March 29, 2008

Happy Happy Joy Joy

I hold in my sweaty little palms volume 3 of Welcome to the NHK!

I had just about given up on this given ADV's recent troubles but tonight I look forward to being as offended and appalled by this merciless expose' of dysfunctional otakuism and others at the fringes of society as I was in the first two volumes.

This show is merciless, but strangely touching and funny as hell...

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Gravity! w00t!

Over at Colony Worlds, Darnell Clayton wonders if the inflatable Spacehab type modules that Bigelow Aerospace are using can be adapted to artificial gravity.

Now, one of the Brickmuppets crack team of science babes points out that, somewhat surprisingly, the numbers have already been run on this idea and it is quite doable.

The study, in pdf form here, is quite interesting and relevant to human exploration in ways that the ISS simply is not.

Designed as an exercise by a team of students from the University of Maryland (at College Park) the proposed Clarke Station is a manned, variable gravity research facility intended to determine exactly what gravity level is needed to sustain long term human health.

Given that all of the planets and moons with resources that make human settlement possible have substantially less gravity than Earth, this is a nontrivial question. Lunar Gravity can, of course, be tested on an off the shelf satellite...the moon...but it seems prudent to test physiological effects of other gravities at a location no farther than the moon where the bail and scramble back to earth time is measured in days not months (or years in the case of Titan). A variable gravity facility can of course be used for training in say, Martian gravity to learn any tricks and unwelcome surprises of a particular gravity level. It bears remembering that the 1/6th gravity of the moon required some considerable adaptation by the Apollo Astronauts to simply get around.

 

(boingy boingy boingy..)

We need to find out some very basic things....

Does gravity in the ballpark of the moon have the same long term effects as 0 gravity? If so, what is the lower limit of tolerable gravity? Can we have permanent settlements on the 1/4 g environment of Mars for instance? Can low gravity effects be mitigated by exercise or drugs in ways that actual free-fall cannot? (this seems likely....to a point....but we have no reference for where that point might be). What are the actual maximum rotation rates that a crew can reasonably adapt to? This has a big effect on how wide and therefore big and heavy the centrifuge habitat in a spacecraft needs to be I've see reports that suggest a 30 foot diameter is adequate (Zubrin referring to his Gaiashield mission) and some that say 100 feet or more is necessary....we need to KNOW this stuff.

None of this can be found out on the ISS or current spacecraft because they are in free fall. A proposed gravity deck on the ISS was omited for budgetary reasons (and I'm not sure it would have been useable by people). Manned space exploration is going to require these sorts of questions answered  

The station is interesting for another reason. Its choice of radiation protection.

The station is positioned at a Lagrange point (L1) which leaves the crew without the protection of the Van-Allen belts. This is compensated for by filling the walls of the inflatable modules with water.  A few trips will pump the water into the walls to give superb protection. The original NASA inflatable concepts (going back to the 80's) had this as a feature so it is well within the design parameters of the materials involved. Water is heavy, but it is easy to handle and is well tested as a radiation shield. Given the existence of an inflatable module, pumping in water is just one more thing that needs to be pumped, simplifying assembly. Outside cislunar space on a mission to another planet or an asteroid, this sort of rad shielding will be a real asset. This is not a new concept at all, and it is elegant in its simplicity but it has never actually been done.

The position of this station at a liberation point is of more significance now than it was when this plan was developed, as we now have as a national goal a return to the moon. As John Goff points out, orbital propellant depots at a Lagrange point have the double advantage of enabling greater payloads to be carried to the moon and learning important, practical hands on lessons about one of the primary technologies for spacefaring....transfering fuel and other fluids between spacecraft. More on this architecture here and here is Boeing's proposal, focusing not just on the nuts and bolts but its commercial viability...in this case of a low earth orbit facility. Things break, so if an orbital propellant depot is built having one of these nearby allows the crew to do double duty as gas station attendants!

It should be noted that the Bigelow-type inflatables are a fairly mature technology,for instance, here is a paper on inflatables from 1988.

  Within the limits imposed by my stock disclaimer, this station seems to be a conservative and robust in design with a good fudge factor regards strength (it can sustain 1.2G) and the inflatable modules should simplify construction. It is a modest near term proposal using off the shelf technology that can bring in huge benefits There are certainly some issues not covered by these engineering students but in order to tweak those would only require NASA to send it to Langley or Glenn. All that would require would be for NASA to be looking seriously at this line of research.

And therein lies the rub.....

 

Science babe is  from Intron Depot (I think) and is, of course, by Masamune Shirow,  who's art, books and artbooks can be bought here.

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March 28, 2008

Dad is Home

I've spent the last few days when not at work or school shuttling my mom between their house and the Hospital, cleaning up and generally making the parents house handicapable (a few rails here and there, the big handicapped toilet ect.). The biggest challenge was getting the geometry of the spare room such that the hospital bed allowed enough space for the walker and wheelchair to negotiate the entrance.

This evening my father finally came home and, with some difficulty, my brother in law and I got him upstairs into the hospital bed. He is in the house.

Yay!

With my mother recovering from cancer, my grandmother recovering from a shoulder replacement (due to a fall last year) and my dad very pretty much immobile for a month or more while he  recovers from this surgery, I'm  pretty much  going to be assisting with therapy, cleaning doing yardwork and generally keeping up my folks house for the next few weeks/months.

I'm going to be Super Mister ButlerMan!

...and that always leads to adventure !


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Monsterous Malevolent Marsupial Molestation

Well, I didn't see this story coming.

New Zealand man who claimed he was raped by a wombat and that the experience left him speaking with an Australian accent has been found guilty of wasting police time.



I'll bet it curled his hair too.

VIA


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March 25, 2008

Dad

I was off work this morning to deal with the general pandemonium around the Talton household as we packed my dad off to the hospital

I was informed during Japanese class that my father had entered surgery and was expected to  be awake at 1:30. After class I left the school to run by my parents house to check on my grandmother, who is recovering from shoulder surgery. The plan was to meet my sister, have her take me to the hospital and after meeting dad take the van (which my mom is too short to drive) back to my folks house.

At 3:00 I called my mom to find out if he was awake yet.

He was not.

 His blood pressure had collapsed shortly after I had talked to her and they were unable to awaken him. I explained the situation to my grandmother and we prepared to leave for the Hospital. I called my mother again and got no response. 3 more calls and no response.

I called my sister to see where she was. She answered that she had not left the hospital. I asked if there had been any change at all and she said no. I told her to hang tough and that my grandmother and I were coming. My sister then informed me that my dad did not want Granny to come to the hospital. I was antsy about bringing her there myself but if there had been no change and he was still not waking up then I wanted to be by his side and she did too. At this point there was a long silence.....then my sister came back with...."Huh?....Oh yeah! I was supposed to call you when he woke up! Sorry."

Little sisters are such pernicious creatures.

After being relieved at the parents house by my uncle I stopped by the hospital just over an hour ago. I got another start when I arrived.  The room was beset with nurses an alarm was going off and his wavy line machine had flatlined....this turned out to be due to a defective piece of electronic equipment. My father kept asking "Does this mean I'm dead?"

He is in good spirits and doing as well as can be expected for a man who has just had his hips deboned and then reboned with stainless steel. My brother was there when I arrived. As I type this we have just left him to sleep. He should be home Friday or Saturday and I can start breathing (and sleeping) again now.

Thanks to everyone who left their good wishes. They were greatly appreciated.

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March 24, 2008

Posts Pending

Thank you all for the kind thoughts.

I have a few posts pending  concerning my usual uninformed rants.

"Stuff", however, is happening, so aside from a post operation post tomorrow, I'm going to be lying doggo for a bit.



I leave you with but one request.

Never never never do this....



Promise me....

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March 22, 2008

Worry

My father goes into surgery Tuesday.

He has been putting off his hip replacement for nearly a decade and can barely walk. The doctor, upon looking at his X-Rays last year, was astonished that he could walk at all, people are usually restricted to wheelchairs long before they reach his level of deterioration. He has been muddling along in pain for years...first to reach retirement and then to do the myriad things that have cropped up since. He's not that old, only 65, but a perfect storm of injuries and genes have given him the hips of a 90 year old football player.

   Monday a spanner was thrown in the works.....a fault was detected in his heart. Essentially, his left ventricle is backfiring. This puts him at some risk from the anesthesia. The past week has been spent in interminable tests to determine if it is even safe to operate. After looking over the results the doctor explained that he faces some real risk. However,  he left the decision to my dad due to the pressing fact that my dad is 65 and looking at 30-40 years in a wheelchair in pain without the surgery. So, my father is, understandably, going ahead with it.

Stupidity, circumstances and naivete' put me on the side of a 200 foot cliff with my sweaty palms loosing their grip. I've gotten entangled in debris while diving, found myself surrounded by barracuda and been face to face with a tiger shark as well as a herd of wild pigs. I've been seasick and upside down hanging head first in the bilge of a sinking boat trying to install a spare bilge pump  while seas higher than our pilot house dunked me in my own vomit...and I was scared to death each and every time.

.....but I've never been quite as scared as I am tonight......

I'll know something by noon Tuesday.

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March 18, 2008

Sir Arthur C Clarke 1917-2008

  Crap...

One of the giants of Sci Fi has passed.

Sir Arthur C Clarke, Royal air force officer, inventor of the communications satellite and the concept of the space elevator, undersea explorer and author has died.

Though it must be said that he led a full and long life, his is a loss dearly felt. He was a renaissance man, and a visionary the likes of which is far too rare.

Big roundup here, Jerry Pournelle, * has thoughts on his old friend here.

*who is himself undergoing treatment for brain cancer (and has a tip jar)

UPDATE MARCH 22:via Instapundit, Clarkes final interview.


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March 17, 2008

Weekend Over.....

Well, I'm all sorts of bizzy....

 
Last week was Spring Break.
I spent it alternating between UPS, the Coast Guard and the bug that's been going around.

Why did I go in to the Coast Guard on spring break?
...well... here is some background on that....




more...

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March 13, 2008

Shocking Romance


"Ooh..kinky...How many arms are you hiding under that dress?"




More at Photoshop Disasters.

via

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March 12, 2008

To Joke About This Would Be....

.... terrible.

But Mark Styen does!

OK, this may be a fake, as Wonderduck points out via private communication, the sheriffs name is Mr. Whipple.

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Two Different Perspectives

Admiral Fallon has resigned.

Fallon was the head of CENTCOM and by all accounts a decent, upstanding, and competent guy.

 Fallon is very widely respected by just about everybody. The idea that Fallon has left, either because he was forced out or had a serious disagreement is being taken by some as a signal of eminent war with Iran.

The generally reasonable Galhran sums up that view here.

....I really am stunned, I have never really believed the US was going to strike Iran until today.


And indeed, this does not make sense from a civilian political mindset which is what Gahlran's perspective is. I did not find the hyperbole of the Esquire piece particularly helpful especially since it seems to have been rewritten with extra added drama since the resignation.

CDR Salamander has a rather different take on this here. He makes some very good points that have escaped some other people.

  I'm a junior enlisted reservist in a different service. So take my stock disclaimer to heart  This is so far beyond my paygrade it boggles the mind.

 Still...I tend to agree with the Commander on this. The Esquire article was stupid hyperbolic divisive and damaging. I also think there are other things going on. I don't think this is the Rubicon, but pieces like it may lead our enemies to believe that is the case.

How well that works out depends on how our side plays it.

 

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Dave Stevens 1955-2008

Crap.

Dave Stevens, creator of  the Rocketeer , pin-up artist extrordinaire and all round nice guy has died.

He is well remembered here .

I did not know him, but I am aware of one particular example of his classiness.

He made some money doing pictures of Betty Paige ( he based a character in the Rocketeer on her) long after she had retired.

No one knew who she was and her image was considered to be in the public domain.

Dave Stevens tracked her down….and paid her royalties.

Nice guy.
Class act.


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March 11, 2008

A Possible Answer to a Pressing Question

One thing that has generated a lot of buzz and frustration amongst those interested in military affairs is the current choice of rifle and round by the US military.

The M-16 is a 50 year old design, the M-14 is slightly older and based on a WW2 design. Both have been surpassed by developments around the world..

The X-M8 was widely regarded as the most likely replacement for the M-16 and, indeed proved to be astonishingly rugged and reliable. There were a few bugs including a nontrivial ergonomics issue but this and the others could have been easily fixed. Yet the Army canceled the program. Recently the Army conducted sand tests and the M-4 (an M-16 derivative) did rather poorly in comparison to others. Yet the army is determined to continue buying M-4s.

Why?

Well, it looks like they don't want to waste money to retool now, when something far better may be on the way.

The Army is conducting tests with both caseless and plastic cased telescoped ammunition. Both of these promise vast reductions in weight and bulk and the caseless ammo in particular is a huge advance in these areas.

Here is a video of the field tests.



This seems to just be the case telescoped ammunition...as there are...you know...cases being ejected.

For those that haven't seen it here is the May '07 unclassified LSAT presentation. I draw a glimmer of hope from the fact that this is stressing scalability somewhat more than the 2006 version.

Thus there is some hope that the final projectile is 6-7mm intermediate round that could replace both our current rifle calibers.

The main goal however, seems to be the big reduction in weight for the infantryman..a worthy goal indeed.

Lets hope this works out.


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March 10, 2008

New Stuff...To Me Anyway

 

   This weekend I drove up to Maryland to see some friends and watch some of the new anime.

A few notes

Ghost Hound...

...has already been commented on by Don and Astro. It seems that it is going to concern a group of school kids dealing with the supernatural. Moody, dark and subtly atmospheric, the first episode starts quite slow but becomes very intriguing as it progresses.  By the end we all found it quite fascinating. I only saw episode one, but I'm quite eager to see more. The series has a feel reminiscent of Hammer film or British telephantasy from the 70's or 80s.. No actual horror occurs in the episode though some is hinted at via flashback. This one looks good. The only downside was that we only had episode one.

The soundtrack is quite good too...

Rosary and Glompire Vampire...

  ...has been commented upon by lots of people. It is actually an interesting high school romance/sitcom, but its likable protagonists, and good characterizations are somewhat undercut by the copious, over the top fan service.

Young hero gets sent to a new school. Unfortunately he discovers that an awful bureaucratic mistake has been made.

The school has 3 main problems.

1:It is a school for monsters...man eating shape shifting monsters of various types. (Our hero is not a monster)

2: The "bus" only comes once in a blue moon.

3: The uniforms are an outlandish shade of teal that go with nothing....unless someone has, say, pink hair.

 Fortunately he befriends a young vampire who is quite impressed both by his general decency and the fact that he is full of fresh human blood (a rare commodity at the school). She agrees to keep his secret and, it turns out has a few of her own. His other lucky break is that everyone is required by school rules to maintain human form. This is quite hard for many of them, but our hero is likely going to get an "A" in Maintaining Human Visage 101....if he lives long enough.

 

Spice and Wolf

Pagan wolf goddess is released from the village field to which she was bound and takes up in a bale of wheat (!?) in the possession of a medieval trader in the land of Psudohistorieurope....As paganism is on the wane, the Goddess, (whose human form is, unsurprisingly, a teenage human girl with wolf ears and a tail)....asks the trader to take her to the far north.

Our unlikely team go from town to town trading pelts for apples and apples for wheat and....generally give the audience a lesson in barter level economics.

Update: HEH...

Very dry show....but strangely engaging.


They are my Noble Masters

In order to escape an abusive father Ren Uesugi and his sister Mihato run away from home. They end up camping out in the city and Ren ends up saving a wealthy heiress. Taken to the mansion where she lives for a thank you dinner they try to get hired as servants, and, after getting into a fight with the wait staff, are allowed one week in which to prove themselves.

Mad scientist-lolis, maids, combat butlers, and various other horrors await our brother and sister team.

I laughed.

One funny thing about this obvious Hayate clone, they are quite aware they are the "other butler show"....and mock themselves for it. 

Minami-ke Okawari

Pleasant, understated and somewhat odd slice of life show concerning three sisters who live alone. Wonderduck will love it. It made Don uneasy.

The show is fan service free...but still ruthlessly mocks the censors....

 

 In other news Astro is not actually gone, he is blogging elsewhere..update your bookmarks!

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March 09, 2008

This is a test...

Testity Testity Test

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March 06, 2008

Cancel the National Security Cutters?

Over at Danger Room David Axe reports on a Defense News story that suggests that at least some of the big National Security Cutters may be replaced by the (as yet undesigned) Offshore Patrol Cutters.

Given that the size and capabilities of the proposed OPC seem very close to the current high endurance cutters of the Hamilton class,  this seems quite logical to me. If costs are held down and If the lessons learned from the Bertholf fiasco are applied, then this is probably the best course. Brickmuppet Blog is on the record as being in favor of procuring a larger number of more austere vessels for the Coast Guard, as opposed to gold plated vessels like the NSC. In the Navy such a policy will likely lead to inferior deathtrap warships…In the Coast Guard it fits our primary peacetime and warm war functions perfectly. The USCG doesn't really need a full electronics suite, let alone AEGIS, after all, these are offshore patrol vessels.

   I find this to be encouraging news.

UPDATE: Grammar fixed....

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Exam Heck Winding Down

Well I did very good on the first Japanese and both biology exams....

Tomorrow I'll be taking the last actual midterm...the Kanji and grammar exam.

Dread is upon me.

After that I jet up to Haymarket to see some friends and next week I will spend my spring break guarding the coast (after work.) As to whether I'll get paid for this that is debateable but I'll hopefully get my qualification for full boarding officer before the March deadline.

Back to studying....

*Gif is a completely accurate representation me worrying about an exam...aside from the wasteline, the presence and color of  the hair, lack of glasses , red eyes, bluetooth headset, stylish outfit, general chibiness and bishonenness it is uncanny.

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March 04, 2008

Mutant Molars Make Mayhem for Maiden

Update: Bumped to the Top

Update2: Bumpity Bump!

Exams are upon me and I've taken a long enough break so I'm back to work.

However, YOU need to go here and click on this...



Rachel is an online comic creator  who is facing a hellacious problem. Her teeth are wrong...just wrong...They are growing together and on top of one another and major oral surgery is required. Rachel is a starving artist so hit her tip jar please.


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The Dungeon Master Passes

Gary Gygax has died.

I actually played only a little Dungeons and Dragons, but I played a LOT of RPGs when I was younger. That entire niche industry was started by him.

Today, when people think of RPGs many are thinking in terms of computer games. Gygax was able to help people achieve a similar experience with pencil, paper a few dice and their imaginations.

The computer game industry actually owes him a greater debt than many know as his system was to varying degrees the inspiration for many of the most successful games out there. Indeed, the lucrative MMORPG genre was in effect "play tested" by Gygax and his players for 20 years before the tech caught up.

                      

 Like many of those who played his games, Gary Gygax was a self described nerd, but in the final analysis, he brought a lot of people considerable enjoyment.

...and that is a better legacy than many will ever have.

Order of the Stick pays tribute here.

 

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Martian Avalance!

Wow!

Popular Mechanics  provides these pictures of  two massive Martian avalanches, taken from orbit.

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Birthday Trivia

Chun-Li turned 40 on Saturday!

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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.

Note: this is a repost of a post originally made on March 15, 2007 as the original post is inexplicably not linkable.

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March 03, 2008

Oh Joy....

Tensions are escalating in northern South America as Hugo Chavez decries the killing of a murderous narco-commie terrorist.

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Tom Talton 1927-2007

My great uncle Tom died the other night.

He was born into comparative poverty, which became quite acute as the Depression hit 2 years later. He was the youngest of 6 children only 5 of whom made it to adulthood. During World war 2he served as a machinist mate in the Coast Guard, operating on patrol boats out of Wilmington...and....in a bizzare twist....for a brief time on a submarine. I never got details of this oddity except that he hated it and the sub was an old World war 1 relic that had been brought out of mothballs and was in terrible shape. ( I assume it was an O or R boat). This may have been part of ASW training. I know that the Coast Guard put a few officers on subs for that reason. In any event, his stint on that vessel was brief .

After the war he worked in the family farm, built and either sold or rented out several houses and eventually became a commercial fisherman. In 1958 he took possession of the FV Tom and Jerry and ran charters...participating in every fishing tournament from 1960-2007. With my late grandfather, he was one of the first along the Moorehead NC charter boat piers to accept  African American parties in the late 1950s.

Uncle Tom was a well known fixture along the waterfront in Moorehead for a great many years.  He was recognized as an expert seaman and respected captain. He is survived by my Aunt Jerry, his sister Thelma and his three surviving brothers, two of whom are also WW2 veterans.

No few words can do justice to the tapestry of a persons life, especially one as long and complex as his. The things and the changes people his age have seen in their lifetime are almost beyond belief.

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