February 26, 2014

This Continues to Look Quite Promising


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February 24, 2014

F-1 in Huntsville!

My first F-1 post!

Two of the Brickmuppet's Crack Team of Science Babes report that Huntsville Alabama is home to the first F-1 test and quals since 1969 and the first F-1 ever since 1973!

Wait....

"Science Babes Moonlighting as Race Queens" is not the actual title of this piece by Tan-Tan.

If Formula One hasn't existed since 1973 what's this guy going on about?

"What?..."

"Oh!..."

The Science Babes are at their other job in Les Mans, which caused my confusion as they're actually talking about...

The Rocketdyne F-1 rocket engine!

The huge engines that powered the first stage of the Saturn 5 rocket which put 12 men on the moon and Skylab into orbit hasn't been built in 44 years. Contrary to popular belief the plans for these beast DO still exist, but they are in obsolete computer formats and of limited use.
You see, the Apollo program was so rushed that a lot of the little 'tweaks' that were found necessary to keep the rocket from failing. This was not fully appreciated until the '80s when NASA and USAF engineers noted that there were holes drilled and pieces added to some of the F-1s in museums...holes and fiddly bits that weren't on the plans. The engines were exploding during tests and the production crew did some trial and error modifications until the "splodies" stopped. Additional tweaks were added at the plant to facilitate production, so the F-1 plans are actually plans for an inefficient kerosene/LOX bomb.

Well, engineers in Huntsville have taken apart and are restoring some of these engines, which were discovered to be in remarkably good shape. This time making a note of Every.Single.Part. And. Hole. The plan is to do a computer model of the engine that is accurate, but they need to ensure that they are building it from a working engine...so.....



That's just a test of the engines gas generator from last year...
This project is the brainchild of Marshall Spaceflight center engineers who felt that they ought to DO something with the dozen or so F-1s lying around the research center. They've been calling in other rocketry companies to observe and consult. In addition they've been bringing in the few surviving Apollo engineers to work on this interesting side project...which has resulted in a tentative design and proposal for the F-1B 



 This is not as silly as it sounds. One of the things about the F-1 that was discovered back in the 60's was that, due to its very conservative design it was actually pretty re-useable and it was felt it could be made completely so with a few tweaks. F-1s were considered for several early space shuttle designs propelling reusable flyback boosters.



 The mighty F-1 may yet again spew pillars of fire for the chariots of explorers.



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Well, As Excuses Go

This probably should win some sort of award.
We've heard about the terrible smog problem in many Chinese cities and many of us assumed that it was a combination ofthe sheer scale of China's industrialization, perverse incentives, and corruption hindering enforcement of existing laws.

Well, it turns out we were wrong. They MEANT to do that.

Thick smog is the best defence against US laser weapons, a Chinese military chief has declared on national television.





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With A Rueful Chuckle

 ...we note that Tamara K. has summed up a good bit of recent news in one quote.

If they really hated us because of our freedoms, then they can probably stop hating us any ol' time now. 



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February 23, 2014

A Four Ring Circus of WIN


Log Horizon has been discussed here before.
Since then it has continued to surpass expectations despite its unspectacular animation and dubious concept. The show has all the tropes one would expect from a fantasy adventure series, plus a great many in-jokes and references to online RPGs, however it uses them in very clever ways and is surprisingly intelligent.

21 episides in they still have 5 episodes to wreck it, but I'm going out on a limb recomending this one strongly. I started to do a regular review but this is a show spoilers will completely spoil, so here is a deliberately vague overview of  what sorts of characters are involved in the three to four distinct but interlocking plots that stem from a mishap with a Massively Muliplayer Online Virtual Reality Role Playing Game that traps thousands of players in the game with no way to log out.

In Ring One:

We have our designated hero. He's overall a decent guy and goes to great lengths to do the right thing. He's not a frontline action hero however, and he tends to gets by on smarts, using game theory as well as working feverishly to develop political/interpersonal skills he'd never really had to (nor wanted to) pursue until just recently.

We have a thoroughly conventional would-be love interest/side-kick. Well, not quite: She's so utterly smitten and so thoroughly into the "serving her noble master" roleplay that she's a little creepy and stalky. However she's really good at her job (which involves kicking ass, and cutting throats). She's also quite smart and her perceptiveness and different perspective on things is actually crucial to everyone's survival.
Also: It's always nice to find a DFC' in anime who is non-neurotic, utterly awesome and at ease with themselves.

There is one annoying, token lunkhead: He may have Tourettes as he frequently makes sexist comments despite the fact that they immediately result in great pain and temporary physical disability (see above).

We have an older gentleman who is intellectually curious enough to, on a lark, try something completely new (and apparently pointless) just to see what will happen. In the process, he changes the world.
In a complete break with convention, the old guy is not a perv and in fact prides himself in being a gentleman...in the very best sense of the word. He's an all round cool cat, whose urbane, almost aristocratic mannerisms belie an exemplary ethical  compass plus great moral and physical courage.

In Ring Two:

We've got five teenagers who find a mixture of idealism, inexperience  and bravado has subsequently landed them in a dire situation, far from help with the fate of thousands on their shoulders.  Remarkably, all four young adults are striving to actually be adults...how's that for novel? Of course, as they're young, they're learning and everything they punch at is well above their weight. This is an action flick so everything can punch back....hard

The group includes a crackerjack young lady who, due to her levelheadedness and self discipline becomes their leader via acclaim.  She's learning as she goes about the ins and outs of command and leadership, and doing everything she can to improve herself so that she can better keep her outmatched little party alive.

Her brother is a good man and physically brave, but, he's terribly inexperienced and it often seems that he has more balls than sense. He is however, indomitable in his determination and can think on his feet.

  There is also a girl who has been through a special hell recently and is still somewhat traumatized from the experience. She's striving to confront her demons, improve herself and save her friends...all the while coming to terms with the sheer gravity of what she's lost.

An idealistic but grounded young woman who has sufficient grasp of her own limitations that she can use her limited talents to surprising effect. Her modesty belies her remarkable effectiveness in combat which acts as a nice foil to her polar opposite in the group...

...A dapper young man of 19 years who seems to be trying to somehow weaponize the Dunning-Kruger Effect. His boastfulness seems to be in direct proportion to his failings, of which there are many...physical courage, it should be noted, is not amongst them.

In Ring Three:




The greatest test of ones character is when one finds that doing what is right requires one to make a sacrifice or take a great risk while simply walking away carries no negative judgement or cost.

Also in this ring: You magnificent bastard! You found a keeper!



In Ring Four:

There are also bout 20 different quirky supporting characters involved in a slice of life show about small businesses and local politics...oh and steam engineering and a war. Most of them are interesting enough and sufficiently fleshed out that the fanfic practically writes itself*.


**************************
  Log Horizon has been very entertaining so far and frankly if I had kids this is the sort of show I'd be wanting them to watch. It's a show about courage, ethics, hope and even civics, where intelligence and thinking things through is important, experience matters because life lessons are hard earned and most of the protagonists are pretty decent people.  It's also a surprisingly lacking in the gratuitous fan service department..one epic miniskirt notwithstanding.

Be advised though that the OP is an obnoxious, weaponized earworm.



 Those who've been watching it, have at it in the comments. I'm curious what other people think.

Update:
A few theories on what is actually going on

Spoiler tags here are as follows:
[-S-P-O-I-L-E-R-] [/S-P-O-I-L-E-R-]   
...but lower case and without any of the dashes


* As opposed to that other show where Tite Kubo got bogged down writing his own fanfic.

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February 22, 2014

A Few Links

Don explains one way of achieving the military objective of 'sweeping the field clean'.

Wonderduck reminds us that discussing literature is a follow up to a more crucial step.

Scott Lowther has important advice for any well intentioned time traveling snipers.

Medieval Otaku has thoughts on the life lessons from a Christian perspective that are represented allegorically in...um...Kill-La-Kill.




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Doing It Wrong

Banality is below the fold.
For those rationally dis-interested in such matters, here is something for the Tsukasa fans amongst you.


more...

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February 19, 2014

We Live in an Age

...where wonders undreamt of in previous times are possible.

Like a video of Kate Upton doing a swimsuit photo shoot in zero -gee.

 (Link NSFW, obviously)

Spoiler: It looks like this...



...but different.


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February 18, 2014

Well Dang

The Wakfu Kickstarter ends tonight and my Kickstarter account is all screwy.

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February 17, 2014

Happy Presidents Day

In compliance with FCC requirements that a certain percentage of our content be educational, we feel we should point to this...



...and take time to educate our readers about the fact that the United States played no part in Gallipoli or the Battle of Verdun, both of which took place before the US declared war in 1917.

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February 16, 2014

That Sinking Feeling

...Honorious must have felt as he pondered ruefully upon the wisdom of rounding out his army's order of battle with Visigoths....that he was in considerable debt to.


Instapundit notes in the last paragraph of this article, quite the buried lede:

  The United States has become so dependent on Chinese imports, however, that the F.D.A. may not be able to do much about the Chinese refusal. The crucial ingredients for nearly all antibiotics, steroids and many other lifesaving drugs are now made exclusively in China.



Wow.

Just. Wow.

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February 15, 2014

Now That Singles Awareness Day Has Passed

..it is probably a good time to remind people of the importance of stoicism...and failing that, knowing when to shut up.



When asked by a reporter how he felt about the recent record snowfall in Tokyo, this fellow seems to have given an answer so sappy that it broke the very soul of the young lady on his arm. To add to the couples mutual mortification the interview quickly went viral and....well...


more...

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February 13, 2014

Ignore This Poster. It is Highly Misleading



Director Carl Rinch gives the classic tale of Bushido a supernatural twist. The film boasts an all star cast of Japanese A-listers including Hiroyuki Sanada, Ko Shibasaki, Tadanobu Asano, Min Tanaka and Jin Akashini. They are joined by Keneau Reeves portraying a magical honkey who teaches our heroes an important lesson in respect and tolerance.


Despite that...last bit, this is not a bad film. It is rather strange though.

A brief narration gives a decent overview of the political situation in 18th century Japan and the fact that this film is based on a historical event...shortly before introducing the audience to some really impressive supernatural weirdness. This is a Japan where the Tengu and other Yokai are real and can be quite dangerous. Thanks in part to the supernatural element, Reeves's character is not entirely egregious and his incongruous presence actually serves to establish the decency of the Lord Asano character ( Min Tanaka).  In spite of a somewhat dubious romantic subplot between him and Ko Shibasaki, Reeves is, at best a deutoragonist and, in fact Hirouki Sanada as Oishi emerges in his historical role as the lead. This is actually a fairly straightforward retelling of the story....Well....aside from a much grander scale, the occasional supernatural horror, and Pirates of the Caribbean homages. This is all done with an astonishing amount of what appears to be...sincerity.

  47 Ronin is a pretty odd film, but if one HAD to somehow work Keneau Reeves into this story, this is about as respectful to the source material as one could hope for. If one wanted to remake this film without the supernatural elements...well, there's no point in that because  Hiroshi Inegaki nailed it in 1962. As it is, this is a pretty good popcorn flick that, surprisingly, does not cop out on the point of the story. It's even clever at times with a few moments of 'fridge brilliance'

I admit I went into this with low expectations, but, while no great work of art, it is a surprisingly solid film.

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Signs and Portents

As unwelcome as last weeks pronouncement was, we really should cut Punxsutawney Phil some slack.


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February 12, 2014

"Rain & Sleet w Scattered Flurries Possible: No Accumulation"



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February 07, 2014

Vocabulary: A Journey that Never Ends

Today I learned two new words.

Posterior tibial tendonitis and Osteochondral lesion of the talus.

Vocabulary sucks.


" Well, I learned the words peristerophilist and peristerophily today. I..what? No... ..OH GOD NOT THE EYES!"

I start physical therapy Monday.

.gif is from Laputa: Castle in the Sky.
(Spoiler: Sheeta keeps her eyes)

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February 06, 2014

Thinking Small With Regard to Surface ships

CDR Phillip Pournelle has an interesting guest post over at Galrhan's place in which he discusses the potential that small combatants have to augment the USN's force structure. He specifically references the Coast Guard's new Sentinel Class patrol boats.


I’ll add here another comparison:  For the cost of one Littoral Combat ship with two helicopters we could deploy 14 Sentinel class patrol craft with increased firepower within the displacement capabilities of the hull design.
 




The Sentinel's are fine vessels, with great seakeeping for their size and enough range to cross the Pacific (via Hawaii). They are actually a Dutch design purchased because of its very good performance in several Navies & Coast Guards. However, it's unclear what increased firepower can realistically be added to the Sentinel design. Remember, it's not just displacement that is important, space is a big factor in guided missile systems and in the sensors, fire control and C4i systems needed to make any armament useful.

Still,  being conservative, lets assume that  any up-gunning consisted of replacing the Bushmaster Cannon with the 'bolt on' SEA RAM missile system (which has its own fire control on the mount) and squeezing in two Penguin antiship missiles between the cutters copious ventilators. I choose these two systems because they are both designed to have low impact and be mounted on austere or even civilian vessels, both are in US service and they are fairly cheap. The LCS has 21 point defense anti-air missiles (RAM) and no antiship missiles except for some antitank missiles that have a shorter range than the ships single Bofors gun. Bu contrast the postulated 14 Coast guard cutters, for the same price would have have 154 of the same type of point defense missiles and 28 over the horizon ship killing missiles. That's 133 more SAMs and 28 more SSMs and they'd be (at least) 14 times as hard to sink (perhaps harder, as the Coast Guard cutters are made of steel as opposed to aluminum).

All this really tells us is that comparing anything against the Navy's littoral combat ship is setting the bar rather low.


However 14 vessels would take at least 14 hits to put out of action and so might deny any enemy unfettered use of an area of water longer. Also 14 hulls can be in 14 places at once, which can be important in peace as well as war.  Showing the flag, for instance, requires the flag actually be present.

On the debit side, while it's true that 14 cutters could cover a similar area to the LCS's helicopters, they'd be somewhat less flexible and, of course they'd not have anything like the huge cargo bay. It might be advisable to apply the concept to a somewhat larger, but still austere vessel. The Italian Commandante class Corvettes, are austere offshore patrol vessels that come in at 58 million (US) apiece which compares favorably to the Sentinel's 47 million dollar price tag.



The closeness in price between a 400 ton and a 1500 ton vessel may cause some alarm, but it is a good reminder that steel,  as opposed to a weapon system or sensor array, is cheap. A bigger hull costs only a little more.

The Coast Guard needed a vessel that could go really close inshore, have a crew of under 30,  have a low enough freeboard to pull people out of the water from the main deck, sip fuel, be based at existing small boat stations and have a draft of less than 10 feet. As such the 400 ton cutters are good fit for their needs...the operating costs are much lower (fuel, crew ect) are far smaller than the larger ship....(acquisition costs are only part of a budget).

However, 1100 more tons of steel buys a lot better seakeepng, a helicopter and vastly more internal space with all the associated advantages... at the cost of some increased operating costs due to a much larger crew and greater fuel consumption.  12 can be bought for the cost of a single 700 million LCS, though how much 12 would cost to run in comparison to an LCS is unclear though the LCS is notoriously expensive in fuel and repair costs. 12 of these ships bring 12 helicopters to the table as opposed to the LCS's 2 and the Comandante class has a hard point for 4 or 8 antiship missiles. There is also a provision in the design for a slightly stretched version with 8VLS cells and 32 ESSM missiles...

...but at that point you're getting into a AAA fire control systems, with the attendant risk of escalating prices to the point of missing the raison' detre' of the exercise.

Still, if the cost could be kept to the point that 6-10 could be bought and operated for the cost of an LCS then this vessel could be a vast quantitative and qualitative improvement over LCS.

Additionally, we've mentioned before that the French have a very interesting smaller (800 ton) vessel with similar features, but no costs were available.

Such vessels are no replacement for the big Destroyers, with their sensors and ability to shoot down aircraft missiles and satellites as well as strike targets a thousand miles away,  but they could be an interesting force multiplier for a reasonable price. This is going to become a very important consideration in the coming years. when our older hulls start wearing out...just as the depth of our financial crisis becomes fully felt

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This Bodes Ill

Snowmelt from the Sierra Nevada mountans is where the water in southern California, Nevada and to an extent, Arizona comes from.

This is what snowfall in the Sierra Nevada looked like on January 18 of 2013, which was actually a very bad drought year.



This is what it looked like on the same date this year..



There is more here (via)
Forget the agricultural debacle for a moment...water for the cities is going to be a first order calamity. It's already pretty bad.

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February 05, 2014

Caught Up

The foot still hurts a bit, but I'm FINALLY caught up on the schoolwork that I missed due to the injury.

Well, almost...there's a big assignment due Friday that I haven't started on yet due to the backlog, but time-wise I'm 'in the black' as it were.

Speaking of which...

 Art by S. Zenith Lee

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February 04, 2014

Regards Years Ending in ...14



The Gregorian calender does not have any predictive qualities beyond such matters as when a leap day will be inserted. The parallels between today and 1914 while real, are far from exact and have been developing for years.They do not gain special effectiveness by this grim centennial.

However, Suburban Banshee takes a moment to remind us that ours is not the only calendar...and that her name is apt.

…it’s not comforting to ponder that Chinese who believe in traditional five elements fortunetelling are of the opinion that Yang years of the Wood Horse are associated with war — and "fast victories.” It is a year to stick to one’s principles — which in this version means not negotiating and running over other people.


In fact China doesn't see any parallels to the first world war...they see things in terms of the second.

So...um....yay.


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