the mix. The Obama administration will likely be significantly different from the Bush administration. Here are some general observations in no particular order:

1. Obama will likely do several things that I do not like. This should not be surprising since I found none of the candidates in the recent campaign worth supporting. However I suspect that I will find fewer areas of disagreement with Obama than I have experienced with Bush or would have with McCain.

2. The next four years will be bumpy. Obama is inheriting a mess from Bush. Given the economy, the budget, the deficit, Iraq and other issues there will be a lot of bumps. Occasionally people get either blame or credit for something over which they had no control. I expect we will see this with Obama. There are several reasons to expect this; not the least of which is that there might be some problem that is not yet on the radar popping up in a few years. Perhaps not as big as the current economic issues but still substantial enough to rattle some nerves.

3. There will be more honesty from an Obama administration than we had from Bush or I expect that we would have had from McCain. At least we can hope that Obama will not behave like some Republicans who are all about the free market in their talking points but would not know a free market if it kicked them in the shin.

4. There will likely be a lot more competence in an Obama administration than Bush. Even if I disagree with Obama on policy at least I expect that there will be more competence and some better judgment. I had deep concerns about McCain; his selection of Sarah Palin confirmed to me that he did not have the judgment for the position of POTUS.

5. Based on what I have read Obama is going to reverse the Bush restriction on family visits to Cuba. The Bush restrictions on travel to Cuba were vile, stupid and counterproductive. Actually US policy toward Cuba can only be described as 'years and years of failure'. Here is a little thought experiment: Where would we today if the US had lifted all sanctions and allowed free travel and commerce with Cuba starting in the middle of the G. H. W. Bush administration say around 1990?

6. There will be a lot of people who seem to thrive on being angry and upset about things which have not happened. Some people seems to think that Obama is going to nationalize everything down to the level of the local lemonade stand, set margin tax rates at 95% and send everyone to re-eduction camps. OK; those were exaggerations. The point I was trying to make is that there is no point in getting angry over things that Obama has not done and is not likely to do. Some people are upset because they think Obama is a Socialist. First off there are many different definitions of the term Socialist so just calling someone a Socialist is not all that useful without some additional qualifications. Secondly given that under the eight years of the George W. Bush administrations there has been a major Medicare drug law and the multi-hundred billion dollar involvement in the financial markets it does raise the quesiton that if you call Obama a Socialist then what do you call Bush? So maybe we should stop the name calling and deal with issues of substance.

7. There will likely be a lot of disappointed people who thought Obama would be able to ring in a worker's paradise with a snap of the fingers. Obama is smart enough to know in general terms how an economy works and that no amount of wishful thinking will change basic economics. For example it is not easy to have huge budget deficits and massive debt year after year; eventually things start to unravel. I expect that there will be some grumbling that Obama has sold out to big business because some pet project did not get immediately approved.

8. Guantanamo Bay detention camp, torture, Iraq, Afghanistan are just a part of what I consider the Bush legacy of incompetence, mendacity and hubris. Obama will start to deal with the mess but I doubt that it will be cleaned up within a four year term. This mess is so big that it might take a decade or more.


Prop 8 Results

Well I am generally pissed. There are still some ballots to count so the numbers could still change. And there are the court challenges. But I am still generally pissed and I am not up to a detailed analysis now. And Andy has done a good job summarizing some of the on going Prop 8 issues here and here and Kevin has an interesting take on things here.

Obama Won

Well the results are in and Obama won. I was not an Obama supporter but I also was not a McCain supporter. In fact I found all of the candidates disappointing; some for policy; some for judgement; some for lack of ability. Certainly some more disappointing than others. Since I live in California my support for any candidate would have not changed the outcome one bit since California was known to be solid for Obama. Odds are that things under Obama will not be as good as his supporters have claimed nor as bad as his opponents have claimed. Plus he will likely get both credit and blame for things over which his administration will have little control.

John Scalzi has a Reality Check discussion which I got to via a post in Cheryl Morgan blog.

One thing that will change is that we will all need to add Obama to our spell check dictionaries.


SF Authors respond to political questions

Reason Magazine has an eclectic mix of staff, guest writers and topics. I occasionally read both the magazine and the blog. Recently they had some responses to political questions from individuals that are described as being in the in the magazine's "universe" and while the magazine is generally libertarian in outlook we are provided with a range of responses from many different outlooks; from Craig Newmark to Grover Norquist to Steven Pinker to Penn Jillette.

The questions and responses are interesting reading. As would be expected a common theme was disgust with the Bush administration.

Three responses were from well known SF writers Gregory Benford, David Brin and John Scalzi. The responses to which candidate they support were generally predictable; one for Bob Barr and two for Barack Obama. Responses to the other questions had some points worth comment.

In response to the question: 'What will you miss about the Bush administration?'; Benford replied 'Laura Bush'. The more I thought about that response the more I think Benford has touched on an interesting point. Laura Bush is known for her involvement with reading advocacy program and viewers of Book TV will be aware of her involvement with the National Book Festival. And what else has come out of two terms of the Bush administration that has had as positive an impact as the National Book Festival? From what I can tell the National Book Festival is well organized, useful, devoid of major corruption and does not trample heavily on civil liberties.

In response to the question: 'Who are you voting for in November?' Brin replied 'For not a single "liberal" reason, I am voting not only for Obama, but for the GOP to be utterly spanked and sent into exile, where, perhaps, sincere men and women may remember Barry Goldwater and resurrect some kind of healthy, libertarian Conservatism.' Well I agree that the GOP should be spanked however I am not in agreement with Brin's comment on 'some kind of healthy, libertarian Conservatism'. I just do not think it is possible. In my opinion Libertarianism and Conservatism actually have very little in common. I have heard Conservatives who have read Libertarian writings and adopted some bits of Libertarian rhetoric but my observation is that these Conservatives really do not embrace or understand much of the Libertarian vision. When you can show me a Conservative who will embrace an immediate end to the War on Drugs, total decriminalization of sex workers and allow the fine folks of Alabama to purchase sex toys at their local shops then maybe I might concede the possibility. But of course the question not addressed in all of this is the definition of Conservative. And of Libertarian. And those questions will not be addressed at this moment.

In response to the question: 'Leaving George W. Bush out of consideration, what former U.S. president would you most like to have waterboarded?' Scalzi responded: 'Dude, waterboarding is so 2006'. Generally the responses to this question were either to list the obvious ones such as Wilson or Nixon or in some cases to object to the question such as the response by Drew Carey: 'None of them. The sooner we stop coming up with lists of people to waterboard, the better.' Scalzi came up with a way to dismiss the question while at the same time having a bit of sparkle in his answer.


Bollywood - McCain Palin

On a humorous note; if you are sick of all of the political posturing you might want take a look at:

Bollywood - McCain Palin

Warning; do not eat or drink while watching because it is laugh out loud funny.
I am not an Obama supporter either. But I have not seen a Bollywood spoof of Obama. Anyone know of one?


About California Prop 8

A "No" vote on Proposition 8 will annul no marriages.
A "Yes" vote on Proposition 8 will annul over 10,000 marriages.
Which vote is really protecting marriage?

This summary of Prop 8 from Andy and Kevin.
For those outside California who might not be familiar with Proposition 8 look here:

Many articulate persons have already listed the many reasons why Prop 8 is terrible idea. In summary Proposition 8 puts discrimination into California law in a way which will have dire consequences. In addition Rick Moen has written a summary of some of the potential problems understanding what the terms man and woman mean in the context of Prop. 8.

Something which continues to sadden me is the amount of misleading and false statements being made by the "Yes on 8" campaign. They seem to be taking the approach that if there are no good arguments for their position then they will just spew forth misdirection, lies and FUD. It is sad, very very sad.

Vote No on Prop 8.


For a variety of reasons I have held off on starting a blog however now seems like a good time. to start This blog will consist primarily of my observations, comments and reviews on a wide variety of subjects. Please do not expect frequent contributions. I will only be adding something when I feel I have something worth saying.