Saturday, November 24, 2007

Still No Free Lunch

Wretchard at the Belmont Club, discusses the newly-discovered perils of green buildings with his typical intelligence and eloquence. It seems that designing a building to be energy-efficient also makes it a target for birds. Yet another case of the law of unintended consequences playing havoc with the plans of men. Suddenly, the green strategy is discredited, and yet another green strategy takes its place. The building owners are left holding the bag and wondering why they bothered to build green in the first place.

Wrethchard extends this to a discussion of the precautionary principle and the Kyoto Protocol.

But the point is that we expect a return on all the effort being poured into Kyoto and are being charged for the investment. But what if it's a dry hole? What if there's no return? What happens if in fact we have to pay for fixing the damage we did with Kyoto because we didn't care about the science since the "precautionary principle" took care of everything? What then?

What then indeed? This is the fundamental argument against the precautionary principle cast in an unconventional light. Not only could a decision made without sufficient evidence lead to a solution that fails to work or justify its cost, it could create further problems that we failed to recognize. The pregnant woman has morning sickness - quick, give her the thalidomide!

'The market will fix it'. Yes, but we've fixed the market because it wasn't working to our satisfaction. Kyoto has the potential to be greatest single boondoggle since Charles Ponzi began his illustrious career. That's not to say it won't benefit mankind. But then, how would we measure that benefit? Oh, I forgot: the precautionary principle renders that question unnecessary.

Unnecessary for the people who campaign for and launch the program. No cost will fall upon them. Ironically, Charles Ponzi also seemed to have good intentions.

There are often delays in publishing environmental and occupational regulations. Much of the time, it is simply the result of industry lobbyists seeking to buy time and stave off reduced profits. However, it would be foolish to always rush to implement new standards before the controversy is addressed. Better to wait and solve the original problem than to hurry and add more problems.


Monday, September 24, 2007

Alternative Energy: Also good for cutting terror funding

One of the beneficial side effects of reducing our oil demand is that we reduce the income of major oil producing nations. (It's the simple result of the law of supply and demand) This is especially apparent in the Arab world, where the majority of their GNP is derived from oil. When you consider the backing many of these states provide for terrorism and insurgencies, it makes sense to deny them excessive funding. Israeli writer Yair Lapin lay it out here.

Initially I planned to sell myself an immediate holiday. Why should I bother the Israeli public with something that even I think is boring? Then I thought about it a little more and a little more and after two weeks I had an answer. I am a little reluctant here because honestly it’s not politically correct. The only way to sell environmental protection to the Israeli public is to explain the one advantage:

It’s a way of screwing the Arabs.

I want to make it clear I am not including in this, God forbid, those peace-loving Arabs who believe in coexistence with the State of Israel. I am talking about the other billion and a half or so for whom the whole issue of environmental protection was created in order to screw them. The only reason this has not been presented to you before is that most of the people who deal with Green activism are well meaning lefties and people who wear round glasses who have no desire to screw anyone. They prefer a quiet clean world where everyone wears white and listens to folk music. That’s very nice but it will never work in Israel. We’re not programmed that way. If we can’t screw someone then we are not interested.

But it is possible because in the larger context, environmental protection includes a subject no less important called "alternative sources of energy". Green activists will be happy to explain the details to you, but the bottom line is that burning oil releases soot and heat, contributes to the melting of the icebergs in Antarctica and sends pollution into the atmosphere of this wonderful planet of ours.

Crap, I fell asleep again.

For example, I would create a much more original environmental start up. I would carve up the Antarctica into shot-glass size ice cubes. The real reason we need to find alternative sources of energy is not the troubled environment but the fact that it's Arabs who sell most of the oil to the rest of the world. The sad outcome of this is that they have lot of money and we know where this money goes: To Al Qaeda, Hamas, Hizbullah, to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards as well as to the funding of terror worldwide much of which is directed at us.

It’s aggravating to think that every time we get into the car we are giving money to Hamas, and that is something we Israelis needs to seriously think about. Sixty percent of the country’s oil consumption goes to our vehicles. Wouldn’t it be nice if we were the first to use cars which don’t run on petrol. (The technology exists. It just keeps getting stonewalled by the big oil and automotive interests.) We have everything going for us: We’re smart, technologically savvy and when money is involved we’re pretty industrious. Besides, we are small enough for trials that could be carried out by the entire population and we are big enough to export the technology to the entire world. The Jewish intellect has changed the world in the past and there is no reason it can’t do it again in the future.

Fire up the nuclear reactors, crank out the biofuels, and conserve some oil. It's time to do our part in shutting down the money supply for Al Qaeda and IEDs. I'm ready for the new propaganda posters - "When you drive alone, you drive with Osama!"


Wednesday, August 8, 2007

No Free Lunch

One of the most important lessons to learn about environmental issues (which are a branch of public health) is that almost everything has a trade off. Every benefit has a cost, and as citizens we have to assess that cost before deciding on a method to achieve the benefit.

Take organic food, for example. Agricultural pollution is a major concern , with a number of rural water supplies showing levels of pesticides and manufactured fertilizers that worthy of concern. Going organic eliminates this problem, but creates several more. It turns out that the methods of organic food production release more carbon dioxide from the soil than industrial methods, and also require more land.

There are no simple solutions to problems. If there were, we would have solved all of our problems already.


Tuesday, August 7, 2007

The Price of a Bag of Popcorn

Microwave popcorn is something quite tasty and a nice snack for home movies. Diacetyl, the flavoring that gives the popcorn its buttery taste is quite safe to eat. Even inhaling the vapors for a short period of time is not hazardous. However, like many chemicals, long term exposure at industrial levels (such as in a popcorn manufacturing plant) can have serious effects on the lungs. The characteristic lung damage has been termed Flavoring Worker's Lung. The Pump Handle, a public health blog, has more on the health hazards of prolonged exposure and the gradual efforts to protect workers from the substance. More on Wikipedia.

Naturally, there have been calls to ban diacetyl, and the matter is under debate. Bans or enforceable standards like an OSHA Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) actually are the best approach from a business perspective, as they level the playing field. This reminds me of a story about how hockey players did not wear helmets intially, despite receiving safety warnings. It wasn't that they didn't believe the warnings, but that they thought the helmets would reduce their fields of vision, thus putting them at a disadvantage. (It may also have had something to do with not wanting to look like a coward) They asked the League to require it for them so that they would all be equally effected. This logic is the ethical basis for nearly all regulatory law - it removes a decision from competitive pressure. Think about taxes: we all know the government needs money to perform its tasks, but it would be hard to get people to pay the money voluntarily. The Angry Toxicologist (who is actually one of the most dispassionate and rational public health bloggers) has more on this, as well as on the devastating effects of diacetyl on the lungs.

Now for a question to any of my readers: are you aware of an alternative to diacetyl? I've read many times that safe alternatives are available, but no actual chemicals are listed.


Sunday, August 5, 2007

Advances in Medicine: Worth the Cost

Cancer remains a major killer in the US and abroad. It's good to hear of new developments like electric field therapy. I almost lost a good friend to brain cancer, and I can only imagine how precious a few more months are to someone with a terminal disease.

Early detection is key to fighting cancer effectively. Generally, most cancers that are caught prior to spreading are treatable if not curable. That's why public health officials favor screening programs like mammograms and Pap smears. In public health terms, this is referred to as secondary prevention. Pancreatic cancer is known for being almost always fatal due to how hard it is to detect. This may change that. Remember that this kind of advance requires large amounts of time and effort, as well as money, next time you hear about health care costs.

Far more terrifying (to me at least) than terminal cancer is brain damage. For one such as myself who believes in the afterlife, death is lacks some of its sting. The thought of becoming a lesser being mentally is something out of nightmares. (Literally, in my case) The idea of bringing someone back from the abyss of brain death is still a ways off, but the idea of stimulating the brain back to a functional state is amazing. I wonder if this will cause us to reconsider what a persistent vegetative state actually is.


Monday, July 30, 2007

Victory for Iraq!

My congratulations to all Iraqis on their magnificent victory in the Asian Cup. Omar at Iraq the Model lays out a blissful scene:

Our players, tonight our heroes, learned that only with team work they had a chance to win. May our politicians learn from the players and from the fans who are painting a glorious image of unity and national pride, and let the terrorists know that nothing can kill the spirit of the sons of the immortal Tigris and Euphrates.

The fear is gone, the curfew is ignored, tonight Iraq knows only joy...


Water Vapor: Not a form of pollution

Water vapor is usually not thought of a form of pollution. In fact, it is a necessary part of the water cycle. When water vapor condenses into a suspension of water droplets, the puffy result is an often beautiful part of nature. However, conventional wisdom is less and less conventional. Don Surber reports:

The tax-exempt Environmental Integrity Project in Washington, D.C., issued its annual list of the 50 dirtiest power plants in America. This is illustrated by a photo showing steam — water vapor — escaping from a cooling tower. Sigh.

Sigh indeed. However, not satisfied with simple error, the EIP decided go head over heels into error.

Bill Hobbs unloads on the rest of the report. It proves to be alarmist distortion and dedicated pessimism. He states the following about the water tower:

As for the water vapor image, that’s not surprising. Some years ago when the environmentalist groups in Nashville decided to target the city’s innovative trash-to-steam plant, which provided steam for heating and cooling about three dozen downtown buildings and also helped the city process its garbage, the local alt-weekly illustrated its attack stories on the project with ominous-looking pictures that also really just showed steam rising from the plant’s cooling tower even though they knew that’s what they were doing.

This is a bit like a certain liberal journalist inferring that milbloggers are afraid to serve their country, despite having interviewed one of them. (See Blackfive for more details. ) It's just completely and deliberately wrong.

The environmental movement has developed a strong streak of alarmism, which is great for fund raising, but not so great for actually discussing an issue. It's a bad idea to exaggerate or portray something deceptively. What is missing in all of this worry over a declining rate of emissions is the increasing energy demand and the requirement for a usable method of meeting said demand. As Mr. Hobbs says:

I’ll be impressed with the Environmental Integrity Project when they have the integrity to either endorse expanded nuclear power, or admit that they don’t have a viable replacement for all the coal-generated power they want to shut down.

Same here. What has made the environmental movement decide to limit it's alternatives to energy sources hat are laughably inefficient in terms of money, unable to be applied to much of the Earth, and are about as reliable as a stopped clock. I call them complementary energy sources, for like complementary medicine, they cannot replace actual base load power sources. You want a real alternative? Try splitting atoms.

Hat tip: Pajamas Media


Friday, July 20, 2007

On a lighter (than air) note

Λαστ Εξιλε
As a fan of airships of all shapes, sizes, and types, it was perhaps foreordained that I would like Last Exile. To say this anime features airships is an understatement. The only other transportation seen in the series is a horse and buggy. The story follows a pair of immensely likable air couriers throughout their adventures in a time of war. What's remarkable about the series is that it is extraordinarily unlike many animes I've seen. (This perhaps explains why I like it)

Most animes I've seen have a lot of sex, scanty clothing, etc (called fan service). A few feature over the top violence and gore. Others toss in excessive brooding and angst-filled heroes. Last Exile is almost something I could show to kids - a bit too much violence, certainly not enough to bother adults. The main hero is very upbeat and optimistic for 90% of the show. Music is also a high point, with only the theme song being a disappointment. The entire show strives to capture the era of steam and early biplanes, focusing on the WWI era. The DVDs are available, and it is worth a watch, especially if you would normally pass on anime.


Friday, July 13, 2007

How goes the battle?

This is probably the best summary of what the surge is trying to accomplish. Dr. Kilcullen is a State Department expert on counter-insurgency whose doctoral dissertation focused on the nature of insurgencies. He also is one of the architects of the current plan, and is thus supremely qualified to explain it.

For regular updates on progress in Iraq, I suggest Bill Roggio or Michael Yon


Al Qaeda Capitol Seized

Generally, when you take an enemy's capitol, you have seized the initiative and are winning the war. There are exceptions to this, of course: The USA had its capital burned and yet it achieved a stalemate in the War of 1812. Napoleon reached Moscow, and found it empty, the Russians having used scorched earth tactics. The key is to build on the success and expand on it.

In the Long War, I hardly thought we could take a capitol city of Al Qaeda. In fact, this has been used as an example of the difference between this war and others. Imagine my surprise when I read of a Hugh Hewitt interview of Michael Yon in which the self-proclaimed worldwide capitol of Al Qaeda was taken.

HH: Now Michael Yon, a lot of people don’t know the significance of Baquba. And so can you explain what peace in Baquba means for the larger war effort?

MY: Well, it’s huge, because al Qaeda had claimed Baquba as their capitol, their worldwide capitol. And you might recall one of the things that kind of upsets people about my reporting is I said Iraq was in a civil war, and I said that way back in February of 2005, and I continue to do so. But when I first wrote that, I was in Baquba, in 2005, and I spent two or three months here. And it was just total…you could see it, and you could see al Qaeda was trying to foment that civil war, because that’s their underlying strategy, is to do that. And so getting, fracturing al Qaeda here, and al Qaeda alienating so many Iraqis, it’s helping us to put a damper on the civil war.

This is a significant victory for the Coalition forces. Apparently, the Democratic party was busy talking about surrender while the military was planning to take control of the enemy capitol. As for Michael Yon's view of this attitude:

HH: Now yesterday, Harry Reid said on the floor of the Senate that the surge has failed. Do you think there’s any factual basis for making that assertion, Michael Yon, from what you’ve seen in Iraq over the last many months?

MY: He’s wrong, he’s wrong. It has absolutely not failed, and in fact, I’m finally willing to say it in public. I feel like it’s starting to succeed. And you know, I’m kind of stretching a little bit, because we haven’t gone too far into it, but I can see it from my travels around, for instance, in Anbar and out here in Diyala Province as well. Baghdad’s still very problematic. But there’s other areas where you can clearly see that there is a positive effect. And the first and foremost thing we have to do is knock down al Qaeda. And with them alienating so many Iraqis, I mean, they’re almost doing it for us. I mean, yeah, it takes military might to finally like wipe them out of Baquba, but it’s working. I mean, I sense that the surge is working. Reid is just wrong.

Read it all. Michael Yon notes that this is certainly not the end of combat. The leadership of Al Qaeda is trying to emulate (unconsciously, of course) the survival of the American leadership in 1812. However, the irhabists have lost a lot of popular support, and they may find they have few safe havens left. The reference to a massacre is from Yon's dispatch entitled Bless the Beasts and Children, whose title comes from a movie and its theme song. You read more about some of the controversial things that he has reported in this dispatch.


Friday, July 6, 2007

Music Induced Hearing Loss

I noticed in the wikipedia article on Ted Nugent in myprevious post that he was nearly deaf in his left ear. Just because something sounds good doesn't mean it can't destroy your hearing. Hearing loss due to high sound levels can involve permanent damage to the nerve endings that respond to sound in the inner ear. This irreversibly distorts sound, especially high sounds around 4000 Hz. This isn't just limited to musician - a night at a concert can leave you with ringing ears and hearing loss. A better choice is to protect yourself.

Some the best hearing protection is also among the cheapest. The humble yellow foam plug is very useful for industrial settings. However, normal hearing protectors distort sounds when used. The problem comes from the acoustics of the outer ear. This article describes the idea. E-A-R, a major hearing protection company, makes a reasonably priced pair of flat attenuation ear plugs. The flat attenuation is like turning down the volume on a stereo - there is very little distortion. If you plan on going to a big concert, you may want to find a pair on the Internet.

Also, for those who are fond of firearms, they have a specially designed hearing protection system made for the military. It is designed to stop impulse noises like gunfire and explosions without compromising the ability to hear ambient sounds. Given how much noise to which someone in a firefight is exposed, I'd say they are a good idea.


Damn Hippies...

I've never been a fan of hippies, despite growing up listening to rock from the Sixties. I can admire the musical talent that went into "All you need is love" without believing in the silly philosophy it espouses. Ted Nugent was part of the music scene back then. Unlike many people, he was sober enough to remember what he calls the Summer of Drugs:

Forty years ago hordes of stoned, dirty, stinky hippies converged on San Francisco to "turn on, tune in, and drop out," which was the calling card of LSD proponent Timothy Leary. Turned off by the work ethic and productive American Dream values of their parents, hippies instead opted for a cowardly, irresponsible lifestyle of random sex, life-destroying drugs and mostly soulless rock music that flourished in San Francisco.

The Summer of Drugs climaxed with the Monterey Pop Festival which included some truly virtuoso musical talents such as Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, both of whom would be dead a couple of years later due to drug abuse. Other musical geniuses such as Jim Morrison and Mama Cass would also be dead due to drugs within a few short years. The bodies of chemical-infested, brain-dead liberal deniers continue to stack up like cordwood.

As a diehard musician, I terribly miss these very talented people who squandered God's gifts in favor of poison and the joke of hipness. I often wonder what musical peaks they could have climbed had they not gagged to death on their own vomit. Their choice of dope over quality of life, musical talent and meaningful relationships with loved ones can only be categorized as despicably selfish.

It's amazing that musicians manage to survive that decade. I wonder how much they really relied on the drugs for inspiration. What could Jimi Hendrix have done had he stayed sober? He had a talent with the electric guitar that was extraordinary. Think about the continuous use of drugs in the modern music scene. (Kurt Cocaine anyone?) How many good artists are going to bite the dust before this over? Say what you want, but I'm glad there are drugs which are illegal.

Clean and sober for 59 years, I am still rocking my brains out and approaching my 6,000th concert. Clean and sober is the real party.

Damn straight. Keep on rocking, Ted.


Friday, June 15, 2007

US Troops in Iraq, 40 years before OIF

Yes, back then we had US forces stationed in the Sandbox to repel any Middle Eastern adventures by Hitler. The guidance provided to them is surprisingly relevant to today.


Monday, June 11, 2007

Unconventional Insights on the Long War

Public perception of reality is far more important than reality itself. And who better to discuss public perception than a journalist? What color is your gator? Read it all, as is so often said. Counterinsurgency is a war of perceptions - is the government perceived as the lawful ruler and able to protect its citizens? If the government is perceived as a failure, it will fail in reality. By the way, Michael Yon is a excellent writer and probably the best war correspondent we have. His site is worth a prolonged visit.

The Mesopotamian, an Iraqi blogger, made an interesting point a few weeks back. Normally, we like to think of insurgencies as war on the cheap, but it isn't free. Even if the weaponry is less expensive, someone has to pay for it, and plastic explosive is hardly free. I don't know if I agree with his conclusions, (Iran has a lot of money, enough to build nuclear weaponry, after all) but we would be foolish to neglect the flow of money to the insurgents - often provided by the thirsty gas tanks of our cars.

For all those feminists out there who think the war on terror is not worth winning, I suggest this article. Dressing like a sack of potatoes is not exactly liberating.


Sunday, June 10, 2007

Marshal(l) Corps?

John Edwards has posted an interesting idea for counter-terrorism. While much of it has been deservedly trashed on the blogosphere, I think he may have a point.

"Marshall Corps": Weak and failing states create hotbeds for terrorism and create regional instability that creates security dangers for the U.S. and our allies. As president, Edwards will create a "Marshall Corps" of 10,000 professionals, modeled on the Reserves systems, who will work on stabilization and humanitarian missions. He will also implement new training for future military leadership and create a undersecretary for stabilization and a new senior stabilization position within the Joint Staff.

I think the Marshall Corps could work, if it was well-administered. This would be a force of police, reconstruction specialists, and emergency response personnel. All of these people would receive training to prepare them for hostile, lawless landscapes like Iraq... or post-Katrina New Orleans. This unit would be a deployable, non-military force that could operate inside or outside of the United States. They would also cross-train with current contractors and military personnel who have reconstruction related roles.

I'd like to see him actually detail it further. If he neglects the security element, it would be a waste of time. Does he mean Marshall as in Marshall plan or as in US Marshals? The latter would be more useful.


Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Look, an Airship!

I was riding to a friend's comedy event as I noticed an airship passing by the skyline. Now, as you may guess from the name of my blog, I love airships. Unfortunately, I was only able to get a very low quality cell phone picture. It was clear which blimp it was: the Sanyo blimp. The blimp is operated by the Lightships Group, who have the enviable job of flying glowing airships. The lightship term does not refer to being lighter than air (i.e. they float in air as opposed using wings to create lift), but the lightship is actually lit from the interior...

Although it is in Minneapolis, that is basically how it looked last night. Check out out Mitch's site for more awesome images.


Friday, June 1, 2007

America loves Tony Blair

Tony Blair has always been an interesting character. He's from the Labor party, which is considerably more liberal than the Democrats here in the US, yet he is one of the most dedicated supporters of the war against Jihadism. He's proof that this is not a Left vs. Right issue. Honestly, you would expect the Left to be in favor of defeating an ideology that demands the subjugation of women, the execution of homosexuals, and the suppression of all four freedoms (I sometimes wonder if some democratic leader like Lieberman could have done a better job in keeping the country united.) He's an excellent communicator, and a man of considerable intelligence.

Take this, for example. His reflections on his tenure as prime minister show him to be the kind of intellectual and statesman we need right now. While I don't agree with all of his points, he makes an actual argument worth engaging. This is sadly rare on the Left. Wesley Clark, despite being anti-war, had this level of intellectual clarity.

Mr. Blair, you're welcome here in the States anytime.


Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day

Remember them.

They died so you could be free.


Sunday, May 27, 2007

Impeach Bush!

I'm with the Anchoress (who is atypically ferocious here) Let's bring on the accusations, the cheap charges, the standard rants. Let's see them challenged in open court, under oath. Come on, you know you want to impeach him. Your base would love it... at least until all of their ideas suddenly sag under the weight of reality.


Saturday, May 26, 2007

Why Skynet won't happen.

The Terminator: The Skynet Funding Bill is passed. The system goes on-line August 4th, 1997. Human decisions are removed from strategic defense. Skynet begins to learn at a geometric rate. It becomes self-aware at 2:14 a.m. Eastern time, August 29th. In a panic, they try to pull the plug.
Sarah Connor: Skynet fights back.
The Terminator: Yes. It launches its missiles against the targets in Russia.
John Connor: Why attack Russia? Aren't they our friends now?
The Terminator: Because Skynet knows the Russian counter-attack will eliminate its enemies over her

The idea of a supercomputer gaining sentience and turning on its creators is a classic of science fiction. It goes back to early Gothic sci-fi, like Frankenstein facing down his horrible monster - brought to life, forsaken, then returning with a vengeance. Looking backing even further, we see the idea of hubris in Greek tragedy. A audacious man dares to stand above his station and challenge the gods (the creators of life) and is destroyed by the horrific results of his actions.

However, a careful reading of these stories shows a common thread. It isn't just the AI/creation of life that causes the horrific results. The creator is horrified by his work, and tries to destroy his creation. I've often though that AIs would probably be treated better than that. The product of so much effort would probably endear itself to others.

It's already happening:
The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have become an unprecedented field study in human relationships with intelligent machines. These conflicts are the first in history to see widespread deployment of thousands of battle bots. Flying bots range in size from Learjets to eagles. Some ground bots are like small tanks. Others are the size of two-pound dumbbells, designed to be thrown through a window to scope out the inside of a room. Bots search caves for bad guys, clear roads of improvised explosive devices, scoot under cars to look for bombs, spy on the enemy and, sometimes, kill humans.

Even more startling than these machines' capabilities, however, are the effects they have on their friendly keepers who, for example, award their bots "battlefield promotions" and "purple hearts." "Ours was called Sgt. Talon," says Sgt. Michael Maxson of the 737th Ordnance Company (EOD). "We always wanted him as our main robot. Every time he was working, nothing bad ever happened. He always got the job done. He took a couple of detonations in front of his face and didn't stop working. One time, he actually did break down in a mission, and we sent another robot in and it got blown to pieces. It's like he shut down because he knew something bad would happen." The troops promoted the robot to staff sergeant -- a high honor, since that usually means a squad leader. They also awarded it three "purple hearts."

Humans have long displayed an uncanny ability to make emotional connections with their manufactured helpmates. Car owners for generations have named their vehicles. In "Cast Away," Tom Hanks risks his life to save a volleyball named Wilson, who has become his best friend and confidant. Now that our creations display elements of intelligence, however, the bonds humans forge with their machines are even more impressive. Especially when humans credit their bots with saving their lives.

Ted Bogosh recalls one day in Camp Victory, near Baghdad, when he was a Marine master sergeant running the robot repair shop.

That day, an explosive ordnance disposal technician walked through his door. The EODs, as they are known, are the people who -- with their robots -- are charged with disabling Iraq's most virulent scourge, the roadside improvised explosive device. In this fellow's hands was a small box. It contained the remains of his robot. He had named it Scooby-Doo.

"There wasn't a whole lot left of Scooby," Bogosh says. The biggest piece was its 3-by-3-by-4-inch head, containing its video camera. On the side had been painted "its battle list, its track record. This had been a really great robot."

The veteran explosives technician looming over Bogosh was visibly upset. He insisted he did not want a new robot. He wanted Scooby-Doo back.

"Sometimes they get a little emotional over it," Bogosh says. "Like having a pet dog. It attacks the IEDs, comes back, and attacks again. It becomes part of the team, gets a name. They get upset when anything happens to one of the team. They identify with the little robot quickly. They count on it a lot in a mission."

The bots even show elements of "personality," Bogosh says. "Every robot has its own little quirks. You sort of get used to them. Sometimes you get a robot that comes in and it does a little dance, or a karate chop, instead of doing what it's supposed to do." The operators "talk about them a lot, about the robot doing its mission and getting everything accomplished." He remembers the time "one of the robots happened to get its tracks destroyed while doing a mission." The operators "duct-taped them back on, finished the mission and then brought the robot back" to a hero's welcome.

Near the Tigris River, operators even have been known to take their bot fishing. They put a fishing rod in its claw and retire back to the shade, leaving the robot in the sun. Of the fish, Bogosh says, "Not sure if we ever caught one or not."

Who hasn't named their car or become used to their computers little quirks? When you work with a machine, you begin to apply human-like qualities to it. Now, imagine robots that actually simulate or possess personality and emotions. Rather than pulling the plug, you might see the robots in the barracks or with the unit on shore leave. Kind of hard to see Skynet deciding to eliminate humanity after playing poker with NORAD staffers...


Sunday, April 29, 2007

Victory or Death

It seems Harry Reid, with his vast experience in matters of strategy and the Middle East geopolitical climate, has declared the war in Iraq is lost. Strangely, General David Petraeus, the current military commander for Iraq, has a different view. I think I'll just trust the counterinsurgency expert on this one.

Not everyone is on the popular new bandwagon stating that the war in Iraq is lost. In fact, some people are dedicated to victory in the War on Terror.

The Victory Caucus

Victory PAC

No End But Victory

On a side note, victory in the Long War also requires that we defeat Islamism, (aka Islamic Fundamentalism, aka Jihadism, aka radical Islam) the brutal ideology that fuels Al Qaeda. This is not impossible, and those of an astute mind can turn themselves around. Like this guy.


Sunday, April 8, 2007

A question of training

As all of the readers for this site likely know, Iran has released the British sailors it took hostage. Many people seem to be quite critical of their conduct, which was rather embarrassing. Not being an expert in such things, I turned to someone more with the subject: Former Spook He is formerly of military intelligence, and ascribes the matter to a lack of training. This is understandable - sailors aren't expected to face capture, just as pilots aren't expected to deal with a hull breach. At least, until now.

As for tactics, it might be helpful to keep a helocopter overhead, especially one with a nice chaingun on it, in order to deter future Persian pirates. Given how close this is to the mainland, a land-based ground attack aircraft might also work.


Friday, April 6, 2007

Another page in the history of the galaxy!

I'm not a fan of anime in general, especially subtitled anime. However, a few stand out as excellent, or at least a pleasure to watch. One of these is Legend of Galactic Heroes. The most important word for this series is Epic. The story is a classic space opera featuring a noble Empire squaring off against the democratic Free Planets Alliance. The story centers around the heroic admirals and other related personnel for each side, especially the Empire's Admiral Reinhardt and the FPL's Admiral Yang. Reinhardt is a paragon of nobility - far from being a villain, he is a man of honor and courage. Yang, a would-be history professor, is a paragon of democracy. He is loyal to the principle of civilian control of the military almost to a fault, and has no love of the military for its own sake. Both the proud noble and the humble professor are amazingly gifted strategists. They are among the literal thousands of characters, each one having a name and story. The story itself is told in a format similar to a historical documentary, with a continuous narration describing the events and proving background.

What prompted this discussion is my friend Silence over at Fortress Iserlohn has begun a project of identifying all of the flagships from the series. He just started, so there are only a few ships up as of yet. In addition to simply pointing any visitor in that direction, I decided to post a few thoughts on the weapons of LOGH. The predominant weapon is the beam weapon. The laser-like beam from the handheld weapon has been shown to go right through flesh, doing little secondary damage. Any heat effects seem to secondary, as the woulds are not cauterized. The small beams can be stopped with little secondary effect by armor or heavy objects. They also react explosively with zephyr particles, an aerosol mixture, resulting in melee units being rather common for a time the far future. This all leads me to the conclusion that the "blue beams" of LOGH are packets of atomic particles accelerated to a relativistic speed. The packet leave a trail of energetic gas behind them, which creates the beam effect. Then again, this is all conjecture.


Thursday, April 5, 2007

Welcome to the Skydock!

Ωελχομε το τηε Σκϊδοχκ!

I had been thinking about starting a blog for some time, and it seems quite a few of my friends have taken up the role of blogger, so I decided to yield to the peer pressure. Expect posting to be irregular, covering multiple topics.