July 31, 2007

Well This is It



Very light posting is imminent as I hop on the plane in 10 hours.

I may post some from Japan but frankly I'm going to be trying to do lots of actually cool stuff that doesn't involve computers or my normal Walter Mitty lifestyle.

As per the advice of the UNSTOPPABLE Stephen Den Beste
I'm shutting off comments for at least a few days to thwart the spamacons.

I'll be back in 22 days.

I want to thank everyone for the input and reading this little blog.




more...

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Government Flying Saucers!! Exposed!!

Encyclopedia Astronautica has had another update. This time Mark Wade has added several pages on the Lenticular spacecraft designs the US was working on in the late '50s and early '60s

Cool!

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i-Debt

Wow...

Don't go roaming with the i-Phone.

I'm glad I'm not rich...or I'd be broke.

HT: Jerry Pournelle

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A Solution to the Alaska Dispute....

I propose a compromise between the US and Russia over the...er...burning Alaska question.

Instead of giving them Alaska proper, why not just send them Ted Stevens instead?

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Advertisements of Yesteryear

The sort of ads we never see anymore....

...probably because most of them just creeped people out.


HT: Rand Simberg

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Less Than 12 Hours Left (How I Saved Hamption Roads)

   Packing turned into sorting some snorkel gear...which, in turn cascaded in to a general cleaning exercise.   I'm perpetually amazed at the ammount of CRAP I accumulate...

    I realized earlier today that my insurance bill comes due a few days before I an scheduled to return.  Given this trip is going to be an extreme budget adventure, this was a highly  unwelcome realization.

   There was considerable temptation to pay it when I get back as I'd still be within the grace period for payments. Of course there is social responsibility to consider. If my very modestly insured mobile home has a 4 day lapse in coverage this will undoubtedly call forth a terrible hurricane upon Southeastern Virginia.

   So I bit the bullet and paid the bill.
   As there will be no lapse in coverage....no hurricane is likely to hit.
   No doubt I just saved Hampton Roads.
  (Of course Pat Robertson will get all the credit)


*Legal notice: Brickmuppet Blog accepts no responsibility for any hurricanes hitting Hampton Roads during the month of August 2008. No actual hurricane protection is suggested or implied by this lame blog post.

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The Coldest War

Eaglespeak has an interesting post on the efforts of Russia to solidify their claims to Arctic Mineral Resources. Russia is claiming a huge expanse of the Arctic seabed, claiming that an undersea mountain range, previously supposed to be part of Greenland  is, in fact, part of Russia's continental shelf. More here...

Related  is this series of articles that proposes ideas for dealing with the threat to Canadian sovereignty over arctic islands that is posed by...er...Denmark.

Canada, Denmark the USA, Norway and Russia all have competing and occasionally overlapping claims in the Arctic. Given the recent flexing of Russia's muscles in the area (we HAVE the receipt thank you) it is logical to focus on that rather than two of the more peaceful nation in the world....but the situation in the Davis straits is rather fuzzy legally as it was never really an issue before. Now as the Polar cap recedes and turns this rescource rich area into a major shipping lane and makes getting at those resources tenable things could get interesting. A real war between Canada and Denmark is, of course, unlikely but something similar to the cod war could actually occur.

Crazy.

Of course this is another reason for the Coast Guard to keep and augment its red hull fleet.


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July 28, 2007

Strike Cruiser 21?

Over at Defense Tech, Norman Polmar posts on the Navy's planned new classes of cruisers.

CGX has been in the pipe for some time, but this article mentions a much larger vessel also being contemplated.
The other new cruiser would be a much larger, 25,000-ton nuclear-powered ship with a more conventional flared bow, optimized for the ballistic missile defense (BMD) mission.

 This is certainly interesting and there is more on it here.

25,000 tons is in the ballpark of the size of most historical dreadnoughts. This is a BIG ship if built.

Here is an accurate representation of what such a ship will almost certainly not look like.


This seems at first blush like good news but a total of 19 ships (14 of the CGX and 5 of these very large ships) is not going to replace 27 no matter how capable ones ship is. The finest ship in the world is no good if it is not present and cutting the numbers of ships reduces both the chances that a US vessel will be present, and makes it less possible to make good losses.

While the size of the vessels in question should not have a great bearing on costs (steel is cheap compared to the electronics that make up most of the cost of warships today) adding nuclear power will, in all probability, cause costs to cascade exponentially.

With only 5 contemplated, their utility will be limited and it might be better to build more similarly sized conventionally powered ships.

Of course the flip side of this is that the Navy does need to cut its dependence on oil and this program may be a way to jump start that transition.

The propulsion plant contemplated seems to be a semi off-the shelf "half carrier" plant which makes sense but is disappointing.

Now USN nuclear plants have had amongst the best safety records in the world since the late 1950s, but if they are going to spend this much money (and  nuclear ships are hella-expensive) then they might as well go with a newer reactor design like the naval thorium reactor proposed here. This could potentially be a boon for both civilian and naval affairs if very safe compact reactors were developed from this. Of course boondogalage is rampant in government financed programs so I'd suggest they simply offer a prize for a satisfactory design.

That is unlikely to happen and there are other concerns as well.

The Democratic congress which is generally not a fan of defense spending of any sort, lukewarm at best to nuclear power, and vehemently opposed to Ballistic Missile Defense...is now pressuring the Navy to build a nuclear powered ballistic missile defense ship....Oh and they are going to reccomend canceling the improved naval Anti Ballistic missile  missile while they are at it...

They also say the analysis will recommend dropping the Kinetic Energy Interceptor (KEI) from the CG(X) program.

The KEI is a large ballistic missile-defense rocket under development by Northrop Grumman as a ground- or sea-based weapon to intercept ballistic missiles in their boost, ascent and midcourse flight phases.

The KEI is much larger than the SM-3 Standard missile developed by Raytheon to arm Navy cruisers and destroyers for the BMD role. The 40-inch diameter KEI is nearly 39 feet long, while the 21-inch diameter SM-3 stands just over 21 feet tall. Both missiles use a kinetic energy warhead, intended to ram an enemy missile.

Sources said a missile launch tube for a KEI would need to be so large it would take the place of six SM-3 launch cells.

This seems like blinkered logic to me.
The Evolved SeaSparrow Missile can be quadpacked into a standard vertical launch cell...see...
                     
....so there seems to be little reason that six regular sized cells (or their analogues) could not be substituted for one of these KEI missiles if greater combat persistence against non-ballistic or super high flying targets were required.  (The big tube might be adaptable for a big bombardment rocket as well). This cuts the future missile defense capability and puts most of the missile defense eggs into a very expensive 5-ship basket that seems prone to the sort of cost overruns and cancellations that have plagued US naval procurement of late.. So one can be forgiven for looking this gift horse in the mouth.

Anyway, I'm a big fan of nuclear power, I want the navy to have good ships, and ship size is not in and of itself a major cost driver and has tremendous advantages in survivability, effectiveness, and availability (read seakeeping). However I'm not convinced...especially given the issues facing the similar but theoretically less ambitious DDX program ...that this proposal is terribly well thought out....It certainly has potential but  needs a bit of scrutiny.
Update:
For those unclear on the concept of "cruisers" all is explained at this excellent site that discusses cruisers in general and gives a very good overview of what cruisers are and arent. It also has some very interesting bits on two cancelled projects from the late 80's early 90s.

 For those interested in maritime applications for and challenges to atomic power check out this long and comprehensive report.
 Thanks to Dr. Crouch for making it public and Kirk Sorensen for pointing it out.

Full Disclosure: this whole post is waaay beyond my paygrade. 

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J minus 2 days

  Early Wednesday morning I leave for Japan.

The implications of this are just beginning to fully register, specifically the fact that....

HOLY FREAKING CRAP!!!
I'M  ACTUALLY GOING TO JAPAN!!!

I should, you know, pack or something.

This morning I had another flat tire on I664.  As I was changing it the highway assistance people showed up. This was welcome as the blinky lights dissuaded anyone from  turning me into an overage student road pizza, but I was largely finished by the time the truck arrived.

Most disturbing was his surprise that I knew how to change said tire. It seems he'd changed 5 over the course of the weekend. Yeesh!

Off to study Japanese....oh...and pack.






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July 27, 2007

A Mystery Solved

 Bleach has a lot of things that are fantastic and strain credulity...magic, superheroes, multidimensional travel, invisible monsters and psychic powers. But few things strain credulity like the fact that Orihime,  is pining after our hero and he is either oblivious or is ignoring her attentions....

This should fail the suspension of disbelief test...she's a bit odd, indeed goofy on occasion....
 
....but she's a very interesting, intelligent person with a strong moral compass and general decency and is cute (and a  chesty Asian redhead!?) Yet he is utterly oblivious to her attentions.

Invisible monsters I can handle...but this....

But now...I...understand...

Update: Regards asinine theories in the comments. Loituma is a traditional Finnish folk band.

Also, If you prefer your Finnish earbugs with a more contemporary flavor (and to eventually end)  then click below....you know you want to.



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More Bad Space News

On the commercial space side comes the terrible news that 3 employees of Scaled Composites were killed in an explosion during an engine test. Rand Simberg has the best overview I've seen on the web.

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Bad Space News

One of the Brickmuppet's crack team of science babes reacts to a couple of nigh unbelievable news stories from NASA. First, a computer intended for the ISS was sabotaged, yes, sabotaged ! Note that it did was not a vital component but this is the first case in the history of the program and a damned shame. What sort of waste of skin does that?

But that's not all at no extra charge, our intrepid researcher finds that it is alleged that NASA astronauts took off drunk, yes drunk, no they are really saying that the astronauts flew drunk!

Note that at least one of these incidents involved a NASA astronaut on a Soyuz flight. IIRC the Russians take a nip before their flights so this may have been "diplomacy" of a sort. At any rate an American on a Soyuz would be a passenger. Still not good at all and the report concerning the T-38 flight is terribly worrisome.

BUT WAIT THERES MORE!!

There is embezzlement too!

A former NASA employee is accused of stealing more than $150,000 from government coffers, according to a report released Thursday.

Elizabeth Ann Osborne, 52, who resigned in October after 31 years at the space agency, pleaded guilty to embezzling public money as part of an agreement made with the U.S. Attorney's Office on July 17, Local 6 News partner Florida Today reported.

Good grief!

And finally via NasaWatch comes this partial list of explanations for $94 million in missing stuff...

Explanations Provided for Equipment Loss in Which No One Was Held Accountable

Equipment description - Equipment value (dollars) - Explanation provided

Desktop computer and laser printer - 4,855 - My wife needed a computer at home to perform her work as a real estate broker so I checked one out from the surplus stock available. I turned the computer back in when she was done using it but never received a receipt.

Laptop computer - 4,265 - This computer, although assigned to me, was being used on board the International Space Station. I was informed that it was tossed overboard to be burned up in the atmosphere when it failed.

Various missing property, 65 items - 850,321- A thorough and reasonable search was conducted but we were unable to locate the missing property. In general, the missing items consist of older equipment that has been replaced or is no longer necessary for standard operations.

Source: GAO analysis of NASA's fiscal year 2006 equipment loss reports.

Ye Gods

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July 25, 2007

A Dark Day for Journalism

The Weekly World News has  shut down.

The tabloid's publisher, American Media Inc., issued a brief statement that announced the Aug. 27 issue would be Weekly World News' last. It called the closure necessary "due to the challenges in the retail and wholesale magazine marketplace that have impacted the newsstand."
 
Thankfully for those of us tracking the Bat Child, this treasure trove of knowledge will maintain a web presence.




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Buy a Mug for Shamus!

Shamus...still recovering from his surgery ...now has  a line of merchandise available for sale.

Go buy one for the DM!

(I'm sure he'll slip you 50 XPs)

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VASIMIR Breakthrough!!

One of the Brickmuppets' crack team of science babestm  is barely able to control her glee as she reports from Costa Rica that scientists in San Jose have achieved an impressive breakthrough in VASIMR  plasma engines.

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (Reuters) - Scientists in Costa Rica have run a plasma rocket engine continuously for a record of more than four hours, the latest achievement in a mission to cut costs and travel time for spacecraft.

More on Ad-Astra rockets, the company involved, here. A discussion of this story (which is actually from June) is going on at Nasa Spaceflight. VASIMR or VAriable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rockets are plasma thrusting engines of fuel efficiency comparable to ion engines, but they have the ability to be throttled and vastly increase thrust for short periods. While this is not enough thrust to launch a rocket from earth it gives certain advantages over ion engines in speed and keeps the long endurance, constant thrust advantage of the ion engines. More on these interesting rockets here, here and here.

The fact that the founders of Ad Astra Rockets had to leave NASA to pursue this is dismaying, but their perseverance does seem to have paid off!

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Hoi Polloi Amuck

Colleen Doran has 2 interesting and related posts regards the apprehension and outright fear certain intellectuals have of the new media and the coarsening or dumbing down of our culture ...see here and here.

   Now complaints about the quality of thought put forth by the rabble is not  without some merit. The history of democracies is as old as the first lynch mob, which, of course, is why this nations founders strove to give us a Republic.

The internet has vastly lowered the bar for publishing and done an end-run around the editors that were once the gatekeepers. The result, more often than not, HAS been semi literate "cranks with chips on their shoulders" typing out unfocused digressions and on the fly media reviews without the benefit of any deep literary appreciation or other expertise. To find such 'travesties of the tubes' one  need not look far....

  That example notwithstanding, I think the benefits of this unkempt stream of consciousness do outweigh the downsides. The Jayson Blair fiasco is mentioned in the comments and it is important to remember that Walter Duranty got to keep the Pulitzer given to him by those same hallowed gatekeepers.

  Is there a colossal cacophony cretins creating cartloads of craptacular crap plaguing the interweb?

Yes.

But one can turn it off or on with a mouse click...and the potential to bypass the people who fancy themselves arrestor switches on society is what really gets up many of these peoples nose. As Colleen  points out...

The artiest of the art crowd is just as inflexible, narrow-minded, and cliquish as they would presume a community of Mennonites to be; their idea of what is acceptable is different, but no less rigid in context.

The second link is closely related and bears reading as well. Both have lively comment threads that warrant a look....the second of which is launched by an accusatory comment from some Parsons wannabe who one could be forgiven for thinking is a bitter, out-of work-editor...a rather bad one.

Anyway, enough of my rambling, go read both posts.

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Shorttimers Disease....

Between the box tsunami that is Harry Potter and the short-handedness resulting from vacations and "summeritis" UPS has been a zoo.
I'm tired of work and fearful of something happening in the next few days to botch the trip. I've still a zillion things to do.

7 days till I leave for Japan...
I just...

I know I really shouldn't go on about this...
...so I'll let this here imaginary grrrl do it.
Take it away Tomo...

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テスト (Test)

やた!:)

私は日本語でブラグイングをします!

ピクシ先生ばんざい!

             

hhhhhh

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July 24, 2007

John Bambenek, you are an Ass

I am no fan of the frothing hysterical Bo-Bo's that make up most of the Kossacks. But damn....this is just profoundly stupid.

This is exactly the sort of wretched passive-aggressive sleaze we deal with on college campuses and that we oppose in the real world in opposing the "fairness doctrine".

Using the government to stifle viewpoints you don't agree with is wrong.This is one of the principals of American conservatism. (You should acquaint yourself with those Mr. Bambenek).

The sweet irony of doing this to those who long for the "fairness doctrine" does not in any way mitigate the wrongness of it. Lowering ourselves to the level of the more extreme Dems rather defeats the purpose of opposing them.

Brickmuppet Blog utterly opposes this ill-conceived asshattery.


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July 22, 2007

THE COAST IS CLEAR!

...but I'm beat.

This was my drill weekend with the Coast Guard Reserve and despite the fact that the drill weekend once again involved no helicopters, motor lifeboats, or dramatic camera angles... I'm beat.


No sea-stories as none of the ships we boarded had any violations...any of them!
Now that I think about it...that might indeed be a sea-story in itself.

To bed with me....
 

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The Great Black Fleet

While many people are aware of the Coast Guards cutters and some even have a grasp of some of the many jobs the Coast Guard performs, few realize that among the hardest working and most useful cutters are those not actually painted white.



The black hull fleet is made up of the Coast Guards buoy tenders and small domestic icebreakers.
They maintain the thousands upon thousands of buoys daymarkers and lighthouses. All but the smallest riverine blackhull ships are fitted to break ice in winter.



With their fairly large cargo capacity they supply isolated stations, and can carry  impressive amounts of pollution control equipment (skimmers, oily water separators and more) that the more graceful whitehulls can't. They have even been fitted with oceanographic labs. In time of war they serve as seagoing tugs, minesweepers, minelayers, light cargo craft and they break ice for the thin skinned greyhounds.

Of course they also do search and rescue, law enforcement, customs, boarder enforcement and fisheries patrol missions that the other cutters perform.  

Legendary amongst these were the 180 foot buoy tenders. These were just about the most useful vessels the Coast Guard ever had. If you are at all interested in maritime history, read the whole thing.

I think only one of the 180's remains in Coast Guard service, as a training ship for the Caribbean navies, but the class served for over 60 years. They have been replaced by the "Keeper", and Juniper classes, which, (while likely not quite as robust) are faster bigger and  have much smaller crews and larger cargo spaces. These new cutters are now doing the work of half again as many of the older class....and more.

One final note, the first CG buoy tenders were inherited from the lighthouse service when it was amalgamated into the Coast Guard in the 1930's. With the exception of the Keeper class, (who are named for the heroes of the old Lighthouse Service) and the SPAR, they follow the lighthouse service tradition of being named after American flowering plants.

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July 21, 2007

Brickmuppet Blipverts

Don is perpetuating crimes against music.
Astro comments on the importance of comments.
Satharn has thoughts on various categories of friends.
SDB links to an example of a productive self-realization.
Wonderduck points to this inside look at  Malaysian Radio.
Colleen Doran is on lockdown...but in rather pleasant surroundings.
PulpJunkie has listed upcoming TCM movies with useful commentary.
Wind's oversold but this is cute... also, bioroid boogers & budgetballoonin'


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Shamus has Survived!

 In fact he's even managed a blog post (which would seem to bode well). At least it bodes better than the tooth he broke after surgery...or the grafitti vandals infesting the O.R.....no really....sort of...read the whole thing and send your good  wishes!

      

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July 20, 2007

Prison Theater

1,500 plus CPDRC inmates of the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center, Cebu, Philippines at practice!



My eyes....


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Terrible Tyrannical Traffic Tickets

The recent furor over the large traffic fines (and linked state income tax increases) seem pretty justified to me.

Aside from their onerous size, the tickets seem poorly geared toward saftey, and even the Governor agrees they are mainly a revenue measure.

Speed, especially on the interstates is not a major saftey concern....changing speeds are....like the sudden changing of the speed limits in Newport News (Warwick Blvd.) and Norfolk (Terminal Blvd.) downward to take advantage of this upcoming windfall.

The 20mph downswings in speed limits on rural roads like 258 in Isle of Wight county are already an issue....they tend to be sudden with minimal warning and often associated with a hill and a patrol car. This is sleazy enough without a thousand dollar fine (and a spike in taxes for years).

Traffic fines should be for satey...not revenue generation. I hope the backlash from this is VERY strong.

I seem to remember back in the early days of the republic we had a method of dealing with public officials like Gov. Kaine....I wish I could remember what that was....

                     

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