Micro Air Vehicles (And You Thought The Drone Issue Was Bad Now)

You know those things that make the little hairs on the back of your neck stand up? After reading this story from the Mail Online, this is now one of those things for me. The current situation with unmanned drones is bad enough, with some municipalities looking to get authorization to use them (ostensibly for surveillance), while law makers are scrambling to introduce legislation to ban or limit their use. Now the Air Force has released a promotional video for their Micro Air Vehicle or MAV program.

At first glance, one might think it is cool, James Bond stuff: swarms of insect-like drones sneaking up on the bad guys, pigeon-like drones sitting on power lines (and charging up) while transmitting images of another bad guy. Heck, these things can even carry explosive or chemical payloads for disabling a target – the video shows a bug-sized drone flying up behind a sniper, hovering at the back of his neck and Boom! goes the bad guy.

However (and I’m not generally prone to conspiracy theories), given the way military technology finds its way into civilian circles, it’s not hard to see how these things could be used on American citizens. Given Obama’s affinity for drones, and his comfort with killing American citizens without due process, it becomes downright frightening. However, according to the Mail article:

The military has already produced a drone  patterned after a hawk moth that can flap its wings 30 times a second. However,  the activity exhausts the drone’s tiny battery in just a few minutes, according  to National Geographic.

Apparently, it will take 3-4 more years for battery technology to advance enough for these flapping-wing drones to have enough power to make it useful. Hopefully, that will buy us enough time to get someone who actually cares about the US and the rights of its citizens in the White House.

Take a look at the video below and let me know what you think:

Is the University of Colorado Springs’s Advice Unique?

The University of Colorado Springs made headlines recently with it’s recommendations for women student’s to avoid sexual assault:

1. Be realistic about your ability to protect yourself.

2. Your instinct may be to scream, go ahead!  It may startle your attacker and give you an opportunity to run away.

3. Kick off your shoes if you have time and can’t run in them.

4. Don’t take time to look back; just get away.

5. If your life is in danger, passive resistance may be your best defense.

6. Tell your attacker that you have a disease or are menstruating.

7. Vomiting or urinating may also convince the attacker to leave you alone.

8. Yelling, hitting or biting may give you a chance to escape, do it!

9. Understand that some actions on your part might lead to more harm.

10. Remember, every emergency situation is different.  Only you can decide which action is most appropriate.

Of course, tips 6 and 7 got the most attention, especially in light of comments Colorado State Representatives Ulaberri and Salazar recently made about alternatives to defending oneself with a gun. Therefore, I decided to investigate whether these recommendations were unique, or if other universities made the same recommendations to their women students.

The following therefore started out as an alphabetical look at universities in each of the states* to see what their recommendations were, and whether or not they permitted concealed carry on campus:

-University of Alabama (no carry – legal weapons must be stored by campus police)

Advice:

While it is never your fault if you are assaulted, there are measures you can take to decrease your chances of becoming a victim:

• Never accept a date from someone you don’t know, especially one that would involve being alone with the person.
• Avoid going to unfamiliar surroundings with someone you don’t know very well.

Never be overconfident when it comes to your safety. Removing the opportunity for sexual assault is a big part of protecting yourself. Staying sober is one of your best defenses.

-University of Alaska – Anchorage (no carry – legal weapons must be stored in campus gun safe or locked vehicle)

Advice:

1.     Check out your date with friends- If your friends don’t like your date or if a poor reputation precedes him or her, chances are that a secluded encounter may end badly. Insist on meeting at a crowded spot or with a group of friends.

2.     Be prepared to find your own transportation home- Make sure your cell phone is fully charged before going out. Check your cell phone periodically for a signal. Make sure you take enough money for a taxi. Or take your own vehicle and meet your date at the planned location.

3.     Clearly state your limits beforehand- Let your date know your limits and intentions early on. Open discussions by both parties can often times reduce the stress of a first date and make it more relaxed and fun.

4.     Don’t get drunk or stoned-Alcohol and drugs decrease your inhibitions and make you vulnerable to be taken advantage of. Highly intoxicated females have occasionally become easy victims of preplanned gang rapes by male party throwers.

5.     Trust your instincts- If you think something is wrong or you feel uneasy – end the date. You can always explore the reasons for the feeling later in a safe place. Don’t assume that you are wrong because there is no obvious evidence that this person is a creep.

6.     Fight or Flight? The decision to fight your attacker is strictly a personal one. A lot of people have been successful in fighting armed and dangerous attackers – but most of the time these confrontations end tragically. Even if you do decide to fight – your primary goal is escape. The key is survival.

7.     Call the police-  Many rapes go unreported. Survivors often feel that their peers will blame them, not believe them, or their social status will be affected. Others do not want their attacker (former friend) to get in trouble or they do not want their parents knowing they are an assault survivor. All of the reasons for not reporting have merit and validity but all Survivors must also be aware that a criminal who gets away with a crime once will very likely repeat the same crime. A stand must be taken by someone in order for this sexual predator to be stopped.

-University of Arizona (no carry – legal weapons may be stored in a locked vehicle if not visible from outside)

Advice:

WHEN GOING OUT, let your roommate, a friend, or a staff member know where you are going, with whom, and when you expect to return. If you choose to stay out later, call that person and let him/her know.

AT NIGHT, travel in well lighted areas. Avoid taking shortcuts through dark or deserted areas. UTILIZE SERVICES WHICH PROVIDE ADDED SAFETY. This is a safe and free way to travel between UA buildings and parking lots during the evening hours. The ASUA Safe Ride telephone number is 520-621-SAFE (7233). Parking & Transportation Services Night Cat at 520-626-PARK (7275).

WALK FACING TRAFFIC whenever possible. This increases awareness of potential traffic hazards and also reduces the possibility of being followed by someone in a vehicle. Avoid walking by the curb or near buildings or shrubbery. Walk in the middle of the sidewalk with confidence.

IF YOU FEEL THREATENED or suspect that you are being followed, walk toward lighted areas where there are people. Look over your shoulder frequently – this lets the follower know that you are aware of both his/her presence and your surroundings.

EMERGENCY BLUE LIGHT PHONES give you direct access to UAPD. Blue lights mark their locations. Use these telephones to contact the police department for any reason. A police officer will respond to all blue light phone calls whether the caller was able to say anything or not.

(Note – the university also distributes whistles)

-University of Arkansas (no carry – weapons prohibited unless supervised by ROTC)

Advice:

  • If you absolutely have to walk alone, walk on well lighted walkways and plan your route ahead of time. Avoid places where attackers might hide (spaces between parked cars, overgrown shrubs, dark passageways) and area where you might get cornered. Remember, it is best to walk facing traffic.
  • If anyone follows you, look confident and let them know you are aware of their presence. Don’t be polite or engage in conversation.
  • If they continue to follow you, cross the street and/or change directions.
  • If this doesn’t work, walk toward other people or occupied buildings and stay away from places where you might get cornered.
  • If someone in a car follows you and is persistent or becomes obscene, write down the license number and report it to the University Police as soon as possible.
  • Ask for assistance from the University Police Department if you are frightened or concerned.

(Note – the university offers a Rape Aggression Defense class)

*At this point, you get the idea. The recommendations provided by all of these universities are similar, and generic in helping to avoid situations that may lead to personal danger. I see no point in running down the same list over and over for universities in all 50 states. Therefore, I decided to skip to a school that is known to allow concealed carry on campus to see if there was a difference:

-University of Utah (concealed carry allowed – subject to provisions of state law)

Advice:

Sexual assault in any form, including acquaintance rape, violates Utah law and will not be tolerated.

The University of Utah has established:

Procedures to respond to violations of these laws,

Programs aimed at the prevention of such conduct, and

Medical and counseling resources to help assault victims.

Particularly interesting to note is that the one university above that allows concealed carry on campus (in accordance with state concealed carry laws) did not feel the need to provide the same generic list of suggestions as the schools that do not permit guns on campus.

Now while the list of recommendations provided by the schools listed above are useful, common sense suggestions to avoid situations that may lead to situations were a personal assault could happen, I don’t think that anyone would argue that having a gun to protect oneself would be desirable to vomiting on a would-be rapist. One would only hope that the rest of the state university systems will eventually come around.

For a comprehensive list of schools that allowed concealed carry on campus, you can visit the interactive map at www.armedcampuses.org. Keep in mind, however, that this is a site devoted to keeping guns off college campuses, so read with caution. I find, however, that opposition sites can sometimes have the most comprehensive data available (due to their fervent opposition).

A Quick Note

As you may (or may not) have noticed, it’s been a while since my last post. That was partly by design, and partly due to circumstance. I originally decided to take a little time off to enjoy the Ravens’ playoff run*, and ultimate Super Bowl victory (chew on that, haters!). However, as it often does, life got in the way: I had two cars that needed to be placed in the shop, I ended up with a week long case of the flu (the one time I put off getting my flu shot), and the wind and rain knocked a branch into our satellite dish, kicking me offline for a few days. However, now that I’m over the flu, internet restored, cars fixed and Lombardi in (figurative) hand, I’ll be back to my regular posting schedule. Thanks for your patience and understanding.

*I was born and raised in and around Baltimore, and grew up with the Colts; my whole family were die-hard fans and season ticket holders (see the movie Diner). I even had a neighbor growing up who was the Head Trainer for the Colts before they were moved. Some of my best childhood memories were going to games at old Memorial Stadium. I was living in New Orleans when the Ravens were established, but my die-hard love of my hometown team was quickly revived and lives on, even though I’m now in Cowboys country.

The Simple Things

Last night while I was going through the web, trying to decide which outrageous outrage generated by D.C. I would blog about, one of my sons came up to me “I did it! I did it! Daddy, I did it, c’mon!” You see, he got a Spiderman toy for Christmas: it has a zip-line with two suction cups, and Spidey slides back and forth on the line. My twins are three years old, so they have trouble getting the cups to stick. After showing them how to do it, followed by a lot of frustration on their part, I was encouraging them to keep trying to do it on their own, so they could know that perseverance and determination pays off. While I was surfing, my oldest (by a minute) had moved the new art easel over to a wall and had gotten the suction cups to stick, all without me knowing.

The pure joy of accomplishment on his face, along with his excitement to show me his triumph just melted my heart. I put the laptop away, and spend the rest of the night playing Spiderman, transformers, knights, and whatever toy they could think of next.

You see, I think sometimes we get so caught up in our own worlds (if you’re a political junkie like me it’s about figuring out what’s going in in D.C., how it’s going to screw us, why the GOP seems so impotent, etc.), that we can forget about the little things right in front of us that bring us the most joy (or should, at least). That’s why I took the night off from politics, and I plan to spend today watching playoff football – hopefully with my boys, they’re fledgling Ravens fans, but still find Mickey Mouse more interesting than Ray Rice – eating some chili, and just spending some time with the family. While I’m still worried about the shenanigans along the Potomac, I’m going to enjoy putting it all aside for a few hours and enjoy simple things for a while.

Oh yeah, and GO RAVENS!

IMG_20120115_214532