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Full Disclosure

July 22nd, 2010 | Posted by revdisk in Information Security | Law | Rants - (0 Comments)

There have been three discreet schools of thought on disclosing vulnerabilities. Totally open, partially open, and no disclosure. Fairly logical that.

No disclosure is the school of thought that the best means of security is no public and limited private dissemination of vulnerabilities is the best means of security. “Security through obscurity” is the primary phrase of this moment. The logic is quite simple on the surface. If “no one knows” about the problem, it doesn’t exist as far as virtually everyone knows. That means there will be less chance of said vulnerability being exploited, as few people will know about it.

Partially open disclosure is that the issue is acknowledged in very general terms, but no details whatsoever are given. In theory, it’s supposed to be a compromise of between the two parties. In practice, the majority hates it.

Full disclosure is just that. Open, complete discussion of vulnerabilities. All or nearly all details in the open to all parties. It’s not considered inconsistent to give the manufacturer or other responsible party a defined period of time to resolve the issue before publication of the vulnerability. The problem is that the vulnerability can be exploited by virtually anyone interested in doing so. Finding a flaw can be difficult, replicating it is often trivial.

Security through obscurity sounds like a very reasonable argument. Only problem is… Knowledge always leaks given enough time. Unless the person who found the vulnerability is a hermit, he or she is going to tell someone else. Or if that person exploits the vulnerability multiple times, it likely will eventually be noticed. A vulnerability that isn’t or can’t be exploited is of limited value to the bad people.

Another consideration is that virtually everyone, including black hats, are motivated by MICE. Money, Ideology, Coercion, and Ego. Black hats are motivated to do what they do. Previously, it was a historical trend that they did their work for ideology or ego. These days, black hats motivated by ego is the minority (in terms of being a threat). The majority are motivated by money, plain and simple. Primarily spam, but also harvesting personal/corporate/government information for resale or private exploitation.

The “individual” non-profit Black Hats are also starting to die off. They still exist, but are an extreme minority compared to the folks acting as independent or dependent contractors or specialists. Specifically, organized groups that have taken to information and electronic exploitation. Organized crime, intelligence services, military units specializing in IEW, paramilitaries (Security Services, terrorists, PMC’s, et al), corporate espionage groups, etc. They have a specific motivation, whatever it is. These motivations (MICE) have existed since the dawn of civilization and will not disappear until humanity does. Electronical medium is a new playing field, but the overall themes are extremely old.

Outlawing full disclosure is akin to outlawing firearms. People will still engage in their behavior and the only people hindered are the victims. Throughout time, people have always reacted to bad news by shooting the messenger in hopes that the underlining information or situation will expire with the messenger. This is never the case, but the mentality survives.

Full disclosure is very painful to virtually every party in some way. The originating manufacturer of the vulnerability must fix it, the researcher who discovered the vulnerability faces legal or reputation liability, the criminal now much deal with a potentially informed and prepared victim, the potential victim must mitigate the vulnerability.

This sounds like a major pain in the fourth point of contact. So why would any sane person advocate it?

Because it has been shown to be the only historical way of gaining real security.

This is not a new debate. The first published debate on full disclosure is traced to the 1850′s, but existed long before that. Guilds had elaborate procedures of restricting information to only acceptable parties in order to maximize profit at the expense of the consumer and public. Often, dangerously restricted. The milk processing guild restricted knowledge of their milk adulterating procedures, which happened to be very dangerous and not infrequently life threatening.

We are in the same boat as the public in the 1850′s. The overwhelming majority of people do not have the time, training or ability to thoroughly examine every bit of their operating system, every aspect of their locks, etc. It can and often does take a decade or more to master just one area of study. As humans are not immortal, it is impossible to have a mastery of all subjects.

It is in the public’s interest, as well as the manufacturer’s long term interest, to openly disclose vulnerabilities. If a batch of milk was contaminated, people who purchased it must be told. If a lock can be bypassed trivially, the owners should know. If a car has faulty brakes, the driver must know. If there is a major hole in a computer system, the operator must know it exists. Without this knowledge, it is impossible to mitigate the risk. The public will suffer. After being burned, they will not trust and will extract retribution (hopefully through the courts) on the responsible party, the manufacturer.

While it is painful, the manufacturer who discloses a vulnerability greatly reduces their long term liability for a defective product. They then build a better product. Short term loss, long term gain.

Unfortunately, the “shoot the messenger” instinct is still very very strong. In the US, there are laws in place that severely restrict reverse engineering. Free speech prohibits blanket bans of security publications, but Congress does its best to infringe on behalf of people who solely focus on the short term. This has extended to the point of security researchers literally being dragged off the podium in handcuffs. (Sklyarov) It is not infrequent for the manufacturer of the vulnerability to threaten or engage in legal proceedings to silence security researchers. (MIT students v MTA metrocard, et al) People just naturally get angry when they are given bad news. Especially if bad news is directly attributable to the person receiving the bad news.

If you think hackers get treated unfairly, try giving open disclosure lectures on locks. People are absolutely shocked, horrified and angry that their $20 pot metal piece of garbage lock is easily bypassed. Rather than accept personal responsibility and make reasonable steps to mitigate the issue, it’s just plain easier to be angry at the person who told you the information. It doesn’t change the reality of the situation. The vulnerability exists, whether folks know about it or not.

Professionals inform each other. Criminals circulate information. When open disclosure is banned, only the consumer or potential victim is in the dark. Exactly like gun control. When you attend to infringe or ban firearms, you do not stop the police or criminals from owning firearms. Only the public is hurt. Information on vulnerabilities is no different.

Thoughts on Taser C2

October 24th, 2009 | Posted by revdisk in Firearms | Law | Rants - (2 Comments)

Disclaimer: While I believe the Taser is not a product I would own or rely upon for my safety, I am NOT an expert. All of my information is based off the product marketing material, the Taser website, and conversations with Taser users (LE, instructors, etc). You should do your OWN research and make your own choices. The following rant is entirely geared around my own assessment for my own situation and the single case cited in the rant. YOUR situation is entirely different and thus my rant probably does not apply well to you.

Tasers are less lethal weapons. They are not 100% safe (safe being nonlethal), and cannot be. Any weapon capable of incapacitating someone in a semi reliable manner has the chance of killing. This should be drilled into anyone’s head before they use a weapon. If a suspect dies from a tasing, it should be reviewed in exactly the same manner that using a firearm would generate. Lethal force is lethal force, regardless of whether a suspect was shot, tased, or brained with a baton. “But I used a taser!” is not and should not be a defense. Mind you, I’m not saying an officer or non-LE person is automatically in the wrong if any suspect dies (regardless of method used), far from it.

Personally and professionally, I find Tasers to be not a good product. Not from a “don’t tase me bro” anti-police way. Bit of background, I’m a “security specialist” in a generic sense. Information security, IT security, physical security, etc. When I look at something, I ponder all of the strengths and weaknesses.

One day an acquaintance asks me about Tasers. She works with a lot of cash and occasionally has to transport it. Her company allowed and encouraged carrying a Taser. She asked me what I knew about them. Aside from learning about them in a basic sense back in the military along with other less lethal weapons for crowd control, I didn’t know much. Thankfully, there’s a EMS/fire/LE/etc supply store across the street. So I went across the street and learned more about them.

First off, two models. LE and a “civilian” model, the Taser C2. (The clerk didn’t like when I joking pointed out that police are civilians too, which was even more amusing.) I didn’t ask too much about the LE version, as my acquaintance was interested in buying one of the cute looking C2 models. The civvie model is light, curvey and non-threatening looking. It’s called the Taser C2, and is visually packaged to express the impression of “consumer electronics” instead of weapon. But hey, that’s just aesthetics. Nothing wrong with that. So let’s move on to why it’s a bad product that is dangerous to the user.

It fires a single cartridge costing $25, which contains compressed air, wire, barbs, etc. And allegedly some kind of micro-ID thingies that can potentially be used to identify a perp as well as the owner. There is no OEM training cartridge for the civvie model. Which means you CANNOT safely test the device unless you’re handy with electricity and know how to safely ground something conductive. There is no way to turn off the juice, so it is risky to test the Taser on anything that is conductive and improperly grounded. Besides it being insane to never being able to safely test and practice with an allegedly life saving device, why is this worrisome?

If you did not read the manual, did not test the device and need to use it in self-defense, you will quickly learn that you have been hauling around a $350 ish paperweight. See, the device needs activation.

I swear to the gods, I am not lying. A weapon that needs permission before usage. I find the concept horrifying, personally, but I guess certain folks would love it. Here is the proof: https://activate.taser.com/c2activation/ You must pay an additional fee for a private company to conduct a background check. If you do not pass or don’t activate the product, the Taser C2 is disabled. If the person processing the request makes a mistake or the necessary IT equipment malfunctions, you are out $350 for the device and another $10 for the background check. Since it is a private company, there is no oversight or accountability laws to govern its background checks. And since you can’t safely test it, you have no guarantee that your unit will function as it is needed to function. If you somehow can safely test the unit, it is $25 per functionality check.

Why is this? So if a felon buys a Taser, he can’t use it. Yes, that is the company’s exclusive justification for such a radical product flaw. Because no felon would lie and give false information to Taser’s activation folks, or pay someone else to activate the Taser. Felons are known for their scrupulous honesty and for never lying to suit their own needs.

Let’s ignore the fact that you also handed over your name, address, driver’s license and other deeply personal information to a company. An identity thief’s dream. I wonder how much they pay their data entry clerks? Enough that they wouldn’t be tempted to earn some side cash selling your information? This also assumes the company will not give out your personal information or sell it. Let’s also ignore the deeply offensive treatment of their customers. Each and every customer is treated like a potential criminal at best, and like a mindless child at worst. It is their company, and they can make a buck however they choose.

Well, let’s move onto usage. The design is only practical if you have one attacker. It converts to a “stun gun” if the cartridge is expended (and the unit is not disabled), which is a nice thought and only slightly less useful than having a heavy rock. It allows you to zap a person up to 50 times. But the official usage doctrine for the C2 is to press the button (the C2 model gives shocks in 30 second durations), drop the unit, run to a safe location and call 911. So following that logic… the manufacturer specifically suggests the unit is near useless against more than one aggressor. Unless you carry multiple Tasers, of course.

A $2 knife is starting to sound like a more durable, better designed and significantly safer weapon. I’d buy my acquaintance a full auto MP5 and pay an insane retainer to the sharkyist defense lawyer in the region before I could in good conscience pick up a Taser for her. Hell, I’d buy her a rock before I’d buy her a Taser. Thankfully, the tasteful PR DVD included in the product packet was enough to convince her that they are a really bad idea. It’s a dangerous, poorly designed, and hideously expensive weapon with limited functionality. She’s leaning towards a Keltec or a XD compact.

Very simple. Either life outside of earth doesn’t exist or we’ll only see it if we cheat.

The universe could be filled with tons and tons of planets brimming with life. We very well could live and die as a species without ever knowing. Stars are really far apart. Words can’t accurately described the distance; we make do with scientific notation. You can’t travel at light speed, or a fraction of light speed. Relativistic speed is a Bad Thing. Ignoring time issues, it takes an extraordinarily large amount of energy to get to those speeds. If you can possibly get to those speeds, you will eventually hit something. Doesn’t matter what it is, could be the size of a pea. At relativistic speeds, that’s more or less like running into a small planet or whatnot. But let’s say you COULD go the speed of light, safely. Ok, you could realistically visit a handful of nearby stars with very big starships that were multi-generational. Not a bad solution. But the probable lifespan of humanity would be limited to less a dozen solar systems, none of which could probably be reached in one lifespan. There are not more than a handful of stars within a million light years of earth. A million years is a bit long for any piece of technology to survive. Entropy is just one of those facts of life.

It doesn’t matter if you could go the speed of light, ten times the speed of light or a thousand times the speed of light. You’d be limited to a very, very small corner of the universe. The only way to realistically travel the universe would be near instantaneous travel. It’s not faster than light (FTL), it’s instantaneous or nearly so. Space folding, wormholes, alternative reality hacking, whatnot.

It may be very possible that instantaneous travel across astronomic distances is impossible. Current physics don’t seem to think it’s practical. So when someone acts smug and quotes Fermi paradox, remind them that Fermi was ignoring the distance factor. Same with the Great Silence. A civilization on a distant planet could turn their entire planet into a huge radio and we wouldn’t notice it for millions, hundreds of millions or billions of years. The universe is spreading out at a rapid distance. Each second, most galaxies move a bit further away.

A tour in a single post

June 18th, 2009 | Posted by revdisk in Personal | Politics | Rants - (0 Comments)

Sunday, November 16, 2003

One of those days.

I slept in today, was kinda nice.   Haven’t had a day off in about three weeks.  Normally sunday is the day of sleeping in for me, but for the last few weeks I’ve been involved in weaponry training on my days off.   Teaching other nationalities how to operate US weapons and them training me.

I’ve trained with maybe a dozen countries by now.   Most assault rifles tend to be of similiar design, so they’re not too complex to learn.   Heavy machine guns are a wee bit more complex.  Specifically, every single one has a different barrel replacement procedure.   In other words, when you shoot a lot of rounds very quickly, you have to change out the barrels before they start to melt.

Thus far my favorite weapon is the Finnish version (Sako) of the AK-47.

Time for chow.

unday, November 16, 2003

Bots.

My ER1 robotics unit should be getting here sometime soon.

Working on some modifications.  Propulsion, power and onboard electronics.

Propulsion is gonna be expensive.   The default wheels are rather weak.  Solid plastic with no special traction.   So, it’s going to be a switch to either treads or high traction tires.   Treads, I would go with a custom joby from a conveyor belt manufacturer I know of.   High traction tires are around, but they’re barely a step up.

Power is the battery unit.   There’s a bunch of different batteries around.  Lead acid being the cheapest and heavy, polymer lithium ion being the most expensive and lightest.   Probably go with a standard lithium ion or NiCad as well as a docking station for charging.   Have to build a circuit that will monitor voltage levels, when the voltage drops too low the circuit will order the robot back to the docking station.

Other addons will be of course, weapon modules.   Rockets are rather easy to work with.   Simply run a line from the serial port over to a simple circuit on the weapon module.   Probably make a few rocket pods for ease of reloading.   Automating the rocket pod switching is possible, but that’ll be at some point in the future.

Other considerations are AirSoft automatic BB weapons or paintball rounds.  These of course are non-lethal weapons.  Unless someone screws with the velocity or ammo of the weapons.  Both systems have version with electric firing mechanisms, which is relatively easy to set up.  Simply send a signal to the port.   Might make a safety circuit that the robot has to disarm before it fires, so it won’t accidently go full auto.

Probably add some sonic sensors.  They work better than IR or visual for two reasons.   Good range, and they operate in any environment.   IR sucks on tracking black objects, because black sucks up all light (including the IR band).   It’s also short range.   Visual can also be deceived with too much or not enough visiable light.   Sonic works on any solid object, regardless of lighting conditions.   There are some good electronics on the market for working with multiple sensors.

Monday, November 17, 2003

Blah.

Weather here sucks.   Cold and damp.   Around here, late fall and early winter is the rainy season.  Had to get up at 0500 for a damn meeting.  Watched a black market copy of Matrix Revolutions, which is technically legal because there are no laws on copyrights here.

Earlier I watched the sun start to set around 1700 (5 pm).  I thought about how soon I’ll be coming back to the United States.   It’s been a while.   A lot of my friends have moved on or graduated.  I have no idea where the hell I’m going to live.  College is there for me, obviously.   But do I want to go back to dealing with the general college population?   Most of them have done nothing with their life.  They don’t know what it’s like to go a week where sleep is a two hour chunk here or there.  Or staring at a huge lake hidden at the top of a mountain range while waiting for an evac chopper, freezing because the wind chill is pushing the temperature close to zero.

I’ve seen plenty of things I wish I could forget.   Yet, I don’t want to forget them.

The holidays are coming up.  I’ll be out in the mountains.  Some of my friends back in the States asked me what I wanted as gifts.   I have no idea.  I don’t want movies or CDs.  I have enough books.  I really want for nothing.  Everything I need I can procure easily enough.   Wants?   Well, I have some electronics that are handy and occupy my time.   Damned if I know what I want.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

My boss is out of the office at the moment.   It’s nice to often have a decent sized office to myself.   On the totem pole, personnel on the lowest rung DO NOT get an office to themselves except when it’s mostly used as storage space.   I’m literally stuck between lawyers and priests, which is pretty amusing.   The Law and God are on my sides, as I like to put it.

Looked into buying a HK94/MP5 clone.   Not too badly priced at $1200 but I still don’t want to shell out that much.   So I’m thinking of going with a MPA 971 9mm semiauto “Sports Rifle”.   Basically it’s a pretty ugly 9mm carbine that has a 70 round drum.   Reminds me something of a modern Thompson.  If one used hollowpoints, it would be a very good defense weapon.  Need to see if a Pennsylvania Concealed Weapons Permit would allow it to be concealed.

Personally, I’d rather have the micro-SAW that Swedish Special Forces let me play with.   It’s a M249 SAW with a cut down barrel, an extendable stock, optics rail, and a few other extras.  When fully compacted, it’s maybe two and a half feet long.  Doubt US laws will ever let me have one.

I had a good time shooting with the Swedes.   Great guys, probably the most fun I had since I got here.  Literally fired off thousands of rounds.  The range was a sea of spent brass casings.  I ended up coming back that day wearing more Swedish gear than American.   Had on a Swedish Sergeant cap, a mess of their unit patches and a combat knife.   They informed me that I was welcome to any bar near any Swedish base, and that I was one of their brothers.   So, if I ever go to Stockholm, they’re gonna throw one hell of party for me.  The offer still stands for any of the Swedes come stateside.

Saw Matrix Revolutions.  It was pretty good.  Agent Smith at his best yet again.  Decent music.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Ugh.

Back from Bulgaria.  With a bit of a headache.  Doing a row of vodka shots will do that.

If one ever goes to Bulgaria, I recommend hitting the cultural sites, walking around downtown Sofia and drinking the lager called “Zagorka”.  It’s cheap, and ain’t too bad.  I think I was paying $0.75 per bottle.

Went to see some various castles, some very old Bulgarian Orthodox churches, and a number of night clubs.  All were very impressive.  The hospitality was incredible in most places.  No place will automatically serve you a check, one must ask for it.  They see it as rude to interrupt your meal.  Course, it drives one near insane remembering that shaking your head means “yes”, and nodding means “no”.   Just go with “da” and “nee”.

Went to a casino to pass some time.  The floor manager was formerly a member of my Division.  I honestly did not believe him until he started rattling off the old places he went to drink outside of the small base the division comes from.  Small world.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Spent the morning in a helo.   Winds got pretty bad in the mountains.  The damn aircraft was flying at a 25 degree tilt because of the crosswinds.   Still, I got a chance to get out and around.

Just finished up “Red Rabbit” by Clancy.   Decent stuff, involved around the attempted assassination of the Pope.  More I get around, the less amusing I find “action thriller” books.  Some of them are pretty accurate, but it’s just not the same.  Techno Thriller books are just bloody amusing.  Considering how often Microsoft products crash, I would not trust computers with my life if I could avoid it.  When I say this, people often point out computers in cars or airplanes.  Most cars have microcontrollers rather than full fledged computers.  ICC chips embedded in vehicles are technically “computers” in that they compute numbers, but they are moreso overgrown special purpose circuits rather than general purpose computational devices.

The more complex software gets, the more likely the odds of errors creeping in.  Not just coding problems, but often enough design problems that crop up.  Managers give different specs to differenct prograsmmers.   They often change the specifications without giving notice to all the programmers and generally do not completely check that the old code is compadible with the new requirements.

Thursday, November 27, 2003

Finished the frame for my robot, WINTERMUTE.  Not too shabby.  I wish I had access to Radio Shack or any other electronics store.   There’s a lot of things I want to add or change but it takes weeks to get parts out here.  I don’t care for the front wheels especially.  I want to go more with a suspension system closer to RC cars.

There’s plenty of room for improvement on the hardware, but programming it will take time.  A program called Stragos is great for visual mapping and such.   One lays out a grid map of whatever environment.   You can set routes and such.  I wonder if it comes with the API to have the robot use sensory feedback alter the maps on the fly or if I’ll have to code ‘em.

Picking up a good mic and a set of external speakers.  Also need a USB hub.   Blah, so many USB devices.   Thank all deities for USB, I’m old enough to remember serial and parallel ports.  Always hated them.  USB devices are getting better and better.

Friday, November 28, 2003

Another cold rainy day.  This apparently is the wet season in this part of the world.  In a way, it’s kinda nice.  Very quiet except for the light sounds of the rain hitting metal.

I wish it’d start snowing.   This place looks very beautiful when covered in snow.

Sometimes I stare into the night sky and wonder what’s going to happen.   Eventually I just let it soak in that whatever happens will happen whether I like it or not.  One must bend to the circumstances of one’s position.  The willow tree bends in the wind until the time comes that there is a wall of willow trees.  Then the wind bends to the willows.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Got some presents in the mail.  Bunch of nifty stuff.  One of my friends sent me a mini Rock garden.  I used to own one a long time ago.  Also a nice lil water fountain.  I like it.  Kinda relaxing.  Ever since the incident involving me sending three military police to the hospital, I was unfairly stereotyped as being a bit on the violent side.   So I get some interesting looks when I’m working on my rock garden and meditating.  There is a place and time for everything.   Just because I happen to be good at something (violence), does not mean I wish to employ it all the time.

Got a copy of Underworld on DVD.  Great movie.  The imagery was very beautiful.  Could have been better in a few minor details, but all and all, I liked.  The costumes were pretty decent.

Lately I’ve been feeling kinda off.   Maybe it’s the short days and long nights.  It’s fairly dark by 4:30pm.  By 5:30pm, it’s very dark.  Haven’t been sleeping well and I’ve been dreaming lately.  Can’t say I care for dreams very much.  The end of my stay here is coming to a close fairly shortly.  But that’s not what’s bothering me.  Something else is.  Can’t put my finger on it exactly.

I look like hell.  More than normal.  I need a long vacation.

Sunday, December 07, 2003

Snow.   It almost looks nice around here when it snows.  It hides how ugly this country looks.  It also seems to deal with the excessive air pollution for a few hours.  Anyone that rags on environmentalists should take a tour of Eastern Europe.   After seeing commie environmentalism at its finest, one wonders if the eco-nuts have a point.

I spent some time with the demo guys a few days ago.  Set off 150 bricks of C4.  I still love the warnings on the side of each brick, basically saying don’t eat C4 or set it on fire.  You can actually cook with C4, it will burn nice and evenly without exploding.  But if, you try to stomp it out….    C4 needs heat and pressure to explode.  Still, treat it with respect.

Probably going to watch my pirated Matrix Revolution DVD.   As this region has no international statis, there are no copyright laws.  So, pirating music is technically legal here until the UN cracks down and changes some treaties.  Unlikely to happen.  Damn UN people are too busy breaking their own speed laws and acting annoying in general.   Craziest drivers I’ve ever seen are UN personnel.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Every time life seems to almost be normal, something unusual happens.  Today, I made a deal to trade Hershey chocolate for access to an AK47 and a few thousand rounds of ammo.  It is a weird world at times.  I hear from my friends back in the real world.  A lot of them are working unhappy jobs, dealing with college stress…   I got my own problems, of course.  Everyone does.  But they’ll never do things like this.  I’m not sure a lot of them will understand remotely what it’s like.

A long time ago, a professor told me life would be very different “in the real world”.  At the time, I knew he was technically correct, but he didn’t exactly understand what he was talking about.  I’ll have to stop by and say hello when I get back.

Things have been alright recently.  Not great, of course.  But good enough.  Won’t be too long till I’m out of here.  It feels nice.  The snow is melting, which is a shame.   There’s a lot of ice around, so one must be careful.

Been putting all my spare time into development of my robot Wintermute and my web site.  I lack access to tools and programs here.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Wonderful.  Checking my gear.  GPS, radio, IR strobe, NVGs.  Spare batteries for everything.

I lived my life the way I wished.  I have few regrets.  Many times before an important choice, I asked myself if I would ever regret my decision.  It’s vastly amusing how quickly life can turn from pretty calm into a world of hurt.  Tis the way of things.

Things will turn out ok.  They always do.  So I keep telling myself.  Best prepare for the worst anyways…

Saturday, December 20, 2003

The snow is melting.  I like snow.  It really covers up a lot…  Snow purifies the world, cleansing it.

A few nights ago, I was on the border.  The snow was falling hard, and the wind drove down the temperature.  It was so cold, it burned the skin.  The silence was a change from the constant background sounds.  Only a few lights shown in the distance.

This is very different.  Everything of this place is different from the states.  We are trapped in this cage.  We can shop at only one place, and they screw us over on a regular basis.  I guess this reminds me of “company stores” of coal mining towns.

I got a few Iranian rugs today.  They’re absolutely beautiful.  They had to have taken a year to make.  Someone literally slaved over these rugs everyday, making them beautiful.  I will never know who it was.  A man or woman.  Cruel bastard or caring person.  Learning this skill had to have taken at least a decade of training.  Considering the size of the rug, it had to be a true master.

One of the Turks was explaining to me how much people in his country made in a week.   $50 was about average.   $35 was spent on food, housing and transportation.  $15 was spent on clothing, entertainment, consumer goods.  He explained that he and many of his countrymen loved American goods because he knew they would last a long time.  Expensive, but quality.  I hear occasionally about people making over $100k whining about how little their money goes.  Sigh.  Perhaps Americans define themselves by consumerism a lil bit too much.

Screw it.

I don’t exactly understand why people seem to trust me or think so highly of me.  I merely try to avoid trouble and do my job.  Attention is a dual edged sword.  I don’t really try to avoid it, but I don’t go looking it.  Suppose it does not help that I’m not exactly the most subtle type.  My idea of subtle is a bottle of whiskey, a battle axe and a full length duster.

I’ve been trusted with much for my age and official level of experience.  No one has ever told me why.  I guess it’s because I have completed every mission and assignment I’ve been handed.  Failure has happened, it does time to time.   I would actually enjoy some constructive criticism.  No one really gives me a complete picture of what they see me as.

Maybe because I’m carrying an assault rifle and ammunition every second of every day.   Heh.  Ah well.  It happens.

Monday, January 05, 2004

I miss the States.  The freedom to go where and when I please.  To have a cold beer, or some good Italian food.  I think I got minor case of food poisoning from the food at the Chow hall.  Hardly surprising, but still not fun.

I definitely want to get some good Italian food when I get out of here.  Here, the local manner of making spaghetti is to include a generous helping of water at the bottom of the bowl.  I guess they don’t strain it to remove nearly all the water.  Often enough, they serve spaghetti with a couple different sauces, not to include tomato sauce.  Not many tomatos are grown in the Balkans, supposedly.  I’d commit assault for a good bottle of tomato sauce..

It’s the little things that get annoying as the months go by.  The limited selection is the biggest thing.  “Groundhog Day” with Bill Murphy comes to mind when describing life, for the most part.  I’ve gone out of my way to try to mix things up a bit.

Got a medal recently.  I really don’t think I deserve it, I was just doing my job.  Maybe it was in recognition of my copious expert knowledge in profanity in multiple languages.  Ok, replace “expert” with “enough to get around”.

Yule and New Year’s passed.  Nothing special.  There was plenty of snow, which I always like.  I had off New Year’s Day, kinda.  Kinda being that I had to work that night.  Wasn’t really worth celebrating without ice cold alcohol, none here.

It’s hard talking to friends and family back home.  There is a lot I do on a daily basis can’t tell them about.  It’s healthy to have someone that one can talk to about nearly any subject.  I have mentors that I talk to time to time, but I can’t meantion most of my day over computers.  Computers lack a lot of human qualities, especially in the infinite amount of information conveyed by facial expression, galvanic skin response, and voice tonal.  (In other words, talking face to face.)

Monday, January 05, 2004

At times, I really think this world is a very odd place.  Most of the time it seems very clockwork in a perticular manner.  Sometimes, weird things happen.  The rational mind tries to correct these anomalies.  The average person is not perceptive enough to see or they automatically ignore such things.  At times, one wonders if the lunatics might be the sane, and the rest of us are off balance.

The one thing I’ve learned is to trust the instincts.  The subconscious mind sees more than the conscious and processes information more quickly.  This land is one giant graveyard.  Wars have been faught here for centuries.  I think this land is either cursed or spiritually poisoned.  Regardless, I recommend staying the hell out of the Balkans in general.

Friday, January 09, 2004

New lesson for the day.  Chopper rides at high altitudes are very cold.  Very tall mountains are extremely cold.  I was wearing so much cold weather gear it wasn’t funny, and the winds nearly knocked me sideways.  Thank the eternals that I had the intelligence to go with my nonregulations polar fleece and neopane ski mask.  The air will burn your face within a few seconds up there.

I miss beer.  Really badly.  But I’d commit assault and battery for a good Italian meal, damnit.  I’m craving it for some odd reason.

Monday, January 12, 2004

Bah.  Bad memories.  My sleep was not helped by a rude and arrogant roommate that was encouraging his favorite football team.  Unfortunately, said roommate is currently protected so I would be doing time if I assaulted him.  He happens to be a member of a minority, and is complaining that he’s being oppressed by people asking him to keep the noise down past midnight.  At about 3 am I am tempted to violently destroy the TV and lights that he insists on turning on.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

It’s been a decent day.  Had the office to myself again.  Boss left the country for a while, I’m doing his job.    Did some cleaning and disposing of surplus “stuff” that tends to accumulate in any office if you’re not careful.  Got to listen to my own music.

Been running around a lot recently.  Tis how it is, I suppose.  Packing up and getting ready to ship stuff back stateside.  Fun stuff.

Soon enough, Italian food will be within my grasp.

I have fought superior numbers before.  I’ve fought people when they’ve had weapons and I have not.  I have been taught very well how to fight to maim or kill any enemies.  Unfortunately, this also means I can’t fly off the handle and send this guy to the hospital just because he’s been interrupting my sleep for weeks.

It just doesn’t seem right that in this day of ‘freedoms’ and ‘equality’, a hypocrit like him gets to hide behind a cloak of ‘oppression’ to hide being rude, arrogant, lazy bastard.  In a better world, I would be allowed to take care of the problem instead of letting it continue unchecked.  Sigh.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

This one is gonna be short.  I’m in the middle of nowhere.  I see one person once a day.  Sometimes people pass my location, however it’s rarely.

Because food takes such a long time to get here, it usually cools to room temperature by the time I can eat it.  So, now I’m fighting something that might be food poisoning.  Wish they’d just give me damn MREs.

Good news is I’m getting more sleep than normal.  The end of this hellhole is in sight.  Soon enough I’ll be able to sleep in, enjoy an ice cold beer and eat real food that won’t kill me.

Sunday, February 01, 2004

Still feel like hell.  Better, but like hell.

I spent a week at a remote outpost way out in the middle of nowhere.  Now that I’m back, I wish I was there again.  Too many people here, crammed into a small area.  Too many officers.  Have to watch what I say and to whom.  ugh.

A friend of mine told me that an old Canadian alcohol mandated a portion of Canada’s rum production must be diverted to the military.  So specific parts of the Canadian Armed Forces get a literjon of rum every week.   These days, drinking is so damn restricted in a military environment, it’s not worth it.  If you have rank, you can get away with anything.  If you’re low ranking, you can and will get hit with anything.  Real or imagined.

Screw it.  My tour is ending soon.  I think I’m getting tense because the end is so near, yet so far away.

Beer and italian food.  That’s all I want.  An ice cold beer, and good chow that won’t mess with my system.   Nothing like selecting an evening meal based on the likelihood of it making you sick.   Didn’t see that on the recruiting poster.

Thursday, February 05, 2004

SF was kind enough to drop off a lil gift to thank me for some of the stuff I “procured” for them.  They’re decent guys, all and all.   Heck, they took some time to teach me some more shooting techniques.  Their pistol training is very good, I’m familiar with firing 9mm handguns already but it was a handy way for me to teach other new handgun shooters.  Their rifle techniques are handy, but I carry an M16A2 so not everything carried over as well.

I’m not sure whether their Sergeant Major paid me a compliment or what, but when he stopped by the range, he asked me what section I was in, what class I graduated in, why wasn’t I carrying a knife, etc etc.  I kinda just gave him a blank look until it dawned on me that he thought I was one of their soldiers.  Considering I had shot groups equal to about half his soldiers and I had my GoreTex jacket on…   The GoreTex rain jacket has no unit insignia nor any name.  Just my rank, Specialist.

He was kinda amused that a Signal spec4 would be the only bastard crazy enough to WANT to do weapons training in the snow.  He was nice enough to give me a lift back to civilization.  Not sure whether his politeness was pro forma or because he thought highly of my shooting.

I shot damn near every weapon carried by any European military.  The only exception I think is the British carbine, which I don’t care for so much anyways.

The M16 started its life as a deathtrap for soldiers.  Units forced to carry the original M16 were slaughtered.  The first unit in Vietnam to get in an even fire fight with VNA soldiers carrying AK-47′s received 93% casaulties.  The M16 has made a lot of improvements, of course.  But in the recent Iraqi War, incidents like PFC Lynch’s weapon’s jamming are still common.  We’ll never know how many American casualties were directly or indirectly tied to the M16, but it has been too many.

Anywho, I get out of here very soon.  Back to ice cold beer and hot Italian food.  It’s so close I can feel it.  I won’t miss this place, but I will remember with fondness some of the memories of the experiences I had here.  I don’t think I’ll ever have some of the experiences I’ve had here again.

Friday, February 06, 2004

At the moment I am trying to control my seething rage.

In certain subjects I am more sensitive than others.  Insulting my intelligent and my age are right up there on the list.  Calling me an idealist is rather off the mark, as I’m a very cynical bastard. The other comments went south from there.

The person threw some rather deep stabs is a friend of one of my friends.  My friend wants the two of us to be friends.  This was not a good first impression.  I know how deeply it will hurt her if the two of us get off on the wrong foot.  I had no problems with the guy until he made rather insulting and unjustified comments.  I’ve known her for ten years…

Sigh.  I’ll let her know how I’m feeling and the reasons why.  I know she will more or less understand.  How she deals with him is her choice.

I almost never give second chances.  Usually I trust my first impressions.  If this is not extending the olive branch, I have no idea what is.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

The end of my time in this hellhole is coming.  When I’m not outside the wire, sometimes my thoughts go to what I’ll do stateside.

I have no place to live, no job, no furniture, etc.  Heck, the sneakers I own are over a year and a half old.  No place to buy new ones around here.  Most of my friends have moved on.  I still chat with them, but they’re progressing.  I’ve spent much of my last few years doing stuff for the Army.  Usually going from one unnice place to another.

I know I’ll work something out.  But the future kinda unnerves me.  99% of the time I just focus on the here and now.  That’s the best thing to do when you’re carrying live ammo.  Losing focus can be a bad, bad thing.  It also bothers me that a few people are rather worried about me.  It’s nice to know people care, it really is, but I don’t like having their worries hanging over me.  Again, that’s why it’s best to forget and focus on the present.

A medal and $2.50 will get you a cup of coffee.

I know spending time around college kids will drive me insane.  Most of them don’t have a damn clue about the world.  I’ve seen first hand how they react to bad situations.  They’re weak of spirit.  What they see on CNN means nothing to them.  Having a tenured professor try to explain ‘the real world’ to me drives me even further up a wall.  90% of what most people learn in school is worthless.

Still, sometimes I see something restores a little bit of my hope in humanity.  Questioning authority, seeking truth, dissent.  College kids volunteering to work at a shelter, or raise money for charity.  Even if they don’t know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of charity, it’s good that they care.  I’ve seen ‘adults’ sneer at this showing of humanity, using terms like ‘naive’ or ‘bleeding heart liberal kids’.  The smug accomplishment of sucking down oxygen for a few years hardly counts as being superior.

I saw photos of the protests in Miami.  Hundreds of police fighting unarmed kids, for the most part.  Some of those kids showed more bravery than I’ve ever seen.  In one clip, a young girl was hit with a less-lethal projectile that seriously injured her, dropping her on the spot.  Contrary to popular opinion, less-lethal projectiles and weapons cause serious injury and death.  Another girl ran up to where the fallen girl was lying,  picked up a burning CS canister and threw it away so other kids would rescue the injured.  I know exactly how hot those cans get when burning, and I know whoever that brave kid was, she was gonna need major work to repair the burned flesh on her hands.  She did this while having who knows how many weapons aimed at her, knowing full well what could happen, with no means to defend herself.  I sincerely hope that if needed, I could show a fraction of the courage that young girl showed.

Six hours of guard detail in the freezing cold.  We ‘procured’ a Hummer to keep warm in, thankfully.  It’s not so bad if you get a detail with a decent person and can make a conversation.  We had a long discussion on various animals we killed, cleaned and cooked ourselves.  Since the other guy grew up on a farm, there was some good stories.

I got three medals for my work, and four ‘I Was There’ medals.  Plus all the badges I accrued.  Schutzenschur, US weapons, etc.   Whee.

All I really did was my job.  Screw it.  Other people, not meantioning ranks, got plenty of much higher medals for shuffling papers and sucking up.  At least I got things accomplished.

Friday, February 13, 2004

In retrospect, it’s not much of a mystery why lately I’ve been feeling tired all the time.  I keep a tight reign on my emotions, of course.  But I’ve been getting annoyed a lot more easily than usual.

Hardly surprising considering that I’ve been living off of stimulants (caffiene, nicotine, etc), sleep deprivation and stress for many months.  Basically, I’m used up and need some recovery time.

The regs call for a two week leave because of our long deployment. Our commanding general said “No”, that we couldn’t afford losing personnel for that long.  Of course the General, a few Colonels and a Sergeant Major went stateside for a week for a two hour ceremony.  They went TDY, meaning it counted as work, not as leave.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Free, free at last.

Gods, it’s so freaking odd being back amoung Americans again.  I went to a mall to get my cell phone activated again.  Seeing healthy people, overweight ones at that, was a shock.  No burning piles of trash, no starving dog packs, no assault rifles anywhere.  Stores filled with consumer goods, most of it useless.

No black markets, or even grey markets.  If I saw a parked van, I didn’t have to be careful, wondering if it had any explosives.  No UXO (Unexploded Ordinance).   The majority of the cars are actually bought, instead of stolen from Germany.

Legions of civilians.  These lacked haunted looks.  Those that were my own age seemed young and weak.  I saw a couple of kids in their younger 20′s attempting to put off a ‘tough’ demeanor.  In my mind, I automatically assessed their abilities, likelihood of carrying weapons, where their reinforcements would be, and what level of training they had.  I automatically relaxed when my assessments told me I could mop the floor with them and any buddies they had in the wings.  No thoughts, only reflex and instinct.  Gods, I need a beer.

I really haven’t had a decent meal yet.  I’ll stop at the supermarket and buy stuff to make a nice meal for myself.  My package from Stone Brewing Company did arrive.  Ruination Ale, Arrogant Bastard Ale, Double Bastard Ale, Stone Porter, etc.  Drinks worthy of Baccus himself!

I look at the civilians around me.  They don’t see anything.  They operate on instinct alone, blind to everything.  Part of me thinks of them as weak cattle, another wonders how lovely it must be to be as blind and dim as them.

Sunday, February 29, 2004

Went to a party tonight.  Went alright, had fun.

Bah.  A reminder that I don’t fit in well with the rest of my age group.   I did have a good time, but there were constant reminders that I don’t belong in that world.  Not sure where I do belong.

The Darkness sinks in, as I stare into the beautiful stars.

The feeling of being alone has finally sunk in.  It tagged at me once in a while when I was deployed.  Here, I realize.  For all the good and bad, I’m alone in a world of my own making.  It’s for the best at the moment, it really is.  I have an uncertain life, and I don’t want to hurt anyone that cares about me.  It’s enough to look forward to a brighter future, maybe that I’ll find my tranquility.  All things are possible.

Until then, I walk beneath the stars, alone but free.

Quarantine

April 21st, 2009 | Posted by revdisk in Movies | Rants - (0 Comments)

Just saw Quarantine with some friends… Quick overview? Movie was actually half decent, but the characters are dumb as a box of bricks.

This entire rant is basically a spoiler, but it really doesn’t matter too much.

It was shot handheld, which I normally hate. It’s no longer clever. Cloverfield vastly overdid it, making plenty of people nauseous. I could try to be clever, and claim it was a tossup between the characters themselves or the shaky camera that made people want to puke. But anyways, back to this movie. The camera work was just bumpy enough to remind you it was handheld, but not every five seconds nor in an excessive manner. Pretty well done, actually. As I can recall, there was no background music. It’s a subtle thing, but I think it helped set the viewer on edge if you heard various backgrounds sounds rather than creepy music.

The movie starts off with a reporter (Jennifer Carpenter) following LA fire fighters around for a night. Pretty plausible, and the intro gets you using and liking the main characters. One could say the intro was slow, but it worked quite well for character background without being too obvious.

The firefighters get a call, and the crew goes to an apartment building. The building has an interesting layout, and looks like it was rather nice when it was built in the ’50′s but has gone downhill since. Firefighters knock down the door to see a very pale old lady with blood all over her and drooling quite profusely. Ah, zombie, alien parasite or evil disease. My bet’s on zombie!

Well, after biting a couple folks, and getting shot twice, she’s down. Not a zombie. Dang it. I had $1 riding on zombie. The officer put one round in the shoulder, and the second center of mass. If evil looking, shuffling, biting, pale, blood laden, drooling hag ripped a chunk of my partner’s neck out, I’d personally be putting at least one round through the brain. Just to be sure.

Up till this point, all was more or less tactically sound. But after your partner has his neck ripped out by evil looking hag, everything starts going downhill.

At this point, everyone seems to still be possessing some degree of intelligence, because they more or less unanimously say “**** this, I’m out of here!” Wise and prudent. Unless of course, the US Army is in the middle of sealing you in and politely asking you to remain inside for a bit. When half a dozen M4′s are aimed at you by soldiers in MOPP gear, suddenly evil zombie looking hags seem preferable. No gloves, shame on them, someone’s training NCO forgot a class on FM 3-3!

WTF Moment 1 : Ok, there’s a dead cop on the lobby floor. Is ANYONE going to grab his 92 series Beretta and spare mags? No? Sigh…

WTF Moment 2 : Let’s grab everyone in the building and throw them into the lobby with two bodies. Another extremely obviously sick and drooling lady found? Let’s bring her on down as well! That’s the ticket. Because having someone’s neck ripped out isn’t blatant enough.

A handy vet acting as a doc pronounces it to likely be some kind of rabies. Ok, somewhat plausible. More plausible than zombies, so sure. Why not.

Two “CDC” guys come in. One with an M4, the other with an M9 in a thigh holster. Obviously not CDC, most likely USAMRIID but maybe they want to keep a low profile. Alleged CDC guys start doing their investigation, and get eaten. Talk about realism, they depict US government competency absolutely perfectly. Everyone runs away. Which would be normally a good idea, except:

WTF Moment 3 : They secure their only doctor, an M4 and an M9 in a room with infected. But, alas, their brilliant containment neglects the glass windows on the room.

Ok, if you were secured in a building with rabies infected Californians surrounded by a fair chunk of the US Army, would you run away from a single infected half dead dude with tons of broken bones, or beat the dude to death with ANYTHING within arms reach in order to secure weapons and a medical guy?

So all of the lights are out… They do make use of the light on the camera for illumination. WHY THE HELL AREN’T THEY MAKING TORCHES OR LOOKING FOR FLASHLIGHTS? Fire hazard or not, if I’m locked in a building with more rabid drooling Californians than an Al Gore rally, I’m NOT going to go running around in the dark, unarmed.

Now everyone starts dying in very short order. It’s hard to keep track, but soon enough everyone is turned except one firefighter and the reporters. The firefighter is the only person in the entire film who bothers using an improvised weapon, a sledgehammer. So they start running around the building. Then the firefighter dies. Then the camera light dies. Intelligently, the camera guy switches it to night vision mode. Then tries to hide from an infected.

WTF Moment 4 : If you can see and the other guy can’t, uh… Attack? Maybe? No?

Ok, both die. The end.

In fairness, most of the WTF’s happen in a relatively smooth fashion that is unfortunately very believable. No one stops to think at any point. People don’t adjust to their environment. No one really does any planning whatsoever. No one actually looks at their terrain and makes judgments based on it. No one bothers to kill anyone obviously infected before they turn. No one shows more survival instinct than a drunken lemming on quaaludes.

The film’s worth renting. Probably not worth buying. It’s entertaining in a “let’s watch stupid people die” kind of way. It’s a decent reminder that sometimes it’s worth taking a second to think things over.

If I was in such a situation?  The second you get the fact that it’s some kind of virus transmitted through biting or whatnot:  Don’t group everyone together, kill all of the pets, tell people to lock themselves in their apartments, tell everyone to get some kind of improvised weapon, and have whoever is armed patrol the common areas to shoot anything infected.

I’d really like to see a horror movie some day where the characters have a degree of common sense.  Dog Soldiers is the only one I can recall. The rest? Idiots banging on Darwin’s door screaming “Let me in!”