Tag Archives: privacy

Identify Russian Spies Using Functional MRI (fMRI)

3 Oct

I came across a great prepper blog over at thoughtfullyprepping.wordpress.com. He wrote an interesting post
I wanted to comment on. If you lock your keys in your vehicle, one technique to open the door is to use a rubber or wooden wedge to open the top of the door just enough so that you can use a long rod or metal strip to manipulate the lock mechanism from inside.

This prepper came upon a police officer struggling to help a citizen open her car door. The prepper offered to help. The prepper dug out his tools and quickly opened the car door, using this method.

Instead of a nice “Thanks for your help,” the officer asked to look inside the prepper’s car, because it “Seems you have some interesting equipment inside your car.” This is one of those gulp and sweat moments where you realize you’re being looked at with suspicion even though you’re innocent.

I somewhat disagree with the prepper’s conclusion though. He said, “Never help the police.” That goes too far. When much younger a police officer saved my life, so maybe I’m biased, but I believe we should do what we can to help people and prevent crime. If I could help an officer, I would. It might be unexciting, but the best way most of us can help the police in emergencies is just being respectful and following their instructions. That said, as preppers, we don’t want to show off skills and equipment that most citizens can’t understand our motivation for knowing/having.

Unless you’re a professional locksmith, lock picking and other techniques to open doors is something most people associate with criminal skills. If it’s not known you work in a field where you need to know this stuff, you’ll be looked at suspiciously.

This applies to coworkers, neighbors, and many friends. If you see a neighbor struggling to get back into her house after locking herself out, your first thought might be that you can help. Maybe even that you’d look cool, opening a door in ten seconds. But after the thanks wears off, the person wonders: “Why the hell does he know that?” And, if there’s a burglary in the area and the person is talking with police, they might just mention that their neighbor once opened a door easily with a pick. You’re suspect, by what you know.

How do you explain? Ah, when younger I was big into survival and, ah, I got this catalog from Paladin Press and, ah, they had books on lock picking and, ah, I thought it would be cool to learn, and, ah,…ah…and that’s how I know.

The biggest thing is not to want to be a show off or to help others without thinking about the future consequences. People jump to conclusions. People jump to wrong conclusions.

Today’s scientific breakthroughs are amazing. In the future, an officer might be able to say: “Sir, we have probable cause. We’re going to scan your brain. Just watch this screen.” Even if you keep your mouth shut, your brain can give away your knowledge. We are quickly approaching the last frontier of privacy, the ability of the government to extract what you know/think directly from your brain.

I thought of this reading an article about using functional MRI (fMRI) to look at the brains of dancers as they watched other performers. The brains of experts differs from the brains of non-experts. Experts see things differently, and it shows in their brains.

In the study, ballet dancers and dancers in Brazilian Capoeira watched other dancers. When ballet dancers watched other ballet dancers perform, the mirror neurons of their brain fired. This was observable using fMRI. Mirror neurons didn’t fire when they watched dancers in other styles. The mirror neurons of Capoeira dancers only fired when they watched other Capoeira dancers.

An expert in a style of dance or a martial art watching a performance sees it fundamentally differently from someone who hasn’t physically participated in the style. This has implications for understanding the power of visualization in athletic performance. Watching a skill or visualizing it activates the same areas of the brain that actually perform the skill.

I read somewhere that KGB agents all learn what we know in America as a Cossack dance. I don’t know if this is true or not, but if it is, observing the brain of a KGB agent watching a Cossack dance might give us a clue as to his identity! There would be false positives, obviously.

A conspiracy buff could imagine a future where we’re scanned for “forbidden” knowledge.

As preppers, we know we should test our preps. Many of us have copies of important records. But how well do our copies really work?

We’ll file this one under “Firefighers are awesome too

America’s Aging infrastructure. As we get older our pipes leak.

101 Basic Homesteading Skills

NSA wants to know who you know. I wrote about why.

For those who like brain training, this site
( http://brainworkshop.sourceforge.net/ ) has a boring game called N-back. Apparently, some studies have found N-back training, which is like mental juggling, you have to remember multiple things at once, helps boost short-term memory and fluid intelligence. I tried it and it just really stressed me out.

There were a couple of great posts over at apartmentprepper.com

The sad lesson here is: Don’t be poor, unemployed, or down on your luck or you’ll be *#(@@3!!:(. Credit card debt is a killer, but too many Americans aren’t wasting their money: they’re buying food and medicine on their charge cards. Then they pay high interest rates. Unless good paying jobs come back, this is the unfortunate future for many Americans. Boosting income is the only solution.

The newest viral Youtube video shows a family being harassed by a group of bikers. They’re chased on the freeway.

The driver clearly felt fear for his life and he sped away, running down one of the bikers. He was pulled from his car and assaulted when he turned off the freeway and was hemmed in by traffic. Are there any lessons from this? What’s your thoughts on it?

Your Mail Photographed By The Government

7 Jul

We now know the government is collecting metadata on all phone calls and Internet traffic inside America. They’re photographing the outsides of all our snail mail too so they can create a complete map of everybody we know.

That contribution you mailed to the NRA, that book you ordered from Paladin Press, and the letter you sent to your daughter in college, all logged for posterity. Over 160 billion pieces of mail a year are photographed.

Here’s a small sample of what the government knows about you:

1. Your subscriptions –membership in NRA

2. All your pen pals–family, friends

3. Your doctor and HMO

4. All your bills.. your dentist, your newspapers, your banks, your subscriptions (again).

5. Your outgoing letters (to everybody).

6. The companies you do business with–including preparedness companies that send you catalogs.

7. All political organizations you’re a member of that send you direct mail.

8. Your church and religious affiliations.

9. All organizations you write checks to or contribute to through the mail.

9. Whether or not you remembered to send your mother-in-law a birthday card!

No doubt this data is read by OCR, so it means it can all be put in a searchable database. Using your church as an example, it would be easy to compile a list of all members of that church, by searching all correspondence with the church.


Here’s a nice progression tutorial about doing a one-handed pushup.

There’s a great article over at TraceMyPreps about not having full access to your money.

Hobby welding a small frog, too cute.


Reading is good for your brain.

End Of Privacy In America II (Opinion)

10 Jun

A few days after the news the NSA is tracking phone caller “meta data” throughout America, new reports prove the government is busy at work tracking our online associations too.

Sites included for eves-dropping include Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL (are they still around?), Skype, YouTube, and Apple. To summarize: Pretty much everything you do online is being monitored by the American government. The records will remain, indefinitely.

A whole parade of politicians and bureaucrats are endorsing the practice as no big whoop:

It’s called protecting America,” said Senator Dianne Feinstein.

“The unauthorized disclosure of information about this important and entirely legal program is reprehensible and risks important protections for the security of Americans.”

“Information collected under this program is among the most important and valuable foreign intelligence information we collect, and is used to protect our nation from a wide variety of threats.” Director of National Intelligence

We are assured this information won’t be misused: Trust us, we’re told. The whistleblower who released this information has come forward. He didn’t feel Americans knew the extent to which they were monitored.

Whistleblowers play a key role in exposing government wrongdoing. They expose corruption and misdeeds. Without honest people in government and business, more stuff sneaks under the radar.

What if a special interest inside a country wants to start a war that isn’t in the best interests of its citizens but only serves the agenda of some special interest? How do you do this?

The ploy is well known: You fabricate intelligence and leak it to friendly newspapers. The fabricated intelligence, provocatively reported, proves the country to be attacked is an immediate threat to your own country. The people become outraged, fearful, and they follow the script. Yes, we must attack!

What if somebody inside the intelligence agency knows the truth? What should they do? Should they let thousands of Americans die needlessly by keeping quiet or destroy their own career and life by exposing the truth? It takes a tremendous amount of courage to step outside of the machine and become a whistleblower.

Whistleblowers are a cog in the machine. If an intelligence agency can ferret out all whistleblowers and those who object to their agenda, they can operate in secrecy and with impunity behind the scenes manipulating a population.

Destroying this level of protection is a key goal for certain groups. In my humble opinion, total information awareness, PRISM, the “Big Brother” database, or whatever you want to call the newest program is all about snuffing out whistleblowers.

Here’s how it works: Something the government shouldn’t be doing suddenly appears on page one of the Washington Post. How could the “Big Brother” database be used? The reporter’s phone numbers are searched. All calls the reporter ever made are examined. All incoming calls to him are looked at.

If the whistleblower made the error of using his home or cell phone, he’s instantly exposed. If he made the error of using his credit card to purchase a prepaid cell phone, he’s exposed too. The government plans to track our credit card purchases, if they don’t already do so.

In the future, when databases get larger, even the cell phone you carry and don’t use could be used to track you. Even if you used a pay phone, you’d be exposed, if you carried your cell phone. The ping data from your carried phone could be used to find out who made the call. Lacking that, surveillance video around the pay phone, whose number was recorded, would trap the prey. Hey, whatever happened to all the pay phones?

Such a database could be used to pressure reporters by pressuring associates. The phone for the reporter’s boss is searched and the associated number of a hooker appears. It’s suggested the boss tells the reporter to kill further reporting of this topic or his wife will be angry. Toss in a possible IRS audit for extra emphasis. The reporter is fired. He never knows why.

Of course, most people haven’t worked for the CIA and don’t have inside information. Most of us aren’t reporters, exposing corruption and wrongdoing. Most of us have nothing to fear by the politician-approved databases. That’s what we’re told.

To show how harmless this information is, the politicians supporting this data collection scheme should make their personal phone records public. Every outgoing call and incoming call made, with the time of the call, and location data, should be released.

If a lobbyist calls Senator Dianne Feinstein on her private cell phone and they talk for half an hour, shouldn’t Americans know this? The senators would never vote for that! Public officials should have a much higher level of disclosure than the average American. If they have all our data, it’s only fair we have theirs.

My Post: The End of Privacy In America

Commentary About Boston Marathon Bombing, Terrorism, Privacy, & Big Brother

23 Apr

After the attack at the Boston Marathon, I was going to write a bit about what you, as an individual, can do to help prevent terrorist attacks. Alert people notice things that are out of place. Unattended packages. Suspicious behavior. As I read about the bombing, a citizen made a remark that he’d be willing to submit to a “cavity search” today to increase security. Me? Not so much.

No government can keep its citizens safe all the time. Too often throughout history, governments have shown no regard for the well being of their citizens. Because of this, citizens should be wary of giving up some of their rights to be better “protected.” Rights, once lost, are difficult to regain. There can always be another threat to demand more right’s sacrifices.

After the attack, the FBI and others mobilized to track down the culprits of the attack. You don’t need to be a security expert to immediately realize some of the basic steps they’d take. Start with the area of the bombing, work your way out, and seek out all surveillance video captured of the area. Ask citizens to inspect any videos or pictures they took for clues. If the terrorist keeps to the cities, it’s quite possible they’ll be able to construct a video trail of him right to his home!

What’s amazing today is how surveilled the typical urban dweller is. What’s downright mind blowing is how powerful computers allow this data to be collected, filtered, and analyzed.

One company providing this service to the FBI and local law enforcement agencies is Palantir Technologies, a company partially funded by the CIA’s In Q Tel. In Q Tel helped bring us Google Earth. Google Earth and Bing allowed TV reporters to show the house where the terrorist suspect had taken refuge under a boat tarp.

Privacy advocates worry about companies like Palantir, because “…the FBI can now instantly compile thorough dossiers on U.S. citizens, tying together surveillance video outside a drugstore with credit-card transactions, cell-phone call records, e-mails, airplane travel records, and Web search information.”

These private companies aren’t subject to the same accountability rules that the government is. The private companies aren’t subject to the same freedom of information requests. As citizens, we simply don’t know what they’re up to or what information they’re collecting about Americans.

We don’t know to what extent these companies will go to silence legitimate freedom of expression, protest, dissent, or whistle blowing. We don’t know if ordinary peaceful citizens could be labeled “terrorists.”

Even if we fully trust the American government, these private companies can profit by selling this technology to foreign powers, like Russia, which have shown little regard for the rights of its citizens. How will this technology be used in the future?

To eavesdrop on overseas conversations, the NSA is building a data center that can store zettabytes of data.

A good essay about privacy and video cameras everywhere.

A good article about apartment hardening.

Two interesting gadgets over at TNGun.com. One is a commercial portable distiller which doesn’t require electricity, which can be used for desalination.
The other is a homemade PVC loom.

For exercise buffs, PBS had an interesting program “The Truth About Exercise” which you can watch here. It has a good discussion of how genetics relates to the ability to build cardio endurance and VO2 max. Regardless of how much they train, genetic non-responders won’t show athletic improvement with exercise. It talks about high intensity interval training.