On Killing Book Review

On Killing

I finished Lt. Col Dave Grossman’s book On Killing recently. It’s about soldiers’ resistance to kill, how the military overcomes that instinct, and the larger reprecussions of that type of training on society. It is not a “how-to” book as I feared many people might’ve thought whenever I read it in public.

At the start I should say that Grossman presents a good case. He backs it up with hundreds of interviews with soldiers and his personal impressions from being in the service. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have a lot of hard data to support his point. Why? Because for the most part there just haven’t been a lot of studies on how to get someone to kill another person. It ranges into the unethical territory of psychological studies. The data he does have is convincing. Continue reading

California Election 2016

The Presidential Election for the United States of America is tomorrow so it’s about time I do some sort of post about it.

I usually don’t like talking about politics with people who aren’t my friends. It’s pretty much guaranteed to be divisive, but I suppose I should use my teeny soapbox of the GoCorral website for what it’s worth.

I’ve got two categories I want to go over for the election, who should be President and California’s propositions. I’ll start with the propositions. Continue reading

The Division: Game Feasibility

I posted a review of The Division earlier. The game plays quite well and if you’re looking for an FPS to play with your friends then The Division should fill that hole nicely.

The plot though!

The plot is barebones, with most of it being shown to the player in hidden conversations between NPCs throughout the game instead of directly telling you what’s going on (a good story device!).

In the game an evil scientist has altered the small pox virus to be extremely lethal and resistant to treatment. Continue reading

Mars One

I read about this project the other day called Mars One.

The project involves setting up a colony on Mars for four people to live on by 2025.

Getting to the moon is hard enough. It takes like a day and a half of travel, landing is hard, getting off again is hard, and landing safely on Earth is even harder.

NASA and other government space programs have always avoided going to Mars for two reasons.

#1 With our current rockets it would take about two months to get there. Spend a week there and two months back, you need four months of oxygen. It’s not possible to transport that much so you need to recycle your air and that gets complicated. Plus there’s all the extra food, water, and fuel you’d have to bring.

#2 With that two month journey its even harder to get back. We can land drones on Mars, but we can’t bring them back.

Mars One plans to get around the first problem by establishing a minor space colony first, while also working with robots to establish a little base camp on Mars.

The second problem is tackled by… not bringing the humans that are sent there back to Earth.

That’s right, Mars One is a one way trip. That’s where the name came from (I think).

There’s a lot of logistical problems with that. I’ve casually mentioned a few (sustainable food, water, air, fuel). I’m sure there are more.

Another problem is who would want to go on a mission like this? It’s almost certainly going to have problems that could kill you. Even if it doesn’t kill you, you’re stuck on Mars for the rest of your life. Maybe more people will come later, but that’s doubtful.

Well, Mars One asked people to apply for their one way trip to Mars and got thousands of responses. Those responses have been whittled down to one hundred people.

The next step is to whittle that one hundred down to four via, get this, a reality TV show.

This was the point where I stopped taking Mars One seriously.

I looked into it a little more. Mars One is a non-profit. The project is supposedly only for the advancement of space travel. And it will help with that at least through gaining public attention if not by developing equipment for Mars colonies.

There’s also a for-profit company attached to Mars One called the Interplanetary Media Group. That company is the one releasing a bunch of press and making the reality TV show. They’ll probably make a ton of money off of that.

Is that money going to go towards funding the Mars trip? Maybe. Is it going to fund the construction of beach house real estate for the owners of these two companies? Maybe.

And the weirdest thing about all of this? Even though the reality TV show seems like an awful interview process, I’m still interested in watching it.

A previous experiment for this, Mars-500, simulated people going into a spacecraft to Mars for 500 days. Cut off from the outside world the people in the mission pretended to do all of the things necessary for going to Mars to see how they held up mentally when they were forced to be in the same “spacecraft” for a year and a half.

Mars-500 was a success, but possibly only because it was fake. As a psychological study you have to give people the option to opt out at any time. That wouldn’t be the case in a real space flight.

My point is that the training process for Mars One has to be similar to Mars-500 and I’m excited to watch that. Plus I might get to vote people out the airlock or something!

-GoCorral

PS. And here’s what Neil deGrasse Tyson has to say about it.

Obama Asking Congress for War with ISIS

Looks like I’m going to write something political again because today President Obama asked the US Congress to declare war on the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

ISIS is a group that grew out of al-Qaeda in northern Iraq. Since its impossible to truly wipe out a terrorist group, they continued to operate during US occupation and after Bin Laden’s assassination.

When the Syrian Civil War broke out in 2011, ISIS took advantage of the situation and moved into eastern Syria.

ISIS has since absorbed or eliminated most of the other rebel groups in the Syrian Civil War, making the Civil War essentially a fight between Assad’s forces and ISIS.

The US has been providing training and weapons among other things to the original Syria government led by Assad.

The US has also been helping Assad with bombing raids and drone strikes on ISIS targets.

That’s about the limit of aid Obama can provide without going to war. The congressional acts that allow the war on terror don’t allow the President to deploy soldiers directly on the battlefield in Syria without a declaration of war from Congress.

Obama is now asking for that declaration.

Congress has said they will debate it and the discussion could take months.

Congress has been quick to declare war in the past when the President requests it, making the very existence of debate a sign that the USA probably won’t go to war.

And I don’t think we should be going to war with ISIS.

There are good reasons for going to war against ISIS. The group/country’s leaders are despotic theocrats.

Among the traditional offenses such a regime commits they’ve also made the Arabic acronym for ISIS, DAESH, illegal to pronounce as one word. You have to sound it out D-A-E-S-H. This is because Daesh is similar to the Arabic verb for “crushing opponents” which makes the regime sound evil? And what better way to not seem evil than to whip people who dare to pronounce your country’s acronym incorrectly! -_-

Going to war against ISIS could also lay the groundwork for forming the nation of Kurdistan for the Kurd population in Turkey, Syria, and Iraq. The Kurds have long been discriminated against either directly or through gerrymandering as a racial minority in the other countries, but that could change if they were given their own country.

So all that stuff is well and good. The UN is involved for those reasons.

But why is the USA involved? What do we get for declaring war on ISIS?

Well, we help out US allies, Iraq and Israel by keeping the region temporarily stable around them.

But we have allies for reasons right? What do Israel and Iraq give us in exchange for this help?

Well… As far as I can tell, they give us space to build military bases so that we can keep a presence in the Middle East region. And that presence is needed so that we can protect Israel and Iraq.

Wait, what?

I’m sure there are other reasons besides that, but that’s how it looks to me.

Another issue with helping the Syrian government is that we are helping Assad, a hereditary dictator. We call him President of Syria instead of King of Syria because it is polite to do so, not because he actually won any fair election to the presidential office.

Our continued presence in the Middle East helps root out terrorist organizations, but it also helps to create them. The US involvement in the Syrian Civil War has been with indiscriminate strikes. As much as we’d like to think that bombs and drones only hit military targets, they still harm more civilians than ISIS militants. And what do those civilians and their families think when the US bombs them? “I hate those Americans! The ISIS people hate them too! Maybe I’ll go join them after all!”

Those are the big points on the topic that I’ve landed on when debating with myself. My opinion is that the USA should not go to war in Syria. In fact, I wish we’d provide less aid to Assad by not bombing or performing drone strikes as those harm civilian lives.

But as with everything political, the situation is more complex than that. Would allowing ISIS to freely take over Syria result in the loss of more civilian life? Maybe.

My ill-informed mind can’t provide all the answers on this topic, so I’d encourage you to learn more on your own by visiting CNN’s website. They have a lot of cool videos that can tell you more.

-GoCorral

All This Ukraine Stuff

The crash site near Grabovo, 17 July

The unrest in Ukraine has been going on about since I started this blog, but I have yet to post on it.

Part of my reason for not posting is because I don’t know much about whats going on there. I feel like the topic deserves to be addressed regardless.

I’ll try to start from the top and see where that leads me.

In February the people in Crimea, the section of Ukraine that extends into the Black Sea,  decided they wanted to stop being part of Ukraine and start being a part of Russia.

Did they decide this on their own or did the Russians threaten them? I don’t know.

The Russians sent in their army and took over Crimea.

Within the next few months other parts of Ukraine started deciding they wanted to stop being part of Ukraine and start being part of Russia.

Again, its unclear if this was what the people in those areas want or if Russia is intimidating them.

People speaking Russian and using Russian weapons have taken over a lot of the government buildings in eastern Ukraine

Outside of Crimea, Russia appears to not be directly involved in hostile takeovers of government entities.

If the people of eastern Ukraine want to join Russia then it makes perfect sense that they would be speaking Russian and using Russian weapons.

But what if the people taking over government buildings in Ukraine are Russian soldiers disguised as Ukrainians?

It seemed plausible until I considered accents.

Ukraine does have a significant Russian speaking population, but I’d bet that their Russian is spoken with a different accent than the accent of a “real Russian.”

That accent would be noticed by the civilians and reporters in Ukraine, but so far I haven’t heard anyone mentioning it.

That means that people aren’t paying enough attention or that the accent fits with the local accents, indicating that the rebels are actually Ukrainians who want to join Russia.

Or my theory is wrong.

One of my other theories is that if Russia is aiding the rebels, then the CIA would almost definitely know about it.

That’s the exact sort of thing the CIA should be trying to find out and considering they were able to find Osama Bin Laden, I wouldn’t be surprised if they found out where the Ukrainian rebels’ weapons came from.

But is it bad if Russian aids one side of a civil war whose outcome directly affects their country?

I’m not sure.

The war is having bad effects on the rest of the world. For example, the above picture that I took from the BBC’s website shows the wreckage caused by the Malaysian plane shot down over Ukraine.

It’s unclear right now who shot it down. Was it rebels? The Ukrainian government? The Russian government? A random lunatic?

My wife said that one Russian news network is claiming the western world created a conspiracy with the plane going down.

The network claims that the western world filled a plane with passengers who were already dead. The two pilots parachuted out and the plane crashed. There was no missile that shot it down.

That makes me think that Russia must not have as strict laws on truthful reporting of the news as the USA does.

That covers most of the actual events. The rest of the unrest in Ukraine has been officials talking, but I doubt the actual people in eastern Ukraine are listening.

It seems like a war will be inevitable, but its not there yet.

-Mister Ed

Leaving for a Week

A Google Earth view of Bois Blanc Island (Pronounced Bob-Lo Island).
A Google Earth view of Bois Blanc Island (Pronounced Bob-Lo Island).

I left this morning for a week long vacation in Michigan.

I’ve set up the site to update while I’m gone. When I get back I will undoubtedly be posting about what my trip was like.

Consider this a heads-up that if anything strange develops on the site I won’t be able to fix it until I return.

Picture above are three islands in Lake Huron, north of Michigan.

Michigan is split into two distinct parts, the Upper Peninsula and the Lower Peninsula.

When you look at a map, the Lower Peninsula is the section that looks like a left handed oven mitt.

The Upper Peninsula looks like a broken branch or something.

Anyways, those three islands are almost right between the closest points of the peninsulas. You can see the bridge to the left of the islands in the picture.

I’m going to Bois Blanc Island (Bob-Lo), the lower right one, for my vacation.

The top left island is called Mackinac Island (Mac-in-aw). The middle island is called Round Island.

Historically, Mackinac Island is the most important. It contains a fort built by the British to trade for furs with the local Native Americans.

The fort was given to the USA after the Revolutionary War, but many British stuck around.

In the War of 1812, the British retook the fort, but they had to give it back at the end of the war once again.

The other two islands can’t compete with the “staggering historical importance” of Mackinac Island.

Today, Mackinac is a tourist location reached by ferry, boat, or private airplane. It has tons of candy shops, toy shops, and fudge shops.

Fudge is the biggest export from Mackinac. The island also boasts the hotel with the largest porch in the world.

You can also visit the old fort and a butterfly zoo while you’re on Mackinac.

No cars are allowed on Mackinac, so you have to get around by walking, biking, or horses.

Round Island is a national park with nothing on it except trees, rocks, animals, and a lighthouse. It has never had any historical importance whatsoever and it is not strictly round.

Bois Blanc Island is pronounced Bob-Lo Island. REMEMBER HOW TO PRONOUNCE IT!

Bois Blanc was a timber resource for the US navy back when ships were still primarily built out of wood.

The navy started selling plots of land on Bois Blanc after they realized they didn’t need the wood anymore.

The plots were bought by people to construct beachfront summer homes in the 1880s. My dad’s mom’s mom’s dad (I think I got that right) was one of the people who bought a plot of land.

My great-great-grandpa built a cottage on the island and now all of his descendants go there for vacations.

For the next week I will be on Bois Blanc Island with my extended relatives, far away from the rest of the world.

-Mister Ed

Next Post About Bois Blanc Island: Getting to the Island