May 16, 2007

You Win This Round...DenBeste

 In this earthshakingly timely, relevant  and deeply vital post, Stephen DenBeste, makes an appearance in the comments....he does not contribute to the pressing and extremely important questions raised in any way, nor does he critique my carefully considered conclusions regards this most pressing of todays matters.
 What he does do is make a scurrilous and disrespectful assertion....Namely that Van Dread is NOT based on a video game.

Well, I was told when I first saw the show that it was based on a video game, and anyway, it should be easy to verify after over an hour of Googling for "Van Dread  Video Game"...and wading through the horrifically foetid search results of "Van Dread H-Game"...I can only conclude that...I've been punk'd.

Savor your victory Stephen....

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Regolith Mining Contender

Clarke Lindsay, links to this post which has video of one the contenders for the Regolith Excavator Challenge.

   Simplicity is a virtue that is often forgotten. Space settlements will require very simple, robust systems.

    ....and a minimum of plywood.

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Dispastch From the Dept. Of Unfortunate Headlines

Rand Simberg has found a contender for the most assinine headline of the year.

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May 15, 2007

Wow...Oil....From Algae!!

One of the Brickmuppets crack team of science babes brings us this Jim Fraiser post on what may be a big step forward in  biofuels.

It seems that a company named Green Star Products has completed a low cost algal farm that is, in theory, suitable for quick setup nearly anywhere outside of  polar/subpolar regions.

Oil from algae produces about 50 times the yield of the best oilseed crops, and this sort of arrangement might not displace food crops to the same extent as, say ethanol from corn, which is always struck me as a dubious idea.

I'm more excited by thermal depolymerization as it doubles as waste disposal.

This however is really interesting. Note that there are considerable hurdles (read the whole post for Fraiser's thoughts on that) and I still think that without lots of cheap nuclear power to provide the heat that thermal depolymerization...and to a lesser extent algae refining...need then the future of biofuels is marginal at best.

WITH nuclear power, they could potentially produce high density, carbon neutral, liquid fuel with little disadvantages over natural petroleum....a win-win for everybody except anti-nuke hysterics and the most hardcore greens.

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Breakaway Music

Over at Eaglespeak is an interesting post on a little known maritime tradition, the Breakaway Song

It's cool, its comprehensive, it's must be Eaglespeak!

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The Future's Gonna Suck!!...Mabey!!

Via Instapundit comes this interesting take by SciFi author Charlie Stross on the what the future has to offer....or not.

One important point he makes, that many predictors overlook, is the track record of past predictions...which, as the absence of a jet pack in my closet and a flying car in my driveway spotty at best.

The privacy implications are troubling as is the prospect of disastrous single-point failures if things like driverless cars really are mandated, but read the whole thing.

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Linky Luv

Wow, the Anchoress has had a raging linky fit....

Actually the Anchoress has a remarkably interesting blog that I'd neglected blogrolling. Agree or disagree, she's generally thought provoking without being mean or insulting.

A case in point is this piece on the implications of Bloomberg's mooted 3rd Party run. I agree with her that it is really too early to pay any mind to the '08 race, my God, I've got a life afterall* , but after the Perot fiasco, the implications of this are somewhat scary. is way to fricking early to be worrying about presidential campaigns.

* (full disclosure: I'm an undergraduate, unattached I don't actually have a life)

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The Scott Adams Plan for Iraq

 Well, I don't know what to say.

No, I have no Idea who made the General Osaka showed up on a message board where it was most out of place.

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May 13, 2007


Due to writers block.... and the pressing need to let people over here know where I stand on the all important issues of the is a rather reworked repost from my old blog.

10:Roberta (From Black Lagoon)
Not even a main character but a sort of guest star, Roberta nevertheless manages to make the list.

A former commie terrorist with the FARC, Roberta was inspired as so many youths are by revolutionary rhetoric. However, after some years of carrying the banner for Che's murderous descendants, she became increasingly sickened by the vast gulf between the revolutionary rhetoric she heard and the reality she saw.

Roberta had honed her skills to a razor edge, becoming a frighteningly effective guerrilla fighter and an infamous assassin.  Over time the results on her actions and the horrific nature of her organization began to blow upon the few smoldering embers deep within the charred remnants of her conscience. Her conscience was finally set fully aflame  when she saw communisms true nature reflected the glassy eyes of a dead child staring up from a mass grave. it so often is .... 

Leaving the movement was very nearly an act of suicide in that part of Columbia but she succeeded through sheer skill in not getting killed.   Marked for death by both the Government  she now grudgingly supported and the murderous thugs she had renounced, she, rather astonishingly, offered her services as penance to one of the rich landowners she had previously been trying to kill. Even more astonishingly, the old man took her in and accepted her offer to work as a bodyguard for his surviving household.When introduced, is is his sole surviving household servant.

Nominally a maid, Roberta is also the body guard for the family child.She takes this job very seriously.

In addition to training as an assassin, terrorist and guerrilla, Roberta has superb organizational skills and is an effective maid.

She is is not however, a particularly competent cook.... her employer doesn't seem to mind this.
 Appearing in only a few episodes of the series,  one might be forgiven for wondering why she's on the list...

Let us review

She's a hot, smart, competent Latin girl...
who is almost always in a maid outfit....
...while wearing glasses...

...annd she really hates commies

And she's great with kids!

'nuff said.

9:Lum (From Urusei Yatsura) An alien princess with dainty little horns, elf ears,  green hair, the ability to fly and her preferred costume is a tigerskin bikini.   She is a weirdness magnet and is funny to boot...What's not to like?

OK, the lightning bolts, and the jealousy...and the temper...but given that she found herself in an arraigned marriage  to idiot lechmonger Ataru Moriboshi , and is trying heroically to make her marriage work, those "flaws" are quite forgivable.

Besides...she's frickin' LUM....of course she'd be on the list!

8: Lafiel (From Crest Of the Stars) The whole 'Space Princess' character type is a bit of a cliche', but Lafiel is quite interesting (as is this rather under-rated series). Though somewhat ambivilant about her role as royalty, sheever does not fall into the 'poor little princess' funk and carries herself with considerable grace. She is a genuinely likable and sympathetic character.

 At the start of the series Lafiel is a freshly commissioned (space) ensign who happens to be in line for the throne of the Abh Empire..she is also quite inexperienced.

She is a good judge of character though. While she and her male co-star/significant other are not exactly pivotal players in the events of grand cosmic drama that unfold around them, they must face down and survive considerable dangers and ethical issues.  Both characters are pretty much punching above their weight throughout the entire series. Lafiel is loyal unpretentious and dutiful.

 Courageous both physically and morally, she is also extremely smart and grows into the role of command quite well ....Of course, she's also got that whole blue-haired-pointy-eared-never-gets-old-space-elf thing going too.

7:Yomiko Readman (from Read or Die and Read or Dream) One of the better superhero concepts of recent years, the scatterbrained but brilliant Yomiko brings new meaning to the word "Bond paper", for she has the unusual superpower of combat origami!

 Even when the second series jumps the shark towards the end, Yomikos' sense of ethics, loyalty and general competence are sufficiently engaging to give the increasingly outlandish show direction and meaning. Yomiko is a genuinely decent person.

And it's just plain hard to top a cute, super-powered, bibliophillic, nerd girl

6:Yuki Mori (Nova Forrester) From Space Cruiser Yamato (Starblazers) One of the few women in the crew of the Yamato (Argo) and likely the only female to survive the phyrric first voyage of that storied ship.

The unbelievably competent Nova is the ships radar operator and counts among her collateral duties, assistant science officer, pilot, and paramedic. Her quick thinking saves the ship (and thereby humanity) more than once and she ultimately is willing to sacrifice her life for the sake of humanity...though better....

..and there was much rejoicing!

Nova also manages to pull off wearing what is one of the most unflattering spandex /color combinations of any uniform ever conceived...and still not look half bad...all while exuding an air of  professionalism that transcends that outfit.

5:Sayaka Yumi: (From Mazinger Z) Tenacity personified, giant robot test pilot Sayaka Yumi sallies forth every week in the experimental robot Aphrodite Ace to battle the
fearsome robotic automatons of Doctor Hell.

Unfortunately she is a chick in a '70's robot show and  her mighty steed  is actually an experimental agricultural robot, with limited strength and durability, hastily fitted with an armament of exactly 2 missiles, which provide the dubious contraption with an impressive bosom...until they are fired..
(I'm not making this up ...Go Nagai did).

Sayaka and her well endowed robot are almost always thrashed , badly, while running interference for the super combat robot Mazinger Z.

Yet despite the odds stacked so high against her, Sayaka never gives up. Indeed, more than once she actually saves the day. (At one point in fact, she manages to singlehandedly take out the largest villain robot in the whole Mazinger/ Grandizer continuity!)
Sayaka keeps going and facing impossible odds through sheer force of indomitable will. She is also fiercely loyal to her beau, and she's got a way cooler form fitting yellow outfit than some people. (art by Ryu)

4:Lady Eboshi (From Princess Mononoke)

An astounding character, Lady Eboshi has carved out a place for herself in a world that considers her very existence an affront.

Eboshi is a noblewoman who achieves independence for her little fiefdom in feudal Japan. Despised by all who have power, she offers sanctuary to the outcasts of society, prostitutes, lepers and debtors.

Between the corrupt and covetous baronies on one side and the ferocious forest beasts on the other, she makes her stand to protect her people. For a time she perseveres through tactical and diplomatic brilliance as well as technical innovation and scientific know-how personified in her expertise with firearms.

Not perfect by any means, she still an awesome and  admirable character
 Additionally, in the American version she is voiced by Minnie Driver....who has one of the sexiest voices in the whole world!

3:Meia Gisbourne (from VanDread) VanDread is a show that displays all of the natural warning signs of suckage...(It's advertized  as a harem AND mech show, it's based on a video game, it involves a war between
men & women, and is riddled with technobabble and magical McGuffins of "technology")...yet it is a surprisingly nice, heavilly character oriented bit of fantasy.

Likewise, Anime (and sci-fi in general) is full of hard-ass warrior 'beeotches' with attitude.

Most are boring (or loathsome) 2 dimensional parodies of viking  berserker's.
Meia Gisbourne is not one of those.
The senior flight leader for the fighter wing of a group of female pirates (ALL female...there is a battle of the...NO literally a BATTLE of the sexes  going on at the beginning of the series).
 Meia is a paragon of competence, and professionalism. She does everything in her power to save the members of her squadron that survived the pilot, putting aside her bigotries to lead by example.

When she is asked to integrate a male pilot into her outfit she does so under protest but is quick to recognize his potential and works to safeguard him as she would any other member of her crew. The fact that the male hero (her subordinate) and her never become romantically involved is a refreshing change of pace in and of itself. There is considerable professional respect between them though. She also helps develop a fine Esprit Des Corps for her perpetually outnumbered squadron.

The portrayal of her command and leadership skills is surprisingly realistic and said skills are genuinely impressive. Meia is astoundingly well realized for a fictional officer ( for example, she makes mistakes and learns from them) and is one of fairly few "ace pilots" in science fiction to be both believable and likable. This is all the more remarkable given the alternatively terrifying and screwball situations she finds her suddenly mismatched flight team up against.

Noble, professional, and displaying a rare combination of physical and moral courage, Meia is presented as a fine example of what an junior officer should be .

This is a surprising find in any anime. It is an absolutely astounding one when it's a female in a mecha/harem comedy.

2:Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind: Warrior, aviatrix, scientist and diplomat, Nausicaa is the princess of a tiny principality in a distant post-apocalyptic  future.

Nausicaa is brave as they come and sharp as a tack. She is a beacon of reason and decency in a truly horrific age.

Although in she has scientific equipment not far advanced beyond "stone knives and bearskins" she uses rationalism, logic and science to determine the true purpose of the toxic forest and realizes that mankind's greatest threat is also potentially its salvation.

A cross between Annie Oakley, Ben Franklin and Joan of Arc, Nausicaa , through her optimism, determination and courage makes a tale that should by all rights be an utterly dystopic, post-apocalyptic nightmare, into a story of great and inspiring hope.

Oh, and she's cute, she can fly a weird ultra-lite-seagull thing
...and she doesn't get all freaked out by bugs!

1:Kyoko Otanashi (from Maison Ikkoku) Looking tantalizingly like InuYasha's Kagome might if she weren' know...umm...jailbait,


The lovely widow Kyoko Otanashi is the owner and manager of a small boarding house filled with the weirdest of tenants. She is deeply a fault...remaining chaste for a very long time out of respect for her late husband.

Kyoko is optimistic, competent and deals with the peculiar types of weirdness life throws at her with considerable grace and aplomb. Happily, she does eventually manage to find someone new.

She's a cute sane, competent woman who falls for a man, who, despite being well beyond typical college age, is trying to pursue a college education despite considerable obstacles and setbacks!!!!!


Fixed formatting, spelling and factual errors.


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Malignant Evil That Rates A New Category: Parsons Wannabees...

"Parsons was Winston's fellow employee at the Ministry of Truth. He was a fattish but active man of paralyzing stupidity, a mass of imbecile enthusiasms—one of those completely unquestioning, devoted drudges on whom, more even than on the thought police, the stability of the Party depended."

 1984 George Orwell

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May 12, 2007

The Adventures of Brickmuppet

Well, "adventure" is too strong a word but here is how my life is going.
Much insipid banality below the fold...


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The Cliche's Have Gotten So Bad......

It's the random anime plot generator!

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Planet Shopping...

One of the Brickmuppets' crack team of science babes reports that the Carnival of Space is up!

Lots of cool articles but the one that caught my eye was this post over at Colony Worlds.

Read the whole thing!

The post concerns the moon Ganymede and its suitability for colonization. While "A Second Earth" is a bit too strong,  Ganymede does have a lot to recommend it even beyond its magnetic field.

Mars gets a lot of press as far as permanent settlements, but it has radiation issues and the dust problem is rather daunting.

An iceball like Ganymede might seem like a poor choice but the idea has more merit than one might think.

Ganymede has lots of water, possibly way more than Earth, and the moon could likely provide all the volatiles one would need, possibly some nitrogen and certainly oxygen (Ganymede actually has a pure oxygen atmosphere...albeit a very thin one). The gravity is quite low, but comparable to that of Luna so if we can populate Luna with no ill effects then Ganymede will be no problem. This is one of those big Ifs that require some looking into....with actual space....on the moon.

On the down side, there is likely to be very little in the way of any metals at all. Also some rocky patches on the surface would be most useful. This is important because human settlements will generate heat, far more than Ganymede's cryogenic surface  has  encountered. There is the very real possibility that a settlement on Ganymede could weaken its own foundations just through warming and gasifying volatiles.

On the upside we do have some experience in dealing with structures on the ice though the experience in Antarctica points to the need to expect the unexpected. The recently built structures have benefited from all the lessons learned in previous buildings. Here is the new elevated structure that is replacing the old geodesic dome at the south pole....'s a cool pic of the Aurora Australis too! (HT Big Dead Place)

A structure on Ganymede or a comparable iceball might look similar, but it would, of course, be airtight. The light, Luna scale gravity would (in theory) assist in construction of larger....fairly non-claustrophobic structures.

Though it's a given that reactors, and most all metal would have to be imported and meticulously recycled, the magnetic field, ready availability of water (and thereby Oxygen) does make Ganymede a good candidate, assuming we can get there...Ganymede is in a pit in astrogation terms in that its in Jupiter's gravity well. Ganymede is also on the outskirts of the Hellish Jovian radiation belt. Note that its magnetic field will help protect surface dwellers, so a permanent human presence is not beyond the realm of possibility. In fact, NASA has worked the numbers, if not on colonization, at least getting there (OK, getting as far as Callisto). Briefly mentioned in this article, NASAs HOPE mission involved a manned mission to Callisto. I blogged about it on my old site here, and  a PDF of some of the spaceship concepts for that program is here. I recently turned up a far more detailed power point presentation of several of the concepts for the Callisto mission.It
 is here.

 Besides Ganymede there is Titan which, keeping in mind that I'm a complete layman in these matters, might be an even better fit despite its much greater distance.

      Titan has hydrocarbon deposits including lakes of liquid methane that could mitigate its probable paucity of metals by allowing production of plastics for construction. Its atmosphere is far thicker than earths providing a good shield from radiation and, even better is a nitrogen atmosphere like earths (it has almost the same proportion of Nitrogen but its 20% gas is methane rather than oxygen). No pressure suits would be required, an EVA on Titan could be done with regular  arctic dry suits! Like Ganymede, it has about the same gravity as the Earths main moon and being an iceball it is likely well stocked with water ice from which one could crack all the oxygen one would need. Saturn is much farther out, but both its Gravity well and Van Allen belts are far more benign than Jupiters. Its thick, but cold atmosphere would facilitate heat exchange and cooling, of machinery, which is a real issue in a near vacuum.

That picture from Huygens could be a photo of some prime real estate!

UPDATE: How could I forget to mention  THIS ?

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May 07, 2007

First Post in New Digs! DANCE PARTY!


Actual content to follow, but for now I'm off to work.

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