November 10, 2019

A Message for Facebook and You-Tube


An explanation for this nonsense is here, here, and here.

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I Have No Idea What's Going on Here But I'm Pretty Sure I Whole-Heartedly Approve of It



Art by Sukabu. Buy his artbook!

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November 06, 2019

Robert Mitchell Jr.

There are people who storm enemy held positions, climb distant mountains, cure diseases, invent wonders, or are lauded as celebrities and "influencers". The praises of those sorts of people are sung constantly.

There are other metrics for a consequential life.

Robert Mitchell Jr. was never married and his visible achievements consisted of a comic book store.

However, known to his friends as "Bob!" he touched myriad lives and was a remarkable force for good. In 1990, Bob worked as a clerk at a store called World's Best Comics, which was teetering on the edge of oblivion during the comic market collapse of the early '90s. He bought out the senior owner when it looked like the store was going to go under and because of his astute sense of the market and his willingness to live on a shelf behind the new release rack he pulled the store through what was a bloodbath in the local market. 85% of the comic stores in Southeastern Virginia went out of business in the early 90's. Bob diversified and became a local institution.

Bob wasn't just better than most at business though, he was a better than average person. Bob would give you the shirt off his back, and in many cases he literally did.

Bob gave support, advice, sometimes a place to stay, and frequently a reference to literally dozens of young men who got hit by the buzzsaw of life and just needed a few days or weeks to get on their feet. Some of those people went on to great things. A few of them work now in Hollywood or in the video game industry. Inevitably, some of those people took advantage of him. Indeed, some of them so resented the fact that they owed him everything that they turned on Bob, in two cases, trying to get him arrested. And yet in spite of it all, Bob continued to do little these bits of charity here and there.

Bob lacked tack and did not dress elegantly, but he was a true gentleman. Bob was, my father aside, the most honest person I ever met. He ALWAYS kept his word. He was, superficialities notwithstanding, a real gentleman.

For several years, he had made an annual pilgimage to Japan to  get anime and Manga related goods for his store. These were not readily available in the U.S. in the '90s. Along the way, he had learned all the tricks for budget travel in Japan. I would never have gone to Japan had Bob not acted as a tour guide in 2007. I am not the only person he did this for. At least a dozen people, many of whom he hardly knew, were shown the ropes of the dirt cheap Japan tour, some of whom have parlayed that into their own careers. The memory cards with the pictures of that 2007 trip and most of my pictures from the days when I worked part-time at his shop were destroyed when my house as taken out by a tree a few years later. Neither Bob nor myself was particularly sentimental and I now realize that this picture, from that above-lined post, may be the only picture I have of him. 


At the HIJNS Mikasa

More importantly, than his services as halfway house and travel agent, Bob helped me to appreciate what friendship is.

In 1993-4 I was at my absolute darkest hour. Basically everyone in the local fan community had turned on me because, well, there was drama. I did something that was unpopular in the circles of local anime, SF and comic book fandom. I still think I was correct but I was seen as violating fan solidarity.  The point is that this controversy, over night, changed my social credit rating in the local community from "cosmo guy" to "pariah" and further resulted in my own business venture exploding in my face; landing me in what was to me at the time, inconceivable debt, Bob remained my friend.

It was not easy to run a comic store in this area at that time, and remain my friend.

When basically everyone else in the local fandom stopped talking to me, Bob would talk.

When I was homeless, and living in my car, Bob took me in for several months. Because of Bob's help, I was able to get out from under that debt and never file for bankruptcy. About 8 years ago, when my new circle of IRL friends I'd had a decade or more began giving me "The quiz", Bob did not put his finger to the wind and see which way it was blowing before doing a cost benefit analysis on our friendship. Bob was my friend. He was one of the last of my local IRL friends.

I never adequately thanked him.

Now I never will.

Robert Mitchell Jr. was found dead in his shop this morning by his clerk.

There had been a health scare earlier this year, but he had been improving. This was quite unexpected.

This tragedy will get no coverage beyond a few obituaries, but something of great consequence has been lost. Bob, was a fine man and a remarkably positive influence on innumerable people especially here over the last 40 years.

He will be missed more than he imagined.

I am numb.

Godspeed Bob.

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November 05, 2019

Bagger 288

A short documentary examining the operation of and rationale behind the largest and second heaviest mobile ground vehicle on earth.



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November 04, 2019

Contingencies

Winchell Chung, who has one of the awesomest websites on the internet over at Atomic Rockets has just added to his Realistic Designs Catalog a study from 1983 that applied considerable efforts to finding out the answer to what one should do if one finds oneself in need of a manned space battlecruiser armed with high yield energy weapons.


"Ya know...as one does."

I find absolutely glorious that DARPA actually did this study and even better that they came up with something that would work. In 1983 they weren't sure which weapon would be better, so the design has a laser, a particle beam and a railgun each powered by its own nuclear reactor which doubles as an engine. The main focus of the exercise seems to have been figuring how to provide short but massive bursts of electricity for energy weapons from nuclear reactors that could be operated around people. However ,there was attention given to the ship as a whole, including, heat dissipation, radiation protection for the crew and the vessel has artificial gravity for extended operations. There is an extensive analysis at the above link, go read it in full.


Note that the fact that this version has now been declassified meaning that this is presumably the obsolete U.S. design for a space battle cruiser.
 
A PDF of a very crappy mimeographed copy of the report is here.

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Flash Gordon and the Ministry of Truth

Actually it's just Flash and the Ministry of Truth.
And to be honest any resemblance to the MoT is pure speculation on my part.
So were going to blame* Pixy for the stupid post title because he used a Flash Gordon pun when he linked to this post over at the Google Dev blog boasting about how they are going to put Flash (the animation program, not the planet hopping baseball player) to bed. For some reason the anonymous Hangul-proficient blogger is smug about it.

IT and cybersecurity are not at all in my wheelhouse, but I understand that there are some security issues with Macromedia Flash, so there might be some technical justification for this decision. However no such reason is mentioned anywhere in this announcement. There is this though...

  Flash was the answer to the boring static web, with rich animations, media, and actions. It was a prolific technology that inspired many new content creators on the web. It was everywhere. The Flash runtime, which plays Flash content, was installed 500 million times in the second half of 2013.  I still remember my son playing endless number of Flash games until my wife yelled at him. It's time to go to bed, son. Hey Flash, it's your turn to go to bed. 


It goes on to mention that anything using flash will no longer be visible via Google Search and they seem inordinately pleased with themselves about this loss of functionality, so much so that it got me to thinking about "chocolate rations" and since NO technical reason was given I find myself focusing on what they did say seems to make little sense. Let's review: "Flash YAY! Wonderful tool Yay!" We're cancelling it! Yaaaay! Oh, and we're totally your momma." Or further contexualized and simplified..."Derp!"


So now we've got to read between the lines, which is always fraught.

We see them note that Flash opened up the web and was intimately associated with an era of intense creativity, However,  sifting through the white pixels we note that what is not said is that this growth was driven by amateurs and people who came from the outside who were generally un-credentialed but talented and brought about a vast and disruptive age of change that Google is now trying to tamp down on.

There are a lot of Flash games and a lot of sites still use flash, some of them quite worthy ones. These will soon be lost, at least to those who don't maintain specific browsers. However, the Flash games are not done by the big companies, and the use of flash is a hallmark of an earlier era, one characterized above all by irreverence and freedom that Google/Alphabet would very much like to close the door on. The sorts of sites that use Flash, and the sorts of ideas presented in many of those animations are the sorts of knowledge that Google and their ilk would just as soon purge, if they make those sites unsearchable, they will have done so.

Now. It is important to appreciate, or at least assume that people one disagrees with do not, as a rule, share their motivations with Snidely Whiplash, or some Captain Planet villain sitting in their headquarters cackling that "Today..I will be EEEEVIL!" However, I find it hard nowadays, at least with with Google, to not ascribe their actions to malice.

So...


There are IT people who frequent this site.

Please explain in small words to this Bachelor of History why Google's decision is a solid one from an IT perspective and does not actually serve to erase a big swath of knowledge and history from the 'net. For bonus points explain why what appeared to be sadistic and patronizing glee is justified and appropriate.



*Note: This does not constitute any actual evidence of causation or responsibility on the part of Pixy Misa. Pixy is merely being blamed.

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November 03, 2019

OK That's it. We're Done

The hawks have learned to use fire.

"At or around an active fire front, birds – usually black kites, but sometimes brown falcons – will pick up a firebrand or a stick not much bigger than your finger and carry it away to an unburnt area of grass and drop it in there to start a new fire,” says Bob Gosford, an ornithologist with the Central Land Council in Alice Springs, in the Northern Territory, who led the documentation of witness accounts. "It’s not always successful, but sometimes it results in ignition.” 


Evolution is amazing. We know birds can use tools. Now they're using fire. I'm sure this has implications.


Evolutionary implications by Kai Himo.

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Just Late Enough That Halloween Themed Zombie Illustrations are No Longer Appropriate

It's slow as molasses and loads on about 40% of attempts, but 8kun.net seems to be up and running. If that link is down again, here is a screencap taken at 23:16 EST on November2.


Click here for SupahSize

This is the reincarnation of 8chan, which was defenestrated by Cloudflare when that firm knuckled under to intense pressure to abandon their free speech policy.

8chan was controversial because there was a lot of vile content on the site, which was very lightly moderated. The site allowed people to set up their own "Chan style" image boards which could have any theme and moderation policies the individual board admins wanted and the thousands of individual boards had topics that included Christian fellowship, Atheist fellowship, alt-right asshattery, antifa asshattery, various flavors of /d/generacy, hobbies and crafts, history discussion, pages celebrating diversity and tolerance, foetid cesspits of hate, monstergirl cheesecake (or so I hear tell), video games, science fiction, book clubs, cooking, technology, women discussing harlequin romance novels, LGBT issues, political discussions for three dozen countries as well as all the bilious,  unsavory cray-cray one might expect from a board the broke out on their own because they thought 4chan was too...respectable. 

The rules were fairly simple, no CP, no true threats, and no incitement to violence. Because there is darkness in this world these rules were not always followed but the admins of 8chan were adept at playing wackamole with their banhammer.
 
There was also, in the politically charged boards,  a large number of people attempting to de-radicalize the nutbars and report the potentially dangerous people. I know this because I witnessed it myself.

This was not good enough the powers that be who grew increasingly vexed at the fact that 8chan was unresponsive to their pressures.After a series of shootings that had seen the butcher's manifestos posted on the site's higher trafficked boards, there came redoubled demands to have the site censored and after some brave words  Cloudflare finally knelt rolled over and exposed their necks, subsequently licking the hands of their censorious critics who no doubt assured them the that they'd be eaten last.

8chan  was re-branded 8-kun and was supposed to return on September first. However, every service that was contracted to host the thing came under intense pressure from political, corporate and some governmental entities to break their contracts and to withdraw their services.  I was quite surprised to see that the site is up this evening. As I type this there are only 72 of the old boards up, though the site's twitter page notes that they are in the process of processing 200 additional re-activation requests as of this evening.

I have little use for most of the content that will be on that site, but I think that the fact that the proprietors of the site are trying so hard to relaunch it despite such massive pressure is admirable and that they (as of tonight at least) seem to have succeeded  is a hopeful sign indeed.


Full Disclosure: Since daylight savings time has screwed everything up, and because 8chan is involved, appropriateness is no longer a consideration.
more...

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November 02, 2019

A Failure to Communicate

Is becoming the bane of our heroine.



From episode 5 of Ascendance of a Bookworm in which our heroine discovers the cost of ink and has her most cunning plans embezzled in good faith.



Anyway, minimalist animation aside, I'm still enjoying this show.

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Follow-Up to an Earlier Post

A MUCH earlier post; see, back in November of 2007 we noted that archeologists had discovered a semi-mythical submarine that was claimed to have been all kinds of advanced but was believed to have been lost in 1869, 150 years ago this year.

The SUB MARINE EXPLORER did indeed exist and  was found 12 years ago. She was intended for underwater salvage, exploration and pearl diving and sallied forth to Panama to do the latter, where her entire crew died "of fever" after a long dive.

Examination of the wreck and what was known of the sub's design indicate that they died of the bends after staying down to long and not decompressing properly. Now, a dozen years later, the reports of the survey are available online as well as photos and schematics of the submarine itself derived from the wreck that confirm other reports about how advanced the vessel actually was. The SUB MARINE EXPLORER was remarkably advanced for its day and worked, achieving most of its design goals. It had the ability to equalize pressure like a diving bell allowing its crew to exit the vessel underwater.



From the set of plans drawn up from the wreck and historical records at the Library of Congress

Sadly, reliable dive tables were not available until the early 20th century and this condemned the crew to an early grave despite everything else being done right. Unknown unknowns are among the most dangerous of things, but are inevitable when exploring new frontiers.

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November 01, 2019

On The Percieved Lack of Progress

I've seen several places lamenting the fact that  Blade Runner was set in November of 2019 and we haven't achieved the milestones presented in the film.

Oh Please:

Paraphrasing Lowther, It's true we don't have flying cars, but L.A. is a festering third world disease ridden hell hole. Technology focused Mega Corporations have bribed the powers that be and use their products like a jack boot on the throat of humanity.  The outlook for the individual is bleak despite impressive economic growth and while Mr.Musk's Mars plans are are 5-10 years in the future, a number of people DO look at them longingly for a better life (or at least a more rewarding one) in the off-world colonies. Intimately tied to why people might look at a spartan,tenuous and perilous existence working to hew from the bareness of of Utopia-Planatia, Occator or Rheasilvia, homes for future generations is that there are are now beings among us who look human but are childlike in many ways, have pre-programed violent emotional responses to certain phrases and are a fairly dangerous and worrisome addition to society.  

So really the differences come down to no flying cars and artistic license in that the SJWs don't look like Rutger Hauer or Daryl Hannah.

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