August 31, 2017

Well....



As one might expect in August, that wave of of the Cape Verde Islands has turned into a hurricane. Certainly unpleasant news after the calamity that is still befalling Texas but probably not something to worry abou....



About a half dozen of those forecast models are really bad news for Texas, and really they all involve very unpleasant happenings, because if you look at the chart on the right of your screen, this storm is expected to have really high winds. Some of the estimates are approaching 180 knots

Even if those estimates are high, there appears to be no scenario where this is not a very bad storm that menaces a lot of people. 

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August 27, 2017

Meanwhile

On the east coast, a rival appears....




The forecast for Harvey right now is looking like it will be heading out to sea for a bit to recharge its rain and possibly regain hurricane status, before gracing Houston with a near direct hit later in the week.  The rain is not expected to let up in Texas until after Thursday. Which means we might have two hurricanes clobbering the U.S. at the same time in a few days. 

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It looks like the I-610 River is Overflowing its Banks

This picture has been making the rounds. I don't think it's the same camera. For one thing the Skyline was probably not constructed in the last 12 months and the geography is different



However, the pic on the right does seem to be legit when taken in isolation from the before picture.

Here it is at the New York Daily News before photoshoppers got to it. 



Ubu still had power and posted some additional pictures this morning after driving around in this, perhaps in an attempt to catch some alligators. 

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August 26, 2017

Ubu is on Scene

Ubu at Bridgebunnies-3M has power and is blogging fairly regularly on the ongoing storm.

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August 25, 2017

Catastrophe

Hurricane Harvey, has, up till now, been quite unpredictable. Indeed, as I type this, the tracking 'cone' is a big circle. However , best guess looks like Harvey is going to nail Corpus Christi almost dead on. The storm is expected to be a high category 3 or even a 4 by the time it makes landfall and as much as 60 inches of rain are predicted for some areas. 



There is a bit of uncertainty...

Ubu is 200 miles north in the vicinity of Houston and they started evacuating last night. Ubuville is supposed to get 20+ inches of rain tonight and this is expected to be a three or four day event as the storm is expected to stall, bounce out to sea, and come back ashore somewhere between New Orleans and Corpus Christi.

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August 22, 2017

The Problem may Be More Thorny Than We Realize

Pixy has thoughts on the troubling situation with Google. His piece is thoughtful and should to be read in full. Note that the post significantly predates the recent spate of censorial conduct in the aftermath of the Charlottesville debacle. The controversy then was not NAZIs, but an employee who infinitesimally strayed from approved ideology.  

Pixy's premise is that Google, by becoming social engineers as opposed to...engineers, has potentially broken its brand and could implode. He suggests that Microsoft or Amazon may well move into Google's turf.

However, Microsoft and Amazon are also companies with very PC outlooks, and seem to be steeped in the same Bay Area cultural pathologies that have caused Google to toss the "Don't" from their motto. 

With that in mind, I spoke to  secure, undisclosed sources in the tech industry recently about what would be required to start up a competitor to the Google subsidiary Youtube. I figured that the actual set up ought to be pretty straightforward, though obtaining secure servers would entail some significant outlay and there would, of course be legal issues (DMCA and such). I was genuinely surprised to be quoted prices in the billions. This was not due to physical plant and salaries, but the "DMCA and such" part of the equation. 

If the hurdles to entry have been raised that much since 2005, then Youtube may be immune to competition since entering into competition is unlikely to result in a profit anytime soon...or ever. Even if, some other established silicon valley firm were to go toe to toe with Google (unlikely) the notion that such an entity would be much of an improvement with regards to idealogical diversity seems dubious.

Having the government come in and regulate the matter seems pretty damned scary as well. 

The sheer depth of the issue hit me like a ton of bricks Friday when I read this somewhat obnoxious article that eventually discusses Cloudflare's decision to join in the new fad of denying people service based on their politics. This is Cloudflare...who protect their clients from DOS attacks and I should note, provides hosting services to ISIS chatrooms, but when it came to standing up to the Silicon Valley social justice mob, they goosestepped along with the rest of the techweasels. 

It's not just Versailles on the Bay either, the worldwide gestalt on these issues is moving away from free speech as a concept and has been for some time and it is the young and upcoming generations who seem to be the most hostile to it.

I do, therefore, wonder if anything like corrective competition can come about with regards to streaming video, let alone the other information access services that act as gatekeepers for our telescreens. 


This is the place in the post where I must make the seemingly obvious point that I loathe, despise, and in no way support the views or goals of the people shaped colostomy bags at the Daily Stormer. 

 
You see, one of the many odious goals of National Socialists is, upon gaining power, the regulating of speech and silencing of all dissent. For some reason our self appointed digital clerisy does not oft remark upon this convergence of values.

 

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August 21, 2017

With a Dearth of Flying Cars, Voyages to the Stars or Even Cities on Mars (but a Surprising number of Czars)

...a lot of us have looked around at this 21st century with some despondency and have felt cheated of the futures we were promised when young. 


Upon reflection, this disappointment seems misguided.

It turns out we'd just been reading the wrong genres of spec-fic.
You see, scientists can now wirelessly control mammals like puppets.
The study, which was published in the most recent edition of the journal eLife, includes experiments where were performed on mice. Using the new technique, the researchers were able to control the movement of the animals, causing them to freeze, lock up their limbs, turn around, or even run.

Well...that is, umm, fascinating.
Fortunately they can't just control your voluntary movements via magnets without some preliminary work.

It’s not exactly a simple process — it requires the implantation of specially built DNA strands and nanoparticles which attach to specific neurons — but once the minimally invasive procedure is over, the brain can be remotely controlled via an alternating magnetic field.


 "Well. At least they have to cap you first!"

The whole paper is here

Obviously such crude methods are unlikely to be able to achieve fine manipulation, but if one could control movements one might also be able to use this method to remotely toggle the pleasure/fear/pain centers of the brain in a carrot/stick fashion. With the ability to crudly manipulate a subject's movements one could probably get some impressive results in, say, performance enhancements amongst one's work force. 

We're not even going to discuss how someone might use refinements of this technology to persuade individuals to provide themselves or clients with permanent domestic companionship....

Because all the tech companies are completely ethical. 

ahem..

OK.

Reality check...despite the breathless clickbaity assertions above and in some other discussions of this development doing a fiendishly refined version of this experiment to large numbers of people would require a lot of attention and bandwidth. 

Assuming such a thing could even be made reliable, unethical applications might well be limited to providing a nefarious user of this tech with unwilling, but still very effective suicide bombers, or perhaps, disease vectors. This is because, even if it works as assumed above, such technology would probably require a lot of attention per person manipulated; at least as much as a first person shooter or somesuch. So, unless one is really good at controlling lots of sprites simultaneously there's its unlikely that any person could do mass control of populations with this. 

So relax.
Ignore this story.
Skynet commands it.

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Nephewsitting Observations and Their Implications for Astrophysics

The nephew in question is aproximnately 24 inches long by 9 inches wide, with a depth when laid on his back of 3-4 inches. 


There is no WAY that much poo could have been stored in him, especially when one makes allowances for the likely presence of organs and bones and stuff.

This would seem to be evidence for the presence of a wormhole.
...and a dimension of poop.

There.

Dark matter is explained. 

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August 16, 2017

An Utter Failure...at Destroying Childhoods

Disney has put the first two episodes of Duck Tales online.

This is really well written and surprisingly faithful in tone to the 80's Cartoon, but even more so old Carl Banks comic it was loosely based on. 

Via 

The characterizations of the kids, (er ducklings)are way better I was particularly relieved with what they did with Webby, who is a really neat character.

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Oh...Sorry About That.

That wail of despair you heard just now was me.

I apologize for the inexcusable lapse in stoicism.

more...

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Just Received A Brief, Terse Text

It contained information on how to access the following file...



I'll leave it to you to asses its importance.

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August 15, 2017

Attack on Titan Season 2

Attack on Titan continues to be unpredictable, generally well animated and interesting. It is also a seinen show and keeps the attention of its adolescent audience by tempering its introspective moments and thoughtful observations with  amazing action scenes and visuals that frequently go beyond graphic to full on baroque in their depiction of carnage.











This space intentionally left blank.











After all the hints in season one, they are finally exploring what the hell was (and is) behind the calamity that inflicted  implacable solar powered cannibalistic giants upon society.

That actual expository plot is kind of incoherent and at the end of the series we still have no idea what is actually behind this calamity, except that there appears to be a conspiracy of some sort. The whole thing is treated as the MacGuffin that it is. 

The show's strength, however is in how its characters react to their frankly insane and increasingly hopeless situations. 


Mercifully not pictured; their situation.

This is a show that's had very good characterizations...except for the main character, who seems to be a parody of a shonen protagonist. He's not at all lacking in courage or determination, but he's not particularly good at his job. The side charachters however, are fascinating and intelligently written. Several of them are quite likable too...




 The moody direction and sense of trancendental dread of the early episodes of the season are not as well handled in the latter half, which relies on increasingly bizarre plot twists, and breakneck pacing only interrupted by an episode of fairly non-expository dialog that seems to have been placed there just to get to the requisite number of episodes. 

Despite that and its gruesome visuals the series is still interesting enough that I hope they do another season. Its splatterpunk tendencies notwithstanding, the show manages to have some remarkably effective and even subtle horror. It has quite a bit to say about the importance of redemption, as well as the nature of true heroism....



...the 'last stand of Potato Girl' being particularly epic in that regard .

The show was wildly uneven and should not be watched while eating, but it remains surprisingly interesting. 

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It Appears That There Might Be Job Openings For Disc Jockeys in Piti and Agana

In the early morning of the 15th (which was yesterday in Guam) the radio stations KSTO and KTWG broadcast a civil defense missile attack alert


I looked them up to see if Guam had two competing gonzo troll stations, but it appears that KSTO is adult contemporary and KTWG is gospel. Neither seems likely to pull a stunt like this and given their formats, a coordinated broadcast between the two seems unlikely. 

My guess (as a former DJ)  is that they got a new DHS duck and cover alert and being a PSA it was placed in the tray with the PSA carts (or whatever these kids today use instead of carts now). 

The the announcers coming in on the graveyard shift were both in a hurry and...


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Still Not Actual Content: (but better than re-runs)

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August 14, 2017

Fire and Fury Appear to Be Delayed

It looks like Kim Jong Un has blinked.


I wouldn't advise Guam to take down these posters though.




At least...

 North Korea has an unknown capacity to make highly enriched uranium. We’ve long noticed that the single facility that North Korea has shown off to outsiders seems smaller than North Korea’s newly renovated capacity to mine and mill uranium; we naturally wondered where all that extra uranium is going. (My research institute thinks it might be fun to estimate how much uranium North Korea enriches based on how much it mills, if you know anyone with grant money burning a hole in her pocket.)

I do take some bittersweet satisfaction in this excerpt though...

There was a common view that the North Koreans, well, kind of sucked at making nuclear weapons. That was certainly my first impression. But there was always another possibility, one that dawned on me gradually. According to a defector account, North Korea tried to skip right toward relatively advanced nuclear weapons that were compact enough to arm ballistic missiles and made use of relatively small amounts of plutonium. That should not have been surprising; both Iraq and Pakistan similarly skipped designing and testing a more cumbersome Fat Man-style implosion device. The disappointing yields of North Korea’s first few nuclear tests were not the result of incompetence, but ambition. So, while the world was laughing at North Korea’s first few nuclear tests, they were learning — a lot.

Do note that there was a post on this very blog positing that very thing 4 years ago


" 'cause this blog's awesome." 

We're ahead of the curve!

Lets hope this trend does not continue since we're also on record as suggesting that the  China-India standoff is where things are more likely to go pear shaped. There is a further complication to this mess beyond the Pakistani factor...winter is coming, which may force the issue. 

A further perusal of the archives for predictions we hope to botch reveals that we've been beating the drum about DPRK and Iranian cooperation for some time. We were doing so as early as three years ago*. 
It's not like there's no support for this unwelcome hypothesis, see here, here, here, here, here, here and here

There is a report here, (PDF) that has some worrisome revelations...
 

A delegation of Iranian nuclear experts headed by Mohsen Fakhrizadeh- Mahabadi, director of the Iranian NW project, was covertly present at the
third NK nuclear test in February 2013. This test was apparently based – unlike the previous plutonium-core-based field tests – on an HEU (highly enriched uranium) core nuclear device (as, presumably, were the fourth and fifth nuclear tests, which took place in 2016). In 2015, information exchanges and reciprocal delegation visits reportedly took place that were aimed at the planning of nuclear warheads. These include four NK delegations that visited Iran up until June 2015, one month before the VND was completed. It may be noted that in August 2015, a new gas centrifuge hall apparently became operational in the NK main uranium enrichment facility.  
The emphasis is mine. The significance is alluded to in the first Jeffery Lewis quote above. The larger point regarding Iranian involvement is worrisome enough. 

IF Iran and North Korea are cooperating to the point that Iran has access to a tested bomb design, then their "breakout time" is essentialy whenever they feel like it. Uranium enrichment is a chemical and physical process, not a nuclear one, so it is much easier to conceal as Lewis alludes to in his previously mentioned article. Iran is HUGE has its own uranium supplies and there's no telling what sorts of facilities they have squirreled away in the Zargos mountains. It is after all, not like we can inspect the place

So one day, five or so years hence Iran just might shock people...

In any event, this has the potential for their first nuclear test not be a proof of concept exercize, but a simple confirmation that their by then considerable nuclear stockpile will go "bang" when they want it to. They have centrifuges that we KNOW about. If they ran reactor grade uranium through them, they could make 25 bombs a year

But really....how bad could that actually be?

This is another area we hope not to be prescient on. We ran the math on that question some time ago in this click-baity assesment of a potential summer blockbuster plot and realized that they only needed 30 nukes to largely knock the world into the 7th century. far less actually, since that number includes a lot of ocean and icecap. 

Alternatively, they might just be able to field a sizable nuclear arsenal without warning. 

While we are on the subject of things that we hope to be utterly off base on it should be noted in reference to Pakistan's numerous tactical nuclear warheads that an ISIS or Al Quaeda affiliated group getting ahold of even a very small warhead or being sold HEU by....somebody (see above), to make their own  that the potential for mayhem on a continental scale is worrisome. If an EMP were to leave Europe without power, given the current ethno-political tensions there, well....that could be very bad indeed. 

It still seems likely that the next use of nukes in anger will involve a conflict on the subcontinent, but there are a lot more things that we hope the blog is wrong about.

* (note that tl;dr of a post also referenced a report that the Norks had developed miniaturized nuclear warheads...one that only became widely known recently)

" 'cause this blog ROCKS!"

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August 12, 2017



       THE SECOND COMING
William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)

 Turning and turning in the widening gyre
    The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
    The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
    The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.

    Surely some revelation is at hand;
    Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
    The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
    When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
    Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
    A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
    A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
    Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
    Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.

    The darkness drops again but now I know
    That twenty centuries of stony sleep
    Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
    And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
    Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?


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August 09, 2017

"HAH!" he thought to himself, before looking around, nervously hoping no one noticed his impolitic bemusement.




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August 07, 2017

Dispatch From the Disaster Department

My sister, you may recall has recently had a hernia operation. She can't pick my nephew up, which has vexxed him quite a bit. My nephew, it should be noted has JUST learned the level 0 skill "Barely Walk". Over the weekend, he decided to express his displeasure at not being carried by somehow unlocking the level 4 skill "Flying Tackle".


Ouch.

Anyway...after much agony and mad scrambling, my sister is now back (again) from the hospital. The prognosis is inconclusive. There may be stitches loose. If things don't improve in a few days she goes back under the knife. 

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August 05, 2017

Meanwhile, on the Roof of the World

For two months now, China and India have been having a tiff over a Himalayan mountain pass. This is nothing new, a good deal of the border between the two nations is disputed and the two countries fought a war in 1960 over its exact position.


Now for the second time in three years there are large numbers of troops involved. Unlike the 2014 crisis, this is complicated by a third party and the fact that the diplomatic exchanges between the two most powerful players consist mainly of ultimatums.

OK. What happened? China also claims a parts of Bhutan. India has a defense agreement with Bhutan. While the China Bhutan border dispute was being reviewed by international bodies China marched into a Bhutanese mountain pass called Doklam (which borders India and China) and began building a highway (part of their New Silk Road project). India then sent in troops (as per their agreement with Bhutan) and forcibly removed the Chinese contractors and escorting soldiers out of Bhutan. Both sides have been moving troops into the area ever since and diplomatic exchanges have gotten more heated

While this was going on, India has been rocked by a spy scandal involving their perpetual rival (and China's ally) Pakistan. In the last few days, Pakistan has just started poking along the Indo-Pakistani border and Kashmir is heating up again which is likely further unnerving India as they send troops north to Sikhim. 



China India and Pakistan are all nuclear powers.

Kyle Mizokami goes over the impact of a China India war that escalates beyond the skirmish level. 
A hypothetical war between India and China would be one of the largest and most destructive conflicts in Asia. A war between the two powers would rock the Indo-Pacific region, cause thousands of casualties on both sides and take a significant toll on the global economy.* Geography and demographics would play a unique role, limiting the war’s scope and ultimately the conditions of victory.

He notes that both India and China have "no first use" policies regarding nukes. However, in war, especially with high stakes, agreements get thrown out. (Remember use of Poison gas was forbidden by the Hague Convention in 1907. Parts of France are still uninhabitable today in part because of its use between 1915 and 1918 ).

Pakistan, something of a wild card in this affair, does NOT have a no first use policy and has expressed a willingness bordering on enthusiasm for battlefield nuclear bombardment. Once nukes start popping, anything goes.

The estimated short term impact of soot from a very limited exchange between India and Pakistan (low yields and only 100 detonations) is visualized here. It's comparable to a big volcano and could affect crop yields for a year. 



An exchange that went all out between China and India or just India and Pakistan would be worse of course. This doesn't even touch on the extent of fallout affecting nearby countries or the incomprehensible suffering and slaughter that will result from a couple going off over Shanghai, Delhi, Mumbai or Hyderabad. 

Mizokani's piece above notes that this could turn on naval action. (Ironic given the location of the dispute). A good chunk of China's trade passes through the Indian Ocean and India has a sizable navy. Furthermore, Aridhaman and Arihant,  (India' two SSBNs) would be high priority targets for China, so you'd expect the Chinese to be taking measures in that direction if things were going to get serious.

With that in mind...
 
Chinese ships and submarines have recently shown up in the Indian Ocean

While all this was happening, the U.S. Japan and India recently conducted joint naval operations incase, for whatever reason, they have to fight together. 

While unlikely to actually take sides in such a fight, the U.S.N. is heavily engaged in the Arabian Sea right now...

What happens when Brahmos missiles and their Chinese equivalents start flying around the U.S. ships in the area? 
Do we continue operations against ISIS? 
Do we run neutrality convoys and protect the tankers coming out of the Persian Gulf? 
Does the fact that three submarine cables in the Arabian Sea have gone dead in as many weeks indicate something we should be concerned about?

There's more on this situation and the strategic incentives in play for both India and China here

In other words, control over the Doklam plateau constitutes a "win-win” for the PLA; both a knife to India’s jugular and shield to blunt its sharpest spear. With existential stakes for Delhi, and Beijing posturing growing more uncompromising by the day, there’s no end in sight to the longest standoff at the China-India border in over three decades.






Hide all the Archdukes.

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August 04, 2017

Quick Update on My Walter Mitty Lifestyle


Art sans text by Ryu Iwamitsu whose site vanished about 10 years ago.
more...

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