Guess It's All in My Head …

The doctor called this afternoon, and the results of my MRI are in: as suspected, the problem in my head appears to be just in my head, not in my head.

Got all that? 😀

For those who want more detail: the MRI looked normal, meaning there’s no obvious physical reason why I have nearly continuous pressure on one side of my head. No tumors, no infections, no bats — although they sleep in the daytime, so they might not show up on the machine. That means we’ve ruled out the ear canal, the middle ear, and the inner ear, leaving only … we don’t know. So, it appears the problem may be all in my head.

Which is better, in many ways, than the problem being in my head. Wouldn’t want that.

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The Farmer in the (Martian) Dell

I like green beans, so I was pleased to learn that the soil on Mars could be good for growing green beans. The Mars Phoenix Lander found that the soil’s a bit alkaline, which according to Spaceflight Now (your source for agricultural information, at least when it’s extraterrestrial) is good for green beans, asparagus, and turnips.

If only I liked asparagus and turnips. But y’all can eat those, and I’ll eat the green beans, and we’ll all have a splendid time on Mars.

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A Unique Idea that Wasn't

Found out this week that the “direct deposit” tax idea that was the foundation of my March 2007 Ornery American essay was actually published in the Summer 1993 issue of The Whole Earth Review. Ain’t that a kick in the teeth?

It was a prediction made by Kevin Kelly as part of an “Unthinkable Futures” piece he wrote with Brian Eno:

Software gains allow a certain portion of taxes to fall to the discretion of the payer. John Public can assign X amount of his taxes toward one service, to the exclusion of another. It’s a second vote that politicians watch closely.

I saw it this past Thursday, quoted on Futurismic. The Futurismic story referenced a BoingBoing piece I’d seen earlier in the week, but the quote didn’t appear in the BB item.

An online version of the original item is found here. My essay is at this link.

I went back into my archives and found the original version of my essay: I wrote it in February 1996. So even though the essay was over a decade old before I polished it enough to be publishable, the central idea was older and put forward by someone not me. Which goes to show that many people can have the same idea at close to the same time, but not everyone will do the same thing with it.

Still, my teeth hurt a little.

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I Claim Success, Even If I Don't Deserve It

With respect to NC bill S2079, which would require college students throughout the state to tutor elementary, middle, and high school students, I received this message late last night from the office of another state Senator:

I understand that Senator Rand will no longer be pushing this bill.

My editorial on the subject appeared in the CARY NEWS yesterday under the title “Good Intentions Run Amok,” but I’ve seen lots of similar editorials in print and on-line from around the state. And I know some of my friends wrote in to the legislature in opposition to the bill. So even though I don’t deserve all the credit, I claim success in sending this to an early legislative grave.

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My MRI

Yesterday I had the protons in my brain aligned with an extremely strong magnetic field — alas, it did not make me smarter or give me super powers — while radio waves excited the protons and pushed them out of alignment. As they snapped back into alignment, they produced tiny magnetic fields of their own that the imager picked up. Today I await the results.

My friend Oliver could explain all this much better, but as with almost everything else there is a Wikipedia page about it.

I got a little anxious when the tray I was lying on slid into the machine: my arms touched the sides and reminded me how small the space was. And the thing kept moving! I told the technician that since they were looking inside my head I didn’t expect they’d push me so far into the beastly thing. (I don’t remember being so encapsulated when my shoulder was scanned, but that was many years ago.)

I almost fell asleep while they were scanning me. Had the vibrations and noise been a little more consistent, I probably would have — especially since some of the vibrations were quite rhythmic. But the part where the whole tray started shaking was a little unnerving.

I hope they got good pictures of the bats in my belfry. And I hope all that unaligning and realigning didn’t make me more stupider. :p

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One-Third

Not as much progress as hoped on MARE NUBIUM — but considering last week was packed with something almost every night, writing time was extremely limited. Here was the run-down:

– Tuesday, choir practice (a standing appointment until we take a break after Independence Day)
– Wednesday, Cary Public Art Advisory Board
– Thursday, Triangle Filmmakers’ Special Interest Group (not that I make films, but it’s fun)
– Friday, Vacation Bible School training session
– Saturday, graduation party for four young-uns from the church
– Sunday, the usual plus a Special Called Business Meeting

Then today I spend half the day burning up very expensive gasoline going all over Cary and back and forth to the Baen office in Wake Forest. It seems I spent the other half standing at the counter in the Post Office while they tried to figure out the International Reply Coupons I was cashing in to send responses back to a couple of authors.

So, given all that, I don’t feel so bad that I only made it to a little over 33,000 words. I’m calling that one-third complete, and right now I feel pretty good about it.

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Worriers of the World, United in Fear

On boingboing Thursday, Cory Doctorow reported that the worriers joined together to tie the hands of those who try to protect the freedoms they cherish so much.

An extremely diverse group of online activists ranging from the ACLU to Ron Paul supporters have come together to create The Strange Bedfellows, a campaign dedicated to preventing Congress from offering immunity to the telephone companies that participated in the President’s illegal warrantless wiretapping program.

Who is in this “extremely diverse group,” you ask? You can check the link for the list, but in addition to the ACLU (proud to defend the civil liberties of people who would kill ordinary citizens), the coalition includes “activists from the Ron Paul campaign …, civil liberties writer Glenn Greenwald of Salon, and leading liberal bloggers.”

Yet this group of libertarians (whom I think of as anarchists without the commitment) and liberal bloggers claims that they are

mobilizing a broad-based left-right coalition of office holders and candidates, public interest groups and individuals who are devoted to preserving basic constitutional liberties …. The goal is to work together to impede the corrupt FISA/telecom amnesty deal.

What a crock. The goal is to impede national security. I find it interesting that the far left treat our military and intelligence preparedness as if it were a paranoid delusion — as if the threat weren’t real — and then succumb to the paranoid delusion that their own government is out to get them. If you believe that, I hate to break it to you: few of us are important enough to need to worry about wiretaps and communications intercepts. And as for the high-minded and righteous protection of all manner of rights and liberties: I bet all the people in the rubble of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and that field in Pennsylvania felt very proud that at least their civil liberties hadn’t been violated. But isn’t life itself a civil liberty?

I’m not afraid of wiretaps, warranted or unwarranted, because I’m not plotting to commit criminal acts. Back in February, in a response to a comment on this blog, I wondered if the civil libertarian doomsayers “type on their keyboards in the dark of night, with the shades drawn, and jump at every sound in case it’s the dark-suited men come to collect them.” On that score, I found a line from Friday’s WSJ amusing: “… those who think that letting our spooks read al Qaeda’s email inevitably means that Dick Cheney is bugging your bedroom.”

And now, thankfully, the House agreed to extend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act for six years, including eavesdropping on terrorist communications overseas and immunity for telecommunications companies that cooperate with intelligence operatives. Hopefully the Senate will follow suit. Even though this isn’t the perfect solution, it allows the Intelligence Community to do what it’s charged to do.

I feel safer already. I can’t help you if you’re one of the worriers.

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Ice on Mars

Fascinating images from the Phoenix Mars Lander show what appear to be chunks of ice disappearing from a trench the lander dug. The full story, with a nice image that toggles in a “now you see it, now you don’t” fashion, is on Spaceflight Now.

Of course, we knew Mars had ice — we’ve seen its ice caps grow and recede. But it’ll be interesting to see if the lander can analyze some of it.

So, where do we sign up to go?

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Latest from the Anti-Candidate

With their candidates all but confirmed, the Republicans and Democrats have settled down a bit — but just a bit — while the Anti-Campaign continues at its breathtakingly slow pace. Over in the forum, this morning I posted the Anti-Candidate position on Health Care, for those who are interested.

The position includes two specific ideas that would relieve some of the burden of legal costs for healthcare providers. Under the category of tort reform, and answering the question, “How could we fix this?”:

First, by disallowing every lawsuit filed against any hospital, clinic, or provider within six months of any death or other injury alleged to be a result of care. Why? Because great emotional distress affects our ability to make good decisions. A year would be better, but some period of time is needed for the family to gain some perspective on the event and decide if they believe the provider was negligent or was acting in good faith. It would be even better if cases would be summarily dismissed if the plaintiff and their legal team planned the suit during the hiatus, even if they filed after the time period expired. This wouldn’t end all ambulance-chasing, but it would reduce the number of frivolous, reactionary cases.

Second, by restricting the potential damage awards to be commensurate with the earning potential of the plaintiff and the injured party. As a (non-healthcare) example, if the hot coffee spilled in your lap will cause you to miss work, and the embarrassment of having spilled hot coffee in your lap will cause you to miss more work, then maybe you should be awarded an amount related to the amount of work you’re likely to miss. Unless you’re going to be out of work for 20 years and without your 50-grand-a-year paycheck, you shouldn’t get any million-dollar payout.

Of course, this is just an academic exercise … but it’s still fun.

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