Friday, May 30, 2008


Networked Electronic Assassination Lifeform

Get Your Cyborg Name

The crackle of small arms

Jose AR-15, originally uploaded by joe_stremph.

Crime 2.0: Twitter in a Security Scare

I just saw over at the Bellman that the Austin Police Department has a Twitter account, which reminds me of a post I recently saw at the Chronicle of Higher Education by Catherine Rampell (reg'n req'd) which discussed how Twitter allowed people to stay informed during a lockdown due to a possible active shooter.

[The presentation was] interrupted about halfway through by a very strange and frightening series of events.

It started with the director of the Help Desk at [University of Richmond] coming into the computer lab where the presentation was being held asking us to turn off the lights, remain quiet, and lock the door....

After... some fumbling with cell phones, e-mail logins, and the like, it was quickly determined that there was a suspicious individual at-large on campus and he is believed to armed and possibly dangerous.

It was at that moment that someone remarked, “not again,” and I... remembered the insane reports from VA Tech just over a year ago...

What followed was pretty surreal. We all sat in the computer lab nervously talking, some suggesting those of us closer to the door move to the front of the room, and others calling out any information they might have received via e-mail...

I went immediately to Twitter... I started tweeting what was going on... and I found the act to be really soothing.

People at [the University] were sharing information and giving advice to one another, while the larger network from around the world was sending regards, prayers, questions, and their well wishes.

I had a very powerful sense that those “others” were there with us from beyond that lab, or even the [University of Richmond] campus. I can’t fully explain why that felt so good, someone even offered a Safety dance from abroad, nothing like a laugh during a moment of untold strangeness

After about a half hour (I think we were in lockdown for over two hours, but I am really not sure about this, time kinda stood still and flew by all at once) there was a certain amount of talking that at times seemed to get a bit loud. And I got my first experience with how truly crazy a tense, potentially life threatening situation can radically impact a dynamic amongst fifteen or twenty people stuck in a room together.

I kept thinking of Stephen King’s novella The Mist the whole time, just wondering what the hell is out there, and how it will get us. One of the group said tensely that we were ordered to be quiet, and if the situation is as serious as it seems shouldn’t we be quiet. I appreciated this statement, it manifested the anxiety many of us felt, yet at the same time I felt suffocated by it. The idea that we might be in danger was exactly what I didn’t want to think about.

|Bestiaries, Lockdown, and Twitter - bavatuesdays| (emphasis added)
It's natural for people to seek information, we do it constantly, but information-seeking takes on extra urgency in times of peril.

Unfortunately, information is often least available during a crisis. That is when events outpace reporting, when the cell phone system is overwhelmed and command-and-control systems are hamstrung by a cascade of unforeseen consequences.

So it's interesting that Twitter was able to fill an information void due to its ephemeral nature.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


The NerdTests' Space Test says I'm a Space Nerd.  What kind of space nerd are you?  Click here!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Circling Closer

Concealment, not cover

A pregnant woman in Saint Paul was recently shot through her apartment door, but survived.

20-year-old Andrea Benjamin endured the ordeal of her life when a bullet through the door struck her and her unborn baby Sunday.

Benjamin was forced into early labor Sunday when bullets were fired through her St. Paul apartment front door. Now, both mom and newborn son Jaden are expected to survive.

Police are still looking for the suspect, who they believe is female....

"I’m scared she is going to come back obviously when you shoot six times through a door you want to kill somebody." |St. Paul Woman & Unborn Baby Shot - Fox|
I'm sure there's a story to this murder attempt and I'm also guessing they aren't sharing the whole thing with the police.

In the movie Sharky's Machine a character is killed in that by a shotgun round directed through the peephole.

Luckily this would-be assassin wasn't using a shotgun.

The eye of the beholder

apophenia2, originally uploaded by gwennie2006.

Self and the Other

Why is it that humans need a common enemy in order to band together? Maybe there's an innate need for a extended tribal sort of identity?

Timothy Garton has an interesting take on this.

If the world is to have the anthem it deserves, we need a big fat common enemy. I'm afraid inanimate challenges like climate change, [AIDS] or meteors won't do the trick. What we need is some really nasty aggressor to be repulsed. When the Martians invade, the world will get its [anthem].|There are great national anthems - now we need an international one|

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

I'm a sucker for widgets

I received this complementary and complimentary widget in my email. Since I'm a sucker for widgets, I thought I'd add it.
Safety Neals Fireside Chat at Blogged

Has anyone else heard from this organization?

Run for your life!

Undead by Eric Williamson.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Safety Neal on Zombie Killing

In a previous comment I bashed Max Brooks and his combat suggestions in the Zombie Survival Guide (ZSG).

Perhaps I'm being too harsh since it is a work of satire, but I hate to think some people might be influenced by the questionable advice in the book.

First, the book does make some excellent suggestions such as train your primary weapon (the body), but Mr. Brooks doesn't talk about the survival (or warrior) mindset, which is even more important than being physically fit.

He also suggests (page 28) to stay within the law during an emergency because otherwise you will have to answer to the law when the crisis is over. But he then paradoxically assumes that civilians will have access to fully automatic weapons and he advises against using them because of ammo waste (the tendency to spray and pray). However, most civilians only have access to semi-auto weapons in the United States, so no danger there.

Then Mr. Brooks suggests that one grab a bolt-action rifle such as the Mauser 98k, the Lee Enfield, or the 1903 Springfield... partly because ammo is easily available in these calibers in gun shops around the country.

However, the ammo for the Mauser (8mm) and Lee Enfield (.303 Brit) is uncommon in this country. The 1903 Springfield is a great rifle for killing at a distance, but quite cumbersome and slow at close ranges. The Springfield's ammo is common (.30-06) but incredibly bulky and heavy.

For a semi-automatic rifle, Mr. Brooks favors the M1 Garand or M1 carbine, both used by the US in World War II. Now, the M1 Garand was referred to by General Patton as "the greatest battle implement ever devised," and it was... for a mechanized infantry division fighting a land war in the 1940's.

But Mr. Brooks has probably never caught his thumb in the Garand trying to reload it. It smarts. That's part of the reason the M-14 rifle was developed for higher capacity and easier loading. It also fires the 7.62x51mm NATO round, which has the same ballistics as the Garand's .30-06, but with less bulk and weight.

But both of these are big heavy rifles. His suggestion of a smaller rifle is the M1 Carbine. The M1 carbine is a fun, lightweight plinker and was very popular with troops who carried it, right up until the moment they tried to kill a man with it. It's shoots a very small round that doesn't stop people well, much less zombies.

Mr. Brooks' advice on .22 rifles also makes me wonder. He suggest that a .22 will "bounce around" inside the skull doing great damage. I think he's mixing his metaphors a bit. It is true that a .22 will bounce off of bone, but they tend to enter the rib cage more easily and bounce around there... entering the skull is far more difficult because there are fewer openings and the .22 simply does not have the power to crack the skull on its own most of the time. Also, many headshots (even with high powered weapons) will glance off the thick bones of the skull.

The weapon I would favor for dispatching zombies is downgraded by Mr. Brooks, he ignores the obvious appeal of the shotgun. Shotgun ammo is commonly available around this country and shotguns punch huge holes in targets at medium range (roughly 7-10 meters) and are effective on living targets out to 25 meters according to the Tactical Shotgun: The Best Techniques And Tactics For Employing The Shotgun In Personal Combat by Gabriel Suarez.

I think within 25 meters is the far end of urban combat ranges for zombies. Slugs can reach out to 100 meters and 12 gauge slugs are equivalent to a .70 caliber rifle. The nice thing about a shotgun is that the slugs drop quickly after 100 meters due to mass and air resistance and thus they do not have the overpenetration risk of a high caliber rifle.

Mr. Brooks also complains that shotgun shells are bulky and too much room, displacing other supplies. But 12 gauge (and especially 20 gauge) shells do not take up anywhere near the space of the .30-06 round he seems to adore. Shotgun shells are also relatively light being wrapped in plastic, not in brass. When I go skeet shooting I wear a satchel with 50-75 rounds at a time and it isn't uncomfortable. It might slow me down a bit... but there are other (more tactical) solutions for carrying shotguns shells which Mr. Suarez discusses in the book referenced above.

But don't take my advice, turn to a real combat veteran. One book I enjoyed reading was Secrets of Street Survival - Israeli Style: Staying Alive in a Combat Zone by Eugene Sockut.

Not that I agree with everything he says necessarily, but I have far greater respect for his opinion because he has gone into harm's way, killed people, and lived to tell about it.

Hopefully I will never need to do any of those things. But if the flag goes up, I hope to be ready. At the very least my shotgun and I can fight a rear guard action while the young escape from the zombie hordes.

Fashion Roadkill

My friend Jacqueline sent me this item from the Washington Post highlighting more common health risks associated with high heels.

Running in Heels

Train station runners, originally uploaded by manganite.

Safety Propositions: Contact with the Earth

You should not even own shoes you cannot run or fight in, because you never know when things might take a turn for the worst.

Wearing stupid fashionable shoes in an emergency could get you killed.

The same goes for super-baggy jeans, but I don't know many people foolish enough to wear those, although many of my friends wear shoes that are not practical.

It should be noted that fashionable and sensible are not mutually exclusive. I own a couple of pairs of Kenneth Cole shoes that are stable with good traction and look nice.

Friday, May 16, 2008


I presented at the MALL Spring meeting today and gave a presentation on Wikis with my friend Debby. The wiki we presented from is here.

The speakers were excellent and I learned about Twemes, which indexes information posted to Twitter (which are called tweets).

That make seem like gibberish to those of you who don't use Twitter, but I like it. This is the Tweme for the 2008 Mall meeting.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Making the Leap!

clouds & boats, originally uploaded by tractorpirate.

Alternative Energy & the Managed Economy

I ran across this polemic yesterday and while the article's main thesis (that Bush has looted the country as part of a rebellion by the rich) is no big surprise to anyone in the reality-based community who has been paying attention for the last seven years of Bush's disastrous reign.

But I liked this segment which points out the need to manage the economy to transition to use more alternative energy.

In the real world, there are no such things as free markets.

In the real world, business people manipulate and conspire to control markets, and governments both control and collude with business, while tax policies and government spending have a major affect on the economy.

Let us accept that, and then the argument is only over how best to do it.

Simply giving money to rich people doesn't work.

Bob Novak, the conservative commentator who calls the investor class "the most creative class," is flat out wrong. As we've seen, outside of their ability to buy influence in politics, the media and the law, the rich are like the rest of us, relatively passive and unimaginative, prone to putting their money in the easiest place that promises a return, in whatever bubble is in fashion at the moment and wherever some salesman who gets their attention tells them.

Money has no mind of its own. It has to be directed toward areas that will generate and support business and good jobs at good wages. As it happens, our economic goals are on the same road as the social good.

The No. 1 target has to be alternative energy.
|The Fraud of Bushenomics: They’re Looting the Country - Alternet|(emphasis added)
Of course, we not only need to change our energy sources, but we must cut back on energy expenditures. Voluntary simplicity just isn't in the American character, so it will have to be involuntary simplicity... which means market forces, government regulation or both.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


going on a trip?, originally uploaded by ☺Ditch The Kitsch!!☺.

Stopping Narcoterrorism at the Root

In an odd turn of fate, US Marines are protecting opium growers in Afghanistan, not because the US government is pedaling heroin. The Marines leave the opium farmers alone because to destroy the only livelihood of the Afghani farmers would only alienate the population and drive them into the arms of the Taliban. It's the only reasonable military move in a bad situation.

Last week, the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit moved into southern Helmand province, the world's largest opium poppy-growing region, and now find themselves surrounded by green fields of the illegal plants that produce the main ingredient of heroin.

The Taliban, whose fighters are exchanging daily fire with the Marines in Garmser, derives up to $100 million a year from the poppy harvest by taxing farmers and charging safe passage fees -- money that will buy weapons for use against U.S., NATO and Afghan troops.

Yet the Marines are not destroying the plants. In fact, they are reassuring villagers the poppies won't be touched. American commanders say the Marines would only alienate people and drive them to take up arms if they eliminated the impoverished Afghans' only source of income....|Rubin: Marines Stuck Protecting Opium in Helmand - Informed Comment:GA|
Perhaps this odd turn of events in the never-ending war or terror should cause us to reconsider our strategy in the never-ending war on drugs

Elsewhere I've blogged about the narcotics fueled violence engulfing Mexico and threatening the southern United States, but the situation has escalated with the drug gangs decimating the leadership of Mexican law enforcement.
Gunmen assassinated the acting chief of Mexico’s federal police early on Thursday morning [May 8, 2008]...Commander [Edgar Eusebio Millán Gómez] had served for the last year as the federal police official in charge of the antidrug operations throughout the country...His death was the 10th assassination of a federal police official in the last two months. Last week, gunmen also shot and killed the head of the organized crime division in the public security ministry, Roberto Velasco Bravo. |Gunmen Kill Chief of Mexico’s Police - NY Times|
It turns out the Mexican drug czar was killed through the assistance of a corrupt Mexican police officer.
Investigators said the group that carried out the assassination was led by a federal police officer, José Antonio Montes Garfias, 41, who was arrested with several incriminating documents. Among them were lists of cars used by top commanders in the federal police and records of drug shipments in and out of Mexico City’s international airport, said Gerardo Garay Cadena, the coordinator of the antidrug division of the federal police.|NYT|

Looking at the dire situation in Mexico, criminal justice professor Peter Moskos suggests that the only sensible solution is to decriminalize and regulate drugs.
The war on the drugs is not being won.

Killing police chiefs [in Mexico] is not a sign of desperation and defeat. It's a high-stakes sign of domination and control...

Drug dealers defeating the police force of Mexico is not funny. It is entirely possible that drug cartels will take over the Mexican police and to some extent, the entire elected government.

Losing Mexico is a price way too high to pay for the privilege of continuing to fight the endless war on drugs. Especially when the solution--legal drug regulation and an end to drug prohibition--is so simple.|Losing the drug war - Cop in the Hood|(emphasis added)

I saw the following item on Google News and at first I thought they agreed with me and Professor Moskos. But no.
The single most effective thing the United States could do to help Mexico's emerging democracy prevail over drug cartels would be to legalize recreational drugs. We are not advocating that. Not now.|They fight our war - Arizona Republic|(emphasis added)

How long must we persist in this pyrrhic struggle? How many nations must we destroy in our national hypocrisy? Colombia, Mexico, Afghanistan, Lebanon... how many other nations have suffered from our slash and burn policy of drug interdiction rather than dealing with our domestic demand for drugs.

How long will we keep denying the laws of supply and demand?

Monday, May 12, 2008

Serbian Elections

Belgrade, originally uploaded by cabiria8.

Divise Serbian Elections

I was reading the Christian Science Monitor's coverage of the recent Serbian elections today.

The battle for the support of the Serbian population has been bitter, and at least half of the electorate will find themselves living under a government they cannot relate to. Indeed, there are fears that the inconclusive result might lead to a long period of political horse-trading. Late strongman Slobodan Milosevic's former party, the Socialist Party of Serbia, is now tipped to play a kingmaker role in forming the new government. They could choose to support the Democrats or join a coalition with the Radicals and outgoing Prime Minister Kostunica's DSS party....

The Democrats' victory shows that substantial numbers of Serbs agree [that EU membership will be a good thing], and makes Serbia's European path much more secure. But there is still much genuine resentment felt by Serbs towards the West over Kosovo's independence.

"Serbia is still a divided country," ... "We don't have any middle ground – only extremes from either side."|Pro-European Tilt in Serbian Vote - Christian Science Monitor|(emphasis added)
The first line makes me think about how democracy tends to make everyone unhappy.

Because so few people vote, a minority of the population can elect a government that is widely distrusted or even despised by the majority of the population.

Bringing Serbia into the EU seems odd to me given the unwillingness to bring in Turkey. They'd rather have a country struggling with racism and civil war than a moderate Muslim state? Perhaps so...

Monday, May 05, 2008

Another Voter for McCain

Centurion Labor Union for McCain, originally uploaded by Tubes..

The Coming Political Spectacle

Spiegel columnist Gabor Steingart contends that Obama is the inevitable Democratic nominee, unless we want riots and maybe even civil war.

[A]s long as Obama can hold onto his slight lead in the number of pledged delegates, he will be the inevitable candidate. In fact, there is now almost a national political obligation to nominate Obama. A vote by superdelegates against Obama would set off shock waves within American society, with incalculable consequences. Young people would be outraged, intellectuals would be bitter and violence could erupt in predominantly black urban neighborhoods around the country.

An apparent rejection of her black rival would also do more to harm Hillary Clinton than help her campaign. A candidacy against the background of angry youth or even burning barricades would be of little value....

[The US] may not be burning, but it is smoldering in America. After seven years of George W. Bush, the Democratic Party has vowed to reconcile the country with itself. And now it will at least have to try, even if it means losing the presidency. |Obama the Inevitable - Speigel|
After the Pennsylvania primary, Steingart was even more pessimistic.
After Tuesday, the situation for the Democratic Party is no easier. The party seems to be cursed in this primary season, as if Obama's supporters and Clinton's fans had sealed a diabolical pact. They refuse him victory but spare her defeat.

But this game is approaching its terrible end. The superdelegates, who are independent from the party base, will have to commit a political murder in the coming months. Will it be Obama or Clinton? For the party, the decision could amount to political suicide.
|Will the Democrats Commit Political Suicide? - Speigel|
This has definitely been the most exciting primary season in recent memory, at least since 1968... now that was a barn burner!

I think it's way too early to predict defeat for any of the candidates just yet. The race is just getting into full swing, actually, and I'm sure there are many more scandals and smears to come.

And with a walking disaster like Bush in office, who knows what might happen! Race riots? A major terrorist attack? Martial law? War against Albania? I think it's too much to hope that Bush and Cheney will leave the office of the Presidency with any vestige of dignity.

Strap yourselves in, because it's going to be one hell of a ride from now until Bush is supposed to step down in January, 2009.


sappho's lament, originally uploaded by fubuki.

Defrosting the Babies: Infanticide Sweeping Germany

I ran across this article by Kate Connolly in the Guardian that mentioned a wave of infanticide is sweeping across Germany.

Apparently infanticide cases are in the news almost monthly for at least a year. This syndicated news report provides some context.

Germany has been plagued by a series of gruesome baby killings in recent years.

Most notable was Sabine Hilschenz, in eastern Germany, who killed nine of her newborn babies and hid the remains in buckets and flower pots as well as in an old fish tank at her parents' home.

The divorced, unemployed dental assistant told investigators she did not harm the children but left them to die after giving birth alone every time following heavy drinking. She was found guilty of eight counts of manslaughter in 2006 and is currently serving a 15 year prison sentence.

In December 2007 a 31-year-old woman was arrested after police recovered the bodies of five children aged between three and nine years old were found in a house in Darry, near the northern city of Kiel.

The same week a woman was arrested in Plauen in eastern Germany on suspicion of killing three of her own newborn babies. The bodies were discovered in a trunk in the cellar, on the balcony and in the fridge.

Last November, a 35-year-old woman from Erfurt was sentenced to 12 years in jail for killing two of her babies and hiding their bodies in a freezer. |Three Dead Babies Found in Freezer - Local|
You would think infanticide would be unknown in a country with legal birth control and abortion. But no society is immune from incest, sexual assault, prostitution, alcoholism, substance abuse, and mental illness. It's quite sad, but unlikely to change in the near future.

Kansas, Land of Big Sky

Konza Sky, originally uploaded by Judd Patterson.

Ah, Kansas

This recent Onion article pretty well sums up most people's impressions of the Sunflower state.

The so-called "Kansas rectangle," a desolate and featureless region covering 82,277 square miles in America's mysterious Great Plains, has been a source of speculation among paranormal investigators for decades....

The few known photos from inside the Rectangle show only a flat, blank emptiness, stretching unremarkably to the horizon.

What happens in the lives of those who venture within remains a mystery.

Matthew Hume, a researcher at the University of Chicago who studies the Rectangle, said the bizarre phenomena associated with the region might never be fully understood.

"As best we can tell, those who go beyond the area's borders for too long are knocked off course by the low external pressure to succeed," Hume said. "But after that, it's as if they fall off the face of the earth. There are cases of an entire Greyhound bus full of people entering the Rectangle and vanishing into obscurity."

Experts estimate that several million tons of consumer goods disappear into the region per year. Yet, almost nothing, save for the odd Sunday morning church broadcast, is ever detected coming back out. |30 Years Of Man's Life Disappear In Mysterious 'Kansas Rectangle' - Onion|

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Memories of Kansas

Sunflower sunset, originally uploaded by Traces in the Sand.

Friendly Fowl

When I came home Friday there was a wild turkey in our backyard near the breezeway, it was probably no more than six feet from me. It wasn't very happy to see me appear so close to it and immediately hiked up our hill, disappearing into the neighbors' backyard before we could snap a photo.

Our backyard is very popular with squirrels, rabbits, cardinals, black-capped chickadees, and several other common birds. I love blue jays but they are not as common in the Twin Cities as they were in Kansas when I was growing up.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Geeking out on Safety & Information Technology

I just started a disaster management wiki, if you're interested in contributing, drop me a line.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Low crimes and misdemeanors

"Mii"chael Jackson, originally uploaded by kadzfish.


Sarah and I just purchased a Wii. It's fun, but now I'm going to turn my attention to mayhem with GTA IV.


The Treason, originally uploaded by _CorpseBride_.

Willful Ignorance

Ok, so I'm officially on record as saying that Douglas J. Feith is a despicable human being and would be better off dead.

But another waste of flesh who led the US into the quagmire of Iraq was Paul Wolfowitz and Phil Carter applies some well-deserved censure today.

So Wolfie, it's simply not true that the American government was "clueless" about counterinsurgency. Not true at all. Rather, officials like you chose to keep yourselves in the dark by refusing counsel from those who knew something about counterinsurgency. And you actively stifled dissenting views by criticizing officers like Shinseki as "wildly off the mark." Clueless is not the word I would use to describe your mistakes. |Intel Dump|