May 30, 2014

Dragon Mark 2

Two of The Brickmuppet's Crack Team of Science Babes react to the awesomeness that is unveiling of The Dragon Mk2 capsule by SPACE-X founder Elon Musk. 

If it works as advertised it will be a huge advance on all previous space vehicles in a number of areas. 

While it lacks the shuttles cargo bay, it can cary just as many astronauts (7). and looks surprisingly roomy. It can land anywhere as opposed to the two or three airports the space shuttle could use and it is designed with very quick turnaround times in mind. This is significant as the shuttle, while technically resuseable, had to be rebuilt after each flight at great expense. Indeed, refurbishing the solid rocket boosters cost more than simply making disposable ones, and contributed to the O-Ring design that doomed the crew of Challenger,  

Of course reusing the capsule offers limited cost savings if the booster is thrown away. At least one Gemini capsule was flown in space twice and that did not make it a viable commercial system. To that end SPACE-X plans to reuse the first and second stages of Falcon 9 boosters it will use to boost both Dragon capsules and unmanned satellites into space. 

The boosters will cary enough extra fuel to soft land at the launch point, the second stage actually doing one full orbit. This is wasteful of fuel, and reduces payload but makes up for it in preserving the hardware (kerosene is cheap). 

We've covered the tests here before, but a few months ago the Dragonfly Grasshopper test vehicle made the last of its many flights, reaching an altitude of a kilometer. 

Future versions will have retractable landing legs for streamlining during high speed tests and Falcon launches starting with the one this past April,  are being fitted with the retractable legs to work out any bugs before the full up re-useable tests begin.

This is a logical and step by step approach that has as much likelihood as anything of succeeding. In a decade or so we may finally have the space hotels, moon bases, asteroid mines and Mars missions we were promised in our youth. 

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Oh Good Grief

Apropos the previous post, it seems that the internet is just mocking me now.

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May 29, 2014

It's Not Like a Bike At All

With no one in the house to disturb, I've started practicing the piano again for the first time in 15 or 20 years. The first obstacle to overcome was the lack of any sheet music, but I scrounged up an old hymnal. My first indication of how daunting the task ahead of me is was wasting a moment remembering what the squigglypoo and the backwards C were called. Upon starting to play beat upon keys I realized that my basic hand coordination had atrophied BADLY. I've got a lot of work to do.

I used to be decent at this, but, it appears that playing Senbonzakura is rather a bit farther off that I had hoped.

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May 27, 2014

Limping Back

As I mentioned in the update to the previous post, my parents met with multiple calamities in the Gulf. They made it back to Key West and my father determined that the damage is not fixable in the short term  They are going to attempt limp back to Portsmouth where we can work on it at a more leisurely pace and where professional assistance is much cheaper. 

Of course with the steering out Dad has to set up the tiller and they don't trust the engine not to spew oil into the bilge again to use it for extended periods. They got their bilge pumped in Key West and have lots of oil pads but the danger of leaving a sheen is too great to have the bilge pump on automatic, so they're coming back, using the sails, a tiller and a sextant. The last two will give no trouble but dad is not particularly experienced with sails so this has the makings of an adventure. 

At least they will be traveling with the Gulf Stream. On the down side the boarders of the  Gulf Stream is a playground for waterspouts. 

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May 26, 2014

Enjoy the Holiday, But Forget Not Why You Have It.

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May 25, 2014

Well then,

That succinctly explains why those songs are rarely translated.

However, it can be done.... 

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ANNND They're Off! (This Time Fer Sure) UPDATED::

Below the fold is a status update regarding this bloggers banal existence. For those who are justifiably disinterested in such Walter Mitty-isms, we have provided some conciliatory cheesecake. 


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May 24, 2014

About 6 Weeks Left To Go

I see the twins are back. (I just wasted ENTIRELY too much of my evening crawling through that with the pause button).

The arm reversal between her and Jaune  compared to the season 1 OP is a nice touch. It looks like JNPR are indeed going to be the duteragonists.
Velvet's team certainly looks interesting. 
I find it interesting the CRDNL is included.

Wow. The Rooster Teeth eye catch is really irritating. 

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May 23, 2014

On This Day In Aviation History

On May 23rd 1908, John Morrell prepared to conquer the skies in an airship of his own design. At 450 feet long, and filled with about 500,000 cubic feet of illuminating gas, the vessel was actually longer than any of the German Zeppelins that had flown. It was also a much more powerful ship as well, with five engines against the two in the German craft. 

In front of 15,000 citizens of Berkley California, the ship was made ready for flight. The crew of 15 boarded the vessel and manned their stations. 4 photographers were along as well to record the historic event.  With everything secured, the mooring lines were set loose.

 Morrell and his crew then sailed into aviation history.

Not only was this the largest airship built up to that time, the 20 people it took aloft were by FAR the largest number of people that had flown in single aircraft. One might note that 15 + 4 does not equal 20, but that is because the ship had another aviation first. An Australian aeronaut, a Captain Penfold, had somehow managed to sneak on board,  conceal himself (somehow) and thus became the first stowaway in the history of powered aviation!

The mighty dirigible began to cruise over the city at an altitude of 300 feet. The airship undulated regally for a while, as Morrell and his crew began to perform maneuvering tests. However,  as if to reinforce the unfortunate imagery,  after an unsatisfyingly short time, there emanated from the bow, an  Earth shattering "POP!". 

The forward end of the envelope burst open and deflated, beginning a rapid decent, while the stern remained aloft. Those in the bow had a remarkably gentle landing....for a brief moment....

...until the rest of the crew...and the engines fell  on them as the gangway became vertical. The engines equipment and crew coalesced into a modernist sculpture  of metal, blood, expletives and compound fractures.

Miraculously, although there were a LOT of broken bones, no one was actually killed. Morrell himself sustained a dislocated hip, broken leg and internal injuries. Capt. Penfold , the stowaway, was drug from the wreck with two broken ankles. 

The stern remained inflated and partially aloft for some time as a mute, Freudian testimony to the truly epic level of ignominy that Morrill and his intrepid crew of dildonauts had achieved....on this day in aviation history.


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May 20, 2014

Godzilla 2014

This is a thoroughly entertaining popcorn flick.
More than that, it is a very good Kaiju flick. The people who did this movie seem to have a great appreciation for the genre and how it works. 
Most impressively...this is a good GODZILLA film, which is not quite the same thing. That they got so much right rather surprised me, though it probably shouldn't since at the insistence of director Gareth Edwards, Legendary Pictures hired Toho's Yoshimutsu Banno (who directed Godzilla VS Hedorah) as executive producer, additionally Japanese A-lister Ken Watanabe  plays Dr Serazawa.

In this age of CGI, special effects are hardly exceptional but this film has some splendid visuals that are uncommonly well used to convey scale and menace. The pacing builds up steadily to the climax and there are quite a few surprises along the way. 

I don't think the Japanese are going to be re-naming this one.

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This Squirrel Nut Zippers Video

...really captures some of the key elements of early '30s US cartoons.

(Madness being the most important one.) 

It actually doesn't start 'till 0:38

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That's It: : Game Over

Pete wins...

He's had his very own "Blog-musume" for 6 years now.

A magical devachka, fighting evil with a 0.7mm pencil

(I think that's how you say it...This blog is not liking the Cyrillic)

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Thoughts on Tyson's Dismissal of Philosophy

While I share some of the frustrations Neil DeGrasse Tyson has with those who endlessly debate inane philosophical points, l a bit am wary of those dismiss all philosophical inquiry or ethical questions as pointless inhibitions on the road to progress. Such admonitions bring to mind the utopian efforts of the eugenicists, a group who surely were not questioned enough about the details and implications of their premises, objectives and methods.  Those involved in the experiments upon Albert Stevens and others could have benefitted from "asking deep questions". Elsewhere, similar avenues of research, divorced from any inhibiting tendencies that philosophical reflection and debate might have produced, resulted in Buchenwald. 

Thus, as much awesome as he exudes in popularizing science, Tyson's statement that students should actively avoid any philosophy courses and that any questions along philosophical lines are a waste of time is rather worrisome. His argument is superficially utilitarian...the irony of which is no doubt lost on Dr Tyson, but somewhere David Hume and Jeremy Bentham are amused....but unimpressed. 

A much more articulate and literate take on this can be found here.  (via Borepatch)

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Well, I Know What I'll Be Watching This Winter.

Like the previous one, this trailer for the upcoming Yamato film has no animation. But it's 31 seconds long as opposed to 16. Also, there is music this time, music that will mean nothing to those who did not watch the old show. The rest of us however, are a bit enthused.

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A Bit of Lost History Found

I just received this via E-Mail. I seem to recall hearing about it years ago, but had no idea it was finished or available or especially on You-Tube.

Behold! The long lost 1946 collaboration between Walt Disney and Salvador Dali.

This has been up since 2011 so I guess that Disney just put it out there due to its experimental nature, historical interest and the fact that its a short.  

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Technical Difficulties

Since Saturday evening I've begun 4 posts, I started typing one of them 3 times and two of them have actually gotten published without vanishing into the web ether.

I have particularly come to HATE the sentence "Connection timed out.".

As of this morning, everything seems to be running fine though. 

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The Memetic Madness That is Fandom

Having finally finished Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions - Heart Throb  I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed it, though it's not quite on the same level as its predecessor. 

The original show, in addition to being funny, was a touching, beautifully portrayed love story that amongst all the hilarity, involved Rikka coming to terms with her loss and getting her act together. The sequel has her pretty much back to where she was for most of the series...except that Rikka and Yuta are definitely a couple. I confess that at first I thought the two of them were just joking with regard to Rikka's active fantasy world, but alas no, and no explanation is given for the regression. Were it not for specific references to the Christmas party in the first serie,s this show could easily have been set during the same time frame as that show...and it might have been more satisfying.

Whereas Love, Chunibyo and Other Delusions is about moving forward and growing up, '...Heart Throb' is, in many ways, a renunciation of that. On the surface the show glorifies stability above all else and seems actively hostile to the notion of personal development. For instance, the new character Sophia comes dangerously close to character development...but dodges that bullet with great verve and skill. Great effort is made to ensure that everything remains exactly as it is at the beginning*. I know nothing about the source material for this show, but the this glaring difference makes me wonder if the sequel is a response to fan complaints. 

However, the show is quite entertaining in its own right and it made me laugh out loud several times. 

With the two main lovebirds relationship pretty much fixed, there is some development exploration of the other characters. 

Nibutani in particular, actually comes off as quite likable and decent in this series. She is an important part of a rather unexpected dynamic in the show that it is a bit deeper and more nuanced in its view of Otakudom than one might expect. 

Despite the show's overall tone of aggressive Otaku affirmation '...Heart Throb' is not entirely sanguine about the subject. There is a somewhat creepy cour (with VERY creepy undertones) that involves the implications of fandom as a cult and it's handled pretty well...imaginary magical battle notwithstanding. 

The show is cute, wacky and often quite weird...

...and occasionally even weirder still.

  While it is not quite as good as its predecessor in that it does little to advance the cast, it is still a thoroughly enjoyable show 

*...well...except for Isshiki, who is last seen dealing with a development that might or might not be truly horrible for him...the writers are rather vague on that point.

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May 17, 2014

The Thing in The Hague

The Chrysler Museum of Art reopened last Saturday after a long hiatus. This was a most welcome development as The Chrysler is one of the finest art museums in the Southeastern United States. It's collection is vast and includes the original piece that was the inspiration for this profound and thoughtful work...


In any event, I had not had time to get through the whole museum last Saturday so the plan for today was to spend the afternoon at the museum.

However, I noted as I headed down Hampton Blvd. that all was not right near the museum. SomeTHING was peering out from behind the Unitarian Church. This THING seemed to actually be in the Hague (the tributary of the Elizabeth River that the museum overlooks). As I turned the corner I began to grasp the sheer scale of the doom that had come to Norfolk....

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May 15, 2014

Is That Foamy?

(Language warning.)

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Mr. Ice Cream has Passed On

Albert Doumar passed away yesterday at 92

 His father, Abraham Doumar, a Lebanese immigrant, set up a snack stand at the St Louis Exposition. There he ran out of cups for his ice cream but extemporized a work around using waffles wrapped into cones as edible containers. This was a spectacular success and Doumar made enough money there to set up a buisness in Norfolk in 1905. After refining the concept of the edible ice cream container into something slightly more durable than a waffle, he had a local machine shop build him a semiautomatic cone making machine, the first one in the world. In 1907 Abe and his brother sold 23,000 cones at the Jamestown Exposition. The original ice cream parlor was destroyed in the disasterous hurricane of 1933 and relocated (along with the cone machine) to 1919 Granby Street in 1934. 

Albert Doumar returned from sevice in the Pacific Theater in World War Two and took over operation of Doumars when Abraham died in 1947. Shortly thereafter, he remodeled the ice cream stand into one of the first drive-ins with curb service and waitresses on rollerskates. 

Doumar's has been a Norfolk institution for decades, with astoundingly good ice cream and barbecue as well as a small, nondescript looking cheeseburger that is so good it defies logic. Doumars is still a soda shop and all manner of carbonated bliss can be had there from modern sodas to old fashioned creations like lime or cherry-aid. 

 For as long as I can remember Albert Doumar was a fixture at the ice cream parlor that carries his family name, making ice cream cones and talking to customers.  He rebuffed numerous offers  over the years by the Smithsonian to take his fathers machine and display it in DC. Instead he continued to use it to make the stores signiture cone...which I strongly advise people to partake of while the machine is still there. The store which was ahead of its time in so many ways is something of an anachronism now, but its still in operation, complete with bobbysocks, rollerskates and a 109 year old cone machine. 

He was always friendly and courteous. Several times, I took exchange students there and he would break out old photo albums to show and explain to them a world long past. 

Albert Doumar lived a full life, and was a thouroughly decent fellow who, via both his business and personality, made Norfolk a more pleasant place. 

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