September 30, 2020

Why I'm on Team Mask.

A LOT is being said by people I usually agree with and even look up to regarding the oppressive tyranny of having people wear masks, and how this is an unnecessary and useless annoyance, a violation of our civil rights and a sign of submission to a tyrannical state 

I disagree.

If we're going to open up (and I think we should have done so before now) we need to do everything in our power to slow the transmission of this bug. It may be less lethal than it was earlier in the year due to improved treatments, but it is still very lethal to the elderly and the vulnerable. 

While it is true that masks (other than N-95, N-99 and equivalent) provide very incomplete protection, they do provide some, and if everyone is wearing them their aggregate effect is substantial. We've seen this demonstrated in places like Japan, Korea and Singapore where they have been quite effective. 

There is an anti-mask meme going around about a fellow using a chain link fence to stop mosquitoes. This is...flawed.

The virus itself is indeed tiny enough to avoid most facemask fibers, but is generally attached to water droplets and dust particles that are much less so, and thus a significant percentage of viri can be caught by less effective coverings.  Also, the purpose of the mask is not necessarily to protect the wearer, but to prevent spread, with lower grade masks this is to prevent the wearer from transmitting the disease and thereby protect those most vulnerable. If an asymptomatic person and a vulnerable person nearby are both wearing masks, the chances of transmission to the vulnerable individual are significantly reduced. 

A good analogy is the "Duck and cover!" drill that scared so many of us as children during the cold war. That desk we were hiding under (or a convenient ditch) was not going to provide any great protection against an atomic explosion. However, it was one of the few measures that was demonstrated to work...albeit on a macro scale. Ducking and covering, would, in a statistical sense increase ones chances of avoiding injury by an amount that was statistically significant in the aggregate. A, let's say, arbitrarily, 2 percent increase in chance of survival is of no great significance to an individual. However, in a nation of 300 million, that's six million more people alive than there would be otherwise. These macro trends are how public health decisions have to be made. 

I find it amusing that the sneering douchebags who poo poo'd the duck and cover drills as futile are draconian about the masks, and those who understand the grim and desperate calculus behind the old cold war drills and who arm up and  prepare for all manner of catastrophe, won't wear them.

Increasingly the retort to this from the right is the libertarian principle of "Why should I give a f**k about the vulnerable?...I don't like it...ain't gonna do it"

Well, there are counterarguments to that, but as a conservative, I'm unpersuasive by association, so I'll let Karl Kasarda, one of the more Libertarian Libertarians that have Libertarian'd on Gun Tube to explain almost exactly how I feel. 

This is part of an unrelated Q&A session, if for some reason, it doesn't queue up to the right point, the relevant bit is at 39:50

He is kinda wrong about herd immunity being unachievable without a vaccine. In the early 1600's the Natives of North America achieved herd immunity to chicken pox without a vaccine, (but that was a sub optimal outcome for them). Now, the Chi-Com bat-soup-pestilence is nowhere near as dangerous a disease as that, but it has killed almost half as many people as flu1918 did in about one third the time. 

Kasarda also at one point suggests that those not on team mask are sociopaths, but I don't think that is either helpful or even correct. I think most of them are just either autistically oblivious, or fed up with being pushed around.  And in fairness, they do have some completely valid points that don't involve masks. 

The lockdowns seemed like a good idea with the info that was available (particularly the calamity that was befalling Italy) at the time but the implementation in many locales WAS tyrannical. 

The restrictions ARE likely to be a template for any oppressive measures to control the citizenry.  
The masks ARE seen by certain of our leaders as a symbol of which they ditch as soon as they think the cameras are off
The examples of political targeting with and selective enforcement of the restrictions ARE numerous. 
Perhaps the most worrying trend was the snitch lines reminiscent of the East German Stassi. Furthermore, the prosecutions of protestors, in cars, wearing masks who only wanted to open their businesses, and Parishoners in cars, for violating lockdowns which was followed,  by the initial waves of the still ongoing riots  as not applicable to epidemiological precautions...which were being explicitly endorsed  by  the same health care providers who had pushed for the lockdowns...well that did not inspire confidence that restrictions are not politically motivated cruelty. 
Finally, the devastation wrought on small businesses by the lockdowns and the hyper acceleration of worrying trends in retail and real estate by them have done nothing to alleviate the fears of those who feel (rightly to an extent) that the powers that be hate them and will miss no opportunities to screw with them. 

Note though, that those valid points are about the clumsily targeted lockdowns and not the masks, which are lumped in with them  by a beleaguered and miserable public.

However, if we are to continue to open up again I REALLY don't think that a mask is the hill to die upon. Indeed, to the extent that it mitigates the spread, it will prevent further devastating lockdowns by making them unnecessary and indefensible even to those who gain a sadistic pleasure in inflicting them upon us. 

With regard to those smug nags who look down on those who chafe at the lockdowns as if they were impatient children, I think it was Pete who mentioned in the comments some months back that there are two Americas right now. 

There are those like myself who are unaffected or making MORE money than usual, and those whose lives have been absolutely devastated by the lockdowns. I see little difference in empathy levels between the oblivious libertarians who refuse on "principle" the basic civic duty of wearing a mask to prevent the spread of a disease and the contemptuous indifference that those who can continue their jobs via ZOOM have towards those who are loosing everything while those who hold the keys to power keep them imprisoned. 

The minor annoyance of wearing a mask when in a store or using public transit seems like a small price to pay for ending both the economic and human nightmare, and seems like an easy way to give some protection to those who are most vulnerable to this gift from the CCP. 

This being an election year, there are other practical, though less universally appreciated  reasons to wear a mask as well; ones that don't actually involve giving a hoot about anyone else. The vulnerable are largely old people and if they die of the Wu-Flu before November 3rd they will surely (as the dead are wont to do) end up voting Democratic. 

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September 28, 2020


Friday night I updated my iMac. 

The update has pretty much nuked my computer. It's slow as molasses now. Loading a picture in the previous post took 6 minutes. I looked up fixes and noted a lot of inquiries along similar lines. The "fix" given involved waiting 24 - 48 hours for the computer to reset all systems. Now, 4 days later,  I can use the internet watch videos OK now but anything dealing with accessing files takes forever, and Preview wont even show thumbnails. It takes over 15 minutes to boot up the computer. I think I might just return the computer to factory settings and be done with this.

I'm not a terribly computer savvy person (Obviously...I use a Mac) so I don't check my blog for tech tips. If I had, I would have spent much less than 13 hours trying to deal with this issue. Thank you J. Greely for putting the workaround links in the comments. Apple REALLY wants you to solve this problem by installing Catalina. The links you provided allowed me to re-install Mojave (which Apple seems to be hiding in the app store)and saved me from that fate. 

Thank you. 

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September 25, 2020

Meanwhile On Planet VENUS...

..13 Russian space probes are scattered across the surface, 3 reduced to cinders 10 crushed, melted and dissolved by heat, pressure and acidic atmosphere akin to that near the mouth of an underwater volcano. 

"Our country [the Soviet Union] was the first and only one to successfully land on Venus,” [Dmitry Rogozin, the director general of Russian space agency] said in an interview with The Times. "The spacecraft gathered information about the planet — it is like hell over there.”

"We believe that Venus is a Russian planet,” he added.

There are a couple of ways to take this affront to the Outer Space Treaty.
1: Assume it was said in jest. Take it not seriously at all. 

2: Embrace this affront to the Outer Space Treaty and let them have Venus. After all. Given that precedent, we've got footprints on The Moon! Those flags were artesianally erected! It's an American Mercury sized spacerock! 

Ahem. Then of course there's the matter of Mars, which is as American as Venus is Russian, and Titan, which using that logic is currently owned by Brussels. 

This non-sequitur comes on the heels of a recent discovery that might indicate life on the hellish planet. 

Specifically, a team of scientists from Cardiff University have discovered phosphine gas in the clouds of Venus

Now on Earth, Phosphine is produced in two ways. One is by chemists mixing white phosphorus and sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide, and the other is anaerobic bacteria, doing their anaerobic thing. On Earth bacteria are the only natural source so to see this gas in the clouds of Venus is seen as being a possible biosignature. Also, the gas is highly toxic to aerobic (oxygen breathing) life, it's only a signature of anaerobic life, which, due to the lack of free oxygen on Venus would be the only life that might stand a chance. 

I only have a degree in History, so I'll let one of our crack team of science babes explain why skepticism might well be warranted. 

A lack of oxygen is the least of the problems with life on Venus. The temperatures and pressures are far beyond anything even the most hardy extremophiles on Earth can endure. At the temperatures at Venus's surface, organic chemistry breaks down. 

Venus dirt as photographed by Vega 13 moments before it imploded, and presumably melted and dissolved in the high pressure acid bath. 
One theory is that the anaerobes exist high in the atmosphere (where the phosphine is). How the bacteria would  fly/float 20-50 miles up is unexplained. While on Earth the only natural source of Phosphine is anaerobic bacteria, Venus, by virtue of its temperatures, pressures and highly reactive chemical soup of an atmosphere, might be pulling off chemistries we don't understand. 


 In an earlier post we noted that Vega 13 which took the above picture had detected phosphoric acid (H3PO4) in the lower atmosphere. In fact, at the lower levels of the Venusian atmosphere, Phosphoric Acid is in similar proportions to what  the Sulphuric Acid is at higher altitudes. Phosphine is H3P. So in this crucible of ungodly pressures and temperatures, all that is needed to create Phosphine is somehow drop the 4 oxygens from Phosphoric Acid, note too that Phosphine because of its composition is much lighter and so would float up. 
 I'd frankly sooner expect glaciers on Mercury than life on Venus.

Oh wait.  

So I wouldn't completely rule out life in the clouds. Still, I think the non-biological explanation is more likely.


This might still be big news.

IF there IS phosphine in the clouds at the human habitable altitudes and IF this isn't bound up in some fragile ecosystem, then a floating cloud base on Venus could filter out phosphorus for use on Mars and other places. 

We mentioned this in the earlier post when looking for something that might make the proposed cloud bases. economically viable, though in that case we were thinking of pulling up the phosphoric acid from 20 miles down, which was a logistical matter we did not dwell upon. If phosphorus is in phosphine gas at the habitable altitudes then phosphorus extraction becomes much simpler.  Phosphorus is pretty important, to the extent that assuming settlements on the Moon, Mars and in habitats, it could be the Dilithium, Spice Melange, or Vibranium of a real solar economy. Heck, with concerns about "peak phosphorus" it might be something from space that would actually make economic sense to have shipped to Earth.  I don't know what processes or reagents would be needed to crack phosphine but it bears some investigation. 

A lot depends on what concentrations this recently discovered phosphine is in, whether or not it's tied up in some unearthly ecosystem, and, in the unlikely event that it is, if it can be harvested in commercially viable quantities without destroying the biome that produces it. However as we mentioned in the earlier post Venus has 4 times as much sunlight as earth, 4 times as much Nitrogen, Calcium, and Phosphorus plus, Water and Oxygen can be cracked from the atmospheric acids. A hypothetical  floating outpost on Venus as proposed by NASA in 2014, can mine Phosphorus and Nitrogen....and grow its own food, perhaps a surplus of food, and because breathable air is a lifting gas on Venus,  the floating part is fairly straightforward.  A exploitable source of phosphorus could be a huge boon for agriculture here on earth as well as make it much more practical to to expand human presence throughout the solar system. To that latter end as well, the nitrogen, of which Venus has 4 times as much of as earth would be invaluable in providing air to habitats throughout the solar system. 

Brickmuppet Blog may not be the only outfit mulling over this hairbrained scheme. After all it was right after the Phosphene was confirmed to exist that the head of the Russian Space Agency declared the most inhospitable planet in the inner solar system to be Russian. 

NASA's Project HAVOC which we mentioned in detail in the earlier post. One interesting thing that was noted in the report was that the light is so intense at Venus that solar panels can be put on the bottom of the floating station and sunlight reflecting off the clouds will give them better performance than those on Earth. 

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September 22, 2020

Oh Look

...there's a Selkie.

I'll give them points just for that. 

Not a monstergirl any of us were expecting...especially in a bikini. 

From episode 2 of Monstergirl Doctor, which follows two rookie doctors, straight out of med-school who are starting out their own private clinic in the town of Lindworm. 

One of the doctors is a young man and his business partner is a 24 foot long snake woman. You see, the show is set in a fantasy world populated with sentient versions of the D&D Monster Manual. Both the human and snekgrrl are doctors specializing in non-human races...most of whom haven't historically been serviced by the medical profession until recently. 

The animation is diffident though the art itself is good. The character designs are by Z-Ton, and the stories, while fairly anodyne are low level medical mysteries. But there's a difficulty: This is set in a medieval fantasy world with little or no magic. They understand germ theory and are practicing "medicine" as we understand it (with reference books, medical exams and treatment) , but their tech level is otherwise is high middle ages or renaissance. Which is kind of interesting and weird. 

Despite the hype (and the first minute of episode 1) Monstergirl Doctor, is, perhaps surprisingly, both SFW and wholesome.  So, yeah, it subverts expectations...but in a good way. 

My only concern after two episodes is that I'm not sure it's going anywhere. Still, it's a pleasant enough 30 minutes. 

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September 19, 2020


Scrimshaw be from the ole' Strikewitches Gacha Game...fer some reason. 

2020 be givin' everyone the black spot, but there's no need te git yerselves 3 sheets to the wind. Take a moment from battenin' down the hatches for storm season and bring a spring upon yerselves to more pleasant endeavors, at least fer a bit. 


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September 18, 2020


Ruth Bader Ginsburg has passed. 

She was a smart woman who fought tenaciously for what she believed in. I gather she knew the end was near and was trying to last until the election. Whatever one might think of her jurisprudence, she seemed to have a great deal of class and even in her frail last years carried herself with considerable dignity. 

If so inclined, I suggest saying some prayers for the Notorious RBG... and for our country, for I fear that things are about to get very...passionate.

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Lazy Writing

The writers at 2020 the Ongoing Series are starting to re-use scripts from the winter season. 

Fortunately this bug is not terribly contagious, not especially deadly and is easily treatable.

But still...

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Obituary Cancelled

I've been monstrously busy of late. However, I've been online a little and on Wednesday I noted that the very last post by Pete Zaitcev was over a week ago and read as follows. 

Due to some circumstances, I was pocket-carrying a Shield 45 in Boraii mini-holster all day today. It works very well with jeans, belt size 38.

Because "some circumstances" are burning down American cities and at least one plot of forrest, having this be the last word from Pete was cause for alarm.

However, moments ago,  just before hitting "publish" I double checked and there was another 'tweet' (Plier?) regarding ammunition availability that was made today, so there is no need to publish any retrospective regarding アニ・ノート or Pete's contributions to the anime blogosphere since before 2009. 

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September 13, 2020

It's 2020 in Another World

Well. I'mma gonna take that as foreshadowing. 

Re: Zero is back! Actually, it's BEEN back for 10 weeks but I'd missed it while fighting off harassment and distractions foisted upon me by a nefarious group I'll refer to henceforth as the I.R.L.

Anyway. The first two episodes of the lates installment  of this excellent show are quite solid. At this point, understanding that I'm 8 behind,  I'm recommending it heavily. 

In other cutting edge, breaking news of the trivial: A Certain Scientific Railgun Season 3 has been going for 23 weeks. 3 episodes in, it is actually looking to be up to the previous two seasons' standards. 

Heck, even the most annoying lesbian in all of the future gets an awesome scene

There are several other shows that look to have promise and the I.R.L. is being less least with my internet connection, so tardy reviews may be forthcoming. 

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Meanwhile: On the Roof of the World

India is moving 12 steel hulled patrol boats to Pangong Lake, a large Himalayan glacial lake at the center of the current unpleasantness between China and India. The undertaking of this logistical feat is in response to the sudden appearance of numerous Chinese naval patrol boats on the other side of the lake. 

The latter had badly outmatched the Indian zodiac boats, and now there is again parity.  Kind of like Lake Champlain in 1814. 

When looking this up, I learned that there is a Tibetan national army. This surprised me. Then I learned that it is part of the Indian is seen by its troops and India as analogous to things like the Free Polish army of WW2 and it trains for one thing; to fight China. 

There is an overview of the situation from an Indian perspective here. 

Do note that this is where China, "Tibet", Kashmir, India, and Pakistan all meet. This is challenging physical geography and combustible political geography. 

China: 320 nuclear warheads
India: 150 nuclear warheads
Pakistan: 160 nuclear warheads

There is more on this here, here, and here

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Gender Reveal Parties: Threat or Menace?

By now most of you have heard about the idiots who set off the fireworks at a gender reveal party, thereby igniting one of California's current wildfires

Well it's not just California where these bridezilla recidivism incidents go haywire, it appears that one just went off the rails in Canada and at least 80 shots were fired

Was there a betting pool? What? Why?

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I Suppose Delta Airlines is Particularly Enthusiastic

We asked our Crackerjack team of Science Babes to report on the latest breakthroughs regarding the Flying V

However, due to poor communication there was some confusion, so I'll just link to this story at Ars Technica

Flying V is a type of aircraft that has been talked about for some years. In theory a Flying V aircraft with the same passenger capacity as a standard airliner would have about 20 percent less fuel consumption. The design has not been pursued until recently because that's only a theory and there were other theories that the design would just not get off the ground, or flip over and crash. Airbus rejected it, but the engineer who developed the concept hopped the border to the Netherlands and the idea was taken up by Dutch Airline KLM, who have built a scale model and successfully flown it. 

Theres a concept video on YouTube...

...which is WAY more impressive looking than the actual event. 

But the test is not CGI. It's actual engineering. There's more on this at New Atlas. Which notes that the baseline for the 20% fuel savings claim  is the Airbus A350-900 and that unlike most flying wing proposals, a Flying V would have the same or smaller wingspan. This would solve the achilles heel of most flying wing airliner proposals, the notion that airports would have to be massively rebuilt for the new planes. With this they wouldn't. 

All this assumes that the thing actually scales up well, which is far from a sure thing. Still, it's nice to see innovative and frankly futuristic looking designs being looked being the 21st century and all. 

I'm all for more Syd Mead and less Mad Max. 

Image via Slash-Gear

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September 11, 2020

19 Years It's Been

...since those planes struck from incredibly clear skies. 

19 years ago, after the terrible events of that September and the subsequent anthrax attacks, there were predictions in some quarters that we'd end up locked in our houses in fear watching our cities burn and living in dread of unnatural plagues. 

How people can have been so very right and yet simultaneously so utterly wrong is worth pondering. 

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September 05, 2020

Wow. This Guy's Good.

He has a great singing voice and actually pulls off this song, which is no mean feat. 

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September 03, 2020

So today at work...

...I was in a state of frenzy dealing with an insane number of boxes and smalls bags when somebody shoved a tote of small packages onto the set of rollers that fed the totes to me to sort to the proper belt. there was one tote at he very end next to me, a lot of empty rollers, another full tote, and the tote that had been cast onto the belt, which hit the tote at the far end and stopped cold upon hitting the other tote. 

That second tote was propelled with great force down the belt which caught my eye just as it hit the tote full of stuff at my end of the belt knocking it off, creating a huge mess, and causing a metal rod to pop out and cut me. 

And I thought to myself "Wow, that was just like a short-stroke gas piston." And then I thought to myself " I probably spend too much time watching Forgotten Weapons." 

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September 02, 2020

The Evolution of Men's Business Attire

Update: I just figured out where I must have gotten this

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September 01, 2020

Here's a Headline to Remind You That You're in the FUTURE

Flight Crews Report Man In A Jet Pack During Final Approach To LAX

There's little to add except, don't take your jetpacks into the flightline

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Meanwhile, in Mozambique

The Islamic State (remember them?) has seized the Mozambiquean port of Mocimboa da Praia. This is significant for three reasons:

1: This is a major achievement for a defeated organization. (and I'm not being sarcastic, they were thoroughly trounced in Syria). 
2: It is FAR outside the usual stomping grounds of The Islamic State and its affiliated groups. (West Africa, The Levant, North Africa, Afganistan and neighboring countries, and the Philippines) 
3: The city in question is a particularly strategic node, being a deepwater port and also very close to natural gas fields.
4: The actual defeat of the army and seizure of the town took place 19 days ago. The Jihadists have HELD the city and are moving on the nearby gas fields
The Islamic State had, at its height, expanded into or incorporated into itself, many similarly motivated organizations worldwide from Boko Haram to the Sultanate of Sulu. Many of these federal arrangements seem to have actually survived the collapse in Syria and  to have given the organization redundancy and staying power.  Moreover the Islamic State has a history of growing and moving very quickly. It is, after all a revolutionary religious movement and is quite charismatic in ideology to a certain segment of Dar al islam. The fact that they are this organized has implications going forward. While the IS is of little apparent direct threat, particularly at the ass end of the planet, they are an active and enthusiastic sponsor of terrorism. The organization has a history of financing themselves via creative smuggling of petrochemicals and have proved adept at bypassing blockades. If they secure the gas fields they may be able to turn that into financing to purchase weapons and support terrorists in the U.S., Europe and other places. The Islamic State and its confederated "Caliphates" are known to have close ties with certain Latin American drug cartels including technical assistance. The group can conceivably use their smuggling infrastructure to insert agents, and or weapons into the U.S., perhaps to contribute to our current domestic urban chaos. A safe haven for The Islamic State allowing them time to build infrastructure has other implications as well, though mainly in the longer term. 

Sallying forth to slay dragons in some awful land war in Africa is a dubious and daunting prospect with no political support here. It also would take attention off the primary strategic goal of deterring China.  Certainly the locals need to be given ample time to take care of the situation themselves, but this is a situation that should be watched carefully. 

For one thing 1500 Civilians are dead and 250,000 are displaced. The last time The I.S. did this it caused a humanitarian crisis that had notable effects in Europe, Mozambique is more isolated, but the effect on such  countries as Botswana, and South Africa, (the former one of the few stable Sub-Saharan states, the latter with its own problems) could be quite disruptive. 

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