Mar 152015

That would be March 2014 through February 2015, according to NASA.

As for what this past February looked like… sure, the eastern half of the US had one hell of a winter. But then… so did the rest of the northern hemisphere. For an entirely different definition of hell:


If you’re in the US, you’ve probably heard a lot of grumbling out of California about the drought. Unless things change, you’ll probably hear a lot more as summer comes along. The farmers out here are already talking about water rationing, which is kinda bad because agriculture out here is almost entirely dependent upon irrigation using snow melt water… and there has been very little snow. But note the vast bulk of Asia. If that heat translates into drought… well, Putin has been goofy *before.* Wait until the Russian and Chinese crops fail.

 Posted by at 1:24 pm
Mar 102015

Just a few short days ago I posted a snarky piece about someone getting into trouble for something done online. Lo and behold, starting yesterday (Monday) and running all through today there has been increasing coverage of a fraternity at an Oklahoma university getting into trouble when a few seconds of video from their “party bus” hit the internet. Since then, the fraternity in question has been shut down and banned from the campus; the frat boys have all been kicked out of the frat house and two – so far – have been expelled. More relevant to my point, CNN and other news outlets have been obsessing about this pretty much non-stop. So, what horrible deed was caught on video? The frat boys were caught singing a racist song.

Is that bad? Sure, yeah, I suppose. But they were singing it among themselves; they were not standing outside some Ethnic Minority Fraternity and singing threats at them. They used Bad Words. And as a result… the university leadership is freaking out. The media is freaking out. And of course the Aggrieved Activist Community is freaking out.

As for the activists… well, they’re always on a hair-trigger, ready to go off at a moments notice. And the university leadership is probably paranoid about any sort of negative press. But the media… really, *this* is your new obsession? Since the time some frat boys got likkered up and sang a bad song, I bet there was a murder on some campus somewhere. Probably more rapes than one might like to think about. Theft. Drug use.  Hell, just a week or two ago news broke that another fraternity had had a party and caused nearly half a *million* dollars in damage to a resort. That got a little press, but not nearly the amount this story is getting, and not nearly as hysterical. And the resort story featured actual criminal behavior.

But you , some random nobody of a schmoe, say a Bad Word, and suddenly you’re the biggest news in the land. Bigger even than a Secretary of State using a private email server to conduct official communications and deleting 30,000 or more of those emails.

Yeah, yeah, it’s a Really Bad Word. So bad that I’m not stupid enough to type it. And yet it’s not so bad that it doesn’t appear a bagrillion times a day in popular music. To listen to some of the talking heads on CNN tonight, hearing these frat boys say the Bad Word caused them untold misery and emotional distress. But turning on their radios and hearing it in rap music? That’s just fine. Essentially, this is magical thinking. These people are imbuing this Bad Word with magical superpowers, but only when spoken by certain people. And… no. There are no magical words. Abracadabra; alakazam; anál nathrach, orth’ bháis’s bethad, do chél dénmha; presto chango; shazam; amen. Say them as much as you like, you won’t sprout superpowers. The Higher Forces or Lower Ranks won’t show up to do thy bidding. And the same with any politically useful Bad Word. Words have precisely the power we give them, no more, no less.

And the news media seems bound and determined to make some words into magical H-bombs.

 Posted by at 9:43 pm
Mar 082015

Almost forgotten today is the accident at the SL-1 reactor in Idaho in 1961. Unlike Three Mile Island and Fukushima, this accident killed people… three of ‘em. The reactor was pretty much *exactly* unlike how you’d design one today, in that during a maintenance period the main control rod was moved manually. As in, you grab it and yank real hard. Problem was, one of the guys responsible for slowly extracting the control rod instead apparently jerked it out real fast and too far, causing the reactor to spike. The water in the containment vessel basically exploded, causing the whole array to jump up nine feet, and shooting components straight up. Sadly, there was a man in the way. I’ll let Wikipedia describe it:

One of the shield plugs on top of the reactor vessel impaled the third man through his groin and exited his shoulder, pinning him to the ceiling.

The three men who died died of mechanical injuries… impalement, getting blown up, getting burned by steam. But the radiation alone would have been fatal had they not been otherwise killed.

It has always struck me as odd that with an actual reactor meltdown that caused actual deaths, the anti-nuclear crowd focuses on the likes of Three Mile Island, which didn’t include so much as a bruise or a Band-Aid.

 Posted by at 1:45 am
Mar 072015

Here’s an interesting article:

The death of Queen Elizabeth will be the most disruptive event in Britain in the last 70 years

Long story short… when the Queen keels over, the British economy will take a mighty thwack. And for no good reason: everything will just… stop.

This is a sad thought: a modern industrialized nation will go bugnuts because one person dies. One person of objectively little actual use: she doesn’t run things; she’s not a manager or executive of any kind. She’s not an inventor. She doesn’t go to the hospital daily and perform medical miracles or even just do the occasional open heart surgery. She’s not doing vital defense research. Nothing she does can’t be done by a friggen Muppet. Keep in mind, she’s in the position she is not because of any actual skills or talents she manifested, but because one of her ancestors was a bigger, more grabby and more *successful* scumbag than the other grabby scumbags in the aristocracy. She is, in many ways, a Paris Hilton or Kim Kardashian… famous for being famous. And yet Britain will in many ways simply shut down when she does.

This will of course present certain opportunities. It seems that for a period of about two weeks, British business – civil and government – will kinda stop. So if you are a non-British corporation or government and you want to screw with the Brits… when the Queen dies, that’s the time to make lots of opportunities available, on a “sign up fast” basis. Somewhat akin to having free Bar-B-Que and fresh donuts at noon during Ramadan, I suppose. And of course, it’ll be the obvious time for Jihadis – British born and otherwise –  to start blowing stuff up.

C’mon, Brits. Wander on up to the 21st Century. Where the death of a hereditary aristocrat is worthy of a few minutes on the news… and no more. If you heard tomorrow that the heir the Kaiser or the Czar had keeled over, or whoever was closest in line to Emperor Norton… would much of anyone apart from close family *really* care?

 Posted by at 6:55 pm
Mar 042015

I happened to notice that the last diagram in US Bomber Projects #13, showing that issues various designs all together at the same scale, was not the actual finalized diagram. So I’ve corrected it. At the same time, I added an equivalent diagram to US Launch Vehicles Projects #01, showing all the boosters to the same scale. If you have previously purchased one or both of these, the info in the email your received with the download instructions will still work if you’d like to download the revised versions.

And if you haven’t purchased these… well, here’s another chance!

 Posted by at 2:00 am
Feb 262015

What’s dumber than a western political leader calling for government funded homeopathy and astrology? How about a pack of Surt worshippers trashing their own cultural heritage? Gentlemen… behold:

And on top of trashing a museum full of artifacts, the Islamic State representatives did this:

Isis burns thousands of books and rare manuscripts from Mosul’s libraries

Remember, kids: you’re a racist if you think some cultures suck.

 Posted by at 6:21 pm
Feb 232015

So I was going through a pile of old “Analog” science fiction magazines, checking out which ones I have that are redundant and that I can – with luck – sell. One such issue is the March, 1974, edition:


For no readily apparent reason, I pulled this spare aside and cracked it open to check out the contents. Lo and behold, this was the issue that had Larry Niven’s fact article, “Bigger Than Worlds,” where he explained to teenage version of me, sometime in the mid 1980’s, that humans could, at least in principle, build structures bigger than ships, bigger than cities, bigger than nations, continents, even planets. Bigger than solar systems. And perhaps, just maybe, structures to rival the scale of galaxies.

So in the interests of nostalgia, I opened the magazine to the article, and there I saw:



Took me a second to remember just what I was looking at. And then a vague recollection: sometime, a few decades back, I went to a science fiction convention where Larry Niven was in attendance, and got him to sign this issue.

I suspect I should probably separate my “signed editions” of stuff. I’m not a big collector or seeker of such things, but I do have several… a number of Robert L. Forwards, an Allen Steele, I *think* I’ve got a Buzz Aldrin, and now that I think on it, I kinda think one of my several copies of “Footfall” is inscribed by either Niven or Pournelle (though that interesting factoid suddenly becomes difficult to verify, as *none* of my copies of Footfall are to be found just now).

Anyway… in a few days I’ll probably have a mess of books and Analogs and such available for anyone who wants ‘em… but this issue won’t be among ‘em. Almost was, though. Coulda been a  mite embarrassing.

 Posted by at 6:04 pm