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Raytheon’s recent patent application for a new choking sound-cannon has gotten a bit of attention since Gizmodo picked up the story from New Scientist.

http://gizmodo.com/5867984/future-riot-shields-will-suffocate-protestors-with…

http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21228425.300-riot-shields-could-scatter…

My soon-to-be-patent-attorney friend has chided me not to worry, because this is “just a patent application.” And here’s an example of how a little bit of legal education, which strictly de-emphasizes context and the analysis of power dynamics, can be a dangerous thing. There is a substantive difference between a patent application by a random would-be inventor working out of her garage and a patent application by Raytheon.

Raytheon is one of the largest arms dealers in the world. Raytheon has billions of dollars of US government contracts. Raytheon has current contracts to develop crowd control weapons, and is testing them on American prisoners. Raytheon has already developed crowd-control weapons from battlefield technology and sold them to domestic prisons for use here in the States.

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=129630188

Raytheon is girding itself for shifts in US government defense spending, partly by selling more war-weapons to other countries…

http://www.defenseprocurementnews.com/2011/12/01/saudi-patriot-deal-receives-…

…but also by increasingly marketing to ‘non-military customers.’ Such as the Department of Homeland Security and prisons, public and private. These ‘non-military’ customers buy a lot of crowd-control weapons.

http://technorati.com/business/finance/article/raytheon-illustrates-diversifi…

Another sonic weapon, developed by LRAD, has already been deployed against first amendment-exercisers here in the States.

http://gizmodo.com/5860592/what-is-the-lrad-sound-cannon

It’s really not a giant leap of logic to imagine that this particular patent application might be something nasty, deployed for nasty purposes.

Oh, BTW? Raytheon has been repeatedly sanctioned for illegal and unethical practice – it’s the 5th-worst government contractor, according to the Project on Open Government’s misconduct database. Competing, of course, with the OTHER four major defense contractors.

http://www.contractormisconduct.org/index.cfm/1,73,221,html?ContractorID=46&r…

Any good fortune teller (or, if you prefer, charlatan) practices the art of Universally Applicable Advice. You know, gems like “Be alert for opportunity,” which is ALWAYS a good idea, or “You will meet someone new in the coming year,” a prediction that is nearly water-tight for anyone at all. I often suspect primary care physicians of the same practice: “Walk more. Eat more vegetables.”

So, let me offer my own New Year’s nugget of Universally Applicable Advice: Kill yourself.

Really. I just committed Twitter suicide and it felt GREAT. I’m seriously considering Facebook suicide as well. Last night, I spent an unecessary 3 hours at my desk, long after everyone else in the office had gone home, cruising a succession of increasingly-depraved websites, only to stumble home in the rain feeling soul-dead and empty. Screw THAT. If I’m going to be hungover, it’s damn well going to be from actual, physical revelry. That’s MY New Year’s resolution! This morning I arose with a powerful and righteous conviction that TODAY is the day to make a change. No more checking Severina’s readership stats in the morning before leaving the house. NO MORE staying at work after hours to update my Fetlife profile. I am putting my virtual selves before the virtual firing squad, because they have slowly and insidiously seized too much territory in my consciousness. Anti-revolutionary factions must be purged.

Join me, friends. Kill your virtual self – at least ONE of them – and meet me out in the bracing cold of the Real World. I look forward to seeing you there in the New Year. XO!

And now, a few handy tools to aid you:

First, the ingenious Web 2.0 Suicide Machine, which will quickly and completely extinguish your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and MySpace accounts:

http://suicidemachine.org/

Next, Write Room software that simulates the archaic, uncluttered, distraction-free interface of DOS, just a blinking green cursor on a black screen, so you can work on the next great 21st century novel in peace:

http://www.hogbaysoftware.com/products/writeroom

Finally, the Suicide Booth in Second Life, which will vaporize your persona into a fine red mist:

http://slurl.com/secondlife/Tiretta/131/210/58

Happy hunting!

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SEED Magazine (tagline: Science Is Culture) does a once-in-a-while feature called Workbench that reveals the tools and techniques used by working scientists. This edition visits an urban bug-collector who studies how biodiversity is affected by human alterations to the environment. He’s got a bunch of neat jury-rigged gadgets that will appeal to your DIY spirit.

 

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http://www.ediblegeography.com/the-last-town-on-earth-an-interview-with-thomas-mullen/

Now that I’m symptom-free and have successfully crossed the membrane into olde Europa, I feel confident(ish) sharing about my recent quarantine anxieties. So, um, I had swine flu. Don’t believe the hype: it is unpleasant and certainly not to be scoffed at, but really, not much more dangerous, apparently, than a ‘normal’ influenza. It’s unusual for its rapid intercontinental spread, and for its failure to adhere to the regularly scheduled flu ‘season,’ which begins in mid- to late-autumn. I had it when the weather was still all summery with blazing sunshine, and it knocked me over for a couple of days. During that time, I was unable to remain conscious for for than a few hours, I had a high fever, and my body ached in a dispiriting preview of arthritis – every joint was creaky and painful, but the pain did not, unfortunately, give me the old-timer’s ability to predict the weather. After that, no other symptoms but a persistent chest cough and generalized exhaustion.

Not too bad, all things considered. Except that I was planning to travel to Austria. I read a bunch of interwebs and got my head all full of Gattaca-like visions: Passport Kontrol would include a sophisticated bioscan, and when I walked through the metal detector, my slightly-feverish body would be illuminated in alarming red on an imaging screen. Thereafter I would be shoved into a plastic biohazard suit, surrounded by stormtroopers with menacing-sounding breathing apparatuses, hustled into a starkly-lit white room, probed with painful silver needles and alien probosci, and have a large red ‘X’ painted across my forehead with indelible, photo-luminescent paint. After the administration of a strong paralytic that would render my body limp and useless while my mind remained acutely conscious, I would be subjected to extraordinary rendition in a modified butcher’s truck with human bloodstains on the filthy floor. And then awake to find myself nameless and without documents in some quarantine camp for lepers.

It didn’t quite play out like that. The border guard at Charles de Gaulle barely glanced at my precious American passport. It was 5 am; the customs officials weren’t even on duty yet; I passed unmolested through the nothing-to-declare door and into the chill pre-dawn air of Freedom. (Don’t think for a moment that I had left it to chance, however – Dr. Feelgood had provided me with a powerful combination of cough suppressants and industrial-strength fever reducers before the journey. BTW, who knew you could get a vicodin scrip for a COUGH?)

Which is all a long-winded way of saying that I’ve been thinking a bit about the concept of quarantine. Edible Geography is sponsoring a cultural ‘workshop’ on quarantine: participants read texts and create artworks and discussion on the matter. The website has a lovely reading list that might interest you. Especially if you’ve been feeling a little peaked lately.

http://www.ediblegeography.com/landscapes-of-quarantine-studio-participants-announced/

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