escape

What seems obvious in security often is not

From Russell Nelson’s comment to Bruce Schneier’s Crypto-Gram of 15 November 2003:

> A New York detective was once asked whether pickpockets in
> Manhattan dressed in suits and ties to facilitate their crimes
> subsequent escape. He responded by saying that in twenty years
> he had never arrested even one pickpocket in a tie.

Do you mean this as evidence to bolster your point or to counter it? It seems to me that if he never arrested even one pickpocket in a tie, that would be very good evidence that pickpockets wearing ties escape arrest.

Woody Allen’s atheism

From Robert E. Lauder’s interview with Woody Allen, “Whatever Works” (Commonweal: 15 April 2010):

Well, you know, you want some kind of relief from the agony and terror of human existence. Human existence is a brutal experience to me…it’s a brutal, meaningless experience—an agonizing, meaningless experience with some oases, delight, some charm and peace, but these are just small oases. Overall, it is a brutal, brutal, terrible experience, and so it’s what can you do to alleviate the agony of the human condition, the human predicament?

I’m really impotent against the overwhelming bleakness of the universe and that the only thing I can do is my little gift and do it the best I can, and that is about the best I can do, which is cold comfort.

I also feel that humor, just like Fred Astaire dance numbers or these lightweight musicals, gives you a little oasis. You are in this horrible world and for an hour and a half you duck into a dark room and it’s air-conditioned and the sun is not blinding you and you leave the terror of the universe behind and you are completely transported into an escapist situation. The women are beautiful, the men are witty and heroic, nobody has terrible problems and this is a delightful escapist thing, and you leave the theatre refreshed. It’s like drinking a cool lemonade and then after a while you get worn down again and you need it again.

there are these oases, and life is horrible, but it is not relentlessly black from wire to wire. You can sit down and hear a Mozart symphony, or you can watch the Marx Brothers, and this will give you a pleasant escape for a while. And that is about the best that you can do… I feel that one can come up with all these rationalizations and seemingly astute observations, but I think I said it well at the end of Deconstructing Harry: we all know the same truth; our lives consist of how we choose to distort it, and that’s it. Everybody knows how awful the world is and what a terrible situation it is and each person distorts it in a certain way that enables him to get through. Some people distort it with religious things. Some people distort it with sports, with money, with love, with art, and they all have their own nonsense about what makes it meaningful, and all but nothing makes it meaningful. These things definitely serve a certain function, but in the end they all fail to give life meaning and everyone goes to his grave in a meaningless way.

I feel that is true—that one can commit a crime, do unspeakable things, and get away with it. There are people who commit all sorts of crimes and get away with it, and some of them are plagued with all sorts of guilt for the rest of their lives and others aren’t. They commit terrible crimes and they have wonderful lives, wonderful, happy lives, with families and children, and they have done unspeakably terrible things. There is no justice, there is no rational structure to it. That is just the way it is, and each person figures out some way to cope…. Some people cope better than others. I was with Billy Graham once, and he said that even if it turned out in the end that there is no God and the universe is empty, he would still have had a better life than me. I understand that. If you can delude yourself by believing that there is some kind of Santa Claus out there who is going to bail you out in the end, then it will help you get through. Even if you are proven wrong in the end, you would have had a better life.

I didn’t see [Shane, from the movie Shane] as a martyred figure, a persecuted figure. I saw him as quite a heroic figure who does a job that needs to be done, a practical matter. I saw him as a practical secular character. In this world there are just some people who need killing and that is just the way it is. It sounds terrible, but there is no other way to get around that, and most of us are not up to doing it, incapable for moral reasons or physically not up to it. And Shane is a person who saw what had to be done and went out and did it. He had the skill to do it, and that’s the way I feel about the world: there are certain problems that can only be dealt with that way. As ugly a truth as that is, I do think it’s the truth about the world.

A one-way ticket to crazyville

Tanguma's The Children of the World Dream of P...
Image by rsgranne via Flickr
Tanguma's The Children of the World Dream of P...
Image by rsgranne via Flickr
Tanguma's The Children of the World Dream of P...
Image by rsgranne via Flickr

From Dave Alan’s “Interview with Alex Christopher” (Leading Edge Research Group: 1 June 1996):

Legend: DA [Dave Alan, Host] AC: [Alex Christopher] C: [Caller]

(Note: according to former British Intelligence agent Dr. John Coleman, the London-based Wicca Mason lodges are one-third of the overall global conspiracy. The other two thirds are the Black Nobility banking families who claim direct descent from the early Roman emperors, and also the Maltese Jesuits or the Jesuit – Knights of Malta network. All three networks each have 13 representatives within the Bilderberg organization, which is a cover for the Bavarian Illuminati, suggestive that Bavaria itself has orchestrated a “marriage of convenience” between these three formerly competitive global control groups. – Branton)

AC: All right. The information, primarily, that is in “Pandora’s Box” covers how the major corporations, railroad and banking concerns in this country were set up through a ‘trust’ that was originally known as the Virginia Company… The deal was that everything would remain under English control, or subservient to it, and that brings us right up to today, because we are still looking at everything falling under that ‘trust’ system going back to the Crown of England. It is mind boggling to think that everyone in this country has been led to believe that the people in the United States had won independence from England, when in fact they never did.

AC: The capstone, or the dedication stone, for the Denver airport has a Masonic symbol on it. A whole group of us went out to the airport to see some friends off and see this capstone, which also has a time capsule imbedded inside it. It sits at the south eastern side of the terminal which, by the way, is called “The Great Hall”, which is what Masons refer to as their meeting hall. And, on this thing it mentions “the New World Airport Commission”. …

AC: It has a Masonic symbol on it, and it also has very unusual geometric designs. It depicts an arm rising up out of it that curves at a 45 degree angle. It also has a thing that looks like a keypad on it. This capstone structure is made of carved granite and stainless steel, and it is very fancy.. This little keypad area at the end of the arm has an out-of-place unfinished wooden block sitting on it. The gentleman that was with me on the first trip out to the airport has since died. They say he committed suicide, but everything else tells me that this is not possible. No one can double-tie a catheter behind his own neck and strangle himself. I just don’t think that is possible. But, his name was Phil Schneider, and he started blowing the whistle on all this stuff going on in the underground bases that he had helped build for years and years. He worked on the underground bases at Area 51 and Dulce, New Mexico, as well as several other places. Schneider told me that this keypad-looking area looked like a form of techno-geometry that is “alien-oriented”, and that it had something to do with a “directional system”, whatever that meant, that functioned as a homing beacon to bring ships right into the “Great Hall”.

(Note: … Remember even through the Bilderbergers consist of a “marriage of convenience” between Londonese Wicca Masons, Basilian Black Nobility and Roman Maltese Jesuits… the supreme controllers of the Bildeberger cult itself are the secret black Gnostic cults of Bavaria whose ‘Cult of the Serpent’ — or Illuminati — can be traced back to Egypt and ultimately to Babylon itself. These Rockefeller-Nazi projects reportedly continued through at least 1975 during which period many thousands more “underground Nazis” were brought into America from Europe and also, if we are to believe some reports, from the secret German “New Berlin” base under the mountains of Neu Schwabenland, Antarctica that was established during World War II via Nazi-occupied South Africa. Is Neu Schwabenland the REAL power behind the joint Bavarian-Alien New World Order Agenda? …)

AC: … It took myself and two other people over eight months to figure out all the symbology that is embodied in these murals. It turned out that some of these are ‘trigger’ pictures, containing symbology designed to trigger altered personalities of people that have been groomed in MKULTRA type programs for specific tasks that they have been trained to do in terms of something connected with Satanic rituals and mind control. I had one woman that called me out of the blue one night, and she was really disturbed about some information. She told me many different things that later turned out to be known MKULTRA triggers. Also, almost every aspect of these murals contains symbols relating back to secret societies. When you get the overall view of what they are talking about in these things, it is very very scary. It goes back to the Bio-diversity Treaty, getting rid of specific races of people, taking over the world and mind control.

AC: Well, the gentleman that I was dealing with, Phil Schneider, said that during the last year of construction they were connecting the underground airport system to the deep underground base. He told me that there was at least an eight-level deep underground base there, and that there was a 4.5 square mile underground city and an 88.5 square-mile base underneath the airport.

DA: You were telling me that there are huge concrete corridors with sprinklers all along the ceiling. What are these sprinkler heads doing in a concrete bunker, pray tell? (Presumably concrete will not ‘burn’ if there is a potential fire, so is it possible that something other than ‘water’ is meant to be expelled from these sprinklers which are located “all along” the ceiling? – Branton)

AC: I think a lot of the people saw things that disturbed them so much that they would not talk about it. I know several people who worked on the project that managed to find their way down into the depths, probably close to the deep underground base, and saw things that scared them so badly they won’t talk about it. I interviewed a few of the former employees on these construction crews that worked out there on these buildings that ended up buried, and they are afraid to talk. They say that everybody is real nervous about it, and they decided to tell some of the secrets that they knew, but they don’t want anybody to know who they are. So, I can tell you that it is a very unusual and spooky type of place, and if you are a sensitive person you get nauseated as soon as you enter the perimeter of the airport. Especially when you go down underground. You become very nauseated a nervous. There is also so much electromagnetic flux in the area that if you get out on the open ground around the airport, you will ‘buzz’.

AC: If Phil is right, and all this hooks up to the deep underground base that he was offered the plans to build back in 1979, and that what this other man TOLD me in private [is] that there is a lot of human SLAVE LABOR in these deep underground bases being used by these aliens, and that a lot of this slave labor is children. HE SAID that when the children reach the point that they are unable to work any more, they are slaughtered on the spot and consumed.

DA: Consumed by who?

AC: Aliens. Again, this is not from me, but from a man that gave his life to get this information out. He worked down there for close to 20 years, and he knew everything that was going on.

DA: Hmmm. Who do these aliens eat?

AC: They specifically like young human children, that haven’t been contaminated like adults. Well, there is a gentleman out giving a lot of information from a source he gets it from, and he says that there is an incredible number of children snatched in this country.

DA: Over 200,000 each year.

AC: And that these children are the main entree for dinner.

AC: Yes. From some information that has been put out by a group or team that also works in these underground bases that is trying to get information out to people that love this country, THERE IS A WAR THAT IS GOING ON UNDER OUT FEET, AND ABOVE OUR HEADS, that the public doesn’t know anything about, and its between these ALIEN forces and the HUMANS that are trying to fight them.

DA: What other types have you seen?

AC: The ones that I have seen are the big-eyed Greys and the Reptilians.

DA: What do these Reptilians look like?

AC: There are three different types.

AC: … Anyway, they were both totally flipped out. I finally got them calmed down enough to let me go home. I went home and went to bed. The next thing I know, I woke up and there is this ‘thing’ standing over my bed. He had wrap-around yellow eyes with snake pupils, and pointed ears and a grin that wrapped around his head. He had a silvery suit on, and this scared the living daylights out of me. I threw the covers over my head and started screaming….I mean, here is this thing with a Cheshire-cat grin and these funky glowing eyes…this is too much. I have seen that kind of being on more than one occasion.

DA: What else can you say about it?

AC: Well, he had a hooked nose and he was [humanoid] looking, other than the eyes, and had kind of grayish skin. Later on in 1991, I was working in a building in a large city, and I had taken a break about 6:00, and the next thing I knew it was 10:30 at night, and I thought I had taken a short break. I started remembering that I was taken aboard a ship, through four floors of an office building, and through a roof. There on the ship is were I encountered ‘GERMANS’ AND ‘AMERICANS’ WORKING TOGETHER, and also the GREY ALIENS, and then we were taken to some other kind of facility and there I saw the REPTILIANS again … the one’s I call the “baby Godzilla’s”, that have the short teeth and yellow slanted eyes, and who look like a VELOCI-RAPTOR, kind of.

DA: So, why would these people pick on you?

AC: Well, I found one common denominator in the abduction, and it keeps on being repeated over and over again. I deal with lots of people who have been abducted, and the one common denominator seems to be the blood line, and its the blood line that goes back to ancient Indian or Native American blood lines.

AC: Well, at that facility I saw the almond-eyed Greys, but the thing that sticks in my mind are the beings that look like reptiles, or the veloci-raptors. They are the cruelest beings you could ever imagine, and they even smell hideous. There were a couple of very unusual areas down there where I was taken which looked like cold storage lockers, where these things were in hibernation tubes, and that is about all I remember, other than seeing some black helicopters and little round-wing disk type aircraft

In the book “Cosmic Conflict”, the author talks about the ancient city that was uncovered by the Germans before World War II, and tells about their effort to revive some frozen humans they found in this underground city, and that the true humans couldn’t be revived, but the ones that could be revived were in fact reptilians in disguise, and the reptilians have the capability to do shape-shifting and create a [laser] holographic image so when you look at them you see a human, but under that there is no human there. … Allegedly the reptilians re-animated and killed the Soviet scientists and through some type of psychic osmosis drained their minds and assimilated their memories and features through a molecular shape-shifting type process. … The alien ‘impostors’ then called for backup and more scientists came out and were ‘replaced’, and these eventually returned to Russia and began to infiltrate the Communist government.

AC: These people that have done all this research and are part of the underground government are telling that the humans on this planet have been at war with these reptilian aliens for thousands of years. At one point, things got so hot on the planet, like it is now, aliens took on this holographic image and infiltrated the human race in order to take it over and undermine it, just like this New World Order is doing right now. They’re saying that the same thing happened to civilization on Earth before, and that the humans before actually had the capability for interplanetary travel, and that it was so bad here with the reptilians that they had to leave… What they are also saying is that these beings that are human-looking that are visiting our planet, at this time, trying to inform people what is going on, and guide them, are actually OUR ANCESTORS THAT ESCAPED FROM EARTH before, when it was under reptilian domination.

AC: I went to South Florida a couple of weeks ago and interviewed a man who had done research for 30 years, and oddly enough, he tapped into some of the same information I had, in that our government has had round-winged, saucer-type technology, high mach speed aircraft since the 1920’s, and that in 1952 they had over 500 of these aircraft hidden in secret bases. Now, if they had that in 1952, considering that military technology grows by 44 years for every year that goes by, what do you imagine they have now, 44 years later, after technology has advanced the equivalent of 1,936 years?

AC: He claims to be one of the ones who jumped overboard off the Eldridge when it went into hyperspace during the Philadelphia Experiment. He actually traveled forward in time, and asked the people that he encountered there what happened in his future. At that time, he was given the information about the New World Order and that Denver was the location for the NWO Western Sector, and that Atlanta was supposed to be the control center for the Eastern Sector. Can it be that the fact that the Olympics is supposed to be in Atlanta is part of a scenario?

How it feels to drown, get decapitated, get electrocuted, and more

From Anna Gosline’s “Death special: How does it feel to die?” (New Scientist: 13 October 2007):

Death comes in many guises, but one way or another it is usually a lack of oxygen to the brain that delivers the coup de grâce. Whether as a result of a heart attack, drowning or suffocation, for example, people ultimately die because their neurons are deprived of oxygen, leading to cessation of electrical activity in the brain – the modern definition of biological death.

If the flow of freshly oxygenated blood to the brain is stopped, through whatever mechanism, people tend to have about 10 seconds before losing consciousness. They may take many more minutes to die, though, with the exact mode of death affecting the subtleties of the final experience.

Drowning

Typically, when a victim realises that they cannot keep their head above water they tend to panic, leading to the classic “surface struggle”. They gasp for air at the surface and hold their breath as they bob beneath, says Tipton. Struggling to breathe, they can’t call for help. Their bodies are upright, arms weakly grasping, as if trying to climb a non-existent ladder from the sea. Studies with New York lifeguards in the 1950s and 1960s found that this stage lasts just 20 to 60 seconds.

When victims eventually submerge, they hold their breath for as long as possible, typically 30 to 90 seconds. After that, they inhale some water, splutter, cough and inhale more. Water in the lungs blocks gas exchange in delicate tissues, while inhaling water also triggers the airway to seal shut – a reflex called a laryngospasm. “There is a feeling of tearing and a burning sensation in the chest as water goes down into the airway. Then that sort of slips into a feeling of calmness and tranquility,” says Tipton, describing reports from survivors.

That calmness represents the beginnings of the loss of consciousness from oxygen deprivation, which eventually results in the heart stopping and brain death.

Heart attack

The most common symptom is, of course, chest pain: a tightness, pressure or squeezing, often described as an “elephant on my chest”, which may be lasting or come and go. This is the heart muscle struggling and dying from oxygen deprivation. Pain can radiate to the jaw, throat, back, belly and arms. Other signs and symptoms include shortness of breath, nausea and cold sweats.

Most victims delay before seeking assistance, waiting an average of 2 to 6 hours. Women are the worst, probably because they are more likely to experience less well-known symptoms, such as breathlessness, back or jaw pain, or nausea, says JoAnn Manson, an epidemiologist at Harvard Medical School.

Even small heart attacks can play havoc with the electrical impulses that control heart muscle contraction, effectively stopping it. In about 10 seconds the person loses consciousness, and minutes later they are dead.

Bleeding to death

People can bleed to death in seconds if the aorta, the major blood vessel leading from the heart, is completely severed, for example, after a severe fall or car accident.

Death could creep up much more slowly if a smaller vein or artery is nicked – even taking hours. Such victims would experience several stages of haemorrhagic shock. The average adult has 5 litres of blood. Losses of around 750 millilitres generally cause few symptoms. Anyone losing 1.5 litres – either through an external wound or internal bleeding – feels weak, thirsty and anxious, and would be breathing fast. By 2 litres, people experience dizziness, confusion and then eventual unconsciousness.

Fire

Long the fate of witches and heretics, burning to death is torture. Hot smoke and flames singe eyebrows and hair and burn the throat and airways, making it hard to breathe. Burns inflict immediate and intense pain through stimulation of the nociceptors – the pain nerves in the skin. To make matters worse, burns also trigger a rapid inflammatory response, which boosts sensitivity to pain in the injured tissues and surrounding areas.

Most people who die in fires do not in fact die from burns. The most common cause of death is inhaling toxic gases – carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and even hydrogen cyanide – together with the suffocating lack of oxygen. One study of fire deaths in Norway from 1996 found that almost 75 per cent of the 286 people autopsied had died from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Depending on the size of the fire and how close you are to it, concentrations of carbon monoxide could start to cause headache and drowsiness in minutes, eventually leading to unconsciousness. According to the US National Fire Protection Association, 40 per cent of the victims of fatal home fires are knocked out by fumes before they can even wake up.

Decaptitation

Beheading, if somewhat gruesome, can be one of the quickest and least painful ways to die – so long as the executioner is skilled, his blade sharp, and the condemned sits still.

Quick it may be, but consciousness is nevertheless believed to continue after the spinal chord is severed. A study in rats in 1991 found that it takes 2.7 seconds for the brain to consume the oxygen from the blood in the head; the equivalent figure for humans has been calculated at 7 seconds.

It took the axeman three attempts to sever the head of Mary Queen of Scots in 1587. He had to finish the job with a knife.

Decades earlier in 1541, Margaret Pole, the Countess of Salisbury, was executed at the Tower of London. She was dragged to the block, but refused to lay her head down. The inexperienced axe man made a gash in her shoulder rather than her neck. According to some reports, she leapt from the block and was chased by the executioner, who struck 11 times before she died.

Electrocution

In accidental electrocutions, usually involving low, household current, the most common cause of death is arrhythmia, stopping the heart dead. Unconsciousness ensues after the standard 10 seconds, says Richard Trohman, a cardiologist at Rush University in Chicago. One study of electrocution deaths in Montreal, Canada found that 92 per cent had probably died from arrhythmia.

Higher currents can produce nearly immediate unconsciousness.

Fall from a height

A high fall is certainly among the speediest ways to die: terminal velocity (no pun intended) is about 200 kilometres per hour, achieved from a height of about 145 metres or more. A study of deadly falls in Hamburg, Germany, found that 75 per cent of victims died in the first few seconds or minutes after landing.

The exact cause of death varies, depending on the landing surface and the person’s posture. People are especially unlikely to arrive at the hospital alive if they land on their head – more common for shorter (under 10 metres) and higher (over 25 metres) falls. A 1981 analysis of 100 suicidal jumps from the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco – height: 75 metres, velocity on impact with the water: 120 kilometres per hour – found numerous causes of instantaneous death including massive lung bruising, collapsed lungs, exploded hearts or damage to major blood vessels and lungs through broken ribs.

Survivors of great falls often report the sensation of time slowing down. The natural reaction is to struggle to maintain a feet-first landing, resulting in fractures to the leg bones, lower spinal column and life-threatening broken pelvises. The impact travelling up through the body can also burst the aorta and heart chambers. Yet this is probably still the safest way to land, despite the force being concentrated in a small area: the feet and legs form a “crumple zone” which provides some protection to the major internal organs.

Some experienced climbers or skydivers who have survived a fall report feeling focused, alert and driven to ensure they landed in the best way possible: relaxed, legs bent and, where possible, ready to roll.

Hanging

Suicides and old-fashioned “short drop” executions cause death by strangulation; the rope puts pressure on the windpipe and the arteries to the brain. This can cause unconsciousness in 10 seconds, but it takes longer if the noose is incorrectly sited. Witnesses of public hangings often reported victims “dancing” in pain at the end of the rope, struggling violently as they asphyxiated. Death only ensues after many minutes, as shown by the numerous people being resuscitated after being cut down – even after 15 minutes.

When public executions were outlawed in Britain in 1868, hangmen looked for a less performance-oriented approach. They eventually adopted the “long-drop” method, using a lengthier rope so the victim reached a speed that broke their necks. It had to be tailored to the victim’s weight, however, as too great a force could rip the head clean off, a professionally embarrassing outcome for the hangman.

Despite the public boasting of several prominent executioners in late 19th-century Britain, a 1992 analysis of the remains of 34 prisoners found that in only about half of cases was the cause of death wholly or partly due to spinal trauma. Just one-fifth showed the classic “hangman’s fracture” between the second and third cervical vertebrae. The others died in part from asphyxiation.

Lethal injection

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Michael Spence, an anthropologist at the University of Western Ontario in London, Canada, has found similar results in US victims. He concluded, however, that even if asphyxiation played a role, the trauma of the drop would have rapidly rendered all of them unconscious. “What the hangmen were looking for was quick cessation of activity,” he says. “And they knew enough about their craft to ensure that happened. The thing they feared most was decapitation.”
Lethal injection

US-government approved, but is it really painless?

Lethal injection was designed in Oklahoma in 1977 as a humane alternative to the electric chair. The state medical examiner and chair of anaesthesiology settled on a series of three drug injections. First comes the anaesthetic thiopental to speed away any feelings of pain, followed by a paralytic agent called pancuronium to stop breathing. Finally potassium chloride is injected, which stops the heart almost instantly.

Each drug is supposed to be administered in a lethal dose, a redundancy to ensure speedy and humane death. However, eyewitnesses have reported inmates convulsing, heaving and attempting to sit up during the procedure, suggesting the cocktail is not always completely effective.

Explosive decompression

In real life there has been just one fatal space depressurisation accident. This occurred on the Russian Soyuz-11 mission in 1971, when a seal leaked upon re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere; upon landing all three flight crew were found dead from asphyxiation.

Most of our knowledge of depressurisation comes from animal experiments and the experiences of pilots in accidents at very high altitudes. When the external air pressure suddenly drops, the air in the lungs expands, tearing the fragile gas exchange tissues. This is especially damaging if the victim neglects to exhale prior to decompression or tries to hold their breath. Oxygen begins to escape from the blood and lungs.

Experiments on dogs in the 1950s showed that 30 to 40 seconds after the pressure drops, their bodies began to swell as the water in tissues vaporised, though the tight seal of their skin prevented them from “bursting”. The heart rate rises initially, then plummets. Bubbles of water vapour form in the blood and travel through the circulatory system, obstructing blood flow. After about a minute, blood effectively stops circulating.

Human survivors of rapid decompression accidents include pilots whose planes lost pressure, or in one case a NASA technician who accidentally depressurised his flight suit inside a vacuum chamber. They often report an initial pain, like being hit in the chest, and may remember feeling air escape from their lungs and the inability to inhale. Time to the loss of consciousness was generally less than 15 seconds.

The escape of Mr. Flitcraft

From Claudia Roth Pierpont’s “Tough Guy: The mystery of Dashiell Hammett” (The New Yorker [11 February 2002]: 70):

There is one section of “The Maltese Falcon” that could not be filmed, and for many readers it is the most important story Hammett ever told. A dreamlike interruption in events, it is a parable that Spade relates to Brigid about a man called Flitcraft, dutiful husband and father of two, who was nearly hit by a falling beam while walking to lunch one day. Instead of going back to work, Flitcraft disappeared. “He went like that,” Spade says, in what may be Hammett’s most unexpected and beautiful phrase, “like a fist when you open your hand.” His narrow escape had taught this sane and orderly man that life is neither orderly nor sane, that all our human patterns are merely imposed, and he went away in order to fall in step with life. He was not unkind; the love he bore his family “was not of the sort that would make absence painful,” and he left plenty of money behind. He travelled for a while, Spade relates, but he ended up living in a city near the one he’d fled, selling cars and playing golf, with a second wife hardly different from the first. The moral: one can attempt to adjust one’s life to falling beams but will readjust as soon as the shock wears off.

Beauregard fools Halleck & escapes

From Shelby Foote’s The Civil War: Fort Sumter to Perryville (384):

When [Pierre Gustave Toutant de Beauregard‘s men] stole out of the intrenchments [at Corinth] after nightfall, they left dummy guns in the embrasures and dummy cannoneers to serve them, fashioned by stuffing ragged uniforms with straw. A single band moved up and down the deserted works, pausing at scattered points to play retreat, tattoo, and taps. Campfires were left burning, with a supply of wood alongside each for the drummer boys who stayed behind to stoke them and beat reveille next morning. All night a train of empty cars rattled back and forth along the tracks through Corinth, stopping at frequent intervals to blow its whistle, the signal for a special detail of leather-lunged soldiers to cheer with all their might. The hope was that this would not only cover the incidental sounds of the withdrawal, but would also lead the Federals to believe that the town’s defenders were being heavily reinforced.

It worked to perfection. … Daylight showed “dense black smoke in clouds,” but no sign of the enemy Pope expected to find massed in his front. Picking his way forward he came upon dummy guns and dummy cannoneers, some with broad grins painted on. Otherwise the works were deserted. …

Seven full weeks of planning and strain, in command of the largest army ever assembled under one field general in the Western Hemisphere, had earned [Halleck] one badly smashed-up North Mississippi railroad intersection.

Ulysses Grant & the torpedo

From Greg Goebel’s “Februrary 1862: Unconditional And Immediate Surrender” (interpolation from Shelby Foote’s The Civil War: Fort Sumter to Perryville [187]):

On the afternoon of 5 February, during a conference between Grant, Foote, and the two division commanders, the captain of a gunboat sent a message to Grant that he had actually pulled a torpedo out of the river, had it on the gunboat’s deck, and would anyone care to see it? As the Second Division was still being shuttled in to the landing and the attack could not go forward until they had arrived, leaving Grant and the other senior officers with little to do for the moment, they went over in a group to investigate. The officers gathered around the torpedo, which was a five foot (1.5 meter) long cylinder with a pronged rod extending from its head. Grant was intrigued by the evil-looking thing, had the ship’s armorer come up to try to dismantle it, and watched as the man tinkered with the device. Suddenly, as the armorer loosened a nut, the torpedo emitted a loud hissing sound that appeared to be building to an explosion.

[Foote sprang for the ship’s ladder, and Grant, perhaps reasoning that in naval matters the commodore knew best, was right behind him. If he lacked the seamans’s agility in climbing a rope ladder, he made up for it with what one witness called “commendable enthusasm.” At the top, the commodore looked back over his shoulder and found Grant closing rapidly upon him.]

The hissing died out, leaving the two men hanging on the ladder. Foote looked down to see Grant beneath and, smiling, asked: “General, why this haste?” Grant replied: “That the Navy may not get ahead of us.”

Zombie ships adrift off the shore of Africa

From “Happiness: The Chinese zombie ships of West Africa“:

We’re in the big African Queen inflatable, cruising alongside an anchored trawler. It’s more rust than metal – the ship is rotting away. The foredeck is covered in broken machinery. The fish deck is littered with frayed cables, and the mast lies horizontally, hanging over the starboard side. A large rusty Chinese character hangs on railings above the bridge, facing forward. It reads ‘happiness’. …

Moff turns the boat, taking us to another of the rusting fishing vessels, 70 nautical miles (130km) off the coast of Guinea, West Africa. We had been told this was where old pirate fishing boats were left at anchor, abandoned. We didn’t expect to find living people on board the dying ships. …

We head away, going with the current, which was purple and green with the dregs of spilled fuel. Throughout the afternoon, I keep noticing just how dirty the water is, with oil and fragments of plastic.

We arrive at Long way 08, which is in line for refuelling. This trawler is in a poor state, with the hull covered in masses of good-sized shellfish.

Four young Chinese crewman meet us with smiles and welcomes. They tell us that some of them have been on board for 2 years, non-stop. The trawler itself has been out here for eight years, and would probably be kept going for another six or so, or as long it lasted.

Here’s the thing – these ships seldom, or ever, visit a port. They’re re-supplied, refuelled, re-crewed and transhipped (unloaded) at sea. The owners and crews don’t seem to do any basic maintenance, apart from keeping the engine and winches running. There’s no glass in the portholes, and the masts are a mess of useless wiring. These floating deathtraps don’t carry any proper safety gear – on one boat, I saw the half-barrel case of an inflatable liferaft being used to store a net. …

We move to the second ship, where again, a bunch of friendly young guys have been sitting at anchor for two months, waiting technical help and a new crew. Their engine doesn’t work, and they no safety gear or radio. They can, however, run their watermaker, for desalinating seawater. Lines of drying fish hang over the deck, but they’re running out of other food, and are often forced to signal other fishing boats for help. Like everyone else, their future is uncertain. …

… we talk to the chirpy Guinean fisheries observer on their vessel. He’s very chatty, and tells us what is going on – that the other trawler was basically being dumped here. He says that the Chinese boats were in poor shape generally, and that last year, one had sunk, taking 14 crew with it. What are conditions like on this boat? He shrugs: “Not good. But I have to have a job.” …

Later, as we drop some supplies to the engine-less trawler, we see one of the crew hauling himself along on a rope, while standing on a small raft. It’s bizarre sight, but this is how they get between the two decrepit vessels. …

Earlier in the day – before the graveyard of zombie trawlers, fisheries inspectors had told us of where the fish actually goes. Caught by the Chinese and other trawlers, it’s transhipped to several different vessels. ‘High value’ stock goes to Las Palmas, in the Canaries and off to the dinner tables of Europe. The ‘dirt’ fish is transhipped to Africa. The Chinese fishermen, it seems, barely get a look in. ‘Happiness’ indeed.

Robot on the run

From The Age:

Scientists running a pioneering experiment with “living robots” which think for themselves said they were amazed to find one escaping from the centre where it “lives”.

The small unit, called Gaak, was one of 12 taking part in a “survival of the fittest” test at the Magna science centre in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, which has been running since March.

Gaak made its bid for freedom yesterday after it had been taken out of the arena where hundreds of visitors watch the machines learning as they do daily battle for minor repairs.

Professor Noel Sharkey said he turned his back on the drone and returned 15 minutes later to find it had forced its way out of the small make-shift paddock it was being kept in.

He later found it had travelled down an access slope, through the front door of the centre and was eventually discovered at the main entrance to the car park when a visitor nearly flattened it with his car. …

And he added: “But there’s no need to worry, as although they can escape they are perfectly harmless and won’t be taking over just yet.”