Saturday, December 13, 2014

What Next, A Delivery By Tom Hanks?

I live at the rear of the apartment complex I have called "home" for the last 13 years.  Fed Ex and UPS delivery vans are a normal weekday occurrence.  I just saw the second Fed Ex van make a drop-off at this end of the complex today - and Saturday delivery isn't all that regular an event normally.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

"Mail's In"

So, I ordered a product from an on-line vendor.  As you do.

I paid for my purchase via Pay Pal.  As you do.

I received a shipping notification from the vendor with a tracking number.  As you do.

In this case, the shipping/tracking number was through the USPS.  I checked on the status of my package three days after I was told to expect arrival (the expected delivery date being a Saturday, not getting too concerned until after the subsequent Tuesday's mail delivery didn't seem an unreasonable imposition).  As you do.

Checking in with the USPS official website I cut-n-paste the tracking number I was provided into the provided search box and, lo and behold, my package was apparently delivered "in or at the mailbox at 2:07 pm on December 8, 2014".  Now, I did indeed receive the expected monthly cable bill on that date, so I'm confident a postal delivery was actually made on the day in question.  Just not the package I was anticipating.

Already being on the USPS website, I attempted to use the contact link for the Postal Inspectors to report on my waylaid, or at least undelivered to me, package.  After the usual cut-n-paste entry of the identical tracking number I had just entered via the same manner into the "track your package" search box, the Postal Inspectors reporting page informs me that this is an invalid tracking number, or at least now possesses an excess of spaces between the digits.  Needless to say, removing the spaces from between said digits resulted in the same error message.  Repeatedly.

The expression "Going Postal" begins to take on added piquancy.

There is a provided 1-800 number; once my blood pressure medication (which I will have to have my doctor prescribe me very soon now, I fear) and my soporific-of-choice has an opportunity to take effect, I really must give due consideration to attempting that avenue of communication.

My next venture into 21st Century mercantilism will be to inquire with the on-line vendor referenced above to see if he wants more of my money, and what amount will additionally be required to purchase insurance and make my next delivery be "return receipt requested".  Since the product is something of a limited offering, I'm not feeling confident.

At least our benevolent government doesn't issue guns and clubs to postal carriers yet, so their assault on us isn't quite as direct as it might be (insert link to your preferred example of police brutality here), but we can still live in hope.  As you do.

Update 12/18:  Screw you, Post Office thieves.  UPS for the rebound and the win!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

So That Was A Surprise For Who Exactly?

I expect the topic de jour (and for a few more days, likely) will be events in - or possibly inspired by - Ferguson MO, so here's my observation so far.

First, I want to commend the young lady identifying herself as @MissJupiter1957.  Perhaps Matt Drudge will explain how he came to link to her live stream reporting, but thanks to his doing so I and tens of thousands of others were able to gather an immediate, first-person impression of the chaotic nature of events last night.  If I may Young Miss, would you please make a more consistent effort to keep we viewers better informed of your location within the city and a general sense of direction your camera is pointing.  You editorializing as you record events is an expected aspect of blogging, with or without video, but if you could attempt to add greater context to events and about the locale you are in, we viewers would have a better understanding of things.  Other than that, really well done; thank you.

Second, at about 9:30 pm local time, Ferguson police reported the presence of a vehicle outside the Toys-R-Us store (I believe this was the store located at Festival Dr. and Pershall Rd.) and 1 or more individuals attempting to break in (one of my colleagues had the on-line addy for the Ferguson PD radio traffic) (there's also this FB page).  Perhaps 5 - 8 minutes later, a police supervisor reported over the police radio that "20 to 30 cars are in the parking lot" and asked for additional units to respond to the "crime scene".  My memory is that not much more than 10 minutes later the on-scene supervisor reported the presence of "100+ cars in the Toys-R-Us parking lot".  By 10:00 pm the police communications center had broadcast a general order for all responding units to the Toys-R-Us to retreat from the crime scene.  I suggest this is an example of a Flash Mob robbery successfully deployed to deliberately exceed the police capacity to respond.  I further doubt I was the only one to recognize the lesson being acted out in real-time, live and unrehearsed, or that we will lack for further - possibly more extreme - examples in the near future.

I well remember the 1992 riots in the greater-Los Angeles area.  The technology didn't exist for flash mobs then, so the pre-planning was far more complex, but there was an obvious pattern of distraction fires being set followed by armed robbery and arson of area grocery stores and other businesses.  Not of their merchandise, though that was certainly common enough, but of the business cash specifically.  We'll have to see if this pattern re-occurs in-and-around Ferguson (or elsewhere in the country) in the coming days.

Islamists and academics aren't the only people able to recognize changed circumstance, ponder the varieties of possibility such opens up to them, and adapt their tactics to adopt the advantages that technology permits them in the face of static and predictable opposition to their achieving their desires.  People read the phrase 4GW Warfare and glide right over considering just what types of behavior - and by whom - that entails, especially when the military isn't directly involved.  Which is largely the point behind the whole 4GW exercise; distract your opponent with obvious but discrediting targets to his advantage, while you attack his points of dis-advantage to his deliberately public dis-credit.  It's already happened here, can you really think we are somehow immune?

Here's a consideration; how long before it becomes accepted thinking for criminals to consider the follow-up arrest to be an anticipated opportunity for them to even further overwhelm police efforts against them, and in just as organized a fashion as the crimes they "spontaneously" perpetrate?  Alternatively, SWAT-ing someone so as to be positioned to attack the responding cops in an interlocking series of re-enforcing ambushes maybe?  As cover for a robbery elsewhere perhaps, fires not generally being a police responsibility.  It doesn't take a brainiac to learn this stuff and you definitely want a ready supply of  - how shall I put this? - low information thinkers within your ranks; the primary requirement is a willingness to destroy the society/culture you live in.  Give a listen to @MissJupiter1957 again and pay attention to the voices she records.

Monday, November 24, 2014

I'll Go There

In the on-going saga of who has the worse approach to discussion of racial topics on TV, the serially interchangeable title holders Plump and Plumper from The View apparently bounced their different View-points off each other off-camera recently.

Pity.  Three distinct responses to the two points-of-view expressed.  Typical progressive "thinking", sadly not on display for our View-related pleasure.  Here's a suggestion for the rest of The View backstage staff: Go Pro.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

To All Those Veterans Day Thank You's

Your Welcome; but, really, it was just the sort of thing one does.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Oh Goody!

Just got off the phone with the Holster Maker For The Stars and my two (count 'em, 2) new croc-a-gator skin Valkyrie holsters will be on there way to me towards the end of next week.

It's birthday and christmas all wrapped up in one.  Literally.

I am gonna be soooo stylin'!

Friday, October 24, 2014

So, 61

I don't really have a lot to say about the occasion, or I do and don't want to get into all that just now.

Mostly both, I suspect.

I have been having some initial success writing original fiction at Amazon Studios these recent months, and I do intend to write more on that come the day.  Right after I hit the "Submit" button.

Much like writing fiction that isn't painfully derivative, my sixth decade is proving harder to make headway in than has been my previous experience.  Yes, I know, nothing surprising there; it's discovering the distinction between the knowing and the doing that's the challenge I suppose, the realization that tried and true no longer gets you where it always has.  Finding new ways to do old things will be a feature of the coming decade I fear.

I don't really have a song this year, so something fun and motivational* (sorry about the ad and it will probably auto-start).

*It's my perspective; deal with it.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Bear Baiting And Other Online Sport

The problem with corresponding with old professors, even (or possibly most especially) one's who now make up their own stories rather than contenting themselves with relaying the classics, is that they will insist on illustrating their lesson du jour with a homework assignment for the further edification of the correspondent.

I've had worse.

Hi Jerry,
Read your most recent View entry (August 27) and wished to respond to your off-the-cuff aside about "eternal youth".
First, yes, it was only an aside and you made no attempt to delve into the topic. Second, I’m quite certain you have much greater online research expertise then I, but here’s my amateur contribution to that nonetheless.
Scientists turn skin cells directly into blood
Making pluripotent stem cells from a drop of blood
Young blood makes old mice more youthful
Thirdly, I suppose, while none of this is news to you I’m sure, I suggest the stories above combine into a potential (if only partial) answer to your question(s) regarding the end of work (insert bass, vibrato and echo to taste).
While much research remains, particularly into possible human applications, there seems to me to be a possible social model of – I don’t know, basic stipend? – that could be developed from this. People contributing a regular sample of their blood in order to remain eligible for receipt of their regular stipend payment.
Such a system would accommodate the transition of historic "work" to automated systems while subsidizing the healthy maintenance of humanity and human societal structures. In addition, I presume that you will agree there will always be circumstances where a spontaneously adaptable human could better resolve a short-term or otherwise unusual situation for which a device hasn’t been manufactured and thereby earn added credit to a qualified volunteer’s account.
Not a perfect solution, I know, but the juxtaposition of the two View items seemed worth noting.
Best regards,
Will Brown
I don’t purport to “have a solution” to the problem of preserving a Republic in these times. I do agree that humanity isn’t finished: robots and artificial intelligence will not be our final invention as a recent book put it. But that at the moment is more faith than analysis.
If you are interested in this subject and have not been following Freefall you probably should be. There is a problem. Freefall is incomprehensible if you go directly to the current page. It is a graphic novel with three new panels every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and it has been going on since 1998. To understand it you must go to the story start and read up to the current page before trying to follow it, and that will take an hour or so a day for a week. It is worth the time investment. This began more as a humorous comic, surely with the intention of examining problems of practical implementation of robots and AI, but over time began to look at the problem in a more serious way. It is quite thought provoking. It is also hilarious, so this is not a painful assignment. It will help if you understand that Sam is not the main character although he is an important part of the narrative; and Sam is neither human nor humanoid under that environment suit.

In his View entry for 8/27, Jerry Pournelle (just in case anyone hasn't sussed out which Jerry is "beneficiary" of my insights) commented on the changing nature of work and the economy, during which he noted the potential life extension had for making any solution that much more complex some day in the future.  I sent him three news links about how "young blood" can be made from a sample of your own blood, from that how pluripotent stem cells can be further made and how both these existing technologies seem far more likely to be near-term complexities than commonly thought.

The suggestion that some system of regulating a basic economic stipend payment around conscientiously participating in a health maintenance regimen isn't one I've seen considered-to-death as of yet.  I also don't see any obvious conflict with such a system incorporating a highly automated/robotized/AI development in effecting such a health care process.  It doesn't seem to me that this idea necessarily conflicts with the fundamental structure of the Republic as Franklin, Jefferson and the rest originally envisioned the US federal government and economic model (though I acknowledge how easily it could be made to).

So, homework ... I'm a reasonably practiced reader, but I do read online for a couple hours a day already.  Let's say an added hour a week on average; I'll be 61 late next month, maybe I'll be up-to-date on my Freefall assignment by then.  As to Sam's non-humanoid nature, I've been a variably-complex-tool user and SF reader for over 50 years now; if I'm not minimally functionally past any humanocentric interface biases (that don't involve sex objects - I do have some standards) by now, then the jokes on me, isn't it?

Thanks for responding, Doc.

PS:  For any reader who also might not have heard of Freefall before this, I suggest going to the linked site quoted above and bookmarking the "Index" page.  Give yourself a digital version of dog-earing the page to mark your spot, as it were.

Monday, September 8, 2014

What Caliber For Brickbat?

Weer'd Beard has this whole "Gun Death" meme going in which he illustrates just how hypocritical anti-2A people can be in their political posturing.  In this example, Weer'd notes a common cause of death and injury from people throwing heavy items into highway traffic from overpasses.

This one resonated with me a bit more than usual:
Happened to my Mom ~35 years ago now, driving home from work on an LA area freeway. She was lucky really; she remembered seeing two middle- or high-school boys standing on the overpass as they tossed a concrete block into oncoming traffic – her, as it worked out. They tossed the block just early enough that it hit the hood of Mom’s car (breaking it into chunks) and then the windshield on the rebound, as it were. She lived, but the insurance ended up replacing the car.
The cops were sympathetic enough, and were honest enough to explain just how unable they were to identify which two boys on bicycles might be the one’s actually leaving the scene of the crime. Of course no one was responsible for adding some kind of fencing to the overpass to make this sort of act more difficult – until it happened to someone with the political clout to make it otherwise a couple years later. And then only to some of the overpasses that similar attacks had occurred from.
If terrorists were smarter than bored middle-schoolers, they would organize an attack campaign based upon this precise type of incident in any country they wanted to attack and then use social media to subtly influence people to rage at the “ineffective police protection” and “failed politicians” and the like. Fairly heavy trash items are free for the taking virtually everywhere. Turning empty bottles into fire bombs are only one of many easy, cheap possible embellishments.
Who knew egotistical psychopath YouTube posers would be the preferred enemy?
As Weer'd says, not a gun death so doesn't matter, right?  And of course, none of the examples of this type of attack to date are known to be the result of "terrorism".

OTOH I vaguely remember news stories from the early 80's of "union thugs" tossing bricks in just this fashion into 18 wheelers driving down the interstate for not respecting their declared strike; I'm sure I heard/read stories of drivers shooting at people in retaliation, so my titular question doesn't seem all that far out of the realm of possibility to me.

Doesn't have to be the religiously motivated of course, but at some point I think it pretty likely that someone with an existential grudge is going to decide that being effective is better than being famous, and then we really will be in for it, won't we?  When the daily commute routinely includes brickbats through the windshield, I'm going to go with "whatever caliber is immediately available" being the most common answer proffered in reply myself.