September 27, 2017

This Video is An Important Message For IT Professionals

...unless it's actually a message for everyone else.

Via Scott Lowther, whose stuff you should buy in vast quantities.

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September 26, 2017

Final Farewells

More on the passing of Jerry Pournelle, from people who unlike me, have the writing skill do him justice; Sarah HoytNeil SchulmanGlenn Reynolds, Rand Simberg and George R.R. Martin.

The eulogy given at his funeral is here.

The man was a visionary, and gave many of us hope in a time that hope was the scarcest treasure of all. 

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Dropping the Ball?

The situation in Puerto Rico is BAD.

It's not getting much better as the electrical grid on the island is completely destroyed and emergency generators are running out of fuel.  6 days after the storm there is still no word from over half the towns on the island!

It is not that no attention is being paid, it is. Rather there are logistical problems here that weren't present with the other storms that hit the U.S..

Cdr Salamander has thoughts on this here, and makes some interesting comparisons to Connecticut, roughly the same shape, size and population. Also, from his comments section, comes this link, where NOAA is putting up an interactive map of post hurricane aerial photos of the island. These are mostly limited as I type this to the north coast east of Arecibo, but they are pretty scary.

It looks like a nuclear test site. 

Those of you who've been in the Southeast in August in the week after a hurricane hits have a very small taste of what it's like in Puerto Rico with no AC, no water and no refrigeration. The mosquitoes are something I don't want to think about. Dengue, Malaria and Zikka are coming if more is not done in the spraying department. 

Everything has to get in via ship or plane, so the 'roadtrip for relief' operations that have been so effective in the southeastern CONUS won't work.   A lot is actually being done, and theArmy and Navy are bypassing the demolished port facilities with amphibious landing craft. But time is running out and this could turn unspeakably horrible real quick. 

One final note, while Puerto Rico's electrical infrastructure was pretty decrepit before the storm, it was not nearly as old as much of the grid is in the northeast. There are challenges in getting replacement transformers and other equipment there due to it being an island, but these are probably comparable to what our great eastern cities would face if the entire northeast were shut down by a Carrington event or NEMP attack. As for the difficulty getting around to fix things and save people, the damage to the trees and structures is consistent with a 1-5 psi blast wave. What Puerto Rico is facing now is the equivalent in damage to a nuclear attack, minus the fires and radiation. It also lacks the sub freezing temperatures that an attack on the northeast in winter would entail. 

So don't be smug about out fellow citizens in the islands. How we respond to this will be telling. 

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September 25, 2017

This is a Potentially Alarming Development

TFB reports on what appears to be a booby-trapped shotgun that was purchased by a gunstore. It seems to have been modified to shoot a .32ACP into the shooters face when racked.

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A Question for My Catholic Readers

Is this really a big deal?

A group of clergy and lay scholars from around the world have taken the very rare step of presenting Pope Francis with a formal filial correction, accusing him of propagating heresies concerning marriage, the moral life, and reception of the sacraments.
It's being reported as a big deal, but I'm skeptical of modern reporting on Christian denominations, and the only thing I really know about Catholics is that they are just like D&D. (At least that's what the Chick Tracts said.)

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That Other "Football"

While millionares who get paid big bucks to play games effectively thumb their noses at the fans who pay to see them, it probably behooves us to remember that "football" is also a term for something rather more consequential

This springs to mind because The North Koreans are now threatening to pop off an ATMOSPHERIC nuclear test over the Pacific, and further claiming that it will be the biggest explosion in that part of the world. (This would make the calamitous Castle Bravo test of 15 megatons the lower end of what they are promising). 

That seems rather high for anything that the DPRK could put on a missile, but, while the Norks are full of bluster to be sure, for the past few years they've made good on their promises regarding WMD. Note that their last (250KT) test, broke their mountain.
...reports of the mountain’s demise are highly exaggerated, although there is little doubt that there would have been significant "cracking” (possibly extending to the surface) as well as significant "irreversible strain” resulting from this event. Such cracking facilitates radioactive gas seepage in other environments. It remains to be seen, however, whether or not the North Portal will ever be used for another nuclear test. There are still two unused additional tunnel complexes (served by the South and West Portals) that are also deemed potentially capable of further nuclear testing, albeit for tests having lower yields than that of the sixth test.
 So, if they want to pursue higher yields (which makes sense if they'll have only a limited number of devices in the near furture) then they probably have to do atmospheric tests as there are so few safe places to do underground tests in the DPRK.

The generally quoted maximum yield to weight ratio is about 6 kilotons per kilogram, but only a few American weapons in the megaton range achieved that. The U.S. reportedly had designs for weapons with yields as high as 11 kt per kilogram in the early 1960s, but such efficiencies are only possible at the very high yields which went out of favor in the U.S. around that time. Note that "that time" was 50 years ago, The DPRK's weapons labs are no doubt well behind those of the other countries today, but it is unlikely that they are substantially less advanced than Los Alamos 50 years ago.  The notion that they could put a 15 +megaton nuke on one of their missiles is therefore unlikely, but not beyond the realm of possibility.

There's another really dreadful scenario, and that is that they detonate the device in the water, either as a depth charge or as the warhead on a nuclear torpedo like the Russians are again beginning to deploy. The fallout from such a weapons test would likely be pretty bad, even if less than Castle Bravo.

This brings us, inevitably, to video of Castle Bravo.

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September 24, 2017

Truth in Advertising.

Knights and Magic is a perfectly reasonable name for this show and not a misleading title in any way.

Trapped! in a Fantasy World would work too.

IN A WORLD where the transmigration expressway missed a turn at Alberquerque, one computer programer is reincarnated as a nobleman's son in a world that's ripped from the pages of Cliffs Notes of the Silmarillion...except for the giant robots.

The main difference between this show and every other show that involves a geek getting zapped into a fantasy world is that he's actually reincarnated and at at some point in his childhood, he encounters a giant enchanted suit of armor (which the knights in this realm use to fight) and suddenly remembers his past life as a highly regarded computer programmer and plamo Otaku.

This show actually starts out remarkably well. The story and world are in a lot of ways, very well thought out. 
For instance the way they handle magic is kind of neat.
There is a nice (and very atypical) side plot involving another individual's redemption, and a lot of thought went into the creation of the world and its characters. 

The plot develops quickly but logically, and the characters are well realized.  The show has a bit to say about bureaucracies, institutional inertia and how disruptive technologies can destabilize the international order (nothing terribly insightful mind you, but they touch on these issues). This is a nice touch given the premise of the show. It's just a very solid, remarkably well done and engaging show...

But then..

quite suddenly, (around episode 9) it appears that the writers received word that the show was only going to be 13 episodes and not 26 or 52 and the pacing gets downright... brisk, while he plotting gets inchoate.

The story moves all over the place so quickly that the show actually gets a narrator around that time to explain all the stuff that they're not showing the audience. 

For instance there are fragments of a really moving tale of a crown princess who must come to terms with an awesome responsibility thrust upon her...but most of that it taken care of off camera. There's a villain who seems to have a very dark and tragic backstory that was being developed until it was....not.

The show wraps up QUITE abruptly, and unsatisfyingly.  This breakneck pacing exacerbates the main negative issue with the hero. That is, he is so good at everything that he gives off a bit of a Mary Sue vibe... more ways than one. 

Even more annoying, there are several interpersonal relationships between various characters  that start out really well written and fun (this is, astonishingly, NOT a harem show) These just get left unresolved in the mad dash to wrap up the main plot. 

The animation and art design was quite good (with the sole exception of the little mini-mechs, which never looked or moved right). Unlike the plot, this does not seem to have suffered much at the end and remains high quality throughout.

Knights and Magic, despite its painting by numbers premise, had a LOT of potential and seems to have had some real skill and talent working on it. It really does seem that the show was cut short unexpectedly and that is unfortunate. However, we should probably keep an eye on the director Yusuke Yamamoto and the writer Michiko Yokote in the future. Because both of these people have definite skill in their craft.

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September 23, 2017

Aerospace Projects Review

Well, I got one of those status E-mails from Patreon bearing the distressing news that Scott Lowther is sending plain language calls for asistance in advertising. Without an increase in sales he has to consider hanging up the slide rules and calipers on one of the best internet resources for aerospace history out there. 

It seems that his sales are running about 50 copies apiece, and considering that his prices are astoundingly reasonable and he's running all over the country to do research, he can't really justify this. 

He's not giving up yet, but he's asking for help in marketing his wares. 

And they are awesome wares indeed.

Now I know that some of my readers self-publish and know people who are masters of the ins and outs of self publishing, web-presence and web-marketing.  Can we get this fellow some advice, contacts and maybe a link storm?

 I've bought most of the available issues of his magazines and have been sufficiently impressed that I've mentioned this fellow before, but it's hard to do justice to how unique this publication really is. on this here link, scroll down and browse. The individual issues contain exactly what they say on the tin. If you don't find those topics transcendentally are wrong. 
A random sampling of articles:
Northrop ST-38 Space Trainer: a rocket-powered T-38 for trips to space
"Have Sting:" A General Electric design for a gigantic orbital railgun 
JPL Thousand Astronomical Unit probe: A spacecraft into interstellar space 
Integrated Manned Interplanetary Spacecraft: A Boeing concept for a giant spacecraft to Mars and Venus 
Convair Inflatable Spacecraft: an early spaceplane concept 
One Man Space Station: A 1960 McDonnell concept for a tiny space station 
Astroplane: A lightweight aircraft for the exploration of Mars 
Reactor-In-Flight Test: A Lockheed nuclear-powered stage for the Saturn V 
Project Orion, USAF and NASA 10 meter designs. This article presents many never before published Project Orion technical diagrams.
ROMBUS/ITHACUS: the Douglas concept from 1963 for a million-pound payload SSTO, and its stablemate that could rocket 1200 fully loaded US Marines anywhere in the world 
Convair Mach 4 Seaplane Bombers, by George Cully 
Convair's flying submarine.

I gather that his Patreon will soldier on regardless ( that is separate from the magazine and he's doing fiction there as well).

Given that each issue runs between $6 and $10 bucks and tend to have 80 to 140 pages of aerospace might have been goodness you all should probably run on over and start buying before it's gone.

With a little better marketing, it will not come to that, there is no way that there are only 50 people on the internet willing to spend 9 bucks on the stuff in this publication.

Said stuff includes actual designs for space battleships powered by atom bombs.

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September 22, 2017

This Did Not Suck

The Orville does not seem to be high art, but it's solid. I've seen two episodes and I'm tentatively optimistic.  

I was (pleasantly) surprised that its not a typical Seth McFarlane 44 joke a minute comedy, but rather a very Star Trekesque show done largely straight with a sitcom side-plot and a fair amount of snark. 

One thing I do like is that this is not the United Federation of Planets Planetary Union flagship/hottest, most cutting edge starship, but a mass produced 5th rate scout vessel whose captain and several of his crew have and this is their last chance to avoid being cashiered. They have this chance due mainly to a severe fleetwide crew shortage due to the recent massive expansion of the Union. This is, however, a small ship, with routine duties, so how much trouble could these spacers possibly get into?


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Something That Reassuringly Bucks the Gestalt of the Age

Here's a right-winger and a left-winger who disagree on much, having a rational and friendly conversation about the issues of the day.

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Puerto Rico: It Keeps Getting Worse...

In addition to the island being basically shaved by the hurricane, a dam has now burst, adding to the Commonwealth's woes. 

The island is expected to be without power for months, and the U.S.V.I. is in the same pickle

It looks like the U.S. doesn't have enough skilled tradesmen to repair the damage from three storms in a timely fashion. 

Think about what will happen if a bunch of transformers get blowed up via EMP from a nuke or solar storm. I'm sure that there are unsavory individuals making note of this. 

One somewhat bright note: there has finally been word from the Arecibo Observatory, where the scientists sheltered in place. One Astronomer was able to get a message to NASA via short wave today and reported that the 96 foot dish suspended over the crater dish has blown away. There is substantial damage to the  main (crater) dish and the stand alone dishes are gone, but the observatory and main dish appear to be repairable. 

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Transliteration Bleg

My Kanji dictionary is not handling simplified Chinese well (seeing as how it's Japanese and all). Typing in via Kana isn't working for the same reason and Google translate is giving me completely different runes for what I think this says.

Anyway, I'm trying to see if this snuff fantasy from a naval journal for killing between 125 uhhh... ten thousands of people and 265 er...ten thousands of people,  is referring to 5 yield units or 20 (I don't think the units are megatons as I know the kanjis for that 百万吨 CS & 百萬噸 TC)  

Communism just sucks!

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September 20, 2017

Direct Hit at Cat 5

The U.S. is certainly making up in sheer destruction for our last several years of luck regards hurricanes.

155 mph winds, and it looks as if the eyewall is going to pass over the whole island of Puerto Rico.

It must be especially harrowing in Puerto Rico and the U.S.V.I.

In most of the U.S. if a hurricane is incoming, you can just drive to Montana if you want to, but on the states and territories that are islands there's nowhere to run. 

Even more frightening is that we're not the worst off. In addition to the other Caribbean islands that were flattened by this series of storms, the U.S.M. has been getting nailed from above and below, with multiple high magnitude earthquakes  and a tsunami adding to their recent hurricane woes. 

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Jose' Go Home. You're Drunk!

Yeah...when the cone's a circle, they've really got no idea.

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September 19, 2017

That Thar Be Odd

The previous post be cursed. 

Probably by sea monsters.

(Art by Bubuzuke)

UPDATE: Well, it appears that the epic formatting issue in the previous post has been fixed and that sea monsters were not responsible in any way. We apologize for the hurtful, unwarranted and irresponsible speculation. 

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Avast ye scalywags! 

We've purloined ourselves some treasure. Unfortunately the sea-chest we made off with had nary a dabloon init', and instead was filled with various pieces of artwork...which we obviously cana' bury due to the lack of proper climate control in desert island sand. 

So... while we keelhaul the scurvy dog what grabbed the wrong chest, we'll be displayin' our latest booty.


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September 11, 2017

You Have GOT to be Kidding Me

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We Will Not Forget

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September 08, 2017

Jerry Pournelle Has Passed Away

Word is that Jerry Pournelle has passed away quietly at his home. 

Few have had as big an influence on Science Fiction as Dr. Jerry Pournelle. Best known as a fiction author he was also a veteran who fought in the Korean war and an engineer of some repute. He worked in the government developing advanced defense technologies in various capacities during the Cold War , he was tasked as well with various strategic studies and was very involved in civil defense issues as well. After Civil Defense was placed on the back burner by the government in favor of a more top down approach exemplified by F.E.M.A. , he helped to start the preparedness movement in the 1970's. (It should be noted that many of his views on civil defense have been spectacularly vindicated in recent weeks by the response to Harvey.)

With the late Max Hunter, he helped develop the DC-X a vtovl rocket test rig for a proposed re-useable spacecraft. It was, unfortunately, cancelled despite a succsessful test run.

Dr. Pournelle received numerous awards for fiction and nonfiction work, including the  Robert A. Heinlein Memorial Award for a lifetime achievement in promoting the goal of a free spacefaring society. It was well earned as making humanity a multiplanet society was a passion for him as was individual liberty.

I have read nothing of his, that was not enjoyable, inspiring or both. If you have not read his books, then you need to start with A Mote in God's Eye.

He left unfinished several works including an update of his earlier The Strategy of Technology, a nonfiction policy oriented essay which I particularly recommend.

I did not know Dr. Pournelle, however the dozen times or so that I interacted with him,  he was a perfect gentleman, respectful, professional and kind. 

His life was long and has to be judged successful. He went above and beyond though. His daughter is an archeologist and his son is a naval officer and in addition to blessing the world with such worthy progeny, he gave joy to millions through his prodigious quantities of fiction and hope for humanities future through his vision and wisdom.

May we be worthy of his legacy. 

We have truly lost one of the greats. 

UPDATE: Sarah Hoyt remembers Dr. Pournelle..
There is a silence after a giant falls.  We’re all concussed by the sudden loss.

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This is an Unexpected Addition to my Film Queue

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