Thursday, 25 February 2016


Do you remember her? She was the hero of all of us who were ten-ish in those late ‘20s when global warming seemed the Bogey man to end all bogeys men. She was twelve, blonde, puffy and cute... She saved kittens flying through trees’ branches, stopped cars with a hand and laughed off bandits’ bullets in bank robberies. Adult believed her to be just some kind of publicity stunt, for some kids’ movie that in the end nobody made, but we children knew better. She was real, we knew it. We were sure.

She fell off the radar soon just after a year or so. With my friends I had just discovered superheroes comics, so I imagined that she had an arch-nemesis like Superduperman and Flashzinga and that that nemesis, in the end, had won.

I asked my mother what she thought of the idea but her answer was quite cryptic for me at the time. “She probably got her things” – said my mother, and I had no idea what things those may be. It took a few months for me to realize that even my girl schoolmates one by one, had started passing through that moment when a girl’s body remind her that, to be a woman, there is a prize to pay.

And then I grew up more or less, among highs and lows at school, small loves, big illusions and scorching delusions and all the rest, till I get to my twenties. And to that academic and social mediocrity that, in our then reverend nation, were the best age and conditions to be drafted by the army. This could have been not so bad, if not for the most unexpected of the wars. The war between Earth and Anipos Prime... had I ever suspected to see a war, I would never jumped a day of school and studied my ass off. Everything is better than finding yourself under a sniper’s rifle, in the mid of Siberia in September. Everything, even analytical geometry

I resisted the temptation to fly to Canada principally because Canada was in the war too. If you were lucky, they sent you back to our army. If you were not, they granted you a faster-than-light citizenship and shanghaied you to their front, which was arguably a lot worse than ours and people died a lot faster.

As an untrained dude with no practical usefulness but in a good health and fit, I was cannon fodder of a quality that was scarce in our fast-food derailed generation. I found myself on the front line well before I had learn to recognize ranks, with the kind of swiftness that my long gone German granddad, a centenary who saw the fall of Berlin in the Volkssturm and had the habit of retelling the tales of those days to his astonished grandchild, would have defined Gotterdammerung-ish.

It was there that I met her; almost identical to the girl she was ten years before hardly grown a day older. She was still able to fly, though with a lot less elegance than in my records. She was still able to bend a rifle with her bare hands but not to do the same with a tank. Not anymore. The smile was the same but, for the rest... she looked awkward, clumsy, and fragile. And, at times, she also seemed a tad dumb.

Talking to her she told a story that vindicated my mother insight from ten years before. Growing into first puberty, that something who gave her powers started misbehaving and the doctors, having really no idea of what was going on in her body, found no better way to deal with it than putting her in a form of suspended animation. They used a procedure that would have killed every person unable to stop a locomotive with her bare ends, a procedure that probably had unpleasant side effects, judging by what few was left of her legendary abilities and of the smartness she was known for.

Seeing her overwhelmed me with tenderness. I was supposed to be two years younger but the suspended animation trick meant I was now at least five years older. In my own right, I was a brat bat then, but I couldn’t help but think she was a child - not even a kid - and she should have been safe at home.

Clearly our sacred authorities had a completely different idea; they see her just as a soldier who did not need Kevlar to be bulletproof. Luckily for her, our enemies were pretty decent lads – for the bunch of robotic armoured monsters that most of them were - that thought more or less the same of me and didn’t sway out of their way to kill this possible nuisance. After the war, we also discovered that their commands knew about her way more than our scientists knew, or that she ever suspected, and were able to pull the plug on her powers in every moment they needed.

They simply found it best to leave our genial generals with an asset that was not really, one but that conditioned their tactical plans and made them, if possible, easier to predict.

As time went by her lack of real usefulness became more and more evident. Her powers were increasingly “fuzzy”, our chiefs were less and less careful in using her and even the rest of our troops started being more and more rude with her. Most of my comrades saw her as a useful monster; others, like deluded fans, couldn’t forgive her for not being up to their childhood wet dreams. In a very cruel way, everybody had reasons to get rid of her... not all made the decision consciously, maybe. But there were also those who believed it was better to eliminate every proof of one of our army major misdemeanours.

It was under the eyes of everybody who cared to look. I could see it but I had no idea what to do. By then, stay alive one other day had already become my major purpose and, what’s worst, an increasingly difficult one to reach; And I had learn, and verified, that saying the butchers that you knew what they were up to was the fastest way to end on top of the corpses’ heap... “Selected for the first morning assault” was the usual formula.

So I kept my head down, I kept silent and been a mute accomplice – like many others, and any of us will go to hell for this – in the slow killing of a girl who knew how to fly.

It was then that I met my piece of luck. Bad luck maybe, but still luck. A sniper as automatic as merciful got me right at the stomach with a magnesium tracking shot. He got me well, placing me in that thin line that nowadays stands between “we stitch you back to the unit” and “it’s too much of a hassle, let him die”. The almost dwindled out of existence zone of “let’s send him back to a true hospital”. Maybe, it was just that the surgeon knew that I wrote sketches for “Wailing from the front”, the improbable webzine that “Groucho” Lorentzson mounted on the third company server.

Lorentzson didn’t survive the war... the high commands got him executed for defeatism and unpatriotic propaganda while I was lying unconscious in the hospital. He was just one of the many critics that, one way or the other, our supreme commanders got somehow eliminated towards the end of the war – probably to be sure to continue to command in the after the defeat.

He did not sell any of us out kept to his word and claimed that it was all the product of his feverish brain work, and I’m still grate to him for this. I hope to discover, someday, where they buried his rests to pay my respects... but this is another story for another day.

In my hospital bed I discovered a life of reduced fat acids and proteins intake diet was ahead of me, but that I was alive and bound to stay so for a while. Under heavy medication, I spent the next few weeks on trips – not all of them metaphorical – and could not see her end.

An impossible order to hold the position alone while the rest of our company followed the division and repaired to the rearguard, in a masterful “position rectification” that grandpa Heinz would have loved to comment upon. In reality they were running like hell, fleeing as fast as they could while the Anipos robot army decided that it was, finally, time to make some step forward. And they left her behind to be killed.

She could not mount much of a resistance; the Anipos knew she was really, from Beta Draconis. Which means that “a signal at 125 Hz modulating a band 25 carrier can affect the tetraglobuline shape and disable Betans’ cells main energy transport system, eventually killing the subject cells if the signal power exceeds 100 mw/square meter”.

Practical translation: if you have a Betan anti-riot gun – or its schematics or just a big radio transmitter and a high school kid with a knack for analogical radio technology – you can kill platoons of high flying, steel bars bending Betans, using just one hand, and with no sweat. 

Before the battle of Salem

Here is where end the certainties about what really happened and a number of legends have developed as the years passed. Some say she was half human; hence a little immune to the Betan weakness so the Anipos had no choice but shot her down. Some say that she was maimed by the Betan frying signal so much that they had to put her out of her misery. For some, in the end the Anipos got her back to that planet from which she was sent away that she was just an embryo, and she now lives a pacific life among her species. Obviously, I hope for this last story to be the true. I hope it is, for the sake of my own soul; I hope I will discovers she lives, under a different Sun, the kind of life she had so much earned the right to live here.

If she’s dead and this is more probable... I hope that, on the other side of the veil, she met with her old dog. The one she talked about, the day we stole a gallon of Vodka from the Siberians of the fifth. That old San Bernardo shepherd, who waited for her while she was in suspended animation till he died of old age. I hope they are there, under the shadow of the old Oak that was near her house in Oregon, before Oregon disappeared...

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Self Portrait

Me, Myself, in all my Domly Magnificence and Near Baldness

Not much more to write here, this was my last year's carnival costume.

It could be more awesome, if the material was true leather and if I was bright enough to design the mask to cover the top of my forehead and hide my soon-to-be power baldness.

It does make for some fun scene, though looking like Torquemada doesn't stir enthusiasm in Spain (the actual inspiration was some physician characters in Hayao Miyazaki's Nausicäa of The Valley of the Wind, but no need to point out the locals how geeky I really am).

 Even if looking like an inquisitor makes for some pretty good theatre in a BDSM session, that thing become too hot all too fast - more so in a room warm enough to keep a woman dressed only with leather collar and cuffs.

 I still reseeve the right to convert this into a character design, ans create DaBotz the torturer... master of the extreme consensual SM play.


Tuesday, 23 February 2016

The Dark Web: Insane trolls, Scammers and Law Enforcement

An insane troll, an advance fee scammer, and a law enforcement agent: The Dark Web in all its gory glory.

This morning, I was watching an episode of Bones - season 11, episode 4, "The Carpals in the Coy-Wolves".

There are actual forensic anthropologists out there that have laughed theirs arses off on it ,so I will not investigate on the science in the episode.

Not that I could if my life depended on it - I am just a drawing animal, not a scientist.

What got my attention was this bit of dialogue;

00:16:02,294 --> 00:16:04,661
MONTENEGRO: So I've spent the last few hours

... surfing all the top sites on the Dark Web.
You would not believe what people sell on here.
... Drugs, child pornography, human organs.

... Basically, it's a black market Craigslist.

       (I copy-pasted it from the subtitles... call me "lazy", or "accurate")

OK, now, raise hir[sic] hand whomever felt a wave of bitter nostalgia reading it.

Yes, more or less, this is the same way the Internet was described back in the '90s, before it became the preferred method, for grandparents, to keep contact with grandsons living in distant cities (we wish that the 'web was, really, for porn and assorted misdemeanour).

Is it real? Is the "Dark Web" such a sinful freakish place?  As they say in my original country, ni (not/yes).

Yes, because it is troll land without any hope of an IP ban to rein in the worst examples of the category.

No, because the underlining technology has proved pretty permeable to the efforts of the U.S. Law Enforcement Agencies.  

As everybody with a modicum of technical expertise, I tried to download TOR Browser and have a look at the so-called "Deep Web" - the portion of it that runs over the "Onion Routing" anonymizing protocol and its "hidden services" features, at least.

It was (is? I doubt it changed) a lot like the 'net, before search engines allowed people to find things.

If something is on an hidden service (a web server whose position is hidden inside the onion protocol layers), the only way to know it exists at all is that its owner has decided to publicise it.

If he did, it may be in a "onion directory" - and if it is, and it is mildly illegal, some law enforcement agency is probably looking for ways to shut down, take over - or both - the site.  Ooops!

By the way, 90% of the "normal" web isn't indexed or indexable either... password only access sites, extra-nets, shared DB connections, cloud accounts that requires credentials to access etc. most of the resources available on-line are "by invitation" only... sometimes called the "obscure" web, this is  almost as completely invisible today as it was ten years ago.

It was also as big (OK, fiendishly small) as it was the World Wide Web a couple of years or so after Tim Berners-Lee wrote Mosaic (the first Web Browser) ,and the connections through an Onion are as fast and as reliable as they were when I first had my experience with a 33kbit/s US-Robotics dial-up modem.

The "Onion" underlying technology was initially developed by the U.S. Navy and then brought on by a holy alliance between the U.S. State Department and associations of Chinese expatriates, in order to allow to dissidents (of other governments, ça va sans dire) to have a safe way to communicate to the rest of the world the extent of their dissent.

So, given the amplitude of the U.S. Government agencies involvement in the development of the Onion Routing protocol, it didn't exactly came as a surprise when the FBI busted Freedom Hosting and used the access to snoop up the IP and mac addresses of a bunch of users that connected to "bad sites".
Even before this federal exploit showed that weaknesses in a user machine can be used to identify someone using Onion, burning quite a bit of the credibility of the anonimity provided by the protocol, I had grown pretty deluded by the "Deep Web".

For one Silk Road, that had a certain fame of actually selling what it sold (it has been taken down and the owner is in jail for life, and then the same happened again to its reincarnation  - one starts to see a certain dynamics in this "lawless" web, don't you?), there were hundreds of others that appeared to be just a bunch of trolls having fun (really, what self-respecting killer for hire would waste his time chatting???), scammers looking to place an advance fee payment request for something that they will never - and never had  any intention to - deliver and, probably, another bunch of law enforcement agencies trying to entrap someone.

About the only thing that was worth the effort of launching the browser, was reading the materials in the Wikileaks hidden service without worrying [too much] about being traced... 

(fun note: one of the documents I read there, pointed out the fact that professional criminals use mostly point-to-point remote desktop on virtual private networks, to sell some of the stuff mentioned by Angela in the episode... private internet by invitation only, indeed).

But even that wasn't enough to keep my interest up... in the end, I stopped searching in it for proof of something that evidently doesn't exist under the Sun ("negative" freedom, for an every day schmuck like me)  and left the little bandwidth in the Onion Routes to people that really needs it (Iranian dissidents, Chinese whistle-blowers, CIA spies in a hurry, criminals in a desperate and pathological need to get caught etc.).

Mind you, sometimes going through the Onion can be useful... for example, when FetLife's content delivery network stopped transmitting images and javascript files where I live (Spain, some kind of snafu in their database), I had to "Onion" out of the affected zone for half a week, to see the drawings about whom I received comments on that site.

But as the "Deep Web" goes, for a guy like me - and I think 99% of the people - it is just a waste of time and resources and, worse, just another "moral scare" for the use of lazy TV writers(*).

When I was younger, it was easier to believe to this kind of crap but, 
growing up, one keep seeing the same shit flowing down the river time and again...

* Jon Cowan, author of this bone episode and another couple of similar "pearls", is on my personal black list, now.May he never write another episode of any series, ever again.

Au Pair

A typical Sunday Afternoon.

Lucy had started her career as "au pair" with plenty of hopes and the dream of discovering Europe, before settling down definitively in her home city, Des Moines.

One year of much needed travelling and sightseeing, in her intentions.

This was 4 years ago - things didn't go to plans, but Lucy is hardly complaining about it.

The first family she worked for was a pretty "normal" one, a pretty stolid French middle class household in the city of Caen.

The second one, though, was a far different issue - a British expatriate married to a Spanish woman, with two daughters, living in Sitges, Catalunya, Spain.

A very loving family, with some pretty interesting rituals for the Saturday afternoon - when the girls are not around.

Lucy was usually out, too, but one Saturday she was stood up by José, the Spanish boy she was going out with, and depressed she had retreated to her room - without advising  Mark and Maria of having returned home.

What she saw, when she ventured in the basement after having heard Maria's screams, disturbed her sleep for a couple of weeks, till she confronted the couple asking clarifications.

M&M convinced her to give their SM plays a try - before she ran away to some social worker all too eager to save the girls from some perverts - it was a complete revelation for Lucy.

Like finding a missing piece of herself, that was the source of most of her inquietudes, or plugging a hole in her soul that she despaired to ever find a way to fill.

Lucy lived with the family for six more months, then moved in with two friends of Maria, in the Basque country.

They had no children, and dedicated to SM far more time than Mark and Maria, in a big shack in their property converted to a wonderful dungeon, full of light from huge windows and hand-crafted apparatuses.

In the year spent with them, she learnt more and more about her instincts and she completed her transformation from slightly air-headed au-pair to full time, TPE slave-girl.

Her successive, and for now last employment, was once again a father, mother and two adult daughters family, living in a big house in the middle of a forest in France, with an incredibly well prepared dungeon.

In other words, a submissive masochist's heaven.

Officially, Lucy is now a full time housecleaning maid.

Unofficially, and much more satisfactorily for her, she is the pain-toy of the daughters, on Wednesday, and of Papa - with Mama a sister-slave - during the week-end.

Monday is to decompress and recuperate from the session, Tuesday to effectively clean the house... usually, wearing only an apron.

Free days, Thursday and Friday, to go out and have a social life - mostly because Mama insists that she is still too young to become a 24/7 slave-in-a-cage.

She is pretty happy with her life, right now... and sees no reason to change, or to go back to Iowa any time soon.

Little does she know, that Papa is going to receive a much unwanted promotion... oversea.

Monday, 22 February 2016


Yes, she is saying "Crap!"

-note: the kicker is at the end.

There is a little sea dividing believers from non believers. A little sea, or the biggest and deepest ocean on Earth (the Pacific, they tell me - I was horrible in geography).

If one does not believe in a religion, chances are that said religion will look to this person as, at best, a collection of fairy tales.

At best, because fairy tales may be written by one author that - usually - tries to keep things coherent and in line with the accepted moral tenets of the society he -or she- lives in.

Unfortunately, seldom - if ever - the written texts of any religion are the product of the work of just one man, created in one era-society with unchanging mores.

Generally, the older a religion, the more complex and - in the end - contradictory is the corpus of  texts - and of commentaries on said texts - that constitute the intellectual structure of the faith.

Even accepting a divine inspiration for all these texts, the sheer extension of human societies the transcribers of the divine words had to speak too means that the message had to be tweaked, time and again, in order to be understood by its intended recipients (to be sometime fully misunderstood by their successors... ).

On the other hand, religions which only have texts written by a founder and his nearest associates, in a short period of time, usually fare not much better... depending on how many and how powerful are their members, they may or may not be recognized as a religion by the rest of society - if they have not enough political clout, they often ends up called just a (dangerous?) cult ,with all that applies.

So, the average miscreant - that is a member of another faith - is only all too keen pointing out the "mistakes" in whatever religion has the misfortune of being worth of his, or her, scorn.

Then there are, of course, those that do not believe in the basics of any faith - the actual atheists.

These poor fellows cannot help it but, forced to consider the objections that members of any faith have moved against any other faith, they reach the - not unreasonable, if seen from their point of view - conclusion that every faith is, at the bottom, just crap.

Or worse, just another example of those entities - like computer viruses, the '70s career woman and summer pop hits - called memes.

I.E. self-replicating, often stupid ideas.

Of course, when a believer and a non believer meet, they better do not tackle religion in their discourse.

Because it is bound to be a dialogue between deaf.

The believer often resorts to so called appeals to authority - alas, that is a logical fallacy even when the authority one appeals to is recognized by both parts - or tries to exploit the moral high ground provided by the tenets of his faith, failing to recognize that the authority he is invoking has no value whatsoever for his interlocutor.

Said interlocutor most often than not do the same or, worse, tries to use logical arguments that the believer has no intention to accept, because he already knows that they are incompatibles with his faith.

Which is why keeping a  separation between faiths and state is important.

Because governments are, really, just means to allocate resources and compose disputes in a safe and reasonably efficient way - after all, the alternatives are called mayhem, civil war, tribal clans infighting etc. - and, as such, require people to discuss and compromise all the time.

Which is something that cannot really happen, in a discussion in which one or both sides are believers motivated by faith.

OK, same old same old, these notions are some centuries old, it is not exactly a modern discovery, so why did I took the time to write it?

Take a text editor and replace faith with ideology, religion with party, believer with ideologist, atheist with pragmatist and cult with radical group. Or just download the replaced version here.

Now, read it again - if you need to.

(yep, the replacements rise a notch the sarcasm level... funny, isn't it? Unfortunately, it also insert some redundancy.)

Does it remind you of your country's political landscape? I hope not.

 Because if it does... Yes, Crap! is just about the right expression.

- Final notes: the idea that, at a certain level, rigidly ideologised political parties and dogmatic religions are interchangeable is not really mine. 

I met it first when I was a kid, reading a piece of Sakharov -by then already a Soviet's dissident - about the subtle religious nature of the Marxist regime, as it came to be in the SSSR. 

In turn, I think that Sakharov was influenced by Arnokd J. Toynbee (that thought Marxism was a materialistic heresy born out of Christianity) , or by some other historicist thinker of their time (before my birth).

However, I think that this was not only a characteristic of the Soviet's Marxism, or of the German Nazism.

I think that it is more general one, that the "core supporters"of any political party are pure believers of its ideology - in an almost religious sense, without any critical ability to revise said ideology even when faced with the proofs that it is failing to help solve a country's issues.

Which is the reason why parties invariably try to convince the men in the middle - they may not be that bright, as some say, but they can change their mind.


The Beautiful Alien

In the fall of 2040, the collaboration Active Gravity Interferometer Data Analysis identified recurring patterns in the data recovered from two of the three gravity waves detectors active at the time.

After two years of furious discussions, the conclusion was reached that the recurring, quasi-regular patterns were, in fact, time-stamp codes, artificial in nature.

Were they? Was it, really, the first communication from an alien intelligence?

Of course, the modern reader knows that the answer is a resounding "Yes" but, at the time, astrophysicists fights over it were just one tiny step removed from an actual civil war.

However, it would have taken a while before the content of the actual communication was deciphered; this is a short, small recapitulation of how it came to happen.

The possibility galvanized the SETI community, so thousands of scientists and amateur astronomers started searching for other signals in the noise that the gravity waves receivers were picking up.

As it could be expected from signals created by an advanced civilization, they were heavily compressed with a format that approximated almost perfectly the entropy of the source, per Claude Shannon's work.

Or, in layman works, the signals looked almost exactly like white noise. 

The signals proved as easily recognizable and interpretable, as it would be a wi-fi transmission for someone without access to an extensive specification of the signal encoding .

The time-stamp code was practically the only part of the format that was "in clear", uncompressed - as we now know, precisely to allow it to be "seen" by fellow sentient species.  

Knowing that something was there didn't made any easier to find it, so  it took 15 years to crack the code, and even then, it was mostly by coincidence.

In Spring 2052, Rhada Chakravorty entered the team developing DDB - Digital Data Broadcasting, the first "data agnostic" and truly international data broadcasting system.

DDB had been sponsored by the U.N., as an attempt to unify the various digital video and data broadcasting systems in use at the time, all around the world, and featured a then innovative implementation of OFDM(Orthogonal Frequency-Division Multiplexing) on a 256 states QAM.

It was also designed to be the base for WiMax3.

It was analysing the rough signals of an early implementation of WiMax3, that  Chakravorty recognised a subtle similarity between the antenna signals from the Wimax base and the "noise" from the eLISA space interferometer, that she was spending most of her free time analysing - as a member of the Association of Bangalore Amateur Astronomers.

In the space of two years, with the collaboration of Dr. Kim Lee Edgar of the Kyung Hee University, she wrote a first decoder for the aggregated stream of data inside eLisa's "white noise".

Chakravorty and Kim received a Nobel Prize in 2081(ironically, the year that is considered the start of the "Earth First" movement) for their development of the first ISDLP (Inter-Stellar Data Link Protocol) decoder of 2054.

Though breaking ISDLP allowed to access the first layer of the transmission channel used by the aliens, this only exposed the data packets inside said stream, but the data inside the packets were, themselves, encoded and compressed, when not - like it happens in any secure connection - cyphered to avoid tampering from third parties (which, essentially, Earth's humanity at the time was - an unintended third party trying to snoop in on a private channel).

Still,  the accessibility of the packets multiplied the fronts to attack the data inside it, first by categorizing them by their recurring attributes - essentially, format headers and sizes - then by hypothesizing what each packet type was likely.

In September 2055, Joshua Obote - then a student of the University of Johannesburg - recognized a variant of the LZW compression algorithm, in a medium sized data packet of around 350 kilobytes.

With the help of fellow student Elaine Mahola, hypothesizing that the packet was in fact similar to a black and white GIF image, he managed then to successfully decode the first TGIF (Transsian Graphic Interchange Format) image, here reproduced.

"The Beautiful Alien"
The first image from an alien civilization ever decoded, this drawing of
F'Qahj Lize Fjschwann, represented an incredible moment for Earth's humanity.
It is difficult to downplay the importance of this achievement, or its counter-intuitive effects.

In the months mounting to this discovery, polemics about the form and cultures of the aliens had abounded, and fierce resistance to the decoding efforts had been organized by many religious authorities.

The underlying motivation for this resistance was, essentially, the fear of discovering that the intelligences outside our Solar System were really of the "alien starfish" variety - potentially of an atheistic persuasion.

This image changed it all, as most experts inferred from it that:

  • The aliens looked remarkably human-like.
  • The aliens produced art.
  • The aliens had some kind of Internet.
  • The aliens liked porn.
  • The aliens were, in fact, as humans as everybody's neighbours.
  • Finally, that "Internet is for porn"(*) was an universal rule. 

Being that the case, from the Pope to the Dalhai Lama, various ayatollah and the leadership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a vast majority of the planet's religious leaders  manifested the opinion that the aliens were indeed humans, and as such amenable to conversion and salvation - per the tenets of each leader's religion, of course.
As a result, the religious authorities of the whole Earth felt not only relieve - as no widespread adoption of atheism was likely to result from a contact with what seemed to be just another variant of humanity -  but a surge of hope.

Dwindling as their faithful's numbers may have been in the modern world, the people outside Earth could be more receptive to the message of hope in their faiths.

Each Pope, Ulamā, Ayatollah, and - generally - every predicator of a religion having proselytism in its beliefs system, saw the future with more hope, as a result of "The Beautiful Alien" image.

Maybe, an entire galaxy was waiting for their Faith's Words and Salvation. 
Little did they know, that this was a play that could be played by both sides, and that the aliens had spent millennia playing it.

Gustav Magnusson, 11/25/2060 - 08/17/2115

 Grand Ayatollah of Norway from 2110 to his death, he was the first Shī‘ah cleric killed by a F'Qa's Earth convert.
The killing was brought on by the Zwiddah promulgated against him by Baba F'Qahj Wu Zute Sannis in 2114,
for  the crimes of criticizing the F'Qa religion and for trying to convert F'Qa's believers to Islam.

(*) Note: as we now know, the latter three deductions were not correct... this is, in fact, a religious image out of a theocratic culture, the Transsian, that is interested to sex only for one month every two years - when all the members of the species enter a collective oestrus state - and has no use whatsoever for what Earth humans call porn, or "sexual sins" of any kind. 

Only a mere 40% of the human cultures in our octant of the galaxy shares Earth's humans lack of a strict, "mandatory" oestrus cycle, and are therefore compatibles with "sexual concepts". 

The others cannot really understand what the fuss is all about. 

As an example, in the Transsian culture, the Earth word "porn" has been adopted just as a contraction of the phrase "scenery porn", indicating an excessive attention - in drawings - to background details.

Tuesday, 16 February 2016


 An interview with Xanthippe Xeyos

by Erri Orchow


The face of an alien invasion

She's one of the most fascinating figures in the Anipos colonial administration. Young, apparently well under her 30, pretty, with a vast culture and a great sense of humour, maybe a little too acid for the taste of most Earth’s politicians.

Her long brown hairs, the impossibly purple eyes, the sleek figure and her fondness for brown-red leather garmen are among the reason of her iconic stature as the embodyment of alien occupation forces on Earth.

Administratively speaking, as the deputy secretary to the Terrestrial Affairs, she's maybe the single most important member of the colonial personnel, right after Commander Kro-Nos, the Legation chief.

In her role she has come surprisingly fast to know many aspects of our civilization, and – her critics say - to carve a greater share of power than what would be suggested by her place in the Anipos organization.

Her opinions had a great weight in shaping most of the actions the Anipos took on Earth in these last two years, and may have lasting effects far in the future too, as her tenure in office will last for other eight years.

We interviewed her in her office at the 180th floor of New Amsterdam's Millennium Centre.

What do you think about Earth, after two whole years on the planet?
They told me a lot of things, before I came here, and I was distrusting most of them. But, to see is to believe, after all

Believe, what?

That this planet is ovecrowded with assholes, of course.

Your caustic sense of humour has quickly become famous in the whole Earth's system. Quite frankly, it did not mix well with the image the public has of the Anipos and their traditional, haughty way of doing things. Have you ever had any difficulties with the higher officials, for this?
Haughty and Anipos, doesn't really ring right in the same phrase...

It Happened. I menaced to resign, a couple of times. It was enough.

Was it? So, the Anipos are really so prone to discussion and compromise? It didn’t seem so, during the last war.

Anipos' high officers may find my way of treating assholes a little too harsh, but they hardly have any doubt about what's better, between apologize for me once in a while and have to face Earth's assholes day after day
They prefer, by far, the former; they are not completely dumb, after all...

Rather said, dumb sound even worse than haughty, in the same phrase with Anipos;

Asshol...  terrestrials’ beliefs notwithstanding.

A thing we have noted: in your phrases, you almost always say "The Anipos".  You never use the expressions "Us " or “We”. Isn't this odd?
Why should it be odd? I'm not an Anipos. I just happen to work for them. They pay well, and it's the only way to see other planetary civilizations if you are not disgustingly rich.

So, big deal, I'm not an Anipos. I'm from Beta Draconis.

Beta Draconis... this will be an astonishing revelation for our readers. We have your permission to report it?
I thought it was already in the public domain.

It's not that I made any mystery of it, and I use to go around with a Beta's "Civil Defence" suit. It’s not some kinky leather attire, as I had occasion to read in some of your gossip magazines.

I think that any fan of extra-planetary cultures already knew, or everybody who passed by the Wikipedia "Xenocultures" portal.

The article on Beta Draconis is quite well written, with just a couple of slight errors and urban legends mistaken for truth.

What errors?
It reports that our males are genetically bound to the planet and cannot leave its surface. It is a patent lie. What is true is that , if they go to planets inhabited by non-superpowered life forms, they must refrain from any form of sex for as long as they stay there, which could mean for  decades, as they are pretty much the same as your popular icon Superman.

I don't get this. Superman?
Larry Niven, one of your authors, explored the concept of the consequences of the release of nearly unstoppable sperm cells in your ambient in his article "Men of steel, woman of kleenex". He was correct in every point: on a planet like Earth, a Betan male could not even afford to meet Rosie Palm.

If only he  masturbated once, the result would be thousands of seemingly unrelated accidents, the birth of hundreds of malformed foetuses from women who didn't even had any sex in the previous twelve months. The vast majority of said foetuses would probably kill their mothers with their first kick...

It is quite nightmarish, to tell the truth....

Other errors?
Well, the line "Beta Draconis was the first colony to be annexed to the Anipos sphere"... really, forgetting the fact that Anipos hardly have any colony at all outside Earth, this ignores some fundamental facts.

As a planet, we have hardly any resource worth the expenses of a military occupation.

Even your Moon is richer than our home.

As a society, we are too much a bunch of lazy, anarchic individualists to be any kind of real treat or a worthy consumer market.

For example, our "Civil Defence" is only a volunteer organization. It gathers and organizes helps when a natural catastrophe occurs, for as long as the emergency needs, and that’s all. It’s not a military organization, but that's the nearest thing to an army, or a government, we have.

Now, the "Ani" have many faults, but they wouldn't do anything so wasteful as invading another planet just for fun. They are not terrestrial, and you people should start to remember that by now.

It’s true that they established some ties with our world, but exchange copyrights for digitally transmissible media is hardly the same thing as to become a colony.

We exchange books, hi-resolution paintings 3d scansions, music, cinema... even some digitalized comics, like, more or less, do all the civilizations in this arm of the galaxy.

It's just that the economy of space flight, and of production in the era of hyper-automation, conspire against the very trade of material goods between star systems.

Without such trade exchanges, the "Interplanetary colonization" is meaningless. 

Hyper-automation, with sentient robots, and intelligent nano-tech is way down in the technology stepladder that leads to faster than light fly and, with them, the cost of goods becomes equal to that of the energy needed to make them.

An obvious fact that is excruciatingly hard, it seems, to convey to Earth’s masses is that there is nothing in this universe as expensive as FTL jumps - in reality, not even humans, ethics aside.
Not even humans? Really?

If  it wasn't appallingly in-respectful of human rights as everybody understands them, it would way cheaper to send one's DNA and memories, and build a copy at the destination point, than to actually transport a whole living body.

Of course, negating this way the sanctity of a person's identity is inacceptable.

So, it is all in the economic balances?

Almos. Nothing requires, to be assembled, more than a ten millionth of the energy needed to move it from a planet to another with a FTL drive.

As for non FTL systems, they still requires huge amounts of energy, still a hundred times or so the energy required by any fabrication process, and it would take centuries for complete a transfer.

The only exceptions are some individuals, in very small amounts, whose physical, psychological or otherwise features cannot be achieved by a given civilization. But that civilization must be willing to pay the travel ticket for the guy.

Luckily for me, Anipos have some problems in dealing with people that routinely lies, like Terrestrials, and even worse when they have to do with compulsive liars, a pathology that affect quite some terrestrial politicians. That kind of people positively drives the Anipos mad.

So they "often" resolve to hire collaborators from more "ruthless" societies, mostly us and the Transsians, to deal with societies that they find quirk to handle - and their pragmatism hasn't reached the point of copying people instead of sending them.

By the way, in this context, “often” means “a handful of persons” each year, typically just three or four. Not the thousands that your trashier newspapers babble about. 

So, Beta is not a colony of the Anipos because it is not economically convenient for them?
I feel that you are trying to get me irritated , but I'm not into nationalistic fetishism.

They have no reason to do it, so they never tried. Should they try, they would probably win, in a day or two.

Then, we'll ask for the same kind of welfare state that they offer to their citizens and we'll bleed them dry.

I believe the idea is enough to scare their administrators a lot more than the thought of any military resistance we may ever mount.

An interstellar colony is an idea beyond folly: it's the stupidest way to waste resources.

If the whole concept of an interstellar colony is not economically viable, as you say, how comes that Earth has ended a colony of the Anipos?
It has been a completely not economic decision on their part.

More, it was a more than slightly irrational one.

They were forced to act by what is really, their biggest problem. One that they hardly acknowledge...

I can’t really follow you, here. Can you explain?
Almost all of your cultures seem to be built around the totem of the territorial conquer by the dominant male... and your way of achieving such dominance has grown more and more barbaric and destructive with the technology advancements.

I think that no rational person can deny it, right?

Now, this stirs a lot of ancestral fears in the Anipos.

In their star system, there were two inhabited planets with Cro-Magnon remnants. The firsts were our beloved Anipos.

The others were pretty much like the terrestrial culture, and they tried to wipe the Anipos out until the day they made a mistake with a biologic weapon and wiped out themselves instead.

The Anipos reacted, more to the reminiscences of that to the real threat posed by Earth.

They reacted to the fear of seeing their long lost, warmongering, scoundrel neighbours coming back to life.

And your propaganda was shouting out loud that you had to reach the status you deserved in the galaxy, and made more than your share to give the impression that you were planning to use the rest of the galaxy as a place to use your rotting nukes on some civvies, without nasty witnesses like journalists and the likes...

Oh, if I remember well, when the war started you even really tried it a couple of time... it's pitiful that Anipos doesn't have foot soldiers, but only robots in their army.

Highly armoured, radiation proof robots, some of them even able to withstand a direct shot from a nuke at blank zero... not exactly the ideal target for random nukes.

So, it's not like you didn't give them any reason to overstep their usual boundaries.

But, why did the war started when it started? Why not, let's say, fifty years before?
From what I know, they kept monitoring your planets for years, particularly scientific reviews.

It seemed that your physicists were knee-deep in the swamp of quantum gravity and string theories.

Even the Anipos spent a couple of centuries getting out of that loophole, and they were among the fastest civilization in doing so.

So, they thought they had all the time to see if you would finally grow up and become good guys, or you’ll get boiled by your own exhausts, or finally you’ll nuke one each other in some kind of incident.

Wasn't it for that other patents' office worker that, like his colleague a century before, came out with the Idea and snapped you out of quantum gravity in a bang, Anipos would still be up there, watching your television (not a bright idea to send through electromagnetic waves all that violence, all those "evil aliens” smashed and slaughtered without any remorse, I must add) and feeling a little uneasy in front of people able to talk about pre-emptive war... and believe something like that had any sense.

But the guy came. You get aware of the pan-galactic hyper-wave university network... and all the rest of the hyper-wave transmissions that made your SETI researchers cry, when they realized they were looking for the wrong thing.  

Your people, whose idea of fun was often watching show where your heroes destroy aliens guilty of being in your way, discovered an entire universe ready to rape...

I know it is not true – maybe - but this was the impression the Anipos ( and anyone who looks objectively at your media at the time ) had and, the Anipos being the most paranoid culture in this arm of the galaxy, they felt so uneasy that they ended up doing what they would have never done else. 

So, they attacked out of fear?
Yes. Well, your historical data shows that you attacked the small, automatic station on the dark side of the Moon that they used to monitor your transmissions... it doesn't really matter. Usually, they wouldn't even give a fig... Non sentient automatisms are worth a dime, after all.

Simply put, terrestrials were showing their muscles to the universe since the early ‘50s, to say so.

The Anipos couldn't really stand that attitude, and they convinced themselves that if you ended up finding a FTL drive as economic as the one used by the Cro-Magnons – which I believe to be impossible, in this “new” universe - you would have stormed the whole universe.

In reality, Earthlings and Anipos seem made just to despise each other and, in the end, this basic clash of attitudes found a way to overcome the good sense of the Ani.

For the rest, I've read a lot of bullshits in your media in these two years, mostly drawn out of “parallelisms" with your past history... like that the Anipos are going to drop here their surplus of population, or that they are going to steal this or that natural resource.

I’ve seen articles speaking of water... water, for God’s sake! If someone would ever want water, there is more water in Saturn’s rings that on the whole planet Earth, ad it’s already in orbit, ready to be ferried out.

Again, I don't ask to you people to believe the Anipos are good. Just to believe that they are not idiots.

Unless someone REALLY comes out with an FTL drive that eat less than a peta-joule per kilogram and parsec, like the ones that were possible before the nu slide, there is no way for a military occupation to raise the money to pay for its own logistic.

On my part, I don't think that someone could pop out, next year, with an idea that hasn't been explored in the five thousand years passed since the Megatters designed the first post-slide FTL drive, which is more or less the one still in use today. 

Until that moment, there is nothing in any solar system that's worth the ride's ticket to the next one. Period.

As for their "demographic problems"... their planets is a little smaller than Earth, but has less seas so that habitable surface is more or less the same. Also they cleansed the fifth planet from the scoundrels' wastes and terra-formed the second and fourth planets of their system.

So, they are a great total of two billions, now, living on four planets, a couple of moons and a bunch of orbital stations.

Unlike Beta’s, they are socialites who love to stick together and tend to live in relatively concentrated cities... so they haven t real needs in term of personal space.

They wrote off their dictionaries "undesired pregnancy" some centuries ago, so it should not be that unexpected that their number has been stable in these last two hundred years.

Space is hardly one of their problems. And if it was, they would have really invaded US before Earth.

Beta is half the distance than Earth, from their place.

I admit that I was one of those who expected them to flood the planet with their troops. Instead, the whole bulk of the Anipos occupation force is something like a hundred persons. It's just this economic problems that prevented them from sending more troops?

Yes, it’s the main reason. That and the fact that it is quite hard to find Anipos who actually like to spend years away from home.

It's almost impossible to state directly the costs of interstellar travel, because at the moment there is no economic exchanges between Anipos and Earth, so I have to guess, basing myself on the costs of similar things - like cars, houses etc... – here and in Anipos mainland.

A ticket to Anipos' home world should be in the two hundred thirty, two hundred forty millions credits range. An android with almost human intelligence built by the automatic factories that they placed in the asteroids belt costs something less than eight hundred dollars.  An intelligent jet fighter is somewhere in the range of the hundred thousands...

The whole army that crushed Earth's defences wasn't worth the travel expenses of two of the technicians and military personnel that supervised it. 

That explains a lot of things. First of all, it explains why you will never see a foot soldier from another star system. And it explains the salary and wages of said personnel...

What things?

The bonus for those who complete ten years on the same planet is slightly above a couple of year of wage.

Officials are entitled to another bonus for every of their subordinates who reach that goal, and fined for those who fail.

And it explains the laughs that meet your lobbyists when they try to bribe one of us. They almost always seem to fail to grasp that they offer just small amounts of a kind of money that we could spend only here.

It's not that we are such steadfastly honest people, as some say.

It's simply that, unless we resolve to live here, your money is pretty useless to us. And, on the other end, for a bribe to reach the break-even point - where it starts to be economically convenient to be bribed - it would have to be at least in the five hundred million range.

Nobody of us treats affairs, with terrestrial counterparts, with that kind of budget involved.

Is this "bonus system" one of the reasons behind your evident self assurance? Or, is it true that you hold this place because of a sexual relation with chief commander Kro-Nos?
Oh oh, what a great gossip you gave me. I didn't know that such a tale was going around.

I would rather like to take a ride on the good old man, because he really is a good ma, and I often find myself "starving"... I could enjoy giving him a good old blowjob. We could do a sweet '69 of friendship, it would be nice.

Unfortunately, he doesn't forget that I could forget his fragile nature and inadvertently cut "it" out.

There are no Anipos who would dare to place their virility in jaws able to truncate a titanium bar.

To say the truth, there also aren't many Earthling who agree to put it into a hole that could squeeze "it" in an orgasm's twitch, either.

In turn, this simple fact, I think, justifies some of my acidity toward the Terrestrial male. Were it only for you guys, I would have “starve” to death.
It's right. You are the only Beta in the staff, are you?
So, you did your researches...

Yes, I'm the only one... but I'm lucky enough to meet some woman, from time to time, who's adventurous enough to venture into such dangerous waters. Or doesn't really realize the danger she’s putting herself into.

Women used not to be really my cup of tea, but one has to adapt, sometimes.

What do you think of Bridget Johansson, the only Earth's superhero? It has been discovered that she is from your planet.
Good girl, I met her when she was giving an introduction to Terrestrial culture for those that were willing to apply for a post on this planet.

They may pick just one or two people each year, but there are plenty of young girls who dream to wander under some alien sky, to see the universe, so she had her hands quite full.

Not that she really needs the job... she's the only daughter of a former multi-millionaire, who spent much of his fortune to build a small interstellar vector - it was rich enough to afford it! - and place four embryos in cryogenic stasis.

Note well, he did all that to save his sons from the "Aniposian Domination".

He was a right-wing madman, and an idiot.

Why an idiot?
You are going to send four embryos to a far away planet... which would you choose? Two girls and two boys, possibly with the most varied genetic pool.
Given the peculiarities of our biology, it's the most sensible thing. I would do it...

Even if you insisted to send "your sons", giving the fact that you are using eggs from some donors, you would think to use at least egg cells from four different mothers.

Anyway, you should stick to the two & two pattern, so that they can find some solace in each other... they are probably going to be quite different from the rest of the planet. We beta are not the mainstream Cro-Magnon descendants, after all, thanks to the Betans bacteria that replaced the original mitochondria.

And you would aim carefully, to the "right" planet. Definitely, with all that invested in the effort, you would do it....

He sent four sisters. So they couldn't be incestuous, as this was an abomination onto his God.

From the same mother. Because he believed that a man should have children with just one woman.

In a ship with a poor Artificial Intelligence that had to look for a planet free of the Anipos Influence for itself...  “so that the hand of the Almighty may freely express herself”.

And he burnt almost all of his fortune to do so. This goes beyond Madness and falls right into Idiocy.

This is terrible. What does she think, of this story?
She's positively angry at dad... had he not been such an idiot, she would have been filthy rich and not just wealthy.

Rather than that, she would have been famous for some normal reason - as a filthy rich and pretty looking VIP - and not as a poor girl victim of a cruel fate, brought up by some good barbarian on a terrible planet... a role that made her an instant celebrity when she got back, but hardly one that she does enjoy at all.

As a celebrity, she often speaks about you people. But she doesn't make that good a publicity to the planet, though.

What ? Why?
When she lived here she suffered from some chemicals unbalances in Earth's food. It's nothing serious, if you know the correct blood values; 

It just requires to keep an eye on your diet and eat some integrators, once in a while. But, being the only one of her kind - I wonder what was of the other three - earth doctors couldn’t even start to guess what was wrong, so she accumulated toxins during all her stance on Earth.

Her mind was obfuscated, he powers unstable. She couldn't realize all that was going on around her.

Back home, she was rapidly restored to health and her true self... which is even sharper than mine.

Her opinion of Earth people is pretty much the same of her biographer Wonga. "Not really bad people, but theirs leaders should be exterminated. We may don't know why, but they certainly have a clue".

I believe it comes from some of your older, nastier proverbs.

She doesn't seem the same girl that is portrayed by the media in these last few months.
This lately, your media are full of the most exquisite bullshit I have ever read in my life. A parade of the most used revanchist propaganda clichés, saying that you lost because of the defeatists. That, with just a little effort more, you would have won.

I noticed that its writers were usually at the front-line in Yale, or at Harvard. Some so-called journalists they are, people who doesn't even bother to read your own historians.

These latter, honestly state that the war cost for the Anipos was the same of the annual travel of the "postal ship" that now ferries the personnel exchange from and to Anipos one.

Or a tenth of the photoelectric shield that stops **5%** of the sun radiations to Earth and gives **70%** of the energy used on the planet.

That same shield that is the main reason why this planet is not boiling right now.

Isn't it a bit too harsh?
I'm not the one selling concealed suicide desires to the masses... your technical advancements in these years, mostly made reverse-engineering some fringe Anipos tech, have been great.


But you are not even on par with the technologies they show you during the war. And, no doubt, they didn’t use the really advanced materiel. It was standard stuff, the kind of it is used in everyday activities, just a bit bulkier. It’s not, as I keep reading around, that you are scientifically overtaking anybody.

Right now, just the maintenance of the solar shield would require the whole of your orbital shuttle fleet, should they ever decide to stop to it and retire their robots. It would cost you the GDP of one of your big countries, too, and it will be so till the day some lucky guy of yours comes out with a working anti-gravity system.

The weapons factories in the asteroids belt are still there, just waiting for an order.

And also all of the fighting machines that survived the war are stacked out there, in some hidden warehouse.

They didn't waste their time to destroy something they could still need. They are just waiting.

Your economy took ten long years to get back on her feet, after the war.

It has been ten painful years of recessions, riots, strikes and political repression.

A mountain of pain for nothing, I should add.

Because, in the end, for the everyday man and woman who paid the war with blood and ten wasted years of sorrow, nothing has changed.

The president of X is still the president of X, elected with the same old ways to act in the behalf of the richer 1% of the population. Well, he can't attack his neighbour Y, who usually got the power more or less in the same way, because neither of them has an army any more, and that is indubitably a step forward, but one can’t help but wonder how all that money that's not spent in weapons still finds his way to the pocket of the same old sharks.

Are you sure it's the case to risk another round with the Ani just because "they deny us our rightful place under the sun"? Place under the sun? You already have one.

My home is way poorer than Earth, in terms of natural resources. And is not even the worst planet you can find... the universe is full of planets lacking those heavy metals you need to build most of the useful technologies, metals that the existence of your big Moon so usefully carried near the surface of this world.

Most of others civilization had to reach the other worlds and asteroids in their systems, to find useful amounts of indium, iridium, platinum etc...

Yet, more and more I read and hear bad rhetoric phrases, the kind of one think you should have learnt to avoid by now, about the "evil enemy" that "stole our rightful place in the galaxy"...

You can take whatever place you want, in the Galaxy, provided you can pay the travel expenses.

Or the "horrible invaders who are pushing us down in the shadows"... c'mon, with me, we are one hundred twenty.

How could we push down seven billion people, I don't know. 

Do you have any idea of the causes of this wave of bad journalism?
Somebody tricked your anti-trust regulation and got a hold of a great part of your media. Somebody who had shares in what were Earth's weapon industries, and wants to get back in business

Intern view of a magazine redaction; Erri is talking to the chief editor.

- Erri, this article is no good, no good at all
- What's wrong, boss?
- It's all wrong... yes, she looks like the bitchiest bitch of them all, and this is not bad...
- She IS a bitch, boss
- But, these final considerations... this is bordering on defeatism, Erri
- I cut them out, boss?
- Better... then, this story with "Saint Bridget" that hates our leaders, we can't really allow us to publish enemy propaganda, Erri
- So, I cut it too, boss?
- It's better
- This image of the titanium severing jaws...
- What's the matter with this?
- Cut it... it's nice that she jokes about such a petty accusation, but that image could stir anxieties in our male readers
- Ok, boss. But, if I did it, in the end, did not it looks like she's really giving blowjobs to commander Kro-Nos?
- Yes, yes... our readers will like it. You are smart, Erri.
- Ok, I'll do it.
- Then again, there is no proof that interstellar travel is that expensive... just their words, hers and the rest of these filthy aliens. Let's go for something more real, that the everyday man can understand... five hundred thousands bucks, something like this; expensive but not beyond the impossible.
- Yes, boss.... What about their wages? Even about those, we have no third party source, to tell the truth.
- Leave the bonus topic; it is a proof that they are fond of money like everybody
- I got it all, boss. But, I have a problem
- Which would it be? I hope is not a professional conscience one. You are a grown up man, c'mon
- She told me that, if I misreport her words, she come and give us a blow-job
- Us?
- both to me and you, boss
- Odd... she's quite a knack, it wouldn't be that bad... wait, did she intend...

Erri takes a mountaineer snap hook from his pocket, one of those ring-like things that are sometimes used as key holders. It's literally crunched open, with clear teeth shaped marks.

- What's it?
- Titanium, boss. Titanium.


Monday, 15 February 2016

The schizophrenic science of Star Wars

The best thing in "The force Awakens"

I have just watched Star Wars - The Force Awakens.

 - Spoilers ahead.

It is a good film - although, on some levels it is almost a carbon copy of the first , "A new Hope" (sorry, the "prequels" Do Not Exist, for me).

I mean... how many time The Empire must commit its resources into building a "Death Star", before it learns that with the same money/industrial output they could build an equally  formidable float of starships?
pretty much
A float whose combined fire power would be on par with that of the big base (timing each starship shot so that they reach the target at the same moment would be entirely doable, with current computers - ten thousand years or so of multi-planetary tech development after, it should be of no-consequence ), would have a far greater strategic and tactical flexibility, and it could not be destroyed by a single lucky shot from an X-Wing.

Of course, this would just echoes what happened with the Dreadnoughts at the start of WWII...

Up to the start of the war, every major power in the world had devoted literally fortunes to develop main battle ships, and bigger was better. 

Most of these ships proved almost useless during the war - they were sunk by aircrafts, often before they could engage battle with any other main battle ships, because each admiralty tried to avoid this kind of engagements... but I suppose WWII history is not among the required lectures for Hollywood scriptwriters nowadays.

One would think that a civilization that has starships going from one side to the other of the galaxy - and has got them for quite a while should have outgrown such an infantile "bigger is better" obsession.

The "Death Planet" in the new film, though, beyond being yet another example of "Maus-esque" - from the WWII panzer prototype, the Empire being "the Nazis in Space" , I feel that the comparison was acceptable -  dysfunctional appropriation of resources, done for the sake of showing who's got it bigger, it also has a good chance of earning the "Sci-fi writers have no sense of scale" prize for 2016.

333.000- that's the number of times - more or less a couple of thousands - that the mass of the Sun exceeds that of planet Earth.

Hence that is - approximately, let's say, in the ballpark of - the number of times that the gravity acceleration of the "Death Planet" should augment, while it gobbles-up the mass of a nearby star to prepare for firing.

Of course, suddenly weighing some twenty thousand tonnes (Rey... she is very svelte) should make a bit difficult having battles between putative Siths and Jedis.

Also, the scene of the "Planet" swallowing the star... it lasts some seconds.

Good for cinematographic purposes, but, how exactly fast is the matter going down, in the stream from the star to the planet? At usual cosmic distances, such short a time would mean that the matter is falling toward the planet faster than light...

This, without disappearing from normal space like the Millennium Falcon and without looking like it was going backward  (a common expected result of seeing something that moves faster than light, from anywhere but behind the movement direction).

Also, for all intent and purposes, the star is being compressed into a black hole - it is the basic mechanism of a quasar, the compressed matter should convert a relevant part of its mass  - by compression - into high energy X and Gamma rays, that would scorch the surface of the planet. 

But, the fans will say, we do not even have any idea for a functional FTL (faster than light) travel, so it is fair to say that the "technology" of Star Wars is so far out (of the possible) that it has no sense that we discuss it.

In fact, the fans of a Star Wars are right: the "technology" in Star wars is just thinly veiled magic,  which can be condoned, and works exclusively on plot needs, which should not.

So, even as magic, its use in the movies is full of contradictions - in most cases, authors in Star Wars prove uninterested in extrapolating even a bit the consequences of the gizmos they show.

The robots in Star wars have minds and sentiments - a feat well beyond the dreams of all but the wildest of the robotic scientist - and have been seen doing - literally - everything, as plot demands.

Yet, in such an economy - where second hand droids can be bought for cheap even on a forgotten planet et the end of nowhere - there still are plenty of low-paid manual jobs  around - even full blown slavery, and not necessarily of the only kind that could still have a meaning - waiting for characters to conveniently and dramatically walk away from them.

In our world, hundreds of thousand menial and not-so-menial jobs (online AI law counselling, rings it a bell) may disappear in the next fifteen years, unless computers tech really hits a wall with the end of the "Moore's Law", but  - some thousand years later - scrapping a crashed Star destroyer would still be done, piecemeal, by a bunch of near-starvation desperadoes stranded on a shitty planet.

One would think that to feel sorry for a friend is computationally harder than, say, dismantle piece by piece a crashed Star Destroyer...

In fact, dismantling the Destroyer would require something like the intelligence of an ant, so I expect to see something like shipyards with automatic dismantlers to arrive during the remaining span of my life.

Toward the end, if I am lucky.

Again, the equivalent of cars, in Star Wars, seems to be floating all the time - a frictionless skid made by an invisible force field, or some anti-gravity trick - both are way beyond modern physic knowledge, or maybe just plainly impossible - yet they need to be driven, by people or by droids...

All the while, in our world the Google cars are logging thousand mile after thousand mile without human intervention, their main problem seeming to be that they abide to all the rules all the time, where the humans around them skip this or that rule and occasionally crash into the way too observant googlies.  

Again, one would think that some thousand years after them, all but a handful of sporty models of sprinters, requiring a special licence, would have human commands at all.

About the light sabres, I rather avoid adding my  name to the list of the persons that decry their  physical impossibility - mostly because they are used also in Gundam, and  Tomino and Co proposed a somewhat sensed way they could be built, some day... if harder-than-matter force fields will ever be possible, of which there is no indication whatsoever as of this writing - but I would point out that I see pretty incredible to see people bare handedly fixing machines that handles powers akin to a nuclear explosion. 

In all , "Star Wars" is still the fairy tale written in the '70s by somebody that not only has never had much to do with science, but had never even tried to fix his own car... unscrewing a car's suspension radius arm, for example, takes a man's full strength with at least one meter's lever, in my experience.

But the Millennium Falcon's engine can get fixed with just some "wonder" duct tape.

Given these objections, I feel odd that Sheldon Cooper likes the franchise at all, in The Big Bang Theory...

(fixed  some errors of grammar, orthography and logic, October 13 2016)

Saturday, 6 February 2016

On weapons.

Sweet, Sweet, Sweet Penis Extension

Which does not mean that, the possibility to
own one is not a quintessential civil right.

Fact one; I like weapons, abstractly - as toys for badly grown-up children as they are.

The Big Weapons, truth be told - my wallpaper used to be a Merkava MKIII, and I had a Su-27 model in my office.

It made for fun discussions with Eva, the 4th generation Buddhist pacifist in the office in front of mine.

Fact two: I do not own a weapon.
My father had a shotgun, but in the end it went to the Italian Carabinieri, as I didn't apply for a transfer of his permit when he died. It is better like this... the stupid thing had never been used, anyway, so it was only something more to worry about.

Fact three: I like weapons, abstractly, but the less of them around me, the better.

I wouldn't feel safer having one myself, and the people around me would probably be at some risk.
Because it is not so difficult to get me in the mood for killing someone - for some thirty seconds, then rationality kicks back in and my head cools down.But in those thirty seconds...

So I rather live in a place where weapons are scarce, their diffusion somewhat impeded and - hence - I do not feel the need to be "on par" with any potential aggressor, by buying one.

 - Also, I should be honest... I am the one looking like the fabled potential aggressor, most of times - bulky, stocky and angry-faced... usually, I am really thinking about some 80s' Japanese cartoon, but from the outside it is not so apparent.

I rather stay in one of the quietest corners of Europe - in what is, maybe, the era with the lowest violent crime's rate ever - and not try my luck living in more adventurous places, like, say, the US.

However, if I was in the US, I would probably buy a gun myself  - some nice  Beretta, or a Cz75 (up above).

And, in order to not be precluded the possession of my nice little toy, I wouldn't so much as come near a psychiatrist or any  other mental health figure - not if (s)he was obliged by law to signal my unfitness for gun ownership to authorities... if I am a bit depressed, and I am, it is a problem of mines

By the way,this is the reason why I think the proposals to limit the access of "mentally ill" people to guns - proposals that pop out, regularly, after every mass shooting that happens in the US -  is, at best, a move  to appease the electorate...

These controls are going to fail, because the associated bureaucracy is going to be as labyrinthine as it always is, because there are always ways around it for a determined person that is not above recurring to criminal means and, finally, because really deranged persons - those with actual intention to use guns to maim and kill - will just stay the hell away from any mental health professional who could report them, in order to avoid losing access to their beloved toys.

Also, as someone else  pointed out, being certified paranoid doesn't automatically mean that your neighbour - which has no intention of ever meet a therapist, just to end gun-less like you - may  not really be thinking about how to kill you...

So, either where I live nobody has a weapon (I do not care about criminals - a professional criminal may kill you with a spoon, and you'd wish he just had used a gun), or  - certified crazy or not - I want mine.

Final note: I like the right to bear guns in the US constitution, because it is contingent to the right of the people to mount a guerrilla against the government in case it turns dictatorial - which, given the situation of my own country, would feel nice to have, though probably useless

By the way, I think it is what makes the whole "war on terror" incredibly fun to watch from this side of the pond... or creepy, if you read it as the preparation for when an increasingly undemocratic US government will have to crush violent dissidents at home - which could as well be - and once one considers that France seems to be sliding in the same direction.

Or, if you prefer... I rather live in a gun free country - as I do - but, when they say "the government wants to take our guns away", the right wing nuts may not be nuts at all.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Your Mind's Gears - Los engranajes de tu mente

I thought my mind ran like this..

D.: "Desde aquí escucho los engranajes de tu mente trabajando "
       - nota: ella está chateando desde unos 150 km

Yo: "Coño, no sabía hicieran un ruido tan estruendoso!"

D.: "From here, I can hear the gears of your mind running "
       - note: she is chatting from 100 miles away

I: "Heck, I had no idea they were so noisy!"

My mind must indeed be broken, to publish this.