Oct 312016

WestWorld continues to intrigue. While they haven’t made it obvious, they’ve made it unavoidable that the show actually takes place in at least two different eras. One era has the human “Guests” Billy and Logan going on adventures with the android Dolores; the other has Dolores being interrogated by park overlord Ford, with something going kinda funny with the robots due to the latest update and the park being stalked by the Man In Black. In the later era with Ford, a few hints as to the past have been dropped… something like 35 years earlier one of the two park founders killed himself; something like 30 years earlier something went *really* wrong at the park. In the earlier timeline with Billy, the founder has already offed himself, but there has been as yet no mention of something going really wrong at the park. So presumably the two eras are separated by between 30 and 35 or so years.

Billy is a “white hat,” thinks himself a Good Guy and tries to behave as such. Logan is a “black hat” and indulges in all forms of debauchery and robo-murder at the park. Billy likes Dolores; Logan thinks of her as a toaster. And then years later the Man In Black annually returns to the park, where he tortures and “murders” Dolores. You’d think that that wouldn’t really be the sort of thing that Billy would become. But in the most recent episode, you see the start of Billy becoming a different person. So what are we heading towards?

My speculation: sometime in the near-ish future, we’ll see that massive screwup at the park. My guess is that something happens to the robots so that they no longer are inhibited against killing the Guests. Perhaps they will become self aware and will actively try to exterminate the Guests. Billy obviously survives but is changed by it; perhaps Dolores, who we saw starting to undergo some pretty substantial personality changes, does something pretty nasty to Billy (have we seen the Man In Black without a hat? Perhaps there’s no scalp there…). Maybe she murders Logan, who is at least nominally some sort of friend of Billies.

But then… perhaps all that, but Logan actually becomes the Man In Black. It would seem a straighter course. Perhaps Dolores leads the Bot Uprising and kills Billy; that could easily set Logan on the course to becoming the Man In Black.

An episode or two back there was a brief sequence set clearly in the “past,” with a much younger Ford. This was done via computer trickery, presenting a youthenized Anthony Hopkins. So perhaps we will see more of that. And I kinda hope so: one of my favorite character actors, Michael Wincott (he played Malcolm Reynolds in “Alien: Resurrection” and Donald Trump in “The Crow”), plays an early model robot kept in storage. It’d be nice to see him out and about… and if he’s shown out and about with Billy and Logan, it’ll pretty well nail down the fact of the different eras being depicted.

 Posted by at 8:48 pm
Oct 312016

Due to just how amazingly awesome aerodynamic design development, materials science and aeropropulsion systems have gotten, some airliners can stay in the air for about a day on one tank of gas and fly halfway around the world. This is both great for the passengers, because it gets them their pretty quickly (compared the travel during the other 99.9% of human history) for a reasonable fee; and it sucks, because the passengers are jammed into too-small seats for nearly a full day. But you know who else is on the plane the whole time? The crew. And unlike the passengers, they have *got* to get some sort of adequate rest during the flight.

In order to make sure that the flight crew isn’t either dead on their feet or hopped up on amphetamines during landing, the larger jetliners have sleeping areas for the crew, usually above but sometimes below the passenger cabin.

You will occasionally see click-bait headlines yammering on about the “secret rooms on jetliners you never knew about” or some such (the YouTube videos below dabble in this), even though these rooms are not secret, and a great many people know about them. Sure, the airlines don’t exactly advertise the things… but why would they? If the full load of passengers were fully and actively aware that there are actual *beds* on airplanes, you can bet that on every trans-Pacific flight there’d be at least one drunken businessman belligerently trying to storm the castle.




 Posted by at 12:53 am
Oct 302016

I’ve always liked the phasers of Star Trek more than the blasters/turbolasers of Star Wars. Ship to ship: phasers are computer controlled and seem to always hit the target (even if they don’t necessarily damage the target), while turbolasers are manually targeted and can’t seem to hit a damn thing. Same with hand-held weapons… phasers are zero time of flight weapons that non-professional soldiers can wield accurately, while blasters seem to travel slower than bullets and the biggest, most expensive and advanced military out there has troops so poorly trained that they can’t seem to hit the broad side of a barn.

But there’s one area where blasters are better than phasers: total energy usage per shot. If you get shot with a blaster, it’s like getting shot with a firearm. *Perhaps* an extra powerful firearm… a 12-gauge filled with buckshot, perhaps, but still roughly equivalent  to a conventional gun. But phasers have a top setting that will *vaporize* a human. That’s not just overkill, that’s an *insane* level of overkill. It’s like using a TOW anti-tank missile to target an individual.

And this is one of the things that Star Trek got wrong. Not that it’s necessarily impossible for a weapon the size of a keychain to vaporize a human, but that the process of vaporizing the human wouldn’t utterly trash the surroundings. Face it: you’re converting, oh, 180 pounds of water to steam, and converting the calcium in the bones, the metal and plastic in his clothes, tools, weapons, etc. into plasma. And if the target is also holding a phaser, you’re converting *that* into vapor, which means that its battery (or whatever the power source is) is going to explode.

Phaser-vaporizing someone on board a spaceship is going to be a disaster, because by converting 180 pounds of water into steam, you’re increasing the *volume* by a factor of around 1,000. Imagine if the room the target was in suddenly found itself loaded with 1,000 more people. The pressure will blow the hull apart. While a blaster will simply poke a hole in the target, maybe burning their clothes.

Star Trek always made the result of someone getting vaporized pretty… well, sterile. Zap, bright light, gone. But it wouldn’t be like that. If you want to know what someone getting phasered at full power would look like, YouTube provides. Behold the phenomenon of the “Arc Flash,” where enough electrical energy can be dumped into a human to convert said human into a steam explosion. Obviously, this might be considered slightly grisly, so gather the kids around (occurs at 1:14; you can adjust settings to .25 speed to watch the guy go from “normal” to “Hey, he’s a glowing blob, just like in Star Trek” to “Where’d he go?” in three frames):

It’s kinda unclear just what the hell happened here, but it sure looks like the guy was converted into mostly a cloud and a bit of a spray. In any event, there’s no missing the fact that something really quite energetic happened to the guy. The captain of the Klingon scout vessel vaporizes one of his crew on the bridge, they’re going to be scrubbing it down for *days,* assuming that the steam and overpressure doesn’t kill everyone else on the bridge.

In  the later Star Trek series, the “vaporize” setting seemed to fall out of fashion. More often than not energy weapons were used as “simple blasters” of roughly firearm-power. And that’s all you need. Firearms are as powerful as they are because that’s Good Enough. You don’t *need* a weapon that essentially turns the target into a suicide bomber.

It might be interesting to actually show accurate phasering on some future Star Trek movie or episode. In one scene, out heroes board a wrecked space station. They go in a room where someone was shot with a phaser set to Blaster Mode: the doctor rushes over, applies hand to carotid artery, looks up sadly and says “He’s dead.” Then they go to the next room, where someone was vaporized. All the furniture is smashed up against the walls; the floor, ceiling, walls, furniture are all covered in gore. Blood sprayed everywhere, teeth embedded in the ceiling, small bits of burnt, semi-burnt and unburnt eviscera scattered about, bits dripping from the ceiling. Doc stands there in the door, slack jawed; Ensign Redshirt looks in and promptly doubles over and upchucks the Tribble Surprise he had for lunch. Captain Hero looks looks in, turns a shade of green and asks “So, Doc, who was it?”

Doc looks at Captain Hero like he’s a freakin’ mo-ron and replies with something like “How the hell would I know?”



 Posted by at 5:55 pm
Oct 302016

I’ve been running the Aerospace Projects Review Patreon project for a bit over two years now. Every month, Patrons get rewarded with sets of aerospace history stuff… currently, one large-format diagram or piece of artwork, three documents and, depending on level of patronage, an all-new CAD diagram of an aerospace subject of interest. More than two dozen such packages have been put together so far and distributed. Given that you can get in on this for as little as $1.50 a month (for 125-dpi scans… $4/month for full-rez 300 dpi scans) and you get at least four items, that’s a pretty good bargain compared to the individual aerospace drawings and documents.

Patrons who signed up after the process got underway can now get “back issues” of the previously released rewards packages. A catalog of more than the first years worth has just been posted; each month will see an updated catalog posted for Patrons to order from. So if you are interested, check out the APR Patreon page to see how to sign up; if you are already a patron, check out the catalog here.

 Posted by at 2:58 pm
Oct 302016

This YouTuber makes quad-drone and other flying RC Star Wars vehicles. In my opinion, it’s a toss-up whether his best is the Imperial Probe Droid or the Imperial Shuttle. I can see both being turned into successful commercial products. The probe droid needs a way to land other than being grabbed…



 Posted by at 11:59 am
Oct 302016

The tires used on the SR-71 had aluminum integrated into the rubber to help reflect the substantial heat produced by cruising at Mach 3. This was fine aluminum powder *in* the rubber, not just *on* the rubber, so as the tires were worn down from use they remained somewhat shiny. The Hill Aerospace Museum has one of the SR-71 tires on display. Enjoy.

dscf4097 dscf4098 dscf4102

 Posted by at 2:58 am
Oct 292016

Thirty years ago, Russia sucked because Godless Communism oppressed people who believed differently. Now that Russia has flip-flopped and welcomed religion… they still oppress people who believe differently. Witness:

Russia jails atheist blogger for hunting Pokemon in church

Ruslan Sokolovsky has been charged with “offending religious believers and inciting hatred,”after posting a YouTube video where he plays Pokemon Go in a church.

The history of Russia… yeesh. After centuries under the thumb of the Czars, the Russian people finally rise up, toss the aristocrats into vats of acid… and promptly replace them with *Communists,* who were even worse. After 70 or so years, the Russian people rise up and overthrow the Communists… and replace them with the like of Putin and the Russian Orthodox Church. At first this seemed like an improvement, but if it is, it’s beginning to become less and less of one.

 Posted by at 3:52 pm
Oct 282016

“The Amazing World Of Gumball.”

Yeah, that’s right, I’m endorsing a kids cartoon show. Why? Because it’s fricken’ awesome, that’s why.

Most episodes are just absurdist goofballery. But even then it’s well-produced absurdist goofballery. But sometimes, every now and then, the show steps up to tackle some seriously messed-up cosmic horror.

The short form of the show is: Gumball Waterson is a blue cat going to grade school. His mother, also a blue cat, is intelligent, caring and equipped with a nightmarish temper. Gumballs father is a well-worn stereotype… fat, lazy, stupid. And he’s a pink rabbit. Gumball’s smaller sister Anais is very intelligent, and a pink bunny. Gumballs brother Darwin started out life as the families pet goldfish, but he sprouted legs, the ability to talk, and the family just… accepted him. The rest of the town is populated by a whole range of characters animated by different means… puppets, computer generated characters, conventionally animated, etc. Many of the characters were formerly-rejected characters the creator of the show had tried to use on commercials and the like. One, Tina, is another grade school girl… and a CG Tyrannosaurus Rex. Another is a walking, talking donut… and the town cop.

While most of the episodes are really quite good humor, some of the episodes go off the rails in the best way possible. The episode “The Job,” for instance, was one of the first I saw and had me instantly hooked. The schtick is that Richard Waterson (Gumballs rabbit father) is so lazy that he cannot possibly hold down a job. So when he actually gets a job (as a pizza delivery man), it actually fractures the nature of reality. That’s cool, I suppose… but what grabbed me was that they used as the basis for many elements of the episode the well-known beloved children’s classic “The Omen.” Photos showing phantom lightning strikes was a hint, but a chorus singing a slightly modified version of “Omen’s” “Ave Satani” had me laughing my guts out once I recognized it. The boys realize that their father won’t be able to do the job, so they set about helping him delivery pizzas. Sadly, at one delivery they accidentally drop the pizza face down on the porch stairs, where it slides down leaving a trail of grease and toppings. What makes it extra-sad – and thus hilarious – is that the couple they were delivery the pizza to are themselves animated pizzas, and that pizza they were expecting was to be their child. Neat! The episode only gets more bizarre from there.

In another episode, “The Safety,” Darwin becomes a literal Safety Fascist, military uniform and all, as he imposes a terrifying Orwellian reign of control over the town in order to make sure everyone is safe.

In “The Void,” they discover that there are some people, ideas and things that are simply too boring to exist, and they’ve been shunted off into another dimension. The rest of the universe has forgotten them, erasing them from existence.

In “The Signal,” Darwin and Gumball discover at the end of the episode that they are simply fictional TV characters… and this discovery shatters their minds.

In “The Joy,” it turns out that sufficiently powerful “joy” can become a communicable disease that turns you into a mindless zombie. This sets up an effectively creepy zombie epidemic, with the hero of the piece being a character who has always been an antagonist.

The episode “The Pizza” is very much in the mode of “Atlas Shrugged.” The character Larry, who basically holds down *every* job in the town, finally gets overwhelmed with being used and abused… and he quits. in very short order the economic structure of the place collapses, Mad Maxian chaos and violence ensues – after threats of cannibalism, Gumballs mom goes bugnuts and slaughters the threatening gang. Eventually a nuclear explosion is seen going off in the background.

In the most recent episode “The Scam,” Gumball works with fellow student Carrie (an actual ghost)  to convince the rest of the students that there is a Monster From Beyond, Gargaroth, who is wreaking havoc and that only Gumball and Darwin can ghostbust it (using backpack vacuum cleaners). They do this in exchange for payment in the form of the other students Halloween candy. So far, so normal. But then it turns out that Gargaroth is real… and is one of the more accurate depictions of a Shoggoth I’ve seen. Really quite nasty. Further, the only way for Carrie the ghost to enjoy eating candy is for her to possess someone else and make *them* eat; this was explored in some horrifying depth in the episode “The Ghost.”

There are other little bits of horror scattered throughout… a childs talking doll suddenly *really* talking; the same doll behaving normally but bursting into flames; characters exploding for no good reason; psychic powers manifesting and having pretty much the madness-inducing effects you’d expect such events actually would.

And the events and message of “The Lie” are best left to be watched rather than explained.

Oddly, this series, now in season 6, has never had a proper DVD/Blu Ray release. There have been a few mishmash DVDs with some random episodes, but never a single full season release.

 Posted by at 10:39 pm
Oct 282016

So I’ve been hearing lately that “Uh oh, it looks like your average Obamacare customer will see their premiums go up by about 25%.” So imagine my joy upon reading the letter that arrived today alerting me to the fact that not only am I *not* average, I’m special. Super-duper special. My premiums aren’t going up by 25%. They’re going up by 63%. Of course, this being Obamacare, the government (i.e. taxpayers) pay a portion of it. So huzzah! However, the taxpayer will be paying a lower percentage of my monthly premium. So while my premium is going up by 63%, my actual payment is going up by 113% (yes, slightly more than doubling).

I imagine a whole lot of other people are going to be getting similar “Surprise! You’re boned!” letters in the next few days. Since the majority of these people will be poor to relatively poor, this would seem to bite directly into the portion of the electorate  that thought most highly of Obama and Obamacare. You know, the people most likely to vote for Hillary. Having the Hillary voters suddenly getting socked with impressive new bills just *days* before the election? Might not be the best thing for the Hillary campaign. But so long as nothing else goes wrong for her, I imagine she’ll be fine…

But on the other hand, there are a whole lot of people who are just plain stupid and don’t understand what’s going on:

So I guess I better start selling off some stuff…

 Posted by at 7:21 pm