Flat

Another reblog from my contributions to CK MacLeod’s

For the first time this season, the beaver pond freezes over.  Transparent, fractally tessellated ice coats the water.

The finer approximation of flatness, the greater the surface area we specify, the rarer it becomes.

Sublimated water crystals have the greatest chance maybe.  The problem: only two dimensions make flat real, three end it.

Colder. The clarity of peri-freezing ice solidifies translucent, that impossible frictionlessness now gone.

A beaver swims under thickening ice.  Head bumping the underside, breathing the air pockets there, the thump thump, thump echoes.

Slice of Life With Photo

..

This is reblogged from CK MacLeod’s (nee Zombie Contentions) where I was a contributor for a while writing under the unlikely nom de zombie “bob”.

Nature Preserve Pond
Nature Preserve Pond

Walking in the Nature Preserve yesterday, I didn’t see this.  The colors were there, and it was morning, but instead of clear light, steady rain alternated with downpours.  This picture suggests what I saw a few years ago.  I have seen nothing close to this again.

Binghamton University own the Preserve and the Biology Department uses it for a laboratory.  So what  I did see was a 40ish woman knee-deep in the pond, scooping up the water into a bus tub, with 15 or so young people, not dressed for the weather watching her.  She heaved it to the edge of the pond and all but yelled, “What do we see?”

Inaudible.  “Yes, water spiders!  Where did we see water spiders last week in the river?”

Inaudible. “Yes clinging to the rocks!  She then thrust her hands at head level and spread her finders as if she was about to grab onto the last rock.

The young people stood mute, perhaps flashing back to the life and death struggles they had witnessed only a week ago.

“Yes it’s so much easier for them here…they can just relax…near the pond edge the weeds make it harder for the fish to eat them.’

Drone Strikes in the Uncanny Valley – Part 1

The debate about drone warfare is complex and beyond my capabilities or intentions here.  For a far-ranging discussion I recommend the The Quarterly DAG-3QD Peace and Justice Symposium: Drones.

The symposium participants discuss one of the core issues of the debate,  “the threshold problem.”  In the final essay of the Symposium, Reply to Critics: No Easy Answers,  Bradley Jay Strawser writes

Of course, the very notion that a threat can be justifiably blocked by killing, while sound in principle and sometimes in practice, is ripe for abuse and misuse. So the pressing moral issue for the drone campaign is how the notion of “imminent threat” is being evaluated, measured, and properly understood.

…I find it insightful of Levine to point out how the distinction between intelligence and military action in the US has all but collapsed. I agree with him that this is a serious problem. The CIA should be in the business of intelligence, not direct lethal action.[15] One wonders then, whether drones are merely a symptom of this state of affairs or a partial cause of it?

Additionally, CK MacLeod, in Further on  Pathos v the Drones Conventionalizing the Unconventionalizable  expands the focus and summarizes a discomfort with drone warfare I share.

We can explain this ancient-present predicament as follows: Those great confrontations, with their all but unimaginably great death and destruction, produced the “conventions” of war within and against which 4th Generation warriors define themselves. By design and necessity, “un-conventional” warfare cannot be handled entirely by “conventional” warmaking, “conventional” thinking about warfare, or the legal and political “conventions” that have not caught up with it and that it means to defy. We feel as though we are in a void between the former, obsolete conventions and that which has not been conventionalized and perhaps cannot be conventionalized,

Our relation to any void is not knowing.  Here, even the horrors humanity has managed to invent in the past pause, not knowing.  Is this in fact an incremental technological innovation in war, or, as it seems to feel to many, a change in direction, in type.

The visceral revulsion of many seems to indicate a sense that these drones have, or will assume a life of their own, that despite their clearly mechanical appearance, they inhabit the uncanny valley.

Certainly science fiction has from its beginning responded to, formed and fed fantasies of our creations living for themselves and threatening us. Many of the monsters of myth, from Gilgamesh on, seem on the surface as some sort of unnatural union when they really are human creations becoming alive.