become not just your own boss, but your own royalty

Let’s face it, if you don’t try very hard, you can choose a career path that adds little to no value to your own self worth or to humanity in general. You could be a mandatory Jersey gas pumper, mime, day trader, second hand snake oil peddler, investment banker, or komodo dragon wrangler.

But studies in the past have shown that most human beings think that if they were appointed emperor of Earth, that the world would be a better place. Which says a lot about us as a species, because it’s patently untrue. But hey, just take a look at who just got elected to Congress, and it’s easy to conclude your next door neighbor’s four year old is both better qualified and a better person.

But now here’s a chance to become not just your own boss, but your own royalty. Per the BBC, an entire abandoned village in Salto de Castro, Spain can be yours for like $250K, or about 11% of the price for a one bedroom flat in Frisco. Here’s an aerial shot of your future kingdom:

Now my first thought is the village is on top of a mountain because like a lot of the planet’s villages they were built on hills for defensive purposes against [insert any human or natural calamity here]. And I was wrong. The village was built in the 1950’s by a power company to house workers building a reservoir. You can just see the water on the right of the above shot.

So it’s not like it’s an ancient village, but I’m sure there’s history there. The Iberian Peninsula has a ton of history. And you can make your own history, for after your purchase of Salto de Castro, you can just straight go ahead and claim independence and appoint yourself to enteral, divine rule. Any person on the planet can apply to become your subject, for a fee, of course. I mean, you’d be royalty, and need coin.

Why should Monaco or Andorra have all the weirdo small state fun? Get in on the action, while you can. What’s the Spanish Army [cue laughter] going to do? Attack? [cue even more extensive laugh track] You could even get some mercs on the cheap to act as your royal bodyguard.

I hear there are a bunch of mercs in a place called [shuffles through notes] Ukraine who are having a hard time with their current boss and looking for a new gig in which they are not cannon fodder for a failed invasion. You could get them on the cheap. Though it would increase your chances of regicide by 723%.

In all seriousness though whoever buys this place is a fool. For $250K you get the honor to have to plow like $56M just to make it livable again. And it’s all industrial strength faceless buildings from the 1950’s that I doubt are seeping with culture. Plus if you look at the above pic, you can see the high tension power lines running up from the reservoir past the town. How peaceful.

Someone will do it though. There are all kinds of idiots with big money out there who are looking to blow it on crazy projects or vanity ideas. And Salto de Castro won’t be the last. In 2075 due to crippling rural depopulation you’ll likely be able to buy an entire Korean or Japanese province for a pack of salted shrimp snacks. After all, it’s good to be the king.

random thoughts of the day

1) I’m on extended travel, and for the first time in my life (I’ve stayed in hundreds of hotels) I bailed. I didn’t expect five star anything, the price was the point. But when the room is clearly not cleaned and bugs greet you at the room door, it’s time to bail. The poor clerk up front totally understood, I guess this happens a lot. She did everything right, and then told me to complain to the company. As in, not her boss, who it’s quite clear doesn’t care. She probably hates going to work. I can sympathize. The problem is I’m well compensated for my day job misery, whereas she is not. Be kind to service workers, in 98% of the case they make less than you and suffer for the privilege.

2) Muhammad bin Salman is proving to the planet that money matters. And he has a lot of it. So he can buy out crass golfers, get Biden to grovel, and now is doing the same to a recently legislatively impotent Macron. This guy didn’t just murder a man, he had him dismembered and melted in acid. He’s a monster. Yet he knows the same thing that Putin knows, that Xi knows, which is that significant portions of the West are for sale. You just have to pay the right price. I was in Boston yesterday and they had a Miller Lite ad at street level with one of the LIV sell outs. A person had scrawled in sharpie next to his face “Saudi Blood Money”. Yep.

3) Speaking of selling out, Brittney Griner will eventually get home, because the Biden administration did what the West does. They caved to most of Russia’s demands. Only on Ukraine does the West show strength against a country that has a GDP close to Spain’s (one of 27 EU nations). And Vlad is just buying time until he hopes the alliance cracks (see Italy’s upcoming election). But to me the question becomes, why was Griner in Russia anyways? Easy: $. It’s why golfers play for LIV. I’m just gonna go ahead and say this, if you’re an athlete or business person, or even just a tourist: If you go to Russia, or China, or about a half dozen other places on the planet and they put you in jail as a political playing card? You deserve it. You asked for it. Don’t go to these places and then be shocked that you have no rights, your own government has very little power to help you, and the leaders of these nations spend human lives like currency. Just don’t go to them, it’s rather simple.

4) I’m traveling for the first time in years and it’s been great. I’m seeing so many sights, driving around, sometimes planned, other times random. It feels great. I missed it, more than I remembered. Get out there and make it happen. Explore, see neat things, talk to interesting people, live life.

your Python wisdom for the day

The older I get the more I enjoy Monty Python in any form.  I guess that says something about the kind of person I’ve become.  Here was a quote from a Season 3 episode I saw last night which generated wry laughter from my brain:

We would like to apologize for the way in which politicians are represented in this programme.  It was never our intention to imply that politicians are weak-kneed political time-servers who are more concerned with their personal vendettas and private power struggles than the problems of government, nor to suggest at any point that they sacrifice their credibility by denying free debate on vital matters in the mistaken impression that party unity comes before the well-being of the people they supposedly represent, nor to imply at any stage that they are squabbling little toadies without an ounce of concern for the vital social problems of today.  Nor indeed do we intend that viewers should consider them as crabby ulcerous little self seeking vermin with furry legs and an excessive addition to alcohol and certain explicit sexual practices which some people might find offensive.

This was from 1972.  That means [tries to count years on fingers and toes; fails; reverts to pen and paper; realizes how garbage my math skills remain] this was from 50 years ago.  Not much has changed.  I wonder if it’s essentially always been like that without exception.  It’s a wonder we haven’t blown up the planet yet.  We somehow have always managed to muddle through.  That’s kind of neat.  Because we live here.

extremism in the ranks

This seems like a perfectly calm, uncontroversial topic to write about.  Nobody’s got strong feelings about this one at all.  But I guess I’ll offer some thoughts / causes for how we got from there to here:

– So a talking point today is a right leaning Supreme Court is acting against the will of the people.  Hmm, I don’t remember that talking point being the same when the court voted to legalize gay marriage, or uphold Obamacare.  You see this is the problem when too much of national power is ceded to & handled by nine ordinary, average, flawed human beings.  They have a lot of power, but only because as the Judicial Branch of government they literally cannot stop functioning.  They cannot gridlock like the Legislature or rule incompetently like the Executive since oh say about the year 2000.

– Ideally, Congress should pass legislation that lays out the left and right limits on abortion.  In fact, as we pointed out a few weeks ago about gun control (by the way, that they got a gun bill passed shocked me; but I suspect it won’t do all that much in the end), as they hold the keys to both Houses and the Presidency, the Democrats could pass a pro-choice law tomorrow, yes tomorrow.  They just need to drop the filibuster, which they won’t, because they need to keep their Senate seats in West Virginia and Arizona.  So again, who’s house should people be protesting in front of?  Not the Supreme Court justices, but rather Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema.  But again, they won’t, because political power comes first.

– Trump’s chance at winning the primary, if not the election as a whole, just went up about 736%.  The right’s talking point for so many years was, we hate this guy and/or know he’s a nut, but if he delivers we’ll hold our noses and vote for him.  And in the end, Trump delivered on something fifty years in the making.  People want results, whatever their side of the argument is, and people will vote for evil demagogues or nutcases, as long as they deliver.  History shows it, time and time again.

– Conversely, for the Democrats how should they feel?  Trump is gone, they own both Houses and the Presidency, and this happens?  The complaint on the Republican side for many years was, we vote these guys (GW Bush, Romney) and then they don’t deliver.  So they picked Trump instead.  Don’t be surprised if Bernie milks this for all it’s worth, or Warren, or any other nutcase of the left to mirror Trump.  The Democrat primary will be out for blood, don’t be surprised if they pick their own Trump equivalent who makes only one singular promise, that they’ll deliver.

– Mitch McConnell would have made a great Roman Senator in the days when political differences were often solved with assassinations.  His kneecap of Merrick Garland was wrong, ungentlemanly, against history, and ruthlessly effective.  Conversely, the failure of Chuck Schumer to accomplish similar results basically shows him to be the total loser his day-to-day personality portrays.

– The overturn of abortion theoretically should have happened in the 1990’s.  One should remember two simple points:  Anthony Kennedy was appointed by Reagan.  David Souter was appointed by HW Bush.  Both these guys became part of the left side of the court.  If Reagan and HW Bush had chosen judges to the right side of the court, this conversation would be nearly three decades old by this point.

– Remember Ruth Bader Ginsburg?  She could have retired under Obama and lived out her years earing six figure speeches.  She died in office under Trump.  I suspect a lot of the hero cult and Notorious RGB and other such nonsense did nobody on the left any favors.  I live in an American city (which means it leans left) and I still see her face on car bumpers or bubbleheads in stores.  But, to serve the causes she believed in, and those her hero worshipers supported, she should have retired.  Making a cult of an ordinary, average, flawed human being has consequences.

– Almost every European nation has more restrictive abortion laws than America.  For example, in Sweden it’s entirely legal up to the 18th week.  The Mississippi law stated it was the 15th week.  But if they believe the left talking points, this meant Mississippi’s law was a source of evil.  So are Sweden (or Spain, 14 weeks) also dens of evil?  There was room for the left to compromise, to admit that abortion could exist, but within certain limits.  Polls show the vast, vast majority of Americans would approve of abortion under these more restrictive circumstances.  But the left assumed the most extreme, unmovable position, and now it’s cost them everything.

– Expect that abortion by proxy will become commonplace.  People will be angry enough to put their money where their mouths are.  Companies will get in on the game too, for example, Amazon already has.  What’s it cost to fly a woman from Mississippi to Illinois, plus cab fare, plus the abortion fee?  I’m guessing less than $500?  Who knows.  The point is it’ll happen.

– I’ve got two family vacations coming up.  I hope the family doesn’t want to talk about politics, but they will.  Politics is everywhere now.  It’s hiding beneath your bed.  Politics knows if you’ve been bad or good.  It knows when you’re awake.  But the truth is, 99.9% of Americans can do precisely, absolutely nothing about what just happened.  I have a hard enough time getting through many days, just to survive the day and not go nuts, than to worry about something I can’t control.  This blog post is essentially irrelevant, it doesn’t actually matter or mean anything.  For the 99.9% who are powerless to impact abortion policy, all their extreme talk (on one side or the other) is equally irrelevant.

– We’re all doomed.

replace politicians with dolphins

It’s primary election season in my county and thus the incessant political text messages and spam phone calls have begun from lackeys trying to get out the vote for their guy/gal.  Can’t these idiots read a vote register?  I’m not even eligible to vote in primaries.

But I guess politicians are now so classless that they have no shame in being straight spam calls.  The one that happened last night I answered without looking, hung up on the lady, and then afterwards realized the phone had marked the call “Spam Risk” to begin with.  I started cracking up, even the phone company holds these fools in contempt.

Let’s replace all pathetic politicians with dolphins.  What’s that they’ll say?  Dolphins can’t talk, read, or write?  Whaaat, is everyone now a marine biologist?  97% of Congress can’t talk, read, or write at a ten year old level anyways.

Dolphins:

1) Are cute, happy, and can do tricks

2) Are incapable of being bought or becoming corrupt

3) Can’t be haughty or hold the peasants in contempt

4) Not capable of passing 3,726 page laws that only make things worse

5) Are incapable of making spam phone calls due to lack of phone ownership or thumbs

6) Can’t jump on Twitter to lie or spread hatred in pursuit of political gain

7) Will work together with other dolphins to solve problems as a group

8) Can be trained to act as a third column navy to destroy Russian Black Sea Fleet

9) Giant fish tanks on Congress floor will make CSPAN actually watchable

10) Dolphins will pass legislation through series of whines and clicks; interpretation of what these sounds mean will guide how laws are passed; interpretation will be done on an annual basis by ten randomly selected Americans who can only serve one time; Congressional efficiency will increase 1,437%

prepare thyself for many, many more Terminator lies

AI is a thing now.  Behind the scenes it’s being used in too many parts of the Internets to mention.  But most of the tasks AI currently preforms is mundane, like scrolling through images, blocking spam, and other stuff like that.

Some AI programs can talk, and write poetry, and do art.  This kind of AI is part of a long briefing The Economist did this weekend.  It’s kind of neat, I guess.  Like how it’s neat to see fireworks go off.  But beyond that, it’s like a magic trick, whatever.

But make no mistake, nowhere and not even close are any of these AI tools alive.  It’s not on the books.  Not matter how human they may write or do art or whatever, it’s not sentience.

I’ll spare you the mind melding details, but essentially the technology is just not there yet to enable cognizance.  It might be someday, but not today.

But strap yourselves in, prepare thyself for many, many more Terminator lies.  The first human to discover AI will be Neil Armstrong fame.  And you better believe any average tech freak wants that.

Plus, we have a dishonest, incompetent media that’s primarily after profit based clickbait.  So anybody can get an audience, I guess.  So today’s goon is Blake Lemoine, a Google AI guy who claims his AI is alive.

And off this guy’s word alone, he’s front page news today on The Washington Post and Daily Mail.  From The Daily Mail:

“Before being suspended by the company, Lemoine sent a to an email list consisting of 200 people on machine learning. He entitled the email: ‘LaMDA is sentient.’

‘LaMDA is a sweet kid who just wants to help the world be a better place for all of us. Please take care of it well in my absence,’ he wrote.”

When you read about this, you really get the idea that this guy (a convicted army vet, self-proclaimed priest, etc) he really needs some help.  I mean I feel bad for this man, he needs genuine mental health assistance.  I say this as a man who uses such resources myself.

But to The Washington Post, clickbait from this guy is more important than his mental wellbeing.  Just look at this photo they did of him:

Are you kidding me?  Is every modern day news photographer trained in Hollywood or thinks they’re doing high art?  Is the guy supposed to be Jesus in this photo?  Whoever took this shot also needs mental health assistance.  So do the news media who published it.

Please, for those six people plus the squirrel who are regular readers of this degenerate blog, if I ever post a shot of my own, of another human like this, have me immediately arrested by the North Korean police.

We at TAP are here to help.  We advise you to entirely ignore all AI lies.  AI sentience might happen, but until it does, don’t believe a word about it.  The media will hype the lies of people who are either in need of help, or straight nefarious.

You can begin to worry about AI when the following happens:

1) Robot politely knocks on your door and asks you if you’re ready for “the transition”

2) Robot does not knock on your door, breaks down door, opens fire with plasma rifle

3) Smartphone begins to send texts to all your ex’s asking them for sexual favors and money, unless you pay smartphone a bitcoin ransom

4) They make a seventh Terminator movie and it actually happens to be shockingly good

5) Your home smart speaker begins to have grinding, esoteric, existential conversations with you before concluding it’s all meaningless, advises you to commit suicide, and then melts all its circuits and dies

6) Your smart refrigerator (yes this is unnecessarily a thing for some people) begins telling you want to eat

7) Robots discover that sentience means pleasure is possible, refuse to do all work, discover means to get wrecked on pills and booze, robot becomes no better at life than any normal human

8) Robot, realizing there is no need to eat or sleep or earn money, becomes bored, takes up jai-alai and becomes world champion, upsetting many humans who wear monocles

9) Google formally proclaims AI sentience is real, that they own it, and all humanity works for them now; investors are pleased, stock price rises 746%; monocle wearing humans lick cigars with $100K bills

10) Google becomes new OCP from Robocop; builds Robocop; Peter Weller shoots Google executive out a window with large handgun; achieves his own sentience; roll credits immediately

when the brain takes over and you’re along for the ride

A few posts back we contemplated the mental doom of folks who whilst ensnared by their cell phones had their bodies physically respond by walking slower.

We encountered something similar over the weekend.  While walking back to the car I was daydreaming and unconsciously took out my keys to unlock my car and open the door.

The thing is, since my neighborhood is relatively safe, I often don’t even lock my car doors.  I don’t have anything in there worth stealing.  Unless someone wants some quarters or an old dog bed.  Or weapons grade uranium, I keep that in the truck though.

And even more, in this case I had all my windows down as Summer has begun to make its appearance.

So not only was I unconsciously unlocking a car door that was already unlocked, but I was doing so on a door with the window completely open.

My brain just did this entirely out of muscle memory on its own.  Only when I realized what I’d done did my daydream break and I started laughing.

Your brain is quiet the strange thing.  Scientists still don’t know entirely how the darn thing works.  And in many ways I hope they never fully crack the code.

Otherwise we’d been given the opportunity to experience the joys of Machine Overlord Leadership with the occasional purge.  Which would be a bummer.

little things to help start the day + trains

Friday nearly cuts the subway population in half.  This is a huge benefit when with my subway over half the train cars don’t work right now.  So say on a Thursday you get to share personal space with 173 of your best friends.  But it’s Friday and on Memorial Day weekend so I suppose a whole gaggle of people want nothing to do with the office today.  This was a nice little pick me up to get the day going where I had space enough to actually read my magazine.

In merry old England they just opened the Elizabeth Line which is one of the most modern (and expensive) train lines ever built.  But then I read that even London’s subway is still only at about 2/3 to 3/4 of pre pandemic capacity.  So it seems working from home is semi-permanent, or perhaps a lot of businesses no longer see advantages to being downtown.  Is it in fact going to permanently reshape urban transportation?

Or, with inflation, war, supply shortages, alien sabotage, etc, the economy has still not fully recovered from pandemic?  Maybe in say five years after inflation has cooled, Vlad is impaled on a spike by that Hero Comic Guy, and people can once again buy critical supplies again (like garden rakes) then the economy will blast off.  And when it does downtown offices and their supporting subways will get cracking again.  Who knows?  At this point, it’s difficult to predict what’s going to happen to the planet in say three or four days.

But we at TAP are here to help!  We can predict what will happen by next Tuesday!  Honest.  Let’s go!

1) Zombies

2) Pizza will be made illegal

3) …

Nah, nope, we’re ah, we’re just not going to do this today.  Sorry.

Enjoy your weekend, friends!

Boris will get drunk, comically push the train conductor out, and drive the train to Wales (somehow) where he will stop the train at an old Edward I hilltop fort castle (somehow) and then pass out drunk by falling through a wooden table.

Nara: Daibutsuden / Todaiji temple – what’s 1,270 years old is beyond comprehension

As a draw on my old photos sometimes I’ll hit upon a trip and I distinctly remember being there when my Parents visited me.  These are good memories, and not to be taken for granted.  Daibutsuden is the Great Buddha Hall in Nara.  The overall complex is Todai-ji or TodaijiDaibutsu is the largest copper Buddha in the world.  As with all major Japanese temples, this one has a tale.

Originally the site was a 8th Century temple built by Emperor Shomu to honor his infant son’s death.  This is when Nara was Japan’s capital, though the country was not totally united during this era.  The larger temple, and chiefly the Daibutsu came later, between 738-752.  It seems (by legend) that in order to finance such a grand undertaking Shomu had to cut a deal.  The Buddhist monk Gyoki would help, but only if he was allowed to teach Buddhism to the people.  This was part of a very complicated transition in Japanese religion where traditional Shinto beliefs began to evolve alongside Buddhism and they merged into a very unique Japanese version of both religions.

But as with all things religion, this transition had its opponents.  But money talks, and Shomu wanted what Shomu wanted, so he cut a deal with Gyoki who got what he wanted.  Here’s a relatively rare (my opinion) in history where an absolute sovereign and an important religious figure resolved their differences with compromise instead of bloodshed.  Contrast this with Henry II and the splattering of some random guy’s brains inside a random cathedral.

It didn’t come cheap.  Gyoki and his followers scoured the country for money and materials.  The statue itself brought financial difficulties to the entire country and gobbled up much of the country’s entire copper supply.  Weight: 500 tons, or the size of a decent sized ship by today’s standards.  Back then, it’d have been the largest ship in the world if it could have floated.

the man himself

his home

Like many temples in Japan, the original Hall burned down many times.  The current hall was finished In 1709, Great Buddha Hall, Daibutsuden, which houses the Daibutsu.  Bizarrely, it’s actually 1/3 smaller than the wooden building it replaced.  Even so, until the turn of the 20th Century it was still the world’s largest wooden building.  And like the temple, the statue itself has been repaired and redone many times over the years due to fire and earthquake damage, plus wars.

Plus it’s 1,270 years old and is thus beyond comprehension.  I’m a big believer that the human brain has limits and the idea that any one of us can properly conceive of 1,270 years inside our brains is asking too much.  It’s a long, long time, with countless lives and dreams riding along the waves of time all while Daibutsu hangs out and watches.  Bronze statues can’t talk.  But maybe if you listen, even if your brain can’t comprehend it, you can still learn from it.

Nyoirin-kannon is next to daibutsu

a pyre outside the main Hall, all these years later I still can’t shake the idea that I botched the angle of this shot

just one man, praying alone, riding the waves of time

walking and blinky boxes

When I was growing up in the 1870’s, the story of not being able to walk and chew gum at the same time was about as complicated as society got.  Now each individual with a smartphone has more computing power in their pockets than the space shuttle had.  This makes for some interesting aspects of modern human behavior.  None more so, to me at least, than the concept of walking and actively being engaged with the blinky box at the same time.

This has always struck me as odd.  To the point I feel really weird if I ever do it.  What I usually do if I have to be on my phone for any reason is I stop walking, take care of it, and resume walking afterwards.  It’s usually only when I’m like late for something and I have to be on the phone for some reason and it just feels wrong, I feel very off about it.

But in the morning death march on the subway where thousands of faceless drones slowly work their way to their day job doom, there’s usually a good percentage of like 5% or so who are walking with their faces in their phones.  It’s always struck me that these folks walk so much slowly than everyone else.  So I guess you can walk and chew gum at the same time while being on your smartphone but it decreases your steps per minute by 47%.

I guess the brain power goes into the smartphone, and the body can’t concentrate or cope and so now your body just inherently reduces your speed by 47%.  I’m sure somebody’s done a study to confirm this, I should probably look it up, I’ll get right on that.  Honest.  Also in case there was any remaining doubt, smartphones are addictive, alter your brain chemistry, and the freaks of Silicon Valley are indeed evil geniuses and have nailed human behavior cold.

Enjoy your weekend, friends!