September 28, 2014

The Limits of Knowledge

Don has some rather scary footage taken by via a cellphone on Mount Ontake when it suddenly erupted. As many as 30 other hikers may be dead. I gather that there was some festival going on and there were a great many hikers on the summit. Japan monitors their fire mountains quite closely for obvious reasons, and yet this mountain had not given sufficient warning to close it to the public.


I suspect that there will be some recriminations over this. Seismometer readings, temperature sensor records and the recordings of instruments monitoring gas discharges will be examined and someone will be found to have dropped the ball and not detected that which will be determined to be obvious with 20/20 hindsight. 

Decisions, however, are not made in hindsight. Nature is unpredictable and vulcanism in particular is a chaotic process that experts are constantly making discoveries about. It is highly likely that this was one of those discoveries. 

The unexpected can befall us at any time, and it is good to be prepared, but all the preparation in the world will do little good if the earth suddenly explodes under one's feet. 

As to how one might prepare for this...If there is any "lesson" to be learned here I think it would be to carry a few dust masks when climbing a volcano. They won't protect one from lava, asphyxiation or a pyroclasm, but the ash itself is quite deadly. 

A life worth living carries a certain amount of risk. It is, therefore good to live it well while one has the chance. 

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In A Better World

...this is the sort of thing that "Japanese Spam" would refer to. 





Of course, that is dubious in an entirely different way.

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September 27, 2014

The Good,The Bad & That's It

There is no more ugly in my world because I've removed the mirror from my room. 


Banality is below the fold. As compensation for that and a lack of respectable content, here is a piece by Fuji Choko.

  
more...

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Some Good News

A welcome follow-up to the previous post: 


The Times of India reports that China and India are withdrawing from their positions in the disputed border region.


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September 24, 2014

Meanwhile:

While the world focuses on the current bombing campaign and the fact the the POTUS doesn't know that if your hands are full, you don't salute, there is news from the continent of Asia that as of this writing is getting little coverage in the US press. It is eliciting some interest in India though:


 Xi Jinping tells People’s Liberation Army to be ready to win regional war  

This, of course, is coming as Indian and Chinese troops are facing off in Ladakh.  

There is still the matter of territorial disputes with Japan as well as generally deteriorating relations. The Chicom's  'terraforming' adventures with the minor powers in the South China Sea are unlikely to be seriously challenged if Japan is out of the picture. 

There is another factor that might cause China to feel that there is a narrow window of opportunity for action and it again involves India. In 2012 there was a major scandal in India when it was revealed that India's ballistic missiles were unreliable, and India's nuclear deterrent was almost entirely delivered by Jaguars and Mirages which cannot really threaten China.  India is modernizing its forces with a new class of missile submarines. These are fitted with four tubes carrying a total 12 SLBMs with a modest 750km range. However, in a few years, these will be swapped out for 4 of the K-4 missiles with a 3000+KM range.  India currently has 90-110 warheads, most of which can't reach China. In a decade or less, if present trends continue, they will have a credible second strike capability with the ability to do China serious harm. 

Despite some nontrivial internal issues, China is in ascendance and has become a major world power, but its chance to completely secure it's position is threatened by two developing nations poised to experience growth comparable to what China achieved over the last 30 years. This will happen just as China hits a 20-30 year demographic arrestor switch on it's growth. Chinese leaders may perceive a narrow opportunity to become THE power, as China was for most of it's history, but that opportunity (if it exists at all) is a fleeting one and it will soon be surrounded by new major powers.

I said poweRs.
Because India is not the only country in the area that is ascendant. 

Indonesia has largely gotten it's act together in the last decades and it's booming economy is on the cusp of becoming a major economic powerhouse. It is further poised by geography to be a major regional naval power, in a commanding position on the trade routes that service China. China has started poking them too

100 years ago this year, Germany had become alarmed at Russia's rapid industrial and military progress. They decided that they needed to nip that in the bud before Russia fully modernized and became a serious threat. Certain members of the German general staff decided to take a pro-active approach. That decision did not end well. 

 
One factor has not been mentioned, and that is the USA. Well, there is another opportunity that will likely have a limited duration. The current astonishing display of foreign policy fecklessness is unlikely to continue to anything like the same degree past January 2017, regardless of who succeeds the current resident of the white house. In the intervening time however, it is quite possible that the USA has been largely discounted as a factor in the Politburo's risk assessment. 

With regard to the terrifying risks involved in seriously poking India,  we should not be limited to looking at the problem throufgh our eyes and weighing the costs with our value system. We look at the term "limited nuclear exchange" and see an oxymoron.  However, it should be remembered that Xi Jinping is an admirer of Mao, who led 1 successful war against India and fought a guerilla war against Japan. However, Mao killed far more of his own people than Japanese or Indians, and he did it in the name of national greatness.  The notion that the Chinese leadership is willing to take a gamble of this sort when the potential payoffs are so high should not be dismissed out of hand. They have 4000 years of history that tell them that China's proper place is as the Middle Kingdom..the center of the world.  More disturbingly, with over a billion people....the way they may look at it ...they have spares. 

UPDATE: With regard to the border dispute, it appears that the crisis, is, at least for now, winding down
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Do Want!




Of course this is likely to be rather more my realistic. 

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September 23, 2014

Internet Navigation Failure...

For some reason the URL for The London Telegraph is taking me to The Onion





At least, I HOPE that's what is happening. 

UPDATE 10 minutes later :

A cautionary note. Take a moment between staring in horror at the above hyperlink and re-reading Harrison Bergeron to peruse this post by Popehat which Ace discusses at length here. Neither post discusses the story linked above, but focus on another recent infuriating headline; one that turned out not to quite match the facts at hand. Both posts should be read in full by everyone.

Back to the idiocy at hand...

The scary thing about this advertising story is that in this day and age, is that it's not actually inconceivable. 

John C. Wright points out an indirect ramification of this story. 
 Science fiction writers often show the folly of some trend in modern life by envisioning a darkly humorous future where that trend is carried to an absurd extreme. When real life exceeds the imagined absurdity, my life as a science fiction writer grows difficult. [/quote]

On the other hand, this must mean we are finally living in the future....
....just not the one we'd hoped for. 


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Amazing Facts!


I got home and noted that I had acquired some spam...13 pages of it in my comments dashboard. Well, I didn't have time to deal with it then so I flitted off to school with the intention of dealing with it later. 

However upon arriving home I noted that all 13 pages were gone. This means something. By applying Occam's Shamwow to the problem, I was able to figure out  how this miracle occurred. This blog previously noted that Sydney is currently beset by an amphibious assault of green...things

Pixy lives in Sydney.

Thus Pixy is responsible for the seaside phenomena and is using the quality cabbages to thwart spam. 



I have no idea how this can possibly work. However, I don't write code so I shouldn't judge. 

Some might suggest that correlation is not causation, but if that were the case, we would not know that UFOs are piloted by Bigfoots (and are attracted to drunks without cellphone cameras for some reason) but thanks to Occam's Shamwow we do!

Anyway...Thanks Pixy!


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September 22, 2014

All the World's Eyes are Upon ISIS, Russia and Ebola

...which makes it a perfect time for China to "adjust" it's border with India


Two nuclear powers who've already fought a war are having a border dispute.

I'm sure nothing bad can possibly happen. 

Here is footage of China's first nuclear test which has something American nuclear test footage sorely lacks...



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Further Thoughts on Murder Hoboes



In an earlier post, I linked to this piece which, using Medieval Europe as a template, discussed the probable economic ramifications of an adventuring party in the D&D universe. 

My friend BOB!1! disagreed with the premise and attempted to comment but was thwarted by a comments glitch. He has an interesting take which I'll attempt to relay and expand upon here.

Emily Dresner makes the case that bands of adventurers gaining large rewards for services rendered\ and then spending their gains in small towns disrupts the social and economic order. Furthermore this activity risks a sharp inflationary cycle that will further wreak havoc on the society. 

 BOB!1! points out that the Middle Ages (and the D&D world) were characterized by a severe deflationary cycle associated with a civilizational collapse. Money was tightly locked up in savings and held largely by feudal lords. It was not in circulation except to pay for rotating debts and wars. Travel and trade were hindered by roving bands of orcs (or Vikings, bandits, wolves and occasionally Arabs) and there was little pressure to invest in infrastructure or mercantile projects. 

Into this come our adventures who as Ms. Dresner points out. shake things up mightily and put gold that has been squirreled away into circulation. This does indeed shake things up and it will eventually cause considerable upheaval in the social order....

...BUT THE SOCIAL ORDER SUCKS! 

Feudalism boasts impressive stability and a certainty of ones place in the world....because one's place in the world is almost certain to never ever ever change. Like the Subcontinent's caste system and myriad other systems considered exotic or 'indigenous' it has certain undeniable merits if one is a nobleman or a passing hipster tourist, but is rather less appealing to those who sustain it.

However, given the premise put forth in D&D, the adventurers and the craftsmen they trade with are a blossoming middle class, which is a good thing. 

Note too that the corollary between Medieval Europe and D&D is not precise. Dragons are a deflationary pressure not present historically. (The inflationary potential they represent if slain might be analogous to the Aztecs however.)

 Likewise. the dungeons themselves are vast, incredibly numerous, and indicate a far more advanced precursor civilization than Rome. Once cleared of monsters, traps and megalomaniacal necromancers they represent vast tracts of useable (though probably not arable) real estate. The release of such infrastructure to settlement and the introduction of the monetary hoards within into the economy would mirror on a smaller scale the effect of the black death on land availability and money per person in circulation, but without the near total disruption of what trade there was. On the contrary, by reducing the threat of orks and bugbears the 'murder hoboes' would greatly facilitate trade even as the huge injection of gold into the economies would cause an inflationary spiral that would encourage investment in various enterprises. No longer could wealth be best managed by hoarding it. Rather, with the value of gold dropping, one must use it or loose it. Investment would be the key to riches. Ms. Dresner uses the example of 1500s Spain to suggest that this would be a disaster. However, Spain encountered difficulties due to micromanagement and regulation of the economy in an attempt to keep the feudal order in place rather than the more trade oriented one Spain's gold had made possible. It's worth noting that other countries embraced the change and ushered in a rising standard of living and ultimately the enlightenment. 

Finally, since the adventurers in D&D tend to be polyglot associations, and demonstrated the advantages of various races working in consort, and since financial success comes from appealing to the largest demographic possible, prosperity would tend to favor kingdoms that take a tolerant view of racial equality and miscegenation and a dim view of provincialism. This could conceivably even be extended to some of the orks if the analogy of the Vikings is used. This means that the kingdoms that emerge from this time  would be well on their way to an equivalent to the Renaissance and/or Enlightenment that might well outstrip the historical one.

Dresner is correct that the adventurers make the feudal D&D world they start out in unsustainable in a few years if they are at all successful, but far from being unwitting agents of chaotic evil, the adventurers are likely to end up being forces for chaotic or lawful good...whatever their alignment. 

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September 20, 2014

Yeah. I Didn't Think She Had One of Those Either.


From Sabagebu! Survival Game Club episode 5. This was an even more unexpected plot twist than the revelation that
This show is, in some ways, almost as gonzo as Nichijou. 
more...

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Watson....

Well, the new Ace Attorney game is a period piece set mainly in Victorian London. The plot revolves around a Meiji Era Japanese law student studying in  London and Sherlock Holmes is a major character in the game. 


This is actually pretty interesting. 

This is actually Pretty Watson. 




Wait. what?

Yes. Watson is an 8 year old girl genius. 

OK it's a video game, and a Japanese game to boot so extreme liberties, re-imaginings and gender-bending should come as no surprise whatsoever. 

Nevertheless, Shu Takumi, the director of the game, states that he wants it to be quite true to the original.
 As for the character of Holmes, Takumi, who is also in charge of the game's scenario writing, has stated that he is a fan of the original series and hopes to maintain the sort of Sherlock that he grew up reading about.

On the other hand, that Watson fellow, must have really bugged him as a kid. 

There's more here
Be advised that that link goes to Kotaku, so there could be payola, including the kinds that carry social diseases. 

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Pixy's Plan

As many of you know, our Webmaster resides in Sydney. Some of us have suspected that he may be up to something but had no idea what that might be.



The only question now is why.

UPDATE: So this happened on Pixy's blog the same day the story broke. I can only assume the two actions are somehow connected. This must be an exceedingly elaborate scheme. 

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September 19, 2014

AVAST!

It'd be best to be refrainin' from tauntin' or any o' yer Scottish mates as there be a 45% chance that they be feeling lower than bilgewater right now. 



Shiver me timbers! An Evil Giraffe has sounded the alarm. There be Murder Hoboes about!


"So raise the gangplank already!"

The Dread Pirate Whitebeard, master o' the fierce and mighty galleon Chizumatic, has let slip that he's found a guide to treasure just o'er the horizon. The scallywag be tryin' to make it out to be not worth goin' after but I hear tell that there be at least one gem in that thar chest....


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September 17, 2014

Give Us Your Tired, Your Poor, Your......Nuclear Missiles

It appears that if Scotland goes all independent tomorrow they have declared that they will be a nuclear free zone. The UK's nuclear deterrent is mainly concentrated in their ballistic missile submarines...which are based in Scotland. Some accommodation can likely be made but this would give the Scots a huge leverage over the UK England's nukes.


The result of this is that the English, who weren't expecting this voter to go anywhere suddenly find themselves scrambling for options. Since the new base in England or Wales will take a decade to build, the plan they came up with last week is to homeport their nuclear submarines in the US in the interim. Assuming the Scots vote for independence and Congress does not balk at the proposal, I'm guessing the English boats would be in Kings Bay, Georgia, which is the only US Boomer base on the East Coast. 

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