Never pass up a chance to sit down or relieve yourself. -old Apache saying

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Issac Asimov

Issac Asimov, born in Russia in 1920, died in New York City in 1992. He left a prodigious volume of work, many of which are considered classics.

Before he passed, he had something memorable to say which is still pertinent today:

There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge. 

Isaac Asimov 1980 


More quotes from Issac can be found here.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

just fuck off Kelly

I keep forgetting to check in with the Rude Pundit. 

Turns out General Kelly is a jerk from way back.

Oh, Just Fuck Off, John Kelly

by the Rude Pundit

Let's get one thing straight right off the bat: No matter where the fighting is and no matter the cause, most soldiers will act bravely, sometimes even heroically, to support their fellow soldiers. In every bullshit war, there are men and women who fight, get wounded, and die, and their sacrifice should be honored and respected. They went to war because the leaders we elected made them go there. 

But let's also get another thing straight: We have not fought a war that wasn't bullshit since World War II. And every death and every wound has been for nothing (beyond the soldiers protecting each other.) Korea was bullshit. Vietnam was bullshit. The Persian Gulf was bullshit. Iraq was bullshit. Afghanistan is bullshit. They are all built on lies. Sometimes we allow ourselves to believe they weren't lies. But each and every one was based on lies to advance some policy or ideology that no Americans should have had to die for.

Which gets us to White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, a retired Marine general. Yesterday, Kelly appeared at the White House press briefing to set the record straight or some fucking thing about President Trump's callous phone call to the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, killed in Niger earlier in this month.

In doing so, Kelly took his career and any respectability he had, which he had already handed over to Trump when he agreed to work for him in the first place, and he allowed Trump to fuck it in the ass while he cheered Trump on. 

You can read about the many ways in which Kelly lied about Congresswoman Frederica Wilson. You can get confused at Kelly's statement that Wilson "listened in" on a conversation that was on a fucking speakerphone in the car she was riding in and therefore she had no fucking choice but to listen in. You can roll your eyes at Kelly calling Donald Trump "brave" for reaching out to the family of a fallen soldier, as if Donald Trump has ever done anything braver than eat one too many Big Macs in a single sitting. You can even shake your head at Kelly's beyond ignorant invocation of the past when "Women were sacred, looked upon with great honor."

But I'm saying, "Oh, just fuck off" to John Kelly for a couple of reasons.

First, he should fuck off for talking about how Gold Star families (those who lost someone in battle) are no longer sacred because "I think that left in the convention over the summer." He is probably invoking the Khan family, who criticized Trump at the Democratic Convention, and not Patricia Smith, who lost her son in the Benghazi attack and called Hillary a murderer, more or less, at the Republican Convention.

And Kelly should fuck off because in the rest of his fucked-up appearance he completely politicized Gold Star families - who, it should be noted, often politicize themselves in honor of their lost loved ones. He ignored that the president didn't treat those families as sacred when he attacked the Khans. That didn't fucking crop up in his obsequious fluffing of Trump. As if to make his point clear about who he values, Kelly took a couple of questions but only from reporters who are in Gold Star families or are related to them.

Then he pretty much said that you're an asshole if you don't serve in the military: "We don't look down upon those of you who that haven't served. In fact, in a way we're a little bit sorry because you'll have never have experienced the wonderful joy you get in your heart when you do the kinds of things our service men and women do -- not for any other reason than they love this country. So just think of that."

To which one can only say, "Fuck off. There are so many ways to serve your country and your community that don't involve the military and how fucking dare you diminish those."

Even more, John Kelly can fuck off because of what I started with here. Kelly said he was so upset that Rep. Wilson said mean things about Donald Trump (by, you know, quoting Donald Trump) that he had to take a walk. So, as one does, he went to Arlington National Cemetery, and "I went over there for an hour-and-a-half, walked among the stones, some of whom I put there because they were doing what I told them to do when they were killed."

What were they doing under his orders? Fighting in a bullshit war in Iraq, where Kelly had various commands, up to being in charge of the whole damn show in 2008. Yeah, Kelly led men to die for nothing. And so many in the military know it was a war for nothing. Oh, he could have retired, but he didn't. Which means he believed in the bullshit war and sent soldiers to die for bullshit. I'm pretty fucking sure they didn't sign up for that.

But let's go even further here because, you know, if you're gonna tell someone to "Fuck off," you may as well go all the way. One of Kelly's sons died in combat. He usually doesn't talk about it because it's horrific and personal and why should he. But Trump dragged the corpse of Kelly's son into this shitpool. And Kelly brought him up yesterday. Kelly's son died in Afghanistan in 2010 in a war that should never have been started and was fucked up from the start by President Bush and it wasn't even unfucked by President Obama. Like every other soldier in this war, he died for nothing because he shouldn't have been there in the first place. Kelly's younger son is now on his fifth tour of duty in Afghanistan. 

Yeah, John Kelly walked out in front of the world yesterday to announce that he is just another piss whore in Trump's bed, and he'll willingly degrade himself and his family in order to stay there.

(Note: I support the troops so much that I don't want them to have to fight because some politician needs to prove that a think-tank's position on democracy or terrorism is correct. I want them to defend us and defend our allies. And, yes, I have family in the military. I don't want them to die for bullshit.)

Friday, October 13, 2017

troll farm


The extent of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election appears to have been very broad. And a little scary. It's a little curious that the Trump administration doesn't seem very concerned about it. Curious indeed.


St Petersburg 'troll farm' had 90 dedicated staff working to influence US election campaign


The Kremlin has rejected allegations of interference in the 2016 vote
Few Russian addresses have received as much attention as 55 Savushkina Street. The grey, four-storey office block in St Petersburg's northwestern suburbs seems almost undeserving of the interest. But the souls inside, busy with pro-Kremlin internet manipulation since 2011, have ensured their building will stay in the headlines for some time to come.
An investigation has revealed more intimate details about the office, known colloquially as “the troll farm.” The report, published on Tuesday by the business portal RBC, suggests that the organisation played a role in the US election campaign and its aftermath, organising as many as 40 US rallies and protests.
The report identifies 120 different groups and social media accounts used by trolls over 2016-2017. “The farm,” it suggests, concentrated on divisive social issues for the US, particularly civil rights.
The report describes a rally held in Charlotte on 22 October 2016, ostensibly against police violence. The event was held in the name of “BlackMatterUS,” and it seems probable many of the activists who took part did not understand the rally was unconnected with Black Lives Matter. Or, indeed, that the entire operation was being directed from St Petersburg.  
Facebook advertising campaigns also focused on divisive messages, the report says. The US tech giant has already confirmed 55 Savushkina Street was responsible for buying $100,000 (£75,000) worth of pre-election posts, and this report does not add to those numbers.
It reveals details about the organisation’s relatively modest budget. Over two years, “the troll farm” spent $2.2m (£1.7m), the vast majority of which went on wages. For Russia’s second city, the pay was reasonable but not excessive. Wages started at 55,000 rubles (£725)  per month for a new hire, rising to 120,000 rubles (£1600) for line managers.
In total, 250 people were employed, with 90 dedicated trolls working on the US election campaign at its peak.
Close scrutiny made the trolling organisation change its methods. Following publication of a long investigation in The New York Times in June 2015, Facebook blocked its accounts. But “the farm” opened new channels and reverted to more sophisticated anonymous protocols. The authors of the report say 55 Savushkina St kept about a million subscribers on various channels even after the main Facebook accounts were closed.
“They’re learning, but only by their mistakes,” Andrey Zakharov, one of the authors of the report, told The Independent. “Their US operations, for example, required total anonymity, but they still fumbled by attaching Russian mobile numbers to their Twitter accounts.”
Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov has distanced the Kremlin from allegations of interference in the US elections.
“We don’t know who placed the Facebook ads, how they were placed,” he told journalists last month. “The Russian side is not involved in this.”
The report does not contain any smoking gun that might link “the farm” to the Trump campaign. Indeed, its authors suggest that media coverage of the trolls of 55 Savushkina St may be somewhat incommensurate with their real influence. Interest in Russia’s “troll farm” had arguably reached "unhealthy" levels, Mr Zakharov told The Independent.
“You hear very little about the Macedonian bloggers that pumped out fake news in support of Trump, yet their audience was phenomenal,” he said.
“If the Russian trolls are responsible for Trump, then you’d have to say these guys are too.”

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Spot the Station


Look! Up in the sky! 

Spot The Station will give you a list of upcoming space station sighting opportunities for your location.

Several times a week, Mission Control at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX, determines sighting opportunities for over 6,700 locations worldwide. If your specific city or town isn’t listed, pick one that is fairly close to you. The space station is visible for a long distance around each of the listed locations.


Or go here.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Run For Something

One thing that gives me hope in this dark, dark era of Trump is that a lot of young people are pretty damn pissed off at what is going on in the world of politics and are standing up to do something about it by running for office.  It's a little late for me to do it, but, barring a nuclear war, Trump will not be around forever and should leave little lasting legacy, expect as something to NOT do.




Run for Something will recruit and support talented, passionate young people who will advocate for progressive values now and for the next 30 years, with the ultimate goal of building a progressive bench.

We’ll take a chance on people the usual “institutions” might never encounter. We’ll help people run for offices like state legislatures, mayorships, city council seats, and more. We’ll do whatever it takes to get more under-35 year-olds on the ballot.

HOW WE’RE GOING TO DO THIS, IN FOUR QUICK BULLET POINTS


1  We’re going to shout from the rooftops about running for office. Constantly. We won’t shut up about it. We’ll talk to reporters. We’ll talk to friends, strangers, the Starbucks barista -- anyone. We’ll run online ads about it. We’ll be annoying. (You'll love it.)

2  We’ll talk to every single person who expresses interest in running. Maybe over email, or gchat, or on the phone, or (gasp) in real life. This will take some time – but if this is what it takes to find new candidates, this is what we’ll do.

3  We’ll connect people to training organizations. Places like Wellstone, EMILY’s List, Latino Victory Project, She Should Run, Emerge, Higher Heights, and more are already off to the races with incredible conferences and curriculum. We’ll help feed people into these programs.
4  For some of those candidates, we’ll take our support to the next level: $$$ and staff. We’ll raise funds, donate to campaigns directly through state-level PACs, and help these folks hire professional staff who can keep the momentum going. 



Tuesday, October 10, 2017

ion thruster

Getting to Mars in only 40 days?! Yeow! 

NASA’s New Ion Thruster Breaks Records, Could Take Humans to Mars In Just 40 Days


NASA’s new X3 thruster, which is being developed by researchers at the University of Michigan in collaboration with the agency and the US Air Force, has broken records in recent test. It’s hoped that the technology could be used to ferry humans to Mars. The X3 is a type of Hall thruster, a design that uses a stream of ions to propel a spacecraft. 

Plasma is expelled to generate thrust, producing far greater speeds than are possible with chemical propulsion rockets, according to NASA. A chemical rocket tops out at around five kilometers per second (1.86 miles/sec), while a Hall thruster can reach speeds of up to 40 kilometers per second (25 miles/sec). This kind of increase is particularly relevant to long-distance space travel, like a prospective voyage to Mars.

In fact, project team leaders project that ion propulsion technology such as this could take humans to the Red Planet within the next 20 years. Ion engines are also more efficient than their chemical-powered counterparts, requiring much less propellant to transport a similar amount of crew and equipment over large distances. Alec Gallimore, the project lead, stated that ionic propulsion can go around ten times farther using a similar amount of fuel in an interview with Space.com.

There are of course many other forms of deep-space travel on the table. The flaw of chemical-based designs is the need to bring the chemical fuel with them into space, which adds more mass that needs more fuel to lift into space, and so on. A Bussard ramjet, which is a type of fusion rocket, collects diffuse hydrogen in space with a huge scoop, which means, since its fuel is picked up en route, that it could approach light speed.

Sci-fi fans would recognize faster-than-light theoretical forms like the warp drive. General relativity stipulates that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light in the universe. However, if we could compact and expand the fabric of spacetime ahead of and behind us, respectively, we could technically be moving faster than the speed of light. However, the scientific consensus so far is that we’re nowhere near this kind of technology.

Recent tests demonstrated that the X3 thruster can operate at over 100kW of power, generating 5.4 Newtons of thrust — the highest of any ionic plasma thruster to date. It also broke records for maximum power output and operating current.

The technology is apparently on track to take humans to Mars sometime in the next twenty years. However, it’s not without its limitations.


more at the original

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Columbus Day

Just in time for our annual salute to the genocidal thug Christopher Columbus!

Friday, October 6, 2017

Flashback Friday

On Flashback Friday, a visit to the recent past, to the good ol' days, when we had a president who knew the issues, a president that was engaged and someone we could look up to that didn't lie 5-50 times per day. 

I tell you, that black president was simply a far, far better person than Donald Trump ever was or ever will be. It is pretty sad what this nation is doing these days in it's anti-Obama spasm. Perhaps Trumpie is still trying to get back at that n-... guy for ribbing him in public. That guy with the absurd hair holds a serious grudge.

from the White House Correspondents Dinner in 2011, a partial clip

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Dec 14, 2020

We didn't get to see the recent total solar eclipse except on television. The next one in the US won't be until 2024, but there will be another one to cross southern South America on December 14, 2020. Now that we are "not working" I think I'd like to take our first trip to South America and see the total solar eclipse. Las Grutas is very well aligned (second pic). They are not booked solid yet (I checked).

Vamanos!

This info courtesy of NASA.

TOTAL SOLAR ECLIPSE OF 2020 DEC 14


(these are just images and not interactive maps. If you want to use the interactive features, go here.)

This interactive Google map [1] shows the path of the Total Solar Eclipse of 2020 Dec 14. The northern and southern path limits are blue and the central line is red. You MUST be somewhere within the central path (between the blue lines) to see the total phase of the eclipse. The eclipse is longest on the central line (red). The yellow lines crossing the path indicate the time and position of maximum eclipse at 10-minute intervals.
The green marker labeled GE is the point of Greatest Eclipse. The magenta marker labeled GD is the point of Greatest Duration. This is the location where the total eclipse lasts the longest along the entire path. In this case, the Greatest Duration is 02m09.7s . This prediction does not take into account the mountains and valleys along the edge of the Moon. For the sake of speed and simplicity, the effects of the lunar limb profile are NOT used in the predictions and map presented on this page.

You can be hundreds of miles from the theoretical point of Greatest Duration and still enjoy totality lasting within a fraction of a second of the maximum possible (as long as you stay within several miles of the central line). It's much more important to watch the weather forecasts a day or two before the eclipse and choose a location with the best chance of a cloud-free sky during the eclipse. Good weather is the key to successful eclipse viewing - better to see a shorter eclipse from clear sky that a longer eclipse under clouds .

User Directions

The zoom bar (left edge of map) is used to change the magnification [3]. The four-way toggle arrows (upper left corner) are for navigating around the map. You can also move the map center around to reposition it by holding down the left mouse button and dragging. The two map buttons (top right) let you switch between map view and satellite view.
Click anywhere on the map to add a red marker. A popup window appears above the marker with the calculated eclipse times and duration of totality for that location (see explanation of Eclipse Circumstances below). The 'x' in the upper right corner of the popup window closes the popup window. Additional markers can be placed anywhere on the map. Move the cursor over a marker to reveal a popup window with the eclipse times for that position. The predictions in the popup window can also be displayed in a new web page via the Eclipse Times Popup button (bottom right). You can select and copy this infomation to paste into a word processor.
All the markers can be removed by using the Clear Marker button (below the map). Choose the Large Map check box to produce a bigger map (hint: enlarge the browser window to its maximum size before selecting the Large Map check box). This option is especially useful to users with large monitors.
Below the lower left corner of the map are three readouts. The first gives the geographic coordinates (latitude & longitude) of the map center while the second gives the geographic coordinates of the cursor position. The third line gives the distance of the cursor from the last marker. For more information, see Google Eclipse Map Instructions.

Eclipse Circumstances

When you click on the map a red marker is added and a popup window opens giving the Eclipse Circumstances calculated for that location. The predictions in the popup window can be divided into two sections.
In the top section, the decimal Latitude and Longitude of the marker are given. The Eclipse Type (either totalannular or partial) seen from that position is given. The Duration of Totality (or Duration of Annularity) lists the length of the total (or annular) phase in minutes and seconds. The Eclipse Magnitude is the fraction of the Sun's diameter eclipsed. The Eclipse Obscuration is the fraction of the Sun's area eclipsed.
(Example coordinates)
The bottom section consists of a table listing the times for important stages of the eclipse. The Event column lists eclipse phase, followed by the date and time (both in Universal Time). Finally, the Altitude and Azimuth of the Sun is given for each event. The altitude is measured from the horizon (0°) to the zenith (90°). The azimuth is measured from due North and rotating eastward (North = 0°, East = 90°, South = 180°, and West = 270°).
Important Note: The eclipse predictions in this interactive map DO NOT include the effects of mountains and valleys along the edge of the Moon. Such corrections for the lunar limb profile may change the contact times and eclipse durations by ~1-3 seconds. The exact location of Greatest Duration may also change by ~10-20 kilometers.

Footnotes

1. Other interactive Google eclipse maps include those by Xavier Jubier
3. This web page approximates the curved eclipse path by using a series or To maintain the validity of this approximation, the maximum zoom level is limited to ~1 mile/inch (~0.7 kilometers/centimeter). This should prevent over-interpretation of the eclipse path accuracy. You can disable the zoom limit using the link Maximum Zoom to reload the map. 

Links for the Total Solar Eclipse of 2020 Dec 14


Eclipse Predictions

Predictions for the Total Solar Eclipse of 2020 Dec 14 were generated using the JPL DE405 solar and lunar ephemerides and a value of ΔT = 69.5 seconds.
The eclipse predictions presented here DO NOT include the effects of mountains and valleys along the edge of the Moon. Such corrections for the lunar limb profile may shift the limits of the eclipse path north or south by ~1-3 kilometers, and change the eclipse duration by ~1-3 seconds. More detailed predictions including the effects of the lunar limb profile are normally posted 12-18 months before each eclipse,

Acknowledgments

All eclipse calculations are by Fred Espenak, and he assumes full responsibility for their accuracy. Permission is freely granted to reproduce this data when accompanied by an acknowledgment:
"Eclipse Predictions by Fred Espenak, NASA's GSFC"
For more information, see: NASA Copyright Information
Please visit the Acknowledgments Page for additional acknowledgments, details and links.