Saturday, December 24, 2005

A Christmas Wish

Generally speaking, i'm not one to use the Crank as a means to send out a personal message. It's more of a soapbox really for my ideas on gaming and sundry geek topics that strike my fancy.

But tonight, I feel that maybe, just maybe it might be worth getting a bit personal.

I get the blues every Christmas. Normally by the day it rolls around, the season has worked it's ineffable transformation on me and I end up having a good time anyway. But the run-up is always hard for me for some reason. At least this year, i managed to avoid my usual Christmas cold.

This year wasn't especially heinous. the hardest thing to do deal with was extra crap at work and a distinct lack of Gertrude in my life. Gertrude is far away and I am missing her somewhat fiercely. It's making for a case of Teh Blues.

But, as bad as that is. and as EASY as it is to sink into my own personal pity party...I have to say that it's bunk.

I have a host of good friends.
I have a decent job, working for good folks.
I have a kitty who loves me very much.
I have a family that i both love AND get along with.
I have a rich life in games in in my creative work.

So. If you are reading this blog. I have a wish for you.
I hope that you will be able to see each and every one of your blessing for what it is.

Jah Love to you all.

Friday, December 23, 2005

From Point A to Point B

Today, I went out into the world to deliver a wedding cake. A simple mission. A friend knew i worked in a bakery, and had requested that i deliver the cake to his wedding. The disassembled cake went into the boot of my car and away i sped.

Of course, it wasn't as simple as all that.

My friend had chosen to have his wedding at a hotel on the day before Christmas Eve. This lovely hotel was on the backside of a shopping center which is infamous for being hard to get into and out of during holiday shopping. a quick little errand took me a total of 2 hours to complete and an additional hour and a half to get back home.

Fortunately, i had my Ipod, and i did not have a loaded weapon. It could have been grim.

But this, coupled with the coverage of the New York TWU strike, has gotten me thinking about the simple act of travel and how fragile it truly is.

Think about the last time you went out on a simple errand and the weather turned less than clement. Think about the time all you wanted to do was get home and you were stymied by downtown traffic because of some concert or sports event. Even a simple wreck, in the right spot, can fuck up traffic for miles in every direction.

Now, imagine you are in a situation that would be easily handled in ten minutes drive, that has now become an epic fucking quest by dint of this disruption in traffic patterns. Other people become Angels or Demons along your path to salvation depending on whether they help or hinder you.

There are more than couple of movies based on this simple premise. "The Ice Harvest" being the most recent.

This basic idea has two simple use: The first one is to help you stall for time. On occasion, as i have pointed out in very early Crank reports, you will have a situation that your players will solve FAR ahead of schedule. Maybe you underestimated them. Maybe they just went entirely lateral to your thinking on how to solve the thing. Still. If you just have them show up at the bad guys place loaded for bear, it will be a short night. You can make the race for time a real nail biter if you introduce a massive traffic snarl.

The other possible use of this trick is to pull out for a "No Plot Night". Say your players have some small problem to attend to, why not make a simple task into a near impossible one with this gambit? Have somebody send them on a mission and complicate it with a serious ice storm. Might be a bit interesting if you need blood or need to get under cover before the sun comes up. AAA ain't coming to help you. Will the players stop to help other along the way who are having worse problems?
Will the players end up freezing solid?

I can tell you there have been times when driving has become an adventure all by itself. There's no reason why we can't use this.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

A Lovecraft Christmas

(Note: This story was written by me in a single sitting after a fit of existential angst. Each Christmas, I send it out to many folks of my acquaintance. I jokingly refer to this story as "My Fruitcake". On occasion i have given this story as a dramatic reading. Many people have asked me if they may reprint this story in various places. I always say yes. So. if you've seen it somewhere else, that's probably why. If you enjoy this story. Pass it on to others who might enjoy it as well.

A Lovecraft Christmas
By Pete Sears

Journal Entry:Dec 2

I have returned home after a long time away. Time seems not to have touched Arkham very much. Oh you'll see the occasional cell phone on the street but the old-timers who sit around at the hardware store seem to be the same ones that sat there in my youth. I've spent so much time in diverse corners of the world seeking the strange and unusual that even my childhood home seems quaint and curious in the same way that Yoruba tribesmen do. I find myself having to bite my tongue whenever I get the urge to ask the natives to explain their customs. New England reticence is something I'm having to relearn.

For example. I'm staying at the old ancestral home and it's quiet enough to enable me to study. It's also remote enough to allow me to cast a spell or two in the back yard without being observed. But every time I venture into town i am struck by small changes there. Townsfolk, whom i suppose are trying to be friendly, keep asking me if I'm "Getting ready for the Holidays." I'm not aware of any particular holidays. Perhaps there's some sort of festival in the offing. I shall ask.

Journal Entry: Dec 4

It would seem that there is some sort of winter festival. When I inquired, I was looked at strangely and avoided, but finally I did get a straight answer. I've also noted some strange behavior in town. People seem to be smiling...a lot. They seem to be extremely busy and carrying a lot of suspicious parcels.

Journal Entry: Dec 13

I've observed a strange ritual. Last night, two husky men came onto the back of my property and cut down a pine tree. Taking up my shotgun to deal with the trespassers, I watched as they dragged the tree back to their car. Was that all they had come for? Had they broken the law merely to steal a tree? Fascinated and horrified, I followed them back to their home. They took the tree off their car and took it into their house. Watching from the bushes, I observed the tree thieves as they began to cover their ill-gotten foliage with strange blinking lights and odd icons of some sort. Is this some sort of odd cult activity? Perhaps some bizarre fertility ritual. (Shub?!?) Is the tree supposed to be an Altar? Sacrifice? Antenna? More study is required.

Journal Entry: Dec 16

This cult is far more widespread than I suspected was possible. Much of the town appears to have been affected. I am considering summoning help. Many of the townsfolk seem to be smiling that same insipid smile. I am beginning to worry. I was walking through town assembling some notes about this phenomenon when I went into a department store for more paper. A large man in a red suit and a bushy white beard stared at me and rang a small bell. He seemed to want me to make some offering to a small bucket on a tripod and gave me a hard look when i didn't. I asked the manager if there was a back way out of the store.

Journal Entry: Dec 17

Had a bad turn today. Found that the maid had erected one of those tree altars in the living room. Was terrified beyond comprehension by the thing. Frankly, she was completely nonplused at my reaction. "But it's traditional." she said. I was forced to dismiss her.

Journal Entry: Dec 19

My private library has proven useless for this "Winter Festival". I must brave going into town again and attempting research in the public library. I fear time is growing short somehow...and this is compounded by the snow which is coming down very hard now. I fear i will be snowed in if this keeps up.

Journal Entry: Dec 20

I am filled with horror. Venturing into town to use the library, I encountered the man in the red suit again. He was speaking very intently to a very small child who was rapt in attention at his words. I hurried along before he could notice me. I arrived at the Library and presented myself as an anthropologist studying the basis of this local "Winter Festival" I was looked at quizzically, but directed well by the young lady at the desk.

Apparently this cult is very old and it's practices are particularly gruesome. It apparently started with the Celts (who died out by the way) It's now masquerading as the festival of the birth of some Christian martyr. but it's practices are very suspicious. I'm having to read between the lines of course, but I'm seeing a terrifying pattern here. There's apparently some flying creature with claws. (The translation here may be flawed) It goes forth once per year to reward the faithful and punish the transgressors. It particularly likes "sweets" ( which i take to mean sweetbreads...Horrible!) and will consume these offerings if they are left for him. Apparently no home is proof against this horrific beast who is able to invade through the smallest fireplace (Significance? Hastur relationship?) The faithful are also enjoined to put up stockings up on the mantel and they will be "filled." I can only assume with the severed legs of the "bad little children". There is also some sort of connection to a "Snowman" ( Ithaqua? It must be!) This finally explains the bizarre patterns in the snow and odd snow sculptures all over town.

As I walked home, trying to make some sense of this horrific puzzle. I saw the man in red again. He seems to be everywhere. Is he following me?

Journal Entry: Dec 21

I had bad dreams last night. The Man in Red had invaded my home with a very large sack. To what end I don't know. I woke up screaming when he turned and I recognized his face. This was not the only strange thing that I encountered. As the snow dashed my hopes of leaving town before this hideous ritual could take place. I began to knock around the house. I discovered that the refrigerator has become home to strange foodstuffs. I found a pitcher of some odd smelling spicy fluid which looked like milk gone bad.It was a thoroughly stomach turning decoction and yet enticely sweet smelling. I also found an odd cake like substance with unidentifiable red and green THINGS in it. I was forced to dismiss the cook. These cultists are everywhere but at least I have the house to myself.

Journal Entry:Dec 22

Had the dream again. Will this nightmare ever cease? I also had visions of...something dancing in my head. My mind shears away from apprehending those terrifying images. I can feel a horrific change coming over me. It's slow and pernicious but I'm beginning to feel it's effects. I saw myself in the mirror today and i didn't recognize myself. I had that SMILE on my face...No it's not even a smile. it's more of a rictus. It took some effort to wipe it from my face. I found myself in front of the refrigerator looking at the fluid and the evil looking cake.... wondering...wondering...what they tasted like. I fear for my immortal soul.

Journal Entry:Dec 23

Last night as i was trying to calm myself by the fire. (which i keep burning all the time now.) I heard the high piping voices of the cultists outside my door. They were singing to me...In Latin! Something about "Come all ye faithful" or some such. I was filled with such fear that i was forced to retreat to the basement where I sat and trembled until they finally went away. I wanted to go to them....I wanted...

No. Best not to think about that now.

Journal Entry:Dec 24

This may be my last entry. I have dealt with some horrifying things in my life but this is far too much to handle alone. I am forced to take drastic measures. I have taken a few household chemicals and rigged a primitive detonator which I can trigger from the garage. It should kill anything in the house...At least that is my hope. I can feel the "Christmas Spirit" trying to take over my body and I want no part of it. I'll either kill the Flying Klaws or I'll freeze to death out here. Lose the house or lose my life. It's a small price to pay to end this pernicious menace.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Why are Vampires Cool?

Every once in a great while, I ask myself why I bother with Vampire Larps. It can get tiring, It seems like the same social dynamic holds sway all the time and you see a lot of the same plots getting re-cycled over and over again. I mean, how many times can you do "Kill the Prince." Or "The Sabbat comes to town" Or even "A group of humans are catching wise to us. We should totally go over there and fuck up their Christmas!"
It's the same thing that drove me away from Fantasy. You start to see the same things over and over again. I mean, how many times can you do the dotty old wizard who is slightly absent minded without people seeing it coming a mile off.
So occasionally it's important to re-fresh the well. It's necessary to find the things that are cool and interesting about vampires (and probably any other supernatural critter as well.) and start to re-emphasize those things.
See, it's easy for things too get lost in the shuffle. in any large larp you got various camps of player types. Each of these camps, has a different idea of what fun is. Now I'm not going to regurgitate a whole bunch of stuff from Robin Laws at you, But you should know by now that there is at least one group of players who are keen on the political game, another group that is into all the angst and suffering, and still another group that aren't happy unless they get their claws damp. You know this right? Hell, you can usually tell by how they are dressed!

But within those divisions there are people who think they are playing super-heroes with fans or who want to be the comic relief for the evening or are so new that they blurt out their entire back-story to anyone who asks. This can take away from the actual thematic elements that make playing vampires interesting and fun.

Vampires don't sweat the small stuff.
Let's say for a moment that you are a vampire. You're a person (maybe an ordinary person, maybe not.) Whose been selected by some other inscrutable night stalking freak. You've essentially been killed and revived by the eldritch power of the blood (and let me tell you, the first time that happens, you'll eat your one true love...You'll cry about it later. BUT YOU'LL DO IT.)
Add to this that you are now on the lowest rung of society of predators. At least a couple of times a week you need to go out and drink the blood of the living in order to animate the unliving shell where you thoroughly damned soul resides. You stop feeling cold, You stop feeling hot. You stop feeling horny. You stop feeling air inside you.You don't get to feel the sun on your face anymore. You only feel hungry.
Add to that that your lizard brain has become sort of supercharged and your fight-or-flight reflex has become a barely controllable urge when you encounter other vampires or the things that can lay you low.
Sure you get some nifty powers, but they only serve to make you a better predator and to isolate you from the rest of humanity. Sure you get a chance to live forever, but if you're paying attention at all to those people at court, you realize that the older they are, the crazier they are. Some of them become entirely alien in the outlook. Some have pathologies that would crack Freud like an egg. Others lose a sense of time and concentrate on playing a long game while the rest of the world burns around them.
That's what you have to look forward to. Assuming that you don't get ganked by some other predator who has decided that you are weak, or you decide to stay up for the sunrise some night.
Now, keeping all this in mind, Do you think that Kindred is going to show up at formal court and balance their checkbook while they wait?
There is something freeing about playing a character that no longer has to worry about SMALL SHIT. Lean into this idea. Think of the first time you ever saw certain vampires in certain movies. "Dracula" in nearly each and every one of his incarnations has the kind of presence that stops people in their tracks. He simply exudes cool. and he doesn't do this by sitting in a corner all night and being a grump. He walks into a room and OWNS it.
Ever see "A Vampire In Brooklyn"? The first time you ever actually see Maximillian, He is coolness incarnate. His clothes are stylish. his voice is smooth. He is a cat-clean predator...And he doesn't care if you know it or not.
Even Selene in "Underworld" is able to wear a leather cat suit. Who can pull that look off? I certainly can't.
Lestat is all that and a side of fries. and he knows it and shows it.
It's amazing what happens to you when all of your actual needs go away and get replaced by 2. Blood and Shelter. That's all you need to survive. All the rest of it just seems to fall away. Sure, having a bit of money is nice. But anybody can get money. Or you can get someone who has money. But if it comes right down to it, you CAN live in a sewer if you have to.
People who play Vampires need to actually concentrate on their stage presence. It makes a gigantic difference. If you do no other thing. look at each and every person that passes in front of you and think. "I could eat you."
Do yourself a favor. Start watching movies and plays with an eye towards what makes stage presence and start taking notes and start practicing that stuff.

Vampires are old
They know things. They've been around. They've seen things and done things. In nearly every case they have lives(?) that are much more interesting than ours. Lean into this idea as well. Come up with the best back-story you can manage. Even if you never really share it.
In fact, you should probably resist telling as much of your core personal story as possible. You can of course tell a number of stories, without really telling your own. :D
True story: Had a dude roll up on me at a Larp. and I asked him his name, He then, taking this as an opening, told me every single piece of information about his character. This came out in a largely unbroken stream. a bit like vomit. it was a bit odd. It occurs to me in retrospect, that maybe nobody else had talked to him all night.
Vampires have time on their side. They can take a night course if they like. They can read every single book on a subject if they choose. They can travel and soak up cultures. They can hone skills a couple of centuries old. They can encounter more occult phenomenon in the space of a year than most people see in their entire lives. I talk a little bit more about this in the article the Long Game

Vampires are Passionate
Okay, leave aside the Beast for moment, don't worry, we'll come back to it. I've given it a chew toy to play with. It'll be alright.
So, in order to deal with the horrors of the undead existence, you have to have something to hold onto. You need some kind of purpose to keep you going from night to night. If you don't have one, you'll bite it. The first year of undeath claims more lives than any other factor. There's usually another bump of mortality around the time of the end of the mortal life span.
So you gotta have some thing, or cause or person to hang onto if you're going to make it. Now having said that, let's look back a bit at the basic idea that all the little stuff falls away. What this means is that the causes of vampires become large in their sight, because they have little to distract them. Vampires can afford a laser-like focus.
Now, let's go back to the Beast. Take all that above and add in the possibility that any loud argument can degenerate into some kind of blood bath. Do you see why I refer to Soap Opera as the primary model for any really good Vampire Larp? It's all about the passions involved in the game. Play in a game where the rules on frenzying are nerfed and this stuff gets lost.
Vampires are also passionate in their personal lives. Their causes are important of course, But it has nothing on their internal emotions. Vampires can be very lonely, so it is vitally important to lean into the loves and rivalries of that particular vampire. Look for ways to point up the romantic passions of your character and you'll find how vitally important they are. Look for a passionate hatred for a rival and you'll find good game play.

Vampires are scary
They are stronger than you. Faster than you. They can twist your mind. They can draw you into their web and stick you fast. They may have a heart and a sense of shame but their hunger will always trump it. They lurk in the shadows and creep around the edges of human life. Predators are always scary. If there is no greater argument for having human players sprinkled amongst the vampire players it's this. In vampire-only larps, the actual fear factor tends to slip away. Also, Neonates have nobody that they can take out their frustrations on. Games where Vampires don't have a chance to be scary are dull.

Vampires are Damned
You are on the number 8 express bus to Hell. You do bad things. You steal life from the living. Do you know why this is so?
It's because you're a BAD PERSON. You might as well revel in it. Slowly but surely, you WILL slide down the fireman's pole to damnation. You can go slow. You can go fast. But you're going to go down. If you're playing in a game where the humanity rules have been given the handwave, then you're playing Superheroes with Fangs. If you're the ST, it's up to you make sure that there are moral and ethical consequences in every direction the vampires turn. I've always wanted to have a Police chief trying to stop the vampires and have the vampires go round to his place and kill him, only to look up and realize the cops 6 year old kid has witnessed the whole thing. Lose a whole freight car of Humanitas bucko. It's stuff like this that solves the problem of players using violence to solve all their problems.

Vampires are Sexy
The blood is not only nourishment to them. It is the ability to taste other lives. Sure, it's a form of rape, but often times it's also a seductive thing too. So when a vampire feeds or shares blood with another kindred or even just feeds the ghouls, It is a sexual act of one sort or another. When vampires fall into lust with someone it's very different from the way a human would. With humans, it's largely chemical. Just as there are physiological triggers which cause it, there are trigger which can cause it to cool off.
Vampires have none of that. Vampiric lust is born out of loneliness and hunger. It has a wild desperate edge to it that has nothing to do with hormones (which a dead body no longer produces.) In ordinary folks, loneliness and desperation, is not attractive. And yet, it drives the Vampire's whole mystique. Weird huh?
Now the whole mishegoss involving IC and OOC attraction is a discussion for another time. And it may never be sufficiently answered.
I've had some good experiences in that realm and i've had some not so good experience in that realm. The whole concept of hard and fast rules about inter-kindred and about Inter-player relations daunts me and has broken stronger fellows than me.
Still, When the sexual edge of a game is present, it adds a whole other layer to things. A whole batch of them.

Sono Finito

One more thing!

Sfamiliar has seen fit to set my Blogger account up to syndicate over Livejournal. Which was awfully nice of him.
So here's the linkybit if you prefer the content of this blog LJ flavoured.

Sooner or later this will make it over into the blog roll but that's a project for another day.

Saturday's Project du Jour (Or, How to make sure you never misplace your sheet!)

So, today's work is to finish a little thingy on vampires that i've been working on for a few days, Transcribe notes from my little black book into some sort of useable form, make some notes on Cranks to come, send out a few character specific emails and a couple of other things. I'll come back and talk about them in a minute...

Lately, there has been an embarrassment of riches in terms of good games to play. My good friend Dave Vest has been running a Demon: The Fallen game that has going strong for months now and it just keeps getting better as i go. I think the other players feel the same. This game runs on a saturday when the Requiem larp is running

The Requiem larp is going through it's usual cycle of disruption for right around the holidays and for those who are also still students, Finals and all that shit. Also, we have a session that falls on Christmas day. Still. I am hopeful that it gets back to getting stronger after the holidays. The stoic psychopath character that i found oddly hard to play has been moved to the background and now i'm playing a Daeva Invictus who is very social and charming. Something of an 180° turn for me. Still it gives me an opportunity to lean into certain strengths and put them at the use of the ST and the story.

Clayton Oliver is running a neat game called the "The Project" Which features a multi-jurisdictional government task force that has been tapped to handle supernatural and Alien threats. It's very X-files, only with a LOT more shooting and car chases. He's using Unisystem, which i must confess i know exactly bupkus about, but Clayton has this ability to make it easy for someone to play in his game without knowing dick about how the system works. It makes me want to revise my opinions about needing players who understand what they can do under the rules. I get to play the FBI psychologist and hostage negotiator Dr. Walter Lockridge and so far we've encountered Greys, Vampires, pesky Indian gaurdian spirits and some boats with haunted metal that were causing bridges to phase out and kill more people. Did I mention it's neat?

Thursdays are for Empire City. Andy Davis is running a Spycraft 2.0 game which features a motley group of cops assigned to a task force in the most rundown and corrupt imaginary city in California. Think "Wanted" crossed with "Miami Vice" with a dash of "Wiseguy" thrown in for good measure.
I play Detective Sergeant Roger Pentonvale, former head of Metro's Special Intellgence Division. I am also known to those who have reason to fear as "Automatic Karma" In real life I am a dumpy guy who can just barely qualify for field work, have few friends, and no real social life. But on the Intarweb, I am Batman, El Cid, and Kung Fu Jesus all rolled into one.
Spycraft 2.0 is another game that i know exactly dick about, but Andy has the same ability to just know what dice i need to roll in order to know what to do. Of course, I'm an active player as opposed to a passive one, so I'll ask lots of questions and say, "Well, can i do THIS?" and i think that's what makes it work.
This an extremely fun game, even if it has classes, and levels, and a character sheet that makes my head bleed. Kudos!

As a result, I have a number of Character Sheets. Sadly, there are times when my room becomes the Bermuda Triangle of Character Sheets (Anybody see "The Triangle" on Sci-Fi channel? Rock!) So my BIG project for today is to go into the secret bit of my T.I. Webpages and post a character sheet in some form of cobbled together HTML so that my sheets are available at any web-capable computer and printable from same.

Here is where I rave for a bit:
Oh Lord Jobs, I have been a faithful servant. I have spread the word about Macintosh far and wide. I have given of my time and of my limited cash. I ask only that you release a new version of Claris Home Page. It is the easiest web page maker in the world and is thus an empowering technology, much like this here blog thingy. I am sure that if you build a spanking new version for the G5 that many will come. Scale it's learning curve so that as a person learns more about web design they can start dicking around with CSS and other crap like that. I am a poor and humble servant and do not know how to use Macromedia's DreamWeaver. I wouldn't know a style sheet if it ran up, and nibbled on my naughty bits.

That said, while I love my CHP, it's getting long in the tooth. And i fear that designing the Spycraft sheet might in fact kill me.

Ah well. The quote that best suits this situation is this:
"If you would like a complete list of all the ways that technology has failed to make human life easier, please press 3."

Sono Finito

Fridays random Pictures (12/16/05)

This portrait should hang on the wall of every old house in your games.

This is such a Feng Shui moment. I can just see me saying to my players, "You're all motorcycle cops. Animals have escaped from the zoo. Go!"

Which segues nicely into this...

You can sweet talk all you want Nancy, but I aint gettin on no Air Force One!

"Why must you do this to me?"

Being marketed to console gamers who only have hand to eat with. What next? I.V. bottles and Catheters?

My inner child wants this like a junky wants crack.

There is a certain Ineffable quality to this picture.

Friday News Roundup (12/16/05)

Yeah I know, it's a bit late. It's been a hectic week. Work has been killing me.

A slight change of format to the FNR. Now that i know how to make the HREF tag for this sucker, i'll be posting links to things and headlines. Then a little discussion, as opposed to posting the whole freaking article. This i think will be a great deal less work intensive.

A former Doobie Brother has become one of the leading names in Counter-Terrorism

Talk about a varied career! Of course, this makes it all the more difficult on us poor GM's when a player brings us an Assassin Guitarist who used to be the Pope.(OMGBBQWAFFLEHOUSE!!!!111)

Chechnya, Quite possibly the Radiation capital of the world.

We should keep an eye peeled for superpowers from now on. Some Chechen dude gets bit by a radioactive mollusk and... No. I can't even continue that line of thought. I can feel my intestinal tract trying to reach up and strangle my brain.

Old Mayan temple found with new information about Mayan Society

I was of course hoping that there was details about their pacts with the Greys, and or ghoulish rites praising the Bat God, but it's only more dull anthropology.

Virgin to build privately owned spacefleet

Richard Branson is like a fucking comic book character. God Bless Him! Maybe we should send him to Chechnya in order for him to get kewl powers. In any case, he's keeping the dream that you and I may eventually get a chance to go to space in our lifetime. He may succeed, he may fail. but he's keeping the dream alive, and that's fucking important these days. My only concern is that he's only raised 225 Million for his space port. in another couple of years, you won't be able to film a summer blockbuster for that much money. 225 Million would only be able to make a Greyhound bus terminal in space.

Chinese Hackers going after American military targets

Didn't I see this Movie? Doesn't the Pentagon pay attention to pop culture? Don't they remember that SUN TZU was Chinese?
Seriously. Get your heads out of your asses Pentagon and get busy creating some of that "security" you promised us, in exchange for our freedoms. Which segues nicely into this...

Airport security doors foiled by turning the handle
Making a technology fool-proof and making it idiot-proof are two very seperate and distinct things.

Quite possibly the best close-up illusion i have ever seen
Seriously. watch the video. All the way through.

Five team Dysfunctions
Business and Managment blogs can have useful ideas regarding leadership. Since leadership can be an incredibly important component in the business of running a TT or a Larp game, i've started paying attention to this stuff. This might be a useful help to you and might even suggest plotlines designed to overcome these problems and allow the the players to have a certain amount of PC "Sticky" with one another.

60 pages on a internet forum of Larp Horror stories

Or as I like to refer to this stuff, "The Textbook on how NOT to run a Larp".

Jailhouse technology
How to build stuff while stuck in the hoosegow. This is the kind of information that is so neat to me that it's a bit like porn. I can't get enough!
Joseph Goebbells and his Swinging Nazi Band

You know it's stuff like this that knocks you on your ass. You walk around in your ordinary daily life, and you think you've got a pretty idea of how weird the world can be. It's a mostly manageable quotient of strangness...and then you find about THIS! It stretches the suspension of disbelief, and this ACTUALLY HAPPENED!

Bohemian Grove
Captains of government and Industry cavorting in the woods and doing weird rituals. Normally this sort of thing would have me reaching for my tinfoil hat, but i know too much about the Trilaterals, the CFR and the Bilderbergers in order to really disbelieve.

How the MIRT works
The Infrared strobe that cause traffic lights to change. I gots to get me one! I also got to get me one of those radar detectors that let you set the speed you want the radar to register.

That's right. Stay the fuck off my road!

Sono Finito

Friday, December 09, 2005

Fridays random Pictures (12/09/05)

"Hi There. I'm looking for a new Chief of Staff..."

This requires a level of dedication and tenacity that i think we can all admire.

Closer...Just a little bit closer!

There are no words really...

For some reason this attracts me and horrifies me at the same time.

Please Hammer, Don't hurt em!

Friday News Roundup (12/09/05)

The bulk of these articles are taken from Gizmodo, Bruce Schneier,Warren Ellis,BoingBoing, Wired News, Future Feeder and John C. Dvorak. I may need to learn enough HTML in order to create HREF tags. I am not a coder, so this is a bit intimidating.

Tell a Doc: 24-Hour Phone Doctors 
DALLAS -- Peter Beasley is a busy man who currently has no health insurance. He's also a customer of TelaDoc Medical Services, a setup that allows him to call an unknown doctor and get medicine prescribed sight unseen.
Within an hour or so of his call to an 800 number, he gets a call from a doctor who discusses his case.
TelaDoc provides its members -- which the company estimates at 30,000 -- with access to a doctor 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
While members like Beasley praise the service as a convenient way to address nagging medical needs at odd hours, others in the health care industry say treating patients without seeing them in person is worrisome, perhaps dangerous. California's medical board is investigating TelaDoc's activities in that state.
TelaDoc chief executive Michael Gorton said the Dallas-based company is merely providing a needed service and is not meant to replace the family physician. The company began offering its services nationwide this year after an earlier test run.
"For the vast majority of Americans, being able to talk to a doctor in an hour is next to impossible," Gorton said. "Our motto is we're there when your normal doctor is not."
TelaDoc subscribers are guaranteed to hear back from a doctor within three hours of their phone call. After paying a registration fee of $18 and completing a medical history, an individual subscriber pays $4.25 a month and a $35 fee per consultation.
Gorton said ailments range from urinary tract infections to strep throat to allergies.
But doctors' groups and medical ethics experts question the notion of putting convenience first.
"Practicing medicine without seeing the patient is still a dangerous thing," said Arthur Caplan, chairman of the department of medical ethics at the University of Pennsylvania. "From the doctor's point of view, it's not standard of care."
Dr. Larry S. Fields, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, said he doesn't see the benefit of TelaDoc.
"As much as I'd like to put a positive spin on it, most patients can get to their family physicians just as quick by telephone," he said. Establishing a doctor-patient relationship should involve an office visit with a general exam and an ongoing plan for the patient's long-term health, Fields said.
While the American Medical Association doesn't have a specific policy on such services, there are some concerns for the patient, said AMA president Dr. Edward Hill. "Nothing we think can replace the face-to-face with a doctor."
Gorton said that doctors with his network won't hesitate to send patients to an emergency room if their symptoms warrant it. And he notes that many doctors have addressed the needs of unknown patients by handling after-hours phone calls for their colleagues.
He said that there are around 160-170 different medical licenses represented in 50 states with his service, which doesn't treat children under the age of 12.
Five states -- Virginia, Florida, Tennessee, Mississippi and South Carolina -- require an examination, Gorton said. In those states, he said, patients get bloodwork and have their temperature and blood pressure checked to enable them to use TelaDoc.
The Medical Board of California has opened an investigation into the company. Spokeswoman Candis Cohen said that meeting the requirement of a good faith examination in California includes an in-person visit.
Gorton says he welcomes the scrutiny.
"We expect boards of medical examiners to look into what we're doing and we expect to come out of it squeaky clean," he said.
TelaDoc does not write prescriptions for controlled substances or narcotics. And uninsured patients with chronic medical conditions are limited in their use of the service, according to Gorton.
Beasley, 47, who is starting his own software company in Dallas, has had health insurance on and off for the past two years. He's used TelaDoc for treatment of poison ivy and to get a prescription eye ointment.
"It's certainly not the answer for anything life-threatening," he said. "For people that don't have health care or are in between jobs, I think it's a great add-on."

"Um Yeah...Uh Doc. How do i treat a bullet wound? WAIT! DON"T PUT ME ON HOLD!" This is a positive boon for players of Delta Green, who can now call up a doctor and get the suspicious rash in the shape of a Yellow Sign diagnosed by a professional. Hey, if you've got a camera phone you can even share the love. (Love= San loss)

Europe Has the Hot Hand 
PONTEDERA, Italy -- The metallic fingers close around yours in near-perfect synchrony, then tighten their grip as you try to pull away. For now, it is a computer that orders Cyberhand to greet you at the robotics lab where researchers have spent the past 3 1/2 years creating the first prosthetic hand capable of eliciting natural sensory signals.
If all goes well, researchers say this bionic hand could be implanted on human arms two years from now, its wired joints discreetly covered by a synthetic glove

Cyberhand would allow the maimed to have "the feeling of touching things," says Paolo Dario, the project's coordinator at the Polo Sant'Anna Valdera institute in this central Italian town.
The hand is the fruit of cooperation between six teams working in four European countries -- Italy, Germany, Spain and Denmark. For Dario, it is also an example of Europe's enormous, but still relatively underfunded, potential in the fast-expanding field of robotics.
"We have a network, we know how to work together. We are ready to make a leap ahead," he said.
Financed with $1.8 million from a special European Union fund for emerging technologies, Cyberhand was cited as a success by European Commission officials in October when they appealed to governments and industry to give robotics more financial backing.
Increased funding is essential, they said, if Europe is to exploit robotics' vast economic potential and compete with projects in the United States, Japan, and South Korea.
Each year, the commission and EU nations combined spend $100 million on robotics research. Japan and Korea each spend about the same, while the United States spends up to $500 million -- largely because of the huge demand for military-related robotics, researchers and EU officials say.
In Dario's view, Europe's strength in robotics is in a broad approach that is also perhaps more sensitive to the social and ethical issues raised by the increasing use of robots to help humans with everyday tasks.
The Cyberhand team and other European robotics research groups have been more apprehensive than the Japanese about bringing robotic technology into everyday life, says James L. Patton, a research scientist at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago who has closely followed the Cyberhand project.
"They've been pioneers in launching those considerations: what is an acceptable practice for robots, how do we make robots safe, are they safe, psychologically how will they influence people and their behavior?"
In contrast, several robotics experts said, Japanese projects tend to be showier in hopes of making a media impact and attracting funding.
The Cyberhand team not only has tried to develop a hand that would provide greater grip and control for an amputee, but it also has been concerned about the hand's aesthetics.
Giovanni Stellin, one of the Cyberhand researchers, said many patients were ashamed or self-conscious about using the less sophisticated, pincer-mechanism, prosthetic hands developed after World War II and still on the market.
Cyberhand would be attached to amputees below the elbow and covered by several layers of synthetic material that would seek to copy the features of a natural hand by making the prosthetic replacement soft, compliant, and flexible.
Patton says it represents "the first prosthetic hand that really is fully integrated into the nervous system." Linked to the nerves by tiny electrodes and biomimetic sensors, it would let patients sense the position and movement of the hand as well as stimuli from the outside environment.
Though researchers in the United States have covered similar ground, they have not addressed the problems of electrodes, prosthesis, sensory feedback, control, and processing of commands all together, said Silvestro Micera, a Cyberhand researcher.
That type of teamwork is more likely to flourish in Europe, where technology partners are accustomed to working in transnational consortiums, said Micera.
What remains to be seen, Patton says, is whether the materials used for Cyberhand will be compatible with the human body, how a patient's brain will adapt and how the hand can be powered.
Another project touted by European officials is HYDRA, a project coordinated from Denmark that is developing the world's first shape-shifting robot. It is made up of modules, each containing its own processors, batteries, sensors and actuators, which can attach and detach from each other so the robot can change its physical form.
Such a robot could be used, for example, in relief efforts after an earthquake, said Henrik Hautop Lund, a professor at the University of Southern Denmark and HYDRA's coordinator. Having driven to a site, the robot could transform into a crawler to climb over debris, a snake to get through a hole, or columns to hold up a collapsed building and protect a survivor.
HYDRA has developed 100 modules, and Lund is looking for industrial partners who would invest in manufacturing the robot and put it to use. The project, begun in 2001, has received $2.1 million -- about two-thirds of its total funding -- from the EU.
Like Dario, Lund argues that Europe has an advantage in its more integrated approach to robotics. But he also notes the financial constraints.
Member states have failed to agree in recent months on the EU's 2007-2013 budget, so researchers still don't know how much support they will receive, sparking concern that projects could lose momentum.
"One of the problems Europe has had in its robotics research has been getting it out to market as product," said Ken Young, chairman of the British Automation and Robotics Association.
"While we may have a good research network at (the) academic level, I don't see the big industrial players getting involved to the extent they do in Japan and Korea. Ultimately it is these people who will take it to market and make it a success.... In the EU it strikes me we develop some great technology and then leave it for the rest of the world to pick up and exploit."

So not only are we one step closer to the realm of true cybernetics, but we're angling towards a shmelding on cybernetics and shapeshifting robots. If the politics weren't so fucked up, I'd say that this an exciting time to be alive. Shapeshifting robot limbs with touch recepetors. Fuck! I'd cut off an arm if i could get a new one able to turn into a swiss army knife.

At nearly $400 a pack, these stainless steel playing cards are probably too much to actually own (let alone shuffle). Nevertheless, it gives me great comfort to know that they exist and would cause an almighty kerfuffle at a Transport Security Agency checkpoint.

Have you ever gone from a state of not knowing about a thing, to being completely in lust with it in the space of two seconds? If you loved me my minions, You would see that i get this for christmas, along with the usual whores and whisky.

Sorry. Was channeling Warren Ellis there for a minute.

Wasps Could Replace Bomb, Drug Dogs
By ELLIOTT MINOR, Associated Press WriterSat Dec 3,11:49 AM ET

Trained wasps could someday replace dogs for sniffing out drugs, bombs and bodies. No kidding.

Scientists say a species of non-stinging wasps can be trained in only five minutes and are just as sensitive to odors as man's best friend, which can require up to six months of training at a cost of about $15,000 per dog.

With the use of a handheld device that contains the wasps but allows them to do their work, researchers have been able to use the insects to detect target odors such as a toxin that grows on corn and peanuts, and a chemical used in certain explosives.

"There's a tremendous need for a very flexible and mobile chemical detector," said U.S. Department of Agriculture entomologist Joe Lewis, who has been studying wasps since the 1960s. "Our best devices that we have currently are very cumbersome, expensive and highly fragile."

The "Wasp Hound" research by Lewis and University of Georgia agricultural engineer Glen Rains is part of a larger government project to determine if insects and even reptiles or crustaceans could be recruited for defense work. That project has already resulted in scientists refining the use of bees as land-mine detectors.
Through the years, Lewis and a USDA colleague, J.H. Tumlinson, discovered that a tiny, predatory wasp known as microplitis croceipes had relied on odors to locate nectar for food and hosts for its eggs — caterpillars that damage crops.

While they don't sting humans, the female wasps use their stingers to deposit eggs inside caterpillars, producing larvae that eventually kill the caterpillars.
The scientists also discovered that plants being attacked by the caterpillars give off SOS scents to attract the all-black wasps and that the quarter-inch-long insects could be trained to associate other odors with food and prey.

"They have to be good detectors because their whole survival depends on it," Lewis said.

Rains said the wasps can be trained to detect a specific odor very quickly. The researchers expose hungry wasps to the target odor, then let them feed on sugar water for 10 seconds and then give them a one-minute break. After three repetitions of sniffing and feeding, the wasps associate the odor with feeding.
Since the scientists couldn't put leashes on their trained wasps, they needed a way to contain them while monitoring their reactions to odors.

Enter the Wasp Hound — a 10-inch-long plastic cylinder made of PVC pipe with a hole in one end and a small fan on the other. Inside is a Web camera that connects to a laptop computer for monitoring the behavior of five wasps housed in a transparent, ventilated capsule.

When the wasps detect a target odor, they converge around the vent, creating a mass of dark pixels on the computer screen. Otherwise, they just hang out inside the capsule.

They can work for as long as 48 hours, then they're released to live out their remainder of their two-to three-week life span.

"What we have ... is a technology-free organism that you can quickly program and use in a highly mobile way," said Lewis, who believes the Wasp Hound could be used to search for explosives at airports, locate bodies, monitor crops for toxins and detect diseases such as cancer from the odors in a person's breath.
"They're very cheap to produce and very sensitive," Rains said of the wasps. "Dogs take months to train and they need a specific handler. Wasps can be trained on the spot."

Rains believes the Wasp Hound could be available for sale in three to five years. He and Lewis are still exploring ways to breed more wasps and to train hundreds simultaneously.

"We've done enough on it to know it's technically feasible to do that," Lewis said. "It's just a matter of completing and refining the methodology."
Lewis believes many other types of invertebrates — bees, other types of parasitic insects, even water bugs — can be trained to sniff out trouble.

"It's opened a whole new resource for invertebrates as biological sensors," he said.

Other scientists also are working to harness the sniffing power of insects.
In 2002, the Pentagon considered fitting sniffer bees with transmitters the size of a grain of salt to locate explosives and relay that information wirelessly to laptop computers.

A British firm, Inscentinel Ltd., sells trained bees and mini-hives where the insects' response to scents from natural and man-made chemicals can be monitored. The company says the system can be used to screen for explosives, drugs, chemical weapons, land mines and for food quality control.

Jerry Bromenshenk, a research professor at Montana State University, is using bees for mine detection. The bees congregate over mines or other explosives and their locations are mapped using laser-sensing technology.

"Insects and their antennae have an olfactory system that is pretty much on a par with a dog," Bromenshenk said. "They're a whole lot more plentiful and a lot less expensive to come by."

Bromenshenk said bees may be more appropriate for open areas, while the Wasp Hound may be better in buildings.

"The difference is that we let our bees free fly," he said. "That's not good in confined areas like an airport."

Weird. I can see a whole host of lawsuits springing up from this though. A police dog might bite your face off, but it won't sting you and cause you to swell up like the Michelin Man and swallow your tounge. Still, a horde of wasps could search a large number of cargo containers much faster than dogs.

Printing Organs on Demand 
Need a skin graft? A new trachea? A heart patch? Turn on your printer, and let it spit one out.
A group of researchers hope printers' whirs and buzzes will soon be saving lives.
Led by University of Missouri-Columbia biological physics professor Gabor Forgacs and aided by a $5 million National Science Foundation grant, researchers at three universities have developed bio-ink and bio-paper that could make so-called organ printing a reality.
So far, they've made tubes similar to human blood vessels and sheets of heart muscle cells, printed in three dimensions on a special printer.
"I think this is going to be a biggie," said Glenn D. Prestwich, the University of Utah professor who developed the bio-paper. "A lot of things are going to be a pain in the butt to print, but I think we can do livers and kidneys as well."
Prestwich guessed initial human organ printing may be five or 10 years away.
The work started as a way to understand biological self-assembly -- such as how an embryo develops -- in the lab, Forgacs said.
While printed DNA and RNA chips have been around for a while, they have until now been printed in two dimensions, Forgacs said. Also, organ printing scientists have figured out how to print not just molecules, but clusters of cells, he said.
Here's how it works: A customized milling machine prints a small sheet of bio-paper. This "paper" is a variable gel composed of modified gelatin and hyaluronan, a sugar-rich material. Bio-ink blots -- each a little ball of cellular material a few hundred microns in diameter -- are then printed onto the paper. The process is repeated as many times as needed, the sheets stacked on top of each other.
Once the stack is the right size -- maybe two centimeters' worth of sheets, each containing a ring of blots, for a tube resembling a blood vessel -- printing stops. The stack is incubated in a bioreactor, where cells fuse with their neighbors in all directions. The bio-paper works as a scaffold to support and nurture cells, and should be eaten away by them or naturally degrade, researchers said.
Though it can take less than two minutes to print a sheet of bio-paper with bio-ink, it can take about a week for such a tube to fuse, Forgacs said.
It's currently feasible to print tubes, Prestwich explained, because the printers output bio-paper in a sort of ever-ascending spiral, like a Slinky.
Helen Lu, director of the Biomaterials and Interface Tissue Engineering Laboratory at Columbia University, thinks organ printing could eventually work. Still, she cautioned that scientists must determine additional details such as how blood vessels are formed in skin, because simply implanting them might not be optimal.
The researchers are aware of the difficulties they face; Forgacs didn't even want to guess at the technology's possibilities.
"There are so many questions at this point to tackle, even at the simpler level, that I really don't want to break my head over what kind of organ we would build," he said.

Fuck. My printer won't even deal with 3"by 5" cards. This is so cool, i may implode. The only real problem with scientific advances like this is that they tend to be so expensive that the people who need them most can't afford them.

U.S. gets bad marks for terrorism preps
9/11 panel: Recommendations on U.S. security not being heeded
U.S. leaders did not understand the "gravity of the threat."
The United States wasn't prepared to meet al Qaeda's challenges.
Terrorism wasn't the chief security concern of the Bush or Clinton administrations.
Failures to thwart 9/11 highlight agencies' inability to adapt to new problems.
CIA effectiveness was limited by use of intermediaries to pursue Osama bin Laden.
Information and analysis wasn't shared across agencies.

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The former members of the bipartisan 9/11 commission gave Congress and the president a report card Monday heavy in B's, C's and D's -- with five F's -- saying the nation was ill-prepared for another terrorist attack.
"Four years after 9/11 it is scandalous that police and firefighters in large cities still cannot communicate reliably in a major crisis," said Thomas Kean, the Republican who was chairman of the commission.
"It is scandalous that airline passengers are still not screened against all names on a terrorist watch list.
"It is scandalous that we still allocate scarce homeland security dollars on the basis of pork barrel spending, not risk."
The bipartisan panel, charged with reviewing U.S. security efforts before and after the September 11, 2001, attacks, produced its final report in July 2004, offering 41 recommendations.
The 570-page, 14-chapter report concluded that a "failure of imagination" kept U.S. officials from understanding the al Qaeda threat before the attacks.
More than a year after the report's release, response to the panel's recommendations has been inadequate, Kean and other members said.
"On 9/11 [Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda] killed nearly 3,000 of our citizens. Many of the steps we recommend would help prevent a disaster from happening again. We should not need another wake-up call."
The panel's report card gave the government 12 B's, 12 D's, nine C's, five F's, one A- and two incompletes. The A- was for tackling terrorism financing; the incompletes were for reforms under way for the CIA director and the terrorist travel strategy, due in two weeks.
F's were cited for the lack of an adequate radio band for first responders, poor airline passenger pre-screening, the "burying" of the overall intelligence budget within the defense budget, and coalition standards for terrorist detention.
The report card gave an F to Congress for allocating homeland security funds "without regard for risk, vulnerability, or the consequences for an attack."
The homeland security funds are allocated according to population, meaning that an area facing a low risk of a terror threat gets roughly the same amount of funding per capita as a high risk area, such as New York City.
As a result, funds are being misappropriated, Kean suggested, pointing to the use of funds to buy air-conditioned garbage trucks and body armor for police dogs.
White House, FBI defend progress
White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Bush has "worked to address the recommendations of the commission" -- appointing a director of national intelligence, establishing a national counterterrorism center, tightening border security and implementing other policies.
"President Bush's top priority is the safety and security of the American people," McClellan said in a written statement. "Since September 11, President Bush has restructured and reformed the federal government to focus resources on counterterrorism and to ensure the security of our homeland."
The FBI said its progress has been "sweeping and continuous."
"The FBI has institutionalized our counterterrorism posture by making counterterrorism our overriding priority, shifting resources, and executing an intelligence-driven coordinated national strategy," it said.
It said it has more than twice as many agents, intelligence analysts and language analysts as it did on September 11, 2001, and four times as many members of Joint Terrorism Task Forces.
Long road ahead
The Bush administration has carried out one of the panel's main recommendations for overhauling the nation's intelligence system: the creation of the post of national intelligence director, charged with beefing up intelligence efforts and information-sharing among disparate agencies.
Kean and Lee Hamilton, the Democrat who was vice chairman of the commission, said the United States needs to quicken efforts to secure nuclear sites, and that only "some progress" was made on that front. The report card gave a D to what it called "maximum effort by U.S. government to secure WMD."
"We're talking about doing it in 14 years; nobody thinks we have 14 years," Kean told NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday. Bin Laden "has said he wants to use nuclear weapons to attack the United States. So that's got to be a much higher priority."
The report card wasn't intended to praise or criticize, Kean and Hamilton said. "Our purpose is to be constructive."
It is up to President Bush and Congress to enact the necessary reforms, both men said.
White House National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley acknowledged that the job of implementing the commission's recommendations is incomplete, but that nearly all have been reviewed and accepted.
"The president reviewed them. We accepted 70 of them in whole or in large measure, and that is being implemented now," he said. "Obviously, as we've said all along, we are safer, but not yet safe. There is more to do."

The Message of the Left at the last election: "Sure, our guy is a dullard but look at how they're fucking things up!"
The Message of the Right during the last election: "FEARFEARTERRORTERRORFEARTERROR...Tax cuts."
And now look at us.
If i were a member of Al-Queada (Sp?) I'd wait, and i'd plan, and I'd sneak on board a bunch of planes on the aniversary of the last attack, hijack them, and plow them into more buildings. Because it's obvious that little to nothing has been actually done to preserve the security of the union. That shit costs money. The Illusion of security is so much more useful to the creepy guys who run our country because it can be jerked away at any time. This is the kind of headlin that makes me want to go out and buy a sniper rifle.

A plan to network enable your car — As long as you don’t have to reboot just before a crash.
On November 14 Network World published an article entitled “U.S. pitches wireless highway safety plan” which discussed the US DoT plan called the VII project. The Vehicle Infrastructure Integration (VII) prject aims to reduce highway fatilities and improve congestion problems by transmitting warnings and road condition data to drivers and automobile computer systems via a 5.9 GHz short range (984 foot) wireless connection as you pass “Roadside Units” (RSUs). Data is gathered from your onboard computer and combined with GPS data, the data collection and transmittal is to be anonymous. You can read more about the proposed system on the concept of operations page.
One week later Network World published a second article entitled “GM to roll out intelligent car alternative” discussing the GM V2V plan based on the existing GM OnStar technology in combination with 802.11a/802.11p networking technology
If you haven’t heard about 802.11p then read this.
The 802.11p protocol, which enables motor-vehicle communications, is due to come before the executive committee of the IEEE (agenda) in Portland, Ore. this week.
The IEEE 802.11p Task Group was established for Wireless Access in Vehicular Environments (WAVE). The Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC) is a general purpose communications link between the vehicle and the roadside (or between vehicles) using the 802.11p protocol. ABI estimates that this sort of vehicular communications could see initial expenditures of $1 billion shortly. ITS America stressed the need to support the adoption of a single nationwide standard in the FCC rules
The new 802.11p protocol, just months old, improves on the range and speed of transmission on the dedicated 5.9 GHz licensed band, promising around 1,000 feet and 6 Mbit/s in average use, say reports

Yet another nail in the coffin of personal privacy. Is there anybody who believes this won't be hacked by nefarious individuals for nefarious purposes? If so, do you also believe in santa claus? I'm also of the opinion that it's just another step to law enforcement lobbies asking for the ability to code lock a vehicle via the network. In some cases, this could save lives. in other cases, it could be big trouble. Personally, I think it's about time to start making a list of devices that it's perfectly harmful to add a computer or a network connection to.

So you scratched your fancy paint job at the carwash, or scraped it on that limb you meant to trim in the driveway.
Someday soon, buffing out those little nicks won't be necessary.
Car paint is about to get smarter.
Nissan plans to begin offering a paint that repairs its own scratches and scrapes on some models of the X-Trail sport-utility vehicle planned for sale soon in Japan.
"The idea is nothing so new," said Kozo Saito, director of the Painting Technology Consortium in the University of Kentucky College of Engineering.
Research into a similar product, known as self-healing paint, is also under way at UK, said Saito, an endowed professor in mechanical engineering.
Minor scuffs, such as those caused by carwashes and off-road driving, disappear in about a week on cars that have Nissan's Scratch Guard Coat.
The Tokyo-based company says the coating, which contains elastic resin similar to a rubbery surface, is the first of its kind in the world. It developed the clear paint with Nippon Paint Co., company spokesman Kiyoshi Ariga said yesterday.
Car-washing machines account for most car surface scratches, according to Nissan. The Scratch Guard Coat lasts about three years, Nissan said.
Ariga said no decision has been made on whether Nissan will offer the scratch-proof paint, which costs $100 extra, on models sold outside Japan.
Saito said UK researchers will work with a paint supplier to test its self-healing material outside the laboratory setting, but that could take some time.
The Painting Technology Consortium has an annual budget of about $1.2 million and is funded by a number of private companies, including Toyota, Honda and Nissan.
The consortium, which Saito founded in 1993, also focuses on improving the efficiency of the painting process.
Saito said researchers are working on ways to reduce the amount of paint wasted in the spraying process.
One of his students has also developed a system that uses infrared technology -- rather than human inspectors -- to examine completed paint jobs. That system is currently in the patent process and is scheduled to be launched at Toyota Motor Manufacturing's Georgetown plant, Saito said.
Bruce Walcott, associate dean for economic development and innovations management at the UK College of Engineering, said he envisions a day when drivers will be able to press a button and change their car's color.
"Long term, paint is not going to be paint, per se," he said. "It's going to be something smart on there."

Nano-paint. I'm seeing scenes from the movie "Christine" in my head. Sign me up!

Sentencing expected today in Transylvania library thefts
A federal judge is expected to decide today how much time, if any, four Lexington men will spend in prison for the theft of rare books and manuscripts from Transylvania University's special collections library last December.
Warren C. Lipka, Spencer W. Reinhard, Charles T. Allen II and Eric Borsuk pleaded guilty to charges of robbery, conspiracy and theft of major art works earlier this year. Two of the men used a stun device on special collections librarian B.J. Gooch, tied her up, blindfolded her and then stole pencil sketches by John James Audubon, a first edition of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species and two manuscripts from the 15th and 16th centuries.
Federal prosecutors have recommended sentences of 11 to 14 years for each man. Defense lawyers argue that the men should receive much less. This morning, U.S. District Judge Jennifer Coffman heard testimony from an electronics engineer who testified that the stun device the men claimed to have used on Gooch would not cause serious injury and was not a dangerous weapon. John Barnes, an expert hired by the defense, said he tried the stun pen on himself.
"It will make you jump," Barnes said. "It stung."
But Barnes said the only way the pen could be considered a dangerous weapon is "if you jammed it in someone's eye."
But prosecutors question whether the pen was used as claimed -- or if one of four stun guns found at the home of three of the men -- was used on Gooch. Stun guns subdue people with a jolt of electricity.
Defense lawyers say the men ditched the stun pen after the robbery.
If the Coffman finds that the stunning device is a dangerous weapon under the law, it is considered an aggravating factor under federal sentence guidelines and could add years to the men's sentences.

We have books in Kentucky? Why wasn't i told?
On a more serious note, This reads to me like the plot of Mage game. a group of people using non-lethal methods to steal rare manuscripts? Priceless! and in my own backyard no less!

The The Falkirk Wheel is a giant rotating boat lift and elevated canal developed by British Waterways to reconnect the Union Canal with the Forth & Clyde Canal, re-establishing east to west coast access for boats.

a cool new thing if you have the occasional boat chase in your game. Also, i just like the look of the installation. It looks like the sort of place where the X-men should battle the brotherhood of Evil Mutants.

Panasonic Starts 50GB Blu-ray Production
After much chatter and anticipation, Panasonic has finally started production of dual-layer 50GB Blu-ray discs. Ok, so actually, they're calling it a "pilot production"—but hell, if something gets made and they can call it rabbit hunting I'm fine as long as it's in high def. This tech miracle is taking place at the Japanese company's Torrence, CA-based factory and is really the first attempt by any manufacturer to drum up a dual-layer Blu-ray disc.

Dear Panasonic: If you know what's good for you, you'll create a backwards compatible player or you'll create a player that can easily and inexpensively transfer DVD's onto an HDVD format. I don't what you do. I AM NOT BUYING MY MOVIE COLLECTION AGAIN.

That said, 50 gigs is a LOT of space for a single disc. Think of the porn collection you could amass!

Tesco is launching what it claims is the world’s first musical sandwich.
The sandwich plays a medley of Christmas tunes when the packaging is opened. It features the same technology used in talking greetings cards.
“The concept of musical sandwiches is something we’ve been looking at for a while now and we thought Christmas would be the perfect time,” said Tesco spokesman Jonathan Church. “If they prove to be as successful as we think then we will consider a whole range of musical sandwiches. One idea already under consideration is working with record companies to launch songs by new artists on the market by way of the musical sandwich.”
Tesco’s musical sandwich is a traditional Christmas combination of turkey and cranberry sauce with pork and cranberry stuffing.

I'm pretty sure this is a sign of the apocalypse. if not the death knell of western culture as we know it.

With new legislation, Ohio Republicans plan holiday burial for American Democracy
by Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman    

A law that will make democracy all but moot in Ohio is about to pass the state legislature and to be signed by its Republican governor. Despite massive corruption scandals besieging the Ohio GOP, any hope that the Democratic Party could win this most crucial swing state in future presidential elections, or carry its pivotal US Senate seat in 2006, is about to end.
House Bill 3 has already passed the Ohio House of Representatives and is about to be approved by the Republican-dominated Senate, probably before the holiday recess. Republicans dominate the Ohio legislature thanks to a heavily gerrymandered crazy quilt of rigged districts, and to a moribund Ohio Democratic Party. The GOP-drafted HB3 is designed to all but obliterate any possible future Democratic revival. Opposition from the Ohio Democratic Party, where it exists at all, is diffuse and ineffectual.
HB3's most publicized provision will require positive identification before casting a vote. But it also opens voter registration activists to partisan prosecution, exempts electronic voting machines from public scrutiny, quintuples the cost of citizen-requested statewide recounts and makes it illegal to challenge a presidential vote count or, indeed, any federal election result in Ohio. When added to the recently passed HB1, which allows campaign financing to be dominated by the wealthy and by corporations, and along with a Rovian wish list of GOP attacks on the ballot box, democracy in Ohio could be all but over.
The GOP is ramming similar bills through state legislatures around the US, starting with Georgia and Indiana. The ID requirements in particular have provoked widespread opposition from newspapers such as the New York Times. The Times, among others, argues that the ID requirements and the costs associated with them, constitute an unconstitutional discriminatory poll tax.
But despite significant court challenges, the Republicans are forcing changes in long-standing election laws that have allowed citizens to vote based on their signatures alone. Across the US, GOP Jim Crow laws will eliminate millions of Democratic voters from the registration rolls. In swing states like Ohio, such ballots are almost certain to be crucial.
The proposed Ohio law will demand a valid photo ID or a utility bill, a bank statement, a paycheck or a government document with a current address. Thousands of Ohio citizens who are elderly, homeless, unemployed or who do not drive will be effectively disenfranchised. Many citizens, for example, rent apartments where the utilities are paid by landlords. In such cases, the number of people living in utilities-included apartment rentals could actually determine an election.
During the 2004 presidential election, Ohio's Republican Secretary of State, J. Kenneth Blackwell, also issued statewide threats against ex-felons and people whose names resembled those of ex-felons. Thousands of such threats were delivered to registered voters who were never convicted of anything, or who were eligible to vote after being released from prison. In 2004 a "Mighty Texas Strike Force" came to Columbus with a specific mandate to threaten ex-felons with arrest if they dared to vote.
It is legal for ex-felons in Ohio to vote, even if they are in halfway houses or on parole. But HB3's identification requirement, combined with the confusion Blackwell has introduced into the process, will intimidate such Ohioans from voting in 2006 and beyond.
HB3 will also reduce voter rolls by ordering county boards of elections to send cards to registered voters every two years. If a card comes back as undelivered, the voter must rely on a provisional ballot. But tens of thousands of provisional ballots were arbitrarily discarded in 2004, and some 16,000 are known to remain uncounted to this day.
HB3 also imposes severe restrictions on voter registration drives. It allows the state attorney general and local prosecutors wide powers to prosecute vaguely defined charges of fraud against those working to sign up voters. The restrictions are clearly meant to chill the kind of Democratic registration drives that brought hundreds of thousands of new voters to the polls in 2004 (even though many were turned away in Democratic wards due to a lack of voting machines).
Those electronic machines will also be exempted from recounts by random sampling, even in close, disputed elections like those of 2000 and 2004.
In 2004, scores of Ohio voters reported, under oath, that they had pressed John Kerry's name on touchscreen machines, only to see George W. Bush's name light up. A board of elections technician in Mahoning County (Youngstown) has admitted that at least 18 machines there suffered such problems. Sworn testimony in Columbus indicates that votes for Kerry faded off the screen on touchscreen machines there. Other charges of misprogramming, reprogramming, recalibrating, mishandling and manipulation of electronic voting software, hardware and memory cards have since arisen throughout Ohio 2004.
For the 2005 election, some 41 additional Ohio counties (of 88) were switched to Diebold touchscreen machines. Despite polls showing overwhelming voter approval, two electoral reform issues went down in improbable defeat. Issue Two, meant to make voting easier, and Issue Three, on campaign finance reform, were shown by highly reliable Columbus Dispatch polls to be passing handily.
The Dispatch was within 0.5 percent on Issue One, a bond issue, and has rarely been significantly wrong in its many decades of Ohio polling. Even opponents of Issues Two and Three conceded that they were highly likely to pass.
On the Sunday before the Tuesday 2005 election, the Dispatch predicted Issue Two would pass by a vote of 59 percent to 33 percent, with about 8 percent undecided. But Tuesday's official vote count showed Issue Two failing with just 36.5 percent in favor and 63.5 percent opposed. For that to have happened, the Dispatch had to have been wrong on Issue Two's support by more than 20 points. Nearly half those who said they would support Issue Two would have had to vote against it, along with all the undecideds.
The numbers on Issue Three are equally startling. The Dispatch showed it winning with 61 percent, to just 25 percent opposed and some 14 percent undecided. Instead just 33 percent of the votes were counted in its favor, with 67 percent opposed, an almost inconceivable weekend turnaround.
No other numbers were comparable on November 8, 2005, or elsewhere in the recent history of Dispatch polling. The startling outcome has thus raised even more suspicion and doubt about the use of electronic voting and tabulating machines in Ohio, which account for virtually 100 percent of the state's vote count.
The federal General Accountability Office (GAO) has recently issued a major report confirming that tampering with and manipulating such machines can be easily done by a very small number of people. Charges are widespread that this is precisely what gave George W. Bush Ohio's electoral votes, and thus the presidency, in 2004, not to mention the suspicious referenda outcomes in 2005.
HB3 will make it virtually impossible for any challenge to be mounted involving any votes cast or counted on electronic machines or tabulators -- meaning virtually every vote cast in Ohio.
Indeed, HB3 will raise the cost of mounting a recount from $10 per precinct to $50 per precinct. In 2004, Secretary of State Blackwell forced citizen groups to raise private funds for a recount, which he proceeded to sabotage. The process, which became a futile electronic charade, cost donors committed to democracy more than $100,000. Three partial, meaningless faux recounts resulted. To date more than 100,000 votes cast in Ohio remain uncounted, including some 93,000 easily-read machine-rejected ballots. .
During the 2004 election process Blackwell, manipulated the number of precincts in Ohio, and issued inaccurate information about their location and boundaries, making a meaningful precise number hard to come by. But with more than 10,000 precincts still in existence, HB3 would make funding an attempt at another recount in 2006 or 2008 cost more than $500,000.
Such an effort might also result in official retaliation. In 2004, Blackwell and Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro -- both of whom are now Republican candidates for governor -- tried to impose stiff financial sanctions against attorneys who filed a legal challenge to the seating of the Ohio electors who gave George W. Bush the presidency. The Ohio Supreme Court disallowed the sanctions after the challenge was withdrawn. But HB3 would make such a federal election challenge illegal altogether.
With the electoral process in Ohio all but disemboweled, those hoping for a change of party in upcoming state and national elections are probably kidding themselves.
The 2004 election in the Buckeye state was riddled with deception, fraud, intimidation, manipulation and outright theft, all of which were essential to the triumph of George W. Bush. In 2005, four electoral reform ballot initiatives were allegedly defeated despite huge poll margins showing the almost certain passage of two of them. The most credible explanation for their defeat lies in electronic manipulation of voting machines, tabulators and memory cards which the GAO confirms have no credible security safeguards.
With campaign finance, voter registration, electronic voting, public recounts, district gerrymandering and overall electoral administration now firmly in the pocket of the GOP, and with Democratic opposition that is virtually non-existent on the issue of vote fraud and election manipulation, there is little reason to believe the Republican grip on Ohio will be loosened at any point in the near future.
In traditional terms, the scandal-ridden Ohio GOP would appear to be more vulnerable than ever. Governor Robert Taft has become the only Ohio governor to be convicted of a crime while in office. With an astonishing 7 percent approval rating, he has been compared to Homer Simpson by the state's leading Republican newspaper. Republican US Senator Mike DeWine appears highly vulnerable. The GOP has never won the White House without winning the Buckeye State.
But HB3 will solidify the GOP's iron grip on the electronic voting process and all that surrounds it. Unless they break that grip, Democrats who believe they can carry any part of Ohio in 2006 or 2008 are kidding themselves.
When it comes to 2008, can you say "Jeb Bush?"

If you want to steal a country's power, you don't do it with rockets and bombs and soldiers. You do it with legislation and lawsuits and the death of a thousand cuts. I used to think this sort of thing only happened in fiction. And that's why it works. Nobody can believe that it's actually happening. That how you steal a country. you make people beleive that it's not really happening. This sort of thing makes me wish that i still ran Abberant.

Today, 08:41 AM
"E-hijacking" is the term used to describe the theft of goods in transit by altering the electronic paperwork:
He pointed to the supposed loss of 3.9-million banking records stored on computer backup tapes that were being shipped by UPS from New York-based Citigroup to an Experian credit bureau in Texas. “These tapes were not lost – they were stolen,” Spoonamore said. “Not only were they stolen, the theft occurred by altering the electronic manifest in transit so it would be delivered right to the thieves.” He added that UPS, Citigroup, and Experian spent four days blaming each other for losing the shipment before realizing it had actually been stolen.
Spoonamore, a veteran of the intelligence community, said in his analysis of this e-hijacking, upwards of 15 to 20 people needed to be involved to hack five different computer systems simultaneously to breach the electronic safeguards on the electronic manifest. The manifest was reset from “secure” to “standard” while in transit, so it could be delivered without the required three signatures, he said. Afterward the manifest was put back to “secure” and three signatures were uploaded into the system to appear as if proper procedures had been followed.
“What’s important to remember here is that there is no such thing as ‘security’ in the data world: all data systems can and will be breached,” Spoonamore said. “What you can have, however, is data custody so you know at all times who has it, if they are supposed to have it, and what they are doing with it. Custody is what begets data security.”
This is interesting. More and more, the physical movement of goods is secondary to the electronic movement of information. Oil being shipped across the Atlantic, for example, can change hands several times while it is in transit. I see a whole lot of new risks along these lines in the future.

" Hmm." Said the fellow who always likes to play the netrunner...

Sono Finito

Saturday, December 03, 2005

One more bit

Future Feeder
Adam Kalkin’s Push Button House is a shipping container fully pimped out to reveal its lavish insides with the push of a button. “It works like a flower - you push a button and the thing transforms itself.”

I've used cargo containers in a number of scenarios. I once had a group of PC cops discover a nest of Setite gangbangers in a city of containers that had been welded together and sealed. This is just too neat to my way of thinking.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Friday News Roundup (12/02/05)

Most of the news items posted today were found Via BoingBoing, John C. Dvorak's Blog, and John Schneier's security Blog page.
If you know of a blog or RSS feed that has interesting, odd or downright weird news. In the interests of the commonweal, you should send it to me. - Tampa police bust mobile strip club at Bucs game — Strip Club on wheels? This is just too funny. It could become a trend. It has to be more interesting than the game.
TAMPA (AP) — A 40-foot motor home was converted into a strip club on wheels, offering alcohol and lap dances to football fans outside the stadium before kickoff of Sunday’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers game, police said.
Six women performed lap dances inside the motor home, charging $20 to $40 depending on whether they danced topless or totally nude, police said Tuesday. The vehicle, adorned with a sign for strip club Deja Vu, was parked across the street from Raymond James Stadium.
Patrons paid a $20 cover charge and were served alcohol, said Tampa police Sgt. Bill Todd. Officers also caught a male patron smoking marijuana in the back of the vehicle.

Now, This is the kind of Entrepenurial Spirit that made this country great. Talk about your interesting random encounters.

FBI to Approve All Software?
Sounds implausible, I know. But how else do you explain this FCC ruling (from September -- I missed it until now):

The Federal Communications Commission thinks you have the right to use software on your computer only if the FBI approves. No, really. In an obscure "policy" document released around 9 p.m. ET last Friday, the FCC announced this remarkable decision.

According to the three-page document, to preserve the openness that characterizes today's Internet, "consumers are entitled to run applications and use services of their choice, subject to the needs of law enforcement." Read the last seven words again.

The FCC didn't offer much in the way of clarification. But the clearest reading of the pronouncement is that some unelected bureaucrats at the commission have decreeed that Americans don't have the right to use software such as Skype or PGPfone if it doesn't support mandatory backdoors for wiretapping. (That interpretation was confirmed by an FCC spokesman on Monday, who asked not to be identified by name. Also, the announcement came at the same time as the FCC posted its wiretapping rules for Internet telephony.)

Here's the actual URL for the PDF.

Does this scare anybody as much as it scares me? It's these tiny bits and pieces of our basic freedoms that are chipping away. It's stuff like this that makes me wonder how prescient the fascist america of Trinity is.

Scientists found evidence in Scotland of a water scorpion that was 5.2 feet long and about 3.2 feet wide. The monster lived about 350 million years ago. Dr. Martin Whyte of Sheffield University discovered tracks of the monster, known as Hibbertopterus, found the tracks in sandstone on a former beach. From the BBC News:
The length of track preserved, 6m (20ft), is remarkable. The stride pattern, too, is huge - 27cm (11in).

Fragmentary fossils of Hibbertopterus are well known from Scottish Lower Carboniferous rocks and were first described from West Lothian in 1831.

The creature did not have the big pincers or carry its tail in the air like the land scorpions we know today, and it did not have a sting, either; but these animal groups are nonetheless distantly related, scientists believe.

What is interesting about this trackway is that is shows Hibbertopterus could move out of its usual water habitat.

"There has been debate about whether it was restricted to water or could come out on land. I believe this trackway shows it could come out for short periods," explained Dr Whyte.

Giant water scorpions. Let repeat that. This planet. the one we think we KNOW everything about, sports not only stealthy Ceolocanths, but now GIANT WATER SCORPIONS!
How fucking cool is that? THIS is the best arguement for intelligent design i've seen so far. God is a nerd just like us. And he loves his legos.

A man who called himself “Dr. Chaos” online was sentenced Wednesday to seven years in federal prison for hacking into computers and causing power failures in northeastern Wisconsin.
Joseph D. Konopka, 29, already is serving a 13-year federal prison sentence for pleading guilty in 2002 to chemical weapons possession for storing cyanide near a Chicago subway.
Prosecutors said Konopka, formerly of Hobart, and an “anarchist group of boys” called Realm of Chaos were responsible for 28 power outages affecting 30,000 customers and 20 other service interruptions in 1999. Damage was estimated at $800,000.

Am I understanding this correctly? This dude was dumb enough to get caught hacking, and then keep doing it in jail and get caught again? But yet smart enough to actually hack whole entire power system from the state pen?

Mosquito ultrasound gadget drives off loitering teens
Though he did not know it at the time, the idea came to Howard Stapleton when he was 12 and visiting a factory with his father, a manufacturing executive in London. Opening the door to a room where workers were using high-frequency welding equipment, he found he could not bear to go inside.
“The noise!” he complained.
“What noise?” the grownups asked.
Now 39, Stapleton has taken the lesson he learned that day - that children can hear sounds at higher frequencies than adults can - to fashion a novel device that he hopes will provide a solution to the eternal problem of obstreperous teenagers who hang around outside stores and cause trouble.

A trip to Spar here in Barry confirmed the strange truth of the phenomenon…..The Mosquito is positioned just outside the door. Although this reporter could not hear anything, being too old, several young people attested to the fact that yes, there wasThe Mosquito is positioned just outside the door. Although this reporter could not hear anything, being too old, several young people attested to the fact that yes, there was a noise, and yes, it was extremely annoying.
“It’s loud and squeaky and it just goes through you,” said Jodie Evans, 15. “It gets inside you.”

So, I've been reading about Infrasound frequencies and how they can affect behavior, They can do bad things to you. They can make you suggestable. They can make you freak out and/or hallucinate. Now, there is this new thing to come down the pike. Course, if you want to make those kids get off your damn yard, Hit them with this gun. Want to make the old amusement park seem haunted AND keep away those pesky teen investigators away. This is the thing you need.

Federal wiretaps can be defeated by playing a beep-tone into the phone

The automated wiretapping system built into voice-switches under the US federal CALEA law can be trivially defeated by bad guys who simply play a beep-tone into their receivers, according to a research paper published in October and revised yesterday.
To defeat wiretapping systems, the target need only send the same "idle signal" that the tapping equipment sends to the recorder when the telephone is not in use. The target could continue to have a conversation while sending the forged signal.
The tone, also known as a C-tone, sounds like a low buzzing and is "slightly annoying but would not affect the voice quality" of the call, Mr. Blaze said, adding, "It turns the recorder right off."
What this means is that when the cops want to wiretap a moderately skilled crook, he can defeat their efforts. But when an honest person is being caught up in the kind of indiscriminate wiretapping enabled under post-911 laws like PATRIOT and the Homeland Security Act, they can expect to have their conversations recorded. Likewise when a criminal hijacks the legally mandated CALEA wiretapping back-doors at the local phone-company. This is a wiretapping system that really only works on law-abiding citizens. The FBI claims that this only effects older equipment, but some experts report that modern equipment was designed for backwards compatibility with the vulnerable stuff, leaving it, too, vulnerable to this attack.

You can't tell me that someone isn't scrambling to fix this problem. The more I find out about government computer systems the more I wonder how this country runs at all. Did you know that the IRS has seven seperate computer systems and none of them work together? SHOCKING! Next thing you know they'll discover that you can whistle your way through the entire telephony system with a plastic whistle from a box of Captain Crunch.
Oh Wait...

Nation’s spending out of line —
Free spending big government Republicans are breaking the country. After all the talk about fiscal responsibility and small government from these guys, this is what they give us.
Last month, the national debt reached yet another miserable milestone, passing the $8 trillion mark for the first time. As of last week, the United States was $8,084,858,891,735.31 in the hole, according to the Treasury Department.

Here is the depressing stuff you should now consider before the 2006 elections:
In fact, Bush has borrowed more money — $1.05 trillion — from foreign governments and banks since taking office than all other presidents combined.
From 1776 to 2000, the nation’s first 42 presidents borrowed a combined $1.01 trillion from foreign interests, official statistics show. In just five years, Bush has out-borrowed them all.

So, I think I'll dig out all the games and supplements about post apocalyptic America and all the same stuff that deals with America as an economic sinkhole and start looking for survival tips. This is the fall of the roman empire all over again. Was it the lead pipes? Was it the corruption? or was it the leaders who were crazy or stupid? I guess we're going to find out.

Giving the U.S. Military the Power to Conduct Domestic Surveillance
More nonsense in the name of defending ourselves from terrorism:
The Defense Department has expanded its programs aimed at gathering and analyzing intelligence within the United States, creating new agencies, adding personnel and seeking additional legal authority for domestic security activities in the post-9/11 world.
The moves have taken place on several fronts. The White House is considering expanding the power of a little-known Pentagon agency called the Counterintelligence Field Activity, or CIFA, which was created three years ago. The proposal, made by a presidential commission, would transform CIFA from an office that coordinates Pentagon security efforts -- including protecting military facilities from attack -- to one that also has authority to investigate crimes within the United States such as treason, foreign or terrorist sabotage or even economic espionage.
The Pentagon has pushed legislation on Capitol Hill that would create an intelligence exception to the Privacy Act, allowing the FBI and others to share information gathered about U.S. citizens with the Pentagon, CIA and other intelligence agencies, as long as the data is deemed to be related to foreign intelligence. Backers say the measure is needed to strengthen investigations into terrorism or weapons of mass destruction.
The police and the military have fundamentally different missions. The police protect citizens. The military attacks the enemy. When you start giving police powers to the military, citizens start looking like the enemy.
We gain a lot of security because we separate the functions of the police and the military, and we will all be much less safer if we allow those functions to blur. This kind of thing worries me far more than terrorist threats.

What did I just say? How on earth is this a good thing? It's only a good thing if you're on the inside of the cabal that's taking over the country. Also, isn't this a violation of the Posse Comitatus act?

A 15-year-old girl with a peanut allergy died after kissing her boyfriend, who had just eaten a peanut butter snack, hospital officials said Monday.
Christina Desforges died in a Quebec hospital Wednesday after doctors were unable to treat her allergic reaction to the kiss the previous weekend.
Desforges, who lived in Saguenay, about 155 miles north of Quebec City, was almost immediately given a shot of Adrenaline, a standard tool for treating the anaphylactic shock brought on by a peanut allergy, officials said.
About 1.5 million Americans are severely allergic to even the smallest trace of peanuts and peanut allergies account for 50 to 100 deaths in the United States each year. Canadian figures were not immediately available.

Ok. This is pretty horrific. Sadly, i can totally see using this as an event in a character background. I can also see using Hyperhistamines as an assasins tool. Could they weaponize this? Could they cover a battlefield with it and then unleash the bees? This is some freaky shit. Especially when allergic reactions are ostensibly a means of protecting the body from things that it deems toxic. Yes that's right. Allergies are safety mechanism that can kill you, just like airbags.

Bubble Gum Said to Increase Breast Size Hits the U.S.
After a year on the Japanese market, a natural breast enhancing dietary supplement, is now available for American women….
Good One Ltd. claims that when chewed three or four times a day, B2UP bubble gum can increase breast size, improve circulation, reduce stress and fight aging. The powerful ingredient is the Pueraria Mirifica root extract also known as Gwao Krua, and is indigenous to Thailand and Burma. The plant’s underground tubers contain a number of chemicals called Phytoestrogens, natural compounds which apparently mimic the effects of the female sex hormone Oestrogen.
The company said tests carried out by Thailand’s Chulalongkorn University found Pueraria mirifica therapy was able to enhance breast size up to 80%.
Data provided by the manufacturer of B2UP said, a group of 50 women took Pueraria Mirifica over 90 days, the results:
* 28%show no change in bust size
* 54% show measurable increase in bust size
* 18% show major increase in bust size

I love science. I really really do. I can't relly relate this to some kind of game thing. and I don't really care.

Possible "love molecule" identified
Psychiatrists from Pavia University have associated early romantic love with a biochemical known as nerve growth factor (NGF). Apparently, levels of NGF in the bloodstream were significantly higher in subjects who were in the early stages of romance than individuals not in a relationship. Interestingly, "subjects in love who—after 12–24 months—maintained the same relationship but were no longer in the same mental state to which they had referred during the initial evaluation" did not have elevated NGF levels. Link to the paper summary in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology,

Another thing I hope they are never able to weaponize.
Unless i can have one.
All of a sudden, i feel the need to go listen to the KISS album "Love Gun".
Actually, this might not be a bad thing at all. You could conceivably build a successful marriage counceling practice around this. Of course this could lead to having to take "Love my wife" pills.

Interdicting Terrorist Funding
Want to make the country safer from terrorism? Take the money now being wasted on national ID cards, massive data mining projects, fingerprinting foreigners, airline passenger profiling, etc., and use it to fund worldwide efforts to interdict terrorist funding:
The government's efforts to help foreign nations cut off the supply of money to terrorists, a critical goal for the Bush administration, have been stymied by infighting among American agencies, leadership problems and insufficient financing, a new Congressional report says.
More than four years after the Sept. 11 attacks, "the U.S. government lacks an integrated strategy" to train foreign countries and provide them with technical assistance to shore up their financial and law enforcement systems against terrorist financing, according to the report prepared by the Government Accountability Office, an investigative arm of Congress.
One unidentified Treasury official quoted anonymously in the report said that the intergovernmental process for deterring terrorist financing abroad is "broken" and that the State Department "creates obstacles rather than coordinates effort." A State Department official countered that the real problem lies in the Treasury Department's reluctance to accept the State Department's leadership in the process.
In another problem area, private contractors used by the Treasury Department and other agencies have been allowed to draft proposed laws in foreign countries for curbing terrorist financing, even though Justice Department officials voiced strong concerns that contractors should not be allowed to play such an active role in the legislative process.
The contractors' work at times produced legislative proposals that had "substantial deficiencies," the report said.
The administration has made cutting off money to terrorists one of the main prongs in its attack against Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups. It has seized tens of millions of dollars in American accounts and assets linked to terrorist groups, prodded other countries to do the same, and is now developing a program to gain access to and track potentially hundreds of millions of international bank transfers into the United States.
But experts in the field say the results have been spotty, with few clear dents in Al Qaeda's ability to move money and finance terrorist attacks. The Congressional report- a follow-up to a 2003 report that offered a similarly bleak assessment - buttresses those concerns.

Proof positive that anytime you ask the question, "WHY DON'T THEY..."
The answer to that question is always money.

Sono Finito.