Thursday, March 29, 2007

Robots finally on the battelfield

Here's a rather interesting subject for all my fellow robot lovers:

ENGLEWOOD CLIFFS, N.J. - The rain is turning to snow on a blustery January morning, and all the men gathered in a parking lot here surely would prefer to be inside.

But the weather couldn’t matter less to the robotic sharpshooter they are here to watch as it splashes through puddles, the barrel of its machine gun pointing the way like Pinocchio’s nose.

The Army is preparing to send 18 of these remote-controlled robotic warriors to fight in Iraq beginning in March or April.

Made by a small Massachusetts company, the SWORDS, short for Special Weapons Observation Reconnaissance Detection Systems, will be the first armed robotic vehicles to see combat, years ahead of the larger Future Combat System vehicles currently under development by big defense contractors such as Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics Corp.

It’s easy to humanize the SWORDS (a tendency robotics researchers say is only human) as it moves out of the flashy lobby of an office building and into the cold with nary a shiver.

Military officials like to compare the roughly three-foot-high robots favorably to human soldiers: They don’t need to be trained, fed or clothed. They can be boxed up and warehoused between wars. They never complain. And there are no letters to write home if they meet their demise in battle.

But officials are quick to point out that these are not the autonomous killer robots of science fiction. A SWORDS robot shoots only when its human operator presses a button after identifying a target on video shot by the robot’s cameras.

“The only difference is that his weapon is not at his shoulder, it’s up to half a mile a way,” said Bob Quinn, general manager of Talon robots for Foster-Miller Inc., the Waltham, Mass., company that makes the SWORDS. As one Marine fresh out of boot camp told Quinn upon seeing the robot: “This is my invisibility cloak.”

Quinn said it was a “bootstrap development process” to convert a Talon robot, which has been in military service since 2000, from its main mission — defusing roadside bombs in Iraq— into the gunslinging SWORDS.

The full article

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Monday, March 26, 2007

Doin' Somthin' I've Always Wanted to Do

As I sit here listening to Ry Cooder softly singing his version of "He'll Have to Go", with the near-zydeco-like accordian sound of Flaco Jimenez accompanying him, it is only natural that my mind turns to my latest and greatest purchase and, to some small extent, worry.

As of Saturday night, I have booked for myself and my sweets a vacation to the heart of the French Quarter of New Orleans. Starving for any money down there (since apparently the Feds don't/won't have as much as needed as promptly as needed), I feel I can justify the trip in many ways including, yet not limited to, going into the heart of the matter and pumping my own money right into the local economy.

That's the idealist in me anyways.

The self-serving part of me will speak of a need to escape Flint for a while, while talking of the notorious "cabin fever" so prevelant in the Midwest about this time of year, my love for jazz and blues, and ultimately my sweetie and I need a break. Good people (pardon me if I sound overly bold pronouncing us as good people) deserve good things.

And it's going to cost us minimally. Flights and a 4-star hotel suite included along with taxes! In our hotel will be plush bathrobes. How luxurious! I've never been able to afford (and truly have I never considered desiring) such a grand stay! We're simple people. As long as the roof stays over my head and the floor beneath my feet, I'm good.

I've walked the streets of Paris, wandered the coutry-side of England, grew up in/around L.A., lived in Maui, currently live in Flint and now will add New Orleans to that resume.

Can I admit something to you privately? *smirk*wink* I'm looking forward to this trip.

My sweets asked me what I wanted to see in New Orleans. I told her "the back of my eyelids, mostly". Ha-ha! I just want to get away and relax. I'm not like most people who seem to want to get up and go GO GO! That's not for me. When I go on vacation (which isn't often) I go to rest and soak up local color.

Po' boys, mufalletas, live music day and night, haunts of every kind. I wonder how it'll affect me? Hopefully above and beyond my expectations.

Wish me luck. I'll let you know how things go.

'Til then... good ole Ry is telling me about his "Yellow Roses", so I think I should be off...


Saturday, March 24, 2007

Lawrence Welk

Monday, March 19, 2007

Found this while researching for a novel

In the middle of January, 2007, the BBC Chinese website published an interview regarding organ harvesting in China. For the first time, China's Ministry of Health spokesman Mao Qunan admitted to the practice of organ harvesting from executed prisoners in China, which he had publicly denied before. However, Mao evaded key evidences of organ harvesting from Falun Gong practitioners and denied that accusation.

The story developed further on March 17 when another anonymous person whose family members were allegedly involved in removing organs from Falun Gong practitioners gave further details that were published in the Epoch Times. According to this anonymous source, the concentration camp is located in the Liaoning Provincial Thrombosis Hospital of Integrated Chinese and Western Medicine where she once worked. Since 2001, according to this source, the hospital has detained practitioners in a huge system of secret underground chambers. Then she made a horrifying accusation that topped all others ever made by the group: “Many Falun Gong practitioners were still alive when their organs were taken. After their organs were cut out, some of these people were thrown directly into the crematorium to be burnt, thus leaving no evidence.” [27]Claiming no connection with the Falun Gong, she said she had to speak up to save those still alive there. Similar claims were made by Mr. R.

Falun Gong aka Falun Dafa is a new-ish controversial religious movement in China and its practitioners are being oppressed by the PRC. It was the Falun Gong that brought the harvesting issues to the attention of the world in 1999. Mind you, it's taken since '99 to January of this year, so many claims may be exaggerated. However, as stated above: China's Ministry of Health spokesman Mao Qunan admitted to the practice of organ harvesting from executed prisoners in China.

No real morality issue or statement from me here. This bulletin is more an attempt to pass along information.

Falun Gong accusations

Chinese Regime Admits To Organ Harvesting From Prisoners

Quote of the Day

"Everything is determined, the beginning as well as the end, by forces over which we have no control. It is determined for the insect as well as for the star. Human beings, vegetables or cosmic dust, we all dance to a mysterious tune, intoned in the distance by an invisible piper." ~ Albert Einstein

"A psychotic is a guy who has just found out what is going on!" ~ William Burroughs

"Get back, demon dogs!" ~ Thundarr the Barbarian

"Inspiration is the by-product of a life well-lived." ~ charles shaver

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Get Goofy

Don't get me wrong, I'm with all of you on the whole "I refuse to forget" deal when it comes to the problems facing the world (poverty, genocide, war), but sometimes there's things you can't fix no matter what. I can't fix the government, but do I forget it? No. However, I do realize that there will be people in life that will do whatever the hell they want to do and back it up through force of law or violence or social pressures or in the name of their god(s). The only time I really fight is when they do it to me. I simply can't win every fight AND I don't have the time or energy to fight every battle. Pick and choose, I say.

It's like being a boxer in the ring. You absolutely HAVE to expect to get hit, even blind-sided on occasion. All you can do is keep standing and pick and choose where you're gonna throw your next punch.

Life is gonna throw enough punches at you, why make yourself sick on top of all the other natural pain?

I bitch a lot. A LOT. Way more than I'd like to admit. But I also take the time to enjoy life. Take for instance: I BBQ'd this week! It was chilly, but sunny. I spent a day making homemade sausages and then the next day I smoked them (insert perverse joke here) (insert perverse joke here because I said 'insert'). I paid for it because it was a lot of work. I was sick for the next few days (still trying to get over it, really) but it was a lot of fun and something I've wanted to do for a long time. I let go of the world for that time and had fun.

I guess my point is: I hate to see anyone suffer to any degree. It concerns me at least and enrages me at most. But I know everyone has stuff they have to work through and as long as they come out happy and healthy and okay in the end I'm good with it.

I want you good people to be idealistic. I won't use terms like "self-righteous indignation" (such terms are often used for snobbish insults... and did you know the first time I came across this term was in Advanced RECON from Palladium Books? Haha... odd, huh?) but I will tell you to fuck it all once in a while and go have a nice day. Go to the beach. Park on the strip. Go into one of those little local grocery stores and buy yourself a bubblegum flavored Jones soda and walk and drink the day away. Get some ice cream and eat it on a hot day in the park. Eat lunch in a small cafe you've never been to before. Try checking out the shops at a kitschy tourist trap. Wear different colored shoes. Baseball season starts soon... when was the last time you went to a game? How about some mini-putt? Start a mini-putt league with friends! Cap it off with a nice dinner and a coffee at a late-night coffee house.

Long story short: don't worry yourself sick. I guess that's all my wisdom for you. Pretty cliche, huh?

Take care, folks. Get goofy.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

For I Walk with the Dead and There Shall Be No Truer Companion

Anyone that's paid any degree of attention to me and my writings and rantings over the past year have come to hear the same ole blues tune of poverty and depression. This is a simple continuation of that.

I sit here in the dark listening to War perform their song The World is a Ghetto. I was reminiscing about the first time I saw Enter the Dragon. It was long ago. I still lived in Long Beach. Kung-fu films were all the rage thanks to The Karate Kid. For me it sparked a certain revolution cuz I saw some beauty in the wisdom of the martial arts. As Morihei Ueshiba-sensei so desperately tried to impart unto the world: martial arts is an expression of the beauty of living. It is truly art and with it comes some sense of peace and self-understanding.

Is it an odd coincidence I now live in a state that has a complete ban on mixed-martial arts competitions? I think that should mean something.

So here I am in a dark room listening to a sad song thinking of Bruce Lee's masterpiece... and one scene in particular comes to mind. The character Williams, as played by actor, martial artist and athlete Jim Kelly is arriving in Hong Kong and takes a look at the impoverished way people are living along the shore. He then says something to the effect of "Man, ghettos are the same all over the world."

I knew little of poverty then. To me it was just how people lived. Everyone was poor, so I thought, except politicians and big-business types. It would be years before I learned the difference between being poor on paper and having no papers to even be able to prove u exist. Cuz when ur flat-assed broke, u truly are an unperson. There definitely a difference between being poor and being "might-as-well-be-dead".

I sometimes wonder if all this shit I'm going thru is making me stronger or smarter or if I'm reaping ANYTHING at all that I can place a value on. As it stands here and now, I don't see anything. But I can claim this small bit of wisdom: just because I don't see something -- even if it's within me -- doesn't mean it isn't there.

I wrote a lot over the weekend. Thirty pages hand-written plus a short ad started another short. I believe I'm now more than 50% done with my first novel. Plz keep your fingers crossed for me.

I should be working on it today, but I spent the day working around the house and I'm just plain dead beat.

One of the major themes (for lack of a better word) working its way into the novel is the concept of individual freedom. The main character/protagonist even states at one point "I want to be free" and at another time he says "Ya know, one of these days it's all gonna end. Then I'll be okay." Not to give away too much, he sets himself up to disappear into the world's underworld. He makes himself an unperson so he can be free.

Damn. Did I just stumble across an answer there?


Well, Ten Years After is tellin me to get on home. Clapton's up next and he'll be preaching his whole shtick about runnin' on faith. Keep strong, ppl. I'll try to do the same.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

The Sci Fi Channel

imho The Sci Fi channel has become the playground for contemporary pulp science fiction. Anyone acquainted with pulp should know/tends to agree while there were a few bright, shiny stars in the pulp era (hammett, chandler, wells and verne pretty much comprise the major force of their numbers), by-and-large pulp was trash. That's the Sci Fi Channel summed up for me. BSG is one of the best dramas on tv in some time. The rest I can easily do without.

It also might be worth mentioning that in the wrestling community it was more or less leaked that unnamed Sci Fi execs wanted to start programming for a broader audience than science fiction fans are considered to allow (thus explains ECW and other perhaps questionable decisions).

I would like to clarify that I'm not biting on ECW. I'm a fan of both wrestling and science fiction (yes, we do exist and are quite numerous in my experience LoL) tho when I heard ECW going to Sci Fi I, like it seems with a lot of people, was left scratching my head in wonder. I actually miss the old days when they showed semi-bad shows that had a cult following like Friday the 13th. I would definitely kick in more 'speculative' source material than they already do.

In any case, I just hope Sci Fi doesn't go the way of MTV who no longer shows music videos and Cartoon Network that now shows live-action movies. I understand the ratings gig, so I cannot hate on a network for trying to improve their product, but a niche market has always had a place and has garnered some amount of revenue. I'm saddened to say I can also liken a lot of the cable channels going the route of big news media: everything becoming streamlined and syndicated nationally so we have everyone and their dog's opinion on Anna Nicole's demise (may she rest in peace) yet we haven't a clue as to what's happening in our own back yard.

Am I off the mark on this?

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Free Sci-Fi for Everyone!!!

Hey folks,

Remember to check back website often as it is updated from time to time. Issue # 9 of the ezine is still in the works. Free sci-fi and speculative fiction for all! Check it out!!!

Saturday, March 3, 2007

A Picture, A Scene from Soar

It's been a while since I've posted anything here. I've been slightly consumed by writing a novel tentatively to be named Soar. Last night, not wanting to write (my mind was bouncing around inside my skull with thought and tired from traveling during the day) yet wanting to continue working on this piece, I decided it was time to conjure up some images for the tale.

Below is the product of that venture. It's brief and sketchy. It's not meant to be much more than a mood setter, I suppose.

I'd like to make this into an animated gif at some point.

The character depicted is the hero, Led. Indeed, he has wings.

The weird finger-like things with blurred smoke coming from them are meant to be smoke stacks... like those of factories.

It's a very dystopic tale, i guess. I call it 'retropunk'.

I'm still alive. Drawing. Hope to get back to the writing soon.

'Til later,

~ charles