Tag Archives: what we’re reading

Wednesday What We’re Reading (Mar. 6, 2019)

In which I repeatedly type single quotation marks backtick-text-quote instead of quote-text-quote, thanks to a LaTeX project.

Defense

Photos of the Week: Bombers

Science and Technology

  • Chinese surveillance data found in a no-password, web-public database – Oops.
  • SpaceX’s successful Crew Dragon launch represents an American return to manned spaceflight – The big problem for SpaceX going forward is going to be finding new sources for revenue (like their Starlink Internet plan) if they want to keep on funding the BFR. As it stands, they’ve pretty much cornered the worldwide market on non-natsec launches. There’s only so much profit to squeeze out of that. Blue Origin has an edge on large rocket development in my book, because it’s a billionaire’s passion project.
  • University of California system cancels all its Elsevier journal subscriptions – Elsevier is a watchword in academia for ‘money-grubbing useless middlemen’, known for paywalling a bunch of journals so that universities have little choice but to maintain subscriptions for their own academics. Not that academia is without its flaws, but the least I can do is praise them for doing something so obviously right.
  • Another Intel speculative execution bug – This one lets you figure out memory mappings efficiently, which lets you do the Rowhammer attack from 2015 in Javascript in a browser.
  • The attention economy is saturated – That is, there’s too much entertainment for humans to consume all of it, so we’re into an age of prioritization. You’ve probably noticed this yourself. It also plays into the difficulty in getting off the ground as an independent creator of content—there’s more entertainment than ever before, but it’s still delivered through a small number of outlets. There are only so many screens at the local cinema, and only so many production houses which can afford to bribe their ways into your local theater. See also Amazon and books.

Money Matters

Special Report: Blacklisting and Politics in Publishing

Singal’s doing good work on that subject generally, although it’s amusing to note that he himself is an identitarian progressive, just a milder breed who hasn’t yet fully internalized that all revolutions eventually devour their children.

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

This is the 20th Edition of Wednesday What We’re Reading. It’s been a fun feature so far, and well-received to boot, so with a little luck, the next time I make mention of anniversaries in the introduction is when we’ve been doing them for a year.

Defense

History, Photos, Paintings

Science and Technology

Other

  • On wage stagnation – Slate Star Codex is tops on my list of blogs whose authors I would disagree with on nearly every matter of substance, because the guy who writes it is so sharp. Also, the commentariat there is in the same club as ours—good ones.

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

“Under capitalism, man exploits man. Under socialism, the reverse is true.” – A Twitter Wag

“It’s been a really boring week in defense news.” – Me, in our article-sharing chat channel

AAF Picks

Results time! Scores first, my picks from last Wednesday in parentheses.

  • Birmingham 12, Salt Lake 9 (Stallions +6.5): as in week 1, the strength of the Iron was defense.
  • Arizona 20, Memphis 18 (Arizona -10.5): swing and a miss. Arizona only won at all on the grounds of a late comeback.
  • Orlando 37, San Antonio 29 (Orlando -6.5): after Arizona’s stumble, Orlando has the best claim to offensive powerhouse status.
  • San Diego 24, Atlanta 12 (Atlanta +9.5): I was right on this one until San Diego kicked a garbage time field goal (35 seconds on the clock!) to pad their lead.

Record to date: 2-2. I beat this sportswriter, whose picks went 1-3. Were it not for the stupid last-second field goal, I would have been 3-1 and he would have been 0-4.

There are no AAF odds for week three out yet, so I’ll do my picks later in the week, either tomorrow or on Friday. Tomorrow, I have a long-ish AAF review scheduled, so I’ll defer deeper comment on the subject until then. (Excepting, of course, a few articles linked below.)

Defense

Guns

Science and Technology

  • Goodbye, A380 – Surprising nobody, really. The A380 was a relic of a hub-and-spoke era in a point-to-point one. Unlike the 747, which was designed with cargo in mind (that is, designed with a top-deck cockpit to allow for a hinged nose), the A380 lives and dies on passenger flights, and market preferences in passenger flights run in a different direction now. Fun fact: when Boeing and Airbus were considering a superjumbo collaboration, Boeing said no, it’s a bad idea.
  • The claim that Autopilot reduced Tesla crashes by 40% is statistically unsupportable – I’m willing to be pleasantly surprised if wrong, but I’m on the record saying that general-availability driverless cars are probably two decades away.
  • The rise and decline of the Makerbot Empire – Makerbot was the vanguard of the cheap-3D-printer movement. Back in the day, a $700 filament deposition model was considered cheap. Now, you can get a fancy resin printer for under $500. Contra Wired, I think they were pretty successful at ushering in a new era. They just didn’t stay market leaders.
  • What happens when techno-utopians actually win elections? – A case study from Italy. Spoiler: utopians are still humans, with human failings.
  • Hand transplants: thumbs up or thumbs down? – A very long-form article from Wired on the topic.

Grab Bag

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

Leading off with a (temporary) new section…

The Alliance to Restore the Republic of American Football

That section title got away from me a bit. (If it were the Rebel Alliance of American Football, it would be the RAAF! That’s a fun acronym that isn’t in use anywhere else.) Anywho, it’s that awkward time of the sports year which falls between the end of the NFL playoffs and the start of the NFL preseason1, so the Alliance of American Football was an obvious thing to check out.

The short version is, it has promise, some of which is currently unrealized. The long version is, I’m writing a full post, so be patient. In the interests of having some extra fun with the league, I’ve decided to do picks against the spread for the remaining nine weeks of the season.

  • Salt Lake Stallions at Birmingham Iron (-6.5): I don’t have a good feel for this one, but I say Salt Lake covers. Birmingham didn’t generate much offense last time out, and a shutdown defense only takes you so far.
  • Arizona Hotshots (-10.5) at Memphis Express: Arizona in this one—the Hotshots are the pacesetters in the league right now, and Memphis is realizing that the Christian Hackenburg Show isn’t going to work.
  • Orlando Apollos (-6.5) at San Antonio Commanders: I like Orlando in this one. San Antonio looked iffy in their game last week against the Fleet.
  • Atlanta Legends at San Diego Fleet (-9.5): Atlanta to cover. I don’t think they’re bad enough to lose by 10 to the Fleet, who (despite being one of my chosen rooting interests this year) are not very good themselves.

Defense

History

Science and Technology

Guns

Grab Bag


  1. I may be glossing over some other sports somewhat. 

Wednesday What We’re Reading (Feb. 6, 2019)

Last week’s call for laptop names was premature, happily. A replacement battery and some marring on the chassis from my jimmying screwdrivers later, and we’re back in action.

Defense

Guns

  • Forgotten Weapons on the Colt CK901 – It’s an AR-15-pattern rifle in 7.62×39, designed for the Yemeni military. It has some nifty features you don’t find in presently-available 7.62×39 ARs. I could see myself buying one, if they ever release it for the American shooting public.

Technology

  • Oracle continues comic book supervillainy – By auditing Java users and attempting to wring license fees out of them for uses in violation of terms.
  • Do e-cigarettes help people quit smoking? – They help people quit smoking cigarettes, at any rate. I suspect they are not so good at helping people quit vaping.
  • A brewing Bitcoin scam? – QuadrigaCX is a Canadian cryptocurrency exchange whose founder recently died. The sub-bullets following are wild conspiracy-theorizing, based in part on the article above.
    • Gerry Cotten, the deceased, is claimed to have died in India of Crohn’s disease. He is Canadian, however, and lived in Canada. Crohn’s is not generally a fatal condition except in severe, poorly-managed cases. Severe-unto-death cases make long airline flights unlikely, for reasons of lavatory availability.
    • According to the blog post above, Quadriga’s story (that much of the exchange’s crypto reserves were in an offline wallet on an encrypted laptop) doesn’t jive with known transactions. Quadriga was paying withdrawals with new deposits, and a large amount of Bitcoin left Quadriga’s known online wallets by way of another exchange.
    • If I were looking to con a bunch of people and run away somewhere, a destination like India, where English is widely spoken, a life of luxury is readily and cheaply available, and local officials are not entirely above bribery, would be high on my list. So also would a cryptocurrency exchange be high on my list of methods.

Wednesday What We’re Reading (Jan. 30, 2019)

Yup, it’s a Thursday entry again, but only because I spent yesterday’s lunch break working, last night finishing today’s scheduled post, and this morning attempting to resuscitate my laptop.

So, uh, anyone have favorite fictional AIs and computers? I think I’m going to need a new computer name in the near future.

Defense

Guns

History in Pictures (Mostly)

Technology

Grab Bag

Wednesday What We’re Reading (Jan. 23, 2019)

Every time I think one of these is going to be short…

Notably, SHOT 2019 is this week, also known as Firearms Industry Christmas. There’s a little less on the table than usual that piques our interest here, so next week we’ll either do a pair of best-of articles, or reserve a section in What We’re Reading for it.

Press-Stopping Post-Publication Update

Defense

Guns and Shooting

American Sport

Grab Bag

Wednesday What We’re Reading (Jan. 16, 2019)

Now that parvusimperator is back with us, I can focus on this post more than usual. As usual, when I focus on something more than usual it doesn’t just get done. It gets overdone.

Categories arranged not in the usual defense-first fashion, but rather in the order they showed up in our weekly-news-stories channel on the company Hangouts Chat.

Американский футбол

Science

  • First we saw too few Milky Way satellite galaxies, now we see too many – An interesting case where refinements to the theory brought the estimated number of satellite galaxies down, while refinements to measuring tools brought the number of discovered satellite galaxies up. As always, a good read from Quanta. This story came from the daily news dump at Ambient Irony, a blog run by a Twitter acquaintance, which usually has some good stuff in the science/technology field.
  • Rocks: the next dark matter detector – When the next Einstein rolls around and upsets the luminiferous-ether-like consensus on dark matter, I’m going to be smiling very smugly from my little corner of the internet. (Or we’ll eventually catch a WIMP, and you’ll never hear from me again.)

Technology

Defense

The Акула/Typhoon-class boomers, in pictures

History

American Politics

Monroe Doctrine


  1. This is definitely the accepted plural. 

Wednesday What We’re Reading (Jan. 9, 2019)

Today is an extremely grab-bag day.

Defense

Firearms

Technology

  • Patreon’s censors (video) – Noting the danger megacorporations pose to free speech online is one of the least traditionally conservative positions I hold politically. I have a longer post on the issue in draft status, but it’s a hard one for me to write, probably because there aren’t any easy fixes. The main point I found compelling in the linked video is that it’s absurd that Patreon exercises editorial control, when in effect it’s content creators hiring them to do behind-the-scenes accounting.

Wednesday What We’re Reading (Jan. 2, 2019)

Welcome to 2019! Maybe it’s just me, but saying ‘twenty-nineteen’ feels like the future to me in a way ‘twenty-eighteen’ didn’t. I was making plans to put a garden in our back yard the other day1, realized I wasn’t going to get there this summer, and subsequently realized that meant I was making plans for 2020, which is absolutely the future.

Technically, I wasn’t supposed to start these back up until next week, but we have a few items in the queue that I figured I might as well whip into some kind of article.

Defense

  • Australia’s Defence Technology Review, January 2019 – The front cover has what I can only call an LST-X on it, which is why it’s in the roundup to begin with, but it also has a ton of interesting news on Aussie defense inside. The advertising and other non-editorial inner matter reminds me of early-20th-century Janes books, where (usually) English companies manufacturing things like boilers and armor plate would advertise.
  • Parvusimperator had another link on the Achates-Cummins opposed piston engine, but we’d already covered the information therein, so here’s a different article – This one focuses a bit more on possible consumer applications, rather than the 1000hp Cummins project for combat vehicles, but has some good animations and graphics to consult if you have a hard time picturing just when things happen in an opposed piston cycle. Cummins was supposed to present a report on initial test results in November, but I can’t find a copy. Scrounging is parvusimperator’s gig. If we find one, we’ll have it for you.
  • Foreign Affairs writes on Trump’s foreign policy – They use the term ‘illiberal hegemony’ to indicate that current American foreign policy is not strongly focused on exporting democracy or liberalizing illiberal regimes. I think it’s fair to say it’s a foreign policy with the idealism knob turned down to zero, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
  • China’s railgun test ship is undergoing sea trials – Some Twitter pictures show it steaming at sea. Business Insider calls it a ‘warship’, but it’s just a landing ship with a big honking railgun turret plopped onto the bow.
  • Secretary Mattis’ departure delays KC-46 deliveries – Apparently, some paperwork was awaiting his signature.
  • The PLARF tests an S-400 system on a ‘simulated ballistic target’ – I still can’t type PLARF without snickering.
  • China can’t control the South China Sea – The author is speaking specifically in circumstances less than war. At war, he seems pretty happy with the US-SoKor-Japan-etc. bloc’s ability to beat China, which is (I think) where the sober, non-hysterical money ought to go. At levels of tension less than war, he also thinks China doesn’t have sufficient hulls to enforce its control over the South China Sea. He gets there by excluding the PLAN from patrol and flag-waving duties, which seems to me to be a questionable assumption.
  • US Navy considering a block buy of aircraft carriers to save money – U-S-A! U-S-A! More seriously, it’s what the kids might call (might have called?) a baller move to order two aircraft carriers at once when competitor states are working toward that capability, in peacetime, because a bulk buy is cheaper. ‘Murica.
  • F-35 AAM testing – They’re really playing up the simultaneous engagement thing for reasons which aren’t fully clear to me. Was it an EOTS engagement? Sensor fusion? If it’s just shooting AMRAAMs at two separate targets tracked by radar, I’m not all that impressed. It’s 70s/80s state of the art.

Mattis’ Farewell Letter

I’ve decided to transcribe the entire thing here, because it’s so clearly the work of an old soldier rather than a politician.

MEMORANDUM FOR ALL DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE EMPLOYEES

SUBJECT: Farewell Message

On February 1, 1865, President Lincoln sent to General Ulysses S. Grant a one-sentence telegram. It read: “Let nothing which is transpiring change, hinder, or delay your military movements or plans.”

Our Department’s leadership, civilian and military, remains in the best possible hands. I am confident that each of you remains undistracted from our sworn mission to support and defend the Constitution while protecting our way of life. Our Department is proven to be at its best when the times are most difficult. So keep the faith in our country and hold fast, alongside our allies, aligned against our foes.

It has been my high honor to serve at your side. May God hold you safe in the air, on land, and at sea.

Technology

Grab Bag

  • Philadelphia is a terrible place – It’s an old story, but as proud residents of Pennsylvania’s better half, we’re honor-bound to trash Philly whenever we get the chance.

  1. I bet this clause took speakers of the Queen’s English a read or two to parse correctly.