Consciousness: on the Nature of the Inherently Inexplicable

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In this essay I will describe my take on what consciousness is, and by process of elimination, what it is not. To further an understanding of my ideas on the matter, I’m going to briefly describe the nature of some software to you. It is not artificial intelligence software. Even so, there is a notable, relevant thing that happens to the user’s perception of this software when it is being executed by a computer. I very strongly suspect that this parallel points precisely to the absolute nature of consciousness.
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Good news: Ultracaps are coming right along.

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As of today, October 15th, 2015, commercially available ultracaps have obtained an energy density of 10.1 wh/kg. A standard lead-acid battery, such as the one you almost certainly use to start your car, offers an energy density of 40 wh/kg.

This means that within about four times the weight (and probably the volume) of said battery, you could use ultracaps (and the appropriate control electronics), you could completely — and permanently, as the ultracaps have multi-million charge/discharge cycle capability — replace your vehicle’s starter / power battery. This capability is considerably further along the development and commercial availability road for ultracaps; the last time I really paid close attention, ultracap energy density was down in the 2.5 wh/kg range, and so it would have taken sixteen times the weight (and volume!) of them to do the same job. That’s a lot tougher to justify.
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Above-tank mounted sump design

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There are few things that can benefit an aquarium, particularly a salt water aquarium, as much as a good sump. Sumps allow you to create an entire system separate from the main tank that contains all your water processing, heating, conditioning and so on without crowding or visually afflicting the main tank; they allow you to add chemicals and treatments to the water and have them pre-mixed with a large volume of water before they reach your aquarium’s inhabitants, and much more.

But traditional sumps require expensive main tanks with plumbing ports (you can’t add ports to your typical large, inexpensive aquarium, as they are inevitably built with tempered glass), and are mounted underneath the main aquarium where they require bending over to service. Both of these issues go away with this design. You can use any non-ported aquarium as your main tank, so that $500, 75-gallon aquarium with stand from Petsmart you’ve been eying is just fine, and the sump is above the tank, perhaps on a floor above, where you can actually get at it and maintain it.

Here’s my design. You are most welcome to use it.
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Linux and OS X console: Are you working too hard?

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Recently, I had a friend, a serious Linux aficionado, come over and we had occasion to sit in front of my machine while I was doing some console work. I do a lot of work under OS X using the GUI, and previously that is what had been on-screen when he had visited. This time, however, I had some consoles open to one of my web servers.

I did a few things during which he was uncharacteristically silent. During a pause in my typing, he spoke up with a note of real interest: “That’s unbelievably awesome. What is that?”

“Midnight Commander”, I told him.

Now he uses Midnight commander too. All the time. I thought I’d tell you why.
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aa_counter.py — pre- and post-increment and decrement in python

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Screen shot 2015-05-24 at 3.36.42 PMI like Python. A lot. But it has its limits, and short of forking a new version of Python for myself, sometimes it is just best to implement some kind of work-around. In this case, for pre- and post increment and decrement operations on counters, which Python regrettably lacks.
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aa_bargraph.py — Bar graphing using text and image-free HTML

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Need to graph something? Happens to me all the time. And I need some very particular functionality. But that doesn’t mean I want to code it up every time I need it, nor should you have to. Python’s import library mechanism makes “canning” nearly any functionality you can imagine easy to do, and once canned… well, you know the drill. Import libraries are wonderful.

Console (text) mode bar graph in XTerm  shell

Console (text) mode bar graph in XTerm shell

So in this case, it was bar graphs I needed. Sometimes at the console, sometimes on web pages. aa_bargraph.py puts that together and makes it usable at several different levels of sophistication, at both the console (in text mode) and within the context of an HTML web page.
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aa_webpage.py — awesome and easy web pages with Python

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I do a lot of generating web pages using Python. Python because I think Python 2.7 is awesome, and web pages because I do lots of work with various web sites that require dynamic results. Python is a very useful tool for me to get those dynamic results. It’s server-side (at least, the way I use it, it is, because I really try not to embed client-side resource usurping things), it is fast and efficient, and it is what I am comfortable with.

The thing is, web pages — generally speaking — aren’t all that simple if you really do them right. You can’t just throw a few tags together, test them on one browser, and hope you’re golden. Because you won’t be, I can pretty much promise you.
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