Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Feathered Dinosaur

One dinosaur had ginger feathers.


Rebuilding Failed States

A lecture on on rebuilding failed states by Ashraf Ghani.


Innovation in Space Flight

Burt Rutan's analysis of space flight.
Looks like Rutan is right. How is reversing spaceflight and relying on the Russians to get people to the ISS progress? What happened to investing in Science and Technology?


British and American Wishful Thinking

In one Carpool interview, Richard Noble echoes a British Minister who stated that the Science and Technology sector will have to save Britain because the Finance sector will be crippled for 10-20 years. Unfortunately, current policies in the US are not supporting Science and Tech, only Finance. Science and Technology have been dying for 20-30 years since wages have either stagnated, or are declining. We don't import H1-Bs for finance jobs, but we do for tech jobs. We outsource tech jobs to India and China. Until those trends are reversed somewhat, and policies are more aligned with what the country needs which is jobs, America and Britain will likely resemble Japan over the next decade.

I don't see a scientific or technological blossoming anytime soon. This is because large multinational corporations are getting bigger, not smaller. This isn't just in Banking. We see this in Aerospace (Boeing, Lockheed Martin), Semiconductors (Intel, ARM), Software (Microsoft, Oracle), Internet Advertising (Google), and Biotech (Hoffmann-LaRoche, Monsanto). Just about every sector of the British and American economies is either contracting into a monopoly or oligarchy or dying due to cheaper imports from overseas. The larger a company, the bigger its bureaucracy, and the more innovation is stifled. At some point, the concern shifts from building market share to preserving market share and preventing competition which is the underlying driving force in capitalism. When that shift occurs, oligarchies and monopolies form and society at large suffers because change and innovation are stifled in favor of the current elites. Do you think Bill Gates, John D. Rockefeller, or Andrew Carnegie would want to go up against a younger version of themselves? All of these men are or were exceedingly ruthless businessmen who did not like competition because competition was bad for their bottom line. Our world is becoming more like the Rollerball world, a global corporate state, than we wish to admit. This is what Congressman Ron Paul is warning people about and one of the reasons why he is appealing to voters. This is the underlying fear of what the latest Supreme Court decision means for all elections. Many judges are elected in Texas at the local, county and state levels.


Llewtube and Carpool

Up front, I am a fan of Robert Llewellyn from Red Dwarf. I came across and his show Carpool. I urge readers of this blog to watch a few 30 minute episodes of Carpool. Mr. Llewellyn drives the guest around or to a destination and asks that guest his or viewers' questions. I've learned a great deal about electric cars and how if the US converted to electric vehicles that the country would save $500-750 billion per year in oil import costs. There's less maintenance costs, refueling costs little compared to gasoline, and the battery packs are reliable enough (at least NiMH) to last 10 years. Chevron owns the patents for NiMH batteries and is likely preventing the electric vehicle market from growing because batteries are the preferred energy storage devices. This is like the whaling industry owning the drill bit patent to prevent the oil industry from being developed.

The reason why I am endorsing the show isn't just because of the educational value, but that it's fun. Mr. Llewellyn and his guests are generally having good conversations and you can tell that both the driver and the passenger are enjoying the drive and the conversation. It's a great show with an interesting format that disarms people and puts them at ease. Some forget about the camera and others, particularly professional actors like Chris Barrie, don't. The comic and the writer interviews are especially funny.


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Reality of War and Censorship

We live in a censored world. Our news is filtered by corporations and government agencies who want us to see and believe certain things and not other, more contradictory views. The government wishes us to believe that its policies are working. It doesn't matter if they are or not. What matters is that the Public believe that they are working, otherwise the apple cart might get tipped over. The Pentagon learned this lesson in Vietnam. When the government lost popular support for the war overseas, the Pentagon had to pack up and leave. Generals and defense contractors lost pride and money since their pet projects and such were not needed any more. But the killing mostly stopped. War is about killing and survival. Some live and others die. We don't see the death though. This is what we typically see that makes it past the censors, while this is what we don't see. (Please see Fred's article for the his oped and attribution.) Both are incomplete views of reality by themselves alone, taken together we get a more holistic viewpoint. But without a holistic view of the reality of war due to censorship, how can we, the People of a democracy, make proper decisions regarding whether the war is a just war or not. We are partially blind and deaf because news and information we need is denied us.

(Thanks to Peter Coates and Fred Reed for the inspiration)


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Why the Pentagon Fears the Death of this Particular Soldier

Fred at Fred on Everything talks about the death of a young marine, Lance Corporal Joshua Bernard, and what the Pentagon does not want people to see.


Cats in The News

All Casper did was ride the bus, but he touched many lives. Now he's gone. (ht - Yves Smith at

A cat named Baby saved her family from a fire. She's gone missing after the fire.


Monday, January 18, 2010

Ambush-by-Howitzer and Night Ops

This nighttime piece by Michael Yon is beautiful and humorous in a disturbing way. Tom Ricks thinks Yon is a pioneer. He may be, but this isn't his first piece on military night operations, and he's been doing this for some time. Ricks only noticed now, but even ordinary digital cameras CCDs are sensitive enough to see a lot of detail at night without the special optics.


Between Foolishness and Wisdom

I was reading about Ramana Maharshi's life when this passage caught my eye:

'Venkataraman’s elder brother, Nagaswamy, was aware of a great change in him and on several occasions rebuked him for his detachment from all that was going on around him. About six weeks after Venkataraman’s absorption into the Self, on August 29, 1896, he was attempting to complete a homework assignment which had been given to him by his English teacher for indifference in his studies. Suddenly Venkataraman tossed aside the book and turned inward in meditation. His elder brother rebuked him again, asking, "What use is all this to one who is like this?"'

I realized then that I am caught in a transition state like ice on the cusp of melting, or an enzymatic intermediate before it becomes the reaction product. I have been an ardent student all my life. One diploma after another for what reward? One certification after another for what reward? I have been having to study and gather certifications to keep my CISSP certification, but it's all for nothing. IT Security, as any security, is an illusion because information technology is constantly in flux. At best, it's a zero sum arms race or game between attacker and defender where the attackers and defenders win and everyone else loses. In short, it's like the Legal or Financial professions as currently practiced, or the Military and Intelligence professions, or any profession that pretends to aid/protect us from them or us from ourselves, or us from natural disaster. None of these professions are evil, and some enter them for noble reasons, self-sacrifice, justice, common benefit, but the behavior of the majority ruin it for those few for the most part, and leaving the buyer/taxpayer/victim feeling shortchanged in the bargain.

So, here I am always learning new tricks and techniques and knowledge that will become dated, or likely already is dated, since the underlying knowledge, practices, and software are constantly in flux. So it goes for scientific inquiry, IT Security, and practically any human endeavor. Logical analysis, problem reduction, and practical knowledge has its place, but the human world, for the most part defies logical and rational analysis not because it can't be reduced to certain laws and rules, but because the majority of people haven't codified said laws and rules properly (see economics), or they willfully break them for some perceived advantage or gain. If there are no rules to the game, then why play the game or learn new rules? Why not turn one's back on the collective fantasy of others, and turn towards the Real? I'm learning new stuff out of habit, but I haven't been learning about the real me. I've been seeking fulfillment outside of myself, rather than fully looking inward. What a fool I have been because I have seen glimpses of a higher truth. No more. "What use is all this to one who is like this?"


Aurora Exploit Code

The Aurora exploit code has been made public by a University of California Santa Barbara computer lab. Consequently, the developers of Metasploit have released an exploit after only one day of the publication of the code that will allow people to test their systems for this vulnerability. It is likely that Core Technology and Immunity Labs have similar updates to their exploit frameworks. Hope this helps.


The Soul Effect

The New Testament talks about the instance of a woman touching Jesus in order to be cured. Jesus felt the energy flow from him and inquired about the person responsible. Eckhart Tolle writes and speaks about people who attend his talks just to be in his presence. Tolle also mentions, in The Power of Now, that Jesus is said to have awakened whole villages just by his arrival. The Enlightened individual is a fount of Higher Consciousness energy. There is no name for this phenomenon in Western culture. The closest Western term is hierophany. The Indians call this Higher Consciousness energy field Darśana - the energy field emitted by an atman darshan (a holy soul or saint). Deepak Chopra discusses atman darshans and darsana on page 36 of Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul. He had an uncle who would take him to see such people and he describes the effect these gurus/saints/teachers had on him. Haven't you felt another's energy as they have entered a room, how they were like a "ray of sunshine"? Tolle was described metaphorically this way by a recent interviewer. (Apology - I can't find the online newspaper article I read.)

The reason I bring this subject up is that this soul effect seems to be largely ignored or dismissed in the West. If fear, anxiety, and other negative emotions are contagious, aren't their opposites as well? Can't happiness, contentment, and joy be infectious as well? I'm not speaking of optimism. That's just disguised hopeful delusion because it posits a better time compared to a less better present in some future moment. I'm speaking of the knowledge or certitude of peace and contentment and joy that can be felt by another here and now.


Tuesday, January 05, 2010

UAV Flight School

This is now an official UAV Flight School at the University of North Dakota. A four year degree seems like overkill for a pilot of UAVs. The Army does fine with enlisted pilots. The question I have is will civil UAVs have flight recorders, and what will the narrative be after a UAV pilot causes a mid-air with a manned flight?


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