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Time to Shop for that Solar Generator

I'm looking at you, fnord12.

On 22 June, 2001, Tara O'Toole and Thomas Inglesby of the Johns Hopkins Center for Civilian Biodefense Strategies, organised a war game like no other. The two researchers, working with an array of bodies such as the ANSER Institute for Homeland Security, set out to simulate the effects of a biological attack on the US. The project was called Operation Dark Winter.

What they discovered was that the country was ill prepared to cope. Within two weeks there would be enormous civilian casualties, a catastrophic breakdown in essential institutions, and mass civil unrest. Food supplies, electricity and transport infrastructures would all collapse.


With all this in mind, the Guardian spoke to the academic and author Nafeez Ahmed, who has studied global crises and mass violence, and recently advised Ubisoft on the authenticity of its post-pandemic video game, The Division. We asked him, in the event that society collapses, what should we do. Here's what he suggested.

  1. Don't hole up alone with hundreds of tins of baked beans

    "There's a survivalist response which is 'I'm going to hide away all by myself'," says Ahmed. "You're probably not going to survive like that - you have to cooperate with other people. This may not be obvious at first because you may see others as a potential threat, but the moment you become a loner, you're likely to lose simply because you're now part of a dog-eat-dog environment.

  2. You need to go rural ... but not too rural

    "Generally speaking, when academics have run these scenarios on predictive models, cities are found to be extremely vulnerable simply because there are so many supply chains that are interdependent, and so many people there with you who are also dependent on these supply chains. People will be competing with each other for these scarce resources, which creates violence."

    However, the other extreme - total isolation - may also not be a good idea, for the reason given above. You need a group of differently skilled people who can work cooperatively in order to build your own supply chains and flourish.

  3. You need access to running water and agricultural land

    "In a scenario such as a pandemic, you need to be somewhere you can access running water and/or other sources of energy," says Ahmed. This isn't just for sustenance - fast running water can also be harnessed to provide power - as long as you thought to buy a small-scale hydroelectric generator. The problem is, most of us don't spend our weekends buying up on personal energy solutions - just in case. "If we're talking about a sudden collapse, then the chances are you won't have a solar power generator to hand," confirms Ahmed. But at least if you're near water you can drink it.

    "There's also the need to grow your own food," says Ahmed. "Again you're better off doing that with a group of people on a large area of land where you can apportion labour. That's not going to work as well in an urban environment."

  4. Establish communications

    The basic method of acquiring information will be a wind-up or solar-powered radio. However, to actually communicate with the outside world, or with members of your community, you may be back to walkie-talkies, two-way radios or even a citizen band radio - the problem there being that, in the event of a major catastrophe, you'll only be able to communicate with 1970s truckers. All of these will require electricity, so unless you've stockpiled batteries or fuel for a traditional generator you may be stuck. However, we're now seeing both solar and hydrogen-powered generators - and, of course, there's the nano membrane toilet which sorts both your power and sanitation issues in one go.

    "You could loot a PC World for broadband routers and then hit a garage or supermarket for some Pringles cans," says Bloch. "With those, you can probably build a reasonable network across a scorched suburb."

    Why a Pringle can? Well, it can be used to create a cantenna which would be capable of boosting a Wi-Fi signal from your computer.

  5. Don't necessarily trust the government or law enforcement

    "Never 100% always trust the military - especially when they're in your own territory," says Ahmed. [duh. i've seen Fear the Walking Dead and 28 Days Later. you never trust the government of law enforcement.]

    "The government has said that they need to have these continuity operations and we've said, 'okay I guess we need those' - we've given our consent by not really complaining about it. But at the same time, we know that's not the way we want the country to run.

    "So the moment we shift into a state where suddenly the police and army, this unelected minority of people, have all the power, and where all the political processes are suspended then, yes, there is a justifiable level of skepticism. Populations need to be asking, when is this situation going to end? At what point is this temporary suspension of our normal consititution going to lead back to the normal way of things?

  6. You may have to be self-sufficient for a long time

    "In a global pandemic scenario, you're looking at a long time before everything is safe," says Ahmed. "With influenza, for example, we're talking about a lead time of several years before society can get to grips with it all. If you really wanted to stay safe, I think you'll need to survive for a decade before civilisation sorts itself out."


And start figuring out that cantenna business. And find us some land by a lake.

By min | February 10, 2016, 12:15 PM | Ummm... Other? | Comments (0) | Link

Thank you, New Hampshire

To celebrate, let's re-read this article of Philip Bump being an asshole in June.

By fnord12 | February 9, 2016, 9:17 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (3) | Link

And rainbows every day

This view of Sanders' economic plans is certainly in line with what the progressive side of the economic spectrum believes will happen with a targeted economic stimulus, but i'm amazed to see it reported on CNN Money.

The economist that did this analysis (and who does not work for the Sanders campaign) is also the one that did the analysis of the single-payer proposal that the Wall Street Journal misrepresented. Somehow i don't expect to see the WSJ report on this, though.

By fnord12 | February 8, 2016, 1:44 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link

Backing up Bernie

In every debate, Hillary brings up two things that i know are wrong, but that Bernie never pushes back on. I've come to understand that Bernie sees the debates as an opportunity to give his stump speech on a national stage, and that's understandable given the format of the debates, but at the same time i wish he was better at the back-and-forth. Since these things have come up multiple times already, Bernie ought to be ready with the obvious response, and i have to think that someone in his campaign has brought it to his attention, if he didn't know/remember these things himself. So it may be that he thinks it's not worth getting into a back-and-forth (the "if you're explaining, you're losing" philosophy) and he'd rather talk in broad strokes. And frankly it seems to be working for him better than i would have ever expected, so who am i to criticize? But given that i have infinite space here, i thought i might as well lay these things out.

The first is the fact that Bernie did vote in favor of one bill that deregulated Wall Street. Hillary is referring to the Commodity Futures Modernization Act. This is a bullshit gotcha from Hillary in several ways. First point is that when Bernie voted in favor of the CFMA, it wasn't the bill that it eventually turned into:

When Sanders voted for the House version of the CFMA in October 2000, the bill was not yet a total debacle for Wall Street accountability advocates. The legislative text Sanders supported was clearly designed to curtail regulatory oversight. The GOP-authored bill was crafted as a response to a proposal from ex-Commodity Futures Trading Commission Chair Brooksley Born to ramp up oversight of derivatives. But the version Sanders initially voted for was more benign than the final, Gramm-authored version...

Then, after the vote, the bill was changed in committee by top Clinton administration officials, especially Goldman Sachs bankster Gary Gensler, who is now the Chief Financial Officer of the Hillary Clinton campaign. Sanders then voted again for the bill when it was part of a giant must pass omnibus budget bill, and he made his displeasure about it known at the time and repeatedly since then (including when Obama appointed Gensler to a position in his administration).

It is incredibly audacious of Hillary to attack Bernie on this when it was her husband and her current CFO that pulled what was essentially a dirty trick to get the language they wanted into the bill, after the vote. And that's why it's extremely frustrating to me to see Bernie not push back on this. But i guess the history is kind of convoluted and inside baseball, and i console myself with the fact that it seems extremely unlikely that the average debate viewer will buy the idea that Sanders is weak on Wall Street regulation.

The second thing regards the debates about Glass-Steagall. Sanders fought against it when the Clinton administration repealed that law, and now he's proposing re-establishing a 21st century Glass-Steagall. The bill he has in mind is in fact Elizabeth's Warren's bill (which is also sponsored by John McCain, a nice example of the reaching across the isle that Bernie is supposed to be incapable of). And this bill absolutely includes addressing what is known as "shadow banking". But every time Bernie brings this up, Hillary pretends like he's talking about re-instating the 1933 version of the law with no adjustments, and then talks about her idea is better because she would address the real problem of shadow banking. Which of course the Warren/Sanders bill would as well. And what's really weird is how Hillary uses this as a deflection against re-instating any version of Glass-Steagall. So it just seems like a dodge. If Hillary were serious, she should sign on to the Warren/Sanders bill. Instead it just sounds like an excuse to me. But Bernie never calls her on it, or agrees that shadow banking needs to be addressed as well.

I've seen multiple pundits suggest that viewers' eyes glaze over at the mention of Glass-Steagall and shadow banking, so again Bernie may have the right approach in just sticking to a broad "break up the big banks" and let Hillary lose herself in minutiae. I acknowledge that i'm watching the debates from a different perspective than most voters, and what i'm looking for is probably irrelevant point scoring to the average person. But at least i can get these things off my chest here.

(One area where i definitely think Bernie needs to brush up is on foreign policy. Max Fisher at Vox makes an interesting argument that Bernie can afford to not invest much in foreign policy at the moment, but Bernie has to at least be able to answer a question on Afghanistan without somehow talking about Iraq instead.)

By fnord12 | February 5, 2016, 11:43 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (3) | Link


What is it about smoke alarms that the low battery beep always waits until 4am to start going off?

By fnord12 | February 5, 2016, 8:11 AM | My stupid life | Comments (0) | Link

Predictions from the past

It's worth looking at this not to gloat, but to get some hope for the remainder of the primary season when looking at polls or demographics that seem unfavorable to Bernie.

(And this will be my last Bernie post of the day. You have to admit that i've shown much restraint over the past few months. You can allow me a little leeway the day after the first primary/caucus.)

By fnord12 | February 2, 2016, 4:02 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link

I guess there just wasn't time for context

I really love the video embedded in the article here. They found time to play Bernie saying, "We will raise taxes, yes we will" twice, but i guess there just wasn't any room for the following line explaining that the tax increase would be thousands of dollars less than what people will save on insurance premiums. Which is understandable since they had to make room for a clip of Walter Mondale from 1984 saying he would raise taxes, and George H.W. Bush's "read my lips" quote and a bunch of other nonsense.

I expect this sort of thing from Hillary and/or the Republicans, but this is a video put together by the Washington Post, ostensibly a news agency. And yet it's certainly an attack ad, not journalism.

By fnord12 | February 2, 2016, 2:40 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (1) | Link

International Potato Center

I dunno what the article is about. Growing potatoes on Mars or something. Whatever. I got to this paragraph and stopped:

This data has motivated a group of scientists from NASA to team up with the International Potato Center, or CIP (Spanish abbreviation), in Peru to conduct an experiment growing potatoes in conditions similar to Mars, with the hope of generating food for possible future manned missions to the Red Planet.

You guys! There's an International Potato Center. An International Potato Center. What does that even mean? Why do potatoes need an entire center let alone an international one?? I have questions! Questions i will not do independent research to answer!

Damn skippy i'm categorizing this under "Science".

By min | February 2, 2016, 1:14 PM | Science | Comments (1) | Link

Nice work, Bernie

Thank you Iowa:

I mean, thank you for giving Bernie a virtual tie. Not for keeping me up all night. Which you did.

By fnord12 | February 2, 2016, 7:21 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link

Recap 71

The Abyss

By min | January 30, 2016, 12:12 AM | D&D | Comments (0) | Link


Min and i enjoyed playing the Fire Emblem tactical role playing games that came out for the Gamecube and Wii. Since then, they've only made Fire Emblem games for hand held devices, which seems to be the fate of TRPG games generally, which is disappointing. But every once in a while i do a quick Google search to see if any new such games are coming out for a console, and that's how i found this.

I don't really have an opinion about the controversy of Nintendo cutting the "skinship" scenes from the American release, but that's not the sort of thing that we play the games for. It actually seems like a tedious kind of thing to have to do between battles.

By fnord12 | January 29, 2016, 2:31 PM | Video Games | Comments (1) | Link

Lane and the Giant Suitcase

Gilmore Girls' Lane and the Giant Suitcase

By fnord12 | January 28, 2016, 9:25 AM | TeeVee | Comments (0) | Link

Denmark's an Asshole

And Switzerland and Germay, too, apparently.

Ugh. Link

Following similar moves in Switzerland and southern Germany, Denmark's parliament voted on Tuesday to allow police to search asylum seekers on arrival in the country and confiscate any non-essential items worth more than 10,000 Danish kroner (about £1,000) that have no sentimental value to their owner.

The bill presented by the centre-right minority government of the prime minister, Lars Løkke Rasmussen, was approved after almost four hours of debate by 81 of the 109 lawmakers present, as members of the opposition Social Democrats and two small rightwing parties backed the measures.


The Danish government says the procedure is to cover the cost of each asylum seeker's treatment by the state, and mimics treatment of Danish citizens on welfare benefits.

Social Democrat Dan Jørgensen addressed opponents of the bill, demanding: "To those saying what we are doing is wrong, my question is: What is your alternative?

"The alternative is that we continue to be [one of] the most attractive countries in Europe to come to, and then we end up like Sweden."

I don't know what the solution is, but i can't see how searching refugees and confiscating their valuables can be the answer you ended up with. What the hell is wrong with you, Denmark? You're going to shake them down while they're asking you to give them a safe haven? Oh, and nice dig at Sweden, too.

But opponents of the law argue that while refugees can in general still expect to be treated humanely in Denmark, the new legislation is ethically unsound. Pernille Skipper, an MP and legal affairs spokesperson for Enhedslisten, a leftwing Danish party, said: "Morally it is a horrible way to treat people fleeing mass crimes, war, rapes. They are fleeing from war and how do we treat them? We take their jewellery."


By min | January 26, 2016, 2:19 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (7) | Link


OH MY GOD!!!!!


And there's a video that explains why there's a Hello Kitty/Mecha mash-up!!!!

h/t Angry Asian Man

By min | January 25, 2016, 3:29 PM | Cute Things | Comments (0) | Link

What Have You Got Against Sleep?

Fnord12 is an insomniac, so i am familiar with the vicious circle of not being able to fall asleep and then being stressed about not being able to fall asleep which leads to really not being able to fall asleep. I understand the desperation an insomniac might feel to try anything at all to get some sleep. But this 2 hours/day thing is just crazy.

Marie Staver couldn't sleep. Always plagued by insomnia and other sleep disorders, in college she was struggling to get enough rest to keep up with her heavy workload. So in 1998 she made a drastic decision: she would stop trying. Instead of lying in bed all night, she would get her rest in catnaps evenly spaced throughout the day. Out of every 24 hours, she would sleep for only two.

Staver began the radical experiment with a friend, Psuke, and soon the pair felt superhuman. They named their schedule "Uberman" in honor of Nietzsche's Übermensch idea, because they were both philosophy majors--but also because they were accomplishing so much in a day that they were freaking people out. Their schoolwork was done, their dorms were clean, they held down jobs, they made appearances at social events.


They coordinated their schedules to make it easier, Staver says. They would wake each other up at 4 in the morning and drive to the all-night Denny's to study. Before their morning classes they'd take a nap. At lunch they'd meet up for another nap. So it went, napping for 20 minutes every four hours around the clock--for more than six months.

Adjusting to the Uberman schedule takes about two weeks of hell, Staver says. Writing in 2006, she called the adjustment period an "absolute unholy monstrous biyotch." But eventually the fog cleared for the college students. What remained was, according to Staver, "miraculous."

"It was the most amazing thing I had ever discovered and I felt the best I've ever felt in my life," Staver says today. Her sleep disorders seemed to be gone. She wasn't tired anymore. And although she had only intended to fix her sleep, not shorten it, she found herself with an incredible 22 hours every day to spend how she liked.


No one gets there easily, though. The Polyphasic Society's website warns of side effects people may experience while they're adapting. There's "metabolic panic," meaning either constant hunger or a total loss of appetite. There may be chills, moodiness, constipation, and eye strain from keeping your eyes open all the time. The ominous-sounding "zombie mode" is also a concern.

No shit. I'm all for not forcing yourself to sleep if your body just won't do it and then taking naps to make up for that, but only taking 20 minute naps for a total of 2 hours/day? No way. Your brain seems to use the downtime when you're asleep to flush out toxins, so i think getting that 7-8 hours/day is pretty important.

Washington State University psychologist Hans Van Dongen, who studies the effects of sleep loss on the mind, agrees. In a 2008 paper, he and coauthors studied a variety of split-sleep schedules. Subjects spent 10 days on some combination of a nighttime sleep and daytime nap adding up to between four and eight hours, while researchers gave them frequent cognitive tests.

They found that sleep-deprived subjects did worse and worse as the days went on. But the results were similar however their sleep was broken up. In other words, Van Dongen says, "an hour is an hour is an hour."

In other studies, he's found that there are individual differences in how much sleep people need, and how they respond to sleep deprivation. It's true that some of us just don't need as much shuteye. But that variance only goes down to about six hours a night, Van Dongen says. Below six hours, "virtually everybody starts to see significant decrements."

One thing that happens when your brain is starved of sleep is it begins to blink in and out of attention. Maybe you lose your train of thought mid-sentence, or suddenly realize you've missed your exit on the highway. There's another interesting phenomenon in the very sleep-deprived brain, Van Dongen says: it stops feeling tired.

Yup. When you don't listen to your body, it eventually gives up and stops telling you when something's wrong. It thinks you're a jerk, and until you apologize, it wants nothing to do with you.

Ofc, i am firmly on the pro-sleep side, in general. I think we should hibernate in the winter. I have naps scheduled into my weekly routine and that's on top of my regular 7-8 hours/night. So, yeah, mebbe i'm biased. But sleep is delicious and everybody should do it.

Also don't need no crazy sleep schedule to know when i'm dreaming.

Other possible benefits of polysleeping, according to the Polyphasic Society, include improved decision making and lucid dreaming (the awareness that you're in a dream).

Pshaw. I know when i'm dreaming, i can replay parts of my dreams like a video, i can rewrite scenes if i don't like how they turned out, and i can "direct" the "camera" so it pans around as a scene unfolds (hated Inception and their portrayal of dreaming), so :P.

By min | January 25, 2016, 11:50 AM | Science | Comments (0) | Link

Iron Maiden/Monkees Mashup

By min | January 21, 2016, 9:00 PM | Music | Comments (1) | Link

Muscular Dystrophy Patient Self-Diagnoses Own Disorders

This was a really interesting read. This woman had to spend hours and hours going through medical journals to find a reason for her health problems because doctors just sort of threw up their hands and said, at best, "I don't know", and at worst, "It's in your mind". And through this, she helped extend her father's life and discovered an Olympic athlete had the same mutation.

She was the muscular dystrophy patient, and she had an elaborate theory linking the gene mutation that made her muscles wither to an Olympic sprinter named Priscilla Lopes-Schliep. She offered to send me more info if I was interested. Sure, I told her, send more.

A few days later, I got a package from Jill, and it was... how to put it?... quite a bit more elaborate than I had anticipated. It included a stack of family photos -- the originals, not copies; a detailed medical history; scientific papers, and a 19-page, illustrated and bound packet. I flipped through the packet, and at first it seemed a little strange. Not ransom-note strange, but there were hand-drawn diagrams with cutouts of little cartoon weightlifters representing protein molecules. Jill had clearly put a lot of effort into this, so I felt like I had to at least read it. Within a few minutes, I was astounded. This woman knew some serious science. She off-handedly noted that certain hormones, like insulin, were too large to enter our cells directly; she referred to gene mutations by their specific DNA addresses, the way a scientist would.

And then I came to page 14.

There were two photos, side-by-side. One was of Jill, in a royal blue bikini, sitting at the beach. Her torso looks completely normal. But her arms are spindles. They almost couldn't be skinnier, like the sticks jabbed into a snowman for arms. And her legs are so thin that her knee joint is as wide as her thigh. Those legs can't possibly hold her, I thought.

The other picture was of Priscilla Lopes-Schliep. Priscilla is one of the best sprinters in Canadian history. At the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, she won the bronze medal in the 100-meter hurdles. It was the first Canadian Olympic medal in track and field since 1996. In 2010, Priscilla was the best 100-meter hurdler in the world.

The photo of her beside Jill is remarkable. Priscilla is in mid-stride. It's difficult to describe just how muscular she looks. She's like the vision of a superhero that a third-grader might draw. Oblong muscles are bursting from her thighs. Ropey veins snake along her biceps.

This is the woman Jill thought she shared a mutant gene with? I think I laughed looking at the pictures side-by-side. Somehow, from looking at pictures of Priscilla on the internet, Jill saw something that she recognized in her own, much-smaller body, and decided Priscilla shares her rare gene mutation. And since Priscilla doesn't have muscular dystrophy, her body must have found some way "to go around it," as Jill put it, and make enormous muscles.

If she was right, Jill thought, maybe scientists could study both of them and figure out how to help people with muscles like Jill have muscles a little more toward the Priscilla end of the human physique spectrum. Jill was sharing all this with me because she wasn't sure how best to contact Priscilla, and hoped I would facilitate an introduction.

I don't have any serious health issues and i've totally given up on doctors. I can't imagine how much more frustrating it was for Jill Viles. She had to research her own goddamned illness. And then when she tried to show doctors her research, they just poo-pooed her. I get that there are plenty of hypochondriacs out there who have no clue what they're talking about, but c'mon. It's not that hard to tell the difference.

I'm only going to a doctor if something happens and i can't stop the bleeding.

By min | January 21, 2016, 2:48 PM | Ummm... Other? | Comments (0) | Link

We're Entering Stage 6!

A little Morning Glenn Greenwald for you.

For those who observed the unfolding of the British reaction to Corbyn's victory, it's been fascinating to watch the DC/Democratic establishment's reaction to Sanders' emergence replicate that, reading from the same script. I personally think Clinton's nomination is extremely likely, but evidence of a growing Sanders movement is unmistakable. Because of the broader trends driving it, this is clearly unsettling to establishment Democrats - as it should be.
Just as was true for Corbyn, there is a direct correlation between the strength of Sanders and the intensity of the bitter and ugly attacks unleashed at him by the DC and Democratic political and media establishment. There were, roughly speaking, seven stages to this establishment revolt in the UK against Corbyn, and the U.S. reaction to Sanders is closely following the same script:
STAGE 1: Polite condescension toward what is perceived to be harmless (We think it's really wonderful that your views are being aired).

STAGE 2: Light, casual mockery as the self-belief among supporters grows (No, dears, a left-wing extremist will not win, but it's nice to see you excited).

STAGE 3: Self-pity and angry etiquette lectures directed at supporters upon realization that they are not performing their duty of meek surrender, flavored with heavy doses of concern trolling (nobody but nobody is as rude and gauche online to journalists as these crusaders, and it's unfortunately hurting their candidate's cause!).

Corbyn urged to curb online abuse by supporters as MPs are sent sickening tweets https://t.co/GYdg7D2USG pic.twitter.com/ZX6JVNnAjp

-- Sun Politics (@SunPolitics) December 3, 2015

I've written about every candidate this cycle & without fail Sanders supporters are the most consistently abusive & rude ...

-- Michael Cohen (@speechboy71) January 19, 2016

STAGE 4: Smear the candidate and his supporters with innuendos of sexism and racism by falsely claiming only white men support them (you like this candidate because he's white and male like you, not because of ideology or policy or contempt for the party establishment's corporatist, pro-war approach).

STAGE 5: Brazen invocation of right-wing attacks to marginalize and demonize, as polls prove the candidate is a credible threat (he's weak on terrorism, will surrender to ISIS, has crazy associations, and is a clone of Mao and Stalin).

STAGE 6: Issuance of grave and hysterical warnings about the pending apocalypse if the establishment candidate is rejected, as the possibility of losing becomes imminent (you are destined for decades, perhaps even generations, of powerlessness if you disobey our decrees about who to select).

STAGE 7: Full-scale and unrestrained meltdown, panic, lashing-out, threats, recriminations, self-important foot-stomping, overt union with the Right, complete fury (I can no longer in good conscience support this party of misfits, terrorist-lovers, communists, and heathens).

I read this and thought to myself "OOH! We need to start watching Prime Minister's Questions again!".

By min | January 21, 2016, 8:44 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (2) | Link

Bugs in Your House

Look, this is something we all know, but try not to think about. Nobody wants a study that proves our homes are full of insects and "noninsect hexapods". *shudder*

In a study sure to make insectphobes tremble a team of scientists visited 50 houses in the Raleigh, N.C., area and documented nearly 600 species of bugs.
Because they did not check behind walls, in drawers or under heavy furniture--and also did not identify every bug to the species level, something that's exceptionally difficult to do with insects--the researchers believe their total of 579 species is likely a significant undercount.


By min | January 19, 2016, 1:19 PM | Science | Comments (2) | Link

Mebbe the Overlords Will Come and "Save" Us

Fucking Overlords.

The human race faces one its most dangerous centuries yet as progress in science and technology becomes an ever greater threat to our existence, Stephen Hawking warns.
Speaking to the Radio Times ahead of the BBC Reith Lecture, in which he will explain the science of black holes, Hawking said most of the threats humans now face come from advances in science and technology, such as nuclear weapons and genetically engineered viruses.


Here's an interesting bit of history:

Black holes form when stars run out of nuclear fuel and collapse under their own gravity. Previously called "frozen stars", they became widely known as "black holes" when the phrase was coined in 1967 by the physicist John Wheeler. For some time, the French resisted the change of name on the grounds that it was obscene, but later fell into line, Hawking said.

Who knew French scientists had such delicate sensibilities?

By min | January 19, 2016, 8:29 AM | Science | Comments (0) | Link

ROM "returns"

I missed this when it was first announced but then saw it mentioned in the sales article below. IDW has acquired the rights to ROM, and it'll be co-written by Christos Gage. I guess ROM split off from the Marvel Universe during Secret Wars. ;-)

The best thing about the old ROM series was his interaction with the rest of the Marvel universe, so i don't know that i'll get this, but i think it's interesting news.

By fnord12 | January 15, 2016, 12:51 PM | Comics | Comments (3) | Link

Marvel Sales


By fnord12 | January 14, 2016, 1:39 PM | Comics | Comments (0) | Link


The American Dialect Society and the Washington Post are following Kevin Drum (and me) in using "they" as a gender neutral first third person singular pronoun.

By fnord12 | January 11, 2016, 12:42 PM | Master of Style | Comments (2) | Link

Red Horde

When i had the red paint out for my Christmas horde, i also used it to base coat the next batch (and my last batch for the season before i get back to my comic project). Since, as i've mentioned, i've already painted most of the really cool miniatures, i instead picked out some of the more silly or useless ones, with the added criteria that they (mostly) had to look good in red.

Here's a prostitute (!) and a generic magic user. The magic user is fine, although i did de-nudify her boob window.

For the prostitute, i rolled for her on the 1st Edition DM book chart...

...and it turns out that she's a wanton wench.

Next up, two more ridiculous figures. I don't know what the one on the left is doing or wearing, but i figured i might as well go all out and paint that giant bow pink. The one on the right is i suppose ok as a witch, although i think based on her broom she's supposed to be something a little more steampunk than fits in my D&D campaign setting.

This guy is pretty boss with his open fur-trimmed jacket.

Some call this enchanter... Tim?

By fnord12 | January 10, 2016, 6:25 PM | D&D | Comments (1) | Link

Happy Holidays Horde

I already painted a set of these guys in blue, so it seemed like it would be ok to color the rest of them in red and green. No one has to know that it was for the holidays (although the white trim is probably a bit much).

Anyway, may your holidays be free of any nasty little elves armed with spears and maces.

By fnord12 | December 24, 2015, 11:16 AM | D&D | Comments (0) | Link

Moar Horde

Per my last miniature post, nothing super-remarkable to say about this figures. But that doesn't meant they aren't pretty cool.

I definitely have "enough" lizard men already, but this is a cool looking figure. And i really like the pirate guy. Unfortunately like the last pirate, he has a gun (not pictured) which i'll again just have to ignore.

A pair of Drow. The guy on the left has a pet bat, which is something new (although not all that practical for use in a game).

A pair of fighters, one human and one halfling.

And this guy who i realized i should have done with my Egyptian themed set. To distinguish this one, i didn't do the black drybrush technique this time, so that his colors stand out more. I'm a superhero fan at heart, so i guess i do prefer the more garish colors. He's got a cool sculpt, in any event.

By fnord12 | December 23, 2015, 2:19 PM | D&D | Comments (0) | Link

Sanders pushes back on Clinton's attacks from the right

In my inbox from Bernie regarding Hillary Clinton attacking him for wanting to raise taxes to pay for a Medicare-for-all system:

I expected to take some heat on these fundamental beliefs during a general election, but since it is already happening in the Democratic primary, I want to address some of the critiques made by Secretary Clinton and Rupert Murdoch's Wall Street Journal directly:

Under my plan, we will lower the cost of health care for the average family making $50,000 a year by nearly $5,000 a year. It is unfair to say simply how much more a program will cost without letting people know we are doing away with the cost of private insurance and that the middle class will be paying substantially less for health care under a single-payer system than Hillary Clinton's program. Attacking the cost of the plan without acknowledging the bottom-line savings is the way Republicans have attacked this idea for decades. Taking that approach in a Democratic Primary undermines the hard work of so many who have fought to guarantee health care as a right in this country, and it hurts our prospects for achieving that goal in the near future. I hope that it stops.

I've already mentioned this before (here, here, and here), but, like Bernie, i was annoyed to see Hillary using this line of attack in the debates. So i like seeing Bernie push back; i hope he'll bring the message beyond just his supporter email list. I think arguments that it wouldn't be feasible to implement Medicare-for-all are fair game, but to just attack it as a tax increase is disingenuous. Another example of Hillary seeming more Republican than Democrat.

In the debates Hillary also used the "why should i pay for Donald Trump's kids to go to school" line, which is equally bunk.

By fnord12 | December 23, 2015, 12:55 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link

Bodily functions

This reminded me of this.

By fnord12 | December 23, 2015, 7:21 AM | Comics & Liberal Outrage & Ummm... Other? | Comments (0) | Link

Mostly True but Not

I often find that i like Politifact's articles even while i find their rating system bewildering. For example, when Politifact rated Bernie Sanders' claim about the US being the only major country without a guaranteed right to health care, i found myself nodding along through the various caveats but it sure seemed like the basic claim was True or at least Mostly True, not Half True.

And now we have the statement that Clinton used against Sanders in the two most recent debates, where after Sanders criticized Clinton's position on Libya, Clinton said that Sanders voted for it. Both times Sanders got cut off before he could respond, so i'm glad that Politifact looked into it. And again, i read the article, and per the information there, it seems clear to me that Clinton was full of shit, but Politifact rated her claim True.

As Politifact notes, "Congress never voted to authorize U.S. military action in Libya", so the reality is that there was no vote on Clinton (and Obama's) action. Sanders did vote in the Senate in favor of a non-binding resolution "strongly condemning the gross and systematic violations of human rights in Libya", but that's hardly the same thing as voting for military action to remove (kill) a dictator. And as Sanders said at the time:

Look, everybody understands Gaddafi is a thug and murderer... We want to see him go, but I think in the midst of two wars (in Iraq and Afghanistan), I'm not quite sure we need a third war, and I hope the president tells us that our troops will be leaving there, that our military action in Libya will be ending very, very shortly.

All of these quotes come from Politifact, and yet they rate Clinton's statement True. I don't get it. Especially in the context of the debates, where Sanders was criticizing Clinton's inclinations toward "regime change", Clinton's use of this vote seems to me like a cheap gotcha with no real substance to it, and the information in the Politifact article seems to back me up on that. But their rating doesn't.

By fnord12 | December 22, 2015, 7:15 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (1) | Link



So, in short: Hillary Clinton, thank you for using OpenSecrets. Next time, just call us, maybe.

By fnord12 | December 22, 2015, 7:52 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link

Type V Horde

When picking out figures for each batch of the giant pile of Reaper Bones that i got from the Kickstarter, i tried to resist the impulse to paint all the really cool figures first, because i knew that would leave me with a ton of figures that i would never want to paint. On the other hand, since i knew it would take literally years to paint them all, i tried to prioritize some of the better figures and the ones that would be immediately useful to my D&D campaign. So it was a balancing act, and it seems to be one that i've ultimately failed, because when i look through the remaining figures i'm less than inspired. So it's going to mostly be adventurers and grunt monsters for now on. Which, to be clear, is very useful in the long run. It's just not as fun to sit down and paint a bunch of fighters and goblins as opposed to, say, Cthlulu or the Jabberwocky.

These two figures weren't supposed to be a set (as far as i know), but i noticed they wore armor and had long luxurious hair, so i thought they could work as a pair of NPC twins.

The figure on the left below is wearing an admiral's jacket (more visible from the back, not shown), and red and yellow seemed like a good color scheme for that. I later noticed that she has a gun on her belt, which means she shouldn't really be in my D&D campaign, so i kind of blobbed the paint over that to hide it. She was also wearing nothing but a sports bra under her jacket so i had to do a little de-nudification . And then it turned out that she's wearing these giant honking gloves, made all the more noticeable by the fact that my chosen color scheme meant that they were going to be bright yellow. Plus she's holding some giant coin or gem or something, which isn't very useful. So basically i hate her and i'm going to stick her in the back of a drawer and never use her.

The ranger figure is fine, although here is my plea to miniature makers: stop putting the figures on props. I guess that might be for people that put their miniatures in dioramas or something, for people that actually use them in games, it's a little silly. Does she drag that tree trunk around with her as she goes into towns and dungeons?

Next up, the good and bad sides of villagers. One minute they are bringing you mead; the next thing you know they are chasing you out of town with torches and pitchforks.

And here is the one special figure of this lot. She's not a figure i ever actually needed, but she is based on an official D&D creature. In the unceremonious language of 1st Edition AD&D, she is a Type V Demon. Later editions calls her a Marilith (which was actually the name of a specific individual Type V Demon in 1st Edition). I considered painting her with a color scheme to match Spiral from Marvel comics, with white hair and maybe a blue tail. But when i was a kid i had a trading/stat card set that included this creature, and it used the colors that i ended up using. I didn't du-nudify since that's the way these demons roll (or slither).

By fnord12 | December 21, 2015, 10:25 AM | D&D | Comments (1) | Link

Let them debate

A good review of last night's debate here (what, you had something better to do with your last Saturday night before the holidays?). I am very much in agreement about the moderators, who seemed to think that their role was to stifle debate instead of letting it happen. My favorite part was when the moderator interrupted Clinton so that he could formally ask her the question that she was already answering as part of a natural back and forth discussion with Sanders.

As for O'Malley, someone should have pulled him off the stage with a hook.

By fnord12 | December 20, 2015, 3:42 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (2) | Link

Vaguely Egyptian Horde

For this horde i mostly picked out some mummies and similar Egyptian themed characters.

For most, i used the technique i stumbled upon at the end of my last painting session, base-coating in black and then applying the color with drybrush. It worked well especially for these two skeletons. As i did once before, i went with a Skeletor color scheme instead of painting their bones a traditional off white bone color. But you can see the difference with this technique vs. the previous Skeletor; the colors are softer and more subtle here.

For the mummy i went with something a little different too, using a black/purple paint with light blue highlights instead of painting the mummy wrappings a traditional white. Also a nice cleric here, with a scarab for a holy symbol. The miniature's nose is unfortunately a little mushed.

This miniature is a little weird and i'm not sure if i love what i did with it. At first glance it's a thief/assassin character, but then it becomes clear that it is covered in mummy wrappings and is also way too emaciated to be a (living) human, so i guess it's an undead mummy assassin. Which is pretty cool. I'm just not sure i like the colors i chose.

Finally, with each group i try to do one or two miniatures that are more gruntwork. The gorilla below is from a set of gorillas that i had; this is actually the last one, so i'm finally done painting these gorillas (not that you can have too many war gorillas). And in addition to that set of gorillas, i also had an official D&D war ape that i thought i would just color like the other gorillas, but when i really looked at it i realized it had a baboon face and it turned out to be a lot more fun to paint (and it's also metal, making it less of a struggle than the plastic Bones). For what it's worth, it doesn't seem like gorillas ever made it to ancient Egypt but they did have baboons, so i remained mostly on-theme.

By fnord12 | December 17, 2015, 10:01 AM | D&D | Comments (0) | Link

The bar to clear

Some friends are going to see Star Wars tomorrow, so i thought i would enhance their enjoyment by managing their expectations. It's gotta be better than this.

By fnord12 | December 16, 2015, 9:13 AM | Star Wars | Comments (6) | Link

Your'e Welcome

Dark Star One: Broken Alliance has solved the your/you're problem once and for all.

I know that i'm the last person that should be complaining about typos, but this is a message that appears literally 100 times in the game, so you'd think some QA person would have at least noticed once.

Probably they were too busy laughing at the AMAZING voice acting.

(All that aside, it's decent game.)

By fnord12 | December 7, 2015, 11:39 AM | Video Games | Comments (0) | Link

Jane Austen Rewls

I've always enjoyed the dialogue and characterizations in Austen's novels, but never bothered to try to make an argument for why her novels are awesome. I don't do analysis of literature. I just like something cause i like it. Good thing there are people out there who will do that for me.

From Charlotte Brontë, who found only "neat borders" and elegant confinement in her fiction, to DH Lawrence, who called her "English in the bad, mean, snobbish sense of the word", many thought her limited to the small world and small concerns of her characters. Some of the great modernists were perplexed. "What is all this about Jane Austen?" Joseph Conrad asked HG Wells. "What is there in her? What is it all about?"

Stupid Charlotte Brontë with her stupid secret attic wife book. Bwah!

Emma, published 200 years ago this month, was revolutionary not because of its subject matter: Austen's jesting description to Anna of the perfect subject for a novel - "Three or four families in a country village" - fits it well. It was certainly not revolutionary because of any intellectual or political content. But it was revolutionary in its form and technique. Its heroine is a self-deluded young woman with the leisure and power to meddle in the lives of her neighbours. The narrative was radically experimental because it was designed to share her delusions. The novel bent narration through the distorting lens of its protagonist's mind. Though little noticed by most of the pioneers of fiction for the next century and more, it belongs with the great experimental novels of Flaubert or Joyce or Woolf. Woolf wrote that if Austen had lived longer and written more, "She would have been the forerunner of Henry James and of Proust".

Like Lorelei Gilmore, i've been wanting to read some Proust. Not for any intellectual reasons, but because Monty Python references him.

She was perfecting a technique that she had begun developing in her first published novel, Sense and Sensibility. It was only in the early 20th century that critics began agreeing on a name for it: free indirect style (a translation from the original French: style indirect libre). It describes the way in which a writer imbues a third-person narration with the habits of thought or expression of a fictional character. Before Austen, novelists chose between first-person narrative (letting us into the mind of a character, but limiting us to his or her understanding) and third-person narrative (allowing us a God-like view of all the characters, but making them pieces in an authorial game). Austen miraculously combined the internal and the external.
The novel's stylistic innovations allow it to explore not just a character's feelings, but, comically, her deep ignorance of her own feelings. Out of vanity, encouraged by the promptings of Mr and Mrs Weston, Emma has persuaded herself that Frank, whom she has never met, might be the perfect partner for her.
Her capacity for self-congratulation deceives her about even the workings of her own heart. Austen does not tell us this, as George Eliot would eloquently tell us: she simply lets us inhabit Emma's consciousness, simply lets us see the world according to Emma.
"The Passions are perfectly unknown to her," Brontë declared, sounding like a character whom Austen would have delighted in depicting. She had been recommended Pride and Prejudice by George Eliot's partner, George Henry Lewes, who was partly responsible for Eliot holding Austen in higher regard than most of the other great novelists of the 19th century. Lewes's 1859 essay in Blackwood's Magazine is still one of the most perceptive analyses of Austen's powers.

But instead of description, the common and easy resource of novelists, she has the rare and difficult art of dramatic presentation: instead of telling us what her characters are, and what they feel, she presents the people, and they reveal themselves. In this she has never perhaps been surpassed, not even by Shakespeare himself.

That said, i still love Pride & Prejudice best. The characters are great. The snarky and convoluted comments from Mr. Bennet, the ludicrously snobbish and out of touch declarations by Lady Catherine, even the nervous flutterings of Mrs. Bennet - it's gold! I've often wished i was clever enough to insult someone so politely as Elizabeth Bennet could.

By min | December 5, 2015, 12:21 PM | Boooooks | Comments (0) | Link

If only it would permanently stop working

No one wants your Windows 10, Microsoft. And trying to push it with a task bar icon that keep coming back after i disable it has me half convinced that it's a virus, not an operating system.

By fnord12 | December 5, 2015, 10:03 AM | My stupid life | Comments (1) | Link

Marvel Sales


By fnord12 | December 2, 2015, 7:55 AM | Comics | Comments (1) | Link

No, retailer, we expect you to die

Triggered by someone that bought the wrong issues of a Howard the Duck series due to Marvel's reboot shenanigans, retailer Mike Sterling talks about the tribulations of labeling comics that have multiple volumes. All i'll add is that as a back issue consumer, or just someone that wants to goddamn look something up on goddamn UHBMCC, the constant goddamn reboots are indeed a goddamn nuisance.

Sterling has talked about this before, and i noted at that point that Marvel doesn't really care about problems that retailers have selling back issues. I was hoping that now that Marvel is basically in the business of selling back-issues (digitally) they would start to care more, but that's probably a pipe dream (and it would be too late to help me anyway).

By fnord12 | November 30, 2015, 1:03 PM | Comics | Comments (0) | Link

Vegan Sweet Potato Pie

vegan sweet potato pie

This is a make-ahead type recipe. The pie needs to sit in the fridge overnight to set properly. Or you could eat it with a spoon in a bowl, i guess.

Single Crust Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 T water

  • 1 1/2 T non-dairy milk

  • 6 T vegan butter, cut into small cubes (we like Earth Balance buttery sticks)

  • 3/4 cup + 2 tsp white flour

  • 1/4 cup + 1 tsp white whole wheat flour*

  • 1 1/2 tsp sugar

  • 1/8 tsp salt

  • Yield: 1 9-inch pie crust

*This can be made entirely with all-purpose flour, but because of the lack of egg, vegan crusts tend to be a bit pale. The addition of white wheat flour gives it a nicer color and texture, imo.

Mix the water and milk together and place in the freezer to chill. Place the cubed butter in the freezer, as well.

In a food processor, mix the flours, sugar, and salt together. Add half of the butter (3 T) and process until the butter is well incorporated. The mixture will start looking a little clumpy. Add the milk mixture and blend well.

Add the remaining butter, pulsing in short bursts just until the dough starts to form a ball, pulling away from the sides of the bowl a bit. Do not over-mix. There should still be small bits of butter visible.

Flatten into a disc, place in a covered container, and refrigerate while preparing the filling.

Filling Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 lbs of sweet potatoes

  • 1/2 cup sugar

  • 1/4 cup cornstarch, sifted

  • 1 T molasses

  • 1/2 cup sour cream

  • 3/4 cup creamer (we like Organic Valley soy creamer)

  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

  • 1/2 tsp salt

  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon

  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg

  • 1/4 tsp allspice

Peel and cube the sweet potatoes. Steam until tender (~20 minutes) making sure the water in the pot is no closer than 2 inches to the potatoes. Allow to cool slightly so that they're not hot.

Preheat the oven to 350degF.

In a food processor, blend the potatoes, sugar, cornstarch, molasses, sour cream, and creamer until smooth. Scrape down the sides and bottom of bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and blend well.

Roll out the pie crust dough and trim to fit your pie dish. Pour the sweet potato mixture into the prepared crust. Loosely cover the edges with foil and bake for 30 minutes while making the streusel topping.

Note: I always bake my pies on a baking sheet. First, because it's hard to maneuver a hot pie dish. Second, because bits of crust might fall off or, with a fruit pie, there's always leakage. Having the baking sheet underneath the pie dish means i don't have to clean out burned gunk from the bottom of my oven.

Streusel Topping Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup flour

  • 1/4 cup brown sugar**

  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon

  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg

  • 2 T vegan butter (we like Earth Balance buttery sticks)

  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans

**I don't bother keeping brown sugar in the house. I just add molasses to regular sugar whenever i need brown sugar. I'm one of those annoying people who don't always measure, so i don't have precise directions. Just add a small dollop of molasses and mash it into your sugar with a spoon. Look at the color and if it's as dark as you want your brown sugar to be, call it done.

In a small bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and spices. Cut the butter in, reserving the nuts.

Reduce the oven temperature to 325degF. Remove the foil and sprinkle this mixture over the top of the pie after you've baked it for the initial 30 minutes. Bake for an additional 30 minutes.

While that's happening, heat up a pan and toss the pecans in there to toast them. Stir constantly so that you don't burn the bottoms. They should be done after 3 minutes or so. You'll start to smell a faint toastiness when they're done. Be careful not to cook the nuts for too long else they'll burn - they go from perfectly toasted to burned in about 10 seconds because nuts are jerks like that. Sprinkle over the streusel when the pie is done baking

Alternatively, you could sprinkle the nuts over the pie for the last 15 minutes of baking and let them toast that way.

Leave the pie in the cooling oven before removing to finish cooling on a wire rack. Refrigerate overnight before serving.

By min | November 27, 2015, 12:14 PM | Vegan Vittles | Comments (0) | Link

No need to stop here. There's plenty more SuperMegaMonkey where that came from.