Tag Archives: what we’re reading

Wednesday What We’re Reading (May. 15, 2019)

WWRW falls on a Thursday this week. Yesterday was busy at work, then Avengers night at home, and today featured some dental work in the morning, so here we are, at last, with a somewhat lighter post than usual.

Defense

Science and Technology

Grab Bag

Interdisciplinary Stories


  1. Names changed, of course. 

Wednesday What We’re Reading (May. 8, 2019)

Parvusimperator’s Open gun has indeed finally come in, so all we have to do is find a match which doesn’t fall on a holiday weekend.

The Continental loadout post from yesterday is a new Soapbox game, as you might have guessed from the achievements at the bottom. Mine should land tomorrow.

Headline Link: The Long Way Round

  • The story of Pan-Am’s California Clipper – En route to New Zealand at the outbreak of the Second World War, one of Pan-Am’s twelve Boeing 314 flying boats found itself cut off from its South Pacific island-hopping route. Short on fuel, spare parts, and friendly bases, its intrepid crew had to make their way back to American shores the hard way.

Has this been turned into a movie? If not, why not? Who do I call about that?

Defense

Science and Technology

Abusing Web Services

Guns

Grab Bag

Wednesday What We’re Reading (May. 1, 2019)

Spring has definitively sprung here. Coming soon is the first USPSA match report of the season from me. Parvusimperator might join in on the reports a little later into the summer when his Open gun finally comes in, but at the very least we’ll be shooting matches at the same time again.

Defense

Science and Technology

History

Guns

Grab Bag

Wednesday What We’re Reading (Apr. 24, 2019)

Defense

Science and Technology

History

  • The Invention of the Salvator Mundi – On the history behind the most contentious painting attributed to da Vinci. The art world remains divided on its legitimacy, but private buyers certainly don’t—it recently went at auction for a few hundred million dollars.
  • Notre Dame burns – This link isn’t a great story. I was hoping for something with more detail on the progress of the fire and its causes. It doesn’t really count as news, either, since I’m sure you’ve heard about it already, but it was a sad day for European history1 and one worth noting.

Guns

Grab Bag


  1. Also a sad day for Christianity, but since we’re all Protestants here at the Soapbox, we don’t put nearly as much weight on the building’s shoulders. 

Wednesday What We’re Reading (Apr. 17, 2019)

As you might have noticed, we’re taking Holy Week a bit easier than usual—parvusimperator is traveling for Easter; I’m in the church choir, have had spring yard work to do, and am preparing for the first USPSA match of the season on Saturday.

Happily, there’s been a lot going on in the world, so we have a longer-than-usual WWRW (unless I miss my guess, the longest ever, in fact) to tide you over until we return to our usual pace.

Defense

Science and Technology

  • Amazon contractors listen to Alexa conversations – Feeling real good about my lack of smart home technology right about now. Until I can run my smart home entirely on a server in my basement under my direct control, we’ll get up and turn lights on and off with switches, like cavemen.
  • Wifi’s new WPA3 standard is… already badly insecure – Oops. Maybe if they’d developed the standard out in the open, like security researchers suggested…
  • Intelsat 29e exploded? – It’s a geostationary communication satellite, which looks to have flared up on telescope views, then shed a bunch of debris. Also, evidently there’s a company out there which points telescopes at objects in geostationary orbit. Also also, the comments mention a Russian accusation of an American satellite which roams geostationary orbit, photographing things there. Not necessarily implausible—such a thing would be easy to build, and a cell phone camera at 1km has better resolving power than a 10-meter telescope peering from ground level to geostationary orbit, so it would have its uses, too.
  • SpaceX sticks the Falcon Heavy landing, but loses a booster to the sea – The barges have grabbers which can snag the booster by the ‘octaweb’, the bit of framework which holds all the engine nozzles in their appropriate places, but the Falcon Heavy center core has a different octaweb, so the grabbers can’t get a good grip. The barge encountered 10-foot swells on the way back home, and the center core went over the side.
  • More people streaming movies rather than buying physical copies – See my above Luddite-hood on smart homes for my opinion on this practice; see parvusimperator’s DVD stack for his.
  • The future is here, and it’s a cyberpunk dystopia – Satellite-based advertising is on its way, courtesy a Russian company and PepsiCo.
  • Pepsi clarifies: we’re only testing the technology, by running an orbital ad once – Pardon me for not jumping for joy. The only good thing about this is that it’s a Russian space company, and they never deliver on their promises.
  • Declassified U-2 photographs are helping archaeologists find canals, roads, and other features hard to spot from the ground – In terms of count per unit area, there wasn’t a lot of military interest to find in Central Asia, but evidently there’s at least something of historical interest.
  • Don’t call it PlayStation 5 yet, but Sony releases details on their next console – The spec list may look like an ordinary gaming computer, but remember that one of the huge advantages with console hardware is the integrated memory architecture—there’s no conception of separate graphics memory like there is on your average computer, so you don’t have to worry about getting something from system memory to video memory like you do on a PC. (That’s why bus width is so important on computers and not really mentioned for consoles; it isn’t really a concept worth bringing up for the latter.)
  • Google Fiber’s divorce from Louisville is complete – In other words, don’t trust Google with your stuff in the long term, because they don’t care enough about marginal products to bother keeping them around. I read a good article on that subject this week, but didn’t stick it in our WWRW chat, so I can’t link it here.
  • OpenAI’s Dota 2 bot beats human players, but shows the weaknesses of machine learning – See the section titled, ‘A rudimentary Chinese room’.
  • Stratolaunch takes flight – We have a new record-holder for ‘largest wingspan on an airplane’! I would even go so far as to say that it’s not useless, either, which is a bit of a spicy take. There are two main arguments against the flying-booster-launcher: 1) it doesn’t save you much fuel; 2) reusable rockets make it moot. In re 1), the bit which takes the most fuel is precisely getting off the ground and to altitude, because your rocket is the heaviest and you’re moving through the densest atmosphere. Skipping the densest atmosphere lets you design your first-stage nozzles for more nearly vacuum conditions, which means your first stage can burn effectively for longer. In re 2), reusable rockets still require a lot of launch infrastructure, whereas a plane-launched rocket can dodge weather and get you on track for nearly any orbital direction or inclination with minimal steering losses.
  • A security researcher drops three 0-days against… WordPress plugins… – Just a minute. … Okay, we’re good. … drops three 0-days against WordPress plugins to protest “the moderators of the WordPress Support Forum’s continued inappropriate behavior.” Grudge-based webserver-pwning! What a world we live in.

History

Sport

  • Baseball twitter is usually good for a few laughs
  • Baseball should end service time manipulation – Unfortunately, doing so would require both the players and the teams to sacrifice something for the benefit of Baseball As A Whole, which is not the typical aim in CBA negotiations.
  • Sports leagues embrace gambling – It’s fan engagement! Pennsylvania is one of the states which legalized sports betting; the local sports talk hosts have lately been singing the praises of the sports book at the local casino. A showdown between the gambling operators and the leagues is brewing; the NBA, MLB, and the PGA Tour want a percentage fee on every bet placed on their games—initially, they said 1%; lately, they’ve said 0.25%. Of course, illegal sports gambling was recently estimated as a $150 billion industry, so…

Grab Bag

  • Restaurants are too loud – As it turns out, the modern industrial-chic style absorbs zero sound, which is unpleasant. There’s a sushi joint near my mother’s house that has some sort of magical sound-dampening technology—every seat can be full, and yet it’s never loud enough to disrupt conversation at your table, and it’s one of the most pleasant dining experiences in the area.

Wednesday What We’re Reading (Apr. 10, 2019)

We’ve been doing this for half a year now (slightly more, given that we took a Christmas break; 26 entries in total).

Defense

Space!

Science and Technology

Sport

  • Arizona Cardinals: revolutionizing the draft? – Taking a page from baseball’s book, the Cardinals seem to be of the opinion that players on rookie contracts are better than expensive players at the same position, which seems sensible. They’re stockpiling draft picks and aiming to take some players in high-impact positions even if they don’t need them, on the theory that they’re either trade bait or the next man up when the current guy hits free agency.
  • Baseball records: Chris Davis sets the new mark for most consecutive at-bats without a hit – He’s up to 49 right now. His last hit was September 14, 2018; he’s only walked four times this year. And they say the record book is closed!

  1. Grammatically, Russians refer to ships by the gender of their name. Kuznetsov is a he, Moskva is a she. The myth that Russians use male pronouns for all ships stems from the fact that most Russian naval vessels have male names. 

Wednesday What We’re Reading (Apr. 3, 2019)

Your correspondent has been whammied with a cold for the past week, so this roundup does not contain all the interesting stuff we’ve read in the past seven days.

Defense

Science and Technology

Guns

Grab Bag

Sport

One of the AAF’s intentions was to be a football minor league—a place for players not quite up to NFL snuff to grow and perhaps become useful to an NFL team. This included NFL practice squad players and down-the-liners on active rosters—get your third-string QB some playing time, the sales pitch went, so maybe he’ll develop further! This had two flaws. First, the NFL Players’ Association was never big on the idea for player safety reasons. Why risk injury playing for a minor league? Second, the AAF was never going to survive solely on the name recognition of NFL third-stringers. They had to make a watchable, entertaining on-field product.

They succeeded at the latter goal. AAF football was recognizably football, and in the last few weeks was good enough to be enjoyable on its own. The 4th-and-12 onside conversion and the must-go-for-2 rules injected some extra offensive fun into the game. So, why did it fail?

First: investor Tom Dundon, who swept in at the last rumor of financial trouble swirling around the AAF, seems not to understand that nobody is going to pay any more to watch Danny Etling (Tom Brady’s understudy’s understudy) throw passes than they will to watch Garrett Gilbert (the Orlando Apollos’ QB) do the same. Failure to reach an immediate agreement with the NFLPA isn’t financial doom.

Second: the AAF was too expensive for what it was. Minor league baseball is cheap, and so also should be minor league football. If you can’t take the family to a game and buy everyone hot dogs for, say, $50, you’re not going to get the random, “Eh, why not, it’s a good way to spend an afternoon” traffic you need to drive attendance for a minor-league sport.

I didn’t do week 8 picks on account of being sick, but my week 7 picks went 1-3, for a lifetime AAF pick’em record of 12-12. I’m no worse than a coin toss!

Wednesday What We’re Reading (Mar. 27, 2019)

The calendar says spring is here, but beautiful Western Pennsylvania is still in winter trim. Ten degrees colder this March than last.

Short roundup this week.

Many Words New Releases

Defense

Science and Technology

Guns

Wednesday What We’re Reading (Mar. 20, 2019)

Early post today, because I have lots to do and can’t afford the typical leisurely lunch. Late-breaking news will break next week instead.

Defense

Sub-Defense: F-35 vs. F-15(E)X

Pictures

Science and Technology

Sub-S&T: 737MAX MCAS

Guns

  • Hudson files for bankruptcy – Chapter 7, too. They plan to liquidate everything and pack it in. Doing my part for journalism, I used some of my free PACER credit to nab the relevant filings. Their list of creditors is not particularly pretty. They claim to have $50,000 in assets and between $10 million and $50 million in liabilities. On the plus side, apparently you can buy H9s for cheap as part of the liquidation sale, if that’s the sort of thing that interests you.

Grab Bag


  1. That’s why we run our own webserver here instead of paying someone else to host for us—better control over the site and its customizations, yes, but mainly that I can be exactly as obsessive about backups as I want. They’re in three separate places. 
  2. Although the modern world, in this case, is exclusive of us and our commentariat. 

Wednesday What We’re Reading (Mar. 13, 2019)

I just realized last weekend’s post was dated March 27th, because I changed the month but forgot to change the day. Rest assured that, if we were to guess at news from the future, we would try a little harder than two or three weeks out.

Apologies for the lateness of the post. It’s Mrs. Breath’s birthday today1.

Defense

(Mad) Science and Technology

History

Guns

Grab Bag


  1. Pretty sure she’d object to being Mrs. Fishbreath, so we’ll just say it’s a very tightly coupled name and surname.