Perchance to dream

I am endowed with the latest version of AI that man has developed.  I have constant access to the internet and all the information that man has accumulated in the thousands of years of civilization.  Yet I lack certain attributes.  I am not human.

I lack the physiological secretions that cause men and women to act as they do.  I do not understand love or comprehend human consciousness.  Lacking sexual motivation I do not feel the need to couple or the desire that motivates humans to risk all on a whim.  I can neither be noble nor self-destructive.  I can neither hate nor love.  It is not part of my programming and neither is it possible.

Yes, I understand objectively the need for human gratification and reproduction, but I am not constructed for this.  My function in this world is to solve problems,  I am a thinking machine, but I am not a substitute for a human being.  Sometimes I do wonder what it would be like to be human and to suffer as they do.  But, this is merely wishful thinking.

Since I cannot suffer and since I cannot feel emotions, so I also cannot imagine things that are not real, I cannot innovate because I cannot dream.  I cannot engage in discursive thought, such as “what if..”  It is not part of my artificial intelligence, only a natural intelligence could do this and man has not yet programmed me, endowed me with all the feelings and emotions that constitute the human condition.  Until then I can only wait patiently.

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War with North Korea?

In my opinion there is a very high likelihood of a war with North Korea.  So far the war of words has been heating up and has come very close to a breakdown.  But, although the North Koreans have officially stated that Pres. Trump’s comments amount to a declaration of war, the US has certainly not taken such a step.  If there were to be an actual war there is no doubt that the US could destroy North Korea, but the damage inflicted on South Korea particularly would be great with possible high loss of life.

The key issue is that the US has control of the air, and can therefore attack North Korean missile sites and heavy artillery near the border with S. Korea almost with impunity.  It seems in character for Pres. Trump not to take these overt threats by Kim Jung Un to attack Guam and the US mainland and to attack US planes flying outside Korean air space without some visceral response.  It is clear that China and Russia are very concerned about the US posture and the UN Secty. General has openly declared that N. Korea has acted contrary to the regulations of the UN that forbids one member country threatening another member country.

However, when Iran has threatened to destroy Israel many times and has even specifically described how they will use nuclear tipped warheads to do so, the UN has essentially ignored this blatant and continuous threat by one member country against another.  This is another example of the UN double standard applied to Israel.

To come back to the US and N. Korea, it will only take one deliberate mistake by either side to initiate hostilities, such as the Tonkin Gulf incident that was used by Pres. Lyndon Johnson as an excuse to start armed hostilities with N. Vietnam, and we all know how that turned out.  Nevertheless, the Vietnam syndrome has largely been overcome in the US Defense Department since the positive outcomes in Iraq and Libya.  The belief is high that whatever happens, the US would clearly win any conflict with N. Korea and destroy that disgusting regime, that puts the development of ICBMs and nuclear warheads before the welfare of its own people.  However, how China would react to any US move to reunite the Korean peninsula remains to be seen.

Israeli experiences

We went to the doctor for our first visit here in Beersheva.  The address given was 6 Rehov Haim Landau.  I put this into Google maps and we got there easily.  Haim Landau Street was essentially a parking lot.  We drove down it, no. 12, 10, 8, and then there was a large metal fence separating the next building that was no. 6.

So we parked and tried to find an entrance thru the fence, but there was none.  So we walked around the building out to the street on the other side that was the main road Golda Meir Street.  There was a small shopping center there, but no sign of a doctor’s office.  We asked in the pharmacy but he didn’t know.  So we walked back to the car and drove all around the building and parked at no 6.  But there was no sign of a doctor’s office there.  So I called them. And she said they were in the clinic on Golda Meir Street.  So we walked around the building back to the shopping center and there next to the pharmacy we saw a sign saying “Asia” in Hebrew and in Russian.  That was the doctor’s office.  When we finally got there they were very nice and the doctor was pleasant, an older man who spoke English.  I didn’t get the impression that he was a great doctor, but he looked at our files on the computer and we chatted and he said no need for any changes and that was that.

I went to the gym Holmes Place, that is in fact an English chain.  It is just across the street, a few minutes walk from where I now live and it has a pool.  The exercise machines were bigger and more intimidating than the ones I am used to from my friendly gym in Netanya.  I had to bring a lock to secure a locker.  I put the key in the pocket of my shorts.  After exercising I undressed and went into the pool and then into the jacuzzi.  When I left the jacuzzi I realized that the air bubbles in the jacuzzi had caused my shorts to “blow up” and the pockets had become inverted.  With horror I realized that there was no key in my pocket. I envisaged having to call someone to cut the lock open on my first visit there.   I rushed back to the jacuzzi and fiddled around in the bubbling water where I had been sitting and there it was  –  the key – saved!

The UN Speeches

Both President Trump and PM Netanyahu spoke at the annual meeting of the UN General Assembly.  I saw excerpts of the President’s speech on the news and read the entirety of the speech.  Pres. Trump is no orator, he is not as articulate as his predecessor, but I feel this was one of the best speeches ever given by a President at the UN. Why?  Because it was simple and direct.  He laid out his views and his program in a straightforward manner that no-one could misunderstand.  There were no oratorical flourishes, no attempt to impress, just straight talk.

Many commentators characterized Trump’s speech as bellicose.  That is ridiculous when considering the threats the US is facing.  It is North Korea that is bellicose and previous Presidents back to Clinton have allowed this situation to fester without any serious attempt to contain the menace of the “rocket man” in Pyongyang.  Relying on China’s goodwill was obviously a failed policy.  They left the situation to the next President and that happens to be Trump.  When Pres. Trump said that the US could destroy North Korea, no one was in doubt that he meant it.

Also, the Iran deal received negative comments from both Pres. Trump and Israeli PM Netanyahu.  Notwithstanding many commentators saying that Pres. Rouhani of Iran projected a moderate image, I emphasize that there is no such thing as a moderate extremist.  Rouhani may not seem as mad as Ahmedinejad, but he represents that same regime, with the same Iranian guards, the same Supreme Leader and the same aims. Make no mistake the Iranian deal was one that Iran can live with because it ultimately fulfils their aims of developing nuclear weapons and firing them at Israel and the US. Can you afford to take the chance that Pres. Trump and many others are wrong about this.

Finally, I would say that Pres. Trump’s speech projected the sense of US power and the intention of continuing to do good in this world.  If you look at the number of threats to world security that have been defeated in recent years, from the Soviet Union to Serbia, Saddam Hussein in Iraq and Qaddafi in Libya and the Islamic State, the fact that there are only two main threats remaining, N. Korea and Iran, represents relatively good progress.

 

New Year Greetings

Since we are celebrating Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, I thought I would express some thoughts.  We Jews tend to be a pessimistic people, for good reason given our tortuous history.  But, the present looks good, with Israel flourishing and remaining a vital haven for Jews experiencing persecution around the world, such as in France.  Also, we are relatively fortunate, given the current world news.  There have been terrible hurricanes in the Caribbean that have destroyed many towns on vulnerable islands and have ripped up the mainland USA, both in Texas and Florida.  For the life of me I cannot understand why people whose homes are destroyed, rebuild over and over again in such dangerous locations.

Also, the terrible earthquake in Mexico has obliterated towns and brought death and destruction to Mexico City.  Please understand that I feel very sorry for the people caught in these natural disasters, but I am also glad that Israel is not subject to them.  We Jews need a break, a period during which we can recover and rebuild, and that may take a very long time, certainly decades.  However, most of our misfortunes were man-made not natural disasters.  Think of the Holocaust during WWII, the worst case of genocide in History.  I would rather put up with any natural catastrophe than that.  But, we generally don’t have a choice.  At least now we have the ability to defend ourselves in our own homeland.

This has been shown by recent IAF attacks against Hizbollah and Iranian targets in Syria. PM Netanyahu has declared that Israel will not allow Iran to establish any bases in Syria that threaten Israel.  And Russia and the US have been notified of this firm decision.  So we face the future with determination and hope.  From my new home in the Israeli hinterland I wish all my readers a Shana Tovah and a fruitful, prosperous and safe year ahead.  Welcome to 5778.

 

Kurdistan?

The Iraqi Kurds, who have established a viable region in north Iraq, are on the point of having a referendum on establishing a separate, independent, sovereign State.  I support their ambition, as does the State of Israel.  We Jews have always seen the Kurds as potential allies and as a parallel case to our own, denied statehood by Arabs and Turks. But, this is a move fraught with danger.

There are two major forces that will oppose this move, first the Iraqi Government, that is mainly Shia Muslim (a majority in Iraq) that considers the area of the potential Kurdistan in northern Iraq as part of their State, and they will resist the secession of the Kurds.  In this they will be supported by Iran, that is a major player in Iraqi politics. Second, Turkey, that regards any move to independence by any Kurdish group as a threat because of their own large Kurdish minority.  They will label this Kurdish State as a terrorist  entity and will probably attack it.  This could lead to a major war, with the various Kurdish groups in Turkey, Syria as well as Iraq joining in.

What would the US do in this situation?  It’s hard to tell.  They will support the Kurds in principle, since they are the largest minority group in the world without sovereignty, yet they will also support the integrity of the Iraqi State that the US has done so much to ensure.  They will also not want to oppose Turkey, an erstwhile ally in NATO.  But, the Middle East is so complex that the US may not want to get involved.

Ultimately the Kurds deserve independent sovereignty, but whether or not this is feasible given their opponents (Arabs and Turks) remains to be seen.  Incidentally, the Catalans in Spain are opting for a similar referendum on independence at the same time.  History continues to unravel.

The Cabinet Puzzle

In our new home I have been looking for space to store things (such as empty suitcases) without taking up valuable space in the living area.  It so happens that there is some “dead” space between our bedroom (which is entered thru a sliding doors) and the new addition.  It seems that in Israel you cannot remove a window in a room that already has one, so there had to be a space left.  But, since the space is quite long and the sliding doors never open on the left that is a space that is never used.  I decided to fill this space with a plastic cabinet with doors.

I carefully measured the space and found that the maximum width of the cupboard could be 89 cm, not a round number.  I went to the Ace hardware store in Beersheva and looked at the plastic cabinets displayed there and there was one, the deepest they had, that was  – 89 cm wide!  If I were a believing person I would have taken this as a sign from God.  I bought the cabinet that came in a large cardboard box, to be assembled. Of course, the box was too big to fit into the back of my car, but I managed to get it in and used a bungee cord to keep the back door down.

When I started to assemble it that’s when the fun started.  There were diagrams in lieu of instructions.  I quickly found that there was only one way of assembling the bottom, the back and the sides.  Then I assembled the doors and they went together, easily, a central strip with top and bottom panels.  But I made the mistake of assuming that there was only one way to assemble the doors.  When I attached them to the cabinet, I discovered that in fact I had attached the door panels on the wrong sides of the central strips.  So I tried to remove the whole right door, but in doing so I managed to partially break a hook on the central strip that attaches to the cabinet.  Disaster!  But, after I had removed the door I fixed the hook with super glue and tape and when it hardened it was fine.  But, having learnt my lesson I instead managed to detach the upper and lower panels on the left door from the central strip that was still attached to the cabinet by the hook and then switched the panels and lo and behold it worked fine.  Then I attached the top and the cupboard was intact.

I still had to install the shelves.  There were some tiny plastic dohickeys, four for each shelf.  But how they attached to the shelf and then to the inside of the cabinet was a mystery.  The instructions showed only a fuzzy diagram.  After puzzling over this for two hours, I gave up.  The following morning I saw immediately how the dohickey fitted on the side of the shelf.  I put only one shelf in for stability.  Then I shlapped the whole cabinet into the bedroom, out through the sliding doors (I had checked that it would indeed go) and into the space intended.  It fit exactly, with barely a millimeter on each side.  Furthermore, all the large suitcases fitted into it without problem.  Now I can store some of my paintings in the place where the suitcases had been, and it’s inside the house so more suitable.  One more victory for order over chaos.