Apr 272015

Labour would outlaw Islamophobia, says Miliband in an exclusive interview

“We are going to make it an aggravated crime. We are going to make sure it is marked on people’s records with the police to make sure they root out Islamophobia as a hate crime,” Miliband told the Editor of The Muslim News, Ahmed J Versi…

Wouldn’t it make more sense to ban agoraphobia? That, at least, is a fear that’s not particularly rational.

 Posted by at 12:34 am
Apr 262015

Below is an artists impression of the Bell D190B, a tilt-duct VTOL derived in part from the X-22. The D190 series, dating from the early 1960’s, was for a more-or-less common airframe design that could carry out a number of missions. Interestingly, variants of this design were considered for “parasite” roles. The aircraft could hard-dock to the underside of a C-130; the larger transport aircraft could then haul the smaller VTOL around the world, where it could serve as a rescue plane (note the rectangular hatch on the top of the fuselage). Another idea was for the small VTOL to serve as a crew or passenger transfer system for EC-135J (707 derivatives) flying command posts, including transporting VIPs (read: politicians) away from nuclear strikes to orbiting escape planes.

Sadly, while I’ve found many bits and pieces on this over the years, I’ve yet to come across good design data. If anyone has anything, I’d love to see it.

Bell D190B VTOL

I have made the full-rez version of this scan available at the APR Patreon for $4-and-up patrons. It is in the APR Patreon “Extras” Dropbox, in the 2015-04 folder.

 Posted by at 9:07 pm
Apr 262015

So, you’ve gone on an adventurous hike to some difficult-to-get-to waterfalls. And, as you do, you set up a video camera to film the waterfalls. In the background: a nice mountain. And just when you mention that that mountain is a volcano… the damn thing blows up:

A translation of what the guy says:

I’ll translate, because it’s somewhat hilarious (and I’m Chilean). The guy is saying:
(0:00) “Llanquihue National Reserve, Las Cascadas (Waterfalls) Sector.”
(0:12) “Few people come here. I was brave and adventurous.”
(0:20)“Beautiful. There’s the volcano in the back -”**Calbuco erupts** “ -wow…”
(0:34) “…motherf*ker…”

The guy was presenting the volcano, and it erupts, right on cue. Like it was saying ”Hi, man”.

OK, so now we can add “volcano that hasn’t erupted in 40 years suddenly erupts” to the list of never-before-captured-on-film things that have now been captured on film (video tape, memory card, whatever). We’ve previously caught car crashes, plane wrecks, bridge collapses. Now we just need to get “clear video of a Sasquatch,” “clear footage of a flying saucer” and “clear footage of a politician telling the truth.”

 Posted by at 4:22 pm
Apr 262015

Surely this will lead to the greatest fighting force in history.

Army ROTC program allegedly pressured cadets to walk in high heels for ASU event

Note: there seems to be some confusion… the article describes Arizona State U, but links to images from the Facebook page of the Temple University ROTC program… which is in Philadelphia.


The cadets were reportedly threatened with some substantial repercussions unless they spent their own money to buy high-heeled shoes, spray paint them bright red and then wander about for some “Walk a Mile In her Shoes” political activism thing. Several issues spring to mind:

1a) The Army pressuring troops to engage in political activism? Really?

1b) If the cadets weren’t threatened, and volunteered willingly… political activism while in uniform? Really?

2) Ummm… in the Army, wouldn’t “Her Shoes” be the same combat boots the men wear?

3). Dude. Dude! Really??

4) I’m not an expert in such things, but are civilian high heeled shoes appropriate attire while wearing active duty military uniforms? Here’s a 304-page US Army Guide to the Wear and Appearance of Army Uniforms and Insignia. I haven’t read the whole thing, but I bet it has something to say on the subject.

The “walk” is in support of sexual abuse awareness, which is a valid enough issue on college campii these days. But wouldn’t a far better approach for an ROTC department be to offer the women on campus training in hand-to-hand combat and firearms use? Along with training the men on campus how to have some damned discipline? Rather than making the cadets feel like fools, doing something actually *useful* seems a better approach. But maybe it’s just me.

And whether this was mandated or entirely voluntary… the image of the future officers of the US Army in high heels seems unlikely to inspire fear in our enemies.

 Posted by at 12:58 pm
Apr 252015

Despite all the advance publicity, I somehow managed to not watch the interview with Bruce Jenner. Somehow, I guess it just didn’t seem all that important to me. Shocking, I know. But I surfed on by CNN just a little while ago to check up on WTF is going on in Nepal and Baltimore, and saw something that grabbed my attention:

Bruce Jenner comes out … as a Republican

“But not to get political, I’ve just never been a big fan. I’m kind of more on the conservative side.”

“Are you Republican?” Sawyer asked.

“Yeah,” he said with a smile. “Is that a bad thing? I believe in the Constitution.”

This should not *necessarily* be a surprise. Straight or gay, normal or “guy/gal brain in gal/guy body,” anyone can conclude that the best government is that which adheres to the Constitution, is fiscally responsible, strong on defense, etc. etc. (Granted, it’s a reasonable point that the current Republican party *says* it’s for these things, but acts otherwise).

In the current binary system, you basically have Republicans as the evangelical traditional Christians who want slightly smaller government, and the Democrats as the anti-religion, “yay for gay” progressives who want ginormous unstoppable government. Where does this leave an atheist or a gay feller who wants limited government? If they join up with the Republicans, they are joining a political movement that is filled with people who will at the very least glare at them, and will very often yell vile things at them. And thus the Democrats are the default for many people even though the bulk of their political ideologies don’t line up.

But I think that if most of your views line up with the Republicans… even if socially you’re *way* out of the Republican mainstream, a good case can be made that that is where you should go. And the reason is simple: the force of history is dragging the Republicans in the direction of social liberalization. Gay marriage, pot legalization and similar concepts would have been unthinkable in the Republican party not that long ago, but they are certainly creeping in the direction of accepting them.

But the Democrats? I don’t see them moving in the direction of abandoning socialism, or privatizing Social Security, or getting rid of the Department of Education anytime this millennium.

The Libertarians would seem to be the obvious place for people who hold the world view of “what you are or do icks me out, but so long as you’re not forcing it on me and mine, and not making me pay for it, what the hell do I care,” but, damn, what a clown-car of a political party. But perhaps as the pot legalization movement succeeds, and hopefully goes Federal, the stoner/weedwhackos will be less of an influence.

 Posted by at 10:44 pm
Apr 252015

Atheists Outnumber Southern Baptists in US Military

US military: 1.3 million members on active duty as of December 2014.

12,360 Southern Baptists

12,764 atheists

Sadly, the article doesn’t link to the source of this data. But it includes this:

Non-denominational Christians (26%), Nones (20.4%), and Roman Catholics (20.4%) are the largest groups in the military, followed by Baptists (9.3%), which is a separate category than Southern Baptists.

Among other religious groups, there are more Jews (4,728) than United Methodists (4,111); more Seventh-day Adventists (3,999) than Muslims (3,709); and a few more members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (1,458) than Wiccans (1,432).

Note that “None” isn’t the same as “atheist” (it would also include “agnostic” and “apatheist”) but it’s still a whole lot of military folk who don’t follow any religion.

 Posted by at 12:46 pm
Apr 252015

Transparent Armor from NRL; Spinel Could Also Ruggedize Your Smart Phone

The Naval Research Lab has been working with a moldable transparent material, a synthetic version of the semi-precious gemstone spinel. A fine powder is put into a mold and pressed under heat and vacuum, and viola, a transparent material stronger than armor glass (which is made of laminates of glass and plastic, limiting geometry) is produced. The end result is is a bulletproof transparent object (transparent to infra-red, opening up laser options) of potentially complex geometry. The chemical composition is MgAl2O4. Yes… transparent aluminum.


This dome looks like it could use some polishing. Still, the usefulness of a more-or-less unbreakable transparent material that is readily moldable cannot be overstated.

For instance: Probably not, but could the frame of a pistol be made of this stuff, and would it be survivable? Would a transparent gun make the slightest bit of sense? Not at all. Would it be cool? Oh, my, yes.

 Posted by at 10:44 am
Apr 232015

Songs by Star Trek enthusiast played in court in bid to clear loyalist flute band members of playing sectarian tune outside Catholic church

Best as I can tell, some Brits played a tune that offended other Brits, and were arrested for it. I gather that the tune was entirely instrumental (flutes or some such), but the lyrics – which seem to involve Scottish people annoyed by Irish people – have been declared “racist” by a Scottish court. If the Irish and the Scots are different races… then what are the Irish and, say, Nigerians? Different phylum?

Getting arrested for playing a tune on a flute. Yeesh. Bad and goofy and politically correct as the US is… we didn’t part ways with the UK a minute too soon.

 Posted by at 3:31 pm