January 17, 2019

And Then More Stuff Happened

Apologies for two consecutive posts concerning the banality of my Walter Mitty lifestyle. Here, as partial compensation is something pleasant by Sukabu.



Additionally, Sukabu still has a Tumbler page...somehow...Infer what you will from that statement.
more...

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January 16, 2019

And Then This Happened



Art by Mocha

My life is over.
Everything was for naught.
Hope has left the building.

more...

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January 15, 2019

The News is All About Hamburgers and Overpriced Razors So Here's Some Space Stuff

One of The Brickmuppet's Crack Team of Science Babes brings us the latest developments the search for extraterrestrial intelligence...



"My new favorite word is Technosignature."


The short video is a good quick overview of SETI issues. However, Mr. Cain also links to the referenced NASA report as well as the recent SETI conference minutes, which can provide hours of amusement.

In other SPACE news, while we wait for high resolution pictures from Ultima Thule NASA is providing some visual perspective on the matter.






The full presentations are here and here

(We should see some high rez pictures in about two weeks or so.)

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January 13, 2019

It Appears That Something is Afoot!


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Meanwhile, in the Cartoon Jacuzzi

A interesting Dumping with Scrump from about a week ago focusing on the various origins of the current censorious tendencies sweeping the interwebs.  



In the specific case of Tumblr, they suggest that the issue was due in part to pressure from Apple, which itself was part of a cascading panic regarding the implementation of FOSTA and SESTA. They further note the significance of the ban being implemented on December 17th. There's more to be sure, about 28 minutes worth.

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January 12, 2019

Just as God and Robert Heinlein Intended

While the news is distracted by the government shutdown, one of The Brickmuppet's Crack Team of Science Babes brings us news from Southeastern Texas, where consequential things are happening. 






And they are happening QUICKLY.

7 days ago, there were reports that Space-X might do a flight of their "Starhopper" test rig for their upcoming Mars Rocket in a little as 70-120 days. This was much sooner than had been projected. 

However, the engineers have been working nonstop, through weekends and with astounding alacrity. Now the prototype is assembled (at least externally) and Musk is hinting at a much earlier test. 
 SpaceX CEO Elon Musk says that the company’s first Starship prototype – a low-fidelity hop test vehicle – has finished assembly in South Texas, paving the way towards a series of experimental vertical take-off or landing (VTOL) hop tests that could begin as early as February or March 2019.

This is a low altitude test vehicle intended to work out hovering, and landing techniques and refine some design concepts for the ultimate design. It may well be run to destruction to test the limits of the vehicle.

Even more astounding, the first of the actual orbital prototypes is expected to be ready to fly as early as June pending the results of the Starhopper tests.  

The Starship Interplanetary Spaceship will be a remarkable vehicle. It is expected to be able to insert itself into orbit without a booster (albeit with virtually no useful payload). Assisted by the Super Heavy booster it will be able to carry more payload than even the Saturn 5, and transport 50 to 100 people to the Moon, Mars or beyond, or, for a more down to Earth application, a much larger number anywhere on earth in under 37 minutes as an inter-continental ballistic passenger rocket

The frantic speed of the test program is somewhat odd. One would expect a more reserved and methodical approach. There are a couple of possibilities, but two stand out. Space-X is tight on cash and just laid off 10% of its employees. It needs a spectacular PR stunt to woo more investment money. Also, NASA's SLS rocket, which has been delayed numerous times, is now expected to fly in 2020. If Musk can get a Starship orbital flight before then, that might well kill the NASA rocket (which, being expendable, and having a lower payload is inferior in every way). This would grant Space-X a much bigger share of the US launch market. 

This would also have the benefit of killing off a program that has already wasted 14 billion dollars of the U.S. taxpayers money just since 2011.

Remember that NASA was given a mandate to go back to the moon in 2005. Note that it's 2019. Using something we like to call MATH, if we take 2019 and subtract 2005 from it we get 14 years, which is exactly twice as long as the 7 years it took from 1962-1969 to do the exact same thing but with the exception that the technology was 50 years more primitive and going to the moon had never been done before. Now, 14 years after being told to repeat something done with far more modest technology, NASA can point to the fact that China has landed a rover on the moon, but on the far side, which has never been done before. Also; NASA'll have that rocket of theirs running soon

If Musk can pull this off, and finance the large numbers of rockets needed for the Mars missions he has planned, then the 2020s will usher in a new era in the history of mankind, one that may well save us. 

However, this project is pushing engineering to the limit. Some crashes and explosions are to be expected in the engineering test rigs. Unfortunately, investors and the public generally don't have a grasp of sound engineering principles and learning curves will look like failures to many of today's risk adverse generation. It remains to be seen if Musk can 
keep this most worthy of projects financed and supported.

Fingers are crossed!

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January 10, 2019

Thinking Big

Well this solves everything!



"My new favorite word is Klemperer rosette!"

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Apple Being Boycotted by China?

There have been several reports percolating about today that indicate Apple is facing a boycott in China.


Note though, that a quick perusal of those links indicate that they're all Apple focused sites. Immediately this will raise suspicion that the Apple cultists are just making excuses for Apple's earnings troubles. (Full disclosure, this blog is typed on an i-Mac)  That's not entirely fair of course and in their defense there was today a major boost in the credibility of the story. 


Ahem.

Furthermore, today, less boutique news sites in the U.S. and abroad are reporting the same thing. That is, there seems to be at least an informal boycott of Apple products in China, and India as well

It's unclear how much of this is due to last months call by Chinese businesses to rally around Huwaei and how much of this is just the realization that Apple products today (in contrast to just a few years ago) tend to have markedly less capability for much more money which probably ought not to count as a boycott. The similar trend in India (Where Huwaei does not enjoy a groundswell of home team support)would tend to indicate that there are deeper problems than the political factors. 
 
There is more in depth analysis of the situation here, but note that the last time we went with Bloomberg on a tech story we regretted it

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January 09, 2019

A Reasonable Facsimile of What Actual Content Might Be Like


The following bizarre nonsense is mostly explained here....mostly. 

(BORDERLINE NSFW)

Clipping issues aside, it's fairly impressive nonsense when one realizes that there's almost certainly no stock motion capture download for this, so they had to have actually animated it.


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January 06, 2019

Happy New Year! (Again)

I looked and looked for this for the New Year's post to no avail.

Just now, I discovered it was misfiled. It was in the Aerospace folder...alas, it was filed in with the centrifuges; where the paper I was looking for isn't.

Anyway...Happy 2019! This Year of the Pig, will mark the 110th anniversary of ...





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Monitezation Experiment

Look. Ads.





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This is Getting Kind of Scary

"Yes Comrades, your IP addresses have been logged and your incorrect opinions have been noted."  




Of course I suppose it's possible that the BBC might have run a private screening for the critics and due, perhaps, to a software glitch, accidentally broadcast a blooper reel instead of the episode the critics saw.

I can't help but think though that a blooper reel would have gotten a higher core.

I haven't seen the episode but that dichotomy is, frankly, disturbing.

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January 04, 2019

QUICK! Everybody Watch This Before the Lawyers Take it Down!

It's not, strictly speaking, "good" or even coherent, but it is kind of awesome. 

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January 02, 2019

Dark Times and Their Avoidance


It's a long post but I strongly suggest that you read it all, it is...sobering.

When people stop talking to one another, when they cannot communicate with or understand the other side...when the speech stops...the war begins. 

With that in mind, Peterson and Rubin have both decided to leave Patreon, effective the 15th.  


It's 31 minutes, but I again recommend you watch the whole thing. They do touch on something that I noted as the main concern when I did a post on the subject two weeks ago

The financial services issue. 

That Patreon did what they did to one of their customers who had not violated their TOS, was unprofessional at best and somewhat worrisome for anyone on the platform. However, what, to my mind at least, elevated this to "Serious Business" was the fact that Pay-Pal and the other online payment outfits pulled the plug on Subscribe Star when Subscribe Star did not refuse service to the clients ejected from Patreon. 

At that point the situation became a blacklist..one with teeth.

In that vein, over at Ambient Irony, Pixy links to an article at One Angry Gamer that describes similar actions being taken against a Death Metal band.  

The piece points out that the precedent for this was Obama's Operation  Choke  Point which weaponized financial institutions against businesses the Administration did not like, like porn stars and gun dealers. Choke Point was put down in 2017, but some of the electronic and informal infrastructure and more importantly the precedent for such counter constitutional restraints of trade presumably still exist.  about 15 paragraphs down though the  OAG article proposes that Pay-Pal and company are still getting their marching orders for these bans from the FDIC and this is all a deep state conspiracy.

Here's the thing. 

I don't think the FDIC took a stance on Sargon of Akkad. 

However, the same article links to a rather scattershot video by SFO that has some things to say about MasterCard. (He's really dug deep into Mastercard)

THAT is less silly, because Master Card (and financial bottlenecks in general ) came up not only in the Peterson/Rubin video above in the transcript of the much discussed phone call  between Matt Christensen and Jaqueline Hart concerning the larger matter of free speech on Patreon.
JACQUELINE: The problem is is patreon takes payments.  And while we are obviously supportive of the first amendment, there are other things that we have to consider. Our mission is to fund the creative class. In order to accomplish that mission we have to build a community of creators that are comfortable sharing a platform, and if we allow certain types of speech that some people would call free speech, then only creators that use patreon that don’t mind their branding associated with that kind of speech would be those who use patreon and we fail at our mission.  But secondly as a membership platform, payment processing is one of the core value propositions that we have.  Payment processing depends on our ability to use the global payment network, and they have rules for what they will process.    

MATT:  Are you telling me that this was Patreon’s decision then, or someone pressured you into this? 

JACQUELINE:  No - this was entirely Patreon’s decision.  

MATT:  Well then I don’t understand passing the buck off to somebody else.  

JACQUELINE:  No, I’m not passing the buck off.  The thing is we have guidelines, but I’m trying to explain, #1 it is our mission to fund the creative class and obviously some people may not want to be associated.  

MATT:  Well if it’s your mission, then payment processors are irrelevant.  It’s your mission.  That’s what you’re pursuing.  

JACQUELINE:  We’re not visa and mastercard ourselves - we can’t just make the rules.  That’s what I’m saying - there is an extra layer there.  

MATT:  Right, but that extra layer is not necessarily relevant if your own goals that you’re pursuing are already doing that anyway.  

JACQUELINE:  I don’t necessarily see it that way.  I sort of see it along two lines - so if we said, we want this to just be a free speech platform - we’re 100% dedicated to free speech - then that isn’t really true to our mission.

MATT:  What percent dedicated are you to free speech?

(Long Multipage Break)


JACQUELINE:  We’re not a free market.  Again, this goes back to - 

MATT:  Okay.  I’m glad you admit that.    

JACQUELINE:  This goes back to what I was saying about that we are a payment processor and that is one of our core value propositions that we have, is that payment processing depends on our ability to use payment networks and we have to abide by those rules.

MATT:  But that is not what you’ve been telling me repeatedly.  You go back and forth between telling me we have to uphold our ideal, and then passing the buck off to payment processors who are holding you to this standard, begrudgingly I suppose.  Either you agree with that standard or you don’t.   

JACQUELINE:  What I’m saying is we have to have policies whether or not I personally believe in something or-or.

MATT:  When I say ‘you,’ I mean Patreon, obviously.   

JACQUELINE:  The problem though is that Patreon itself has to base their guidelines on the people that they work with and that they share information with and so- 

MATT:  But you have been telling me this whole time that you support those guidelines.

JACQUELINE:  I do support those guidelines.

MATT:  Okay. So - 

JACQUELINE:  But you have to base those on something so this is what I’m saying. Even if I personally came into Patreon and said, you know, ‘I believe 100% in absolute free speech’ I-I will not be able to make that the guidelines even if that’s what I personally believe. We have a lot of people here who believe that, but -

MATT:   Well let me ask you this - has there ever been a case where a payment processor has come to Patreon and said ‘you guys are enabling too much hate speech, we’re gonna cut you off?’

JACQUELINE:  As in Patreon?

MATT:  Yeah - is there a reason you have to bend the knee to these payment processors? Have they made you bend the knee before?

JACQUELINE:  I-I’m not going to get into a discussion about our payment partners specifically. 

So...I think this is not a great government conspiracy. 

However, there do seem to be a bunch of like minded people who have decided to determine whose cool and whose not. This is at it most basic the same as a bunch of preppies or mean girls in High School working to protect the exclusivity of their clique, and the emotional sophistication is probably similar. 

Illuminati this ain't.

However, this clique controls banks, so the power they wield and its implications are consequential.

 The upper echelons of our society and the world at large are in many ways a monoculture that has gotten exceedingly provincial over the last decade or so despite their aspirations to cosmopolitanism. The secular faith that they discarded their old timey religion for has at its disposal the manic enthusiasm of the newly converted feeding its own ruthless Inquisition. The Gramscian march that created this intolerant and incurious monoculture is a thing of the left so there is an inherent political aspect and bias to this, but we need to be clear headed about the situation.

 The situation is genuinely troubling, but it is not hopeless. Decentralization and preferably distributed networks  are the best ways to neuter the gatekeepers. Rubin, Peterson and others look to be working on that. 

So be of good cheer in the new year. 
 
And don't bend the knee.

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Beating N.A.S.A. to the Punch

Scott Lowther has sifted through the preliminary data being made available to the public by the New Horizons mission and determined the true nature of Ultima Thule...




The visual evidence is indeed compelling .


"But the only way to be sure is to 
see if it tastes like chicken!"

Note that the reason the high-rez pictures are so long in coming is not just the fact that New Horizons is over 12 light hours away. It's that the distance between us and it, the limited power available and the small size of the probes dish mean that the data transmission rates from Kupierville make dial-up look fast. 

We may not see the best pictures until February, and all the data won't be in for about 20 months.

Obviously, we need to invest in some infrastructure improvements out there. 



Support Scott Lowther's awesome aerospace history work here & here.

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January 01, 2019

On the Effects of Theatrical Film Releases Upon Market Volatility

 December, 2018 saw the stock markets enter a stage of extreme volatility, with multi day crashes followed by all time record gains. Several factors have been proposed as sources of these swings, including the President's tariffs  and actions taken by the Federal Reserve. However the introduction of these factors does not strongly correlate with the timing of the market fluctuations. 


I propose that this fiduciary phenomenon is in fact caused by the synergetic effects set in motion by an event that has been heretofore ignored by financial analysts.  

Spider-Man (Into the Spider-Verse) entered general theatrical release on December 14th, shortly before the market entered its volatile phase.

This film kicked ass. It kicked so much ass that I propose that the resulting national ass shortage led to chaos in ass futures causing a general breakdown of commodities trading which in turn led to ripple effects throughout the larger stock market.


"..." "..." "..." "..." "..." "..."


What?

Economics aside, this is a bizarre but immensely  enjoyable film that pulls together a bunch of odd, little explored threads from the Marvel Universe(s) to tell a tale of "passing the baton"; one that manages to very respectful of the Marvel canon and did not spit on the fans. 

With that alone they exceeded expectations, but the the creators of this film did not stop there. This film is...good. It's really good and is one of the better comic book films ever made. 

Once the story gets going, the film keeps the audience on the edge of their seats and the villains...the comic book villains...manage to come off as genuinely terrifying. 

The film is very true to the original medium, due in part, to a quirky, experimental art and animation style that shifts throughout the film as needed by the story. This eclectic artistic choice is, on occasion, distracting, but it generally works astoundingly well. 

The direction, pacing and characterizations are all solid , however, one thing that really stood out in this animated film was the quality of the acting.

Now one expects good voice acting in a feature length film**. However, there is a difference between stage acting, screen acting and VOICE acting, and animated films in the U.S. generally get big name actors who give perfectly solid performances but don't fully utilize the medium. 

The voice work in this movie really stands out as exceptional. The delivery at times is like a '40s screwball comedy or a Howard Hawks film and they pull this off without sounding stilted or dated. Kathryn Hahn, Hailee Stienfield and Liev Schreiber give particularly good performances but the whole cast was exceptional in that regard. I was particularly shocked to learn that Chris Pine can act.

The whole film is littered with little easter eggs that don't distract from the story, but are delightful treats to the audience members who grew up reading these books. In that vein, this last Stan Lee cameo appeared to be one of his best, though I was beset by allergies at that point. 

All in all, this was a remarkably good film. It's still in general release so I  strongly urge you to go see it before it leaves theaters. 

Do sit through the credits. 


**************

  *All. Of. The. Canon.
** In its original language.

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Happy 2019!

May all of you, gentle readers, in the upcoming year, find prosperity and happiness. 



Kawakaze over ham by Kanon of the Kurogane Knights Circle

And thank you all for dropping by these modest digs over the last 15 years. 

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December 31, 2018

Wonderduck In Hospital

I know nothing more than that. I just cut on my phone (it had run down and been charging most of the day) and received a text from Wonderduck timestamped about 6 hours before I typed this. 


The message said that due to his leg injury had not been able to get out of bed for 30 hours and that he was, at the time of the text, in the ER.



That is all I know. It's 6 hours out of date and he has not returned my text. I'm loathe to call him because he probably needs sleep.

He's been in a lot of pain of late, so keep him in your prayers if so inclined; at least go drop by his place and leave him some good cheer. 

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New Horizons VS. Ultima Thule

Well, tonight (tomorrow actually) after the fireworks and the dropping of the ball,  you should stick around because there will be an encore celebration around 12:15AM, when Clyde Tombaugh's atomic powered urn, better known as NASA's New Horizons probe, which not so long ago gave us spectacular views of Pluto is going to pass by(486958) 2014 MU69, a small but very strange transNeptunian object that has been given the unofficial temporary name Ultima Thule for marketing purposes. 


The object in question, about 12 miles across, is a cause for a good bit of speculation  as it doesn't seem to have much of a light curve, at all, which is...odd.

"But it's AWESOME, 'cause it's weird 
and we're gonna discover something!"

Indeed.

Note though, that possible explanations include that the object is actually surrounded by a cloud of debris, in which case there's a decent chance that New Horizons will come to an end in a collision. 

Because it is SO far away, the radio signals will take over 9 hours to get to NASA! Coverage of that is set to start around 09:45 Eastern Time(U.S.). There is a press conference scheduled for 11:30 Eastern to discuss the pictures, or what can be gleaned from the probes loss. There will be a lot of discussion of this online tonight and tomorrow morning with Launchpad Astronomy already 4 hours into their  24 hr livestream. 


So tonight, after the celebrations, sit back, watch the coverage and throw back an egg nog for Clyde Tombaugh, the little probe that carries his remains, and the implacable spirit of mankind.

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RWBY Season 6

After the dumpster fire that was the end of last season, RWBY's latest 8 episodes have been something of a shock.


A pleasant one.

Each of these episodes has had more plot and character development than the last half of last season, and most have had more action too. The fight choreography has risen in quality exponentially to levels that would make Monty proud and the show has managed to make the monsters scary again, with some episodes very effectively conveying a sense of existential  dread.

Even the most recent episode, where a bunch of characters desperately run around in circles not killing or breaking anything because someone forgot to leave a note, managed to advance the story while developing characters...


...and torturing them. 

I've been quite impressed with the season, but I'm now on my guard. The halfway point is where the last season went off the rails, crawled into its own navel and imploded, so this could all go to worms.

On the other hand, this season went "off the rails" in episode one and has doing great things ever since, so I remain hopeful. 

I certainly will be watching it.

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