January 12, 2014

My Friend Bob

..is always right.

"He's right.He's right. He's always right."

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January 11, 2014

A Banality Update

...is below the fold.

For those understandably disinterested in such matters, there is this...

...which, while neat, is of unknown provenance, so take the caption with a grain of salt.

UPDATE: In the comments, J Greely has the goods.


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January 10, 2014

Amazon's Ministry of Truth & RWBY

A minor kerfuffle involving the RWBY soundtrack  has resulted in the somewhat surprising revelation that ALL OF EXISTENCE IS A LIE!

OK, perhaps that is ever so slightly hyperbolic, but this is interesting and potentially worrisome.

First, some background:
The soundtrack for the superhero webtoon RWBY is actually excellent. its release was  at least as highly anticipated as the DVD. Now, this odd little adventure show has been remarkably family friendly on numerous levels* so it was quite a shock when one of the songs on the soundtrack had a segment that was profanity laced rap. There was no EXPLICIT ADVISORY or anything, it just sat in the MP3 album waiting to broadcast unexpected NSFW lyrics at the worst possible moment.
There was a spot of griping.

...some of it overwrought.

This was indeed a branding goof, but it was minor. Far larger, better funded outfits have released tie-ins they regret and this was nowhere NEAR as bad a misstep as The Star Wars Holiday Special.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago and the CD release reportedly contains an edited version of the song which somewhat amusingly cleaned up the rap portion of the song (which now includes the bewildering line "melt their britches down to ash")


Anyway, this elicited concern from those who like hearing about women being immolated as well as those disturbed that the RWBY people had CENSORED the song.  This has in turn, inspired the sort of thoughtful, high-brow discussions one would expect from adult fans of cartoons engaging in a disquisition on the internet.

...which is silly, because, actually, this was a very nice display of responsiveness from a show on a shoestring budget, that has a cast and crew of around a dozen. If they'd simply made the profane version of the song an MP3 single with an explicit lyrics advisory and it'd be a win win. But that's not what happened. The song was changed on the MP3 version too and the original deleted.

 OK, that could cause some consternation but, again, no big deal. They discontinued that product as damaging to the brand. While the dance edit of I Burn is, IMHO, the weakest song on the album, I went ahead and repurchased it...only to discover that Amazon had 'helpfully' edited the song in my cloud player.

The original no longer exists in my cloud player.

It exists on my Blackberry and just because I'm silly, I copied a version of it to a separate folder on my iMac...but it is as if it never existed on the cloud player... the version that I originally purchased was changed.

On one hand this is the most minor of first world concerns....a tiny company fixed an editorial goof that could potentially have damaged their brand. On the other hand the implications are actually worrisome.

Hell, given the proper payments from and too the right people, instead of Pumkin Pete's Marshmellow Flakes, Pyrrha could one day find herself retroactively having been the spokes-model for  Kaboom.

"That...would be most disheartening."

Of course this far more sinister real world implications...of the Ministry of Truth variety. Literally...as  this story from 2009 demonstrates.

On Friday, it was "1984” and another Orwell book, "Animal Farm,” that were dropped down the memory hole — by Amazon.com.

In a move that angered customers and generated waves of online pique, Amazon remotely deleted some digital editions of the books from the Kindle devices of readers who had bought them.

So if a book you buy on Kindle is declared Double-Plus-Ungood it can be double-plus-unbought.

This has the potential for much mischief, especially given the recent revelations about the NSA and IRS as well as the fact that Amazon (and most other tech companies) are enthusiastic supporters of the politicians most  responsible for those missteps (even as they express their shock...nay SHOCK that such things can happen).

I'm not knocking the creators of RWBY here..despite the wailing and gnashing of teeth, this particular incident is no big thing, but the long term implications with so much being in "the cloud" are troubling to me, especially given the advent of "bookless libraries" (why aren't they called cyber cafe's?). We have people in places of responsibility and power who even today make claims like this fellow, who insists that Stalin killed no-one...

This wicked asininity has been going on for a long time, but without the ability to edit out uncongenial histories.

 I'm not tech-savvy enough to be able to guess at what, if any, safeguards are possible or even desirable. Every safety feature has a trade-off in both freedom and useability. This is especially true on IT systems. However, this ability to rewrite history is a totalitarian's dream and as we find ourselves moving forward towards an increasingly paperless society we should take care to guard our history carefully.

The future is an unlit road...the past should be less so lest we loose all ability to learn from its warnings.


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January 09, 2014

Kill La Kill Continues to Surprise

....in part by the very act of continuing. I hadn't read up on the show and expected episode 13 to be a battle royale wrapping everything up.

However, #13 is not the last episode. Instead there was plot development,  introspection and almost no softcore pr0n mixed in with the usual manic energy. With one exception, they are all pretty surprising....

 (Nope...didn't see THAT coming.)

I'm thoroughly enjoying this show at the moment.

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January 07, 2014

Air is Not Supposed to Hurt

Also, here in Virginia temperatures should be expressed in two or occasionally three digits. If there are less, then something is very wrong.

I don't have much to add but this piece by Solokov struck me as tangentially related and  strangely awesome.

UPDATE: In other news, a combination of post Christmas vacations, Amazon gift cards as well as weather delays has resulted in hours very close to what we were getting  before Christmas...This is cool, but school starts next week, so I'm mildly concerned.

Note that as an adult, I'm not actually concerned enough to spend an alarming amount of the workday on an angry, hate filled tear about how decisions by management personnel (who are just doing their job and adjusting to a dynamic situation in a SERVICE industry) are causing me to (gasp!) adjust my schedule...almost as if I'm (somehow) paid to do what is needed when it is needed.  However there seems to be some debate amongst today's  generation about how this "employment" thing is supposed to work.

Kids today...

Also: My lawn..get off of it
No really, the grass is frozen...You're breaking it.....

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January 05, 2014

If, Today, You Read Just One

...disquisition on Edmund Burke's views on morality and how it ties into traffic safety and the philosophy of John Ford, let this be it.

Even Yakui gives this one her seal of approval.

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What the HELL Was That?

Space Dandy premiered on Toonami just now and I have no freaking idea what I just watched.

I only know that it was exuberantly unfettered by sanity.

Here's the first half of episode1 subbed.. I gather this ran in Japan as a promo a short time ago....

Note that in the second half, the episode proceded to get silly.

However, the dub was good and just as I was about to throw something at the TV they concluded the series most satisfyingly.

I think

I really don't know how I feel about this, so I'm gonna  have to tune in next week and find out.

This show certainly is different.


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January 04, 2014

This Time For Sure

 The Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star is one of the most powerful icebreakers capable of reaching Antarctica. (The huge Russian atomic powered icebreakers can't cross the equator due to a quirk of their reactor design)

Fortuitously the American vessel is was en route to supply the Research station at McMurdo when the Australian government requested assistance in breaking free the Chinese icebreaker Xue Long which became hopelessly stuck while rescuing passengers from the Russian ice strengthened cruise ship Akademik Shokalskiy which, as we've been noting with considerable bemusement was on a scientific expedition to research global warming by studying Antarctica's retreating ice sheet...only to have the ice sheet rally, turn, fight and overrun their position.

The Polar Star, while nearly 40 years old,  can break 21 feet of ice and has three times he installed power of the much larger Chinese ship so odds are good that they'll be successful.

Interestingly the Polar Star nearly wasn't available having been decommissioned in 2008 as worn out and beyond economic repair. However, it was decided in 2010 to put put a maintenance crew on the vessel rather than scrap her and ultimately the vessel was refitted to soldier on for several more years to supplement her sister and the larger but less powerful Healy while a new class of icebreakers is designed...and hopefully built.

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January 02, 2014

In Defense of the Formerly Icebound Adventurers (Updated)

pic via BBC

Now that the passengers, both scientists and dilettantes have (thankfully) been rescued from the Akademik Shokalskiy I feel the need to come to their defense with limited snark.

I think they are getting a slightly bum rap.

The NYT has a piece denouncing the expedition as disrupting 'serious' science. The short version of this is that the rescue of this expedition is seriously impacting the logistics of other scientific endeavors on the frozen continent.

This is technically true as their article points out...French, Chinese, and Australian icebreakers were all in route to, or offloading supplies at base camps for other scientists when they were called to assist a vessel in distress. The NYT suggests that these endeavors were all more legit than the research being carried out by the self funded expedition.... They do note however that the expedition leaders are not novices at this...

The leaders of the current expedition – Chris Turney, Chris Fogwill and Greg Mortimer — are seasoned field scientists.  

So what is the problem here?

But the bungled trip now threatens to tarnish the wider field of Antarctic science.



The NYT is denouncing these recently quite highly regarded scientists because they encountered a (thankfully non-fatal) mishap that for their political allies has politically problematic optics. This may or may not be fair...but I'm pretty sure that the Old Grey Lady didn't have a problem with the expense and disruption involved in this.

Stuff can happen....especially in Antarctica...to the best equipped and most professional. Ask Captain Scott.

The Spirit of Mawson Expedition went into an extremely unpredictable area about which not a lot is known. THAT'S WHAT SCIENTISTS DO! They made a discovery, probably several, because, rest assured freezing and stranding the ship was not part of the plan. It was however SCIENCE happening all around them getting steadilly thicker and they observed it. Science often involves  goeing into the unknown and that entails some risk. Antarctica is unpredictable and dangerous...that is why people don't live there.

Then there's this from the NYT article.
  Particularly vexing is what seems to be a devil-may-care attitude expressed by some of those on the trapped ship.

Oh my stars and garters! Bravado in the face of danger! How gauche!
What the HELL else are they supposed to do...cry? Be overly dramatic regards what was did not seem to be a life threatening situation? Sit down in their footsie Pajamas drink cocoa and talk about health insurance? Oh...right...NYT.

Well...as far as I'm concerned this is a feature and not a bug. Props to these guys on that score at least. In fact it's cold enough there that even I wouldn't begrudge them footsie PJs! Besides, they did what scientists in the field often DO... they stuck with it, kept calm and kept observing. Read about Roy Chapman Andrews (Combat Paleontologist) sometime. The fear that they were so politically motivated that they would stay and get someone killed turned out to be unfounded. It looks like they did not flee prematurely nor too late.

Let's review...A freak storm and cold snap stranded their ship. Now because several of the scientists are allegedly* outspoken advocates of AGW theory and associated economically dubious mitigation efforts...and ALL of the on board patrons are,  those of us who are a bit skeptical of their political stance on this issue had a good hearty laugh at the amusing irony of the situation, This is not that different from what our our political opponents did here and here...except for the minor detail that no one was laughing at innocent deaths.

That being said, while I think that much of the amusement on the right is understandable in that context, I think we should cut these adventurers a break.

" Halp! We're stuck in a 16 foot thick pile of Global Warming!"

A small break....

One of the non-economic complaints about AGW science is that it relies too much on models, which are only as good as the (necessarily incomplete) data put into them. The models don't seem to have been reliable in predicting recent trends.

These scientists went to an area that had been extensively surveyed about a hundred years ago but has been largely unobserved since in order to collect data on how it has changed over that considerable time...this is exactly the sort of research we want done. The scientists who led the expedition reportedly have a theory that carbon emissions are dramatically affecting the climate. So they went to test their theory in the field. THIS IS SCIENCE!

There seems to be much hand wringing over the fact that this expedition was funded by rich patrons who got a Antarctic vacation out of it (admittedly a  much more exciting one than they anticipated). Well that is the way science was normally done for centuries. There's a limited pot of National Science Foundation monies and this delightfully free market model demonstrably works (this is proved by them getting there and discovering way more ice and colder temperatures than they thought. ) This sort of model seems a very good compliment to the generally successful NSF model.  

Now...If the scientists had been looking for Antarctic space NAZI's and their saucers or something I'd be a little more sympathetic to the argument that their mishap disrupted legit research needlessly...but whatever political quibbles I might have with their patrons, they displayed the courage of their convictions with cash and their presence and I salute them for that. As for the scientists , they put together an expedition to a largely unknown area where they tried to TEST THEIR HYPOTHISIS.

That is what science is...That is what scientists do...

"And science is AWESOME!"

:I'd resigned myself to being the only righty who thought this, However Moe Lane expresses similar sentiments rather more pithily. He also cuts to the heart of the matter.
...it is remarkably embarrassing, which is why the NYT is so aggravated about the whole thing.  To the point where they’re retroactively trying to throw the expedition under the icebreaker.  As if it’s the Spirit of Mawson’s fault that the ice is still there…

Oh no WAY.

* I've not found a primary source  on this point.
Animated .gifs are from Nichijou, which is unrelated to this matter. It is also (like science) awesome & should bring a smile to the face of anyone regardless of political preferences.

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January 01, 2014

In the Interest of Being All Multicultural and Stuff...

We've decided to bring in a guest today from....
I'm sorry...WHAT!?

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