Archive for the ‘Random Awesome Shit’ tag
I’ve stated the reasons I oppose prisons as a form of punishment before but didn’t mention one of the biggest problems with the incarceration system. Prisons are very expensive facilities because, in order to work, they need to prevent prisoners from escaping. Preventing an intelligent and creative creature from escaping is impossible because every system developed to prevent escape will eventually be bypassed:
Two inmates have made a daring escape from a prison in Canada by climbing up a rope into a hovering helicopter.
In order to prevent helicopter escapes prisons will have to either install anti-air defense systems or cage over the top of the facility. Both options are expensive and will simply delay the inevitable escape of future prisoners.
The Free State Project held its annual Liberty Forum this weekend, which means that all sorts of subversive ideas were unveiled and shared. One of the ideas that I found very interesting was an Automated Teller Machine (ATM) that turns cash into Bitcoins:
Zach Harvey has an ambitious plan to accelerate adoption of the Internet’s favorite alternative currency: installing in thousands of bars, restaurants, and grocery stores ATMs that will let you buy Bitcoins anonymously.
It’s the opposite of a traditional automated teller that dispenses currency. Instead, these Bitcoin ATMs will accept dollar bills — using the same validation mechanism as vending machines — and instantly convert the amount to Bitcoins and deposit the result in your account.
I mentioned Bitcoin as a tool to fight the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) since it allows individuals to make anonymous transactions and thus leave no trail for state agents to trace back to physical individuals. Avoiding having your financial information fall into government hands is very useful. If the state is unable to access your financial information they don’t know what to charge you for taxes and can’t bring criminal charges against you for buying goods it has labeled verboten. The one missing key in the Bitcoin puzzle is turning Federal Reserve notes into Bitcoins anonymously, which is what this ATM could make easier. At Bitcoin continues to gain traction it will be interesting to see what else develops around it.
Have you ever wanted to drive down the road at 125mph but were afraid of what the police would do to you? Fear not, there is a very simple way to race down the road legally, just call the police and claim your car won’t stop:
When Frank Lecerf drove off to do his weekly supermarket shop in northern France, he was not expecting to embark on a high-speed car chase that would force him over the Belgian border and on to the national news bulletins.
Lecerf has filed a legal complaint after his Renault Laguna, which is adapted for disabled drivers, jammed at 200km/h (125mph) and the brakes failed, forcing him to continue careering along a vast stretch of French motorway and into Belgium. Police gave chase until he ran out of petrol and crashed into a ditch.
The 36 year old was on a dual carriageway on his way to a hypermarket when the car’s speed first jammed at 60mph. Each time he tried to brake, the car accelerated, eventually reaching 125mph and sticking there.
Apparently it never occurred to him that he could turn the car off, shift it into neutral, or hit the emergency brake (although that quickly loses value as speed climbs). Of course all that assumes that Mr. Lecerf actually wanted to stop, which he probably didn’t (and I don’t blame him, racing down the road at 125mph sounds like fun). With that said the police provide him an escort, likely because they wanted to cruise around at 125mph as well.
With the introduction of e-readers such as the Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Nobel Nook e-books have finally gained a foothold. In fact it’s been almost one and a half year since Amazon announced that they sold more e-books than hardcover books. It’s easy to see why e-books have taken off, it’s far more convenient to have every book you own on a single device instead of lugging around a handful of books wherever you go. Unfortunately there are some books that still aren’t in electronic format, many of which are very rare. For example, I have a copy of The Black Flag of Anarchy Corinne Jacker. It’s a very interesting title that covers anarchism in the United States but, as far as I can see, no electronic copy exists and no electronic copy is likely to be made. That is, at least, until I follow these instructions for building a do-it-yourself book scanners:
Daniel Reetz, founder of DIYBookScanner.org, had been making kits available for those looking to build their own device. Finding a need for a scanner himself, Reetz built his first book scanner from the trash he found from dumpster diving. He created an Instructable to share his experiences and discovered a diverse group of individuals who also had the need for a book scanner. The group ranged from a man from Indonesia hoping to preserve books from flood damage to a group of engineers looking for a new and interesting project to spark their interests. The DIY Book Scanner had modest beginnings, but over a period of two years it evolved into a movement of individuals using readily available resources to create solutions.
The article primarily discusses the trials and tribulations faced by the ArsTechnica writers who built one of the do-it-yourself scanners. It’s not easy but it is possible and the technology is guarantee to improve and become more accessible. Digitizing books is the most effective way to make rare titles available for everybody’s enjoyment and is currently the most effective way of preventing such titles from disappearing entirely. It is my hope that every piece of written literature will someday be available in electronic format.
The state is at war with the homeless. City governments, especially in large cities, have been working hard to make the lives of homeless individuals miserable in the hopes that they’ll leave and, effectively, become another city’s problem. Fortunately there are people who are trying to fight the state. One of the ways people in London are fighting back is through a tactic called guerrilla benching. If you live in a large city you’ve likely noticed an increasing number of divided or otherwise oddly shaped benches. Although it seems like these odd benches are so shaped for artistic reasons the truth is that they are designed that way to prevent homeless people from sleeping on the benches. Guerrilla benching is the act of clandestinely installing benches that individual can sleep on in public spaces.
It’s a rather clever tactic that is difficult to fight. Who is going to pay any attention to a newly installed bench? Who is going to call the police to report a bench that homeless individuals can sleep on? Who is even aware that oddly shaped benches are so shaped to prevent homeless people form sleeping on them? The tactic is brilliant because it exploits the ignorance of the average person. Even city officials are likely to pay little attention to the newly installed bench since they aren’t aware of the day-to-day operations of the city they purport to run.
I would like to see this kind of thing grow. There is little reason to actively prevent homeless individuals from sleeping on public benches. In fact I think it speaks quite ill of our society that resources are being actively invested in making the lives of individuals who have nothing even more miserable. Why not invest those resources in helping those in need instead of hindering them?
As an agorist I advocate separating one’s self from the state as much as possible. One of the easiest ways to reduce your attachment to the state is to produce your own taxable goods. Every taxable good you’re able to produce is a good that isn’t taxed by the state and therefore doesn’t contribute to the state’s coffers. Several states collect sales tax on groceries so it would be beneficial for people living in those states to produce their own food (and it’s still a good idea for people outside of those states to produce their own food as it reduces your grocery bill and makes you less dependent on grocery stores). To that end I would like to mention the website SproutRobot. Many people, including myself, are not very knowledgable when it comes to agriculture. SproutRobot can tell you what crops can be produced in your area as well as when you should plant them and how to plant them (it also includes instructions for both gardens and boxes that are useful for those living in apartments).
I’ve been reading The Illuminatus! Trilogy by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson. So far it’s been an amazing read but I have trouble recommending it simply because it requires a working knowledge of anarchism, Discordianism, and other forms of anti-state movements. The book also fails to maintain any type of continuous timeline. In one paragraph it will be covering characters and events from one scene only to jump to an entirely different set of characters, who may be in a different time period, without warning. Since I have a habit of reading 10 books at the same time this doesn’t bother me but I know it would present problems for many readers. Still, if you can get around those notable issues it’s an absolutely hilarious title.
One part of the book discusses a man named Emperor Norton. Emperor Norton was a self-declared Emperor of the United States that resided in San Francisco. What’s interesting about the man is that the people of San Francisco humored him. He even issued his own currency, which became accepted in the city. An except from the book makes an excellent point regarding Emperor Norton’s insanity and effectiveness:
Well, chew on this for a while, friend: there were to very sane and rational anarchists who lived about the same time as Emperor Norton across the country in Massachusetts: William Green and Lysander Spooner. They also realized the value of having competing currencies instead of one uniform State currency, and they tried logical arguments, empirical demonstrations and legal suits to get this idea accepted. They accomplished nothing. The government broke its own laws to find ways to suppress Green’s Mutual Bank and Spooner’s People’s Bank. That’s because they were obviously sane, and their currency did pose a real threat to the monopoly of the Illuminati. But Emperor Norton was so crazy that people humored him and his currency was allowed to circulate.
Emperor Norton effected actual change in his area simply by being crazy. Even though he issued his own currency the state never moved against him as they did with other individuals who attempted to introduce competing currencies. He was never tried for treason, labeled a terrorist, or otherwise targeted for state agression with the exception of one incident where he was kidnaped by the police who planned to have him involuntarily committed. Needless to say the townsfolk didn’t agree with the police’s actions:
In 1867, a policeman named Armand Barbier arrested Norton to commit him to involuntary treatment for a mental disorder. The Emperor’s arrest outraged the citizens and sparked scathing editorials in the newspapers. Police Chief Patrick Crowley ordered Norton released and issued a formal apology on behalf of the police force. Crowley wrote “that he had shed no blood; robbed no one; and despoiled no country; which is more than can be said of his fellows in that line.” Norton magnanimously granted an “Imperial Pardon” to the errant policeman. All police officers of San Francisco thereafter saluted Norton as he passed in the street.
How many individuals do you know can be arrested and wind up having the police salute him? Sometimes sanity is a liability. When you’re serious about something people often refuse to take you seriously but if they believe you’re insane they will often humor you. While they may be humoring you they are still participating in what you advocate and that participation can give you an opportunity to point to and say, “See! You’ve been doing exactly what I’ve been preaching and things have turned out just fine!” Joshua Norton effectively became emperor by merely declaring it. Since people thought he was insane they humored him and began acting like he was an emperor. For all practical purposes Joshua Norton was an emperor, at least a legitimate of an emperor as any other that has existed.
My friend Dean alerted me to what is possibly the most metal mythology to surround the Christmas season. Behold, the Krampus:
Krampus is a beast-like creature from the folklore of Alpine countries thought to punish bad children during the Christmas season, in contrast with Saint Nicholas, who rewards nice ones with gifts. Krampus is said to capture particularly naughty children in his sack and carry them away to his lair.
So this most metal of creatures goes around terrorizing wicked children and even goes so far as to kidnap the exceedingly wicked ones so it can drown them, eat them, or send them to Hell. In our society people worry that scary stories will cause psychological damage to young children. The ancient Germanic people had no such concerns and decided children should have the living shit scared out of them at least once a year. I leave you with this creature and one of the more bad ass representations of it:
I subscribe to Amazon Prime because it ends up being cheaper overall than paying shipping on the individual orders I make throughout the year. What I didn’t realize is how good of a deal Prime really is:
While sending off something as a light as an 0.8-ounce pack of feathers doesn’t cost the company much, analysts say Amazon may lose hundreds of dollars covering the cost of lugging around heftier items, such as 149-pound sofabeds or 300-pound treadmills. Shoppers, on the other hand, can more than make up for that $79 Amazon Prime enrollment fee with a single purchase.
So what’s the heaviest item Amazon will ship for free? The company declined to say, but the makers of a 1,509-pound safe (shipping weight: 1,672 pounds) claim the prize for biggest bang for one’s 79 bucks. See Cannon Safe CO54 Commander Series Premium 90 Minute Fire Safe
$79.00 to ship a 1,672 pound safe is quite the deal:
“We charge customers around $700 to ship this safe, but when they buy it through Amazon they get it shipped for free,” says Pasquale Murena, marketing manager for Cannon Safe. “As a result, we get orders through Amazon every day.” In fact, Amazon will pick up the tab for shipping the safe even for non-Prime members, if they are willing to wait a few extra days for delivery. Like many items priced over $25, it qualifies for “Super Saver Shipping,” which usually take five to eight days to arrive.
If you’re in the market for a Canon gun safe you can’t go wrong with an Amazon Prime subscription apparently.
Yesterday Apple announced new products which means a bunch of people who hate Apple’s products have been busy furiously writing about all the stupid decisions Apple apparently made. They claim that the iPad mini is inferior to the Nexus 7 because the former’s Wi-Fi only model lacks a builtin Global Positioning System (GPS) whereas the latter doesn’t. Many angry paragraphs have been written about how horrible it is that all of Apple’s products, minus the slowly dying Mac Pro, have mobile Graphics Processing Units (GPU) and therefore are worthless for gaming. An almost uncountable number of keyboard strokes have been further spent complaining about the price Apple charges for their devices.
Why is everybody spending so much time complaining? If you think the Nexus 7 is a superior product to the iPad mini then get the Nexus 7. Do you want a gaming machine with the most powerful GPUs on the market? Build one or buy one from a company that sells a computer with the specifications you want. Is Apple charging more than you want to pay for their products? Buy products from a company charging what you think is appropriate. We live in a wonderful world where great products can be found everywhere. When you’re buying a tablet device you have to decide if you want the Apple iPad, Samsung Galaxy, Google Nexus, Amazon Kindle Fire, or a tablet from another company. Hell you can even buy multiple tablets. The biggest problem facing consumers is deciding which amazing product to select.
We really do live in the future. Information can be easily and freely obtained thanks to the large group of interconnected computers we call the Internet. Data can be sent, almost like magic, through the air to most parts of the country thanks to cellular networks. Literature, music, and movies can be stored on laptop hard drives, tablets, and portable media players freeing us from carrying bulky books, CDs, and DVDs everywhere we go. I can access the largest information repository in the world from almost anywhere via a device that is so small it fits in my pocket. How fucking awesome is that?
Instead of getting angry over somebody buying a product that doesn’t fit your needs just enjoy the device you bought that does fit your needs. When Apple, Google, Samsung, Amazon, etc. release a new product let’s cheer the fact that we have so many choices available to us. We all have different needs and people are trying to ensure as many of those needs are being fulfilled as possible. The future is here, it’s awesome, and we should be celebrating that fact instead of fighting about it.