Nov 292017

Seems they’re stepping up their game:

North Korea missile launch: The most important things to know

The most recent missile reached an altitude of about 4,475 kilometers. Experts believe that this missile has the range to reach *all* of the United States. However, the warhead, which the Norks of course are claiming was super heavy, might have been light; it might have even been another stage. Still, even if they were only chucking a soccer ball at Florida, it’s an impressive achievement for a nation full of intestinal worms.

I would be utterly unsurprised if the missile is not even remotely accurate… they shoot it at Washington, D.C. and it hits Ohio. However, it would be a much less challenging mission to deposit a single warhead a few hundred kilometers above the central US in order to set off an EMP. If they were successful in pulling that off, the death toll would be horrendous. Estimates I’ve seen go up to a death toll of up to 90% of the American population due to the subsequent collapse of the power and transport infrastructure; famine would quickly follow, but not as quickly as major cities like Chicago and New York eating themselves. However, an EMP that takes outt the US civilian power grid would do close to diddly squat to the US military… so for a few days at leas thte US military would lash out and turn North Korea into ruined wasteland. it’s a safe bet that the moment the Norks launch that EMP weapons, they’ll launch an attack on South Korea. So the death toll in North Korea would be close to total; the death toll in South Korea could be millions. And the Japanese might get in on it.

And of course once the US has been shut down, it will be clear to everybody else that Team America World Cop is out of business. Russia will invade all its neighbors. China and India and Pakistan will probably go at it. The Arab world will go after Israel. The death toll could be in the billions, and civilization could come to an effective end.

With that possibility, the math on launching a pre-emptive nuclear strike on North Korea starts looking better.

 Posted by at 12:45 am
Nov 272017

Blog readers who’ve been around long enough have seen me yammer on and on about Babylon 5. And why not: it was a great show. But I haven’t yammered on about Game of Thrones. Why? Because I didn’t watch it. When it started on HBO, I didn’t *have* HBO. It was already 3 or 4 years along before I got HBO, and I had no desire to start in the middle. However, over the years I’d catch the occasional snippet – unsurprising given the cultural behemoth the show has become. And so over the last year or two I’ve been slowly accumulating individual seasons of GoT on Blu Ray when I’d find used copies in pawn shops and thrift stores and the like for five bucks. I finally got the first six seasons, and over the last little  while I’ve watched seasons 1 through 6 and… holy carp, that’s a good show.

There is no immediately obvious link between B5 and GoT. They both started at roughly the same time… the pilot movie for B5 aired in 1993, the first GoT book was published in  1996. But while B5 was (reasonably hard, at least for TV) science fiction, GoT is fantasy (at least until in the closing moments of the series finale, likely to be aired in 2019, it turns out the whole place is an experiment set up 12,000 years earlier by Haviland Tuf). But I suspect that without B5, there’d be no GoT on HBO.

Prior to Babylon 5, virtually every TV series, certainly every science fiction series, was episodic in nature. Apart from – maybe – the series premiere, you could watch most of the entire series in a completely random fashion and not be the slightest bit confused. B5 upended that by making the series a “novel for television,” with a beginning, middle, end and a season-long post-credit scene. Stuff *happened,* it happened for a reason, there were payoffs that were planned years in advance. Characters had arcs; some were introduced or killed off for reasons of plot rather than because the actor got bored or dead or drunk.

Additionally, B5 introduced alien societies and political & religious systems in a way never before really explored for television. It made political intrigue interesting, even if the politicians were aliens.

And then many years later HBO made Game of Thrones, an arguably longer (8 seasons compared to 5, but with far fewer episodes per season) “novel for television” featuring political intrigue in “alien” political systems with wacky “alien” religions. B5 had Emperor Cartagia, GoT had King Joffrey; cut from the same cloth, they were both the sort of horrible king that pops up distressingly often in hereditary monarchies. They were both entertainingly evil to watch, and both entertaining to watch finally get what was coming to ’em.

And they both had twists and sudden deaths you didn’t see coming. And they both had deaths you didn’t *want* to see… “Sleeping in Light” and “The Door” can reduce fans to horrible gelatinous blobs of sadness.

A quarter century of technological advances mean that the production values in GoT make B5 look… well, kinda bad. B5 was there at the dawn of the first age of computer graphics for TV, and it shows. Where B5s visual effects were limited due to budget and technology, GoT has computers the likes of which the B5’ers could have never dreamed… and episode budgets vastly beyond what B5 was able to scrape together. GoT has scenes of a fully rendered navy attacking a fully rendered city… and that navy being assaulted by fully rendered dragons. Tens of thousands of individual elements, and it all *works.* As much as a dragon can be considered realistic, those on GoT are wholly believable. At least philosophically, GoT owes a debt to B5 for getting the ball rolling on the important use of CGI for TV visual effects.

Of course, GoT being on early 21st century HBO rather than late 20th century broadcast TV means that it can show things that B5 never could. It’s probably a safe bet that someone akin to Littlefinger had an establishment or two like his on B5… but we were *never* going to see that in all it’s NSFW jiggly glory. Interestingly: having binge watched the first 6 seasons, it seemed like the giggty-factor was high early on and has greatly faded. This makes some sense from a plot standpoint… at the beginning, the world of GoT was at relative peace and things took place in “civilized” environments. By season 6 everybody is too busy slaughtering each other for that sort of thing. Also: by this point, the show has about all the fans it’s going to. But early on, it was important to drag viewers in, kicking and screaming… and I suppose that was a good way to do it.

 Posted by at 12:23 am
Nov 252017

This story reminded me of the years of wild hedonism that defined my youth:

IUP to remove 170,000 unused books from its libraries

The  Indiana University of Pennsylvania library says that about half of its 486,000 books haven’t been checked out in 20 years, so it’s going to get rid of them.


I spent *years* visiting the libraries of Iowa State University in Ames and the University of Colorado in Boulder, slowly and methodically scanning through the stacks of books in the science, engineering and aerospace sections. I found a *lot* of stuff (oddly, I didn’t seem to find a whole lot of parties, booze and women there, but oh well). The stuff I found formed the beginnings of my aerospace history collection… vast piles of photocopies made from books I’d pull off the shelves, go through page by page, copy what I wanted, then put back on the shelf. A minuscule percentage of what I found useful was actually checked out.

I understand that the engineering library  at UC Boulder has removed the bulk of the books, moving them to an off-site location. Students can still access them… you simply need to put in a request for said books and they’ll show up some time later. That’s fine, *if* you know what book you want. But how much useful research has been done by simply browsing? How often does someone find something useful in the book *next* to the one they were specifically looking for?

The claim for the Indiana University of Pennsylvania library is that they are going to focus their cleanout on books that are available digitally. But how many books, periodicals, papers and such are available as scans that are just *horrible* in quality? The NASA Tech Report server is filled with old reports that were scanned by people who clearly thought that diagrams, photos and artwork were wastes of space, best reduced to 2-bit B&W images that if you squint real hard while at a great distance might vaguely resemble the ghost of the original.

If the library needs money, fine. Take if from the athletic program. Hell, cut the coaches salaries by ten percent, that alone should just about do the trick. Every year have an auction to sell off the naming rights for the next years football team. Charge double tuition for grievance studies courses. Open an on-campus liquor store and pot dispensary, all profits going to the library. Cut the pay of all Socialist teachers to minimum wage. There are better solutions than getting rid of books by the truckload.

 Posted by at 7:51 am
Nov 192017

I’m beginning to become more and more of the opinion that it just might be a good idea to segregate boys from girls in public school, at least up until junior high or high school. That way there’d at least be the potential of teaching kids in ways that are actually appropriate to them, and, much as it’s become popular to believe otherwise, boys and girls *are* inherently different in may important ways.

Take the source (“Prager U”) for what it’s worth, but there re some interesting points raised here:

I’ve long held the view, and expressed it on this blog, that standardized education isn’t for everyone. I don’t believe that society is best off by forcing everyone to stay in the same classes all the way through 12th grade. Some students would simply be better off if they were allowed the leave school some years earlier and be sent into some sort of trade; if nothing else, the *other* students wouldn’t need to be subjected to their bullying, criminality and stupidery. But as the video points out, there are good cases to be made for separating male from female lesson plans. Years ago I wrote about how some of the books I was forced to read in school damn near turned me off reading forever, because they’re just the wrong damned kind of books for me. But I do recall that at the same time I was struggling to give the very slightest of damns about “Sense and Sensibility” and “Little Women” and “I remember Mama” and “Wuthering Heights,” a lot of the girls in the class seemingly couldn’t get enough of it. But did we read Heinlein? Wells? Verne? Sun Tzu? Rand? Lovecraft? Oh, hell no.

Some might argue that it’s important to cram the “classics” into kids in order to “expose them to a wide range of literature blah, blah, blah.” But if the stuff you expose them to is stuff that they’ll *hate,* stuff that they’ll get little to nothing out of, what good are you doing? Chances are good you’re doing *negative* work. Not only are those students getting nothing out of the assignment and thus wasting their time and the teachers, they are also probably so bored that they’re kicking up a fuss that’s ruining the experience for those students who *can* get something out of it. So if there is a simple way to at least get a *crude* semblance of optimization out of the process – like, say, segregating boys from girls and letting boys be aggressive energetic little shits while the girls are, well girls – then huzzah, everybody is better off.

One common refrain is that at some point in the edumacation process, boys become aggressive in class. Not in the beating the tar out of people sense, but in the “Oooh, oooh, call on me, teacher, I know the answer” sense that modern progressives liken to “mansplaining” and “manterrupting,” while girls are less aggressive in that way. Well… fine. Then wouldn’t it be better to separate them? Teach them in the ways that’s best for ’em?

 Posted by at 8:55 pm
Nov 152017

There’s a spaceship on the screen. It is therefore a nerd-priority to determine *everything* about it, starting with “just how big is it?” Of course this exercise could be quickly negated by a simple mention of length on screen or off. But lacking that, we can logic ourselves into a rough estimate.

First up, the internet provides two photos that show canon illustrations of the ship, diagrams that appear on display screen on the bridge of the Orville:

The first shows an inboard profile of the main hull with the engine loops; the second shows a top view of the whole ship with a closer view of the cross-section of the main hull. For scaling purposes, that cross section is what we’re after. however, it must be noted right up front that the cross section, canon and used repeatedly on-screen as it is… is WRONG. it must be an earlier iteration of the designs, since there are some meaningful detail differences. The bridge, for starters, is shown further aft that it actually is. And there are lounge “bumps” fore and aft that do not appear on the final design. So it *may* turn out that the interior arrangement could be equally erroneous. However, at this time this is what we got.

Also note that the full side-view marries the 2D-drafted interior profile with what looks like 3D rendered engine loops… loops that are shown not square side-on. So, that’s also less than entirely helpful. but again… it’s what there is to work with.

OK, so how to use these images to determine scale? “The Orville” clearly hearkens back to TNG-era Trek for much of the styling. But the Orville is not a major capital ship like the Enterprise was, but a smaller vessel… like Treks Voyager. Fortunately Voyager has been well defined. There are a large number of “master systems display” inboard profile diagrams of the Voyager to pick from, including this one:

The Voyager MSD clearly shows the decks. The Orville “MSD” also shows its decks:

It’s by no means certain that the Orville uses the same spacing between decks that Voyager did… but again, it’s the best assumption that can be made at this time. So, the thing to do is to take the decks of the known-quantity-Voyager and scale the decks of the Orville to line up, like this:

Once you’ve scaled the Orville diagrams to match the deck-scale of the Voyager diagram, everything lines up looking like this:

And what this results in is the Orville being *really* close in length to the Voyager… 337 meters  for the Orville, 345 meters for Voyager. I don’t know if this was intentional on the part of the shows producers, but it wouldn’t surprise me if there’s an in-joke here that the Orville is supposed to be exactly the same length as Voyager.

So for now, and until I see something better, I’m going with a length of 337 meters for Orville. Given the lack of a “secondary hull” the Orville thus seems to have substantially less internal volume than Voyager, so probably a  smaller crew. But interestingly the Orville is *much* faster than Voyager. In the episode “Pria” it is claimed that Orville can fly at 10 light years per hour. If it was suddenly dumped 70,000 light years from home as Voyager was, it could fly home in 7,000 hours… 291 days. “The Orville” could thus copy the “ST:V” model by having the ship tossed to the other side of the galaxy – say, a season finale – and could wrap things up entirely within the next season. When the Orville gets back to Earth, rather than being met with celebrations, it’s met with “where the hell have you been? You’re late.”

Sanity check – a comparisons of the lounges and shuttlecraft between the two ships:

Looks about right.

 Posted by at 11:46 pm
Nov 142017

The BBC website has an autoplay video covering a recent “Flat Earth Society” convention in North Carolina. It certainly seems to have been better attended than it should have been. But the perpetual question about flat-Earthers is: how many of them are actual believer, how many of them are there as a lark, how many of them are outright pretending to believe? Flat Earth is such a patently ludicrous notion that it seems like it would be reasonable to suggest that most people who claim to buy into it really don’t. But then you look at the vast spectrum of stupid that humans glom onto with a passion and… yeah, I suppose there really can be that many people who actually think the Earth is a flat disk.

Why do people still think the Earth is flat?

As with most conspiracy theories, I doubt that most true believing Flat Earthers could be logicked or evidenced out of their belief. And the harder you try, the harder they’ll dig in their heels. It provides them a sense of wonder coupled with a sense of “I’m one of the *special* people because I know *The* *Truth.*” Such a feeling cannot be reliably countered with “No, you’re not.”

 Posted by at 9:28 am
Nov 122017

Anyone who has paid thirty seconds of attention to the news in the last few weeks has been unable to miss all the reports of powerful men being called out for sexual harassment on up to assault, by both men and women in lesser positions of power. Most of the complaints have been against Hollywood types, but also several political types.

It’s a sad but undeniable fact that when the accused is someone who you like or is on your side politically, you are more likely to respond with skepticism about the accusations than if the accused is someone you dislike or disagree with. A truly honest person would be skeptical of *all* claims until either the accused confesses, sufficient evidence is produced, or the accusers tales are properly vetted. But let’s be honest, it’s *really* easy to believe that some of these power-mad fantasy-land-dwellers are scumbags, and so the general response to these accusations is to just accept them at face value.

In the current political climate, it’s probably accurate to suggest that a sexual harassment accusation is more PR-damaging than an accusation of conventional physical violence. If, say, Kevin Spacey had been accused of getting drunked up and pummeling some people 30 years ago, I doubt there’d be much hoopla. How many rap stars actually *bolster* their “cred” with an actual felony rap sheet? But things are what they are; if you are suddenly announced to have been pervy decades ago, you become culturally toxic *now.*

As a consequence, we’ve got Ridley Scott rushing to replace Spacey in a movie due out in *weeks.* Netflix promptly shut down and cancelled production of Spacey’s “House of Cards.” Louis CK’s new movie “I Love You Daddy” has had its premiere cancelled, and may get stuffed down the memory hole; Louis CK was working on a new animated series with TBS called “The Cops,” this has now been cancelled. The Weinstein company may wind up going down in flames, even after they fired the guy the company is named after.

Lets assume the accusations are correct (and in Louis CK’s case, he’s confessed that they are). So you hear about this guy acting badly, and as a result his career blows up in his face, and your initial response is likely some variation of schadenfreude. “To hell with that guy, good riddance.”

But here’s the thing: these movies, TV shows and whatnot are not just the products of that one guy. The cast and crew of “House of Cards” are now SOL. There is every possibility that there was an actor or makeup artist or *somebody* in one of these now-trashed shows that that job that they busted their butts on was going to be their big break. Maybe the Weinstein Company had just signed a deal to produce some young filmmakers dream project, and now it’s vanished like a fart in the wind.

OK, here’s the ponderable. Should the bad behavior of One Guy torpedo the work of hundreds or thousands? Let’s put it in terms that readers of this blog might be more directly amenable to: let’s hypothesize that Jeff Bezos or Elon Musk is accused of the same sort of thing. Should Blue Origin or SpaceX dry up and blow away as a result? If Seth Macfarlane turns out to *gasp* convert to a Trump supporter, should “The Orville” be promptly cancelled? Heck: there is a small but non-zero chance that my own chance for fame and fortune evaporated with “Man Conquers Space,” my role as technical advisor, prop maker and vehicle designer gone due to the movie project folding because… well, reasons are unclear but claims are made and unsubstantiated in the comments section HERE.

Granted, I’m not really seeing a whole of of alternative in a lot of these cases. Hollywood is by definition all about Public Relations; when someone suddenly falls out of favor, their careers often instantly tank. Charlie Sheen, that kid who was on 2.5 Men, Mel Gibson, OJ Simpson, Bill Cosby, Paula Deen, even Fatty Arbuckle Way Back In the Friggen’ Day all found that accusations (some true, some unfounded, some on full public display) were enough to end careers essentially overnight. You tick off the public, the public may well decide to stop throwing money at you. But when these people go down, they take a lot of other folks with them.

So: when one actor or director or producer turns out to be an accused scumbag… what should happen with the work they’re doing? Work that hundreds of others rely on for paychecks, and millions of others rely on for entertainment?

 Posted by at 11:02 am
Nov 112017

NPR today ran an hour of interviews on the subject of “the West,” in the context of the clash of civilization between The West and, well, the non-West. The first interview was with Victor Davis Hanson who did a good job of defining just what is “The West.” The concept of The West is much like that of the United States… neither are based strictly on a geographic region, nor of a particular ethnicity or religion. Instead, *anyone,* no matter where born or raised or how indoctrinated, can become a Westerner by accepting the basic precepts of Westernism. Thus places like Japan and South Korea can be reasonable described as “Western.”

A New Clash Of Civilizations?

The precepts Hanson puts forward include:

  1. Free market economics
  2. Protection of private property
  3. Free speech
  4. Free expression
  5. Secularism
  6. Diversity of religion
  7. Emancipation of women
  8. Trust in rationalism and scientific inquiry
  9. Induction rather than deductive or religious superstition

Hanson also wrote about these assumptions a month and a half ago regarding the current fad for stuffing Columbus Day down the memory hole:

It is fashionable to trash the civilization that created Columbus as destructive and pathological, but those who do so often have never experienced the alternative first-hand or at length, and assume that their own prosperity, security, and protected freedoms are birthrights rather than fragilities that exist largely only in the West and Westernized Asia or emanate only from the Western anomalies of self-criticism, secular rationalism, unfettered inquiry, free expression, constitutional government, free-market economics, private property and religious tolerance.

Hanson ended that piece with this important observation:

In some strange reductionist and iconic way, the symbolic world of the Aztecs is romanticized — and left far behind; the world of Columbus is still demonized but constantly sought out.

This being NPR, though, this first good interview that defends the worth, value and importance of The West and argues for the preservation of it is followed by a series of interviews that smear the West and Westerners and those who support The West as being Nazis, rapists and Islamophobes. Because Of Course.

The final piece is about the history of contact between Elizabethan England and the Ottoman Empire. It’s interesting, but there’s one particularly telling bit. A British history professor, who has written a book on the topic, is asked by the interviewer to tell of the “wonderful stories” of Englishmen who “freely and openly converted to Islam.” And what’s the story we get? An English merchant named Samson Rolly (sic?) was kidnapped by Turkish pirates circa 1570, forcibly converted to Islam, *castrated,* and somehow winds up being the chief eunuch and treasurer of Algiers. Around ten years later an English ambassador asks Samson (now with a new name) if he wants to go home, and the guy decides to stay where he is. This “wonderful” story, which the professor chuckles his way through and calls “funny,” is the story of someone kidnapped, mutilated, brainwashed and deep within the throes of Stockholm Syndrome. And yet, it’s those who want to defend the West from exactly this sort of thing that are the bad guys in the bulk of the piece… and in a whole lot of modern culture.


Well, the first bit with Hanson is certainly worth a listen. If the embedded player doesn’t show up below, you can download the audio file HERE.


 Posted by at 5:56 pm
Nov 092017

I tried to scan some documents tonight, and the results were rather disturbing. I’ve seen this sort of thing before, but now it’s *really* bad. What could cause this, and can it be fixed… or is it time to take this scanner out into the woods and use it for target practice?

Note the lines. They *should* be straight. The paper original has straight lines, and the paper itself is good and flat, so it’s clearly something in the scanner itself.

 Posted by at 12:05 am
Nov 072017

Yes, this $375 ‘antifa’ jacket from Barneys is actually real

Anybody who would spend $375 on this deserves to be separated from their (likely trust fund) money. I only wish it was being separated my way.

Imagine the embarrassment if two Lil Snowflakes showed up at a protest both wearing the same thing.

“Dry clean only.”

The thing I find Damned Funniest, is if you go to the actual Barney’s page, you see this:

Pre-ripped jeans, no doubt. But here’s the thing that made me larf out loud:

Our model is 6’1”/185cm and wearing a size Small.


I’m pretty sure any one of my cats daily eats a heartier meal than the vegan bag-o-antlers they hired to model their edgy jacket gets in a years time.

What kind of anarchists are we raising these days? Too lazy to take a sharpie and scribble their own childish mottos onto some army-navy surplus jacket stolen from a homeless bum, but somehow equipped with buckets of disposable cash.

 Posted by at 12:38 am