February 27, 2014

Dr. Bowman revealed!

Freefall: Now that is a big surprise. I sure didn't expect it.

UPDATE: And now Florence knows the real reason for all the data-chaff about him.

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February 14, 2014


The most amazing event of my lifetime was the dissolution of the USSR. It's not something I thought I'd live to see, because I thought the only way the USSR would come to an end was in nuclear holocaust, which would happen to me in the US, too.

The idea that the USSR would simply collapse and vanish without causing a World War was a complete surprise.

(In case you're wondering, the second most amazing event of my lifetime was the eruption of Mt. St. Helens.)

I think the dissolution of the USSR was unexpected by nearly everyone, and once in a while I run into fiction in which it still exists. There's a USSR in Full Metal Panic, for instance, but that was nostalgia. Having a Soviet Union in the world made it a more interesting, albeit dangerous, place. FMP was written long after 1991.

I occasionally have an urge to read a book I used to own, and if it's offered for Kindle I will buy it. I just did that a couple of days ago with the so-called Giant's trilogy by Hogan: Inherit the Stars, The Gentle Giants of Ganymede, and Giant's Star. I'm reading the third one now and it has an active USSR in it. (It was written in 1981.)

He doesn't assume political stasis; he also includes a "United States of Europe". But, like almost everyone else, he assumes the permanance of the USSR. Which, of course, no longer exists.

There's a lot of that in science fiction. In the movie 2001, the shuttle that Dr. Floyd is on to go to the space station belongs to Eastern Airlines. Which no longer exists; it was one of the victims of deregulation. (Frank Lorenzo bought it and looted it in 1991.) (Oops, no, it was PanAm, which also died in 1991 because of deregulation.)

And, of course, any picture of Manhattan which includes the WTC always brings a twinge.

I suppose it's trite to say, but things change. And no one can predict which things will change. Even mountains change.

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February 13, 2014

Freefall prediction

I'm no longer worried about Florence as of today's strip in Freefall.

But I have a prediction for what's coming next:

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February 02, 2014

Clown noses in Denver

I imagine the fans in Denver are all screaming mad about now.

I'm "watching" the game via a Flash program on the NFL web site. So I see the results of each play, but I get no commentary -- and no advertisements. I tuned in just before the end of the first quarter, and I gotta say I'm not impressed.

How long before Denver's coach replaces Manning?

Seattle has scored four times so far, and Denver is completely shut out. They even lost a safety, which is embarassing.

UPDATE: Clown noses and big floppy shoes, too. After that interception they must really be screaming in Denver.

UPDATE: By the way, what was the Vegas point spread on the game?

UPDATE: And greasepaint! I wonder if Denver will even score in this game?

UPDATE: Actually, the Flash file does run an ad every once in a while. But it isn't the advertising overdose you get on TV.

UPDATE: Well, at least they're not going to be shut out. Denver has saved itself from complete humiliation.

UPDATE: Wow, what a slaughter.

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January 26, 2014

The problem of a big cast.

Sometimes a story cannot be told without a large cast of speaking parts. That's particularly common in sports stories. I think there are basically only three ways to deal with that, each of which has pitfalls.

First, you can ignore most of them most of the time. If they're opponents the risk is that they become cannon-fodder, redshirts, doomed to die (or lose) without the audience feeling anything for them. What's worse, it can make the victory by the good guys seem cheap and unimportant.

Second, you can try to give a lot of them back stories and screen time. That's what Saki did, and it fell for a different trap: you can drown in backstory. Saki spent an enormous amount of time telling backstory for opponents during the tournament, which dragged down the story telling into the mud. When I first watched it, one episode per week, I eventually gave up and stopped, waiting until the whole show was done before catching up. And when I rewatch it, I do a lot of skipping.

Third, you can split the difference: make them have characters but not very substantial ones. The drawback here is that it can make them seem like "cardboard cutouts" -- and the best way to handle that is to laugh at it. That's what they did in Girls und Panzer, and we got that cue when all the tanks got painted strange colors. "This is not a deadly serious show, folks. Go with it, have fun, because we in the production staff are having fun.

Plus, they effectively treated each tank crew at Ooarai as a single character most of the time. So Hippo team was "the history club" and all of them were into history. Duck was "the volleyball girls". Anteater was "the gamer girls". Rabbit was "the first year girls". Turtle was "the student council". Leopon was "the wrench wenches". Occasionally individual characters from one team or another would have a special role (i.e. Rommel doing a scouting mission with Yukari during the Pravda battle). And they "hung a lampshade on it" with Mallard, the discipline committee. All three girls look exactly the same except for the length of their hair, and they all had the same seiyuu. None of which was accidental; the director is goosing the audience in the ribs with it.

The big advantage of the third way is that it avoids the problems of the other two. The characters don't become redshirts, and they also don't bog down the story telling. The only characters we get backstory for are Miho, Yukari, Hana, and Mako. All we know about Saori's back story is that she's Mako's friend from way back.

Obviously there's no single best answer, but in GuP I think this one was the right choice. There was so much else they had to cover in 1 cour that they simply didn't have room for lots of backstory. And I think the story telling is paced well; it doesn't feel flabby, and there isn't anything I would consider filler, but it also doesn't feel rushed.

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January 24, 2014

Red Half-rim Glasses watch -- Lesbian Trick


Do those count? I wouldn't want to exclude any near misses...

(I don't know anything about her; I stole the image from Aroduc.)

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Wil Wheaton

Wil Wheaton has spent 25 years trying to escape from the tragedy known as "Wesley". He still acts, but his main thing these days is to be a columnist and writer.

He also has a TV show about table-top games called... "Tabletop". Since I don't own a TV, I don't know anything more about it than that. (Like, what cable channel does it run on?)

John Kovalic is a cartoonist and illustrator, and a friend of Wheaton's from way back. Yesterday Kovalic was a guest on the show.

Kovalic's main title is "Dork Tower" and he posted three cartoons about it: one two three

And that particular episode of the show was put on YouTube. I just watched it, and it was a lot of fun. It's worth a half hour.

And... what Kovalic's cartoon characters say about Anne Wheaton is absolutely true. She's stunning. And Wil Wheaton is a very lucky man. (He must be doing something right; they've been married 14 years.)

UPDATE: Wikipedia says that TableTop is a webcast. I wonder where the money comes from? It's not cheap to put together a show like that. Do they get a cut of the YouTube advertising?

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January 22, 2014


While watching Girls und Panzer I've long wondered something: Does it make any difference which way the rifling turns? Rifling is a helix, and it's either clockwise or counter-clockwise. Does it matter which?

I though maybe it might matter depending on whether you were in the northern hemisphere or the southern hemisphere. You know, Coriolis effect, maybe, or something like that.

Well, if it matters, it probably doesn't matter much. There are a couple of closeup shots in it of gun barrels. The Panzer 4 is rifled counter-clockwise, and the Hetzer is rifled clockwise. And both guns came from the same manufacturer.

Is there really any reason to prefer one over the other?

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December 22, 2013

Freefall -- prisoner?

I don't know how many of you are regular readers of Freefall, but I know some of you are.

Yesterday I had a strange thought:

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November 17, 2013

Formula 1 -- Austin

So I'm giving it a try, watching the race on webcast. At the beginning I was a bit worried because it looked like they were overloaded and all I could get was a spinning "buffering" symbol.

But now it's running OK.

Adrian Sutil crashed out on lap 2, and that brought out the pace car. It's obviously necessary. But it's a bit like basketball where a penalty brings all the action to a stop. And NBC takes the opportunity for an ad break.

This is the first television I've watched in several years. Gad, there sure are a bunch of ads. I'm sure it's going to drive me crazy before it's all over.

UPDATE: My solution to ad breaks was going to be to come here and write some more. Only last time, all I got from mee.nu was Error 500. Rats.

I have never heard anyone pronounce these names before. I always thought that "Sutil" was pronounced SOOTull but it's actually sooTEEL.

Turn 1 on this track is awesome. I can see how the hill affects the drivers, and it's quite an effect.

DRS (Drag Reduction System) is a hack. When you go through the "detection zone", if you're within one second of the guy in front of you, then your DRS is enabled, and you get to go faster on the next straight stretch.

UPDATE: This is more interesting to watch than I thought it would be. The announcers are critical to that; they're really awesomely good.

They made an interesting point earlier: because of the "no refueling" rule, the cars start with enough fuel to finish the race. They burn about a gallon per lap, and as the race goes on the cars get lighter, and thus faster.

Continuing about the DRS: You get to go faster, but the guy in front of you probably doesn't.

It's pretty much a hack to permit lots of passes. If it was fair, everyone would get drag reduction. But I guess the race would be less fun in that case.

I'm not so sure about that. Most of the passes in this race have been in the twisty bits, where DRS isn't enabled.

Vettel is owning the race again, as expected. But the positions behind him are certainly in contention. I think no one is even thinking of trying to win against him, so the real question is who comes in second?

UPDATE: "Fox" means "pit stop". (For fighter pilots, "fox" means "fire a missile".)

UPDATE: McLaren is having another miserable day. The announce team mentioned something I hadn't noticed: McLaren hasn't had a single podium this year. (How the mighty have fallen...)

Another name: Kovaleinen is KO-vull-LIE-nen. I honestly didn't have any idea how his name was pronounced.

I am amazed watching the pit stops. Even the ones the announce team call "slow" sure end up being blazing fast to my eyes. Those guys must spend ridiculous amounts of time practicing.

UPDATE: The place where Sutil crashed looks a bit scary. He wasn't really in much danger; his speed was low when he hit. But he hit the wall about 10 feet to the right of a blunt face. Had he been 10 feet to the left, the wall would have been square in front of him, with no place to deflect off to the side.

Lap 34, and Vettel has already pitted, and he's got a 10 second lead.

What I don't know about this stuff; but to my uneducated eye, this is a really good track.

And I think I just saw the "pass of the race", Bottas passing Gutierrez.

UPDATE: Advertisement: Agent Smith is taking over our healthcare system. Explains a lot, doesn't it?

UPDATE: Part of the advertising time is reserved for local stations. When we hit one of those, the webcast just says "Coverage will return shortly." You'd think they'd sell "web-only" ad slots, but they didn't.

Most of the communications between the pits and drivers is in English, even when the driver is not a native English speaker.

But they talk to Alonso in Spanish.

UPDATE: Turn 1 seems to be the preferred place on the track for passing. Which means DRS is important.

I still think it's a hack.

UPDATE: When the on-car cameras pick up some bugs, they have something that slides down and gives you a clear view. I wonder how they do that?

UPDATE: Much to no one's surprise, Vettel wins another one. Apparently this sets a record of "most consecutive wins in a single season."

This seems to be a very safe track. Sutil's crash was the only one, and it wasn't all that violent. Someone did something strange to Gutierrez in the final lap, but all it did was shove him into the grass, after which he drove back onto the track and finished the race.

It also seems to be a good racing track. DRS notwithstanding, the turn 1-2 complex had some good stuff going on. There was one time when someone passed Alonso in turn 1, and he took the position back in turn 2. Part of why that seems possible is that the track is nicely wide the whole distance, and in a couple of places it's even wider. As a result, cars can drive side-by-side without too much problems. On some of the street circuits (Monaco) that simply isn't possible.

As the race goes on, you can see the "preferred line" develop because of wear on the pavement and rubber being laid down. The preferred line looks shiny and bright. But there was one place where the preferred line changed as the race went on. No one was driving on the shiny part. I think that must have been because the cars were lighter, due to fuel consumption.

UPDATE: I thought I would get bored and eventually stop watching, but that was actually pretty cool.

UPDATE: Vettel burned some circles out past the edge of turn 1. He did that last time, too, and they hit him with a fine. I wonder if he'll be fined again?

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