Apr 222018
 

Here’s an interesting thing:

Back to the wild! How letting Mother Nature reclaim prime farmland and allowing cattle and ponies to run free produced breathtaking results

Short form:

If the writer is accurate, there was a 3,500 acre British farm growing barley and maize, and doing a poor job of it. Due to sitting on not very productive clay, the farm was barely breaking even. So the farm owners tried something different: “Screw this,” sez they, “let’s just let nature take its course.”

Rather than undergoing some complex and micromanaged conservation program, they just let the land alone. Neighboring farmers were displeased, thinking that this was going to result in a weedpocalypse. And early on they were indeed overrun with weeds. And then the butterflies came and the resulting caterpillars ate up the weeds. In the years since, with no effort on their part except for stocking a few species of critters like a native British breed of longhorn cattle, their land is now close to what Britain *used* to be like in the days before agriculture. Even better, the cattle that live there are well-fed, healthy and apparently damnfine producers of tasty beef; their numbers need to be culled to keep from over-populating. The place is now exploding with multiple bird species, deer, horses, wild pigs, insects.

A couple things:

1) Cool. Nature is spiffy.

2) This experiment takes a *giant* dump on some of the more important arguments made by vegans. The claim is often made that growing animals just to eat them is an inefficient way for humans to get nutrition and calories, since the vast farms that grow corn and whatnot to be turned into cow/pig/chicken feed could more easily just straight up feed humans. But here’s the thing: in this 3,500 acres, humans are apparently expending approximately *zero* effort, and the plants that are growing there are largely inedible to mankind. And yet… this dismal farmland, barely profitable with a whole lot of effort, is now cranking out foodcritters that are claimed to be healthier and tastier than  farmed beef. This is likely no great surprise to those who hunt their own venison and the like, but as far as I know wild cattle are much less often consumed.

I live in rural Utah farmland. The farms around here suck up a *lot* of water to turn this place into profitable land for wheat and corn… not surprising given that it is, after all, essentially the desert. But here’s the thing: I have my own nearly five acres of land. Before me, it was farmland. When I moved in, my plan was to do *nothing* with it, a promise I’ve kept. I grow no crops. And wheat and corn don’t exactly spring up on their own on this now un-irrigated land. But you know what? It’s nevertheless *alive.* It’s not at all unusual to have weeds two or three feet high out back, several acres of the stuff. Now, my land, only a few acres, is too small to be turned into some sort of nature park. And as alive as it is, it’s much too dry around here to really come to life like that British farm. But if even this dusty patch of Utah can spring to life on its own, imagine what a lot of Americas farms could become if properly non-managed. There would be a few potential advantages to re-wilding a few million acres:

  1. Stop draining aquifers. Some big ones are getting kinda close to DOOOOOOM levels of empty anyway.
  2. Meat without effort. Meat without hormones and antibiotics.
  3. Less expenditure on fertilizer and fuel. More CO2 yanked from the air and turned into oxygen.
  4. Less farmland to work… less need for farm workers. Back across the border ya go!
  5. If it’s not actually a farm, then it doesn’t need to be taxed like one… nor does it need or deserve the subsidies.

I’m not at all sure how to go about this on a major scale. Eminent domain is one way, and it is of course a desperate evil that should only be invoked in matters approaching National Security level (though using it to snag large stretches of, say, Detroit, bulldoze it and convert it into woodlands seems like an actually good use). Perhaps if farm subsidies were simply done away with, that might do it: farms that cannot economically compete without subsidies can be convinced to re-wild, perhaps via something like a twenty-year subsidy of its own. Instead of paying farmers to grow corn, you pay them – for a strictly limited period – to re-wild their land, seeding it with appropriate species of plants and animals and basically just leaving it alone. The surrounding farms would of course also lose *their* farm subsidies… but then, they are also losing competitors. Less corn and wheat on the market.

Vast privately owned stretches of nature could make money a number of ways. If the British model can be replicated, a whole lot of meat – cattle, pigs, deer, antelope, rhinos, buffalo, bison, mammoths, camels, elephants – will be self-sustaining and prosperous. Within a certain number of years their numbers will begin to push the lands carrying capacity… and then you start harvesting. Maybe some places will have some sort of industrial process where the herds of paraceratherium will be driven into pens and a certain number extracted. Others can let hunters pay to go take ’em down themselves.

 Posted by at 5:31 pm
Apr 192018
 

Taco Bell Space Station? It’s possible, panelists say

The panelists in question are at the 34th Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, and they are discussing the concept of corporate owned and corporate sponsored space stations. *NOT* rebranding the ISS, but paying for their very own space stations, and naming them after the corporation that owns them. And… guess what. Prepare to be amazed.

A number of the panelists actually understand that if you pay for something, you own it, and you’re not beholden to anyone else for what you supposed to do with it or even call it. Huzzah!

I’m in favor of a Taco Bell branded space station. And Wal Mart. And Exxon. And Weylan-Yutani. And Tyrell Corp. And Facebook. And PETA. The more the frakin’ better.

 Posted by at 10:25 pm
Apr 192018
 

For the APR Patreon I try to acquire as much interesting aerospace documentation as I can, and these items fall into two categories:

  1. Stuff that I can afford. This stuff winds up in the APR Patreon catalog of potential monthly rewards for patrons.
  2. Stuff I can’t hope to afford.

There’s a lot of the latter category of stuff. Sometimes it’s because the item has a ridiculously high Buy It Now price or starting bid, or because the item will be popular among bidders, or because it’s *really* good/big and thus worth every penny. But unaffordable is unaffordable.

However, there is an option for “stuff I can’t afford:” crowdfunding. I’ve done this a number of times with considerable success, and I’ve just done so again, winning a trio of General Dynamics documents describing a 1965 program to develop a logistics system for extending the Apollo lunar exploration program:

This set of documents was just much too expensive for an individual (well, I’m sure Jeff Bezos or Elon Musk wouldn’t have flinched), but with a group of like-mined funders it came in at $30 per person. So what happens now:

1: I wait for it to show up in the mail.

2: I make a complete set of scans in 300 DPI grayscale (and color, where appropriate) and convert to PDFs

3: I make the scans and PDFs available to funders, generally via Dropbox

4: I find an appropriate archive for the documents, and then donate the originals to them.

5: And that’s it. The files are shared with the funders, but do not appear on future APR Patreon catalogs or as purchasable, downloadable “Diagrams and Documents.” What the funders choose to do with their scans & PDFs is up to them.

APR Patrons get alerted to each of these occasional “crowdfunding opportunities.” So if you’d like to participate, please considered signing up for the APR Patreon.

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 Posted by at 12:11 pm
Apr 182018
 

The nearest town to me is Tremonton, Utah. It is a truly terrifying place… filled with country folk, ranchers, farmers, Republicans, conservatives. I’ve more than once seen the mind-snappingly frightening scene of a rancher come into one of the local restaurants or grocery or auto parts stores with a pistol on his hip, in plain view of everybody. Where even *children* can see those murderous murder machines, ready to mow down everyone in the establishment. Clearly, this preponderance of armed right wingers is what has led to this place being such a hotbed of criminality such that the headline on the latest issue of the local newspaper is this:

Tremonton sees first homicide in over 50 years

That’s two murders in only half a century! Clearly, this is a crime rate unprecedented in the civilized world. So, let’s check some math. For comparative purposes, how about the *previous* place I called home, the not-dissimilar Hollister, California. Both are relatively small, relatively dusty rural towns. According to Wikipedia, the population of Tremonton in 2010 (last census) is 7,647, that of Hollister is 34,928. Hollister is thus about 4.6 times as big as Tremonton. So if Tremonton has a murder every fifty years, Hollister should see one every 50/4.6 = 10.9 years. But then… Hollister is in the enlightened, utopian state of California, the state with the Roberti-Roos Assault Weapons Control Act of 1989, which banned the ownership of Evil Assault Weapons along with the sale of magazines capable of holding more than 10 bullets. So clearly Hollister should be that much safer than blighted Tremonton. So what’s the murder situation like in Hollister?

Fortunately, the city of Hollister maintains a website with some crime stats (although why should they need to, duh… everybody knows that California is safe as clams, what with the criminals being turned into harmless puppies by the state gun laws). According to that page, it seems there was one homicide in 2017. And there were zero in 2016. And zero in 2015! Well, case closed! Certainly no need to look further back, like to the three homicides in 2014, the four in 2013 or the one in 2012. And as for that one homicide in 2017, one need not question the confusion over the fact that there was this homicide and also that homicide, which the untrained mind might decide actually seems to indicate two homicides, not just one.

So, see? Tremonton, with its homicide rate of one per half century shows that Utah’s relatively lax gun laws and red-state culture is a terrible place compared to Hollister, where a mere nine (or is that ten?) homicides in a vast six year span show just how idyllic Californias gun laws and culture have made the place.

 Posted by at 6:40 pm
Apr 182018
 

To really no surprise, Barbara Bush, wife of George HW Bush, mother to Dubya, died yesterday:

Barbara Bush, Wife of 41st President and Mother of 43rd, Dies at 92

Babs was a dignified lady, and she sounds like she was a hoot. She and GHW celebrated their 72 anniversary a few months back… and I would not be in the least bit surprised if he joins her soon.

And now, ladies and gentlemen, let’s meet the face of the modern left wing as they deal with Barbara Bush’s passing: Randa Jararr, professor of English at Fresno State in California:

 

 

 

 

She is a *tenured* professor, which makes it quite difficult for the school to fire her (the whole point of tenure). And *should* the school fire her for her personal views, expressed on her own time and not on school equipment or systems? I believe… no. She should *not* be fired. But then, I don’t believe  that anyone expressing conservative, libertarian, scientific or Republican views should be fired either.

That said: being a publicly funded dickhole in a position to spread venomous propaganda to the generation that thinks that snorting condoms and eating Tide pods is a good idea? Yeah, there should probably be some sort of consequence. Suggestion: any parent sending their Lil Tyke to Fresno State should make sure that they don’t take any classes from Jararr.

Now, something that probably*should* result in in direct action against her and/or her bank account is a tweet should made in response to the flak she was getting. She posted her phone number in case anyone wanted to call her. Interesting, right? Except no.The phone number was actually that of the Arizona State 24-hour crisis hotline. The entirely predictable result was that the hotline was bombarded by people calling to complain to her… potentially clogging up the lines for someone who might have actually needed the service. I don’t know what if any laws that might violate, but it seems likely to be legally problematic.

Did we care about Jararr before this? nope. Doubt much of anyone had actually heard of her. And I’ve little doubt that she’ll be remembered even a few weeks from now, unless she does a masterful job of keeping herself in the news. but she is instructive about the views of many on the left: they was people who disagree with them to die, and they will celebrate those deaths. And the fact that Jararr was largely unremarkable before this is instructive: it’s not like the left was disavowing her *before* this.

 Posted by at 4:32 pm
Apr 142018
 

Refugees set for NHS payout because midwives didn’t tell them to feed baby

This is *spectacular.* So some Sri Lankans moved to Britain and had themselves a kid, but did not effectively learn the language. The kid was born with cerebral palsy. Because the parents didn’t speak adequate English, the medics who attended the birth could not explain to the parents that, you know, you need to feed the kid from time to time, and now some nine years later the kid is in bad shape in part because the parents didn’t adequately feed the kid. This is, of course, the fault of the medics who, and I’m quoting here, “failed to overcome the language barrier, directly resulting in the child suffering catastrophic brain injuries.” And now the British taxpayers are on the hook for some millions of lawsuit lotto that the family has won.

Because it’s every medical practitioners job to be proficient in every language on the planet, so long as that medical practitioner is in a western country.

Gah.

If you are a parent, isn’t it kinda *your* duty to see to it that your kids are properly taken care of?

Anyway, there was also this on the side of that page:

Two in five Brits believe multiculturalism has failed

Commissioned by anti-fascist group Hope Not Hate, the Yougov poll of 5,200 people also found that 51% of people believe immigration is putting pressure on schools and hospitals.

Huh. Wonder why.

The article says that 40% of respondents agreed with a speech given in 1968 by some guy named Enoch Powell, who was a politician of some kind. In case you are an American and don’t have an encyclopedic knowledge of all things British, here’s the speech:

In looking that up, I came across the following. It’s apparently a speech in a British TV crime drama, made by the villain of the piece. And it is a speech, if you read the YouTube comments, that speaks to just a whole lot of people. That’s the problem with forced multiculturalism: the natives didn’t ask for it. They weren’t consulted. And when they complain, they are cast as villains for wanting to keep things they way they have known them to be. And once you decide that someone is a villain for wanting to live in their own homes with their own cultures, they will sooner or later no longer give a damn about whether or not you see them as a villain. You can call someone a racist or a fascist or a Nazi or a misogynist or a sexist or a what-the-hell-ever only just so many times before the nasty word loses its sting and becomes meaningless. And when you call them that bad word for being opposed to something they can *see* as being *actually* bad… you will make them decide that that bad word isn’t something to run from, but is instead their natural ally. So good job, “progressives,” you’ve made the rise of fascism and nationalism and actual racism pretty much inevitable.

 

 

 

 Posted by at 10:22 pm
Apr 062018
 

As shown in the autoplaying video news story in the link below, the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum has built a full scale replica of the “hotel room” from the end of “2001.”

https://www.cbsnews.com/video/smithsonian-exhibit-explores-2001-a-space-odyssey/

And…

https://airandspace.si.edu/exhibitions/2001-space-odyssey-immersive-art-exhibit

It’s an interesting thing to be sure. But for *me,* they could have chosen other sets that would have been more interesting and compelling. Of course, there are problems with most.

The Aries 1b passenger compartment would be easy. Nice and flat. The Space Station V habitat area would be possible but the built-in curvature of the floor would make it challenging, as well as potentially enormous. The Clavius Base conference room? Easy, but boring. The TMA-1 dig site? Oh, my, giggitty yes, but challenging.

Pod bay? Cool, but cluttered. Centrifuge? Terribly expensive and difficult to actually do anything with… you couldn’t really put people in it, it would not be compelling from the outside; the best you could do is split it in half and have people walk between the to halves as they rotate. Discovery bridge or moonbus interior? Too small.

There is one set that I’ve wanted to build since I was a kid during the 1970’s: the passenger compartment of the Orion III spaceplane. Why? Dunno, shut up. This would be a relatively easy set to construct.But here’s the thing; don’t construct it inside some Smithsonian museum building. Built it – or perhaps several, if they’ll fit – inside a widebody jetliner. There are two possible things you could do with this set:

  1. Use it as an actual jetliner interior for long distance (transoceanic) flight. Notice how it seems like it might actually be comfortable?
  2. Say, “alright, let’s shoot for awesome” and send that jetliner onto vomit comet parabolic trajectories. for thirty seconds at a time, the passengers could ride in the replica of a spaceplane and actually *feel* like they were in a  spaceplane.

Silly? Perhaps. Expensive? Oh, you betcha. More compelling than a strange hotel room? Hell yes.

Look what the future used to have! Spaceplanes! Commercial space travel! Atomic-powered pens! LEGROOM!

 Posted by at 4:56 pm
Apr 022018
 

Yee haw, my netbook finally crashed, done in by the onslaught of Microsoft updates that were too big for it. Spent hours hunting down a repair shop that thinks they can fix it. Until then emailing and blogging and such will be reduced. This post is being done via phone, which limits posting to just text. So if you order something… there will be a bit of a delay.

 

As memory serves last night I compiled a post and scheduled it for tonight, so be on the lookout for excitement.

 Posted by at 6:07 pm
Apr 022018
 

Anybody else watching “The Terror” on AMC? You should. It is a 10-part series produced by Ridley Scott, based on the novel of the same name written by Dan Simmons. I have not read the book, but I have read the spoilery Wikipedia page. And having seen the first two episodes… without getting into the spoilers, I’ll say that if you are hankering for some low-key cosmic horror, “The Terror” is worth watching.

The short form: it’s the 1840’s, and two Royal Navel vessels, the HMS Terror and HMS Erebus, are stuck in the ice north of Canada looking for the northwest passage. This really happened; the Franklin Expedition with these two vessels and 129 men was lost, the expedition was a disaster, everybody died. Why? Because they didn’t really understand just how much nature just doesn’t give a damn about human survival. (Note: the next time someone hits you with the “fine tuning” argument, claiming that the universe is clearly made for Man, ask ’em to spend some time in sub-zero arctic conditions and see just how “made for man” that crap really is)

The Franklin Expedition is a tale of hypothermia, starvation, cannibalism, disease and lead poisoning in a truly terrible and terrifying place, hell and gone away from civilization. That alone would have made a worthy  series for AMC, but Simmons’ novel adds an element of the supernatural to it that ramps up the horror aspects. It’s not *quite* Lovecraftian, but it seems like it’ll be close.

Produced by Ridley Scott and AMC, it’s no surprise that the production values are fantastic. As are the cast… the two ships captains are played by Ciaran Hinds and Jared Harris, who you will doubtless recognize. “The Terror” uses the arctic much like “The Thing” and “At The Mountains of Madness” used the antarctic… this is a place where unprepared humans just shouldn’t venture.

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As a Lovecraftian tangential, the tale of the loss of the Franklin expedition served as the inspiration for the painting “Man Proposes, God Disposes,” by Landseer. Painted in 1864, it depicted the aftermath of the expedition, with polar bears gnawing on human bones and a Royal Navy ensign. Oddly enough, this was thought of as being in somewhat poor taste at the time. Since the 1970’s urban legend has it that if you sit next to it it will drive you mad. So…. the Necronomicon in visual form, I suppose.

The Franklin Expedition was a bit of a blow to the self image of the Victorian British Empire. British Exceptionalism – which, face it, was well-earned – took a hit when a well-funded and well-provisioned professional expedition failed and killed everybody involved. But… that’s how progress works, folks. We lost people trying to get to the Moon. We’ll lose people going to Mars. We’ll lose people trying to cure cancer and AIDS and Socialism. This universe was not made for Man and it does not care for or about us; if we live or die makes no difference whatsoever to nature or its forces, so it’s up to us to make it work. You either accept that there will be failures and loss, or you accept stagnation, decline and death.

Of course, it’s also a good idea to go into a project clear-eyed and adequately prepared.

 Posted by at 2:21 am
Mar 302018
 

I had not planned on seeing “RP1” anytime soon. Looked ok, but it really wasn’t blowing my skirts up. And then… the vitriol came out about how the movie didn’t adhere to SJW values. How it has a straight white male as a main character, and thus it’s bad and wrong that it sees the world through a straight white male characters eyes. How it doesn’t have enough Queer Representation. How nostalgia and a nerds OCD-like tendency to delve deeply into trivia are BAD.

The kind of people who seem to revel in being wrong are telling the world that this movie is wrong? Ok, I’m in.

It didn’t hurt that I had a ticket to see the movie for one buck. So, I went. And you know what? It was pretty darned good.

Is it a great movie? Naw, probably not. It doesn’t really have a Plot For The Ages, nor any great depth. The visual effects are good, but these days – and especially given that the movie is largely set within a virtual world – that’s not really so groundbreaking. But you know what it is? It’s ENTERTAINING. Hell, it’s a blast. And that is what a movie *should* be. Sure, there are a lot of damn fine movies that aren’t. Steven Spielberg directed “RP1″… and he also directed “Schindler’s List.” “Schindler” is a textbook example of High Quality Cinema. It’s a great movie, and that’s “great” in the “will go down in history” and “culturally important” sense. But what it most definitely is *not* is “a blast.” I’ve seen “Schindler,” and have very little interest in seeing it again. Just as I’ve seen “Citizen Kane,” and now I’m done with it. But I’m pretty sure I’ll wind up watching “RP1″ numerous times in the future. Because it’s fun.

Yes, it’s loaded with pop cultural references. it *bombards* you with them, drowns you in nostalgia. But that’s what the movie *is.* That’s pretty much the point. Getting to watch a Gundam and the Iron Giant taking on Mechagodzilla, or an Orcish cyborg running down a hallway of the Overlook Hotel while said hallway fills with a tsunami of blood gushing from an elevator and making the mistake of going into room 237, or seeing a dead rich guys funeral where his casket is the casing of a photon torpedo, or watching the DeLorean time machine racing the Mach 5 and Adam Wests Batmobile, or going into a workshop and seeing Lone Star’s”Eagle 5” in the back being worked on… that’s what this movie is for. Complaining that this movie is filled with that sort of thing is like going to “Cats”and complaining that there are way too many singing cats.

So, if’n yer in the mood for some entertaining eye candy, “Ready Player One” will do the job. Any movie where the female lead is dancing in zero gravity while wearing a slinky, unrealistically form-fitting dress and she suddenly whips out a US Colonial Marines M41A Pulse Rifle… I’m there.

 Posted by at 5:19 pm