First are two of the series of articles I have written for The Mason Contractors Association of America in 2004 about some advancements I had been responsible for in the field of restorative masonry:
Repointing: How to Properly Restore Old Buildings
Tuckpointing: How to Achieve a Good Color Match
Second is an article I wrote in more recent times for Bitcoin Magazine. It is titled, “How You Can Better Explain Bitcoin to Newcomers”.
Third is a non-fiction book I wrote titled, “Taking the Orange Pill”.
Here is an excerpt:
“You keep hearing about Bitcoin. You’re pretty sure you know what it is: it’s a digital currency used as a form of payment or a way to store value. And you even grasp that it’s sort of important. You’re open to owning some, but you haven’t yet acquired any.
However, if we are to uncover what is so imperative about owning this emerging asset, we’ll need to delve deeper into Bitcoin’s anatomy. If I do a good job of peeling the onion for you in the following pages, you may notice that your sense of urgency about buying BTC -- as we commonly refer to it -- grows exponentially.
First of all, have you recognized that when you discuss Bitcoin with some individuals, they are skeptical about it and are willing to go to great lengths to convince you to stay away?
Their reaction is typically human and it is not so much directed at Bitcoin per se, but rather, at change in general.
You can run an experiment. Dream up a bold daring move that would introduce a big departure into your regular life, and go tell friends and family members about it. Then pay attention to how many of them are quick to talk you out of your new endeavor. Perhaps even, if you’d be willing to dig into your own psyche, you’d discover that you also have a similar inclination, whether you’d go as far as let it manifest or not.
Now, imagine you are in Detroit, near Bagley Avenue. The year is 1896. Henry Ford is riding his newly-built horseless carriage -- the first automobile. For centuries, societies have been using horses for transportation. Horses are deeply ingrained in the culture. Your father has one, and so do all your uncles, neighbors, and so forth. You just fed and cleaned the horse this morning, as a matter of fact. You dream about owning your first horse and you can’t wait to be old enough to finally get one. And now, Henry Ford is testing his Quadricycle in plain daylight, in your neighborhood. He’s being laughed at and derided. Freddy, your uncle, just shouted out loud, “Go get a horse!” At the dinner table this evening, the subject is going to come up, and the adults are going to have a good laugh about it as they gobble their malt liquor.
Well, as we all now know, Henry Ford was right. He changed the world, and he had the last laugh. But he introduced a paradigm shift into culture that exceeded the human tolerance threshold for change.
We could argue the same thing is currently happening with Bitcoin.
It’s a breakthrough in computer science which, for the first time in history, makes certain fundamental socio-economic changes possible. Understanding what that shift is, however, requires you to take the time to learn more deeply about Bitcoin and to revisit some of your assumptions about money. Hopefully, I’ll be making this part easier for you in this short book.”
Next are a series of journalistic-style articles I wrote based on interviews I had conducted about what it was like to live in various locales: "What it's like to live in LA," "What it's like to live in Boulder, Colorado," and "What it's like to live in New York."
Lastly, is a science fiction novel I wrote, titled, “Awakened in the Future”.
Here is an excerpt:
"Love is a funny thing," thought Vestergaard. He was slicing a tomato with the attentiveness and precision you might expect from anyone in possession of an engineering mind. Each slice was paper-thin. And yet, the weight of the blade performed the bulk of the work on his behalf.
"Next cut the cheese," the bot chef told him.
A bot was an AI agent that resided as a holographic entity in a piece of conductive glass-like material. This one inhabited the most popular commercial format: a cylindrical section of such a substance about 10 and a half inches high with a diameter of roughly seven inches. Futura, the consortium of companies responsible for the product, had shipped 153 million units of this particular model in the third quarter of 2043 alone, despite the product already having been on the market three years, and despite several of their other offered formats of the same technology also experiencing mind-boggling sales.
Even with that much said, it would be easy to understate the impact that conductive glass, as it was called, was having worldwide, and particularly, the far-reaching ramifications it would have on the fundamental structure of society for centuries to follow. It had always been the business of a venture capitalist to try and anticipate the future. It was more than mere forecasting. Although VCs were generally keeping analysts on hand to consult, were regularly filling spreadsheets to the brim with discounted cash flow numbers and were constantly dissecting various trends to no end, the good ones – as in the cream of the crop – in tandem with the first-rate entrepreneurs that they funded – could project their minds into the future and visualize the world as it would be – as it ought to be. One could pointlessly debate as to whether they were anticipating the inevitable and preempting it, or whether they were de facto creating our collective tomorrows. And yet, should you have had asked a VC 25 years earlier, to speculate about the next major breakthrough technology to emerge, you would perhaps have been told, by say May Ling Chu, from Probability Ventures, that VR or virtual reality would be "it" – you know, that sure-to-be addictive, "better than reality" transporting experience in which you are in fact sequestered, by yourself and wearing an "anti-social" piece of gear on your face while preferably also being attached to a network of sensors and actuators – well thankfully, that turned out to have been a non-starter. You would undoubtedly have had to endure several passionate discussions about cryptocurrencies – digital money – by the likes of Stephan Hans from Long Wave Capital; and while "crypto" has allowed for a new architecture that ultimately gave control to the end-user through monetized protocols, thus in time eroding the large monopolies of the tech sector of that era better than any antitrust action could ever have, it was also eventually appropriated by the elite, failing in its mission to close the divide between the haves and have nots. Through crippling regulations, it only reinforced the grip that governments had always had on their populace, much less topple them. Next, there would have been the understanding by most, without knowing precisely what the final permutation would be, that computer interfaces would undergo a dramatic transformation. Finally, you would have been pitched on the virtues of AI or artificial intelligence, by perhaps Audrey Moreau, another of the general partners at Gr8 Capital, who would have demonstrated the tremendous benefits of gradient descent algorithms and neural networks. And while machine learning - in other words, letting a computer train itself and derive on its own the optimal values for unknown factors in equations -- certainly has been a most major development, it was eclipsed by the very medium that became its host of choice. Probably no one would have guessed that the real enabler of a new age of technological advancements would have been a glass-like material. Not any type of glass, mind you, an exceptional kind of glass, but mostly a see-through mineral-derived substance nonetheless.
Conductive glass, therefore, was a hard and natively transparent material with nano-scientific properties, the least of which consisting of the absence of the requirement to be tethered. Using over-the-air-conductivity (OTAC) – the big breakthrough of the 2030's -- the unit was fed data and power without any visible, related hardware facilities. Handling its electronic functions, there was an intricate web of silver nanowires within, too small to scatter light on their own. It could serve as a computer, a smartphone, a computer screen, a watch, a building material even, and more. But its most cherished use case was hosting AI bots who took on a human form within its confines. There were countless varieties of them such as the bot lawyer, the bot doctor, the bot teacher, the bot accountant, to name but a few. Although bots could exert judgment and converse on a wide variety of topics, they minded their own business and merely offered help within the bounds of their specialty; and usually only when asked to do so. This allowed for their usefulness to shine while remaining on the surface, non-invading of one's privacy.
Part of what made conductive glass such a complete piece of technology in its own right was that it acted as a transducer as well, the latter being a device that sends or receives a signal in the form of one type of energy and converts it into another kind. Think of a microphone. Or, for example, when an electric impulse passes through a cable and enters into an electro-acoustic speaker, it causes a precise air-displacement pattern to take effect which our ears are equipped to decrypt. Conductive glass could act as a sensor, a speaker, or an actuator – each one part of the transducer family. It transmitted sound through vibration, not by air displacement. One of the more enthralling qualities of conductive glass was how it felt when you touched it. Although it was hard to the point of being scratch-resistant when used as a screen, it paradoxically also felt somehow malleable. You had to place your hand on one to understand. This feature allowed it to generate or be sensitive to vibrations so it could behave as a transducer. Air isn't the only medium that can transmit sounds. Many liquids and solids are even better conductors of it, as their molecules are packed closer than they would be in a gas. If placed on a surface, say a countertop, by causing a vibration within the material upon which it came in contact, conductive glass caused sound to emanate through that object. In particular use cases such as music, some preferred to beam the signal to electro-acoustic speakers; just as though, all these years later, some still favored a vinyl record over a digital recording. As a sensor, the glass perceived physical inputs in addition to its electronically transmitted data inputs. As an actuator, it was able to initiate outputs so as to cause actions to take place, say, turn on a light via OTAC.
Furthermore, it could change colors and become opaque. The quality it possessed, which made its various functions possible, was called "electro-mutation," a discovery enabled by quantum computing. The conductive glass material was a leap and bound improvement over the type of volumetric monitor screen that had become in use approximately 20 years earlier and had given impetus to its development. Its "surrealism" made one wonder whether the Table of Elements had yielded new discoveries, or whether the laws of physics had been stretched to their limit, or perhaps whether aliens had surrendered one of their secrets to humanity. Its sheer ubiquity instilled awe as well: it had replaced the telephone, the computer and its screen, the television, and too many building materials to count. To boot, legions of AI bots inhabited the medium, from your morning coffee barista to your late-news anchor, with a myriad of others in between. The glass could be mounted or linked to robots when physical maneuvers involving dexterity were required. For situations in which only cerebral activity was demanded of a bot, a block of the material by itself inhabited by the intelligent hologram would suffice.
Albert, the chefbot, continued, "With all due respect Magnus, you are cutting the cheese in slices, rather than the small cubes the recipe calls for."
"I'm taking liberties with the recipe, then I suppose," answered Vestergaard.
"I'm afraid there is no room for interpretation if you want the presentation to be perfect. It was algorithmically derived to produce maximal visual impact."
Glancing to his right at his wife Sophia, Vestergaard said with an added a wink, "Did you mistakenly change Albert's settings to 'anal retentive' by any chance?"
Her face offered the kind of smile which formed the foundation of much of Vestergaard's happiness.
"I heard that," said Albert, causing the both of them to let out a laugh.
"Alright then," conceded Vestergaard. "What would you like me to do with the wrongly cut cheese, Your Mighty Chefbot?"
"I regard all forms of flattery with suspicion, you should know," said Albert while tightening his lips, closing his eyes for an instant and turning his head slightly to one side, all the while suppressing a smile. "Based on prior observed patterns," he continued, "I predict you'll be feeding them to the dog in a minute or two -- the poor beast. That animal is not a garbage receptacle, are you aware?"
As the meal preparation continued, Vestergaard studied his wife as much as he could at interspersed intervals so she wouldn't take notice of it. On the one hand, he was at the happiest he could have been sharing this moment with her. And on the other, he experienced a morbid trepidation caused by the overall circumstances he was finding himself in, and which he was forced to keep close to his chest. He had always been aware of his affection for her. But given that their marriage in its current form would end in the months to follow -- a couple years at most -- he was becoming attuned to his deepest feelings towards her. And these were currently taking on a physical manifestation that clenched him in the lowest reaches of his stomach. They implicated his jaw as well. At that moment, he loved her to the point of grief, and it was painful, agonizing even.
"Are you alright?" she asked.
"Of course, I am. There's nothing else in the world I would rather do right now than being here with you." And he meant it.
"Oh, how sweet!"
She could always sense when Magnus was being bothered. Having learned over the years to trust him without reserve whenever he would insist on being 'fine' -- despite appearing clearly lost in a sea of thoughts -- she had made it routine to relegate such notions to the back of her mind, where they seemed to hover just below her awareness of them. This afforded him the space he felt he needed while at the same time allowing him to 'remain himself' when he was with her.
When the dinner was finally cooking in the smart oven under the sole supervision of Albert, he went upstairs to take a shower. After, as he stood exposed in front of the opulent bathroom mirror to better confront himself with all his vulnerabilities in plain sight, the proverbial weight of the world was on his shoulders. Feeling that much heavier indeed, he went so far as to weigh himself on the ultra-precision scale 'just to see' whether the feeling was solely a mental perception or whether it was actually a physical manifestation that could indeed be measured. Noting no ostensible change, he robed up and went to his study, where he could look out the window, as he often liked to do, and suffered through a rather severe episode of impostor syndrome. Who was he, he wondered, to appoint himself to re-write the course of history? What had gone so terribly wrong that he was now the solution? Why him? And the biggest question of them all, the one that Vestergaard had most difficulty answering: was he acting because he could or because he should?
It is unfortunate for the annals of history that there were no witnesses present to capture the moment and immortalize it for future generations to behold when they undoubtedly would strive to uncover who Magnus Vestergaard had indeed been. But let's assume that at least a bird has had the privilege. As it flew from some distance toward the Vestergaards' sprawling estate, after feasting its eyes on the majestic landscape, and subsequently taking notice of the imposing manor that adorned it, and as it drew itself closer and closer to the study's window, the unsettled look in the old man's eyes is what even a bird would have likely found to be the most striking.”
The above text constitutes my unfiltered output: I've done the research, developmental editing, writing, content editing, proofreading, and even the cover design for the novel.
Feel free to browse through the various posts on this blog to gain even more insights about my style of writing.
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