Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Cars

Blogger's Android app ate this post when my phone went to sleep in airplane mode. It needed revising anyways...

:(

Cars

Blogger's Android app ate this post when my phone went to sleep in airplane mode. It needed revising anyways...

:(

Tanks...Really This Time

The daydream was over in less than a second. As the bravado, confidence, and power that it brought faded, I glanced nervously between the poised tanks.

All I wanted to do was get to work.

Neither tank looked like it was pointing anything at me. Now was a good time to leave.

I tried to get up calmly, dusting off my pants and picking up my bag. That done, I turned around and noticed a small cinderblock building. Get behind that, wait out the firefight, pray the bus isn't collateral damage. Good plan. Now, to walk slowly, with commanding confidence...

By my third step I was running.

As I neared the structure, I risked a glance over my shoulder --- and the world exploded, knocking me flat. In the ensuing chaos of ringing ears, roaring engines, and desperate scrambling to something like safety, exactly one thing was clear in my mind...

I'm going to be late to work again.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Tanks

I was just sitting at the bus stop.

It wasn't that the Wehremacht's third tank column's lead was rounding the corner.

The Third Division's Shermans were rolling down the cross street on a collision course with the Dub. This promised to get ugly, but nation-states need a venue in which to express their differences. Really, they do. Before the war, um, the security action, broke out, I had advocated paintball.

My bus was patiently...well, prudently waiting on the far side of the intersection for the light to turn green when the lead We-38 eclipsed it and stopped in the intersection. As a matter of fact, yes, it did stop dead in its tracks.

I don't like being late to work, see. So, when the lead tank spotted the impending Shermans and started turning its turret to sight in on the lead Sherman, I started to worry. When the Sherman lined up to fire first, I really worried. This was primarily because the Sherman line popular among the antecounterrevolutionaries had a flaw in the mechanism that compensated for forward motion, meaning that it was probably going to overshoot the '38 and hit my bus.

Both were outwardly pedestrian models. Reactive armor, assisted aim, situational awareness packages, antipersonnel features, but no hints of active counterartillery. Neither one was equipped to cleanly stop an oncoming shot, just to survive it and respond in kind.

I rolled my eyes. The Big W's lead hadn't even bothered to call up the two tanks behind it to properly receive the Sherman column. It was going solo. The superreactionary insurrectionists had fewer but better tanks and were always a bit arrogant about it.

Standing up, I took a deep breath and reached into the universe around me. No Great Sentience there, though the bigger biomes had that; just deep perception of the world as it stood.

As I reached, time slowed to a crawl. The gunner on the Sherman was in the act of firing, where the '38 was waiting for their first shot to fail. The charge in the Sherman's breach was normal. The inclination was, as I feared, marginally too high. The HE round would pulverize the bus.

Action was needed. With time still crawling, I slipped one arm into hammerspace (pocket dimension, holding bag, Beyond--I like to call it what it is to me, not to others) and found my Bussard fusion lance. This was aimed into the trajectory of the Sherman's shell while I started walking into the street between the tanks. The lance came with a hilt of sorts that would protect me from the shell's detonation.

With the shell countermeasure in place, I had to convince the disagreeing parties to let my bus through. This meant gradually letting go of time while fishing around in hammerspace again. Where had I put that again?

Sound came back. The Sherman barked, its muzzle brake flashed, and its shell cracked thunderously overhead as its payload detonated early. A few tumbling fragments harmlessly pelted the bus. The two tanks were suddenly still as they assessed the newcomer.

There were a few of us around. Folks with the Sense and Connection didn't like fighting, and we'd get out of the way given a chance. That chance had to include reasonable guarantees that civilians were safe, so we were always ready to fight. It also helped our survival rates, I'll admit.

Ah, found it. I liked the lance, but it was only good to thirty or forty feet under ideal conditions. The Thumper was a different beastie; instead of a focused beam of barely subluminal charged particles, it could run high amplitude transverse solitons through anything bigger than a driveway. With a little practice, you could flip a car from across a parking lot. With a lot of practice...well, I had to put the fusion lance back in hammerspace. Tanks are two-hand targets.

It was a thick rod, about a meter long, with some repairable rings at one end. I dialed in the parameters for the job, turned towards the '38, and slammed the end of the rod onto the pavement...which kindly flexed into a depression that started rolling towards the tank. When it got under the tank, I twisted the rod then lifted it and there was a bang. The soliton dumped its energy into the tank's structure as commanded and the tank neatly split in two.

Non-lethal is my favorite approach. It's nice when it works.

Another slam, twist, and pop let out a soliton that shifted the tank out of the bus' way. Whipping around, I dropped a soliton in the Shermans' direction only to realize that they were politely scrambling to reverse directions.

I'd have to send them a thank-you card some time. Instead I merely turned off the soliton's containment and let it diffuse before impact.

Switching the Thumper out for the lance again, I walked to the bus stop, sat down, and glared meaningfully at the second '38 in the column.

It was going to be a good day. I might even get to work on time.

[Sorry if the tense inconsistencies bug you.]

Monday, November 17, 2014

Time

And behold, all things are written by the Father; therefore out of the books which shall be written shall the world be judged.


Sometimes it seems to me that the whole of reality, as time passes, etches a record of itself in something like glass. This record contains all that is and ever was while encoding quantum entanglements and collapsing manifolds of probability. No, Locaha, Mau gets his "does not happen." (Nation, by Terry Pratchett)

The future is another story. Views of it from now must necessarily be colored by the intervening unmade choices, as well as the conventionally circular fact of its viewing (which leads to the question of the limits of the physics, if you will, of this trans-time persistence medium). Still, certain probabilities will be vastly stronger than others and so a shape remains. Color and detail come only from the passage of time, but the preview permits the sculptor of the future more freedom and power in its construction.

Some who gain this view have Mau's silver thread, drawing them forward through turmoil towards tomorrow's peaceful shores, and can drag a nation along. Some don't see, while others are told they can't see so often that they stop believing their eyes; only darkness remains. These see as through a glass, darkly. Others are plucked from intratemporal existence and shown the end from the beginning--the full crystal record--and then brought back here to teach squares about hyperspheres. (Flatland)

Gaining this view has a weight. No free lunches here. To lay it by and walk away is to abet the darkness that cloys at humanity's heart; to embrace it is to summon cleansing fire, purging darkness and impurity from the chosen path.

Next time you see someone, see them in the glass. Lift and ennoble them, and in turn, live a little lighter. One day you may get to see the crystal record along with your parts in it.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Political Blogs, Wikis, and Sites

Hi there.

What if politicians maintained wikis that reflect their internal state?

I've been reading about objective reporting, use of the Internet in campaigns, and political media in general recently for a class I'm taking. Here's what I'm aware of today:

  • Blogs written by staffers
  • YouTube spots made by pro and con groups
  • Candidate and party websites, again written by staff spinsters and media consultants
Blogs reflect conversations. Posts age and often become historical rather than salient over time. Comments are closely censored^Wmonitored. 

Politician-originated websites and YouTube videos/channels (including opposition items) suffer from similar problems. They hold carefully crafted messages that have been so carefully groomed that the politician underneath is indiscernible. This is what every politician wants: it's easy to say what your audience wants to hear when no one knows what you've already said or done.

I suggest an experiment. Were I ever capable and willing to enter politics, I would like to try this.

Each politician maintains a wiki encompassing their thoughts, intents, and history. It would probably be oriented around artifacts (speeches, votes), issues (abortion, House Bill #76598374918, drought handling), entities (lobbyists, coalitions, politicians), and events (lobbyist meetings (educational events, right?), position changes, 9/11?, deals made). This allows constituents to get an idea of what is currently happening in their own government, as well as allowing them to see what the politician's track record is. Issue pages may allow for individuals to submit materials for the staff to review and pass on to the politician with a history of such artifacts and their relevance to the page's content. Anyone, including opposing media consultants (!?) could subscribe to all changes made to any given page, essentially turning such changes into requests for comments visible to all interested. A candidate could lay out his or her background in order to explain why certain choices were made.

One issue entry might have these pieces (all with appropriate crosslinks, of course!):
[Issue description] To date, 452 of my constituents have made it clear that rising prescription costs are threatening their standard of living. Other politicians have heard similar problems, and House Bill #777 was introduced to constrain these cost increases against inflation. 
[9/9/2999: Meeting with Pfizer lobbyist] I learned today from a Pfizer representative that the methodology in the bill--price-capping of individual brand-name medications while leaving generics untouched was profoundly unfair, in that the generic companies have no research costs to recoup while extensive FDA regulations make start-to-market costs per drug exceed $4 billion. The rep specifically did not ask for reduction in drug safety criteria, and suggested that, instead, a government subsidy matched by discounts from the company targeted at low-income individuals [IRS definition, 309(c)(2)] would be the preferred route.
[Current Status on Bill, updated 9/13/2999] Planning to bring up matched-subsidy idea at next Healthcare Oversight Committee meeting [10/10/2999], which is currently debating HB777. I still prefer the inflation cap, as an estimated 35% of my constituency need something to happen and this measure will save them less money.
It would have to be driven to be honest, complete, and authentic--overall positive, but willing to admit and gracefully handle negatives without stage-makeup-level polish or blatant whitewashing. It would not be written without spin, but it would need to avoid the staff wheedling every last iota into something positive as well as the opposition driving even mundane statements into the ground as embarrassing gaffes. It will take significant resources (manpower) to do this for even one politician.

Done right, it would be the single most useful resource a voter could use. Standardized and popularized, it could lead to interesting big data and linguistic processing research. Done wrong, it would be less useful than current media sources. The incentives are all wonky in this version, but it would be so...awesome. Like pie in the sky.

I'm afraid I've described a raw contradiction in terms to you. I hope you like it. 

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Parenting and Filial Happiness

I recently watched a fascinating TED talk on parenting and some of its modern dysfunctions. It got me thinking.

One of the speaker's points, as I understood it, was that parents often directly seek to make their children happy and in so doing they stress out both themselves and their children. It kinda sucks all around. It's a great talk; I recommend you watch it. I'll most likely be a dad some day, so her points felt relevant.

The happiness point led me to critique this parenting style from a more theoretical standpoint: if I take for granted, as I do here in the USA, that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are elevated among each individual's inalienable rights, does parenting with the primary goal of a happy child abrogate the child's right to pursue happiness?

I guess I'll find out one day.