Errata: Megacity Fighting, EU Citizenship, Georgia v. DHS, South Korea,

Military Contingencies in Megacities and Sub-Megacities – “After elucidating the nature of urbanization and developing a typology in terms of smart, fragile, and feral cities, we give consideration to the kinds of contingencies that the U.S. military, especially the Army, needs to think about and prepare for. Understanding the city as a complex system or organism is critical and provides the basis for changes in intelligence, recruitment, training, equipment, operations, and tactics.” – I’m reading this later today.

EU negotiators will offer Brits an individual opt-in to remain EU citizens, chief negotiator confirms – As @ManMadeMoon said, “Step 1 to a new, non-geographical nationhood! This is getting really interesting.”

Georgia Secretary of State aggressively confronting DHS over a “penetration of [Georgia’s] firewall.”

Finally seeing a bill to impeach the South Korean president (this whole saga is fascinating to me).

From the International Spectator, the world’s most frequent flight paths.

NASA finally has its own Giphy page.

Via Karen James: “Hey neuroscientists & neuroscience-inspired artists, check out this pattern around a rock in a pond in @AcadiaNPS as it begins to freeze.”

And finally, via ars technica: Millions exposed to malvertising that hid attack code in banner pixels – “The malicious script is concealed in the alpha channel that defines the transparency of pixels, making it extremely difficult for even sharp-eyed ad networks to detect. After verifying that the targeted browser isn’t running in a virtual machine or connected to other types of security software often used to detect attacks, the script redirects the browser to a site that hosts three exploits for now-patched Adobe Flash vulnerabilities.”

DIY Combat Drones

Popular Mechanics highlighted a few stories in the world of DIY weapons lately that’re worth looking at. Sort of a mashup, but to distill down: an ISIS workshop in Mosul was found with a number of DIY weaponized drones. This follows a February find of a workshop in Ramadi complete with vehicles constructed of plywood and styrofoam. The Mosul site included a peculiar model that looked to be a fixed-wing drone with attached quadrotor and PM speculated that it was either a mothership kind of design or for dropping boobytrapped quadrotors.

I’m left wondering if it was some sad attempt to create a fixed wing/VTOL hybrid, able to elevate vertically without runway or human launch but then take advantage of fixed-wing speed and stability like a Harrier.

Another part of the Popular Mechanics story was from Syria, where a refugee camp was hit by miniature guided bombs that appeared to be at least partially 3D-printed. They lacked engines but did apparently have working servos to operate fins and provide mid-course correction or at least stabilization, reportedly dropped from drones. I’ve been expecting sophisticated 3D-printed ordnance from insurgencies for a while but assumed they’d be in rocket form – perhaps it’s just easier to drop from above and guide in than launch and propel, plus the launch site has a better chance of staying undetected. The problem with assuming these latter are insurgent bombs though – aside from the fact that the Syrian regime is happy to kill refugees at their leisure – is that the height you’d need to drop them from to allow for any kind of vertical guidance is considerable, higher than the typical quadrotor. ISIS obviously has fixed wing dronecraft but the level of sophistication involved has me wondering.

Given the previous evolution I talked about involving ipad accelerometers to aim mortars in Syria and Raspberry Pi-powered missile launchers in Ukraine, when we were barely producing single-shot 3D printed firearms a decade ago, we’re likely to see more innovation in this area and to terrible effect.

Report Approved: A Story

Note: AnticiPol is a real thing, and works along the lines of what’s described here (though the DOJ doesn’t certify policing augmentations, yet). UbiquiPol is entirely made up but plausible given current technology. Behavior analysis programs exist, though they’re entirely prone to false positives and carry wickedly inherent bias. Investigational databases exist currently. Automatic querying and cross-referencing of multiple databases already exists. Shopping malls use MAC tracking already, for god’s sake.

We’re less than a year out from this.

The following is a brief summary of events that occurred on July 22, 2017.

At approximately 1455 hours I was directed by Sergeant Michael Wesley to deviate from my traditionally assigned patrol area and conduct a combination foot/vehicle patrol an area around Snow Ridge Park identified by AnticiPol as particularly at-risk for property crime during my shift. AnticiPol is a private software package that analyzes past crime statistics and area features and compiles a list of locations where crimes may be reasonably expected to occur at certain times. The Snow Ridge Police Department utilized AnticiPol successfully for over a year and it is certified by the Department of Justice as a verified Policing Augmentation Tool.

As my patrol began at 1500 hours I proceeded to the defined zone and parked my cruiser on Main Street. I then initiated foot patrol southbound on Main Street, intending to take a right on Cutlass Way approximately 575 feet south of my police cruiser. I would then take another right on Elm Ave, continue northbound to Poplar Street and then eastbound back to Main Street. Each of these streets is a public way in the city of Snow Ridge. This prospective patrol route was established by AnticiPol to also keep me within signal range of my cruiser so that body camera video and audio could be relayed back to the UbiquiPol servers for automatic recording, analysis and feedback.

The AnticiPol report generated for my shift indicated the high likelihood of property crime in this specific area between 1500 and 1900 hours, to wit vandalism. The Main Street/Elm Ave area is known to me as an area in which vandalism has occurred repeatedly over the last six months. It has largely consisted of the spraypainting or “tagging” of various names and political statements on businesses in the area, causing damage to their buildings and profitability. With the benefit of AnticiPol’s report I therefore began specifically looking for subjects committing, or about to commit, vandalism.

In preparation for casual encounters with the populace I activated my UbiquiPol body camera and initiated my patrol. I then had approximately four casual encounters with citizens on Main Street. Utilizing my training and experience as a law enforcement officer I evaluated each person according to my general impression of the typical spraypaint vandal. I did not find any suspect meeting the likely criteria. UbiquiPol similarly performed evaluations according to its own programming which, after attending an 8 hour class on its operation, is known to me. UbiquiPol transmits images via a repeated radio system in the cruiser to UP servers in the state of Nevada. UP computers analyze the video and audio and provide feedback to the Mobile Data Terminal Tablet each officer carries on patrol. The UP feedback includes the result of facial recognition and cross-references a number of databases, including that of the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV), Board of Probation (BOP), investigational databases such as the Investigational Information Relay System (IIRS), our local police department files, and those databases of UbiquiPol’s corporate partners. It then returns information ranging from an individual’s driving and criminal records to investigational entries on the IIRS network to corporate intelligence shared by UP. In addition the UP data is analyzed according to UP’s own algorithms for anomalous material. According to metrics established by UP if anything suspicious is detected an alert is sent to a Wireless Investigational Notification System wrapped around my left wrist, and the WINS unit vibrates.

A corresponding profile on each individual was transmitted to my MDTT and available for reading. I reached Cutlass Way and reviewed the material before continuing after being satisfied no person encountered fit the profile of a property criminal.

Approximately 75 feet westbound on Cutlass Way the WINS unit vibrated and alerted me to suspicious material – in this case, an individual approximately 50 feet further westbound and walking away from me had a backpack slung over one shoulder. WINS advised that subjects prone to PROPERTY CRIME – VANDALISM – SPRAYPAINTING/TAGGING often use such bags to transport spraypaint cans and other contraband. WINS further advised that the individual in question had been looking eastbound when I reached the intersection of Main Street and Cutlass Way and had immediately turned and begun proceeding away from me, an action classified as FURTIVE MOVEMENT – AVOIDANCE. Due to the subject’s furtive movement WINS did not capture a clear image of their face and was consequently unable to provide a complete profile. According to department procedure, upon the notification of elements of suspicion, I used the WINS unit to request patrol guidance. The WINS unit advised as follows: “SUSPICION INDEX 0.7 – INITIATE CONTACT LVL III.” According to my training I knew this to mean that, having been computed higher than 0.5, this individual’s Suspicion Index along with my own training and experience combined to provide reasonable suspicious that he had committed, was committing or was about to commit the crime of vandalism.

I initiated contact with the unknown subject by calling to them. The party paused mid step but did not turn around. I called again and requested they come over to me. The WINS unit provided feedback that their servers considered this pause to be FURTIVE and may indicate criminal consciousness of a previous crime and/or intent to commit a crime by way of fleeing from a lawful officer. The subject turned to face me and appeared to be a white male with close cut brown hair, approximately 19 years of age, approximately 5 feet 8 inches. He wore blue jeans and a grey hooded sweatshirt or “hoodie.”

The subject approached me and I requested his name. The subject replied “None of your business.” I stated I was a police officer and he was required to provide his name at this time. The subject replied “I haven’t done anything, you don’t need my name.” At or around this time the WINS unit vibrated to notify me of new information. I requested the subject stand still and kept him in view while retrieving my MDTT. UbiquiPol had processed the party’s face according to procedure and run several pre-programmed database queries.

The subject in front of me was positively identified as DAVIES, MARK (see attached face sheet and supplementals). The MDTT first provided his Registry of Motor Vehicles driver’s license photo from the state of Colorado and through visual inspection I found the subject and DAVIES to be the same person. As this investigation did not involve vehicle issues I skipped past the RMV section. The Board of Probation data stated that DAVIES had three recorded arrests, two for trespassing and one for disorderly conduct, all closed. The Investigational Information Relay System provided several investigational notes entered by other law enforcement agencies. They provided general information on DAVIES, addresses, known associates and specific intelligence. DAVIES is known to two other law enforcement agencies in the state of Colorado to be an active member of several political organizations on record as instigating civil disturbances, impeding the free movement of traffic, and property damage. Finally, UP corporate partners provided similar intelligence on DAVIES as well as current and suspected cell phone numbers, MAC addresses of known or suspected devices, email addresses, intermittent GPS data and other information. UPCORP data indicated that DAVIES possessed one of the suspected devices and had left the wi-fi active, broadcasting a MAC known to him or his immediate surroundings, further confirming that the subject was indeed DAVIES.

At this time the dispatcher informed me over the radio earpiece that they received a call on a past vandalism approximately a block away. OurBank (Snow Ridge Branch) manager HOLMES, SKYLER called to report finding obscene graffiti on the side of the building. The graffiti consisted of “FORECLOSE THIS” with an image of a hand with middle finger extended. See witness statement from HOLMES, S as well as supplementals 911 recording and digital image attached to this report.

I pressed a button on the MDTT requesting a second officer with the flow of traffic/non-emergency and replaced the MDTT on my belt. Subject DAVIES shifted his feet – it is unknown at this time whether he was uncomfortable standing in place or preparing to unlawfully flee – and I observed an audible clinking sound from the backpack slung over one shoulder. Through knowledge and experience that sound reasonably appeared to be the sound of several metal/plastic cans rubbing against each other, such as cans of spraypaint. I observed DAVIES tense up and stare at me. DAVIES became angry and demanded to know if he was being arrested. I stated he was being interacted with in the process of an investigation. DAVIES requested the presence of his attorney. I stated we do not invite attorneys to participate in field interactions. DAVIES then told me to “fuck off with your fascist bullshit.” DAVIES continued to tense up in a manner familiar to me through training and experience that he was about to unlawfully flee or assault me. It was at this time for both our safety I assisted DAVIES to the ground in order to prevent him from fleeing or attacking me. DAVIES stayed on the ground until Officer Wilcock arrived.

I requested Officer Wilcock take over primary control of DAVIES and he did so. I retrieved my MDTT to enter elements in the Interaction Report for DAVIES, most of which backfill automatically. I also entered the reported OurBank vandalism as possibly associated. Ubiquipol alerted me that the MAC address for DAVIES cellphone had been within 25 feet of OurBank – Snow Ridge Branch for approximately six minutes around the time of the crime.

I asked DAVIES if he had just vandalized OurBank. DAVIES again repeated “fuck off” and requested access to an attorney. I asked what was in his backpack. DAVIES stated he did not give consent for any search. Given the sum of all information at hand including DAVIES’ furtive movements and attempted evasion, his records and being placed at the scene of the crime probable cause was established to search DAVIES backpack. This search was also conducted for the safety of all at the scene, and according to Snow Ridge Police Department guidelines. I unzipped the backpack and observed several cans of what appeared to be spraypraint, tape, and several heavy pieces of cardboard that appeared to be stencils.

DAVIES was read his rights and placed under arrest at that time for property crime, to wit: vandalism, as well as disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. He was transported in a marked cruiser directly to court for a magistrate hearing.

Officer Blake Summerhill
Snow Ridge Police Department

Report approved by:
Sergeant Timothy Carson
Snow Ridge Police Department

Supplementals available:
Face sheet: DAVIES, MARC
AnticiPol predictive report
HOLMES, SKYLER witness statement
HOLMES, SKYLER 911 call recording
Photographs: vandalized property, arrestee’s property
MACTRACK Community Protection Monitoring Report, Snow Ridge Park area 07/04/17
Booking report and photograph: DAVIES, MARC
Supplemental report: Officer Wilcox, John

Note: AnticiPol predictive algorithms, IIRS and UPCORP data are proprietary and unavailable for evidence review per their respective rightsholders and/or the Colorado Revised Statutes.

Review: Normal, by Warren Ellis

Out of the twenty-four books I have read so far in 2016 Warren Ellis’ novel Normal is easily my favorite. This isn’t surprising given that I’m on record as a card-carrying member of the Cult of Ellis. He’s directly or tangentially referenced in more than a few posts here and I’m not exaggerating when I admit he’s been an intellectual model of mine for years, ever since Crooked Little Vein. What’s surprising is how fresh and new Normal is amidst both his previous body of work and fiction in general.

Normal follows foresight strategist Adam Dearden through his intake at Normal Head, a psychiatric facility that caters to a very specific clientele: those who have spent too long looking into the future. This includes both civil futurists and their shadow-siblings working for military or intelligence taskmasters. Referenced on the cover as well as throughout the book, one of the few pervasive ideas is abyss gaze: as a futurist you spend so long looking into the abyss that the abyss looks back into you. Every patient at Normal Head is brilliant, and every patient is broken.

Normal is a locked-room mystery. A patient goes missing on Dearden’s very first night. It’s also a psychological exploration not just about academia but ourselves – what the world does to those who gaze at it and how we cope. In the very first scene LOLcats are featured prominently and serve as an escapist technique. But the patient in that case has no internet access, and no cats – that absence forcing her to more directly confront what brought her to Normal. The novel’s rife with self-deception and false dichotomies, both of which are eventually called out. But there’s also a basic and unflinching recognition of the importance and necessity of the work that futurists do.

Ellis excels at weaponizing typical imagery – the specter-like figure lurking on the edge of the forest, the isolation of the setting – with advanced futurism the likes of JG Ballard (who himself wrote a missing-asylum-patient short story that casts Normal’s conclusion in an interesting light). Ellis also brings darkly intelligent humor such as the opening scene with the LOLcats, a wildly frenetic and joyful and chaotic asylum-wide reckoning, the overwhelming desire to be medicated and the ridiculous things done to cope with abyss gaze. He’s also got the balls to make an economist (Clough) a primary truth-teller in the story, though he acknowledges this irony later through the madly bright figure of Colegrave.

Normal pulls down a theme common in Ellis’s work that manifests in different ways: progress through transgression. It could be macro-scale societal progress through transgressing bodily norms. Or as in this case the micro-scale violation of crossing from the civil forecaster to mil/intel strategist side of the cafeteria pushing the story forward, letting the dog finally see the rabbit. It’s never a neat process and often results in whatever group is involved dissolving into a bunch of howling, shit-throwing monkeys but things do move forward.

Normal is at once a darkly amusing locked-room mystery and a deeper statement on the often destabilizing, quixotic nature of doing the right work and still getting blown over by it and having to catch your breath in whatever way you can. It draws on Ellis’ incredibly well-read and cross-disciplined nature. And both his instant, defensive pessimism and his beliefs and hopes about people.

I can’t recommend it any more highly. At 150 pages it’s a quick and well-paced story with a lot of technology and character fluidly unpacked and laid bare.

Pirate Utopia: A Quick Review

Just finished Bruce Sterling’s new novel Pirate Utopia and it ended up being more than expected. I went into it naively expecting a post-modern, pre-millennium cyberpunkish politics romp. I instead received an absurdist realism novel, an alternative history constantly balancing romantic ideals, their execution and its evolution. It’s a book rich with surreal exaggeration and fantasy but using that to explore the more realistic and bleak practicalities of anarchism, communism and fascism – and democracy.

Pirate Utopia drops us into the Regency of Carnaro, the spontaneous self-government of the state of Fiume after it rejected Italy’s delivery of Fiume to Yugoslavia after World War I. Largely featuring Pirate Engineer Lorenzo Secondari it also introduces a maniacal manufacturist in the personage of Frau Pfiffer, a combat ace turned second-in-command the Ace of Hearts, all operating under the leadership of poet-statesman Gabriele d’Annunzio – otherwise known as the Prophet.

Secondari’s a fascinating protagonist to be sure. He’s presented as previously dead but now alive and self-charged with the mission of moving ownership from those that possess to those that make. He’s a stubborn, spontaneous anarchist maker of a sort though distinctly different from the type you’d see today. There’s no mention of his distributing either model or means – he doesn’t seem the type to upload notes, designs, schematics etc for the world to create his designs for themselves. His utopia is necessarily personalized and he can’t seem to conceive of one outside himself.

Ideals and actions are presented alongside each other constantly and both shift across the course of the story in interesting ways, as a sad exposition on how these things typically progress when people act as they do. It’s not a gradually sliding progress bar so much as Sterling slipping the characters and their organizations along the slippery, evolving surface of a self-justifying Moebius strip of power and violence. It’s hard to tell how or where one side became the other. A seamless transition in which all eyes are still on dragging the future towards them by way of the gravity of their personalities, but they’ve had time to polish their boots now and they’re the ones in control of the artillery on the hill.

The exception to this is Maria Pfiffer, Frau Pfiffer’s daughter and a favorite of Secondari. She’s an unnatural, shining, extrasystemic object – beautiful and consumptive, unprepared for spectacle, an unconcerned alien amidst clandestine conversations despite her polyglot intelligence.

Sterling also manages to sideline two historical devils in amusing ways. But the Moebius strip politics continue according to the realistic streak in Pirate Utopia: absent those two devils, others rise accordingly.

Pirate Utopia’s a short, fun read that doesn’t alternate between stark and wacky but manages to hold their continuing tension in exquisite and exacting fashion. It also comes with a great and timely introduction by Warren Ellis that came out before the election but seems spot-on after, and some supplemental materials at the end that explored Sterling’s writing of the book. This latter appealed directly to the process voyeur in me and I’d love to see it in more works.

Pirate Utopia: Highly Recommended Reading.


Had I disposable income I’d be buying and handing out copies of the comic book Transmetropolitan like other people do with self help books.

I’ve been all over the place this last week. And I haven’t really nailed down my thoughts on the election in any eloquent manner. I think I was trying to distract myself, but I was also starting to plan.

I talked to friends about how to secure their data and devices more effectively before the inauguration, and gave them some more resources.

I spent some time fantasizing about building speculative, sci-fi ish sandcastles like this guy.

I cried at Kate McKinnon’s tribute to Leonard Cohen, which was also a tribute to us.

The Rose of Jericho unexpectedly resurfaced in my feeds at the right time, and I thought about that for a while.

I remembered From 52 to 48 With Love and kind of longed for the naivety of eight years ago.

But I’ll tell you what. I have not one thought of moving away. I will fight the Trump administration and whoever supports harmful policies with everything I have. I will bring The Weird.

And we will fight, building and singing and recklessly blooming and loving all the way.

Some Bits and Pieces

via @m1sp,


via @robertloerzel,


via @science_hooker, @lornalou92‘s ‘A Scot’s Lament for Americans, Oan their election of a tangerine gabshite walloper.’

via @museumarchive, a 6th century Buddha statue found in a Viking grave in Sweden.

via @valaafshar, what happens when you toss a pot of boiling water in -25 degree air.

and via Bill Tozier, an intriguing question that’s gripped my brain since he asked it:



And to finish off for the evening: Kate McKinnon opens SNL by singing Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” That broke me a bit in a lovely and haunting way.

The Explosive Trajectory of Technology

Jon Jeckell tweeted a Popular Mechanics piece showing what appeared to be a Ukrainian prototype shoulder-fired missile with a guidance system powered by the Raspberry Pi microcomputer. The inclusion of the Pi makes it a seeming next-step from the much shared image of Syrian rebels in Jobar in 2013 using an iPad to angle mortar fire. We are using our new off-the-shelf street-level tools to build the complex weapons systems out of most people’s reach for the past half-century or more.

Just as notable as the idea that it uses the hobbyist computer is that it’s apparently guided by sound, making it the first sound-homing ground-based weapon. This dovetails neatly with another trend I’ve been tracking and laid out a bit in The Renewed Importance of Sound – an exploration and exploitation of a much different sensory domain than we’re used to engaging with.

Mortars have been around since the 14th century or so – unsurprisingly (due to the history of gunpowder), first appearing in east/southeast Asia. It took 500 years to go from massive, unwieldy field artillery pieces to the compact Stokes trench mortar in the first World War that could be carried and crewed by a single soldier. Less than fifty years later, engineers successfully managed to link hardware and firing control computers in such a way that they could achieve MRSI or Multiple Round Simultaneous Impact, a devastating deployment of ordnance in which multiple weapons in different places fire in such a way that their rounds reach the target at the same time. With minimal human input, which seems to be the way our weapons trend.

Shoulder-fired missiles have a similar line of development. Traced back to ancient Chinese arrows loaded with black powder and a fuse, they evolved then into multiply-crewed weapons systems that looked like a collection of tubes on a single wheel axle that could be fired in quick succession but not aimed particularly well. Fast forward roughly equivalent to the above and you get to the Panzerfaust of World War II and similar rocket-propelled weapons systems that were much more practical and stable, if not necessarily accurate. And again, in less than 10% of the time between the real inception of the weapon and its 20th century jump, the technology jumped again. As just one example, Britain developed the MBT-LAW shoulder-fired “fire and forget” system that tracks moving targets on its own, making autonomous corrections to its flight path and speed. Also consider MANPAD (man-portable air defense systems) like the Stinger missile.

At first glance the Jobar case and the Ukrainian prototype seem disconnected. After all, the former involves using the accelerometer of a separate, unlinked device whereas the missile integrates the technology. But consider the similar technological trajectories of the weapons systems and the fact that people without access to Pentagon engineers can now not only use computers to deliver ordnance accurately but can relatively easily link them similar to the MRSI concept explained above. Once an abstract concept, ballistic computers are now so natively and immediately understood that in the absence of them we appropriate our own, integrate them how we can, and deploy.

Colour out of space, touch out of type

Fun, fascinating realization while writing about something totally unrelated this morning. So, I’ve known for a long, long time that I have synesthesia – it’s a lifelong neurological mechanism where sensory input in one arena reliably triggers sensation in another. For instance, the most common form is for certain letters or numbers to appear in particular colors. But synesthesia can affect spatial orientation, physical sensation like touch and texture, sound and taste.

In my case, words both written and spoken have an immediately tactile quality – touch, pressure and texture.

I’m now in a work environment where roughly 50% of my patients speak primarily Spanish, and while I have a very basic grasp of Spanish I’ve been hesitant to engage with them and instead rely on coworkers that can translate. Part of that is that my Spanish has atrophied, but another big part I couldn’t put my finger on until this morning as I sat writing about sensation in an entirely differently way.

It’s been so long since I regularly used or was exposed to Spanish that I forgot it has an entirely different tactile quality than English for me – it triggers totally unique physical sensations. And I’ve not felt them regularly for at least a decade and a half. This connection came to me in a split second and fits so perfectly with my physical experience of being in a Spanish-speaking environment again.

I took four years of Spanish in high school, had excellent teachers and enjoyed it very much but even before I knew about synesthesia recognized that it “felt” different than English. My post high-school experience with Spanish consisted mostly of translating Spanish poetry into English for fun and to keep the Spanish fresh in my brain, but also for the pure physical/neurological experience I derived from it. I also watched Spanish-language TV a bit to keep my listening skills sharp but that felt different and I did it less.

I was writing about color and texture in painting this morning and it all just sort of clicked.