Animal’s Hump Day News

Happy Hump Day!
Happy Hump Day!

Indiana is done past, and so is Ted Cruz.  For better or worse, it’s Donald J. Trump’s game now, and all we can hope for is that there will be more better and less worse – although, if the Donald proves to be more decisive, tougher and less inept than President Obama, then at least there will be some improvement in things at the Imperial Mansion.

Meanwhile, here is the inestimable Dr. Victor Davis Hanson on the Trump Phenomenon.  Excerpt:

Clearly, elite journalists, political advisers, media anchors, and pollsters, for all their analyses, have no idea where, why, and how Trump garners support. He follows no campaign rules. He has no consistent political ideology. He ignores decorum. Scandals do not tar him. The media treat him like a cobra rising from a basket — terrified that if at any moment they stop their music, the smiling serpent might strike and bite them in the nose.

Tomorrow Trump could declare there to be 57 states, or address vets as Corpse-men or tell his legions to bring a gun to a knife fight — and none of his supporters would find him clueless, half-educated, or incendiary. If Trump brought one of his wheeler-dealer Manhattan real-estate cronies to a rally and the man’s court-ordered ankle bracelet went off, no one would bat an eye.

In other words, Trump is a postmodern creation, for whom traditional and time-tested rules do not apply. He is neither brilliant nor unhinged, neither ecumenical nor just a polarizer, not a wrecker and not a savior of the Republican party, but something else altogether. He does not defy conventional wisdom. There simply is no convention and no wisdom applicable to Donald J. Trump. For years postmodernists have lectured us that there is no truth, no absolutes, no timeless protocols worthy of reverence; Trump is their Nemesis, who reifies their theories that truth is simply a narrative whose veracity is established by the degree of power and persuasion behind it.

As I’ve been saying for some time, The Donald is as much symptom as disease.  He is saying what big swaths of the electorate have been wanting to hear; American should and can be great; professional politicians suck; our enemies are bad people and the fact of their evil is not somehow America’s fault.  He is the antithesis of the modern politician; no polished remarks calculated to the inch to neither Confused Bearoffend nor inform.  Trump speaks off the cuff, he sprinkles his remarks with insults and cheap shots, and (perhaps most appealing of all) he is openly contemptuous and openly derisive of the permanent political class in the Imperial City.

After today, it’s become pretty clear that he will be the GOP candidate for President, whether the GOP elites like it or not.

In November, it looks like we’ll see how it all plays out.  I’ve been watching the Rise of Trump with a mixture of bemusement, amusement and horror; and let me tell you, True Believers, I think we ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Animal’s Daily Extraterrestrial News

Space ChicksIt seems they keep finding more planets that could possibly harbor life.  Excerpt:

The star is only about the size of Jupiter and much colder and redder than the Sun. Its luminosity is far less than 1 percent that of our star—so faint that, although the “ultracool” dwarf star called TRAPPIST-1 lies less than 40 light-years from Earth, it can only be seen via relatively powerful telescopes.

Yet it is a star worth looking for. Astronomers using a 60cm telescope designed especially to study such stars, and any planets around them, have found this system to contain some of the most habitable exoplanets discovered to date. As European astronomers looked at TRAPPIST-1 from September through December of last year, they discovered slight, periodic dimming that indicates the presence of three worlds which are close to or inside the system’s habitable zone. All have radii of between 1.05 and 1.17 that of Earth’s radius.

The neat thing about small, cool stars like Trappist-1 is that they stay around a long, long, long time – many times longer than our own Sun is expected to last.  So that leaves plenty of time for life to develop, even in less than ideally friendly environments.

BanthSo, will these planets play host to anything like a thoat, a banth, or maybe an apt or a zitidar?  Probably not, but imagine the possibilities for an interstellar safari business if there were!

Would a .338 Mag be enough gun for the pictured (fictional) banth?  Or would something along the lines of a .50 BMG be in order?

Goodbye, Blue Monday!

Goodbye, Blue Monday!
Goodbye, Blue Monday!

Thanks as always to The Other McCain for the Rule Five links!

The first time I worked in Japan, in 2009, I took along my personal laptop for the job – an old Sony Vaio, the operating specs of which I forget, except that it was running Windows XP.

That laptop crashed and burned on the first day of a three-week stint in the Land of the Rising Sun.  The company gave me a loaner to get me working again, but it was a Japanese machine; the Windows and Office versions were Japanese.  I was able to use Western characters in Word, but the menus were all in Japanese; only my knowledge of “where shit is in Office” managed to make it usable.  That evening I went to Bic Camera in Kyoto, which is sort of a Japanese Best Buy, and looked for a laptop – great prices, but all Japanese keyboards and operating systems.

So I emailed Mrs. Animal to find me a new laptop and DHL it to me.  She did so – a wonderful Hewlett-Packard Pavilion, a big 17″ powerhouse that, in the years since, has been dragged all over the globe; Europe, Africa, Japan, China, Canada, Mexico and all over the USA – until a few days ago.

After almost seven years, the old Pavilion finally gave up the ghost.  So now I need a new laptop.  With that in mind, I would like to solicit the opinions of all you True Believers as to where to find a replacement.

My preferences:

  1. This might actually be a good sales pitch.
    This might actually be a good sales pitch.

    17″ laptop with a separate numeric keypad.

  2. At least an i7 quad-core processor.
  3. At least 16 gig RAM.
  4. Preferably a graphics or gaming rig, to handle recent gaming and photo/video manipulation
  5. Combo SSD/HDD for speed in loading OS and programs
  6. Windows 10

I can add peripherals, so a DVD/Blueray drive is optional.

Any thoughts?  I’m willing to run up to $2k for the right machine.

Rule Five Friday

2016_04_29_Rule Five Friday (1)Well, this rates a great big “holy shit!”  I’ve presented speculation on this topic before, but it’s looking like someone is actually trying it:  Gene Therapy Makes BioViva CEO Elizabeth Parrish Younger, Blunter, and Resolute.  Excerpt:

Elizabeth Parrish, Chief Executive Officer and guinea pig for Bioviva, announced today that she has become the first human “successfully rejuvenated by gene therapy.” Using two proprietary processes, Parrish claims to have reversed two decades worth of telomere shortening, the process that leads to the breakdown of cell replications in the vast majority of living things. Telomere scores — measured using white blood cells — indicate that Parrish, who was 44 years old in September, has slowed a cellular process many scientists believe to be one of the root causes of aging.

That makes today a big day for Elizabeth Parrish. She’s publicly announcing a potential cure to the disease she feared would kill her: 2016_04_29_Rule Five Friday (2)Time.

Parrish has become one of the leading lights of the biohacking movement by refusing to see aging as a fundamental fact of life. She described her highly experimental gene and cellular therapies as treatment targeted against an epidemic sometimes called the “silver tsunami.” She has made it very clear that, to her, “old” is a diagnosis. What she hasn’t always made clear — and seems to actively avoid addressing — are the moral, societal, and even medical ramifications of her work. Also the science.

Here, for my money (hah!) is the real kicker, if Parrish is right:

2016_04_29_Rule Five Friday (3)If this actually happens; is everyone going to have equal access to these types of therapies?

Yeah, absolutely. It’s going to happen very similar to computers or cell phones. At first the technology is very expensive, because it’s new. First it’s kind of like building a supercomputer, and then eventually everyone gets an iPhone. In your life when you look at that, you don’t ever remember living without an iPhone. Certainly you like an iPhone better than you would have liked it if you had to pay for the first supercomputer because your iPhone is much more predictable than the supercomputer was. But it’s that model, and we will get there as quickly as we can to drive down the costs so that everyone does have access to it.

2016_04_29_Rule Five Friday (4)It’s pretty much a standard rule that technology always gets cheaper.  But this isn’t a personal computer or an iPhone; this is culturally-shattering, if it works.  Imagine a world where you can retire comfortably at, say, 150, with a cool five million in the bank – and then live comfortably for another 150 years.

That’s going to change everything, from basic family structure to economics to politics to religion.  But here’s one thing that suddenly becomes feasible:  Interstellar space travel.

In his Cities in Flight series, written from 1950 to 1962, sci-fi author James Blish postulated that even faster-than-light travel would require long travel times, requiring extended lifespans; he solved that literary problem with a series of drugs called “anti-agathics,” or 2016_04_29_Rule Five Friday (5)drugs that permanently arrested the aging process.  Now that it’s possible – a long shot, perhaps, but possible – that a real anti-agathic therapy may exist, would that make a manned mission to the Alpha Centauri system, or perhaps to near neighbor Tau Ceti possible?  Current astronauts may not be willing to spend the rest of a normal lifespan in a generation ship, but an astronaut with an expected lifespan measured in centuries may well be willing to do so.

That may be the biggest change of all if this tech actually works.  It may just make if feasible, finally, for mankind to spread into the stars.

2016_04_29_Rule Five Friday (6)

Animal’s Daily News

John Browning's 1911 with an enthused user.
John Browning’s 1911 with an enthused user.

Ever wonder what would have happened if the DaVinci of firearms had never been born?  Here’s some speculation on that thought.  Excerpt:

John Browning was one of those rare natural geniuses who when faced with a problem, idea or theory sat down with a piece of metal in one hand and a file in the other and come up with the most successful firearm designs in history. He was the most prolific firearms designer of the 19th and early 20th centuries and, by the time of his death in 1926, John Browning had been granted 128 patents for firearms, their operating systems and ammunition.

His designs were, in great part, responsible for the success of such giants of the firearms industry, such as Colt, Winchester, Fabrique Nationale, Remington and Savage. John Browning designed everything from .22 pistols to 37mm cannons – and several of the cartridges they fired. His pistol designs are especially significant as he perfected blowback operation- 1899 (FN Mle. 1900); the short-recoil locked breech system – 1911 (Colt M1911); and the high-capacity pistol magazine – 1935 (FN Hi-Power).

The Old Man in 1945, his 1911 at his side.
The Old Man in 1945, his 1911 at his side.

Practically every semiauto pistol manufactured today contains one of more design features pioneered by John Browning. His 1911 and Hi-Power pistols are still in production and are two of the most popular handguns on the market. The 1911 is still in service with the US military after more than a century. His firearms, especially his later pistol designs, showed an understanding of ergonomics far in advance of many of his contemporaries.

John Browning invented several of the most influential lever action rifles and the first truly practical pump action and semiauto shotguns and rifles. Some of which are still in production after more than a century. His M1917A1 and M2 machine guns set the standard for medium and large caliber full-auto weapons and the .50 caliber M2 is still manufactured and in service around the world.

My Citori and a brace of California Mountain Quail.

I have a bunch of Mr. Browning’s designs in the vault myself; two Auto-5s, two Winchester M-12s (not strictly a Browning design but based on his 1897 Winchester), a 1911, and a Browning Citori – a post John Moses gun based on his Superposed.  The Superposed was, in fact, his swan song – the last gun John Browning designed, and as is fitting his legacy, a gun that changed the face of shotgunning forever.

Just as he had previously changed the world of autoloading shotguns, and autoloading pistols, and lever-action rifles, and machine guns, and light cannon…

The linked article concludes:

Unlike most of his contemporaries, John Browning’s designs were notable for their simplicity. The KISS principle. The fewer parts, the fewer things to go wrong! The secret to the success of Browning’s designs is they worked and kept on working, regardless of the conditions under which they were used.

An engineer from one of the largest arms making companies in the world once told me something that I believe is a fitting epilogue for John Browning: “If it wasn’t for John Moses, we’d all be in a lot of trouble!”

Not actually my Luger.
Not actually my Luger, but the same model – 9mm, 4″ barrel.

That KISS principle item is certainly true.  In my safe lies a martial sidearm that is a contemporary of the 1911; a P-08 Luger, made in the Oberndorf Mauser-Werke in 1938, still with its Nazi proofmarks.  The Luger is probably the most beautiful and graceful military sidearm ever made – and, like many late 19th-century German designs, it has a gazillion screwy little parts that have to be perfectly fitted (all parts are serial numbered, presumably for this reason) and kept meticulously clean in order for the pistol to function.

The Luger is beautiful, but I wouldn’t trust my life to it.  The ever-reliable and hard-hitting 1911, on the other hand, is ever welcome in the holster if things go south.

John Browning was one of those men that only come along every once in a great while.  I can’t presume to speak for shooters in general, but my collection would look a lot different, had he never been around.


Animal’s Hump Day News

Happy Hump Day!
Happy Hump Day!

Let’s take a quick look at yesterday’s vaunted Super Tuesday Round III primary results!

Thumbnail:  It was a great night for Donald Trump.


The Donald won Pennsylvania, Maryland, Connecticut and Delaware, while The Bern wins (hah!) Rhode Island, locking Her Majesty out of a clean sweep.  He picks up a mess of delegates; his minimum total count right now is 950 – 287 short of seizing the nomination.  (Pennsylvania’s rules mean delegates representing individual Congressional districts aren’t bound, so the larger number from PA is still pending.)  He needs 1237 to lock up the nomination on the first convention ballot.  He is well within striking distance.

Her Royal Highness Hillary I won Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware and Connecticut.  The Bern took Rhode Island, holding Her Majesty just short of a clean sweep.  She picks up more of a mixed bag of delegates, mostly due to the Democrat’s more… democratic delegate assignment process (excluding the superdelegates, who are all party insiders and mostly supporters of Her Majesty.)  Her Highness now has (roughly) 2,141 of the 2,382 she needs to lock this thing up.

On the Democrat side, it’s all over but the shouting – and the whining, which will come from the supporters of the loony old Bolshevik Sanders.  After last night The Bern is done – fini – pau – kaputt – finished.  There is now no way he can surpass Her Majesty.  All he can hope for is a juicy speaking spot at the Dem convention this summer.

On the Republican side, it’s also all but over, the possibility of an open convention aside; it is now mathematically impossible for Ted Cruz or the increasingly Quixotic Kasich to overcome The Donald.

Facepalm-bearIt’s shaping up to be The Donald v. Her Royal Highness Hillary I.  Both of these candidates are already starting to pivot into the general election, and if it gets nasty, well, it will be fun to watch.  Both of these candidates have ample experience in nasty.

Also:  It’s going to be an interesting autumn.  Get ready for a non-stop parade of crazy, True Believers.

Animal’s Daily News

Space ChickMight life exist in the deep reaches of interstellar space?  Cornelia Meinert thinks so.  Her thoughts appear on BBC Earth here.  Excerpt:

When we think about whether or not aliens exist, we generally imagine them on a vaguely Earth-like planet circling a distant star. We do not normally think of them living out in space itself.

But maybe that is not such a ridiculous idea. In April 2016, researchers reported that some of the key building blocks of life can be produced from simple substances under harsh conditions mimicking those of interstellar space.

Cornelia Meinert at the University of Nice, France and colleagues showed that a mixture of frozen water, methanol and ammonia – all compounds known to exist in the vast “molecular clouds” from which stars form – can be transformed into a wide range of sugar molecules when exposed to ultraviolet rays, which pervade space. The sugars included ribose, which is a part of the DNA-like molecule RNA.

This suggests that the fundamental molecules of life might be formed in outer space, and then delivered to planets like Earth by icy comets and meteorites.

Read her entire report here.

This might breathe some new life into the old panspermia hypothesis; the idea that life came to Earth (and, presumably, other life-friendly planets) from space, delivered by comets or other random impacting objects.

The BBC article goes a step farther, implying that simple life forms may exist in open space, or more likely on rogue planets that wander the spaces between stars.  On that score, color me skeptical; interstellar space is an awfully hostile environment.  Still, the humble tardigrade of Earth can survive some awfully hostile environments, and bacterial spores are likewise pretty hardy.  So who knows?

What we already know is interesting enough.  As Carl Sagan famously observed, we are all made of star-stuff; the very stuff of Earth, its ecosystem and us was all forged in supernova explosions, millions or billions of years before Earth formed.

We are all children of the stars.  That’s pretty thought-provoking in and of itself.


Goodbye, Blue Monday

Goodbye, Blue Monday!
Goodbye, Blue Monday!

The Tokyo (Narita) to Denver via LAX odyssey is over, jet lag is almost gone, and life seems to be settling back into a normal pattern for a while.  Later this week we get to go see our oldest daughter Bugs get hooded with her Master of Science/Nursing and Nurse-Practitioner, which is a happy event we’re looking forward to.

 So, in lieu of any deep thoughts which are probably precluded by my remaining jet lag, here are some Monday morning links.

Bernie’s Harebrained “Free College” Ideas.  Lots of the loony old Bolshevik Bernie’s ideas are harebrained, of course, but the free college claim is the purest corral litter.

A Human History of Fire.  All our technology, all of our civilization, everything that makes us different than every other animal on the planet – it all started with fire.

One company is looking to cure death.  Color me skeptical.  What could possibly go wrong?

Oh, and for the blog find of the day – check out Kristin Tate, the Libertarian Chick!

On that note, we return you to your Monday, already in progress.

Deep thoughts, news of the day, totty and the Manly Arts.