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Ether Mind

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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

I wish

I wish I could see the world that people live in. The world where Columbine, 9/11, and Jeremiah Wright are surprising. Where you don't see these things coming a mile away. Where every new threat is existential and must be overreacted to immediately, just like the last one.

I remember in the 90s, the problem was landfills and soil pollution and acid rain. What happened to them? They're probably still a bigger problem than Global Warming.

How on Earth can you be surprised by 9/11? I heard someone say "they blew up the world trade center" and the first thought that popped into my head was "Again?" The second thought was "Frickin Bin Laden."

The third thought was that it could be some elaborate ploy by the Chinese Army. Probably not.

Flying planes into buildings? First of all, I had the same idea. The Columbine shooters considered it. It was mentioned in some crazy pamphlet McVeigh had. It's not original. 7 years later, people think it was an unforeseen event, and they still think it was horrible.

Do you realize the intention was to knock the tower over sideways? No evacuation time and goodbye to 4 blocks of lesser buildings. 50000 dead, at least, plus the white house. We got off easy thanks to American Engineering (TM) and cell phones made in Taiwan. Also, they didn't have the A380 available.

Fortunately, with reinforced cockpits, no one will be able to stop the next hijacker who tries it.

In what dimension is Hillary a genuine person who brings hope? I find it unfathomable.

Why haven't any of the successors to C++ been adopted? For bonus giggles, check out Intel's new whitepaper on parallelization.

This girl gained fame and notoriety, and thousands of doting pedophiliac followers, without showing so much as a bra strap. Yet Miley Cyrus et al have to dress like prostitutes to get preteen girls to watch them.

Felicity: The American Girl Movie or somesuch. It has a glaring flick flub: secular humanism. Yes, that's what 18th century Americans relied on in times of struggle. Way to fail, Hollywood.

50 years from now, old people will be listening to the Top 40 crap from today. Avril Lavigne will be a classic. Dynamite Hack and MC Lars will be down the memory hole.

Millions of Gwen Stefani fans have never heard of No Doubt.

People still can't make ends meet. I live like a frickin KING on less than the average poor schlub makes. At least, I think so. Hot water every day, as much as I want. All the groceries I can eat. Thousands of years of culture, at my fingertips. Music on demand. And people are starving, trying to borrow enough money from EZCash or whatever to get something to eat at Starbucks.

Gas is so expensive that it's hard to go see the NASCAR races with your family.

Scientists are
1) Studying evolution
2) Trying to save the Giant Panda
3) Making sheeple and humanzees in test tubes
4) Researching new drugs to save the infirm and stop that damned evolution

What I've noticed is that we're fragmented into a number of cultures and subcultures, but we generally get along by being totally oblivious to our surroundings. We just interpret everything we hear as though it were we who said it.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Cypher's Tale 39


Betty made it to the corner of the Quadrangle at 2214. The Quadrangle was a system of streets that comprised the most expensive real estate in the city, though recent years had seen it drop to more reasonable levels. This corner was an intersection like so many others, 200 meters or so from the bridge between Plaza 43 and Plaza 44.

The span was a grey wisp in the night sky. Betty ran toward it, eyes fixed on a tiny inky droplet that depended from its keystone.

The keystone was a plastic facade. The droplet was Alpha Point local.

As she watched, a puff of whiteness and a piercing synthetic drumbeat broke the haiku that was the droplet's eternal equipoise. It oh-so-slowly... dripped.

Betty stumbled to a stop. Bemused onlookers turned from her sweaty, heaving bosom to find what she was looking at. More than one neck popped, unused to tilting up.

Slowly- only .6 G, and against a kilometer backdrop, the faceted spheroid office building dropped toward streetlevel.

"Oh shimatta."
Wha- OH FU trailed off in a stream of noise and 2600 baud.

Stoplights turned red. Traffic halted. A few pedestrians, then a mad rush stampeded away from the point of impact.

Eighteen seconds was long enough for most to escape serious injury.

It hit like a bomb, or an earthquake. It sank into the hollowed out skin of the city and buckled concrete in two separate waves. It fractured ten thousand windows. A front of debris like a dust storm whipped down the canyon, throwing laggards from their feet. It nicked exposed flesh. The building screamed its last so loudly that it was as if the whole city groaned in steel.

She watched the wandering rows of glass facets crush, successively, under the weight of the next. A fountain of hydrogen gas ejected upward, popping, flaming, raining pure water through the greasy air. Droplets struck her face, her 200 meters away. Her silky red dress whipped up in the sudden gale, revealing a silky red rounded butt. A water main burst, but that sprinkle was lost in the hulking devastation that settled, finally, five stories high, embedded in a sinkhole and a skyscraper's front.

"Oh. Oh. Oh Shilo."
That's what ... I like to hear ... I got nothin. wow.

The Cypher's Tale 38


The field marshal exited the stairwell onto an observation platform lost in the night sky. Smog was thinner here, so thin that the gleam of satellites and planets could be seen overhead. He looked up at the sky for a moment. His grip almost loosened.

Not quite. He followed the curve of the platform around the tower until it opened up into a wide span, bridging two great towers. Not that great, he thought. The Elevator in Ecuador is bigger.

In the light of streetlamps that luminated the grand catwalk, twenty men with carbines stood side by side. They formed a wall of flesh and shiny new military gear that believed itself unbreachable. More were stationed in the service tunnels and ventricles below.

Tyson stood alone in the center of the causeway, 10 meters from the enemy line, gripping his nagamaki overhand. The blade dripped to his right, at thigh level.
"Put down your weapon."
Tyson put his right foot forward and raised the point.
The speaker carried a bullhorn and stood behind the rank of riflemen. He was rattled, first by the situation, and second by the complete uselessness of the weapon he was demanding surrendered. Why, in the name of all that was holy, did he have to try to capture this nut?
"Surrender now and live," Tyson said.
"Surrender now and live."
"No, you surrender. The exits are blocked. We want to discuss this peacefully." In our interrogation cell you filthy bastard.
Tyson sniffed. "You may also retreat."
If the enemy demands your surrender, you have no need to surrender, he thought contemptuously. He pondered the situation and twisted the butt of the nagamaki another notch.
"Why should I?"
"Why- because it's better than dying! What the hell kind of question is that? The longer this goes on, the more likely one of my men gets twitchy and shoots your dumb ass!"
On cue, one of the riflemen collapsed in a heap of bloody foam from the nose. His nearest neighbors turned to look, and then they too fell to the nerve agent.
Tyson dove back into the shadows.
"Shoot him!"
Several men tried to follow orders. One managed a spritz in Tyson's general direction. A few turned and ran- one made it, by some chance, to the far tower and safety.

The rest, including the lieutenant with the bullhorn, collapsed into bleeding, writhing balls of agony. They had all been exposed by the time the first symptoms appeared. It was a fast acting agent, dispersed by a highly pressurized aerosol delivery system.

Chemical weapons are one of the few area weapons that, like blades, are silent. Tyson had cut down twenty men without a sound.

The Cypher's Tale 37 Alt 2


Betty, he's there.

Her feet rolled on the pavement like a Masai tribeswoman's, spraying dust and gravel when she turned the next corner. The deserted jetstream district with its 30 story zoning limit had changed into Uptown, with its incredible concrete canyons. People became more numerous - at ten, many were leaving home for the city nightlife.

They stared at the red and peach streak that covered decameters per second. Rocks and bits of bits embedded insensibly in her feet. The occasional red drops splatted from her shredded right hand.

A car's lights flashed over a bump- she leapt from the curb and kept running on the other side of the street.

The Cypher's Tale 37 Alt 1


In a black space that extended to infinity, a space with no real physical dimensions, a dozen constellations were under attack.

Shilo moved his fingers, fingers that he didn't really have, but it seemed futile. Eight golden rings surrounded him. Sigils spun through space of their own accord with every flicker of his eyes. They fixed flickering flowcharts as fast as the universe dissolved, but the swirling debris told a tale of vast destruction. Seventeen color codes represented the seventeen estimated opposition hackers. Streams of gibberish issued forth in seventeen- eighteen- colors to dash and deflect against logical constructs of sublime beauty. One font of bits, a lovely teal, was swallowed whole by the Riemann function.

Shilo's army was invincible. Twenty infuriated godlets surrounded him. Slowly, they had been gaining on the data streams that constituted supply lines. Slowly, they broke each new encoding faster than a new one could be implemented.

Then they stopped. At fourteen seconds, fifteen, his code stood. Subterfuge? No.

"Betty, he's there."

The Cypher's Tale 37


2 concussions, one ruined hand, and an old man dead of a heart attack. The survivors were marketers, schmoozers, up and comers who knew people who knew people. Their survival would be more destructive to the organization than their loss.

On the 301st floor, he destroyed a number of servers. Their databanks he carelessly released into the wild. They represented the entire codebreaking apparatus of the city's security forces. The lost business ran into 9 digits.

The server farm was dark, and now silent. Four large boxes lay torn and charred. The front door hissed open, spilling light.
"I don't know, they all went offline five minutes ago! Yes."
A man followed an older woman into the darkness. They paused, unbalanced when the lights failed to come on.
"Could it be a power outage?"
Tyson stepped out of the shadows to their rear and pierced the man's neck with his nagamaki. The blade's tip issued cleanly from the man's Adam's apple, like a lancet. It sliced its way out.

A woman screamed.

The Cypher's Tale 36 Alt 1


"Then find him and tell him to come back."
I can't.
"You can find anyone."
I can correlate every sensor in the city and extract data. I can home in on the implants in your skull. But I can't find Tyson for one simple reason.
We're breathless with anticipation.
Shut up, Alice. It's because he doesn't have any electronics. He doesn't have so much as a filling. And he's like a cat. He can see the network blind spots.
It's.. look, we know where he's going. That's not the problem. If you think you can physically stop him, please try.
Betty, no. Someone else try to stop him.

The Cypher's Tale 36 Rev B


Tyson bailed out of an unmarked white van at a rear entrance to Plaza 43. Kelly closed the door remotely, concealing a pile of black and grey, and drove away bewildered.

Tyson didn't care. He popped open the exterior door with a crowbar- an elegant tool from a more civilized age- and tossed it in a dumpster. He entered a disused stairwell.

On the 300th floor, a white haired man was cracked across the back of the skull and fell unconscious. The office was empty now but for a back room. Five men watched a presentation of Alpha Point's new marketing campaign. Charts and figures hovered above the table they surrounded.

The door opened. Bryant turned to speak but found a black, varnished piece of wood in his solar plexus. Tyson spun the other end to smack the presenter's temple. Both men crumpled. Tyson lifted the meter of wood and brought it down
"What are-"
on the soft spot of a third skull.
The two businessmen on the other side of the table glanced at each other. One began to draw a pistol, but Tyson swept the stick across the table and unleashed a 90 cm blade through the man's hand. He brought it back and grasped the handle like a staff. The blade sheened like oil.

The Cypher's Tale 49


They sat, once again, in a circle around the office.

"I don't see how we can trust somebody who calls himself Maniac. Obsessive."
Daniel said, "I agree. Look at the way he tried to kill off Tyson. He's a hack."
Tyson was silent. His scars had gained another layer, but it was barely noticeable. Moe had called it 'distinguished.'
The boss said, "Doesn't matter. We have no choice but to go along with him."

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Cypher's Tale 35


WHAT did she say?
The morlocks flinched under the sudden demand. It hit them all at once.
"Uh, Central-"
She said Tyson would counterattack?
"Shy-kun, that's his job, to plan the coun-"
You know that tiger tattoo on his back?
Why did we have to hire
The stream ended abruptly.
"Shilo? Shilo!"
"You scared me."
You should be scared, we've got a PTSD soldier running around the city.
Moe started to shake in Daniel's arms. He wrinkled his nose and interjected, "So what's the problem?"
I can't even explain it. He follows a different philosophy of life. Africa isn't like here. And these glorified mall cops that hit us are nothing NOTHING like the kids in Africa.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Tales of the Cypherpunk - D


I danced my way up and back down Mill. Some places it's called 6th street, but usually it's Mill. It's the street with nothing but restaurants and stores full of crap. Sports memorabilia, record stores, theme stores with vintage clothing, philly cheese steaks and clubs and a post office. Sober tourists on a Saturday afternoon, inebriated crowds at night. It was the end of a long afternoon- I saw the 6 PM news van leaving as I did.

I skipped to a halt at a mysterious green door, set in the wall between some crappy store and some crappy restaurant. A cryptic sign read "Fetchback. The Retargeting Company."

Well, retargeting sounded good to me, but why was there no storefront? It must lead upstairs to a trendy loft studio where men in shiny shirts used Macs to do whatever Macs supposedly did. I pondered the sign. At this time of day, it was probably closed.

Suddenly, a small, paunchy Mexican man appeared. He pulled repeatedly on the brass handle and said, "Unado."
"Uh?" I replied.
"wahwahwahwah?" he asked.
"I was just wondering what this company does."
"No comprende."
"Que typo del trabajo?"
"Yo no se."

I went home.

The Cypher's Tale 34


"Moe? Moe, talk to me."
In the cool, dim underground, Daniel held her by the shoulders. Her radiant reds were dulled; despite her curves, she seemed small.

Behind her, the tech shifted awkwardly in a lawn chair.
"Moe, Moe, we need you, right? We have to know what's coming next."
Behind her, Betty frowned in confusion. She twirled an index finger around her ear. The tech choked on her soda.
Daniel stepped forward and hugged her. "It's fine, this was all predicted. We have procedures. Tyson's just checking on his people. You have to do your job now."
Ne Dan whats this about Moe n Ty???
I have no clue. Did you find him?
Theres like 10 deaders up there but I think they were all bad guys. And his guns and stuff are gone.
He felt Moe sniffling into his chest. Christ Almighty.
The oracle seems to be... broken. What's the exact body count?
Theres 2 many pieces. I don't want to go around counting arms. Like people arms, not weapons.
.. pieces? nm What's the update.
"Brenda's okay! Sweet. She got hit by an element of Alpha Point."

Moe looked up and softly said, "The opfor targeted the HQ, command and control, operatives on the J account, and the military division. Simultaneous time on target, 18% of Alpha Point personnel, and elaborate subterfuge were incorporated. Information warfare was employed as a secondary measure. The implied goal was to eliminate all knowledge of Solomon's Key. The planning implies that the opfor has access to the key. Means and motive indicate some part of Central Intelligence operating covertly. The primary targets should have been destroyed; it was only chance that they encountered resistance here-" her voice skipped a beat- "and fortune that Betty is a hardened target. Their information about our capabilities has now increased."
"They have lost 18% of Alpha's manpower. Analysis of force effectiveness shows that our contractors would be victorious against opfor assets currently in the metropolitan area, assuming parity in cyberwarfare assets."
"Usotsuki! Shilo ga motto better than parity!"
"Assuming parity in cyberwarfare assets. At any rate... we... ah, they will consider a second wave, but they won't launch. CI will try to infiltrate. The boss missed the first target point. Assuming Tyson survived, he will counterattack. The motor pool will renegotiate their contract when the net is restored. We have to begin propaganda efforts. The first narrative should be beginning on newsfeeds now: bloody shootout, espionage, industrial warfare. Temporary chance to exploit internal division between AP muscle and brains. Betty, your hands."
Moe buried her face once more into Daniel's button-up shirt.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Right Wing Critique of the Week - Carnegie

Yeah, Dale and Andrew Carnegie are totally different people. I thought so.

How to Win Friends and Influence People has been cited by a lot of successful peeps. And let me tell ya, it's frickin' magic. I was reading chapter 3 today and this Singaporean dude I know rolled up. So I used what I'd learned on him and within a couple of minutes he said, "I bet you'd be a cool boss." I'm like, yo, this book is da shizzle. I GOTS ta write me a post on it.

My enthusiasm was such that I lapsed into the jive of my youth. Trust you me, it's a worthwhile book.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Nonexistent Right Under Attack

April 23, 2008 - The Senate is likely to approve on Thursday a new bill that would prevent companies from discriminating on the basis of genetics. The greatest effect would be on the insurance industry, including corporate pensions and health plans.

"This will set back health care twenty years," said one Ford executive, speaking on condition of anonymity because I made him up. "The UAW has enough healthy children to supply the industry even without this bill."

Others point out that this bill could be struck down by the Supreme court, citing language in the 11th amendment guaranteeing "Free use of ye information... The Congress shall make no laws respecting Thoughtcrime."

As of this morning, the relevant part of the constitution could not be found. An examination of the original Bill of Rights reveals no evidence of tampering with the Xerox copy paper it is printed on.

Constitutional law scholar Barack Obama, asked about the pending legislation at a town hall Monday, smiled and nodded.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Tales of the Cypherpunk - C


I ran in the street when it was 103 out. Humid. I ran because I was homeless and jobless and had nothing better to do. So I got to her house, let myself in, got a glass of water in a glass cylinder with little crosshatched squares on the outside, and plopped down on the couch. It was so cool and leather. My head throbbed. I didn't move again. I fell asleep.

And when I slept, I dreamt of a city made of encryption. It was transparent and sprouted up from a round beveled base of the same stuff. The buildings were generally taller in the center; the skyline was a noisy 3d fourier series. And though the walls were made of nothing more than mathematics itself, they were impenetrable. They were translucent, matte grey, and opaque all at the same time. Streams of squiggles wiggled around the surfaces. I saw it for one timeless moment. I still see it.

I woke with useless muscles and nausea and thirst.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Cypher's Tale 33


A black space. A safe space. The safest place in the world.
What? What is it?
"Infowar. Jonas, may want your assist."
How? Hey, it's starting to smell out here.
"Clean, hell."

The endless night sky was filled with constellations, multicolored apparitions, so many that the farthest ones began to blur due to the lack of resolution of the human brain. Shilo's halo had reproduced and now four sets of sigils spun around his waist at arm's length. He pulled copies loose, stuck them together, nested them, and sent them spinning into orbit.

The nearer structures around him were under assault. To his right, they represented his external servers, accounts, and clouds. Those were fine, for the moment, but soon enough his forward operating bases would be attacked. They were replaceable.

To his left were the assets of the company and its supply chain. These were being scanned- not obviously, but the bandwidth couldn't be hidden. A few were being probed for weakness. Shut them down? No.

Symbols- the universal network language- danced. They could be translated into a human language, or the unicode, or geometric proofs, but here they were used in a simple syntax that expressed things that didn't translate into any reasonable concept.
Sine your pitty on the runny kine.
an empty product, or nullary product, is the result of multiplying no numbers. Its numerical value is 1
He rerouted the explorers between a whirlpool and a kraken, into a Turing Machine that would pretend to be a real server.
Shilo, find my Oniichan! moto hayai!
Others.. the motor pool was under a deluge. Take it offline compromise action query? He zapped it, set up another Turing, and pinged to alert the network. They were rerouted onto his rotating anonymous freenet. But the bandwidth might compromise stealth.
This is Brenda, checking in.
Only two left, then. He didn't tell her that no one had been interested in her safety.
To his right, a proxy went down ugly. Unplugged? They had seen him, not him, of course, but the other end of the secure line was open.

The Cypher's Tale 25 Alt 1


She had kept them stalled past sundown.

Micah fidgeted in a corner under the iron sights of a square faced bottle blond. Brenda stood in the center of her living room, hands above her head. A sandy haired man stared at her over a machine gun. A young male lay on a sofa, pushed against the wall, staring at the ceiling, breathing blood. His neck was swathed in bandages.

There was a knock on the door. "That you?"
The sandy haired man backed toward the door. He motioned the blond to cover Brenda, and then turned the door handle.

It blew open (again). A high pitched rattle sent gouts of blood spraying from the sandy man's back. Tyson stepped left and fired his machine pistol at the blond. Fourteen 8mm balls severed her thumb and buried into her breast. She swung her carbine toward him, but Tyson stepped right and held the sandy haired corpse between them. The blond collapsed onto knees and elbows, struggling to raise her weapon, but rich arterial blood flowed over it. She collapsed on her face in an indecorous position.

Tyson dropped the 70 kilo bloody rag and scanned the apartment. Micah goggled at him. He stepped inside, releasing the pistol to hang at his hip by its bandolier.

"That all?"
"Sir! What's going on?" She lowered her hands. The purple dress was torn. Her eye was black and swollen.
"HQ attacked. You didn't respond to accountability."
"No, they jammed the place. I managed to stall them though."
Tyson nodded and dragged the bodies into the center of the floor. He rolled the blond over and shook his head.
"Shit, my carpet is ruined."
"Not now, honey."
In the light of the apartment, among the baroque furnishings, Tyson looked as bad as his latest opponents. His face and arms wore soot on burns on burn scars. Blood soaked his T-shirt and khaki cuffs. His hands were cut.

Tyson drew the blade from his left hip and raised it above the tender young- his own age- male on the couch. Ice blue eyes opened wide, and tried to roll away, but the blade came down and severed his head completely. Tyson pulled the nihonto from the sofa cushion and wiped it on one of the dry spots on his pants.
"ah... Sir?"
"The blade has no name. Consider it a wakizashi. The long handle gives more power in close quarters." He spoke in a flat, almost tinny voice.
"Are you..."
Tyson turned to the door. "When you're secure, try to find the boss. I'm counterattacking." He set the PDA from his wrist on an end table with a purse and eye patch. "Broke. Give it to Daniel."

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Cypher's Tale 24 Alt 1


"I'll never tell you where it is."

The shadows looked at each other. The one on the left shrugged. The other, after a hesitation, signaled a third figure to enter the apartment. The door closed.

It peeled away its mask to reveal a sandy-haired man in his thirties, lined from sun exposure. The others followed suit. They were a hazy square-faced woman and a young male. The young male shifted his machine gun self-consciously and looked nothing like the most dangerous animal left on the planet. The woman's mask left a smear of lipstick on her upper lip. They gave the impression of disposable minor characters.

"Come out with your hands up."
"Ha! You've seen too many videos. Let's negotiate like this."
"What's that? The kid doesn't know anything?" Click.
Micah tried to sit up. His mother pushed him back down by the forehead.

The sandy haired gunman moved to his left and followed the apartment wall until he stepped onto kitchen tile. He pointed his carbine at the kneeling woman. "Up."
She rose.
"Hands up."
Ten lotioned digits pointed upward. Her eye blinked coldly.

"Come forward slowly. You two- watch them. I'm calling in."

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Cypher's Tale 23 Alt 3


"Momma, may I have some more bread?"
"You may."

The apartment was flavored with earthtones and style from ages past. Patterned drapes. A wooden table. Ceramic dishes with cooked food on them. A yellowboned boy and a caramel woman, both with silky black hair. Beyond a set of faux wood columns and a change of floor, her eyepatch lay on a table with keys and cards and a purse.

Her son sat to her left, where she could keep an eye on him, eating a fifth piece of yellow bread slathered in ginger cream.

An encringing BHACK! blew the door open. It slapped the adjoining wall, splintering composite. A shadow flitted out of view and another one threw itself through the doorway, sweeping the room with a rifle.

Brenda hauled up on the kitchen table, sending plates and tureens crashing to the floor. Micah's eyes boggled. His mother leapt from her chair and tackled him, landing behind the counter that set off the kitchen. Another shadow, clattering with grey web and shiny, unused equipment, followed behind the first. They walked forward, trisecting the livingroom area between them.

Brenda crouched over her son in a dark purple, voluminous dress. She slid a long, greasy fillet knife from the counter. It flipped in her palm, blade forward, point down. Five soft, lotioned digits relaxed into the assassin's grip.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Cypher's Tale 32


A black space. A safe space. The safest place in the world. Shilo stood in the center of a golden ring that held in its double wall seventy-two sigils. His arms, outstretched, grazed them. To his mind's eye they were eternal, unmoved by parallax, transparent to the utter blackness beyond.There was no source of light, but he was illumined.


Betty stood on a throbbing mauve triangle. She opened her mouth to speak again, but was shoved off balance and stumbled into oblivion. Moe appeared on the triangle. Her glossy red locks were a little unkilter, stray hairs escaping.
"What is Ty's status?"
"I dunno. Didn't he go home?"
"He was still working when they came and he fought them."
Shilo thought- it couldn't be, but he almost thought he'd heard an exclamation point from her.
"Well, I got the boards monitored. Everybody's checked in except the boss, Tyson, and the chick with the eyepatch."
"Yeah, but we need a nickname for her. I was-"
"Damnit Shy! Find Tyson!"
"Uh, you've looked upstairs, right?"
Moe turned paler and left.

Betty appeared.
"Jeez, what did you say to her? You're insensitive, you know that? Well, I'm going to go look for Ty's remains. You find my oniichan."

Shilo was left alone.

Right Wing Critique of the Week - Split Infinity

It's been years since I read the series, but this isn't *really* a book review.

Split Infinity and its sequels take place on a planet where it's fairly easy for some people to cross into an alternate dimension by poking around. One side is a planet (Proton) that exports energy-dense minerals- "Protonite."

The fun part is that Proton is a meritocracy/plutocracy. The mineral rights are collectively owned by the Citizens, who form a rich and powerful elite. They get annual dividends that amount to... um.... 400 times the wages of the serfs. Maybe 2000. At any rate, the Serfs are all immigrants that come, work as slaves for 20 years, and then leave with a nice retirement nest egg.

There are annual all-around competitions that grant the winning Serf citizenship. The losers are deported.

The competitions are head-to-head, agreed upon by the two contestants via a game of chance and bluffing ability. They can range from football to poetry to ice climbing to fencing.

So the Citizens are all intelligent, athletic, renaissance men/women. Even so, the vast mineral wealth makes them rather inefficient, petty and corrupt, sorta like the Saudis. Besides the dividend income, they rent Serfs from their collective and use them to run businesses. Some Citizens do the actual mining, some build robots, some run pony ranches, casinos, etc. They gamble vast sums on daily events, political outcomes, the color of the eyes of the next person to walk by.

A quorum of Citizens has absolute power, and votes are apportioned based on wealth. 1 gram of Protonite equals one vote, and the votes are tallied by throwing chips into a giant balancing pan.

I think the system is slightly more rational than ours, but it would be unethical if there were any natives being oppressed. Remember that everyone on the planet came (or stayed) voluntarily.

True Story

It's funny. Intelligence and looks are both genetic, but picking a mate based on one of them is considered "superficial." Thus complimenting a feminist's intelligence, even if true, is hilarious.

However- true story- I layed out that intelligence-is-genetic-don't-be-superficial theory to my friend. Now she dates dumb guys. I totally forgot about it until she brought it up years later.

I didn't tell her that my point was judging people by their looks is a good thing. She evidently took it the other way.

The Cypher's Tale 31


"Our office was insured through your company."
"Damnit, Shy."

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Cypher's Tale 30


Black Alice, freshly scrubbed, redheaded, denim-clad and apparently Irish, sauntered past a brothel. It was one of the few businesses in the area that was open all night- it catered to local yuppies like Shilo. "You are disgusting."
What now?
"You live in the jet stream. That's enough."
Among other things, the jetstream was known for its drab B2B-focused activities and ascetic industrial types.
30m nnw.
Black Alice rounded the corner and saw a friendly map icon pop into view. A pair of firefighters circled in vigilant holding pattern over the burn site. Muddy ashy water ran out of the door and collected on the sidewalk. At the edge of a circle of streetlight, a human worker climbed onto a scooter and hummed off.
A fragment of glass cracked under its tire.
What is it? Oh. Is it bad? Oh.
"Why do you type extra stuff, like you're talking."
Thoughts transcribed cuz am tuhleet. You're talking out loud and you're by yourself.
"Subvocalizing is unfun. Right, so I don't see anybody hanging around. I have to keep walking."
There's no one near you. You have minutes.
"I don't want to go in there! It's, unsurprisingly, disgusting. You cease to amaze me."
It wasn't always burned down, Alice. Oh, Cencom is up. Get closer. Gimme a channel.
"Use your own brain!"
You're close and secure, I need yours.
"This is-"
Disgusting, yeah. Fuck you too. Gimme port.
She watched a flood of code like a burst pipe. It configured her transmitter, opened ports, spawned a brood of tiny servers and spilled out into the airwaves, idle AM EM IM conversation and random menial tasks. There was no trace of coded communication.
"Crap. How did you do that so fast?"
Configure Aspect oriented Net by TRIgger Protocol
This sucks.

The Cypher's Tale 29


"I have to use the latrine," said Black Alice.
Shilo pointed to the wall by the couch. "Hit the blue button."
"You're joking."

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Tales of the Cypherpunk - B


A flimsy black-framed mirror, bought from Ikea, leaned against the wall.

I could see too-dirty carpet and my panties abandoned on the floor, but I was trying to see the back of my neck. There was a bug bite or pimple or bug bite on a pimple or maybe athlete's foot at the base of my neck. I twisted around. I leaned back. I gracefully swept out a circle on the carpet with my left big toe.

I stirred up dust and sneezed and jiggled.

I heard that all women look good naked, which is probably true enough from the subjective standpoint of the male psyche, but no one looks good sneezing in the buff.

I forgot about my neck and went next door to my computer. It was two weeks into a marathon session of piracy, spanning everything from Final Fantasy 7 to Deathly Hallows.

"ooh, Batman finished. Now I can see who Heath Ledger is."

I said that out loud. I had leaned down to check my email when the power went out.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Cypher's Tale 28


The blade popped through skin and skull with a wet kerthuk and a zippery saw through bone. Black Alice turned pale by degrees.
"Do you have to use a steak knife?"
"I don't have a skull-cutting knife handy. Stupid me."
A festive vomit colored spurt of brain squirted onto Shilo's hand. "ughll."
Jonas sat at the other end of the long desk, hands in keyboard, sending messages. He conspicuously avoided looking to his left.

Shilo lifted a bloody mat to reveal pulverized pink and grey matter. "Wow, brain surgery's harder than it looks." He turned the scalp over, pulling a dozen fine hairlike leads from the brain. Embedded in a skull fragment was a gold-veined ceramic plate. "Jonas, write down a serial number for me."
"All right. Ready. Wait, there's a serial number in his brain?"
"Sure, all these chips have them."
"There's one in *my* brain?"
"Allah be praised, what are they *for*?"
"Just inventory stuff."
"That's... freaky."
"Well, it's not like anybody can see them. You can even use them as encryption seeds if you want."
"Do you use them for that?"
"Hell no, my chips don't have numbers on them. That's too freaky."
"Damnit, Shilo."
"We've survived an assassination attempt or two. Call me Shy. Now.. A73B0FE91F."
"Ah. Wait, can't you take notes in your head?"
"We had a little cyberwarfare on the way here. I had to power off."
"But can't you reboot?"
"It's technical. So."
Shilo finished clipping the fine hairlike leads to a digital I/O board. He stripped off bloody antistatic gloves and stepped 2 meters to the opposite wall, next to Black Alice, perched on the black couch. He pulled a sink out of the wall to wash off.
"You're disgusting, do you know that?"
"Uh, well, I don't usually have company. You're like the second persons in here."
"Who was the first?" asked Jonas.
"Of course."
"So Alice, you think you can cut someone's brain out elegantly?"
"When you cut his head off you put the knife back in your pocket!"
"It's in a thigh sheath. And.. I forgot about it. But I had no choice."
"Throw it away? Hello?" Her black hair flipped back to emphasize.
"Throw it away??? What if I get captured?"
"You think you're going to kill anyone with a piece of shit box cutter?"
"It's not a box cutter, and the *purpose* is to cut my arteries."
Her eyebrows slowly drew together. She looked at Shilo, his crotch, his face again, and then his crimson clerical collar.
"Oh shit! You're a cypher!"
"That's what I hired him for."
"No, he's a *real* cypher!"
"Uh... and I really hired him?" The dense body rotated on its axis, a black ergonomic chair.
"Jonas he's a *Cypher* cypher. With the collar and the Code and the crazy."
"I hardly think 'crazy' is in the Code."

Jonas, though not a history buff, not like Shilo, was nonetheless educated. Trivia percolated up through his wetware like bubbles in tea. He said nothing and resumed typing.

"You're a-"
"Since we're on the subject, what are you?"
Her mouth worked silently. "I yuh, I'm an industrial spy."
"So you were the one."
"Yes, and now we're all going to retire rich."
"If my people can keep us alive."
"If your people can stop breaking and entering and tipping off brutal cartels."
"I wiped the evidence you left behind. If this was Central Intelligence, then the only reason they were so delicate was lack of certainty. If they knew what we had, they'd be shooting up our offices right now. "
"So you were the one. How did you get in there? It's way high."
A server screen flickered.
"Let's see what he knew."

Analogy of the Day

Came up with this a long time ago:

Chinese rice farmers are water. Chinese sweatshop workers are steam. The crappy wage is the boiling point. Heat input is economic growth.

Wages will be constant until the rice farmer supply is gone, at which point they will rise quickly.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Oblivious People are the Best Medicine

Worst title of the week award:

He's a Stud, She's a Slut, and 49 Other Double Standards Every Woman Should Know

Yeah, let's teach women double standards. Great idea.

For once, I'll explain what I really mean instead of leaving a bland statement for people to pass over uncomprehending. This book quite literally perpetuates the very things it opposes. Course, the point is to make money by selling the book to people, using confirmation bias as a marketing ploy. But my intentional misinterpretation of the title is, oddly, true.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

The Cypher's Tale - p1

Templar, verse 1 & 2

Lemme break it down so debate don't spread
The only voices plotting are the ones in your head
You wanna take the war to the Holy Roman Church?
Their satellites are watching from orbit round the Earth
The templars know your name, and they already seen the
records in their mainframe, the Deus ex Machina
and the Da Vinci code was just a botched book deal,
but the Houston oil port's guarded by the masonic seal
Pyramids watching over Galveston Bay and Mission Control
Pointing weapons in space down at the grassy knoll
Manufacturing hurricanes by warming the gulf stream
Installing instapundit to manufacture the meme
They're manipulating oil prices and the federal reserve
cuz they're sitting on the Alaskan wilderness preserve
they're waiting to bail out the market when it loses its nerve
They're forecasting future flux and far ahead of the curve
They're deciding all our fates, which we richly deserve
They're the ones that made Ernie Ervin's car swerve
They did Princess Di's too, to sap the crown's verve
the commonwealth will dissolve with no strong leader to serve
They're responsible for all of the Griffins but Merv
Kathy's killing our brain cells, nerve by nerve
They abducted Michael Jackson, made the Pop King a Perv
So American Idol can lull while we sit and observe
Every twenty fifth frame is a call to attack Iraq
the new digital TV is a human brain hack
The European Union is just a distraction
designed to provoke the caliphate's reaction
global empire, from the ashes of Babylon
New York and Brussels smooth enough to play scrabble on
That's the plan, human kind's up for sale
to bring the end times and assemble the grail

She's walking down the street in a mass produced crop top
eyes shining optimistically opiated by eye drops
Apple bottom jeans like every teeny bopper my god
her entire self image is dictated by her iPod
consumer culture from the TV, MTV can see me
it's using neural feedback to feed me please free me
They're preaching secular humanism asking if I am saved
iTunes is synchronising reorganising my brain wave
And there, in the square, I see The Man sneering
and fearing my conspiracy theory's nearing
completion, but it's merely appearing
The crowds are loud but they're hard of hearing
I try to warn them but they won't stop jeering
The talking points into my mind are searing
The signs and soundbites and acolytes cheering
the prophet we're making is finally appearing
on the stage while the speakers play Golden Earring
Once again, a War on something is gearing
up to run over the less endearing
members of society propriety's peering
at like what's that cuz we aint got good rearing
The country's course is slowly veering
it's like a Disney cruise ship with no one steering
it's like a split level that's slowly shearing
you wanna move out but the mortgage market is queering
It's like I like licking lips like I like lisping leering
queers in debeers creating the music I'm hearing
when I'm driving nonstop evading cops in the clearing
cuz my registration expired three years ago today
and they have no way to monitor my movements or my getaway

The Cypher's Tale 27


Shilo dropped a bloody blue suit jacket on the floor. It fell open; a steaming human head rolled out. Jonas looked around with dismay at a three by four meter room lined by a modern black couch, a twin bed, and a long desk holding screens and servers. A shady fridge stood in one corner, feeding cold water to the servers.

"What a dump." said Black Alice.
"This almost makes me want to pay you guys more."
Shilo frowned. "It's cheap. Anyway, we scaped, so you should be safe here. Course that's real temporary. Let's crack this thing open."

He spread a trash bag on an empty part of the desk - The desk, incidentally, was 10 feet long and made from a hardwood door scavenged from a renovation site- He spread out a trashbag, put on anti-static gloves, and lifted the leering stiffening lump onto the desk. He turned it so that the dripping grin faced his chair. He snapped open a blue box.
"You can sit down. Movies on the tablets, maybe a projector... no... well I need the screens." Shilo cut into the head like a jack-o-lantern. "Secure line is the far box."

OMG, me too.

  • “There is a ‘ho belt‘ phenomenon nearly synonymous with the ‘Bible Belt’.”
  • “Ludacris has hoes in the entire state of Maryland.”
  • “Ludacris has a disproportionate ho-zone in rural Nebraska. He might favor white women as much as he does black women, or perhaps, girls who farm.”

I can't quite compete with this.

Monday, April 07, 2008


I had a scathing introduction about hubris, incompetent people talking about that which they comprend not. Ya know. I decided this guy didn't deserve it, compared to most of the idiots pontificating.

"At best, during the past year he [Petraeus] has helped to piece together a stalemate of heavily armed, bloodstained, conspiracy-minded, ambiguously motivated Iraqi militias."

No, he's killed them all. That's not a solution, inasmuch as 4G warfare is perpetuated by socioeconomics rather than more concrete centers of gravity, but it's quite different from a "stalemate."

"an obvious failure—Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki’s ill-prepared raid on rival Shiite gangs in Basra, which was aborted after mass desertions within Maliki’s own ranks"

They killed people. They proved the superiority of their logistics. The command structure of the Mahdi's military arm is, to coin a term, shambalic. Maliki has issued terms.

"the Army is running on fumes, but Petraeus and his fellow surge advocates are driving flat out in Iraq"

That's one of the basic principles of war. It's so basic I don't even know what it's called, but it's comparable to net present value in some ways. The effectiveness of a force is proportional to the square of its size under ideal conditions.

"It hardly matters whether Petraeus would recommend keeping a hundred and thirty thousand or more combat troops in Iraq for a hundred years, or only ten. Neither scenario is plausible—at least, not without a draft or a radical change in incentives for volunteers."

Fascinating that he mentions the (stupid, infeasible) idea of a draft before he mentions the pay increase. However, since the Army is at its target size, it could be possible to hire more people with no pay increase or a moderate one.

Of course the target size should have been increased years ago, but that wasn't politically possible.

"Last month, Admiral William J. Fallon, the commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, announced his early retirement, under pressure from the White House, after he argued privately for a faster drawdown from Iraq, to bolster efforts in Afghanistan and to restore a more balanced global military posture."

I've actually heard negative things about Fallon, but there's an Esquire piece where he comes off well. There've been rumors that he'd be retiring, since he hit the 40 year mark a year or so ago. At any rate, his departure is interesting. Too bad the punditer didn't write a whole piece about Fallon.

"To implement such a strategy, it would not be necessary to rashly abandon Iraq to its fate, but it would be essential, at a minimum, to reduce American troop levels to well below a hundred thousand as soon as possible."

omfg, he's right. Huh.

Woot. Take that.

Having a husband creates an extra seven hours of housework each week for women, according to a new study. For men, tying the knot saves an hour of weekly chores.
- livescience.com, as reposted by the hacks at Yahoo

Thus proving that men are 7 times more efficient.

Friday, April 04, 2008

The Cypher's Tale 23 Alt 2


The door popped closed behind them, disconnecting all connections connected to the outside world. Total darkness. A light panel came back on, seeming dimmer than usual. Moe and Tra stood between the steel vault door and a downward stairwell. The landing was only two meters by three meters wide, giving the feeling that the steel wall was pushing them toward the stairs.


Moe reached for the release wheel, but Tra put a pecan-colored hand on hers. "The contingency plan states that once the vault is sealed, it remains sealed for thirty minutes or until cencom is operational."
"How can we run cencom without Ty?"
A dull boom came through the door and echoed down into the vault.
"Oh god, oh god." Moe turned and ran down into the darkness.

Daniel, Ed, and a technician sat in the lower hallway in chairs lifted from side rooms. The lights were low, but coffee brewed in a dark conference room. Daniel sipped some from a ceramic cup.
Moe burst out of the stairwell, Tra in hot pursuit.
"Hey, Mo. Crazy. Good thing Jonas is paying the bills for this crap."
"Ty is up there!"
The walls buzzed. A dull roar could be heard above them.
The technician fished a can out of a small cooler and cracked it open.
Moe gave her a ferocious glare. The girl turned away and took a gulp of cola. Moe stalked down the hallway, turned left, and entered cencom. Tra followed, with a last bland look at Daniel.

Daniel told his tech, "don't worry about it. And.. Ty will be fine. You should see his resume."
"Daniel," said Ed slowly, "where's the boss?"

Thursday, April 03, 2008

The Cypher's Tale 23 Alt 1


Bathed in fading pink light, in a concrete and glass commercial corridor, under the haze that the city breathed, behind a misleading plate glass window, two fake plants and a grey counter, an old gynoid clicked at intruders.

It had fine blond polypropylene hair and unnaturally big, blue eyes. It wore a dusty grey tunic. Its head tilted sidewise at an unnatural angle, due to a burnt-out accelerometer.

"Welcome to Tom's Travel Agency. How may I help you."

A khaki uniform raised a glove and fried the thing. Speakers popped, and a black mark appeared on its breast.

Another black glove pointed the way forward.

Tyson raised his head from a map. He sat in a tiny office amidst stacks of discs. A crowbar leaned in one corner. A straight bush sword hung on the wall behind him, above a stained butternut harness. A small red LED flashed and the PDA on his wrist buzzed twice.

Tyson slipped on the harness and lifted a rifle from the second corner. He stood by his door and felt the other employees scurrying toward the stairs. Something scratched on the back of his skull

and he stepped to the right, blasting the entry team while the front door was still swinging. #1 fell right, # 2 fell left almost as planned, but the third uniform fell forward, clutching its collar. Tyson dropped to a knee, halfway behind his door jam. A series of harsh grinding sounds came from the annex and ball shot shattered the water cooler, but the center of the office was deserted.

The essence of entry is speed and recklessness, and the opfor was well trained. They rushed in over the bodies of their comrades, crouching, jumping. One even rolled. Tyson rocked back, cutting off his view of the door and all but one attacker. He fired. He shifted forward and to the right until he saw another and fired. He saw two and shredded them with a three second burst.

The remainder were scrambling to their right and shooting the office furniture. A drizzle of bullets pattered on his office wall. Next should be

a grenade bounced against his door and into the office. He scooped it out and dove to the left. It was only an urban fragmenter, but shrapnel still bounced and peppered his legs. He sat up and lobbed a piece of military antique around the corner.

The blast shattered the first floor's windows and collapsed a wall. Tyson leapt out of his office and let his weapon go on full auto while he sprinted for the steel desk that held the printer.

A second team came through the doors. These were not, strictly speaking, an entry team, but a cleanup crew. They had heavier weapons including two flame throwers and rifles bulkier than Tyson's.

He would have been happy to meet them outdoors, but flame throwers in an office building is bad news. Part of his mind guided a stream of lead. Part of it analyzed the situation strategically. Part of it cried What The Fuck as he touched off a gas explosion.

The first team had acted correctly, rushing into unknown resistance. The second team had rushed into a constricted area under a heavy enfilade. None would weep at their graves. They were cremated.

Tyson's cover was blown back as well. The blast knocked him into a water cooler, cut his scalp, and shattered his ear drums. He cried out silently, clutching his head. Flames rolled across the floor on a wave of oil.

Interesting, kinda sorta

Here's some people not behaving like total jerks and discussing copyright infringement. Not that anything they say is original, insightful, or right, but I'm always happy when people make the slightest attempt to not be asshats.

On the other hand, it looks like most people still support the concept of intellectual property, as long as they personally get away with infringing. Oh well. We wouldn't expect ethics or consistency from mongrel dogs, so why should we expect it from educated, affluent Americans.

At any rate, we'd be better off abolishing intellectual property. But what about- no, your objection is irrelevant because that wouldn't exist. Think about it for 10 seconds.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The Cypher's Tale 26


Shilo led his clients through back alleys. EM chatter was abnormal; traffic data was obviously being disrupted. The indications were that a backup team was closing in on them fast. Evasion- defender had the strategic advantage if certain conditions could be forced. A zero sum game.

the empty sum, or nullary sum, is the result of adding no numbers, his image prompted.

"This is not the time!"

Jonas gave Black Alice a worried glance.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The Cypher's Tale 22 Alt 1 - The Soldier's Tale


"Where's Betty?"
"In the gym."
Tyson kept walking. He worked 9 to 5, and it was now 1800 local time.
Tyson was not pleased. In any subsystem, there is a certain tradeoff between efficiency and predictability. Tyson's division was responsible for the use of force, and the larger systems that he worked for required predictability. They paid large sums for predictability.
What's the value of the second best software? Nothing.
What's the value of the second best army?

Tyson, 23, two months older than Betty, wore burn scars on his left hand and cheek from the most recent African wars. He'd fought personally in Thailand and the Middle East. His hair was cut short, thick and brown, except for a fine dark patch on his left temple. His eyes were light blue with a yellow spot where a branch had pierced the right one. They rarely settled on anything. Below, they were hollowed by nights of study.

Moe, 34, studied him. She spent a lot of her time just sitting around the middle of the office, thinking. Her one visible eye drifted down. She licked moist, red lips.

Tyson knew he was being watched. The eyes that never settled on anything saw everything. Inwardly, he smiled.

Outwardly, she thought, he's impassive.

Tyson went downstairs to conduct the defense of Tibet.