Friday, December 31, 2004

Lasers and aircraft

If this stuff is actually happening (and not someone misinterpreting what happened) the lasers aren't likely to be a weapon themselves. The energy requirements for a beam that would do actual physical damage is pretty large and would require a separate vehicle just to generate the power.

Its also not likely to be part of an active homing weapon. Passive IR ManPads have been around for decades and I would imagine that its easier to get one of these than develop a completely new weapon.

It could be a rangefinding laser. At the upper end of the power spectrum these are capable of blinding people at decent ranges. But you still have the problem of targeting the cockpit windows and simultaneously blinding both the pilot and copilot at a critical point in the landing/takeoff sequence. Not impossible, but difficult. On the other hand a targeting laser is easier to conceal than a missile. On the gripping hand a hundred dollar pair of sunglasses would remove the threat.

Have a vacation in Thailand

There seem to be a lot of people disgusted at those who are taking advantage of the current disaster in SE Asia to snag a cheap vacation in the less than devastated areas. I guess they feel that these vacationers should stay home and just send money in to the aid organizations.

I would like to take this opportunity to disagree.

There's already a ton of money flooding into the disaster areas to help with the recovery. But as we've seen in EVERY single country that has received financial aid - charity alone is not enough. It will be business that will allow these people to fully recover. One of the major industries in the affected zones is tourism. What are these people going to do if they have to wait until everything is back to the way it was before the tsunami before anyone considers it "moral" to vacation there? The best thing we can do at a time like this is through a little business their way.

Of course if we really cared about helping these people rebuild (and eliminating poverty all over the world) we'd get rid of the agriculture and textile tarrifs we place on imported items to protect local interests.

An open letter to the guy who lives below me.

Sir,I've lived in this building for almost three years now and most days I get to listen to you practice on your guitar.
You suck.
Thirtysome months have gone by and you still can't even string two notes together with anything approaching rythm, let alone a pleasing sound. I know, I know, the old saying is "if at first you don't succeed then try again" but this is starting to become hazardous to your health. If you don't stop I am going to come down there and insert your toy into one of your holes. It really won't matter which one since none of them are design to accomodate so large an object - but I'm thinking an "exit only" type.
I would like to address this next point to those who think it is great fun to leave shoe prints on the upper parts of the elevator walls. It isn't funny, witty, or amazingly smart. We know how you do it, it doesn't puzzle anyone. No one is going "well gee, how did they get those shoe prints up there?", it's just dirty. And while we're at it, can you all just stop leaving your garbage in the hallways? How difficult is it to carry that soda can into your apartment, or to the trash can RIGHT OUTSIDE THE ENTRANCE?
Thank you for your time,

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Great job opportunity lost

Tim Worstall points to a great job opportunity at the UK (British, English, - despite years of reading stuff from the land of fish and chips I still can't remember what the collective name is supposed to be) Equal Opportunity Commission, good performance opening the door to a possible appointment in the Commission for Equality and Human Rights slated to replace it.

Normally I would consider myself unqualified for the job since I couldn't get their application for to work, but then again this is an EO job. And I have an in - I'm a member of a minority ethnicity (but would I be considered a "visible minority ethnic" I wonder?) in the UK (after all how many American-Britishers are there living in the isles?

Too bad the closing date for the applications is today, though one has to wonder why since when the application is emailed in you get an OOO reply saying the guy won't be back until the early January.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Troika games holds onto its reputation . . .

. . . as a group who come up with great ideas for RPG's and then completely feth up the implementation.

I'm playing VtM: Bloodlines now.
  1. Patch support? Ha! The game's released with glitches starting from the INTRO CUTSCENE! How the hell can you screw up a cutscene? But is there a patch, well finally there is. I guess that's better than the wait for ToEE's patches (a game that I gave up on and uninstalled before the first patch finally came out).
  2. They're the first game to liscense the HL2 engine so I can cut a little slack, but why does the game slow down so badly when it rains? I don't have that problem when playing HL2 itself.
  3. Play anyway you want my ass. The game does have options for taking a more stealthy/diplomatic approach to your roleplaying. IGNORE THESE OPTIONS. Unfortunately the game is designed with "checkpoints" where you have no choice but to fight some big bad monster and if you haven't been maxing out your combat skills you'll fare poorly. Several battles I was able to complete only due to really bad AI. One I spent 10 minutes running in a circle with the monster chasing me just out of reach while I waited to heal. Another time my opponent got knocked against a wall and got stuck between the wainscotting and the ceiling. What is it with CRPG's these days with the boss monster approach to game design, these aren't FPS. This one does it, KOTOR did it, NWN did it, even FO2 did it.
  4. I realize that developing a CRPG with the same level of detail as a PnP one is a herculean undertaking, but could we at least have some dialogue options other than either callous asshole or simpering wuss?
  5. The play areas themselves are all right, except there are no areas inside a zone that aren't related directly to some sort of quest (with the usual "you can't get into here without the proper key no matter how good you are at picking locks" locks on the doors) but the people populating it either just stand there or move around randomly, usually bumping into walls.

All in all not a bad little game for those of us who are familiar with the Vtm but I really couldn't reccomend this to anyone else.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Hey, the EU says he's all right.

"Kofi Annan can be sure of the EU’s support for him and the for the United Nations"
President of European Commission Jose Barroso
Oh, that's all right then. Annan couldn't possibly have done anything wrong, after all the EU has vouched for the moral bona-fides of its closest competitor for the title of "Most Power Hungry and Corrupt Insitution in the West".

More EU madness

As brought to my attention by the EU-Serf, this little article in the Telegraph about the difficulties of getting canadian saskatoons into the country. Saskatoons are a type of berry the canadians have been eating for several centuries but the EU prohibits them because they're a "novel food". Well, novel in Europe maybe, but not really since they've been eaten in some of those countries for a good long while also.
This isn't a new thing either, for saskatoons or other foods. The same regulations were used to try to keep grape tomatos out of the EU (in my opinion because they compete with european cherry tomato growers).
The article beats up (unfairly) on the guy responsible for enforcing the novel foods regulations and the Labour Party (though they probably deserve every hit they get) and throws in a few good words about Brussels solving the problem.
What Boris fails to mention however is that it is EU regulations that mandated the two year waiting period and the agency overseeing "novel foods" in the first place. The only problem Brussels (has ever) solved was the one they created in the first place.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Something related to Christmas

If A Christmas Carol had been written by someone else.
From Tech Central Station

  • Ayn Rand: The ruggedly handsome and weirdly articulate Ebeneezer Scrooge is a successful executive held back by the corrupt morality of a society that hates success and fails to understand the value of selfishness. So Scrooge explains that value in a 272-page soliloquy. Deep down, Scrooge's enemies know that he is right, but they resent him out of a sense of their own inferiority. Several hot sex scenes and unlikely monologues later, Scrooge triumphs over all adversity -- except a really mean review by Whittaker Chambers. Meanwhile, Tiny Tim croaks. Socialized medicine is to blame.
  • The Libertarian Party: It's pretty much the same as the Ayn Rand version, but about halfway through the story, we learn that Scrooge is an alcoholic wife-swapping embezzling weirdo who's wanted for back child support payments in several states. Even readers sympathetic to the Libertarian story throw up their hands in disgust and grudgingly seek out the Republican version.

The rest are just as funny.

Does it make me a loser . . .

. . . that when I see the acronym WoD the first meaning that pops into my head is World of Darkness?

Yes, its just that one reason.

Comrades, strike a blow against the hated Gun Control Advocate oppressor, uhm dude.

I suppose I should preface this by mentioning that I have only owned one gun in my entire like. A used Chinese SKS which I no longer have. Nowadays I'm comletely unarmed (not even a heavy stick for protection) not because I feel safe but rather because the Navy (indeed all the US Armed Forces) frown upon their members actually defending themselves if attacked. Bad press if a servicemember hurts someone else, but its all good if we get cut up.
Looks like the forces of liberty have recently scored again (even sweeter after the setbacks of the post 9/11 House/Senate complete crapfest). The U.S. Justice department has formally set out the reasons that it considers gun ownership to be an individual right as opposed to solely belonging to the state (uhmm, that's state state, not State - i.e. federal government).
Gun control's never made sense to me, even in my younger, more naive years (oh, the years I wasted believing in that Drug War nonsense). As a matter of fact the WoD is a perfect example of what happens when you try to restrict an item that there is a large demand for. The DEA and other law enforcement agencies are proud that they only intercept a small percentage of the drugs at great cost - in money, effort, and lives. How do they expect to have any better success with firearms?
So we make guns illegal and only those willing to break the law will have them, and there's a large supply of those willing to do just that. In the US it can be damn difficult to go through your day without breaking a law somewhere. Just try to drive down the street at the speed limit. Either you'll be run over by those travelling faster than you or you'll hit the old guy wobbling around in his lane (and part of the next one). All that and in a car bigger than my apartment.
So we've disposed of the whole cut supply and you'll cut demand theory (that one's like Socialism - doesn't work but there's no end of maroons willing to give it one more try).
So how about "do you want your neighbors to have rocket launchers?". No, my neighbors are a bunch of ninkers. But I'm sure they think the same about me and if they are going to have heavy weaponry (legally or illegally) then shouldn't I be able to maintain parity. MAD got us through the worst parts of the Cold War until the Sov's went bust. Those who think Mutally Assured Destruction is an insane concept should go to a dive bar, pick the biggest, baddest biker there, spit in his face and the try to talk your way out of an ass-wooping.
Even places like the National Research Council say that there data shows that concealed carry has no effect on violent crime. If it has no effect then why should it be an issue? Its not the function of a government in a democracy to tell us what we can do, but what we can't - and it better have a damn good reason for it.
After all if we ban guns we might become like the United Kingdom, another bastion of freedom that doesn't consider self-defense to be a right. That's right, defend youself in the U.K. and you go to jail. After all that's what the police are for.
And in an unrelated note, the U.K. has recently become slightly less free as government ID's are now required for all citizens. This is to help "intimidate, dominate, and control". No that's wrong, theat's for our homegrown TSA twerps, I mean "help fight terrorism". Of course no one is required to carry the ID with them, of show it to a police officer (though you will need it to receive government services - so its mainly the poor who get hassled) so one has to wonder exactly how this is going to make people more secure. Most likely its like to Social Security Number crap we have to put up with here. At first the SSN was explicitly not meant to be an identifier. Nowadays, unless you live in a shack in the woods you can't do anything without it. I take that back. You still need an SSN to buy the land the shack is on.
And I need to learn to preview this stuff before posting.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Crow's Nest

So, the crow’s nest is so named because Viking navigator’s used to release crows in periods of low visibility and plot their course – the crows supposedly always went towards land. Since the cage the crows were kept in was high on the mast the lookout position that developed later was named after it.

Except, how do the crows find land if visibility is poor? Also, wouldn’t the crow disappear quite quickly in low visibility conditions giving you only a very poor estimate of direction? Why keep the crows on the mast where feeding and keeping them warm is difficult, they could just as easily be released from the deck? Is there something wrong with me that I ask these basic questions but others do not?

Contrary to my initial expectations, crows are native to Iceland, Greenland, and other Scandinavian type countries – the raven (For the rare and radiant maiden whom angels named Lenore) probably being the most familiar type.

Yet if the Vikings were dependent upon crows for low visibility navigation how were they able to maintain links with widely separated permanent settlements in the British Isles, Iceland, Greenland, and Newfoundland? The North Sea area is known for its fogs (especially in winter) so these guys must have carried a lot of birds with them. Also why do none of the Viking sagas record the usage of crows in this manner? They are incredibly descriptive when it comes to other means of measuring time, distance, and position. Other sources are available that demonstrate the huge knowledge base they had.

  • Short inserts in various manuscripts of the imported scholarly texts talking about independent observations on calendars, solar motion and navigation.
  • Manuscripts intended to educate the reader on various matters of practical value, For example - the Norwegian King’s Mirror contains sections on astronomy, time reckoning, and tides.
  • In Denmark and Norway ships and sailing gear have been excavated. Replicas based on the excavated material have been constructed and tested – data on seaworthiness and speed have matched that found in the older texts..

The reality is that the Vikings didn’t need birds any more than their contemporaries did (a lot less actually). They relied on several centuries’ worth of theoretical knowledge and practical experience in sailing to maintain a nation in a time when their contemporaries were hard pressed to sail out of sight of land.

So why is it called a crow’s nest? Its most likely because the lookout position is a high roost, perhaps even where birds landed on occasion and, as the saying goes, if a person only knows of three types of birds, one of them will be a crow.

Origins of Naval Terminology Question Authority

Rabbit Season

If, in homeopathic medicine, water is able to remember contact with the “active” ingredient (through some so far unknown mechanism) which - through repeated dilution – is no longer present, why doesn’t it also remember having come into contact with the myriad other compounds it would also have been exposed to during its existence?

Rabbit season!
Duck season!
Rabbit season!
Duck season!
Rabbit season!
Rabbit season!
Duck season!
Rabbit season!
Duck season!


Of course you realize, this means war.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Good Links

If nothing else, reading the following blogs should make up for any disappointment you may be experiencing after having wasted your time here.

In no particular order
Tim Worstall
The Angry economist
EU Referendum
The Road to Euro Surfdom
Virginia Postrell
James Randi Educational Foundation
Council for Secular Humanism
8-bit Theater

And if not, too bad.

After posting (of course) this I realized that not all of the above links are to blogs. Oh well.

Cup of "Joe"

I got into a little "discussion" a few days ago about how coffee came to be known as "a cup of Joe". As none of you may know I am in the US Navy (and if you do know, STOP STALKING ME!) and many of my colleagues believe the phrase stems from Admiral Josephus Daniels' (Secretary of the Navy 1912-1920) banning of alcohol onboard US Navy ships (thanks a lot Joe). Its even become the official backstory on the Navy's own Origins of Naval Terminology website.
Unfortunately the dates don't pan out. US Navy Ships had been dry since 1862, it wasn't until 1893 that the wardrooms were allowed wine messes (bloody officers). General Order 99
"The use or introduction for drinking purposes of alcoholic liquors onboard any naval vessel or within any navy yard or station, is strictly prohibited, and commanding officers will be held directly responsible for the enforcement of this order."
wasn't issued until 1914 - except for the wardroom itself (comprising a small fraction of the total complement) ships had been dry for a bit over 50 years. Even the wardrooms were limited to wine and similar. Add into this, that the earliest written record of the phrase "cup of Joe" doesn't appear until 1930 - 16 years after ships were completely dry and 10 years after the man who gave that order was gone.
Because the phrase first shows up in 1930 its wouldn't be derived from "GI Joe" (apparently a slang term for soldiers and not a cartoon) which doesn't appear until the WWII timeframe.
The most likely explanation (and backed up by an entry in the Reserve Officer's manual of 1931) is that the phrase comes from a corruption of the other terms for coffee like Java or Mocha.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

First Post

Well, I guess I've finally worked up the courage to try out this blog thingy - which shows how disfunctional I am if I'm worried about embarrassing myself in front of people I'll never meet.
In any case for my first post I'll demonstrate my incredible ignorance regarding physics by relating some of the thoughts I had last night while trying to sleep with about 2 liters of Coke worth of caffeine running through my system.
Anyway the first bit with movement and the speed of light limit. Wanna hear it? Goes som'thin' like this.
Everything travels at one constant speed through four dimensional spacetime (three space dimensions and one time), the faster you move through the three space dimensions (relative to something else) the slower you move through time.
The other one deals with the problem of time travel and conflates the distance you can move through time with the lenght of time virtual particles can exist. Just as a virtual particles lenght of existence is inversely proportional to its mass so too could the distance an object can travel back in time. The more massive an object the shorter the lenght of time you could move back through. Of course then I realized that this doesn't explain why we can move through time in one direction with ease but not the other.
And as regards to paradox, maybe when traveling through time you must also travel through space. I.e. traveling 6 hours back in time requires you to travel 6 lighthours through space, preventing you from - for example - going back in time and preventing yourself from going back in time. Of course that little bit is predicated on time travel paradox not being allowed by physical law.
That's it for now. Who knows, maybe tomorrow I'll actually have something to write that's worth your time to read it.