Tag Archives: what we’re reading

Wednesday What We’re Reading (Jun. 12, 2019)

It’s rare that I get the What We’re Reading story filed prior to our traditional 10:13 a.m. Eastern post publication time, but today, I’ve been more diligent than usual.

Defense

Science and Technology

Culture

History

Commodities

A new heading! It was originally ‘Finance’, but then I realized that every finance-related story I had was also commodities-related in one way or another.

Grab Bag

Lots of headings today.

Wednesday What We’re Reading (Jun. 5, 2019)

It’s almost but not quite the anniversary of D-Day, and is precisely the anniversary of my marriage1.

Between that, travel, finishing Britain’s Future Navy (depressing) and starting Massie’s Dreadnought (exciting), it’s a short one this week2.

Defense

Science and Technology

  • Another open-source project switches to a license which excludes resellers – An interesting problem. The norm in the software industry used to be this: if you develop an open-source project, you have dibs on selling that project as a service. The Big Three cloud providers (Amazon, Microsoft, and Google) broke that norm, reselling open-source-projects-as-a-service. The open source projects have now fired back with a new breed of open-source licenses that permit users to do everything but that.

Grab Bag


  1. Rather than send flowers on the day, I sent them a day early. That way it’s surprising. 
  2. These are affiliate links. This will serve as a temporary disclaimer/etc. until I get the actual disclaimer/privacy policy written up. 
  3. Mr. Alexander says that this is the second article in a sequence. Idle speculation in the comments wonders where he’s going with it. One commenter put forward the idea that it might be a literal come to Jesus moment, which would be a victory for Christendom on par with the conversion of C.S. Lewis, but I don’t put much stock in that one. I lean more toward a shift in politics. 
  4. That is, I enjoy them, and he doesn’t. 
  5. Do you know what else did a good job at this, hard as it is to believe? The Star Wars prequels. Can you picture a single Lucas-era lightsaber duel with quick cuts? Of course you can’t, because none of them were shot that way, despite the fast pace and acrobatics involved in most of them. 

Wednesday What We’re Reading (May. 29, 2019)

Defense

Science and Technology

  • Artificial general intelligence is hard to define, much less build – The key insight is that when people talk about machines driving The Singularity, they’re talking about artificial general creativity. We have an awful lot of non-artificial general intelligence already, and much of it goes unused.
  • Used IBM mainframe buyer’s guide – In case you’re looking for a fun hardware project. All you have to do is spend about as much as you would on a cheap new car, and be prepared for an extra $170-some per month in electricity1.
  • Arm2 is the latest to suspend business with Huawei – That’s terrible for Huawei, given that they do a lot of ARM-architecture processors.
  • Google stored unhashed G-Suite passwords for over a decade – It’s fixed now, but this is your weekly reminder that even the big players in tech are actually terrible at their jobs.
  • Offset graphene sheets superconduct at -25C – Also, about a million times atmospheric pressure, but what’s a megabar or two among friends?
  • SpaceX succeeds on another launch – This one to deploy the first 60 satellites in their proposed, uh, 12,000-strong Starlink constellation. They stuck the landing, which means they’re up to 40 of 47 on landing attempts.
  • No link for this one, because I forgot to pop it into our chat, but given how many Starlink satellites are planned, the FCC’s standard satellite-hits-someone-or-something calculation suggests that it’s even odds after six years that reentering debris will bonk something more important than dirt.

Baseball

Grab Bag


  1. At Western PA market rates. Fun fact: the bargain-basement VPS that Many Words runs on costs about $170 per year. 
  2. No longer ARM, evidently. 

Wednesday What We’re Reading (May. 22, 2019)

WWRW falls on a Thursday again, because I was working from home yesterday, and that always throws off my groove.

This is the 32nd one of these. Yay, powers of two!

Defense

Games

  • Rule the Waves 2 is out – Rule the Waves, the 1900-1925 naval arms race/tactical battle simulator, is a Soapbox favorite. Does the sequel, which expands the scope to 1955 and adds aircraft carriers, stack up? The short answer is yes, and I’m very much enjoying trying some oddball ideas in my Japan game2. The long answer is you’ll have to wait until I get through a game or two and can write a full review.

Grab Bag


  1. We have a Patreon, if you want to fund more advanced journalisming. 
  2. Hmm, it’s 1925 and I have a good fleet-size carrier design. Rather than build huge dreadnoughts, I’ll just build a bunch of carriers and some 30,000-ton 30-knot 6-gun battlecruisers packed with AA to go with them. Is it working? Well, not exactly. At any rate, RtW2 is very, very likely to be this year’s Winter Wargaming AAR/Let’s Play. 

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.