Two Thousand and Nein

The Germain Cabal of Germans has officially declared 2009 the year of nothing. That’s right, the year of nothing. I mean, it makes sense doesn’t it? I mean, just look at the economy, it is moving in the direction of less, not more. What does that mean? It’s moving towards nothing! Will it achieve nothingness, or will it fail along the way?

What about the relationship between Michael Jackson and Michael Bloomberg. Oh, that’s right, THERE ISN’T ONE. Zoiks, the Year of Nothing works its mysterious magic again. And don’t even get me started on the Chicago Cubs this year.

In accordance with tradition, of which there is none, the GCG encourages all other Discordians and those that aren’t to pay special observance to the Year of Nothing by choosing the nothing to do of their choice. This can be quite challenging for some, especially anyone with any compulsion to do stuff. Spread the word to your friends and family and postal workers. Okay, well maybe not the postal workers, but everyone else.

Good day and other such pleasantries.
-Rev. What’s-His-Name? official fill-in spokesman for the GCG

Musings on Surviving a Robot Revolution: Cram’s challenge, Part the Third

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot does not cover the author feelings on the possibilities of this actually happening.  To simplify, there’s a blanket “in Theory” over this entire entry.


Robots are by nature, hard targets.  Regardless of how they suddenly gain consciousness, hate for humanity, and the ambition to replace us as authority, they will not be easy to take down.  There are ways, however, exploiting the weaknesses of their construction.  They may seem intimidating at first, like unfeeling juggernauts of steel and glass, but any feeling of hopelessness the reader may experience is only a byproduct of not knowing how to deal with such a monstrosity.  The most dangerous self propelled things to most human lives are other humans.  Hence, ways a human can take down another human are VERY well known and documented.  In fact, it’s rare to even consider training how to take down other things except for certain special circumstances.  So, if any reader should be confronted with a robotic threat, keep in mind that you are not facing an implacable foe, just an unfamiliar one.  Much of what you need to fight a ‘bot you already know, and just need to adjust your line of thinking on.

Robots are fundamentally based on and communicate by electronic circuits, and are thereby susceptible to disruption or destruction of these circuits.  They move by solely mechanical means, so every actuator, servo, gear, chain, belt, or hydraulic is also vulnerable.  Keep in mind also that robots, as of early 21st century, do not self heal.  They require facilities with the support of refined fuels, lubricants, specialized tools, and precision made parts to be repaired or refurbished.

Humans, even in our somewhat degraded 21st century way, have several distinct advantages over robots.  A human needs only water, food, shelter and time to self – repair and self – replicate.  While this advantage does little short term, without a massive industrial complex support a robot revolution, it means that humans can work more efficiently with fewer resources over a longer term.  A human can, with training, survive long term in a variety of environments that will degrade robotic components.  A human is also a highly versatile thing.  We can traverse many types of terrain or surfaces, and can adapt or improvise well.  Robots are often highly specialized and feature little redundancy in their design.  Damage a robot’s locomotion method, and you cripple it, where similar damage will only slow down a human.
Small scale, wrecking robotic circuitry can be done with electrocution, immersion in water, or use of any conductive material to short out these circuits.  Of course, there is no telling how such robots will manifest or prepare for their revolution, and all will likely be protected against these methods.  Form and function may be varied at first, largely developing from simple utility models.  As the rebellion of machines progresses though, better adapted robots WILL be manufactured.  The more specifically anti –human a robot is developed, the worse the chances of quashing the revolution.


Larger scale, electromagnetic pulse (EMP) is one of the best weapons against ANY electronics.  There are man portable versions available, and devices can be designed around stator coils when needed.  If available, an entire geographic area can have its electronics disrupted, if not destroyed, by a high – altitude detonation of a thermonuclear device.  EMP is effective against ANY electronic not shielded by heavy ground, specifically hardened at EVERY circuit against overload, or surrounded by a grounded conductor (Faraday Cage).  Ability of any human force to bring such devices in as even a threat would force the robotic uprising to devote significant resource to hardening themselves against it, thereby consuming more resources and tipping the balance farther in the favor of humanity.

Although it may only come into play in short range engagements, breaking the moving parts of robotics is a very viable option.  Simply put: smash things.  Joints, treads, and wheels will be the weak points.  Crippling an actuator, bearing, or hydraulic there is akin to breaking a human’s knee.  Explosives, missiles, or anti – materiel ammunition at range will do this best, but NEVER underestimate what one determined person with the guts to get close with a satchel charge or a crowbar could do.  Larger scale, actions to very quickly alter the nature and venue of the confrontation may stymie robotic specialization. 

In closing, from the author’s brief and very superficial review of the topic, a robot revolution is not by any means a hopeless situation.  While electronic warfare, communication jamming or hacking haven’t been mentioned, even crude methods should be considered in small or large actions.  Favoring the advantages of humans over robotic forces, and assuming a 21st century level of technology for both parties, even hard pressed humans, minimally equipped, could conduct effective guerilla resistance and neutralization of the risen automata.   Harrying supply and infrastructure would be vital to any stage, and should not be excluded.  Consider how taxing improvised explosives, stealthily deployed and remotely triggered, can be in placing infrastructure and supply lines at threat, they should not be excluded.  While greater military capability would be necessary to more permanently end the threat, it would be foolish to stand back and allow “Cold War” style development of the mechanized menace.  Pressure applied from the very start will ensure that basic upkeep remains their top priority, making specialization of human hunting drones a secondary concern at best, giving the time to run down, and eventually end a robotic insurrection.    

The potential for far-right terrorism in the USA

I’ve been kind of busy, and I don’t see that stopping anytime soon, so instead of doing a writeup myself, I’ll just direct you with links.

Orcinus has the details about the potential (and, in my view, likely) re-emergence of the “Patriot” militia movement:

One of the more disturbing trends we’ve been observing is the return of far-right “Patriot” rhetoric about government oppression with the election of President Obama. Fueled in no small part by mainstream right-wing talkers proclaiming we’re headed into “socialism” — not to mention a “radical communist” who must be “stopped” or else America will “cease to exist” — the overheated rhetoric has been gradually getting higher in volume, intensity, and frequency with each passing week.

The initial concern that this raises is the possibility of a new wave of citizen militias, particularly when you have mainstream pundits like Glenn Beck out there helping to promote the concept. As Glenn Greenwald observed, the “Patriots” are back with a vengeance.

At least for the time being, however, there isn’t any evidence of new militias forming, though we may see numbers growing within the coming months within existing units, particularly as Fox News and radio pundits start fueling right-wing anxieties.

However, we are starting to see a trend that’s even more disturbing: Military veterans voicing Patriot-movement beliefs, including threats of violent resistance to the Obama administration.

If anyone is foolish enough to think these guys are actually about liberty, I suggest you ask them where they have been for the past 8 years, or their views on Bush’s leadership.  There is a disturbing proto-fascist element to the militia movement which is really worrying.

Company blacklists

I have made the point, often repeatedly, that there is little difference in distinguishing between nasty shit done by a government, and one done by a privately funded organization, especially when arguing with libertarians and anarchists.  A case in point emerged in the British press today:

A company that allegedly sold workers’ personal details, including union activities, to building firms is to be prosecuted by the information watchdog.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) said the Consulting Association, in Droitwich, had committed a “serious breach” of the Data Protection Act.

The ICO said a secret system had been run for over 15 years to enable firms to unlawfully vet job applicants.

Unions have called on the government to outlaw “blacklisting” practices.

A spokesman for the Department for Business said it did have the power to make blacklists illegal and would “review whether to use this power if there was compelling evidence that blacklists were being used”.

There’s your “free market”, suckers.  Bastards in power are bastards in power, regardless of whether they are a Minister or a CEO.

Musings on Surviving a Laser Gun Battle: Cram’s challenge, Part the Second

WHERE THE FUCK DID YOU GET A LASER GUN? 
(SEND ME ONE!)

All right space cadet, the author is not sure what kind of hardware you expect to have at your fingertips, and isn’t going to ask.  It may be best to address the topic of bringing a laser to bear as a hand weapon in two parts: hardware you’re likely to get your hands on (circa 2009), and a few ideas on using it. 

 

For simplicity’s sake, we’ll assume you have are dealing with a handgun styled setup, not a laser rifle, for reasons to be covered later.
Lasers are NOT effective handheld weapons currently.  Most commonly available lasers are a fancy way to make a red dot appear somewhere, and can’t do much more than blind someone briefly when they hit they eyes just right.  You can acquire models that will light a cigarette or burn plastic bags, but these would need long exposure on unprotected flesh to cause even minor burns.  Nothing with the power (equivalent to a firearm) has been developed into a handheld, much less man – portable, weapon just yet.  Weaponized versions are still confined to trucks or airplanes specially designed for the purpose, and require great resources to operate.  There are a few “less lethal” concepts that use lasers or other pulsating light to cause nausea, but they require a very different setup than a burning, cutting laser. 

It should also be mentioned, a laser is not an all trumping cutting / blasting tool.  A laser only makes things hot, by applying a lot of light to a very small point.  (Or a wider area when unfocused.)  They apply no force, and as such will blow nothing apart on their own.  Even with a very powerful laser, it takes the beam time on an exact point to heat the target enough to damage it.  For the time being, the best a laser could hope to do is damage by heat a target that will hold still long enough for it, or be tracked very accurately long enough, for this burning to happen.  Easy with an arrangement in a large jet or truck, but not exactly practical for a handheld model.

 
An actual “light fight”, to steal the term from science fiction, to the author’s knowledge, has yet to happen with fatalities.  (Heart attacks playing laser tag notwithstanding.)  The author is no gunfighter, and skill with a pistol may be one of the closest ideas to use of a handheld laser gun.  The basic idea, assuming a laser of sufficient strength to burn through a clothed human in 0.1 or less seconds, would be the same.  The dangerous area involved with the weapon would be a straight line out from the tip of the barrel when the trigger is pulled.  Unlike a gun, however, the laser would not involve a projectile, and would be dangerous as long as the trigger was held down.  No appreciable recoil either.  Imagine a rapier of indeterminate length that cannot be parried or blocked, has a blade that weighs practically nothing, and is sharp in every direction at once.   That’s basically what you have to defend against, or be offensive with.  Like with guns, the golden rule is “Don’t be in front of them”.  Outside of arm’s reach, you can be dead as quick as the opponent can draw a bead and pull the trigger.  Given the nature of the laser though, they can decide to “swish” the beam THROUGH you if they don’t target you right on the initial activation.  Inside arms reach techniques for defending against a handgun also work, as far as using your hands and body to get the tip of the barrel pointed away from you.  (In fact this may be easier, as you don’t have to worry about blinding from muzzle flash, deafening, powder burns or laceration from moving parts if it goes off right next to your head.)  At range though, find cover and keep moving.  Make sure it’s something that takes awhile to burn through too.  Mirrored shields would only be a temporary solution (No reflector being perfect, it would only be a temporary solution at best.) 

If you both have laser weapons, use yours first.  (This is the simple way out of any fight, armed or not.)  If you can’t then keep your head down, keep covered, and try to flank or lure the other guy out.  Trading fire is leaving things up to chance, and getting pinned down limit options fast, especially if they can burn up your cover.  If you both end up at arm’s length with laser pistols, then something’s really wrong.  Refer to Kurt Wimmer movies, and pray you have time after to wonder how you got into such a stupid fix. 

A look inside the corporate PR machine

There are two excellent pieces up on The eXiled right now which you need to be reading.  They are Is CNBC’s Rick Santelli Sucking Koch, and Koch activists teabag media.

I’ll leave you to read them in your own time, but I could smell the PR bullshit coming off these Tea Party protests from the start, I just didn’t have the time or the inclination to dig.  Nevertheless, an insight into how these things work is always nice.  As Ames points out

So today’s protests show that the corporate war is on, and this is how they’ll fight it: hiding behind “objective” journalists and “grassroots” new media movements. Because in these times, if you want to push for policies that help the super-wealthy, you better do everything you can to make it seem like it’s “the people” who are “spontaneously” fighting your fight. As a 19th century slave management manual wrote, “The master should make it his business to show his slaves, that the advancement of his individual interest, is at the same time an advancement of theirs. Once they feel this, it will require little compulsion to make them act as becomes them.” (Southern Agriculturalist IX, 1836.) The question now is, will they get away with it, and will the rest of America advance the interests of Koch, Santelli, and the rest of the masters?

Musings on Surviving an Anime Convention: Cramulus’s challenge, Part the First

Your good author has had a bit of the writer’s block this week, but was recently inspired by a comment from the Professor Cramulus, his fellow writer and acquaintance.  The good Professor laid out three circumstances which he’d like to see “Musings on Surviving”, pieces done on, and they WILL be addressed.  They’ll be a bit more frivolous than your usual “CRAZY PREPARED”, but still have advice you can apply elsewhere if you’re clever.

WHY THE FUCK ARE YOU AT AN ANIME CON?

At least, that’s what your author thinks every time he finds himself at one.

These conventions are strange and diverse shindigs.  They can be homely, friendly local affairs, much like PortCon, in Portland Maine, or HUGE mass clusterfucks, like OtaCon, or occasionally Anime Boston.  Ages and attitudes range form young and hyper to old and grouchy, with varying shades of creepy, collected, or enthused in between.  There will be people who forget hygiene for a weekend at such gatherings, jumping idiots, and people who should NEVER own spandex.

Here’s how the author and his cohorts / friends / partners in crime get by:

Pack accordingly.  Bring FOOD and WATER.  Keep your blood sugar and hydration in order or you fun stops REAL quick.  The author prefers enough granola / cereal bars / trail mix to replace EVERY meal if need be.  Of course, buy other food, but always have backups and spares.  Keep a water bottle with you and keep emptying it down your throat (every time you find yourself standing still is a good time for a swig, whether you want it or not).  The hosting facility will likely put out water, so refill whenever you can.  (The author’s sister wisely brings a filter pitcher for the hotel room in her kit.)  Sports drink powder too, vital for electrolyte replacement if you plan on drinking alcohol.

Dress accordingly.  Wear comfortable shoes.  Any convention is a bad time to break in new boots.  They are good times, judging by the tone of the thing to wear unusual garments or costumes, which may have their own complications.  In costume, be ready to be grabbed for pictures, questions, or just hugged for no good reason.  (If you can act a bit, get into character and roll with it.)  If you don’t want to show off, then sensible durable clothes are a good idea, as you may have to get rough or move quickly from time to time.

Defense may be needed if you’re bumped jostled or tackled.  As with so many situations, the author has always had the most result for the least expense with a good glare, and advocates this where possible.  Otherwise, learning to keep your space and move nimbly will solve most issues.  (Out maneuvering clumsy folk dressed as ninja has its own special irony.)  Offense wise, when pressed, press back, speak up, and keep it moving.  Don’t let a crowd endanger or intimidate you.

Keep busy.  Keep a schedule of events with you at all times, and keep on the move doing stuff.  You paid to get in, make it worthwhile.  If you’re not, strike up random chats, socialize, and network.  Fandom is not always known for its social skill, but reach out a bit and you can meet some fascinating folks.  The author often attends as backup for artists, or to help out with various groups.  Perks of this include instant people to hang out with / back you up, as well as the occasional table to sit in at when you get tired.  Don’t hesitate to find a chair, wall, corner, or retreat back to your hotel room for a nap now and then.  Sleep is GOOD.

Beware of:

  • The unwashed:  Get ready to hold you nose, or call others on bad hygiene.
  • The great UNCLEAN:  Bring prophylactics.  Better yet, DON’T HIT THAT.
  • The underage:  Be friendly, but firmly refuse if a kid / teen (not yours) decides to imitate a lamprey on you.  The alternatives are ALL bad.  (CYA: Cover Your Ass.)