Saturday, May 27, 2017

Stealth Saga #62

6th Generation Fighters:

Japan has teamed with Britain to study its next generation fighter.

The penetrating counter air system may be fast tracked and only a small number bought.

The PCA program under the Trump budget was $143 million.

The NGAD/F-X program may have merged with the PCA program.  The new budget under the latest Trump proposed budget is $294 million.

Some are saying the FA-XX really ought to be an F-14 replacement rather than for the F/A-18.

Engine studies have ramped up for the USAF F-X and USN FA-XX 6th generation fighters.

Will the MiG-41 actually be a sixth gen platform?

F-313:

Iran's "stealth" fighter has started taxi tests much to everyone's surprise.

TFX:

Rolls Royce has formed a joint venture to produce the engines for the Turkish indigenous 5th generation fighter.

KFX:

South Korea has selected Elta Systems to develop the KFX's radar.

FGFA:

The Russians are claiming they are on the cusp of signing the next deal related to the PAK-FA derived FGFA with India.  India is...silent.

PAK-FA:


The Russians claim the next gen engine is nearing readiness for the PAK-FA.

The Russians are claiming deliveries will start in 2019.  This is a slip by another year.

The PAK-FA avionics are advanced enough to do most of the flying for the pilot (supposedly).

The PAK-FA will carry an antiship cruise missile, confirming the PAK-FA is a multirole fighter rather than an air superiority specialist.

PAK-DA:

The PAK-DA has a digital model completed.  Presuma bly this is a completion of the CAD drawings rather than just another rendering.

The PAK-DA's first flight has been postponed until 2025.

The whole program is in question given the funding problems and given the announcement of the purchase of 50 new Tu-160 White Swan bombers, its looking rather likely the PAK-DA program may go the way of the MiG 1.44.

FC-31/J-31:


J-20:

The Chinese J-20 stealth fighter has entered service and achieved at least by American parlance, initial operating capability.

B-21:

The inspector general for the Pentagon is worried the B-21 program is excessively secret.The USAF is extremely reluctant to say anything about the program.

The B-21 program took a small budgetary hair cut, losing $20 million.

The USAF is starting to talk about needing 165 B-21 Raider stealth bombers.

KC-Z:

The next generation tanker may not be truly stealthy but then again reports are mixed.

F-22:

It appears the Russians might have tried to lure F-22s into an 'intel trap.'

F-22 can now use upgraded missiles.

Even after Trump's missile strike in Syria, the F-22 is just fine patrolling there.  However, if shooting started some have questions whether the F-22 would do well against the newest Russian air defenses in Syria.

How the F-22 and the F-35 will communicate and share data is still TBD.

Two F-22s escorted an airliner when there was a problem onboard with a passenger.

The F-22 avionics flying testbed is now based in St Louis.

F-35:

The Australian Air Force will have an air force entirely made up of F-35s by 2025.  They have ordered 72 F-35As.

The British F-35Bs will have the Meteor missile starting in 2024.

Germany has requested a classified briefing on the F-35 for procurement purposes.

Israel has taken delivery of three more F-35Is bringing their total to five.

Israel will get a special order, sensor laden F-35 for testing.

IAI is seeking engine work contracts for the F-35.

The first Italian built F-35B has been rolled out.

Norway has begun testing parachute braking on the F-35.

Taiwan is inquiring about procuring the F-35.  Normally, that would be a nonstarter.  However, under the Trump administration, who knows?

The GAO is warning of an increase of costs of $1.7 billion and a year delay in the F-35 program.

Some are arguing we ought to be buying F-35s faster.

The F-35 order from the proposed FY2018 budget is 46 F-35As, 20 F-35Bs & 4 F-35Cs.

Will the F-35 be the next jet for the Thunderbirds?

The USAF has lifted the ban on lighweight fighter pilots for the F-35A.

USAF F-35As toured and exercised in Europe.  Starting in Britain, hitting Estonia and Bulgaria along the way.

Hill AFB will be standing up its 4th F-35A squadron and the second combat coded one.

F-35As will participate in the Paris airshow.

QF-16 drones exercised with F-35s to practice working on jamming techniques.

What it is like to train new USAF pilots on the F-35?

USMC has completed gunpod testing on the F-35B.

USMC F-35Bs participated in Northern Edge exercise in Alaska for the first time.

The USMC wants to put 20 F-35Bs on its first few America class assault ships to act as mini carriers.

Lockheed was awarded the contract to upgrade the F-35s to the latest avionics software version.

Lockheed claims to have improved the F-35 logistics system.

A US Navy F-35C tested that software and dropped a bomb on a moving target.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Hell Beast

Ichor dripped from its teeth. Poisonous and deadly, the slime pooled on the floor before us. It's malleable covering for its consumptive orifice was pulled back and a terrifying noise emanated deep from within the beast. We were doomed.

We had landed peacefully upon this world. It was a world of plenty but pre contact. It was not considered advanced enough to join the Galactic Federation. We were, technically, bending some silly laws to be here. Frap knows, there were far, far too many rules for a good soph to follow accurately and besides, they were intended to keep every last soph in their place and maintain the status quo. So, we had come down, looking for samples of the very one thing this world had to offer that would be worth enough to come here and risk so much despite the ban.

If crept forward. It was going to kill us all. Like it had Tokwit when it found us in the field. It tore herm apart. And when Crateef had tried to stand herm's ground to buy us time to get back into the ship to escape, but it was too fast. Too strong. It had crushed Crateef as it bounded after us and didn't seem to even phased at the psionic blasts from Crateef's weapon. We were all going to die.
I closed my oculars and turned away. I didn't want to see what was going to happen next. I could feel its calcified, enameled slashers even before they reached me. It as going to be horrific. My mind ran wild. I was going to die.

It had chased us. Chased us from the field. Making us lose our samples. It had chased us into the ship. Chased us into the cargo hold. Where there was no escape since it prevented us from getting to the bay door controls. We were cornered. We were doomed.

I heard every drip and drop of its ichor as it closed cautiously with us. Air passed through my spherules. I was going to end. And…

"Sit! Stay!"

I opened my oculars and looked up. Before us in the cargo bay was an enormous giant. Bipedal. One of the dominate primitives that controlled this world and were not yet mature enough to join the Federation.

To my horror, it stroked the head of the hell beast next to it. The alien manipulator stroked the hell beast's head! It was unharmed! How could that be!?! The hell beast was covered in immensely sharp and deadly spines! So many of the megafauna on this world were! That's why we had to be careful when we extracted our samples.

"good boy!" came from the biped and the hell beast lolled out its poison applicator from its deadly orifice. More pooled on the floor right before it. Then the biped looked furious and deadly and right at us.

"Now, you freaks are going to explain. And it better be a good explanation, because you've been here enough times and killed, mutilated of my livestock in such a sick way! WHY FSCK DO YOU NEED CATTLE ANUSES?!"

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Dawn on Jefferson, Chapter 19: No Haven From Maven

Coming out of class was disconcerting.  There was nothing different.  There was nothing that stood out as different.  There was nothing to make me uncomfortable.  There was nothing different from any other day I had left American History class.  It was a normal day.

Oh!  Except for the fact I was going to need to make a deal with Maven.  The spider herself in her web.

No big deal.  Not at all.

I had first met Maven when my friends and I started the middle school segment of Shadwell.  She was starting her eighth grade year and I was new in sixth.  My friends and I were sitting around talking, since we'd known each other and been friends for some time.  Maven came over and plopped herself down in the midst of our circle and began chatting.  She seemed nice enough.  She was certainly pretty.

She had black hair, blue eyes and the palest almost translucent skin.  She had hints of east asian ancestry in the tilt of her eyes.  She smile easily and laughed.  We were being taken in...but something felt odd and off.  She'd dropped herself next to Tom.  And While she never moved the entire time she sat there and amicably chatted us up, it seemed she was shifting ever closer to Tom.  Like she was sneaking up on him.  Like a cat on a canary.

Yet, she seemed to be just welcoming the new kids to middle school.  The upper classwoman, the older girl, looking out for the younger noobs.  Even so, I felt...uncomfortable.

When she left, she DID pat Tom on the shoulder, something light and friendly and left.  

I had watched her as she walked away and saw her pause and look back.  At me.  With something of a grimace and a narrowing of her eyes.  Then and there, I knew it: she was trouble.  I just didn't realize what sort!

Over the next month, she started to make sure she was always there for us.  If there was a problem.  If there wasn't a problem.  However, after that month, I noticed she started being there for Tom more.  We were kids compared to her.  And Tom was my friend.  Something was...odd.

So, I got a little bold and followed her after school one day.  And that was when I first saw her derplicates.  The Derplicates.

These were boys.  Between the age of twelve to fifteen.  There were four of them.  They all dressed the same.  They all seemed to act the same.  Even with the differences in age.  I knew of them -Shadwell is a REALLY small town, folks, sheesh! - but had never seen them together like this.  Juan was the kid from the grade above mine.  I had known him in passing when he was still in the elementary segment.  He seemed rather different now...

I watched them over the next few days.  They made me more and more alarmed as I did.  They never seemed to have much, if any initiative.  They seemed to almost be robots.  Even stupid robots.  The almost acted like clones.  Dumb copies.  Derpy, dumb copies.  Duplicated derping...you get the idea.

I pulled Veena and Rosa and Jackie in.  They thought I was being weird and creepy.  They called me a stalker and acting scary.  I asked, begged, pleaded they come and see.  They did.  They were even more weirded out than I was.

The very next day, Maven gave Tom a present: it was a shirt.  Just like the other Derplicates.

We pranked her immediately.  We returned the shirt with a note all left on her front door.  She picked it up and looked angry and pulled the note off...and then the shirt melted in her hands.  Hey!  Chemistry really IS cool.  You just have to learn to do the crazy things with it.  That requires some...studying the unfun parts though.

She was angry.  Really angry.

She tried a bit harder to get Tom and then backed off.  We pranked her.  Her derplicates.  Her locker had rollypollies pour out of it.  Her mailbox flew away!  Drones spelled out silly limericks in the grass about her.  And we kept it up until she finally got the message.  Tom was NOT going to get derplicated.  He was our friend.  That was six months ago.  And the weird thing was she didn't have a replacement derplicate for Tom.  We didn't understand why she didn't move on and capture some other boy, but she didn't.

However, she made it very, very plain it was an unforgivable act against her and she became colder than absolute zero towards us.

And that was why we wanted her help: the adults knew we hated each other.  There was no way we'd work together.  So, if we got caught, she would not get busted because there was no way we'd have been a team.  And vice versa.

It was impossible.  And that's why we needed it to happen.

We sat down for lunch.  I was so wound up you could drop something on me and it and I would go BOING like a spring.  Maven.  I had nightmares about Maven.  What if she decided she wanted to make girls into derplicates?  or if she DID get her hands on Tom?  HOW did she turn them into derplicates?!

We started lunch quietly, atypical for us.  We normally were boisterous and fun.  Other kids would congregate around and talk.  Friends who were not Merry Pranksters.  Not today.  A pall hung over us.  An air of 'DANGER!  STAY AWAY!' but not in the mischievous sort of feeling we normally had.  Rather, a scary, depressed one.

We talked and agreed.  Tom and Jackie went off to approach Maven and arrange for us to talk after school.  Tom had come back shivering, but Maven had agreed.  

After school it would be.  

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Dawn on Jefferson, Chapter 18: Lessons Learned Before Maven

The bell rang at that point and we all ran off to our respective classrooms.  We knew we would have to continue the discussion as to what we were going to do and how when lunch came.  That was the next time all five of we, the Merry Pranksters, would be together.  The thought of having the face Maven was not going to be fun.  It made me queasy, actually.  

Maven.

Maven the Raven from whom there was no haven.

Classrooms had Shadwell School were not exactly what was in the past.  It wasn't even what they had on Earth.  While what classes we took adhered to what Washington, DC required back on Earth, how we did them was probably more than a little different.  Or perhaps not.  I've never been to a school on Earther America.

When we got to our classrooms, we checked in our boosters with the teacher and picked up a limited one.  This allowed us to link to the lessons and school computers but did not allow some of us to hack our way through the lesson plans.  Some how that just seemed unfair.  If you have the ability...why not?  But, no.  We were randomly given cripples to prevent us from preloading software for ourselves (and hacking) and they were wiped and reloaded each night.  This forced us to actually LEARN.  

OH! THE TRAVESTY!

Oh, ok.  I do like learning and we even move at a pace of our own choosing, so long as you met minimum requirements.  If you could absorb information very fast, then you could unpack all sorts of backstory, side stories and extra information without slowing down others, boring them or dragging people who were not as fast along with you like they were on a wild sleigh ride.  

The experience was mostly virtual.  Today, after we said the pledge of allegiance, was history.  American history.  The last four hundred, almost five hundred years of the US of A were being covered in the class.  From the attempts by England to settle Roanoke to the present day while Earth's greatest nations settled the stars, we learned.  Some eras were more important than others and covered in more detail: walk the battlefields of the American Revolution, get narration, explanation and more, but if you wanted to WATCH the Battle of Yorktown, you needed to take a quiz immediately and get 8/10 right.  If you wanted to PARTICIPATE, as a Redcoat or a French soldier or as an American, you better get 10/10.  Revolutionary War, Manifest Destiny, Slavery, Civil War, Industrial Revolution, World War I, the Great Depression, World War II, the Cold War, Great Recession, the Rise of China, the Long War, Global Warming, Robopocalypse, the Race to the Stars and Escheria.  Each could be viewed, participated in and grasped not just as dry statistics and boring desiccated words, but as events with people in them, places and how they shaped the our country and later my world.

Every day, at the end, we'd get a test.  It would cover all that we learned and participated in.  Three hours of history could be fun.  It could be exhausting.  It could be devastatingly depressing: slavery did that to me and I got the light version for tweens, not the full blown one for seniors in high school.  I saw Natasha Ricardo come out of that day green as a Terran plant and lose her lunch in the waste basket.  Fortunately, that was six grades away.

And I was in the Great Recession.  It WAS rather depressing: how could all those people get away with doing so many illegal things!  Didn't they have auditbots?  They could have easily seen the data was corrupt and caught the criminals!  But, no, no auditbots yet.  This was before the robopocalypse and actually one of the seeds that spawned it.

Ever seen a car that could NEVER self drive?!  That's just odd!  And how dirty things were in San Francisco.  I am surprised they didn't all die of disease.  And...there was more, but I won't bore you.  Earth is a strange place.  So easy to live in, yet so disrespected by those that live there.  

Three hours later, after I had rocked out at a concern (yes, I had answered 10/10) and virtually walked across the Golden Gate Bridge, I did well enough on my test for the day to pass.  It was lunch time.

Lunch time.

My stomach flip flopped.
That much closer to having to meet Maven.  

I was pretty sure we would do so after school.  

We needed time to plot and decide how we wanted to try to work with Maven.

But then...there would still be Maven.

Maven the Raven from whom there is no Haven.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Dawn on Jefferson, Chapter 17: The Healing Power of Popcorn

Popcorn!  Who'd have thought it had magical properties to save the universe!?!  Or at least slay an argument...Tom was either a genius or an absolutely evil deviant who had laced his popcorn with happy sauce.  The stuff we swear the school nurse keeps above her desk and eats for lunch.  No one is that happy!  While I doubt Tom's pilfering skills, I have to say I lean towards him being an evil deviant rather than a genius.  No one who makes the awful puns and is as awkwardly dorky as he is could be an evil genius.

Hey!  He's OUR awkwardly dorky evil deviant!  

DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT PICKING ON HIM!

(that's our job!)

AND DON'T THINK ABOUT STEALING HIM AWAY EITHER!

(he's ours!  sold his soul to us in the 1st grade.  too bad so sad, you guys just look and see what you could have had)

As we munched with greatly reduced passions and talked.  We were agreed.  We wanted to go check out the spot where the helmet was and the legless footman appeared: we even named it Creepy Follow.  Tom nominated me as Icky Trod Stain to go with our naming theme and I downgraded him from deviant to just got lucky once mentally.

If you haven't figured out our puns there, I'm not explaining.  Sheesh.

If you ask again, I shall have to mock you for a second time.

There were serious problems with our goal of going to see where the Legless Footman went.  The first was the site was cordoned off by the BII (Bees, by the way is how most people call them) and would be for the next week at least.  

Secondly, the US Marine Corps had a squad in Shadwell now.  It was a precaution against trouble.  There were no signs of a massive invasion fleet, but even so, no one wanted to be in the little town wiped out.  The USMC Planetary Commandant didn't want to be the gal on duty who lost the first American town on an exoplanet to soldiers from another country either.  On on her watch!  And then there was the parents of Shadwell.  They were well and truly stirred up.  And they were watching.

The Bees were going to be doggedly thorough: first major case on Jefferson within their jurisdiction.  The Marines were going to be watching for people sneaking around.  And then the 'Rents.  Oy.

To even get out of school was going to be a challenge.  To not be tracked as we did our thing was going to be an even bigger challenge.  Remember our Boosters?  They are AWESOME.  However, they are the single easiest way to track anyone, anywhere.  Parents upload tracker software all the time to their kids' boosters.  The law forbade doing so to our brain implants directly, but...you had to wonder.  That meant at least ONE of our five sets of parents had probably placed a hacker tracker on our boosters.  

This meant we had to swap out our boosters. What?!  You didn't think kids in the 22nd century aren't STILL better at tech than their parents?  

We would also need a distraction to get out of school.  After all, with the increased security, the drones were going to be everywhere.  We could hack cameras temporarily, but if the drones were all out of whack someone might actually figure out what we were up to and then on top of that, someone might get hurt.  There WAS someone out there with an Indian combat suit or so it seemed.

And then the Marines...they had tech.  Tech that made what we had look like sticks and stones compared to modern boosters.  Or so we were sure.

We knew we also couldn't be directly involved with the distraction.  If we were, we'd get caught.  Tensions were just running too high.  The parents were just too flipped out.  It was annoying.  That meant we had to get META with our Merry Pranksterhood.  We would need someone to do it for us at least.  And get caught in the right way.  And not care.

We felt rather uncomfortable then.  We knew who we were going to have to talk to.  And she didn't like us.  She actually liked Tom a lot.  Too much.  She wanted to add him to her collection.  But she especially hated me.  I was the one who stood between her and Derplicating Tom.  It made me queasy to think about.

But we all knew what had to be done.

We were going to have to talk to Maven.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Dawn on Jefferson, Chapter 16: WAITAMINUTE!

Just when you think you're about to go do something amazing and wild and crazy and fun, that's when you get into a fight.  Every time.  I swear.  Unfortunately, it was with my friends, my Merry Pranksters.

Veena, Rosa, Tom, Jackie and I all blew up at each other and it became a serious huff between us. It was all very dramatic.  Well, perhaps not that dramatic.  Perhaps it was a fight.  Yes, there was yelling.  However, we didn't get that mad at each other.  It was just dramatic.

It started because Jackie, oh so bright and relatively normal Jackie, asked if the emperor was wearing any clothes.  Well, sorta.

Parents and adults and teachers and all those people who pretend to be grown up are often annoying, very annoying.  They tell you what to do.  They tell you how to do it.  They tell you what you CANNOT do (most annoying of all).  They often think they are right.  Even when they are not.  But...

Most of the time they are.  Its even more annoying that way.  The adults are annoying, but they are rarely stupid.  We might not see what they are doing and why - we're still kids after all - but they almost always have a reason.  It might be one we like.  It might not be one they explain (psst.  helps us grow up if we understand what you're doing, grownups!) It might not be one we think is fair. It might even be really annoying!  However, it is really outright dumb.

Jackie asked why didn't the adults see this?  They had all the information we did.  They had better equipment to study everything we had.  How come they were not going out to deal with the legless footman we just saw?

Rosa got into a bit of a huff then.  She was feeling really proud of finding the foot.  She felt a bit...superior for the act.  Her find was being called into question and she didn't like that.  She countered that sometimes some people notice things faster than others.  It was a dig.  It wasn't nice.  She shouldn't have taken Jackie's comments as an attack (hint: they weren't.  They were a good and insightful criticism.)  Rosa was just being too proud at that moment.

Veena jumped to Rosa's defense and started saying how good and smart we were and especially Rosa.  We obviously saw it first.

I felt bad for Jackie.  She wasn't doing anything wrong and was actually making a good observation.  I jumped in on her side when I heard Jackie growl.  Jackie growls impressively.  She was likely to bite off Rosa and Veena's heads.  She's not just taller than the rest of us, including Tom (ha! Tom! I see you grimace and glance to see if you're taller than Jackie ever time you stand next to her!  Have a coooommmmmpleeeex?!), but she also has a presence.  When she pops, she's scary.  But when she's not, she has a force of nature feeling to her.  She's not mean.  She's not overbearing.  She's not even the leader of the group (hello?!).  She does stand her ground better than the rest of us and doesn't wilt.  And then, sometimes, when she does pop she growls more impressively than a bear.

This was going to make her bear moments seem tame.  Those moments would seem like Masha's Medved from that ancient Russian cartoon.  She was about to go nuclear cave bear.  

Her chest began to expand when I jumped in on her side.  She looked at me as I did.  I reasonable.  I was brilliant.  I was a genius with my arguments, but then Veena and Rosa started yelling at me.  The nerve!  

Jackie and I were yelling at Rosa and Veena.   The argument was heated.  The argument was white hot flaming.  Any human not participating would have been instantly sautéed by just being in the room.  There were clashes and battles and epic wars in that argument.  There would have been very hurt and angry feelings except for one thing.

The smell of popcorn snapped us out of the fighting.  Hot, buttery popcorn.  There in a bowl. Sitting in Tom's lap.  Where had Tom gotten popcorn?!  We were at SCHOOL!  Yet there he was.  Watching us.  Munching on popcorn.  And looking both terribly amused and smug with his salty, buttery munchie.  

We were stunned!

WHAT!
THE!

HECK!

Tom, in an exaggerated movement, wiped his mouth with a napkin and even dabbed at his mouth's corners in a ridiculous action of pretension.  It was comical.  It was ridiculous.  It was oh-so-Tom.

He then opened his mouth - which was fortunately not full of popcorn!  How gross would have that been?!  EW! - and said, "While this is entirely amusing, I have to say, I'm sure the adults have figured it out, which case, we'll follow along a path already worn and we'll have fun.  If not, we'll get our adventure.  And I, for one, want an adventure.  We are the Merry Pranksters after all, not the Immie Spud Club."

And it was hard to argue with him over that.

But I STILL want to know how, where he got that popcorn!  He's been holding out on us!

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Paleolithic Papers #14

Genus Homo:

During the Middle Pleistocene, the Luonan Basin in central China appears to be a refugium for hominids.

How the human pelvis evolved.

Humanity originated in the grasslands.

Mathematical models are attempting to explain the evolutionary growth of the human brain.

Was the reason human remained platigrade when their ancestors came out of the trees was to due to a better fighting stance?

Modern Humans (H. sapiens):

It appears modern humans may have arrived in North America far, far earlier than previously thought, back 130,000 years ago.  This is an extraordinary claim, so approach with caution.  Also, there is no evidence whether this is really modern humans or some other member of the genus Homo.  The reason I list it here is because there is no credible evidence of any other hominin ever in North America.

Australian Aboriginals have been genetically isolated for 50,000 years according to a study of their mitochondrial DNA.

Native American of the northwest have been genetically continuous for at least 10,000 years.

The symbols of Wallacea in Indonesia from the Late Pleistocene.

Life sucked for a teen mom found from Late Pleistocene North America.

Were there multiple waves of migration into the Americas?

Hobbits (H. floresiensis):

Hobbits are more closely related to Homo habilis than Homo erectus.

Neandertals (H. neanderthalensis):

How Neandertal vertebrae were different from modern humans.

Trying to figure out the functional use of the Neandertal arm.

Neandertal diet and subsistence strategies studies have been very, very biased.

How Neandertals gathered wood for their fires.

John Hawks reviews and then calls for caution over the evidence Neandertals might have used 'aspirin' and had a form of penicillin.

A decorated raven bone from Crimea may be a Neandertal artifact.

Could Neandertals have been wiped out by diseases carried by modern humans?

Neandertal trade is documented in a Pleistocene Czech cave.

Has Neandertal cave art been found?

Xuchang Hominins:



Were the Xuchang hominins Neandertals or something else?

Denisovans:

There is a claim of the discovery of a very impressive piece of jewelry associated with the Denisovans during the Pleistocene 40,000 years ago.  I have not seen a peer reviewed journal article.

Denisovan (and Neandertal) DNA has been recovered from cave sediments.  We can now know whether or not a caveman excretes in a cave (cue bear in woods ref).

The Xujiayao hominid from the middle Pleistocene may be a Denisovan.

H. naledi:

New remains of H. naledi appear to date the age of the hominin cousin to between 250 to 335 thousand years ago, making the human family tree look even MORE bushy.

H. heidelbergensis:

Remains from Portugal appear to be ancestral to Neandertals.

H. erectus:

The pelvis shape of H. erectus is described.

Members of the genus Homo have been hunting as groups prior to the rise of Neandertals.

Genus Australopithecus:

Analysis of the Laetoli footprints strongly suggests a human-like gait.

Using children to try to figure out the body sizes of small hominids.

The environment of Turkana, east Africa is described from 2 million years ago to 1.4 million years ago.

A. afarensis:

How A. afarensis gave birth.

The human-like spine existed in A. afarensis.

A. sebida:

Was A. seiba actually very closely related to A. africanus?

Genus Sahelanthropus:

The environment for Sahelanthropus appears to have been a largely forested.  Australopithecus  bahrelghazali as well.

Genus Graecopithecus:

Was Graecopithecus the oldest known post LCA hominin? If so some of the earliest hominins lived outside of Africa proper.

Last Common Ancestor:

bonobos are a better analog for the last common ancestor of apes than chimpanzees.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Last Vista

I strapped myself in. Checking and rechecking all the links and connectors. I placed the mask over my face. I verified it was in place and properly seated as it melted and molded over my ugly mug. I had to be careful. I had to be prepared. I was going into the unknown.

The universe was, however, known. From Earth to the edges. And all between. Humanity flitted amongst the stars and quasars like so many butterflies amongst the beauty of the our reality. The wonder of our existence.

Yet, it was nothing new to be known. Not in the last thousand years. No really unique vistas to be seen. No new heights to clamber. No new permutations of life to find. No new depths of space to trawl. Humanity had seen it all. Experienced it all. Been father and mother and sibling to it all. And destroyer. And creator. There was nothing left in this existence for the explorer. For the conqueror. For the one whose soul yearned for more.

For me.

I imperceptibly nodded. The tube slid down and over me. It would place me in a no-entropy field for a time. For how long? Who knows. It was designed for eons though. To protect me while I ventured beyond, seeking that new vista, or more appropriately, that bleak blackness darker than space to trawl for knowledge.

There were four of us. A doctor, a xenologist, a soldier and myself. I would not face this alone. Or so I hoped. Would we be able to connect, meet, and band together in this venture like we thought, planned and hoped. There was only one way to find out…

My assistant stood beside my tube and gave a strange look. Neither hopeful, nor fearful. More like…enraptured.

"No one has ever done this before and come back."

"No one with a verifiable story that is. No one within the scientific eras."

She nodded.

"Then let us be the first. Begin."

She closed her eyes and seemed to arch in ecstasy but I knew it was not. She was becoming one with the machines around and they with her.

Then I felt it. My heart flatlined. My brain in its last moments within this universe, within this life, blurted out:

Daemons and angels!

Gods and devils!

Exalted and damned!

Prepare yourselves! For Humanity is coming.

Not the souls of the Dead, but the Living.

We are coming.

And we shall conquer Death and the Afterlife.

For we are hungry and shall know and have it all.

With that, at the moment of my last flickers of brain life, the no entropy field kicked in…and Death and I began our great grappling match.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Dawn on Jefferson, Chapter 15: Uncomfortable Revelations

Jackie steered us quickly to a quiet room.  Of course!  It was a music practice room!  Joy!  Wonders!  happiness!  My parents were going to be after me to practice more on my violin once this had settled down.  I was lucky Mom didn't make me despite everything.  It was a sign of how concerned she was that she had not tied my right hand to the bow and glued the neck of the violin to my left.

Well, no, she'd not do that.  But you get the idea.

We all played instruments.  Even Tom, but his was the harmonica and he largely taught himself with the help of some bot directed Immies.  We think he was crazy for using them, but it seems to have worked.  Mom would kill me and even my Dad might if I used them.  Not until do you plug yourself completely into a virtual world, but the bots send impulses to your muscles so as to help you make the exactly right action at the right time.  It makes you learn so much faster since you develop muscle memory much much faster.  On the other hand, you are opening yourself up to letting a semi intelligent piece of software control your body.

ARE YOU FREAKIN NUTS!?!

When we called him that, Tom simply replied: "cashews.  I'm cashews."

We were tempted to let that become his nickname, but then I'd have to explain it to Mom and Dad.  That could only end well.

He does play his harmonica rather well though.  And the thought makes me squirm.  I think he does it for that reason some times.  Because he looks right at me and plays.  Jerk.

Despite the fact the music rooms were sound proof, we took out a little buzzer we'd invented.  It made sure no microphones, even the infrared laser dot ones you aimed at windows, could pick up what was said.  Pretty neat.  It was left over from one of our previous pranks.  We only used it in dire circumstances because if we got caught with it, we'd be soooo busted.

Rosa pulled out her booster and set it to share with us.  We all took out ours and placed them on the table.  They would communicate via light instead of radio so they couldn't be picked up.  Yes, yes, more relics of pranks past.  Don't look so surprised.  Bright, creative kids out in the middle of nowhere can come up with some pretty brilliant and obnoxious things.

What we saw was a 3d path of my chase of the Awknerds.  I had to hate Rosa for a second there for the totally weird spasm she utterly failed to edit out.  MY SPASM.  From when SHE yelled at ME via her dorky drone.  Jerk.  To make matters worse, she froze the Immie when I was mid spasm.  I swore vengeance upon her and her household that day, I tell you!

Then, she highlighted a spot near a tree.  On the ground near a tree.  On the ground, there by the tree, was a foot.  A human foot.  One in what plainly looked like battle armor not too different from my Uncle Fred's.

Rosa moved the Immie forward in time, slowly.  Very, very slowly.  The weird thing was, it flickered.  It was there for a moment.  Then it was gone.  The foot was plainly out in the open, before the tree.  Yet there was no sign of the rest of the body.  Then it changed direction, flickered a bit more.  Then was gone.  Kyle had not yet gotten up and yet…the foot was gone.

Rosa piped up before anyone could say anything, "One of the filters on the dragonfly eye camera was busted.  The sensor for the camera, the thing that normally actually captures the image, can record infrared.  In fact, normally, its really obnoxious when it happens.  It ruins the video.  This time though…"

Then she changed what we were seeing.  You can bend light.  You can cloak many things.  You can even reduce your heat signature, but heat, infrared wins every time.  And definitely did this time.  Now we didn't just see a foot.  We saw a human.  In armor.  Quickly turning away and leaving.  This one had a helmet on though.  

We looked at the image uncomfortably.  Someone seemed to have been there.  Yet, Tom, the dork, had to say it: "who are we gonna call?"  There hadn't been enough generations of colonists for there to be ghosts on Jefferson.  

We really, really ought to have told an adult at that time.  However, you have five precocious, obnoxious near teens there and we wanted an adventure.  

And here was one.  Gifted wrapped in a cloaking device.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Dawn on Jefferson, Chapter 14: The Game is a Foot

Mom was suspicious.  She knew I liked my friends but to be willing to go to school right after dealing with so many crazy questions roused her into wondering what was going on.  It was NOT a good wondering.

I had a feeling she would drop a tracer on my booster to keep track of me.  She sometimes did that.  To date, I had left them alone.  I knew how to hack the booster to lie about where I was, but I knew I could only get away with it once and I also knew once I had done so, I would broken trust with Mom.  She would be angry and hurt, but she was putting it on there because she thought I was up to something.  I'd never done anything she could use the tracer to figure out what it was.

I was a Merry Prankster after all.

And she was my Mom.

And I didn't want to disappoint her.

Yet I also knew someday I probably would.  Oh, not because I was a bad kid or would do something wrong, but really 'cause I would do it my own way and that way would be different from her and get an outcome she would not have liked.

My father said I was my own person.  I was neither really like him or like Mom.  And he seemed to revel in that thought.  He said I would choose my own path and he would try to support me when I did.  I don't think he meant at age 12, but…hey, kids grow up fast these days!

Mom made me blueberry pancakes!  You have NO idea how hard it is to come by blueberries on Jefferson!  They were delicious!  I enjoyed every last bite and ate probably more than I should.  They did help bury what blues I had though and my brother grumbling it wasn't fair he didn't get as much didn't even bother me.  

As I zipped up and double checked my brother's leathers as well, Mom came and did a dirty trick on me.  She promised me pea soup for dinner if I would come back from school as quickly as possible.  I LOOOOOOOVE pea soup.  Instantly, my brother freaked out.  He HATES it.  With a raw, raging, retching passion.  Mom appeased him by offering him some french fries and fried ham.  He stewed over it and seemed to accept he was not the center of attention today.

As we walked to school, we stopped at the coffee shop.  I only did so to make my brother stop making dumb jokes and puns.  I like puns.  I love puns.  He keeps using the same ones over and over though.  He really needs to bone up if he's going to ham it up that way.

The taxitos were less than normal.  There are never very many in town: there are little lasers that identify them and shoot them down really quickly.  However, there are always some.  No system is perfect.  The smell of burnt cinnamon buns overlaid the every day smell of the doughnut shop Jefferson normally had this morning.

I got him to his class and he took off chasing his friends and in turn chased by a little ruby haired girl who you would swear was a human sized taxito based on my brother's faux scream and dash in the opposite direction.

I shook my head and walked around the corner to the middle school hall way.  This IS a small, small town after all!  And there they were.  The Merry Pranksters.  Arrayed as though ready for battle.  Tom and Jackie behind.  Veena to the left.  Rosa to the right.  They looked so serious.  They were looking right at me.  I boldly walked over with a smirk on my face, my favorite expression, and said:

"I hear there's an adventure afoot!"

Veena groaned.  Rosa looked pained.  Jackie gave a slight sigh, rolled her eyes and almost imperceptibly shook her head.  However, Tom, I knew I could count on Tom replied…

"I toed you she'd be up for it."

Then everyone hit him.  

Other than me.

My smirk was gone.  My ear to ear grin was here.  I loved puns and Tom loved puns.  We delighted in them.  We wallowed in them.  Everyone else just thought they were punishment.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Dawn on Jefferson, Chapter 13: Doom! Doom! Doom! I want to go to school! The end is nigh!

Mom's house is always well ordered.  Everything is where it ought to be.  Everything is clean and concise.  That antique mechanical clock I mentioned before brought all the way from Earth is a good example of her home.  You might be tempted to think her home is cold and unfriendly.  If you did, you would be wrong.  It's a home that is well managed, loved and taken care of.

It feels safe.  It feels full of love.  

Don't get me wrong, I love Dad's place.  Dad's place is chaotic, but fun.  His view is always of the future. He misses things of the now: sometimes there are dishes he forgets to set the bot to do.  Sometimes there is a bit of laundry he left where the bots don't know to look.  However, he has a sense of wonder and has decorated the house with things in nifty places.  The unexpected.  The surprising.  And he has Gooberface for me.  But, I didn't need that feeling of chaos.  I had helped create a little too much for me.

Right now, I needed stability and quiet.  Mom might be the uber inquisitor when she wanted to know something, but she turned into the monster bear if either my brother or I were threatened or growled at.  Woe unto those who threaten her cubs.  

I wanted that.  I needed that.  So that's where I went.

Thankfully, Dad understood.  He even approved.

I snuggled into my bed.  It was a cool night tonight.  In the spring, Shadwell swung between warm and very cold as it shook off the last graspings of winter.  I wanted to snuggle in.  I wanted to sleep.  I was tired.  Mom had made a great dinner for me and snuggled me close for a while.  However, if you tell anyone I got mom-snuggles, I'll make sure your booster sings terrible Disney songs for the rest of your life!  

I tend to deflate a bit when I get hammered from all sides like I had been.  I pull back.  I pull in.  I shutdown a bit.  When its too much from adults at least.  I don't quite melt, but grilled cheese really had it easy compared to me.

Ever seen a BII agent give you that deep, boring stare, drilling into your soul, nonverbally demanding to know if you are telling the truth and seeing all your dirty little (and they ARE little!  I am 12!) secrets laid bare before her eyes?!  If you don't, then, I strongly recommend against it.  She kept implying we'd planted the helmet,  that this was an elaborate hoax.  After all, I am the leader of the Merry Pranksters!  But, nope.  Not this time.  Not for this.  Not this way.  No way, nuh uh.

I had a bad feeling though she knew I was the leader of the Merry Pranksters.  And she had heard of me.  That filled me with utter joy.  Or not.

Grilled cheese, I tell you, has it easy.

I snuggled in and passed out.

My dreams were a complicated mess of Doom, Gloom and Vroom!  Wuh?!  Well, I always did like the idea of motorcycles.  Just not their implementation.  

Oh!  If you don't already, make sure you ALWAYS turn off your booster before going to bed.  Don't use spaceship mode.  Don't just turn on the Do Not Disturb.  TURN.  IT.  OFF.  Ever imagined what would happen if you broadcasted your dreams to a bunch of people?!  Yes, well, fortunately, I have never done that.

However, poor Aitan did and that helped make the situation with the Awknerds so much worse.  For him and me.

SO!  DON'T!  DO!  IT!

When I woke up, I felt less deflated.  I noticed my little brother and my mom had come to snuggle with me at night.  It was loving and caring and oh so embarrassing to my 12 year old self.  Not only was I tied up in a two people first thing in the morning, I was going to hear no end of it from Mom since she declares I am an octopus with far more than eight elbows and knees.

I wriggled my way out since Nature was calling.  I climbed down from my bunk bed - yes, yes, I sleep very, very deeply!  get over it!  - and padded my way to end Her incessant promptings.  I had grabbed my booster on the way out of my room.

I linked to my booster, sighed and put it through the permissions to let it link to my implant in my head. After all, could you imagine the chaos of booster connecting to the wrong kids?!  Oh the fun that would be!  MUHAHAHA.

ahem.

And as soon as I did, Rosa had a message screaming at me.  She found something in the Immie recording her little drone had recorded.  She saw a foot.  Just barely.  Maybe.  Partially.  It flickered and was gone.  However, when she went frame by frame…

Mom had offered to let me stay home from school.  After all, I'd been traumatized for the last 48 hours. I really, really wanted the structured quiet and protection of Mom.  It looked like that was not going to happen.  I needed to talk to Rosa and see what she had.  I wanted to do it without Mom being able to overhear.  Last thing I needed was Mama Bear stopping me from getting into mischief.

Mischief meant an adventure.

And an adventure definitely seemed to be afoot in Shadwell!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Dawn on Jefferson, Chapter 12: Where I Envy Grill Cheese

Let me tell you, being in the midst of a Shadstorm is even less fun than you'd think.  After all, you've stirred up trouble, right?  Sit back, grab a soda and some popcorn, and watch where the splatter action takes place.  Since, y'know, I'm a kid and kids are generally safe from getting into REAL trouble!  Right?

Right?!

RIGHT?!

Wrong!

You couldn't be more wrong if you wore plaid and pokadots.  Seriously.

In my case, the Indian powered armor combat helmet was potentially an act of war.  Indian infantry, uninvited, on an American planet was, at best, a serious problem.  As in, big space warships start jumping into systems and rattling proverbial sabers sized problems.

It was an even bigger problem for me.

After all, I derpably chased Kyle who tripped over it while chasing the Awknerds.  That made it my problem.  I'd have gladly handed it over to Kyle for it to be his problem, but for some reason the problem was labeled mine and left in my inbox.  No way to get out of it.  No way to escape.  No way to play dumb.  Everyone knows I am not and knows even better I am HORRIBLE at playing dumb.

hrmph.

So, instead of getting to go off on a hike to see if I could find some small bit of meteorite - note, no one has ever actually found one, but we go for the hike the next day as part of tradition anyways - I got grilled.

In fact, I was so grilled, I thought a grilled cheese sandwich had it too easy.  I had the adults from town tearing me apart.  I had my PARENTS tearing me apart.  And if you knew my Mom, when she gets into Grand Inquisitor Mode, you'd understand just how miserable I was.  And when my parents, even in their no-longer-together-and-not-real-comfortable-around-each-other-state work together like this, its bad.  Really, really bad.  Not for them.  For me.

Grilled cheese.  You have it too easy!

THEN!

IT GOT WORSE!

Some Feds from the main office from the Bureau of Interplanetary Investigations showed up.  They ripped and ribbed and tortured me with questions.  Why, oh why couldn't they find something small and fuzzy to be cruel to instead of me.

(actually I don't mean that, but they did seem like evil sadists: they took away my booster when we talked so I couldn't access the greater world or talk with my friends or anything!  Sadists, I tell you!)

THEN!

The US Marine Corps showed up.

No, I am not kidding.  There is a small garrison on Jefferson.  There are about 200 marines and they mostly train and act as a group to train others if there was ever a war on Jefferson.  The likelihood of that depends on whether I get back my booster in time to wreck utter havoc on the Awknerds for this predicament.

They grilled me for another day.  I was mental apple sauce by then.  Mush with a side of fried brains meant only for zombies.  Maybe that's the origin of that horrible stuff called poutine?

BBQ Steak had it easier!  IT WAS LESS GRILLED THAN I WAS!

AND I'M ONLY 12!

After it was all said and done, I was released back to my parents.  I went back to my mom's.  I wanted her precise and utter organization after the headaches of the last few days.  Days that were meant to fun.  My right of passage from 6th grade into 7th.  Just at the end of 'childhood' and into the drama of the teenage years.  

But, no, instead I ended up having to see if the BBQ had left burn marks on my butt when I finally got home.

And, no, I did NOT really look in the mirror to see if there were burn marks despite what my little brother might say.