Dear Universe

Dear Universe,

I know we’ve had our moments of doubt and pain, but I thought we were on pretty good terms. I’ve recently learned that there’s a fair chance that the Mayans predicted that you will be closing up shop on my birthday. Thanks for thinking of me. I’m flattered you’d plan your final moments to coincide with the anniversary of my birth. That sounds like a story fit for warrior poets. Still, I wish you’d consulted me before making the final arrangements. I would have looked at this year quite a bit differently had I known of your humble birthday gift of the end of existence (and several of the years leading up to it, especially 2009 which can fuck right off).

So, now that I have a mere 48hrs left to enjoy existence, sleeping seems really damned inconvenient. I’d really rather not spend my last days tweaked out on an unholy combination of intravenous caffeine and RedBull. Funny how 4hrs sleep sounds like barely enough when you’re flying across the country, yet woefully irresponsible when that’s nearly 10% of one’s remaining time in existence. Perspective is a sometimes cruel manifestation of personal growth.

Maybe next time you decide to end it all, you could at least give us some sort of warning. Folks seem keen on natural disasters as “acts of god” or signs of the impending apocalypse. I, for one, always thought it would somehow involve multiple super-volcanoes and devastating earthquakes, possibly accompanied by zombies, but maybe you’re going for something more subtle. Maybe the first season of Jersey Shore was your two-minute warning, and we missed the memo. Well, ain’t that a bitch? Hey, at least we got zombies. And who knew zombies were into spray tanning? Did not see that coming…

Thanks,

Aubrey

ps. thanks for, well, everything. ūüôā

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The Little Neutrino That Couldn’t After All

An excerpt from an IM conversation with physicist and my college roommate, Dr. Nick Cummings, PhD (@internic) about the revelation that the faster-than-light neutrino results of a few months ago were found to be false. Enjoy!

me: i¬†had really gotten my hopes up that science wasn’t as smart as it thought

me:¬†turns out science just didn’t plug the sensor cable in all the way…

me: which i guess confirms my theory in a way

Dr. Nick:¬†Well, you know how it is. ¬†When you find something miraculous you didn’t expect, the explanation is usually that you fucked up.

Dr. Nick: Occasionally it does turn out that nature fucked up.

I have long believed that only a fool believes we have mastered much that there is to be mastered in the universe. I stand with the pioneers, the risk-takers, those who dare to challenge our understanding and push the boundaries of the unknown. When I heard about the discovery of neutrinos that had travelled just a little faster than light, I was overjoyed at the possibility that we had finally stumbled upon that one situation where, as Dr. Nick puts it, nature fucked up.

I’ve studied so-called fringe science for about ten years, and I’m well familiar with myriad claims of over-unity devices, anomalous heat, nuclear transmutation, and gravitational effects, all resulting from a wide variety of experiments. Some of the experiments are done in a hobbyist’s backyard. Others are performed by post-docs in university labs with grant funding and all the resources of a national institution. The effects are usually easily explained phenomena, electromagnetic or kinematic in nature, caused by inadequate shielding or imbalanced mechanisms. On the other hand, some of the results are remarkably compelling. The images from scanning electron microscopy of the electrodes from Dr. Tadahiko Mizuno’s plasma electrolysis¬†work showed incredible structural features. Those same electrodes revealed presence of atoms that were not present in the sample before the experiment, a phenomenon known as nuclear transmutation, not theoretically possible at the energy levels involved.

All this work leads me to believe we have a lot to learn about the universe and its rules. I had hoped that we were on the edge of learning something potentially really cool about the universe. What we ended up learning is that it’s a good idea to check your equipment and make sure everything is plugged in all the way before you announce your game-changing findings in a national forum. Unfortunately, this gives ammunition to those who aim to prove we know everything. That is, until one day when someone finds more evidence to tip the scale again. For days like that, I’m glad I have folks like Dr. Nick to help me make sense of all this cold fusion mumbo jumbo.

Taking Road Warrior to a New Level

I’m sitting in a Panera, enjoying some early afternoon coffee and working on finishing up a client’s web project. As I write this, there are two guys sitting in the middle of the front of the cafe, right by the front door, both clad in khaki and polo. They have a PC laptop open, switching back and forth between PowerPoint and Excel, discussing sales and financial trend data with a third guy, presumably also in khaki and polo, via speakerphone conference call on a Blackberry.

Yes, I said speakerphone. And conference call. On a Blackberry. In a Panera.

I’m three tables away at least, and I can clearly hear everything from the guy on the other end, so I can’t imagine how annoying this must be for all the folks sitting here trying to enjoy themselves in peace.

The best moment so far was watching one of the guys attempt to shield the conversation from the sound of the barista steaming milk for a latte. He’s juggling the phone between his ear and the ear of the other guy, waving his hand around in a futile attempt to block the penetrating screech of the steamer, all the while spewing a stream of buzz words in a mad cacophony of literally phoning it in.

I love that my office is mobile. I especially love being able to tether my laptop and/or iPad to my 3G wireless service via my phone (only downside of owning an iPhone so far is having to wait and pay extra to have this feature my pre-iPhone device offered free). These things enable me to get my ass out of the house and be around people, while still being productive. They also give me opportunities to appreciate the insensitivity and tactlessness of others through mockery and sarcasm.

The Purpose of Trademark

In recent news, there has been a lot of talk about Facebook suing for trademark infringement and filing unnecessarily broad trademark applications. I’d like to set the record straight. Trademarks are intended to prevent others from using your brand without your consent. The primary purpose is to protect the consumer from fraud and prevent consumer confusion. While some people (like my ex-girlfriend) prefer to buy the cheap imitation Prada bag, most people perceive brand as proof of authenticity. They buy Apple products because they have come to expect a certain minimum level of quality. If another company could produce a cheap knock-off and make it look exactly like the real thing, the consumer could buy the knock-off thinking it’s the real thing. When the product fails to meet the consumer’s quality standards, the authentic brand becomes tarnished in the eyes of the buyer, who thought they were getting the real deal. Instead of feeling jilted by the imposter company, the consumer’s perception of the brand is degraded. This is clearly bad for all parties involved, except maybe the knock-off vendor who only cares about selling imitation bags and not getting caught.

Facebook’s actions seem to indicate they believe trademark is intended as a tool to crush the opposition and make it impossible for any other company to sell a product with even a similar name in the same market. It also seems to suggest they believe they have the right to prevent others, such as lamebook.com, from using a similar name as a parody. Otherwise, i see no reason why they would attempt to trademark the word “face.” That would be like Whole Foods trying to trademark the word “whole” and suing every manufacturer of whole wheat products for trademark infringement. I don’t see them attacking those of us who refer to them as Whole Paycheck, probably because they have a greater respect for free speech than Facebook does.

That’s the most ironic part of all this. Facebook exists purely as a platform to promote free speech and the open sharing of thoughts, feelings, and that funny thing my neighbor’s dog does when his butt itches (which i like to call pinwheeling). Their attitude regarding intellectual property strikes me as being in direct conflict with their primary operating principle of free expression. Coupled with their privacy scandals over the last year, i imagine we will see a decline in Facebooking as a result. And hopefully i won’t be sued for trademark infringement for using their brand as a verb in that last sentence.