January 31, 2016

OK This Episode Finally Did It

We've stuck with RWBY for a while, despite the infinitesimal budget...



...the sometimes clumsy plotting....



...the breaks in production...



... and the dorks.



There have been some good characterizations to be sure...



...but this episode finally forces us to confront the fact...

  
...that reason we've spent spent 5 hours of our lives watching this damned show...



...IS BECAUSE IT ROCKS!

My oh my! They've got two more episodes to screw up this season, but damned if they didn't do good by this one. 


Aside from one awkward edit, the only gripe about this episode is that the next one is about 80 hours away. 

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Life's Unexpected Detours

This week on GATE we are treated to a moment of introspection.

This happy bunny lady is Delilah.



Delilah was one of the beast-girl maids/bodyguards from Italica who was sent to Alnus to provide security and translation assistance.  She stayed in Alnus and  has since opened an inn and tavern, which she seems to own a majority stake in, though it is an open secret that she's Italica's unnofical eyes and really big ears in the town. Delilah has a reputation of being something of a hard-ass despite her cottontail. You see, she takes no guff from anyone and runs her employees hard in order to make sure that inn she is proprietor of is well run and free of creeps. despite (and partly because of) this she is liked and respected in Alnus and her fastidiousness has paid off; her inn being quite successful. 

Today...It hit her.

Mere months ago she was a maid and bodyguard in Italica, which as a slave and member of one of the "subject races" was about the best she could ever hope for. Now she owns a business. She can own property, keep nearly all of the money she makes while living in a town where the food and water are safe. Alnus is also completely safe from raiders and monsters. The various demi-humans in town are treated as PEOPLE and the citizens are not worked to death in mines or other hard labor and peace is breaking out all over.

Reflecting upon this, Delilah, perhaps for the first time in the many years since her country of origin was conquered, finally relaxes...and skips through the streets of Alnus singing the praises of "the town the sky has smiled upon". 

 Life is good...


Though not without its pitfalls...



Well, this is certainly full of surprises...well except for the dragon. We were quite prepared for there to be a really big dragon in this episode.

This show is genuinely interesting. I am quite glad that, unlike some other people, I have not seen the manga, so I do not feel let down and this show's future is an unlit road for me. 

I think now is a good point in the show for those of us who have not read ahead to ponder and speculate on what we know:



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January 28, 2016

More Intriguing News From the World of Shipping

Bloomberg News has a post on the continuing decline in shipping worldwide...

Do read the whole thing...

Short version: Shipping is going down in a way that is quite worrisome. 
This is not a seasonal or short term thing either. We mentioned in passing the Baltic Dry Index being at a 29 year low last March

One article I blundered into recently made me do a double take. 


This graphic is from January 3 and purports to show that there were no commercial ships in transit on January third. This is not quite true. Close inspection of the map indicates that there were some vessels underway (but not yet in mid ocean). Today the map looks much less stark. Such alarmist stories tend to cause the very real drop in shipping to be dismissed. 



This is certainly making waves in the merchant marine.


"Did you see what he did there?"

How can this possibly jive with the record number of parcels I mentioned we were getting over the holidays? Online shipping. Whereas we previously delivered boxes containing multiple products to stores, we are now delivering many more individual parcels dispersed to peoples houses, so it is entirely possible that the amount of "stuff" we shipped, was smaller in aggregate than in years past, though the number of parcels and physical volume taken up was greater. Additionally, we now have the highly publicized Sure Post service, where our company is handling a huge number of post office packages. I won't give even ballpark percentages on this as such information, is, of course privileged and confidential, but I can say that this additional business (that was already extant and shifted to us, not a net gain in the larger economy) was a non-trivial factor in our volume this year. 

Aside from that, there is one possible leading indicator I have noted being shipped quite a bit recently...

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January 27, 2016

Infinite Capacity

In the latest episode of Myriad Colors Phantom World, our heroes discover why Reina's parents have absolutely forbidden their daughter from ever going to an all you can eat Korean Barbecue.


Hijinks ensue...

The episode seemed a bit off, and not like the previous three in tone or plot. It was a completely different sort of story, focusing as it did on one character's existential dread of parents that may or may not be tyrannical. We are also reminded that some Japanese toilets can do the darnedest things. 

This episode did do a bit of character development and further established that Minase keeps showing up where the protagonists are willingly, if furtively. Her stated reasoning behind not rendering further assistance is, in her anti-social way, probably a gesture of respect for our group of goofballs. 




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January 26, 2016

This Might Not Be Good

Here is something that may or may not be something.
But it's something to ponder before bed....
On Jan. 25, a new update from the Comex vaults shows a massive decline in registered physical gold assigned for potential deliveries, making the number of paper contract claims against that gold a record 542 to 1. 



Sleep well.

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January 25, 2016

Cannikin

One of The Brickmuppet's Crack Team of Science Babes brings us archival footage of shot "Cannikin" a test of the huge 5 megaton W-71 thermonuclear X-ray warhead for the Safeguard ABM system's Spartan Missile


"Soooo.much 'splody!"

The largest underground explosion in history, it set off an earthquake that registered 6.8 on the Richter scale, and although the terrain of Amchitka Island was permanently altered, no venting (ie: radioactive release) was detected. 


The W-71 warhead was really odd, in addition to being big. It was designed to produce vast quantities of X-rays and very little in the way of Gamma Rays and fission byproducts to prevent EMP or contamination since it was intended to be used in large numbers over the US and Canada in the event of a missile attack. 

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January 24, 2016

This Week, on A Very Special Episode of RWBY...

They took up seven minutes (and an entire episode) telling the same fairy tale they told in 15 seconds a month ago and not so much as a second resolving that cliffhanger from last week.



With regard to last weeks episode.

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Myriad Colors Phantom World

Phantom World is a bit of a surprise. 




We have a show about high-school students who have part time jobs as superheroes and whose rapidly growing team has only one guy in it.  
No..no...that's not what's surprising as that has pretty much become the default format for getting green-lit nowadays. No, the surprise is that this one appears to be good. 

It's certainly tries to be smarter than most.

The premise is that some years ago a terrorist attack on a research facility run by a certain Alayashki corporation released a virus that allowed humans to perceive the supernatural stuff that has always been around (maybe: there is some ambiguity on the chicken to egg aspect of this). These phantoms and such caused considerable mischief until the first generation of children born to those exposed to the virus began coming of age. It seems that some of them have various abilities that allow them to deal with this new annoyance to varying degrees. Since this is a recent phenomenon, very few people with this ability are adults yet, so high schools, especially those that cater to students with these talents have set up clubs that have teams which do exorcisms and such as community service (in addition to their school work).  Due to restrictive child labor laws they are paid in goods and services rather than cash. 

At the wrong end of the effectiveness bell curve there are these two goofballs...



...and...



Haruhiko is bookish and not particularly athletic, but he is quite smart. He has the ability to seal away a supernatural entity in a drawing provided he has time to draw it and it can be brought into range. Mai is a top notch athlete who is proficient in martial arts and applied fluid dynamics. She has the ability to use elemental powers, the activation of which is rather fascinating. Her abilities are not particularly powerful and she must use her wits and stamina in order to buy Haruhiko time to...slowly....draw whatever monster they are fighting and set it up to be consumed by his painting. 

This strategy has not led to great success and the two are considered a rather gimp team and something of a laughing stock. They try in vain to acquire talent until Haruhiko persuades... 



...to join their group. She has the unnatural ability to EAT spirits without having to draw them and often without the need to have them positioned 'just so'...thus our male lead is pretty much superfluous at this point, or would be if having the two girls fire him would not play into the fears and insecurities of the target demographic. 

Fortunately he has one other super-power. The best bedroom EVAH. 
No...No...it's not THAT sort of show...er...Allow me to explain...



He has an awesome library and the brains to use it. He is working hard to develop his ability to seal away phantoms, into a summoning skill...and he is a vast treasure trove of obscure and occasionally useful knowledge. 

Haruhiko also has a cute genie-like entity that hangs out with him for reasons not quite clear. Her name is shortened to Ruru (Lulu?) for the sanity of laypeople and she seems to have no particularly impressive abilities aside from being 12 inches tall and being able to fly.


Note that her full name is Rururaruri Rurararirararururirirari Rirararururararururararirari

Also in their circle of friends acquaintances is 



...who is one of the most powerful people in their school. She works alone and does not particularly care for the goof troop, but they keep crossing paths and tripping on each other. 

What saves this series is that it isn't simply the fact that it's not, in actuality, a harem show with regard to its interpersonal relations (at least not yet). It has also been surprisingly pleasant and even clever. 

There is a rather large amount of philosophizing  about the nature of reality, and quite a few open questions. On the surface this is a monster of the week show(or more often two separate monsters as its story has tended to be 2 bach to back 12 minute episodes). However every episode throws out one or two hints to other things that are or may be afoot. 


Sinister things indeed...

The show is very well animated and the art is nice. The characters are competently written to boot. The humor runs the gamut, but is occasionally rather broad and physical, mostly at the expense of the dude. I'm enjoying the show as is and am seriously intrigued by the hints that it may be going somewhere rather darker. This is often a tough thing to pull off. The show could easily fall apart, but right now it is fun, engaging and surprisingly smart. 

 

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The Difficulties of Gauging the Publics Response

Reader comments are a poor method of figuring out what one's audience wants. Furthermore, if one is blogging as a hobby reader opinion is going to have necessarily limited (though non-zero) effect upon editorial decisions. For instance, if someone were to request, say, zorch videos, I would simply refer them to Gawker and probably block them.


Likewise, if no one comments on my visual media reviews this does not induce me to stop blogging about my interests and start blogging on topics that have recently inspired comments ie: about the weather, and language degeneracy. 

These are extreme examples of course, one does want to cater to ones audience somewhat, at least as long as one can remain true to oneself. If this were strictly a business, other dynamics would come into play. 

Why do I bring this up?

Well, if one wants to post something, then by all means do so. If one wants to solicit requests then do so. However, if one wants to (hypothetically mind you) post a disquisition on the pros and cons of the character-design choices  associated with a generally superb show that some suggest is slightly diminished by the decision to put most of its female cast members (and only the female cast) in spray on  skinsuits with integral heels (which might make sense in the context of depressurization hazard mitigation except for the one girl who is sporting Zettai Ryouiki) and you promise your audience a....ahem...comprehensive visual analysis and assessment of this theory...THEN POST IT.  Do not tease us for three months and then declare that since no interest was expressed in your comments section you're just going to blow off those of us who are sad lonely neckbeards interested in thoughtful analysis of  practical clothing choices in a variable gravity environment where exposure to vacuum is a nontrivial possibility. 

Well....that probably didn't appeal to my core audience at all...
As compensation, I'll just leave this completely unrelated item here. 


Niimi Kaoru, by Toten

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January 23, 2016

On the Outskirts of the Snowpocalypse.

Hampton Roads is right on the edge of where the snow and rain meet with this storm. Last night it actually warmed up and a torrential rain washed away the 2-3 inches of snow that we'd gotten during the afternoon. Forecasts called for much the same going into today, with high 30's and low 40's.


Around noon however the rain turned to sleet...these two pictures show, not a dusting of snow, but accumulated sleet.




With a storm surge expected, I needed to go and check on my parents sailboat so my dad would not be compelled to walk down the ice covered pier. By that time, it was snowing as well as sleeting and the wind had picked up quite a bit. It took forever to simply get into the van, which was quite efficiently encased in ice. I had to break the wipers loose (so they would not break when I lit off the engine as I'd stupidly left the wipers on when I parked). After an extensive defrosting and scraping I drove to the marina (just 5 miles distant) and took these pictures...


That is wet snow-slush...on top of ice.

Not pictured: just how slick this was...


The boat is still secured, and the lines did not need to be let in or out, which is fortuitous as given how treacherous the main pier was, fiddling about on the finger pier did not appeal to me at all. 

After my brief foray into the otherworldly mess that Pete and Wonderduck would describe as "Saturday", I got home and noted that my footprints had been completely filled in. As I type this there is about 2-3 inches on the ground, it is dark, snowing sideways and the house is shaking from the wind. 

Of course, this is NOTHING compared to what is happening north of us, but ice has a certain annoyance all its own. I'll be pleasantly surprised if we retain power through the night. 

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Madness and Machinations

In the latest episode of GATE Lt. Itami is pressed into service trying to help Tuka (Chuka?, Tsuka?), the blonde elf, deal with her grief issues.



However in addition to being a very poor psychologist Itami has other responsibilities that he takes seriously.



Itami has been quite pro-active heretofore, but in this episode he confirms to the audience that he has no interest in wasting his troops lives on a dubious errand with so little chance of success. (This is the kind of CO one hopes to get...not some Odysseus or Custer who is going to challenge the gods to take him down.)

Elsewhere, we touch base with King Duran, who had multiple limbs blown off in episode 1 and was seen to have survived later when he advised Pinã  from what appeared to be his deathbed. The JSDF has given him prosthetics and he in return dispenses sage advice. 



Of course, stuff happens, things get complicated, our hero ends up incurring a debt and there is some indication of what's being hinted at in those silly closing credits.....



Meanwhile....


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Ignorance, While Not Bliss, Is Sometimes The Preferable State

Over at Steven's place one of the great syndicated comic strips from the golden age of newspaper comics is referenced, with the result that in the comments section, the word "zorch" is mentioned. Now I remembered remembering "zorch" but didn't actually remember what it meant, thus, I accesed the Urban Dictionary so I could remember what I'd remembered long ago. Alas, I still don't remember what I remembered, but I can't unremember what I now know. 



"Seriously, he's right. Don't look it up."

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January 19, 2016

Well; We're Screwed

Well, I discovered several terrible things today.
Some are too horrible to mention. One though, while also being a sign of the end times...
...umm... 
I'll just post this picture since I've found out to my utter bewilderment that some of you will probably appreciate the affirmation...
the most popular new search term of 2015 on the naughty online portal PornHub was "Giantess."

タイタン・ウシノフ who, for some reason, is Anglicized as "Rokka" gives us "Bucket" "2 Girls" "Pudding" "Knee High Boots" "Tatoo" One Piece" "Silver Fox" "Twin Tails" "Cross" and "Giantess" which I gather are now the search engine queries that bring all the boys to the yard.
more...

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It Is Apparent That We Must Consider Cannibalism as an Option


Gaze upon the implacable power of winter and shudder in fear, for Ithaqua has come to smite Virginia. 

The aftermath to Sunday's snowstorm; part of a weekend that will not end.
more...

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January 17, 2016

Magnetism, Monsters, Midgets and Mayhem

 This weeks episode of RWBY is firing on all cylinders! 



The young lady above is Pyrrha Nikos. She is having a dreadfully bad day,


Your humble reviewer, however, is enjoying this immensely. This was a gatling gut punch and kept me on the edge of my seat.The season has certainly turned rather dark, I guess those lyrics actually mean something.


They have 3 episodes left in which to screw this up.

Fingers are crossed.

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January 16, 2016

...And Then Suddenly,Things Got Complicated



From episode 14 of GATE which seems to have fully recovered from episodes 9&10 and now provides us with plot whiplash of an entirely different kind.



This show is certainly full of surprises. It will be interesting to see if the JSDF's er, exuberance, opens a whole new can of worms or is just speaking to the power fantasies of its author. 


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HAPPY IMPLEMENTATION DAY!




"And you know what THAT means...."


"...fireworks!"

The Danegeld is never a good long term investment. 
We are going to rue this day some years down the road. 

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January 13, 2016

Don't Cross The Streams.

Just...don't.




Another one from Valve-P this time experimenting with dialog and non-canon cannon.

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January 12, 2016

Thoughts About That Unexpectedly Underwhelming Blast

As we mentioned earlier, the North Korean government announced that they had successfully detonated a fusion warhead. Given the apparent small yield of the warhead, (6-10 kilotons) there has been considerable skepticism expressed. This skepticism is not unfounded especially given that getting such small yields are hard to get from what we normally think of as an H-bomb. There has been further speculation that the weapon is what is called a "boosted fission weapon". This does not get the majority of its explosive force from fusion, but it does set off a fusion reaction which causes the fission reaction to burn much more completely. This can as much as triple yields on fission warheads, or reduce the amount of fissionable material necessary for any given yield. This alone would be a big breakthrough as it would allow North Korea to make more bombs for the same amount of fissile material. An increase of 2 or 3 times the number of bombs in the arsenal is a very substantial benefit. 


Of course there is the problem of the very low yield. which has led many to conclude that this was a fizzle. That's possible, but the last three North Korean bombs have had very similar yields, in the 6-9 kiloton range. Small nuclear explosions are actually HARD. This was a problem the US had with the W-54 program, where some of the intended the applications (a bazooka!and short range AAM) called for a sub kiloton yield but the tests kept overshooting it. 

The North Korean's first test was very small and may well have been a fizzle, but the subsequent three have been very comparable in yields. Given the difficulties of getting a reliable nuclear yield below 10 kilotons this indicates extraordinarily consistent incompetence....or that it's by design.

It is possible that the North Koreans have had a string of fizzles, but this would mean that they thrice duplicated a design flaw that did not befall the Americans, Russians, Brits, Frenchmen, Chinese, Indians, Pakistanis South Africans* and (presumably)Israelis.

Furthermore, given that a good deal of this program is aimed at chest thumping and deterrence, it seems logical that the North Korean's, if they were experiencing difficulties with an implosion system, would, have at least one very simple gun type weapon like Little Boy. Such weapons are so reliable as to not strictly need testing, so a respectable 10-20 kiloton blast could have been had for propaganda purposes easily.
They have not done this, and after their first detonations their tests have been fairly consistent in yield. 

Doctor Jerry Pournelle has a discussion of this on his site...
There’s some speculation that this is an attempted enhanced EMP weapon. There’s other speculation. Add to that that I have never worked in weapon design, and the last time I seriously needed to know about the minutia of nuclear weapons was more than thirty years ago, and you will understand that I am not going to speculate. We know that North Korea tested something, and they call it a sophisticated fission weapon; what they tested was low yield, and the last time I looked, low yield was harder to do than higher yields: particularly lower than 10 kt....[/quote] 
Pournelle, caries on a discussion with Stephanie Osbourne (a retired rocket scientist who also worked on nuclear planning in the cold war) and they both reference, but do not link to speculation that this is fission boosted weapon designed to utilize the Compton Effect in conjunction with the Earth's magnetic field to produce a powerful electromagnetic pulse.

The Compton Effect

The yield of the tests is actually in the ballpark of the yields that are expected from a first generation EMP optimized nuke. Jerry Emanuelson, who appears to be an electrical engineer, has a very extensive page on what is publicly known about EMP optimization in nuclear weapons. This is part of his larger site on EMP in general. His conclusions seem to be quite consistent with those of Nigel Cook, a former physics professor who has a very heavily researched blog on the effects of nuclear weapons. Mr. Cook posted an extensive (to the point of rambling) post on this possibility after the North Korean tests and included patent data as well as multiple links. He has an earlier more general overview of the problem here.

Note that both sources indicate that this kind of small fusion assisted warhead could allow a 10 kiloton warhead to produce comparable EMP effects to a more conventional warhead in the megaton range (with the tradeoff that it would have to be detonated lower and therefore cover a smaller area). 

This tradeoff would double the number of weapons needed to blackout most of the U.S.A. and southern Canada.




"Well, maybe the Norks just want us to appreciate the night sky like they do."

This of course solves their targeting problems as the target area for this weapon is measured in states rather than meters. Additionally, it would make a small device of the type they can already deliver anywhere on earth (they can launch small satellites) an actual strategic threat. 

A total power failure involving hundreds of transformers blowing up (that requires replacement from France, Finland or China)  would take years to recover from. Add to that occasional widespread fires from overloaded wires and the collapse of the internet as well as the ancillary effects of no power, refrigeration, or heat and this could become a very bad thing. 

If this is in fact what the DPRK is doing (and we have little way of knowing)  it would be quite logical as it would give them a credible counter-value strategic capability that a few nukes, even very big ones would not provide. 

Fortunately, the North Koreans have modest goals (clinging to power by the throats of their citizenry, possibly conquering the south, and killing every Japanese male on earth) . While the regime is odious, it's not like they want to return the whole planet to the 6th century...like some people.

Amongst the ranks of THOSE PEOPLE naturally are included the Iranians, who are working very closely wth the DPRK in the advancement of SCIENCE as part of their general pattern of good behavior in the wake of the nuclear deal that solved everything. One probably ought to assume assume that much of the North Korean nuclear expertise is shared by Tehran now. 

  
Of course the notion that a nation using slave labor to put together a nuclear bomb might bollox it repeatedly should not be utterly dismissed, but the consistency of the yields and the potential payoffs, mean that this option ought to not be rejected out of hand.


more...

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Bowie

I sort of stared at the computer last night trying to come up with something to say about the passing of David Bowie.


All I could come up with was "Damn!"


Here is the video from the title track of his last album, which is a sequel to Space Oddity... meaning of course that the astronaut is....Yeah.


Farewell sir. You made the grade. 



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