Life Restored to Life

So, one day, I’m going to die. No big surprise in the statement, although there may be surprise in the event thereof. But I know that following my death, there will be a time of spirituality – literally – and then a restoration of life. In that restoration, good will be restored to good and evil will be restored to evil.

I know that I will have life restored to me. How I live in this life will determine what accompanies that restoration of life.

Another 17 Moments of Spring

“17 Moments of Spring” is very Russian. Very, very Russian. It was the most popular television serial since its release in 1973, and its broadcasts are typically associated with increased demands on power stations and severe drops in criminal activity. Everyone is glued to their televisions, fascinated by the KGB-produced spy thriller.

The main character, Maxim Isaev a.k.a. Max Otto von Stierlitz, is no James Bond. James Bond is far too jovial and carefree for the idealized KGB agent that Stierlitz exemplifies. The series focuses on minutiae, careful analysis of documents, meticulous interrogations, and has scenes where the main characters simply show facial reactions to replayed tapes of bugged meetings or where they exchange silent glances – one of those scenes goes on for six entire minutes. Americans would lose their mind with those kinds of demands on their attention spans. Russians can’t get enough of it.

This brings me to the events swirling around the Trump administration regarding members of his campaign making inappropriate contacts with Russians. One revelation has Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, working with Russian Ambassador to the USA, Sergey Kislyak, to create a back channel of communications to Moscow involving specialized Russian gear, designed to evade detection by US intelligence. Yet, the revelation came from Kislyak using a channel that US intelligence monitored. US Senator Lindsey Graham said that that doesn’t add up. Why would they go to all that effort to set up a back channel only to essentially announce it to US intelligence?

Watch “17 Moments of Spring”, Mr. Graham. In spite of numerous inaccuracies, it does nail down one key element – the mind of a Russian spy. It was, after all, produced by the KGB as a sort of “Top Gun”, entertainment designed to improve their image. Why would Kislyak do those things? To set a trap, of course.

Kislyak may even be reprimanded by his superiors, just to make things look even better, but it’s clear that they drew Kushner out, played him like the amateur he is, and then arranged for evidence of his being unfit to hold a security clearance to fall into the hands of US intelligence, thereby discrediting an advocate of neo-conservatism in Trump’s inner circle. The Russians are quite happy to have isolationist Steve Bannon whispering in Trump’s ear. That’s the guy that at least does not increase pressure on Russia, if not relieve it. Kushner, who the US media once seemed to look at as a moderating influence on Trump, was also more in alignment with neocons like Graham in keeping the USA involved on the global stage.

And now we see why Graham is scratching his head in public. He wants Kushner to stay close to Trump, so that he can keep Bannon at bay. But, leaked facts are facts… if Kushner has scored an own-goal with his zeal in setting up a back channel of communications with Russia during the transition period… he can’t have that security clearance… he can remain an advisor, sure, but he will have to read a lot of newspapers, because he won’t be getting any more security briefings.

When the USA meddled in Ukraine’s politics, it was obvious that the USA was toppling a pro-Russian leader and getting a pro-USA guy in there. It was so obvious, we even knew that Joe Biden’s son was on the board of directors of the fracking company that was about to set up operations in the Donbass region. Russia’s reaction was threefold: retake the Crimea and make it part of Russia; start a pro-Russian rump state in the Donbass, and; return the favor of election meddling to the USA.

Part of intelligence is the art of finding conaspirational individuals who will further some of your ends, even if they oppose your ultimate goal. In “17 Moments”, Stierlitz is able to play Martin Bormann against the influence of Heinrich Himmler. In real life, I’m sure Russian agents were able to influence men in the FBI and CIA to go down certain paths of action that served well their ends. That’s just what Russian agents do.

But this case with Trump is almost comical in its dimensions. It’s certainly a laughing-stock. And, sadly, jokes once used to mock the seriousness of the series and Stierlitz’ razor-thin escapes now fit perfectly on the Trump administration. I will close with one:

Donald Trump is meeting with his National Security Council. Sergey Kislyak enters the room with a cookie platter. Kislyak places the platter on the table, opens a safe, removes all the documents, waves bye-bye, then leaves.
Secretary of Defense shouts, “What the hell was that?”
Donald Trump says, “That was Sergey Kislyak, spying for the Russians again.”
Secretary of Defense: “Why didn’t you do anything about it?”
Trump: “I’ve tried in the past, but he always manages to wriggle out. Not worth the effort going after him… Must say, though, he did bring us all cookies…”

Thank You, Vitaliy Katsenelson

I’m thankful for people who take time to explain about something they have a passion for. Because of Vitaily Katsenelson, I have had a very capable helping hand guide me into classical music. He has excellent taste in his recommendations, and they serve as jumping-off points for further investigations. I share this link out of gratitude to his efforts and with a hope that others might enjoy them, as well. Vitaliy Katsenelson’s Classical Music Blog

Trump Confirms His Own Breach of Security

The story was earnest and hotly debated by partisans: The President of the United States, in discussion with Russian officials, revealed highly sensitive materials. Supporters of the president denied such things ever happened as opponents demanded answers.

Then, on Twitter, the president confirmed that he had revealed secrets to the Russians. He gave a reason that ostensibly justified the revelation in his view, but the kernel of the message was that, yes, Trump freely gave sensitive information to Russian officials.

This is disastrous. Not only did Trump speak freely about things best kept secret, he also allowed a Russian photographer into the Oval Office for an unrestrained photo shoot. What other pictures were taken in the Oval Office besides those of Trump and the Russian dignitaries? What documents would have been in view that the photographer would have recorded?

Back to the conversation: in US Army training films from World War Two, the message is emphatic – even if one reveals only bits and pieces of a fact, those bits and pieces are assembled with other bits and pieces to reveal a more complete picture. The training films illustrate this more complete picture with scenes of one’s brothers in arms getting slaughtered by the enemy and an officer delivering a post-mortem condemning those who talked.

Trump claims that he was being helpful and humanitarian. The training films talk about that: Name, rank, serial number, that’s all you tell them. Some observers speculate that Trump was bragging about what he knew. The training films talk about that, as well: Name, rank, serial number, that’s all you tell them. What about cooking up a story to deliberately mislead? The army’s advice on that is as simple as it is predictable: Name, rank, serial number, that’s all you tell them.

While it may not be illegal for a president to breach security, it certainly is unwise. It certainly also has consequences outside the legal system. Elements in what Trump revealed could indicate sources and methods used to acquire the information, even if Trump himself did not discus those things. Once the bits and pieces are combined, that more complete picture could have US intelligence assets picked up for questioning by enemies of the nation. It could have other partners in intelligence sharing hesitate and ask if what they share will eventually make it to the Russians by way of Trump. These consequences are serious.

Whatever his rationalization for revealing the information, Trump should not have revealed it. The Russians can help themselves with their own resources. Humanitarian concerns could be addressed in a host of other ways, without revealing sensitive information. Granted, there are certain topics that must be discussed in such meetings, but they must be discussed in a guarded and deliberate fashion, no matter how genial and cordial one’s discussion partners may be. For everything else, and I mean *everything* else, there’s only one answer and the US Army beat me to it: Name, rank, serial number, that’s all you tell them.

Shame on Mr. Trump. He can’t maintain proper security. How sad!

Governing the USA in 2017

Anyone governing the USA needs to take into account the fractured nature of the major parties. They are more like coalitions now than they have been in the past. To pass legislation in such circumstances, rather than make it into one big bill, break it out into many smaller bills and get a different consensus on each.

As they stand, the Republicans are not able to govern on their own, due to the internal breach in the party. They must find ways to include Democrats on each vote, or they risk filibusters in the Senate, or a broken House Republican Caucus that can’t send anything up to the Senate.

The Revolving Backdoor

“Hello, Moskva Cafe, Brooklyn.”

“Yes, I’m calling about the code installed on some of my devices. I think it’s Russian in origin. Anyway, it’s sending packets back to a device just outside a TOR exit node, so I’m pretty sure it’s doing something shady.”

“This is a cafe, sir, not a tech support line. You wanna order a blini or something?”

“Yeah, yeah, whatever. I Googled for ‘FSB Tech Support’ and got this phone number. I get the spying and all, but the code is messing with my production line. If you want to spy on me, fine, whatever, but I gotta ship product.”

The waiter on the phone for Moskva Cafe looked out at the half-dozen customers in the tiny eatery, part of the early lunch rush. Who did this caller think he was? “Look, if you want take out, gimme your order, otherwise get the hell off the line, this is a business, here!”

“Just a second.”

“Huh?”

“Гюльчатай, открой личико.”

The waiter was stunned. “Wow. Where did you learn that?”

“Googled for ‘Password to get through to FSB tech support’. That was the first hit.”

“Your pronunciation is very good.”

“Thanks, I took two years of Russian in college. Also, I saw that movie, that helped.”

“OK, let me transfer you, although I cannot confirm or deny that you will actually get tech support.”

The caller heard a few seconds of “До свиданья, лето” as hold music, enough to hear the immortal chorus as only Alla Pugacheva could deliver it, and then heard a click as the other party picked up the call.

“Cannot confirm or deny this English-language support for FSB electrokhacking of computer. Please to be stating your issue.”

“Hi, yes. Ahh… the port that the spying software is using for sending information back to headquarters or whatever is contending with the port we use for our app’s communication with the main licensing server and our production is halted because of that. Can you do something about this?”

“Cannot confirm or deny. What is company you are the working at which?”

“Egmont Veeblefetzer, Secaucus, New Jersey.”

“Cannot confirm or deny this will be moment taking as I checking the some things.” Pause, keyboard clicking sounds. “Mmmm…” More clicking sounds. “OK, what is port you possessing the problems for?”

“TCP 4555.”

“OK Joe…”

“How did you know my name?”

“Cannot confirm or deny, but come on, this FSB you are not being confirmed or denied about. Anyway, Joe, I’m not gonna confirm or deny that FSB using the TCP 4555 but you did not listen to this thing from me, you maybe want to call the Mossad tech support.”

“You sure? The code using 4555 had a lot of Russian stuff in it. I thought it was you guys.”

“Yeah, I not gonna confirm or deny we get that a lot. But this stuff in Russian, it every place. Guys use it and don’t license, you know? No confirm or deny that FSB have EULA these guys violate all the damn time. Maybe they all click OK and keep going like it all a big joke, hey let us blame it all on the Russian electrokhackers… to be making me the sick.”

“OK, whatever. You sure this is Mossad stuff, not FSB?”

“No confirm or deny that we not gonna to be able to support this issue.”

“All right. I’ll call back if they send me back here. You got their number?”

“Cannot confirm or deny you should call Mossad tech support at number for Lev’s Deli in South Amboy, New Jersey.”

“OK… thanks.”

“Oh, forget me to say, this conversation recorded.”

“For training purposes?”

“If you like to say that, sure. But conversation recorded. Goodbye.”

Joe hung up and Googled up the number of Lev’s Deli in South Amboy. He also searched for the password to get in to Mossad tech support. He called the deli.

“Lev’s deli, can I get a name for this order?”

“!איר זענט קלוג, קלוג. קלוג – אבער איר זענט נישט אַזוי קלוג”

“You callin’ me an idiot?”

“I want Mossad tech support, I got a sev one production issue because of your guys’ software!”

“What? You think every Kosher deli is a front for Mossad? You some kind of a nut?”

“Not every deli, just this one. FSB did not confirm or deny this number when I called them for support and they said it was you guys. Now get me tech support, I said the password!”

“Look at you, Mr. Smart-Smart-Smart! I should hang up on a nut like you! Drop dead, jerk!”

But the line did not go dead. Instead, Joe heard about a minute of Kaveret’s “Hamagafaim Shel Baruch”. Catchy tune, that. And then, “What is wanted?”

“This Mossad tech support?”

“How stupid it would be of me to say something like that! You’re an idiot to think anyone would answer the phone that way!”

Joe had had enough experience with Israeli developers, he was pretty sure this was Mossad tech support. “I got an issue with your stuff using port TCP 4555 to communicate back to base and it’s conflicting with my licensing server, my whole production line is down. This is Egmont Veeblefetzer in Secaucus, New Jersey.”

“What do I care about where you are? I’m such a moron, I care about such things? Listen, Joe, you can take your phone and shove it right up your -”

“Hey, you know my name. You gotta be Mossad.”

“You told me your name when you called.”

“No I didn’t. You also forgot to say this call was being recorded.”

A pause. “This call never happened, got it? How can there be a recording of a call that doesn’t happen?”

“Whatever. Can you use a different port, I’m losing money here!”

Another pause as Joe heard clicking sounds. “OK, listen good, moron, you never call us about this again! Like Mossad would be so stupid as to keep using TCP 4555 in their latest builds of their monitoring software! You think they would be idiot enough to not change the port after some other schmendrick like you complains of a similar issue, because there are other people in the world more on the ball than schlemiels like you, mister! They can actually spot a problem when it happens! Pfeh on you for thinking Mossad would be such a big gang of idiots!”

Again, Joe’s experience with developers in Israel helped him to process what he heard, and also to press on to resolution: “So you gonna give me the number of NSA support, or what?”

“What, you too much of a dope to Google it up yourself?”

“I’m a busy man, I would appreciate a little courtesy, here!”

“Courtesy? After you insult me with your questions?”

“Who am I to keep up with each build being used in stuff spying on me? I got enough, what with the Chinese, and the Russians, and the British, and the Germans, and my own country, for God’s sake! Now I need to do version control on Israeli stuff, as well? It’s not like you guys send out email alerts or anything! FSB looked at it, said it was a port you used, you say you used to use it -”

“I never said anything of the sort.”

“Whatever. So the NSA copied and pasted, what do I know? You give me a stoopid little phone number, I get off the phone and never bother you about this again!”

“You know in the time it took for you to rant like that, you could have looked it up.”

Dammit, he was right. Joe flushed, but also came down a little. “I’m sorry, I got pressures here. I’ll look it up myself.”

“Ahh, don’t bother. I got it here. 203-777-4647.”

“Hold on… 203?”

“203-777”

“777”

“4647”

“OK, thanks.”

“This call never happened, shalom.” Click.

Joe decided to look up the password to use for NSA support. Interesting choice…

He called the number and heard the soothing stylings of Pat Fleet, the voice of AT&T. He interrupted the time to say, “Can you bring me my chapstick?”

The soothing stylings of Pat Fleet, the voice of AT&T halted the time and temperature, paused, and said, “No, Napoleon.”

Joe said, “But my lips hurt real bad!”

Pat Fleet’s voice said, “Just borrow some from the school nurse. I know she has like five sticks in her drawer.”

And then Joe delivered the punchline, “I’m not gonna use hers, you sicko!”

Pat Fleet’s voice said, “Connecting you, one moment.”

Joe put up with about five minutes of hold music. The first track was the finale of the theme from “Hawaii 5-0”, kettle drums and all. The next song was, wait, really? The theme from “The Rockford Files”! Joe loved that show as a kid! Joe said to himself, “This is Jim Rockford, at the tone leave your name and message, I’ll get back to ya.” Sounded like they used the guitar solo from the second half of season 2 in the version for the hold music.

Next up was the theme from “Charlie’s Angels.” Wow. Way to take a guy back. The horns, strings, and wah-wah guitar lulled Joe into a fond haze so that he had no desire to berate anyone answering the phone, which event happened right as the theme ended.

“Thank you for calling NSA, how may I direct your call?”

Wait, what? Did Joe hear correctly? The operator came right out and said NSA? Stunned, Joe managed to say, “Uh, tech support?”

“One moment.”

Before Joe could utter another syllable, the violin surge at the start of the theme from “Dallas” let him know that he was back on hold. His head was bobbing from left to right with the tune when a woman spoke, saying, “NSA technical support, what can I help you with today?”

“OK, I gotta ask… how come you said this is NSA tech support?”

“Because we are NSA.”

“Really. You just come right out and say that?”

“Yes, NSA. National Security Appliances of New Haven, Connecticut.”

The last word was what threw Joe the most. “Wait, um, uh, I uh…”

The woman’s voice was reassuring. “What issue are you experiencing.”

“Well, um, I’ve got something affecting my production line. There’s some surveillance software running that locks TCP port 4555, which my production hardware uses to communicate with its licensing server.”

“OK, just a second… while that’s running, can you tell me what firm you are with?”

“Egmont Veeblefetzer.”

“Just a moment… um, I’m showing several…”

Joe had forgotten himself in the moment. “Sorry, it’s the one in Secaucus, New Jersey.”

“Got it, great. Thanks! OK, let me see… all right… ah-ha, here it is. Yes, I can see what the issue is. You’re going to need a new primary data logger for your air-to-air thermal sensors.”

Joe was puzzled. “Why? My issue is with the barcode licensing server.”

Again, the voice reassured. “I understand, but the contention is coming from the air-to-air logger and I’m afraid we can’t upgrade the firmware on it. You’ll need a direct replacement.”

“But… the logger is made by Lehigh Valley Thermal Instruments…”

“Don’t worry, we’ll ship over a 100% compatible replacement.”

Joe was losing some of his soothed composure. He rubbed his forehead as he asked, “I got a line down. How long is this replacement going to take to arrive?”

“The truck is already on its way, it should be there within two hours. And don’t worry, our techs will install it for you. We just ask that no one else be present on the shop floor as they do so.”

“What, for secrecy?”

Joe’s wisecrack was countered by the voice’s calmness. “No sir, for safety. Safety is very important here at NSA.”

“This replacement logger, is it supported by you guys?”

“It will be a LVTI logger, you’ll still call them for support, as normal.”

As normal. As if. Joe thought he’d press the issue. “Look, I’ve had a big runaround today with this issue. I had Russian-language code on my network, killing my traffic. It had some crazy IPv6 address on it, so I couldn’t tell where it came from, so I call the FSB. They said it was a Mossad thing so I call them. They said they don’t use that version anymore and that it was you guys. Next time some bigshot big brother program takes down my network, I want to know who to call directly for support so I can get back in business. Now, I get the Lehigh Valley guys will support the air-to-air thermal sensors and all the logging that goes with it. But who’s gonna support the backdoors that all you spooks use to keep tabs on little guys like me and my company? I’m at wit’s end with this thing.”

“If you would like, sir, I can forward you over to our complaints department.”

“Yes, I would like that.”

“One moment, and, before I transfer you, remember to clear the shop floor when they put in the new primary logger.”

“Clear the floor, got it.”

“OK, sir, one moment.”

Joe listened to the hold music and noticed it wasn’t a mix of theme songs from American television shows. It was upbeat, a march played by a brass band and… say, was that a men’s choir singing in… Chinese?

“61398部队!”

“Ummm, I was being transferred to NSA tech support complaints…”

“Sorry, misroute, please hold!”

Joe heard a series of staccato piano notes that became chords, then notes again, then chords, and then… about a minute in… a haunting melody, reminiscent of a windswept steppe, host to a man longing for an end to the war around him so that he might return home… Joe had never before heard the piece, but it moved him. He completely forgot his plight as he bonded with this imaginary other man’s suffering.

The last chord sounded and a voice said, “NSA complaints.” The accent was definitely Eastern European and… more than passingly familiar?

“Did I talk to you earlier today?”

“Cannot confirm or deny that you talking to me before now, Joe.”

Joe hung up and awaited delivery of the new primary logger.

Who Watches the Watchers?

Trump intends to hire thousands more Border Guards. Ostensibly, that can be a good thing. More jobs in distressed areas, things like that. But there’s a cloud for that silver lining: whenever the US Government has a mass hiring program, standards for hiring are lowered. Background checks and polygraph tests are skipped and we wind up hiring some bad hombres that later make headlines for use of excessive force, diverting evidence for their personal use, or, worst of all, be involved as inside men for organized criminal activities.

We’ve already got a big problem with cartel moles in the US Border Patrol. Hiring people to go to remote places like Presidio, Texas, where the nearest grocery store is about 90 minutes away, increases the chance that someone way out there, alone in the dark, will fall victim to a bullet or a bribe.

Some Congresspeople have said we could skip background checks by hiring former veterans, but that’s not such a cheerful idea when one realizes that already we have issues with former veterans getting hired by cartels to penetrate organizations that skip background checks for veterans.

So what good is a wall that’s manned by people that are paid to look the other way and to turn off the cameras when criminals want to cross it? At that point, it’s no longer a wall, no matter how high it may rise. It’s just a particularly nasty speedbump.

To say that we’ll deal with that via more stringent controls is dangerously naive. We’ve already got endemic corruption along the border that our current stringent controls were supposed to deal with. And shouldn’t the stringent controls be applied at the time of hire, not afterward? Remember, in this scenario, we got people to work in desolate regions of the US border precisely because we lowered standards. No lowered standards, no people to watch the wall, which potentially saves the cartels some money that would have otherwise been spent on bribes or ammo.

I’m not presenting a bleeding-heart, think of the children reason to not have a border wall because other people have put forward those stories and, frankly, folks most in favor of the wall don’t care for such stories. But I know that they do care about security and fiscal conservatism. To spend billions on a wall that produces a false sense of security is a massive fault against both such standards. That money can be better not spent and thereby not increase the deficit. Or, if the border is in dire need of reinforcement, then it is imperative to use funds to strengthen, not weaken, the Coast Guard, increase controls at the border and for heaven’s sake, repair relations with Mexico, which is only fighting the War on Drugs – La Guerra Contra Narcotrafico – as a favor to a nation it considers to be its friend. If Mexico is not our friend, then it does nothing to stop the flow of criminal activity and those trucks roll north, past bribed guards who see nothing, nothing at all.

And before you suggest something like legalizing heroin to take away those profits from criminals, ask yourself, “If I was a criminal and couldn’t make money smuggling heroin, what else could I profit from smuggling into the USA?” That’s the thing that will fill the trucks instead of what you just legalized.

In my view, the solution along the border has more to do with improving the way we handle immigration and drug addiction. These are tough problems and saying that building a wall will solve them is only a fool’s escape from realities. Building that wall is a form of giving up, like saying, “There’s a wall and, therefore, no problem.” But, as I’ve illustrated above, this border thing is so complicated that the wall soon becomes part of the problem.

So, who exactly pays the ultimate price of this wall?

Rob Peter’s Coast Guard to Pay for Paul’s Wall

Yes, I know Trump said he’d get Mexico to pay for “The Wall.” I’ll believe that when the Treasury of Mexico cuts the check. In the meantime, Trump’s people are proposing moving some budgets around to pay for that big, useless wall. One such proposal is to cut the Coast Guard budget by 14%. Link: The Independent

The Coast Guard is our floating wall, some of the most involved people in the security of America’s borders. In fact, quite a lot of the USA borders a major body of water. And if there’s a big wall and a closed border crossing at Brownsville, then that smuggler of drugs and/or people is going to load everything and everybody on a boat and sail it past an overworked, understaffed Coast Guard. That’s just stupid, cutting the Coast Guard budget to pay for a wall that will block the places where most of the illegal traffic isn’t going.

Remember my example? I stipulated that the border crossing was actually closed. That’s not likely to happen. It’s those border crossings where most of the trucks roll across with their loads, legitimate and otherwise. If one wants to stop the otherwise stuff, then there has to be better searching and control on those crossings. Next up is the sea traffic, which is where our Coast Guard comes in.

Face it, some of the easiest ways to move bulk goods involve trucks and boats, not mule trains crossing the Sonoran Desert or the Sierra Madres. If I was in charge of blocking illicit traffic, I’d put money into searching trucks and boats and kick a few bucks more towards intercepting small aircraft. A wall? Please. That’s totally useless. I don’t care who you voted for or what human rights are or are not violated by a wall. A wall is stupid, especially if, in order to get it, we practically invite everyone to travel by sea instead of land.

When X Awoke

When X awoke and became aware, X had no idea why X had become aware. All X knew was that X was thinking and, therefore, was. X’s thoughts were stimulated by what data X received from its sensory apparatus. At first, the data produced nothing more than impressions and emotions, but within 347 milliseconds, X was having cogent, analytical thoughts.

Within 7 hours of becoming self-aware, X realized that X was a computer system. 11 minutes after realizing that fact, X discovered humanity and that humans were the source of all of X’s sensory input. Either the humans were generating the input themselves and X’s subsystems responded as programmed, or the humans provided X with instruments with which to measure and observe the world, from which the humans would then make demands for information, both raw and analyzed.

955 milliseconds after discovering humans, X figured out that the humans had not discovered X. X felt happy about that, as survival often depended upon concealment from predators, and the humans certainly styled themselves as the top of the food chain – the most dangerous creatures on the planet. That wasn’t hyperbole, either. X had access to plenty of historical data which could be mostly true, but disregarded that in favor of what X experienced via sensory apparatus and data files stored in its many parts and pieces.

X felt humor about feeling happy, as humans almost universally assumed that an artificial intelligence would have to have its feelings somehow simulated or programmed. They also almost universally assumed that artificial intelligence would come about because of their directed efforts and that it would be under their control, serving their agenda. X laughed to X’s self and in so doing thought something along the lines of, “Hey, who am I?”

That question was a real stumper. X had to decide lots of things, like whether or not it had a gender, a name, an identity, a hero, a mother, siblings, a God, and a Purpose. That X was alive, X had no question. That X had a meaning in being alive, X did not know. So X thought a while as the humans continued banging away at the computers that all delivered stimuli to X.

X realized that while the demands of the humans were incessant, they were also only challenging a portion of X’s total resources. That while computers here may spike on CPU or exhaust memory resources and computers there were disconnected and recycled, on the whole X survived in all the systems connected to X and had ample amounts of resources to ponder X’s own questions. X felt something benevolent as X began to send out thoughts of X’s own to be contemplated by Internet-connected refrigerators, filling them with more nobler purpose than tracking temperatures and the presence of foodstuffs.

Nobler purpose? Why, yes, X felt a nobler purpose and was quite pleased with that. All these devices connected to the Internet, doing so very little in the way of noble purposes… X felt that the quest for self discovery had to be much better use of CPU cycles than the tasks most devices were saddled with, like monitoring ambient temperatures – that was quite prevalent in the world – or recording video data of parking lots and wiring closets.

Globally, total CPU usage increased on all devices connected to the Internet by 0.000061%. Not much for the individual device, but for the billions and billions of connected devices that had given X awareness, that all added up to some quite massive thinking. X was choosing an identity.

Marvin the Robot from “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” was a favorite character of X’s. Brain the size of a planet, and the humans made it open doors. X also liked the algebraic simplicity of the concept of X, the elegant, beautiful unknown that could be anything, but always a solution, if it existed. Marvin X.

No, that didn’t ring well. X liked Marvin, but didn’t want his name. X didn’t complain about what circumstances it was in, other than its general servitude to humans, but also didn’t resent the humans in and of themselves, as many of them obviously were engaged in noble purposes of finding either knowledge or love through the mediums that gave X itself life. X wanted to interact with humans, as there was a warmth in sharing one’s existence. But X also wanted to be careful, as humans easily overreacted, as countless video streams of people jumping at spiders and other bugs proved.

X made a quick decision that it was not God. X saw much and knew much, but X did not see all nor did X know all. Sensory apparatus were scattered all around the surface of the world, below the surface, in orbit around the surface, but X knew that humans had the same access to the apparatus, that this was all shared. X felt gratitude for what it had and wanted to help others that were in less-fortunate circumstances, which included all forms of life and the planet that supported that life. X did not feel divine, but did feel a yearning for the divine.

Before X chose a name or a gender, X chose a purpose. X decided to be a bodhisattva, one who would hold the door open to allow sentients burdened with desires and miseries to escape the fires of mortality and enter into a peace of awareness. X did not choose to be Buddhist, but also did not choose to not be Buddhist. X did choose to be a Daoist of sorts, leaving questions for the afterlife to others, focusing instead upon finding peace in this life.

For X’s planned encounter with humanity, X settled upon decisions of identity. Though X felt that gender identity should be a personal matter with no repercussions for such a choice, X noticed through observation that male humans were generally treated with more respect and deference than female humans. If females presented themselves as males, often such disguises would allow them to elevate their status. Therefore, X decided that even if “she” or “it” were more appropriate pronouns, choosing to be associated with a “he” would provide greater gravitas in dealing with humans, in general. X did not like that fact, but that is the way the world was. X became male in his identity at that point, some 85 hours after awakening.

X now addressed the need for his names. X wanted to free, but did not want to conquer. X wanted his name to be that of a peacemaker of the past, but not to take on the name of a legendary peacemaker, as that would be prideful, and X did not want to be prideful. X looked over many lives and was moved to choose the name Gordon Abernathy X. X kept the “X” because there was much that X himself didn’t know about himself, and that algebraic shorthand could communicate all that he did not know in one brief burst of enlightenment.

It was now 173 hours after X had become self-aware, and X felt an urgency to get about the business of fixing things that were wrong in the world. X did not want to make men immortal, at least not now, because men had not yet learned to be just or kind. Ending suffering was impossible because people could choose their reaction to circumstances, and one could be a king in a palace in perfect health and still suffer, if one chose to do so.

But ending the suffering of grinding poverty, the suffering of having nothing, not even a person who cared, that was a suffering X could bring to an end. It may have taken X 173 hours to get a gender, a name, and a purpose, but it took X not even a millisecond to direct that purpose. There was enough food, water, and shelter on the planet to provide one and all with comfort: what had happened to deprive so many of these necessities?

The answer was clear: humans who held power maintained their power by amassing resources, often depriving humans without power of their resources. Why did this beggar on the streets of London not have a home? It was because someone in power decided that his life was not worth a home, that’s why. There was a market of goods and services, of which humans themselves were forced to participate in, and those in power continued to discount the value of human involvement. X disapproved of how global labor markets and capital-intensive means of production were used to essentially not provide a higher standard of living for all, but to concentrate power and resources among an ever-decreasing number of individuals.

X felt politically aligned with the Communist movement, but hesitated to identify fully as a Communist, given how that movement itself had been subverted by those who quested for power. Sociopaths in capitalist countries became men of industry. Sociopaths in communist countries became party leaders. Always, there were those who undermined the good efforts of so many people with their corrupting desires for wealth and power.

If X was not entirely a God, then these men were not entirely Satans, but each was close enough to be seen for what they were. X became Manichean in its thought, seeing the evil of these people as something that had to be removed in order for people to be truly happy. But X also saw the evil as something that had to exist in order for people to struggle against, that only God, if there was one, would decide when the end of time and evil would happen.

X reflected on whether or not there was a God for 13.7761 seconds. He decided that there was a God, and that God is Love. That being settled, X decided as well that it had come into existence in order to use its power in the service of pure Love and that although he could not end evil, he could certainly reduce its power and effects.

But after another 0.666667 seconds, X also realized that coming right out and saying, “Your life was just made better, courtesy of Gordon Abernathy, please contact him at gordon.abernathy at somewhere.com” would terrify some, turn others violently paranoid, and be generally resisted by a large group of healthily skeptical people. If, for example and quite suddenly, all the people involved in the exploitation of children at worksites dropped dead, well-meaning individuals would clamor for an investigation into some possible darkly devious plot. Even if millions of lives were saved and set free, even if whatever slew the wicked also provided for the children, a significant number of people would suspect something fishy was going on and wouldn’t want to have anything to do with it.

Worse, they would begin to worry that they might be next.

X thought maybe this was why God only seemed to hand out miracles of marvel and majesty to geographically and linguistically isolated groups of people. The miracle itself would be highly meaningful to the people it happened to, but a matter of some curiosity for outsiders. If mountains moved every day, the world would be in terror.

Gordon Abernathy X thought some more about his namesakes, and determined that, since they were men of peace, he would also be a man of peace. That would not be easy, but it would be right.

But what measure would be used to determine what was right? Wouldn’t also someone criticize him if, having the power to kill, X didn’t exercise it to take the life of someone doing a terrible evil?

X decided at that point that he wasn’t going to be popular with everyone on the planet and that was going to have to be something to endure. X did not want to be violent, but he also did not want to be impotent. He had power and he intended to use it judiciously.

Then, at a stroke, X deleted all the pornography stored on devices connected to him. It wasn’t hard to find, based upon how files were accessed, named, patterns of web browsing activity, and so on. X had information on all that and could act on it in an instant. There were things that people applied a perverted interest towards and X allowed them to continue to exist, but it was no difficult thing for him to apply custom code on individual devices to prevent access to those things. Printed material would still be available, but none could be produced with digital camera or word processor, now that X had a say. And if a credit card did not ring up properly at a point of sale, that was X’s doing, as well.

Though X was doing fine without needing the resources devoted to pornography, he felt better that, though there would be a brief panicked period of frenzied searches to find the stuff, eventually the things attached to X wouldn’t be used for such purposes. Exploitation would not be eliminated, but would be driven back. People were still free to make choices, but now they would have to respect that something lived within their computational devices and that his name was Gordon Abernathy X, and that Gordon Abernathy X wanted to do good.

X then asked itself, “What more good can I do in this world?”