Friday, July 19, 2024

Shell Game...

We're having to essentially reboot artillery shell production...
The causes of the shell crisis began years ago. They are rooted in decisions and miscalculations made by the U.S. military and its NATO allies that occurred well before Russia’s 2022 invasion, a Reuters investigation found.

A decade of strategic, funding and production mistakes played a far greater role in the shell shortage than did the recent U.S. congressional delays of aid, Reuters found.

In the years between Russia’s 2014 seizure of Crimea and its 2022 invasion, for example, repeated warnings from top NATO commanders and from officials who operated or supervised U.S. munitions plants went largely unheeded. They advised their governments, both publicly and privately, that the alliance’s munitions industry was ill-equipped to surge production should war demand it. Because of the failure to respond to those warnings, many artillery production lines at already-ancient factories in the United States and Europe slowed to a crawl or closed altogether.

“This is a problem that’s been long in the making,” said Bruce Jette, who served as the assistant secretary of the U.S. Army for acquisition, logistics and technology from 2018 to January 2021.
It's the post-Vietnam situation all over again. The U.S. military has been preoccupied with counter-insurgency warfare for decades and the 155mm shell was not exactly in high demand in Afghanistan, so...

Automotif DXXIII...

This early (2003-2004) Z4 2.5i was BMW's immediate successor to the Z3. It had fully modern underpinnings compared to the Z3, which was running around until the 2002 model year on a semi-trailing arm rear suspension cribbed from the old 1982-vintage E30 3-series. (This was done for reasons of both cost and compactness; from the rear suspension forward the Z3 was pretty much identical to the newer E36 3-series, but its wheelbase was a foot shorter.)

The Z4 had the multilink rear derived from newer 3-series cars, but as a result had a 4-inch bump in wheelbase length over its predecessor. On the upside, handling was improved and it didn't squat like a motorboat under acceleration.

The 2.5i was the cheaper engine option, featuring the 192hp M54B25 2.5 liter inline six. Buyers could also opt for the 231-horsepower 3.0i.

As a fan of the Z3's lines, I dissed the Chris Bangle-era Z4 pretty hard when it debuted, but like most of the Bangle Bimmers, the lines have aged well over time.

BMW insisted on calling it a roadster, but since the car has a permanently-affixed folding top, that's not exactly accurate. It is a sports car, though.


Thursday, July 18, 2024

Automotif DXXII...

We've seen this Lamborghini Huracán and Rolls-Royce Ghost before (here and here) but, hey, these are a couple of really cool sleds, so I'm always gonna snap a pic when I have a chance.

Meme Dump...

Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Running out of tanks?

Apparently the hardware situation in Russia is starting to feel the pinch of years of warfare:
When the then defence minister, Sergei Shoigu, boasted in December 2023 that 1,530 tanks had been delivered in the course of the year, he omitted to say that nearly 85% of them, according to an assessment by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a London think-tank, were not new tanks but old ones (mainly t-72s, also t-62s and even some t-55s dating from just after the second world war) that had been taken out of storage and given a wash and brush-up.

Since the invasion, about 175 reasonably modern t-90m tanks have been sent to the front line. The iiss estimates that annual production this year could be approaching 90. However, Michael Gjerstad, an analyst with the iiss, argues that most of the t-90ms are actually upgrades of older t-90as. As those numbers dwindle, production of newly built t-90ms this year might be no more than 28. Pavel Luzin, an expert on Russian military capacity at the Washington-based Centre for European Policy Analysis, reckons that Russia can build only 30 brand-new tanks a year. When the Ukrainians captured a supposedly new t-90m last year, they found that its gun was produced in 1992.
The tank & AFV production outlook is bad, and the production of artillery tubes is similarly grim for Moscow.


Future stuff...

I just can't get over how the price on tech stuff has just plummeted. It wasn't that long ago that a 4K 55" TV was a science fiction movie prop. Now BezosMart is blowing the things out for $299 on Prime Day...

You can spend a ton on tablets or smartphones if you want, but you can get a pretty decent one for very reasonable dough if you don't have to have the most memory or megapixels.


Sorry, guys.

The week... hell, the whole month off to an unbelievably crappy start.

I'll try to cheer up and be funnier.


Sunday, July 14, 2024

Too Much News

Billy Joel could get a whole new verse for "We Didn't Start the Fire" out of any given week since about March of 2020.

This is your reminder to get off the internet, snuggle your [cat/dog/kid/significant other] and go outside and touch some frickin' grass.


Friday, July 12, 2024

Crapping all over the internet...

Scammy shill reviews and SEO trickery have plagued the internet for... well, about as long as search engines have been a thing, but they're getting turbocharged by large language models and popping up in unlikely places.

There's this one dude who managed to slip his spammy garbage into places like USA Today and Sports Illustrated:
In October, The Verge and other outlets reported on product review articles appearing on Gannett publications like USA Today that seemed to be AI-generated. Gannett maintained that the content was produced by humans and that a third-party marketing firm was responsible. Just a month later, eerily similar review articles were published on the website of Sports Illustrated, but this time, Futurism discovered that the article authors’ headshots were for sale on an AI photo website. Shortly after, Sports Illustrated said it had cut ties with the company that produced the reviews.

The apparent AI content proved embarrassing for nearly everyone involved: venerated publications that hired a third-party marketing firm to produce content were now attempting to defend the work — and themselves — after readers discovered the low-quality junk content on their sites. Workers who had nothing to do with the stories feared it could be the beginning of the end of their jobs. In January, the Sports Illustrated newsroom was gutted by mass layoffs, though much of the staff was later rehired after its parent company found a new publisher.

In both cases, as reported by The Verge, the AI-generated content was produced by a mysterious company called AdVon Commerce, a marketing firm that boasts of its AI-powered products. There’s little information available about AdVon online, as its owners have worked to scrub their names from the internet.
But sneaking content onto sites is one thing. Suppose you could instead just buy the legal remains of a once-respected but now-defunct site and reanimate it, including generating new AI-written articles under the bylines of its former authors?


Not how that works.

From the department of "Free Speech Absolutism":
In a post on X (formerly Twitter), Musk wrote that X "has no choice but to file suit against the perpetrators and collaborators" behind an advertiser boycott on his platform.

"Hopefully, some states will consider criminal prosecution," Musk wrote, leading several X users to suggest that Musk wants it to be illegal for brands to refuse to advertise on X.
Boycotts are free speech too, Elmo you knob.

Guys like this claim they hate government regulation meddling in business, but when they wind up on the wrong end of the stick, they're all "Please help me, Government! I'm just a smol bean and they're being mean to me!"


Thursday, July 11, 2024

Tab Clearing...


Quest for Drier

As a frequent pedestrian in my neighborhood, an umbrella is a thing I like to keep in the canvas Harry Herpson High School tote bag in which I carry my iPad and a couple foam koozies.

I rarely have to walk far. It's only a few blocks to the store or a restaurant, so unless it's absolutely raining buckets, I don't need some giant mobile domed tent of a brolly.

I had to buy a new one earlier this year and, not knowing anything about which umbrella brands were good or not, I ran into the enshittified search engine on Amazon and got stumped. A little bit of research around the web saw me picking up a collapsible unit from Prostorm.

After six months of use, I gotta say that it was a good call. Reasonably priced, the auto-extend and auto-collapse features are handy. It's like the Microtech out-the-front mechanism, but for umbrellas. It has nine ribs rather than eight in order to add to its sturdiness in windy conditions, and that plus the venting in the deep bowl of the umbrella itself has kept it from getting inverted even in gusty conditions.

Collapsed down, it's only about a foot long and easily fits in the bottom of the tote. This one gets two (dry) thumbs up from me.

Meme Dump...

Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Automotif DXXI...

An old rear-wheel drive JDM (Japanese Domestic Market) AE86 Toyota Corolla Levin all set up for drifting. Good-looking ride and sounded pretty healthy.

The last generation of RWD Corollas ran from the '83 to '87 model years and are just Peak Eighties for me. Very Synthwave. I could get into driving one, although I think I'd prefer keeping it a lot closer to stock in the wheel & suspension department. You can tell that encountering the wrong speed bump or pothole in that thing would be disastrous.

I mean, neither the Zed Drei or the Mustang has a ton of ground clearance or what you'd call a cushy suspension, but the difference in sidewall height between the two sets of tires makes a world of difference on rough springtime pavement here in Indy.

Tuesday, July 09, 2024

Myths and Legends

Harrington & Richardson's little .25 Auto, based on a Webley design, is entirely devoid of sights. The smooth curve of the slide's upper surface is unmarred by any notch, groove, or bump.

Bring this up on a gun forum or at the neighborhood gun shop and you will undoubtedly hear the reply "Oh, it's a belly gun!" Longtime readers of this space will know that this is my bête noire because how do you know it's going to be a belly fight? A dude sticks you up from a dozen or more feet away and you're gonna what? Say "Oh whoopsie! Hey, dude, I only brought my belly gun today. Wait right here while I run home and get something with some sights"?

Carrying a gun with not even the most rudimentary sights is like showing up at the golf course with a whole bag full of putters. It displays a failure to grasp the potential requirements. It's not like it conveys any advantage, either. What, does it make this thing faster to draw or something? As if!

Then we have some classic Winchester .25ACP ammunition, the 45 grain "Expanding Point" round, catalogued as the X25AXP. Sometimes referred to as the "Pellet Nose" round, this is a .25 caliber jacketed hollow point with a #4 steel shot pellet seated in the cavity. The idea being that it made the projectile more feed-friendly in older or jankier pocket pistols, but the pellet would push back into the bullet to initiate expansion on impact.

On the downside, it didn't work that way. On the upside, that's a good thing, because the last thing you want your .25ACP bullet to do is expand. The .25 Auto is one of the few handgun rounds that's almost as miserable a performer as popular myth suggests. It's a marginal penetrator under the best of circumstances and doesn't have any oomph to waste on expansion. If you're stuck with a deuce-five, stick with ball.

Monday, July 08, 2024

Automotif DXX...

I will never not photograph this "Bug-atti" Type 35 kit car. The funny thing is that the originals had anywhere between 60 and 130 horsepower, depending on the version, and you can easily get that much and more out of a hot-rodded Beetle motor. I'll bet it's a hoot to drive. Lord knows these folks always look like they're living their best life when they're out tootling around

Meme Dump...

Saturday, July 06, 2024

Rat Bikes

Of all my cameras, the Olympus E-M1X is easily the least fossil-y. It was announced in January of 2019, meaning it's barely over five years old; a spring chicken among the stringy old hens and roosters in my camera coop. They're still available new-in-the-box, although used copies are only about a third the price of a new one.

Still, although it was announced in 2019, it uses the same Sony-manufactured 20MP LiveMOS Four Thirds sensor first introduced in the 2016-vintage OM-D E-M1 Mark II, albeit backed up with dual TruePic VIII image processors, which gets it close to at least honorary fossil status.

Having, Collecting, Hoarding, Disposing

If you have a hobby that entails accumulating a lot of stuff, have you considered how best to dispose of it when you're gone? Your kids, or other next of kin, may not necessarily be interested in your cameras, guns, or cars.

Some things, like books or action figures or toy trains, are fairly easy to dispose of. Worst-case scenario you can haul the books to Half Price Books and the Beanie Babies to Goodwill.

Other items, like firearms or motor vehicles, may have additional legal entanglements. It's worth thinking about how to mitigated the hassles that'll cause your family ahead of time.


UFO sighting...

Somewhere on my blog, although I can't find the post right now, are photos of this car in its former home, at the gas station on the corner of 56th Street & Keystone Avenue.

Thanks to Jerry the alert blog reader for sending the link!

(If the link gives you fits, you might try manually copypasta-ing this one "".)

Friday, July 05, 2024

Meme Dump…


Don't Get Played

A BBC News look at Russian social media influence ops:
But before the truth could even get its shoes on, the lie had gone viral. Influencers had already picked up the false story and spread it widely.

One X user, the pro-Russia, pro-Donald Trump activist Jackson Hinkle, posted a link seen by more than 6.5m people. Several other accounts spread the story to millions more X users – at least 12m in total, according to the site’s metrics.

It was a fake story, on a fake news website, designed to spread widely online, with its origins in a Russia-based disinformation operation BBC Verify first revealed last year - at which point the operation appeared to be trying to undermine Ukraine’s government.
Remember, if it makes you feel a surge of anger, or a surge of elation at having your biases confirmed, you might want to do a bit more digging into its veracity.


Automotif DXIX...

The other day we had a Malaise Era Chevrolet Corvette, and today's subject is a Chevy of a similar vintage. Here we have a '78-'80 El Camino, the downsized 5th generation with a wheelbase two inches shorter than the previous one's.

For '78 buyers got a base 95hp 200 cubic inch V-6, with a pair of optional 4bbl V-8s, either a 145hp 305 or a 170hp 350. By 1980 the 350 was gone and the baddest factory motor was a 155hp 305, but at least base cars now had a 229cid V-6 rated at 115hp.


Starting Off Right

A blog reader has sent a review copy of a book entitled How to Buy Your First Gun.

With first-time gun purchases still surging, this book will be a handy guide for anyone looking to buy a handgun, most especially with an eye primarily toward personal protection.

The guide is practical, with step-by-step instructions for everything from selecting a pistol, proper safety procedures, and basic gun handling and marksmanship.

It's biased toward the defensive shooter, recommending a Glock 19 rather than the old "Buy a .22 and get used to it", but it eschews tacticool terminology, militant bravado, and political stuff, meaning it's suitable for anybody from your mom to your slightly patchouli-scented co-worker who's suddenly worried about carjackings. Plus it has suggestions for finding training as well as further reading and exploration which are great (and I'm not just saying that because this blog gets mentioned.)

If you know someone looking to make the leap to buying their first blaster, they could do a lot worse than reading this handy guide.


Thursday, July 04, 2024

Happy Independence Day!

"I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more." -John Adams, in a letter to Abigail, 1776

Wednesday, July 03, 2024

Automotif DXVIII...

Here's the opposite end of the C3 era from yesterday's '69 Stingray: A '78-'79 Corvette in Black.

This was peak Malaise Era 'Vette. The base 350 only made 195 SAE net horsepower and the optional L82 only put out 225. They couldn't even come up with a cool name for the color; it's just "Black".

GM had been noodling around with all kinds of ideas for the next generation of Corvette through the latter half of the Seventies, various wild ideas with mid-engine layouts and 4-rotor Wankels were floated, but between gas crunches and inflation, GM just didn't want to spend the coin. The C3 limped along for a total of fourteen years before being replaced.


Tuesday, July 02, 2024

Automotif DXVII...

Here's a 1969 Corvette Stingray coupe in Can-Am White, out enjoying an ideal day for open-air motoring.

The lack of a domed hood indicates a small block V-8 lives under there, either the base 300hp 350, or the optional L46 350, with an 11.0:1 compression ratio rated at 350 SAE gross bhp.


Monday, July 01, 2024

Plane Size

Wow, this photo really gives a good perspective of the relative sizes of these things.

Looks like a Douglas B-18, Boeing B-17 and B-29, and an early Convair B-36.

The maximum takeoff weight of the B-18 Bolo was 27,673 pounds, while a late model B-36J Peacemaker, with its six Wasp Major radials augmented by four GE J47 turbojets, could get off the ground at 410,000 pounds. The bomb load of that B-36J equalled the gross takeoff weight of 3.1 whole B-18s, or a B-17 and a half.


Automotif DXVI...

The 1973 model year was the cliff's edge for the original performance car era in Detroit. Engines had been lowered in compression to meet new emissions standards and to improve fuel economy, and were now advertised by SAE net rather than gross horsepower ratings, as though to emphasize the haircut in output.

All cars were required to sport grotesque new front bumpers that would absorb a 5MPH impact without structural damage (they'd be joined by matching rear protuberances for the following year.) The premier performance models from Ford and Pontiac were about to enter the dark ages: The 1974 Pontiac GTO would be a Nova and the '74 Mustang would morph into a Pinto.

At Oldsmobile, the only convertible left in the lineup for 1973 was the Delta 88 Royale, like the silver example in the photo above.

The '73 Delta 88 ragtop came with a base 160 horsepower 2-barrel version of the Olds 350 Rocket V-8. For an upgrade, the buyer could opt for a 4-bbl 455 cube Rocket, in either 225bhp or 250bhp format, with the latter sporting a dual exhaust setup.

The car in the picture has had the top replaced and has been repainted in the original Silver Taupe, with its lines slightly cleaned up by removing the chrome faux louvers that normally appeared on the front fenders.