December 2, 2012

USS Enterprise, the first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, decommissioned

Filed under: Military, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 12:02

The USS Enterprise was taken out of service yesterday after a long career:

The world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier was retired from active service on Saturday, temporarily reducing the number of carriers in the U.S. fleet to 10 until 2015.

The USS Enterprise ended its notable 51-year career during a ceremony at its home port at Naval Station Norfolk, where thousands of former crew members, shipbuilders and their families lined a pier to bid farewell to one of the most decorated ships in the Navy.

“It’ll be a special memory. I’ve missed the Enterprise since every day I walked off of it,” said Kirk McDonnell, a former interior communications electrician aboard the ship from 1983 to 1987 who now lives in Highmore, S.D.

H/T to Doug Mataconis for the link. He also reported that the Secretary of the Navy announced that the third Ford class carrier will be called Enterprise.

Is UKIP about to become a mainstream British party?

Filed under: Britain, Media, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 11:53

After the strong showing in the Rotherham by-election, the UK Independence Party is on the verge of becoming mainstream:

The steady rise of the party originally known as the United Kingdom Independence Party has spanned a decade, taking in a second place at the 2009 European Parliament elections and extending into its remarkable performances in three parliamentary by-elections on Thursday. Ukip is now widely predicted to win the next European elections in 2014.

“Our previous best-ever by-election result, a fortnight ago, was 14.3 per cent and this one is comfortably over 20 per cent,” Ukip’s oddly charismatic leader Nigel Farage declared on Friday. “The political establishment is just going to have to wake up to the fact that Ukip is here and here to stay as a significant and rising mainstream part of British politics.”

Ukip is still far from winning a parliamentary seat, but its most recent achievements are acknowledged with some concern by the three main parties. Mr Farage’s claim that he is now leading the “third force in British politics” might be a little overexcited, but after Thursday, the Liberal Democrats have been put on notice that they are in mortal danger, as their traditional ability to vacuum up protest votes is challenged. Senior Conservatives are openly debating an electoral pact with a party David Cameron once dismissed as a bunch of “fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists”, in an effort to neutralise the electoral damage Ukip could wreak on the Tory Eurosceptic vote. Mr Farage is demanding a place on the podium at the leaders’ debates during the next general election.

It is a far cry from the early days, when Ukip — founded from the Anti-Federalist League by the academic Alan Sked to campaign for the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union and dominated by middle-class males of a certain age — struggled to cast off its oddball reputation. In its first venture into parliamentary campaigning, at four by-elections in June 1994, its candidates — including Mr Farage — won a total of 2,324 votes. Mr Sked claimed they would win “six or seven” seats at the 1997 general election, but their 193 candidates garnered only 0.3 per cent of the national vote between them.

GamingBolt.com interviews ArenaNet’s Colin Johanson

Filed under: Gaming — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 11:41

George Reith of GamingBolt.com talked to the director of Guild Wars 2, Colin Johanson:

With Guild Wars 2, the initial reception was pretty stellar, with some great sales figures and a pretty high Metacritic average. How did you feel about that? Are you happy with how the game is performing?

I’m thrilled. To be honest, I think the predictions of how we thought the game would do, at each step along the way, it always was bigger, and more popular than we had ever expected it could be. And it’s been really humbling, honestly. Every step of the way, there’s been more people that showed up for all our betas and more people who signed up to play it on day 1 and more people who purchased the game so far since it came out than any of the numbers we expected. Our last big November weekend — at the high point in the weekend, we were using about 90% of our total server bandwidth for the demand of all the players logging in. And that was just awesome to see. It’s not something that we necessarily expected to be quite so big and we’re continuing to grow. And it’s just really humbling and really exciting to see how much people are falling in love with the game over a short period of time.

Do you have any kind of regrets regarding the development? I mean, obviously you can’t have that many regrets because, well, you’ve released a pretty good game. But if there anything, personally, that you think you would differently if you got the chance to do it again?

You know, there’s always the time element. We spent five years on the game and that’s a really long time to spend on any project. In the game industry, that is eons to be working on anything. You know, the game came out, and I play it everyday, and I everyday I see something in it. There’s always the little detail that sticks out to me- ‘Oh, we could have done that better!’ If we just had one more fix we could make, to make it more spectacular. There’s always a little detail that stands out to me, something we could have done if we had a little more time. But you know, honestly, we could sit on it for ten years and we could keep working on it, never put it out, and we probably still wouldn’t be happy. [Laughs] So it’s hard to say.

At the end of the day, I think that we’ve done a really good job, getting a really solid game out the door. There are certainly some areas that we know we need to grow in, and add more features. PvP is a big one for me. We know that there are some features that we need to have to get the PvP up to where we want it to be. Those were not included in release, and those are all things that we have either already added since the game came out or we have a team of people building right now. So it’s one of the big ones for me, really, growing that competitive PvP feature-base.

Despair not Vikings fans, says Jim Souhan

Filed under: Football — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 11:05

At the Star Tribune, Jim Souhan says that the fans are already witnessing a vastly improved and attitudinally changed team:

I’ve covered the Minnesota Vikings on and off since 1990. For much of that time, the team has underachieved and sometimes simply choked while wearing a snarl on its collective face. Those who spent copious time in the locker room were right to think of a 41-0 loss in the NFC Championship Game as a function of karma.

This year’s team is different. This year’s team is the most likeable set of overachievers to wear purple since 1992, when Tony Dungy was just starting to try to prove he could be an NFL defensive coordinator.

So why do so many Vikings fans view this season the way economists view the Fiscal Cliff?

“You’re right, the people around you can sometimes drain the energy, and make you feel like things are worse than they are,” coach Leslie Frazier said.

With the Vikings at 6-5 and heading to Green Bay for a renewal of the best rivalry in Minnesota sports, Minnesota fans should feel they’re playing with house money instead of holding losing lottery tickets.

Before we get to perception, let’s give full weight to the key fact of any NFL season: the team’s record. The Vikings being 6-5 means they’ve already met or surpassed rational expectations for victories in a year dedicated to developing young talent. They are contending for the playoffs one year after finishing 3-13 and while testing a young quarterback, their star player’s reconstructed knee, a new defensive coordinator, a revamped offensive line and a host of young players.

This season the franchise seems to be edging toward competence with a rational plan and a generally admirable cast of competitors. They have lost only to playoff contenders, the weakest of which, Washington, is 5-6 and features the league’s most dynamic player in quarterback Robert Griffin III. They have beaten San Francisco, perhaps the team with the strongest top-to-bottom roster in the NFL. They have swept Detroit, a team loaded with talent that went 10-6 and made the playoffs last year.

Define or be defined: fiscal edition

Filed under: Government, History, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 10:54

Ron Hart talks about the distant past where congress passed budgets and those budgets were actually in surplus:

Most Americans expect politicians to work out a back-room deal to avoid embarrassing themselves again. The politicians feel these deals are too ugly for us to watch, so they are compelled to spare us the indignity of the “most transparent president” ever. Political deals are like sausage; it is best not to watch the product being made. The difference is, sausage as an end product is actually good.

In the Democratic vernacular, taxes have changed to “revenues.” Long ago they replaced the word “spending” with “investments,” especially when wasting money on Solyndra and the like. They think we are stupid.

When Bill Clinton so famously “balanced the budget” with the Internet boom and all the taxes from those stock sales, the GOP and Newt Gingrich passed a budget (yes, Congress used to do that) of $1.7 trillion in expenditures. Adjusted for inflation, our federal government would be spending $2.3 trillion today and collecting $2.5 trillion in “revenues,” resulting in a $200 billion surplus. But instead of increasing government spending in line with normal inflation, under Bush and Obama we are spending $3.8 trillion today. Democrats, who believe we have a “revenue” problem instead of a “spending” problem, must also think they have a bartender problem, not a drinking problem.

Those Republican neocons who have never seen a country they do not want to bomb because it looked at us wrong, have to give on defense. We spend $1.19 trillion a year on defense — more than the other top 10-countries combined and more than six times what second-place China spends.

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