Whale Wars Part II

Handcrafted Model Ships is pleased to announce that it has been chosen by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society to carry a line of 14″ model ships based on its current fleet: the Steve Irwin, the Brigitte Bardot, and the Bob Barker. This is to coincide with the April 27th season premiere of Whale Wars: Viking Shores on Animal Planet. This is the fifth season of the Whale Wars series and will follow the efforts of the Sea Shepherd fleet as they attempt to thwart whaling efforts in the Faroe Islands area off the shores of Norway.

Models of Sea Shepherd Ships Brigitte Bardot and Steve Irwin

Avid environmentalists and show supporters are invited to purchase a 14″ model of their choice to raise awareness regarding global whaling. Each model is authorized and endorsed by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. In addition, the Sea Shepherd Conservatory has worked closely with Handcrafted Model Ships to ensure that each model is designed from the actual plans from the ships themselves. These models are as close as you can get to the actual boats without putting on a rain coat. As an added bonus, they include actual parts from the ships themselves. That’s right, Bob Barker the model has an actual piece in it off of Bob Barker the boat, but hopefully not from Bob Barker the man. And speaking of the Bob Barker, come on down!

Model of the Bob Barker of Sea Shepherd

Oh, what a handsome ship he makes. Drew Carey had better look or Bob Barker might take over his spot as The Price is Right host, and by that I mean the boat! If you’re still holding out on buying these beauties, know that half of the profits from each sale goes directly to Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. So, the money goes to a good cause. As you might imagine, each ship is made from soft woods and other eco-friendly materials, so you can be assured that they are as Earth-friendly as possible. Lastly, there is a limited run of these ships to enhance their collectability. The run for each model is limited to 1000. After that, they’re all gone.

Take a look at the ship that started it all, the Steve Irwin. Named for world renowned conservationist and “Crocodile Hunter”, the Steve Irwin was the ship upon which the show was founded. As the only one featured in the first two seasons of Whale Wars, it has seen more than its fair share of the action. In the second season, actress Daryl Hannah even served aboard it with distinction. The Steve Irwin continues to be the flagship of the Sea Shepherd fleet, and the lynchpin of anti-whaling activities.
Model of the Steve Irwin of Sea Shepherd

And last, but not least, the most beautiful ship in the fleet, the Brigitte Bardot. Fans of the show are aware that the Sea Shepherd Conservatory lost the Ady Gil when it collided with the Japanese Whaling vessel Shonan Maru 2 (as shown on the Whale Wars show itself).
Model of the Brigitte Bardot of Sea Shepherd
The Ady Gil was so badly damaged that the ship had to be abandoned and sunk shortly thereafter. The Brigitte Bardot is a similarly designed trimaran to the Ady Gil, but is twice as large. Hopefully its size will allow it to avoid a similar fate as its predecessor. In 2011, the ship was damaged by a rogue wave (36 ft) while conducting anti-whaling operations. The ship had nearly lost one of its pontoons and the hull was cracked. It has to be escorted by to port by the Steve Irwin. Fortunately, the ship has undergone repairs and is now sailing the high seas once more. If you act now, you can have this beautiful model accentuating your home soon.

Whale Wars is Here!

Dood! “Whale Wars: Viking Shores” just premiered on Animal Planet. When I heard that, I had to tune in. In days of old, the Welsh (who live in Wales for those of you who are geographically challenged) had to fear the Vikings. Now the shoes on the other foot! Wale Wars!

Upon further research, it would seem that this show does not actually involve any Welsh. Or, if it did, they backed out on their agreement to appear. Instead, this show is about making wars on whales: those large aquatic mammals whose blubber reduced to an oil upon which civilization depended before we discovered petroleum substitutes. The novel “Moby Dick” contained a reasonable depiction of what constituted whaling back in those days, but times have changed dramatically. We no longer ship out in row boats to throw harpoons by hand; now we fire exploding harpoons from directly from the boat that kill the animal on detonation. That’s how to win a war ladies and gentlemen- superior firepower. The whales are drastically outgunned (in fact, they don’t have any), and are just sitting ducks for the whalers.

Enter the Sea Shepherd Organization. If the whales represent victory for the whalers, then Sea Shepherd represents the defense team brought in to prevent them from scoring. Every whale corpse that’s savaged with an exploding harpoon and then hooked up to an air compressor in order to bloat it’s carcass with air to keep it afloat equals one point for the whalers. Each time that is prevented, it’s a point for the Sea Shepherds. Each side has it’s tactics they are going to use to try to win. It’s a bit like football, except instead of the quarterback getting sacked he explodes in a bloody mist from an exploding harpoon launched by the opposing coach from the sidelines. Come to think of it, if football were really like that, I wouldn’t miss a game.

We, the viewers, get to watch this grand spectacle courtesy of Animal Planet which carries the show. The show ends up being a rather lopsided view of the two opposing sides in Whale Wars, because the nations that operate the whaling fleets won’t consent to let cameras on board their vessels. Instead the opposing ships are viewed from the camera crews operating on the Sea Shepard fleet. So we see the conflict entirely from their point of view. Of course, since the whalers are hell bent on using explosives to kill a large, cute, and harmless creature, I’m not sure they really want that story told. It’s not a very good story. I mean, the hunter who killed Bambi’s mom didn’t exactly release his story as a best seller now did he?

The Sea Shepherd fleet was originally a single ship, the Steve Irwin. Obviously, this was named after the well known conservationist and “Crocodile Hunter” who was crazy about protecting animals everywhere- right up until he was ironically killed like a snitch in a jail yard by a shiv from a grumpy sting ray. Then, in later seasons, two more ships have been added: the Brigitte Bardot and the Bob Barker. Obviously the eponimous celebrities either have or did have ties with the Sea Shepherd organization. I’m just thankful that the fleet hasn’t added a ship named Bindi Irwin, the Jungle Girl yet.

I have to say that the ships look pretty damn cool. I mean the Steve Irwin looks like a traditional boat, but the Bridgette Bardot looks freaking awesome. Here, have a look for yourself at these replicas of the boats.

Model of the Steve Irwin of Sea Shepherd

Model of the Brigitte Bardot of Sea Shepherd

I mean the Steve Irwin looks like a converted shrimp boat, but the Bridgette Bardot looks like an alien destroyer closing in for the kill. What the hell is that thing? It’s got wings and crap.

Turns out the Bridgette Bardot has quite a history. Before she was commissioned by the Sea Shepherd, she was circumnavigated the globe in 74 days- beating the previous world record. For extra style points, she did it using bio-diesel. For logistical reasons, she has since been converted to conventional fuel, but that’s still pretty cool.

As for the last ship in the fleet, the Bob Barker, it’s a more conventional boat like the Steve Irwin. Kind of a bummer, but all the boats can’t be as cool as the Bridgette Bardot. Here’s a model of Bob for your viewing pleasure.
Models of Sea Shepherd Ships Brigitte Bardot and Steve Irwin

As you’ve probably noticed by now, I’ve transitioned to talking about the ships to showing models of the ships. The models were made from the actual plans of the boats themselves. That’s because the Sea Shepherd Conservatory has these models commissioned, designed from actual plans of the boats themselves, and built so that those of you at home can get off your duffs and into the war. You see, each model, in addition to raising awareness for the cause, helps to fund it. In fact, a full 50% of the profits form these models go to the Sea Shepherd conservatory. Furthermore, each model is made with a small piece or part from the ship on which it is based; I’m not quite sure how they do that, but it seems cool.

Of course, as you’d expect from an environmental group, every model is made of biodegradable and Earth-friendly building materials. And, to make them collectible, each run is limited to 1000 models. Once those 1000 are sold, there are to be no more models made like them. That’s all she wrote, so call in those orders.
Model of the Bob Barker of Sea Shepherd

History of the Endeavor

The J-class yachts are beloved symbols of extravagance from a bygone age, each designed and financed by a unique personality to compete in The America’s Cup. Looking back, we are left to wonder at the priorities of the people involved; how could they justify to themselves the expenditure required for a boat race during the height of the Great Depression? Not to mention, these millionaires would rarely even leave themselves with a souvenir of this ultimate luxury; most J-class yachts were sold for scrap following the race.

Continue reading History of the Endeavor

The History of the Enterprise J-Class Yacht

I’m considering model sailboats as a new hobby. I never knew how cool these model ships and boats were. They’re perfect little replicas of the actual ships on which they are based; they’ve even got the freaking Park Avenue booms! Of course, if you don’t know what a Park Avenue boom is, you’re got a thing or two to learn about sailboat racing history. But, before I launch into my lengthy dissertation on the America’s Cup Sailboat Enterprise, you’re going to need to imagine yourself very wealthy. After all, as JP Morgan said about Enterprise model yachts, “If you have to ask the price, you can not afford it.”

Continue reading The History of the Enterprise J-Class Yacht

The Mathematics of a Lowball Sidebet

This month I have gone ahead and gone along with the other Lowball players wishes and played the “gidgets and gadgets” of Lowball sidebets. I figure it doesn’t cost me anything, it’s good for my image, and it pays to be liked by the other players which will tend to happen when they go along with their stupid bets.

A younger player has learned the game and proposed a new side bet. He was open to taking either side of the bet. The bet is that one player will pay another play $20 if he doesn’t have a King. However, if that player does have at least one King, then he will be paid $35 per King by the other player.

Let’s take a look at the math on that. Since we’re dealing with a 53 card deck using the Joker, the total number of five card hand combinations are 53 choose 5 which total 2,869,685. The total number of hands which involve no Kings are 49 choose 5 which equals 1,906,884. So the odds of getting a hand without a single King are 66.4%. We can alos tell that there are exactly 2,869,685 – 1,906,884 = 962,801 hands containing a King.

The total number of hands which involve getting one King are 4 choose 1 times 49 choose 4 which is: 4 x 211876 = 847504.
Divided by the original 2,869,685 we see that the chances of getting a hand containing a single King are 29.5%.

For a hand with two Kings, it is 4 choose 2 multiplied by 49 choose 3: 6 x 18424= 110,554
For a hand with three Kings, it is 4 choose 3 multiplied by 49 choose 2: 4 x 1176 = 4704
For all four Kings, there is only one combination for the four multiplied by 49 = 49

So if we add up all of the the hands with Kings, we get 962,811 hands containing a King: ten more than we were expecting. I’m guessing there we some rounding errors in dealing with these large numbers. When we’re accounting for close to 3 million hands, having a 10 hand discrepancy ain’t too bad. So I’m just going to convert to percentages.

66.4% of hands contain no King. 29.5% contain 1 King. 3.8% of hands contain two Kings. .16% contain three Kings, and .002% containing 4 Kings.

Going back to the original wager, if we play out 10,000 hands, then we’d have:
10,000 x 66.4% = 6640 No Kings receiving $20 = $132,800
10,000 x 29.5% = 2950 with one King receiving $35 = -$103250
10000 x 3.8% = 380 with two Kings receiving $70 = -$26,000
10000 x .16% = 16 with three Kings receiving $105= -$1680
And quad Kings being such a rare event that it doesn’t figure into 10,000 hands.
So if we do the math, over 10000 hands, the person buying the Kings will reap a profit of
$1870 which amounts to 19 cents a hand or so.

Nothing to get excited about, but the kind of stuff that gets the chips flying.

Pathfinder RPG PFS Build for a Gnome Dr. Strangelob/Poisoner

The Alchemist is one of the more flexible character classes in the Pathfinder RPG: his extracts function as spells, his bombs function as arcane blasts that ignore Spell Resistance, and he can function as a skill monkey whose talents can include finding and disarming traps.

The class is so flexible that Ogre proposed three distinct builds for the Alchemist: a bomb thrower (Dr. Strangelob), a melee build (Mr. Hyde), and a poisoner build. I’ve only played a bomb specialist, but I found that there were enough feat and discover spaces left over to add a separate element to the character. I decided to go with the poisoner, because certain feats the bomb chucker would already have such as Point Black Shot and Rapid Shot or Two-Weapon Fighting, would have natural synergy with the poisoner.

I decided to go with the Two-Weapon Fighting model instead of the Point Blank Shot and Rapid Shot model because it’s very difficult to make use of the sticky poison discovery when dealing with ammunition. They only way around it would be to use multiple daggers of throwing, but coming across such things in a Pathfinder Society setting can be rather daunting. In order to maximize the effectiveness of poison, you need to hit the target multiple times in a round. Each hit adds a +2 to the DC save versus the poison and increases it’s total duration by half. The sticky poison discovery, meanwhile, allows one dose of poison to be stretched to a number of hits equal to your Intelligence modifier- which is quite a cost saver for the poisoner.
Continue reading Pathfinder RPG PFS Build for a Gnome Dr. Strangelob/Poisoner

Ronda Rousey Uses Judo to Become Strikeforce MMA Champion

Ronda Rousey, who trained a Venice Judo back in her earlier years, used her Judo skills to become the Bantam Weight Women’s Champion over the weekend. You can see the entire fight here. I’ve also made a playlist of all her Strikeforce fights. Each is an incredible testament to real life Judo application to win a fight.

Innovation Killed Socialism

I’ve never liked top-down economic planning, and after reading Brink Lindsey’s Against The Dead Hand, I know why. Plus, it really changed my perspective of free markets and socialism, especially how the death of liberalism came about in the late 19th century.

Apparently, top-down just seemed logical, given their experiences with large corporations; a single big one could organize the resources for a market better than five smaller. A central economic planning body was preferred to competitive interactions between smaller actors in separate fields. The term “progressive” came about as a result of this ostensible idea that that’s where the world’s heading. Of course, our understanding of it all then was limited and ill-founded – and we’d all pay for it later.

I was reminded of James Surowiecki’s The Wisdom of Crowds, showing how localized decisions aggregated into a broader network yielded better results than top-down. How? According to this social organizing principle, the group itself acts smarter than even the brightest of its members – providing all have access to different information, are making independent decisions, and aren’t influencing each other. It’s not a new phenomenon, first observed by Francis Galton in a county-fair game guessing an ox’s weight over a century ago. The majority missed it while the average of the group’s responses were within 1% of it.

The most noted has to be the wreck of the USS Scorpion – a submarine that went down with all hands in May ’68, the Navy only having its last reported location days before. To help pinpoint the wreckage, a panel was assembled of diverse talent: mathematicians, salvage experts and sub tacticians – each given all available information to best estimate the location. Using Bayes Theorem, a collective determination was calculated; while its discovery proved none had correctly located it individually, the “group guess” was within 220 yards of it exactly.

So, if the broader network is smarter decision-making, why didn’t top-down planning go the way of the dodo when it proved inferior? Okay, let’s do a quick recap on the history of socialism.

It first assumes the marketplace naturally chaotic, which jives with why top-down planning was a local choice to combat it; observers claimed entire industries become consolidated in the hands of a few individuals. Second, it was born during the Industrial Revolution – a really crazy time – with its pioneer, Karl Marx, believing the whole thing a one-off process: the world needed to transition from an agrarian society to an industrialized one. In Das Kapital, he argued all industries would eventually find themselves controlled by only a handful of wealthy leaders, at which point, the process was complete. He seemed hopeful society would lose its dynamism, returning to a more tranquil time, and leaving these industrialists in possession of “the means of production” of the greater society was an injustice.

Of course, history has an ironic sense of humor. In time, Marxist revolutionaries would go on to do just that, as industrialization was proven not a one-off process after all.

Innovation constantly brought a new stream of products and services to market, and a society run by top-down committee (see: the former Soviet Union) just couldn’t effectively allocate resources to produce what the public actually wanted. And, like we know of any bloated bureaucracy, it collapsed beneath the weight of its own inefficiency.

What’s consistently proven to get the job done? Well, for resource-allocation, the free market is tops. If an oil embargo suddenly restricts its nation’s access, we hardly need an army of bureaucrats to refigure society’s production flow. As a commodity’s price rises, people naturally seek less expensive alternatives or use less of it. The free market allows for a resource to be restricted to those who use it best to benefit society; downright unthinkable to the “progressives” of yesteryear. And it’s that free market mindset which allows the “wisdom of crowds” to do its thing.

Oddly enough, socialism has been almost entirely refuted, and yet, it’s still around. We can only hope, like other “great” ideas – flat earth, phrenology, and stagflation – it’ll find its way to the dustbin of history as people become better educated.

Or just tired of wasting time and money – whichever comes first.