Poll of a Billion Monkeys

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A Fortuitous Accident

Humours of Idleness - A Fortuitous Accident

Yesterday I went running around the house. I live out in the country, way out in the country many would say, though it is not nearly as far out in the country as it was when I was growing up on these same lands. After my father and mother retired and moved to the city my wife and I bought the same home and lands on which I grew up.

Even though this territory is not nearly as rural as it once was, it is still bordered by forest on nearly every side. And so it is safe to say that it still remains a sort of rural oasis, especially from my point of view. Nevertheless even paradise has her serpents.

As I said, yesterday I went running, and after making the laps around the outer edges of the yard bordering the woods I had run about half a mile. Not quite that far but pretty close. About 3/8 of a mile is about as far as I can accurately reckon it with the instruments I have. Anyway I ran that distance in 3 minutes and 5 seconds. Not a huge deal you might say, and you’d be very right, when I was a kid I could run faster. About a mile in six to six and a half minutes, given the course, the roads, and how much of the length was uphill, etc. I ran a lot as a kid, and over long distances, and got very good at it. But later on I was seriously injured including breaking my lower back, and screwing my knees up, and after then running became torturous and eventually I gave it up. I still have trouble running and hadn’t done it much for nearly a decade or more. But recently I had taken up training with the P90X program (or my modification of it) and through that program I had built my back muscles up to the point, and had improved my general conditioning so much, that I had become curious if I could run again. I was throwing discus and my training had made that easy, and I was feeling little or no back strain from the effort. And even though I love throwing the discus, before my recent training the effort could often cause me back spasms. Not so recently though.

So over the past month or so I’ve been running, really running, and building myself back up again as a runner. At first all I did was jog, extremely slowly, letting my body get used to the pounding that distance running puts on your skeletal system, especially considering my age and my prior injuries. But every day I could run a little farther without strain, a little farther before the lactic acid kicked in, and a little faster and with slightly better form. And since I have been running in the heat of summer (usually around 2 or 3 in the afternoon), I was also daily improving my aerobic conditioning.

Which brings me back to yesterday. Well yesterday I went running with my stopwatch on, really running the course hard to see what time I could make. After running that hard and going that distance I was making good time all things considered, but I had to pull up short after going a little under half a mile because I took on a terrific cramp. So I stopped running, walked it off a bit, and then went and sat down on the trunk of an old tree that I had cut down last year and dragged to the edge of our southwestern woods by a mini-CAT. While sitting there huffing and puffing, with all of my systems returning slowly to normal I happened to glance down at my feet. Three inches from my right heel lay the coiled body of a large copperhead. (For my foreign readers, and for those not familiar with the breed, a copperhead is a venomous and mean snake with a powerful and very poisonous bite – one likely killed one of my very large dogs a while back, and he weighed the same as a small man.) I flinched and then stood up and as calmly and quietly as I could strode away but the snake was watching me the whole time and God only knows why it hadn’t struck me. It was a very fortuitous and happy accident, or God was watching out for me, or both, but if it had struck me and sunk those fangs in deep then chances are, given how hard my heart was beating from the run, how hot and sweaty I was, and how hard my lungs were working, it could have sent me into shock almost immediately. And I’m sure that the toxin from the bite would have raced through my bloodstream and to my heart extremely quickly and before it could have been counter-acted, at the very least causing long-term heart and tissue damage.

So I went inside, got my Mossberg 12 gauge, loaded four shells on the way back down and went out to where I had seen the snake. Part of it still seemed exposed, but barely, though I was also still having trouble seeing because I was not fully recovered from my run, and sweat was pouring down my eyes, and it was well camouflaged given the terrain and background. Nevertheless I let go with two blasts at where I thought the snake was most exposed. It had apparently though slithered under the log by the time I set to fire and I doubted if I had hit anything. It had apparently made a nest underneath the tree trunk, which was too big to move, but I stepped to the far side of the log and fired two more blasts at the area where it seemed most likely to have built a nest (the area I would have chosen had I been a snake). But I couldn’t really say that I had hit anything. I went out to the log three times later that evening, hoping it would show again so I could ambush and kill it, but, no such luck.

Today though, about eleven o’clock in the morning I went back out to the log and found it sleeping in pretty much the same position where it had coiled near my leg the day before. I went inside and loaded my shotgun and went outside, took aim, fired, and … nothing. Nothing at all. I cleared the shell and mounted another and fired, and … nothing. I tried two more shells with the same effect. It had been firing perfectly the day before but nothing now, even though I could hear the pin snapping against the shell. (I still don’t know why it wasn’t firing; I gotta take it apart later.)

Thoroughly angered and thinking I might miss my best shot, hoping it had not heard too much or at least had not realized what I was doing, I went inside and got my .38 revolver and my 9mm semi-automatic. I went outside to find the snake again and although it had flexed out lengthwise making it harder to shoot, it had not fled and seemed oblivious to me. I got within about six or seven feet, took aim with my revolver and shot. I couldn’t see exactly because of the grass but it slinked against the log and disappeared. When it was gone I could see blood on a leaf and knew I had scored. I kept firing at the small space between the ground and the log base hoping to scare it out. I heard some pine needles and leaves crunch and walking around the other side of the trunk and into the woods I found it coiled at the base of a small tree, apparently my first shot had mortally wounded it, nearly slicing it in half. (I am well practiced with my revolver but hadn’t expected to do it that kinda damage with my first shot – snakes are hard to hit with bullets, especially lengthwise.) Nevertheless I emptied the clip on my 9mm and kept firing til the body didn’t even twitch when taking rounds.

Then after a few moments I went and picked the corpse up and laid it out on the log. It was dead, it was female, and not only that several of my shots had dislodged baby snakes, maybe 8 to 10 of them. The lower abdomen was huge and swollen, filled with snakelets, and one shot had torn the placenta open exposing snakes about to be passed. So not only was she a big snake, and nesting within 30 yards of my house near the woodline, but she was about to brood all over the place. I could have counted on several very deadly babies cavorting around my rear yards.

Now personally, I don’t like to kill anything. I like life, I like living things, God made everything for it’s own purpose, and generally I agree with living and let living. But when I do run across something so dangerous that it needs a good killing I’m the first one to stay on that thing and to hunt it to the ground, and to kill it good and proper. To make sure it is dead, and ain’t never gonna hurt anyone else again. Had that snake hit one of my dogs, or God forbid one of my kids, it could have possibly killed them. Had it hit me after just running it could have killed me as well. Had it laid a clutch I could have had a whole mess of dangerous copperheads slithering all around my yards.

She was a pretty snake, for a copperhead (I don’t like the ugly head of those snakes though), good coloring, big, well camouflaged, and to tell you the truth I probably would have never noticed her had she not been so close to my leg (and that might very well be why she didn’t strike me yesterday, she was either preoccupied with, or worried about taking a chance with her young), not that is unless she had bitten my dogs or my kids. But she needed to be killed, especially filled with baby snakes, and once I discovered her I was gonna stay on her til she was finished. Nothing that dangerous gets away from me if I can possibly kill it.

So after I killed her I laid her body out on the tree trunk, took some pictures, then took my machete and cut the body into pieces, especially around the lower abdomen, making sure I had cut out and exposed all the little ones. Making sure that she wasn't close enough to still deliver something viable. A couple of times the lower part of the body coiled and twitched, but since one of my shots had snapped the spine I deduced that it might have been the young still alive in the body. So I hacked all of those out. Just to be safe.

It just goes to show you that no matter how tame you think your lands are, they are never really as tame as you expect them to be, and will never be any more tame than you allow them to be, or make sure they become. So I had a lucky accident and ended up taming my lands just that little bit more. Til the next time anyways.

Enjoy the photos folks.They’re free of charge.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

God's Demon

Allele - God's Demon

(This review and briefing contains spoilers. Caveat Emptor.)

Last week I started an absolutely fascinating book (as far as fiction goes) called God's Demon. It is by the artist Wayne Barlowe, and I wanted to read it for three reasons. First, I am familiar with Barlowe's impressive and unusual artistry, secondly because I wanted to see what kind of writer he would make of himself. And finally because I had read an interview with the man in a magazine about the book and it had intrigued me. I can't remember which magazine exactly but I think it was Realms of Fantasy.

I knew the book was coming out from the interview but had forgotten about it in the interval, and so when I happened upon it by accident in the library I got a copy immediately.

As far as Barlowe's skills as a writer go they are impressive enough, at times even very good, though he has obvious weaknesses as well. Nevertheless for a first book (and to my knowledge this is his first real book of fictional literature) the work is quite solid, especially for a work produced by a graphic artist. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not one of those modern fellas who think artists should be artists only, or scientists scientists only, or priests priests only, or cops a cop only, or soldiers only soldiers, or bakers only bakers, or Geeks only geeks, for that matter. As a matter of fact I'm as far from that ideal as is humanly possible. My personal philosophy of life, and especially of being a free citizen of the United States, is that men and women ought to be as Renaissance and varied in their capabilities as possible, achieving as much as possible in as wide a set of (either related or disparate) fields of activity as possible, and going as far as talent, drive, motivation, skill, and training will take them.

But I also know that up until recently it was common for people to think in career and professional terms, even in terms of themselves, as specialists. That it was common among large groups of people, and still is among many, to think of themselves by "classification," niche, group, or for lack of a better term, clan or tribal association. And to think and respond to the world in this fashion in every conceivable way - professionally, by social group, by religion, and even by personality and persona. Much of our educational system has been geared to this feudalistic paradigm, you choose a specialty, a technical derivation of expertise and applied effort, then you follow "a career path," rather than setting out to "achieve great things." It used to be that great men and women in this nation set out to "achieve great and important things," and too often nowadays they set out to become mere professionals, or at best a minor league expertiste (similar in fashion and capability and influence to the modern “artiste”). There is nothing wrong with being either a professional or an expert, but contrary to modern opinion (and that’s all it really is, a commonly held Weltanschauung of mere current fashion) there is nothing so inherently great or impressive or grand about it that any particular person need limit themselves to becoming a professional or expert at some tiny or obscure field of pursuit, or even to a single field of pursuit with far wider applications and implications. Men should be limited only by their imaginations in the range of their enterprises, and if drive and will and capability are sufficient to their cause, not limited even by their own imaginations. Barlowe is an artist, and in my opinion a good one, but he needn't stop there, nor need any man conclude his attainments to any one field of accomplishment. Modern society may be in love with the idea of the expert and the technocrat, but no society ever became great, or remained long great based upon the accomplishments of men toiling away at small and obscure things and/or based upon the idea that men pursue some singular profession to the exclusion of everything else they might accomplish. Men do not become great by narrow and petty avenues of pursuit, and societies do not become great by encouraging narrowness of interests.

So I was glad to see Barlowe step outside his own normal venues of accomplishment and attempt a book of literature. But, aside from Barlowe being a good writer (he is not great, yet, but this is an early attempt, much practice will make him much better, and he is already a good writer and can on occasion turn a brilliant and even poetic phrase, and that’s already a fine achievement considering much that passes as fiction and literature nowadays), two things really fascinated me about the book. The first was the fact that Sargatanas (this name is an acronym I suspect) is an excellent example of the very Renaissance Ideal I was speaking about. He is extremely able and capable in a number of fields, administrative, as a military commander, as a source of inspiration to his people, as an organizer and politician, as a builder, and as a scholar. He is in many ways the proto-typical Renaissance Man (or in this case, Demon, or Angel). The second thing that fascinated me about the book was the fact of Sargatanas’ plan as he rules in hell.

Sargatanas decides to rebel against hell as Lucifer had rebelled against Heaven. But not just against Lucifer, whom Sargatanas early realizes was drastically wrong in both his assumptions and his actions, but against the very order of Hell itself. He plans to rebel against hell, overthrow of it what can be overthrown, and to take with him what demons and human souls he can and try to return to Heaven and achieve redemption, and reconciliation with God and his brother angels. (I have not read the entire book yet, and I am very dubious of his plan as he initially envisions it, or the fact of his being able to "earn his way back into heaven," but nevertheless the very idea is enormous and tremendous and fascinating, and certainly worth the effort from nearly any point of view. And it is after all only a book of fiction. It doesn’t have to be a workable plan; it merely has to be an inspiring and heroic one.) Interestingly enough the idea of Barlowe's novel roughly corresponds to a novella that I am writing, at least in general ideology and theme (though it differs greatly in details). In my novella Christ, near the end of the Millennial Rule decides that he will, against God's explicit commands, enter hell on a mission to free Judas Iscariot, and return him to himself as one of the Apostles. (It's only a fictional story folks; retain your emails and potential outrage for more important matters.) So I was very glad to see Barlowe address the idea of hell's rule being breakable, and beatable, in his work.

One of the truly amazing, brilliant, and ironic things Barlowe has Sargatanas do is to (re)create a chapel and shrine to God and Heaven (which they call the Above) in an underground area directly beneath his own palace in the city he founds on the river Acheron in hell. To reach heaven, or at least a sort of recreated version of it, Sargatanas goes to the underearth of hell to build his shrine. The implications are obvious and well reflect Milton's "the mind is it's own place, and in itself can make Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven." (My favorite line from Paradise Lost. You can tell both Milton, and Dante, two of my favorite poets, heavily influenced Barlowe.) But one thing about the quote above from Paradise Lost is that you cannot turn the phrase in English so that Heaven is the subject of either part of the quote. For if you “make a Heaven of Hell” then Hell is the real subject, and heaven is the adjective, and if you "make a Hell of Heaven," then by the very nature of that, you have spoilt Heaven (when perfection is spoilt it is by definition no longer perfection), and therefore Heaven becomes Hell and Hell once again becomes the true subject of the phrase. There is no way in English to render Heaven from Hell so that Heaven becomes the true subject of intent, it can only remain an object of remembrance (see the point of the Eucharist here, and the Passover Seder, words and words alone are wholly, and holy, insufficient to the task). So ever since I first read that phrase in Milton I have been personally seeking an alche-linguistic formula by which the phrase could be reversed, and Hell could be rendered and reshaped in language to become Heaven once again. That Heaven would become the point and subject of Hell. But I never found a real and working solution to Milton’s equation. Heaven, at least in language, does not infiltrate Hell as Hell infiltrates Heaven, even though in my opinion Heaven should be the far better skilled at the subtle arts of craft, and cunning, and clever infiltration. Though maybe that is more a fault of human language and lack of vision, than a truism of Divine provenance. Yet when I read what Barlowe had done, having his Demon physically reshape the underground of Hell into a Chapel of Heaven a sort of chill ran up my spine. And even though it was not a formulaic solution resolved in an equation of language, strictly speaking, it was nevertheless a brilliant literary solution, and if I had read the book for no other reason, I think, and I credit it with having at least in part solved my Miltonian dilemma. And I think it is the most high literary moment in the book, and a very high one for any literary work. One I will not forget, and a solution to that paradox I thank Barlowe for having presented. (And I have long years pondered this arduous riddle, but now I know and see the solution - “The mind is it’s own place, and in itself can break Hell, when Heaven enters in it.”)

He also makes brilliant use of some of the secondary characters such as Lilith, Beelzebub, and Hani, the seemingly hapless soul who desires his freedom from the tyranny of hell. I do not intend to spoil the overall plot or the eventual outcome of the war against Hell so I will end my review here, but all in all, I am much enjoying this work of fiction and can highly recommend this book. Get and read it.

You'll be sorry as hell if you don't.

By the way, you can see Barlowe’s impressive artistry at these sites:

Wayne Barlowe

God's Demon


Save This Page

War and Virtual War

Signal, Sygnet and Sigil - War and Virtual War

A very well-informed buddy sent me this article. I present it to you for your consideration.

The Telegraph - Aug 11, 2008


Georgia: Russia 'conducting cyber war'Russia has been accused of attacking Georgian government websites in a cyber war to accompany their military bombardment.

By Jon SwaineLast Updated: 11:53AM BST 11 Aug 2008
The official website of Mikheil Saakashvili, the Georgian President, was been under external control since shortly before Russia's armed intervention

Several Georgian state computer servers have been under external control since shortly before Russia's armed intervention into the state commenced on Friday, leaving its online presence in dissaray.While the official website of Mikheil Saakashvili, the Georgian President, has become available again, the central government site, as well as the homepages for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Defence , remain down. Some commercial websites have also been hijacked.

The Georgian Government said that the disruption was caused by attacks carried out by Russia as part of the ongoing conflict between the two states over the Georgian province of South Ossetia.In a statement released via a replacement website built on Google's blog-hosting service, the Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said: "A cyber warfare campaign by Russia is seriously disrupting many Georgian websites, including that of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs."Barack Obama, the Democratic US Presidential candidate, has demanded Moscow halt the internet attacks as well as observing a ceasefire on the ground.

Last April the computer systems of the Estonian Government came under attack in a co-ordinated three-week assault widely credited to state-sponsored Russian hackers. The wave of attacks came after a row erupted over the removal of the Bronze Soldier Soviet war memorial in Tallinn, the Estonian capital. The websites of government departments, political parties, banks and newspapers were all targeted.

Analysts have immediately accused the Russian Business Network (RBN), a network of criminal hackers with close links to the Russian mafia and government, of the Georgian attacks.Jart Armin, a researcher who runs a website tracking the activity of the RBN, has released data claiming to show that visits to Georgian sites had been re-routed through servers in Russia and Turkey, where the traffic was blocked. Armin said the servers "are well known to be under the control of RBN and influenced by the Russian Government.

"Mr Armin said that administrators in Germany had intervened at the weekend, temporarily making the Georgian sites available by re-routing their traffic through German servers run by Deutsche Telekom. Within hours, however, control over the traffic had been wrested back, this time to servers based in Moscow.

As in the barrage against Estonian websites last year, the Georgian sites are being bombarded by a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack, in which hackers direct their computers to simultaneously flood a site with thousands of visits in order to overload it and bring it offline.The Shadowserver Foundation, which tracks serious hacking, confirmed:"We are now seeing new attacks against .ge sites - http://www.parliament.ge/ and president.gov.ge are currently being hit with http floods.

"Mr Armin warned that official Georgian sites that did appear online may have been hijacked and be displaying bogus content. He said in a post on his site: "Use caution with any web sites that appear of a Georgia official source but are without any recent news ... as these may be fraudulent."

The Baltic Business News website reported that Estonia has offered to send a specialist online security team to Georgia.However a spokesman from Estonia's Development Centre of State Information Systems said Georgia had not made a formal request. "This will be decided by the government," he said.

Additional Resources:

RBN Analysis


Corpse Spy



Save This Page

Those New Russian Sonsabitches

Signal, Sygnet and Sigil - Those New Russian Sonsabitches

This time the Russian bear is not in a fight with a bunch of small, helpless states supported by vague promises from the British Empire. This time the Ruskies are not in a fight with the Germans. This time they aren't poisoning men in secret under the table and trying to usurp governments by slipping toxins in their wine and employing the subterfuge of old women. This time you Russian sonsabitches are in a fight with a bunch of little states who know what you are, and are supported by the United States of America and NATO. You're not fooling anybody.

This time old toothless and worn out bear you fight with people who are free, who are gonna stay that way, and who are friends with nations who can do more than just beat you in a fight. We can wipe out your very reason for existing as government.

I got nothing against the Russian people (as a matter of fact I got a real affection for the Russian people going way back to the Soviet Union), nothing even against the Russian troops (used to know some Soviet troops and officers, corresponded with and liked em), but 'ware your asses Russian leaders. Cause if you don't then we'll be wearing your asses. I got no love for you animals and neither do a lot of folks, including those that surround ya, and where I come from we hang high sonasbitches like you, and we wear pelts made out of bears who think they are matches for men. We got a whole continent full of bear-rugs to prove it. You're not nearly as tough as you think you are, and your hide is not nearly as thick as you've deluded yourself into thinking. A thousand little bees all around you and your hairy hide is stung and crippled. A single determined, screaming, fighting eagle in your face and you're blind and helpless. We don't forget our friends, and we don't start fights with punk ass bullies, but we sure as hell finish em.

We got time, we're patient, and we know how to cripple and kill and skin wild beasts like you.

So, your day is coming grizzly men.
Your day is coming.

And when that day comes, we're gonna finish you for good this time, and your people are gonna turn and eat what ever is left. And then we're gonna set them free too.

Until then sleep well in the knowledge that we're out there waiting for bear.
Cause we are.


Friday, August 08, 2008

You Say Hello, and I Say Goodbye...

Signal, Sygnet and Sigil - You Say Hello, and I Say Goodbye...

Well, well... This couldn't have come at a sweeter time.

Hello New World, same as the Old World.

Thanks Ruskies.
We owe you one.

Russia-Georgia standoff

Russia sent troops and dozens of tanks into the breakaway Georgian province of South Ossetia today, throwing the two former Soviet neighbours into a sudden yet undeclared state of war. In the most serious regional crisis since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, at least 50 tanks – and possibly many more – rumbled through the Roki tunnel, which cuts through the Caucasus mountains separating South Ossetia from the Russian province of North Ossetia.

"One hundred and fifty Russian tanks, armoured personnel carriers and other vehicles have entered South Ossetia,” President Saakashvili of Georgia told reporters in Tbilisi. “This is a clear intrusion on another country’s territory. We have Russian tanks on our territory, jets on our territory in broad daylight."

Mr Saakashvili added that Georgian forces had downed two Russian jet fighters over Georgian territory. Georgia mobilised its reservists yesterday and launched a military offensive to regain control over South Ossetia, which broke away from Georgia after it gained independence. Fighting raged today around the city of Tskhinvali, the South Ossetian capital, as Georgian troops backed by tanks and warplanes pounded separatist forces, who are mostly Russian citizens backed by Moscow. This afternoon as the Russian tanks rolled in, Georgian officials declared that they had secured the city...