Quotulatiousness

August 12, 2015

Who might buy a Mistral?

Filed under: Europe, France, Military, Russia — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

At the International Business Times, Christopher Harress reports on the two Mistral-class helicopter carriers France built for Russia and is now trying to find new homes for:

The Sevastopol (left) and the Vladivostok warships, two Mistral class LHD amphibious vessels ordered by Russia from STX France, are seen in St. Nazaire, France, Dec. 20, 2014. Jean-Sebastien Evrard/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

The Sevastopol (left) and the Vladivostok warships, two Mistral class LHD amphibious vessels ordered by Russia from STX France, are seen in St. Nazaire, France, Dec. 20, 2014. Jean-Sebastien Evrard/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Inside the sprawling dockyard in the ancient town of St. Nazaire in southwestern France sits $1.2 billion worth of unsold naval hardware. Despite having never left the dock, the two Mistral helicopter landing ships, originally built by France for use in the Russian navy, inadvertently have become involved in the growing international dispute between Russia and the West over the annexation of Crimea and the war in eastern Ukraine.

Now they are causing problems in France.

Two days after managing to negotiate a way out of the deal with Moscow that had become a divisive, ethical and political dilemma in Europe, France faces the fresh challenge of looking for a new buyer that has both the military need and the hard cash for the two 21,000 ton warships.

“I think this will be a difficult product to sell,” said Dakota Wood, senior research fellow of defense programs at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative Washington think tank. “Military ships are highly specialized and designed for a specific purpose that accounts for all the weapons systems and unique specifications that the navy in questions needs. In this case, the spacing and logistics to accommodate the unique aircraft that Russia was going to use. What other country shares those exact specifications?”

With Canada in the middle of a long, long election campaign, there’s no point in pretending that one or both of the ships might end up as part of the Royal Canadian Navy (unlike a few earlier reports), so France is forced to look further abroad for countries that have both the ready money (like Saudi Arabia) and the pressing need (uh, like Saudi Arabia).

Better hops through science

Filed under: Science — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

At Wired, Katie M. Palmer discusses an interesting (if only to brewers and beer fans) development in the quest for better beer:

For craft breweries, originality is everything. Your favorite microbrew prides itself on the particular combination of grains, yeast, and hops that go into its fermented nectar. Regardless of the magic that goes into the recipe, though, a lot of those ingredients come from the same big suppliers — bulk barley, high-yield yeast. So when agricultural geneticist Sean Myles was visiting his brewing buddies over at Tatamagouche Brewing Company in Nova Scotia, the conversation turned quickly to the one place where microbreweries can really distinguish themselves: hop varieties.

“I’m a craft beer fanatic…a little bit,” says Myles, who researches at Dalhousie University. “I ended up hanging around the hop yard, and we were taking a look at the vines.” In Nova Scotia, brewers grow the same varieties of hops you’d see elsewhere — Cascade, Willamette, Fuggle — which add aroma, flavor, and bitterness to a beer while helping to preserve it. But the vines don’t thrive like they do on the dryer, warmer west coast. The region’s high humidity makes the plants vulnerable to mildew. Myles looked at the hops growing in the brewers’ backyard, stunted and suffering from fungus, and had an idea: “I said, well, let’s go get some pollen.”

So Myles and Hans Christian Jost from Tatamagouche traveled from Nova Scotia to Corvallis, Oregon, where the USDA has one of the biggest hop collections in the world. “In order to get new varieties you need to let these plants have sex and generate some offspring,” says Myles. The National Clonal Germplasm Repository — which includes a gene bank in addition to physical collections of berries, mint, and nuts — is one of the only places where hopheads have access to pollen from male plants. (The pine cone-shaped hops that go into your beer are the flower of female plants, so most growers don’t bother keeping any males around.)

At the USDA hop library, which has dozens of varieties bred for different taste profiles, disease resistance, and viability in different climates, Myles worked with hop expert John Henning to find four different male mildew-resistant hops. But he couldn’t take the plant material across the border to Canada — so he stuck baggies over the top of the plants, collected their pollen, and brought it back to sprinkle on top of the female flowers grown by the brewery.

That’s the beginning of what will be a multiple-year process of growing, seed collection, and growing again to select the most mildew-resistant plants that still keep their floral hop character. When the brewers are done, they’ll have a unique variety of hops that they can call their own — and hopefully grow more of, thanks to its improved mildew protection.

“… premiers look to Ottawa for one reason and one reason only: To beat the Prime Minister … over the head with their begging bowls”

Filed under: Cancon, Government — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Richard Anderson explains why Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne is upset with Prime Minister Stephen Harper:

It is a time honoured tradition that premiers look to Ottawa for one reason and one reason only: To beat the Prime Minister of the day over the head with their begging bowls. What Kathleen Wynne is looking for is not a “partnership” but a ceaseless no-strings-attached flow of federal money. Like a petulant teenager the sextuagenarian premier always wants more and offers little in return. Prime Minister Harper has wisely refused to play her game.

[…]

Now imagine that you’re Kathleen Wynne — please try to subdue the gag reflex — and billions of dollars now flow into the provincial coffers from this de facto payroll tax. Perhaps the money gets tossed into general revenues. Queen’s Park then turns arounds and issues IOUs to the “arm’s length board” in the form of increasingly worthless provincial bonds. The pension would for actuarial purposes be “fully funded” but as a practical matter one pocket of government is borrowing from the other.

But perhaps the Wynnesters are a tad more clever than all that. The revenues from this payroll tax go directly to the allegedly “arms length” investment board. Nothing goes into general revenues and the Liberals allow themselves a patina of fair dealing. The board, however, will almost certainly have its investment guidelines laid out by the government. Those guidelines, by the strangest coincidence, will likely have an “invest in Ontario” component.

Some of the money will get used to buy up provincial bonds, lowering the government’s cost of borrowing at a time when capital markets are getting skittish about Ontario debentures. Quite a lot of the rest will be used to fund infrastructure projects, private-public sector partnerships and other initiatives that will, mysteriously, favour Liberal allies. The Chretien era Adscam scandal will seem like chump change in comparison.

How Buildings Learn – Stewart Brand – 3 of 6 – “Built for Change”

Filed under: Randomness, Technology — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 10 Jun 2012

This six-part, three-hour, BBC TV series aired in 1997. I presented and co-wrote the series; it was directed by James Muncie, with music by Brian Eno.

The series was based on my 1994 book, HOW BUILDINGS LEARN: What Happens After They’re Built. The book is still selling well and is used as a text in some college courses. Most of the 27 reviews on Amazon treat it as a book about system and software design, which tells me that architects are not as alert as computer people. But I knew that; that’s part of why I wrote the book.

Anybody is welcome to use anything from this series in any way they like. Please don’t bug me with requests for permission. Hack away. Do credit the BBC, who put considerable time and talent into the project.

Historic note: this was one of the first television productions made entirely in digital — shot digital, edited digital. The project wound up with not enough money, so digital was the workaround. The camera was so small that we seldom had to ask permission to shoot; everybody thought we were tourists. No film or sound crew. Everything technical on site was done by editors, writers, directors. That’s why the sound is a little sketchy, but there’s also some direct perception in the filming that is unusual.

QotD: The Relative

Filed under: Humour, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

The normal man’s antipathy to his relatives, particularly of the second degree, is explained by psychologists in various tortured and improbable ways. The true explanation, I venture, is a good deal simpler. It lies in the plain fact that every man sees in his relatives, and especially in his cousins, a series of grotesque caricatures of himself. They exhibit his qualities in disconcerting augmentation or diminution; they fill him with a disquieting feeling that this, perhaps, is the way he appears to the world and so they wound his amour propre and give him intense discomfort. To admire his relatives whole-heartedly a man must be lacking in the finer sort of self-respect.

H.L. Mencken, “Types of Men 12: The Relative”, Prejudices, Third Series, 1922.

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