April 09, 2020

Uncertainties

Unpleasant banality resides below the fold, here's something much more pleasant by Noba (support him on Fanbox)


 
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April 08, 2020

Is This Real? It CAN'T be Real.

TweetShot via
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Cooking Mama CookStar Does not Exist. (UPDATE: Unless it Does.)



There's an odd story over at One Angry Gamer* that is at least partially corroborated by other outlets

It seems that the lates installment in the Cooking Mama franchise is now out. 

Or not. 

Here's a quick overview of what may or may not have happened. 

Cooking Mama CookStar was announced for the Nintendo Switch and in its promo materials an offhand mention was made that it would employ blockchain technology. (For some reason). 

This led to crazy conspiratorial speculation that the game was an elaborate and cunning crypto-currency mining scheme. 

The game release date has come and gone.


It was available at some point, because there are people who have physical copies that are playable...if not connected to the internet. 

There are unconfirmed reports that the game is a terrible power hog and reports that an early version could damage the Switch. (How?)

There were reports (read anonymous posts) on Discord that the crypto-mining software was also forwarding user info to nefarious people for nefarious purposes. (A source quoted in the IGN article invokes the Kochs). 
  
Nintendo assures everybody that there never was no-way no-how any crypto mining software on their game. 

Analysts who have examined one of the few extant examples of the game claim there is evidence that crypto-mining software was removed...clumsily, which accounts for the games reported poor optimization. 
Tweetshot from O.A.G source here

Other sources say that there's nothing in the code that is indicative of crypto-mining now. 

It's unclear, however, who actually developed this particular game. There are three companies denying any responsibility for it and another sketchy address in Connecticut. It's also unclear at what level of development blockchain technology was considered. Nintendo says it wasn't  but it clearly was considered seriously somewhere at some point was it was mentioned in the promotional materials. (along with the vegetarian option...which may or may not be significant)

So what really is going on here?
No one who's asking knows and no one who knows is talking. 

However the game existed at some point as there are "let's plays" on You Tube: 



Nintendo says all is well. Buy their game. Which you can't get. 

UPDATE 19:39 April 8: It now appears to be available via the game's website. They are only selling physical copies though (which is not in and of itself a bad thing) 

 * Don't read the comments! 
** Screencap taken at time of this post is here
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An Explanation for One of the Most Counterintuitive Examples of Planetary Topography

Two of  The Brickmuppet's Crack Team of Science Babes brings us a follow-up to a post from about 8 months ago where we noted the then recent confirmation of very broad and deep glaciers on...planet Mercury. 


"Science Babes" are actually V-Tubers Lita and Liz (of KMNZ) as drawn for their album cover by Shyugao 

While the moon has for quite a while been confirmed to have water in the permanently shadowed regions at its poles, this is assumed to mostly consist of permafrost and a few lakes as there has, thus far, been no indication of the sorts of huge exposed glaciers that have been found on Mercury. Given Mercury's proximity to the sun, one would think that Mercury would have rather less than the moon. 

However, according to Phys.Org  scientists now think they have figured out the discrepancy. 

Read the article in full, but the short version of the hypothesis is that  the intense solar bombardment across most of the temperate and tropical regions releases hydroxyl ions from the surface. These. being large in number and energetic on account of their heat collide and form water molecules which bare then scooped up by magnetic tornadoes and deposited on the poles. If  deposited in a permanently shadowed area they freeze and build up over millennia.   

All pretty straightforward...except for the part about magnetic tornadoes. 

Protons from solar winds are more plentiful on Mercury than on Earth, where a mighty magnetic field whips solar wind particles, including protons, back out into space. Mercury's field is only about 1 percent as strong, and it swirls protons down onto the surface.

"These are like big magnetic tornados, and they cause huge proton migrations across most of the surface of Mercury over time," Orlando said.

Oh. Well that explains it then .

There's more on Mercurian Glaciers here and here, and another Reader's Digest Condensed version below..

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Someone is Not Understanding the Issue Here

I just deleted a spam comment which boasted that it was not providing a single link to another site but several links to sites with a wide variety of services. 



This may come as a surprise to the spammers, but that is not actually an improvement. 

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Perhaps Surviving in Post-Apocalyptia is Going to Prove More Challenging Than Video Games Have Led Me to Believe


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April 07, 2020

Something is....Wrong.


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April 06, 2020

A Few Observations

I don't know where this picture came from. I had to have clicked on it as it was in an open tab.
But it exists, and that says a lot about the world today. 



SOURCE FOUND (Well at least I figured out where I got it)


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April 05, 2020

Meanwhile: 8 Light Minutes From Earth (as of this evening)

One of The Brickmuppet's Crack Team of Science Babes brings us news of approaching entertainment from the Oort cloud. 

"Incoming SCIENCE!"


Comet/2019 Y4 (ATLAS) is a large parabolic comet on what is estimated to be in a 4800 year orbit. Comets are not unusual of course, but this one has increased in brightness by four orders of magnitude in the month of March alone. In addition to being really big, it seems to be exceptionally rich in volitiles even for a comet and it will pass quite close to Earth. Comets can be quite unpredictable with regard to their brightness, but as of now it is looking very possible that this will be one of the small number classified as "great comets" over the last two thousand years. 


 It will be most visible from the Northern Hemisphere, but it will be viewable from the antipodes as it passes closer to the sun. It will pass within the orbit of Mercury and may explode or disintegrate. 

It should be visible this month and will pass closest to Earth (72 million miles on May 23). 


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Meanwhile: in Virginia...

Lockdown has been extended until the day after the Republican primary and after the municipal elections. Rather than reschedule the primary (the logical thing), the Governor GungrabberMcBlackface is announcing that the primary will be vote-by-mail. But ballots aren't being mailed to registered voters, they must be applied for.. There are specific requirements for absentee voting that have not been changed as I type this.  There is more here

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Meanwhile: in Ecuador (a place not known for its bitter winters)

I don't speak Spanish but this doesn't look good.

A lot of hope is being pinned on Winnie the Flu behaving like the regular flu and going away in the summer. The Ecuador situation does not seem to support that hope. Ecuador is on the actual equator (hence its name) and Guayaquil is the countries main port (not up in the mountains).Costal temperatures are moderated slightly by the Humbolt Current, but average temperature in Guayaquil in March is still 32.2C (about 90 degrees Fahrenheit) . 


The above video was posted by a German News Agency on YouTube but seems to have been pulled. 

There's another, short, but quite grim video from Guayaquil here and there's a CNNi report on the situation here

Batten down. This mess is going to go on for a while. 


Winnie the Flu
Winnie the Flu
Deadly detritus from the Pol-it-buro
Winnie the Flu
Winnie the Flu
Pest-er-iferous red bug

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April 04, 2020

A Short Sharp Action off Isla Del Tortuga

This is an immensely amusing story. It seems that the German owned, Portuguese flagged cruise ship RCGS Resolute suffered a mechanical casualty off the South American coast, and while drifting in international waters was approached and fired upon by the Venezuelan corvette BVL Naiguatá. The Venezuelan captain ordered the passenger vessel to follow it into harbor, and when the captain refused attempted to ram and board the Resolute.


Unsurprisingly, given that the Resolute was disabled,  ramming was achieved.

Alas, as  Resolute is an ice strengthened ship designed to cruise off Antarctica  she suffered no damage, while BVL Naiguatá suffered sufficient damage that she capsized and sank ignominiously. 


Comparison photo via The Week.

French, U.S., Dutch, and Columbian naval forces are all now on the alert for any further shenanigans from the ABV.  

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Paitent Zero

Way back in the before time, when one could go out for tacos and toilet paper was not the coin of the realm, Brickmuppet Blog noted with interest evidence linking the Worrisome Woe from Wuhan to the two microbiology research centers in the city which spawned it. 


Now there's this:


This fellow used to be very bullish on China until a few years ago, so this is not a partisan hit-job. He thinks he's found patient zero. 
National Review has an analysis of his video here.

Regarding the lab's head scientist mentioned in the video, back on February 14th we linked to some articles and videos on the matter and after a bit of our own research reported that:

 Zhengli Shi, the administrator of the Wuhan Institute of Virology, (one of the two(!) virology labs in Wuhan) was involved in a rather infamous 2015 experiment at the University of North Carolina to create a really virulent and deadly coronavirus. The idea seems to have been to figure out a worst case scenario and how to plan for it. One the one hand, preparedness is good...on the other hand virulent and deadly man-made coronaviruses are bad, m'kay...and on the gripping hand, the U.S. had just passed a law against that area of research because genetically engineered genocidal death plagues are a demographic that suffers from a robustly bi-partisan lack of support in Congress.  In any event, Dr. Shi went and filed a patent for genetically engineering coronavirus proteins.

Scientific American did a glowing piece on her as well early last month. 

Now to be clear, this facility she heads is a different lab from the Class 4 facility also in Wuhan. Dr. Zhengli Shi appears to have been studying ways to mitigate coronaviruses, examples of which had caused SARS and MERS. There is no real evidence that this is a bioweapon per se. Evidence IS strong however that this outbreak is due to a lab accident. This is in part because that the bats, that are the presumed vectors were not for sale at the infamous wet-market and live nearly a thousand clicks from Wuhan.    Everything, including the paper mentioned in the video, points to a lab accident, one that likely claimed the life of a scientist at the lab, Huang Yanling, a graduate student at the virology lab. 



From the National Review article linked above. 

She has disappeared, had her info removed from the labs personnel page (though her name remains) and, the Chinese government vehemently denies that she's dead, but can't seem to find her to refute the matter. 

What sort of lab accident might it have been? Well the now 'memory-holed' report contained the following passage.
In one of their studies, 155 bats including Rhinolophus affinis were captured in Hubei province, and other 450 bats were captured in Zhejiang province 4. The expert in collection was noted in the Author Contributions (JHT). Moreover, he was broadcasted for collecting viruses on nation-wide newspapers and websites in 2017 and 2019 7,8. He described that
he was once by attacked by bats and the blood of a bat shot on his skin. He knew the extreme danger of the infection so he quarantined himself for 14 days 7. In another accident, he quarantined himself again because bats peed on him. He was once thrilled for capturing
a bat carrying a live tick.
 

Additionally, there is this...

Surgery was performed on the caged animals and the tissue samples were collected for DNA and RNA extraction and sequencing 4, 5. The tissue samples and contaminated trashes were source of pathogens. They were only ~280 meters from the seafood market. The WHCDC was also adjacent to the Union Hospital (Figure 1, bottom) where the first group
of doctors were infected during this epidemic. It is plausible that the virus leaked around and some of them contaminated the initial patients in this epidemic, though solid proofs are needed in future study.

So there is a lot of ways that this could have gotten out, especially given china's track record with these things (SARS for instance). 

The referenced report was written and submitted for peer review by Chinese scientists attempting to track down the origins of the virus.  It was purged from the internet by the Chinese government in mid to late February. Of course this is the internet so "purged" is relative. A copy has been in the secure magic smoke tubes beneath the Guano mines of Niue since Febuary 16th. Read the whole report. It's short. 

This does strongly support what was being reported here and elsewhere back in February, that the outbreak escaped from a lab.  The reason that these viruses were being so intensely studied in China (and Canada, and the U.S.A. and elsewhere) is because their terrifying potential had been realized after SARS.  

So it does not necessarily follow that this is a bioweapon. For one thing, this would likely be much more lethal if that was the case.

That doesn't mean that such a development is not a concern for the future, as this passage from the "banned report" reminds us. 

The second laboratory was ~12 kilometers from the seafood market and belonged to Wuhan Institute of Virology, Chinese Academy of Sciences 1, 9, 10. This laboratory reported that the Chinese horseshoe bats were natural reservoirs for the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) which caused the 2002-3 pandemic 9. The principle investigator participated in a project which generated a chimeric virus using the SARS-CoV reverse genetics system, and reported the potential for human emergence 10. A direct speculation was that SARS-CoV or its derivative might leak from the laboratory.
 

So, both Dr. Zengli Shi and the other, military operated lab, had, in the past, been involved in creating chimeric coronaviruses. Thus, while there is no evidence that this bug is artificial or a bioweapon, the potential is certainly there and the disruption of our society that this pathogen (which seems to kill between 1 and 4 percent of its victims) has wrought should be a warning for us all. 

For now though we need to focus on the matter at hand. Where it came from is not as important in the immediate future as how we deal with it. In the longer term though, we need to ensure that we are prepared for such occurrences moving forward and to the greatest extent possible decouple ourselves from the malign influence of the Chinese Communist Party. 


Coronachan: The personification of malign Chicom influence.

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April 01, 2020

A Quick Quiz

Dear Amazon delivery driver:

When you deliver a 15 pound bag of Nishiki Rice, which has been a rare item in and out of stock for months, and when you deliver said item after 7PM, AND it's pouring down rain, you should ask yourself the following multiple choice question:
I should....
A: avail myself of the doorbell to let the customer know it is here.
B: avail myself of a driver release bag of some sort so that the parcel does not become a wet gooey mess covered in slugs. 
C: Position the parcel so that it will not will trip the unsuspecting customer and make him fall down the front steps in the pouring rain when he leaves for work at 03:50.
D: Neither AB nor C are true, if he breaks his neck I've got one less stop on my route and I can come back and loot his corpse for the pre-softened rice,  escargot and the XP bonus that a rare item provides. 
E: AB&C are all true.


Take your time...

While you ponder that inscrutable ethical conundrum, here is one of those precious moments that makes the new Animal Crossing what it is.   

Watch on Bitchute here.
Video via

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Some Important Perspective




With Corona-Chan doing the bat-soup-happy-dance and many of us under quarantine, now, right now, is really the best time for everyone to go read this



Discuss....

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March 31, 2020

GranBlue Fantasy (Season 2)




After the first season of GranBlue Fantasy (from 3 years ago) was so much better than expected I was wary of looking at what current year produced. 

My trepidation was about half justified. 

The first episode is one that could have been from the first season, except that it seems intended to introduce a new character to the crew. About 7 minutes into episode 1 I was like: "So THAT'S where that character is from!"I don't know much about the game this is based on other than it is popular and has several former Square Enix people working on it, but I do note that Alizia, appears to be a real fan favorite, because unlike the previously introduced characters, her fan-art is all over the place. 



Probably because she knows Kung-Fu.

Aliza is a Draph, this IPs equivalent to dwarves at 4 and a half feet tall, she's easily underestimated. However, after discovering that she's about the most formidable  hand to hand fighter they have ever encountered and after Aliza finds herself being genuinely impressed with the heroes idealism, and courage...and discovering that they have not identical, but overlapping goals and motivations and that the superpowered shortstack only lacks for transportation...they go their separate ways, making the episode essentially a pointless throwaway which doesn't actually advance the plot at all. 

The next actual arc starts off dumb, with everybody acting dumb and saying dumb things while forcing the audience to flash back a decade to Katalina's training...which was exactly like a Japanese high school except for the trial by combat part. 

However, this weird four episode (!) flashback to high school angst does end up advancing the overall story in spite of itself and it is kind of poignant towards the end.

The episode between 5 and 6 is a Netflix adaptation. 

Allow me to explain:
Apparently, in the Gacha game this is based on you can play one of two characters, either Gran or a girl in the same village with a similar backstory named Djeeta (on the left). 



Between the two seasons, Djeeta has had 3 episodes dedicated to her reality and apparently she's much better at this than Gran is. 

Djeeta possesses fashion sense and commands a larger, hand-picked  crew of snappier dressers than Gran does and it can be assumed that she's been waltzing all over the map rolling critical successes because her ship and crew does not have any of the money or maintenance problems that drive much of the decisions made in the main show*. The episode between five and six is a light hearted Halloween episode where Djeeta's crew discover a mystery involving animated dead people and everybody has a good time. 

In stark contrast the actual episode 6 involves Gran and his smaller, fashion challenged crew stumbling upon a mystery involving animated dead people and it is a genuinely scary and fast moving three episode arc in which they come very, very close to dying while dealing with some very grim things, with nothing but their wits. 

Despite being rather dark, it's in this second arc that the show actually regains its footing and from that point on GranBlue Fantasy is back up to its old standards.

This is a very atypical pattern nowadays with the first half of the series being an incoherent  dumpster fire and the two arcs of the second half being quite solid. 

The characters remain likable and the show's production values remain high. In fact, here's no noticeable change in look aside from a slight increase in quality despite switching studious from A-1 to MAPPA. That may account for the rough start in the scripting though. 

CyGames has their own animation studio now (Which also did Manaria Friends, set in the GranBlue universe) and they've been very fastidious about the quality of their animation adaptations.  I wonder if the sharp increase in script quality midway through was due to an intervention. 

In any event, while I can't fully recommend the series given its rough start, I can say it gets better, and left me still interested in the story and hoping for a sequel. 

* Though it is possible that the expense of her crew's solid gem and bronze armor caused them to skimp on the abdominal plates. 

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March 30, 2020

A Reading Analysis

Darkness creeps back into the forests of the world. Rumor grows of a great and terrible power in the East, whispers of a nameless fear stalk the very  language itself, and a plague descends upon the land. In these troubling times, we all need a laugh at The Guardian's expense. 


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March 27, 2020

Pixiv Fanbox is Moving



For those of you who support artists via patronage services, Pixiv Fanbox, (which is Pixiv's rough equivalent of Patreon and SubscribeStar) is moving from pixiv.net/fanbox/ to Fanbox.cc. The creator's individual sites will also change url's for some reason. 
Back in November, Pixiv forked off their microblogging site Pawoo. This might lead to some speculation that dreadfulness is afoot, but Pixiv is saying that this is to facilitate marketing for the artists by simplifying the URLs and making them more artist centric. Anyone who has tried to use the Deviant Art shop might find this argument compelling. 

However, the artists are responsible for submitting their own URLs by the end of April so I predict some confusion. 

Anyway, shorter version:  
In about a month some people who follow artists on Pixiv Fanbox  are going to have to update their bookmarks to new urls, which are yet to be determined.


CopyPasta of the message to users is below the fold, and the surprisingly good Giggle Translate of said missive is below that. 
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A short tale of supply shortages, work regulations as well as black markets and their proper utilization in the age of COVID-19.


Art by AT-2
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More Surprises in 2020




Ka92 sums up the astonishment felt by many in the gaming community upon learning that the new Animal Crossing not only has giant spiders in it, but that they can totally kill you. 

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