Music from a friend

Some tunes from my Friend Roger and his band of brothers, Galacticore.


Time Travel

Time Travel

It’s one of my favorite topics in Science Fiction and there have been lots of treatments in literature, movies and television. Lots of them are silly, but several are very, very good, at least in my opinion. Netflix’s Travelers, Continuum, Twelve Monkeys (the book, the movie and the TV show)The Time Machine, Millennium, Quantum Leap, 36, The End of Eternity… the list goes on. They all pay attention to the problems associated with time travel such as paradox and causality and they take different approaches to explaining why time travel can work within the fictional universes where they dwell.

My take on all of these shows is that they lean towards a kind of determined fate where time travel is concerned. Everything that happens was meant to happen which is why the people (in most cases) can return to a future just like or very nearly like the one the left. If you made changes in the past it was because that is the way things actually happened in the past and here we are in the future. Oh, happy day.

Larry Niven postulated that if time travel was possible its implementation would lead to a universe where time travel was never discovered- the sweeping changes implemented in the past would finally collapse into a timeline where there was no time travel, otherwise time could never move forward. I like that treatment because it is having your cake and eating it, too. Time Travel is possible, but it destroys itself by its very nature and the time we live in is the result of lots of time travelers messing with reality until they broke it.

Of course, I have my own theory. Time travel is possible, but it has a ghastly price- the annihilation of the time traveler’s future, as well as all of history beyond the point of arrival, stranding him/her/them in the past. The past is now the present and the future doesn’t exist. I come to this conclusion based on my admittedly dim grasp of quantum physics- by sending a conscious observer into the past time travel causes a catastrophic shift of the quantum states of EVERYTHING that observer interacts with. It is a cascade effect- each change spawns more change and the possibility of the future the traveler came from ever existing is driven to zero so close to instantaneously as to be impossible to halt or redress.

So, if time travel is possible, but it costs the annihilation of all that came after to moment of arrival, who would try it?

The truly desperate. Those facing the total destruction of their people, perhaps, and not just humans. Assuming there is sentient life elsewhere in the universe the destroyer of all we know could be millions of light years away. How is that for a happy thought on a Friday evening?


What I’ve been thinking about lately is this: how in the name of all that’s right and holy am I ever going to be able to retire? Sixty-seven is only 12 years away and due to my own stupidity and bad financial moves I have maybe 35K set aside in my 401K. With the pittance I contribute, that is not projected to grow very fast or very much.

Tina and I are masters at living beyond our means and we kept it up until all the boys moved out of the house. I wasn’t eager to leave, but the mortgage was unmanageable and quite frankly, I am NOT Mr. Fixit. The place needed work and needed it soon, and there was no money to put into it. Under water by more than $40K and with an interest rate hike coming in six months (we were on a modified plan with Well Fargo at the time) it was time to go. We were fortunate to get a short sale approved, even more fortunate that the government was forgiving taxes on the balance of short sales.

Apartment dwelling doesn’t bother me much, but I can see the writing on the wall. We pay as much in rent now as we did on our mortgage eight years ago, but we bring in about 65% of what we did at that time. The math is pretty remorseless. We have an enormous debt consolidation loan that we are paying in excess of $650 a month towards, and that SAVED us about $300 a month in payments. Five year term- if we pay it off on time we can pour that money into a retirement fund and maybe, maybe put away enough that I’ll only need to work 20 or 30 hours a week for the rest of my life.

This assumes we don’t pile more logs onto our funeral pyre of debt.

Now, I actually haven’t got anything against working until I’m seventy or seventy-five as long as my health is up to it, but I suspect jobs are going to be tough to come by. Were my current job to suddenly vanish, at 55 in the IT business I am essentially unemployable at anything beyond the Help Desk level. I don’t do coding and I’m not a UNIX guru so I’m just a commodity Microsoft Systems/Exchange Admin. Trying to move on to another job just isn’t in the cards. Besides, I like my current employer, even if I bitch about them here and there. It’s a good place to work, and it’s not in Massachusetts with the hour-plus commute and ridiculous income tax.

I know this sounds like whining, but honestly, it’s not. It’s a reality-based assessment of the future. I could take on a second job, but my availability with my full time position limits the options. So what can I do?

I can start writing again, that’s what I can do. I’m good at it, I enjoy it and I don’t need to make a fortune doing it. Hell, most writers have full-time jobs unless they’ve sold movie rights or gotten into screenplays and whatnot. The short story format has lots of potential, particularly if you can crank out the word count. You won’t get rich, you won’t be able to quit your day job, but you can bring in some income AND do something you enjoy.

I desperately want to write the sequel to Methuselah’s Daughter. This is the first step.

Ugly politics- Meaning REAL Politics

Warning! Politics! Skip if you are sick of it all!

Disclaimer: I live on the East Coast, not terribly far from Boston, MA.

To those aching to abolish the Electoral College, I ask that they take a serious look at the nation at its founding, then look again at the nation as it exists today.
At the founding, people did not move about very much. Even settlers going west tended to go only as far as they had to, then settle down and take root. Most people did not leave the state they were born in, maybe not even the town they were born in. Fast forward to today and there is the impression that the population is so very mobile that the notion of a “State” seems irrelevant.

This is an illusion.

If you live on the North East or West coast, yes, that distinction becomes blurred; however, in vast stretches of this country people still do not wander, not nearly as much as the coastal populations. Do they move more than they did a century ago? Certainly, but not nearly as much as the coastal megalopolis dwellers. This creates two very distinct cultures, perhaps even three as Americans of Latino descent cluster in the south-west.

The Electoral College is designed to avoid the problem of a few populous states ruling over the whole. It recognizes that different regions have different priorities and that no single cluster of the population should dictate to the whole. This is why the STATES elect the President, not the people. It is what defines a Democratic Republic.

If the Electoral College is abolished, the Union will dissolve within forty to fifty years. Arguments can be made that this would be for the best, but that is NOT the argument presented by those who wish to abolish a political system that has served this nation well since the last Constitutional Convention.

How John Ringo Ruined My Zombie Apocalypse

I have a zombie problem, a serious one. No, the dead are not walking up to my porch, pounding on the back door to get inside for a screaming snack. Those are just socialist wanna-be’s trying to get at any extra cash I may have stashed away. The zombie problem I have is more cerebral (no they are not moaning “brains…).

Here’s the thing: I have come to really enjoy good zombie fiction. Zombieland, Shaun of the Dead, Dawn of the Dead, 28 Days Later, 28 Weeks Later, World War Z, The Walking Dead and its spin off Fear the Walking Dead– I even liked Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. And those are only the movies. I am not one of those people who find it impossible to suspend disbelief and if the writers and producers make even a token nod to science they get my kudos and a hearty Huzzah!

I’m wandering, sorry. See, this all John Ringo’s fault, him and his “Black Tide Rising” novels. Ringo created, I believe, the most well-thought-out scenario for the sudden onset of a Zombie Apocalypse. No spoilers involved here by stating that the notion of a two stage infection that allows the contagion to spread virtually unnoticed for several weeks before people start turning into neighbor-chomping death machines satisfies all of those things I needed to “disbelieve” in order to accept the notion of a Zombie Apocalypse. Furthermore, the Zombies are both more frightening and more pathetic as a result.

Fast Zombies vs. Slow Zombies is a topic fans of the genre have beaten to death so I’m not going to talk about the various merits and demerits of each type. For purposes of full disclosure I think Fast Zombies are a requirement for a world-ending apocalypse, but that’s just me. Ringo’s zombies are fast, no doubt about it and as a result the world goes to hell in a handbasket with a satisfying rush for those who want to get into the survivors’ stories.

And here is where John Ringo blows a hole though just about every other zombie story, including The Walking Dead (and I am a huge fan, make no mistake). John Ringo sat down and really thought about who would survive and how.

If you’re reading this, have never read the books and are thinking of checking them out, stop here, because spoilers abound. You’ve been warned.

Let’s skip the public and look at the American military, in particular, the United States Navy. Most particularly, we want to look at nuclear submarines. Both missile and attack boats go to sea for prolonged periods without any contact with land. Unlike ships at sea, particularly Aircraft Carrier Battle Groups, they don’t get new personnel mid-deployment. Ever. If the boat is on patrol when the virus/bacteria/cometary dust particles/whatever are dispersed, they are not getting a dose of it. Period-frakking-dot. Ringo did lots of research and I did very little so I’m going to generalize: missile boats go out for six month stretches where they find a deep hole in the ocean and stay there, while attack boats are generally out for three months at a whack. Since the Navy is aware that Shit Happens (it’s why they exist, after all) the boats are over-stocked with supplies. I have no way of knowing how over stocked, but an intelligent guess would be 100%. Why 100%? Because if I were in charge that’s the minimum I would want and I suspect the folks in charge of such things are both smarter and even more pessimistic than me.

So, we have a number of nuclear submarines at sea, uninfected and they can be out there, barring serious mechanical failure, for six months to a year before supplies run out. Besides John Ringo and Nicholas Sansbury Smith, NOBODY ever mentions this in all the zombie fiction I’ve read, and Smith mentions it almost in passing (in his Extinction series). These are Navy ships chock-full of very smart, very dedicated people and you can bet that if the Zombie Apocalypse strikes the folks in charge will order the subs to stay clear while at the same time making sure they have all the information the Navy, the CDC and USAMRIID can collect about the disease at the center of the outbreak. Note that this actually did NOT happen in Ringo’s books, the information transfer, that is. The government doctors knew how to make an effective vaccine so long as they were willing to commit what some would consider murder to do it, and never sent detailed instructions to the subs.

So, writers of the Zombie apocalypse ignore Nuclear Submarines. Except Ringo. And now it’s always in the back of my mind when I’m watching my favorite Zombie Apocalypse movies or TV shows.

Thanks, John.

Next: why is the military so damned ineffective at containment once things start getting to the swarming hordes of neighbor-chomping death machines stage? This particularly bugs me if we are talking about Slow Zombies, the moaning, shuffling, got to surprise you or overwhelm you with numbers type of zombies. In AMC’s The Walking Dead the scene of some fortified outpost with a few Abrams tanks and other vehicles spread about, all with half-eaten soldiers everywhere you look is almost an every season staple: you’ll see it at least once. And now, whenever I see it I think: Didn’t they ever hear of Kill-Boxes, Claymores, Zones of Fire, frakking 120mm CANISTER? In one episode of TWD the survivors use some loud vehicles to lead an enormous herd of zombies away from their home camp. Awesome Idea, but better if you lead them away (and upwind) with an Abrams and then cut loose with a few rounds of canister so those zombies will never annoy anyone again.

Is an Abrams Main Battle Tank something you can hop into and start up after it’s been sitting a while? No. How do we solve that problem? See Nuclear Submarines above. The folks who keep those multi-billion dollar war machines moving could figure out how to get a few tanks rolling, of this I am sure.

So, writers of the Zombie apocalypse ignore all that military hardware lying about and were also unaware of how to use it to turn zombies into gooey red slime the consistency of tapioca. Except John Ringo. So now when I watch The Walking Dead I have tanks and canister shot running through the back of my mind.

Thanks again, John.

In the same vein, there should be surviving military outposts. There would HAVE to be. Sure, things would get out of hand in the cities- you don’t need a Zombie Apocalypse for that, just turn off the power for a few days. But let’s look at some staples of zombie behavior:

They are drawn to sound/light/movement.
They can smell the living.
They will travel long distances to get at what they see, hear or smell.

Somewhere in the midst of this, somebody in the military or police or the Walt Disney World Security Team is going to figure this out and use it against the zombies. TWD tipped a hat at this idea where one community used deep pits and wind chimes to lure in the dead and trap them. If somebody with any kind of authority puts this together relatively early (say the cities are burning, but the living still probably outnumber the dead) the zombies are toast. If the zombies are NOT toast, everybody deserves to die.

Damn you, John Ringo, you thorough, inventive bastard, you. Oh, and Dark Tide Rising really does need a fifth book…

Windows 10

Yeah, I’ve been gone a while and the only people looking at this site are the frustrated script kiddies trying to hack their way into the admin page. Sometimes I get upwards of 500 alerts in a single day! It’s almost flattering… almost.

Anyhow, I’ve been running the Windows 10 Technical Preview on my spare workstation, an older AMD Phenom II X4 2.6GHz, Quad Core with 8GB of RAM and an older generic Radeon HD 4600 series graphics card with 512MB of DDR3 video ram and a pair of older Sata II HDD’s. I figured it would run okay- my guess was that Microsoft would not let Windows 8 happen again (though to be honest, 8.1 ran acceptably on this rig as well).

Let me tell you- this thing absolutely screams. It loads nearly as fast as my newer machine with the SSD main drive! MS did some slick engineering with the boot kernel to get the system up and accessible while loading the rest in the background. When I dropped in an old 120GB SSD as the primary… the POST takes longer than the OS load. I have had ZIP, Zero, Nada compatibility issues even with my ancient, creaking Paint Shop Pro 5. The video drivers were not in the OS, but the generic Radeon drivers for Windows 8.1 work just fine. Netflix sucks using the store app and the included IE browser, but is just fine in Firefox.

The Start button and menu are back! A little funkified, but MS cannot resist the urge to change things. The OS is smart enough to know if you have a touch screen and adjusts accordingly. Love Metro? You can have it with a minor tweak… oh, and Metro apps can now run in less than full-screen. Multi-monitor support is so far flawless, but I’ve only tested on a single machine.

I first installed this as an in-place upgrade from Windows 7 Ultimate x64 because MS promised the days of “wipe and install fresh” were over. So far, they have been right. I re-installed after a few months because I swapped in the above-mentioned SSD.

I use the spare workstation to VPN to work when I work from home. The Windows Store provided a version of the VMWare View client that frankly sucked, but downloading the latest from VMWare fixed that up instantly. Cisco AnyConnect VPN works just fine, but I generally use a PTP VPN over an ASA so I can use my VoIP phone so my experience with that is limited to testing for curiosity’s sake.

I am currently on Build 7879 and I’ve got to tell you- this will probably be the first time in a very long time that I will upgrade my OS as soon as the new version is available commercially.

Other software I have been using with this Tech Preview:

Office Libre
Avast Free AV
Standard Chrome
Standard Firefox
Tor Browser
Office 2010 Pro plus
Office 2013 Pro
TrueCrypt 7.1a
Second Life (got to try at least one game, after all)

I haven’t yet put my Steam account on it- I may upgrade my current graphics card in my main machine and move my GTS 550 ti over to the Tech Preview machine and give it a try, assuming I can find something dirt cheap better than the 550.

XP is exiting stage left, people. It’s not like you have not been warned…

My response to one of our sales folks when asked to quote hours on upgrading three existing XP boxes to Windows 7:

If we are re-installing and can do them all at once, about 4 hours, otherwise probably 2 hours each. In-Place upgrade (which may not be available and should be avoided anyhow) about 12 hours (this includes being forced to start over and install from scratch when the in-place upgrade goes to hell).

Seriously, folks. We’ve been warning you about this for over a year now.

Social Media is a pain in my butt

I just went through the hassle of deleting my Google+ profile and wiping out all my circles, etc. Facebook is soon to follow. This isn’t a privacy thing- I gave up on that a while ago, no, this is a quality of life issue. On Google+ I was getting people adding me to their circles and I had no idea who they were. Since I hadn’t even looked a Google+ since I set it up a year or two ago I couldn’t see any reason I should allow it to keep making associations for me that I did not want it to.

Facebook has been a bit of a love/hate relationship. I like keeping tabs with friends, but I post less and less, and getting bombarded with “like this if you’re for/against ” crap is just getting old. The ads are sometimes pretty disturbing, too. I’ve pulled the plug on Facebook a couple of times, but I really think I’m done now. If I feel the need to spout off about something I’ll do it here (which is why I just renewed my domains). I came within a few days of just letting them both expire, but in the end I just couldn’t let Methuselah’s Daughter just vanish and to keep that I have to keep, so there we are.

I’m not opposed to Social Media, I just don’t see that I need it and it is starting to become a pain in the butt. Once it gets to that point, why keep at it?

If You’ve Nothing To Hide, You’ve Nothing to Fear

Yeah. Tell that to Michele Catalano, who had her home visited by the government because of an un-fortuitous collection of searches made by house members on the internet.

Dean Esmay does a good job of laying out the absurd irony of it here. Vodkapundit’s Stephen Green adds his own commentary as well.

To call this Orwellian is… well, right on the money.

Want More Government?


Via Cold Fury

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