Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Everything I Learned About Combat Resupply, I Learned From Video Games

I'm 100% civilian, I'm lazy, I hate carrying heavy things, and my knees hurt terribly after I run more than a mile. So that makes me uniquely qualified to tackle the challenge of lightening the load that soldiers have to carry.

When faced with a problem like "The stuff our troops have to carry is too heavy," naturally, as Americans, we immediately look to expensive, ridiculously complex technological solutions like robotic, all-terrain golf carts (okay, fine: the unmanned ground vehicle prototypes are more like 6x6 Gators), the ever-creepy Big Dog robot; the HULC exoskeleton (with integral links to Skynet), and airdrops from GPS-guided parachutes and cargo helicopter UAVs (like the A160 Hummingbird and KMAX).

Ammo From Heaven
Actually, that last bit is kind of interesting -- if you use unmanned airdrops to resupply troops on patrol and not just static bases, not only does it apply just-in-time delivery to the tactical realm (and give it a whole new urgency), but it also seems a lot like the mechanics of your standard video game powerup.

In the Halo games, you get resupplied at points by endoatmospheric resupply canisters and orbital drop pods (though given the current state of rocket lift systems, the latter system's price would seem prohibitive).

Cache Issues
And then once you get into videogames, it's all over. I was reminded of the resupply scheme in the Ghost Recon video games: In the earlier versions of the game, resupply cache points for re-arming are basically ammo crates that look like footlockers.

By Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter, though, the resupply points are self-powered, computer-locked, armored mini-dumpsters that act like vending machines:

Kit container in Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter.

Although they were dropped off in the middle of a conflict zone by some unknown, elite  pre-positioned supply corps, they're not hidden -- they sit right out in the open -- presumably protected by computer locks and thick armor. But otherwise, they're a high-tech spin on your basic supply cache.

Could something like this be used in a real-world context (say, in the mountains of Afghanistan)? What are the issues:

* Accessibility: If you forego the fancy computer locks, you don't need power. But you still need to be close to a road, or if airdropped, at least be accessible enough to patrol areas so that your friendlies can get to them. If it's accessibly to your friends, it's accessible to your enemies. And face it, the locals will presumably figure out when you've dropped something off.

* Security: If you don't use concealment, you need armor. Don't use enough armor, and they get trashed. If you're lucky, the contents only get stolen or destroyed. If you're unlucky and don't have tamper-evident seals, the contents get sabotaged, to fail in catastrophic ways at inopportune moments.

Too much armor, and they turn into mini-bunkers difficult to transport, which defeats the whole purpose.

Plus, even if they were invulnerable, you could just booby-trap the area around them and get the poor suckers who are coming to resupply.

How could you mitigate these issues?

* Pay for Protection: Assuming the items are relatively protected and tamper-evident, drop your supply locker in a not-actively hostile village and pay the villagers to keep an eye on it. Of course, that marks you as a collaborator (or at least someone who acquiesced)

* Continuous Monitoring: Either have them self-powered and tied into a network for surveillance and status monitoring, or assign a persistent monitoring method -- say, a tethered aerostat or UAV -- armed, even, so if anyone tries to mess with it, BOOM GOES THE DYNAMITE.

* Self-Defending: Booby-trap your cache -- make the outer casing a big anti-tamper, anti-personnel shell -- like, say, reactive armor, and if someone tries to get at it without proper authorization... Or if you tie it into a supply cache/sensor network, make it command detonated.

Anyway, the vending machine in the middle of nowhere seems a bit silly. (At least, until you can self-power them and stick an Aliens sentry gun on top.)

In some followup entries, I'll be spitballing through some new old ideas for mitigating soldier loads.

Monday, April 25, 2011

A girl I'd been seeing ran away after I said the L word to her

We'd been seeing each other for a little while. It was a strange situation. We both had some baggage, and if you know me, you know it takes a lot to draw me out. But I was finally starting to get comfortable with her. I was letting myself believe that there was something here.

One night, when it felt right, I took a deep breath, and in one long monologue that felt as clumsy as it was rehearsed, I said (to the best of my recollection):

"Look, I know I'm doing everything I'm not supposed to do. I'm not supposed to be the one to say this first.

"And maybe it's too soon to say this to you. You know how some people throw it around like they're saying hello, to people they barely know? I'm not like that. It takes a lot to get me to say it. I hardly ever say it. I can't remember the last time I've said it to someone and meant it.

In fact, I don't think I've even said it to my mother.

All I know is, I don't care. I want you to know:

I would love to have a three-way with you and your best friend."

Dumb Gym I Have Done Lately

My gym has been upgrading its equipment. In most cases, it's shiny new versions of the same stuff, just restyled and moved around (which is already enough to throw me off, since I'm cognitively locked-in and set in my routine).

The bench press, though, went from an older LifeFitness machine, to a new Cybex machine with no foot pedal plate to get the weight started. Plus, you can't do narrow grip presses now by putting a short bar across the handles. (Which was probably an accident waiting to happen, but still).

Oh, and according to the new machine, I lost 40 pounds off my bench press overnight.

In other news, the barefoot running/minimal footgear experiment is over. After two, count 'em, two two-mile sessions on the treadmill in a week, I was warming up for kickball last week and all of a sudden I could barely walk. It turned out I hadn't avoided the my knee pain -- I merely deferred it.

A few Advil and a few days later I'm okay. But I'll save the Aquasocks for actual aqua. Next up -- orthotic inserts.

After my Sunday workout (bonus workout, moved up early because they closed early for Easter), I saw that it was still so nice out that I went back to the house to get my skates. I got onto the W&OD trail just in time to hear the storm warnings, and after a few minutes headed west, decided that skating towards the lightning was a bad idea and turned back.

So it turned out to be about 20 minutes of high-intensity interval training, though to be honest, there wasn't much difference between my sprints and my recoveries.

The plan was to test out my feet in advance of this year's Baltimore Kinetic Sculpture Race, though because it's on the Saturday before Mothers Day (May 7), I don't think I'll be able to go this year, boo.

At least this means I don't have to rush to get a new brake and replacement wheels. The brakes are getting hard to find -- I think my skates will be old enough to vote in a year or two. I think I've gotten my money's worth from them.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Capital One, Suits and Firefly Space Suits

Cleaning out my blog topics slushpile (well, from the beginning of the month) -- in the Alec Baldwin Capital One "Match My Miles" TV commercial, they're on a movie backlot, with an alien wearing a space suit:

Note the funny-looking alien wearing the space suit. The one in the middle, not Alec Baldwin.

By appearances, it looks like someone dusted off the Firefly / Serenity space suits (note the armor plates on the arm).

Apparently the Browncoat crowd already knew this. They also already knew that the Firefly suits were recycled from the Kurt Russell movie Soldier.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Oh General Electric, You Have No Idea Who You're Messing With

I just bought 2 60-lumen, 2W LED candle bulbs, at... $11.99 a pop.

By way of comparison, a 6-pack of 40W bulbs (which are way, way brighter) was $4.89.

Even if the LED bulbs last the full 8 years (more on that in a sec), I'm pretty sure there's no way I'm saving anything unless the price of electricity goes way, way up.

It was an impulse, something in the way of an experiment in green buying (not to mention a mistake -- I thought they were CFLs, not LEDs)

Now, the silly thing is not that the bulbs are guaranteed for four years (at four hours per day), but their warranty claims process is this:

"If this bulb does not last 4 years, return UPC and register receipt along with your name and address to GE Consumer & Industrial, Product Service Dept..."

Leave aside the fact that most receipts these days are printed on thermal paper, which isn't going to last anywhere near that long (not without some CSI-style *ZOOM-ENHANCE* shenanigans)... I mean, what kind of hoarder would keep a receipt and UPC for four years?

Oh, GE, you have no idea who you're messing with.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Too Tired to Work, Too Keyed Up to Sleep

I can't sleep right now.

Part of it because I am only now recognizing the magnitude of an error I made about six months ago, which has been causing a lot of angst and heartache recently, and is simultaneously giving me a numb, sick feeling while making me want to tear my hair out while I tear ass screaming down the street.

The other reason is because I ran two miles today.

I'm only going to talk about the second reason.

For the longest time, I've been unable to run distances greater than a mile. At almost exactly the one mile mark, the outside back edges of my knees start hurting, and going much further than that just hurts too much.

It's odd, since I can go 20 minutes on the jump rope with no problem (well, back when I could go 20 minutes on the jump rope), which you would think would be harder on the joints. (Low, fast jumps and landing on the toes seems to be the key.)

I also have some orthotic inserts, but I never tried them.

This time around, I finally decided to try some barefoot running techniques. I picked up a pair of $10 Body Glove Aqua Socks, took out the insoles, and tried them out on the treadmill today.

I tried landing mostly on my toes, and yet again, at around the mile mark, I started getting knee pain. So I changed my stride, trying to use more of the front of my foot with only a light heel strike, and that seemed to help.

I was able to get through 2 miles without getting winded (maybe all those Tabata intervals really are helping my V02 max). There were twinges of knee pain in various spots, so I'm still feeling my way around. Also, I'm pretty sure I have a few blisters now, too.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Dumb Things I Learned Today

* A nine-year-old girl who weighs 88 pounds can squat more than I can (187 pounds).

* That. I. Did. Not. Have. A. Chance. And that any random asshole on the street or in a bar would have had a better chance.

* That in 15 years (no, let's make that 25 years), I have not learned a goddamn thing.

* Rage feels good. Especially a rolling, roiling, righteous rage. It's much better than mere seething resentment.

* The assholes were right. About everything: Ready, fire, aim. Lie your ass off. Have a hard heart. Play the numbers game. Quantity is better than quality.

* That I need to buy a heavy bag, because I keep getting tired before I can get all my mad out.