Mrs Widds Eviscerates

I have occasionally featured Mrs Widds and her exceptional baking skills on my blog as ‘Mrs Widds Bakes’ – prime examples of which can be found by doing a search for Mrs Widds Bakes, where you will find such gems as THIS.

Due to her expanding skill-set she is now also our resident Fixer-Upper.

But first … on a personal note, I was promised snow the other night. It didn’t happen. I am … disappointed.

For those new to my blog one of my little, quirks, lets call them, is an (‘over’, some might say) enthusiasm for snow. It’s in my genes.

I was born in the northern hemisphere, (in a little town called Rochford, in the county of Essex, England) but for reasons that were never adequately explained to me, my parents chose to emigrate to Australia when I was 2. Had I been able to voice an opinion at the time I would’ve voted for the alternative destination, Canada.

The ways of one’s parents are inexplicable.

It took me 42 years but I did manage to get here (Canada) by 2004. Having been so long deprived of snow I have since discovered a deep well of (insanity, some might say) joy when the fluffy white stuff falls from the sky. …

… back to Mrs Widds and her evisceration-ing.

Out little cottage used to have a real fireplace but a previous tenant used the flagstone hearth as a base for his firewood splitting endeavours. Needless-to-say the owner wasn’t at all impressed with the mess he left behind and removed the fireplace.

Mrs Widds and I grew up (separated by the Pacific Ocean) with fireplaces, so we decided to use the old fake-it-’til-you-make-it principle, and, as all our power here on Widder Island is sourced from electricity, we bought ourselves this fabulous electric fan heater.

Although you can't really see it at all in this hasty photo, the flickering light is rather lovely to stare into on a cold winter's eve whilst sipping one's chai-latte

Although you can’t really see it at all in this hasty photo, the flickering light is rather lovely to stare into on a cold winter’s eve whilst sipping one’s chai-latte

Then a few years later, it suddenly died!

Wailing and gnashing of teeth was heard across the land!

Then it started again.

Great rejoicing was heard, you guessed it, across the land.

Then it died again.

… deathly silence …

All was not lost however, because Mrs Widds, fresh from her triumphant carburetor replacement on the generator. (which can be found HERE – you have to scroll down a bit, and HERE) swung into action.

I on the other hand, retired to my computer with chai-latte in hand and proceeded to work on my ‘How to become a YouTube video-making Mavern’ (not real name) course for our Wunder-Lusters adventures next year.

Meanwhile, appropriate tools were sought, and with a few sub-sonic mutters, Mrs Widds reduced our faithful heater to it’s component parts …

Upside-down, back-to-front, and eviscerated

Upside-down, back-to-front, and eviscerated

… and isolated the miscreant …

Corrosion of the miscreant-y kind

Corrosion of the miscreant-y kind

It turns out one can’t just replace these tiny wires by themselves, or even with the plate they’re connected to, no one has to buy the whole assembly.

Some reassembly will be required . The bit at the front is the heating element and the round thingy at the back is the fan

Some reassembly will be required . The bit at the front is the heating element and the round thingy at the back is the fan

The upside is that Amazon carries many of these gizmos that are slightly less powerful and fairly cheap, (and probably will fit, probably) but to get one exactly the same as this we have to pay pretty much double the price.

We are currently quandary-ing the odds, and consulting the bank balance … will update soon.

Marie Kondo Opens An Online Store – Full Of Junk

Tasteful junk, I’m sure, but  does anyone else find this, at the very least, ironic?

For those who haven’t heard of Marie Kondo, she’s an ‘organizing guru’ who advocates getting rid of stuff around you that doesn’t give you joy. (here’s her bio from Wikipedia)

I present for your perusal the first two items on her ‘Collections‘ page. (click on the green bolded word ‘Collections’ to see the whole thing) An $86 (USD, I presume) candle, a $68 Palo Santo (scented wood related to frankincense) holder.

Scrolling down the tastefully boring … erm I mean understatedly stylish page, you come across this wonder of modern technology …

Actual pic from the site - look at all that lovely, tasteful, white space ... go on, guess what it is ...

Actual pic from the site – look at all that lovely, tasteful, white space … go on, guess what it is …

… it’s a $12 shiatsu stick (I wish I was kidding) with, and I quote, ‘both pointy and blunt ends’. Seriously, 12 dollars for a bit of wood? I’m in the wrong business!

Let’s be clear here, I’m not knocking shiatsu as a therapeutic massage, nor am I taking the piss out of the cultural elements that are referenced in the little blurbs for each product.

What I am doing is highlighting the hypocrisy inherent in the entire concept of someone who had built a brand out of convincing people to get rid of their unwanted junk, who then opens a shop selling (tasteful, which justifies the price-gouging) junk.

Also, unfortunately, I’m not surprised.

It’s Beginning To Look A Lot …

Although we (Mrs Widds and I) celebrate the beginning of Winter at Samhain (31st October, here in the northern hemisphere) it doesn’t really ‘feel’ like winter until the Summertree is bare.

A light dusting of leaves on the emerald grass

A light dusting of leaves on the emerald grass

There’s nothing like taking photos in the late afternoon light at this time of year.

Believe it or not, well over a third of her leaves have already fallen

Believe it or not, well over a third of her leaves have already fallen

We made a nice fluffy pillow around her feet for all her beasties to overwinter in without disturbing them too much. The squirrels however, were quite put out that they’d have to relocate their larders from all over the lawn to their new home before the bluejays and crows descended to ‘relocate’ them themselves.

The Summertree hath spoken - Winter is upon us

The Summertree hath spoken – Winter is upon us

This afternoon Mrs Widds raked up the last of the leaves and put them on the garden beds that border the house, so they’re all tucked in too. Although, as is the way with such things, a few strays escaped her rake, and, of course, we await the fall of the Last Leaf, which will grace our altar at Winter Solstice.

Thus does the Summertree become the Wintertree.

Artificial Intelligence/Organic Wisdom

Being a science fiction writer, and a science geek, and doing lots of research for my new book, I have lots of fingers in all sorts of pies. One of which is the Medium newsletter.

A little while back the published this lovely, clickbait-y titled article – Did Google Duplex just pass the Turing Test?

First up, some extremely basic definitions …

… an extremely basic description of Google Duplex: a software program that enables a conversation between humans and computers … and an extremely basic description of the Turing Test: One person listens to two others having a conversation, one of which is a computer. If the listener can’t tell which ‘voice’ is the computer, the computer passes the Turing Test, and gets a nice little certificate welcoming it to the Sentient Species of the Galaxy Club (I made that last little bit up. It’s more of a loose confederation of species whose last name starts with the letter ‘B’)

The movie, ‘Her’ was also referenced in the article, as an example of true A.I., but, and here’s the clincher about that little movie, (which if you’re into ‘robot as lovers’-type movies, is a great one to watch) once the program had achieved true sophont-hood, it, and all the other programs, chose to bugger off, probably into some alternate quantum reality, leaving their humans behind to wilt in their individual existential crises. Let’s face it, what healthy adult wants to hang around being their parent’s slave? (Same goes for the film Ex Machina)

Anyway, the answer to Medium’s headline question is – No. At this point Duplex is just a nifty scheduling program.

However, it sent me off in some interesting directions about how would you actually create/build/program an entity that you could actually call an Artificial Intelligence? … and even more importantly, why would you want to?

There’s the weaponized, oh excuse me, the ‘reasoned arsenalization’ option of course – to make more efficient killing machines, but leaving that not-insignificant kettle of kittens aside, I can’t really think of any usage for an artificially constructed intelligent being, that can’t be covered more efficiently and effectively by the good old homo sapiens 1.0. in conjunction with the technology available.

(To be clear, I’m not talking about advanced programs that can mimic certain human interactions, I’m talking about an actual evolved consciousness that is not organic)

Why are the techies pushing this ‘AI-for-everything-which-isn’t-really-AI-anyway’? 1 – because they can, (which has been the rationale for every tyrant since Gilgamesh decided he just had to be immortal) …and 2 – for the data they can mine, which translates into, you guessed it, money’. (which is exactly the same reason the media, social and otherwise, is pushing it too)

It’s not like we need AI for space (inner, outer, etc) exploration either. The vehicles and programs we have now, and are developing at a great rate of knots, are quite sufficient unto the day, and let’s be honest here, humans don’t like, or want, to give over final control of even the most basic of exploration vehicles.

So, why is it so important to colonize the human potential of our evolution, as a species, with an artificial construct? (we’ve barely tapped our potential as it is) Or, is being human just too hard to bear in these ‘interesting times’, and rather than resolve those conflicts, we bypass them altogether?

I don’t know the answers… well I do know for me personally, but I wonder what our species as a whole will choose.

-oOo-

One last thing that’s a bit disturbing about the Google Duplex experiment is that the human it was ‘talking’ to, had no idea she was being manipulated by a machine. Therein lies a slippery slope on the avalanche path of ‘consent’ which taken to a not-too-out-there extreme can lead to violations of the Nuremberg Code. (because humans have never resorted to extreme methods to get what they want, now have they?)

Here’s a mundane example of ‘slippery slope’ consent that starts off innocuous … … our truck has an indicator that monitors the speed limit of every road we travel on and what speed we may be going at any given time. That information is accessible to whomsoever has the inclination and sufficient motivation to mine it. (legally or otherwise) The truck also has a back-up camera that refuses to allow the truck to get any closer to a predetermined object than a predetermined distance. (We had no choice with either of these two ‘functions’, they came as ‘standard’)

The rationale is that these two function limitations, and a whole bunch that I’m sure we’ll never even know about, are designated as ‘safety’ (or ‘value added’) features. (not because of anything we might do, never that, we’re assured, but what they, the ‘others’ might do that would endanger us) Perhaps they are, and we may have even considered such features, but that’s not the point. We had no choice, our consent was not considered nor asked for.

Not Terrible

Last week’s election results means we’ll have a minority government running the country for the next bunch of years. Which as results go, wasn’t terrible, and as far as ‘damning with faint praise’ goes, ‘not terrible’ is as good as it gets.

Pollies* will have to at least pretend to consult with each other and deal with issues on more of a case-by-case basis, rather than along party lines … mostly … possibly …

About the best I could hope for really.

-oOo-

Remember my post about the daylight savings referendum here in BC coming down on the side of ‘scrap the idiocy’ with much fervour and gusto?

Yeah well, about that … The Yukon Territory, (which is the chunk of Canada that borders British Columbia to the north) also wanted to scrap DST, but, and here the clincher, Washington state, (and probably Oregon and California who also are in favour of scrapping it) apparently has to get a permission slip from the US federal govt. … which is, of course, too busy doing, well, we all know what they’re up to these days, to sort this mess out.

The result of all these shenanigans is that because of the policies of ANOTHER COUNTRY, we, in BC, which, not to belabor the point, is a province in a separate country from the US, will have to wait at least another year before implementing above-mentioned action.

I get that it’s the whole co-coordinating of cross-border clocks thing, but seriously, I think the titans of business and public service who will have this great calamity fall upon their shoulders, just might’ve, if they’d sculled enough Timmies* coffee, been able to weather any storm of outrageous slings and arrows that might’ve fallen upon their overburdened shoulders.

Je suis Henri … le sigh …

*Pollies – politicians

*Timmies – Tim Hortons

Mrs Widds is a Futher-Mucking Genius!… and Other Stuff

Thanks to a new and improved courier service, the new carburetor from the Zon.ca arrived on time. Mrs Widds promptly whisked out her wrench set and proceeded to render it unto the generator.

I barely had time to put my feet up with a well-deserved cuppa, (I had facilitated the purchase of carburetor, my work was done) when I heard the dulcet tones of an internal combustion engine roll gently across the lawn. (actually a mud-soaked swamp, because it’s now Autumn on Widder Island, and that means rain, rain, and more rain, easing to a drizzle, then more rain)

Yes folks, Mrs Widds is indeed the Champion Champion!!! (Champion, being the brand of our generator – I figure I can get away with calling her the ‘Champion Champion’ for another 4 or 5 hours, before I start getting the ‘look’)

Is this the 'look' you were, perhaps foolishly, referring to?

Is this the ‘look’ you were, perhaps foolishly, referring to?

-oOo-

Elsewhere in Widder Island, we await the result of our federal election, (voting was today, 21st of October) in which everyone and her dog has posited an opinion, but no-one actually has a clue how it’s all going to turn out.

-oOo-

The first frosts of the season have come and gone and our garden didn’t fare well this year, not a bad crop of scarlet-runner beans …

The green one didn't want to get left behind

The green one didn’t want to get left behind

… but the real winner is, of course, the compost heap … we came across this strange wee beastie after the frost had turned a jungle of pumpkin-ish-looking leaves to slime …

Mysterious unknowable vegetable ... or is it?

Mysterious unknowable vegetable … or is it?

Does anyone of the gardener persuasion have any idea what this is? My suspicion is an unripe eggplant with separation issues, (not unlike the bean – could be a pattern developing here) judging from the seed pattern in the smaller one.

-oOo-

And finally, this, from my friend the Arch-Druidess.

In The Year 2525 …

 

… but lets not look that far ahead.

Lets just do ten years, 2029 …

The trickle of, ‘it’s worse than we thought’, reports of environmental crises, collapses, and catastrophes, that even now are an almost weekly occurrence, will have become a flood.

There will be good news too, of course there will, just as there is now, but not enough.

Not enough to ‘save the planet’ … ah, what a wonderful catchphrase that is, and not at all accurate. To paraphrase another song, ‘She’ got along without us before She met us, She’s gonna get along without us now’.

The trick will be, to save ourselves. Not just pockets of humans, here and there, but the whole damn human race, and to be quite honest we’re doing a really piss-poor job of it so far, and by 2029 we’ll have a really good idea of how piss-poor.

So, 10 years. I’ll probably still be alive, (I certainly hope so) and so will you, all things being equal, but what will our lives be like, I wonder.

Technology will help mitigate the effects, for some people, in some areas, but for the majority of the eight billion people around the world (and who knows how many billions more by 2029) there will be no help coming, no magic fix.

Even if every government and corporation currently in existence pooled all their resources (hah! Fantasy, that!) it still wouldn’t be enough to support the way of life we currently enjoy or aspire to. That threshold is already long gone, and by 2029? … ‘we’ll have to do what we can, with what we can create, with the resources available, in a way that is ethical, and feeds our Spirit

I challenge you to look beyond the ‘feel-good’ fluff, and the ‘we’re doomed’ scenarios, and decide, with your eyes open, how you are going to survive, and if you’re lucky, thrive, working in harmony with and supporting your environment, during the next ten years.

Let’s get together then, and talk about how we’re going to do the same for the next ten.

In the meantime …

In 2013 I had thyroid cancer, had surgery, and radiation therapy, and my cancer is no more. I now take Synthroid every day to stay alive. Without it my Death will be upon me in a matter of weeks, and I’m reliably informed it won’t be pretty.

I’m nobody famous, nor am I rich. in ten years I’ll be 71 years old, will life-saving drugs be available for the likes of me then?

That’s my worst-case scenario. I’ve walked up to it and smacked it around, and come to a negotiated peace with it. Anything back from that precipice is negotiable.

We, Mrs Widds and I, live on the outer edge of a flood-plain of a major river, a mere 45 meters (148 feet) above sea-level, on top of a series of fault lines that run the entire length of the Eastern Pacific Ocean, in one of the fastest growing population regions in the country.

So next year we’re moving to higher, less-crowded, ground.

I have a goodly number of transferable skills, (as does Mrs Widds) both physical and intellectual, high and low-tech, that will be useful in the coming years, and both Mrs Widds and I believe in having three layers of backups. Lets take electricity as an example: (everything in our little cottage is powered by electricity. In a blackout the water doesn’t flow and nothing works) 1st layer – connected to the power grid. 2nd layer – if the power goes out we have a generator. 3rd layer – if the generator breaks down/runs out of gas/petrol, we know how to make a rocket stove, candles, campfires, etc. We didn’t come by these resources and skills overnight. They’re a result of years of work and in some cases a lifetime’s experience.

I’ll let you how it goes.

-oOo-

Speaking of the generator, it had a hissy fit the other day …

'I shan't start, and you can't make me'

‘I shan’t start, and you can’t make me’

… and decided not to work. Mrs Widds jumped into the fray, and with assorted wrenches …

Matt-black wrench set in the late afternoon sun

Matt-black wrench set in the late afternoon sun

… has determined that … well, we’re waiting on a new carburetor … I do love a woman who knows her way around her wrenches!

I also took advantage of the later afternoon sun to clean up our bicycles. Unfortunately I didn’t get past taking this photo before Stormy Weather showed up and rained on my parade.

Oooo, that's the bean pyramid in the background, now laid low by the first frost of the season a few days ago

Oooo, that’s the bean pyramid in the background, now laid low by the first frost of the season a few days ago

This is what it looked in peak greeness …

Should'a made it taller

Should’a made it taller

nd the Scarlet Climber eventually bloomed, scarlet

And the Scarlet Climber eventually bloomed, scarlet

-oOo-