Monthly Archives: September 2019

Wednesday What We’re Reading (Sep. 25, 2019)

Alphabetic shorthand report: still slower than ordinary English handwriting, because thinking about letters takes a long time.

I have a short day and a full day’s amount of work to do in it, so less commentary than usual today.


Science and Technology


Guns and Competition Shooting

Grab Bag

  1. I think the only one remaining is ‘fear of flying’. 

Wednesday What We’re Reading (Sep. 18, 2019)

Cor, it’s Wednesday already?

I spent my morning coffee time working on learning one of the simple alphabetic shorthands, so this one’s a bit later than they’ve been.


Science and Technology


Grab Bag

  1. Another municipality in the vicinity of Pittsburgh 

LAND 400 Downselect

Australia has announced the downselect results for the LAND 400 IFV competition. They chose Rheinmetall’s KF41 Lynx and Hanwha’s AS21 Redback to proceed to the next phase of competition. This means of course that the General Dynamics ASCOD 2/Ajax derivative and BAE’s CV90 are out.

This means that the two proposals derived from vehicles that are in service somewhere are out. While the LAND 400 requirements wanted something relatively ‘low risk’ it seems that new designs that share components with in service vehicles suffices. It also helps that the Lynx and the Redback were both designed with what the Australian army actually wanted in mind. Funny how that works. I’m glad they prioritized capabilities.

I’m not surprised the CV90 didn’t make the cut, since that’s an older design and it wasn’t very cutting edge when new. The ASCOD 2/Ajax proposal rejection was a little more surprising, as the Australians tend to have a lot of commonality with the UK. Anyway, it should be good to see how the two newer designs shake out.

Wednesday What We’re Reading (Sep. 11, 2019)

18 years on, the world is very different than it was on September 10, 2001. I don’t have a memorial to link; contemplate quietly in your own way.



Other Science and Technology Stories

  • Are insect populations actually declining? – A followup to a previously-shared story. In Puerto Rico, the answer appears to be ‘no, and if they were, it wouldn’t be because of temperature change, because there hasn’t actually been any’.
  • Bad ideas in computing: PingFS – It stores your files in the contents of ping packets to a remote server of your choice. It doesn’t work on LANs because the latency is too low.
  • Aluminum hydride, known primarily as a rocket fuel additive, makes a superb fuel cell fuel – At the top end, the aluminum hydride fuel cell system has better energy density than JP8 and a power unit, both by mass and volume. Being a solid powder, it also doesn’t take any compressive storage. Also, it contains 148 grams of hydrogen per liter of volume, twice the density of liquid hydrogen, to say nothing of compressed hydrogen gas. The only obstacle to widespread adoption is scale of production. A Bay Area company called Ardica Technologies is working on that, but they’re at kilogram-scale right now, and DoD is putting out feelers for more than 40,000 metric tons per year3.

Global Politics

  • One mechanism by which the Chinese economy might collapse – “It is needed to build more steel mills so as to build more shipyards, ports, railways and bridges so that more ships can be built to carry more iron ore to more ports and thence along more rails and bridges to more steel mills so as to build more shipyards, ports, railways …”
  • UK Parliament denies Boris Johnson’s second bid for an election – How it sounds to an outsider: “The Brexit fight is absolutely crucial to Britain’s survival as a democracy, which is why we mustn’t under any circumstances permit the people to weigh in.” I’m nearing the end of Massey’s Dreadnought, which covers a tumultuous time in British history during which political figures used snap election after snap election as referenda on the issues of the moment. Apparently that changed not merely this century, but also this decade.

Grab Bag

  1. This is sarcasm, although granted, I don’t recall offhand what kind of parachute schemes the US has used. Weigh in in the comments. 
  2. And sometimes even used to mean a successful landing rather than a crash, to my surprise. The Pathfinder and Mars Exploration Rover (that is, Spirit and Opportunity) both used airbag-assisted lithobraking. 
  3. Things I’m always saying: if you’re pro-renewable-energy-economy, you need to find a way to turn electricity into high-density fuel for applications where batteries aren’t gonna cut it. Maybe this one? 

Parvusimperator Reviews: Resident Evil 2 (Remake)

Remaking movies is a terrible, terrible idea. Remaking video games can be a great idea, and Resident Evil 2 is a good example of a remake done right. The original was made in 1998 on the original playstation, featuring PSX graphics, fixed perspective cameras, and the sort of “tank controls”1 that only die hard purists and masochists enjoy.

Modernizing the game was done with the help of the engine from Resident Evil 7, giving modern controls and excellent modern graphics. Interestingly, and unlike Resident Evil 7, the remake of Resident Evil 2 has a third-person perspective. It’s a well done third person, and I’m ok with that.

Some of the structure of Resident Evil 2 remains intact. You can choose between one of two characters, Leon Kennedy and Claire Redfield for your playthrough of the story, and then you can opt to play as the other character for a complimentary story. Leon and Claire have some different boss fights, different weapons, different collectibles, go through different areas, and even work with different NPC helpers. There’s plenty of replay value to be had here.

There’s more fun to be had in the extra modes. There’s The 4th Survivor, which changes the formula by giving you an inventory full of weapons and healing items, but has nothing for you to pick up to restock with. Then there are some DLC scenarios which add some new zombie types, lootable backpacks, explosive backpacks, and vending machines. The vending machines are a neat twist, with each one featuring three items, but you can only pick one of them.

If you’re a fan of survival horror, you owe it to yourself to pick this one up.

  1. Amusingly, while I love tanks almost as much as the Stavka, I do not enjoy classic Resident Evil “tank controls” at all. 

MGL Thinking

Let’s spend a little bit of time thinking about multishot grenade launchers (MGLs) Specifically, I’m thinking about the Milkor M32A1 that SOCOM and the USMC bought recently. I’m on record as liking them, and I stand by that, but I haven’t been able to slot them in anywhere. Let’s fix that.

It’s pretty typical for a fire team to have one grenadier and squads to have one or two. These grenadiers have an M320 or M203 or similar launcher, which may be attached to their carbine or carried in a standalone configuration. I prefer the standalone configuration, since it generally gives a more effective grenade launcher, and reinforces the concept that the grenade launcher should be the primary weapon for the grenadier. It’s also easier to get good sights on the grenade launcher. So let’s try the simple thing. What if we replace the standalone one-shot grenade launcher with the M32A1?

There are some obvious gains we can see immediately. We gain up to five follow-up shots, which make it a lot easier to quickly correct for aim or put more fire on the target. There’s also a well-designed stock, a launcher design that can comfortably handle medium velocity (40x53mm) grenades, a spin drift compensating optical sight, and plenty of picatinny rails for night-fighting accessories and the like. The obvious downside is, of course, weight. The M32A1, equipped with M2A1 sight, weighs 15.8 lbs.

Let’s start playing with some weight numbers. First, we need some sort of benchmark. We’ll look at a current squad member with another weighty weapon: the SAW gunner. An M249 SAW weighs 17 lbs unloaded. The gunner’s basic load of ammo is 1,000 rounds, carried in five 200-round belts. For simplicity, I’ll assume these are all carried in the standard plastic boxes. Each boxed belt weighs about 7 lbs, so the basic load is 35 lbs. Add in the usual sight, the much-maligned Elcan M1451 (1.5 lbs) and we get an all-up weight of 53.5 lbs. That’s pretty heavy, and we almost certainly shouldn’t go heavier than that for our grenadier load.

Some digging around the internet puts the grenadier’s basic load of grenades at 36. Low velocity grenades weigh about half a pound a piece, so that’s 18 lbs of grenade ammo. If we want to carry all medium velocity grenades, which weigh about three quarters of a pound, our ammo load goes up to 27 lbs. Medium velocity grenades have a number of advantages over low velocity grenades. The higher velocity doubles the maximum range from 400 meters to 800 meters. Medium velocity grenades also have a significantly larger maximum point-blank range (i.e. the largest range at which you don’t need to adjust your aim to account for grenade drop). Furthermore, medium velocity grenades have a noticeably larger warhead.

We’re not done though. While the grenadier’s primary weapon is (now) his trusty M32A1 multishot grenade launcher, he needs a secondary weapon. Something for close encounters.2 The old-school traditionalists might call out a pistol, and pistols are pretty compact and lightweight. But they’re also generally not very effective in combat. They’re harder to score hits with and they don’t have as much terminal effect as a carbine. Plus, few soldiers have the practice on one to make it work for them. Can we make the loadout work with a carbine as secondary?

While a basic load for a rifleman is seven magazines, we can reduce this to, say, three or four magazines because the carbine is a backup weapon for the grenadier. An M4A1, Aimpoint Comp M5 red dot sight, and ATPIAL for night fighting comes out to about 7.2 lbs. Three mags come out to 3.2 lbs, four come to 4.3 lbs. So total weight for the carbine secondary is 10.4 lbs with three mags, and 11.5 lbs with four mags.

Just for the record, a Glock 19 Gen5 MOS with Deltapoint Pro and four mags comes to 3.3 lbs or so.

If I go with three mags for the carbine, I can squeeze in under my SAW Gunner weight threshold, even with 36 medium velocity grenades. I’m a bit over with four carbine magazines, and of course going with the pistol option leaves me a reasonable margin. I still prefer the carbine as a secondary weapon because of its greater utility, and because carbine marksmanship is a lot less perishable than pistol marksmanship. Overall though, this seems like a plausible grenadier loadout, and I like it much better than the alternative.

  1. This is very much NOT the sight I would put on my squad LMGs, but this is a standard choice for US Army MG sights, so it’s what we’ll go with here. Remember, we’re only trying to get a ballpark heavy load. 
  2. Read that in a Michael Biehn voice. 

Wednesday What We’re Reading (Sep. 4, 2019)

We’re both back from vacation, and here’s some of what we read along the way. Mostly what I read; parvusimperator unplugs more fully than I do.

Vacation Fun

  • My wife and I visited Portland (the slightly less socialist Maine version), with a brief pilgrimage up to Bath to see the Maine Maritime Museum (and thence, the only non-NO PHOTOGRAPHY view of Bath Iron Works). Strong thumbs up from me. Maine was delightfully low-key. When we vacationed to New Orleans, we didn’t want to miss anything, because it’s all steeped in a New Orleans-specific flavor1 that you can’t find anywhere else. The parts of Maine we visited were simply coastal New England in pure form. We saw lighthouses, ate a bunch of lobster, and enjoyed the pleasant seaside weather. We didn’t see all there was to see, but we don’t feel like we missed out, either.


  • Nonfiction: I’m nearly done with Massey’s Dreadnought, which is good, but also not quite what I expected (an in-depth technical look at the battleship race). Rather, it’s almost a collection of biographies of interesting figures from the late 1800s through the start of the Great War.
  • Nonfiction: Next on the list is When Tigers Ruled the Sky, a brilliantly-titled volume on the Flying Tigers.
  • Fiction: Phobos, the debut novel from author Ty Drago (what a name!). A tense, tightly-paced moderately-hard-sci-fi thriller, framed like a classic mystery. There’s even a scene when the main character brings all the suspects together in one room and sums up the facts to date.


Science and Technology


  • Kerbal Space Program 2! – I’m a big Kerbal Space Program the Original booster, so I’m glad to see this. I have a big KSP mission planned; maybe I’ll take screenshots and write that up.

Hong Kong

Grab Bag


Long Reads

  • On working homelessness – Not as common a condition as some would have you believe if you look at homelessness as ‘living on the streets’. Somewhat more common if you look at it as ‘would be living on the streets but for the charity of family’. Not that family charity is a bad thing, but The New Republic (yes, a dirty pinko rag generally) paints some interesting pictures here.
  • Why hasn’t Brexit happened yet? – Because the British civil service, and European bureaucrats generally, look at Yes, Minister and see an instruction manual rather than a farce.

  1. Now I’m hungry.