August 20, 2013

Simulating Nightmares

In keeping with the chipper and upbeat nature of the last post, one of the Brickmuppet's crack team of Science Babes informs us that the Federation of American Scientists has recently started running simulations of various scenarios involving nuclear exchanges between the USA and China.

Their published report on the subject is here.

This is a sobering document. The scenarios examined would seem to be beyond possibility...until one remembers the events of 1914 and 1939.

A couple of things leap out. Fallout shelters, despite the protests of the ignorant are a very good thing to have in this sort of situation.

Neutrality does not apply to Tijuana, Quebec, our friends the Bahamians or the Maritimes. 

I question the FAS's targeting assumptions, although it cheers me greatly not to see a big smouldering scab in place of Hampton Roads, I can't fathom that an area with this many military assets would escape while they'd waste a missile on Detroit. This dubious supposition may reflect the fact that China's nuclear deterrent is counter-value, not counter-force, that is, the Chinese ICBMs target cities rather than US Missile batteries. Chinese missiles have big 3 or 5 megaton city buster warheads (assumed to be 4MT in the FAS study).


The FAS study assumes that China has around 20 ICBMs which is the official line, but the Russians credit them with a somewhat larger ICBM force and around 1800 warheads albeit mostly medium range for use against Russia and India and only half on alert. Other estimates go as higher.

The US by contrast can't currently make new nukes and isn't developing any. The FOGBANK fiasco from a few years ago shows what can happen when a technological capability atrophies.

This has implications.

Deterrence rests on the assumption that an attack on the US is national suicide. If the US is attacked by nukes right now it will go full Jacksonian as is our habit when we are REALLY pissed off. The rape of Atlanta or the bombardment of Japan will pale in comparison to what would befall the entity stupid enough to do such a thing. US bombs have much lower yields than other nations but they are all over 300 kilotons and there are about 2000 of them. A society that incited the use of such weapons upon itself would pass into history as completely as the Minoans, the Toltecs or the Carthaginians. This is true for most of the  other nuclear nations as well. That's why there haven't been any nuclear attacks since Nagasaki. Note though that as our deterrent decays and/ or is whittled away in arms control treaties the notion that a nation, especially one led by admirers of Mao Tse-Tung  might come to the conclusion after ruthless cost benefit studies of omelets versus eggs that any retaliation would be endurable.

The FAS study is science fiction now, it's an exceedingly unlikely set of scenarios. However that may not be the case in a decade or so.

There's also the unpleasant possibility of a nuclear nation in the grip of someone who is utterly bat-scat bonkers and to whom deterrence is of limited value...which brings up a question I've had for a couple of months about the seemingly 'gimp' performance of the North Korean nuclear tests. None have even been as powerful as Little Boy. The biggest was 10 kilotons and a few were only a few hectotons, but it occurs to me that these are all  in the ballpark of the weapons built around the now decomissioned W-54 warhead the US developed in the 1960's. Weighing only about 50 pounds its yield could be varied from 200 tons of TNT to one kiloton. It was used in backpack bombs, air to air and air to ground missiles and a perfectly functional but somewhat dubiously conceived atomic bazooka. Impressively, the W-54 warhead was able to give a yield of 6 kilotons as demonstrated in the SOCORRO shot of the Hardtack 2 test series, though tactical applications of the weapons that used it  required lower yields.

Because the bazooka only had a range of 2.5 miles so 6 kilotons would be demoralizing to the bazookateers.

I mention this because it is possible that North Korea might not be botching their tests. They might be trying to build something akin to the 50 year old W-54. 50 pounds....suddenly those IRBMs which can (occasionally) put a 200 pound satellite into orbit have a rather different potential. The ability to put 7 or so 1-6 kiloton devices in the general vicinity of a city (I'm certainly not talking about MIRV's ) might be available in a few years. If small weapons are what their developing however, a much more likely threat (assuming that they ARE crazy)  might be as backpack nukes delivered to terrorists. Note that Iran and North Korea are cooperating regards rocketry and nukes. 


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August 19, 2013


There was a awful lot of pollyanish speculating that the new Chinese leader was going to be a reformer. Well, "reform" of leftist institutions to a leftist always means doubling down and Xi Jinping seems to be cranking that notion up to 11.

"As this year will mark Chairman Mao's 120th birthday, we must turn Chairman Mao's old residence into a base for patriotism and revolutionary education, in particular to make it play a greater role in the education of the younger generation,"

Nothing like invoking the greatest mass murderer in history for moral authority.  This hardline 'get back to the commie roots' thing seems to be something of a pattern.

On top of that, it turns out that Xi Jinping was in charge of the whole 'poke Japan with a stick' strategy which was initiated by his office and since he took the presidency, the actions regarding the Senkakus have been tightly controlled by him directly. That article also offhandedly mentions this alarming incident from January which got very little if any press here in the states...

Two Jian-10 fighters took off from an air base outside Shanghai and followed a U.S. airborne warning and control aircraft, which carries a surveillance system for tracking other planes, north of the Senkaku Islands at a close distance, the sources said.

Two F-15 fighters of the Air Self-Defense Force then took off to counter the Chinese move, the sources said.

The United States has been deploying airborne warning and control aircraft since mid-January following China’s violation of Japanese airspace near the islands in December.

According to the Defense Ministry, SDF fighters were scrambled against Chinese aircraft as many as 91 times between October and December.

(Emphasis mine.)

Nintey one times in three months.
Plus.. back in January, the Chinese sent out a bunch of fighters to buz a US scout plane...(disturbingly similar to what happened in the Hainan incident) and the Japanese responded by sending in the Calvary.

 I had no idea there were military air incursions of Japanese airspace let alone that they were that frequent on top of the naval incursions. This is Cold War stuff. Good grief! It's no wonder the Japanese are jumpy.

All of this has been so blatant that after a recent similar incident even the highly partisan U.S. Senate issued a rare UNANIMOUS condemnation of china's actions. Note that this received little fanfare here here but is big news in Asia. China's response was to send 4 Coast Guard ships to the Senkakus.

While this situation still seems unlikely to immediately go pear shaped it is a hell of a lot more serious than is generally supposed.

Under international law all resources within 250 miles of a nations shore belong to that country so these little rocks are far more important than one would think. Especially since they're smack blab in the middle of Japan's fishing waters and a natural gas field.

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August 17, 2013

RWBY is Now on Crunchyroll

There's not much to add except that having watched it again, Crunchyroll can handle the load in the exact same way that that RoosterTeeth's server's can't. (I tried to show it to a friend last night and it was all out of synch). It stays in sych at high rez too.

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Haganai Season 1

This is probably better known to most fans as Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai which is abbreviated as Haganai because....kanji.
In any event due to the fact that "I Don't Have Many Friends" was thought to have insufficient market appeal, Haganai is the title Funimation chose to release the DVD under.

This is not a show I would ordinarily watch. It screams harem show...and it's scream is not entirely misleading. However, last night, a friend of mine insisted that we watch it and suddenly it was 3AM and all 13 episodes were over....and I had finally found out where this .gif came from..

Haganai revolves around the misadventures of a high school club that is formed for the stated purpose of helping people with poor social skills. Of course this results in a group of awkward misfits in an enclosed space, interacting with each other thereby creating a critical mass of social ineptitude.  Hilarity ensues.
This show is a complete and utter train wreck but I laughed my ass off. While most of these characters are deeply flawed, they are flawed in fairly interesting ways. Furthermore most have at least some redeeming characteristics and a surprising bit of depth.

Funimation actually put out for a dub which in this case is rather above average. Well written and well acted, the stacatto dialog and superb pacing very effectively brings to life a group of not always likeable but generally interesting characters.....


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August 15, 2013

Well, it Looks Like Pyrrha Gives it a Thumbs Up

...but she would. She's in it. By the way, what DOES she see in that guy?

The latest installment of RWBY is only four minutes long. Well acted and nicely paced with even better music than previous episodes it...well it ends after four minutes which SUCKS cause I've gotta wait a whole WEEK to see what happens!

It's a cute show, plus it's always nice to see people who genuinely enjoy their work.

"Nailed it!"

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I Dream The Bannana Electric

 Those who can read these do not pine for them.

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It Strikes Me

...that while this banner does make for admirable honesty on their part,  such a high visibility release of this information is potentially counterproductive from a marketing standpoint.

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August 13, 2013

Another View

The other day, Brickmuppet Blog commented upon  Elon Musk's Hyperloop concept. This article takes a 180 degree different view of his business model from ours.

UPDATE: Rand Simberg strongly disagrees with the characterization of Musk as a corporatist at least as far as Space-X is concerned. Space-X does seem to be rather different from Tesla in that it's paying it's own way and not getting vast piles of taxpayer money as loans and subsidies plus government mandated payments from his competition. I was probably wrong to not put that venture in the same category as Paypal.
The huge ammount of political shenanigans he's engaged in to get his Car and solar panel company to float should give one pause. Dr. Simberg's argument is that if the government offered him a dump-truck full of our money it would be a breach of fiduciary duty not to accept it. This is true to an extent, depending on the strings attached, but given that at least 2 of his ventures seem to be quite nonviable economically without the government subsidies one can rationally wonder about whether a mass transit system (a type of venture with a poor history of viability in this country) is not a boondoggle.

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Other Reasons

Steven has asked his readership to remind him not to fly into Gibraltar International airport.

As it happens, there are other more compelling reasons not to fly to Gibraltar.

First there's the little matter of the place being afflicted with rampaging apes that, in the words the colony's environment minister...

They've lost their fear of humans and consider them a rich source of food. !!

  I may have added some exclamation points.

Well, I see no reason to read any more on that topic but if for some reason you wish to be lulled into a false sense of security by 'context' the full terrifying story is right here.

Much more ominously as Cdr Salamander reports, there's a sudden, unexpected flair-up of geopolitical craziness.
Spain's foreign minister says his country may bring in a border crossing fee and even close airspace to the British territory.

Oh look!  Now Catalonia, which is trying to secede from Spain has sided with Gibraltar.

Oh wait...Argentina and Spain are joining forces against a common foe.

This seems utterly blinkered and almost funny.

"Oh yeah...Fricking hilarious."

On a completely unrelated note, next August marks 100 years since some smacktalk, an ill timed gunshot and a complete breakdown of common sense  got out of hand and accidentally thrust the world into an orgy of auto-cannibalism from which the west has never recovered. 

There's a gallery of WW1 color photos here.

Very ugly wars can start quite stupidly.

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Calamity Most Foul

Typhoons, Pepsi flavored Cheetos have hit Japan (no word yet on casualties or property damage).

" of them hit me in the head."

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What I Learned this Evening on Crunchyroll

It's the school festival episode of Stella [REDACTED] Club C Cubed and I learned all sorts of stuff today.

The survival club is out of money. They're going to be hard pressed to pay the entry fee to get into a much anticipated '24 hour tournament'. They decide to go for broke and try to raise enough money at the festival.

I learned a new Japanese word.
In Japan a commercial shooting stall with electric target retriever is called a "massine'.

It may SOUND like they're saying 'machine' but it's a brand new and distinct word meaning 'shooting stall with electric target retriever'. I know this because the subtitle-ers spell it that way. Every. Single. Time.

See? They learned something too.

I have serious doubts that 'learning' that has made me any wiser but I learned some other things as well. For those that have seen the episode, here's what I learned...

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August 12, 2013

Moby FAIL!!

Hah! Saw this on Instapundit. It is rich.
It seems that ABC sent a bunch of actors to incite anti-gay asshattery at a blue collar diner  in Texas. For comparison they did the same at an upscale restaurant in NYC....because...'Journalism' means that narratives must be reinforced.

Well, things did not go as planned.

Whaever WILL we do about these provincial
bigots and their pre-conceived notions?

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 Elon Musk's much hyped and speculated about design for a transportation system which was unveiled today. The 57 page PDF is here. One of the Brickmuppet's Crack Team of Science Babes is on the case trying to digest all that info...(or at least digest a sweet potato).

It turns out that this concept is not the vac-train many people predicted so it doesn't have the same technical issues that people have been bringing up for the last few months. It has completely different technical issues.

 I think the notion that right of way issues are no greater than power-lines is wildly optimistic as well as discounting what a legal pain running powerlines can be. The idea of using Inrerstate Medians is a good one that we here at Brickmuppet Blog have long thought to be the only viable right of way option for new rail lines...assuming they could be made economically viable (a BIG assumption). However, keep in mind that attempts to expand a commuter rail system ON EXISTING RAIL LINES here in Hampton Roads faces environmental impact statements and studies that will take up to a decade for some proposed lines. An attempt to install high speed rail tracks next to the existing AMTRAK rail lines is facing a similar issue and delay. The extension of the northeast highspeed rail corridor south is actually an idea which makes good economic sense (unlike most US HSR proposals) but even using existing infrastructures for a well understood technology is taking decades and costing millions before any tracks are even laid. This new tech will give the regulators all sorts of ammunition to mandate all manner of studies. So there is at least one huge political/legal hurdle not addressed.

As to the technical issues, this is a bit out of my comfort zone, but I'm a tad skeptical of the 100% solar power idea (particularly north of the Mason Dixon Line)  and maintaining pressure differentials in well traveled tubes measured in megameters looks to be challenging to say the least.

Brian Wang (who tends to be very sanguine regards mass transit in any form) is running the numbers here, here and here. He looks at the costs here.

That little potential asphyxiation issue notwithstanding this is a very interesting proposal and I'd really like to see something like this made viable.

However, the biggest red flag is not technical or's Elon Musk. This is something that Ace touched on the other day and I think it's valid. With the exception of Pay-Pal, all of Musk's business ventures have involved government (via taxpayer) subsidies. Tesla and SolarCity are totally dependent on this sweetheart deals and strong-arming rivals via his patrons in congress and CalGov. Even Space-X which is an inspiring and innovative endeavor, exists because it was awarded the space station contract while other less politically connected companies were passed over (perhaps justifiably, perhaps not).

We here at Brickmuppet Blog would dearly like for this to work... But given Musk's past business models the thing this most reminds us of is.....

"Science Babe" is actually Anzu Katodani from Girls und Panzer.

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We Are SO Down With This!

It looks like Russia is trying to popularize tankery.
Now that's a headline that cries out to be double checked so I did and well....  Sure enough.

Russia is challenging the US to compete in a "Tank Biathalon".

"In the tank biathlon, every tank runs almost 20 kilometres at a maximum possible speed, while firing from all weapons the targets, which are rising in different directions and distances. On the course, a tank has to pass repeatedly a ford, fences, a rut bridge, high-speed sections and overtaking passages. At all the times, the crew remains constantly in the firing position." 

Note that Germany and Italy have already agreed to attend.

No word on the Japanese.

Of course this being Europe I suspect that the few US civilian tank paintball teams will not be able to participate. (this is a rather different set of rules anyway). BUT THIS IS THE FIRST STEP TO HAVING HIGH SCHOOL TANK TEAMS!
It's also a neat and a decent (if bizarre) gesture given the current diplomatic 'issues'.

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August 11, 2013

Nerve Gas at JFK?

I just blundered into this story, There's nothing on Drudge as I type this so It may be may be breaking.

A Postal Service mail sorting facility at New York's JFK International Airport has been quarantined today after a suspicious package tested positive for VX nerve gas.

Two Customs agents were sicked Sunday morning after inhaling the strange odor coming from the package, which unconfirmed reports indicate was shipped to the United States from China.

That from this Daily Mail article. I'm quite doubtful the Chicoms are sending us nerve gas. If it IS a terror attack it could just as easily been sent from LA or Savannah.

Interesting times.

UPDATE: Now they're saying it was beauty supplies.

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What's in a Name?

As part of her general policy of displaying awesomeness in the comments, Suburban Banshee points out that the name of the new Japanese 'destroyer' has great cultural significance, approaching that of Ise or Yamato.

Interestingly, in stark contrast to ships named Yamato, the Izumo's naval namesake was one of the longest serving and most storied Japanese ships ever.

Built in 1898 in England  Izumo was an armored cruiser armed with 4x8 inch and 14x6 inch guns. An off the shelf export design that Armstrong/ Elswick developed for developing nations navies, Izumo outlived most of her half sisters by decades.

She was the flagship of the cruiser force and very heavily engaged in the Russo-Japanese War,  leading the raid on Vladivostok, participating in the hunt for the Russian corsair squadron, and seeing action at the pivotal battles of Ulsan and Tsushima.  After the war the ship also did all manner of diplomatic missions and saw action in the Mexican civil war (rescuing Japanese nationals). During WW1 the ship served in the Pacific, Indian ocean and also was flagship of the Japanese force in the Mediterranean. Izumo oversaw the internment of the High Seas fleet, and finally escorted the war prize U-boats to Japan.

In the interwar years she did show the flag operations as a training ship.

During the Sino Japanese war the old ship was assigned as the flagship of the naval contingent, served as a shore bombardment vessel and during the naval battle of Shanghai sank a Chinese warship and shot down a warplane.

 During WW2 she captured USS Wake and sank HMS Peterel. After that, the old ship served as a training and coast defense ship until sunk at Kure in 1945 by USN planes launched fro.....


Back up.
DDH 183's namesake was the flagship during.....Oh.

Oh my.

Messages indeed.

UPDATE: Oh never mind...Teh Banshee had already said all that in an earlier comment.

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Time to Give A Shout-Out to IndieGo-Go

Recently we discussed the potential KickStarter has for shaking things up and bypassing normal gatekeepers and FTC issues.

Well, they have issues of their own.

According to PopSci (link via Rand Simberg) Kickstarter recently made a small, quite specific, change to their terms of service. one that RETROACTIVELY removed the stretch prizes from an already funded project.

The project, to create bio-luminescent plants, received $484,013 of a $65,000  goal by the time funding closed and was going swimmingly until it attracted the ire of some...I dunno...luddites or something who, on May 31, started an online petition to get Kickstarter to block the project. Kickstarter knuckled under on July 1.

This is bigger than depriving the projects $40.00 backers of their glowing leeks...this is an ex post facto decision breaching a contracts in response to an internet petition.

Which brings us to Indiegogo which is another outfit with a similar buisness model that few people had heard of before Kickstarter decided to spurn the faint green light of and embrace the darkness of anti GM hysteria....and break contracts.

So lets hear it for least at the moment they don't seem to be opposed in principal to biotech startups.

...and all that that implies.

Kickstarter does good within what appear to be self imposed limits. Beyond those limits it's good to know that there is competition.

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August 10, 2013

Well, The Thought Was There

Bill Whittle, whose videos I link to frequently, does a very interesting podcast called The Stratosphere Lounge in which he takes questions and holds forth on a wide range of eclectic topics ranging from film to space travel to politics to history. He builds his shows around questions submitted via Facebook in a brief window before the podcast.

Well this weeks show included a question from a viewer about anime. Mr. Whittle expounded for a few minutes on why anime is not his cup of tea. This disquisition however, quickly dovetailed into glowing praise for someone who does not share his opinion on the medium. According to Mr Whittle, someone named 'Steven Den Beste' is brilliant, insightful, inspiring and ALWAYS RIGHT. Mr. Whittle spent several minutes talking about how important Mr. Den Beste's USS Clueless was in the early days of the blogosphere and what a joy it is to read the  editorials Steven still occasionally does.  After this genuinely heartfelt tribute, Whittle directed his anime attuned listeners to Mr. Den Beste's "Anime Manga...HENTAI..That's the word I'm looking for.. Hentai blog Chizumatic"

....because Steven Den Beste is just the cat's meow and if you're into that hentai stuff Chizumatic is where to find it!

While Mr. Whittle did mention as an aside that he wasn't entirely clear on the meanings of Manga, Anime & Hentai, I suspect that Steven's incoming search terms will be amusing for a bit.

UPDATE: Just to clarify: Hentai is pr0n. Chizumatic is not a hentai blog. The caption is in jest..

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Surprise Haiku

What I put my milk
and cereal in was a
strainer not a bowl


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"Lawyers are Trained in Theatrics, Illusion and Magic." WHO KNEW!?

I had no idea that by not pursuing a law degree I was condemning myself to mugglehood.

Obviously a Lawyer.
Allow me to explain.

We have just been directly and indirectly made aware of individuals who really really  does not like this silly "jury system" that stands in the way of their preferred justice. Popehat discusses a judge who recently berated a jury for doing the unthinkable and finding someone innocent. He also links to this execrable piece (Warning the "Z Word" is used) that seems to contend in complete seriousness that lawyers use sorcery to muddle the minds of foolish jurors.  The post title is an actual quote from the piece. It gets stranger from there.

Unusually, I urge you not to read the whole thing. It's quite incohate and if you fail your saving throw you'll lose 1D6 SAN. Read the annotated version instead.

There does seem to be a growing feeling in the country that the purpose of a jury is to convict. Period.

With that in mind I'll link to this...which needs to be linked to periodically by everyone with access to something corresponding to our 5th amendment.  It's actual footage of a Defence Against the Dark Arts class at Regent University. Do watch the whole thing. It's 48 minutes long...but it is vitally important and will cost you no SAN.

"Be sure to use your spellchecking quills"

* Young lady with broom is Shiny Chariot from Little Witch Acadamieas. Her actual status with the bar association is unclear.

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