August, 2011

Aug 11

“…no matter which path he follows…he must inevitably arrive back at himself”

“There do exist enquiring minds, which long for the truth of the heart, seek it, strive to solve the problems set by life, try to penetrate to the essence of things and phenomena and to penetrate into themselves. If a man reasons and thinks soundly, no matter which path he follows in solving these problems, he must inevitably arrive back at himself, and begin with the solution of the problem of what he is himself and what his place is in the world around him.”

G. I. Gurdjieff

Aug 11

“Firearms for Formulators of Fiction” – and I’m Guilty of 2 errors!

The blog of mystery writer R. Doug Wicker offers some tips to writers describing characters use of handguns. I find that, as a novelist often writing about characters using guns, I’ve been guilty, in my time, of making two of the three basic mistakes he lists below:

First, don’t have your character carry a revolver with the hammer cocked. It’s dangerous, dumb, and may very well result in your character accidentally blowing a hole in his foot or, worse, some other part of his body. If your male character carries his “cocked” revolver tucked into the front of his pants, you’d better be doing a story involving sex change, because if that hammer trips, the gun won’t be the only thing that is suddenly decocked, if you catch my drift.

Second, don’t have your character disengaging the “safety” on the revolver after drawing it, or engaging the “safety” prior to holstering it. This gives readers in the know one of those rolling-of-the-eyes moments that every author should strive to avoid. Yes, there are revolvers that were made with safeties (some Webley revolvers come to mind), but again, these are the exception.

And, finally, do not have your character put a suppressor (silencer for the uninformed—suppressors don’t “silence” anything; they merely suppress the noise but do not eliminate it) on his revolver. The barrel is not where most of the sound comes from on a revolver; it comes from the gap between the cylinder and the frame/barrel. As such, a suppressor just won’t do much more than look stupid. How many times have you seen Hollywood make this mistake? And it’s really aggravating when they do. Again, there are exceptions, but revolvers designed to take suppressors are a very rare and specialized breed.

I’ve had one character, once, screwing on a suppressor. That particularly writerly sin was committed many years ago. More than once I’ve had characters flicking safeties off on pistols. I’m a bit shocked to hear that most pistols don’t have safeties. I didn’t know that. I do think they should all have safeties. But, unlike the guy who sent me this link, I’m not in the NRA.

I do know the odds between single and double action pistols, yes…and why double action can sometimes be problematic in terms of aiming. I’ve noticed it at the range.

Anyway if you’re a writer with gunplay in his or her book I recommend Mr Wicker’s useful blog posting…Just follow the link.

Aug 11

PHONE-NUMBERS PHOR PHRAUDS (for your pranking pleasure)

There have been people–the mighty STERNO of the Church of the Subgenius was one–who tricked the tricksters, specifically the internet spammers from Nigeria, and elsewhere, who claim they have a million dollars for you if you give them $50 or $100 or $300 or…. (Sometimes they’ll try to get people to give them more, much more).

Only stupid people fall for email scams, but, as I’ve pointed out before, it’s no more permissible to rip off stupid people than it’s permissible to trick a guy with Down Syndrome out of his disability check. So it’s wrong to permit telephone psychic hotlines, who rip off stupid people for amazing amounts of money, hiding behind “for entertainment purposes only”; and it’s not a joke if some guy in foreign parts rips off some addled elderly American lady through internet spam.

Thus, it’s a good thing to mess with these people, if you haven’t got anything better to do. Long as they’re being distracted they’re too busy to rip off some addled old lady. Sterno, as I recall (and he’s not the only one to have accomplished this, many others have followed), got one of these con artists to send HIM money. He said something like, “Sure, I’ll send you the eight hundred dollar fee to get my five hundred thousand but I need to know you’re for real, too. So just sent me a small amount of money…even if it’s a hundred bucks.” Eventually they settled on, like, $25. The internet scammer *actually sent him $25*. He got the money. Naturally he never sent THEM the follow up money–he had scammed the scammers. The 25 bucks was not, of course, the point. The point was to rip off the rip offs for any amount. He worked hard to get that $25 but he found it very satisfying.

Lately internet scammers have taken to giving phone numbers to call them on, so they can assure you it’s all for real. Since cell phones are easy to get and cell numbers are disposable, they risk little doing this. But what they don’t realize is they do risk being scammed and spammed and pranked.

I strongly encourage my readers to use those numbers to call them–probably late at night, on some phone that won’t cost you anything much, perhaps at a party; put it all on speaker phone, try not to laugh out loud…and pretend you’re going to send them the money and just keep messing with them till finally they realize. Then, if it were me, I’d tell them, “I actually called to ask how you feel, deep down, about being a liar and a thief.” Because it’s not impossible you might startle someone into a moment of self awareness. Unlikely though it is–it could happen.

I’m not presently inclined to do the calling personally, though I probably will at some point. But I’m going to offer up these PHONE-NUMBERS PHOR PHRAUDS posts, as I call them, as I come across them, providing their phone numbers for your pranking pleasure. Here’s one that came in today’s email assuring me I had millions of dollars to claim overseas if I only sent them the fee: +229 98799767 – ask for “Mr Edwards” and allude to the big ATM money, as they refer to it, awaiting you in Benin. Then, play him like a fish.

And here’s an example of scammer scamming done via email:

Scam o Rama

Aug 11

Could being a Fundamentalist Christian Make You More likely to Steal the Vote?

It seems to me that stealing, or suppressing votes, in any election–but somehow especially a Presidential one– is either an act of treason or damned close to it. Voting is basic to the American political process. Interfere with it and you’re stabbing at America’s vitals. You’ve poisoned democracy. How is that not treasonous?

I’m convinced it happened in the 2000 Presidential election in Florida, again in the 2004 Presidential election in Ohio, giving the elections to George W. “Born Again” Bush. (It may well have happened, recently, on a smaller scale in the recall elections in Wisconsin.) A fair number of people had to have been involved in this effort. Are there really that many people who think undermining America is worth it to get their candidate in?

I’ve wondered if the secret ingredient in this treachery might not be Christian Fundamentalism. In their minds, it might well be acceptable to steal the vote…for God. Or, for what they suppose to be “God”. If they convince themselves–or if perhaps the Karl Roves of the world convince them–that God naturally wants Bush instead of Gore, Bush instead of Kerry, Perry instead of Obama…How can they argue? God’s will trumps America’s. After all, a Democratic President supposedly protects abortion and the rights of Muslims and Hindus and Jews and gay marriage (Oh, God Jehovah protect us!) and many of them believe–are made to believe–that a Democratic President is also a Socialist. Of course, none of our Democratic Presidents have been Socialists, but if they were, it wouldn’t mean they were anti-religion. Except in the minds of Religious Fundamentalists. “Socialists are Communists and Communists are against religion,” goes the thinking.

So it could be that this blind Fundamentalism is the rationale behind treasonously stealing an election.

Of course, the ones who are pushing from behind the scenes for the election to be stolen–the ones who are, perhaps, setting up Christian rightists to do their dirty work–don’t give a hot damn about God. They’re doing it because they are fat cat industrialists and bankers and they figure they’ll be able to continue being robber barons under a Republican President. “Call up Rove, he’ll get the suckers in Florida to play along for ‘the sake of God.’”

You see, all this is on my mind because I think the greatest risk we have of a Bachmann or a Perry being elected is vote theft. I think it’s more likely to happen in 2012. Especially when you add the hysterical, racist hate for Obama into the mix.

Maybe you’re not enthusiastic about Obama. Maybe he’s too centrist for you. But imagine a Bachmann or a Perry in the White House. . .

Better count those votes carefully.

Aug 11

So You Don’t Think We Should Have helped Overthrow Qadafi?

Read all about it:

“One father told PHR how (Khadafy) soldiers forced his two young children to sit on a military tank and threatened the family: ‘You’ll stay here, and if NATO attacks us, you’ll die, too.’”

PHR obtained copies of military orders as evidence that Khadafy ordered his troops to starve civilians in Misrata, while pillaging food caches and barring locals from receiving humanitarian aid.

Rape was also “a weapon of war,” Richard Sollom, the lead author of PHR’s report, told the Associated Press on Monday. While he said no one has evidence to prove that rape was widespread, the fear of it certainly was, he said.

And it had deadly consequences in the form of “honor killings” of rape victims by their shamed family members.

“One witness reported that (Khadafy) forces transformed an elementary school into a detention site where they reportedly raped women and girls as young as 14 years old,” the PHR report said. It added that it had found no evidence to confirm or deny reports that Khadafy troops and loyalists were issued Viagra-type drugs to sustain their systematic rapes.

And this one: Libyan Teen Girl Forced by Khadafy’s Troops to Slaughter 11 Rebel Prisoners.

Aug 11

Links to the Video Underground #2

Interesting dubstep music–REALLY well made video, kind of horror with a happy ending. (Happy if you’re in a vengeful mood. I loved it.)

Check it out: Skrillex

Aug 11

Links to the video underground #1

I’ve decided to put up some links, within posts, to some underground or avant videos I like, starting with this one.

3rd Soul Retrieval

Aug 11

A Startling Inversion of Pop Thinking On Social Media and Revolution

“The mass media, including interactive social-networking tools, make you passive, can sap your initiative, leave you content to watch the spectacle of life from your couch or smartphone. Apparently even during a revolution. That is the provocative thesis of a new paper by Navid Hassanpour, a political science graduate student at Yale, titled ‘Media Disruption Exacerbates Revolutionary Unrest.’”

This New York Times article is fascinating and not because it seems to suggest what I’ve been saying for awhile on the downside of the internet…Check it out…

“…all the Twitter posting, texting and Facebook wall-posting is great for organizing and spreading a message of protest, but it can also spread a message of caution, delay, confusion or, I don’t have time for all this politics, did you see what Lady Gaga is wearing?”

Aug 11

“Why shouldn’t I be a complete cynic about people?” Well there’s this guy…

The AP reports “Some people give back to their community. Then there’s Fresno County School Superintendent Larry Powell, who’s really giving back. As in $800,000 — what would have been his compensation for the next three years. Until his term expires in 2015, Powell will run 325 schools and 35 school districts with 195,000 students, all for less than a starting California teacher earns.”

California’s schools are beleaguered, because the wealthy keep ducking out on taxes. Powell’s defending programs he believes in–with his own salary.

He’s doing something even more important: he’s giving people hope. Maybe humanity’s not so bad…

Aug 11

“ETs to Kill us over Global Warming”? Nah. Diamond suns? Now you’re talking.

The LiveScience article tells us: “… researchers at Pennsylvania State University [claim that] …An extraterrestrial civilization might notice our planet by detecting changes in the spectral signature of Earth — the light radiated by our planet and atmosphere — caused by greenhouse gas emissions. . .The group’s thinking goes like this: From the rate of change of the chemical composition in our atmosphere, the aliens will deduce our rapid expansion and, because of that, possibly view us as a threat, thinking we’ll soon pursue resources on other worlds. “‘If [they] doubt that our course can be changed, then they may seek to preemptively destroy our civilization in order to protect other civilizations from us,’ the researchers write.”

Yeah, right. But I’m attracted to the article because it’s exotic, because I’m sometimes a science-fiction writer, because I like to think about the interstellar strange, and because the global warming connection interests me. I’m a guy who thinks that human beings are causing climate change, this time, and it’s going to be a major problem. (I don’t think it’ll destroy civilization. It’ll just make civilization miserable. And a lot of people will die in famines.)

The downside of the Univ of Pennsylvania claim is, it’s not very well thought through–and that might besmirch the climate change thing. It could make its adherents sound like they’ve gone off the deep end. I can imagine Senator Inhofe jeeringly pointing at that one. “Now they’re telling us space aliens are gonna get us, folks!”

I mean, by the time an alien race sees our light signature, because of the time it takes for light to travel to other star systems, any data about heating will be irrelevant to assessing our civilization. They will not be able to conclude, anyhow, that the indicators of greenhouse gas changes are from misuse of technology. They mostly are, but the ETs would know they could also be from other causes: volcanic, for example. And they’d also know that even if we got interstellar travel going, our chances of finding them out there, and causing them problems, in this vast cosmos, are infinitesimal.

Now, the article at about the Diamond Star, that thrills me: “A newly discovered alien planet that formed from a dead star is a real diamond in the rough. The super-high pressure of the planet, which orbits a rapidly pulsing neutron star, has likely caused the carbon within it to crystallize into an actual diamond, a new study suggests.”

That captures the imagination. It’s like something from an early Larry Niven story, or Arthur C. Clarke–it’s even like something from an old science-fantasy tale. I could imagine Lovecraft alluding to a star made of diamond. It glimmers in the imagination.

One imagines interplanetary travelers questing for the diamond sun, trying to find a safe way to mine it, finding some astounding secret in its very center, where space and time are compressed like light through a ruby…

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