Friday, 26 February 2021

Sharing Because


I'm sharing a link to another blog, Wing and a Whim by Dorothy Grant because she reviews two books that she and her husband found helpful dealing with living with PTSD. One book is for the spouse, the other is for the soldier.

So a special not to my friends David and Candace, I think if you have the money and time these books might be of help. The books are:

Arsenal of Hope: Tactics for Taking on PTSD, Together

All Secure: A Special Operations Soldier's Fight to Survive on the Battlefield and the Homefront

Please feel free to share this around to anyone who might be in need in these troubled times.

Thursday, 11 February 2021

TIGER X1: Unmanned Mobility Vehicle

My friend Alex Stewart sent me this link. Thanks for thinking of me, Alex.

The video shows the development of a hybrid walking/wheeled vehicle, which is fascinating.

Too good not to share as soon as I could here on the blog.

Monday, 8 February 2021

Myths About Race


So, we're all different, yet somehow we're all the same. When you use race in an argument it automatically become political. Not rational, scientific or objective, just your opinion based on a political ideology.
I would argue, that if you want to talk political ideology then go talk to someone who also wants said discussion. It's fine by me. None of my business what's done between consenting adults.
If you want to come to me or someone else and proselytize your particular political ideology, don't be surprised if I or they are not interested. If you then call me or them a 'racist' for not wanting to engage in your political ideology, then the real racist is you, because not all of us share the idea that political ideologies have to start from race.
While an argument about power can often include skin colour, or religion etc. these things are just labels obscuring the use of power to control others, and even that position has nuance, because societies have to have structures that are enforced by the power of law. This is in and of itself neither a good thing or a bad thing, it's just a necessity for example, to stop idiots from shouting 'fire' in a crowded theatre.
I have spoken! This is the way.

Thursday, 4 February 2021

February Has Come: A Reflection

It has been a long while since I've been able to objectively assess myself. What I have gone through over the last two years has left me being drowned by my emotions. But, it's not all about me, the last year has been difficult for everyone due to Covid19.

It is what it is.

Looking back, I can see my journey when my rheumatoid arthritis flared up, and my immediate reaction to the steroid injection. Still, I was optimistic that the treatment would work. I trusted my consultant and her team because I have worked in the NHS and know the system. 

While my physical symptoms did improve, what I didn't notice was the decline in my mental state.

I'm pretty resilient about setbacks, but hadn't realised that my mood was being affected by the medication. Being a former nurse, I'm aware that when nurses become ill they somehow always seem to get the worse of it.

It's a medical trope of sorts. 

Joked about amongst staff when someone becomes ill, because humour among medical professionals tends to be dark.

When my mood worsened, I went and saw my doctor. I probably scared the bejesus out of her when I told her what I was going through.

She wanted to refer me to mental health team, but I said there was no point, given that I had no intention to act on my negative thoughts and, perhaps arrogantly I stated why waste their time with me when they have others who don't have my knowledge to cope.

Even at my lowest, I still retained enough perspective to be objective about my distress. So yay me! So looking back on 2020. What a year!

I find it difficult to sort out what I managed to write, but it is easier to look at what I published.

In January 2020 I released book four in my World of Drei series, Mission Two. I also released the compilation of the first three World of Drei books, Year One: The Last War.

Writing wise I finished nothing, as I had nothing new to publish.

However, I started a short story about the lost robot team from Strike Dog, which currently stands at 1,346 words.

I'm fiddling with the draft of Two Moons current version stands at 22,885 words; a variable figure as I shuffle scenes between it and the next Tachikoma novel, Red Dogs that stands at 13,964 words. The shuffling of scenes is being driven by the difference between an action led story team, versus a mystery led story team.

Started an edit on the 69,664 words of my novel The Bureau, but it got put aside, lost from being overwhelmed by all the furore going on in the world.

Made notes and a rough draft outline for a set of wargame rules, currently running at 8,381 words.

Obviously, I wrote 32 pieces for this blog, and put up 43 model making and painting posts on my Paint it Pink blog. Can't tell you how many words because I seem to have lost the will to compile the word counts for 2019 and 2020.

Again, it is what it is.

The bright part of 2020, for definitions of bright where Terms & Conditions Apply, was pushing myself to do a bunch of online writing courses. To better the quality of my writing by acquiring the skills to improve characterization, my descriptions of setting, and understand how different genres drive the structure of a story.

This leaves me with the task of assimilating all this learning into my writing, which is a thing in and of itself. That's where I am now.

Hopefully, I will be able to move forward as the world around me improves.

Wednesday, 20 January 2021

A Study in Story Telling

I posted a link to my Facebook page about Outside the Wire with a short tag.  

We watched this last night. It has combat robots and drones and action and stuff, but did I mention cool combat robots? Worth giving this a watch if you like combat robots battling other combat robots.

A long thread followed. One friend commented he liked how the the robot was able to manipulate it's programming as being stupid scary. While another friend thought Leo started to display all the unfortunate traits of a Bond villain or Doctor Evil.

I tend to agree with the former comment, because even though the end is not all it could be, I enjoyed it enough to give it a pass. And because the end was far better than I thought it would be.

But I disagree that Leo failed by becoming a Bond villain or Doctor Evil.

Why? Because I don't think his goal was what it appeared to be. But I would fully admit that I might be projecting the direction of the story on what I would've written. Let me unpack my understanding of what Outside the Wire was all about.

The plot of any story is basically a series of linked events driven by the sequence of outcomes (so called try/fail cycles), from the decisions the characters make when faced with problems they have to solve.

The theme of a story is what the story is actually about.

Harp's story starts by revealing he's a drone pilot. When faced with a problem his actions shows us who he is.

A character who eats Gummy bears and is super cool under pressure. Smart and emotionally cold, or able to distance himself from his emotions. So much so that he can to make a really hard choice; sacrifice the lives of two Marines to save the other 38 people in the platoon.

This is the core of his character. Someone who is capable of sacrificing lives for the greater good.

The aftermath of his actions results in him being court-martialed, because he broke the chain-of-command when he disobeyed his orders. He is punished by being sent to the front to learn from experience,

When Harp arrives he is assigned to a Captain Leo.

During their initial conversation Leo reveals himself to be an advanced AI android who can pass as fully human; tells Harp that he asked specifically for him; tells Harp what he thinks of him, not good; finishes their conversation by blatantly asking Harp whether or not he trusts him?

Through the story we learn that Leo is smart, warm and empathic, and a highly capable combatant. This is the core of his character.

By the time we get to the climax, we have also learnt that Leo is easily able to manipulate the humans around him to achieve his plans. During his showdown with Harp, Leo outlines his plan to launch a nuclear strike against America, sacrificing millions of lives for the greater good of mankind.

Harp stops the plan, even though Leo could've easily killed Harp during their climactic fight.

However, I believe that Leo's plan was a charade, to highlight the danger of advanced generalized AI like him, and stop more of him from being deployed. Otherwise why would Leo go through all the trouble to set up this crazy complex plan to allow himself to be stopped?

I think the clue to answering this question is the opening of the movie. 

Harp is shown to have made the right choice (for example, easily proved with a forensic examination for chemical traces of the launcher rockets fuel in the ruins of the van), but he is still court-martialed for not following the chain-of-command. In a more generic war movie it would have been medals and home in time for tea (or coffee, or in Harp's case, Gummy bears.

The importance of following the chain-of-command, and the consequences for not doing so is shown. My takeaway is that an advanced generalized AI not following the chain-of-command is the real threat. Leo is setting himself up as an example of what could happen if more like him are deployed.

But, how can Leo be sure to convince people this is his plan?

My take is that it is easier to convince people what you say is true when they believe what they're being told is true. Leo can easily convince Harp that he intends to sacrifice millions of American lives, because his actions reflect what Harp did; sacrificing lives for the greater good.

That is why Leo chose Harp to join him.

Harp's chain-of-command wants smart, cool and capable people, but they can't have them not follow orders. Even if everyone in the chain-of-command realized they were being played, Leo is their worst nightmare. Smart capable, cool and will break the chain-of-command and sacrifice lives for the greater good.

Whether Leo's plan succeeded or failed didn't matter. It was the threat Leo posed that mattered. And that is why I think Leo allowed Harp to beat him, because his end goal was not to have more like him appear on the battlefields.

A programmable AI that doesn't follow orders is a good reason to cancel making more. 

Does this make Outside the Wire perfect? No, because the ending was not all it could be, because if it were then I wouldn't have to unpack it the way I did.

But as I said, "Worth giving this a watch if you like combat robots battling other combat robots."


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