March 30, 2017

When Banality Meet Bureaucracy

For those uninterested in the banality lurking below the fold, here is some art by Jefuty.




The above image is his take on Awakened Karin from Puzzles and Dragons


more...

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March 28, 2017

Obligatory Pool Episode

The last episode of Interviews With Monster Girls was indeed a pool episode and broke new ground in prurience with this uncensored frontal shot of Kyoko without a stitch on her.



" I LAUGH at your guillotine!" 

I hope they do more in the coming years as this series really was a gem.

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March 20, 2017

Deflation Declination and Dungeon Crawling

The other night, my friend BOB!1! and I were discussing current events, in particular, we engaged in a back and forth over the theory that the reason we've seen limited inflation from the various rounds of quantitative easing over the years is that a majority of the inflation they created has been masking a destructive deflationary cycle. This is a disturbing notion as it puts the world economy on a bit of a tightrope. 


Those of us of a certain age remember inflation and the memory is not a pleasant one. The inflation of the 1970s was an anomalous event, coinciding as it did with a general contraction of the economy (stagflation). 

Inflation is normally an inevitable byproduct and indicator of a growing economy. More economic activity and more money in circulation means that the real value of any unit of money goes down. After a certain point, this actually encourages investment, since inflation reduces the value of money that is just sitting, eventually overtaking any reasonable interest rate. This means that in order to grow or even maintain one's savings one must invest them in moneymaking enterprises. This is hard on everyone, but especially the poor with no savings, those on fixed incomes and the inert, but having that money reinvested in business ventures expands the economy overall, and that increases job opportunities which mitigates some of the problems. 

The '70s were unusual due to a series of problems including the fact that the Johnson administration had printed scads of money specifically to devalue the currency just as the first round of World War Two bonds was about to come due, thus effectively cheating the bond holders out of their investments, but freeing up cash for the great society programs. This was followed by Nixon taking the U.S. off the gold standard and printing yet MORE money while the oil crisis damaged the economy by raising the cost of energy and therefore, industry. This was a dreadful situation, but paled in comparison to events like Weimar Germany and Zimbawe.   

Inflation is intuitively bad and we have examples of why this is so. 

However, except perhaps in cases of runaway inflation like Weimar or Zimbabwe, Deflation can be much worse than inflation. 

Deflation is insidious. The value of whatever is currency increases because the amount of money in circulation decreases (is deflated). This is great in the very short term, especially for the poor, those on fixed incomes and the inert. The problem is that over the long haul money actually gains value when hoarded EVEN IN THE ABSENCE OF ANY INTEREST RATE and thus the risk associated with investing with a business becomes exceedingly unpalatable. 

People with money cash out, their businesses close which results in fewer paychecks, which further reduces the money supply causing businesses to go bankrupt or their owners to liquidate them before that happens. People hoard, rather than invest money and the economy slowly, over time, comes to a crawl. The tax base evaporates because there is no money and things like roads, bridges, canals, ports and other infrastructure stop getting fixed, further putting a pressure on businesses and the economy. Gradually, over time everything grinds to a halt, and only those with money in personal hoards are in any way well off, their hoards appreciating in relative value as the rest of the world slips into darkness...but such people would be increasingly isolated by the inevitable uptick in lawlessness and ultimately only those who could defend themselves and have access to food would manage to eek through. Of course, with unemployment rampant labor would be cheap, perhaps as cheap as room and board, and such people could probably be put to work growing food in exchange for  protection from the rising tide of lawlessness.

Our back and forth at this point took an unexpected turn. What the end state of our worst case scenario ended up in was...

...Feudalism... 

... which, as my friend BOB!1! pointed out, brings us to Dungeons and Dragons.


"Because...of course it does."


This scenario explains the D&D world.

There are ruins EVERYWHERE. There was obviously a great and prosperous civilization (or group of civilizations that shared a transnational economy) and then deflation hit. Most of those dungeons are the hoards of increasingly paranoid rich people who hid their money vaults behind traps and guard animals, eventually, either through the 4 or 5 generation process in which marrying to obtain a dowry self selects for infertility, straight-up inbreeding, or stepping on one of their own damned rot worms, the affluent who did not offer protections to their neighbors or were too autistic to socialize died out and left these "dungeons", ruins of their former mansions and money vaults which have, in addition to their traps, developed their own deadly ecosystems evolved from the guard animals and invasive species. 

Feudal lords and the occasional collection of such fiefdoms in a kingdom or duchy, are stable but inherently resistant to change, innovation, and any disruptive developments in thought or technology.

There is only one bright spot economically.
 
The aforementioned rising transportation costs might serve to juice the economy a tad, but only if the infrastructure was privately owned and only if the return on investment was perceived as good, which might well not be the case with businesses going under left and right. However, an association of businesses in need of transportation services might well band together as a co-op to maintain a transportation infrastructure for their interests and provide mutual protection much like the old Hanseatic League did. These became the guilds. Which are the only (sort of) free market that is not completely the plaything of nobles. 
 
It occurs to me, that there are darker aspects to this too. 

As people grow more desperate and fearful, they tend to stay with their own kind, so in many locales, the races self segregated. Those that did not eventually became the "mutts" that are described as human in the game. The differences might be accentuated by starvation selection putting pressure on some groups for small bodies, (Halflings, Dwarves) and in more affluent groups sexual selection favoring beauty (Elves). Such racial balkanization would, in general, be non-conducive to most trade.

However...

What all this means is that adventurers in D&D, whatever level, or even alignment  that they are, actually happen to be, by their very nature, saving the world! Everytime they loot a dungeon, they are placing into the economy currency that has not been in circulation in millennia. When adventures begin D&D at level one, the coin of the realm is copper. Then as a party prospers, things get better in whatever locale they frequent and more and better goods become available.

All this money is stimulating trade and competition between the guilds and encouraging wiser feudal lords to invest in and support their resident merchants. 

The fact that the most effective parties contain a wide variety of races, classes and skillsets that normally do not interact in any meaningful way only serves to further breakdown barriers put up by an eons long deflationary cycle.

Adventurers ROCK!

So what have we learned today?

Deflation is, in the long run, far worse than all but the worst inflationary events due to its insidious nature and the extreme difficulty in reversing it due to its self reinforcing system on perverse and societally destructive incentives. 

Against this, when conducting a risk assessment and cost benefit analysis must be considered the potential for providing future generations with elves.


Art by Houtengeki (also here)

May our economists choose wisely.

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March 19, 2017

So...



So...the latest episode of Interviews With Monster Girls addresses the nagging concern that Takahashi has become not so much the girl's counselor, as the driver of their short-bus.  The sinister assistant principal's true motivation is revealed and Sakie, though forced to improvise, nevertheless achieves an important milestone in the...umm, subtle and cunning machinations she is plotting in pursuit of her goal.

In contrast to episode 7 and especially episode 10 which hinted at a much "bigger" storyline, episode 11 is focused primarily on character development and nicely portrays the considerable personal growth the entire ensemble cast has gone through, including fairly minor characters.

This episode really touched on everything that has made this show so refreshing. The students in this show, both human and demihuman are   very believably written and their actions are both charming and realistic.


Within limits.

I'm unsure how many episodes this series is, but if it is a 12 episode run then this was a solid and reasonably satisfying finale. Of course there is at least one more episode. However, there are indications that that will be a beach or pool episode and therefore probably fanservice pandering best ignored in the context of this nearly sublime little series*. 

One thing that stands out above even the stellar chraracterizations of the students is that of Takahashi Sensei. Here we have a male lead who is not only a gentleman that behaves in a professional and mature manner. He's a remarkably macho guy as well. In addition to being a science teacher, he's a weightlifter, and characters comment on how much he's bulked up recently. In any other show that would be a character trait of a buffoon, but Takahashi is stoic, disciplined, kind, perceptive, intelligent, intellectual and strong in both body and character. He epitomizes the male virtues and in a thoroughly positive way. That is a rare and welcome thing in this day and age. 

Interviews With Monstergirls has been low key but engaging. and a thoroughly enjoyable ride that stresses the importance of actively engaging life lest  wonders pass us by.


No. Twitter is not "engaging." 
If you've missed it, watch it. 
If you've seen it, discuss it. 

*


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March 17, 2017

They Don't Make Them Like That Anymore

At least, I'm pretty sure that computer manufacturing facilities do not employ seamstresses in crucial roles.  (via)



Rope? Memory? 


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Happy St. Patrick's Day

...from Kyouko, who many of you know as the token character of Irish extraction in Inteviews With Monster Girls. Note that she's sporting as much green as uniform regs will allow.




"Whatever you may be drinking, keep your head about you this evening!"

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March 16, 2017

A Roundup of Links that Caught My Eye

Jerry Pournelle relates an interesting exchange on the Science Fiction Writers of America boards that concerned what, if any, constitutional limits there are on federal regulatory authority. (Yes: "if any"...let that sink in for a minute.)

Refreshingly, it doesn't appear that Hitler was ever invoked. In his stead, Henry the VIII makes an appearance. 

Read the whole thing (Scroll down about half a page. It's below the WSJ link.) Note that the conversation was declared...traumatic...and deleted by SFWA.

ACE has some very prescient thoughts on the POTUS (trigger warning: Trump)

 

Via Rand Simberg: A recent judicial decision in Hawaii is not just asinine, it could foment a constitutional crisis

Oh look. Google is going to down-select anything that they determine is upsetting or offensive. Since progressives take umbrage at vast swaths of what I happen to like, I suppose no one will ever find this blog via Googling again. 

Peter Beinart has an interesting piece which suggests that if you remove the thing that most that holds a society together, feeds the better angels of its nature and restrains its darkest tribal impulses, bad things might happen. Who'da thunk it? 


Finally, as a cisgendered honkey male, I'm told I can't have an opinion on the utterly 'woke' Rachel Maddow and her Al Capone's Vault moment. So I'll let these two express it for me. 









Note: The linked image encompassing many of the things I like is by Sukabu. The young ladies expressing thoughtful journalistic critiques are from the underrated, yet excellent, Sound of the Sky.

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We Survived!

Secure in our fortified virtual bunker, we here at Brickmuppet Blog succeeded in riding out The Ides of March without incident. 


Today, however, it was discovered that four and a half weeks of bedrest does not actually have a beneficial effect on one's strength, flexibility or endurance.

Still, it was a great relief to be back to work, in no small part because the non-retirement money reserves were pretty much gone. In the future I'll make a point of only incurring hospital bills when I do not have tuition, insurance, and twelve hundred dollar car repair bills. Ghaa!

But enough banal first world problems, here is a catgirl and a stonecrab to remind everyone on the U.S. East Coast, that despite the sub-freezing temperatures, good weather is right around the corner. 
Art by Jin Happiobi. You can buy his wares here. (Both links NSFW)


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March 14, 2017

First Fluorescent Frog Found

Well, that headline is pretty self explanatory, so there's very little to add to it except for a bit more alliteration. 

Alas, we're running low on polite "f" words.





"...Funky!"

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March 11, 2017

The Means by Which Dulhallans Eat

...has yet to be addressed in this show, but despite that glaring omission, as of episode 7, Interviews With Monster Girls is mostly living up to the hype.



"No. We understand how it gets into your mouth, it's the step after that which has us confused."

A biologist whose PHD thesis on demi-humans was shot down due to a lack of any preternatural people to study, abandons his research and gets a job as a high school biology teacher. Years later, he is surprised to learn that his school has enrolled a dulhallan, a vampire and a snow-woman. He begins his research anew arranging interviews with the fantastical beings and with the help of a delightfully goofball math teacher, councils his students and watches as they cope with all those little awkward moments every high school kid goes through.

Well, in fairness, she could have been more clear.

This is a surprisingly well done story.  Cute girls doing cute things in high school has been done a lot but this show has really good characterizations and despite the centrality of the monster-girls quirks....


"I will never really get used to that."

...they come off as some of the most believably characterized kids in a long time. Cast-wise it treads perilously close to harem territory, so it's very welcome that at least one of the schoolgirls has (maybe) a tentative romantic interest amongst the student body. It's even more welcome that the aforementioned delightfully goofball math teacher is around. 

More welcome still in our decadent age is that this show actually stresses the virtuousness of men aspiring to arete' and thereby maintaining a stoic demeanor in stressful situations.... 



...and dealing with one's emotions in private so as not to bother others. 


"!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Did I mention the delightfully goofball math teacher?

Interviews With Monstergirls is, despite its premise, surprisingly down to earth and well written. 

Now there are tentative indications as of episode 7 that there might be more to the story than a high school slice of life show.



That could be disastrous, or it could be awesome. At this point, even if they brought in giant robots that trapped everyone in a video game, I'd still watch it for a couple of episodes to see what they did because I'm that enamored of these characters. 

I'm just gonna recommend this one. 

UPDATE : 72 Minutes and 3 episodes later:

Well, what do you know.

 

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A BBC Analysts View of The Ramifications of the South Korean Impeachment Situation

...might be interesting, but this is funnier.


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March 10, 2017

Oh Wow. We Really ARE Living in the Crazy Years.

What disgracious 'channery is this?

CIA documents published by WikiLeaks show that the CIA kept a database of "Japanese style faces” to utilize in online forums.


Exclusive sources (so secret and exclusive that they may not even exist) tell us that in contrast to the impassive public response, the reaction inside Langley to this news was uncharacteristically straightforward...


However, thanks to this completely unexpected development we are now able to accurately recreate the Wikileaks heist of the CIA's secrets!


Have you seen this person?

The database seems to consist mainly of ASCII emoticons. The complete list can be found here.

Do note that the CIA somehow missed one...
more...

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March 09, 2017

Pepe' Strikes

I went for a walk and was mugged by a gang of little people in who forced me to buy emotional blackmail cookies. They were all dressed in green and I'm pretty sure they were French 'cause they wore berets. 

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Flip Flappers: Belated Thoughts

Cute, whimsical, and thoughtful horror stories are kind of rare for some reason. 


Flip Flappers is an exception, though after finally finishing the entire series, I find it still quite difficult to describe. The set-up is easy enough, Cocona is an honor student in high school and her ultimate goal is to...umm....be an honor student...



Life however, involves more than just studying for the test, and Cocona is trying to come to grips with the fact that the answer to "What career part do you intend to take?" Is not found in a book, or in any academic articles. Suddenly a crazy redhead named Papikka shows up with a comic relief robot and drags Cocona into a magical dimension to help them find...power crystals.


"Will this be on the test?"

Sadly, they don't keep the bunny ears, but they DO get time limited super powers accompanied by magical legware. 


'dem stockings...

This is useful as well as stylistically fascinating because they do get into fights, with monsters as well as rivals.

Starting off as a (faux) magical girl show with an Alice in Wonderland vibe, it goes in a number of different directions to the point of seeming unfocused at times. However, there is a story here and the show is a surprisingly intelligent disquisition on the nature of identity, the blissful squalor of a utopia and the responsibility we all have for who and what we become. 

The story does go to dark places as the characters explore their backstories but the series, despite its breakneck pace and seemingly schizophrenic tone does come to a satisfying conclusion. In the process the series stays unpredictable and is never boring. 

It is also high octane nightmare fuel. This show is genuinely terrifying at times, and the story has more in common with Phillip K. Dick than Lewis Carrol. 


It also gets bunny anatomy...wrong.

This was, however, a surprisingly enjoyable and thoughtful series and I recommend all 5 hours. It really was one of the best shows last year.

 

"We Rock!"

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March 08, 2017

Alive....

Surgery was successful, though sitting is still difficult. I get my stent out on Friday. If all goes well, I'll be back to work on the 16th. Things are looking up from here. 

After all...




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March 06, 2017

Surgery

I started bleeding again yesterday and it's persisted into this evening. This  is troublesome since I'm supposed to go under the knife again in 7 hours. 


I'll know more tomorrow obviously. 

In the meantime, here is a reminder that good weather is no more than a month away.



There's more of that sort of thing here, as well as some good, if bittersweet news. Blessed are the librarians, for they keep the wisdom from dying. 

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March 05, 2017

Status Six in the News Again

Well, not really, Next Big Future has a piece on this nasty Russian weapon that we've discussed here before


Most of the articles linked in the NBF post are from last year and the post focuses on the tsunami aspect of the weapon, which is not likely to be that much of a strategic threat. 

For those unfamiliar with this most clickbaity of weapons, "Status 6" is a new Russian torpedo carrying a nuclear warhead. Nothing new there except that this torpedo is over 5 feet wide and nearly 80 feet long and the warhead is between 50 and 150 megatons, with 100 megatons being the general consensus. The torpedo is big enough to carry the 100 megaton "Tsar Bomba" or RDS 220 physics package which was tested at half yield back in the 1960s producing 57 megatons of 'splody and cracking windows over 200 miles away.

It is designed to be fired into harbors, rendering them unuseable due to cratering and radioactive contamination. In the semi-enclosed  waters of San Fransisco and San Diego bays,  Puget Sound and possibly the Chesapeake Bay seiche effects would likely result in impressive wave heights, but the energies released by this weapon pale in comparison to what an earthquake releases and you can't just blow one up offshore and devastate the coast. 

However, the effect is not nonexistant.


Table from here. A 22-74 foot wave 100 miles away is kind of scary.

The bigger concern is the blast and radiation, even if not salted with cobalt 60 or something a high yield version of the old RDS220 would be horrifically radioactive. From the Nuclear Weapon Archive article...
The effect of this bomb at full yield on global fallout would have been tremendous. It would have increased the world's total fission fallout since the invention of the atomic bomb by 25%.
Since the effects of a ground burst are orders of magnitude worse for radioactive contamination than an airburst, the effect on the targeted harbors and those downwind is likely to be so dreadful that cobalt is unnecessary. 

There are 2 operational carriers of this delightful piece of technology, one is an experimental submarine that has one monstrous torpedo tube for this weapon. There is also a converted cruise missile submarine that reportedly has six tubes, though it is a combination spy- sub and work boat. In a year or so, the purpose built Khabarovsk comes into service, which will carry at least 6 tubes.

Using Alex Wellerstien's Nukemap simulator I looked at what 1 sub (assuming six tubes each) on each coast could do...


Assume 1 is hitting Pearl Harbor,  2 were used n Puget Sound because of the geography, the SSBN base OR the cities can be hit, but not both. Targets are major commercial ports and the most important naval bases. I assumed that no subs were in the gulf of Mexico, but they do have one addition sub to shoot at New Orleans. Additionally, certain Inland ports like Sacramento  or Albany might be fairly easy shots for this weapon if maximum fallout is desired.


..the thing that is most striking is the sheer size of the affected areas, even not taking into account the fallout. The fireball that plasmaglobe of utter destruction in the center of a nuclear blast is 10 miles across. The orange area is where fires would be started on a clear day and the lightest shade of grey is the 1.5 psi area where all the windows are blown out, the darker shades of grey has most homes demolished and inside that it's...unpleasant.

For scale I nuked Washington DC with a B-83, the most powerful weapon in the U.S. arsenal. It doesn't really show up at this scale.

Of course if the Russians actually used these, they'd be using their other nuclear weapons too, but the sheer amount if devastation caused by 11 of these things on CONUS ports is kind of sobering.

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A Magnetic Field for Mars, on a Budget

Mars has lost the bulk of it's atmosphere in part because it's magnetic field is weak and only covers parts of its tropical regions. This has allowed the solar wind to strip away most of the planet's atmosphere other than the relatively dense CO2.


Therefore, one issue facing those who would terraform the red planet is the fact that if the atmosphere were built up through human endeavors, the atmosphere would immediately start to erode again, taking thing like the oxygen and nitrogen first. 

Giving the planet a magnetic field has been considered a far more daunting task than simply terraforming it, since to increase the output of the planetary dynamo would require bringing a large moon to pull on its core like ours does. 

This has...practicality issues.

One alternative is a vast series of cables built all over the red planet and powered by many gigawats of electricity. Such a system has been proposed for Earth to deal with a possible pole reversal.

However, scientists at Princeton University, have run the numbers and determined that Mars could be effectively protected from the solar wind by a small inflatable structure at Mars's Sunward Lagrange Point. This structure would generate a 2 Tesla magnetic field (that's 10,000 to 20,000 Gauss)...whatever that means.


"That's  less than one quarter of a typical MRI machine's maximum capacity."


Uh...thanks.

Anyway, the magnetic field generated would deflect the solar wind around the planet, rather more completely than Earths field does, since the field is separate and doesn't leave the poles unprotected. 



This would, even without any further human intervention, result in the Martian atmosphere thickening on its own.

This makes any terraforming of Mars much more sustainable.

We here at Brickmuppet Blog are more of the Dandridge Cole, Gerard K. O'Neal  schools of space settlement, but this is a really neat development. A planetary settlement does have some advantages with regards to resources, especially on a place like Mars. 

(Interestingly, this probably can't be made to work with regards to Earth, because our Lagrange Points are not balanced between Earth and the sun, but rather Earth and the Moon.)

HT: NBF

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March 03, 2017

I Think...

...maybe I should...uh...clean my bedroom.



 

If ever there was an argument for E-books....


UPDATE: J. Greely suggests that this story may be dubiously sourced. If it turns out to be apocryphal, it would still warrant the word "ignominious", but in a slightly different context.

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March 02, 2017

Wah-hoo-oo!

They're rebooting...Duck Tales? This is an odd choice in art styles, but it looks surprisingly...well I do not immediately despise this development.



I...um... have a niece and a nephew so this is a perfectly justified divergence from whatever our actual format is.

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