Monday, December 19, 2011

fuck the self

Finally, a guy has added some detail to a vague argument I've felt vaguely strongly* about for the past few years: Sentience, the sense of self, is not a uniquely human trait, nor is it a necessarily important part of intelligence. The self is just a good, practical reference point in the design of thinking machine. And thinking machines are billions of years older than super-intelligent ones we are now. But you didn't come here for my perspective. Here's the video:

Hell yeah, down with the sentience cult. One thing that bothered me was the idea that the self is located down in the midbrain. I'd been rooting for the prefrontal cortex. But that's not a big deal. Only idiots worry about the location of the self.

An importanter lesson to learn from this is that intelligence is one little voice in the primitive democracy of our minds, which explains why it's so easily and often ignored. The only solution is to metaphorically locate its opponents and metaphorically beat them savagely. And that's why I didn't like the Damasio's (the guy in the video) defense of curiosity. It seemed so feeble. It also feels tragic that it's even necessary.

*Yes, you can use an adverb to modify an adverb, if you're an asshole like me.

Monday, December 12, 2011

swim test

We had our biannual swim test yesterday. Most of the company did the bare minimum basic-level test, and then sat up in the bleachers with their MRE's, watching the handful who volunteered for the intermediate test. I was in the handful of course. We couldn't do the advanced test, because that takes five days and we only had the facility for one. But we got to try the MCIWS indoc, which is supposedly just as good and only takes an hour or so. So now I'm qualified to go to swim instructor school. But obviously the motive was to show off, and here's me cashing that check.

Some highlights:
  • Floating in the diving pool, I had to take off my pants, tie the legs together, and blow them up, to make a flotation device. It wasn't hard, but it was funny.
  • The second hardest thing was the 25 yard underwater swim. It had to be deep, too. Making a ripple on the surface would disqualify us. I tried going calmly and efficiently, as instructed. I made it about 75% of the way before I started to panic, but then I thought of a trick: Instead of giving up and freaking out upward, I could freak out forward. So I quit the calm efficiency thing and went nuts for the rest of the way. It might have been unsafe, but how often do you get a chance to pass a test you haven't prepared for, at the mere cost of a minor risk to your life?
  • The hardest thing was retrieving some rifles and helmets from the bottom of a 16-foot diving pool, while wearing a uniform and boots. It wasn't even part of a test. The test only required us to drop them. But we couldn't leave them there, and the instructor sure as hell wasn't going to get them. My ears are still feeling that one.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

origin of the cft part 2

Delta Squad was pinned down in... I'm not sure, actually. I was never really clear on that. But Sergeant Testley was getting ready to save the day by running 880 yards in boots and utes. Let's see what happens next.

They watched Testley disappear into the dark and stormy darkness. Two minutes and forty-five seconds later, the muzzle flashes began to disappear. Captain Owens clutched Testley's rifle in one hand and his own in the other. His cigar had burned down to a little clump of ash, still precariously held in his lips. He waited an eternity for Testley's voice on the radio, thinking of the sweet mods he would get for his new rifle if that voice never came.

But it did. "Oscar three oscar, echo five tango, all tangoes have been beaten to death."

"Coo," said Owens. Then, to Reynolds, "Hey, get a picture of me dual-wielding these M4's."

"I doubt the tactical wisdom of that, Sir."

"Tell that to the Covenant."

Testley said, "Sir, there's something here they were guarding. It's a flatbed truck full of ammo cans. About ninety-one of them. Thirty pounds each."

The ash dropped from Owens' mouth. "Hold your position. We're bringing in the seven-ton."

"Whoa, you never said anything about a seven-ton! We'll stick out like a sore thumb!"

"You leave the orders to me, Sergeant!"

"Yes, Sir."

"It's, 'Aye aye, Sir.'"

"Aye, Sir."

"'Aye aye.'"

"Aye aye."

"'Aye aye, Sir.'"

"I'm not a Sir."

"Just guard the damn boxes. We'll be up there in a minute."

In a minute, Delta Squad and a seven-ton truck rolled up to the former enemy position.

Testley emerged from the thicket, holding a catured Uzi. Owens pointed to a ditch seventy-five yards from the enemy flatbed. He told the rest of the squad, "Take position there, and make sure nobody gets through, especially enemies." He looked over the flatbed. He opened an ammo can, looked into it very seriously, and quickly closed it. To Testley, he said, "We've got to get these into the seven-ton."

"Sir, I think it's time for some answers."

"The answers are over your pay grade."

"They're over your pay grade!"

"Alright, I'll tell you everything. After we're out of danger. Now, this truck bed is at chest-level, but we'll need to fully extend our arms to get the boxes into the seven-ton. Hey, what are you doing? No!"

Testley was opening an ammo can. If was full of 20-ounce bottles of Mountain Dew Code Red. "It was you!"

Holy shit, where am I even going with this? Find out next time!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

origin of the cft

It's CFT season for Marines. Opinions vary widely on this wacky new fitness test, but we can all agree that it's interesting.

All the elaborate little things you have to on the test may seem random and unnecessarily complicated, unless you know the history of the CFT. So, you know, here it is.

World War II. The night was as dark, literally, as the darkness that was to come, metaphorically. A full moon did not appear in the sky. The only sound was extremely loud rain and thunder. In a dark and desert digital camouflaged tent, Captain Owens chewed his cigar grimly as he stood between Delta Squad and a map of Stalingrad.

"Men," he said, "This is my last patrol before I ship back to the States to marry my pregnant fiancé. So if it comes down to a choice, one of you try to get shot instead of me. Now, our route takes us through this general area." He circled the entire map with his finger. "And we expect to encounter Charlie in this general area." He continued circling the map. "Any questions?"

Private Timmy raised his hand. "Can we expect reinforcements, Sir?"

"Geez, I hope so. Alright, check your ammo and stay frosty. The ROE is FFA and the thumbstick is inverted. And one more thing. Some of you are brand new to this combat thing. If you start to lose your head, just remember the mission of the Marine Corps rifle squad. Close with and destroy the enemy. Let's move out!"

The squad crept through the jungle in a wedge right formation. Lance Corporal Johnson whispered to PFC Reynolds. "You gonna do what the Captain said?"

"Hell no. I got two fiancés. That order implicitly excludes me. What about you?"

"I'm saving up for a house. I ain't got a fiancé, but I'm gonna load that bitch up with fiancés once I get it."

Timmy chimed in. "I'm gonna buy a castle, with a fiancé in every tower and a moat full of puppies."

"I ain't got much goin' on," said PFC Tyrone. "I'll take the bullet for the Cap. And the rest of you, I guess. Good thing I'm so wide."

Johnson said, "Shit Tyrone. You're one stone cold motherfucker."

"Damn straight bitch." They executed Delta Squad's highly elaborate secret high-five.

Timmy whispered to Testley, "Sergeant, is it true what the Captain said, about Charlie being in this general area?"

"Yeah, they're out here. Just shoot them with your bullets and you'll be fine."

"But Sergeant, I've never fired accurately before."

"What? Not even in boot camp?"

"I got pizza boxes. A whole lot of them. I ate pizza when I should have been target practicing."

Testley let out a heavy sigh. "Well, it's too late for practice now. Just keep your head down and I'll do the bullet shooting." He saw Johnson and Tyrone still working on their high-five. "High five walking, gents! You're falling behind!"

In slow motion, muzzle flashes appeared in the distance. Zipping sounds alerted the squad to the bullets flying by their heads at lightning speed. Lightning flashed at bullet speed. As if on instinct, every man ran in a random direction, screaming.

Owens found cover behind a tree, and once he was safe, thought of his men. "Get down, you stupids! Consolidate!"

Testley low-crawled to him. Owens was watching the muzzle flashes through his rifle scope. "Fuck," he said.

"What is it, Sir?"

"Fuck, fuck, fuck. They're eight hundred eighty yards away."

"But we're only trained to hit a human-sized target at five hundred yards."

"Hence, fuck."

"What do we do?"

"Well, you can forget about getting shot for my sake. It looks like we'll all be getting shot by bullets tonight."

"We can't give up just like that."

"Son, part of being a leader is knowing when to give up. Or deciding when to give up."

Testley was removing his helmet and flak jacket, stripping down to his skivvy shirt and trousers.

"What the hell are you doing?" said Owen.

Testley stood up. "Closing with and destroying the enemy, Sir."

Will Testley run 880 yards and, I guess, beat up the enemy? It won't be much of a spoiler if I say, "Yes." But if you want the details, stay tuned for the next post!

Friday, July 15, 2011


Cassie writes:

you should write about the KSG shotgun from Kel-Tec && let me know if youre excited about it.

I hadn't heard of it, so I had to do some research. So far, this is my favorite part:

Actually, my favorite part is the dual magazine, with a little switch that determines which magazine you feed from. My first thought was, "Why the hell would you want that?" But seconds later, I remembered something that everyone who has ever thought about shotguns has wished for: A way to choose between slugs and shot.

We've all worried about that at least once, haven't we? Imagine, on your right, you have a gang of hooligans who intend to rape you. But on your left, you have one thick-skulled brute holding your girlfriend hostage. You need buckshot for the guys on the right. You could try pumping slugs into them, but there's no way you could kill them all before they reach you. You need a slug for the guy on the left. Buckshot would take out your girlfriend too. Earlier in the day, when you're loading your shotgun, you had no way of knowing which of these situations you'd encounter. Clearly, this selectable magazine is an idea whose time has come.

The obvious shortcoming is that you're only able to select which kind of round to load, not which kind to fire. In the heat of the moment, when the hooligans and brute are alternately advancing on you in a threatening manner, and you're pointing your shotgun back and forth to keep them in check, you'd have to chamber a new round each time you aim at a different enemy. While this would justify that annoying movie cliché where cycling a round is used as a threat, instead of simply a means of cycling a round, it would be a huge waste of ammo. An even more perfect shotgun might have some sort of selectable chambers instead. Such a thing would also help in the event of a jam. But if we follow this logic to its conclusion, we'd just end up welding two shotguns together. I'm not sure that's a bad idea, come to think of it.

Anyway, the KSG. Another thing I like is the bullpup design. I've always liked this design because I'm always looking for ways to save space. And I like things exploding as close to my face as possible. In modern warfare, a gun that's easy to swing around in tight quarters while retaining its accuracy would be a real winner.

One thing I don't like is the pump action. Apparently shotguns almost always have a pump action. Since semi-auto bolts cycle rounds using the energy of the round going off, it's hard to engineer a bolt that feeds reliably off of many different types of rounds. Since shotguns, more than other guns, use a wide variety of ammo types, this is a particular problem for them. Whatever. I see that as an engineering problem waiting to be solved, because I'm not an engineer and I can say whatever I want.

Generally, I agree with the internet. This gun is an interesting idea and I can't wait to see how reliable it is in real life.

I have to note that I let this question from Cassie slip by for like three weeks before I answered it. And this was after I solicited questions and implicitly blamed all of our problems on the lack of questions. So your possible suspicions were right. I'm the asshole here. But I promise your questions will be answered, even if it takes a while.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

vacation pictures 2: the vacationing

I just got back from my two weeks a year. I thought everyone knew about the "one weekend a month, two weeks a year" that reservists do, but apparently not. Everyone was surprised when I left for two weeks. I learned a lot in that short span of time. I got my 7 Ton licence, combat lifesaver licence, green belt in MCMAP, finished some online classes I need for promotion, and discovered the true meaning of honor and courage and stuff.

Anyway, here's the pictures from my vacation:

I couldn't get any pictures of us doing the MCMAP because it was too intense, but here's the mat we didn't do it on.

I took this picture because I knew you wouldn't believe me about how intense it was.

This was the vein sticking portion of the combat lifesaver class. Everybody sticks a vein, and everybody gets stuck, because that's how it works.

We noticed the dummy wasn't wearing his uniform properly, so we had to correct him.

Some humvee drivers in training. This was a "before" picture.

I took this picture because this guy's not posing for the camera. He was taking online tests without even looking at the screen, and passing them, because he's a ninja.

We had the privilege of viewing a promotion. As we were forming up for it, I saw this on the drill deck. I don't know what it means, but it looks kinda shady.

Me. I know that's what most of you were waiting for. I look bored, but the people who were there know what was really going on.

I didn't take this picture, so I couldn't tell you what's going on here.

Martin and I noticed a bug not wearing its uniform properly, so we had to correct it.

And then this happened.

So that was our Annual Training. My unit's a little readier, America's a little safer, and 18 more Marines now know I'm not circumcised.

Monday, June 13, 2011

super face

I saw Super 8. Spielberg had his hands somewhere on this film, so I knew there were going to be at least a few lingering face shots. But he didn't actually direct it, so I figured it wouldn't be too bad. Holy shit was I wrong.

I'm not saying Steven Spielberg is obsessed with human faces. No, wait, I am.

But I thought he was aware of his problem. I thought he'd been getting help. I didn't expect him to find an enabler.

Speaking of J. J. Abrams, all his movies have the same monster.

As with any good monster movie, the audience mostly sees it second-hand.

(There's a mild spoiler ahead, so watch out.)

And then at the climax, the the hero saves the day by staring at the monster's face for a while. I'm not kidding.

The story was pretty cool. The disparate plot lines integrated seamlessly. Some of them were sappy, but the seamless integration and pacing were good enough that the sappiness could be enjoyed or ignored according to the viewer's taste. And there were lots of faces.

Monday, May 2, 2011

analyzing the analyzers

I thought I'd try sleeping last night, but I must have been just aware enough of the sound coming from the TV in the next room. I drifted into consciousness to the chant of, "Bin Laden's dead. Bin Laden's dead. SEAL team USA Obama helicopters."

Shit, I realized, I can't miss this. And man, it was weird. I know emotions are high immediately after big events, and the people on TV say weird things, but the thing about weirdness is it never gets old. This time, the their idle chatter consisted of analyzing America's emotional response, ridiculously. I swear this satire is only slightly exaggerating what the news people really said.

America got hella closure tonight, as the most legacy-spanning manhunt in historical memory has siezed the head of the snake from the jaws of history.

That's right, Bill. This is truly an historical moment in the history of almost ten years to the decade today.

Would you say this is bigger than Hitler?



Parties are cropping up everywhere in the wake of the Twitter generation, for a people defined by the specter of never forgetting.

I was worried for a minute there, that these young people would forget, but they never did.

Holy shit. Let's see what the kids are emoting. Peter?

Thanks, Jill. I'm here with a party dude in the eye of this perfect storm of souls. What's your emotional state in response to this incident?


When was the moment when you realized that the impact hit your belief system?


Me too. How do you feel about the rainbow of emotions beaming, metaphorically of course, from your emotional core? Do you feel as if this is truly the moment when the butterfly of America blossoms from the caterpillar of fear?


If you had to pick one color from that rainbow, which three would they be?


That's the bravest thing I've ever heard. Thank you for your courage in the face of partying, party dude. This interview has certainly been the defining moment of my childhood as a reporter.

Go get wasted, Peter. You've earned it.

Oh god yes.

If you don't come back with a life-threatening hangover and an STD then you're fired. After the break, we'll have Private Johnson, an expert in talking about the military. God bless the Lord.

Own this moment in history! Get the Dead Ass Osama Commemorative Gold Coin or your grandkids will never forgive you!

And we're back. Johnson, can I call you Johnson?

No problem.

I love you, man. How amazingly have our guardians of freedom been perparing for this incredible mission?

The SEAL team was genetically selected from birth to detect Osama's DNA and obliterate his central nervous system. I can't go into specifics on their equipment or methods, but let me just say they can literally become shadows and regenerate ammunition via quantum tunneling.

Quite remarkable, the abilities of our courageous men and women. The terrorists must have been emitting rainbows of sheer terror.

I can't speculate on what kind of rainbows they were emitting, but yes, they were definitely emitting those kind.

Were there any tense moments in the situation room, where it might have seemed like the SEALs' god-like powers might falter?

Probably the tensest moment is when one of their helicopters malfunctioned. Luckily, the men who came in on that aircraft were able to backflip to safety in Afghanistan. It was sheer magic.

Very arousing. Thanks, Johnson, for talking about America's freedom.

It's just so incredible what Barack Obama has done for us. He truly has succeeded where every other president in history has failed. Let's bring back the monarchy.

I agree. We've got to get rid of term limits, find a way to make him immortal, if he hasn't figured it out already.

And that's our show. Next week's topic: Obama sucks!