Jan 312018

A fanciful late 1950’s Martin Company illustration of a space station. This rendering features a large parabolic solar reflector to concentrate sunlight onto a boiler to run a turbogenerator for electricity, a hockey-puck shaped habitation section (you might think it was meant to rotate, but there are windows in the floor *and* a group of astronauts seemingly standing on the side of the thing, somehow not getting flung off), some standard 1950’s gee-whiz rocketships and something at far right that I can only describe as “a thing.” Maybe it’s meant to represent the radiator for the solar generators working fluid, but if so, it seems a terrible design. Maybe it’s the death ray.

 Posted by at 5:04 am
Jan 252018

If you want uncritical videos about goofy subjects like monsters and UFO’s, YouTube will hook you up. Look at all the “Flat Earth” videos. Look at them. But if you want skeptical takedowns, you might have to dig a little further, and if you want skeptical takedowns that are well researched and explained, you have to dig a little further still. But Trey The Explainer does the job nicely.

Many of his videos are about paleontological subjects, but many others are about various “cryptids” (i.e. mysterious animals that people “know” to exist but can never seem to prove… Bigfoot, Loch Ness Monster, Honest Politician, that sort of thing). Some are better known than others, but two vids I found quite good are on the Black Knight Satellite and the Ropen. Both are relatively recent inventions; both are manifestly silly; both are easily and quite adequately explained away with clear video evidence showing them to have mundane explanations; and yet, both are readily believed by many.

 Posted by at 10:01 pm
Jan 132018

Everybody has a role to play. Mine, it seems, is “cautionary tale.” So when I say to learn from my mistake… well, I guess I need to be more specific. So, I’ll just stick to the one that wound up consuming my entire Friday and into Saturday.

After unfortunate experiences and scares years ago, I’ve long since separated my internet computer from my work computer. If something horrid and malicious comes through those series of tubes into my internet computer, it might make a mess of my ability to go online and whatnot, but hopefully it won’t hop  to computers with my drafting and CAD modeling and the like on them. So far that has worked.

A bit short of a year ago I found a “chromebook” in a pawn shop for all of fifty bucks. It was relatively new and had a bigger screen than the dinky little netbooks I’d used for internet work, so, after a factory reset (wiping out everything on the computer, including – presumably –  spy and malware), it became my internet computer. And it continues to work fine, with only one problem: the hard drive is pathetically small, only 25 gigabytes. With just the most basic set of programs loaded on, more than 20 gig is already consumed. It’s forever trying to update Windows, but it can’t… the update requires 8 gig free, and there simply isn’t that much space available on the drive. A poor design, IMO.

Due to the space limitations, one of the USB ports has a tiny little USB drive permanently installed. All downloads are directed there. This drive, smaller than my thumbnail, has 128 gigabytes of storage space, which makes me wonder why the built-in drive is so tiny.

Anyway, the USB drive is slowly filled with images, videos and PDF files. Every few months I go through what’s on it, clean out the junk and save the save-worthy to other drives for permanent storage. I was going to do that this weekend. Friday morning, one of the first things I did was to take a look at the “download” directory for a file I’d downloaded from a government report server a while back. I saw a few things that weren’t needed so I deleted them. And that’s where things went wrong.

After i hit “delete,” it should have been just a quick flash, then done. But it took long enough to attract my attention… and I saw “now deleting 18 gigabytes.” Somehow the system decided to delete all my downloaded files, not just the one. I killed the process as fast as I could, but the bulk of the directory was cleaned out.

With a regular hard drive, this would be a minor irritation… just go into the “recycle bin” and restore the files. But with a USB drive, there is no recycle bin; it simply wipes out the files.

There are programs such as “Recova” that should, in principle, allow for the recovery of deleted files. when a computer deletes a file, the file isn’t truly gone; it’s still there, but the space it occupies is opened up for other files to come in and over-write. So since I started the recovery process essentially immediately, those deleted files *should* have been recoverable. But… they weren’t. The files were found, and a handful were ok, but the great majority of them were *somehow* already over-written, by files downloaded days ago. I don’t get how that works, but there it is. Hundreds or thousands of files were wiped from existence.

The remaining option: Firefox keeps a record of all downloads. In this case, back to early November. So I compiled a list of all the PDFs I’ve downloaded and started downloading again. That took hours.


Then the fun part: I had to go through all the PDFs. Most of the ones I downloaded were of no value to me, so when I’d originally downloaded them I looked through them and wound up deleting them. The record of downloads didn’t make that distinction, so I had to scan them all again, and again toss most out. Again. And those I kept, I had to copy out into PNG format all the images (diagrams of aircraft and spacecraft, naturally) that I wanted. Again. It’s now well into Saturday and I’m *mostly* done re-doing this work. Gah. The directory with the reports and images is now at 14 gig, meaning 4 gig has vanished. This, I presume, is due to files I downloaded prior to early November that Firefox no longer remembers. Gone for good, I suppose.

So, there ya go. Learn from my mistake and don’t do what I did.

Hmm. WordPress says the preceding blather amounts to 770 words, or a bit over two novel-length pages.  One error caused by one erroneous keystroke consumed a day and resulted in two pages of probably unreadable text. I suppose if I find I can make a go out of my fiction writing (I’m still waiting to hear back about some editing for my first novel), I might take a stab at writing advice books. “Learn From My Mistakes, volume 1: Career” and “Learn From My Mistakes, volume 2: Romance.” Sure to be big sellers.

 Posted by at 2:16 am
Jan 072018

It sure seems like China seems to be making most of it’s scientific and technological progress not by innovation, but by a rather lackadaisical understanding of copyright, patent and intellectual property laws. In other words… they see other people invent stuff, then they steal it and have their slave laborers manufacture it by the kiloton.

Well… so long as they go that route, they’ll remain *users* of the fruits of science, but not *understanders* of it. And thus:

Someone stole a piece of China’s new solar panel-paved road less than a week after it opened

Anybody remember “Solar Freakin Roadways?”


Interestingly, the Chinese went whole-hog on their version, building a full kilometer of it. But hey, apparently a competing firm swiped a bit of it and will use that bit to create a knock-off of a knock-off. If by some miracle (and given how the math on these things doesn’t even begin to work, it would *have* to be a miracle) someone in China makes this hare-brained system work… well, it’ll be fair game to swipe it and build it here in the US, royalty-free.

 Posted by at 6:49 pm
Jan 052018

“The Sun,” a Britainlandistani newspaper of some kind, has an up-to-the-microsecond article with the exciting news of the “Janet” airliners that fly from Las Vegas to Area 51.

US government has a top-secret airline that flies directly to mysterious military base Area 51

Gosh, that bit of news hasn’t been publicly known since, what, the 1980’s? At least this article comes complete with NSFW photos on the right side…

 Posted by at 5:00 pm
Dec 212017

I didn’t hate The Last Jedi. I didn’t love it. It just sorta… exists, I guess. But as time goes on and I think about it more, I can see the political “programming” that went into making it… and how that politics overshadowed any effort at quality storytelling in favor of propaganda, strawmen in favor of characters.

This spoiler and profanity-filled video lays it out succinctly:

 Posted by at 12:18 pm
Dec 122017

Now, here’s an interesting scholarly journal:

Engineering Studies

What might the articles in “Engineering Studies” be, do you think? Perhaps articles describing engineering projects, like building bridges, skyscrapers, jetliners, rockets? The techniques behind terraforming Venus or filling the Chad Sea? Nope. OK, how about articles describing how engineering is done, how to integrate physical goals with the laws of physics and the realities of economics? What the latest finite element analysis codes are, the most advanced laser measurement systems, the newest thing in pocket protectors? Well, apparently not. Let’s take a look at the current issue, shall we?

Guest Editor’s Introduction: Engineering Masculinities in Water Governance

Hydrocracies, Engineers and Power: Questioning Masculinities in Water

Engineering Masculinities: How Higher Education Genders the Water Profession in Peru

Becoming an Engineer or a Lady Engineer: Exploring Professional Performance and Masculinity in Nepal’s Department of Irrigation

Queering Engineers? Using History to Re-think the Associations Between Masculinity and Irrigation Engineering in Peru

Apparently, hydraulic engineering is “masculine.” And apparently “masculinity” is a “thing” in engineering, like “tensile strength.” Who knew.

But if that’s not adequately edifying, take a look at one of the more recent articles published behind their paywall:

Rigor/Us: Building Boundaries and Disciplining Diversity with Standards of Merit

Rigor is the aspirational quality academics apply to disciplinary standards of quality. Rigor’s particular role in engineering created conditions for its transfer and adaptation in the recently emergent discipline of engineering education research. ‘Rigorous engineering education research’ and the related ‘evidence-based’ research and practice movement in STEM education have resulted in a proliferation of boundary drawing exercises that mimic those in engineering disciplines, shaping the development of new knowledge and ‘improved’ practice in engineering education. Rigor accomplishes dirty deeds, however, serving three primary ends across engineering, engineering education, and engineering education research: disciplining, demarcating boundaries, and demonstrating white male heterosexual privilege. Understanding how rigor reproduces inequality, we cannot reinvent it but rather must relinquish it, looking to alternative conceptualizations for evaluating knowledge, welcoming diverse ways of knowing, doing, and being, and moving from compliance to engagement, from rigor to vigor.

You think that’s bad, get a load of this. I looked up the journal “Engineering Studies” on wikipedia to see if it had its own listing… it does not. But the *concept* of “engineering studies” does. The description is pretty minimal, weak and bland; at the end, a grand total of two Journals are listed. One is the previously mentioned “Engineering Studies.” The other:

International Journal of Engineering, Social Justice, and Peace (IJESJP)

Ye gods. The one good thing I can say is that on their website the “current issue” dates back to 2015.

Realistically, it looks like the Social Justice Warrior War On Engineers is minimally backed by dedicated journals. But don’t doubt that they are out there (in all senses of the phrase), and they want to destroy engineering and replace it with… well, it’s difficult to tell, really. If “engineering rigor” is bad and should be done away with, I am faintly interested to find out what they think will actually design a vast arcology that won’t collapse and kill all the Special Lemmings living within. So, you know, less an issue of “concern” than “curiosity,” I suppose…

Sure, they’re silly. Sure, any engineer worth his or her salt will likely shake his or her head at this nonsense, and then get back on the job. The problem, as we’ve seen in the last few years, is that SJWs are getting quite skilled at yelling loud enough, and screaming just the right stuff, that the people in charge will often listen to them and even bend the knee, even if only in the hope of placating them for some peace and quiet. But it’s a disastrous idea to give in so much as a millimeter to these screeching harpies of irrationality. You’d be better off trying to incorporate astrological charts into orbital mechanics, dowsing rods into mining operations, spoon-bending psychics into metallurgy, creationists into biology.

Engineering doesn’t have politics. F=MA doesn’t lean left or right, communist or capitalist, fascist or libertarian. But of course, that doesn’t stop politics from trying to grab hold of every tool imaginable, including engineering. And engineers, even if they are not especially political, should be aware of the creeping insidiousness of invasive politics. They should, to use a word mistreated, misused and now battered into the dirt, be “woke” to what’s going on, if for no other reason than to recognize the SJWs… and then to ignore their screechings. This opinion piece – a rather hyperventilatory bit of Trumpist self-congratulations, admittedly – deals with “conservatives” rather than “engineers,” but the basic message does, I think, apply to engineers and technicians and scientists and all good men and women of reason and conscience.

Woke Conservatives And The Awesome Power Of Not Caring

Recognize the tools and techniques of the anti-engineering SJWs when they come to your place of engineering or engineering education. Recognize them… and then refuse to play along. Nod politely as they yammer, and then, depending on the position of power you have, either:

1: Tell ’em “sure thing,” then go back to what you were doing once they’ve left the room

2: Laugh in their faces and tell ’em your preferred variant of “bite me.”

It’s important to not only prevent them from getting the changes they want, but to also prevent them from damaging *you*. Sometimes that means playing the sap and pretending to care… but then quietly sabotaging their efforts from the inside. If you are a new engineer with a precarious position, standing up in the middle of an all-hands meeting and pointing out out to the company Diversity And Tolerance Compliance Officer that their latest mandate is the dumbest farking thing you’ve ever heard and can we *please* forget this nonsense and get back to work there are deadlines after all, is entirely honest, entirely justified… and stands a good chance of getting you fired. This is not only bad for you, it’s bad for everyone else: it empowers the social justice fascists and cows the rest of the staff. Don’t give them the satisfaction. If you don’t have the power to laugh at their faces… laugh behind their backs.

 Posted by at 10:41 am
Dec 112017

Why do I say “It’s good that our enemies are evil?” It would be disconcerting if we looked at the Nazis or the Commies or the Jihadis or whatever and said “hmm, they seem like the good guys here.” So, it’s best that when we compare them to us, they come off badly.

And now that we have accepted that they are the bad guys, one thing you *don’t* want out of your enemy is competence. And fortunately, the jihadis seem to have incompetence in spades.

Suspect in Port Authority bombing carried out bungled attack in name of ISIS

This winner, this god among men, tried to use a suicide bomb to kill a bunch of innocent folks… and the bomb didn’t even kill *him.* And it’s not like bomb building is all that hard. We’ve lately had cases of mass shootings by verifiably crazy people; all they needed was a gun, which are not that hard to obtain in gun-free zones like New York. The internet is loaded with instructions on how to make pipe bombs, pressure cooker bombs, twitchy high explosives. Trucks are all over the place, available for the buying, renting or stealing, to be used in running down pedestrians. Molotov cocktails require little more than a bottle, a rag, a flammable fluid and a lighter… and yet this Surt-worshipping CHUD couldn’t even blow *himself* straight to Nastrond.

To which I say… three cheers for the generations of inbreeding which has made these genetic defectives so incompetent at even the most basic of terror tactics.

 Posted by at 5:13 pm