January 31, 2013

Ampontan Has Passed On

Bill Sakovich, an English teacher in Japan who blogged on all things Japanese at the informative and enjoyable Ampontan blog has passed away.  According to one of his neighbors, he died on December 21 after going into the hospital for what he thought was an ulcer, but turned out to be late stage cancer. Eerily, his last post was January 1. It turns out that his last several posts were pre-written and set to auto-post as he expected to be home by the first of the year.

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This May MEAN Something

Looking over the two most recent fusillades of spam comments, I've come to the conclusion that spammers really like Kannagi.

Heh. Perhaps she'll she'll exorcise these impurities for good. She'll need a better staff though.

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January 29, 2013

On That Thin Line....

...between cute and terrifying.
...between Kawaii and Kowai.

Don continues to ask the important questions.
Now he needs your help as he ponders these things.

UPDATE: That first video over there actually precipitated a nightmare. Use caution.

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January 28, 2013

27 Years Ago

Sharon "Christa" McAuliffe, Payload Specialist, Gregory Jarvis, Mission Specialist, Judy Resnik, Commander Dick Scobee. Mission Specialist, Ronald McNair, Pilot, Michael Smith and Mission Specialist, Ellison Onizuka smile for one of the last photos taken of them as they head to board United States Orbital Vehicle 099...better known as Challenger.

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January 27, 2013

46 years Ago Today

Apollo 1.

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January 25, 2013


Aieee! Break out the aerosani!

We're doomed!

ZOMG! The roads are destroyed!
The whole town is shut down.
Oh the humanity. It's a new ice age.

" Ladies and gentleman. Please be advised that residents of the southeastern corner of Virginia have a different definition of "snow" than the rest of us. "

Oh hush.. We got 3 inches and its still coming down. Besides, you Ruskies and your scary-math are no match for our knowledge that Alderaan is imaginary. (Unless, of course,  he meant Aldebaran and the Russians really ask grade schoolers questions involving celestial navigation....Then terror is completely appropriate. )

In other scary news: The likelihood of spontaneous human combustion just went up.

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January 21, 2013

The Weather Outside is Frightful

Thus there really is only one thing to watch.

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Dear Nature

  This is Southeastern Virginia. That is, counting the width of Virginia itself,  two states south of the Mason-Dixon line.  Tonight's predicted low temperature is 18 degrees. Obviously this is indicative of an error on your part.

Also: With today's high in the vicinity of 44 degrees (Fahrenheit) mosquitoes should not be about. Be advised that they are. (I expect that this will be rectified by tonight's aforementioned error but it bears mentioning. )

Finally regards precipitation: The drought was in fact unwelcome and we do greatly apreciate the efforts put into correcting that misallocation of hydraulic rescources. However, there is such a thing as a "happy medium" . That is, I should not sink up to my ankles in mud as I walk to my car, the end of the road should not be submerged and the back yard should not have 2 inches of standing water on a sunny day.

Please rectify these oversights ASAP.


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January 20, 2013

  I'd done a review of episode 1 of Usagi Drop some years ago and liked what little I'd seen at the time, so I was quite pleasantly surprised to learn recently that all 11 episodes are currently streaming on Cruchyroll.

 Despite being one of the most low key shows in recent memory, this very short series ranks among the most compelling bits of television I've ever seen.

The art direction and animation are interesting. This looks VASTLY different from most Studio IG shows. Bunny Drop has very minimalist animation and often gives the impression of an animated watercolor. The detail varies with what needs to be expressed ranging from near portraits to caricatures and yet somehow the show manages to not feel at all "artsy".  This is a major achievement and really conveys the moods of the story quite well.

 A 30 something bachelor rescuing his 6 year old aunt and raising her could be the set-up for a wacky screwball comedy. Thankfully, it is not.

In fact, I don't think I've ever seen anything passing itself as entertainment that talked so candidly about the sacrifices required to raise a child and the social stigmas against those who make those choices.

In spite of the dark places this show ventures into,  it never actually gets grim. In fact it manages to be an exceedingly upbeat show.  It's not exactly funny as such, but it's cute and uplifting like few shows I've seen. It highlights some of the worst as well as the very best humanity has to offer and it does so very well.

Shorter Review:
It was all that and a bowl of grits.

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January 19, 2013

A brief conversation in an Italian restaurant during the cultural decay of civilizations last years

Though classes started on Monday, the first day I've actually been able to attend class was today. I also returned to work this morning so it was a full day. my last class gets out at 7PM and on the way home I dropped by the house of occasional commenter Dalek Hal (link NSFW). We decided to hit a local Italian restaurant to kibitz.

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January 16, 2013

Oh Wow! I did not know this!

Bunnyroll is on Cruncydrop!

...or something....

I've only seen episode one of this inspiring little show.


I actually have something to watch this season.

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Crunchyroll reports on the effects of a snowstorm in and around Electric Town. Naturally, a tank battle resulted.

RX-79 Arctic Warfare Model

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January 15, 2013

John C. Wright is Making a Stand

Of this asshattery...

....John C. Wright has had enough.

He breaks out a can of...ummm....eechi-Catholic whupass. But that's not all. Since his is a sci-fi blog, he pushes back some more. (Links probably not safe for work.)

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January 12, 2013

This Years Flu (Updated)

It sucks.

Yes, I got a flu shot this season and I can still barely sit up.

(picture unrelated)

Update: Released from Hospital at 2 this morning with a diagnosis of Flu, Bronchitis and Inner Ear Infection and most importantly, documentation for work and school. The flu-shot either did NO good this year or without it I'd be dead. I haven't had the flu this bad in 25 years or more.
I'm getting better though. I can walk all the way to the bathroom without resting now, I can drink fluids without going into cough spasms and I've held down solid food for 4 hours. I've been in bed over 40 hours of the last 48.

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January 10, 2013

Giant Squid Squidding About on Film

Deep sea cameras have caught the first pictures of a giant squid in it's natural habitat doing normal squid things.

Here is a short video.

Oops...she's neither giant nor in her natural habitat nor doing normal squid things. Lets try again...

..and a couple of pictures...

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January 09, 2013

Doing it Right

The USN has a crying need for a low end patrol vessel.

Numbers are necessary because, despite advances in technology. A ship can only be in one place at once. It might be able to use aircraft and small boats to expand its immediate area of influence, but this does not actually reduce the need for numbers ships to be in disparate locations at the same time in order to do the various low end things that navy's and coast guards do.

Showing the flag, hunting pirates, intel gathering, Search and Rescue, disaster relief law enforcement do not require Aegis Destroyers or Cruisers and it is a waste of those valuable resources to dedicate them to such missions, and in any event sufficient numbers of such capital ships cannot be afforded.

Lots of low end ships are needed and the LCS is far too expensive to buy in numbers, particularly in the current financial crisis.

Meanwhile, in France.

DCN has come up with a family of warships called the GOWIND.

The baseline vessel is an  OPV. One prototype, the FS Adroit, has been built and has been extensively tested by the French Navy. Adroit is a very austere vessel of 800 tons but it has some interesting features.

Adroit has a helicopter deck that can take a 12 ton helicopter (the size of an EH-101 or an S-92 and a  hanger under the bridge and between the uptakes that can take a small helicopter like a Dolphin or a Seasprite and one or two drones.

It it currently only armed with a 20mm cannon, but it has hard points for an OTO Melera Super Rapid 76mm gun, 8 Exocet SSMs and a 12 cell (Wikipedia says 16 cell) launcher for ASTER 15 point defense missiles.

These are all comparable to, and except for the Exocets, larger than, the equivalent USN weapons which are the 57mm Bofors, Harpoon and the short MK 41 vls for ESSM. (There is a new ultra compact 36 cell ESSM launcher that appears on the Huntington Ingalls patrol frigate proposal that looks to be even smaller but no hard data is forthcoming.)

The French ship is slow; only 21 kts, but it uses the same power that its 400 ton predecessor used to attain 22. It is very hydro-dynamically efficient and has a range of 8000NM. The hull form is designed to be scaled up for much faster speeds in high end versions so higher powered engines might get the speed up to 24 kts at some cost in endurance.

It is seaworthy too. The French offered the vessel to South Africa and pitched it by the straightforward method of sailing Adroit to Cape Town and having the ship bob about and do operational things in the Southern Ocean, which, due to it's infinite fetch, sports some of the most hellish sea conditions on the planet.

The ship can be operated ( in theory) by around 30 personnel due in part to its very low maintenance commercial engines. However it has accommodation for 60, which the French have found is quite fortuitous as continuous boardings require multiple boarding parties. The ships fire control system is designed to cope with its wartime weapons fit. It is fitted with communications gear allowing it to integrate into a NATO task force as well. There is no mention of its EW fit but I have to assume it is very austere.

The Adroit would seem to be an exceedingly good fit for the US Coast Guard since it offers comparable capability to the medium endurance cutters with much better seaworthiness and range at a low enough cost that large numbers can be built. It only needs a 57mm gun and some crew served weapons as far a armament, but it comes ready to be upgraded with bolt on missiles to a slow corvette in time of war. A towed array would give it the ability to act as a sonar tug and Lily-pad for Navy Seahawks and a Seasprite replacing the Dolphin in the hangar would make it a very decent second line ASW ship in a major war. It's quite slow, but the Navy might buy a few to pad out numbers. It can keep up with the 'Gator Navy' or a convoy and can show the flag and look good doing it.

The French, having proven the concept have a variety of evolutionary developments in the pipeline up to full-on 30 kt frigates. They've recently sold 6 of an uprated version to Malaysia . This is a full fledged Corvette with 28 kt speed, full sized hangar, real superstructure and a more extensive weapons & sensor fit. The contract for 6 corvettes is  US $2.6 billion  which works out to a bit over 433 million apiece for vessels rather more capable that the LCS. With a range of 5000 NM its practically a small frigate. This would seem to be a good replacement for the Perrys and rather a step up from either LCS design.

One thing this can't do very well, is mine warfare. For that specialized mission, a development of the current wooden sweepers, which do work, might be a better fit.

There are legal and political issues to buying foreign designs, (though these don't apply as much to the CG). However, the existence of these vessels shows what is possible. This evolutionary approach of building on proven designs still works, as the French are proving. It is something the USN needs to get back to.

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January 08, 2013

Belated Congratulations to Boviate!


Go to Boviate's and read to the end of this short post.

Then congratulate them!

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January 07, 2013


The Tsar Bomb, a weapon tested by the U.S.S.R. in 1961 was the penultimate in things designed and built to go "BOOM!"

It's fairly well, known and its effects are described here and here.

It had a yield of at least 50 megatons, though this may be a low end estimate as other figures as high as 57 and even 62 MT have been postulated. Despite being detonated at an altitude of 4 kilometers, the weapon's detonation registered 5.25 on the Richter scale and the seismic wave was felt by instruments all over the world. It utterly demolished an evacuated village 34 miles away. It broke windows in Finland and Norway and as far away as 560 miles. It would have caused 3rd degree burns 62 miles away and was about a quarter the explosive force of the 1883 Krakatoa eruption. The mushroom cloud reached 40 miles up... just 10 miles shy of the U.S. definition of outer space.It was also the cleanest nuclear device ever used as it was a fusion weapon lit off by a comparatively small fission 'pilot light'.

The effect on the ground is described by one of the scientists who examined ground zero:

The ground surface of the island has been levelled, swept and licked so that it looks like a skating rink. The same goes for rocks. The snow has melted and their sides and edges are shiny. There is not a trace of unevenness in the ground... Everything in this area has been swept clean, scoured, melted and blown away.

This flat expanse of trinitite extended 25 kilometers from ground zero.

But as they say that was half the story, and half the yield. This test was of a half yield device. The ultimate in things designed and built to go BOOM was intended to have a third stage of Uranium. In the test device, this uranium jacket was replaced with lead, but was otherwise identical. The uranium jacket would have at least doubled the yield of the weapon. The reason for omitting it from the test was that the uranium would have also precipitated the formation of all sorts of radioactive nasties and would have made it an extraordinarily dirty weapon with tremendous amounts of radioactive fallout even from an air burst. The Soviets decided, understandably, that they did not want the full up weapon detonated in their hemisphere.

The FAS article strongly suggests that this device was never intended to be weaponized and the uranium jacket was designed for kicks. I've heard college professors suggest that this weapon was actually a noble exercise in showing the folly of nukes and was therefore actually a noble gesture of peace. Among the reasons for this is the fact that the bomber that carried it had to be massively modified and lost its internal fuel. Of course they built it with provision for a uranium jacket...

Well, I was not surprised that it was indeed intended to be a weapon, but I was surprised to discover that the weapon was not intended for delivery by plane or rocket, but by torpedo. Andre Sakharov mentioned this in passing and there is now some evidence that this superpowerful hell weapon was intended to take out US ports.

  Sakharov's recollection may be off or he didn't originate the idea because the first Soviet nuclear submarines (Project 627) were initially designed around a Tsar Bomb Scale Torpedo...the T-15 and two normal sized torpedo tubes. (link in Russian)

The installation of the titanic torpedo of terror was pushed back while some technical issues were worked out. (I suspect the fact that a 50 NM range was not sufficient to keep from destroying the sub may have been one, though firing the weapon into a port on a timer and leaving would seem to be a viable tactic.)

Eventually most if not all of the Project 627 boats were completed with 8 conventionally sized torpedoes firing a mix of nuclear and conventional torpedoes. They were given the NATO code name November.
But...if the original design had been built and (God forbid) used...how would a full-up 100MT weapon have affected, say...New York?

Let's see!

Using the Nukemap online nightmare facilitator we get this.

The nightmare facilitator helpfully color-codes the blast. Going outward from the hypocenter: the yellow  in the center is a deep crater of fuzed glass. This is the extent of the fireball itself and EVERYTHING here is utterly gone.  The green area has an instant death rate of 50-100 percent due to radiation. This is included in the simulator because it's important for smaller bombs but its really redundant here because the much larger red area overlaps it and experiences instant overpressures of 20PSI and above. Red is going to see the utter destruction of even many steel reinforced concrete buildings. The grey area, which will have overpressure down to 4,6 PSI will  see most structures destroyed except for the very strongest steel and concrete structures, which will be damaged. The death rate in the red and grey zones is going to be close to 100% even if NO radiation was present. Overlapping all of these zones,  and extending well beyond them the is orange area . Outside the grey area it will still experience some blast damage but the orange zone mainly experiences thermal effects. Any exposed skin gets 3rd degree burns and most everything flammable or combustible burst into flames. This will likely result in a firestorm stretching from Trenton NJ to Brentwood, to Fairfield CT and north almost to West Point. Note that this is a very simplistic map and takes into account dissipation of the blast and the curvature of the earth, but it does not take into account terrain or atmospheric conditions. For instance the facing slopes of hills might get higher level effects than their distance would indicate and info from the actual Tsar Bomba test indicates that scattered fires might be started in the Adirondacks

This blast does not have the vast range of the 1961 test because it is assumed to be a ground burst. Of course a ground burst is a VERY dirty explosion. The harbor is unusable for decades and very likely isn't a harbor any more.

Lets pull back a bit...

The major US harbors would have been destroyed and since the seismic effects would have been greater than 8.0,  there would have been earthquake-like damage up and down the eastern seaboard, which transmits seismic waves very efficiently. Remember each 100 MT bomb is roughly half a Krakatoa. Worse, radioactive tsunamis might have done additional damage. The bomb itself, wouldn't cause a real tsunami, but the vertical shaking the concussion would have caused could have precipitated avalanches in the undersea canyons outside many east coast ports. This could conceivably trigger tsunamis.

Note that those 'splody circles are the actual blast fields...to scale.

DC, Philadelphia and Baltimore as torpedo targets are a bit far fetched. One would have to assume torpedoes powered by RTGs or something so the Sub doesn't have to enter the Chesapeake or Delaware Bays. Chicago and Sacramento are rather unlikely targets for a torpedo.

However, the above simulation was done with a slightly different scenario in mind.

The weapon, as big as it was, was not as big as one might think. If you removed the fins, it could fit in an ISO shipping container. It was also not all that advanced in reality. The Soviet engineers designed it very quickly and it was reportedly a straightforward and very conservative scale-up from the U.S.S.R.s early hydrogen weapons. The Soviet engineers did not seem to find it terribly challenging. This means that once anyone gets the ability to produce hydrogen bombs, something like this weapon is a straightforward development, probably only a decade or so down the road.  (the Russians did it rather quicker in what by today's standards are primitive conditions, but they are very good at engineering)

Barring a catastrophic screw-up resulting in a nuclear exchange, the current nuclear threat is, at the very most, something along the scale of "Little Boy" (a firecracker by comparison). However, there is no more potent terror weapon than the 'King of Bombs' and the ability to do damage on that scale is demonstrably attainable. That such large weapons are wasteful and poisonous enough to cause massive contamination is of little deterrent to those who covet nukes for terror purposes. Fortunately, no one likely to try and sneak one of these things into the country will be able to develop or obtain them...for at least 10 or 12 years. 

UPDATE: Edited for clarity.

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Preparing Students for the Coming Utopia

So today I had to update my passwords and re-sign all of my security agreements to retain access to the ODU computer system, access to which is required for most classes.

It included a training course.

The first bit is just normal IT security stuff and of no interest at all.  However, the last part is mildly amusing for two reasons.

1: Privacy and Security don't mean what they think it does.
2: Remember, all students are required to know and comply with ODU's IT Security Related Standards with penalties for non-compliance being up-to and including expulsion.

Anyway, the last part is below the fold.


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January 06, 2013

S-Tank is Sad

Girls Und Panzer ended the season unfinished, so caption this.

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