Book Meme

I’ve been tagged!

1. Pick up the nearest book (of at least 123 pages).
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people.

This really is the book that’s been near to hand for the past few days. I have it as an interlibrary loan, so if I snooze, I lose.

The Andronovo cultural zone covers an enormous portion of western Asia. Its western flank constitutes a contact zone with the Srubnaya culture in the Volga-Ural interfluvial and extending eastward to the Minusinsk depression (Fig. 3.5). Sites are found as far south as the foothills of the Koppetdag, the Pamir, and Tien-Shan mountains, whereas the northern boundary is unclear when it reaches the taiga zone. *

I tag HGP, M and/or D, Whimsy, Lex10 and Xtin (let’s see if this will cause her to emit signal).

Hey, hey Ralphie boy!

To mark the entry of the vainest man in American presidential politics (and that’s saying a lot) into the race today.


Just in case anyone misinterprets – I could care less about Ralph. .38% of the vote last time? He’s just embarrassing himself.

K is for contra-rotating

Newton’s third law – refined as the conservation of angular momentum – is not the helicopter’s friend. There are the usual solutions – a tail rotor that provides thrust to counter the main rotor’s torque and tandem rotors (where two equal sized rotors move in opposite directions and offset each other) – and the out-of-the-ordinary takes on the problem.I was nosing around the web a couple days ago, trying to figure out if a picture of a helicopter was real or a model used in a movie (option 2, by the way) and discovered another Soviet/Russian helicopter design bureau: Kamov. The Kamov Design Bureau’s claim to fame is the use of coaxial contra-rotating rotors. I’ve got to think that this a hella complicated way to do things, but it is compact. Lots of good Russian chopper design – a couple stood out.


The Ka-137 (above) is the quintessential evil drone. It’s a UAV that can do recon/surveillance work and – according to the linked web site – deliver cargo. No mention of weapon mounts…



The Ka-56 is superspy material. Depending on who you believe, it was either designed just to be carried in a torpedo tube (why?) or actually fired from the tube inside, one assumes, a special torpedo (yay!). Followed by another torpedo carrying our intrepid agent, one hopes. Looks like the writers of the Venture Brothers missed a perfect obscure reference when they put Assassinanny 911 together.

What makes the title of the post work is the solution of another chopper designer – Kaman Aircraft. They used an intermeshed contra-rotating solution – at least the hubs are side-by-each rather than one sorta-inside the other. The HH-43 Huskie has been fave of mine since my plastic model aircraft days.


If you embiggen the picture above, notice the warning on the rotor mast. Because of the way the rotor assemblies are canted, approaching from the side would result in a radical hair cut.

Slighty confused

And why not? Scott pointed me at this Gizmodo post – apparently raptors have no problem with nailing radio-controlled plastic dragonflys:

After investigating the story printed in the local Manhasset Press newspaper, WowWee’s Customer Service Department determined that it has received 45 different calls over the past 2 months about hawks and other birds of prey swooping down and snatching consumers’ FlyTech Dragonfly out of the air.

Hmm. I wonder if the gadget could carry a small piece of meat? Might be good exercise for a merlin – certainly more interesting than a swung lure!

More alt history

Via The Reality-Based Community, a link to this overview of the work of Onken and Jones. It ties in to a question I’ve always had about the way events work – are there really pivot points, or are there broad trends that force thing in certain directions and we retrofit the specific causes (or – as things seem usually to be – a bit of both)?

The researchers also found that assassinations have no effect on the inauguration of wars, a result that “suggests that World War I might have begun regardless of whether or not the attempt on the life of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914 had succeeded or failed.”

In other news, my friend Ray seems to have been involved with early efforts towards a transatlantic cable, discussing same with a favorite steam-vicky – Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

From above

A few pictures from the local métropole, taken from a vantage point I rarely experience. There was a vendor presentation today at a nice private club atop a local five-story skyscraper – nice lunch and very useful info (if you care about 802.11n and mesh networks). Win.




BTW – I think Flickr’s been infiltrated by Mainers (compare where Flickr says the pictures were taken with where I placed them on the map)!

Alt history

Alternative histories can be a lot of fun – or they can be teeth-grindingly dumb. Part of the trick, it seems to me, is to find a good pivot point – a specific thing that could have gone differently – and then carefully work through the implications. Done poorly, it devolves into a “Well, my Goths invented the Gatling gun” – “So what? My Romans allied with Godzilla!” kind of exercise (complete with the smell of burning plastic and the pop of Black Cats – not that I’d know anything about it); done well, it makes you wonder about why things turned out the way they did.

All this is a long-winded way of pointing you at a Strange Maps post on a map of the Republic of New Netherland – maps and alternative history – nice match. While I’m on the subject, C.M. Kornbluth’s Two Dooms is alt history that is definitely worth a read.

What kind of mutant?


You have one head, one body, but two faces, partially merged, with a third eye in the center, two noses, and two mouths.


From a distance, you look like anyone else. It is only those you allow close enough to look into your eyes who will see your true nature, which is emergent. You are neither one thing nor a different thing, but rather the difference just emerging from within the one. Walking down the street, you seem to hear other footsteps keeping pace with yours. Speaking, you hear your every word echoed, but so quickly you cannot be sure it is not your imagination. Reading, you see double; every word seems out of register. Never at ease, you are haunted by a feeling that something is about to happen. It never does; or rather, when things do happen, it is evident that they do not exhaust the sense of imminence that bothers you. When you close your third eye, and try to look at things as others do, you see all the more clearly the fissure in the heart of things. Maybe because your ordinary eyes are farther apart than theirs, you can tell, as singletons cannot, that the fat and friendly world they see as one is really the forced marriage of two parts that are already sliding apart—product of the binocular point of view. And when you close both ordinary eyes, and look at the world through the third eye that partakes equally in both parts of you, you begin to glimpse the world as it truly is: a scatter of sequins, a broken mirror. Your literary form is the off-rhyme.

You are related to…
The Two-Headed Lamb in Walter Potter’s Museum of Curiosities, who was born at Beeding Court Farm in West Sussex, around 1871.


Quiz here, via Whimsy, Cabinet and ineradicablestain.

Orchid show

It’s easy to forget that when you look at a daisy, you’re looking at the plant’s reproductive organs – the naughty bits. Not so easy to forget about when you look at orchids, though.


I went to the NH Orchid Society’s 2008 show this morning. Beaucoup fun. It was nice to see one of my favorite genera – Phragmipedium – well represented, and a genus I’m warming to rapidly – Paphiopedilum – with a big hybrid and species presence. I have to admit that when it comes to orchids, I prefer species over hybrids.


It seemed like one vendor just stepped off the pages of Orchid Fever. He had Paphiopedilum sanderianum and Chinese cymbidiums, both of which figure in the book, and has recently gone through all the assorted fun and paperwork involved with importing the first Phrag. kovachii into the country. I bought a Paph. venustum from him – someday, a sanderianum for me.


Lots more photos on Flickr – click here to go to the set.