December 29, 2016

Well This Is....Worrisome.

Pixy has a most troubling post up.


It appears that his recent lack of posting was due to a mishap as he appears to make an oblique reference to having lost all his fingers...or he's been turned into a cat. The post is ambiguous on the relevant specifics.

It's unclear if he's going to be continuing to administrate Mee.Nu and Mu.Nu, (his post is vague on that point too) but again, I urge you to read the whole thing.

More worrisome news!
Don has a wide variety of eclectic and interesting links but suggests that critics are useless and reviewer's
comments tell me more about the writers than the show
which, if true I'm pretty sure destroys this blogs business plan! (To be fair, those gnomes we hired were still working on the part between "posts intermittent anime reviews" and"PROFIT!")

On a completely unrelated note (aside from being worrisome) some crazy person has hacked into Ben's blog and is posting crazy stuff!

And a worrisome programming note:

It has become something of a tradition here ever since 2010 to post some chimeric cheesecake on new years day that correspond with Chinese zodiac. The exception being that one time we screwed up and used a Vietnamese zodiac . So, over the years we've had snakegirls, horse-grrls, sheepgirls(!?), and even monkey girls

However, 2017 is the year of the...um...year of the cock.

As pointed out...this is worrisome.

Anyway, we've got top people studying the issue.



more...

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December 27, 2016

RWBY Series 4 Mid-Season Thoughts

 In the two months since our last review, RWBY has moved right along. The production values continue to be superb. 







The backgrounds, once akin to a '50s UPA cartoon, are now awe-inspiring at times and the animation is consistently top-notch.


 


I sure hope he doesn't...drop the map.

We've now had a bit of time with all four girls of the eponymous team (who are now on different continents). 

It's kind of refreshing to see Ruby be the main character in her own show for a change. Most of the action has continued following Ruby, Jaune, Nora and Ren as they trudge across the wilderness on their way to a city where they expect to find answers to the conspiracy against them....unaware that that conspiracy is stalking them.

A few surprising facts have been revealed.



...some of which may not, strictly speaking, end up being vital to the plot.

This remains a remarkably solid show. It's hard to recommend to someone who hasn't seen it since the first and to a lesser extent the second season are of so much lower quality they are hard to watch now. However the first two seasons are short and the continual upgrades the show goes through are a joy to watch. 

For those who stopped watching after...all that stuff...that happened at the end of last season, I do recommend that you set aside 72 minutes of your time to catch up on this season.

The one very minor criticism I think I touched on in an earlier post is that the fight scenes don't QUITE match the spectacular choreography that the late Monty Oum used to such effect early on. Compare this scene from season one which had a shoestring budget and a staff of about 15 that were just learning their craft to this one from last month, which enjoys a larger budget and a staff that has amassed tremendous experience. The second fight is not bad at all and the overall quality of the more recent episodes is absolutely spectacular, but despite the limited budget and resources, Monty Oum's choreography had a sense of dynamism and movement (and while physics is too strong a word, there was no jarring sense that it had been discarded). It is that last bit that his successors, despite their considerable skill, don't quite get yet. This is a very minor quibble but it goes to show that Oum was indeed a singular talent.

That most quibbly of quibbles aside; at the midway point this season is excellent. Despite the dark ending of last season and the frightful repercussions thereof, the show has managed to avoid becoming a bleak misery-fest and, due mainly to the pluck of the characters, it manages to maintain a basically upbeat tone until now. 

We'll see if it can keep that up this weekend. 

I certainly will be watching.



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December 26, 2016

What Should Most Give Free People Fright? Laws Concerning Speech Passed in the Dead of Night.

...or at some other time no one is looking..


After all the sturm and drang about "Fake News" Congress acted and President Obama, on Saturday, signed into law the Countering Disinformation And Propaganda Act which, according to its text will
establish a Center for Information Analysis and Response (in this section referred to as the "Center”). 

Huh...

Well then. What's the "CENTER" supposed to do now that it's been established? For that we'll go to Zero Hedge the text of the act itself...
Functions.—The Center shall carry out the following functions:

(1) Integrating interagency efforts to track and evaluate counterfactual narratives abroad that threaten the national security interests of the United States and United States allies.

(2) Collecting, integrating, and analyzing relevant information, including intelligence reporting, data, analysis, and analytics from United States Government agencies, allied nations, think tanks, academic institutions, civil society groups, and other nongovernmental organizations.

(3) Developing and disseminating fact-based narratives and analysis to counter propaganda and disinformation directed at United States allies and partners.

(4) Identifying current and emerging trends in foreign propaganda and disinformation, including the use of print, broadcast, online and social media, support for third-party outlets such as think tanks, political parties, and nongovernmental organizations, and the use of covert or clandestine special operators and agents to influence targeted populations and governments in order to coordinate and shape the development of tactics, techniques, and procedures to expose and refute foreign misinformation and disinformation and proactively promote fact-based narratives and policies to audiences outside the United States.

(5) Facilitating the use of a wide range of technologies and techniques by sharing expertise among agencies, seeking expertise from external sources, and implementing best practices.

(6) Identifying gaps in United States capabilities in areas relevant to the Center’s mission and recommending necessary enhancements or changes.

(7) Identifying the countries and populations most susceptible to foreign government propaganda and disinformation.

(8) Administering the information access fund established pursuant to subsection (e).

(9) Coordinating with allied and partner nations, particularly those frequently targeted by foreign disinformation operations, and international organizations and entities such as the NATO Center of Excellence on Strategic Communications, the European Endowment for Democracy, and the European External Action Service Task Force on Strategic Communications, in order to amplify the Center’s efforts and avoid duplication.

I.
See.

"I'm sure there'll be no lack of consensus whatsoever 
on what "counterfactual narratives"are."

That is indeed ominously vague...

Still, monitoring propaganda is a valid concern and it isn't like the government is going to be paying journalists or NGOs or private companies or schools or anything like tha...

Oh what's this.

(1) AUTHORIZATION OF APPROPRIATIONS.—There is authorized to be appropriated to the Secretary of State for fiscal years 2017 and 2018 $20,000,000 to support the Center and provide grants or contracts of financial support to civil society groups, journalists, nongovernmental organizations, federally funded research and development centers, private companies, or academic institutions for the following purposes:

(A) To support local independent media who are best placed to refute foreign dis­in­for­ma­tion and manipulation in their own communities.

(B) To collect and store examples in print, online, and social media, disinformation, misinformation, and propaganda directed at the United States and its allies and partners.

(C) To analyze tactics, techniques, and procedures of foreign government information warfare with respect to disinformation, misinformation, and propaganda.

(D) To support efforts by the Center to counter efforts by foreign governments to use disinformation, misinformation, and pro­pa­gan­da to influence the policies and social and political stability of the United States and United States allies and partners. 



Do keep in mind that this was quite the bipartisan buffalo chip

Sleep well everybody.

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While We Were Distracted, Venezuela did This...

 
This article seems to be well sourced and possibly significant...

A Delaware Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) filing against Citgo parent PDV Holding, Inc. on November 30 reveals that Venezuela has secretly mortgaged their Citgo refineries in the United States to Russia's state-controlled oil company Rosneft.....

This happened on November 30th, the story in the LAHT is from the 22nd of this month, and there's been almost no coverage of this. Despite the lack of interest by media in general, it does seem to be a potentially consequential development.

 
....The lien means that should Citgo or PDVSA default, Russia's state controlled oil company Rosneft could end up owning strategically important oil refineries and pipelines in the United States. 

Citgo owns oil and gas pipelines throughout the country as well as oil refineries in Corpus Christi, Texas; Lake Charles, Louisiana; and Lemont, Illinois (outside of Chicago). Citgo's refineries can refine 749,000 barrels per day and the Lake Charles refinery is the sixth-largest refining facility in the U.S. 

Look on the bright side: Visiting Russia could get much more affordable.

Well. I certainly hope that they don't go into defau....oh, that's right. Venezuela.

This seems like an important story, and, the LAHT has, thanks to the magic of SCRID, backed it up with considerable documentation, including copies of the Delaware UCC filing. And yet, almost a month on, this is still getting little play and we almost missed it.

Fortunately for us, Dustbury was on the job


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December 25, 2016

PEBTSAC?

I just spent an inordinate amount of time..3 hours... trying to figure out what was causing my new RCA Voyager Android tablet to declare that it could not obtain an IP address. I went to several different websites and tried all of the solutions that were given.


Turns out the password in the upper right corner of my router is not the password for the wi-fi...that would be the password marked "Wi-Fi Password" way down below.

Here are some young ladies expressing their appreciation for my first world problems with the worlds smallest violin.


Art by Akutamu


Here is a girl in a Santa Suit eating a strawberry with a rabbit on her butt...



Art by Ao Iro
more...

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Ayn Rand on Christmas

I'm not an Atheist and so do not speak for them. However, in an age when atheists are too frequently characterized by a vocal component of their number who want to stamp out Christmas displays amongst other things, I think it important to turn to one of the more august members of their cadre for an opposing view of this unfair characterization of them.


Reportedly, this was written as an answer to a question about whether or not an Atheist should partake of the holiday.

 

Yes, of course. A national holiday, in this country, cannot have an exclusively religious meaning. The secular meaning of the Christmas holiday is wider than the tenets of any particular religion: it is good will toward men—a frame of mind which is not the exclusive property (though it is supposed to be part, but is a largely unobserved part) of the Christian religion.

The charming aspect of Christmas is the fact that it expresses good will in a cheerful, happy, benevolent, non-sacrificial way. One says: "Merry Christmas”—not "Weep and Repent.” And the good will is expressed in a material, earthly form—by giving presents to one’s friends, or by sending them cards in token of remembrance . . . .

The best aspect of Christmas is the aspect usually decried by the mystics: the fact that Christmas has been commercialized. The gift-buying . . . stimulates an enormous outpouring of ingenuity in the creation of products devoted to a single purpose: to give men pleasure. And the street decorations put up by department stores and other institutions—the Christmas trees, the winking lights, the glittering colors—provide the city with a spectacular display, which only "commercial greed” could afford to give us. One would have to be terribly depressed to resist the wonderful gaiety of that spectacle.

The Objectivist Calendar, Dec. 1976

For those of you not in the mood for philosophising, in the spirit of the season, here are three people who counterintuitively might well be atheists...because proof denies faith and without faith the gods are nothing. 


The girls from Kannagi by Yoko Takada

Oh..I did it again didn't I? Well, at least I was paraphrasing a completely different philosopher. 

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December 24, 2016

Last Day



It will all be over this evening...

UPDATE: I've successfully survived my 24th and most likely final Christmas at UPS. 

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Meanwhile: At the Intersection of The Eurasian and African Tectonic Plates...

One of our crack team of catgirl vulcanologists brings us news of some scientific research that is potentially consequential and downright igneous.


 Catgirl Vulcanologist by Minus T

Campi Flegiri, a large caldera in Italy that sacred clickbaitery requires us to refer to as a SUPERVOLCANO appears to be acting up. This is somewhat misleading, since the whole caldera (now a park) has been in a state of mild eruption since at least Roman times, with geysers and such as well as a small volcano Solfatara within it is frequently spitting forth sulphur (but last had a real eruption in the middle ages). 

Somewhere between 37,000 and 40,000 years ago the area erupted with a Volcanic Explosivity Index estimated at 7, which is a pretty fair amount of 'splody, broadly in the same ballpark as Mount Tambora's 1815 blast

Now, since that blast, the area has divided its magma between a lot of volcanoes (one of which is Vesuvius) and they tend to not be earth changing events, though as Vesuvius showed in A.D. 79, they can be quite calamitous locally. They're volcanoes...they're unpredictable and dangerous. Well this caldera has gotten to a point that scientists say people should start to worry...

Writing in the journal Nature Communications on Tuesday, scientists report that the caldera is nearing a critical point at which decreased pressure on rising magma triggers a runaway release of gas and fluid, potentially leading to an eruption.

...or not.

You see, volcanoes are not exactly what one would call predictable. Even if scientists had a perfect plumbing diagram of the magma chambers and accurate pressure readings to go along with that, the volcano is not built to code, so the structural integrity of each magma pocket is unknown as is the exact composition of the magma beyond educated guesses. This means that it's hard to know if the "plumbing" system will rearange itself, hold tight till the magma cools, or suffer a structural cascade failure and spew molten lava all over the place. This, in turn, means that other than "Hmm....magma chamber is filling...er..probably" it's really hard to time an eruption with any accuracy better than a decade...or two.

The problem here is that the volcanic caldera in question, is now a park smack blab in the middle of the Naples metropolitan area and its ~4million people. Even a small eruption like Paricutin could have a surprisingly large death toll. An eruption along the lines of Mt.St Helens 1982 (a mere firecracker in volcano terms) could be an absolute calamity. 

 
Henrik, over at Volcano Cafe did a study of this very igneous safety hazard some time ago and concluded that this is, even with a small eruption, one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world in terms of potential lives lost. A big Vesuvius style eruption or larger would be one of the biggest calamities in history.

Read the whole thing. 

UPDATE: The actual paper by Giovanni Chiodini and his team is here

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Meanwhile: in Europe


Wow.

The map is from March and doesn't reflect recent attacks. 

 ...ISIS’s suicide bombings in Brussels demonstrate that the jihadist threat to Europe is outpacing domestic and international law enforcement efforts. ISIS is successfully using its safe haven in Iraq and Syria to train as many as 600 foreign fighters for external attacks. ISIS’s fighters benefit from extensive support networks across the European continent. The logistical requirements for facilitating European foreign fighter travel into Iraq and Syria can also export those fighters from ISIS’s safe havens back to Europe...

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December 22, 2016

Meanwhile, in Space

One of The Brickmuppet's Crack Team of Science Babes sends you all seasons greetings and shows off a reliable and well understood way to generate thrust applied to one's shoulder. The Springfield model 1903 uses an explosion to send a 14 gram projectile at 760 meters a second in one direction and that force minus the mass of the rifle is applied to the shooters shoulder. 



Actually, she's Springfield, from Girls Frontline.

In stark contrast, China is claiming, that they have successfully tested (IN SPACE)  a system that generates thrust without expelling any propellant. They claim to have been running tests of the EM-Drive on their space station.


Note that "minute" doesn't do justice to the infinitessimality of the thrust levels involved.

The Springfield, does not violate any natural laws (asinine state laws are another matter) The same cannot be said for the EM Drive or any of the other RF Resonant cavity thrusters, like the Cannae Drive

There seems to be SOMETHING going on with these devices, but the thrust is so low (at least in the NASA sponsored tests) that prctical application of them seems dubious even if they do work. 

However, the place to test these is in free fall and the Chinese claim that
 "This technology is currently in the latter stages of the proof-of-principle phase, with the goal of making the technology available in satellite engineering as quickly as possible," Li Feng explained at the press conference. 
 

So maybe...

In any event, Cannae, a private company that is developing a similar drive (similar in that it looks like magic) is putting their money where their mouth is and will be testing their version in orbit as well. This indicates at the very least that even if they are incorrect, their pursuit of this technology is not a scam. 

In any event, after this Chinese announcement, we here at Brickmuppet Blog remain deeply skeptical, but ever so slight more hopeful. 

As it stands now, the thrust levels have little practical application, being orders of magnitude lower than even arc jets, However, IF, it actually works, and IF they can increase the thrust by a few orders of magnitude, then this could be a real thing. Those are a couple of pretty big and unlikely "Ifs"but they would portend a truly awesome development. 

It would also be a disturbing one since it would mean that our understanding of even the most very basic rules of our universe is completely wrong.

But hey....the way 2016 has gone thus far, would that really be such a shock?

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December 20, 2016

4 More Days

Due to the exigencies of the shipping industry this time of year, we at Brickmuppet Blog remain obliged to substitute seasonal pinup art for actual content. 




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December 19, 2016

Well. That Was Not What I Expected.





Star Wars: Rogue One is is not a space opera.

It is not simply a re-hash of previous plots in the franchise.

It is also completely devoid of infuriating Mary Sues who are effortlessly good at everything. 

Despite its very different tone and style (It is actually a re-skinned Samurai film....complete with Zatoichi!) this is not a rejection of the franchise, its fans or its conceits, but rather a labor of love in homage to the whole kit and kaboodle, complete with geeky references to the trilogy, the prequels and the TV series of the sort that were cute but awkward in the prequels. Here they are done masterfully. 

Likewise the female lead is an action girl done exactly right. 

The movie's effects are everything one would expect from a Star Wars film done by Disney...and more. This is a gorgeous film with visuals that even by today's standards are stunning and it breaks new ground in FX as well as necromancy (which, upon reflection, I'm pretty sure is a Sith art). 

This is a story about desperate bitter people in a dark time who are not all that nice who are at the end of their rope while those they look to for guidance are giving in to despair. 

Rogue One is also a story of honor, redemption, hope and courage that manages to be uplifting and inspiring despite its gritty take on the Star Wars universe. This is a beautiful and awesome film that fits in perfectly to the Star Wars canon without the sense of forcing the issue that permeated the prequels. 


My only gripe is that the score is not anywhere near as epic as one expects from a Star Wars film, except where John Williams pieces are dusted off and used. This is not as egregious as it normally would be given that this is a very different sort of story. 
 
The Force is strong with this one.
Rogue One is awesome. 
Go see it. 


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December 11, 2016

5 Days Till Exams Are Over, 14 Days Till Christmas

Apologies for the content deficit gentle readers. 

As partial compensation, here is some seasonally appropriate cheesecake, topped with sundry varieties of fruit.



 

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December 09, 2016

Dubstep.....Popcorn.....Violin.



Via Dustbury, who has all sorts of popcorn varieties at his place, though most are not as visually engaging. 

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Sic Itur Ad Astra

War hero, test pilot, senator and the first American to orbit the Earth; John Glenn has passed away at 95.




95 is a ripe old age and he certainly lived a full life. It is terrible, however, to loose such a storied and august individual. 


What is, in some ways, more terrible still, is that, so many years after his pioneering flight,  he did not have the option of an off-planet hospice. With Senator Glenn, the last of the Mercury astronauts has passed, and we are rapidly approaching a point where no living person will have walked on the moon; a rather retrograde development.

 The total number of people off planet now is six

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December 08, 2016

It's Snowing Boxes

Posting will continue to be light.



Lizbeth, from Sword Art Online: Code Register. Character design by Shingo Adachi.

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December 07, 2016

More Pearl Harbor Thoughts



J.C. Carlton has a thoughtful and link heavy analysis of the many failures that led to the debacle.

Two brothers, reunited.

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Culture is a Signal

The animated short in the post below sums up the attitude of much of the United States in the early 1940's. It's not an unreasonable point of view. War is an obscene thing. 24 years earlier the country had entered a "War to End All Wars" which had, in the intervening years provided, as a case study in the wretchedness of war, thousands of men in what should have been the prime of their lives, missing limbs, blind or otherwise maimed by bullets, shrapnel, fire, and gas. The intervening years had seen numerous "police actions" in Central America, each of which had looked an awful lot like a war; ie; that thing those men had been maimed in the hopes of ending for all time. 

Most Americans with names not ending in Roosevelt wanted nothing to do with war. And so the pacifists, with help from the German American Bund and the communists (well, until 22 June 1941) all loudly proclaimed the disdain the American people had for war. From the papers to the radio to films as seen below and even the pulpits, the cry of "No More War!" was heard throughout the land.

However, when a sincere desire for peace becomes a nationwide cry from the rooftops it can be misinterpreted. Trotsky's quip, "You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you. " is quite true, and war is especially interested in places where pacifism becomes loud virtue signaling, as it can signal, instead of virtue, cowardice, or at the very least a lack of resolve.  

And so, those who looked for such signals interpreted them accordingly. The Americans were not going going to sell them oil because Americans did not want to support those who waged war...because Americans hated war....Americans hated war...so this was the time to strike.

And strike they did, 75 years ago today.


U.S.S. California goes down. Note the sailors in the water.


14inch guns of U.S.S. Pennsylvania silhouetted by the explosion of U.S.S. Shaw. 


Battleship Row Burns.


Identifying the bodies pulled from the sunken ships.

Within a few years, those men, and far too many of their subjects discovered to their horror that a disdain for war is not a sign of cowardice, or weakness. 

Too loudly proclaiming it however, can cary a terrible price for everyone involved. 


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December 05, 2016

Yet Another of Those Animated Shows Set in a Post Apocalyptic World

...this one's American and from 1939.

It's also seasonally appropriate.


It gives a good sense of the anti-war mood in the country on the eve of the Second World War.

more...

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December 02, 2016

REPORT: Sarah Hoyt Has Been Hospitalized (Possible Heart Attack)

There is no further info at this time. The info comes via my friend Bob's Facebook feed.


Hopefully, this will end up being nothing more than a reset of the blog's Time Since Last Total Fact Check Casualty counter from 5 years and 67 days to zero. 

UPDATE: The report is confirmed. Fortunately, it is confirmed by Mrs. Hoyt. It looks like she may need a pacemaker or something.(Thanks to Rick C. in the comments.)

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