December 29, 2007
December 27, 2007
Benazir Bhutto, the first female Prime Minister of any Islamic nation, has been assassinated.
It took 4 tries but the bastards finally got her.
More here, here and here.
She may have been the best chance to pull Pakistan from the brink.
December 26, 2007
Strike Witches is going to be a full series!
Flying, cyborg, magical. catgirls...
For those who are ignorant of this astounding accomplishment, well, this was a brief advertisement for a line of toys that is considered by reliable authorities to be the 22nd most baffling in the world...
The 8 1/2 minute commercial was a cornucopia of combat kawaii...
That said I must agree with Don's ambivilance.
The little add is sublime in both its pacing and its ridiculousness...
I'm not sure 8 episodes of exposition will help.
I am sure that I'm going to watch it.
In an entirely different vein is this fan-work that just utterly rocks....
Via Colleen Doran, behold Robin...the Movie!
Awesome awesome bit of fanfic...with a better premise than half the actual Batman movies.
UPDATE: Here is the creators website
December 24, 2007
We have survived the biggest Christmas season evah!
Well I'm not sure about the reindeer.....
December 23, 2007
So on the advice of a friend I watched "Welcome to the NHK".
This is the er, heartwarming story of a rather paranoid 22 year old hikikomori (a recluse/ agorophobic...currently considered a disturbing trend in Japan) who having given up on life sits in his apartment...consuming O2, ramen and pr0n.
Tatsuhiro Satō is agorophobic, poorly socialized and increasingly seeking to blame his emotional problems and poor choices on a vast conspiracy. He finally makes a determination to get his crap together and do something with himself....OK he has to take baby steps...to the door...and he'll get around to opening it...eventually....Honest!
The issue is forced when there is a knock on the door and he is visited by a couple of missionaries an old lady and a cute girl ( in a..gasp...dungrrreeeskirrrrt) who are talking about...well they are there to talk about the crisis of people descending into the hell of Hickikomoriism. Sato rather too angrily protests that he's not 'one of those freaks' and slams the door.
However, this, a need for food, the loud music of the 'idiot otaku next door' and a realization that his finances are coming to an end convince our mentally unbalanced hero to venture into the world and try to get a job...his first attempt is stymied...but he catches the eye of the young lass who was at his door...she decides that he is going to be her project...SHE'S GONNA SAVE HIM....
One of the worst qualities that a show can possess is a lack of respect for its audience. Welcome to the NHK takes this affliction and turns it into a plus...or something...by embracing their lack of respect and becoming one with it. Not even the Evangelion movie displayed such utter contempt for their target audience.
The first four episodes follow our hero through the narrowing corridors of his sanity as he ables through Otaku culture. Filled with examples and even thoughtful analysis of the sorts of pathologies that has been blogged about here and here, this show is brutal and painful to watch at times...but I LOL'd
It hasn't gotten actually vulgar yet (aside from some implied ick), but it is absolutely merciless to the fans who will likely be thanking God that they haven't slipped quite that far...no really....never...have...
WTF ARE YOU LOOKING AT!!??11!?
I laughed out loud...
I cried silently in shame...
I'm going to have to get volume 2.
One of the Brickmuppet's crack team of science babes brings us an overview of several recent, not so recent and recently noted developments on the energy front.
There has been a bit of buzz regards the recent announcement of Toshiba's "Mini Nuke". A very tiny reactor with no moving parts (aside from convectioning sodium) that has great potential for decentralizing the power grid.
Despite some confusion, this reactor seems to be different from the little reactor that was first discussed at Brickmuppet Blog in '03, namely the Toshiba 4S reactor or "nuclear battery". This is the reactor offered to Galena Alaska and is now slated to be operational there by 2010 ...(a PDF from Galena's public info office is here). The dimensions given for the mini nuke reactor are much smaller than those given for the 4S at 20 ft x 6 feet....about a third the size of the 4S....close enough to 1/3rd the height that a metric conversion error is possible.
A perusal of the Toshiba nuclear website produces no info on the English site but slogging through the Japanese side produces this page on the 4S and the miracle of Babblefish indicates that the design now comes in 2 sizes 10 and 50 MW. There is no mention of the small reactor mentioned above. However, as I was posting this I found that Brian Wang believes this is indeed a separate reactor and points to this article from 2001. If this is right (and Wang seems to be on top of this stuff) then this is a pretty big development. It also explains why the Next Energy News Article has the first operational one slated for use in Japan rather than the US.
The potential for these two reactors is tremendous. It could be a boon to the developing world. Pollution free power in isolated locations with little or no infrastructure. Power that can be used for applications as diverse and vital as clean water, irrigation, refrigeration, air conditioning, communications (internet access) and everything else. The unit is sealed and the fuel is not weapons grade, so the proliferation issues are minimized.
In this country as it allows a HIGHLY decentralized (and therefore robust) energy grid. Single point failures like the 3 big northeast blackouts would be a thing of the past if little reactors were dispersed around areas more than 60 feet above sea level and not subject to explosive vulcanism...IE most of the country. These two reactors are highly efficient and would be swapped out at the end of their lives ( 40 YEARS!) and have their contents taken to other larger reactors for reprocessing and recycling.
With a plant height of only 20 feet, the smaller reactor might well have civil marine applications especially given the recent concern about merchant ship pollution (ironic since marine diesels are amongst the most efficient internal combustion engines on the planet... notwithstanding their smokey start-ups).
Longtime readers know that thanks in part to Kirk Sorensen's excellent website I am particularly partial to thorium reactors both because of their efficiency, low waste and the commonality of thorium. Well, there is a liquid salt reactor that runs on the sort of U233 and thorium mixture that Kirk Sorensen has long advocated the FUJI MSR. This is a molten salt reactor being developed by Fuji Electric a Russian firm and General Atomics. This reactor is complementary to the above mentioned in that it is somewhat flexible in its diet of fissionables and can actually "eat" some nuclear waste!
There is more from here...
In the Molten Salt Reactor (MSR) the fuel is a molten mixture of lithium and beryllium fluoride salts with dissolved thorium and U-233 fluorides. The core consists of unclad graphite moderator arranged to allow the flow of salt at some 700°C and at low pressure. Heat is transferred to a secondary salt circuit and thence to steam. The fission products dissolve in the salt and are removed continuously in an on-line reprocessing loop and replaced with Th-232 or U-238. Actinides remain in the reactor until they fission or are converted to higher actinides which do so.
The FUJI MSR is a 100 MWe design operating as a near-breeder and being developed internationally by a Japanese, Russian and US consortium.
The attractive features of this MSR fuel cycle include: the high-level waste comprising fission products only, hence shorter-lived radioactivity; small inventory of weapons-fissile material (Pu-242 being the dominant Pu isotope); low fuel use (the French self-breeding variant claims 50kg of thorium and 50kg U-238 per billion kWh); and safety due to passive cooling up to any size.
These developments in atomic power are really a fish or cut bait moment for the greens. Either they really believe global warming is a problem...or they don't.
This indicates that the answer is "don't". Rather, it seems, it is just a political tool for them. This is unfortunate. While we at Brickmuppet Blog don't think AGW is the most serious environmental crisis facing us , it is certainly non- trivial Even if the skeptics are right and the major reasons for the warming of the planet are natural, it is stupid to add to the issue and create other problems through pollution. We are on the cusp of being able to solve most of the problems relating from emissions...bring clean power to the developing world and raise the standard of living across the planet over the next 20 or so years...only the hairshirt luddites are standing in the way.
That post and much discussion has been sparked in part by Bob Zubrin's new book. Zubrin advocates methanol, which is unexciting because of its very low energy density, but is easier to make and shouldn't displace food crops. It's big drawback (aside from being corrosive) is that it reduces cars to near electric ranges. His proposal is interesting in that he wants to mandate flexfuel vehicles.
This opens the market to competition not just amongst suppliers, but commodities.
For the reasons outlined here I think steam cars (!?) may be the best solution for this. Weather the engines are external or internal combustion, the flex-fuel idea is certainly doable and a practical way of getting around the chicken/egg problem of alternate fuels.
As to recent developments in those fuels....
Shell is building a biofuel refinery in Hawaii.
There is a pilot program in Arizona to use the CO2 from a coal plant to grow algae for oil production.
A huge new biodiesel refinery has opened in India.
A lithium ion battery with 10 TIMES the capacity!
This is revolutionary!
This is big, from laptops to APUs to cars. If this pans out it makes electric cars practical, and makes portable battery packs for computers and other applications last 120 times as long...or gives 10 TIMES the power for processing or whatever you need to do!
In other battery news, Toshiba (remember them?) has developed a lithium ion battery that can be recharged in a minute! If the two Lithium Ion developments are in any way compatible, this could really speed up charging of electric cars!
It would also put a strain upon the energy grid which is another reason why we need to start building those dispersed little nuke plants we started out with.
You see, Nuclear power is actually the key to most of these energy independence proposals.
*Hydrogen must be manufactured through electrolysis or other means.
There is no such thing as a free lunch and these technologies are no exception. These are interesting technologies, but they are energy carriers for the most part, and that energy must come from someplace. Solar, and and other fairly clean non nuclear sources have niche applications but for the power generation needs of an industrial society atomic power is really the only clean option.
Whatever path secondary power and energy carrier systems take, Atomic Power is the key to the future.
Those that oppose it are the futures enemies
This has been by far the heaviest Christmas ever. My little neck of the woods exceeded its all time highest package count by almost 25%.
This is almost certainly not typical of UPS but I imagine the company did rather well. I suppose the online orders are responsible for this happy state of affairs.
Today we go in early for the annual Christmas Party, we load the remaining parcels and those that go out in the trucks don't come back until the trucks are empty. We'll get every present we can out tomorrow.
I work all week save Tuesday and start my 2 weeks at the USCG next
Tuesday. It's been a rough couple of weeks, but its nearly over.
December 22, 2007
That would be Fred Thompson.
Thompson is really the only Goldwater Republican in the race for the nomination.
Thompson's view of the role and function of government is closer to mine than any of the candidates aside from Congressman Paul, and I firmly believe Thompson is far better than that admirably Jeffersonian Congressman on dealing with current threats. Thompson's strong federalist stance is a welcome one to me as this is a vital aspect of a Republic.
Starting with his early campaigning for Goldwater, Thompson has been politically active in various capacities for on and off for over 30 years. He has also been employed in private sector jobs ranging from the fields of law to entertainment during the aforementioned "off" periods. The private sector perspective is important for the elected representatives to have and it is all too lacking in todays political players. The founders intended that our representative serve for a time and go back to their jobs rather existing as professional entrenched rulers...Thus this is a bigger point for Thompson than is often appreciated.
His experience in public service has ranged from the Watergate hearings were he comported himself admirably to the service in both the US Senate and the State Department ( working for ISAB). In private life he helped bring down a corrupt governor and represented various citizens legal interests. He is also a character actor and while that may seem to be of limited relevance to the POTUS skillset, the skills honed there can have considerable application in both electability and in the all important presidential job of shouting and inspiring from the bully pulpit.
I certainly do not agree with Thompson on all issues, but it is apparent that he has given many of the issues facing the nation a good deal of thought beyond the sound bite.
No candidate is going to score 100% with the focus group of one that is Ken, but I am in agreement with Thompson more than I am with the current President (who I voted for twice) and I feel he has an excellent chance of uniting the party for the tough electoral battle ahead and a better than even chance of uniting our viscerally divided country against the many challenges it faces, challenges that range from the natural, to the man made and from men of ill intent.
Finally, Thompson possesses another important characteristic that is lacking in much of todays discourse, an almost Reaganlike optimism. This as important a quality as any in leadership.
Anyway, them's my reasons....
December 21, 2007
Quick courteous professional service such as this is just one more reason all bloggers should move to Mee.Nu!
December 20, 2007
December 18, 2007
High maintenance beetotch should not leave the amazing technologicaly based maintenance infrastructure that makes decadent, high maintenance beeotchery possible.
"There wasn't a thing on the table that I could eat" said a frustrated Love. "They kept putting food in front of me, but I kept trying to tell them that I was a vegan. I pointed to the food and said it really loudly and slowly 'vegan, veee-gaaan' but they didn't seem to understand. They just kept encouraging me to eat."
Love's lack of Mongolian language skills coupled with the families lack of English language skills provided the perfect environment for a cultural misunderstanding to take place. And before long the Mongolian family had come to understand that "vegan" meant "sick" and quickly began to set out to find a remedy for their guest's illness
Of course, in keeping with a general policy of cluelessness, our heroine has learned nothing.
"I'm not going back to Mongolia, I can tell you that for sure, but I'm seriously looking at some remote parts of Africa for next summer."
Coming Next Summer: The Peril of Bushmeat
HT: Rand Simberg
I kinda like Fred.
It seems that Pejman Yousefzadeh does too. It is a long well thought out piece...I agree with a lot of it.
He needs a blimp though.
HT: the Blogfather
December 17, 2007
December 15, 2007
...Steam Power for instance.
It seems that steampunk lives beyond alternate history novels or the pages of Ninja High School, for one of the Brickmuppets' crack team of science babes brings us this series of links on a recent spate of interest in external combustion applications.
Steam power, you see, has one advantage that is quite appealing in an age where the future of liquid fuel seems to be in a state of flux. Steam is inherently flexible in its fuel.
The reason for this is simple enough. The inner workings of an engine work over a fairly narrow range of tolerances. You can expand the range of fuel types in an internal combustion engine somewhat by sacrificing a bit of efficiency. In this regard the comparatively efficient Brazilian style flex fuel vehicles are a great innovation in being able to burn ethanol and gasoline which have rather different properties...yet even they are far more alike than different. For instance, you can't run diesel in a gasoline engine...it is too viscous, and you can't run gasoline (or most alcohols) in a diesel because they will explode both prematurely and too hot, damaging the engine.
In a steam engine, the engine is optimized for whatever working fluid the boiler uses (usually dihydrogenmonoxide). However, the actual fuel is burned externally to the working fluid. All that is required is that the fuel provide heat. This fuel can theoretically be any heat generating substance from buffalo chips to fissioning metal, but for practical automobile purposes we'll confine ourselves to liquid or compressed gas fuels...the only adjustment required at for accommodating a wide range of fuels from oil to natural gas is the configuration of the burner (and in the case of compressed gasses the container of course). This is orders of magnitude easier to fix than the intricate workings of an actual engine. Steam engines can be in pretty much any configuration from reciprocating to rotary to turbines, though turbines generally give lower fuel efficiency.
This might sound like a hairbrained scheme...but as I am bald such schemes have appeal to me...they also have appeal to a company called Cyclone Technologies who (via Green Car Congress), is marketing a high efficiency Rankin Cycle steam engine for cars. This particular engine has twice the horsepower per given volume of a gas engine and produces all kinds of torque. Not mentioned in the article is the time needed to get up a head of steam. Of course if your vehicle is a hybrid you can make your fast getaway from the inevitable hoards of zombies on an electric motor while your main engine builds pressure.
A less exciting idea (but still using steam) Is this BMW concept, it has none of the flexfuel advantages, but rather uses waste heat from a regular engine to run a small steam powered generator, increasing overall efficiency. This, however is a detour from the other steam powered innovations that have been mooted recently.
The German Firm of IAV has produced the Ezee engine, a steam engine that can go from cold start to full power in 30 seconds. It is also exceedingly efficient producing diesel like fuel economy! There is an APU that keeps the boiler from freezing if left in the arctic for several days, however the engine and boiler have, astonishingly, been designed to be frozen solid without damage...requiring only starting it to melt the ice and run...though this is rather likely to take longer than 30 seconds (so watch out for the ice zombies!) . More analysis of this from the heat engine department of Okyama University in PDF form here and there is a PDF of a short Rutgers University paper on steam developments and their potentials here.
As to alternatives to oil, notwithstanding my lack of qualifications in this area, I've recently declared myself in favor of algae-generated biodiesel to most other biofuel alternatives. I say this because of their potential efficiency of generation, the energy density of kerosenes and because they are less likely to directly and indirectly impact food consumption. But whatever we eventually replace/supplement oil with, steam engines can use it and we can actually have the sort of direct competition between ethanol, gasoline, diesel, biodiesel, methanol and even natural gas that Dr. Zubrin so rightly calls for.
Note that steam cars are not at all far fetched, the Stanley Steamers I joked about in this post were real. In fact, steam powered cars were once considered a real competitor to the internal combustion powered automobiles, in part because of their comparatively high torque (for dealing with hills).
Of course these engines might have maritime uses as well as emergency generator applications and a whole range of other uses. Remember, the primary way we are able to get useable power from atomic fission is via steam...
...so steam IS the technology of tomorrow!
("Science Babe" art by Formalhaut)
Yes, I admit it, I've liked what little I've seen of Lucky*Star
December 14, 2007
Nara, is the original capital of Japan and as the epicenter of Japanese Buddhism is a strikingly beautiful place. It is also infested with tasty hoofed rats that the local Buddhism order disallows the culling of.
I got very few of my Nara pictures to come out right, but Jonathan Tappan's camera-fu is strong. He has some particularly awesome pictures of the interior of the big temple there which utterly frustrated my photographic efforts.
I particularly like the comment by the SCUBA diver.
I am not endorsing Ron Paul. For one thing, I think his stance on the war, (however principled) is catastrophically wrong. However, I do not think that his strict constitutionist views deserve the lampooning they get, particularly from my fellow Republicans. If not for the war, I could see supporting him.
Additionally, I have to give him a big golf clap for this.
He may not be in the top tier in the polls, but he has surged ahead of all his rivals in the Dirigible Department!
December 13, 2007
Update: Via Dr. Reynolds comes the sad news that Tom Dee passed away last night.
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