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Right now, if you go to Google Maps and look at the traffic jams, you'll see exactly where totality happened. It's all red down there, folks.
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I got the 80% Eclipse checkbox done today. It was a party outside the west entrance was folks looked up to see the sun. I got a few clear looks early on, but when I went back out at 2:36, a big cloud had run over the sun. We saw it a few times through a lucky break, but then it disappeared again.
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I got to thinking about why animals are drawn onto cave walls, and I've decided that the magical maintenance explanation doesn't work for me. Why go through all that trouble to get into deep caves just to do something ordinary? Why choose hunting scenes and draw wonderfully rendered creatures?

To me, you do that only when you're having a problem. The magic here is to make the ordinary ordinary again. The magic here is to show a hunt, and how the hunt looks. The magic here is to show what sort of creatures need to be showing up, because you need to get the right things. They are going down to these caves because there is a crisis, either because they've overhunted the animals that they need, or because environmental changes are making the creatures less available. Either way, survival is a work. 

So my theory is that cave paintings were created during times of stress when the tribe was suffering, using depictions to show gods or spirits what a hunt looked like and what needed to happen. These images were created in an effort to fix what was going wrong.


Aug. 21st, 2017 08:36 am
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This weekend, we did a short camping trip up to Cunningham Falls. Christy's kids stayed over on Friday night, having a grand time, then we all packed up, after a breakfast of waffles and headed up on Saturday morning. (Nicky, a 3rd grader, ate three waffles. He's got to be part bear.)

Once we stopped at the camp site, we put off setting up in favor of a hike down to the falls. We asked the kids what they wanted, and they picked the adventurous route over the driving and parking route. The path down to the falls was rough, rocky, and mostly downhill at an appreciable grade. After that trek, we climbed up the falls, hoping to God that none of the kids hurled themselves off the rocks in their own enthusiasm. After a bit to eat and rest, we clambered back down, then walked up that long, winding hill. It took time, but we ascended with a few rests and made it back to the camp site.

The camp site included several big rocks to climb on, just perfect for the kids, who got bored, so we went down to the lake for an hour.

Dinner was kebabs over a charcoal fire. I'm afraid that I completely loused up the charcoal. I just couldn't get the shebang working hot enough. However, I remembered that we had a blower for the mattress, and a blower is a blower. Three or four rounds over superheating the charcoal did the trick, enough to get the kebabs roasted.

We weren't supposed to have any rain, but the weather decided to have other opinions. We had a thunderstorm roll in about 8pm, so we shoved stuff away and hid in the leaking tent. We muddled through. I wound up on the ground, because my air mattress had a leak, so I woke up quite a bit. My Sansa MP3 player was there to save the night, and now I remember why I had bought earphones with ear clips, because my other earphones kept dropping out of my ears as I tossed and turned.

We packed up early and dropped Christy's kids off, then headed home. Jen immediately began preparations for her camping trip to South Carolina, and both she and DesignGirl were out of there by 1pm. Their goal is to see the eclipse in totality. Godspeed to them. I would have joined them if possible, but work is down two people this week.

I got a nasty headache Sunday afternoon and night. Unfortunately, sometime on Friday or Saturday, I must have eaten something wrong, something with milk. Bah! Life sucks. Just as well that I wasn't camping. I had enough wherewithal to mostly dry out the tent, which went rather frustrating. The fly would dry on top, but condense water vapor from the grass below, meaning that it never got dry. Having learned that lesson, I dried the tend off on the driveway, and hopefully that worked better.

The tent may now be useless. Gracie got some cloth stuck in the zipper (which happens all the time with this tent), but she reacted by forcing the zipper over the cloth, which derailed it. We still haven't fixed it.
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I was just playing the Alchemist today on Talisman Digital Edition and I've already concluded that it's overpower, and that's without taking into account any of the city hacks. 

The Alchemist never has to travel for maintenance. He converts gold into life, fate, and spells, at will, even in the middle of an encounter. The same is true of turning objects into gold as needed. He has the ability create and deploy resources in a completely flexible manner where every other character has to hunt down health, fate, and spells. Spells and abilities that improve these attributes are finite, either in amount (Glass Guardians or the Healing spell), or utility, such as the Runesword which requires that you find and fight opponents.

In my opinion, that setup is too good. Mind you, that's without any of the good combos. While you can have whatever you want on a single-player game, for multiplayer, it means that the Alchemist gets to escape most practical limitations integral to the game.

For example, an alchemist can go into a battle, use a magic sword, lose, alchemize the sword, and heal lives, all before damage is applied. He gets both the advantage of the sword during the battle and as gold and as life all in the same round. That's why this ability is too good. 

Here's a few possible nerfs.

For the most part, most players don't get more out of having more gold. There's a point where gold is a useful insurance policy, but isn't any sort of game breaker. The alchemist runs on gold, so we need some other way of introducing brakes. The few items or such that give gold if you have no gold become way too good in an alchemists's hands.

1. Can alchemize once and drink one potion only at the beginning of the turn. Because the alchemist can only alchemize and potion at the beginning of the turn, the alchemist must think about what will be turned to gold, and cannot get multiple advantages out of an item in the same turn.

2. Alchemizing and drinking potions takes a turn. Now that getting benefits loses time, other players have more opportunity to get advantages.

3. Start the alchemist in the village. This way, he can still get to the city quickly, but the trip is not guaranteed.

There are still some problems, but this brings the character more in line with the median.

That much said, the Alchemist has an even bigger problem than being overpowered. The Alchemist is boring. How you play the game changes very little. You cast as a caster and fight as a fighter and move like everyone else. That really makes the character's power inventory management. Not exciting. In my opinion a good character design fundamentally changes the way in which you play, changes how you see advantages and disadvantages, and the risks you're willing to tackle. The alchemist becomes "how much gold do I want to spend this round?"
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A special offer to you folks here at DW. Send me your email to my inbox and I will send you a preview of my upcoming Maid series.

Dead Tire

Aug. 16th, 2017 01:12 pm
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That's not a typo up there. I killed one of my tires going around a turn. I clipped something with my back wheel and tore a hole in the sidewall. Dead tire. I went looking for a tire place, but the ones that I used to know about were closed, and when I did find one, they only had one mechanic, so they were booked. I wound up getting an appointment for this morning, and after $160, have a new rear tire. Thank God I wasn't driving an all wheel drive.

Other than that, I've had my Hyundai Sonata 2012 for a few months and I'm pretty happy. I have a few nitpicks about it, because it's not a perfect vehicle, but it's still perkier than anything else I've ever owned and it's done everything that I've asked of it.

One annoyance is that the car idles so low that I hear pressure waves coming in when the windows are open. I don't know what's up in that. When switching from slowing down to speeding up, if the transition happens too quickly, the transmission gets confused and lets the power drop too much. Sometimes the engine just doesn't want to give power, but not in any predictable way. That could just be driver error.
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I've been throwing my brain into the wayback machine, thinking about my senior year in college hanging about with the folks of the VTSFFC (the Virginia Tech Science Fiction and Fantasy Club). I had been meaning to find them for years, but I had just never made the effort until I was a senior.

Looking back, I remember the folks fondly, and wonder why I hadn't ended up spending more time getting to know everyone. Digging back further, I got past the rosy nostalgia and into who I was back then, and who they were, and the imperfect people that we all were.

For me, there was awkward. There was lots of awkward. And anxiety. Immense, tidal, oppressive anxiety. It may not have been visible, but it was there as the single strongest emotion.

How could I be awkward among already notoriously awkward people? Well, I secured that achievement through two different avenues.

First, I'm lousy as integrating with social groups, even ones with the same seeming interests. I still am, just less lousy, but still lousy. With being exposed to everyone in their college expressiveness, they were all overwhelming and I couldn't figure out how to get even the most basic grip. I ended hopping into in a comedy RPG (Teenagers From Outer Space) for that year and had a grand time. But me, being me, I only got comfortable at a snail's pace with the feeling of people zipping past me. 

I recall attending a Christmas party, which I think was the very first Christmas party that I'd ever attended (yes, for real, because I didn't get invited to parties), which proved too much for me. The townhouse was full, which was hard, because there were too many people. I knew too few people, which raised the anxiety. The expected exchange of gifts left me feeling utterly irrelevant and alienated, because I, of course, didn't know the culture of Christmas parties, nor did I know what to expect, nor did any of what was happening include me and I didn't know how to solve that. I wound up sitting outside for a while, just to cool down and de-stress. I'd love to say that a girl followed me out and a great conversation ensured, but no, it was just me out there and too many twisted feelings.

The other reason that there was awkwardness was more complex. I wasn't part of con culture. I was more of a tourist there, never bound to become a native, and I think that everyone there knew it. For simplicity sake, I'll split the club population into two groups: those who enjoyed SFF as part of their life, and those for whom SFF was their life. I was most definitely in of the former, not the latter. I had wider interests than the ones displayed in the club, and usually had other things to do on Saturday night, such as doing laundry or staying in and reading.

For those who lived for SFF, they found schticks, running with them to get attention, using them to make their place, to create their little fishbowl where they were the big fish. And me, I didn't have that thing, that one clever trick to make me stand out. I didn't see how I could do the same thing, and I knew that I would never match them, so being unable to match, I was doomed to remain an outsider. It's a variation of that phenomena where who go to extremes wind up driving away the majority that don't because we know that we can't match the extremes.

Funny thing is, I think that my ability to walk away gave me more admiration than I ever realized. I didn't garner fan cred, but I did garner human cred. I garnered human cred because I could walk out that door and still have a life, where for others, that was the only life that they had.

I'm not sure that any of that makes any sense.

A third thing that now strikes me is that I walked in as a senior, so everyone just assumed that I knew what was going on. If I had walked in as a freshmen, everyone would have assumed that I didn't know what was going on, so would have made assumptions about what I knew, would have introduced me to fan culture rather than presumed it. In fact, I knew nothing of fan culture, so I was always at sea on that point.

When I look back on the folks who I liked the best in that club, it was the other folks who didn't hadn't to any extremes to make their place. For that little while, we all got to be human together. As to the folks who had their big thing, the thing that made them stand out in little ponds, I never did get fond of them, never did develop anything resembling a basic friendship. I understand that they were perfectly decent people, but something about them just missed me.

In the end, I was never family. One year wasn't enough for that. I was more like an exchange student, one who everyone knew wouldn't be staying. 


Aug. 14th, 2017 03:56 pm
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The weekend went well enough, if almost unremarkable in its unremarkableness.

DesignGirl's cake in the county fair took 1st place in her age/division. Yay for her. She did some nice work with chocolate and fondant creating a graveyard scene, complete with broken fences, tombstones, and a person. The whole thing worked. Unfortunately, I didn't get a picture of the final piece because my wimpy secondary camera's wimpy battered decided to be wimpy.

We spend Monday at the county fair, just me and her, riding rides until we were worn out. After three hours, and a little sprinkly rain, we were both wore out, so we wended our way home.

On Saturday, I felt the urge to murder bushes violently, and with cause, so I pulled out the hedge trimmer and had at it, ending my opponents rightly. I now have less wild shrubbery in the front yard that looks somewhat presentable. In the process, I uncovered a nest with a little blue robin's egg still in it, but given that it's late summer, I doubt that the egg hatched.
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Anne McCaffrey isn't fantasy. Take her off your fantasy lists.

Why? That's a good question.

If you ignore the dragons (and also fire lizards) for a moment, what's fantasy about Pern? I'm hard pressed to find something that's fantasy. There's glow baskets and a few psychic powers. The glowing plants show up in SF and psychic powers show up far more in SF than fantasy. There was an invading warlord, but that's not fantasy. Medieval style weapons by themselves aren't fantasy.

So, the entire argument for Pern being fantasy, from my perspective, seems to be the presence of psychic dragons. As already established, psychic powers are usually SF. Dragons may usually be associated with fantasy, but there's no assertion anywhere that their powers come from a magical source. If anything they are creatures that appear dragon-like and are named after the mythical creatures rather than being actual dragons.

In all other ways, the books hew far closer to SF than fantasy. That argues strongly for SF, especially as the author took the series into an exclusively SF direction.
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Another year, another no Worldcon. I don't yet earn enough to afford that trip, let alone an international trip. I'd also feel like I'd be carrying about a little sign that says "notice me" while everyone else was carrying around far bigger signs that said "notice me."
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I separated from Facebook a while ago, about six months. Since then, I've reduced my level of stress and gotten to think about how I'm interacting with people, not just on Facebook, but in real life. It's been good thinking.

Importantly, I've realized just how much noise Facebook had become. When I had first joined Facebook, I saw people, what they were doing, and what they were up to. By the time that I walked away, I saw mostly politics and empty yakking and constant link reposts, which wound up hiding and distancing people far more than bringing them to me. Rather than feel closer to people, I increasingly felt angry at them. That wasn't good. I was going to start burning bridges if I didn't walk.

Now, I see how many bridges are burning. This social civil war is taking its toll on my communities.

There is no victory in this culture war, so now we must relearn civility. That's not going to be easy, because that requires seeing our opponents as people, with legitimate issues, who desires issues for their problems just as earnestly as I seek them for me.

Weekly, I still poke about Facebook, but I've lost the thread of conversation. I no longer have context. I am accepting of that. That's how life used to be, before this infernal social feed revealed this level of madness before us, this direct tap into our social brains. Turns out, we all need a reason to think before we type.
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I just read an amusing article about how you should dump PC apps for web apps.

In my experience, which is considerable, so I may be using the voice of authority fallacy, web apps and local software are not equivalent. In every case, the local apps are more complex, more nuanced, and more stable. The only reason to move off them is because there's an advantage to working with a lighter, connection-oriented package. The reason to not switch to the web is because their disadvantages outweigh their advantages.

For example, most people moved to the web for mail because mail assumed a connection and combined that with an online archive. The advantage was identifiable. Devices that have gone whole-web in their interaction, such as smartphones, still maintain a local cache because that greatly adds to speed and because connectivity isn't always good.

People gain an advantage from web-oriented software when they frequently change computers. In this case, they get their operating environment wherever they go, decreasing their hassles and headaches.

Many pieces of software gain no advantage from being on the web. Big games don't work on the web because they're just too big. Software which generates big data also doesn't work well with the cloud, for the same reason. 

Unlike the early computing era, many apps are now installed, by default, with the operating system. These all run locally by default, and you're unlikely to find web versions because there's little need for them.

Local software lets you choose and app and stick with it. As long as you don't touch it or need something more from it, you can keep the same version for years, possibly decades. Compare that to web apps that like to change around.

What I'm not saying is that one strategy works better than the other. Better is in the eye of the beholder. The cloud and the web were created to solve problems, not to nullify existing solutions. They both have advantages and disadvantages, and those disadvantages are real. No matter what you choose, you will be affected by those disadvantages.

Home Again

Aug. 6th, 2017 05:15 am
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We made it home again. First, our flight was delayed on arrival, then delayed on departure because we had a nicked fan blade. They repaired that, and soon enough, we were in the air.

On our last day, we took a little hike looking for wildflowers, visited a stream to pan for gold, rode the gondolas, and visited an art show. DesignGirl wanted one of the local crepes, so just as we got into a short line, nine people wedge in before us. (Yes, I kid you not. Two entire families got there 1 second before we did.) I would have loved one of those crepes, but milk, baby. That's not good for me.

My car felt like a sports car when I started driving. 10,000 feet more oxygen, baby. Up high, you have to hit a car with a club to go any faster. Down here, cars actually have finesse.

The cat had words for us on arriving home. He'd been cooped up for a week and feeling it. He'll be lap claiming us all day.

There's nothing like getting home to see how cluttered your own house is. Improbably, the weather wasn't oppressive for August, and the night actually cool, so we opened up the house to clear out that closed house smell.

I had feared getting back onto my normal time schedule, but I woke up at an odd hour, so I just stayed awake to start shifting my time back. Lord knows when anyone else will wake up.

While some things from our trip will be missed (such as a lack of mosquitos and cool night), none of us will miss the high altitude lack of O2. It's nice to not feel like dying with any exertion. 
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Thursday was our slacker day during vacation. My daughter watched YouTube until her eyeball fell out and ate absurd amounts of candy.

I finished The Skies of Pern. Jenny and I hit the local bar for a drink, which might be normal to other people but was pricey for us. I watched Kong: Skull Island by myself, and then as a family, we watched The Lego Batman Movie.

On Friday, we did last things. Jenny and I went to see an old lumber mill and took a nice hike searching for wildflowers. After that, it was lounging in the hottub and swimming about a heated pool. In the afternoon, we panned for gold at a local stream while Jenny listened to stories about the history of the town. We took another ride on the gondolas, then went downtown to see an art festival. (Yes, there are some mighty awesome artists out here). DesignGirl got a raspberry crepe at the super-good crepe dive.

We wrapped Friday up with a dinner of leftovers and packing time.
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From the opening paragraphs, The Skies of Pern (2001) by Anne McCaffrey shows the many hands that contributed to it, as paragraphs and descriptions flow in a very un-McCaffrey like way, but the bulk of the story remains pure McCaffrey. The book feels like a last horrah, one where many plot lines are wrapped up once and for all, where many gender wrongs and a righted, and providing yet another answer to the question of what dragon riders will do when threadfall is over. 

The books works mostly as three intertwined novellas rather than as a single overarching novel, which lends itself to the feeling of a more complete work.

The novels starts off agonizingly slow, following yet more Abominationists. I nearly gave up on the book as this section bored me. Meanwhile, we have a romance begin between F'lessan and a green rider. (This is not a spoiler because the book makes it very plain that these two will be shacking up at the end of Act 2). About a hundred pages in, the novel finally gets some Pern-like momentum, with yet more disasters to show the studliness of our dragon riders. The B-Plot of the Abominationists continues, dragging the plot whenever it shows up. In my opinion, the entire B-plot could get dumped with no harm to the work. 

I feel like one plot thread was left dangling. I had expected that Toric would finally get his come-uppance, eventually getting himself exiled, while F'lar and Lessa would have finally decided to retire south, but neither of these two plot threads came to anything. My guess is that both were in the original plot outline, but length considerations and manuscript delivery dates cut those threads shorts.

Expect to see some and all your favorite characters. If you haven't read a Pern novel before, don't start here. You'll see character both prevalent and obscure rear their heads, including those from short stories and B-plots.

Thankfully, most of the plot talking-head scenes tend to stay on topic and actually progress the plot, rather than just suck down air.

My understanding is that there's some vigorous discussion on the dragon abilities discovered in this work. I find that this yet-another-discovery is no less contrived than all the other contrived discoveries of the Ninth Pass, so it works well enough for me. I've already accepted teleporting telepathic dragons. What's a little more unbelievability?

Even with all its flaws, this book still works better than most of McCaffrey's non-Pern books, the ones where she didn't have strong editors or supporting writers, especially those written in the aimless 90's. The book will scratch your Pern itch, or drive a stake through it's heart, or both. 

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On Tuesday, we got into the car and drove-drove-drove to Rocky Mountain National Park. We traveled from Breckinridge to the Estes Park entrance, passing through western Denver and Boulder. I thought Boulder a rather lovely city, with architecture that changed at a psychotically quick pace.

Rocky Mountain National Park itself was all vistas, all the time. She's a beauty allright. We took the long drive around, wending our way here and there. At the summit, we tried to ascend, but we just didn't have the breath. We needed to rest every twenty feet, so we gave up. In terms of wildlife, we saw marmots, chipmunks, elk, and moose. (We didn't get too close to the moose.)

On Wedneday, we went up the mountain to the adventure park, plopping down $300 for fun. It was our big ticket item (aside from the plane tickets). We prioritized the adult zipline, which was a mountain size zipline. It opened late, so I went up first, getting through the experience rather quickly. I rather enjoyed the chairlift up. The zip itself turned out to be less spectacular than it looked. I still glad that I tried the experience, but it triggered no endorphines for me. Jenny went up next, but the line had built up, so she had to wait in line far longer. Meanwhile, a storm came up, so while she was up on the mountain, they closed the ride for a while. Eventually she made it through after 2.5 hours.

While Jenny was busy, DesignGirl and I did the gem panning, climbed a climbing wall, did the maze, put-putted (which got interrupted by rain), and finally, I let her do the unlimited bounce house.

Our gravity roller coaster experience turned sour. In front of us, there was a kid who's car wouldn't go (or he himself couldn't make it go). Either way, our one-trip roller coaster experience turned into a slow crawl. We were pretty vocal about the bad experience, so they put us back in line and the next go felt like a roller coaster.

They also had wheeled sleds that went down the luge runs. Fun, but only so fun.

We ended up dragging ourselves home when the afternoon rains came. We were pretty much done by then.
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We've been up to fun. My in-laws traded time-shares to get us a stay in Breckenridge, Colorado.

So far, we flew into Denver, then headed south to the Garden of the Gods. Swinging north, we visited the Dinosaur Research Center. We also hit a local place for lunch, enjoying some local MEAT, which the midwest does ever so fabulously. (I'll let the various localities duke it out for which is the best.)

Today we went on an early trail ride, lucking into a solo ride as most other people weren't up. We then went into town, hitting all the candy stories because DesignGirl campaigned hard for it. We then lucked into a solo escape room where we had to escape from an avalanche. We did every well, getting through the most difficult puzzles with ease, but getting tripped up by some of the simple puzzles.

Between adventures, I'm happily writing along. I finished the first draft on the Mana crystal, so now I'm going back and making sure that it reads like English. My sleep has been odd on East Coast tilme, and hitting a few time zones over, it's not improved.

The days have not been as clear as I'd prefer, with many overcast mornings, but this morning worked out bright and cheery. 

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Neither fish nor foul, uncategorically other, and perhaps the most abandoned book in the western fantasy canon, The Simarillion (1977) by J.R.R. Tolkien, published posthumously, continues to divide and muddle fans to this day.

When I mention this book to many fantasy readers, their response is usually, "I couldn't finish it." This book, this collection of stories, provides a detailed background and mythology to Middle Earth. Part history, part short story, part epic poem, part legend, part myth, the collection resembles nothing published before or since. For the reader, it either provides more of what they so desire, the details of Middle Earth, or provides what bores them to tears, the details of Middle Earth.

I first read this back in high school, 10th grade, and even back then, as earnest as I was, I found the work hard reading. I could toss off anything else, but I could not toss off this. By the end, I confess that I wasn't paying much attention as I pushed towards completion. Decades later, I came back to the work on audiobook, listening through it as I played endlessly with my then kitten, who needed lots and lots of string. I got more of it this time, but I forgot almost as much.

If you're a deep Tolkien fan, this book has what you want. This is distillate from which the literary tales were created. If you aren't a fan, this is exactly the part of the novels that lost you, concentrated.

While I appreciate many of the ideas and tales in the book, they lack the engagement of actual stories, the one that most fantasy readers enjoy, where they form attachments to heroes and learn to despise villains. Due to the structure of the tales, there's little to attach to unless it's Middle Earth itself. Because of this, all these stories feel a bit remote, far away, uncompellling unless its Middle Earth itself that you love.

Even though this book was published in the 1970s, it wasn't a product of the 1970s. In every way, this is an older work salvaged from Tolkien's life in previous decades, making the best of assorted and often inconsistent source materials.

In my most recent attempt to reread it,The Silmarillion escaped me. There are many who can sing their praises of this work, but I am not one of them. 
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AI has fundamental limits. The first limit is that humans have to see value in the AI to design the AI to do a job. If there's no value to some human, they won't design and implement an AI.

Rule #1: The AI must promise enough value so that someone develops it.

Developing an AI isn't cheap. That sort of software takes time and expertise to set up, test, and iterate until the AI works as intended. This process isn't necessarily a straight line. When an AI is going into a new area, it requires development, which almost always requires working with unknowns.

One could design an AI washing machine, but as current washing machines work well enough, and the washing machine market is competitive enough, such innovation will likely result in little to no return. 

Rule #2: The AI must provide more value than it loses.

We could, for instance, create an AI that assembles Legos for children. For those who love Legos, this would would provide no value. However, I can see some entrepreneur using this to speed up assembly for his pre-assembled kit business. (It's a real thing.)

You can see from the example that one group would see value out of such an AI while a second group would lose value from an AI.

The same is true of cars. Some people would gain, such as those who want to own their own taxi, especially if they aren't otherwise independent. Taxi companies would gain value by cutting payroll. However, car enthusiast would lose value because they want the driving experience. People on a low income would lose value because the cars would cost more to purchase and more to maintain. 

Rule #3: Value must be verifiable

It's not enough to claim value, value must be demonstrable. A claim that an AI manages money better, predicts weather better, or find patterns better must be measurable or you don't know whether it actually does something better. Better may mean more accurate, or it may mean shifting through more data than a human can in only a fraction of the time. Better is a metric used by the customer.

Facebook has had AIs that failed to regulate news feeds. They failed this task because the AIs could analyze the new feeds, but they had no practical way of measuring the results. Especially where humans are concerned, analyzing what we want and giving more of that to us can be too accurate of a mirror on ourselves, or lead to provably false notions running amok. The problem here is measuring truth, which nobody has ever successfully accomplished.

Many AIs fail, not because the of the technology, but because the project doesn't have well defined goals. "Do it better" is not a well defined goal.

Rule #4: There must be no cheaper or more effective alternative

Just because an AI is possible doesn't mean that there isn't a cheaper or better alternative. Humans are clever beasts, and while moving the goalposts is bad in a logical debate, doing exactly that can be extremely lucrative if you're the one who moves the goalposts.

Galaxy Zoo was famous for having no budget, but when they asked people to help them identify galaxies, the public gave them so many hours worth of work that they accomplished their huge tasks in two weeks at a fraction of the computational power.
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