February 02, 2018

Blue Check Marks: The Early Years

Hey: Lets see what Wikipedia says about the CCA at 10:00 pm on the first of February! 
The Comics Code Authority (CCA) was formed in 1954 by the Comics Magazine Association of America as an alternative to government regulation, to allow the comic publishers to self-regulate the content of comic books in the United States. Its code, commonly called "the Comics Code," lasted until the early 21st century. Many have linked the CCA's formation to a series of Senate hearings and the publication of psychiatrist Fredric Wertham's book Seduction of the Innocent.
Members submitted comics to the CCA, which screened them for adherence to its Code, then authorized the use of their seal on the cover if the book was found to be in compliance. At the height of its influence, it was a de facto censor for the U.S. comic book industry....

That's pretty much right, though it should be re-emphasized that this was not a government thing and that it was, in fact, the industry policing itself.

There was a time when a surprising number of the people I knew were involved in various aspects of the entertainment industry, Writing, Gaming, Comics, Art, Video Games, Film, though mostly the retail and the convention circuit which constituted the bulk of my involvement in such matters.

To a person, whenever it came up they regarded the Comics Code Authority as an odious thing. All had harsh words for the people that allowed it to happen since it was beyond obvious that only cowards or knaves would go along with such a travesty. The Comics code's pernicious effects had to be as completely obvious to anyone at the time as the lack of any merit in its premise.

Several of my friends had effusive praise for Gaines, and his opposition to the formation of the CCA and whose stand on principal nearly ruined him. The fact that Ed Gaines was an abrasive and obnoxious eccentric considered quite gauche by the society of the day only raised his esteem in their eyes.

Everyone assumes that that's the role we'll play when the darkness comes. We'll crusade against the darkness whenever it rears it's head, and when it's head is raised it will be easily identifiable as it will be abrasive, obnoxious, eccentric and gauche!

And the good guys will be the ones who strive to muzzle them.... 
...and it's totes OK 'cause it's not like the government's doing it so it isn't really censorship.

It's good to look to the past for lessons, because sometimes people have no real grasp of exactly how far we've come.

The most important lesson from history is that the worst villains and the greatest mistakes are most reliably detected with 20/20 hindsight. 

Today, almost none of my old IRL friends speak to me anymore,  To be fair, I don't have the opportunity to interact with them as much, being banned from Facebook and all.

Now some smartass troll will, no doubt, try to draw some silly parallel between the Comics Code Authority and things like Twitter, Facebook, and political correctness. That's just silly. The Comics Code Authority had firm rules that were available to everyone and any infractions were explicitly pointed out. 

Good night and good luck.

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February 01, 2018

Some Thoughts on Women in STEM

Kalpana Chawla was born in 1961. She was born in Karnal India. This was a time and a place that was rather less conducive to a woman's career  than North America or Western Europe in 2018. 

Kalpana Chawala had a goal. She wanted to go into space. Little is written about Kalpana's childhood, but one can rest assured that in India in 1961 her experience in growing up and the hurdles she faced were both rather different from that of a young lady in Boston, London, or Paris today. 

Now in today's more "enlightened" age an upper middle class woman in Miss Chawala's position might have noted the disparity in Male versus Female acceptance and graduation rates for STEM in India in the 1970s and taken positive steps to rectify the situation, such as getting a degree in women's studies, and pursuing a career in activism by smearing the walls with her menstrual blood to protest the patriarchy. 

Kalpana Chawala was not one of them. Instead this young lady who dreamed of going to the stars did something that, to some, might seem downright non-intuitive today. 

She studied Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

In the 1970's 
This modern Hypatia tested into and graduated from Punjab Engineering College in Chandigarh India. It is the top engineering college in India. One can be reasonably certain that this scholars ladyparts did not get her excused from mastering partial differential equations. 

in 1982 she moved to the United States, and pursued and received a masters degree in engineering from the University of Texas at Arlington. She went on to get a PHD from the University of Colorado

Dr.Chawla was an engineer who made it through some of the best schools on the planet to pursue her dream of going into space. She worked for NASA where she worked on VSTOL technologies and later became the Vice President of Overset Methods, an aerospace contractor looking at fluid dynamics issues. 

She returned to NASA in 1994 when her application to the U.S. Astronaut training program was accepted. In 1994 she had no access to Tumbler, Twitter, and her resume was devoid of any liberative pedagogies in engineering education yet this immigrant woman of color deftly avoided being amongst the many wash outs of this most demanding of programs. She did so by the now outre' method of being one of the best, smartest and most level headed people on the planet. 

Dr. Chawla was an engineer. She was one of the very best on the planet. As such, she understood that engineering does not care. Physics does not care if you have ladyparts. Metalurgy does not care how intersectional you are. The vacuum of space is unmoved by how much melanin you have. Radiation is unconcerned with your childhood trauma. 

And foam insulation does not give a flying fuck that the reason some bureaucrats  chose it over the type that the engineers recommended was because because they wanted to feel smug about choosing an environmentally friendly product instead of the one that wouldn't break off and damage the heat shield. 

If one ignores these self evident truths, one will likely be faced with far worse consequences than being "triggered". 

15 years ago today, Kalpana Chawla and her shipmates aboard USOVColumbia  were ripped asunder and their ashes scattered across north Texas and Oklahoma.

Anything that has any consequence carries a degree of risk and the quest to make us a multi-planet species is both more fraught and more worthy than most. But this disaster was no learning experience or tragic discovery in materials science, this was a decision made for what amounted to reasons of fashion.

Cultural, societal orindividual values can be dissonant, yet valid. People can come to different conclusions about public policy, symbolism, culture or etiquette and arguably both can be right.

Engineering and science however, do not conform to the results laid down by sociologists, politicians or academics. If one is dealing with structures at the edge of our technological capacity and one chooses a fashionable choice over a technically sound one then there is a high probability that it will end in tears. 

Like Madame Curie, Hypatia, Admiral Grace Hopper, Dr. Sally Ride , Maria Mitchell, Mary Anning and countless others, Dr. Kaplana Chawla shows that women can hack it in the technical fields. We do not need to lower standards for women in science to meet some asinine and arbitrary goal of parity. 
It seems frankly insulting to suggest otherwise. 

Moreover, the deaths of her and her shipmates stands as an eloquent and tragic testimony of what happens when we lower standards or listen to those who would ignore the science. In this case the result was a wrecked ship and a dead crew, but if we continue to pollute our engineering schools with the notion that science and engineering of secondary importance to feelings, then we risk a catastrophe of civilizational proportions.

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January 31, 2018

Don't Be Alarmed

That guttural wail of despair you just heard was not someone near you being dismembered. It was a blogger in Virginia opening his E-mail.

This has been a rough week, I've been under the weather. Mom and dad have been in and out of the hospital. I've had tests, papers and all manner if issues with ODU's Blackboard system this week. 

First, I found myself unable to post homework to the secure server. This turned out to be a browser issue (the school only speaks Chrome). Then, Sunday night, I found myself locked out of my account due to a hold. 

The hold was due to a "delinquent payment". Note that I am NOT delinquent, despite issues with the finance department and bank, I'd just paid the school five thousand simolians three weeks ago. I still owe a couple of hundred, but that is not due 'till April.

Well....It appears that someone screwed up. 

Now, everyone I've talked to in person or on the phone agrees that I should be able to submit homework, use the gym and library, and generally access the campus unmolested, but no one seemed to figure out HOW to restore my privileges.

A few minutes ago I got partial access and have been told that my issue should be resolved in 72 hours. This is doing NOTHING good for my GPA but, having access to my home page I was able to access my E-mail and start digging out of the hole I was i.........


Look what's in my In Box...

Dear ****:

Your academic catalog of 2006 for your Asian Studies major has expired. Catalog terms expire after six (6) years.

Per the University catalog: 
Undergraduate students may choose to graduate under the Catalog in effect at the time of their first enrollment (part-time or full-time) or any subsequent Catalog provided that the students graduate within six years (18 semesters) from the date of the first enrollment. If students do not graduate within this six-year period, they may choose to graduate under any Catalog in effect during a six-year period preceding the date of graduation.

Please reach out to your academic advisor to choose a valid catalog. Please note that you must fulfill the degree requirements of this new catalog.

Please see the Catalog Matrix link to assist in moving to an active catalog that will provide enough time to graduate under. 
Catalog Matrix: http://www.odu.edu/success/academic/advising/catalog-matrix

UIN: +++++++

I was graduating in June.

I had a job tentatively lined up in Japan starting in August. 

Every time they've done this, it's cost me at least 2 semesters. 
In 2010 it cost me 37 credits. 

Now, I am a Virginian and aspire to be a gentleman. Thus, sacred honor requires that stoicism and maturity be adhered to in my eternal quest for arete'. 

Fortunately, this imaginary, 2 dimensional young lady is able to express what I cannot. 

There comes a point when one realizes that there is no feasible "win" condition, and that one is in fact being played for a fool. 

That may be insufficient realization however...

It is true that multiple work conflicts, dropping out to take care of relatives, 2 hospitalizations and military leave do add up and can extend ones time in college. But if one is an undergraduate and over 17 years have passed since one returned to school then one might actually be a fool.

The drop deadline (naturally) just passed. 

I am numb, nonplussed and vexed.

I do have assignments I was working on, but the wind has left my sails.

I don't know when it or I shall return.

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January 27, 2018

Customer Service as a Tactical Asset

In the middle of a firefight a Marine's Barret Light .50 would not fire. So he called Barret, they put on a gunsmith and the problem was resolved in 30 seconds


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January 25, 2018

A Historical Unboxing Video....in the Age of Tide Pods

In one of the more niche corners of YouTube, Steve1989 does reviews and taste tests of MREs and similar items. He apparently also collects WW2 memorabilia. Today his hobbies converge as he explores a 1943 K-ration.

We've called on Team Anglerfish's expert on WW2 field rations for her assessment of the video.



Anyway, go watch it, it's probably the best unboxing video you'll see today. 

And remember: "No hiss." means something.

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January 23, 2018

This is Unwelcome News

In other news, the question "Where's Pixy been?" seems to have been answered. 

I suspect the blog may again be down for short periods in the near future.

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January 22, 2018


This ought to be a parody or a dumpster fire, but as Don points out, it's written by Kazuki Nakashima (he of Oh! Edo Rocket, Kill La Kill!, Space Patrol Luluco, and others). This would seem to warrant some attention.

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A Conversation With a Former Japanese Ambassador

This evening, there was a walk-in talk on Japanese-American relations presented by the College of Business and the Japanese Department. Amongst several very interesting speakers was Ichiro Fujisaki who was Japan's ambassador to the United States from 2008-2012. (If I'd have known there was going to be an ambassador there, I'd have worn my suit!). His talk touched on several things but stressed the fact that Japan has greatly relaxed its work visa and immigration policy, albeit only for people with needed skills. 

At the dinner afterwards, he ended up sitting across from me for a time and I asked him a few questions. He graciously answered all of my questions. I did not have a notepad so this from memory.

On the demographic situation: I asked if there was an estimate of where/when the current trend was expected to level out. There are certain groups in Japan like the so-called "Freeta" that are having kids well above replacement levels, but they are small in number, still, the future belongs to those who show up. His response was that the official goal was to keep the population from going below 100 million, but this would be a challenge as projections do not show any leveling off in the near future and longer term projections are fraught with assumptions and incomplete data. 

On the repeal of Article 9: Despite some breathless press reports on this side of the Pacific, political opinion in the country is still very divided on this point. Currently its polling about 50/50.  He did not expect any changes before 2020. Amending their constitution has even more hurdles than ours. 

On re-starting the nuclear plants: While several nuclear plants are being re-started out of necessity, the political will seems to be firmly against fission. 
When I brought up the fact that Japanese companies like Toshiba are leading the world in safe 3rd generation nuclear reactors as well as small limited risk designs he pointed out that while many of the new Japanese designs were inherently safe, the public had been told this about the old boiling water reactors like Fukishima Daichi as well. Additionally, Fukishima's reactors were kept in service far longer than they should have been. Thus trust between the public and the nuclear industry is shot to hell. He also pointed out that Japanese law made NIMBYism very powerful, so that when someone got an area zoned for Nuclear, the company kept cramming new reactors on that small plot, with the result that a localized natural disaster could cause issues with multiple reactors (which is what happened at Fukishima). 

One bit of information he mentioned that I was unaware of; When the U.S. decided recently to start building nuclear plants again they had to contract Japanese technical advisors as we no longer had the expertise. 

On the Japanese language programs that gave the best results. I didn't ask this, he brought it up to my Japanese teacher. He said that the American who spoke best Japanese he'd ever met had not been from the State Department but rather a woman he encountered whose fluency was so good that he had inquired where she'd gone to school.As it turned out, her  instructor had not stressed writing and grammar at all, just conversational Japanese. Once she had that, the was able to teach herself the Kanji. He seemed to think that American's are trying to learn Japanese backwards.

Anyway, I again want to thank Ambassador Fujisaki so patiently and graciously answering my questions over dinner. 

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January 21, 2018

Quick Blog Update

The effort to get the Search Thingy and Recent Comments Sidebar is ongoing. 

I do note that the rotating banners are back now. (Thanks Pixy!)

I just realized after 12 years on this site that the category Catastrophe is misspelled in the sidebar, but I don't think I can fix that without loosing all the links to the posts.

The effort to get the issues with the blog's content generator fixed is ongoing.

While we wait on that last bit, here's Mae from C&Rsenal with a Tankgewehr.

Full episode is here.

It's always nice to see someone who enjoys their work.

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January 19, 2018

As the Bots Become More Sophisticated

...captcha has inevitably become more of a challenge to users.

Quite possibly to no avail

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Some Advice

The time to order the snow blower, snow shovels and rock salt from Amazon is not when one notes snowflakes coming down from the sky. 

Also: If one is a city manager and one's city is utterly defeated by 2 inches of snow, then one needs to redirect some of the municipal 'hookers and blow' budget to snowplows. 

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January 17, 2018


That was quick. When I left school earlier there wasn't so much as a flake.   

It doesn't show up on this dreadful picture but it is still coming down as I type this.

School is out tomorrow, which means that thanks to late registration, the holiday and snow days, I've gone 2 weeks without attending my math class once. And I'll've attended two of my classes only one day in two weeks.

Local municipalities REALLY need to invest in snow removal.

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Even More "Yes!" Than The Last Post.

"So much "Yes!' "

Via Moe Lane.
Being YouTube, the comments, at least the English language ones, get waylaid by the question of wether this is a manned drone or a helicopter.

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January 15, 2018

We've Come Admirably Far From Where we Started, But Strayed So Far From The Path That I fear We May Be Lost.

Embed comes via Cdr Salamander, who also makes a very important point about primary sources, one that we've touched on here before

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January 14, 2018

An Honest Trailer

This film is exactly what is promised.

Thor Ragnarok is not a particularly profound film, but it is a remarkably fun one. It is also, in writing and art direction, a love letter to the late Jack Kirby, his creations and his fans. 

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Justice League

In stark contrast to a certain other recent tent-pole film, this latest installment in Time Warner's answer to Disney's Marvel franchise is a surprisingly thoughtful yet enjoyable romp that fills in rather than creates plot holes and has considerable respect for the source material.

A direct sequel to Batman VS Superman the film takes place less than a month after the events in that film and is a direct continuation of that story and it both reinforces the good elements of that film and fills in some gaps. 

The film is a superhero flick so there is much fighting, biologically improbable displays of prowess, dubious physics, spectacular fight choreography and exquisite pyrotechnics. It also has a damned good story and has some unexpectedly insightful things to say about leadership and command. This film also develops the characters quite well. Ben Affleck's Batman for instance is not particularly likable but what makes the character work is that he is aware of this fact and trying to correct for it. Gale Gadot as Wonder Woman is awesome in a way that defies my ability to describe in words. Aquaman, redneck prince of Atlantis is a completely off the wall take on the character that works surprisingly well and The Flash is just perfect. Odd man out is Cyborg, who is not really given an opportunity to shine character-wise in the same way ( and who is from a different book anyway). Nevertheless he does develop during the course of the film and there is a perfectly valid reason plot-wise that his bionics are so far beyond the state of the art. 

The film, although it is fantasy, it is quite consistent with and follows its internal logic and rules...unlike some movies we've seen recently. 

Justice League got some negative buzz and had a dissapointing box office, so I was surprised at how good it turned out to be. If it has a weakness, it is it's prequel, Batman vs Superman. That is, the two films are really one story, much more tightly integrated than is usually the case with sequels. The events and plot devices of the first film are so important to the second, that, having seen both movies, I'm unsure if the exposition is adequate to explain some of the plot elements if one has not seen the first film. The two films are more like two chapters in an old serial in that regard.

Anyway, if you have a chance I strongly suggest you go see the film before it finally vanishes. 

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Crying Wolf

As everyone in the world knows, Hawaii was not hit with an ICBM yesterday. This appears to have been a similar screw up to what happened in Guam last year, but much more widely noticed. 

A few things to takeaway from this....

Despite its position as a major strategic target from which there is no escape, Hawaii doesn't seem to have much of a public fallout shelter system online.  (There are reports  that they're working on this though)We don't here either, but that is due to geology (and a water table 4 feet below the grass).

"Duck and Cover" will actually increase the chances of survival, especially in a limited attack. Note that even if duck and cover only increased ones survival odds by one percent, in a nation of 320 million that's 3.2 million more people who would survive than would otherwise. 

Enough of these false alarms will assure that if/when the actual attack comes innocent fatalities will be maximized. 

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January 13, 2018

A Week Not For the Weak

Is this thing still on? 
Probably not, it's been 10 days. 
Be advised that banality lurks below the fold. Here as partial atonement is something pleasant, tangentially related and literate by Fuji Choko.


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January 04, 2018

The View From My Window Just a Few Hours Ago

Or as Wonderduck and Pete might say "Oh. It's Thursday".
For us here in the south it was remarkably novel to have winds approaching hurricane force with...snow. And almost as novel to have so much snow. 

Don seems less unimpressed with the weather than one might expect from a Wichitanerainian, though the results of his web searches may be contributing factors. 

On the other hand, Pixy, despite dodging the snow bullet completely, has nevertheless encountered a perfect storm of his own....

We may be offline intermittently. 

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