Tag Archives: what we’re reading

Wednesday What We’re Reading (Feb. 26, 2020)

It’s still the 26th.

Wuhan Bat Soup Death Plague

Defense

History

Science and Technology

Grab Bag


  1. Footnoted to avoid a mega-paragraph. They also mention the Zuma satellite, a ‘failed launch’ which may not have been a failure. We discussed it some little while back. I don’t think an amateur ground-to-orbit radar is quite plausible, but tracking black satellites would be a fun game if it were. 

Wednesday What We’re Reading (Feb. 19, 2020)

Making up for a light week last week, a heavier one this time around.

Wuhan Bat Soup Death Plague

Defense

History

Guns

Science and Technology

Sport

Grab Bag

Lighter Notes

Wednesday What We’re Reading (Feb. 12, 2020)

By order of the Central Commission for Calendrical Gynmastics, today is Wednesday for the next, oh, three to five minutes.

Wuhan Coronavirus

Defense

Science and Technology

  • Jailbreaking used Teslas – Tesla, in the same manner as noted corporate villain John Deere, believes that a durable good and the software that powers that durable good are sold separately. Buyers of used Teslas rightfully do not like this.

History

Guns

Lighter News

Wednesday What We’re Reading (Feb. 5, 2020)

One month into 2020 already. Goodness.

Upcoming features for February include a continuation of parvusimperator’s Cadillac Gage commentaries (probably), a holster review (my wife has been pushing me to carry more often), and, of course, the continued exploits of our fictional French Navy for Thursday wargaming.

Wuhan Coronavirus

Defense

Guns

Science and Technology

History

Grab Bag

  • What happened to the Iowa caucus results? – And how are they going to steal the primary from Bernie? (Not that I really care how one part of the left screws over another part of the left, as long as it suppresses left-leaning turnout.)

Wednesday What We’re Reading (Jan. 29, 2020)

Workshop Projects of the Month

Wuhan Coronavirus

Defense

Guns/SHOT Show

Science and Technology

History

Grab Bag

Wednesday What We’re Reading (Jan. 22, 2020)

Winter Wargaming may be slightly delayed—I have a lot of writing left to do on that front, and tonight in which to do it.

Books

  • Rainbox Six, a re-read. The last time I read it was also post-9/11, but I’m much better informed about the state of the world today than I was last time, and the starkness of the divergence between that fictional timeline and our real one is worth mentioning.
  • Castles of Steel, a re-read in progress. I’m up to just past the Dardanelles. That particular campaign (the naval side, not the ugly, unproductive land side) strikes me as one we can’t really game out. Could the Royal Navy have forced the straits alone? Maybe so. But, if so, would the Ottoman Empire have collapsed? Nobody knows for sure, and neither can we design a wargame which gives us an impartial answer.
  • The Mauritius Command, which I thought was a re-read, but now that I’m halfway through I’m not so sure. You can’t go wrong with Patrick O’Brian.

Games

  • Return of the Obra-Dinn, a rollicking good nautically-themed murder mystery. The conceit: an empty ship floats into harbor circa 1807. You, an insurance investigator, go aboard, with a watch in your possession which permits you to view the moment at which a person died, given a bit of their body (or a vision of their body in a vision of someone else’s death). Worth the price of entry.
  • A Painted Ocean. It’s not so much a game as a toy, but it’s a brilliant little toy: you’re the skipper of a full-rigged ship with detailed physics, and you sail it around. That’s the whole game. It’s delightful. The only thing that seems a bit off to me is that she has a habit of ‘sticking’ by the wind as you come out of a tack, not making enough way for the rudder to bear her up; I usually have to reef the mizzen-sails and the spanker to get her head to come away from the wind.

Defense

Guns

Science and Technology

Culture

Sport

Grab Bag


  1. I’m not much of a gambler myself, beyond the socially acceptable kind where you hold a basket of mutual funds for 40 years, but if I did want to engage in Pennsylvania’s most recently legalized vice, it would be on the back of a neural network trained to predict, say, hockey games. Sports betting is nice in the same way that poker is, in that you’re not playing against a house who is permitted by law to fleece you, but against the rest of the betters. With a little elbow grease, you can be better at it than they are. 

Wednesday What We’re Reading (Jan. 8, 2020)

Winter Wargaming tomorrow. Don’t forget to check back and vote on the direction for our fictional France—I typically play over the weekend.

I have to write the 2019 audience report at some point. The very short version is: slightly reduced traffic over 2019, but counting Discord, massively increased audience engagement. To our regulars, both the commentariat and the lurkers, we’re happy to have you around.

Books

  • Me: Castles of Steel, by Robert Massie. I’m reminded of an era when the government owned the design of its warships.
  • Parvusimperator: Samurai!, by Saburo Sakai.

Defense

Science and Technology

Games

Grab Bag


  1. That said, I don’t find credible the claims that GPT-2 is a revolutionary advancement for a variety of reasons that I should probably explain in an article. Here’s one thought, though, from the SSC comments: “The scary version of [artificial general intelligence] is supposed to learn and improve faster and faster, but GPT-2 is the opposite, because the more things it knows in a domain, the larger the chunk of data it needs to learn the next thing. And the more complex a domain is, the worse this problem gets.” Granted, yes, but that’s also not how humans learn. We’re more like an S-curve, I would say—we start out slow as we familiarize ourselves with the vocabulary of a field, go into a zoom climb where the limit on our learning is our pace of reading, rather than our pace of deep comprehension, then level off as we near our peak achievement. 

Wednesday What We’re Reading (Jan. 1, 2020)

Welcome to the New Year, folks!

Defense

Science and Technology

World Affairs

Sport

Grab Bag


  1. To doubly ensure that, consider chipping in a bit to our Patreon! Not that we’ve done much to earn it since we ‘launched’ it. Alternately, stop by the Discord and recommend some things for us (or more accurately, me; parvusimperator isn’t big on being told what to do) to write about. 

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

It’s an even more eclectic week here at Soapbox World HQ than usual.

Lead Story: Magnetized Target Fusion is awesome

  • Fusion with pistons: General Fusion gets Bezos backing – If I were a billionaire, I’d definitely fund cool Future Technology projects, too.
  • Here’s the 2007 paper describing General Fusion’s concept – Start with a steel sphere two meters across, studded with steam-powered pistons. Fill it with a liquid lead-lithium alloy. Use equatorial pumps to turn it into a vortex, and polar pumps to pull it out the top and bottom, so you get a vertical cavity. Inject plasma into that cavity. Fire the pistons, which all impact the steel sphere at the same time and make a compression wave in the lead-lithium. That compression wave ignites the plasma, heating the lead-lithium. Run the hot lead-lithium from the polar pumps through a heat exchanger, which generates steam for turbines and the pistons. Repeat once per second. Neutron activation turns the lithium into tritium, and the use of liquid lead as a working fluid means you don’t need to worry about neutron bombardment turning your steel sphere into Swiss cheese.
  • Here’s a video, if my description isn’t clear – Obviously, General Fusion is invested in saying it’ll work, but the math seems to check out, and this particular approach to fusion seems to have a number of advantages over pure magnetic confinement and pure inertial confinement. The biggest one, as I see it, is that it operates on principles broadly familiar to today’s industrial equipment: it has some pumps, and it has some steam-powered pistons (with some electronics to control impact timing), neither of which is all that complicated. The devices to generate the plasma are a bit more esoteric, but well-understood.

All told, a nifty system, and one with a number of seeming practical advantages. Also, I love the idea of a fusion power plant being bulky, spiky, and loud. (All those pistons hitting a steel sphere…)

Defense

Science and Technology

Grab Bag


  1. I can’t get over how stupid an architectural choice they made here. Let’s say the average request to the Gameanalytics service in the previous bullet point takes 0.1 second to handle each request, which is likely faster than the real figure. Even then, it’s handling around 5800 requests simultaneously, more than Plaid’s 

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

Thanks to church choir obligations, Winter Wargaming will likely start in early January, or possibly late December.

Defense

Science and Technology

Grab Bag


  1. I found one source which said 425km, but that appears to be a miles/kilometers mixup.