Apologies for the delay on this week’s what we’re reading, and on the Rule the Waves Let’s Play. I had a death in the family recently, and although it wasn’t a very surprising one, it’s nevertheless occupied a lot of my time.
I should be back to regularly-scheduled posting going forward.
Science and Technology
Race and Culture
I feel like we’re not closing in on WWRW #100 nearly as quickly as we used to be. Maybe it’s quarantine time dilation.
- This Week I Learned: what ‘gain-of-function research’ means in an infectious-diseases context – It means manipulating pathogens in labs to explore how they might be better at infecting humans. Oh, and the Wuhan Institute of Virology was doing gain-of-function research. Oh, and the (US) National Institute for Allergy and Infections Diseases provided grants.
- COVID and social consequences: a Twitter thread – I wade into the cesspool that is Twitter in the interests of fishing out something interesting from the oozing dreck so that you don’t have to!
- On the same note as the item above, I once read something that mathed out the frequency of major wars on US soil, and found it was somewhat less than the average lifetime, or at least that the 95% confidence interval included less than the average lifetime. I didn’t have enough time today to run it down.
- University of Pittsburgh Medical Center researcher, on the verge of making significant coronavirus discoveries, murdered by associate – The researcher’s name? Bing Liu. The murderer? Hao Gu.
- Pittsburgh reporting says it was a dispute over an ‘intimate partner’ – I don’t want to sound too conspiracy-minded, but… Mr. Liu was a Chinese national. Mr. Gu was a naturalized US citizen who works for Eaton, exactly the kind of place you’d want to have a spy. The police aren’t talking about the alleged relationship. Have I been too deep into the spy dramas, or is that all more than a little suspicious?
- Lurker Navaronegun, a.k.a. Patrick Mullen, is the designer behind upcoming Vietnam wargame A Hot Dry Season – Here’s a written interview, here’s a video intro, and if you have further questions, you can probably ping him in the Discord server. One-mile hexes, company-size units. I was going to try a prerelease version on Vassal with parvusimperator, but we might have missed the window for that. Oops.
- If you have something big you’re working on, readers, let us know! If it’s of interest to us, we’ll plug it for you. We don’t get a ton of traffic, but hey, any press is good press.
- FREMM WINNS – Back in 2018, I laid odds on the various FFG(X) contenders (albeit with a bit of sign confusion). I’ve always been fond of FREMM, but I didn’t think it had a chance.
- Royal Navy working on a fix for the Type 45 powerplant problems – Integrated electric propulsion is super-cool in theory, but seems a little less trustworthy in practice. Which is odd, because we had turbo-electric ships in the early 20th century. I guess adding diesel generators is Hard™?
- Photos of the P-8A’s top-secret radar pod – Along with some discussion of its known capabilities.
- USSOC might be buying some Bronco IIs – No relation to Bronco I, beyond general shape and low-and-slow light-attack mentality.
- US to pull F-35s and spy planes of various types from Britain over Huawei’s involvement in Britain’s 5G networks? – Good move, if true.
- French buy a German rifle, Germans buy a French 20mm cannon – Dogs and cats hanging out!
- American mercs involved in Bay of Pigs 2: This Time It’s Venezuela – No word on whether the US government had any involvement.
- Another story where the contract life didn’t end well – Fun to think about, but man, for the risks, the pay’s pretty awful.
- This year’s Flare Path community Combat Mission game is a hoot – Try this (fictional movie synopsis) on for size, if I don’t turn it into a Nathaniel Cannon story over at Many Words Main first: “This year’s challenge conscripts Combat Mission: Fortress Italy and is inspired by the final fifteen minutes of classic Seventies war movie Colonel Croesus (aka The Montaretto Millionaires aka The Tiger Under the Mountain). We join the story on the night following the double-cross. The ragtag band of Allied treasure hunters, deserters, and lotus eaters led by Colonel ‘Croesus’ Cresswell (Robert Duvall) is poised for action outside the ‘abandoned’ Italian sub pen where Hauptmann Otto Steiner’s (Wolf Kahler) equally disreputable Kampfgruppe of chancers is busy loading the stolen bullion onto a waiting U-boat. Unless Croesus acts quickly, the Germans will escape with the loot!”
Science and Technology
I’m working on a tightly-estimated customer project at work these days, so I haven’t been doing as much reading during the day, nor as much blog-post-assembling. Sorry for the wait!
- A Viking pilot reminisces on late-Cold War carrier aviation – Good read.
- Bombers on Guam are over, Lancer sorties from South Dakota to Japan and back are in
- Airbus tanker carries out world-first automatic refueling contacts – That is to say, a boom tanker without a boom operator.
- Hornet entering the pattern at 600 knots – That’s a little on the spicy side.
- Parvusimperator’s AFV Photo Pick of the Week
- Pentagon confirms three UFO videos are authentic – Not that they show aliens, but that they show unidentified objects. So, who’s the audience, and what’s the message? Not ‘UFO cranks/aliens are out there’, I would guess, but rather, ‘Hey, Commies, bet you don’t have flying saucers like we do’.
- Multiple shipyards for FFG(X)? – ‘A handful of viable shipyards’ seems like a worthy policy goal.
Science and Technology
- A series of videos on the Bronze Age Collapse – And perhaps a warning to hyper-interconnected modern societies? I saw a guy on Twitter ask whether Singapore or North Korea has greater food security. Granted, I agree with him that the answer is Singapore in almost every case, but there are moderately-plausible scenarios where the answer flips. If the merchant republics of Italy and their dealings with the Ottoman Empire are any indication, tiny rich city-states have some serious downsides in times of strife.
The weeks seem to get longer and longer every day.
- Parvusimperator finished the French Rifle Book from Headstamp Publishing, and speaks very highly of its content and production values. He’s now reading First In, Last Out, a history of South African artillery in the latter days of the Cold War.
Reverse Tax Day edition! (Your correspondents got their economic stimulus payouts today. If you’re due one and don’t need it, consider sending it, or some of it, to a local food bank.)
Books and Other Media
- I read Under the Eagle, which I found at a library sale a while ago. It’s the first in a long line of historical military fiction set in Imperial Rome. I’m likely to try to find some others.
- I will be reading the next two Jim Butcher books, which are due out this year. Finally.
- I’m presently reading the My Hero Academia manga, because I enjoy the show and have a lot of time on my hands.
- Parvusimperator is reading entries in the Australian Army Journal.
The Game’s Afoot: Tactical Decision Game #1
Science and Technology
- SEO ruined the internet
- Google ruined the internet – By, the argument goes, emphasizing popularity over accuracy. I think this is true, but the causality is reversed. People used to care more about being right or linking to correct things on the Internet. We here actually feel the recency bias pretty keenly. Many of our (by which I mean parvusimperator’s) most popular articles were written a few years ago, which is eternities in Internet time.
Full isolation continues. Food and ammunition stocks holding out well.
No April Fool’s jokes here. We’re all business.
Wuhan Coronavirus: Maps and Data
Wuhan Coronavirus: Other
- Spain bought a bunch of coronavirus tests from Shenzhen – They don’t work.
- How Texas grocery chain H-E-B managed the coronavirus prepper demand spike – They’ve been prepping for a pandemic since 2005.
- Iceland’s mass testing shows a 50% asymptomatic positive rate – Confounding factors: they might have found people infected but pre-symptomatic; false positives could drive the rate up.
- de Blasio’s worse week as mayor couldn’t have come at a worse time – It’s even a New York outlet saying so.
- Estimates suggest Wuhan death rates are much higher than officially reported – Tyrannical bureaucratic state undercounts things that make it look bad? Shock!
- [Abbott (the health care equipment manufacturer) has a coronavirus test coming soon](https://www.abbott.com/corpnewsroom/product-and-innovation/detect-covid-19-in-as-little-as-5-minutes.html0 – Also, the ‘lab’ it runs in is a toaster-sized box that looks like it was designed by an Apple alum. Abbott expects to have five million tests produced in April, which would more than double the current test-per-day capacity in the US if they can all be processed.
- A guy on Twitter reads a biochemistry paper so I don’t have to figure it out for you – It proposes a mode of action for the coronavirus, by computational analysis: the virus makes proteins which kick iron out of hemoglobin, reducing oxygen delivered by the blood. Lung issues are a result of lack of O2 in the blood, not its cause. Chloroquine binds to the hemoglobin-busting proteins, hence its effectiveness. In the Discord, boomerang-pigeon provides some additional context.
- On the heels of British sources saying China may be downplaying their COVID epidemic by a factor of 40, US sources say that yes, China was definitely lying – I did some amateur analysis and thought to myself, “A factor of 15 sounds like a lot. I’d better propose it as a worst case.” Au contraire! A factor of 15 means they’re up to ~50,000 deaths. A factor of 40 says ~132,000. This on the heels of uncritical reporting from a number of American outlets calling the US outbreak the worst in the world.
- Photo: the US Navy, in 1927, anchors in Guantanamo Bay
- Old story of the week: listen to the guns fall silent on the Western Front, courtesy of the Imperial War Museum, on the centennial thereof – I listened to it and thought to myself, “Wait! Those sound like crappy TV, movie, and video game sound effects!” Of course, those are the sound effects for ‘large-bore artillery’ because they were, in many cases, recorded off of WW1 field pieces.
The Final Frontier (it’s Space)
- The crude oil market is broken – Worldwide oil demand is down by 25%. Wyoming Asphalt Sour, was bid at -$0.19—they’ll pay you to take it. Also, apparently, there are only about 700 oil refineries worldwide.
Up to full isolation here at the world headquarters.
Wuhan Bat Soup Death Plague
- Original research! – I was interested how quickly mitigating measures work, so I made a timeline showing deaths, daily percentage increase in deaths, and mitigation measures across five European countries, the US, South Korea, and China. It also has a chart of deaths vs. tests in the US, to compare growth between the two numbers.
- Masks work – Tomorrow or over the weekend, I’m going to turn some things (dish towels, cotton t-shirts) into homemade masks and report on the process.
- Masks work: Czechia edition – A massive popular effort in the Czech Republic yielded near-100% mask-wearing with almost no central direction, and seems to have helped dramatically in arresting the spread of the coronavirus.
- Chinese scientists forced to destroy COVID-19 samples in December – ‘A regional health official in Wuhan […] demanded the destruction of the lab samples […]’ Sure. A regional health official, not acting under central direction. Totally believable.
- Hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin: a treatment protocol? – Hydroxychloroquine, an analogue of regular chloroquine, is an old anti-malarial drug.
- Aggressively serious anti-coronavirus propaganda banners in China – “Everyone you encounter on the streets now is a wild ghost seeking to take your life.”
- Clinical predictors of mortality due to COVID-19 – Age, pre-existing conditions (which include things like hypertension and asthma, so it’s not just the seriously sick who are dying).
- How many asymptomatic coronavirus cases are there? – About 20% of the total, based on experience from the Diamond Princess outbreak.
- A social distancing scoreboard for the US, down to the county level – To my surprise, Pennsylvania’s actually doing pretty well, along with much of the US that’s actually imposed lockdowns. Also of note: who are these people, and where do they get their location data? (Tracking libraries for phone apps, almost certainly.)
Self-Defense (also Guns)
We’re going into Day 4 of partial isolation here at Soapbox World HQ, and the news is all coronavirus-related.
Late-breaking: parvusimperator, back from vacation, has provided a few non-coronavirus links.
Wuhan Bat Soup Death Plague: Scare Pieces
WBSDP: Maps and Data
WBSDP: Other Useful Information
Books We’re Reading
- Me: Masterpieces of Mystery – The Golden Age – Part II, selected by Ellery Queen.
- John: Churchill, by Andrew Roberts, and then Chassepot to Famas by Gun Jesus, in the lovely preorder blue (bleu?).