29 September 2014

Kinect + Sand + Marines = WOW!

When military guys talk about "playing in the sandbox" they sometimes mean it literally...

Video game technology has aided researchers in creating realistic 3-D battlespace maps using a simple sand box.

Called the Augmented Reality Sand Table, the concept is under development by the Army Research Laboratory and on display at this year’s Modern Day Marine on Marine Corps Base Quantico. The set-up is simple: a small sand box is rigged with a Microsoft Kinect video game motion sensor and an off-the-shelf projector. Using existing software, the sensor can detect features in the sand and project a realistic topographical map that corresponds to the layout — one that can change at a moment’s notice when observers move the sand around in the box.

and the inevitable demo video...

12 September 2014

Anniversary: One of 9-11's Most Stunning Moments

One of the most stunning achievements of 9-11 was how fast the air traffic control system put everyone on the ground. The "before" picture is around 0930 or so, with about 10,000 planes in the air nationwide. 60 minutes later, there were about 150 (the "after" picture), and most of them were circling runways waiting for other planes to clear so they could land.

11 September 2014

Anniversary 9/11

This op-ed originally ran in The State newspaper in Columbia, SC on 9/17/03.

Watching and listening to the media coverage of September 11th is pretty painful for me, but probably not for the reason you're thinking. It's a reminder of a world-changing event that causes the nation to pause and reflect on our burdens and sacrifices. As for myself? I just get mad, and I'll tell you why.
A random sampling of what was on the morning TV shows on the 11th. NBC and ABC remembering their own broadcasts of the footage as events unfolded in New York, interspersed with shots of the children at Ground Zero. CNN covering the same Ground Zero, with less discussion of what they were doing that day. MSNBC had Imus talking about 9-11 with Tom Brokaw, and Fox News had their talking heads going over the sacrifices of New York and the heroism of Todd Beamer. Local news radio observed the moment of silence at 8:46, when the plane hit the first tower; they also observed a moment for the second plane.
What didn't you hear? What didn't you see? What was never mentioned?
That's right. The Pentagon. No discussion of the sailors, soldiers, airmen, and marines who lost their lives at the Pentagon. None, zip, zero, zilch.
I should expect this, though. It's been going on since September 11. Every mention of terrorism in the media today starts with Oklahoma City, and might mention the USS Cole and the embassies in Africa, on their way to talking about "Ground Zero" and the "World Trade Center Attacks." Even the vocabulary with which we discuss 9-11 is colored by our genuflections toward New York. Todd Beamer's name is nationally known because he led the charge to the cockpit on the fourth plane. What do we call the attack on the Pentagon? Who were the heroes of Washington, DC?
America has turned a blind eye toward the victims of terrorism not associated with New York City and Oklahoma City. Is there an annual memorial for the marines who died in Beirut? What about the Achillie Lauro hijacking? The TWA flight where a Navy SEAL's body was unceremoniously dumped on the tarmac in the Middle East? The Rome and Vienna Christmas airport massacres? The Berlin nightclub bombing? The bombing of the military exchange in Frankfurt? Lockerbie, Scotland?
We don't discuss the tragic American victims of terror that didn't happen on our own soil.  It's almost as if they aren't worthy of recognition, or memorialization because their deaths happened over there. The worst ones are the military victims, especially the victims of the Pentagon on 9-11. The attitude seems to be "they are the military, that's their job." As if they signed up to walk around with targets on their backs.
When baseball resumed play in 2001, John Franco led the New York Mets onto the field with an "FDNY" cap on; the entire team wore either "FDNY" or "NYPD" caps. Who took the field wearing military headgear? Who made a public, televised statement of support for the families of the dead at the Pentagon?
September 11 is frustrating and tragic for everyone. But it is especially frustrating and tragic when 25% of the attack is dismissed by the coverage, the memorials, the general discourse, for reasons unknown, but seemingly related to the career choices of the victim.

05 September 2014

New World Record for Longest Sniper Kill

There's been a new world record set for the longest sniper kill, in Afghanistan

According to a report in the Telegraph newspaper there has been a new record set for the longest kill shot in Afghanistan.

GPS aids supposedly "measured the distance the bullet traveled at 2815 meters", beating the previous record of 2475 meters for a confirmed kill.

The shot was taken by a commando sniper team in Helmand province, Afghanistan.

“Through binoculars at a distance invisible to the naked eye they spotted a group of Taliban. The soldiers having means of identifying targets went through a process of obtaining verification and permission to engage. Two marksmen using Barrett M82A1 50 caliber rifles simultaneously fired. The bullets were six seconds in the air. One killed the Taliban commander. It is not known for certain which sniper fired the fatal shot. While there have been no triumphant press releases, in the tight global Special Forces sniper community the shot is much discussed, because it seems certain to be a world record”

Previous record was discussed here

03 September 2014

Ukraine 9/2: We've Seen This Movie Before

The Russians are following a familiar 'playbook'. And why not - it works!

Last weekend, for the first time, President Vladimir Putin raised the possibility of "statehood" for eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian rebels are fighting against government forces.

While the Kremlin said Putin's comments were misinterpreted, "the choice of words were not by chance," said Fyodor Lukyanov, chief editor of Russia in Global Affairs.

Russia had previously only called for the region -- where Russian-speakers predominate -- to have more authority in a federal system.

Even that was a non-starter, but now that the rebels are pushing Ukrainian forces back, Moscow "is acting in a different manner," said Lukyanov.

Signs have multiplied in the past week that Russian forces are directly involved in the conflict, helping rebel forces stage a rapid counter-offensive that has thrown back government troops.

NATO says Russia has over a 1,000 soldiers deployed in Ukraine, a charge Moscow denies despite reports of secret funerals near military bases and wounded clogging up hospitals.

"Russia is saying to Kiev: 'We proposed a deal (on federalisation) and you didn't want it. Now, the offer has changed," said Lukyanov.

The offer is a familiar one.

In a bid to support Rusisan-speakers and maintain its influence in the region during the 1990s Moscow supported separatist movements in the Transdniestr region of Moldova and the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Russia even stationed peacekeepers or troops in those areas which had unilaterally declared independence, and briefly fought a war with Georgia in 2008 after Tbilisi sent its soldiers into South Ossetia.