April 13, 2012

This week in Guild Wars 2

Filed under: Gaming, Gaming — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 09:57

My weekly column at GuildMag has been posted. This week’s highlight was that pre-purchases started on Tuesday. Everyone who pre-purchases Guild Wars 2 will be able to take part in all the remaining beta events up until formal launch (date not yet nailed down, but definitely in 2012). You also get a three-day head start before the game goes on sale to the general public (only one day if you pre-order rather than pre-purchase). You can buy through the authorized sellers in your region or through the official website.

Mapping 18th century shipping patterns

Filed under: Africa, Americas, Asia, Economics, Europe, History, Science — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:06

An interesting post at the Guardian on tracing historical shipping patterns:

(Larger version at the original URL)

James Cheshire, of Spatial Analysis, has taken historical records of shipping routes between 1750 and 1800 and plotted them using modern mapping tools.

The first map, above, shows journeys made by British ships. Cross-Atlantic shipping lanes were among the busiest, but the number of vessels traveling to what was than called the East Indies — now India and South-East Asia — also stands out when compared to Dutch and Spanish records.

I was surprised to see how many trading voyages there were to and from the Hudson Strait — fur trade traffic, I assume.

(Larger version at the original URL)

This second map shows the same data for Dutch boats. The routes are closely matched to the British ones, although the number of journeys is noticeably smaller.

You can also see the scattering of journeys made by Dutch ships to Svalbard, off the North coast of the Norwegian mainland

Filling in for Envisat: “the CSA’s Radarsats 1 and 2 will try to fill some of the gaps”

Filed under: Cancon, Europe, Science, Space — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 08:43

The European Space Agency is still at a loss on why their flagship Envisat satellite suddenly went silent, but while they’re trying to diagnose and hopefully fix the problem, the Canadian Space Agency is helping to cover some of the gaps:

Controllers say the eight-tonne spacecraft appears to be in a stable condition, but they are not receiving any data at all from it.

Contact was lost with Envisat at the weekend shortly after it downloaded pictures of Spain’s Canary Islands.

A recovery team, which includes experts from industry, is now trying to re-establish contact with the craft.

Mission managers said on Friday that they were working through a number of possible fault scenarios but conceded they had little to go on.

[. . .]

Of more immediate concern are the operational and scientific projects that rely on Envisat data.

The satellite’s information is used daily to monitor for oil spills at sea, to check on iceberg hazards, and to provide information for meteorological forecasts, among a wide range of services.

All this had now been disrupted, said Prof Liebig.

“What we have done is [activate] the contingency agreement we have with the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) which we have had for many, many years. Canada has responded very positively. So, for a certain time, the CSA’s Radarsats 1 and 2 will try to fill some of the gaps.”

“Brzezinski[‘s] … realpolitik approach … is actually refreshing in today’s age of flippant air-bombing humanitarianism”

Filed under: Books, Economics, Government, History, Military, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 08:24

Sean Collins reviews a pair of books that — rather than signing on to the idea of America as terminal-phase western Roman Empire — perhaps go too far in the other direction. The books are The World America Made by Robert Kagan and Strategic Vision: America and the Crisis of Global Power by Zbigniew Brzezinski:

It is clear that the US faces a number of challenges, especially with regard to its stagnant economy and gridlocked politics. But more and more, the country’s specific problems are overshadowed by creeping fears of national decline. This backdrop of decline extends beyond domestic economics to contemplating whether America’s influence in the world is diminishing, in particular relative to emerging powers like China.

[. . .]

Brzezinski is not only old, he’s old-school, too. His realpolitik approach, which includes Cold War concepts like containment, is actually refreshing in today’s age of flippant air-bombing humanitarianism. For example, he quite baldly comes out and calls for the US to lead an effort to expand the West (via NATO and the EU) to include Russia and Turkey. This, he says, is necessary to prevent Russia from striking out on its own, or allying with China. Brzezinski is also still very mindful that great-power politics have not disappeared, and could re-emerge more forcefully. More than once, he speculates that Asia today resembles Europe before the twentieth-century world wars, and argues for care to ensure that a new conflagration does not break out.

The two authors’ respective approaches to American relations with China illuminate their differences in approach. Kagan is blunt, arguing for an antagonistic stance. He calls on the US to ‘press for greater democratic and liberal reforms’ in China (and in other authoritarian nations), and to promote free trade and markets, and thus ‘push back’ against state capitalism in China. In contrast, Brzezinski urges a diplomatic approach, one that attempts to reach mutual agreement while preventing China from becoming a too-dominant regional power. He is opposed to the Obama administration’s recent ‘Asia pivot’, which calls for more US troops in the region. In an interview with Edward Luce in the Financial Times, Brzezinski warned: ‘We have to focus on Asia, but not in a manner that plays on everyone’s anxieties… It becomes very easy to demonise China and they will demonise us in return. Is that what we want?’

[. . .]

This is illustrated by their treatments of the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. On the surface, the two seem to take very different lines. Kagan was bullish at the outset of both wars and, consistent with his general style in the book, he quickly skates right past such awkward issues. Brzezinski, in contrast, is damning, highlighting how the wars have undermined America’s ability to project its power. But the fact is that neither author really spends much time thinking about them. This is telling: both prefer to speculate about the future rather than face up to the reality of recent foreign-policy moves. Oddly, neither author examines either President George W Bush’s record or President Obama’s record. When Brzezinski does address the Bush administration’s foreign policy, his analytics go out the window and he just sneers. We are left believing that the interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan were nothing more than purely subjective mistakes made by Bush and his vice-president, Dick Cheney.

Blogging tip #2: Don’t be this guy

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

Every now and again, someone asks me what it takes to be a successful blogger. If I knew all those secrets, I’d be a much bigger internet presence than I currently am, let me tell you. However, aside from updating frequently (daily or better), the best advice I can give you is to not be this guy:

See the whole thing at The Oatmeal.

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