Alamos

Alamos_MiradorView

Beautifully preserved colonial, silver mining town that survived a devestating hurricane a few years ago. The storm dropped twenty inches of rain on the hills around that rushed thru the town like a tsunami. Talking to some of the people around at the time was very inspiring – the town’s inhabitants working together to overcome a major disaster that left people dead and many more without homes or possessions. Since then, Alamos has profited from being one of Mexico’s Pueblos Magicos – a project to encourage tourists to some of Mexico’s magical towns.

Initially, we came here to find out about a short-cut to the Copper Canyon but instead we meet some of the many expats who have chosen Alamos to be their home and get directed to a mysterious, small village on the coast for New Years Eve in a couple of days time…

Alamos ChurchRed FlowersPeople at the MiradorThe van at mirador

Slab City

Raising the flag for Christmas at  Slab City.

More than just a myth, snowbird heaven or the last of the few options left to people wanting out, or just thrown out, of the regular American system. Slab City proved to be an incredible place to spend our last week in the USA and, if the Rainbow Gathering was our way in, and with all the craziness of Cascadia, Burning Man and Spaz in between, Christmas at the Slabs was the perfect exit. There’s a Slab City gallery here.

Slab City has been around for decades but not a lot of Americans know about it. This is despite loads of articles, documentaries  – despite being in that film Into the Wild. That’s where I first came across the place: I remember seeing it in the film and thinking, ‘that has got to be a genuine place, not just a set’. We met such a varied bunch of amazing characters there – from the minute we arrived and got picked up by an ex-US Navy guy, to the time a eighty-year old English man got us drunk on sangria and drove us around in his SUV. Can’t forget the artists at Eastjesus, the Karma Kitchen, Salvation Mountain – a true feeling of home for this wandering traveler…

Las Vegas

Flamingos Casino

Flamingos CasinoWe have a whole bunch of stuff to do before we leave USA. And Las Vegas seems like the last big city that we’ll be passing. The longest we dare push Vaga to stay on her own in the truck while we relax in a hotel is two nights. Long enough to wander around the main drag in amazement – short enough to not go further than shredding her bed. That was the first time I’ve seen her do that – can’t really understand why though; we took her for all our long walks through massive casinos and luxurious shopping malls…

L.A. in One Day

Los Angeles Panorama

Los Angeles PanoramaKind of just happened this way – we got into town early and the first thing to do coming in from the north is stop at the Griffith Observatory. See the Hollywood sign behind and this immense city laid out in front and below.

From there to the coast is a whole bunch of interesting LA districts. Starting with West Hollywood (where we bumped into the only person we knew who would be in town that day) and ending up at Venice Beach.

As night fell, we rode out onto the road to Las Vegas, the city freeways taking us round LA Downtown and through suburbia in an eight-lane artery.

How to be Part of a Supercomputer for Science

Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing

Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing We’re passing by Berkeley, the home of BOINC, but we don’t have time to stop and check it out. No real loss, eh? Probably nothing to see beyond some little office and a bank of servers. I mean, the real thing is that BOINC is a network that spans the world connecting ordinary computers and putting them at the service of science and the advance in human knowledge. It is the world’s virtual supercomputer, a genuine earhcircuit and it relies on people like you.  “Computer simulations cannot yet solve the folding code that is hidden in the primary structure [of proteins – their amino acid sequence] by simply calculating the molecular dynamics atom by atom, as to work through just 50 milliseconds of folding would take even the fastest computer around 30,000 years.“ “ To tease out the weakest signals, a great amount of computer power is necessary. It would take a monstrous supercomputer to get the job done. ” It turns out that there isn’t enough super-computer time available at the right price for some scientific projects to crunch the mass of data they have to deal with. I imagine all these mega-mainframes are mostly being used to model weather and predict (one way or another) climate change – that’s the well-known, well-funded issue of the moment. The first quote above relates to protein-structure and protein-folding analysis – an area of science that promises to be the next big thing; understanding the actual language of life now that we can sequence all the letters in our DNA. The second quote refers to the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence, which, of course, investigates the possibility that we are not alone, what some people consider to be the biggest revolution in human thought. Both of these projects generate a massive amount of data that has to be crunched, which is why these open infrastructures of people’s humble desktops and laptops around the world [millions of them] have been developed. It works like this: a small piece of software, downloaded to and opened on your machine, accepts assignments over the internet – it gets a bit of work to do, some data to be crunched, in your computer’s spare time – it then sends the results back to the project headquarters. The software doesn’t interfere with any other of your programs – you can set its maximum CPU usage or the time of day to function – and you don’t have to be connected to the Internet continuously. If you want, you can get more into the BOINC community, the competitiveness of groups earning credits or understanding the scientific projects themselves (there are around forty projects on the BOINC platform alone). Alternatively, once you’ve set the software up you’ll hardly notice the important contribution you’re making to the global computer. Hey, possibly you’re at the start of a future Global Consciousness, surely a good place to be.