25 Heroes and Hopes for the Future

July 7, 2010

Who are your heroes?  What makes them a hero?  Usually it’s some character trait that we admire.  Our heroes form our vision for who we want to become.  Since I’ve been exploring who I want to become a lot recently here’s a summary of my current heroes, what they did, and what character qualities they had which I desire to emulate.  Who are you?  What do you want?  Heroes give us an encapsulated version of these desires in another individual.  We can take what we want and leave what we don’t and depending on our exposure to them, our character may begin to reflect theirs.  Those who you uphold as your heroes will have a profound impact on your life.  I urge you to consider who your heroes are!

Non-fiction Characters:

  1. Jesus: (God, sacrificed himself then rose again)  He was a great man who perpetuated ideas including as “The Greatest Commandment” (to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength), “The Golden Rule” (love your neighbor as you love yourself), grace, and mercy, all of which are ideals which I want to live my life by.
  2. William Love (My dad): His love for Jesus, his love, loyalty, and devotion to our family, his provision for our needs, his enthusiastic and perpetual curiosity, his love for other people, his desire to live a life of significance.
  3. George Washington (First U.S. President): He motivated and led an army against nearly impossible odds.  His ability to walk away from power also stands out.
  4. William Willburforce (British Politician, Abolitionist): His laser-like focus on a single, just goal throughout nearly his entire life, and his commitment to follow his own conscience, not a political party.  He publicized Thomas Clarkson’s research to bring about a significant change.
  5. Thomas Edison (Inventor of the lightbulb, entrepreneur): His perseverance in spite of failure after incremental improvement after failure.  His continual ability to find how to offer people value.
  6. C.S. Lewis/Francis Schaeffer/Os Guiness (Theologians/Authors/Apologetics): Their pursuit of truth and commitment to explore Christianity without sacrificing their intellect.
  7. Leonardo da Vinci (Artist, Inventor, Engineer, Polymath): His inventive streak and desire to think innovatively about nearly everything while also performing so many arts with great skill.
  8. Leon Battista Alberti (Renaissance man): A great Renaissance man, an author, artist, architect, sculptor, and athlete.
  9. Fyodor Dostoyevsky (Author): A brilliant author and psychologist who influenced my very definitions of life, love and liberty.  An obviously passionate man who had faced his own death, yet kept going.
  10. Thomas Jefferson (U.S. President): His continual devotion to learning, his leadership and brilliant writing ability, his opposition to banking, his architectural innovation.
  11. Teddy Roosevelt (U.S. President): His commitment to excel despite initially being stricken with severe asthma, his hard-nosed treatment of criminals, his principle to “speak softly and carry a big stick”, his courage, and his trust-busting.
  12. Winston Churchill (British Prime Minister): His brilliant oratory skills, his ability to lead a country under extreme circumstances and his never give in speech.
  13. Chuck Yeager (Pilot): He broke the sound barrier with broken ribs in a plane when many said it was impossible.  The man was brave beyond belief.
  14. Albert Einstein (Physicist): Someone who pursued imaginative and ingenious research, not just putting his head down and submitting to the expectations of incremental improvements.
  15. Marco Polo (Explorer, merchant): A perpetual explorer.
  16. Elon Musk (Entrepreneur): Willingness to take on tasks he’s passionate about and bring about realistic technological innovation.
  17. Rick Lind/Peter Ifju (Professors): My research advisors, tirelessly advancing the state of the art in unmanned air vehicles while teaching enthusiastically
  18. Sean Parker (Entrepreneur): His leadership at Facebook, his sharp intellect which he uses to help people through Causes.
  19. Johnny Chung (Researcher): He focused his technical work on areas where it could help other people and then gave work away that could easily have made him a great deal of money.
  20. Thunderbird Pilots/Astronauts: They are the cream of the crop and have dedicated themselves to developing a skillset requiring enormous precision.

Fictional Characters:

  1. Jason Bourne: He is his own man and has more skills than I can possibly name.  He has been refined by years of testing.
  2. Aragorn: The man stepped up to his destiny even when it was to become king to oppose a tyrannical evil.
  3. MacGyver: A “nice guy” with a bit of a bite and the ability to think on his feet.
  4. Michael Westen: The spy with a bit of a heart and a knack for hacks.
  5. Fitzwilliam Darcy: A man of character who defends those he loves.

I’ve noticed a few trends in my heros: they are usually Renaissance men with a gigantic skill set and independent almost to a fault.  Many knew well how to motivate a team of men toward a common greater vision and they stepped up and did it.  Many of these men fit the archetype of a self-actualized man with an extremely diverse skill set.  It has been suggested that the weaknesses for these type of men is that they end up being selfish and not respecting the authorities in their lives.  I want to be an integrator, polymath, and autodidact, not a dilettante.  I hope to also be able to balance a desire to learn with the ability to perform without disregarding the ability to relate well with others.

Honorable Mention:
Bill Gates: Microsoft founder, now uses his billions to help others toward some of the most meaningful projects out there as defined by the Copenhagen Consensus Center and by the Millennium Development Goals
Nikola Tesla: A famous electrical engineer and inventor
Ferdinand Magellan: Circumnavigated the world
Hans Rosling: Turns data into something meaningful
Saul Griffith: Inventor and has empowered the DIY community through Instructables
Bernard Amadei: Started Engineers without Borders
Eric Sander: Engineering Entrepreneurship teacher who encouraged us to do something with our lives
James Willis: 4th grade teacher, launched my interest in mathematics and geometry specifically
Jake Collins: Empowering the legal system to catch child predators by founding Tiny Stars and Global Centurion
Tim Ferris: Exploring himself and devoting himself to becoming a more efficient person
Elon Musk: The real life version of Tony Starke (Iron Man); a bold engineering entrepreneur who doesn’t rest on his laurels (Pay PalTesla MotorsSpaceX).
Batman: Taught me that fear is one of our most dangerous enemies and that giving in to hopeless anarchy is never worth it. He’s a man but he makes himself into a superhero. He perseveres even when all hope is lost.

Who are your heroes?  What does that say about who you want to become?  Want to find some modern-day heroes?  Check out TED.com; perhaps you can start by defining success for yourself!  As Alain shares, we can’t have success at everything so we must choose something.  We must be careful to consider how our pasts (especially our parents) may influence us and foresee as clearly as possible the effects that choosing our heroes in the present may have on our future!


Spy Training 101: Wisdom From Michael Westen in Burn Notice Seasons 1-3

July 27, 2009

Burn Notice has stolen Macgyver’s shoes and is walking more than a mile in them.  Michael Westen uses Macgyver’s clever hacks and concern for others, but also uses psychology and experience to outwit, outmaneuver, and out invent his adversaries.  Continuing in the footsteps of the Macgyver Marathon I’ve summarized what the modernized version, Michael Westen, has been up to.  Hacks listed should be helpful for aspiring spies and everyday heros!  A special thanks to: http://burnnoticestreaming.blogspot.com who helped me catch up from the beginning!

Season 1:

Episode 1: Pilot

If you’re surrounded by hostile aspiring warlords when you get abandoned by the CIA do anything to remove yourself from being surrounded to even the odds a bit.  If you get in a fight be careful not to hurt your hand: elbows are effective and bathrooms with lots of hard surfaces also help.  A dirt bike is a good choice for an escape vehicle.  Wearing a bathing suit eliminates some suspicions because hiding a gun in a bathing suit doesn’t work so well.  A room far from the elevators, close to the exits and without windows is preferable for a spy.  When being watched, find a background that will make surveillance stand out, for example stay in a collegiate party.  Know how to get a cover ID: it’s as easy as looking up locations that sell uniforms in a phone book.  Bribing some kids to tell a bike cop that the feds who are following you tried to make them sit on their lap may very well get the feds off your tail.  A messenger outfit from a uniform store will help you get past a security desk.  Dealing with people with lots of money can get complicated fast.  Get multiple opinions from people who may have been involved to catch a thief.  Figure out if a car is tailing you by driving like an idiot, signaling one way and turning the other, slowing down or speeding up (hopefully without your mom in the car!).  Losing a tail is not about driving fast, just drive like an idiot (ex: last second turns) until they make a mistake.  Make a fake bomb out of some scrap pipes and wires to get someone’s attention fast.  For an art heist, finding the buyer (maybe meeting them) is the best way to start.  A good money launderer is the closest person to the yellow pages for criminals.  Art is somewhat tracked these days, but stamps not so much.  A money launderer will take a call regardless of who you are.  Know your art well if you really hope to get into the business.  Try to look like someone exploring innocently until the last minute (ie no ski masks).  Cracking an old school safe is difficult, but if you get lucky and someone didn’t wipe their fingerprint off the scanner, bingo, you’re in!  Blackmailing powerful people can help or be dangerous, so it’s best to keep an ear on the situation.  Make a bug with a crappy phone that has a mic that picks up everything with batteries and circuits from two higher end phones.  Once someone sends a guy with a gun after you, things will only get worse.  A wallboard saw, gloves, stud sensor, duct tape, work bag and bandages help get rid of a next door drug dealer.  Duct tape makes you smart (guns make you stupid).  Mark the studs next to a bullet proof door and bang on it.  When he comes to open it, shooting him in the knee through the wall with a metal can held in your gloved hand as a silencer works wonders.  A bad childhood is the perfect background for covert ops b/c you don’t trust anyone, you’re used to getting smacked around and never get homesick.  Hit the car of a guy in a car with airbags with a large car without airbags to knock him out.  Break the window with a screwdriver and glove to get in the door and zip tie the knocked out guy to the steering wheel to take him out of commission for a bit.  Take out the leader of a bullying group to protect yourself from harassment.  Fall down to pretend like you are scared, then huddle to protect yourself as they hit you.  Stand up fast and hit your head on the guys chin as he leans over you.  This will daze him, then make a fist and turn out the lights.  Prepare the ground when waiting for bad guys.  Mirrors to see around corners, beds to block window views, loaded guns in random places.  Want to frame someone? Prints on a gun can be explained, but prints on the inside of a trigger assembly?  Not so much.  357 magnum loaded with blanks duct taped to a flare makes some great simulated gunfire. Someone who wants to send a message might leave photos of you and the FBI guys following you on your doorstep.

Episode 2: Identity

Surveillance takes time: you have to scout the area for a place to see the target, a place to go to the bathroom.  Be patient; there are lots of ways to get seen.  You can’t choose your informants.  Bugs wired to the house power with a transmitter are longer term and may indicate how far away your listener is.  Empty houses should be considered suspicious locations to house listeners.  A timer may start a triggered blaze of the information that listener doesn’t want you to find out.  Formal embossing is specialty work, don’t trust a newbie.  If you set things in action by asking questions, amateurs will panic but pros know better.  To catch a con artist, be a better liar than he is.  Build your credibility with a criminal by fleeing from a cop.  A good cover identity will give your target the illusion of control (ex: you talk or drink too much).  Seeding distrust is hard when people don’t trust you.  They will test you to see if you are trustworthy.  Club girls are a good source of information wherever you are.  Buy them alcohol.  Everyone is always looking for a good hit man.  All you need is a name and ID to drain a bank account.  Calling an unknown number back to find out who it is is not a bad idea, but make sure you need to know because there may retaliation!

Episode 3: Fight or Flight

International conferences attract spies and businessmen since you can do business and drink for free.  It’s important to disappear before people ask any questions.  You may be able to end a chase by doing something another person isn’t willing to do…like jumping off a building.  Buildings with hallways and a good service basement should provide help as you’re running.

Episode 4: Old Friends

Starting a fight is a quick way to make a distraction.  Keep a booby trapped home easy to setup and disable (ie simple).  In a knife fight you should control the knife hand and strike with everything you have.  If there are two knives, tactical retreat is recommended.  Make the body count unacceptable to ensure your own safety.  Poker players can read tells like none other.  Good operatives don’t leave anything behind.  A book, receipt, drink or charges on an account are clues though.  Getting out a bullet: make a small incision just above the wound with a blade disinfected in alcohol after running the fire from a lighter over the edge of the blade.

Episode 5: Family Business

Things to notice about the place your target is staying and your target themself: a top level alarm system, if the target does a perimeter scan every time they walk outside, well placed cameras without blind spots, paying attention to strangers in the area.  For a cheap version of an alarm system, work in a low traffic area.  Anyone around that you don’t know is then suspect.  Fighting should be avoided: once you fight someone, they know your face.  Two pipes for stick fighting work ok.  Faking being a drunk makes a good distraction.  If you want someone to betray the people they love, you have to get to know them.  Know their frustrations and how they spends their money, know their hopes and dreams.  Dried cake icing makes good fake C4.  Spackle, petroleum jelley and some other stuff makes homemade C4 (DUH: no specifics provided).  Ever met someone and you like the same things and “just click”?  They might be a great new friend, a very determined lady, or a spy tracking you down.  What is the mark of a pro arm dealer?  A blow and burn in case the deal goes bad.  Deal with a blown cover by stalling for time.  Just stay alive long enough.  If you are facing an unknown enemy who could take you down, often your only option is to get out of town.

Episode 6: Unpaid Debts

Sprinkle a mixture of flour and dayglo powder on your floor to see intruders footsteps.  There are two kinds of government surveillance.  The kind that is just there to look for something, and the kind that’s there to make your life difficult.  As long as a bugged phone line is open, they are supposed to keep listening: you can use this to tie up their resources.  Spies don’t like dealing with cops since covert ops, by definition, are illegal.  Sometimes cops can prevent you from getting yourself shot, so don’t be afraid to give them an anonymous tip.  Going to a meeting with someone you don’t know?  Notice every detail and map out escape routes and never ever show up as yourself.  Also look out for people who are overly upset that things changed even if they shouldn’t matter much.  You can turn a TV into an oscilliscope with $150 worth of hardware (though it may electrocute you if you’re not careful).  It makes a good bug detector.  Take an infrared filter off of a camera to reveal an optical detector’s beam hitting a window.  Supply your own vibrations on the window to defeat them.  Put a large electromagnet into a deskside lamp to turn a spiffy encrypted laptop into an expensive paper weight.  Doctors make the worst patients and former special ops are the worst to try to protect: both don’t think they need your help.  A woman needs a little danger.  Getting information from someone is all about getting them emotionally off balance: fear and anger work well.  Sometimes picking someone’s pocket is way better than other high tech techniques of intelligence.

Episode 7: Broken Rules

The longer you run from police the more certain it is you will get caught.  Find someplace secluded fast and bail out.  The more they want you, the harder it will be.  Organized crime? Scare the hell out of them to convince them a neighborhood isn’t worth their trouble.  You only get one chance to make a first impression with a new employer.   In the new job there will always be friction with the coworkers as they wonder if the boss likes the new guy better.  Military firebombs are white phosphorous or chlorine trifloride, but that’s unstable and lethally toxic; styrofoam forms the base for a guerilla operative’s version.  Sometimes you have to get used to the idea of bad people doing things for good reasons.

Episode 8: Wanted Man

In a relationship, most want more than the other is willing to give.  Being a fence is all about having discretion: being the kind of person who NEVER shares the numbers in their little black book.  The refrigerator is one of the most common stashes to hide jewelery.  Ladies like attention.  If you are giving up 5 inches and 100 pounds to a well trained opponent you better hope you know the terrain better than he does.  Mixing romance and work is a bad idea.  Act security conscious to convince someone else they don’t need to be.  Make other people come to you.  Convince the opposition you are stronger than you are to play on people’s fear.  Covert meetings offer the fear of death, but a spy is used to that, the bag over his head however often is nasty.  It’s tough to compromise a well thought out security system, but if you make someone think you can it is much easier.  The larger the security team, the easier it is to compromise it.  Deliver some vague threats and some money to one guard who, if honest, will tell his boss, who will wonder who wasn’t so honest.  Psychological warfare can send a man into paranoia which may be useful or deadly.  The key to good security is constistency, but that system makes you predictable: hide valuables in bank, go when is somewhat empty.  If you know someone is going to be at a bank at a certain time, it’s pretty easy to make them look like they are robbing it.  Shoot out a few video cameras and block the road with a stolen car to “prep an escape route” and fire up a spark gap transmitter to kill the banks communication lines to show they really know what they’re doing.  Don’t forget to give your girlfriend a snow globe or you’ll still be in trouble!

Episode 9: Hard Bargain

Be careful: get the police to arrest someone and see if they act like a spy or a burecrat.  Burecrat’s live for respect.  In the east that means a bribe, in the west it’s more showing them they are in charge.  About 40% of kidnapped victims are returned successfully, depending on the nationality of the kidnapper, age of victim and if a hostage negotiator is employeed.  The odds go down sharply if you don’t have any money.  When a kidnapper finds out something’s up he will probably try to call his accomplices to get them to kill the hostage.  At that point you can kill him or take a hostage of your own; just make sure you have real leverage.  It’s easier to turn someone who works for a ruthless criminal gang.  Work on their fear that disloyalty will be “rewarded”.  A corrupt employee is a decent cover ID since you’re worth a lot to a bad guy: you can become the fall guy as well as get inside information.  GPS tracking devices are becoming more common these days; use them!  JB weld or epoxy one into a shoe, cure it with a butane torch and you’ve got a bug.  Go into a hostage rescue with a gun and the hostage will probably be the first one dead.  Ingredients from a local pharmacy mixed with some aluminum foil in a coffee grinder will make a flash grenade that will stun anyone within 20 feet.  Thermite will make pretty short work of most locks also (get some magnesium and rust powder).  Someone you might underestimate is the perfect person to send to try to kill you, so watch your back!

Episode 10: False Flag

A fake ID is called a false flag, but you need a pro to make it since now they have magnetic strips, holograms and infrared watermarks.  Sometimes a tactical retreat is your best option.  It helps to have a partner.  Corporations need spies (ie security consultants) as well.  There’s an art to giving people useless information.  In training you are taught to avoid missions that strike too close to home (ex: abusive father).  Facts help create a new ID: it is harder to create history than it is to alter it.  Check for bills when searching a house to pick up a trail.  Just b/c there are no windows or doors doesn’t mean there are no exits.  Try the A/C unit.  Basic rule of covert ops: let someone else do your dirty work (like let them find the guy you want to kill).  Duct tape, an aerosol can and butane tank make an interesting explosion when you shoot the aerosol can after previously lighting the duct tape on fire.  Assassinations are 1% shooting and 99% the preparation of finding sources and locations.  Taking an armed escort on an unpredictable route with backup in a trail car will help, but ultimately if an assassin knows where you’re going, they have the upper hand.

Episode 11-12: Dead Drop and Loose Ends

A cutout is used by a truly paranoid individual to deliver a message.  They usually have a sign that is innocuous but hard to miss.  Double blackmail is a classic: pose as a fellow victim of your own blackmail scheme so you’ll always know what the victims are up to.  If want to bug a cell phone wirelessly you’ll need a lot of fancy equipment to deal with the hack and the encryption.  Bugging a duplicate phone and switching out the sim card gives the same thing (usually).  Having a gun to your head is all about timing, picking the right time to make your move.  Best to snap the trigger finger first.  Covert ops in the real world involves a LOT of waiting, but you’d better stay alert b/c it can get real real fast.  A car’s floormat will probably be enough to get you over a barbed wire fence.  There are two ways to blow up a car: use the gas in the tank or provide your own explosives.  They use two ends of the car and are disarmed differently.  Some prefer explosives on the gas tank, but it’s less reliable, though it tends to look more like an accident.  Others prefer plastic explosive on the battery which is more reliable.  Being skinny enough to fit under a car is a plus if you need to figure out what’s going on.  Using code is difficult b/c you assume the other guy is smart enough to figure it out; if it’s too simple it will get broken, too complex and you’re talking to yourself.  Covert communication is essential: chalk marks, misarranged objects or anything that stands out from the background will work.  The walls of a warehouse are not reinforced and the walls under windows don’t have low bearing beams, making them perfect to ram into.  Machine shops are good sources of fun stuff: if they have polyester thermoset resins they should have benzyl peroxide (read about safety).  A good trap doesn’t scare people; it makes them curious.  Spies stash guns like squirrels stash acorns.  In response to seeing Fiona’s stash Michael stated: “if we need more than this we’re doing something very wrong”.  One of my favorite lines yet.  Choosing a cover ID on the fly is difficult.  When there’s no time to think, it’s best to go with something simple that keeps your options open: like “being in the same business you’re in”.  Freon is available in most computer stores: turn a spray cleaner can upside down and you have it in liquid form, which will freeze a lock quite nicely.  Surveillance is a two way street: they will go to where they think you are, so you can probably see them.  Who drives armored cars?  Those expecting gunfire.  When you can’t win in a fight, you have to make sure that if you lose, everyone loses.  Tile adhesive makes a good sticky bomb: it’s portable, stick and waterproof.  If you call a tapped phone from an untapped phone you can still be located.  A commando is often considered a super elite soldier and the solution to every problem, but rather it’s just that he is trained to fight when there are more bad guys than good guys and when surprise is the only advantage you have.  When it works, they seem unstoppable.  When it doesn’t they get killed too.  When it comes right down to it, being in intelligence comes down to putting your tail on the line to learn something.  Are you willing to do that?

Season 2

Episode 1: Breaking and Entering

You get to spend a lot of time alone as a spy.  You are trained to make the most of it: go over your next move or your current intel, review your training and rebuild your gun.  Airbags save lives, but they make some evasive maneuvers much tougher.  You can drive backwards in most cars though. Great line “Mom?  What are you doing, put the shotgun down.”  Every thief knows the best way to scout a target is to pose as a customer: get a view of the vault at the local bank if you’re a rich guy with something to protect or get to view the security team if you are a guy who wants to start his own war.  Get someone on the defensive by accusing him of bad locks to show you his security spread.  Count steps to memorize a floorplan.  Get specs on cameras etc to know any security holes and get it down on paper ASAP.  Bad surveillance (that you notice) can mean a lot: some people can’t pay for good surveillance and some just want you to know they’re watching.  Put a sign on a van and you’re a fake businessman without the troublesome work of starting a company: congratulations!  Get into a secure facility by giving yourself a good reason to be there.  A typical floor is concrete pan with steel trusses 30 inches apart; be careful of wires so you don’t electrocute yourself and/or start a fire.  A concrete saw will cut the floor like butter.  Don’t forget to anchor the slab.  Drop into a blind spot for the security system, usually behind an interior wall.  Motion detectors bounce sound off walls and may monitor changes in thermal profiles.  A wool blanket and moving slow enough when combined with a thermal blanket will defeat both motion and thermal sensors.  Quadrangle buckshot will take out the inside of anything fragile for you.  For hardened military glass: use frag 12, an explosive projectile.    While cops generally triangulate a phone’s position, then organize, which can take 10 minutes, a private security team can go much faster.

Episode 2: Turn and Burn

Check fraud is about technique more than high tech equipment: some old checks, a roll of scotch tape, some nail polish remover (or acetone) and you’re in business.  Dissolve everything but the signature and you’ve washed your first check.  If you want to make a friend, solve a problem for them; if they don’t have a problem, create it.  People trust you when they have something on you.  Make them feel secure.  People don’t trust information they get for free.  Inexperienced operatives abandon their cover ID’s when they are compromised, experienced ones play them harder.  Distractions of beautiful women make guys want to keep the lady around, but obnoxious guys they just want to get rid of.  Most assassinations are single bullet jobs, but to sell an attempt use multiple bullets and an explosion or two.

Episode 3: Trust Me

In intelligence, a good adversary lets you think you know what’s going on since the best attack is the one you don’t see coming.  If you can’t breathe, it might be because you can’t catch your breath, or b/c nitrogen’s being pumped into the room: use a bar stool to get out.  Consulates are a great place to renew your passport and find foreign spies working under diplomatic cover.  Consulate employees live in fear of a pissed off journalist.  Most people working there are just drones, but the head of security is almost always a spy.  Steal a few files, no matter how boring and you’ve got leverage.  The key to hand to hand combat is to be able to close the distance between you and them without putting them on edge.  Put a cell on mute connected to another phone to make a quick bug: connect it to an unused USB port to provide some juice since it will run out fast.  The best way to show you’re willing to walk away is to walk away.

Episode 4: Comrades

Jobs in agriculture are a good cover.  You can find out a lot about a tail by seeing how they follow you: pros will be on the lookout for bailouts and won’t run into silly stuff.  Tatoo tutorial: a spade means a convict is a thief, a tiger means he’s an enforcer while skulls means he’s a murderer.  Making connections usually requires some wine and dine; the more someone knows, the more they feel entitled to a little special treatment.  Smart operatives know how to steer a conversation towards the information they need.  Smart assets know how to keep the wine and dine coming before they give up what you need.  Using a stun gun on someone touching you will stun yourself as well.  Want to interrogate someone?  Look for a condemned building with no one around.  Don’t grab a bat or gun.  Torture doesn’t work and makes a mess.  Getting useful information is about creating a new reality with no hope of freedom: control where they eat, sleep and when it’s day or night.  Keep them disoriented when you ask them questions, wondering what you might do to them.  Make them understand that their entire future is based on talking.  If your cover requires you to have been beaten, you have to have been; no make up will stand close up scrutiny.  A fight is one of the fastest ways to blow your cover; if you say you’re Russian but don’t fight like one, it’s over.  A thermal camera is a great tool for scouting: it shows you bodies and rooms that are thermally shielded.   Whatever your hostage is holding onto in the outside world, you must take it away, while tempting him with glimpses of the outside.  Convince him that his precious information is useless.  To fight looking like you want to kill someone without hurting them is difficult: open your fist just before a strike or kick a shoulder for a showy option.  To be a spy you must know how to get people to betray their own.  Some do it for money, others for spite, but the best is to get a guy to turn on his people b/c he thinks he’s being loyal.

Episode 5: Scatter Point

The best way to stop a job is to throw some kinks in the well oiled machine.  You can’t stop a smoke alarm from going off, but you might be able to explain it with a few cigarette butts left outside.  A webcam and wireless signal booster from your local electronics store makes some good surveillance.  Staying current with safe cracking is nearly a full time job; it definitely requires practice.  A criminal cover ID is not just about the ID, but about capabilities and fitting in with the hierarchy.  Bank robbers are the rock stars, con artists are the snobs, car thieves are the blue collar workers  and safe crackers are the artists.  Be careful about making job recommendations. Great quote: “Do you love her? She could be the one. Then say yes.  But it’s complicated.  Then say no.  You’re a true friend Mikey.”  Sending a note in the middle of an operation is one of the most dangerous things you can do.  Sometimes you just have to make a drop and hope your team is paying attention.  When a leader plans everything to the last detail and then something bad happens, your associates will all think it was part of the plan.

Episode 6: Unpaid Debts

When meeting another spy there will often be a test to see how far each of you is willing to go.  You can triangulate someone’s position with a cell phone, but you’ll have problems when they go out of range.  Use an enhanced GPS though and you’re good to track their position in real time.  Pulling a fire alarm doesn’t get much of a response these days, while making a bomb threat on the building next to the one you’re interested in will possibly evacuate the entire block.  Most bomb squads have RF jammers to prevent people from detonating bombs by remote control.  It will block cell phones and security cameras.  Do not trust interior locks nor padlocks.  Someone who can actually pick locks can do either easily.  Air ducts in modern offices are 18 inches wide, so if you’re an adult they won’t work for an exit.  You can however use a subceiling to get to a closet and make your way out from there.  When your ID is compromised, sometimes the best defense is good offense.  Deny everything, admit nothing.  Knowing what someone wants tells you a lot about who they are.  To see inside a wooden crate, try making your trunk a makeshift X-ray machine.  The tube from an old TV set is a start.  Pump 100,000 volts from a tazer through the tube to get the basic idea.  Criminals are generally self-serving and careful so you can’t be too helpful, but generally the other guy will push back, which may help.  A major difficulty: using information you’re not supposed to have.

Episode 7: Rough Seas

If you are being chased by an off road vehicle and you don’t have one, you need to get on the road fast.  Chases are less about speed and more about maneuverability.  Put yourself in a position you can do something they can’t.  For certain criminals, partying during the off hours allows the boss to watch and to keep everyone spending money so they are hungry for the next score.  Convince people they can dominate you and they’ll let down their guard.  Shooting a gas tank by itself won’t do much, but shoot a gas tank and acetone peroxide and you’ve got one heck of an explosion.

Episode 8: Double Booked

Liquid (laundry) bluing covers over trash and stains anyone who went through it.  If there’s a bad job offer you have two options: take it and make sure the op gets blown or pass it by and watch it get done anyway.  When a pro plans an ambush, he uses suprise and attacks aggressively.  An ameteur takes a defensive position, so they end up in a place of weakness.  Use this in your games of Humans vs Zombies or Assassins on campus or in real life.  Cell phone jammers are really helpful sometimes.  Every vehicle has 3 vulnerabilities: the driver, the engine and the tires.  If you force the front wheels off the road, you drastically reduce it’s maneuverability, so it can’t swerve. Atripene sprayed on a fork gives someone a heart attack.  Fake a death by calling your people first (in an ambulance to whisk you away), then calling 911.

Episode 9: Good Soldier

Need information about an enemy position? Observe outside (slow and safe), or go in for a peek (fast but potentially fatal).  Hiding places offer tradeoffs between security and accessibility.  The best hiding places (slips) are easy to get to but tough to find.  If selling yourself as a traitor, don”t be too eager.  If you’re running an asset you have to be tough enough to keep them in line, but supportive enough to keep them stable. A spy never knows for sure if they are in control or being played, but if you’ve been doing it long enough, you learn to trust your instincts.  Motorcycle security measures aren’t too tough if you’re in a pinch, break the steering lock.  Turn off the Electronic Stability Control when you need to slide, turn it on when you don’t want to.  Hit the back corner of someone’s car to spin them.  A trailer has about 4 feet of clearance.  Slide under it on a motorcycle very carefully.

Episode 10: Do Not Harm

When hunted, paranoia is inevitable, but if you don’t know what to do with it, it turns into aimless fear.  With training it turns into hyper awareness.  Most medical scammers will fight turf wars to keep their customers, just like drug dealers.  As a spy, the best thing to do is become a target’s friend.  Try an empty commercial building for interrogation: soundproof and isolated.  A determined captive can bite through plasterboard, but cannot get through steel bars or ply screws out with his fingers.  Make a captive ask questions, not scream.  Make him imagine what his captor will do to him if he’s willing to cut himself with a knife.  Brushes with death are always unique and just as cold.  Two person interrogation you can kick one guy out the window and the other guy will usually start talking: all you need is the first guy’s screams, not his death.  Meeting someone and want to make sure they aren’t a security threat?  Try a pool party, where it’s nearly impossible to hide a bug.  Use an ambulance and cell phone hooked up to an amplifier with a computer that can analyze the sound.  Recovering from something?  Give yourself some sort of purpose in life, don’t just take a relaxing vacation.

Episode 11: Hot Spot

Program your computer to call all the lines in an office building to give yourself a few seconds to get out.  You can run out without being suspicious, but you might need to cover ground fast!  City clothes keep the suspicion off someone snooping around.  Great quote from mom to Michael: “Sometimes I forget how complicated your life is”.  Uniforms suggest organization, power and numbers.  Though they make you stand out, they inspire fear, one of your most important weapons.  Target selection isn’t glamorous, but it is one of the most important parts of an operation: take out the guy the boss’s organization depends on and you’re well on your way.  Your job isn’t to kill people, it’s about undermining your enemy’s will to fight.  No plan survives the battlefield.  You need a spy to handle the new friends, though soldiers can handle the enemies.  The hard part about running a car theft organization isn’t stealing the car, rather it is selling it afterward.  Best way: start with the information on a clean car from out of state, then match it up.  That means new VIN tags and a new registration.  In case someone’s looking closely, some HCl on the old VIN number will make it impossible to read.  How to armor a car: 60k of Titanium siding would work, or you could use a bunch of yellow pages and commercially available foam sealants inserted into the tire keep you rolling long enough to get out of danger.  Use dual layer high density plexiglass for the windows.  Make a fire trap by putting a contact plate under the floor and a bit of accelerant on the walls to trap someone in a quickly burning building.

Episode 12: Seek and Destroy

Make sure you isolate the circuit on a bug to a phone line, otherwise the person will hear feedback and get suspicious.  To protect someone without blowing their cover you have to come up with a story that explains what they’re doing, explains what you’re doing and gets everyone out in one piece.  A bug is a microphone attached to a transmitter, so it’s easy to detect with a frequency scanner.  A more subtle device is a keystroke logger.  More spies get caught changing batteries and wires than any other activity.  To make a magnet strong enough to wipe a security tape you need a strong power supply connected to a cylinder wrapped with a wire many times around.  A wall outlet would work, but if you need something more portable a car battery will work (just make sure you use heavy enough gage wire or you’ll end up with battery acid all over you).  If you are playing the role of spy hunter when you are the spy, you can guide the evidence trail.  No cover ID can create more paranoia than a skilled spy hunter.  For female operatives: picking up a guy at a bar is harder than it might seem.  Most men get suspicious if it is too easy, too hard and they move on.  Once she gets the guy up to a room, she then needs backup to make sure things don’t go too far. Chloral hydrate is a mild sedative perfect to help out, but if the guy doesn’t want to drink, you may have to induce unconsciousness another way (ex: hard bottle to temple).  A thief can take what he wants and run, but a spy has to act like nothing happened.  Start searching for hiding places where your target has easiest access.  Smart targets don’t hide things where there is easy access.  So you look for signs of moved furniture, scuffs on the walls or anything out of place.  If something’s too easy it very well may be a trap.  Get a box of paper, some duct tape and extension cord: tape the cell phone to the box and run the wire around it.  Put the box in the gallery.  When playing the spy hunter your goal is to get the target to trust you completely; convince him he’s on the brink of disaster and he’ll tell you whatever you want.

Episode 13: Bad Break

To take over a building you can keep the hostages on the floor or gather them together.  How do you deal with the place’s security measures and how do you cut the lines of communication to the outside?  Whatever way you do it, it’s all about maintaining dominance.  A wounded hostage is a good measure of how far a criminal is willing to go.  Keeping people alive in a hostage situation doesn’t mean grabbing a gun, rather fighting like a spy.  For example: make acts of men seem like acts of God and make antagonistic measures seem helpful.  Cut through a wall with scissors by starting at an electrical outlet.  You can get through a cell phone jammer with a stronger signal that can be created with say a data server.  Mixxing an upper and downer medication is a very bad idea (why alcohol+energy drinks don’t work).  Anxiety and allergy meds together make a scary combination.  People trust doctors as long as they act calm and in charge, making a great cover ID in some situations.  Liquid nitrogen can cauterize a wound and freeze the barrel of a gun.  Transfer objects quickly behind your back to shield them from eyes.  Elevators are really easy to sabatoge.  Disable any part (ie the the door by jamming something into it) and the system shuts down. Find the frequency of the communication devices to hear bad guys thoughts.  In low doses hilocarpene cures dry mouth; in higher doses it has the same effect as a serin gas attack.  In a weakened state you don’t want your main arteries in your neck blocked: otherwise you’ll be blacked out in 4 seconds.  The coating on tablets gives you a bit of time to take a pill and then get it out of your system by gagging yourself.  Many criminals want to kill anyone who’s seen their face.  If you have 1 bullet to take down 3 guys in close quarters you are betting your life on some lucky breaks, so try not to let it happen.

Episode 14: Truth and Reconciliation

If someone is asking questions, you better make sure he is who he says he is.  A lot of the mass murderers and jerks in the world are just spoiled rich kids who populate many of the same type of bars and drink the same types of champagne.  Sometimes blinding someone and hiding behind the lights (of a car) is a valid strategy.  Keep someone at a private house, NOT a motel.  Great quote: “What could be more important than taking me (mom) to the store Michael?  I’m helping a man find justice for his murdered daughter.  Well if you need any help with that Michael…”  Most people won’t completely throw away their past.  It takes about 5 seconds to draw a gun and line up a shot.  Whether that’s a good thing or not still depends.  When abducting someone transportation isn’t usually an issue, but getting them into the truck is.  Walk them in, drag them in or drop them in and let gravity do the work for you.  Spend a lot of time with corrupt 3rd world leaders and you’ll hear a lot of self pity.  Killers by and large are whiny losers, but that doesn’t make them any less dangerous.  Most over the counter anti-allergy medicines contain anti-sedatives.  In the right dosage they might cause a bit of drowsiness, but in the wrong dosage, they cause dizziness, hallucinations and unconciousness.  A hotel just above your target’s is very helpful.  If you suspect you’re walking into an ambush, searching for where the bad guys are will probably get you killed.  If you can manage it, the best move is to make it impossible to hide.  In a footchase where you are in pursuit, your goal is to keep visual contact until they tire out.

Episode 15: Sins of Omission

For a spy, compartmentalizing your professional and personal life and everything actually is second nature.  In your professional life this keeps you safe, but in your personal life it can be dangerous.  Great quote: “Oh come on, I thought this was a get to know the ex lunch, now it’s a 17 government agencies are chasing me lunch?”  The site of a deal can tell you who you’re dealing with: if private, they value control, if public they want to get in and out anonymously; if they have both they really know their stuff.  Look for how many exits there are as well.  Standard transaction sequence is to show the money, then inspect the goods.  Sometimes if you can’t impress someone enough, the truth is where you want to go.  Security consultants constantly tout new material and technology but the basic techniques haven’t changed in 4000 years: get a better view of your opposition, make your walls sturdier, and arm yourself well to fend off attacks.  Past a certain point in a secure facility you stop seeing cameras since lowly security guards don’t have the clearance to monitor them.  High security is built to deal with small disturbances.  Trip one sensor and you’re toast, trip 100 sensors and no one knows what to do.  Make a taser by exposing the leads the the flash on a disposable camera.  Would you trade another man’s life for your freedom?  You don’t know til you have to answer the question.  Spies are supposed to travel without any ID, but most keep something since they find it helps remind them why they do what they do.  With a high caliber gun you may be able to penetrate the radiator or the firewall behind it, but shooting under a car or at the windshield is a better option if you have a low caliber gun.  Radiator fluid (ie polyethylene glycol) won’t burn fast enough to do much unless mixed with chlorine dioxide and other stuff.  Gun powder and non-dairy creamer works well if you want to make an explosion that will make people think you are bigger than you are.  A fake utility box is a pretty good hiding place since people don’t usually touch things labeled high voltage.  One of the most common cover ID’s for a spy is service personnel. Capsasin (pepper spray), mixed with alcohol and oil and then pressurized with  CO2 makes a nice firebomb.  In intelligence work, your most important asset, more than any combat training or technical skill is your ability to twist the facts of the situation to your own advantage.  When your career consists of making enemies it is dangerous to be alone; no man is an island so don’t let this happen to you!

Season 3 Burn Notice

Episode 1: Friends and Family

Michael has just given the finger to “management” and is now out on his own.  He swims 5 miles to the beach and instantly has to be alert for cars that slow down, glances that are too long, cops that are slightly too interested in you.  Grab a pink t-shirt and sunglasses to impersonate a tourist.  A fire extinguisher will get you through a locked door to the phone system to make an untraceable call in a hotel.  It’s easier to dodge questions than bullets; claim memory loss, no ID, no bank account.  Expect to be behind bars occassionally; just keep working.  A key is probably not the only thing you are going to need to get to someone who doesn’t want to be gotten to; assume there are other systems in play.  Don’t claim to be a big shot; claim to be a big shot’s errand boy as a cover ID.  Act like you don’t want to be there and people will trust you even more.  Even let them injure you not to blow your cover.  Armed extractions require planning and rehersals.  Any ambush requires you to know where and when the target will be there.  For close space combat, a knife is often more effective than a gun.  It’s easier to hide and handle.  A rolling meeting with a security detail becomes a fortress on wheels.  To take it on, bring an army and try to slow it down.  Large land deals under the radar mean that judges will have to be bribed and people killed.  Principles of a snatch and grap: separate target from security, then keep the security occupied.  The right bullet will take out ANY glass.  Trying to hide underwater?  Fire is your friend since it turns the surface into a mirror.  Find a place to surface where fire isn’t consuming all the oxygen.  Give up the idea of a fair fight.  Spies are trained to win.  Find some friends you can rely on without question or you are in trouble.  Period.

Episode 2: Questioning

Calm down irrational people by getting them to visualize a story.  Villians try to tell if someone is under surveillance by beating you up a bit (since this normally flushes cops).  There are better ways to get reliable information than torture (usually?).  To avoid a police stakeout, look out for parked cars/vans, workers unusually preoccupied, and kids (who like cops).  It is easier to impersonate a bad cop since then you can break some rules.  Do something illegal to gain a criminal’s trust (like snorting lactose).  Interrogation professionals don’t ask you questions directly; they hide what they do or don’t know.  People desperate for information start filling in the blanks on their own.  Don’t watch TV if you’re a guard.  Make a back door with a water saw (quieter) if you really need it.

Episode 3: End Run

When dealing with police: keep place free of damning evidence, keep your alibi’s straight, and be ready for surprise visits.  Nobody goes it alone.  First priority when you’re captured is to make it clear your captor isn’t getting you for free.  He gets what he wants if you get what you want.  Build a fairly good antenna with a coat hanger, some washers, and a pringles can (called a “cantenna“, used in wardriving or for helping your cell phone reception, more details).  A USB connection transmits the information to a computer for a Bluetooth hack. Act as if you are hurt, drunk, and have a low income just covering child support to get away with something. Adrenaline can shut down your ability to see details, but they are still important. A tire iron can help you get a new car: break a window, pry open the steering column to expose the ignition leads.  Pull them out and connect them and you’re good to go (basically: here’s more detail on how to hot wire a car). Blackmail at the end gets harder to use as an incentive.  An urban parking structure might be a good place for urban warfare.  You can use alarms to draw out opposition, control visibility, and provide cover for an ambush.  A choke hold helps knock a guy out without injuring him.

Episode 4: Fearless Leader

Set a plan and settle disagreements prior.  For many operations 2 person teams are great: there is a simple command structure, it’s easy to delegate responsibility, and there is little confusion.  Disadvantage: little room for error!  Having police around is a big problem for criminals, but also for detectives on a stake out.  Get information out of people when they are desperate for you to do something…like leave them alone.  Flirtation and romance can help you achieve your objectives.  Finding a way into a criminal organization is about observing social dynamics.  Find the right person to approach-the inner circle is usually too tough to go after.  The powerful are cautious.  Drivers and bodyguards are easier targets but don’t have power.  Find someone with some power, desperate for more.  Prison tatoos tell where, why and with who you did time to an educated eye.  What’s the secret to fitting in (new school, as a spy or otherwise)?  Do what everyone else does (not that I’m recommending that).  Change your wardrobe and behavior and mirror well.  Know how to follow well…how hard to laugh at the boss’s jokes (not this type of following).  If you are going to deceive you must go all the way.  And don’t get audited.  If you hit a cash register drawer hard enough the other way it breaks.  Placing a bug on someone is hard unless they carry something around consistently that you can reproduce: phone, watch, pack of cigarettes…  Use superglue, layed on thick and dried quickly with canned air to seal a door.

Episode 5: Signals and Codes

Planes without clearances probably belong to undercover or bad guys.  If you get cornered you have to learn to control the adrenaline rush and consider how to get out.  If someone figures out who you are, the best approach is usually denial.  Money laundering people usually hang out with rich people.  The most dangerous ones in an op are those on your side; if they crack, you end up in a grave.  Spies used to pose as lepers so they could sneak around; now being an IT guy is almost the same.  This helps you linger without being bothered and gives you a pretext to talk with almost anyone.  Subjective prices on ancient antiquities make money laundering easy.  Doing something in broad daylight?  Better be willing to entertain!

Episode 6: The Hunter

Generally avoid cold meetings; it’s better to ease into relationships over time.  Flash bang grenades will impair sight and hearing making escape difficult.  Try taking a picture and sending a help call to an associate instead of fighting back.  In a hostage situation, the same things that get you killed will extend your life: If you have money, you’ll live til you pay, if you have information, you’ll live til you talk.  Set your jaw if you have to jump out of a moving vehicle.  Turn advantages like bullet proof vests to weaknesses by sending assassins on a chase through hot Florida swamps.  Protocol dicates that if someone’s close, soldiers fan out.  Take out the leader by taking out his knee, shoes and weapons to even the odds.  Deal with a rival by dealing at the top directly.  Dehydration, exhaustion and nerves can be worse threats than those after you.  Improvisation is necessary in battle.  Delay tactics allow someone to prepare the ground ahead, which often win battles.  When faced with a more powerful enemy, spies get out of the way and stay on the move.  The goal of a retreat is to find a place to marshal your resources and make a stand.  Surprise is helpful in taking on a larger force.

Episode 7: Shot in the Dark

Spies generally avoid clubs since you can’t hear well and are surrounded by strangers you have to constantly monitor.  Training a spy costs a lot of time and money.  That training is very valuable on the open market.  Spies hate suprise visits; they require lots of paperwork and questions.  Recognize the signs of a break in early.  If someone is cornered, the best strategy is to force them into a choke point with 2 options: surrender or get killed.  Awesome quote by Michaels mom: “For two little boys who are being knocked around by their father, Michael would take on the Chinese army honey”.  Turn a cell phone into a bug.  How do you learn to do this?  Sort of “special” school.  So you really think you can make a guy run?  You better know you can.  If the operation demands that you be the targets best friend, you do it, no matter what your emotions are feeling.  Control a person’s behavior by controlling the environment.  That means: making their car not start and jamming their cell phone ($100 jammers work well).  Accessing the circuit breaker to a light pole is a lot better than having to access the pole itself.  A quick call to a cell phone will short out the circuit.  To generate fear, start simply: fear of the dark, fear of being alone, and fear of the unknown.  A network analyzer can tell you how much information someone is accessing and how encoded it is.  A bottle cap packed with some plastic explosive can create the appearance of someone getting shot.  When a plan goes wrong you have two options: accept failure and abort (best if have resources and time to remove people from the field), salvage the situation.  Make a loyal operative look like a traitor and if you’re lucky your enemies will take him out for you.  Better yet, make him look insane; bringing back the dead helps here.  As a spy you often have to do things you are uncomfortable with for people you don’t trust; decide if you are willing to now.

Episode 8: Friends Like These

Most field ops are between 22 when they finish training and 55 when they retire so someone outside these ranges is rarely suspected.  Drill through a glass door pane and use a coat hanger to get the door handle to avoid fingerprints.  In a pre-furnished house, once you look in all the obvious places you’re done unless you are going to start ripping out the drywall.  Torture just gets you the answer that will make pain stop the fastest.  Fear often fails as an interrogation method.  Most suspects are already scared.  What they need is a friend.  An ignition safe with CO2 pumped in is safe to open.  Spies don’t keep a lot of prisoners.  Keep them and you can only find out so much, let them go and you can find out a lot more.  Pros can catch a tail by watching for someone who comes too close or runs too many yellow lights or uses a car they know about.  Therefore to beat a pro you need a team of tailers.  It’s best to start a tail after a bit to relax the person.  Pass someone to avoid suspicion.  When you find someone you can trust absolutely, you want them on every operation you do.

Episode 9: Long Way Back

Spies must remember every cover ID they’ve ever worn in case they have to put it back on.  Become an arms dealer to people who need arms, even if it means cozying up to your worst enemies.  Bring backup to a meet, even if they are long distance snipers.  Bomb makers have a signature print.  If you can duplicate it, you can leave that fingerprint wherever you want.  Rat poison in a bomb encourages hemorhagging  and spreads fear.  Sometimes you have to make the final decision about your future with someone and give up your career dreams in a split second.  If you realize an operation is compromised you have to do what you can to try to contain the damage.  Knowing nothing is not good.  The enemy you see doesn’t get you so often, rather it’s the one you don’t.

Episode 10: A Dark Road

Doing your own field medicine has the benefit of avoiding pesky questions and a close doctor-patient relationship.  Getting information out of hotels is difficult-convince them that you need help.  First contact for spies makes a big impression.  Go to county records office ready to do some smooth talking to get insurance records.  Working an asset requires you to know what buttons to press and has a lot to do with who you are, not just what you say.  Don’t make a friend with an asset if possible.  Precision driving is a great way to make an impression.  Insurance scammers must be taken out since they run an entire system. The best place for a bug is in something people keep with them.  Many car remotes now have enough room.  If you are blackmailing someone you have to be cruel; make them feel they have no choice whatsoever.  People get tunnel vision in a fight so it can be a good distraction if you need one.

Episode 11: Friendly Fire

An invitation to meet at a hotel pool from a spy is an olive branch: multiple exits, a crowd to mix in with and the near certainty that they won’t be wearing a weapon or wire if they are in a bathing suit…unless he’s a sniper, so it’s still good to bring backup.  Some neighborhoods especially in the inner city have cop detecting kids, and when they see something, illegal activity shuts down fast.  Prove you’re not a cop to keep the bad guy’s around for long enough to lure them in by doing something illegal.  In an army, key events initiate a chain reaction: hacking a high level computer, assassination of a high ranking officer, you get the idea.  Learn what someone wants if you want to get something out of them.  Warehouses have relatively weak roofs; usually they are made of just plywood and asfault tiles.  Attach a hole saw bit to a silenced drill to bore through the roof without attracting attention.  Dominance isn’t always about being lethal-sometimes leaving those around intact to spread the word is alright.  Rubber suppressed bullets won’t kill, just sting a lot.  The best defense isn’t always force; keep an asset in the dark as to what you are capable of and he has to assume the worst.  To extract a heavily guarded target, choose a good entry point: guards watch windows and doors, so coming in through the wall will give you the surprise advantage.  Camoflague is just as important in urban settings.  Ice cream carts packed with explosives and barriers lined with rubber tires will provide projection in case of a firefight.  Polystyrene links and a listening device in your hostages handcuffs makes a convincing show.

Episode 12: Enemies Closer

Meet a spy in a hot tub if you want to meet in privacy.  To store a body, lots of duct tape and plastic sheet are your friends.  Avoid heat, light and water.  Sometimes a naturally blocked security camera will give you your best approach.  Stealing a feed may be as easy as stealing pay per view.  Need to jump out of a 4 story building in to a pool?  Better throw a mattress down first to distribute your weight.  Want to make it look like a dead man stole money and then skipped town?  Find their distinguishing marks, find a look alike, then take them out and make grand gestures to ensure witnesses saw them.  Use each criminals fears against them; a car that won’t start is like acid to those in a cartel.  To turn an asset, make sure you cut them off from everyone so you are the only voice in their ear.  Make sure you don’t get turned on your own friends-answer their calls!

Episode 13: Partners in Crime

You must work hard to judge how to turn an asset.  Be too forward and you can get yourself in trouble.  Just make sure you have backup and you’ll probably be fine.  The combination of money and a cause will generally help turn the odds of turning that asset a good bit higher.  Trained operatives will leave you searching hundreds of places for documents, but for desk jockeys, check behind the cabinet, in the bookshelf or under the desk and you’ll usually find what you want.  Train yourself to keep track of multiple conversations; if you are scoping someone out at a party you’ll need to engage in a “cover” conversation to avoid suspicion.  To get 2 people over a wall taller than 1 guy could get over: 1st guy boosts 2nd up, then 1st guy wraps jacket around wrist and other end to 2nd guy.  1st guy falls on other side of the wall, pulling 2nd guy up.  Don’t look for signs of a guilty conscience in a pathological liar: true deceivers enjoy the lie, so instead of looking for them to make eye contact, look for a slight smile as they think of all the people they are deceiving.   Choose a role that puts you in the center of the action and explains why no one has ever heard of you before.  Throw around some names and dates to confuse them, show some account books to convince them you’re legit and make the figures big enough to play to their greed.  Contact microphones will allow you to hear through walls, allowing you to eavesdrop on conversations-just watch out for speakers which will magnify the wireless signals and tip off your targets!  A lead detective cover will get you full access, but will also get you caught with 1 call to the station.  A “lowly” crime scene investigator might be more appropriate.  If you are handing a bad guy a gun sabotaging the trigger assembly with acid and liquid nitrogen to break under pressure is a good start.

Episode 14: Good Intentions

A deserted location for a meet gives the other guy control of the situation and the chance to bring a sniper to the party.  So it’s a good idea to bring your own…although they won’t be able to cover a moving car.  Fighting 2 against 1? Jam them into a corner to even the odds.  Use anything at your disposal.  Altering a modern passport is virtually impossible.  If the pages are full, it’s better just to swap out the pages entirely.  Its as easy as pulling out the stitching on a t-shirt and putting it back together.  Regardless, having good friends who are informed enough to back you up is essential.  Behind locked doors you may find out what your target is obsessed with and what your target loves, even if you don’t find what you are looking for.  Have a signal for your friends, be observant and remember you can’t follow a car that is skidding around corners without getting noticed and you might get out alive.  The hardest thing to do when an operation goes bad is to do nothing.  But if it’s the only way to give a team member a chance at living again, then that is what you have to do.  Anyone who knows the trade knows spilling a drink on yourself is a diversion, so to convince a pro its an accident, you have to hit someone else without looking.  A cover ID as an inspector will get you in and grease will start a kitchen fire to start a diversion, but don’t stick around afterwards!  Rig all the evidence that could go against you to go up in flames if someone goes where they shouldn’t.  When creating an explosion to keep people back you cannot go half way.  You have to let them know you mean business; but don’t blow everyone to kingdom come.  A small block of C4 should do nicely.

Episode 15: Devil You Know

As a spy, you are mostly a criminal working for a good cause.  Sometimes you’ll end up in a manhunt.  A hot wired jet ski will help you ensure that you get out of the way and hope everyone’s in a forgiving mood.  If it turns out they aren’t, commuter parking lots will help you buy some time.  Add a rock to get through a car window and you’ve got a new set of clothes or cell phone.  Spies love places people avoid: sewage plants, toxic dumps, condemned buildings and motels.  Here you can store supplies without worrying about them.  Good operatives don’t believe in coincidences like a burning food stand; pay attention!  As a spy try to work with people who you can predict; you’re worst nightmare is a lone crazy person.  When entering potential combat, try to get surprise on your side.  No matter who your enemy is, there’s a chance you’ll need them tomorrow.  If a trained team is advancing on your position, sneaking away is usually impossible; instead, give them something else to worry about: like some C4.  Bomb makers like liquid nitrogen to help make or diffuse a bomb.  Forget about cutting wires; a good bomb maker will make sure they are impossible to reach.  Freeze the detonator and usually you can remove it from the explosive material.  To be a spy you need a lot of things, but a hard one to swallow is to look someone who ruined your life in the eye and say let’s work together.  A garbage chute might help you get down from a building quickly without killing yourself.  An ambulance makes an ok getaway vehicle, except that it is a bit conspicuous.  How to create a cliffhanger?  See for yourself!

Congratulations, you’ve passed Spy Training 101!  Remember that there’s a lot more to know and knowing is only half the battle. Please choose to use this information wisely for the good of others in addition to empowering yourself!  This post will be updated with Season 4 after it airs this summer!

Here’s a goody while we are all waiting for Season 4 updates:


A Tribute to MacGyver’s Ingenuity

July 22, 2009

I’ve been fascinated by MacGyver’s shows recently.  I’ve summarized most of MacGyvers’ improvisational antics and some life lessons that might be generally applicable below.  If you’re thinking about becoming the next MacGyver, don’t forget to bring your essentials: a Swiss Army Knife, duct tape, matches and a sharp mind!

Disclaimer: some of these are obviously old school and not complete recipes.  Do your homework before you attempt anything and don’t blame me if you mess it up.  Done.

Season 1
Pilot: Use a paperclip to diffuse a warhead.  Hang a semiautomatic rifle facing down and bracket it with a stick under the trigger.  Form a short delay by hanging the rifle from a tree with a string and then lighting the string on fire.  A fire hose and water help boost an I-beam a few inches, enough to squeeze under it.  Chocolate neutralizes and gums up an acid leak to give Mac a bit more time.  Some pieces of sodium put in a water soluble cold capsule dropped into a glass jar with water in it and covered with lots of protective material (like dirt) between it and people forms a delay and a sort of bomb to bust through a wall.  Don’t forget to tell the surface you’re ok with morse code by hacking the power supply to the lighting system even when every other form of communication is cut off!
The Golden Triangle: In a junkyard, some tires make a nice diversion while a gigantic electromagnet picks up a gun and briefcase with top-secret missile launch codes.  Get to the trunk through the back seat and use the car jack to pop open the trunk to avoid getting crushed and escape without being seen.  High lifting a car with the bad guys in it makes an impromptu prison.  Strung out and tied up?  You’d better hope you made a friend in the new countryside fast who will be willing to hand you your Swiss Army Knife!  Standing up for the downtrodden might help.  Release some pigs for a diversion.  A flare makes a nice initial shot to set off a gas tank.  A lifejacket when inflated pulls the tab to an inflatable boat which pulls a signal flare against a tire to blow up some explosives.  Obviously.  Fill bamboo sticks with fire ash and alcohol to make a basic form of tear gas.  Duct tape a hose leading into the buried bamboo to the exhaust pipe of a car.  Turn it on and rev the engine to spread the gas everywhere.   Dig a gigantic pit off to the side, then cover a normal road as if it’s a trap and you’ve caught yourself a bad guy when they blindingly make a quick detour.  Tie some steel cable onto a jeep winch and the other side to a helicopter to reel them in.  If you need to learn some knots, check out the knot tutorials by the Art of Manliness!
Thief of Budapest: Being pursued by about 20 men on horses with swords?  If your friend in a helicopter gets there in time just hook their line onto the horse’s saddle and you’re off and away.  Spilled marbles make a great pickpocketing opportunity.  Tie two planks around an old lighting fixture to form a slight distraction and allow someone to jump on a truck.  Combine salt, surgar, and weedkiller.  Spread some of this combo over a rag and pour water through it to make something like dynamite.  Note, it will go off without warning after it mostly finishes bubbling!  Wear a uniform to gain instant credibility: either as a soldier or mechanic.  Use a tractor to pull some razor wire accross camp and separate the good guys from the bad guys.  Throw a match into some powder to make a quick explosion and get people’s attention.  Who’s going to argue with spontaneous combustion?  Use a cut up credit card to mess with any mechanical traffic light signal.  Oh, and Mac used mini’s way before the second Italian Job…  Duct tape a police transmitter to a radio, then onto some balloons to broadcast your own short distance radio station and disrupt other police communication.
Trumbo’s World: A battery and 2 quarters to form a makeshift spot welder.  Make a flamethrower with a steel tube connected to a big tank of gasoline.  A small bomb made with gasoline sets fire to a dam and floods away billions of ravenous ants.
Last Stand: Make a thermite torch with a bicycle frame filled with some rust and magnesium flakes.  Ignite it with a road flare to cut through even a reinforced armored vehicle.  I don’t know if I’ll get to try this, but it’s a sweet hack!  Make some quick fake grenades by wrapping fertilizer sprayed with starting fluid and suffed with cotton into newspaper.  A water tanker will floor the bad guys for a little bit.  A remote control plane makes a brief diversion, especially with a small grenade tied to it.  Melt some ice in a freezer by holding it close to a light.  Make it all go straight into the lock to bust the lock wide open as the water expands inside the lock.
The Heist: Buff up some dice with a shoe shining machine to ensure craps will go your way.  Then get rid of the hot dice by dropping them into your Bloody Mary.  Just make sure you don’t give it to anyone.  A drain pipe makes a way to send a million worth of diamonds from the third floor into a waiting car (not recommended!).  Magnets near slot machines make them go crazy.  Use duct tape and a mirror to divert a security camera.  Pick a lock with your pocket knife, then divert a fiber optic security system with some clear plastic tubing.  Take advantage of a pet bird to “accidentally” set off an alarm.  Wine glasses filled with various levels of wine and then rubbed around the top make a tune to open an audially triggered safe.  Tie a big parachute to your car, buckle in and drive out the back of a plane to really baffle your captors.
Hellfire: Springs and a plywood platform on top of sand will isolate old dynamite with nitroglycerin leaking out.  An old refrigerator and  constant stream from a fire hose form a heat shield to protect you from a serious oil well fire.  Get close enough and drop some of that dynamite down the shaft to burn up all the oxygen and stop the fire.  Don’t forget to keep yourself soaked in water even as you inch nearer to the blaze.
The Prodigal: Sawdust to cloud vision and a saw to shoot pieces of wood.  Dry ice, soda and fizz wizz simulate smoke from a fire coming through the vents.  Cutting the radiator line to let the fluid drain out will incapacitate a car pretty quickly.  Pretend your busy and need to get somewhere else to allay others suspicions.  Push some heavy furniture against a door to give yourself a bit of time.  A bit of propellant, a metal spike with a rope tied to it and a telescope tube to make a cannon to shoot the spike into the crook of a tree and make a zipline to get out of a gangster’s house.  Or I’ve heard shooting yourself out of a bad situation was popular.
Target Macgyver: A toaster turned on to heat up some ice that balances an entire load of pots and pans works as a delayed timer and diversion. A hose trips some bad guys in a rush. Macgyver teams up with his uncle to brainstorm ideas.  He comes up with using a sharp rock to chop a large limb, a few reeds on a piece of bark as a decoy and using hazlenuts roasting to simulate gunfire.  Maybe he’s better off working alone?
Deathlock: A jet ski disguised as a coffin is a nice touch if you’re trying to get over a guarded bridge separating the border of two countries.  Disrupt the audio and video camera system sent through a radio frequency by broadcasting a broadband signal with multiple kitchen blenders etc going.  A bowl connected to a juicer spinning around also helps out.  Trust beautiful girls at your own peril (not the last warning).  A wheeled, motorized cart with a knight head on top attracts gunfire tied to motion detectors.  Baking soda poured into a pot with vinegar in it as well as a fire extinguisher make a smoke screen.  Make an early warning system by putting a bunch of loose metallic obstacles in someone’s way.  Use a mirror to see around a corner to see someone while they can’t see you.  Water cannons are always helpful, especially if they can force a person into an electrical fuse box.
Nightmares: A shiny gum wrapper makes a good lure to attract fish.  Connect a bed to a prison door with the bed springs to make a great ramming device.  Use your belt (hollow) to connect some water with an electrical socket.  The inevitable short circuit is sure to get the attention of your guards.  Some rope holding up some water bottles set on fire will distract some people while getting them away from you.  Hitting a hollow metal rod on the top of a fire hydrant to create a magnetized rod helps Mac retrieve the antidote from the gutter drain.  Seems like a cool trick!
Countdown: Make a quick harness to lower yourself out of a helicopter with some rope and a few carabiners.  Neon signs once cracked will suck up phosphorous in a vacuum, milk will help neutralize an acid based detonator.  Learn from others mistakes as much as you can.
The Enemy Within: If your brake fluid leaks out because of a cut line, try using the steering fluid as a hydraulic.  Drop a compound with hexamethaline diamine into adipic acid with some iron particles.  Apply a magnetic field (stirrer) to make Nylon.  Two candlesticks held with oven mitts and connected to a light socket make a rudimentary defibrillator.
Every Time She Smiles: Poke through drywall with a coat stand.  Then connect coat hangers between a chair and a conveyor belt to complete the hole. A merry go round with metal rings thown in the gears creates a sudden stop for a few KGB agents.  Grab a deep cooking pot, some pest control, 4 cups of soap flakes, garnished with tile cleaner and mix. Time Delay fuse: bunch of lard wrapped in single layer of newspaper sprinkled with crystals of oven cleaner, left to marinate under flow of natural gas.  Diesel exhaust and water to create a really slippery road.
To Be a Man: Duct Tape and a crashed satellite with plastic wings (survived the atmosphere!?!) make a paraglider…I’m sure you’ll all use this one!  A bandana and rocks make a sling for self defense. A butane tank minus the top serves as a blunt bullet.  Use a hot poker to cauterize a bullet wound; don’t forget a stick between your teeth for this one.  A rope tied to a weakened pole helps collapse a roof on your pursuers.
Ugly Duckling: A signal generator and an amplifier to make a high frequency immobilizer.  Spray can to cool down a hot bar. Liquid in cactus for low level current to power a radio.  2 radios with wires made into a single loop at the end to make 2 directional antennas.  Point both watches at north and lay the straight antenna part across the dial of the watch.  Turn until find signal on each watch and read off time.  Average value of times on both watches to find direction of third antenna. Using the headlights from a jeep as a parabolic reflector, focus the light through binoculars and bounce it off a flat mirror to heat up a target.
Slow Death: Who can forget the grab a bottle and knock a guy out by hitting him on the temple trick. An alarm clock with wires taped to blood vessel in your neck and a blood pressure cuff form a quick lie detector.  Reversing the wires in a fuse box make it something you won’t want to touch.
The Escape: Soccer ball, olive oil and newspaper make a paper mache hot air balloon.  Cotton balls are lit below to provide hot air.  Liquid PCP for a bomb; to time need a circuit that will blow when you want it to: ice melting at a given rate works.  Tape recorder of a spatula hitting fan blades for simulated helicopters.  Gunpowder trail forms a standard time delay fuse.
A Prisoner of Conscience: Stick a potato in the exhaust to immobilize a car and surround it with fumes.  Jam a pursuing boat’s intake with a first aid kit tied to some life preservers.  Break a lightbulb to get out the Tungsten filaments for a lock pick.  Stop up a sink and let the water run.  Caulk the top of a bucket then pour a hardening agent on the caulk; use to attach a rod on top of the bucket, tying a flag to the end of the stick.  Let the bucket float in the water to form a diversion.
The Assassin: A thick plank of wood to drive over tire spikes (like at a rental car company). Two strong wires in a fake mustache bent in one location near the end as a handcuff lock pick.  Fake skin to conceal a pin, a cup and pea to make a blow dart.

Season 2
The Eraser: A big mylar sheet and a mirror provide a way to fake someone’s death by making a fake image of them; then a siren made by blowing across two overlapped mylar sheets scares the bad guys away.
The Human Factor: Sneak under a cargo truck and hang on to get through a guard gate.  A magnifying lens and watch crystal rolled up in the sports pages makes a telescope.  A lasso tight rope allows Mac to get across pressure based floor sensors.  Plaster dust picks up hand print, cover with jacket and press gently.  Get killer guard robots with infrared sensors to shoot each other by lighting pieces of paper containing magnets and sticking them to the robots.
Eagles: An innertube and bicycle make a great slingshot.  Turn on a propane tank and grindstone in a shed.  Shoot the thing with ball bearings as ammunition to send a spark from long distance.  Vegetable oil and stuffing from a chair make a self warmed nest.
The Wish Child: A chisel can be made from the slat from an A/C vent and a spigot will do for a hammer.  An umbrella with fabric removed forms a grappling hook.  If you don’t want to be touched, appear very dirty.  Fill a room with fire extinguisher goo to distract everyone.
Twice Stung: Full of psychological games; he did switch the wires in a control switch to shock the user.  Ahha!
Final Approach: A parachute makes a good tent and sharpened limbs let Macgyver catch some trout.  A long stick and warm coal coax a snake away from out of a sleeping bag.  For a mountain lion, hold still, don’t look in the eye and give em a cold shower.  For a home made stethoscope, try a radio amplifier and two wires.  Use a surveyor’s tool to make a straight 300 yard line and a spade to dig a 1 foot deep trough straight through it.  A split piece of wood makes a front ski for a plane while a mud filled trough forms the runway.
Jack of Lies: A line tied to an old airplane engine and the other end into a circle on the ground, energized by an old battery submerged in wine (vinegar is better) forms a snare.
The Road Not Taken: A baseball, a bit of fuel and some grease form an alarm system.  Use a belt buckle for a knife or make a flare with bamboo filled with fertilizer to make a quick rocket.  Incidentally, MacGyver gets rejected…tough to see.
Silent World: Make a water clock trigger: Use some strong sticks to form a balance with a bag of water on each side.  Tie the end of the beam to a starter switch on a boat.  Poke a hole in one of the bags and you’ve got your delay.  A snare catches some bad guys who don’t look down while they are running.  A metal tea pot is a great weapon.
Phoenix Under Siege: Wrap a steel faucet with copper wire.  Tie the ends to a few batteries to make an electromagnet. Use a paper ticket to stop the timer from contacting the trigger of a bomb.
Family Matter: A paddle and life jacket with a jacket over it makes a quick dummy.  An oil soaked rag into a gas can gives enough delay to get away once you light it.  Bamboo and swamp gas bottled with mud and a swamp grass fuse make good methane bombs.
Birth Day: 1 inch by 1 foot planks about 15 feet long reinforced by empty gas cans to form a ramp for a Jeep out of a 4 foot deep trench.  Signal flags spelling HELP and a sail soaked in water then filled with  helium make a balloon to hang them from to get the word out.
Pirates: How to deal with an old school tripline mine.  First click you’re fine, maintain tension on the wire so the switch doesn’t go back by tying a line onto the main trip and then on to something nearby.  A push button mine will be armed with pressure; maintain it with a stick jammed into the button.  Having access to 83 of the best divers in the world can’t do anything but help!
Out in the Cold: A pole to drill out of an avalanche, then a hollow pole to shoot a parachute out made of a piece of fabric and small counterweight into the air.  Duck sauce temporarily blinds an assailant.
Dalton, Jack of Spies: A few wood braces aren’t enough to stop the compactor in a garbage truck, but pulling levers outside with some scrap metal worked.
Bushmaster: A redo of the machine gun with a time delay fuse made with a tree, stick, rock and shoestring.  Also use a rat as a transporter for a freon cartridge from a refrigerator to freeze a lock.  Eggwhites will clog small radiator holes.  A steel rod hitting railroad rails gives a spark enough to ignite some gas.
DOA: Macgyver: Muriatic acid (hull cleaner and pool cleaner to fight algae) and ammonia mixed neutralize each other and give instant chemical fog.  Don’t forget to cover your nose!  Interesting note: Macgyver had amnesia and climbed above a ship to escape the bad guys before Jason Bourne did.  A mini license plate forms a guide for a bike chain.
For Love or Money: Carbon black, some gas and a latex glove and a strip of duct tape form a nice smoke bomb.  Nitroglycerin tablets made to start up a bad heart crushed into a powder with alcohol added in makes a good, very reactive paste.  Bailing wire tied to a car battery and rigged to the exterior of the car make a sketch security system

Season 3
Lost Love: A pulley to hold up a fake dragon to make a hostage transfer.  A quick rag to gag someone.
Back From the Dead: A fishing net knocks someone down for a bit.
Ghost Ship: A tarp and a stick make a great paddle.  A fishing spindle makes a good tripline.  The following snap of a fishing rod stuck in a tree notch strikes a knockout punch.
Fire and Ice: A rake end screwed onto the end of a garden hose works as a great grappling hook.  A bar of soap helps you make a copy of the key you need.  Pencil lead shavings reveal fingerprints and narrow down the options on a lock combo.  A welder is helpful if you’re looking to cut through a safe door.
GX-1: Stuff pine needles in between shirts for insulation.  Then form makeshift boots from duct tape and a sleeping bag mat.  Old refrigerator and a bunch of sheets and a parachute and an aluminum shack with a helium bottle make a balloon.
Jack in the Box:
Mix carbide from miners lights with water to make acetylene gas to make a nice diversion and simulate a mine explosion.
The Widowmaker: A car battery, jumper cables and an extended rod form a nice arc welder.  Some rope gets him up a telephone pole while a bracelet hitting the phone wire makes an SOS.  Don’t try this at home.  If you had to watch one episode, this is a pretty full one!
Hell Week: Acetic acid and ammonia spray form a brief mist cloud.  A dustpan holds the elevator.  Liquid nitrogen freezes mercury to make it transportable without moving.  Pressure to vaporize mercury.
Blow Out: Make some tear gas: baking soda, cayene powder, vinegar, store it in a hot water bottle to make a nasty surprise cocktail for some people robbing a grocery store.  Watch out for old people too; they can be good allies!
Kill Zone: A hole in a paint can placed on a muffler forms a great trace.  Covering a bomb in wet cement will help contain the blast pretty well.
Early Retirement: A railroad cooling gas forms a great way to flush people out of a boxcar.
The Odd Triple: A bunch of nitrogen tanks and a 1000 pound barrel of wine form a great battering ram.
Thin Ice: Pretty much all psychological, coach a troubled kid to be a team player. He did improvise with a spring from a ball point pen.
The Negotiator: Antifreeze spilled all over the ground makes a pretty good barrier between you and someone…especially if you throw live jumper cables into the puddle.
The Spoilers: Chlorine and some catalyst make a toxic cloud while an inner tube stuck in a truck cab and inflating is a great time-delayed distraction.  Don’t forget your gas mask!
Mask of the Wolf: Use an iron to mark wavy lines on the bottom of your ski and get more traction.  A combination of copper and zinc lit can make a quick pressure spike.  A bunch of snow with a jacket makes a decent dummy from far off.
Rock the Cradle: A fire extinguisher forms a quick injection into the hydraulics to get some stuck landing gear down.  Duct tape and a cloth make an improvised diaper.  Want an awesome cradle for your little one?  Make it from a sleeping bag, string, hockey sticks and a cargo net.
The Endangered: Matches and rum for a fireball.  A bandana and stick make a javelin to make some poachers think they’re going a different way.  Put together a tranquilizer dart, some fishing line and a sapling to make a good trap.  Lymmanite (yellow stone) makes a bright marker.   A flashlight barrel and elastic cord make a tranquilizer dart gun.
Murderer’s Sky: Radio static from speakers send out sound waves.  Put the speakers close to the wall and listen carefully; the sound will bounce back if you’re near a hollow wall.  Duct tape, wood and some brown paper form a way to blend in with the surroundings…at least for enough time to surprise your assailants!

Season 4
The Secret of Parker House: A skull, some erasers and clay form a facial reconstruction with an even layer of skin.  A big cylinder capped off makes a good torpedo.
Blood Brothers: A ball point pen forms a nice rod to fix and old school typewriter spindle.  Phynolpythalaline and drain cleaner are a useful combination.
The Outsiders: Saved by the Amish.  Macgyver uses a line to lower a small boy into a derrick.  Some barrels form a weakly braced underground tunnel that distributes a person’s weight.
On a Wing and a Prayer: Make a patch for a water plane skid with fiberglass from a lifejacket and melted rubber for epoxy.  To patch an oil line, use a fire extinguisher hose.  If you have a short runway and some rocket launchers, make a simultaneous switch and off you go!
Collision Course: A racing flag shores up a leak in a racecar.
The Survivors: Combine battery acid, potassium bromide bicarbonate, ammonia capsules (see first aid kit), orange juice to temporarily expose film.  A slip knot and hammer form a quick grappling hook.
Deadly Dreams: A fake toilet and shooting a disposal helps the cops prevent the crooks from getting rid of the evidence in a drug bust.
Cleo Rocks: Smelling the residue scraped from a severed wire into a spoon and then heated with a bunsen burner reveals sulfur from an explosive.  A stick, a string and a swiss army knife form a hook to get around a deadly trip wire.
Fraternity of Thieves: Carbonation and a bunch of baby powder make a good smoke screen.  Sodium thiosulfate from a photo processor is a cure for a KGB gas agent smelling like almonds.  Rewiring a helicopter signal can give someone quite a shock.
The Battle of Tommy Giordano: A telephone chord makes a nice way to keep two doors shut if you wrap it around the handles multiple times.  Electrical cables in general are quite useful!  Alcohol, ammonia and acid form a smoke screen
The Challenge: Alcohol on a swap reveals the difference between printers ink and a designed sticker.
Runners: Ties a garbage bin to a car to put some drag on some pursuing bad guys.  Uses his swiss army knife to get in through a window.
Gold Rush: A gas cylinder wrapped in some nylon and put in a bucket with some alcohol set on fire makes a nice bomb-like way to burst out of an avalanche trap.  It turns out 100 million in gold going down a slope on a sled makes a pretty good battering ram.  I’m sure you’ll all have a chance to apply that one!
The Invisible Killer: Enter the mystery man and some heavy suspense.  Some fresh limbs and fishing line make a good trap.  Vinegar and pepper plus grease in the interior of a telescope makes a good projectile to temporarily stun an assailant.
Brainwashed: Make people shoot you in the mirror as opposed to directly.  Take people who are sleepwalking to a shrink.  This made me never want to agree to be brainwashed or hypnotized ever!
Easy Target:
Remove detonator from a grenade and you’ve got your raw C4 material to do with what you will.  To hot wire a car, get access to the leads in the steering column.  Unite the black and red wires, then briefly touch the circuit with the ground (white) wire. 
A paddle makes a great weapon.  While everyone else stands around arguing about what to do, Macgyver grabs a bike and is on his way.  Make it happen people!
Unfinished Business: A fly rod makes a good way to reach further and avoid booby traps in your way.

Season 5
Cease Fire: A backpack forms a makeshift climbing harness to swing down off a cable car and detach a bomb.  Don’t forget your swiss army knife to cut through the attachment.
The Black Corsage: Splitting a wire connected through an outlet and attaching it to a priceless piece of jewelry makes a nice booby trap.
The Legend of The Holy Rose1:
Undoubtedly one of the coolest things Mac has ever built.  An ultralight aircraft in a matter of about 4 hours with bamboo, plastic, duct tape, string, a motor and prop from a fan.  Seriously DON’T try this at home!
The Legend of The Holy Rose2: A flag, flag stand and rope make a type of grappling hook. I think they get some physics incorrect here, but a solar collector and amplifier make a pretty strong beam of light.
Halloween Knights: A finger facsimile is made from a fingerprint on a glass with pool chalk dusted over it.  When transferred onto melted wax you’ve got a nice model.
Second Chance: A small tube and tranquilizer needle makes a nice blow dart, while a shoe lace soaked in alcohol makes a fuse for a pressurized can.
Children of The Light:
A plank lodged between the floor and doorknob forms a quick lock for a door.  An antenna and a lot of cable make a temporary zip line.
The Ten Percent Solution:
Acetylene in a hollow fire door with a spark from a lightbulb wire shorting out will blow you out of the prison.  
Two Times Trouble:
Fingerprints are revealed with some dry powder paint on a mirror and on a glass.
Serenity: A flag pole line makes a great climbing line while a swiss army knife deflects a bullet.
Live and Learn:
Center of gravity lesson: Macgyver uses leverage to mess with a larger defensive end.  Also shows the matchstick and two forks cocktail party trick to make a perfect balance on the rim of a glass.  Reading a burned report: glycerol in a spray bottle softens the ash, spread it out in between two pieces of glass, then an IR camera reveals left over ink.  One of my favorite episodes.
The Treasure of Manco:
Sometimes a corrupt government cannot be changed from within.  So you fight it.  Recently watched Code Geass and saw some similarities. 
Jenny’s Chance:
Invent a strategy to anticipate how a con thinks and then form a counter attack.
Passages: Make an effective lure out of a shiny gum wrapper.  Love is not some bill to be paid on holidays and weekends.  A fire hose tied between a ship’s hull door and the propeller shaft busts out a prisoner and prevents Macgyver from dying.  Death’s just another step along the way?
Humanity: Want to live?  You must find a reason for your captor to keep you alive.  A fishing pole cast makes a good distraction.  Macgyver helps a man who was snake bitten even though he was about to kill him in cold blood.  Why I will never be a soldier: quote from elite force: “Soldiers are not taught to think.  You will fight who I tell you to fight.”  I asked a soldier friend and he said they were trained to be a machine as opposed to improvise because it ensures everyone knows what everyone else will do and not mess up the operation.  Seems like this would be good in some situations and not in others.  Since others probably know these tactics, I assume that execution, as in many parts of life, is of extreme importance.

Season 6
Tough Boys: Can handles and the starter chord of a lawnmower with a crowbar are used as a fish hook to pull up a bar on the outside of a door.  A ladder with a firehose fed through makes a great water cannon.
The Gun: C-4 material from of grenades, a wire from a laser, straps used to pack crates together, packets to contain two C-4 pancakes and a battery to connect the leads forms a way to knock out 2 of the pylons lifting up a shipping crate and dumping the cargo while keeping those formerly prisoners safe inside.
Twenty Questions: A 20 question test reveals alcoholism in an annoying teen.
The Wall: A road flare’s smoke reveals a laser sight.  Goo from a toy store provides just enough lubrication to loosen ropes.  A blimp makes a nice distraction while a drum dropped on someones head makes a good temporary bind.
Lesson in Evil: Evil cannot be beaten by just confronting it.  Evil follows no pattern and strikes anyone.  Evil never plays fair which is why it will always win.  A gigantic bell knocks evil off it’s platform and to it’s death.  If only it were so easy in real life.
MacGyver’s Women: Men are afraid of emotion and women?  A belt buckle allows MacGyver to slip out of a noose.  A horse is a great power source to pull down the supports of a roof.
The Visitor: A good salesman always manages to be where he’s needed most.  All we get is right here, right now.  Some barbed wire scraped with Sodium Chloride and then  used to arc between two electrical wires forms a UFO illusion.
Squeeze Play: If you’re quick, dodging into a shed and then out before a pursuing guard dog can figure out what’s up might help.  Recording the sounds from a touch tone phone let Macgyver find out what number to dial.  Turn on some machines for background noise and a distraction.
The Wasteland: A pool queue is helpful for self defense, but 5 to 1 odds aren’t such a good idea.  A fan from a wind tunnel, some carabiners and climbing rope, and a large square piece of tent make a powered parachute to save a man’s life.
There But For the Grace: Foraging is an essential skill if you’re homeless (or pretending to be).  Staple gunning someone to the ground in a leather jacket is a fairly effective form of restraint.  A rubber glove tied over a methane hose with a light bulb around provides a spark for an explosion.
Blind Faith: Don’t let glaucoma go untreated for too long! If someone’s rushing you with a metal I-beam and you have a high voltage source sitting around, connect the red wire with the metal they’re touching and you’ll stun them as long as you keep the current low enough.
Faith, Hope & Charity: A saw cuts through ropes tying your hands together.  Weakened wooden stairs form a trap while various heavy bookcases help form a defensive stance.  Cayenne pepper in a kitchen mop and hot soup shot through a vacuum cleaner make some defensive “weapons”.
Sticky Business: Ground up shotgun shell pellets form a hot environment to solder the barrel of a shotgun to some trip wires and make a passage through an electric fence.
Trail of Tears: Early warning trip wire tied to a bunch of tin cans.  Use a rod to ram a rag down an air pressure line facing a door.  A feather works as a cauter pin to stop a bomb.
Hind-Sight: A first aid kit on a submarine has some flares and a flare gun.  Tie the flare gun to a rod and then to hold the trigger back form a time delay fuse.  Oxygen released into a room filling with water explodes as the trigger for the flare gun is pressed. This one reviewed a lot of hacks in one episode, so if you’re interested check it out!

Season 7
The Coultons: If you’re a bounty hunter a bullet proof vest is highly recommended.  A bottle of sulfuric acid brought over by a dog to a lever made of a ruler and other bottle eats through ropes like a charm.  Shooting a chandelier or something on top of someone may be a better option than shooting them directly.  If you’re going to kill someone, you should immediately check if they’re dead.
The ‘Hood: A rake through a doorknocker holds people off for a bit.  Wax spilled on a burnt match book allows Mac to read the name on the top.
Honest Abe: A piece of string dragged through a candle makes a fuse for really old brandy that’s now mostly alcohol.  A fireplace blower turns the alcohol into a fine mist, perfect to create a diversion.  A steel ring banged onto the floor and a piece of cotton starts the flame.
The Prometheus Syndrome: Simulating a bomb setup can help you diffuse the real one and find out what types of explosives are being used.  Pushing the pin out will loosen a joint, then ramming a forklift into a door covers Macgyver from a bomb.  A canvas sheet helps him get through a brief blaze.  A magnetic switch can be reversed with a magnet.
Walking Dead: A rope snuck through a hole in a coffin busts MacGyver out.
Good Knight Macgyver1: Macgyver uses electrophoresis to make vanadium in a dream where he travels back to Camelot’s court.
Good Knight Macgyver2: Alcohol depletes your energy.  A dog whistle can be made from a brass tube surrounded by paper around it.  A credit card like object is used to open a door.  Vitriol and zinc makes hydrogen gas.  Pull apart a robe to make a kite string, then use leather canteen filled with hydrogen to get it into the air.  With a knife tied to the bottom of the string and a ferocious lightning storm gives a real life Ben Franklin reenactment.  Don’t forget that every scientist does a test run before the big performance!
Deadly Silents: A wallet stuck with a knife gives a way to slow down a fall by cutting a fabric wall.  A boot and firehose allow Mac to grab a ladder to get out of a pool tank trap.  Some bolts just barely holding onto a motel facade for a movie scene make a nice trap to knock out some bad guys.
Split Decision: An alternating punch machine and a hydraulic punch measurement system help train a boxer.  Add water to sodium thiosulfate to treat boxing cuts and stop bleeding.  If you want to control a man, control what he cares about the most.
Gunz ‘N Boyz: Busting out an external A/C unit gives a quick entrance to a locked door.  An A/C duct with strap wrapped around it and a keg inserted in is combined with a bucket with broken wood pieces soaked in alcohol that are set alight next to the top of the keg.  This makes a sweet battering ram to open a door.  Yeah, so it was a bit complicated…
Off the Wall: Look at slants in various letters to find out if the same person has forged multiple signatures.  An air duct works as a quick escape route for a bomb.
The Mountain of Youth: A tracking beacon shows where an underground spring is getting diverted to.  A scarf wrapped around a vial of water prevents the glass from going everywhere after it is broken.  Then the cut glass can be used as a wire stripper.  A cock stopper gives the impression that a door is still locked.  A ladder makes a good battering ram.
The Stringer: Take what life gives you and make the most of it.  Macgyver finds out he has a son!  Some people can only be happy when they’re on the road.  Murder is not justice. Macgyvers answer for most things, specifically “where’d you learn to do that?”.  I don’t know, it just kindof made sense!  Only fools are sure of anything; a wise man keeps on guessing.  3000lbs of water pressure makes some temporary jet packs.  A flare gun makes a small mutiny.  Where to?  Somewhere else?

I greatly admire MacGyver’s ability to make friends and how he treats women and children with respect while also working to protect them if possible.  His ability to be cool under pressure is also encouraging; although some of his stunts seem sure to get an person in a real situation killed.  He also is nearly always upbeat and encouraging.  I wonder what he would have done if he had some newer electronics to work with!  Remember that locking someone in a room with anything but bare walls is a very bad plan.  Always look around you and start your planning with what you’ve got!

External References (For those who just can’t get enough!):

I don’t know how good it is, but if you’re interested further outside of checking out the YouTube Archives directly, grab a copy of the MacGyver How-To-Handbook!  Regarding some product placement, MacGyver has been seen sporting gear from Minnesota University, Nike, and Swiss Army.  Also, after I was half way through this archive, I found someone else dedicated enough to compile one:  See List of Problems Solved by MacGyver.

Oh wait, there’s still more you won’t want to miss!  If you thought MacGyver was good, just wait til you check out the contemporary version at Hulu from USA: Burn Notice!  Look back for a similar post on Michael Weston!

First Home-Built Computer!

April 20, 2009
Productivity Central

My Productivity Central


This post is mainly designed to encourage those who might be looking to build a fairly high end computer, but have never done it themselves.  I believe that buying a computer these days is one of the best ways you can invest in yourself and buy a real asset (Thanks Guy Kawasaki: Rich Dad, Poor Dad).  For those of you who hesitate, it’s not TOO difficult to build your own computer, although troubleshooting can be a pain if something goes wrong and you do need to invest some time to ensure you buy compatible hardware that meets your needs.  I survived a hard drive that was dead on arrival (Seagate ST 3640323AS) and burning multiple bad copies of an OS image.  To get you jump started on a system, take a look below.  Note the basic components you need and your approximate budget, then get to it!  Enough said.

The System:

Processor: Intel Core i7 920 Nehalem 2.66GHz LGA 1366 130W Quad-Core Processor

Motherboard: GIGABYTE GA-EX58-UD3R LGA 1366 Intel X58 ATX Intel Motherboard

RAM: G.SKILL 6GB (3 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10666) Triple Channel Kit Desktop Memory

Hard Drive: Western Digital Caviar Black WD1001FALS 1TB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5″ Hard Drive

CD/DVD Drive: Sony Optiarc Black IDE DVD-ROM Drive

Video Card: SAPPHIRE 100259-1GL Radeon HD 4870 1GB 256-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.0 x16

Power Supply: CORSAIR CMPSU-650TX 650W ATX12V / EPS12V SLI

Operating System: Microsoft Windows Vista Professional 64-bit; it’s fine if you have enough RAM!  Thanks to Microsoft MSDNAA for UF Engineers!

The Extras:

EDIMAX EW-7728In 32bit PCI Wireless 802.11n Draft 2.0 PCI Card

LINKSKEY LKA-CR15B 19-in-1 USB 2.0 Black Card Reader/Writer

IOGEAR PCI to 5 Ports USB2.0 Card

You might notice that’s a total of 14 USB ports.  Look for a serious webcam system coming soon!  Does this officially make me a nerd/geek?  I’m not sure; but I do know I’m enjoying the process of learning how to do new things (like scraping the internet for real-time stock quotes with Python: TRY IT! CODE HERE)!  I’m convinced knowing how to operate computers/the web/large data sets to find trends and make decisions is going to be a major theme of the rest of my life.  This new computer is the vehicle that is going to take me there.

Thanks to my dad for loaning me a few parts after he redid his office recently (a free monitor, keyboard, mouse and case helps)!

The Meaning of Life?

March 21, 2009

Response 1Response 2Response 3

Responses 1, 2, 3: Which Will You Choose?

In lieu of my second life birth as Alyosha Runner, a first bloody nose while playing ultimate frisbee, and finishing up my master’s thesis, I’ve been contemplating the meaning of life.  I doubt that I could have actually found THE meaning, but here’s an option.  You will certainly understand a LOT about me if you understand this:

Not-secret Formula to Living Life:
(notes (or disclaimers?): S/P=situation/problem, no complete solution is possible, suffering will almost surely be involved)
1. Search to find complex and worthwhile S/P (finding a complex one is easy, worthwhile is much more difficult-God, Others and Bayesian Statistics are recommended).
2. Search to find prior information about S/P (vocab, math, previous work).
3. Find others interested in understanding S/P; form a team if possible.
4. Get access to or develop sensing and analysis techniques to get basic facts about S/P.
5. Learn by exploring S/P (Use a basic (almost real-life, may be computational) or complex (real-life) example).
6. Learn by recognizing patterns in S/P as it occurs in real life.
7. Synthesize all analysis techniques into design methodology which accounts for uncertainty.
8. Design.
9. Produce design (ie: Live!).
10. Automate entire process and redo.
11. Share entire process with others (preferably done concurrently).
12. Repeat for new S/P
The point emerges:
The meaning of life=Shared Iterative Exploration.

A Note for Those in Other Fields or Potential Engineers:
I’m an engineer and likely to remain one, but there’s no need to be an engineer to live by this process. The job of an engineer just lets one do this for their livelihood with others who desire to also!

A Resultant Note for Managers:
Pigeonholes will be systematically and categorically rejected.  Try as you might, I will not become a stick-brain to simply create cogs.  Nor will I treat others as if they are simple parts of a machine except when my self-centeredness prevails.  I often do not go through this process systematically due to the fact that I am human.  Spontaneity is required to catch wind gusts. This is one reason why step 10 is so necessary.

Is running away really necessary?

Is running away really necessary?

A Note to Hedonists, Realists and Skeptics:
Insightful readers might note a similarity to the conclusion of “Into the Wild” (happiness is only real when shared).  I make no claims about happiness or reality being involved; some have said that death and taxes are the only guarantees and, for me, they are probably right; we’ll see for any children I have.  I do have a sneaking suspicion that Solomon was right in Ecclesiastes: the meaning is not given by the resulting product.  None-the-less, please refuse to give up you hopes and dreams; on the contrary, enlarge them and share them!

A Note to You
I stand on many the shoulders of many others and hope to let others stand on mine.  I urge you readers to consider who you’re sharing life with and if you’re using your freedom to explore.  If you aren’t, I might argue you’re dead already. Go live; you can do it!

Changing and Developing Life Values

February 4, 2009

I haven’t updated in a long time, so here’s the newsletter for 2008.  I’m not planning on expanding this blog much since I’m planning on developing communities around my Ornithopters Blog, Ornithopters Network, UFLMAE Network and Hawthorne Reserve Network.   However, I do hope to keep a record of what was going on with me personally so in 30 years I and/or my family can remember (inspiration: Marley and Me).

Me and Uncle Terry in San Francisco for TechCrunch

Me and Uncle Terry in San Francisco for TechCrunch

Me in Times Square

Me in Times Square

Shelley and I Snowboarding in NC

Shelley and I Snowboarding in NC

"Fighting" with Laura

"Fighting" with Laura

The last year+ has certainly flown by, perhaps partially because I’m studying flapping wings at the University of Florida.  As I turn 25, I’ll complete my masters work in Spring ’09 and finish a Ph.D. about 2 years later.  Every year when I look back I can’t believe how much I’ve done-I thought this year moved slowly!  While based in Gainesville FL, I was privileged to travel to North Carolina to teach Shelley to snowboard, NY city to tour/visit Laura at her ballet intensive, San Francisco to see my uncle/attend TechCrunch courtesy of Mint.com (conference for internet-based startup companies), and Memphis TN to see the family for Christmas.  Traveling always seems to be enlightening as one explores new places and meets new people.

Flapping wings sometimes make me go cross-eyed!

Flapping wings sometimes make me go cross-eyed!

Since I like to travel so much, I was surprised by a rocky transition from Auburn to Florida for graduate school.  I don’t remember being so unsettled by change-I guess I’m getting older or something!  Just as I thought I had gotten my identity worked out at Auburn, life threw some curveballs.  I struggled to just conceptually grasp the material in my classes and barely survived my first semester of grad school.  Since then I’ve passed doctoral qualifiers and presented my first technical paper, so I’m on track, but the road is still bumpy.  I bought a townhome, which was awesome, but since the houses around me haven’t sold, I often feel stuck with a “bad” financial decision.  I also went from a place where I was valued based on my reputation to having to start over with relationships, academic reputation, athletic reputation etc.  As a result, over the last year I’ve reworked through who I am, who I want to become and tried to clarify what I want to do with my life.  I sometimes worry that I am not becoming who I want to be, but I remember that I am choosing this path, and that most days I am exactly where I want to be.  I don’t yet have a final answer for what gets me out of bed every morning, but I have at least two values to live by in the meantime: (1) wanting to wake up and choose to trust/believe that God exists, and (2) desiring to learn about and demonstrate my last name to those around me.  I have been struggling with the first since about 2 years ago when I first realized that my brain could not absolutely comprehend truth.  While this leaves room for faith and enables freedom to exist, it is a very disconcerting conclusion for someone who craves certainty.  Regarding the second, I long to love and be loved, but I am still learning how to accept and express love.

UF-B "High Level" Ultimate Frisbee Team

UF-B "High Level" Ultimate Frisbee Team

Derek Guffin, Katie Gareau, Robert Love, Sandra Pryor

Halloween: Derek Guffin, Katie Gareau, Robert Love, Sandra Pryor, Anthony Koffman

So what activities am I still doing after this refocus?  Some vestiges of my past carried through.  After a year off, I am now playing ultimate Frisbee 3+times per week with the UF-B team.  Combined with riding my bike 3 miles into school each day I stay in decent shape, although I can’t remember the last time I played tennis.  I enjoyed teaching an introduction to engineering class for 13 talented 11th and 12th graders over the summer.  Relationally/spiritually I’ve tied in with a group that is loosely called B2G.  This group of young professionals is trying to learn about what it means to live in a community which fully realizes how transient and often shallow our relationships are but, despite that realization and our multitudinous differences, wants to engage in each other’s lives.  Some of us worked through the book “Soul Talk” by Larry Crabb to sharpen our listening skills and experiment with trying to see others struggles and envision who they would become if they desired to know and reflect God instead of just wanting to receive God’s blessings.  I’ve also enjoyed a bunch of movies this year, but my top 10 favorites were: The Dark Knight, Bolt, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Iron Man, Marley and Me, Frost vs. Nixon, Taken, Wall-E, Revolutionary Road, and Slumdog Millionaire in that order.

Vinayaka Ca, Linda Fernandes, Erik Sanders, Chiquita Kerur, Robert Love, Pin Wu

Vinayaka Ca, Linda Fernandes, Erik Sanders, Chiquita Kerur, Robert Love, Pin Wu

Robert Love, Brian Roberts, Sanketh Bhat

Robert Love, Brian Roberts, Sanketh Bhat

Robert Love, Can Sakirgil, Matthew Zeeb

Roommates: Robert Love, Can Sakirgil, Matthew Zeeb

While many of the activities above are “for fun”, they also are shaping me into who I will become.   To be more active in this shaping process, I’ve decided to specify 2-4 areas of focus for each year where I will dive into those worlds for 3-6 months in addition to schoolwork.  Last year I chose to (1) become an adept internet user (esp. organizing community and bringing together information through RSS feeds-see links above), and (2) obtain the necessary background to be an entrepreneur.  Over the next year I anticipate pursuing (1) prevention of sexual exploitation/trafficking of people, (2) an entrepreneurial venture (perhaps the idea my group examined last semester: a web-based service that develops and organizes prize competitions to enable employers to recruit students better) or possibly (3) leveraging online tools to help bring together my neighbors/coworkers, (4) learning Chinese, (5) developing a 3D camera system or (6) starting to invest actively.  We’ll see!

The Love Family-Everyone's on Facebook Except Mom!

The Love Family-Everyone's on Facebook Except Mom!

I earnestly hope that through the coming year and the rest of your life you will not be like a hummingbird flapping hard just to stay in the same place, but instead you will use your talents and abilities to perform spins, loops, dives and maneuvers of all types that leave everyone around you changed for the better.  While it often seems we are going nowhere, I stubbornly cling to a hope that there is such a thing as progress.  Therefore I’ll leave you with this: doubt, apathy, and inactivity are a result of an unwillingness or inability to see all the variables, but one with a trusting faith acts boldly or waits patiently regardless.  I urge you to either act boldly or wait patiently as we continue on throughout this next year of our lives!

TechCrunch50 Day 3

September 10, 2008

Here are my favorites:

Rich Media: VideoSurf offered a great demo to automatically tag your videos and share with everyone but Bojam stole the session as an AWESOME tool for musicians collaborate from around the world (both recording and learning from experts).  I CANNOT WAIT to see some of the music that comes from this site!

Games: I’m a big proponent of engaging the real world while simply leveraging the internet to do it.  This is difficult, but Akoha is trying to do it to contribute to valuable causes in the real world a la “pay it forward”.  Check them out and get involved!

Vertical Social Networking: A great session which had one of the judges telling Causecast he’d “die” to be investing in it.  At the same time Birdpost and Closet Couture may emerge as great websites.

Research and Recommendations: I thought GoodRec had the best concept.

Wow, so that’s it for TechCrunch.  Go try these companies out (and Mint.com)!