The Perfect (Digital) Storm

We’re in trouble.

All of us.

Deep trouble. 

Black, white, men, women, all political parties, all factions, we’re all in this.

What kind of trouble?

Life-threatening computer trouble. 

Hold on there, you say.  My PC isn’t waving a knife around.  What’s got me so crazy? 

It’s a confluence of things, really. 

Back in 1991, hurricane Grace had pretty much petered out and was getting ready to expire in the North Atlantic, when it happened to bump into – and merge with – a storm system blowing off the Canadian Maritimes.  When the two systems combined, they produced what would eventually become “The Perfect Storm”.  This storm system was so violent that it induced waves that were over seventy feet (and in fact could not be measured, as the sensor devices in place couldn’t go high enough to report accurately), obliterated the unsuspecting fishing boat Andrea Gail, and inspired both a non-fiction book and a fictionalized film. 

So when I title my article The Perfect (Digital) Storm, you can get some idea that I am not kidding around here.  This stuff is serious. 

Here we go.  Buckle up.

There are a half-dozen major technologies and non-technical trends in place and in use today, which are all dangerously close to being combined.  When they are, there won’t be a single person on the planet safe.  Here are a few biggies:

Behavioral Prediction Software

Have you ever been thinking about buying something, like perhaps a lawn mower or a new kitchen appliance?  Where you hadn’t told anyone you were even thinking about it, but you had decided “Okay, I need this,” and you were probably going to start shopping for one soon?

And then, that same day, Facebook or eBay or your news site starts spamming advertisements in their banner or skyscraper zones that have exactly that thing advertised for you?

That’s the result of behavioral prediction software.

All those privacy settings in your browser or computer, see, those are directly related to how marketing firms identify who is in the buying mood for what.  They also predict your “journey,” the path you will take from one page to another, one site to another.

You experience behavioral prediction every time you visit an eCommerce site of a major retailer.  Ever been browsing and suddenly you have a popup saying “save 10% when you buy today”?  That’s because that site’s prediction software has observed your path, and realized you’re only a step or two away from abandoning the site without buying something. 

This kind of software is also evident when you try to purchase an air fare online:  have you noticed that it almost never costs the same amount when you view the same flight from different sites, different physical locations, different times of day or week?  There is a “Big Data” AI reviewing those factors and deciding what is the optimal price to put on those fares to garner the most overall money for the seats on that flight.

A British firm, “Cambridge Analytica”, used behavioral prediction software to manipulate the election results of the US 2016 Presidential election, as well as that of British Parliament and the Brexit referendum.  By pushing out “quizzes” across Facebook and other social media platforms, they built profiles of individuals to then identify what kind of messaging to put in front of those individuals to induce certain behavior – such as staying at home rather than voting, getting out to vote, and so on.  Have you seen one of those “I scored a jillion points on this free IQ test” things shared on a friend’s timeline?  That’s one of those tools.  “Can this picture of a deaf and blind puppy get a million likes?” is another way they get to you – using emotional blackmail to get hold of your personal info and that of those connected to you.

Behavior prediction is also being used by the Chinese government in major cities (such as Beijing, Hong Kong, etc.) to identify citizens and other persons who are what they consider “anti-social” and dangerous to the State (which, in this case, means dangerous to its dictator, Xi Jinping).  A person’s ‘social score’ is built based on his/her actions and the values of those actions in their management system – and behaviors are being stacked into a prediction model to determine who might become “problematic.”

Personal Recognition Software

You’ve seen it in movies (facial recognition in 2008’s “The Dark Knight”, for example).  You may have even used it (biometric identification of your iris or finger).  This is a way of using your body in the same way police can use your fingerprint – there are certain unique combinations of features (your cheek height relative to the position of your right eye, for example, or the width of your chin or nose) which add up to a unique profile.  Even twins don’t have the same value. 

As I mentioned – it works in the same fashion as a fingerprint.  When forensics experts review a fingerprint, they are looking for a unique combination of whorls, lines, connections, etc. to build a “profile.”  In digital terms, this equates to building up a unque value (combination of numbes and letters) which are tied to your identity.  Your fingerprint gets translated into a bunch of 1’s and 0’s, the combination of which can only be created by reading your finger and using the same procedure.

This can be a wide variety of personal features.  The top of your head, how you walk, the motion of your arms, many different things can be used to build a profile of an individual.

The EU has recognized the gathering of this sort of information as a potential infringement of privacy rights, and led by Germany, instituted the “GDPR” regulation for securing of personally-identifiable information.  Seems they learned a bit about what happens when a government spends too much time paying attention to the identity and behavior of its citizens.

Basically, a camera paired with the correct software can identify you walking down the street in the same fashion as you can identify persons you know from a long way away.  But they do it really rather more quickly than you can.  It builds a profile watching you, or a part of you, and compare that profile’s “score” against its database of known profiles, producing a value-match that expresses varying degrees of certainty.  Most often we hear that as a percentage – “85% match” “99% match” and so on.

Artificial Intelligence

AI is a very much-abused term these days.  Most laypersons hear the term and think “Terminator” or “robot”.  But let’s first separate it from what it isn’t, by introducing a contrasting term – “general intelligence.”  General intelligence, in this context, is self-aware and self-motivating intelligence – a true ‘mind.’  You are a form of general intelligence, as is your dog or cat, birds, even to a much lesser degree flatworms.  AI, as we know it, so far is very specifically tuned intelligence that is itself not self-aware (it doesn’t recognize itself as an individual separate from other things), nor is it self-motivating (it does not decide one day “I am going to spend time making a sandwich” without someone else feeding it this idea). 

AI is a combination of technologies that enables digital machinery to make a decision regarding its own purpose on its own.  For example, a paperclip-manufacturing software might observe seasonal demand and anticipate that it needs to order additional raw materials in July, in advance of a busy August.  It does not identify itself as an actor, and neither does it truly “understand” its job.  It merely serves as an active model of what takes place in the manufacture of paperclips.

Often people will confuse “AI” with machine learning, or decision-support software.  Machine learning and decision support are often included in an AI, but they themselves are not AI.  AI can use the output of both systems in its own decision-making process, though.

AI has been put into use in the military, as well.  Target identification, path-finding, and a number of other tasks have been subject to military use. 

Often, certain decisions are pushed into an AI’s domain – such as, for example, when to stop a car in heavy traffic (self-driving vehicles).  In some cases medical diagnostic software is deciding on diagnoses and recommendations for treatment – these are not yet in production, but are being tested alongside live doctors for potential deployment.  Autopilot software has been deciding how to fly planes for years.  The stock market is largely driven now not by the perceived value of a company’s future, but by the estimation of software programs attempting to determine whether a company’s stock value will rise or fall in a given period of time.  The 2008 financial crisis suffered a much amplified blow to market values because of such software – the fall precipitated software judgment that values would continue to fall, which induced selling behavior, which accelerated falling values, inducing further selling, and so on.

These decision-making systems are slowly becoming a form of general intelligence.  How do we, how will we know when these things genuinely are one, though? 

Answer is, we really don’t.  We don’t know the answer to this any more than we know a consistent definition of information versus data.

When you consider your own mind, taking a step back and considering how thoughts pass through it, you may find a surprising amount of randomness in there.  Among all the various sensory inputs that are being registered and ignored or acted upon, your mind itself tends to bubble up random bits of memory, interconnected bits, even invented concepts.  Your brain has been trained over many years to filter out elements which are irrelevant to the current and strongest path, which is generally the conversation you are having, the film you are watching, or the article you are writing. 

An artificial general intelligence will probably self-congeal from among a similar case, where thousands of various inputs as well as internal processes fight for the attention of the central core thought processes.  This is probably a topic for a dozen other papers or articles, and as cool as it is, it is beyond the scope of this piece. 

But AI has a direct impact on the topic at hand:  specifically, lazy decision makers relying on something they view as a “magic carpet ride” to shift the responsibility of decision making onto an automatic system.    

A benefit to such a system is that should something go wrong, they can blame the system, or the engineers who built it.  As well, decision makers who desire above all speed in decision making, these people will desire a system on which they can push important decisions that are time-sensitive.  The system can decide faster than the observe-pass on info-human decides-return decision-act cycle can produce an answer.  This is a legitimate concern in military decision making, if a valuable target shows itself for only a few moments.  But let’s not be so antiseptic about it – we’re talking about people.  Enemies, yes, but still people.

And that means command staff among the military, wanting to push a kill decision into a drone, to reduce reaction time to identifying a potential target.

Self-Navigation

Aircraft, automobiles, buses, trains, trucks, drones, a wide variety of self-moving machines are being enabled via GPS and navigation software to be able to navigate and maneuver to desired locations without human assistance.  Self-driving cars are anticipated to be available commonly in the next few years.  Aircraft are capable of a complete flight from takeoff to landing now without a human hand on the controls.  Remote drones can perform a variety of missions autonomously, and can loiter over a target area for extended periods.  They are literally ticking time bombs. 

Authoritarian Behavior

If the last four years have shown us anything, it is that about three out of ten people have a strong desire to control the other seven, possibly kill two or three among those seven, and that they will go out of their way to exert that power over them.  They also happen to be simplistic people, who are prone to violent tendencies.  These people form a “power core” behind dictators worldwide. 

And as was demonstrated last century, when they seize control of the mechanisms of power in a nation, mortal disaster follows for hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people.  People die. 

In the USA, the Republican party has demonstrated its disregard for the traditions of its country and that it has a motivation solely for raw power – and that it is willing to repeat the crimes of last century by opening concentration camps on the Southern border of the country to isolate “undesirables.”  Genocide has already been committed according to the letter of the law, though mass murder has not yet taken place.  Police kill black people indiscriminately.

Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, seems to show little concern and is willing to let his platform be used in support of this.  Twitter as well.  

In Russia, Putin collects power to himself and he refuses to let it slip away.

In Hungary, Poland, and Turkey, traditional democracies are falling and becoming dictatorships.

The Saudis have demonstrated their murderous nature against their own and even against American residents.

These are people who experience little remorse at committing crimes against people not of their political / religious / tribal identity.  They don’t view these as crimes.  Their leadership will attempt to enact laws that enable such acts and remove their criminality.

China is putting millions of Muslims into concentration camps as I write this, with the endorsement of President Trump.

Trump himself has demonstrated himself as incapable of either empathy or compassion. 

Bringing Them All Together

What I am describing here are:

  • Motivation
  • Mobility
  • Identification
  • Prediction of behavior
  • Projection of violence

And when you put them in the same room, you have a situation where one can construct and project military-grade power with very few humans having a hand on the tiller. 

Imagine, for example, the royal house of Saud in Saudi Arabia – their biggest fear is an uprising among the common people leading to an overthrow of their family.  It is in their interest to kill any potential leadership of such an uprising.

Now imagine a behavioral prediction system which takes the histories and behavioral cues of past and current “revolutionaries” to build profiles of individuals who can potentially develop into future revolutionaries. 

And imagine them purchasing drones from the USA or other technically-capable countries which are capable of self-navigation over areas where such individuals live, armed with long-range missile or sniper weapons, and which are enabled with recognition software that can identify such individuals from range.

And those drones are equipped and enabled to kill those people. 

Such systems are already being used today.  The US military uses drones to track, identify, and kill individuals labeled as terrorists or active military agents in combat zones.  The US has not yet pushed a “kill decision” into an automated drone, instead relying on the system giving human decision makers a % likelihood of identification. 

And these drones are nearly invisible from the ground.  Their active camouflage and ultra-quiet motors make them almost impossible to detect. 

Whether you like the prospect or not, your behavior is available for an ambitious (or, for those of you active on social media platforms, routine) program to assemble.  It is exceedingly likely that your face has already been entered into the database of “Clearview”, a company specializing in facial recognition. 

Whether you like it or not, even the USA is committing actions based on “loyalty” to the current administration – purging those perceived as disloyal, and hiring yes-men into positions of control.  Courts are being stacked with unqualified but ideologically compatible persons.  Police are using facial recognition of protesters to sieve through their past records, looking for outstanding warrants or infractions that can grant them a plausible excuse to arrest protesters.

And legislation is being fronted at every level to enable discrimination and even violence against “undesirables” – mostly it seems ‘Christian’ causes are being put forward as justification to discriminate against LGBTQ persons.  The USA already has a lengthy history of racism against non-whites, as well.

The current administration has demonstrated it is willing to commit crimes against humanity to achieve its goals, and has gone out of its way to praise and offer aid to white supremacists, the Nazi party, and other dictatorial groups. 

The tools are in their hands, and they have demonstrated that they are rapidly shedding the moral restrictions that hold people back from using their power to abuse and kill people to further entrench or enrich themselves.  The Republican-controlled Senate has demonstrated that it is fully in line with the administration, and the “conservative”-controlled Supreme Court has telegraphed its willingness to overlook crimes committed by them.

Time is proverbially – and literally – short.   

And this warning takes into account intentional use of these technologies.  I haven’t even begun to explore accidental use of them. 

One demonstration of an infantry robot armed with a large-capacity magazine on an assault rifle body nearly killed a stadium full of observers, and would have done had it not been tackled by an observant soldier supervising the robot.  Its target identification package suffered a glitch that disabled its ability to distinguish friend, so all were foe.

Drones have often been indiscriminate in their deployment of high-explosive missiles.  They have a long record of high collateral damage. 

Other non-military systems have suffered catastrophic failures for the simplest of reasons.  A multi-billion-dollar Mars probe self-immolated because a single developer made an error in using Imperial measurements rather than metric.  Denver International Airport suffered a multiple month delay in opening at millions of dollars per day lost, because software developers refused to accept that their chosen tools were simply incapable of handling the real-world traffic of the airport. 

Does anyone seriously believe that software designed for military use would be immune to such problems?  And when armed with lethal machinery under software decision making, that an error would be without impact? 

What Can Be Done?

We have to review our place in this grim picture. 

As individuals, what can we do against this?

First, vote.  Stand in line for hours if you have to, but vote.  Even if it feels pointless, vote.  Failing to vote is not a protest, it is a surrender.

Are you an educator?  Do you know one?  Insist on ethics courses for all students, or at least for computer science requirements in your university / college / higher education facility.  Demand your institution be transparent in its support of government-sponsored research programs.  Oppose those programs which you know to be wrong.

Spend time discussing these problems with those around you.  Make the issue known, and advocate avoidance of putting wartime decision making in the hands of machines.

Oppose dictatorial policies and parties.

Do you have spare time?  Run for a local office.  State legislator.  School board.  Anything.  Get involved.  If you are not ambitious for such office, that makes you the ideal candidate – it is our responsibility as ethical persons to remove and replace those in office who are amoral or unethical.

Get in touch with your national representatives and make your voice heard.   Ensure that democratic values are supported. 

Advocate for a human military.  Fighting machines detract from the fear of war that should be present for everyone involved.  Every development of new technology in the past two centuries that was lauded as “too frightening to make war viable any longer” have had the opposite effect:  they’ve made it easier to wage war, and they’ve resulted in a casual attitude towards what should be the gravest of actions a nation can take. 

An army of robots makes waging war easier and cheaper, and that army can be easily turned against its own people, should a party in power decide it does not want to relinquish that power. 

Most importantly:  If you are a US citizen, abandon and oppose the Republican party.  This will be particularly difficult for persons who consider party affiliation to be something deserving of blind loyalty.  This group has demonstrated itself to be a front – it has no values in common with American democracy, and deserves no further voice in the democratic process.  Join the Lincoln Project if you are a Republican.

I do not recommend joining the Democratic party, though I do support many of its members.  No, I simply recommend you oppose the Republican party in whole.  They no longer represent anything even mildly resembling the Ike Eisenhower era figures – they are characterized by three faces:  Donald Trump, Roy Moore, and Mitch McConnell.  All are anti-Democratic, all are unabashed racists, both the first two have lives irrevocably stained by sexual abuse of partners and children.  And the Republican party was just fine with all of that.

The party pushed back on their respective candidacies, right up until it was clear that they were going to be the nominees and would not drop out – at which point the party threw in and got behind them.  In short, the Republican party was more interested in ensuring a win than it was with putting a child molester and rapist into the most powerful seat(s) in the land. 

In short, supporters of the Republican party are the sort of people who would exercise the technological power this century is on the verge of granting us, to eliminate those who would oppose them.  The Senate’s handling of the Trump impeachment under McConnell should resonate as a clarion call that spells out that no abuse of power is unacceptable to them, so long as it is performed in service to their party’s continued power. 

And the slide into dictatorial political machinery won’t stop unless we stop it.  We’ve already seen the Republicans throw us into war – killing thousands of American soldiers and hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Iraqis – for the sole purpose of winning an election.  The killing of persons, citizens or no, on our own ground is coming if they are not stopped. 

Going forward, these technologies are not going to go away.  We are going to need a renewal of the Geneva Conventions, and a whole new set of laws and oversight on how to utilize information technology when mated with potentially lethal combat machinery and tactics.  We will need politicians with good ethics (and yes, there are some) who can craft appropriate measures to govern their use.  We cannot rely on the Republicans to be so forward-thinking.

Boycott businesses that support Republican candidates or the party, and make it known to them the reasons you do so.  Stop giving to churches that obviously favor them.  Make it expensive for a business or church to throw its support behind such candidates. 

In Summary

Technology, and time, always march forward.  What we do with the tools that time and tech hand us is what will define our future.  We can no more ban them than we can stop the sun from rising and setting.  So it is up to us as a people – of a nation, of the world – to demand responsible use of these new technologies, and to prevent their use in service of an industry that has already proven itself too costly in human lives. 

The solution to this problem is one of ethics, and politics.  And the time we have to address this issue before it is upon us physically is running out. 

War.

You are at war. 

Yes, you.

Every last one of you.

I have said this many times – Trump and his allies are traitors to the United States.  They despise everything it stands for.  This last week has demonstrated that clearly, and if you don’t “get it”, then you are part of the problem.

I have also said this, many times:  It only takes one side to start a war.

Well, they have brought the war to your doorstep.  It is rampaging through your streets as we speak. 

The “very fine people” of the KKK and the neo-Nazis, and their allies within various corrupted police forces, have turned a broad swath of non-violent protests into riots, in a successful effort to ignite a “race war”.  In this case, not one where black people have taken up arms against the US, but where white-trash racists have taken up arms against black people and their supporters. 

And Trump is finally stepping up to declare himself THEIR leader.  Not the leader of the USA, but just the leader of the bad actors. 

It should be abundantly clear to you all that he has allied himself with the worst of our international enemies, and now he is shoring up support with the worst of our own people.

Their goal is to kill you. 

No bullshit.  That is the only way they will ever be happy.  Any dissent with their aims is to put yourself into the “enemy” camp and they are incapable of acting any other way.  They *will* kill you.  And your children.  And anyone you are friends with. 

We’ve seen this movie before, people.  Hitler did it.  Stalin did it.  Mao did it.  Kim Jong Un did it.  Hussein did it.  MBS is doing it.  Putin does it.  And there are always those who are happy to serve their kind. 

They rise up, people don’t take them seriously, and then they gin up a reason to stage a coup and decapitate the existing government, to replace it with their own loyalists in the fragments left behind. 

Today, what you are seeing in the news, that is the United States having a Reichstag Fire. 

It is not, however, too late. 

The good news here is that Trump and his supporters, despite being violent assholes, are also generally pretty fucking stupid.  There are exceptions – William Barr being a good example – and those are the dangerous actors behind the throne, as it were. 

They are also, to a person, cowards.  They bluster when they have the advantage, but they have zero personal courage.  And that’s what makes them hate you.  They envy your courage, your independence, and your happiness.

And they will do everything in their power to drag you beneath them.

Because that is the only way they can feel good.  By establishing a false sense of superiority through strength, they can convince themselves that they are morally superior.  This is why White Evangelicals line up behind Trump – they’ve been raised from childhood to have an inferiority complex and to assume simplistic, idiotic traits like the color of one’s skin to be indicators of worth.  It’s what makes them fools and cowards, it’s what enables Trump to con them over and over again.

Trump has called out his intention to unleash the US military against protesters (which is an illegal order, for the record).  He has called out his intention to sic the US law enforcement agencies against “antifa” (a non-organization which is defined by its opposition to fascism).  Antifa, by the way, having no “membership”, means anyone who opposes a fascist dictator – by definition, if you oppose Trump, you can be labeled antifa. 

Think that over.

Those States which are not run by corrupted Republican officials must declare themselves in opposition to Trump’s actions.  Media outlets must declare Trump’s actions unlawful and violent.  The US Military is bound by law to dismiss the President’s illegal orders.  Those police forces which remain uncorrupted must dig out and destroy the threats to our citizenry.

On the assumption that there will actually be an election in November, individual citizens must re-check their registration status and get their votes in, on paper, and keep a copy for their own records to supply it in case it is needed for validation.

It would also be advisable to arm yourselves.  Because those violent hicks supporting Trump – both in and out of uniform – won’t think twice about using violence against you.  Being cowards, if they know there is a good chance of coming to harm themselves, they will avoid confrontations with anyone other than unarmed and defenseless persons. 

I cannot impart in words how saddened, how let down, how disgusted I am with the state of things today.  None of this brings me anything akin to joy. 

It does strengthen my resolve, however.  Resolve to support the country I grew up in, the United States and those people loyal to one another – because that is who the US is, it is her people.  And being loyal to the US is being loyal to one another, our neighbors. 

War is being fought against us.  Against our people.  By those we thought stood with us.  We’ve seen other countries go through this, we’ve fought this war once before already.

Sadly, it must be fought again.  Outside of the Trump supporters, no one wanted this war.  But here it is, on our doorstep once again. 

And we must take a stand here. 

I will end with a quote from Elie Wiesel:

“We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe.”

A little DnD 5e idea I’ve been playing around with

Here’s a combo for you, which you who’ve been playing 5e probably already know, but might just have been overlooked:

Feats:
Polearm Master
Sentinel
plus
War Caster

Obviously the first two everyone knows are broken already, particularly when in combo.

Adding the third, however, to a HEXBLADE WARLOCK, (or Padlock if you have a few levels of paladin first), enables the following:

Abilities: you take a max-CHA build, I’m assuming you hit 20 early on here using an 18 + racial bonus. Adjust your figures if you choose otherwise.

Cantrips: Eldritch Blast (this is the reaction shiny) Booming Blade (for using your weapon)

Invocations: Agonizing Blast, Lifedrinker, Improved Pact Weapon, Eldritch Smite and some flavor ones

Let’s assume a pact glaive here, which you can summon to your hand any fight at all.

Some of this will be subject to a DM decision around “magical focus”. Since your Improved Pact Weapon is considered an arcane focus, and many abilities here read “when you hit” (not specifying a type of action, merely a hit), your DM may permit the use of effects on spell attacks cast through your focus, such as Lifedrinker and the Improved Pact Weapon magical bonus. As a DM, I do consider it valid, as the rule does not specify what form of action is being taken, only that you have to “hit” with it (meaning you roll a die to hit – so Magic Missile wouldn’t count here). You are rolling to hit with a magical attack or a physical attack, but your mileage with your DM may vary.

Back to the plan…

War Caster enables you to swap in a spell in exchange for the oppo attack – so long as it is a 1 action and targeting only that creature (thus no “Green Flame Blade”). Enter Eldritch Blast.

Now, your reaction instead of an oppo attack (which you can still do if you’d rather lock that guy down and kite him) becomes Eldritch Blast – and this feat triplet (when you finally have them together, probably 8th as a variant human, or 12th as anyone else) REALLY kicks in hard. Every reaction induced by this is now doing 2 attacks at 8th, 3 at 12th – each doing 1d10+11 (+5 Agonizing Blast invocation, +1 more for the Improved Pact Weapon bonus, and +5 necrotic more for Lifedrinker invocation). I’ll focus on 8th and 12th here.

Of course, you’re giving up that “speed set to zero” by doing this, but in exchange you are getting 2 or 3 attacks at 1d10+11 damage each. In addition, you have more warlock invocations you can use to further augment your EBlast with slow, push, or pull. Each hit will have an independent, additive effect on the target’s movement.

But let’s save two of those invocations, shall we? And one, let’s put it into Eldritch Smite, because there will be times when you just gotta put something on the ground. “Once per turn when you hit a creature with your pact weapon…” Again, not contingent on the type of action, only that you “hit” with it. That adds 4d8 plus prone (and possible falling damage if the target is flying) at 8th level, 5d8 at 12th.

It’s when you get physical that you can do this next part – in your regular attacks, you combine Booming Blade with your Eldritch Smite: all by itself, Booming Blade will add to your damage (scales up with level), and if the target voluntarily moves before the start of your next turn, it will take scaling damage when it does. Said damage is thunder, which is rarely resisted. You’re doing it with reach as well, using the pact glaive.

You now add Eldritch Smite after you establish the hit with Booming Blade, and use a spell slot to add 4d8 (8th level char) or 5d8 (12th level) damage to the hit and knock the target prone if it is Huge or smaller. Note that Eldritch Smite also references the “hit” mechanic and also does not specify whether that is with an attack action or casting of a spell.

So here, you use your main action with Booming Blade to injure the target for 1d10+1d8(scale)+4d8 or 5d8+11 to then drop them prone and add tell them “Stay!” with a conditional extra 2d8 (3d8 at char level 10) if they defy you and stand up.

If you simply want to beat them about the head and neck and don’t care about their movement, you use Thirsting Blade plus Polearm Master to generate up to 2 *(1d10+11) + 1d4+11 (pact glaive twice, and back-end. You have a myriad of potential triggers for your reaction, any one of which results in a lashing of either two or three sets of bolts for 1d10+11 with Eldritch Blast. If they are within 5′ reach you can make it the Booming Blade case above.

Of course, on top of these, using “Hex” and/or “Warlock’s Curse” is just extra 1d6 and Proficiency Bonus damage icing on that cake. If this is the BBEG of the adventure, of course both will be on, which also then turns this into a crit-fishing setup looking for 19s and 20s, which you would absolutely use Eldritch Smite on a crit.

Max damage figures at 12th level (assuming normal activity, no Eldritch Smites or other “nova round” tricks):
Main Action: Attack for 2 * 1d10+11, plus 1d4+11 : 46.5
Reaction: Eldritch Blast for 3 * 1d10+11 : 49.5 + possible movement effects

Total: 96 / turn (becomes 99/turn if you just spam Eldritch Blast)

Add 21 more if Hex is active on the target. Add 18 (8th level char) or 24 (12th level char) more if Warlock’s Curse is active on the target.

Note that this PC is not invulnerable – massed minions and/or ranged weapon/spell attacks are still a significant threat. However, from a “glass cannon” perspective, this feat combo has what it takes.

The Worst Enemy We Have Ever Faced As a Nation

It isn’t COVID-19.

It is a political party turned rancid.

How many times does Trump have to do this sort of thing before people realize he is an enemy of the United States? Whether at the behest of a foreign power or not, he is an enemy.

Trump caused the COVID-19 disaster. This can all be laid at his feet without subterfuge, without any smoke and mirrors.

He was briefed in January about Covid-19. He ignored those briefings. Same way that Bush II ignored the report “Al-Queda likely to attack with aircraft.” Same result, except with a far, far more dangerous enemy.

The death toll of his ignoring this has already exceeded the toll of our Bush II loss at 9/11.

Because unlike Bush II, this asswipe tore out our ability to respond to the problem two years before it happened, because a black man created that response team. He also reduced funding of the CDC and public health organizations across the board, to make it look like he was making an accommodation for his gigantic tax cut which still threatens our economy independently of this crisis.

It would be as if Bush II had dismissed all the Special Forces of our various military branches in Feb of 2000.

Trump’s inaction and lying about the severity of this crisis will always hang around his neck, it’ll be his albatross. Sycophantic supporters of him will share that load.

Spending weeks pretending it was a hoax, weeks wearing his idiotic MAGA hat, weeks pretending “our fifteen cases will be zero next week”, “It’ll magically just go away”, and so on, those commissions of fraud and criminal negligence will cost.

This preoccupation with “looking competent” while *being* totally incompetent will cost.

The spewing of lies on camera that fly directly in contradiction with the information from people who actually know something about fighting viruses will cost.

This fumbling about while trying to funnel cash out of the government and into rich people’s pockets will cost.

These actions and inactions will cost LIVES. Thousands, tens of thousands, perhaps MILLIONS of lives.

By the time this is over, this orange shitstain and his enablers will have managed to kill more Americans than every enemy we’ve ever fought a war with – from the British to the Spanish to the Confederacy to the Kaiser to the Axis to the N. Koreans to the N. Vietnamese to every terrorist group there’s ever been.

COMBINED.

Today’s Republican party and its supporters have proven to be the worst national enemy the United States has ever faced.

Even today, 25.03.2020, Trump and other prominent Republicans are saying publicly that they want to end social prevention measures in order to get Wall Street moving again. They say that they are willing to sacrifice the lives of the victims of the virus in exchange for that. The Lt. Governor of Texas claims that the old should be willing to die to re-boot our economy.

That’s 8.25 million people. They are willing to let 8.25 million people die. To try to re-start stockholder’s recovery. Never mind that this wouldn’t even work, look at that number.

They mean you. You can die to help their bank accounts. Your mother. Your partner. Your child. They want you to sacrifice your life and the lives of your loved ones. For their money.

Could it be any clearer? If a foreign nation was attacking us, and was threatening to cause upwards of 8 million dead in such an attack, would we not have whipped up enough nukes against them to render their land a radioactive, glassy wasteland?

Then why are we treating the Republicans any differently?

For those of you without access to Twitter:

It’s about time we got something made clear here…

Okay, here’s the scoop.


Stop pretending “so-and-so is a Russian asset” and all that, as if individuals were lone wolves in this. They weren’t.


Here’s how it went: Russia has owned Trump since the 90s. He’s been laundering money through his shitty properties for ages.


At the Washington Correspondent’s Dinner, Obama pissed Trump off by making him a laughingstock in front of everyone, teasing him about his birther racism. So Trump decided to run for President and destroy anything that had Obama’s name on it.

Russia jumped in to help out, because Putin couldn’t stand the idea of Hillary putting her boot on his neck, and because they could use Trump to leverage against the USA and destroy NATO. Most importantly to Putin, Trump could ease sanctions which we’d imposed due to the invasion of Ukraine (which were really painful to Putin and his rich buddies, threatening his power base).

Putin also poured *huge* amounts of money into the NRA to be funneled into various Republican races (meanwhile, Wayne LaPierre grifted off his share, for which he’s currently being investigated), and managed to buy more than a few Congressmen and Senators in the process. What they didn’t get with NRA money, they’ve been “investing” in businesses local to other members of Congress, which then finds its way into political contributions.


This is why the “puzzling” attitude change took place about Russian sanctions during the RNC convention prior to the 2016 election.


Since then, through Trump properties, far more foreign money has been pushed into Trump’s pockets, further cementing their hold on him. Which puts him beholden to *foreign powers*, including Putin and the Saudis, and specifically *against* us, *against* the people of the USA. He has himself offered $millions to the various election campaigns of Republicans, with the expectation of total loyalty to him if they accept.


What you’re looking at today is this: if Trump goes down, he has very likely threatened all Republicans that they go down with him. He has them, because they all were on the take with him. They cannot possibly afford a fair Impeachment trial, because if there is one, he’ll be removed, indicted, and he’ll sing like a goddamned bird to take as many of them down as he can along the way.


So stop expecting the Republican party to act like a legitimate political party any more. They aren’t. They have morphed into a criminal enterprise, whether willingly or not, and their only hope is to cheat their way into ownership of the country. If they don’t succeed, they know that there’s a stack of indictments coming for each of them as soon as they lose control of the DOJ.


I’ve said many times “It only takes one side to wage a war” – the Republican party is waging an undeclared war against the USA. The sooner this becomes clear to everyone, the sooner we can gear up, fight it, and win it.


This is not the time for milquetoast bullshit like “how can they be acting so irresponsibly”. Recognize they are the ENEMY. They WANT to act this way. Their GOAL is to destroy our institutions, because that is their only path to safety. For them, this is life-and-death – because if they lose, they spend the rest of their lives in jail. Some may very well even end up in the electric chair for treason. They are desperate to avoid this – which is why you see Giuliani wandering around Eastern Europe on the payroll of Russians, doing “free” work for Trump. It’s why Bill Barr, who has no business doing business outside our borders, wandering around Europe. Both of them extorting bribes in the form of smearing Trump’s political opposition.

It should be obvious now to everyone that they take this shit very, very seriously. It’s about goddamned time the rest of the country – the press especially – did so as well. So if you know someone in the Press Corps, someone who works for the news, make sure they understand this.

An Open Letter to Senator Richard Burr of NC, 18.10.2019

This letter was submitted through Burr’s own website a short while ago. I invite you all to write similar letters to your Republican Senators, and to share this liberally among your friends and acquaintences:

Okay, you buffoon.

I warned you about this over a year ago. I told you that you could be the “voice of reason” in opposing Trump. What did you do? You sat on your goddamned hands. While he praised Nazis. While he ruined our air and water. While he racked up literally DOZENS of crimes against the American people. Why? BECAUSE HE WAS A REPUBLICAN, and you filthy traitors would rather support one of your own than support America.

You’re a goddamned traitor. Right alongside each and every one of your colleagues.
And now, the crowning glory of your inaction.

We had Syria completely under control. We had ISIS almost entirely on the ropes, courtesy of Obama. Oh, but you can’t possibly handle having the success of a black man look good, can you?

In ONE DAY, you, the Republicans, turned Syria into a devastating Saigon evacuation, courtesy of Trump and your refusal to take him and Pence to task.

ISIS prisoners are freed, the group is re-forming as I write this.

We are air-striking OUR OWN bases because our troops didn’t have time to evacuate properly. RUSSIA, our worst fucking enemy on the globe, is occupying the bases we didn’t have time to destroy – and very likely their intel corps is poring over all the valuables left over in them.

Turkey is threatening those troops who are trapped in the area. (Fucksake, a third-rate shitty country like Turkey? A former ally? SHOOTING AT US?) Our allies are being massacred in what will be viewed by history as a Turkish genocide. Enabled by you.

FIFTY OF OUR NUKES are being held hostage in Turkey. Turkey may very well become a nuclear-armed fuckball country with our own captured weapons.

This is the result of a TRAITOR PRESIDENT, and a treasonous party supporting him.

Which includes you – who knowingly stood by while this traitor betrayed us almost daily. Who knowingly overlooked damning information about the man, overlooked that he betrayed the USA, simply because he was in your political party.

You execrable filth. You are almost worse than he is. At least he’s doing it for personal gain. You’re doing it for no better reason than the preference for one football team over another.

Each and every Trump supporter has a price to pay. Those who had a chance to stop him and refused the greatest of them all. I call on you to remember how Germany ended, how its leadership was treated once they were subdued. There were an awful lot of trials, convictions, and nooses at the end of that story.

The time remaining for you and your filthy pack of vermin to do the right thing is fast running out. The evidence will come out. It always does. And when it does, those who refused to stand up for our country will be held accountable.

I’m giving you a benefit of the doubt that you really don’t deserve, in assuming you are still debating the choice. If I’m right, you’d better choose soon, pal. Because the torches and pitchforks are selling out at Amazon.

And the 21st-Century Nuremberg trials are coming.

T

Edit: corrected location Hanoi for Saigon

GreenStrawberry EVA Pods for the 1/144 scale Discovery XD-1

Not long ago, I put together a version of the USS Discovery from “2001: A Space Odyssey,” and during that build I included a set of resin-case EVA Pods from GreenStrawberry. The base kit was the Moebius 1:144 scale (comes out about a yard long).

First off, let me tell you, wow – I was very impressed with the Moebius kit. Great detail, easy fit, and a really solid build. I added the Paragrafix cockpit and pod bay as well, as I wanted to get some interior to the model. GreenStrawberry also makes similar fittings, which are offered together in a 3-piece “Fruit Pack”, but I had bought the others six months before I knew about the EVA pods).

But let’s talk about the EVA pods – that’s what this post is about. They were really cleanly cast – no flash, included PE parts, and very good match-up with the kit. They’re a perfect add to the Discovery, since they play such a dominant role in the film (just ask Frank Poole).

The one thing I felt was missing.

Lights.

Neither the Moebius kit, nor the pods, were lit. That said, there’s loads of room in the rear engine pod and the command bulb up front. A 9v battery, micro switch, and some LED tape and bulbs in all the right places, and the model was ready.

But I really, really wanted to re-create the scene where Bowman is leaving the Discovery for the last time, and his pod is just departing the ship. One pod is missing (Poole’s), and Bowman was leaving from the center bay.

And in the scene, the pod has spotlights lit up.

Little fella’s all lit up, see?

All by themselves, the pods are great, and to use Gordon Ramsay’s terminology, I felt it was time to “take them to the next level.”

One small…and I do mean small…problem – the pods are solid resin.  No space for lights.

Did I mention they were small?

But, as I said, this is a *small* problem.  Nothing a little drill work and some creative wiring can’t fix.

So let’s get started! 

Parts you’ll need for this:

  1. Greenstrawberry’s EVA pods, of course.
  2. A 5mm cool white LED – preferably something with a high lumen value.  I used some 4.2-candle LEDs I had on hand.  Higher the better, I would suggest not going higher than maybe 9 candles to avoid heat issues.
  3. A resistor for the circuit.  I used 9v to power my Discovery, and ideally your resistor needs to be between 450-1,000 ohms. Lower value means brighter light, and minimally for 9v you should get 400 Ohms or so. You can get standardized resistors at around 470 ohms, so just go with one of those.
  4. Some really low-diameter wire (magnet wire is ideal – I think what I’ve got is about 36-gauge)
  5. Some 1mm fiber optic cable
  6. Drill bits in 1mm and 5mm diameters and a drill or pin vice that can handle them
  7. Side-snips
  8. Some good steel files or a Dremel with a cutting / sanding extension
  9. Reflective chrome or silver paint, some satin varnish/spray, and some gloss clear acryl or enamel
  10. CA glue
  11. A 9v battery
  12. A soldering iron or soldering station
  13. Solder and flux (some solder is “resin core”, in which case it has flux in it already)
  14. A set of “helping hands” – basically this is a magnifying glass and a couple of adjustable alligator-clip arms, usually available for ten or twenty bucks.

*It’s worth noting that #14, though technically not necessary, is so damned useful you’re going to wonder how you got along without one for a lot of jobs.

Alright – first up, you want the lights to be in scale with the model.  If I put SMDs up front on the face of the pod, they’re too bright (not to mention slightly too large to fit).  They’d also require wiring, which makes things a little too cluttered.  Better to light from the interior.

Slap a coat of white on the pod(s) first.  My own preference is something like Vallejo primer, but that’s not a must-have.  This will provide good contrast to see your work as you go.  Leave the little tab on the bottom of the pod, because it’s an easy grip.  Just remove it when you’re done.  Easy apply is to just stick some blue-tac or other putty to the end of a sprue, and embed the tab in the putty.  Spray and wait a little while for it to dry.

Using a sprue and tack to hold the pod while working
Coat of white gets things going

Next we need to make some room for the LED.  Start by putting a very shallow guide-hole in the center of the bottom of the pod.

Guide hole right up the…ahem…

Now the pod is only about 18mm tall, so you have to be careful about the depth of the next step. To avoid getting carried away, mark your 5mm drill bit at about 15mm length.  A CD pen or similar is fine.

Teensy is a good word for this.
Mark your 5mm drill bit so you won’t overshoot and blow the top of the pod’s head open

Once marked, drill CAREFULLY up the bunghole of the pod.

And be careful NOT to overshoot the mark

Once drilled, clean the gunk out of the hole.  Your next challenge is to open some channels from the spotlight locations into the center hole.  In each of the four spotlight locations, you want to open a 1mm hole aimed inward toward the main gap. 

The two upper spotlights should be aimed inward on the X-Y, but even on the Z axis. Each of the four spotlights will be needing its own space for a 1mm fibre, so they shouldn’t overlap.

We are going in through all four lights here, and we need to not overlap

The lower spots will be inward X-Y, and slightly upward on the Z – but you don’t want the channels to bump into each other.

Straight in for the top lights
Try to aim your bit towards the center of the main port

A tool that will make this a lot easier is the Tamiya power drill, but that’s not a must-have.  Open the light channels, and clean out the leftovers. 

Verrrrry useful

Get out your 5mm LED now, and test-fit it in the hole.  Should be a perfect fit, might even be a little bit tight, but that’s okay.

Cool white 4.2 candles was my choice
Checking the fit

Okay, if you’re satisfied that the fit is good, pull the light back out – we’ve got some more work to do. 

Let’s next connect the wiring.  Those of you reading this who already have experience with making your own circuits, jump ahead.  I’m going to assume I’m dealing with newcomers for a while. With each LED, the length of the legs denotes the polarity (positive and negative ends) of the LED.  The longer of them is the anode, or positive. 

The shorter is the negative, or cathode.  It’s possible that the legs were trimmed even, if so check and see if you can find a “flat side” of the LED itself, the pin nearest that should be the negative.

The negative (cathode) should be slightly shorter than the positive (anode)

For any LED circuit, you’ll need to connect your resistor to the negative leg.  However, it is fortunate that there’s no rule that says it has to be connected directly – there’s no room for a resistor on the bay.  I connected wires to each leg, and then my resistor to the end of the negative wire.  By the way, it’s also a good idea to always be consistent with your colors.  A handy standard is to make negative always black (this is often an industry standard, though I have seen exceptions), and any non-black color can be positive.  In the absence of black, just choose a darker color to be negative. 

We’ll begin the circuit by taking a couple sections of equal length wire, stripping the insulation from the last cm or so of length on each end, and “tinning” the wire.  Put the wire into the grip of one of the clips of the “helping hands,” and then apply some solder to the ends with the soldering iron.  You want the wires to acquire a “silvered” look.  You want to do the same to the legs of the LED.  The flux and solder will clean the wires/legs, and make them much more easily connected.

Tin the ends of the wires and the legs of the LED
Tinned connections also mate together much easier than raw ones

Next solder the resistor on the end of the black wire.  The legs of the resistor should be tinned as well. These won’t be the final wires for the model, they are only here for use while we fit the lighting. Once complete, we’ll remove these wires and connect up inside the model with magnet wire.

Once that’s on, tug it to test as well.  As long as it doesn’t come apart in your hands, you’re good to go.  Time for a final test – run some current through that beatch.  Get your 9v battery and put the resistor on the negative terminal, and the white (or whatever color) wire on the positive.  You should be rewarded with a healthy bright light.

A bit like that

Good deal, well done.  Let’s move on, shall we?

Let’s confirm that the pod is clear of any debris left over from the drilling, and establish how deep you should sink the light when the time comes.  Hold your 9v battery in the last two fingers of one hand, and put the contacts back in place to turn the light back on.  Hold the light by its legs firmly in the same hand and slide it back up the backside of the pod.  Just go to the lip of the LED, we’re trying here to establish whether or not there’s any garbage left in the spotlight channels, and also to see that they are generally pointed in the right direction to capture light. 

Check each of the four individually, by looking down the hole and confirming unobstructed light.

Should look something like those images above. Note that my lower left wasn’t perfectly aimed, so it wasn’t as bright as the others.

Next step.  Pull the light and set the pod aside. 

Take a close look at your LED. Inside, you’ll see the actual diode, which is the little bit of circuitry between where the legs end within the bulb of the light.  You may also notice a large clear area above the diode, which is basically dead plastic used to broadcast the light.  We’re going to trim a lot of that off now.

They all look pretty much like this, wherever they’re from.

First, saw or file off the head of the diode until you’re down to about 1mm of plastic above the diode.  Next, file away the brim or “lip” around the bottom of the plastic.

We’re aiming for a look like this

Test it on the battery again, to make sure you didn’t damage the diode or the legs.  If you did, pull out a new LED and get to work.  Come back when you’re done. 

Break out your paint now.  Take some chrome or silver (or just any reflective color you have access to – could even be gloss white or something, I’m not picky), and slather a good bit of it on the interior of the big hole in the bottom of the pod.  Use your drill bit to ensure you didn’t accidentally seal up any of the four spotlight channels after you’re satisfied with the coverage of the interior.

We’re establishing a reflective interior to magnify the light

Set the pod aside, and get a bit of gloss clear ready.  After trimming, the cut areas of the LED are probably very cloudy.  Paint the whole thing with a thin coat of clear gloss.  This coat will settle into all the irregular scratches causing the cloudiness and will re-estabish a glass-like cover.

Make it good as glass

Okay, time for you to take a break.  Put this guide aside and go have some food, a beer, and relax a bit.  Your pod and the LED both need time to dry anyway.  Park the pod in such a way that any excess inside will flow to the “ceiling”, and set the LED aside to dry as well.  Conveniently, the “helping hands” has two alligator clips suitable for just such a purpose.

Go ahead, go eat.  I’ll wait.

You’re back, great!  Let’s slap the decals on the pod now.  When putting them on, take note that the decal card Greenstrawberry uses isn’t the super-fancy stuff that big companies have, it’s one solid sheet rather than individual decals parked on a backing page.  So when you cut them loose, cut them as close as you can without damaging the decal itself.

Additionally, the “earmuff” thruster packages on the EVA pods should have their centers removed to make your life easier.  With a very sharp razor knife, cut the center in a circle.  Once the decal has soaked for a while, before you remove the outer circle for application you can flick out the center using the tip of your razor.

The cut will look a little like that

In a case like this, although it isn’t an absolute must-have, I really do strongly recommend a decal softener.  In case you don’t know what that is, it’s a solution (practically every model dealer carries some form of it from various vendors) that will semi-dissolve your decal against the surface of the model.  This has the effect of eliminating “silvering” of the decal material, and provides a “painted on” look to the decal once it’s dry.  My personal experience lends itself to Micro-scale’s “Micro Sol” and “Micro Set”, but your mileage may vary.

Decals on, we’re ready to move

My cockpit window came out a little rough, so I’m going to dress it with a little bit of black paint.

For the more daring lighting fiends out there, yes, you could conceivably drill out that window space to expose the LED space.  Yes, you could, after anchoring the LED, fill it with clear resin to harden up into the window space and then paint some transparent red patches and black and so on, and light the cockpit. 

But if you’re going to do that, you’re way beyond the scope of a guide on the basics like this, aren’t you?  Let’s keep it simple J. 

Give your pod’s decals time to cure, best would be overnight, but at least a few hours.  (I know, it’s hard to let it sit, but go find some other part of Discovery to work on for a while.)  Once that time has elapsed, slap a satin coat on them to protect your work. 

We’re in the home stretch now.

Push the light back in about the same depth as previously done when you were checking the spotlight channels.  Check them again, and try a few different depths to see if you can find a “best light transmission” point for all four.  This step is just like what you did earlier. 

Once you have it where you want it, use a small dose of CA glue to park that light in place and keep it there.  After this glue dries, this is a good time to saw or cut off the retained tab that you’ve been using as a grip this whole time.

Bye-bye little fella, you did good

Make sure not to saw through the LED legs when you’re doing this.

Paint with the reflective paint you used for the interior over the bottom of the LED.  Try to keep it off the legs of the LED as much as possible.  After the reflective stuff is dry, paint black over it.  Test the light to see if you have any light leaks.  When you’re satisfied that there aren’t any, paint white over it.  Again, try to avoid the LED legs.  Not fatal if you get paint on them, but easier if you don’t have to burn that paint off later.

Light-block the bottom with first silver/chrome, then black – check it after it dries, you might need another coat of black

Regardless of the scene you want to replicate, those LED legs are going to need to be trimmed and concealed.  Using the sharp point of a triangular file, cut two small channels into the back of the bottom of the pod so you can fold them back into those spaces.  Paint the channels white again, unless you’re going to putty them over later (in which case the paint can wait until after the putty and sanding). 

Back at the front of the pod, it’s time to use that fiber optic stuff that’s been watching you from the side of the table. 

With each of the four spotlight channels, first insert the fiber optic and jam it in there as far as it will go, marking or measuring how much that is.  Withdraw the fiber, and take note how deep it should be.

Next put a tiny amount of gloss clear as far down into the channel as you can go.  I find best results injecting it with an insulin syringe (you can also acquire blunt-end syringes easily), but it can also be dribbled down with a pin if you have steadier fingers than I do.

I use a glossy white bathroom tile as a base for this work – cheap as hell, very durable

Your objective here is to provide a clear seal that has as little light-blocking properties as possible between the LED itself and your fiber.  It’s also possible that you’ll end up with gloss clear coming out the other holes – that’s okay, it just saved you some work.

Glug glug glug!

After the gloss goes in, immediately follow by pressing in the FO fiber.  Go as far in as you can with it, and wipe up any gloss that bleeds out the hole.  Once you’re convinced it’s in the right depth, use your side-snips to cut it flush with the spotlight opening.

The gloss fill spread amongst all four floods on mine – totally cool, just needed a little wipe

Repeat for each opening.

Give these an hour or so to dry, before again satin-coating the exterior once more. 

Next, apply gloss clear as tiny droplets to each of the four spotlight openings, and the cockpit window. 

Go get that little brass card that came with the pods.  Separate the arms of the pod from the brass PE sheet.  Anchor them in the tac on a stick and paint them white.  Satin coat them when that’s dry.  Make sure that the “hands” don’t accumulate too much paint and fill up – you want to be able to see the “fingers” clearly.

Before…
…and after painting

Definitely be careful not to overdo it with the paint, you can end up filling those hands.

When they are dry, trim the ends down to where they should be, dip them in CA glue and apply to the mounting point between the spotlights.  Once they are seated, you can apply a little more CA to each of them to reinforce your mount.  Now paint a bit of satin white over the CA.

Trim carefully, or you’ll end up bending something or worse – feeding the carpet monster

Test your wiring again, just to light her up and enjoy the feeling ).

A little light porn to go with your reading…
Check it in shadow too, to make sure you have her set right.  Not much you can do to correct it at this point, but since you have three of these pods, you can decide if this one belongs in the bay or outside the ship

In my case, the pod was resting on one of the landing pads (a separate 3rd-party package of PE), and the pad in question was extended out of the “mouth” of the command deck on some square brass tubing from Albion Alloys.  I connected magnet wire as thin as I could find to the LED legs of my pod, as closely as I possibly could get to the pod itself, and soldered it in place there.  I then trimmed off the excess leg and folded he remainder up and back into the channels I’d cut in the bottom of the pod.  A bit of white paint and all was hidden away.  As the back of the pod faced the model, a little rough edge there would not show.

If you’re actually looking for it, you can see the legs and the magnet wire – but when you build, you’re aiming for a view from about a meter away, and the angle of view obscures the wiring

The magnet wire was then routed behind and under the platform, then forward underneath and glued to the corner of the tube where it met the pod platform, so that the length was now pointing “forward”.  I took that length and reversed it again, this time threading down through the tubing and out the back of the pod bay, inside the command bulb.  I ran a little tiny bit of white putty along the corner, and plugged up the end of the tube, then covered that with white paint.  The wiring was rendered invisible. I glued the pod in place on its platform, and all was right in the world.

The obligatory “Hero” shot…cape sold separately

While the Discovery herself is a fantastic model to build, adding something like these Greenstrawberry pods to her completely elevates a beautiful model to something absolutely out of this world.  I hope what I’ve written here helps you all to add some really spectacular lighting effects to these great little pods.  When I consider the idea of building the bare kit, these pods and the extra lighting effect have turned Discovery into an absolute hero of my display area.  She’s the new star of the show here.

As always – and if you have any questions, comments, or death-threats, by all means send them on to me via the Facebook groups, or direct to my email via the site here. 

Happy modeling! 

Plastics.

Okay, I had to write this. No, seriously, I had to write it. It’s an assignment for my B2 Deutsch class.

So, highlights in Deutsch:

Es gab eine Periode der Geschichte, die Karbonperiode genannt wurde. Es war vor etwa 360-300 Millionen Jahren. Während dieser Zeit gab es nicht genug Bakterien, um alle Pflanzenschlachtkörper zu fressen. Wir sehen das Ergebnis als Kohle und Öl.

Vor kurzem (vor 100 Jahren, +/-) hat der Mensch Plastiks ergrunden.

Nichts auf der Welt wusste, wie man es isst. Es wird Millionen von Jahren dauern, bis etwas lernt wie.

Plastiks sind in unserer Umwelt so verbreitet, dass Sie und ich ungefähr fünf Gramm Plastiks pro Woche in unserer Nahrung zu sich nehmen.

Dies ware nicht schlecht, außer dass einige Platiks vom Körper als Hormone angesehen werden. Dies kann schwerwiegende gesundheitliche Probleme verursachen. Aus demselben Grund schädigen sie auch die Ökologie erheblich.

Und sie häufen sich. So sehr, dass zukünftige Zivilisationen in Millionen Jahren vielleicht sehen können, dass wir aus der von uns aufgebrachten Plastik schicht hier sind.

Was konnen wir tun?

Kaufen Sie keine Einweg-produkte aus Plastik mehr.

Ersetzen Sie Ihren Plastik kauf durch Papier.

Stimmen Sie für Politiker, die die Umwelt reform unterstützen.

Sprechen Sie mit anderen über das Problem. Erhöhte Aufmerksamkeit. Und wenn Sie mit Leuten über das Problem sprechen, erwähnen Sie, dass sie letzte Woche genug Plastik gegessen haben, um eine Kreditkarte zu machen.

Unterstützen Sie die Erforschung von Platik ersatzs toffen oder erforschen Sie, wie Plastik abfälle zerstört werden können.

Endlich müssen wir, ähnlich wie bei fossilen Brenns toffen, den Einsatz von Plastiks schränken ein. Oder ändern Sie die Art der verwendeten Plastiks.

Was ist das Schlimmste, was passieren kann? Eine Welt ohne 100 Milliarden Zigarettenkippen, die jeden Monat in die Lebensmittelkette gelangen? Meeresschildkröten verschlucken sich nicht an Taschen? Vögel verschlucken sich nicht an Bierdosen ringen?

Ich denke, ich kann mit einer Welt ohne diese leben.

Zuruck nach English…

Okay, let’s be real about this.

I know it is only supposed to be a few sentences, but this topic is too important for me to just gloss over.  Even if it is just an assignment for a Deutsch class.

Plastics.  Recycling them.  Doing away with them.

Let’s begin with some history. 

About 360 million years ago, plants pushed the atmosphere into an oxygen-heavy state.  So much oxygen, that it enabled insects like the dragonfly to reach the size of a large hawk.

This had the effect of reducing bacterial levels to such a low level that there weren’t enough of them to eat the plants as they died naturally.

So the dead plants piled up.  Really, they just piled up.  They eventually became peat beds.  After that, they were compressed (by geology) into coal.  This took place over a period of about sixty million years.  Piling up.  Like a teenager’s laundry gone crazy.

That period of time is called the “Carboniferous” period.

The key here is that those bodies didn’t get eaten.  And they were buried into the layers of rock and mud.  We call this “geologic subduction.” 

So today, when you talk about coal and oil, you are actually talking about humans digging up sixty million years’ worth of carbon.  Digging it up and burning it. 

Which is a problem orders of magnitude greater than plastics.

But we can walk and chew gum at the same time, can’t we?

So, plastics. 

Here’s the news on plastics:

In 1907, a fellow from New York named Leo Baekeland created a substance called “Bakelite.”   

Bakelite

This stuff was useful for a lot of things, such as electric and heat insulation.  It was made into a number of different things.  Radio and phone cases.  Kitchenware.  Jewelry.  Pipe stems.  Children’s toys.  Even firearms. 

But what it was really useful for was showing the world how to create totally artificial materials.  Materials that were very easily shaped and extremely durable.  Oh, and cheap.  Let’s not forget cheap.

Over the next century, humans got very busy manufacturing stuff from various plastics.  It would be a challenge for any of you reading this right now to look around and not see something made with plastics.

This was all really cool.  Lots of people got rich, lots of things got cheap.  It seemed like a win-win.

But no one really gave a thought to biology.

Practically everything natural has something that eats it.  Dust has mites.  Poop has beetles.  Humans have big cats and sharks. 

But nothing on earth knows how to eat plastic. 

This is primarily because plastic has a unique shape to its molecules.  There aren’t any natural enzymes shaped right to grip plastic and rip it up to eat it. 

So, what we see today is something like the beginning of the Carboniferous period.  Plastics are piling up because there’s nothing that knows how to eat it.  And they are piling up in the ocean.  When a plastic bag from Rewe or Kroger hits the ground in the parking lot, it will eventually be bleached by the sun and shredded by wind, feet, tires, and so on. 

Those little shreds end up being washed into a sewer, or a stream. 

Those feed into rivers.

Which feed into the sea.

And little bits of plastic look like the traditional food that plankton eats. 

So those little creatures called plankton eat it.

And fish eat the plankton. 

And bigger fish eat those fish.

And eventually, bigger animals eat those fish.  Animals like us. 

In fact, there is so much plastic in the food chain, that we people eat about five grams per week of “micro” plastic.  That’s like eating a credit card or a pen every week.  In a month, it’s 21 grams.  That’s about as much as a comb, or a clothes hangar. 

Now, that normally would pass right through us, since we can’t digest the stuff any better than other creatures.

But plastic has some hidden problems.  For example, some plastics are shaped just right, or emit chemicals that are shaped just right.  Just right for what?  They’re shaped like natural hormones.  And our bodies react to them like normal hormones.  Which can throw a child’s growth out of whack.  Or induce thyroid disease.  Or cause a man to grow boobs. 

I think I might have given you enough now to react.  Perhaps your reaction is “Holy shit, what do I do?”

Well, a few things.

For starters – stop buying one-use plastics.  Use paper sacks at the supermarket.  Don’t buy plastic straws.  Recycle everything.  Use glass.  Use paper.  Use wood.  When you have to use plastic, make sure it will last you.  Get wax paper instead of cling-film. 

Vote.  Vote for candidates who recognize the problem for what it is.  Vote against candidates who deny there is a problem.  Viciously mock people who pretend there isn’t a problem. 

Vote for candidates who support scientific research into bio-plastics.  Like the research recently completed by a Mexican scientist who made plastic out of cactus.  That plastic degrades in a month, and people can eat it safely. 

Support research on biological plastic destruction.  Just because nothing knows how to eat it today doesn’t mean there won’t be something next year.  Researchers can invent microbes that eat practically anything.  Who says there isn’t a possible digestive path for plastics to be found? 

Speak to others about the problem.  Don’t bother talking about the Carboniferous era when you do.  Just tell them nothing on earth knows how to eat that stuff.  Tell them that Porsche automobiles are long-lasting: two out of every three ever built are still out there.  Then tell them plastic has that beat: every piece of plastic ever made, except for the ones that were incinerated, is still out there. 

And tell them how much of it they ate last week. 

In the end, much like fossil fuels, we have to curb our use of plastics.  Or change what kind of plastics we use.

What’s the worst that can happen?  A world without a 100-billion cigarette butts entering the food chain every month?

A world where sea turtles aren’t choked to death on plastic sacks? Where birds don’t die caught in beer-can rings?

I think I can live in a world without those things.

https://www.bbc.com/news/av/stories-48497933/how-to-make-biodegradable-plastic-from-cactus-juice

https://www.adweek.com/creativity/you-eat-a-credit-cards-worth-of-plastic-each-week-says-this-unsettling-wwf-campaign/

https://ucmp.berkeley.edu/carboniferous/carboniferous.php

https://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/coal/

Happy birthday, Delphi :)

Back on Feb 14 in 1994, a long-awaited event took place – Borland’s “Turbo Pascal” got a revamp on its entire genome, and a new species of tool was born: Delphi. Other tools existed in a similar fashion at the time (most notably Visual Basic v3 and PowerBuilder), but none of them were nearly as fast or as capable as Delphi. Right out of the block you knew this tool was going to be the new gold standard of development systems.

It’s still running strong today – though not as noticeable in the market, mainly because the owners of the system don’t have the deep pockets that its competitors do. That’s always been the case, though. Microsoft always had more cash and BS to fling around, so what did we do?

We forced them to become us.

Much like when Rome conquered Greece, Greek culture won the overall battle. Visual C# from Microsoft is, for all intents and purposes, a fork of Delphi – looking at the code of the two, you can see how easily the two compare. However…

Today Delphi isn’t just about Windows – with it, you can target Windows, Linux, Android, and even (*hurk!*) Apple devices. I’ve even begun messing around getting it to talk to Arduinos lately.

I have to say, 25 years on, it’s still a rocking platform.

How to build an un-hackable password

Okay, another friend got hacked yesterday – here’s how to build an un-hackable password:

1. Pick a favorite date, like Bastille Day, your dog’s birthday, the moon landing or something.  You could also do something like a favorite movie mixed with it’s author’s name.

2. Reverse it, so for example today would be 8102voN82.  You could do the film thing like “Clarke1002Arthur”.

3. Pick two letters from the site you’re visiting or app you’re using, best is the leading letters of the first two syllables, so FaceBook would be FB.

4. Pick two numbers and use the Shift key to make them special chars, so 3-4 would be #$

5. String all these together to make your password, so my example here would be Clarke1002ArthurFB#$. Or add them together the other way to make #$FBClarke1002Arthur.

You can re-use this algorithm anywhere, it’ll give you a unique password for any site or app, and you only have to remember the pattern you use to build the password. It should take an average PC about 3 million years to crack it brute-force style.